‘Once a slave, and always a slave,’ says Fierdowsee the great poet of Persia; but this apophthegm was in allusion to the ‘mean mind’ of the King who treated him scurvily after his immense labour in that noble work, ’The Shah Namah.’ I have a sketch of Fierdowsee’s life, which my husband translated for me; but I must forbear giving it here, as I have heard the whole work itself is undergoing a translation by an able Oriental scholar, who will doubtless do justice both to ‘The Shah Namah’ and the character of Fierdowsee, who is in so great estimation with the learned Asiatics.
The Mussulmauns quote their favourite poets with much the same freedom that the more enlightened nations are wont to use with their famed authors. The moral precepts of Saadie are often introduced with good effect, both in writing and speaking, as beacons to the inexperienced.
Haafiz has benefited the Mussulmaun world by bright effusions of genius, which speak to successive generations the wonders of his extraordinary mind. He was a poet of great merit; his style is esteemed superior to the writers of any other age; and, notwithstanding the world is rich with the beauties of his almost inspired mind, yet, strange as it may appear, he never compiled a single volume. Even in the age in which he lived his merit as a poet was in great estimation; but he never thought of either benefit or amusement to the world or to himself beyond the present time. He wrote the thoughts of his inspired moments on pieces of broken pitchers or pans, with charcoal; some of his admirers were sure to follow his footsteps narrowly, and to their vigilance in securing those scraps strewed about, wherever Haafiz had made his sojourn, may to this day be ascribed the benefit derived by the public from his superior writings. Saadie, however, is the standard favourite of all good Mussulmauns; his ’Goolistaun’ (Garden of Roses), is placed in the hands of every youth when consigned to the dominion of a master, as being the most worthy book in the Persian language for his study, whether the beauty of his diction or the morality of his subjects be considered.
The ’Hyaatool Kaaloob’ (Enlightener of the Heart), is another Persian work, in prose, by Mirza Mahumud Baakur, greatly esteemed by the learned Mussulmauns. This work contains the life and acts of every known prophet from the Creation, including also Mahumud and the twelve Emaums. The learned Maulvee, it appears, first wrote it in the Arabic language, but afterwards translated it into Persian, with the praiseworthy motive of rendering his invaluable work available to those Mussulmauns who were not acquainted with Arabic.
I have some extracts from this voluminous work, translated for me by my husband, which interested me on account of the great similarity to our Scripture history; and if permitted at some future time, I propose offering them to the public in our own language, conceiving they may be as interesting to others as they have been to me.