Persian Poetry

THE squire loved his limes, elms, and oaks, but he loved his roses, too. They festooned the transoms of the old mullioned windows of the parlors, and might be gathered from the casement of my lady’s chamber; and they stood in array under the shelter of what still remained of the great battlemented wall, which had once protected the house and tower against arrows and bolts as it still did from the north winds. The squire told me tradition related that this wall was built by the Norman giant, St. Loe, who lived in the tower. This tradition was authenticated by the fact that a neighboring giant, Hakewell, whose quoit still remains in witness, on passing by asked what he was building this wall for ; and when he was answered, “ To keep out such fellows as you,” Hakewell at once stepped over it; and the effigies of both giants, one in oak and the other in stone, may still be seen in the parish church. Leland, indeed, writing in Henry VIII.’s time, says only, ” Here Sir John Loe hath an old manor place,”and adds that the monument of his grandfather is in the church. Modern archæologists, moreover, declare that the quoit is only one of the huge Druidical stones of which more than one circle remains hard by. But the wall itself, as I have said, stands there to testify, and to shelter the squire’s roses.

He was gathering a nosegay of these when I joined him. As he stood by a great bush of the kind called “ maiden blush,” he gently shook from a flower one of those bright green rose-chafers which live on that rose, repeating, as it flew off, “A mailed angel on a battle day.” I said, “ Why do you drive away the pretty creature ? ” “ Because I might have ‘ maiden shriek ’ for ‘ maiden blush,’” he answered, “if I were to offer a young lady a green beetle with my roses.” He walked toward a carriage, which I had not seen before, in which were a mother and daughter, who had been among the visitors, and were now taking leave. I could not hear what he said, as he gave a nosegay to each lady with his wonted old-fashioned gallantry ; but I might guess that it was, " Sweets to the sweet.” Then, as the carriage rolled through the gateway in the old wall, he turned toward the house, repeating some words which, from the half-chanting sound, I knew to be something from the Persian, which he was always fond of quoting to himself. Then we talked on.

Foster. I like to hear the musical and melodious sound of Persian, though I do not understand the meaning. But were you taking leave of the ladies in Persian ?

Squire. Only a poet can translate poetry ; but come into the great parlor, and I will try to find you a better translation than my own wouhl be of what I said.

Foster (as we went in through a door which the squire called the postern). Why do you and your children call it the “ great parlor,” while other people call it the " library ” ?

Squire. It is the old name ; perhaps given it by Bess of Hardwick herself, when she built it, and the chapel over it, because she was not content with the “ little parlor,” which was enough for the forefathers of her husband, St. Loe. Bookshelves have now taken the place of her oak paneling ; but I fancy her still sitting in one of the deep windowseats, and looking up at her great coat of arms over the mantelpiece, impaled with that of her husband, and with more quarterings than I can remember the names of. Now for the books.

Foster. But you have not yet told me the name of the book you were quoting, nor its author.

Squire. It is the Gulistan, or Rose Garden, of Sa’di. Many who have a far better right than I to speak on the subject say that it is the greatest work of the greatest of the Persian poets. It has been translated into Latin, English, German, French, and perhaps other languages. There are at least four English translations, which you will find on that shelf.

Foster. A great witness to the worth of the original. How every man who has drunk deeply of Homer, Horace, or Dante tries to translate his favorite author, in order that others may share with him the enjoyment which, while it remains unshared, seems scarcely his own !

Squire. Every one tries, and every one fails. The thought, the habit of mind, is as different in one country and one age from that of another as is the language ; and what genius is sufficient to reproduce the original thought in a wholly new form, and to express it in new words as exactly fitted to the thought as are those of the first writer! The English Bible — not the Revised Version — is almost an exception; but then Hebrew thought has, through long ages, become the thought of Christendom, and is in a measure as English as English itself. Even so, it is wonderful that such a translation into such English should have been possible.

Foster. You were to show me a translation of the passage which you were quoting from Sa’di : which am I to take ?

Squire. That of East wick is probably the most scholarly, and he represents the original alternations of prose and verse in a way which is often happy ; but I sometimes rather fancy the quaintness of Dumoulin. There it is. But if the subject interests yon enough, you should read the whole of Sa’di’s introduction, or preface, which in this, as in his Būstan, is to European taste, at least, the finest part of either book. And then, after all our disparagement of translations, if only you will, with Tennyson, spread the silken sail of infancy and call back your old visions of the Arabian Nights, I think you will be repaid for your trouble, though you do not find all that the readers of the original talk of.

Foster. Meanwhile, squire, will you give me an outline of the country you advise me to enter on ?

Squire. The Būstan, or Garden, and the Gulistan, or Rose Garden, have the same idea or motive, though there is great variety in the treatment. The introduction to each opens with the praises of God, taking as it were for text the words with which the devout Mussulman always begins to speak or write, In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” The outburst of beauty which clothes the earth in the season of spring, the gift of life and articulate speech to man, the divine government of the world, the blessings of which are shared by the good and bad alike, — all these declare the wisdom, goodness, and greatness of the Creator, and call for thoughtfulness from man. The Gulistan opens with a description of springtime. The Būstan begins thus : —


In the Lord’s name, who did all life create !
The Wise, who taught man speech articulate!
The Lord, the Giver, the Help in time of need !
The Merciful, who hears when sinners plead !
The Great! From Him whoso shall turn away,
Greatness shall seek in vain, seek where he may;
Kings, who lift up their heads in pride of place,
Bowed down before his throne themselves abase.
Not even the stiff-necked doth He take in wrath,
Nor from his presence drive them, unheard, forth.
The Sea of Knowledge, infinite, divine,
Doth in each drop two elements combine.—
Justice and Mercy; neither of these can fail:
He sees the sin, and, pitying, draws the veil.
Though evil deeds bring down the wrath of Heaven,
He who turns hack, repentant, is forgiven.
Against his father should a son rebel,
Unmeasured wrath the father’s breast will swell;
Displeased, the kinsman owns his kin no more,
And drives him like a stranger from his door;
If to thy friend thou shouklst unfriendly he,
He breaks the fellowship, and flies from thee;
The servant, slothful in his daily tasks,
Promotion of his master vainly asks;
And if the soldier in his duty fail,
No plea will with his king and chief avail.
But He, Lord of the noble and the base,
Against no rebel shuts the door of grace.
The fair earth is his table, duly spread ;
He asks not, ” Friend or foe ? ” Welcomed are all, and fed.
If He were quick to mark iniquity,
Who from his anger could in safety be ?
His nature knows no change ; his kingdom stands
Needing no help from man’s or angel’s hands.
All things, all persons, serve his kingly state ;
Man, beast, fowl, ant, and fly upon Him wait.
For them his bounteous table He prepares,
Where even the lonely, far - off Simorgh 1 shares.
That bounteous love in all his works He shows;
He grasps the world, and all its secrets knows.
His Will is law, his greatness all things own.
Whose kingdom is of old, with rivals none.
On one man’s head lie sets a monarch’s crown,
One from a throne He to the dust brings down.
From Him the cap of fortune this receives,
To that the beggar’s garb of rags He gives.
If He should bid unsheathe the avenging sword.
The Cherubim, silent, obey his word ;
Should He proclaim the fullness of his grace,
The Lost One cries, “ I, too, have there a place.”

Foster. The piety of the man, and the political genius which that piety inspires and informs, are very striking, He writes in a manner which reminds one of the spirit of Isaiah or of Milton.

Squire. Yes: explain it or leave it unexplained as you may, the fact cannot be denied of the contrast, — the difference in kind between the religions of Greece and Rome and the faith of Islam, and the likeness in kind between the latter and the Christian faith. And this was evidently the genuine and practical faith of Sa’di ; he was eminently a religious man, believing in an actual relation between God and man. And the wreck and anarchy of nations which the Tartar devastation had caused around him, contrasted with the beneficent reign of such rulers as his own, directed all his thoughts and hopes to the belief in a constitutional government of the world, old and settled on the foundations of eternal law and justice and mercy, under a righteous king. From the praise of the Creator Sa’di goes on to speak of the Prophet ; and then of the righteous rule of the Atabak, or sovereign, AbooBakr, in whose reign he was writing. In a day when the prosperity and happiness of a whole people were always dependent on the character of a ruler, Sa’di is never weary of insisting on the duties of kings, justice, mercy, beneficence, and the maintenance of all these by a strong hand; and while the former annals of Persia treat of many such kings, he declares that none of them was more worthy than Aboo - Bakr. Then, with the proud humility of a great man conscious of his genius, he says that lowly as he is in the presence of his king, yet it is his verses — the pearls of poetry which he is stringing — which shall keep that king’s memory alive in the coming ages.

Foster. But, squire, you have not told me what you said after speeding the ladies on their way.

Squire. You find me “as tedious as a king,” though you have not Dogberry’s appreciation of that virtue. But I was just coming to the point. Sa’di goes on, in the introduction to each book, to give his reasons for writing it, in the form of an apologue. In the Gulistan, he tells, in a charming idyl, how, when he had become a dervish, and was sitting in the corner of retirement and meditation, he was prevailed on, by the entreaties of an old friend, to spend the evening outside the city, in a garden sparkling and fragrant with flowers and cool with fountains. In the morning, when the desire to depart had overcome the wish to stay, Sa’di’s friend gathered a nosegay of roses, hyacinths, and sweet basil for him to take, but threw them down when the poet, reminding him that such flowers must soon fade and die, promised to write him a book which should live. And on the same day be began the Gulistan.

Foster. Then the ladies should have thrown away your roses while you made your speech in Persian. But what is the corresponding apologue ?

Squire. In the Būstan, Sa’di describes himself as spending his days with men of every kind, in every corner of the world, and gathering some treasure from every store, and some ears of corn from every harvest. But he found no people like those of Shiraz, his native city. He could not leave such a people emptyhanded, and he resolved to write a book in their honor and memory; to build a palace of art and education, of which the ten gates, or chapters, should be Justice and Judgment ; Beneficence, by which man may show the likeness of God; Love, not earthly, but divine ; Humility ; Resignation ; Contentment ; Education ; Thankfulness ; Repentance and Righteousness ; and lastly, Prayer.

Foster. Are not the Atabaks, as you call them, the Atabegs, as the name used to be written before the invention of the scientific method of spelling Oriental words by help of a key ? If I remember rightly, it is a Turkish word, meaning “ Protector of the Prince,” and was an official title.

Squire. Yes ; and on the break-up of the Seljnk dynasty, in the twelfth century of our era, like mayors of the palace and other such ministers in old times and places, they supplanted their sovereigns, and founded dynasties of their own. There were four such dynasties in Persia, of which that of Aboo-Bakr was one. His capital was Shiraz ; and though the Turks and Tartars destroyed the civilization and culture of the West, they roused to new activity the letters and science which the Arabs had carried into Persia, and those adjoining countries in which Persian was the language of the court and of literature. After allowing for the flights of Oriental imagination on the one hand, and for the shortcomings of a translation on the other, even the English reader can see that Sa’di’s thoughts and words of God and of man, of nature and of civil government, betoken a high degree of culture and refinement, and the practice of wise, just, and righteous government by the kings ; and those who know the original agree that for happiness and beauty of imagery and language it may compare with the poetry of other nations, while in depth of pathos it far surpasses that of Greece or Rome. Persian poetry draws its main spirit from Hebrew and early Christian sources, though through the channel of Muhammedanism ; and we may say that it rises above or falls below the classical standards much as these do.

Foster. What else did Sa’di write ? Squire. The list of his works is long, but his Diwan, or Collection of Songs of Mystical Piety, has been overshadowed by that of Hafiz ; and the works by which he is chiefly known are those of which we have already spoken.

Foster. What is known of Sa’di himself ?

Squire. He mentions in several places incidents in his own life; and these were put together, with the addition of some traditions, by a Persian writer, two hundred years later. He is said to have spent thirty years in study, thirty in traveling in distant lands, and thirty in retirement as a dervish. He was taken prisoner by the crusaders while practicing austerities in the desert, and made to work on the fortifications of Tripoli; and he was redeemed by an old friend, whose daughter he afterwards married. She was a Persian Xanthippe, and when she cast in his teeth that her father had bought him for ten dinars, he replied that he had sold himself again for one hundred, the amount of her dowry. But, so far as I know, the fullest account of Sa’di is to be found in the introduction to Harrington’s edition of the works of Sa’di (Sadee, he calls him), published in Calcutta in 1791.

(Here our talk ended, for that morning. But we returned to the subject some days later; and I now give the substance of the conversation which then followed between the squire and myself.)

Foster. Since our talk the other day about Persian poetry, I have been looking into the books you pointed out to me, and into the translations of Omar Khayyám by Fitzgerald, Whinfield, and McCarthy, and of Hafiz by Reviski, Bicknell, and Clarke.

Squire. Omar, the skeptic and mathematician, in the century before, and Hafiz, the religious mystic, in the century after, that of Sa’di, the political philosopher and theologian. And, to use a favorite Persian metaphor, all these pearls of poesy are strung on the chronological tables of Malcolm’s History of Persia; though he hardly mentions these or any other of the great Persian poets. But have you found any new clues to the philosophy of history, either with or without the help of our Anglo-Persian Dryasdusts ?

Foster. You always laugh at my philosophy of history ; but if philosophy is the search for wisdom, and if reason is ratio, or the relation of things to one another, why should it be unreasonable to seek for the relations of the facts of history ?

Squire. Not at all unreasonable to seek what yet it may he impossible to find. Bacon says that all facts are governed by laws, and that these laws are ideas in the mind of God ; but then another authority, not less than Bacon, says, " His ways are past finding out.” It is a grand and glorious moment in a young man’s life when, after years of toiling up the schoolboy’s hill of facts, he reaches a. point at which the scene of history as one great whole bursts on his astonished view. I do not forget the delight with which I first read Arnold’s account of Vico’s comparison of the history of a nation with the life of a man, with its three stages of childhood, manhood, and old age ; or again of Comte’s three historical periods, the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive. which John Mill held to throw such a clear light upon all history. But though the facts remain, the splendors of the fancy which surrounded them fade into the light of common day, and we find that in great part, at least, we have been like the astronomers who thought they were making scientific observations of the parallax, only to find that they had been measuring the error of their instruments. These visionary forms, these Idola Specûs, are not to be worshiped, but to be strictly questioned, in order to know whether there is any reality in them.

Foster. You do think, then, that there is some reality in them ?

Squire. Yes ; the universe of history, as of everything else, has no doubt coherent laws; but they require for their comprehension a mind not less infinite than the universe itself. I am reminded of the so-called Oriental tale of the alchemist, who shows his disciple the universal solvent, which he has spent a lifetime in obtaining, lying in a crucible; and the disciple says, “ O Sage, be not deceived ; how can that which is to dissolve all things be itself contained in a ladle ! ” Youth is the proper season for these finite ideals of life, and he who knows the delight of them will desire that every one should enjoy that season. But he is not the less to be pitied to whom the experience of age has not taught, as it taught Sir Isaac Newton, that we are but children on the shore, picking up here and there a pretty stone or shell, while the great ocean of truth rolls its unexplored waters before us.

Foster. But the shells and the pebbles are actual, and really rolled in by the sea.

Squire. True. And if you will tell me what you have now been picking up on the beach of Persian history, I shall listen with profit as well as pleasure.

Foster. I am a seeker, if not a finder, and I will content myself with stating some questions which have occurred to me on this subject. If they have a somewhat theological coloring, I may plead that if Gibbon the skeptic classed himself with the philosophers who held all religions to be equally false, Gibbon the historian recognized the important part which religion always plays in the history of nations. So I ask myself, Was there a relation between the greatness of the Persians, from the days of Cyrus through so many ages, and the national faith in a God of light and goodness, of which the sun was the fitting symbol, contending with the spirit of darkness and evil ? Did some defect or degeneracy of their faith cause, as well as accompany, the break-up of the Persian empire at the end of the Sassanian dynasty ? When the Arab conquest established the rule of the Caliphs on the ruins of the house of Sassan, and superseded the faith of Zoroaster by that of Muhammed, was this made possible, and even easy, because the proclamation of an absolute and irresistible Will was itself irresistible while its proelaimers heartily believed it ? When the warlike and religious fervor of the new faith had cooled, was the skepticism of Omar Khayyám an instance, or only an accident, of the change ? Did his learned studies at Nishapur in mathematics, astronomy, and logic, joined with the recognition of the facts of other religions than their own, make men skeptics, not only in religion, but in politics ? If so, how could men with such a creed as Omar’s resist the Tartar invaders, those extraordinary savages, whose utter cruelty of nature was again and again transformed into gentleness and political wisdom by their hearty adoption of the faith in God and his Prophet which its first promulgators had almost lost ? Was not Sa’di one, and probably the greatest, of the literary and philosophical teachers of age after age of kings and their subjects, of which teaching the ripest fruits were seen in the reigns of the great Mogul sovereigns of Agra and Delhi ?

Squire. I remember a discussion, some fifty years ago, in this very room, between Mountstuart Elphinstone and the old Bengal civilian who then lived here. The latter asked how it was that while the civilization of India in the days of Akbar was in many respects superior (as he held) to that of England in the days of Elizabeth, Akbar’s contemporary, the one had been continually advancing ever since, while the other had dwindled almost to nothing. I ventured to suggest that the difference was the difference between Christianity and Mohammedanism, and Elphinstone said he thought so, too. But what of Hafiz, whom you just now named with Omar and Sa’di ?

Foster. I would rather hear about him from you. I am certainly out of my depth there.

Squire. So am I ; and so was Hafiz himself, as he is continually telling us. But what would you specially like to know ?

Foster. Something of the poet, and something of the religious mystic, if such he was.

Squire. The Diwan, or Collection of the Odes of Hafiz, is a great book of songs arranged alphabetically, or perhaps I may rather say acrostically, the successive letters of the alphabet ending the rhymes of successive sets of songs. These rhymes follow a different method from our own, or those of other European languages, there being only one rhyme, and that a double ending, for all the verses of each ode, though the words which supply all these rhymes are different from one another, as with us. The Persian metres, too, are more stately than our own, the proportion of long to short, or closed to open, syllables being much greater in that language than in ours. The words of the odes of Hafiz are most musical, and the thoughts and images to which they are wedded do not fall short of any standard of lyric poetry which we may supply: they are " simple, sensuous, and passionate ” in the sense of Milton, and are successful attempts to make man’s life harmonious in the sense of Carlyle. You will hardly think so from any of the translations you have found in the library. I fancy our best chance would be if we should ever have a translator like Omar’s Fitzgerald, who knows how to paraphrase when a literal version is impossible. Failing something better, here is an attempt of my own at such a version : —

Bring out the wine, Cupbearer! Ho!
Pour out, and high the goblet fill;
For though at first love smooth did flow,
Its course is crossed and troubled still.
The zephyrs fragrance round us fling,
As through the Loved One’s hair they play ;
But for that fragrance which they bring
Our heart’s blood is the price we pay.
Spill wine upon the carpet spread
For prayer, should so the Teacher say ;
For he by whom the march is led
Must know the customs of the way.
There are who say that on this earth
A halting-place may still be found,—
A halting-place for rest and mirth.
For those upon life’s journey hound.
But what of rest or mirth can tell
To me, who ever and anon
Hear from each camel’s tinkling bell,
“ Load up; the caravan goes on " ?
The night is dark; the waves strike fear ;
The whirling waters wildly roar.
Our lot how should they know who bear
Their own light burdens on the shore ?
Now all my work in vain has been ;
Self-seeking cannot come to good ;
The soul must find that good within,
Not with the worldly multitude.
Hafiz, the Presence wouldst thou see,
No moment’s absence must thou know ;
When The Beloved hath met with thee,
Give up the world, and let it go.

These verses may give you but little proof of what I say; but if you knew the original as you do your Horace and Lucretius, you would agree with me that not only for pathos, but for singular felicity of expression, too, the warning sound of the camel’s bell may be compared with the “ omnes eodem cogimur ” of Horace, and the contrast between the stormy sea and safe shore with the “ suave mari magno ” of Lucretius.

Foster. I will take your comparison on trust, till I get that opportunity of leisure and the inclination to avail myself of it which the witty author of The Miseries of Human Life says it is so impossible to find. Meanwhile, let me cap your Hafiz with a quotation from Sa’di which caught my eye in turning over the pages of Malcolm. Here it is:

“ Alas for him who is gone and had dpne no good deed !
The trumpet of march has sounded, and his load is not bound on.”

Squire. The beauty of the image is brought out by the variations; and the sternness of the duty-loving Sa’di contrasts with the gentle egotism of Hafiz. You may add another parallel from the hopeless gloom of Omar, which in Fitzgerald’s version runs thus : —

“ 'T is but a tent, where takes his one day’s rest
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest ;
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes and prepares it for another Guest.’’

Foster. If this ode is a fair specimen of the songs of Hafiz, it would seem easy to maintain the mystical interpretation of his poetry. While you were reciting it, I thought of one of Madame Guion’s hymns. I forget the French, but Cowper has translated it.

“ While place we seek or place we shun,
The soul finds happiness in none ;
But with a God to lead the way
’T is equal joy to go or stay.”

Squire. You may find many such parallels between the odes of Hafiz and the hymns of Madame Guion and other Christian mystics. I once saw a correspondence between two young AngloIndians, one of whom had turned, in illness, from the poetry of Sa’di and Hafiz to the faith of Madame Guion and William Law, and illustrated the doctrine of the Christian mystics by a string of quotations from the Persian poets. And it is related of Sir Gore Ouseley, a great lover of Persian poetry, who was English ambassador to the Persian court early in this century, that when he was dying, long years after, he prayed in Persian. But I must confess that I have softened, and even concealed, the original by tlie word “ Teacher,” in the third stanza. It is, literally, “ the chief of the Magians or infidel Fire-Worshipers,” and this, again, is said to mean the keeper of the wine-shop ; and I have given the Sufi interpretation of the name, which is that it signifies the spiritual teacher and guide of man through the hindrances of his earthly life which beset his entrance into the presence of God.

Foster. Can you give me a more precise account of these Sufis, and of the position of Hafiz among them ?

Squire. " I know when you do not ask me,” as St. Augustine said of time. The facts are obscure, from their number and vastness; but I will tell you what little I know. With many differences, there is much likeness among the Hebrew prophets, the Christian monks, the Muhammedan dervishes, and the Buddhists of India. In times of religious fervor and earnestness, they have all more or less made good their claims to be men sent from God; in after days of national degeneracy, they have sunk into sensuality and hypocrisy, followed by more or less successful efforts at reformation. Though the Koran does not approve of monasticism, and offers to the true believer mainly the enjoyments of sense which come of fighting and of conquest , still there is a praise of poverty and simplicity of life, and of absolute prostration before the Divine Majesty, which may have easily combined with the desire for religious contemplation and for final absorption into God which came from the farther East. And thence came the several orders of dervishes in the Muhammedan tribes. When the national life of Persia was roused to new forms of energy by the successive invasions of Arabs and Tartars, there were lovers of their country, of whom Sa’di was the greatest example, who were the teachers of kings and statesmen and people, and recluses vowed to philosophy, poetry, and religious faith. The right place for such men seemed to them to be in the ranks of the dervishes, who were respected by the haughtiest kings, as the Christian monks were by our fierce princes in the Middle Ages. The Sufis were, as I understand it, ascetic and contemplation-loving reformers among the dervishes. Sufi means “wool,” and the Sufis were so called because, like Shakespeare’s Don Adriano de Armado, they “ went woolward for penance.” Sa’di was a Sufi. So was Hafiz, though he denounces the hypocrisy of the sect.

Foster. This seems to me in favor of the religious interpretation of the songs of Hafiz. For how or why should he charge his brother dervishes with hypocrisy, if he himself was habitually practicing the same vice, and cloaking the mere love of sensual pleasures in language which the Sufis declared to be that of spiritual and religious devotion and ecstasy ? Yet, after all, does not the sensuality seem as real as the spirituality, and is there any reconciliation or explanation of the contradiction?

Squire. The contradiction is great and puzzling. The question was raised at the burial of Hafiz, when the rites of an orthodox Muhammedan were refused him till an augury had been taken (as the practice still is) from a verse of one of his odes, opened at hazard, and the words were found : —

“Turn not away from the bier of Hafiz,
For, though immersed in sin, he may yet be admitted into Paradise.”

The dispute still continues, here no less than in Persia, and is settled by every man in accordance with his own taste or sentiment and estimate of the life of man. But perhaps some light may be thrown on it by the analogies in the schools of Greece and the Christian Church. The Socrates of the Phædrus and the Symposium is the very counterpart of the Sa’di of the Gulistan and Būstan ; except that the Persian believes in a personal relation between man and his wise and beneficent Creator, a belief not attributed to the Greek philosopher. The Christian Church has always accepted an interpretation of the Song of Solomon which very closely resembles that which the Sufis give of their songs of love and wine. I know but little of the religious mysticism of the Middle Ages, but I believe there is much of it of which the language, though not so sensuous as that of the Muhammedan Sufis, can only be justified by interpreting as they do the enforced asceticism and celibacy of the cloister, which, while maintained by faith and prayer, would give the intensity of suppressed earthly passions to the language of religious worship, and especially in the adoration of the Virgin and the saints. Then we know how these religious fervors of devotion have often degenerated into mere sensuality and hypocrisy, in sects and in individuals. If we remember that the odes of Hafiz probably spread over some fifty or sixty years of his life, it may not be thought unreasonable to conjecture that they express very various experiences and sentiments of his actual life. We read of his rivaliy in love with the prince of Shiraz, of his wife and his son, and of his secluded and religious life as a dervish. Some have thought that traces of a skepticism at some period of his life may be found in his writings. The lovers of the higher criticism think that if we had the dates of the odes some further light might be thrown on the subject. But the chronological has been irrevocably merged in the alphabetical order; there is no evidence of what the actual life of Hafiz was at all or any periods of it ; and we must he content to remain ignorant, unless we prefer the cloudland of conjecture.

Foster. Old Indians in the present day do not read and repeat Persian poetry as they did in the generation of which I suppose we may take Mountstuart Elphinstone as the representative.

Squire. No ; a great change was brought about in this respect by Lord Auckland’s abolition of the use of Persian as the official language in all but diplomatic business.

Foster. How was that ?

Squire. Under the Mogul sovereigns, Persian was the language not only of the court, but of all government business, political, fiscal, and judicial.

Foster. Something, I suppose, like the use of Norman-French in England after the Conquest; with Arabic, like our Latin, in the background, for the church and law? And how does Hindustani come in ?

Squire. Hindustani, called in Persian Urdū, or “the camp,” in distinction from the court, and the word from which we derive our “horde,” — this is the Hindi, or vernacular of Hind, amplified by the introduction of Persian and Arabic words, though retaining the Hindi grammatical forms, becoming thus a lingua franca for popular use beyond its proper limits. With the other institutions of the Moguls we took over the use of Persian in all official business, and the Munshi, or Persian secretary and interpreter, became a part of the staff of the English official in charge of political, revenue, and judicial business. The language of business was soon discovered to be the language of a new and fine literature ; and the volumes on those shelves illustrate the enthusiasm which the magistrates, judges, and collectors in our older provinces, and our administrators in those newly annexed, our political agents and residents in the native courts, and our military officers threw into these studies from the time when Warren Hastings set the example. But then a generation of speculative reformers arose, who asked why we should not act in the spirit of the Moguls, and, instead of carrying on their method with literal servility, make English the official language, and so bring the several nations of India into a new and more intimate connection with our own literature and civilization. A retired Bengal judge expressed the general opinion of practical men when he said that you might as well make Sanskrit the official language in the courts of Westminster as English in the administration of justice in India. He, indeed, though a man of ability and eminence in the company’s service, could see no inconvenience in the employment of Persian in the administration of justice ; and such is the force of habit that when he had occasion to take notes of an important trial at the Somersetshire assizes, he actually wrote them in Persian rather than in the English words in which the evidence was given, just as he had done, many years before, when trying dakoits at Jessore. But though the general opinion of the native as well as the English officials was against any change, Lord Auckland, by the advice of Sir Charles Metcalfe, took what probably now seems to every one the obviously reasonable course, and by his orders in 1837, finally confirmed in 1838 by the home government, all official business was to he carried on in the vernacular languages of the country. Persian remained. and remains, the language of diplomacy. It is not required in any other branch of the public service ; and it is not possible that men so hardworked as our Indian civilians and soldiers now are should find time and energy for a purely literary study. They all fall back on their Homer and Horace ; or, yet better, on their Shakespeare and Tennyson. But enough of this ; you are, no doubt, already silently quoting Horace against me, and repeating to yourself: —

“Persicos odi puer, apparatus: Displicent nexæ philyra coronæ.”

Edward Strachey.

  1. The phoenix or griffin of Oriental legend, dwelling alone at the end of the world.