The poems of a justly celebrated writer of the present day have made every class of readers familiar with Eastern Tales and Eastern Imagery; yet I think we are beginning to confound under this generic denomination three styles of poetry as different as the characters of their respective nations, and that we do not sufficiently discriminate between the bold simplicity of Arabia, the “Pearls” of Persia, and the flowers of Hindostan. The Persian, who cannot admire beauty unless attired in gems and gold; who cannot his banquet unless the goblet sparkle as brightly from the rubies without, as from the wine within; who must recline upon embroidered cushions and pillow his head on rose leaves; whose fountains are scented by the orange flower, the rose, and the jasmine; whose very birds must change their native melodies for the notes of art, is as different from the touching simplicity of the Hindu, whose popular poems approach very nearly to the character of the Greek anthology, as from the bold and nervous plainness of the Arab, who uniting something of pastoral, of social and domestic life, with habits of constant warfare and predatory inroad, bears perhaps, however the resemblance may be modified by the differences of climate, more similitude to the Highlanders of Scotland. The same hereditary and generally inexplicable feuds, originating frequently in very trivial causes, but most commonly in the murder of some relation, which is resented by all his tribe or that of the offender. The same high sense of honour, and reverence for the laws of hospitality, characterize both. The same is their strong attachment to their chief, and when he summons them to arms, the signal flies with all the speed of the fiery cross, to use their own words, “from tent to tent, from hill to hill.”
This error into which I think our readers and writers are beginning to fall, of compounding the poetry and sentiments of the various nations of the Earth under the general name of Eastern, has induced me to endeavour to exemplify a few of their most striking peculiarities in a series of Tales. The one denominated “Laila”, now respectfully submitted to the Attic Society, is intended as descriptive of the manners of the wandering tribes of Arabia. Should either its merit or fidelity be thought sufficient to entitle it to favourable notice it will be followed by others in which a similar attempt will be made to delineate the features of the Muses of Persia and of Hindostan — possible also of China. It is perhaps necessary to remind the reader that the women of Arabia who go unveiled, and who frequently pride themselves on their skill in archery, or in horsemanship, are celebrated for their courage and virtue, and look with contempt on the “daughters of the citizen”, immured all their days in the harem and ignorant alike of the use of their limbs and the beauties of nature. The chieftains of these tribes are also peculiarly jealous of their honour as connected with the females of their family, and though a feud may follow the refusal of a daughter’s hand to the chief who solicits it, it is never granted unless the tribes are in perfect cordiality, and when tho’ unwilling to grant, they have been fearful of the consequences of refusal, they have sometimes substituted a domestic slave in the place of their child, till circumstance allowed them to publish the deceit and declare their hatred.