Page images
PDF
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

TO
SAMUEL ROGERS, ESQ.

THIS EASTERN ROMANCE IS INSCRIBED
BY HIS VERY GRATEFUL AND AFFECTIONATE FRIEND,
May 19, 1817.

THOMAS MOORE.

In the eleventh year of the reign of Aurungzebe, Abdalla, King of the Lesser Bucharia, a lineal descendant from the Great Zingis, having abdicated the throne in favour of his son, set out on a pil. grimage to the Shrine of the Prophet; and, passing into India through the delightful valley of Cashmere, rested for a short time at Delhi on his way. He was entertained by Aurungzebe in a style of magnificent hospitality, worthy alike of the visitor and the host, and was afterwards escorted with the same splendour to Surat, where he embarked for Arabia. During the stay of the Royal Pilgrim at Delhi, a marriage was agreed upon between the Prince, his son, and the youngest daughter of the Emperor, Lalla Rookh;* -a Princess described by the poets of her time as more beautiful than Leila, Shirine, Dewilde, or any of those heroines whose names and loves embellish the songs of Persia and Hindostan. It was intended that the nuptials should be celebrated at Cashmere ; where the young King, as soon as the cares of empire would permit, was to meet, for the first time, his lovely bride, and, after a few months' repose in that enchanting valley, conduct her over the snowy hills into Bucharia.

The day of Lalla Rookh's departure from Delhi was as splendid as sunshine and pageantry could make it. The bazaars and baths

[ocr errors][merged small]

were all covered with the richest tapestry ; hundreds of gilded barges upon the Jumna floated with their banners shining in the water; while through the streets groups of beautiful children went strewing the most delicious flowers around, as in that Persian festival called the Scattering of the Roses ; till every part of the city was as fragrant as if à caravan of musk from Khoten had passed through it. The Princess, having taken leave of her kind father, who at parting hung a carnelian of Yemen round her neck, on which was inscribed a verse from the Koran, and having sent á considerable present to the Fakirs, who kept up the Perpetual Lamp in her sister's tomb, meekly ascended the palankeen prepared for her; and, while Aurungzebe stood to take a last look from his balcony, the procession moved slowly on the road to Lahore.

Seldom had the Eastern world seen a cavalcade so superb. From the gardens in the suburbs to the Imperial palace, it was one unbroken line of splendour. The gallant appearance of the Rajahs and Mogul lords, distinguished by those insignia of the Emperor's favour, the feathers of the egret of Cashmere in their turbans, and the small silver-rimmed kettledrums at the bows of their saddles ;-the costly armour of their cavaliers, who vied, on this occasion, with the guards of the great Keder Khan, * in the brightness of their silver battle-axes and the massiness of their maces of gold ;—the glittering of the gilt pine-applest on the tops of the palankeens; the embroidered trappings of the elephants, bearing on their backs small turrets, in the shape of little antique temples, within which the Ladies of Lalla Rookh lay as it were enshrined ;-the rose-coloured veils of the Princess's own sumptu. ous litter, at the front of which a fair young female slave sat fanning her through the curtains, with feathers of the Argus pheasant's wing ;—and the lovely troop of Tartarian and Cashmerian maids of honour, whom the young King had sent to accompany his bride, and who rode on each side of the litter, upon small Arabian horses ;-all was brilliant, tasteful, and magnificent, and pleased even the critical and fastidious Fadladeen, Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram, who was borne in his palankeen immediately after the Princess, and considered himself not the least important personage of the pageant.

Fadladeen was a judge of everything,- from the pencilling of a Circassian's eyelids to the deepest questions of science and literature; from the mixture of a conserve of rose-leaves to the composition of an epic poem : and such influence had his opinion upon the various tastes of the day that all the cooks and poets of Delhi stood in awe of him. His political conduct and opinions were founded upon that line of Sadi,—“Should the Prince at noon-day

* “Khedar Khan, the Khakan, or King of Turquestan, beyond the Gihon (at the end of the eleventh century), whenever he appeared abroad was preceded by seven hundred horsemen with silver battle-axes, and was followed by an equal number bearing maces of gold." -Richardson's Dissertation prefixed to his Dictionary.

“The kubdeh, a large golden knob, generally in the shape of a pine-apple, on the top of the canopy over the litter or palanquin.”-Scott's Notes on the Bahardanush,

say, It is night, declare that you behold the moon and stars.”-And his zeal for religion, of which Aurungzebe was a munificent protector, was about as disinterested as that of the goldsmith who fell in love with the diamond eyes of the idol of Jaghernaut.*

During the first days of their journey, Lalla Rookh, who had passed all her life within the shadow of the Royal Gardens of Delhi, found enough in the beauty of the scenery through which they passed to interest her mind, and delight her imagination ; and when at evening, or in the heat of the day, they turned off from the high road to those retired and romantic places which had been selected for her encampments, -sometimes on the banks of a small rivulet, as clear as the waters of the Lake of Pearl ; sometimes under the sacred shade of a Banyan tree, from which the view opened upon a glade covered with antelopes; and often in those hidden, embowered spots, described by one from the Isles of the West, + as "places of melancholy, delight, and safety, where all the company around was wild peacocks and turtle-doves;”—she felt a charm in these scenes, so lovely and so new to her, which, for a time, made her indifferent to every other amusement. But Lalla Rookh was young, and the young love variety ; nor could the conversation of her Ladies and the Great Chamberlain, Fadladeen, (the only persons, of course, admitted to her pavilion,) sufficiently enliven those many vacant hours which were devoted neither to the pillow nor the palankeen. There was a little Persian slave who sung sweetly to the Vina, and who, now and then, lulled the Princess to sleep with the ancient ditties of her country, about the loves of Wamak and Ezra, I the fair-haired Zal and his mistress Rodahver ;8 not forgetting the combat of Rustam with the terrible White Demon.|| At other times she was amused by those graceful dancing-girls of Delhi who had been permitted by the Bramins of the Great Pagoda to attend her, much to the horror of the good Mussulman Fadladeen, who could see nothing graceful or agreeable in idolaters, and to whom the very tinkling of their golden anklets was an abomination.

But these and many other diversions were repeated till they lost all their charm, and the nights and noon-days were beginning to move heavily, when, at length, it was recollected that, among the attendants sent by the bridegroom, was a young poet of Cashmere, much celebrated throughout the Valley for his manner of reciting

*"The idol at Jaghernat has two fine diamonds for eyes. No goldsmith is suffered to enter the Pagoda, one having stole one of these eyes, being locked up all night with the idol."-Tavernier. * Sir Thomas Roe, Ambassador from James I. to Jehanguire.

I “The romance Wemakweazra, written in Persian verse, which contains the loves of Wamak and Ezra, two celebrated lovers who lived before the time of Mahomet."-Note on the Oriental Tales.

$ Their amour is recounted in the Shah-Namêh of Ferdousi.

# Rustam is the Hercules of the Persians. For the particulars of his victory over the Sepeed Deeve, or White Demon, see Oriental Collections, vol. ii. p. 45.-Near the city of Shirauz is an immense quadrangular monument, in commemoration of this combat, called the Kelaat-i-Deev Sepeed, or Castle of the White Giant, which Father Angelo, in his Gazophilacium Persicum, p. 127. declares to have been the most memorable monument of antiquity which he had seen in Persia.-See Ouseley's Persian Miscellanies.

the stories of the East, on whom his Royal Master had conferred the privilege of being admitted to the pavilion of the Princess, that he might help to beguile the tediousness of the journey by some of his most agreeable recitals. At the mention of a poet, Fadladeen elevated his critical eyebrows, and, having refreshed his faculties with a doze of that delicious opium which is distilled from the black poppy of the Thebais, gave orders for the minstrel to be forthwith introduced into the presence.

The Princess, who had once in her life seen a poet from behind the screens of gauze in her Father's hall, and had conceived from that specimen no very favourable ideas of the Caste, expected but little in this new exhibition to interest her ;- she felt inclined, however, to alter her opinion on the very first appearance of Feramorz. He was a youth about Lalla Rookh's own age, and graceful as that idol of women, Chrishna, * -such as he appears to their young imaginations, heroic, beautiful, breathing music from his very eyes, and exalting the religion of his worshippers into love. His dress was simple, yet not without some marks of costliness ; and the Ladies of the Princess were not long in discovering that the cloth, which encircled his high Tartarian cap, was of the most delicate kind that the shawl goats of Tibet supply. Here and there, too, over his vest, which was confined by a flowered girdle of Kashan, hung strings of fine pearl, disposed with an air of studied negli. gence ;-nor did the exquisite embroidery of his sandals escape the observation of these fair critics ; who, however they might give way to Fadladeen upon the unimportant topics of religion and government, had the spirit of martyrs in everything relating to such momentous matters as jewels and embroidery.

For the purpose of relieving the pauses of recitation by music, the young Cashmerian held in his hand a kitar ;-such as, in old times, the Arab maids of the West used to listen to by moonlight in the gardens of the Alhambra-and, having premised, with much humility, that the story he was about to relate was founded on the adventures of that Veiled Prophet of Khorassan + who, in the year of the Hegira 163, created such alarm throughout the Eastern Empire, made an obeisance to the Princess, and thus began :

THE VEILED PROPHET OF KHORASSAN.I
In that delightful Province of the Sun,
The first of Persian lands he shines upon,
Where all the loveliest children of his beam,
Flowerets and fruits, blush over every stream,
And, fairest of all streams, the Murga roves

* The Indian Apollo.--" He and the three Rámas are described as youths of perfect beauty; and the princesses of Hindustan were all passionately in love with Chrishna, who continues to this hour the darling God of the Indian women."--Sir W. Jones, on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India.

For the real history of this Impostor, whose original name was Hakem ben Haschem, and who was called Mocanna from the veil of silver gauze (or, as others say, golden) which he always wore, see D'Herbelot..

# Khorassan signifies, in the old Persian language, Province or Region of the Sun. --Sir W. Jones.

Among Merou's* bright palaces and groves ;-
There on that throne, to which the blind belief
Of millions raised him, sat the Prophet-Chief,
The Great Mokanna. O'er his features hung
The Veil, the Silver Veil, which he had flung
In mercy there, to hide from mortal sight
His dazzling brow, till man could bear its light.
For, far less luminous, his votaries said,
Were even the gleams miraculously shed
O'er Moussa'st cheek, when down the Mount he trod,
All glowing from the presence of his God!

On either side, with ready hearts and hands,
His chosen guard of bold Believers stands;
Young fire-eyed disputants, who deem their swords,
On points of faith, more eloquent than words ;
And such their zeal, there's not a youth with brand
Uplifted there, but, at the Chief's command,
Would make his own devoted heart its sheath,
And bless the lips that doomed so dear a death !
In hatred to the Caliph's hue of night,
Their vesture, helms and all, is snowy white;
Their weapons various—some equipped, for speed,
With javelins of the light Kathaian reed;
Or bows of buffalo horn and shining quivers
Filled with the stems that bloom on Iran's rivers ;
While some, for war's more terrible attacks,
Wield the huge mace and ponderous battle-axe;
And as they wave aloft in morning's beam
The milk-white plumage of their helms, they seem
Like a chenar-tree grove & when winter throws
O’er all its tufted heads his feathering snows.

Between the porphyry pillars, that uphold
The rich moresque-work of the roof of gold,
Aloft the Haram's curtained galleries rise,
Where through the silken network, glancing eyes,
From time to time, like sudden gleams that glow
Through autumn clouds, shine o'er the pomp below. -
What impious tongue, ye blushing saints, would dare
To hint that aught but Heaven hath placed you there?
Or that the loves of this light world could bind,
In their gross chain, your Prophet's soaring mind ?
No-wrongful thought !-commissioned from above
To people Eden's bowers with shapes of love,

* One of the royal cities of Khorassan.

+ Moses. Black was the colour adopted by the Caliphs of the House of Abbas, in their garments, turbans, and standards.-"Il faut remarquer ici touchant les habits blancs des disciples de Hakem, que la couleur des habits, des coiffures et des étendarts des Khalifes Abassides étant la noire, ce chef de Rebelles ne pouvait pas choisir une que lui fût plus opposée.”—D'Herbelot.

$ The oriental plane. “The chenar is a delightful tree ; its bole is of a fine white and smooth bark ; and its foliage, which grows in a tuft at the summit, is of a bright green."--Morier's Travels.

« PreviousContinue »