Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia:
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Arrival in Persia – Aspect of the country -Want of population – Warlike costume – The unfortunate cow – Marand – The Azan – Our entrance to Tabreez – First impression of a Persian city – Frequent earthquakes – The Ark – Kajar's coffee – Climate of Tabreez – The angel Gabriel's address to Adam in Turkish – Languages in use in Persia.
October 29th. Here then we were at length in Persia, the land of Cyrus, Darius, and Alexander. We think of the millions of Xerxes, the Great King; we contemplate the barren scene spread before the eyes, and ask where they all came from. Sterile indeed was the prospect, and unhappily it proved to be an epitome of all the scenery in Persia, excepting on the coast of the Caspian. A desolate plain, or rather valley, bounded on each side by rocky or chalky mountains still more desolate – not a tree visible excepting the few willows, poplars, and fruit-trees surrounding the villages thinly scattered over the waste. Such is Persia and her scenery in general, excepting that sometimes a fine village is to be seen smothered in immense gardens, orchards of the most delicious fruits, and vineyards. These bright spots are, however, not numerous; and the curt description of a Scottish traveller of what he saw in Persia is not altogether devoid of truth. According to him, the whole land is divided into two portions – one being desert with salt, and the other desert without salt. Fruit, nevertheless, is abundant and cheap,
owing to extensive cultivation in the neighbourhood of towns. Near the villages corn is so widely cultivated that extensive plains of wheat and barley are spread on all sides; for desolate as looks the soil, all it wants is population and water to make it fruitful. Sometimes the traveller passes for miles through a plain, or over mountains far remote from human habitation, covered with aromatic plants, from which the most delicious spicy odours are exhaled. Yet the general aspect of the land is one of extreme barrenness; one may often, and very often, travel twenty or thirty miles without seeing a habitation or a blade of verdure; and in some parts of Persia these distances amount to hundreds of miles. From whence, then, did the enormous hosts of yore proceed – the millions of the weeping Xerxes? Greek and Persian exaggeration and bombast, in which both nations are still supereminent, might account for much; still the country must have been in a very different state from what we behold it to admit of even a distant approach to the numbers recorded by historians as having marched to the invasion of Greece. The incursions from Tartary have no doubt contributed to reduce the country to its present depopulated state. Blood marked their track: above all, the generals sent by Chengeez, the leaders of the Moghul hosts, seemed to have been incarnations of Izraeel and Israfeel, the Angels of Death. Submission or resistance seems to have been equally fatal; and slaughter – the indiscriminate slaughter of the young and the aged, of man and of woman – was the lot of the wretched population in both cases. In this way the inhabitants of the immense city of Reï, near Tehran, were exterminated. Toos, in Khorassan,
suffered the same desolation. Hostile armies, and the slow though sure hand of oppression, have laid waste these lands, and reduced them to a scanty population, or, to a dreary solitude, where the useless wandering Toork and Lek erect their miserable habitations.
Before we stepped out of our frail boat I had covered my face with a thick veil, and, after much persuasion, induced my two attendant countrywomen to follow the example. They thought this a great hardship; but I did not wish to shock the prejudices of the Mahommedans, who would have despised us, if unveiled, as people wholly divested of common propriety. A novel and busy scene awaited us on the Persian bank of the river, A number of the mission servants, Gholams, Peeshkhidmets, Ferashes, had been sent from Tehran to meet us. The Prince Governor of the province of Azerbijan, in which we now had arrived, had despatched from his capital, Tabreez, a mehmandar, of the rank of brigadier, with a large suite and escort, to receive the English Minister on setting foot in Persia, and to conduct him to Tabreez. . The neighbouring villages had also sent their contributions of the feudal cavalry, holding land on the tenure of military service. A litter, or takhterewan, literally moving sofa, covered with bright scarlet cloth, and supported by two mules also covered with scarlet, together with a kajāwa (a sort of box on each side of a mule, used by women and invalids travelling) for the women servants, had been sent for my use; but in my inexperience of Persian roads, I preferred remaining in the carriage, from whence I had the advantage of gazing at the wild figures and the novel scene before me. A Persian on horseback, prepared for
war or a journey, is to the eye, at all events, a formidable personage. He is armed from top to toe: a long gun at his back, a pistol at his waist, another behind, a sword at his left, a tremendous dagger called a kamma at his right, while at his belt dangles an infinity of horns for various sorts of ammunition – powder for loading, powder for priming, balls, &c. Add to this a swarthy visage half hid in a long black beard, a tall cap of lambskin, immense trousers, boots, red or black, to the knee, a shaggy yaponcha on his shoulder, a short chibouk under the flap of his saddle, and the Persian horseman is complete. He and his horse are a brisk, active-looking pair, though hardly equal to our rough friends on the Kuban; yet I have been told that in the last war with Russia the real irregular cavalry of Persia, that is, the horsemen of the tribes and the Koordish cavalry, never hesitated to face and generally to overcome the Cossacks.
Colonel S— and the Brigadier were old friends; my husband having many years previously had charge of the drill and discipline of a regiment of the Shah's guards, in which the Brigadier was a captain. After they had finished their salams, and asked each other some twenty times if their "noses were fat," that is, if their spirits were good, we set forth. A number of horsemen rushed on in front, and spread themselves over the plain. Some among them played Ky-kaj – that is, a horseman gallops at full speed pursued by another, both unslinging their long guns. It is very amusing to observe the foppery, grace, and attitude with which the young cavaliers perform this operation. The leader turns straight round in his saddle, and aims a shot at his pursuer, who bends
down below the horse's neck to evade the imaginary ball. This they do at full speed, loading and firing with the utmost dexterity, galloping furiously over the most dangerous and broken ground. I am told that a Persian is a very powerful rider, but that his "hand" is so desperately rough as to deprive the horse's mouth of nearly all sensation. He is said to be far inferior to the Hindostanee horseman in grace and dexterous feats on horseback, such as jerking out with his lance a tent-pin deeply fixed in the ground, the horse at half-speed; or galloping in a circle round his lance, the point on the ground, and the other end on his arm: but that in energetic, bold riding, which stops at nothing, the Persian infinitely surpasses the turbaned cavaliers of India. The whole nation seems to ride by instinct. I have often seen our scullions, or other servants, placed accidentally on a horse for the first time in their lives, scamper away with perfect fearlessness. Others among our cortège played at the jereed for our amusement. A horseman holds poised in his hand a thick stick, four feet in length; he rushes at full speed, and dashes the point on the ground so as to cause it to rebound high in the air, and catches it, if he can, that is to say, before it reaches the earth, though I must confess I never saw a single jereed player, succeed in this feat. A thorough horseman ought to pick up his fallen jereed without leaving the saddle; but the success of this, like the other exploit, seems to be traditional.
Such is the way in which Persians of rank beguile the tedium of the march; adding to these amusements the resources of chibouks and kaleeans, and sometimes a cup of sugarless coffee. The poor horses suffer; but a Persian,
though he seldom flogs his horse, or punishes him from ill temper, seems to consider him, by the severity of his treatment, as made only to endure fatigues and hardships.
Our route lay through a long defile, over the most execrable road – apparently the bed of the mountain torrent – that ever an unhappy carriage from Long Acre was destined to roll. It was literally composed of great blocks of rock, each piece distant from its neighbour two or three feet, over which the carriage pitched, strained, and creaked like a ship in a gale of wind. All this pitching and heaving caused me the liveliest alarm, lest it should eventuate in a fracture which all Azerbijan could not repair. The Persian postilions, however, took the matter with great coolness and great skill. They had been artillery drivers, and treated the vehicle with the same indifference as their gun, and fortunately no misfortune occurred. A short march of twelve miles brought us to our camp. The Prince Governor had most considerately sent a suite of tents for our accommodation; and on entering the principal one we found a beautiful and most ample collation of fruits and sweetmeats. His Royal Highness seemed resolved we should imagine ourselves still in Europe. The table (for there was one) was covered with a complete and very handsome European service in plate, glass, and china, and, to crown the whole, six bottles of champagne displayed their silvery heads, accompanied by a dozen other bottles of the wines of France and Spain. I thought within myself that this was a strange mode of carrying out the precepts of the Koran, little dreaming of the
real state of the case in Persia. I came to the conclusion that, under certain circumstances, the prejudices of the Mussulman had yielded to the hospitality of the Eelyat, or tribeman, to his guest. With Oriental delicacy an anderoon, or haram, had been prepared for me, consisting of a small tent lined with gaily striped silk, besides tents for women servants, the whole surrounded by a high wall of canvas, furnishing a tolerably large enclosure, in which I could remain in entire seclusion.
Two days' more travelling, of about sixteen miles a day, brought us to the small town of Marand. On approaching within two or three miles, we were met by a large concourse of people, headed by the Governor, all come out to pay their compliments to the English Elchee. This is a general practice in Persia, and its omission is considered a slight. To make assurance doubly sure, I am told the Russians have gone so far as to make a treaty on the subject, defining all the honours, the sweetmeats, the sugar, the visits from the Prime Minister downwards, which they are entitled to exact. It seems we have not been so tenacious of our dignity, but I never heard we had anything to complain of in matters of etiquette; and I can bear personal testimony that the saccharine part of the treaty was as scrupulously observed in our regard as if we had been contracting parties.
At every station, from the Aras to Tehran, the first thing I beheld on entering the room was several pounds of tea, flanked by a suitable number of loaves of sugar, with a whole cargo of sweetmeats, on which the Persian servants regaled themselves with all the greediness of children.
Our entrance to Marand was distinguished by a most disagreeable ceremony, which was attempted to be repeated at every village at which we halted, not only on this but on every succeeding journey during our residence in Persia. On approaching the town, I observed an unfortunate cow in the midst of the crowd, close to the roadside, held down by the head and feet; when we came within a yard or so of the miserable animal, a man brandished a large knife, with which he instantly, before there was time for interference, severed its head from its body. He then ran across our road with the head, allowing the blood to flow on our path in torrents, and we passed on to encounter a repetition of the same cruel rites performed on various sheep. This ceremony was called Korbān, or sacrifice, these poor creatures having been immolated in order that all the misfortunes, evils, and disasters, which might overtake us, should fall on them; and fall on them they assuredly did. So intent are the Persians on the observance of this mark of reverence to power and station, that the most rigid prohibition could hardly prevent its fulfilment. We passed through the town, headed by a body of Ferashes, or footmen, carrying long rods, emblems of their office of executioners when the bastinado is inflicted. They drove aside the crowd, shouting from time to time Birooeed, Birooeed! (begone, begone), occasionally using their rods on those whose curiosity exceeded their discretion. It was on the women, however, that these modern lictors, who are, skilled in all the varieties of torture, principally inflicted their castigation. If an unlucky damsel, though veiled from head to foot, peeped out from a door or over a wall,
half-a-dozen of these myrmidons rushed at her, and drove her away with blows and imprecations. We were lodged in a very commodious house, belonging to a holy syed or descendant of the Prophet, whose countenance did not present a very amiable aspect when he beheld a herd of Kafirs, as he deemed us, taking possession of his domicile to the exclusion of his own family. The word Giaour, so usual in Turkey, is unknown in Persia, unless on the borders of Turkey, although perhaps derived from the Persian word Gebr, meaning the fire-worshippers of the ancient race. The syed was constantly passing to and fro, casting black looks at the intruders, while the ladies of his family peeped at us from a distant stable where they had taken up their temporary abode, dying with curiosity to pay a visit to a woman who wore "trousers with one leg," but interdicted by the presence of strangers. This is the name which Persian women have given to gowns and petticoats of European fashion, to distinguish them from their own trousers. In the morning, however, before the hour of departure, a tolerable fee for the use of his house relaxed the grimness of our host's features; and smiles, bows, and ejaculations of "Khoosh geldin, seffā geturdin" (welcome, your presence is an ornament), showed that his bigotry was not proof against even an infidel's gold. But to do justice to the Persians, it must be allowed that to travellers they are most hospitable. This was the only occasion on which I observed any reluctance to receive us as inmates; and I heard from the other European residents of Tehran, that, excepting in Mazenderan, where the bigotry of the inhabitants, owing to their remoteness and
little intercourse with strangers, is supreme, they never experienced any difficulty in finding accommodation in the villages in any part of Persia. It was at Marand that I first heard the Azān, or call of the Mussulmans to prayer, so solemn and impressive, especially when well chanted, for it is in fact a chant. On the roof of a neighbouring mosque, which from its modest, unpretending appearance resembled a private house, I perceived a Moolla whose head, instead of the ordinary black lambskin cap, was covered with a large green turban to show his descent from Mahommed. He turned towards Mecca, and placing his open hands to his head, proclaimed with a loud sonorous voice, "Allāh ho akbar," which he repeated four times; then "Eshhedo enna la illaha illellāh" – (I bear witness there is no God but God), – twice; then "Eshhedo enna Mahammedan resool Allāh" – (I bear witness that Mahommed is the Prophet of God), twice; then I "bear witness that Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, is the friend of God," &c. If a Persian were to proclaim the last sentiment aloud in any part of Turkey it would cost him his life. It is the shibboleth between the great Mussulman sects of Soonnee and Sheah, the former being professed by the Turks and the majority of the Mussulman world, and the latter by the Persians. There seems to be little or no difference in doctrine between the two religions, excepting that, by the Sheahs, Ali, the son-in-law of Mahommed, is regarded as his successor; while, according to their rivals, Abubekr, Omar, and Osman take precedence. I may add that the Soonnees eat hares and porcupines, which the Persians consider an abomination. The point of dissension being small, the rivalry and animosity
are great. The Persians, however, fare worst in the dispute; for Mecca, Kerballa, and all the other shrines of Sheah veneration and pilgrimage, are in the hands of the Turks. The Iranees are forced on such occasions to ignore their own faith and adopt the outward forms of Soonneeism. This laxity is lawful and even prescribed in the Sheah creed, but is never practised among Turks or other Soonnees, who admit of no concealment or equivocation in matters of faith, even to escape from the crown of martyrdom.
The single toll in the knell for transporting the dead to their last earthly abode arouses, perhaps from association, ideas of profound solemnity; so too does the trumpet echoing through the camp when it ushers the dragoon to his grave; but above both, in solemn awe, is the keening as it sweeps afar over the dales and hills of Munster, announcing that a Gael has been gathered to his fathers. The Azan excites a different impression. It raises in the mind a combination of feelings, of dignity, solemnity, and devotion, compared with which the din of bells becomes insignificant. It is an imposing thing to hear in the dead of the night the first sounds of the Muezzin proclaiming "Allāh ho Akbar – Mighty is the Lord – I bear witness there is no God but God!" St. Peter's and St. Paul's together can produce nothing equal to it.
Three easy stages over a very tolerable road, through valleys with mountains on both sides, sometimes near, sometimes more distant, brought us to Tabreez on the 2nd of November. Here preparations on a grand scale were made for a solemn entry, from which I, however, as
belonging to the inferior and ignoble class of womankind, was excluded, though I was permitted to gaze on the scene at a distance. It was difficult to say how many thousand people had assembled, or what class of persons had not come forth to do honour to the Queen of England's representative. There were princes and priests, and merchants, and moollas, and mountebanks, and dervishes, and beggars; there were Koordish and Toork horsemen of the tribes, and soldiers, and Ghoolams; in short there was everything and everybody, but there was not a single woman, for in Persia a woman is nobody. The cavalcade began four miles from the town, and each step brought a fresh reinforcement to the procession, or istikbal, as it is called. The visitors approached the envoy, and after paying their compliments and congratulations, rode by his side or fell behind according to their rank. The advance was slow, the dust stifling, the fatigue of complimenting several thousand people overwhelming; but careful of the exhausted envoy, and the Russian treaty on etiquette moreover not being out of his view, his royal highness the Prince Governor had prepared a tent midway where the grandees of the istikbal alighted, smoked kalleeans and chibouks, drank tea and coffee, and partook of the everlasting sweetmeats. To horse again, with a greater crowd than ever! more beggars, more lootees or mountebanks with their bears and monkeys, more dervishes vociferating for inām or bakhshish, heaping praises and blessings without measure on Alā Hezret Padshah e Inglis – her Majesty the Queen of England, and Junābe Elchee – his Excellency the Envoy, and uttering loud benedictions on Hezret Eesā and Hezret e
Miriam – the Lord Jesus and the Blessed Mary. These latter benedictions surprised me, but I afterwards learned that, with the exception of the denial of his divinity, and the assertion of his being second to Mahommed, and to Mahommed only, the veneration of Mussulmans for our Saviour nearly equals our own. They rarely allude to him without using the words Hezret Eesā alehoos salām – the Lord Jesus, on whom be blessings. They believe him to have been a special creation of the Almighty, like Adam, by his will alone. Their reverence for the Blessed Virgin too is not much inferior to the homage of the church of Rome, the Russo-Greek church, and all the churches of the East. The tall white lily is, in Persian, called the Goole Miriam, or Flower of Mary; and in a Persian painting representing the Annunciation, lilies are growing round her.
The throng now reached the town; and here began the tug of war. The deep broad ditch surrounding the city was crossed by a narrow causeway, over which the multitude passed. The leaders had no difficulty; but when the reckless crowd arrived – for a Persian on horseback is thoroughly reckless – every one pressing forward, despite of kicking and fighting horses, the confusion and uproar may be imagined. However, they all got through at last, though whether with any killed and wounded, or not, I cannot tell; and I brought up the rear, and entered the city covered with dust, and hot and tired. Anything more dismal can hardly be conceived. The images of youth are not easily effaced; and the 'Arabian Nights' and 'Lalla Rookh' will hold their place in the memory, whether it will or not. But once inside the gate of a
Persian city, the charm is dissolved, the magician's wand is broken, and reality takes the place of romance, which is destroyed for ever. Half the city seemed depopulated; there were large spaces wholly vacant, with deep excavations on either hand, from which the earth had been dug to build houses. Dead dogs, and here and there a dead horse half eaten, offended more than one sense. The houses were frightful. Constructed of brown unburnt bricks, looking exactly like mud, and without a single window to the street, they presented a most gloomy aspect. This is a general picture of a Persian town; and be it remembered that Tabreez is one of the best and richest cities in the whole kingdom. As we approached the European and Armenian quarter some improvement began to be visible. A few of the houses had windows, here and there an ornamental gateway appeared, and some attempt at embellishment was made by means of paint. Still the sombre brick and a general air of decay, maintained supremacy. It is nevertheless only the outside of a Persian house which looks so comfortless. The interior of those belonging to the better classes are very commodious, and often of great size.
On arriving at the British Government-house the first thing that I saw was a whole roomful of sweetmeats – sugar-candy and refined sugar – sent by the Prince Governor as a mark of congratulation. Every festival is celebrated in this way. The Queen's birthday, our new-year's day, the Persian new-year's day, invariably brought in each succeeding year a supply from the Shah, carried by his majesty's ferashes through the most public parts of the town, on immense trays, covered with embroidered
silk. The etiquette was to send back the covers, which I confess I used to do with reluctance; for they were sometimes very handsome. An omission in these matters is looked on as a slight, which the Russians are careful in avoiding, by notifying to the minister for foreign affairs his imperial majesty's birthday, fête-day, saint's-day, and the other host of festivals which the Muscovites love to solemnise. These honours are rather costly, the bearers of these sweetmeats not being at all satisfied unless they receive a donation to the amount of twelve or fifteen pounds sterling. His majesty, who is of a very affable and amiable disposition, during his hunting excursions near Tehran often sends a few partridges or hares to the foreign representatives, as a mark of his favour; and it is little exaggeration to say that each head of game costs its weight in silver.
We passed five days in Tabreez. The weather was cold and cheerless, and I remained most of the time in solitary seclusion; while my husband was employed the whole time in receiving and returning visits. A Persian visit is a formidable ceremony, involving a prodigious consumption of time. Pipes, coffee; pipes, tea; and then pipes twice again, is the usual routine. They are a vivacious, intelligent people; and I am told the men are often agreeable in conversation, relating anecdotes, and quoting passages from poetry and history with readiness and animation. Still a Persian visit is said to be in general extremely tiresome. The conversation of a visitor is entirely about himself, his maladies, his disasters; his pay has been stopped; his mill has been seized; his stream of water has been carried off; his
garden has been pledged; his debts are burdensome; the interest of a hundred per cent. is oppressive, &c. &c., to the end of the chapter. Like a Frenchman, whom he is said to resemble in many points, his thoughts are centred in his own person; and he seems to think his affairs are as interesting to others as to himself. On hearing those details of bodily ailments we were often reminded of the lines –
"Some men employ their health – an ugly trick,
In telling us how oft they have been sick;
And give us, in recitals of disease,
A doctor's trouble – but without the fees."
Tabreez is represented to be a city of great antiquity. Hanway, who travelled about the year 1730, describes it to have been in former times one of the finest cities of the East. Its environs, many miles in extent, to the S.W., are covered with mounds, heaps of ruins and rubbish, denoting the positions of ancient structures. It possesses some interest as being the site of one of the cities near which Mark Antony is supposed to have passed in his retreat from Persia. Three centuries ago it is reported to have contained five hundred thousand inhabitants; but war, anarchy, and earthquake have sadly reduced its populousness. In the last century it was two or three times devastated by the last-named calamity. The city was nearly overthrown in 1721; and tens of thousands perished on that occasion. Even now repeated shocks are felt, sometimes to a most alarming extent, every year, warning the citizens against a catastrophe. In many houses the precaution has been adopted of constructing a wooden room as a place of refuge in the hour of danger. I found,
to my great satisfaction, having no experience in earthquakes, an apartment of this kind in the government-house, but to which happily there was no need to have recourse. A year afterwards, in Tehran, while lying ill in an upper room, I felt a curious sensation, like the shaking of a steamboat. I rushed out of the room, down the stairs; for I suspected what it was, and feared a repetition of it. There was, however, only one shock; and I never felt any other during my stay in Persia.
Though fallen from its high estate, even now Tabreez is considered one of the finest cities in Persia, both in population and wealth. It is situated at the end of a large plain, bounded on the north by high hills, and on the south at some miles distant, by the lake Shahee. The inhabitants are supposed to exceed 100,000 in number; but a large portion live in suburbs outside the walls. The city is nearly surrounded by immense gardens and orchards, producing in perfection and profusion almost all the fruits of Southern Europe, particularly melons and grapes. It is a city of extensive commerce, being the great mart between Turkey, Russia, and Central Persia. The extent of its trade may be appreciated from the fact, that English goods to the value of nearly a million sterling are, I am told, annually imported within its walls; whence they are again exported to Central Persia, Khorassan, the shores of the Caspian, to the Toorcomans, and even to Khiva. These imports consist chiefly of Manchester goods and cloth; and it is a curious circumstance that a very large portion should be imported to Persia by Greeks. The great houses of commerce are chiefly Greek; and from some sort of national or natural impulse
they all have adopted Russian protection. The most remarkable building that I saw in Tabreez was an enormous pile of brick, some seventy feet high, situated in what is called the Ark, or Citadel, which is supposed to be exceedingly ancient. The use to which this now ruinous edifice has been lately converted, is that of casting from its summit women who have been guilty of the murder of their husbands. This crime, if not as common, or at all events not as often detected as in England, is not unfrequent in Persia. The jealousies and animosities of the haram often drive its inmates to vengeance by means of the "Kahwa e Kajaree," the Kajar's coffee. Kajār is the tribe-name of the reigning dynasty; and the allusion is to the poisoning of the cup, which that family has been accused of practising.
One scarcely expects to meet in the north of Persia reminiscences of the caliphs of Bagdad; yet it seems that Tabreez was a favourite residence of our old acquaintance the Commander of the Faithful, Haroun al Raschid, or more correctly Haroon ur Rasheed, who sleeps at Meshed. On leaving Tabreez, about the 6th of November, I was shown, not far from the gate, the ruins of a once beautiful mosque, covered and faced with enamelled azure, yellow, and black tiles. Tradition ascribes its construction to Zobeida.
Though only in the 38th degree of latitude, the cold at Tabreez, owing to its elevation above the sea, is intense and from the same reason the heat in summer is temperate. Its height is more than 4500 feet; and the thermometer falls to 15° below zero. Add to this, that during winter a violent wind frequently blows from the north, producing
a degree of cold which deters the inhabitants from leaving their houses, and causing the death of many unfortunate travellers who fail to reach a place of refuge at night. The climate is healthy, in spite of the cholera, which often, in conjunction with the plague, makes horrible ravages.
This reminds me of a curious circumstance which I heard relative to the women of the upper classes of Tabreez. Instead of being stricken with fear at the rumour of these scourges, these capricious ladies hail with glee the approach of cholera or plague, which to them brings freedom and release from monotony. Wearied with every-day life, they joyfully prepare to quit the city and seek refute in the yēïlāks (the high summer mountain lands), in which and in a tent-life all Persians delight. Here there is comparative freedom from restraint; and here the ladies of Tabreez enjoy the charms of listening to purling streams and the pleasure of eating lamb kebēb (roast) fresh from the flock.
It surprises one to find oneself in almost the chief city of Persia, and yet not to hear a word of Persian spoken. In the streets and bazars Turkish is the only language which strikes the car. It seems to be exceedingly rough and uncouth. By way of illustrating its harshness and fitness for command, the Persians say that when Adam was doomed to quit Paradise, the angel Gabriel conveyed the commands from heaven to the first sinners in Persian, but without effect, for Adam refused to obey. Gabriel then tried Arabic, Sanscrit, and all other languages now known, without result, till, in despair and in ire, he roared out in Turkish "Kiopek oghlee, chik boorden" (Be off,
you dog!), on which, Adam scampered off without farther delay. Turkish is so completely the colloquial language of Azerbijan, that, excepting in towns, and even there only among the better classes, Persian is not understood. The dialect of Turkish used in Azerbijan is not very unlike that spoken at Constantinople; but in the latter city the pronunciation has been so refined, polished, and effeminated, as one may say – while in Persia the original harsh, vigorous accent has been preserved – that the two nations are scarcely comprehensible to each other. Turkish, I found, is all but universal in Persia. It is the prevailing language to within a hundred miles of Tehran, as far as Kasveen, where it is as constantly employed as Persian. At court Persian is used on state occasions; but at other times the royal family, amounting to two or three thousand princes and princesses, delight in the tongue which their forefathers brought from the walls of China, or even from Pekin; for there is a tradition that the tribe of Kajār, like the valiant English Varangians in Constantinople, formed the bodyguard of the sovereigns of the Celestial Empire. The central and southern parts of Persia are full of Toork tribes, who have preserved their language. In the Caspian provinces of Geelan and Mazenderan, dialects of Persian are the prevailing tongues. The mountaineers belonging to the genuine Persian tribes of Koords and Leks still preserve their native idioms, and with the above, seem to be the only inhabitants of Persia among whom the Toork invaders have failed to plant their language.
If Chinese be the most extensively written language in
the world, since millions speaking different dialects are still able to read the same character, it may be difficult to determine whether English, Spanish, or Turkish be the most diffused orally throughout the world. From Belgrade to the Wall of China, the traveller who is master of the language of Toork Yāfet oghlee – Toork, the son of Japhet, as his descendants fondly believe him to be – need be at no loss. With varying modifications, he will find Turkish throughout that vast extent, either in the soft lisping of Constantinople, or in the rough gutturals of the Toorkomans, the Uzbeks, the Kirghees, or the roving Toork tribes of Mongolia.
Azerbijan, of which Tabreez is the capital, is the most valuable province of Persia, and is bounded on the north by Russia and on the east by Turkey. In climate, fertility of the soil, population, and also, I hear, in the military qualities, the vigour, and energy of the inhabitants, it far excels the other parts of Persia. Its surface is undulating and intermingled with mountains of great height, which afford a cool retreat during summer to the wandering and pastoral tribes with which the province abounds, as well as to their flocks. Unlike most other parts of Persia, large tracts of cultivated land are dēm, or unirrigated, the necessary moisture being derived from dews or occasional rain, and corn is produced in such abundance that a large quantity is annually exported to Georgia, which is deficient in the supply of that grain. Azerbijan abounds also in mineral wealth. The district of Karadāgh contains mines, where copper and iron are procurable to an extent almost unlimited. The iron ore is in some places so pure, that the mountains are said to be formed of that substance,
Such is the perversity of Persians, that with copper in profusion at their own doors, it is only lately they ceased to import that mineral from Turkey. Sir Henry Bethune brought out several years ago a steam-engine and a number of artificers to work these mines; but everything decays in Persia, and so too has this undertaking. Besides Tabreez, Azerbijan contains several considerable towns, such as Ooroomeeya, Khoce, Ardebil, Maragha, where Hoolakoo Khan, the grandson of Chengeez, established his capital, and constructed a famous observatory. The inhabitants are chiefly Toorks, and are supposed, like the Turks, to be the descendants of the Seljookee and Mongolian invaders. The Russians overran this province in the last war, which occurred thirty years a go. All the chief towns were in their possession, and fortunately for Persia, they evacuated it, but only on the payment of more than two millions sterling – a heavy disbursement for a Persian monarch. I have heard that Russian officials have often expressed their regret at a moderation, as they termed it, proceeding from their ignorance. They did not then know, I have been told, the value of Azerbijan, its resources in corn, and the capacity of its inhabitants for the military profession. They forgot that, holding this province in their hands, Persia would be for ever cut off from direct communication with Europe; and they did not foresee the commerce in English and other European merchandize, which a few years later was to spring up and attain such unexpected proportions between Constantinople and Trebizond, and which, passing through Erzeroom. and Byazeed to Azerbijan, would undersell their manufactures at Asterabad and Meshed. So jealous is Russia of this intercourse and of the lucrative
transit trade carried on through Turkey with such profit to the latter empire, that she has more than once formed schemes for attracting it to her own territory, by making Poti and Redout Kaleh, in the Black Sea, on the coast of Mingrelia, free ports. She never was able to succeed in this plan. Commerce is so free in Turkey, that in spite of the superior safety of the road through Georgia – in spite of the danger on the frontier of Turkey and Persia from Koords and other freebooters, who have repeatedly pillaged immense caravans – in spite of the terrible winter journey from Trebizond to Tabreez – the Russian Government has never been able to induce the traders to subject themselves to the vexations inseparable from intercourse with Russian Custom-house authorities.
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