Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the place. There was reason to believe some improvement would take place during its restoration; but we found it rising from its ashes like a new phoenix, without the slightest deviation from the form and appearance of its parent. The exception only of one or two houses formerly of wood and rebuilt with stone might be noticed; but all the rest were as ugly, inconvenient, and liable to danger, as before, and were it not for a few workmen employed in fronting the houses of the merchants, no stranger could discover that any accident had taken place.

Considering the surprising extent of the city and suburbs of Constantinople, the notions entertained of its commerce, and the figure it has long made in history; all the conveniences, if not the luxuries, of life, might be there expected. Previous to an arrival, if any inquiry is made of merchants, and other persons who have visited the place, as to the commodities of its markets; the answer is almost always characterized by exaggeration. They will affirm that every thing a stranger can require may be purchased in Constantinople, as in London, Paris, or Vienna; whereas, if truth be told, hardly any one article good in its kind can be procured. Let a foreigner visit the bazaars, properly so called; he will see nothing but slippers, clumsy boots of bad leather, coarse muslins, pipes, tobacco, coffee, cooks' shops, drugs, flower roots, second-hand pistols, poniards, and the worst manufactured wares in the world. In Pera, where Greeks and Italians are supposed to supply all the necessities of the Franks, a few pitiful stalls are seen, in which every thing is dear and bad. Suppose a stranger to arrive from a long journey, in want of clothes for his body; furniture for his lodgings; books or maps for his instruction and amusement; paper, pens, ink, cutlery, shoes, hats; in short, those articles which are found in almost every city in the world; he will find few or none of them in Constantinople; except of a quality so inferior as to render them incapable of answering any purpose for which they were intended. The few commodities exposed for sale are either exports from England, unfit for any other market, or, which is worse, German and Dutch imitations of English manufacture. The woollen cloths are hardly suited to cover the floor of their own counting houses; every article of cutlery and hardware is detestable; the leather used for shoes and boots so bad that it can scarcely be wrought; hats, hosiery, linen, buttons, buckles, are all of the same character; of the worst quality, and yet of the highest price. But there are other articles of merchandise, to which we have been accustomed to annex the very name of Turkey, as if they were the peculiar produce of that country; and these at least a foreigner expects to find; but not one of them can be had. Ask for a Turkish carpet, you are told you must send for it to Smyrna; for Greek vines, to the Archipelago; for a Turkish sabre, to Damascus; for the sort of stone expressly denominated turquoise, they know not what you mean; for red leather, they import it themselves from Russia or from Africa; still you are said to be in the centre of the commerce of the world: and this may be true enough with reference to the freight of vessels passing the Straits, which is never landed. View the exterior of Constantinople, and it seems the most opulent and flourishing city in Europe; examine its interior, and its miseries and deficiencies are so striking, that it must be considered the meanest and poorest metropolis of the world. The ships which crowd its ports have no connection with its welfare: they are for the most part French, Venetian, Ragusan, Sclavonian, and Grecian vessels, to or from the Mediterranean, exchanging the produce of their own countries for the rich harvest of Poland; the salt, honey, and butter of the Ukraine; the hides, tallow, hemp, furs, and metals of Russia and Siberia; the whole of which exchange is transacted in other ports, without any interference on the part of Turkey. Never was there a people in possession of such advantages, who either knew or cared so little for their enjoyment. Under a wise government the inhabitants of Constantinople might obtain the riches of all the empires of the earth. Situated as they are, it cannot be long before other nations, depriving them of such important sources of wealth, will convert to better purposes the advantages they have so long neglected. Dr. Clarke.

THE VICINITY OF CONSTANTINOPLE AT THE RETURN OF SPRING.

Stern winter had breathed his last: his churlish progeny had fled. The waves were no longer lashed by storms, nor was the earth fettered by frost. Constantinople bailed the day, revered alike by Turks and Greeks, when St. George opens in state the gaudy portals of the spring. The north wind had ceased to howl through Stambool's thin habitations. Mild zephyr reigned alone; and as his fragrant breath went forth in gentle sighs, the white winding sheet of snow retired gradually from the rugged mountain's brow, while a verdant carpet of tender herbage spread along the hollow valley. The taller trees of the forest might still slumber awhile; the lesser shrubs and plants of the garden were all waking, to resume their summer robes of rich and varied dye. Blushing blossoms crowned their heads, and every transient gale was loaded with their fragrance. Over fields enamelled with the crimson anemone fluttered millions of azure butterflies, just broke from their shells with the flowers on which they fed, and hardly yet able to unfurl their wings in air: while on every bough was heard some feathered songster, hailing the new season of joy and of love. The very steeds of the imperial stables, liberated that day from their dark winter stalls, measured with mad delight Kiadhane^s verdant meads, while their joyful neighing reechoed from the hills around. Under each dazzling portico reflected in the Bosphorus were seen groups of Ich Oglans and pages, sporting their new spring suits, like gilded beetles, in the sun. All eyes seemed riveted on the Ottoman fleet, which, in gay and gallant trim, majestically issued forth from the deep mouth of the harbour, and, with every snowy sail swelling in the breeze, advanced towards Marmora's wider bason, there to commence its yearly cruize through the mazy Archipelago. Of the immense population of Constantinople a part was skimming, in barges glittering like goldfish, the scarce ruffled surface of the channel, while the remainder sauntered in gay parties on the fringed terraces that overhang its mirror, and in the woody vales that branch out from its banks. On all sides resounded the tuneful lyre and the noisy cymbal, animating the steps of the joyous dancers. Nature and art, the human race and the brute creation, seemed alike to enjoy in every form of diversified festivity, the epoch when recommences the hopes, the labours, and the delights of summer. Hope.

THE EVE OF BATTLE.

I Do not recollect to have witnessed, during the whole course of my military career, a more striking warlike spectacle than that which was now before me. Besides my own corps, three battalions of infantry lay stretched in a single green field round their watch-fires, amounting in all to about a hundred. Immediately behind them stood their arms, piled up in regular order, and glancing in the flames, which threw a dark red light across the common, upon the bare branches beyond; about twenty yards in the rear, two regiments of cavalry were similarly disposed of, their horses being piqueted in line, and the men seated or lying on the ground. Looking farther back again, and towards the opposite side of the road, the fires of the whole of the fifth and first divisions met the eye; darkened ever and anon, as the soldiers passed between them, or a heap of wood

« PreviousContinue »