Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/187

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160
PERSIA.

they go out, this piece of drapery is occasionally drawn up over the mouth, leaving nothing of the face to be seen but the eyes and the too often very floridly shining nose. A kind of jacket reaches nearly to the knee; it is made of different sorts of stuff, and enriched with lace and embroidery, according to the wealth of the husband. A pair of rather tight trowsers, of flowered velvet, trimmed also, with a fine shawl round the waist, completes the dress of an Armenian lady. Sometimes, however, old women and children wear the ancient national girdle, namely a broad belt ornamented with knobs and buttons, and clasped in front by an oval piece of silver of great size and weight and heavily embossed. The sheet, or chadre, with which they envelope themselves when going abroad, is white. In summer, their feet are naked; in winter, covered by a sock. They seldom adopt the walking-boot of the Persian ladies, which is yellow, of the Hessian shape, and reaches half-way up the leg. The children of both sexes dress in the same style as their parents; only with this addition, that the caps of the girls are ornamented with rows of ducats and toomauns.

Such is the description of Sir Robert Porter. Mr. Morier gives us to understand, that the piece of drapery with which the women cover the lower part of the face, passes over the nose, and is so very tightly compressed that the nose of every Armenian woman is flattened as broad as a negro's: in the house, as well as abroad, they wear this nose-band, which is never laid aside even in bed. Their features are broad and coarse, their complexions fair and ruddy, and their eyes black; but their faces in general excite little interest. They allow none of their hair to be seen, excepting a long plaited tail that hangs over the back to the ground; and on their heads they place a species of cushion, which expands at the top. See the opposite plate.

The custom of veiling themselves is observed by the Armenian females with such care, that a man marries without having ever seen the face of his bride. Hence Tournefort remarks with rather more of pleasantry than truth, that there are Armenians who would not know their own wives were they to find them in the arms of another man. "Every night," says he, "they extinguish the light before they unveil, and most of them never uncover their faces in the day-time. An Armenian, returning from a long journey, is not sure to find the same wife; he cannot tell whether she may not be dead, and whether some other woman may not have stepped into the place' of the deceased."

The religion of the Armenians is not that of the heart, but consists in the observance of ceremonies and an external show of piety: they hurry through the duties which it enjoins, as they would the most irksome task. Their priests themselves encour-