Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/34

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ous action. Since Feth Ali Shah has filled the throne, he has had no opportunity for the display of military qualities: the Persians would probably hold him in higher estimation, had he spilled more blood. His expeditions have been confined to a few excursions into Khorasan, rather with a view to keep up the good opinion of his subjects respecting his bravery, and to inure his troops to the fatigues of war, than to subdue that province.

Sir Robert Ker Porter, to whom his majesty sat for his portrait, who seems to have been not a little flattered by his condescension, and to be not very sparing of flattery in return, describes, in the following terms, the personal character of this monarch :—

His face seemed exceedingly pale, of a polished marble hue, with the finest contour of features, and eyes dark, brilliant and piercing, a beard black as jet, and of a length which fell below his chest over a large portion of the effulgent belt which held his diamond-hilted dagger. This extraordinary amplitude of beard appears to have been a badge of Persian royalty from the earliest times; for we find it attached to the heads of the sovereigns, in all the ancient sculptured remains throughout the empire. His complexion, as before observed, is extremely pale; but when he speaks on subjects that interest him, a vivid colour rushes to his cheek, but only for a moment, it passes so transiently away. His nose is very aquiline; his eye-brows full, black and finely arched, with lashes of the same appearance, shading eyes of the most perfect form, dark and beaming, but at times full of a fire that kindles his whole countenance, though in general its expression is that of languor. The almost sublime dignity which the form of his beard adds to the native majesty of his features, is not to be conceived; and the smile which often shone through it, ineffably sweet and noble, rather increased than diminished the effect.

Though the reigning monarch has never been celebrated for that activity which demonstrates itself in ambitious projects or attachment to the pleasures of the chase, yet he manifests on every occasion that promptitude in the despatch of public business, and vigilance in maintaining the laws he has enacted for the security of the persons and property of his people, which bear every testimony to the soundness of his judgment on the duties of a king: while his encouragement of Persian literature, and his taste for poetry and the arts, show him to be a scholar and a man of genius. That his views are liberally directed toward the improvement of his people, is still more evident from the many Persians sent by him to Europe, to study the arts and sciences most wanted in their own country. These men gen-