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ART. I. Specimen of the Burmese Drama, translated by J. SMITH, Esq, communicated by C. A. BLUNDELL, Esq. Commissioner, &c., Moulmein.
MY DEAR SIR,-I have the pleasure to send you a translation of a play, which notwithstanding its trifling vein, may attract the notice of the curious, as exemplifying the popular tone of the Burman drama. The Ramadzat, (Ramahyana) and other ancient fabulous histories, form the groundwork of nearly all the favourite plays, the outline of the story being merely preserved, while the language of the play depends as much upon the fancy of the performer as the taste of the audience. Each company is presided over by a teacher or manager, who drills the actors in their tasks from rough notes which contain only the songs and the substance of the parts assigned to each performer. In every play, without perhaps a single exception, the following characters are represented—a King, a Queen, a Princess, a Minister of State, a Huntsman, and some kind of Monster. The female characters are usually personated by men, it being considered indecorous in a woman to appear as an actress. I have to plead as an apology for the unpolished style of this translation, the acknowledged difficulty of turning the dialogue of a play into a foreign dress; moreover the original, which was written from the mouth of an actor, was imperfect and ill-written. I believe there are books in the palace at Umerapooree, containing the proper reading of all the approved plays and the costumes of the characters, which are placed near the
members of the royal family whenever they call their companies before them, but I have not been able to discover any work of this description here. Yours sincerely,
To C. A. BLUNDELL, ESQ.
The nine princesses of the city of the silver mountain, which is separated from the abode of mortals by a triple barrier (the first being a belt of prickly cane, the second a stream of liquid copper, and the third a Beloo, or devil) gird on their enchanted zones, which give them the power of traversing the air with the speed of a bird, and visit a pleasant forest within the limits of the south island (earth.) While bathing in the lake, they are surprised by a huntsman, who snares the youngest with his magic noose, and carries her to the young prince of Pyentsa, who is so much struck by her surprising beauty, that he makes her his chief queen, though he has but lately been united to the daughter of the head astrologer of the palace. Being obliged soon after to take the field against some rebels, the astrologer seizes advantage of the prince's absence to misinterpret a dream, which the king calls upon him to explain; and declares that the evil spirit, whose influence is exerting itself against the king's power, is only to be appeased by the sacrifice of the beautiful Mananhurree, who has supplanted his daughter in the young prince's affections. The prince's mother hearing of the offering about to be made, visits the lovely Mananhurree and restores to her the enchanted zone which had been picked up on the shore-edge of the lake by the huntsman, and presented by him to the old queen. The princess immediately returns to the silver mountain; but on her way thither, she stops at the hermitage of a recluse, who lives on the borders of the delightful forest before mentioned, and gives to the old man a ring and some drugs, which confer the power upon the possessor of them of entering the barrier and passing unharmed through its dangers. The young prince having put an end to the war, returns to the city of Pyentsa, and finding his favourite queen gone, he instantly sets forth in quest of her. Having come to the forest, the appearance of which astonishes and delights him, he dismisses his followers and visits the hermit, who delivers to him the ring and the drugs; he then enters the frightful barrier, and after meeting with many adventures, arrives at the city of the silver mountain, and makes known his presence to his beautiful bride by dropping the ring into a vessel of water, which one of the palace damsels is conveying into the bath of the princess.
The King of Pyentsa.
The King of the city of the silver mountain.
Thoodanoo, the Prince of Pyentsa.
A skilful Huntsman.
The Queen of Pyentsa.
Mananhurree, the daughter of the King of the silver mountain,
and wife to Thoodanoo.
Noblemen, Generals, Guards, Ladies of the Palace, &c., &c.
SCENE 1st.-Four Noblemen sitting in the Palace of Audience. 1st Noble. My lords, let us not be false or neglectful to our royal master, to whom we have so many times sworn allegiance; we bear the weight of government on our shoulders, and constitute the strength of the country,-How shall we conduct affairs, so as to extend his authority, and benefit the state?
2nd Noble. True, my lords; let me explain to you whence our noble monarch sprung. In the distant beginning, after the earth had been destroyed successively by fire, by wind, and by water, the lily which sprung from its bosom blossomed, and produced fine embryo deities, on which account the celestial beings bestowed upon this system the title of Battakat. The various incidents that have occurred from first to last, among the four divisions of the human race, are voluminously recited in the 49000 volumes of the History of Kings, but I will merely give you a sketch. The nine beings who descended from the visible heavens, having eaten of the fragrant earth, peopled it after the manner of mortals ;-in process of time, the inhabitants began to use deceit towards each other, to pillage, to steal, and to strive amongst themselves continually; and in order to put an end to these calamities by instruction and discipline, the embryo deity Mahathamata came, and was hailed by the voice of the whole people. This was the first.
3rd Noble. When the millions of worlds had sunk under the influence of fire, air, and water-when the four grand divisions of the creation had been rent asunder-when the system had been again restored, and set in motion-the emerald-leaved lily sprung up, and gave forth from each of its fine blossoms the eight articles of clerical
use; then the beings of the celestial regions understanding the sign regarding the five embryo deities, called this world on which we live Batta (kat). Is it not so, my lords?
4th Noble. My friends; in the palace of audience, the thirtythree images of superior beings and the images of lions are keeping watch over the throne-the gold, the silver, the emeralds, the flowers, the sapphires, the topazes, and the rubies, are glittering among the other emblems of royalty-the umbrella of state is being spread-the noblemen are in attendance in their robes and helmetsthe sovereign of the golden palace is arraying himself in his royal habiliments-the procession will soon be formed to the music of the silver gong, the golden bell, and the celestial harp and lute, and issue forth headed by the four grand divisions of the royal army, marching to the sound of the martial drums ;-Let us therefore listen in silence for the warning of the five silver gongs.
[The royal procession enters. King. From the period when the system was destroyed by fire, air, and water, and again renewed, the dynasty which has produced five valorous monarchs has descended unbroken to me, the sovereign of the south island: Are the people happy in the remotest hamlet of my possessions?
Noble. Oh, wearer of the jewelled crown, who unfurleth the royal umbrella, and sitteth on the throne, guarded by rows of lions! the hundred subject kings are in attendance with their daughters.
King. Represent to the sun of the world, truly and quickly, what you have to say.
Noble. Oh, king of the universe, whose merit is matured; whose glory is increasing; whose august coronation has been celebrated; whose merchants and rich men go hither and thither under the royal protection; whose markets, rivers, rivulets, and lesser streams are crowded with people, canoes, and boats passing to and fro; whose royal staff being set up is surrounded by thousands of people going and coming; whose officers of customs, guards, and ferrymen keep watch at the landing places-the Governor of the sea-ward provinces sends a dispatch to the golden city, the contents of which shall be truly conveyed into the royal ear.
SCENE 1st.-City of the silver mountain. The nine princesses in the palace with their attendants.
Princesses. Shory Tsa! Shory Phee !-ye wise waiting women, who live under the shadow of the single pillared abode of royalty, come with us to the country of Pyentsa.
SCENE 2nd. The grove on the borders of the country of Pyentsa.
Oh, bright are the flowers that carpet this vale,
And yield their sweet breath to the murmuring gale;
Bright flowers!-fragrant zephyrs!-how sweet, 'tis to rove,
In this Eden of pleasure-this garden of love.
The Princesses having taken off their enchanted zones, bathe themselves in the lake.
Hunts. Now, skilful ranger, enter thou the dense forest, and try to discover where the beasts of the chase are most numerous. Let me go quickly, but cautiously.-Ah! what abundance of hares, elks, elephants, leopards, tigers, wild cows, bisons, and bears; there are harpies too, and unicorns, swans, huoungs, peacocks, and monkeys frisking about from place to place. Well; this is indeed a wonderful place. He discovers the Princesses bathing.] Ah! what creatures are these? Mortals, or celestials ?—I must instantly entrap one of them with my magic noose, and ascertain what they really are.-[He casts the noose, and snares Mananhurree, the youngest.]
Manan. Oh, my royal sisters! save me, save me.
Hunts. Tell me, maiden, art thou a mortal, or a being of a superior order? Speak quickly, I pray you, and relieve me from my doubts.
Manan. I am the daughter of the king whose palace is in the city of the silver mountain, and came hither with my companions to play. Release me, for I am afraid.
Hunts. If so, I shall have my fortune made, for I will carry you this moment to the court of Pyentsa, sweet maiden, and present you to the young prince.
SCENE 3rd.-Pyentsa. The palace.
Enter Huntsman leading in the young Mananhurree to the Prince. Hunts. Oh, prince, the lord of life and wealth; having but just now snared a palace-fostered maiden of a delicate and gentle form, I have brought her without delay to the golden foot.
Prince. [To Manan.] Be not concerned, sweet palace-born child, I could exist with you for ever. Wait; I will hasten to my royal sire and petition him to let me make you my chief queen.
Manan. Do with me, my lord, as you say.