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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Babur (1483–1530)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Edward Singleton Holden (1846–1914)
 
THE EMPEROR Babur was sixth in descent from Tamerlane, who died in 1405. Tamerlane’s conquests were worldwide, but they never formed a homogeneous empire. Even in his lifetime he parceled them out to sons and grandsons. Half a century later Trans-oxiana was divided into many independent kingdoms each governed by a descendant of the great conqueror.  1
  When Babur was born, an uncle was King of Samarkand and Bokhara; another uncle ruled Badakhshan; another was King of Kabul. A relative was the powerful King of Khorasan. These princes were of the family of Tamerlane, as was Babur’s father,—Sultan Omer Sheikh Mirza,—who was the King of Ferghana. Two of Babur’s maternal uncles, descendants of Chengiz Khan, ruled the Moghul tribes to the west and north of Ferghana; and two of their sisters had married the Kings of Samarkand and Badakhshan. The third sister was Babur’s mother, wife of the King of Ferghana.  2
  The capitals of their countries were cities like Samarkand, Bokhara, and Herat. Tamerlane’s grandson—Ulugh Beg—built at Samarkand the chief astronomical observatory of the world, a century and a half before Tycho Brahe (1576) erected Uranibourg in Denmark. The town was filled with noble buildings,—mosques, tombs, and colleges. Its walls were five miles in circumference. 1  3
  Its streets were paved (the streets of Paris were not paved till the time of Henri IV.), and running water was distributed in pipes. Its markets overflowed with fruits. Its cooks and bakers were noted for their skill. Its colleges were full of learned men, poets, 2 and doctors of the law. The observatory counted more than a hundred observers and calculators in its corps of astronomers. The products of China, of India, and of Persia flowed to the bazaars.  4
  Bokhara has always been the home of learning. Herat was at that time the most magnificent and refined city of the world. 3 The court was splendid, polite, intelligent, and liberal. Poetry, history, philosophy, science, and the arts of painting and music were cultivated by noblemen and scholars alike. Babur himself was a poet of no mean rank. The religion was that of Islam, and the sect the orthodox Sunni; but the practice was less precise than in Arabia. Wine was drunk; poetry was prized; artists were encouraged. The mother-language of Babur was Turki (of which the Turkish of Constantinople is a dialect). Arabic was the language of science and of theology. Persian was the accepted literary language, though Babur’s verses are in Turki as well.  5
  We possess Babur’s ‘Memoirs’ in the original Turki and in Persian translations also. In what follows, the extracts will be taken from Erskine’s translation, 4 which preserves their direct and manly charm.  6
  To understand them, the foregoing slight introduction is necessary. A connected sketch of Babur’s life and a brief history of his conquests can be found in ‘The Mogul Emperors of Hindustan.’ 5 We are here more especially concerned with his literary work. To comprehend it, something of his history and surroundings must be known.  7
 
Note 1. Paris was walled in 1358; so Froissart tells us. [back]
Note 2. “In Samarkand, the Odes of Baiesanghar Mirza are so popular, that there is not a house in which a copy of them may not be found.”—Babur’s ‘Memoirs.’ [back]
Note 3. Babur spent twenty days in visiting its various palaces, towers, mosques, gardens, colleges—and gives a list of more than fifty such sights. [back]
Note 4. ‘Memoirs of Baber, Emperor of Hindustan, written by himself, and translated by Leyden and Erskine,’ etc. London, 1826, quarto. [back]
Note 5. By Edward S. Holden, New York, 1895, 8vo, illustrated. [back]
 
 
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