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(50) Mirza Alu Taaleb Khan, his ingratitude and vanity, comparison of his poetry with that of Hafiz and Yuqueen ((503-509)) [from Williamson 1810, vol. 1; omitted by Gilchrist]

((503)) Many characters such as I have described could be quoted, but the most particularly appropriate to my subject is that of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan, who embarked in the same ship with me, for the purpose of proceeding from Bengal to England, where he was at first received as a general and prince; merely owing to an empty title conferred on him at the Nabob Vizier's court, about as important as that of a Windsor Knight. This hero did not, it is true, adopt our costume altogether, though he became a kind of 'half and half, like the sea-calf at Sir Ashton's'; but he had the impudence to assert that his paltry lodgings in Gresse-Street (above all places under the sun) were graced by the nocturnal visits of several Peeresses of the most exalted character; many of whose names he most scandalously, and ungratefully, disclosed!

I say ungratefully, because it was impossible for me to believe that ladies of such character could have stooped to such conduct; although; in consequence of suitable introductions, they had received him at their houses in that hospitable manner ever adopted in favor of respectable foreigners. The Mirza very probably may have been imposed upon by some low women who made him the Falstaff of their drama; and by assuming the titles of our nobility, flattered his vanity to an extreme! Yet supposing this to ((504)) have been the fact, how are we to find an apology for that open boast he made of the supposed intimacy!

But vanity was his motto; he studied singularity in many instances; he studied also celebrity; and would willingly have impressed us with an opinion that from Hafiz down to the Plenipo', his abilities were triumphant. Let us compare him with the former, whose poetry charmed his countrymen:


Sweet maid, if thou wouldst charm my sight,
And bid these arms thy neck infold;
That rosy cheek, that lily hand
Would give thy poet more delight
Than all Bocara's vaunted gold,
Than all the gems of Samarcand.

Boy, let yon liquid ruby flow,/1/
And bid thy pensive heart be glad,
Whate'er the frowning zealots say;
Tell them their Eden cannot show
A steam so clear as Rocnabad,
A bow'r so sweet as Mosellay.

Oh! when these fair, perfidious maids,
Whose eyes our secret haunts infest,
Their dear destructive charms display,
Each glance my tender breast invades,
And robs my wounded soul of rest,

As Tartars seize their destin'd prey.
((505)) In vain with love our bosoms glow;
Can all our tears, can all our sighs
New lustre to those charms impart?
Can cheeks, where living roses blow,
Where nature spreads her richest dyes,
Require the borrow'd gloss of art?

Speak not of fate; ah! change the theme,
And talk of odours, talk of wine,
Talk of the flow'rs that round us bloom:
'Tis all a cloud, 'tis all a dream;
To love and joy thy thoughts confine,
Nor hope to pierce the sacred gloom.

Beauty has such resistless pow'r,
That ev'n the chaste Egyptian dame/2/
Sigh'd for the blooming Hebrew boy:/3/
For her how fatal was the hour,
When to the banks of Nilus came
A youth so lovely and so coy!

But ah! sweet maid, my counsel hear,
(Youth shall attend when those advise
Whom long experience renders sage);
While music charms the ravish'd ear,
While sparkling cups delight our eyes
Be gay; and scorn the frowns of age.

What cruel answer I have heard!
And yet, by heav'n, I love thee still:
Can aught be cruel from thy lip?
Yet say; how fell that bitter word
From lips which streams of sweetness fill,
Which nought but drops of honey sip?

((506)) Go boldly forth, my simple lay,
Whose accents flow with artless ease,
Like orient pearls at random strung;
Thy notes are sweet, the damsels say,
But oh, far sweeter, if they please
The nymph for whom these notes are sung!

Now for my friend the Mirza; who, while in England, published a small collection of poetry he had addressed, in the Persian language (most ably translated by George Swinton, Esq.), to a young lady, of whom we are to suppose he was deeply enamoured.

In this rhodomontade, which conforms exactly with Indian hyperbole, there are certainly some figures which cannot fail to strike an European; yet are they mere common-place expressions, familiar to every native who has been introduced to that labyrinth of poetical absurdity, so delectable among Asiatics.

Take the following extracts from the poems at large, as a specimen of the author's talents.

Praise of her ornaments:

'Upon this ear hangs a cloud surcharg'd with lightning ;
Or is it Venus sits enthroned in her ear-ring?
On that ear, behold Jupiter augments her beauty;
In one morning who ever saw both constellations?
Since the lobe of the ear is the polar-star of the world of elegance,
Her ear-rings are the Greater and Lesser Bears which revolve around!

((507)) Here we have fustian for metaphor, and a most un-astronomical dissertation on Jupiters, Venuses, Polar-Stars of elegance, together with big and little Bears revolving around them! How will Herschell stare, when he reads of this new system!
Praise of her gait and stature:

From the extreme fineness of her waist,
The shadow of her ringlets is a burden to her stature.
Her stature is a cypress when she walks,
But it bears, however, the fruit of seedless pomegranates.
She moves more gracefully than the water of life.
Like me, the pheasant and partridge are lost in astonishment.
Although she should tread on the pismire [=ant] at her feet,
Its smallest hair would receive no injury.
Yes, it is for this that she treads so lightly,
Under evey step lie a hundred souls!

The following may be considered the very acme of absurdity!
When they wash'd pearls and the moon pure
With Bird's MILK, they have modell'd the globes of her breast!
And again,
Her chin is not an apple of the garden,
It is a WELL full of the water of life!
And, once more, again,
Her lip demands tribute from sugar-candy,
The Blood of WINE is its only nourishment!'
((508)) Why, really, if some other parts of the work did not assure us that the object of adoration possessed every virtue, and every agreeable quality, the world might be induced, by the foregoing lines, to consider her a most incorrigible toper!

Let not these samples serve for all the poets of Hindostan, though they may suffice to exhibit that fantastic illusion which characterizes them in general: some authors, natives of India, have afforded proofs of genius, such as leave us to lament that their talents were not duly cultivated and patronized.

The following little canzonet, translated from the poems of Yuqueen, a celebrated Hindostanee author, happens to lie open before me, seeming to offer itself for quotation. I think my readers will admit, that though it does not indicate inspiration, yet that it breathes the spirit of pathetic numbers [=emotional verses]


One day among the tombs I stray'd,
Where many slighted lovers lay:
A daffodil I there survey'd,
Which seem'd in grief to pine away!
Enquiring why it hung its head?
And why in grief it seem'd to pine?
'I am the eyes of him,' it said,
'Who lies beneath this lowly shrine!
Like me, sad emblems of despair,
Still seek they to behold again
That cruel, that relentless fair, --
Who wrought his death by her disdain!'
((509)) It does, alas! from this appear,
That Love admits of no release;
Torments its vot'ries while they're here,
Nor can the grave afford them peace !

Without upholding this little production as a prodigy, it may perhaps be safely adduced as a contrast to those beauties I have selected from the Mirza's little book of great wonders.

= = = = = = = = = = =
/1/ A melted ruby is a common periphrasis for wine in the Persian poetry. See Hafiz, ode 22.
/2/ Zoleikha, Potiphar's wife.
/3/ Joseph.


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