Lalla Rookh
an oriental romance


Thomas Moore

with sixty-nine illustrations from original drawings by john tenniel,
engraved on wood by the brothers dalziel;
and five ornamental pages of persian design by t. sulman, jun.
engraved on wood by h. n. woods.

First published in 1817.

The Preface and illustrations are from the edition published by Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1861.

This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.

Last updated Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 15:58.

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Table of Contents

The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan.

Paradise and the Peri.

The Fire Worshippers.

The Light of the Haram.

Conclusion.

List of Illustrations

[view slideshow ]

  1. Illuminated Title-page.
    (From several ancient mss. in the Library of the East India House.)
  2. He was a youth about Lalla Rookh’s own age.
  3. That Veiled Prophet of Khorassan
  4. The Veiled Prophet Of Khorassan. Ornamental title-page
    [Principally from a beautiful MS. in the British Museum.]
  5. There on that throne, to which the blind belief
    Of millions rais’d him, sat the Prophet–Chief.
  6. All, all are there; each Land its flower hath given,
    To form that fair young Nursery for Heaven!
  7. Believes the form, to which he bends his knee,
    Some pure, redeeming angel, sent to free.
  8. She saw that youth, too well, too dearly known,
    Silently kneeling at the Prophets throne.
  9. All fire at once the madd’ning zeal she caught;
    Elect of Paradise! blest, rapturous thought!
  10. She swore, and the wide channel echoed, “Never, never!”
  11. At length, with fiendish laugh, like that which broke
    From Eblis at the Fall of Man, he spoke.
  12. “Such the refind enchantress that must be
    This hero’s vanquisher, and thou art she!”
  13. He raised his veil the Maid turn’d slowly round,
    Look’d at him shriek’d and sunk upon the, ground!
  14. Now, through the Haram chambers, moving lights
    And busy shapes proclaim the toilet’s rites.
  15. Young Azim roams bewilder’ d, nor can guess
    What means this maze of light and loneliness.
  16. He sees a group of female forms advance.
  17. “Poor maiden!” thought the youth, “if thou wert sent.”
  18. Oh! could he listen to such sounds unmovd,
    And by that light nor dream of her he lov’d?
  19. “Look up, my Zelica—one moment show
    Those gentle eyes to me, that I may know.”
  20. “Oh! curse me not,” she cried, as wild he tossd
    His desperate hand tow’rds Heaven.
  21. “Thy oath! thy oath!”
  22. They saw a young Hindoo girl upon the bank
  23. Whose are the gilded tents that crowd the way?
  24. In vain he yells his desperate curses out.
  25. For this alone exists like lightning-fire,
    To speed one bolt of vengeance, and expire!
  26. And they beheld an orb, ample and bright.
    Rise from the Holy Well.
  27. And led her glittering forth before the eyes
    Of his rude train, as to a sacrifice.
  28. And death and conflagration throughout all
    The desolate city hold high festival!
  29. “There, ye wise Saints, behold your Light, your Star
    Ye would be dupes and victims, and ye are.”
  30. He sprung and sunk, as the last words were said
    Quick clos’d the burning waters o’er his head.
  31. “And pray that He may pardon her, may take
    Compassion on her soul for thy dear sake.”
  32. For this the old man breath’d his thanks and died.
  33. Paradise and the Peri. Ornamental title-page
    [Architectural details from Baghdad, &c.]
  34. The glorious Angel, who was keeping
    The gates of Light, beheld her weeping.
  35. ——She caught the last
    Last glorious drop his heart had shed.
  36. Like their good angel, calmly keeping
    Watch o’er them till their souls would waken.
  37. Then swift his haggard brow he turn’d
    To the fair child, who fearless sat.
  38. Blest tears of soul-felt penitence!
  39. And now—behold him kneeling there
    By the child’s side, in humble prayer.
  40. “Joy, joy for ever!—my task is done.”
  41. The Fire Worshippers. Ornamental Title-page
    [In part from the binding of a “Shah Namah,” in the East India House Library.]
  42. And sits alone in that high bower
    Watching the still and shining deep.
  43. “Oh! ever thus, from childhood’s hour,
    I’ve seen my fondest hopes decay.”
  44. “Here, maiden, look—weep—blush to see
    All that thy sire abhors in me!”
  45. Fiercely he broke away, nor stopp’d,
    Nor look’d but from the lattice dropp’d.
  46. The morn hath risen clear and calm,
    And o’er the Green Sea palely shines.
  47. ’Tis Hafed—name of fear, whose sound
    Chills like the muttering of a charm!
  48. His Chiefs stood round—each shining blade
    Upon the broken altar laid.
  49. “This very night his blood shall steep
    These hands all over ere I sleep!”
  50. And o’er the wide, tempestuous wave
    Looks, with a shudder, to those towers.
  51. And snatch’ d her breathless from beneath
    This wilderment of wreck and death.
  52. Shuddering, she look’d around there lay
    A group of warriors in the sun.
  53. “Tremble not, love, thy Gheber’s here.!”
  54. Ancient Persian Fire–Altar, &c. &c.
  55. ’Twas one of those ambrosial eves
    A day of storm so often leaves.
  56. Breathless she stands, with eyes cast down.
  57. He felt it—deeply felt—and stood,
    As if the tale had frozen his blood.
  58. A signal, deep and dread as those
    The storm-fiend at his rising blows.
  59. As mute they pass’d before the flame
    To light their torches as they pass’d.
  60. They come—that plunge into the water
    Gives signal for the work of slaughter.
  61. “Now, Freedom’s God I I come to Thee.”.
  62. Where still she fix’d her dying gaze,
    And, gazing, sunk into the wave.
  63. “Farewell—farewell to thee, Araby’s daughter!”.
  64. The Light Of The Haram. Ornamental title-page
    [From porcelain and illuminated mss.]
  65. Or to see it by moonlight, when mellowly shines
    The light o’er its palaces, gardens, and shrines.
  66. He saw, in the wreaths she would playfully snatch
    From the hedges, a glory his crown could not match.
  67. Such cloud it is that now hangs over
    The heart of the Imperial Lover.
  68. He heeds them not one smile of hers
    Is worth a world of worshippers.
  69. Fill'd with the cool, inspiring smell,
    The Enchantress now begins her spell.
  70. No sooner was the flowery crown
    Plac’d on her head, than sleep came down
  71. That all stood hush’d and wondering,
    And turn’d and look’d into the air
  72. She whispers him with laughing eyes,
    “Remember, love, the Feast of Moses!”
  73. They had now begun to ascend those barren mountains.
  74. The marriage was fixed for the morning after her arrival.

TO

Samuel Rogers, Esq.

This Eastern Romance

Is Inscribed

by

His Very Grateful and Affectionate Friend,

Thomas Moore.

Preface.

(Written originally for “Lalla Rookh” in the Collected Edition of Moore’s works.)

The Poem, or Romance, of Lalla Rookh, having now reached, I understand, its twentieth edition, a short account of the origin and progress of a work which has been hitherto so very fortunate in its course, may not be deemed, perhaps, superfluous or misplaced.

It was about the year 1812, that, far more through the encouraging suggestions of friends than from any confident promptings of my own ambition, I conceived the design of writing a Poem upon some Oriental subject, and of those quarto dimensions which Scott’s successful publications in that form had then rendered the regular poetical standard. A negotiation on the subject was opened with the Messrs. Longman in the same year; but, from some causes which I cannot now recollect, led to no decisive result; nor was it till a year or two after, that any further steps were taken in the matter, their house being the only one, it is right to add, with which, from first to last, I held any communication upon the subject.

On this last occasion, Mr. Perry kindly offered himself as my representative in the treaty; and, what with the friendly zeal of my negotiator on the one side, and the prompt and liberal spirit with which he was met on the other, there has seldom, I think, occurred any transaction in which Trade and Poesy have shone out so advantageously in each other’s eyes. The short discussion that then took place, between the two parties, may be comprised in a very few sentences. “I am of opinion,” said Mr. Perry, enforcing his view of the case by arguments which it is not for me to cite, “that Mr. Moore ought to receive for his Poem the largest price that has been given, in our day, for such a work.” “That was,” answered the Messrs. Longman, “three thousand guineas.” “Exactly so,” replied Mr. Perry, “and no less a sum ought he to receive.”

It was then objected, and very reasonably, on the part of the firm, that they had never yet seen a single line of the Poem; and that a perusal of the work ought to be allowed to them, before they embarked so large a sum in the purchase. But, no; the romantic view which my friend, Perry, took of the matter, was, that this price should be given as a tribute to reputation already acquired, without any condition for a previous perusal of the new work. This high tone, I must confess, not a little startled and alarmed me; but, to the honour and glory of Romance, as well on the publisher’s side as the poet’s, this very generous view of the transaction was, without any difficulty, acceded to, and the firm agreed, before we separated, that I was to receive three thousand guineas for my Poem.

At the time of this agreement, but little of the work, as it stands at present, had yet been written. But the ready confidence in my success shown by others, made up for the deficiency of that requisite feeling, within myself; while a strong desire not wholly to disappoint this “auguring hope,” became almost a sub-stitute for inspiration. In the year 1815, therefore, having made some progress in my task, I wrote to report the state of the work to the Messrs. Longman, adding, that I was now most willing and ready, should they desire it, to submit the manuscript for their consideration. Their answer to this offer was as follows: “We are certainly impatient for the perusal of the Poem; but solely for our gratification. Your sentiments are always honourable.”1

I continued to pursue my task for another year, being likewise occasionally occupied with the Irish Melodies, two or three numbers of which made their appearance, during the period employed in writing Lalla Rookh. At length, in the year 1816, I found my work sufficiently advanced to be placed in the hands of the publishers. But the state of distress to which England was reduced, in that dismal year, by the exhausting effects of the series of wars she had just then concluded, and the ‘ general embarrassment of all classes both agricultural and commercial, rendered it a juncture the least favourable that could well be conceived for the first launch into print of so light and costly a venture as Lalla Rookh. Feeling conscious, therefore, that under such circumstances, I should act but honestly in putting it in the power of the Messrs. Longman to reconsider the terms of their engagement with me, leaving them free to postpone, modify, or even, should such be their wish, relinquish it altogether, I wrote them a letter to that effect, and received the following answer: “We shall be most happy in the pleasure of seeing you in February. We agree with you, indeed, that the times are most inauspicious for ‘ poetry and thousands; ‘ but we believe that your poetry would do more than that of any other living poet at the present moment.”2

The length of time I employed in writing the few stories strung together in Lalla Rookh will appear, to some persons, much more than was necessary for the production of such easy and “light o’ love” fictions. But, besides that I have been, at all times, a far more slow and painstaking workman than would ever be guessed, I fear, from the result, I felt that, in this instance, I had taken upon myself a more than ordinary responsibility, from the immense stake risked by others on my chance of success. For a long time, therefore, after the agreement had been concluded, though gene-rally at work with a view to this task, I made but very little real progress in it; and I have still by me the beginnings of several stories continued, some of them, to the length of three or four hundred lines, which, after in vain endeavouring to mould them into shape, I threw aside, like the tale of Cambuscan, “left half-told.” One of these stories, entitled The Peri’s Daughter, was meant to relate the loves of a nymph of this aerial extraction with a youth of mortal race, the rightful Prince of Ormuz, who had been, from his infancy, brought up in seclusion, on the banks of the river Amou, by an aged guardian named Mohassan. The story opens with the first meeting of these destined lovers, then in their childhood; the Peri having wafted her daughter to this holy retreat, in a bright, enchanted boat, whose first appearance is thus described:

For, down the silvery tide afar,

There came a boat, as swift and bright

As shines, in heaven, some pilgrim-star,

That leaves its own high home, at night,

To shoot to distant shrines of light.

“It comes, it comes,” young Orian

And panting to Mohassan flies.

Then, down upon the flowery grass

Reclines to see the vision pass;

With partly joy and partly fear,

To find its wondrous light so near,

And hiding oft his dazzled eyes

Among the flowers on which he lies.

Within the boat a baby slept,

Like a young pearl within its shell;

While one, who seem’d of riper years,

But not of earth, or earth-like spheres,

Her watch beside the slumberer kept;

Gracefully waving, in her hand,

The feathers of some holy bird,

With which, from time to time, she stirr’d

The fragrant air, and coolly fann’d

The baby’s brow, or brush’d away

The butterflies that, bright and blue

As on the mountains of Malay,

Around the sleeping infant flew.

And now the fairy boat hath stopp’d

Beside the bank, the nymph has dropp’d

Her golden anchor in the stream;

A song is sung by the Peri in approaching, of which the following forms a part:

My child she is but half divine,

Her father sleeps in the Caspian water;

Sea-weeds twine

His funeral shrine,

But he lives again in the Peri’s daughter.

Fain would I fly from mortal sight

To my own sweet bowers of Peristan;

But, there, the flowers are all too bright

For the eyes of a baby born of man.

On flowers of earth her feet must tread;

So hither my light-wing’d bark hath brought her;

Stranger, spread

Thy leafiest bed,

To rest the wandering Peri’s daughter.

In another of these inchoate fragments, a proud female saint, named Banou, plays a principal part; and her progress through the streets of Cufa, on the night of a great illuminated festival, I find thus described:

It was a scene of mirth that drew

A smile from ev’n the Saint Banou,

As, through the hush’d, admiring throng,

She went with stately steps along,

And counted o’er, that all might see,

The rubies of her rosary.

But none might see the worldly smile

That lurk’d beneath her veil, the while:

Alia forbid! for, who would wait

Her blessing at the temple’s gate,

What holy man would ever run

To kiss the ground she knelt upon,

If once, by luckless chance, he knew

She look’d and smil’d as others do.

Her hands were join’d, and from each wrist

By threads of pearl and golden twist

Hung relics of the saints of yore,

And scraps of talismanic lore,

Charms for the old, the sick, the frail,

Some made for use, and all for sale.

On either side, the crowd withdrew,

To let the Saint pass proudly through;

While turban’d heads of every hue,

Green, white, and crimson, bow’d around,

And gay tiaras touch’d the ground,

As tulip-bells, when o’er their beds

The musk-wind passes, bend their heads.

Nay, some there were, among the crowd

Of Moslem heads that round her bow’d,

So fill’d with zeal, by many a draught

Of Shiraz wine profanely quaff’d,

That, sinking low in reverence then,

They never rose till morn again.

There are yet two more of these unfinished sketches, one of which extends to a much greater length than I was aware of; and, as far as I can judge from a hasty renewal of my aquaintance with it, is not incapable of being yet turned to account.

In only one of these unfinished sketches, the tale of The Peri’s Daughter, had I yet ventured to invoke that most home-felt of all my inspirations, which has lent to the story of The Fire-worshippers its main attraction and interest. That it was my intention, in the concealed Prince of Ormuz, to shadow out some impersonation of this feeling, I take for granted from the prophetic words supposed to be addressed to him by his aged guardian:

Bright child of destiny! even now

I read the promise on that brow,

That tyrants shall no more defile

The glories of the Green Sea Isle,

But Ormuz shall again be free,

And hail her native Lord in thee!

In none of the other fragments do I find any trace of this sort of feeling, either in the subject or the personages of the intended story; and this was the reason, doubtless, though hardly known, at the time, to myself, that, finding my subjects so slow in kindling my own sympathies, I began to despair of their ever touching the hearts of others; and felt often inclined to say,

“Oh no, I have no voice or hand

For such a song, in such a land.”

Had this series of disheartening experiments been carried on much further, I must have thrown aside the work in despair. But, at last, fortunately, as it proved, the thought occurred to me of founding a story on the fierce struggle so long maintained between the Ghebers,3 or ancient Fire-worshippers of Persia, and their haughty Moslem masters. From that moment, a new and deep interest in my whole task took possession of me. The cause of tolerance was again my inspiring theme; and the spirit that had spoken in the melodies of Ireland soon found itself at home in the East.

Having thus laid open the secrets of the workshop to account for the time expended in writing this work, I must also, in justice to my own industry, notice the pains I took in long and laboriously reading for it. To form a store-house, as it were, of illustration purely Oriental, and so familiarise myself with its various treasures, that, as quick as Fancy required the aid of fact, in her spiritings, the memory was ready, like another Ariel, at her “strong bidding,” to furnish mate-rials for the spellwork, such was, for a long while, the sole object of my studies; and whatever time and trouble this preparatory process may have cost me, the effects resulting from it, as far as the humble merit of truthfulness is concerned, have been such as to repay me more than sufficiently for my pains. I have not forgotten how great was my pleasure, when told by the late Sir James Mackintosh, that he was once asked by Colonel W — s, the historian of British India, “ whether it was true that Moore had never been in the East? ” “Never,” answered Mackintosh. “Well, that shows me,” replied Colonel W — s, “that reading over D’Herbelot is as good as riding on the back of a camel.”

I need hardly subjoin to this lively speech, that although D’Herbelot’s valuable work was, of course, one of my manuals, I took the whole range of all such Oriental reading as was accessible to me; and became, for the time, indeed, far more conversant with all rela-ting to that distant region, than I have ever been with the scenery, productions, or modes of life of any of those countries lying most within my reach. We know that D’Anville, though never in his life out of Paris, was able to correct a number of errors in a plan of the Troad taken by De Choiseul, on the spot; and, for my own very different, as well as far inferior, purposes, the knowledge I had thus acquired of distant localities, seen only by me in my day-dreams, was no less ready and useful.

An ample reward for all this painstaking has been found in such welcome tributes as I have just now cited; nor can I deny myself the gratification of citing a few more of the same description. From another distinguished authority on Eastern subjects, the late Sir John Malcolm, I had myself the pleasure of hearing a similar opinion publicly expressed; that eminent person in a speech spoken by him at a Literary Fund Dinner, having remarked, that together with those qualities of a poet which he much too partially assigned to me was combined also “the truth of the historian.”

Sir William Ouseley, another high authority, in giving his testimony to the same effect, thus notices an exception to the general accuracy for which he gives me credit: “Dazzled by the beauties of this composition,4 few readers can perceive, and none surely can regret, that the poet, in his magnificent catastrophe, has forgotten, or boldly and most happily violated, the precept of Zoroaster, above noticed, which held it impious to consume any portion of a human body by fire, especially by that which glowed upon their altars.” Having long lost, I fear, most of my Eastern learning, I can only cite, in defence of my catastrophe, an old Oriental tradition, which relates, that Nimrod, when Abraham refused, at his command, to worship the fire, ordered him to be thrown into the midst of the flames.5 A precedent so ancient for this sort of use of the worshipped element, would appear, for all purposes at least of poetry, fully sufficient.

In addition to these agreeable testimonies, I have also heard, and, need hardly add, with some pride and pleasure, that parts of this work have been rendered into Persian, and have found their way to Ispahan. To this fact, as I am willing to think it, allusion is made in some lively verses, written many years since, by my friend, Mr. Luttrell:

“I’m told, dear Moore, your lays are sung,

(Can it be true, you lucky man?)

By moonlight, in the Persian tongue, —

Along the streets of Ispahan.”

That some knowledge of the work may have really reached that region, appears not improbable from a passage in the Travels of Mr. Frazer, who says, that “being delayed for some time at a town on the shores of the Caspian, he was lucky enough to be able to amuse himself with a copy of Lalla Rookh, which a Persian had lent him.”

Of the description of Balbec, in “Paradise and the Peri,” Mr. Carne, in his Letters from the East, thus speaks: “The description in Lalla Rookh of the plain and its ruins is exquisitely faithful. The minaret is on the declivity near at hand, and there wanted only the muezzin’s cry to break the silence.”

I shall now tax my reader’s patience with but one more of these generous vouchers. Whatever of vanity there may be in citing such tributes, they show, at least, of what great value, even in poetry, is that prosaic quality, industry; since, as the reader of the foregoing pages is now fully apprized, it was in a slow and laborious collection of small facts, that the first foun-dations of this fanciful Romance were laid.

The friendly testimony I have just referred to, appeared, some years since, in the form in which I now give it, and, if I recollect right, in the Athenseum:

“I embrace this opportunity of bearing my individual testimony (if it be of any value) to the extraordinary accuracy of Mr. Moore, in his topographical, antiquarian, and characteristic details, whether of costume, manners, or less-changing monuments, both in his Lalla Rookh and in the Epicurean. It has been my fortune to read his Atlantic, Bermudean, and American Odes and Epistles, in the countries and among the people to which and to whom they related; I enjoyed also the exquisite delight of reading his Lalla Rookh, in Persia itself; and I have perused the Epicurean, while all my recollections of Egypt and its still existing wonders are as fresh as when I quitted the banks of the Nile for Arabia: I owe it, there-fore, as a debt of gratitude (though the payment is most inadequate), for the great pleasure I have derived from his productions, to bean my humble testimony to their local fidelity. J. S. B.”

Among the incidents connected with this work, I must not omit to notice the splendid Divertissement, founded upon it, which was acted at the Chateau Royal of Berlin, during the visit of the Grand Duke Nicholas to that capital, in the year 1822. The different stories composing the work were represented in Tableaux Vivans and songs; and among the crowd of royal and noble personages engaged in the performances, I shall mention those only who represented the principal characters, and whom I find thus enumerated in the published account of the Divertissement.6

“Fadladin, Grand–Nasir Comte Haack (Marechal de Cour).
Aliris, Roi de Bucharie. S. A. I. Le Grand Luc.
Lalla Roukh S. A. I. Le Grande Duchesse.
Aurungzeb. le Grand Mogol S. A, H. Le Prince Guillaume, frere du Roi.
Abdallah, Pere d’ Aliris S. A. R. Le Duc de Cumberland.
La Reine, son epouse S. A. R. La Princesse Louise Radzivill.”

Besides these and other leading personages, there were also brought into action, under the various denominations of Seigneurs et Dames de Bucharie, Dames de Cachemire, Seigneurs et Dames dansans a la Fete des Roses, &c. nearly 150 persons.

Of the manner and style in which the Tableaux of the different stories are described in the work from which I cite, the following account of the performance of Paradise and the Peri will afford some specimen:

“La decoration représentoit les portes brillantes du Paradis, entourées de nuages. Dans le premier tableau on voyoit la Péri, triste et desolee, couchee sur le seuil des portes fermées, et l’Ange de lumiere qui lui addresse des consolations et des conseils. Le second représente le moment ou la Peri, dans l’espoir que ce don lui ouvrira l’entrée du Paradis, recueille la derniere goutte de sang que vient de verser le jeune guerrier Indien . . . . . . .

“La Péri et l’Ange de lumiere répondoient pleinement a l’image et a l’idee qu’on est tente de se faire de ces deux individus, et l’impression qu’a faite generalement la suite des tableaux de cet Episode délicat et interessant est loin de s’effacer de notre souvenir.”

In this grand Fete, it appears, originated the translation of Lalla Kookh into German7 verse, by the Baron de la Motte Fouqué; and the circumstances which led him to undertake the task, are described by himself in a Dedicatory Poem to the Empress of Russia, which he has prefixed to his translation. As soon as the performance, he tells us, had ended, Lalla Rookh (the Empress herself) exclaimed, with a sigh, “Is it, then, all over? are we now at the close of all that has given us so much delight? and lives there no poet who will impart to others, and to future times, some notion of the happiness we have enjoyed this evening?” On hearing this appeal, a Knight of Cashmere (who is no other than the poetical Baron himself) comes forward and promises to attempt to present to the world “the Poem itself in the measure of the original:"—whereupon Lalla Rookh, it is added, approvingly smiled.

1 April 10, 1815.

2 November 9, 1816.

3 Voltaire, in his tragedy of “Les Guebres,” written with a similar under-current of meaning, was accused of having transformed his Fire-worshippers into Jansenists: “Quelques figuristes,” he says, “pretendent que les Gufchres sont les Jansenistes.”

4 The Fire-worshippers.

5 “Tradunt autem Hebrsei hanc fabulam quod Abraham in ignein missus sit quia ignem adorare noiuit.” St. Hieron. in Quaest. in Genesim.

6 Lalla Roukh Divertissement, mele de Chants et de Danses, Berlin, 1822. The work contains a series of coloured engravings, representing groups, processions, &c. in different Oriental costumes.

7 Since this was written, another translation of Lalla Rookh into German verse has been made by Theodor Oelckers (Leipzig, Tauchnitz, Jun.), which has already passed through three editions.

In the eleventh year of the reign of Aurungzebe, Abdalla, King of the Lesser Bucharia, a lineal descendant from the Great Zingis, having abdicated the throne in favor of his son, set out on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Prophet; and, passing into India through the delightful valley of Cashmere, rested for a short time at Delhi on his way. He was entertained by Aurungzebe in a style of magnificent hospitality, worthy alike of the visitor and the host, and was afterwards escorted with the same splendor to Surat, where he embarked for Arabia.1 During the stay of the Royal Pilgrim at Delhi, a marriage was agreed upon between the Prince, his son, and the youngest daughter of the Emperor, Lalla Rookh;2—a Princess described by the poets of her time as more beautiful than Leila,3 Shirine,4 Dewildé,5 or any of those heroines whose names and loves embellish the songs of Persia and Hindostan. It was intended that the nuptials should be celebrated at Cashmere; where the young King, as soon as the cares of the empire would permit, was to meet, for the first time, his lovely bride, and, after a few months’ repose in that enchanting valley, conduct her over the snowy hills into Bucharia.

The day of Lalla Rookh’s departure from Delhi was as splendid as sunshine and pageantry could make it. The bazaars and baths were all covered with the richest tapestry; hundreds of gilded barges upon the Jumna floated with their banners shining in the water; while through the streets groups of beautiful children went strewing the most delicious flowers around, as in that Persian festival called the Scattering of the Roses;6 till every part of the city was as fragrant as if a caravan of musk from Khoten had passed through it. The Princess, having taken leave of her kind father, who at parting hung a cornelian of Yemen round her neck, on which was inscribed a verse from the Koran, and having sent a considerable present to the Fakirs, who kept up the Perpetual Lamp in her sister’s tomb, meekly ascended the palankeen prepared for her; and while Aurungzebe stood to take a last look from his balcony, the procession moved slowly on the road to Lahore.

Seldom had the Eastern world seen a cavalcade so superb. From the gardens in the suburbs to the Imperial palace, it was one unbroken line of splendor. The gallant appearance of the Rajahs and Mogul lords, distinguished by those insignia of the Emperor’s favor,7 the feathers of the egret of Cashmere in their turbans, and the small silver-rimm’d kettle-drums at the bows of their saddles;—the costly armor of their cavaliers, who vied, on this occasion, with the guards of the great Keder Khan,8 in the brightness of their silver battle-axes and the massiness of their maces of gold;—the glittering of the gilt pine-apple9 on the tops of the palankeens;—the embroidered trappings of the elephants, bearing on their backs small turrets, in the shape of little antique temples, within which the Ladies of Lalla Rookh lay as it were enshrined; —the rose-colored veils of the Princess’s own sumptuous litter,10 at the front of which a fair young female slave sat fanning her through the curtains, with feathers of the Argus pheasant’s wing;11—and the lovely troop of Tartarian and Cashmerian maids of honor, whom the young King had sent to accompany his bride, and who rode on each side of the litter, upon small Arabian horses;—all was brilliant, tasteful, and magnificent, and pleased even the critical and fastidious Fadladeen, Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram, who was borne in his palankeen immediately after the Princess, and considered himself not the least important personage of the pageant.

Fadladeen was a judge of everything,—from the pencilling of a Circassian’s eyelids to the deepest questions of science and literature; from the mixture of a conserve of rose-leaves to the composition of an epic poem: and such influence had his opinion upon the various tastes of the day, that all the cooks and poets of Delhi stood in awe of him. His political conduct and opinions were founded upon that line of Sadi,— “Should the Prince at noon-day say, It is night, declare that you behold the moon and stars.”—And his zeal for religion, of which Aurungzebe was a munificent protector,12 was about as disinterested as that of the goldsmith who fell in love with the diamond eyes of the idol of Jaghernaut.13

During the first days of their journey, Lalla Rookh, who had passed all her life within the shadow of the Royal Gardens of Delhi,14 found enough in the beauty of the scenery through which they passed to interest her mind, and delight her imagination; and when at evening or in the heat of the day they turned off from the high road to those retired and romantic places which had been selected for her encampments,—sometimes, on the banks of a small rivulet, as clear as the waters of the Lake of Pearl;15 sometimes under the sacred shade of a Banyan tree, from which the view opened upon a glade covered with antelopes; and often in those hidden, embowered spots, described by one from the Isles of the West,16 as “places of melancholy, delight, and safety, where all the company around was wild peacocks and turtle-doves;”—she felt a charm in these scenes, so lovely and so new to her, which, for a time, made her indifferent to every other amusement. But Lalla Rookh was young, and the young love variety; nor could the conversation of her Ladies and the Great Chamberlain, Fadladeen,(the only persons, of course, admitted to her pavilion.) sufficiently enliven those many vacant hours, which were devoted neither to the pillow nor the palankeen. There was a little Persian slave who sung sweetly to the Vina, and who, now and then, lulled the Princess to sleep with the ancient ditties of her country, about the loves of Wavnak and Ezra,17 the fair-haired Zal and his mistress Rodahver,18 not forgetting the combat of Rustam with the terrible White Demon.19 At other times she was amused by those graceful dancing-girls of Delhi, who had been permitted by the Bramins of the Great Pagoda to attend her, much to the horror of the good Mussulman Fadladeen, who could see nothing graceful or agreeable in idolaters, and to whom the very tinkling of their golden anklets20 was an abomination.

But these and many other diversions were repeated till they lost all their charm, and the nights and noon-days were beginning to move heavily, when, at length, it was recollected that, among the attendants sent by the bridegroom, was a young poet of Cashmere, much celebrated throughout the Valley for his manner of reciting the Stories of the East, on whom his Royal Master had conferred the privilege of being admitted to the pavilion of the Princess, that he might help to beguile the tediousness of the journey by some of his most agreeable recitals. At the mention of a poet, Fadladeen elevated his critical eyebrows, and, having refreshed his faculties with a dose of that delicious opium which is distilled from the black poppy of the Thebais, gave orders for the minstrel to be forthwith introduced into the presence.

The Princess, who had once in her life seen a poet from behind the screens of gauze in her father’s hall, and had conceived from that specimen no very favorable ideas of the Caste, expected but little in this new exhibition to interest her;—she felt inclined, however, to alter her opinion on the very first appearance of Feramorz. He was a youth about Lalla Rookh’s own age, and graceful as that idol of women, Crishna,21—such as he appears to their young imaginations, heroic, beautiful, breathing music from his very eyes, and exalting the religion of his worshippers into love. His dress was simple, yet not without some marks of costliness; and the Ladies of the Princess were not long in discovering that the cloth, which encircled his high Tartarian cap, was of the most delicate kind that the shawl-goats of Tibet supply.22 Here and there, too, over his vest, which was confined by a flowered girdle of Kashan, hung strings of fine pearl, disposed with an air of studied negligence;—nor did the exquisite embroidery of his sandals escape the observation of these fair critics; who, however they might give way to Fadladeen upon the unimportant topics of religion and government, had the spirit of martyrs in everything relating to such momentous matters as jewels and embroidery.

For the purpose of relieving the pauses of recitation by music, the young Cashmerian held in his hand a kitar;—such as, in old times, the Arab maids of the West used to listen to by moonlight in the gardens of the Alhambra—and, having premised, with much humility, that the story he was about to relate was founded on the adventures of that Veiled Prophet of Khorassan,23 who, in the year of the Hegira 163, created such alarm throughout the Eastern Empire, made an obeisance to the Princess, and thus began:—

The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan24

In that delightful Province of the Sun,

The first of Persian lands he shines upon.

Where all the loveliest children of his beam,

Flowerets and fruits, blush over every stream,25

And, fairest of all streams, the Murga roves

Among Merou’s26 bright palaces and groves;—

There on that throne, to which the blind belief

Of millions raised him, sat the Prophet–Chief,

The Great Mokanna. O’er his features hung

The Veil, the Silver Veil, which he had flung

In mercy there, to hide from mortal sight

His dazzling brow, till man could bear its light.

For, far less luminous, his votaries said,

Were even the gleams, miraculously shed

O’er Moussa’s27 cheek, when down the Mount he trod

All glowing from the presence of his God!

On either side, with ready hearts and hands,

His chosen guard of bold Believers stands;

Young fire-eyed disputants, who deem their swords,

On points of faith, more eloquent than words;

And such their zeal, there’s not a youth with brand

Uplifted there, but at the Chief’s command,

Would make his own devoted heart its sheath,

And bless the lips that doomed so dear a death!

In hatred to the Caliph’s hue of night,28

Their vesture, helms and all, is snowy white;

Their weapons various—some equipt for speed,

With javelins of the light Kathaian reed;29

Or bows of buffalo horn and shining quivers

Filled with the stems30

that bloom on Iran’s rivers;31

While some, for war’s more terrible attacks,

Wield the huge mace and ponderous battle-axe;

And as they wave aloft in morning’s beam

The milk-white plumage of their helms, they seem

Like a chenar-tree grove32 when winter throws

O’er all its tufted heads his feathery snows.

Between the porphyry pillars that uphold

The rich moresque-work of the roof of gold,

Aloft the Haram’s curtained galleries rise,

Where thro’ the silken net-work, glancing eyes,

From time to time, like sudden gleams that glow

Thro’ autumn clouds, shine o’er the pomp below.—

What impious tongue, ye blushing saints, would dare

To hint that aught but Heaven hath placed you there?

Or that the loves of this light world could bind,

In their gross chain, your Prophet’s soaring mind?

No—wrongful thought!—commissioned from above

To people Eden’s bowers with shapes of love,

(Creatures so bright, that the same lips and eyes

They wear on earth will serve in Paradise,)

There to recline among Heaven’s native maids,

And crown the Elect with bliss that never fades—

Well hath the Prophet–Chief his bidding done;

And every beauteous race beneath the sun,

From those who kneel at Brahma’s burning founts,33

To the fresh nymphs bounding o’er Yemen’s mounts;

From Persia’s eyes of full and fawnlike ray,

To the small, half-shut glances of Kathay;34

And Georgia’s bloom, and Azab’s darker smiles,

And the gold ringlets of the Western Isles;

All, all are there;—each Land its flower hath given,

To form that fair young Nursery for Heaven!

But why this pageant now? this armed array?

What triumph crowds the rich Divan today

With turbaned heads of every hue and race,

Bowing before that veiled and awful face,

Like tulip-beds,35 of different shape and dyes,

Bending beneath the invisible West-wind’s sighs!

What new-made mystery now for Faith to sign

And blood to seal, as genuine and divine,

What dazzling mimicry of God’s own power

Hath the bold Prophet planned to grace this hour?

Not such the pageant now, tho’ not less proud;

Yon warrior youth advancing from the crowd

With silver bow, with belt of broidered crape

And fur-bound bonnet of Bucharian shape.36

So fiercely beautiful in form and eye,

Like war’s wild planet in a summer sky;

That youth today,—a proselyte, worth hordes

Of cooler spirits and less practised swords,—

Is come to join, all bravery and belief,

The creed and standard of the heaven-sent Chief.

Tho’ few his years, the West already knows

Young Azim’s fame;—beyond the Olympian snows

Ere manhood darkened o’er his downy cheek,

O’erwhelmed in fight and captive to the Greek,37

He lingered there, till peace dissolved his chains;—

Oh! who could even in bondage tread the plains

Of glorious Greece nor feel his spirit rise

Kindling within him? who with heart and eyes

Could walk where Liberty had been nor see

The shining foot-prints of her Deity,

Nor feel those god-like breathings in the air

Which mutely told her spirit had been there?

Not he, that youthful warrior,—no, too well

For his soul’s quiet worked the awakening spell;

And now, returning to his own dear land,

Full of those dreams of good that, vainly grand,

Haunt the young heart,—proud views of human-kind,

Of men to Gods exalted and refined,—

False views like that horizon’s fair deceit

Where earth and heaven but seem, alas, to meet!—

Soon as he heard an Arm Divine was raised

To right the nations, and beheld, emblazed

On the white flag Mokanna’s host unfurled,

Those words of sunshine, “Freedom to the World,”

At once his faith, his sword, his soul obeyed

The inspiring summons; every chosen blade

That fought beneath that banner’s sacred text

Seemed doubly edged for this world and the next;

And ne’er did Faith with her smooth bandage bind

Eyes more devoutly willing to be blind,

In virtue’s cause;—never was soul inspired

With livelier trust in what it most desired,

Than his, the enthusiast there, who kneeling, pale

With pious awe before that Silver Veil,

Believes the form to which he bends his knee

Some pure, redeeming angel sent to free

This fettered world from every bond and stain,

And bring its primal glories back again!

Low as young Azim knelt, that motley crowd

Of all earth’s nations sunk the knee and bowed,

With shouts of “Alla!” echoing long and loud;

Which high in air, above the Prophet’s head,

Hundreds of banners to the sunbeam spread

Waved, like the wings of the white birds that fan

The flying throne of star-taught Soliman.38

Then thus he spoke:—“Stranger, tho’ new the frame

“Thy soul inhabits now. I’ve trackt its flame

“For many an age,39 in every chance and change

“Of that existence, thro’ whose varied range,—

“As thro’ a torch-race where from hand to hand

“The flying youths transmit their shining brand,

“From frame to frame the unextinguisht soul

“Rapidly passes till it reach the goal!

“Nor think ’tis only the gross Spirits warmed

“With duskier fire and for earth’s medium formed

“That run this course;—Beings the most divine

“Thus deign thro’ dark mortality to shine.

“Such was the Essence that in Adam dwelt,

“To which all Heaven except the Proud One knelt:40

“Such the refined Intelligence that glowed

“In Moussa’s41 frame,—and thence descending flowed

“Thro’ many a Prophet’s breast;—in Issa42 shone

“And in Mohammed burned; till hastening on.

“(As a bright river that from fall to fall

“In many a maze descending bright thro’ all,

“Finds some fair region where, each labyrinth past,

“In one full lake of light it rests at last)

“That Holy Spirit settling calm and free

“From lapse or shadow centres all in me!

Again throughout the assembly at these words

Thousands of voices rung: the warrior’s swords

Were pointed up at heaven; a sudden wind

In the open banners played, and from behind

Those Persian hangings that but ill could screen

The Harem’s loveliness, white hands were seen

Waving embroidered scarves whose motion gave

A perfume forth—like those the Houris wave

When beckoning to their bowers the immortal Brave.

“But these,” pursued the Chief “are truths sublime,

“That claim a holier mood and calmer time

“Than earth allows us now;—this sword must first

“The darkling prison-house of mankind burst.

“Ere Peace can visit them or Truth let in

“Her wakening daylight on a world of sin.

“But then,—celestial warriors, then when all

“Earth’s shrines and thrones before our banner fall,

“When the glad Slave shall at these feet lay down

“His broken chain, the tyrant Lord his crown,

“The Priest his book, the Conqueror his wreath,

“And from the lips of Truth one mighty breath

“Shall like a whirlwind scatter in its breeze

“That whole dark pile of human mockeries:—

“Then shall the reign of mind commence on earth,

“And starting fresh as from a second birth,

“Man in the sunshine of the world’s new spring

“Shall walk transparent like some holy thing!

“Then too your Prophet from his angel brow

“Shall cast the Veil that hides its splendors now,

“And gladdened Earth shall thro’ her wide expanse

“Bask in the glories of this countenance!

“For thee, young warrior, welcome!—thou hast yet

“Some tasks to learn, some frailties to forget,

“Ere the white war-plume o’er thy brow can wave;—

“But, once my own, mine all till in the grave!”

The pomp is at an end—the crowds are gone—

Each ear and heart still haunted by the tone

Of that deep voice, which thrilled like Alla’s own!

The Young all dazzled by the plumes and lances,

The glittering throne and Haram’s half-caught glances,

The Old deep pondering on the promised reign

Of peace and truth, and all the female train

Ready to risk their eyes could they but gaze

A moment on that brow’s miraculous blaze!

But there was one among the chosen maids

Who blushed behind the gallery’s silken shades,

One, to whose soul the pageant of today

Has been like death:—you saw her pale dismay,

Ye wondering sisterhood, and heard the burst

Of exclamation from her lips when first

She saw that youth, too well, too dearly known,

Silently kneeling at the Prophet’s throne.

Ah Zelica! there was a time when bliss

Shone o’er thy heart from every look of his,

When but to see him, hear him, breathe the air

In which he dwelt was thy soul’s fondest prayer;

When round him hung such a perpetual spell,

Whate’er he did, none ever did so well.

Too happy days! when, if he touched a flower

Or gem of thine, ’twas sacred from that hour;

When thou didst study him till every tone

And gesture and dear look became thy own.—

Thy voice like his, the changes of his face

In thine reflected with still lovelier grace,

Like echo, sending back sweet music, fraught

With twice the aerial sweetness it had brought!

Yet now he comes,—brighter than even he

E’er beamed before,—but, ah! not bright for thee;

No—dread, unlookt for, like a visitant

From the other world he comes as if to haunt

Thy guilty soul with dreams of lost delight,

Long lost to all but memory’s aching sight:—

Sad dreams! as when the Spirit of our Youth

Returns in sleep, sparkling with all the truth

And innocence once ours and leads us back,

In mournful mockery o’er the shining track

Of our young life and points out every ray

Of hope and peace we’ve lost upon the way!

Once happy pair!—In proud Bokhara’s groves,

Who had not heard of their first youthful loves?

Born by that ancient flood,43which from its spring

In the dark Mountains swiftly wandering,

Enriched by every pilgrim brook that shines

With relics from Bucharia’s ruby mines.

And, lending to the Caspian half its strength,

In the cold Lake of Eagles sinks at length;—

There, on the banks of that bright river born,

The flowers that hung above its wave at morn

Blest not the waters as they murmured by

With holier scent and lustre than the sigh

And virgin-glance of first affection cast

Upon their youth’s smooth current as it past!

But war disturbed this vision,—far away

From her fond eyes summoned to join the array

Of Persia’s warriors on the hills of Thrace,

The youth exchanged his sylvan dwelling-place

For the rude tent and war-field’s deathful clash;

His Zelica’s sweet glances for the flash

Of Grecian wild-fire, and Love’s gentle chains

For bleeding bondage on Byzantium’s plains.

Month after month in widowhood of soul

Drooping the maiden saw two summers roll

Their suns away—but, ah, how cold and dim

Even summer suns when not beheld with him!

From time to time ill-omened rumors came

Like spirit-tongues muttering the sick man’s name

Just ere he dies:—at length those sounds of dread

Fell withering on her soul, “Azim is dead!”

Oh Grief beyond all other griefs when fate

First leaves the young heart lone and desolate

In the wide world without that only tie

For which it loved to live or feared to die;—

Lorn as the hung-up lute, that near hath spoken

Since the sad day its master-chord was broken!

Fond maid, the sorrow of her soul was such,

Even reason sunk,—blighted beneath its touch;

And tho’ ere long her sanguine spirit rose

Above the first dead pressure of its woes,

Tho’ health and bloom returned, the delicate chain

Of thought once tangled never cleared again.

Warm, lively, soft as in youth’s happiest day,

The mind was still all there, but turned astray,—

A wandering bark upon whose pathway shone

All stars of heaven except the guiding one!

Again she smiled, nay, much and brightly smiled,

But ’twas a lustre, strange, unreal, wild;

And when she sung to her lute’s touching strain,

’Twas like the notes, half ecstasy, half pain,

The bulbul44 utters ere her soul depart,

When, vanquisht by some minstrel’s powerful art,

She dies upon the lute whose sweetness broke her heart!

Such was the mood in which that mission found,

Young Zelica,—that mission which around

The Eastern world in every region blest

With woman’s smile sought out its loveliest

To grace that galaxy of lips and eyes

Which the Veiled Prophet destined for the skies:—

And such quick welcome as a spark receives

Dropt on a bed of Autumn’s withered leaves,

Did every tale of these enthusiasts find

In the wild maiden’s sorrow-blighted mind.

All fire at once the maddening zeal she caught:—

Elect of Paradise! blest, rapturous thought!

Predestined bride, in heaven’s eternal dome,

Of some brave youth—ha! durst they say “of some?”

No—of the one, one only object traced

In her heart’s core too deep to be effaced;

The one whose memory, fresh as life, is twined

With every broken link of her lost mind;

Whose image lives tho’ Reason’s self be wreckt

Safe mid the ruins of her intellect!

Alas, poor Zelica! it needed all

The fantasy which held thy mind in thrall

To see in that gay Haram’s glowing maids

A sainted colony for Eden’s shades;

Or dream that he,—of whose unholy flame

Thou wert too soon the victim,—shining came

From Paradise to people its pure sphere

With souls like thine which he hath ruined here!

No—had not reason’s light totally set,

And left thee dark thou hadst an amulet

In the loved image graven on thy heart

Which would have saved thee from the tempter’s art,

And kept alive in all its bloom of breath

That purity whose fading is love’s death!—

But lost, inflamed,—a restless zeal took place

Of the mild virgin’s still and feminine grace;

First of the Prophets favorites, proudly first

In zeal and charms, too well the Impostor nurst

Her soul’s delirium in whose active flame,

Thus lighting up a young, luxuriant frame,

He saw more potent sorceries to bind

To his dark yoke the spirits of mankind,

More subtle chains than hell itself e’er twined.

No art was spared, no witchery;—all the skill

His demons taught him was employed to fill

Her mind with gloom and ecstasy by turns—

That gloom, thro’ which Frenzy but fiercer burns,

That ecstasy which from the depth of sadness

Glares like the maniac’s moon whose light is madness!

’Twas from a brilliant banquet where the sound

Of poesy and music breathed around,

Together picturing to her mind and ear

The glories of that heaven, her destined sphere,

Where all was pure, where every stain that lay

Upon the spirit’s light should pass away,

And realizing more than youthful love

E’er wisht or dreamed, she should for ever rove

Thro’ fields of fragrance by her Azim’s side,

His own blest, purified, eternal bride!—

T was from a scene, a witching trance like this,

He hurried her away, yet breathing bliss,

To the dim charnel-house;—thro’ all its steams

Of damp and death led only by those gleams

Which foul Corruption lights, as with design

To show the gay and proud she too can shine—

And passing on thro’ upright ranks of Dead

Which to the maiden, doubly crazed by dread,

Seemed, thro’ the bluish death-light round them cast,

To move their lips in mutterings as she past—

There in that awful place, when each had quaft

And pledged in silence such a fearful draught,

Such—oh! the look and taste of that red bowl

Will haunt her till she dies—he bound her soul

By a dark oath, in hell’s own language framed,

Never, while earth his mystic presence claimed,

While the blue arch of day hung o’er them both,

Never, by that all-imprecating oath,

In joy or sorrow from his side to sever.—

She swore and the wide charnel echoed “Never, never!”

From that dread hour, entirely, wildly given

To him and—she believed, lost maid!—to heaven;

Her brain, her heart, her passions all inflamed,

How proud she stood, when in full Haram named

The Priestess of the Faith!—how flasht her eyes

With light, alas, that was not of the skies,

When round in trances only less than hers

She saw the Haram kneel, her prostrate worshippers.

Well might Mokanna think that form alone

Had spells enough to make the world his own:—

Light, lovely limbs to which the spirit’s play

Gave motion, airy as the dancing spray,

When from its stem the small bird wings away;

Lips in whose rosy labyrinth when she smiled

The soul was lost, and blushes, swift and wild

As are the momentary meteors sent

Across the uncalm but beauteous firmament.

And then her look—oh! where’s the heart so wise

Could unbewildered meet those matchless eyes?

Quick, restless, strange, but exquisite withal,

Like those of angels just before their fall;

Now shadowed with the shames of earth—now crost

By glimpses of the Heaven her heart had lost;

In every glance there broke without control,

The flashes of a bright but troubled soul,

Where sensibility still wildly played

Like lightning round the ruins it had made!

And such was now young Zelica—so changed

From her who some years since delighted ranged

The almond groves that shade Bokhara’s tide

All life and bliss with Azim by her side!

So altered was she now, this festal day,

When, mid the proud Divan’s dazzling array,

The vision of that Youth whom she had loved,

Had wept as dead, before her breathed and moved;—

When—bright, she thought, as if from Eden’s track

But half-way trodden, he had wandered back

Again to earth, glistening with Eden’s light—

Her beauteous Azim shone before her sight.

O Reason! who shall say what spells renew,

When least we look for it, thy broken clew!

Thro’ what small vistas o’er the darkened brain

Thy intellectual day-beam bursts again;

And how like forts to which beleaguerers win

Unhoped-for entrance thro’ some friend within,

One clear idea, wakened in the breast

By memory’s magic, lets in all the rest.

Would it were thus, unhappy girl, with thee!

But tho’ light came, it came but partially;

Enough to show the maze, in which thy sense

Wandered about,—but not to guide it thence;

Enough to glimmer o’er the yawning wave,

But not to point the harbor which might save.

Hours of delight and peace, long left behind,

With that dear form came rushing o’er her mind;

But, oh! to think how deep her soul had gone

In shame and falsehood since those moments shone;

And then her oath—there madness lay again,

And shuddering, back she sunk into her chain

Of mental darkness, as if blest to flee

From light whose every glimpse was agony!

Yet one relief this glance of former years

Brought mingled with its pain,—tears, floods of tears,

Long frozen at her heart, but now like rills

Let loose in spring-time from the snowy hills,

And gushing warm after a sleep of frost,

Thro’ valleys where their flow had long been lost.

Sad and subdued, for the first time her frame

Trembled with horror when the summons came

(A summons proud and rare, which all but she,

And she, till now, had heard with ecstasy,)

To meet Mokanna at his place of prayer,

A garden oratory cool and fair

By the stream’s side, where still at close of day

The Prophet of the Veil retired to pray,

Sometimes alone—but oftener far with one,

One chosen nymph to share his orison.

Of late none found such favor in his sight

As the young Priestess; and tho’, since that night

When the death-cavorns echoed every tone

Of the dire oath that made her all his own,

The Impostor sure of his infatuate prize

Had more than once thrown off his soul’s disguise,

And uttered such unheavenly, monstrous things,

As even across the desperate wanderings

Of a weak intellect, whose lamp was out,

Threw startling shadows of dismay and doubt;—

Yet zeal, ambition, her tremendous vow,

The thought, still haunting her, of that bright brow,

Whose blaze, as yet from mortal eye concealed,

Would soon, proud triumph! be to her revealed,

To her alone;—and then the hope, most dear,

Most wild of all, that her transgression here

Was but a passage thro’ earth’s grosser fire,

From which the spirit would at last aspire,

Even purer than before,—as perfumes rise

Thro’ flame and smoke, most welcome to the skies—

And that when Azim’s fond, divine embrace

Should circle her in heaven, no darkening trace

Would on that bosom he once loved remain.

But all be bright, be pure, be his again!—

These were the wildering dreams, whose curst deceit

Had chained her soul beneath the tempter’s feet,

And made her think even damning falsehood sweet.

But now that Shape, which had appalled her view,

That Semblance—oh how terrible, if true!

Which came across her frenzy’s full career

With shock of consciousness, cold, deep, severe.

As when in northern seas at midnight dark

An isle of ice encounters some swift bark,

And startling all its wretches from their sleep

By one cold impulse hurls them to the deep;—

So came that shock not frenzy’s self could bear,

And waking up each long-lulled image there,

But checkt her headlong soul to sink it in despair!

Wan and dejected, thro’ the evening dusk,

She now went slowly to that small kiosk,

Where, pondering alone his impious schemes,

Mokanna waited her—too wrapt in dreams

Of the fair-ripening future’s rich success,

To heed the sorrow, pale and spiritless,

That sat upon his victim’s downcast brow,

Or mark how slow her step, how altered now

From the quick, ardent Priestess, whose light bound

Came like a spirit’s o’er the unechoing ground,—

From that wild Zelica whose every glance

Was thrilling fire, whose every thought a trance!

Upon his couch the Veiled Mokanna lay,

While lamps around—not such as lend their ray,

Glimmering and cold, to those who nightly pray

In holy Koom,45 or Mecca’s dim arcades,—

But brilliant, soft, such lights as lovely maids.

Look loveliest in, shed their luxurious glow

Upon his mystic Veil’s white glittering flow.

Beside him, ‘stead of beads and books of prayer,

Which the world fondly thought he mused on there,

Stood Vases, filled with Kisiimee’s46 golden wine,

And the red weepings of the Shiraz vine;

Of which his curtained lips full many a draught

Took zealously, as if each drop they quaft

Like Zemzem’s Spring of Holiness47 had power

To freshen the soul’s virtues into flower!

And still he drank and pondered—nor could see

The approaching maid, so deep his revery;

At length with fiendish laugh like that which broke

From Eblis at the Fall of Man he spoke:—

“Yes, ye vile race, for hell’s amusement given,

“Too mean for earth, yet claiming kin with heaven;

“God’s images, forsooth!—such gods as he

“Whom India serves, the monkey deity;48

“Ye creatures of a breath, proud things of clay,

“To whom if Lucifer, as gran-dams say,

“Refused tho’ at the forfeit of heaven’s light

“To bend in worship, Lucifer was right!

“Soon shall I plant this foot upon the neck

“Of your foul race and without fear or check,

“Luxuriating in hate, avenge my shame,

“My deep-felt, long-nurst loathing of man’s name!—

“Soon at the head of myriads, blind and fierce

“As hooded falcons, thro’ the universe

“I’ll sweep my darkening, desolating way,

“Weak man my instrument, curst man my prey!

“Ye wise, ye learned, who grope your dull way on

“By the dim twinkling gleams of ages gone,

“Like superstitious thieves who think the light

“From dead men’s marrow guides them best at night49

“Ye shall have honors—wealth—yes, Sages, yes—

“I know, grave fools, your wisdom’s nothingness;

“Undazzled it can track yon starry sphere,

“But a gilt stick, a bauble blinds it here.

“How I shall laugh, when trumpeted along

“In lying speech and still more lying song,

“By these learned slaves, the meanest of the throng;

“Their wits brought up, their wisdom shrunk so small,

“A sceptre’s puny point can wield it all!

“Ye too, believers of incredible creeds,

“Whose faith enshrines the monsters which it breeds;

“Who, bolder even than Nemrod, think to rise

“By nonsense heapt on nonsense to the skies;

“Ye shall have miracles, ay, sound ones too,

“Seen, heard, attested, everything—but true.

“Your preaching zealots too inspired to seek

“One grace of meaning for the things they speak:

“Your martyrs ready to shed out their blood,

“For truths too heavenly to be understood;

“And your State Priests, sole venders of the lore,

“That works salvation;—as, on Ava’s shore,

“Where none but priests are privileged to trade

“In that best marble of which Gods are made50;

“They shall have mysteries—ay precious stuff

“For knaves to thrive by—mysteries enough;

“Dark, tangled doctrines, dark as fraud can weave,

“Which simple votaries shall on trust receive,

“While craftier feign belief till they believe.

“A Heaven too ye must have, ye lords of dust,—

“A splendid Paradise,—pure souls, ye must:

“That Prophet ill sustains his holy call,

“Who finds not heavens to suit the tastes of all;

“Houris for boys, omniscience for sages,

“And wings and glories for all ranks and ages.

“Vain things!—as lust or vanity inspires,

“The heaven of each is but what each desires,

“And, soul or sense, whate’er the object be,

“Man would be man to all eternity!

“So let him—Eblis! grant this crowning curse,

“But keep him what he is, no Hell were worse.”

“Oh my lost soul!” exclaimed the shuddering maid,

Whose ears had drunk like poison all he said:

Mokanna started—not abasht, afraid,—

He knew no more of fear than one who dwells

Beneath the tropics knows of icicles!

But in those dismal words that reached his ear,

“Oh my lost soul!” there was a sound so drear,

So like that voice among the sinful dead

In which the legend o’er Hell’s Gate is read,

That, new as ’twas from her whom naught could dim

Or sink till now, it startled even him.

“Ha, my fair Priestess!”—thus, with ready wile,

The impostor turned to greet her—“thou whose smile

“Hath inspiration in its rosy beam

“Beyond the Enthusiast’s hope or Prophet’s dream,

“Light of the Faith! who twin’st religion’s zeal

“So close with love’s, men know not which they feel,

“Nor which to sigh for, in their trance of heart,

“The heaven thou preachest or the heaven thou art!

“What should I be without thee? without thee

“How dull were power, how joyless victory!

“Tho’ borne by angels, if that smile of thine

“Blest not my banner ’twere but half divine.

“But—why so mournful, child? those eyes that shone

“All life last night—what!—is their glory gone?

“Come, come—this morn’s fatigue hath made them pale,

“They want rekindling—suns themselves would fail

“Did not their comets bring, as I to thee,

“From light’s own fount supplies of brilliancy.

“Thou seest this cup—no juice of earth is here,

“But the pure waters of that upper sphere,

“Whose rills o’er ruby beds and topaz flow,

“Catching the gem’s bright color as they go.

“Nightly my Genii come and fill these urns—

“Nay, drink—in every drop life’s essence burns;

“’Twill make that soul all fire, those eyes all light—

“Come, come, I want thy loveliest smiles to-night:

“There is a youth—why start?—thou saw’st him then;

“Lookt he not nobly? such the godlike men,

“Thou’lt have to woo thee in the bowers above;—

“Tho’ he, I fear, hath thoughts too stern for love,

“Too ruled by that cold enemy of bliss

“The world calls virtue—we must conquer this;

“Nay, shrink not, pretty sage! ’tis not for thee

“To scan the mazes of Heaven’s mystery:

“The steel must pass thro’ fire, ere it can yield

“Fit instruments for mighty hands to wield.

“This very night I mean to try the art

“Of powerful beauty on that warrior’s heart.

“All that my Haram boasts of bloom and wit,

“Of skill and charms, most rare and exquisite,

“Shall tempt the boy;—young Mirzala’s blue eyes

“Whose sleepy lid like snow on violets lies;

Arouya’s cheeks warm as a spring-day sun

“And lips that like the seal of Solomon

“Have magic in their pressure; Zeba’s lute,

“And Lilla’s dancing feet that gleam and shoot

“Rapid and white as sea-birds o’er the deep—

“All shall combine their witching powers to steep

“My convert’s spirit in that softening trance,

“From which to heaven is but the next advance;—

“That glowing, yielding fusion of the breast.

“On which Religion stamps her image best.

“But hear me, Priestess!—tho’ each nymph of these

“Hath some peculiar, practised power to please,

“Some glance or step which at the mirror tried

“First charms herself, then all the world beside:

“There still wants one to make the victory sure,

“One who in every look joins every lure,

“Thro’ whom all beauty’s beams concentred pass,

“Dazzling and warm as thro’ love’s burning glass;

“Whose gentle lips persuade without a word,

“Whose words, even when unmeaning, are adored.

“Like inarticulate breathings from a shrine,

“Which our faith takes for granted are divine!

“Such is the nymph we want, all warmth and light,

“To crown the rich temptations of to-night;

“Such the refined enchantress that must be

“This hero’s vanquisher,—and thou art she!”

With her hands claspt, her lips apart and pale,

The maid had stood gazing upon the Veil

From which these words like south winds thro’ a fence

Of Kerzrah flowers, came filled with pestilence;51

So boldly uttered too! as if all dread

Of frowns from her, of virtuous frowns, were fled,

And the wretch felt assured that once plunged in,

Her woman’s soul would know no pause in sin!

At first, tho’ mute she listened, like a dream

Seemed all he said: nor could her mind whose beam

As yet was weak penetrate half his scheme.

But when at length he uttered, “Thou art she!”

All flasht at once and shrieking piteously,

“Oh not for worlds! “she cried—“Great God! to whom

“I once knelt innocent, is this my doom?

“Are all my dreams, my hopes of heavenly bliss,

“My purity, my pride, then come to this,—

“To live, the wanton of a fiend! to be

“The pander of his guilt—oh infamy!

“And sunk myself as low as hell can steep

“In its hot flood, drag others down as deep!

“Others—ha! yes—that youth who came today—

Not him I loved—not him—oh! do but say,

“But swear to me this moment ’tis not he,

“And I will serve, dark fiend, will worship even thee!”

“Beware, young raving thing!—in time beware,

“Nor utter what I can not, must not bear,

“Even from thy lips. Go—try thy lute, thy voice,

“The boy must feel their magic;—I rejoice

“To see those fires, no matter whence they rise,

“Once more illuming my fait Priestess’ eyes;

“And should the youth whom soon those eyes shall warm,

“Indeed resemble thy dead lover’s form,

“So much the happier wilt thou find thy doom,

“As one warm lover full of life and bloom

“Excels ten thousand cold ones in the tomb.

“Nay, nay, no frowning, sweet!—those eyes were made

“For love, not anger—I must be obeyed.”

“Obeyed!—’tis well—yes, I deserve it all—

“On me, on me Heaven’s vengeance can not fall

“Too heavily—but Azim, brave and true

“And beautiful—must he be ruined too?

“Must he too, glorious as he is, be driven

“A renegade like me from Love and Heaven?

“Like me?—weak wretch, I wrong him—not like me;

“No—he’s all truth and strength and purity!

“Fill up your maddening hell-cup to the brim,

“Its witchery, fiends, will have no charm for him.

“Let loose your glowing wantons from their bowers,

“He loves, he loves, and can defy their powers!

“Wretch as I am, in his heart still I reign

“Pure as when first we met, without a stain!

“Tho’ ruined—lost—my memory like a charm

“Left by the dead still keeps his soul from harm.

“Oh! never let him know how deep the brow

“He kist at parting is dishonored now;—

“Ne’er tell him how debased, how sunk is she.

“Whom once he loved—once!—still loves dotingly.

“Thou laugh’st, tormentor,—what!—thou it brand my name?

“Do, do—in vain—he’ll not believe my shame—

“He thinks me true, that naught beneath God’s sky

“Could tempt or change me, and—so once thought I.

“But this is past—tho’ worse than death my lot,

“Than hell—’tis nothing while he knows it not.

“Far off to some benighted land I’ll fly,

“Where sunbeam ne’er shall enter till I die;

“Where none will ask the lost one whence she came,

“But I may fade and fall without a name.

“And thou—curst man or fiend, whate’er thou art,

“Who found’st this burning plague-spot in my heart,

“And spread’st it—oh, so quick!—thro’ soul and frame,

“With more than demon’s art, till I became

“A loathsome thing, all pestilence, all flame!—

“If, when I’m gone”—“Hold, fearless maniac, hold,

“Nor tempt my rage—by Heaven, not half so bold

“The puny bird that dares with teasing hum

“Within the crocodile’s stretched jaws to come!52

“And so thou’lt fly, forsooth?—what!—give up all

“Thy chaste dominion in the Haram Hall,

“Where now to Love and now to Alla given,

“Half mistress and half saint, thou hang’st as even

“As doth Medina’s tomb, ’twixt hell and heaven!

“Thou’lt fly?—as easily may reptiles run,

“The gaunt snake once hath fixt his eyes upon;

“As easily, when caught, the prey may be

“Pluckt from his loving folds, as thou from me.

“No, no, ’tis fixt—let good or ill betide,

“Thou’rt mine till death, till death Mokanna’s bride!

“Hast thou forgot thy oath?”—

At this dread word,

The Maid whose spirit his rude taunts had stirred

Thro’ all its depths and roused an anger there,

That burst and lightened even thro’ her despair—

Shrunk back as if a blight were in the breath

That spoke that word and staggered pale as death.

“Yes, my sworn bride, let others seek in bowers

“Their bridal place—the charnel vault was ours!

“Instead of scents and balms, for thee and me

“Rose the rich steams of sweet mortality,

“Gay, flickering death-lights shone while we were wed.

“And for our guests a row of goodly Dead,

“(Immortal spirits in their time, no doubt,)

“From reeking shrouds upon the rite looked out!

“That oath thou heard’st more lips than thine repeat—

“That cup—thou shudderest, Lady,—was it sweet?

“That cup we pledged, the charnel’s choicest wine,

“Hath bound thee—ay—body and soul all mine;

“Bound thee by chains that, whether blest or curst

“No matter now, not hell itself shall burst!

“Hence, woman, to the Haram, and look gay,

“Look wild, look—anything but sad; yet stay—

“One moment more—from what this night hath past,

“I see thou know’st me, know’st me well at last.

“Ha! ha! and so, fond thing, thou thought’st all true,

“And that I love mankind?—I do, I do—

“As victims, love them; as the sea-dog dotes

“Upon the small, sweet fry that round him floats;

“Or, as the Nile-bird loves the slime that gives

“That rank and venomous food on which she lives!—

“And, now thou seest my soul’s angelic hue,

“’Tis time these features were uncurtained too;—

“This brow, whose light—oh rare celestial light!

“Hath been reserved to bless thy favored sight;

“These dazzling eyes before whose shrouded might

“Thou’st seen immortal Man kneel down and quake—

“Would that they were heaven’s lightnings for his sake!

“But turn and look—then wonder, if thou wilt,

“That I should hate, should take revenge, by guilt,

“Upon the hand whose mischief or whose mirth

“Sent me thus mained and monstrous upon earth;

“And on that race who, tho’ more vile they be

“Than moving apes, are demigods to me!

“Here—judge if hell, with all its power to damn,

“Can add one curse to the foul thing I am!”—

He raised his veil—the Maid turned slowly round,

Looked at him—shrieked—and sunk upon the ground!

On their arrival next night at the place of encampment they were surprised and delighted to find the groves all around illuminated; some artists of Yamtcheou53 having been sent on previously for the purpose. On each side of the green alley, which led to the Royal Pavilion, artificial sceneries of bamboo-work were erected, representing arches, minarets, towers, from which hung thousands of silken lanterns painted by the most delicate pencils of Canton.—Nothing could be more beautiful than the leaves of the mango-trees and acacias shining in the light of the bamboo-scenery which shed a lustre round as soft as that of the nights of Peristan.

Lalla Rookh, however, who was too much occupied by the sad story of Zelica and her lover to give a thought to anything else, except perhaps him who related it, hurried on through this scene of splendor to her pavilion,—greatly to the mortification of the poor artists of Yamtcheou,—and was followed with equal rapidity by the Great Chamberlain, cursing, as he went, that ancient Mandarin, whose parental anxiety in lighting up the shores of the lake, where his beloved daughter had wandered and been lost, was the origin of these fantastic Chinese illuminations.54

Without a moment’s delay, young Feramorz was introduced, and Fadladeen, who could never make up his mind as to the merits of a poet till he knew the religious sect to which he belonged, was about to ask him whether he was a Shia or a Sooni when Lalla Rookh impatiently clapped her hands for silence, and the youth being seated upon the musnud near her proceeded:—

Prepare thy soul, young Azim!—thou hast braved

The bands of Greece, still mighty tho’ enslaved;

Hast faced her phalanx armed with all its fame,—

Her Macedonian pikes and globes of fame,

All this hast fronted with firm heart and brow,

But a more perilous trial waits thee now,—

Woman’s bright eyes, a dazzling host of eyes

From every land where woman smiles or sighs;

Of every hue, as Love may chance to raise

His black or azure banner in their blaze;

And each sweet mode of warfare, from the flash

That lightens boldly thro’ the shadowy lash,

To the sly, stealing splendors almost hid

Like swords half-sheathed beneath the downcast lid;—

Such, Azim, is the lovely, luminous host

Now led against thee; and let conquerors boast

Their fields of fame, he who in virtue arms

A young, warm spirit against beauty’s charms,

Who feels her brightness, yet defies her thrall,

Is the best, bravest conqueror of them all.

Now, thro’ the Haram chambers, moving lights

And busy shapes proclaim the toilet’s rites;—

From room to room the ready handmaids hie,

Some skilled to wreath the turban tastefully,

Or hang the veil in negligence of shade

O’er the warm blushes of the youthful maid,

Who, if between the folds but one eye shone,

Like Seba’s Queen could vanquish with that one:55

While some bring leaves of Henna to imbue

The fingers’ ends with a bright roseate hue,56

So bright that in the mirror’s depth they seem

Like tips of coral branches in the stream:

And others mix the Kohol’s jetty dye,

To give that long, dark languish to the eye,57

Which makes the maids whom kings are proud to call

From fair Circassia’s vales, so beautiful.

All is in motion; rings and plumes and pearls

Are shining everywhere:—some younger girls

Are gone by moonlight to the garden-beds,

To gather fresh, cool chaplets for their heads;—

Gay creatures! sweet, tho’ mournful, ’tis to see

How each prefers a garland from that tree

Which brings to mind her childhood’s innocent day

And the dear fields and friendships far away.

The maid of India, blest again to hold

In her full lap the Champac’s leaves of gold,58

Thinks of the time when, by the Ganges’ flood,

Her little playmates scattered many a bud

Upon her long black hair with glossy gleam

Just dripping from the consecrated stream;

While the young Arab haunted by the smell

Of her own mountain flowers as by a spell,—

The sweet Alcaya59 and that courteous tree

Which bows to all who seek its canopy,60

Sees called up round her by these magic scents

The well, the camels, and her father’s tents;

Sighs for the home she left with little pain,

And wishes even its sorrow back again!

Meanwhile thro’ vast illuminated halls,

Silent and bright, where nothing but the falls

Of fragrant waters gushing with cool sound

From many a jasper fount is heard around,

Young Azim roams bewildered,—nor can guess

What means this maze of light and loneliness.

Here the way leads o’er tesselated floors

Or mats of Cairo thro’ long corridors,

Where ranged in cassolets and silver urns

Sweet wood of aloe or of sandal burns,

And spicy rods such as illume at night

The bowers of Tibet61 send forth odorous light,

Like Peris’ wands, when pointing out the road

For some pure Spirit to its blest abode:—

And here at once the glittering saloon

Bursts on his sight, boundless and bright as noon;

Where in the midst reflecting back the rays

In broken rainbows a fresh fountain plays

High as the enamelled cupola which towers

All rich with Arabesques of gold and flowers:

And the mosaic floor beneath shines thro’

The sprinkling of that fountain’s silvery dew,

Like the wet, glistening shells of every dye

That on the margin of the Red Sea lie.

Here too he traces the kind visitings

Of woman’s love in those fair, living things

Of land and wave, whose fate—in bondage thrown

For their weak loveliness—is like her own!

On one side gleaming with a sudden grace

Thro’ water brilliant as the crystal vase

In which it undulates, small fishes shine

Like golden ingots from a fairy mine;—

While, on the other, latticed lightly in

With odoriferous woods of Comorin,

Each brilliant bird that wings the air is seen;—

Gay, sparkling loories such as gleam between

The crimson blossoms of the coral-tree62

In the warm isles of India’s sunny sea:

Mecca’s blue sacred pigeon,63 and the thrush

Of Hindostan64 whose holy warblings gush

At evening from the tall pagoda’s top;—

Those golden birds that in the spice time drop

About the gardens, drunk with that sweet food65

Whose scent hath lured them o’er the summer flood;66

And those that under Araby’s soft sun

Build their high nests of budding cinnamon;67

In short, all rare and beauteous things that fly

Thro’ the pure element here calmly lie

Sleeping in light, like the green birds68 that dwell

In Eden’s radiant fields of asphodel!

So on, thro’ scenes past all imagining,

More like the luxuries of that impious King,69

Whom Death’s dark Angel with his lightning torch

Struck down and blasted even in Pleasure’s porch,

Than the pure dwelling of a Prophet sent

Armed with Heaven’s sword for man’s enfranchisement—

Young Azim wandered, looking sternly round,

His simple garb and war-boots clanking sound

But ill according with the pomp and grace

And silent lull of that voluptuous place.

“Is this, then,” thought the youth, “is this the way

“To free man’s spirit from the deadening sway

“Of worldly sloth,—to teach him while he lives

“To know no bliss but that which virtue gives,

“And when he dies to leave his lofty name

“A light, a landmark on the cliffs of fame?

“It was not so, Land of the generous thought

“And daring deed, thy god-like sages taught;

“It was not thus in bowers of wanton ease

“Thy Freedom nurst her sacred energies;

“Oh! not beneath the enfeebling, withering glow

“Of such dull luxury did those myrtles grow

“With which she wreathed her sword when she would dare

“Immortal deeds; but in the bracing air

“Of toil,—of temperance,—of that high, rare,

“Ethereal virtue, which alone can breathe

“Life, health, and lustre into Freedom’s wreath.

“Who that surveys this span of earth we press.—

“This speck of life in time’s great wilderness,

“This narrow isthmus ’twixt two boundless seas,

“The past, the future, two eternities!—

“Would sully the bright spot, or leave it bare,

“When he might build him a proud temple there,

“A name that long shall hallow all its space,

“And be each purer soul’s high resting-place.

“But no—it cannot be, that one whom God

“Has sent to break the wizard Falsehood’s rod,—

“A Prophet of the Truth, whose mission draws

“Its rights from Heaven, should thus profane its cause

“With the world’s vulgar pomps;—no, no,—I see—

“He thinks me weak—this glare of luxury

“Is but to tempt, to try the eaglet gaze

“Of my young soul—shine on, ’twill stand the blaze!”

So thought the youth;—but even while he defied

This witching scene he felt its witchery glide

Thro’ every sense. The perfume breathing round,

Like a pervading spirit;—the still sound

Of falling waters, lulling as the song

Of Indian bees at sunset when they throng

Around the fragrant Nilica, and deep

In its blue blossoms hum themselves to sleep;70

And music, too—dear music! that can touch

Beyond all else the soul that loves it much—

Now heard far off, so far as but to seem

Like the faint, exquisite music of a dream;

All was too much for him, too full of bliss,

The heart could nothing feel, that felt not this;

Softened he sunk upon a couch and gave

His soul up to sweet thoughts like wave on wave

Succeeding in smooth seas when storms are laid;

He thought of Zelica, his own dear maid,

And of the time when full of blissful sighs

They sat and lookt into each other’s eyes,

Silent and happy—as if God had given

Naught else worth looking at on this side heaven.

“Oh, my loved mistress, thou whose spirit still

“Is with me, round me, wander where I will—

“It is for thee, for thee alone I seek

“The paths of glory; to light up thy cheek

“With warm approval—in that gentle look

“To read my praise as in an angel’s book,

“And think all toils rewarded when from thee

“I gain a smile worth immortality!

“How shall I bear the moment, when restored

“To that young heart where I alone am Lord.

“Tho’ of such bliss unworthy,—since the best

“Alone deserve to be the happiest:—

“When from those lips unbreathed upon for years

“I shall again kiss off the soul-felt tears,

“And find those tears warm as when last they started,

“Those sacred kisses pure as when we parted.

“O my own life!—why should a single day,

“A moment keep me from those arms away?”

While thus he thinks, still nearer on the breeze

Come those delicious, dream-like harmonies,

Each note of which but adds new, downy links

To the soft chain in which his spirit sinks.

He turns him toward the sound, and far away

Thro’ a long vista sparkling with the play

Of countless lamps,—like the rich track which Day

Leaves on the waters, when he sinks from us,

So long the path, its light so tremulous;—

He sees a group of female forms advance,

Some chained together in the mazy dance

By fetters forged in the green sunny bowers,

As they were captives to the King of Flowers;71

And some disporting round, unlinkt and free,

Who seemed to mock their sisters’ slavery;

And round and round them still in wheeling flight

Went like gay moths about a lamp at night;

While others waked, as gracefully along

Their feet kept time, the very soul of song

From psaltery, pipe, and lutes of heavenly thrill,

Or their own youthful voices heavenlier still.

And now they come, now pass before his eye,

Forms such as Nature moulds when she would vie

With Fancy’s pencil and give birth to things

Lovely beyond its fairest picturings.

Awhile they dance before him, then divide,

Breaking like rosy clouds at eventide

Around the rich pavilion of the sun,—

Till silently dispersing, one by one,

Thro’ many a path that from the chamber leads

To gardens, terraces and moonlight meads,

Their distant laughter comes upon the wind,

And but one trembling nymph remains behind,—

Beckoning them back in vain—for they are gone

And she is left in all that light alone;

No veil to curtain o’er her beauteous brow,

In its young bashfulness more beauteous now;

But a light golden chain-work round her hair,72

Such as the maids of Yezd and Shiras wear,73

From which on either side gracefully hung

A golden amulet in the Arab tongue,

Engraven o’er with some immortal line

From Holy Writ or bard scarce less divine;

While her left hand, as shrinkingly she stood,

Held a small lute of gold and sandal-wood,

Which once or twice she touched with hurried strain,

Then took her trembling fingers off again.

But when at length a timid glance she stole

At Azim, the sweet gravity of soul

She saw thro’ all his features calmed her fear,

And like a half-tamed antelope more near,

Tho’ shrinking still, she came;—then sat her down

Upon a musnud’s74 edge, and, bolder grown.

In the pathetic mode of Isfahan75

Touched a preluding strain and thus began:—

There’s a bower of roses by Bendemeer’s76 stream,

And the nightingale sings round it all the day long;

In the time of my childhood ’twas like a sweet dream,

To sit in the roses and hear the bird’s song.

That bower and its music, I never forget,

But oft when alone in the bloom of the year

I think—is the nightingale singing there yet?

Are the roses still bright by the calm Bendemeer?

No, the roses soon withered that hung o’er the wave,

But some blossoms were gathered while freshly they shone.

And a dew was distilled from their flowers that gave

All the fragrance of summer when summer was gone.

Thus memory draws from delight ere it dies

An essence that breathes of it many a year;

Thus bright to my soul, as ’twas then to my eyes,

Is that bower on the banks of the calm Bendemeer!

“Poor maiden!” thought the youth, “if thou wert sent

“With thy soft lute and beauty’s blandishment

“To wake unholy wishes in this heart,

“Or tempt its truth, thou little know’st the art.

“For tho’ thy lips should sweetly counsel wrong,

“Those vestal eyes would disavow its song.

“But thou hast breathed such purity, thy lay

“Returns so fondly to youth’s virtuous day,

“And leads thy soul—if e’er it wandered thence—

“So gently back to its first innocence,

“That I would sooner stop the unchained dove,

“When swift returning to its home of love,

“And round its snowy wing new fetters twine.

“Than turn from virtue one pure wish of thine!”

Scarce had this feeling past, when sparkling thro’

The gently open’d curtains of light blue

That veiled the breezy casement, countless eyes

Peeping like stars thro’ the blue evening skies,

Looked laughing in as if to mock the pair

That sat so still and melancholy there:—

And now the curtains fly apart and in

From the cool air mid showers of jessamine

Which those without fling after them in play,

Two lightsome maidens spring,—lightsome as they

Who live in the air on odors,—and around

The bright saloon, scarce conscious of the ground,

Chase one another in a varying dance

Of mirth and languor, coyness and advance,

Too eloquently like love’s warm pursuit:—

While she who sung so gently to the lute

Her dream of home steals timidly away,

Shrinking as violets do in summer’s ray,—

But takes with her from Azim’s heart that sigh

We sometimes give to forms that pass us by

In the world’s crowd, too lovely to remain,

Creatures of light we never see again!

Around the white necks of the nymphs who danced

Hung carcanets of orient gems that glanced

More brilliant than the sea-glass glittering o’er

The hills of crystal on the Caspian shore;77

While from their long, dark tresses, in a fall

Of curls descending, bells as musical

As those that on the golden-shafted trees

Of Eden shake in the eternal breeze,78

Rung round their steps, at every bound more sweet.

As ’twere the ecstatic language of their feet.

At length the chase was o’er, and they stood wreathed

Within each other’s arms; while soft there breathed

Thro’ the cool casement, mingled with the sighs

Of moonlight flowers, music that seemed to rise

From some still lake, so liquidly it rose;

And as it swelled again at each faint close

The ear could track thro’ all that maze of chords

And young sweet voices these impassioned words:—

A Spirit there is whose fragrant sigh

Is burning now thro’ earth and air;

Where cheeks are blushing the Spirit is nigh,

Where lips are meeting the Spirit is there!

His breath is the soul of flowers like these,

And his floating eyes—oh! they resemble79

Blue water-lilies,80 when the breeze

Is making the stream around them tremble.

Hail to thee, hail to thee, kindling power!

Spirit of Love, Spirit of Bliss!

Thy holiest time is the moonlight hour,

And there never was moonlight so sweet as this.

By the fair and brave

Who blushing unite,

Like the sun and wave,

When they meet at night;

By the tear that shows

When passion is nigh,

As the rain-drop flows

From the heat of the sky;

By the first love-beat

Of the youthful heart,

By the bliss to meet,

And the pain to part;

By all that thou hast

To mortals given,

Which—oh, could it last,

This earth were heaven!

We call thee thither, entrancing Power!

Spirit of Love! Spirit of Bliss!

Thy holiest time is the moonlight hour,

And there never was moonlight so sweet as this.

Impatient of a scene whose luxuries stole,

Spite of himself, too deep into his soul,

And where, midst all that the young heart loves most,

Flowers, music, smiles, to yield was to be lost,

The youth had started up and turned away

From the light nymphs and their luxurious lay

To muse upon the pictures that hung round,—81

Bright images, that spoke without a sound,

And views like vistas into fairy ground.

But here again new spells came o’er his sense:—

All that the pencil’s mute omnipotence

Could call up into life, of soft and fair,

Of fond and passionate, was glowing there;

Nor yet too warm, but touched with that fine art

Which paints of pleasure but the purer part;

Which knows even Beauty when half-veiled is best,—

Like her own radiant planet of the west,

Whose orb when half retired looks loveliest.82

There hung the history of the Genii–King,

Traced thro’ each gay, voluptuous wandering

With her from Saba’s bowers, in whose bright eyes

He read that to be blest is to be wise;—

Here fond Zuleika woos with open arms83

The Hebrew boy who flies from her young charms,

Yet flying turns to gaze and half undone

Wishes that Heaven and she could both be won;

And here Mohammed born for love and guile

Forgets the Koran in his Mary’s smile;—

Then beckons some kind angel from above

With a new text to consecrate their love.84

With rapid step, yet pleased and lingering eye,

Did the youth pass these pictured stories by,

And hastened to a casement where the light

Of the calm moon came in and freshly bright

The fields without were seen sleeping as still

As if no life remained in breeze or rill.

Here paused he while the music now less near

Breathed with a holier language on his ear,

As tho’ the distance and that heavenly ray

Thro’ which the sounds came floating took away

All that had been too earthly in the lay.

Oh! could he listen to such sounds unmoved,

And by that light—nor dream of her he loved?

Dream on, unconscious boy! while yet thou may’st;

’Tis the last bliss thy soul shall ever taste.

Clasp yet awhile her image to thy heart,

Ere all the light that made it dear depart.

Think of her smiles as when thou saw’st them last,

Clear, beautiful, by naught of earth o’ercast;

Recall her tears to thee at parting given,

Pure as they weep, if angels weep in Heaven.

Think in her own still bower she waits thee now

With the same glow of heart and bloom of brow,

Yet shrined in solitude—thine all, thine only,

Like the one star above thee, bright and lonely.

Oh! that a dream so sweet, so long enjoyed,

Should be so sadly, cruelly destroyed!

The song is husht, the laughing nymphs are flown,

And he is left musing of bliss alone;—

Alone?—no, not alone—that heavy sigh,

That sob of grief which broke from some one nigh—

Whose could it be?—alas! is misery found

Here, even here, on this enchanted ground?

He turns and sees a female form close veiled,

Leaning, as if both heart and strength had failed,

Against a pillar near;—not glittering o’er

With gems and wreaths such as the others wore,

But in that deep-blue, melancholy dress.85

Bokhara’s maidens wear in mindfulness

Of friends or kindred, dead or far away;—

And such as Zelica had on that day

He left her—when with heart too full to speak

He took away her last warm tears upon his cheek.

A strange emotion stirs within him,—more

Than mere compassion ever waked before;

Unconsciously he opes his arms while she

Springs forward as with life’s last energy,

But, swooning in that one convulsive bound,

Sinks ere she reach his arms upon the ground;—

Her veil falls off—her faint hands clasp his knees—

’Tis she herself!—it is Zelica he sees!

But, ah, so pale, so changed—none but a lover

Could in that wreck of beauty’s shrine discover

The once adorned divinity—even he

Stood for some moments mute, and doubtingly

Put back the ringlets from her brow, and gazed

Upon those lids where once such lustre blazed,

Ere he could think she was indeed his own,

Own darling maid whom he so long had known

In joy and sorrow, beautiful in both;

Who, even when grief was heaviest—when loath

He left her for the wars—in that worst hour

Sat in her sorrow like the sweet night-flower,86

When darkness brings its weeping glories out,

And spreads its sighs like frankincense about.

“Look up, my Zelica—one moment show

“Those gentle eyes to me that I may know

“Thy life, thy loveliness is not all gone,

“But there at least shines as it ever shone.

“Come, look upon thy Azim—one dear glance,

“Like those of old, were heaven! whatever chance

“Hath brought thee here, oh, ’twas a blessed one!

“There—my loved lips—they move—that kiss hath run

“Like the first shoot of life thro’ every vein,

“And now I clasp her, mine, all mine again.

“Oh the delight—now, in this very hour,

“When had the whole rich world been in my power,

“I should have singled out thee only thee,

“From the whole world’s collected treasury—

“To have thee here—to hang thus fondly o’er

“My own, best, purest Zelica once more!”

It was indeed the touch of those fond lips

Upon her eyes that chased their short eclipse.

And gradual as the snow at Heaven’s breath

Melts off and shows the azure flowers beneath,

Her lids unclosed and the bright eyes were seen

Gazing on his—not, as they late had been,

Quick, restless, wild, but mournfully serene;

As if to lie even for that tranced minute

So near his heart had consolation in it;

And thus to wake in his beloved caress

Took from her soul one half its wretchedness.

But, when she heard him call her good and pure,

Oh! ’twas too much—too dreadful to endure!

Shuddering she broke away from his embrace.

And hiding with both hands her guilty face

Said in a tone whose anguish would have riven

A heart of very marble, “Pure!—oh Heaven!”—

That tone—those looks so changed—the withering blight,

That sin and sorrow leave where’er they light:

The dead despondency of those sunk eyes,

Where once, had he thus met her by surprise,

He would have seen himself, too happy boy,

Reflected in a thousand lights of joy:

And then the place,—that bright, unholy place,

Where vice lay hid beneath each winning grace

And charm of luxury as the viper weaves

Its wily covering of sweet balsam leaves,87

All struck upon his heart, sudden and cold

As death itself;—it needs not to be told—

No, no—he sees it all plain as the brand

Of burning shame can mark—whate’er the hand,

That could from Heaven and him such brightness sever,

’Tis done—to Heaven and him she’s lost for ever!

It was a dreadful moment; not the tears,

The lingering, lasting misery of years

Could match that minute’s anguish—all the worst

Of sorrow’s elements in that dark burst

Broke o’er his soul and with one crash of fate

Laid the whole hopes of his life desolate.

“Oh! curse me not,” she cried, as wild he tost

His desperate hand towards Heav’n—“tho’ I am lost,

“Think not that guilt, that falsehood made me fall,

“No, no—’twas grief, ’twas madness did it all!

“Nay, doubt me not—tho’ all thy love hath ceased—

“I know it hath—yet, yet believe, at least,

“That every spark of reason’s light must be

“Quenched in this brain ere I could stray from thee.

“They told me thou wert dead—why, Azim, why

“Did we not, both of us, that instant die

“When we were parted? oh! couldst thou but know

“With what a deep devotedness of woe

“I wept thy absence—o’er and o’er again

“Thinking of thee, still thee, till thought grew pain,

“And memory like a drop that night and day

“Falls cold and ceaseless wore my heart away.

“Didst thou but know how pale I sat at home,

“My eyes still turned the way thou wert to come,

“And, all the long, long night of hope and fear,

“Thy voice and step still sounding in my ear—

“Oh God! thou wouldst not wonder that at last,

“When every hope was all at once o’ercast,

“When I heard frightful voices round me say

Azim is dead!—this wretched brain gave way,

“And I became a wreck, at random driven,

“Without one glimpse of reason or of Heaven—

“All wild—and even this quenchless love within

“Turned to foul fires to light me into sin!—

“Thou pitiest me—I knew thou wouldst—that sky

“Hath naught beneath it half so lorn as I.

“The fiend, who lured me hither—hist! come near.

“Or thou too, thou art lost, if he should hear—

“Told me such things—oh! with such devilish art.

“As would have ruined even a holier heart—

“Of thee, and of that ever-radiant sphere,

“Where blest at length, if I but served him here,

“I should for ever live in thy dear sight.

“And drink from those pure eyes eternal light.

“Think, think how lost, how maddened I must be,

“To hope that guilt could lead to God or thee!

“Thou weep’st for me—do weep—oh, that I durst

“Kiss off that tear! but, no—these lips are curst,

“They must not touch thee;—one divine caress,

“One blessed moment of forgetfulness

“I’ve had within those arms and that shall lie

“Shrined in my soul’s deep memory till I die;

“The last of joy’s last relics here below,

“The one sweet drop, in all this waste of woe,

“My heart has treasured from affection’s spring,

“To soothe and cool its deadly withering!

“But thou—yes, thou must go—for ever go;

“This place is not for thee—for thee! oh no,

“Did I but tell thee half, thy tortured brain

“Would burn like mine, and mine go wild again!

“Enough that Guilt reigns here—that hearts once good

“Now tainted, chilled and broken are his food.—

“Enough that we are parted—that there rolls

“A flood of headlong fate between our souls,

“Whose darkness severs me as wide from thee

“As hell from heaven to all eternity!”

Zelica, Zelica!” the youth exclaimed.

In all the tortures of a mind inflamed

Almost to madness—“by that sacred Heaven,

“Where yet, if prayers can move, thou’lt be forgiven,

“As thou art here—here, in this writhing heart,

“All sinful, wild, and ruined as thou art!

“By the remembrance of our once pure love,

“Which like a church-yard light still burns above

“The grave of our lost souls—which guilt in thee

“Cannot extinguish nor despair in me!

“I do conjure, implore thee to fly hence—

“If thou hast yet one spark of innocence,

“Fly with me from this place”—

“With thee! oh bliss!

“’Tis worth whole years of torment to hear this.

“What! take the lost one with thee?—let her rove

“By thy dear side, as in those days of love,

“When we were both so happy, both so pure—

“Too heavenly dream! if there’s on earth a cure

“For the sunk heart, ’tis this—day after day

“To be the blest companion of thy way;

“To hear thy angel eloquence—to see

“Those virtuous eyes for ever turned on me;

“And in their light rechastened silently,

“Like the stained web that whitens in the sun,

“Grow pure by being purely shone upon!

“And thou wilt pray for me—I know thou wilt—

“At the dim vesper hour when thoughts of guilt

“Come heaviest o’er the heart thou’lt lift thine eyes

“Full of sweet tears unto the darkening skies

“And plead for me with Heaven till I can dare

“To fix my own weak, sinful glances there;

“Till the good angels when they see me cling

“For ever near thee, pale and sorrowing,

“Shall for thy sake pronounce my soul forgiven,

“And bid thee take thy weeping slave to Heaven!

“Oh yes, I’ll fly with thee”—

Scarce had she said

These breathless words when a voice deep and dread

As that of Monker waking up the dead

From their first sleep—so startling ’twas to both—

Rang thro’ the casement near, “Thy oath! thy oath!”

Oh Heaven, the ghastliness of that Maid’s look!—

“’Tis he,” faintly she cried, while terror shook

Her inmost core, nor durst she lift her eyes,

Tho’ thro’ the casement, now naught but the skies

And moonlight fields were seen, calm as before—

“’Tis he, and I am his—all, all is o’er—

“Go—fly this instant, or thou’rt ruin’d too—

“My oath, my oath, oh God! ’tis all too true,

“True as the worm in this cold heart it is—

“I am Mokanna’s bride—his, Azim, his—

“The Dead stood round us while I spoke that vow,

“Their blue lips echoed it—I hear them now!

“Their eyes glared on me, while I pledged that bowl,

“’Twas burning blood—I feel it in my soul!

“And the Veiled Bridegroom—hist! I’ve seen to-night

“What angels know not of—so foul a sight.

“So horrible—oh! never may’st thou see

“What there lies hid from all but hell and me!

“But I must hence—off, off—I am not thine,

“Nor Heaven’s, nor Love’s, nor aught that is divine—

“Hold me not—ha! think’st thou the fiends that sever

“Hearts cannot sunder hands?—thus, then—for ever!”

With all that strength which madness lends the weak

She flung away his arm; and with a shriek

Whose sound tho’ be should linger out more years

Than wretch e’er told can never leave his ears—

Flew up thro’ that long avenue of light,

Fleetly as some dark, ominous bird of night,

Across the sun; and soon was out of sight!

Lalla Rookh could think of nothing all day but the misery of those two young lovers. Her gayety was gone, and she looked pensively even upon Fadladeen. She felt, too, without knowing why, a sort of uneasy pleasure in imagining that Azim must have been just such a youth as Feramorz; just as worthy to enjoy all the blessings, without any of the pangs, of that illusive passion, which too often like the sunny apples of Istkahar88 is all sweetness on one side and all bitterness on the other.

As they passed along a sequestered river after sunset they saw a young Hindoo girl upon the bank, whose employment seemed to them so strange that they stopped their palankeens to observe her. She had lighted a small lamp filled with oil of cocoa, and placing it in an earthen dish adorned with a wreath of flowers, had committed it with a trembling hand to the stream; and was now anxiously watching its progress down the current, heedless of the gay cavalcade which had drawn up beside her. Lalla Rookh was all curiosity;—when one of her attendants, who had lived upon the banks of the Ganges, (where this ceremony is so frequent that often in the dusk of the evening the river is seen glittering all over with lights, like the Oton-tala or Sea of Stars,)89 informed the princess that it was the usual way in which the friends of those who had gone on dangerous voyages offered up vows for their safe return. If the lamp sunk immediately the omen was disastrous; but if it went shining down the stream and continued to burn till entirely out of sight, the return of the beloved object was considered as certain.

Lalla Rookh as they moved on more than once looked back to observe how the young Hindoo’s lamp proceeded; and while she saw with pleasure that it was still unextinguished she could not help fearing that all the hopes of this life were no better than that feeble light upon the river. The remainder of the journey was passed in silence. She now for the first time felt that shade of melancholy which comes over the youthful maiden’s heart as sweet and transient as her own breath upon a mirror; nor was it till she heard the lute of Feramorz, touched lightly at the door of her pavilion that she waked from the revery in which she had been wandering. Instantly her eyes were lighted up with pleasure; and after a few unheard remarks from Fadladeen upon the indecorum of a poet seating himself in presence of a Princess everything was arranged as on the preceding evening and all listened with eagerness while the story was thus continued:—

Whose are the gilded tents that crowd the way,

Where all was waste and silent yesterday?

This City of War which, in a few short hours,

Hath sprung up here, as if the magic powers90

Of Him who, in the twinkling of a star,

Built the high pillared halls of Chilminar,91

Had conjur’d up, far as the eye can see,

This world of tents and domes and sunbright armory:—

Princely pavilions screened by many a fold

Of crimson cloth and topt with balls of gold:—

Steeds with their housings of rich silver spun,

Their chains and poitrels glittering in the sun;

And camels tufted o’er with Yemen’s shells92

Shaking in every breeze their light-toned bells!

But yester-eve, so motionless around,

So mute was this wide plain that not a sound

But the far torrent or the locust bird93

Hunting among thickets could be heard;—

Yet hark! what discords now of every kind,

Shouts, laughs, and screams are revelling in the wind;

The neigh of cavalry;—the tinkling throngs

Of laden camels and their drivers’ songs;—

Ringing of arms, and flapping in the breeze

Of streamers from ten thousand canopies;—94

War-music bursting out from time to time

With gong and tymbalon’s tremendous chime;—

Or in the pause when harsher sounds are mute,

The mellow breathings of some horn or flute,

That far off, broken by the eagle note

Of the Abyssinian trumpet, swell and float.95

Who leads this mighty army?—ask ye “who?”

And mark ye not those banners of dark hue,

The Night and Shadow, over yonder tent?—96

It is the Caliph’s glorious armament.

Roused in his Palace by the dread alarms,

That hourly came, of the false Prophet’s arms,

And of his host of infidels who hurled

Defiance fierce at Islam and the world,97

Tho’ worn with Grecian warfare, and behind

The veils of his bright Palace calm reclined,

Yet brooked he not such blasphemy should stain,

Thus unrevenged, the evening of his reign;

But having sworn upon the Holy Grave98

To conquer or to perish, once more gave

His shadowy banners proudly to the breeze,

And with an army nurst in victories,

Here stands to crush the rebels that o’errun

His blest and beauteous Province of the Sun.

Ne’er did the march of Mahadi display

Such pomp before;—not even when on his way

To Mecca’s Temple, when both land and sea

Were spoiled to feed the Pilgrim’s luxury;99

When round him mid the burning sands he saw

Fruits of the North in icy freshness thaw,

And cooled his thirsty lip beneath the glow

Of Mecca’s sun with urns of Persian snow:—

Nor e’er did armament more grand than that

Pour from the kingdoms of the Caliphat.

First, in the van, the People of the Rock100

On their light mountain steeds of royal stock:101

Then chieftains of Damascus proud to see

The flashing of their swords’ rich marquetry;—102

Men from the regions near the Volga’s mouth

Mixt with the rude, black archers of the South;

And Indian lancers in white-turbaned ranks

From the far Sinde or Attock’s sacred banks,

With dusky legions from the Land of Myrrh,103

And many a mace-armed Moor and Midsea islander.

Nor less in number tho’ more new and rude

In warfare’s school was the vast multitude

That, fired by zeal or by oppression wronged,

Round the white standard of the impostor thronged.

Beside his thousands of Believers—blind,

Burning and headlong as the Samiel wind—

Many who felt and more who feared to feel

The bloody Islamite’s converting steel,

Flockt to his banner;—Chiefs of the Uzbek race,

Waving their heron crests with martial grace;104

Turkomans, countless as their flocks, led forth

From the aromatic pastures of the North;

Wild warriors of the turquoise hills,—and those105

Who dwell beyond the everlasting snows

Of Hindoo Kosh, in stormy freedom bred,

Their fort the rock, their camp the torrent’s bed.

But none of all who owned the Chief’s command

Rushed to that battle-field with bolder hand

Or sterner hate than Iran’s outlawed men,

Her Worshippers of Fire—all panting then106

For vengeance on the accursed Saracen;

Vengeance at last for their dear country spurned,

Her throne usurpt, and her bright shrines o’erturned.

From Yezd’s eternal Mansion of the Fire107

Where aged saints in dreams of Heaven expire:

From Badku and those fountains of blue flame

That burn into the Caspian, fierce they came,108

Careless for what or whom the blow was sped,

So vengeance triumpht and their tyrants bled.

Such was the wild and miscellaneous host

That high in air their motley banners tost

Around the Prophet–Chief—all eyes still bent

Upon that glittering Veil, where’er it went,

That beacon thro’ the battle’s stormy flood,

That rainbow of the field whose showers were blood!

Twice hath the sun upon their conflict set

And risen again and found them grappling yet;

While streams of carnage in his noontide blaze,

Smoke up to Heaven—hot as that crimson haze

By which the prostrate Caravan is awed109

In the red Desert when the wind’s abroad.

“Oh, Swords of God!” the panting Caliph calls,—

“Thrones for the living—Heaven for him who falls!”—

“On, brave avengers, on,” Mokanna cries,

“And Eblis blast the recreant slave that flies!”

Now comes the brunt, the crisis of the day—

They clash—they strive—the Caliph’s troops give way!

Mokanna’s self plucks the black Banner down,

And now the Orient World’s Imperial crown

Is just within his grasp—when, hark, that shout!

Some hand hath checkt the flying Moslem’s rout;

And now they turn, they rally—at their head

A warrior, (like those angel youths who led,

In glorious panoply of Heaven’s own mail,

The Champions of the Faith thro Beder’s vale,)110

Bold as if gifted with ten thousand lives,

Turns on the fierce pursuers’ blades, and drives

At once the multitudinous torrent back—

While hope and courage kindle in his track;

And at each step his bloody falchion makes

Terrible vistas thro’ which victory breaks!

In vain Mokanna, midst the general flight,

Stands like the red moon on some stormy night

Among the fugitive clouds that hurrying by

Leave only her unshaken in the sky—

In vain he yells his desperate curses out,

Deals death promiscuously to all about,

To foes that charge and coward friends that fly,

And seems of all the Great Archenemy.

The panic spreads—“A miracle!” throughout

The Moslem ranks, “a miracle!” they shout,

All gazing on that youth whose coming seems

A light, a glory, such as breaks in dreams;

And every sword, true as o’er billows dim

The needle tracks the lode-star, following him!

Right towards Mokanna now he cleaves his path,

Impatient cleaves as tho’ the bolt of wrath

He bears from Heaven withheld its awful burst

From weaker heads and souls but half way curst,

To break o’er Him, the mightiest and the worst!

But vain his speed—tho’, in that hour of blood,

Had all God’s seraphs round Mokanna stood

With swords o’fire ready like fate to fall,

Mokanna’s soul would have defied them all;

Yet now, the rush of fugitives, too strong

For human force, hurries even him along;

In vain he struggles mid the wedged array

Of flying thousands—he is borne away;

And the sole joy his baffled spirit knows,

In this forced flight, is—murdering as he goes!

As a grim tiger whom the torrent’s might

Surprises in some parched ravine at night,

Turns even in drowning on the wretched flocks

Swept with him in that snow-flood from the rocks,

And, to the last, devouring on his way,

Bloodies the stream he hath not power to stay.

“Alla illa Alla!”—the glad shout renew—

“Alla Akbar”—the Caliph’s in Merou.111

Hang out your gilded tapestry in the streets,

And light your shrines and chant your ziraleets.112

The swords of God have triumpht—on his throne

Your Caliph sits and the veiled Chief hath flown.

Who does not envy that young warrior now

To whom the Lord of Islam bends his brow,

In all the graceful gratitude of power,

For his throne’s safety in that perilous hour?

Who doth not wonder, when, amidst the acclaim

Of thousands heralding to heaven his name—

Mid all those holier harmonies of fame

Which sound along the path of virtuous souls,

Like music round a planet as it rolls,—

He turns away—coldly, as if some gloom

Hung o’er his heart no triumphs can illume;—

Some sightless grief upon whose blasted gaze

Tho’ glory’s light may play, in vain it plays.

Yes, wretched Azim! thine is such a grief,

Beyond all hope, all terror, all relief!

A dark, cold calm, which nothing now can break.

Or warm or brighten,—Like that Syrian Lake113

Upon whose surface morn and summer shed

Their smiles in vain, for all beneath is dead!—

Hearts there have been o’er which this weight of woe

Came by long use of suffering, tame and slow;

But thine, lost youth! was sudden—over thee

It broke at once, when all seemed ecstasy;

When Hope lookt up and saw the gloomy Past

Melt into splendor and Bliss dawn at last—

’Twas then, even then, o’er joys so freshly blown

This mortal blight of misery came down;

Even then, the full, warm gushings of thy heart

Were checkt—like fount-drops, frozen as they start—

And there like them cold, sunless relics hang,

Each fixt and chilled into a lasting pang.

One sole desire, one passion now remains

To keep life’s fever still within his veins,

Vengeance!—dire vengeance on the wretch who cast

O’er him and all he loved that ruinous blast.

For this, when rumors reached him in his flight

Far, far away, after that fatal night,—

Rumors of armies thronging to the attack

Of the Veiled Chief,—for this he winged him back,

Fleet as the Vulture speeds to flags unfurled,

And when all hope seemed desperate, wildly hurled

Himself into the scale and saved a world.

For this he still lives on, careless of all

The wreaths that Glory on his path lets fall;

For this alone exists—like lightning-fire,

To speed one bolt of vengeance and expire!

But safe as yet that Spirit of Evil lives;

With a small band of desperate fugitives,

The last sole stubborn fragment left unriven

Of the proud host that late stood fronting Heaven,

He gained Merou—breathed a short curse of blood

O’er his lost throne—then past the Jihon’s flood,114

And gathering all whose madness of belief

Still saw a Saviour in their down-fallen Chief,

Raised the white banner within Neksheb’s gates,115

And there, untamed, the approaching conqueror waits.

Of all his Haram, all that busy hive,

With music and with sweets sparkling alive,

He took but one, the partner of his flight,

One—not for love—not for her beauty’s light—

No, Zelica stood withering midst the gay.

Wan as the blossom that fell yesterday

From the Alma tree and dies, while overhead

To-day’s young flower is springing in its stead.116

Oh, not for love—the deepest Damned must be

Touched with Heaven’s glory ere such fiends as he

Can feel one glimpse of Love’s divinity.

But no, she is his victim; there lie all

Her charms for him-charms that can never pall,

As long as hell within his heart can stir,

Or one faint trace of Heaven is left in her.

To work an angel’s ruin,—to behold

As white a page as Virtue e’er unrolled

Blacken beneath his touch into a scroll

Of damning sins, sealed with a burning soul—

This is his triumph; this the joy accurst,

That ranks him among demons all but first:

This gives the victim that before him lies

Blighted and lost, a glory in his eyes,

A light like that with which hellfire illumes

The ghastly, writhing wretch whom it consumes!

But other tasks now wait him—tasks that need

All the deep daringness of thought and deed

With which the Divs have gifted him—for mark,117

Over yon plains which night had else made dark,

Those lanterns countless as the winged lights

That spangle India’s field on showery nights,—118

Far as their formidable gleams they shed,

The mighty tents of the beleaguerer spread,

Glimmering along the horizon’s dusky line

And thence in nearer circles till they shine

Among the founts and groves o’er which the town

In all its armed magnificence looks down.

Yet, fearless, from his lofty battlements

Mokanna views that multitude of tents;

Nay, smiles to think that, tho’ entoiled, beset,

Not less than myriads dare to front him yet;—

That friendless, throneless, he thus stands at bay,

Even thus a match for myriads such as they.

“Oh, for a sweep of that dark Angel’s wing,

“Who brushed the thousands of the Assyrian King119

“To darkness in a moment that I might

“People Hell’s chambers with yon host to-night!

“But come what may, let who will grasp the throne,

“Caliph or Prophet, Man alike shall groan;

“Let who will torture him, Priest—Caliph—King—

“Alike this loathsome world of his shall ring

“With victims’ shrieks and howlings of the slave,—

“Sounds that shall glad me even within my grave!”

Thus, to himself—but to the scanty train

Still left around him, a far different strain:—

“Glorious Defenders of the sacred Crown

“I bear from Heaven whose light nor blood shall drown

“Nor shadow of earth eclipse;—before whose gems

“The paly pomp of this world’s diadems,

“The crown of Gerashid. the pillared throne

“Of Parviz120 and the heron crest that shone121

“Magnificent o’er Ali’s beauteous eyes.122

“Fade like the stars when morn is in the skies:

“Warriors, rejoice—the port to which we’ve past

“O’er Destiny’s dark wave beams out at last!

“Victory’s our own—’tis written in that Book

“Upon whose leaves none but the angels look,

“That Islam’s sceptre shall beneath the power

“Of her great foe fall broken in that hour

“When the moon’s mighty orb before all eyes

“From Neksheb’s Holy Well portentously shall rise!

“Now turn and see!”—They turned, and, as he spoke,

A sudden splendor all around them broke,

And they beheld an orb, ample and bright,

Rise from the Holy Well and cast its light123

Round the rich city and the plain for miles,—

Flinging such radiance o’er the gilded tiles

Of many a dome and fair-roofed imaret

As autumn suns shed round them when they set.

Instant from all who saw the illusive sign

A murmur broke—“Miraculous! divine!”

The Gheber bowed, thinking his idol star

Had waked, and burst impatient thro’ the bar

Of midnight to inflame him to the war;

While he of Moussa’s creed saw in that ray

The glorious Light which in his freedom’s day

Had rested on the Ark, and now again124

Shone out to bless the breaking of his chain.

“To victory!” is at once the cry of all—

Nor stands Mokanna loitering at that call;

But instant the huge gates are flung aside,

And forth like a diminutive mountain-tide

Into the boundless sea they speed their course

Right on into the Moslem’s mighty force.

The watchmen of the camp,—who in their rounds

Had paused and even forgot the punctual sounds

Of the small drum with which they count the night,125

To gaze upon that supernatural light,—

Now sink beneath an unexpected arm,

And in a death-groan give their last alarm.

“On for the lamps that light yon lofty screen126

“Nor blunt your blades with massacre so mean;

There rests the Caliph—speed—one lucky lance

“May now achieve mankind’s deliverance.”

Desperate the die—such as they only cast

Who venture for a world and stake their last.

But Fate’s no longer with him—blade for blade

Springs up to meet them thro’ the glimmering shade,

And as the clash is heard new legions soon

Pour to the spot, like bees of Kauzeroon127

To the shrill timbrel’s summons,—till at length

The mighty camp swarms out in all its strength.

And back to Neksheb’s gates covering the plain

With random slaughter drives the adventurous train;

Among the last of whom the Silver Veil

Is seen glittering at times, like the white sail

Of some tost vessel on a stormy night

Catching the tempest’s momentary light!

And hath not this brought the proud spirit low!

Nor dashed his brow nor checkt his daring? No.

Tho’ half the wretches whom at night he led

To thrones and victory lie disgraced and dead,

Yet morning hears him with unshrinking crest.

Still vaunt of thrones and victory to the rest;—

And they believe him!—oh, the lover may

Distrust that look which steals his soul away;—

The babe may cease to think that it can play

With Heaven’s rainbow;—alchymists may doubt

The shining gold their crucible gives out;

But Faith, fanatic Faith, once wedded fast

To some dear falsehood hugs it to the last.

And well the Impostor knew all lures and arts,

That Lucifer e’er taught to tangle hearts;

Nor, mid these last bold workings of his plot

Against men’s souls, is Zelica forgot.

Ill-fated Zelica! had reason been

Awake, thro’ half the horrors thou hast seen,

Thou never couldst have borne it—Death had come

At once and taken thy wrung spirit home.

But ’twas not so—a torpor, a suspense

Of thought, almost of life, came o’er the intense

And passionate struggles of that fearful night,

When her last hope of peace and heaven took flight:

And tho’ at times a gleam of frenzy broke,—

As thro’ some dull volcano’s veil of smoke

Ominous flashings now and then will start,

Which show the fire’s still busy at its heart;

Yet was she mostly wrapt in solemn gloom,—

Not such as Azim’s, brooding o’er its doom

And calm without as is the brow of death

While busy worms are gnawing underneath—

But in a blank and pulseless torpor free

From thought or pain, a sealed-up apathy

Which left her oft with scarce one living thrill

The cold, pale victim of her torturer’s will.

Again, as in Merou, he had her deckt

Gorgeously out, the Priestess of the sect;

And led her glittering forth before the eyes

Of his rude train as to a sacrifice,—

Pallid as she, the young, devoted Bride

Of the fierce Nile, when, deckt in all the pride

Of nuptial pomp, she sinks into his tide.128

And while the wretched maid hung down her head,

And stood as one just risen from the dead

Amid that gazing crowd, the fiend would tell

His credulous slaves it was some charm or spell

Possest her now,—and from that darkened trance

Should dawn ere long their Faith’s deliverance.

Or if at times goaded by guilty shame,

Her soul was roused and words of wildness came,

Instant the bold blasphemer would translate

Her ravings into oracles of fate,

Would hail Heaven’s signals in her flashing eyes

And call her shrieks the language of the skies!

But vain at length his arts—despair is seen

Gathering around; and famine comes to glean

All that the sword had left unreaped;—in vain

At morn and eve across the northern plain

He looks impatient for the promised spears

Of the wild Hordes and Tartar mountaineers;

They come not—while his fierce beleaguerers pour

Engines of havoc in, unknown before,129

And horrible as new;—javelins, that fly130

Enwreathed with smoky flames thro’ the dark sky,

And red-hot globes that opening as they mount

Discharge as from a kindled Naphtha fount131

Showers of consuming fire o’er all below;

Looking as thro’ the illumined night they go

Like those wild birds that by the Magians oft132

At festivals of fire were sent aloft

Into the air with blazing fagots tied

To their huge wings, scattering combustion wide.

All night the groans of wretches who expire

In agony beneath these darts of fire

Ring thro’ the city—while descending o’er

Its shrines and domes and streets of sycamore,—

Its lone bazars, with their bright cloths of gold,

Since the last peaceful pageant left unrolled,—

Its beauteous marble baths whose idle jets.

Now gush with blood,—and its tall minarets

That late have stood up in the evening glare

Of the red sun, unhallowed by a prayer;—

O’er each in turn the dreadful flame-bolts fall,

And death and conflagration throughout all

The desolate city hold high festival!

Mokanna sees the world is his no more;—

One sting at parting and his grasp is o’er,

“What! drooping now?”—thus, with unblushing cheek,

He hails the few who yet can hear him speak,

Of all those famished slaves around him lying,

And by the light of blazing temples dying;

“What!—drooping now!—now, when at length we press

“Home o’er the very threshold of success;

“When Alla from our ranks hath thinned away

“Those grosser branches that kept out his ray

“Of favor from us and we stand at length

“Heirs of his light and children of his strength,

“The chosen few who shall survive the fall

“Of Kings and Thrones, triumphant over all!

“Have you then lost, weak murmurers as you are,

“All faith in him who was your Light, your Star?

“Have you forgot the eye of glory hid

“Beneath this Veil, the flashing of whose lid

“Could like a sun-stroke of the desert wither

“Millions of such as yonder Chief brings hither?

“Long have its lightnings slept—too long—but now

“All earth shall feel the unveiling of this brow!

“To-night—yes, sainted men! this very night,

“I bid you all to a fair festal rite,

“Where—having deep refreshed each weary limb

“With viands such as feast Heaven’s cherubim

“And kindled up your souls now sunk and dim

“With that pure wine the Dark-eyed Maids above

“Keep, sealed with precious musk, for those they love,—133

“I will myself uncurtain in your sight

“The wonders of this brow’s ineffable light;

“Then lead you forth and with a wink disperse

“Yon myriads howling thro’ the universe!”

Eager they listen—while each accent darts

New life into their chilled and hope-sick hearts;

Such treacherous life as the cool draught supplies

To him upon the stake who drinks and dies!

Wildly they point their lances to the light

Of the fast sinking sun, and shout “To-night!”—

“To-night,” their Chief reechoes in a voice

Of fiend-like mockery that bids hell rejoice.

Deluded victims!—never hath this earth

Seen mourning half so mournful as their mirth.

Here, to the few whose iron frames had stood

This racking waste of famine and of blood,

Faint, dying wretches clung, from whom the shout

Of triumph like a maniac’s laugh broke out:—

There, others, lighted by the smouldering fire,

Danced like wan ghosts about a funeral pyre

Among the dead and dying strewed around;—

While some pale wretch lookt on and from his wound

Plucking the fiery dart by which he bled,

In ghastly transport waved it o’er his head!

’Twas more than midnight now—a fearful pause

Had followed the long shouts, the wild applause,

That lately from those Royal Gardens burst,

Where the veiled demon held his feast accurst,

When Zelica, alas, poor ruined heart,

In every horror doomed to bear its part!—

Was bidden to the banquet by a slave,

Who, while his quivering lip the summons gave,

Grew black, as tho’ the shadows of the grave

Compast him round and ere he could repeat

His message thro’, fell lifeless at her feet!

Shuddering she went—a soul-felt pang of fear

A presage that her own dark doom was near,

Roused every feeling and brought Reason back

Once more to writhe her last upon the rack.

All round seemed tranquil even the foe had ceased

As if aware of that demoniac feast

His fiery bolts; and tho’ the heavens looked red,

’Twas but some distant conflagration’s spread.

But hark—she stops—she listens—dreadful tone!

’Tis her Tormentor’s laugh—and now, a groan,

A long death-groan comes with it—can this be

The place of mirth, the bower of revelry?

She enters—Holy Alla, what a sight

Was there before her! By the glimmering light

Of the pale dawn, mixt with the flare of brands

That round lay burning dropt from lifeless hands,

She saw the board in splendid mockery spread,

Rich censers breathing—garlands overhead—

The urns, the cups, from which they late had quaft

All gold and gems, but—what had been the draught?

Oh! who need ask that saw those livid guests,

With their swollen heads sunk blackening on their breasts,

Or looking pale to Heaven with glassy glare,

As if they sought but saw no mercy there;

As if they felt, tho’ poison racked them thro’,

Remorse the deadlier torment of the two!

While some, the bravest, hardiest in the train

Of their false Chief, who on the battle-plain

Would have met death with transport by his side,

Here mute and helpless gasped;—but as they died

Lookt horrible vengeance with their eyes’ last strain,

And clenched the slackening hand at him in vain.

Dreadful it was to see the ghastly stare,

The stony look of horror and despair,

Which some of these expiring victims cast

Upon their souls’ tormentor to the last;

Upon that mocking Fiend whose Veil now raised,

Showed them as in death’s agony they gazed,

Not the long promised light, the brow whose beaming

Was to come forth, all conquering, all redeeming,

But features horribler than Hell e’er traced

On its own brood;—no Demon of the Waste,134

No church-yard Ghoul caught lingering in the light

Of the blest sun, e’er blasted human sight

With lineaments so foul, so fierce as those

The Impostor now in grinning mockery shows:—

“There, ye wise Saints, behold your Light, your Star—

“Ye would be dupes and victims and ye are.

“Is it enough? or must I, while a thrill

“Lives in your sapient bosoms, cheat you still?

“Swear that the burning death ye feel within

“Is but the trance with which Heaven’s joys begin:

“That this foul visage, foul as e’er disgraced

“Even monstrous men, is—after God’s own taste;

“And that—but see!—ere I have half-way said

“My greetings thro’, the uncourteous souls are fled.

“Farewell, sweet spirits! not in vain ye die,

“If Eblis loves you half so well as I.—

“Ha, my young bride!—’tis well—take thou thy seat;

“Nay come—no shuddering—didst thou never meet

“The Dead before?—they graced our wedding, sweet;

“And these, my guests to-night, have brimmed so true

“Their parting cups, that thou shalt pledge one too.

“But—how is this?—all empty? all drunk up?

“Hot lips have been before thee in the cup,

“Young bride,—yet stay—one precious drop remains,

“Enough to warm a gentle Priestess’ veins;—

“Here, drink—and should thy lover’s conquering arms

“Speed hither ere thy lip lose all its charms,

“Give him but half this venom in thy kiss,

“And I’ll forgive my haughty rival’s bliss!

“For, me—I too must die—but not like these

“Vile rankling things to fester in the breeze;

“To have this brow in ruffian triumph shown,

“With all death’s grimness added to its own,

“And rot to dust beneath the taunting eyes

“Of slaves, exclaiming, ‘There his Godship lies!’

“No—cursed race—since first my soul drew breath,

“They’ve been my dupes and shall be even in death.

“Thou seest yon cistern in the shade—’tis filled

“With burning drugs for this last hour distilled;

“There will I plunge me, in that liquid flame—

“Fit bath to lave a dying Prophet’s frame!—

“There perish, all—ere pulse of thine shall fail—

“Nor leave one limb to tell mankind the tale.

“So shall my votaries, wheresoe’er they rave,

“Proclaim that Heaven took back the Saint it gave;—

“That I’ve but vanished from this earth awhile,

“To come again with bright, unshrouded smile!

“So shall they build me altars in their zeal,

“Where knaves shall minister and fools shall kneel;

“Where Faith may mutter o’er her mystic spell,

“Written in blood—and Bigotry may swell

“The sail he spreads for Heaven with blasts from hell!

“So shall my banner thro’ long ages be

“The rallying sign of fraud and anarchy;—

“Kings yet unborn shall rue Mokanna’s name,

“And tho’ I die my spirit still the same

“Shall walk abroad in all the stormy strife,

“And guilt and blood that were its bliss in life.

“But hark! their battering engine shakes the wall—

“Why, let it shake—thus I can brave them all.

“No trace of me shall greet them when they come,

“And I can trust thy faith, for—thou’lt be dumb.

“Now mark how readily a wretch like me

“In one bold plunge commences Deity!”

He sprung and sunk as the last words were said—

Quick closed the burning waters o’er his head,

And Zelica was left—within the ring

Of those wide walls the only living thing;

The only wretched one still curst with breath

In all that frightful wilderness of death!

More like some bloodless ghost—such as they tell,

In the Lone Cities of the Silent dwell,135

And there unseen of all but Alla sit

Each by its own pale carcass watching it.

But morn is up and a fresh warfare stirs

Throughout the camp of the beleaguerers.

Their globes of fire (the dread artillery lent

By Greece to conquering Mahadi) are spent;

And now the scorpion’s shaft, the quarry sent

From high balistas and the shielded throng

Of soldiers swinging the huge ram along,

All speak the impatient Islamite’s intent

To try, at length, if tower and battlement

And bastioned wall be not less hard to win,

Less tough to break down than the hearts within.

First he, in impatience and in toil is

The burning Azim—oh! could he but see

The impostor once alive within his grasp,

Not the gaunt lion’s hug nor boa’s clasp

Could match thy gripe of vengeance or keep pace

With the fell heartiness of Hate’s embrace!

Loud rings the ponderous ram against the walls;

Now shake the ramparts, now a buttress falls,

But, still no breach—“Once more one mighty swing

“Of all your beams, together thundering!”

There—the wall shakes—the shouting troops exult,

“Quick, quick discharge your weightiest catapult

“Right on that spot and Neksheb is our own!”

’Tis done—the battlements come crashing down,

And the huge wall by that stroke riven in two

Yawning like some old crater rent anew,

Shows the dim, desolate city smoking thro’.

But strange! no sign of life—naught living seen

Above, below—what can this stillness mean?

A minute’s pause suspends all hearts and eyes—

“In thro’ the breach,” impetuous Azim cries;

But the cool Caliph fearful of some wile

In this blank stillness checks the troops awhile.—

Just then a figure with slow step advanced

Forth from the ruined walls and as there glanced

A sunbeam over it all eyes could see

The well-known Silver Veil!—”’Tis He, ’tis He,

Mokanna and alone!” they shout around;

Young Azim from his steed springs to the ground—

“Mine, Holy Caliph! mine,” he cries, “the task

“To crush yon daring wretch—’tis all I ask.”

Eager he darts to meet the demon foe

Who still across wide heaps of ruin slow

And falteringly comes, till they are near;

Then with a bound rushes on Azim’s spear,

And casting off the Veil in falling shows—

Oh!—’tis his Zelica’s life-blood that flows!

“I meant not, Azim,” soothingly she said,

As on his trembling arm she leaned her head,

And looking in his face saw anguish there

Beyond all wounds the quivering flesh can bear—

“I meant not thou shouldst have the pain of this:—

“Tho’ death with thee thus tasted is a bliss

“Thou wouldst not rob me of, didst thou but know

“How oft I’ve prayed to God I might die so!

“But the Fiend’s venom was too scant and slow;—

“To linger on were maddening—and I thought

“If once that Veil—nay, look not on it—caught

“The eyes of your fierce soldiery, I should be

“Struck by a thousand death-darts instantly.

“But this is sweeter—oh! believe me, yes—

“I would not change this sad, but dear caress.

“This death within thy arms I would not give

“For the most smiling life the happiest live!

“All that stood dark and drear before the eye

“Of my strayed soul is passing swiftly by;

“A light comes o’er me from those looks of love,

“Like the first dawn of mercy from above;

“And if thy lips but tell me I’m forgiven,

“Angels will echo the blest words in Heaven!

“But live, my Azim;—oh! to call thee mine

“Thus once again! my Azim—dream divine!

“Live, if thou ever lovedst me, if to meet

“Thy Zelica hereafter would be sweet,

“Oh, live to pray for her—to bend the knee

“Morning and night before that Deity

“To whom pure lips and hearts without a stain,

“As thine are, Azim, never breathed in vain,—

“And pray that He may pardon her,—may take

“Compassion on her soul for thy dear sake,

“And naught remembering but her love to thee,

“Make her all thine, all His, eternally!

“Go to those happy fields where first we twined

“Our youthful hearts together—every wind

“That meets thee there fresh from the well-known flowers

“Will bring the sweetness of those innocent hours

“Back to thy soul and thou mayst feel again

“For thy poor Zelica as thou didst then.

“So shall thy orisons like dew that flies

“To Heaven upon the morning’s sunshine rise

“With all love’s earliest ardor to the skies!

“And should they—but, alas, my senses fail—

“Oh for one minute!—should thy prayers prevail—

“If pardoned souls may from that World of Bliss

“Reveal their joy to those they love in this—

“I’ll come to thee—in some sweet dream—and tell—

“Oh Heaven—I die—dear love! farewell, farewell.”

Time fleeted—years on years had past away,

And few of those who on that mournful day

Had stood with pity in their eyes to see

The maiden’s death and the youth’s agony,

Were living still—when, by a rustic grave,

Beside the swift Amoo’s transparent wave,

An aged man who had grown aged there

By that lone grave, morning and night in prayer,

For the last time knelt down—and tho’ the shade

Of death hung darkening over him there played

A gleam of rapture on his eye and cheek,

That brightened even Death—like the last streak

Of intense glory on the horizon’s brim,

When night o’er all the rest hangs chill and dim.

His soul had seen a Vision while he slept;

She for whose spirit he had prayed and wept

So many years had come to him all drest

In angel smiles and told him she was blest!

For this the old man breathed his thanks and died.—

And there upon the banks of that loved tide,

He and his Zelica sleep side by side.

1 These particulars of the visit of the King of Bucharia to Aurungzebe are found in Dow’s “History of Hindostan,” vol. iii. p. 392.

2 Tulip cheek.

3 The mistress of Mejnoun, upon whose story so many Romances in all the languages of the East are founded.

4 For the loves of this celebrated beauty with Khosrou and with Ferhad, see D’Herbelot, Gibbon, Oriental Collections, etc.

5 “The history of the loves of Dewildé and Chizer, the son of the Emperor Alla, is written in an elegant poem, by the noble Chusero.”—- Ferishta.

6 Gul Reazee.

7 “One mark of honor or knighthood bestowed by the Emperor is the permission to wear a small kettle-drum at the bows of their saddles, which at first was invented for the training of hawks, and to call them to the lure, and is worn in the field by all sportsmen to that end.”—Fryer’s Travels. “Those on whom the King has conferred the privilege must wear an ornament of jewels on the right side of the turban, surmounted by a high plume of the feathers of a kind of egret. This bird is found only in Cashmere, and the feathers are carefully collected for the King, who bestows them on his nobles.”—Elphinstone’s Account of Cabul.

8 “Khedar Khan, the Khakan, or King of Turquestan beyond the Gibon (at the end of the eleventh century), whenever he appeared abroad was preceded by seven hundred horsemen with silver battle-axes, and was followed by an equal number bearing maces of gold. He was a great patron of poetry, and it was he who used to preside at public exercises of genius, with four basins of gold and silver by him to distribute among the poets who excelled.”—Richardson’s Dissertation prefixed to his Dictionary.

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

10 In the Poem of Zohair, in the Moallakat, there is the following lively description of “a company of maidens seated on camels.” “They are mounted in carriages covered with costly awnings, and with rose-colored veils, the linings of which have the hue of crimson Andem-wood. “When they ascend from the bosom of the vale, they sit forward on the saddlecloth, with every mark of a voluptuous gayety. “Now, When they have reached the brink of yon blue-gushing rivulet, they fix the poles of their tents like the Arab with a settled mansion.”

11 See Bernier’s description of the attendants on Rauchanara Begum, in her progress to Cashmere.

12 This hypocritical Emperor would have made a worthy associate of certain Holy Leagues.—“He held the cloak of religion [says Dow] between his actions and the vulgar; and impiously thanked the Divinity for a success which he owed to his own wickedness. When he was murdering and persecuting his brothers and their families, he was building a magnificent mosque at Delhi, as an offering to God for his assistance to him in the civil wars. He acted as high priest at the consecration of this temple; and made a practice of attending divine service there, in the humble dress of a Fakeer. But when he lifted one hand to the Divinity, he, with the other, signed warrants for the assassination of his relations.”—“History of Hindostan,”. vol. iii. p.335. See also the curious letter of Aurungzebe, given in the Oriental Collections, vol. i. p.320.

13 “The idol at Jaghernat has two fine diamonds for eyes. No goldsmith is suffered to enter the Pagoda, one having stole one of these eyes, being locked up all night with the Idol.”—Tavernier.

14 See a description of these royal Gardens in “An Account of the present State of Delhi, by Lieut. W. Franklin.”—Asiat. Research, vol. iv. p. 417.

15 “In the neighborhood is Notte Gill, or the Lake of Pearl, which receives this name from its pellucid water.”—Pennant’s “Hindostan.” “Nasir Jung encamped in the vicinity of the Lake of Tonoor, amused himself with sailing on that clear and beautiful water, and gave it the fanciful name of Motee Talah, ‘the Lake of Pearls,’ which it still retains.”— Wilks’s “South of India.”

16 Sir Thomas Roe, Ambassador from James I. to Jehanguire.

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

18 Their amour is recounted in the Shah–Namêh of Ferdousi; and there is much beauty in the passage which describes the slaves of Rodahver sitting on the bank of the river and throwing flowers into the stream, in order to draw the attention of the young Hero who is encamped on the opposite side.—See Champion’s translation.

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

20 “The women of the Idol, or dancing girls of the Pagoda, have little golden bells, fastened to their feet, the soft harmonious tinkling of which vibrates in unison with the exquisite melody of their voices.”— Maurice’s “Indian Antiquities.”

“The Arabian courtesans, like the Indian women, have little golden bells fastened round their legs, neck, and elbows, to the sound of which they dance before the King. The Arabian princesses wear golden rings on their fingers, to which little bells are suspended, as well as in the flowing tresses of their hair, that their superior rank may be known and they themselves receive in passing the homage due to them.”—See Calmet’s Dictionary, art. “Bells.”

21 The Indian Apollo.— “He and the three Ramas are described as youths of perfect beauty, and the princesses of Hindustan were all passionately in love with Chrishna, who continues to this hour the darling God of the Indan women.”—Sir W. Jones, on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India.

22 See Turner’s Embassy for a description of this animal, “the most beautiful among the whole tribe of goats.” The material for the shawls (which is carried to Cashmere) is found next the skin.

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

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

25 “The fruits of Meru are finer than those of any other place: and one cannot see in any other city such palaces with groves, and streams, and gardens.”—Ebn Haukal’s Geography.

26 One of the royal cities of Khorassan.

27 Moses.

28 Black was the color adopted by the Caliphs of the House of Abbas, in their garments, turbans, and standards.

29 “Our dark javelins, exquisitely wrought of Khathaian reeds, slender and delicate.”—Poem of Amru.

30 Pichula, used anciently for arrows by the Persians.

31 The Persians call this plant Gaz. The celebrated shaft of Isfendiar, one of their ancient heroes, was made of it.—“Nothing can be more beautiful than the appearance of this plant in flower during the rains on the banks of rivers, where it is usually interwoven with a lovely twining asclepias.”—Sir W. Jones..

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

33 The burning fountains of Brahma near Chittogong, esteemed as holy.—Turner.

34 China.

35 “The name of tulip is said to be of Turkish extraction, and given to the flower on account of its resembling a turban.”—Beckmann’s History of Inventions.

36 “The inhabitants of Bucharia wear a round cloth bonnet, shaped much after the Polish fashion, having a large fur border. They tie their kaftans about the middle with a girdle of a kind of silk crape, several times round the body.”—Account of Independent Tartary, in Pinkerton’s Collection.

37 In the war of the Caliph Mahadi against the Empress Irene, for an account of which vide Gibbon, vol. x.

38 When Soliman travelled, the eastern writers say, “He had a carpet of green silk on which his throne was placed, being of a prodigious length and breadth, and sufficient for all his forces to stand upon, the men placing themselves on his right hand, and the spirits on his left; and that when all were in order, the wind, at his command, took up the carpet, and transported it, with all that were upon it, wherever he pleased; the army of birds at the same time flying over their heads, and forming a kind of canopy to shade them from the sun.”—Sale’s Koran, vol. ii. p. 214, note.

39 The transmigration of souls was one of his doctrines.—Vide D’Herbelot..

40 “And when we said unto the angels. Worship Adam, they all worshipped him except Eblis (Lucifer), who refused.” The. Koran, chap. ii.

41 Moses.

42 Jesus.

43 The Amu, which rises in the Belur Tag, or Dark Mountains, and running nearly from east to west, splits into two branches; one of which falls into the Caspian Sea, and the other into Aral Nahr, or the Lake of Eagles.

44 The nightingale.

45 The cities of Com (or Koom) and Cashan are full of mosques, mausoleums and sepulchres of the descendants of Ali, the Saints of Persia —Chardin..

46 An island in the Persian Gulf, celebrated for its white wine.

47 The miraculous well at Mecca: so called, says Sale, from the murmuring of its waters.

48 The god Hannaman.—“Apes are in many parts of India highly venerated, out of respect to the God Hannaman, a deity partaking of the form of that race.”—Pennant’s Hindoostan. See a curious account in Stephen’s Persia, of a solemn embassy from some part of the Indies to Goa when the Portuguese were there, offering vast treasures for the recovery of a monkey’s tooth, which they held in great veneration, and which had been taken away upon the conquest of the kingdom of Jafanapatan.

49 A kind of lantern formerly used by robbers, called the Hand of Glory, the candle for which was made of the fat of a dead malefactor. This, however, was rather a western than an eastern superstition.

50 The material of which images of Gaudma (the Birman Deity) are made, is held sacred. “Birmans may not purchase the marble in mass, but are suffered, and indeed encouraged, to buy figures of the Deity ready made.” —Sytnes’s “Ava,” vol. ii. p. 876.

51 “It is commonly said in Persia, that if a man breathe in the hot south wind, which in June or July passes over that flower (the Kerzereh), it will kill him.”—Thevenot.

52 The humming bird is said to run this risk for the purpose of picking the crocodile’s teeth. The same circumstance is related of the lapwing, as a fact to which he was witness, by Paul Lucas, “Voyage fait en 1714.”

The ancient story concerning the Trochilus, or humming-bird, entering with impunity into the mouth of the crocodile, is firmly believed at Java.—Barrow’s “Cochin–China.”

53 “The feast of Lanterns celebrated at Yamtcheou with more magnificence than anywhere else! and the report goes that the illuminations there are so splendid, that an Emperor once, not daring openly to leave his Court to go thither, committed himself with the Queen and several Princesses of his family into the hands of a magician, who promised to transport them thither in a trice. He made them in the night to ascend magnificent thrones that were borne up by swans, which in a moment arrived at Yamtcheou. The Emperor saw at his leisure all the solemnity, being carried upon a cloud that hovered over the city and descended by degrees; and came back again with the same speed and equipage, nobody at court perceiving his absence.”—The Present State of China,” p. 156.

54 “The vulgar ascribe it to an accident that happened in the family of a famous mandarin, whose daughter, walking one evening upon the shore of a lake, fell in and was drowned: this afflicted father, with his family, ran thither, and the better to find her, he caused a great company of lanterns to be lighted. All the inhabitants of the place thronged after him with torches. The year ensuing they made fires upon the shores the same day; they continued the ceremony every year, every one lighted his lantern, and by degrees it commenced into a custom.”—The Present State of China.”

55 “Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes.”—Sol. Song.

56 “They tinged the ends of her fingers scarlet with Henna, so that they resembled branches of coral.”—Story of Prince Futtun in Bahardanush.

57 “The women blacken the inside of their eyelids with a powder named the black Kohol.”—Russell.

“None of these ladies,” says Shaw, “take themselves to be completely dressed, till they have tinged their hair and edges of their eyelids with the powder of lead ore. Now, as this operation is performed by dipping first into the powder a small wooden bodkin of the thickness of a quill, and then drawing it afterwards through the eyelids over the ball of the eye, we shall have a lively image of what the Prophet (Jer. iv. 30) may be supposed to mean by rending the eyes with painting. This practice is no doubt of great antiquity; for besides the instance already taken notice of, we find that where Jezebel is said (2 Kings ix. 30.) to have painted her face, the original words are, she adjusted her eyes with the powder of lead-ore.”—Shaw’s Travels.

58 “The appearance of the blossoms of the gold-colored Campac on the black hair of the Indian women has supplied the Sanscrit Poets with many elegant allusions.”—See Asiatic Researches, vol. iv.

59 A tree famous for its perfume, and common on the hills of Yemen.—Niebuhr.

60 Of the genus mimosa “which droops its branches whenever any person approaches it, seeming as if it saluted those who retire under its shade.”—Niebuhr.

61 Cloves are a principal ingredient in the composition of the perfumed rods, which men of rank keep constantly burning in their presence.— Turner’s “Tibet.”

62 “Thousands of variegated loories visit the coral-trees.”—Barrow.

63 “In Mecca there are quantities of blue pigeons, which none will affright or abuse, much less kill.”—Pitt’s Account of the Mahometans.

64 “The Pagoda Thrush is esteemed among the first choristers of India. It sits perched on the sacred pagodas, and from thence delivers its melodious song.”—Pennant’s “Hindostan.”

65 Tavernier adds, that while the Birds of Paradise lie in this intoxicated state, the emmets come and eat off their legs; and that hence it is they are said to have no feet.

66 Birds of Paradise, which, at the nutmeg season, come in flights from the southern isles to India; and “the strength of the nutmeg,” says Tavernier, “so intoxicates them that they fall dead drunk to the earth.”

67 “That bird which liveth in Arabia, and buildeth its nest with cinnamon.”—Brown’s Vulgar Errors.

68 “The spirits of the martyrs will be lodged in the crops of green birds.”—Gibbon, vol. ix. p. 421.

69 Shedad, who made the delicious gardens of Irim, in imitation of Paradise, and was destroyed by lightning the first time he attempted to enter them.

70 “My Pandits assure me that the plant before us (the Nilica) is their Sephalica, thus named because the bees are supposed to sleep on its blossoms.”—Sir W. Jones.

71 They deterred it till the King of Flowers should ascend his throne of enamelled foliage.”—The Bahardanush”.

72 “One of the head-dresses of the Persian women is composed of a light golden chain-work, set with small pearls, with a thin gold plate pendant, about the bigness of a crown-piece, on which is impressed an Arabian prayer, and which hangs upon the cheek below the ear.”—Hanway’s Travels.

73 “Certainly the women of Yezd are the handsomest women in Persia. The proverb is, that to live happy a man must have a wife of Yezd, eat the bread of Yezdecas, and drink the wine of Shiraz.”—Tavernier.

74 Musnuds are cushioned seats, usually reserved for persons of distinction.

75 The Persians, like the ancient Greeks call their musical modes or Perdas by the names of different countries or cities, as the mode of Isfahan, the mode of Irak, etc.

76 A river which flows near the ruins of Chilminar.

77 “To the north of us (on the coast of the Caspian, near Badku,) was a mountain, which sparkled like diamonds, arising from the sea-glass and crystals with which it abounds.”—Journey of the Russian Ambassador to Persia, 1746.

78 “To which will be added, the sound of the bells, hanging on the trees, which will be put in motion by the wind proceeding from the throne of God, as often as the blessed wish for music.”—Sale.

79 “Whose wanton eyes resemble blue water-lilies, agitated by the breeze.”—Jayadeva.

80 The blue lotos, which grows in Cashmere and in Persia.

81 It has been generally supposed that the Mahometans prohibit all pictures of animals; but Toderini shows that, though the practice is forbidden by the Koran, they are not more averse to painted figures and images than other people. From Mr. Murphy’s work, too, we find that the Arabs of Spain had no objection to the introduction of figures into Painting.

82 This is not quite astronomically true. “Dr. Hadley [says Keil] has shown that Venus is brightest when she is about forty degrees removed from the sun; and that then but only a fourth part of her lucid disk is to be seen from the earth.”

83 The wife of Potiphar, thus named by the Orientals. The passion which this frail beauty of antiquity conceived for her young Hebrew slave has given rise to a much esteemed poem in the Persian language, entitled Yusef vau Zelikha, by Noureddin Jami; the manuscript copy of which, in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, is supposed to be the finest in the whole world.”—Note upon Nott’s Translation of Hafez.”

84 The particulars of Mahomet’s amour with Mary, the Coptic girl, in justification of which he added a new chapter to the Koran, may be found in Gagnier’s Notes upon Abulfeda, p. 151.

85 “Deep blue is their mourning color.” Hanway.

86 The sorrowful nyctanthes, which begins to spread its rich odor after sunset.

87 “Concerning the vipers, which Pliny says were frequent among the balsam-trees, I made very particular inquiry; several were brought me alive both to Yambo and Jidda.”—Bruce.

88 In the territory of Istkahar there is a kind of apple, half of which is sweet and half sour.—Ebn Haukal.

89 “The place where the Whangho, a river of Tibet, rises, and where there are more than a hundred springs, which sparkle like stars; whence it is called Hotun-nor, that is, the Sea of Stars.”—Description of Tibet in Pinkerton.

90 “The Lescar or Imperial Camp is divided, like a regular town, into squares, alleys, and streets, and from a rising ground furnishes one of the most agreeable prospects in the world. Starting up in a few hours in an uninhabited plain, it raises the idea of a city built by enchantment. Even those who leave their houses in cities to follow the prince in his progress are frequently so charmed with the Lescar, when situated in a beautiful and convenient place, that they cannot prevail with themselves to remove. To prevent this inconvenience to the court, the Emperor, after sufficient time is allowed to the tradesmen to follow, orders them to be burnt out of their tents.”—Dow’s Hindostan.

91 The edifices of Chilminar and Balbec are supposed to have been built by the Genii, acting under the orders of Jan ben Jan, who governed the world long before the time of Adam.

92 “A superb camel, ornamented with strings and tufts of small shells.”—Ali Bey.

93 A native of Khorassan, and allured southward by means of the water of a fountain between Shiraz and Ispahan, called the Fountain of Birds, of which it is so fond that it will follow wherever that water is carried.

94 “Some of the camels have bells about their necks, and some about their legs, like those which our carriers put about their fore-horses’ necks, which together with the servants (who belong to the camels, and travel on foot), singing all night, make a pleasant noise, and the journey passes away delightfully.”—Pitt’s Account of the Mahometans.

“The camel-driver follows the camels singing, and sometimes playing upon his pipe; the louder he sings and pipes, the faster the camels go. Nay, they will stand still when he gives over his music.”—Tavernier.

95 “This trumpet is often called, in Abyssinia, nesser cano, which signifies the Note of the Eagle.”—Note of Bruce’s Editor.

96 The two black standards borne before the Caliphs of the House of Abbas were called, allegorically, The Night and The Shadow.—See Gibbon.

97 The Mohometan religion.

98 “The Persians swear by the Tomb of Shad Besade, who is buried at Casbin; and when one desires another to asseverate a matter he will ask him, if he dare swear by the Holy Grave.”—Struy.

99 Mahadi, in a single pilgrimage to Mecca, expended six millions of dinars of gold.

100 The inhabitants of Hejaz or Arabia Petraea, called by an Eastern writer “The People of the Rock.”—Ebn Haukal.

101 “Those horses, called by the Arabians Kochlani, of whom a written genealogy has been kept for 2000 years. They are said to derive their origin from King Solomon’s steeds.”—Niebuhr.

102 “Many of the figures on the blades of their swords are wrought in gold or silver, or in marquetry with small gems.”—Asiat. Misc. v. i.

103 Azab or Saba.

104 “The chiefs of the Uzbek Tartars wear a plume of white heron’s feathers in their turbans.”—Account of Independent Tartary.

105 In the mountains of Nishapour and Tous in (Khorassan) they find turquoises.—Ebn Huukal.

106 The Ghebers or Guebres, those original natives of Persia, who adhered to their ancient faith, the religion of Zoroaster, and who, after the conquest of their country by the Arabs, were either persecuted at home, or forced to become wanderers abroad.

107 “Yezd, the chief residence of those ancient natives who worship the Sun and the Fire, which latter they have carefully kept lighted, without being once extinguished for a moment, about 3000 years, on a mountain near Yezd, called Ater Quedah, signifying the House or Mansion of the Fire. He is reckoned very unfortunate who dies off that mountain.”—Stephen’s Persia.

108 When the weather is hazy, the springs of Naphtha (on an island near Baku) boil up the higher, and the Naphtha often takes fire on the surface of the earth, and runs in a flame into the sea to a distance almost incredible.”—Hanway on the Everlasting Fire at Baku.

109 Savary says of the south wind, which blows in Egypt from February to May, “Sometimes it appears only in the shape of an impetuous whirlwind, which passes rapidly, and is fatal to the traveller, surprised in the middle of the deserts. Torrents of burning sand roll before it, the firmament is enveloped in a thick veil, and the sun appears of the color of blood. Sometimes whole caravans are buried in it.”

110 In the great victory gained by Mahomed at Beder, he was assisted, say the Mussulmans, by three thousand angels led by Gabriel mounted on his horse Hiazum.—See The Koran and its Commentators.

111 The Techir, or cry of the Arabs. “Alla Acbar!” says Ockley, means, “God is most mighty.”

112 The ziraleet is a kind of chorus, which the women of the East sing upon joyful occasions.

113 The Dead Sea, which contains neither animal nor vegetable life.

114 The ancient Oxus.

115 A city of Transoxiana.

116 “You never can cast your eyes on this tree, but you meet there either blossoms or fruit; and as the blossom drops underneath on the ground (which is frequently covered with these purple-colored flowers), others come forth in their stead,” etc.—Nieuhoff.

117 The Demons of the Persian mythology.

118 Carreri mentions the fire-flies in India during the rainy season.—See his Travels.

119 Sennacherib, called by the Orientals King of Moussal.—D’Herbelot.

120 Chosroes. For the description of his Throne or Palace, see Gibbon and D’Herbelot.

There were said to be under this Throne or Palace of Khosrou Parviz a hundred vaults filled with “treasures so immense that some Mahometan writers tell us, their Prophet to encourage his disciples carried them to a rock which at his command opened and gave them a prospect through it of the treasures of Khosrou.”—Universal History.

121 “The crown of Gerashid is cloudy and tarnished before the heron tuft of thy turban.”—From one of the elegies or songs in praise of Ali, written in characters of gold round the gallery of Abbas’s tomb.—See Chardin.

122 The beauty of Ali’s eyes was so remarkable, that whenever the Persians would describe anything as very lovely, they say it is Ayn Hali, or the Eyes of Ali.—Chardin.

123 “Nakshab, the name of a city in Transoxiana, where they say there is a well, in which the appearance of the moon is to be seen night and day.”

124 The Shechinah, called Sakfnat in the Koran.—See Sale’s Note, chap. ii.

125 The parts of the night are made known as well by instruments of music, as by the rounds of the watchmen with cries and small drums.—See Burder’s Oriental Customs, vol. i. p. 119.

126 The Serrapurda, high screens of red cloth, stiffened with cane, used to enclose a considerable space round the royal tents.—Notes on the Bakardanush.

The tents of Princes were generally illuminated. Norden tells us that the tent of the Bey of Girge was distinguished from the other tents by forty lanterns being suspended before it.—See Harmer’s Observations on Job.

127 “From the groves of orange trees at Kauzeroon the bees cull a celebrated honey.—Morier’s Travels.

128 “A custom still subsisting at this day, seems to me to prove that the Egyptians formerly sacrificed a young virgin to the God of the Nile; for they now make a statue of earth in shape of a girl, to which they give the name of the Betrothed Bride, and throw it into the river.”—Savary.

129 That they knew the secret of the Greek fire among the Mussulmans early in the eleventh century, appears from Dow’s account of Mamood I. “When he at Moultan, finding that the country of the Jits was defended by great rivers, he ordered fifteen hundred boats to be built, each of which he armed with six iron spikes, projecting from their prows and sides, to prevent their being boarded by the enemy, who were very expert in that kind of war. When he had launched this fleet, he ordered twenty archers into each boat, and five others with fire-balls, to burn the craft of the Jits, and naphtha to set the whole river on fire.”

130 The Greek fire, which was occasionally lent by the emperors to their allies. “It was,” says Gibbon, “either launched in red-hot balls of stone and iron, or darted in arrows and javelins, twisted round with flax and tow, which had deeply imbibed the imflammable oil.”

131 See Hanway’s Account of the Springs of Naphtha at Baku (which is called by Lieutenant Pottinger Joala Mookee, or, the Flaming Mouth), taking fire and running into the sea. Dr. Cooke, in his Journal, mentions some wells in Circassia, strongly impregnated with this inflammable oil, from which issues boiling water. “Though the weather,” he adds, “was now very cold, the warmth of these wells of hot water produced near them the verdure and flowers of spring.’

132 “At the great festival of fire, called the Sheb Seze, they used to set fire to large bunches of dry combustibles, fastened round wild beasts and birds, which being then let loose, the air and earth appeared one great illumination; and as these terrified creatures naturally fled to the woods for shelter, it is easy to conceive the conflagrations they produced.”—Richardson’s Dissertation.

133 “The righteous shall be given to drink of pure wine, sealed: the seal whereof shall be musk.”—Koran, chap lxxxiii.

134 The Afghans believe each of the numerous solitudes and deserts of their country to be inhabited by a lonely demon, whom they call The Ghoolee Beeabau, or Spirit of the Waste. They often illustrate the wildness of any sequestered tribe, by saying they are wild as the Demon of the Waste.”—Elphinstone’s Caubul.

135 “They have all a great reverence for burial-grounds, which they sometimes call by the poetical name of Cities of the Silent, and which they people with the ghosts of the departed, who sit each at the head of his own grave, invisible to mortal eyes.”—Elphinstone.

The story of the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan being ended, they were now doomed to hear Fadladeen’s criticisms upon it. A series of disappointments and accidents had occurred to this learned Chamberlain during the journey. In the first place, those couriers stationed, as in the reign of Shah Jehan, between Delhi and the Western coast of India, to secure a constant supply of mangoes for the Royal Table, had by some cruel irregularity failed in their duty; and to eat any mangoes but those of Mazagong was of course impossible.1 In the next place, the elephant laden with his fine antique porcelain,2 had, in an unusual fit of liveliness, shattered the whole set to pieces:—an irreparable loss, as many of the vessels were so exquisitely old, as to have been used under the Emperors Yan and Chun, who reigned many ages before the dynasty of Tang. His Koran too, supposed to be the identical copy between the leaves of which Mahomet’s favorite pigeon used to nestle, had been mislaid by his Koran-bearer three whole days; not without much spiritual alarm to Fadladeen who though professing to hold with other loyal and orthodox Mussulmans that salvation could only be found in the Koran was strongly suspected of believing in his heart that it could only be found in his own particular copy of it. When to all these grievances is added the obstinacy of the cooks in putting the pepper of Canara into his dishes instead of the cinnamon of Serendib, we may easily suppose that he came to the task of criticism with at least a sufficient degree of irritability for the purpose.

“In order,” said he, importantly swinging about his chaplet of pearls, “to convey with clearness my opinion of the story this young man has related, it is necessary to take a review of all the stories that have ever——” “My good Fadladeen!” exclaimed the Princess, interrupting him, “we really do not deserve that you should give yourself so much trouble. Your opinion of the poem we have just heard, will I have no doubt be abundantly edifying without any further waste of your valuable erudition.”—“If that be all,” replied the critic,—evidently mortified at not being allowed to show how much he knew about everything but the subject immediately before him—“if that be all that is required the matter is easily despatched.” He then proceeded to analyze the poem, in that strain (so well known to the unfortunate bards of Delhi), whose censures were an infliction from which few recovered and whose very praises were like the honey extracted from the bitter flowers of the aloe. The chief personages of the story were, if he rightly understood them, an ill-favored gentleman with a veil over his face;—a young lady whose reason went and came according as it suited the poet’s convenience to be sensible or otherwise;—and a youth in one of those hideous Bokharian bonnets, who took the aforesaid gentleman in a veil for a Divinity. “From such materials,” said he, “what can be expected?—after rivalling each other in long speeches and absurdities through some thousands of lines as indigestible as the filberts of Berdaa, our friend in the veil jumps into a tub of aquafortis; the young lady dies in a set speech whose only recommendation is that it is her last; and the lover lives on to a good old age for the laudable purpose of seeing her ghost which he at last happily accomplishes, and expires. This you will allow is a fair summary of the story; and if Nasser, the Arabian merchant, told no better, our Holy Prophet (to whom be all honor and glory!) had no need to be jealous of his abilities for story-telling.”

With respect to the style, it was worthy of the matter;—it had not even those politic contrivances of structure which make up for the commonness of the thoughts by the peculiarity of the manner nor that stately poetical phraseology by which sentiments mean in themselves, like the blacksmith’s3 apron converted into a banner, are so easily gilt and embroidered into consequence. Then as to the versification it was, to say no worse of it, execrable: it had neither the copious flow of Ferdosi, the sweetness of Hafez, nor the sententious march of Sadi; but appeared to him in the uneasy heaviness of its movements to have been modelled upon the gait of a very tired dromedary. The licenses too in which it indulged were unpardonable;—for instance this line, and the poem abounded with such;—

Like the faint, exquisite music of a dream.

“What critic that can count,” said Fadladeen, “and has his full complement of fingers to count withal, would tolerate for an instant such syllabic superfluities?”—He here looked round, and discovered that most of his audience were asleep; while the glimmering lamps seemed inclined to follow their example. It became necessary therefore, however painful to himself, to put an end to his valuable animadversions for the present and he accordingly concluded with an air of dignified candor, thus:—

“Notwithstanding the observations which I have thought it my duty to make, it is by no means my wish to discourage the young man:—so far from it indeed that if he will but totally alter his style of writing and thinking I have very little doubt that I shall be vastly pleased with him.”

 

Some days elapsed after this harangue of the Great Chamberlain before Lalla Rookh could venture to ask 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 set 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 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:4—it is only once in many ages a Genius appears whose words, like those on the Written Mountain last for ever:5—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!”6Fadladeen, 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 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 favorite 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 to be Cámalatá by whose rosy blossoms the heaven of Indra is scented.7 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,8 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:—

Paradise and the Peri

One morn a Peri at the gate

Of Eden stood disconsolate;

And as she listened to the Springs

Of Life within like music flowing

And caught the light upon her wings

Thro’ the half-open portal glowing,

She wept to think her recreant race

Should e’er have lost that glorious place!

“How happy,” exclaimed this child of air,

“Are the holy Spirits who wander there

“Mid flowers that never shall fade or fall;

“Tho’ mine are the gardens of earth and sea

“And the stars themselves have flowers for me,

“One blossom of Heaven out-blooms them all!

“Tho’ sunny the Lake of cool Cashmere

“With its plane-tree Isle reflected clear,9

“And sweetly the founts of that Valley fall;

“Tho’ bright are the waters of Sing-su-hay

And the golden floods that thitherward stray,10

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 thro’ endless years

One minute of Heaven is worth them all!”

The glorious Angel who was keeping

The gates of Light beheld her weeping,

And as he nearer drew and listened

To her sad song, a tear-drop glistened

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.11

“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 Pardoned in.”

Rapidly as comets run

To the embraces of the Sun;—

Fleeter than the starry brands

Flung at night from angel hands12

At those dark and daring sprites

Who would climb the empyreal heights,

Down the blue vault the Peri flies,

And lighted earthward by a glance

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 unnumbered rubies burn

Beneath the pillars of Chilminar:13

I know where the Isles of Perfume are14

Many a fathom down in the sea,

To the south of sun-bright Araby;15

I know too where the Genii hid

The jewelled cup of their King Jamshid,16

“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 mused her pinions fanned

The air of that sweet Indian land

Whose air is balm, whose ocean spreads

O’er coral rocks and amber beds,17

Whose mountains pregnant by the beam

Of the warm sun with diamonds teem,

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 pillared shades—

Thy cavern shrines and Idol stones,

Thy Monarch and their thousand Thrones?18

’Tis He of Gazna19, fierce in wrath

He comes and India’s diadems

Lie scattered in his ruinous path.-

His bloodhounds he adorns with gems,

Torn from the violated necks

Of many a young and loved Sultana;20

Maidens within their pure Zenana,

Priests in the very fane he slaughters,

And chokes up with the glittering wrecks

Of golden shrines the sacred waters!

Downward the Peri turns her gaze,

And thro’ the war-field’s bloody haze

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 tho’ pointed well;

The Tyrant lived, the Hero fell!—

Yet marked 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 winged her flight,

“My welcome gift at the Gates of Light.

“Tho’ foul are the drops that oft distil

“On the field of warfare, blood like this

“For Liberty shed so holy is,

“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 bar

“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 Mountains21

Far to the South the Peri lighted

And sleeked 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.22

Thence over Egypt’s palmy groves

Her grots, and sepulchres of Kings,23

The exiled Spirit sighing roves

And now hangs listening to the doves

In warm Rosetta’s vale;24 now loves

To watch the moonlight on the wings

Of the white pelicans that break

The azure calm of Moeris’ Lake.25

’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 gold

Basking in Heaven’s serenest light,

Those groups of lovely date-trees bending

Languidly their leaf-crowned heads,

Like youthful maids, when sleep descending

Warns them to their silken beds,26

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 ruined shrines and towers that seem

The relics of a splendid dream,

Amid whose fairy loneliness

Naught but the lapwing’s cry is heard,—

Naught seen but (when the shadows flitting,

Fast from the moon unsheath its gleam,)

Some purple-winged Sultana sitting27

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 touched by his wing,

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 hyaena stalks28

Throughout the city’s desolate walks29

At midnight and his carnage plies:—

Woe to the half-dead wretch who meets

The glaring of those large blue eyes

Amid the darkness of the streets!

“Poor race of men!” said the pitying Spirit,

“Dearly ye pay for your primal Fall—

“Some flowerets 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

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 moved,

Drew after him the hearts of many;

Yet now, as tho’ he ne’er were loved,

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 thro’ 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

That she whom he for years had known,

And loved and might have called 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 perfumed by many a brand

Of the sweet wood from India’s land,

Were pure as she whose brow they fanned.

But see—who yonder comes by stealth,

This melancholy bower to seek,

Like a young envoy sent by Health

With rosy gifts upon her cheek?

’Tis she—far off, thro’ 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 loosened 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 place

Of Eden’s infant cherubim!

And now he yields—now turns away,

Shuddering as if the venom lay

All in those proffered lips alone—

Those lips that then so fearless grown

Never until that instant came

Near his unasked or without shame.

“Oh! let me only breathe the air.

“The blessed air, that’s breathed 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 knowst, 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 loved bride—

“The one, the chosen one, whose place

“In life or death is by thy side?

“Thinkst 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 grew

“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 warmed a woman’s breast—

“Sleep on, in visions of odor rest

“In balmier airs than ever yet stirred

“The enchanted pile of that lonely bird

“Who sings at the last his own death-lay30

“And in music and perfume dies away!”

Thus saying, from her lips she spread

Unearthly breathings thro’ the place

And shook her sparkling wreath and shed

Such lustre o’er each paly face

That like two lovely saints they seemed,

Upon the eve of doomsday taken

From their dim graves in ordor sleeping;

While that benevolent Peri beamed

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 throbbed her heart with hope elate

The Elysian palm she soon shall win.

For the bright Spirit at the gate

Smiled 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!31

But, ah! even Peris’ hopes are vain—

Again the Fates forbade, again

The immortal barrier closed—“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 bar

“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 roses32

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 looked 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 sunlight falls;—

Gay lizards, glittering on the walls33

Of ruined 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 gleam

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,34 with hum

Of the wild bees of Palestine,35

Banqueting thro’ the flowery vales;

And, Jordan, those sweet banks of thine

And woods so full of nightingales.36

But naught 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,37

Whose lonely columns stand sublime,

Flinging their shadows from on high

Like dials which the Wizard Time

Had raised to count his ages by!

Yet haply there may lie concealed

Beneath those Chambers of the Sun

Some amulet of gems, annealed

In upper fires, some tablet sealed

With the great name of Solomon,

Which spelled by her illumined 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.

Cheered 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,38

That fluttered round the jasmine stems

Like winged flowers or flying gems:—

And near the boy, who tired 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 fount

Impatient fling him down to drink.

Then swift his haggard brow he turned

To the fair child who fearless sat,

Tho’ never yet hath day-beam burned

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;

The ruined maid—the shrine profaned—

Oaths broken—and the threshold stained

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

Softened his spirit) looked and lay,

Watching the rosy infant’s play:—

Tho’ still whene’er his eye by chance

Fell on the boy’s, its lucid glance

Met that unclouded, joyous gaze,

As torches that have burnt all night

Tho’ 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

Kneels39 with his forehead to the south

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 beguiled

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 looked and prayed 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!

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 thro’ the withering airs of June

“Upon Egypt’s land,40 of so healing a power,

“So balmy a virtue, that even in the hour

“That drop descends contagion dies

“And health reanimates earth and skies!—

“Oh, is it not thus, thou man of sin,

“The precious tears of repentance fall?

“Tho’ foul thy fiery plagues within

“One heavenly drop hath dispelled 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.

And hymns of joy proclaim thro’ Heaven

The triumph of a Soul Forgiven!

’Twas when the golden orb had set,

While on their knees they lingered yet,

There fell a light more lovely far

Than ever came from sun or star,

Upon the tear that, warm and meek,

Dewed that repentant sinner’s cheek.

To mortal eye this light might seem

A northern flash or meteor beam—

But well the enraptured 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 past 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,41

“And the fragrant bowers of Amberabad!

“Farewell ye odors of Earth that die

“Passing away like a lover’s sigh;—

“My feast is now of the Tooba Tree42

“Whose scent is the breath of Eternity!

“Farewell, ye vanishing flowers that shone

“In my fairy wreath so bright an’ brief;—

“Oh! what are the brightest that e’er have blown

“To the lote-tree springing by Alla’s throne43

“Whose flowers have a soul in every leaf.

“Joy, joy for ever.—my task is done—

“The Gates are past and Heaven is won!”

1 The celebrity of Mazagong is owing to its mangoes, which are certainly the best I ever tasted. The parent-tree, from which all those of this species have been grafted, is honored during the fruit-season by a guard of sepoys; and, in the reign of Shah Jehan, couriers ware stationed between Delhi and the Mahratta coast, to secure an abundant and fresh supply of mangoes for the royal table.”—Mrs. Graham’s Journal of Residence in India.

2 This old porcelain is found in digging, and “if it is esteemed, it is not because it has acquired any new degree of beauty in the earth, but because it has retained its ancient beauty; and this alone is of great importance in China, where they give large sums for the smallest vessels which were used under the Emperors Yan and Chun, who reigned many ages before the dynasty of Tang, at which time porcelain began to be used by the Emperors” (about the year 442).—Dunn’s Collection of curious Observations, etc.

3 The blacksmith Gao, who successfully resisted the tyrant Zohak, and whose apron became the royal standard of Persia.

4 “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 Fuzel 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.”— Wilks’s 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.”

5 “To the pilgrims to Mount Sinai we must attribute the inscriptions, figures, etc., 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.

6 The Story of Sinbad.

7 “The Cámalatá (called by Linnaeus, Ipomaea) is the most beautiful of its order, both in the color and form of its leaves and flowers; its elegant blossoms are ‘celestial rosy red, Love’s proper hue,’ and have justly procured is the name of Cámalatá, or Love’s creeper.”—Sir W. Jones.

8 “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 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.

9 “Numerous small islands emerge from the Lake of Cashmere. One is called Char Chenaur, from the plane trees upon it.—Foster.

10 “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.

11 “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 Menangeabow, 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.

12 “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 or the heavens.”—Fryer.

13 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.—D’Herbelot, Volney.

14 Diodorus mentions the Isle of Panchai, 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.

15 The Isles of Panchaia.

16 “The cup of Jamshid, discovered, they say, when digging for the foundations of Persepolis.”-Richardson.

17 “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 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 civit are collected upon the lands.”—Travels of Two Mohammedans.

18 “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.

19 “Mahmood of Gazna, or Chizni, who conquered India in the beginning of the 11th century.”—See his History in Dow and Sir J. Malcolm.

20 “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.

21 “The Mountains of the Moon, or the Montes Lunae of antiquity, at the foot of which the Nile is supposed to arise.”—Bruce.

22 “The Nile, which the Abyssinians know by the names of Abey and Alawy or the Giant.”—Asiat. Research. vol. i. p. 387.

23 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.

24 “The orchards of Rosetta are filled with turtle-doves.—Sonnini.

25 Savary mentions the pelicans upon Lake Moeris.

26 “The superb date-tree, whose head languidly reclines, like that of a handsome woman overcome with sleep.”—Dafard el Hadad.

27 “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 part, as well as the brilliancy of its colors, has obtained the title of Sultana,”—Sonnini.

28 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 hyaenas, on the contrary, visited the cemeteries,” etc.

29 “Gondar was full of hyaenas 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 neighboring mountains, transformed by magic, and come down to eat human flesh in the dark in safety.”—Bruce.

30 “In the East, they suppose the Phoenix 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.

31 “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 Chateaubriand’s Description of the Mahometan Paradise, in his “Beauties of Christianity.”

32 Richardson thinks that Syria had its name from Suri, a beautiful and delicate species of rose, for which that country has always been famous;—hence, Suristan, the Land of Roses.

33 “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.

34 “The Syrinx or Pan’s pipes is still a pastoral instrument in Syria.”—Russel.

35 “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.

36 “The River Jordan is on both sides beset with little, thick, and pleasant woods, among which thousands of nightingales warble all together.“—Thevenot.

37 The Temple of the Sun at Balbec.

38 “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.

39 “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 yelinnum ghell, or Come, dear, follow me.”—Aaron Hill’s Travels.

40 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.

41 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.

42 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.

43 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.

“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 overrun by a race of bards as numerous and as shallow as the hundred and twenty thousand Streams of Basra.1 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 licence and ease of the bolder sons of song without any of that grace or vigor which gave a dignity even to negligence;—who like them flung the jereed2 carelessly, but not, like them, to the mark;—“and who,” said he, raising his voice to excite 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 Hospital3 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 commonplaces, 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,4 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.5 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 anything 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 honors 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 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!6 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 to her presence. To have strayed so far into the dangerous labyrinth was wrong, but to linger in it while the clew 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 endeavor 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!

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 chariots7 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 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,8 and then threw them around to be gathered by the populace.

For many days after their departure from Lahore a considerable degree of gloom hung over the whole party. Lalla Rookh, who had intended to make illness her excuse for not admitting the young minstrel, as usual, to the pavilion, soon found that to feign indisposition was unnecessary;— Fadladeen felt the loss of the good road they had hitherto travelled and was very near cursing Jehan–Guire (of blessed memory!) for not having continued his delectable alley of trees9 a least as far as the mountains of Cashmere;—while the Ladies who had nothing now to do all day but to be fanned by peacocks’ feathers and listen to Fadladeen seemed heartily weary of the life they led and in spite of all the Great Chamberlain’s criticisms were so tasteless as to wish for the poet again. One evening as they were proceeding to their place of rest for the night the Princess who for the freer enjoyment of the air had mounted her favorite Arabian palfrey, in passing by a small grove heard the notes of a lute from within its leaves and a voice which she but too well knew singing the following words:—

Tell me not of joys above,

If that world can give no bliss,

Truer, happier than the Love

Which enslaves our souls in this.

Tell me not of Houris’ eyes;—

Far from me their dangerous glow.

If those looks that light the skies

Wound like some that burn below.

Who that feels what Love is here,

All its falsehood—all its pain—

Would, for even Elysium’s sphere,

Risk the fatal dream again?

Who that midst a desert’s heat

Sees the waters fade away

Would not rather die than meet

Streams again as false as they?

The tone of melancholy defiance in which these words were uttered went to Lalla Rookh’s heart;—and as she reluctantly rode on she could not help feeling it to be a sad but still sweet certainty that Feramorz was to the full as enamored and miserable as herself.

The place where they encamped that evening was the first delightful spot they had come to since they left Lahore. On one side of them was a grove full of small Hindoo temples and planted with the most graceful trees of the East, where the tamarind, the cassia, and the silken plantains of Ceylon were mingled in rich contrast with the high fan-like foliage of the Palmyra,—that favorite tree of the luxurious bird that lights up the chambers of its nest with fire-flies.10. In the middle of the lawn where the pavilion stood there was a tank surrounded by small mango-trees on the clear cold waters of which floated multitudes of the beautiful red lotus,11 while at a distance stood the ruins of a strange and awful-looking tower which seemed old enough to have been the temple of some religion no longer known and which spoke the voice of desolation in the midst of all that bloom and loveliness. This singular ruin excited the wonder and conjectures of all. Lalla Rookh guessed in vain, and the all-pretending Fadladeen who had never till this journey been beyond the precincts of Delhi was proceeding most learnedly to show that he knew nothing whatever about the matter, when one of the Ladies suggested that perhaps Feramorz could satisfy their curiosity. They were now approaching his native mountains and this tower might perhaps be a relic of some of those dark superstitions which had prevailed in that country before the light of Islam dawned upon it. The Chamberlain who usually preferred his own ignorance to the best knowledge that any one else could give him was by no means pleased with this officious reference, and the Princess too was about to interpose a faint word of objection, but before either of them could speak a slave was despatched for Feramorz, who in a very few minutes made his appearance before them—looking so pale and unhappy in Lalla Rookh’s eyes that she repented already of her cruelty in having so long excluded him.

That venerable tower he told them was the remains of an ancient Fire–Temple, built by those Ghebers or Persians of the old religion, who many hundred years since had fled hither from the Arab conquerors, preferring liberty and their altars in a foreign land to the alternative of apostasy or persecution in their own. It was impossible, he added, not to feel interested in the many glorious but unsuccessful struggles which had been made by these original natives of Persia to cast off the yoke of their bigoted conquerors. Like their own Fire in the Burning Field at Bakou when suppressed in one place they had but broken out with fresh flame in another; and as a native of Cashmere, of that fair and Holy Valley which had in the same manner become the prey of strangers12 and seen her ancient shrines and native princes swept away before the march of her intolerant invaders he felt a sympathy, he owned, with the sufferings of the persecuted Ghebers which every monument like this before them but tended more powerfully to awaken.

It was the first time that Feramorz had ever ventured upon so much prose before Fadladeen and it may easily be conceived what effect such prose as this must have produced upon that most orthodox and most pagan-hating personage. He sat for some minutes aghast, ejaculating only at intervals, “Bigoted conquerors!—sympathy with Fire-worshippers!”13— while Feramorz happy to take advantage of this almost speechless horror of the Chamberlain proceeded to say that he knew a melancholy story connected with the events of one of those struggles of the brave Fire-worshippers against their Arab masters, which if the evening was not too far advanced he should have much pleasure in being allowed to relate to the Princess. It was impossible for Lalla Rookh to refuse;—he had never before looked half so animated, and when he spoke of the Holy Valley his eyes had sparkled she thought like the talismanic characters on the scimitar of Solomon. Her consent was therefore most readily granted; and while Fadladeen sat in unspeakable dismay, expecting treason and abomination in every line, the poet thus began his story of the Fire-worshippers:

The Fire-worshippers

’Tis moonlight over Oman’s Sea;14

Her banks of pearl and palmy isles

Bask in the night-beam beauteously

And her blue waters sleep in smiles.

’Tis moonlight in Harmozia’s15 walls,

And through her Emir’s porphyry halls

Where some hours since was heard the swell

Of trumpets and the clash of zel16

Bidding the bright-eyed sun farewell;—

The peaceful sun whom better suits

The music of the bulbul’s nest

Or the light touch of lovers’ lutes

To sing him to his golden rest.

All husht—there’s not a breeze in motion;

The shore is silent as the ocean.

If zephyrs come, so light they come.

Nor leaf is stirred nor wave is driven;—

The wind-tower on the Emir’s dome17

Can hardly win a breath from heaven.

Even he, that tyrant Arab, sleeps

Calm, while a nation round him weeps,

While curses load the air he breathes

And falchions from unnumbered sheaths

Are starting to avenge the shame

His race hath brought on Iran’s18name.

Hard, heartless Chief, unmoved alike

Mid eyes that weep and swords that strike;

One of that saintly, murderous brood,

To carnage and the Koran given,

Who think thro’ unbelievers’ blood

Lies their directest path to heaven,—

One who will pause and kneel unshod

In the warm blood his hand hath poured,

To mutter o’er some text of God

Engraven on his reeking sword;19

Nay, who can coolly note the line,

The letter of those words divine,

To which his blade with searching art

Had sunk into its victim’s heart!

Just Alla! what must be thy look

When such a wretch before thee stands

Unblushing, with thy Sacred Book,—

Turning the leaves with bloodstained hands,

And wresting from its page sublime

His creed of lust and hate and crime;—

Even as those bees of Trebizond,

Which from the sunniest flowers that glad

With their pure smile the gardens round,

Draw venom forth that drives men mad.20

Never did fierce Arabia send

A satrap forth more direly great;

Never was Iran doomed to bend

Beneath a yoke of deadlier weight.

Her throne had fallen—her pride was crusht—

Her sons were willing slaves, nor blusht,

In their own land,—no more their own,—

To crouch beneath a stranger’s throne.

Her towers where Mithra once had burned.

To Moslem shrines—oh shame!—were turned,

Where slaves converted by the sword,

Their mean, apostate worship poured,

And curst the faith their sires adored.

Yet has she hearts, mid all this ill,

O’er all this wreck high buoyant still

With hope and vengeance;—hearts that yet—

Like gems, in darkness, issuing rays

They’ve treasured from the sun that’s set,—

Beam all the light of long-lost days!

And swords she hath, nor weak nor slow

To second all such hearts can dare:

As he shall know, well, dearly know.

Who sleeps in moonlight luxury there,

Tranquil as if his spirit lay

Becalmed in Heaven’s approving ray.

Sleep on—for purer eyes than thine

Those waves are husht, those planets shine;

Sleep on and be thy rest unmoved

By the white moonbeam’s dazzling power;—

None but the loving and the loved

Should be awake at this sweet hour.

And see—where high above those rocks

That o’er the deep their shadows fling.

Yon turret stands;—where ebon locks,

As glossy as the heron’s wing

Upon the turban of a king,21

Hang from the lattice, long and wild,—

’Tis she, that Emir’s blooming child,

All truth and tenderness and grace,

Tho’ born of such ungentle race;—

An image of Youth’s radiant Fountain

Springing in a desolate mountain!22

Oh what a pure and sacred thing

Is Beauty curtained from the sight

Of the gross world, illumining

One only mansion with her light!

Unseen by man’s disturbing eye,—

The flower that blooms beneath the sea,

Too deep for sunbeams, doth not lie

Hid in more chaste obscurity.

So, Hinda. have thy face and mind,

Like holy mysteries, lain enshrined.

And oh! what transport for a lover

To lift the veil that shades them o’er!—

Like those who all at once discover

In the lone deep some fairy shore

Where mortal never trod before,

And sleep and wake in scented airs

No lip had ever breathed but theirs.

Beautiful are the maids that glide

On summer-eves thro’ Yemen’s23 dales,

And bright the glancing looks they hide

Behind their litters’ roseate veils;—

And brides as delicate and fair

As the white jasmine flowers they wear,

Hath Yemen in her blissful clime,

Who lulled in cool kiosk or bower,24

Before their mirrors count the time25

And grow still lovelier every hour.

But never yet hath bride or maid

In Araby’s gay Haram smiled.

Whose boasted brightness would not fade

Before Al Hassan’s blooming child.

Light as the angel shapes that bless

An infant’s dream, yet not the less

Rich in all woman’s loveliness;—

With eyes so pure that from their ray

Dark Vice would turn abasht away,

Blinded like serpents when they gaze

Upon the emerald’s virgin blaze;26

Yet filled with all youth’s sweet desires,

Mingling the meek and vestal fires

Of other worlds with all the bliss,

The fond, weak tenderness of this:

A soul too more than half divine,

Where, thro’ some shades of earthly feeling,

Religion’s softened glories shine,

Like light thro’ summer foliage stealing,

Shedding a glow of such mild hue,

So warm and yet so shadowy too,

As makes the very darkness there

More beautiful than light elsewhere.

Such is the maid who at this hour

Hath risen from her restless sleep

And sits alone in that high bower,

Watching the still and shining deep.

Ah! ’twas not thus,—with tearful eyes

And beating heart,—she used to gaze

On the magnificent earth and skies,

In her own land, in happier days.

Why looks she now so anxious down

Among those rocks whose rugged frown

Blackens the mirror of the deep?

Whom waits she all this lonely night?

Too rough the rocks, too bold the steep,

For man to scale that turret’s height!—

So deemed at least her thoughtful sire,

When high, to catch the cool night-air

After the day-beam’s withering fire,27

He built her bower of freshness there,

And had it deckt with costliest skill

And fondly thought it safe as fair:—

Think, reverend dreamer! think so still,

Nor wake to learn what Love can dare;—

Love, all defying Love, who sees

No charm in trophies won with ease;—

Whose rarest, dearest fruits of bliss

Are plucked on Danger’s precipice!

Bolder than they who dare not dive

For pearls but when the sea’s at rest,

Love, in the tempest most alive,

Hath ever held that pearl the best

He finds beneath the stormiest water.

Yes, Araby’s unrivalled daughter,

Tho’ high that tower, that rock-way rude,

There’s one who but to kiss thy cheek

Would climb the untrodden solitude

Of Ararat’s tremendous peak,28

And think its steeps, tho’ dark and dread,

Heaven’s pathways, if to thee they led!

Even now thou seest the flashing spray,

That lights his oar’s impatient way;—

Even now thou hearest the sudden shock

Of his swift bark against the rock,

And stretchest down thy arms of snow

As if to lift him from below!

Like her to whom at dead of night

The bridegroom with his locks of light29

Came in the flush of love and pride

And scaled the terrace of his bride;—

When as she saw him rashly spring,

And midway up in danger cling,

She flung him down her long black hair,

Exclaiming breathless, “There, love, there!”

And scarce did manlier nerve uphold

The hero Zal in that fond hour,

Than wings the youth who, fleet and bold,

Now climbs the rocks to Hinda’s bower.

See-light as up their granite steeps

The rock-goats of Arabia clamber,30

Fearless from crag to crag he leaps,

And now is in the maiden’s chamber.

She loves—but knows not whom she loves,

Nor what his race, nor whence he came;—

Like one who meets in Indian groves

Some beauteous bird without a name;

Brought by the last ambrosial breeze

From isles in the undiscovered seas,

To show his plumage for a day

To wondering eyes and wing away!

Will he thus fly—her nameless lover?

Alla forbid! ’twas by a moon

As fair as this, while singing over

Some ditty to her soft Kanoon,

Alone, at this same witching hour,

She first beheld his radiant eyes

Gleam thro’ the lattice of the bower,

Where nightly now they mix their sighs;

And thought some spirit of the air

(For what could waft a mortal there?)

Was pausing on his moonlight way

To listen to her lonely lay!

This fancy ne’er hath left her mind:

And—tho’, when terror’s swoon had past,

She saw a youth of mortal kind

Before her in obeisance cast,—

Yet often since, when he hath spoken

Strange, awful words,—and gleams have broken

From his dark eyes, too bright to bear,

Oh! she hath feared her soul was given

To some unhallowed child of air,

Some erring spirit cast from heaven,

Like those angelic youths of old

Who burned for maids of mortal mould,

Bewildered left the glorious skies

And lost their heaven for woman’s eyes.

Fond girl! nor fiend nor angel he

Who woos thy young simplicity;

But one of earth’s impassioned sons,

As warm in love, as fierce in ire

As the best heart whose current runs

Full of the Day–God’s living fire.

But quenched to-night that ardor seems,

And pale his cheek and sunk his brow;—

Never before but in her dreams

Had she beheld him pale as now:

And those were dreams of troubled sleep

From which ’twas joy to wake and weep;

Visions that will not be forgot,

But sadden every waking scene

Like warning ghosts that leave the spot

All withered where they once have been.

“How sweetly,” said the trembling maid,

Of her own gentle voice afraid,

So long had they in silence stood

Looking upon that tranquil flood—

“How sweetly does the moonbeam smile

“To-night upon yon leafy isle!

“Oft, in my fancy’s wanderings,

“I’ve wisht that little isle had wings,

“And we within its fairy bowers

“Were wafted off to seas unknown,

“Where not a pulse should beat but ours,

“And we might live, love, die, alone!

“Far from the cruel and the cold,—

“Where the bright eyes of angels only

“Should come around us to behold

“A paradise so pure and lonely.

“Would this be world enough for thee?”—

Playful she turned that he might see

The passing smile her cheek put on;

But when she markt how mournfully

His eye met hers, that smile was gone;

And bursting into heart-felt tears,

“Yes, yes,” she cried, “my hourly fears,

“My dreams have boded all too right—

“We part—for ever part—tonight!

“I knew, I knew it could not last—

“’Twas bright, ’twas heavenly, but ’tis past!

“Oh! ever thus from childhood’s hour

“I’ve seen my fondest hopes decay;

“I never loved a tree or flower,

“But ’twas the first to fade away.

“I never nurst a dear gazelle

“To glad me with its soft black eye

“But when it came to know me well

“And love me it was sure to die!

“Now too—the joy most like divine

“Of all I ever dreamt or knew,

“To see thee, hear thee, call thee mine,—

“Oh misery! must I lose that too?

“Yet go—on peril’s brink we meet;—

“Those frightful rocks—that treacherous sea—

“No, never come again—tho’ sweet,

“Tho’ heaven, it may be death to thee.

“Farewell—and blessings on thy way,

“Where’er thou goest, beloved stranger!

“Better to sit and watch that ray

“And think thee safe, tho’ far away,

“Than have thee near me and in danger!”

“Danger!—oh, tempt me not to boast”—

The youth exclaimed—“thou little know’st

“What he can brave, who, born and nurst

“In Danger’s paths, has dared her worst;

“Upon whose ear the signal-word

“Of strife and death is hourly breaking;

“Who sleeps with head upon the sword

“His fevered hand must grasp in waking.

“Danger!”—

“Say on—thou fearest not then,

“And we may meet—oft meet again?”

“Oh! look not so—beneath the skies

“I now fear nothing but those eyes.

“If aught on earth could charm or force

“My spirit from its destined course,—

“If aught could make this soul forget

“The bond to which its seal is set,

“’Twould be those eyes;—they, only they,

“Could melt that sacred seal away!

“But no—’tis fixt—my awful doom

“Is fixt—on this side of the tomb

“We meet no more;—why, why did Heaven

“Mingle two souls that earth has riven,

“Has rent asunder wide as ours?

“Oh, Arab maid, as soon the Powers

“Of Light and Darkness may combine.

“As I be linkt with thee or thine!

“Thy Father”—

“Holy Alla save

“His gray head from that lightning glance!

“Thou knowest him not—he loves the brave;

“Nor lives there under heaven’s expanse

“One who would prize, would worship thee

“And thy bold spirit more than he.

“Oft when in childhood I have played

“With the bright falchion by his side,

“I’ve heard him swear his lisping maid

“In time should be a warrior’s bride.

“And still whene’er at Haram hours

“I take him cool sherbets and flowers,

“He tells me when in playful mood

“A hero shall my bridegroom be,

“Since maids are best in battle wooed,

“And won with shouts of victory!

“Nay, turn not from me—thou alone

“Art formed to make both hearts thy own.

“Go—join his sacred ranks—thou knowest

“The unholy strife these Persians wage:—

“Good Heaven, that frown!—even now thou glowest

“With more than mortal warrior’s rage.

“Haste to the camp by morning’s light,

“And when that sword is raised in fight,

“Oh still remember, Love and I

“Beneath its shadow trembling lie!

“One victory o’er those Slaves of Fire,

“Those impious Ghebers whom my sire

“Abhors”—

“Hold, hold—thy words are death”—

The stranger cried as wild he flung

His mantle back and showed beneath

The Gheber belt that round him clung.31

“Here, maiden, look—weep—blush to see

“All that thy sire abhors in me!

“Yes—I am of that impious race,

“Those Slaves of Fire who, morn and even,

“Hail their Creator’s dwelling-place

“Among the living lights of heaven:32

“Yes—I am of that outcast few,

“To Iran and to vengeance true,

“Who curse the hour your Arabs came

“To desolate our shrines of flame,

“And swear before God’s burning eye

“To break our country’s chains or die!

“Thy bigot sire,—nay, tremble not,—

“He who gave birth to those dear eyes

“With me is sacred as the spot

“From which our fires of worship rise!

“But know—’twas he I sought that night,

“When from my watch-boat on the sea

“I caught this turret’s glimmering light,

“And up the rude rocks desperately

“Rusht to my prey—thou knowest the rest—

“I climbed the gory vulture’s nest,

“And found a trembling dove within;—

“Thine, thine the victory—thine the sin—

“If Love hath made one thought his own,

“That Vengeance claims first—last—alone!

“Oh? had we never, never met,

“Or could this heart even now forget

“How linkt, how blest we might have been,

“Had fate not frowned so dark between!

“Hadst thou been born a Persian maid,

“In neighboring valleys had we dwelt,

“Thro’ the same fields in childhood played,

“At the same kindling altar knelt,—

“Then, then, while all those nameless ties

“In which the charm of Country lies

“Had round our hearts been hourly spun,

“Till Iran’s cause and thine were one;

“While in thy lute’s awakening sigh

“I heard the voice of days gone by,

“And saw in every smile of thine

“Returning hours of glory shine;—

“While the wronged Spirit of our Land

“Lived, lookt, and spoke her wrongs thro’ thee,—

“God! who could then this sword withstand?

“Its very flash were victory!

“But now—estranged, divorced for ever,

“Far as the grasp of Fate can sever;

“Our only ties what love has wove,—

“In faith, friends, country, sundered wide;

“And then, then only, true to love,

“When false to all that’s dear beside!

“Thy father Ikan’s deadliest foe—

“Thyself, perhaps, even now—but no—

“Hate never looked so lovely yet!

No—sacred to thy soul will be

“The land of him who could forget

“All but that bleeding land for thee.

“When other eyes shall see, unmoved,

“Her widows mourn, her warriors fall,

“Thou’lt think how well one Gheber loved.

“And for his sake thou’lt weep for all!

“But look”—

With sudden start he turned

And pointed to the distant wave

Where lights like charnel meteors burned

Bluely as o’er some seaman’s grave;

And fiery darts at intervals33

Flew up all sparkling from the main

As if each star that nightly falls

Were shooting back to heaven again.

“My signal lights!—I must away—

“Both, both are ruined, if I stay.

“Farewell—sweet life! thou clingest in vain—

“Now, Vengeance, I am thine again!”

Fiercely he broke away, nor stopt,

Nor lookt—but from the lattice dropt

Down mid the pointed crags beneath

As if he fled from love to death.

While pale and mute young Hinda stood,

Nor moved till in the silent flood

A momentary plunge below

Startled her from her trance of woe;—

Shrieking she to the lattice flew,

“I come—I come—if in that tide

“Thou sleepest to-night, I’ll sleep there too

“In death’s cold wedlock by thy side.

“Oh! I would ask no happier bed

“Than the chill wave my love lies under:—

“Sweeter to rest together dead,

“Far sweeter than to live asunder!”

But no—their hour is not yet come—

Again she sees his pinnace fly,

Wafting him fleetly to his home,

Where’er that ill-starred home may lie;

And calm and smooth it seemed to win

Its moonlight way before the wind

As if it bore all peace within

Nor left one breaking heart behind!

The Princess whose heart was sad enough already could have wished that Feramorz had chosen a less melancholy story; as it is only to the happy that tears are a luxury. Her Ladies however were by no means sorry that love was once more the Poet’s theme; for, whenever he spoke of love, they said, his voice was as sweet as if he had chewed the leaves of that enchanted tree, which grows over the tomb of the musician, Tan–Sein.34

Their road all the morning had lain through a very dreary country;— through valleys, covered with a low bushy jungle, where in more than one place the awful signal of the bamboo staff35 with the white flag at its top reminded the traveller that in that very spot the tiger had made some human creature his victim. It was therefore with much pleasure that they arrived at sunset in a safe and lovely glen and encamped under one of those holy trees whose smooth columns and spreading roofs seem to destine them for natural temples of religion. Beneath this spacious shade some pious hands had erected a row of pillars ornamented with the most beautiful porcelain36 which now supplied the use of mirrors to the young maidens as they adjusted their hair in descending from the palankeens. Here while as usual the Princess sat listening anxiously with Fadladeen in one of his loftiest moods of criticism by her side the young Poet leaning against a branch of the tree thus continued his story:—

The morn hath risen clear and calm

And o’er the Green Sea37 palely shines,

Revealing Bahrein’s groves of palm

And lighting Kishma’s amber vines.

Fresh smell the shores of Araby,

While breezes from the Indian sea

Blow round Selama’s38 sainted cape

And curl the shining flood beneath,—

Whose waves are rich with many a grape

And cocoa-nut and flowery wreath

Which pious seamen as they past

Had toward that holy headland cast—

Oblations to the Genii there

For gentle skies and breezes fair!

The nightingale now bends her flight39

From the high trees where all the night

She sung so sweet with none to listen;

And hides her from the morning star

Where thickets of pomegranate glisten

In the clear dawn,—bespangled o’er

With dew whose night-drops would not stain

The best and brightest scimitar40

That ever youthful Sultan wore

On the first morning of his reign.

And see—the Sun himself!—on wings

Of glory up the East he springs.

Angel of Light! who from the time

Those heavens began their march sublime,

Hath first of all the starry choir

Trod in his Maker’s steps of fire!

Where are the days, thou wondrous sphere,

When Iran, like a sun-flower, turned

To meet that eye where’er it burned?—

When from the banks of Bendemeer

To the nut-groves of Samarcand

Thy temples flamed o’er all the land?

Where are they? ask the shades of them

Who, on Cadessia’s41 bloody plains,

Saw fierce invaders pluck the gem

From Iran’s broken diadem,

And bind her ancient faith in chains:—

Ask the poor exile cast alone

On foreign shores, unloved, unknown,

Beyond the Caspian’s Iron Gates,

Or on the snowy Mossian mountains,

Far from his beauteous land of dates,

Her jasmine bowers and sunny fountains:

Yet happier so than if he trod

His own beloved but blighted sod

Beneath a despot stranger’s nod!—

Oh, he would rather houseless roam

Where Freedom and his God may lead,

Than be the sleekest slave at home

That crouches to the conqueror’s creed!

Is Iran’s pride then gone for ever,

Quenched with the flame in Mithra’s caves?

No—she has sons that never—never—

Will stoop to be the Moslem’s slaves

While heaven has light or earth has graves;—

Spirits of fire that brood not long

But flash resentment back for wrong;

And hearts where, slow but deep, the seeds

Of vengeance ripen into deeds,

Till in some treacherous hour of calm

They burst like Zeilan’s giant palm42

Whose buds fly open with a sound

That shakes the pigmy forests round!

Yes, Emir! he, who scaled that tower,

And had he reached thy slumbering breast

Had taught thee in a Gheber’s power

How safe even tyrant heads may rest—

Is one of many, brave as he,

Who loathe thy haughty race and thee;

Who tho’ they knew the strife is vain,

Who tho’ they know the riven chain

Snaps but to enter in the heart

Of him who rends its links apart,

Yet dare the issue,—blest to be

Even for one bleeding moment free

And die in pangs of liberty!

Thou knowest them well—’tis some moons since

Thy turbaned troops and blood-red flags,

Thou satrap of a bigot Prince,

Have swarmed among these Green Sea crags;

Yet here, even here, a sacred band

Ay, in the portal of that land

Thou, Arab, darest to call thy own,

Their spears across thy path have thrown;

Here—ere the winds half winged thee o’er—

Rebellion braved thee from the shore.

Rebellion! foul, dishonoring word,

Whose wrongful blight so oft has stained

The holiest cause that tongue or sword

Of mortal ever lost or gained.

How many a spirit born to bless

Hath sunk beneath that withering name,

Whom but a day’s, an hour’s success

Had wafted to eternal fame!

As exhalations when they burst

From the warm earth if chilled at first,

If checkt in soaring from the plain

Darken to fogs and sink again;—

But if they once triumphant spread

Their wings above the mountain-head,

Become enthroned in upper air,

And turn to sun-bright glories there!

And who is he that wields the might

Of Freedom on the Green Sea brink,

Before whose sabre’s dazzling light43

The eyes of Yemen’s warriors wink?

Who comes embowered in the spears

Of Kerman’s hardy mountaineers?

Those mountaineers that truest, last,

Cling to their country’s ancient rites,

As if that God whose eyelids cast

Their closing gleam on Iran’s heights,

Among her snowy mountains threw

The last light of his worship too!

’Tis Hafed—name of fear, whose sound

Chills like the muttering of a charm!—

Shout but that awful name around,

And palsy shakes the manliest arm.

’Tis Hafed, most accurst and dire

(So rankt by Moslem hate and ire)

Of all the rebel Sons of Fire;

Of whose malign, tremendous power

The Arabs at their mid-watch hour

Such tales of fearful wonder tell

That each affrighted sentinel

Pulls down his cowl upon his eyes,

Lest Hafed in the midst should rise!

A man, they say, of monstrous birth,

A mingled race of flame and earth,

Sprung from those old, enchanted kings44

Who in their fairy helms of yore

A feather from the mystic wings

Of the Simoorgh resistless wore;

And gifted by the Fiends of Fire,

Who groaned to see their shrines expire

With charms that all in vain withstood

Would drown the Koran’s light in blood!

Such were the tales that won belief,

And such the coloring Fancy gave

To a young, warm, and dauntless Chief,—

One who, no more than mortal brave,

Fought for the land his soul adored,

For happy homes and altars free,—

His only talisman, the sword,

His only spell-word, Liberty!

One of that ancient hero line,

Along whose glorious current shine

Names that have sanctified their blood:

As Lebanon’s small mountain-flood

Is rendered holy by the ranks

Of sainted cedars on its banks.45

’Twas not for him to crouch the knee

Tamely to Moslem tyranny;

’Twas not for him whose soul was cast

In the bright mould of ages past,

Whose melancholy spirit fed

With all the glories of the dead

Tho’ framed for Iran’s happiest years.

Was born among her chains and tears!—

’Twas not for him to swell the crowd

Of slavish heads, that shrinking bowed

Before the Moslem as he past

Like shrubs beneath the poison-blast—

No—far he fled—indignant fled

The pageant of his country’s shame;

While every tear her children shed

Fell on his soul like drops of flame;

And as a lover hails the dawn

Of a first smile, so welcomed he

The sparkle of the first sword drawn

For vengeance and for liberty!

But vain was valor—vain the flower

Of Kerman, in that deathful hour,

Against Al Hassan’s whelming power.—

In vain they met him helm to helm

Upon the threshold of that realm

He came in bigot pomp to sway,

And with their corpses blockt his way—

In vain—for every lance they raised

Thousands around the conqueror blazed;

For every arm that lined their shore

Myriads of slaves were wafted o’er,—

A bloody, bold, and countless crowd,

Before whose swarm as fast they bowed

As dates beneath the locust cloud.

There stood—but one short league away

From old Harmozia’s sultry bay—

A rocky mountain o’er the Sea—

Of Oman beetling awfully;46

A last and solitary link

Of those stupendous chains that reach

From the broad Caspian’s reedy brink

Down winding to the Green Sea beach.

Around its base the bare rocks stood

Like naked giants, in the flood

As if to guard the Gulf across;

While on its peak that braved the sky

A ruined Temple towered so high

That oft the sleeping albatross47

Struck the wild ruins with her wing,

And from her cloud-rockt slumbering

Started—to find man’s dwelling there

In her own silent fields of air!

Beneath, terrific caverns gave

Dark welcome to each stormy wave

That dasht like midnight revellers in;—

And such the strange, mysterious din

At times throughout those caverns rolled,—

And such the fearful wonders told

Of restless sprites imprisoned there,

That bold were Moslem who would dare

At twilight hour to steer his skiff

Beneath the Gheber’s lonely cliff.48

On the land side those towers sublime,

That seemed above the grasp of Time,

Were severed from the haunts of men

By a wide, deep, and wizard glen,

So fathomless, so full of gloom,

No eye could pierce the void between:

It seemed a place where Ghouls might come

With their foul banquets from the tomb

And in its caverns feed unseen.

Like distant thunder, from below

The sound of many torrents came,

Too deep for eye or ear to know

If ’twere the sea’s imprisoned flow,

Or floods of ever-restless flame.

For each ravine, each rocky spire

Of that vast mountain stood on fire;49

And tho’ for ever past the days

When God was worshipt in the blaze—

That from its lofty altar shone,—

Tho’ fled the priests, the votaries gone,

Still did the mighty flame burn on,50

Thro’ chance and change, thro’ good and ill,

Like its own God’s eternal will,

Deep, constant, bright, unquenchable!

Thither the vanquisht Hafed led

His little army’s last remains;—

“Welcome, terrific glen!” he said,

“Thy gloom, that Eblis’ self might dread,

“Is Heaven to him who flies from chains!”

O’er a dark, narrow bridge-way known

To him and to his Chiefs alone

They crost the chasm and gained the towers;—

“This home,” he cried, “at least is ours;

“Here we may bleed, unmockt by hymns

“Of Moslem triumph o’er our head;

“Here we may fall nor leave our limbs

“To quiver to the Moslem’s tread.

“Stretched on this rock while vultures’ beaks

“Are whetted on our yet warm cheeks,

“Here—happy that no tyrant’s eye

“Gloats on our torments—we may die!”—

’Twas night when to those towers they came,

And gloomily the fitful flame

That from the ruined altar broke

Glared on his features as he spoke:—

“’Tis o’er—what men could do, we’ve done—

“If Iran will look tamely on

“And see her priests, her warriors driven

“Before a sensual bigot’s nod,

“A wretch who shrines his lusts in heaven

“And makes a pander of his God;

“If her proud sons, her high-born souls,

“Men in whose veins—oh last disgrace!

“The blood of Zal and Rustam51 rolls.—

“If they will court this upstart race

“And turn from Mithra’s ancient ray

“To kneel at shrines of yesterday;

“If they will crouch to Iran’s foes,

“Why, let them—till the land’s despair

“Cries out to Heaven, and bondage grows

“Too vile for even the vile to bear!

“Till shame at last, long hidden, burns

“Their inmost core, and conscience turns

“Each coward tear the slave lets fall

“Back on his heart in drops of gall.

“But here at least are arms unchained

“And souls that thraldom never stained;—

“This spot at least no foot of slave

“Or satrap ever yet profaned,

“And tho’ but few—tho’ fast the wave

“Of life is ebbing from our veins,

“Enough for vengeance still remains.

“As panthers after set of sun

“Rush from the roots of Lebanon

“Across the dark sea-robber’s way,52

“We’ll bound upon our startled prey.

“And when some hearts that proudest swell

“Have felt our falchion’s last farewell,

“When Hope’s expiring throb is o’er

“And even Despair can prompt no more,

“This spot shall be the sacred grave

“Of the last few who vainly brave

“Die for the land they cannot save!”

His Chiefs stood round—each shining blade

Upon the broken altar laid—

And tho’ so wild and desolate

Those courts where once the Mighty sate:

Nor longer on those mouldering towers

Was seen the feast of fruits and flowers

With which of old the Magi fed

The wandering Spirits of their Dead;53

Tho’ neither priest nor rites were there,

Nor charmed leaf of pure pomegranate,54

Nor hymn, nor censer’s fragrant air,

Nor symbol of their worshipt planet;55

Yet the same God that heard their sires

Heard them while on that altar’s fires

They swore the latest, holiest deed

Of the few hearts, still left to bleed,

Should be in Iran’s injured name

To die upon that Mount of Flame—

The last of all her patriot line,

Before her last untrampled Shrine!

Brave, suffering souls! they little knew

How many a tear their injuries drew

From one meek maid, one gentle foe,

Whom love first touched with others’ woe—

Whose life, as free from thought as sin,

Slept like a lake till Love threw in

His talisman and woke the tide

And spread its trembling circles wide.

Once, Emir! thy unheeding child

Mid all this havoc bloomed and smiled,—

Tranquil as on some battle plain

The Persian lily shines and towers56

Before the combat’s reddening stain

Hath fallen upon her golden flowers.

Light-hearted maid, unawed, unmoved,

While Heaven but spared the sire she loved,

Once at thy evening tales of blood

Unlistening and aloof she stood—

And oft when thou hast paced along

Thy Haram halls with furious heat,

Hast thou not curst her cheerful song,

That came across thee, calm and sweet,

Like lutes of angels touched so near

Hell’s confines that the damned can hear!

Far other feelings Love hath brought—

Her soul all flame, her brow all sadness,

She now has but the one dear thought,

And thinks that o’er, almost to madness!

Oft doth her sinking heart recall

His words—“for my sake weep for all;”

And bitterly as day on day

Of rebel carnage fast succeeds,

She weeps a lover snatched away

In every Gheber wretch that bleeds.

There’s not a sabre meets her eye

But with his life-blood seems to swim;

There’s not an arrow wings the sky

But fancy turns its point to him.

No more she brings with footsteps light

Al Hassan’s falchion for the fight;

And—had he lookt with clearer sight,

Had not the mists that ever rise

From a foul spirit dimmed his eyes—

He would have markt her shuddering frame,

When from the field of blood he came,

The faltering speech—the look estranged—

Voice, step and life and beauty changed—

He would have markt all this, and known

Such change is wrought by Love alone!

Ah! not the Love that should have blest

So young, so innocent a breast;

Not the pure, open, prosperous Love,

That, pledged on earth and sealed above,

Grows in the world’s approving eyes,

In friendship’s smile and home’s caress,

Collecting all the heart’s sweet ties

Into one knot of happiness!

No, Hinda, no,—thy fatal flame

Is nurst in silence, sorrow, shame;—

A passion without hope or pleasure,

In thy soul’s darkness buried deep,

It lies like some ill-gotten treasure,—

Some idol without shrine or name,

O’er which its pale-eyed votaries keep

Unholy watch while others sleep.

Seven nights have darkened Oman’s sea,

Since last beneath the moonlight ray

She saw his light oar rapidly

Hurry her Gheber’s bark away,—

And still she goes at midnight hour

To weep alone in that high bower

And watch and look along the deep

For him whose smiles first made her weep;—

But watching, weeping, all was vain,

She never saw his bark again.

The owlet’s solitary cry,

The night-hawk flitting darkly by,

And oft the hateful carrion bird,

Heavily flapping his clogged wing,

Which reeked with that day’s banqueting—

Was all she saw, was all she heard.

’Tis the eighth morn—Al Hassan’s brow

Is brightened with unusual joy—

What mighty mischief glads him now,

Who never smiles but to destroy?

The sparkle upon Herkend’s Sea,

When tost at midnight furiously,57

Tells not of wreck and ruin nigh,

More surely than that smiling eye!

“Up, daughter, up—the Kerna’s58 breath

“Has blown a blast would waken death,

“And yet thou sleepest—up, child, and see

“This blessed day for heaven and me,

“A day more rich in Pagan blood

“Than ever flasht o’er Oman’s flood.

“Before another dawn shall shine,

“His head—heart—limbs—will all be mine;

“This very night his blood shall steep

“These hands all over ere I sleep!”—

His blood!” she faintly screamed—her mind

Still singling one from all mankind—

“Yes—spite of his ravines and towers,

Hafed, my child, this night is ours.

“Thanks to all-conquering treachery,

“Without whose aid the links accurst,

“That bind these impious slaves, would be

“Too strong for Alla’s self to burst!

“That rebel fiend whose blade has spread

“My path with piles of Moslem dead,

“Whose baffling spells had almost driven

“Back from their course the Swords of Heaven,

“This night with all his band shall know

“How deep an Arab’s steel can go,

“When God and Vengeance speed the blow.

“And—Prophet! by that holy wreath

“Thou worest on Ohod’s field of death,59

“I swear, for every sob that parts

“In anguish from these heathen hearts,

“A gem from Persia’s plundered mines

“Shall glitter on thy shrine of Shrines.

“But, ha!—she sinks—that look so wild—

“Those livid lips—my child, my child,

“This life of blood befits not thee,

“And thou must back to Araby.

“Ne’er had I riskt thy timid sex

“In scenes that man himself might dread,

“Had I not hoped our every tread

“Would be on prostrate Persian necks—

“Curst race, they offer swords instead!

“But cheer thee, maid,—the wind that now

“Is blowing o’er thy feverish brow

“To-day shall waft thee from the shore;

“And ere a drop of this night’s gore

“Have time to chill in yonder towers,

“Thou’lt see thy own sweet Arab bowers!”

His bloody boast was all too true;

There lurkt one wretch among the few

Whom Hafed’s eagle eye could count

Around him on that Fiery Mount,—

One miscreant who for gold betrayed

The pathway thro’ the valley’s shade

To those high towers where Freedom stood

In her last hold of flame and blood.

Left on the field last dreadful night,

When sallying from their sacred height

The Ghebers fought hope’s farewell fight,

He lay—but died not with the brave;

That sun which should have gilt his grave

Saw him a traitor and a slave;—

And while the few who thence returned

To their high rocky fortress mourned

For him among the matchless dead

They left behind on glory’s bed,

He lived, and in the face of morn

Laught them and Faith and

Heaven to scorn.

Oh for a tongue to curse the slave

Whose treason like a deadly blight

Comes o’er the councils of the brave

And blasts them in their hour of might!

May Life’s unblessed cup for him

Be drugged with treacheries to the brim.—

With hopes that but allure to fly,

With joys that vanish while he sips,

Like Dead–Sea fruits that tempt the eye,

But turn to ashes on the lips!60

His country’s curse, his children’s shame,

Outcast of virtue, peace and fame,

May he at last with lips of flame

On the parched desert thirsting die,—

While lakes that shone in mockery nigh,61

Are fading off, untouched, untasted,

Like the once glorious hopes he blasted!

And when from earth his spirit flies,

Just Prophet, let the damned-one dwell

Full in the sight of Paradise

Beholding heaven and feeling hell!

Lalla Rookh had the night before been visited by a dream which in spite of the impending fate of poor Hafed made her heart more than usually cheerful during the morning and gave her cheeks all the freshened animation of a flower that the Bidmusk had just passed over.62 She fancied that she was sailing on that Eastern Ocean where the sea-gypsies who live for ever on the water63 enjoy a perpetual summer in wandering from isle to isle when she saw a small gilded bark approaching her. It was like one of those boats which the Maldivian islanders send adrift, at the mercy of winds and waves, loaded with perfumes, flowers, and odoriferous wood, as an offering to the Spirit whom they call King of the Sea. At first, this little bark appeared to be empty but on coming nearer—

She had proceeded thus far in relating the dream to her Ladies, when Feramorz appeared at the door of the pavilion. In his presence of course everything else was forgotten and the continuance of the story was instantly requested by all. Fresh wood of aloes was set to burn in the cassolets;—the violet sherbets64 were hastily handed round, and after a short prelude on his lute in the pathetic measure of Nava,65 which is always used to express the lamentations of absent lovers, the Poet thus continued:—

The day is lowering—stilly black

Sleeps the grim wave, while heaven’s rack,

Disperst and wild, ’twixt earth and sky

Hangs like a shattered canopy.

There’s not a cloud in that blue plain

But tells of storm to come or past;—

Here flying loosely as the mane

Of a young war-horse in the blast;—

There rolled in masses dark and swelling,

As proud to be the thunder’s dwelling!

While some already burst and riven

Seen melting down the verge of heaven;

As tho’ the infant storm had rent

The mighty womb that gave him birth,

And having swept the firmament

Was now in fierce career for earth.

On earth ’twas yet all calm around,

A pulseless silence, dread, profound,

More awful than the tempest’s sound.

The diver steered for Ormus’ bowers,

And moored his skiff till calmer hours;

The sea-birds with portentous screech

Flew fast to land;—upon the beach

The pilot oft had paused, with glance

Turned upward to that wild expanse;—

And all was boding, drear and dark

As her own soul when Hinda’s bark

Went slowly from the Persian shore.—

No music timed her parting oar,66

Nor friends upon the lessening strand

Lingering to wave the unseen hand

Or speak the farewell, heard no more;—

But lone, unheeded, from the bay

The vessel takes its mournful way,

Like some ill-destined bark that steers

In silence thro’ the Gate of Tears.67

And where was stern Al Hassan then?

Could not that saintly scourge of men

From bloodshed and devotion spare

One minute for a farewell there?

No—close within in changeful fits

Of cursing and of prayer he sits

In savage loneliness to brood

Upon the coming night of blood,—

With that keen, second-scent of death,

By which the vulture snuffs his food

In the still warm and living breath!68

While o’er the wave his weeping daughter

Is wafted from these scenes of slaughter,—

As a young bird of Babylon,69

Let loose to tell of victory won,

Flies home, with wing, ah! not unstained

By the red hands that held her chained.

And does the long-left home she seeks

Light up no gladness on her cheeks?

The flowers she nurst—the well-known groves,

Where oft in dreams her spirit roves—

Once more to see her dear gazelles

Come bounding with their silver bells;

Her birds’ new plumage to behold

And the gay, gleaming fishes count,

She left all filleted with gold

Shooting around their jasper fount;70

Her little garden mosque to see,

And once again, at evening hour,

To tell her ruby rosary

In her own sweet acacia bower.—

Can these delights that wait her now

Call up no sunshine on her brow?

No,—silent, from her train apart,—

As if even now she felt at heart

The chill of her approaching doom,—

She sits, all lovely in her gloom

As a pale Angel of the Grave;

And o’er the wide, tempestuous wave

Looks with a shudder to those towers

Where in a few short awful hours

Blood, blood, in streaming tides shall run,

Foul incense for tomorrow’s sun!

“Where art thou, glorious stranger! thou,

“So loved, so lost, where art thou now?

“Foe—Gheber—infidel—whate’er

“The unhallowed name thou’rt doomed to bear,

“Still glorious—still to this fond heart

“Dear as its blood, whate’er thou art!

“Yes—Alla, dreadful Alla! yes—

“If there be wrong, be crime in this,

“Let the black waves that round us roll,

“Whelm me this instant ere my soul

“Forgetting faith—home—father—all

“Before its earthly idol fall,

“Nor worship even Thyself above him—

“For, oh, so wildly do I love him,

“Thy Paradise itself were dim

“And joyless, if not shared with him!”

Her hands were claspt—her eyes upturned,

Dropping their tears like moonlight rain;

And, tho’ her lip, fond raver! burned

With words of passion, bold, profane.

Yet was there light around her brow,

A holiness in those dark eyes,

Which showed,—tho’ wandering earthward now,—

Her spirit’s home was in the skies.

Yes—for a spirit pure as hers

Is always pure, even while it errs;

As sunshine broken in the rill

Tho’ turned astray is sunshine still!

So wholly had her mind forgot

All thoughts but one she heeded not

The rising storm—the wave that cast

A moment’s midnight as it past—

Nor heard the frequent shout, the tread

Of gathering tumult o’er her head—

Clasht swords and tongues that seemed to vie

With the rude riot of the sky.—

But, hark!—that war-whoop on the deck—

That crash as if each engine there,

Mast, sails and all, were gone to wreck,

Mid yells and stampings of despair!

Merciful Heaven! what can it be?

’Tis not the storm, tho’ fearfully

The ship has shuddered as she rode

O’er mountain-waves—“Forgive me, God!

“Forgive me”—shrieked the maid and knelt,

Trembling all over—for she felt

As if her judgment hour was near;

While crouching round half dead with fear,

Her handmaids clung, nor breathed nor stirred—

When, hark!—a second crash—a third—

And now as if a bolt of thunder

Had riven the laboring planks asunder,

The deck falls in-what horrors then!

Blood, waves and tackle, swords and men

Come mixt together thro’ the chasm,—

Some wretches in their dying spasm

Still fighting on—and some that call

“For God and Iran!” as they fall!

Whose was the hand that turned away

The perils of the infuriate fray,

And snatcht her breathless from beneath

This wilderment of wreck and death?

She knew not—for a faintness came

Chill o’er her and her sinking frame

Amid the ruins of that hour

Lay like a pale and scorched flower

Beneath the red volcano’s shower.

But, oh! the sights and sounds of dread

That shockt her ere her senses fled!

The yawning deck—the crowd that strove

Upon the tottering planks above—

The sail whose fragments, shivering o’er

The stragglers’ heads all dasht with gore

Fluttered like bloody flags—the clash

Of sabres and the lightning’s flash

Upon their blades, high tost about

Like meteor brands71—as if throughout

The elements one fury ran,

One general rage that left a doubt

Which was the fiercer, Heaven or Man!

Once too—but no—it could not be-

’Twas fancy all—yet once she thought,

While yet her fading eyes could see

High on the ruined deck she caught

A glimpse of that unearthly form,

That glory of her soul,—even then,

Amid the whirl of wreck and storm,

Shining above his fellow-men,

As on some black and troublous night

The Star of Egypt,72 whose proud light

Never hath beamed on those who rest

In the White Islands of the West,

Burns thro’ the storm with looks of flame

That put Heaven’s cloudier eyes to shame.

But no—’twas but the minute’s dream—

A fantasy—and ere the scream

Had half-way past her pallid lips,

A death-like swoon, a chill eclipse

Of soul and sense its darkness spread

Around her and she sunk as dead.

How calm, how beautiful comes on

The stilly hour when storms are gone,

When warring winds have died away,

And clouds beneath the glancing ray

Melt off and leave the land and sea

Sleeping in bright tranquillity,—

Fresh as if Day again were born,

Again upon the lap of Morn!—

When the light blossoms rudely torn

And scattered at the whirlwind’s will,

Hang floating in the pure air still,

Filling it all with precious balm,

In gratitude for this sweet calm;—

And every drop the thundershowers

Have left upon the grass and flowers

Sparkles, as ’twere that lightning-gem73

Whose liquid flame is born of them!

When, ‘stead of one unchanging breeze,

There blow a thousand gentle airs

And each a different perfume bears,—

As if the loveliest plants and trees

Had vassal breezes of their own

To watch and wait on them alone,

And waft no other breath than theirs:

When the blue waters rise and fall,

In sleepy sunshine mantling all;

And even that swell the tempest leaves

Is like the full and silent heaves

Of lovers’ hearts when newly blest,

Too newly to be quite at rest.

Such was the golden hour that broke

Upon the world when Hinda woke

From her long trance and heard around

No motion but the water’s sound

Rippling against the vessel’s side,

As slow it mounted o’er the tide.—

But where is she?—her eyes are dark,

Are wilder still—is this the bark,

The same, that from Harmozia’s bay

Bore her at morn—whose bloody way

The sea-dog trackt?—no—strange and new

Is all that meets her wondering view.

Upon a galliot’s deck she lies,

Beneath no rich pavilion’s shade,—

No plumes to fan her sleeping eyes,

Nor jasmine on her pillow laid.

But the rude litter roughly spread

With war-cloaks is her homely bed,

And shawl and sash on javelins hung

For awning o’er her head are flung.

Shuddering she lookt around—there lay

A group of warriors in the sun,

Resting their limbs, as for that day

Their ministry of death were done.

Some gazing on the drowsy sea

Lost in unconscious revery;

And some who seemed but ill to brook

That sluggish calm with many a look

To the slack sail impatient cast,

As loose it bagged around the mast.

Blest Alla! who shall save her now?

There’s not in all that warrior band

One Arab sword, one turbaned brow

From her own Faithful Moslem land.

Their garb—the leathern belt that wraps

Each yellow vest74—that rebel hue—

The Tartar fleece upon their caps75

Yes—yes—her fears are all too true,

And Heaven hath in this dreadful hour

Abandoned her to Hafed’s power;—

Hafed, the Gheber!—at the thought

Her very heart’s blood chills within;

He whom her soul was hourly taught

To loathe as some foul fiend of sin,

Some minister whom Hell had sent

To spread its blast where’er he went

And fling as o’er our earth he trod

His shadow betwixt man and God!

And she is now his captive,—thrown

In his fierce hands, alive, alone;

His the infuriate band she sees,

All infidels—all enemies!

What was the daring hope that then

Crost her like lightning, as again

With boldness that despair had lent

She darted tho’ that armed crowd

A look so searching, so intent,

That even the sternest warrior bowed

Abasht, when he her glances caught,

As if he guessed whose form they sought.

But no—she sees him not—’tis gone,

The vision that before her shone

Thro’ all the maze of blood and storm,

Is fled—’twas but a phantom form—

One of those passing, rainbow dreams,

Half light, half shade, which Fancy’s beams

Paint on the fleeting mists that roll

In trance or slumber round the soul.

But now the bark with livelier bound

Scales the blue wave—the crew’s in motion.

The oars are out and with light sound

Break the bright mirror of the ocean,

Scattering its brilliant fragments round.

And now she sees—with horror sees,

Their course is toward that mountain-hold,—

Those towers that make her life-blood freeze,

Where Mecca’s godless enemies

Lie like beleaguered scorpions rolled

In their last deadly, venomous fold!

Amid the illumined land and flood

Sunless that mighty mountain stood;

Save where above its awful head,

There shone a flaming cloud, blood-red,

As ’twere the flag of destiny

Hung out to mark where death would be!

Had her bewildered mind the power

Of thought in this terrific hour,

She well might marvel where or how

Man’s foot could scale that mountain’s brow,

Since ne’er had Arab heard or known

Of path but thro’ the glen alone.—

But every thought was lost in fear,

When, as their bounding bark drew near

The craggy base, she felt the waves

Hurry them toward those dismal caves

That from the Deep in windings pass

Beneath that Mount’s volcanic mass;—

And loud a voice on deck commands

To lower the mast and light the brands!—

Instantly o’er the dashing tide

Within a cavern’s mouth they glide,

Gloomy as that eternal Porch

Thro’ which departed spirits go:—

Not even the flare of brand and torch

Its flickering light could further throw

Than the thick flood that boiled below.

Silent they floated—as if each

Sat breathless, and too awed for speech

In that dark chasm where even sound

Seemed dark,—so sullenly around

The goblin echoes of the cave

Muttered it o’er the long black wave

As ’twere some secret of the grave!

But soft—they pause—the current turns

Beneath them from its onward track;—

Some mighty, unseen barrier spurns

The vexed tide all foaming back,

And scarce the oar’s redoubled force

Can stem the eddy’s whirling course;

When, hark!—some desperate foot has sprung

Among the rocks—the chain is flung—

The oars are up—the grapple clings,

And the tost bark in moorings swings.

Just then, a day-beam thro’ the shade

Broke tremulous—but ere the maid

Can see from whence the brightness steals,

Upon her brow she shuddering feels

A viewless hand that promptly ties

A bandage round her burning eyes;

While the rude litter where she lies,

Uplifted by the warrior throng,

O’er the steep rocks is borne along.

Blest power of sunshine!—genial Day,

What balm, what life is in thy ray!

To feel thee is such real bliss,

That had the world no joy but this

To sit in sunshine calm and sweet.—

It were a world too exquisite

For man to leave it for the gloom,

The deep, cold shadow of the tomb.

Even Hinda, tho’ she saw not where

Or whither wound the perilous road,

Yet knew by that awakening air,

Which suddenly around her glowed,

That they had risen from the darkness there,

And breathed the sunny world again!

But soon this balmy freshness fled—

For now the steepy labyrinth led

Thro’ damp and gloom—mid crash of boughs,

And fall of loosened crags that rouse

The leopard from his hungry sleep,

Who starting thinks each crag a prey,

And long is heard from steep to steep

Chasing them down their thundering way!

The jackal’s cry—the distant moan

Of the hyena, fierce and lone—

And that eternal saddening sound

Of torrents in the glen beneath,

As ’twere the ever-dark Profound

That rolls beneath the Bridge of Death!

All, all is fearful—even to see,

To gaze on those terrific things

She now but blindly hears, would be

Relief to her imaginings;

Since never yet was shape so dread,

But Fancy thus in darkness thrown

And by such sounds of horror fed

Could frame more dreadful of her own.

But does she dream? has Fear again

Perplext the workings of her brain,

Or did a voice, all music, then

Come from the gloom, low whispering near—

“Tremble not, love, thy Gheber’s here?”

She does not dream—all sense, all ear,

She drinks the words, “Thy Gheber’s here.”

’Twas his own voice—she could not err—

Throughout the breathing world’s extent

There was but one such voice for her,

So kind, so soft, so eloquent!

Oh, sooner shall the rose of May

Mistake her own sweet nightingale,

And to some meaner minstrel’s lay

Open her bosom’s glowing veil,76

Than Love shall ever doubt a tone,

A breath of the beloved one!

Though blest mid all her ills to think

She has that one beloved near,

Whose smile tho’ met on ruin’s brink

Hath power to make even ruin dear,—

Yet soon this gleam of rapture crost

By fears for him is chilled and lost.

How shall the ruthless Hafed brook

That one of Gheber blood should look,

With aught but curses in his eye,

On her—a maid of Araby

A Moslem maid—the child of him,

Whose bloody banners’ dire success

Hath left their altars cold and dim,

And their fair land a wilderness!

And worse than all that night of blood

Which comes so fast—Oh! who shall stay

The sword, that once hath tasted food

Of Persian hearts or turn its way?

What arm shall then the victim cover,

Or from her father shield her lover?

“Save him, my God!” she inly cries—

“Save him this night—and if thine eyes

“Have ever welcomed with delight

“The sinner’s tears, the sacrifice

“Of sinners’ hearts—guard him this night,

“And here before thy throne I swear

“From my heart’s inmost core to tear

“Love, hope, remembrance, tho’ they be

“Linkt with each quivering life-string there,

“And give it bleeding all to Thee!

“Let him but live,—the burning tear,

“The sighs, so sinful, yet so dear,

“Which have been all too much his own,

“Shall from this hour be Heaven’s alone.

“Youth past in penitence and age

“In long and painful pilgrimage

“Shall leave no traces of the flame

“That wastes me now—nor shall his name

“E’er bless my lips but when I pray

“For his dear spirit, that away

“Casting from its angelic ray

“The eclipse of earth, he too may shine

“Redeemed, all glorious and all Thine!

“Think—think what victory to win

“One radiant soul like his from sin,

“One wandering star of virtue back

“To its own native, heavenward track!

“Let him but live, and both are Thine,

“Together Thine—for blest or crost,

“Living or dead, his doom is mine,

“And if he perish, both are lost!”

The next evening Lalla Rookh was entreated by her Ladies to continue the relation of her wonderful dream; but the fearful interest that hung round the fate of Hinda and her lover had completely removed every trace of it from her mind;—much to the disappointment of a fair seer or two in her train, who prided themselves on their skill in interpreting visions, and who had already remarked, as an unlucky omen, that the Princess, on the very morning after the dream, had worn a silk dyed with the blossoms of the sorrowful tree, Nilica.77

Fadladeen, whose indignation had more than once broken out during the recital of some parts of this heterodox poem, seemed at length to have made up his mind to the infliction; and took his seat this evening with all the patience of a martyr while the Poet resumed his profane and seditious story as follows:—

To tearless eyes and hearts at ease

The leafy shores and sun-bright seas

That lay beneath that mountain’s height

Had been a fair enchanting sight.

’Twas one of those ambrosial eyes

A day of storm so often leaves

At its calm setting—when the West

Opens her golden bowers of rest,

And a moist radiance from the skies

Shoots trembling down, as from the eyes

Of some meek penitent whose last

Bright hours atone for dark ones past,

And whose sweet tears o’er wrong forgiven

Shine as they fall with light from heaven!

’Twas stillness all—the winds that late

Had rushed through Kerman’s almond groves,

And shaken from her bowers of date

That cooling feast the traveller loves.78

Now lulled to languor scarcely curl

The Green Sea wave whose waters gleam

Limpid as if her mines of pearl

Were melted all to form the stream:

And her fair islets small and bright

With their green shores reflected there

Look like those Peri isles of light

That hang by spell-work in the air

But vainly did those glories burst

On Hinda’s dazzled eyes, when first

The bandage from her brow was taken,

And, pale and awed as those who waken

In their dark tombs—when, scowling near,

The Searchers of the Grave79 appear.—

She shuddering turned to read her fate

In the fierce eyes that flasht around;

And saw those towers all desolate,

That o’er her head terrific frowned,

As if defying even the smile

Of that soft heaven to gild their pile.

In vain with mingled hope and fear,

She looks for him whose voice so dear

Had come, like music, to her ear,—

Strange, mocking dream! again ’tis fled.

And oh, the shoots, the pangs of dread

That thro’ her inmost bosom run,

When voices from without proclaim

Hafed, the Chief”—and, one by one,

The warriors shout that fearful name!

He comes—the rock resounds his tread—

How shall she dare to lift her head

Or meet those eyes whose scorching glare

Not Yemen’s boldest sons can bear?

In whose red beam, the Moslem tells,

Such rank and deadly lustre dwells

As in those hellish fires that light

The mandrake’s charnel leaves at night.80

How shall she bear that voice’s tone,

At whose loud battle-cry alone

Whole squadrons oft in panic ran,

Scattered like some vast caravan,

When stretched at evening round the well

They hear the thirsting tiger’s yell.

Breathless she stands with eyes cast down

Shrinking beneath the fiery frown

Which, fancy tells her, from that brow

Is flashing o’er her fiercely now:

And shuddering as she hears the tread

Of his retiring warrior band.—

Never was pause full of dread;

Till Hafed with a trembling hand

Took hers and leaning o’er her said,

Hinda;”—that word was all he spoke.

And ’twas enough—the shriek that broke

From her full bosom told the rest.—

Panting with terror, joy, surprise,

The maid but lifts her wandering eyes,

To hide them on her Gheber’s breast!

’Tis he, ’tis he—the man of blood,

The fellest of the Fire-fiend’s brood,

Hafed, the demon of the fight,

Whose voice unnerves, whose glances blight,—

Is her own loved Gheber, mild

And glorious as when first he smiled

In her lone tower and left such beams

Of his pure eye to light her dreams,

That she believed her bower had given

Rest to some wanderer from heaven!

Moments there are, and this was one,

Snatched like a minute’s gleam of sun

Amid the black Simoom’s eclipse—

Or like those verdant spots that bloom

Around the crater’s burning lips.

Sweetening the very edge of doom!

The past, the future—all that Fate

Can bring of dark or desperate

Around such hours but makes them cast

Intenser radiance while they last!

Even he, this youth—tho’ dimmed and gone

Each Star of Hope that cheered him on—

His glories lost—his cause betrayed—

Iran, his dear-loved country, made

A land of carcasses and slaves,

One dreary waste of chains and graves!

Himself but lingering, dead at heart,

To see the last, long struggling breath

Of Liberty’s great soul depart,

Then lay him down and share her death—

Even he so sunk in wretchedness

With doom still darker gathering o’er him,

Yet, in this moment’s pure caress,

In the mild eyes that shone before him,

Beaming that blest assurance worth

All other transports known on earth.

That he was loved-well, warmly loved—

Oh! in this precious hour he proved

How deep, how thorough-felt the glow

Of rapture kindling out of woe;—

How exquisite one single drop

Of bliss thus sparkling to the top

Of misery’s cup—how keenly quaft,

Tho’ death must follow on the draught!

She too while gazing on those eyes

That sink into her soul so deep,

Forgets all fears, all miseries,

Or feels them like the wretch in sleep,

Whom fancy cheats into a smile.

Who dreams of joy and sobs the while!

The mighty Ruins where they stood

Upon the mount’s high, rocky verge

Lay open towards the ocean flood,

Where lightly o’er the illumined surge

Many a fair bark that, all the day,

Had lurkt in sheltering creek or bay

Now bounded on and gave their sails,

Yet dripping to the evening gales;

Like eagles when the storm is done,

Spreading their wet wings in the sun.

The beauteous clouds, tho’ daylight’s Star

Had sunk behind the hills of Lar,

Were still with lingering glories bright.—

As if to grace the gorgeous West

The Spirit of departing Light

That eve had left his sunny vest

Behind him ere he winged his flight.

Never was scene so formed for love!

Beneath them waves of crystal move

In silent swell—Heaven glows above

And their pure hearts, to transport given,

Swell like the wave and glow like heaven.

But ah! too soon that dream is past—

Again, again her fear returns;—

Night, dreadful night, is gathering fast,

More faintly the horizon burns,

And every rosy tint that lay

On the smooth sea hath died away

Hastily to the darkening skies

A glance she casts—then wildly cries

At night, he said—and look, ’tis near—

“Fly, fly—if yet thou lovest me, fly—

“Soon will his murderous band be here.

“And I shall see thee bleed and die.—

“Hush! heardest thou not the tramp of men

“Sounding from yonder fearful glen?—

“Perhaps, even now they climb the wood—

“Fly, fly—tho’ still the West is bright,

“He’ll come—oh! yes—he wants thy blood—

“I know him—he’ll not wait for night!”

In terrors even to agony

She clings around the wondering Chief;—

“Alas, poor wildered maid! to me

“Thou owest this raving trance of grief.

“Lost as I am, naught ever grew

“Beneath my shade but perisht too—

“My doom is like the Dead Sea air,

“And nothing lives that enters there!

“Why were our barks together driven

“Beneath this morning’s furious heaven?

“Why when I saw the prize that chance

“Had thrown into my desperate arms,—

“When casting but a single glance

“Upon thy pale and prostrate charms,

“I vowed (tho’ watching viewless o’er

“Thy safety thro’ that hour’s alarms)

“To meet the unmanning sight no more—

“Why have I broke that heart-wrung vow?

“Why weakly, madly met thee now?

“Start not—that noise is but the shock

“Of torrents thro’ yon valley hurled—

“Dread nothing here—upon this rock

“We stand above the jarring world,

“Alike beyond its hope—its dread—

“In gloomy safety like the Dead!

“Or could even earth and hell unite

“In league to storm this Sacred Height,

“Fear nothing thou—myself, tonight,

“And each o’erlooking star that dwells

“Near God will be thy sentinels;—

“And ere tomorrow’s dawn shall glow,

“Back to thy sire”—

“To-morrow!—no”—

The maiden screamed—“Thou’lt never see

“To-morrow’s sun—death, death will be

“The night-cry thro’ each reeking tower,

“Unless we fly, ay, fly this hour!

“Thou art betrayed—some wretch who knew

“That dreadful glen’s mysterious clew—

“Nay, doubt not—by yon stars, ’tis true—

“Hath sold thee to my vengeful sire;

“This morning, with that smile so dire

“He wears in joy he told me all

“And stampt in triumph thro’ our hall,

“As tho’ thy heart already beat

“Its last life-throb beneath his feet!

“Good Heaven, how little dreamed I then

“His victim was my own loved youth!—

“Fly—send—let some one watch the glen—

“By all my hopes of heaven ’tis truth!”

Oh! colder than the wind that freezes

Founts that but now in sunshine played,

Is that congealing pang which seizes

The trusting bosom, when betrayed.

He felt it—deeply felt—and stood,

As if the tale had frozen his blood,

So mazed and motionless was he;—

Like one whom sudden spells enchant,

Or some mute, marble habitant

Of the still Halls of Ishmonie!81

But soon the painful chill was o’er,

And his great soul herself once more

Lookt from his brow in all the rays

Of her best, happiest, grandest days.

Never in moment most elate

Did that high spirit loftier rise:—

While bright, serene, determinate,

His looks are lifted to the skies,

As if the signal lights of Fate

Were shining in those awful eyes!

’Tis come—his hour of martyrdom

In Iran’s sacred cause is come;

And tho’ his life hath past away

Like lightning on a stormy day,

Yet shall his death-hour leave a track

Of glory permanent and bright

To which the brave of after-times,

The suffering brave, shall long look back

With proud regret,—and by its light

Watch thro’ the hours of slavery’s night

For vengeance on the oppressor’s crimes.

This rock, his monument aloft,

Shall speak the tale to many an age;

And hither bards and heroes oft

Shall come in secret pilgrimage,

And bring their warrior sons and tell

The wondering boys where Hafed fell;

And swear them on those lone remains

Of their lost country’s ancient fanes,

Never—while breath of life shall live

Within them—never to forgive

The accursed race whose ruthless chain

Hath left on Iran’s neck a stain

Blood, blood alone can cleanse again!

Such are the swelling thoughts that now

Enthrone themselves on Hafed’s brow;

And ne’er did Saint of Issa 82 gaze

On the red wreath for martyrs twined.

More proudly than the youth surveys

That pile which thro’ the gloom behind,

Half lighted by the altar’s fire,

Glimmers—his destined funeral pyre!

Heaped by his own, his comrades hands,

Of every wood of odorous breath.

There, by the Fire–God’s shrine it stands,

Ready to fold in radiant death

The few still left of those who swore

To perish there when hope was o’er—

The few to whom that couch of flame,

Which rescues them from bonds and shame,

Is sweet and welcome as the bed

For their own infant Prophet spread,

When pitying Heaven to roses turned

The death-flames that beneath him burned!83

With watchfulness the maid attends

His rapid glance where’er it bends—

Why shoot his eyes such awful beams?

What plans he now? what thinks or dreams?

Alas! why stands he musing here,

When every moment teems with fear?

Hafed, my own beloved Lord,”

She kneeling cries—“first, last adored!

“If in that soul thou’st ever felt

“Half what thy lips impassioned swore,

“Here on my knees that never knelt

“To any but their God before,

“I pray thee, as thou lovest me, fly—

“Now, now—ere yet their blades are nigh.

“Oh haste—the bark that bore me hither

“Can waft us o’er yon darkening sea

“East—west—alas, I care not whither,

“So thou art safe, and I with thee!

“Go where we will, this hand in thine,

“Those eyes before me smiling thus,

“Thro’ good and ill, thro’ storm and shine,

“The world’s a world of love for us!

“On some calm, blessed shore we’ll dwell,

“Where ’tis no crime to love too well;

“Where thus to worship tenderly

“An erring child of light like thee

“Will not be sin—or if it be

“Where we may weep our faults away,

“Together kneeling, night and day,

“Thou, for my sake, at Alla’s shrine,

“And I—at any God’s, for thine!”

Wildly these passionate words she spoke—

Then hung her head and wept for shame;

Sobbing as if a heart-string broke

With every deep-heaved sob that came,

While he, young, warm—oh! wonder not

If, for a moment, pride and fame;

His oath—his cause—that shrine of flame,

And Iran’s self are all forgot

For her, whom at his feet he sees

Kneeling in speechless agonies.

No, blame him not if Hope awhile

Dawned in his soul and threw her smile

O’er hours to come—o’er days and nights,

Winged with those precious, pure delights

Which she who bends all beauteous there

Was born to kindle and to share.

A tear or two which as he bowed

To raise the suppliant, trembling stole,

First warned him of this dangerous cloud

Of softness passing o’er his soul.

Starting he brusht the drops away

Unworthy o’er that cheek to stray;—

Like one who on the morn of fight

Shakes from his sword the dews of night,

That had but dimmed not stained its light.

Yet tho’ subdued the unnerving thrill,

Its warmth, its weakness lingered still

So touching in each look and tone,

That the fond, fearing, hoping maid

Half counted on the flight she prayed,

Half thought the hero’s soul was grown

As soft, as yielding as her own,

And smiled and blest him while he said,—

“Yes—if there be some happier sphere

“Where fadeless truth like ours is dear.—

“If there be any land of rest

“For those who love and ne’er forget,

“Oh! comfort thee—for safe and blest

“We’ll meet in that calm region yet!”

Scarce had she time to ask her heart

If good or ill these words impart,

When the roused youth impatient flew

To the tower-wall, where high in view

A ponderous sea-horn84 hung, and blew

A signal deep and dread as those

The storm-fiend at his rising blows.—

Full well his Chieftains, sworn and true

Thro’ life and death, that signal knew;

For ’twas the appointed warning-blast,

The alarm to tell when hope was past

And the tremendous death-die cast!

And there upon the mouldering tower

Hath hung this sea-horn many an hour,

Ready to sound o’er land and sea

That dirge-note of the brave and free.

They came—his Chieftains at the call

Came slowly round and with them all—

Alas, how few!—the worn remains

Of those who late o’er Kerman’s plains

When gayly prancing to the clash

Of Moorish zel and tymbalon

Catching new hope from every flash

Of their long lances in the sun,

And as their coursers charged the wind

And the white ox-tails streamed behind,85

Looking as if the steeds they rode

Were winged and every Chief a God!

How fallen, how altered now! how wan

Each scarred and faded visage shone,

As round the burning shrine they came;—

How deadly was the glare it cast,

As mute they paused before the flame

To light their torches as they past!

’Twas silence all—the youth hath planned

The duties of his soldier-band;

And each determined brow declares

His faithful Chieftains well know theirs.

But minutes speed—night gems the skies—

And oh, how soon, ye blessed eyes

That look from heaven ye may behold

Sights that will turn your star-fires cold!

Breathless with awe, impatience, hope,

The maiden sees the veteran group

Her litter silently prepare,

And lay it at her trembling feet;—

And now the youth with gentle care,

Hath placed her in the sheltered seat

And prest her hand—that lingering press

Of hands that for the last time sever;

Of hearts whose pulse of happiness

When that hold breaks is dead for ever.

And yet to her this sad caress

Gives hope—so fondly hope can err!

’Twas joy, she thought, joy’s mute excess—

Their happy flight’s dear harbinger;

’Twas warmth—assurance—tenderness—

’Twas any thing but leaving her.

“Haste, haste!” she cried, “the clouds grow dark,

“But still, ere night, we’ll reach the bark;

“And by tomorrow’s dawn—oh bliss!

“With thee upon the sun-bright deep,

“Far off, I’ll but remember this,

“As some dark vanisht dream of sleep;

“And thou”—but ah!—he answers not—

Good Heaven!—and does she go alone?

She now has reached that dismal spot,

Where some hours since his voice’s tone

Had come to soothe her fears and ills,

Sweet as the angel Israfil’s,86

When every leaf on Eden’s tree

Is trembling to his minstrelsy—

Yet now—oh, now, he is not nigh.—

Hafed! my Hafed!—if it be

“Thy will, thy doom this night to die

“Let me but stay to die with thee

“And I will bless thy loved name,

“Till the last life-breath leave this frame.

“Oh! let our lips, our cheeks be laid

“But near each other while they fade;

“Let us but mix our parting breaths,

“And I can die ten thousand deaths!

“You too, who hurry me away

“So cruelly, one moment stay—

“Oh! stay—one moment is not much—

“He yet may come—for him I pray—

Hafed! dear Hafed!”—all the way

In wild lamentings that would touch

A heart of stone she shrieked his name

To the dark woods—no Hafed came:—

No—hapless pair—you’ve lookt your last:—

Your hearts should both have broken then:—

The dream is o’er—your doom is cast—

You’ll never meet on earth again!

Alas for him who hears her cries!

Still half-way down the steep he stands,

Watching with fixt and feverish eyes

The glimmer of those burning brands

That down the rocks with mournful ray,

Light all he loves on earth away!

Hopeless as they who far at sea

By the cold moon have just consigned

The corse of one loved tenderly

To the bleak flood they leave behind,

And on the deck still lingering stay,

And long look back with sad delay

To watch the moonlight on the wave

That ripples o’er that cheerless grave.

But see—he starts—what heard he then?

That dreadful shout!—across the glen

From the land-side it comes and loud

Rings thro’ the chasm, as if the crowd

Of fearful things that haunt that dell

Its Ghouls and Divs and shapes of hell,

And all in one dread howl broke out,

So loud, so terrible that shout!

“They come—the Moslems come!”—he cries,

His proud soul mounting to his eyes,—

“Now, Spirits of the Brave, who roam

“Enfranchised thro’ yon starry dome,

“Rejoice—for souls of kindred fire

“Are on the wing to join your choir!”

He said—and, light as bridegrooms bound

To their young loves, reclined the steep

And gained the Shrine—his Chiefs stood round—

Their swords, as with instinctive leap,

Together at that cry accurst

Had from their sheaths like sunbeams burst.

And hark!—again—again it rings;

Near and more near its echoings

Peal thro’ the chasm—oh! who that then

Had seen those listening warrior-men,

With their swords graspt, their eyes of flame

Turned on their Chief—could doubt the shame,

The indignant shame with which they thrill

To hear those shouts and yet stand still?

He read their thoughts—they were his own—

“What! while our arms can wield these blades,

“Shall we die tamely? die alone?

“Without one victim to our shades,

“One Moslem heart, where buried deep

“The sabre from its toil may sleep?

“No—God of Iran’s burning skies!

“Thou scornest the inglorious sacrifice.

“No—tho’ of all earth’s hope bereft,

“Life, swords, and vengeance still are left.

“We’ll make yon valley’s reeking caves

“Live in the awe-struck minds of men

“Till tyrants shudder, when their slaves

“Tell of the Gheber’s bloody glen,

“Follow, brave hearts!—this pile remains

“Our refuge still from life and chains;

“But his the best, the holiest bed,

“Who sinks entombed in Moslem dead!”

Down the precipitous rocks they sprung,

While vigor more than human strung

Each arm and heart.—The exulting foe

Still thro’ the dark defiles below,

Trackt by his torches’ lurid fire,

Wound slow, as thro’ Golconda’s vale

The mighty serpent in his ire

Glides on with glittering, deadly trail.

No torch the Ghebers need—so well

They know each mystery of the dell,

So oft have in their wanderings

Crost the wild race that round them dwell,

The very tigers from their delves

Look out and let them pass as things

Untamed and fearless like themselves!

There was a deep ravine that lay

Yet darkling in the Moslem’s way;

Fit spot to make invaders rue

The many fallen before the few.

The torrents from that morning’s sky

Had filled the narrow chasm breast-high,

And on each side aloft and wild

Huge cliffs and toppling crags were piled,—

The guards with which young Freedom lines

The pathways to her mountain-shrines,

Here at this pass the scanty band;

Of Iran’s last avengers stand;

Here wait in silence like the dead

And listen for the Moslem’s tread

So anxiously the carrion-bird

Above them flaps his wing unheard!

They come—that plunge into the water

Gives signal for the work of slaughter.

Now, Ghebers, now—if e’er your blades

Had point or prowess prove them now—

Woe to the file that foremost wades!

They come—a falchion greets each brow,

And as they tumble trunk on trunk

Beneath the gory waters sunk,

Still o’er their drowning bodies press

New victims quick and numberless;

Till scarce an arm in Hafed’s band,

So fierce their toil, hath power to stir,

But listless from each crimson hand

The sword hangs clogged with massacre.

Never was horde of tyrants met

With bloodier welcome—never yet

To patriot vengeance hath the sword

More terrible libations poured!

All up the dreary, long ravine,

By the red, murky glimmer seen

Of half-quenched brands, that o’er the flood

Lie scattered round and burn in blood,

What ruin glares! what carnage swims!

Heads, blazing turbans, quivering limbs,

Lost swords that dropt from many a hand,

In that thick pool of slaughter stand;—

Wretches who wading, half on fire

From the tost brands that round them fly,

’Twixt flood and flame in shrieks expire;—

And some who grasp by those that die

Sink woundless with them, smothered o’er

In their dead brethren’s gushing gore!

But vainly hundreds, thousands bleed,

Still hundreds, thousands more succeed;

Countless as toward some flame at night

The North’s dark insects wing their flight

And quench or perish in its light,

To this terrific spot they pour—

Till, bridged with Moslem bodies o’er,

It bears aloft their slippery tread,

And o’er the dying and the dead,

Tremendous causeway! on they pass.

Then, hapless Ghebers, then, alas,

What hope was left for you? for you,

Whose yet warm pile of sacrifice

Is smoking in their vengeful eyes;—

Whose swords how keen, how fierce they knew.

And burned with shame to find how few.

Crusht down by that vast multitude

Some found their graves where first they stood;

While some with hardier struggle died,

And still fought on by Hafed’s side,

Who fronting to the foe trod back

Towards the high towers his gory track;

And as a lion swept away

By sudden swell of Jordan’s pride

From the wild covert where he lay,87

Long battles with the o’erwhelming tide,

So fought he back with fierce delay

And kept both foes and fate at bay.

But whither now? their track is lost,

Their prey escaped—guide, torches gone—

By torrent-beds and labyrinths crost,

The scattered crowd rush blindly on—

“Curse on those tardy lights that wind,”

They panting cry, “so far behind;

“Oh, for a bloodhound’s precious scent,

“To track the way the Ghebers went!”

Vain wish—confusedly along

They rush more desperate as more wrong:

Till wildered by the far-off lights,

Yet glittering up those gloomy heights,

Their footing mazed and lost they miss,

And down the darkling precipice

Are dasht into the deep abyss;

Or midway hang impaled on rocks,

A banquet yet alive for flocks

Of ravening vultures,—while the dell

Re-echoes with each horrible yell.

Those sounds—the last, to vengeance dear.

That e’er shall ring in Hafed’s ear,—

Now reached him as aloft alone

Upon the steep way breathless thrown,

He lay beside his reeking blade,

Resigned, as if life’s task were o’er,

Its last blood-offering amply paid,

And Iran’s self could claim no more.

One only thought, one lingering beam

Now broke across his dizzy dream

Of pain and weariness—’twas she,

His heart’s pure planet shining yet

Above the waste of memory

When all life’s other lights were set.

And never to his mind before

Her image such enchantment wore.

It seemed as if each thought that stained,

Each fear that chilled their loves was past,

And not one cloud of earth remained

Between him and her radiance cast;—

As if to charms, before so bright,

New grace from other worlds was given.

And his soul saw her by the light

Now breaking o’er itself from heaven!

A voice spoke near him—’twas the tone

Of a loved friend, the only one

Of all his warriors left with life

From that short night’s tremendous strife.—

“And must we then, my chief, die here?

“Foes round us and the Shrine so near!”

These words have roused the last remains

Of life within him:—“What! not yet

“Beyond the reach of Moslem chains!”

The thought could make even Death forget

His icy bondage:—with a bound

He springs all bleeding from the ground

And grasps his comrade’s arm now grown

Even feebler, heavier than his own.

And up the painful pathway leads,

Death gaining on each step he treads.

Speed them, thou God, who heardest their vow!

They mount—they bleed—oh save them now—

The crags are red they’ve clambered o’er,

The rock-weed’s dripping with their gore;—

Thy blade too, Hafed, false at length,

How breaks beneath thy tottering strength!

Haste, haste—the voices of the Foe

Come near and nearer from below—

One effort more—thank Heaven! ’tis past,

They’ve gained the topmost steep at last.

And now they touch the temple’s walls.

Now Hafed sees the Fire divine—

When, lo!—his weak, worn comrade falls

Dead on the threshold of the shrine.

“Alas, brave soul, too quickly fled!

“And must I leave thee withering here,

“The sport of every ruffian’s tread,

“The mark for every coward’s spear?

“No, by yon altar’s sacred beams!”

He cries and with a strength that seems

Not of this world uplifts the frame

Of the fallen Chief and toward the flame

Bears him along; with death-damp hand

The corpse upon the pyre he lays,

Then lights the consecrated brand

And fires the pile whose sudden blaze

Like lightning bursts o’er Oman’s Sea.—

“Now, Freedom’s God! I come to Thee,”

The youth exclaims and with a smile

Of triumph vaulting on the pile,

In that last effort ere the fires

Have harmed one glorious limb expires!

What shriek was that on Oman’s tide?

It came from yonder drifting bark,

That just hath caught upon her side

The death-light—and again is dark.

It is the boat—ah! why delayed?—

That bears the wretched Moslem maid;

Confided to the watchful care

Of a small veteran band with whom

Their generous Chieftain would not share

The secret of his final doom,

But hoped when Hinda safe and free

Was rendered to her father’s eyes,

Their pardon full and prompt would be

The ransom of so dear a prize.—

Unconscious thus of Hafed’s fate,

And proud to guard their beauteous freight,

Scarce had they cleared the surfy waves

That foam around those frightful caves

When the curst war-whoops known so well

Came echoing from the distant dell—

Sudden each oar, upheld and still,

Hung dripping o’er the vessel’s side,

And driving at the current’s will,

They rockt along the whispering tide;

While every eye in mute dismay

Was toward that fatal mountain turned.

Where the dim altar’s quivering ray

As yet all lone and tranquil burned.

Oh! ’tis not, Hinda, in the power

Of Fancy’s most terrific touch

To paint thy pangs in that dread hour—

Thy silent agony—’twas such

As those who feel could paint too well,

But none e’er felt and lived to tell!

’Twas not alone the dreary state

Of a lorn spirit crusht by fate,

When tho’ no more remains to dread

The panic chill will not depart;—

When tho’ the inmate Hope be dead,

Her ghost still haunts the mouldering heart;

No—pleasures, hopes, affections gone,

The wretch may bear and yet live on

Like things within the cold rock found

Alive when all’s congealed around.

But there’s a blank repose in this,

A calm stagnation, that were bliss

To the keen, burning, harrowing pain,

Now felt thro’ all thy breast and brain;—

That spasm of terror, mute, intense,

That breathless, agonized suspense

From whose hot throb whose deadly aching,

The heart hath no relief but breaking!

Calm is the wave—heaven’s brilliant lights

Reflected dance beneath the prow;—

Time was when on such lovely nights

She who is there so desolate now

Could sit all cheerful tho’ alone

And ask no happier joy than seeing

That starlight o’er the waters thrown—

No joy but that to make her blest,

And the fresh, buoyant sense of Being

Which bounds in youth’s yet careless breast,—

Itself a star not borrowing light

But in its own glad essence bright.

How different now!—but, hark! again

The yell of havoc rings—brave men!

In vain with beating hearts ye stand

On the bark’s edge—in vain each hand

Half draws the falchion from its sheath;

All’s o’er—in rust your blades may lie:—

He at whose word they’ve scattered death

Even now this night himself must die!

Well may ye look to yon dim tower,

And ask and wondering guess what means

The battle-cry at this dead hour—

Ah! she could tell you—she who leans

Unheeded there, pale, sunk, aghast,

With brow against the dew-cold mast;—

Too well she knows—her more than life,

Her soul’s first idol and its last

Lies bleeding in that murderous strife.

But see—what moves upon the height?

Some signal!—’tis a torch’s light

What bodes its solitary glare?

In gasping silence toward the Shrine

All eyes are turned—thine, Hinda, thine

Fix their last fading life-beams there.

’Twas but a moment—fierce and high

The death-pile blazed into the sky

And far-away o’er rock and flood

Its melancholy radiance sent:

While Hafed like a vision stood

Revealed before the burning pyre.

Tall, shadowy, like a Spirit of fire

Shrined in its own grand element!

“’Tis he!”—the shuddering maid exclaims,—

But while she speaks he’s seen no more;

High burst in air the funeral flames,

And Iran’s hopes and hers are o’er!

One wild, heart-broken shriek she gave;

Then sprung as if to reach that blaze

Where still she fixt her dying gaze,

And gazing sunk into the wave.—

Deep, deep,—where never care or pain

Shall reach her innocent heart again!

Farewell—farewell to thee. Araby’s daughter!

(Thus warbled a Peri beneath the dark sea,)

No pearl ever lay under Oman’s green water

More pure in its shell than thy Spirit in thee.

Oh! fair as the sea-flower close to thee growing,

How light was thy heart till Love’s witchery came,

Like the wind of the south88 o’er a summer lute blowing,

And husht all its music and withered its frame!

But long upon Araby’s green sunny highlands

Shall maids and their lovers remember the doom

Of her who lies sleeping among the Pearl Islands

With naught but the sea-star89 to light up her tomb.

And still when the merry date-season is burning

And calls to the palm-groves the young and the old,

The happiest there from their pastime returning

At sunset will weep when thy story is told.

The young village-maid when with flowers she dresses

Her dark flowing hair for some festival day

Will think of thy fate till neglecting her tresses

She mournfully turns from the mirror away.

Nor shall Iran, beloved of her Hero! forget thee—

Tho’ tyrants watch over her tears as they start,

Close, close by the side of that Hero she’ll set thee,

Embalmed in the innermost shrine of her heart.

Farewell—be it ours to embellish thy pillow

With everything beauteous that grows in the deep;

Each flower of the rock and each gem of the billow

Shall sweeten thy bed and illumine thy sleep.

Around thee shall glisten the loveliest amber

That ever the sorrowing sea-bird has wept;90

With many a shell in whose hollow-wreathed chamber

We Peris of Ocean by moonlight have slept.

We’ll dive where the gardens of coral lie darkling

And plant all the rosiest stems at thy head;

We’ll seek where the sands of the Caspian91 are sparkling

And gather their gold to strew over thy bed.

Farewell—farewell!—Until Pity’s sweet fountain

Is lost in the hearts of the fair and the brave,

They’ll weep for the Chieftain who died on that mountain,

They’ll weep for the Maiden who sleeps in this wave.

1 “It is said that the rivers or streams of Basra were reckoned in the time of Peisl ben Abi Bordeh, and amounted to the number of one hundred and twenty thousand streams.”—Ebn Haukal.

2 The name of the javelin with which the Easterns exercise. See Castellan, “Moeurs des Ottomans,” tom. iii. p. 161.

3 “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.

4 “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 odor.”—Sir W. Jones on the Spikenard of the Ancients.

5 “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.

6 “The Arabians believe that the ostriches hatch their young by only looking at them.”

7 Oriental Tales.

8 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.”

9 The fine road made by the Emperor Jehan–Guire from Agra to Lahore, planted with trees on each side. This road is 250 leagues in length. It has “little pyramids or turrets,” says Bernier, “erected every half league, to mark the ways, and frequent wells to afford drink to passengers, and to water the young trees.”

10 The Baya, or Indian Grosbeak.—Sir W. Jones.

11 “Here is a large pagoda by a tank, on the water of which float multitudes of the beautiful red lotus: the flower is larger than that of the white water-lily, and is the most lovely of the nymphaeas I have seen.”—Mrs. Graham’s Journal of a Residence in India.

12 “Cashmere (says its historian) had its own princes 4000 years before its conquest by Akbar in 1585. Akbar would have found some difficulty to reduce this paradise of the Indies, situated as it is within such a fortress of mountains, but its monarch, Yusef–Khan, was basely betrayed by his Omrahs.”—Pennant.

13 Voltaire tells us that in his tragedy, “Les Guèbres,” he was generally supposed to have alluded to the Jansenists. I should not be surprised if this story of the Fire worshippers were found capable of a similar doubleness of application.

14 The Persian Gulf, sometimes so called, which separates the shores of Persia and Arabia.

15 The present Gombaroon, a town on the Persian side of the Gulf.

16 A Moorish instrument of music.

17 “At Gombaroon and other places in Persia, they have towers for the purpose of catching the wind and cooling the houses.—Le Bruyn.

18 “Iran is the true general name for the empire of Persia.—Asiat. Res. Disc. 5.

19 “On the blades of their scimitars some verse from the Koran is usually inscribed.—Russel.

20 There is a kind of Rhododendros about Trebizond, whose flowers the bee feeds upon, and the honey thence drives people mad;”—Tournefort.

21 Their kings wear plumes of black herons’ feathers, upon the right side, as a badge of sovereignty “—Hanway.

22 “The Fountain of Youth, by a Mahometan tradition, is situated in some dark region of the East.”—Richardson.

23 Arabia Felix.

24 “In the midst of the garden is the chiosk, that is, a large room, commonly beautified with a fine fountain in the midst of it. It is raised nine or ten steps, and enclosed with gilded lattices, round which vines, jessamines, and honeysuckles, make a sort of green wall; large trees are planted round this place, which is the scene of their greatest pleasures.”—Lady M. W. Montagu.

25 The women of the East are never without their looking-glasses. “In Barbary,” says Shaw, “they are so fond of their looking-glasses, which they hang upon their breasts, that they will not lay them aside, even when after the drudgery of the day they are obliged to go two or three miles with a pitcher or a goat’s skin to fetch water.”—Travels.

26 “They say that if a snake or serpent fix his eyes on the lustre of those stones (emeralds), he immediately becomes blind.”—Ahmed ben Abdalaziz, Treatise on Jewels.

27 “At Gombaroon and the Isle of Ormus, it is sometimes so hot, that the people are obliged to lie all day in the water.”—Marco Polo.

28 This mountain is generally supposed to be inaccessible. Struy says, “I can well assure the reader that their opinion is not true, who suppose this mount to be inaccessible.” He adds, that “the lower part of the mountain is cloudy, misty, and dark, the middlemost part very cold, and like clouds of snow, but the upper regions perfectly calm.”—It was on this mountain that the Ark was supposed to have rested after the Deluge, and part of it, they say, exists there still, which Struy thus gravely accounts for:—“Whereas none can remember that the air on the top of the hill did ever change or was subject either to wind or rain, which is presumed to be the reason that the Ark has endured so long without being rotten.”—See Carreri’s Travels, where the Doctor laughs at this whole account of Mount Ararat.

29 In one of the books of the Shâh Nâmeh, when Zal (a celebrated hero of Persia, remarkable for his white hair,) comes to the terrace of his mistress Rodahver at night, she lets down her long tresses to assist him in his ascent;—he, however, manages it in a less romantic way by fixing his crook in a projecting beam.—See Champion’s Ferdosi.

30 “On the lofty hills of Arabia Petraea, are rock-goats.”—Niebuhr.

31 “They (the Ghebers) lay so much stress on their cushee or girdle, as not to dare to be an instant without it.”—Grose’s Voyage.

32 “They suppose the Throne of the Almighty is seated in the sun, and hence their worship of that luminary.”—Hanway.

33 The Mameluks that were in the other boat, when it was dark used to shoot up a sort of fiery arrows into the air which in some measure resembled lightning or falling stars.”—Baumgarten.

34 “Within the enclosure which surrounds his monument (at Gualior) is a small tomb to the memory of Tan–Sein, a musician of incomparable skill, who flourished at the court of Akbar. The tomb is overshadowed by a tree, concerning which a superstitious notion prevails, that the chewing of its leaves will give an extraordinary melody to the voice.”—Narrative of a Journey from Agra to Ouzein, by W. Hunter, Esq.

35 “It is usual to place a small white triangular flag, fixed to a bamboo staff of ten or twelve feet long, at the place where a tiger has destroyed a man. It is common for the passengers also to throw each a stone or brick near the spot, so that in the course of a little time a pile equal to a good wagon-load is collected. The sight of these flags and piles of stones imparts a certain melancholy, not perhaps altogether void of apprehension.”—Oriental Field Sports, vol. ii.

36 “The Ficus Indica is called the Pagod Tree of Councils; the first, from the idols placed under its shade; the second, because meetings were held under its cool branches. In some places it is believed to be the haunt of spectres, as the ancient spreading oaks of Wales have been of fairies; in others are erected beneath the shade pillars of stone, or posts, elegantly carved, and ornamented with the most beautiful porcelain to supply the use of mirrors.”—Pennant.

37 The Persian Gulf.—“To dive for pearls in the Green Sea, or Persian Gulf.”—Sir W. Jones.

38 Or Selemeh, the genuine name of the headland at the entrance of the Gulf, commonly called Cape Musseldom. “The Indians when they pass the promontory throw cocoa-nuts, fruits, or flowers into the sea to secure a propitious voyage.”—Morier.

39 “The nightingale sings from the pomegranate-groves in the daytime and from the loftiest trees at night.”—Russel’s “Aleppo.”

40 In speaking of the climate of Shiraz, Francklin says, “The dew is of such a pure nature, that if the brightest scimitar should be exposed to it all night, it would not receive the least rust.”

41 The place where the Persians were finally defeated by the Arabs, and their ancient monarchy destroyed.

42 The Talpot or Talipot tree. “This beautiful palm-tree, which grows in the heart of the forests, may be classed among the loftiest trees, and becomes still higher when on the point of bursting forth from its leafy summit. The sheath which then envelopes the flower is very large, and, when it bursts, makes an explosion like the report of a cannon.”— Thunberg.

43 “When the bright scimitars make the eyes of our heroes wink.”—The Moallakat, Poem of Amru.

44 Tahmuras, and other ancient Kings of Persia; whose adventures in Fairy-land among the Peris and Divs may be found in Richardson’s curious Dissertation. The griffin Simoorgh, they say, took some feathers from her breast for Tahmuras, with which he adorned his helmet, and transmitted them afterwards to his descendants.

45 This rivulet, says Dandini, is called the Holy River from the “cedar-saints” among which it rises.

46 This mountain is my own creation, as the “stupendous chain,” of which I suppose it a link, does not extend quite so far as the shores of the Persian Gulf.

47 These birds sleep in the air. They are most common about the Cape of Good Hope.

48 “There is an extraordinary hill in this neighborhood, called Kohé Gubr, or the Guebre’s mountain. It rises in the form of a lofty cupola, and on the summit of it, they say, are the remains of an Atush Kudu or Fire Temple. It is superstitiously held to be the residence or Deeves or Sprites, and many marvellous stories are recounted of the injury and witchcraft suffered by those who essayed in former days to ascend or explore it.”—Pottinger’s “Beloochistan.”

49 The Ghebers generally built their temples over subterraneous fires.

50 “At the city of Yezd, in Persia, which is distinguished by the appellation of the Darub Abadut, or Seat of Religion, the Guebres are permitted to have an Atush Kudu or Fire Temple (which, they assert, has had the sacred fire in it since the days of Zoroaster) in their own compartment of the city; but for this indulgence they are indebted to the avarice, not the tolerance of the Persian government, which taxes them at twenty-five rupees each man.”—Pottinger’s “Beloochistan.”

51 Ancient heroes of Persia. “Among the Guebres there are some who boast their descent from Rustam.”—Stephen’s Persia.

52 See Russel’s account of the panther’s attacking travellers in the night on the sea-shore about the roots of Lebanon.

53 “Among other ceremonies the Magi used to place upon the tops of high towers various kinds of rich viands, upon which it was supposed the Peris and the spirits of their departed heroes regaled themselves.”— Richardson.

54 In the ceremonies of the Ghebers round their Fire, as described by Lord, “the Daroo,” he says, “giveth them water to drink, and a pomegranate leaf to chew in the mouth, to cleanse them from inward uncleanness.”

55 “Early in the morning, they (the Parsees or Ghebers at Oulam) go in crowds to pay their devotions to the Sun, to whom upon all the altars there are spheres consecrated, made by magic, resembling the circles of the sun, and when the sun rises, these orbs seem to be inflamed, and to turn round with a great noise. They have every one a censer in their hands, and offer incense to the sun.’—Rabbi Benjamin.

56 A vivid verdure succeeds the autumnal rains, and the ploughed fields are covered with the Persian lily, of a resplendent yellow color.”— Russel’s “Aleppo.”

57 It is observed, with respect to the Sea of Herkend, that when it is tossed by tempestuous winds it sparkles like fire.”—Travels of Two Mohammedans.

58 A kind of trumpet;—it “was that used by Tamerlane, the sound of which is described as uncommonly dreadful, and so loud as to be heard at a distance of several miles.”—Richardson.

59 “Mohammed had two helmets, an interior and exterior one; the latter of which, called Al Mawashah, the fillet, wreath, or wreathed garland, he wore at the battle of Ohod.”—Universal History.

60 “They say that there are apple-trees upon the sides of this sea, which bear very lovely fruit, but within are all full of ashes.”— Thevenot.

61 “The Suhrab or Water of the Desert is said to be caused by the rarefaction of the atmosphere from extreme heat; and, which augments the delusion, it is most frequent in hollows, where water might be expected to lodge. I have seen bushes and trees reflected in it, with as much accuracy is though it had been the face of a clear and still lake.”—Pottinger.

62 “A wind which prevails in February, called Bidmusk, from a small and odoriferous flower of that name.”—“The wind which blows these flowers commonly lasts till the end of the month.”—Le Bruyn.

63 “The Biajús are of two races: the one is settled on Borneo, and are a rude but warlike and industrious nation, who reckon themselves the original possessors of the island of Borneo. The other is a species of sea-gypsies or itinerant fishermen, who live in small covered boats, and enjoy a perpetual summer on the eastern ocean, shifting to leeward from island to island, with the variations of the monsoon.

64 “The sweet-scented violet is one of the plants most esteemed, particularly for its great use in Sorbet, which they make of violet sugar.”—Hassequist.

65 “Last of all she took a guitar, and sang a pathetic air in the measure called Nava, which is always used to express the lamentations of absent lovers.”—Persian Tales.

66 “The Easterns used to set out on their longer voyages with music.”—Harmer.

67 “The Gate of Tears, the straits or passage into the Red Sea, commonly called Babelmandel. It received this name from the old Arabians, on account of the danger of the navigation and the number of shipwrecks by which it was distinguished; which induced them to consider as dead, and to wear mourning for all who had the boldness to hazard the passage through it into the Ethiopic ocean.”—Richardson.

68 “I have been told that whensoever an animal falls down dead, one or more vultures, unseen before, instantly appears.”—Pennant.

69 “They fasten some writing to the wings of a Bagdat, or Babylonian pigeon.”—Travels of certain Englishmen.

70 “The Empress of Jehan–Guire used to divert herself with feeding tame fish in her canals, some of which were many years afterwards known by fillets of gold, which she caused to be put round them.”—Harris.

71 The meteors that Pliny calls “faces.”

72 “The brilliant Canopus, unseen in European climates.”—Brown.

73 A precious stone of the Indies, called by the ancients, Ceraunium, because it was supposed to be found in places where thunder had fallen. Tertullian says it has a glittering appearance, as if there had fire in it; and the author of the Dissertation of Harris’s Voyages, supposes it to be the opal.

74 “The Guebres are known by a dark yellow color, which the men affect in their clothes.”—Thevenot.

75 “The Kolah, or cap, worn by the Persians, is made of the skin of the sheep of Tartary.”—Waring.

76 A frequent image among the oriental poets. “The nightingales warbled their enchanting notes, and rent the thin veils of the rose-bud, and the rose.”—Jami.

77 “Blossoms of the sorrowful Nyctanthes give a durable color to silk.”—Remarks on the Husbandry of Bengal, p. 200. Nilica is one of the Indian names of this flower.—Sir W. Jones. The Persians call it Gul.—Carreri.

78 “In parts of Kerman, whatever dates are shaken from the trees by the wind they do not touch, but leave them for those who have not any, or for travellers.—Ebn Haukal.

79 The two terrible angels, Monkir and Nakir, who are called “the Searchers of the Grave” in the “Creed of the orthodox Mahometans” given by Ockley, vol. ii.

80 “The Arabians call the mandrake ‘the devil’s candle,’ on account of its shining appearance in the night.”—Richardson.

81 For an account of Ishmonie, the petrified city in Upper Egypt, where it is said there are many statues of men, women, etc., to be seen to this day, see Perry’s “Views of the Levant.”

82 Jesus.

83 The Ghebers say that when Abraham, their great Prophet, was thrown into the fire by order of Nimrod, the flame turned instantly into “a bed of roses, where the child sweetly reposed.”—Tavernier.

84 “The shell called Siiankos, common to India, Africa, and the Mediterranean, and still used in many parts as a trumpet for blowing alarms or giving signals: it sends forth a deep and hollow sound.”— Pennant.

85 “The finest ornament for the horses is made of six large flying tassels of long white hair, taken out of the tails of wild oxen, that are to be found in some places of the Indies.”—Thevenot.

86 “The angel Israfll, who has the most melodious voice of all God’s creatures.”—Sale.

87 “In this thicket upon the banks of the Jordan several sorts of wild beasts are wont to harbor themselves, whose being washed out of the covert by the overflowings of the river, gave occasion to that allusion of Jeremiah, he shall come up like a lion from the smelling of Jordan.”—Maundrell’s “Aleppo.“

88 “This wind (the Samoor) so softens the strings of lutes, that they can never be tuned while it lasts.”—Stephen’s Persia.

89 “One of the greatest curiosities found in the Persian Gulf is a fish which the English call Star-fish. It is circular, and at night very luminous, resembling the full moon surrounded by rays.”—Mirza Abu Taleb.

90 Some naturalists have imagined that amber is a concretion of the tears of birds.—See Trevoux, Chambers.

91 “The bay Kieselarke, which is otherwise called the Golden Bay, the sand whereof shines as fire.”—Struy.

The singular placidity with which Fadladeen had listened during the latter part of this obnoxious story surprised the Princess and Feramorz exceedingly; and even inclined towards him the hearts of these unsuspicious young persons who little knew the source of a complacency so marvellous. The truth was he had been organizing for the last few days a most notable plan of persecution against the poet in consequence of some passages that had fallen from him on the second evening of recital,—which appeared to this worthy Chamberlain to contain language and principles for which nothing short of the summary criticism of the Chabuk1 would be advisable. It was his intention therefore immediately on their arrival at Cashmere to give information to the King of Bucharia of the very dangerous sentiments of his minstrel; and if unfortunately that monarch did not act with suitable vigor on the occasion, (that is, if he did not give the Chabuk to Feramorz and a place to Fadladeen.) there would be an end, he feared, of all legitimate government in Bucharia. He could not help however auguring better both for himself and the cause of potentates in general; and it was the pleasure arising from these mingled anticipations that diffused such unusual satisfaction through his features and made his eyes shine out like poppies of the desert over the wide and lifeless wilderness of that countenance.

Having decided upon the Poet’s chastisement in this manner he thought it but humanity to spare him the minor tortures of criticism. Accordingly when they assembled the following evening in the pavilion and Lalla Rookh was expecting to see all the beauties of her bard melt away one by one in the acidity of criticism, like pearls in the cup of the Egyptian queen.— he agreeably disappointed her by merely saying with an ironical smile that the merits of such a poem deserved to be tried at a much higher tribunal; and then suddenly passed off into a panegyric upon all Mussulman sovereigns, more particularly his august and Imperial master, Aurungzebe, —the wisest and best of the descendants of Timur,—who among other great things he had done for mankind had given to him, Fadladeen, the very profitable posts of Betel-carrier and Taster of Sherbets to the Emperor, Chief Holder of the Girdle of Beautiful Forms,2 and Grand Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram.

They were now not far from that Forbidden River3 beyond which no pure Hindoo can pass, and were reposing for a time in the rich valley of Hussun Abdaul, which had always been a favorite resting-place of the Emperors in their annual migrations to Cashmere. Here often had the Light of the Faith, Jehan–Guire, been known to wander with his beloved and beautiful Nourmahal, and here would Lalla Rookh have been happy to remain for ever, giving up the throne of Bucharia and the world for Feramorz and love in this sweet, lonely valley. But the time was now fast approaching when she must see him no longer,—or, what was still worse, behold him with eyes whose every look belonged to another, and there was a melancholy preciousness in these last moments, which made her heart cling to them as it would to life. During the latter part of the journey, indeed, she had sunk into a deep sadness from which nothing but the presence of the young minstrel could awake her. Like those lamps in tombs which only light up when the air is admitted, it was only at his approach that her eyes became smiling and animated. But here in this dear valley every moment appeared an age of pleasure; she saw him all day and was therefore all day happy,— resembling, she often thought, that people of Zinge4 who attribute the unfading cheerfulness they enjoy to one genial star that rises nightly over their heads.5

The whole party indeed seemed in their liveliest mood during the few days they passed in this delightful solitude. The young attendants of the Princess who were here allowed a much freer range than they could safely be indulged with in a less sequestered place ran wild among the gardens and bounded through the meadows lightly as young roes over the aromatic plains of Tibet. While Fadladeen, in addition to the spiritual comfort derived by him from a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Saint from whom the valley is named, had also opportunities of indulging in a small way his taste for victims by putting to death some hundreds of those unfortunate little lizards,6 which all pious Mussulmans make it a point to kill;— taking for granted that the manner in which the creature hangs its head is meant as a mimicry of the attitude in which the Faithful say their prayers.

About two miles from Hussun Abdaul were those Royal Gardens which had grown beautiful under the care of so many lovely eyes, and were beautiful still though those eyes could see them no longer. This place, with its flowers and its holy silence interrupted only by the dipping of the wings of birds in its marble basins filled with the pure water of those hills, was to Lalla Rookh all that her heart could fancy of fragrance, coolness, and almost heavenly tranquillity. As the Prophet said of Damascus, “it was too delicious;”7—and here in listening to the sweet voice of Feramorz or reading in his eyes what yet he never dared to tell her, the most exquisite moments of her whole life were passed. One evening when they had been talking of the Sultana Nourmahal, the Light of the Haram,8 who had so often wandered among these flowers, and fed with her own hands in those marble basins the small shining fishes of which she was so fond,—the youth in order to delay the moment of separation proposed to recite a short story or rather rhapsody of which this adored Sultana was the heroine. It related, he said, to the reconcilement of a sort of lovers’ quarrel which took place between her and the Emperor during a Feast of Roses at Cashmere; and would remind the Princess of that difference between Haroun-alRaschid and his fair mistress Marida, which was so happily made up by the soft strains of the musician Moussali. As the story was chiefly to be told in song and Feramorz had unluckily forgotten his own lute in the valley, he borrowed the vina of Lalla Rookh’s little Persian slave, and thus began:—

The Light of the Haram

Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere,

With its roses the brightest that earth ever gave,9

Its temples and grottos and fountains as clear

As the love-lighted eyes that hang over their wave?

Oh! to see it at sunset,—when warm o’er the Lake

Its splendor at parting a summer eve throws,

Like a bride full of blushes when lingering to take

A last look of her mirror at night ere she goes!—

When the shrines thro’ the foliage are gleaming half shown,

And each hallows the hour by some rites of its own.

Here the music of prayer from a minaret swells,

Here the Magian his urn full of perfume is swinging,

And here at the altar a zone of sweet bells

Round the waist of some fair Indian dancer is ringing.10

Or to see it by moonlight when mellowly shines

The light o’er its palaces, gardens, and shrines,

When the water-falls gleam like a quick fall of stars

And the nightingale’s hymn from the Isle of Chenars

Is broken by laughs and light echoes of feet

From the cool, shining walks where the young people meet.—

Or at morn when the magic of daylight awakes

A new wonder each minute as slowly it breaks,

Hills, cupolas, fountains, called forth every one

Out of darkness as if but just born of the Sun.

When the Spirit of Fragrance is up with the day

From his Haram of night-flowers stealing away;

And the wind full of wantonness wooes like a lover

The young aspen-trees,11

till they tremble all over.

When the East is as warm as the light of first hopes,

And day with his banner of radiance unfurled

Shines in thro’ the mountainous portal12 that opes,

Sublime, from that Valley of bliss to the world!

But never yet by night or day,

In dew of spring or summer’s ray,

Did the sweet Valley shine so gay

As now it shines—all love and light,

Visions by day and feasts by night!

A happier smile illumes each brow;

With quicker spread each heart uncloses,

And all is ecstasy—for now

The Valley holds its Feast of Roses;13

The joyous Time when pleasures pour

Profusely round and in their shower

Hearts open like the Season’s Rose,—

The Floweret of a hundred leaves14

Expanding while the dew-fall flows

And every leaf its balm receives.

’Twas when the hour of evening came

Upon the Lake, serene and cool,

When day had hid his sultry flame

Behind the palms of Baramoule,

When maids began to lift their heads.

Refresht from their embroidered beds

Where they had slept the sun away,

And waked to moonlight and to play.

All were abroad:—the busiest hive

On Bela’s15 hills is less alive

When saffron-beds are full in flower,

Than lookt the Valley in that hour.

A thousand restless torches played

Thro’ every grove and island shade;

A thousand sparkling lamps were set

On every dome and minaret;

And fields and pathways far and near

Were lighted by a blaze so clear

That you could see in wandering round

The smallest rose-leaf on the ground,

Yet did the maids and matrons leave

Their veils at home, that brilliant eve;

And there were glancing eyes about

And cheeks that would not dare shine out

In open day but thought they might

Look lovely then, because ’twas night.

And all were free and wandering

And all exclaimed to all they met,

That never did the summer bring

So gay a Feast of Roses yet;—

The moon had never shed a light

So clear as that which blest them there;

The roses ne’er shone half so bright,

Nor they themselves lookt half so fair.

And what a wilderness of flowers!

It seemed as tho’ from all the bowers

And fairest fields of all the year,

The mingled spoil were scattered here.

The lake too like a garden breathes

With the rich buds that o’er it lie,—

As if a shower of fairy wreaths

Had fallen upon it from the sky!

And then the sounds of joy,—the beat

Of tabors and of dancing feet;—

The minaret-crier’s chant of glee

Sung from his lighted gallery,16

And answered by a ziraleet

From neighboring Haram, wild and sweet;—

The merry laughter echoing

From gardens where the silken swing17

Wafts some delighted girl above

The top leaves of the orange-grove;

Or from those infant groups at play

Among the tents18 that line the way,

Flinging, unawed by slave or mother,

Handfuls of roses at each other.—

Then the sounds from the Lake,—the low whispering in boats,

As they shoot thro’ the moonlight,—the dipping of oars

And the wild, airy warbling that everywhere floats

Thro’ the groves, round the islands, as if all the shores

Like those of Kathay uttered music and gave

An answer in song to the kiss on each wave.19

But the gentlest of all are those sounds full of feeling

That soft from the lute of some lover are stealing,—

Some lover who knows all the heart-touching power

Of a lute and a sigh in this magical hour.

Oh! best of delights as it everywhere is

To be near the loved One,—what a rapture is his

Who in moonlight and music thus sweetly may glide

O’er the Lake of Cashmere with that One by his side!

If woman can make the worst wilderness dear,

Think, think what a Heaven she must make of Cashmere!

So felt the magnificent Son of Acbar,

When from power and pomp and the trophies of war

He flew to that Valley forgetting them all

With the Light of the Haram, his young Nourmahal.

When free and uncrowned as the Conqueror roved

By the banks of that Lake with his only beloved

He saw in the wreaths she would playfully snatch

From the hedges a glory his crown could not match,

And preferred in his heart the least ringlet that curled

Down her exquisite neck to the throne of the world.

There’s a beauty for ever unchangingly bright,

Like the long, sunny lapse of a summer-day’s light,

Shining on, shining on, by no shadow made tender

Till Love falls asleep in its sameness of splendor.

This was not the beauty—oh, nothing like this

That to young Nourmahal gave such magic of bliss!

But that loveliness ever in motion which plays

Like the light upon autumn’s soft shadowy days,

Now here and now there, giving warmth as it flies

From the lip to the cheek, from the cheek to the eyes;

Now melting in mist and now breaking in gleams,

Like the glimpses a saint hath of Heaven in his dreams.

When pensive it seemed as if that very grace,

That charm of all others, was born with her face!

And when angry,—for even in the tranquillest climes

Light breezes will ruffle the blossoms sometimes—

The short, passing anger but seemed to awaken

New beauty like flowers that are sweetest when shaken.

If tenderness touched her, the dark of her eye

At once took a darker, a heavenlier dye,

From the depth of whose shadow like holy revealings

From innermost shrines came the light of her feelings.

Then her mirth—oh! ’twas sportive as ever took wing

From the heart with a burst like the wild-bird in spring;

Illumed by a wit that would fascinate sages,

Yet playful as Peris just loosed from their cages.20

While her laugh full of life, without any control

But the sweet one of gracefulness, rung from her soul;

And where it most sparkled no glance could discover,

In lip, cheek, or eyes, for she brightened all over,—

Like any fair lake that the breeze is upon

When it breaks into dimples and, laughs in the sun.

Such, such were the peerless enchantments that gave

Nourmahal the proud Lord of the East for her slave:

And tho’ bright was his Haram,—a living parterre

Of the flowers21 of this planet—tho’ treasures were there,

For which Soliman’s self might have given all the store

That the navy from Ophir e’er winged to his shore,

Yet dim before her were the smiles of them all

And the Light of his Haram was young Nourmahal!

But where is she now, this night of joy,

When bliss is every heart’s employ?—

When all around her is so bright,

So like the visions of a trance,

That one might think, who came by chance

Into the vale this happy night,

He saw that City of Delight22

In Fairy-land, whose streets and towers

Are made of gems and light and flowers!

Where is the loved Sultana? where,

When mirth brings out the young and fair,

Does she, the fairest, hide her brow

In melancholy stillness now?

Alas!—how light a cause may move

Dissension between hearts that love!

Hearts that the world in vain had tried

And sorrow but more closely tied;

That stood the storm when waves were rough

Yet in a sunny hour fall off,

Like ships that have gone down at sea

When heaven was all tranquillity!

A something light as air—a look,

A word unkind or wrongly taken—

Oh! love that tempests never shook,

A breath, a touch like this hath shaken.

And ruder words will soon rush in

To spread the breach that words begin;

And eyes forget the gentle ray

They wore in courtship’s smiling day;

And voices lose the tone that shed

A tenderness round all they said;

Till fast declining one by one

The sweetnesses of love are gone,

And hearts so lately mingled seem

Like broken clouds,—or like the stream

That smiling left the mountain’s brow

As tho’ its waters ne’er could sever,

Yet ere it reach the plain below,

Breaks into floods that part for ever.

Oh, you that have the charge of Love,

Keep him in rosy bondage bound,

As in the Fields of Bliss above

He sits with flowerets fettered round;—

Loose not a tie that round him clings.

Nor ever let him use his wings;

For even an hour, a minute’s flight

Will rob the plumes of half their light.

Like that celestial bird whose nest

Is found beneath far Eastern skies,

Whose wings tho’ radiant when at rest

Lose all their glory when he flies!23

Some difference of this dangerous kind,—

By which, tho’ light, the links that bind

The fondest hearts may soon be riven;

Some shadow in Love’s summer heaven,

Which, tho’ a fleecy speck at first

May yet in awful thunder burst;—

Such cloud it is that now hangs over

The heart of the Imperial Lover,

And far hath banisht from his sight

His Nourmahal, his Haram’s Light!

Hence is it on this happy night

When Pleasure thro’ the fields and groves

Has let loose all her world of loves

And every heart has found its own

He wanders joyless and alone

And weary as that bird of Thrace

Whose pinion knows no resting place.24

In vain the loveliest cheeks and eyes

This Eden of the Earth supplies

Come crowding round—the cheeks are pale,

The eyes are dim:—tho’ rich the spot

With every flower this earth has got

What is it to the nightingale

If there his darling rose is not?25

In vain the Valley’s smiling throng

Worship him as he moves along;

He heeds them not—one smile of hers

Is worth a world of worshippers.

They but the Star’s adorers are,

She is the Heaven that lights the Star!

Hence is it too that Nourmahal,

Amid the luxuries of this hour,

Far from the joyous festival

Sits in her own sequestered bower,

With no one near to soothe or aid,

But that inspired and wondrous maid,

Namouna, the Enchantress;—one

O’er whom his race the golden sun

For unremembered years has run,

Yet never saw her blooming brow

Younger or fairer than ’tis now.

Nay, rather,—as the west wind’s sigh

Freshens the flower it passes by,—

Time’s wing but seemed in stealing o’er

To leave her lovelier than before.

Yet on her smiles a sadness hung,

And when as oft she spoke or sung

Of other worlds there came a light

From her dark eyes so strangely bright

That all believed nor man nor earth

Were conscious of Namouna’s birth!

All spells and talismans she knew,

From the great Mantra,26 which around

The Air’s sublimer Spirits drew,

To the gold gems27 of Afric, bound

Upon the wandering Arab’s arm

To keep him from the Siltim’s28 harm.

And she had pledged her powerful art,—

Pledged it with all the zeal and heart

Of one who knew tho’ high her sphere,

What ’twas to lose a love so dear,—

To find some spell that should recall

Her Selim’s29 smile to Nourmahal!

’Twas midnight—thro’ the lattice wreathed

With woodbine many a perfume breathed

From plants that wake when others sleep.

From timid jasmine buds that keep

Their odor to themselves all day

But when the sunlight dies away

Let the delicious secret out

To every breeze that roams about;—

When thus Namouna:—”’Tis the hour

“That scatters spells on herb and flower,

“And garlands might be gathered now,

“That twined around the sleeper’s brow

“Would make him dream of such delights,

“Such miracles and dazzling sights

“As Genii of the Sun behold

“At evening from their tents of gold

“Upon the horizon—where they play

“Till twilight comes and ray by ray

“Their sunny mansions melt away.

“Now too a chaplet might be wreathed

“Of buds o’er which the moon has breathed,

“Which worn by her whose love has strayed

“Might bring some Peri from the skies,

“Some sprite, whose very soul is made

“Of flowerets’ breaths and lovers’ sighs,

“And who might tell”—

“For me, for me,”

Cried Nourmahal impatiently,—

“Oh! twine that wreath for me to-night.”

Then rapidly with foot as light

As the young musk-roe’s out she flew

To cull each shining leaf that grew

Beneath the moonlight’s hallowing beams

For this enchanted Wreath of Dreams.

Anemones and Seas of Gold,30

And new-blown lilies of the river,

And those sweet flowerets that unfold

Their buds on Camadeva’s quiver;31

The tuberose, with her silvery light,

That in the Gardens of Malay

Is called the Mistress of the Night,32

So like a bride, scented and bright,

She comes out when the sun’s away:—

Amaranths such as crown the maids

That wander thro’ Zamara’s shades;33

And the white moon-flower as it shows,

On Serendib’s high crags to those

Who near the isle at evening sail,

Scenting her clove-trees in the gale;

In short all flowerets and all plants,

From the divine Amrita tree34

That blesses heaven’s habitants

With fruits of immortality,

Down to the basil tuft35 that waves

Its fragrant blossom over graves,

And to the humble rosemary

Whose sweets so thanklessly are shed

To scent the desert36and the dead:—

All in that garden bloom and all

Are gathered by young Nourmahal,

Who heaps her baskets with the flowers

And leaves till they can hold no more;

Then to Namouna flies and showers

Upon her lap the shining store.

With what delight the Enchantress views

So many buds bathed with the dews

And beams of that blest hour!—her glance

Spoke something past all mortal pleasures,

As in a kind of holy trance

She hung above those fragrant treasures,

Bending to drink their balmy airs,

As if she mixt her soul with theirs.

And ’twas indeed the perfume shed

From flowers and scented flame that fed

Her charmed life—for none had e’er

Beheld her taste of mortal fare,

Nor ever in aught earthly dip,

But the morn’s dew, her roseate lip.

Filled with the cool, inspiring smell,

The Enchantress now begins her spell,

Thus singing as she winds and weaves

In mystic form the glittering leaves:—

I know where the winged visions dwell

That around the night-bed play;

I know each herb and floweret’s bell,

Where they hide their wings by day.

Then hasten we, maid,

To twine our braid,

To-morrow the dreams and flowers will fade.

The image of love that nightly flies

To visit the bashful maid,

Steals from the jasmine flower that sighs

Its soul like her in the shade.

The dream of a future, happier hour

That alights on misery’s brow,

Springs out of the silvery almond-flower

That blooms on a leafless bough.37

Then hasten we, maid,

To twine our braid,

To-morrow the dreams and flowers will fade.

The visions that oft to worldly eyes

The glitter of mines unfold

Inhabit the mountain-herb38 that dyes

The tooth of the fawn like gold.

The phantom shapes—oh touch not them—

That appal the murderer’s sight,

Lurk in the fleshly mandrake’s stem,

That shrieks when pluckt at night!

Then hasten we, maid,

To twine our braid,

To-morrow the dreams and flowers will fade.

The dream of the injured, patient mind

That smiles at the wrongs of men

Is found in the bruised and wounded rind

Of the cinnamon, sweetest then.

Then hasten we, maid,

To twine our braid,

To-morrow the dreams and flowers will fade.

No sooner was the flowery crown

Placed on her head than sleep came down,

Gently as nights of summer fall,

Upon the lids of Nourmahal;—

And suddenly a tuneful breeze

As full of small, rich harmonies

As ever wind that o’er the tents

Of Azab39 blew was full of scents,

Steals on her ear and floats and swells

Like the first air of morning creeping

Into those wreathy, Red–Sea shells

Where Love himself of old lay sleeping;40

And now a Spirit formed, ’twould seem,

Of music and of light,—so fair,

So brilliantly his features beam,

And such a sound is in the air

Of sweetness when he waves his wings,—

Hovers around her and thus sings:

From Chindara’s41 warbling fount I come,

Called by that moonlight garland’s spell;

From Chindara’s fount, my fairy home,

Wherein music, morn and night, I dwell.

Where lutes in the air are heard about

And voices are singing the whole day long,

And every sigh the heart breathes out

Is turned, as it leaves the lips, to song!

Hither I come

From my fairy home,

And if there’s a magic in Music’s strain

I swear by the breath

Of that moonlight wreath

Thy Lover shall sigh at thy feet again.

For mine is the lay that lightly floats

And mine are the murmuring, dying notes

That fall as soft as snow on the sea

And melt in the heart as instantly:—

And the passionate strain that, deeply going,

Refines the bosom it trembles thro’

As the musk-wind over the water blowing

Ruffles the wave but sweetens it too.

Mine is the charm whose mystic sway

The Spirits of past Delight obey;—

Let but the tuneful talisman sound,

And they come like Genii hovering round.

And mine is the gentle song that bears

From soul to soul the wishes of love,

As a bird that wafts thro’ genial airs

The cinnamon-seed from grove to grove.42

’Tis I that mingle in one sweet measure

The past, the present and future of pleasure;

When Memory links the tone that is gone

With the blissful tone that’s still in the ear;

And Hope from a heavenly note flies on

To a note more heavenly still that is near.

The warrior’s heart when touched by me,

Can as downy soft and as yielding be

As his own white plume that high amid death

Thro’ the field has shone—yet moves with a breath!

And oh, how the eyes of Beauty glisten.

When Music has reached her inward soul,

Like the silent stars that wink and listen

While Heaven’s eternal melodies roll.

So hither I come

From my fairy home,

And if there’s a magic in Music’s strain,

I swear by the breath

Of that moonlight wreath

Thy Lover shall sigh at thy feet again.

’Tis dawn—at least that earlier dawn

Whose glimpses are again withdrawn,43

As if the morn had waked, and then

Shut close her lids of light again.

And Nourmahal is up and trying

The wonders of her lute whose strings—

Oh, bliss!—now murmur like the sighing

From that ambrosial Spirit’s wings.

And then her voice—’tis more than human—

Never till now had it been given

To lips of any mortal woman

To utter notes so fresh from heaven;

Sweet as the breath of angel sighs

When angel sighs are most divine.—

“Oh! let it last till night,” she cries,

“And he is more than ever mine.”

And hourly she renews the lay,

So fearful lest its heavenly sweetness

Should ere the evening fade away,—

For things so heavenly have such fleetness!

But far from fading it but grows

Richer, diviner as it flows;

Till rapt she dwells on every string

And pours again each sound along,

Like echo, lost and languishing,

In love with her own wondrous song.

That evening, (trusting that his soul

Might be from haunting love released

By mirth, by music and the bowl,)

The Imperial Selim held a feast

In his magnificent Shalimar:44

In whose Saloons, when the first star

Of evening o’er the waters trembled,

The Valley’s loveliest all assembled;

All the bright creatures that like dreams

Glide thro’ its foliage and drink beams

Of beauty from its founts and streams;45

And all those wandering minstrel-maids,

Who leave—how can they leave?—the shades

Of that dear Valley and are found

Singing in gardens of the South46

Those songs that ne’er so sweetly sound

As from a young Cashmerian’s mouth.

There too the Haram’s inmates smile;—

Maids from the West, with sun-bright hair,

And from the Garden of the Nile,

Delicate as the roses there;47

Daughters of Love from Cyprus rocks,

With Paphian diamonds in their locks;48

Light Peri forms such as there are

On the gold Meads of Candahar;49

And they before whose sleepy eyes

In their own bright Kathaian bowers

Sparkle such rainbow butterflies

That they might fancy the rich flowers

That round them in the sun lay sighing

Had been by magic all set flying.50

Every thing young, every thing fair

From East and West is blushing there,

Except—except—oh, Nourmahal!

Thou loveliest, dearest of them all,

The one whose smile shone out alone,

Amidst a world the only one;

Whose light among so many lights

Was like that star on starry nights,

The seaman singles from the sky,

To steer his bark for ever by!

Thou wert not there—so Selim thought,

And every thing seemed drear without thee;

But, ah! thou wert, thou wert,—and brought

Thy charm of song all fresh about thee,

Mingling unnoticed with a band

Of lutanists from many a land,

And veiled by such a mask as shades

The features of young Arab maids,51

A mask that leaves but one eye free,

To do its best in witchery,—

She roved with beating heart around

And waited trembling for the minute

When she might try if still the sound

Of her loved lute had magic in it.

The board was spread with fruits and wine,

With grapes of gold, like those that shine

On Casbin hills;52—pomegranates full

Of melting sweetness, and the pears,

And sunniest apples53 that Caubul

In all its thousand gardens54 bears;—

Plantains, the golden and the green,

Malaya’s nectared mangusteen;55

Prunes of Bockhara, and sweet nuts

From the far groves of Samarcand,

And Basra dates, and apricots,

Seed of the Sun,56 from Iran’s land;—

With rich conserve of Visna cherries,57

Of orange flowers, and of those berries

That, wild and fresh, the young gazelles

Feed on in Erac’s rocky dells.58

All these in richest vases smile,

In baskets of pure santal-wood,

And urns of porcelain from that isle59

Sunk underneath the Indian flood,

Whence oft the lucky diver brings

Vases to grace the halls of kings.

Wines too of every clime and hue

Around their liquid lustre threw;

Amber Rosolli,60—the bright dew

From vineyards of the Green–Sea gushing;61

And Shiraz wine that richly ran

As if that jewel large and rare,

The ruby for which Kublai-khan

Offered a city’s wealth,62 was blushing

Melted within the goblets there!

And amply Selim quaffs of each,

And seems resolved the flood shall reach

His inward heart,—shedding around

A genial deluge, as they run,

That soon shall leave no spot undrowned

For Love to rest his wings upon.

He little knew how well the boy

Can float upon a goblet’s streams,

Lighting them with his smile of joy;—

As bards have seen him in their dreams,

Down the blue Ganges laughing glide

Upon a rosy lotus wreath,63

Catching new lustre from the tide

That with his image shone beneath.

But what are cups without the aid

Of song to speed them as they flow?

And see—a lovely Georgian maid

With all the bloom, the freshened glow

Of her own country maidens’ looks,

When warm they rise from Teflis’ brooks;64

And with an eye whose restless ray

Full, floating, dark—oh, he, who knows

His heart is weak, of Heaven should pray

To guard him from such eyes as those!—

With a voluptuous wildness flings

Her snowy hand across the strings

Of a syrinda65 and thus sings:—

Come hither, come hither—by night and by day,

We linger in pleasures that never are gone;

Like the waves of the summer as one dies away

Another as sweet and as shining comes on.

And the love that is o’er, in expiring gives birth

To a new one as warm, as unequalled in bliss;

And, oh! if there be an Elysium on earth,

It is this, it is this.66

Here maidens are sighing, and fragrant their sigh

As the flower of the Amra just oped by a bee;67

And precious their tears as that rain from the sky,68

Which turns into pearls as it falls in the sea.

Oh! think what the kiss and the smile must be worth

When the sigh and the tear are so perfect in bliss,

And own if there be an Elysium on earth,

It is this, it is this.

Here sparkles the nectar that hallowed by love

Could draw down those angels of old from their sphere,

Who for wine of this earth69 left the fountains above,

And forgot heaven’s stars for the eyes we have here.

And, blest with the odor our goblet gives forth,

What Spirit the sweets of his Eden would miss?

For, oh! if there be an Elysium on earth,

It is this, it is this.

The Georgian’s song was scarcely mute,

When the same measure, sound for sound,

Was caught up by another lute

And so divinely breathed around

That all stood husht and wondering,

And turned and lookt into the air,

As if they thought to see the wing

Of Israfil70 the Angel there;—

So powerfully on every soul

That new, enchanted measure stole.

While now a voice sweet as the note

Of the charmed lute was heard to float

Along its chords and so entwine

Its sounds with theirs that none knew whether

The voice or lute was most divine,

So wondrously they went together:—

There’s a bliss beyond all that the minstrel has told,

When two that are linkt in one heavenly tie,

With heart never changing and brow never cold,

Love on thro’ all ills and love on till they die!

One hour of a passion so sacred is worth

Whole ages of heartless and wandering bliss;

And, oh! if there be an Elysium on earth,

It is this, it is this.

’Twas not the air, ’twas not the words,

But that deep magic in the chords

And in the lips that gave such power

As music knew not till that hour.

At once a hundred voices said,

“It is the maskt Arabian maid!”

While Selim who had felt the strain

Deepest of any and had lain

Some minutes rapt as in a trance

After the fairy sounds were o’er.

Too inly touched for utterance,

Now motioned with his hand for more:—

Fly to the desert, fly with me,

Our Arab’s tents are rude for thee;

But oh! the choice what heart can doubt,

Of tents with love or thrones without?

Our rocks are rough, but smiling there

The acacia waves her yellow hair,

Lonely and sweet nor loved the less

For flowering in a wilderness.

Our sands are bare, but down their slope

The silvery-footed antelope

As gracefully and gayly springs

As o’er the marble courts of kings.

Then come—thy Arab maid will be

The loved and lone acacia-tree.

The antelope whose feet shall bless

With their light sound thy loneliness.

Oh! there are looks and tones that dart

An instant sunshine thro’ the heart,—

As if the soul that minute caught

Some treasure it thro’ life had sought;

As if the very lips and eyes,

Predestined to have all our sighs

And never be forgot again,

Sparkled and spoke before us then!

So came thy every glance and tone,

When first on me they breathed and shone,

New as if brought from other spheres

Yet welcome as if loved for years.

Then fly with me,—if thou hast known

No other flame nor falsely thrown

A gem away, that thou hadst sworn

Should ever in thy heart be worn.

Come if the love thou hast for me

Is pure and fresh as mine for thee,—

Fresh as the fountain under ground,

When first ’tis by the lapwing found.71

But if for me thou dost forsake

Some other maid and rudely break

Her worshipt image from its base,

To give to me the ruined place;—

Then fare thee well—I’d rather make

My bower upon some icy lake

When thawing suns begin to shine

Than trust to love so false as thine.

There was a pathos in this lay,

That, even without enchantment’s art,

Would instantly have found its way

Deep in to Selim’s burning heart;

But breathing as it did a tone

To earthly lutes and lips unknown;

With every chord fresh from the touch

Of Music’s Spirit,—’twas too much!

Starting he dasht away the cup,—

Which all the time of this sweet air

His hand had held, untasted, up,

As if ’twere fixt by magic there—

And naming her, so long unnamed,

So long unseen, wildly exclaimed,

“Oh Nourmahal! oh Nourmahal!

“Hadst thou but sung this witching strain,

“I could forget—forgive thee all

“And never leave those eyes again.”

The mask is off—the charm is wrought—

And Selim to his heart has caught,

In blushes, more than ever bright,

His Nourmahal, his Haram’s Light!

And well do vanisht frowns enhance

The charm of every brightened glance;

And dearer seems each dawning smile

For having lost its light awhile:

And happier now for all her sighs

As on his arm her head reposes

She whispers him, with laughing eyes,

“Remember, love, the Feast of Roses!”

1 “The application of whips or rods.”—Dubois.

2 Kempfer mentions such an officer among the attendants of the King of Persia, and calls him “formae corporis estimator.” His business was, at stated periods, to measure the ladies of the Haram by a sort of regulation-girdle whose limits it was not thought graceful to exceed. If any of them outgrew this standard of shape, they were reduced by abstinence till they came within proper bounds.

3 “Akbar on his way ordered a fort to be built upon the Nilab, which he called Attock, which means in the Indian language Forbidden; for, by the superstition of the Hindoos, it was held unlawful to cross that river.”—Dow’s Hindostan.

4 “The inhabitants of this country (Zinge) are never afflicted with sadness or melancholy; on this subject the Sheikh Abu-alKheir–Azhari has the following distich:—

“‘Who is the man without care or sorrow, (tell) that I may rub my hand to him.

“’(Behold) the Zingians, without care and sorrow, frolicsome with tipsiness and mirth.’”

5 The star Soheil, or Canopus.

6 “The lizard Stellio. The Arabs call it Hardun. The Turks kill it, for they imagine that by declining the head it mimics them when they say their prayers.”—Hasselquist.

7 “As you enter at that Bazar, without the gate of Damascus, you see the Green Mosque, so called because it hath a steeple faced with green glazed bricks, which render it very resplendent: It is covered at top with a pavilion of the same stuff. The Turks say this mosque was made in that place, because Mahomet being come so far, would not enter the town, saying it was too delicious.”—Thevenot.

8 Nourmahal signifies Light of the Haram. She was afterwards called Nourjehan, or the Light of the World.

9 “The rose of Kashmire for its brilliancy and delicacy of odor has long been proverbial in the East.”—Foster.

10 “Tied round her waist the zone of bells, that sounded with ravishing melody.”—Song of Jayadeva.

11 “The little isles in the Lake of Cachemire are set with arbors and large-leaved aspen-trees, slender and tall.”—Bernier.

12 “The Tuckt Suliman, the name bestowed by the Mahommetans on this hill, forms one side of a grand portal to the Lake.”—Forster.

13 “The Feast of Roses continues the whole time of their remaining in bloom.”—See Pietro de la Valle.

14 “Gul sad berk, the Rose of a hundred leaves. I believe a particular species.”—Ouseley.

15 A place mentioned in the Toozek Jehangeery, or Memoirs of Jehan–Guire, where there is an account of the beds of saffron-flowers about Cashmere.

16 “It is the custom among the women to employ the Maazeen to chant from the gallery of the nearest minaret, which on that occasion is illuminated, and the women assembled at the house respond at intervals with a ziraleet or joyous chorus.”—Russel.

17 “The swing is a favorite pastime in the East, as promoting a circulation of air, extremely refreshing in those sultry climates.”— Richardson.

18 At the keeping of the Feast of Roses we beheld an infinite number of tents pitched, with such a crowd of men, women, boys, and girls, with music, dances, etc.”—Herbert.

19 “An old commentator of the Chou–King says, the ancients having remarked that a current of water made some of the stones near its banks send forth a sound, they detached some of them, and being charmed with the delightful sound they emitted, constructed King or musical instruments of them,”—Grosier.

20 In the wars of the Divs with the Peris, whenever the former took the latter prisoners, “they shut them up in iron cages, and hung them on the highest trees. Here they were visited by their companions, who brought them the choicest odors.”—Richardson.

21 In the Malay language the same word signifies women and flowers.

22 The capital of Shadukiam.

23 “Among the birds of Tonquin is a species of goldfinch, which sings so melodiously that it is called the Celestial Bird. Its wings, when it is perched, appear variegated with beautiful colors, but when it flies they lose all their splendor.”—Grosier.

24 “As these birds on the Bosphorus are never known to rest, they are called by the French ‘les âmes damnées.’”—Dalloway.

25 “You may place a hundred handfuls of fragrant herbs and flowers before the nightingale, yet he wishes not in his constant heart for more than the sweet breath of his beloved rose.”—Jami.

26 “He is said to have found the great Mantra, spell or talisman, through which he ruled over the elements and spirits of all denominations.”—Wilford.

27 “The gold jewels of Jinnie, which are called by the Arabs El Herrez, from the supposed charm they contain.”—Jackson.

28 “A demon, supposed to haunt woods, etc., in a human shape.”— Richardson.

29 The name of Jehan–Guire before his accession to the throne.

30 “Hemasagara, or the Sea of Gold, with flowers of the brightest gold color.”—Sir W. Jones.

31 “This tree (the Nagacesara) is one of the most delightful on earth, and the delicious odor of its blossoms justly gives them a place in the quiver of Camadeva, or the God of Love.”—Id.

32 “The Malayans style the tuberose (polianthes tuberosa) Sandal Malam, or the Mistress of the Night.”—Pennant.

33 The people of the Batta country in Sumatra (of which Zamara is one of the ancient names), “when not engaged in war, lead an idle, inactive life, passing the day in playing on a kind of flute, crowned with garlands of flowers, among which the globe-amaranthus, a native of the country, mostly prevails,”—Marsden.

34 “The largest and richest sort (of the Jambu or rose-apple) is called Amrita, or immortal, and the mythologists of Tibet apply the same word to a celestial tree, bearing ambrosial fruit.”—Sir W. Jones.

35 Sweet Basil, called Rayhan in Persia, and generally found in churchyards.

36 “In the Great Desert are found many stalks of lavender and rosemary.”—Asiat. Res.

37 “The almond-tree, with white flowers, blossoms on the bare branches.”—Hasselquist.

38 An herb on Mount Libanus, which is said to communicate a yellow golden hue to the teeth of the goat and other animals that graze upon it.

39 The myrrh country.

40 “This idea (of deities living in shells) was not unknown to the Greeks, who represent the young Nerites, one of the Cupids, as living in shells on the shores of the Red Sea.”—Wilford.

41 “A fabulous fountain, where instruments are said to be constantly playing.”—Richardson.

42 “The Pompadour pigeon is the species, which, by carrying the fruit of the cinnamon to different places, is a great disseminator of this valuable tree.”—See Brown’s Illustr. Tab. 19.

43 “The Persians have two mornings, the Soobhi Kazim and the Soobhi Sadig, the false and the real daybreak. They account for this phenomenon in a most whimsical manner. They say that as the sun rises from behind the Kohi Qaf (Mount Caucasus), it passes a hole perforated through that mountain, and that darting its rays through it, it is the cause of the Soobhi Kazim, or this temporary appearance of daybreak. As it ascends, the earth is again veiled in darkness, until the sun rises above the mountain, and brings with it the Soobhi Sadig, or real morning.”—Scott Waring.

44 “In the centre of the plain, as it approaches the Lake, one of the Delhi Emperors, I believe Shan Jehan, constructed a spacious garden called the Shalimar, which is abundantly stored with fruit-trees and flowering shrubs. Some of the rivulets which intersect the plain are led into a canal at the back of the garden, and flowing through its centre, or occasionally thrown into a variety of water-works, compose the chief beauty of the Shalimar.”—Forster.

45 “The waters of Cachemir are the more renowned from its being supposed that the Cachemirians are indebted for their beauty to them.”—Ali Yezdi.

46 “From him I received the following little Gazzel, or Love Song, the notes of which he committed to paper from the voice of one of those singing girls of Cashmere, who wander from that delightful valley over the various parts of India.”—Persian Miscellanies.

47 “The roses of the Jinan Nile, or Garden of the Nile (attached to the Emperor of Morocco’s palace) are unequalled, and mattresses are made of their leaves for the men of rank to recline upon.”—Jackson.

48 “On the side of a mountain near Paphos there is a cavern which produces the most beautiful rock-crystal. On account of its brilliancy it has been called the Paphian diamond.”—Mariti.

49 “These is a part of Candahar, called Peria, or Fairy Land.”— Thevenot. In some of those countries to the north of India vegetable gold is supposed to be produced.

50 “These are the butterflies which are called in the Chinese language Flying Leaves. Some of them have such shining colors, and are so variegated, that they may be called flying flowers; and indeed they are always produced in the finest flower-gardens.”—Dunn.

51 “The Arabian women wear black masks with little clasps prettily ordered.”—Carreri. Niebuhr mentions their showing but one eye in conversation.

52 “The golden grapes of Casbin.”—Description of Persia.

53 “The fruits exported from Caubul are apples, pears, pomegranates,” etc.—Elphinstone.

54 “We sat down under a tree, listened to the birds, and talked with the son of our Mehmaundar about our country and Caubul, of which he gave an enchanting account; that city and its 100,000 gardens,” etc.—Ib.

55 “The mangusteen, the most delicate fruit in the world; the pride of the Malay islands.”—Marsden.

56 “A delicious kind of apricot, called by the Persians tokmekshems, signifying sun’s seed.”—Description of Persia.

57 “Sweetmeats, in a crystal cup, consisting of rose-leaves in conserve, with Iemon of Visna cherry, orange flowers,” etc.—Russel.

58 “Antelopes cropping the fresh berries of Erac.”—The Moallakat, Poem of Tarafa.

59 “Mauri-ga-Sima, an island near Formosa, supposed to have been sunk in the sea for the crimes of its inhabitants. The vessels which the fishermen and divers bring up from it are sold at an immense price in China and Japan.”—See Kempfer.

60 Persian Tales.

61 The white wine of Kishma.

62 “The King of Zeilan is said to have the very finest ruby that was ever seen. Kublai–Khan sent and offered the value of a city for It, but the king answered he would not give it for the treasure of the world.”—Marco Polo.

63 The Indians feign that Cupid was first seen floating down the Ganges on the Nymphaea Nelumbo.—See Pennant.

64 Teflis is celebrated for its natural warm baths.—See Ebn Haukal.

65 “The Indian Syrinda, or guitar.”—Symez.

66 “Around the exterior of the Dewan Khafs (a building of Shah Allum’s) in the cornice are the following lines in letters of gold upon a ground of white marble—‘If there be a paradise upon earth, it is this, it is this.’”—Franklin.

67 “Delightful are the flowers of the Amra trees on the mountain tops while the murmuring bees pursue their voluptuous toil.”—Song of Jayadera.

68 “The Nison or drops of spring rain, which they believe to produce pearls if they fall into shells.”—Richardson.

69 For an account of the share which wine had in the fall of the angels, see Mariti.

70 The Angel of Music.

71 The Hudhud, or Lapwing, is supposed to have the power of discovering water under ground.

Fadladeen, at the conclusion of this light rhapsody, took occasion to sum up his opinion of the young Cashmerian’s poetry,—of which, he trusted, they had that evening heard the last. Having recapitulated the epithets, “frivolous”—“inharmonious”—“nonsensical,” he proceeded to say that, viewed in the most favorable light it resembled one of those Maldivian boats, to which the Princess had alluded in the relation of her dream,— a slight, gilded thing, sent adrift without rudder or ballast, and with nothing but vapid sweets and faded flowers on board. The profusion, indeed, of flowers and birds, which this poet had ready on all occasions, —not to mention dews, gems, etc.—was a most oppressive kind of opulence to his hearers; and had the unlucky effect of giving to his style all the glitter of the flower garden without its method, and all the flutter of the aviary without its song. In addition to this, he chose his subjects badly, and was always most inspired by the worst parts of them. The charms of paganism, the merits of rebellion,—these were the themes honored with his particular enthusiasm; and, in the poem just recited, one of his most palatable passages was in praise of that beverage of the Unfaithful, wine;—“being, perhaps,” said he, relaxing into a smile, as conscious of his own character in the Haram on this point, “one of those bards, whose fancy owes all its illumination to the grape, like that painted porcelain,72 so curious and so rare, whose images are only visible when liquor is poured into it.” Upon the whole, it was his opinion, from the specimens which they had heard, and which, he begged to say, were the most tiresome part of the journey, that—whatever other merits this well-dressed young gentleman might possess—poetry was by no means his proper avocation; “and indeed,” concluded the critic, “from his fondness for flowers and for birds, I would venture to suggest that a florist or a bird-catcher is a much more suitable calling for him than a poet.”

They had now begun to ascend those barren mountains, which separate Cashmere from the rest of India; and, as the heats were intolerable, and the time of their encampments limited to the few hours necessary for refreshment and repose, there was an end to all their delightful evenings, and Lalla Rookh saw no more of Feramorz. She now felt that her short dream of happiness was over, and that she had nothing but the recollection of its few blissful hours, like the one draught of sweet water that serves the camel across the wilderness, to be her heart’s refreshment during the dreary waste of life that was before her. The blight that had fallen upon her spirits soon found its way to her cheek, and her ladies saw with regret—though not without some suspicion of the cause—that the beauty of their mistress, of which they were almost as proud as of their own, was fast vanishing away at the very moment of all when she had most need of it. What must the King of Bucharia feel, when, instead of the lively and beautiful Lalla Rookh, whom the poets of Delhi had described as more perfect than the divinest images in the house of Azor,73 he should receive a pale and inanimate victim, upon whose cheek neither health nor pleasure bloomed, and from whose eyes Love had fled,—to hide himself in her heart?

If any thing could have charmed away the melancholy of her spirits, it would have been the fresh airs and enchanting scenery of that Valley, which the Persians so justly called the Unequalled.74 But neither the coolness of its atmosphere, so luxurious after toiling up those bare and burning mountains,—neither the splendor of the minarets and pagodas, that shone put from the depth of its woods, nor the grottoes, hermitages, and miraculous fountains,75 which make every spot of that region holy ground,—neither the countless waterfalls, that rush into the Valley from all those high and romantic mountains that encircle it, nor the fair city on the Lake, whose houses, roofed with flowers,76 appeared at a distance like one vast and variegated parterre;—not all these wonders and glories of the most lovely country under the sun could steal her heart for a minute from those sad thoughts which but darkened and grew bitterer every step she advanced.

The gay pomps and processions that met her upon her entrance into the Valley, and the magnificence with which the roads all along were decorated, did honor to the taste and gallantry of the young King. It was night when they approached the city, and, for the last two miles, they had passed under arches, thrown from hedge to hedge, festooned with only those rarest roses from which the Attar Gul, more precious than gold, is distilled, and illuminated in rich and fanciful forms with lanterns of the triple-colored tortoise-shell of Pegu.77 Sometimes, from a dark wood by the side of the road, a display of fireworks would break out, so sudden and so brilliant, that a Brahmin might fancy he beheld that grove, in whose purple shade the God of Battles was born, bursting into a flame at the moment of his birth;—while, at other times, a quick and playful irradiation continued to brighten all the fields and gardens by which they passed, forming a line of dancing lights along the horizon; like the meteors of the north as they are seen by those hunters who pursue the white and blue foxes on the confines of the Icy Sea.

These arches and fireworks delighted the Ladies of the Princess exceedingly; and, with their usual good logic, they deduced from his taste for illuminations, that the King of Bucharia would make the most exemplary husband imaginable. Nor, indeed, could Lalla Rookh herself help feeling the kindness and splendor with which the young bridegroom welcomed her;—but she also felt how painful is the gratitude which kindness from those we cannot love excites; and that their best blandishments come over the heart with all that chilling and deadly sweetness which we can fancy in the cold, odoriferous wind78 that is to blow over this earth in the last days.

The marriage was fixed for the morning after her arrival, when she was, for the first time, to be presented to the monarch in that Imperial Palace beyond the lake, called the Shalimar. Though never before had a night of more wakeful and anxious thought been passed in the Happy Valley, yet, when she rose in the morning, and her Ladies came around her, to assist in the adjustment of the bridal ornaments, they thought they had never seen her look half so beautiful. What she had lost of the bloom and radiancy of her charms was more than made up by that intellectual expression, that soul beaming forth from the eyes, which is worth all the rest of loveliness. When they had tinged her fingers with the Henna leaf, and placed upon her brow a small coronet of jewels, of the shape worn by the ancient Queens of Bucharia, they flung over her head the rose-colored bridal veil, and she proceeded to the barge that was to convey her across the lake;—first kissing, with a mournful look, the little amulet of cornelian, which her father at parting had hung about her neck.

The morning was as fresh and fair as the maid on whose nuptials it rose, and the shining lake, all covered with boats, the minstrels playing upon the shores of the islands, and the crowded summer-houses on the green hills around, with shawls and banners waving from their roofs, presented such a picture of animated rejoicing, as only she, who was the object of it all, did not feel with transport. To Lalla Rookh alone it was a melancholy pageant; nor could she have even borne to look upon the scene, were it not for a hope that among the crowds around, she might once more perhaps catch a glimpse of Feramorz. So much was her imagination haunted by this thought that there was scarcely an islet or boat she passed on the way at which her heart did not flutter with the momentary fancy that he was there. Happy, in her eyes, the humblest slave upon whom the light of his dear looks fell!—In the barge immediately after the Princess sat Fadladeen, with his silken curtains thrown widely apart, that all might have the benefit of his august presence, and with his head full of the speech he was to deliver to the King, “concerning Feramorz and literature and the Chabuk as connected therewith.”

They now had entered the canal which leads from the Lake to the splendid domes and saloons of the Shalimar and went gliding on through the gardens that ascended from each bank, full of flowering shrubs that made the air all perfume; while from the middle of the canal rose jets of water, smooth and unbroken, to such a dazzling height that they stood like tall pillars of diamond in the sunshine. After sailing under the arches of various saloons they at length arrived at the last and most magnificent, where the monarch awaited the coming of his bride; and such was the agitation of her heart and frame that it was with difficulty she could walk up the marble steps which were covered with cloth of gold for her ascent from the barge. At the end of the hall stood two thrones, as precious as the Cerulean Throne of Koolburga,79 on one of which sat Aliris, the youthful King of Bucharia, and on the other was in a few minutes to be placed the most beautiful Princess in the world. Immediately upon the entrance of Lalla Rookh into the saloon the monarch descended from his throne to meet her; but scarcely had he time to take her hand in his when she screamed with surprise and fainted at his feet. It was Feramorz, himself, who stood before her! Feramorz, was, himself, the Sovereign of Bucharia, who in this disguise had accompanied his young bride from Delhi, and having won her love as an humble minstrel now amply deserved to enjoy it as a King.

The consternation of Fadladeen at this discovery was, for the moment, almost pitiable. But change of opinion is a resource too convenient in courts for this experienced courtier not to have learned to avail himself of it. His criticisms were all, of course, recanted instantly: he was seized with an admiration of the King’s verses, as unbounded as, he begged him to believe, it was disinterested; and the following week saw him in possession of an additional place, swearing by all the Saints of Islam that never had there existed so great a poet as the Monarch Aliris, and moreover ready to prescribe his favorite regimen of the Chabuk for every man, woman and child that dared to think otherwise.

Of the happiness of the King and Queen of Bucharia, after such a beginning, there can be but little doubt; and among the lesser symptoms it is recorded of Lalla Rookh that to the day of her death in memory of their delightful journey she never called the King by any other name than Feramorz.

72 “The Chinese had formerly the art of painting on the sides of porcelain vessels fish and other animals, which were only perceptible when the vessel was full of some liquor, They call this species Kia-tsin, that is, azure is put in press, on account of the manner in which the azure is laid on.”—“They are every now and then trying to discover the art of this magical painting, but to no purpose.”—Dunn.

73 An eminent carver of idols, said in the Koran to be father to Abraham. “I have such a lovely idol as is not to be met with in the house of Azor.”—Hafiz.

74 Kachmire be Nazeer.—Forster.

75 Jehan–Guire mentions “a fountain in Cashmere called Tirnagh, which signifies a snake; probably because some large snake had formerly been seen there.”—“During the lifetime of my father, I went twice to this fountain, which is about twenty coss from the city of Cashmere. The vestiges of places of worship and sanctity are to be traced without number amongst the ruins and the caves which are interspersed in its neighborhood.”—Toozek Jehangeery.—v. Asiat. Misc. vol. ii.

76 “On a standing roof of wood is laid a covering of fine earth, which shelters the building from the great quantity of snow that falls in the winter season. This fence communicates an equal warmth in winter, as a refreshing coolness in the summer season, when the tops of the houses, which are planted with a variety of flowers, exhibit at a distance the spacious view of a beautifully checkered parterre.”—Forster.

77 “Two hundred slaves there are, who have no other office than to hunt the woods and marshes for triple-colored tortoises for the King’s Vivary. Of the shells of these also lanterns are made.”—Vincent le Blanc’s Travels.

78 This wind, which is to blow from Syria Damascena, is, according to the Mahometans, one of the signs of the Last Day’s approach.

Another of the signs is, “Great distress in the world, so that a man when he passes by another’s grave shall say, Would to God I were in his place!”—Sale’s Preliminary Discourse.

79 “On Mahommed Shaw’s return to Koolburga (the capital of Dekkan), he made a great festival, and mounted this throne with much pomp and magnificence, calling it Firozeh or Cerulean. I have heard some old persons, who saw the throne Firozeh in the reign of Sultan Mamood Bhamenee, describe it. They say that it was in length nine feet, and three in breadth; made of ebony covered with plates of pure gold, and set with precious stones of immense value. Every prince of the house of Bhamenee, who possessed this throne, made a point of adding to it some rich stones; so that when in the reign of Sultan Mamood it was taken to pieces to remove some of the jewels to be set in vases and cups, the jewellers valued it at one corore of oons (nearly four millions sterling). I learned also that it was called Firozeh from being partly enamelled of a sky-blue color which was in time totally concealed by the number of jewels.”— Ferishta.

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