SERVIA, YOUNGEST MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN FAMILY (1845) I/XXXV
Updated: Apr 8
YOUNGEST MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN FAMILY:
RESIDENCE IN BELGRADE,
TRAVELS IN THE HIGHLANDS AND WOODLANDS OF THE INTERIOR,
DURING THE YEARS 1843 AND 1844.
ANDREW ARCHIBALD PATON, ESQ.
The narrative and descriptive portion of this work speaks for itself. In the historical part I have consulted with advantage Von Engel's "History of Servia," Ranké's "Servian Revolution," Possart's "Servia," and Ami Boué's "Turquie d'Europe," but took the precaution of submitting the facts selected to the censorship of those on the spot best able to test their accuracy. For this service, I owe a debt of acknowledgment to M. Hadschitch, the framer of the Servian code; M. Marinovitch, Secretary of the Senate; and Professor John Shafarik, whose lectures on Slaavic history, literature, and antiquities, have obtained unanimous applause.
Leave Beyrout.—Camp afloat.—Rhodes.—The shores of the Mediterranean suitable for the cultivation of the arts.—A Moslem of the new school.—American Presbyterian clergyman.—A Mexican senator.—A sermon for sailors.—Smyrna.—Buyukdéré.—Sir Stratford Canning.—Embark for Bulgaria.
I have been four years in the East, and feel that I have had quite enough of it for the present. Notwithstanding the azure skies, bubbling fountains, Mosaic pavements, and fragrant narghilés, I begin to feel symptoms of ennui, and a thirst for European life, sharp air, and a good appetite, a blazing fire, well-lighted rooms, female society, good music, and the piquant vaudevilles of my ancient friends, Scribe, Bayard, and Melesville.
At length I stand on the pier of Beyrout, while my luggage is being embarked for the Austrian steamer lying in the roads, which, in the Levantine slang, has lighted her chibouque, and is polluting yon white promontory, clear cut in the azure horizon, with a thick black cloud of Wallsend.
I bade a hurried adieu to my friends, and went on board. The quarter-deck, which retained its awning day and night, was divided into two compartments, one of which was reserved for the promenade of the cabin passengers, the other for the bivouac of the Turks, who retained their camp habits with amusing minuteness, making the larboard quarter a vast tent afloat, with its rolled up beds, quilts, counterpanes, washing gear, and all sorts of water-cans, coffee-pots, and chibouques, with stores of bread, cheese, fruit, and other provisions for the voyage. In the East, a family cannot move without its household paraphernalia, but then it requires a slight addition of furniture and utensils to settle for years in a strange place. The settlement of a European family requires a thousand et ceteras and months of installation, but then it is set in motion for the new world with a few portmanteaus and travelling bags.
Two days and a half of steaming brought us to Rhodes.
An enchanter has waved his wand! in reading of the wondrous world of the ancients, one feels a desire to get a peep at Rome before its destruction by barbarian hordes. A leap backwards of half this period is what one seems to make at Rhodes, a perfectly preserved city and fortress of the middle ages. Here has been none of the Vandalism of Vauban, Cohorn, and those mechanical-pated fellows, who, with their Dutch dyke-looking parapets, made such havoc of donjons and picturesque turrets in Europe. Here is every variety of mediæval battlement; so perfect is the illusion, that one wonders the waiter's horn should be mute, and the walls devoid of bowman, knight, and squire.
Two more delightful days of steaming among the Greek Islands now followed. The heat was moderate, the motion gentle, the sea was liquid lapis lazuli, and the hundred-tinted islets around us, wrought their accustomed spell. Surely there is something in climate which creates permanent abodes of art! The Mediterranean, with its hydrographical configuration, excluding from its great peninsulas the extremes of heat and cold, seems destined to nourish the most exquisite sentiment of the Beautiful. Those brilliant or softly graduated tints invite the palette, and the cultivation of the graces of the mind, shining with its æsthetic ray through lineaments thorough-bred from generation to generation, invites the sculptor to transfer to marble, grace of contour and elevation of expression. But let us not envy the balmy South. The Germanic or northern element, if less susceptible of the beautiful is more masculine, better balanced, less in extremes. It was this element that struck down the Roman empire, that peoples America and Australia, and rules India; that exhausted worlds, and then created new.
The most prominent individual of the native division of passengers, was Arif Effendi, a pious Moslem of the new school, who had a great horror of brandy; first, because it was made from wine; and secondly, because his own favourite beverage was Jamaica rum; for, as Peter Parley says, "Of late years, many improvements have taken place among the Mussulmans, who show a disposition to adopt the best things of their more enlightened neighbours." We had a great deal of conversation during the voyage, for he professed to have a great admiration of England, and a great dislike of France; probably all owing to the fact of rum coming from Jamaica, and brandy and wine from Cognac and Bordeaux.
Another individual was a still richer character: an American Presbyterian clergyman, with furibond dilated nostril and a terrific frown.
"You must lose Canada," said he to me one day, abruptly, "ay, and Bermuda into the bargain."
"I think you had better round off your acquisitions with a few odd West India Islands."
"We have stomach enough for that too."
"I hear you have been to Jerusalem."
"Yes; I went to recover my voice, which I lost; for I have one of the largest congregations in Boston."
"But, my good friend, you breathe nothing but war and conquest."
"The fact is, war is as unavoidable as thunder and lightning; the atmosphere must be cleared from time to time."
"Were you ever a soldier?"
"No; I was in the American navy. Many a day I was after John Bull on the shores of Newfoundland."
"After John Bull?"
"Yes, Sir, sweating after him: I delight in energy; give me the man who will shoulder a millstone, if need be."
"The capture of Canada, Bermuda, and a few odd West India Islands, would certainly give scope for your energy. This would be taking the bull by the horns."
"Swinging him by the tail, say I."
The burlesque vigour of his illustrations some times ran to anti-climax. One day, he talked of something (if I recollect right, the electric telegraph), moving with the rapidity of a flash of lightning, with a pair of spurs clapped into it.
In spite of all this ultra-national bluster, we found him to be a very good sort of man, having nothing of the bear but the skin, and in the test of the quarantine arrangements, the least selfish of the party.
Another passenger was an elderly Mexican senator, who was the essence of politeness of the good old school. Every morning he stood smiling, hat in hand, while he inquired how each of us had slept. I shall never forget the cholera-like contortion of horror he displayed, when the clerical militant (poking his fun at him), declared that Texas was within the natural boundary of the State, and that some morning they would make a breakfast of the whole question.
One day he passed from politics to religion. "I am fond of fun," said he, "I think it is the sign of a clear conscience. My life has been spent among sailors. I have begun with many a blue jacket hail-fellow-well-met in my own rough way, and have ended in weaning him from wicked courses. None of your gloomy religion for me. When I see a man whose religion makes him melancholy, and averse from gaiety, I tell him his god must be my devil."
The originality of this gentleman's intellect and manners, led me subsequently to make further inquiry; and I find one of his sermons reported by a recent traveller, who, after stating that his oratory made a deep impression on the congregation of the Sailors' chapel in Boston, who sat with their eyes, ears, and mouths open, as if spell-bound in listening to him, thus continues: "He describes a ship at sea, bound for the port of Heaven, when the man at the head sung out, 'Rocks ahead!' 'Port the helm,' cried the mate. 'Ay, ay, sir,' was the answer; the ship obeyed, and stood upon a tack. But in two minutes more, the lead indicated a shoal. The man on the out-look sung out, 'Sandbreaks and breakers ahead!' The captain was now called, and the mate gave his opinion; but sail where they could, the lead and the eye showed nothing but dangers all around,—sand banks, coral reefs, sunken rocks, and dangerous coasts. The chart showed them clearly enough where the port of Heaven lay; there was no doubt about its latitude and longitude: but they all sung out, that it was impossible to reach it; there was no fair way to get to it. My friends, it was the devil who blew up that sand-bank, and sunk those rocks, and set the coral insects to work; his object was to prevent that ship from ever getting to Heaven, to wreck it on its way, and to make prize of the whole crew for slaves for ever. But just as every soul was seized with consternation, and almost in despair, a tight little schooner hove in sight; she was cruizing about, with one Jesus, a pilot, on board. The captain hailed him, and he answered that he knew a fair way to the port in question. He pointed out to them an opening in the rocks, which the largest ship might beat through, with a channel so deep, that the lead could never reach to the bottom, and the passage was land-locked the whole way, so that the wind might veer round to every point in the compass, and blow hurricanes from them all, and yet it could never raise a dangerous sea in that channel. What did the crew of that distressed ship do, when Jesus showed them his chart, and gave them all the bearings? They laughed at him, and threw his chart back in his face. He find a channel where they could not! Impossible; and on they sailed in their own course, and everyone of them perished."
At Smyrna, I signalized my return to the land of the Franks, by ordering a beef-steak, and a bottle of porter, and bespeaking the paper from a gentleman in drab leggings, who had come from Manchester to look after the affairs of a commercial house, in which he or his employers were involved. He wondered that a hotel in the Ottoman empire should be so unlike one in Europe, and asked me, "If the inns down in the country were as good as this."
As for Constantinople, I refer all readers to the industry and accuracy of Mr. White, who might justly have terminated his volumes with the Oriental epistolary phrase, "What more can I write?" Mr. White is not a mere sentence balancer, but belongs to the guild of bonâ fide Oriental travellers.
In summer, all Pera is on the Bosphorus: so I jumped into a caique, and rowed up to Buyukdéré. On the threshold of the villa of the British embassy, I met A——, the prince of attachés, who led me to a beautiful little kiosk, on the extremity of a garden, and there installed me in his fairy abode of four small rooms, which embraced a view like that of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore; here books, the piano, the narghilé, and the parterre of flowers, relieved the drudgery of his Eastern diplomacy. Lord N——, Mr. H——, and Mr. T——, the other attachés, lived in a house at the other end of the garden.
I here spent a week of delightful repose. The mornings were occupied ad libitum, the gentlemen of the embassy being overwhelmed with business. At four o'clock dinner was usually served in the airy vestibule of the embassy villa, and with the occasional accession of other members of the diplomatic corps we usually formed a large party. A couple of hours before sunset a caique, which from its size might have been the galley of a doge, was in waiting, and Lady C—— sometimes took us to a favourite wooded hill or bower-grown creek in the Paradise-like environs, while a small musical party in the evening terminated each day. One of the attachés of the Russian embassy, M. F——, is the favorite dilettante of Buyukdéré; he has one of the finest voices I ever heard, and frequently reminded me of the easy humour and sonorous profundity of Lablache.
Before embarking the reader on the Black Sea, I cannot forbear a single remark on the distinguished individual who has so long and so worthily represented Great Britain at the Ottoman Porte.
Sir. Stratford Canning is certainly unpopular with the extreme fanatical party, and with all those economists who are for killing the goose to get at the golden eggs; but the real interests of the Turkish nation never had a firmer support.
The chief difficulty in the case of this race is the impossibility of fusion with others. While they decrease in number, the Rayahs increase in wealth, in numbers, and in intelligence.
The Russians are the Orientals of Europe, but St. Petersburg is a German town, German industry corrects the old Muscovite sloth and cunning. The immigrant strangers rise to the highest offices, for the crown employs them as a counterpoise on the old nobility; as burgher incorporations were used by the kings of three centuries ago.
No similar process is possible with Moslems: one course therefore remains open for those who wish to see the Ottoman Empire upheld; a strenuous insistance on the Porte treating the Rayah* population with justice and moderation. The interests of humanity, and the real and true interests of the Ottoman Empire, are in this case identical. Guided by this sound principle, which completely reconciles the policy of Great Britain with the highest maxims of political morality, Sir. Stratford Canning has pursued his career with an all-sifting intelligence, a vigour of character and judgment, an indifference to temporary repulses, and a sacrifice of personal popularity, which has called forth the respect and involuntary admiration of parties the most opposed to his views.
I embarked on board a steamer, skirted the western coast of the Black Sea, and landed on the following morning in Varna.
*BoJ Note: rayah, raya or raja is the common Ottoman name for all lower classes, Muslim and non-Muslim