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ployed him to compile it, though probably with an allusion to the other meaning, which the words will equally bear. That this double meaning was applied in the mind of the writer, will appear from the complimentary lines which he has addressed to his patron in the Introduction, where he compares him to the brilliant star of the other hemisphere.
“ As the bright star of southern skies
Sheds its blest influence far and near,
Shin'st, the Canopus of our sphere."* It is to be feared, that the reader's patience will be tried by the catalogue of the different editions of Pilpay's Fables, which we have already given; but we would fain, if possible, excite his interest for this, the most delightfully entertaining of oriental fictions. It enjoys an unbounded popularity in the East, where fancy and invention hold so absolute a sway; but it will hardly pass unscathed through the fiery ordeal of western criticism. The object of Hosein Vaez was to reduce the work of Nasr-allah into a style of less inflation, and to render it more acceptable to the mass of the people. “He has not contented himself,” De Sacy observes, “ with suppressing or altering every thing that would obstruct the ordinary reader; he has even added to the merit of the original, by inserting a great number of verses taken from various poets; and by employing constantJy that measured cadence, which, accompanied invariably by rhyme, constitutes the poetical prose of oriental authors; and which, by adding an inexpressible charm to just and solid reasoning, greatly diminishes the absurd and ridiculous effect which is produced, by its far-fetched thoughts and extravagant metaphors, on the severe and delicate taste of Europeans." “ Though his style,” he adds, “is not exempt from these faults, yet his book, like the Gulistan of Sâdi, is read again and again with renewed pleasure.” We cannot forget that this learned Arabic scholar has shewn a prejudice against Persian literature, when put in competition with his more favorite study, that has allowed him to adopt as the motto of one of his works, a couplet from an Arabian poet, in which he compares his countrymen to the kernel of the date, and the despised Persian to its worthless shell. But this gives additional weight to the praises which are extorted from him on the volume of Cashefi.
* تو سهېلي تا کجا تابي کجا مالي شوي نور تو ز هرکه ي تلب نشان دولت است
· Sir William Jones, a less severe, though not a less competent judge than the erudite Frenchman, has given a high testimony of his admiration of this work, in the preface to his Persian Grammar. “ The most excellent book in the language is, in my opinion, the collection of tales and fables, called Anvar Soheili, by Hosein Vaez, surnamed Cashefi, who took the celebrated work of Bidpai or Pilpay for his text, and has comprised all the wisdom of the eastern nations in fourteen beautiful chapters.” Our great orientalist was not however blind to the peculiarities of the author he thus warmly praised; but, deeply versed as he was in the poetry of many a distant clime and age, he could look on the fanciful vagaries of an Asiatic imagination, with an indulgent eye. In his commentaries on Asiatic poetry, he has given, after Meninski, in Persian and Latin, the following instance of the love of amplification, which is particularly characteristic of this expounder of the Koran; observing, that the same meaning might have been as well expressed in a short sentence, stating that "a beautiful girl passionately loved a handsome youth.” It is hardly necessary to remark, that this quotation, which must be read throughout in one breath, as a single sentence, will be viewed, not only under the disadvantage of a literal translation, except in the verses; but also under the unfriendly influence of a cold sky, beneath which we are wholly unable to sympathize with the warmth of feeling which produces the glowing language of a Persian prose writer. Their best poets write, be it remembered, in what we should call more correct taste.
“ One of these damsels, a single spark of whose beauty would add lustre to the brides of Paradise, and from the brightness of whose cheek the world-enlighting sun was burnt up with the fire of jealousy, whose laughing eye pierced the target of the bosom with the arrow of a glance, whose life-bestowing lip, like a packet of sugar, gave sweetness to the heart;—
Whose form is like the cypress tree's,
was bound by the cords of love, to a youth of a noble countenance, with musk-scented hair, in stature resembling the cypress, and in face the moon; with a soft voice and a slender waist; the curls of whose hyacinthine locks were the delight of Tartarian nymphs; with the love of whose joy-inspiring sweetness the virgins of Samarcand were in raptures;
His face! oh his face, beam!d the sun's pure light,
And his locks !-Ev'ry curl was wavy and bright." Now far be it from us to claim one iota of approbation for the above strange specimen of ill-assorted, tautological description, which unfortunately unites the opposite faults of deficiency and diffuseness. We must, at least, in justice to ourselves, after leaving the reader to form his unbiassed opinion of its merits, intreat him to believe that all its faults are derived from the original, though we therehy forfeit all claim to the modesty of those translators, who are continually expressing a deep sense of their many imperfections. It is but fair to state, that though this may be considered as a general sample of the most flowery manner of writing, now current in Asia, yet it would be unjust to leave it to stand alone, as the text from which the character of our author might be preached away. Florid as his narratives usually are, we may, even in his pages, find a tale sometimes related with European simplicity. We will extract, as a contrast to the last, a story from the eleventh chapter, in which there is hardly sufficient ornament to enable us, in the English translation, to, trace its eastern origin. It is, besides, a story, that through some channel or other, is familiar to English readers.
"A certain man, whose hair was a mixture of black and white, had two wives, one old, the other young. He had an equal affection for both, and was day and night to be found in the house of one or the other of them. It was his custom, when he entered the house of either, to lay his head on her lap, and go to sleep. One day, he went into the house of the elder one, and according to his usual habit fell asleep, having first laid his head on her lap. The old lady, looking on his face and at his beard, said to herself, “ There is no use in there being so many black hairs on this man's chin. I will pluck them out, that his beard may be entirely white, and then his young wife will no longer like him, and when he sees that her love is gone, and that she feels for him nothing but aversion, the fire of his love for her will be quenched, and he will transfer his affection wholly to me.” She then tore out as many of the black hairs as she could.
A Moslem's beard ! ah, how they'll rend it,
If from his wives he can't defend it. On another day, the man, having entered the house of his young wife, placed his head in her lap in his accustomed manner, and dropped asleep, . The young woman, seeing so large a proportion of grey hairs in his chin, thought within herself, “ These white hairs must be rooted up, that his beard may appear quite black, and when he sees that it is black, he will withdraw himself from the society of his old wife, and become entirely devoted to me.” Then she also tore up as much as the opportunity allowed of his grey hairs. When some time had elapsed, he one day put his hand to his chin, and found not a
hair remaining, for the harvest of his beard was utterly scattered. He bitterly lamented the loss, and never again ventured to shew himself in public.
We have endeavoured to preserve the character of this tale, by a very literal version. In the eyes of the Persians, we should imagine it to be no favorite, as it is so wholly devoid of the clinquant, which is their great delight, and which, even if the language became generally familiar to Europeans, would hardly approve itself to our judgment. The greatest charm of the book, it must be acknowledged, is to be discovered in the numberless fragments of Persian poetry, which are every where interspersed, and which afford a perpetual relief in the perusal, by interrupting the stately march of the turgid prose. In poetry, the Persians have long since arrived at great excellence; and though the modern versifiers, who are possessed of a licence of imagination that outstrips all bounds, have greatly degenerated, like the writers of some countries nearer home, from the masters of the olden time
yet the orthodox opinion of the nation is still in favor of the ancient and more sober worthies.
The Introduction to Pilpay's Fables, which is found in all the modern European copies, is the invention of Cashefi, who has entirely omitted the several prefaces, which are found in the Arabic of Almokaffà, and substituted a tale of his own composition, on which is engrafted the series of fables which form the body of the work. This book was printed at Calcutta in 1804.
About a century after the publication of the Anvar Soheili, the great Mogul Akbar enjoined his minister Abulfazel, whose name is well known among us, since the publication of his Institutes of Akbar, to prepare a more simple and unadorned edition of the work of Hosein Vaez, who had not, he thought, brought down the old Persian version sufficiently to the level of ordinary understandings. But though he retrenched the highsounding but superfluous phraseology of his predecessor, he preserved the order and general arrangement of that work, restoring however, from the Arabic copy, the introductions which had been omitted, and adding to them the preface that Cashefi had composed. Abúlfazel gave to the result of his labours, when completed, the new title of Ayár-danish, or Touchstone of Knowledge.
Before this period, and in the middle of the tenth century of the Mussulmans, Ali Chelebi, Professor at the college of Adrianople, had translated the Anvar Soheili into the Turkish language, and had dedicated the book, which he entitled Homaioun-Nameh, or the Imperial Book, to the grand Signior Soliman. His labour was rewarded by an appointment to one of the most honorable posts in the Ottoman empire. This version is
said to reflect great credit on the taste of its author. It is to this writer that we more immediately owe the different editions of these fables, that, during the last century, appeared in several of the languages of modern Europe.
There are probably many other translations or imitations of this curious book in the Asiatic idioms : in two or three instances, the Calcutta press has given to the world as many versions, either of the original Sanscrit or its descendants, existing in the Persian language. But enough has been laid before the reader, and perhaps more than was necessary, to shew the strange mutations that the old Indian fabulist has, in a course of ages, undergone; and his identity, under his ever-changing metamorphoses, has, we hope, been clearly shewn. We shall now therefore, before we close this article, in a few lines mention the manner in which the wandering Sage has been introduced to the notice of the nations of the West.
There exist two series of European translations of these tales. The more ancient is traced to the Hebrew version, which has been already noticed. From the Hebrew, they were rendered into Latin by John of Capua, and given to the world from the press, but without a date, under this title: “ Directorium Vitæ Humana, alias Parabole Antiquorum Sapientum.” From this was taken a Spanish edition, of whose history little seems known, but that the Italians received from it their copy of Pilpay. The novelist Firenzuola was the first who presented this work to the Italians, which he named Discorsi degli Animali, and published in the year 1548. From another Italian version by Doni, Sir Thomas North printed two English editions in the years 1570 and 1601, entitled The moral Philosophy of Doni. In the course of the sixteenth century, four editions appeared of a German translation from the Latin, made by order of Eberhard, the first Duke of Wirtemburg. An old French translation is said to have been derived from the same source, and there are two editions of a French paraphrase from the Persian of Nasrallah, by the hand of Gilbert Ġaulmin.
M.M. Galland and de Cardonne commenced the second series of translations in the western languages, by their work which bears the following title ; Contes et Fables Indiennes de Bidpai et de Lokman, traduites d'Ali Tchelebi ben Saleh, Auteur Turc; 2 vols. Paris, 1714; and again in 1724. From this publication, the book was printed in English in 1747, and had reached its fifth impression in 1775. It is necessary to observe, that in French, as well as in English, we only possess the contents of the first four of the “ fourteen beautiful chapters” of Cashefi, which include, however, one half of the work. M. Galland had probably proceeded no farther at the time of his death, and thus his readers were deprived of the remaining chapters, and of the fables of
at the Italola was thed Discono