[Distinguished Amirs]

With regard to the maxims which should govern the policy of sovereign princes, it has been said, that to resolve without the concurrence of men of expe­rience is the most fallacious of proceedings; but I contend, nevertheless, that there is no safety in council, unless founded in rectitude of mind. I maintain, that if we intrust the concerns of the state to the opinions of another, we give to the Almighty an associate in the secrets of the heart. “We may pierce the sun itself with the diamond which points our vision; we may even penetrate the stars in their orbits by the same faculty; we may repose with safety in the jaws of the dragon; but we may not confide to any man the anxieties of the mind.” He that conducts the destinies of his country by the judgment of another, must not forget that he will nevertheless be himself responsible, at the awful day of account, for all the exactions, the tyranny, the unjust decisions, violence, and oppression, to which the people may have been exposed, through such imprudent delegation. It is from the reigning sovereign that the awful reckoning will be required; not from those who have been his advisers. How much does it then behove the man who holds the crown and sceptre, in every clime, to make himself, by a personal investigation, immediately acquainted with the grievances of his people, so that assured redress may be always attainable, that no one should be within the grasp of oppression in any shape! I shall now recur to other matters.

Moussâheb Khaun, the Ouzbek, was distinguished for his bravery among the bravest of the age, and had attained, in the time of my father, to the rank of an ameir of three thousand. I now advanced him to the order of five thousand, assigning to him at the same time the foujdaury, or command of the armed force in Gûjerat. Some of the exploits of this intrepid man were worthy of the heroic Rûstum in the brightest periods of his career. The frontier districts of Gûjerat, previously an uncultivated and mountainous wilderness, overrun on every side with briars, thorn, and thistle, were under his management so cleared and im­proved, that a single person might traverse the country from one end to the other without difficulty or molestation. It was at the same period that he received from me the title of Khaun.

As an instance of the fearless courage and presence of mind of this brave sol­dier, I cannot forbear to relate, that on one occasion my father was engaged on a lion hunt in the neighbourhood of Lahour, and had gone out attended by a body of four thousand matchlocks. Mounted on his elephant, he had entered the jungle or forest, which was known to be infested by these fierce and ferocious quadrupeds to the number of twenty, male and female. Most unexpectedly three of these, all females, at once attacked the elephant, and one of them making an astonishing spring, fastened on my father’s thigh. Providentially Moussâheb Khaun, mounted on his horse Kohpârah (montipars), which feared neither lion nor elephant, came up at the moment, and instantly darting forward to the relief of his master, contrived to seize the lion by the back of the neck with one hand, while with the other he buried his khanjer, or knife, in the flank of the furious animal. Thus assailed, the latter fortunately quitted its hold without further injury. But this was not all; at the very crisis of peril the two lions together rushed upon Moussâheb Khaun, when, it will scarcely be thought credible, seizing both animals by the neck with either hand, he beat their heads together with such force that their brains issued from their mouths and nostrils. For these and other deeds of distinguished valour he has been most deservedly elevated to the title of Sereffrauz Khaun; neither is he less renowned for expe­rience in war than for undaunted courage.

Another chief renowned for his courage was Mirza Mahmoud, of a distin­guished family of Seyeds at Mûsh-hed, who possessed under my father the rank of five hundred, and whom I early promoted to that of an ameir of one thousand. It happened one day that a lion of enormous size, which had been wounded in a neighbouring forest by a musquet-shot, was brought to my presence, and lingered for some days before it finally expired. A doubt having been expressed by me whether it were possible with the single stroke of a scymitar to sever the head of this animal from the body, some of those in attendance seemed to agree that the thickness of the mane* at the back of the neck rendered this impossible. A certain Raujpout, however, who claimed relationship with Râjah Maun Sing, and remarkable for bodily strength as well as bravery, stepped forward and pledged himself, if I would give him permission, to strike off the head at a single stroke. Accordingly, drawing his sword, and with his utmost force making a stroke at the dead lion’s neck, the only effect was the separation of a few hairs from the mane. Seeing this, Mirza Mahmoud approached, and also requested my permission to try his strength upon the lion’s neck. “In the name of God,” said I, “let us see what thou canst do.” He accordingly advanced, and raising his sword on high, made it descend on the lion’s neck with such force and skill that the head flew off to a considerable distance, exciting the clamorous applause of the whole assembly. I made him on the spot a present of thirty thousand rupees, and conferred upon him the title of Mirza Mahmoud Sheir-be-dou-neim (the lion-halver).

On another occasion a bow of remarkable excellence had been sent to me from Gujerat by Mirza Shumsy, the son of Mirza Koukah my father’s foster-brother, which the strongest men had been unable to bend with the utmost exertion of bodily strength. The same Mirza Mahmoud again besought, and having obtained my permission to try his skill, took up the bow, and with little apparent difficulty brought the horns so far round as nearly to snap it in the middle, and this to the surprise of the bystanders. This afforded me another opportunity for the exertion of my bounty, and I advanced him from the order of one thousand to that of fifteen hundred, with the new title of Mirza Mahmoud Peitch-kemmaun (the bow-bender). Having subsequently received from me the appointment of fouj­daur (or lord marcher) on the frontiers of Lahour, he became engaged in hostili­ties with a powerful Râjah in that quarter, whom he finally subjugated; and I then presented him with one of my finest elephants, with the title of Tehower Khaun, bestowing upon him at the same time in wedlock one of the female inmates of my own imperial palace.

Another of the ameirs of my court distinguished for courage and skill was Bauker Noodjum Thauni, who had not in the world his equal in the use of the bow. As an instance of the surprising perfection to which he had carried his practice it will be sufficient to relate, that one evening in my presence they placed before him a transparent glass bottle, or vessel of some kind or other, a torch or flambeaux being held at some distance behind the vessel; they then made of wax something in the shape of a fly, which they fixed to the side of the bottle, which was of the most delicate fabric: on the top of this piece of wax they set a grain of rice and a peppercorn. His first arrow struck the peppercorn, his second carried off the grain of rice, and the third struck the diminutive wax figure, without in the slightest degree touching or injuring the glass vessel, which was, as I have before observed, of the very lightest and most delicate material. This was a degree of skill in the bowman’s art* amazing beyond all amazement; and it might be safely alleged that such an instance of perfection in the craft has never been exhibited in any age or nation. As a proof of my admiration I immediately advanced him from the order of one thousand to that of two thou­sand horse; and I bestowed upon him, moreover, under a contract of marriage, the sister’s daughter of Nourjahaun Begum, in consequence of which union he became to me as a son of my own.

It had been made known to me that the roads about Kandahar were grievously infested by the Afghans, who by their vexatious exactions rendered the commu­nications in that quarter extremely unsafe for travellers of every description. I had it therefore in contemplation to employ a competent force for the extirpation of these lawless marauders. But while I was yet deliberating on the subject, an individual of the nation of distinguished eminence in his tribe, and who now enjoys in my court the title of Allahdaud Khaun, communicated to me such con­vincing reasons, that I determined to appoint an imperial foujdaur for the province, under whose management, should they again set at nought the impe­rial authority, they might then be exterminated without further caution. I did not hesitate to vest the appointment in himself, and he still retains the office under my authority.

Another arrangement in the same quarter was not accomplished with quite as little difficulty. Lushker Khaun, who originally bore the name of Khaujah Abûl Hussun, and who had from an early period been attached to the service of the house of Teymûr, had recently been dignified with his title, and was des­patched by my orders towards Kabûl for the purpose of clearing the roads in that direction, which had been also rendered unsafe by the outrages of a licen­tious banditti. It so happened that when this commander had nearly reached the point for which he was destined he found opposed to him a body of moun­taineers, in manners and intellect not much better than wild beasts or devils, who had assembled to the number of forty thousand, horse and foot and matchlock­men, had shut up the approaches against him, and prevented his further advance. Confiding, nevertheless, in the goodness of God and my unwaning fortune, he did not hesitate, with whatever disparity of force, to precipitate himself upon such superior numbers. A conflict thus commenced, which continued with unabated obstinacy from dawn of day until nearly sunset. The enemy were however finally defeated, with the loss of seventeen thousand killed, a number taken prisoners, and a still greater proportion escaping to their hiding-places among the mountains. The prisoners were conducted to my presence yoked together, with the heads of the seventeen thousand slain in the battle suspended from their necks. After some deliberation as to the destiny of these captives, I resolved that their lives should be spared, and that they should be employed in bringing forage for my elephants.*

The intercourse with Kabûl, so long interrupted by the atrocities of these rob­bers, was now by the effect of Lushker Khaun’s victory completely re-established, and the communication so well secured, that every description of fruit the pro­duce of that province may at present be procured at Lahour every other day, although neither very cheap nor in great abundance. The shedding of so much human blood must ever be extremely painful; but until some other resource is discovered, it is unavoidable. Unhappily the functions of government cannot be carried on without severity, and occasional extinction of human life: for without something of the kind, some species of coercion and chastisement, the world would soon exhibit the horrible spectacle of mankind, like wild beasts, worrying each other to death with no other motive than rapacity and revenge. God is witness that there is no repose for crowned heads. There is no pain or anxiety equal to that which attends the possession of sovereign power, for to the possessor there is not in this world a moment’s rest. Care and anxiety must ever be the lot of kings, for of an instant’s inattention to the duties of their trust a thou­sand evils may be the result. Even sleep itself furnishes no repose for monarchs, the adversary being ever at work for the accomplishment of his designs. It has indeed been said that kings will find enemies in the very hair of their own bodies. “Let this my counsel be suspended like a jewel to thine ear. Hath heaven deposited in thine hands the power supreme—keep always well with the people subject to thy sway. Better that a man leave behind him a good name, than to leave behind him a palace of burnished gold.”

While I am upon the subject, I cannot but consider that he to whom God hath assigned the pomp and splendour of imperial power, with a sacred and awful cha­racter in the eyes of his creatures, must, as he hopes for stability to his throne and length of days, in no way suffer oppression to approach the people intrusted to his care. For my own part I can with truth assert, that I have never so far lent myself to the indulgence of the world’s pleasures as to forget that, however sweet to the appetite, they are more bitter in the issue than the most deadly poisons. Alas! for the jewels of this world which have been poured in such pro­fusion upon my head: they bear no longer any value in my sight, neither do I any longer feel the slightest inclination to possess them. Have I ever contem­plated with delight the graces of youth and beauty? The gratification is extin­guished, it no longer exists in my nature. The enjoyments of hunting, and of social mirth, have too frequently been the source of pain and regret. The finger of old age has been held out to indicate that retirement must be my greatest solace, my surest resource, and from thence must be derived my highest advan­tages. In short, there neither is nor can be in this world any permanent state of repose or happiness; all is fleeting, vain, and perishable. In the twinkling of an eye shall we see the enchantress which enslaves the world and its votaries, seize the throat of another and another victim; and so exposed is man to be trodden down by the calamities of life, that one might be almost persuaded to affirm that he never had existence. “That world, the end of which is destined to be thus miserable, can scarcely be worth the risk of so much useless violence.”

If indeed, in contemplation of future contingencies, I have been sometimes led to deal with thieves and robbers with indiscriminate severity, whether during my minority or since my accession to the throne, never have I been actuated by motives of private interest or general ambition. The treachery and inconstancy of the world are to me as clear as the light of day. Of all that could be thought necessary to the enjoyment of life I have been singularly fortunate in the pos­session. In gold, and jewels, and sumptuous wardrobes, and in the choicest beauties the sun ever shone upon, what man has ever surpassed me? And had I then conducted myself without the strictest regard to the honour and happiness of God’s creatures consigned to my care, I should have been the basest of oppressors.