The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

§ III. — The Matter and the Manner of the Nights.

A. — The Matter.

Returning to my threefold distribution of this Prose Poem (Section § I) into Fable, Fairy Tale and historical Anecdote1, let me proceed to consider these sections more carefully.

The Apologue or Beast-fable, which apparently antedates all other subjects in The Nights, has been called “One of the earliest creations of the awakening consciousness of mankind.” I should regard it, despite a monumental antiquity, as the offspring of a comparatively civilised age, when a jealous despotism or a powerful oligarchy threw difficulties and dangers in the way of speaking “plain truths.” A hint can be given and a friend or foe can be lauded or abused as Belins the sheep or Isengrim the wolf when the Author is debarred the higher enjoyment of praising them or dispraising them by name. And, as the purposes of fables are twofold —

Duplex libelli dos est: quod risum movet,

Et quod prudenti vitam consilio monet —

The speaking of brute beasts would give a piquancy and a pleasantry to moral design as well as to social and political satire.

The literary origin of the fable is not Buddhistic: we must especially shun that “Indo–Germanic” school which goes to India for its origins, when Pythagoras, Solon, Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle and possibly Homer sat for instruction at the feet of the Hir-seshtha, the learned grammarians of the pharaohnic court. Nor was it Æsopic, evidently Æsop inherited the hoarded wealth of ages. As Professor Lepsius taught us, “In the olden times within the memory of man, we know only of one advanced culture; of only one mode of writing, and of only one literary development, viz. those of Egypt.” The invention of an alphabet, as opposed to a syllabary, unknown to Babylonia, to Assyria and to that extreme bourne of their civilising influence, China, would for ever fix their literature — poetry, history and criticism,2 the apologue and the anecdote. To mention no others The Lion and the Mouse appears in a Leyden papyrus dating from B.C 1200–1166 the days of Rameses III. (Rhampsinitus) or Hak On, not as a rude and early attempt, but in a finished form, postulating an ancient origin and illustrious ancestry. The dialogue also is brought to perfection in the discourse between the Jackal Koufi and the Ethiopian Cat (Revue Égyptologique ivme. année Part i.). Africa therefore was the home of the Beast-fable not as Professor Mahaffy thinks, because it was the chosen land of animal worship, where

Oppida tote canem venerantur nemo Dianam;3

but simply because the Nile-land originated every form of literature between Fabliau and Epos.

From Kemi the Black-land it was but a step to Phoenicia, Judæa,4 Phrygia and Asia Minor, whence a ferry led over to Greece. Here the Apologue found its populariser in {Greek letters}, Æsop, whose name, involved in myth, possibly connects with:—

“Æsopus et Aithiops idem sonant”

says the sage. This would show that the Hellenes preserved a legend of the land whence the Beast-fable arose, and we may accept the fabulist’s æra as contemporary with Croesus and Solon (B.C. 570,) about a century after Psammeticus (Psamethik 1st) threw Egypt open to the restless Greek.5 From Africa too the Fable would in early ages migrate eastwards and make for itself a new home in the second great focus of civilisation formed by the Tigris–Euphrates Valley. The late Mr. George Smith found amongst the cuneiforms fragmentary Beast-fables, such as dialogues between the Ox and the Horse, the Eagle and the Sun. In after centuries, when the conquests of Macedonian Alexander completed what Sesostris and Semiramis had begun, and mingled the manifold families of mankind by joining the eastern to the western world, the Orient became formally hellenised. Under the Seleucidæ and during the life of the independent Bactrian Kingdom (B.C. 255–125), Grecian art and science, literature and even language overran the old Iranic reign and extended eastwards throughout northern India. Porus sent two embassies to Augustus in B.C. 19 and in one of them the herald Zarmanochagas (Shramanáchárya) of Bargosa, the modern Baroch in Guzerat, bore an epistle upon vellum written in Greek (Strabo xv. I section 78). “Videtis gentes populosque mutasse sedes” says Seneca (De Cons. ad Helv. c. vi.). Quid sibi volunt in mediis barbarorum regionibus Græcæ artes? Quid inter Indos Persasque Macedonicus sermo? Atheniensis in Asia turba est.” Upper India, in the Macedonian days would have been mainly Buddhistic, possessing a rude alphabet borrowed from Egypt through Arabia and Phoenicia, but still in a low and barbarous condition: her buildings were wooden and she lacked, as far as we know, stone-architecture — the main test of social development. But the Bactrian Kingdom gave an impulse to her civilisation and the result was classical opposed to vedic Sanskrit. From Persia Greek letters, extending southwards to Arabia, would find indigenous imitators and there Æsop would be represented by the sundry sages who share the name Lokman.6 One of these was of servile condition, tailor, carpenter or shepherd; and a “Habashi” (Æthiopian) meaning a negro slave with blubber lips and splay feet, so far showing a superficial likeness to the Æsop of history.

The Æsopic fable, carried by the Hellenes to India, might have fallen in with some rude and fantastic barbarian of Buddhistic “persuasion” and indigenous origin: so Reynard the Fox has its analogue amongst the Kafirs and the Vái tribe of Mandengan negroes in Liberia7 amongst whom one Doalu invented or rather borrowed a syllabarium. The modern Gypsies are said also to have beast-fables which have never been traced to a foreign source (Leland). But I cannot accept the refinement of difference which Professor Benfey, followed by Mr. Keith Falconer, discovers between the Æsopic and the Hindu apologue:— “In the former animals are allowed to act as animals: the latter makes them act as men in the form of animals.” The essence of the beast-fable is a reminiscence of Homo primigenius with erected ears and hairy hide, and its expression is to make the brother brute behave, think and talk like him with the superadded experience of ages. To early man the “lower animals,” which are born, live and die like himself, showing all the same affects and disaffects, loves and hates, passions, prepossessions and prejudices, must have seemed quite human enough and on an equal level to become his substitutes. The savage, when he began to reflect, would regard the carnivor and the serpent with awe, wonder and dread; and would soon suspect the same mysterious potency in the brute as in himself: so the Malays still look upon the Uran-utan, or Wood-man, as the possessor of superhuman wisdom. The hunter and the herdsman, who had few other companions, would presently explain the peculiar relations of animals to themselves by material metamorphosis, the bodily transformation of man to brute giving increased powers of working him weal and woe. A more advanced stage would find the step easy to metempsychosis, the beast containing the Ego (alias soul) of the human: such instinctive belief explains much in Hindu literature, but it was not wanted at first by the Apologue.

This blending of blood, this racial baptism would produce a fine robust progeny; and, after our second century, Ægypto-Græco-Indian stories overran the civilised globe between Rome and China. Tales have wings and fly farther than the jade hatchets of proto-historic days. And the result was a book which has had more readers than any other except the Bible. Its original is unknown.8 The volume, which in Pehlevi became the Jávidán Khirad (“Wisdom of Ages”) or the Testament of Hoshang, that ancient guebre King, and in Sanskrit the Panchatantra (“Five Chapters”), is a recueil of apologues and anecdotes related by the learned Brahman, Vishnu Sharmá for the benefit of his pupils the sons of an Indian Rajah. The Hindu original has been adapted and translated into a number of languages; Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac, Greek and Latin, Persian and Turkish, under a host of names.9 Voltaire 10 wisely remarks of this venerable production:— Quand on fait réflexion que presque toute la terre a été enfatuée de pareils contes, et qu’ils ont fait l’education du genre humain, on trouve les fables de Pilpay, de Lokman,11 d’Ésope, bien raisonables. But methinks the sage of Ferney might have said far more. These fables speak with the large utterance of early man; they have also their own especial beauty — the charms of well-preserved and time-honoured old age. There is in their wisdom a perfume of the past, homely and ancient-fashioned like a whiff of pot pourri, wondrous soothing withal to olfactories agitated by the patchoulis and jockey clubs of modern pretenders and petit-maîtres, with their grey young heads and pert intelligence, the motto of whose ignorance is “Connu!” Were a dose of its antique, mature experience adhibited to the Western before he visits the East, those few who could digest it might escape the normal lot of being twisted round the fingers of every rogue they meet from Dragoman to Rajah. And a quotation from them tells at once: it shows the quoter to be man of education, not a “Jangalí,” a sylvan or savage, as the Anglo–Indian official is habitually termed by his more civilised “fellow-subject.”

The main difference between the classical apologue and the fable in The Nights is that while Æsop and Gabrias write laconic tales with a single event and a simple moral, the Arabian fables are often “long-continued novelle involving a variety of events, each characterised by some social or political aspect, forming a narrative highly interesting in itself, often exhibiting the most exquisite moral, and yet preserving, with rare ingenuity, the peculiar characteristics of the actors.”12 And the distinction between the ancient and the mediæval apologue, including the modern which, since “Reineke Fuchs,” is mainly German, appears equally pronounced. The latter is humorous enough and rich in the wit which results from superficial incongruity: but it ignores the deep underlying bond which connects man with beast. Again, the main secret of its success is the strain of pungent satire, especially in the Renardine Cycle, which the people could apply to all unpopular “lordes and prelates, gostly and worldly.”

Our Recueil contains two distinct sets of apologues. 13 The first (vol. iii.) consists of eleven, alternating with five anecdotes (Nights cxlvi. — cliii.), following the lengthy and knightly romance of King Omar bin al Nu’man and followed by the melancholy love tale of Ali bin Bakkár. The second series in vol. ix., consisting of eight fables, not including ten anecdotes (Nights cmi. — cmxxiv.), is injected into the romance of King Jali’ad and Shimas mentioned by Al–Mas’udi as independent of The Nights. In both places the Beast-fables are introduced with some art and add variety to the subject-matter, obviating monotony — the deadly sin of such works — and giving repose to the hearer or reader after a climax of excitement such as the murder of the Wazirs. And even these are not allowed to pall upon the mental palate, being mingled with anecdotes and short tales, such as the Hermits (iii. 125), with biographical or literary episodes, acroamata, table-talk and analects where humorous Rabelaisian anecdote finds a place; in fact the fabliau or novella. This style of composition may be as ancient as the apologues. We know that it dates as far back as Rameses III., from the history of the Two Brothers in the Orbigny papyrus,14 the prototype of Yusuf and Zulaykha, the Koranic Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. It is told with a charming naïveté and such sharp touches of local colour as, “Come, let us make merry an hour and lie together! Let down thy hair!”

Some of the apologues in The Nights are pointless enough, rien moins qu’amusants; but in the best specimens, such as the Wolf and the Fox15 (the wicked man and the wily man), both characters are carefully kept distinct and neither action nor dialogue ever flags. Again The Flea and the Mouse (iii. 151), of a type familiar to students of the Pilpay cycle, must strike the home-reader as peculiarly quaint.

Next in date to the Apologue comes the Fairy Tale proper, where the natural universe is supplemented by one of purely imaginative existence. “As the active world is inferior to the rational soul,” says Bacon with his normal sound sense, “so Fiction gives to Mankind what History denies and in some measure satisfies the Mind with Shadows when it cannot enjoy the Substance. And as real History gives us not the success of things according to the deserts of vice and virtue, Fiction corrects it and presents us with the fates and fortunes of persons rewarded and punished according to merit.” But I would say still more. History paints or attempts to paint life as it is, a mighty maze with or without a plan: Fiction shows or would show us life as it should be, wisely ordered and laid down on fixed lines. Thus Fiction is not the mere handmaid of History: she has a household of her own and she claims to be the triumph of Art which, as Göethe remarked, is “Art because it is not Nature.” Fancy, la folle du logis, is “that kind and gentle portress who holds the gate of Hope wide open, in opposition to Reason, the surly and scrupulous guard.”16 As Palmerin of England says and says well, “For that the report of noble deeds doth urge the courageous mind to equal those who bear most commendation of their approved valiancy; this is the fair fruit of Imagination and of ancient histories.” And, last but not least, the faculty of Fancy takes count of the cravings of man’s nature for the marvellous, the impossible, and of his higher aspirations for the Ideal, the Perfect: she realises the wild dreams and visions of his generous youth and portrays for him a portion of that “other and better world,” with whose expectation he would console his age.

The imaginative varnish of The Nights serves admirably as a foil to the absolute realism of the picture in general. We enjoy being carried away from trivial and commonplace characters, scenes and incidents; from the matter of fact surroundings of a work-a-day world, a life of eating and drinking, sleeping and waking, fighting and loving, into a society and a mise-en-scène which we suspect can exist and which we know does not. Every man at some turn or term of his life has longed for supernatural powers and a glimpse of Wonderland. Here he is in the midst of it. Here he sees mighty spirits summoned to work the human mite’s will, however whimsical, who can transport him in an eye-twinkling whithersoever he wishes; who can ruin cities and build palaces of gold and silver, gems and jacinths; who can serve up delicate viands and delicious drinks in priceless chargers and impossible cups and bring the choicest fruits from farthest Orient: here he finds magas and magicians who can make kings of his friends, slay armies of his foes and bring any number of beloveds to his arms. And from this outraging probability and out-stripping possibility arises not a little of that strange fascination exercised for nearly two centuries upon the life and literature of Europe by The Nights, even in their mutilated and garbled form. The reader surrenders himself to the spell, feeling almost inclined to enquire “And why may it not be true?’’17 His brain is dazed and dazzled by the splendours which flash before it, by the sudden procession of Jinns and Jinniyahs, demons and fairies, some hideous, others preternaturally beautiful; by good wizards and evil sorcerers, whose powers are unlimited for weal and for woe; by mermen and mermaids, flying horses, talking animals, and reasoning elephants; by magic rings and their slaves and by talismanic couches which rival the carpet of Solomon. Hence, as one remarks, these Fairy Tales have pleased and still continue to please almost all ages, all ranks and all different capacities.

Dr. Hawkesworth18 observes that these Fairy Tales find favour “because even their machinery, wild and wonderful as it is, has its laws; and the magicians and enchanters perform nothing but what was naturally to be expected from such beings, after we had once granted them existence.” Mr. Heron “rather supposes the very contrary is the truth of the fact. It is surely the strangeness, the unknown nature, the anomalous character of the supernatural agents here employed, that makes them to operate so powerfully on our hopes, fears, curiosities, sympathies, and, in short, on all the feelings of our hearts. We see men and women, who possess qualities to recommend them to our favour, subjected to the influence of beings, whose good or ill will, power or weakness, attention or neglect, are regulated by motives and circumstances which we cannot comprehend: and hence, we naturally tremble for their fate, with the same anxious concern, as we should for a friend wandering, in a dark night, amidst torrents and precipices; or preparing to land on a strange island, while he knew not whether he should be received, on the shore, by cannibals waiting to tear him piecemeal, and devour him, or by gentle beings, disposed to cherish him with fond hospitality.” Both writers have expressed themselves well, but meseems each has secured, as often happens, a fragment of the truth and holds it to be the whole Truth. Granted that such spiritual creatures as Jinns walk the earth, we are pleased to find them so very human, as wise and as foolish in word and deed as ourselves: similarly we admire in a landscape natural forms like those of Staffa or the Palisades which favour the works of architecture. Again, supposing such preternaturalisms to be around and amongst us, the wilder and more capricious they prove, the more our attention is excited and our forecasts are baffled to be set right in the end. But this is not all. The grand source of pleasure in Fairy Tales is the natural desire to learn more of the Wonderland which is known to many as a word and nothing more, like Central Africa before the last half century: thus the interest is that of the “Personal Narrative” of a grand exploration to one who delights in travels. The pleasure must be greatest where faith is strongest; for instance amongst imaginative races like the Kelts and especially Orientals, who imbibe supernaturalism with their mother’s milk. “I am persuaded,” writes Mr. Bayle St. John,19 “that the great scheme of preternatural energy, so fully developed in The Thousand and One Nights, is believed in by the majority of the inhabitants of all the religious professions both in Syria and Egypt.” He might have added “by every reasoning being from prince to peasant, from Mullah to Badawi, between Marocco and Outer Ind.”

The Fairy Tale in The Nights is wholly and purely Persian. The gifted Iranian race, physically the noblest and the most beautiful of all known to me, has exercised upon the world-history an amount of influence which has not yet been fully recognised. It repeated for Babylonian art and literature what Greece had done for Egyptian, whose dominant idea was that of working for eternity a. Hellas and Iran instinctively chose as their characteristic the idea of Beauty, rejecting all that was exaggerated and grotesque; and they made the sphere of Art and Fancy as real as the world of Nature and Fact. The innovation was hailed by the Hebrews. The so-called Books of Moses deliberately and ostentatiously ignored the future state of rewards and punishments, the other world which ruled the life of the Egyptian in this world: the lawgiver, whoever he may have been, Osarsiph or Moshe, apparently held the tenet unworthy of a race whose career he was directing to conquest and isolation in dominion. But the Jews, removed to Mesopotamia, the second cradle of the creeds, presently caught the infection of their Asiatic media; superadded Babylonian legend to Egyptian myth; stultified The Law by supplementing it with the “absurdities of foreign fable” and ended, as the Talmud proves, with becoming the most wildly superstitious and “other worldly’’ of mankind.

The same change befel Al–Islam. The whole of its supernaturalism is borrowed bodily from Persia, which had “imparadised Earth by making it the abode of angels.” Mohammed, a great and commanding genius, blighted and narrowed by surroundings and circumstances to something little higher than a Covenanter or a Puritan, declared to his followers,

“I am sent to ‘stablish the manners and customs;”

and his deficiency of imagination made him dislike everything but “women, perfumes, and prayers,” with an especial aversion to music and poetry, plastic art and fiction. Yet his system, unlike that of Moses, demanded thaumaturgy and metaphysical entities, and these he perforce borrowed from the Jews who had borrowed them from the Babylonians: his soul and spirit, his angels and devils, his cosmogony, his heavens and hells, even the Bridge over the Great Depth are all either Talmudic or Iranian. But there he stopped and would have stopped others. His enemies among the Koraysh were in the habit of reciting certain Persian fabliaux and of extolling them as superior to the silly and equally fictitious stories of the “Glorious Koran.” The leader of these scoffers was one Nazr ibn Háris who, taken prisoner after the Battle of Bedr, was incontinently decapitated, by apostolic command, for what appears to be a natural and sensible preference. It was the same furious fanaticism and one-idea’d intolerance which made Caliph Omar destroy all he could find of the Alexandrian Library and prescribe burning for the Holy Books of the Persian Guebres. And the taint still lingers in Al–Islam: it will be said of a pious man, “He always studies the Koran, the Traditions and other books of Law and Religion; and he never reads poems nor listens to music or to stories.”

Mohammed left a dispensation or rather a reformation so arid, jejune and material that it promised little more than the “Law of Moses,” before this was vivified and racially baptised by Mesopotamian and Persic influences. But human nature was stronger than the Prophet and, thus outraged, took speedy and absolute revenge. Before the first century had elapsed, orthodox Al–Islam was startled by the rise of Tasawwuf or Sufyism20 a revival of classic Platonism and Christian Gnosticism, with a mingling of modern Hylozoism; which, quickened by the glowing imagination of the East, speedily formed itself into a creed the most poetical and impractical, the most spiritual and the most transcendental ever invented; satisfying all man’s hunger for “belief” which, if placed upon a solid basis of fact and proof, would forthright cease to be belief.

I will take from The Nights, as a specimen of the true Persian romance, “The Queen of the Serpents” (vol. v. 298), the subject of Lane’s Carlylean denunciation. The first gorgeous picture is the Session of the Snakes which, like their Indian congeners the Nága kings and queens, have human heads and reptile bodies, an Egyptian myth that engendered the “old serpent” of Genesis. The Sultánah welcomes Hásib Karím al-Dín, the hapless lad who had been left in a cavern to die by the greedy woodcutters; and, in order to tell him her tale, introduces the “Adventures of Bulúkiyá”: the latter is an Israelite converted by editor and scribe to Mohammedanism; but we can detect under his assumed faith the older creed. Solomon is not buried by authentic history “beyond the Seven (mystic) Seas,” but at Jerusalem or Tiberias; and his seal-ring suggests the Jám-i-Jam, the crystal cup of the great King Jamshíd. The descent of the Archangel Gabriel, so familiar to Al–Islam, is the manifestation of Bahman, the First Intelligence, the mightiest of the Angels who enabled Zarathustra–Zoroaster to walk like Bulukiya over the Dálatí or Caspian Sea. 21 Amongst the sights shown to Bulukiya, as he traverses the Seven Oceans, is a battle royal between the believing and the unbelieving Jinns, true Magian dualism, the eternal duello of the Two Roots or antagonistic Principles, Good and Evil, Hormuzd and Ahriman, which Milton has debased into a common-place modern combat fought also with cannon. Sakhr the Jinni is Eshem chief of the Divs, and Kaf, the encircling mountain, is a later edition of Persian Alborz. So in the Mantak al-Tayr (Colloquy of the Flyers) the Birds, emblems of souls, seeking the presence of the gigantic feathered biped Simurgh, their god, traverse seven Seas (according to others seven Wadys) of Search, of Love, of Knowledge, of Competence, of Unity, of Stupefaction, and of Altruism (i.e. annihilation of self), the several stages of contemplative life. At last, standing upon the mysterious island of the Simurgh and “casting a clandestine glance at him they saw thirty birds22 in him; and when they turned their eyes to themselves the thirty birds seemed one Simurgh: they saw in themselves the entire Simurgh; they saw in the Simurgh the thirty birds entirely.” Therefore they arrived at the solution of the problem “We and Thou;” that is, the identity of God and Man; they were for ever annihilated in the Simurgh and the shade vanished in the sun (Ibid. iii. 250). The wild ideas concerning Khalít and Malít (vol. v. 319) are again Guebre. “From the seed of Kayomars (the androgyne, like pre-Adamite man) sprang a tree shaped like two human beings and thence proceeded Meshia and Meshianah, first man and woman, progenitors of mankind;” who, though created for “Shídistán, Light-land,” were seduced by Ahriman. This “two-man-tree” is evidently the duality of Physis and Anti-physis, Nature and her counterpart, the battle between Mihr, Izad or Mithra with his Surush and Feristeh (Seraphs and Angels) against the Divs who are the children of Time led by the arch demon-Eshem. Thus when Hormuzd created the planets, the dog, and all useful animals and plants, Ahriman produced the comets, the wolf, noxious beasts and poisonous growths. The Hindus represent the same metaphysical idea by Bramhá the Creator and Visva — karma, the Anti-creator,23 miscalled by Europeans Vulcan: the former fashions a horse and a bull and the latter caricatures them with an ass and a buffalo — evolution turned topsy turvy. After seeing nine angels and obtaining an explanation of the Seven Stages of Earth which is supported by the Gav-i-Zamín, the energy, symbolised by a bull, implanted by the Creator in the mundane sphere, Bulukiya meets the four Archangels, to wit Gabriel who is the Persian Rawánbakhsh or Life-giver; Michael or Beshter, Raphael or Israfil alias Ardibihisht, and Azazel or Azrail who is Dumá or Mordad, the Death-giver; and the four are about to attack the Dragon, that is, the demons hostile to mankind who were driven behind Alborz–Kaf by Tahmuras the ancient Persian king. Bulukiya then recites an episode within an episode, the “Story of Jánsháh,” itself a Persian name and accompanied by two others (vol. v. 329), the mise-en-scène being Kabul and the King of Khorasan appearing in the proem. Janshah, the young Prince, no sooner comes to man’s estate than he loses himself out hunting and falls in with cannibals whose bodies divide longitudinally, each moiety going its own way: these are the Shikk (split ones) which the Arabs borrowed from the Persian Ním — chihrah or Half-faces. They escape to the Ape-island whose denizens are human in intelligence and speak articulately, as the universal East believes they can: these Simiads are at chronic war with the Ants, alluding to some obscure myth which gave rise to the gold-diggers of Herodotus and other classics, “emmets in size somewhat less than dogs but bigger than foxes.”24 The episode then falls into the banalities of Oriental folk-lore. Janshah, passing the Sabbation river and reaching the Jews’ city, is persuaded to be sewn up in a skin and is carried in the normal way to the top of the Mountain of Gems where he makes acquaintance with Shaykh Nasr, Lord of the Birds: he enters the usual forbidden room; falls in love with the pattern Swan-maiden; wins her by the popular process; loses her and recovers her through the Monk Yaghmús, whose name, like that of King Teghmús, is a burlesque of the Greek; and, finally, when she is killed by a shark, determines to mourn her loss till the end of his days. Having heard this story Bulukiya quits him; and, resolving to regain his natal land, falls in with Khizr; and the Green Prophet, who was Wazir to Kay Kobad (vith century B. C.) and was connected with Macedonian Alexander (!) enables him to win his wish. The rest of the tale calls for no comment.

Thirdly and lastly we have the histories, historical stories and the “Ana” of great men in which Easterns as well as Westerns delight: the gravest writers do not disdain to relieve the dullness of chronicles and annals by means of such discussions, humorous or pathetic, moral or grossly indecent. The dates must greatly vary: some of the anecdotes relating to the early Caliphs appear almost contemporary; others, like Ali of Cairo and Abu al- Shamat, may be as late as the Ottoman Conquest of Egypt (sixteenth century). All are distinctly Sunnite and show fierce animus against the Shi’ah heretics, suggesting that they were written after the destruction of the Fatimite dynasty (twelfth century) by Salah al-Din (Saladin the Kurd) one of the latest historical personages and the last king named in The Nights. 25 These anecdotes are so often connected with what a learned Frenchman terms the “regne féerique de Haroun er-Réschid,”26 that the Great Caliph becomes the hero of this portion of The Nights. Aaron the Orthodox was the central figure of the most splendid empire the world had seen, the Viceregent of Allah combining the powers of Cæsar and Pope, and wielding them right worthily according to the general voice of historians. To quote a few: Ali bin Talib al-Khorásáni described him, in A.D. 934, a century and-a-half after his death when flattery would be tongue-tied, as, “one devoted to war and pilgrimage, whose bounty embraced the folk at large.” Sa’adi (ob. A.D. 1291) tells a tale highly favourable to him in the “Gulistan” (lib. i. 36). Fakhr al-Din27 (xivth century) lauds his merits, eloquence, science and generosity; and Al–Siyuti (nat. A.D. 1445) asserts “He was one of the most distinguished of Caliphs and the most illustrious of the Princes of the Earth” (p. 290). The Shaykh al-Nafzáwi28 (sixteenth century) in his Rauz al-Átir fí Nazáh al-Khátir = Scented Garden-site for Heart-delight, calls Harun (chapt. vii.) the “Master of munificence and bounty, the best of the generous.” And even the latest writers have not ceased to praise him. Says Alí Azíz Efendi the Cretan, in the Story of Jewád29 (p. 81), “Harun was the most bounteous, illustrious and upright of the Abbaside Caliphs.”

The fifth Abbaside was fair and handsome, of noble and majestic presence, a sportsman and an athlete who delighted in polo and archery. He showed sound sense and true wisdom in his speech to the grammarian-poet Al–Asma’î, who had undertaken to teach him:— “Ne m’enseignez jamais en public, et ne vous empressez pas trop de me donner des avis en particulier. Attendez ordinairement que je vous interroge, et contentez vous de me donner une response précise à ce que je vous demanderai, sans y rien ajouter de superflu. Gardez vous surtout de vouloir me préoccuper pour vous attirer ma creance, et pour vous donner de l’autorité. Ne vous etendez jamais trop en long sur les histoires et les traditions que vous me raconterez, si je ne vous en donne la permission. Lorsque vous verrai que je m’eloignerai de l’équité dans mes jugements, ramenez-moi avec douceur, sans user de paroles fâcheuses ni de réprimandes. Enseignez-moi principalement les choses qui sont les plus necessaires pour les dis cours que je dois faire en public, dans les mosquées et ailleurs; et ne parlez point en termes obscurs, ou mystérieux, ni avec des paroles trop recherchées.’’30

He became well read in science and letters, especially history and tradition, for “his understanding was as the understanding of the learned;” and, like all educated Arabs of his day, he was a connoisseur of poetry which at times he improvised with success. 31 He made the pilgrimage every alternate year and sometimes on foot, while “his military expeditions almost equalled his pilgrimages.” Day after day during his Caliphate he prayed a hundred “bows,” never neglecting them, save for some especial reason, till his death; and he used to give from his privy purse alms to the extent of a hundred dirhams per diem. He delighted in panegyry and liberally rewarded its experts, one of whom, Abd al-Sammák the Preacher, fairly said of him, “Thy humility in thy greatness is nobler than thy greatness.”“No Caliph,” says Al–Niftawayh, “had been so profusely liberal to poets, lawyers and divines, although as the years advanced he wept over his extravagance amongst other sins.” There was vigorous manliness in his answer to the Grecian Emperor who had sent him an insulting missive:—“In the name of Allah! From the Commander of the Faithful Harun al-Rashid, to Nicephorus the Roman dog. I have read thy writ, O son of a miscreant mother! Thou shalt not hear, thou shalt see my reply.” Nor did he cease to make the Byzantine feel the weight of his arm till he “nakh’d”32 his camel in the imperial Court-yard; and this was only one instance of his indomitable energy and hatred of the Infidel. Yet, if the West is to be believed, he forgot his fanaticism in his diplomatic dealings and courteous intercourse with Carolus Magnus.33 Finally, his civilised and well regulated rule contrasted as strongly with the barbarity and turbulence of occidental Christendom, as the splendid Court and the luxurious life of Baghdad and its carpets and hangings devanced the quasi-savagery of London and Paris whose palatial halls were spread with rushes.

The great Caliph ruled twenty-three years and a few months (A.H. 170–193 = A.D. 786–808); and, as his youth was chequered and his reign was glorious, so was his end obscure.34 After a vision foreshadowing his death, 35 which happened, as becomes a good Moslem, during a military expedition to Khorasan, he ordered his grave to be dug and himself to be carried to it in a covered litter: when sighting the fosse he exclaimed, “O son of man thou art come to this!” Then he commanded himself to be set down and a perfection of the Koran to be made over him in the litter on the edge of the grave. He was buried (æt. forty-five) at Sanábád, a village near Tús.

Aaron the Orthodox appears in The Nights as a headstrong and violent autocrat, a right royal figure according to the Moslem ideas of his day. But his career shows that he was not more tyrannical or more sanguinary than the normal despot of the East, or the contemporary Kings of the West: in most points, indeed, he was far superior to the historic misrulers who have afflicted the world from Spain to furthest China. But a single great crime, a tragedy whose details are almost incredibly horrible, marks his reign with the stain of infamy, with a blot of blood never to be washed away. This tale, “full of the waters of the eye,” as Firdausi sings, is the massacre of the Barmecides; a story which has often been told and which cannot here be passed over in silence. The ancient and noble Iranian house, belonging to the “Ebná” or Arabised Persians, had long served the Ommiades till, early in our eighth century, Khálid bin Bermek,36 the chief, entered the service of the first Abbaside and became Wazir and Intendant of Finance to Al–Saffah. The most remarkable and distinguished of the family, he was in office when Al–Mansur transferred the capital from Damascus, the headquarters of the hated Ommiades, to Baghdad, built ad hoc. After securing the highest character in history by his personal gifts and public services, he was succeeded by his son and heir Yáhyá (John), a statesman famed from early youth for prudence and profound intelligence, liberality and nobility of soul.37 He was charged by the Caliph Al–Mahdi with the education of his son Harun, hence the latter was accustomed to call him father; and, until the assassination of the fantastic tyrant Al-Hádi, who proposed to make his own child Caliph, he had no little difficulty in preserving the youth from death in prison. The Orthodox, once seated firmly on the throne, appointed Yáhyá his Grand Wazir. This great administrator had four sons, Al–Fazl, Ja’afar, Mohammed, and Musa,38 in whose time the house of Bermek rose to that height from which decline and fall are, in the East, well nigh certain and immediate. Al–Fazl was a foster-brother of Harun, an exchange of suckling infants having taken place between the two mothers for the usual object, a tightening of the ties of intimacy: he was a man of exceptional mind, but he lacked the charm of temper and manner which characterised Ja’afar.

The poets and rhetoricians have been profuse in their praises of the cadet who appears in The Nights as an adviser of calm sound sense, an intercessor and a peace-maker, and even more remarkable than the rest of his family for an almost incredible magnanimity and generosity — une générosité effrayante. Mohammed was famed for exalted views and nobility of sentiment and Musa for bravery and energy: of both it was justly said, “They did good and harmed not.”39

For ten years (not including an interval of seven) from the time of Al–Rashid’s accession (A.D. 786) to the date of their fall, (A.D. 803), Yahya and his sons, Al–Fazl and Ja’afar, were virtually rulers of the great heterogeneous empire, which extended from Mauritania to Tartary, and they did notable service in arresting its disruption. Their downfall came sudden and terrible like “a thunderbolt from the blue.” As the Caliph and Ja’afar were halting in Al-‘Umr (the convent) near Anbár-town on the Euphrates, after a convivial evening spent in different pavilions, Harun during the dead of the night called up his page Yásir al-Rikhlah40 and bade him bring Ja’afar’s head. The messenger found Ja’afar still carousing with the blind poet Abú Zakkár and the Christian physician Gabriel ibn Bakhtiashú, and was persuaded to return to the Caliph and report his death; the Wazir adding, “An he express regret I shall owe thee my life; and, if not, whatso Allah will be done.” Ja’afar followed to listen and heard only the Caliph exclaim “O sucker of thy mother’s clitoris, if thou answer me another word, I will send thee before him!” whereupon he at once bandaged his own eyes and received the fatal blow. Al–Asma’í, who was summoned to the presence shortly after, recounts that when the head was brought to Harun he gazed at it, and summoning two witnesses commanded them to decapitate Yasir, crying, “I cannot bear to look upon the slayer of Ja’afar!” His vengeance did not cease with the death: he ordered the head to be gibbetted at one end and the trunk at the other abutment of the Tigris bridge where the corpses of the vilest malefactors used to be exposed; and, some months afterwards, he insulted the remains by having them burned — the last and worst indignity which can be offered to a Moslem. There are indeed pity and terror in the difference between two such items in the Treasury-accounts as these: “Four hundred thousand dinars (£200,000) to a robe of honour for the Wazir Ja’afar bin Yahya;” and, “Ten kírát, (5 shill.) to naphtha and reeds for burning the body of Ja’afar the Barmecide.”

Meanwhile Yahya and Al–Fazl, seized by the Caliph Harun’s command at Baghdad, were significantly cast into the prison “Habs al-Zanádikah”— of the Guebres — and their immense wealth which, some opine, hastened their downfall, was confiscated. According to the historian, Al–Tabari, who, however, is not supported by all the annalists, the whole Barmecide family, men, women, and children, numbering over a thousand, were slaughtered with only three exceptions; Yahya, his brother Mohammed, and his son Al-Fazl. The Caliph’s foster-father, who lived to the age of seventy-four, was allowed to die in jail (A.H. 805) after two years’ imprisonment at Rukkah. Al–Fazl, after having been tortured with two hundred blows in order to make him produce concealed property, survived his father three years and died in Nov. A.H. 808, some four months before his terrible foster-brother. A pathetic tale is told of the son warming water for the old man’s use by pressing the copper ewer to his stomach.

The motives of this terrible massacre are variously recounted, but no sufficient explanation has yet been, or possibly ever will be, given. The popular idea is embodied in The Nights. 41 Harun, wishing Ja’afar to be his companion even in the Harem, had wedded him, pro formâ, to his eldest sister Abbásah, “the loveliest woman of her day,” and brilliant in mind as in body; but he had expressly said “I will marry thee to her, that it may be lawful for thee to look upon her but thou shalt not touch her.” Ja’afar bound himself by a solemn oath; but his mother Attábah was mad enough to deceive him in his cups and the result was a boy (Ibn Khallikan) or, according to others, twins. The issue was sent under the charge of a confidential eunuch and a slave-girl to Meccah for concealment; but the secret was divulged to Zubaydah who had her own reasons for hating husband and wife and cherished an especial grievance against Yahya.42 Thence it soon found its way to head-quarters. Harun’s treatment of Abbásah supports the general conviction: according to the most credible accounts she and her child were buried alive in a pit under the floor of her apartment.

But, possibly, Ja’afar’s perjury was only “the last straw.” Already Al–Fazl bin Rabî‘a, the deadliest enemy of the Barmecides, had been entrusted (A.D. 786) with the Wazirate which he kept seven years. Ja’afar had also acted generously but imprudently in abetting the escape of Yahya bin Abdillah, Sayyid and Alide, for whom the Caliph had commanded confinement in a close dark dungeon: when charged with disobedience the Wazir had made full confession and Harun had (they say) exclaimed, “Thou hast done well!” but was heard to mutter, “Allah slay me an I slay thee not.”43 The great house seems at times to have abused its powers by being too peremptory with Harun and Zubaydah, especially in money matters;44 and its very greatness would have created for it many and powerful enemies and detractors who plied the Caliph with anonymous verse and prose. Nor was it forgotten that, before the spread of Al–Islam, they had presided over the Naubehár or Pyræthrum of Balkh; and Harun is said to have remarked anent Yahya, “The zeal for magianism, rooted in his heart, induces him to save all the monuments connected with his faith.”45 Hence the charge that they were “Zanádakah,” a term properly applied to those who study the Zend scripture, but popularly meaning Mundanists, Positivists, Reprobates, Atheists; and it may be noted that, immediately after al-Rashid’s death, violent religious troubles broke out in Baghdad. Ibn Khallikan46 quotes Sa’id ibn Salim, a well-known grammarian and traditionist who philosophically remarked, “Of a truth the Barmecides did nothing to deserve Al-Rashid’s severity, but the day (of their power and prosperity) had been long and whatso endureth long waxeth longsome.” Fakhr al-Din says (p. 27), “On attribue encore leur ruine aux manières fières et orgueilleuses de Djafar (Ja’afar) et de Fadhl (Al-Fazl), manières que les rois ne sauroient supporter.” According to Ibn Badrún, the poet, when the Caliph’s sister ‘Olayyah47 asked him, “O my lord, I have not seen thee enjoy one happy day since putting Ja’afar to death: wherefore didst thou slay him?” he answered, “My dear life, an I thought that my shirt knew the reason I would rend it in pieces!” I therefore hold with Al Mas’udi,

“As regards the intimate cause (of the catastrophe) it is unknown and Allah is Omniscient.”

Aaron the Orthodox appears sincerely to have repented his enormous crime. From that date he never enjoyed refreshing sleep: he would have given his whole realm to recall Ja’afar to life; and, if any spoke slightingly of the Barmecides in his presence, he would exclaim, “God damn your fathers! Cease to blame them or fill the void they have left.” And he had ample reason to mourn the loss. After the extermination of the wise and enlightened family, the affairs of the Caliphate never prospered: Fazl bin Rabí‘a, though a man of intelligence and devoted to letters, proved a poor substitute for Yahya and Ja’afar; and the Caliph is reported to have applied to him the couplet:—

No sire to your sire,48 I bid you spare

Your calumnies or their place replace.

His unwise elevation of his two rival sons filled him with fear of poison, and, lastly, the violence and recklessness of the popular mourning for the Barmecides,49 whose echo has not yet died away, must have added poignancy to his tardy penitence. The crime still “sticks fiery off” from the rest of Harun’s career: it stands out in ghastly prominence as one of the most terrible tragedies recorded by history, and its horrible details make men write passionately on the subject to this our day.50

As of Harun so of Zubaydah it may be said that she was far superior in most things to contemporary royalties, and she was not worse at her worst than the normal despot-queen of the Morning-land. We must not take seriously the tales of her jealousy in The Nights, which mostly end in her selling off or burying alive her rivals; but, even were all true, she acted after the recognised fashion of her exalted sisterhood. The secret history of Cairo, during the last generation, tells of many a viceregal dame who committed all the crimes, without any of the virtues which characterised Harun’s cousin-spouse. And the difference between the manners of the Caliphate and the “respectability” of the nineteenth century may be measured by the Tale called “Al–Maamun and Zubaydah.”51 The lady, having won a game of forfeits from her husband, and being vexed with him for imposing unseemly conditions when he had been the winner, condemned him to lie with the foulest and filthiest kitchen-wench in the palace; and thus was begotten the Caliph who succeeded and destroyed her son.

Zubaydah was the grand-daughter of the second Abbaside Al–Mansur, by his son Ja’afar whom The Nights persistently term Al–Kasim: her name was Amat al-Azíz or Handmaid of the Almighty; her cognomen was Umm Ja’afar as her husband’s was Abú Ja’afar; and her popular name “Creamkin” derives from Zubdah,52 cream or fresh butter, on account of her plumpness and freshness. She was as majestic and munificent as her husband; and the hum of prayer was never hushed in her palace. Al–Mas’udi53 makes a historian say to the dangerous Caliph Al-Káhir, “The nobleness and generosity of this Princess, in serious matters as in her diversions, place her in the highest rank”; and he proceeds to give ample proof. Al–Siyuti relates how she once filled a poet’s mouth with jewels which he sold for twenty thousand dinars. Ibn Khallikan (i. 523) affirms of her, “Her charity was ample, her conduct virtuous, and the history of her pilgrimage to Meccah and of what she undertook to execute on the way is so well-known that it were useless to repeat it.” I have noted (Pilgrimage iii. 2) how the Darb al-Sharki or Eastern road from Meccah to Al–Medinah was due to the piety of Zubaydah who dug wells from Baghdad to the Prophet’s burial place and built not only cisterns and caravanserais, but even a wall to direct pilgrims over the shifting sands. She also supplied Meccah, which suffered severely from want of water, with the chief requisite for public hygiene by connecting it, through levelled hills and hewn rocks, with the Ayn al-Mushásh in the Arafat subrange; and the fine aqueduct, some ten miles long, was erected at a cost of 1,700,000 to 2,000,000 of gold pieces. 54 We cannot wonder that her name is still famous among the Badawin and the “Sons of the Holy Cities.” She died at Baghdad, after a protracted widowhood, in A.H. 216 and her tomb, which still exists, was long visited by the friends and dependents who mourned the loss of a devout and most liberal woman.

The reader will bear with me while I run through the tales and add a few remarks to the notices given in the notes: the glance must necessarily be brief, however extensive be the theme. The admirable introduction follows, in all the texts and Mss. known to me, the same main lines but differs greatly in minor details as will be seen by comparing Mr. Payne’s translation with Lane’s and mine. In the Tale of the Sage Dúbán appears the speaking head which is found in the Kamil, in Mirkhond and in the Kitáb al-Uyún: M. C. Barbier de Meynard (v. 503) traces it back to an abbreviated text of Al–Mas’udi. I would especially recommend to students The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad (i. 82), whose mighty orgie ends so innocently in general marriage. Lane (iii. 746) blames it “because it represents Arab ladies as acting like Arab courtesans”; but he must have known that during his day the indecent frolic was quite possible in some of the highest circles of his beloved Cairo. To judge by the style and changes of person, some of the most “archaic” expressions suggest the hand of the Ráwi or professional tale-teller; yet as they are in all the texts they cannot be omitted in a loyal translation. The following story of The Three Apples perfectly justifies my notes concerning which certain carpers complain. What Englishman would be jealous enough to kill his cousin-wife because a blackamoor in the streets boasted of her favours? But after reading what is annotated in vol. i. 6, and purposely placed there to give the key-note of the book, he will understand the reasonable nature of the suspicion; and I may add that the same cause has commended these “skunks of the human race” to debauched women in England.

The next tale, sometimes called “The Two Wazírs,” is notable for its regular and genuine drama-intrigue which, however, appears still more elaborate and perfected in other pieces. The richness of this Oriental plot-invention contrasts strongly with all European literatures except the Spaniard’s, whose taste for the theatre determined his direction, and the Italian, which in Boccaccio’s day had borrowed freely through Sicily from the East. And the remarkable deficiency lasted till the romantic movement dawned in France, when Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas showed their marvellous powers of faultless fancy, boundless imagination and scenic luxuriance, “raising French Poetry from the dead and not mortally wounding French prose.’’55 The Two Wazirs is followed by the gem of the volume, The Adventure of the Hunchback-jester (i. 225), also containing an admirable surprise and a fine development of character, while its “wild but natural simplicity” and its humour are so abounding that it has echoed through the world to the farthest West. It gave to Addison the Story of Alnaschar56 and to Europe the term “Barmecide Feast,” from the “Tale of Shacabac” (vol. i. 343). The adventures of the corpse were known in Europe long before Galland as shown by three fabliaux in Barbazan. I have noticed that the Barber’s Tale of himself (i. 317) is historical and I may add that it is told in detail by Al–Mas’udi (chapt. cxiv).

Follows the tale of Núr al-Dín Alí, and what Galland miscalls “The Fair Persian,” a brightly written historiette with not a few touches of true humour. Noteworthy are the Slaver’s address (vol. ii. 15), the fine description of the Baghdad garden (vol. ii. 21–24), the drinking-party (vol. ii. 25), the Caliph’s frolic (vol. ii. 31–37) and the happy end of the hero’s misfortunes (vol. ii. 44) Its brightness is tempered by the gloomy tone of the tale which succeeds, and which has variants in the Bagh o Bahar, a Hindustani versionof the Persian “Tale of the Four Darwayshes;” and in the Turkish Kirk Vezir or “Book of the Forty Vezirs.” Its dismal péripéties are relieved only by the witty indecency of Eunuch Bukhayt and the admirable humour of Eunuch Kafur, whose “half lie” is known throughout the East. Here also the lover’s agonies are piled upon him for the purpose of unpiling at last: the Oriental tale-teller knows by experience that, as a rule, doleful endings “don’t pay.”

The next is the long romance of chivalry, “King Omar bin al-Nu’man” etc., which occupies an eighth of the whole repertory and the best part of two volumes. Mr. Lane omits it because “obscene and tedious,” showing the license with which he translated; and he was set right by a learned reviewer,57 who truly declared that “the omission of half-a-dozen passages out of four hundred pages would fit it for printing in any language58 and the charge of tediousness could hardly have been applied more unhappily.” The tale is interesting as a picture of mediæval Arab chivalry and has many other notable points; for instance, the lines (iii. 86) beginning “Allah holds the kingship!” are a lesson to the manichæanism of Christian Europe. It relates the doings of three royal generations and has all the characteristics of Eastern art: it is a phantasmagoria of Holy Places, palaces and Harems; convents, castles and caverns, here restful with gentle landscapes (ii. 240) and there bristling with furious battle-pictures (ii. 117, 221–8, 249) and tales of princely prowess and knightly derring-do. The characters stand out well. King Nu’man is an old lecher who deserves his death; the ancient Dame Zát al-Dawáhi merits her title Lady of Calamities (to her foes); Princess Abrizah appears as a charming Amazon, doomed to a miserable and pathetic end; Zau al-Makán is a wise and pious royalty; Nuzhat al-Zamán, though a longsome talker, is a model sister; the Wazir Dandán, a sage and sagacious counsellor, contrasts with the Chamberlain, an ambitious miscreant; Kánmakán is the typical Arab knight, gentle and brave:—

Now managing the mouthes of stubborne steedes Now practising the proof of warlike deedes;

And the kind-hearted, simple-minded Stoker serves as a foil to the villains, the kidnapping Badawi and Ghazbán the detestable negro. The fortunes of the family are interrupted by two episodes, both equally remarkable. Taj al-Mulúk59 is the model lover whom no difficulties or dangers can daunt. In Azíz and Azízah (ii. 291) we have the beau ideal of a loving woman: the writer’s object was to represent a “softy” who had the luck to win the love of a beautiful and clever cousin and the mad folly to break her heart. The poetical justice which he receives at the hands of women of quite another stamp leaves nothing to be desired. Finally the plot of “King Omar” is well worked out; and the gathering of all the actors upon the stage before the curtain drops may be improbable but it is highly artistic.

The long Crusading Romance is relieved by a sequence of sixteen fabliaux, partly historiettes of men and beasts and partly apologues proper — a subject already noticed. We have then (iii. 162) the saddening and dreary love-tale of Ali bin Bakkár, a Persian youth and the Caliph’s concubine Shams al-Nahár. Here the end is made doleful enough by the deaths of the “two martyrs,” who are killed off, like Romeo and Juliet,60 a lesson that the course of true Love is sometimes troubled and that men as well as women can die of the so-called “tender passion.” It is followed (iii. 212) by the long tale of Kamar al-Zamán, or Moon of the Age, the first of that name, the “Camaralzaman” whom Galland introduced into the best European society. Like “The Ebony Horse” it seems to have been derived from a common source with “Peter of Provence” and “Cleomades and Claremond”; and we can hardly wonder at its wide diffusion: the tale is brimful of life, change, movement, containing as much character and incident as would fill a modern three-volumer and the Supernatural pleasantly jostles the Natural; Dahnash the Jinn and Maymúnah daughter of Al–Dimiryát,61 a renowned King of the Jann, being as human in their jealousy about the virtue of their lovers as any children of Adam, and so their metamorphosis to fleas has all the effect of a surprise. The troupe is again drawn with a broad firm touch. Prince Charming, the hero, is weak and wilful, shifty and immoral, hasty and violent: his two spouses are rivals in abominations as his sons, Amjad and As’ad, are examples of a fraternal affection rarely found in half-brothers by sister-wives. There is at least one fine melodramatic situation (iii. 228); and marvellous feats of indecency, a practical joke which would occur only to the canopic mind (iii. 300–305), emphasise the recovery of her husband by that remarkable “blackguard,” the Lady Budúr. The interpolated tale of Ni’amah and Naomi (iv. I), a simple and pleasing narrative of youthful amours, contrasts well with the boiling passions of the incestuous and murderous Queens and serves as a pause before the grand denouement when the parted meet, the lost are found, the unwedded are wedded and all ends merrily as a xixth century novel.

The long tale of Alá al-Din, our old friend “Aladdin,” is wholly out of place in its present position (iv. 29): it is a counterpart of Ali Nûr al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-girl (vol. ix. i); and the mention of the Shahbandar or Harbour-master (iv. 29), the Kunsul or Consul (p. 84), the Kaptan (Capitano), the use of cannon at sea and the choice of Genoa city (p. 85) prove that it belongs to the xvth or xvith century and should accompanyKamar al-Zamàn II. and Ma’aruf at the end of The Nights. Despite the lutist Zubaydah being carried off by the Jinn, the Magic Couch, a modification of Solomon’s carpet, and the murder of the King who refused to islamize, it is evidently a European tale and I believe with Dr. Bacher that it is founded upon the legend of “Charlemagne’s” daughter Emma and his secretary Eginhardt, as has been noted in the counterpart (vol. ix. 1).

This quasi-historical fiction is followed hy a succession of fabliaux, novelle and historiettes which fill the rest of the vol. iv. and the whole of vol. v. till we reach the terminal story, The Queen of the Serpents (vol. v. pp. 304–329). It appears to me that most of them are historical and could easily be traced. Not a few are in Al–Mas’udi; for instance the grim Tale of Hatim of Tayy (vol. iv. 94) is given bodily in “Meads of Gold” (iii. 327); and the two adventures of Ibrahim al-Mahdi with the barber-surgeon (vol. iv. 103) and the Merchant’s sister (vol. iv. 176) are in his pages (vol. vii. 68 and 18). The City of Lubtayt (vol. iv. 99) embodies the legend of Don Rodrigo, last of the Goths, and may have reached the ears of Washington Irving; Many-columned Iram (vol. iv. 113) is held by all Moslems to be factual and sundry writers have recorded the tricks played by Al-Maamun with the Pyramids of Jizah which still show his handiwork.62 The germ of Isaac of Mosul (vol. iv. 119) is found in Al–Mas’udi who (vii. 65) names “Burán” the poetess (Ibn Khall. i. 268); and Harun al-Rashid and the Slave-girl (vol. iv. 153) is told by a host of writers. Ali the Persian is a rollicking tale of fun from some Iranian jest-book: Abu Mohammed hight Lazybones belongs to the cycle of “Sindbad the Seaman,” with a touch of Whittington and his Cat; and Zumurrud (“Smaragdine”) in Ali Shar (vol. iv. 187) shows at her sale the impudence of Miriam the Girdle-girl and in bed the fescennine device of the Lady Budur. The “Ruined Man who became Rich,” etc. (vol. iv. 289) is historical and Al–Mas’udi (vii. 281) relates the coquetry of Mahbúbah the concubine (vol. iv. 291): the historian also quotes four couplets, two identical with Nos. 1 and 2 in The Nights (vol. iv. 292) and adding:—

Then see the slave who lords it o’er her lord

In lover privacy and public site:

Behold these eyes that one like Ja’afar saw:

Allah on Ja’afar reign boons infinite!

Uns al-Wujúd (vol. v. 32) is a love-tale which has been translated into a host of Eastern languages; and The Lovers of the Banu Ozrah belong to Al–Mas’udi’s “Martyrs of Love” (vii. 355), with the ozrite “Ozrite love” of Ibn Khallikan (iv. 537). “Harun and the Three Poets” (vol. v. 77) has given to Cairo a proverb which Burckhardt (No. 561) renders “The day obliterates the word or promise of the Night,” for

The promise of night is effaced by day.

It suggests Congreve’s Doris:—

For who o’er night obtain’d her grace, She can next day disown, etc.

“Harun and the three Slave-girls” (vol. v. 81) smacks of Gargantua (lib. i. c. 11): “It belongs to me, said one: ’Tis mine, said another”; and so forth. The Simpleton and the Sharper (vol. v. 83) like the Foolish Dominie (vol. v. 118) is an old Joe Miller in Hindu as well as Moslem folk-lore. “Kisra Anushirwán” (vol. v. 87) is “The King, the Owl and the Villages of Al- Mas’udi” (iii. 171), who also notices the Persian monarch’s four seals of office (ii. 204); and “Masrur the Eunuch and Ibn Al-Káribi” (vol. v. 109) is from the same source as Ibn al-Magházili the Reciter and a Eunuch belonging to the Caliph Al–Mu’tazad (vol. viii. 161). In the Tale of Tawaddud (vol. v. 139) we have the fullest development of the disputations and displays of learning then so common in Europe, teste the “Admirable Crichton”; and these were affected not only by Eastern tale-tellers but even by sober historians. To us it is much like “padding” when Nuzhat al-Zamán (vol. ii. 156 etc.) fags her hapless hearers with a discourse covering sixteen mortal pages; when the Wazir Dandan (vol. ii. 195, etc.) reports at length the cold speeches of the five high-bosomed maids and the Lady of Calamities and when Wird Khan, in presence of his papa (Nights cmxiv-xvi.) discharges his patristic exercitations and heterogeneous knowledge. Yet Al–Mas’udi also relates, at dreary extension (vol. vi. 369) the disputation of the twelve sages in presence of Barmecide Yahya upon the origin, the essence, the accidents and the omnes res of Love; and in another place (vii. 181) shows Honayn, author of the Book of Natural Questions, undergoing a long examination before the Caliph Al-Wásik (Vathek) and describing, amongst other things, the human teeth. See also the dialogue or catechism of Al–Hajjáj and Ibn Al–Kirríya in Ibn Khallikan (vol. i. 238–240).

These disjecta membra of tales and annals are pleasantly relieved by the seven voyages of Sindbad the Seaman (vol. vi. 1–83). The “Arabian Odyssey” may, like its Greek brother, descend from a noble family, the “Shipwrecked Mariner” a Coptic travel-tale of the twelfth dynasty (B. C. 3500) preserved on a papyrus at St. Petersburg. In its actual condition “Sindbad,” is a fanciful compilation, like De Foe’s “Captain Singleton,” borrowed from travellers’ tales of an immense variety and extracts from Al- Idrísi, Al–Kazwíni and Ibn al-Wardi. Here we find the Polyphemus, the Pygmies and the cranes of Homer and Herodotus; the escape of Aristomenes; the Plinian monsters well known in Persia; the magnetic mountain of Saint Brennan (Brandanus); the aeronautics of “Duke Ernest of Bavaria’’63 and sundry cuttings from Moslem writers dating between our ninth and fourteenth centuries.64 The “Shayhk of the Seaboard” appears in the Persian romance of Kámaraupa translated by Francklin, all the particulars absolutely corresponding. The “Odyssey” is valuable because it shows how far Eastward the mediaeval Arab had extended: already in The Ignorance he had reached China and had formed a centre of trade at Canton. But the higher merit of the cento is to produce one of the most charming books of travel ever written, like Robinson Crusoe the delight of children and the admiration of all ages.

The hearty life and realism of Sindbad are made to stand out in strong relief by the deep melancholy which pervades “The City of Brass” (vol. vi. 83), a dreadful book for a dreary day. It is curious to compare the doleful verses (pp. 103, 105) with those spoken to Caliph Al–Mutawakkil by Abu al-Hasan Ali (A1-Mas’udi, vii. 246). We then enter upon the venerable Sindibad-nameh, the Malice of Women (vol. vi. 122), of which, according to the Kitab al-Fihrist (vol. i. 305), there were two editions, a Sinzibád al-Kabír and a Sinzibád al-Saghír, the latter being probably an epitome of the former. This bundle of legends, I have shown, was incorporated with the Nights as an editor’s addition; and as an independent work it has made the round of the world.

Space forbids any detailed notice of this choice collection of anecdotes for which a volume would be required. I may, however, note that the “Wife’s device” (vol. vi. 152) has its analogues in the Kathá (chapt. xiii.) in the Gesta Romanorum (No. xxviii.) and in Boccaccio (Day iii. 6 and Day vi. 8), modified by La Fontaine to Richard Minutolo (Contes lib. i. tale 2): it is quoted almost in the words of The Nights by the Shaykh al-Nafzáwi (p. 207). That most witty and indecent tale The Three Wishes (vol. vi. 180) has forced its way disguised as a babe into our nurseries. Another form of it is found in the Arab proverb “More luckless than Basús” (Kamus), a fair Israelite who persuaded her husband, also a Jew, to wish that she might become the loveliest of women. Jehovah granted it, spitefully as Jupiter; the consequence was that her contumacious treatment of her mate made him pray that the beauty might be turned into a bitch; and the third wish restored her to her original state.

The Story of Júdar (vol. vi. 207) is Egyptian, to judge from its local knowledge (pp. 217 and 254) together with its ignorance of Marocco (p. 223). It shows a contrast, in which Arabs delight, of an almost angelical goodness and forgiveness with a well-nigh diabolical malignity, and we find the same extremes in Abú Sír the noble-minded Barber and the hideously inhuman Abú Kír. The excursion to Mauritania is artfully managed and gives a novelty to the mise-en-scène. Gharíb and Ajíb (vi. 207, vii. 91) belongs to the cycle of Antar and King Omar bin Nu’man: its exaggerations make it a fine type of Oriental Chauvinism, pitting the superhuman virtues, valour, nobility and success of all that is Moslem, against the scum of the earth which is non-Moslem. Like the exploits of Friar John of the Chopping-knives (Rabelais i. c. 27) it suggests ridicule cast on impossible battles and tales of giants, paynims and paladins. The long romance is followed by thirteen historiettes all apparently historical: compare “Hind, daughter of Al–Nu’man” (vol. viii. 7–145) and “Isaac of Mosul and the Devil” (vol. vii. 136–139) with Al Mas’udi v. 365 and vi. 340. They end in two long detective-tales like those which M. Gaboriau has popularised, the Rogueries of Dalilah and the Adventures of Mercury Ali, based upon the principle, “One thief wots another.” The former, who has appeared before (vol. ii. 329), seems to have been a noted character: Al–Mas’udi says (viii. 175) “in a word this Shaykh (Al-‘Ukáb) outrivalled in his rogueries and the ingenuities of his wiles Dállah (Dalilah?) the Crafty and other tricksters and coney-catchers, ancient and modern.”

The Tale of Ardashir (vol. vii. 209–264) lacks originality: we are now entering upon a series of pictures which are replicas of those preceding. This is not the case with that charming Undine, Julnár the Sea-born (vol. vii. 264–308) which, like Abdullah of the Land and Abdullah of the Sea (vol. ix. Night cmxl.), describes the vie intime of mermen and merwomen. Somewhat resembling Swift’s inimitable creations, the Houyhnhnms for instance, they prove, amongst other things, that those who dwell in a denser element can justly blame and severely criticise the contradictory and unreasonable prejudices and predilections of mankind. Sayf al-Mulúk (vol. viii. Night dcclviii.), the romantic tale of two lovers, shows by its introduction that it was originally an independent work and it is known to have existed in Persia during the eleventh century: this novella has found its way into every Moslem language of the East even into Sindi, which calls the hero “Sayfal.” Here we again meet the Old Man of the Sea or rather the Shaykh of the Seaboard and make acquaintance with a Jinn whose soul is outside his body: thus he resembles Hermotimos of Klazamunae in Apollonius, whose spirit left his mortal frame à discretion. The author, philanthropically remarking (vol. viii. 4) “Knowest thou not that a single mortal is better, in Allah’s sight than a thousand Jinn?” brings the wooing to a happy end which leaves a pleasant savour upon the mental palate.

Hasan of Bassorah (vol. viii. 7–145) is a Master Shoetie on a large scale like Sindbad, but his voyages and travels extend into the supernatural and fantastic rather than the natural world. Though long the tale is by no means wearisome and the characters are drawn with a fine firm hand. The hero with his hen-like persistency of purpose, his weeping, fainting and versifying is interesting enough and proves that “Love can find out the way.” The charming adopted sister, the model of what the feminine friend should be; the silly little wife who never knows that she is happy till she loses happiness; the violent and hard-hearted queen with all the cruelty of a good woman, and the manners and customs of Amazon land are outlined with a life-like vivacity. Khalífah the next tale (vol. viii. 147–184) is valuable as a study of Eastern life, showing how the fisherman emerges from the squalor of his surroundings and becomes one of the Caliph’s favourite cup-companions. Ali Nur al-Din (vol. viii. 264) and King Jali’ad (vol. ix., Night dcccxciv) have been noticed elsewhere and there is little to say of the concluding stories which bear the evident impress of a more modern date.

Dr. Johnson thus sums up his notice of The Tempest. “Whatever might have been the intention of their author, these tales are made instrumental to the production of many characters, diversified with boundless invention, and preserved with profound skill in nature; extensive knowledge of opinions, and accurate observation of life. Here are exhibited princes, courtiers and sailors, all speaking in their real characters. There is the agency of airy spirits and of earthy goblin, the operations of magic, the tumults of a storm, the adventures of a desert island, the native effusion of untaught affection, the punishment of guilt, and the final happiness of those for whom our passions and reason are equally interested.”

We can fairly say this much and far more for our Tales. Viewed as a tout ensemble in full and complete form, they are a drama of Eastern life, and a Dance of Death made sublime by faith and the highest emotions, by the certainty of expiation and the fulness of atoning equity, where virtue is victorious, vice is vanquished and the ways of Allah are justified to man. They are a panorama which remains ken-speckle upon the mental retina. They form a phantasmagoria in which archangels and angels, devils and goblins, men of air, of fire, of water, naturally mingle with men of earth; where flying horses and talking fishes are utterly realistic: where King and Prince meet fisherman and pauper, lamia and cannibal; where citizen jostles Badawi, eunuch meets knight; the Kazi hob-nobs with the thief; the pure and pious sit down to the same tray with the bawd and the pimp; where the professional religionist, the learned Koranist and the strictest moralist consort with the wicked magician, the scoffer and the debauchee- poet like Abu Nowas; where the courtier jests with the boor and where the sweep is bedded with the noble lady. And the characters are “finished and quickened by a few touches swift and sure as the glance of sunbeams.” The work is a kaleidoscope where everything falls into picture; gorgeous palaces and pavilions; grisly underground caves and deadlywolds; gardens fairer than those of the Hesperid; seas dashing with clashing billows upon enchanted mountains; valleys of the Shadow of Death; air-voyages and promenades in the abysses of ocean; the duello, the battle and the siege; the wooing of maidens and the marriage-rite. All the splendour and squalor, the beauty and baseness, the glamour and grotesqueness, the magic and the mournfulness, the bravery and the baseness of Oriental life are here: its pictures of the three great Arab passions, love, war and fancy, entitle it to be called “Blood, Musk and Hashish.”65 And still more, the genius of the story-teller quickens the dry bones of history, and by adding Fiction to Pact revives the dead past: the Caliphs and the Caliphate return to Baghdad and Cairo, whilst Asmodeus kindly removes the terrace-roof of every tenement and allows our curious glances to take in the whole interior. This is perhaps the best proof of their power. Finally, the picture-gallery opens with a series of weird and striking adventures and shows as a tail-piece, an idyllic scene of love and wedlock in halls before reeking with lust and blood.

I have noticed in my Foreword that the two main characteristics of The Nights are Pathos and Humour, alternating with highly artistic contrast, and carefully calculated to provoke tears and smiles in the coffee-house audience which paid for them. The sentimental portion mostly breathes a tender passion and a simple sadness: such are the Badawi’s dying farewell (vol i. 75); the lady’s broken heart on account of her lover’s hand being cut off (vol. i. 277); the Wazir’s death, the mourner’s song and the “tongue of the case” (vol. ii. 10); the murder of Princess Abrízah with the babe sucking its dead mother’s breast (vol. ii. 128); and, generally, the last moments of good Moslems (e. g. vol. 167), which are described with inimitable terseness and naïveté. The sad and the gay mingle in the character of the good Hammam-stoker who becomes Roi Crotte and the melancholy deepens in the Tale of the Mad Lover (vol. v. 138); the Blacksmith who could handle fire without hurt (vol. v. 271); the Devotee Prince (vol. v. iii) and the whole Tale of Azízah (vol. ii. 298), whose angelic love is set off by the sensuality and selfishness of her more fortunate rivals. A new note of absolutely tragic dignity seems to be struck in the Sweep and the Noble Lady (vol. iv. 125), showing the piquancy of sentiment which can be evolved from the common and the unclean. The pretty conceit of the Lute (vol. v. 244) is afterwards carried out in the Song (vol. viii. 281), which is a masterpiece of originality66 and (in the Arabic) of exquisite tenderness and poetic melancholy, the wail over the past and the vain longing for reunion. And the very depths of melancholy, of majestic pathos and of true sublimity are reached in Many-columned Iram (vol. iv. 113) and the City of Brass (vol. vi. 83): the metrical part of the latter shows a luxury of woe; it is one long wail of despair which echoes long and loud in the hearer’s heart.

In my Foreword I have compared the humorous vein of the comic tales with our northern “wut,” chiefly for the dryness and slyness which pervade it. But it differs in degree as much as the pathos varies. The staple article is Cairene “chaff,” a peculiar banter possibly inherited from their pagan forefathers: instances of this are found in the Cock and Dog (vol. i. 22), the Eunuch’s address to the Cook (vol. i. 244), the Wazir’s exclamation, “Too little pepper!” (vol. i. 246), the self-communing of Judar (vol. vi. 219), the Hashish-eater in Ali Shár (vol. iv. 213), the scene between the brother-Wazirs (vol. i. 197), the treatment of the Gobbo (vol. i. 221, 228), the Water of Zemzem (vol. i. 284), and the Eunuchs Bukhayt and Kafur67 (vol. ii. 49, 51). At times it becomes a masterpiece of fun, of rollicking Rabelaisian humour underlaid by the caustic mother-wit of Sancho Panza, as in the orgie of the Ladies of Baghdad (vol. i. 92, 93); the Holy Ointment applied to the beard of Luka the Knight — “unxerunt regem Salomonem” (vol. ii. 222); and Ja’afar and the Old Badawi (vol. v. 98), with its reminiscence of “chaffy” King Amasis. This reaches its acme in the description of ugly old age (vol. v. 3); in The Three Wishes, the wickedest of satires on the alter sexus (vi. 180); in Ali the Persian (vol. iv. 139); in the Lady and her Five Suitors (vol. vi. 172), which corresponds and contrasts with the dully told Story of Upakosa and her Four Lovers of the Kathá (p. 17); and in The Man of Al-Yaman (vol. iv. 245) where we find the true Falstaffian touch. But there is sterling wit, sweet and bright, expressed without any artifice of words, in the immortal Barber’s tales of his brothers, especially the second, the fifth and the sixth (vol. i. 324, 325 and 343). Finally, wherever the honest and independent old debauchee Abu Nowas makes his appearance the fun becomes fescennine and milesian.

1 The number of fables and anecdotes varies in the different texts, but may be assumed to be upwards of four hundred, about half of which were translated by Lane.

2 I have noticed these points more fully in the beginning of chapt. iii. “The Book of the Sword.”

3 A notable instance of Roman superficiality, incuriousness and ignorance. Every old Egyptian city had its idols (images of metal, stone or wood), in which the Deity became incarnate as in the Catholic host; besides its own symbolic animal used as a Kiblah or prayer-direction (Jerusalem or Meccah), the visible means of fixing and concentrating the thoughts of the vulgar, like the crystal of the hypnotist or the disk of the electro-biologist. And goddess Diana was in no way better than goddess Pasht. For the true view of idolatry see Koran xxxix. 4. I am deeply grateful to Mr. P. le Page Renouf (Soc. of Biblic. Archæology, April 6, 1886) for identifying the Manibogh, Michabo or Great Hare of the American indigenes with Osiris Unnefer (“Hare God”). These are the lines upon which investigation should run. And of late years there is a notable improvement of tone in treating of symbolism or idolatry: the Lingam and the Yoni are now described as “mystical representations, and perhaps the best possible impersonal representatives of the abstract expressions paternity and maternity” (Prof. Monier Williams in “Folk-lore Record” vol. iii. part i. p. 118).

4 See Jotham’s fable of the Trees and King Bramble (Judges lxi. 8) and Nathan’s parable of the Poor Man and his little ewe Lamb (2 Sam. ix. 1).

5 Herodotus (ii. c. 134) notes that “Æsop the fable-writer ( ) was one of her (Rhodopis) fellow slaves”. Aristophanes (Vespæ, 1446) refers to his murder by the Delphians and his fable beginning, “Once upon a time there was a fight;” while the Scholiast finds an allusion to The Serpent and the Crab in Pax 1084; and others in Vespæ 1401, and Aves 651.

6 There are three distinct Lokmans who are carefully confounded in Sale (Koran chapt. xxxi.) and in Smith’s Dict. of Biography etc. art. Æsopus. The first or eldest Lokman, entitled Al–Hakim (the Sage) and the hero of the Koranic chapter which bears his name, was son of Bá’úrá of the Children of Azar, sister’s son of Job or son of Job’s maternal aunt; he witnessed David’s miracles of mail-making and when the tribe of ‘Ád was destroyed, he became King of the country. The second, also called the Sage, was a slave, an Abyssinian negro, sold to the Israelites during the reign of David or Solomon, synchronous with the Persian Kay Káús and Kay Khusrau, also Pythagoras the Greek (!) His physique is alluded to in the saying, “Thou resemblest Lokman (in black ugliness) but not in wisdom” (Ibn Khallikan i. 145). This negro or negroid, after a godly and edifying life, left a volume of “Amsál,” proverbs and exempla (not fables or apologues); and Easterns still say, “One should not pretend to teach Lokmán”— in Persian, “Hikmat ba Lokman ámokhtan.” Three of his apothegms dwell in the public memory: “The heart and the tongue are the best and worst parts of the human body.” “I learned wisdom from the blind who make sure of things by touching them” (as did St. Thomas); and when he ate the colocynth offered by his owner, “I have received from thee so many a sweet that ‘twould be surprising if I refused this one bitter.” He was buried (says the Tárikh Muntakhab) at Ramlah in Judæa, with the seventy Prophets stoned in one day by the Jews. The youngest Lokman “of the vultures” was a prince of the tribe of Ad who lived 3,500 years, the age of seven vultures (Tabari). He could dig a well with his nails; hence the saying, “Stronger than Lokman” (A. P. i. 701); and he loved the arrow-game, hence, “More gambling than Lokman” (ibid. ii. 938). “More voracious than Lokman” (ibid i. 134) alludes to his eating one camel for breakfast and another for supper. His wife Barákish also appears in proverb, e.g. “Camel us and camel thyself” (ibid. i. 295) i.e. give us camel flesh to eat, said when her son by a former husband brought her a fine joint which she and her husband relished. Also, “Barákish hath sinned against her kin” (ibid. ii. 89). More of this in Chenery’s Al–Hariri p. 422; but the three Lokmans are there reduced to two.

7 I have noticed them in vol. ii. 47–49. “To the Gold Coast for Gold.”

8 I can hardly accept the dictum that the Katha Sarit Sagara, of which more presently, is the “earliest representation of the first collection.”

9 The Pehlevi version of the days of King Anushirwan (A.D. 531–72) became the Humáyun-námeh (“August Book”) turned into Persian for Bahram Shah the Ghaznavite: the Hitopadesa (“Friendship-boon”) of Prakrit, avowedly compiled from the “Panchatantra,” became the Hindu Panchopakhyan, the Hindostani Akhlák-i-Hindi (“Moralities of Ind”) and in Persia and Turkey the Anvar-i-Suhayli (“Lights of Canopus”). Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac writers entitle their version Kalilah wa Damnah, or Kalilaj wa Damnaj, from the name of the two jackal-heroes, and Europe knows the recueil as the Fables of Pilpay or Bidpay (Bidyá-pati, Lord of learning?) a learned Brahman reported to have been Premier at the Court of the Indian King Dabishlím.

10 Diet. Philosoph. S. V. Apocrypha.

11 The older Arab writers, I repeat, do not ascribe fables or beast-apologues to Lokman; they record only “dictes” and proverbial sayings.

12 Professor Taylor Lewis: Preface to Pilpay.

13 In the Katha Sarit Sagara the beast-apologues are more numerous, but they can be reduced to two great nuclei; the first in chapter lx. (Lib. x.) and the second in the same book chapters lxii-lxv. Here too they are mixed up with anecdotes and acroamata after the fashion of The Nights, suggesting great antiquity for this style of composition.

14 Brugsch, History of Egypt, vol. i. 266 et seq. The fabliau is interesting in more ways than one. Anepu the elder (Potiphar) understands the language of cattle, an idea ever cropping up in Folk-lore; and Bata (Joseph), his “little brother,” who becomes a “panther of the South (Nubia) for rage” at the wife’s impudique proposal, takes the form of a bull — metamorphosis full blown. It is not, as some have called it, the “oldest book in the world;” that name was given by M. Chabas to a Ms. of Proverbs, dating from B.C. 2200. See also the “Story of Saneha,” a novel earlier than the popular date of Moses, in the Contes Populaires of Egypt.

15 The fox and the jackal are confounded by the Arabic dialects not by the Persian, whose “Rubáh” can never be mistaken for “Shaghál.” “Sa’lab” among the Semites is locally applied to either beast and we can distinguish the two only by the fox being solitary and rapacious, and the jackal gregarious and a carrion-eater. In all Hindu tales the jackal seems to be an awkward substitute for the Grecian and classical fox, the Giddar or Kolá (Cants aureus) being by no means sly and wily as the Lomri (Vulpes vulgaris). This is remarked by Weber (Indische Studien) and Prof. Benfey’s retort about “King Nobel” the lion is by no means to the point. See Katha Sarit Sagara, ii. 28.

I may add that in Northern Africa jackal’s gall, like jackal’s grape (Solanum nigrum = black nightshade), ass’s milk and melted camel-hump, is used aphrodisiacally as an unguent by both sexes. See. p. 239, etc., of Le Jardin parfumé du Cheikh Nefzaoui, of whom more presently.

16 Rambler, No. lxvii.

17 Some years ago I was asked by my old landlady if ever in the course of my travels I had come across Captain Gulliver.

18 In “The Adventurer” quoted by Mr. Heron, “Translator’s Preface to the Arabian Tales of Chaves and Cazotte.”

19 “Life in a Levantine Family” chapt. xi. Since the able author found his “family” firmly believing in The Nights, much has been changed in Alexandria; but the faith in Jinn and Ifrit, ghost and vampire is lively as ever.

20 The name dates from the second century A. H. or before A. D. 815.

21 Dabistan i. 231 etc.

22 Because Si = thirty and Murgh = bird. In McClenachan’s Addendum to Mackay’s Encyclopæedia of Freemasonry we find the following definition: “Simorgh. A monstrous griffin, guardian of the Persian mysteries.”

23 For a poor and inadequate description of the festivals commemorating this “Architect of the Gods” see vol. iii. 177, “View of the History etc. of the Hindus” by the learned Dr. Ward, who could see in them only the “low and sordid nature of idolatry.” But we can hardly expect better things from a missionary in 1822, when no one took the trouble to understand what “idolatry” means.

24 Rawlinson (ii. 491) on Herod. iii. c. 102. Nearchus saw the skins of these formicæ Indicæ, by some rationalists explained as “jackals,” whose stature corresponds with the text, and by others as “pengolens” or ant-eaters (manis pentedactyla). The learned Sanskritist, H. H. Wilson, quotes the name Pippilika = ant-gold, given by the people of Little Thibet to the precious dust thrown up in the emmet heaps.

25 A writer in the Edinburgh Review (July, ‘86), of whom more presently, suggests that The Nights assumed essentially their present shape during the general revival of letters, arts and requirements which accompanied the Kurdish and Tartar irruptions into the Nile Valley, a golden age which embraced the whole of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and ended with the Ottoman Conquest in A. D. 1527.

26 Let us humbly hope not again to hear of the golden prime of

“The good (fellow?) Haroun Alrasch’id,”

a mispronunciation which suggests only a rasher of bacon. Why will not poets mind their quantities, in lieu of stultifying their lines by childish ignorance? What can be more painful than Byron’s

“They laid his dust in Ar’qua (for Arqua) where he died?”

27 See De Sacy’s Chrestomathie Arabe (Paris, 1826), vol. i.

28 See Le Jardin Parfumé du Cheikh Nefzaoui Manuel d’Erotologie Arabe Traduction revue et corrigée Edition privée, imprimé à deux cent.-vingt exemplaires, par Isidore Liseux et ses Amis, Paris, 1866. The editor has forgotten to note that the celebrated Sidi Mohammed copied some of the tales from The Nights and borrowed others (I am assured by a friend) from Tunisian Mss. of the same work. The book has not been fairly edited: the notes abound in mistakes, the volume lacks an index, &c., &c. Since this was written the Jardin Parfumé has been twice translated into English as “The Perfumed Garden of the Cheikh Nefzaoui, a Manual of Arabian Erotology (sixteenth century). Revised and corrected translation, Cosmopoli: mdccclxxxvi.: for the Kama Shastra Society of London and Benares and for private circulation only.” A rival version will be brought out by a bookseller whose Committee, as he calls it, appears to be the model of literary pirates, robbing the author as boldly and as openly as if they picked his pocket before his face.

29 Translated by a well-known Turkish scholar, Mr. E. J. W. Gibb (Glasgow, Wilson and McCormick, 1884).

30 D’Herbelot (s. v. “Asmai”): I am reproached by a dabbler in Orientalism for using this admirable writer who shows more knowledge in one page than my critic does in a whole volume.

31 For specimens see Al–Siyuti, pp. 301 and 304, and the Shaykh al Nafzawi, pp. 134–35

32 The word “nakh” (to make a camel kneel) is explained in vol. ii. 139.

33 The present of the famous horologium-clepsydra-cuckoo clock, the dog Becerillo and the elephant Abu Lubabah sent by Harun to Charlemagne is not mentioned by Eastern authorities and consequently no reference to it will be found in my late friend Professor Palmer’s little volume “Haroun Alraschid,” London, Marcus Ward, 1881. We have allusions to many presents, the clock and elephant, tent and linen hangings, silken dresses, perfumes, and candelabra of auricalch brought by the Legati (Abdalla Georgius Abba et Felix) of Aaron Amiralmumminim Regis Persarum who entered the Port of Pisa (A. D. 801) in (vol. v. 178) Recueil des Histor. des Gaules et de la France, etc., par Dom Martin Bouquet, Paris, mdccxliv. The author also quotes the lines:—

Persarum Princeps illi devinctus amore

Præcipuo fuerat, nomen habens Aaron.

Gratia cui Caroli præ cunctis Regibus atque

Illis Principibus tempora cara funit.

34 Many have remarked that the actual date of the decease is unknown.

35 See Al–Siyuti (p. 305) and Dr. Jonathan Scott’s “Tales, Anecdotes, and Letters,” (p. 296).

36 I have given (vol. i. 188) the vulgar derivation of the name; and D’Herbelot (s. v. Barmakian) quotes some Persian lines alluding to the “supping up.” Al–Mas’udi’s account of the family’s early history is unfortunately lost. This Khálid succeeded Abu Salámah, first entitled Wazir under Al–Saffah (Ibn Khallikan i. 468).

37 For his poetry see Ibn Khallikan iv. 103.

38 Their flatterers compared them with the four elements.

39 Al–Mas’udi, chapt. cxii.

40 Ibn Khallikan (i. 310) says the eunuch Abu Háshim Masrúr, the Sworder of Vengeance, who is so pleasantly associated with Ja’afar in many nightly disguises; but the Eunuch survived the Caliph. Fakhr al-Din (p. 27) adds that Masrur was an enemy of Ja’afar; and gives further details concerning the execution.

41 Bresl. Edit., Night dlxvii. vol. vii. pp. 258–260; translated in the Mr. Payne’s “Tales from the Arabic,” vol. i. 189 and headed “Al–Rashid and the Barmecides.” It is far less lively and dramatic than the account of the same event given by Al–Mas’udi, chapt. cxii., by Ibn Khallikan and by Fakhr al-Din.

42 Al–Mas’udi, chapt. cxi.

43 See Dr. Jonathan Scott’s extracts from Major Ouseley’s “Tarikh-i-Barmaki.”

44 Al–Mas’udi, chapt. cxii. For the liberties Ja’afar took see Ibn Khallikan, i. 303.

45 Ibid. chapt. xxiv. In vol. ii. 29 of The Nights, I find signs of Ja’afar’s suspected heresy. For Al–Rashid’s hatred of the Zindiks see Al–Siyuti, pp. 292, 301; and as regards the religious troubles ibid. p. 362 and passim.

46 Biogr. Dict. i. 309.

47 This accomplished princess had a practice that suggests the Dame aux Camélias.

48 i. e. Perdition to your fathers, Allah’s curse on your ancestors.

49 See vol. iv. 159, “Ja’afar and the Bean-seller;” where the great Wazir is said to have been “crucified;” and vol. iv. pp. 179, 181. Also Roebuck’s Persian Proverbs, i. 2, 346, “This also is through the munificence of the Barmecides.”

50 I especially allude to my friend Mr. Payne’s admirably written account of it in his concluding Essay (vol. ix.). From his views of the Great Caliph and the Lady Zubaydah I must differ in every point except the destruction of the Barmecides.

51 Bresl. Edit., vol. vii. 261–62.

52 Mr. Grattan Geary, in a work previously noticed, informs us (i. 212) “The Sitt al-Zobeide, or the Lady Zobeide, was so named from the great Zobeide tribe of Arabs occupying the country East and West of the Euphrates near the Hindi’ah Canal; she was the daughter of a powerful Sheik of that Tribe.” Can this explain the “Kásim”?

53 Vol. viii. 296.

54 Burckhardt, “Travels in Arabia” vol. i. 185.

55 The reverse has been remarked by more than one writer; and contemporary French opinion seems to be that Victor Hugo’s influence on French prose, was on the whole, not beneficial.

56 Mr. W. S. Clouston, the “Storiologist,” who is preparing a work to be entitled “Popular Tales and Fictions; their Migrations and Transformations,” informs me the first to adapt this witty anecdote was Jacques de Vitry, the crusading bishop of Accon (Acre) who died at Rome in 1240, after setting the example of “Exempla” or instances in his sermons. He had probably heard it in Syria, and he changed the day-dreamers into a Milkmaid and her Milk-pail to suit his “flock.” It then appears as an “Exemplum” in the Liber de Donis or de Septem Donis (or De Dono Timoris from Fear the first gift) of Stephanus de Borbone, the Dominican, ob. Lyons, 1261: it treated of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah xi. 2 and 3), Timor, Pietas, Scientia, Fortitudo, Consilium, Intellectus et Sapientia; and was plentifully garnished with narratives for the use of preachers.

57 The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register (new series, vol. xxx. Sept.-Dec. 1830, London, Allens, 1839); p. 69 Review of the Arabian Nights, the Mac. Edit. vol. i., and H. Torrens.

58 As a household edition of the “Arabian Nights” is now being prepared, the curious reader will have an opportunity of verifying this statement.

59 It has been pointed out to me that in vol. ii. p. 285, line 18 “Zahr Shah” is a mistake for Sulayman Shah.

60 I have lately found these lovers at Schloss Sternstein near Cilli in Styria, the property of my excellent colleague, Mr. Consul Faber, dating from A. D. 1300 when Jobst of Reichenegg and Agnes of Sternstein were aided and abetted by a Capuchin of Seikkloster.

61 In page 226 Dr. Steingass sensibly proposes altering the last hemistich (lines 11–12) to

At one time showing the Moon and Sun.

62 Omitted by Lane for some reason unaccountable as usual. A correspondent sends me his version of the lines which occur in The Nights (vol. v. 106 and 107):—

Behold the Pyramids and hear them teach

What they can tell of Future and of Past:

They would declare, had they the gift of speech,

The deeds that Time hath wrought from first to last

My friends, and is there aught beneath the sky

Can with th’ Egyptian Pyramids compare?

In fear of them strong Time hath passed by

And everything dreads Time in earth and air.

63 A rhyming Romance by Henry of Waldeck (flor. A. D. 1160) with a Latin poem on the same subject by Odo and a prose version still popular in Germany. (Lane’s Nights iii. 81; and Weber’s “Northern Romances.”)

64 e. g. ‘Ajáib al-Hind (= Marvels of Ind) ninth century, translated by J. Marcel Devic, Paris, 1878; and about the same date the Two Mohammedan Travellers, translated by Renaudot. In the eleventh century we have the famous Sayyid al-ldrisi, in the thirteenth the ‘Ajáib al-Makhlúkat of Al–Kazwini and in the fourteenth the Kharídat al-Ajáib of Ibn Al–Wardi. Lane (in loco) traces most of Sindbad to the two latter sources.

65 So Hector France proposed to name his admirably realistic volume “Sous le Burnous” (Paris, Charpentier, 1886).

66 I mean in European literature, not in Arabic where it is a lieu commun. See three several forms of it in one page (505) of Ibn Kallikan, vol. iii.

67 My attention has been called to the resemblance between the half-lie and Job (i. 13 — 19).

B. — The Manner of the Nights.

And now, after considering the matter, I will glance at the language and style of The Nights. The first point to remark is the peculiarly happy framework of the Recueil, which I cannot but suspect set an example to the Decamerone and its host of successors.1 The admirable Introduction, a perfect mise-en-scène, gives the amplest raison d’être of the work, which thus has all the unity required for a great romantic recueil. We perceive this when reading the contemporary Hindu work the Kathá Sarit Ságara,2 which is at once so like and so unlike The Nights: here the preamble is insufficient; the whole is clumsy for want of a thread upon which the many independent tales and fables should be strung3; and the consequent disorder and confusion tell upon the reader, who cannot remember the sequence without taking notes.

As was said in my Foreword “without The Nights no Arabian Nights!” and now, so far from holding the pauses “an intolerable interruption to the narrative,” I attach additional importance to these pleasant and restful breaks introduced into long and intricate stories. Indeed beginning again I should adopt the plan of the Cal. Edit. opening and ending every division with a dialogue between the sisters. Upon this point, however, opinions will differ and the critic will remind me that the consensus of the Mss. would be wanting: The Bresl. Edit. in many places merely interjects the number of the night without interrupting the tale; the Ms. in the Bibliotheque Nationale used by Galland contains only cclxxxii and the Frenchman ceases to use the division after the ccxxxvith Night and in some editions after the cxcviith.4 A fragmentary Ms. according to Scott whose friend J. Anderson found it in Bengal, breaks away after Night xxix; and in the Wortley Montagu, the Sultan relents at an early opportunity, the stories, as in Galland, continuing only as an amusement. I have been careful to preserve the balanced sentences with which the tales open; the tautology and the prose- rhyme serving to attract attention, e. g., “In days of yore and in times long gone before there was a King,” etc.; in England where we strive not to waste words this becomes “Once upon a time.” The closings also are artfully calculated, by striking a minor chord after the rush and hurry of the incidents, to suggest repose: “And they led the most pleasurable of lives and the most delectable, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Severer of societies and they became as though they had never been.” Place this by the side of Boccaccio’s favourite formulae:— Egli conquistò poi la Scozia, e funne re coronato (ii, 3); Et onorevolmente visse infino alla fine (ii, 4); Molte volte goderono del loro amore: Iddio faccia noi goder del nostro (iii, 6): E cosi nella sue grossezza si rimase e ancor vi si sta (vi, 8). We have further docked this tail into: “And they lived happily ever after.”

I cannot take up the Nights in their present condition, without feeling that the work has been written down from the Ráwi or Nakkál,5 the conteur or professional story-teller, also called Kassás and Maddáh, corresponding with the Hindu Bhat or Bard. To these men my learned friend Baron A. von Kremer would attribute the Mu’allakat vulgarly called the Suspended Poems, as being “indited from the relation of the Ráwi.” Hence in our text the frequent interruption of the formula Kal’ al-Rawi = quotes the reciter; dice Turpino. Moreover, The Nights read in many places like a hand-book or guide for the professional, who would learn them by heart; here and there introducing his “gag” and “patter”. To this “business” possibly we may attribute much of the ribaldry which starts up in unexpected places: it was meant simply to provoke a laugh. How old the custom is and how unchangeable is Eastern life is shown, a correspondent suggests, by the Book of Esther which might form part of The Alf Laylah. “On that night (we read in Chap. vi. 1) could not the King sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the King.” The Ráwi would declaim the recitative somewhat in conversational style; he would intone the Saj’a or prose-rhyme and he would chant to the twanging of the Rabáb, a one-stringed viol, the poetical parts. Dr. Scott6 borrows from the historian of Aleppo a life-like picture of the Story-teller. “He recites walking to and fro in the middle of the coffee-room, stopping only now and then, when the expression requires some emphatical attitude. He is commonly heard with great attention; and not unfrequently in the midst of some interesting adventure, when the expectation of his audience is raised to the highest pitch, he breaks off abruptly and makes his escape, leaving both his hero or heroine and his audience in the utmost embarrassment. Those who happen to be near the door endeavour to detain him, insisting upon the story being finished before he departs; but he always makes his retreat good7; and the auditors suspending their curiosity are induced to return at the same time next day to hear the sequel. He has no sooner made his exit than the company in separate parties fall to disputing about the characters of the drama or the event of an unfinished adventure. The controversy by degrees becomes serious and opposite opinions are maintained with no less warmth than if the fall of the city depended upon the decision.”

At Tangier, where a murder in a “coffee-house” had closed these hovels, pending a sufficient payment to the Pasha; and where, during the hard winter of 1885–86, the poorer classes were compelled to puff their Kayf (Bhang, cannabis indica) and sip their black coffee in the muddy streets under a rainy sky, I found the Ráwi active on Sundays and Thursdays, the market days. The favourite place was the “Soko de barra,” or large bazar, outside the town whose condition is that of Suez and Bayrut half a century ago. It is a foul slope; now slippery with viscous mud, then powdery with fetid dust, dotted with graves and decaying tombs, unclean booths, gargottes and tattered tents, and frequented by women, mere bundles of unclean rags, and by men wearing the haik or burnús, a Franciscan frock, tending their squatting camels and chaffering over cattle for Gibraltar beef-eaters. Here the market-people form a ring about the reciter, a stalwart man affecting little raiment besides a broad waist-belt into which his lower chiffons are tucked, and noticeable only for his shock hair, wild eyes, broad grin and generally disreputable aspect. He usually handles a short stick; and, when drummer and piper are absent, he carries a tiny tom-tom shaped like an hour-glass, upon which he taps the periods. This Scealuidhe, as the Irish call him, opens the drama with extempore prayer, proving that he and the audience are good Moslems: he speaks slowly and with emphasis, varying the diction with breaks of animation, abundant action and the most comical grimace: he advances, retires and wheels about, illustrating every point with pantomime; and his features, voice and gestures are so expressive that even Europeans who cannot understand a word of Arabic divine the meaning of his tale. The audience stands breathless and motionless surprising strangers8 by the ingenuousness and freshness of feeling hidden under their hard and savage exterior. The performance usually ends with the embryo actor going round for alms and flourishing in air every silver bit, the usual honorarium being a few “f’lús,” that marvellous money of Barbary, big coppers worth one-twelfth of a penny. All the tales I heard were purely local, but Fakhri Bey, a young Osmanli domiciled for some time in Fez and Mequinez, assured me that The Nights are still recited there.

Many travellers, including Dr. Russell, have complained that they failed to find a complete Ms. copy of The Nights. Evidently they never heard of the popular superstition which declares that no one can read through them without dying — it is only fair that my patrons should know this. Yacoub Artín Pasha declares that the superstition dates from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and he explains it in two ways. Firstly, it is a facetious exaggeration, meaning that no one has leisure or patience to wade through the long repertory. Secondly, the work is condemned as futile. When Egypt produced savants and legists like Ibn al-Hajar, Al-‘Ayni, and Al–Kastalláni, to mention no others, the taste of the country inclined to dry factual studies and positive science; nor, indeed, has this taste wholly died out: there are not a few who, like Khayri Pasha, contend that the mathematic is more useful even for legal studies than history and geography, and at Cairo the chief of the Educational Department has always been an engineer, i. e., a mathematician. The Olema declared war against all “futilities,” in which they included not only stories but also what is politely entitled Authentic History. From this to the fatal effect of such lecture is only a step. Society, however, cannot rest without light literature; so the novel- reading class was thrown back upon writings which had all the indelicacy and few of the merits of The Nights.

Turkey is the only Moslem country which has dared to produce a regular drama9 and to arouse the energies of such brilliant writers as Muníf Pasha, statesman and scholar; Ekrem Bey, literato and professor; Kemál Bey, held by some to be the greatest writer in modern Osmanli-land and Abd al-Hakk Hamíd Bey, first Secretary of the London Embassy. The theatre began in its ruder form by taking subjects bodily from The Nights; then it annexed its plays as we do — the Novel having ousted the Drama — from the French; and lastly it took courage to be original. Many years ago I saw Harun al-Rashid and the Three Kalandars, with deer-skins and all their properties de rigueur in the court-yard of Government House, Damascus, declaiming to the extreme astonishment and delight of the audience. It requires only to glance at The Nights for seeing how much histrionic matter they contain.

In considering the style of The Nights we must bear in mind that the work has never been edited according to our ideas of the process. Consequently there is no just reason for translating the whole verbatim et literatim, as has been done by Torrens, Lane and Payne in his “Tales from the Arabic.”10 This conscientious treatment is required for versions of an author like Camœns, whose works were carefully corrected and arranged by a competent littérateur, but it is not merited by The Nights as they now are. The Macnaghten, the Bulak and the Bayrut texts, though printed from Mss. identical in order, often differ in minor matters. Many friends have asked me to undertake the work: but, even if lightened by the aid of Shaykhs, Munshis and copyists, the labour would be severe, tedious and thankless: better leave the holes open than patch them with fancy work or with heterogeneous matter. The learned, indeed, as Lane tells us (i. 74; iii. 740), being thoroughly dissatisfied with the plain and popular, the ordinary and “vulgar” note of the language, have attempted to refine and improve it and have more than once threatened to remodel it, that is, to make it odious. This would be to dress up Robert Burns in plumes borrowed from Dryden and Pope.

The first defect of the texts is in the distribution and arrangement of the matter, as I have noticed in the case of Sindbad the Seaman (vol. vi. 77). Moreover, many of the earlier Nights are overlong and not a few of the others are overshort: this, however, has the prime recommendation of variety. Even the vagaries of editor and scribe will not account for all the incoherences, disorder and inconsequence, and for the vain iterations which suggest that the author has forgotten what he said. In places there are dead allusions to persons and tales which are left dark, e. g. vol. i. pp. 43, 57, 61, etc. The digressions are abrupt and useless, leading nowhere, while sundry pages are wearisome for excess of prolixity or hardly intelligible for extreme conciseness. The perpetual recurrence of mean colloquialisms and of words and idioms peculiar to Egypt and Syria11 also takes from the pleasure of the perusal. Yet we cannot deny that it has its use: this unadorned language of familiar conversation, in its day adapted for the understanding of the people, is best fitted for the Rawi’s craft in the camp and caravan, the Harem, the bazar and the coffee- house. Moreover, as has been well said, The Nights is the only written half-way house between the literary and colloquial Arabic which is accessible to all, and thus it becomes necessary to the students who would qualify themselves for service in Moslem lands from Mauritania to Mesopotamia. It freely uses Turkish words like “Khátún” and Persian terms as “Sháhbandar,” thus requiring for translation not only a somewhat archaic touch, but also a vocabulary borrowed from various sources: otherwise the effect would not be reproduced. In places, however, the style rises to the highly ornate approaching the pompous; e. g. the Wazirial addresses in the tale of King Jali’ad. The battle-scenes, mostly admirable (vol. v. 365), are told with the conciseness of a despatch and the vividness of an artist; the two combining to form perfect “word-pictures.” Of the Badí‘a or euphuistic style, “Parleying euphuism,” and of Al Saj’a, the prose rhyme, I shall speak in a future page.

The characteristics of the whole are naïveté and simplicity, clearness and a singular concision. The gorgeousness is in the imagery not in the language; the words are weak while the sense, as in the classical Scandinavian books, is strong; and here the Arabic differs diametrically from the florid exuberance and turgid amplifications of the Persian story-teller, which sound so hollow and unreal by the side of a chaster model. It abounds in formulæ such as repetitions of religious phrases which are unchangeable. There are certain stock comparisons, as Lokman’s wisdom, Joseph’s beauty, Jacob’s grief, Job’s patience, David’s music, and Maryam the Virgin’s chastity. The eyebrow is a Nún; the eye a Sád, the mouth a Mím. A hero is more prudent than the crow, a better guide than the Katá grouse, more generous than the cock, warier than the crane, braver than the lion, more aggressive than the panther, finer-sighted than the horse, craftier than the fox, greedier than the gazelle, more vigilant than the dog, and thriftier than the ant. The cup-boy is a sun rising from the dark underworld symbolised by his collar; his cheek-mole is a crumb of ambergris, his nose is a scymitar grided at the curve; his lower lip is a jujube; his teeth are the Pleiades or hailstones; his browlocks are scorpions; his young hair on the upper lip is an emerald; his side beard is a swarm of ants or a Lám ( — letter) enclosing the roses or anemones of his cheek. The cup-girl is a moon who rivals the sheen of the sun; her forehead is a pearl set off by the jet of her “idiot-fringe;” her eyelashes scorn the sharp sword; and her glances are arrows shot from the bow of the eyebrows. A mistress necessarily belongs, though living in the next street, to the Wady Liwá and to a hostile clan of Badawin whose blades are ever thirsting for the lover’s blood and whose malignant tongues aim only at the “defilement of separation.” Youth is upright as an Alif, or slender and bending as a branch of the Bán-tree which we should call a willow-wand,12 while Age, crabbed and crooked, bends groundwards vainly seeking in the dust his lost juvenility. As Baron de Slane says of these stock comparisons (Ibn Khall. i. xxxvi.), “The figurative language of Moslem poets is often difficult to be understood. The narcissus is the eye; the feeble stem of that plant bends languidly under its dower, and thus recalls to mind the languor of the eyes. Pearls signify both tears and teeth; the latter are sometimes called hailstones, from their whiteness and moisture; the lips are cornelians or rubies; the gums, a pomegranate flower; the dark foliage of the myrtle is synonymous with the black hair of the beloved, or with the first down on the cheeks of puberty. The down itself is called the izâr, or head-stall of the bridle, and the curve of the izar is compared to the letters lâm ( ) and nûn ( ).13 Ringlets trace on the cheek or neck the letter Waw ( ); they are called Scorpions (as the Greek {Greek text}), either from their dark colour or their agitated movements; the eye is a sword; the eyelids scabbards; the whiteness of the complexion, camphor; and a mole or beauty-spot, musk, which term denotes also dark hair. A mole is sometimes compared also to an ant creeping on the cheek towards the honey of the mouth; a handsome face is both a full moon and day; black hair is night; the waist is a willow-branch or a lance; the water of the face is self-respect: a poet sells the water of his face14 when he bestows mercenary praises on a rich patron.”

This does not sound promising: yet, as has been said of Arab music, the persistent repetition of the same notes in the minor key is by no means monotonous and ends with haunting the ear, occupying the thought and touching the soul. Like the distant frog-concert and chirp of the cicada, the creak of the water-wheel and the stroke of hammers upon the anvil from afar, the murmur of the fountain, the sough of the wind and the plash of the wavelet, they occupy the sensorium with a soothing effect, forming a barbaric music full of sweetness and peaceful pleasure.

1 Boccaccio (ob. Dec. 2, 1375), may easily have heard of The Thousand Nights and a Night or of its archetype the Hazár Afsánah. He was followed by the Piacevoli Notti of Giovan Francisco Straparola (A. D. 1550), translated into almost all European languages but English: the original Italian is now rare. Then came the Heptameron ou Histoire des amans fortunez of Marguerite d’Angoulême, Reyne de Navarre and only sister of Francis I. She died in 1549 before the days were finished: in 1558 Pierre Boaistuan published the Histoire des amans fortunez and in 1559 Claude Guiget the “Heptameron.” Next is the Hexameron of A. de Torquemada, Rouen, 1610; and, lastly, the Pentamerone or El Cunto de li Cunte of Giambattista Basile (Naples 1637), known by the meagre abstract of J. E. Taylor and the caricatures of George Cruikshank (London 1847–50). I propose to translate this Pentamerone direct from the Neapolitan and have already finished half the work.

2 Translated and well annotated by Prof. Tawney, who, however, affects asterisks and has considerably bowdlerised sundry of the tales, e. g. the Monkey who picked out the Wedge (vol. ii. 28). This tale, by the by, is found in the Khirad Afroz (i. 128) and in the Anwar-i-Suhayli (chapt. i.) and gave rise to the Persian proverb, “What has a monkey to do with carpentering?” It is curious to compare the Hindu with the Arabic work whose resemblances are as remarkable as their differences, while even more notable is their correspondence in impressioning the reader. The Thaumaturgy of both is the same: the Indian is profuse in demonology and witchcraft; in transformation and restoration; in monsters as wind-men, fire-men and water-men, in air-going elephants and flying horses (i. 541–43); in the wishing cow, divine goats and laughing fishes (i. 24); and in the speciosa miracula of magic weapons. He delights in fearful battles (i. 400) fought with the same weapons as the Moslem and rewards his heroes with a “turband of honour” (i. 266) in lieu of a robe. There is a quaint family likeness arising from similar stages and states of society: the city is adorned for gladness, men carry money in a robe-corner and exclaim “Ha! good!” (for “Good, by Allah!”), lovers die with exemplary facility, the “soft-sided” ladies drink spirits (i. 61) and princesses get drunk (i. 476); whilst the Eunuch, the Hetaira and the bawd (Kuttini) play the same preponderating parts as in The Nights. Our Brahman is strong in love-making; he complains of the pains of separation in this phenomenal universe; he revels in youth, “twin-brother to mirth,” and beauty which has illuminating powers; he foully reviles old age and he alternately praises and abuses the sex, concerning which more presently. He delights in truisms, the fashion of contemporary Europe (see Palmerin of England chapt. vii), such as “It is the fashion of the heart to receive pleasure from those things which ought to give it,” etc. etc. What is there the wise cannot understand? and so forth. He is liberal in trite reflections and frigid conceits (i. 19, 55, 97, 103, 107, in fact everywhere); and his puns run through whole lines; this in fine Sanskrit style is inevitable. Yet some of his expressions are admirably terse and telling, e. g. Ascending the swing of Doubt: Bound together (lovers) by the leash of gazing: Two babes looking like Misery and Poverty: Old Age seized me by the chin: (A lake) first assay of the Creator’s skill: (A vow) difficult as standing on a sword-edge: My vital spirits boiled with the fire of woe: Transparent as a good man’s heart: There was a certain convent full of fools: Dazed with scripture-reading: The stones could not help laughing at him: The Moon kissed the laughing forehead of the East: She was like a wave of the Sea of Love’s insolence (ii. 127), a wave of the Sea of Beauty tossed up by the breeze of Youth: The King played dice, he loved slave-girls, he told lies, he sat up o’ nights, he waxed wroth without reason, he took wealth wrongously, he despised the good and honoured the bad (i. 562); with many choice bits of the same kind. Like the Arab the Indian is profuse in personification; but the doctrine of pre-existence, of incarnation and emanation and an excessive spiritualism ever aiming at the infinite, makes his imagery run mad. Thus we have Immoral Conduct embodied; the God of Death; Science; the Svarga-heaven; Evening; Untimeliness, and the Earth-bride, while the Ace and Deuce of dice are turned into a brace of Demons. There is also that grotesqueness which the French detect even in Shakespeare, e. g. She drank in his ambrosial form with thirsty eyes like partridges (i. 476) and it often results from the comparison of incompatibles, e. g. a row of birds likened to a garden of nymphs; and from forced allegories, the favourite figure of contemporary Europe. Again, the rhetorical Hindu style differs greatly from the sobriety, directness and simplicity of the Arab, whose motto is Brevity combined with precision, except where the latter falls into “fine writing.” And, finally, there is a something in the atmosphere of these Tales which is unfamiliar to the West and which makes them, as more than one has remarked to me, very hard reading.

3 The Introduction (i. 1–5) leads to the Curse of Pushpadanta and Mályaván who live on Earth as Vararúchi and Gunádhya and this runs through lib. i. Lib. ii. begins with the Story of Udáyana to whom we must be truly grateful as our only guide: he and his son Naraváhanadatta fill up the rest and end with lib. xviii. Thus the want of the clew or plot compels a division into books, which begin for instance with “We worship the elephantine proboscis of Ganesha” (lib. x. i.) a reverend and awful object to a Hindu but to Englishmen mainly suggesting the “Zoo.” The “Bismillah” of The Nights is much more satisfactory.

4 See pp. 5–6 Avertissement des Éditeurs, Le Cabinet des Fées, vol. xxxviii: Geneva 1788. Galland’s Edit. of mdccxxvi ends with Night ccxxxiv and the English translations with ccxxxvi and cxcvii. See retro p. 82.

5 There is a shade of difference in the words; the former is also used for Reciters of Traditions — a serious subject. But in the case of Hammád surnamed Al-Ráwiyah (the Rhapsode) attached to the Court of Al–Walid, it means simply a conteur. So the Greeks had Homeristæ = reciters of Homer, as opposed to the Homeridæ or School of Homer.

6 Vol. i, Preface p. v. He notes that Mr. Dallaway describes the same scene at Constantinople where the Story-teller was used, like the modern “Organs of Government” in newspaper shape, for “reconciling the people to any recent measure of the Sultan and Vizier.” There are women Ráwiyahs for the Harems and some have become famous like the Mother of Hasan al-Basri (Ibn Khall. i, 370).

7 Hence the Persian proverb, “Báki-e-dastán fardá = the rest of the tale to-morrow,” said to askers of silly questions.

8 The scene is excellently described in, “Morocco: Its People and Places,” by Edmondo de Amicis (London: Cassell, 1882), a most refreshing volume after the enforced platitudes and commonplaces of English travellers.

9 It began, however, in Persia, where the celebrated Darwaysh Mukhlis, Chief Sofi of Isfahan in the xviith century, translated into Persian tales certain Hindu plays of which a Ms. entitled Alfaraga Badal–Schidda (Al-faraj ba’d al-shiddah = Joy after annoy) exists in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. But to give an original air to his work, he entitled it “Hazár o yek Ruz” = Thousand and One Days, and in 1675 he allowed his friend Petis de la Croix, who happened to be at Isfahan, to copy it. Le Sage (of Gil Blas) is said to have converted many of the tales of Mukhlis into comic operas, which were performed at the Théâtre Italien. I still hope to see The Nights at the Lyceum.

10 This author, however, when hazarding a change of style which is, I think, regretable, has shown abundant art by filling up the frequent deficiencies of the text after the fashion of Baron McGuckin de Slane in Ibn Khallikan. As regards the tout ensemble of his work, a noble piece of English, my opinion will ever be that expressed in my Foreword. A carping critic has remarked that the translator, “as may be seen in every page, is no Arabic scholar.” If I be a judge, the reverse is the case: the brilliant and beautiful version thus traduced is almost entirely free from the blemishes and carelessness which disfigure Lane’s, and thus it is far more faithful to the original. But it is no secret that on the staff of that journal the translator of Villon has sundry enemies, vrais diables enjupponés, who take every opportunity of girding at him because he does not belong to the clique and because he does good work when theirs is mostly sham. The sole fault I find with Mr. Payne is that his severe grace of style treats an unclassical work as a classic, when the romantic and irregular would have been a more appropriate garb. But this is a mere matter of private judgment.

11 Here I offer a few, but very few, instances from the Breslau text, which is the greatest sinner in this respect. Mas. for fem., vol. i. p. 9, and three times in seven pages, Ahná and nahná for nahnú (iv. 370, 372); Aná ba-ashtarí = I will buy (iii. 109): and Aná ‘Ámíl = I will do (v. 367). Alaykí for Alayki (i. 18), Antí for Anti (iii. 66) and generally long í for short. ‘Ammál (from ‘amala = he did) tahlam = certainly thou dreamest, and ‘Ammálín yaakulú = they were about to eat (ix. 315): Aywá for Ay wa’lláhí = yes, by Allah (passim). Bitá’ = belonging to, e.g. Sára bitá‘k = it is become thine (ix. 352) and Matá’ with the same sense (iii. 80). Dá ‘l-khurj = this saddle-bag (ix. 336) and Dí (for hazah) = this woman (iii. 79) or this time (ii. 162). Fayn as ráha fayn = whither is he gone? (iv. 323). Kamá badri = he rose early (ix. 318): Kamán = also, a word known to every European (ii. 43): Katt = never (ii. 172): Kawám (pronounced ‘awám) = fast, at once (iv. 385) and Rih ásif kawí (pron. ‘awí) = a wind, strong very. Laysh, e.g. bi tasalní laysh (ix. 324) = why do you ask me? a favourite form for li ayya shayyin: so Máfish = má fihi shayyun (there is no thing) in which Herr Landberg (p. 425) makes “Sha, le présent de pouvoir.” Min ajali = for my sake; and Li ajal al-taudí‘a = for the sake of taking leave (Mac. Edit. i. 384). Rijál nautiyah = men sailors when the latter word would suffice: Shuwayh (dim. of shayy) = a small thing, a little (iv. 309) like Moyyah (dim. of Má) a little water: Waddúní = they carried me (ii. 172) and lastly the abominable Wáhid gharíb = one (for a) stranger. These few must suffice: the tale of Judar and his brethren, which in style is mostly Egyptian, will supply a number of others. It must not, however, be supposed, as many have done, that vulgar and colloquial Arabic is of modern date: we find it in the first century of Al–Islam, as is proved by the tale of Al–Hajjáj and Al–Shabi (Ibn Khallikan, ii. 6). The former asked “Kam ataa-k?’ (= how much is thy pay?) to which the latter answered, “Alfayn!” (= two thousand!). “Tut,” cried the Governor, “Kam atau-ka?” to which the poet replied as correctly and classically, “Alfáni.”

12 In Russian folk-songs a young girl is often compared with this tree e.g. —

Ivooshka, ivooshka zelonaia moia!

(O Willow, O green Willow mine!)

13 So in Hector France (“La vache enragée”) “Le sourcil en accent circonflexe et l’oeil en point d’interrogation.”

14 In Persian “Áb-i-rú” in India pronounced Ábrú.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/afterword3.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31