Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

issions, and the perfect use of reason, his is our reasoning when we speak of lildren; why should we not apply the ime principle*, and allow ourselves to be

governed by an equal sense of justice when we come into the presence of reason-bereft and strangely afflicted children of misfortune.

SADI, THE PERSIAN POET,

The Persians have been called "les ancais de l'Asie." They are certainly curious medley of genius and passion, irit and flesh, especially when conlered in a poetical point of view. The agination seems to attend not only to e embellishments required, but even to ke unto itself the arrangement of more rious matters. When the fantastic little rite mounts its own Pegasus and urges 11 on with all his speed of hoof and wing, ; do not wonder so much at the exhibition, it in Persian poetry it often seems as if e mischief-loving Fay bids Reason to take nap for awhile, then mounts the heavy ilosophic stock-horse, driving him over ch, and over hedge with a rapidity and :e quite unseemly in an animal of deire habits. The result of this is someles striking and happy originality, netimes bold and successful innovation

travelled ground, and sometimes—as i extremes of sublimity and flatness let—decided rhodomontade, or ridicuis puerility. Hence that constant veer', of the Persian Bards from licentiousss to the highest morality, from noble i graphic description to minute and misiced levity, from thrilling, inimitable ruptness, to rambling and drowsy versity.

Still, if we can forget the defects of Pern poetry for the sake of the beauties of lich they are the vehicle, we often find

their writers passages unsurpassed ?n by the Bards of Greece and Rome, ubic literature stands at the head of lat the East has been able to produce, J Persian poetry absorbs the merit of

the families of the great Arabic idiom. The temperament of the Persian is a

highly poetic one. Naturally indolent and languid, he delights in passing his time in a dreamy contemplation of the beauties of nature, but his penetrating, and refined intellect requires something more than sensual enjoyment. Fond oif the marvellous, and a believer in superstition, he listens willingly to the legends of ancient days, and to the wild rehearsals of events which transpired in the land of the fairies and the genii, even before the time when Ali split the moon in halves with one stroke of his ponderous scimitar. Sentimental as all indolent people are, he is found to be even tender and melancholy, ready to melt into tears at the recital of stories which his better reason informs him are merely fictitious. His hot oriental blood will mount to his cheek, his bright dark eye will flash at the recital of wrong and oppression, so that not only the reciter of the tale allows his feelings to become so strong as to accompany his words with violent gestures, but even the listener clenches his hand, strikes his breast, shakes his turbaned head, or grasps impetuously the hilt of his sabre at the different stages of the soul-stirring narrative.

The extreme richness and variety of the Persian tongue, its wonderful flexibility, and peculiar softness was the effect and became an apt vehicle of these qualities, feelings, passions, and impulses of the "Children of the Sun." There is perhaps no oriental language to which a foreigner wholly unacquainted with it, can listen with so much pleasure, and with such a clear perception of its harmonious cadence, and sonorous rotundity, as to the Persian. We have often found ourselves delighted at the declamation of some extract from Ferdousi or Hafis, without understanding the meaning of a single word. This accounts in many instances for the free introduction of Persian names and words in English verses.

We have all been delighted with the Peri, the Gul, and the Bulbul, before we knew what they were, and the ear as well as the eye is pleased with " Oman's green water," the " Bower of Roses by Bendemeer's Stream," and the enchanting valleys of Cashmere, Shiraz, and Chilminar. A rose by another name would not smell half so sweet—in poetic description at least—and in fact we doubt very much whether the above-named places would seem half so beautiful, although in fact, perhaps, they are just equal, if they were called Throg's Neck, Haverstraw, Tarry town, or Sleepy Hollow.

Though enjoying the advantages derived from the intercourse with other nations of the East, the Persians are in many particulars distinguished from them, a fact which gives an original character to their literature. They had no sympathy for the ruder and grosser votaries of the Khoran, and had the greatest contempt for their ignorance and want of refinement. They hated the first Caliphs as the enemies of their country, and their successors they considered as foreign barbarians. They detested their chief law-givers as the murderers of the religious and generous Ali, avoiding their followers as schismatics and heretics, and refusing especially to participate in the ceremonies and rites of their worship. From these general remarks let us pass to say something in particular of Saadi, a fair specimen of the literary Persians.

Shiraz, the birth-place of our poet, is famed in history and song. Its name, says Chardin,* derives from shir or sherab, one of which words signifies milk and the other wine. It is the metropolis of the Province of Farsistan, and is beautifully situated on the banks of the river Bendemeer. The climate of this gifted region is proverbial for its mildness and clearness. Tlr city is surrounded by orchards laden wi'l. the choicest fruits, vineyards from whi i a wine is obtained, famous all over ersia, and meadows

* Voyages en P • :e, Tom. 2. p. H6.

green throughout the year. The foMs: the neighborhood of Shiraz yield the ta milk of the country. Extremely proti! the advantages possessed by their city, J inhabitants see a testimony of prais* f' to it by numerous foreigners, who i •* there from all the commercial rilies^ Asia. According to the accurate Gf-rss geographer, Hubbner, the ruins of P- polis, the celebrated capital of an:d Persia, are yet to be seen in the ricinhy ■ Shiraz, and the mouldering remains o: « royal palace, destroyed at the instigj:* of a woman, by Alexander, in a drBiS fit, are still pointed out to the stranga.

"Yon waste, where roaming lions howl.
Yon aisle where moans the grey-eyed o*L
Shows the proud Persians' great abode.
Where sceptred once an earthly God.
His power-clad arm controlled each b;~!

clime, Where sports the warbling Muse, and Fr:

soars sublime!"

OgUvie. OdetoTm

In this delightful region, hallowed bv' memory of departed greatness, was '■" the author of the Gulistan, about tbvH 553, of the Hegira, A. D., 1175, in Ch tian parlance. He was called MesliW din, but his surname Sadi, " The Hipp or, as the Orientals call him, Scheick-w has outlived the other. Being of vA lineage he was, it appears, brought Hf J initiated in the literature of the coaM| at the court of Persia, and under nok* personage than Scheabeddin, " magni: J inis Doctore," "a doctor of great name, i Guadagni somewhat equivocally enii* him.

Scheick-Sadi was one of those drj I souls who seem to be most serioos.y 1 clined just at the very moment they»' going to utter the oddest allusions. 0 of the subjects to which the old poet B*| to revert in after life, was the fact d '-i having been born under an unlucky * Many sly things arc said thereupon, tl sundry cunning allusions made to J name Sadi, or, "The Happy," hecoa«d ing, for the innocent diversion of the i*J er, that the surname was ill-appW-' ironical, that it should have been tbe si lucky, etc. etc. How could a trnc f* be otherwise than unhappy, or bo* c*d a man who had never been unhappy *' ue poet? Leaving the reader to settle lese questions, we will continue our naritive.

In the brightest of his career, Sadi was bliged to abandon the court in conseuence of a war between his country and ic barbarous inhabitants of the Caspian :>ast. Sickened at the scenes of bloodied which he was not unfrequently obliged ) witness, and desiring a life of quiet rerement afar from all noisy and turbulent roceedings, he resolved to quit his native ountry, and increase his stock of knowl[Ige by travelling. To pass along without eing observed or questioned, and perhaps > solicit the aid of the rich more successllly, having lost his possessions from the sperity of the times, he disguised himself s a Dervish. In this garb he visited the rincipal cities of Asia, crossing wild and raste to examine the ruins of ancient wns and castles, and ponder over the rawling tendencies of mankind which had auscd their destruction.

We are not especially informed of the ilaces visited by the Poet. Koempfer* elates that during his wanderings he ouched the shores of Italy, and there cquired a knowledge of the Latin language understood by all educated persons nd even spoken by the people, although ■orrupted by the Romanchio, or Provenal from which Italian and French were ubsequently formed. We are even told hat the author who pleased him most was 5eneca. No doubt the indocile imaginaion of the Persian was fed by the " dulcia itia" of the tumid Cordovan, and his £rious contemplative turn of mind well net by his sententious wisdom. Certain t is that he studied deeply the Eastern anguages, tracing them back to their orijin with the exactness of a man of science.

We have said that Sadi did not dislike i joke when it crossed his path, although lis disposition was taciturn and serious. During his travels, one of those singular scenes took place which were common imongst his learned cotemporaries, who iften discovered a poet or a philosopher in i man who recommended himself only by

smart repartee, or an agreeable piece of

* AmeniUtfi Exotics. Fascicul. ii. Kelat. 7, 51

bantering. Entering a public bath in one of the chief cities of the Levant, he met a certain Tabriz, a Persian, and popular poet of his day. Tabriz told Sadi, during their conversation, that he was from Tauris. To this the other replied, with some contempt, that he was a native of Shiraz. While bathing Sadi took off his turban, and showed his head, according to the custom of his people, perfectly bald. Tabriz, who wore long hair, lifting towards him the smooth, convex part of a drinkingcup, much used in the East, asked him why the heads of the Shirazians were such a perfect copy of the outside of that cup? Sadi, nothing discomposed at the sally, raised his cup, and, pointing to the bottom of it, asked Tabriz why the heads of the Taurisians were so much like the inside of it. Now, although the accusation of having an empty head is worse than that of having a bald one, this sharp answer caused no ill-feeling between them. They mutually disclosed their names, and were ever afterwards sincere friends. What great people those ancient poets were!

Poor Sadi soon got into hot water much worse than that of the bath-room. He had reason to repent of his fondness for travel, and to repeat with Hassan, the camel-driver, in Collins' Oriental Eclogues,

"Sad was the hour and luckless was the day, When first from Shiraz' walls 1 bent my way.''

He was extremely fond of roving over hill and dell, losing himself meanwhile in the mazy paths of his own boundless imagination. While indulging this vein one day, according to his wont, among the woody mountains of Palestine, the poet not only lost the thread of his subject, but in a most woful manner strayed from the path, and got completely bewildered in the windings of the forest. For a long time he rambled hither and thither in the hopes ol meeting some habitation, or falling in with some human being. He was finally gratified in his latter wish, for he first heard the tramp of horses, and then discovered a small band of soldiers walking towards him. Great was his delight thereat, bul how unspeakable was his surprise and dismay when he discovered them to be a band of marauding Franks, who belonged to some strong-hold built upon those hills by the Crusaders. The charms of oriental imagery, and the sweet fluency of Persian and Arabic verses, would have been completely lost upon these worthies, and had Sadi even quoted his friend Seneca, for their edification, it is extremely doubtful whether that would have done much good. Their business was to forage for provisions, and, in the meanwhile, make any prisoners they might chance to catch, so poor Sadi had to submit to his fate, and follow them most unwillingly to their castle. Ever since the time of Godfrey de Bouillon they had maintained some fortified places all along the frontiers of Syria. At that time they had a numerous army at Ptolemaide, or St. John of Acri. Sadi was soon fettered and sent to Tripoli, where he was obliged to toil with the other captives upon the fortifications, thus exchanging his accustomed occupation of inditing verses, and tumbling over ancient manuscripts, for the vile labor of digging entrenchments and transporting earth. And thus, says his Latin biographer, Guadagni, "The same wars which caused such exultation amongst the Italic Muses by the birth of Tasso's Jerusalem—by the captivity of Sadi overwhelmed the Persic Muses with unspeakable grief,"—" dato in captivitatem Sadio Persicas Musas moerore prostravit."

They were refreshed and consoled by the generosity of a rich merchant of Aleppo, who soon after paid the ransom of the poet to the Christians, and was so much pleased with his good breeding and wisdom, that he gave him the hand of his daughter with a handsome dowry. Ransom from captivity, a rich heiress, and a bag of ready money, was a windfall, sufficient, it might be supposed, to satisfy a needy poet, who had not only begged his bread in the dress of a Dervish, but done hard work without wages in the bargain. But, alas! for poor human nature, and Sadi, or "the Happy!" The poet's new bride turned out such an incorrigible termagant that poor Sadi had no comfort from morning to evening. His contemplations were all broken and disturbed, his long, smooth Persian lines sjnarled and twisted, and so desperately hen-pecked was he, as to express a doubt whether his former captivity, or his present liberty were the harder to bear. We find other

expressions, in his works, of naqs and bitter disgust at bis new felicity: rich bride, and of hatred and averse* i the whole sex. How Sadi escaped r: this new misfortune, whether he deWJS was driven away, or paid his ransom w this second captivity, we are at a los 3 know. She may have died in the inwii for we find him not long aftenrars- i great favorite in the Court of Atabefc Here it was that he enjoyed fully 'contemplative tranquillity he had ''•'' long desired, and here he wrote, or few at least, the work which has rendered fa immortal

Gulistan—the name he gave to bis \s4 —signifies a bed or collection of rws strictly, a Rosary. Its name is deffd from the incident which first led to itsfi lication. Walking with one of the :* whom he admitted to his conversance • as others have it, whose importunity U could not get rid of, he referred '•■ 1 bunch of roses his companion had lected, admonishing him to reflect soon they would wither and die, and:* much worthier of being carefully gatL'-.i and diligently preserved, were those row which never fade, and never lost iW beauty and their fragrance. By this sy^ of comparison, familiar amongst the- b> erns, he meant to indicate the precefS J moral philosophy, illustrated from rmi sources, which formed the usual sabvl of his musings and his discourses, ivisitor instantly cast away the flower- k had collected, and told Sadi that he '-'■■ sired nothing more than to possess tH ever-blooming roses of which he spoil

The plan of the work, of which tbi cident was the occasion, is very si*?* It is divided into short sections, ind*^ every variety of metre, and even pass." of prose. Each section is an epignaJ fable, or a short ode, as the case may ''■ containing some moral maxim, mostlyite trated by some of the observations of» ture, of which Sadi's mind was a per. store-house. Sometimes he is (weft'-* sometimes sublime, often descriptive. -' always accurate and keen. Anoof; Sadi's anecdotes, pious aspirations, ^ original comparisons, some striking *! tences are found. A quotation from *& now quite common, are the lines »»* Mahomet II. is said to have repeal* ■ taking of Constantinople. "The spider ds the veil in the palace of Caesar, and s owl stand sentinel in the watch-tower

Afrasyab." His advice sometimes is Bjed with a satyrical dye. As a stratan for getting rid of importunate friends, says, "Lend to those who are poor, and -row from those who are rich." Elseere, he says, "Take your wife's opinion i act in opposition to it." He gives an account in one place of an venture which happened during his less I my days. He was chaffering with a reliant for a house which he desired to rchase, when a neighboring Hebrew ne up, and with great volubility of igue assured the poet that the price reested was reasonable, and the house thout a single defect, as he well knew,

■ he lived next door to it. "How can it free from defects," said Sadi, "when it so ill-starred as to have thee dwelling nr it. And turning to his friend— fou ask," said he, "seventy-two pieces

■ this house. Now, by Ali, I would not rchase it for a mite. But when this wish knave is hanged, as he will surely

one day, I will not only pay down the renty-two pieces, but present you with penny or two into the bargain." The Gulistan forms the book of medita■n of the Persians, who even now freently meet in their Khawakhanas to bibe the moral wisdom of the Bard of liraz, along with copious draughts of 2fhly-flavored coffee. It b the favorite ok of the nation at large, is frequently st -with written on parchment, with sibesqued margins, and gilt edges; and e oriental ladies carry portions of it ndant from the neck, as the western iies do their smelling-bottles. The work has been translated into veral languages. A copy of it in the oorish tongue, written in Persian letters, as brought to Europe from India by onsieur Anquetil Du Perron.* George entius published a Latin translation of it

Amsterdam, in 1651. It has been also anslated into the Turkish idiom, and lere is an English version of it taken robably from the Latin of Gentius. uadagni and Sir William Jones have

*iSee his^Zendavesta, Tome I. Appendix, page

translated portions of his Gulistan and Bostan, i. e. "Orchard" into Latin; and Professor Wilson, in the "Asiatic Review," has rendered some passages into English.

In French there are several versions of the Gulistan. The best known is that of the Abbe Gaudin; the oldest that of Monsieur De Ryer, published in Paris, anno 1634. A Persic Anthology, published by the Academy of Vienna, in"l778, contains extracts from his works in Persian, with a literal version in Latin. Besides his Gulistan and Bostan, we have another work of Sadi's, entitled " Molamaat," a word signifying beams, or sparks.

Voltaire, in his usual flippant manner, takes it upon himself to say that the Gulistan "ne vaut pas grande chose" after all. But Voltaire did not understand Persian, and the extract he gives is the best refutation of his judgment. He probably translated it from the literal version of Gentius, and gives us Sadi's idea of the Supreme Being:—

"II sait distinctement ce que ne fut jamais—
De ce que n'entend pas son oreille est remplie:
De l'iternelle burin de sa prevision
II a trace nos traits dans lesein denos meres.
De 1'aurore au couchant il port le soleil;
II seme de rubis les masses de nos montagnes.
II prend deux gouttes d'eau, de l'une il fait un

homme,
De l'autre il arrondit la perle au fond des mere.
L'etre au son de sa voix fut tire du neant.
Qu'il parle et dans Pinstant l'univers va

rentrer Dans les immensites de l'espace et du vide: Qu'il parle et l'univers repasse en un instant Des abimes du rien dans les plaines de l'etre."

There is a fable in the Bostan the purport of which has been transferred to every language. The Latin translation by Sir William Jones is so beautiful that we are sure the classic reader will thank us for transcribing it. The fable is referred by Chardin, (Voyages de M. Le Chevalier Chardin en Perse. Amsterdam: 1735) and is quoted by Addison. Sir William's elegant and accurate version we take from his "Poeseos Asiaticse Commentarium," which has now become a rare book:—

"Rigente molles imbre campos Persidis E nube in aequor lapsa pluvis gattula est, Qua; cum modestus eloqui sineret pudor

« AnteriorContinuar »