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but that he has either falsified or forged them we have no reason to believe. With regard to the translation, I have merely to say that my main object has been to give the author's meaning, without servilely following his exact words and endless repetitions. I may also mention that no two MSS. of the poem are exactly alike, especially in the arrangement of every couplet, though the discrepancies are of no serious import. I have been careful in making a collation of half a dozen MSS. in the British Museum,1 and I think I have succeeded in giving something resembling what the author would have said were he writing in plain English.
Once upon a time the victorious Kisrā Naushirawan was seated upon his lofty throne, in the gorgeous hall of audience. Around him stood the noble, the brave, the learned, and the virtuous, assembled from Balkh and Bukhārā, and from all the other provinces of his extensive dominions. Meanwhile entered the watchful sentinel from the gate, and said, 'Sire, there approacheth an ambassador from the Sovereign of Hind. He is accompanied by a train of elephants, with rich canopies, together with a thousand camels heavily laden; the whole escorted by a numerous and gallant array of Scindian
1 I have chiefly followed MS. No. 18,188, being the oldest and the most beautifully written in the whole collection, transcribed A.D. 1486. It was once the property of the late Dr. Scott, of Bedford Square. Also MS. No. 7,724, which formerly belonged to the celebrated collector, Mr. Rich, British Resident at Bagdad. A still older Manuscript has been purchased for the Museum, since the above remarks were written; but it differs in no material respect from the others.
2 India is so called by the Arabs to this day. The word Hindūstān, “the abode of the Hindus, or dark coloured people," is generally used by the Persian and Indian historians of the last four or five centuries.
cavalry. He seeks access into the presence of the just and the renowned Sovereign of Irān.1
"When Kisra Naushirawan heard the words of the sentinel, he forthwith despatched a chosen body of his finest troops, both horse and foot, in order to receive with due honour the embassy from the King of Hind. At length the ambassador reached the palace-gate, and was introduced into the presence of the Persian King. To the latter he made a low obeisance, after the manner observed in Indian courts, and then he ordered the costly presents sent by his Sovereign to be displayed before the Royal assembly. First of all, in front of the gate, stood the train of elephants, each furnished with a gorgeous canopy overlaid with gold and silver, and studded with gems the most brilliant and rare. Then, in the midst of the spacious hall, the rich bales were opened, containing numerous caskets of jewels the most precious. There were diamonds, and rubies, and emeralds; also strings of pearls of incalculable value. There were various perfumes of surpassing fragrance-of musk and ambergris, and wood of aloes; also chests full of Indian scimitars, of keenest edge; together with many other valuables too numerous to describe, the peculiar productions of Kanoj2
1 The name by which the whole Persian empire is generally designated in the Shāhnāma. The more modern name, Fārs, is, strictly speaking, applicable only to a single province in the south of Persia.
2 Kanoj or Kanauj-commonly written Canoge-during the earlier centuries of our era was the capital of the great kingdom, extending along the Ganges, on the western banks of which river the city was built, and where its ruins are still to be seen, somewhat more than a hundred miles due east from Agra. It is supposed to have been built more than 1000 years before the Christian era, and to have been the capital of King Für or Porus, who fought against the Macedonian hero, Alexander. The Indian histories are full of the accounts of its grandeur, extent and populousness, so much so that in the sixth century of our era.—that is, about the time of Naushirawan-it was said to contain no fewer than 30,000 shops, in which the Indian luxury, called 'Pān-supārī," a peculiar preparation of the areca or betel-nut, was sold. This drug is highly
and May. Then the Ambassador presented a letter richly illumined, written by the hand of the Sovereign of Hind to Naushirawan. Last of all, he displayed before the King and the astonished Court, a CHESSBOARD, elaborately constructed, together with the chessmen, tastefully and curiously carved from solid pieces of ivory and ebony."
The Letter from the King of Hind " to Kisra Naushirawan the Just and the Great."
"O King, may you live as long as the celestial spheres continue to revolve! I pray of you to examine this chessboard, and to lay it before such of your people as are most distinguished for learning and wisdom. Let them carefully deliberate, one with another; and, if they can, let them discover the principles of this wonderful game. Let them find out the uses of the various pieces, and how each is to be moved, and into what particular squares. Let them discover the laws which regulate the evolutions of this mimic army, and the rules applicable to the Pawns, and to the Elephants, and to the Rukhs (or warriors), and to the Horses, and to the Farzin, and to the King. If they should succeed in discovering the principles and expounding the practice of this rare gaine, assuredly they will become entitled to admission into the number of the wise; and in such case, I promise to ac. knowledge myself, as hitherto, your Majesty's tributary. On the other hand, should you and the wise men of Irān collectively fail in discovering the nature and principles of this cunning game, it will evince a clear proof that you
fragrant, refreshing and stomachic, and is in much use to this day among all classes of the people of India. The expression is the same as if we were to say, in order to convey an idea of the grandeur of a continental city, that it contained thirty thousand cafés, or as many tobacco shops.
are not our equals in wisdom; and consequently, you will have no right any longer to exact from us either tribute or impost. On the contrary we shall feel ourselves justified in demanding hereafter the same tribute from you; for man's true greatness consists in wisdom, not in territory, and troops, and riches, all of which are liable to decay.'
"When Naushirawan had perused the letter from the Sovereign of Hind, long did he ponder over its contents. Then he carefully examined the Chessboard and the pieces, and asked a few questions of the Envoy respecting their nature and use. The latter, in general terms, replied,—
Sire, what you wish to know can be learned only by playing the game; suffice it for me to say, that the board represents a battle-field, and the pieces the different species of forces engaged in the combat.' Then the King said to the Envoy,- Grant us the space of seven days for the purpose of deliberation; on the eighth day we engage to play with you the game, or acknowledge our inferiority.' Here the Indian Ambassador made his obeisance, and withdrew to the apartments provided for himself and suite.
In the meanwhile the Persian King commanded the attendance of all the learned and intelligent men of his Court. He placed before them the chessboard and the pieces, and explained to them the purport of the letter brought to him from the Sovereign of Hind. Then the sages of Iran, each according to his abilities, betook themselves to discover the mystery of this seemingly in-. soluble enigma. One man suggested one thing, and another something different. They made numberless experiments with the chessmen, and moved them about in all directions on the board. Every man asked questions which no one could answer; and thus they persevered
till the seven days were nearly elapsed. At length, Buzurjmihr, the King's chief counsellor, who had hitherto stood aloof, stepped forward, and said, 'O King, I will undertake, in the space of a night and a day, to discover the hidden secret of this rare and wonderful game.' The King, rejoicing, replied, 'Let this task be thine, for well do I know that thou excellest all men in brightness of understanding and acuteness of judgment. The King of Kanoj boastfully implies that we have not in our dominions men who are capable of unfolding the mystery of this marvellous game. To be compelled, as it were, to acknowledge our inferiority, would leave an everlasting stain on the learned and the wise of Iran.'
"Then Buzurjmihr had the chessboard and pieces conveyed into a private chamber; and there he sat for the space of a day and a night, applying the irresistible powers of his penetrating intellect to the investigation of the principles and practice of the game. He examined with care the probable bearing of each piece, till at length the full light burst upon him. Then he hastened from his solitary chamber to the presence of Naushirawan, and thus spoke, 'O King of victorious destiny, I have carefully examined this board, and these pieces, and at length by your Majesty's good fortune, I have succeeded in discovering the nature of the game.1 It is a most shrewd
1 I am afraid that all those who know something of the game of Chess will be inclined to smile at the poet's assertion respecting the penetration and wisdom of Buzurjmihr. Yet it is not quite so absurd as Sir William Jones's idea, "that some great genius conceived in his mind the construction of the board, and the various moves and powers of the pieces, and the whole conduct of the game from beginning to end, all by the first intention.'" One of our late Chess celebrities-undoubtedly the first of his time-M. Deschapelles, appears by his own assertion, to have very nearly equalled the Persian sage in precocity. A very amusing account of the eminent French player's début in Chess is given in the Chess Player's Chronicle, 1848, p. 87, translated from the "Palamède." For my own part I am no main believer in the marvellous; and