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Then there he latter were twelve years of our
Then there are feats of tumbling and ropedancing. The latter were performed, when I was there, by a boy about twelve years of age, whose performances surpassed those of our rope-dancers. The rope, being of hair, was stretched across the court; only part of it was horizontal, the remainder being made to slope up to the top of the house in two slopes, of which the uppermost was steeper than the other. * The boy, after walking to and fro upon the horizontal rope, walked steadily up the first slope, balancing himself with a pole, and seemed to find little more difficulty in mounting the second slope. He afterwards came down again with the same apparent ease, walking backwards. The lad was animated all the while by music; but, altogether, it was a painful exhibition, for one could not help being in continual fear, lest he should fall —
J. And be dashed in pieces.
U. O. Not exactly that; for I was greatly pleased to observe, that several men were placed under the rope attending to all the motions of the boy, ready to receive him in a large blanket, if his foot had happened to slip.
* The first slope forty, the second fifty degrees.
Their various amusements are prolonged until the evening, when the fireworks begin to be discharged. They are very splendid, and, except in order and proportion, equal to, if they do not exceed any display of this sort which is ever made in Europe.
Such is the great and ancient festival of Persia. I have or rather, you have made me, talk about it more at length than I had intended. But it is no matter; as I have only been led to tell you about several things, which must have been noticed on some evening or other, and which could on no evening be better noticed than on the present. There ! do you see John ? He is lingering about there at the door to see if we are coming, which is a manifest sign that John thinks it is time for us to be within doors. Let us go.
. There at the dest sign ithin
FASTING AND PRAYER.
Uncle Oliver. We finished an excellent dinner about an hour ago; so I hope we are in a very proper disposition of mind for talking a little about the great fast, called Ramazan, which is observed by all Mohammedans. Ramazan is the name of the month in which they believe that the Koran was sent from heaven, and during that month every true believer is strictly commanded to abstain from meat and drink, and every voluntary enjoyment of sense from sunrise to sunset. It is like our Lent; but is far more strictly observed than Lent is by any sect of Christians.
Henry. Do the Persians observe it like the Turks?
U. (. Yes. There is in this respect little difference among the various Mohammedan sects, they are all nearly equally strict.
H. I wonder they agree in this while they differ in other things.
U. O. Yet it is not wonderful. You will
understand that they believe the strict observance of this fast atones for many past offences, and greatly shortens the road to heaven; and it is therefore natural, that all sects should be careful about this fast; because it is a much easier course to win heaven by fasting for a season, than by constantly regulating the conduct and feelings; and easier to atone for past crimes by fasting, than by penitence and tears. It is for this reason that most men are anxious to keep the Ramazan very strictly, even, though they may not be considered as remarkably religious persons in general, I remember a man who was not remarkably strict about his religion at other times, and for that very reason thought himself bound to be remarkably strict during the Ramazan. As he was sitting one day during the fast, in a corner, looking very melancholy, he dropped into a doze, when a mischievous person thrust three or four raisins into his half opened mouth. Being perhaps dreaming of a feast, he crunched them once or twice between his teeth before he was awakened by their sweetness. When he discovered what had happened, he fell into a perfect storm of passion, and I verily believe would have run his dagger through the jester, if he had not taken care to get out of his reach. As it was, he busied himself with great vehemence in cleansing his mouth, not only spitting out the bruised raisins with every mark of abhorrence, but carefully picking his teeth and rinsing his mouth with water, and also endeavoured to throw up from his stomach, any small bit which might have escaped down his throat.
H. (Laughing). If that was unlawful, the fast must be very strict indeed.
U. O. So it is. It not only forbids the use of food, but even of water, and the smoking of tobacco.
Frank. But suppose a person should be sick ?
U. O. In that case they may take what they want, and so may persons who are on a journey; but then they make amends by fasting at some other time, or by giving extraordinary alms to the poor.
Jane. At that rate, how do they live at all, for a month together?
U. O. Surely you don't forget that they are only to fast during day-light. At night they may eat, drink, and smoke as much as ever they please. And they do so. Their plan is to