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Art. VII.— Geschichte der Osmanischen Dichtkunst bis auf unsere Zeit. Mit einer JBliithenlese aus zteey tamend zwey hniiile.it Dichtern von dem Freihern von Hammer-Purgstall. Erster Band: von der Regierung Sultan Osman 1. bis zu Sultan Suleimans, 1300—J521. (A History of Ottoman Poetry down to the Present Time; with a Selection from two thousand two hundred Poets, by Baron von Hammer-Purgstall. Volume the First, from the reign of Sultan Osman I. to that of Sultan Suleiman, 1300 to 1521.) Peslh. 1836.
The Baron von Hammer-Purgstall has been too long and too advantageously known to the public to render any detail of the services he has done to the reading world necessary to our countrymen, any more than to his own. We have ourselves been happy to allude to them on previous occasions; and it therefore only remains for us at present to specify more distinctly to our readers, that the nature of those services consists less in the researches of historical and archaiological curiosity, as respects the East, than in the transportation of its scarcely less known or less valuable treasures of the belles letlres into Europe. We are far from desiring to intimate that this learned writer has not, on the former grounds alone, considerable claim to our attention and gratitude. His History of the Ottoman Empire is a triumphant reply to any such supposition, if it still exist; and his opinions and suggestions on philosophical and philological antiquity, even though attended with that doubt which must of necessity rest on a question so totally unexplored to this day, deserve in general the respect which they have met with from ourselves in particular; as elucidating in some degree, and directing farther inquiry upon, topics which the vainest of the learned world confess as hopelessly beyond their reach.
It is, however, our province to enter here only upon the last of the points suggested above. If the philologist is useful to science, the linguist is not less indispensable to intellect, as its translator. He brings from every country and climate, not indeed the specimens of its geological strata and formation, nor the bases of its constitutional laws, to account for the existence of kingdoms, but he gathers, with a warmer and tenderer feeling, the riches that nature has loved to lavish on their soils; to pluck the flowers of imagination that embellish the surface of the earth, and bring home the gems of genius from foreign mines, to beam and brighten in the loveliness of his native land: nor is his labour thankless. If the mere philologist, in his slow but deep-endearing task, hears the cold voices of the past amidst silent ruins, and finds the very clay beneath his feet conserve the impress of a lost existence; if he rests satisfied with the praise of learning and the approbation of the wiser few, the mere linguist (must we so call him?) may well be content with the meed of more general applause; with having caught the hues of feeling as they rose diversified through every climate, inhaled the breath of passion in its sultriest glow, and bared to sympathizing eyes the phases of the distant heart, as it waned or developed through every change of splendour, obscuration, or eclipse.
But it is not restriction to the barren line of labour that, in either of these instances, can produce such results. However narrow may be the general range of the human mind, its powers are not necessarily contracted into single channels. Genius may be combined with study far more frequently than is always admitted; and the spirit that could breathe over the profoundest philological investigations the soft and chastened yearnings of the Sanscrit muse, might receive from even a linguist and avowed translator, suggestions on philology, founded certainly in fact, however extravagant or fanciful some one deduction might appear.
To the Baron von Hammer-Purgstall belongs the high praise of having rendered some of the most celebrated Eastern works familiar to his own countrymen, and popularized them, through his native language, in Europe. Asia, with its acknowledged powers of voluptuousness and warmth, was till lately a source of mute wonder to our minds. It was the learned writer before us who first undertook, so far as we can recollect, to give us some specimens of those exotic powers, in their completeness and in their simplicity also. And, considering his poetical talent not less than his peculiar acquirements, it must be confessed that the Turkish poets could have desired no more efficient or favourable medium of introduction to the West.
Independent of its novelty, too, the subject before us possesses no ordinary interest as a source of comparison; it is the very spring whence one of the last and mightiest of our own poets was stated to have drawn a considerable portion of his in spiration: that portion was assuredly much needed. The chastened and colder style of modern poetry, at the commencement of the nineteenth century, partook too much of the artificiality of the preceding stage. A variety of poets, in the best sense of the term, had purified it greatly, and were rapidly reducing it to a simple and natural form; but it was a form corrected and restrained by the recollections of preceding ages. The spirit of Scott was infusing a preparatory but irregular vigour, when Byron burst forth with a success proportioned, not merely nor entirely to his own energy, but to the wants of the human heart; and hence the secret of his domination over the mind, abroad as well as at home; for foreign nations, like ourselves, had been, with few exceptions, quiescent, and led by precedents.
The Greek muse, consonant with her Oriental paternity, possessed an energy and warmth unknown to her successors. Pindar and Sappho may be adduced as evidence of this: but while they, like Homer, displayed the powers of the mind, and the passions and emotions of the body, which produced so strong an influence on their countrymen and followers, including the tragic poets, still the softness and purity of taste congenial with their climate and refinements, shed its Ionian elegance over their compositions, and prevented the full, stern, and muscular development of bardic energies. The colder taste of Rome followed its masters with a long interval of power, for which a more finished grace, a singular felicity, and a calmer majesty, were substituted. Barbaric wars and discoveries had gradually enlarged, for modern times, the sphere of national poetry: the wild romances of .Ariosto; the elegant imagery and happy tenderness of Tasso; the concentrating gloom of Dante; the varied graces of description and sentiment lavished by the pen of Camoens, the poet of beauty; and the religious loftiness of Milton, breathing of that inspiration which, high and awful in itself, and corresponding to the sacred purposes that produced it, was, least of any, adapted to the expression of every-day life ;—all fell confessedly short of our growing necessities. Shakspeare alone, from the ample stores of that wonderful mind, gave illustration to feeling, and a voice to thought; and he, with some fragments of Moliere, Boileau, and Pope, supplied the warm impulses and subtle definitions of genius and wit to the labouring bosom of mankind.
But a long, fierce, and desolating war, that shook society to its centre, and uprooted long-fixed and eternal principles, as the Pelion and Ossa of its gigantic strife, induced and left a sad change amidst the recent calm of civilization. Diffused with that very civilization, a spirit of excitement prevailed wherever the conflict had extended its influence, and accident (to speak humanly) confirmed its sway. A morbid, hereditary temperament, acting on a personal defect, and co-operating with early mortifications; enhanced, too, by tasting the very bitterness of profligacy, and elevated by accession to rank; all these adventitious circumstances combined at the moment to create a poet adapted to the time and the exigency. The dark spirit of misanthropy, brooding over the troubled waters, made it pregnant with a new and fearful creation, in which existing elements were enlarged to excesses. Restlessness became elevation of soul; hatred, magnificence; vengeance, sublimity; and love, the sole representative of virtue. Passion was the atmosphere of this state; a moral globe, that knew but the torrid and the frozen zones. Unlike the strong and various picture-forms of Homer, and the lofty and varied picture-thoughts of Shakspeare, the subjects of Byron were single sculptures, peopling each its desert, and fixing the gazer's eye on itself. The mouldings of the human frame were held secondary, if not altogether disregarded, by the chisel of the poetical Michael Angelo; the scalpel removed the outer layers to develop the energy of muscular anatomy; and even beauty, in his hands, stood disrobed of all but her cestus. Circumstances create characters, but characters re-act upon circumstances. Whatever the fiercest passions might have wrought formerly was lost to the world of language beyond the dark hints of Dante. But in Byron they found at length their genuine poet. If the philosophy of life bears Homer's impress, and the philosophy of feeling is Shakspeare's, the philosophy of passion is unquestionably Byron's, in the might that gave shape to confusion, defined indistinctiveness, and portrayed the very void of the soul.
We have dwelt upon this for two reasons. In the first place, because it has become the fashion to consider Byron as the mere meteor of an hour, and his popularity factitious and accidental; while, in fact, on every youthful mind his power is as great now as it was in his and our day on our own; for he that gave feelings the shape and utterance they vainly yearned for before must live with the language of those feelings, at least till, with Homer and Shakspeare, they are driven out by mightier spirits of their own class and kind. Our second reason is more germane to our immediate subject; since the view we have taken of the great poet will prepare our readers for the conclusion that, the greater part of his powers being created by foreign circumstances, Turkey and her children, though the scene of many sketches, cannot be expected to supply the staple of a mind essentially northern, whether Gothic or Teutonic.
But while we, then, warn the reader not to expect that the bards of the land whence our great poet drew his warmest inspirations must necessarily possess similar powers of genius, or even a kindred turn of thought, we freely admit that, to a certain degree, the tones of inspiration must be the same. The intensity of atmospheric heat in tropical climates, while it produces a lassitude of body that communicates itself freely to the spirit, till existence becomes a weight, and the mind a mere interval; while it thus sublimates the intellect into an abstraction, it also rarefies similarly the material powers, and sublimes sense into sentiment. Feelings, therefore, are, from physical not less than moral causes, divested of that robe which refinement spreads over the lower and less noble outlines of the human frame; and for which, in the intercourse of more polished life, the caution of the Turk has substituted a thick veil of imperturbability, and the art of the Persian a more showy tissue of falsehood. When not led astray by imitation of the literary models of the latter nation, the tone of Turkish poetry is, as we have already stated, earnest and warm; but it is certainly deficient in that highest attribute of genius, the judgment that concentrates, while it checks, the efforts of imagination for its noblest aims. This deficiency is least apparent in the nations most open to foreign intercourse; for the light of intellect, like that of the system, is but an intimate commixture of diversified and multitudinous rays, and we may exemplify the case with two neighbouring nations. The early refinement of France procured for her soil and literature an early influx—of foreign intercourse, indeed, but it was the intercourse of admiration the tribute of barbarism to refinement. A contrary effect attended the isolation of Germany, delighted so long with her own nationality; and the result abroad was apathy or depreciation. These were the two extremes of the case of nations. The error of excess rendered France severe even to classical affectation; more Grecian than Greece herself, and satisfied to lose a portion of her natural light rather than suffer the detection of spots upon the surface. The absence of foreign intercourse has affected Germany reversely; the shades of her disc were protruded, as affording light of themselves, till common vision ached with the contrast, and her nationality became peculiarity, irregular even to madness.
The rising importance of Turkey to Eastern Europe has excited so great a degree of interest towards that country, and removed so much of the indifference that previously existed as to its political and social condition, that some account of one, and this the most influential portion of her literature, may not be unacceptable to readers at large. The little that has been known, in England at least, on this subject, has been so imperfect in itself, and so blended with our notions of other eastern states, as to leave any thing rather than a distinct impression of Turkish attainments in poetry.
Before proceeding to offer to our readers some slight specimens of the most distinguished amongst Turkish poets from the volume before us, it may not be amiss to cast a previous glance at the early history of their literature in this department. Amongst barbarous nations, the first and strongest emotions are rapidly reduced to song!; and the earliest poetry or national songs of the Tatar tribes were the relics of their earliest history; nor in