Page images


NIGHT-LONG the rushes whisper as I turn
With restless rustling to the flickering dark
That shudders, as the great logs, smouldering, burn
On the cold hearth-stone to a dwindling spark.
Though I escape, at last, day's mockery
Of bitter-jangling bells about my ears,
No meed of easeful slumber comes to me;
The rushes whisper ever of my fears;

And now, when from my lips the nimble jest
No longer tumbles, broken meats to earn,

My heart-by day crushed silent in my breast-
Cries out within me; and I turn and turn,
Finding nor sleep nor comfort anywhere.
If I but close my eyes, I see her stand

Before me in the night-her thick, brown hair
Thrust back from her bright forehead by the hand
That shades the burning hazel of her eyes;

Or, else, I see her, seated by her lord
On the high daïs as the dim light dies;
Or mid her chattering maidens at the board,
Beneath the flaming torches; or, at morn,
Through the sun-dappled gloom of alleys green
Whose arches echo to the rousing horn,
I see her ride like some great ballad-queen.

I see her as I saw her all day long,
With clear, untroubled eyes and lifted head,
Dreaming of love, or singing some old song
Of lovers who are happy, being dead,
With pitiful, sweet mouth; for love to her
Is a fresh-welling stream of happiness,
Which no cold winds to troubled eddies stir,
Nor pebbles ruffle to shrill-tongued distress.

But Love's a rock-bound spate that foams and frets;
A tossing beacon in tempestuous night;

A mighty salmon 'tangled in the nets;
A mallard arrow-stricken in full flight;
A hounded stag at bay within his lair;
A heron 'neath the taloned falcon's swoop;
A crag-born kestrel taken in a snare;
An eagle caged within a gilded coop;
A battle-snuffing stallion on the curb:
A quivering target by a quarrel cleft;
A rankling wound that knows no healing herb;
A sea-swept galley of her rudder reft;
A tethered bullock chafing in the byre;
A ravenous wolf sore-wounded in a pit;
A cloud of thunder with a heart of fire;
A sapling by the summer lightning split ;
A sword within a silken scabbard pent;
A ruddy fruit whose core is bitterness;
A giant captive in a victor's tent;

A breaking heart beneath a motley dress.




ONE result of the recent Convention concluded between Great Britain and France will-or should-be the confirmation of the French empire over Northern and North-Western Africa. In 1830 the first decided step was taken in the return march of Latin civilisation, since in 647 and 673 A.D. that civilisation fell before the first attacks of Islam, when Abdallah-ibn-Abu Sarh and Oqba-bin-Nafa invaded Roman Africa [coming viâ Egypt and Tripoli] and, joining hands with the insurgent Berbers of North Africa, rapidly extinguished the rule of Byzantium and the Latin Church of North Africa. The first conquests of Islam in Northern Africa were not perhaps as complete and far-reaching as is generally imagined by those who only know history as a series of ' decisive battles.' The main cause that led to the overthrow of Roman rule in Mauritania by the Vandal invasion in the fifth century, that brought about the revival of Roman rule under the Constantinople Emperor, and, again, the rapid overthrow of that Byzantine government after the Arab invasions of 647 and 673, was the perpetual dissatisfaction of the Berber people of North Africa with the government of the European. I think it may be stated without much inaccuracy that between 146 B.C. and 429 A.D., during the whole period of Roman rule in North Africa-at any rate in the modern Algeria and Tunis-no period longer than seventy years elapsed without a more or less serious Berber revolt. Seeing that the original Berber inhabitants of Northern Africa belonged to much the same human stock as the peoples of Southern Italy, Greece, Spain, and even Southern France, and that before the invasion of Islam there was no bitter difference in religious views, it is curious that the North African should have fought so resolutely against the Empire which had its metropolis across the Mediterranean. The struggle was almost Iberian against Aryan, Iberian languages and culture against the forms of speech and the civilisation developed by the Aryan.

There seem to have been prehistoric Greek invasions of Tunisia; and more than eleven hundred years before Christ the enterprising Phoenicians of Syria had founded trading settlements on the north Tunisian coast which ultimately grew into the power of Carthage-a foreign power that introduced the first Semitic language into Northern Africa, and brought to that part of the continent an Asiatic civilisation and religion. Beyond the limits of modern Tunis, the Carthaginian power was chiefly represented by a chain of fortified trading stations along the North African coast stretching past the Straits of Gibraltar down the Atlantic coast of Morocco, and even extending outposts across the Tropic to the modern Spanish Protectorate of Rio de Oro. The Berbers, however, constantly fought against the Carthaginians, and fought as the allies of Rome. After Carthage was conquered, Rome for a hundred years tolerated a Berber kingdom in Numidia (Algeria); then that power was broken down, and this province was annexed to the Roman Empire in 46 B.C., to be followed eightyeight years afterwards by Morocco (42 A.D.).

Anyone who has visited the Regency of Tunis must be aware that that country, together with the extreme eastern part of Algeria and the coast regions of Tripoli, was at one time as Roman' a land as Italy; in fact, it is doubtful whether Italy can supply as many ruins of magnificent Roman buildings as may be still seen in this part of Northern Africa. Such a town as Tebessa, for example, which is situated near the Tunisian frontier in eastern Algeria and is a railway terminus, is little else than a Roman town, almost unaltered in its architecture, with the Roman houses roofed and repaired, and just sufficiently modernised to permit of habitation by Europeans. Many of the Moorish towns in the south of Tunis are of the same character. It would seem as though there had been a considerable immigration of Romans, Italians, and Greeks into Tunisia, Tripoli, and eastern Algeria during the seven centuries that these countries formed part of the Roman Empire. The Vandals brought a small contingent of Northern Europeans and a host of Spanish campfollowers. It was no doubt largely this European garrison, between 100 B.C. and 650 A.D., that built and peopled the splendid Roman cities of Roman Africa, while the Berbers fell partly into a condition of serfage, becoming the agricultural peasants, or else resumed a nomad life and remained in more or less permanent hostility to Roman civilisation. The dislike felt by the North

African indigenes to Rome was intensified by the introduction of Christianity. Many of the Berbers favoured a Monotheistic religion, and had been greatly attracted by the Jewish propaganda carried on when large numbers of Jews settled in North Africa at the beginning of the Christian Era, following the siege of Jerusalem, if not before. Just as the Irish became obstinately attached to the Roman form of Christianity from the time that England passed over to Protestantism, and cultivated this passionate attachment quite as much from a hatred of everything that was English as from any desire for theological consistency, so the North African Berbers grew to detest the Christianity of St. Augustine. Under the Vandal rule they became eager Unitarians, and assisted the Vandals to attack and martyrise those who professed Roman and Trinitarian Christianity. They were therefore as ready for the reception of Islam as gunpowder is for the fulminating spark. In scarcely more than seventy years1 Roman (Byzantine) and Christian rule was effaced in North Africa from the frontiers of Egypt to Tangier, while the rapidly Muhammadanised Berbers joined in thousands the standards of the invading Arabs, and thus enabled the latter to overrun and conquer Spain. Not less astonishing than the sudden capture of Mauritania by the Muhammadan religion was the equally rapid vogue of the Arabic language. It must be remembered that prior to 640 A.D. no Arabic was spoken in Africa unless it might be a few wandering strangers from Sinai along the eastern frontier of the Red Sea coast of Egypt. In Egypt itself a form of ancient Egyptian (very near to the modern Coptic) was the language of the people, while Greek and Latin were the vehicles of literature, government, and polite intercourse. Along the coast regions of the modern Tripoli, Tunis, Algeria, and Morocco, there were remains of ancient Greek colonies, where Greek and Latin were talked. But in the main the almost universal speech of North Africa prior to the irruption of Islam, twelve hundred and sixtyfour years ago, was the Libyan or Berber language in its various dialects. This was the dominant tongue from the western frontier of Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean. Yet, when Spain was invaded by the Muhammadan hosts in 711, it was not the Berber language

The Muhammadan invasions of Egypt and Tripoli commenced in 640 A.D. Byzantine rule was not finally expunged from North Africa till about 710 A.D. In the interval there had been attempts made by the Berbers to remain independent of Arab domination. Roman Carthage was not destroyed until 1271.

« PreviousContinue »