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plays the green meadows and blossoming gardens of Bokhara, whose inhabitants in the mildness of their climate, lose the Scythian cast of countenance, and are alike celebrated for their bravery and their beauty.
Northern Asia or Siberia loses, by its northern exposure and latitude, what it gains by the descent of the ground towards the Icy Sea ; and winter lingers round the
year in the recesses of its woods, and in the depths of its morasses, where the ice never melts; only some favoured situations enjoy the benefit of a brief but rapid
But even in its uniform desolation there are shades of difference, and the country beyond the Yenesei is still more Siberian than that which is nearer to Russia. It is thus that Asia has no temperate climate ; it is divided by its central range of mountains between winter and summer.
South-eastern Asia, which is its warm and tropical division, may be divided into China, India, and the Hindoo-Chinese countries. In China the hills retain the coldness of Tartary, and the valleys unite the warmth of India to the mildness and moisture of the neighbourhood of the Southern Sea; and China thus furnishes with every variety of climate every variety of production. Japan may be considered as a smaller and insulated China, surrounded by the atmosphere of the Pacific, and therefore presenting the same range of temperature, modified by its vicinity to the ocean. In India beyond the Ganges, both the animal and vegetable worlds assume their largest dimensions ; this is the native region of the teak forest and of the elephant. Nature itself is on so large a scale, that every range of mountains forms the boundary of a kingdom, and every valley constitutes an empire. This region, by the jutting out of the peninsula of Malacca, forms a connection with the Spice Islands, which owe their luxuriance to their being placed beneath the sun of the equator, in the midst of a boundless ocean; and, while in one of their group, New Holland, they attain almost to the dimensions of a continent, their size is lessened in the isles of Polynesia, till they form but a single rock, or a bed of coral emerging from the waves.
South-western Asia, which consists of Persia, the countries' watered by the Tigris and the Euphrates, Caucasus, Asia Minor, Syria, and Arabia, may be considered the most temperate region of Asia. The Tigris and the Euphrates no longer water the gardens of the great King. The forests of Lebanon and Carmel, with the groves of Daphne, the orchards of Damascus, the vine-clad hills of Judea, and its fertile plains, once ranked among the most luxuriant and most cultivated spots of the earth. Arabia, farther to the south, forms a desolate contrast, stripped of all vegetation but the few palms which indicate the secret waters of the desert; and its sterile uniformity is only interrupted by mountains which break the clouds, retain their waters in the wells of the rock, and form upon their terraced sides the gardens of the burning wastes aroun them. These mountains, becoming frequent and continuous towards the south, enclose the happy Arabia, where hills and valleys, showers and sunshine, produce a variety of verdure the reverse of the burnt-up expanse of the sands.
AFRICA, the shores of which our ships have been for three centuries in the habit of coasting, has been known to history for three thousand years. Yet, notwithstanding its ancient celebrity, and notwithstanding its vicinity to Europe, it still, in a great measure, eludes the examination of science. It was from the African shores that the Egyptian colonies, in the most remote times, brought to savage Europe the first germs of civilization. At the present day Africa is the latest portion of the old world to receive from the hands of Europeans the benefits of legislation and of culture. If Africa has remained so long inaccessible to the ambition of conquerors, to commercial enterprise, and to the curiosity of travellers, we shall find, in its physical form, the principal cause of its obscurity. A vast peninsula, 5000 miles in length, and nearly 4600 in breadth, it has few long or easily navigable rivers ; and no gulf or inland sea opens the way to the interior of this mass of countries. The traveller who attempts to explore this quarter of the globe finds many difficulties to arrest him in his untried path,—the burning heat of the climate, the uncertain supply of food and water, the danger arising from the presence of ferocious beasts, and man still more ferocious in these savage and uncivilized wilds.
This large continent has its outline marked by four great promontories. Cape Bon or Serra in the north, projects into the Mediterranean ; Cape de Verd points due west into the American Sea; Cape Guardafui extends far to the east; while the Cape of Good Hope stretches far into the southern hemisphere. On three other remarkable points Africa comes close up to the rest of the old continent. In the north-west the narrow Strait of Gibraltar divides it from Europe; in the east Arabia is separated from it by the Strait of Bab-elmandeb; and in the north-east the low sandy isthmus of Suez connects it with Asia.
In some parts excessively parched, in others marshy or flooded, the soil of Africa presents strange contrasts. In the north-east lies Egypt, the connecting link between Africa and the civilized world. It consists entirely of a narrow valley, fertilized by the waters of the Nile, and confined on the right and left by a barren expanse of deserts. The Barbary States, stretching along the Mediterranean coast, are temperate and fertile, abounding in corn and fruits. The mountains of Atlas, attaining their greatest elevation in Fez and Morocco, consist of several chains and isolated groups, which display forests equal to the finest in Italy and Spain. To the south of these states, is the famous desert of Zahara, 2600 miles in length, by about 800 in breadth, where tlie sands. moving like the waves of the ocean, are said to have sometimes swallowed up entire tribes. In this desolate waste are a few verdant spots of great beauty and fertility, called oäses, which owe their existence to springs, and form convenient resting-places for the caravans, which transport merchandise from the shores of the Mediterranean to Central Africa. Leaving this wilderness of sand, we enter on the vast and populous regions of Senegambia and Nigritia, traversed by large rivers, whose banks display the most luxuriant fertility. The Senegal and Gambia flow west into the Atlantic Ocean ; while the majestic and mysterious Niger or Joliba, which so long concealed its termination, as the Nile used to conceal its origin, after a long course through many nations in Central Africa, pours its waters into the Bight of Benin. The interior of the South of Africa is almost entirely unknown, but it is supposed to consist mostly of sandy deserts, though it is not impossible that in the centre there may be lofty table-lands like that of Quito, or valleys, like the valley of Cashmere, where, as in those two happy regions, spring holds an eternal reign. On the coasts there are some tracts of fruitful land, such as Upper and Lower Guinea, Mozambique, and the country round the Cape of Good Hope.
One conspicuous character of the rivers of Africa, consists in the periodic swells, by which they overflow the countries through which they pass, and particularly those by which their mouths are surrounded. These risings differ in nothing from the floods of our European streams, except in their regular annual return, in the large volume of water which they bring along with them, and the great quantity of mud which they deposit. It is well known, that the rainy season, which over the whole torrid zone is synchronous with the vertical position of the sun, brings on almost continual drenching rains. The heavens, formerly like a flame, are transformed into a great atmospheric ocean.
The copious waters which they pour down, collect on the table-lands of the interior, where they form immense sheets of water, or temporary lakes. When these lakes have reached a level high enough to overflow the boundaries of their basins, they suddenly send down into the rivers, previously much swollen, an enormous volume of water, impregnated with the soft earth over which it has for some time stagnated. Hence the momentary pauses and sudden renewals in the rise of the Nile. Hence the abundance of fertilizing slime, which would not be found so copious in the water of rivers that owed their rise solely to the direct influence of the rains.
The general climate of Africa is that of the torrid zone ; more than three-fourths of this continent being situated between the tropics. The great mass of heated air incumbent on these hot regions has ready access to its northern and southern parts, so that the portions of them adjoining the tropics are equally torrid with the regions actually intertropical. Nothing really moderates the heat and dryness of the African climate, except the annual rains, the sea breezes, and the elevation of the surface. Wherever moisture is conjoined with this heat, vegetation displays great vigour and magnificence. The human species find abundant aliment at a very insignificant expense of labour. The corn stalks bend under their load; the vine attains a colossal height; melons and pumpkins acquire an enormous size ; millet and holcus, the grain which is most common over threefourths of this continent, though badly cultivated, yield a return of two hundred-fold; and the date-tree, which is to the African what the cocoa-nut and bread-fruit tree are in Oceanica, can withstand the fiery winds which assail it from the neighbouring desert.
EASTWARD of Asia and New Holland, westward of Europe and Africa, between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, lies the great continent of America, which ought to have been honoured with the name of Columbus, whose vast and daring conception of proceeding by a westerly course to the East Indies, brought to light the existence of this New World. It is upwards of 9000 miles in length, by about 1700 of average breadth, and is divided into two portions by the isthmus of Darien, which in some places is not more than forty or fifty miles broad. These two great peninsulas present on the western coast an almost unbroken shore, guarded throughout its whole extent from the inroads of the Pacific by a stupendous mountain barrier, which stretches from Behring's Strait to that of Magellan. The Plateau of Mexico in the