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CAMBRIDGE PRIZE POEM FOR 1805.1
THE RESTORATION OF LEARNING IN THE EAST.
Let there be light!”-So spake th' Almighty Word,
And streams of splendor gush'd around their Lord.
Forth at that bidding, emulous to run
His course of glory, sprang the giant Sun;
And, as he chas'd the scatter'd rear of night,
O'er the wide East diffus'd his earliest light.
There while his infant beam on Ganges play'd,
Or hung entranc'd o'er Agra's spicy glade,
India, first cherish'd with his orient ray,
Shone like a bride in brightest colours gay.
Cradled on earth's soft lap, its lowly bed,
In blushing pride luxuriant Butea spread :3
Itself a grove, the banyan there was seen,
Arch within arch, and“ echoing walks between
There Vegetation fix'd her choice abode,
And one sweet garden all the region glow'd.
When the world sunk into its wat’ry grave,
India rose brilliant from the penal wave;
| This is reprinted in the Author's Works, just published in three Octavo Vols. price el. 2s.
The Rev. Claudius Buchanan, Vice-Provost of the College of Fort William in Bengal, and formerly a Member of Queen's College, Cambridge (where he proceeded to the degree of B. A.) gave to the University, in 1804, the Sum of Two Hundred and Ten Pounds; desiring that it might be divided into the under-mentioned Prizes:
I. One Hundred Pounds for an English Prose Dissertation, “On the best Means of Civilising the Subjects of the British Empire in India, and of Diffusing the Light of the Christian Religion throughout the Eastern World.”
II. Sixty Pounds for an English Poem,“ On the Restoration of Learning in the East."
III. Twenty-five Pounds for a Latin Poem on the following Subject; “ Collegium Bengulense."
IV. Twenty-five Pounds for a Greek Ode on the following Subject; «« Γενέσθω Φως.”
The Gentlemen appointed by the University of Cambridge to award Mr. Buchanan's Prizes, after having adjudged the Second of the above Prizes to Mr. Charles Grant, Fellow of Maydalen College, unanimously expressed their wish for the publication of the following Poem. The Author, therefore, with a just sense of the honour which it has experienced, now submits it to general perusal.
2 "Scattering the rear of darkness.” (Sacontala, Act IV.)
3 Pennant's Outlines of Hindostan,' II. 95.
4 Par. Lost, IX. 1107.
Shook off her stains, and rich in nature's charms,
Rush'd to the Sun's invigorating arms.
Rear'd in her fields, and foster'd by her skies,
The growth of mind attain'd its loftiest size:
There where the mango swell’d on every bough,
And double harvests teem'd without the plough,
Her happy race knew none save letter'd toil,
And Arts and Science bless'd the genial soil.
Ere Revelation flam'd from Sinai's height,
India rejoic'd in patriarchal light.
Tradition there preserv'd, from sire to son,
That first great truth, that God is All and One;
”Till fabling bards the mystic song began,
And learned darkness stole on wilder'd man.
His rigid code then selfish Brahma fram'd,
Then for his Caste its proud distinction claim'd;
Wav'd o'er the cheated realm his ebon wand,
And scatter'd demon-meteors through the land.
So born and fed 'mid Turan's mountain-snows,
Pure as his source, awhile young Ganges flows;
Through flow'ry meads his loit’ring way pursues,
And quaffs with gentle lip the nectar'd dews;
'Till, swoln by many a tributary tide,
His waters wash some tall pagoda's side:
Then broad and rough, 'mid rocks unknown to day,
Through tangled woods where tigers howl for prey,
He foams along; and, rushing to the main,
Drinks deep pollution from each tainted plain,
Yet still kind Science, prodigal of good, Smil'd on her dusky suitor as he woo'd. To him, while Europe's hordes lay whelm'd in shade, Her fullest charms the radiant power display'd : Show'd him the wonders of her secret lore, The plant's retiring virtues to explore; From midnight depths the sparkling gem to raise, And bid it on the brow of beauty blaze: Urged him afar to send his ranging eye Mid the bright orbs, that gild the peopled sky; To trace the self-poised planets, as they run In endless circle round their central sun: See whirling earth, with two-fold impulse driven, Wheel through the vast obliquity of heaven; While day and night, and all the changeful year, Turn as she turns, and hang on her career:
Taught him, with useful fiction, to portray
The glittering monsters of th' ecliptic way:
Th' innumerous host of stars to group and name,
pour on worlds unseen their solar flame;
Orion's might which sways the southern seas,
Arcturus, and the cluster'd Pleiades:
Taught him with subtiler skill, and better art,
To pierce the close recesses of the heart;
Hold moral beauty to man's raptur'd sight,
Guide him from passion's glare to reason's light;
And prompt him, to himself severely true,
His high descent to prove, his glorious end pursue.
Nor only Science led her Indian youth
With patient labour to the throne of truth,
Studious by just gradation to refine
From brute to human, human to divine:
But Fancy rapt him on her wing of fire
To realms sublime, where bliss outruns desire;
Where streams of crystal feed ambrosial flowers,
And Love and Glory speed the laughing hours:
There to his band resign'd her powers of sway,
Her lyre, and liquid voice, and numerous lay;
Gave him her holy hymn, her lofty ode,
To sing the chieftain or to sound the God:
Gave bim her stately epic, to rehearse
His Arjun's fame with all the pomp of verse;
When Krishna, mounted on the hero's cai,
Bore him secure amid the clanging war:
Gave him her drama's tearful vase, to pour
O’er virtue's sacred anguish pity's shower;
When soft Sacontalain Canna's grove
Press'd the fond pledge of her Dushmanta's love,
The knowledge of physics (particularly astronomy) by which the old Hindûs were distinguished, as well as their metaphysical, ethical, and poetical fame, are briefly stated by Robertson, with his accustomed elegance, in the Appendix to his . Historical Disquisition concerning Ancient India;' and more at large by Craufurd, in his Sketches of that ingenious people.
2 The Bhágvat Geeta, or Dialogues of Krishna and Arjun,' an extract from the Mahabharat (the great epic poem of India, written, if we may trust the chronology of the Brahmins, within a century after the deluge) was translated by Mr. Wilkins from the original Sanscrit in 1785. It contains all the grand mysteries of the Brahminical faith.
3 See Sir William Jones' elegant version of Calidasa's drama,' The Fatal Ring.' Its author, the Shakspeare of India, was the brightest of the Nine Gems, who adorned the court of Vicramaditya in the century, immediately preceding the birth of Christ.
Or as her steps yet linger'd on the green
(Of all her infant sports the happy scene),
Wept o'er each flower, her garden's blameless pride,
Kiss'd the young fawn that sorrow'd by her side;
And still, to ease her bosom's bursting swell,
To flower and fawn prolong'd the sad farewell.
And did oblivion quench this hallow'd fire ?
May Genius like the brood of earth expire ?
With meteor-front a few short moments soar,
Then sink forgotten, and be seen no more?
Ah! no: by age undimm'd his cheek appears;
His laureli'd brow defies th' assault of years.
'Twas Mecca's star, whose orb malignant shed
Its baleful ray o'er India's distant head.
Fleet from the stormy west, on steed of flame,
To blast her bloom the Bactrian' archer came:
Beside him rode, twin ministers of fate,
The Lust of Empire and Religious Hate;
And still, where'er their sanguine banners flew,
Spring's rosy splendors vanish'd from the view.
Her last faint throb of struggling life to crush,
See from the north remorseless Timur rush!
His drear morasses, and his boisterous sky,
The fire-ey'da Tartar quits without a sigh:
Calls his grim squadrons from their realms of snow,
And leads where zenith suns strange lustre throw :
By Bember's foot, who dreary, black, and bold
Stands the stern guard of Cashmere's vale of gold;
Through bowery Matra, where the Gopia pine
In love's disport with youthful Krishen join.
There while the mango from its stem they tear,
Or light with saffron-wreaths; their raven hair,
O'er India's plains the myriad swarms expand,
And Science, Genius, Fancy fly the land.
So, ʼmid th' effulgence of her ardent skies,
In the broad noon a spot is seen to rise,
• Mahmoud of Ghizni; who, after desolating India by twelve successive irruptions (the first, A. D. 1002), under the preience of converting its inhsbitants to the true faith, founded a dynasty which lasted about 150 years.
2 This was the peculiar feature of Tamerlane. “ His eyes (say the historians) appeared full of fire." Krishen and the nine Gopia, mentioned below, are the obvious prototypes of the Grecian Apollo and his Muses.
3. The saffron-powers of the Michelia are used by the Indian ladies, to relieve the jetty blackuess of their hair. (Pennant, ib.)
Dread Typhon's cradle! O'er th' horizon's space
The monster spreads, till heaven scarce yields him place;
Then pours his fury, and with vengeful sweep
Bears houses, herds, and harvests to the deep:
Before the fiend the groves of Eden bloom,
Behind him scowls a desert and a tomb."
Thus India, bright in fortune's favouring hour,
Bewail'd the ravage of invading power.
Witness imperial Delhi's? fatal day,
When bleeding Rajahs chok'd proud Jumna's way:
Witness, Benares, thy neglected towers,
Where Wisdom mus'd in academic bowers;
Their quadrant-curves3 where learned walls display'd,
And gnomon-pillars threw their length of shade:
Witness the voice suppress'd, the silent shell,
Which erst in lovely strife were wont to swell:
Witness (ah! heaviest curse) the night of mind,
To Superstition's ghastly brood resign'd.
Now all her veins the lethargy invades;
Mute are her schools, and hush'd her warbling shades.
No more the Muse exulting Fancy fires,
Prompts the high thought, the lofty strain inspires :
Memory no more to the degenerate line
Points, where their country's ancient glories shine;
On Youth's pure cheek bids generous passion glow,
Or lifts his arm to lay th' oppressor low.
Ah, wretched land! to every ill a prey;
Thy sons enslaved, thy cities in decay!
But light the chains, the abject frame that bind,
To those which bow to earth th' aspiring mind.
Where once th' Hindu his simple prayer preferr'd,
And sweet his caroll’d hymn of praise was heard;
His turf-built altar unembrued with blood,
His gentle heart's religion, to do good;
There in her gory shrine, with outstretch'd hands,
Her human food stern Calicat demands:
“ The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness." (Joel ii. 3.)
2 When Tamerlane caused it to be destroyed, A. D. 1397, upon the pretext of an insult offered to his troops, after the horrid ceremony of the Juar.'
3 For a particular account of the celebrated Observatory at this place, see a Letter from Sir Robert Barker to the President of the Royal Society of London, read May 29, 1777.
4 The blood-thirst of this black goddess (the wife of Shiva, and the counterpart of the Tauric Diana or Hecate) is allayed in proportion to the dignity