Who the song would understand,
Needs must seek the song's own land.
Who the minstrel understand,
Needs must seek the minstrel's land.
THE Poems comprised in this collection
are written in the Persian style, and are greatly admired by Oriental
scholars, for the truthfulness with which the Eastern spirit of poetry
is reproduced by the Western minstrel. They were chiefly composed
between the years 1814 and 1819, and first given to the world in the
latter year. Of the twelve books into which they are divided, that
of Suleika will probably be considered the best, from the many graceful
love-songs which it contains. The following is Hanoi's account of
the Divan, and may well serve as a substitute for anything I could
say respecting it:--
It contains opinions and sentiments
on the East, expressed in a series of rich cantos and stanzas full
of sweetness and spirit, and all this as enchanting as a harem emitting
the most delicious and rare perfumes, and blooming with exquisitely-lovely
nymphs with eyebrows painted black, eyes piercing as those of the
antelope, arms white as alabaster, and of the most graceful and perfectly-formed
shapes, while the heart of the reader beats and grows faint, as did
that of the happy Gaspard Debaran, the clown, who, when on the highest
step of his ladder, was enabled to peep into the Seraglio of Constantinople--that
recess concealed from the inspection of man. Sometimes also the reader
may imagine himself indolently stretched on a carpet of Persian softness,
luxuriously smoking the yellow tobacco of Turkistan through a long
tube of jessamine and amber, while a black slave fans him with a fan
of peacock's feathers, and a little boy presents him with a cup of
genuine Mocha. Goethe has put these enchanting and voluptuous customs
into poetry, and his verses are so perfect, so harmonious, so tasteful,
so soft, that it seems really surprising that he should ever have
been able to have brought the German language to this state of suppleness.
The charm of the book is inexplicable; it is a votive nosegay sent
from the West to the East, composed of the most precious and curious
plants: red roses, hortensias like the breast of a spotless maiden,
purple digitalis like the long finger of a man, fantastically formed
ranunculi, and in the midst of all, silent and tastefully concealed,
a tuft of German violets. This nosegay signifies that the West is
tired of thin and icy-cold spirituality, and seeks
warmth in the strong and healthy bosom of the East."
Translations are here given of upwards
of sixty of the best Poems embraced in the Divan, the number in the
original exceeding two hundred.
I. MORGAGNI NAME.
BOOK OF THE MINSTREL.
GOD is of the east possess'd,
God is ruler of the west;
North and south alike, each land
Rests within His gentle hand.
HE, the only righteous one,
Wills that right to each be done.
'Mongst His hundred titles, then,
Highest praised be this!--Amen.
ERROR seeketh to deceive me,
Thou art able to retrieve me;
Both in action and in song
Keep my course from going wrong.
THE FOUR FAVOURS.
THAT Arabs through the realms of space
May wander on, light-hearted,
Great Allah hath, to all their race,
Four favours meet imparted.
The turban first--that ornament
All regal crowns excelling;
A light and ever-shifting tent,
Wherein to make our dwelling;
A sword, which, more than rocks and
Doth shield us, brightly glistening;
A song that profits and enthrall,
For which the maids are list'ning!
WHEN by the brook his strain
Cupid is fluting,
And on the neighboring plain
There turns the ear ere long,
Loving and tender,
Yet to the noise a song
Soon must surrender.
Loud then the flute-notes glad
Sound 'mid war's thunder;
If I grow raving mad,
Is it a wonder?
Flutes sing and trumpets bray,
Waxing yet stronger;
If, then, my senses stray,
Wonder no longer.
SONG AND STRUCTURE.
LET the Greek his plastic clay
Mould in human fashion,
While his own creation may
Wake his glowing passion;
But it is our joy to court
Great Euphrates' torrent,
Here and there at will to sport
In the Wat'ry current.
Quench'd I thus my spirit's flame,
Songs had soon resounded;
Water drawn by bards whose fame
Pure is, may be rounded.+
(+ This oriental belief in the power of the pure to roll-up water
into a crystal hail is made the foundation of the Interesting Pariah
Legend, that will be found elsewhere amongst the Ballads.)