10 APRIL 1920, Page 9


IN spring, from Tiberias to Nazareth, and for many miles beyond, a man may wade in flowers. They wash in never- ' ending seas westward, till the seas which run from Cyprus check them. As I crossed the Galilean uplands, in early April, pink flax and the yellow scabious, perhaps the two most universal and abundant of Palestine flowers, ran riot. But they had a score of gracious companions, scarcely less abundant, and the grass of the field seemed to be all flowers. Lilies had finished, except for stars of Bethlehem and an occasional stalk of golden asphodeline in the rocks, shining like tapers in their niches. But, though our Version says " Consider the lilies," we know that Christ considered not the lilies only, but pointed to cyclamen and scabious, to flax and crimson windflower. And walking this road, His path between Nazareth and Galilee, He saw cranes- bills and lupins, field chrysanthemums, marguerites, gentians, broomrapes white and blue. Not yellow scabious alone, but two kinds of blue, the tall, full-headed one of English heaths and a many-branching, smaller-flowered, resembling rather our devil's bit scabious, were common. Both the Palestine rest- harrows, the pink and the golden, were at their best. And everywhere were tangles and thickets of red-berried burnet, a dwarf copse some twelve inches in height.

I passed the Karn Hattin, a hill-face like the lowering front of a bull. A grove studded its northern end, where Saladin received his captives, after the fierce slaughter, and slew Reginald of Kerak for truce-breaking. Near Cana, rock cropped out, boulders bright with cyclamen and tall campanula. A large owl danced on a patch of sunlight. These Palestine owls care as little for glare as the little owls of Huntingdonshire roads do. A snake whipped across the path. I struck it, acting on the habit which years in India save given ; but my friend cried out in protest, so I let it go by. But a Galilean peasant behind us leapt on its head and crushed it to death with his heel.

Cana is a dusty hamlet, amid olives, pomegranates, and cactus. The cactus, at least, is a newcomer since Christ's time. But the fountain runs freely as of old, flowing into the stone sarcophagus. Sarcophagi are the usual water-receivers in Palestine. After Cana, the road took us by two famous battlefields. There was the Fountain where the Knights Templars perished—" and in the month of May, When the people of Nazareth were wont to gather roses," instead of the rose-harvest the dead were gathered for burial. And there was the place of Junot's sensational victory, a jungle of cactus now, as then. Belt Lidd, where the Seelorths were flung at cactussed terraces, in Allenby's great sweep northward, was just such another hill.

But I wanted to see the flowers which Christ had known in His boyhood. So we went out from Nazareth, with evening, and climbed the Hill of Precipitation. Whether it was from here that His townsfolk tried to throw Him down, or not, I am sure He often came here. Here you looked out on the world, on the great highways of splendid Roman power and of traffic. Herod's palace at Tiberias was shut away in the Jordan rift, with no outlook except what the gaps of the mountains gave. But here, at the gates of Nazareth " the flower village," the boy could look down on the Esdraelon plain, where so many armies had perished or fled. Fronting were Gilboa and Carmel. Beisan, where the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were exposed, is just round the sweep of Little Hermon. Here He must have lain and watched. One remembers Hugh Miller, after his father's death at sea, lying out on the cliff, as his autobiography deserilies and as James Smetham has shown him, in. the most wistful of his etchings, looking far outward, as he dieamed. .

What flowers, then, did the boy see when He visited these hills ? In the tiny valleys which rift them He would find all the flowers of which I have written, with gladiolus and bladder campion in the plots of wheat. Among the boulders were knapweeds, marguerites, marigolds, poppies, wild pinks. Where the mountain-mass has surged up before it drops abruptly are rocks jagged and cruel, so that, even with boots, it was a sharp pain to clamber over them. Their interstices are crammed with scrub, with lentisk, burnet, carob, ilex. Yet even here I found abundant flowers. Bee-orchis grew freely, not the dwarf bee- orchis so common throughout Lebanon, but the large flower of our Sussex downs. I cannot forget my own wonder, as a boy,

when I climbed over a wall in the Cotswolds and found mycelf in a field where bee-orchises grew in their hundreds. No boy, certainly not the boy who lived in Nazareth, could see this whimsical, exquisite flower and forget it. I found it nowhere else in Palestine or Syria. But it was at home in these rocks, where strange plants seemed bo have been clustered, as if of set purpose. Here, in its season, the boy who wondered at the bee- orchis and the kindly fantasy of its Artificer, could find the flowers of butcher's broom, green-white stars with central purple spikes, quaintly pinned on the undersides of the leaves. Here grew quaking-grass, with larger seeds than our English kind. Cyclamens, daintiest of rock-flowers, sprang from their variegated leaves. These the Syrians of Lebanon call " Lady Mary's Incense " and " Pitchers of the Mountains." But, with their flaming, brushed-up petals, like tresses, they seemed to me, especially the scarlet ones, like pierrettes or columbines. Red anemones are here, but these had finished when I came. Their place was not vacant, since the red ranunculus had filled it, a flower not easily distinguished till you come up to it. Hegel's; ciliaris, which is not unlike a double yellow ranunculus ; the red Helichrysum sanguineum ; Geropogan glabrum, like a grass which had decided to put out pink flowers ; Umbilicus pendu- linus, the common pennywort of houses and hills—all these are in the crags where Nazareth breaks down to the central plain. But it is not by the flowers alone that a boy might wonder as he " thought God's thoughts after Him." For in the butcher's broom I found a large green mantis, with body and wings perfect in mimicry of stick and leaf. And the place is lonely, a crag at