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For the last time knelt down — and, though the shade
The story of the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan being ended, they were now doomed to hear FADLADEEN'S criticisms upon it. A series of disappointments and accidents had occurred to this learned Chamberlain during the journey. In the first place, those couriers stationed, as in the reign of Shah Jehan, between Delhi and the Western coast of India, to secure a constant supply of mangoes for the Royal Table, had, by some cruel irregularity, failed in their duty; and to eat any mangoes but those of Mazagong was, of course, impossible. In the next place the elephant, laden with his fine antique porcelain, had in an unusual fit of liveliness shattered the whole set to pieces : - an irreparable loss, as many of the vessels were so exquisitely old as to have been used under the Emperors Yan and Chun, who reigned many ages before the dynasty of Tang. His Koran too, supposed to be the identical copy between the leaves of which Mahomet's favourite pigeon used to nestle, had been mislaid by his Koranbearer three whole days; not without much spiritual
alarm to FADLADEEN, who, though professing to hold with other loyal and orthodox Mussulmans, that salvation could only be found in the Koran, was strongly suspected of believing in his heart, that it could only be found in his own particular copy of it. When to all these grievances is added the obstinacy of the cooks, in putting the pepper of Canara into his dishes instead of the cinnamon of Serendib, we may easily suppose that he came to the task of criticism with, at least, a sufficient degree of irritability for the purpose.
“ In order,” said he, importantly swinging about his chaplet of pearls, “ to convey with clearness my opinion of the story this young man has related, it is necessary to take a review of all the stories that have ever
My good FADLADEEN !” exclaimed the Princess, interrupting him, “ we really do not deserve that you should give yourself so much trouble. Your opinion of the poem we have just heard, will, I have no doubt, be abundantly edifying, without any further waste of your valuable erudition.” “ If that be all,” replied the critic, — evidently mortified at not being allowed to show how much he knew about every thing, but the
e reason 1
subject immediately before him; — 6 if that be all that is required, the matter is easily dispatched.” He then proceeded to analyse the poem, in that strain, (so well known to the unfortunate bards of Delhi,) whose cen-sures were an infliction from which few recovered, and whose very praises were like the honey extracted from the bitter flowers of the aloe. The chief personages of the story were, if he rightly understood them, an ill-favoured gentleman, with a veil over his face; a young lady, whose reason went and came according as it suited the poet's convenience to be sensible or otherwise ; — and a youth in one of those hideous Bucharian bonnets, who took the aforesaid gentleman in a veil for a Divinity. “ From such materials,” said he, “ what can be expected ? after rivalling each other in long speeches and absurdities, through some thousands of lines as indigestible as the filberds of Berdaa, our friend in the veil jumps into a tub of aqua-fortis; the young lady dies in a set speech, whose only recommendation is that it is her last; and the lover lives on to a good old age, for the laudable purpose of seeing her ghost, which he at last happily accomplishes and expires. This, you will allow, is a fair summary of the story; and if Nasser, the Arabian merchant, told no better, our Holy Prophet (to whom be all honour and glory!) had no need to be jealous of his abilities for story-telling." i
With respect to the style, it was worthy of the matter; — it had not even those politic contrivances of structure, which make up for the commonness of the thoughts by the peculiarity of the manner, nor that stately poetical phraseology by which sentiments mean in themselves, like the blacksmith’s ’ apron converted into a banner, are so easily gilt and embroidered into consequence. Then, as to the versification, it was, to say no worse of it, execrable: it had neither the copious flow of Ferdosi, the sweetness of Hafez, nor the sententious march of Sadi; but appeared to him, in
1 La lecture de ces Fables plaisoit si fort aux Arabes, que, quand Mahomet les entretenoit de l'Histoire de l'Ancien Testament, ils les méprisoient, lui disant que celles que Nasser leur racontoient étoient beaucoup plus belles. Cette préference attira à Nasser la malediction de Mahomet et de tous ses disciples. — D'Herbelot.
2 The blacksmith Gao, who successfully resisted the tyrant Zohak, and whose apron became the Royal Standard of Persia.