Oriental Literature - Vol. 1

Oriental Literature - Vol. 1

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Oriental Literature - Vol. 1

Oriental Literature - Vol. 1

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Excerpt

When Sir John Lubbock, in the list of a hundred books which he published, in the year 1886, as containing the best hundred worth reading, mentioned the “Sháh Námeh “or” Book of Kings,” written by the Persian poet Firdusi, it is doubtful whether many of his readers had even heard of such a poem or of its author. Yet Firdusi “The Poet of Paradise “(for such is the meaning of this pen-name) is as much the national poet of Persia as Dante is of Italy or Shakespeare of England. Abul Kasim Mansur is indeed a genuine epic poet, and for this reason his work is of genuine interest to the lovers of Homer, Vergil, and Dante. the qualities that go to make up an epic poem are all to be found in this work of the Persian bard. in the first place, the “Sháh Námeh” is written by an enthusiastic patriot, who glorifies his country, and by that means has become recognized as the national poet of Persia. in the second place, the poem presents us with a complete view of a certain definite phase, and complete era of civilization; in other words, it is a transcript from the life; a portrait-gallery of distinct and unique individuals; a description of what was once an actual society. We find in it delineated the Persia of the heroic age, an age of chivalry, eclipsing, in romantic emotion, deeds of daring, scenes of love and violence, even the mediaeval chivalry of France and Spain. Again, this poem deals principally with the adventures of one man. For all other parts of the work are but accessories to the single figure of Rustem, the heroic personage whose superhuman strength, dignity, and beauty make him to be a veritable Persian Achilles. But when we regard the details of this work we see how deeply the literary posterity of Homer are indebted to the Father of European Poetry. the fantastic crowd of demons, peris, and necromancers that appear as the supernatural machinery of the Sháh Námeh, such grotesque . . .

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