Words of Wonder by Edith Wharton
To visit Morocco is
still like turning the pages
of some illuminated Persian manuscript
all embroidered with
bright shapes and subtle lines.
I stand in a portico hung with gentian-blue ipomeas …
and look out on a land of mists and mysteries;
a land of trailing silver veils through which domes and minarets,
mighty towers and ramparts of flushed stone,
hot palm groves and Atlas snows,
peer and disappear at the will of the Atlantic cloud drifts….
From far off, through circuitous corridors,
came the scent of citrus-blossom and jasmine,
with sometimes a bird’s song before dawn,
sometimes a flute’s wail at sunset,
and always the call of the muezzin in the night.
Edith Wharton is one of the major figures in American literary history. She is the author of more than 40 volumes – novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction – becoming the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale. Wharton was born during the Civil War; her upbringing provided her with insights on the upper class, while her sense of humour and polished prose produced fiction that appealed to a large audience.
At the end of the First World War Edith Wharton travelled to Morocco and explored the country for four weeks by military vehicle. This trip was the basis for her book “In Morocco”, in which she documented her experience. Places she visited include Rabat, Fez, Moulay Idriss and Marrakech. Her book is beautifully summarising her impressions of the culture, of the history and the Moroccan people. With her book Edith Wharton captured a place transitioning from an almost unknown, roadless empire to a popular tourist destination. The quotes above are excerpts of her book.
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