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slightly depressed that it gained only a circumscribed and limited 

fertility through the springs, which, in the lowest portions of it, 

oozed from the ground. The third valley--the central one--remains now to 

be described. 


The reader will observe, by referring once more to the map, that south 

of the great rainless region of which we are speaking, there lie groups 

and ranges of mountains in Abyssinia, called the Mountains of the Moon. 

These mountains are near the equator, and the relation which they 

sustain to the surrounding seas, and to currents of wind which blow in 

that quarter of the world, is such, that they bring down from the 

atmosphere, especially in certain seasons of the year, vast and 

continual torrents of rain. The water which thus falls drenches the 

mountain sides and deluges the valleys. There is a great portion of it 

which can not flow to the southward or eastward toward the sea, as the 

whole country consists, in those directions, of continuous tracts of 

elevated land. The rush of water thus turns to the northward, and, 

pressing on across the desert through the great central valley which we 

have referred to above, it finds an outlet, at last, in the 

Mediterranean, at a point two thousand miles distant from the place 

where the immense condenser drew it from the skies. The river thus 

created is the Nile. It is formed, in a word, by the surplus waters of a 

district inundated with rains, in their progress across a rainless 

desert, seeking the sea. 


If the surplus of water upon the Abyssinian mountains had been constant 

and uniform, the stream, in its passage across the desert, would have 

communicated very little fertility to the barren sands which it 

traversed. The immediate banks of the river would have, perhaps, been 

fringed with verdure, but the influence of the irrigation would have 

extended no farther than the water itself could have reached, by 

percolation through the sand. But the flow of the water is not thus 

uniform and steady. In a certain season of the year the rains are 

incessant, and they descend with such abundance and profusion as almost 

to inundate the districts where they fall. Immense torrents stream down 

the mountain sides; the valleys are deluged; plains turn into morasses, 

and morasses into lakes. In a word, the country becomes half submerged, 

and the accumulated mass of waters would rush with great force and 

violence down the central valley of the desert, which forms their only 

outlet, if the passage were narrow, and if it made any considerable 

descent in its course to the sea. It is, however, not narrow, and the 

descent is very small. The depression in the surface of the desert, 

through which the water flows, is from five to ten miles wide, and, 

though it is nearly two thousand miles from the rainy district across 

the desert to the sea, the country for the whole distance is almost 

level. There is only sufficient descent, especially for the last 

thousand miles, to determine a very gentle current to the northward in 

the waters of the stream. 


Under these circumstances, the immense quantity of water which falls in 

the rainy district in these inundating tropical showers, expands over 

the whole valley, and forms for a time an immense lake, extending in 

length across the whole breadth of the desert. This lake is, of course, 

from five to ten miles wide, and a thousand miles long. The water in it 

is shallow and turbid, and it has a gentle current toward the north. The 

rains, at length, in a great measure cease; but it requires some months 

for the water to run off and leave the valley dry. As soon as it is 

gone, there springs up from the whole surface of the ground which has 

been thus submerged a most rank and luxuriant vegetation. 


This vegetation, now wholly regulated and controlled by the hand of man, 

must have been, in its original and primeval state, of a very peculiar 

character. It must have consisted of such plants only as could exist 

under the condition of having the soil in Which they grew laid, for a 

quarter of the year, wholly under water. This circumstance, probably, 

prevented the valley of the Nile from having been, like other fertile 

tracts of land, encumbered, in its native state, with forests. For the 

same reason, wild beasts could never have haunted it. There were no 

forests to shelter them, and no refuge or retreat for them but the dry 

and barren desert, during the period of the annual inundations. This 

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