Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

not awakened till just as the day was breaking in the east, and his horse gave the signal of a stranger's approach by its loud neighing. Ismael in an instant was on his feet, the arrow drawn to its head, and his brow bent in resolute defiance of the enemy, whoever it might be. But there was no necessity for hostile preparation. The stranger was a most noble and courteous cavalier; and what was Ismael's surprise and pleasure when he discovered him to be of the tribe of the Affshar, and no less a personage than Ibrahim Khan, the brother of the great conqueror, Nader Khan himself. Thus brought back to the Kuzzilbashes, our hero began his career anew. He speedily distinguished himself in the army of Nader, was made one of his gholaums, or body guards, and soon after obtained the title of Beg. The city of Mushed, which it had been the great design of Nader to recover, was obtained and entered, and Ismael than gave himself up entirely to the enjoyment of his new honours, and the facilities the place afforded him for pleasure. A dangerous adventure, however, in which he engaged was near costing him his life, and occasion is given the author for entering into a full detail of some lively Zenana scenes; but we prefer giving the description of Mushed.

"Since the period when I quitted my Desert life, although it had been my fate to witness much that was dazzling and exciting, nothing resembling a town had yet fallen in my way; for the Koordish villages were mere collections of wretched mud huts, scarcely more imposing in appearance than our fair and well-made tents. Now for the first time I entered a city, and that city one of the first in the empire, the capital of Khorasan, and above all, the seat of that holy shrine to which every pious Sheah turns with reverence, as to a second Kibleh.*

[ocr errors]

Many a day, while we lay encamped at the Khawjah Rubbee, within a short fursung of the walls, I gazed with intense interest on the lofty gilded dome of the shrine, the tall slender minarets, and the magnificent assemblage of buildings that surround it, composing a group in the centre of this great city, which never fails to attract every eye, even when it gazes from the greatest distance. How I longed for the anticipated moment, when the road would be free to enter and devour all its wonders! What fanciful pictures did my imagination form of every thing it contained; and all how unlike the truth!

'On the morning we entered the city, we were all too much occupied with our duty, too busy in pursuing the enemy, and securing his abandoned positions, to pay much attention to other objects; but on the succeeding days, when all was comparatively quiet, and when the completion of our General's arrangements permitted his servants to enjoy some leisure, I wandered about with some of my companions, determined to satisfy my curiosity to the full.

• We first made for the Sahn, or great square. What a splendid scene! Its high arcaded buildings, covered with porcelain of the richest

* The point where Mecca and its holy temple lie, and to which every true Mussulman, wherever he may be situated, turns his face when he prays.

[blocks in formation]

colours disposed in the most tasteful devices, all glittering in the sun; the two lofty gates at either end, and noble archways in the sides, all similarly adorned, and one of which gives entrance to the holy mausoleum!-the gilded Succah khaneh, with its numerous conduits filled with streams of water perpetually supplied, the ample gilded dome, and slender minaret covered with blue and gold, rising like a mighty sceptre to the skies!—these were the first objects that fixed me gazing to the spot, and filled me with wonder and delight.

Nor was the living picture that occupied this splendid scene less curious or less attractive; the crowds of moollahs, priests, pilgrims, soldiers, merchants, and every variety of trade and denomination among the faithful, that passed and repassed through each avenue to the Sahn; the rich goods displayed under the arcades of the lower story, which, like those of a caravanserai, are let out as shops; the groups of people bargaining at these shops, or praying upon the grave-stones with which the place is paved, formed a scene of very varied interest;-and the buzz of business and religion which rose on the ear; the hum of prayer; the cries of saints and pilgrims on the blessed names of Allee, Hoossain, and Imaum Reza; the gabble and the quarrels of those who were driving their hard bargains, mingled in a roar of sounds as incongruous and confused as the groups that uttered them.

'We entered the Mausoleum; what a striking contrast from the scene that led to it! Its lofty and dimly-lighted chambers seemed boundless in their obscurity, and the awe which overwhelmed my faculties was heightened by the deep silence, the mysterious character of the longgowned figures that flitted about with soundless step, and the low, measured voice of prayer that issued from the chamber of the shrine.

"Seek you to perform your devotions?" demanded one of the Khadums, in a low whisper, "behold me ready to conduct you." Even the gay thoughtless youths my companions, who came but to gratify their cnriosity, were infected with the awe which I sincerely felt; and we all followed our conductor in silence.

[ocr errors]

Prostrating ourselves, with our foreheads touching the sacred threshold, we prayed a blessing upon the departed Imaum, and all the tribe of Allee, his predecessors; and then entered the vault of death, which no infidel may approach and live. Here repose the bones of the departed Imaum (blessings be on his name!) and here also is deposited the dust of him whom all Sheahs abhor for his persecution of the blessed race of Allee, while they respect his great name, his liberality, and justice to all the world besides-the mighty Haroon-ul-Rasheed.

The shrine, with its rich screens, its brocaded canopies, and numerous glittering ornaments, presented a striking contrast to the groups of grave turbaned priests and humble devotees, all prostrated in prayer around it ; and the impression made upon me by this solemn pomp was so strong, that I no longer wondered at the endless crowds of pilgrims that resort to this celebrated shrine from every part of Persia.

'After reciting the customary prayers, and walking three times round the tomb, we made a trifling present to the Khadum, and quitted the Durgah, by the entrance which leads to the mosque and square of Gauher Shahud,* so called from their founder. Even after gazing on the

* She was the wife of Shah Rokh, the celebrated grandson of the still more celebrated Timoor, the conqueror and destroyer of the East.

(

splendour of the Sahn, we were struck with delight at the beauty of this most elegant of mosques, with its slender, porcelain-covered minarets, and single majestic dome. But it would be endless to describe the various mosques, medressahs, and caravanserais, of this great city, the pride of Khorasan, and whose fame is over all the East.

The extensive and well-filled bazaars were objects of a different but not inferior interest. With what delight did I traverse that long street, which, with a canal of running water in its centre, stretches from one end of the city to the other. I gazed at the well-filled shops of the long bazaars that border this canal; the rich silks, shawls, and furs, the gay cloths of India and Frangestan; the tempting booths of the fruitsellers, the cooks, and confectioners; the neat arrangements of the apothecaries' many-coloured drugs and liquids. But the shops of the armourers and harness-makers had the greatest attractions for me. The gold and silver-mounted horse-furniture with sharp bright stirrups, and gay martingales with breast ornaments; the brilliant suits of armour, both chain and plate, bright, damasked, and clouded; the well-tempered Khorasanee blades, darkly brilliant, and dangerous as a woman's eye; the curious matchlocks and pistols from Istambol, and the endless variety of knives, khunjurs, and daggers. These were the things I coveted; I would willingly have made myself master of the whole, and, indeed, it was not long before my purse began to feel the effects of my visits to the bazaars of Mushed it would require to have been better filled to keep pace with my thoughtless extravagance.

• Another species of luxury to which I had hitherto been comparatively a stranger, was that of the baths, which were the constant resort of our idle youth, and which I now very regularly attended, for the sake of pleasant society as well as for personal enjoyment.'--vol. ii. pp. 2–7.

The troubles which Ismael suffered through the temptations offered by this gay place, were many and dangerous, but having been delivered from them by the almost miraculous interposition of the mysterious dervise, he again found himself in a situation for seeking the favour of his master; and the desperate acts of valour which he performed, soon raised him still higher in his esteem than ever. The principal part of the narrative, however, is taken up with the detail of the war, and we hear considerably more of the Khan's character and conduct than we do of Ismael. But events soon occurred which brings the story to its conclusion, and afford us more of the feelings belonging to romance reading, than any other part of the work. As we have not yet given a specimen of the author's powers in this respect, the following passage will suit the purpose :

[ocr errors]

Nothing worth relating had occurred for some time after my arrival in Mushed, when, strolling idly one afternoon by the Oosbeck caravanserai, and amusing myself with watching the crowds of people who frequented this great depôt, my attention was arrested by an exclamation of distress at no great distance, accompanied by some words in a female voice, and in the Tekeh language. They were uttered by a young woman in the Toorkoman dress, who, it appeared, in turning down a narrow lane close by, with a small tray of provisions in her hands, had been jostled by a surly

porter, so rudely as to cause her to drop her burthen. An emotion of compassion for her distress, together with a certain kindly feeling which always stirred within me at the sight of the Toorkoman garb, led me to go and enquire what ailed her. I had no sooner begun to speak, than the girl started back, and stood gazing at me with a countenance full of doubt and amazement." Holy Prophet!" said she at last, regardless of my questions," is it possible?-am I mad or dreaming? or is it the spirit of Ismael that stands before me?" I was startled in my turn, not less by the sound of her voice than by her exclamations, and replied, with a surprise little inferior to her own, Yes, child! you are not mistaken; my name, no doubt, is Ismael, and though I cannot recollect your's, the sound of your voice as well as your language is familiar to me; for I also have lived in the Desert, and have not forgotten the language of its tribes."

66

"Our language too!" exclaimed the girl, with increased eagerness, "there can be no mistake,-it must be himself,-and yet alive! and in Mushed too! Oh! holy Fatimah, what a blessing is this! Dearest mistress, you will live now,-all will be well again! Ah, my lord! you must come with me immediately, if you would hear of one who once was very dear to you; if you would see her alive, lose not a moment but follow me."-"Stay! hold! what mean you?" exclaimed I with equal earnestness: "of whom do you speak, and who are you that thus recall, in language and in look, the memory of my youthful days?"-"Oh ! for the sake of all you best love, delay no longer!" interrupted the girl, losing sight of my impatient curiosity in her own eager anticipations: "we shall be late; I can stay no longer from my mistress; come, I intreat you come!". "Your mistress! and who then is your mistress ?" cried I trembling with inexplicable forbodings.-" My mistress!" repeated the girl; "and know you not Sitarah, the little captive whom you gave to Shireen?who should be my mistress but her ?"

Although from the first moment of this interview I had felt a wild and thrilling fancy, which, like the presentiment of something strange and awful, flitted over my mind, and made me tremble while I almost anticipated the import of her tidings-still, when at last she uttered them so plainly, they stunned me like the bursting of a thunderbolt. Shireen! my long lost, ever loved Shireen, in Mushed! and in danger!-dying perhaps !" my head grew dizzy, and I could scarce articulate a word. "Lead on, lead on!" cried I, in a voice scarcely intelligible: "lose not another moment!" and I followed her with hasty steps, as she glided swiftly before me to a cluster of miserable huts at no great distance.

She entered a small mud-walled court, and running forward through a mean apartment, into an inner chamber of still more wretched description, she pushed aside the ragged curtain which hung before a door, and addressing herself to a figure which lay extended upon a pallet in one. corner of the room, exclaimed, "Good news, my dear mistress-I bring you tidings of joy! He is come! he is here! your misery is at an end: your own Ismael is here he will protect us, you will recover, and we shall all be happy again !"

IN

'A piercing shriek from the couch was all the reply; but it froze my blood and fixed every faculty with painful intensity upon the scene before I did not gaze thus long; my heart would have spoken had my

me.

straining eyes even failed to discover the truth. On a squalid couch, surrounded with misery and poverty in all its forms, pale, emaciated, and dying, as it seemed, lay the wasted form of my once blooming, lovely, and still fondly-loved Shireen! Heedless of every other object, in a tumult of remorse, apprehension, and joy, I threw myself upon the couch, and clasped her in my arms-but, alas! she was unconscious of my caresses-cold and motionless, she lay as one already dead--I thought she was indeed no more, and overcome with grief and horror, fell insensible upon her body.'-vol. iii. pp. 184-187.

Shireen had been brought into this situation by the captivity of her whole tribe, and her brother was then in chains in Mushed. The tale closes with his release, through the hazardous, but almost fatal, interference of Ismael, and of the marriage of the latter with Shireen.

Of a widely different character are the other works at the head of the article. The merit they possess in whatever proportion, is a common-place merit; for they belong to a school which has sprung up and exhausted its powers during the few seasons it has flourished. We are not of those who would quarrel with an author, who having strong feelings bent in one direction, gives something like the same tone to every favourite character he draws. It is, in the case of many men of genius, almost impossible that it should not be so. But the lighter class of novelists of the present day, are not tiresome through a uniformity of this kind, but from one which springs from the conventional slavery of the whole tribe to the delineation of the outward expression of character only; to its representation almost uniformly in the same circumstances of social life, and to modes of detail and description which give the same varnish to every scene that is drawn. The author of Sayings and Doings' has undoubtedly a quick perception of character, but it is of character only so far as it is formed under the influence of fashions, or casual occurrences. The ridiculous, the outré, the perverted and extravagant, he sees and describes very acutely, but, with all the merit which a work written by such an author may possess, and without taking into account the errors into which his peculiar taste may lead him, it can at best be only a case of well drawn caricatures, or of portraits like the originals, merely because some slight deformity is strikingly represented. The following will serve as an illustration of both the faults and merits of such a style. It is only necessary to observe, to make the extract intelligible, that of the characters mentioned, Mr. and Mrs. Crosby are a worthy couple, determined on killing themselves with physic, Caroline their niece, and Sir Mark a rustic full-grown baronet of forty, who has come to dine with the Crosby's for the first time, and make his declaration of love to Caroline.

Every body has observed that whenever particular pains and trouble are expended to make up an agreeable party, the scheme universally fails;

« AnteriorContinuar »