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Page:The Pentamerone, or The Story of Stories.djvu/18

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PREFACE.

whom Basilius "taketh great recreation;" nay, the very description of the spot where the shepherds meet to entertain Basilius:[1]

"A place of delight, through the midst of which ran a sweet brook, which did both hold the eye open with her azure stream, and yet seek to close the eye with the purling noise it made upon the pebbly stones . . . with such pleasant arbours that they became a gallery aloft from tree to tree, which below gave a pleasant refuge from the choleric look of Phoebus."

The oriental character of Basile's imagery is sufficiently striking, but it partakes more of that of the Persian than the Hindoo poetry, which Mr. Elphinstone well contrasts. In speaking of the figures employed by the two nations he observes: "Those of the Persians are conventional hints, which would scarcely convey an idea to a person not accustomed to them: a beautiful woman's form is a cypress, her locks are musk, in blackness, her eyes a languid narcissus, and the dimple in her chin a well. But the Sanscrit similes, in which they deal more than in metaphors, are in general new and appropriate, and are sufficient, without previous knowledge, to place the points of resemblance in a vivid light."[2]

We can only conjecture where Basile collected these Stories; it is very improbable that all, if any of them, were indigenous in the south of Italy, and we may rather infer with Mr. Keightley that he met with them during his residence in Crete (which by the way Boccaccio also visited) and Venice. Left thus in doubt upon this point, it is interesting to open any source of inference as to their origin. The

  1. See infra, p. 235
  2. History of India, i. 293.