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"They shall all bloom in fields of light,
And saints upon their garments white
And the mother gave in tears and pain
Oh, not in cruelty, not in wrath,
'Twas an angel visited the green earth,
And took the flowers away.
H. W. Longfellow.
THE PEOPLE OF PERSIA.
Persia is a country which, as you will see by looking at your maps, is in Asia, on that side which is nearest to Europe. In this lesson, you will read some interesting facts about the habits and customs of the people who inhabit it.
The oven used in the villages is a round hole in the earth, which is made in the middle of the room, about three feet deep. The people plaster clay round the sides of the hole, which soon hardens, and forms a kind of tile. The bread is drawn out in cakes, which are scarcely as thick as an ordinary dinner-plate. These cakes are placed on the side of the oven, and are baked in a few minutes ready for eating. This kind of bread is
generally baked every day and eaten fresh; and as each family bakes its bread daily, there is none to be sold should any be required. If strangers call at a house, the master has to give the same order to bake cakes upon the hearth," that Abraham gave to Sarah when the angels called.
This oven not only serves to bake the bread of the people; it is also useful for warming the room in winter, with a very small amount of fuel, which in Persia is very scarce, A stone is placed over the round hole, which keeps in the heat, and a thick quilt placed over the stone, under which the people put their feet to keep themselves warm. night, the people spread their couches round the oven, their feet being nearest the fire, while their heads are farthest from it. They thus all sleep together in the same room in which they have been during the day.
The Persians have no candles for lighting their houses. They have brass cups, filled with tallow, in the middle of which a cotton wick is placed. These cups are placed on stands, so that they may give light around.
When the Persians go to bed, they do not undress themselves, and they never use sheets or blankets. They sleep on mattresses made of velvet, and cover themselves with a counterpane made of silk brocade, or cloth of gold or silver. These articles are very durable, owing perhaps to the extreme dryness of the atmosphere, sometimes lasting a hundred years.
In Persia, a native never enters a room in boots
or slippers. The people not only use their carpets for domestic purposes, but to kneel upon when they say their prayers, hence they consider them in some respects sacred. When a visitor enters a room, he leaves his slippers or shoes at the door. Before supper is served, a servant brings a basin and a ewer 66 to pour water on the hands of his guests. The person holds out his hands, one after the other, and the servant pours water upon them from the long spout of his ewer, while the basin underneath receives the water which falls from them. They then draw themselves round the tray on which the dishes are placed, and begin to eat their food with much earnestness. They eat their meals without tables, knives, or forks. The guests sit on the felt carpet along one side of the room, with their backs leaning against the wall. Trays containing a dish of beautiful plain boiled rice, with another dish, containing butter and meat or vegetables, are placed before them, one tray being placed for every two guests. When all are thus served, the master of the feast says, "In the name of God!" by way of grace, and the meal begins.
It is considered at a Persian dinner a compliment for a person to offer you a piece out of a dish that stands before him, which he does with his fingers. This you are expected to receive and devour with a peculiar relish, and it would be regarded as an insult if you were to refuse it. One of the Persians took a piece of meat from his dish with his fingers, and offered it to an Englishman
sitting by him, who set about eating it at once with a coolness that surprised his companions. When we are in foreign countries, it is as well to conform to the manners and customs of the people as much as we can.
The Persians are very expert in picking up the rice and meat with their fingers, and carrying them to their mouths. They do it without spilling a grain of rice, or a drop of sauce, but it is very awkward to a European. When the meal is over the master of the house says, "Thanks be to God," and the company disperses.
The Persians are a very polite people, and are never tired with pouring compliments on their visitors. An American relates how a Persian governor enquired of him, "Is your health good? Is your appetite lusty? Are you in fat condition?" and he said these things so rapidly that he found no room to put in a reply. The governor further said, "Your coming is delightful? Your arrival is gladsome? Upon my eyes you have come?" In order to turn the conversation to something else he remarked that he had come from the New World, but he replied, "Everything must be excellent that comes from the New World."
When a stranger visits the country he is greeted with such expressions as these, "Your presence has made all Persia a garden? Persia is unworthy of your acceptance," and such like expressions.
In attempting to make purchases of the Persians, the article you desire, is always stated at the outset to be a present to you, and its owner your
sérvant and your sacrifice. If you ask him what he wants for it, he repeats that it is a present; and if you press him still further, he says that since you will not take the article without paying for it, you must name your own price, for he can sell nothing to you. If you mention a fair sum, he will flatly reply that you shall not have it for that; and by this time he throws away his fine speeches, and demands twice or three times its known value, which you must pay him, or take the trouble of discussing the matter with him. The best way is, if he refuses your price to simply leave him, when he will quickly call after you to take the article at the price you have offered.
This account illustrates the Scripture narrative in the Book of Genesis. "And Abraham stood up, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, I am a stranger and a sojourner with you, give me a possession of a burying-place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us; in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead. And Ephron said, Nay, my lord, hear me; the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; bury thy dead. And Abraham said, But if thou wilt give it me, I pray thee, hear me : I will give thee money for the field. And Ephron said, My lord, the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that between me and