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GREEK PILGRIMAGE TO THE JORDAN
ONCE a year, on the Monday before Easter, the desolation of the plain of Jericho is broken by the descent from the Judæan hills of five, six, or eight thousand pilgrims, who are now, from all parts of the Turkish Empire, gathered within the walls of Jerusalem. The Turkish governor is with them, an escort of Turkish soldiers accompanies them, to protect them down the desert-hills against the robbers, who, from the days of the Good Samaritan downwards, have infested the solitary pass.
Two hours before dawn, the rude Eastern kettle-drum rouses the sleeping multitude. It is to move onwards to the Jordan, so as to accomplish the object before the great heat of the lower valley becomes intolerable. Over the intervening desert, the wide crowd advances. in almost perfect silence. Above is the bright Paschal moon-before them moves a bright flare of torches-on each side huge watch-fires break the darkness of the night, and act as beacons for the successive descents of the road.
The sun breaks over the eastern hills as the head of S. IV.
the cavalcade reaches the brink of the Jordan. Then it is, for the first time, that the European traveller sees the sacred river rushing through its thickets of tamarisk, poplar, and willow, with rapid eddies, and of a turbid yellow colour, like the Tiber at Rome, and about as broad-sixty or eighty feet. The chief features of the Scene are the white cliffs and green thickets on each bank, though at this spot they break away on the western side, so as to leave an open space for the descent of the pilgrims.
In a few moments the great body of the pilgrims, now distinctly visible in the breaking day, appear on the ridge of the last terrace. Horse, mule, ass, and camel, in promiscuous confusion, bearing whole families on their backs-a father, mother, and three children, perhaps, on a single camel-occupy the vacant spaces between and above the jungle in all directions.
If the traveller expects a wild burst of joy such as that of the Greeks when they caught the first glimpse of the sea, or the German armies at the sight of the Rhine, he will be disappointed. Nothing is more remarkable in the whole pilgrimage to the Jordan, from first to last, than the absence of any such displays. Nowhere is more clearly seen that business-like aspect of their devotion, without any expression of emotion, unless, perhaps, a slight tinge of merriment.
They dismount and set to work to bathe, most on the open space, some further up amongst the thickets; some plunging in naked; most, however, with white dresses which they bring with them, and which, having been so used, are kept for their winding-sheets. Most of the bathers keep within the shelter of the bank, where the water is about four feet in depth, though with a bottom of very deep mud. The Coptic pilgrims are curiously distinguished from the rest by the boldness with which they dart into the main current, striking the water, after their fashion, alternately with their two
arms, and playing with the eddies, which hurry them. down and across, as if they were the cataracts of their own Nile; crashing through the thick boughs of the jungle which, on the eastern part of the stream, intercepts their progress, and then recrossing the river higher up, where they can wade, assisted by long poles which they have cut from the opposite thickets.
It is remarkable, considering the mixed assemblage of men and women, in such a scene, that there is so little appearance of levity or impropriety: A primitive. domestic character pervades in a singular form the whole transaction. The families, which have come on their single mule or camel, now bathe together with the utmost gravity; the father receiving from the mother the infant, which has been brought to receive the one immersion, which will suffice for the rest of its life, and thus, by a curious saving of resources, spare it the expense and danger of a future pilgrimage in after years.
In about two hours the shores are cleared. With the same quiet they remount their camels and horses, and before the noon-day heat has set in, are again encamped upon the upper plain of Jericho.
Once more they may be seen. At the dead of night the drum again wakes them for their homeward march. The torches again go before; behind follows the vast multitude, mounted, passing in silence over that silent plain-so silent that, but for the tinkling of the drum, its departure would hardly be perceptible. The troops stay on the ground to the end, to guard the rear; and when the last roll of the drum announces that the last soldier is gone, the whole plain returns again to its perfect solitude.-Stanley's "Sinai and Palestine."
WITH vexation for having so foolishly given away a kingdom, his wits began to be unsettled, and while he said he knew not what, he vowed revenge against his unnatural daughters, and to make examples of them that should be a terror to the earth.
While he was thus idly threatening what his weak arm could never execute, night came on, and a loud storm of thunder and lightning with rain: and his daughters still persisting in their resolution not to admit his followers, he called for his horse, and chose rather to encounter the utmost fury of the storm abroad, than stay under the same roof with these ungrateful daughters. And they, saying that the injuries which wilful men procure to themselves are their just punishment, suffered him to go in that condition, and shut their doors upon him.
The winds were high, and the rain and storm increased, when the old man sallied forth to combat the elements less sharp than his daughter's unkindness. For many
miles about there was scarce a bush; and there upon a heath, exposed to the fury of the storm, in a dark night, did king Lear wander out, and defy the winds and the thunder; and he bid the winds to blow the earth into the sea, or swell the waves of the sea till they drowned the earth, that no token might remain of such an ungrateful animal as man. The old king was now left with no other companion than the poor fool, who still abided with him, with his merry conceits striving to outjest misfortune, saying, it was but a naughty night to swim in, and truly the king had better go in, and ask his daughter's blessing:
But he that has a little tiny wit
With heigh, ho, the wind and the rain!
Though the rain it raineth every day:
and swearing it was a brave night to cool a lady's pride. Thus poorly accompanied, this once great monarch was found by his ever-faithful servant, the good Earl of Kent, now transformed to Caius, who ever followed close at his side, though the king did not know him to be the earl; and he said, "Alas! sir, are you here? creatures, that love night, love not such nights as these. This dreadful storm has driven the beasts to their hiding-places. Man's nature cannot endure the affliction or the fear." And Lear rebuked him and said, these lesser evils were not felt, where a greater malady was fixed. When the mind is at ease the body has leisure to be delicate; but the tempest in his mind did take all feeling else from his senses, but of that which beat at heart. And he spoke of filial ingratitude, and said it was all one, as if the mouth should tear the hand for lifting food to it; for parents were hands, and food, and everything to children.
But the good Caius still persisting in his entreaties that the king would not stop in the open air, at last