|Home -> Other California Books -> The Inscriptions at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition - San Francisco 1915 - Text|
The Inscriptions at the
Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Selections and Notes
By Porter Garnett
San Francisco 1915
By Porter Garnett
Taylor, Nash & Taylor
|The architects' plans for certain buildings and monuments at the Exposition called for a number of inscriptions to occupy panels and spaces provided for the purpose. The places thus designated constitute three groups, as follows:
Group 1 - Tower of Jewels (eight panels).
Group 2 - Court of the Universe: Arch of the Setting Sun (six panels); Arch of the Rising Sun (six panels).
Group 3 - Court of the Four Seasons (six panels).
Tower of Jewels
Inscription No. 1. Tower of Jewels. South side. Panel at left of colonnade.
Rodrigo De Bastides
Pursuing His Course
The West Indies
|Rodrigo de Bastidas (or Bastides), the first white man to reach the shores of Panama, was a well-to-do notary of the town of Triana, a gypsy suburb of Seville. Obtaining a license to conduct an expedition to the newly-discovered continent, he set sail with two caravels from Cadiz in October, 1500. Early in the following year he landed on the shores of Darien, becoming thereby the discoverer of what is at present the Isthmus of Panama.
Bastidas was subsequently appointed governor of the island of Trinidad. While he was administering this office some of his subordinates conspired against his life, and he was stabbed by them one night while asleep. He died shortly thereafter (1526) at Santiago, Cuba, from the effects of his wounds.
It has been said of Bastidas, "Spain's best and noblest conquistador," that he had the almost unique distinction of acting humanely in his dealings with the natives of America. He was a gentleman by birth, and an entirely different type from the impecunious courtier, the swashbuckler, and the adventurer.
Inscription No. 2. Tower of Jewels, south side. Panel at left of central arch.
Vasco Nuñez De Balboa
The Isthmus of Panama
The Pacific Ocean
|Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, or simply Vasco Nuñez, as he was called by the older writers, was born at Xeres de los Caballeros, Spain, in the year 1475. He was a gentleman by birth, an adventurer by inclination. He was a member of the expedition under Bastidas, which discovered the Isthmus of Panama in 1501. Later he led the life of a planter on the island of Hispaniola, now known as Haiti. When a party was fitted out at the port of San Domingo, on that island, for the purpose of establishing a new colony in Darien, Balboa, who was heavily immersed in debt, escaped from his creditors by concealing himself in a cask which was placed on shipboard, and in due time he was landed on the Isthmus. His ability and courage placed him very soon at the head of the little colony of Santa Maria de la Antigua. He led several expeditions into the interior in search of gold, of which there was a considerable quantity in the possession of the natives. On one of these excursions an Indian chief told him of the great sea to the southward, and of the land of Peru, where vaster riches were to be obtained. Resolved to discover this great sea and this new source of wealth, Balboa set out with a small party of Spaniards and Indian bearers, and, after a journey full of hardships, lasting twenty-five days, on September 25, 1513, reached the top of a mountain from which the waters of the Pacific were to be seen. Balboa called it the "South Sea" (Mar del Sur), because the portion of it which met his gaze lay to the south of the Isthmus. Standing on the mountain peak, he took possession of all the Pacific shores in the name of the Spanish sovereign. Four days later, clad in armor and holding a Spanish standard in his hand, he marched into the surf and again declared the lands washed by the waters of this great sea to be the possessions of the Spanish crown.
Balboa traversed the Isthmus many times, in spite of its difficult mountains, its dense forests, and the fevers common to its climate; and from each trip he brought back an ample store of gold and pearls. Appointed Adelantado de la Mar del Sur (Governor of the South Sea), he was making ready in the year 1517 to set out in the direction of Peru, which he thought was a part of the West Indies, when his intended father-in-law, Governor Davila, animated by jealousy, caused him to be tried and put to death "for having wished to run away to the south."
Inscription No. 3. Tower of Jewels, south side. Panel at right of central arch.
The United States
|The attempt of the French company (headed by Count De Lesseps, the engineer who carried to its completion the Suez Canal) to dig a canal through the Isthmus of Panama was virtually abandoned in 1889. Ten years later, in 1899, the first Isthmian Canal commission under the United States Government was created by act of Congress. A second commission was appointed March 8, 1904. Shortly thereafter the property of the French company was acquired by the United States for the sum of $40,000,000, and at 7:30 a. m., May 4, 1904, the said property was formally taken over in the name of the United States Government. The first American construction crew arrived at Panama on May 7, 1904.|
Inscription No. 4. Tower of Jewels, south side. Panel at right end of colonnade.
The Panama Canal
To The Commerce
|The completion of the Panama Canal may be said to date from August 10, 1913, on which day Gamboa Dyke was blown up and a continuous, though as yet unnavigable, waterway was created between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The first continuous trip by a vessel, from ocean to ocean, was made by the crane-boat Alexander La Valley on January 7, 1914. The official and formal opening of the Canal is scheduled for some time in 1915, at which time President Wilson is expected to preside in person at the ceremonies.
Inscription No. 5. Tower of Jewels, north side. Panel at left end of colonnade.
Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo
Lands on its Shores
|The first known visit of white men to the coast of Upper California occurred when the Portuguese navigator, Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo, having set sail from La Navidad, on the coast of Mexico, with two small ships, the San Salvador and La Victoria, on June 7, 1542, came to anchor, on September 28 of the same year, in San Diego Bay, and, on October 18, landed on San Miguel Island. While there his arm was broken by a fall and complications from this accident were the cause of his death, which occurred on January 3, 1543.|
Inscription No. 6. Tower of Jewels, north side. Panel at left of central arch.
José Joaquin Moraga
San Francisco De Asis
|The founder of the Mission of San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores) was born in the year 1741. He accompanied Juan Bautista de Anza on his expedition in 1774 to the site of San Francisco, which paved the way for the establishment of a settlement there. Moraga founded the Mission of San Francisco on September 17, 1776. The Presidio was established at the same time, and he was its first commandant, retaining the position until his death, in July, 1785. He also founded the Mission of Santa Clara in 1777, and, in the same year, the pueblo of San José Guadalupe, the present city of San José.|
Inscription No. 7. Tower of Jewels, north side. Panel at right of central arch.
The United States
Upon the Outbreak of
War With Mexico
Takes Possession of
|After the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and Mexico, Commodore John D. Sloat, on July 7, 1846, raised the American flag at Monterey, then the capital of the Mexican province of Alta California. On July 9, the flag was raised at San Francisco by Captain John B. Montgomery, commanding the United States sloop-of-war Portsmouth. The formal proclamation declaring California to be a part of the United States of America was issued on July 29 by Commodore Robert F. Stockton, who, having superseded Sloat, officially represented the Government.|
Inscription No. 8. Tower of Jewels, north side. Panel at right end of colonnade.
Is Admitted to
A Sovereign State
|The admission of California to the Union was the most vital of a series of questions involving slavery assembled by John C. Calhoun, then a United States Senator, in his famous compromise bill. After a prolonged debate, the bill came to a vote in the Senate on August 13, 1850, and was carried - ayes 34, nays 18. On the 7th of September the bill passed the House by a vote of 150 to 56, and on the 9th it received the approval of President Fillmore.
Owing to the lack of facilities for communication which existed at that time, the people of California did not receive the news of the passage of the bill until October 18, when the steamer Oregon entered the Golden Gate, flying a banner inscribed "California is a State." The joy of the people knew no bounds. Newspapers containing the intelligence sold for five dollars each. September 9 (Admission Day) is observed as a State holiday in California.
Court of the Universe
Inscription No. 9. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Setting Sun, east side, facing court. Panel at left of attic.
In Nature's Infinite Book of Secrecy
A Little I Can Read
|A line spoken by the Soothsayer in the second scene of the first act of "Antony and Cleopatra."
Shakespeare was born at Stratford-on-Avon April 23, 1564. He died April 23, 1616.
Inscription No. 10. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Setting Sun, east side, facing court. Panel in center of attic.
Facing West From California'
Shores - Inquiring Tireless Seeking
What is Yet Unfound - I A
Child Very Old Over Waves Towards
The House of Maternity
The Land of Migrations Look
Afar - Look Off the Shores of My
Western Sea the Circle Almost
|Walt Whitman was chosen to represent America because his work more than that of any other American author may be said to express the spirit of the American people and the ideals of democracy. It was after this determination had been reached that Mr. Henry Anderson Lafler suggested this peculiarly appropriate quotation from one of the poems in "Leaves of Grass." The title of the poem is the same as its first line - "Facing West from California's Shores." The complete poem is as follows:
Facing west from California's shores,
Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound,
I a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations, look afar.
Look off the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost circled;
For starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kashmere,
From Asia, from the north, from the God, the sage, and the hero,
From the south, from the flowery peninsulas and the spice islands,
Long having wander'd since, round the earth having wander'd,
Now I face home again, very pleased and joyous,
(But where is what I started for so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)
We may see in these lines the poet speaking as the personification and representative of the Aryan race - the race which, having its origin in Asia, has, by virtue of the spirit of conquest, the desire to be forever "seeking what is yet unfound," finally reached the western edge of the American continent, whence, "facing west from California's shores," Aryan civilization looks "towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations" from which it originally sprang.
Walt Whitman was born at West Hill, Long Island, May 31, 1819. As a youth he followed the printer's trade, and wrote what he himself called "sentimental bits." Later he taught school, and also had a varied career as carpenter and journalist. For a time he was editor of the Brooklyn Eagle. He once made a journey on foot to various parts of the United States and Canada. During the war he acted as a volunteer nurse in the hospitals at Washington. He was appointed to a clerkship in the Department of the Interior by President Lincoln, but was removed by Secretary Harland, on account of the character of his poetry. In 1874 he was stricken with paralysis. He lived the rest of his life at Camden, New Jersey. He died March 26, 1892.
Inscription No. 11. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Setting Sun, east side, facing court. Panel at right of attic.
Truth - Witness of the Past Councillor
Of the Present Guide of
|This passage, which occurs in the ninth chapter of the first book of "Don Quixote," has to do with truth as revealed through history.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born at Alcalá de Herflares, Spain, on or about September 29, 1547. After receiving his education at the universities of Salamanca and Madrid, he became a soldier, and was wounded at the famous battle of Lepanto in 1571. In 1575 he was captured by an Algerine corsair and taken as a slave to Algiers. He was ransomed for five hundred ducats and returned to Madrid, where he began the active literary career which he pursued until his death, on April 23, 1616, on which day Shakespeare also died.
Inscription No. 12. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Setting Sun, west side, facing away from court. Panel at left of attic.
The World is in its Most Excellent
State When Justice is Supreme
|From "Purgatory," the second part of the "Divine Comedy."
Dante Alighieri, regarded as the greatest poetical genius that flourished between the Augustan and the Elizabethan ages, was born at Florence in the latter part of May, 1265. The poet's spiritual life and imaginative faculty were awakened by his love for Beatrice Portinari. This passion, one of the most notable in all history, exerted upon Dante's mind a profound and constant influence, and was the inspiration of by far the greater part of his poetry. As a result of political upheavals, he was banished from Florence. He died at Ravenna September 14. 1321.
Inscription No. 13. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Setting Sun, west side, facing away from court. Panel in center of attic.
It is Absolutely Indispensable
For the United States to Effect
A Passage from the Mexican Gulf
To the Pacific Ocean and I am
Certain that they Will do it -
Would that I Might Live to See
It But I Shall Not
|An extract from one of Goethe's conversations with M. Soret. The full text of this conversation, remarkable for its prophetic character, is to be found in "Goethe's Conversations with Eckermann and Soret," and is as follows:
Wed. Feb. 21 . - Dined with Goethe. He spoke much and with admiration of Alexander von Humboldt, whose work in Cuba and Columbia he had begun to read, and whose views as to the project of making a passage through the Isthmus of Panama appeared to have a peculiar interest for him. "Humboldt," said Goethe, "has, with a great knowledge of his subject, given over points where, by making use of some streams which flow into the Gulf of Mexico, the end may be perhaps better attained than at Panama. All this is reserved for the future, and for an enterprising spirit. So much, however, is certain, that, if they succeed in cutting such a canal that the ships of any burden and size can he navigated through it from the Mexican Gulf to the Pacific Ocean, innumerable benefits would result to the whole human race, civilized and uncivilized. But I should wonder if the United States would let an opportunity escape of getting such work into their own hands. It may be foreseen that this young state, with its decided predilection to the West, will in thirty or forty years, have occupied and peopled the large tract of land beyond the Rocky Mountains. It may furthermore be foreseen that along the whole coast of the Pacific Ocean, where nature has already formed the most capacious and secure harbors, important commercial towns will gradually arise, for the furtherance of a great intercourse between China and the United States. In such a case, it would not only be desirable, but almost necessary, that a more rapid communication should be maintained between the eastern and western shores of North America, both by merchant-ships and men-of-war, than has hitherto been possible with the tedious, disagreeable, and expensive voyage round Cape Horn. I therefore repeat that it is absolutely indispensable for the United States to effect a passage from the Mexican Golf to the Pacific Orean; and I am certain that they will do it.
Would that I might live to see it! - but I shall not. I should like to see another thing - a junction of the Danube and the Rhine. But this undertaking is so gigantic that I have doubts of its completion, particularly when I consider our German resources. And thirdly, and lastly, I should wish to see England in possession of a canal through the Isthmus of Suez. Would I could live to see these three great works! it would well be worth the trouble to last some fifty years more for the purpose."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the most illustrious name in German literature, and one of the greatest poets of any age or country, was born at Frankfort-on-the-Main August 28, 1749. As a child he exhibited a wonderful precocity of intellect, being able at nine years of age to write several different languages, including French, Latin, and Greek. In his twelfth year he took up the study of English and Hebrew. Later he was a student at the universities of Leipsig and Strasburg. He devoted himself to poetry, art, science, the languages, philosophy, and criticism, with an impartiality and success of which the history of the human mind probably furnishes no other example. He died at Weimar on March 22, 1832.
Inscription No. 14. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Setting Sun, west side, facing away from court. Panel at right of attic.
The Universe - An Infinite Sphere
The Center Everywhere the
|Pascal's famous definition of the universe is to be found in his "Thoughts," Section II., Fragment 72.
The choice of an author to represent France fell upon Pascal only after the claims of many other Frenchmen of letters had been considered. It cannot be said of any French author that he is preeminent among the writers of his country in the sense that Shakespeare is preëminent in English literature, Dante in Italian, or Goethe in German. Howbeit, Pascal's unquestioned genius, the elevation of his mind, and the permanence of his contributions to science and moral philosophy give him a clearer title than can be urged for some of his more brilliant compatriots. It was one of these, Voltaire, who expressed the opinion that "Moliere's best comedies do not excel these 'Letters' [Pascal's "Provincial Letters"] in wit nor do the compositions of Bossuet excel them in sublimity." The most competent French critics, including Voltaire and d'Alembert, concur in the judgment that the "Provincial Letters" contribute more than any other composition to form and polish the French language. Hallam says: "The 'Thoughts of Pascal' are to be ranked as a monument to his genius, above the 'Provincial Letters.'" Macaulay says of him: "His intellectual powers were such as have rarely been bestowed upon any of the children of men . . . . The delicacy of his wit, the purity, the energy, the simplicity of his rhetoric, had never been equalled, except by the great masters of Attic eloquence."
Blaise Pascal was born at Clermont-Ferrand, in Auvergne, France, on June 19, 1623. In his early childhood he showed an extraordinary aptitude for geometry, but he was discouraged in the study of mathematics by his father, who wished him to devote himself to the classics. Mathematical works were denied to him, but when he was only twelve years of age he was discovered in the act of demonstrating propositions, having discovered or learned the elements of geometry unaided. At the age of eighteen he invented an ingenious calculating-machine. About this time his health failed, but he continued his achievements in science until his twenty-sixth year, when he renounced the prospect of fame, toward which his genius was conducting him, and thenceforth devoted himself to religious duties and a life of retirement.
He subjected himself to a severely ascetic discipline, and finally retired into the cloister of Port-Royal. The works that he produced during the latter part of his lifetime were philosophical and religious in character. He died on August 19, 1662.
Inscription No. 15. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Rising Sun, west side, facing court. Panel at left of attic.
They Who Know the Truth are
Not Equal to Those Who Love
|From the "Confucian Analects," Book VI, Chapter XVIII.
A quotation from the "Confucian Analects" cannot be said to come from a "sacred" source. The religion known as Confucianism has been built up since the great philosopher's death, upon the code of morality which he promulgated.
Confucius was born in the year 552 B. C., in the kingdom of Loo, a portion of Northern China nearly corresponding to the modern province of Shan-tung. His father was prime minister of the state in which he lived, and from him Confucius inherited a taste for political studies. His youth was spent in fitting himself for filling offices of high political trust, and he entered political life at the age of twenty as "keeper of the stores of grain." After a continued success as an administrator, the eyes of the kingdom were turned upon him, at the age of thirty-five, as the future prime minister. But a revolution occurred, Confucius lost his official position and became a wanderer. This continued for a period of eight years, during which time he visited the various provinces of China, teaching as he went, but without as yet making any great impression upon the mass of the people. Another political upheaval, and Confucius once more entered public life, holding successively a number of offices, and finally that of Minister of Crime. Under his administration reformation made rapid strides, but his zeal brought him many enemies, and, at the age of fifty-six, he was again driven from his home and compelled once more to wander as a teacher. At first he was persecuted wherever he went, but he began after a time to gather about him a band of disciples, and it was not long before he numbered his followers by the thousands. At the age of sixty-nine, he retired with his disciples to a valley in his native province. There he devoted himself for five years to the revision of the ancient sacred books, which had been from the most remote times regarded by the Chinese as the sources of all true wisdom and knowledge. It is said that he pruned these of many extravagances; and, in the text as well as in the notes, stated his own opinions, and added much to the original value of the works.
Disappointed hopes made the end of his life bitter. The great ones of the kingdom had not received his teachings, nor were expectations of another life with him when he died in the seventy-third year of his age, B. C. 479. Posthumous honors, amounting to idolatrous worship, have been conferred upon him. Through his grandson, Tsz'sz', who survived him, the succession has been transmitted to the present day, and it was computed almost two hundred years ago, or 2150 years after his death, that there were 11,000 males in China bearing his name.
Inscription No. 16. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Rising Sun, west side, facing court. Panel in center of attic.
The Moon Sinks Yonder in the
West While in the East the Glorious
Sun Behind the Herald
Dawn Appears - Thus Rise and Set
In Constant Change Those Shining
Orbs and Regulate the Very
Life of this Our World
|The opening lines of the fourth act of "Shakuntala." Its author, Kalidasa, is the poet in Sanscrit literature who may be best compared with Shakespeare. His principal works were three dramas, of which "Shakuntala" is the most famous. The high opinion in which Goethe held this masterpiece is expressed in the following lines:
Would'st thou tell of the blossoms of Spring, and paint the ripe fruits of the Autumn,
All that may charm and delight with fullness and joy manifold;
Would'st thou combine in one word enchantments of Earth and Heaven
I'll name, O Shakuntala, thee; in thy name alone all is told.
Kalidasa also wrote lyrical, descriptive, and narrative poetry. Little if any authentic information exists respecting his life. Even the era in which he lived has been the subject of much discussion. The native theory favors the first century B. C., but the consensus of scholarly opinion points to the middle of the sixth century A. D. There is a story that his death was violent - that he perished by the hand of a woman, who, to win a monarch's favor, claimed one of Kalidasa's improvised verses as her own, and murdered the poet lest the truth should be discovered.
Inscription No. 17. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Rising Sun, west side, facing court. Panel at right of attic.
Our Eyes and Hearts Uplifted
Seem to Gaze on Heaven's
|This extract is from a "lay" by Hitomaro entitled "Lines Composed on the Occasion of Prince Wosa's Hunting Party on the Moor of Kariji." The lay is contained in the Manyôshiu, or "Collection of a Myriad Leaves," which embodies the classical poetry of Japan, embracing a period of about one hundred and thirty years, divided between the seventh and eighth centuries of the Christian era. The poems in the collection number upwards of 4000 pieces, and the official Japanese edition consists of no less than one hundred and twenty-two volumes.
Basil Hall Chamberlain says of Hitomaro in "The Classical Poetry of Japan": "Of this the most celebrated poet of Japan, we know nothing more than can be gleaned from the notes to his poems contained in the 'Collection of a Myriad Leaves,' excepting the bare statement in the official annals that he died in the province of Ihami on the eighteenth day of the third moon of the year 737 . . . . Though apparently of noble origin (the Shiyonzhiroku, an ancient work on pedigrees, traces his descent to the Mikado Bidatsu, who died A. D. 585), he was of low rank, a fact which is sufficiently established by the various mentions of him in the notes to the poems, and by the nonhonorific Chinese character employed for the word 'died' in the official notice of his decease. Legend, however, has not been content to leave so favorite a bard in obscurity, and has drawn materials from his very name where otherwise there was nothing to build on. Kakinomoto [Hitomaro's surname] signifies literally "the fort of the persimmon-tree" (most Japanese surnames are taken from natural objects, thus: Wisteria-Moor, Large Estuary, Slope-of-the-Mountain. There is, therefore, nothing peculiar in Kakinomoto), and it is fabled that a warrior called Ayabe, on going one day into his garden, found standing at the foot of his persimmon-tree a child of more than mortal splendor. On being asked its name, the little creature replied, 'I have neither father nor mother; but the moon and the winds obey me, and poetry is my delight.' The warrior thereupon called his wife, who was as greatly charmed by the boy as her husband had been. So they adopted him and named him after the tree beneath whose shade he had first been shown to them . . . . It is also alleged that in the vicinity of the poet's grave there grows a persimmon-tree, possessing among other remarkable qualities that of bearing fruits which are pointed and black at the end, resembling a pen in shape and color."
Inscription No. 18. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Rising Sun, east side, facing away from court. Panel at left of attic.
He that Honors Not Himself
Lacks Honor Wheresoe'er He Goes
|These words, written by Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulma, are from one of the seven mu'allaqat or "Suspended Poems," so called, according to one of several existing theories, because they are supposed to have been inscribed on linen in letters of gold and hung up - as representing the finest examples of Arabic poetry - in the Ka'ba, which is the most sacred shrine in the city of Mecca. Legend attributes the foundation of this building to Adam, who built it by divine command after a celestial archetype. At the Deluge it was taken up into heaven, but was rebuilt on its former site by Abraham and Ishmael. While they were occupied in this work Gabriel brought the celebrated Black Stone, which is set in the southeast corner of the building, and he also instructed them in the ceremonies of the Pilgrimage. When all was finished, Abraham stood on a rock, known to later ages as the Maqamu Ibrahim, and, turning to the four quarters of the sky, made proclamation: "O ye people! The Pilgrimage to the Ancient House is prescribed unto you. Hearken to your Lord!" And from every part of the world came the answer: Labbayka, 'llahumsna, labbayka" - i. e., "We obey, O God; we obey."
Tradition has it that the seven "Suspended Poems" were selected at the national fair of 'Ukaz, which was held annually in the month of Zu-l-Qa'dah, one of the four sacred months in which it was forbidden to wage war. To this "Olympia of Arabia" poets resorted and placed the fruits of their poetic talents before the public for its judgment and award, which was always regarded as final.
Zuhayr flourished in the sixth century of the Christian era. Little is known of his life. He was a soldier as well as a poet, and is supposed to have lived to be over one hundred years of age.
Inscription No. 19. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Rising Sun, east side, facing away from court. Panel in center of attic.
The Balmy Air Diffuses Health
And Fragrance - So Tempered is
The Genial Glow that We Know
Neither Heat Nor Cold - Tulips
And Hyacinths Abound Fostered
By a Delicious Clime the
Earth Blooms Like a Garden.
|Firdausi, the national poet of Persia, has been called "the Homer of the East." He was born at Tus in Khorasan between the years 935 and 950 A. D. His real name was Abul Kasim Mansur; the appellation "Firdausi" (Paradise), by which he is known to fame, was bestowed upon him, according to some accounts, by his patron, the sultan Mahmud.
It was this Mahmud who, having called for a poet to relate in verse the history of the Persian empire, finally selected Firdausi for this great task. The "Shah-Nameh," or "Book of Kings," a poem of sixty thousand rhymed couplets, was the result.
A quaint legend exists which has to do with an incident that led to the awarding of this royal commission. Upon hearing of the sultan's offer, Firdausi set out from his native town of Tus for Ghizni, the capital city. Upon reaching its vicinity, he happened to pass near a garden where three celebrated poets, Unsari, Usjudi, and Furroki, were sitting drinking wine. The poets observed a stranger approach, and one of them said: "If that fellow comes hither he will spoil our pleasure; let us therefore get rid of him at once by scolding him away." But the others disapproved of this harsh mode of proceeding, and thought it would be better to overcome him by some stroke of learning or waggery. When Firdausi drew near, one of them thus familiarly addressed him: "Here we are engaged in making extemporaneous verses, and whoever is able to follow them up with prompitude and effect shall be admitted as an approved companion to our social board." Unsari then began with an apostrophe to a beautiful woman:
The light of the morn to thy splendor is weak.
The rose is eclipsed by the bloom of thy cheek.
Furroki, thinking to discomfit Firdausi by calling upon him to find a rhyme for a word for which none existed, added:
Thy eye-lashes dart through the folds of the joshun (armor)
To which Firdausi replied without hesitation:
Like the javelin of Giw in the battle with Poshun.
The other poets were astonished at the readiness of the stranger, the more so as they were totally ignorant of the story of Giw and Poshun. Firdausi thereupon told them the story, and was treated by them with the greatest kindness. They even recommended him to the sultan Mahmud, who, as we have already seen, became his patron.
Firdausi was forty years of age when he began writing the "Shah-Nameh"; he was upwards of seventy when he completed it. Mahinud promised him one thousand pieces of gold for every thousand couplets; but the story goes that on the completion of the task the sultan was persuaded by his grand vizier to send the poet sixty thousand pieces of silver instead. Firdausi is said to have been in the bath when the elephants laden with the moneybags arrived. On discovering the deception, the injured poet rejected the gift with scorn, and, dividing the silver into three portions, he presented one of these to the bath steward, the second to the elephant driver, and the last to a servant who brought him a cup of beer (fiikáa). The sultan, incensed by this act of disrespect, issued an order that Firdausi be trampled to death by an elephant; but the poet, being warned in time, fled for his life. Before doing so, however, he wrote his famous satire on Mahmud.
Before Firdausi died it is said that the sultan relented and sent to him the promised gold beside many other gifts. As the treasure-laden caravan approached the poet's dwelling it was met by the funeral cortège taking his body to its place of burial. Firdausi's tomb, at Tus, is at the present time a place of pious pilgrimage.
The "Shah-Nameh" comprises the annals and achievements of the ancient kings of Persia, from Kaiumers down to the invasion of the Saracens in A. D. 636 - an estimated period of more than 3600 years. Kaiumers is understood to be the Adam of the fire-worshipers, and the grandson of Nu, the Noah of the Mahometans. The principal hero of the "Shah-Nameh" is Rustem, that prodigy of strength, piety, and valor, whose adventurous career ran through several centuries.
The inscription is taken from that part of the poem which has to do with the reign of King Kai-Kaus.
One day a demon, disguised as a musician, waited upon the monarch, and playing sweetly on his harp, sang a song in praise of the land of Mazinderan.
And thus he warbled to the king" -
"Mazinderan is the bower of spring,
My native home; the balmy air
Diffuses health and fragrance there;
So tempered is the genial glow,
Nor heat nor cold we ever know;
Tulips and hyacinths abound
On every lawn; and all around
Blooms like a garden in its prime,
Fostered by that delicious clime."
No sooner had Kai-Kaus heard this description of the country of Mazinderan than he determined to lead an army thither and to make war upon the demons who inhabited it. This he accordingly did, but the great White Demon caused a shower of tremendous hailstones to pour down upon the Persian host, which was thus destroyed or put to flight. King Kai-Kaus was stricken blind and made a prisoner by the demons. He, however, sent word of his plight to Zal, the father of Rustem, whereupon Rustem set out on his favorite horse, Rakush, to rescue him. Here follow the so-called Seven Labors of Rustem, an Oriental parallel to the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Rustem's seventh and last exploit was to encounter the gigantic White Demon. After a furious struggle, he slew the demon and cut out his heart, with the blood of which he restored the sight of Kai-Kaus. The latter, with Rustem's aid, then defeated the king of Mazinderan in battle and made that enchanted country a part of the Persian realm.
Inscription No. 20. Court of the Universe; Arch of the Rising Sun, east side, facing away from court.
A Wise Man Teaches be Not Angry
From Untrodden Ways Turn
- Phra Ruang.
|From the maxims of Phra Ruang (Prince Arunavatti Ruang), who was probably the most remarkable man that Siam has yet produced. Although a historical personage whose birth occurred, according to some authorities, in the eleventh century, according to others, in the thirteenth, legend places him in a more remote period - namely, the fifth century - and declares him to be the child of the queen of the Nagas, a fabulous race dwelling under the earth. His advent and glorious reign are said to have been announced by Gautama Buddha himself. According to history, he was the third son of a petty chieftain whose power seems not to have reached more than twenty miles in any direction from his stronghold. Phra Ruang rose, however, to be the first king to rule over a united Siam, as large as, or even larger than, the Siam of today. A commemorative inscription of the thirteenth century tells how, on account of a deed of valor, his father dubbed him Phra Ram Khamheng, by which appellation he is sometimes known. The greatest of the achievements thus recorded was the adaptation of the Cambodian alphabet to the writing of the till then untamed speech of the Siamese; but the thing for which today he is best remembered is undoubtedly his maxims, or "Sayings."
[The text of this inscription was furnished by Professor Cornelius B. Bradley of the University of California.]
Court of the Four Seasons
Inscription No. 21. Court of the Four Seasons, west side. Three panels above entrance.
For Lasting Happiness We Turn
Our Eyes to One Alone
And She Surrounds You Now
Great Nature Refuge of the
Weary Heart and Only Balm to
Breasts that Have Been Bruised
She Hath Cool Hand For Every
Fevered Brow and Gentlest
Silence for the Troubled Soul
|George Sterling, the author of these lines, although not a Californian by birth, is accounted a Californian poet, by reason of his long and productive residence in this State. It was not on this account, however, that lines of his were chosen, but because, in spite of the enormous volume of nature poetry in existence, no passage among the many that were considered possessed the quality of appropriateness in the same high degree.
The quotation is from "The Triumph of Bohemia," a poetic drama written for the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, an organization which, since 1878, has held each year in one of the redwood groves of California a dramatic and musical festival known as the "Midsummer High Jinks." Prior to 1902 the jinks were composite entertainments to which the various participants contributed their own parts, which were fitted into a general scheme prepared by "the sire." In that year, and since then, the festivals have been in the form of dramas with music; and each has been the work of a single poet and composer. These dramas, which in certain particulars represent a new art form, are called "grove-plays" They are witnessed only by the members of the club, those holding visitors' privileges, and a few invited guests.
"The Triumph of Bohemia" was the grove-play of 1907.
Inscription No. 22. Court of the Four Seasons, east side. Three panels above entrance.
So Forth Issew'd the Seasons of
The Yeare - First Lusty Spring all
Dight in Leaves and Flowres -
Then Came the Jolly Sommer Being Dight
In A Thin Cassock Coloured Greene
Then Came the Autumne All in Yellow Clad -
Lastly Came Winter Cloathed All In Frize -
Chattering His Teeth For Cold that Did Him Chill
|From "The Faerie Queene," Book VII, Canto VII.
Edmund Spenser, "the poet's poet," as Charles Lamb called him, was born at London about 1552. He was educated at the Merchant Tailors' School and at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Among his patrons were Sir Philip Sidney, the Earl of Leicester, and Lord Grey de Wilton. As secretary to Lord Grey, he went to Ireland in 1580, to assist in suppressing Desmond's rebellion. As an agent of the government, advocating oppressive measures, he became extremely unpopular. At the suggestion of Sir Walter Raleigh, he returned to London in 1589, and shortly thereafter he brought out the first three books of "The Faerie Queene." Already famous, he was now proclaimed as first of living poets. He returned to Ireland, where, in 1598, his house was burned by Irish rebels and he was obliged to fly. He died in London on January 16, 1599, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
In selecting passages from literature to be inscribed on buildings and monuments at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, it has seemed proper to draw in all cases from profane rather than from sacred sources.
The inscriptions on the two triumphal arches in the Court of the Universe (known as the Arch of the Rising Sun and the Arch of the Setting Sun) are drawn respectively from Oriental and Occidental literatures. The intention has been to make these two sets of inscriptions as completely representative of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres as the number of panels would permit. To accomplish this result the arrangement indicated in the following diagram was adopted:
|It was next decided to select - as representatives of these nations - works or authors of preëminent importance. In such cases as those of Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, Confucius, Cervantes, this was quite simple. With some others it was far more difficult. India, for example, might be appropriately represented by a selection from the "Mahabharata" or from the "Ramayana." But a careful examination of the available English texts of these two great epics failed to yield anything having the necessary requirements, and it was from Kalidasa's "Shakuntala" that a passage was finally selected.
In the case of Persia, it would have been a comparatively simple matter to have selected something from Omar Khayyam or from Hafiz; but neither of these popular poets may be said to represent Persia in the best sense. Firdausi, on the other hand, stands in relation to Persian literature as Homer stands in relation to the literature of Greece. It was determined, therefore, to find something in Firdausi's "Shah-Nameh" that would be appropriate, and the search for such a passage was finally successful.
By such a process as is here indicated, authors were assigned to the various panels as shown in the following diagram:
|In determining the character of this group of inscriptions, the following considerations were taken into account: (1) The inscriptions for the four large central panels (two on each arch) should possess a cosmical, an epical, or an elemental quality; (2) The inscriptions for the eight smaller panels (four on each arch) should deal with such abstractions as truth, nature, beauty; (3) Proverbs should be excluded as far as possible.