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The innocents abroad, or, The new Pilgrim's progress

being some account of the steamship Quaker City's pleasure excursion to Europe and the Holy land ; with descriptions of countries, nations, incidents and adventures, as they appeared to the author






MAGDALA is not a beautiful place. It is thoroughly
Syrian, and that is to say that it is thoroughly ugly,
and cramped, squalid, uncomfortable, and filthy—just the style
of cities that have adorned the country since Adam's time, as
all writers have labored hard to prove, and have succeeded.
The streets of Magdala are any where from three to six feet
wide, and reeking with uncleanliness. The houses are from
five to seven feet high, and all built upon one arbitrary plan—
the ungraceful form of a dry-goods box. The sides are daubed
with a smooth white plaster, and tastefully frescoed aloft and
alow with disks of camel-dung placed there to dry. This gives
the edifice the romantic appearance of having been riddled
with cannon-balls, and imparts to it a very warlike aspect.
When the artist has arranged his materials with an eye to just
proportion—the small and the large flakes in alternate rows,
and separated by carefully-considered intervals—I know of
nothing more cheerful to look upon than a spirited Syrian
fresco. The flat, plastered roof is garnished by picturesque
stacks of fresco materials, which, having become thoroughly
dried and cured, are placed there where it will be convenient.
It is used for fuel. There is no timber of any consequence in
Palestine—none at all to waste upon fires—and neither are
there any mines of coal. If my description has been intelligible,
you will perceive, now, that a square, flat-roofed hovel,
neatly frescoed, with its wall-tops gallantly bastioned and turreted
with dried camel-refuse, gives to a landscape a feature
that is exceedingly festive and picturesque, especially if one is


Page 504
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 504. In-line Illustration. Image of a Syrian hut with stone walls, a flat roof and no windows. There are many cats in front of the house. The caption reads, "SYRIAN HOUSE."] careful to remember to stick in a cat wherever, about the
premises, there is room for a cat to sit. There are no windows
to a Syrian hut, and no chimneys. When I used to read that
they let a bed-ridden man down through the roof of a house
in Capernaum to get him into the presence of the Saviour, I
generally had a three-story brick in my mind, and marveled
that they
did not
his neck
with the
that they
have taken
by the heels and thrown him clear over the house without discommoding
him very much. Palestine is not changed any
since those days, in manners, customs, architecture, or people.

As we rode into Magdala not a soul was visible. But the
ring of the horses' hoofs roused the stupid population, and they
all came trooping out—old men and old women, boys and
girls, the blind, the crazy, and the crippled, all in ragged,
soiled and scanty raiment, and all abject beggars by nature,
instinct and education. How the vermin-tortured vagabonds
did swarm! How they showed their scars and sores, and piteously
pointed to their maimed and crooked limbs, and begged
with their pleading eyes for charity! We had invoked a spirit
we could not lay. They hung to the horses's tails, clung to
their manes and the stirrups, closed in on every side in scorn
of dangerous hoofs—and out of their infidel throats, with one
accord, burst an agonizing and most infernal chorus: “Howajji,


Page 505
bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh!
bucksheesh! bucksheesh!” I never was in a storm like that

As we paid the bucksheesh out to sore-eyed children and
brown, buxom girls with repulsively tattooed lips and chins,
we filed through the town and by many an exquisite fresco,
till we came to a bramble-infested inclosure and a Roman-looking
ruin which had been the veritable dwelling of St. Mary
Magdalene, the friend and follower of Jesus. The guide believed
it, and so did I. I could not well do otherwise, with
the house right there before my eyes as plain as day. The
pilgrims took down portions of the front wall for specimens,
as is their honored custom, and then we departed.

We are camped in this place, now, just within the city walls
of Tiberias. We went into the town before nightfall and
looked at its people—we cared nothing about its houses. Its
people are best examined at a distance. They are particularly
uncomely Jews, Arabs, and negroes. Squalor and poverty are
the pride of Tiberias. The young women wear their dower
strung upon a strong wire that curves downward from the top
of the head to the jaw—Turkish silver coins which they have
raked together or inherited. Most of these maidens were not
wealthy, but some few had been very kindly dealt with by fortune.
I saw heiresses there worth, in their own right—worth,
well, I suppose I might venture to say, as much as nine dollars
and a half. But such cases are rare. When you come across
one of these, she naturally puts on airs. She will not ask for
bucksheesh. She will not even permit of undue familiarity.
She assumes a crushing dignity and goes on serenely practicing
with her fine-tooth comb and quoting poetry just the
same as if you were not present at all. Some people can not
stand prosperity.

They say that the long-nosed, lanky, dyspeptic-looking body-snatchers,
with the indescribable hats on, and a long curl
dangling down in front of each ear, are the old, familiar, self-righteous
Pharisees we read of in the Scriptures. Verily, they
look it. Judging merely by their general style, and without


Page 506
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 506. In-line Illustration. Image of a group of people looking at a view that includes a large building with a domed roof a boat on the sea. The caption reads, "TIBERIAS, AND SEA OF GALILEE."] other evidence, one might easily suspect that self-righteousness
was their specialty.

From various authorities I have culled information concerning
Tiberias. It was built by Herod Antipas, the murderer
of John the Baptist, and named after the Emperor Tiberius.
It is believed that it stands upon the site of what must have
been, ages ago, a city of considerable architectural pretensions,
judging by the fine porphyry pillars that are scattered through
Tiberias and down the lake shore southward. These were
fluted, once, and yet, although the stone is about as hard as
iron, the flutings are almost worn away. These pillars are
small, and doubtless the edifices they adorned were distinguished
more for elegance than grandeur. This modern town
—Tiberias—is only mentioned in the New Testament; never
in the Old.

The Sanhedrim met here last, and for three hundred years


Page 507
Tiberias was the metropolis of the Jews in Palestine. It is
one of the four holy cities of the Israelites, and is to them what
Mecca is to the Mohammedan and Jerusalem to the Christian.
It has been the abiding place of many learned and famous
Jewish rabbins. They lie buried here, and near them lie also
twenty-five thousand of their faith who traveled far to be near
them while they lived and lie with them when they died. The
great Rabbi Ben Israel spent three years here in the early part
of the third century. He is dead, now.

The celebrated Sea of Galilee is not so large a sea as Lake
Tahoe[1] by a good deal—it is just about two-thirds as large.
And when we come to speak of beauty, this sea is no more to
be compared to Tahoe than a meridian of longitude is to a
rainbow. The dim waters of this pool can not suggest the limpid
brilliancy of Tahoe; these low, shaven, yellow hillocks of
rocks and sand, so devoid of perspective, can not suggest the
grand peaks that compass Tahoe like a wall, and whose ribbed
and chasmed fronts are clad with stately pines that seem to
grow small and smaller as they climb, till one might fancy
them reduced to weeds and shrubs far upward, where they join
the everlasting snows. Silence and solitude brood over Tahoe;
and silence and solitude brood also over this lake of Genessaret.
But the solitude of the one is as cheerful and fascinating
as the solitude of the other is dismal and repellant.

In the early morning one watches the silent battle of dawn
and darkness upon the waters of Tahoe with a placid interest;
but when the shadows sulk away and one by one the hidden
beauties of the shore unfold themselves in the full splendor of
noon; when the still surface is belted like a rainbow with broad
bars of blue and green and white, half the distance from circumference
to centre; when, in the lazy summer afternoon, he
lies in a boat, far out to where the dead blue of the deep water
begins, and smokes the pipe of peace and idly winks at the


Page 508
distant crags and patches of snow from under his cap-brim;
when the boat drifts shoreward to the white water, and he lolls
over the gunwale and gazes by the hour down through the
crystal depths and notes the colors of the pebbles and reviews
the finny armies gliding in procession a hundred feet below;
when at night he sees moon and stars, mountain ridges feathered
with pines, jutting white capes, bold promontories, grand
sweeps of rugged scenery topped with bald, glimmering peaks,
all magnificently pictured in the polished mirror of the lake,
in richest, softest detail, the tranquil interest that was born
with the morning deepens and deepens, by sure degrees, till it
culminates at last in resistless fascination!

It is solitude, for birds and squirrels on the shore and fishes
in the water are all the creatures that are near to make it otherwise,
but it is not the sort of solitude to make one dreary.
Come to Galilee for that. If these unpeopled deserts, these
rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never, never do shake
the glare from their harsh outlines, and fade and faint into
vague perspective; that melancholy ruin of Capernaum; this
stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under its six funereal
plumes of palms; yonder desolate declivity where the swine
of the miracle ran down into the sea, and doubtless thought it
was better to swallow a devil or two and get drowned into the
bargain than have to live longer in such a place; this cloudless,
blistering sky; this solemn, sailless, tintless lake, reposing
within its rim of yellow hills and low, steep banks, and looking
just as expressionless and unpoetical (when we leave its
sublime history out of the question,) as any metropolitan reservoir
in Christendom—if these things are not food for rock
me to sleep, mother, none exist, I think.

But I should not offer the evidence for the prosecution and
leave the defense unheard. Wm. C. Grimes deposes as follows:—

“We had taken ship to go over to the other side. The sea was not more than
six miles wide. Of the beauty of the scene, however, I can not say enough, nor
can I imagine where those travelers carried their eyes who have described the
scenery of the lake as tame or uninteresting. The first great characteristic of it is


Page 509
the deep basin in which it lies. This is from three to four hundred feet deep on all
sides except at the lower end, and the sharp slope of the banks, which are all of
the richest green, is broken and diversified by the wadys and water-courses which
work their way down through the sides of the basin, forming dark chasms or light
sunny valleys. Near Tiberias these banks are rocky, and ancient sepulchres open
in them, with their doors toward the water. They selected grand spots, as did the
Egyptians of old, for burial places, as if they designed that when the voice of God
should reach the sleepers, they should walk forth and open their eyes on scenes of
glorious beauty. On the east, the wild and desolate mountains contrast finely with
the deep blue lake; and toward the north, sublime and majestic, Hermon looks
down on the sea, lifting his white crown to heaven with the pride of a hill that has
seen the departing footsteps of a hundred generations. On the north-east shore of
the sea was a single tree, and this is the only tree of any size visible from the water
of the lake, except a few lonely palms in the city of Tiberias, and by its solitary
position attracts more attention than would a forest. The whole appearance
of the scene is precisely what we would expect and desire the scenery of Genessaret
to be, grand beauty, but quiet calm. The very mountains are calm.”

It is an ingeniously written description, and well calculated
to deceive. But if the paint and the ribbons and the flowers
be stripped from it, a skeleton will be found beneath.

So stripped, there remains a lake six miles wide and neutral
in color; with steep green banks, unrelieved by shrubbery; at
one end bare, unsightly rocks, with (almost invisible) holes in
them of no consequence to the picture; eastward, “wild and
desolate mountains;” (low, desolate hills, he should have
said;) in the north, a mountain called Hermon, with snow on
it; peculiarity of the picture, “calmness;” its prominent feature,
one tree.

No ingenuity could make such a picture beautiful—to one's
actual vision.

I claim the right to correct misstatements, and have so corrected
the color of the water in the above recapitulation. The
waters of Genessaret are of an exceedingly mild blue, even
from a high elevation and a distance of five miles. Close at
hand (the witness was sailing on the lake,) it is hardly proper
to call them blue at all, much less “deep” blue. I wish to
state, also, not as a correction, but as matter of opinion, that
Mount Hermon is not a striking or picturesque mountain by
any means, being too near the height of its immediate neighbors


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to be so. That is all. I do not object to the witness
dragging a mountain forty-five miles to help the scenery under
consideration, because it is entirely proper to do it, and besides,
the picture needs it.

“C. W. E.,” (of “Life in the Holy Land,”) deposes as follows:—

“A beautiful sea lies unbosomed among the Galilean hills, in the midst of that
land once possessed by Zebulon and Naphtali, Asher and Dan. The azure of the
sky penetrates the depths of the lake, and the waters are sweet and cool. On the
west, stretch broad fertile plains; on the north the rocky shores rise step by step
until in the far distance tower the snowy heights of Hermon; on the east through
a misty veil are seen the high plains of Perea, which stretch away in rugged
mountains leading the mind by varied paths toward Jerusalem the Holy. Flowers
bloom in this terrestrial paradise, once beautiful and verdant with waving trees;
singing birds enchant the ear; the turtle-dove soothes with its soft note; the crested
lark sends up its song toward heaven, and the grave and stately stork inspires
the mind with thought, and leads it on to meditation and repose. Life here was
once idyllic, charming; here were once no rich, no poor, no high, no low. It was
a world of ease, simplicity, and beauty; now it is a scene of desolation and

This is not an ingenious picture. It is the worst I ever saw.
It describes in elaborate detail what it terms a “terrestrial
paradise,” and closes with the startling information that this
paradise is “a scene of desolation and misery.

I have given two fair, average specimens of the character of
the testimony offered by the majority of the writers who visit
this region. One says, “Of the beauty of the scene I can not
say enough,” and then proceeds to cover up with a woof of
glittering sentences a thing which, when stripped for inspection,
proves to be only an unobtrusive basin of water, some
mountainous desolation, and one tree. The other, after a conseientious
effort to build a terrestrial paradise out of the same
materials, with the addition of a “grave and stately stork,”
spoils it all by blundering upon the ghastly truth at the last.

Nearly every book concerning Galilee and its lake describes
the scenery as beautiful. No—not always so straightforward
as that. Sometimes the impression intentionally conveyed is
that it is beautiful, at the same time that the author is careful


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not to say that it is, in plain Saxon. But a careful analysis of
these descriptions will show that the materials of which they are
formed are not individually beautiful and can not be wrought
into combinations that are beautiful. The veneration and the
affection which some of these men felt for the scenes they
were speaking of, heated their fancies and biased their judgment;
but the pleasant falsities they wrote were full of honest
sincerity, at any rate. Others wrote as they did, because they
feared it would be unpopular to write otherwise. Others were
hypocrites and deliberately meant to deceive. Any of them
would say in a moment, if asked, that it was always right and
always best to tell the truth. They would say that, at any rate,
if they did not perceive the drift of the question.

But why should not the truth be spoken of this region? Is
the truth harmful? Has it ever needed to hide its face? God
made the Sea of Galilee and its surroundings as they are. Is
it the province of Mr. Grimes to improve upon the work?

I am sure, from the tenor of books I have read, that many
who have visited this land in years gone by, were Presbyterians,
and came seeking evidences in support of their particular
creed; they found a Presbyterian Palestine, and they had already
made up their minds to find no other, though possibly
they did not know it, being blinded by their zeal. Others
were Baptists, seeking Baptist evidences and a Baptist Palestine.
Others were Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, seeking
evidences indorsing their several creeds, and a Catholic, a
Methodist, an Episcopalian Palestine. Honest as these men's
intentions may have been, they were full of partialities and
prejudices, they entered the country with their verdicts already
prepared, and they could no more write dispassionately and
impartially about it than they could about their own wives
and children. Our pilgrims have brought their verdicts with
them. They have shown it in their conversation ever since
we left Beirout. I can almost tell, in set phrase, what they
will say when they see Tabor, Nazareth, Jericho and Jerusalem—
because I have the books they will “smouch” their ideas
These authors write pictures and frame rhapsodies, and


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lesser men follow and see with the author's eyes instead of
their own, and speak with his tongue. What the pilgrims
said at Cesarea Philippi surprised me with its wisdom. I
found it afterwards in Robinson. What they said when
Genessaret burst upon their vision, charmed me with its grace.
I find it in Mr. Thompson's “Land and the Book.” They
have spoken often, in happily worded language which never
varied, of how they mean to lay their weary heads upon a
stone at Bethel, as Jacob did, and close their dim eyes, and
dream, perchance, of angels descending out of heaven on a
ladder. It was very pretty. But I have recognized the weary
head and the dim eyes, finally. They borrowed the idea—and
the words—and the construction—and the punctuation—from
Grimes. The pilgrims will tell of Palestine, when they get
home, not as it appeared to them, but as it appeared to Thompson
and Robinson and Grimes—with the tints varied to suit
each pilgrim's creed.

Pilgrims, sinners and Arabs are all abed, now, and the camp
is still. Labor in loneliness is irksome. Since I made my last
few notes, I have been sitting outside the tent for half an hour.
Night is the time to see Galilee. Genessaret under these lustrous
stars, has nothing repulsive about it. Genessaret with
the glittering reflections of the constellations flecking its surface,
almost makes me regret that I ever saw the rude glare of
the day upon it. Its history and its associations are its chiefest
charm, in any eyes, and the spells they weave are feeble in
the searching light of the sun. Then, we scarcely feel the fetters.
Our thoughts wander constantly to the practical concerns
of life, and refuse to dwell upon things that seem vague
and unreal. But when the day is done, even the most unimpressible
must yield to the dreamy influences of this tranquil
starlight. The old traditions of the place steal upon his memory
and haunt his reveries, and then his fancy clothes all
sights and sounds with the supernatural. In the lapping of
the waves upon the beach, he hears the dip of ghostly oars;
in the secret noises of the night he hears spirit voices; in the
soft sweep of the breeze, the rush of invisible wings. Phantom


Page 513
ships are on the sea, the dead of twenty centuries come
forth from the tombs, and in the dirges of the night wind the
songs of old forgotten ages find utterance again.

In the starlight, Galilee has no boundaries but the broad
compass of the heavens, and is a theatre meet for great events;
meet for the birth of a religion able to save a world; and
meet for the stately Figure appointed to stand upon its stage
and proclaim its high decrees. But in the sunlight, one says:
Is it for the deeds which were done and the words which were
spoken in this little acre of rocks and sand eighteen centuries
gone, that the bells are ringing to-day in the remote islands of
the sea and far and wide over continents that clasp the circumference
of the huge globe?

One can comprehend it only when night has hidden all incongruities
and created a theatre proper for so grand a drama.


I measure all lakes by Tahoe, partly because I am far more familiar with it
than with any other, and partly because I have such a high admiration for it and
such a world of pleasant recollections of it, that it is very nearly impossible for me
to speak of lakes and not mention it.