May 15, 2012

Locusts, 1827 | Walking Through Egypt

Locusts, 1827 
Robert Hay

Egyptian Locusts
This morning the cries of the people were heard on both sides of the river lamenting the certain loss of their crops and calling on God and the Prophet to spare them. Last night’s (southerly) wind had brought down a large flight of locusts which now darkened the air and was settling on every green spot they could find. The whole morning they were very numerous but not as they were at first, as a great proportion of them had settled.

About one o’clock I went out of the boat and my surprise was indescribable when I witnessed the scene of devastation that lay before me. A field of young dura was eaten level with the ground, so that there existed scarcely part of a stalk! Yet notwithstanding the clearance they made, the ground was literally yellow with them, and I think without any exaggeration, and even perhaps I am within bounds when I say they were 40 to each square foot! How frightful then must have been their numbers when we consider the distance they spread themselves? As we walked through [a field] they rose like a swarm of bees, at this time the air was so filled with them that it had perfectly the appearance of a heavy fall of snow which appearance was increased by the thickness of the atmosphere.

Hay moved on up the river.
The water wheels had ceased to work and everything wore so sad an aspect that we could not feel too thankful that our own country is not visited by such a dreadful and appalling scourge! Labour lost, and money that can be ill afforded spent. All to begin again! and perhaps it may be again the fate of the second crop to be devoured in a few hours after weeks of labour!!!

Along the banks every tree and bush was yellow with the crop of locusts that it bore; all verdure was fast disappearing and in a great many instances, perfectly gone. Sunt trees and doums. Palm-trees with their fruit. The cotton plant. The dura and even the coarse grass all shared the same fate!

I believe it almost impossible for any one to conceive such a scene without having witnessed it. For though they may give credit to what has been related by so many, they cannot form an idea of the scene of rapid desolation that follows the appearance of this destructive insect.


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