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GRAHAM'S MAGAZINE, APRIL 1849 ***




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GRAHAM’S MAGAZINE.
VOL. XXXIV. April, 1849. No. 4.


Table of Contents

The Poet Lí
The Naval Officer
Victory and Defeat
To Mother
On a Diamond Ring
The Recluse. No. I.
Rome
The Missionary, Sunlight
Thermopylæ
Lost Treasures
The Brother’s Temptation
The Unsepulchred Relics
Reminiscences of a Reader
The Gipsy Queen
The Brother’s Lament
Sonnet to Machiavelli
The Darsies
The Unmasked
Mormon Temple, Nauvoo
Rose Winters
The Zopilotes
History of the Costume of Men
The Beautiful of Earth
Wild-Birds of America
Jenny Lind
Storm-Lines
Review of New Books
Editor’s Table
Adieu, My Native Land

Transcriber’s Notes can be found at the end of this eBook.




[Illustration: Anaïs Toudouze LE FOLLET _Robes de M^{me.}_ Bara Bréjard,
_r. Laffitte, 5—Coiffures de_ Hamelin, _pass du Saumon, 21_. _Fleurs
de_ Chagon ainé, _r. Richelieu, 81—Dentelles de_ Violard, _r. Choiseul
2^{bis}_ 8, Argyll Place, Londres. Graham’s Magazine ]




[Illustration: D. Bydgoszcz, pinx. A.L. Dick

THE BRIDGE & CHURCH OF S^{T}. ISAAC.]




GRAHAM’S MAGAZINE.

* * * * *

VOL. XXXIV. PHILADELPHIA, April, 1849. NO. 4.

* * * * *




THE POET LI.


A FRAGMENT FROM THE CHINESE.


BY MRS. CAROLINE. H. BUTLER, AUTHOR OF “RECOLLECTIONS OF CHINA,” “MAID OF
CHE-KI-ANG,” ETC.


PART I.

Do not draw upon you a person’s enmity, for enmity is never
appeased—injury returns upon him who injures—and sharp words
recoil against him who says them.

_Chinese Proverb._

On the green and flowery banks of the beautiful Lake Tai-hoo, whose
surface bears a thousand isles, resting like emeralds amid translucent
pearl, dwelt Whanki the mother of Lí. _The mother of Lí!_ Ah happy
distinction—ah envied title! For where, far or near, was the name could
rank with Lí on the scroll of learning—receiving even in childhood the
title of the “Exiled Immortal,” from his skill in classic and historical
lore!

Moreover, he was of a most beautiful countenance, while the antelope
that fed among the hills was not more swift of foot. Who like Lí could
draw such music from the seven silken strings of the Kin! or when with
graceful touch his fingers swept the lute, adding thereto the
well-skilled melody of his voice, youths and maidens opened their ears
to listen, for wonderful was the ravishing harmony.

Yet although the gods of learning smiled upon this youthful disciple of
Confucius, poverty came also with her iron hand, and although she could
not crush the active mind of Lí, with a strong grip, she held him back
from testing his skill with the ambitious _literati_, both old and
young, who annually flocked to the capital to present their themes
before the examiners. For even in those days as the present, money was
required to purchase the smiles of these severe judges. They must read
with _golden_ spectacles—or wo to the unhappy youth who, buoyant with
hope and—_empty pockets_, comes before them! With what contempt is his
essay cast aside, not worth the reading!

Sorely vexed, therefore, was poor Lí—and what wonder—to know that he
might safely cope with any candidate in the “Scientific Halls,” yet dare
not for the lack of _sycee_ (silver) enter their gates, lest disgrace
might fall upon him.

Yet Lí was of a merry heart—and, as all the world knows, there is no
better panacea for the ills of fortune than the spirit of cheerfulness.
Thus, although poverty barred the way to promotion, it could not
materially affect his happiness—no more than the passing wind which for
a moment ruffled the surface of the lake, yet had no power to move its
depths.

Now it happened that one day taking his nets Lí went down to the lake,
and as he cast them within the waters, not knowing any one was near, he
broke forth into a merry song, which sent its glad burthen far off to
the lips of mocking Echo, like Ariel, seeming to “ride on the curled
clouds.” Now it also chanced, that within a grove of the graceful
bamboo, which skirted the path down which Lí had passed on his way,
walked the great Mandarin Hok-wan.

“_Hi!_ by the head of Confucius the fellow sings well!” he exclaimed, as
the song met his ear, (for, as we have said, Lí had a voice of rare
melody,) and forthwith issuing from his concealment, Hok-wan seated
himself upon the bank and entered into conversation with the young
fisherman.

If the mere melody of the voice had so charmed the mandarin, how much
more was he captivated by the wit and learning of the youth, who, thus
poorly appareled, and humbly employed, seemed to share wisdom with the
gods! Hok-wan stroked his eye-brows in astonishment, and then bidding Lí
leave his nets, he bore him off as a rare prize to his own house, where
he that day feasted a numerous company.

First conducting Lí to an inner apartment, he presented him with a
magnificent robe richly embroidered, together with every article
necessary to complete the toilet of a person of distinction, and when
thus appareled, introduced him into the presence of his guests. And
truly Lí walked in among them with all the stateliness and hauteur of a
man who feels that he is conferring an honor, instead of being honored,
as no doubt Lí should have considered himself, in such an august
assemblage of grave mandarins. With what an air he seated himself at the
sumptuously loaded table! where, according to Chinese custom of the
higher classes, the various dishes of meats, soups, fish, preserves,
etc., were all nearly hidden by large bouquets of beautiful flowers, and
pyramids of green leaves.

And now no sooner had Hok-wan delivered with all customary formality the
speech of welcome, and drained to the health of his guests the tiny
goblet of crystal, embossed with gold, than rising to his feet, and
joining his hands before his breast, in token of respect to his host, Lí
called a servant, and bidding him take a part from all the good things
spread before him, said:

“Carry these to the dwelling of Whanki, the mother of Lí. Say to her
that as the sands on the lake shore, countless are the blessings of the
gods, who have this day smiled upon her son. Bid her eat—for although
from hunger he should gnaw his flesh, and from thirst drink his blood,
yet not one morsel of this banquet shall pass the lips of Lí unless his
aged mother be also sustained by the same delicacies.”

At hearing which, all the mandarins, and Hok-wan himself, loudly
expressed their admiration. Such is the esteem which the Chinese
entertain for filial piety.

This duty discharged, Lí attacked the dainties before him like a hungry
soldier, yet seasoning all he said and did with so much wit and humor,
that the guests laid down their chop-sticks and listened with wonder.
With the wine, Li grew still more merry—his wit cut like hail-stones
wheresoe’er it lighted, and at his jovial songs the grave dignitaries
forgetting their rank, (somewhat washed away by copious draughts of
_sam-shu_,[1]) snapped their fingers, wagged their shorn heads, and even
rising from the table embraced him familiarly. At length, when after an
interval of a few hours their hilarity was somewhat abated, during which
the guests walked in the beautiful gardens, or reclining upon luxuriant
cushions, regaled themselves with their pipes, or in masticating their
favorite betel-nut, Lí made bare his bosom before them, and to their
astonishment they found it was only a needy scholar whose praises they
had been shouting.

_A needy scholar!_

How firmly they clutched their fobs, lest a _candareen_[2] might jump
into the pocket of the needy scholar. But of advice they were as profuse
as grass-hoppers in August.

“Go to the capital—go to Kiang-fu,” (Nankin the ancient capital of the
empire,) “thou wilt perplex the learned—thou wilt bewilder the
ignorant!” said one.

“_Hi!_ this fellow Lí will yet stand with honor before the emperor,”
cried another.

“Appear boldly in the ‘Scientific Halls’ before the Examiners,” said a
third, “and never fear but thy name shall be cried at midnight from the
highest tower in the city,[3] as the successful Lí, with whom no other
candidate can compete!”

“When the wind blows over the fields does not the grass bend before it!”
said Hok-wan. “When the great Ho speaks will not inferiors obey! the
learned academician Ho is my brother—to him then you shall go—one word
from him, and even the judges themselves shall cry your name.”

“Ivory does not come from a rat’s mouth, or gold from brass clippings,”
thought Lí, as he listened to these remarks—“a few candareens now would
be better for me than all this fine talk—truly I must be a fool not to
know all this stuff before. Yet by the sacred manes of my ancestors, I
_will_ go to the capital, and that, too, ere another sun ripens the
rice-fields—furnished with a letter to the illustrious Ho, I may dare
admittance.”

Giddy with wine, and with the excitement of high hopes for the future,
at a late hour Lí was borne in a sumptuous palankeen to the humble
dwelling of Whanki.

The poor old soul at first knew not the gay gallant who stood before
her, so much had the gift-robes of the mandarin changed his appearance.

“_Heigh-yah!_ but, Lí, thou art as fine as a magpie,” quoth she, raising
her head from the pan of charcoal, over which she seemed to be simmering
something in a small dish—“_Heigh_—and now I look at you again, I see
you have drank of that cursed _sam-shu_—forever abhorred be the name of
I-tih![4] with all thy wit dost thou not know the wise saying of
Mencius—‘_Like a crane among hens is a man of parts among fools_.’ (It
may be inferred, I think, that the good old Whanki was something of a
scold.) And while thou hast been guzzling, see what I have prepared for
thee—what had _I_ to do with birds-nest soup, and with shark’s fins,
and with pigeon’s eggs from the table of Hok-wan! My poor Lí will be too
modest to eat with the great company, I said to myself, and I will not
eat them, but warm them up to comfort him when he comes back—look, here
they are,” (lifting the dish from the fire) “and yet thou comest home
like a well-fed, stupid swine!”

“Now tu-h, mother,” answered Lí, “if thy son has been drinking with
fools, they wore fine feathers—and now embrace me, for I am going to
the capital.”

“Lí, thou art drunk—go to bed—the capital indeed! Ah cursed, cursed
I-tih!” exclaimed the old woman.

But when at length Lí convinced her that he was neither drunk nor crazy,
but in reality about to start for Nankin, as a candidate for honors in
the Scientific Halls, and with a letter to the great Ho in his pouch,
Whanki knocked her head reverently before the shrine of the household
gods in token of gratitude.

The remainder of the night was passed in preparations for the journey,
and just as the golden ripples of the lake danced in the rays of the
rising sun, Lí tenderly embraced his aged parent, and set forth on foot
for Nankin, more than a hundred miles distant.

“Ah, the blessed bug,” quoth the old woman, gazing after him so long as
she could catch a glimpse of his large bamboo hat, “he will not want for
rice any day—no _sycee_ has he in his pockets, but such a tongue in his
head, as will bring him food and honors.”

Whanki was right. In every hamlet he passed through—in every cottage by
the wayside, Lí found a shelter and a welcome—the good people
considering themselves amply repaid for their hospitality if the young
stranger would but touch the strings of the _pipa_, or recite to them
odes from the Shoo-king.

In this manner he reached the capital, and crossing the marble bridge
over the great canal, upon the eastern side, entered the city at the
Gate of Extensive Peace. Going into the first barber’s shop which
offered, Lí carefully plucked _out_ his beard, (hear this, ye exquisites
of modern days!) shaved his head anew to the crown, and plaited his long
black hair with red ribbons. Then entering an adjoining tavern, he
exchanged his dusty, travel-worn garments for the rich dress presented
him by Hok-wan, which he had preserved with great care for the occasion,
and holding up his fan, to shield his eyes from the sun, stepped forth
into the busy streets, to look for the dwelling of the illustrious Ho.

And next, within the Hall of Ceremony, in the elegant mansion of Ho,
behold Lí in the presence of the great man himself—for with the same
audacity which marked his behavior at the dinner of Hok-wan, had Lí
given the door-keeper a vermilion card, leading Ho to expect a visiter
of rank. Advancing three steps to meet him, Ho bows low to his stranger
guest—then with graceful ease Lí also advances three step, and bows
still lower—Ho again gravely steps forward and makes another
salutation—upon which Lí again does the same—with a still lower
bending of the body, Ho once more advances—whereupon Lí, nearly
touching the marble pavements with his forehead, steps forward yet
another three steps! By this time their united and solemn paces had
brought them near the couch upon which visiters are expected to repose
themselves. And here again the same formalities were gone through with,
as to who should first be seated thereon. But _being_ seated, Lí at once
burst forth with such a flow of wit and fancy, that Ho was completely
captivated ere he knew the name or business of the daring youth!

Now this was a capital stroke of Lí. For the academician cared not so
much for any dignitary under the Emperor Supreme, as he did for a man of
learning, or even for one who could tickle the moments as they flew with
witty jests, provoking laughter. Ho saw at once that Lí not only
possessed this recommendation, but that his knowledge could also ring on
as many topics as there were bells to the Porcelain Tower. When,
therefore, he had perused the letter of Hok-wan, which, after securing
his ground, Lí put into his hand, and after having listened to the
history which the youth gave of his hard struggles, of his poverty, and
earnest desire to come before the judges on the day of examination, than
Ho, embracing him, bade him be of good cheer.

“Now, by the sacred Budha!” he exclaimed, “learning like thine shall win
its crown without the aid of propitiatory gifts, save to the gods
themselves. Know, O Lí, that Yang and Kau, who enjoy the smiles of the
great emperor, are this year the examiners. To them shalt thou go, with
no favor but my name—humble as it is, it shall cause thine to be
enrolled among the _literati_ of the Imperial Academy!”

No doubt Ho manifested great vanity in this, in so much as hinting that
his “_humble_” name could balance with gold in the scales of avarice!
Nevertheless Lí was delighted, and immediately set about piling up such
a cloud castle as spread over his whole heaven of glory.

And now the day of examination approached, and confident of success, Lí
boldly presented himself for admission.

Offering the memorial of Ho, which was to insure him, as he supposed,
the favor of the judges, he was much surprised to see those great men,
Yang and Kau, after turning over the missive with elevated noses,
expressive of their contempt, cast it from them with scorn.

“_Heigh!_ the academician Ho thinks to cheat us with bubbles! He sends
us a scrawl devoid of meaning, to bespeak our favor for an upstart
without degree or title! Yes—_we will remember the name of Lí!_” Saying
which, they cast looks of bitter disdain upon the needy scholar.

Then commenced the tedious formula of the examination. The candidates,
hundreds in number, were all obliged to undergo the strict search of the
officers in attendance. Their robes, pockets, shoes, and even their
nicely plaited queues were examined, to see they had not secreted some
essay or composition of some kind, which they might substitute for one
written on the spot without preparation, when the examiners should
command them. This done, they were all seated on long benches with their
paper and pencils ready for the trial—the doors and windows in the
meanwhile being closely barred and guarded, that no one from without
should have the power of smuggling any written paper into the hands of
the students.

At a signal-gun the theme for composition was given out, and, like the
velvet feet of butterflies, the pencils of the rival candidates glided
smoothly and fleetly over the tinted paper. With perfect composure and
ease, Lí wrote off his essay in the most beautiful characters, without a
single erasure or omission—handling the subject with great skill and
judgment, and gave it into the hands of Yang.

“_Heigh!_” said Yang, without giving himself even the trouble to glance
over it, but drawing his pencil derisively over the fair and beautiful
characters, “I remember the name of Lí! What stuff is here—why the
fellow is only fit to grind my ink!”

“To grind your ink!” quoth Kau, “say rather he is only fit to lace my
buskins!”

And laughing loudly at their own wit, the great judges Yang and Kau
turned their backs upon the unfortunate Lí.

Overwhelmed with mortification and rage, he rushed to the lower end of
the hall, and there was obliged to remain until evening, as not until
then could the doors be thrown open to give egress to any one. Here he
had the vexation of listening to the jibes and sneers of those around
him, and of seeing others promoted to honors, who were as far inferior
to him as owls to eagles! What a bitter day for poor Lí! and when at
length dismissed with renewed contumely from the Scientific Halls, he
rushed into the presence of Ho, swearing loudly that he would one day
ride over the necks of the proud Yang and Kau, “and by the head of
Confucius when I do—_Yang shall grind my ink, and Kau lace up my
buskins!_” he cried with bitterness.

Ho was terribly indignant at the treatment of his _protégé_, as well as
incensed for the insult he imagined his own dignity had received. But,
although he was himself high in favor with the emperor, Yang and Kau
stood still higher, therefore he dissembled his anger, lest his head
might pay the forfeit, should those two powerful courtiers incense the
emperor against him.

When he found Lí preparing to return home, he embraced him kindly, and
bade him tarry yet another year in the capital.

“In the end thou wilt surely succeed, O Lí. The next year the examiners
will not be the same, and thou may’st then be certain of success,” said
Ho. “Remain with me until the time comes round—thy days and nights
shall roll off bright and rosy as morning clouds—wine, wit, and music,
yes, and the smiles of women, shall make thee forget the insults thou
hast received.”

But Lí remembered his aged mother, sitting solitary in her humble home
by the side of the lake, and his resolution strengthened.

“Know, O Ho, that an old mother waits for Lí afar off. Summer and
harvest will come, but Whanki has no one to sow her rice, and desolation
will sit in her dwelling. The fish sport and gambol amid the waters of
the lake—Whanki has no strength to draw them forth, therefore hunger
and death will await her! What profit, O wise Ho, should I gain if my
aged parent suffered! Would not the gods curse the race of Lí!”

“Noble youth, take this purse—it is heavy,” exclaimed Ho—“hasten to
relieve the necessities of thy mother—a happy mother in so dutiful a
son—then return without delay and await the examination. I promise
thee, thou shalt not this time lack a present for the greedy
judges—though, by Budha, I would like to give it them at the dagger’s
point!”

Accordingly Lí bade farewell to his generous friend, promising to return
as speedily as possible.

- - -

[1] A deleterious liquor distilled from rice.

[2] A Chinese coin.

[3] The custom of announcing the names of the successful candidates at
the examination.

[4] The god of intoxicating liquors.


PART II.

A man who has a tongue may go to Rome.
_Chin. Prov’b._

Within the “Tranquil Palace of Heaven,” Hwant-sung sat upon the Dragon’s
Throne, with all his court prostrate before him.

There was evidently “something rotten in the state of Denmark,” for the
clouds which veiled the august features of the Celestial Monarch were
black as night—thunder might soon be expected, and low in the dust his
humble courtiers awaited the outpouring of his terrible wrath.

Before his footstool knelt the Premier Yang, bearing in his hand an
official document inscribed with curious hieroglyphics.

“By my ancestors,” exclaimed the emperor, with a wrathful look from one
to the other of his trembling courtiers, “a wise court is sustained by
the bounty of Hwant-sung! say rather a pack of idiots, asses, dolts,
fatted dogs! What! shall we become a jibe in the mouths of foreign
nations! Shall barbarian kings mock the court of Nankin! _Hi!_ Is there
not one then of my learned counsellors—not one of my renowned warriors
can decipher me this scroll! Tremble, then, ye hounds! Yang, I command
thee to make known to us the purport of the missive which the foreign
ambassadors have brought to our court.”

At this order well might Yang turn pale—for there was no more meaning
to him in the characters on which his eyes were fixed, than in the slimy
trail which the green lizard draws upon the sand. Over and over he
turned it—now on this side, now on that—watched narrowly and jealously
meanwhile by all around—for when was one high in favor with princes
also the favorite with the mass! At length, nine times reverently
knocking his head before Hwant-sung, Yang said:

“Let not the displeasure of Earth’s Glory, before whose frown the whole
world stands affrighted, annihilate his slave that the gods have not
granted him power to do the will of his majesty in this thing. He cannot
read.”

Then did Hwant-sung call up one after another of those whose scholastic
lore was famed throughout the empire. In vain. Not one could understand
the mysterious scroll. At which, becoming exceeding wroth, Hwant-sung
swore that unless within three days his ministers could make known to
him the signification of the embassy, their _offices_ and _salaries_
should all be taken from them—and if in six days they were still in
ignorance, their _death_ should release the empire from so many stupid
owls!

Then did the academician Ho humbly present himself at the foot of the
throne.

“Will the emperor deign to open the ears of graciousness while the
humblest of his slaves speaks? Know then, O mighty sovereign, there
arrived last night at my house a man in whom all knowledge seems to
centre. His mind, keen as the lightning, penetrates the most hidden
mysteries—there is no science, no art, which he hath not already
mastered. Command then that he appear before thee to make plain that
which doth perplex thy majesty’s servants.”

Hwant-sung rejoiced greatly at this information, and bade Ho bring the
learned scholar at once into his presence.

But when Ho, eager with joy, related to Lí the good fortune he had
secured him, that audacious youth positively refused compliance with the
commands of the emperor! offering as an excuse, that as he was but a


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