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Literature of the Arabs.

The Arabs turn their Attention to Learning-Their rapid Progress -Literary Ardour and Patronage of the Caliphs-Haroun al Raschid-Almamoun-Vathek-College of Mostanser at Bagdad-Academies and Libraries founded in Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain-Course of Study in the Saracen Schools— Grammar-Rhetoric-Poetry-Tales-Arabian Nights' Enter


Geography-Statistics-Metaphysics- Medicine and Medical Authors-Rhazes-Avicenna-Pharmacy-Anatomy and Surgery-Botany Chemistry - Astrology-Astronomy-Optics— Mathematics-Trigonometry-Algebra-Arithmetic-Architec

ture The Fine Arts-Painting-Calligraphy-Music-Agriculture Manufactures in Steel, Porcelain, and Leather-Claims of the Arabs as the Restorers of Letters and the Importers of useful Arts and Inventions into Europe.

It was at a period when ignorance and barbarism overspread every part of the Western World, that literature and philosophy found an asylum in the schools of the Saracens. Unlike the Goths and Huns, they became the instructors and enlighteners of the countries they had conquered. Their stern fanaticism yielded to the mild influence of letters; and, by a singular anomaly in the history of nations, Europe became indebted to the implacable enemies of her religion and her liberties for her most valuable lessons in science and the arts. In the preceding chapters of this work we have beheld the disciples of Mohammed in the character of warriors and conquerors. Their success in arms had been enough

to satiate even the most unmeasured ambition. But, great and splendid as were the events we have just detailed, we shall turn with pleasure from fields of blood, from scenes of misery and vice, to contemplate the more gentle and useful progress of the Arabs in the cultivation of learning. The first Mussulmans knew, or at least esteemed, no other book than the Koran. But this aversion to intellectual pursuits gradually relaxed, in proportion as their faith and their empire extended. The possession of those happy countries, so long the seats of ancient taste and splendour, naturally introduced among them a spirit of refinement; and here their career was as rapid and surprising as it had been in the field. The literature of Greece, such as it was in the days of Pericles, required the slow growth of nearly eight centuries of progressive cultivation. The same period elapsed between the foundation of Rome and the age of Augustus. In France, the reign of Louis XIV., the brilliant era of wit and genius, was 1200 years subsequent to that of Clovis. But among the Saracens, such was their enthusiasm for learning, that little more than a single century elapsed from the period of their deepest barbarism to the universal diffusion of science over the vast extent of their dominions. It was in the year 641 that Omar committed the Alexandrian library to the flames, and in 750 the house of Abbas, the munificent patrons of letters, mounted the throne.

Under the first of the Ommiadan caliphs, the genius of Greece had begun to obtain an influence over the Arabs. But it was not till the great and final division of the empire,-till Bagdad arose, a fair

and splendid city,-that the golden age of Arabian literature commenced in the East, and the Muses were courted from their hallowed retreats beyond the Bosphorus, to expiate the guilt of conquest, and illustrate the fame of the Abbassides. Almansor, successful in his domestic wars, turned his thoughts to the acquisition of science. Accident brought him acquainted with a Greek physician named George, who was invited to court to prescribe for the removal of a temporary indigestion. To him the Saracens were indebted for the introduction of medicine. The famous Haroun al Raschid has acquired a splendid name as the encourager of letters. He was fond of poetry and music, and himself considerably skilled. in these divine arts. Volumes have been written on the learning of the Moslem empire during this caliph's reign. Whenever he undertook a journey, or a pilgrimage, he carried with him a retinue of a hundred learned men. The Arabs were deeply indebted to him for their rapid progress in education, for he issued a law that a school should be attached to every mosque erected within his dominions. With a toleration superior to the fanaticism of his creed, he did not despise the knowledge which the believers of another faith possessed. The head of his schools, and the chief director of academical studies in his empire, was a Nestorian Christian of Damascus, of the name of John ibn Messue. generous example was imitated by his successors; and in a short time the sciences that were cultivated in the capital were diffused to the distant extremities of the caliphate.


But the Augustus of Arabian literature was Almamoun, whose attention from his youth had been

chiefly engrossed with books and study. Even in his father's lifetime, and during his journey to Khorasan, of which he was appointed governor, he had selected for his companions the most eminent scholars among the Greeks, Persians, and Chaldeans. His accession to the throne did not abate his ardour for knowledge. Bagdad became the resort of poets, philosophers, and mathematicians, from every country and of every creed. His ambassadors and agents in Armenia, Syria, and Egypt, were ordered to collect the most important books that could be discovered. The literary relics of the conquered provinces, which his governors amassed with infinite care, were brought to the foot of the throne as the most precious tribute he could demand. Hundreds of camels might be seen entering Bagdad loaded with volumes of Greek, Hebrew, and Persian literature; and such of them as were thought to be adapted to the purposes of instruction, were at the royal command translated by the most skilful interpreters into the Arabic language, that all classes might read and understand them. Masters, instructors, translators, and commentators, formed the court of Bagdad, which appeared rather to be a learned academy than the capital of a luxurious and warlike government. Aware of the vast treasures that were deposited in the libraries of Constantinople, Almamoun, in concluding a treaty of peace with the Grecian emperor Michael III., stipulated, as one of the conditions, that a collection of rare and valuable authors should be delivered up to him. These were immediately subjected to the process of translation; but it must be recorded with regret that, through an ill-judged partiality for his native tongue,

he gave orders that after the Arabic versions were finished, the original manuscripts should be burnt.

The Caliph Vathek not only admired and countenanced literature and the sciences, but was himself a proficient in some of them, especially poetry and music. He was particularly addicted to astrology; and having conferred with some of this learned fraternity in his last illness, they assured him, on consulting his horoscope, that his reign was yet to endure fifty years. His death in ten days falsified this prediction, and ruined the credit of Hassan ibn Sohal. Abu Masher, an eminent astrologer, flourished in the reign of Mostain, but his talents received sorry encouragement; for that prince ordered him to be severely whipt, because an event which he had foretold actually came to pass.

Long after the power of the Abbassides had dwindled into a mere pageant of state, they affected to patronise and cultivate learning. Many distinguished men in almost every science illustrated this period of Saracen history; but the capital of the Muses in the East had seen innumerable rivals spring up in other parts of the empire. The last prince that shed a ray of departing glory on his race was the Caliph Mostanser, who adorned Bagdad by the celebrated college that bore his name. According to Oriental historians, this edifice had no equal in the Moslem world, whether we consider the beauty and elegance of the building, the number of students it contained, or the splendid revenues assigned it by its founder. Each of the four chief sects of the Sonnees had its appointed professor, with a monthly salary and a maintenance from the royal exchequer. Every student had daily a very handsome allow

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