Page images

of sand and small stones gradually ascends to a great height, and forms a column sixty or seventy feet in diameter, and so thick that, if it were steady in one spot, it would appear like a solid and gigantic pillar. But it not only whirls round in its own circumference, but runs in a circular direction over a great extent of ground. It sometimes remains thus in motion for half an hour, and makes a hill of sand where it falls. “God help the poor traveller who is caught under it !" says Belzoni. I never saw whirlwinds on this grand scale in Persia, though it sometimes comes very near it in the sandy districts. But in the plains of the very central parts of Persia, and indeed nearly through its extent, partial and strong currents of air arise when there is a perfect calm, or at the time when the wind changes, and form whirlwinds, which carry away in their vortex sand, branches of trees, stubble, with which they form moving columns that appear to communicate between the clouds and the earth. They vary very much in strength. Sometimes they overthrow the largest and strongest tents with great violence, while at other times they only put them a little out of order.

It only now remains to mention the Cold

wind. It blows southward from the boisterous Caspian Sea. It brings with it white clouds, with which it covers the mountain-tops; and as the mass of cloud increases it rolls down their sides, and frequently overspreads the adjacent country with a mist, which the people call mey. The wind which brings these clouds is felt even in summer ; but it is more common in winter, when it is so fierce and so terribly cold that travellers are said to be sometimes killed by it. I can well believe this; for in another part of Persia, not particularly notorious for its cold winds, and in the latter end of November, I have sometimes felt a wind come sweeping over the snows with great violence, and with a most intense cold, which pierced readily through my quilted inner dress and outer coat of fur, and seemed to enter to my very bones. I do not think I could have stood it a single hour with my face towards it; but it fortunately always so happened that it either blew on my back, or else the road soon brought me under the shelter of the mountains.

From all that I have told you, you will gather that Persia is a country which may with equal truth be described as very hot and very cold.,



Uncle Oliver. I SEE nothing to blame in the preference which most people give to their own country above every other. It is a feeling which has been wisely bestowed on man, since it makes the Arabian as contented with his burning deserts, and the Esquimaux with his frozen plains, as the Italian and the Turk, in their fine climates and beautiful countries, can be. I never knew a people that talked with so much rapture about their country as the Persians. The praises of “the Land of Iran" are for ever in their mouths; and to hear them, one would imagine that the country must be full of rose-trees, and the rosetrees full of nightingales. Certainly, after making the largest allowance for the partiality of natives, I was not at all prepared for a country so barren and desolate as I found it to be in general, notwithstanding the rich and beautiful valleys which it sometimes offered. When a traveller gets to the top of the mountains or the hills which divide the country, and stops a moment to look back on

the plain he has left, and forward to that he has to pass, the scene is very discouraging. He looks to the distant boundary of the plain, and sees before him all the way nothing but a cheerless brown expanse, formed of the gravel washed down from the mountains, or of clay which, when there is no water, is as barren as the rock

Henry. But, Sir, if that is the case, how do they get bread? .U. O. There are some fertile valleys; I am only describing what is most common. Yet, even in these naked plains, there are sometimes patches of cultivation near the villages : but it is only in spring that such spots can be distinguished from the general dreariness of the plain. That beautiful green which covers our own land at most seasons is never seen in Persia, unless in the moist and fertile districts near the Caspian Sea.

H. Then there is no grass.

U.O. Yes, there is grass in some small valleys, and near some of the rivers. Where it is found, it does not belong to any particular person, as in most other countries, but is free to whoever likes to use it. When Mr. Morier was travelling in

Turkey, his people (Persians) on one occasion set their cattle to graze on the rich pasture that extended around. But they had not long done so before a party of armed Turks, some on horseback and some on foot, came and desired them to withdraw their horses from the grass, as it was the property of the village. This startled the Persians, who swore that the grass was common property, being the gift of God, and that their horses had as much right to feed upon it as any other. But the Turks soon made them understand that the usages of the two countries differed in this respect, and one of them remarked, “ You might as well say that corn, goats, cows, and sheep are common property; for they are all, as well as grass, the gift of God.”

H. But I suppose there must have been trees, though there was nothing else.

U. O. I think I hardly know a country that has fewer trees than Persia. Whenever I saw a number of trees together in the plains and valleys, I concluded that there was near that spot a village or town, and I judged of its size by seeing how far the trees were spread. Most of the towns I have seen in Persia are surrounded by trees, which are also much planted within

« PreviousContinue »