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THE INHABITED WELL.
From the Hindoostanee. The name of Mahummud, as the founder of a false religion, is familiar to every one; and, in this view, his history has been studied, and his impostures exposed by philosophers and divines. But it has been, perhaps, less remarked, that, among the vulgar of those nations where his religion is professed, he is better known as the hero of a series of romantic tales, as the King Arthur, in short, of eastern chivalry, than as the saint or lawgiver. His friends and companions (ushab) are exactly the knights of his round-table ; and their common exploits have been the subject of as much rugged rhyme as those of the champions of Christendom. The Koran, which contains what is really known concerning Mahummud, never having been profaned by translation, has left room, among his ignorant followers, for a plentiful crop of romance; and of this circumstance the ballad-chroniclers of the East have not omitted to take due advantage. Every exploit of which the actor was a name, either obsolete or unknown, has found a ready hero in this favourite of their devotion; and many ,a pearl which glittered of old in the romantic diadems of Rustam, Secunder, or the forgotten heroes of Ind, has been translated to a situation where it may shine to more advantage in the tiara of Mahummud. Some of these gems, it must be confessed, are but “ barbaric pearl ;” but many appear to be really interesting, and will bear a comparison with anything of the same kind in European literature. The following is one which has frequently amused me, and which I translated from a manuscript given me by an old Moollah from Surat; the story is familiar to the Indian Mussulmans, and perhaps also to those of other countries.
There are many passages in this, as in other specimens of Oriental narrative, whose extravagance at once startles a European imagination out of the dream of reality which more gentle management might have prolonged to the end of the fiction. Most of these, as they are not necessary to the general outline of the story, I have retrenched or changed; the rest, without much violating the better regulations of European literature, will still give a sufficient specimen of what is required from the poets of Hindoostan* to gratify the wild taste of their countrymen.
THE INHABITED WELL.
When mid-day's fierce and cloudless sun
Illumed the desert's sand, Mahummud pitch'd his spreading tents,
To rest his wearied band.
From dawn till noon their march had sped,
Beneath the scorching sun ;
The summer's drought begun.
• It may amuse some readers to trace similarities between languages so remote as the Hindoostanee and vulgar Scots. The following are a few of the more striking coincidences :Scots.
Hindoostanee. Gird, a hoop.
Gird, round, circle. Sing, to singe.
Sengnu, to toast (bread.) Peery, a boy's top.
Phira, anything whirled round: Bannock, a toasted cake.
Bhonna, to toast. Huff, pet, anger.
Khuffa, angry, vexed. Hallukit, frolicsome, light-witted. Huluka, light; wed; wit. To Job, to pierce, to prick.
Chobna, to prick. Swatch, a specimen.
Suwatchna, to try, to prove. Ne funk, (a term used by children at mar Ne phenko, don't fling.
bles) no flinging. Goose, a tailor's smoothing iron.
Ghusna, to rub, to smooth. Poh, get out.
Po, imperative of Pona, to go. Glaur, mud.
Gilawu, mud. Flobby, portly, fat.
And faint with thirst, the straggling bands “ And go, thy lurking friends recal,
Where'er they flee to hide ;
Before my presence guide.” Each gasping wanderer faint return'd, “My people's haunts,” the man replied, His comrades' hopes to damp;
“May scarce be quickly found ; And raging thirst despairing burn'd They fled distress'd, when far they heard Through all the restless camp.
Thine host's approaching sound. Mahummud heard the wailing voice “An hundred years my days have pass’d That mid his followers
Amid this lonely wild, “ Go, Ali, friend beloved,” he cried, And these the gods, and this the faith, “ Go thou, the search renew.
My fathers taught their child.
He seized the Brahman's wither'd hand; “ But he whose steps have ventured there, Again they pierced the wood,
While thirst impatient burn'd, Across the burning wild they pass'd, Cut off by some unearthly hand, Amid the camp they stood.
Has never thence return'd. Mahummud saw : with sovereign voice “ The boldest dares not seek the brink, He called the Brahman near.
Though parch'd with sorest drought ; “Lo !” cried the Prince, “thine idols leave, The fainting traveller turns his head, My better counsels hear;
And shuns the haunted spot.
“And now, do thou, (if such thy power,) But, all unshaken, Malik heard
Those voices rising drear ;
He call'd his followers near. “One pitcher there, if thou canst fill, “ Who first (for all may not approach Nor meet the wonted harm,
This vaunted feat to try) Such deed, (our fathers thus revealed,) Who first will down the cave descend, Will break the fatal charm.
Its secrets strange to spy ?”.
BRAVE Malik wheel'd his followers round, The fearless Ali seized his steed
He seized his sword of might;
The soldiers gazed; the fleet Duldul Their horses' hastning tramp.
Was soon beyond their sight.
The dread event to wait ;
Intent on Ali's fate.
Duldul behind him stays;
Above the rock the hero stands Amid his chiefs he sate.
Amid its gulf to gaze. Unheard by all, an answering voice Within the pit that yawn'd obscure, Seem'd he at length to hear ;
His fearless footstep sprung ; Attention deep a while-was seen
From stone to stone his groping hand To hold his listening ear.
In sightless guidance clung. Obeisance, grateful, then he paid; But narrower soon the deepening gulf The voice that spoke was gone;
To wildest darkness grew; Around the Prophet's gladden'd look And far on high the closing light Triumphant smile was thrown.
Seem'd but a star to view. He spoke-and first on Malik sad The crumbling stones, unfaithful grown, He bent approving eye
Refused his foot to stay ; “ The power that lurks in yonder cave "The crags his eager grasp had seiz'd, Might well thy strength defy.
Seemd each to rend away. “ A messenger, unseen by men,
He raised his eyes aloft to gaze; To me a word has brought :
The light was dimm'd on high : Alone by Ali, lion-hand,
He turn d beneath a watery gulf May this emprize be wrought.
Was stagnant seen to lie. " A Rebel Peri holds the den,
Amid the dangers thickening round, With all his roaming band ;
Seem'd hostile beings near ; His demon sway is widely spread
For threatening voices loud were heard, O'er many a subject land.
Through all the cavern drear. “ Go, Ali, seize thy sword of proof; “ Now, God me speed !” the hero cried, Go seize thy matchless steed;
“ This den is guarded well : By thee must this emprize be wrought, I would its sprites might stand to view 'If mortal hand may speed.
Nor thus in darkness yell. “ If earthlike foes shall meet thee there, “ But yet their waters I shall taste, Of human force like thine;
Did Death sit grimly there : Thine own good hand must work its way; The sculking fiends, within their haunt, Expect not aid of mine.
My trusty sword shall dare." 66 But if their demon arts are tried, He said and down the fearful deep, Unearthly force to bring,
(For yet aloft he hung) Thy sword from me shall power receive, Amid the plashing waves beneath, To wield a living sting.
The fearless hero sprung. “ Go seek their den : thy sword of might
And lo! a thousand gathering tongues May fear no fiendish spell.
Arose in wild alarm. Go bid them own our higher power, They cried, “Our fated foe is come: Ir bind in dungeon fell."
Arm, mighty Genii, arm !”
The wondering Ali gazed around; “ He comes with fierce Mahummud's No narrow pit was here :
power, A dismal lake afar was arch'd ;
Our high and haughty foe; Its waves were cold and drear.
The Prophet's hand has bless'd his sword,
To work you endless woe.
“ Guard, Genii, guard your Peri KingAnd glimmering sprites were there beheld, Surround his sceptre high : That shore's terrific guard.
With him your reign of power shall live
With him your power must die !". But creatures strange amid the deep, Approaching fierce were seen ;
In echoes long that fearful voice In caverns deep their gloomy haunts
Amid the darkness rung; From countless days had been.
And sounds unknown in wild reply
In many peals were flung.
Amid the dim and ghastly shore
Stood Ali gazing
loneAthwart the darkness gazed.
Bewildering threats around were heard,
And living thing was none.
Amid the cavern's wilds remote,
And flashing light was seen to rise,
And sink with dismal gleam.
And seen at times by wandering fires,
Like clouds that up the darken'd sky
The burning mountain throws.
The whirling smoke and mingled flame A thousand tongues encircling cried To Ali nearer drew; “ Arm! mighty Genii, arm !”. The glimmering cave and boundless lake
Were dim exposed to view.
And loud and drear a voice was heard, “ Am, Genii, guard your Peri King ; “ Arm, mighty Genii, arm ! Rise, crush the earthly worm.
Surround your Monarch's trembling throne;
Wake every powerful charm.”
The while Mahummud tranquil stood
On rocky fragment high ;
His followers cluster'd nigh.
The smoke arising came ;
With streaks of darting flame.
The gloomy masses flew; And o'er the desert's sunny air
Their darksome shadows threw. The faithful soldiers wildly gazed,
Loud rose their hollow moan : « Mahummud's bravest friend is lost,
Our Lion Chief is gone!”
But high Mahummud's tranquil look
Unchanging still remain’d;
Their tears be all restrain'd.
Where Genii wield their spell,
No mortal tongue may tell.
To me the combat shews ;
By me his demon foes.
No murmurs stain your tongue ;
To Allah's throne be fung."