I46 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
Though yet early in the year, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. " The flov
appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is
heard in our land. The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender
grapes give a good smell.,, The fragrance from the orange-groves is wafted on the breeze
the last lowing of cattle and bleating of sheep returning to their folds fill the air with a pleasant
sound—darkness and quiet are spreading over the land. The soil is still moist with the winter
rains, not yet licked up by the dry easterly winds, and lagoons and sheets of water flash back
the splendour of the setting sun. Abundant verdure, both corn and weeds, covers the rich
loam, and when swayed by the breeze displays glints of crimson from the millions of anemone,
the roses of Sharon, which lie shrouded among the lengthening grasses.
The whole goodly plain of Sharon is visible- from Mount Carmel on the north down to
Lydda, from the eastern hills to the blue sea, now bathed in gold—a wilderness of weeds and
thorn brakes, and yet a very paradise of colour and ever-varying beauty. Sharon was lovely
in days gone by, when every acre was cultivated and teeming with an abundant population; it
is yet lovely during the land's long holiday, at this time of year, before the fervid summer heat
has parched up the land and reduced the plain to a barren waste.
Yet ascend the tower once again in the autumn and a different prospect presents itself
Far and wide the olive-groves have become dull and lustreless from the accumulation of dust,
the mulberry leaves have disappeared, used as food for the sheep. The soil is parched up and
dry, all verdure has departed, even the stalks of corn have cracked up and fled away on the
wind, and there is left a sky of brass and earth of iron. Trees and houses quiver in the heated
atmosphere, camels in the distance are seen with their bodies separated from their legs, in
grotesque confusion, and there are sudden glimpses of oases in stony places, beautiful sheets of
water and green trees where it is known to be only parched-up land. The villages, which so
few weeks ago were thronged with mountaineers assisting in the lowland harvest, are now
denuded of their normal inhabitants, who in their turn have ascended the hills to assist their
neighbours. The corn has long since been harvested, thrashed, winnowed, and heaped up;
the Government has taken its share, the landowners have taken theirs, the money usurers
theirs, and what is left to the villages is now safely housed in the boxes made of cow-dung
which serve for barns, and the people know what are their slender means for the coming year.
They are a frugal race, who do their best to keep body and soul together—with very moderate
success, for they are not only preyed upon by their own Government officials, but also by the
Bedawin of the desert, who constantly make inroads from the south country and carry oft the
corn as it lies on the threshing-floors. They are probably descendants of the ancient
inhabitants of the land, and their traditions go far to prove this. It was on these pasture lands
that the royal herds of King David were wont to graze, and their excellence is referred to by
the prophet Isaiah (xxxv. i, 2) : " The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall
blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing : the glory of Lebanon shall be
given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon."