« PreviousContinue »
each other. The language universally adopted in this society is the French, and it is spoken with extraordinary correctness; but all the Frank children are brought up in the habit of speaking Greek Turkish, and Italian besides, and many, of course, are taught English. Their manners and customs have become a mixture of those of every European country; and their spacious and commodious houses are fitted up on the same principle. During the winter season, dinners, musical soirées, card-parties, balls, and private theatricals, are the principal amusements. There is a casino, or splendid club-house, where its members, composed of the most respectable Franks of the place, resort of an evening to read the daily and periodical journals of every part of Europe, to play at whist or billiards, or to pass the time in conversation. Balls are given here once a week throughout the carnival at the expense of the members, each of whom is at liberty to introduce as many strangers as he pleases. The number of persons who attend them often exceeds six 'hundred.
I owe it to truth not to overlook the fact, that there are among them persons who, long invested with the consular authority, and many years accustomed to the trust more exten sively reposed in them in Turkey than in other countries, from peculiar circumstances already mentioned, have acquired habits of arrogance and command very inconsistent with the limited nature of their official attributes. But if this propensity of some consuls for an encroachment of power receive not that check to which it is legally liable from the very persons, whom it is most calcu lated to affect, it must be confessed that the fault lies chiefly with the latter. Whilst I was at Smyrna in 1824, a remarkable occurrence took place, the curious particulars of which will perhaps tend to give strength to the above remarks:
A Greek Rayah merchant, long persecuted by the Pasha (as had been almost all the Greeks of the place after the breaking out of the insurrection in Greece) received in formation one day that he was to be immediately seized and beheaded. He lost no time in putting his person in safety by repairing on board his Majesty's ship the Hind, at that mo ment the only British ship of war in port, commanded by Captain Lord John Churchill. Some days after, an Ionian vessel lying close to the Hind, being on the point of sailing, Lord John sent the Greek refugee on board, with directions that he should be landed at the nearest place of safety in the Archipelago. A Turkish guard accompanied by an officer attached to the British consa late, soon after came to the Ionian vessel for the purpose of examining the list of her passengers, and their written permits to leave the port. The refugee, not having taken the precaution of concealing himself dur ing this visit, and, having no permit to exhibit, was seized by the Turks and thrust into their boat. Whilst
* This regulation has only been established since the Greek insurrection, for the purpose, I suppose, of preventing the unfortunate persecuted Greeks from making their escape.
they were conveying him on shore to the office of the Consul, Lord John Churchill, who had watched all these proceedings from his quarter-deck, speedily sent his own boat, well manned, after the Turks, from whose hands the poor Greek was rescued without difficulty, and brought back safe to the Hind. When the report of what had taken place was made to his Britannic Majesty's Consul, this gentleman thought proper to fly into a violent passion. He summoned the Ionian captain before him, and after upbraiding him for disobedience to his commands, in having received into his vessel a person not legally authorised to depart, ordered him to prison as a punishment for this violation of his duty. Now, it is necessary to say here that the prison of the English consulate at Smyrna is a small, dark cell, in which confinement for any time is a punishment sufficient for crimes much heavier than the mere deviation from a consul's regulations. Lord John, on hearing what had befallen the Ionian, immediately addressed a letter to the Consul in explanation of what had taken place; and as his Lordship was properly the responsible person, he requested that the Ionian should be set at liberty, and a complaint addressed to himself, should there appear any sufficient ground for one. Not receiving any answer from the Consul, he repeated his application, and then a verbal message was returned, purporting that the Consul was performing his own duty, which he understood perfectly, and he saw no reason for Lord John Churchill's interference. The naval commander, offended at the injustice of the proceeding itself, and at the contemptuous manner in which his representation was treated, replied in writing that if the prisoner was not set at liberty within a given time, he would land with his marines and take him by force. He was again verbally informed that the
Consul should put himself at the head of his own Turkish Janissaries, and give his Lordship and his marines the reception they deserved. The landing was therefore resolved upon, and took place at eight o'clock at night. Meanwhile every preparation was made in the consular-house to oppose a determined resistance to the attack. Lord John knocked at the marine gate, and was told that it should be opened to no one but himself; a parley ensued, in which it was finally agreed that his Lordship and his attending officer should be alone admitted. A violent dispute now arose between the parties, who resorted to high words. The Consul's anger, it seems, was raised above all means of control. He told Lord John that if his ancestor, the great Duke of Marlborough himself, had used him in a similar manner, he would have met with the same return. They separated, however, without taking any decisive step; and Lord John, whose sole object had been to intimidate the Consul into compliance by the display of a military force, returned on board with his marines to meditate on farther proceedings. It happened very opportunely that the Euryalus frigate came in early on the following morning, and Captain Clifford, who commanded her, being senior officer to Lord John, undertook the discussion of this extraordinary business. It was finally settled on the conditions that the Ionian captain should be liberated and allowed to proceed on his voyage; and that the Greek, among whose creditors were several merchants of the British factory, should be delivered up to the Consul, to remain in his safe custody until he made a satisfactory arrangement with his English creditors, after which, instead of being allowed to be placed again in the power of the Turks, he should be sent away from Smyrna in an English ship of war.
WHAT a blessed order of Nature it is, that the footsteps of Time are "inaudible and noiseless," aud that the seasons of life are like those of the year, so indistinguishably brought on, in gentle progress, and imperceptibly blended the one with the other, that the human being scarcely knows, except from a faint and not unpleasant feeling, that he is growing old! The boy looks on the youth, the youth on the man, the man in his prime on the grey-headed sire, each on the other, as on a separate existence in a separate world, It seems sometimes as if they had no sympathies, no thoughts in common, that each smiled and wept on account of things for which the other cared not, and that such smiles and tears were all foolish, idle, and most vain; but as the hours, days, weeks, months and years go by, how changes the one into the other, till, without any violence, lo! as if close together at Jast, the cradle and the grave! In this how Nature and Man agree, pacing on and on to the completion of a year-of a life! The Spring how soft and tender indeed, with its buds and blossoms, and the blessedness of the light of heaven so fresh, young, and new, a blessedness to feel, to hear, to see, and to breathe! Yet the Spring is often touched by frost -as if it had its own Winter, and is felt to urge and be urged on upon that Summer, of which the green earth, as it murmurs, seems to have some secret forethought. The Summer, as it lies on the broad blooming bosom of the earth, is yet faintly conscious of the coming-on of Autumn with "sere and yellow leaf,"-the sunshine owns the presence of the shade--and there is at times a pause as of melancholy amid the transitory mirth! Autumn comes with its full or decaying ripeness, and its colours grave or gorgeous-the noise of song and sickle of the wheels of wains
and all the busy toils of prophetic man gathering up against the bare cold Winter, provision for the body and for the soul! Winter! and cold and bare as fancy pictured-yet not without beauty and joy of its own, while something belonging to the other seasons that are fled, some gleamings as of Spring-light, and flowers fair as of Spring among the snow-meridians bright as Summer morns, and woods bearing the magnificent hues of Autumn on into the Christmas frost-clothe the Old Year with beauty and with glory, not his own-and just so with Old Age, the Winter, the last season of mau's ever-varying, yet never wholly changed Life!
Then blessings on the Sages and the Bards who, in the strength of the trust that was within them, have feared not to crown Old Age with a diadem of flowers and light! Shame on the satirists, who, in their vain regret, and worse ingratitude, have sought to strip it of all "impulses of soul and sense," and leave it a sorry and shivering sight, almost too degraded for pity's tears! True, that to outward things the eye may be dim, the ear deaf, and the touch dull; but there are lights that die not away with the dying sunbeams-there are sounds that cease not when the singing of birds is silent-there are motions that still stir the soul, delightful as the thrill of a daughter's hand pressing her father's knee in prayer; and therefore, how calm, how happy, how reverend, beneath unoffended Heaven, is the head of Old Age! Walk on the mountain, wander down' the valley, enter the humble hut,— the scarcely less humble kirk,—and you will know how sacred a thing is the hoary hair that lies on the temples of him who, during his long journey, forgot not his Maker, and feels that his Old Age shall be renewed into immortal youth!
IN [N no respect has the liberty of the subject degenerated to such outrageous license as in the particular of noise. It should seem as if dissonance was a fundamental article of Magna Charta, and silence as unconstitutional as ship-money. A man of any delicacy of ear can hardly endure to live within the bills of mortality. Folks may talk as they will of the fogs of London, and of its canopy of smoke; but what are these to the vile congregation of acoustic abominations that prevails" from night to morn, from morn till dewy eve," in the great city? Every itinerant mender of kettles, and every rascally knife-grinder, presumes that he has a right to assassinate you, like Hamlet's uncle,-through the "porches of your ears;" and "Meolch below," as wicked as Macbeth, bath "murdered sleep" uninterruptedly from the days of our Saxon progenitors. From the shrill pipe of the morning sweep, to the deep bass of the Hebrew old clothesman, there is a gamut of discordaut sounds perpetually exercised, in which every trade and calling has its share. During the late war, when victories came in as regularly as the post, (I wish they had not, like our letters, cost such heavy postage) and when our generals and admirals might have said "no day without a despatch," the nuisance of newsmen's horns so far transcended the united noises of all other vociferations, that the magistrates of the city, those sage grave men, found it necessary to legislate specially against them. No other trade could gain a hearing, so incessant and obstreperous were their blasts. The wits of that day, I am aware, would have it that the ears were not the part of the head which our aldermen desired to protect from insult; but what will not a wit say
or do to make good his point? One may pay for gold too dearly; and even the joys which a good batch of "bloody news" must afford to the snug citizen, who "lives at home at ease," and knows nothing of the pleasures of war beyond taxation and a gazette, were dearly bought by the head-splitting tantararara of the gentlemen of the tin tube.
Another "simple sin," which no less requires legislative interference, is the big-drum. Tambourines and triangles are bad enough, heaven knows,-mere noise for the sake of noise,-monotonous, and subversive of all music; but they are nothing to the big drum, that eternal rattler of windows and shaker of houses—that everlasting street accompaniment to the grave and the gay, the martial and the tender, the sentimental and the sprightly. Let any one, who is an admirer of the very popular air, "Home, sweet home," imagine-no, that is not the word,-let him remember (for he must have heard it a thousand times) the ambulant performance of the refrain, “home, home, sweet, sweet home," squirted through the husky Pan's pipe, and enforced by five confounded bangs, like so many discharges of artillery, and five vibrations of all the glass in the parish, that seem to speak of an earthquake. To ladies indisposed, and gentlemen with sick-headaches, these proceedings are most distressing. Have the drummers, moreover, no pity on the poor babes, who may be thrown into convulsions by the slightest of their thumps? Alas,
they have no children, butchers." Infinitely more painful still is it to the wounded spirit of him who is full of the melody of Pasta or of Paton, to be compelled to listen to thumpthump thump-thumpa thumpathump, by way of a new edition of
It is a curious fact, that this pronunciation of" milk" answers precisely to the Anglo Saxon spelling," meolce ;" it is most probably the original sound of the word, that has survived the progressive refinements in speech of the upper classes.
"Di tanti palpiti ;" or to " Di piabang mi balza bang:" it is enough to make a man commit suicide. Having entered fully into the contemplation of this evil, just conceive it, reader, at the end of some forty minutes, melting into distance, and your aching head left free to receive the varied attack of a debutant from a garret window, beginning to learn the bugle!! It might reconcile even Swift himself to deafness! Not all the alphabets in the world could express the horrible combinations of sound attendant on this truculent massacre of Guido of Arezzo. Astolpho's horn is a faint and insufficient type of the stupifying blast. Well, you will scarcely have gotten rid of this plague, when you will be beset by a scoundrel performing your favourite melody on a barrel organ, in which, if there is one note more out of tune than all the rest, it is that on which there is a long pause, to bring you back to the ritornelle. The filing of a saw is gracious to that scream. Then succeeds an itinerant clarionet, squeaking out the mutilated remains of a Scotch reel; or, worse than all, some Highland Orpheus of a bagpiper, whose accursed pibroch would of itself suffice to batter down the walls of another Jericho, or relieve the moon from the pangs of an eclipse. After such instrumental nuisances, it may appear to smack of the bathos to dwell upon vocal misdoings; but how shall I pass over the deep, hoarse, bass of the sham sailor roaring" Cease, rude Boreas," and telling in unearthly sounds how "his precious sight" was electrified out of his eyes in a West India thunder-storm, or carried away by the wind of a cannon-ball? What think you also of a French ballad-singer, with a voice like a penny trumpet,
THE MOSS ROSE.
AN angel of the flow'rs one day,
and as tunable "as a pig in a gale, or a hog in a high wind," chanting "La garde nationale," or "C'est l'amour;" or of that other pious nuisance, the woman who lays siege to your halfpence, by drawling out a never-ending repetition of the hundred and fourth Psalm. To add, however, to the charm, these delectable strains are from time to time crossed by the competing vociferations of two rival mackerel-venders, screaming like emulous parrots from the opposite sides of the street. Then at night you are indulged by a trio of watchmen crying the hour concurrently in C natural, C sharp, and E flat, and showing how little concert there is in their efforts to preserve the peace. This last insult on our ears is the more forcibly impressed upon my memory, because a very professor of music, who is rather choleric, and who, moreover, had served Napoleon in the wars, when walking home with me one night from the opera, was so worked upon by the discord, that he actually knocked down the untunely Charley nearest at hand to teach him counter-point. This fantasia of the enraged musician brought us both to the watch-house till we could get bail; and the next morning Sir R. Birnie read us a most luminous lecture on the moral difference between beating time and beating the time-keeper. Thus brought to the bar for an odd crotchet, after having lost our rest, we were forced, after a distressing pause, to conclude the broken (headed) cadence, by sliding a few notes into the hand of the guardian of the night, whom we had rendered too flat, but who, being now the dominant, allowed us to resolve the discord, and so get back to the key, which was no longer turned upon us.
The angel whisper'd to the rose,
Still fairest found where all are fair,