Home / News
47. CHAPTER XLVII.
We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds--a silent, mournful expanse, wherein we saw only three persons--Arabs, with nothing on but a long coarse shirt like the "tow-linen" shirts which used to form the only summer garment of little negro boys on Southern plantations. Shepherds they were, and they charmed their flocks with the traditional shepherd's pipe--a reed instrument that made music as exquisitely infernal as these same Arabs create when they sing.
In their pipes lingered no echo of the wonderful music the shepherd forefathers heard in the Plains of Bethlehem what time the angels sang "Peace on earth, good will to men."
Part of the ground we came over was not ground at all, but rocks--cream-colored rocks, worn smooth, as if by water; with seldom an edge or a corner on them, but scooped out, honey-combed, bored out with eye-holes, and thus wrought into all manner of quaint shapes, among which the uncouth imitation of skulls was frequent. Over this part of the route were occasional remains of an old Roman road like the Appian Way, whose paving-stones still clung to their places with Roman tenacity.
Gray lizards, those heirs of ruin, of sepulchres and desolation, glided in and out among the rocks or lay still and sunned themselves. Where prosperity has reigned, and fallen; where glory has flamed, and gone out; where beauty has dwelt, and passed away; where gladness was, and sorrow is; where the pomp of life has been, and silence and death brood in its high places, there this reptile makes his home, and mocks at human vanity. His coat is the color of ashes: and ashes are the symbol of hopes that have perished, of aspirations that came to nought, of loves that are buried. If he could speak, he would say, Build temples: I will lord it in their ruins; build palaces: I will inhabit them; erect empires: I will inherit them; bury your beautiful: I will watch the worms at their work; and you, who stand here and moralize over me: I will crawl over your corpse at the last.
A few ants were in this desert place, but merely to spend the summer. They brought their provisions from Ain Mellahah--eleven miles.
This is page 361 of 495. [Mark this Page]
Mark any page to add this title to Your Bookshelf. (0 / 10 books on shelf)
Buy a copy of The Innocents Abroad at Amazon.com
Customize text appearance:
(c) 2003-2012 LiteraturePage.com and Michael Moncur.
For information about public domain texts appearing here, read the copyright information and disclaimer.