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The Ruins

Part I, Chapter 19
Thus spoke the legislator; and the multitude, seized with those emotions which a
reasonable proposition always inspires, expressed its applause; while the tyrants, left
without support, were overwhelmed with confusion.
A scene of a new and astonishing nature then opened to my view. All that the earth
contains of people and of nations; men of every race and of every region, converging
from their various climates, seemed to assemble in one allotted place; where, forming an
immense congress, distinguished in groups by the vast variety of their dresses, features,
and complexion, the numberless multitude presented a most unusual and affecting sight.
On one side I saw the European, with his short close coat, pointed triangular hat, smooth
chin, and powdered hair; on the other side the Asiatic, with a flowing robe, long beard,
shaved head, and round turban. Here stood the nations of Africa, with their ebony skins,
their woolly hair, their body girt with white and blue tissues of bark, adorned with
bracelets and necklaces of coral, shells, and glass; there the tribes of the north, enveloped
in their leathern bags; the Laplander, with his pointed bonnet and his snow-shoes; the
Samoyede, with his feverish body and strong odor; the Tongouse, with his horned cap,
and carrying his idols pendant from his neck; the Yakoute, with his freckled face; the
Kalmuc, with his flat nose and little retorted eyes. Farther distant were the Chinese,
attired in silk, with their hair hanging in tresses; the Japanese, of mingled race; the
Malays, with wide-spreading ears, rings in their noses, and palm-leaf hats of vast
circumference;* and the tattooed races of the isles of the southern ocean and of the
continent of the antipodes.** The view of so many varieties of the same species, of so
many extravagant inventions of the same understanding, and of so many modifications of
the same organization, affected me with a thousand feelings and a thousand thoughts.***
I contemplated with astonishment this gradation of color, which, passing from a bright
carnation to a light brown, a deeper brown, dusky, bronze, olive, leaden, copper, ends in
the black of ebony and of jet. And finding the Cassimerian, with his rosy cheek, next to
the sun-burnt Hindoo, and the Georgian by the side of the Tartar, I reflected on the effects
of climate hot or cold, of soil high or low, marshy or dry, open or shaded. I compared the
dwarf of the pole with the giant of the temperate zones, the slender body of the Arab with
the ample chest of the Hollander; the squat figure of the Samoyede with the elegant form
of the Greek and the Sclavonian; the greasy black wool of the Negro with the bright
silken locks of the Dane; the broad face of the Kalmuc, his little angular eyes and
flattened nose, with the oval prominent visage, large blue eyes, and aquiline nose of the
Circassian and Abazan. I contrasted the brilliant calicoes of the Indian, the well-wrought
stuffs of the European, the rich furs of the Siberian, with the tissues of bark, of osiers,
leaves and feathers of savage nations; and the blue figures of serpents, flowers, and stars,
with which they painted their bodies. Sometimes the variegated appearance of this
multitude reminded me of the enamelled meadows of the Nile and the Euphrates, when,
after rains or inundations, millions of flowers are rising on every side. Sometimes their