Page images

have been recently cut down; the village is one entire scene of desolation. The caravanserai, which is large and in good repair, stands to the W. side, and when we arrived, was crowded with travellers. The few inhabitants, who have come after the general slaughter which so recently took place, occupy some huts adjoining; but we could procure nothing from them, and were supplied with some bread and eggs by the wandering tribes.'

The next day's journey, to Kisra Shereen, traversed a rocky region notorious as the haunt of robbers; and the party were actually reconnoitred by a band of Coords, who followed them from Khanaki, and who, as they afterwards learned, were deterred from attacking them, by finding them so much on their guard, and by their extravagant estimate of European prowess and skill in arms. It appeared also, that this band was under . the protection of one of the principal courtiers of Kerman• shah, who shared in its booty, and shielded it through the • influence of that corrupt government.' It was in the same part of the road that Sir Robert Ker Porter was attacked on his journey to Bagdad. Kisra Shereen was built by Kisra or Chosroes in honour of his beloved Shereen, the daughter of the Emperor Maurice. There are remains here of a very strong fort with massive walls and vaulted towers, and of an extensive palace of the same massive architecture. Fully to have surveyed the mass of ruins, our Author says, would have occupied at least two days; and Englishmau-like, their desire • of proceeding' was stronger than their curiosity. They had suffered, moreover, so much from heat, that they determined henceforward to travel by night. On the 22d, they reached Kermanshah, situated on the Karasou, which runs through the centre of the town. Three years before, this river, swelled by the mountain torrents, had inundated the lower parts of the city, and swept away a considerable portion of the inhabitants. Here, they were induced to accept of the proffered hospitality of two French officers in the service of his Highness of Kermanshah. In 1814, when the reverses of Napoleon had appeared to close every avenue to military advancement, 'those gentlemen had sought and found in the troubled regions of the East, an ample field for the gratifi'cation of their darling passion.' They frankly stated, that, at one time, they had intended to proceed to the Indus, for the purpose of offering their services to some Indian prince, who, they understood, wanted European officers to conduct his forces against the English ; and the reason assigned for their abandoning this project, was evidently not the real one. A number of military men of different European nations, are at this moment wandering over Asia in search of employment under the Mohammedan princes. Seven or eight of these, Capt. Keppel states, were at one time in the service of the prince of Kermanshah, Mohumud Ali, who are now dispersed over the East. The two French officers, Messrs. Court and De Veaux, as well as a rascally Spaniard, Señor Oms, were all khans (or lords) of Persia, and knights of the lion and sun, as well as of another order, instituted by the late prince, the insignia of which are a star, with the device of two lions fighting for the Persian crown; a pretty intelligible reference to his own declared pretensions to the succession. Capt. Keppel and his companions had the honour of an interview with the present prince-governor, Mohumud Hosein Meerza, by whom they were received with pointed affability. He told the French officers, that he should allow the strangers to be seated in his presence, an honour never granted to any of his court; and on this account, he recommended them not to be present.

• A few minutes before our interview,' says our Author, Mons. De Veaux had been with the prince, to receive his instructions relative to the issuing of some clothing to those troops who were to escort the body of his father to Meshed Ali; and also respecting some other matters connected with the order of the funeral from Kermanshah, a ceremony which was to take place in two days. As the inspection of these arrangements was made in the public square, the Prince thought it necessary to play the mourner on the occasion. No sooner did he come in sight of the coffin which contained the remains of his father, than he threw off his cap, covered his head with ashes, and, rolling himself on the ground, bitterly bewailed the loss of so illustrious a prince and good a father. Having performed this ceremonial of grief with all the usual Eastern decorum, he re-adjusted his cap, clothed himself in a scarlet robe, and, in the short interval between the inspection and our visit, laid down the part of the mouroer, and re-assumed that of the prince ; so speedily, indeed, that, if we had not had a peep behind the curtain, we could not have believed that one actor could so speedily have performed two such different parts.'

This accomplished young gentleman was only two and twenty ; be was nevertheless furnished with eighteen wives, and having been married some years, had a proportionate number • of children.' With great surprise he learned that his visiters were bachelors; and be repeatedly exhorted them to marry the moment they returned to Europe. Of the filial piety, virtuous morals, and other princely accomplishments of this august personage, the following paragraphs supply a striking illustration.

• A sudden disch of cannon, followed by loud shrieks and lamentations, announced to us that the Prince had left the palace

with the body of his father. We took our station near the gates of the town, ready to fall in with the procession....... It issued slowly out of the town, led by the artisans : each craft had with it a black banner, and a horse equipped in the same mournful trappings. Next came two men renowned for their strength, carrying a large brass ornament representing a palm-tree. After them two hundred Coordish soldiers, who were to escort the corpse to Meshed Ali: they wore blue jackets, cut in the European fashion, and the rest of their dress was according to the costume of the country. The escort was preceded by a corps of drums and fifes playing a variety, of tunes, principally English : “ Rule Britannia” was one; and there were several country dances. After the military, came the representatives of the Church a large body of mounted Moolahs (priests), headed by their Bashee (chief), a jolly drunken-looking fellow, who, with a voice amounting to a scream, recited verses from a Koran, in which he was joined by his followers, who made the air resound with their vociferous lamentations. Behind them was the corpse of Mohumud Ali

Meerza, borne by two mules, in that sort of covered litter called in Persian a tukhte ruwaun.

• Immediately behind the corpse were Mohumud Hosein, the ruling Prince, and two of his brothers; the principal officers of the court closed the procession.

• At intervals the cavalcade stopped, when every one, baring his breast, struck it so violently with his hand, that the

flesh bore visible marks of the severity of the discipline : at these times the shouts were redoubled, and tears flowed copiously from every eye. Large groupes of women, veiled from head to foot, and huddled together almost into shapeless heaps, were eated on each side of the road, and were by no means the least (most ?) silent mourners of the party.

• We fell in with the French officers in rear of the troops ; two or three chiefs were in the same line with us. Immediately on my right was a handsome young man, whose eyes were red with weeping. He liad been a favourite follower of the late Prince, for whom he had entertained a most sincere attachment; and I was beginning to sympathise with him in his sorrows, when it was insinuated that it was just possible, wine, and not grief, had caused his tears to flow a surmise that his subsequent behaviour in some vlegree warranted,

• After proceeding about a mile, we quitted the procession, and halting on one side of the road, waited till the Prince had given us the murukhus, or permission to depart. His eyes were much inflamed, and tears Clased each other down his cheeks. Thus far the ceremonial of grief had been conducted with the greatest propriety: and any one witnessing the mournful demeanour of the Prince this morning, would have been impressed with a high opinion of his filial piety. The day closed on a scene of a very different description. The funeral procession arrived at Mahidesht near sunset, when his Highness ordered the caravanserai to be cleared of its inmates, and, taking with him several boon companions, this sorrowing son passed the night in drinking and singing, determined to keep his father's wake in the true Irish fashion, and, if any grief or care remained, to drown it in the bowl. The following morning, these merry mourners remounted their horses, and reached Kermanshah without accident ; though the Prince was so intoxicated, that, on arriving at the palace-gate, he fell off his horse into the arms of his attendants, and was by them conveyed to his own apartment in a state of drunken insensibility.

• Foremost on the list of persons selected by his Highness to assist him in the celebration of these funeral orgies, was the Moolahi Bashee, once his tutor, and now his associate in every species of debauchery. He who as chief of the religion had, in the day, with weeping eyes and melancholy howl, sung the requiem to the soul of the father, was, in the night, administering spiritual consolation to that of the son. He who, in the morning, chaunted verses from that book which inculcates (prohibits) wine as an abomination, was, in the evening, so overcome by its influence, as to be scarcely able to hiccup out the licentious songs of his country:

• The person from whom we received this information, was likewise one of the party ; no other than Suleiman Khan, the chieftain whose grief had attracted my attention at the funeral, We were sitting after dinner in the evening, when this person, in the same “suit of solemņ black" as of the preceding day, staggered into the room. Interrupting his relation here and there with an occasional roar of laughter, he described to us those scenes of revelry of which he had been so willing a participator.' vol. ii. pp. 56–60.

Before they left Kermanshah, Capt. Keppel, much to his honour, succeeded in repaying the hospitality of his hosts, by bringing about a reconciliation between the two officers, after a challenge had been given and accepted ; while Señor Oms, who had basely endeavoured to foment the misunderstanding, was sent to prison. The travelling party then started for Hamadan, the ancient Ecbatana. Six miles from Beest-sitoon (Twenty Pillars), they noticed the capitals and bases of some pillars which mark an ancient site, and are conjectured to have given name to the neighbouring town; but want of time forbade a minute examination. The sculptures at Besitoun, (so it is usually written,) are of the highest interest, as no doubt can exist with regard to their remote antiquity. One remarkable bas-relief, which is found in a chasm in the mountain at a great height, from its general resemblance to the sculptures of Persepolis, appears to be coeval with those splendid specimens of ancient art. Sir Robert Porter supposed the subject to allude to the Babylonish captivity. But for the female captive,' says our Author, • I should be of the same opinion. In many particu• lars, the Scripture account of Esther pleading before Ahasue

rus in behalf of her Jewish brethren, is strongly illustrated in this sculpture.' His own description of the groupe, however, is at total variance with this fanciful conjecture. At the foot

of the mountain is an extensive cemetery, containing many sepulchres of white marble, having inscriptions beautifully cut in the Syriac and Cufic characters. They appear to belong to the era of the Sassanian dynasty. As we took occasion, in our notice of Sir R. K. Porter's volumes, to describe the route to Hamadan*, we must pass over our Author's account of that city and of the Elwund, over which the road passes. We must, however, give insertion to his mention of an incident at Hamadan, which afforded a striking proof of the respect in which the English character is held in that country.

• Mr. Lamb, wishing to draw a bill upon Bagdad for the sum of one hundred tomauns for our common expenditure, sent a servant into the town, to know whether any of the shraufs (merchants) would be wil. ling to give him money for it. After a short time, a miserable, halfstarved looking wretch made his appearance, and said, he should be willing to advance us any sum we might require. At first, we were in. clined to laugh at his proposal, thinking, from his appearance and garb, that he was more like an object of charity than a lender of money. He soon undeceived us; for, disencumbering himself of a few of his rags, he unstrapped from his body a black leathern belt, and having cut it open, counted out the hundred tomauns in gold. Mr. Lamb wrote a draft, in English, upon a merchant in Bagdad, which this man took in lieu of his money, contenting himself with merely asking the name of the merchant on whom the bill was drawn, and declaring himself to be the party obliged ; “ for,” said he, “ if I am robbed, I shall at least be spared this piece of paper." While we were wondering both at his ability to serve us, and his confidence in our honesty, (for we could easily have deceived him,) he said, be had had too many proofs of English' probity to entertain any alarm on that head. Feringhees (Franks) are not so worthy of being trusted, but the In, greez (Englishmen)' have never been known to deceive."

Of the Feringhees in general, they are not less distrustful than of their own countrymen; and the Ingreez character was in some danger of being brought into question through the roguery of an American captain ; but fortunately, the merchants learned that they were not real English, but Feringhee dooneaine noo, Franks of the New World. The story, with its explanation, rapidly spread; and now, if an Englishman misbehaves, brother Jonathan is the scape-goat, the offender being set down as a Frank of the New World. The high estimation in which our national character is held in Persia, is stated to be not in a small degree owing to the able services and engaging manners of Sir John Malcolm.

• Perhaps, no man ever employed on a foreign mission, has done

i. The

• Eclectic Review. Vol. xix. p. 289. * Vol. XXVII. N.S.

2 L

« PreviousContinue »