Neẓāmi Ganjavi – Haft Peykar, 1197 AD (The Seven Portraits)

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Bahram_Gur_Visits_the_Dome_of_Piruza_on_Wednesday_Page_from_the_Haft_paykar_from_a_manuscript_of_the_Khamsa_of_Nizami

Bahrām finds the picture of the Seven (FairFaces in Khavarnaq.

The prince one day arriving from the plain, was walking through Khavarnaq gay of mood.
He saw a secret room with fastened door, which by the keeper had been overlooked.
The prince had not set foot within that room, nor had the courtiers or custodians.
He said, Why is this room locked up, and where the keeper of it; where too is the key?
The keeper came (and) gave the prince the key. The prince unlocked the door and saw the room.
A room saw? Nay, a treasure-house, through which the gazer’s eyes would dealers be in gems.
The pictures of that fine abode of art excelled a hundred Chinese picture-rooms.
They on the walls of that apartment showed all that the finest workmanship could show.
In it were finely painted seven forms, each one connected with a certain Clime:
Fūrak, of India’s Rājā daughter, first, in face more lovely than the moon when full.
(Then) Yaghmā-Nāz, the Khāqān’s daughter fair, disturber of Tarāz and China’s belles.
The king of Khvārazm’s daughter Nāz-Parī, graceful as mountain-partridge in her gait.
The king of Saqlāb’s daughter Nasrīn-Nūsh, a Turk of Greek dress decked by Chinese art.
The king of Maghrib’s daughter Āẕar-Gūn, a sun like to the daily waxing moon.
The wisdom-gifted Qaiṣar’s daughter, next, august, and named Humāy, Bird August.
The Kisrá’s daughter of Kā’ūs’s race, named Dursitī, and ḥūrī-like in grace.
Within one circle by a cord hung up these seven had been all together limned.
In each of them were countless beauties (seen) to light the essence of the light of sight.
A face was limned so handsome in the midst that ’twas as kernel, whilst the rest were shell.
A parrot on his sugar plumes had dropped, and “galia” o’er his moon had drawn a line.
His head exalted like a cypress’s; his crown was (formed) of silver, gold, and gems.
Towards him were turned these seven beauties’ eyes; each one had given her heart to love of him.
He giving to those beauties pleasant smiles; they all before him (as) devoted slaves.
The painter of his face and form had writ above his head the name of Bahrām Gūr;(Adding), Such is the Seven Planets’ rule that this world-conqueror, when he appears,
Shall take like precious pearls unto his breast seven monarchs’ daughters from the Seven Climes.
We have not sown this seed (know) of ourselves; we’ve written what the planets have declared.
Twas writ, I’ve spoken, that he might observe the formula, but God it is who acts.
Prince Bahrām having read this strange account, remained in wonder at the heavens’ spells.
The love of those fair girls (in picture seen) completely and entirely filled his heart.
Libidine percitis equabus et equo vehementia rapto; a lion-like young man and seven brides—
Should not desire to gain one’s wish be great? Should not the heart cry out to gain its aim?
Although that formula made fierce attack, his joy (at once) increased a hundredfold,
Since it ensured a long and happy life, and gave him hope of gaining his desire.—
For the conciliation of a man all that which makes him hopeful has effect.—
When the prince left the room he locked it up, and gave the key to its custodian.
He said, If I should hear that anyone (dare) for a moment (to) unlock this door,
I’ll have his blood shed even in this room: I’ll have his head suspended from his neck.
In all the household, man or woman, none (dared ever) give a glance towards that room.
From time to time when overcome with love, the prince went towards that door (with) key in hand.
The door he opened, entered paradise, and on those finely painted pictures gazed.
Before the water there like one athirst, in longing for it he would fall asleep.
Whilst he was out his wish was for the chase, that room, on his return, his solacer.

Neẓāmi Ganjavi,1141-1209 Haft Peykar, 1197 AD (The Seven Portraits)

Haft Peykar (The Seven Beauties) containing the life and adventures of King Bahrām Gūr and the seven stories told him by his seven queens by Nizami of Ganja (Neẓāmi Ganjavi) Translated from the Persian by C.E. Wilson.

Editor’s Note: The Haft Peykar‎‎ or, The Seven Beauties, is also known as Bahramnameh  (The Book of Bahrām). Haft Peykar can be translated literally as ‘seven portraits’ with the figurative meaning of seven beauties. It tells the story of a Prince, later King Bahrām, and his pursuits of hunting, love, and other adventures in 4367 (or 5136) rhyming couplets. The story of a Prince enraptured by the portraits of the Princesses is a bride-show topos, a custom of Byzantine emperors, where the hero chooses a wife from among the most beautiful maidens of the country. The setting is widely found in traditional folk-tales and myths including Sanskrit, Indian, Icelandic, Middle english, Medieval Latin, Danish, Breton, German, Indonesian, Chinese, and Japanese. The topos occurs in the story of Ibrahim and Jamileh in the Thousand and One Nights, where the son of Egypt’s vizier sees a portrait of a woman in a book and is so infatuated he is unable to eat or sleep. The topos appears in other works by Neẓāmi Ganjavi in Sharaf-namah (a part of Iskandar-nameh) where the Persian Queen, Nushabah, is passionately in love with a likeness of Alexander the Great. While in the story of Khusraw and Shirin, the Armenian Queen Shirin is so obsessed by a portrait of Khusraw that she holds it and quivers so that her maidens are afraid for her, and so they destroy the image. She snatches another picture and worships it like an idol. The erotic and emotional power of the picture was popular, in spite of Islamic and Christian strictures against human images.

In this episode Bahrām wanders around Khavarnaq castle where he finds a secret room. Inside he finds seven portraits, of the daughters of the Kings of India, Byzantium, Chorasmia, Sclavonia, Maghreb, China and Persia, who serendipitously all look devotedly at a portrait of Bahr that hangs on the wall. The Prince falls in love with the images and returns often to the room where he “entered paradise, and on those finely painted pictures gazed. Before the water there like one athirst”. Once he becomes King he seeks the seven princesses and wins them as his brides. He orders his architect to construct seven domes to house his new wives. The craftsman tells him that each of the climes is ruled by one of the seven planets and advises him to assure his good fortune by adorning each dome with the color associated with the clime and planet of its occupant. The king is at first sceptical but eventually lets the architect have his way. The princesses take up residence in the splendid pavilions. The king visits each princess on successive days of the week: on Saturday the Indian princess, who is governed by Saturn, in the black dome, on Sunday the Greek princess, who is governed by the sun, in the yellow dome, and so on. Each princess regales the king with a story matching the mood of her respective colour. These seven beautifully constructed, highly sensuous stories occupy about half of the whole poem. Source: http://www.iranicaonline.org

Images:
1. Bahr and the Indian Princess in the Black Pavilion. llustrated folio from a manuscript of the Khamsa (Haft Paykar) by Nizami. Persian, Safavid period, Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, 40.2 x 26.2 cm, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
2. Bahr Visits the White Domed Pavilion. Persian. Part of Khamsa of Nizami, Haft Paykar Seven Portraits, Manuscript. 1560. Cleveland Museum of Art
3. Bahr Visits the Dome of Piruza on Wednesday. Page from the Haft Paykar, from a manuscript of Nizanmi, Brooklyn Museum
4. Bahr sees the portraits of the seven beauties. Behzad School, 1479. Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature

 

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Sir Roger L’Estrange – Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists,1692

T Bewick. Aesop A Lion and A Man : Leo et Statua 1818 

A Fox And A Carv’d Head

As a Fox was rumidging among a great many carv’d Figures, there was one very extraordinary Piece among the rest. He took it up, and when he had consider’d it a-while, Well, (says he) what Pity ‘tis that so exquisite an Out-side of a Head should not have one Grain of Sense in’t.

THE MORAL. ‘Tis not the Barber or the Taylor that makes the Man: and ‘tis no new thing to see a fine wrought Head without so much as one Grain of Salt in’t.

 

An Old Man And A Lion

A Person of Quality dream’d one Night that he saw a Lion kill his only Son, who was, it seems, a generous Cavalier, and a great Lover of the Chace. This Fancy ran in the Father’s Head to that degree, that he built his Son a House of Pleasure, on purpose to keep him out of harm’s way; and spar’d neither Art nor Cost to make a delicious Retreat. This House, in short, was to be the young Man’s Prison, and the Father made himself his Keeper. There was a world of Paintings every where up and down, and among the rest, there was the Picture of a Lion, which stirred the Blood of the young Man for the Dream sake, and to think that he should now be a Slave for the Fancy of such a Beast. In this Indignation he made a blow at the Picture; but striking his Fist upon the Point of a Nail in the Wall, his Hand cancerated, he fell into a Fever, and soon after died on’t: So that all the Father’s Precaution could not secure the Son from the Fatality of dying by a Lion.

THE MORAL. A body may as well lay too little as too much stress upon a Dream; for some Dreams are monitory, as others are only complexional; but upon the Main, the less we heed them better; for when that Freak has once taken possession of a fantastical Head, the Distemper is incurable.

 

A Man And A Wooden God

A Man that had a great Veneration for an Image he had in his House, found, that the more he pray’d to’t to prosper him in the World, the more he went down the wind still. This put him into such a Rage, to lie dogging at his Prayers so much and so long, to so little purpose, that at last he dash’d the Head on’t to pieces against the Wall: and out comes a considerable Quantity of Gold. Why this ‘tis, says he, to adore a perverse and insensible Deity, that will do more for Blows than for Worship.

THE MORAL. Most People, Clergy as well as Laity, accommodate their Religion to their Profit, and reckon that to be the best Church that there’s most to be got by.

Mercury And A Statuary

Mercury had a great Mind once to Learn what Credit he had in the World, and he knew no better Way, than to Put on the Shape of a Man, and take Occasion to Discourse the Matter as by the Bye, with a Statuary: So he went to the House of a Great Master, where, among other Curious Figures, he saw several Excellent Pieces of the Gods. The first he Cheapen’d was a Jupiter, which would have come at a very easy Rate. Well (says Mercury) and what’s the Price of that Juno over there? The Carver set it a little Higher. The next Figure was a Mercury, with his Rod and Wings, and all the Ensigns of his Commission. Why this is as it should be, says he to himself: For here am I in the Quality of Jupiter’s Messenger, and the Patron of Artizans, with all my Trade about me: And now will this Fellow ask me Fifteen Times as much for this as the did t’other: And so he put it to him, what he valued that Piece at: Why truly, says the Statuary, you seem to be a Civil Gentleman, give me but my Price for the other Two, and you shall e’en have That into the Bargain.

THE MORAL. This is to put the Vanity of those Men out of Countenance, that by Setting too high a Value upon themselves, appear by so much the more Despicable to Others.

A Pigeon And A Picture

A Pigeon saw the Picture of a Glass with Water in’t, and taking it to be Water indeed, flew rashly and eagerly up to’t for a Soup to quench her Thirst. She broke her Feathers against the Frame of the Picture, and falling to the Ground upon’t, was taken up by the By-Standers.

THE MORAL. Rash Men do many Things in Haste that they Repent of at Leisure.

 

A Lion and a Man

There was a Controversy started betwixt a Lion and a Man, which was the Braver, and the stronger Creature of the two. Why look ye, says the Man, (after a long Dispute) we’ll appeal to that Statue there, and so he shew’d him the Figure of a Man Cut in Stone, with a Lion under his Feet. Well! says the Lion, if We had been brought up to Painting and Carving, as You are, where you have One Lion under the Feet of a Man, you should have had Twenty Men under the Paw of a Lion.

THE MORAL: ‘Tis against the Rules of common Justice for Men to be Judges in their own Case.

 

An Image Expos’d to Sale

A Certain Carver, that had a Mercury lay a great while upon his Hands, bethought himself at last of Billing it about in Coffee-Houses, that at such a place there was a God to be Sold, a Merry Penn’orth, and such a Deity as would make any Man Rich, if you Keep him, as well as he will make me Rich if I Buy him. You say very Right says t’other; but ’tis Ready Mony that I want, and the Purchaser will have only an Estate in Reversion.

THE MORAL. Ready Mony goes as far in Religion as in Trade: People are willing to Keep what they Have, and to get what they Can, without Launching out into Lives, and Uncertainties. They are well enough Content to deal in the Sale of Reversions, but they do not much care for Buying them. 

 

An Ass Carrying an Image

As an Ass was Carrying an Image in Procession, the People fell every where down upon their Knees before him. This Silly Animal fancy’d that they Worship’d Him all this while; ’till One Rounded him in the Ear; and told him, Friend, says he, You are the very same Ass with this Burden upon your Back, that you were before you took it up; and ’tis not the Brute they Bowe to, but the Image.

THE MORAL. A Publick Character is never the less to be Reverenc’d, because a Coxcomb perhaps may Carry it; nor that Coxcomb one jot the more, save only for the sake of his Office. 

  

Sir Roger L’Estrange, 1616-1704. Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists, published, 1692.

Sir Roger L’Estrange originally published his version of the fables under the title Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists in 1692. L’Estrange’s book included fables from the Hecatomythium,1495, of Laurentius Abstemius and other Renaissance fabulists.

32. A Fox And A Carv’d Head
100. An Old Man And A Lion
105. A Man And A Wooden God
169. Mercury And A Statuary
197. A Pigeon And A Picture
240. A Lion and a Man
446. An Image Expos’d to Sale
487. An Ass Carrying an Image

Image: Thomas Bewick, 1753-1828.  Aesop’s Fables.  A Lion and A Man / Leo et Statua, 1818