FADLADEEN, at the conclusion of this light rhapsody, took occasion to sum up his opinion of the young Cashmerian's poetry, --of which, he trusted, they had that evening heard the last. Having recapitulated the epithets, "frivolous"-- "inharmonious"-- "nonsensical," he proceeded to say that, viewed in the most favorable light it resembled one of those Maldivian boats, to which the Princess had alluded in the relation of her dream, -- a slight, gilded thing, sent adrift without rudder or ballast, and with nothing but vapid sweets and faded flowers on board. The profusion, indeed, of flowers and birds, which this poet had ready on all occasions, --not to mention dews, gems, etc.-- was a most oppressive kind of opulence to his hearers; and had the unlucky effect of giving to his style all the glitter of the flower garden without its method, and all the flutter of the aviary without its song. In addition to this, he chose his subjects badly, and was always most inspired by the worst parts of them. The charms of paganism, the merits of rebellion, --these were the themes honored with his particular enthusiasm; and, in the poem just recited, one of his most palatable passages was in praise of that beverage of the Unfaithful, wine; --"being, perhaps," said he, relaxing into a smile, as conscious of his own character in the Haram on this point, "one of those bards, whose fancy owes all its illumination to the grape, like that painted porcelain, so curious and so rare, whose images are only visible when liquor is poured into it." Upon the whole, it was his opinion, from the specimens which they had heard, and which, he begged to say, were the most tiresome part of the journey, that-- whatever other merits this well-dressed young gentleman might possess-- poetry was by no means his proper avocation; "and indeed," concluded the critic, "from his fondness for flowers and for birds, I would venture to suggest that a florist or a bird-catcher is a much more suitable calling for him than a poet."
They had now begun to ascend those barren mountains which separate Cashmere from the rest of India; and, as the heats were intolerable, and the time of their encampments limited to the few hours necessary for refreshment and repose, there was an end to all their delightful evenings, and LALLA ROOKH saw no more of FERAMORZ. She now felt that her short dream of happiness was over, and that she had nothing but the recollection of its few blissful hours, like the one draught of sweet water that serves the camel across the wilderness, to be her heart's refreshment during the dreary waste of life that was before her. The blight that had fallen upon her spirits soon found its way to her cheek, and her ladies saw with regret-- though not without some suspicion of the cause-- that the beauty of their mistress, of which they were almost as proud as of their own, was fast vanishing away at the very moment of all when she had most need of it. What must the King of Bucharia feel, when, instead of the lively and beautiful LALLA ROOKH, whom the poets of Delhi had described as more perfect than the divinest images in the house of AZOR, he should receive a pale and inanimate victim, upon whose cheek neither health nor pleasure bloomed, and from whose eyes Love had fled, --to hide himself in her heart?
If anything could have charmed away the melancholy of her spirits, it would have been the fresh airs and enchanting scenery of that Valley, which the Persians so justly called the Unequalled. But neither the coolness of its atmosphere, so luxurious after toiling up those bare and burning mountains, --neither the splendor of the minarets and pagodas, that shone put from the depth of its woods, nor the grottoes, hermitages, and miraculous fountains, which make every spot of that region holy ground, --neither the countless waterfalls, that rush into the Valley from all those high and romantic mountains that encircle it, nor the fair city on the Lake, whose houses, roofed with flowers, appeared at a distance like one vast and variegated parterre; --not all these wonders and glories of the most lovely country under the sun could steal her heart for a minute from those sad thoughts which but darkened and grew bitterer every step she advanced.
The gay pomps and processions that met her upon her entrance into the Valley, and the magnificence with which the roads all along were decorated, did honor to the taste and gallantry of the young King. It was night when they approached the city, and, for the last two miles, they had passed under arches, thrown from hedge to hedge, festooned with only those rarest roses from which the Attar Gul, more precious than gold, is distilled, and illuminated in rich and fanciful forms with lanterns of the triple-colored tortoise-shell of Pegu. Sometimes, from a dark wood by the side of the road, a display of fireworks would break out, so sudden and so brilliant, that a Brahmin might fancy he beheld that grove, in whose purple shade the God of Battles was born, bursting into a flame at the moment of his birth; --while, at other times, a quick and playful irradiation continued to brighten all the fields and gardens by which they passed, forming a line of dancing lights along the horizon; like the meteors of the north as they are seen by those hunters who pursue the white and blue foxes on the confines of the Icy Sea.
These arches and fireworks delighted the Ladies of the Princess exceedingly; and, with their usual good logic, they deduced from his taste for illuminations, that the King of Bucharia would make the most exemplary husband imaginable. Nor, indeed, could LALLA ROOKH herself help feeling the kindness and splendor with which the young bridegroom welcomed her; --but she also felt how painful is the gratitude which kindness from those we cannot love excites; and that their best blandishments come over the heart with all that chilling and deadly sweetness which we can fancy in the cold, odoriferous wind that is to blow over this earth in the last days.
The marriage was fixed for the morning after her arrival, when she was, for the first time, to be presented to the monarch in that Imperial Palace beyond the lake, called the Shalimar. Though never before had a night of more wakeful and anxious thought been passed in the Happy Valley, yet, when she rose in the morning, and her Ladies came around her, to assist in the adjustment of the bridal ornaments, they thought they had never seen her look half so beautiful. What she had lost of the bloom and radiancy of her charms was more than made up by that intellectual expression, that soul beaming forth from the eyes, which is worth all the rest of loveliness. When they had tinged her fingers with the Henna leaf, and placed upon her brow a small coronet of jewels, of the shape worn by the ancient Queens of Bucharia, they flung over her head the rose-colored bridal veil, and she proceeded to the barge that was to convey her across the lake; --first kissing, with a mournful look, the little amulet of cornelian, which her father at parting had hung about her neck.
The morning was as fresh and fair as the maid on whose nuptials it rose, and the shining lake, all covered with boats, the minstrels playing upon the shores of the islands, and the crowded summer-houses on the green hills around, with shawls and banners waving from their roofs, presented such a picture of animated rejoicing, as only she, who was the object of it all, did not feel with transport. To LALLA ROOKH alone it was a melancholy pageant; nor could she have even borne to look upon the scene, were it not for a hope that among the crowds around, she might once more perhaps catch a glimpse of FERAMORZ. So much was her imagination haunted by this thought that there was scarcely an islet or boat she passed on the way at which her heart did not flutter with the momentary fancy that he was there. Happy, in her eyes, the humblest slave upon whom the light of his dear looks fell! --In the barge immediately after the Princess sat FADLADEEN, with his silken curtains thrown widely apart, that all might have the benefit of his august presence, and with his head full of the speech he was to deliver to the King, "concerning FERAMORZ and literature and the Chabuk as connected therewith."
They now had entered the canal which leads from the Lake to the splendid domes and saloons of the Shalimar and went gliding on through the gardens that ascended from each bank, full of flowering shrubs that made the air all perfume; while from the middle of the canal rose jets of water, smooth and unbroken, to such a dazzling height that they stood like tall pillars of diamond in the sunshine. After sailing under the arches of various saloons they at length arrived at the last and most magnificent, where the monarch awaited the coming of his bride; and such was the agitation of her heart and frame that it was with difficulty she could walk up the marble steps which were covered with cloth of gold for her ascent from the barge. At the end of the hall stood two thrones, as precious as the Cerulean Throne of Koolburga, on one of which sat ALIRIS, the youthful King of Bucharia, and on the other was in a few minutes to be placed the most beautiful Princess in the world. Immediately upon the entrance of LALLA ROOKH into the saloon the monarch descended from his throne to meet her; but scarcely had he time to take her hand in his when she screamed with surprise and fainted at his feet. It was FERAMORZ, himself, who stood before her! FERAMORZ, was, himself, the Sovereign of Bucharia, who in this disguise had accompanied his young bride from Delhi, and having won her love as an humble minstrel now amply deserved to enjoy it as a King.
The consternation of FADLADEEN at this discovery was, for the moment, almost pitiable. But change of opinion is a resource too convenient in courts for this experienced courtier not to have learned to avail himself of it. His criticisms were all, of course, recanted instantly: he was seized with an admiration of the King's verses, as unbounded as, he begged him to believe, it was disinterested; and the following week saw him in possession of an additional place, swearing by all the Saints of Islam that never had there existed so great a poet as the Monarch ALIRIS, and moreover ready to prescribe his favorite regimen of the Chabuk for every man, woman and child that dared to think otherwise.
Of the happiness of the King and Queen of Bucharia, after such a beginning, there can be but little doubt; and among the lesser symptoms it is recorded of LALLA ROOKH that to the day of her death in memory of their delightful journey she never called the King by any other name than FERAMORZ.