Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Arabs, leading a hard and unsettled life, seem not to have had time, even in imagination, for the more luxurious pictures of Persia. They had all the imagination of home feeling, were devoted patriots and intense lovers, and have poured forth some of the most heart-felt poetry in the world. A volume of poems might be collected out of the romance of Antar, unsurpassed as effusions of passion. But the total absence of airy and preternatural fiction in their works is remarkable. When the two nations became united, and the successors of Mahomet shifted their throne from their old barren sands to the luxurious halls of Bagdad, the mythologies of their poets gradually became confounded ; and it is difficult to pronounce, after all, how far the supposed Arabian fairy differs from the Pari, her sister; how many wonders she might have drawn out of her well, or how far the Pari could not inhabit a hole in the well on occasion, as the fairies of Italy do in the old stones of Fiesole. She was, no doubt, distinct originally, a coarser breed, like the gnome of the desert compared with the ladies of the court of Darius; but the distinction seems hardly to have survived. If Maimoune lives in a well, we have seen that Denhasch pronounced her charming; and though we might regard this as the flattery of a devil, the Fairy herself gives us to understand that she was a good spirit, one of those who submitted to Solomon ; therefore charming by implication, and at all events mixed up with the spirits of Persia. The Jinns, male and female, are all capital architects, who can make a palace in a twinkling for others. We can hardly doubt they can do as much for themselves; and that Maimoune, if she had wished to please a lover, could have raised as splendid a house of reception for him as Banou.

The spiritual beings of the East then may, perhaps, safely be classed as follows, according to the most received ideas :

The Deev, or evil genius.
The Jinn, or good genius, if not otherwise qualified.

The Pari, or good female genius, always beneficent and beautiful.

Individuals of all these classes are permitted to roam about the world, and reside in particular places; but their chief residence, or Fairy-land, is understood to be in Jinnistan, or the place of the Genii, which is situated on the Greek mountain of Kaf, and divided into what may be called Good-land and Bad-land, or the domains of the good, and the domains of the rebellious Genii. In the former is the province of the good Genii, the land of Shadukam, or pleasure and desire : — and the Cities Juharbad, or the City of Jewels ; – and Amberhabad, the City of Ambergris. In the latter stands Ahermanhabad, the City of Aherman, or the Evil Principle, over which reigns the bad King Arzhenk, a personage with a half-human body and the head of a bull. He is a connoisseur, and has a gallery of pictures containing portraits of all the different sorts of creatures before Adam.

All Genii, bad and good, being subjected in some sort to the human race, whom they all in the first instance agreed not to worship, are compellable by the invocations of magic, and forced to appear in the service of particular rings and talismans. In this they resemble the Genii of the Alexandrian Platonists and the Cabala. Sometimes a man possesses a ring without knowing its value, and happening to give it a rub, is shocked by the apparition of a giant, who in a tone of thunder tells him he is his humble servant, and wants to know his pleasure. Invocations must be practised after their particular form and letter, or the Genius becomes riotous instead of obedient, and is perhaps the death of you; and at least gives you a cuff of the ear, enough to fell a dromedary. They transport people whithersoever they please ; make nothing of building a house, full of pictures and furniture, in the course of a night; and will put a sultan in their pockets for you, if you desire it. But if not your servants, they are dangerous acquaintances, and it is difficult to be on one's guard against them. You must take care, for instance, how you throw the shells about when you are eating nuts, otherwise an unfortunate husk to put out the eye of one of their invisible children, and for this you will suffer death unless you can repeat poems or fine stories. Numbers of Genii have remained imprisoned in brazen vessels ever since the time of Solomon, and it is not always safe to deliver them. It is a moot point whether they will make a king of you for it, or kick you into the sea. The Genius whom the fisherman sets free in the “ Arabian Nights,” gives an account of his feelings on this matter, highly characteristic of the nature of these fairy personages :

6. During the first hundred years' imprisonment,' says he, 'I swore, that if any one should deliver me before the hundred years expired, I would make him rich, even after his death, but the century ran out, and nobody did me that good office. During the second, I made an oath that I would open all the treasures of the earth to any one that should set me at liberty, but with no better success. In the third, I promised to make my deliverer a potent monarch, to grant him every day three requests, of whatever nature they might be ; but this century ran out as the two former, and I continued in prison; at last, being angry, or rather mad, to find myself a prisoner so long, I swore that, if afterwards any one should deliver me, I

would kill him without mercy, and grant him no other favor but to choose what kind of death he would have ; and, therefore, since you have delivered me to-day, I give you that choice.'

The mode in which the Genii emerge from these brazen vessels is very striking. The spirit into which they have been condensed expands as it issues forth, and makes an enormous smoke, which again compresses into a body, black and gigantic; and the Genius is before you. He is in general a smoke of a weaker turn than our friend just alluded to. If we are to believe the story of the Brazen City in the “ New Arabian Nights,” whole beds of vessels, containing genuine condensed spirits of Jinn, were to be found in a certain bay on the coast of Africa. Deevs were as plenty as oysters. A sultan had a few brought him, and opening one after the other, the giant vapor issued forth, crying out, “Pardon, pardon, great Solomon; I will never rebel more.”

Kaf is Caucasus, the “great stony girdle.” The Persians supposed it, and do so still, to run round the earth, enclosing it like a ring. The earth itself stands on a great sapphire, the reflection of which causes the blue of the sky; and when the sapphire moves there is an earthquake, or some other convulsion of nature. On this mountain the Jinns reign and revel after their respective fashions; and there is eternal war between the good and the bad. Formerly the good Genii, when hard pressed, used to apply to an earthly hero to assist them. The exploits of Rustam, before mentioned, and of the ancient Tahmuras, surnamed Deev-Bend or the Deev-Binder, form the most popular subjects of Persian heroic poetry.

Kaf will gradually be undone, and the place of sapphire be not found; but the blue of the sky will remain ; and till the Persian can expound the mystery of the cheek he loves, and know the first cause of the roses which make a bower for it, he will still, if he is wise, retain his Pari and his enchanted palace, and encourage his mistress to resemble the kind faces that may be looking at her.

THE SATYR OF MYTHOLOGY AND

THE POETS.

E lay before our readers the portrait of a very

eminent half or four-fifths man, an old friend of the poets, particularly of the sequestered and descriptive order, and constantly alluded

to in all modern as well as ancient quarters poetical. He is alive, not only in Virgil, and Theocritus, and Spenser, but in Wordsworth, in Keats, and Shelley, and in the pages of “Blackwood” and the “ London Journal.”

We keep the public in mind, from time to time, that one of the objects of the “ London Journal” is to bring uneducated readers of taste and capacity acquainted with the pleasures of those who are educated; and we write articles of this description accordingly, in a spirit intended to be not unacceptable to either. Enter, therefore, the Satyr, — as in one of the Prologues to an old play. By and by, we shall give a Triton, a Nymph, &c., &c., and so on through all the gentle populace of fiction - plebe degli, dei, as Tasso calls them, - the “common people of the gods.”

« PreviousContinue »