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the discontented in all ages. Westward of Jordan and the lake Asphaltites, another chain of rocks, still loftier and more rugged, presents a yet more gloomy aspect, and announces the distant entrance of the desert, and the termination of the habitable regions.'*
Mountains.—The most remarkable mountains in Palestine, are those of Lebanon, so frequently celebrated in the holy Scriptures. This lofty range, described by ancient and modern historians under the names of Libanus and Antilibanus,t is the highest point of all Syria, and serves equally as a boundary to Judea and Assyria, extending in a parallel direction from the vicinity of Damascus on the east to that of Sidon on the west; the western ridge being called Libanus, and the eastern Antilibanus; while the interjacent plain is called Cæle-Syria, or the Valley of Lebanon ;# but so frequent mention is made of them in the writings of the prophets, that they are generally included within the confines of the land of Promise. The western chain,' to use the words of Volney, 'properly commences at Mount Casius, a lofty peak to the south of Antioch, which shoots up to the heavens its needle-like point, encircled with forests. From this peak the same chain, under various appellations, winds along the shore of the Mediterranean, from which it is seldom distant above twenty miles, till it reaches the most elevated part between Tripoli and Acre (which is the Lebanon Proper of Scripture). At the head of the Valley of Balbec (the entering in of Hamath), this chain becomes connected with the more eastern by a lateral range shutting up the valley. Antilibanus, the eastern ridge, runs 200 miles northward, and is now known by the name of the Ansarian Mountains. They reach the highest ele
* Volney's Trav. vol. i. pp. 203, 204.
+ Now Jebel Libnan and Jebel-esh-shurky, or the East Monat tain.-Editor.
Joshua xi. 17.
vation to the south-east of Tripoli; and their towering summits capped with clouds, are discerned at the distance of thirty leagues. The superior height of Lebanon is ascertained by the course of the rivers. • The Orontes, flowing from the mountains of Damascus, loses itself below Antioch; the Kasmia which, north of Balbec, shapes its course towards Tyre; the Jordan, forced by the declivities toward the south,--prove this to be the highest point. Next to Lebanon, the highest part of the country is mount Akkar, which becomes visible as soon as the traveller leaves Marra in the desert. It appears like an immense flattened cone, and is constantly seen for two days' journey. The height of these mountains has not been ascertained by the barometer; but we may deduce it from a circumstance mentioned by every traveller who visits the land of Promise. In winter their tops are entirely covered with snow, from Alexandretta to Jerusalem, but after March it melts, except on mount Lebanon; where, however, it does not continue the whole
year, unless in the highest cavities, and towards the north-east, where it is sheltered from the sea breezes, and the rays of the sun.' In this situation, Volney saw it at the very time he complains of being nearly suffocated with heat in the valley of Balbec. On the 10th of June Dr Richardson found the snow lying only in patches, and melting so fast, that in a few days, he had no doubt, the sun would gild the surface of the naked mountains.* Now, since it is fully ascertained that snow in this latitude requires an elevation of fifteen or sixteen hundred fathoms, we may conclude that to be the height of Lebanon. It is therefore much lower than the Alps, or even than the Pyre. nees: Mount Blanc, the loftiest of the Alps, is estimated at two thousand four hundred fathoms above the level of the sea; and the peak of Ossian in the Pyrenees, at nineteen hundred. * Travels, vol. ji. p. 151. + Volney's Travels, vol. i. p. 205.
Lebanon, which gives its name to the extensive range of the Kesrauan, and the country of the Druses, presents to the traveller every where majestic mountains, some of which are crowned with eternal snows, and have their sides furrowed with a thousand channels, where the cold flowing streams are continually pouring down into the vale. At every step, he meets with scenes in which Nature displays beauty or grandeur, sometimes romantic wildness, but always variety. The sublime elevation and steep ascent of this magnificent rampart, which seems to enclose the country,—the gigantic masses which shoot into the clouds,-inspire him with astonishment and reverence. Should he scale those summits which bounded his view, and ascend the highest point of Lebanon, distinguished by the name of the Sannin, the immensity of space which expands around him, “becomes a fresh subject of admiration.' On every side he beholds a horizon without bounds; whilst, in clear weather, the sight is lost over the desert, which extends to the Persian gulf, and over the sea, which washes the coasts of Europe.
He seems to command the whole world ; while the wandering eye, now surveying the successive chains of mountains, transports the mind in one instant from Antioch to Jerusalem ; and now, approaching the surrounding objects, observes the distant profundity of the coast, till the attention, at last fixed by distincter objects, more minutely examines the rocks, the woods, the torrents, the sloping sides of the hills, the villages and the towns; and the mind secretly exults at the diminution of objects which formerly appeared so great. He sees the valleys obscured by stormy clouds, with fresh delight, and smiles at hearing the thunder, which so often bursts over his head, growling beneath his feet; while the threatening summits of the mountains are diminished, till they appear like the furrows of a ploughed field, or the steps of an amphitheatre, and he feels himself gratified by an elevation above so many lofty objects,
on which he now looks down with inward satisfac
Perhaps no spot on the globe can present a spectacle so glorious as that which is unfolded from the
apex mount Lebanon. A boundless horizon, glowing and radiant, is spread out before the view, and the eye expatiates almost without interruption from the waters of the Mediterranean to the confines of the Persian gulf. On such a scene the spectator loses for a while all sense of individual weakness ; his faculties feel as it were an enlarged vitality, and he dwells with a rapturous delight on the splendours by which he is encompassed, till their united glories torture the imagination, and the sense aches with gazing. +
« On visiting the interior parts of these mountains,' says Volney, 'the roughness of the roads, the steep descents and precipices, strike’ the traveller at first with terror; but the sagacity of the mule which he rides, the only beast of burden which can traverse them with safety, soon relieves him, and he calmly surveys those picturesque scenes that entertain him in quick succession. There he travels whole days together, to reach a place which was in sight at his departure ; he winds, descends, skirts the hills, and climbs their precipitous sides ; and in this perpetual change, it seems as if magic herself varied for him at every step the decorations of the scenery. Sometimes he sees villages gliding from the steep declivities on which they are built, and so arranged, that the terraces of one row of houses, serve as a street to those above them. Sometimes he sees the habitation of a recluse, standing on a solitary height ; here a rock, perforated by a torrent, and become a natural arch; there another rock, worn perpendicular, resembles a high wall. On the sides of the hills, he frequently sees beds of stones, uncovered
* Volney's Travels, vol. i. p. 203; see also De Tott's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 336.
Letters from Palestine, p. 117.
and detached by the waters, rising up like artificial ruins. In many places, the waters meeting with inclined beds, have excavated the intermediate earth, and formed caverns; in others, subterraneous channels are formed, through which flow rivulets for a part of the year. These subterraneous rivulets are common throughout Syria ; they are found near Damascus, at the sources of the Orontes, and at those of the Jordan. That of Mar-Hanna, near the village of Shouair, opens by a gulf called El-baloisa, or the Swallower. It is an aperture of about ten feet wide, in the middle of a hollow ; at the depth of fifteen feet is a sort of first bottom, but it only hides a very profound lateral opening. Some years' before Volney visited Lebanon, 'it was shut, as it had served to conceal a murder. The winter rains coming on, the waters collected and formed a pretty deep lake; but some small streams penetrating among the stones, they were soon stripped of the earth which fastened them, and the pressure of the mass of water prevailing, the whole obstacle was removed with an explosion like thunder; and the re-action of the compressed air was so violent, that a column of water spouted up, and fell upon a house at the distance of at least two hundred paces. The current this occasioned, formed a whirlpool, which swallowed up the trees and vines planted in the hollow, and threw them out by the second aperture.'
· These picturesque situations often become tragical. By thaws and earthquakes, rocks have been known to lose their equilibrium, roll down on the neighbouring houses, and bury the inhabitants. This happened about twenty years' before Volney's visit, when a fragment of the mountain, slipping from its base, overwhelmed a whole village, without leaving a single trace where it formerly stood. Still more lately, and near the same place,' says that traveller, the entire side of a hill, covered with mulberries and vines, was
* Volney's Travels, vol. i. p. 208.