H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

The life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore online

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understand my Persian faii-ly clearly. It is indeed a privilege to
do ever so little, and work ever so feebly, in the steps of the
beloved Henry Martyn. How I wish I could find out the room
in which he lived, and where the scene took place of the Bible
trampled on by the moollahs, and picked up by him with the
words in his heart, if not on his lips : —

" If on my face, for Thy dear name.
Shame and reproachea be,
All hail reproach, and welcome Bhame,
If Thou remember me I "

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. . . It is a great comfort to me that I was led in India to devote
much time with Mr. Bateman and others to the study of Soo-
feeism and Persian; and Persia being the land in which Soo-
feeism most prevails, I find myself suri>risingly at home with the
religious teachers here in the use of words. All they say almost is
familiar to me ; still, to touch hearts and influence lives is not
my work, but the work of the Church's great Teacher, the Holy
Ghost, as I told them at length this morning when some of
them asked me to explain the words, **I will give you another

The bishop's great aim was to influence for good the
learned Mussulmans, and a few extracts from his diary
from day to day will show that he was not entirely without
success : —

^April ID. A venerable old man and a middle-aged man called,
sat an hour or so, and seemed to drink in words of truth ; they
said they had been deceived hitherto, now saw their way to light.
May the Holy Spirit Himself take them under His own teaching
of light and truth ! I talked to them about Daniel preaching pro-
bably in Persepolis, and Darius' order throughout his kingdom
that men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. . . I told
them what **raunak" (illustrious honour) it was that their
country had a prophet, and the prophet's words commanded
to be circulated through the country by the greatest of their

^ April II. Over an hour with the same old man and two
followers. Two others from Ispahan sat an hour or more in the
afternoon. No others to-day. Eight copies of New Testament,
or portions, sold by Benjamin in the bazaars to-day ^ Much
time spent in reading Hebrew and Chaldee, Dan. vi-viii, and

^April 12. Thank God for some most interesting conversation
with some akhoonds (three or four), and the two or three who
came the last two mornings all together, on the great truths of
the last two days : the kingdom of God, the death and burial with
Christ, the atonement or **kafara," the second coming, &c. It is
surprising to see how much is admitted, and apparently in some
assurance of faith. The Lord does seem to have His own every-

' Benjamin is described by Dr. Bruce as an enthusiastic colporteur,
a Nestorian Christian who knows no fear of man. In one town he took
bis seat immediately beneath a proclamation forbidding circulation of
the Scriptures, and nowhere had so good a sale. At another, where he
had been seized and bastinadoed, he returned barefoot, to give less
trouble to his persecutors should they again fall on him.

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where. They did not attempt to set up Mohammed against Christ.
The "injils"^ of the Old Testament I dwelt upon. They asked about
the appearances of Christ in the Old Testament, and I took
especially the wrestling of Jacob and Hosea's comment on it,
which we read, and there seemed a general readiness to admit the
plain and natural sense of this. Had I come only to witness
to-day's confession of so many blessed truths by some learned
sons of Pei-sia, I should have felt the visit worth making and the
journey taking. George and I prayed afterwards for a blessing.
The dying and rising with Christ seemed mai-vellously to com-
mend itself to them. The Word and Son of God, His eternal
oneness with the Father, seemed to present no difficulty. ** How
can we come thus," they said, *Ho be dead and buried with
Christ?" I dwelt on baptism and the yielded heart and life
as the tine means of death to sin in repentance. I pressed
on them the seeking the help of the Spirit to understand
all this.

^ A general in the army and a sheikh called and sat a long timo.
I pointed out the same subjects generally. They said much
about the **tauhid" or unity, and I showed how the unity was the
first principle of all religion and all truth. So far we were all
agreed ; but there were the idtw^ro, which were the mysteries of
faith. I must try to show how barren, empty and naked the idea
of absolute deism is, and how the Trinitas is out of the root of
the unity and in its root, and how its fruitfulness in itself, and
beyond itself in its communication, depends on this.

'The general and sheikh both wanted copies of the Bible,
specially of Isaiah and Daniel, after what I told them of Cyrus
and Darius from those books. They inquired particularly about
" wiladat-i-sani " (new birth), what it meant and how it was
attained, which gave occasion for bringing out the work of
Christ and the Holy Spirit.

* The sheikh quoted a hadis'^, in which God is stated to have said
that by truth and holiness, or such means, " you can become like

* April 13. The old man and two others called this morning;
not much encouraged. Sorrowful letter about dear Edith to-day.
Bode with nawab three miles or so to the Dilkoosha garden, under
a pyramidal hill. Felt ill and undone to-day, and could talk but
little to the diwan'*, who had waited for me for some time, and
had started in his carriage for a drive, but returned seeing me
from a distance. A wonderful water-spring gushes from the hill
just above his garden. I sat not half an hour, and he walked
with me round part of his orchard. I rode on a little way to


Traditional saying of Mohammed.

Fath UUah Khan. See Curzon, vol. i. p. 431.

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Hafiz's garden beyond. A few trees compose the garden, of which
the chief attraction is a tomb-like stone of the usual shape
engraven and chased with Hafiz's poema On the wall also are
other quotations at length. Bambridge (missionary from Bagdad)
arrived in the evening, which refreshed me. He had got here
in five days, walking one horse the whole distance.'

* April 14. Accepted invitation from a mujtahid (the Imam
Jumas of Shiraz) to visit him in his garden two miles off, called
Ilahmatabad. The nawab was also there, and other moollahs.
I spoke at some length on the new birth, and the word of God,
and the second coming of our Lord. Books, which the colporteurs
had brought, excited their attention much; and ten Bibles or
Testaments in Arabic or Persian were bought The mujtahid
read out the first Psalm and the second, delighted with the
similarity of it to the Koran. I pressed upon them the impor-
tance of spreading the four great books of the word of God, and
told them the ^'raunak" would be greater than the kingdom of
Cyrus, if they could spread the kingdom of God and Christ. The
passages I had copied out this morning as to the Soofee views of
the **kalamat" (word of God) were helpful. Delightful to get
Henry Martyn's life to-day. Looked over Ezra's account of Cyrus
with Bambridge, especially his careful specifications as to temple-
building arrangements. It was a pleasant '^ balakhana" or upper
chamber in a garden where we met, a mujtahid and moollah sat
in some state, the rest anywhere. They brought a box for me to
sit on, which was really unusually considerate. The garden green
and verdant with rivulets of fresh water flowing through ; opposite
(across some young crops and green fields just under the hills,
over which footpaths towards Zarghun were clearly traceable)
was another cypress garden, partly concealing three flour wat^r-
mills — **asiyab," they called them. The great copy of the whole
Persian Bible seemed very attractive to them. Evidently they
thought that there must be something in all that. The great man
kissed it devoutly, and placed it reverently on the top of his
head to express his respect and homage. The mujtahid whom
H. Martyn describes at Shiraz can hardly have been so open to
conviction and impression as the present high priest appeared.
The colporteurs were highly delighted at the sale of books which
took place. Three or four years ago there was much more shyness
and reluctance in the purchase of books. More Bibles were
called for to be sent after! I said to them, "If you can get
the mujtahids to do your work for you, how pleased the Bible
Society will be." God grant this little change for the better may
usher in a new state of things.

' A long and pleasant evening with a Nicodemus-like moollah,
who sat one and a half hours, and I had difficulty in getting him
to go at last 1 Much of the work of John the Baptist and of the
Saviour was gone through with him.

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' ''Masih imroz aram" (Christ is peace to-day\ and the teaching
based upon it, struck him much. ** Being justified by faith"
must follow this evening. I was most refreshed by meeting such
a gentlemanly, humble, modest inquirer to whom the truth seemed
as clear, fresh water out of spring.

*In speaking of "Christ is peace to-day," the Nicodemus said,
"You must have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you," of which
I had been speaking. Evidently the thought had taken hold
of him in a strange way.'

* April 15 [Sunday). Two services as before. In the evening
walked witii Bambridge to Hafiz's tomb ; thought a tomb in an
elevated spot to be Hafiz's, and going up to it was invited to
sit down by some moollahs gathered there. I found it was one
of their padris', buried I know not how long ago, not long
probably, but there was a preaching place by it, and evidently
it had a sacredness in their eyes. I had a long conversation with
the moollahs, and read a little out of the New Testament. One
moollah could do nothing but cast i*eproaches upon God for
allowing Satan to have so much power over faithful men.
I think he felt silenced at last. I pressed the immense love
of God in sending His cncn Son to deliver us from the power
of darkness, how at this very moment He invites him to find
all the power of resistance he needs. I might have taken the few
first verses of James — " Count it all joy when ye fall, &c." After-
wards looked at poor Hafiz's tomb, which was encircled with an
iron rail — "daurash ahin ast," as he expressed it\ Glad to rest
at night and talk quietly with Bambridge.'

Besides this missionary labour, the bishop found some
opportunities of ministering to the European community.
One little girl, Greta Stainton, he baptized on Sunday,
April 15 ; and to a telegraph officer who had lost his pro-
motion more than once through drink, he solemnly made
over his own pledge-card, inducing him to sign it.

'I put the question before him on its highest grounds,' he
said, 'especially the ground of the cross, and showed him
Dr. Odling's crucifix, and asked him in its presence to take the
pledge. I prayed with him, and promised him one or two books,
and asked him to dine on Thursday.'

When on the Thursday he did come and dine, the bishop,
though very tired, read and prayed with him ; in fact, he
left no means untried of winning him.

^ See Curzon, vol. ii. p. 108.

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On April i8 the bishop and his party started for Ispahan,
and in four hours of rough riding traversed the twenty-
miles to Zarghun, a small town of some 4,000 inhabitants,
and with four mosques in it. They found the rahdars, or
people in charge of the sarais, most civil. A fine tall man,
a Christian baptized by Bruce, came in the evening. He
said he was forbidden by the moollahs to read or speak
of Christ.

The next day, April 19, 'the much-to-be-remembered
plain of Merv-dasht was reached amid showers and storms
over the marshy levels of the Zarghun plain,' whose dark
morasses were in places paved with rough round stones.
The black flocks and black tents of nomad tribes contrasted
with the grey rocks and green pastures.

*A great imperial plain,' said the bishop, *is Merv-dasht,
worthy of being the seat of a great kingdom. It is rich to
a degree at this season, the villages wcU-walled with stone having
deliciously green shrubberies, walled in also, apples, pomegranates,
vines, wUlows by the waters, planes, poplars, apricots. There
were two splendid hills to our left as we drew near to Persepolis
and Pooza ; one seemed like a couching lion, the other like a lion
ready to spiing. The stormy weather and driving rain-clouds
helped to increase the illusive impression. A poet would have
been in ecstasies but for the drenching rain.'

* 20//*. A memorable day. Fine and yet not hot or over-bright
sunshine for examining Persepolis. We started at about 7.30, and
returned at 3.*

'21^. Off at 6.45 to see Darius' tomb. I was most struck
with two things.

*(i) A perfect copy, or original (I know not which) of the
sculpture near Shahpor's tomb, of Shahpor receiving the submis-
sion of the Emperor Valerian \ In one [sculpture] the Emperor
of Rome stands by Ms horse and offers his diadem to Shahpor ; in
the other, he is on his knees in far more abject submission, and
this accords with the usual illustrations in histories. The grand
haughtiness and erect omnipotent attitude of Shahpor is in felt
contrast with the touching, bowed down, and prostrate look of
the emperor. (2) Yet more wonderful, if possible, as a work of

' Curzon, voL ii. pp. 115-119, gives an elaborate description of the
remains, with many illustrations, including Shahpor and Valerian,
(p. 121).

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art is a bit of a desperate battle struggle between some royal per-
sonages (or great heroes at any rate) : the muscular action and
marvellously life-like natural attitude of every limb, both of man
and horse, has an overpowering effect ; not a limb but seemed in
an agony of tension and beauty of most perfect development.
Since Aurelian's statue at Bome, and the Laocoon at the Vatican,
I have seen nothing, so far as I recollect, so extremely artistic or
in which it would be so impossible to add or diminish anything.
It is only a portion, apparently, of a larger sculpture, of which
part has suffered from destructiveness of man or the elements.
In such a lovely, lonely, desolate spot to see such flowers of
human art and industry blushing unseen makes one marvel indeed.
We rode on to the extremity (one extremity at least) of the
Merv-dasht plain by the villages of Faido and Faro, where are
excellent anai's^ and grapes; then rounded a mountain promontory,
and through a short pass came into the Siwand or Araxes valley,
much more narrow than Merv-dasht, but also in parts very green,
and having gardens. We crossed the Araxes, fairly swift but
low and perfectly easy, and passed right through one village,
where was a bag*, out of which five kids peeped and bleated, and
infants of two years were riding mules and ponies. We passed
at length Siwand and Kuhna, now deserted like shells of oysters
left high and dry. The new Siwand is round another promontory
in a very beautiful and highly cultivated valley, with poplar
plantations and vineyards under mountains of curious lie of
strata . . . the village a collection of unicoloured grey stone and
clay huts. The telegraph officer's house has a singularly enjoy-
able and lovely prospect, the contrast between the dark mountain
range (abounding however in brushwood) and smiling fields and
orchards arresting one's gaze continually.'

From this most charming rest-house he wrote to Mr. Clark
and Mrs. French fuller descriptions of his sight-seeing. To
Mr. Clark he said : —

* . . . The tomb of Darius one could not but look upon with
thrilling interest yesterday. That, as well as the tomb of Cyrus
the Great, which we hope to see to-morrow, appear to be identified
by the inscriptions, as well as historic testimony, most satisfac-
torily. The ladies' apartments have sculptures of ladies in the
recesses of doorways, most of the buildings representing kings
and their attendants, or soldiera One thought the sculptures of
Xerxes' zenana might embrace one of Esther. I am working on
slowly with the colloquial Persian for the villagers and poorer

Pomegranates. * Or perhaps bag (garden).

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classes in the towns. For the learned, classical Persian answers
sufficiently. Martyn's life has been my constant companion.
No one else seems to have known anything about the thoughts in
men's hearts in this part of Persia.'

To Mrs. French he said : —

* At Pooza, after talking with the rustic travellers, who gathered
for warmth around our smoky fire, we got the use of a little rude
upstairs apartment for two nights, which, with a carpet or two,
made a passable resting-place. With an eye-glass we discovered
rock-hewn tombs in the distance — one, which turned out to be
the tomb of Darius the Great, we set our hearts on seeing.
These tombs are of a kind I have not seen before - the rough face
of the steep scarped rock being first hewn and smoothed, not
from the ground upward, but at a point perhaps halfway up the
rock, and thence to a greater height, like a large picture-frame let
into the rock, in the centre of which a little dark opening is
visible, which is the entrance to the royal tomb. Above and
below are very elaborate sculptures, recording the king's name
and the chief exploits of himself and his armies in the old Persian
or Zend character, a language which has distributed itself into the
Sanskrit and Persian in a very curious way, the verbs being mostly
found with their inflections in the Sanskrit, and many of the
adjectives even in modern Persian, as ** buzurg," great ; " darogh,"
false. Happily yesterday turned out a delightfully suitable
day for examining the ruins of Persepolis. The idea was a quaint
and grand one certainly of appropiiating to a succession of halls
and palaces for imperial purposes a flat terrace underlying for
a length of about half a mile, and about half, or less than half,
that breadth, some not very lofty hills of solid stone, sufficient to
form an imposing and impressive background to the scene of
splendour and high artistic effort. I called the terrace flat, but it
is not all of one level, but a series of natural levels, helped by art
and human labour, and casemated, as it were, with wondrous
masonry some sixty feet high, made of huge blocks and slabs of
most solid stone, up which are staircases of stone. Those in front
especially, facing the great Merv-dasht Plain westward, are said
by Niebuhr to be the finest in -the world, and so broad that ten
horsemen might ride up abreast. That is not all, for up the side
walls as you ascend is what seems an endless series of scattered
processions, some festive, some militaiy, some triumphal: long
strings of captives or subjects offering presents ; horses and cars
in a very few of the fa9ades, rarely dromedaries and asses ; sheep
and oxen, rarely an antelope ; men carrying game, birds, and kids
on their shoulders ; soldiers with long bows in their hands, and
quivers fastened behind ; horsemen all leading their horses, as
the scenes were all processional, and represented the palace and
what went on in it, not the battle-field. I made a point at

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Bushire and Shiraz of making a number of notes from the best
sources I could collect, and it was possible with the help of these
to distinguish the various buildings, halls, palaces, tombs, and
the rest. I spent yesterday mostly in this attempt, and it was
such a treat as one can seldom enjoy. Fergusson's book was by
far the most helpful, as he went into many of the details so care-
fully. It seems clear from the researches of historians, that
Darius it was who commenced the palaces here, changing his
capital from that of Cyrus, which was Pasargadae or Istaker, to
one thirty miles further south, and in a gi'ander centre more
favoured by natural surroundings. The monuments chiefly belong
to him and Xerxes, though some have thought that Xerxes' son
Artaxerxes built one of the palaces ; but this is very doubtful.
Xerxes' hall, and the hall of a hundred columns, whose sculptures
seem akin to those in Darius' palace, must have been on the whole
the most striking, and suited for the exhibition and overwhelming
display of the imperial pomp of the East. Of the pillars which
composed the palace of Xerxes only fourteen are now standing,
including two in the front portico or propylaea, as they were
called in later days. This front portico has at the side of its
gateways two colossal, monstrous- sized creatures, something
between the bull and the griflfin. The sculptures of the monarchs
are almost all in the deep doorways, through which they marched
in stately procession to their court pageantry, feasting, or halls of
judgement. The faces have unhappily in every case, so far as
I saw, been mutilated by the Mohammedan conquerors in the
seventh and eighth centuries ; all but the face is easily distinguish-
able, and the stateliness and solemn majesty of their movements
is remarkable. The roofs of the hall of Xerxes and hall of a
hundred columns were, it appears, of cedar from Lebanon forests,
and were burnt, as Arrian relates, by Alexander in a drunken fit,
if the tradition told is true.

^Strange it is that the royal tombs are in the deeply graven
and chiselled faces of the rocks, forming the immediate back-
ground of the terraces and palaces. It must have been no small
wisdom and self-restraint which led them in the midst of all their
pomp to be incessantly reminded of death and the grave. Half-
way up the small hill was the chief of these tombs, with the
inscriptions and sculptured reliefs of the king, seated in the act of
worship as high priest with the altar of the sun facing him, and
a strange winged figure hanging in mid aii* >vith the sacred ring
in its centre, out of which a human head protrudes and elevates
itself. This may have been the tomb of Xerxes or Artaxerxes.
Darius' tomb is scarcely in sight, except with a glass, on the
very opposite side of the plain. Perhaps he preferred not to
be in such visible contact with the tomb he had prepared for

The Sunday was spent quietly at Siwand.

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On Monday, April 23, they left early for Murghab, and
visited the tomb of Cyrus, which the bishop thus described: —

'At 9.15, after a hard ride, reached Cyrus' tomb (meeting
Mr. Slainton in the way), and took refreshment under its shadow.
Much surprised to find the colonnade remains so perfect on two
or three sides, enabling a very clear idea to be formed of its entire
appearance. Few tombs in the world can have been so splendid
in conception, supposing the eight pillars each way (at the
distance of about twelve yards I suppose from the base of the
pyramid of the tomb) to have supported a canopy overshadowing
the whole. No doubt much else to produce additional effect was
added, of which all trace is now lost. The ground layer of stones
protruding beyond the other layers to complete the pyramid has
very little left : massive though the stones are, 18 ft. by 4 ft. in
breadth and 4 J ft. in height, at a rough calculation, it has almost
completely been removed to break up for small buildings, which
disfigure rather than beautify the surroundings, and for head-
stones and massive slabs above the Mohammedan graves ; for the
whole place is turned into a Mohammedan cemetery, with a rude
stone and mud wall surrounding! The tomb itself is emptj',
though the remains of Cyrus may be underneath the floor. The
grand plain of Pasargadae, with this in its veiy centre, on a very
slight and scarce perceptible eminence, must have given much
effect to the colossal tomb with its massive colonnade. Of the
capitals it was not possible to learn anything, though there were
little bits of old Zend inscription lying about, apparently repre-
senting a time when the Zend became slightly modern, Persianized
in its characters. Mr. Stainton believed these to be quite ancient,
and going back to the original of the building, but I had not time
to make any cast.

* I was much struck with the long narrow defiles (occasionally
broadening a little into narrow cultivated plains) through which
we passed for five or six miles before debouching into the great
plain of Pasargadae, of which the tomb is the centre. The hills
round in the far distance were much softer, more velvety, less

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 7 of 46)