11 SEPTEMBER 1920, Page 17


PROFESSOR BROWNE, in producing this history of Persia and Persian literature from A.D. 1205 to A.D. 1502, has performed a task the difficulties of which it is hard for any but specialists to realize. His treatment of the subject is so direct and so clear that the general reader would never suspect that the ground traversed is mostly new ground, and that the sources both for the history and for the literature are for the most part contained in unpublished manuscripts. The period dealt with begins immediately after the terrible Mongol invasion under Hulagu, includes the conquests of the redoubtable Tamerlane, and ends with the appearance of the great Shah Ismail, the founder of the Safawi Dynasty, as the saviour of his country.

Of the invasion of the Mongols in the middle of the thirteenth century Professor Browne draws a vivid picture, and incident- ally calls attention to a curious detail which shows that the wild hordes which were let loose on the world by Chingiz Khan inspired a terror which effected even these islands. Mathew Prior, writing at St. Albans, records under the year A.D. 1238 (i.e., three years before the battle of Liegnitz) that for fear of the Mongols the fishermen of Gothland and Friesland dared not cross the North Sea to take part in the herring fishing at Yarmouth, and that consequently herrings were so cheap and abundant in England that year that forty or fifty were sold for a piece of silver, even at places far from the coast.

That the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century, which included the sack of Baghdad and the overthrow of the Caliphate, brought about the destruction and permanent loss of a mass of Islamic literature, both in Arabic and in Persian, there can be no doubt. The wonder is that so much of this literature survived, seeing that copies of any but the most popular works must have been rare at the time, and that the most complete libraries were to be found in those very towns which were the main objects of the invader's frightfulness.

The volume before us deals with the Persian literature pro- duced during the 150 years which followed the Mongol invasion, and is practically confined to history and poetry, for the other branches of literature continued to be written by Persians in Arabic. With the arrival of proselytising Moslem conquerors, Arabic immediately supplanted Persian as far as the written language was concerned, and thus during the seventh and eighth centuries, though modern Persian as we know it to-day, with its Arabic alphabet and its super-abundance of Arabia loan-words, was in.process of development, the best intellects of Persia were employing Arabic as their literary medium just as European scholars made use of Latin in the Middle Ages. But thanks no doubt mainly to the reverence in which the text of the Koran was held, Arabic meant more to these Persian writers than Latin meant to the schoolmen. For they founded schools of grammar and set up new models of style and rhetoric in this, to them, foreign language ; and from about A.D. 750 onwards the history of Arabic literature is very largely a history of Persian literature. The Persians, indeed, exercised a very marked influence on Arabic prose and verse, and this may be readily understood when we remember that they were grafting on the language of the simple and unsophisticated Bedouin their heritage of an ancient and refined culture.

With the establishment of the first *dependent Persian dynasties modern Persian came into its own as a written language, and remained henceforth the medium for poets • A History of Fenian Liiercdure under Tartar Dominion (A.D. 1205-1502). By Edward C. Browne. Cambradae : at the Vatierisk Bram Mal

throughout Persia, Turkestan and Northern. India, even in the courts of rulers who were of Turkish origin like the Kings of Ghazni and the Mogul Emperors of Delhi. Such, indeed, was the popularity of Persian among the Ottoman Turks that they continued to employ this language while they were at war with the Persians.

Professor Browne points out that it has always been the case in Persia at any rate that the existence of numerous little courts, each anxious to rival and excel the others, has been favourable to the development of poetical talent, since the poet who failed to win appreciation from one royal patron could easily seek out another who might be more willing to recognize his gifts. On the other hand, history was more likely to receive encouragement at the hands of great kings who held sway over many countries. The 150 years with which the present volume deals shows us two periods of great central dynasties —the one founded by Hulagu, the other by Tamerlane, which were productive of great histories, and an intervening period of petty dynasties occupying some twenty years, which saw the rise of a galaxy of poetic talent in which " Hafiz is merely the brightest of many brilliant stars."

The period of Mongol ascendancy—i.e., from 1265 to 1337— was chiefly remarkable for its historical writers ; and the Mongols, in spite of their ruthless destruction of mosques and libraries, were especially anxious that their Pastes et gestes should be fully and accurately recorded. We find this same trait among their ancestors long before they left the steppes of Central Asia. The discovery of the runic Turkish inscrip- tions in the Orkhon and Yenissei rivers, and the citation by Rashid ud Din, the great historian of the Mongols, of many Vighur chronicles, utilized by him but presumably now lost for ever, point to the same tendency. The two greatest histories of this period, the Jahan-Gusha and the Jami-ut-Tawarikh, are fully described by Professor Browne, and no less interesting are his accounts of their authors, who were both most remark- able men. Among the many important histories discussed in this volume are such well-known works as the Life of Tamerlane, long familiar to Europeans in the translation of Petis de la Croix, and the famous Memoirs of the Emperor Babur.

Of the numerous poets discussed about twenty belong to the first rank, and two—namely, Hafiz and Jami—stand out pre-eminently. Professor Browne only mentions one or two of the Indian poets who wrote in Persian, having decided on principle to exclude these writers from his work. He maintains that the poems of these men, who flourished in large numbers at the various Mohammedan Courts of India, have not the real Persian flavour, and he sees no more justification for includ- ing them in a Literary History of Persia than there is for includ- ing American authors in a Literary History of England.

He devotes nearly fifty pages to Hafiz of Shiraz, whose place in the hearts of his own people and among the poets of Persia is unique. No finer account of this great lyricist has appeared in any European language; and in addition to a very full bio_ graphy of the poet, and many extracts from his poems, there is a section dealing with the numerous English translations which have been published, notably those of Sir William Jones, Hermann Bicknell, Walter Leaf, and Miss Gertrude Bell. Among these translators Professor Browne gives the place of honour to Miss Bell. Her renderings, he says, are true poetry of a very high order, and perhaps with the single exception of FitzGerald's " Omar " are probably the finest and most truly poetical renderings of any Persian poet ever produced in the English language." Next in importance to Hafiz stands Jami, one of the most remarkable geniuses whom Persia every pro- duced. He was at once a great poet, a great scholar and a great mystic. The quantity of work he produced is no less astounding than its quality. The lowest computation credits him with no fewer than forty-six separate works which, apart from a vast amount of lyrical and narrative poetry, include Koranic exegesis, theology, lives of the Saints and Arabic grammar among the many subjects dealt with. Jami died in 1492, and by many he has been regarded as the last great classical poet of Persia : with this Professor Browne evidently does not agree; and though he concludes the present volume with his account of this versatile genius, he promises to tell us more about Jami's lyric poetry in his next volume, which we are glad to note is promised us.

The whole of Hafiz and much of Jami are accessible in English to readers unacquainted with Persian, . but few of the other poets mentioned in this volume have attracted the attention

of translators. When so much depends on rhetorical con• vention and the play on words, translation is a somewhat- thankless task. The quatrain which is designed to convey philosophy in a nutshell, and by its very brevity of form does not admit of far-fetched similes, offers the beat chances of

success. The historical epic, like Firdausi's Shah Na'ntalt, lends itself indeed to translation, but is wearisome to English readers. The romantic epic' is too full of Oriental conceits, while the lyric, the most popular of poetic forms in Persia, is seldom

intelligible without foot-notes. Space will not allow us to refer

to these unfamiliar writers ; but we may be allowed to mention one in particular who oceupiesa place aloneamonghiscontempor- aries. This is Ubayd-i-Zakani, who excelled as a satirist and humorous poet. His works are unfortunately marred by a coarseness which renders many of his witty sayings unsuitable for translation. They are, indeed, regarded with disapproval or disgust by all respectable Persian at the present day. He was, however, like Rabelais, not only a great humorist, but also a deep thinker and a zealous social reformer. Voltaire's description of Rabelais as " un philosophe ivre qui n'a emit que dans is temps de son ivresse" might well be applied to Ubayd of Zakan. Among his works are included The Ethics of Aristocracy, a bitter satire on the morals of his times Herein he treats of the cardinal virtues recognized by writer.

in ethics, and after first defining the generally accepted view of these virtues, he proceeds to show what they really mean in practice. He says, for example, that courage is not really a virtue, but a very dangerous and harmful quality ; that justice is tantamount to despotism, and so forth. He also wrote a short tract called Definitions which, though it has a hundred counterparts in European literature, is curious as coming from a Persian writer in the fourteenth century. The following are characteristic specimens : The world is that place wherein no creature can enjoy peace ; the wise man is he who does not concern himself with the world and its inhabit- ants ; the perfect man is he who is not affected by grief or gladness ; the man of learning is he who has not enough sense to earn his own livelihood. He also wrote a collection of short stories in Arabic and Persian called the Joyous Treatise, which contains many good stories, some of which remind one of the traditional tales of the wise men of Gotham—the town of Qazwin being the Persian counterpart of the Nottingham

village. We may be allowed to quote one or two of the specimens translated by Professor Browne : " A certain man claimed to be God. He was brought before the Caliph, who said to him, Last year someone claimed to be a prophet, and he was put to death.' It was well done,' replied the man, for I did not send him.' " " The son of a certain Qazwini fell into a well. ' 0, my dear boy,' he exclaimed, don't move from where you

are until I go and fetch a rope and pull you out ' ! " Finally, as a specimen of Ubayd's poetry and of Professor Browne's happy gift of verse translations we may quote the following lines :- " Something at least from my small property Was wont to reach me in the days gone by, And when friends came to cheer my loneliness A crust of bread they found, a dish of cress, And sometimes wine withal, when some new flame Or some old crony me to visit came. But now alas ! all that I reckoned on, Solid or liquid, from my table's gone, And only I am left, nor would remain If my removal were another's gain I " We must not omit to mention, in conclusion, that the present volume, unlike its predecessors, gives us the Persian originals as well as the translations of the examples selected from each poet. The value of the book is thereby enormously enhanced, for Professor Browne provides not only a charming anthology of Persian verse, much of which has hitherto been accessible only in rare manuscript copies, but at the same time a series of texts with translations which will furnish the best possible introduction to the study of Persian poetry in the original

and the publication of this volume will place all students of this beautiful language under a deep obligation.