« ZurückWeiter »
him, and took him to her abode in the ocean, very much against his will. Her cavern, though splendidly furnished, did not reconcile him to such a fate, and, after much entreaty, he was restored to the spot whence he was taken. He then finished the washing of his clothes, which had been so unexpectedly interrupted, and again went on his way.
A lofty mountain soon appeared in sight, covered to the summit with trees in beautiful clusters. Hatim ascended these shady groves, through which flowed rivulets of pure water, and cooling zephyrs wafted a delicious fragrance. Here he met a man who warned him that the confines of the desert of Hâwaïda were kept by damsels of surpassing beauty. One of them especially was a nymph whose charms it would require the greatest fortitude to resist; if he yielded he was lost for ever; but if he grasped her hand firmly, she would be compelled to forward him to his destination. This advice sunk deep in Hatim's soul, and he was resolved to pursue it.
The next day he reached the borders of a lake, from the bosom of which a nymph of surprising loveliness arose, and seizing Hatim in her arms hurried him into the deep. As soon as he found a footing, he opened his eyes, and beheld around him a beautiful and extensive garden, filled with women of exquisite forms, each of whom assailed him with her attentions. But he remembered the advice that had been given him, and held firmly to his purpose, saying to himself, « This is all enchantment.'
He was conveyed to a palace formed entirely of precious stones, and decorated with numberless paintings. Seeing the throne vacant, he thought that he might seat himself upon it. Placing his foot upon the step, a tremendous crash of thunder was heard, which startled him for the moment, but it did not deter him from mounting the ascent. When he sat down upon the throne another peal seemed to shatter the whole building, but when it passed away, the damsel, against whom he had been forewarned, approached, clothed in costly gold and jewels, her faced veiled. Hatim was strongly tempted to remove the veil-but he forbore, upon a moment's reflection, to expose himself to so great a temptation, Wishing, however, to see something more of this enchanted palace, he remained three days and three nights seated on the throne. The darkness of the night was dispelled by magic lamps, which to him were invisible, and his ears were delighted with melodious sounds. Fantastic groups, in endless variety, danced along the scene; but all the while the damsel of surpassing beauty stood by the throne, sweetly smiling in his face. They presented him with food and fruits of every description in costly dishes; but although Hatim ate most heartily, his hunger was not in the least appeased.
Wondering Wondering in bis mind, he said to himself, • Though I am constantly eating, I am never satiated: how is this to be accounted for ?' In this manner three days elapsed, and on the fourth he said to himself:
• Oh Hatim ! were you to look for a hundred years at these delusive appearances, still you would not have tired of them. At the same time you have left behind you a helpless youth, whose expectations are fixed on your exertions; if you waste the time, what will you have to answer before God ?'
Upon this, Hatim, grasping firmly the hand of the beauteous damsel,' was at the same moment struck by some invisible power from the throne to the ground. But, lo! on recovering from the stupor which had seized him, he saw not a trace of the enchanted gardens or their fair inhabitants. He found himself in the desert of Hawaïda, and commenced his search for the man who was constantly repeating the words which we have already quoted. At length he found him, and learned that his longing was produced by the sight of the matchless nymph, whose charms Hatim had resisted. Having led the disconsolate to the borders of the enchanted lake, and having seen him borne away to the gardens beneath, he returned to the fair heroine of these tales, and gave her a full account of his discovery, which the nurse from her skill in magic knew to be true.
In this manner, and after undergoing a variety of adventures, in which the imagination is certainly permitted to take its full scope, Hatim succeeds in satisfying the damsel's curiosity upon every point, and she finally consents to surrender her hand to the young
Prince of Syria. We shall only notice one other passage from these tales. The second enigma is explained to Hatim in the following narrative, put into the mouth of an aged man, over whose door the words in question were inscribed as a motto :
• In the prime of my life I was a most daring robber, and lived by plundering my fellow-creatures, whose property I used to seize by violent means.
But every day when I rested from my sinful avocations, I used to bake two large loaves, the ingredients of which I mixed with sweet oil and sugar. Two such loaves I daily threw into the river, saying, “ This I give away to propitiate the favour of heaven.” A considerable period had thus passed, when one day I was seized with sickness, so violent, that my soul seemed to quit my body. Methought a man seized me by the hand, and pointing out to me the way to the infernal regions, said, “ There is the place destined for thee." While he was on the point of hurling me into the midst of the damned, two youths, divinely fair in countenance and angelic in form, came up to my rescue. My guardian angels laid hold of me, one by each arm, and said, “ We will not permit this man to be cast into hell; sinful as
he has been, his future station is in paradise, and thither let us con
They swiftly wafted me to the regions of the blessed, where an angel of exalted rank stood up and asked them, “Why have you brought this man ? A hundred years of his life are yet to pass ; but there is another of the same name whom you were commissioned to bring !" The same two angels who carried me to the gates of paradise, again brought me back to my own house, and said to me at parting, “ We are the two loaves * which you used to cast into the river for fishes to feed on, as a service acceptable to the Almighty.” When I recovered from my trance, I rose up and fed for refuge unto the threshold of divine mercy, exclaiming, in the voice of supplication,
Gracious God! thon art merciful, and I am a sinful creature. I repent of my evil deeds, which I committed in the depravity of my heart. To thy gates I now flee for protection ; spare me, merciful Creator! and from thy secret stores of divine grace bestow on me that which is meet for me.” When
my health was restored, I prepared the two loaves as formerly, and went with them to the side of the river, in order to cast them upon the waters. On the shore I found a hundred dinars, which I took up and carried with me to the village. I there caused it to be publicly proclaimed, that if any person had lost a sum of money, he should obtain the same from me. None came forward to claim the money; I therefore laid it aside, in hopes that the real owner of it might some day appear. Next day, when I went to the river side, according to my usual mode, I threw my two loaves into the water, and another sum of a hundred dinars made its appearance on the shore. I took the money home with me; and in the same way it happened to me for ten successive days. On the eve of the eleventh day, as I was asleep, a man appeared to me in the visions of the night, saying, “ Servant of the Almighty, thy two loaves have pleaded thy cause in heaven, and the merciful Creator has forgiven thy sins. The dinars which you receive are for thy competency; what is not necessary to thy own support, bestow in charity upon the poor.”
• I awoke from my dream and betook myself to prayer, and rendered my thanks to the bountiful giver. I have since built this mansion, on the door of which I have written the motto that has attracted your attention. Every day I receive a sum of a hundred dinars on the shore of the river; and I occupy myself in giving it away in charity, in feeding the hungry, the poor, and the helpless stranger.' — Hatim Taï, pp. 78, 79.
The second work at the head of this article is a translation of a kind of jeu d'esprit, which, under the pretence of gravely laying down rules of conduct for Persian women, exposes their superstitions and foibles with a quiet humour which is sometimes not a little amusing. It lifts the curtain of female life in that country, and betrays the secrets of the zenana with an unsparing candour. Many persons in England have an idea that women in the east are but slightly removed from the state of slavery, and that the harem is but another name for a prison. Sir John Malcolm, in his characteristic and entertaining Sketches of Persia, has related some anecdotes, which pretty well demonstrate that the ladies of that region know how to maintain their rights and vindicate their authority whenever it happens to be outraged. The reader probably remembers the story of Merdek's cat. A poor but well-born retainer of a nabob, named Sâdik Beg, had the good fortune to attract the favour of a lady of great wealth and high rank, who was an awful termagant. On the day they were married, a favourite cat belonging to the bride approached Sadik, purring for attention from her new master; but he, drawing his scimitar, cut the cat's head off, and flung it with the body out of the window. From that moment his wife altered her temper, and became one of the most docile of her sex. Sadik related the occurrence and its happy consequences to his friend Merdek, a little fellow who was completely hen-pecked. Merdek went home determined on making a similar experiment. As soon as the devoted victim made her appearance, Merdek drew his scimitar and decapitated the poor animal; upon which his wife gave him a blow upon the side of his head which laid him on the floor. • Take that,' said she—for she had also heard of Sadik's doings• take that, you paltry wretch ; you should have killed the cat on the wedding-day.
* • Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.'-, Eccles. xi, ).
Indeed, Sir John Malcolm, who enters at large into the subject, shows that, as to matters of property and the management of their families, the Persian ladies have, at least, quite as much power and as many privileges as the ladies of Europe; and the little work before us will be sufficient to convince any person who takes the trouble of reading it, that however novel the costume and manners of Persian women may appear to a stranger, the same fund of affection, the same amiability of disposition, the same desire for finery, the same active ambition of being noticed and esteemed by the lordly sex, and the same rage for gossip are found in their hearts, which characterize the fair in all other quarters of the globe. As to happiness, Providence has placed the means of obtaining it within the reach of every community:
I have travelled much,' says Sir John Malcolm, (in the delightful work already quoted,) but have found little difference in the aggregate of human felicity. My pride and patriotism have often been flattered by the complaints and comparisons of the discontented; but I have never met any considerable number of a tribe or nation who would have exchanged their condition for that of any other people upon the earth. When I have succeeded, as I often did, in raising admiration and envy, by dwelling upon the advantages of the British government, I have invariably found that these feelings vanished, when I explained more specifically the sacrifices of personal liberty, the restraints of the law, and the burden of taxation, by which these advantages are purchased. It was the old story of the Arab nurse, who could not endure England because there were no date-trees; and the King of Persia, who, though feeling all the insecurity of his own crown, could not for a moment tolerate the thoughts of wearing that of England, which would have reduced him to only one wife.'
Among the principal rules inculcated in the code before us, it is laid down that on the last Friday of the Ramazan the women ought to dress superbly and perfume themselves, and put on their best ornaments, and go to the porticoes of the mosques, because the young men of cypress forms and tulip cheeks'assemble there. In sitting down in the porticoes they are to take special care to stretch out their feet, so as to display their crimson-tinted toes; and while holding up their lighted tapers it will be no harm if they gently raise their veils at the same time,—but this is to be quite an accidental affair. Nor is it commendable that on such occasions they should be particularly silent,
For there is nothing in the world more pleasing
From lips that shame the ruby.' It is perfectly proper for females, while engaged with their friends in pleasant conversation and the mutual communication of secrets, not to interrupt their happiness by paying attention to the hours of prayer. At such interesting moments prayer may be left to the imagination. But if a woman, whilst occupied in prayer, should happen to discover her husband speaking to a strange damisel, it is expedient for her to pause and listen attentively to what passes between them, and, if necessary, to put an end to their conversation, No house should be without musical instruments, especially the tambourine. In the absence of more harmonious cymbals, a brass dish and a mallet will do. Music should be at hand on all occasions. Every family that can boast of it is blessed. No woman of any pretensions to beauty should be indifferent to sweet sounds. However she may be engaged when these strike her ear, she should devote her whole soul to the melody; if she does otherwise she is guilty of improper conduct, and unworthy of either respect or consideration. The possession of more than one wife is not, according to this