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An Epistle containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician.

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Karshish, the Arab physician, has been journeying in quest of knowledge pertaining to his art, and writes to his all-sagacious master, Abib, ostensibly about the specimens he has gathered of medicinal plants and minerals, and the observations he has made; but his real interest, which he endeavors to conceal by passing to matters of greater import to him, as he would have his sage at home believe, is in what he pronounces "a case of mania, subinduced by epilepsy". His last letter brought his journeyings to Jericho. He is now on his way to Jerusalem, and has reached Bethany, where he passes the night.

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The case of mania which so interests him, -- far more than he is willing to admit, -- is that of Lazarus, whose firm conviction rests that he was dead (in fact they buried him) and then restored to life by a Nazarene physician of his tribe, who afterwards perished in a tumult. The man Lazarus is witless, he writes, of the relative value of all things. Vast armaments assembled to besiege his city, and the passing of a mule with gourds, are all one to him; while at some trifling fact, he'll gaze, rapt with stupor, as if it had for him prodigious import. Should his child sicken unto death, why look for scarce abatement of his cheerfulness, or suspension of his daily craft; while a word, gesture, or glance from that same child at play or laid asleep, will start him to an agony of fear, exasperation, just as like! The law of the life, it seems, to which he was temporarily admitted, has become to him the law of this earthly life; his heart and brain move there, his feet stay here. He appears to be perfectly submissive to the heavenly will, and awaits patiently for death to restore his being to equilibrium. He is by no means apathetic, but loves both old and young, affects the very brutes and birds and flowers of the field. This man, so restored to life, regards his restorer as, who but God himself, Creator and Sustainer of the world, that came and dwelt in flesh on it awhile, taught, healed the sick, broke bread at his own house, then died! Here Karshish breaks off and asks pardon for writing of such trivial matters, when there are so important ones to treat of, and states that he noticed on the margin of a pool blue-flowering borage abounding, the Aleppo sort, very nitrous. But he returns again to the subject, and tries to explain the peculiar interest, and awe, indeed, the man has inspired him with. Perhaps the journey's end, and his weariness, he thinks, may have had something to do with it. He then relates the weird circumstances under which he met him, and concludes by saying that the repose he will have at Jerusalem shall make amends for the time his letter wastes, his master's and his own. Till when, once more thy pardon and farewell!

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But in spite of himself, his suppressed interest in the strange case MUST have full expression, and he gives way to all reserve and ejaculates in a postscript: -- "The very God! think, Abib; dost thou think? So, the All-Great, were the All-Loving too -- So, through the thunder comes a human voice Saying, `O heart I made, a heart beats here! Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself. Thou hast no power nor may'st conceive of mine, But love I gave thee, with myself to love, And thou must love me who have died for thee!' The madman saith He said so: it is strange."

See before, p. 41 { about one-fifth into Part II of the Introduction}, some remarks on the psychological phase of the monologue.

"The monologue is a signal example of `emotional ratiocination'. There is a flash of ecstasy through the strangely cautious description of Karshish; every syllable is weighed and thoughtful, everywhere the lines swell into perfect feeling." -- Robert Buchanan.

"As an example of our poet's dramatic power in getting right at the heart of a man, reading what is there written, and then looking through his eyes and revealing it all in the man's own speech, nothing can be more complete in its inner soundings and outer-keeping, than the epistle containing the `Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician', who has been picking up the crumbs of learning on his travels in the Holy Land, and writes to Abib, the all-sagacious, at home. It is so solemnly real and so sagely fine." -- N. Brit. Rev., May, 1861.

A wonderfully effective expression, effective through its pathetic simplicity, of the peaceful spirit of a Christian, who has triumphed over persecution and death, and passed to his reward.

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