University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
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




Page 604


WE visited all the holy places about Jerusalem which we
had left unvisited when we journeyed to the Jordan,
and then, about three o'clock one afternoon, we fell into procession
and marched out at the stately Damascus gate, and the
walls of Jerusalem shut us out forever. We paused on the
summit of a distant hill and took a final look and made a final
farewell to the venerable city which had been such a good
home to us.

For about four hours we traveled down hill constantly.
We followed a narrow bridle-path which traversed the beds of
the mountain gorges, and when we could we got out of the
way of the long trains of laden camels and asses, and when we
could not we suffered the misery of being mashed up against
perpendicular walls of rock and having our legs bruised by the
passing freight. Jack was caught two or three times, and Dan
and Moult as often. One horse had a heavy fall on the slippery
rocks, and the others had narrow escapes. However,
this was as good a road as we had found in Palestine, and possibly
even the best, and so there was not much grumbling.

Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards
of figs, apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener
the scenery was rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding.
Here and there, towers were perched high up on acclivities
which seemed almost inaccessible. This fashion is as
old as Palestine itself and was adopted in ancient times for security
against enemies.

We crossed the brook which furnished David the stone that


Page 605
killed Goliah, and no doubt we looked upon the very ground
whereon that noted battle was fought. We passed by a
picturesque old gothic ruin whose stone pavements had rung
to the armed heels of many a valorous Crusader, and we rode
through a piece of country which we were told once knew
Samson as a citizen.

We staid all night with the good monks at the convent
of Ramleh, and in the morning got up and galloped the horses
a good part of the distance from there to Jaffa, or Joppa, for
the plain was as level as a floor and free from stones, and
besides this was our last march in Holy Land. These two
or three hours finished, we and the tired horses could have rest
and sleep as long as we wanted it. This was the plain of
which Joshua spoke when he said, “Sun, stand thou still on
Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon.” As we drew
near to Jaffa, the boys spurred up the horses and indulged in
the excitement of an actual race—an experience we had hardly
had since we raced on donkeys in the Azores islands.

We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which
the Oriental city of Jaffa lies buried; we passed through the
walls, and rode again down narrow streets and among swarms
of animated rags, and saw other sights and had other experiences
we had long been familiar with. We dismounted, for
the last time, and out in the offing, riding at anchor, we saw
the ship! I put an exclamation point there because we felt
one when we saw the vessel. The long pilgrimage was ended,
and somehow we seemed to feel glad of it.

[For description of Jaffa, see Universal Gazetteer.] Simon
the Tanner formerly lived here. We went to his house. All
the pilgrims visit Simon the Tanner's house. Peter saw the
vision of the beasts let down in a sheet when he lay upon the
roof of Simon the Tanner's house. It was from Jaffa that
Jonah sailed when he was told to go and prophesy against
Nineveh, and no doubt it was not far from the town that the
whale threw him up when he discovered that he had no ticket.
Jonah was disobedient, and of a fault-finding, complaining disposition,
and deserves to be lightly spoken of, almost. The


Page 606
timbers used in the construction of Solomon's temple were
floated to Jaffa in rafts, and the narrow opening in the reef
through which they passed to the shore is not an inch wider or
a shade less dangerous to navigate than it was then. Such is
the sleepy nature of the population Palestine's only good seaport
has now and always had. Jaffa has a history and a stirring
one. It will not be discovered any where in this book. If
the reader will call at the circulating library and mention my
name, he will be furnished with books which will afford him
the fullest information concerning Jaffa.

So ends the pilgrimage. We ought to be glad that we did
not make it for the purpose of feasting our eyes upon fascinating
aspects of nature, for we should have been disappointed—
at least at this season of the year. A writer in “Life in the
Holy Land” observes:

“Monotonous and uninviting as much of the Holy Land will appear to persons
accustomed to the almost constant verdure of flowers, ample streams and varied surface
of our own country, we must remember that its aspect to the Israelites after
the weary march of forty years through the desert must have been very different.”

Which all of us will freely grant. But it truly is “monotonous
and uninviting,” and there is no sufficient reason for describing
it as being otherwise.

Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine
must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of
color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly
deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression
about it of being sorrowful and despondent. The Dead
Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a vast stretch
of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant tint,
no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze or
mottled with the shadows of the clouds. Every outline is
harsh, every feature is distinct, there is no perspective—distance
works no enchantment here. It is a hopeless, dreary,
heart-broken land.

Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the
full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by




[Description: 500EAF. Illustration page. Image of men on donkeys riding on the seashore. There is a city in the distance. They are looking at a man with fishing nets. ]

Blank Page

Page Blank Page


Page 607
contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them
on every side. I would like much to see the fringes of the
Jordan in spring-time, and Shechem, Esdraelon, Ajalon and
the borders of Galilee—but even then these spots would seem
mere toy gardens set at wide intervals in the waste of a limitless

Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the
spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.
Where Sodom and Gomorrah reared their domes and
towers, that solemn sea now floods the plain, in whose bitter
waters no living thing exists—over whose waveless surface the
blistering air hangs motionless and dead—about whose borders
nothing grows but weeds, and scattering tufts of cane, and that
treacherous fruit that promises refreshment to parching lips,
but turns to ashes at the touch. Nazareth is forlorn; about
that ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the
Promised Land with songs of rejoicing, one finds only a squalid
camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho the accursed,
lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even as Joshua's miracle left it
more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany,
in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about
them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor
of the Saviour's presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds
watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang
Peace on earth, good will to men, is untenanted by any living
creature, and unblessed by any feature that is pleasant to the
eye. Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history,
has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village;
the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the
admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple
which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and
the Ottoman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on that
most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared
the Holy Cross. The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman
fleets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed
in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war
and commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum


Page 608
is a shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared
Arabs; Bethsaida and Chorazin have vanished from the earth,
and the “desert places” round about them where thousands of
men once listened to the Saviour's voice and ate the miraculous
bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by
birds of prey and skulking foxes.

Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be
otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?

Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred
to poetry and tradition—it is dream-land.