H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

A poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient online

. (page 22 of 31)
Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 22 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


" Ja hu ! ja hu ! " was the wild, howling cry.

My companion whispered to me : " For Heaven's sake do
not laugh, or we are undone ! they will murder us ! "

" Laugh ! " I replied : " I am ready to weep ! It is afflicting
it is shocking ! I cannot bear it any longer ! "

I sought the door in haste, and at the same moment some
of the dancers fell to the ground.

When I was out in the street, I still heard the wild howl :
" Ja hu ! ja hu "

How beautiful, how warm it was without in the clear sunshine.
The light boat, thin as a shaving, darted from the coast of
Asia toward Europe, over the rapid current, past sailing vesels
and boats. The least shock, and we must have upset ; but
of that I thought not ; we came from the dwelling of terror,
and here all was nature and gladness.

The day after, I visited the Mewlewis, the turning dervises
in Pera. They have their own peculiar dress, and a fine airy
Cloister. Everything shows that they stand in a higher rank
ihan the Ruhanis. The entrance to the cloister is near the
burial-ground, toward the principal street in Pera. There are
ome high cypresses in the court-yard. The cloister itself i
separated from the temple where they dance.



THE DER VISES' DANCE. 24!

An old Armenian accompanied me thither ; the yard was
filled with women, but they durst not enter the temple itself.
I saw several young dervises through the open windows of the
cloister, exercising themselves in turning round.

The soldiers on guard winked to us while we stood in the
yard. We were obliged to take off our boots, and were then
conducted into the gallery which extends around the saloon,
and which was covered with mats. Everything was clean and
handsome : the view through the open windows to Scutari and
the distant Asiatic mountains certainly contributed much to the
embellishment : every window afforded a splendid diorama.

The gallery I entered was quite filled with Turks ; but when
they saw me, a stranger, they all made way directly, and pushed
each other aside, so that I might come freely up to the barrier.
Here, and everywhere else, I must praise the civility of the
Turks.

The festival now began. A crowd of dervises entered ;
they were all barefooted, and each of them was wrapped up
in a large, dark-green cloak ; a white felt hat, certainly an ell
high, and entirely without a brim, covered the head. One of
the eldest, with a long white beard, placed himself in the
middle of the hall, crossed his arms, and said a prayer,
accompanied by low, monotonous music two notes on the
flute, and but one, and the same note, on the drums ; it
sounded almost like the regular splashing of a fountain.
All the other dervises went slowly in a circle around the old
man.

They now threw off their cloaks, and each appeared in an
open, dark-green jacket, with long, narrow sleeves ; a long
skirt of the same stuff and color hung down to the ankles,
and fell in large folds around their legs. They extended their
arms and turned round, always to the same side : their skirts
stood in the air like a funnel about them.

In the centre of the circle stood two dervises, who con-
tinued to turn to the same side, and always on the same spot ;
the others turned round about them in a whirling dance ; the
eldest with a long beard, walked quietly between those that
formed the outer circle, and the two in the middle. The
dance was intended to represent the course of the planets.
16



242 A POET'S BAZAAR.

A low, monotonous song was heard from a closed gallery
above us ; the drum and fife continued a sleepy music, whilst
the dancers uninterruptedly continued their turning round
to the same side, and always keeping the same time. They
looked just like lifeless figures : not a feature was changed,
but all were pale as death.

There was a heavy blow on the drum, when they suddenly
stood still as if struck by lightning. They mumbled a short
prayer ; the monotonous music began again, and again they all
turned to the same side as before. We became giddy by look-
ing at them : they turned and turned. Now one tottered ; the
fife and drum then sounded in quicker time, and the one
who tottered whirled still quicker round, always wilder and
quicker ; it was not possible to bear the sight of it ! This
dance lasted a whole hour ; but there was nothing horrifying
in it. It might almost be called graceful ; one had only to
forget that they were men, to believe that they were puppets.
The dance, in unison with the low sameness of the music,
gave the whole the character of silent insanity, which affected
more than disturbed the spirits. The whole performance
could scarcely be called edifying : it appeared to me like a
sort of ballet, whereas the dance of the dervises in Scutari
remained in my memory like a scene in a mad-house.



A TURKISH SKETCH.

WHEN we descend from Pera, and pass between the cy-
presses of the church-yard, we come to a little quarter which
must be regarded as belonging to Galata, although it lies out-
side the walls. Here is a real Turkish street, where the
efforts of modern enterprise are not yet to be traced. This
street runs somewhat angularly ; its breadth is so great that
an ass, with its panniers, can pass through ; it is not paved,
and after rain it seems to be a muddy brook, in which they
have driven piles and laid a plank on them.

All the houses are made of wood, and two stories high



A TURKISH SKETCH.

the ground-floor presents to view an open shop, without win
dows or doors in fact, an inverted chest ; and there, on the
raised floor, sits the Turk, with his long pipe, his articles of
sale hanging round about. The old Turks, in their parti-coi-
ored dresses, and generally with a noble countenance adorned
by a long beard, sit here the day through. .There is no chatter-
ing here. Every house might be taken for a wooden shed
before a wax cabinet, and we have the wax figure in the owner
himself. A pack of dogs, without masters, are fighting iu the
middle of the street; another pack are devouring a carcass
that lies there. I give the picture as I have seen it. Five or
six little Turkish boys, almost naked one, at least, has only
a turban on skip about, with a wild howl, around a dead
horse, which, as the hide is flayed off, lies there in a corner,
reeking, and stretching its four legs in the air. A naked brat
gets up to ride on the raw animal, and then jumps about : it
is an original sight !

But is there no ray of poetry in all this filth ? I answer, Yes ;
for I remember the large vines which, on some of the houses,
stretch their thick stems up the wooden wall, and spread like
a leafy roof over the street to the neighbor's house, which it
decks with its green leaves ! I remember the well-grated up-
per story, which incloses the women and hides them from the
stranger's gaze. There is poetry. The Turk himself, the
yellow opium-eater, who sits in red trousers and bright yellow
caftan with green turban, is a living poem ; he sits cross-
legged with half-closed eyes and trembling lips my eye reads
the quivering leaves of the spiritual work ; and it runs thus :

" See how the vine winds its tendrils ! Its leaf is green as
my turban ; its juice is red as my blood ! But the prophet has
said that the juice and the blood shall not mingle ! To drink
wine is a sin ; wine is for Christians and Jews ! But the
opium root is Solomon's ring ! It is better than wine in my
mouth ; it becomes a mountain with grapes and sunshine !
Every sorrow exhales away ! I feel myself so hale I become
so glad ; I become wild ; I hover and fly ! The prophet
knows what I do ! Allah is great ! "



244 A POErs BAZAAR.

XI.
THE CEMETERY AT SCUTARI.

THE Turks regard themselves as strangers in Europe ; they
must, therefore, rest in their father-land, and it is Asia. The
largest cemetery of Constantinople is at Scutari. Where one
is buried, the Turks never lay another corpse ; the grave of the
dead is his home, and that is inclosed ; thus the cemetery soon
increases in size. That at Scutari extends for miles. For
every child that is born, they plant a plantain-tree, and for
every man that dies, they plant a cypress ; the cemetery at
Scutari is, therefore, an extensive forest cut through with
roads and paths. Here are the richest monuments, the great-
est variations of monumental pillars over the dead. Beside
the graves, which are covered with a flat, extended stone, there
is a recess or hole into which the rain falls ; the dogs slake
their thirst there ; and the Turk fondly believes, from this,
that the dead are happy in Mohammed's paradise.

The grave-stones, each with a turban or fez cut in the stone,
stand under the tall cypresses, and as close to each other as
the stubble in a mowed field. One can easily see where the
dervise or Turk of the real old faith rests, and where the new
half-Europeanized race is brought to sleep ; the name and
rank of the deceased are inscribed on the stone in golden char-
acters. An ingenious epitaph tells of the mutability of life, or
calls on the reader to pray for the dead. Where a woman
rests we see only a carved lotus-leaf, ornamented with gold ;
but not a word is said of her. Even in death, woman here is
veiled and unknown to the stranger.

No fence incloses this forest of the dead ; it is still and sol-
itary under these mighty cypresses. The broad highway passes
over the overthrown graves ; the Arab drives his camel past,
the bell on the animal's neck is the only sound that disturbs
this vast solitude.

The Sea of Marmora lies before us, still as the dead under
the cypresses, and shows us its beautifully colored islands
The largest seems a little paradise with wild rocks, vineyards,
cypress, plantain, and pine woods ! What grandeur is to be



THE CEMETERY AT SCUTARI. 245

seen from this garden of the dead ! This scene of splendor
which we behold was the place of banishment for dethroned
emperors, princes, and princesses under the Byzantine empire.
They sighed in the cloisters on those islands, like poor monks
and nuns ! It is better with the dead ! Corruption sleeps there
without dreaming ; but the eternal, striving, has haply reached
its God.

What silence amongst these graves under the cypresses !
We will wander here in the clear moonlight night. What dark
trees ! night slumbers over the graves. What a radiant sky !
life streams from it.

Yonder, over the rugged way, there moves a white orb, and
a red, beaming one, as if they were shining roses ; they are
only two paper lanterns. An old Turk holds them in his
hand as he rides through the garden of the dead : he thinks
not of the dead ; no, the living are in his thoughts ; the beau-
tiful, the merry women in that comfortable home where he will
soon stretch his limbs on the soft cushions, eat the hot pilaf,
smoke his pipe whilst the youngest of the wives claps his cheek,
and the others present before him a " Shadow-play," a
merry comedy which the Turks favor in their houses, with
Karagof, and Hadschi Aiwat. 1 Amongst the graves under
the black cypresses, the old man thinks of life and life is
enjoyment !

It is again still ! Footsteps are now heard, no lantern
shines ; no horse trots past ; it is a youth strong and fiery,
handsome as Ishmael's self ! The moon shines on his beam-
ing face ; he flies on the wings of love. Yes, he is a Turk.

There is stillness in the garden of the dead ! there is still-
ness in the hut by the Sea of Marmora ; but at home there
are two lips that meet as the mussel shells meet ; that in-
close love's pearl !

1 The Turks have got the " Schattenspiel," from China. The chief
personages in this play are Karagof, *'. e. Harlequin ; Hadschi Aiwat, i. e.
Pantaloon, who speaks in verse; and Hopa-Thelebis, /. e. Petitmaitre.



246 A POET'S BAZAAR.

XII.

MOHAMMED'S BIRTHDAY.

THE fourth of May is the birthday-festival of the prophet
Mahomet or Mohammed ; the evening before the festivity
began, and the commencement is undeniably the finest part
of it. That ii was moonlight, and that the Osman police
laws, even under these circumstances, command every one
that goes out after sunset to carry a candle in a lantern if he
would not be arrested, I did not regard as the most pleasant
regulation ; but I was obliged to put up with it, for neither
the moonlight nor the police laws could be changed. A
young Russian, named Aderhas, and I went together, and
without any guide, but furnished with lights in large, paper
lanterns, we hastened away to see the illumination in honor
of the prophet. We went through one of the narrow side-
streets of Pera, and a sight lay before us, so magnificent, so
beautiful, so fantastic, that the like of it can hardly be ex-
pected to be seen in the North in an oriental dream. From
the row of houses where we stood, and deep down toward the
bay, there lay an extensive cemetery, that is to say, a wood
of cypresses with large, closely planted trees: pitchy night
rested there.

The path, which the foot of man and horses' hoofs have
formed, winds over rugged hills, then downward under the
high trees. Sometimes it is narrow between the sepulchral
monuments, and sometimes it goes over the ruined grave-
stones. Here and there moved a red or blue lantern which,
ever and anon, disappeared and returned to sight again in the
dark ground ; there are a few solitary houses in the cemetery ;
the light shone from the topmost window, or was borne along
the open balcony.

The bay, filled with vessels, could be seen over the tops of
the cypresses as blue as a Damascus blade ; two of the largest
ships were ornamented in the richest manner with burning
lamps ; they beamed around the port-holes, about the gun-
wale, and the masts ; they hung in the shrouds and trans-
formed them into a radiant net. Opposite us lay the city it



MOHAMMED'S BIRTHDAY. 247

self, that great, extended Constantinople, with its innumerable
minarets, all entwined with wreaths of lamps ; the air was stil!
red from the setting sun, but so clear and transparent that the
mountains of Asia and the eternal snow-covered Olympus
were plainly visible, the east with all its broken lines like a
silvery cloud behind the magnificent city. The moonlight did
not diminish the lustre of the lamps, but only brought out the
minarets, which seemed white stalks with colossal fire-flowers ;
the lesser ones bore one wreath of lights, the larger two, and
the largest three, one above the other.

There was not a being to be seen near where we stood ; it
was still and solitary. We paced down through the cypresses
where a nightingale was pouring out its melodious song, and
the turtle-doves cooed in the dark trees. We went past a lit-
tle guard-house, built of planks and painted red ; a small fire
was kindled between the grave-stones before it, and soldiers
lay round about the fire ; they were clothed in European
dresses, but their features and color denoted that they were of
Ishmael's race, the children of the Desert. With long pipes
in their mouths, they lay and listened to what was related ; it
was about Mohammed's birth ; the nightingale translated it
for us, or we should not have understood it.

" La illah ilallah ! l The merchants met together in the
city of Mecca for the sake of commerce ; there came Indians
and Persians, there came Egyptians and Syrians ; each had
his idol in the temple of Kaaba, and a son of Ishmael's race
filled one of the highest offices, that of satisfying the hunger
and thirst of the pilgrims. Such was his piety he would, like
Abraham, have offered up his son ; but the soothsayer bade
the beautiful Abdallah to live, and a hundred camels to "be
sacrificed for him. La illah ilallah ! And Abdallah grew
up, and became so handsome that hundreds of maidens
died through love for him ; the flame of the prophet shone
from his brow ; the flame that, from the day of creation, was
concealed from generation to generation, until the prophet,
Mohammed the first and last was born. The soothsayer
Fatima saw this flame, and she offered a hundred camels as
her dowry ; but he pressed Emina to his breast, and the
1 There is no God but God



248 A POET'S BAZAAR.

prophet's flame vanished from his brow and burned under
Emina's heart. La illah ilallah !

" Nine changes of the moon passed away, and never had
the flowers of the earth exhaled such sweet odors as in these.
Never had the fruit on the branches swelled so juicy ! Then
the rocks shook, the lake of Sava sank in the earth, the idols
fell down in the temple, and the demons that would fain storm
heaven, fell like millions of shooting-stars, cast down by the
lance- wielder ; for Mohammed the prophet was born that
night i La illah ilallah ! "

This story the nightingale translated for us, and the night-
ingale understands Turkish just as well as it understands
Danish.

We passed under Pera's tower out to the cloister of the
turning dervises ; and a large panorama was before us. The
whole Sea of Marmora and the Asiatic mountains lay irra-
diated by the moonlight, and in the middle rose Scutari,
whose minarets beamed with lamps like Constantinople's.
And here stood forth the Mosque of Sancta Sophia, with its
four minarets ; and the Mosque of Achmet, with its six, each
with two or three glittering wreaths of stars. They seemed to
touch the gardens of the Seraglio ; extending, dark as a star-
less night, down toward the Bosphorus. Not a light was to
be seen in the building of the Sultanas along the shore, but
where the Golden Horn terminates there was a flaming sword
planted, which cast its red light over the water. Innumer-
able small boats, each with red, blue, or green paper lanterns,
darted, like fire-flies, between Europe and Asia. All the large
vessels of war shone with lamps ; we saw every ship, shroud,
and spar ; everything was as if drawn in fire. Scutari and
Stamboul seemed bound together by the beaming water and
the variegated points of fire. It was the city of romance and
fantasy ; a magic was shed over the whole. Only on two
spots lay night with all her mysterious gloom ; in Asia it was
in the large cemetery behind Scutari, and in Europe it was in
the gardens of the Seraglio. Night and dreams were in both
places ; the dead heroes' dreams are of the women of para-
dise. In the Seraglio's night they dream of the earth, and
they are there young and beautiful as their heavenly sisters.



MOHAMMED'S BIRTHDAY.



249



There was a throng of Greeks, Jews, and Franks in the
streets of Pera ; each had his lantern or candle ; it was an
oriental moccolo ; but the dresses were far richer and more
splendid than those we see on the Corso at Rome on the last
evening of the Carnival. Lamps placed in pyramids, or point-
ing out in a large M, the initial of the prophet's name, burnt
before the houses of the foreign ministers. At nine o'clock
the firing of cannon was heard from all the ships ; they thun-
dered along the deep as if there were a great sea-fight. All
the windows shook : shot followed shot proclaiming the hour
of the prophet's birth.

I fell asleep during the booming of the cannon, and awoke
early in the morning with the same thunder. Merry music of
Rossini and Donizetti arose to me from the streets. The
troops marched away to be drawn up between the Seraglio and
the Mosque of Achmet, whither the Sultan was to go in great
state.

The Danish Consul, Romani, an Italian, came to fetch me.
A young Turk, with pistols in his belt, and bearing two long
tobacco-pipes, went before us. An old Armenian, in a dark
blue fluttering caftan, and his black vase-shaped hat on his
shaved head, carried our cloaks behind us ; and thus we
strode through the chief street of Pera down to Galata. The
servants went in one boat, and we two in another. And now
we shot over the bay, like arrows, between hundreds of other
boats, whose rowers screamed and shouted to each other, that
the one should not rush against the other's light vessel and
sink it. The mass of gondolas formed a large rocking bridge
at the landing-place of Constantinople ; so that we had to
spring over them to reach the firm earth, which is dammed up
with half-rotten beams and planks. The throng was great,
but we soon came into a broader street. Here were people
enough, but a good place, nevertheless, could be got.

Large crowds of women veiled, went the same way as we ;
and we were soon under the walls of the Seraglio, which are
very high toward the city, and look like the walls of an old
fortification. Here and there is a tower, with a little iron
door that seems never to have been opened. Grass and
creeping plants hang about the hinges. Large old trees



250 A FOETUS BAZAAR.

stretch their leafy branches out over the walls ; one might
fancy it was the borders of the enchanted forest where the
sleeping princess lay.

We took our station outside the Mosque of St. Sophia, be-
tween the great fountain and the entrance to the Seraglio.
The Mosque of St. Sophia, with its many cupolas and addi-
tional buildings, has, from hence, an appearance that reminds
us of a large flower, with its many little buds about it. The
terraces before it were rilled with Turkish women and chil-
dren ; the shining white veils imparted a festival air to them.

The fountain behind us is the largest and handsomest in
Constantinople. But by a fountain we usually imagine a
basin into which the water descends. It is not so in Turkey.
A better idea of a Turkish fountain will be formed by imagin-
ing a square house, with the outside walls variegated quite in
the Pompeiian style. The white ground is painted over with
red, blue, and gilt inscriptions from the Alcoran ; and from
small niches, within which the brass ladles are chained, the
consecrated fresh water with which the Mussulman washes
his face and hands, at fixed hours of the day bubbles forth.
The roof is quite Chinese, besides being painted in various
colors, or gilded. The dove, the Turk's holy bird, builds
there, and flies by hundreds from the fountain over our
heads to the Mosque of St. Sophia, and back again. Round
about lie a number of coffee-houses, all of wood, and with
balconies, almost like the houses in Switzerland, but more va-
ried, and more ruinous. Small patches of trees are before
each, under which sit tobacco-smoking and coffee-drinking
Turks, who in their various colored caftans, some with tur-
bans, others with fez, may be said to curtain the houses and
decorate the gardens.

Between the fountain and the great gate leading into the
foremost yard of the Seraglio, were two long scaffoldings of
planks on tuns and tables, the one higher than the other, and
both covered with cushions and carpets, on which veiled
Turkish women of the commonest class reclined themselves.
Old Turks, Persians, and a number of Franks, whose unveiled
females attracted much attention, had their station on the
higher part of the scaffolding. Now came several regiments



MOHAMMED'S BIRTHDAY. 25!

of Turkish soldiers, all in European uniforms narrow trou-
sers, and short jackets, the white bandoliers across over the
breast and shoulders, and all with red stiff fez on the head.
The guards looked well ; they had new uniforms, stiff stocks,
with collars, and wore on this day for the first time as I
heard white gloves. Other regiments, on the contrary,
looked quite frightful. I will not dwell upon the fact that
there were all sorts of colored faces, white, brown, and jet-
black amongst them, but there were both halt and club-footed
soldiers. The European uniform was too tight for them ; and
so a number of them had ripped the seams up at the elbows,
or cut a long gash in the trousers before the knees, that they
might move more freely, by which means a completely naked
elbow stuck out, or during the march a red or black knee con-
tinually peeped out of the blue trousers. One regiment,
which I will call the bare-legged, excelled in particular, for
some of them had but one boot and one shoe ; others were
quite bare-legged, in slippers, and amongst them there were
slippers of all colors. They all entered the Seraglio to
clanging music ; and after having passed by the Sultan, they
returned, and placed themselves in a rank on each side of the
street. Ethiopians and Bulgarians stood side by side ; the
Bedouin was neighbor to the herdsman's son from the Balkan
Mountains.

The procession was to commence at nine o'clock ; but it
was almost twelve before it pleased the Sultan to set out from
the Seraglio. The sun burnt with the warmth of summer.
One cup of coffee after the other was drunk. The scaffolding
fell down two or three times, and all the Turkish women
rolled in a heap together. We had a tedious time of it.



Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 22 of 31)