ARABIA, I mean that part of it, which we call the Happy, and which the Asiaticks know by the name of Yemen, seems to be the only country in the world, in which we can properly lay the scene of pastoral poetry; because no nation at this day can vie with the Arabians in the delightfulness of their climate, and the sim­plicity of their manners. There is a valley, indeed, to the north of Indostan, called Cashmír, which, according to an account written by a native of it, is a perfect garden, exceedingly fruit­ful, and watered by a thousand rivulets: but when its inhabitants were subdued by the stratagem of a Mogul prince, they lost their happi­ness with their liberty, and Arabia retained its old title without any rival to dispute it. These are not the fancies of a poet: the beauties of Yemen are proved by the concurrent testimony of all travellers, by the descriptions of it in all the writings of Asia, and by the nature and situation of the country itself, which lies between the eleventh and fifteenth degrees of northern latitude, under a serene sky, and exposed to the most favourable influence of the sun; it is enclosed on one side by vast rocks and deserts, and defended on the other by a tempestuous sea, so that it seems to have been designed by Providence for the most secure, as well as the most beautiful, region of the East*.

Its principal cities are Sanaa, usually considered as its metropolis; Zebîd, a commercial town, that lies in a large plain near the sea of Omman; and Aden, surrounded with pleasant gardens and woods, which is situated eleven degrees from the Equator, and seventy-six from the Fortunate Islands, or Canaries, where the geographers of Asia six their first meridian. It is observable that Aden, in the Eastern dialects, is precisely the same word with Eden, which we apply to the garden of paradise: it has two senses, according to a slight difference in its pronunciation; its first meaning is a settled abode, its second, delight, softness, or tranquillity: the word Eden had, probably, one of these senses in the sacred text, though we use it as a proper name. We may also observe in this place that Yemen itself takes its name from a word, which signifies verdure, and felicity; for in those sultry climates, the freshness of the shade, and the coolness of water, are ideas almost inseparable from that of happi­ness; and this may be a reason why most of the Oriental nations agree in a tradition concerning a delightful spot, where the first inhabitants of the earth were placed before their fall. The ancients, who gave the name of Eudaimon, or Happy, to this country, either meaned to translate the word Yemen, or, more probably, only alluded to the valuable spice-trees, and balsamick plants, that grow in it, and, without speaking poetically, give a real perfume to the air*: now it is certain that all poetry receives a very considerable ornament from the beauty of natural images; as the roses of Sharon, the verdure of Carmel, the vines of Engaddi, and the dew of Hermon, are the sources of many pleasing metaphors and comparisons in the sacred poetry: thus the odours of Yemen, the musk of Hadramut, and the pearls of Omman, supply the Arabian poets with a great variety of allusions; and, if the remark of Hermogenes be just, that whatever is delightful to the senses pro­duces the Beautiful when it is described, where can we find so much beauty as in the Eastern poems, which turn chiefly upon the loveliest objects in nature?

To pursue this topick yet farther: it is an observation of Demetrius of Phalera, in his elegant treatise upon style, that it is not easy to write on agreeable subjects in a disagreeable manner, and that beautiful expressions naturally rise with beautiful images; for which reason, says he, nothing can be more pleasing than Sappho’s poetry, which contains the description of gardens, and ban­quets, flowers and fruits, fountains and meadows, nightingales and turtle-doves, loves and graces: thus, when she speaks of a stream softly murmuring among the branches, and the Zephyrs playing through the leaves, with a sound, that brings on a quiet slumber, her lines flow without labour as smoothly as the rivulet she describes. I may have altered the words of Demetrius, as I quote them by memory, but this is the general sense of his remark, which, if it be not rather specious than just, must induce us to think, that the poets of the East may vie with those of Europe in the graces of their diction, as well as in the liveliness of their images: but we must not believe that the Arabian poetry can please only by its descrip­tions of beauty; since the gloomy and terrible objects, which produce the sublime, when they are aptly described, are no where more common than in the Desert and Stony Arabia’s; and, indeed, we see nothing so frequently painted by the poets of those countries, as wolves and lions, precipices and forests, rocks and wildernesses.

If we allow the natural objects, with which the Arabs are perpetually conversant, to be sub­lime, and beautiful, our next step must be, to confess that their comparisons, metaphors, and allegories are so likewise; for an allegory is a string of metaphors, a metaphor is a short simile, and the finest similes are drawn from natural objects. It is true that many of the Eastern figures are common to other nations, but some of them receive a propriety from the manners of the Arabians, who dwell in the plains and woods, which would be lost, if they came from the inhabitants of cities: thus the dew of liberality, and the odour of reputation, are metaphors used by most people; but they are wonderfully proper in the mouths of those, who have so much need of being refreshed by the dews, and who gratify their sense of smelling with the sweetest odours in the world. Again; it is very usual in all countries, to make frequent allusions to the brightness of the celestial luminaries, which give their light to all; but the metaphors taken from them have an additional beauty, if we consider them as made by a nation, who pass most of their nights in the open air, or in tents, and consequently see the moon and stars in their greatest splendour. This way of considering their poetical figures will give many of them a grace, which they would not have in our lan­guages: so, when they compare the foreheads of their mistresses to the morning, their locks to the night, their faces to the sun, to the moon, or the blossoms of jasmine, their cheeks to roses or ripe fruit, their teeth to pearls, hail-stones, and snow-drops, their eyes to the flowers of the narcissus, their curled hair to black scorpions, and to hyacinths, their lips to rubies or wine, the form of their breasts to pomegranates, and the colour of them to snow, their shape to that of a pine-tree, and their stature to that of a cypress, a palm-tree, or a javelin, &c.* these comparisons, many of which would seem forced in our idioms, have undoubtedly a great delicacy in theirs, and affect their minds in a peculiar manner; yet upon the whole their similes are very just and striking, as that of the blue eyes of a fine woman, bathed in tears, to violets dropping with dew*, and that of a warriour, advancing at the head of his army, to an eagle sailing through the air, and piercing the clouds with his wings.

These are not the only advantages, which the natives of Arabia enjoy above the inhabitants of most other countries: they preserve to this day the manners and customs of their ancestors, who, by their own account, were settled in the province of Yemen above three thousand years ago; they have never been wholly subdued by any nation; and though the admiral of Selim the First made a descent on their coast, and exacted a tribute from the people of Aden, yet the Arabians only keep up a show of allegiance to the Sultan, and act, on every important occasion, in open defiance of his power, relying on the swiftness of their horses, and the vast extent of their forests, in which an invading enemy must soon perish: but here I must be understood to speak of those Arabians, who, like the old Nomades, dwell con­stantly in their tents, and remove from place to place according to the seasons; for the inhabi­tants of the cities, who traffick with the merchants of Europe in spices, perfumes, and coffee, must have lost a great deal of their ancient simplicity: the others have, certainly, retained it; and, except when their tribes are engaged in war, spend their days in watching their flocks and camels, or in repeating their native songs, which they pour out almost extempore, professing a contempt for the stately pillars, and solemn buildings of the cities, compared with the natural charms of the country, and the coolness of their tents: thus they pass their lives in the highest pleasure, of which they have any conception, in the contem­plation of the most delightful objects, and in the enjoyment of perpetual spring; for we may apply to part of Arabia that elegant couplet of Waller in his poem of the Summer-island,

The gentle spring, that but salutes us here,
Inhabits there, and courts them all the year.

Yet the heat of the sun, which must be very intense in a climate so near the Line, is tempered by the shade of the trees, that overhang the valleys, and by a number of fresh streams, that flow down the mountains. Hence it is, that almost all their notions of felicity are taken from freshness and verdure: it is a maxim among them that the three most charming objects in nature are,* a green meadow, a clear rivulet, and a beautiful woman, and that the view of these objects at the same time affords the greatest delight imaginable. Mahomed was so well acquainted with the maxim of his countrymen, that he described the pleasures of heaven to them, under the allegory of cool fountains, green bowers, and black-eyed girls, as the word Houri literally sig­nifies in Arabick; and in the chapter of the Morning, towards the end of his Alcoran, he men­tions a garden, called Irem, which is no less celebrated by the Asiatick poets than that of the Hesperides by the Greeks: it was planted, as the commentators say, by a king, named Shedad, and was once seen by an Arabian, who wandered very far into the deserts in search of a lost camel: it was, probably, a name invented by the impostor, as a type of a future state of happiness. Now it is certain that the genius of every nation is not a little affected by their climate; for, whether it be that the immoderate heat disposes the Eastern people to a life of indolence, which gives them full leisure to cultivate their talents, or whether the sun has a real influence on the imagination (as one would suppose that the Ancients believed, by their making Apollo the god of poetry); whatever be the cause, it has always been remarked, that the Asiaticks excel the inhabitants of our colder regions in the liveliness of their fancy, and the richness of their invention.

To carry this subject one step farther: as the Arabians are such admirers of beauty, and as they enjoy such ease and leisure, they must naturally be susceptible of that passion, which is the true spring and source of agreeable poetry; and we find, indeed, that love has a greater share in their poems than any other passion: it seems to be always uppermost in their minds, and there is hardly an elegy, a panegyrick, or even a satire, in their language, which does not begin with the complaints of an unfortunate, or the exultations of a successful, lover. It sometimes happens, that the young men of one tribe are in love with the damsels of another; and, as the tents are frequently removed on a sudden, the lovers are often separated in the progress of the courtship: hence almost all the Arabick poems open in this manner; the author bewails the sudden departure of his mistress, Hinda, Maia, Zeineb, or Azza, and describes her beauty, com­paring her to a wanton fawn, that plays among the aromatick shrubs; his friends endeavour to comfort him, but he refuses consolation; he declares his resolution of visiting his beloved, though the way to her tribe lie through a dread­ful wilderness, or even through a den of lions; here he commonly gives a description of the horse or camel, upon which he designs to go, and thence passes, by an easy transition, to the principal subject of his poem, whether it be the praise of his own tribe, or a satire on the timidity of his friends, who refuse to attend him in his expedition; though very frequently the piece turns wholly upon love. But it is not sufficient that a nation have a genius for poetry, unless they have the advantage of a rich and beautiful language, that their expressions may be worthy of their sentiments; the Arabians have this advantage also in a high degree: their language is expressive, strong, sonorous, and the most copious, perhaps, in the world; for, as almost every tribe had many words appropriated to itself, the poets, for the convenience of their measure, or sometimes for their singular beauty, made use of them all, and, as the poems became popular, these words were by degrees incorporated with the whole language, like a number of little streams, which meet together in one channel, and, forming a most plentiful river, flow rapidly into the sea.

If this way of arguing à priori be admitted in the present case, (and no single man has a right to infer the merit of the Eastern poetry from the poems themselves, because no single man has a privilege of judging for all the rest) if the fore­going argument have any weight, we must con­clude that the Arabians, being perpetually con­versant with the most beautiful objects, spending a calm and agreeable life in a fine climate, being extremely addicted to the softer passions, and having the advantage of a language singularly adapted to poetry, must be naturally excellent poets, provided that their manners and customs be favourable to the cultivation of that art; and that they are highly so, it will not be dif­ficult to prove.

The fondness of the Arabians for poetry, and the respect which they show to poets, would be scarce believed, if we were not assured of it by writers of great authority: the principal occa­sions of rejoicing among them were formerly, and, very probably, are to this day, the birth of a boy, the foaling of a mare, the arrival of a guest, and the rise of a poet in their tribe: when a young Arabian has composed a good poem, all the neighbours pay their compliments to his family, and congratulate them upon having a relation capable of recording their actions, and of recommending their virtues to posterity. At the beginning of the seventh century, the Arabick language was brought to a high degree of perfection by a sort of poetical Academy, that used to assemble at stated times, in a place called Ocadh, where every poet pro­duced his best composition, and was sure to meet with the applause that it deserved: the most excellent of these poems were transcribed in characters of gold upon Egyptian paper, and hung up in the temple, whence they were named Modhahebat, or Golden, and Moallakat, or Sus­pended: the poems of this sort were called Cas­seida’s or eclogues,* seven of which are preserved in our libraries, and are considered as the finest that were written before the time of Mahomed. The fourth of them, composed by Lebíd, is purely pastoral, and extremely like the Alexis of Virgil, but far more beautiful, because it is more agree­able to nature: the poet begins with praising the charms of the fair Novâra (a word, which in Arabick signifies a timorous fawn) but inveighs against her unkindness; he then interweaves a description of his young camel, which he com­pares for its swiftness to a stag pursued by the hounds; and takes occasion afterwards to men­tion his own riches, accomplishments, liberality, and valour, his noble birth, and the glory of his tribe: the diction of this poem is easy and simple, yet elegant, the numbers flowing and musical, and the sentiments wonderfully natu­ral; as the learned reader will see by the follow­ing passage, which I shall attempt to imitate in verse, that the merit of the poet may not be wholly lost in a verbal translation:

But ah! thou know’st not in what youthful play
Our nights, beguil’d with pleasure, swam away;
Gay songs, and cheerful tales, deceiv’d the time,
And circling goblets made a tuneful chime;
Sweet was the draught, and sweet the blooming maid,
Who touch’d her lyre beneath the fragrant shade;
We sip’d till morning purpled ev’ry plain;
The damsels slumber’d, but we sip’d again:
The waking birds, that sung on ev’ry tree
Their early notes, were not so blithe as we*.

The Mahomedan writers tell a story of this poet, which deserves to be mentioned here: it was a custom, it seems, among the old Arabians, for the most eminent versifiers to hang up some chosen couplets on the gate of the temple, as a publick challenge to their brethren, who strove to answer them before the next meeting at Ocadh, at which time the whole assembly used to determine the merit of them all, and gave some mark of distinction to the author of the finest verses. Now Lebid, who, we are told, had been a violent opposer of Mahomed, fixed a poem on the gate, beginning with the following distich, in which he apparently meaned to reflect upon the new religion: Are not all things vain, which come not from God? and will not all honours decay, but those, which He confers*? These lines appeared so sublime, that none of the poets ven­tured to answer them; till Mahomed, who was himself a poet, having composed a new chapter of his Alcoran (the second, I think) placed the opening of it by the side of Lebid’s poem, who no sooner read it, than he declared it to be some­thing divine, confessed his own inferiority, tore his verses from the gate, and embraced the religion of his rival; to whom he was afterwards extremely useful in replying to the satires of Amralkeis, who was continually attacking the doctrine of Mahomed: the Asiaticks add, that their lawgiver acknowledged some time after, that no heathen poet had ever produced a nobler distich than that of Lebid just quoted.

There are a few other collections of ancient Arabick poetry; but the most famous of them is called Hamása, and contains a number of epigrams, odes, and elegies, composed on various occasions: it was compiled by Abu Temam, who was an excellent poet himself, and used to say, that fine sentiments delivered in prose were like gems scattered at random, but that, when they were con­fined in a poetical measure, they resembled bracelets and strings of pearls*. When the religion and language of Mahomed were spread over the greater part of Asia, and the maritime countries of Africa, it became a fashion for the poets of Persia, Syria, Egypt, Mauritania, and even of Tartary, to write in Arabick; and the most beau­tiful verses in that idiom, composed by the brightest genius’s of those nations, are to be seen in a large miscellany, entitled Yateima; though many of their works are transcribed separately: it will be needless to say much on the poetry of the Syrians, Tartarians, and Afri­cans, since most of the arguments, before used in favour of the Arabs, have equal weight with respect to the other Mahomedans, who have done little more than imitate their style, and adopt their expressions; for which reason also I shall dwell the shorter time on the genius and man­ners of the Persians, Turks, and Indians.

The great empire, which we call PERSIA, is known to its natives by the name of Iran; since the word Persia belongs only to a particular province, the ancient Persis, and is very improperly applied by us to the whole kingdom: but, in compliance with the custom of our geogra­phers, I shall give the name of Persia to that celebrated country, which lies on one side between the Caspian and Indian seas, and extends on the other from the mountains of Candahar, or Paropamisus, to the confluence of the rivers Cyrus and Araxes, containing about twenty degrees from south to north, and rather more from east to west.

In so vast a tract of land there must needs be a great variety of climates: the southern provinces are no less unhealthy and sultry, than those of the north are rude and unpleasant; but in the interior parts of the empire the air is mild and temperate, and, from the beginning of May to September, there is scarce a cloud to be seen in the sky: the remarkable calmness of the summer nights, and the wonderful splendour of the moon and stars in that country, often tempt the Persians to sleep on the tops of their houses, which are generally flat, where they can­not but observe the figures of the constellations, and the various appearances of the heavens; and this may in some measure account for the perpetual allusions of their poets, and rhetoricians, to the beauty of the heavenly bodies. We are apt to censure the oriental style for being so full of metaphors taken from the sun and moon: this is ascribed by some to the bad taste of the Asiaticks; the works of the Persians, says M. de Vol­taire, are like the titles of their kings, in which the sun and moon are often introduced: but they do not reflect, that every nation has a set of images, and expressions, peculiar to itself, which arise from the difference of its climate, manners, and history. There seems to be another reason for the frequent allusions of the Persians to the sun, which may, perhaps, be traced from the old language and popular religion of their country: thus Mihridâd, or Mithridates, signifies the gift of the sun, and answers to the Theodorus and Diodati of other nations. As to the titles of the Eastern monarchs, which seem, indeed, very extrava­gant to our ears, they are merely formal, and no less void of meaning than those of European princes, in which serenity and highness are often attributed to the most gloomy, and low-minded of men.

The midland provinces of Persia abound in fruits and flowers of almost every kind, and, with proper culture, might be made the garden of Asia: they are not watered, indeed, by any considerable river, since the Tigris and Euphrates, the Cyrus and Araxes, the Oxus, and the five branches of the Indus, are at the farthest limits of the kingdom; but the natives, who have a turn for agriculture, supply that defect by arti­ficial canals, which sufficiently temper the dry­ness of the soil; but in saying they supply that defect, I am falling into a common error, and representing the country, not as it is at present, but as it was a century ago; for a long series of civil wars and massacres have now destroyed the chief beauties of Persia, by stripping it of its most industrious inhabitants.

The same difference of climate, that affects the air and soil of this extensive country, gives a variety also to the persons and temper of its natives: in some provinces they have dark com­plexions, and harsh features; in others they are exquisitely fair, and well made; in some others, nervous and robust: but the general character of the nation is that softness, and love of pleasure, that indolence, and effeminacy, which have made them an easy prey to all the western and northern swarms, that have from time to time invaded them. Yet they are not wholly void of martial spirit; and, if they are not naturally brave, they are at least extremely docile, and might, with proper discipline, be made excellent soldiers: but the greater part of them, in the short inter­vals of peace that they happen to enjoy, con­stantly sink into a state of inactivity, and pass their lives in a pleasurable, yet studious, retire­ment; and this may be one reason, why Persia has produced more writers of every kind, and chiefly poets, than all Europe together, since their way of life gives them leisure to pursue those arts, which cannot be cultivated to advantage, without the greatest calmness and serenity of mind. There is a manuscript at Oxford*, con­taining the lives of an hundred and thirty-five of the finest Persian poets, most of whom left very ample collections of their poems behind them: but the versifiers, and moderate poets, if Horace will allow any such men to exist, are without number in Persia.

This delicacy of their lives and sentiments has insensibly affected their language, and rendered it the softest, as it is one of the richest, in the world: it is not possible to convince the reader of this truth, by quoting a passage from a Per­sian poet in European characters; since the sweet­ness of sound cannot be determined by the sight, and many words, which are soft and musical in the mouth of a Persian, may appear harsh to our eyes, with a number of consonants and gutturals: it may not, however, be absurd to set down in this place, an Ode of the poet Hafez, which, if it be not sufficient to prove the delicacy of his language, will at least show the liveliness of his poetry:

Ai bad nesîmi yârdari,
Zan nefheï mushcbâr dari:
Zinhar mecun diraz-desti!
Ba turreï o che câr dari?
Ai gul, to cujá wa ruyi zeibash?
O taza, wa to kharbâr dari.
Nerkes, to cujâ wa cheshmi mestesh?
O serkhosh, wa to khumâr dari.
Ai seru, to ba kaddi bulendesh,
Der bagh che iytebâr dari?
Ai akl, to ba wujûdi ishkesh
Der dest che ikhtiyâr dari?
Rihan, to cujâ wa khatti sebzesh?
O mushc, wa to ghubâr dari.
Ruzi bures bewasli Hafiz,
Gher takati yntizâr dari.

That is, word for word, O sweet gale, thou bearest the fragrant scent of my beloved; thence it is that thou hast this musky odour. Beware! do not steal: what hast thou to do with her tresses? O rose, what art thou, to be compared with her bright face? She is fresh, and thou art rough with thorns. O nar­cissus, what art thou in comparison of her languish­ing eye? Her eye is only sleepy, but thou art sick and faint. O pine, compared with her graceful stature, what honour hast thou in the garden? O wisdom, what wouldst thou choose, if to choose were in thy power, in preference to her love? O sweet basil, what art thou, to be compared with her fresh cheeks? They are perfect musk, but thou art soon withered. Come, my beloved, and charm Hafez with thy presence, if thou canst but stay with him for a single day. This little song is not unlike a sonnet ascribed to Shakespeare, which deserves to be cited here, as a proof that the Eastern imagery is not so different from the European as we are apt to imagine.

Sweet thief! whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love’s breath? The purple pride,
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells,
In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly dyed.”
The lily I condemned for thy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair;
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red, nor white had stol’n of both,
And to his robb’ry had annex’d thy breath;
But for his theft, in pride of all his growth,
A vengeful canker eat him up to death.
More flow’rs I noted, yet I none could see,
But scent or colour it had stol’n from thee.
Shakespeare’s Poems, p. 207.

The Persian style is said to be ridiculously bombast, and this fault is imputed to the slavish spirit of the nation, which is ever apt to mag­nify the objects that are placed above it: there are bad writers, to be sure, in every country, and as many in Asia as elsewhere; but if we take the pains to learn the Persian language, we shall find that those authors, who are generally esteemed in Persia, are neither slavish in their sentiments, nor ridiculous in their expressions: of which the following passage in a moral work of Sadi, entitled Bostán, or, The Garden, will be a sufficient proof. I have heard that king Nushir­van, just before his death, spoke thus to his son Hormuz: Be a guardian, my son, to the poor and helpless; and be not confined in the chains of thy own indolence. No one can be at ease in thy dominion, while thou seekest only thy private rest, and sayest, It is enough. A wise man will not approve the shepherd, who sleeps, while the wolf is in the fold. Go, my son, protect thy weak and indigent people; since through them is a king raised to the diadem. The people are the root, and the king is the tree that grows from it; and the tree, O my son, derives its strength from the root*.

Are these mean sentiments, delivered in pompous language? Are they not rather worthy of our most spirited writers? And do they not convey a fine lesson for a young king? Yet Sadi’s poems are highly esteemed at Constantinople, and at Ispahan; though, a century or two ago, they would have been suppressed in Europe, for spread­ing with too strong a glare the light of liberty and reason.

As to the great Epick poem of Ferdusi, which was composed in the tenth century, it would require a very long treatise, to explain all its beauties with a minute exactness. The whole collection of that poet’s works is called Shah­nâma, and contains the history of Persia, from the earliest times to the invasion of the Arabs, in a series of very noble poems; the longest and most regular of which is an heroick poem of one great and interesting action, namely, the delivery of Persia by Cyrus from the oppressions of Afrasiab, king of the Transoxan Tartary, who being assisted by the emperours of India and China, together with all the dæmons, giants, and enchanters of Asia, had carried his conquests very far, and become exceedingly formidable to the Persians. This poem is longer than the Iliad; the characters in it are various and striking; the figures bold and animated; and the diction every where sonorous, yet noble; polished, yet full of fire. A great profusion of learning has been thrown away by some criticks, in com­paring Homer with the heroick poets, who have succeeded him; but it requires very little judg­ment to see, that no succeeding poet whatever can with any propriety be compared with Homer: that great father of the Grecian poetry and literature, had a genius too fruitful and com­prehensive to let any of the striking parts of nature escape his observation; and the poets, who have followed him, have done little more than transcribe his images, and give a new dress to his thoughts. Whatever elegance and refinements, therefore, may have been introduced into the works of the moderns, the spirit and invention of Homer have ever continued without a rival: for which reasons I am far from pre­tending to assert that the poet of Persia is equal to that of Greece; but there is certainly a very great resemblance between the works of those extraordinary men: both drew their images from nature herself, without catching them only by reflection, and painting, in the manner of the modern poets, the likeness of a likeness; and both possessed, in an eminent degree, that rich and creative invention, which is the very soul of poetry.

As the Persians borrowed their poetical mea­sures, and the forms of their poems from the Arabians, so the TURKS, when they had carried their arms into Mesopotamia and Assyria, took their numbers and their taste for poetry from the Persians;

Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit, et artes
Intulit agresti Latio.

In the same manner as the Greek compositions were the models of all the Roman writers, so were those of Persia imitated by the Turks, who considerably polished and enriched their lan­guage, naturally barren, by the number of simple and compound words, which they adopted from the Persian and Arabick. Lady Wortley Montague very justly observes, that we want those compound words, which are very frequent and strong in the Turkish language; but her interpreters led her into a mistake in explaining one of them, which she translates stag-eyed, and thinks a very lively image of the fire and indifference in the eyes of the royal bride: now it never entered into the mind of an Asiatick to compare his mistress’s eyes to those of a stag, or to give an image of their fire and indifference; the Turks mean to express that fullness, and, at the same time, that soft and lan­guishing lustre, which is peculiar to the eyes of their beautiful women, and which by no means resembles the unpleasing wildness in those of a stag. The original epithet, I suppose, was* Ahú cheshm, or, with the eyes of a young fawn: now I take the Ahú to be the same animal with the Gazâl of the Arabians, and the Zabi of the Hebrews, to which their poets allude in almost every page. I have seen one of these animals; it is a kind of antelope, exquisitely beautiful, with eyes uncommonly black and large. This is the same sort of roe, to which Solomon alludes in this delicate simile: Thy two breasts are like two young roes, that are twins, which play among the lilies.

A very polite scholar, who has lately translated sixteen Odes of Hafiz, with learned illustrations, blames the Turkish poets for copying the Persians too servilely: but, surely, they are not more blameable than Horace, who not only imitated the measures and expressions of the Greeks, but even translated, almost word for word, the brightest passages of Alcæus, Anacreon, and others; he took less from Pindar than from the rest, because the wildness of his numbers, and the obscu­rity of his allusions, were by no means suitable to the genius of the Latin language: and this may, perhaps, explain his ode to Julius Antonius, who might have advised him to use more of Pindar’s manner in celebrating the victories of Augustus. Whatever we may think of this objection, it is certain that the Turkish empire has produced a great number of poets; some of whom had no small merit in their way: the ingenious author just mentioned assured me, that the Turkish satires of Ruhi Bagdadi were very forcible and striking, and he mentioned the opening of one of them, which seemed not unlike the manner of Juvenal. At the beginning of the last cen­tury, a work was published at Constantinople, containing the finest verses of five hundred and forty-nine Turkish poets, which proves at least that they are singularly fond of this art, whatever may be our opinion of their success in it.

The descendants of Tamerlane carried into India the language and poetry of the Persians; and the Indian poets to this day compose their verses in imitation of them. The best of their works, that have passed through my hands, are those of Huzein, who lived some years ago at Benáres, with a great reputation for his parts and learning, and was known to the English, who resided there, by the name of the Philosopher. His poems are elegant and lively, and one of them, on the departure of his friends, would suit our language admirably well, but is too long to be inserted in this essay. The Indians are soft and voluptuous, but artful and insincere, at least to the Europeans, whom, to say the truth, they have had no great reason of late years to admire for the opposite virtues: but they are fond of poetry, which they learned from the Persians, and may, perhaps, before the close of the cen­tury, be as fond of a more formidable art, which they will learn from the English.

I must request, that, in bestowing these praises on the writings of Asia, I may not be thought to derogate from the merit of the Greek and Latin poems, which have justly been admired in every age; yet I cannot but think that our European poetry has subsisted too long on the perpetual repetition of the same images, and incessant allusions to the same fables: and it has been my endeavour for several years to inculcate this truth, that, if the principal writings of the Asiaticks, which are reposited in our publick libraries, were printed with the usual advantage of notes and illustrations, and if the languages of the Eastern nations were studied in our great seminaries of learning, where every other branch of useful knowledge is taught to perfection, a new and ample field would be opened for speculation; we should have a more extensive insight into the history of the human mind; we should be furnished with a new set of images and similitudes; and a number of excellent com­positions would be brought to light, which future scholars might explain, and future poets might imitate.