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his poem, with an admirable description of the shower which refreshes the scorching deserts." After this fragment, which is but insignificant, if we consider it as a specimen of a literature as vast as that of all Europe, we shall only add, from sir W. Jones, that the Orientals, and particularly the Arabians, possessed heroic stanzas, destined to commemorate their great men, and to animate their troops; but they had no epic poem, although sir W. Jones gives this title to the history of Timour, or Tamerlane, written in measured prose, by Ebn-Arabschah. He seems, with more reason, to have classed among the epic poems, the work of the Persian Ferduzi, entitled Schah-Namah. It is a poem of sixty thousand distichs, on all the heroes and kings of Persia; of which, the first half, the only part that can be deemed an epopee, describes the ancient war between, Afrasiab, king of Transoxian Tartary, and Caikhosru, whom we know under the name of Cyrus. The hero of this poem is Rustem, the Hercules of Persia. With the exception of this single work, Oriental poetry is entirely lyric dr didactic. The Arabians have written innumerable poems on love, elegies on the death of their heroes or their beauties—moral poems, amongst which fables may be classed;— eulogiums, satires, descriptions, and particularly, didactic poems on all the sciences, even on the driest of them, as on grammar, rhetoric, or arithmetic: But, amongst so many Arabian poems, the catalogue alone of which,
• Sir William Jones. Poéseas Asiatica: commentarii, page 84.
forms, in the loscurial, a collection of twenty-four volumes, there is not one epic poem, not one comedy, and not one tragedy. In these different poems, the Orientals have displayed great refinement and ingenuity of thought; their diction is delicate and elegant; the sentiments are noble; and we may believe, on the assurance of Orientalists, that in the original tongue, there reigns a harmony in the versification, a propriety in the expressions, and a grace throughout the whole, which are necessarily lost to us. But why not also acknowledge, that the brilliancy of these lyrical compositions is owing to their bold metaphors, extravagant allegories, and excessive hyperboles? Why not concede, that the characteristic of Oriental taste, is, an abuse of imagination and of genius? The Arabians disdained the poetry of the Greeks, which appeared to them timid, cold, and formal. Amongst all the Grecian books which they treasured up with an almost superstitious worship, there is not one poem; none of those productions of classic genius, were deemed by them worthy of a translation; and, in fact, neither Homer, Sophocles, nor Pindar himself, could bear a comparison with their bards. The Arabians aimed at shining by the boldest and most gigantic images; their object is, always to astonish their readers by an unlooked for expression; they overwhelm with their profuseness, and think, that what is beautiful, can never be superfluous. By no means satisfied with one simile, they accumulate them, not sor the elucidation of their idea, but that their colouring may be admired. Natural sentiments do not engage their attention; it is art which they are anxious to display; and the more that art is profuse of ornament, the more admirable do they esteem it. Hence also, the search after all the difficulties of composition, although they add nothing ei her to the development of the idea, or to the harmony of the verse. The imitation of nature had disclosed to the people, whose poetry is classic, the dramatic, and epic species, in which, the poet endeavours to clothe his sentiments in the genuine language of the heart. The people of the East did not make this attempt; their poetry is entirely lyrical: but when poetry abandons altogether the language of nature, it ought to wear the appearance of inspiration; and, under whatever name it is known, or to whatever rule it is subjected, it should always seem the note of the passions. But, if the Orientals have no dramatic or epic poetry, they are, in return, the inventors of the kind which resembles the epopee, and which serves them as a substitute for theatrical amusements. We are indebted to them for those tales of such brilliant tissue, and of such rich and varied fancy, which have been the delight of our infancy, and which we never open, even in a more advanced age, without feeling ourselves again seduced, captivated by them. Every one is acquainted with the Thousand and One Wights; but, if we are to believe their translator, that which we have in French, is but the thirty-sixth part of the great Arabian collection. This immense collection is not confined to books alone; it constitutes the wealth of a numerous class of men and women, who, in the whole extent of the dominion of Mlahomet, in Turkey, Persia, and
even to the extremity of the Indies, make it a trade to beguile with their fictions, a public which loves to drown in the soft dreams of the imagination, the oftentimes painful sensations of the present. In the midst of the coffee-houses of the Levant, a man collects a silent crowd; sometimes he excites terror or compassion;more often, he presents to the view of his auditors those brilliant fantastic visions, the patrimony of Oriental imagination;–occasionally, even he awakens laughter, and the stern brow of the austere osmanlis is here alone unbent. This is the only theatre of all the Levant: story-tellers, supply there the place of our comedians. The public square even has its fablers; —female romancers amuse the long leisure of the seraglio, physicians often direct their pa. tients to employ them, for the purpose of soothing anguish, calming agitation, and recalling sleep, after long wakefulness; and they accustomed to the task, know how to modulate their voice, to graduate its tone, and to suspend it gently, to give place to sleep. Arabian imagination, which shines forth in all its lustre in these tales, is easily distinguished from the chivalric; but it is by no means difficult to observe, in how many respects they resemble each other. The supernatural world is the same in both; the moral is different. Arabian tales, like the romances of chivalry, introduce us to the same fairy scenes; but the human personages whom they bring there, are not at all the same. These tales have sprung up since the time when the Arabians, yielding the sword to the Tartars, Turks, and Persians, were no longer active, but in the pursuits of commerce, letters, and the arts. We recognize in them, a commercial people, as we recognize in the romances of chivalry, a warlike people. Riches, and the luxury of the arts, emulate in lustre, the splendid gifts of fairies; heroes are constantly traversing new countries, and the interests of commerce exercise as much their inquisitive alertness, as the desire of fame excites the courage of our ancient knights. With the exception of females, we remark but four classes of persons in these tales, princes, merchants, monks or calenders, and slaves. Soldiers play scarcely any part in them; valour, and high military deeds, produce, as in the annals of the East, alarm, cause rapid desolation, but awaken no enthusiasm. There is then in the Arabian tales, something less noble, less heroic, than we are accustomed to desire. But, on another hand, it is their story-tellers whom we ought to consider as our masters in the art of raising, of keeping alive interest, and of varying it without cessation,-in the art of creating that brilliant mythology of genii and fairies, which enlarges the world, multiplies riches and human strength, and makes us live in the midst of the marvellous, and the unexpected, without benumbing us with terror. It is from them that we derive that delirium of love, that tenderness, that delicacy of sentiment, that religious adoration of women, by turns slaves and goddesses, which have had so great an influence on our chivalry, and which we shall again encounter, with features truly Oriental, in the literature of the whole south. The narratives themselves had entered into our poetry a long time before the translation of the
Thousand and One Wights. We find several of them in our old fabliauz, in Boccaccio, and in Ariosto; and these very tales, which have delighted our infancy, passing from language to language, and from nation to nation, through channels often unknown, are now found attached to all the recollections, and all the enjoyments of imagination, of the inhabitants of half the globe. But the influence which the Arabians have exercised over literature in Europe, has not been limited to the mere admiration which their poetry could excite. The rapid strides they had made in the sciences, gave them universal authority in the whole empire of mind; and they whom the European learned were accustomed to regard as their masters in mathematical knowledge, the study of nature, and the attainments of history or geography, appeared to them equally infallible oracles in matters of taste. As regards then, European literature alone, it is important to know, what was the state of the sciences amongst the Arabians, at the moment when our ancestors made the first steps towards emerging from barbarism. All the branches of history were cultivated with a lively interest by the Arabians. Several of them, among whom is Aboul Feda, prince of Hamah, wrote universal histories from the commencement of the world, to their own times. Each state, each province, each city, had its own chroniclers, and particular historians. Several, in imitation of Plutarch, have written the lives of the great men who were distinguished for their virtues, their high deeds, or their talents. There was, indeed, among the Arabians, such a pas
sion for attempting every thing, and of leaving no subject untouched, that Ben Zaid, of Cordova, and Aboul Monder, of Valencia, have seriously written the history of celebrated horses, as did Alasueco, that of the camels that had become illustrious. Historical dictionaries were invented by the Arabians; and Abdel Malek gave to the nations who spoke his language, what Moreri has given to modern Europeans. They had also geographical dictionaries of the utmost exactness, with critical and bibliographical dictionaries; all those inventions, in fine, which facilitate labour, which spare investigation, and which afford a relief to indolence, were in use among them. Numismatics was cultivated by them, and Al-Namori wrote the history of the coins of Arabia. Each art, and each science; had its history. The Arabians are richer in this respect, than any other people, ancient or modern. Al-Assakan wrote commentaries on the first inventors of the arts; Al-Gazel, in his erudition of Arabian antiquities, treated with profound knowledge, of the studies and pursuits of his compatriots: medicine and philosophy had a greater number of historians than all the other sciences; all were congregated in the historical dictionary of MohammadAba-Abdallah, of Grenada. Philosophy was cultivated with passion by the Arabians, and constituted the glory of many ingenious and subtle men, whose names are still revered in Europe, as Averrhoes of Cordova, the great commentator of Aristotle, (deceased in l 198;) Avicenna, from the neighbourhood of Chyraz, a no less profound philosopher, than celebrated physician, (deceased in 950;) Al-Gazeli of
Thous, who joined religion to philosophy, (deceased in l l l l;) Al-Farabi, of Farab (deceased in 950,) who spoke seventy languages, who wrote upon all sciences, and who united them all in an Encyclopedia. The Arabian savans did not confine their studies to the closet; they undertook, for the advancement of science, the most toilsome and perilous journies,—they belonged to the councils of princes, and were often overwhelmed by the violent, and almost always cruel revolutions of the East. Thus is their private history more varied, more studded with events, and more romantic, than those of the philosophers and savans of other nations. Of all the Arabian sciences, it was philosophy which overspread the West with the greatest rapidity, and which had the greatest influence on the schools of Europe; and it was philosophy also, of which the progress had the least of reality in it. The Arabians more ingenious than profound, attached themselves to subtleties, and not to the concatenation of ideas; their object was, rather to shine than to instruct; obscurity gave them in the eyes of the vulgar, an air of profundity; they sought for mysteries in their own imagination; they wrapped science in clouds, instead of penetrating into the centre of the nature of things, where obscurity is indeed met with, owing to human weakness and the magnitude of the subject, but where it does not exist of itself. More enthusiastic than adventurous, they prefer considering man as the oracle of all human knowledge, to searching for it in nature, and render almost divine worship to Aristotle. In their estimation, all philosophy could be found in his writings, and all the science of metaphysics expounded by the scholastic method. An exact version, an ingenious illustration of the works of the Stagirite, appeared to them, the sublimest limit which the genius of philosophers could reach. To this end, they read, explained, and compared all the commentaries of the first disciples of Aristotle; but what is most wonderful, is, that men, possessing so much ingenuity, so much erudition, so many resources, and after the application so many years, should never have been able either to comprehend, or solve with clearness, the very books which were the objects of all their labours. All went astray, and often grossly. Averrhoes, in his translations and commentarics, has frequently no connexion with the text. The mania of wishing to discover mysteries in the simplest things, or hidden revelations in the clearest phrases, would have rendered the Arabian school of Aristotle totally unintelligible to the great philosopher himself, could he have re-appeared amongst them.
They cultivated the natural sciences, not with more ardour, but with a more just view of the course which must be pursued to master them. Abou-Ryhan-alByrouny, who died in 941, A. D. travelled forty years for the purpose of studying lithology, and his treatise on the nature of precious stones, is a rich collection of facts and observations. Ibn, or Abn-alBeithar of Malaga, who devoted himself with equal zeal to botany, explored in the first place, the mountains and plains of Furope, to obtain a knowledge of their vegetables; he then traversed with unconquerable courage, the sands and burning deserts of Africa, to collect and describe all the plants
which could support the scorching heat of the sun; he at last visited the most remote countries of Asia. In the three quarters of the world at that time known, he observed with his own eyes, and touched with his own hands, every thing strange or rare, which nature presents in her three kingdoms: animals, vegetables, fossils, all underwent his examination; he then returned rich in the spoils of the East and South, and published in succession, three books, one on the virtues of plants, another on those of stones and metals, and the third on animals, which contained more true science than any other naturalist had yet developed. He died in 1248, A. D. at Damascus, where, after his return, he was made intendant of the gardens of the prince. There are others of the Arabians, as Al-Rasi, Ali-Ben-alAbbas, and Avicenna, who have merited the gratitude of ages to come. Chemistry, of which the Arabians were, in some degree, the inventors, gave them a much more profound knowledge of nature, than had the Greeks or Romans, and it received from them the most extensive and useful application to the arts necessary to life. Above all, agriculture was studied with that perfect knowledge of climate, of soil, and of the growth of plants and animals, which can alone reduce long practice to science. No civilized nation, therefore, of Europe, Asia, or Africa, ancient or modern, has possessed a more wise, just, or perfect code of rural laws, than that of the Arabians of Spain; and, no country was ever elevated, by its sage institutions, by the intelligence, activity, and industry of its inhabitants, to a higher degree of agricultural prosperity, than