Savanna

The Wild Plains of the Old World:—the African Interior

WHEN we have crossed the 18th parallel (or nearly so) of north latitude in Africa and the 30th in Asia—the southern boundary of the Rainless District—countries of extreme fertility and exuberant product succeed to the dreary solitudes we have hitherto traversed.

At intervals, indeed, the traveller encounters some vast blighted and accursed area, where, for a part of each year, a deadly aridity prevails; but ever there comes a happy moment, even in these desolate wastes, when genial Nature resumes her rights, abundant rains nourish vegetable and animal life, and the glowing scene constrains us to exclaim with thankful heart, “The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.”

The Asiatic plains in the south, are, however, preserved from such abrupt alternations; numerous water-courses, leaping downward from the snowy fountains of the Himalayan chain, refresh and fertilize these countries, which are almost everywhere subject to the dominion of man. Analagous causes, in the grand rich islands of the warm Indian seas, produce similar effects; there, also, the very deserts are humid regions, and tall grasses, bushes, shrubs, reeds, and climbing  plants grow in a rank and luxuriant chaos which we designate by the name of jungles, in whose dense obscurity the tiger makes his lair, and the serpent conceals his deadly venom!

In the immense triangle defined by that portion of the African continent which extends from the Mountains of the Moon to the Cape of Good Hope, nature has maintained almost intact her savage independence; but she displays there her most varied forms, from the snow-crested ice-bound mountain to the lowest and most monotonous plain, from the impenetrable forest to the nakedest and barrenest steppe.

To enable the reader to comprehend these widely different aspects, and to describe the peculiar characteristics of each region of this immense continent, it will be necessary for us to recapitulate its most important geographical features.

 

A vast plateau, of comparatively slight elevation, occupies all Southern Africa, extending eastward as far as the fifth or sixth degree north of the equator. To the north-west, it is bounded by the mountains of Senegambia; to the north-east, by those of Abyssinia. On the east and west, the mountains descend to the very shore in secondary chains; to the south the table-land is brought down to the sea in a series of terraces which separate the mountain-ranges.

At its southern extremity, the African continent is from 550 to 600 miles broad. It is occupied by the British colony of the Cape, which is bounded on the north by the Orange River. The most striking features of the physical geography of this part of Africa, and which determine in the main its climate and natural productions, are three chains of mountains disposed parallel to one another and to the southern coast. These are separated by terraces or upland plains, each range forming the boundary of the lower and the abutment of the higher terrace. The communication is maintained by transverse valleys, which are often of a highly romantic character. The loftiest and most inland chain is christened in different parts of its course the Roggeveld Bergen, the Nieuveld Bergen, and the Sneeu Bergen, or  “Snowy Mountains.” Of these the loftiest summit is the Compass Berg, 10,000 feet in altitude. The second chain, the Black Mountains, though not so lofty are more massive, and, in truth, composed of two or three chains in close juxtaposition. The third, or last chain, in proceeding from south to north, varies from eighteen to fifty-four miles, enlarging towards the west.

The plain or terrace between the Black and the Snowy Mountains is much loftier than the two other steps by which we descend to the southern extremity of the continent. The lowest terrace, bordering on the sea, is well-watered and fertile. The second, or central terrace, consists of fertile districts, equally well watered, but intersected by vast dry deserts, called (from a Hottentot word) Karroos. The third terrace, commonly designated the Great Karroo, at the base of the Roggeveld and Nieuveld chain, is 300 miles in length, 80 miles in breadth, and 2000 feet above the sea-level. Its soil, says a writer in the Quarterly Review, presents throughout its whole extent, for the greater portion of the year, not a trace of vegetation. These gloomy solitudes assume a character of picturesque grandeur through their very wildness of desolation. The scene might convey to a fanciful mind the dreary image of a ruined world, where the witches and demons of Goethe's Walpurgis-Night might fitly celebrate their revels.

“And through the cliffs with ruin strewn,
The wild winds whizz, and howl, and moan.”[79]

During the long dry summer months, the smallest birds would not find wherewithal to sustain their existence in these sombre deserts, whose solemn silence not even the murmur of an insect interrupts.

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NIGHT-SCENE IN THE AFRICAN INTERIOR. 
NIGHT-SCENE IN THE AFRICAN INTERIOR.

Yet these regions, deprived of springs and running waters, are not always sterile deserts, are not always desolate plains. In the dry season, the soil, a yellow ferruginous clay, acquires the hardness of brick, just as if it had been exposed to the fire of a furnace; but the roots and bulbs, protected by a ligneous covering, resist the devouring heat. The first rains revive them; they put forth their stems and branches; a myriad flowers reveal their sparkling colours; and the country which, a day or two before, had shown to the eye a bare and dreary surface, shines out in a panoply of splendour, as if a magician's spell had suddenly transformed it into a terrestrial paradise! But as the days lengthen, and the sun's power increases, the bloom and the beauty vanish, and the curse of fire once more descends upon the gloomy scene.

In several districts north of the Cape Colony whole years pass by without the sight or sound of running water rejoicing the wistful wanderer. Dr. Livingstone, while residing among the Bakouans, in the Bechuana country, saw the natives excavating the bed of the Kolobeng to extract a few drops of water. A centigrade thermometer, sunk two and a half inches in the earth, at noon, marked 56°. Insects placed on the surface of the ground died in a few seconds. The grass was so dry that it crumbled into powder when plucked.

The coast of Natal is rich in trees and herbage. The Zambesi, and other rivers which descend from the central plateau, refresh the plains of Mozambique and Zanzibar. But from the 4th parallel of north latitude to Cape Guardafui extends an almost continuous desert. The southern extremity of the Lupata chain also presents a vast naked country, where the presence of gold has encouraged the Portuguese to found some establishments.

The neighbouring zone of Kaffraria consists of great far-spreading, gently-undulating plains, characterized by extreme aridity. The western districts are much less broken than the central, and exhibit no undulations except in the vicinity of the ocean. There an immense level territory exists under the name of the Kalihari Desert, whose southern boundary is marked by the Gariep or Orange River, which drains rather than waters it. To the north this awful wilderness stretches as far as the Lake Ngami, thus covering the area comprised between the 29th and 30th parallels of south latitude. The pastoral country of Namaqua and Damaras bounds it on the west. Eastward it extends to the 24th meridian of west longitude.

Moisture is not wholly wanting in this vast region. The Kalihari  has been called a desert, says Livingstone,[80] because it contains no running water, and very little in wells. Far from being destitute of vegetation, it is covered with grass and creeping plants, and there are large patches of bushes, and even trees. It is remarkably flat; and prodigious herds of antelopes roam over its trackless plains. The soil is composed in general of a fine soft sand, lightly coloured—that is, of a nearly pure silica. In the ancient beds of dried-up rivers lie immense patches of alluvial soil, which, hardened by the sun, form great reservoirs, retaining the rain-water for several months of the year. The quantity of grass flourishing in this region is remarkable. It grows generally in thick tufts, occasionally intermingled with spaces where the earth is naked or closely overgrown with creeping plants. These, deeply rooted in the soil, suffer but little from the effects of the excessive heat. Most of them have tubercular roots, and are so organized as to furnish both food and liquid during the long droughts—an epoch when one vainly seeks elsewhere anything which can appease one's hunger or one's thirst.

The rich vegetation of the Kalihari is due to its geological constitution. It consists of a great valley, or rather of a vast basin, whose bottom is formed of a diluvial earth, and which is encircled by a belt of rocks, cloven at several places. It follows that where the rain is abundant, the slope of the hills directs it towards the centre of the basin, and this rain filters and deposits itself beneath the surface of the soil. And it appears to be a proof of this statement, that on digging in the sand cisterns are formed, or “sucking-places,” which are filled with water supplied by subterraneous conduits.

This so-called Desert is not without its utility. Not only does it nourish innumerable multitudes of animals of every kind, but it has become the asylum of fugitive tribes. Here at first the Bakalabaris found a refuge; and then, in their turn, other peoples of the Bechuana, whose territories had been invaded by the Kaffirs.

The Kalihari has its mirage and its sirocco. During the excessive drought which precedes the rainy season, a burning wind traverses  this desert from north to south, and during its three or four days' duration it withers and dries up everything in its path. It is so loaded with electricity that a bundle of ostrich feathers, which remained exposed to it for a few seconds, was itself charged as if it had been in contact with a powerful electrical machine, and produced a lively disturbance, accompanied by cracking noises, when taken in the hand. As often as this wind prevails, the electricity of the atmosphere is so abundant that every movement of the natives causes sparks to be given off their karosses, or cloaks made of the skin of beasts.

The contrast is striking between the well-watered east coast of South Africa and the arid western coast. After the scarped mountains of the Cape, which ascend northward to the ocean, come the less lofty chains—the hills of sand which separate the interior sandy desert from the equally sandy district of the littoral. With the exception of the Walvish Bay, the coast for eight hundred miles—from the great Orange River to Cape Negro—has not a stream of water.

At Cape Negro commences a series of terraces, separated from one another by long bands of sunken ground. This ensemble describes a curve towards the interior, and leaves on the coast a level plain of about 110 miles in breadth.

In Benguela the plains are healthy and cultivated. More to the north, one encounters nothing but monotonous savannahs and forests with gigantic trees. The soil, at a great number of points, is saturated with water, and, so to speak, enveloped in a shroud of pestilential vapour, which the breeze never scatters.

The low plains of Biafra and Benin, and especially the Delta of the Niger, are unwholesome, rank, and foul-smelling marshes. In their mangrove swamps lurks fever, and a legion of deadly diseases.

“Macies et nova febrium
Terris incubuit cohors.”—(Horace.)

Until the early years of the present century very little was known of the interior of Southern Africa. At this epoch some  native merchants traversed the country from one sea to another—from St. Paul de Loanda to the coast of Mozambique and Zanzibar. This exploit was repeated and outstripped by Dr. Livingstone, who, from 1850 to 1856, accomplished a marvellous journey of six thousand miles, through regions never before trodden by the white man's foot.

Setting out from Kolobeng, the most advanced of the English missionary stations, he arrived, after having crossed some three hundred miles of a region without water, at the beautiful river Zouga, which issues from the western extremity of Lake Ngami.

“A region of drought, where no river glides,
Nor rippling brook with osiered sides,
Nor sedgy pool, nor bubbling fount,
Nor tree, nor cloud, nor misty mount
Appears, to refresh the aching eye;
But barren earth, and the burning sky,
And the blank horizon round and round.”[81]

Lake Ngami is from 45 to 60 miles long, and from 56 to 110 in circumference. Its direction is N.N.E. to S.S.W. Its southern portion curves westward, and it receives from the north-west the Teoughé. The water, very fresh when the lake is full, grows brackish during the dry season. At the latter period it is very shallow, and at eighteen or twenty miles from the shore canoes can be manœuvred with the help of a pole. The banks are everywhere low. At the west a considerable space, utterly bare of trees, proves that the lake was formerly larger. During the months which precede the arrival of the northern waters, cattle, to quench their thirst, make their way with difficulty through the belt of reeds dried up by the sun. The natives, says Livingstone, who reside on the shores of the lake, tell us that trees and antelopes are carried down by the waters during the annual inundation.

The same traveller informs us that the vast regions lying to the north of the lake at such great distances—regions copiously watered, and deluged every year by the heavy tropical rains—pour  towards the south the excess of the waters which saturate their soil; and a certain quantity of these waters, encountering the lake on their way, flow into it. It is in March and April that the inundation begins. The waters, on descending, find the rivers dried up, and the lake itself exceedingly shallow. The rivers in this part of Africa flow in channels capable of containing a far greater volume of water than they generally hold. When looking at them, you might believe yourself in some desolated Oriental garden where all the irrigating canals still exist, but where the dams permit only a mere thread of water to take its course.

“The water,” adds Livingstone,[82] “is less absorbed by the earth than lost between banks too wide apart, where the air and the sun evaporate them. I am persuaded that there is not in the whole of this country a river which loses itself amid the sands.”

The country situated to the north is exceedingly level for some hundreds of miles, and abundantly provided with lakes and rivers, which the slightest undulations of the soil divert into innumerable windings. The plain is alternately covered with sombre thickets, lofty forests, and dense herbage. On the banks of some rivers this herbage assumes gigantic proportions, and by its tenacity opposes an effectual barrier to animals. In many places the wide green pastures are enlivened by large herds of cattle, which the natives breed. The land of the Barotses possess immense prairies of this description, the home of numerous herds of elephants. But this richness of the soil is counterbalanced by the insalubrity of the climate. These vast, periodically flooded surfaces become, when the waters recede, the nurseries of deadly fevers, and other formidable maladies, whose destructive influence extends to a great distance.

The magnificent river Zambesi, known in its upper course by the local appellation of Leambye—both words having the same signification in the native tongue, “the River”—fertilizes and brightens these productive regions. Flowing at first from north to south, it makes a sharp bend westward, to march with stately step from south to north, and from west to east, until, with a south-eastern inclination, it moves onward to the Indian Ocean.

It was at a point nearly midway between the two oceans—the Indian and the Atlantic—that the intrepid Livingstone first descried the Zambesi, regarding its fertile banks and noble stream with much the same emotions of delight and surprise as thrilled to the heart of Balboa, when

“With eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent,upon a peak in Darien.”[83]

He arrived there near the close of the dry season, and yet a grand volume of water still sparkled in the river's bed, which varied from 950 to 1900 feet in breadth. At the epoch of the great floods, the Zambesi rises perpendicularly more than eighteen feet, and at certain points extends more than forty miles from its bank. From the borders of the Chobé to those of the Zambesi spreads a low, level country, whose uniform expanse is only broken by the gigantic hillocks of the termites. At intervals the traveller lights upon spots where the waters have formerly settled, then on great morasses and deep rivers, winding their slow way through an almost impervious jungle. There is a certain fatal beauty about the whole region, like that of a Circe or a Lucrezia Borgia; but its atmosphere breathes disease and death.

A general depression and flatness of surface seems to be the physical characteristic of this part of Central Africa. Thus, on the route adopted by Livingstone, in a N.N.E. direction, from the chain of Bamunguatos to the Zambesi, all is level. Mount N'goua, an isolated mass in 18° 27´ 20´´ south latitude, and 24° 13´ 63´´ east longitude, is a wholly exceptional accident. The Kandehy Valley, which deploys on the northern slope of this narrow colossus, is one of the most picturesque scenes that greeted the eyes of Livingstone during his adventurous pilgrimage. Fruit trees, loaded with emerald foliage, adorn its sides; a crystal brook ripples in the centre. Under the shade of an enormous baobab the graceful antelopes browse undisturbed, until alarmed by the footfall of the approaching traveller. Gnus and zebras contemplate the strange intruder with an air of surprise. A few continue to crop the grass indifferent; others pause in the banquet, uncertain whether to stay or take to flight. The huge hulk of a white rhinoceros drags labouring up the shady valley. Buffaloes, and condors, and giraffes stray far into its pleasant depths as peaceful and almost as trustful as those of their race which, in days remote, wandered among the beauties of Eden, in

“That delicious grove,
That garden, planted with the trees of God.”

Further to the north, even to the river Sanshureh, the country increases in richness and beauty, the water-courses multiply, and the herbage aspires to such a height that vehicles and animals are lost amongst it.

An exceeding gentleness, an almost Arcadian calm, characterizes the landscape on the banks of the Leeba, a great affluent of the Leambye. This river drags its slow and ever-winding waters through a delightful meadow-land, which is probably flooded every year, for there is no wood except where the ground rises four or five feet above the general level of the plain. The soil of these tree-crowned plateaux, or knolls, is sandy, while that of the prairies consists of an alluvial earth, gray and black, and mixed with numerous river-shells.

Ascending the Leeba, we enter on a plain more than eighteen miles in breadth, where the water rises to the traveller's ankles. This water, says Livingstone, does not proceed from the overflow of the river; but the level of the ground is so horizontal that the rain-water cannot pass away, and abides there for months. Still more humid are the adjacent plains of Lobala. This vast submerged area forms a watershed between the rivers of the north and those of the south. Up to this point all the rivers wend their way southward; but from this point they adopt a northerly course, to empty their tribute into the Kasaï or Loké.

The interior table-land, especially towards the mid-course of the Zambesi, is intersected by lofty mountain-chains. It is in this region, and at the southernmost point of the river's great Delta, which is 270 miles in length, that the famous Falls occur, named by the natives “Mosioatounya,” or “Smoke-resounding,” re-christened by Livingstone, the Victoria. Their vast columns of vapour are visible at a distance of five or six miles, and might suggest to an American traveller the rolling clouds that ascend from a burning prairie. The banks and islands of the river are here enriched with sylvan vegetation of every variety of form and colour: the mighty baobab, each of whose enormous arms would form the trunk of a large tree; the graceful palm, with its crest of plume-like foliage; the silvery mohonams, whose leaves sparkle in the sunshine like Achilles' shield; and the nutsouri, abounding in clusters of pleasant scarlet fruit.

The Falls are bounded on three sides by densely-wooded ridges 300 or 400 feet in height, and may be likened to a flood of water a thousand yards broad, suddenly hurled over a basaltic precipice 100 feet in depth, and then as suddenly compressed into a narrow gully not more than fifteen or twenty yards across.

“If one imagines,” says Dr. Livingstone,[84] “the Thames filled with low tree-covered hills immediately below the Tunnel, extending as far as Gravesend, the bed of black basaltic rock instead of London mud, and a fissure made therein from one end of the Tunnel to the other, down through the keystones of the arch, and prolonged from the left end of the Tunnel through thirty miles of hills; then fancy the Thames leaping bodily into the gulf, and forced there to change its direction and flow from the right to the left bank, and then rush boiling and roaring through the hills, he may have some idea of what takes place at this the most wonderful sight I have witnessed in Africa.”

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VICTORIA FALLS, RIVER ZAMBESI. 
VICTORIA FALLS, RIVER ZAMBESI.

In descending into the narrow abyss already spoken of, the  cataract breaks into five separate streams, which send up, to an elevation of 200 or 300 feet, as many columns of luminous vapour—pillars of shivering spray, and foam, and diamond sparkle, which in the sunlight are gloriously wreathed with the rare hues of Iris.

“How profound
The gulf! and how the giant element
From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound,
Crushing the cliffs, which, downward worn and rent
With his fierce footsteps, yield in chasms a vent
To the broad column which rolls on.”—(Byron.)

In descending the Zambesi, we encounter the great river Kafue, which flows from the north. Beyond the point of confluence the country becomes opener, freer, and healthier, and we arrive at the Portuguese town of Tété.

About 200 miles to the north-west of Tété lies the great lake of fresh water, Niyanyizi-Nyassa, or “Lake of Stars,” which stretches far away to the north-west across Unyamuezi, or “The Land of the Moon.” It is rather shallow, sprinkled with numerous fairy islands, and seems to be the remains of an ancient lake of much greater extent. To the south-west a belt of fertile country separates it from another lake called Shirwa, whence issues a beautiful river, tributary to the Zambesi, impeded in its course by numerous rapids, but traversing a level and unwholesome country.

At the same time (1856-58) that Livingstone accomplished these great discoveries, Equatorial Africa was penetrated from the coast of Zambesi by Captains Burton and Speke. These undaunted and indefatigable travellers, after having ascended the river Pangany for a hundred and thirty miles, through a rich and cultivated but pestiferous plain, arrived in February 1858 at Lake Tanganyika, of which the natives had spoken to Livingstone, describing the country lying to the westward of that mass of water as bare of wood, and solely covered with marshy plains.

Lake Tanganyika lies 200 miles S.W. of the Victoria N'yanza, between lat. 3° and 7° 45´ S., at an elevation of 1844 feet above the  sea. The 30th meridian of east longitude strikes it in the centre. Its length is 320 miles; but its breadth seldom exceeds 15 or 20, and never 60 miles, so that it has been compared to a beach inclining its head towards the north. To the north-east its shores are bold and elevated; the water is fresh and deep. The country around it is rich in pasture, where a thriving population breed numerous flocks and herds.

About two hundred miles to the north-east of this lake, and 3740 feet above the sea-level, lies the vast basin of the Victoria N'yanza, discovered by Captain Speke in 1859, and more fully explored by Speke and Grant in 1862. Its northern shore runs nearly parallel to the Equator, at a distance of about twenty miles from it; its southern is in lat. 2° 46´ S., and long. 33° E. It would seem at some remote period to have occupied a much larger area than it does at present, though even now it is supposed to measure 220 miles in length and fully as much in breadth. Speke describes it as very shallow. Fleets of canoes cover its surface; but the natives on the one shore never venture across to the other, and no intercommunication has ever existed between them. The surrounding landscapes are of a pastoral character, genial and fertile, with quiet breadths of rich meadow land, dotted by hundreds of white hornless cattle, and scarcely distinguishable from our midland English scenery, were they not interspersed with groves of the banana, the coffee-tree, and the date-palm. At its north-eastern extremity, and probably connected with it, lies a long narrow basin which the natives call Lake Baringo. On the west it receives the tributary waters of the Kitangulé, and from the north throws off the various streams which unite in one channel to form the famous Nile.

North-west from the N'yanza lies the little Lúta N'zigé, or Albert Lake, discovered by Sir Samuel Baker in 1864; a long, narrow, and shallow basin, surrounded by mountains 7000 feet high, about 230 miles in length, and 2488 feet above the sea-level, which apparently serves as the great reservoir of the Nile.[85]

The discoveries of Livingstone, Burton, Speke, Grant, and Baker, seem to confirm the theory put forward by Sir Roderick Murchison, that the central portion of South Africa is a large and elevated basin, abounding in immense plains, in fertile lands, besprinkled with numerous lakes fed by a thousand currents descending from the lofty mountains that surrounded it. The rains, says Morin, cause these lakes to overflow, and their waters, prevailing over every obstacle, break through the barrier of the high lands, and descend into the lower levels in a series of cataracts, to make their way eventually towards the ocean. Livingstone has proved the truth of this felicitous induction as far as the Zambesi is concerned. The Nile also issues from the lofty table-lands through deep and rocky ravines. The great reservoir of the mysterious Egyptian river, the N'yanza Spekii, may be accepted as the final confirmation of Sir Roderick's theory, and the conspicuous feature of the African people. The southern extremity of this lake stretches as far as the watershed between North and South Africa. Starting from the same viewpoint, Speke concludes that another great lake will be found under the Equator, to the west of the Tanganyika and the N'yanza Victoria. This will be the reservoir of the Congo. To establish this fact will be to solve the last problem of the hydrographic system of Africa.[86]

The western region of the African equatorial zone has been but superficially explored, and in this direction numerous hypotheses remain to be verified. Lake Tchad, situated in Central Nigritia, between Bornou on the west and the south-west, and the Kanem to the north and east, was discovered in 1823 by Major Denham, and explored by Dr. Barth in 1852. The latter traveller grows eloquent in his description of the delicious perspective which he had supposed it would offer to the gaze. He met with numerous slaves on their way to cut grass for the horses. But instead of a lake, an immense treeless plain stretched as far as the eye could reach. The herbage became fresher and greener, thicker and taller; a marshy bottom, describing a curve which projected here and receded there, embarrassed  his progress more and more; and after a useless and prolonged struggle to escape from the quagmire, seeking in vain on the horizon some mirror-like surface, he retraced his steps, dabbling in the slimy water, and consoling himself with the reflection that at least he had seen some traces of the “liquid element.” But the scene was strangely different when, in the winter of 1854-55, more than one-half of the Ngornou was destroyed by the inundation; and to the south of that town lay a deep sea, swallowing up the whole plain even to the village of Koukiya! The lower stratum of the soil, composed of limestone, appeared to have given way in the preceding year, and had lowered the shore of the lake several yards; hence the inundation. But apart from this evidently exceptional geological catastrophe, the character of the Tchad is clearly that of an immense lagoon whose borders change every month, and of which it is consequently impossible to lay down any strictly accurate map.[87]

Lake Tchad lies between lat. 12° 30´ and 14° 30´ N., long. 13° and 15° 30´ S. Its length varies from two hundred to three hundred miles, according to the amount of rainfall and similar circumstances; at its broadest it measures one hundred and seventy miles; and it has an elevation of eight hundred feet above the sea-level. The actual margin of its waters is lined by a deep fence of papyrus and tall reeds, from ten to fourteen feet high. Its islands are densely peopled. Fish and water-fowl abound, and not less do crocodiles and hippopotami. The lake has no outlet, but receives several rivers, of which the Waube and the Shari are the most notable.

The country watered by the Niger is also broken up by vast plains which, fertile and glowing in the rainy season, are scorched and withered by the summer heats. The famous port of Kabara, not far from Timbuktù, is several miles from the river, and only accessible for five months in the year at the epoch of the great rains.

Beyond this belt of vegetation, this girdle of fertility, Nature wears a sombre aspect—the stony look of a corpse; for the immense Desert of the Sahara begins. The transition from the one region to  the other, from the land of plenty to the land of want and famine, from the land of bright lakes, and copious streams, and green pastures, to the land of rocky heights and barren sandy wastes, is as startling as the change which sometimes occurs in human life—the change of a moment, from bustling and exuberant happiness to profound sorrow. It is such contrasts, however, that enable us fully to appreciate the beauty and wealth of Nature.

“The scorching winds from arid deserts borne,”

teach us to prize the balmy breath of the “sweet south” that wanders “o'er a bank of violets.” Fresh from the dreary Sahara plain, burnt and scathed by a Tropic sun, we can feel all the loveliness of the woodland and the leafy vale, of each

“Melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless.”

Thus, in the material world as in the moral and intellectual, the law of compensation prevails, and the wayfarer in the Desert of Life may cheer himself with the recollection that in due time the silence will be succeeded by music, the desolation by beauty, and the wilderness by

“Verdurous glooms, and winding mossy ways.”


[79] Goethe's “Faust,” translated by Theodore Martin, p. 202.

[80] Dr. Livingstone, “Missionary Researches in South Africa.”

[81] Thomas Pringle, “South African Sketches.”

[82] Livingstone, “Missionary Travels and Researches.”

[83] Keat's “Poetical Works,” sonnet ix.

[84] Livingstone, “Missionary Travels and Researches.”

[85] Baker, “Basin of the Nile and Equatorial Africa,” ii. 101-103.

[86] Morin, “Sources du Nil,” in Annuaire Scientifique  for 1864.

[87] Dr. Barth, “Travels and Discoveries in Central Africa” (London, 1857-58).