תמונות בעמוד



Turks are not yet sufficiently advanced in civilization, to know how offensive the dresses peculiar to the religious orders are to the enlightenment of the present day. I let my beard grow, according to the custom of the monks.

Though this is the 30th of September, the sun is scorching, the fields parched up, and quite white. The few shrubs that are to be seen are covered with dust, and the country, of a whitish hue, looks dull and monotonous. You perceive, at the first glance, that every thing here is Asiatic; every thing strikes the European who is here for the first time. You meet, every moment, long files of camels, driven by Arabs and Turks, on foot or on horseback, armed. cap-a-pee, and veiled women, no part of whom is to be seen but their eyes.

La Marina and Larnaca are two towns, if towns they may be called, which, as it were, adjoin one another. Nothing can be meaner or duller; they begin to give you an idea of the towns of the Levant: paltry mudbuilt houses, with terraces — that is all. I found them almost deserted. A great number of inhabitants had fled to the mountains, since the appearance of the cholera morbus, which is believed to have been introduced into the island through the criminal conduct of the consul-general of Tuscany, at Alexandria. He fled, himself, from the scourge that was ravaging Egypt; and, that no obstacle might be opposed to his landing, he omitted to declare the death of his secretary and of several sailors, who had expired during the passage. When the trick was discovered, he was forced to embark again. But the panic was the greater, inasmuch as



several other clandestine landings had been effected at different points by crews coming from Syria, where the cholera was making rapid ravages. Damascus, Jaffa, St. Jean d'Acre, and Jerusalem, have lost, I am told, a prodigious number of their inhabitants.

You will assuredly, my dear friend, not expect me to repeat to you what the island of Cyprus was for pagan antiquity, or that I should tell you of the infamous goddess to whom it was consecrated, of the festivals held in honour of that goddess, and of the impure worship paid to her at Paphos and Amathonte, by a people addicted to voluptuousness and sunk in debauchery. A pilgrim, on his way to visit the tomb of the Messiah, turns his thoughts from such scenes, and leaves the delineation of them to that class of poets, whose wanton Muse blushes not to celebrate in her verses the most culpable excesses of the mind, the most disgraceful propensities of the heart. Instead of such details, I will tell you at least in a few words what may be more interesting to you, in regard to religion and history, since the commencement of the Christian era.

The island of Cyprus, situated between the coast of Syria and Cilicia, now Caramania, is the most considerable island in this part of the Mediterranean. In the year 44, of Christ, St. Paul and St. Barnabas went thither to promulgate the Gospel; they preached at first at Salamis, in the synagogues of the Jews, and then proceeded to the other towns. At Paphos, St. Paul converted the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, by striking blind the false prophet Bar Jesu, who opposed his preaching. Some years afterwards, St. Barnabas, who is believed to



be the first bishop of Cyprus, was stoned at Salamis by the Jews, and died a martyr. The body of the apostle was discovered in the sequel near that place. In the coffin was found a copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew, in Hebrew, written with the saint's own hand. It was sent, in 485, to the emperor Zeno.

After forming several kingdoms, tributary to Egypt and the Roman empire, Cyprus fell under the dominion of the emperors of the West and of Constantinople. It was long in the possession of Isaac I., of the family of the Comnenes. Richard I., of England, having conquered it, sold it to the Templars, who gave it up again to Richard, and by him it was at length ceded to Guy de Lusignan. Charlotte, the last heiress of that family, was driven from it by her natural brother James. She married Louis of Savoy; and hence it is that the kings of Sardinia still take the title of king of Cyprus. After the death of James, Cornara, his wife, having no male issue, disposed of the island in 1480 to the republic of Venice. In 1570, the Turks made themselves masters of it, and are still its possessors.

The island of Cyprus is two hundred and twenty miles in length, sixty-five in breadth, and about six hundred in circumference. It is crossed from west to east by a range of mountains, the loftiest of which are Olympus, and Santa Croce. Famagousta, Nicosia, and Larnaca, are the only important towns in the island, which is otherwise celebrated for its fertility. What a pity that it does not belong to a European sovereign !.... Under the dominion of the Porte, and under the bloodsuckers, called governors of the island, it is falling



entirely to decay. Every day," says a celebrated traveller, on this subject, “some new tax is devised ; and, after fattening on the substance of the people, after enriching the agents of his cruelties, this governor retires, laden with gold and curses, to make room for another, who surpasses his predecessor in rapine and oppression.”

A few moments before my departure from Fribourg, the bishop of Lausanne committed to my charge a letter and a donation, which the Visitandine sisters of that city wished to transmit to a monastery of their order. “How happy our sisters would be," said the prelate, if you could yourself execute this commission !” “You shall be obeyed, monseigneur," I immediately replied. I supposed that this commission was for some town in Switzerland or Savoy. I looked at the address, and read: To the Superior of the Visitandines, at Antoura, on Mount Lebanon, in Asia. What was my surprise ! “Monseigneur," I exclaimed, “ let Antoura be ever so far distant, with the blessing of God, your commission shall be fulfilled . . . . In fact, till my arrival in Cyprus, I hoped myself to be the bearer of the alms of the good sisters of Fribourg; but here I am all at once stopped short. It has pleased God that the disease with which he is now visiting the world should, for the moment, render it impossible for me to approach that land in which I so ardently long to shed tears of love and gratitude : all the communications with those regions of death are now cut off. Alas! when I think that he did not permit the pious leader of Israel to enter the land of promise, ought not I to tremble !.... But, once more,



blessed be his will, ever just, ever adorable! And if he decrees that the hand which is writing these lines should in a few hours be cold and stiff, still blessed be his name !

I experience here, my dear friend, what several Europeans have done on coming to this country, a general indisposition, an inconceivable debility; on some days I can scarcely ascend the stairs that lead to my apartment; and to all this is superadded a complaint, which in Egypt is called the Nile Flower—a sort of leprosy, which covers me from head to foot. On looking at myself, I fancy that I am like that man of immense sufferings, the pious Job: happy could I but share his patience as I share his afflictions !

I have this moment received the melancholy tidings that the viceroy of Egypt is marching against the Pacha of Acre, whose pachalik extends over all Palestine. Poor Palestine ! Jerusalem then will in a few weeks fall a prey to the Egyptian army, which will bring all the calamities of war in its train ! My situation is the more unpleasant, inasmuch as I am engrossed by but one thought, and that is continually directed towards that sacred land, the end and aim of my journey. However, my friend, in my dictionary the word fear is struck out of the number of those that I keep for my use; besides, I have often found by experience that courage consists in attempting, and that danger flees from him who confronts it. I shall therefore endeavour, in spite of the advanced and perilous season, in spite of a thousand other obstacles, to get across, and, for want of a ship, in some Arab bark, that will land me on the coast of Palestine, fifty or sixty leagues from this place.

« הקודםהמשך »