‘Publishers always clamour for the books that no one has ever written, and turn a cold shoulder on them as soon as they’re written. If St Paul were living now they would pester him to write an Epistle to the Esquimaux, but no London publisher would dream of reading his Epistle to the Ephesians.’

‘Is there any asparagus anywhere in the garden?’ asked Beryl; ‘because I’ve told cook—’

‘Not anywhere in the garden,’ snapped the Rector, ‘but there’s no doubt plenty in the asparagus-bed, which is the usual place for it.’

And he walked away into the region of fruit trees and vegetable beds to exchange irritation for boredom. It was there, among the gooseberry bushes and beneath the medlar trees, that the temptation to the perpetration of a great literary fraud came to him.

Some weeks later the Bi-Monthly Review gave to the world, under the guarantee of the Revd Wilfrid Gaspilton, some fragments of Persian verse, alleged to have been unearthed and translated by a nephew who was at present campaigning somewhere in the Tigris valley. The Revd Wilfrid possessed a host of nephews, and it was, of course, quite possible that one or more of them might be in military employ in Mesopotamia, though no one could call to mind any particular nephew who could have been suspected of being a Persian scholar.

The verses were attributed to one Ghurab, a hunter, or, according to other accounts, warden of the royal fishponds, who lived, in some unspecified century, in the neighbourhood of Karmanshah. They breathed a spirit of comfortable, even-tempered satire and philosophy, disclosing a mockery that did not trouble to be bitter, a joy in life that was not passionate to the verge of being troublesome.

A Mouse that prayed for Allah’s aid
Blasphemed when no such aid befell:
A Cat, who feasted on that mouse,
Thought Allah managed vastly well.
Pray not for aid to One who made
A set of never-changing Laws,
But in your need remember well
He gave you speed, or guile—or claws.
Some laud a life of mild content:
Content may fall, as well as Pride.
The Frog who hugged his lowly Ditch
Was much disgruntled when it dried.
‘You are not on the Road to Hell,
You tell me with fanatic glee:
Vain boaster, what shall that avail
If Hell is on the to thee?
A Poet praised the Evening Star,
Another praised the Parrot’s hue:
A Merchant praised his merchandise
And he, at least, praised what he knew.

It was this verse which gave the critics and commentators some clue as to the probable date of the composition; the parrot, they reminded the public, was in high vogue as a type of elegance in the days of Hafiz of Shiraz; in the quatrains of Omar it makes no appearance.

The next verse, it was pointed out, would apply to the political conditions of the present day as strikingly as to the region and era for which it was written—

A Sultan dreamed day-long of Peace,
The while his Rivals’ armies grew:
They changed his Day-dreams into sleep
—The Peace, methinks, he never knew.

Woman appeared little, and wine not at all in the verse of the hunter-poet, but there was at least one contribution to the love-philosophy of the East—

O Moon-faced Charmer, with Star-drowned Eyes,
And cheeks of soft delight, exhaling musk,
They tell me that thy charm will fade; ah well,
The Rose itself grows hue-less in the Dusk.

Finally, there was a recognition of the Inevitable, a chill breath blowing across the poet’s comfortable estimate of life—

There is a sadness in each Dawn,
A sadness that you cannot rede,
The joyous Day brings in its train
The Feast, the Loved One, and the Steed.

Ah, there shall come a Dawn at last
That brings no life-stir to your ken,
A long, cold Dawn without a Day,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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