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IF THOU PERCEIVEST ERRORS, SUPPLY THE DEFECTS-
GLORIOUS IS HE IN WHOM IS NEITHER FAULT NOR BLEMISH!
I-ORIENTAL FICTIONS-THE ARABIAN NIGHTSTHE BOOK OF SINDIBĀD.
HE Persians, like all Eastern nations, remarks Sir John Malcolm, "delight in Tales, Fables, and Apothegms; the reason of which appears obvious for where liberty is unknown, and where power in all its shapes is despotic, knowledge must be veiled to be useful." The ancient Persians also had their Tales and Romances, the substance of many of which is probably embodied in the celebrated Shah Nama, or Book of Kings, of Firdausi. And the fondness of the old pagan Arabs for the same class of compositions seems to have threatened the success of Muhammad's great mission, to win them back from their vain idolatry to the worship of the ONE God. For an Arabian merchant having brought from Persia the marvellous stories of Rustam, Isfendiar, Feridun, Zohāk, and other famous heroes, which he recited to the tribe of Kuraysh, they were so delighted with them, that they plainly told Muhammad that they much preferred hearing
such stories to his legends and moral exhortations; upon which the Prophet promulgated some new passages of the Kur'an (chapter xxx), in which the merchant who had brought the idle tales and all who listened to them were consigned to perdition. This had the desired effect: the converts to Islām rejected Tales and Poetry; and it was not until the brilliant series of Muslim conquests in all parts of the then known world were almost completed that the Arabs began to turn their attention to literature and science, and thus preserved to the world the remains of the learning and philosophy of antiquity, during the long period of intellectual darkness in Europe. And it is remarkable that to a people distinguished for nearly two centuries by their religious bigotry and intoleränce, and contempt for every species of literature outside the Kur'an, Commentaries, and Traditions-that to the descendants of the fanatical destroyers of the library at Alexandria and of the literary treasures of ancient Persia are we indebted for many of the pleasing fictions which have long been popular in Europe. For, while India seems to have been the cradle-land of those folktales, yet they came to us chiefly through an Arabian medium: brought to Europe, among other ways by the Saracens who settled in Spain in the eighth century, by crusaders and pilgrims returning from the Holy Land, and also, perhaps, by Venetian merchants trading in the Levant and the Muslim provinces of