BETA

The Dream of Mohammed the Second.

The empire of the Ottomans is the
most extraordinary instance in history
of an empire raised by the sword,
governed by the perpetual effusion of
blood, despising all civilisation, cor-
rupted by the grossest excesses of
private life, disordered in every func-
tion of government, constantly ex-
posed to the greatest military powers
of Europe, yet advancing from con-
quest to conquest for three centuries
without a check, (from 1299 to 1566,)
and retaining its vast possessions un-
impaired for three centuries more.
The first approach of the Turks to
Europe was at the close of the thir-
teenth century, when Othman, the
son of a Turcoman chieftain in the
service of Aladin, Sultan of Iconium,
on the memorable 27th of July 1299,
made a descent on the rich territory
of Nicomedia. The Asiatic domin-
ions of the Greek Emperors were lost
in a struggle of two centuries, when
Mohammed the Second assaulted
Constantinople, on the 29th of May
1453. The body of the last emperor
was found buried under a heap of
slain, and Constantinople became the
capital of a new faith, a new people,
and a new sovereignty. His imme-
diate successors wasted the blood, but
exercised the valour of their troops,
in expeditions to Armenia, the Cau-
casus, and Persia. But the nobler
prize lay to the west. All solid sove-
reignty belongs to the hardy frames
and the regular opulence of Europe.
Soliman the First, named the Magni-
ficent, and if a conqueror can deserve
the name, deserving it by the vastness
of his designs and the splendour of his
successes, threw himself upon Hun-
gary. Combining the unusual tac-
tique of an army and fleet, in itself an
evidence of the superiority of his ge-
nius to that of his time, he at once
overran the dominions of the Hunga-
rian king, and assaulted Rhodes, held
by the famous Knights of St John of
Jerusalem, and regarded as the bul-
wark of Christendom. By the reluc-
tant aid of the Venetians, Rhodes was
stormed, after a desperate siege. So-
liman marched to the conquest of
Austria at the head of 200,000 men—
an army which no European potentate,
in the rudeness and distractions of the
age, could hope to oppose. On its
way, it trampled down the army of
Hungary, which had the madness to
meet it ; and marching over the bodies
of 20,000 men, with their monarch,
on the field, converted the kingdom
into a Turkish province, and invested
Vienna. The strength of the ram-
parts and the approach of winter
alone saved the Austrian capital from.
following the fate of the Hungarian.
But while all Christendom trembled
at the sight of the horse-tails, Soliman
died—living and dying, the greatest
conqueror since Charlemagne.
But with him the empire had reach-
ed its fated height. Thenceforth it
was to descend. The seraglio has
been the ruin of Turkey. The se-
cresy of its bloody transactions—its
habitual separation of the sovereign
from the people—its desperate disso-
luteness—and the sullen ignorance,
brute vengeance, and helpless effe-
minacy, which must be nurtured with-
in such walls, extinguished all the
rude virtues of the barbarian. Soli-
man, a hero and a legislator, always
exposing his life in the field, or holding
in his own hand the helm of his vast
empire, reigned almost half a century.
The reigns of his successors have
been proverbial for their brevity. The
janizaries became the true disposers of
the throne. From the time of Musta-
pha the First—whom they strangled
for his effeminacy, and Achmet, whom
they placed on the throne and then
strangled for his usurpation—the jani-
zaries were the recognised makers
and executioners of the sultans.
The first decisive recoil of the Ot-
toman power was in 1683, when So-
bieski, at the head of the Polish army,
forced the Vizier Kara Mustafa to raise
the siege of Vienna, on the 12th of Sep-
tember. But a power more formidable
than even Austria now began to
threaten the Porte on the feeblest part
of its frontier. Peter the Great, break-
ing the treaty of Carlowitz, invaded
Moldavia in 1711. But, though forced
to make an ignominious convention
for his escape, the Russian never for-
got the hope of conquest, and has
since never abandoned the opportu-
nity.
The nineteenth century commenced
in an aggravation of those horrors which
had become characteristic of the Turk-
ish throne. Selim the Sultan dethroned
and strangled ; Mustapha the Usurper
dethroned and stangled ; Bairactar, the
famous Vizier, in the attempt to avenge
the death of Selim, blown up by his
own hand, and thousands of his ad-
herents slaughtered by the janizaries ;
the accession of Mahmoud, the late
Sultan, signalized by the total massacre
of the janizaries in Constantinople, and
the extinction of their order through-
out the empire ; —all less resembling
the transactions of an established go-
vernment, than the last desperate con-
vulsions of a suicidal empire. Yet
some extraordinary influence seems,
for the last century, to have saved her
from hourly ruin. Her time has clearly
not come yet ; and political prophecy
has been once more put to shame.
Turkey, mutilated of the two horns of
her crescent, Greece and Egypt, still re-
tains the solid centre of her possessions ;
and when all human probability looked
for her immediate dissolution, by the
advance of Russia on one side and
Egypt on the other, she has found a
sudden protection in the tardily awa-
kened vigilance of England, Austria,
and France.
But the day of Turkish independence
is at an end. She may live by the
protection of the great states, but with-
out it she cannot live. She is now a
throne under tutelage ; and remarkable
as have been the instances of European
recovery from national misfortune,
there is nothing in the doctrines of Is-
lamism, or the habits of the Asiatic,
to administer that energy by which
alone nations can stand on their feet
again, after having been once flung on
the ground. The grave of her despo-
tism has been dug, but neither Russian
nor Egyptian must be suffered to lay
the body of the last of the Sultans
there.

There is a tradition, that on the night of the capture of Constantinople, the
conqueror saw in his sleep, like the Babylonish king, a vision, unfolding the
fates of his dynasty.
Sultaun, Sultaun ! *1
Thou art lord of the world !2
The last Constantine3
At thy footstool is hurl’d.4
Now trembles the West,5
The East kneels before thee6
Joy, joy to the breast7
Of the mother that bore thee !8
Earth’s tale shall be told,9
Ere thy banner’s green fold10
Is dust, or thy name11
Is no longer a flame !12
Hark, hark to the shouts13
Of the hordes as they lie14
Round the feast, on the ramparts15
That blaze to the sky.16
Where the battlements reek17
With the gore of the storm,18
And the spoils of the Greek19
With his heart’s blood are warm :20
And his new-wedded bride,21
By the Turcoman’s side,22
As his corpse, pale and cold,23
Sits in fetters of gold.24
High hour in the palace !25
There sits at the board,26
By his chieftains surrounded,27
The King of the Sword.28
And shouting, they quaff29
The infidel wine,30
And loudly they laugh31
At the hypocrite’s whine32
Let women and boys33
Shrink from earth and its joys,34
Was the grape only given35
For houris and heaven ?36
Now the banquet is ended ;37
The cannon’s last roar38
Has welcomed the night39
On the Bosphorus’ shore.40
Now the sweet dew of slumber41
Has fallen on each eye,42
And, like gems without number,43
The stars fill the sky ;44
And no echo is heard45
Save the night-chanting bird ;46
And the tissues are drawn47
Round thy chamber, Sultaun.48

* The Turkish pronunciation of the word.
There is pomp in that chamber49
That dazzles the eye ;50
The gold and the amber,51
The loom’s Indian dye.52
The wall sheeted with gems,53
That its keen lustre flings,54
Where the mighty lamp streams55
On the king of earth’s kings.56
Yet the pale watching slave,57
Who hears thy lips rave,58
And hears that heart-groan,59
Would shrink from thy throne !60
Sultaun, Sultaun !61
Why thus writhe in thy sleep ?62
Why thus grasp at thy dagger ?63
Why shudder and weep ?64
There are drops on thy brow,65
Thick-falling like rain ;66
The wringings of woe67
From the heart and the brain.68
And thy cheek’s now blood-red,69
Now pale as the dead70
Art thou corpse, art thou man,71
Sultaun, Sultaun ?72
There are visions unsleeping73
Before that closed eye,74
There are thousand shapes sweeping75
From earth and from sky ;76
Sons of splendour and heaven,77
On pinions of flame ;78
Sons of guilt unforgiven,79
Whom chains cannot tame !80
The Sultaun feels a grasp81
Like a serpent’s strong clasp ;82
And from earth he upsprings,83
In a whirlwind of wings !84
Now he sweeps through the clouds85
Till the sounds of earth die ;86
Through fire and through floods,87
Till the stars seem to fly.88
Then he shoots down again,—89
He is standing alone90
On a measureless plain :91
And around him are strown92
Wrecks of time-moulder’d bones93
Crush’d under their thrones,94
And the viper’s dark swarms,95
Twining jewels and arms.96
Then, deep as the thunder-peal,97
Echo’d a voice :98
Wilt thou see what shall come ?99
Man of fate, take thy choice.100
Who the future will know,101
Shall see clouds on his dawn.”—102
Come weal, or come woe,”103
High spoke the Sultaun.104
Then the plain seem’d to reel105
With a clashing of steel ;106
And upburst a roar,107
Like the sea on the shore.108
Is this the roused desert109
Before the simoom ? ”110
Those clouds are thy Moslems,111
The armies of doom.”112
Then the Danube was blood113
And Buda was flame,114
And Hungary’s lion115
Lay fetter’d and tame.116
Then fell proud Belgrade ;117
Nor the torrent was stay’d,118
Till, Vienna, it roll’d119
Round thy turrets of gold !120
Ho, princes of Christendom,121
Shrink at the sound ;122
Ho, cling to thine altar,123
Old King, triple crown’d !124
Ay, look from thy Vatican !125
All is despair ;126
Thy Saints have forgot thee ;127
No Charlemagne is there ! ”128
But a haze deep and dun129
Swept over the sun ;130
And the pageant was fled131
All was still as the dead.132
Then the plain was a sea133
Of magnificent blue ;134
And in pomp o’er its waters135
The crescent flag flew.136
There the haughty Venetian137
Came, sullen and pale,138
And on wall and on rampart139
The gun pour’d its hail ;140
Where thy warriors, St John,141
Stood like lions, alone,142
Till the trench was a grave143
For the last of the brave.144
Then all pass’d away !145
Fleet and rampart were gone ;146
He heard the last shout,147
The trumpet’s last tone.148
But o’er the wild heath149
Fell the rich eastern night,150
The rose gave her breath,151
The moon gave her light.152
’Twas the Bosphorus’ stream153
That reflected her gleam,154
And the turrets that shone155
In that light were his own.156
Sultaun, Sultaun !157
Now look on thy shame ! ”158
In a silken Kiosk159
Lay a vice-decay’d frame ;160
And before his faint gaze,161
To voice and to string,162
Danced his soft Odalisques,163
Like birds on the wing.164
There was mirth mix’d with madness,165
Strange revel, strange sadness :166
The bowstring and bowl,167
The sense and the soul.168
Where are now his old warriors ?169
All tomb’d in their mail ;170
Where his crescent of glory ?171
Let none tell the tale !172
But, the gilded caïque173
Swept the waves like a dove,174
And the song of the Greek175
Rose to beauty and love.176
The Sultaun, with a groan,177
Saw the son of his throne178
Slave of woman and wine.179
Well he knew the dark sign !180
But vengeance was nigh !181
On the air burst a yell ;182
And the cup from the grasp183
Of the reveller fell.184
Who rush through the chambers185
With hourra and drum !186
The Janizar thousands,187
The blood-drinkers come.188
Then a thrust of the lance,189
And a wild, dying glance,190
And a heart-gush of gore,191
And all’s hush’d—and all o’er.192
Then the plain was thick darkness193
Through ages of sleep :194
But, what son of the lightnings195
Seems round him to sweep ?196
He sees the Death-angel,197
The King of the tomb !198
At his call ride the Spirits199
Of war on the gloom.200
From South and from North201
Come the torturers forth ; 202
Till the flags of the world203
Round Stamboul are unfurl’d.204
Why pauses the sword205
Still athirst in the hand ?206
Does the thunder-cloud wait207
The final command ?208
It shall burst like a deluge,209
The terrible birth210
Of the crimes of the world,211
The avenger of Earth ;212
When sovereign and slave213
Shall be foam on the wave.214
Thy kingdom is gone,215
Sultaun, Sultaun !216