The Bagh O Bahar, or “Garden and Spring,” has, for the last half century, been held as a classical work throughout our Indian empire. It highly deserves this distinguished fate, as it contains various modes of expression in correct language; and displays a great variety of Eastern manners and modes of thinking. It is an excellent introduction not only to the colloquial style of the Hindustani language, but also to a knowledge of its various idioms and popular phrases.
The tale itself is interesting, if we bear in mind the fact, that no Asiatic writer of romance or history has ever been consistent, or free from fabulous credulity. The cautious march of undeviating truth, and a careful regard to vraisemblance, have never entered into their plan. Wildness of imagination, fabulous machinery, and unnatural scenes ever pervade the compositions of Oriental authors,—even in most serious works on history and ethics. Be it remembered, that jinns, demons, fairies, and angels, form a part of the Muhammadan creed. The people to this day believe in the existence of such beings on the faith of the Kur,an; and as they are fully as much attached to their own religion as we are to ours, we ought not to be surprised at their credulity.
I have rendered the translation as literal as possible, consistent with the comprehension of the author’s meaning. This may be considered by some a slavish and dull compliance; but in my humble opinion we ought, in this case, to display the author’s own thoughts and ideas; all we are permitted to do, is to change their garb. This course has one superior advantage which may compensate for its seeming dulness; we acquire an insight into the modes of thinking and action of the people, whose works we peruse through the medium of a literal translation, and thence many instructive and interesting conclusions may be drawn.
To the present edition numerous notes are appended; some, with a view to illustrate certain peculiarities of the author’s style, and such grammatical forms of the language as might appear difficult to a beginner; others, which mainly relate to the manners and customs of the people of the East, may appear superfluous to the Oriental scholar who has been in India; but in this case, I think it better to be redundant, than risk the chance of being deficient. Moreover, as the book may be perused by the curious in Europe, many of of whom know nothing of India, except that it occupies a certain space in the map of the world, these notes were absolutely necessary to understand the work. Finally, as I am no poet, and have a most thorough contempt for the maker of mere doggerel rhymes, I have translated the pieces of poetry, which are interspersed in the original, into plain and humble prose.
58, Burton Crescent, July, 1857.