Page images
PDF
EPUB

houses and even villages. In summer, though rains are not so frequent, the air is very moist, and the plain is generally enveloped in vapour and fogs, which engender fevers and other diseases. The heat at this season is oppressive. One very remarkable feature in the climate of this plain is, that sometimes in winter a hot southerly wind springs up, which changes the temperature in an instant to such a degree, that wood and other inflammable substances are dried up, so as to render them liable to ignite from the smallest spark. Sometimes this wind lasts only a quarter of an hour, but, generally, twenty-four hours. It is followed by a gale from the north-east, which brings snow and rain; by the natives it is called the Bagdad wind. It is probably to this air that Tavernier alludes, when he asserts that the Persians are sometimes destroyed instantly by a hot burning south wind.

But notwithstanding this climate is so extraordinary, it produces a luxuriance of vegetation, rarely met with even between the tropics. The swampy tracts along the shores of the Caspian sea abound with saline plants and canes, which are employed in building and for domestic purposes. Not far from the shores begin the forests, which cover the whole plain, and extend to a considerable elevation up the slopes of the hills. These forests are surrounded by orchards, plantations of mulberry trees, and fields of rice. The orchards produce figs, peaches, apricots, pears, apples, plums, and cherries. The vine is also cultivated here, and the pomegranate tree grows wild. The principal occupations of the peasants of Ghilan are the raising of silk, and the cultivation of rice.

The climate of the low sandy track along the Persian Gulf is distinguished for its great heat and aridity. On this account it abounds with date trees, which only bear eatable fruit where these circumstances concur: During the summer heat, it is extremely unhealthy. So oppressive is the heat, indeed, that the inhabitants generally retire to the adjacent mountains, leaving only a few poor creatures to watch their effects, who do so at the expense of their health.

In the interior of the table land of Persia, the climate is hot in summer, and cold in winter. In this part however, the air is dry, and the sky cloudless. This produces great purity of element, which is the chief blessing the Persians enjoy in this part of the country. They derive from thence a clear and florid complexion, and an excellent habit of body. In the summer, it seldom rains; but the heat is mitigated by

a brisk wind, which blows during the night, so that the traveller may proceed on his journey by the light of the glittering stars without inconvenience. In the winter, the air is not so dry in these parts. A considerable quantity of snow falls; and yet not so much as to render the soil fit for maintaining constant vegetation. Near the mountain ranges the fall of snow is much greater, which is supposed to occasion the superior fertility of those districts, especially where the vegetation can be promoted by irrigation. The lack of this moisture renders the central part of the table-land of Persia a desert, and from this cause, the oases within the desert are more fit for plantations of fruit trees, than for the cultivation of grain. The plain surrounding Teheran, which is near the northern edge of the table-land, and not far from the foot of the Elburz range, was, when Frazer visited it in November, covered with snow; and when Morier was there in March, ice was still to be seen. The mild weather does not commence before April, when the transition from cold to heat is very

sudden. At sunrise the thermometer stands between 610 and 64o, but at noon it rises to 75°, and in the afternoon a hot south-eastern wind generally blows, which renders the heat oppressive.

"The great dryness of the air in this part of Persia exempts it from thunder and earthquakes. In the spring, indeed, occasionally showers of hail fall, but they do not appear to be common, or of a severe nature. The rainbow, that grand etherial object, that

"Shoots up immense, and every hue unfolds,
In fair proportion, running from the red
To where the violet fades into the sky,"

THOMSON, is ' rarely seen in Persia, because there are not vapours sufficient to form it. By night, however, there are seen the phenomena of rays of light shooting through the firmament, and followed by apparent trains of smoke. The winds, though frequently brisk, seldom swell into storms, but they are sometimes extremely infectious on the shores of the Gulf.

*Tavernier remarks, that the Persians are so sensible of the fertilizing influence of the snow, that they examine very curiously how high it riscs every year. This is done by setting a stone on the top of a mountain four leagues from Spauhawn, between two and three feet high, over which if the snow rises it causes much joy. The peasant who first brings the news of such an event to court, is rewarded for his pains by a considerable present.

PRODUCTIONS.

Much may be gathered from the foregoing pages concerning the productions of Persia : as, however, many have not yet been mentioned, it is deemed desirable to enumerate the whole, as far as our information extends, under their different kinds.

Trees.-The fruit trees of Persia are managed with considerable skill, and in many places they are distinguished for their excellent fruit

, which furnishes no mean article of internal trade. These fruits are apricots, peaches, apples, plums, pears, nectarines, quinces, figs, pomegranates, mulberries, currants, cherries, almonds, walnuts, and pistachio nuts. Vine plantations are extensive, but wine is only made by the Christian population. Dates ripen only in Gurmsir, and some of the lower valleys in the mountains of Kerman. Forest trees do not occur, except on the northern declivity of the Elburz mountains. The oak covers large tracts of the mountains of Kurdistan ; but it does not give the beholder an idea of a

couar.

"King of the forest ; Majestically stern, sublimely great; Laughing to scorn the wind,

the food, the flame; And e'en when withering, proudly desolate.” It does not even grow to the size of a common timber tree. The most common trees of Persia are the plantane, willow, fir, and coruil, called by the Arabs, seder, and by the Persians,

The tree which bears gall nuts, grows abundantly in Kurdistan ; and those which produce gums, mastich, and incense, are common in most parts of Persia: the latter more especially in Carmania Deserta. The tree bearing manna, is also frequent, and so is the tamarisk, a species of which likewise produces manna.

Grain.—The most usual crops in Persia are rice, wheat, and barley; but there are also millet, (Holcus sorghum,) maize, tel, or sesamum, a species of vetch, and several kinds

pease and beans. Rice is the general aliment of the Persians, for which reason they are very careful in its cultivation. It is, indeed, in that country, softer, sooner boiled, and more delicious to the taste, than that grown

in
any
other

part of the world.

Cucumber Plants.-Under this head only two plants occur, Namely, the cucumber and the melon. The melons of Persia

4

of

VOL. III.

are distinguished for their size and flavour. There appears to be about twenty kinds of them, and, like all other orientals, the Persians seem to have a passion for this fruit. They take great pains to preserve them in repositories when they are out of season; and when the season is in, they live almost entirely upon them.

Vegetable Productions. The chief culinary vegetables of Persia are turnips, carrots, cabbages, lettuces, cauliflowers, celery, radishes, garlic, parsley, and onions.

Flowers.—Conspicuous among this class of plants in Persia, stands the rose. The size of the Persian rose trees, and the number of flowers on each, far exceeds any thing we are accustomed to witness. Sir Robert Ker Porter, describing the rose of Persia, says: “On first entering this bower of fairy-land, I was struck with the appearance of two rose trees, full fourteen feet high, laden with thousands of flowers, in every degree of expansion, and of a bloom and delicacy of scent that imbued the whole atmosphere with the most exquisite perfume: indeed, I believe, that in no country of the world does the rose grow in such perfection as in Persia; in no country is it so cultivated and prized by the natives. Their gardens and courts are crowded with its plants; their rooms ornamented with vases, filled with its gathered branches; and every bath strewed with the full-blown flowers, plucked from the ever replenished stems. Even the humblest individual, who pays a piece of copper money for a few whiffs of a kalioun, feels a double enjoyment when he finds it stuck with a bud from his dear native tree. But in this delicious garden of Negauvistan, the eye and the smell were not the only senses regaled by the presence of the rose; the ear was enchanted by the wild and beautiful notes of the multitude of nightingales, whose warblings seemed to increase in melody and softness with the unfolding of their favourite flowers; verifying the song

of their

poet,
who
says:

: When the charms of the bower are passed away, the fond tale of the nightingale no longer animates the scene.

The roses of Persia are of various kinds. There is the usual rose-coloured flower, white, red, or deeper red and yellow are mixed, that is, red on one side, and yellow or white on the other. Sometimes one tree produces flowers of three colours, red, red and yellow, red and white.

Besides the rose, most of the varieties of flowers in Europe are also known in Persia. Many, also, unknown to Europeans, are abundantly scattered abroad.

From September

גן ו

to the end of April, the province of Mazanderan is covered with flowers as with a rich embroidered carpet. Towards Media, also, and on the southern frontiers of Arabia, the fields are adorned with tulips, anemonies, ranunculuses, etc., all growing, spontaneously. In other places, as in the neighbourhood of Spauhawn, jonquils grow wild all the winter. The province of Hyrcania, however, for the beauty, variety, and quantity of its flowers, excels the rest of Persia, in this respect, as much as Persia does the rest of the world; an idea of which has been given in the notice of that province.

Herbs and Drugs.-As in flowers, so in its herbs, does Persia excel all other countries; especially such as are aromatic. For drugs, also, it is celebrated, producing as many as any country in Asia. Besides manna, cassia, senna, the nux vomica, gum ammoniac, by the Persians called ouscic, is found in abundance on the confines of Parthia, towards the south. Rhubarb grows commonly in Khorassan, the ancient Sogdiana; and the poppy of Persia, which produces opium, is esteemed the finest in the world, as well for its beauty, as the strength of its production. In many places saffron is cultivated. One of the most remarkable vegetable productions of Persia, is the plant from which assafatida is obtained. This plant is called by the Persians hiltet, and it is supposed to be the silphium of Dioscorides. There are two kinds of it, the white and the black, which latter is the most esteemed, as possessing greater strength than the white. This drug has a stronger odour than any other known. It is said, that places where it has been preserved, will retain this odour for many years. There are two kinds of gum called mummy in Persia, which is in great request. This article is found in Carmania the Desert, and in Khorassan, where it distils from the rocks. It possesses great healing virtues. Its name is derived from the Persian word, moum, which signifies literally, an unguent. Galbanum is likewise common in Persia, together with the vegetable alkali, and many other drugs of minor importance. Cotton is common all over Persia, and there is a tree resembling it, but which is more rare, producing a fine and soft substance like silk, of which many uses are made.

Metals and Minerals.-In ancient times there were silver mines in Persia, but at present there are none open. The expenses attending the working of them seems to have equalled their produce, which is represented as the cause of

« EelmineJätka »