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official intercourse, direct or indirect, verbal or by letter, with the Chinese Provincial Government,” to which official intercourse, almost every privilege which, by connivance or express concession, the trade (American as well as English) at present enjoys, may in fact be attributed, instead of its being left, as it otherwise must have been, “at the mercy of the interested combinations of a few privileged Hong merchants, and of the unchecked violence and rapacity of a corrupt magistracy 1,500 miles from the seat of the empire.”
When the above facts were considered, which are too notorious to be denied, I think the comparison which has been drawn between the duties of the Supracargoes and those which fall to the lot of the American Consulship, an office which is little more than nominal, and generally performed by some of the American agents in China, with little or no salary, for the sake of the name, may safely be left to the contempt and ridicule it merits.
Having thus, I hope, successfully vindicated the Supracargoes from the charge of deriving excessive emoluments from sinecure places, little else remains to be said on the subject; for the Reviewers themselves distinctly disclaim any intention of insinuating any thing to their personal prejudice. The following passage is taken from a former article on the same subject: “It is needless, we hope, to say that nothing can be further from our intention than to insinuate any thing whatever to the personal prejudice of the gentlemen of the factory in China. Some of them, we know, are persons of the greatest talent and respectability; and all of them, we believe, too good for their employment.” No. 58, p. 440.
* Miscellaneous Notices relating to China, p. 194 and 306.
Concluding what the employment of the Supracargoes really is, this is certainly high praise. The Appendix to the Report of the Committee of Foreign Trade of the House of Commons furnishes us with a similar testimony in their favour, from an eye-witness, and (one might suppose) a hostile one, as he was a strenuous advocate for a free trade. He was naturally asked by the Committee whether he had not seen “any laxity or imattention to business on the part of the Company's servants;” but he was too honest and candid to attempt to bolster up a false theory with a personal calumny, and immediately replied, “No, cERTAINLY Not.” P.279.
I cannot conclude this letter without contrasting the proceedings of the English and the Americans at Canton in cases of homicide. When we consider, on the one hand, “the disinterested, fearless, and (in every instance for these last thirty years) successful exertion of the Supracargoes in protecting British subjects who may happen to become the innocent and unhappy object of unsubstantiated and unproved charges, and thus preventing them from falling victims to the unprincipled and undistinguishing severity of Chinese law;” and when we see, on the other, the miserable and humiliating sacrifices of life and honour to which the unhappy Americans (in their disunited state, under what is called a free trade) are compelled to submit; I think we shall want no other testimony of the superior excellence of that system which not only places our trade in such honourable hands, but which strengthens those hands with an influence capable of being applied to such beneficial and inportant purposes.
I am, Sir, &c.
The small space we are able to allot in our present number to subjects of a light and entertaining character will oblige us to be very brief in our notice of this volume.
The scene of the poem is Arabia; and the poet has certainly chosen the most interesting period of Arabian history—the reign of the Prophet, when famaticism was at its height, both amongst his own followers and the tribes which opposed him. The poem opens with a description of a defeated band of Sabaean" Arabs who had escaped from a severe skirmish, in which the troops of Mohammed had been successful. Their leader, Abdallah, the son of a chief named Al Melech, is described as racked with all the fanatical fury of a fiend. He reproaches his followers for their cowardice, and declares his resolution of going instantly alone to Mecca, and assassinating Mohammed, though surrounded by his guards. In his way he passes over the field of the late battle, where he performs the last offices for a dying enemy, from whom he receives one of the Prophet's standards, with a request that he would deliver it to Mohammed himself, as sent from the dying Hamsa.
Immediately after this Zoharah, or the planet Venus personified, appears to him in a vision, as related in the following extract :
Low by the dead man's side Abdallah sate; before his eyes there came, Borne on a cloud of bright ethereal flame, A form of Heaven, to whom the Grecians gave, Back in the olden time, the green seawave
* Worshippers of the moon and stars.
Asiatic Journ.—No. 100.
For mother, fair Aphrodita, whose shrine Rose bright in every clime, her doubtful
line Obstructing not her worship. Loosely thrown Over her shape of snow, to which the stone
Of Pharos, when compared, were dark, there flowed
Drapery of ether; in her face there glowed
Beauty and heavenly youth ; her full dark eye,
Her hair, her bosom heaving with the sigh
Of ecstacy, her lips, her gait, her air,
Spoke her the queen of all that's bright and fair.
To this ethereal form the youth had knelt
From infancy, and in his soul there dwelt Ecstatic harmonies of love, that none But those who bask beneath the burning sun Of Araby can feel. Zoharah's eye Beamed on his awe-struck visage rapturously, And searched his soul, where in combus- tion lay Strange elements, and thoughts, in one of clay Seeming divine; then speaking in a tone Mellifluously rich, and flowing on, Like the soft murmur of the vernal wind Rippling the waters. “Nerve thy daring mind, Son of Al Melech, for the hand of fate Is strong upon thee: dark and desolate Hath he of Mecca sworn to leave my shrine,— A dwelling for the solitary stork 'tis thine, Thou child of piety, to work the will Of all-foreseeing Heaven: my banner still Shall, as from infancy, be o'er thy head, In constant, holy, watchful fondness spread' Thou seest in yon dark arch my purer home Of everlasting brightness; down the dome Of might it shoots its sparkling argent
ray, - Cheering with light the dim and pathless way.
Wol. XVII. 3 C
There shalt thou live, when loosed from clay, and there, When pain, and grief, and long-remembered care Molest not, revel in the perfect bliss God has so wisely banished from this Most wicked world. The maids who bloom on high, In the aërial bowers of yon sweet sky, From the gross taints of this gross world are free, Perfect and beautiful,—resembling me!”
With the standard committed to him by Hamsa, and under the disguise of an Emir, Abdallah proceeds to Mecca, and readily obtains admittance, though not unsuspected, even into the presence of Mohammed. His firm resolve had been to pierce him to the heart; but the first view of the Prophet not shewing him as the monster which he had pictured to his imagination, he hesitates; and Mohammed recognizes him as the son of his oldest and once most intimate friend. Notwithstanding Abdallah's firm belief in fatalism, his heart is softened, and he accepts the proffered invitation to remain as the cherished guest of the very man for whose blood he was, but a moment before, thirsting with the savage fury of a demoniacal fanatic. Mohammed has a lovely daughter named Leilah. Abdallah, of course, conceives an affection for her, and she for him. Difference of faith prevents, for some time, an open declaration of his feelings; at length, however, he woos her in the eastern style by presenting her with a rose-bud, and quickly perceives that his affection is returned.
An incident which occurs shortly after, recalls him from these tender scenes to the ferocious habits of his early life.
One night, as on the caverned height Of Arafat he stood, a light Sparkling and glowing, large and bright, Gleamed on the distant plain; the wind Roared through the caverns, Heaven re. signed
Its radiance, and the sulphurous clouds
Was like the world's—and in the pause
Down through the glen,
The yielding sand
All traces of a milder sound.
Of mausoleum'd kings, that throws
The silent train passed swiftly on, Mounting the ridgy heights of stone, That form Arabia's mural crown, From which proud Liberty looks down On groves, and streams, and plains, and towers, Glittering with gold, and gemmed with flowers, And smiles to think the sacred spot Has never been a tyrant's lot. As up the steepy hills he climbed, Abdallah felt his soul sublimed: The storm that raged did seem to give Part of its own prerogative To those who felt it; fierce and strong The rocks' rude pinnacle it swept; And the first drops it strewed along Seemed burning tears by demons wept. At length the torrents poured; the still Moss-bedded, crystal mountain rill Swelled to a torrent, roared and dashed To meet the lightning as it flashed. Still did the hissing fire erect Its long and trembling conic crest; Through rival elements, unchecked, Scattering its seeds that never rest. And still the Ghebers, for 'twas they Who trod this pathless mountain-way, Bearing the symbol, pure and bright, Of him who called the world from night, Moved on, and felt nor dread nor fear While God's vicegerent blazed so near.
The corpse is conveyed to a cave, which is in fact a Gheber sepulchre. Abdallah is discovered as an intruder, and is about to be sacrificed to the sudden fury of the band, when its chief interposes, and demands an explanation of his reasons for thus prying into their sacred mysteries. On relating his history he is at once excused, informed that his father is near at hand, and speedily conducted to him. The admonitions of his parent, and the fanatical and vindictive feeling pervading all around him, urge him to renounce his tender feelings, and turm his thoughts to vengeance. Leilah, however, he cannot wholly forget.
The Ghebers and Sabaean Arabs who, motwithstanding their mutual animosities, had associated in common cause against Mohammed, immediately after advance against Mecca. The poet now returns to Leilah, whom he describes, with somewhat too much warmth of colouring, as reposing in her garden bower. Abdallah suddenly appears before her, and urges her to fly with him. She hesitates: but finally consents. At this moment she is stabbed by Omar, Mohammed's principal general, who had accidentally discovered the interview. A combat ensues between Omar and Abdallah. The latter is successful, and on the point of dispatching his adversary, when he is surrounded by the guards of the Prophet, and only rescued by the sudden and unexpected appearance of the Gheber chief. In agony of soul Abdallah returns to his friends, and prepares for instant vengeance. Advancing in front of his troops, he observes an arrow drop at his feet with a letter attached to it. He opens the letter and reads as follows: “Thy Leilah sleeps it passed The mortal bourne, upon thy image last Dwelt with a fearful clinging. Eager death, Ere it absorbed the small remains of breath, These words permitted:—“Go, Honaiah, go, And let the youthful Chief of Tayef know His image will not leave me—nearing skies, Celestial bowers, unfading Paradise,_ God does not banish it ! But when this breast Shall have been hushed to deep eternal rest, Tell him his Leilah does not bid him yield His honour up; but if the battle-field Bring my loved sire before him, let him spare, As he would God's eternal mercy share l' Such were her latest words !” He strictly obeys the injunction: but seeks eagerly for Omar, whom he at length discovers; and they retire together for single and vindictive con
Her spirit, ere
flict. Abdallah is again triumphant; but is treacherously pierced with an arrow when on the point of accomplishing his victory. Omar returns in time to save his master and completely to defeat the infidels. It is evident, from this hasty outline, that the plot of this little poem is very simple; indeed it is somewhat barren in incident. The performance, however, shews traces of genius, which we shall be glad to see better cultivated on a future occasion. The extracts we have given are perhaps the best specimens we could have selected, and are very creditable to the writer. Mr. Gwynne possesses an imagination which is certainly rich and vivid. He seems to have adopted intentionally an impetuous and careless style, as being characteristic of Eastern poetry: in our opinion, however, he has carried this principle too far. Much of his versification is exceedingly harsh. But we must notice a still greater fault, and that is an inverted style. Whenever the matural order of a sentence is changed, whether in prose or poetry, obscurity is the consequence; and no writer can be read with interest who is hard to be understood. We are sure that, if our author would follow with more filial obedience the instructions and example of the old and standard masters of British verse, his productions would command more general interest, for his ideas and language would then become more simple, chastened, and correct. We do not think it probable that poems on eastern subjects will ever become popular in England. Popular poetry will always be found to contain a large infusion of national sentiment. Now, as there is little or no accordance between the habits and feelings of Eastern and Western nations, there can be little in Oriental fictions, even though founded on historical facts, to awaken the sympathies of a British public. If there are any tribes of Asiatics which command much interest in a British bosom, they are the
relics of the ancient followers of Zoroaster. Mr. Gwynne has availed
himself of the subject; but it is one which has been often handled, and the interest of it cannot last for ever. But although Eastern tales, in the dress of British poetry, may never become popular, they will not be without their benefit; for they cannot fail to render us, in some measure, more familiar with the characteristic peculiarities of nations with which, though at the distance of half the globe, we are intimately bound by national ties and Christian obligations. With this feeling, we shall welcome Mr. Gwynne on any future opportunity.
Sketches in India. By W.M. Huggins. London, 1824.
AN historical work consisting of twenty tomes could scarcely have commenced with more pompous language than that which Mr. Huggins has employed in the first pages of his thin volume. He professes, within the space of about two hundred pages, to inform the minds of his European readers upon every important question of Indian policy, and to render them as intimately acquainted with every thing relating to our Eastern empire, as if their whole lives had been spent in that quarter. We do not much quarrel with him, however, for what he has not told us; such discrepancies we willingly lay to the charge of his 200 pages: but we are seriously disposed to question his right of relating circumstances which never happened. Let him be cautious how he tampers with the characters of other people; and whenever, as an impartial historian, he mentions circumstances that are not creditable to the parties concerned, let him be sure that he possesses the necessary proofs to substantiate his assertions. It may be very well for a common newspaper to talk about General A. and Colonel B., but we would whisper in Mr. Huggins' ear, that it would be far more respectable