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subject immediately before him; — “ 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-
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."
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.
the uneasy heaviness of its movements, to have been 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
Like the faint, exquisite music of a dream.
“ What critic that can count,” said FADLADEEN, 6 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 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 Chamberlain was left to triumph in the idea of having, for the hundred and fiftieth time in his life, extinguished a Poet. Lalla Rookh 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 viewed this fountain, but they are gone, and their eyes are closed for ever!” that she took occasion, from the melancholy beauty of this passage, to dwell upon the charms of poetry in general. “ It is true,” she said, “ few poets can imitate that sublime bird, which flies always in the air, and never touches the earth’: - it is only once in many ages a Genius appears, whose words, like those on the Written Mountain, last for ever :- but still there are some, as delightful perhaps, though not so wonderful, who, if not stars over our head, are at least flowers along our path, and whose sweetness of the moment we ought gratefully to inhale, without calling upon them for a brightness and a durability beyond their nature. In short," continued she, blushing, as if conscious of being caught in an oration, “ it is quite cruel that a poet cannot wander through his regions of enchantment, without having a critic for ever, like the old Man of the Sea, upon his back !" 4 - FADLA
3 The Huma.
4 The Story of Sinbad.