Timour or Tamerlane, the conqueror of Russia, of Hindostan, of Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey, unsated with conquest, assembled, at the age of seventy-one, an immense army to invade China. This empire had formerly been subject to Ghengis, from whom Timour loved to trace his descent, and he said that he felt it a duty to re-establish the Tartar power, and expel idolatry from a country which had formed part of the dominions of his great ancestor. He commenced his march in the depth of winter, and passed the Jaxartes on the ice, but illness stopped him at Otrar and his forces were soon deprived of their leader.
“Timour’s Institutes” composed under his own direction, give a flattering picture of his achievements, but his life has been written with all the virulence of hatred by an Arabian author Ahmed-ben-Arabshah and I have attempted to versify a striking passage quoted in Sir Malcolm’s History of Persia. It is difficult to read it without a more more application.
Keen blew the sleety gale, the scene was drear
One sheet of white the hills and plains appear
Vast blocks of ice obstruct the rapid floods
And hills of snow conceal the sable woods.
Nor bird, nor beast, not living thing was see
Nor flower, nor fruit, nor blade of herbage green.
All nature knew the appointed time of rest
And sheltered slept in Earth’s maternal breast.
Man’s heart alone, no change of season knows
And proud ambition stoops not to repose.
The Tyrant’s troops, regardless of the blast
Blacken with countless hordes the silvery waste,
Sublime upon his Tartar steed he rode,
And led his myriads o’er the frozen flood.
When lo! amid a realm of subject snows
In awful pride gigantic Winter rose,
His hand, with arrows filled, was lifted high,
A ghastly gleam was in his frozen eye.
Like some vast mountain his stupendous form
His voice the howling of the Alpine storm.
It lack’d the melody of living breath
And chill’d the spirit, and the voice of Death.
“Behold the mighty conqueror, who defies
Not man alone, but these inclement skies,
But thro’ the air my dreadful warriors ride,
Nor fawn the elements to soothe thy pride.
Round thy warm limbs my icy robe I cast
I give thee to the snow, the hail, the blast.
Yon hill — the Spirit of the Storm is there,
And bids thee, Tyrant! stop thy rash career.
No longer shalt thou wrap the world in flame —
Art thou a Sprite of Vengeance? I the same!
Slaves to subdue we use our power alike —
When baneful stars in dire conjunction strike
How terrible their force! but on! be bold!
Make Earth’s best regions desolate and cold.
Then in the impotence of fury pine
To find at length thy blasts less keen than mine.
If thou canst glory in unnumber’d bands
That waste, destroy, o’erwhelm the fairest lands
With heavenly aid my storms as widely sweep.
Thy lance is keen, my arrow strikes as deep!
And on thy head, by Him that governs all
The deadliest venom of my wrath shall fall
Not all thy fires thyself, thine host, shall save
From the cold sleep, the tempest’s icy grave.”