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named George Backtischwah, who was the first that gave to the Arabians translations of the learned Greek works on medicine. Backtischwah, or Bocht Jesu, was descended from those christians, who, persecuted in the Greek empire for their attachment to the Nestorian dogmas, had gone in search of peace and security among the Persians, and who founded there, in the province of Gondisapor, a school of medicine, already famous in the seventh century. Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, (429–431) who made, according to the orthodox creed, too marked a difference between two persons, as well as two natures in Christ, manifested a persecuting zeal, of which he was soon in his turn, the victim: thousands of Nestorians, his disciples, perished at the stake and by the sword, after the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. These, in their turn, massacred, towards the year 500, in Persia, between seven and eight thousand of their orthodox or monophysite adversaries; but, after this first retaliation, they devoted themselves to the sciences with more ardour, and at the same time with more charity, than the other christian churches: they preserved, in the Syriac language, the literature of Greece, at a period when superstition was crushing it in the Eastern empire. From their school of Gondisapor, issued a crowd of Jewish and Nestorian savans, who, obtaining repute for their skill in medicine, transported to the Orientals all the rich inheritance of Grecian knowledge. The renowned Haroun-al-Raschild, who reigned from 786 to 809, gloried in the protection he accorded to letters; and, we are assured by the historian Elmacin,

that he never undertook a journey without having at least, one hundred literati in his train. The Arabian nation is indebted to him for the rapid progress which it made in science and literature, for, he made it a rule, never to build a mosque without attaching to it a school. His successor imitated him, and in a short time, the sciences cultivated in the capital, were diffused to the extremities of the empire of the Caliphs. Whenever the faithful assembled to worship God, they found occasion, in his temple, to render the most noble homage which is permitted to mortals, that of cultivating those faculties which the Creator has bestowed on them. Haroun-al-Raschild was likewise sufficiently exalted above the fanaticism which had previously animated his sect, not to contemn the knowledge acquired by the followers of another creed. The principal of his schools and the chief director of studies in his empire was a Nestorian christian of Damascus, named John Ebn Messua. But the real protector-the father of Arabian literature, was Al-Mamoun (Mohammed-AbenAmer) the seventh Abbassid Caliph, and the son of Haroun-alRaschild. Even in the life-time of his father, and during the journey to Khorasan, he took with him as companions, the most celebrated of the learned men of the Greeks, Persians, and Chaldeans. When sovereign, (813–833,) he made Bagdad the centre of all literature; studies, books, savans, were almost the only objects of his attention. The learned became his favourites, his ministers were solely occupied with the advancement of literature; and, it might have been said, that the throne of the Caliphs had been erected for the Muses. He invited to his court, from every part of the world, all the learned men, of whose existence he could obtain any information;–he retained them by recompenses, honours, and distinctions of every kind;— he collected from the subject provinces of Syria, Armenia, and Egypt, all the valuable books which could be discovered; they formed the most precious tribute which the sovereign required; and the governors of provinces with all the officers of administration, were charged above all things, to collect the literary riches of the vanquished countries, and bear them to the foot of the throne. Hundreds of camels were seen entering Bagdad, loaded only with papers and books; and all those which were deemed proper to aid public instruction were immediately translated into Arabic, for the purpose of bringing them within the reach of every one. Masters, censors, translators, commentators of books, formed the court of Al-Mamoun. It had more the appearance of a learned academy, than the centre of government of a warlike empire. When this Caliph, as a conqueror, dictated peace to the Greek emperor Michael the stammerer, he demanded of him in tribute, a collection of Greek books. The sciences were especially favoured by the Caliph; speculative philosophy was permitted to exercise it. self on the highest questions, in spite of the jealous distrust of some fanatic mussulmen, who accused Al-Mamoun of thus endangering Mahometanism. During his reign, medicine counted among its followers several of his most illustrious doctors; civil

law had been taught him by the

celebrated Kossa, and as this was, in the estimation of mussulmen, the most religious of all the sciences, it was that to which his subjects devoted themselves with the greatest ardour, whilst AlMamoun gave himself up to his taste for mathematics, which he studied with brilliant success. He undertook the grand operation of measuring the earth, and he had it accomplished at his own expense, by his own mathematicians. The elements of astronomy of Alfragan, (Fragani) and the astronomical tables of Al-Merwasi, were the work of two of his courtiers. This same Al-Mamoun, not less generous than he was enlightened, cried out, when pardoning one of his relations who had revolted against him, in order to usurp the throne,—“Ah! if they knew what “ pleasure I take in pardoning, all “ those who have offended me “ would hasten to confess to me “ their faults.” The progress of the nation in sciences was proportioned to the zeal of its chief. On all sides, and in every city, schools, colleges, and academies were established,— learned men issued from every

quarter: Bagdad was alike the

capital of letters and of the Caliphs; but Bassora and Cusa were nearly equal to this city in celebrity, and produced as many eminent works in prose, and as many distinguished poems. Balckh, Ispahan, and Samarcand, were, in like manner, foci of the sciences. The same zeal was conveyed by the Arabians far beyond the frontiers of Asia. The Jew, Benjamin of Tudela, relates in his Itinerary, that he found at Alexandria more than twenty schools for the instruction of philosophy. Cairo, also contained a great number of colleges, and that of Betzuaila, one of the suburbs of this capital, was built with so much strength, that in a rebellion it served as a citadel to an army. In the cities of Fez and Morocco also, the most magnificent buildings were appropriated to study; they were sustained by the wisest and most munificent institutions. The rich libraries of Fez and Larache have saved for Europe a great number of precious books, which had entirely disappeared in all other places. But Spain, above all, was the seat of Arabian sciences; it was there that they shone forth with the brightest lustre, and advanced with the greatest rapidity. Cordova, Grenada, Seville, all the cities of the peninsula, rivalled each other, in the magnificence of their schools, their colleges, academies, and libraries. The academy of Grenada had for its prefect, Schamseddin of Murcia, so celebrated by the Arabians. Metuahelal-Allah, who reigned in Grenada during the twelfth century, possessed a magnificent library; and there is still preserved in the Escurial, a great number of manuscripts, transcribed for his use. Alhaken, founder of the academy of Cordova, presented six hundred volumes to the library of that city. In the different towns of Spain, seventy libraries were open for the use of the public, precisely at the epoch when all the rest of Europe, without books, science, or education, was buried in the most disgraceful ignorance. The number of Arabian authors whom Spain produced, was so great, that several Arabian bibliographers wrote learned treatises on those who were born in a single town, as Seville, Valencia, and Cordova, or on those among the Spaniards, who had devoted themselves to a single study, as philosophy, medi

cine, mathematics, and above all, poetry. Thus, throughout the vast extent of Arabian dominion in the three sections of the world, the march of learning had followed that of arms, and literature retained its full lustre during five or six centuries, from the ninth to the fourteenth or fifteenth of our era. One of the first cares of the Arabians, on the revival of letters, should have been to perfect the instrument itself of reflection and imagination; and, in fact, the culture of language did occupy the time of numbers of their learned men. They were divided into two rival schools, that of Cufa, and that of Bassora, whence issued numerous distinguished men, who have analyzed with the greatest ingenuity, all the rules of the Arabian language. The study of rhetoric was united to that of grammar; and, to say the truth, the precepts, as it happens in all literature, followed the examples. The Koran had not been written according to the rules of rhetoricians; a disorder of ideas, caused by an unbridled imagination,-obscurity, contradiction, consequences of the agitated life, and the various plans of its author, destroyed the unity, and even the interest of this book. Moreover, its chapters were arranged after the completion of the work, and then, not according to their date or connexion, but to their length, commencing with the longest and terminating with the shortest: and a work, the ideas of which might be even less gigantic, less extravagant, would still be often unintelligible, from so fantastical an arrangement. However, no other production of the Arabian language contains pas

sages written in more sublime poetry, or with a more seductive eloquence. In the same manner, the first discourses which were addressed to the people and to the armies, for the purpose of infusing into them the new faith, and of rousing their spirit to battle, possessed, without doubt, more genuine eloquence, than all those which were subsequently composed in the schools of the most famous Arabian rhetoricians.— These latter, however, hastened to translate the most celebrated of the Greek works on rhetoric, to adapt them to their own language, the genius of which was so different, and thus to form a new art for the illustration of several Arabian Quinctilians. After the time of Mahomet and his first successors, popular eloquence could no longer be cultivated by the Arabians. Oriental despotism having superseded the freedom of the desert, the chiefs of the state and army deemed it beneath them to harangue either the people or the soldiery; they no longer expected any thing from their deliberations or their zeal, and appealed only to their obedience. But, if political eloquence was of no long duration among the Arabians, they were, in return, the inventors of the oratory which we cultivate the most, at this day. They exercised themselves alternately in academic and pulpit cloquence; their philosophers, so enthusiastic in admiring the beauties of their language, seized with avidity, the opportunity of displaying, in their learned assemblies, all its copiousness and harmony. It was in this career, that Malek was esteemed the most captivating of their orators, that Schoraiph was acknowledged to be more skilful than any other in uniting the brilliancy of poesy, to the vigour of

prose;—that Al-Harisi, in fine, was placed by them, on a level with Demosthenes and Cicero. On the other side, Mahomet had ordained that his faith should be preached in all the mosques; the appellation of orator, Khateb, was pointedly given, by custom, to the sacred speakers, and that of oration, Khotbah, to their sermons. A great number of these discourses have been preserved in the library of the Escurial, and it may there be seen, how much their proceedings resemble those of christian divines. The preacher commences with thanksgiving, with the profession of faith, and prayers, as well for the king, as for the happiness of the kingdom; he then gives out his text, and opens his subject; he rests his exhortation on the authority of the Koran and the doctors, and endeavours to rouse his hearers in favour of virtue, and in opposition to Vice. Poetry, much more than eloquence, was the favourite occupation of the Arabians from their first appearance. It is asserted, that this nation alone, has produced more poets than all others together. Arabian poetry began, even before the use of writing had become universal; and, from the earliest times, contests of bards, and academic games, were celebrated every year in the city of Ocadh. Mahomet prohibited them, as relics of idolatry. Seven of the most renowned among the ancient poets, are designated, by oriental writers, under the name of the Arabic Pleiades; and their works are suspended around the Caaba or temple of Mecca. Mahomet himself, cultivated poetry, as did Ali, Amrou, and some others of the most celebrated among his first companions; but after him, the Arabian Muses seem to have been silent until the reign of the Abbassides. It was under Haroun-al-Raschild, and his successor Al-Mamoun, but still more under the Ommiades of Spain, that Arabian poetry attained its zenith. Then appeared that numerous band of poets, of chivalric lovers, and of princesses, daughters of kings, whom the Orientals compare to Anacreon, Pindar, and Sappho. Their names, which I vainly attempted to engrave on my memory, when unacquainted with their works, would, probably in the same way, escape the memory of the greater part of my readers. The highest celebrity in this language, as remote from us, as its characters and orthography are different from ours, is so fugitive, that I can no longer find in Herbelot those authors whom Andrés places in the first rank, such as a certain Al-Monotabbi of Cufa, whom he styles the prince of poets. I shall not then attempt to class them according to their merit, since I am not sufficiently master of this study to make it my own; I will rather prefer offering here a fragment, translated from other versions both of the Arabic and Persian, and will accompany it with general reflections on Asiatic poetry. The first of the seven poems hung up in the temple of Mecca, was an idyl, or casside of Amralkeisi. The composition and plan of this ancient monument of Arabian poetry, will give some idea of what has since been done.—The hero conducts two of his friends to the spot which his harem had occupied, now a desert—and there bewails the departure of his mistresses. Seeing the print of their Vol. I.

footsteps, he sighs, groans, is in despair, and rejects every consolation which his friends offer him. “You have,” say they, “experi“enced, at other times, misfor“tunes of greater magnitude.” —“Without doubt,” he replies, “but then, the perfume which my “ mistresses diffused, still charm“ed my heart and intoxicated my “senses; then, my eyes filled “ with tears, but they were tears “ of desire, they inundatcd my “ cheeks and my bosom, even my “baldric was bedeved by them.” —“At least,” resume his friends, “let the remembrance of past “happiness calm your present “grief; think with how many de“lights they have strewed your “ life.” The hero, comforted by this memento, recalls, in effect, the blissful days he has enjoyed, the charms of his conversations with Oneiza, with Fatima, the most beautiful among the beautiful; he plumes himself on having loved a virgin whom none equalled in beauty.—“Her neck,” says he, “ was that of the antelope, “when she stretches it to descry “some distant object; like hers, “ was it adorned with the elegant “collar; her tresses floating on “ her shoulders, " were of the “black of ebony, and not less “abundant than the waving “branches of the palm; her fi“gure, not less delicate or flexile “ than a cord; and her coun“ tenance illuminated the dark. “ness of night, like the lamp of “ the solitary sage at his midnight “ vigils; her attire, called to mind “ the azure of the heavens, and its “ embroidery of precious stones, “ resembled the Pleiades appear“ing above the horizon.” He next draws the picture of a chace, then of a banquet, and terminates 2 H

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