Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the Greek alone. I rejoice that you have made so much progress in your work, and that I may hope soon to see it published; but how to assist you with my advice I know not, as I have not with me a single treatise upon the subject of Oriental prosody. It is in truth an ocean; and such are the abundance and variety of measures used by the Orientals, that no inemóry can retain them.

I am very auxious to learn under what head you class the Kasidah, a species of composition highly admired by the Arabs, and very successfully cultivated by them; it has a nearer resemblance than any other kind of poetry to the Latin elegy, but its construction partakes of that of the Gazel*, with this difference, that the latter is restricted to thirteen couplets, whilst the number of those in the Kasidah is unlimited ; and secondly, that in each distich of the Gazel, the sense must be complete and finished, whilst in the Kasidah, the sentiment is continued through successive

lines.

Of this species of composition, I do not know a more perfect specimen, than the poem on thie. death of Mohammed, so celebrated throughout the East, that every man of letters can repeat it. It is one continued allegory, but admirable and pathetic, and begins, if I rightly remember, thus :

* Amatoty Poem; "it is not restricted to thirteen couplets, as Reviczki writes, but to seventeen, and generally contains about seven or eight.

: Does

Does memory recall the blissful bowers

Of Solyma, the seat of many a friend;
That thus, thy grief pours forth such copious showers,

And bursting sighs thy lab'ring bosom rend?

With respect to your doubts on the supposed allegory of Hafez, much may be said. I am rather inclined to believe, that the mystical exposition of this great poet, by the Mohammedans, may be imputed to their veneration and respect for his meinory, and that their object in it is to justify his conduct as a poet, by representing him equally irreproachable in his morals and compositions. Most of the commentators, as Shemy, Surury, and others, labour to give a 'mystical interpretation of his verses on wine, youths, pleasures, and a contempt for religion, so discreditable io a good mussulman; but the ablest of them all, the learned Sudi, disclaims this mode of illustration, and professes to give a literal exposition of the text of Hafez, in opposition to the opinions of other commentators, and without questioning the purity of their intentions. It may not be amiss to communicate to you an anecdote, which I have read somewhere respecting Hafez* After the death of this great man, some of the religious were disposed to deny his body the right of sepulture, alleging in objection, the licentiousness of his poetry; after a long dispute, they left the decision to a divination in use amongst them, by opening his book at random, and taking the first couplet which occurred : It happened to be this:

o death

* This anecdote is quoted by Sir William Jones, in the ninth chapter of his Commentaries on Asiatic Poetry, where he states the respective arguments in support of a literal or mystical interpretation of it. Without pronouncing a positive decision, he gives an opinion in favour of a literal interpretation as the most probable..

In an essay on the mystical poetry of the Persians and Hindus, composed some years afterwards in India, (Works, vol. i. p. 445,) he thus expresses himself on the subject: “ It has been made a question,

“ whether

Turn not away from Hafez' bier,
Nor scornful check the pitying tear;
For tho’immers’d in sin he lies,
His soul forgiv'n to Heaven shall rise.

This passage was deemed a divine decision; the religious withdrew their objections, and he was buried in Mosella, a place rendered famous by his own verses. This anecdote, I think, is related by Kaleb Celebi. As to myself, although I am disposed to believe, that when Hafez speaks of love and wine, he has no recondite meaning, I am equally willing to declare, that his writings are not disgraced by those obscenities, nor those gross and filthy expressions, which so frequently occur in Şadi.

По тес

“ whether the poems of Hafez must be taken in a literal or figurative “sense: but the question does not adınit of a general and direct “ answer; for, even the most enthusiastic of his commentators allow, " that some of them are to be taken literally, and his editors ought to " have distinguished them.--Hafez never pretended to more than " human virtues, and it is known that he had human propensities; " after bis juvenile passions had subsided, we may suppose, that his “mind took that religious bent, which appears in most of his compo“sitions; for there can be no doubt that the following distichs, col“ lected from different odes, relate to the mystical theology of the " Sufis;" &c.

Nor

Nor can I avoid considering him a free thinker; and a hundred passages might be quoted, in which the poet ridicules the Prophet and his Coran ; as for instance, when he says,

Wine, that our sober Seer proclaims
Parent of sin, and foul misnames,
With purer joy my soul beguiles, .
Than beauty's bloom, or beauty's smiles.

III

As to the Turkish poets, I confess I do not read them with the same pleasure, although I am willing to allow that some of them have merit. In my opinion, Ruhi, of Bagdat, is the most agreeable of them all; he has written some admirable satires. Perhaps you are not acquainted with him. The Turkish poets in general, are no better than slavish imitators of the Persians, and often. deficient in taste and harmony.

I cannot comprehend how you have discovered an indelicate meaning in these beautiful lines of Mesihi :

Send me not, O God, to the tomb, before I

have embraced my friend: unless you annex an idea of obscenity to the expression of embracing a youth; a subject which perpetually occurs not only in Oriental poetry, but in Greek and Latin. I send you a recent translation, with a request that you will return it when you are tired with it, as I have 110 copy. I am, with the greatest esteem

and veneration,

Sir, &c.

* REVICZKI to Mr. JONES.

London, March 7, 1768. I am at a loss to determine whether your letter has afforded me most pleasure or instruction; it is indeed so admirable, that I must point out the only fault which I find in it, that of brevity, although you seem apprehensive of being thought tedious. I suspect that I am indebted to your partiality and politeness only, for the excessive encomiums which you have bestowed upon ny translation of the two odes which I sent to you, as well as for the favourable opinion which you entertain of my trifles. I am, however, seriously obliged to you for your animadversions upon

my inaceuracies, though when I consider their :: number, I must impute it to your indulgence that

you have been so sparing in your corrections. Without wishing to lessen my obligations to your kindness, I cannot avoid mentioning by way of apology, that it is only three months since I resumed the task of writing verses, which I renounced when I left school; and not from any motive of vanity, or desire of reputation, but merely as an amusement of my leisure hours. My relapse has produced the translation of a hout fifty odes of our learned Hafez,

For whom, each hour a growing fondness bringst,

As by degrees the vernal alder springs. But observing, in the progress of the work, the * Appendix, No. 4. + These lines are taken from a juvenile translation of Sir Wm. Jones.

- immense

« PreviousContinue »