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country had never been subdued, and no impression on it had extended beyond its borders; but internal feud had wasted the vigour and stayed the advancement of its power; and the character of Mahomet by nature fitted him to influence the jarring tribes, and to combine their interests in the pursuit of one great and important end.
Mahomet has often been represented as of low and vulgar origin; but the assertion is groundless and illusory*. He was the grandson of an opulent merchant, whose liberality preserved the citizens of Mecca from famine. A genius enterprising, a judgment sound and mature, features engaging, general habits and demeanour conciliatory, marked a mind destined to soar, whatever might have been its path of exertion.
The first exploit of Mahomet, in the display of his pretended mission, was the conversion of his own family. His wife Cadijah, his nephew Ali, and his servant Zeid, were the first who embraced his cause. The bold and romantic Ali, fired with the enthusiasm of youth, offered himself as the companion of his relative through all his perils. But the citizens of Mecca were his foes: they sought, to destroy the bold innovator, who threatened to abolish the worship of their idols; and it was only the unshaken attachment of his kinsman Abu Taleb which protected the son of Abdallah.
The death of this aged and respected chieftain left him open to the vengeance of his enemies. The chief of the hostile tribe collected his adherents, and proposed to them, as the only method for the extermination of the new sect, the destruction of their leader. Imprisonment, he said, would exasperate him; banishment would only serve. to propagate his tenets. The conspirators decided that he should die, and resolved that a sword from each hand should transfix his body, in order to conceal the immediate authors of the bloody deed...
But it was not destined that the talents of Mahomet should thus perish. He was reserved for higher and more hazardous achievements. The scheme of the assassins was disclosed, and the intended victim of their malevolence sought security in flight. The youthful Ali arrayed himself in the vest of his friend and patron, undertook to assume his character, and reposed on the couch in his place. A conduct so noble and disinterested, his adversaries viewed with admiration and astonishment: they respected his piety, and spared his devoted valour; and by this signal act of generous enthusiasm, the young hero preserved his own life, in addition to that of his celebrated
The vicissitudes of fortune are singular and mysterious. It was little within the conjectures of the adverse faction, that the measures adopted for their security should terminate in their utter ruin. In a pilgrimage to the temple at Mecca, some of the principal citizens had learned the doctrines of Mahomet, and had already become converts to his system. These received the new fugitive with rapture. They convened a solemn assembly of their fellow-citizens: they exhibited before the people the tenets and the promises of Mahomet, and invited them with earnestness to embrace the sacred cause. Five hun
* See the eloquent and interesting narrative of Gibbon.
dred warriors assembled round his standard, and bound themselves by the strongest engagements to follow his banner. After the custom of the eastern nations, he was chosen to the double office of priest and sovereign: he was invested with the royal purple, and the air was rent with the piercing acclamations of his infatuated adherents.
To recover authority in his native city, Mecca, was now the leading object of the chieftain. For this purpose the Arabs, already sufficiently bent on warlike exploits, received a new incitement by the hope of future reward. The sword, proclaimed the champion, shall conduct you to happiness; and he that shall shed his blood in the sacred cause, shall sup that night in Paradise. Death, which had been contemned before, now became an object of warm desire; and soldiers elevated with such expectations, as well as careless of danger, would stand the shock of the fiercest attacks. The events of three successive engagements decided the fate of Mecca, and the capitulation of that important city was soon followed by the reduction of all Arabia.
The years of the warrior-prince were now advancing towards their close. A fever, which was to terminate his existence, had commenced to prey upon his vitals. A few days before his death, with affected condescension and humility, he proclaimed to the people, that if any man should conceive himself to have suffered wrongfully, ample reparation should be now offered. One voice amidst the crowd was heard to complain; and the dying chieftain called him into his presence, heard his request, and satisfied his demand.
It was now his office, previously to his departure, to consummate the supposed evidences of his mission, He called accordingly for the Koran, and dictated a few sentences to be added to the volume. This done, he sank on the bosom of Ayesha, the best-beloved of his wives, raised his eyes to heaven, and uttering a few tremulous words, expired. P. W. R.
ANGELO DI COSTANZO.
"Qualor l'età che sì veloce arriva."
When the cold touch of withering Time comes on,
SKETCHES OF ITALY IN PROSE AND VERSE.
No. 1.-Passage of the Alps.
HAIL, lovely land! from cliffs where Winter reigns
And feel that even Beauty woos in vain,
Stalk'st wildly by, and through the deep-toned storms
Of solitude I feel, I own your power
With keener sense: ye mountains, tempest-riven,
With wreck of crag and forest to the night
Of fathomless gulphs; ye snowy floods of light,
Its heaven-aspiring faculties. Power, might,
Are shadow'd in those giant forms, and raise
Glance harmless from us :-here at length we're free;
THE road over Mont Cenis first conducted me into Italy. What I saw and felt on the occasion suggested the foregoing lines. I will detail in prose, from the memoranda I made on the spot, more accurately, the observations which occurred to me, and the emotions which I experienced.
April 5. We left the small town of St. Michael at break of day, and at the first post arrived at Modene, situated very romantically at the entrance of a deep defile of precipitous mountains. From Modene we began very perceptibly to ascend, although the commencement of the passage of Mont Cenis is not reckoned from this place, but from Lans-le-bourg, a stage farther. The scenery, upon our leaving Modenc, assumed the wildest and most magnificent character: the precipices were sudden and deep, the valleys below hollowed out into a variety of savage forms, and their natural gloom increased by the thick woods of pine which overhung them; the mountains peaked and covered with snow, and projecting their bleak and barren sides and straight unbroken lines into the glens beneath. At Lans-le-bourg we had attained an elevation above the sea of more than 4000 feet. From this place the ascent became more rapid: we were forced to put on an additional pair of horses to the carriage, and to take with us some peasants, to assist in supporting its weight on the edge of the precipices, which, by the accumulation of snow, were rendered more than usually dangerous. We proceeded on foot, in order to have a more perfect view of the scenery. The road ascended by long traverses, six of which, each a mile in length, led from Lans-le-bourg to the highest point of Mont Cenis which it was necessary to pass. Our prospect was dreary in the extreme: on every side we saw wide-expanded snows, interrupted only by dark woods of pine, which stretched up the mountains. The snows were in some parts so deep, that the posts which are placed at the edge of the road to mark its direction, and which must be at least sixteen feet high, were almost covered. The snowy masses impended over our heads from the verge of perpendicular cliffs, and threatened to descend and overwhelm us as we passed; or they had fallen across the road, and had been cut through by the workmen constantly employed on Mont Cenis, in order to afford a passage. Whether Hannibal passed over Mont Cenis or not has been a subject of debate and inquiry. It is, however, impossible to cross it without perpetually recurring to the adventures of the Punic chief, and the admirable narrative of his historian. "Ex propinquo visa montium altitudo, nivesque cœlo prope immixtæ, tecta informia imposita rupibus, pecora jumentaque torrida frigore, homines intonsi et inculti, animalia inanimaque omnia rigentia gelu, cætera visu quàm dictu fœdiora terrorem renovarunt." The day was very cold, and the wind
rushing down the deep gorges of the mountain, and bringing with it particles of snow, beat directly in our faces, and added much to the difficulty of the ascent. We, however, reached the highest part of the road in about two hours and a half. We then traversed a dreary plain, completely buried under the snow, from one part of which we had a fine view of the highest peak of Mont Cenis, which, as we passed, burst for a few moments from the clouds that surrounded it, and then retired again into obscurity. On this plain is situated a convent, the monks of which are especially charged with the care and protection of the distressed traveller. Near the convent is a lake which I conclude to be the one which Strabo notices as the sources of the rivers Druentias and Durias. At a short distance beyond, near a single house called the Grande Croix, we found sledges waiting for us. We placed ourselves in them, and began to descend very rapidly. Each sledge was drawn by a mule, and guided by an athletic weather-beaten mountaineer. In one place the descent was so rapid, that my guide dismissed the mule, and directed the sledge down a shelving bank of snow, so steep that my own weight was sufficient to impel it with considerable velocity. Nothing could be wilder than the whole scene. The mountaineers with their sledges bounding from rock to rock, or sliding with their burden down the ridges of congealed snow; the bare broad cliffs hung with icicles, or the torrent suspended in its course by the frost; the road winding above our heads in short traverses, down which was seen at a distance the carriage slowly descending; a rude bridge thrown across a chasm or mountain-stream; the deep black valley below, in which appeared the small solitary village half buried beneath the impending rocks; and the vast amphitheatre of Mont Cenis, with its attendant mountains closing in every direction around us, covered with snow and veiled in clouds-all together formed a scene of impressive magnificence and desolation. We left our sledges at a small place called San Nicolo, and descended in our carriage the rest of the way to Susa, along an excellent road. We soon perceived that we were approaching a warmer climate; the snow disappeared altogether from the edges of the roads, although at the corresponding elevation on the side of Savoy it was several feet deep; the air was much milder, and breathed upon us the balmy softness of Italy. About an hour before we reached the foot of the mountain, Susa was visible, deeply sunk amidst cliffs of great elevation. As we descended, and as the mountains by which we had been so long surrounded gradually opened, we caught a glimpse of the distant Italian plains and hills, seen through the vista of the termination of the range of Cenis. At one point the view was extremely beautiful: vineyards and majestic woods of chesnut formed the foreground; the small village of Novalese, with the spire of its church, appeared a little beyond; Susa still farther; and the river Duria, winding amidst the dark cliffs of the Alps, seemed to steal along with delight to the purple hills and green plains of Italy, which were seen faintly in the distance. H.