網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

and some of the divisions are even filing out of the caravanserai, when, again, evening becomes the word. The traveller applies himself earnestly to counteract the demon of procrastination thus at work, and succeeds so far that the caravan is at length in motion. They had proceeded but two miles, when it was rumoured that a horseman of the governor's had arrived with orders to delay the departure of the cafilah, as the Turkomans were certainly in motion. The whole caravan was panic struck; but when the messenger of these evil tidings was inquired for, he was not to be found-come, nobody knew when, and vanished, nobody knew where! The consternation, however, was not the less general, and the question is then proposed, to proceed or return? The elders move that the decision shall be submitted to the will of God, to be declared by a mode of divination resembling the Sortes Virgiliance, to which the Mahometans are addicted. It consists of opening the Koran, and deciding on the course to be pursued, in any emergency, by the meaning of the text which first presents itself to the eye of the opener. “ This was instantly agreed to on all hands, the book was produced from the girdle of a moollah in company, and all stood suspended in anxiety for the event. The answer was pronounced by the moollahs to be unfavourable to proceeding; and, in an instant, the whole cafilah, of more than one hundred and fifty camels and an equal number of men, like a flock of pigeons at the sight of a hawk, had turned their faces, and were in full retreat towards the village, at a pace far more rapid than that with which they had advanced ; the very camels seemed to have caught the panic of their owners, and moved swifter back to this haven of safety."

Laudable as is the spirit of enterprise which Mr. Fraser has discovered, he united with it a quality yet more rare and more valuable. He seems, from the outset, to have proposed it to himself as a duty to observe all that could in any way interest or instruct the reader, and has related his observations with the most scrupulous attention to accuracy: From first to last, every item of his narrative bears upon it the stamp of the most perfect veracity; and, not only this, but conveys a most correct impression of the objects and persons described. In general, the value of his representations arises much more from their manifest correctness, than from any powers of picturesque delineation which they discover; and yet several passages might be cited as depicturing in a very lively manner the scenes and objects described. Amoug these might be instanced, his account of the incidents on board the Indian vessel on its way to Muscat; of the approach to Shiraz, with several other views of the Persian landscape, and of a tribe of Eels whom he encountered in the act of migrating from one pasture to another, and whose general appearance as well as habits very much resemble those of a gipsy horde, in Scotland's olden time.

As for the composition of the work, the author disclaims all pretensions to elegance, and does, indeed, write somewhat carelessly. He is apt to use the word never for not, and to put the adverb only, invariably in the wrong place, and occasionally to abuse his figures of speech, by making people, as we have seen, “ stand suspended," and to employ terms that savour of pedantry. Yet these are trifling peccadilloes; and his narrative wants only to be corrected in some points, and pruned of some redundancies, to merit the praise of being tolerably well written. There is, moreover, a little self-importance occasionally manifested, particularly where the author, in consequence of the death of Dr. Jukes, undertakes the conduct of the mission, which he had accompanied from Bombay, and which was on its way to the Persian court. The reader will have more difficulty in pardoning some elaborately sentimental passages, and some loose political speculations about Mahometanism, &c. which occur in the course of this work; but even these are nothing, weighed against its substantial merits.

Khorasan, as has been said, was his destination. He succeeded in reaching Mushed, the capital of the province, but the reader has to regret the distractions of the country, and other circumstances, which cut short, at that place, his intended route to Bokhara and Samercand. Of the Turkoman tribes, their marauding excursions, and general mode of life, he has collected many interesting particulars. It is curious to remark, how exactly similar are the habits of men in all countries, when placed in like circumstances. The history of the Turkomans, their propensity to plunder, united with a kind of savage and dubious hospitality, the mutual hostility of their tribes to one another, and their nerer-ceasing chappows or forays upon the cultivated districts, is but a picture, on a grander scale, of the habits existing among the Celtic population of this island, so late as the earlier part of the last century. The inhabitants of the districts subject to their incursions, live in a state of continued alarm. As was the case, formerly, in the border-towns of Scotland, each village has its keep or fortalice; and as the inhabitants can never say when an attack will, or will not be made, they go armed to their labour, and plough their fields with their swords girded, and their matchlocks by their side. The Turkomans are admirable horsemen, and their steeds unrivalled over Asia for their powers of endurance. These are proved by the immense distance to which marauding parties often carry their incursions. The chappow made, while Mr. Fraser was in the country, upon Ghourian, only forty miles from Herat, must have marched at least five hundred miles, and a great part of that through, or upon the skirts of, an inhabited country. Nay, as the reader of Hadji Baba well knows, and the fact is confirmed by Mr. Fraser, their inroads have been known to extend to the vicinity of Ispahan, though this place, by the most direct route, cannot be less than six or seven hundred miles from their homes, in the desert, beyond the Attock.* Preparatory to a chappow, their steeds undergo a particular kind of training, which more resembles that of our pugilistic champions and pedestrians, than of our race-horses. Every particle of fat is sweated out, and when the muscles have become sufficiently firm and hard, they will say, in commendation of a horse, that his flesh is marble. Thus trained, their horses will carry their riders and provisions for seven or eight days successively, at the rate of about eighty or one hundred miles a day. The Turkoman tribes are either pastoral in their habits, and hospitable to strangers, or ferocious and predatory. The latter are chiefly found in the countries bordering on Khorasan; a circumstance, perhaps, to be attributed to its having been the debateable land of two or three great monarchies, and therefore

* A term which James I. might have used, when, speaking of the county of Fife, he said, that it was like a piece of coarse cloth with a selvave of silk.

particularly subject to wars and convulsions. Religious animosity inflames the lust of depredation, by which they are animated against the settled inhabitants of Khorasan. They are Mahometans of the sect of Soonies, the Persians are Sheahs, and therefore the Turkomans hold it meritorious to make war upon the “ Kuzzil-bashes," as they call the Persians, to the knife.

The tribe of Tuckeh is one of the most numerous and powerful, but they are a treacherous race, who never suffer an opportunity of plundering, even though it be their friends, to escape them. They yield a nominal obedience to Mahomed Raheem Khan, Prince of Khyvah; but nothing, save a fear of consequences, withholds them from seizing the caravans that pass through their haunts, and from chappowing the territories of Mahomed Khan himself. The Gocklans and Yamoots, the two other tribes to which Mr. Fraser's information chiefly relates, were formerly, like their ancestors the Parthians, celebrated for their skill in the use of the bow. An old Gocklan warrior mounted, and in possession of his weapons, was so adroit in the use of them, as not to mind, it is said, a dozen opponents. The decline of their skill in the use of the bow, is ascribed to the cruel expedient of Aga Mahomed Khan, the late King of Persia, who, enraged at the repeated aggressions of the Gocklans, sent out a powerful force, and after putting multitudes to death, ordered that every male captive should have the thumb of his right hand cut out by the socket, which has obliged them to take to the matchlock.

Money is not current among the Turkomans, their exchanges being chiefly effected by bartering their commodities one for another. Slaves constitute the principal branch of what may be called their foreign traffic. Captives are, therefore, a description of plunder as profitable as their goods and chattels. Though ferocious beyond measure in the onset, and slaughtering without scruple their prisoners, on any emergency, they are not accused of treating them ill, when they have them once safely in their possession. Merchants travel twice a year through the country of the Turkomans, to buy up their captives, either on the hope of obtaining from the latter money for their ransom, or merely with a view of selling them in the slave-markets at Bokhara or Khyvai. Their treatment, under servitude, at these latter places, is so far from being harsh, that many are known to have voluntarily remained there, after the period of their captivity was expired, and to have trafficked in the very line to which they owed their settlement in the place. Another article of traffic very prevalent among them will strike the reader as curious and unique. The Turkoman buys his wife, and, it is said, will give, in the proportion of ten to one, more for a widow han a maid. A lady that has been married, and acquired any degree of celebrity for skill in housewifery, will fetch from two to four thousand rupees. The average price of a maiden, unskilled in the economy of a household, is from two to four hundred only. The appearance of the Turkoman ladies did not make any very favourable impression upon our traveller. The elder women, in particular, he describes as ugly, haggard, and withered. Like the wild Highlanders, the Turkomans pique themselves upon their hospitality; but they are suspected of violating it in a way that discovers a highly civilized disregard of its sacred ties. The 'Turkoman ladies are reported to be free and easy in their deportment before strangers; and, “ they do say" that they

have been known purposely to betray the unhappy guest into improper familiarities, in order to furnish his host with a decent excuse for making a prize of him and his chattels. Notwithstanding their pretensions to the name, in point of fact, says Mr. Frazer, none but a Mussulmaun and a Soonie, could with impunity trust himself freely among them.

The result of Mr. Fraser's journey was not so succcessful as his enterprising spirit, and thirst for original information, seemed to promise. He found his residence at Mushed, the capital of Khorasan, rendered not only unpleasant, but unsafe, by the intolerant spirit of the Mahometan religion, which in consequence of its being the “ holy city,” and a strong hold of the moollahs, is there found in full force.' “ The town began to talk loudly of the disgrace and even sacrilege of permitting an unbelieving European to go at large through its sacred streets.” One of the more rigid moollahs was heard to exclaim: “ What! are the skies not yet fallen, when a Kaffer Feringhee comes and makes his residence in the holy city, and a Mussulmaun, a moollah, and a Seyed, lives with him, serves him, and eats with him continually from the same dish ?" The boys too-a very frequent trick of the youthful population of Mussulmaun towns--pelted him with stones, and insulted him with the vilest epithets, always concluding, by way of climax, with,“ A Jew, a Jew! a Christian, a Christian!" To allay these hostile feelings towards him, he affected an inclination to become a Mussulmaun. “You need only repeat after me,” said Meerza Abdool Jawat to him,“ what I shall dictate, and which is the Mussulmaun confession of faith, and then you shall be our brother, and no one can call your conduct in question, go where you will.” “ He accordingly commenced dictating to me the Culmeh, which I repeated after him; after which he took me by both hands, and pronounced me to be a good Mussulmaun.” But the more zealous religionists were scandalized, and thought his profession a mockery worse than open contempt. Upon the whole, his example does not offer any encouragement to travellers in Mussulmaun countries to resort to this expedient, as he appears to have found the difficulties in preserving his assumed character greater than those to which his avowed infidelity had exposed him. The incredulity of the moollahs was not to be satisfied without a more close examination of their proselyte's faith. On going to pay a visit, he finds assembled in the house a number of the more zealous Mussulmauns, bent upon sifting him to the uttermost. He was asked by one of them, “ whether the happy news was true ?" 66 Alhumdulillah!” replied the convert, in a solemn voice, bowing his head. “ Mash Allah ! Allumdulillah !" was the response, “ I congratulate you on your good disposition, and doubt not all will be well with you ; let me hear you repeat the Culmeh.” The traveller would have declined ; but, on being pressed, he acquitted himself to the satisfaction of his catechist. Many, notwithstanding, audibly declared their disbelief in his sincerity, but one of them silenced the incredulous, by saying, only knows the heart; he has repeatedly pronounced the Mussulmaun Culmeh before the priests and before ourselves; and he who does this, we are bound to look upon as a Mussulmaun.” This charitable person, however, would not carry his acquiescence so far as to assent to a proposition, that the convert was qualified to visit the holy shrine. “ No, no,” said he, “ we must wait awhile for that ;" and, in a word, poor Mr. Fraser derived, from his conversion to the Mahometan faith, no other advantage than that of being perplexed with cross examinations, and fatigued with Mussulmaun sermons.

66 God

Whilst his residence in the holy city was thus rendered unpleasant and hazardous, the state of affairs without was such as to cut off all hopes of being able to proceed onwards to Bokhara. The approach of spring had set the Turkomans in motion; and various tribes of them were reported to be plundering in different directions. No caravan, it was understood, would venture, or, indeed, be permitted to set out from Mushed ; and without a caravan it was impossible to stir. The traveller was thus compelled to return upon his steps, and his journey took a direction to the north-west, to Astrabad, on the Caspian. He was enabled to bear this disappointment with Christian, or, more properly, Mussulmaun resignation, upon learning that a caravan had actually been cut to pieces by the Turkomans in the line of his intended march, and about the time when he was to have been upon the road. A few days afterwards word was brought, that “a band of Tuckeh Turkomans had made a dash from the desert beyond Merve, even to the neighbourhood of Ghourian, within two fursungs of Herat, where they plundered a village; and retreated, having put fifty persons to death, and carried off about as many prisoners.”

Mushed, besides being celebrated for holiness, is the seat of the Persian University. Mr. Fraser enumerates sixteen medressas, or colleges, maintaining each a certain number of moollahs, on funds derived from landed property, or the rents of baths, shops, and caravanserais. Of the moollahs some receive no pay from the medressas, and others, who cannot support themselves, enjoy a small allowance. It seems to be the practice there to give instructions for the sake of the faith they profess; or rather, with the view of gaining a name, by their zeal and learning, and rising thus to influence and wealth. Pecuniary remuneration for tuition is seldom expected; but when a moollah has educated the children of a rich or noble family, a provision of some sort is generally made him.

The subjects principally studied in the Persian colleges are, theology, logic, metaphysics, mathematics, and medicine. Their course of divinity comprises the Koran, the standard works of the Sheahs, and all points connected with the Mahometan faith. Their logic and metaphysics are but of a very low order, tending only to wild paradoxes and plausible hypotheses. They are acquainted with the geometry of Euclid, and their system of astronomy (a study valued chiefly from its subservience to astrology) is the Ptolemean, eked out with many strange additions of their own. In physic their practice is mere quackery, and their knowledge is confined to the qualities and effects of a few simples. Those moollahs who have succeeded in obtaining establishımeuts, reside in their own houses, but the others have rooms in college, where they pursue their studies, and give instructions to the students that present themselves. Of the latter, the more advanced, and those who come from a distance, have chambers assigned in college, by the moolwullee, or superior. “ Their hours of study are generally in the nights and mornings: during the day they repeat their lesson to their maalims, or masters, (the superior

« 上一頁繼續 »