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now most willing and ready, should they desire it, to submit the manuscript for their consideration. Their answer to this offer was as follows: "We are certainly impatient for the perusal of the Poem; but solely for our gratification. Your sentiments are always honourable.”
I continued to pursue my task for another year, being likewise occasionally occupied with the "Irish Melodies," two or three numbers of which made their appearance during the period employed in writing "Lalla Rookh." At length, in the year 1816, I found my work sufficiently advanced to be placed in the hands of the publishers. But the state of distress to which England was reduced, in that dismal year, by the exhausting effects of the series of wars she had just then concluded, and the general embarrassment of all classes both agricultural and commercial, rendered it a juncture the least favourable that could well be conceived for the first launch into print of so light and costly a venture as "Lalla Rookh." Feeling conscious, therefore, that under such circumstances I should act but honestly in putting it in the power of the Messrs. Longman to reconsider the terms of their engagement with me,- leaving them free to postpone, modify, or even, should such be their wish, relinquish it altogether,—I wrote them a letter to that effect, and received the following answer: "We shall be most happy in the pleasure of seeing you in February. We agree with you, indeed, that the times are most inauspicious for poetry and thousands'; but we believe that your poetry would do more than that any other living poet at the present moment."
The length of time I employed in writing the few stories strung together in "Lalla Rookh" will appear, to some persons, much more than was necessary for the
production of such easy and "light o' love" fictions. But, besides that I have been, at all times, a far more slow and painstaking workman than would ever be guessed, I fear, from the result, I felt that in this instance I had taken upon myself a more than ordinary responsibility, from the immense stake risked by others on my chance of success. For a long time, therefore, after the agreement had been concluded, though generally at work with a view to this task, I made but very little real progress in it; and I have still by me the beginnings of several stories continued, some of them, to the length of three or four hundred lines, which, after in vain endeavouring to mould them into shape, I threw aside, like the tale of Cambuscan, "left half-told." One of these stories, entitled "The Peri's Daughter," was meant to relate the loves of a nymph of this aërial extraction with a youth of mortal race, the rightful Prince of Ormuz, who had been, from his infancy, brought up in seclusion on the banks of the river Amou, by an aged guardian named Mohassan. The story opens with the first meeting of these destined lovers, then in their childhood; the Peri having wafted her daughter to this holy retreat, in a bright, enchanted boat, whose first appearance is thus described:—
For, down the silvery tide afar,
As shines, in heaven, some pilgrim-star,
'It comes, it comes,' young Orian cries,
With partly joy and partly fear,
Within the boat a baby slept,
The feathers of some holy bird,
With which, from time to time, she stirr'd
The butterflies that, bright and blue
Around the sleeping infant flew.
And now the fairy boat hath stopp'd
Beside the bank,- the nymph has dropp'd
Her golden anchor in the stream.
A song is sung by the Peri in approaching, of which the following forms a part:
My child she is but half divine,
Her father sleeps in the Caspian water;
His funeral shrine,
But he lives again in the Peri's daughter.
To my own sweet bowers of Peristan ;
On flowers of earth her feet must tread;
So hither my light-wing'd bark hath brought her;
Thy leafiest bed,
To rest the wandering Peri's daughter.
In another of these inchoate fragments, a proud female saint, named Banou, plays a principal part; and her progress through the streets of Cufa, on the night of a great illuminated festival, I find thus described:
It was a scene of mirth that drew
A smile from even the Saint Banou,
As, through the hush'd admiring throng,
But none might see the worldly smile
Alla, forbid for, who would wait
There are yet two more of these unfinished sketches,
one of which extends to a much greater length than I was aware of; and, as far as I can judge from a hasty renewal of my acquaintance with it, is not incapable of being yet turned to account.
In only one of these unfinished sketches, the tale of "The Peri's Daughter," had I yet ventured to invoke that most home-felt of all my inspirations, which has lent to the story of "The Fire-Worshippers" its main attraction and interest. That it was my intention, in the concealed Prince of Ormuz, to shadow out some impersonation of this feeling, I take for granted from the prophetic words supposed to be addressed to him by his aged guardian:
Bright child of destiny! even now
In none of the other fragments do I find any trace of this sort of feeling, either in the subject or the personages of the intended story; and this was the reason, doubtless, though hardly known, at the time, to myself, that, finding my subjects so slow in kindling my own sympathies, I began to despair of their ever touching the hearts of others; and felt often inclined to say: —
'Oh no, I have no voice or hand
Had this series of disheartening experiments been carried on much further, I must have thrown aside the work in despair. But at last, fortunately, as it proved, the thought occurred to me of founding a story on the fierce struggle so long maintained between the Ghe