Lot 20
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Thomas Moore
(1779 - 1852)

Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Romance

Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Romance, London: Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1861

xxiv, [ii],381 pages with 69 illustrations from original drawings by John Tenniel, engraved on wood by the brothers Dalziel; and 5 ornamental pages of Persian design by T Sulman, Jnr. [i.e. Thomas Sulman] (one printed in colour) engraved on wood by H N Woods [i.e. Henry Newsom Woods] from title-page; full calf leather hardback, ornamental pattern embossed in gilt including title and embossed floral pattern on front, back and spine, full gilt page edges
9.25 x 7 x 1.5 in (23.7 x 18 x 4.2 cm)

Inscribed "Isabel Jr Gifts. / from her affection to brother / Charles Gifts. / March 1st. / 1861" on the front end paper

Lalla Rookh is an Oriental romance by Thomas Moore, published in 1817. The title is taken from the name of the heroine of the frame tale, the daughter of the 17th-century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. This story follows the heroine, Lalla Rookh, and her life as the daughter of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

In 1817, Irish poet Thomas Moore, who had never set foot in India, wrote the story of a fictional Mughal princess, she of the tulip cheeks or Lalla Rookh, or Lala-Rukh, and is an endearment frequently used in Persian poetry. Engaged to the young king of Bukhara, Lalla Rookh goes forth to meet him, but falls in love with Feramorz, a poet from her entourage. The bulk of the work consists of four interpolated tales sung by the poet: "The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan (loosely based upon the story of Al-Muqanna)", "The Fire-Worshippers", "Paradise and the Peri", and "The Light of the Harem". All these are recited to her, accompanied on a stringed instrument called the kitar, by Feramorz, who presents himself as a Kashmiri troubadour, and steals her heart along the journey to Kashmir.

When Lalla Rookh enters the palace of her bridegroom, she swoons away but revives at the sound of a familiar voice. She awakes with rapture to find that the poet she loves is none other than the king to whom she is engaged.

Soon after its publication, readers of Lalla Rookh were obviously star-struck by its many descriptions of the beauty of the Indies, and particularly of Kashmir with all its allusions of an earthly paradise. The scene of lighted lamps floating on the river, which Lalla Rookh encounters on her journey, inspired a number of European artists during the nineteenth century. So too did the theme of Kashmir, or Cashmere as it was widely called, become the popular fixation.

In his rendition of scenes from Kashmir, Moore conjures the image of roses, of the Sultana Nourmahal (the Empress Noor Jehan, wife of the Emperor Jehangir) wandering among flowers, feeding small singing fishes in marble basins. Feramorz the minstrel, singing his song, tells the story of The Light of the Haram (Noormahal herself), beginning thus:

Who has not heard of the Vale of CASHMERE,
With its roses the brightest that earth every gave,
Its temples, and grottos, and fountains as clear
As the love-lighted eyes that hang over their wave? see it by moonlight, - when mellowly shines
The light o'er its palaces, gardens and shrines;
When the water-falls gleam like a quick fall of stars,
And the nightingale's hymn from the Isle of Chenars
Is broken by laughs and light echoes of feet...

..And what a wilderness of flowers!
It seem'd as though from all the bowers
And fairest fields of all the year,
The mingled spoil were scatter'd here.
The lake too like a garden breathes
With the richbuds that o'er it lie, -
As if a shower of fairy wreaths
Had fall'n upon it from the sky!

...Who in the moonlight and music thus sweetly may glide
O'er the Lake of CASHMERE, with that One by his side!
If Woman can make the worst wilderness dear,
Think, think what a Heav'n she must make of CASHMERE!

Moore calls "Cashmere" a heaven on earth, the unequalled, every spot "holy ground" - suffused by the smell of roses from which "Attar Gul" or attar of roses is distilled, the Happy Valley, made even more beautiful by the "splendid domes and saloons of the Shalimar".

These descriptions of "fair Cashmere" provided the "canvas upon which future European travellers to Kashmir painted much of their story". The identification of Kashmir as the Paradise of the Indies and the Happy Valley however also persisted with tendencies to describe its populace in an Orientalist manner.

Lalla Rookh was the basis of number of musical settings, including the song I'll Sing Thee Songs of Araby by Frederic Clay & W. G. Wills (1877). It is also the basis of the operas Lalla-Rukh, festival pageant (1821) by Gaspare Spontini, partly reworked into Nurmahal oder das Rosenfest von Caschmir (1822), Lalla-Roukh by Felicien David (1862), Feramors by Anton Rubinstein (1863), and The Veiled Prophet by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1879). One of the interpolated tales, Paradise and the Peri, was set as a choral-orchestral work by Robert Schumann (1843). Lines from the poem form the lyrics of the song "Bendemeer Stream". (Nirupama Rao, "How an Irish poet's epic poem on Kashmir captivated the West, spawning operas, musicals and grandeur,", 2016, online)


  Lot 20 of 73  

17-18 JANUARY 2023


Winning Bid
Rs 72,000

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Category: Books


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