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COLLECTIONBook excerpts
TITLEShelly's Life and Writings
AUTHOR 1William Michael Rossetti
DATE_THIS1878 March
VOLUMEVolume 1
TITLE_PARENTThe University Magazine
ABSTRACTBrief overview of the Bábí Faith and Qurratu'l-Ayn vis-a-vis themes and personages in "The Revolt of Islam," a poem in twelve cantos composed by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1817.
NOTES Free online in multiple formats at
TAGS- Interfaith dialogue; Arts; Bábísm; Iran (documents); Islam; Literature; Literature, English; Percy Bysshe Shelley; Tahirih

1. Text

... I shall venture to interrupt for a minute or two the course of this analysis of Shelly's poems for the purpose of indicating the very singular and striking resemblance which the invented story of the "Revolt of Islam," written in 1817, bears to some historical events of much more recent date in Persia. I refer to the career of the sect named the Bábys, founded by a young man, a native of Shiraz — Mirza-Ali-Mohammed, who in 1843 was a student in a theological school. He was at first a rigid Mussulman; but a comment which he wrote on the Koran was deemed audacious and heretical; and a subsequent book of his developes a system why may be termed pantheistic. Into the more mystical or cabalistic features of this faith I cannot enter; the social doctrines pertaining to it are the most to our purpose. The Báb (or Gate, as the prophet termed himself) was opposed to asceticism and ceremonial religion, and abridged the obligation of prayer to a minimum. He preached universal brotherly affection, and no retaliation; the emancipation of women, and their full equalisation with men, beyond even what prevails in European countries; no polygamy, or at any rate not more than two wives, and his successors have reduced this to a single one. The Bábys spread rapidly, became formidable to Government, took up arms (contrary, it is believed, to the wishes of their founder), and were particularly powerful towards the close of the year 1848, performing memorable feats of valour. Finally the Government conquered, but this sect is still far from suppressed, and may perhaps at no distant date become again a terror to our jewelled guest of 1873, the Shah. As in the "Revolt of Islam," the prime leader of this great movement was put to death; and if he, Mirza-Ali-Mohammed, was the Leon of the Bábys, there was a Cythna too, commonly named Gourret oul Ayn, or Solace of the Eyes, on account of her extraordinary beauty. Lyke Cythna, she exercised an almost magical influence over large masses of the population, and, being seized, she, like Cythna, was burned to death; and about the same time horrid massacres took place of adherents of the new faith, who suffered torments and death with the most astonishing fortitude

— Women and babes and men slaughtered confusedly.

This is a digression — I hope not a wholly uninteresting one. We must now return to our brief account of Shelley's poems...

2. Scan

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