« AnteriorContinuar »
day the Embassy were sent forward to the vegetable nature withering from drought, capital. Ankober is 8200 feet above the and men and animals disputing the possessea. Its latitude is 9° 34′ 45′′ N.; longi- sion of every brackish, unsightly, and polluttude 39° 54′ 0′′ E. It contains from twelve ed pool. But now all around were sparkto fifteen thousand inhabitants, and is de-ling rivulets of the purest water: they were scribed as standing on a singularly shaped in a land which, twice every year, was vismountain, the extreme pinnacle of which ited by the most copious showers; once by -a spire-like cone-is occupied, from the the "rain of bounty," which lasts through summit to the base, by the palace of the February; again, by the "rain of coveNegoos. This is an ungainly looking build- nant," which, enveloping all things in a ing, with stony gable ends, and numerous white misty shroud, and pouring throughrows of clay chimney tops, comprehending out July, August, and September, causes the houses, store-houses, stables, slaughter- the annual swelling of the Nile. All houses, and other offices, for the whole re- through the long tract of the plain, they tinue, freemen and slaves, of this potentate, had found the soil niggard or barren, and, all enclosed and fortified with palisades and saving on the narrow border of the river barred stockades. The town covers the Hawash, vegetation scanty, coarse, and mountain side, and is a collection of thatch- stunted. Here it was in the valleys giganed houses of all sizes, resembling barns tic, while it was beautifully luxuriant on the and hay-stacks, which rise above one an- slopes and table land, the unmanured soil other in irregular tiers, intermingled with yielding, without exhaustion, to unskilful impending rocks, and connected by narrow tillage, two crops in the year. No less lanes and hedgerows. A new house had striking were the contrasts presented by the been prepared for the Embassy. It was of inhabitants of the two districts. Below, wood, of oblong shape, having a door at they were roving tribes, dwelling in moveaeach end, a thatched roof, and hide-covered ble tents. By a few steps, they had ascendsides, full of interstices, without chimneys, ed to a country of towns, and villages, and without windows, a floor of mud, and con- hamlets, the abodes of a stationary people. tained only one room, divided by inner Below, was a people bred to war, and conwalls from two narrow verandahs, set apart stantly in arms; above, a nation, of which for lumber, horses, and cattle. Still it was the peasantry, though owing military ser an unusually favorable specimen of Shoan vice to their governors, spent the most part architecture. Here they deposited their of their days in the peaceful labors of induseffects, and were shortly afterwards enter- try. Contrary to ordinary experience, they tained by the festivals that usher in their had found warlike shepherds on the plains; new year, beginning on 1st September, on and now, as unusually, they found husbandwhich occasion there was a grand review men on the hills; and while the people beof 10,000 cavalry, and much barbaric pomp low were in demeanor high and haughty, displayed. an in disposition fierce and rapacious, an The passage, which we have thus slightly" iron race," such as, according to the poet, sketched, from the Adel country to the is native to the hills-those above displayed, kingdom of Shoa, presented to our travel- on the other hand, the "gentler genius” lers, in closer vicinity than, perhaps, any- which he has assigned to the plains, were where else in the world, a series of striking profuse in the forms of civility and sycocontrasts, both physical and moral. For phancy, baring their shoulders to the waist weeks they had been traversing a wide before superiors, and kissing the dust in plain. They were now in a land of moun- presence of their king. They had left a tains, which, shooting up abruptly from the community under a government, rude, but long level beneath, were agreeably distin- equal and free; and of which the chief deguished from it by their innumerable crag- fect and evil was, that the common will was gy heights, their profound depths, and long too weak, and the individual too powerful stretches of slopes, and undulating table and independent. But in the mountains land. They had been wandering shadow- was a community of political slaves; men less, under a tropical sun. They were now crouching before an hereditary monarch, transported to a climate which, save in the holding life, rank, and property, at his dislow wooded valleys, which are hot and pes-posal, awed by the sound of his name, tilential, was always temperate, and at times swearing by his life; for his honor and bencold, reminding them, by its bracing power, efit, submitting to taxes on the produce of of their northern home. They had seen their labor, restrictions on their industry,
sumptuary laws, and monopolies. And lastly, while all over the plains they had been, as Christians, despised and insulted, and had found Mahomet everywhere reverenced as the only prophet of God, and the Koran as his law, they had now come among a nation of their own faith-a land of priests and monks, of crosses, churches, and monasteries-a land where every man bore, as a badge of his Christianity, a blue silk cord around his neck, and manifested his zeal for the faith, by refusing to eat or drink with pagan or Mahommedan.
and having again been not only driven back into Africa, but shorn, by the spread of Mahommedanism, of the low provinces along the Red Sea coast. About the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese, from their possessions in the east, discovered and made known to European Christendom this hidden Christian kingdom. The intercourse forthwith established between them and the Abyssinians was at first friendly; but the Europeans were soon shocked by the discovery, that their new brethren were living in the double It is this last circumstance—the Chris- criminality of heresy and schism; and tianity of its inhabitants-that invests Shoa every other consideration was forgotten in and Abyssinia in general, with peculiar in- eagerness to subdue them to the faith and terest. The churches of Africa fill a large the dominion of Rome. This enterprise space in the ancient history of Christendom. was assumed by the Jesuits as their speBut they disappeared from European obser- cial work. Then followed a contest, convation, when the southern shores of the tinued for many years, between the missionMediterranean were overrun by the Sara- aries of Rome and the people of Abyssinia, cens; and for centuries, western Christen- in which the former made a full display of dom was entirely ignorant, that behind the persevering, crafty, merciless, daring, Egypt and Nubia, there existed a great unscrupulous ambition, characteristic of Christian kingdom. Even still, not a few their famous order. After many repulses, will hear with surprise, that in that region they succeeded, in the early part of the sevthere are not Christians merely, but a na-enteenth century, in converting the Negoos, tional establishment of Christianity, which dates from the earliest ages.
or Emperor. The events which followed, remind us of the nearly contemporaneous story of our own country. Edicts went forth, proclaiming that the nation had submitted to the Roman Pontiff, and commanding the people to adopt the faith, observe the rites, and receive the priests of the Romish Church. But they obstinately refused; force was called in to produce submission; popular insurrections followed one after another; all were quenched in deluges of blood. But in the end, the inhuman labor of persecution disgusted the Emperor; and after a great victory over
The Abyssinians trace their Christianity to the Ethiopian eunuch, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles; but authentic history fixes its introduction among them to the beginning of the fourth century, by Frumentius, its first bishop. In the next century, the Christian Church was established in the Abyssinian empire, and seems to have spread far into the heart of Africa. Frumentius derived his episcopal orders from the Patriarch of Alexandria; and the Church which he founded has ever since faithfully kept its allegiance to that apostol-20,000 of the peasantry, wherein 8000 peric see. When Dioscorus, the Alexandrian ished, he relinquished the bloody task to Patriarch, was condemned with Eutyches, which Rome had set him, yielded, like our by the Council of Chalcedon in 481, for de- Scottish legislators, to the "inclinations of nying the human nature to Christ, the Ab- his people," and by an edict, distinguished yssinians rejected the decrees of the Coun- for its frankness and simplicity, restored recil; and for fifteen centuries the "Aboon," ligious peace to Abyssinia. Hear! hear! or Patriarch of the Ethiopic Church, has We formerly gave you the Roman faith bebeen invariably a Coptic priest, sent from lieving it to be true: but innumerable mulEgypt, and ordained by the Father at Alex-titudes of my people having been slain upandria. Of the state and fortunes of this on that account, under the command of JuChristian Church and kingdom during the lius, Guergis, Cerca Christos, and others, middle ages, the notices in accessible his-as now also among the peasants: We do tory are extremely scanty. It appears that therefore restore the religion of your Abyssinia, politically considered, had un- fathers to you, so that your priests are to dergone the expansion and contraction take possession of their churches again, usual to nations, having at one time ex- and to officiate therein as formerly." tended itself across the Red Sea into Asia,
The whole ended in the final expulsion
of the Roman emissaries from Abyissinia. | generally are small and mean, resemble The result is gratifying as a triumph of re- precisely the Jewish temple. Like it, they ligious liberty, and as a check to the exten-are divided into three parts; the innermost sion of the Romish despotism and supersti- is the holy of holies, and may be entered tion. It must be owned, however, that by the priest alone. Here the communion pure religion was little involved in the vessels are deposited, and the sacramental struggle. The religion of Abyssinia equals elements consecrated; and here is kept the -it can scarcely surpass-that of Rome" Tabot," or Ark, a mysterious box, inhabitself, as a corruption and debasement of iting all their churches, the contents of Christianity. The passages in these vol- which are awfully concealed from the vulumes, descriptive of its tenets and usages, gar eye, though" the gold of the foreigner" seem relations of some strange superstition, (so Major Harris terms a bribe) enabled rather than of our own religion. Major him to ascertain that they are only a scroll Harris gives a "Confession" of the Ethi- of parchment, inscribed with the name of opic faith; but he does not state whence he the patron saint. Save on certain occaderived it; and it bears, we think, internal sions, the laity cannot pass beyond the outevidence of being not official or complete. er porch; unbelievers, and all subject to From his chapters, and other sources, we the Levitical uncleannesses, are carefully learn the following particulars which may shut out; all must be barefoot, and the interest the reader. threshold and the door must be kissed in The Ethiopic Church agrees, with other passing. The service is in the Geez, or Eastern Churches, in holding the procession ancient Ethiopic, now a dead language; it of the Holy Spirit from the Father only commences with the Jewish Trisagion, and it maintains, besides, the Eutychian doc- as David danced before the Lord, so their trine respecting the nature of Christ. In priests, armed with a cross and a slender these respects it differs from all the West- crutch, the badge of their office," caper ern Churches. But from the Romish and beat the ground with their feet, stretch Church it is farther distinguished by its out their crutches to each other with frantic doctrine in regard to the supremacy of the gesticulation, whilst the clash of the timPope, in which it concurs with Protestants; brel, the sound of the drum, and the howlto the rule of faith, which it limits to Scrip- ing of harsh voices, complete a most strange ture (including the Apocrypha); to the Eu- form of devotion." They observe with charist, which it administers in both kinds equal strictness the seventh day and the to the laity, and regards neither as a tran- first; the Sabbath of the Jews, and the substantiation nor a sacrifice; to the celib- Lord's-day of the Christians. acy of the clergy, who may be married; to serve the Levitical prohibitions as to unthe adoration of images, which it reckons clean animals; they wash their cups and unlawful, though its churches abound with platters as a religious duty, they will not rude paintings of God, angels, and saints; eat or drink with pagan or Moslem; nor and to the state of the soul after death, re- taste of flesh that has not been slain in the jecting purgatory, yet owning an intermedi- name of the Trinity. They practice cirate state, not less gainful to the priesthood, cumcision; not asserting it to be obligatowherein the happiness of the departed is ry, yet rigorously imposing it on every paaffected by the fasts and alms of the living. gan convert to Christianity. They allow of But, like Rome, it invocates saints and an- concubinage. They are all baptized once gels as intercessors with God, surpassing all every year, commemorating the baptism other Christians in the honors (if such they of Christ, at the Epiphany, by a religious be) paid to the Virgin and St. Michael, and procession to the river, into which men, wohaving a most copious calandar of saints, men, and children enter in a promiscuous with a corresponding list of festivals and and shameless crowd. Fasts, of extraordifasts. It enfoins, also, confession to the nary frequency, are observed with unexampriest, whose curse is dreaded by the peo-pled strictness; two every week, on ple as the last calamity, while they confi- Wednesday and Friday; while, reckoning dently rely on the almsgiving and penances all the holy-days together, one entire half he imposes as an expiation of sin. Its of the year is consumed, by the command most extraordinary peculiarities are certain of the Church, in ruinous idleness. Minusages and ceremonies, either borrowed gled with these corruptions of Christianity, from the Jews, or retained from the old and remnants of Judaism, there exist, if Ethiopic faith. Their churches, which not by the laws of the Church, at least in
the usages of the people, many remains of superstitious people, who have a sacred heathenism. Ostrich eggs surround the reverence for the clergy, and think that the cross that crowns every church, and they kiss of a priest's hand cleanses from sin. depend from the ceiling within: in times of The result is, that the clergy are like the sickness or danger, an ox, after being slow-people, ignorant, superstitious, and immorly led round the house or the village, is sac-al, jealous of innovations, hating heretics, rificed with its face to the east; they be- and observing their routine of religious lieve in signs and omens; demons and sor- forms, some of them with the sincerity of cerers, and have undoubting faith in devotees, others as the business-like followcharms and amulets. To this imperfect ers of a gainful profession. We need sketch we add, that while the lessons and scarcely add, that of those doctrines which prayers of divine service are in the dead Protestants regard as the power of ChrisEthiopic or Geez tongue, only four reli- tianity, the ignorance is so entire, and they gious books are written in the Amharic, are so opposite to the rooted ideas of the the present language of Christian Abyssin- people, that they can scarcely be so much ia; these are a tissue of absurd controver- as understood. It is possible, however, sies and monkish legends; and while the that there may be some misapprehension legends delight the Abyssinian laity, the on this point. The sacred fire may still be controversies compose the entire know- burning, however feebly, even amid an atledge of the clergy, who exercise their in- mosphere so impure-the Divine Inhabitellects, expend their virulence, and are tant may still be present in this polluted split into hostile sects, by disputes respect- temple. At all events, there is hope for ing the three births of Christ, and the the future, if it be true, that at the foundaknowledge of the human soul in the womb. tion of Abyssinian Christianity lies the HoThe country is overspread to excess with ly Scriptures; and so long as there is there churches. And of the numbers of the no infallible Church, consecrating with its professed religious in all Abyssinia, an esti- authority the manifold corruptions from mate may be formed from the statement, which it sprung, and by which it is nourthat they amount in Shoa to near one fourth ished. of the population.* The Aboon is the ec- In these observations we have had referclesiastical head; and the Ethiopic Church ence to Abyssinia at large, of which, howconfines to his hands alone the grace or ever, the Shoan Kingdom is but a small virtue that makes a clergyman; differing portion. Abyssinia, geographically speakin this from other churches, called apos- ing, comprehends all the highlands behind tolic, which allow it to all bishops. Next Nubia to about the ninth degree of north in dignity is the Grand Prior of the Monks latitude. It now consists of three disof Debra Libanos; then the Bishops (Co-tricts, politically separate. Tigré, in the mos), the Priests (Alaka), and the Deacons. The clergy may marry; but on the demise or divorce of the first wife, no second is permitted. Monasteries abound, and their sites in Abyssinia, as elsewhere, are generally distinguished for comfort and beauty. An easy ceremony admits to the monkish order; and as the life of the professed is one of ease and indulgence, and as the "putting on angels' clothing" (so they term turning monk) absolves from all debts, the land swarms with monks, friars, and an- The present Negoos of Shoa is Sáhela chorites, who roam through it as its pests Selássie, the seventh of a dynasty that and plagues. Certain revenues from lands claims to be a branch of the House of Soland villages are set apart for every clerical omon. His ancestor, married to a daughestablishment, and to these a large addition is made by baptism, funeral, and other fees, and by the voluntary donations of the
*This is accounted for by the fact mentioned by Mr. Gobat, that as they advance in life, most
men and women become monks and tuas.
north; Amhara in the west; and Shoa in the south. The Emperor of all Abyssinia, the great Negoos, traced his origin to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. His descendants still exist; and of these one lives at Gondar, with the title of Emperor, but without the power; his sole office being to give the sanction of imperial authority to the most fortunate and powerful Ras, or chief, among the many who dispute the command of Northern Abyssinia.
ter of the reigning Emperor, was governor of one of the southern provinces; and he and his descendants, having regained from the Adaiel and the Galla tribes, first Efat, and then Shoa, gradually assumed independence and the rank of Negoos of a separate kingdom. The present inheritor
of their possessions and dignities enjoys, with the title, all the reverence attached to the ancient royal lineage, and his kingdom alone preserves any resemblance to the old Abyssinian empire.
around them with eyes unaccustomed to the day. It was evident that the iron had entered into their souls,—
"In the damp vaults of Goncho, where The "hereditary dominions" of this to the ankles of the prisoners by a chain so heavy manacles on the wrists had been linked prince are described as a rectangular do- short as to admit only of a bent and stooping main of 150 by 90 miles, and traversed by posture, the weary hours of the princes had five systems of mountains, of which the or thirty long years been passed in the fabculminating point divides the waters of the rication of harps and combs; and of these Nile and Hawash. The population of Shoa relies of monotonous existence, elaborately and Efat is reckoned to be one million; carved in wood and ivory, a large offering was there are besides numerous dependencies limpse of his wretched relatives had already now timidly presented to the King. The first occupied by Pagans and Mahommedans, dissipated a slight shade of mistrust which estimated to be a million and a half more. had hitherto clouded the royal brow. NoThe government is theoretically and in thing that might endanger the security of his practice a pure despotism. So thoroughly reign could be traced in the crippled frames identified is law with the person of the and lighted faculties of the seven miserable King, that between the death of one sove-recting their chains to be unrivated, he anobjects that cowered before him, and after direign and the inauguration of his succes-nounced to all that they were free, and to pass sor, anarchy is established, and all over the the residue of their days near his own person." land every atrocity is perpetrated, without -P. 389, vol. iii. fear of retribution or punishment. On the occasion of inauguration, a herald proclaims aloud, "We have reason to mourn and also to rejoice, for our old father is dead; but we have found a new one,"words reminding us of the exclamation of our continental neighbors on a similar event, "Le Roi est mort!-vive le Roi!" The whole people mourn for seven days; but the uncles and brothers of the new monarch feel the calamity for life-for in this Abyssinia, where we have been taught by the delightful romance of Johnson, that the royal princes spend their days in a happy valley, the invariable custom is to consign them to a subterranean dungeon. Here they pass life in chains, carving wood and ivory. Seven persons were so confined, when Major Harris entered the country. Having been of service to the Negoos in sickness, he pressed him to release them. "And I will release them," said the monarch. By the holy Eucharist, I swear, and by the Church of the Holy Trinity in Koora Cadel, that if Sáhela Selássie rise from the bed of sickness, all of whom you speak shall be restored to liberty." The last pages of the work contain an interesting account of the scene of their release. "Leaning heavily on each others' shoulders, and linked together by chains bright and shining with the friction of years, the captives shuffled onwards with cramped and With few exceptions, his governors owe minute steps," fell at the foot of the throne, their posts to his favor; they maintain them and rising again with difficulty at the bid-only by constant gifts; they forfeit them by ding of the monarch, kept their standing the slightest offence; and on a sudden a posture uneasily, while they gazed stupidly inan is tumbled from power and splendor to
The Negoos is approached with prostration and kissing of the ground, with adoration rather than respect. Like despots in general, he is easy of access, and administers justice in person; and the least signification of his will receives implicit obedience. He holds in command the life and property of all; even in the Church he is supreme--the spiritual courts being under his control, and the offending clergy not unfrequently subjected to stripes and manacles. "The best parts of the soil are his.” His revenues consist of money and of produce, derived from a tax on the fruits of the earth, monopolies, perquisites, and gifts made by the four hundred governors, and fifty Abogazoch, or border wardens, to whom he commits the rule of his provinces and dependencies. Of their whole value we have no precise statement, but they far exceed his expenditure, which is about 10,000 crowns per annum. The surplus is added to the royal treasures, accumulated by himself and his ancestors. These are deposited on Mount Mamrat-the "mother of grace," 13,000 feet high, and the most elevated pinnacle of Shoa-in many caves and subterranean crannies covered in with iron plates, and known only to Ayti Habli, the chief smith, and highest minister of the crown.