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THE SEARCH AFTER HAPPINESS,
OR THE QUEST OF SULTAUN SOLIMAUN.
By Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
O, FOR a glance of that gay Muse's eye,
That lighten'd on Bandello's laughing tale,
And twinkled with a lustre shrewd and sly
When Giam Battista bade her vision hail!*
Yet fear not, ladies, the naïve detail
Given by the natives of that land canorous;
Italian licence loves to leap the pale,
We Britons have the fear of shame before us,
And, if not wise in mirth, at least must be decorous.
In the far eastern clime, no great while since,
Lived Sultaun Solimaun, a mighty prince,
Whose eyes, as oft as they perform'd their round,
Beheld all others fix'd upon the ground;
Whose ears receiv'd the same unvaried phrase,
"Sultaun! thy vassal hears, and he obeys !".
All have their tastes-this may the fancy strike
Of such grave folks as pomp and grandeur like;
For me, I love the honest heart and warm
Of Monarch who can amble round his farm,
Or when the toil of state no more annoys,
In chimney corner seek domestic joys---
I love a Prince will bid the bottle pass,
Exchanging with his subjects glance and glass;
In fitting time, can, gayest of the gay,
Keep up the jest and mingle in the lay-
Such Monarchs best our free-born humours suit,
But Despots must be stately, stern, and mute.
This Solimaun, Serendib had in sway
And where's Serendib? may some critic say.-
Good lack, mine honest friend, consult the chart,
Scare not my Pegassus before I start!
If Rennell has it not, you'll find, may hap,
The isle laid down in Captain Sindbad's map,-
The hint of the following tale is taken from La Camiscia Magica, a novel of Giam Battista
Famed mariner! whose merciless narrations
Drove every friend and kinsman out of patience
Till fain to find a guest who thought them shorter,
He deign'd to tell them over to a porter-
The last edition see by Long: and Co.,
Rees, Hurst, and Orme, our fathers in the Row.
Serendib found, deem not my tale a fiction-
This Sultaun, whether lacking contradiction-
(A sort of stimulant which hath its uses,
To raise the spirits and reform the juices,
Sovereign specific for all sort of cures
In my wife's practice, and perhaps in yours,)
The Sultaun lacking this same wholesome bitter,
Or cordial smooth for prince's palate fitter-
Or if some Mollah had hag-rid his dreams
With Degial, Ginnistan, and such wild themes
Belonging to the Mollah's subtle craft,
I wot not but the Sultaun never laugh'd,
Scarce ate or drank, and took a melancholy
That scorn'd all remedy, profane or holy;
In his long list of melancholies, mad,
Or mazed, or dumb, hath Burton none so bad.
Physicians soon arrived, sage, ware, and tried,
As e'er scrawled jargon in a darken'd room;
With heedful glance the Sultaun's tongue they eyed,
Peep'd in his bath, and God knows where beside,
And then in solemn accents spoke their doom,
"His majesty is very far from well."
Then each to work with his specific fell :
The Hakim Ibrahim instanter brought
His unguent Mahazzim al Zerdukkaut,*
While Roompot, a practitioner more wily,
Relied on his Munaskif al fillfily.*
More and yet more in deep array appear,
And some the front assail and some the rear;
Their remedies to reinforce and vary,
Came surgeon eke, and eke apothecary;
Till the tired Monarch, though of words grown chary,
Yet dropt, to recompense their fruitless labour,
Some hint about a bowstring or a sabre.
There lack'd, I promise you, no longer speeches,
To rid the palace of those learned leeches.
Then was the council call'd-by their advice,
(They deem'd the matter ticklish all, and nice,
For these hard words see D'Herbelot, or the learned editor of the Recipes of Avicenna.
And sought to shift it off from their own shoulders)
Tatārs and couriers in all speed were sent.
To call a sort of Eastern parliament
Of feudatory chieftains and freeholders-
Such have the Persians at this very day,
My gallant Malcolm calls them couroultai ;*
I'm not prepared to shew in this slight song
That to Serendib the same forms belong,-
E'en let the learn'd go search and tell me if I'm wrong.
The Omrahs,† each with hand on scymitar,
Gave, like Sempronius, still their voice for war"The sabre of the Sultaun in its sheath
Too long has slept, nor own'd the work of death;
Let the Tambourgi bid his signal rattle
Bang the loud gong and raise the shout of battle!
This dreary cloud that dims our sovereign's day,
Shall from his kindled bosom flit away,
When the bold Lootie wheels his courser round,
And the arm'd elephant shall shake the ground.
Each noble pants to own the glorious summons-
And for the charges-Lo! your faithful Commons !"
The Riots who attended in their places
(Serendib-language calls a farmer Riot) Look'd ruefully in one another's faces,
From this oration auguring much disquiet, Double assessment, forage, and free quarters; And fearing these as China-men the Tartars, Or as the whisker'd vermin fear the mousers, Each fumbled in the pocket of his trowsers.
And next came forth the reverend convocation,
Bald heads, white beards, and many a turban green
Imaum and Mollah there of every station,
Santon, Fakir, and Calendar were seen.
Their votes were various—some advised a Mosque,
With fitting revenues should be erected,
With seemly gardens and with gay Kiosque,
To recreate a band of priests selected;
Others opined that through the realms a dole
Be made to holy men, whose prayers might profit
The Sultaun's weal in body and in soul;
But their long-headed chief, the Sheik Ul-Sofit More closely touch'd the point;" Thy studious mood," Quoth he, "O Prince! hath thicken'd all thy blood, And dull'd thy brain with labour beyond measure; Wherefore relax a space and take thy pleasure, And toy with beauty or tell o'er thy treasure;
*See Sir John Malcolm's admirable History of Persia
From all the cares of state, my liege, enlarge thee,
And leave the burthen to thy faithful clergy."
These counsels sage availed not a whit,
And so the patient (as is not uncommon
Where grave physicians lose their time and wit)
Resolved to take advice of an old woman;
His mother she, a dame who once was beauteous,
And still was called so by each subject duteous.
Now whether Fatima was witch in earnest,
Or only made believe, I cannot say
But she professed to cure disease the sternest,
By dint of magic amulet or lay;
And when all other skill in vain was shown,
She deem'd it fitting time to use her own.
"Sympathia magica hath wonders done,"
(Thus did old Fatima bespeak her son,)
It works upon the fibres and the pores,
And thus insensibly, our health restores,
And it must help us here. Thou must endure
The ill, my son, or travel for the cure.
Search land and sea, and get, where'er you can,
The inmost vesture of a happy man,
I mean his SHIRT, my son, which, taken warm
And fresh from off his back, shall chase your harm,
Bid every current of your veins rejoice,
And your dull heart leap light as shepherd-boys;
Such was the counsel from his mother came.
I know not if she had some under-game,
As doctors have, who bid their patients roam
And live abroad when sure to die at home;
Or if she thought, that, somehow or another,
Queen-Regent sounded better than Queen-Mother;
But says the Chronicle, (who will go look it)
That such was her advice--the Sultaun took it.
All are on board-the Sultaun and his train,
In gilded galley prompt to plough the main :
The old Rais was the first to question "Whither ?" They paused" Arabia," thought the pensive Prince,
Was call'd the Happy many ages since
For Mokha, Rais."And they came safely thither. But not in Araby with all her balm,
Not where Judea weeps beneath her palm, Not in rich Egypt not in Nubian waste, Could there the step of happiness be traced.
Master of the Vessel.
One Copt alone profess'd to have seen her smile,
When Bruce his goblet fill'd at infant Nile :
She bless'd the dauntless traveller as he quaff'd,
But vanish'd from him with the ended draught."
"Enough of turbans," said the weary King,
"These dolimans of ours are not the thing;
Try we the Giaours, these men of coat and
Incline to think some of them must be happy;
At least they have as fair a cause as any can
They drink good wine and keep no Ramazan.
Then northward, ho!"
The vessel cuts the sea,
And fair Italia lies upon her lee.-
But fair Italia, she who once unfurl'd
Her eagle-banners o'er a conquer'd world,
Long from her throne of domination tumbled,
Lay, by her quondam vassals, sorely humbled;
The Pope himself look'd pensive, pale, and lean,
And was not half the man he once had been.
"While these the priest and those the noble fleeces,
Our poor old boot," they said, "is torn to pieces.
Its tops the vengeful claws of Austria feel,
And the Great Devil is rending toe and heel.§
If happiness you seek, to tell you truly,
We think she dwells with one Giovanni Bulli:
A tramontane, a heretic, the buck,
Poffaredio! still has all the luck;
By land or ocean never strikes his flag
And then-a perfect walking money-bag."
Off set our Prince to seek John Bull's abode,
But first took France-it lay upon the road.
Monsieur Baboon, after much late commotion,
Was agitated like a settling ocean,
Quite out of sorts and could not tell what ail'd him,
Only the glory of his house had fail'd him;
Beside some tumours on his noddle biding,
Gave indication of a recent hiding.||
Our Prince, though Sultauns of such things are heedless,
Thought it a thing indelicate and needless
To ask, if at that moment he was happy.
And Monsieur, seeing that he was comme il faut, a
Loud voice mustered up, for "Vive le Roi!"
Then whisper'd, " Ave you any news of Nappy ?"
The Sultaun answer'd him with a cross question,-
"Pray can you tell me ought of one John Bull,
* Vide the Extract from Bruce's Travels which follows this Poem. The well-known resemblance of Italy in the map.
Florence, Venice, &e.
The Calabrias, infested by bands of assassins. One of the leaders was called Fra Diavolo, i.. brother Devil.
Or drubbing, so called in the Slang Dictionary.