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In the eleventh year of the reign of Aurungzebe, Abdalla,
son, set out on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Prophet ; and, passing into India through the delightful valley of Cashmere, rested for a short time at Delhi on his way.
He was entertained by Aurungzebe in a style of magnificent hospitality, worthy alike of the visitor and the host, and was afterwards escorted with the same splendour to Surat, where he embarked for Arabia.' During the stay of the Royal Pilgrim at Delhi, a marriage was agreed upon between the Prince, his son, and the youngest daughter of the emperor, LALLA ROOKH ; 2. -a Princess described by the Poets of her time as more beautiful than Leila, 3 Shirine, 4 Dewildé,5 or any of those heroines whose names and loves embellish the songs of Persia and Hindostan. It was intended that the nuptials should be celebrated at Cashmere ; where the young King, as soon as the cares of empire would permit, was to meet, for the first time, his lovely bride, and, after a few months' repose in that enchanting valley, conduct her over the snowy hills into Bucharia.
The day of LALLA Rooki's departure from Delhi was as splendid as sunshine and pageantry could make it. The bazaars and baths were all covered with the richest tapestry; hundreds of gilded barges upon the Jumna floated with their banners shining in the water; while through the streets groups of beautiful children went strewing the most delicious flowers around, as in that Persian festival called the Scattering of the Roses ; 6 till every part of the city was as fragrant as if a caravan of musk from Khoten had passed through it. The Princess, having taken leave of her kind father, who at parting hung a cornelian of Yemen round her neck, on which was inscribed a verse from the Koran, and having sent a considerable present to the Fakirs, who kept up the Perpetual Lamp in her sister's tomb, meekly ascended the palankeen prepared for her; and, while Aurungzebe stood to take a last look from his balcony, the procession moved slowly on the road to Lahore.
Seldom had the Eastern world seen a cavalcade so superb. From the gardens in the suburbs to the Imperial palace, it was one unbroken line of splendour. The gallant appearance of the Rajahs and Mogul Lords, distinguished by those insignia of the Emperor's favour,” the feathers of the egret of Cashmere in their turbans, and the small silverrimmed kettledrums at the bows of their saddles ;—the costly armour of their cavaliers, who vied, on this occasion, with the guards of the great Keder Khan, in the brightness of their silver battle-axes and the massiness of their maces of gold ;-the glittering of the gilt pine-apples on the tops of the palankeens ;--the embroidered trappings of the elephants, bearing on their backs small turrets, in the shape of little antique temples, within which the Ladies of LALLA Rookh lay as it were enshrined ;—the rose-coloured veils of the Princess's own sumptuous litter, 10 at the front of which a fair young female slave sat fanning her through the curtains, with feathers of the Argus pheasant's wing ; ! and the lovely troop of Tartarian and Cashmerian maids of honour, whom the young King had sent to accompany his bride, and who rode on each side of the litter, upon small Arabian horses : -all was brilliant, tasteful, and magnificent, and pleased even the critical and fastidious FADLADEEN, Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram, who was borne in his palankeen immediately after the Princess, and considered himself not the least important personage of the pageant.
FADLADEEN was a judge of everything, ---from the pencilling of a Circassian's eyelids to the deepest questions of science and literature ; from the mixture of a conserve of rose-leaves to the composition of an epic poem : and such influence had his opinion upon the various tastes of the day, that all the cooks and poets of Delhi stood in awe of him. His political conduct and opinions were founded upon that line of Sadi,—“Should the Prince at noon-day say, It is night, declare that you behold the moon and stars."-And his zeal for religion, of which Aurungzebe was a munificent protector, 12 was about as disinterested as that of the goldsmith who fell in love with the diamond eyes of the Idol of Jaghernaut.13
During the first days of their journey, LALLA ROOKH, who had passed all her life within the shadow of the Royal Gardens of Delhi,14 found enough in the beauty of the scenery through which they passed to interest her mind, and delight her imagination ; and when at evening or in the heat of the day, they turned off from the high road to those retired and romantic places which had been selected for her encampments, sometimes on the banks of a small rivulet, as clear as the waters of the Lake of Pearl ; sometimes under the sacred shade of a Banyan tree, from which the view opened upon a glade covered with antelopes; and often in those hidden, embowered spots, described by one from the Isles of the West, 16 as “places of melancholy, delight, and safety, where all the company around were wild peacocks and turtle doves ;"-she felt a charm in these scenes, so lovely and so new to her, which, for a time, made her indifferent to every other amusement. But LALLA Rookh was young, and the young love variety; nor could the conversation of her Ladies and the Great Chamberlain, FADLADEEN (the only persons of course admitted to her pavilion), sufficiently enliven those many vacant hours, which were devoted neither to the pillow nor the palankeen. There was a little Persian slave who sung sweetly to the Vina, and who, now and then, lulled the Princess to sleep with the ancient ditties of her country, about the loves of Wamak and Ezra, 17 the fair-haired Zal and his mistress Rodahver;
not forgetting the combat of Rustam with the terrible White Demon. 19 At other times she was amused by those graceful dancing-girls of Delhi, who had been permitted by the Bramins of the Great Pagoda to attend her, much to the horror of the good Mussulman FADLADEEN, who could see nothing graceful or agreeable in idolaters, and to whom the very tinkling of their golden anklets 20 was an abomination.
But these and many other diversions were repeated till they lost all their charm, and the nights and noon-days were beginning to move heavily, when, at length, it was recollected that, among the attendants sent by the bridegroom, was a young poet of Cashmere, much celebrated throughout the valley for his manner of reciting the Stories of the East, on whom his Royal Master had conferred the privilege of being admitted to the pavilion of the Princess, that he might help to beguile the tediousness of the journey by some of his agreeable recitals. At the mention of a poet, FADLADEEN elevated his critical eyebrows, and, having refreshed his faculties with a dose of that delicious opium 21 which is distilled from the black poppy of the Thebais, gave orders for the minstrel to be forthwith introduced into the presence.