Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Nile is a sacred river, and the Tiber s is famous, but the most sacred and most ! famous river of the world is the Jordan. From its beginning to its end it has that mystical character which befits such lofty pretensions ; its life is the mo it- vivid and complete, and its death the most sudden and mysterious that can he imagined. It is torrential, and it leaves the flanks of Hermou and the many fountains of its tributaries with an eager precipitation, as if it bore a mission. From its greatest height, some hundred feet above the sea level, it leaps downwards till it disappears in the Dead Sea, some 1,300 ft. below it. It hides itself among oleander, tamarisk, and willow, and many an unfamiliar Oriental tree, as if wishing to keep from profane eyes the secret of its errand. It does not stop long to overflow its banks and fertilise the valley ; for it has a purpose t<>o mystical to waste itself even among acta of beneficence. It is only to become a living barrier between (fie desert tribes and the favored nation which loved it. No boat lives on its bosom. No fishermen dwell by its margin ; hut it moves one headlong column of sacred waters from its cradle of snow and cloud, high in the heavens, till it dies in a fatal lake marked by the finger of God, and for ever a subject for man’s curiosity and reverance. It would seem a thing apart, and not to he confounded with vulgar waters, which lose their personality in the bosom of the mighty sea, but exhailng to heaven like some holy messenger who perished in the fulfilment of his duty. Its birth and its death alike separate it from its sister rivers on earth, and only the voiceless mounds of perished and nameless cities, tribes stationary as if bidden halt by some supremo destiny of the past, or the awed and questioning stranger from the many Christian lands whose baptism drew its authority from the first sprinkling of its waters, are seen upon its banks. And then we wandered through many whispering reeds, through a kind of jungle where sterility and the river had fought for mastery, and which showed traces of both ; a tangle of bushes as it were fighting their way up, .and great spaces of barrenness which the summer would scorch to lifelessncss. And at last the Dead Sea. Though we know that it is of volcanic origin, and fed by mines of salt, the imagination now, as ever, is content to see in it a thing accursed. There was a fresh breeze ; and U reluctant lift and heavy tumblers of its tiny breakers made them unlike other waves, but rather like those of Dante’s infernal sea. There was a breath heavy with doom in the air, and we are fortunate that it was not more stifling. Was it the breath of those lost or tortured there ? And beneath that saline sheet did we not see, as in the picture of Delacroix, the agonising and twisted figures of the condemned ! We did not bathe in the Dead Sea. Others have done so, and report of its buoyancy the same tales that are told of the American Salt Lake. There is a whimsical coincidence in the geographical relation of the Dead Seaahd the home of the earlier prophets and Brigham Young’s personal continuation of the old dispensation, with a private Dead sea of his own in his immediate neighborhood. The poorest swimmer keeps his head above water, and persons have said to me that their legs seemed to fly up from under them. All speak of its waters as refreshing after the great heat of that tropical valley. Birds are said never to fly over it, which is the merest superstition, for they are really often seen do so. This lake certainly has a brand upon it, as of Divine vengeance. The waters are heavy with sin, the shores around blasted, and the very site of destroyed cities upon its banks unknown. And here are still seen the apples of Sodom, smooth and pretty to the eye and touch ; of a pale yellow, like a small orange ; but within, as Josephus says, still retaining ashes of Sodom in living perpetuity of the Divine punishment. They are like little oranges to the eye and touch, but when pressed are like oak apples, and explode like these, a puff of air leaving the shell hollow, with only a slender pouch holding fine filaments like silk, which the Arabs use as matches for their guns.—From “Syrian Sunshine,” by T. G, Appleton.
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