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layer of dust on the surface. others submerged up to their The scream of an unseen bird necks in the cool water and might echo across the stillness, contentedly chewing the cud, or a startled beating of wings, were another sign that a village which died away as suddenly was near. Then the high green as it had arisen ; then once barriers became thinner, fell more silence held the Marsh. away on both sides, became The solitude was intense—more mere clumps dotting an open intense than that of the desert. space in which a few small There countless tracks reveal ishans lifted just clear of the the presence of man or beast, water a dozen low-arched huts. but here the flowering weeds As usual at the sight of an close up again, leaving no unexpected intrusion, the men trace. Only very occasionally seized their rifles, and leapt did we come across a few reeds in among the reeds, from the twisted together and bent—a shelter of which they could landmark or wordless message best defend their homes. The from a marshman to his fellows, women, on the contrary, stared seeming only to intensify the at us as placidly as their own lonely silence of the wilderness. buffaloes, hardly troubling to
We had seen no other sign suspend their household tasks of human life, though more of scouring cooking-pots, washthan once a rounded ishan oring clothes, and husking rice. mound had loomed above our The scene was full of colour, path, concealing in the dust of good, hard, and primitive : yelcenturies the temples and dwel- low huts against a background lings of that ancient civilisa- of green, buffaloes and pitched tion which had once flowered mashhufs like black silhouettes in the fertile land now engulfed in the foreground, splashes of beneath this waste of useless scarlet and orange as the women water. But the mounds, though moved to and fro. It was a usually chosen by the Marsh typical Marsh scene, and, reachArabs as village sites, raised ing for my camera, I told as they are above the level of Bahalool to land me on the the swamp, were untenanted. largest island. It was only after some hours' The ground on which I journey that we saw any sign stepped was covered with of human habitation. Instead broken pottery, some unglazed, of pushing our way through some a bright sky-blue. Fragthe all-embracing weeds, we ments of all shapes and sizes began to follow a thin ribbon lay jumbled together, with here of blue water evidently kept and there a flat square brick clear by the frequent passage inscribed with cuneiform symof mashhufs. We passed a bols. A little higher on the small herd of buffaloes ; the sloping ground lay a crumbled shiny black beasts, some nosing mass of masonry, with hints ponderously among the reeds, of columns, the whole covered
with a rich dark-green glazing. land, but two centuries later All these fragments, uninter- another flood, unprecedented esting and unintelligible to the in its violence, broke down Marsh people who dwelt among the bunds once more. This them, were indications of a rich was only a few years before field for the archæologist. Ac- the Muslim invasion. The Sascording to Sir William Will- sanian king, Khuzraw Parviz, cocks, these desolate marshes did what he could ; but though witnessed the earliest begin- "he crucified in one day forty nings of flow irrigation.
dykemen at a certain breach,
he could not control the waters. “Marduk laid a reed upon the face of the waters,
Perhaps the buried town on He formed dust and poured it out which I stood had survived beside the reed,
even that devastation, and had That he might cause the gods to lasted until the Mongol hordes,
dwell In the place of their hearts' desire.”
a flood more terrible even
than the ungovernable waters, This translation from Dr had finally destroyed the King's “Seven Tablets of Crea- ancient irrigation system, and tion” shows how the early made the great swamp permaSumerians began the reclama- nent, accepted, and abandoned. tion of the “Sea Land,” by I took several photographs of erecting banks of earth and the village, and several of the reeds such as the Marsh tribes naked brown youngsters who build to this day. From small played among the buffaloes, beginnings the dykes grow in scrambling over the somnolent size and extent, until vast black backs, as happy in the areas were enclosed, within deep water as out of it. Were which the land was cultivated these modern little savages by means of flow irrigation descended from the strange through cuts in the dykes ; dark-skinned race called the cities were built, and temples Zott, who in the time of (the places of their hearts' Haroun - al - Raschid occupied desire) raised to the gods. All the marshes of Southern Mesothese were below the level of potamia, levied tolls on the the water, protected from in- shipping, and finally cut off undation by the strength of the supplies of Baghdad ? If the encircling bund. The pres- so, they were cousins of our ent desolation dates from the English gipsies, who are said fifth century, when, with a to be the last of the thousands weak monarchy, came years of of that race who were carried neglect, and a sudden flood off to Baghdad by Haroun's breached the untended dykes, successor, and exiled to Asia submerging all the low lands Minor, whence they wandered south and west of the Tigris. in homeless tribes about Europe. A stronger king
king was able On the shelving bank behind to reclaim much of the me
a mashhuf ran silently
aground in the oozy black mud. may Allah guard you, may the I turned, to see an old woman all-powerful (bis Name be blest helped out and half carried up and exalted) lengthen your the bank by the mashhufchi, years.” who led her to Bahalool. After She turned, still feebly calla few moments they came to- ing down blessings on my wards me, and I saw from the head, and was led slowly away. care with which the tall marsh- With some difficulty I untied man guided her footsteps that the tightly-drawn knots and the woman was blind.
She opened the package. Inside was bent and shrivelled with was an old book, calf-bound ; age ; incredibly old she seemed at some time or another it as she hobbled painfully over had suffered from damp, or the 'shard-strewn ground, her might even have been dropped dirty draperies sweeping un- in the water, for the binding kempt behind her. Unlike the was split and warped, the withered brown faces of the pages swollen and discoloured. other beldams of the village, I opened it, and turned to the hers was pale, putty-coloured. fly-leaf; but whatever had So expressionless were her fea- been written there was now tures, so colourless her eyes undecipherable. The next page, and lips, that the face seemed comparatively undamaged, was like one from which all life had a coloured frontispiece : The long since ebbed, leaving an Author in his Travelling Cosempty mask.
tumo." The cheerful blue of “Here is the sahib,” said his voluminous coat and the Bahalool. “Speak, O mother red of his baggy trousers had of many, and give him what come off on to the opposite you have brought."
page, which read :The old woman took a step or two forward, stretched out a
PERSONAL NARRATIVE lean and bony hand, and feeling for my arm, felt earnestly up
TRAVELS and down my sleeve.
“ Is he indeed a Farangi ? BABYLONIA, ASSYRIA, MEDIA she asked tremulously. A dozen
AND SCYTHIA interested bystanders assured her that I was. “Take this, then, Effendim,"
MAJOR THE HON. GEORGE KEPPEL, she said, and held out a flat packet wrapped in cloth that might once have been white. “This was his command, that I should give it to a Farangi, to another of his own kind.
HENRY COLBURN Now, al hamdu lillah, I have
NEW BURLINGTON STREET obeyed him. Take it, and VOL. CCXVIII.--NO. MCCCXVII.
IN THE YEAR 1824
IN TWO VOLUMES
So far so good. But how and muscular - looking fellows had this volume fallen into the as I ever saw. One loose brown hands of an old crone of the shirt, of the coarseness of sackMarshes, and why was it so cloth, was the only covering highly valued by the unknown of the latter. This, when owner that he had bidden her labour required it, was thrown hand it to “another of his own aside, and discovered forms kind”? Touched with curi- most admirably adapted to osity, I turned the pages, and their laborious avocations ; intried to open the no small deed, any of the boatmen number which had stuck to- would have made an excellent gether. Many were illegible ; model for a Hercules ; and one some had passages marked in in particular, with uncombed the margin with a faded green- hair and shaggy beard, struck ish ink; others were plentifully us all with the resemblance he underlined.
bore to the statues of that The word "Bussorah" caught deity.” Again,“ Several women, my eye. “The abundance of accompanied by a host of chilwater," I read, “besides irri- dren, brought milk, butter, and gating the gardens, which it curds for sale, and followed the does effectually, might also be boat for some time. The bethe means of keeping the town haviour of these females formed clean, were there not in the a striking contrast with the inhabitants an innate love of manners of the Indian women, filth. Bussorah is the dirtiest and still more with the veiled town in the Turkish dominions. dames of Bussorah. They came The streets, which are narrow to our boats with the frankness and irregular, are almost in- of innocence, and there was a supportable from the stench. freedom in their manners, borSome houses are built of kiln- dering perhaps on the mascuburnt bricks, but the greater line; nevertheless their fine number are of mud. From features and well-turned limbs these project several long produced a tout ensemble of spouts made of the body of beauty, not to be surpassed the date-tree, which convey perhaps in the brilliant assemfilth of every description into blies of civilised life. True it the streets, so that a passenger is, their complexions were of a is in frequent danger of an gipsy brown; but, even on Edinburgh salutation, without this point, there may be some the friendly caution of Gardez who see 'a Helen's beauty in loo." Fortunately, Basrah has a brow of Egypt.'” since mended its ways.
It seemed that the unknown A few pages later came a traveller had simply marked description of a journey up the those passages which he had Tigris, most of it heavily verified from his own experimarked in the margin. “The ence; of himself they told Arab boatmen were as hardy nothing. I turned from page
to page, hoping to find some lump of butter, with which it clue in the faded green marks. was accompanied.” A keenly interested observer The sun
was growing hot, he must have been, and evi- though I had not realised it dently of religious leanings, for until a grey-bearded Ma’aidi, the Biblical allusions were fre- whose air of authority seemed quently emphasised : here was to imply that he was the heada string of references to the man of this isolated village, building and destruction of came up, and, with the hospitBabylon, all underlined. “Let able Bismillah of the Arab, us make bricks, and burn invited me to his home. I them thoroughly. And they slipped the book with its unhad bricks for stone, and slime solved mystery into my pocket, for mortar." “I will make it and walked with him across a possession for the bittern, the island. Stooping under and pools of water, and I will the arched doorway we entered sweep it with the besom of the rough hut, to find ourdestruction, saith the Lord of selves in what seemed total Lords." Was he a missionary, darkness after the bright glare zealous for the conversion of outside. The hut, when my the godless Ma'dan, or merely eyes grow accustomed to the interested in comparing the softened light, was bare and life of the Bible with life as it plain like that of every other was lived in the East in his marshman, headman or no. A day?
As I turned over the fire was quickly kindled by the stiff and discoloured pages I simple expedient of carrying a was struck, as he had been, handful of lighted reeds from with the accuracy of the Hon. a neighbouring hut, and an old George Keppel’s notes, and Arab with a lame leg began to the exactness with which they busy himself with the coffeestill tally with the habits of pots beside the hearth. He the people ; and I subscribed threw a handful of green beans heartily to his underlining of into a sort of primitive fryinga description of a marshman's pan, shaking them over the meal : “After crossing his legs fire and stirring, to keep them and adjusting his robes with continually moving, with true Arab gravity, he pro- rusty bayonet, a relic probably ceeded to business by baring of the war. The roasting was his arm to the elbow; he then slow and thorough. We sat grasped a handful of rice, waiting, in the unembarrassed sopped it in all the saucers, silence to which Europeans and moulded it into the shape, grow accustomed with diffiand I had almost said the culty. At length the beans consistency, of a tennis-ball. were tipped into a shallow Large as it was, this palatable mortar, and the unhurried bolus found its way down his coffee-man began to pound throat, with the aid of a huge them, making a musical and