Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/209

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180
PERSIA.

and like one and the same original. The carpets and nummuds of these apartments are of the most delicate fabric.

But the place of greatest attraction to an oriental taste is the summer-bath. This bath-saloon, or court, is circular, with a vast basin in the centre, of pure white marble, of the same shape, and about sixty or seventy feet in diameter. This is filled with the clearest water, sparkling in the sun, for its only canopy is the vault of heaven; but rose-trees, with other pendent shrubs bearing flowers, cluster near it, and at times their waving branches throw a beautifully quivering shade over the excessive brightness of the water. Round the sides of the court are two ranges, one above another, of little chambers looking towards the bath, and furnished with every refinement of the harem. These are for the accommodation of the ladies, who accompany the Shah during his occasional sojourns at the Negauristan. The royal master frequently takes his noontide repose in one of the upper chambers which encircle the saloon of the bath; and, if he be inclined, he has only to turn his eyes to the scene below, to behold the loveliest objects of his tenderness sporting like naiads in the crystal stream, and glowing in all the bloom and brilliancy which belong to Asiatic youth. In such a bath-court, it is probable that Bathsheba was seen by the enamoured king of Israel. As he was "walking at eventide on the roof of his palace," he might undesignedly have strolled far enough to overlook the anderoon of his women, where the beautiful wife of Uriah, visiting the royal wives, might have joined them, as is often the custom of these countries, in the delights of the bath.

A brief notice of a very extraordinary natural phenomenon will scarcely be deemed an inappropriate conclusion to this chapter, inasmuch as it relates to the production of a material employed in the principal buildings of Persia.

Near the village of Shirameen, not far from the lake of Shahee, are ponds or plashes, whose indolent waters, by a slow and regular process, stagnate, concrete and petrify, and produce the beautiful transparent stone, commonly called Tabreez marble, so remarkable in most of the burial-places in Persia, and which forms a chief ornament in all the buildings of note throughout the country. These ponds, which are situated close to one another, are contained in the circumference of about half a mile, and their position is marked by confused heaps of stone which have accumulated as the excavations have increased. On approaching the spot, says Mr. Morier, the ground has a hollow sound, with a particularly dreary and calcined appearance, and when upon it, a strong mineral smell arises from the ponds. The process of petrifaction is to be traced from its first beginning to its termination. In one part the water was clear, in a