« ElőzőTovább »
burning heat of summer. The towers and temples and palaces, rich in statuary and painting, and whose sides, glistening with gold and shining brass, reflected the dazzling rays of the sun for leagues around, have all disappeared. In their stead, a few mud-walled and thatchroofed huts, pervious to wind and rain, may be seen clustering around some dilapidated Christian church of ancient times, or stand now tenantless where a few poverty-stricken families dared to dwell together, until the oppression of the Pasha or the cruelty of the Arabs drove them from the humble abode. It is only at the seats of government that we find any thing approaching the character of a city. Bagdad and Mosul are little more than vast accumulations of such huts, around a few rude stone dwellings and churches. For ages the inhabitants have been ground to the dust by Turkish misrule. Long since stripped of their wealth, they are now the poorest of the poor. No one holds his life and liberty by a frailer tenure than he whom the greedy Pasha suspects of possessing aught that can be seized. So thoroughly have the glories of old and all outward traces of ancient grandeur passed away, that antiquarians have long disputed where on this plain Niniveh and Babylon stood. Mr. Layard unfolds before us vivid pictures, both of that ancient glory and of the present degradation. The stirring narrative of his intercourse with Pashas and Sheikhs, with Arabs, Nestorians, Yezidis and Kurds, hurries the reader along through scenes and events so graphically described that they seem to pass before us in reality; and when we lay down the work, it is with the feeling of having been fellow travellers with the author. Mr. Layard is no ordinary English traveller, going abroad merely because it is customary to do so, and so encased in insular prejudices that he cannot see any thing in its true light or form an impartial judgment on any thing unknown in England. No one has a greater respect than ourselves for the practical good sense and sterling love of justice, which form the basis of the English character. But we question if any other race travel so much with so little profit. They never allow for the very different circumstances under which other nations live, and never enter into the trains of feeling or modes of thought peculiar to the people they visit. As we see, whenever such travellers visit the United States and return home to favor the world with their lucubrations, whatever is not English is sweepingly condemned. It matters not how reasonable, how appropriate, or even how necessary any custom or institution may be, nothing can save it from their ban. We once heard St. Peter's at Rome sneered at, under its very dome, because the windows were not filled with stained glass. “You cannot conceive the grand effect of stained glass in our old English cathedrals. It is sublime.” It had never occurred to the mind of our cockney critic what grand effects would be produced, if the declining sun sent motley patches of blue and green and orange to travel across the figures on the mosaic of Raphael's Transfiguration. The large portion of his youth which Mr. Layard spent in foreign lands, while it left undiminished, or rather, while it exercised and strengthened his English birthright of good sense, saved him from those narrow and distorted views for which his countrymen are proverbial all over Europe. He passed years in the galleries, the studios and the conversazioni of that fair land, which was, and which—unless the tragic farce of Mazzini's republic end, as it threatens, in the demolition of St. Peters, the stripping of the galleries and churches, and the sale of every work of art for which a purchaser can be found at any price—will again be, the common resort and rendezvous of the learned and enthusiastic of every civilized land. Here he caught glimpses of the life and manners of different nations, and his soul was filled with a thirst for further knowledge and a craving for travel. Returning to England, he found it impossible to tie himself down to the drudgery of the law. After an ineffectual effort to do so, he yielded to the impulses that struggled within him for mastery, and was soon met roaming over the plains of Syria and Asia Minor, treading every spot hallowed by tradition, visiting every ruin consecrated by history.
“I was,” he writes, “accompanied by one no less curious and enthusiastic than myself. We were both equally careless of comfort and unmindful of danger. We rode alone; our arms were our only protection; a valise behind our saddles was our wardrobe, and we tended our own horses, except when relieved from the duty by the hospitable inhabitants of a Turcoman village or an Arab tent. Thus unembarrassed by needless luxuries, and uninfluenced by the opinions and prejudices of others, we mixed amongst the people, acquired without effort their manners, and enjoyed without alloy those emotions which scenes so novel and spots so rich in varied associations cannot fail to produce. I look back with feelings of delight to those happy days when, free and unheeded, we left at dawn the humble cottage or cheerful tent, and, lingering as we listed, unconscious of distance or of the hour, found ourselves, as the sun went down, under some hoary ruin, tenanted by the wandering Arab, or in some crumbling village, still bearing a well-known name. No experienced dragoman measured our distances and appointed our stations. We were honored with no conversations by Pashas, nor did we seek any civilities from governors. We neither drew tears nor curses from villagers by seizing their horses or searching their houses for provisions; their welcome was sincere, their scanty fare was placed before us; we ate, and came, and went in peace.” I. 25, 26.
It is not surprising that, familiarizing himself thus with the language, the dispositions and the customs of the Arabs, and gaining their confidence without yielding aught of the superiority of European civilization, we should find Mr. Layard afterwards able to direct and control these children of the desert, to withdraw them for a time at least from their roving habits, and to induce them to undertake systematic and long-continued labors.
In 1840 he penetrated that vast blank which stretches from Aleppo to the Tigris, and found himself in a region filled with lofty mounds of brick work and earth, that might often be traced in lines for leagues on leagues along the horizon, presenting a scene far different from the classic regions he had just left.
“The graceful column rising above the thick foliage of the myrtle, the ilex and the oleander, the gradines of the ampitheatre covering the gentle slope and overlooking the dark blue waters of a lake-like bay, the richly carved cornice or capital, half hidden by the luxuriant herbage, are replaced by the stern shapeless mound, rising like a hill from the scorched plain, the fragments of pottery, and the stupendous 'mass of brick work occasionally laid bare by the winter rains. The traveller has left the land where nature is still lovely, where, in his mind's eye, he can rebuild the temple or the theatre, half doubting whether they would have made a more grateful impression upon the senses than the ruin before him. He is now at a loss to give any form to the rude heaps upon which he is gazing. Those of whose works they are the remains, unlike the Roman and the Greek, have left no visible traces of their civilization or of their arts—their influence has long since passed away. The more he conjectures the more vague the results appear. The scene around is worthy of the +
ruin he is contemplating; desolation meets desolation; a feeling of awe succeeds to wonder, for there is nothing to relieve the mind, to lean to hope, or to tell of what is gone by. These huge mounds of Assyria made a deeper impression upon me, gave rise to more serious thought and more earnest reflection, than the temples of Balbec or the theatres of Ionia.” I. 29.
In 1842 Mr. Layard again passed through this country, and found M. Botta, who in the interval had been appointed French Consul at Mosul, engaged in making excavations in the large mound of Kouyunjik, opposite that city, hoping to discover some remains of ancient buildings still preserved within the mass. Soon after his arrival in Constantinople, he learned the complete success which had crowned M. Botta's efforts, and in due time had the gratification of examining the drawings and the learned report made by that gentleman, as they passed through Constantinople on their way to Paris.
M. Botta—a nephew, by the way, of the celebrated Italian author who wrote a history of our American Revolution——had labored for some time without success at Kouyunjik, when a native, casually looking on and learning the object of the work, represented to him that what he sought could be readily obtained at the mound of Khorsabad, some fifteen miles distant, on which his village stood. Listening to his positive assurances, M. Botta repaired to Khorsabad, which he found to be a mound 1300 feet long and 500 broad. The earthen floor of one of the wretched hovels on its summit had been worn away until the bed of the inmates rested on a pavement of worked stone. Purchasing the hut for a few piastres, and demolishing it, he commenced at once to dig downwards, and soon reached a wall lined with slabs, bearing sculptures and inscriptions. This wall he followed until it
broke off, changing its course at a right angle. A few feet
further on, he had the satisfaction of seeing it recommence with a corresponding angle. He had evidently passed a doorway. Pursuing his course with eagerness, and turning corner after corner, he at length completed the circuit of the room. Then issuing by the door just discovered, he soon led his trenches along the walls of a second chamber, lined like the first with a panelling of slabs bearing inscriptions and bas-reliefs. In six months, six halls, some of them 115 feet long, were fully explored, and 459 feet of
sculptures and inscriptions were accurately copied, and the copies, with an able report, sent to the Academy of Inscriptions at Paris. We need not say with what surprise and enthusiasm these discoveries were hailed by the antiquarians of France and of Europe generally. The French government, ever alive to the interests of science, promptly placed an ample sum in the hands of M. Botta for the prosecution of the work, and sent to his assistance M. Flandin, an excellent draughtsman, who had already spent several years in the East. The right to excavate the entire mound was soon purchased, the village on its summit quickly disappeared, and the Pasha of Mosul, who seemed determined to impede and harrass them in every way he could, dying about the same time, the work was prosecuted without delay or opposition. The whole building was soon laid bare. Within and without, its immense brick walls, fifteen or twenty feet thick, were lined with upright slabs, 10 feet high bas-relief figures and bearing arrow-headed or cuneiform inscriptions. The same subject was frequently continued on the sculptures of several contiguous slabs. In fact, the whole panelling of an entire façade, over 1200 feet in length, seemed to be occupied by a single subject—a long succession of figures, far above the natural size. Winged human figures, with the heads of eagles and bearing the sacred pine-cone in one hand and a basket in the other, and supposed to represent Assyrian deities, led the way. To them succeeded priests, leading a victim for the sacrifice. Next followed the monarch in his richest robes, attended by his vizier and eunuchs and nobles. Immediately behind these came a line of officials, bearing the various insignia of royalty; soldiers marched before tribute—bearers laden, some with miniature representations of cities and towns and castles, and others with tribute itself and the spoils of conquered nations; and lastly, groups of captives, with fettered limbs and drooping heads, closed the long array, which told the passer by, of the power and magnificence of him who dwelt within this palace. The whole building stood upon an elevated platform of brick work, laid on the earthen mound. Within, it was divided into fifteen chambers or halls, many of them over 100 feet in length, none more than 35 feet broad. They were lined with sculptures of battles and victories, of processions and audiences and