Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/60

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PERSIA.

is in fact the axis round which the enormous mass of the affairs of the state revolves. His favour is the only way to obtain appointments and emoluments from the prince: no application reaches the royal ear, unless transmitted through and supported by him. He negotiates with the ambassadors of foreign powers, and concludes or breaks treaties at pleasure. The finances are under his direction, and no public or royal domain can be alienated, no innovation made in the government, and no point whatever decided, without his participation. No document is valid unless it be furnished with his seal, and the governors of provinces act only by his instructions.

The Itimad-ad-dowlah repairs early in the morning to the Divan-kanch, in the palace. There he examines petitions, reads the despatches of the governors, prepares instructions for them, and takes the orders of the king. He communicates with him very rarely viva voce, but in general through the medium of eunuchs, or of some officer who has the right of access to the interior of the palace. In formal audiences, he stands at some distance from the throne, on the right, explains the matters to be deliberated upon, reads papers connected with them, gives his opinion, and takes the decisions of the king. In the excursions made by the sovereign, either for pleasure or to show himself to his subjects, the Itimad-ad-dowlah is commonly on his right; and if he be a man of any capacity, he then obtains what he has long solicited: for he disposes the mind of the prince by animated conversation, by happy sallies, by well-timed praises; and then turning the discourse to the object of his wishes, he rarely meets with a refusal. But by what privations, what toil, what anxiety does he not purchase the honour of being the second personage, or rather the first slave, in the empire? No sooner has the favour of the sovereign exalted a subject to the dignity of Itimad-ad-dowlah, no sooner is his utmost ambition gratified, than he becomes a stranger to peace and happiness. His days belong to the state; he passes them in the palace, away from his women, his children, and the objects of his affection. His nights are disturbed by the constant apprehension lest some courtier who is his enemy, and has contrived to win the good graces of the monarch at an entertainment; some eunuch, whom he has affronted; some female, who shares the king's couch, and whose parents have met with some refusal from him; or lastly the queen-mother, whose schemes he has thwarted, may be secretly preparing his downfall. He frequently owes his high fortune to chance: why then may not his disgrace be the work of intrigue? This apprehension identifies itself with his being, haunts him wherever he goes, and shows him the elevation of his rank merely as a measure of the depth of his possible fall.