THE Persian Empire, through remote ages down to the present century, has been celebrated in history, and held a distinguished rank in the scale of nations. Perhaps few now existing can boast so early an origin, and those few only are nations of the East. PERSIA, or, as it is termed by the natives, AYRAN, has also been ever considered as one of the most polished and refined in its manners, of all the oriental states; though the pride of the Greeks led them to speak of its inhabitants, as they did of other nations, by the generally reproachful name of barbarians. Persia has been governed, in succession, by Dynasties of its own native Kings, by the Khalifs of Bagdad, the Tartarian and Moghul Conquerors, the Tourcoman Begs, and the Sefis of the race of Ali, down to the usurpation of the sovereign power by Nadir Shah, more generally known to Europe by the appellation of Kouli Khan; after whose death various chiefs, aided by their soldiers, assumed sometimes the government of the whole, at other times only so much as they could obtain of particular provinces: but, through the course of all these various changes, they do not appear from history to have enjoyed, even during one short period, the least degree of POLITICAL FREEDOM: in fact, it seems never to have entered into the mind of a PERSIAN, that LIBERTY could exist but in a state of Nature, or of Patriarchal simplicity, such as yet may be found amongst some tribes of the BEDOUINS, that rove the Arabian wilds; and perhaps amongst the wandering shep­herds and herdsmen of Persia; who, in the uncultivated parts of some provinces are very numerous. Hence to them the titles of Khan, Beg, Shah, Melec, Shehriar, Sultan, &c. however they may denote a leader, guardian, or sovereign protector, must in effect also include the idea of A DESPOT; since, to their apprehensions and experience, Government is a mastery, regulated by the royal will; from which, however hastily expressed, neither property or life are at any time secure; though the Koran affords the presumptive basis of their laws. Some of their early Monarchs, indeed, have, through a native goodness of disposition, and superiority of understanding, rising to true greatness, given very striking proofs, that the plenitude of power and the abundance of riches are not the never-failing, though doubtless the too-frequent means, of corrupting the hearts, or perverting the judgments, of those who possess them.

How dreadful, and almost unparalleled in the annals of history, were the slaughters and devastations that attended the irruptions of the Tartars under Genghiz Khan, Hulago, and Timour—the consequent oppressions of these rude and unfeeling masters and their successors— or the violent and sanguinary factions, that in frequent contests for rule, floated the land with blood! Yet, even times of horror and anarchy like these, were followed by a state of things, that concurred less to the happiness of the people than could be readily pre-supposed. They were emancipated, it is true, from a foreign yoke; and the harvests of the cultivator were not so wantonly destroyed, or their produce, with the hard earnings of the industrious labourer and mechanic, so rudely wrested from their hands. But, great were the evils that remained; a half-despond­ing, an abject spirit, had taken place; and there was an extensive depravation of morals; that, in the efforts made to establish the Sefian family on the throne, led to continual acts of outrage. And this tendency in the people was never more fully accordant with the tyranny of their rulers, than during the time that degenerate race possessed the sovereignty of Persia, from the day of carnage that first stigmatized the sanguinary reign of Ismael, on his taking possession of the city of Tabriz, A. D. 1503, and the almost incredibly deliberate slaughter he committed on his own subjects four years afterwards in Shiraz, when near forty thousand were destroyed,—down to the wretched reign of Hosain, that began in 1694. This race of tyrants, or, as they are emphatically termed in the phrase of their own language, WORKERS OF INIQUITY, and DEVOURERS OF BLOOD, are so well characterized by the pen of the late Sir William Jones, that I cannot forbear quoting the pas­sage: —“ISMAIL had many eminent qualities; but he sullied them all by his detestable CRUELTY. His suc­cessors, without excepting ABBAS, absurdly called the Great, were such a disgrace to human nature, that an account of their lives would be more like a description of the tygers in some public collection of wild beasts, than a piece of history. Almost every day of their lives was distinguished by some horrid act of intemperance, lust, or murder, aggravated by some new circumstance of wickedness: their very love was fierce and inhuman; and they burned, for the slightest offences, the most beautiful women of Asia; either because they declined drinking a cup of wine more than usual, or interceded for some courtier in disgrace. At length the vein of inhu­manity seemed exhausted in the family, and left nothing behind it but an inconceivable stupidity.”

On the death of Shah Abbas II. who fell a victim to drinking and debauchery, in 1664, his son was invested with the sword of authority, and ascended the throne, by the name of Shah Sefi II.; but soon after abdicated it for a day; during which it was put into the mock possession of one of the degraded Gaures, or worshippers of fire, a descendant of the Rostam race; who, with all due solem­nity, was deposed at an appointed minute in the evening; in compliance with an ancient custom or law, that pre­scribed this form, with many ridiculous ceremonies, when­ever the sovereign should incline to change his name. Sefi, persuaded by his physicians that his ill health had arisen from having been first seated on the throne in an unlucky hour, was weak enough to employ this expedient, of reascending from one that was deemed propitious, according to the fooleries of astrological superstition, by the name of Selyman. His health soon afterwards amending, in con­junction with some other favourable circumstances, the first astrologers of the court were disgraced, through the intrigues of the doctors; as several of their profession had been recently maltreated through the machinations of the astrologers.

Shah Selyman had passed the whole of his youth indo­lently in the Haram. The cultivation of his mind was there almost totally neglected; being at the same time as destitute of good examples around him, as he was of pre­ceptive instruction; and equally ignorant of all maxims of government, and the conduct of state affairs, as though he had been the son of a peasant, bred obscurely in a dis­tant province. Perhaps more so; for having, until the death of his father, been precluded from conversing with, or even seeing any persons, but black eunuchs, and women of the Haram Serai, when the reins of government were placed in his hands, the leading traits of character he soon displayed, were those that might be reasonably expected to result from such an education—sloth, cruelty, and lascivi­ousness; of which the two latter qualities seem, in some sort, to be the portion of inheritance. He for a long time gave full scope to the inhumanity of his disposition, and the capricious dislikes, jealousies, and unfounded suspi­cions of a weak head, united to a depraved heart; disgracing, banishing, destroying, many of his begs and chief officers of state; some of whom were put to death on the most trivial occasions and surmises. At length, wholly abandoned to wine and women, he took no part whatever in public affairs; reposing full confidence in his prime vizier Mirza Taher—an old man, devoid of all public prin­ciple —an artful dissimulator, corrupt and sordid to an extreme degree. His favour, his interest, was always to be purchased; and the most inconsiderable gifts were never unwelcome to his hand.

In a reign so uncongenial to every thing great or good, it was the lot of ACHMED to obtain, through adventitious circumstances, an unexpected rise to favour, fortune, and command, without any departure from prin­ciples of integrity. Well had it been for this unhappy prince, and the people of that vast empire, had his court and his councils known the presence of a few more such characters. At what period of his reign Achmed was received into favour, or disgraced and banished, does not appear; neither is the name of his ungrateful adversary mentioned; whose advancement or prosperity was, how­ever, of no long duration. Such turns of fortune were not unfrequent in the time of the Sefis.

Shah Selyman reigned upwards of thirty years; and fell at length a victim to libidinous excesses, and almost con­tinual inebriety, as his father and grandfather had done before him.

The manners of the sovereign, (especially when leading, through a relaxation of morals, to sensual indulgencies) must inevitably produce, in a country governed by his arbi­trary will, a very strong influence on the morals and the manners of those around him, ever aspiring to higher degrees of favour and advancement. The Persians had been long an indolent and voluptuous people; and the courts of the Sefis were notoriously the haunts of all, that, in true policy, should have been kept at a distance from them. Even the early habitudes, or the cultivated and reflecting mind of Achmed, seem to have afforded no insu­perable barriers against the seductive pomp and luxury of the court, the banquet, and the haram. But, there was an unthought-of remedy in the hand of Providence, against the prevailing influence and evil tendency of these:— “Happiness flows not to us through the channel of our wills.”

The poems of Achmed contain more than the wild sportings of oriental fancy. Nature ever appeared before him, and her love gave being to his sentiments, and birth to his effusions. He has not only, in a very peculiar manner, interwoven a variety of picturesque description, with a train of the most trying circumstances and situations, such as are very remote from the common experiences of mankind in this quarter of the globe; but they may be also considered, as displaying the faithful portraiture of no common mind, from the noon of prosperous fortune, through the night of adversity, to the day-spring of conso­lation; from the agitations of youth, to tranquil happi­ness in the advance of life, when the autumnal calm of thought had matured the fruits of experience. “Quanto aliquis magis sibi unitus et interius simplificatus fuerit, tanto plura et altiora sine labore intelligit.”

As these poems contain many sentiments and allusions, that are not strictly conformable to the creed, the manners, and customs of Mahomedans in general, and the Turks in particular, it will not, perhaps, be unacceptable to the reader, if I point out, briefly, the origin of that difference, and wherein it really consists, together with a few con­necting circumstances of Persian history. And this I am the better enabled to do, from the communications of a much valued friend, a man of rank and great literary talents, who resided several years in various countries of the East; as well as through my intimate acquaintance with a native of Persia—a Mahomedan of liberal sentiments and exten­sive information, who had been educated in the principles of the Shiahs, or sect of ALI.

The SUNNIS, though they term themselves orthodox, are divided into sects, who follow the different opinions of their four great doctors, Hanifa, Malec, Shafei, and Hanbal; but the Shiahs, from admitting a greater freedom of discussion, and extent of enquiries, have produced five principal sects, that are said again to have branched themselves into near seventy subdivisions, under various appellations; all differ­ing in some certain points of opinion, yet all united in believ­ing with the Sunnis, the divine mission of their prophet MAHOMED, and the sacred authority of the Koran. The SUNNIS derive their name from the Arabic word SUNEH, which signifies the second, or Oral Law; having never been delivered by their legislator in writing, but collected from the remembrance of his words and actions, and handed down by tradition, through the medium of autho­rized persons. Several of the Musulman doctors have collected these oral precepts, and written comments on them; and it is by the means and application of these, that they have attempted to explain many ambiguities that are to be found in the book of their written law. On these traditions the chief part of their ceremonial and exterior observances are founded. The Shiahs have also many oral laws and precepts, both of Mahomed and the Imans, that have been transmitted through very different hands.

The word SHIAH is Arabic; it implies a herd, a schism, or a faction; and is used by the SUNNIS as a term of reproach: whilst the Shiahs assume to themselves the appellation of Alâdeliat, or the sect of the Just. The lead­ing causes of this division originated in the arts, the intrigues, and undue influence, employed at the appoint­ment of the three first khalifs. Abou Bekr, Omar, and Othman, having been elected successively in preference to ALI, who succeeded them; and was by a very numerous, though not the most affluent party, deemed the rightfully immediate successor of Mahomed. This claim they endeavoured to support by arguments drawn from various cir­cumstances; such as, that he was not only the cousin ger­man, but the son in law, of the Prophet; having married his daughter Fatima, by whom he had three sons, Hassan, Hosain, and Mohassan; that therefore he and his descen­dants, who were the race of the Prophet, had a natural and legal claim: that, in addition to this, he stood first amongst the faithful, being the earliest convert the Prophet gained; possessing, in his full confidence, the most perfect knowledge of his mission; and even, in some sort, a participation of it;—that heaven, in a peculiar manner, had sanctified his entrance into the world, by causing him to be born in the temple of Mecca—a circumstance that never occurred in another instance either before or since—on this the Heidarians lay much stress;—and, that the Almighty had marked him as a chosen favourite, by endowing him with many excellencies and divine graces; gifting him also with those superior capacities of mind, that rendered the acquisition of learning and the sciences more pleasant than difficult to him. Hence it was, that when the influence and intrigues of the opposing party had greatly embarrassed the state of public affairs, that ALI was heard to say, “GOD, in the distribution of his gifts, has been pleased to favour me with understanding and with knowledge; but to my enemies he has given a different portion, they have riches.” The hatred of the Ommiades against the house of Ali, ceased not with the bloody deed of Abdal rathman; who, in league with two other assassins, by the instigation of a woman at Coufa, cleft his head with a poisoned scimeter, in the mosque where he was officiating as chief iman. His two sons, Hassan and Hosain, were afterwards both destroyed by the inveterate and cruel enemies of their race. The first, though he had relinquished all claim to the khalifat, in favour of Moaviah, and had long devoted himself entirely to a religious life: yet, the workings of a malignant heart, in conjunction with the ambitious design of Moaviah, to insure the succession of the khalifat to his own family, caused him to suborn the perfidious wife of Hassan, by costly presents, and the promise of being soon united in marriage with his son Yezid. Through these inducements she perpetrated the deliberate murder of her husband, by wiping him with an envenomed napkin whilst he was in a profuse sweat. He was no sooner dead, than Moaviah sent her five hundred thousand drachmas of silver, as the price of her crime: but he refused to fulfil the other part of his promise—the presenting his son with such a detestable wife. That son, however, could scarcely be deemed worthy of a better help-mate; nor perhaps could he have found one with dispositions more congenial to his own; for he was unprincipled, cruel, and avaricious.

In the sixty-first year of the hejra, A. D. 680, on gaining intelligence that Hosain (whom he had before basely attempted to destroy by poison) was crossing the desert, from Mecca to Coufa, attended only by his own children and relations on horseback, to the number of seventy-two, and a few Arabian soldiers on foot—Yezid, in the impla­cable spirit of destruction, had so concerted measures with Obeidallah, the general of his army, that Hosain and his company were unexpectedly surrounded, by ten thousand horse, on the plains of Kerbela. He, seeing no alterna­tive, but that of surrendering himself and family to an inveterate enemy, who had already decreed his death, or to fall bravely on the field, choose the latter; and, after main­taining for some time this very unequal conflict, was over­powered, and cut in pieces, with all his company. The Persians, therefore, never pronounce the name of Yezid, without adding, “lainetulla alaihi,”—the curse of God be upon him; or some other phrase of similar import. Even the very name of Yezid, is used by them to signify any thing accursed, cruel, infamously wicked, and abominable.

This massacre, which took place on the tenth of the month Moharam, answering to our 25th of October, is kept in perpetual remembrance by the Persians; who annually devote the ten following days to public lamentation for the death of Hosain. This season of abstinence and mourning they call Ashour; and many amongst them employ it as much to excite a spirit of hatred and revenge against the Sunnis, as to purposes of devotion, or expressing their grief for the premature death of him, whom they venerate as a saint, a prophet, and a martyr.

A sumptuous monument was erected on the plain of Kerbela, over the spot where his body is said to have been interred; and another, with a magnificent mosque, where his head was deposited in Egypt. The former is still resorted to by numerous pilgrims from the Persian provinces; with the same devotion that induces them to visit the tomb of his father ALI, near Coufa. From these pilgrims the Turkish governor of Bagdad extorts a kind of capitation tax.

The blood of this family, however, was not shed without many dreadful instances of retaliation. Mokhtar ben Abou Obeideh, an Arabian chieftain, and head of a power­ful party, often exulted, that he alone had occasioned the destruction of at least fifty thousand enemies of the house of ALI; exclusively of the great numbers his troops had slain in battle: for, with this object of his vengeance only in view, he continued his hostile attacks, and almost daily slaughters, during the reigns of three following khalifs.

The nine Imans of the house of Ali, who successively held that station after the death of Hosain, maintained of course, with their followers, the exclusive right of the descendants of Ali, who were the offspring of Fatima (for he had many children by other wives), to have the supreme direction in all matters of government and religion, throughout the vast extent of the khalifat; deeming the heads of the other party usurpers, and their adherents rebels and heretics. They, however, at no time proceeded so far in their inveteracy as the Ommiades had done; who caused the family of Ali to be publicly cursed in their temples; though the compliment was long afterwards repaid by the Abbasides, at Bagdad.

The extraordinary course of events that raised the family of BOUID, a poor fisherman, to the sovereignty of Persia, under the khalifat of Moctader, A. H. 321, A. D. 932, forming a dynasty of seventeen princes, that reigned 127 years, made an important epoch in the history of the Shiahs.

Although, from political motives, the Bouides did not openly profess themselves of the sect of Ali, they failed not to exert their utmost endeavours to advance the interests of the SHIAHS; not only within their own dominions, and with the neighbouring princes, but even at the court of the khalifs of Bagdad; whilst the Shiahs, in return, as strongly attached themselves to the sultans of the house of Bouid. Their party became rapidly strengthened; and, about the 336th year of the hejra, when Moezaldoulet held a complete influence, or rather, a sovereign command, over the khalif MOTHI LILLAH, as he had usurped over his predecessor MOSTACFI; the Sunnis, finding their interests decline, though they were still very powerful at the court of the khalif, united themselves with the party of the Turks, and a civil war ensued.

These divisions at length caused even the destruction of Bagdad; which became an easy conquest when assaulted by the fury of the Tartars. HULAGO, the blood-insatiate khan of these savage hordes, not content with the sacrifice of the khalif Almostazem and his two sons (Mirkhond says four), gave up that noble city and its environs to the rapacity and devastating rage of his soldiers; and all their inhabitants to brutal violation and indiscriminate slaughter; so that no less than one million six hundred thousand per­sons, of both sexes, fell the victims of barbarian cruelty in the course of a few days—the greater part of the city was destroyed by fire—and the treasures that fell into the hands of the Tartars were immense; for Bagdad was at that time the most powerful, and the richest city in the whole world.

Such were the dreadful consequences of civil and reli­gious discord, and such the termination of the empire of the khalifs; after it had continued the vast sway of its power, and stronger influence, over all the West of Asia, near seven hundred years. This event happened in the 656th year of the hejra, A. D. 1258.

Timour, usually called by European writers Tamerlane, is said to have been educated in the religion of the Dalai Lama; which had been long held by the Mongouls, and many other Tartar nations. Afterwards, becoming a con­vert to the Musulman faith, he was, from that time, a favourer of the sect of Ali; and, after his return from the conquest of those countries bordering on the Tigris and Euphrates, he not only became the patron of the Seids, or descendants of Ali Mortiza; but, to evince his great veneration for the heads of that house, he assigned the districts of Bukhef and Jillah for the service of the sepulchre of Ali; whom, in addition to his Arabian titles “Asad Allah al Ghaleb”—the victorious lion of God; he stiled “the Commander of true believers—the King of Men.” He likewise assigned lands and very considerable revenues, for the magnificent and perpetual support of the shrines of Hosein, and those of many others of that race, in Babylo­nian Irak, Persia, and Turkestan; who were estimated as saints and martyrs, and their tombs resorted to by innumerable pilgrims of the Shiah persuasion, as places of highly acceptable devotion. This in him was the depth of policy.

Timour, ever ardent in the pursuit of conquest, reverted from no means, however sanguinary or insidious they might be, to effectuate his designs, extend his vast dominion, and establish his almost unequalled power. A robber, an assassin, may be superstitious; but he cannot pursue his evil course with the love of God, with the interests of religion sin­cerely at his heart. Such might however as reasonably array himself in the simulacra of piety and devotion, as the ambitious and cruel spoiler; who not only over-ran, but desolated countries, even without any cause of quarrel;— here giving up populous cities to saccage and the flames; there deluging the land with blood; and leading into Tartarian slavery, those still more cruelly reserved from slaughter.

A circumstance, however, happened on Timour’s pass­ing through the city of Ardebeil, that has been much praised by oriental writers, as an act of heroic clemency in him, and which led to many important events in after ages. There lived at that time in Ardebeil, a descendant of Ali, called Sheikh Sefi, or Sefi-eddin, which signifies the purity of religion. He was as much beloved for his amiable man­ners, active benevolence, and integrity, as he was venerated for his piety, his understanding, and his knowledge. Timour had brought with him from Caramania, a great many young captives in chains; whom he had cooly and deliberately resolved to put to death, on some Tartarian festival, or other public occasion. He had heard the fame of Sefi-eddin, his virtues, and endowments; and wished to obtain his good opinion and his friendship. With this design he paid him several visits; and, being about to quit Ardebeil, on taking leave of the holy man, desired him to ask any thing that was in his power to comply with, and it should be granted. Sefi-eddin having been informed of Timour’s horrid intention to destroy these unfortunate and unoffend­ing young people, made it his immediate and only request, that their lives might be spared. Timour, in the earnest desire to oblige him, not only granted that request, but gave them all to him, as his slaves, to dispose of as he should think fit. This worthy man, rejoicing in the opportunity he had of doing good, with sentiments very different from those of the Tartarian emperor, who, in granting life, could resign it still to slavery,—caused them immediately to be freed from their chains, provided them with the best pro­visions and apparel it was in his power to bestow, and sent them, with his good wishes, to their native country. These, and their relatives, who were some of the principal people of Caramania, felt so strongly the obligation they owed their benefactor, that, in attempting to express it, they spoke the very language of extravagance; and, to convince him how truly grateful they were, made him frequent visits; which, according to the custom of the East, were seldom unaccompanied with gifts. A day rarely passed in which he was not visited by many: his manners and con­verse won every heart,—his delight was to instruct,—and his sayings were treasured as the words of wisdom.

They even enjoined their children to observe towards the descendants of this holy man, the same unremitted attentions and tokens of gratitude. Such were accordingly continued through several generations; until the grow­ing affluence of the SEFIS, and the greatly-increased num­ber of their visitants, who were become converts to the peculiar doctrines of religion, which this family had derived from their ancestor,—excited jealous apprehensions in the mind of a Turcoman prince, called Jehan Shah, who at that time reigned in Azarbijian. He peremptorily ordered Sheikh JUNEID (then the chief of the family) to receive no more of those visits.

The Sheikh, well convinced that his longer continu­ance at Ardebeil would expose him to imminent danger, fled for refuge to the court of Usumcassan, Sultan of the Turcomans of the tribe of the white ram, who reigned in Mesopotamia. This prince received him with kindness, afforded an asylum to his followers, and, not long after­wards, gave him his own daughter in marriage; by whom Juneid had a son, called Heidar. Sheikh Juneid com­manded the troops of Usumcassan many years, during the wars he carried on against the King of Georgia; whose capital, Trebisonde, a city strongly fortified, he obtained possession of, and left his son Heidar governor of it. He soon became a favourite of the conquered people; many of whom embraced the Mahomedan doctrines, and united themselves to the Shiahs.

Sheikh Juneid, now become rich and powerful, attempted to establish himself in the province of Shirvan, on the western coast of the Caspian sea. His numerous adherents were all of the sect of Ali, and enthusiasts in the promulgation of the Sefian tenets. But, neither the num­ber of those devoted to his faith and family, nor his vast wealth, could secure him from a dark conspiracy formed by the chiefs of the country; by whose hands he was slain, after a resolute defence, together with many of his party.

The number of the Shiahs, and the very zealous pro­fession they made of defending both their religious prin­ciples, and the remaining chiefs of their party, at all hazards, rendered them still formidable: but far more so when Sheikh Heidar, having obtained a considerable body of troops, with permission from Usumcassan, to lead them against the conspirators in Shirvan, with the intention of inflicting exemplary punishment on the tyrant Farrokhzad; through whose treacherous rapacity his father had been slain: but, in this attempt, he lost his own life; many of his followers fell with him; and those who could not save themselves by flight, were, soon after, massacred by the Sunnis with all the aggravations of cruelty.

The character of Sheikh Heidar was, in many respects, similar to that of Sheikh Sefi: but, being at an early age led into a military life, the subsequent fate of his father, friends, and adherents, roused him from that tranquil state, which it would have been probably the object of his life to maintain, and impelled him to the field. His mind, natu­rally of a serious and contemplative cast, sought for retire­ment; he was studious, abstemious in his living, simple in his manners, ever faithful to his word; and, having obtained the reputation of piety and virtue during his life, was venerated after his death, as a saint and martyr to the doctrines of the Shiahs. From him that sect in Persia have been called Heidarians.

His two sons, Ali Mirza and Shah Ismael, fell into the hands of Rostam Beg, the son of Maksoud; who, after putting Ali Mirza to death, dismissed the other; but, soon afterwards, sent messengers in pursuit of Ismael, in hopes to destroy him also: but, in vain; the boy, young as he was, found means to elude them, and concealed himself in a small island, situated in the lake of Vasthan; where he was protected by an Armenian Christian;—and, from that circumstance, Christians of all denominations were favorably treated by the Sefis. Shah Ismael having, at the end of six years, quitted his place of concealment, although he had not then completed his fifteenth year, was placed by the Shiahs at the head of 7000 Caramanians, who, entering Shirvan, overthrew Farrokhzad, and severely retaliated on him and his party the barbarous destruction they had made, of his family and friends.

From that time a series of victories attended Ismael, who assumed the name of Ismael Sophi. He freed Persia from the Turcoman yoke; and, uniting the petty sovereignties into one empire, established himself on the throne of Per­sia, A. H. 910, A. D. 1504; which continued in the possession of his descendants, till Shah Thamasp was deposed by Kouli Khan; who, in the year 1736, attempted to subject the Shiahs to a compliance with the Sunni forms; and, on the chief Iman remonstrating against it, ordered him immediately to be put to death: but the Shiahs are yet the most numerous party in Persia. Those amongst them who devote themselves to a religious life, are called Sofian; the word SOFI in the Persian language signifying pious, intelligent, and spiritual: though some, from the circumstance of their wearing, like the Seids, or race of Mahomed, only woollen, derive the name from Souf; which, in the Arabic, signifies wool. These not only profess a volun­tary poverty, and humility, as the dervishes amongst other sects of Mahomedans do; but, in addition to this, they appropriate a certain portion of time to reading—to the acquisition of scientific knowledge—viewing the beauties of nature—and meditating on the works and attributes of God. Some of them, who dedicate the chief part of their time to SILENT RETIREMENT, seek, in an abnegation of the world and of self, the enjoyment of a spiritual inter­course with the Supreme Being.

To shew their manner of thinking, and expressing their sentiments on this and some other subjects, I quote the following passages.

“It is from our humility, and the inaction of self, that the rays of a divine light shall shine forth—that our hearts shall feel its influence, and be renewed—and that all our affections shall be changed. When the dawn of this light shall begin to appear on our horizon, nothing shall be heard but the voice of prayer.”

“An attentive regard to the presence of God (said Abul Cassem al Cavarini), is the particular exercise of the spiritual man in this life; for it is that which shall con­stitute his happiness in heaven.”

“A man is to be valued by that which he esteems: if he esteem the world, he himself is not estimable; for the world is not so. If he esteem the life to come, and the things thereof, heaven is his price. But, if he estimate God above all things, his own value is inestimable.”

“When an evil destiny scatters the seeds of calamity over the earth, the wise man finds a sure asylum from the troubles of the world in study and devotion.”

A spiritual and devout Musulman has expressed himself thus, in regard to a future state of felicity:

“O you, that invite me to enjoy the delights of Paradise, know, that it is not Paradise I seek; but I seek the face of him by whom Paradise was created.” To obtain that supreme felicity, the KORAN thus prescribes the means, at the conclusion of the chapter of Amran: “Ye who are already of the faithful, it remains for you to suffer—to persevere—to attach yourselves to God, and to walk with fear before him; for by this way shall you at length arrive at the enjoyment of Paradise.”

This text one of their commentators interprets in this manner: “Suffer, in combatting your passions, and sub­jecting them to the service of God;—persevere in the endeavour to unite your hearts to the will of the most Merciful; resigning yourselves to him during the afflictions of life, and acquiescing in all things to the order of his providence;—attach and bind your spirits solely to the thought of uniting yourselves to him, and withdrawing them from every vain imagination that may tend to separate you from him;—preserve carefully and anxiously the graces that God shall bestow upon you, and beware lest you lose them by a too familiar inter­course with the world. Thus shall you obtain that felicity, which consists in being develloped from the veil of the creature, to be reduced to nothingness of self in God; and, to pass from this state of annihilation, to a permanent and unalterable existence in him.”

One of those spirituals addressed the Almighty in this manner: “One man asks thee, O Lord! for the enjoy­ment of paradise; and another earnestly prays thee for deliverance from hell and its punishments: but I ask thee neither for the one nor the other of these;—my only desire is, that in me THY WILL may be accom­plished.”

“The frequent expression of thankfulness, will not only produce an increase of GRATITUDE in our hearts, —but also obtain an increase of the divine favour towards him, who employs his heart and his tongue in that which is good. It is an exercise that dissipates all the diseases of the soul, and heals all the wounds of the heart.”

Such are the general sentiments of the SOFIS, in regard to the contemplative and spiritual life they profess to fol­low. Their hours, however, have not always been devoted to solitary meditation, to abstinence, and prayer, alone; for, amongst their fraternity have been found many excel­lent masters in science, a few good poets, besides various writers on the subjects of morality and religion; and of these there are some whose works would be deemed, if well translated into the European languages, no useless additions to the mass of that literary mountain of which we boast.

The Mahomedans have long born the stigma of an uncharitable narrowness of mind towards people of other professions, and Christians in particular. This unjust idea may be traced as far back in our history, as the barbarous times, whose blind bigotry gave rise to the desolating wars of the crusades; that seemed built on the model of those of the early khalifs, for the propagation of the faith, and and obtaining salvation by the sword. The Turks and Persians, not only as contending nations, but, as Shiahs and Sunnis, have indeed long combatted and reviled each other, with prejudices that have not been of a very dissimilar cast from those of some nations and sectaries in Europe that call themselves Christians; but the general charge of intolerance is certainly ill-founded. Christian churches and monasteries have been, and are still, not only permitted but protected, both in Turky and Persia:—but where, at the same time, would the Musulman doctrines have been equally tolerated in Europe, had they thought fit to send missionaries amongst us, as both Protestants, and the church of Rome, have sent to them? Russia, indeed, has freely tolerated her Moslem subjects of various Tartar tribes and nations; and even admitted others to form free settle­ments, under the government of their own laws and chief­tains, where they have their mosques, public schools, and colleges, in the very heart of that empire, particularly on the banks of the Volga, in and near the city of Casan. At Orenburg, and in the country round, there are numerous colonies from Bocharia, and other parts North of the Jihon; besides large bodies of settled Tartars, and other tribes, that, having recently migrated thither,—though still retaining an attachment to that wandering life in which they had formed their habitudes,—yet, the encouragements they have had to settle, with the enjoyment of their native freedom, laws, and religion, have almost fixed them there, There are also many Turcomans, Arabs, and Persians, who are settled in and near Astrachan. The latter are known by the name of Kisilbashkians, or red heads; from the taje, or red cap they wear, as being of the sect of Ali. Some of these, with whom I have conversed in Russia, expressed themselves to live very happy and unrestrained in that country: though the Nogayan Tartars, who dwell in their vicinity, and are SUNNIS, regard them with an evil eye. This is sectarian enmity. The genuine principles of their lawgiver were very different. “The Alcoran (says Angelo St. Joseph, a missionary of the order of bare-footed Carmelites, who resided many years in Persia) “the Alcoran teaches, that each one may be saved by his own law.” (vide chap. 2.) Those who believe, Christians or Sabaites,—those who believe in God—in a future judgment—and who do good works, shall be recompensed by their Lord, and shall be exempted from fear and affliction in the day of resurrection.”

Neither is that idea of sensual enjoyments in a future state (usually deemed a principal part of their creed) the real doctrine of the Moslems. The Shiahs in particular understand those passages in the Koran, that seem to coun­tenance such notions, as merely figurative. Hence a Per­sian author says—“The happiness which the blessed enjoy, in pronouncing the names and the glorious attributes of God, is more delightful to them, than even their abode in Paradise itself;—for though, in this region of bliss, there is an inexhaustible series of joys that know no end; yet these are accounted as nothing by the spirits of the blest, in comparison with the union which they have with God.”——“The enjoyment of the divine presence constitutes the supreme happiness of the blest in heaven; as banishment from that presence constitutes the most painful punishment of hell.”

I could here point out many other opinions that are frequently mentioned, as generally characteristic of the disciples of Mahomed—that are equally as unfounded in fact, as some I have already noticed: such as that of women having no share in a future state—that there is a merit in an ignorant and blind belief—that learning and the sciences are to be depressed and rejected—that voluptu­ousness, pride, and rapacity, are countenanced by their law; &c. &c. So far are the latter positions untrue, that the whole tenor of the Koran militates against them: and how contradictory to these their maxims and sayings,—“What is the proper habit of a man, but the robe of purity and humility?” “The torn vest of Moses is preferable to “the embroidered robe of Pharoah.” “He who restrains his desires, and lives in a state of self-denial, shall pass the sea of covetousness, and rest on the shores of peace.” The liberal man is the neighbour of God, the neigh­bour of mankind, the neighbour of Paradise; but far remote from the neighbourhood of hell.” “The fear of poverty is a token of the wrath of God on him who is seized with it.” A Dervish, who was truly poor, being asked by a great prince, if he never thought of him in his necessities, replied, “I sometimes think of you; but ’tis only when I forget to think of God.” “Knowledge is a treasure, of which the employment determines the value.” “He that experiences, increaseth knowledge; but he who believeth, increases error.” “One hour to the learned man, is worth a whole life of ignorance.” Limit thy desire of gold; but let thy pursuit of science know no bound.” “In riches or descent there is nothing to ennoble the mind; but, by learning and science, the mind becomes truly dignified.”

“If there be nothing in my words (said the Arabian legislator, addressing the people) but that which makes you DOUBTFUL of your hereditary belief, even THAT is sufficient for your good;—for he that doubts not, con­siders not; and he that considers not, examines not; but remains in a state of ignorance and error.”

As to the commonly received opinion, of their holding that women have no souls, which has even been asserted by some respectable writers, I am convinced that it is totally unfounded; for, in addition to the authority of Mons. D’Herbelot, who says it originated from a joke that was passed on an old woman; I have heard the notion seriously contradicted by Mahomedans themselves, both of the Sunni and Shiah persuasion.

In concluding this long and multifarious Introduction, I have only to say, it was written chiefly for the purpose of giving, under a more general form, that information to the reader, which I hope will render notes on many particular passages of the Poems unnecessary; as such references are too liable to interrupt in the course of reading.