The Enchanted Baths

Robert Southey

(Extract From Thalaba the Destroyer, Book VI)
      “The Hamman Meskouteen, the Silent or Inchanted Baths, are situated on a low ground, surrounded with mountains. There are several fountains that furnish the water, which is of an intense heat, and fall afterwards into the Zenati.”—Shaw’s Travels in Barbary.


The sounds which last he heard at night   
  Awoke his recollection first at morn.   
  A scene of wonders lay before his eyes.   
      In mazy windings o’er the vale   
      A thousand streamlets strayed,           
        And in their endless course   
    Had intersected deep the stony soil,   
    With labyrinthine channels islanding   
      A thousand rocks, which seemed   
    Amid the multitudinous waters there           
Like clouds that freckle o’er the summer sky,   
    The blue ethereal ocean circling each,   
              And insulating all.   
 
          Those islets of the living rock   
            Were of a thousand shapes,           
        And Nature with her various tints   
      Diversified anew their thousand forms;   
        For some were green with moss,   
  Some ruddier tinged, or gray, or silver-white,   
And some with yellow lichens glowed like gold,           
  Some sparkled sparry radiance to the sun.   
        Here gushed the fountains up,   
  Alternate light and blackness, like the play   
  Of sunbeams on a warrior’s burnished arms.   
  Yonder the river rolled, whose ample bed,           
        Their sportive lingerings o’er,   
  Received and bore away the confluent rills.   
 
    This was a wild and wondrous scene,   
        Strange and beautiful, as where   
        By Oton-tala, like a sea of stars,           
    The hundred sources of Hoangho burst.   
        High mountains closed the vale,   
    Bare rocky mountains, to all living things   
      Inhospitable; on whose sides no herb   
      Rooted, no insect fed, no bird awoke           
Their echoes, save the eagle, strong of wing,   
        A lonely plunderer, that afar   
        Sought in the vales his prey.

The legend of the silent baths is that the rock formations of the hot springs at Hammam Debbagh are the petrified wedding procession of a wicked sheikh who married his sister.