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wood so largely employed in the building. In the luxurious days of the later kings the mansions of the noble and wealthy in Jerusalem were embellished with this costly wood—“ ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion."
The height of this tree made it a symbol of pride; its stateliness and far-spreading branches, of extended empire: “The Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; no tree in the garden of God was like unto him for beauty.” With a deeper meaning, as an emblem of the spiritual progress of the believer, the psalmist says: “The righteous shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” A conception of wor.derful sublimity is that of Isaiah, when, speaking of the majesty of God, he imagines the whole mountain to be a colossal altar, its cedar forests and odorous gums the fuel sending up fragrant clouds of incense, and all the flocks on its hills and valleys to be consumed in one oblation“ Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering"!
The mountain region of Lebanon is a world in itself, peopled by ancient races, whose religious feuds have often carried devastation through its fairest valleys. The northern part of the range is occupied mainly by a Christian population, the Maronites; the southern by the Druses, a brave, high-spirited people, whose religion is a mystery, and seems to be a kind of Mohammedanism, tinctured with the wild fanaticism of the East.
The number of villages scattered about the mountain is amazing. On approaching it from the sea one is struck by the groups of white dwellings that gleam among the vineyards on its lower slopes, and higher up speckle the dark pinegroves, -multitudes of little hamlets clinging to its sides, or hanging like swallows' nests from its rocky eaves. Everywhere, as one penetrates into the recesses of the mountain, or makes his way through its storm-gashed ravines, where cataracts leap and torrents twist and foam, by winding and broken paths clambering up from steep to steep to its snow-sliving summits, each sudden turn of the road, each glimpse into the branching glens, brings into view new villages, dropped about here and there in green retreats, and slumbering through long blue summers in their mellowing orchards and mulberry groves to the drowsy murmur of woodland waterfalls, like nooks of Paradise shut out from the world.
From the highest point, which perhaps one has gained on a journey from Damascus and Baalbec to the Cedar Forest, the prospect is one of surpassing grandeur. All at once the mountains sink and fall away to a giddy depth beneath
-a maze of furrowed ridges, surging, like the waves of a frozen sea, through a veil of warm blue vapour; old castles and convents perched on islanded heights; villages everywhere clustering on the terraced steeps; at your feet the venerable cedar wood dwindled to a thicket of shrubs; and away in the distance the hazy gleam of the Mediterranean waters. One is reminded of the paradise of Kubla Khan, that gorgeous dream of Coleridge :
“There were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
Infolding sunny spots of greenery."
It is not for the multitude of its cedars that Lebanon is now renowned, but the spot where stand the last surviving relics of the forests that once clothed its sides will always be a haunt of pilgrimage. The wood contains about three hundred cedars, of which fifty trees, twisted by the storms and scarred by the tempests of centuries, may challenge special admiration. On a mound in the centre stands the patriarch of the grove, nine feet in diameter, spreading his ponderous arms, each a tree in itself, over the heads of the many generations that have grown up below.
A little chapel has been built on the spot, where a Maronite monk celebrates mass to the pilgrims; but the place itself, withdrawn in this deep recess of the mountains, enclosed with marble walls of snow, lying inviolate in its sombre shadows and cloistered stillness, is Lebanon's true temple, "a building of God, an house not made with hands." The solemn murmur and vibration of the
mountain wind in the roofing branches seems set to the music of the old Hebrew psalm: “The trees of the Lord are full of sap;
the cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted.”
The rich luxuriance which was the ancient glory of the moun tain has not departed from it. With swift bright rivulets dashing everywhere over its rocks, and lying in deep clear pools in its woody ravines, it is not only fruitful in itself, but the source of fruitfulness to the thirsty lands around it. The snows of Lebanon 6ill the blue veins of Abana and Pharpar with those crystal waters which give perpetual verdure to the gardens of Damascus.
Nowhere, perhaps, is the wonderful union of mountain grandeur with beauty of site and richness of culture better seen than near the Christian village of Eden, described in glowing terms by all who have visited it. It stands on the brink of a gorge nearly two thousand feet in depth, its houses of hewn stone scattered under the shade of walnut trees, every slope and terrace waving with cornfields and vineyards, and groves of mulberry and poplar. The chime of bells, so seldom heard in the East, awakens a peculiar emotion when ringing the hour of prayer in these Christian villages.
Not here alone, but wherever one may wander over the sunny hills and valleys into which the romantic region of “the Lebanon” is cloven, will he find himself in presence of a living picture of ancient times and ever-fresh associations. He will find the venerable mountain encrusted with a rich and sacred symbolism. The waving of its golden barvests will speak to him of “an handful of corn on the top of the mountains, the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon.” Its vineyards purpling in the clear heat of summer, the mellow fruitage of its loaded orchards, the brilliant colours of its wayside flowers, the sweetness of its odorous thickets and beds of thyme, the balsamic fragrance of its cedars, will give more vivid force to holy words which have rung from childhood through the memory: “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots ils Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as
Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine : the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.”
Stability, fragrance, fruitfulness, types of the highest graces that beautify and exalt the life of man, dwell in pure and endless companionship beneath the cedars of Lebanon.
J. D. BURNS.
THE PLAIN OF ESDRAELON.
The Plain of Esdraelon stretches in a broken oblong between the mountains of Samaria and those of Galilee, at its widest part a summer day's journey across. The long rocky range which terminates in Carmel severs it from the sandy plain of Sharon on the coast; a low spur from the hills of Galilee shuts it in from the northern plain of Tyre; and on the east it opens out into three great branches, which lie like bays of verdure between the mountains of Gilboa, Little Hermon, and Tabor. The central offshoot of the three slopes down to the sunken channel of the Jordan, and from the ancient village that stood at its opening, was called the
Valley of Jezreel,”—a name which has come to be applied to the whole plain in its Greek form of “ Esdraelon.”
The chief renown of this singular region is derived from its having been the great battle-field of Jewish history. But its fame in this respect is not confined to the times when Israel was a nation. The invading armies that have so often since swept over the sacred plains of Palestine, have fought their decisive battles on that wide area, as within lists fenced off and levelled by the hand of Nature. The Roman eagle and the Moslem crescent, the lances of Latin chivalry and the bayonets of Napoleon's grenadiers, have flashed in the Syrian sun-light on these barren slopes. The best blood of the earth's ruling races has drenched many an acre of Esdraelon like a heavy dew. Nor have many years gone by when the roving Bedouin on the foray might have heard the dull echo of the British guns, that shook
the sea-ward wall of Acre, rolling on the wind like a thunder in Carmel.
When covered with its ancient woods, and well watered throughout, it must have been like the great forest-garden of Damascus. On one of its happiest sites, amidst scenes of pastoral sweetness and beauty, stands Jezreel, where the summer-palace of Ahab, ainidst its embowering groves and gardens, cast its shadow over the vineyard of Naboth. The smoke of Elijah's sacrifice on Carmel might have been seen from its walls; and along the smoking leagues of highway the form of the prophet was seen speeding through the wind and rain before the chariot of Ahab. The royal roads which once traversed the plain, along which war-chariots rattled, and Jehu “ drove furiously,” have disappeared, and the travellers walk through by-ways. Only a small part of the plain is cultivated, but the returns are prodigious. Wide tracts of the richest cornland wave with golden fruitage, side by side with the bright green fields of millet, and an occasional tuft of olive-trees. The slanting palm, like a landmark, shows where, here and there, some mudwalled village lies. “ The very weeds are a sign of what, in better hands, the vast plain might become.” Nowhere are there seen more luxuriant crops of thistles bristling in tall, deep jungles, and bearing twelve or eighteen splendid heads on a single stem,-
"Glossy purples, which outredden
All voluptuous garden roses."
After the warm rains of early summer, the virgin soil spends its vigour in a matchless wealth of blossom, and fragrance, and colour. It is sheeted with the mingled blooms of iris, and lily, and asphodel, like a brilliant mosaic, and the small bells of the red anemone, sprinkled like blood-drops among the grass.
The dust and shout of battle, the splendour of princely pageants, the stir and hum of a busy life, have passed away from Esdraelon, but this glory of the flowers outlives the regal pomp of Solomon. The rocky frame-work of the wondrous drama of human life and passion that was acted here, remains, when the actors have vanished. And still—as if it were a voice from the old time before us, to