Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

The story of the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan being ended, they were now doomed to hear FADLADEEN'S criticisms upon

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

“ The celebrity of Mazagong is owing to its mangoes, which are certainly the best fruit I ever tasted. The parent-tree, from which all those of this species have been grafted, is honoured during the fruit-season by a guard of sepoys; and in the reign of Shah Jehan, couriers where stationed between Delhi and the Mahratta coast, to secure an abundant and fresh supply of mangoes for the royal table.” - Mrs. GRAHAM's Journal of a Residence in India.

† This old porcelain is found in digging, and “if it is esteemed, it is not because it has acquired any new degree of beauty in the earth, but because it has retained its ancient beauty; and this alone is of great importance in China, where they give large sums for the smallest vessels which were used under the Emperors Yan and Chun, who reigned many ages before the dynasty of Tang, at which time porcelain began to be used by the Emperors” (about the year 442).- Donn's Collection of curious Observations, &c.; - a bad translation of some parts of the Letters Edifiantes et Curieuses of the Missionary Jesuits.

an irre

liveliness, shattered the whole set to pieces: parable 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 Koran-bearer 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 my 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 subject

immediately before him “if that be all that is required the matter is easily despatched.” He then proceeded to analyse the poem, in that strain (so well known to the unfortunate bards of Delhi), whose censures were an infliction from which few recovered, and whose very praises were like the honey extracted from the bitter lowers 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 abzurdities, through some thousands of lines as indigestible as the filberts of Berdaa, our friend in the veil jumps into a tub of aquafortis; 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 barpose of seeing her ghost, which he at last happily iccomplishes, and expires. This, you will allow, is a air summary of the story; and if Nasser, the Arabian nerchant, told no better, our Holy Prophet (to whom be Jl honour and glory!) had no need to be jealous of his abilities for story-telling."*

*

“ La lecture de ces Fables plaisoit si fort aux Arabes, que, quand Mahome. les entretenoit de l'Histoire de i’Ancien Testament, ils les méprisoient, lui disan que celles que Nasser leur racontoient étoient beaucoup plus belles. Cette préference attira Nasser la malediction de Mahomet et de tous ses disciples," D'HERBELOT.

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 the uneasy heaviness of its movements, to have boen modelled upon the gait of a very tired dromedary. The licences, too, in which it indulged, were unpardonable; — for instance this line, and the poem abounded with such ;

[graphic]

Like the faint, exquisite music of a dream.

« What critic that can count,” asid FADLADEEN,“ and has his full complement of fingers to count withal, would tolerate for an instant such syllabic superfluities?” – He here looked round, and discovered that most of his audience were asleep; while the glimmering lamps seemed inclined to follow their example. It became necessary, therefore, however painful to himself, to put an end to his valuable animadversions for the present, and he accordingly concluded, with an air of dignified candour, thus: -“ Notwithstanding the observations which I have thought it my duty to make, it is by no means my

* The blacksmith Geo, who successfully resisted the tyrant Rohak, and whose apron became the Royal Standard of Persia.

wish to discourage the young man: so far from it, indeed, that if he will but totally alter his style of writing and thinking, I have very little doubt that I shall be vastly pleased with him.”

Some days elapsed, after this harangue of the Great Chamberlain, before LALLA Rookh could venture to ask for another story. The youth was still a welcome guest in the pavilion - to one heart, perhaps, too dangerously welcome; — but all mention of poetry was, as if by common consent, avoided. Though none of the party had much respect for FADLADEEN, yet his censures, thus magisterially delivered, evidently made an impression on them all. The Poet himself, to whom criticism was quite a new operation, (being wholly unknown in that Paradise of the Indies, Cashmere,) felt the shock as it is generally felt at first, till use has made it more tolerable to the patient; — the Ladies began to suspect that they ought not to be pleased, and seemed to conclude that there must have been much good sense in what FADLADEEN said, from its having set them all so soundly to sleep; while the self-complacent Chamberlin was left to triumph in the idea of having, for the hundred and fiftieth time in his life, extinguished a Poet. LALLA Rooku alone -- and Love knew why - persisted in being delighted with all she had heard, and in resolving to hear more as speedily as possible. Her manner, however, of first returning to the subject was unlucky. It was while they rested during the heat of noon near a fountain, on which some hand had rudely traced those well-known words from the Garden of Sadi, - "Many, like me, have

« ForrigeFortsæt »