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In this lesson, we turn to Felicia Hemans, one of the poets of the period, as we continue to explore Empire and Orientalism. Felicia Hemans’ “The Traveller at the Source of the Nile” (1826), demonstrates and exhibits the triumphalism of the European conqueror and discoverer. In sunset’s light, o’er Afric thrown, A wanderer proudly stood Beside the well-spring, deep and lone, Of Egypt’s awful flood; The cradle of that mighty birth, So long a hidden thing to earth! He heard its life’s first murmuring sound, A low mysterious tone; A music sought, but never found, By kings and warriors gone; He listen’d – and his heart beat high – That was the song of victory! The rapture of a conqueror’s mood Rush’d burning through his frame, – Hemans here employs the classic trope of discovery, of African lands, by the European. The very idea of discovery presupposes a discoverer and a ‘discoveree’, shall we say, somebody was discovered. And the very idea of discovery has been associated for a very long time with the English or European travellers, most famously discussed by Stephen Greenblatt, the Shakespearean scholar, in Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. We see as Greenblatt argues that the Europeans discovered “America”. But the people who are in America, the Native Americans have always known they were there. But the idea of discovery suggests that for the American continent, history begins with the arrival of the European, and that is the point. That for many tropes of discovery that you see throughout triumphalist European writings, the history of Africa or Asia begins with the arrival of the European and the discovery of these lands by the Europeans. This is the triumphalist geography of the European who has gone out there, discovered these bits of land, these people, and has established himself, his right by planting a flag or putting together a document. However, in the process of mapping this triumphalist geography which is characteristic of Imperial discourse, Hemans also presents another imperial trope: of the heroic European. The discoverer is a national hero, he discovers other lands on behalf of a sovereign. In the process he also finds himself. This notion, stereotype, trope of the heroic European in Africa or interior Asia is precisely the one that will be reversed to such a devastating effect in the very wellknown text Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The European in Conrad who goes out there to establish the outstation, the outpost, the trading unit, is no longer a hero. So this triumphalist geography that you see occurring through the English Romantic Age finds its literal and figurative opposite in the Conrad novel. This is an inversion of the canon from within the canon itself. The Orient or Africa is a space where Europe finds itself, it establishes identity. As Edward Said famously argued, Europe cannot imagine its identity without the racial and cultural other. Continuing her stereotyping of the other, Felicia Hemans describes the feminine spaces of the Moorish palace in England and Spain: Its fairy-palace and enchanted bowers; There all Arabian fiction e’er could tell, Of potent genii or of wizards spell. Diego Saglia points out that in poems such as Felicia Hemans’ England and Spain (1808), “the Moors and their royal palace are turned into the symbols of a historical tyranny that the Spaniards had to defeat in order to regain full territorial possession.” That is, the Arab’s home or palace is symbolic of the degenerate Islamic culture, of the tyrannical Arab world. You have a stereotype of a building, of a home, transformed into the stereotype of a civilization itself. You associate the building with a civilization and you argue that this might look like a glorious, gorgeous palace but it is actually a prison because of the various horrible events that occur in it. Another Hemans poem “The Indian City” alters atleast partially, the stereotype of the vulnerable native woman in the figure of Maimuna. Here you have a martial Muslim woman. The Muslim woman protagonist of this poem is portrayed as an angry, vengeful military leader. She rose Like a prophetess from dark repose! ---- And said – ‘Not yet – not yet I weep, Not yet my spirit shall sink or sleep, Not till yon city, in ruins rent, Be piled for its victim’s monument. – Cover his dust! bear it on before! It shall visit those temple-gates once more. Maimuna’s young son is killed when he goes for a walk. She attributes the killing to the local people and vows vengeance. She turns upon the city and collects various Arabs around her who form a little military organization and charge upon the city. The stereotype of the predatory, violent Muslim is in place, reduced to an animal imagery: Hark! a wild sound of the desert’s horn Thro’ the woods round the Indian city borne, A peal of the cymbal and tambour afar – War! ‘tis the gathering of Moslem war! ---- And the sword of the Moslem, let loose to slay, Like the panther leapt on its flying prey. The demonization of the Muslim in India and other parts of the world, post 9/11 United States, as the angry, vengeful, revengeful, treacherous Muslim is a stereotype. Post 9/11, media representations are full of all Muslims as being versions of Osama Bin Laden, the traditional Islamic terrorists, and all terrorists are invariably Muslim. The roots of those tropes, that of the vengeful Muslim or the angry Muslim, goes back in antiquity to the Crusades. We are not going that far back in time but as you have just seen in the description of Felicia Hemans, the angry Muslim woman, the vengeful Muslim woman, is a category by herself. The natural picturesque of the non-European space is feminized through the presence of native women. One recalls how in William Hodges’s representation of Native women, the docile, quiet, meek and submissive Native women are acceptable Native women, not the martial ones. Many a graceful Hindoo maid, With the water-vase from the palmy shade, Came gliding light as the desert’s roe, Down marble steps to the tanks below; But this portrait of the warrior Oriental woman is undermined by Hemans. The war, it seems, is driven not by political concerns but by personal grief. Depoliticizing the woman’s role Hemans sentimentalizes the war effort. Maimuna therefore dies. Hemans returns us, briefly, to the quietitude of the early picturesque: She spoke, and her voice, in its dying tone Had an echo of feelings that long seem’d flown. She murmur’d a low sweet cradle song, Strange midst the din of a warrior throng. Maimuna, the quietude of the place, the child, all of it, is the opening of the poem which suggests harmony of the civic picturesque. After the battle, the city is ruined. So what Hemans does is to transform the countryside, the country, the landscape, from a picturesque to a ruin. And what is the cause of ruin? The cause of ruin is the battle between the Hindus and the Muslims. This is understood by the construction of historical tensions between the Hindus and Muslims as studied by Gyan Pandey. The rise of communalism in colonial India (which is Gyan Pandey’s work) traces the history of representations where the European makes the statement that the Hindus and Muslims in India have always been at war with each other, have always been contesting for space, or for national identity. In short every instance in such cases is seen as a repetition of a historical kind. As Gyan Pandey would argue, there are convulsions of Hindu-Muslim encounters that occur repeatedly. Felicia Hemans writing in 1820s argues pretty much the same thing, that everywhere, the Hindus and Muslims have been at odds with each other. Palace and tower on that plain were left, Like fallen trees by the lightning cleft; The wild vine mantled the stately square, The Rajah’s throne was the serpent’s lair, And the jungle grass o’er the altar sprung– This was the work of one deep heart wrung Hemans stereotypes the confrontation as something that has always happened and that everything about India is destroyed because these two religions do not get along. She in fact is actually putting together the “Clash of Civilizations” thesis which Samuel Huntington would notoriously put forward in the 20th century. What we need to understand about such texts as Hemans’s is that by stereotyping India as a place already divided by caste and religion, you reduce the threat that India poses. You transform India into a decrepit civilization, or you transform it into a civilization which is on its last legs because of infighting and bad kings. There are several stereotypes of this latter angle – of the native Raja, of the native King, as dissolute, tyrannical, a wastrel and other such negative stereotypes. All of these contribute to the overall Romantic Orientalist trope of the East as a place where everything has either collapsed or is in the verge of collapse. This representation of the East as collapsing or already collapsed is an expression of a cultural anxiety that the East should never pose a threat to the European Empire itself.