H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

The life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore online

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rugged, like the gentle roll and gradual heave of waves, rather
than their pitch and toss up to mountainous broken crests and
pyramid-like points. The north-westward reaches of the plain
were swelling undulations, like the Yorkshire moors, and at one
level point of these were a few solitary, most desolate fragments
of ruins, only one pillar of gi-eat height, the others being corners
of palatial buildings crumbling away, and not likely to be visible
at all after a few years. This is all that remains of Pasargadae,
except one grand piece of masonry wall, enclosing and fencing in
the side of a hill-ledge, much as the terraces of Persepolis are
enclosed. It must have been a vast effort of engineering skill, and
worthy of a great and wealthy kingdom,'

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* April 24th. On early to Dehbid (village of willows). Defiles
again, I think the highest in actual altitude between Bushire and
Ispahan. Cuckoos heard here several times. At the bottom of
this a cultivated plain of very large extent, with a very conspicuous
"koh-i sufeid " (white mountain), towards which we were travelling
endlessly it seemed all day — the last three miles on foot, for I was
spent, and faint for want of food and water. Some three fara-
sangs of plain towards this hill are utterly bai'ren and waste, like
that from Dasht to Quettah, scarcely a blade of grass, only camel's
bush and furze. Eain came on pretty heavily the last two miles,
and I got my third wetting this journey. Got at length, weary and
half-drenched, into the caravanserai close by a weird-looking bit of
ruin, said to be one of Bahram Gour's, who in consequence of
a dream destroyed all the splendid palaces he had built, and then
suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the sight of man.
Mr. Agenor Yuhannes came and fetched me to a very comfoi'table
little carpeted bedroom, where a fire was most acceptable, and tea
also. Rain had been much wanted, and Y. said the copious
fall of it to-day would make my visit long remembered.'

* April ^sth- Still very wet. Six hours letter writing.'

* April 26tJL Off early for Khoona Khona, about three and
a half hours.

* Several hours spent with inquirers of great intelligence, though
outwardly poor ; went through St. Luke xix. (first part) — suffering,
resurrection, ascension of our Lord. It got so cold they could not
sit it out any longer. It was, however, a day not to be forgotten.'

* April sritlu Off early to Soorma.'

Hence the bishop wrote again to Edith : —

*A8 I got in from a march of twenty-six miles at 10 a.m.,
I have a little time to spare to write to you, in front of such
a bright snow-capped mountain, called Koowool or Kuwul (my
guide tells me), in the little upper storey (about 16 or 17 ft. by
16 ft.), which usually is built over the gateway of the Persian
caravanserai, and is often called a taJar. . . . Henry Martyn
speaks of this snowhill in liis diary, but he does not always give
the names, so I find it difficult to follow. I wish he had given
more detail of his travel.

* The snowhill opposite is so brilliantly white and glistening, it
reminds me of Mount Hermon as it is represented in recent
pictures of our Lord's Transfiguration, in which His glory is made
to light up the snows of the mountain to which He had gone up
to pray. My caravanserai is right under some lower hills of
a pinkish grey colour of rock, which I always admire. Yesterday
we came only eighteen or twenty miles, through a not very
interesting country to a treeless, grassless, and almost waterless
plain, except at a distant corner of it, where a caravanserai stands,


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conspicuous by its whiteness from afar, more lonely and bereft to
look at than even a lodge in a garden of cucumbers. No doubt in
time of bad weather, or wlion pressed by robbers, it has seemed
like a city of refuge to maily ; and even to a weary traveller it
seemed like an ensign of rest and repose in the far distant land-
scape from the top of the last hill he descends ; and its pure, cool
water, purling and sparkling, is most refreshing.

* In front are some very strikingly pointed conical hills, like some
Persian caps. Under their skirts we found this morning the
tents of an English engineer, Mr. Mclntyre, which was a rare
and welcome sight. I was surprised to find a few people, who sat
for hours, giving most intelligent and almost anxious attention to
the word of the Gospel. The remarks it elicited were delightful
to hear. Benjamin, a colporteur, who is in my little retinue of
travellers, seems heart and soul in his work - his eyes quite
glisten as he tells them of the way of peace and life. Perhaps he
too .thinks as Martyn did : the Persians will also probably take
the lead in the march to Sion (cf. p. 380 of Marty n's Life).

*Mr. Mclntyre was inspecting the telegraph poles, and re-
fastening them when damaged. He inspects about 140 miles.
He is very mechanical, and has built several little carriages, in
one of which (a sort of dogcart) he drove me himself four miles.
He has built two or three others for private parties or for Govern-
ment use. Since the days of Darius or Xerxes there can scarcely
have been ever any carriages in Persia till these. We saw two
sculptured on the staircase walls of a palace at Persepolis. I have
one mountain guide with a dagger and rough sort of rifle. I gene-
rally let him go in front to keep the pace up well. I sometimes
try to get some information out of him, but when he has told me
a white mountain is a white mountain, that is about all.

*' This village lies at the root of a long hill, and is fringed for one
and a half miles, I should think, with gardens, chiefly of fruit-
bearing trees. For a long space before you come to it it looks
like a dark mass spread over a lengthened space of the plain,
and then the bright emerald green of the trees breaks upon you.
In this plain where we now are there are several such little
oases and corners, where streams from the hills flow down.

' These huts are much cleaner than those Cashmere travellers put
up with, but I fear the Cashmere ruler has a secret pleasure in
English travellers being stung and bitten ! I should so like to be
sure you would be better when I come to England. Your dear
mother has spared no pains. I wish the joy of meeting your old
father, after so long an absence, might help the feet and ankle-bones
to receive strength. I had an interesting hour to-day with an old
Babi and some of his followers, seated upon the floor. We went
carefully through John iii. with its consecutive teachings. The
Babis are, I am told, a largely spread political sect, and mostly
worship their original teacher, or father, by the name of the Bab.

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Abadeh and this neighbourhood is one of their strongholds.
The Bab himself and hundreds if not thousands of his followers
have been cruelly put to death ^ ; latterly the Government has left
them alone, finding martyrdom only caused them to grow. It is
rather cheering to know that the Persians have such courage of
conviction, for if they will die for the Bab, who was only a socialist
leader, how much more might they do so for the Captain of our
salvation I It is curious to find how many English trees grow on
these hills, and in watered spots of the plain— willows, called
beeds ; ashes, called ban ; elms, called visk ; oaks, called habit ;
box-trees, called shamshad ; poplars, called safedi ; beside fruit
trees — zaddalu, apricots ; sev, apples. Potatoes also are coming
into use. Tea is drunk more than coffee, and comes chiefly by
way of Eussia.

' Perhaps you will let Mary and Hilda see this, as some little
things might interest them, though there are no adventures
described. I should not like to do what they are ill-natured
enough to say one traveller did, who paid some robbers to fire the
wrong way that he might record his peril afterwards. I must
say there is a charming gracefulness about the plains we now
traverse, and the hills which surround them ; at first it seemed
all wildness and sternness of nature, and now it is winning grace.'

Next day he added in his journal : —

' April 28. Four farasangs to Abadeh ; more fatigued than almost
on any day before, partly from the hardness of the road. I lay
down an hour or more, and then prepared a sketch of St. Paul's
teaching in the Galatians, read the life of W. Cams Wilson, the
soldiers' friend, and purchased some wood-carving specimens.
After this two Babi scholars, well read in the philosophy of
Soofeeism, called and sat more than two hours ; and I went
through much of the sketch I had prepared on Galatians, into
which they entered with some spirit and a measure of candid
acceptance. I felt thankful that I had carefully thought over the
subject I pray God to bless His own word, and cause it to be
received in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Two rich Babis
in Ispahan were put to death (Mr. Yuhannes says ^) four years since.
Two or three months ago the mujtahid represented to the Zill-i-
Sultan that Babism was spreading and corrupting minds. Eighty
men were seized and imprisoned, but by degrees most of them
have been released ; a few are still incarcerated. The terror,
however, is great everywhere, and Babism not openly confessed

'Mr. Yuhannes says the telegraph has had a wonderfully

^ See Curzon, vol. i. p. 496, for sketch of Babism.
^ Brother of the one at Dehbid.
F 2

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civilizing effect these last twelve years. It took some time to
be thought a fact at all, then afterwards- was set down to the evil
one, by the mujtahids especially. Now wilful damage is not done
more than once in six months or so. Clearly the wires and posts
represent a power to which they have to submit, and the "pes
claudus" of *' poena" follows at much swifter rate behind offenders.
The boxes and spoons I bought to-day can only be made of
"gulabi" pear- wood, it alone admitting such minute carving*.'

At Abadeh he rested for a Sunday, and the following
reflexions are entered in his journal : —

' April 29 (Sunday), The process of bringing good out of evil
how wonderfully shown in the scattering of tongues! What
lovely and charming beauties of the gospel are brought out by
difference of languages, as illustrating differences of mind and
heart — sentiments, affections, reasonings, imaginations bringing
out the different natural similes which different scenes and pic-
tures of life and nature exhibit. How beautifully is this shown
in the stateliness and massiveness of Ai'abic, in the sweetness and
lucidness of French and Persian! I must inquire what the
Soofees really want and aim at. One of the two yesterday wanted
exceedingly to know what the day of the Lord is, and the resur-
rection. Might read to them out of Thessalonians.

' The apostles laid the greatest stress on the death and resurrec-
tion of Jesus Christ as the basis of all faith, hope, love ; no true
death in the world of the evil and untrue but this. To Abraham
it was revealed that Christ came as God's great blessing ; to David
as God's mercy and faithfulness ; to Isaiah as God's righteousness
and salvation ; to Samuel as God's true High Priest ; to Jeremiah as
the Branch of the Lord ; to Jacob as the Lion of the tribe ofJudah ;
to Moses as the Faces of God — the prophet like him, ** in whom My
name is " ; whosoever rejected Him should be cut off. The Babis
yesterday much surprised at hearing about the spiritual body ;
had not conceived of it evidently. The amens of Christ might
be dwelt on with Babis profitably, and the great end answered by
the Lord's Day and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

* I used the word MakrQm yesterday to express the taking man*s
nature as being in affinity with the love of man and delight in
man which belonged to the eternal Word and Wisdom of the
Father, as in Prov. viii They quite agreed it was the right word
to use for being in harmony or affinity with. What cause have
I to praise God for making my bishopiic the means of giving me

' Curzon describes these spoons as * veritable works of art, the bowls
being hollowed out from a single piece of wood till they are almost as
thin as paper, and qaite transparent, while the handles are models of
fragile and delicate filagree work.'

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this missionary journey and deeply interesting insight of many
minds in Persia I It is to me deeply affecting and surprising.
Mr, Y. said he had never heard a European before speak Persian
so readily and fluently. May this crown be laid at the feet of

'Two hours and a half with a party of Soofees. There was
much that was disappointing in the conversation. Much listened
to and agreed to, and yet the pantheistic tinge and the modern
literary view as to all religions being at root alike crept in con-
stantly and showed the worm at the root. I could not get into
the *'amens" well, because in the very first the word heaven sug-
gested questions as to whether heaven was a real place. I told
them what a wonderful day it would be for Persia if a preacher of
those twelve " amen amens " of Christ were to be sent forth in
a mart3rr-spint, but I fear they required a fuller setting forth of
St. John's deep teaching, and a more solemn call to render loyal
obedience to the commands of the great kingdom than I gave
them. They asked whether baptism could not be by words as
well as by water. All sat on chairs. Tea and manna cakes spread.
They wanted me to become acquainted with the writings of the
Bab, whom one of their ideas is to regard as a second appearing
of Christ. How true it is, ** false Christs and false prophets,"
&c- I gave them what I considered true criteria of an inspired
prophet and prophecy. If they could only get out of the Persian
dilettante discussion of truth as a philosophical pastime and
weighing of problems not of vital and eternal importance ! It is
curious to observe the bitterness they feel towards Moham-
medanism, and express whenever it is mentioned. It is a stab
in the side of that system at least, as Keshub Chunder of

From Abadeh the bishop passed through Shugalistan,
Yazdegast and Maksag Beg to Kum-i-Shah, where, on
Ascension Day, May 3, he had the pleasure and refreshment
of meeting Dr. Bruce.

' Yazdegast,' said the bishop, * is a singular place, in a deep and
not very broad ravine, through which a little river from the great
snowy steep beyond runs quite white with the white lime rocks
which it rolls between. Most of the houses are perched up on the
cliff-sides, and look more like rock-birds' nests than the abode of
men. They are not cut out so much from the chffs as the Petra
houses, but lodged on terraces one above the other, so that the
roof of one house seems to be the floor of the house above. I never
saw houses so completely founded upon a rock. ... On either
side of the stream are wheat-fields of brightest emerald green
at present Thus white and green are the only two colours
visible — white snows, white rocks, and buildings, and deep green

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fields below with a few green trees of no great size. There is
rather a handsome and solid little bridge across the stream. On
the whole the place reminds me of Veii in the Campagna. Like
Veii, you never would dream of this break in the level plain,
which suddenly discloses to you this scene of rather unusual
beauty, till in a moment it breaks upon you when you reach the
brink of one of the cliffs.'

The loan of Dr. Bruce's fine horse made the remainder
of the ride by Maghur and by Marg to Ispahan much

*As we approached towards evening the ridge beyond which
Julfa stands (like the Delhi ridge, only very broad as well as
long), we met various parties come out to **istikbal" us— men,
women, boys ; then the agent, Mr. Agenor ; one of the priests of
the Armenian church sent by the bi^op ; a few cavalry and foot
soldiers, with some one of rank sent by the Zill-i-Sultan, called
Hazrat-i-Wala. It was an ovation such as I never had before,
and shows how much Bruce is respected. A cloud of dust
announced the approach of the little body of attendant retinue.
There were evolutions and caperings of cavalry, firing off guns,
&c. The poor priest's horse reared and threw him heavily, falling
on him in part from behind, as he slipped on a rock which cropped
up from the road. There is a fountain called **Chashma Khunda-
i-hafiz," i. e. of benedictions to parting travellers or greetings of
in-coming guests. All along the JuKa lanes numbers of men
and women came out of their house-doors to look. It was a gay
scene. We were kindly entertained by Mrs. Bruce and her party
on arrival at their lovely house and garden, where church and
school, and buildings for residence, libraries, &c., are a most
pleasing houp d'osiV

^May 6 {Sunday after Ascension). A fairly full church. Persian
service ; about ninety present, women and men on different sides.
Bruce preached Acts i. 8. I celebrated for sixty or over. Called
to ask after the priest who fell ; found him better. Gordon stopped
some six weeks in this house on one of his two visits to Ispahan. In
afternoon preached to small congi*egation (about forty) in English
on Elijah's ascension. Very few Europeans.'

* May 7. The Armenian bishop called with several of his
priests. Conversation partly in Persian, partly through the
English and Armenian agent, who spoke in Armenian with him
and interpreted to me in Persian. I spoke of the kingdom of
God, and of the new creation, and the Church as the Bride,
illustratiijg the glory and goodness of the Bridegroom if taught
and led of the Spirit. I gave him my views of true Catholicity.
He was fairly affable and polite, dressed in a black cowl with
satin robe to his feet, and two decorations on his breast. I wore

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(for the first time perhaps since my consecration) the long
"bishop's vest reaching to feet, and coat over it. Bishop's hat
in hand.

*The Eoman Catholic priest (Armenian by birth) called. He
had seen Lahoi*e several timea He has been almost all along
a crafty subtle enemy of Dr. B., yet talks plausibly, though not
religiously. Si>eaks Persian well, English a little. Said he
regarded English and Romish clergy as one.'

* May 8. Went to call on the Ai-menian bishop and his clergy ;
sat an hour or more. I told him of the joy I had at the increased
union and approximation of friendship and fellow-help between
the Church of England and Eastern (Armenian and Nestorian)
Churches. I promised to convey his messages of brotherly love
and regai*d to the new Primate of England, of whose goodness
and learning I spoke to him. I spoke of my hope that both
they and we would be growingly like the woman clothed with
the sun.

* My relation to the Bishop of London with reference to this
visit to Persia he wished to understand, and I explained it to him.

' The Armenians, he said, have been here 280 years, brought
hither by Shah Abbas. Tea and sweetmeats were brought. He
showed me over his cathedral, and seemed not to know that our
churches had ornaments on the Holy Table, crosses, vases, &c.
I told him we had all these in moderation (mutawarzil) ; and our
views were to have moderation and hit the right mean in these
things, neither **ifrat" nor **tafrit" (excess or defect). The Romish
priest interpreted for me in Persian just here : rather a curious
combination this. There was a beautifully painted dome above
the sanctuary, where also the bishop's throne was occupying too
much space and prominence, in front of the altar slightly to the
left, with heavy canopy over it. There were semi- arched recesses
/ \^ q£ ^Y^q shape given here over the alt^r, and to the

right and left, with pictures from the Old Testament above, and
New Testament below : and there were two of the same arched or
vaulted recesses with flat tops in the other part of the church
outside the sanctuary, on which were pourtrayed the fourteen
torments of St. Gregory Illuminator, ending with his triumph
over Tiridates, turning him into a crowned pig, and then restoring
and baptizing him \ A place was pointed out where two priests
were martyred in the time of the preceding Nadir Shah. At the
bishop's house we met in a long room, elegant, not sumptuous in
furniture, with pictures along the wall of the apostles and cele-
brated saints of the Armenian Church.

' Last night an Armenian priest named Minas, from villages
eighty miles off, called with three or four of his headmen and

' There is a good pictare of this Armenian cathedral, Carzon, vol. ii.

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others. He is a diligent Biblical student, and Bruce found in
long walks with him real spiritual profit and edification : he has
seven village congregations under him, but little fruit.

* We had interesting conversation on the chief objections raised
by Mohammedans He told a recent incident of the son of a Bak-
tiari chief executed about six months ago'. The son had been
imprisoned ever since until he was released two days ago. He is
a general in the Persian army, and has been occupied the six
months in studying the Bible — the New Testament especially —
which he had bought just before his imprisonment. On coming
out he is conversing with syuds and others, expressing his
strong conviction of the truth of Christianity. They argue with
him. and taunt him as being of the Kashlsh Sahib's religion (L c.
Dr. Bruce's).'

* 31at/ 9. The chief event of this day was a visit in the city to
the Zill-i-Sultan (shadow of the Sultan), Hazrat-i-Wala \ the heir-
apparent to the Persian throne probably. Bruce, Hoernle, and
self, joined by Mr. Agenor. After a ride of three miles we
dismounted at the gate of the palace, and walked through two
or three courts to an inner court with a rose garden. A crowd of
l>eople were hanging about almost to the door of the chamber, in
which the prince sat in a comer on pillows and shawls, with a
single attendant, a governor of Yazd, I understood. The prince
did not arise, but beckoned to us to sit on chairs, and asked about
me and my office in India, and about the Viceroy. I told him
of Lord Ripon's interest in education, and the wish of the
Punjabis to be better instructed in morals. In this the prince
seemed to take no interest. Bruce presented a well-bound copy
of the Gospel to the prince, his new version of it, thus gaining
the permission which Henry Mai*tyn could not obtain. I took
part by rising from my seat in the presentation, and told him
that this was the greatest treasure of princes. I told him about
Daniel and his prophecies of Christ and the coming kingdom.
He was ignorant apparently of his connexion with Peraepolis, and
of the coming of the Saviour again he seemed not to wish to hear.
A picture by his side showed the looseness of his morals, but

' Apparently Isfendiah Khan, whose story is told by Curzon, vol. ii.
p. 294 if., only he sajs that his imprisonment lasted six years. He has
now won the title, Shamshir-es-Sultanah, • Sword of the state.* His
lather's murder seems to have been the main cause of the disgrace of
the Zill-i- Sultan, which took place shortly after French's visit, and
from which he has not jet recovered. Isfendiah is likely to be chief of
all the Bakliari tribes.

* Carzon, vol. i. pp. 416-421, has given a full account of this interest-
ing individual, together with his photograph, and a record of his own
interview with him.

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Bruce says he is reputed to be much moi*e pure in morals than
formerly. On the whole the visit was very disappointing: he
seemed a mixture of Pilate and Felix, and would not be drawn
to any serious thought apparently. He rose and shook hands
friendlily when we parted after half-an-hour's chat Bruce told
him how many languages I understood. I told him one letter of
the knowledge of God was worth all the books of the philosophers.
I told him what pleasmo^I had in the relics of the old kings of
Persia. He fights hard with the moollahs, I believe, the battle of
religious liberty, wishing that Christianity and Judaism and
Babism should be religions permitted by the state so far as that
bloodshed in religious feuds should be prohibited. So far one
must be thankful ; but this might all be upset at any time,
government having no fixed principles, but only the self-willed

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 8 of 46)