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MOSCOW, What the great Napoleon thought when he gazed for the first time across the broad valley that lay at his feet, and caught the first dazzling light that flashed from the walls and golden cupolas of the Kremlin-whether some shadowy sense of the wondrous beauties of the scene did not enter his soul-is more than I can say with certainty; but this much I know, that neither he nor his legions could have enjoyed the view from Sparrow Hill more than I did the first glimpse of the grand old city of the Czars as I stepped from the railroad dépôt, with my knapsack on my back, and stood, a solitary and bewildered waif, uncertain if it could all be real; for never yet had I, in the experience of many years' travel, seen such a magnificent sight, so wildly Tartaric, so strange, glowing, and incomprehensible. This was Moscow at last-the Moscow I had read of when a child—the Moscow I had so often seen burnt up in panoramas by an excited and patriotic populace—the Moscow ever flashing through memory in fitful gleams, half buried in smoke, and flames, and toppling ruins, now absolutely before me, a gorgeous reality in the bright noonday sun, with its countless churches, its domes and cupolas, and mighty Kremlin.
Stand with me, reader, on the first eminence, and let us take a bird's-eye view of the city, always keeping in mind that the Kremlin is the great nucleus from which it all radiates. What a vast, wavy ocean of golden cupolas and fancy-colored domes, green-roofed houses and tortuous streets circle around this magic pile! what a combination of wild, barbaric splendors! nothing within the sweep of vision that is not glowing and Oriental. Never was a city so fashioned for scenic effects. From the banks of the Moskwa the Kremlin rears its glittering crest, surrounded by green-capped towers and frowning embattlements, its umbrageous gardens and massive white walls conspicuous over the vast sea of greenroofed houses, while high above all, grand and stern, like some grim old Czar of the North, rises the magnificent tower of Ivan Veliki. Within these walls stand the chief glories of Moscow—the palaces of the Emperor, the Cathedral of the Assumption, the House of the Holy Synod, the Treasury, the Arsenal, and the Czar Kolokol, the great king of bells. All these gorgeous edifices, and many more, crown the eminence which forms the sacred grounds, clustering in a magic maze of beauty around the tower of Ivan the Terrible. Beyond the walls are numerous open spaces occupied by booths and markets; then come the principal streets and buildings of the city, encircled by the inner boulevards; then the suburbs, around which wind the outer boulevards; then a vast tract of beautiful and undulating country, dotted with villas, lakes, convents, and public buildings, inclosed in the far distance by the great outer wall, which forms a circuit of twenty miles around the city. The Moskwa River enters near the Presnerski Lake, and, taking a circuitous route, washes the base of the Kremlin, and passes out near the convent of St. Daniel. If you undertake, however, to trace out any plan of the city from the confused maze of streets that lie outspread before you, it will be infinitely worse than an attempt to solve the mysteries of a woman's heart; for there is no apparent plan about it; the whole thing is an unintelligible web of accidents. There is no accounting for its irregularity, unless upon the principle that it became distorted in a perpetual struggle to keep within reach of the Kremlin.
It is sometimes rather amusing to compare one's preconceived ideas of a place with the reality. A city like Moscow is very difficult to recognize from any written
description. From some cause wholly inexplicable, I had pictured to my mind a vast gathering of tall, massive houses, elaborately ornamented; long lines of narrow and gloomy streets; many great palaces, dingy with age; and a population composed chiefly of Russian nabobs and their retinues of serfs. The reality is almost exactly the reverse of all these preconceived ideas. The houses for the most part are low-not over one or two stories high-painted with gay and fanciful colors, chiefly yellow, red, or blue; the roofs of tin or zinc, and nearly all of a bright green, giving them a very lively effect in the sun; nothing grand or imposing about them in detail, and but little pretension to architectural beauty. Very nearly such houses may be seen every day on any of the four continents.
Still, every indication of life presents a very different aspect from any thing in our own country. The people have a slow, slouching, shabby appearance; and the traveler is forcibly reminded, by the strange costumes he meets at every turn—the thriftless and degenerate aspect of the laboring classes--the great lumbering wagons that roll over the stone-paved streets—the droskies rattling hither and thither with their grave, priest-like drivers and wild horses--the squads of filthy soldiers lounging idly at every corner—the markets and marketplaces, and all that gives interest to the scene, that he is in a foreign land—a wild land of fierce battles between the elements, and fiercer still between men—where civilization is ever struggling between Oriental barbarism and European profligacy. .
The most interesting feature in the population of Moscow is their constant and extraordinary displays of religious enthusiasm. This seems to be confined to no class or sect, but is the prevailing characteristic. No less than three hundred churches are embraced within the limits of the city. Some writers estimate the number as high as five hundred; nor does the discrepancy show so much a want of accuracy as the difficulty of de
termining precisely what constitutes a distinct church. Many of these remarkable edifices are built in clusters, with a variety of domes and cupolas, with different names, and contain distinct places of worship-as in the Cathedral of St. Basil, for instance, which is distinguished by a vast number of variegated domes, and embraces within its limits at least five or six separate churches, each church being still farther subdivided into various chapels. Of the extraordinary architectural style of these edifices, their many-shaped and highly-colored domes, representing all the hues of the rainbow, the gilding so lavishly bestowed upon them, their wonderfully picturesque effect from every point of view, it would be impossible to convey any adequate idea without entering into a more elaborate description than I can at present attempt.
But it is not only in the numberless churches scattered throughout the city that the devotional spirit of the inhabitants is manifested. Moscow is the Mecca of Russia, where all are devotees. The external forms of religion are every where apparent–in the palaces, the barracks, the institutions of learning, the traktirs, the bathhouses—even in the drinking cellars and gambling-hells. Scarcely a bridge or corner of a street is without its shrine, its pictured saint and burning taper, before which every by-passer of high or low degree bows down and worships. It may be said with truth that one is never out of sight of devotees baring their heads and prostrating themselves before these sacred images. : All distinctions of rank seem lost in this universal passion for prayer. The nobleman, in his gilded carriage with liveried servants, stops and pays the tribute of an uncovered head to some saintly image by the bridge or the roadside; the peasant, in his shaggy sheepskin capote, doffs his greasy cap, and, while devoutly crossing himself, utters a prayer; the soldier, grim and warlike, marches up in his rattling armor, grounds his musket, and forgets for the time his mission of blood; the tradesman, with
his leather apron and labor-worn hands, lays down his tools and does homage to the shrine; the drosky-driver, noted for his petty villainies, checks his horse, and, standing up in his drosky, bows low and crosses himself before he crosses the street or the bridge; even my guide, the saturnine Dominico-and every body knows what guides are all over the world—balted at every corner, regardless of time, and uttered an elaborate form of adjurations for our mutual salvation.
Pictures of a devotional character are offered for sale in almost every booth, alley, and passage-way, where the most extraordinary daubs may be seen pinned up to the walls. Saints and dragons, fiery-nosed monsters, and snakes, and horrid creeping things, gilded and decorated in the most gaudy style, attract idle crowds from morning till night.
It is marvelous with what profound reverence the Russians will gaze at these extraordinary specimens of art. Often you see a hardened-looking ruffian his face covered with beard and filth; his great, brawny form resembling that of a prize-fighter; his costume a ragged blouse, with loose trowsers thrust in his boots; such a wretch, in short, as you would select for an unmitigated ruffian if you were in want of a model for that character-take off his cap, and, with superstitious awe and an expression of profound humility, bow down before some picture of a dragon with seven heads or a chubby little baby of saintly parentage.
That these poor people are sincere in their devotion there can be no doubt. Their sincerity, indeed, is attested by the strongest proofs of self-sacrifice. A Russian will not hesitate to lie, rob, murder, or suffer starvation for the preservation of his religion. Bigoted though he may be, he is true to his faith and devoted to his forms of worship, whatever may be his short-comings in other respects. · It is a part of his nature; it permeates his entire being. Hence no city in the world, perhaps
Jerusalem not excepted-presents so strange a spec