THE waving of banners, the flourish of trumpets, the neighing of steeds, and the glitter of spears! On the distant horizon they gleam like the morning, when the gloom of the night shivers bright into day. Hark! the tramp of the foemen, like the tide of the ocean, flows onward and onward, and conquers the shore. From the brow of the mountain, like the rush of a river, the column defiling melts into the plain.
Warriors of Judah! holy men that battle for the Lord! The land wherein your fathers wept, and touched their plaintive psalteries; the haughty city where your sires bewailed their cold and distant hearths; your steeds are prancing on its plain, and you shall fill its palaces. Warriors of Judah! holy men that battle for the Lord!
March, onward march, ye valiant tribes, the hour has come, the hour has come! All the promises of ages, all the signs of sacred sages, meet in this ravishing hour. Where is now the oppressor’s chariot, where your tyrant’s purple robe? The horse and the rider are both overthrown, the horse and the rider are both overthrown!
Rise, Rachel, from thy wilderness, arise, and weep no more. No more thy lonely palm-tree’s shade need shroud thy secret sorrowing. The Lord hath heard the widow’s sigh, the Lord hath stilled the widow’s tear. Be comforted, be comforted, thy children live again!
Yes! yes! upon the bounding plain fleet Asriel glances like a star, and stout Scherirah shakes his spear by stern Jabaster’s scimitar. And He is there, the chosen one, hymned by prophetic harps, whose life is like the morning dew on Zion’s holy hill: the chosen one, the chosen one, that leads his race to victory; warriors of Judah! holy men that battle for the Lord!
They come, they come, they come!
The ramparts of the city were crowded with the inhabitants, the river sparkled with ten thousand boats, the bazaars were shut, the streets lined with the populace, and the terrace of every house covered with spectators. In the morning, Ithamar had entered with his division and garrisoned the city. And now the vanguard of the Hebrew army, after having been long distinguished in the distance, approached the walls. A large body of cavalry dashed forward at full speed from the main force. Upon a milk-white charger, and followed by a glittering train of warriors, amid the shouts of the vast multitude, Alroy galloped up to the gates.
He was received by Ithamar and the members of the deputation, but Honain was not there. Accompanied by his staff and a strong detachment of the Sacred Guard, Alroy was conducted through the principal thoroughfares of the city, until he arrived at the chief entrance of the serail, or palace, of the caliph. The vast portal conducted him into a large quadrangular court, where he dismounted, and where he was welcomed by the captain of the eunuch guard. Accompanied by his principal generals and his immediate attendants, Alroy was then ushered through a suite of apartments which reminded him of his visit with Honain, until he arrived at the grand council-chamber of the caliphs.
The conqueror threw himself upon the gorgeous divan of the commander of the Faithful.
‘An easy seat after a long march,’ said Alroy, as he touched with his lips the coffee, which the chief of the eunuchs presented to him in a cup of transparent pink porcelain, studded with pearls.65 ‘Itha-mar, now for your report. What is the temper of the city? Where is his Sultanship of Roum?’
‘The city, sire, is calm, and I believe content. The sultan and the caliph are still hovering on the borders of the province.’
‘So I supposed. Scherirah will settle that. Let the troops be encamped without the walls, the garrison, ten thousand strong, must be changed monthly. Ithamar, you are governor of the city: Asriel commands the forces. Worthy Jabaster, draw up a report of the civil affairs of the capital. Your quarters are the College of the Dervishes. Brave Scherirah, I cannot afford you a long rest. In three days you must have crossed the river with your division. It will be quick work. I foresee that they will not fight. Meet me all here in council by tomorrow’s noon. Farewell.’
The chieftains retired, the high priest lingered.
‘Were it not an intrusion, sire, I would fain entreat a moment’s audience.’
‘My own Jabaster, you have but to speak.’
‘Sire, I would speak of Abidan, as valiant a warrior as any in the host. It grieves me much, that by some fatality, his services seem ever overlooked.’
‘Abidan! I know him well, a valiant man, but a dreamer, a dreamer.’
‘A dreamer, sire! Believe me, a true son of Israel, and one whose faith is deep.’
‘Good Jabaster, we are all true sons of Israel. Yet let me have men about me who see no visions in a mid-day sun. We must beware of dreamers.’
‘Dreams are the oracles of God.’
‘When God sends them. Very true, Jabaster. But this Abidan and the company with whom he consorts are filled with high-flown notions, caught from old traditions, which, if acted on, would render government impracticable; in a word, they are dangerous men.’
‘The very flower of Israel! Some one has poisoned your sacred ear against them.’
‘No one, worthy Jabaster. I have no counsellor except yourself. They may be the flower of Israel, but they are not the fruit. Good warriors, bad subjects: excellent means, by which we may accomplish greater ends. I’ll have no dreamers in authority. I must have practical men about me, practical men. See how Abner, Asriel, Ithamar, Medad, see how these conform to what surrounds them, yet invincible captains, invincible captains. But then they are practical men, Jabaster; they have eyes and use them. They know the difference of times and seasons. But this Abidan, he has no other thought but the rebuilding of the temple: a narrow-souled bigot, who would sacrifice the essence to the form. The rising temple soon would fall again with such constructors. Why, sir, what think you, this same Abidan preached in the camp against my entry into what the quaint fanatic chooses to call “Babylon,” because he had seen what he calls a vision.’
‘There was a time your Majesty thought not so ill of visions.’
‘Am I Abidan, sir? Are other men to mould their conduct or their thoughts by me? In this world I stand alone, a being of a different order from yourselves, incomprehensible even to you. Let this matter cease. I’ll hear no more and have heard too much. To-morrow at council.’
The high priest withdrew in silence.
‘He is gone; at length I am alone. I cannot bear the presence of these men, except in action. Their words, even their looks, disturb the still creation of my brooding thought. I am once more alone, and loneliness hath been the cradle of my empire. Now I do feel inspired. There needs no mummery now to work a marvel.
‘The sceptre of Solomon! It may be so. What then? Here’s now the sceptre of Alroy. What’s that without his mind? The legend said that none should free our people but he who bore the sceptre of great Solomon. The legend knew that none could gain that sceptre, but with a mind to whose supreme volition the fortunes of the world would bow like fate. I gained it; I confronted the spectre monarchs in their sepulchre; and the same hand that grasped their shadowy rule hath seized the diadem of the mighty caliphs by the broad rushing of their imperial river.
‘The world is mine: and shall I yield the prize, the universal and heroic prize, to realise the dull tradition of some dreaming priest, and consecrate a legend? He conquered Asia, and he built the temple. Are these my annals? Shall this quick blaze of empire sink to a glimmering and a twilight sway over some petty province, the decent patriarch of a pastoral horde? Is the Lord of Hosts so slight a God, that we must place a barrier to His sovereignty, and fix the boundaries of Omnipotence between the Jordan and the Lebanon? It is not thus written; and were it so, I’ll pit my inspiration against the prescience of my ancestors. I also am a prophet, and Bagdad shall be my Zion. The daughter of the Voice! Well, I am clearly summoned. I am the Lord’s servant, not Jabaster’s. Let me make His worship universal as His power; and where’s the priest shall dare impugn my faith, because His altars smoke on other hills than those of Judah?
‘I must see Honain. That man has a great mind. He alone can comprehend my purpose. Universal empire must not be founded on sectarian prejudices and exclusive rights. Jabaster would massacre the Moslemin like Amalek; the Moslemin, the vast majority, and most valuable portion, of my subjects. He would depopulate my empire, that it might not be said that Ishmael shared the heritage of Israel. Fanatic! I’ll send him to conquer Judah. We must conciliate. Something must be done to bind the conquered to our conquering fortunes. That bold Sultan of Roum: I wish Abner had opposed him. To run off with the harem! I have half a mind to place myself at the head of the pursuing force, and —— Passion and policy alike combine: and yet Honain is the man; I might send him on a mission. Could we make terms? I detest treaties. My fancy flies from all other topics. I must see him. Could I but tell him all I think! This door, whither leads it? Hah! methinks I do remember yon glittering gallery! No one in attendance. The discipline of our palace is somewhat lax. My warriors are no courtiers. What an admirable marshal of the palace Honain would make! Silence everywhere. So! ’tis well. These saloons I have clearly passed through before. Could I but reach the private portal by the river side, unseen or undetected! ’Tis not impossible. Here are many dresses. I will disguise myself. Trusty scimitar, thou hast done thy duty, rest awhile. ’Tis lucky I am beardless. I shall make a capital eunuch. So! a handsome robe. One dagger for a pinch, slippers powdered with pearls,66 a caftan of cloth of gold, a Cachemire girdle, and a pelisse of sables. One glance at the mirror. Good! I begin to look like the conqueror of the world!’
It was twilight: a small and solitary boat, with a single rower, glided along the Tigris, and stopped at the archway of a house that descended into the river. It stopped, the boatman withdrew the curtains, and his single passenger disembarked, and ascended the stairs of the archway.
The stranger reached the landing-place, and unfastening a golden grate, proceeded along a gallery, and entered a beautiful saloon of white and green marble, opening into gardens. No one was in the apartment; the stranger threw himself upon a silver couch, placed at the side of a fountain that rose from the centre of the chamber and fell into a porphyry basin. A soft whisper roused the stranger from his reverie, a soft whisper that faintly uttered the word ‘Honain.’ The stranger looked up, a figure, enveloped in a veil, that touched the ground, advanced from the gardens.
‘Honain!’ said the advancing figure, throwing off the veil. ‘Honain! Ah! the beautiful mute returned!’
A woman more lovely than the rosy morn, beheld an unexpected guest. They stood, the lady and the stranger, gazing on each other in silence. A man, with a light, entered the extremity of the hall. Carefully he closed the portal, slowly he advanced, with a subdued step; he approached the lady and the stranger.
‘Alroy!’ said the astonished Honain, the light fell from his hand.
‘Alroy!’ exclaimed the lady, with a bewildered air: she turned pale, and leant against a column.
‘Daughter of the caliph!’ said the leader of Israel; and he advanced, and fell upon his knee, and stole her passive hand. ‘I am indeed that Alroy to whom destiny has delivered the empire of thy sire; but the Princess Schirene can have nothing to fear from one who values above all his victories this memorial of her goodwill;’ and he took from his breast a rosary of pearls and emeralds, and, rising slowly, left it in her trembling hand.
The princess turned and hid her face in her arm, which reclined against the column.
‘My kind Honain,’ said Alroy, ‘you thought me forgetful of the past; you thought me ungrateful. My presence here proves that I am not so. I come to enquire all your wishes. I come to gratify and to fulfil them, if that be in my power.’
‘Sire,’ replied Honain, who had recovered from the emotion in which he rarely indulged, and from the surprise which seldom entrapped him, ‘Sire, my wishes are slight. You see before you the daughter of my master. An interview, for which I fear I shall not easily gain that lady’s pardon, has made you somewhat acquainted with her situation and her sentiments. The Princess Schirene seized the opportunity of the late convulsions to escape from a mode of life long repugnant to all her feelings, and from a destiny at which she trembled. I was her only counsellor, and she may feel assured, a faithful, although perhaps an indiscreet one. The irresistible solicitation of the inhabitants that I should become their deputy to their conqueror prevented us from escaping as we had intended. Since then, from the movement of the troops, I have deemed it more prudent that we should remain at present here, although I have circulated the intelligence of my departure. In the kiosk of my garden, the princess is now a willing prisoner. At twilight she steals forth for the poor relaxation of my society, to listen to the intelligence which I acquire during the day in disguise. The history, sire, is short and simple. We are in your power: but instead of deprecating your interference, I now solicit your protection.’
‘Dear Honain, ’tis needless. The Princess Schirene has only to express a wish that it may be fulfilled. I came to speak with you on weighty matters, Honain, but I retire, for I am an intruder now. Tomorrow, if it please you, at this hour, and in this disguise, I will again repair hither. In the meantime, this lady may perchance express to you her wishes, and you will bear them to me. If an escort to any country, if any palace or province for her rule and residence —— But I will not offer to one who should command. Lady! farewell. Pardon the past! Tomorrow, good Honain! prythee let us meet. Good even!’
‘The royal brow was clouded,’ said Ithamar to Asriel, as, departing from the council, they entered their magnificent barque.
‘With thought; he has so much upon his mind, ’tis wondrous how he bears himself.’
‘I have seen him gay on the eve of battle, and lively though calm, with weightier matters than now oppress him. His brow was clouded, but not, me-thinks, with thought; one might rather say with temper. Mark you, how he rated Jabaster?’
‘Roundly! The stern priest writhed under it; and as he signed the ordinance, shivered his reed in rage. I never saw a man more pale.’
‘Or more silent. He looked like an embodied storm. I tell you what, Asriel, that stern priest loves not us.’
‘Have you just discovered that secret, Ithamar? We are not of his school. Nor, in good faith, is our ruler. I am glad to see the king is so staunch about Abidan. Were he in council he would support Jabaster.’
‘Oh! his mere tool. What think you of Scherirah?’
‘I would not trust him. As long as there is fighting, he will meddle with nothing else; but, mark my words, Ithamar: in quiet times he will support the priest.’
‘Medad will have a place in council. He is with us.’
‘Heart and soul. I would your brother were here, Asriel: he alone could balance Jabaster. Alroy loves your brother like himself. Is it true that he marries the Lady Miriam?’
‘So the king wishes. ’Twill be a fine match for Abner.’
‘The world is all before us. I wonder who will be viceroy of Syria.’
‘When we conquer it. Not Scherirah. Mark my words, Ithamar: he never will have a government. You or I perchance. For my own part, I would rather remain as I am.’
‘Yours is a good post; the best.’
‘With the command of the city. It should go with the guard.’
‘Well, then, help me in getting Syria, and you can ask for my command.’
‘Agreed. Jabaster will have it that, in a Hebrew monarchy, the chief priest is in fact the grand vizir.’
‘Alroy will be his own minister.’
‘I am not so sure of that. He may choose to command the Syrian expedition in person; he must leave some head at Bagdad. Jabaster is no general.’
‘Oh! none at all. Alroy will be glad to leave him at home. The Sultan of Roum may not be always so merciful.’
‘Hah! hah! that was an escape!’
‘By heavens! I thought it was all over. You made a fine charge.’
‘I shall never forget it. I nearly ran over Jabaster.’
‘Would that you had!’
It is the tender twilight hour when maidens in their lonely bower sigh softer than the eve! The languid rose her head upraises, and listens to the nightingale, while his wild and thrilling praises from his trembling bosom gush: the languid rose her head upraises, and listens with a blush.
In the clear and rosy air, sparkling with a single star, the sharp and spiry cypress-tree rises like a gloomy thought, amid the flow of revelry. A singing bird, a single star, a solemn tree, an odorous flower, are dangerous in the tender hour, when maidens in their twilight bower sigh softer than the eve!
The daughter of the caliph comes forth to breathe the air: her lute her only company. She sits her down by a fountain’s side, and gazes on the waterfall. Her cheek reclines upon her arm, like fruit upon a graceful bough. Very pensive is the face of that bright and beauteous lady. She starts; a warm voluptuous lip presses her soft and idle hand. It is her own gazelle. With his large and lustrous eyes, more eloquent than many a tongue, the fond attendant mutely asks the cause of all her thoughtfulness.
‘Ah! bright gazelle! Ah! bright gazelle!’ the princess cried, the princess cried; ‘thy lips are softer than the swan, thy lips are softer than the swan; but his breathed passion when they pressed, my bright gazelle! my bright gazelle!
‘Ah! bright gazelle! Ah! bright gazelle!’ the princess cried, the princess cried; ‘thine eyes are like the stars of night, thine eyes are like the stars of night; but his glanced passion when they gazed, my bright gazelle! my bright gazelle!’
She seized her lute, she wildly threw her fingers o’er its thrilling strings, and, gazing on the rosy sky, to borrow all its poetry, thus, thus she sang — thus, thus she sang:
He rose in beauty like the morn
That brightens in bur Syrian skies;
Dark passion glittered in his eyes,
And Empire sparkled in his form!
My soul! thou art the dusky earth,
On which his sunlight fell;
The dusky earth, that dim no longer,
Now breathes with light, now beams with love!
He rose in beauty, like the morn
That brightens in our Syrian skies;
Dark passion glittered in his eyes,
And Empire sparkled in his form!
‘Once more, once more! Ah! sing that strain once more!’
The princess started and looked round. Before her stood Alroy. She rose, she would have retired; but, advancing, the conqueror stole her hand.
‘Fair princess,’ said Alroy, ‘let it not be said that my presence banished at once beauty and music.’
‘Sire, I doubt not that Honain awaits you. Let me summon him.’
‘Lady, it is not with Honain that I would speak.’
He seated himself by her side. His countenance was pale, his heart trembled.
‘This garden,’ at length he observed in a low voice, ‘this garden, a brief, brief space has glided away since first I wandered within its beauteous limits, and yet those days seem like the distant memory of another life.’
‘It is another life,’ said the princess. ‘Ourselves, the world, all forms and usages, all feelings and all habits, verily they have changed, as if we had breathed within another sphere.’
”Tis a great change.’
‘Since first you visited my bright kiosk. Pretty bauble! I pray it may be spared.’
‘It is sacred, like yourself.’
‘You are a courteous conqueror.’
‘I am no conqueror, fair Schirene, but a slave more lowly than when I first bowed humbly in your presence.’
‘And bore away a token not forgotten. Your rosary is here.’
‘Let me claim it. It has been my consolation in much peril, beauteous lady. On the eve of battle I wound it round my heart.’
She held forth the rosary, and turned away her head. Her hand remained in his; he pressed it to his lips. His right arm retained her hand; he wound the other round her waist, as he fell upon his knee.
‘O beautiful! O more than beautiful! for thou to me art like a dream unbroken,’ exclaimed the young leader of Israel, ‘let me, let me breathe my adoration. I offer thee not empire: I offer thee not wealth; I offer thee not all the boundless gratification of magnificent fancy — these may be thine, but all these thou hast proved; but, if the passionate affections of a spirit which never has yielded to the power of woman or the might of man, if the deep devotion of the soul of Alroy, be deemed an offering meet for the shrine of thy surpassing loveliness, I worship thee, Schirene. I worship thee, I worship thee!
‘Since I first gazed upon thee, since thy beauty first rose upon my presence like a star bright with my destiny, in the still sanctuary of my secret love, thy idol has ever rested. Then, then, I was a thing whose very touch thy creed might count a contumely. I have avenged the insults of long centuries in the best blood of Asia; I have returned, in glory and in pride, to claim my ancient sceptre; but sweeter far than vengeance, sweeter far than the quick gathering of my sacred tribes, the rush of triumph and the blaze of empire, is this brief moment of adoring love, wherein I pour the passion of my life!
‘O my soul, my life, my very being! thou art silent, but thy silence is sweeter than others’ speech. Yield, yield thee, dear Schirene, yield to thy suppliant! Thy faith, thy father’s faith, thy native customs, these, these shall be respected, beauteous lady! Pharaoh’s daughter yielded her dusky beauty to my great ancestor. Thy face is like the bright inspiring day! Let it not be said that the daughter of the Nile shared Israel’s crown, the daughter of the Tigris spurned our sceptre. I am not Solomon, but I am one that, were Schirene the partner of my throne, would make his glowing annals read like a wearisome and misty tale to our surpassing lustre!’
He ceased, the princess turned her hitherto hidden countenance, and bowed it on his heart. ‘O Alroy!’ she exclaimed, ‘I have no creed, no country, no life, but thee!’
‘The king is late today.’
‘Is it true, Asriel, there is an express from Hamadan?’
‘Of no moment, Ithamar. I have private letters from Abner. All is quiet.’
”Tis much past the hour. When do you depart, Scherirah?’
‘The troops are ready. I wait orders. This morning’s council will perchance decide.’
‘This morning’s council is devoted to the settlement of the civil affairs of the capital,’ remarked Jabaster.
‘Indeed!’ said Asriel. ‘Is your report prepared, Jabaster?’
”Tis here,’ replied the high priest. ‘The Hebrew legislator requires but little musing to shape his order. He has a model which time cannot destroy, nor thought improve.’
Ithamar and Asriel exchanged significant glances. Scherirah looked solemn. There was a pause, which was broken by Asriel.
”Tis a noble city, this Bagdad. I have not yet visited your quarters, Jabaster. You are well placed.’
‘As it may be. I hope we shall not tarry here long. The great point is still not achieved.’
‘How far is it to the holy city?’ enquired Scherirah.
‘A month’s march,’ replied Jabaster.
‘And when you get there?’ enquired Ithamar.
‘You may fight with the Franks,’ replied Asriel.
‘Jabaster, how large is Jerusalem?’ enquired Ithamar. ‘Is it true, as I have sometimes heard, that it is not bigger than the serail here, gardens and all?’
‘Its glory hath departed,’ replied the high priest; ‘the bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with marble; and Zion, that is now without the Christian walls, shall yet sparkle, as in the olden time, with palaces and pavilions.’
A flourish of trumpets, the portals flew open, and Alroy entered, leaning on the arm of the Envoy of Bagdad.
‘Valiant leaders,’ said Alroy to the astonished chieftains, ‘in this noble stranger, you see one like yourselves entrusted with my unbounded confidence. Jabaster, behold thy brother!’
‘Honain! art thou Honain?’ exclaimed the pontiff starting from his seat. ‘I have a thousand messengers after thee.’ With a countenance alternately pallid with surprise and burning with affection, Jabaster embraced his brother, and, overpowered with emotion, hid his face on his shoulder.
‘Sire,’ at length exclaimed the high priest, in a low and tremulous voice, ‘I must pray your pardon that for an instant in this character I have indulged in any other thoughts than those that may concern your welfare. Tis past: and you, who know all, will forgive me.’
‘All that respects Jabaster must concern my welfare. He is the pillar of my empire;’ and holding forth his hand, Alroy placed the high priest on his right. ‘Scherirah, you depart this eve.’
The rough captain bowed in silence.
‘What is this?’ continued Alroy, as Jabaster offered him a scroll. ‘Ah! your report. “Order of the Tribes,” “Service of the Lévites,” “Princes of the People,” “Elders of Israel!” The day may come when this may be effected. At present, Jabaster, we must be moderate, and content ourselves with arrangements which may ensure that order shall be maintained, property respected, and justice administered. Is it true that a gang has rifled a mosque?’
‘Sire! of that I would speak. They are no plunderers, but men, perhaps too zealous, who have read and who have remembered that “Ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye shall possess, served their gods upon the high mountains, and upon the hill, and under every green tree. And ye shall overthrow their altars, and ——”’
‘Jabaster, is this a synagogue? Come I to a council of valiant statesmen or dreaming Rabbis? For a thousand years we have been quoting the laws we dared not practise. Is it with such aid that we captured Nishapur and crossed the Tigris? Valiant, wise Jabaster, thou art worthy of better things, and capable of all. I entreat thee, urge such matters for the last time. Are these fellows in custody?’
‘They were in custody. I have freed them.’
‘Freed them! Hang them! Hang them in the most public grove. Is this the way to make the Moslem a duteous subject? Jabaster! Israel honours thee; and I, its chief, know that one more true, more valiant, or more learned, crowds not around our standard; but I see, the caverns of the Caucasus are not a school for empire.’
‘Sire, I had humbly deemed the school for empire was the law of Moses.’
‘Ay! adapted to these times.’
‘Can aught divine be changed?’
‘Am I as tall as Adam? If man, the crown, the rose of all this fair creation, the most divine of all divine inventions, if Time have altered even this choicest of all godlike works, why shall it spare a law made but to rule his conduct? Good Jabaster, we must establish the throne of Israel, that is my mission, and for the means, no matter how, or where. Asriel, what news of Medad?’
‘All is quiet between the Tigris and Euphrates. It would be better to recall his division, which has been much harassed. I thought of relieving him by Abidan.’
‘I think so, too. We may as well keep Abidan out of the city. If the truth were known, I’ll wager some of his company plundered the mosque. We must issue a proclamation on that subject. My good Jabaster, we’ll talk over these matters alone. At present I will leave you with your brother. Scherirah, sup with me to-night; before you quit Asriel, come with me to my cabinet.’
‘I must see the king!’
‘Holy priest, his highness has retired. It is impossible.’
‘I must see the king. Worthy Pharez, I take all peril on myself.’
‘Indeed his highness’ orders are imperative. You cannot see him.’
‘Knowest thou who I am?’
‘One whom all pious Hebrews reverence.’
‘I say I must see the king.’
‘Indeed, indeed, holy Jabaster, it cannot be.’
‘Shall Israel perish for a menial’s place? Go to; I will see him.’
‘Nay! if you will, I’ll struggle for my duty.’
‘Touch not the Lord’s anointed. Dog, you shall suffer for this!’
So saying, Jabaster threw aside Pharez, and, with the attendant clinging to his robes, rushed into the royal chamber.
‘What is all this?’ exclaimed Alroy, starting from the divan. ‘Jabaster! Pharez, withdraw! How now, is Bagdad in insurrection?’
‘Worse, much worse, Israel soon will be.’
‘My fatal brother has told me all, nor would I sleep, until I lifted up my voice to save thee.’
‘Am I in danger?’
‘In the wilderness, when the broad desert quivered beneath thy trembling feet, and the dark heavens poured down their burning torrents, thou wert less so. In that hour of death, One guarded thee, who never forgets His fond and faithful offspring, and now, when He has brought thee out of the house of bondage; now, when thy fortunes, like a noble cedar, swell in the air and shadow all the land; thou, the very leader of His people, His chosen one, for whom He hath worked such marvels, thy heart is turned from thy fathers’ God, and hankers after strange abominations.’
Through the broad arch that led into the gardens of the serail, the moonlight fell upon the tall figure and the upraised arm of the priest; Alroy stood with folded arms at some distance, watching Jabaster as he spoke, with a calm but searching glance. Suddenly he advanced with a quick step, and, placing his hand upon Jabaster’s arm, said, in a low, enquiring tone, ‘You are speaking of this marriage?’
‘Of that which ruined Solomon.’
‘Listen to me, Jabaster,’ said Alroy, interrupting him, in a calm but peremptory tone, ‘I cannot forget that I am speaking to my master, as well as to my friend. The Lord, who knoweth all things, hath deemed me worthy of His mission. My fitness for this high and holy office was not admitted without proof. A lineage, which none else could offer, mystic studies shared by few, a mind that dared encounter all things, and a frame that could endure most, these were my claims. But no more of this. I have passed the great ordeal; the Lord of Hosts hath found me not unworthy of His charge; I have established His ancient people; His altars blaze with sacrifices; His priests are honoured, bear witness thou, Jabaster, His omnipotent unity is declared. What wouldst thou more?’
‘Then Moses knew you well. It is a stiff-necked people.’
‘Sire, bear with me. If I speak in heat, I speak in zeal. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, a national existence, which we have not. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, the Land of Promise. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, Jerusalem. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, the Temple, all we have forfeited, all we have yearned after, all for which we have fought, our beauteous country, our holy creed, our simple manners, and our ancient customs.’
‘Manners change with time and circumstances; customs may be observed everywhere. The ephod on thy breast proves our faith; and, for a country, is the Tigris less than Siloah, or the Euphrates inferior to the Jordan?’
‘Alas! alas! there was a glorious prime when Israel stood aloof from other nations, a fair and holy thing that God had hallowed. We were then a chosen family, a most peculiar people, set apart for God’s entire enjoyment. All about us was solemn, deep, and holy. We shunned the stranger as an unclean thing that must defile our solitary sanctity, and, keeping to ourselves and to our God, our lives flowed on in one great solemn tide of deep religion, making the meanest of our multitude feel greater than the kings of other lands. It was a glorious time: I thought it had returned; but I awake from this, as other dreams.’
‘We must leave off dreaming, good Jabaster, we must act. Were I, by any chance, to fall into one of those reveries, with which I have often lost the golden hours at Hamadan, or in our old cave, I should hear, some fine morning, his Sultanship of Roum rattling at my gates.’ Alroy smiled as he spoke; he would willingly have introduced a lighter tone into the dialogue, but the solemn countenance of the priest was not sympathetic with his levity.
‘My heart is full, and yet I cannot speak: the memory of the past overpowers my thought. I had vainly deemed that my voice, inspired by the soul of truth, might yet preserve him; and now I stand here in his presence, silent and trembling, like a guilty thing. O, my prince! my pupil!’ said the priest, advancing, falling on his knee, and seizing the robe of Alroy, ‘by thy sacred lineage; by the sweet memory of thy ardent youth, and our united studies, by all thy zealous thoughts, and solemn musings, and glorious aspirations after fame; by all thy sufferings, and by all thy triumphs, and chiefly by the name of that great God, who hath elected thee his favoured child; by all the marvels of thy mighty mission, I do adjure thee! Arise, Alroy, arise and rouse thyself. The lure that snared thy fathers may trap thee, this Delilah may shear thy mystic locks. Spirits like thee act not by halves. Once fall out from the straight course before thee, and, though thou deemest ’tis but to saunter ‘mid the summer trees, soon thou wilt find thyself in the dark depths of some infernal forest, where none may rescue thee!’
‘What if I do inherit the eager blood of my great ancestor, at least I hold his sceptre. Shall aught of earthly power prevail against the supernatural sway of Heaven and Hades?’
‘Sire, sire, the legend that came from Sinai is full of high instruction. But shape thy conduct by its oracles, and all were well. It says our people can be established only by him who rules them with the rod of Solomon. Sire, when the Lord offered his pleasure to that mighty king, thou knowest his deep discretion. Riches and length of days, empire and vengeance, these were not the choice of one to whom all accidents were proffered. The legend bears an inward spirit, as well as an outward meaning. The capture of the prize was a wise test of thy imperial fitness. Thou hast his sceptre, but, without his wisdom, ’tis but a staff of cedar.’
‘Hah! Art thou there? I am glad to see Jabaster politic. Hear me, my friend. What my feelings be unto this royal lady, but little matters. Let them pass, and let us view this question by the light wherein you have placed it, the flame of policy and not of passion. I am no traitor to the God of Israel, in whose name I have conquered, and in whose name I shall rule; but thou art a learned doctor, thou canst inform us. I have heard no mandate to yield my glorious empire for my meanest province. I am Lord of Asia, so would I have my long posterity. Our people are but a remnant, a feeble fraction of the teeming millions that own my sway. What I hold I can defend; but my children may not inherit the spirit of their sire. The Moslemin will recognise their rule with readier hearts, when they remember that a daughter of their caliphs gave them life. You see I too am politic, my good Jabaster!’
‘The policy of the son of Kareah67, ’twas fatal. He preferred Egypt to Judah, and he suffered. Sire, the Lord hath blessed Judah: it is His land. He would have it filled by His peculiar people, so that His worship might ever flourish. For this He has, by many curious rites and customs, marked us out from all other nations, so that we cannot, at the same time, mingle with them and yet be true to Him. We must exist alone. To preserve that loneliness is the great end and essence of our law. What have we to do with Bagdad, or its people, where every instant we must witness some violation of our statutes? Can we pray with them? Can we eat with them? Alike in the highest duties, and the lowest occupations of existence, we cannot mingle. From the altar of our God to our domestic boards, we are alike separated from them. Sire, you may be King of Bagdad, but you cannot, at the same time, be a Jew.’
‘I am what I am. I worship the Lord of Hosts. Perhaps, in His mercy, He will accept the days of Nishapur and the Tigris as a compensation for some slight relaxation in the ritual of the baker and the bath.’
‘And mark my words: it was by the ritual of the baker and the bath that Alroy rose, and without it he will fall. The genius of the people, which he shared, raised him; and that genius has been formed by the law of Moses. Based on that law, he might indeed have handed down an empire to his long posterity; and now, though the tree of his fortunes seems springing up by the water-side, fed by a thousand springs, and its branches covered with dew, there is a gangrene in the sap, and tomorrow he may shrink like a shrivelled gourd. Alas! alas! for Israel! We have long fed on mallows; but to lose the vintage in the very day of fruition, ’tis very bitter. Ah! when I raised thy exhausted form in the cavern of Genthesma, and the star of David beamed brightly in the glowing heavens upon thy high fulfilment, who could have dreamed of a night like this? Farewell, sire.’
‘Stop, Jabaster! earliest, dearest friend, prythee, prythee stop!’
The priest slowly turned, the prince hesitated.
‘Part not in anger, good Jabaster.’
‘In sorrow, sire, only in sorrow; but deep and terrible.’
‘Israel is Lord of Asia, my Jabaster. Why should we fear?’
‘Solomon built Tadmor in the wilderness, and his fleet brought gold from Ophir; and yet Alroy was born a slave.’
‘But did not die one. The sultans of the world have fallen before me. I have no fear. Nay, do not go. At least you will give some credence to the stars, my learned Cabalist. See, my planet shines as brightly as my fortunes.’ Alroy withdrew the curtain, and with Jabaster stepped out upon the terrace. A beautiful star glittered on high. As they gazed, its colour changed, and a blood-red meteor burst from its circle, and fell into space. The conqueror and the priest looked at each other at the same time. Their countenances were pale, enquiring, and agitated.
‘Sire,’ said Jabaster, ‘march to Judah.’
‘It portends war,’ replied Alroy, endeavouring to recover himself. ‘Perchance some troubles in Persia.’
‘Troubles at home, no other. The danger is nigh. Look to thyself.’
A wild scream was heard in the gardens. It sounded thrice.
‘What is this?’ exclaimed Alroy, really agitated. ‘Rouse the guard, Jabaster, search the gardens.’
”Tis useless and may do harm. It was a spirit that shrieked.’
‘What said it?’
‘Mené, Mené, Tekel, Upharsin!’
‘The old story, the priest against the king,’ said Honain to Alroy, when at his morrow’s interview, he had listened to the events of the preceding night. ‘My pious brother wishes to lead you back to the Theocracy, and is fearful that, if he prays at Bagdad instead of Zion, he may chance to become only the head of an inferior sect, instead of revelling in the universal tithes of a whole nation. As for the meteor, Scherirah must have crossed the river about the same time, and the Sultan of Roum may explain the bloody portent. For the shriek, as I really have no acquaintance with spirits, I must leave the miraculous communication to the favoured ears and initiated intelligences of your highness and my brother. It seems that it differed from “the Daughter of the Voice” in more respects than one, since it was not only extremely noisy, but, as it would appear, quite unintelligible except to the individual who had an interest in the interpretation, an ingenious one, I confess. When I enter upon my functions as your highness’s chamberlain, I will at least guarantee that your slumbers shall not be disturbed either by spirits or more unwelcome visitors.’
‘Enter upon them at once, good Honain. How fares my Persian rose today, my sweet Schirene?’
‘Feeding on your image in your absence. She spares no word to me, I do assure your highness.’
‘Nay, nay, we know you are a general favourite with the sex, Honain. I’faith I’m jealous.’
‘I would your highness had cause,’ said Honain, demurely.
The approaching marriage between the King of the Hebrews and the Princess of Bagdad was published throughout Asia. Preparations were made on the plain of the Tigris for the great rejoicing. Whole forests were felled to provide materials for the buildings and fuel for the banqueting. All the governors of provinces and cities, all the chief officers and nobility of both nations, were specially invited, and daily arrived in state at Bagdad. Among them the Viceroy of the Medes and Persians, and his recent bride, the Princess Miriam, were conspicuous, followed by a train of nearly ten thousand persons.
A throne, ascended by one hundred steps covered with crimson cloth, and crowned by a golden canopy, was raised in the middle of the plain; on each side was a throne less elevated, but equally gorgeous. In the front of these thrones an immense circus was described, formed by one hundred chartaks or amphitheatres, ample room for the admittance of the multitude being left between the buildings. These chartaks were covered with bright brocades and showy carpets; on each was hoisted a brilliant banner. In some of them were bands of choice musicians, in others companies of jugglers, buffoons, and storiers. Five chartaks on each side of the thrones were allotted for the convenience of the court; the rest were filled by the different trades of the city. In one the fruiterers had formed a beautiful garden, glowing with pomegranates and gourds and watermelons, oranges, almonds, and pistachio-nuts; in another the butchers exhibited their meats carved in fanciful shapes, and the skins of animals formed into ludicrous figures. Here assembled the furriers, all dressed in masquerade, like leopards, lions, tigers and foxes; and in another booth mustered the upholsterers, proud of a camel made of wood, and reeds, and cord, and painted linen, a camel which walked about as if alive, though ever and anon a curtain drawn aside discovered to the marvelling multitude the workman within, performing in his own piece. Further on might be perceived the cotton manufacturers, whose chartak was full of birds of all shapes and plumage, formed nevertheless of their curious plant; and, in the centre rose a lofty minaret, constructed of the same material, with the help of reeds, although every one imagined it to be built with bricks and mortar. It was covered with embroidered work, and on the top was placed a stork, so cunningly devised that the children pelted it with pistachio-nuts. The saddlers showed their skill in two litters, open at top, each carried on a dromedary, and in each a beautiful woman, who diverted the spectators with light balls of gilt leather, throwing them up both with their hands and feet. Nor were the mat-makers backward in the proof of their dexterity, since, instead of a common banner, they exhibited a large standard of reeds worked with two lines of writing in Kufic, proclaiming the happy names of Alroy and Schirene.
But indeed in every chartak might be seen some wondrous specimens of the wealth of Bagdad, and of the ingenuity of its unrivalled artisans.
Around this mighty circus, on every side for the space of many miles, the plain was studded with innumerable pavilions. At measured intervals were tables furnished with every species of provision, and attended by appointed servants; flagons of wine and jars of sherbets, mingled with infinite baskets of delicious fruits and trays of refreshing confectionery. Although open to all comers, so great and rapid was the supply, that these banqueting tables seemed ever laden; and that the joys of the people might be complete, they were allowed to pursue whatever pleasures they thought fit without any restraint, by proclamation, in these terms.
‘This is the time of feasting, pleasure, and rejoicing. Let no person reprimand or complain of another: let not the rich insult the poor, or the strong the weak: let no one ask another, “why have you done this?”’
Millions of people were collected in this Paradise. They rejoiced, they feasted, they frolicked, they danced, they sang. They listened to the tales of the Arabian story-teller, at once enchanted and enchanting, or melted to the strain of the Persian poet as he painted the moon-lit forehead of his heroine and the wasting and shadowy form of his love-sick hero; they beheld with amazement the feats of the juggler of the Ganges, or giggled at the practised wit and the practical buffoonery of the Syrian mime. And the most delighted could still spare a fascinating glance to the inviting gestures and the voluptuous grace of the dancing girls of Egypt.68 Everywhere reigned melody and merriment, rarity and beauty. For once mankind forgot their cares, and delivered themselves up to infinite enjoyment.
‘I grow courteous,’ said Kisloch the Kourd, assisting a party into one of the shows.
‘And I humane,’ said Calidas the Indian. ‘Fellow, how dare you violate the proclamation, by thrashing that child?’ He turned to one of the stewards of the table, who was belabouring the unfortunate driver of a camel which had stumbled and in its fall had shivered its burden, two panniers of porcelain.
‘Mind your own business, fellow,’ replied the steward, ‘and be thankful that for once in your life you can dine.’
‘Is this the way to speak to an officer?’ said Calidas the Indian; ‘I have half a mind to cut your tongue out.’
‘Never mind, little fellow,’ said the Guebre, ‘here is a dirhem for you. Run away and be merry.’
‘A miracle!’ grinned the Negro; ‘he giveth alms.’
‘And you are witty,’ rejoined the Guebre. ”Tis a wondrous day.’
‘What shall we do?’ said Kisloch.
‘Let us dine,’ proposed the Negro.
‘Ay! under this plane-tree,’ said Calidas. ”Tis pleasant to be alone. I hate everybody but ourselves.’
‘Here stop, you rascal,’ said the Guebre. ‘What’s your name?’
‘I am a Hadgee,’ said our old friend Abdallah, the servant of the charitable merchant Ali, and who was this day one of the officiating stewards.
‘Are you a Jew, you scoundrel?’ said the Guebre, ‘that is the only thing worth being. Bring some wine, you accursed Giaour!’
‘Instantly,’ said Kisloch, ‘and a pilau.’ ‘And a gazelle stuffed with almonds,’ said Calidas. ‘And some sugar-plums,’ said the Negro. ‘Quick, you infernal Gentile, or I’ll send this javelin in your back,’ hallooed the Guebre.
The servile Abdallah hastened away, and soon bustled back, bearing two flagons of wine, and followed by four servants, each with a tray covered with dainties.
‘Where are you going, you accursed scoundrels?’ grumbled Kisloch; ‘wait upon the true believers.’ ‘We shall be more free alone,’ whispered Calidas. ‘Away, then, dogs,’ growled Kisloch. Abdallah and his attendants hurried off, but were soon summoned back.
‘Why did you not bring Schiraz wine?’ asked Calidas, with an eye of fire.
‘The pilau is overdone,’ thundered Kisloch. ‘You have brought a lamb stuffed with pistachio-nuts, instead of a gazelle with almonds,’ said the Guebre.
‘Not half sugar-plums enough,’ said the Negro. ‘Everything is wrong,’ said Kisloch. ‘Go, and get us a kabob.’
In time, however, even this unmanageable crew were satisfied; and, seated under their plane-tree, and stuffing themselves with all the dainties of the East, they became more amiable as their appetites decreased. ‘A bumper, Calidas, and a song,’ said Kisloch. ”Tis rare stuff,’ said the Guebre; ‘come, Cally, it should inspire you.’
‘Here goes, then; mind the chorus.’
Drink, drink, deeply drink,
Never feel, and never think;
What’s love? what’s fame? a sigh, a smile.
Friendship? but a hollow wile.
If you’ve any thought or woe,
Drown them in the goblet’s flow.
Yes! dash them in this brimming cup;
Dash them in, and drink them up.
Drink, drink, deeply drink,
Never feel, and never think.
‘Hark, the trumpets! The King and Queen! ‘The procession is coming. Let’s away.’
‘Again! they must be near. Hurry, hurry, for good places.’
‘Break all the cups and dishes. Come along!’
The multitude from all quarters hurried to the great circus, amid the clash of ten thousand cymbals and the blast of innumerable trumpets. In the distance, issuing from the gates of Bagdad, might be discerned a brilliant crowd, the advance company of the bridal procession.
There came five hundred maidens crowned with flowers, and beauteous as the buds that girt their hair. Their flowing robes were whiter than the swan, and each within her hand a palm-branch held. Followed these a band of bright musicians, clothed in golden robes, and sounding silver trumpets.
Then five hundred youths, brilliant as stars, clad in jackets of white-fox skin, and alternately bearing baskets of fruit or flowers.
Followed these a band of bright musicians, clothed in silver robes, and sounding golden trumpets.
Six choice steeds, sumptuously caparisoned, each led by an Arab groom.69
The household of Medad, in robes of crimson, lined with sable.
The standard of Medad.
Medad, on a coal-black Arab, followed by three hundred officers of his division, all mounted on steeds of pure race.
Slaves, bearing the bridal present of Medad; six Damascus sabres of unrivalled temper.70
Twelve choice steeds, sumptuously caparisoned, each led by an Anatolian groom.
The household of Ithamar, in robes of violet, lined with ermine.
The standard of Ithamar.
Ithamar, on a snow-white Anatolian charger, followed by six hundred officers of his division, all mounted on steeds of pure race.
Slaves bearing the marriage present of Ithamar; a golden vase of rubies borne on a violet throne.
One hundred Negroes, their noses bored, and hung with rings of brilliants, playing upon wind instruments and kettle-drums.
The standard of the City of Bagdad.
The deputation from the citizens of Bagdad.
Two hundred mules, with caparisons of satin, embroidered with gold, and adorned with small golden bells. These bore the sumptuous wardrobe, presented by the city to their princess. Each mule was attended by a girl, dressed like a Péri, with starry wings, and a man, masked as a hideous Dive.
The standard of Egypt.
The deputation from the Hebrews of Egypt, mounted on dromedaries, with silver furniture.
Fifty slaves, bearing their present to the princess, with golden cords, a mighty bath of jasper, beautifully carved, the sarcophagus of some ancient temple, and purchased for an immense sum.
The standard of Syria.
The deputation from the Hebrews of the Holy Land, headed by Rabbi Zimri himself, each carrying in his hand his offering to the nuptial pair, a precious vase, containing earth from the Mount of Zion.
The standard of Hamadan.
The deputation from the citizens of Hamadan, headed by the venerable Bostenay himself, whose sumptuous charger was led by Caleb.
The present of the city of Hamadan to David Al-roy, offered at his own suggestion; the cup in which the Prince of the Captivity carried his tribute, now borne full of sand.
Fifty choice steeds, sumptuously caparisoned, each led by a Median or Persian groom.
The household of Abner and Miriam, in number twelve hundred, clad in chain armour of ivory and gold.
The standard of the Medes and Persians.
Two white elephants, with golden litters, bearing the Viceroy and his Princess.
The offering of Abner to Alroy; twelve elephants of state, with furniture embroidered with jewels, each tended by an Indian clad in chain armour of ivory and gold.
The offering of Miriam to Schirene; fifty plants of roses from Rocnabad;71 a white shawl of Cachemire fifty feet in length, which folded into the handle of a fan; fifty screens, each made of a feather of the roc;72 and fifty vases of crystal full of exquisite perfumes, and each sealed with a talisman of precious stones.
After these followed the eunuch guard.
Then came the band of the serail, consisting of three hundred dwarfs, hideous indeed to behold, but the most complete musicians in the world.
The steeds of Solomon, in number one hundred, each with a natural star upon its front, uncaparisoned, and led only by a bridle of diamonds.
The household of Alroy and Schirene. Foremost, the Lord Honain riding upon a chestnut charger, shod with silver; the dress of the rider, pink with silver stars. From his rosy turban depended a tremulous aigrette of brilliants,73 blazing with a thousand shifting tints.
Two hundred pages followed him; and then servants of both sexes, gorgeously habited, amounting to nearly two thousand, carrying rich vases, magnificent caskets, and costly robes. The treasurer and two hundred of his underlings came next, showering golden dirhems on all sides.
The sceptre of Solomon borne by Asriel himself.
A magnificent and lofty car, formed of blue enamel with golden wheels, and axletrees of turquoises and brilliants, and drawn by twelve snow-white and sacred horses, four abreast; in the car Alroy and Schirene.
Five thousand of the Sacred Guard closed the procession.
Amid the exclamations of the people, this gorgeous procession crossed the plain, and moved around the mighty circus. The conqueror and his bride ascended their throne; its steps were covered by the youths and maidens. On the throne upon their right sat the venerable Bostenay; on the left, the gallant Viceroy and his Princess. The chartaks on each side were crowded with the court.
The deputations made their offerings, the chiefs and captains paid their homage, the trades of the city moved before the throne in order, and exhibited their various ingenuity. Thrice was the proclamation made, amid the sound of trumpets, and then began the games.
A thousand horsemen dashed into the arena and threw the jerreed. They galloped at full speed; they arrested their fiery charges in mid course, and flung their long javelins at the minute but sparkling target, the imitative form of a rare and brilliant bird. The conquerors received their prizes from the hand of the princess herself, bright shawls, and jewelled daggers, and rosaries of gems. Sometimes the trumpets announced a prize from the vice-queen, sometimes from the venerable Bostenay, sometimes from the victorious generals, or the loyal deputations, sometimes from the united trades, sometimes from the City of Bagdad, sometimes from the City of Hamadan. The hours flew away in gorgeous and ceaseless variety.
‘I would we were alone, my own Schirene,’ said Alroy to his bride.
‘I would so too; and yet I love to see all Asia prostrate at the feet of Alroy.’
‘Will the sun never set? Give me thy hand to play with.’
‘Hush! See, Miriam smiles.’
‘Lovest thou my sister, my own Schirene?’
‘None dearer but thyself.’
‘Talk not of my sister, but ourselves. Thinkest thou the sun is nearer setting, love?’
‘I cannot see; thine eyes they dazzle me, they are so brilliant, sweet!’
‘Oh, my soul! I could pour out my passion on thy breast.’
‘Thou art very serious.’
‘Love is ever so.’
‘Nay, sweet! It makes me wild and fanciful. Now I could do such things, but what I know not. I would we had wings, and then we would fly away.’
‘See, I must salute this victor in the games. Must I unloose thy hand! Dear hand, farewell! Think of me while I speak, my precious life. ’Tis done. Give back thy hand, or else methinks I shall die. What’s this?’
A horseman, in no holiday dress, but covered with dust, rushed into the circus, bearing in his hand a tall lance, on which was fixed a scroll. The marshals of the games endeavoured to prevent his advance, but he would not be stayed. His message was to the king alone. A rumour of news from the army circulated throughout the crowd. And news from the army it was. Another victory! Scherirah had defeated the Sultan of Roum, who was now a suppliant for peace and alliance. Sooth to say, the intelligence had arrived at dawn of day, but the courtly Honain had contrived that it should be communicated at a later and more effective moment.
There scarcely needed this additional excitement to this glorious day. But the people cheered, the golden dirhems were scattered with renewed profusion, and the intelligence was received by all parties as a solemn ratification by Jehovah, or by Allah, of the morning ceremony.
The sun set, the court rose, and returned in the same pomp to the serail. The twilight died away, a beacon fired on a distant eminence announced the entrance of Alroy and Schirene into the nuptial chamber, and suddenly, as by magic, the mighty city, every mosque, and minaret, and tower, and terrace, and the universal plain, and the numberless pavilions, and the immense circus, and the vast and winding river, blazed with light. From every spot a lamp, a torch, a lantern, tinted with every hue, burst forth; enormous cressets of silver radiancy beamed on the top of each chartak, and huge bonfires of ruddy flame started up along the whole horizon.
For seven days and seven nights this unparalleled scene of rejoicing, though ever various, never ceased. Long, long was remembered the bridal feast of the Hebrew prince and the caliph’s daughter; long, long did the peasantry on the plains of Tigris sit down by the side of that starry river, and tell the wondrous tale to their marvelling posterity.
Now what a glorious man was David Alroy, lord of the mightiest empire in the world, and wedded to the most beautiful princess, surrounded by a prosperous and obedient people, guarded by invincible armies, one on whom Earth showered all its fortune, and Heaven all its favour; and all by the power of his own genius!
65— A cap of transparent pink porcelain, studded with pearls. Thus a great Turk, who afforded me hospitality, was accustomed to drink his coffee.]
66—Slippers powdered with pearls. The slippers in the East form a very fanciful portion of the costume. It is not uncommon to see them thus adorned and beautifully embroidered. In precious embroidery and enamelling the Turkish artists are unrivalled.]
67—The policy of the son of Kareah. Vide Jeremiah, chap. xlii.]
68—The inviting gestures and the voluptuous grace of the dancing girls of Egypt. A sculptor might find fine studies in the Egyptian Almeh.]
69—Six choice steeds sumptuously caparisoned. Led horses always precede a great man. I think there were usually twelve before the Sultan when he went to Mosque, which he did in public every Friday.]
70—Six Damascus sabres of unrivalled temper. But sabres are not to be found at Damascus, any more than cheeses at Stilton, or oranges at Malta. The art of watering the blade is, however, practised, I believe, in Persia. A fine Damascus blade will fetch fifty or even one hundred guineas English.]
71—Roses from Rocnabad. A river in Persia famous for its bowery banks of roses.]
72—Screens made of the feather of a roc. The screens and fans in the East, made of the plumage of rare birds with jewelled handles, are very gorgeous.]
73—A tremulous aigrette of brilliants. Worn only by persons of the highest rank. The Sultan presented Lord Nelson after the battle of the Nile with an aigrette of diamonds.]
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53