[ocr errors]

upon the Grand Platz and surrounded through the crowded, agitated Platz, by chestnut and sycamore trees.

The the lawless soldiers standing back King was with the army on the distant astonished and abashed, till it reached Thuringian slopes; but it was known the great hotel of the Three Kings, through all the city that the Queen where a marshal of France, a brotherwas still in the palace and had refused in-law of the Emperor, had taken up to leave; and in the hearts of the his quarters for the night an hour citizens, wherever a few met together, before. It did not remain long ; but or in the homes where they spoke of in a few moments it was known this, despair and anguish were soothed throughout the city that the Queen's into gratitude and trust.

intercession had prevailed, that orders But gradually as the evening drew had been given to extinguish the matters became

The conflagration, and that the pillage terrible cannonade, it is true, ceased ; would immediately cease. but a party of French chasseurs, The people, young and old, swarmed followed by infantry, occupied the into the streets. From by-lane and market-place, and the work of plunder causeway and boulevard, rich and was systematically begun. The crash poor, without distinction, child and old of doors burst in, and the shrieks of the man and grand-dame, crowded around inhabitants, were heard on every side. the stately carriage with the white At seven o'clock in the summer even horses, wherein sat a beautiful woman ing houses were in flames in front of of middle age, serene and stately, but the palace, and the light was very pale with long watching and with intense that people could read hand- grief. Sobs, and words of blessing, writing, both in the palace-court and and cries of love and joy, resounded in the market-place.

on every side; but amid that countThen, suddenly, a most wonderful less throng there was no heart so full thing occurred. The great iron gates of a strange pride and gratitude to of the courtyard, which had remained

was that of an unknown closed, were thrown open, and a state stranger, by chance in the city, standcarriage, gorgeously caparisoned and ing unnoticed in the dark shadows drawn by six white horses, accom of the palace-groves. I knew her: I panied by servants in full liveries, had known longer than they all ; for issued forth in the evening light, it was the Princess Cynthia of the amid the added glare of the flaming old, unforgotten, boyish days. houses. It passed on its stately way



God as

[ocr errors]




EDWARD FITZGERALD's version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam has won its way slowly but surely to such high favour, that it may well seem superfluous to say anything more about the astronomer-poet of mediæval Khorassan. Yet this unique and beautiful poem does not in truth show the real Khayyam. Unquestionably among the fine things in modern English verse, these quatrains give no accurate representation of the original in any of their versions; as indeed the variations of successive editions do themselves tend to show. The Persian rubaiyat are by no means the coherent strain of contemplative philosophy which Fitzgerald's work affords, being rather a not too harmonious "song-circle” (as the Germans say) in which the real intention of the poet, if indeed he had one, cannot be clearly ascertained. Omar is more coherent than Martial, as any one will see who looks ipto Mr. Whinfield's version in Trübner's series : here is the epigram of a scoffer, there the ejaculation of a pious inquirer : the carol of the winebibber is followed by a stanza of tender love. In Fitzgerald, on the other hand, we are not sure whether we are reminded most of Horace or of Ecclesiastes: of the flighty Persian freethinker, eclectic and unsystematic, we see little or nothing.

It is not the intention of the present paper to shock the admirers of Mr. Fitzgerald by an attempt to compete with his poetical treatment. He has obtained and most justly obtained the reputation of a genuine poet; but those who desire to see how much of this fame is founded on his own great powers, and how much is due to the perhaps inferior credit of a good translator, may satisfy their minds by consulting the aforesaid version of

Mr. Whinfield. The few stanzas which are versified in English below, are, with one exception, taken from other quatrains than those used by Fitzgerald, and are only offered as illustrative of the real Khayyam in his disjointed manner. Yielding to every passing impulse he will be seen to be little more than a casual writer of epigrams: the only thread running at all thoroughly through his tetrastichs being a uniformity of metre, and a plea for peace and freedom in a rough polemic age.

To understand this unparalleled figure in the usually conventional literature of the East we have to take note of the time in which, and by which, he was produced. It was the period of the First Crusade. The orthodox creed of the early Moslem Arabs was cooling down into culture and cant. The Persians, on the other hand, had not accepted it. Five centuries earlier, when first subdued by the followers of Islam, they had possessed in the Zoroastrian dogma a highly-organised creed of their own which only yielded slowly before the fierce persuasions of the Crescent.

Then arose the schism of the Shias, or followers of Ali, which spread among them from the first century of the Hegira, both by reason of their vicinity to Kufa and Karbela, and because the Shias were enemies of the elective Caliphs to whom the Persians were also hostile. About a hundred years later fresh secessions occurred, originating in political ambition, but coloured by religious eccentricity and destined to cause fresh heresy. The descendants of Abbas (the Prophet's uncle) founded a Caliphate, or Papacy, at Bagdad; and the son of Jafar Sadik, counted the sixth Imam, set on foot the almost atheistical sect of the Ismailis.

When the Seljukians obtained reducing the Caliph to insignificance influence at Bagdad they had at Bagdad, and successfully encounteralready founded the shortlived Empire ing the Emperor Romanus, Alp Arslan, known to mediæval Europe as that the Saracen Cour-de-Lion, was assassiof the Saracens, and, in many of the nated at Merv on December 25th, provinces such as Khorassan, and 1072. His vast dominions, of which farther west, had found Sunni ortho the western boundary was the Medidoxy in full vogue. Thus, when they terranean Sea and the eastern the embraced Islam, they naturally adopt- Chinese Wall, devolved upon his son ed the form of that faith which was Malik Shah, and the Minister conat once popular with the conquered tinued in power, with the title of people and established at Bagdad. But Nizam-ul-Mulk, for nearly thirty years. that was by no means the case in the It is natural to inquire what so perlands which they wrested in Persia manent and powerful a Minister did proper from the tribes of Ghor. Not for the friends of his youth ; and it is only were the heresies of the Shias and curious to find that he did so very the Ismailis popular among the Per little. The post of Chaubdar (macesians, but at the same epoch they were bearer or bedell) to the Sultan was influenced by other innovations. This obtained for Hassan, and Khayyam was the period of the Ikhwan-us-Safa, was provided with a small pension and the Encyclopædists of Basra, as it was permission to live in a garden-house in also the climacteric of the Sufis, with the suburbs of his native town of opinions supposed to have grown out Naishapur. The result of this modeof Greek philosophy, and largely im ration, as the Minister doubtless called bued with the tentative Pantheism his treatment of his schoolfellows, was originated by the school of Epicurus, unhappy, though in his Testament he

It is not certain what was the ethnic declares tbat Omar refused all other origin of our poet, whether his extrac rewards. Hassan soon went off to tion was Arab or Iranian. From his Syria, joined the Ismaili heretics, and name it is inferred that he was a mem established the robber-hold of Allahber of the hereditary guild of tent Mut among the mountains of North makers; for khaima means a tent in ern Persia, which was the centre of the Perso-Arabic, and khayyam is a conju- sinister but short-lived power of the gation of intensity or frequency from Assassins. The Nizam endeavoured it. But he studied science and letters to put an end to the order, but paid in the time of Togrul Beg, the same for his endeavours with his life. school also affording instruction to two Meanwhile, in his milder way, Khayother men who were to obtain a more yam also broke with orthodoxy, lived mundane notoriety. One was Hassan on in his humble retreat a contented Sabah, he who, under the title of but settled despiser of the world, surSheikh-ul-Jabal, afterwards became in vived his niggardly Mæcenas for famous as the founder of the truculent nearly thirty years, and became the order of Assassins. The second was means to which that once mighty one who seemed far the most success statesman is alone indebted for the ful, though history has not remem remembrance of posterity. Man does bered him so well. Sultan Togrul was not seem a very ideal being, yet we succeeded by his able and magnanimous catch here and there a mark of the nephew, Alp Arslan, A.D. 1063. In might of spiritual over material this reign the second of Khayyam's greatness. schoolfellows, of whom mention has We have now before us the elements just been made, became Minister, and of that society on which the criticism his civil administration proved as use of Khayyam was to act as a partial ful to the Saracen Empire as the solvent. Station and

power military ability of his master. After great but insecure: in the higher



places ruled pride and persecution :

" This is the time for roses and repose rank and command were with battles

Beside the stream that through the garden of the warrior and garments rolled in


A friend or two, a lady rosy-cheeked, blood : the ferocious egotism of the With wine—and none to hear the clergy prose. natural man was accentuated, and

“Unless girls pour the wine the wine is naught, gentle manners driven into the shade.

Without the music of the flute is naught: We must picture to ourselves the poet Look as I may into the things of life, in his garden, looking out on the well Mirth is the only good—the rest is naught. watered valley below Meshed, with “ The red wine in a festal cup is sweet, vines and fruit-plots around, and a With sound of lute and dulcimer is sweet : bright sky overhead assuaged by

A saint, to whom the wine-cup is not

known, shadowy plane-trees, while streams

Hetooma thousand miles from us—is sweet." lapsed softly through the meadowgrass. It was a retreat, yet with loop Not but what he has his pious holes, for the neighbourhood of the hours ; for to nothing but true piety town afforded some choice of society. can we ascribe such thoughts as these. Omar's hospitality was open to plea

Thou hast no way to enter the Dark Court, sapt persons of both sexes-to all, in

For not to mortals does it yield resort : deed, but zealots. He was not one to There is no rest but on the lap of earthconfuse belief with faith: heterodoxy Woe! that its riddle is so far from short ! is as bad in his eyes as orthodoxy ;

Ah, brand! ah, brand! if all that thou you may do what

will if you will

canst earn be cheerful and undogmatic. He is the Be but to help the fires of Hell to burn, slave of freedom.

Why wilt thou Have

mercy, Lord, on me!'

Is it from such as thee that He will learn ? “To drink and revel and laugh is all my art, To smile at faith and unfaith my Faith's “Of thy Creator's mercy do not hold part :

Doubt, though thy crimes be great and I asked the bride what gift would win her

manifold, love,

Nor think that, if thou die in sin to-day, She answered, "Give me but a cheerful

He from thy bones His mercy will withhold.” heart.

Yet, convinced as he is of the need That he is ambitious, in the vulgar of pardon, and not always sure (in sense of sighing for the perishable his human diffidence) that his Lord is advantages of wealth and station, no anything but a magnified Sultan, who

can believe: he may desire to exercises man with wilful and arbitrary influence his fellow creatures, but it is caprice, he preserves his dignity in as a friend rather than as a master. face of the appalling possibility. For personal comfort, he looks not to

Although God's service has not been my care, luxury, but to love : not to the blind

Nor for His coming was my heart made fair, assurance of the bigot, but to the I still have hope to find the mercy-seat, confidence of innocence and goodness.

Because I never wearied Him with prayer.

Am I a rebel ? then His power is—Where ? “If in your heart the light of Love you plant

Is my heart dark? His light and glory(Whether the mosque or synagogue you

Where? haunt),

Doth He give Heaven for our obedience ? If in Love's court its name be registered,

'Tis due. But then, His loving-kindnessHell it will fear not, Heaven it will not


These speculations bring him to the It has been thought that Khayyam old conclusion. was a Sufi, and only used the language of pleasure as a symbol for pantheistic Although my sins have left me faint and fell, aspiration. But he can be outspoken;

One hope I keep—the heathen have it as

welland such questions as the following

In dying may I clasp my girl and glass are neither equivocal nor ambiguous. What else to me were Paradise or hell


[ocr errors]

“If I drink wine it is not for delight, Nor unto holiness to do despite :

I do it to breathe a little, free from self: No other cause would make me drink all

night. They say that Tophet from of old was

planned, But that's what I could never understand : If there were Hell for those who drink,

then Heaven Would be no fuller than one's hollow hand. “ With wine and music if our lives have glee, If grass beside the running brook wave free,

Better than this esteem no quenched Hell : This is thy Heaven-if Heaven indeed there


"Sweetheart, if Time a cloud on thee have

flung, To think the breath must leave thee, now

so young, Sit here, upon the grass, a day or two, While yet no grass from thy dust shall have

sprung “ Long before thee and me were Night and

Morn : For some great end the sky is round us

borne : Upon this dust, ah, step with careful foot, Some beauty's eyeball here may lie forlorn. “This cup once loved, like me, a lovely girl, And sighed, entangled in a scented curl :

This handle, that you see upon its neck, Once wound itself about a neck of pearl.”

It is to be feared that, like Anacreon, the Eastern poet found that, as old age drew

on, the ladies turned to

younger loves.

[ocr errors]

He is not sure whether, even on this side of the grave, perfect bliss is to be had; and in such uncertainty it would be folly to strive. But he is quite sure of the wisdom of savouring to the utmost the passing moment; and, like Horace, he makes the precariousness of joy a reason for enjoyment. “ Since life flies fast, what's bitter and what's

sweet? When death draws near, what matter field

or street ? Drink wine ; for after thee and me, the

moon Her alternating course will oft repeat. “I dreamed of an old man, who said, and

frowned, * The rose of bliss in sleep was never found ;

Why then anticipate the work of death? Drink" rather : sleep awaits thee in the

ground.' Ah, comrades ! strengthen me with cups of

wine Until my faded cheeks like rubies shine,

And bathe me in it after I am dead, And weave my shroud with tendrils of the

vine.' But these contemplations, these delights could not always be taken, or did not always suffice. Post prandia Callirhoe: like his European prototypes the Persian philosopher found woman essential to his scheme. His Paradise must never want an Eve with whom he could share alike his joys and his troubles. “ Clouds come, and sink upon the grass in

rain, Let wues red roses make our moments fain; And let the verdure please our eyes to

day, Fr: grass from jur dust shall give joy again.

"Ah! that the raw should have the finished

cake, The immature the ripest produce take, And eyes, that make the heart of man to

beat, Shine only for the boys' and eunuchs' sake.”

But the things of Fate approach : no epicurism can do much to strip necessity of its stern aspect. Sin is sin, and the soul in the solitude of the dark valley turns to the inevitable with vague but trustful hope. “His mercy being gained, what need we fear? His scrip being full, no journey makes me

fear : If, by His clemency, my face be white, In 10 degree the Black Book will I fear. "I warred in vain with Nature—what's the

cure? I suffer for mine actions-what's the cure?

I know God's mercy covers all my sin ; For shame that He has seen it-what's the

cure? Yet, even here, science brings a message that is not unconsoling. He may pass, as an individual; but the moon will shine on others, and the grass

be fair and odorous, and the very body that has known so much joy when it was his, will contribute to other joys hereafter. “Is it not a shame, because on every side Thy curious eyes are circumscribed and tied,

Pent in this dark and temporary cell, In its poor bounds contented to abide ?

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »