Thursday, February 17, 2011

Travels in Arabia Deserta 1874 -76 by Charles M. Doughty

As I wandered through Palestine I came to a place where the Moslems show a sepulchre of the prophet Jonas. The respectable blind sire who kept the chapel, when I would enter further than the ruinous chamber, forbade me; and to the company he related how of late years two rash young men of the village had made bold to thrust into the Neby's tomb, "but ah! Sirs, wellah, said he, they came forth blind;" and the poor gaffer shook his head piteously again. Here credulous persons, having lighted upon a miracle, might have taken half the village to witness.

Commonly the longer one lives in a fabulous time or country, the weaker will become his judgment. Certainly I have heard fables worthy of the Arabs from the lips of excellent Europeans too long remaining in the East. How often in my dwelling in that hostile world have I felt desolate, even in a right endeavor: the testimony of all men's (half-rational) understandings making against my lonely reason; and must I not seem to them, in holding another opinion, to be a perverse and unreasonable person?

Many admirable things, unless you can misbelieve them all, fall out daily according to their faith, and their world is to thy soul as another planet of nature. Their religious wizards converse with the jan, the cabalistic discovery of hid things is every day confirmed by many faithful witnesses. Because they had some fond expectation even of me, a stranger, it was reported afterward, at Teyma, that I wrought miracles. Certain persons affirmed with oaths that "Khalil had been seen by night uplifting stones, wellah of machinal weight, out of a great ruined well-pit, and with no more than the touch of his fingers;" and yet at such hours I was sleeping, encamped with the Aarab, nearly a mile distant.

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