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splendour, vying with or surpassing all others of ancient or modern times, never enumerated among their sources of enjoyment the imitation of the scenes of many-coloured life by the combined efforts of several individuals. Yet in Greece and Italy on the one side, in Hindostan and China on the other, the theatre arose in every city and town of eminence. Even the simple islanders of the South Sea had a rude pantomimic mode of representing the events and the business of actual life.
It would be perhaps idle to seek to point out any general cause of this fact; for what argument would apply to the state of society in ancient or modern Persia, or Egypt, that would not be of equal force in the case of India or China? But as, under every form of society, man seeks to be entertained and interested, we may justly inquire what has, with these nations, supplied the place of the drama and we at once find our reply-the story-teller.
Rude nations, such as were our Gothic sires, the Huns of Attila, and the old Romans, according to Niebuhr, used to divert their leisure, after the feast, by listening to the deeds of their fathers sung in measured language to the accompaniment of the harp or pipe, by the poet or minstrel. Fictitious heroes and fictitious events, where magic lent its aid to increase the interest, were also sung; and gradually these essays ripened into the drama. But in the east, by the skill of the narrators, the art of story-telling was brought to a high degree of perfection; and this perhaps it may have been that prevent ed the growth of the scene and thea
The story-teller, in fact, is what Matthews is, compared to the regular companies of Drury Lane and Covent Garden. In his own person he combines the talents of many; and his power of interesting and detaining an audience is fully equal to theirs. Accordingly, throughout the Mahommedan East, the story-tellers are everywhere to be met; and in the
numerous as to
cities, they are so form, like the trades, a corporation, under a particular head called the Sheikhul-Meddah, or Sheikh of the coffee-house narrators. In all places, and at all hours, they are ready to produce their wares; and everywhere they are sure to find an eager and attentive audience. "Sail," says Mr. Von Hammer, "down the Tigris, or up the Nile; travel through the deserts of Irak, or the delicious plains of Syria; seek the valleys of the Hejaz, or the delightful solitudes of Yemen; every where you will meet professional story-tellers, in listening to whose tales the people find their greatest amusement. They are to be seen in the tent of the Bedoween and the hut of the Fellah; in the village coffee-houses, as well as in those of Damascus, Cairo, and Bagdad."
But the art is not confined to the story-teller by profession. Private individuals, particularly in the camps of the Arabian deserts, often excel in this talent; and when the cool of evening approaches, the Bedoweens crowd around a member of their society who is so gifted, to drink in with eager ears the tales of romance and wonder that flow from his eloquent lips. The celebrated orientalist just quoted gives, on another occasion,an animated and picturesque description-and highly valuable as taken immediately from nature-of a Bedoween audience and narrator; of which description we shall attempt to convey some notion.
To form an accurate idea of the magic power which tales of spirits and enchantment exert over the burning imagination and stormy feelings of the Arab, one must have heard them delivered by the lips of an expert narrator to a circle of Bedoweens, a race who, as their prophet describes them, delight in bearing, seeing, and acting. One must have seen these collected and closely crowded circles, not only in the midst of cities and in the coffeehouses, where idle auditors, effeminately reclined on sofas and pillows,
slowly sipping the juice of the berry
he comes back victorious and crown-
him! may he rest in it ;* promising to give the continua peace! When, on the other hand, tion or couclusion of it the nextere
* This will illustrate the division of the Thousand and One Nights, and the artifice of the
ingenious sultaness to obtain the respite of another day.
beginning of the next evening, he immediately commences another, of which the continuation is again put off till the following evening, and thus evening and evening are woven together by a series of stories.
ning; and if it really ends in the Art of Poetry hold good for the Arabian narrators only in a contrary sense; and diametrically opposed to the entire spirit and character of an Arabian tale is his precept to the poetic narrator.
These social rings closed around the story-teller, in which the Bedoween, either listening to, or himself relating, tales, passes half the night, and enjoys, after the burning heat of the day, the refreshing coolness, are called, by a peculiar name, Musamerit, that is, Discourse in bright moon, or starlight nights; and Essemir is the appellation of him who semir is the appellation of him who delights or takes a lead in these nocturnal discourses, in which, when the narrative is finished, and not till then, the company converse of it, and its wonderful events. The more wonderful a story is, the surer it is of producing its effects upon the auditors; and the wonderful, be it ever so incredible, or ever so worn out, always finds a welcome reception.
quodcunque volet, poscat sibi fabula crediand the narrator never runs any danger of any of the auditors checking him with a
Quodcunque ostendis mihi, sic incredulus odi in the sense of Horace. In general, several of the precepts in Horace's
Semper ad eventum festinal; et in medias res
NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SCRIPTURES.*
THE HE variety of styles employed by the several writers of the Old Testament Scriptures, renders biblical learning one of the most extensive and difficult studies in which a scholar can be engaged. In the review of particular portions, especially, we meet with all those difficulties which attend the examination of writings, referring to scenes and times whose character is altogether different from those with which we we have not only to search for the are acquainted. These difficulties, frequently hidden and peculiar mean
moreover, are increased by the nature of the narrative or subject in which they occur. The ancient records of religion have frequently a meaning and reference which belong to some peculiarity in the system they were written to develope, and it is these points which are often illustrated by the allusions to objects and circumstances present to the Thus writers of the several books.
* Scripture Natural History, or an account of the Zoology, Botany, and Geology of the Bible, by William Carpenter. 8vo. pp. 608. Wightman and Cramp. London, 1828.
ing of Scripture phraseology, but to examine with the most careful attention the sources themselves from which its metaphors and illustrations have been drawn.
terials for illustrations of Scripture:
To whatever causes, however,
There are, in the sacred writings, difficulties of two kinds; the one purely of a doctrinal character, the other common to the Scriptures with all other ancient compositions. A good biblical scholar therefore must be versed in the works of the great and laborious men who have devoted themselves to the elucidation of both these departments of theological learning. But the assistance which a student possesses in the former object of his pursuit, is incomparably greater than what he can obtain in the latter. Commentary upon commentary meets his attention at every step, and the extensive and valuable collections which are published of the old theological critics, furnish him with all the aids which human learning can afford him. The consequence of this, accordingly, is the readiness with which we find the doctrinal parts of the Scriptures explained by those who pay any attention to the subject, and the extreme want of skill manifested by them in unfolding and displaying the beauties of their peculiar phraseology, or in explaining passages in which the meaning depends on local allusions.
In one respect, we are afraid, this want of skill, in a very important branch of biblical learning, results from an inadequate idea of its consequence. That which can be at once worked up into a sermon or lecture, is duly valued, because it is of more immediate and practical application; but a knowledge, which is principal ly of importance to the student himself, or which can only be incidentally displayed, is not likely to be sought for, but by the most diligent and acute inquirers after scriptural truth. It must, however, be confess- language itself, in which the ancie ed, that this, in a great measure, re- records of our religion are writes sults from a want of works of gene is of a nature which almost utter ral reference on these points. The forbids its being well understood publications of many intelligent East- without the knowledge of which ern travellers, afford invaluable maare speaking. Simple, and coufied
in its vocabulary, its very idiom is metaphorical, and there is scarcely a sentence composed in it, without some allusion being made to the objects of external nature, their peculiar habits or qualities.
the female; and had a bar or streak
"The onager is an animal adapted for running, and of such swiftness that the best horses cannot equal it. From this quality it is that it derives its Hebrew name; and, as it prefers the most craggy mountains, it runs with ease on the most difficult ground. All the ancient writers who mention the animal notice his fleetness, especially Xenophon, who says that he has long legs; is very rapid in running; swift as a whirlwind, having strong and stout hoofs.
Convinced, therefore, as we are, that an essential good will be effected by any aid given to the wider diffusion of knowledge on these points, we have taken up Mr. Carpenter's book with considerable pleasure, and we are happy in finding that he has performed his task with much learning and judgment. We give the following specimen of his manner of using the materials be has collect ed, taken from the zoological part of the volume:
"THE ONAGER, OR WILD Ass.
The loud-voiced driver, and his urging goad!
"This animal, which the Hebrews called PARA, and the Greeks ONAGER, is a much handsomer and more dignified animal than the common or domestic ass. Oppian describes it as handsome, large, vigorous, of stately gait, and his coat of a silvery colour; having a black band along the spine of his back; and on his flanks, patches as white as snow.' But it is to Professor Gmelin, who brought a female and a colt from Tartary to St. Petersburgh, that we are chiefly indebted for our knowledge of the onager, or wild ass. The length of the male, which was something larger than the female, the Professor states to have been, from the nape of the neck to the origin of the tail, five feet; his height in front, four feet four inches; behind, four feet seven inches; his head, two feet in length; his ears, one foot; his tail, including the tuft at the end, two feet three inches. He was less docile and more robust than 43 ATHENEUM, VOL. 9, 2d series.
"To give the reader a correct idea of this animal in his natural state, which is essential to appreciate the fidelity with which the writer of the book of Job delineates his character, we cannot do better than transcribe Sir R. K, Porter's account of the one to which he gave chase.
"The sun was just rising over the summits of the Eastern mountains, when my greyhound Cooley suddenly darted off in pursuit of an animal, which, my Persians said, from the glimpse they had of it, was