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A pious and charitable motive may sanctify the foundation of cisterns and caravanseras, which he distributed along a measured road of seven hundred miles; but his train of camels, laden with snow, could serve only to astonish the natives of Arabia, and to refresh the fruits and liquors of the royal banquet. The courtiers would surely praise the liberality of his grandson Almamon, who gave away four-fifths of the income of a province-a sum of two millions four hundred thousand gold dinars- before he drew his foot from the stirrup. At the nuptials of the same prince, a thousand pearls of the largest size were showered on the head of the bride, and a lottery of lands and houses displayed the capricious bounty of fortune.
The glories of the court were brightened rather than impaired in the decline of the empire, and a Greek ambassador might admire or pity the magnificence of the feeble Moctador. “ The caliph's whole army," says the historian Abulfeda, "both horse and foot, was under arms, which together made a body of one hundred and sixty thousand men. His stateofficers, the favourite slaves, stood near him in splendid apparel, their belts glittering with gold and gems. Near them were seven thousand eunuchs, four thousand of them white, the remainder-black. The por, ters or doorkeepers were in number seven hundred. Barges and boats, with the most superb decorations, were seen swimming upon the Tigris. Nor was the place itself less splendid, in which were hung up thirty-eight thousand pieces of tapestry, twelve thousand five hundred of which were of silk embroidered with gold. The carpets on the floor were twenty-two thousand. A hundred lions were brought out, with a keeper to each lion. Among the other spectacles of rare and stupendous luxury, was a tree of gold and silver spreading into eighteen large branches, on which, and on the lesser boughs, sat a variety of birds made of the same precious metals, as well as the leaves of the tree. While the machinery affected spontaneous motions, the several birds warbled their natural harmony. Through this scene of magnificence the Greek ambassador was led by the vizier to the foot of the caliph's throne.”
In the west, the Ommiades of Spain supported, with equal pomp, the title of commander of the faithful.Three miles from Cordova, in honour of his favourite sultana, the third and greatest of the Abdalrahmans constructed the city, palace, and gardens of Zehra. Twenty-five years, and above three millions sterling, were employed by the founder: his liberal taste invited the artists of Constantinople, the most skilful sculptors and architects of the age ; and the buildings were sustained or adorned by twelve hundred columns of Spanish and African, of Greek and Italian marble.-The hall of audience was incrusted with gold and pearls, and a great basin in the centre was surrounded with the curious and costly figures of birds and quadrupeds. In a lofty pavilion of the gardens, one of these basins and fountains, so delightful in a sultry climate, was replenished not with water but with the purest quicksilver. The seraglio of Abdalrahman, his wives, concubines, and black eunuchs, amounted to six thousand three hundred persons; and he was attended to the field by a guard of twelve thousand horse, whose belts and scimitars were studded with gold.
In a private condition, our desires are perpetually repressed by poverty and subordination ; but the lives and labours of millions are devoted to the service of a despotic prince, whose laws are blindly obeyed, and whose wishes are instantly gratified. Our imaginasion is dazzled by the splendid picture; and whatever may be the cool dictates of reason, there are few among us, who would obstinately refuse a trial of the comforts and the cares of royalty. It may therefore be of some use to borrow the experience of the same Abdalrahman, whose magnificence has perhaps excited our admiration and envy, and to transcribe an authentic memorial which was found in the closet of the deceased caliph. “I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot : they amount to fourteen. O man! place not thy confidence in this present world.”
[Dr. Hugh BLAIR is chiefly known to the world by his Lectures on Rhetoric, and a collection of admirable Sermons on various important practical subjects. The extracts which follow are from the former of these works.]
On Sublimity. It is not easy to describe in words the precise impression which great and sublime objects make upon us when we behold them; but every one has a conception of it. It produces a sort of internal elevation and expansion; it raises the mind much above its ordinary state, and fills it with a degree of wonder and astonishment which it cannot well express. The emotion is certainly delightful, but it is altogether of the serious kind; a degree of awfulness and solemnity, even approaching to severity, commonly attends it when at its height, very distinguishable from the more gay and brisk emotion raised by beautiful objects.
The simplest form of external grandeur appears in the vast and boundless prospects presented to us by nature; such as wide extended plains, to which the eye can see no limits, the firmament of heaven, or the boundless expanse of the ocean.
All vastness produces the impression of sublimity. It is to be remarked, however, that space, extended in length, makes not so strong an impression as height or depth. 25
Though a boundless plain be a grand object, yet a high mountain, to which we look up, or an awful precipice or tower, whence we look down on the objects which lie below, is still more so.
The excessive grandeur of the firmament arises from its height, joined to its boundless extent; and that of the ocean not from its extent alone, but from the perpetual motion and irresistible force of that mass of waters. Wherever space is concerned, it is clear that amplitude or greatness of extent in one dimension or other is necessary to grandeur. Remove all bounds from any object, and you presently render it sublime. Hence infinite space, endless numbers, and eternal duration, fill the mind with great ideas.
From this some have imagined that vastness or amplitude of extent is the foundation of all sublimity. But I cannot be of this opinion, because many objects appear sublime which have no relation to space at all. Such, for instance, is great loudness of sound. The burst of thunder, or of cannon, the roaring of winds, the shouting of multitudes, the sound of vast cataracts of water, are all incontestably grand objects. " I heard the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters, and of mighty thunderings, saying Hallelujah.” In general, we may observe, that great power and force exerted always raise sublime ideas; and perhaps the most copious source of these is derived from this quarter.
Hence the grandeur of earthquakes and burning mountains ; of great conflagrations; of the stormy ocean and overflowing waters; of tempests of wind; of thunder and lightning; and of all the uncommon violence of the elements: nothing is more sublime than mighty power