Louisa Stuart Costello.

The rose garden of Persia online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryLouisa Stuart CostelloThe rose garden of Persia → online text (page 1 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ia











s.







,

INTRODUCTION. iii

trouble, with many of the treasures he has so long
slighted.

Sir William Jones remarks, in his "Preface" to
a few translations: " If the novelty of the follow-
, ing poems should recommend them to the favour | *
of the reader, it may, probably, be agreeable to
him to know that there are many others of equal
or superior merit which have never appeared in
any language of Europe: and I am persuaded that
a writer acquainted with the originals might imitate
them very happily in his native tongue, and that
the public would not be displeased to see the % ^
genuine compositions of Arabia and Persia in an
' English dress." V

Since the period when the accomplished Orien-
talist wrote this, many translations in French,
1 German, and English have appeared, but most
frequently in prose; so that the ground may be
' ! considered untrodden by all bu$ learned feet, and '
* still as mysterious as the fabled gardens of Irem to *
N the general reader. The beautiful specimens given
to the world, from time to time, by Mr. Forbes .
Falconer, in "The Asiatic Journal," are almost
alone, and appear but too rarely.

The late lamented Sir Gofe Ouseley, at the
i i time of his death, was preparing a work for the
press on Persian literature, which the Asiatic
y Society is now printing; I have been allowed, by y
the courtesy of that society, to whom I am deeply
indebted, to see the MS., and had I done so pre-
viously to this work being ready for publication', I *

' should have felt my own attempt unnecessary : the

*



A



-r >tH - -<-4- > d - *r -

i

IT INTRODUCTION. .

accomplished author has not, however, given lyrical
. specimens of the poets in English.

" The mine of Persian literature," observes an t
elegant writer, "contains every substance, from the
dazzling diamond to the useful granite, and its r
materials may be employed with equal success to
build castles in the air or upon earth."

Poetry has ever been, and is still, held in the
' greatest veneration in the East, and its admirers
include almost the whole population; respect and
esteem attend on the aspirant for poetic fame, and
even the smallest spark of genius is hailed with
delight. The power and effect of the art are so '
much appreciated by the Arabs, that they have
given it the name of "legitimate magic;" and "to
string pearls," expresses, in their figurative lan-
guage, to compose verses. 1

Many Eastern anecdotes are related of the early
' ' * dawn of poetry in the youthful mind, and the *
admiration its appearance excited; amongst others, X
the following is characteristic: The celebrated
Abderrahman, son of Hissan, having, when a child,
been stung by a wasp, the insect being one he did ^
not recognize, he ran to his father, crying out V
' "That he had been wounded by a creature spotted
I * with yellow and white, like the border of his vest."
On hearing these words uttered in a measure of
Arabian verse, as elegant as natural, Hissan be-
came aware of his son's genius for poetry.

The first rhythmical composition in the Persian A
language is recorded to have been the production
of Bihram Uoar, a prince who lived in the fifth ';



INTRODUCTION.



century, A.D. The occasion of his becoming a poet
y was this: He was tenderly attached to a female
slave, named Dilaram, who generally attended
1 him in all his parties of pleasure. One day the

prince encountered a lion when in the company of y
* his favourite, seized him, after a struggle, by the
ears, and, holding him captive in this manner for "
some time, in spite of the animal's efforts to free
himself, exultingly exclaimed, in sounding verse,
" I am as the raging elephant, I am as an active
and mighty lion!" Dilaram, being accustomed to
reply to whatever the king said in the same strain
as her royal lover, addressed him extempore with a * 1 *
fine compliment, in which, punning on his name ^
and that of his father, she compared him to a 1
"lofty mountain."

Bihram, being struck with the cadence and jin- i
gle of these accidental verses, pointed out their
beauties to the learned men of his court, and 9
desired them to produce something in imitation.
This they accordingly attempted, but without ever
exceeding a single distich in any of their com-
positions.

Several other origins are given by the Persians
to their earliest poetry, but, except occasional lines ;
more beautiful to the ear than the mind, there is
little known before the tenth century of the
Christian era.

The first poem, expressing sentiment, to be met
with in Persian records, is the following:

" Why should the antelope, as once of yore.
Bound o'tr the plain, as swiftly as before ?



L A '* fe ' ^ ^ -i- ^ W


?v * ,4_





"V


vl INTRODUCTION.






Aloof -It-til- t:lllilllil Vlto JllHI^fl'/l OrMW^ lll> t


I

rWl



To quit the spot where those he loves abide?"

Bigotry and ignorance combined to prevent the
growth of poetry in Persia, as well as in most other

f countries. It is related of one of their princes i

i .,. , ,. ..'

that on a manuscript being shown him, containing

a poetical history of the loves of Wamik and "
Asrah, he exclaimed, that the koran was the only
book he desired his subjects to read, and com-
manded it to be burnt, together with any others
found in his dominions. Arabic continued long to
be the court language, used in all transactions of

* i* state, the native Persian being thought barbarous * ^*
^ and impolite, in the same manner as in early times '

the French superseded the native English in our

"I* own country. Ferdusi was the Chaucer of Persia, -

but there were a few others, as with us, who had

already struggled to break the way for the great

| . poet.

In poetical composition there is much art used

i by Eastern writers, and the arrangement of their

language is a work of great care: numerous are

the rules by which they must guide themselves in

their verses; as, for instance, the art, which in

. Arabic signifies setting jewels, by which words are

A i selected which bear a similarity in sound: of this

^ custom, varied in a number of ways, and all consi- *

y dered to possess great merit in a skilful hand, we

have, in the poetry of the troubadours and early

A. French and English writers, many examples: in A.

_ translation this would appear little better than a

* "string of puns.

4- r




INTRODUCTION. vii



J



One favourite measure is called Suja, literally
the cooing of (tore*, and it frequently ends a poem:
the letters must be equal or the same, and the
rhyme agreeing: the same word must sometimes
"^ appear in different parts of the distich ;( a) some- .J,
times an anagram must be made; sometimes the ^
sentence must be capable of being read backwards
and forwards/ 11 ) To attempt examples of these
punning conceits would be useless and little desir-
able; of course, in the original language alone
could they be understood. The following is one of
the easiest:



"They call me madman it 'tis so.
Bind with thy locks that softly flow
The madman, that at least he be
Held in thy chains and slave to thee."

A

The poetical compositions of the Persians are
of several kinds. The Gazel, or Ode, literally *'<
signifies taking delight in the society of the fair ^
.sex, and is used technically for several couplets
composed in one measure. As a general rule, the
Gazel should not contain more than twelve dis-
tichs, though some poets have greatly exceeded
this length. The usual subjects of the Gazels *
are beauty, love, or friendship ; but frequently 4 , ,
they are employed to set forth the praises of '
wine, and many treat of the mysteries of the y
Sufis. The poet generally introduces his name d
in the last couplet.

The Kassideh, or Idyl, resembles the Gazel, ex- -
cept that it has more distichs. It may consist of *



Ylil INTRODUCTION.

either praise or satire, morality or other sub-
jects. The Persians do not extend the length
- beyond one hundred and twenty distichs; but the
Arabians sometimes mike it exceed five hundred.

The Tushbib signifies a representation of the e _
season of youth and beauty, descriptions of love,
praise, or a relation of circumstances.

The Mesnavi is called wedded, its rhymes and
measure being even, and each distich having dis-
tinct endings.

The other measures are less common, or, at
least, their explanation is less required, as their
peculiarities could scarcely be made sensible to
the reader of an English translation.

"When Niebuhr and his scientific companions,"
remarks a writer on eastern literature, "set out on
their travels to the east, they were instructed by
their patron, the King of Denmark, to have nothing
f to do with poetry: but he might as well have shut
the book of knowledge from them at once; for the
' fact is, that in the Arabic, as well as Persian lan-
' guage, not only books of polite literature, but his-
. tories without number, and all manner of treatises

11- 5)

x v . on science, are recorded in verse.

Physics, mathematics, and ethics; medicine, < >



/j



natural history, astronomy, and grammar, and even ,
cooler^, all lend themselves to verse in the east.

Amongst the most f .imous works of this kind, is

the Kitab Alaghani, or Book of Songs, by Abu'l-

far.ij Ali Ben Hassayn Ben Mahomed Korashi

Isfahaui, who was born in the year of the Hegira

/* 284. He was brought up at Bagdad, was deeply






INTRODUCTION. ix

i

learned in the history of the Arabs, and in all
other knowledge, and took his place with the most
' distinguished men of his time. He devoted fifty
years to the composition of this, his celebrated
I work, and died in 356, having lost his reason -
'* some time previous to his death.

The Kitah Alaghani is an important biographi- ?
cal work, notwithstanding its title, treating of
grammar, history, and science, as well as poetry.

The work was unknown in France till it was -
discovered in the expedition to Egypt, and brought r
home by M. Raige. The manuscript he procured '
is now in the Royal Library: it consists of four *1-
folio volumes. M. Von Hammer is in possession
of a copy. The basis is a collection of one hundred
- songs made for the Caliph Raschid: the airs are
given, with commentaries and parallels. It may
answer, in some respects, to our ' Percy's Relics.'

But it is with subjects purely poetical and ima-
ginative that the present work has to do.

Who is there that is not familiar with those
beautiful verses of Sir William Jones, translated
from Hafiz?

' Sweet maid, if thou wouldst charm my sight," &c.

This learned man and elegant and accomplished '
poet once, as he informs us, proposed making a *^*
collection of Persian poetry, and giving it an
English dress; if he had fortunately done so and ^
rendered the ideas as finely as he has done in the
above poem, he would have made a valuable pre-
( sent to his country, for none could have executed ^



-, >- m < * > >8< .>i

X INTRODUCTION.

<

the task so well; but his labours and avocations
were too many and too various to admit of his per-
forming the task he desired. No one, since his
time, has attempted it, although numerous poems
hnve been, from time to time, presented to the
English reader; and Ferdusi and Sadi, in par- '
ticular, have found their translators in learned and
industrious scholars.

Atkinson, Chze, and Von Hammer have in
England, France, and Germany done much to- .
wards rendering the greatest Persian poets known :
but a less learned hand may perhaps succeed in "
making them more familiar, and, by collecting a *T*
great number of poets together, enable the reader
to judge and compare at -his leisure, not that it 1
would be possible to offer specimens of one quarter \i/

Xof the myriad poets of Persia!
So great has been my own delight and enthusiasm A
on the subject for many years, that I cannot help *
* hoping that others may feel equally interested with
' myself, and happy to have found a new source of '
admiration of the graceful and beautiful.

I scarcely dare address a word to the oriental
scholar in extenuation of my attempt to render his
darling poets into my northern tongue: I only






*S/



trust he will forgive the boldness for the sake of
the devotion, and, instead of being severe, will at *
once excuse the execution; considering only the
motive, which is to make "familiar in the mouth
as household words" those unknown and unsought
treasures, which he alone is capable of prizing to
their full value.



t <



J



^ 7- >^H- -< 4- > - >lH -7

INTBODUCTION. xi



To the Orientalist is known the extreme diffi-
culty of conveying in any European tongue the
exact meaning of the poet: the Germans have



perhaps succeeded best in consequence of the con-

_ struction of their language ; but mere words alone y

* in Persian sometimes express so much that the "

translator finds all his efforts unavailing to render *
them of the same force. For instance, the Per-
sians have words and names which at one view
exhibit many qualities without more explanation,
and which throw a charm over their songs, impos-
sible to reach.

r 'l* Such words as express xtrewing-roses, emera Id- * ^*
hue, rose-cheeked, rose-lipped, jasmine-scented, fyc., J.
save the poet infinite trouble, but are a great \

JL. obstacle to the translator. Perhaps it is the very ~ii

circumstance of endeavouring to render these ideas
* correctly which has cramped all who have tried to
V give versions of the Persian poets, so that almost o f
the sole exceptions are the few poems given by Sir
William Jones, in a manner unrivalled both for
truth and sweetness.

Ferdusi's " Shah-Namah," the great Plpic, in an
English garb, inspires as little admiration, as a
whole, as any of the translators of the Lusiad do
to an English reader: Professor Cheze's "Mejnun
and Leila," elegant and interesting as the trans-
lation is, is yet somewhat tedious from its very
correctness, and Sadi's fine poems, the "Bostan"
and the " Gulistan," though they have been well t
rendered in English prose, are somewhat in-

r| effective, and it requires the genius of Moore*










x



> -fc >



INTRODUCTION.



r



himself to translate adequately his brother minstrel,
Hafiz. A few extracts only of these long poems
are all I offer.

As I know little of the Persian poets in the
original, and am generally indebted to the above,
and other learned authors, who have furnished
accurate translations, I am the more fearful of the
success of my endeavour to make them popular, in
spite of the bonne volonte I may bring to the task;
but, I repeat, it has been one so very pleasing to
me, that I cannot abandon the hope that the
" ROSE GARDEN OF PERSIA," even in my hands,
may not be considered without perfume.



*
1*

I







*>



.




Tin-: Orientals appear to agree in opinion with the
Italians, that "molto cresce una belta, uno bel
manto;" for they have at all times taken great
delight in adorning their manuscripts, considering
that they thus do honour to the subject. Kous- t
Beau's feeling of paying proper homage to his






C xly OX ORNAMENT.

manuscript Heloise would be thoroughly under-
' stood in the East.

The works of favourite poets are generally written I
on fine silky paper, the ground of which is often
f .powdered with gold or silver dust; the margins are J*
^ illuminated, and the whole perfumed with some ^
i costly essence. Amongst others, that magnificent
volume containing the poem of Yussuf and Zulei-
ka/ c > preserved in the public library at Oxford,
affords a proof of the honours accorded to poetical
compositions: the British Museum is also rich in
. equally beautiful manuscripts. , i ,

One of the finest specimens of calligraphy and
' illumination is the exordium to the " Life of Shah
Jehan," for which the writer, besides the stipulated
remuneration, had his mouth stuffed with the most
k precious pearls.

A finely ornamented book is considered an excite-
* ment to youth to study : in the preface to a work
JL called " The Dispelling of Darkness," is this pas- ^
sage " This work, accurately written for its calli-
graphy, must be a comfort and excitement to the
young."

Calligraphy is called in the East "a golden
f profession." Of all books copied with peculiar care *
and taste, the Koran has employed the greatest * i *
number of writers, who vie with each other in
their extraordinary performances in this style ; this
caused the poet Sadi to say, that "the Koran was
sent to reform the conduct of men, but men thought
only of embellishing its leaves."

A maxim of the Caliph Ali was "Learn to



ON ORNAMENT. XT

I

1 write well; fine writing is one of the keys of
riches." T

The Persian commentator on "Arabic Aphor-
isms" (edited by Weston), says: "Words set to
music have a wondrous power when aided by in- w
* spiration and the magic of fine writing." Again
" A poem is a sweel^scented flower, spotted like a
leopard, polished with much rubbing, and written
with the ink of two centuries.'" "An impostor rivets
his triumph by writing carelessly, and making it
difficult to decipher, so that no extracts can be
made that will repay the loss of time in reading it."
v \* Fakr-eddin Rasi, when speaking of the merits
of the Caliph Mostasem-billah, says: "He knew
the Koran by heart, and his hand-writing was very
beautiful."

A manuscript of the "Divan" of the poet
Kemal, which had been the property of a sultan, is
T possessed by the Imperial Library at Vienna, and
is a great treasure as a splendid specimen of fine
writing, and also for the superbly executed minia-
tures which adorn it, illustrating the poems. These
. pictures are not more than a square inch in size:
there are two on each side of the concluding verse,
- and, though so small, represent with the greatest
correctness, either allegorically or simply, the
meaning of the poet.

Mr. Edward More, author of the "Hindoo Pan-
theon," mentions some very exquisite manuscripts
in his possession: one, of fourteen and a half feet
long, can be rolled up to the size of a man's thumb.
The library of the India House, and that of the \ /

-,



rvi ON ORNAMENT.

Asiatic Society hi London, from the latter of which I
have been allowed to take patterns for this work, are V
rich in very beautiful specimens of Oriental minute-
ness: amongst them are copies of the koran on

delicate strips exquisitely illuminated, so small as j
to require a strong glass to decipher the character.
Some of these can be rolled up into an almost
incredibly small space, and carried in the pocket.
Nothing but the fairy's gift of tapestry, which
could be enclosed in a walnut shell, can be com-
pared to these wonders. A copy of the "Mahaba-
rata" was lately in London, which is said to exceed

i all that could be imagined of human patience in I*

Ythe minute beauty of its execution.
The ink used in the East is extremely black,
"* and never loses its colour. Egyptian reeds, with
i which the scribes write, are formed to make the

finest strokes and flourishes, and their letters run .
T so easily into one another that they can writer]
^ faster than any other nation.

There is a beautiful manuscript of Dowlat Shah
of Samarkand's valuable "Lives of the Persian
Poets," in the Royal Library at Paris.



1




t/V.



'!* .. T

&-; *fr <-*-> >-8< -**



,{.,.-



THE



MOST of the Asiatic poets are
Sit/is^ 1 ) a profession of religion
so mystical, that it is difficult to
explain in a few words.

They prefer, or profess to pre-
fer, the meditations and ecstasies
of mysticism to the pleasures of
the world. Their fundamental
tenets are, that nothing exists ab-
solutely but God : that the human
soul is an emanation from His es-
sence, and will finally be restored
to him: that the great object in
this transitory state should be, a
constant approach to the Eternal
Spirit, and as perfect an union to
the Divine nature as possible; for
which reason all worldly attach-
ments should be avoided, and, in



CC*



:



all we do, a spiritual object should be kept in
view

"As a swimmer, without the impediment of garments,
cleaves the water with greater ease."

When a Sufi poet speaks of love and
beauty, a divine sentiment is always to
be understood, however much the words
employed may lead the uninitiated to ima-
gine otherwise. This is the case with many
sects of Protestants, and appears also in the
sacred poems of our early writers, in those of
the Fathers of the Church, and in the Song
of Solomon, which is a remarkable instance.

The great end with these philosophers is
to attain to a state of perfection in spiritu-
ality, so as to be at length totally absorbed
in holy contemplation, to the exclusion of all
worldly recollections or interests. This is
in fact no more than was formerly sought by
monastic devotees in the Catholic church;
and it was the same belief and endeavour
which produced so many saints and martyrs.

As religious enthusiasm, carried to the
utmost height, is sure to

" O'erleap itself, and fall on the other side,"

the admirers of the Sufis carried their zeal
beyond all bounds, and the ultra-pious added
still greater mysticism to a belief which -was
already obscure enough. This has filled the
deserts of Indm and Arabia with howling
dervishes, Yoghts, Sunnts, and whole tribes
of fanatics, who have run wild with ill-directed



.':



^









*A "!

8




devotion, and pass their lives standing on one
leg or ceaselessly extending one arm, or with
fixed eyes constantly regarding the sun till
they lose their sight. Such as these have
made their faith a jest, and such are described
as perfect beings by those of their own sect
who encourage such absurdity.

In a work, called " Exercise of the Soul,"
they are named as follows, their wisdom and
their folly lauded alike:

"He is both a Yoghi and a Sunnyasi, who
performeth that which he ought to do, inde-
pendent of the fruit thereof. To the Yoghi
gold, iron, and stone are the same. The
Yoghi constantly exerciseth the spirit in pri-
vate, free from hope, free from perception.
He planteth his own seat firmly on a spot
undefiled, neither too high nor too low, and
sitteth upon the sacred grass, which is called
Koos, covered with a skin or a cloth. There
he whose business is the restraining of his
passions, should sit with his mind fixed on
one object, alone, in the exercise of his devo-
tion for the purification of his soul, keeping
his head, neck, and body steady, without mo-
tion, his eyes fixed on the point of his nose,
looking at no other place around."

When it is considered that the creed of
the Sufis (2 ) is to adore beauty, (?) because the
contemplation thereof leads ' the creature
nearer to the Creator; and to venerate wine,
because the power of its spirit is a symbol of






H

tf



1/\

\im



w

1



li



will







the Deity, the reader of the Persian
not be surprised at the mixture of
sacred, and apparently profane, ideas so often
found in the same poem.

Hafiz, himself a Sufi, has well expressed
the sentiments of this visionary sect in the
following lines, which will at once convey
the substance of this mystical belief, so fre-
quently and necessarily alluded to when the
Persian poets are treated of:

EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY LOVE:

A MYSTICAL POEM OP IIAPIZ.

A being, formed like thee, of clay,
Destroys thy peace from day to day;
Excites thy waking hours with pain;
Consumes thy sleep with visions vain.
Thy mind is rapt, thy sense betrayed;
Thy head upon her foot is laid.
The teeming earth, the glowing sky,
Is nothing to her faintest sigh.

Thine eye sees only her; thy heart
Feels only her in every part.
Careless of censure, restless, lost,
By ceaseless wild emotions tost;
If she demand thy soul, 'tis given
She is thy life, thy death, thy heaven.





or^f




Since a vain passion, based on air,
Subdues thee with a power so rare,
How canst thou marvel those who stray
Towards the true path are led away,
Till, scarce the goal they can descry,
Whelmed in adoring mystery ?

Life they regard not; for they live
In Him whose hands all being give:
The world they quit for Him, who made
Its wondrous light, its wondrous shade:
For Him all pleasures they resign,
And love Him with a love divine !

On the cup-bearer^ gazing still,
The cup they break, the wine they spill.
From endless time their ears have rung
With words, by angel voices sung;
"Art thou not bound to Grod?" they cry;
And the blest "Yes," whole hosts reply. 5


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryLouisa Stuart CostelloThe rose garden of Persia → online text (page 1 of 9)