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Leavitt & Allen 1866
Some days elapsed, after this harangue of the Great Chamberlain, before Lalla Rookh could venture to ask 124 for another story. The youth was still a welcome guest in the pavilion—to one heart, perhaps, too dangerously welcome:—but all mention of poetry was, as if by common consent, avoided. Though none of the party had much respect for Fadladeen, yet his censures, thus magisterially delivered, evidently made an impression on them all. The Poet himself, to whom criticism was quite a new operation, (being wholly unknown in that Paradise of the Indies, Cashmere,) felt the shock as it is generally felt at first, till use has made it more tolerable to the patient;—the Ladies began to suspect that they ought not to be pleased, and seemed to conclude that there must have been much good sense in what Fadladeen said, from its having sent them all so soundly to sleep;—while the self-complacent Chamberlain was left to triumph in the idea of having, for the hundred and fiftieth time in his life, extinguished a Poet. Lalla Rookh alone—and Love knew why—persisted in being delighted with all she had heard, and in resolving to hear more as speedily as possible. Her manner, however, of first returning to the subject was unlucky. It was while they rested during the heat of noon near a fountain, on which some hand had rudely traced those well-known words from the Garden of Sadi,—“Many, like me, have viewed this fountain, but they are gone, and their eyes are closed for ever!”—that 125 she took occasion, from the melancholy beauty of this passage, to dwell upon the charms of poetry in general. “It is true,” she said, “few poets can imitate that sublime bird, which flies always in the air, and never touches the earth:153—it is only once in many ages a Genius appears, whose words, like those on the Written Mountain, last for ever:154 but still there are some, as delightful, perhaps, though not so wonderful, who, if not stars over our head, are at least flowers along our path, and whose sweetness of the moment we ought gratefully to inhale, without calling upon them for a brightness and a durability beyond their nature. In short,” continued she, blushing, as if conscious of being caught in an oration, “it is quite cruel that a poet cannot wander through his regions of enchantment, without having a critic for ever, like the old Man of the Sea, upon his back!”155—Fadladeen, it was plain, took this last luckless allusion to himself, and would treasure it up in his mind as a whetstone for his next criticism. A sudden silence ensued; and the Princess, glancing a look at Feramorz, saw plainly she must wait for a more courageous moment.
But the glories of Nature, and her wild fragrant airs, playing freshly over the current of youthful spirits, will soon heal even deeper wounds than the dull Fadladeens 126 of this world can inflict. In an evening or two after, they came to the small Valley of Gardens, which had been planted by order of the Emperor, for his favourite sister Rochinara, during their progress to Cashmere, some years before; and never was there a more sparkling assemblage of sweets, since the Gulzar-e-Irem, or Rose-bower of Irem. Every precious flower was there to be found, that poetry, or love, or religion has ever consecrated; from the dark hyacinth, to which Hafez compares his mistress’s hair,156 to the Cámalatá, by whose rosy blossoms the heaven of Indra is scented.157 As they sat in the cool fragrance of this delicious spot, and Lalla Rookh remarked that she could fancy it the abode of that Flower-loving Nymph whom they worship in the temples of Kathay,158 or of one of those Peris, those beautiful creatures of the air, who live upon perfumes, and to whom a place like this might make some amends for the Paradise they have lost, the young Poet, in whose eyes she appeared, while she spoke, to be one of the bright spiritual creatures she was describing, said hesitatingly that he remembered a Story of a Peri, which, if the Princess had no objection, he would venture to relate. “It is,” said he, with an appealing look to Fadladeen, “in a lighter and humbler strain than the other:” then, striking a few careless but melancholy chords on his kitar, he thus began:—
One morn a Peri at the gate
Of Eden stood, disconsolate;
And as she listen’d to the Springs
Of Life within, like music flowing,130
And caught the light upon her wings
Through the half-open portal glowing,
She wept to think her recreant race
Should e’er have lost that glorious place!
“How happy,” exclaim’d this child of air,
“Are the holy Spirits who wander there,
“Mid flowers that never shall fade or fall;
“Though mine are the gardens of earth and sea,
“And the stars themselves have flowers for me,
“One blossom of Heaven out-blooms them all!
“Though sunny the Lake of cool Cashmere,
“With its plane-tree Isle reflected clear,159
“And sweetly the founts of that Valley fall;
“Though bright are the waters of Sing-su-hay,
“And the golden floods that thitherward stray,160
“Yet—oh, ’tis only the Blest can say
“How the waters of Heaven outshine them all!
“Go, wing thy flight from star to star,
“From world to luminous world, as far
“As the universe spreads its flaming wall:
“Take all the pleasures of all the spheres,
“And multiply each through endless years,
“One minute of Heaven is worth them all!”131
The glorious Angel, who was keeping
The gates of Light, beheld her weeping;
And, as he nearer drew and listen’d
To her sad song, a tear-drop glisten’d
Within his eyelids, like the spray
From Eden’s fountain, when it lies
On the blue flower, which—Bramins say—
Blooms nowhere but in Paradise.161
“Nymph of a fair but erring line!”
Gently he said—“One hope is thine.
“’Tis written in the Book of Fate,
“The Peri yet may be forgiven
“Who brings to this Eternal gate
“The Gift that is most dear to Heaven!
“Go, seek it, and redeem thy sin—
“’Tis sweet to let the Pardon’d in.”
Rapidly as comets run
To the’ embraces of the Sun;—
Fleeter than the starry brands
Flung at night from angel hands,162
At those dark and daring sprites
Who would climb the’ empyreal heights,
Down the blue vault the Peri flies,
And, lighted earthward by a glance132
That just then broke from morning’s eyes,
Hung hovering o’er our world’s expanse.
But whither shall the Spirit go
To find this gift for Heaven?—“I know
“The wealth,” she cries, “of every urn,
“In which unnumber’d rubies burn,
“Beneath the pillars of Chilminar;163
“I know where the Isles of Perfume are,
“Many a fathom down in the sea,
“To the south of sun-bright Araby;164
“I know, too, where the Genii hid
“The jewell’d cup of their King Jamshid,165
“With Life’s elixir sparkling high—
“But gifts like these are not for the sky.
“Where was there ever a gem that shone
“Like the steps of Alla’s wonderful Throne?
“And the Drops of Life—oh! what would they be
“In the boundless Deep of Eternity?”
While thus she mus’d, her pinions fann’d
The air of that sweet Indian land,
Whose air is balm; whose ocean spreads
O’er coral rocks, and amber beds:166
Whose mountains, pregnant by the beam
Of the warm sun, with diamonds teem;133
Whose rivulets are like rich brides,
Lovely, with gold beneath their tides;
Whose sandal groves and bowers of spice
Might be a Peri’s Paradise!
But crimson now her rivers ran
With human blood—the smell of death
Came reeking from those spicy bowers,
And man, the sacrifice of man,
Mingled his taint with every breath
Upwafted from the innocent flowers.
Land of the Sun! what foot invades
Thy Pagods and thy pillar’d shades167—
Thy cavern shrines, and Idol stones,
Thy Monarchs and their thousand Thrones?168
’Tis He of Gazna169—fierce in wrath
He comes, and India’s diadems
Lie scatter’d in his ruinous path.—
His bloodhounds he adorns with gems,
Torn from the violated necks
Of many a young and lov’d Sultana;170
Maidens, within their pure Zenana,
Priests in the very fane he slaughters,
And choaks up with the glittering wrecks
Of golden shrines the sacred waters!
Downward the Peri turns her gaze,
And, through the war-field’s bloody haze134
Beholds a youthful warrior stand,
Alone, beside his native river,—
The red blade broken in his hand,
And the last arrow in his quiver.
“Live,” said the Conqueror, “live to share
“The trophies and the crowns I bear!”
Silent that youthful warrior stood—
Silent he pointed to the flood
All crimson with his country’s blood,
Then sent his last remaining dart,
For answer, to the’ Invader’s heart.
False flew the shaft, though pointed well;
The Tyrant liv’d, the Hero fell!—
Yet mark’d the Peri where he lay,
And, when the rush of war was past,
Swiftly descending on a ray
Of morning light, she caught the last—
Last glorious drop his heart had shed,
Before its free-born spirit fled!
“Be this,” she cried, as she wing’d her flight,
“My welcome gift at the Gates of Light.
“Though foul are the drops that oft distil
“On the field of warfare, blood like this,
Liberty shed, so holy is,171135
“It would not stain the purest rill,
“That sparkles among the Bowers of Bliss!
“Oh, if there be, on this earthly sphere,
“A boon, an offering Heaven holds dear,
“’Tis the last libation Liberty draws
“From the heart that bleeds and breaks in her cause!”
“Sweet,” said the Angel, as she gave
The gift into his radiant hand,
“Sweet is our welcome of the Brave
“Who die thus for their native Land.—
“But see—alas!—the crystal bar136
“Of Eden moves not—holier far
“Than even this drop the boon must be,
“That opes the Gates of Heaven for thee!”
Her first fond hope of Eden blighted,
Now among Afric’s lunar Mountains,172
Far to the South the Peri lighted;
And sleek’d her plumage at the fountains
Of that Egyptian tide—whose birth
Is hidden from the sons of earth
Deep in those solitary woods,
Where oft the Genii of the Floods
Dance round the cradle of their Nile,
And hail the new-born Giant’s smile.173
Thence over Egypt’s palmy groves,
Her grots, and sepulchres of Kings,174
The exil’d Spirit sighing roves;
And now hangs listening to the doves
In warm Rosetta’s vale175—now loves
To watch the moonlight on the wings
Of the white pelicans that break
The azure calm of Mœris’ Lake.176
’Twas a fair scene—a Land more bright
Never did mortal eye behold!
Who could have thought, that saw this night
Those valleys and their fruits of gold137
Basking in Heaven’s serenest light;—
Those groups of lovely date-trees bending
Languidly their leaf-crown’d heads,
Like youthful maids, when sleep descending
Warns them to their silken beds;177—
Those virgin lilies, all the night
Bathing their beauties in the lake,
That they may rise more fresh and bright,
When their beloved Sun’s awake;—
Those ruin’d shrines and towers that seem
The relics of a splendid dream;
Amid whose fairy loneliness
Nought but the lapwing’s cry is heard,
Nought seen but (when the shadows, flitting
Fast from the moon, unsheath its gleam,)
Some purple-wing’d Sultana178 sitting
Upon a column, motionless
And glittering like an Idol bird!—
Who could have thought, that there, even there,
Amid those scenes so still and fair,
The Demon of the Plague hath cast
From his hot wing a deadlier blast,
More mortal far than ever came
From the red Desert’s sands of flame!
So quick, that every living thing
Of human shape, touch’d by his wing,138
Like plants, where the Simoom hath past,
At once falls black and withering!
The sun went down on many a brow,
Which, full of bloom and freshness then,
Is rankling in the pest-house now,
And ne’er will feel that sun again.
And, oh! to see the’ unburied heaps
On which the lonely moonlight sleeps—
The very vultures turn away,
And sicken at so foul a prey!
Only the fierce hyæna stalks179
Throughout the city’s desolate walks180
At midnight, and his carnage plies:—
Woe to the half-dead wretch, who meets
The glaring of those large blue eyes181
Amid the darkness of the streets!
“Poor race of men!” said the pitying Spirit,
“Dearly ye pay for your primal Fall—
“Some flow’rets of Eden ye still inherit,
“But the trail of the Serpent is over them all!”
She wept—the air grew pure and clear
Around her, as the bright drops ran;
For there’s a magic in each tear
Such kindly Spirits weep for man!
Just then beneath some orange trees,139
Whose fruit and blossoms in the breeze
Were wantoning together, free,
Like age at play with infancy—
Beneath that fresh and springing bower,
Close by the Lake, she heard the moan
Of one who, at this silent hour,
Had thither stolen to die alone.
One who in life, where’er he mov’d,
Drew after him the hearts of many;
Yet now, as though he ne’er were lov’d,
Dies here unseen, unwept by any!
None to watch near him—none to slake
The fire that in his bosom lies,
With even a sprinkle from that lake,
Which shines so cool before his eyes.
No voice, well known through many a day,
To speak the last, the parting word,
Which, when all other sounds decay,
Is still like distant music heard;—
That tender farewell on the shore
Of this rude world, when all is o’er,
Which cheers the spirit, ere its bark
Puts off into the unknown Dark.
Deserted youth! one thought alone
Shed joy around his soul in death—140
That she, whom he for years had known,
And lov’d, and might have call’d his own,
Was safe from this foul midnight’s breath,—
Safe in her father’s princely halls,
Where the cool airs from fountain falls,
Freshly perfum’d by many a brand
Of the sweet wood from India’s land,
Were pure as she whose brow they fann’d.
But see—who yonder comes by stealth,182
This melancholy bower to seek,
Like a young envoy, sent by Health,
With rosy gifts upon her cheek?
’Tis she—far off, through moonlight dim,
He knew his own betrothed bride,
She, who would rather die with him,
Than live to gain the world beside!—
Her arms are round her lover now,
His livid cheek to hers she presses,
And dips, to bind his burning brow,
In the cool lake her loosen’d tresses.
Ah! once, how little did he think
An hour would come, when he should shrink
With horror from that dear embrace,
Those gentle arms, that were to him
Holy as is the cradling place141
Of Eden’s infant cherubim!
And now he yields—now turns away,
Shuddering as if the venom lay
All in those proffer’d lips alone—
Those lips that, then so fearless grown,
Never until that instant came
Near his unask’d or without shame.
“Oh! let me only breathe the air,
“That blessed air, that’s breath’d by thee,
“And, whether on its wings it bear
“Healing or death, ’tis sweet to me!
“There—drink my tears, while yet they fall—
“Would that my bosom’s blood were balm,
“And, well thou know’st, I’d shed it all,
“To give thy brow one minute’s calm.
“Nay, turn not from me that dear face—
“Am I not thine—thy own lov’d bride—
“The one, the chosen one, whose place
“In life or death is by thy side?
“Think’st thou that she, whose only light,
“In this dim world, from thee hath shone,
“Could bear the long, the cheerless night,
“That must be hers when thou art gone?
“That I can live, and let thee go,
“Who art my life itself?—No, no—
“When the stem dies, the leaf that grew142
“Out of its heart must perish too!
“Then turn to me, my own love, turn,
“Before, like thee, I fade and burn;
“Cling to these yet cool lips, and share
“The last pure life that lingers there!”
She fails—she sinks—as dies the lamp
In charnel airs, or cavern-damp,
So quickly do his baleful sighs
Quench all the sweet light of her eyes.
One struggle—and his pain is past—
Her lover is no longer living!
One kiss the maiden gives, one last,
Long kiss, which she expires in giving!
“Sleep,” said the Peri, as softly she stole
The farewell sigh of that vanishing soul,
As true as e’er warm’d a woman’s breast—
“Sleep on, in visions of odour rest,
“In balmier airs than ever yet stirr’d
“The’ enchanted pile of that lonely bird,
“Who sings at the last his own death-lay,183
“And in music and perfume dies away!”
Thus saying, from her lips she spread
Unearthly breathings through the place,
And shook her sparkling wreath, and shed143
Such lustre o’er each paly face,
That like two lovely saints they seem’d,
Upon the eve of doomsday taken
From their dim graves, in odour sleeping;
While that benevolent Peri beam’d
Like their good angel, calmly keeping
Watch o’er them till their souls would waken.
But morn is blushing in the sky;
Again the Peri soars above,
Bearing to Heaven that precious sigh
Of pure self-sacrificing love.
High throbb’d her heart, with hope elate,
The’ Elysian palm she soon shall win,
For the bright Spirit at the gate
Smil’d as she gave that offering in;
And she already hears the trees
Of Eden, with their crystal bells
Ringing in that ambrosial breeze
That from the throne of Alla swells;
And she can see the starry bowls
That lie around that lucid lake,
Upon whose banks admitted Souls
Their first sweet draught of glory take!184
But, ah! even Peris’ hopes are vain—
Again the Fates forbade, again
The’ immortal barrier clos’d—“Not yet,”
The Angel said as, with regret,
He shut from her that glimpse of glory—
“True was the maiden, and her story,
“Written in light o’er Alla’s head,
“By seraph eyes shall long be read.
“But, Peri, see—the crystal bar145
“Of Eden moves not—holier far
“Than even this sigh the boon must be
“That opes the Gates of Heaven for thee.”
Now, upon Syria’s land of roses185
Softly the light of Eve reposes,
And, like a glory, the broad sun
Hangs over sainted Lebanon;
Whose head in wintry grandeur towers,
And whitens with eternal sleet,
While summer, in a vale of flowers,
Is sleeping rosy at his feet.
To one, who look’d from upper air
O’er all the’ enchanted regions there,
How beauteous must have been the glow,
The life, the sparkling from below!
Fair gardens, shining streams, with ranks
Of golden melons on their banks,
More golden where the sun-light falls;
Gay lizards, glittering on the walls186
Of ruin’d shrines, busy and bright
As they were all alive with light;
And, yet more splendid, numerous flocks
Of pigeons, settling on the rocks,
With their rich restless wings, that gleam146
Variously in the crimson beam
Of the warm West,—as if inlaid
With brilliants from the mine, or made
Of tearless rainbows, such as span
The’ unclouded skies of Peristan.
And then the mingling sounds that come
Of shepherd’s ancient reed,187 with hum
Of the wild bees of Palestine,188
Banqueting through the flowery vales;
And, Jordan, those sweet banks of thine,
And woods, so full of nightingales.189
But nought can charm the luckless Peri;
Her soul is sad—her wings are weary—
Joyless she sees the Sun look down
On that great Temple, once his own,190
Whose lonely columns stand sublime,
Flinging their shadows from on high,
Like dials, which the wizard, Time,
Had rais’d to count his ages by!
Yet haply there may lie conceal’d
Beneath those Chambers of the Sun,
Some amulet of gems anneal’d
In upper fires, some tablet seal’d
With the great name of Solomon,147
Which, spell’d by her illumin’d eyes,
May teach her where, beneath the moon,
In earth or ocean, lies the boon,
The charm, that can restore so soon
An erring Spirit to the skies.
Cheer’d by this hope she bends her thither;—
Still laughs the radiant eye of Heaven,
Nor have the golden bowers of Even
In the rich West begun to wither;—
When, o’er the vale of Balbec winging
Slowly, she sees a child at play,
Among the rosy wild flowers singing,
As rosy and as wild as they;
Chasing, with eager hands and eyes,
The beautiful blue damsel flies,191
That flutter’d round the jasmine stems,
Like wingèd flowers or flying gems:—
And, near the boy, who tir’d with play
Now nestling ’mid the roses lay,
She saw a wearied man dismount
From his hot steed, and on the brink
Of a small imaret’s rustic fount192
Impatient fling him down to drink.
Then swift his haggard brow he turn’d
To the fair child, who fearless sat,148
Though never yet hath day-beam burn’d
Upon a brow more fierce than that,—
Sullenly fierce—a mixture dire,
Like thunder-clouds, of gloom and fire;
In which the Peri’s eye could read
Dark tales of many a ruthless deed;149
The ruin’d maid—the shrine profan’d—
Oaths broken—and the threshold stain’d
With blood of guests!—there written, all,
Black as the damning drops that fall
From the denouncing Angel’s pen,
Ere Mercy weeps them out again.
Yet tranquil now that man of crime
(As if the balmy evening time
Soften’d his spirit) look’d and lay,
Watching the rosy infant’s play:—
Though still, whene’er his eye by chance
Fell on the boy’s, its lurid glance
Met that unclouded joyous gaze,
As torches that have burnt all night
Through some impure and godless rite,
Encounter morning’s glorious rays.
But, hark! the vesper call to prayer,
As slow the orb of daylight sets,
Is rising sweetly on the air,
From Syria’s thousand minarets!
The boy has started from the bed
Of flowers, where he had laid his head,
And down upon the fragrant sod
Kneels,193 with his forehead to the south,150
Lisping the’ eternal name of God
From Purity’s own cherub mouth,
And looking, while his hands and eyes
Are lifted to the glowing skies,
Like a stray babe of Paradise,
Just lighted on that flowery plain,
And seeking for its home again.
Oh! ’twas a sight—that Heaven—that child—
A scene, which might have well beguil’d
Even haughty Eblis of a sigh
For glories lost and peace gone by!
And how felt he, the wretched Man
Reclining there—while memory ran
O’er many a year of guilt and strife,
Flew o’er the dark flood of his life,
Nor found one sunny resting-place,
Nor brought him back one branch of grace!
“There was a time,” he said, in mild,
Heart-humbled tones—“thou blessed child!
“When, young and haply pure as thou,
“I look’d and pray’d like thee—but now—”
He hung his head—each nobler aim,
And hope, and feeling, which had slept
From boyhood’s hour, that instant came
Fresh o’er him, and he wept—he wept!151
Blest tears of soul-felt penitence!
In whose benign, redeeming flow
Is felt the first, the only sense
Of guiltless joy that guilt can know.
“There’s a drop,” said the Peri, “that down from the moon
“Falls through the withering airs of June
“Upon Egypt’s land,194 of so healing a power,
“So balmy a virtue, that e’en in the hour
“The drop descends, contagion dies,
“And health re-animates earth and skies!—
“Oh, is it not thus, thou man of sin,152
“The precious tears of repentance fall?
“Though foul thy fiery plagues within,
“One heavenly drop hath dispell’d them all!”
And now—behold him kneeling there
By the child’s side, in humble prayer,
While the same sunbeam shines upon
The guilty and the guiltless one,153
And hymns of joy proclaim through Heaven
The triumph of a Soul Forgiven!
’Twas when the golden orb had set,
While on their knees they linger’d yet,
There fell a light more lovely far
Than ever came from sun or star,
Upon the tear that, warm and meek,
Dew’d that repentant sinner’s cheek.
To mortal eye this light might seem
A northern flash or meteor beam—
But well the’ enraptur’d Peri knew
’Twas a bright smile the Angel threw
From Heaven’s gate, to hail that tear
Her harbinger of glory near!
“Joy, joy for ever! my task is done—
“The Gates are pass’d, and Heaven is won!
“Oh! am I not happy? I am, I am—
“To thee, sweet Eden! how dark and sad
“Are the diamond turrets of Shadukiam,195
“And the fragrant bowers of Amberabad!
“Farewell, ye odours of Earth, that die
“Passing away like a lover’s sigh;—
“My feast is now of the Tooba Tree,196
Whose scent is the breath of Eternity!154
“Farewell, ye vanishing flowers, that shone
“In my fairy wreath, so bright and brief;—
“Oh! what are the brightest that e’er have blown,
“To the lote-tree, springing by Alla’s throne,197
“Whose flowers have a soul in every leaf!
“Joy, joy for ever!—my task is done—
“The Gates are pass’d, and Heaven is won!”
“And this,” said the Great Chamberlain, “is poetry! this flimsy manufacture of the brain, which, in comparison with the lofty and durable monuments of genius, is as the gold filigree-work of Zamara beside the eternal architecture of Egypt!” After this gorgeous sentence, which, with a few more of the same kind, Fadladeen kept by him for rare and important occasions, he proceeded to the anatomy of the short poem just recited. The lax and easy kind of metre in which it was written ought to be denounced, he said, as one of the leading causes of the alarming growth of poetry in our times. If some check were not given to this lawless facility, we should soon be over-run by a race of bards as numerous and as shallow as the hundred and twenty thousand Streams of Basra.198 They who succeeded in this style deserved chastisement for their very success;—as warriors have been punished, even after gaining a victory, because they had taken the liberty of gaining it in an irregular or unestablished manner. What, then, was to be said to those who failed? to those who presumed, as in the present lamentable instance, to imitate the license and ease of the bolder sons of song, without any of that grace or vigour which gave a dignity even to negligence; who, like them, flung the jereed199 carelessly, but not, like them, to the mark;—“and who,” said he, raising his voice, to excite 156 a proper degree of wakefulness in his hearers, “contrive to appear heavy and constrained in the midst of all the latitude they allow themselves, like one of those young pagans that dance before the Princess, who is ingenious enough to move as if her limbs were fettered, in a pair of the lightest and loosest drawers of Masulipatam!”
It was but little suitable, he continued, to the grave march of criticism to follow this fantastical Peri, of whom they had just heard, through all her flights and adventures between earth and heaven; but he could not help adverting to the puerile conceitedness of the Three Gifts which she is supposed to carry to the skies,—a drop of blood, forsooth, a sigh, and a tear! How the first of these articles was delivered into the Angel’s “radiant hand” he professed himself at a loss to discover; and as to the safe carriage of the sigh and the tear, such Peris and such poets were beings by far too incomprehensible for him even to guess how they managed such matters. “But, in short,” said he, “it is a waste of time and patience to dwell longer upon a thing so incurably frivolous,—puny even among its own puny race, and such as only the Banyan Hospital200 for Sick Insects should undertake.”
In vain did Lalla Rookh try to soften this inexorable critic; in vain did she resort to her most eloquent 157 common-places,—reminding him that poets were a timid and sensitive race, whose sweetness was not to be drawn forth, like that of the fragrant grass near the Ganges, by crushing and trampling upon them;201—that severity often extinguished every chance of the perfection which it demanded; and that, after all, perfection was like the Mountain of the Talisman,—no one had ever yet reached its summit.202 Neither these gentle axioms, nor the still gentler looks with which they were inculcated, could lower for one instant the elevation of Fadladeen’s eyebrows, or charm him into any thing like encouragement, or even toleration, of her poet. Toleration, indeed, was not among the weaknesses of Fadladeen:—he carried the same spirit into matters of poetry and of religion, and, though little versed in the beauties or sublimities of either, was a perfect master of the art of persecution in both. His zeal was the same, too, in either pursuit; whether the game before him was pagans or poetasters,—worshippers of cows, or writers of epics.
They had now arrived at the splendid city of Lahore, whose mausoleums and shrines, magnificent and numberless, where Death appeared to share equal honours with Heaven, would have powerfully affected the heart and imagination of Lalla Rookh, if feelings more of this earth had not taken entire possession of her already. She 158 was here met by messengers, despatched from Cashmere, who informed her that the King had arrived in the Valley, and was himself superintending the sumptuous preparations that were then making in the Saloons of the Shalimar for her reception. The chill she felt on receiving this intelligence,—which to a bride whose heart was free and light would have brought only images of affection and pleasure,—convinced her that her peace was gone for ever, and that she was in love, irretrievably in love, with young Feramorz. The veil had fallen off in which this passion at first disguises itself, and to know that she loved was now as painful as to love without knowing it had been delicious. Feramorz, too,—what misery would be his, if the sweet hours of intercourse so imprudently allowed them should have stolen into his heart the same fatal fascination as into hers;—if, notwithstanding her rank, and the modest homage he always paid to it, even he should have yielded to the influence of those long and happy interviews, where music, poetry, the delightful scenes of nature,—all had tended to bring their hearts close together, and to waken by every means that too ready passion, which often, like the young of the desert-bird, is warmed into life by the eyes alone!203 She saw but one way to preserve herself from being culpable as well as unhappy, and this, however painful, she was resolved to adopt. Feramorz must no more be admitted 159 to her presence. To have strayed so far into the dangerous labyrinth was wrong, but to linger in it, while the clue was yet in her hand, would be criminal. Though the heart she had to offer to the King of Bucharia might be cold and broken, it should at least be pure; and she must only endeavour to forget the short dream of happiness she had enjoyed,—like that Arabian shepherd, who, in wandering into the wilderness, caught a glimpse of the Gardens of Irim, and then lost them again for ever!204
The arrival of the young Bride at Lahore was celebrated in the most enthusiastic manner. The Rajas and Omras in her train, who had kept at a certain distance during the journey, and never encamped nearer to the Princess than was strictly necessary for her safeguard, here rode in splendid cavalcade through the city, and distributed the most costly presents to the crowd. Engines were erected in all the squares, which cast forth showers of confectionery among the people; while the artisans, in chariots205 adorned with tinsel and flying streamers, exhibited the badges of their respective trades through the streets. Such brilliant displays of life and pageantry among the palaces, and domes, and gilded minarets of Lahore, made the city altogether like a place of enchantment;—particularly on the day when Lalla Rookh set out again upon her journey, when she was accompanied to the gate by all 160 the fairest and richest of the nobility, and rode along between ranks of beautiful boys and girls, who kept waving over their heads plates of gold and silver flowers,206 and then threw them around to be gathered by the populace.
Cover of 1870 Leavitt edition
Note 153, p. 125.—That sublime bird, which flies always in the air, and never touches the earth.—“The Huma, a bird peculiar to the East. It is supposed to fly constantly in the air, and never touch the ground: it is looked upon as a bird of happy omen; and that every head it overshades will in time wear a crown.”—Richardson.
In the terms of alliance made by Fuzzel Oola Khan with Hyder in 1760, one of the stipulations was, “that he should have the distinction of two honorary attendants standing behind him, holding fans composed of the feathers of the Humma, according to the practice of his family.”— South of India. He adds in a note:—“The Humma is a fabulous bird. The head over which its shadow once passes will assuredly be circled with a crown. The splendid little bird suspended over the throne of Tippoo Sultaun, found at Seringapatam in 1799, was intended to represent this poetical fancy.”
Note 154, p. 125.—Like those on the Written Mountain, last for ever.—“To the pilgrims to Mount Sinai we must attribute the inscriptions, figures, &c. on those rocks, which have from thence acquired the name of the Written Mountain.”—Volney. M. Gebelin and others have been at much pains to attach some mysterious and important meaning to these inscriptions; but Niebuhr, as well as Volney, thinks that they must have been executed at idle hours by the travellers to Mount Sinai, “who were satisfied with cutting the unpolished rock with any pointed instrument; adding to their names and the date of their journeys some rude figures which bespeak the hand of a people but little skilled in the arts.”—Niebuhr.
Note 155, p. 125.—Like the old Man of the Sea, upon his back.—The Story of Sinbad.
Note 156, p. 126.—To which Hafez compares his mistress’s hair.—See Nott’s Hafez, Ode v.
Note 157, p. 126.—To the Cámalatá, by whose rosy blossoms the heaven of Indra is scented.—“The Cámalatá (called by Linnæus, Ipomæa) is the most beautiful of its order, both in the colour and form of its leaves and flowers; its elegant blossoms are ‘celestial rosy red, Love’s proper hue,’ and have justly procured it the name of Cámalatá, or Love’s Creeper.”—Sir W. Jones.
“Cámalatá may also mean a mythological plant, by which all desires are granted to such as inhabit the heaven of Indra; and if ever flower was worthy of paradise, it is our charming Ipomæa.”—Sir W. Jones.
Note 158, p. 126.—That flower-loving Nymph whom they worship in the temples of Kathay.—“According to Father Premare, in his tract on Chinese Mythology, the mother of Fo-hi was the daughter of heaven, surnamed Flower-loving; and as the nymph was walking alone on the bank of a 353 river, she found herself encircled by a rainbow, after which she became pregnant, and, at the end of twelve years, was delivered of a son radiant as herself.”—Asiat. Res.
Leavitt & Allen 1866
Note 159, p. 130.—With its plane-tree Isle reflected clear.
“Numerous small islands emerge from the Lake of Cashmere. One is called Char Chenaur, from the plane-trees upon it.”—Foster.
Note 160, p. 130.—And the golden floods that thitherward stray.
“The Altan Kol or Golden River of Tibet, which runs into the Lakes of Sing-su-hay, has abundance of gold in its sands, which employs the inhabitants all the summer in gathering it.”—Description of Tibet in Pinkerton.
Note 161, p. 131.—Blooms nowhere but in Paradise.
“The Brahmins of this province insist that the blue campac flowers only in Paradise.”—Sir W. Jones. It appears, however, from a curious letter of the sultan of Menangcabow, given by Marsden, that one place on earth may lay claim to the possession of it. “This is the Sultan, who keeps the flower champaka that is blue, and to be found in no other country but his, being yellow elsewhere.”—Marsden’s Sumatra.
Note 162, p. 131.—Flung at night from angel hands.
“The Mahometans suppose that falling stars are the firebrands wherewith the good angels drive away the bad, when they approach too near the empyrean or verge of the heavens.”—Fryer.
Note 163, p. 132.—Beneath the pillars of Chilminar.
The Forty Pillars; so the Persians call the ruins of Persepolis. It is imagined by them that this palace and the edifices at Balbec were built by Genii, for the purpose of hiding in their subterraneous caverns immense treasures, which still remain there.—See D’Herbelot and Volney.
Note 164, p. 132.—To the south of sun-bright Araby.
The Isles of Panchaia.
Diodorus mentions the Isle of Panchaia, to the south of Arabia Felix, where there was a temple of Jupiter. This island, or rather cluster of isles, has disappeared, “sunk (says Grandpré) in the abyss made by the fire beneath their foundations.”—Voyage to the Indian Ocean.
Note 165, p. 132.—The jewell’d cup of their King Jamshid.
“The cup of Jamshid, discovered, they say, when digging for the foundations of Persepolis.”—Richardson.
Note 166, p. 132.—O’er coral rocks, and amber beds.
“It is not like the Sea of India, whose bottom is rich with pearls and ambergris, whose mountains of the coast are stored with gold and precious 354 stones, whose gulfs breed creatures that yield ivory, and among the plants of whose shores are ebony, red wood, and the wood of Hairzan, aloes, camphor, cloves, sandal-wood, and all other spices and aromatics: where parrots and peacocks are birds of the forest, and musk and civet are collected upon the lands.”—Travels of Two Mohammedans.
Note 167, p. 133.—Thy Pagods and thy pillar’d shades.
. . . . . . . . . “in the ground
The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
About the mother-tree, a pillar’d shade,
High over-arch’d, and echoing walks between.”—Milton.
For a particular description and plate of the Banyan-tree, see Cordiner’s Ceylon.
Note 168, p. 133.—Thy Monarchs and their thousand Thrones.
“With this immense treasure Mamood returned to Ghizni, and in the year 400 prepared a magnificent festival, where he displayed to the people his wealth in golden thrones and in other ornaments, in a great plain without the city of Ghizni.”—Ferishta.
Note 169, p. 133.—’Tis He of Gazna—fierce in wrath.
“Mahmood of Gazna, or Ghizni, who conquered India in the beginning of the 11th century.”—See his History in Dow and Sir J. Malcolm.
Note 170, p. 133.—Of many a young and lov’d Sultana.
“It is reported that the hunting equipage of the Sultan Mahmood was so magnificent, that he kept 400 greyhounds and bloodhounds, each of which wore a collar set with jewels, and a covering edged with gold and pearls.”—Universal History, vol. iii.
Note 171, p. 134.—For Liberty shed, so holy is.
Objections may be made to my use of the word Liberty in this, and more especially in the story that follows it, as totally inapplicable to any state of things that has ever existed in the East; but though I cannot, of course, mean to employ it in that enlarged and noble sense which is so well understood at the present day, and, I grieve to say, so little acted upon, yet it is no disparagement to the word to apply it to that national independence, that freedom from the interference and dictation of foreigners, without which, indeed, no liberty of any kind can exist; and for which both Hindoos and Persians fought against their Mussulman invaders with, in many cases, a bravery that deserved much better success.
Note 172, p. 136.—Now among Afric’s lunar Mountains.
“The Mountains of the Moon, or the Montes Lunæ of antiquity, at the foot of which the Nile is supposed to rise.”—Bruce.355
“Sometimes called,” says Jackson, “Jibbel Kumrie, or the white or lunar-coloured mountains; so a white horse is called by the Arabians a moon-coloured horse.”
Note 173, p. 136.—And hail the new-born Giant’s smile.
“The Nile, which the Abyssinians know by the names of Abey and Alawy, or the Giant.”—Asiat. Research. vol. i. p. 387.
Note 174, p. 136.—Her grots, and sepulchres of Kings.
See Perry’s View of the Levant for an account of the sepulchres in Upper Thebes, and the numberless grots, covered all over with hieroglyphics in the mountains of Upper Egypt.
Note 175, p. 136.—In warm Rosetta’s vale—now loves.
“The orchards of Rosetta are filled with turtle-doves.”—Sonnini.
Note 176, p. 136.—The azure calm of Mœris’ Lake.
Savary mentions the pelicans upon Lake Mœris.
Note 177, p. 137.—Warns them to their silken beds.
“The superb date-tree, whose head languidly reclines, like that of a handsome woman overcome with sleep.”—Dafard el Hadad.
Note 178, p. 137.—Some purple-wing’d Sultana sitting.
“That beautiful bird, with plumage of the finest shining blue, with purple beak and legs, the natural and living ornament of the temples and palaces of the Greeks and Romans, which, from the stateliness of its port, as well as the brilliancy of its colours, has obtained the title of Sultana.”—Sonnini.
Note 179, p. 138.—Only the fierce hyæna stalks.
Jackson, speaking of the plague that occurred in West Barbary, when he was there, says, “The birds of the air fled away from the abodes of men. The hyænas, on the contrary, visited the cemeteries,” &c.
Note 180, p. 138.—Throughout the city’s desolate walks.
“Gondar was full of hyænas from the time it turned dark till the dawn of day, seeking the different pieces of slaughtered carcasses, which this cruel and unclean people expose in the streets without burial, and who firmly believe that these animals are Falashta from the neighbouring mountains, transformed by magic, and come down to eat human flesh in the dark in safety.”—Bruce.
Note 181, p. 138.—The glaring of those large blue eyes.—Bruce.356
Note 182, p. 140.—But see—who yonder comes by stealth.
This circumstance has been often introduced into poetry;—by Vincentius Fabricius, by Darwin, and lately, with very powerful effect, by Mr. Wilson.
Note 183, p. 142.—Who sings at the last his own death-lay.
“In the East, they suppose the Phœnix to have fifty orifices in his bill, which are continued to his tail; and that, after living one thousand years, he builds himself a funeral pile, sings a melodious air of different harmonies through his fifty organ pipes, flaps his wings with a velocity which sets fire to the wood, and consumes himself.”—Richardson.
Note 184, p. 144.—Their first sweet draught of glory take.
“On the shores of a quadrangular lake stand a thousand goblets, made of stars, out of which souls predestined to enjoy felicity drink the crystal wave.”—From Châteaubriand’s Description of the Mahometan Paradise, in his Beauties of Christianity.
Note 185, p. 145.—Now, upon Syria’s land of roses.
Richardson thinks that Syria had its name from Suri, a beautiful and delicate species of rose, for which that country has been always famous; hence, Suristan, the Land of Roses.
Note 186, p. 145.—Gay lizards, glittering on the walls.
“The number of lizards I saw one day in the great court of the Temple of the Sun at Balbec amounted to many thousands; the ground, the walls, and stones of the ruined buildings, were covered with them.”—Bruce.
Note 187, p. 146.—Of shepherd’s ancient reed.
“The Syrinx, or Pan’s pipe, is still a pastoral instrument in Syria.”—Russel.
Note 188, p. 146.—Of the wild bees of Palestine.
“Wild bees, frequent in Palestine, in hollow trunks or branches of trees, and the clefts of rocks. Thus, it is said (Psalm lxxxi.), ‘honey out of the stony rock.’”—Burder’s Oriental Customs.
Note 189, p. 146.—And woods, so full of nightingales.
“The river Jordan is on both sides beset with little, thick, and pleasant woods, among which thousands of nightingales warble all together.”—Thevenot.
Note 190, p. 146.—On that great Temple, once his own.
The Temple of the Sun at Balbec.
Note 191, p. 147.—The beautiful blue damsel flies.
“You behold there a considerable number of a remarkable species of beautiful insects, the elegance of whose appearance and their attire procured for them the name of Damsels.”—Sonnini.357
Note 192, p. 147.—Of a small imaret’s rustic fount.
Imaret, “hospice où on loge et nourrit, gratis, les pélerins pendant trois jours.”—Toderini, translated by the Abbé de Cournand.—See also Castellan’s Mœurs des Othomans, tom. v. p. 145.
Leavitt & Allen 1866
Note 193, p. 149.—Kneels, with his forehead to the south.
“Such Turks, as at the common hours of prayer are on the road, or so employed as not to find convenience to attend the mosques, are still obliged to execute that duty; nor are they ever known to fail, whatever business they are then about, but pray immediately when the hour alarms them, whatever they are about, in that very place they chance to stand on; insomuch that when a janissary, whom you have to guard you up and down the city, hears the notice which is given him from the steeples, he will turn about, stand still, and beckon with his hand, to tell his charge he must have patience for awhile; when, taking out his handkerchief, he spreads it on the ground, sits cross-legged thereupon, and says his prayers, though in the open market, which, having ended, he leaps briskly up, salutes the person whom he undertook to convey, and renews his journey with the mild expression of Ghell gohnnum ghell, or, Come, dear, follow me.”—Aaron Hill’s Travels.
Note 194, p. 151.—Upon Egypt’s land, of so healing a power.
The Nucta, or Miraculous Drop, which falls in Egypt precisely on St. John’s Day, in June, and is supposed to have the effect of stopping the plague.
Note 195, p. 153.—Are the diamond turrets of Shadukiam.
The Country of Delight—the name of a province in the kingdom of Jinnistan, or Fairy Land, the capital of which is called the City of Jewels. Amberabad is another of the cities of Jinnistan.
Note 196, p. 153.—My feast is now of the Tooba Tree.
The tree Tooba, that stands in Paradise, in the palace of Mahomet. See Sale’s Prelim. Disc.—Tooba, says D’Herbelot, signifies beatitude, or eternal happiness.
Note 197, p. 154.—To the lote-tree, springing by Alla’s throne.
Mahomet is described, in the 53d chapter of the Koran, as having seen the Angel Gabriel “by the lote-tree, beyond which there is no passing: near it is the Garden of Eternal Abode.” This tree, say the commentators, stands in the seventh Heaven, on the right hand of the Throne of God.
Note 198, p. 155.—As the hundred and twenty thousand Streams of Basra.—“It is said that the rivers or streams of Basra were reckoned in the time of Pelal ben Abi Bordeh, and amounted to the number of one hundred and twenty thousand streams.”—Ebn Haukal.358
Note 199, p. 155.—Who, like them, flung the jereed carelessly.—The name of the javelin with which the Easterns exercise. See Castellan, Mœurs des Othomans, tom. iii. p. 161.
Note 200, p. 156.—The Banyan Hospital.—“This account excited a desire of visiting the Banyan Hospital, as I had heard much of their benevolence to all kinds of animals that were either sick, lame, or infirm, through age or accident. On my arrival, there were presented to my view many horses, cows, and oxen, in one apartment; in another, dogs, sheep, goats, and monkeys, with clean straw for them to repose on. Above stairs were depositories for seeds of many sorts, and flat, broad dishes for water, for the use of birds and insects.”—Parson’s Travels.
It is said that all animals know the Banyans, that the most timid approach them, and that birds will fly nearer to them than to other people.—See Grandpré.
Note 201, p. 157.—Like that of the fragrant grass near the Ganges.—“A very fragrant grass from the banks of the Ganges, near Heridwar, which in some places covers whole acres, and diffuses, when crushed, a strong odour.”—Sir W. Jones, on the Spikenard of the Ancients.
Note 202, p. 157.—No one had ever yet reached its summit.—“Near this is a curious hill, called Koh Talism, the Mountain of the Talisman, because, according to the traditions of the country, no person ever succeeded in gaining its summit.”—Kinneir.
Note 203, p. 158.—Is warmed into life by the eyes alone.—“The Arabians believe that the ostriches hatch their young by only looking at them.”—P. Vanslebe, Rélat. d’Egypte.
Note 204, p. 159.—And then lost them again for ever.—See Sale’s Koran, note, vol. ii. p. 484.
Note 205, p. 159.—While the artisans in chariots.—Oriental Tales.
Note 206, p. 160.—Who kept waving over their heads plates of gold and silver flowers.—Ferishta. “Or rather,” says Scott, upon the passage of Ferishta, from which this is taken, “small coins, stamped with the figure of a flower. They are still used in India to distribute in charity, and, on occasion, thrown by the purse-bearers of the great among the populace.”
 “For Liberty shed, so holy is
open quote missing
 the radiant eye of Heaven, / . . . the golden bowers of Even
[Thomas, are you seriously presenting that as a rhyme?]
 ’Twas when the golden orb had set
[Other editions, following the 1817 original, have a stanza break here, so I added one to match.]
[Note 153] Wilks’s South of India
text has Wilk’s
[Note 157] The Cámalatá (called by Linnæus, Ipomæa)
[Ipomoea (not -maea) is the morning-glory genus. It’s a quite enormous one, running especially to reds and blues. Halfway through the alphabet we arrive at I. quamoclit, otherwise known as the cypressvine, cardinal climber, red jasmine, Star of Bethlehem and assorted other English names. The gloss “Love’s Creeper” sounds reasonable for कामलता (kāmalatā, its Hindi name), but my dictionary isn’t big enough.]
[Note 159] One is called Char Chenaur, from the plane-trees upon it
[Four (char) of them, presumably. Today the trees are spelled Chinar.]
[Note 161] the flower champaka that is blue . . . being yellow elsewhere
[Magnolia champaca is, as he says, yellow. The best-known blue magnolia is M. acuminata, the cucumber tree, which is indigenous to the eastern part of . . . North America. Oh well.]
[Note 168] Mamood returned to Ghizni, and in the year 400
[If he means Mahmoud (Mahmūd) of Ghazni, that’s Islamic year 400, corresponding to about 1009 CE. The actual year of his arrival in Ghazni is now given as 998 CE, but maybe he spent eleven years getting ready.]
Note 181, p. 138.
text has Note 131
[Note 182] introduced into poetry;—by Vincentius Fabricius, by Darwin
[Erasmus, that is; in 1817 his grandson Charles was only eight years old.]
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.