Bayard Taylor.

The Lands of the Saracen Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily, and Spain online

. (page 16 of 31)
Online LibraryBayard TaylorThe Lands of the Saracen Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily, and Spain → online text (page 16 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

eight feet in height, and literally blazing with its bloomy yellow tops.
Riding through it, I could barely look over them, and far and wide, on all
sides, spread a golden sea, out of which the long violet hills rose with
the liveliest effect. Brown, shining serpents, from four to six feet in
length, frequently slid across our path. The plain, which must be sixty
miles in circumference, is wholly uncultivated, though no land could
possibly be richer.

Out of the region of fennel we passed into one of red and white clover,
timothy grass and wild oats. The thistles were so large as to resemble
young palm-trees, and the salsify of our gardens grew rank and wild. At
length we dipped into the evening shadow of Durdun Dagh, and reached the
village of Koord Keui, on his lower slope. As there was no place for our
tent on the rank grass of the plain or the steep side of the hill, we took
forcible possession of the winnowing-floor, a flat terrace built up under
two sycamores, and still covered with the chaff of the last threshing. The
Koords took the whole thing as a matter of course, and even brought us a
felt carpet to rest upon. They came and seated themselves around us,
chatting sociably, while we lay in the tent-door, smoking the pipe of
refreshment. The view over the wide golden plain, and the hills beyond, to
the distant, snow-tipped peaks of Akma Dagh, was superb, as the shadow of
the mountain behind us slowly lengthened over it, blotting out the mellow
lights of sunset. There were many fragments of pillars and capitals of
white marble built up in the houses, showing that they occupied the site
of some ancient village or temple.

The next morning, we crossed Durdun Dagh, and entered the great plain of
Cilicia. The range, after we had passed it, presented a grand, bold,
broken outline, blue in the morning vapor, and wreathed with shifting
belts of cloud. A stately castle, called the Palace of Serpents, on the
summit of an isolated peak to the north, stood out clear and high, in the
midst of a circle of fog, like a phantom picture of the air. The River
Jyhoon, the ancient Pyramus, which rises on the borders of Armenia, sweeps
the western base of the mountains. It is a larger stream than the Orontes,
with a deep, rapid current, flowing at the bottom of a bed lower than the
level of the plain. In three hours, we reached Missis, the ancient
Mopsuestia, on the right bank of the river. There are extensive ruins on
the left bank, which were probably those of the former city. The soil for
some distance around is scattered with broken pillars, capitals, and hewn
stones. The ancient bridge still crosses the river, but the central arch
having been broken away, is replaced with a wooden platform. The modern
town is a forlorn place, and all the glorious plain around it is
uncultivated. The view over this plain was magnificent: unbounded towards
the sea, but on the north girdled by the sublime range of Taurus, whose
great snow-fields gleamed in the sun. In the afternoon, we reached the old
bridge over the Jyhoon, at Adana. The eastern bank is occupied with the
graves of the former inhabitants, and there are at least fifteen acres of
tombstones, as thickly planted as the graves can be dug. The fields of
wheat and barley along the river are very rich, and at present the natives
are busily occupied in drawing the sheaves on large sleds to the open

The city is built over a low eminence, and its four tall minarets, with a
number of palm-trees rising from the mass of brown brick walls, reminded
me of Egypt. At the end of the bridge, we were met by one of the
Quarantine officers, who preceded us, taking care that we touched nobody
in the streets, to the Quarantine building. This land quarantine, between
Syria and Asia Minor, when the former country is free from any epidemic,
seems a most absurd thing. We were detained at Adana three days and a
half, to be purified, before proceeding further. Lately, the whole town
was placed in quarantine for five days, because a Turkish Bey, who lives
near Baïas, entered the gates without being noticed, and was found in the
bazaars. The Quarantine building was once a palace of the Pashas of Adana,
but is now in a half-ruined condition. The rooms are large and airy, and
there is a spacious open divan which affords ample shade and a cool
breeze throughout the whole day. Fortunately for us, there were only three
persons in Quarantine, who occupied a room distant from ours. The
Inspector was a very obliging person, and procured us a table and two
chairs. The only table to be had in the whole place - a town of 15,000
inhabitants - belonged to an Italian merchant, who kindly gave it for our
use. We employed a messenger to purchase provisions in the bazaars; and
our days passed quietly in writing, smoking, and gazing indolently from
our windows upon the flowery plains beyond the town. Our nights, however,
were tormented by small white gnats, which stung us unmercifully. The
physician of Quarantine, Dr. Spagnolo, is a Venetian refugee, and formerly
editor of _La Lega Italiana_, a paper published in Venice during the
revolution. He informed us that, except the Princess Belgioioso, who
passed through Adana on her way to Jerusalem, we were the only travellers
he had seen for eleven months.

After three days and four nights of grateful, because involuntary,
indolence, Dr. Spagnolo gave us _pratique_, and we lost no time in getting
under weigh again. We were the only occupants of Quarantine; and as we
moved out of the portal of the old seraï, at sunrise, no one was guarding
it. The Inspector and Mustapha, the messenger, took their back-sheeshes
with silent gratitude. The plain on the west side of the town is well
cultivated; and as we rode along towards Tarsus, I was charmed with the
rich pastoral air of the scenery. It was like one of the midland
landscapes of England, bathed in Southern sunshine. The beautiful level,
stretching away to the mountains, stood golden with the fields of wheat
which the reapers were cutting. It was no longer bare, but dotted with
orange groves, clumps of holly, and a number of magnificent
terebinth-trees, whose dark, rounded masses of foliage remind one of the
Northern oak. Cattle were grazing in the stubble, and horses, almost
buried under loads of fresh grass, met us as they passed to the city. The
sheaves were drawn to the threshing-floor on sleds, and we could see the
husbandmen in the distance treading out and winnowing the grain. Over
these bright, busy scenes, rose the lesser heights of the Taurus, and
beyond them, mingled in white clouds, the snows of the crowning range.

The road to Tarsus, which is eight hours distant, lies over an unbroken
plain. Towards the sea, there are two tumuli, resembling those on the
plains east of Antioch. Stone wells, with troughs for watering horses,
occur at intervals of three or four miles; but there is little cultivation
after leaving the vicinity of Adana. The sun poured down an intense summer
heat, and hundreds of large gad-flies, swarming around us, drove the
horses wild with their stings. Towards noon, we stopped at a little
village for breakfast. We took possession of a shop, which the
good-natured merchant offered us, and were about to spread our provisions
upon the counter, when the gnats and mosquitoes fairly drove us away. We
at once went forward in search of a better place, which gave occasion to
our chief mukkairee, Hadji Youssuf, for a violent remonstrance. The terms
of the agreement at Aleppo gave the entire control of the journey into our
own hands, and the Hadji now sought to violate it. He protested against
our travelling more than six hours a day, and conducted himself so
insolently, that we threatened to take him before the Pasha of Tarsus.
This silenced him for the time; but we hate him so cordially since then,
that I foresee we shall have more trouble. In the afternoon, a gust,
sweeping along the sides of Taurus, cooled the air and afforded us a
little relief.

By three o'clock we reached the River Cydnus, which is bare of trees on
its eastern side, but flows between banks covered with grass and shrubs.
It is still spanned by the ancient bridge, and the mules now step in the
hollow ruts worn long ago by Roman and Byzantine chariot wheels. The
stream is not more than thirty yards broad, but has a very full and rapid
current of a bluish-white color, from the snows which feed it. I rode down
to the brink and drank a cup of the water. It was exceedingly cold, and I
do not wonder that a bath in it should have killed the Emperor Barbarossa.
From the top of the bridge, there is a lovely view, down the stream, where
it washes a fringe of willows and heavy fruit-trees on its western bank,
and then winds away through the grassy plain, to the sea. For once, my
fancy ran parallel with the inspiration of the scene. I could think of
nothing but the galley of Cleopatra slowly stemming the current of the
stream, its silken sails filled with the sea-breeze, its gilded oars
keeping time to the flutes, whose voluptuous melodies floated far out over
the vernal meadows. Tarsus was probably almost hidden then, as now, by its
gardens, except just where it touched the river; and the dazzling vision
of the Egyptian Queen, as she came up conquering and to conquer, must have
been all the more bewildering, from the lovely bowers through which she

From the bridge an ancient road still leads to the old Byzantine gate of
Tarsus. Part of the town is encompassed by a wall, built by the Caliph
Haroun Al-Raschid, and there is a ruined fortress, which is attributed to
Sultan Bajazet Small streams, brought from the Cydnus, traverse the
environs, and, with such a fertile soil, the luxuriance of the gardens in
which the city lies buried is almost incredible. In our rambles in search
of a place to pitch the tent, we entered a superb orange-orchard, the
foliage of which made a perpetual twilight. Many of the trunks were two
feet in diameter. The houses are mostly of one story, and the materials
are almost wholly borrowed from the ancient city. Pillars, capitals,
fragments of cornices and entablatures abound. I noticed here, as in
Adana, a high wooden frame on the top of every house, raised a few steps
above the roof, and covered with light muslin, like a portable
bathing-house. Here the people put up their beds in the evening, sleep,
and come down to the roofs in the morning - an excellent plan for getting
better air in these malarious plains and escaping from fleas and
mosquitoes. In our search for the Armenian Church, which is said to have
been founded by St. Paul ("Saul of Tarsus"), we came upon a mosque, which
had been originally a Christian Church, of Greek times.

From the top of a mound, whereupon stand the remains of an ancient
circular edifice, we obtained a fine view of the city and plain of Tarsus.
A few houses or clusters of houses stood here and there like reefs amid
the billowy green, and the minarets - one of them with a nest of young
storks on its very summit - rose like the masts of sunken ships. Some palms
lifted their tufted heads from the gardens, beyond which the great plain
extended from the mountains to the sea. The tumulus near Mersyn, the port
of Tarsus, was plainly visible. Two hours from Mersyn are the ruins of
Pompeiopolis, the name given by Pompey to the town of Soli, after his
conquest of the Cilician pirates. From Soli, on account of the bad Greek
spoken by its inhabitants, came the term "solecism." The ruins of
Pompeiopolis consist of a theatre, temples, and a number of houses, still
in good preservation. The whole coast, as far as Aleya, three hundred
miles west of this, is said to abound with ruined cities, and I regret
exceedingly that time will not permit me to explore it.

While searching for the antiquities about Tarsus, I accosted a man in a
Frank dress, who proved to be the Neapolitan Consul. He told us that the
most remarkable relic was the _Duniktash_ (the Round Stone), and procured
us a guide. It lies in a garden near the city, and is certainly one of the
most remarkable monuments in the East. It consists of a square inclosure
of solid masonry, 350 feet long by 150 feet wide, the walls of which are
eighteen feet in thickness and twenty feet high. It appears to have been
originally a solid mass, without entrance, but a passage has been broken
in one place, and in another there is a split or fissure, evidently
produced by an earthquake. The material is rough stone, brick and mortar.
Inside of the inclosure are two detached square masses of masonry, of
equal height, and probably eighty feet on a side, without opening of any
kind. One of them has been pierced at the bottom, a steep passage leading
to a pit or well, but the sides of the passage thus broken indicate that
the whole structure is one solid mass. It is generally supposed that they
were intended as tombs: but of whom? There is no sign by which they may be
recognized, and, what is more singular, no tradition concerning them.

The day we reached Tarsus was the first of the Turkish fast-month of
Ramazan, the inhabitants having seen the new moon the night before. At
Adana, where they did not keep such a close look-out, the fast had not
commenced. During its continuance, which is from twenty-eight to
twenty-nine days, no Mussulman dares eat, drink, or smoke, from an hour
before sunrise till half an hour after sunset. The Mohammedan months are
lunar, and each month makes the whole round of the seasons, once in
thirty-three years. When, therefore, the Ramazan comes in midsummer, as at
present, the fulfilment of this fast is a great trial, even to the
strongest and most devout. Eighteen hours without meat or drink, and what
is still worse to a genuine Turk, without a pipe, is a rigid test of
faith. The rich do the best they can to avoid it, by feasting all night
and sleeping all day, but the poor, who must perform their daily
avocations, as usual, suffer exceedingly. In walking through Tarsus I saw
many wretched faces in the bazaars, and the guide who accompanied us had a
painfully famished air. Fortunately the Koran expressly permits invalids,
children, and travellers to disregard the fast, so that although we eat
and drink when we like, we are none the less looked upon as good
Mussulmans. About dark a gun is fired and a rocket sent up from the
mosque, announcing the termination of the day's fast. The meals are
already prepared, the pipes filled, the coffee smokes in the _finjans_,
and the echoes have not died away nor the last sparks of the rocket become
extinct, before half the inhabitants are satisfying their hunger, thirst
and smoke-lust.

We left Tarsus this morning, and are now encamped among the pines of Mount
Taurus. The last flush of sunset is fading from his eternal snows, and I
drop my pen to enjoy the silence of twilight in this mountain solitude.

Chapter XVIII.

The Pass of Mount Taurus.

We enter the Taurus - Turcomans - Forest Scenery - the Palace of Pan - Khan
Mezarluk - Morning among the Mountains - The Gorge of the Cydnus - The Crag
of the Fortress - The Cilician Gate - Deserted Forts - A Sublime
Landscape - The Gorge of the Sihoon - The Second Gate - Camp in the
Defile - Sunrise - Journey up the Sihoon - A Change of Scenery - A Pastoral
Valley - Kolü Kushla - A Deserted Khan - A Guest in Ramazan - Flowers - The
Plain of Karamania - Barren Hills - The Town of Eregli - The Hadji again.

"Lo! where the pass expands
Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks,
And seems, with its accumulated crags,
To overhang the world." Shelley.

Eregli, _in Karamania, June_ 22, 1852.

Striking our tent in the gardens of Tarsus, we again crossed the Cydnus,
and took a northern course across the plain. The long line of Taurus rose
before us, seemingly divided into four successive ranges, the highest of
which was folded in clouds; only the long streaks of snow, filling the
ravines, being visible. The outlines of these ranges were very fine, the
waving line of the summits cut here and there by precipitous gorges - the
gateways of rivers that came down to the plain. In about two hours, we
entered the lower hills. They are barren and stony, with a white, chalky
soil; but the valleys were filled with myrtle, oleander, and lauristinus
in bloom, and lavender grew in great profusion on the hill-sides. The
flowers of the oleander gave out a delicate, almond-like fragrance, and
grew in such dense clusters as frequently to hide the foliage. I amused
myself with finding a derivation of the name of this beautiful plant,
which may answer until somebody discovers a better one. Hero, when the
corpse of her lover was cast ashore by the waves, buried him under an
oleander bush, where she was accustomed to sit daily, and lament over his
untimely fate. Now, a foreign horticulturist, happening to pass by when
the shrub was in blossom, was much struck with its beauty, and asked Hero
what it was called. But she, absorbed in grief, and thinking only of her
lover, clasped her hands, and sighed out: "O Leander! O Leander!" which
the horticulturist immediately entered in his note-book as the name of the
shrub; and by that name it is known, to the present time.

For two or three hours, the scenery was rather tame, the higher summits
being obscured with a thunder-cloud. Towards noon, however, we passed the
first chain, and saw, across a strip of rolling land intervening, the
grand ramparts of the second, looming dark and large under the clouds. A
circular watch-tower of white stone, standing on the summit of a
promontory at the mouth of a gorge on our right, flashed out boldly
against the storm. We stopped under an oak-tree to take breakfast; but
there was no water; and two Turks, who were resting while their horses
grazed in the meadow, told us we should find a good spring half a mile
further. We ascended a long slope, covered with wheat-fields, where
numbers of Turcoman reapers were busy at work, passed their black tents,
surrounded with droves of sheep and goats, and reached a rude stone
fountain of good water, where two companies of these people had stopped
to rest, on their way to the mountains. It was the time of noon prayer,
and they went through their devotions with great solemnity. We nestled
deep in a bed of myrtles, while we breakfasted; for the sky was clouded,
and the wind blew cool and fresh from the region of rain above us. Some of
the Turcomans asked us for bread, and were very grateful when we gave it
to them.

In the afternoon, we came into a higher and wilder region, where the road
led through thickets of wild olive, holly, oak, and lauristinus, with
occasional groves of pine. What a joy I felt in hearing, once more, the
grand song of my favorite tree! Our way was a woodland road; a storm had
passed over the region in the morning; the earth was still fresh and
moist, and there was an aromatic smell of leaves in the air. We turned
westward into the entrance of a deep valley, over which hung a
perpendicular cliff of gray and red rock, fashioned by nature so as to
resemble a vast fortress, with windows, portals and projecting bastions.
François displayed his knowledge of mythology, by declaring it to be the
Palace of Pan. While we were carrying out the idea, by making chambers for
the Fauns and Nymphs in the basement story of the precipice, the path
wound around the shoulder of the mountain, and the glen spread away before
us, branching up into loftier ranges, disclosing through its gateway of
cliffs, rising out of the steeps of pine forest, a sublime vista of blue
mountain peaks, climbing to the topmost snows. It was a magnificent Alpine
landscape, more glowing and rich than Switzerland, yet equalling it in all
the loftier characteristics of mountain scenery. Another and greater
precipice towered over us on the right, and the black eagles which had
made their eyries in its niched and caverned vaults, were wheeling around
its crest. A branch of the Cydnus foamed along the bottom of the gorge,
and soma Turcoman boys were tending their herds on its banks.

Further up the glen, we found a fountain of delicious water, beside the
deserted Khan of Mezarluk, and there encamped for the night. Our tent was
pitched on the mountain side, near a fountain of the coolest, clearest and
sweetest water I have seen in all the East. There was perfect silence
among the mountains, and the place was as lonely as it was sublime. The
night was cool and fresh; but I could not sleep until towards morning.
When I opened my belated eyes, the tall peaks on the opposite side of the
glen were girdled below their waists with the flood of a sparkling
sunrise. The sky was pure as crystal, except a soft white fleece that
veiled the snowy pinnacles of Taurus, folding and unfolding, rising and
sinking, as if to make their beauty still more attractive by the partial
concealment. The morning air was almost cold, but so pure and bracing - so
aromatic with the healthy breath of the pines - that I took it down in the
fullest possible draughts.

We rode up the glen, following the course of the Cydnus, through scenery
of the wildest and most romantic character. The bases of the mountains
were completely enveloped in forests of pine, but their summits rose in
precipitous crags, many hundreds of feet in height, hanging above our very
heads. Even after the sun was five hours high, their shadows fell upon us
from the opposite side of the glen. Mixed with the pine were occasional
oaks, an undergrowth of hawthorn in bloom, and shrubs covered with yellow
and white flowers. Over these the wild grape threw its rich festoons,
filling the air with exquisite fragrance.

Out of this glen, we passed into another, still narrower and wilder. The
road was the old Roman way, and in tolerable condition, though it had
evidently not been mended for many centuries. In half an hour, the pass
opened, disclosing an enormous peak in front of us, crowned with the ruins
of an ancient fortress of considerable extent. The position was almost
impregnable, the mountain dropping on one side into a precipice five
hundred feet in perpendicular height. Under the cliffs of the loftiest
ridge, there was a terrace planted with walnut-trees: a charming little
hamlet in the wilderness. Wild sycamore-trees, with white trunks and
bright green foliage, shaded the foamy twists of the Cydnus, as it plunged
down its difficult bed. The pine thrust its roots into the naked
precipices, and from their summits hung out over the great abysses below.
I thought of OEnone's

- "tall, dark pines, that fringed the craggy ledge
High over the blue gorge, and all between
The snowy peak and snow-white cataract
Fostered the callow eaglet;"

and certainly she had on Mount Ida no more beautiful trees than these.

We had doubled the Crag of the Fortress, when the pass closed before us,
shut in by two immense precipices of sheer, barren rock, more than a
thousand feet in height. Vast fragments, fallen from above, choked up the
entrance, whence the Cydnus, spouting forth in foam, leaped into the
defile. The ancient road was completely destroyed, but traces of it were
to be seen on the rocks, ten feet above the present bed of the stream, and
on the broken masses which had been hurled below. The path wound with
difficulty among these wrecks, and then merged into the stream itself, as
we entered the gateway. A violent wind blew in our faces as we rode
through the strait, which is not ten yards in breadth, while its walls
rise to the region of the clouds. In a few minutes we had traversed it,
and stood looking back on the enormous gap. There were several Greek
tablets cut in the rock above the old road, but so defaced as to be
illegible. This is undoubtedly the principal gate of the Taurus, and the
pass through which the armies of Cyrus and Alexander entered Cilicia.

Beyond the gate the mountains retreated, and we climbed up a little dell,
past two or three Turcoman houses, to the top of a hill, whence opened a
view of the principal range, now close at hand. The mountains in front
were clothed with dark cedars to their very tops, and the snow-fields
behind them seemed dazzlingly bright and near. Our course for several
miles now lay through a more open valley, drained by the upper waters of
the Cydnus. On two opposing terraces of the mountain chains are two
fortresses, built by Ibraham Pasha, but now wholly deserted. They are
large and well-constructed works of stone, and surrounded by ruins of
stables, ovens, and the rude houses of the soldiery. Passing between
these, we ascended to the shelf dividing the waters of the Cydnus and the

Online LibraryBayard TaylorThe Lands of the Saracen Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily, and Spain → online text (page 16 of 31)