The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

When it was the Two Hundred and Seventy-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Al Maamun, Prince of the Faithful, heard the words of Ahmad bin al-Khálid, he bowed his head and began repeating,

“My tribe have slain that brother mine, Umaym,

Yet would shoot back what shafts at them I aim:

If I deal-pardon, noble pardon ’tis;

And if I shoot, my bones

’twill only maim.”1

And he also recited,

“Be mild to brother mingling

What is wrong with what is right:

Kindness to him continue

Whether good or graceless wight: Abstain from all reproaching,

An he joy or vex thy sprite: Seest not that what thou lovest

And what hatest go unite? That joys of longer life-tide

Ever fade with hair turned white?

That thorns on branches growing

For the plucks fruit catch thy sight?

Who never hath done evil,

Doing good for sole delight?

When tried the sons of worldliness they mostly work upright.”

Quoth Ibrahim, “Now when I heard these couplets, I withdrew my woman’s veil from my head and cried out, with my loudest voice, ‘Allah is Most Great! By Allah, the Commander of the Faithful pardoneth me!’ Quoth he, ‘No harm shall come to thee, O uncle;’ and I rejoined, ‘O Commander of the Faithful, my sin is too sore for me to excuse it and thy mercy is too much for me to speak thanks for it.’ And I chanted these couplets to a lively motive,

‘Who made all graces all collected He

In Adam’s loins, our

Seventh Imam, for thee,2

Thou hast the hearts of men with reverence filled,

Enguarding all with heart-humility

Rebelled I never by delusion whelmed

For object other than thy clemency;3

And thou hast pardoned me whose like was ne’er

Pardoned before, though no man pled my plea:

Hast pitied little ones like Katá‘s4 young,

And mother’s yearning heart a son to see.’

Quoth Maamun, ‘I say, following our lord Joseph (on whom and on our Prophet be blessing and peace!) let there be no reproach cast on you this day. Allah forgiveth you; for He is the most merciful of those who show mercy.5 Indeed I pardon thee, and restore to thee thy goods and lands, O uncle, and no harm shall befall thee.’ So I offered up devout prayers for him and repeated these couplets,

‘Thou hast restored my wealth sans greed, and ere

So didst, thou deignèdest my blood to spare:

Then if I shed my blood and wealth, to gain

Thy grace, till even shoon from foot I tear,

Twere but repaying what thou lentest me,

And what unloaned no man to blame would care:

Were I ungrateful for thy lavish boons,

Baser than thou’rt beneficent I were!’

Then Al–Maamun showed me honour and favour and said to me, ‘O uncle, Abu Ishak and Al–Abbas counselled me to put thee to death.’ So I answered, ‘And they both counselled thee right, O Commander of the Faithful, but thou hast done after thine own nature and hast put away what I feared with what I hoped.’ Rejoined Al Maamun, ‘O uncle, thou didst extinguish my rancour with the modesty of thine excuse, and I have pardoned thee without making thee drink the bitterness of obligation to intercessors.’ Then he prostrated himself in prayer a long while, after which he raised his head and said to me, ‘O uncle, knowest thou why I prostrated myself?’ Answered I, ‘Haply thou didst this in thanksgiving to Allah, for that He hath given thee the mastery over thine enemy.’ He replied, ‘Such was not my design, but rather to thank Allah for having inspired me to pardon thee and for having cleared my mind towards thee. Now tell me thy tale.’ So I told him all that had befallen me with the barber, the trooper and his wife and with my freed-woman who had betrayed me. So he summoned the freed-woman, who was in her house, expecting the reward to be sent to her, and when she came before him he said to her, ‘What moved thee to deal thus with thy lord?’ Quoth she, ‘Lust of money.’ Asked the Caliph ‘Hast thou a child or a husband?’; and she answered ‘No;’ whereupon he bade them give her an hundred stripes with a whip and imprisoned her for life. Then he sent for the trooper and his wife and the barber-surgeon and asked the soldier what had moved him to do thus. ‘Lust of money,’ quoth he; whereupon quoth the Caliph, ‘It befitteth thee to be a barber-cupper,’6 and committed him to one whom he charged to place him in a barber-cupper’s shop, where he might learn the craft. But he showed honour to the trooper’s wife and lodged her in his palace, saying, ‘This is a woman of sound sense and fit for matters of moment.’ Then said he to the barber-cupper, ‘Verily, thou hast shown worth and generosity which call for extraordinary honour.’ So he commanded the trooper’s house and all that was therein to be given him and bestowed on him a dress of honour and in addition fifteen thousand dinars to be paid annually. And men tell the following tale concerning

1 The second couplet is not in the Mac. Edit. but Lane’s Shaykh has supplied it (ii. 339)

2 Adam’s loins, the “Day of Alast,” and the Imam (who stands before the people in prayer) have been explained. The “Seventh Imam” here is Al–Maamun, the seventh Abbaside the Ommiades being, as usual, ignored.

3 He sinned only for the pleasure of being pardoned, which is poetical-and hardly practical-or probable.

4 The Katá (sand-grouse) always enters into Arab poetry because it is essentially a desert bird, and here the comparison is good because it lays its eggs in the waste far from water which it must drink morning and evening. Its cry is interpreted “man sakat, salam” (silent and safe), but it does not practice that precept, for it is usually betrayed by its piping “ Kata! Kata!” Hence the proverb, “More veracious than the sand-grouse,” and “speak not falsely, for the Kata sayeth sooth,” is Komayt’s saying. It is an emblem of swiftness: when the brigand poet Shanfara boasts, “The ash-coloured Katas can drink only my leavings, after hastening all night to slake their thirst in the morning,” it is a hyperbole boasting of his speed. In Sind it is called the “rock pigeon” and it is not unlike a grey partridge when on the wing.

5 Joseph to his brethren, Koran, xii. 92, when he gives them his “inner garment” to throw over his father’s face.

6 Arab. “Hajjám”=a cupper who scarifies forehead and legs, a bleeder, a (blood-) sucker. The slang use of the term is to thrash, lick, wallop. (Burckhardt. Prov. 34.)

The City of Many Columned Iram and Abdullah Son of Abi Kilabah.1

It is related that Abdullah bin Abi Kilábah went forth in quest of a she-camel which had strayed from him; and, as he was wandering in the deserts of Al–Yaman and the district of Sabá,2 behold, he came upon a great city girt by a vast castle around which were palaces and pavilions that rose high into middle air. He made for the place thinking to find there folk of whom he might ask concerning his she-camel; but, when he reached it, he found it desolate, without a living soul in it. So (quoth he) “I alighted and, hobbling my dromedary,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 The Bresl. Edit. (vii. 171–174) entitles this tale, “Story of Shaddád bin Ad and the City of Iram the Columned;” but it relates chiefly to the building by the King of the First Adites who, being promised a future Paradise by Prophet Húd, impiously said that he would lay out one in this world. It also quotes Ka’ab al-Ahbár as an authority for declaring that the tale is in the “Pentateuch of Moses.” Iram was in al-Yaman near Adan (our Aden) a square of ten parasangs (or leagues each= 18,000 feet) every way, the walls were of red (baked) brick 500 cubits high and 20 broad, with four gates of corresponding grandeur. It contained 300,000 Kasr (palaces) each with a thousand pillars of gold-bound jasper, etc. (whence its title). The whole was finished in five hundred years, and, when Shaddad prepared to enter it, the “Cry of Wrath” from the Angel of Death slew him and all his many. It is mentioned in the Koran (chaps. Ixxxix. 6–7) as “Irem adorned with lofty buildings (or pillars).” But Ibn Khaldun declares that commentators have embroidered the passage; Iram being the name of a powerful clan of the ancient Adites and “imád” being a tent-pole: hence “Iram with the numerous tents or tent-poles.” Al–Bayzawi tells the story of Abdullah ibn Kilabah (D’Herbelot’s Colabah). At Aden I met an Arab who had seen the mysterious city on the borders of Al–Ahkáf, the waste of deep sands, west of Hadramaut; and probably he had, the mirage or sun-reek taking its place. Compare with this tale “The City of Brass” (Night dlxv.).

2 The biblical-“Sheba,” named from the great-grandson of Joctan, whence the Queen (Bilkis) visited Solomon It was destroyed by the Flood of Márib.

When it was the Two Hundred and Seventy-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah bin Abi Kilabah continued, “I dismounted and hobbling my dromedary, and composing my mind, entered into the city. Now when I came to the castle, I found it had two vast gates (never in the world was seen their like for size height) inlaid with all manner of jewels and jacinths, white and red, yellow and green. Beholding this I marvelled with great marvel and thought the case mighty wondrous; then entering the citadel in a flutter of fear and dazed with surprise and affright, I found it long and wide, about equalling Al–Medinah1 in point of size; and therein were lofty palaces laid out in pavilions all built of gold and silver and inlaid with many-coloured jewels and jacinths and chrysolites and pearls. And the door-leaves in the pavilions were like those of the castle for beauty; and their floors were strewn with great pearls and balls, no smaller than hazel nuts, of musk and ambergris and saffron. Now when I came within the heart of the city and saw therein no created beings of the Sons of Adam I was near swooning and dying for fear. Moreover, I looked down from the great roofs of the pavilion-chambers and their balconies and saw rivers running under them; and in the main streets were fruit-laden trees and tall palms; and the manner of their building was one brick of gold and one of silver. So I said in myself, ‘Doubtless this is the Paradise promised for the world to come.’ Then I loaded me with the jewels of its gravel and the musk of its dust as much as I could carry and returned to my own country, where I told the folk what I had seen. After a time the news reached Mu’áwiyah, son of Abu Sufyán, who was then Caliph in Al–Hijaz; so he wrote to his lieutenant in San’á of Al–Yaman to send for the teller of the story and question him of the truth of the case. Accordingly the lieutenant summoned me and questioned me of my adventure and of all appertaining to it; and I told him what I had seen, whereupon he despatched me to Mu’awiyah, before whom I repeated the story of the strange sights; but he would not credit it. So I brought out to him some of the pearls and balls of musk and ambergris and saffron, in which latter there was still some sweet savour; but the pearls were grown yellow and had lost pearly colour.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 The full title of the Holy City is “Madinat al-Nab)” = the City of the Prophet, of old Yasrib (Yathrib) the Iatrippa of the Greeks (Pilgrimage, ii. 119). The reader will remember that there are two “Yasribs:” that of lesser note being near Hujr in the Yamámah province.

When it was the Two Hundred and Seventy-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah son of Abu Kilabah continued, “But the pearls were grown yellow and had lost pearly colour. Now Mu’awiyah wondered at this and, sending for Ka’ab al-Ahbar1 said to him, ‘O Ka’ab, I have sent for thee to ascertain the truth of a certain matter and hope that thou wilt be able to certify me thereof.’ Asked Ka’ab, ‘What is it, O Commander of the Faithful?’; and Mu’awiyah answered, ‘Wottest thou of any city founded by man which is builded of gold and silver, the pillars whereof are of chrysolite and rubies and its gravel pearls and balls of musk and ambergris and saffron?’ He replied, ‘Yes, O Commander of the Faithful, this is ‘Iram with pillars decked and dight, the like of which was never made in the lands,’2 and the builder was Shaddad son of Ad the Greater.’ Quoth the Caliph, ‘Tell us something of its history,’ and Ka’ab said, ‘Ad the Greater3 had two sons, Shadíd and Shaddád who, when their father died, ruled conjointly in his stead, and there was no King of the Kings of the earth but was subject to them. After awhile Shadid died and his brother Shaddad reigned over the earth alone. Now he was fond of reading in antique books; and, happening upon the description of the world to come and of Paradise, with its pavilions and galleries and trees and fruits and so forth, his soul moved him to build the like thereof in this world, after the fashion aforesaid. Now under his hand were an hundred thousand Kings, each ruling over an hundred thousand chiefs, commanding each an hundred thousand warriors; so he called these all before him and said to them, ‘I find in ancient books and annals a description of Paradise, as it is to be in the next world, and I desire to build me its like in this world. Go ye forth therefore to the goodliest tract on earth and the most spacious and build me there a city of gold and silver, whose gravel shall be chrysolite and rubies and pearls; and for support of its vaults make pillars of jasper. Fill it with palaces, whereon ye shall set galleries and balconies and plant its lanes and thoroughfares with all manner trees bearing yellow-ripe fruits and make rivers to run through it in channels of gold and silver.’ Whereat said one and all, ‘How are we able to do this thing thou hast commanded, and whence shall we get the chrysolites and rubies and pearls whereof thou speakest?’ Quoth he, ‘What! weet ye not that the Kings of the world are subject to me and under my hand and that none therein dare gainsay my word?’ Answered they, ‘Yes, we know that.’”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 “Ka’ab of the Scribes,” a well-known traditionist and religious poet who died (A.H. 32) in the Caliphate of Osman. He was a Jew who islamised; hence his name (Ahbár, plur. of Hibr, a Jewish scribe, doctor of science, etc. Jarrett’s El–Siyuti, p. 123). He must not be confounded with another Ka’ab al-Ahbár the Poet of the (first) Cloak-poem or “Burdah,” a noble Arab who was a distant cousin of Mohammed, and whose tomb at Hums (Emesa) is a place of pious visitation. According to the best authorities (no Christian being allowed to see them) the cloak given to the bard by Mohammed is still preserved together with the Khirkah or Sanjak Sherif (“Holy Coat” or Banner, the national oriflamme) at Stambul in the Upper Seraglio. (Pilgrimage, i. 213.) Many authors repeat this story of Mu’awiyah, the Caliph, and Ka’ab of the Burdah, but it is an evident anachronism, the poet having been dead nine years before the ruler’s accession (A.H. 41).

2 Koran, lxxxix. 6–7.

3 Arab. “Kahramán” from Pers., braves, heroes.

When it was the Two Hundred and Seventy-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the lieges answered, “Yes, we know that;” whereupon the King rejoined, “Fare ye then to the mines of chrysolites and rubies and pearls and gold and silver and collect their produce and gather together all of value that is in the world and spare no pains and leave naught; and take also for me such of these things as be in men’s hands and let nothing escape you: be diligent and beware of disobedience.” And thereupon he wrote letters to all the Kings of the world and bade them gather together whatso of these things was in their subjects’ hands, and get them to the mines of precious stones and metals, and bring forth all that was therein, even from the abysses of the seas. This they accomplished in the space of 20 years, for the number of rulers then reigning over the earth was three hundred and sixty Kings, and Shaddad presently assembled from all lands and countries architects and engineers and men of art and labourers and handicraftsmen, who dispersed over the world and explored all the wastes and words and tracts and holds. At last they came to an uninhabited spot, a vast and fair open plain clear of sand-hills and mountains, with founts flushing and rivers rushing, and they said, “This is the manner of place the King commanded us to seek and ordered us to find.” So they busied themselves in building the city even as bade them Shaddad, King of the whole earth in its length and breadth; leading the fountains in channels and laying the foundations after the prescribed fashion. Moreover, all the Kings of earth’s several-reigns sent thither jewels and precious stones and pearls large and small and carnelian and refined gold and virgin silver upon camels by land, and in great ships over the waters, and there came to the builders’ hands of all these materials so great a quantity as may neither be told nor counted nor conceived. So they laboured at the work three hundred years; and, when they had brought it to end, they went to King Shaddad and acquainted him therewith. Then said he, “Depart and make thereon an impregnable castle, rising and towering high in air, and build around it a thousand pavilions, each upon a thousand columns of chrysolite and ruby and vaulted with gold, that in each pavilion a Wazir may dwell.” So they returned forthwith and did this in other twenty years; after which they again presented themselves before King Shaddad and informed him of the accomplishment of his will. Then he commanded his Wazirs, who were a thousand in number, and his Chief Officers and such of his troops and others as he put trust in, to prepare for departure and removal to Many-columned Iram, in the suite and at the stirrup of Shaddad, son of Ad, King of the World; and he bade also such as he would of his women and his Harim and of his handmaids and eunuchs make them ready for the journey. They spent twenty years in preparing for departure, at the end of which time Shaddad set out with his host. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Seventy-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Shaddad bin Ad fared forth, he and his host, rejoicing in the attainment of his desire till there remained but one day’s journey between him and Iram of the Pillars. Then Allah sent down on him and on the stubborn unbelievers with him a mighty rushing sound from the Heavens of His power, which destroyed them all with its vehement clamour, and neither Shaddad nor any of his company set eyes on the city.1 Moreover, Allah blotted out the road which led to the city, and it stands in its stead unchanged until the Resurrection Day and the Hour of Judgement.” So Mu’awiyah wondered greatly at Ka’ab al-Ahbar’s story and said to him, “Hath any mortal ever made his way to that city?” He replied, “Yes; one of the companions of Mohammed (on whom be blessing and peace!) reached it, doubtless and forsure after the same fashion as this man here seated.” “And (quoth Al–Sha’abi2) it is related, on the authority of learned men of Himyar in Al–Yaman that Shaddad, when destroyed with all his host by the sound, was succeeded in his Kingship by his son Shaddad the Less, whom he left vice-regent in Hazramaut3 and Saba, when he and his marched upon Many-columned Iram. Now as soon as he heard of his father’s death on the road, he caused his body to be brought back from the desert to Hazramaut and bade them hew him out a tomb in a cave, where he laid the body on a throne of gold and threw over the corpse threescore and ten robes of cloth of gold, purfled with precious stones. Lastly at his sire’s head he set up a tablet of gold whereon were graven these verses,

‘Take warning O proud,

And in length o’ life vain!

I’m Shaddád son of Ad,

Of the forts castellain; Lord of pillars and power,

Lord of tried might and main, Whom all earth-sons obeyed

For my mischief and bane And who held East and West

In mine awfullest reign. He preached me salvation

Whom God did assain,4 But we crossed him and asked

‘Can no refuge be ta’en?’

When a Cry on us cried

From th’ horizon plain, And we fell on the field

Like the harvested grain, And the Fixt Day await

We, in earth’s bosom lain!’”

Al–Sa’alibi also relateth, “It chanced that two men once entered this cave and found steps at its upper end; so they descended and came to an underground chamber, an hundred cubits long by forty wide and an hundred high. In the midst stood a throne of gold, whereon lay a man of huge bulk, filling the whole length and breadth of the throne. He was covered with jewels and raiment gold-and-silver wrought, and at his head was a tablet of gold bearing an inscription. So they took the tablet and carried it off, together with as many bars of gold and silver and so forth as they could bear away.” And men also relate the tale of

1 The Deity in the East is as whimsical-a despot as any of his “shadows” or “vice regents.” In the text Shaddád is killed for mere jealousy a base passion utterly unworthy of a godhead; but one to which Allah was greatly addicted.

2 Some traditionist, but whether Sha’abi, Shi’abi or Shu’abi we cannot decide.

3 The Hazarmaveth of Genesis (x. 26) in South Eastern Arabia. Its people are the Adramitae (mod. Hazrami) of Ptolemy who places in their land the Arabiæ Emporium, as Pliny does his Massola. They border upon the Homeritæ or men of Himyar, often mentioned in The Nights. Hazramaut is still practically unknown to us, despite the excursions of many travellers; and the hard nature of the people, the Swiss of Arabia, offers peculiar obstacles to exploration.

4 i.e. the prophet Hud generally identified (?) with Heber. He was commissioned (Koran, chaps. vii.) to preach Al–Islam to his tribe the Adites who worshipped four goddesses, Sákiyah (the rain-giver), Rázikah (food-giver), Háfizah (the saviouress) and Sálimah (who healed sickness). As has been seen he failed, so it was useless to send him.

Isaac of Mosul.

Quoth Isaac of Mosul,1 “I went out one night from Al Maamun’s presence, on my way to my house; and, being taken with a pressing need to make water, I turned aside into a by-street and stood in the middle fearing lest something might hurt me, if I squatted against a wall.2 Presently, I espied something hanging down from one of the houses; so I felt it to find out what it might be and found that it was a great four-handled basket,3 covered with brocade. Said I to myself, ‘There must be some reason for this,’ and knew not what to think; then drunkenness led me to seat myself in the basket, and behold, the people of the house pulled me up, thinking me to be the person they expected. Now when I came to the top of the wall; lo! four damsels were there, who said to me, ‘Descend and welcome and joy to thee!’ Then one of them went before me with a wax candle and brought me down into a mansion, wherein were furnished sitting-chambers, whose like I had never seen save in the palace of the Caliphate. So I sat down and, after a while, the curtains were suddenly drawn from one side of the room and, behold, in came damsels walking in procession and hending hand lighted flambeaux of wax and censers full of Sumatran aloes-wood, and amongst them a young lady as she were the rising full moon. So I stood up to her and she said, ‘Welcome to thee for a visitor!’ and then she made me sit down again and asked me how I came thither. Quoth I, ‘I was returning home from the house of an intimate friend and went astray in the dark; then, being taken in the street with an urgent call to make water, I turned aside into this lane, where I found a basket let down. The strong wine which I had drunk led me to seat myself in it and it was drawn up with me into this house, and this is my story.’ She rejoined, ‘No harm shall befall thee, and I hope thou wilt have cause to praise the issue of thine adventure.’ Then she added, ‘But what is thy condition?’ I said, ‘A merchant in the Baghdad bazar’ and she, ‘Canst thou repeat any verses?’ ‘Some small matter,’ quoth I. Quoth she ‘Then call a few to mind and let us hear some of them.’ But I said, ‘A visitor is bashful and timid; do thou begin.’ ‘True,’ replied she and recited some verses of the poets, past and present, choosing their choicest pieces; and I listened not knowing whether more to marvel at her beauty and loveliness or at the charm of her style of declamation. Then said she, ‘Is that bashfulness of thine gone?’ and I said, ‘Yes, by Allah!’ so she rejoined, ‘Then, if thou wilt, recite us somewhat.’ So I repeated to her a number of poems by old writers, and she applauded, saying, ‘By Allah, I did not think to find such culture among the trade folk, the sons of the bazar!’ Then she called for food” Whereupon quoth Shahrazad’s sister Dunyazad, “How pleasant is this tale and enjoyable and sweet to the ear and sound to the sense!” But she answered, “And what is this story compared with that which thou shalt hear on the morrow’s night, if I be alive and the King deign spare me!” Then Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Son of Ibraham al-Mosili, a musician poet and favourite with the Caliphs Harun al-Rashid and Al–Maamun. He made his name immortal-by being the first who reduced Arab harmony to systematic rules, and he wrote a biography of musicians referred to by Al–Hariri in the Séance of Singar.

2 This must not be confounded with the “pissing against the wall” of I Kings, xiv. 10, where watering against a wall denotes a man as opposed to a woman.

3 Arab. “Zambíl” or “Zimbíl,” a limp basket made of plaited palm-leaves and generally two handled. It is used for many purposes, from carrying poultry to carrying earth.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eightieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Isaac of Mosul continued, “Then the damsel called for food and, when it was served to her, she fell to eating it and setting it before me; and the sitting room was full of all manner sweet-scented flowers and rare fruits, such as are never found save in Kings’ houses. Presently, she called for wine and drank a cup, after which she filled another and gave it to me, saying, ‘Now is the time for converse and story-telling.’ So I bethought myself and began to say, ‘It hath reached me that such and such things happened and there was a man who said so and so,’ till I had told her a number of pleasing tales and adventures with which she was delighted and cried, ‘’Tis marvellous that a merchant should bear in memory such store of stories like these, for they are fit for Kings.’ Quoth I, ‘I had a neighbour who used to consort with Kings and carouse with them; so, when he was at leisure, I visited his house and he hath often told me what thou hast heard.’ Thereupon she exclaimed ‘By my life, but thou hast a good memory!’ So we continued to converse thus, and as often as I was silent, she would begin, till in this way we passed the most part of the night, whilst the burning aloes-wood diffused its fragrance and I was in such case that if Al–Maamun had suspected it, he would have flown like a bird with longing for it. Then said she to me, ‘Verily, thou art one of the most pleasant of men, polished, passing well-bred and polite; but there lacketh one thing.’ ‘What is that?’ asked I, and she answered, If thou only knew how to sing verses to the lute!’ I answered, ‘I was passionately fond of this art aforetime, but finding I had no taste for it, I abandoned it, though at times my heart yearneth after it. Indeed, I should love to sing somewhat well at this moment and fulfil my night’s enjoyment.’ Then said she, ‘Meseemeth thou hintest a wish for the lute to be brought?’ and I, ‘It is thine to decide, if thou wilt so far favour me, and to thee be the thanks.’ So she called for a lute and sang a song in a voice whose like I never heard, both for sweetness of tone and skill in playing, and perfection of art. Then said she, Knowest thou who composed this air and whose are the words of this song?’“No,” answered I; and she said, The words are so and so’s and the air is Isaac’s.’ I asked ‘And hath Isaac then (may I be thy sacrifice!) such a talent?’ She replied, ‘Bravo!1 Bravo, Isaac! indeed, he excelleth in this art.’ I rejoined, ‘Glory be to Allah who hath given this man what he hath vouchsafed unto none other!’ Then she said ‘And how would it be, an thou heard this song from himself?’ This wise we went on till break of day dawn, when there came to her an old woman, as she were her nurse, and said to her, ‘Verily, the time is come.’ So she rose in haste and said to me, ‘Keep what hath passed between us to thyself; for such meetings are in confidence;’”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Here we have again the Syriac ‘‘Bakhkh -un-Bakhkh-un-’’=well done! It is the Pers Áferín and means “all praise be to him.”

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the damsel whispered, “‘Keep what hath passed between us to thyself, for such meetings are in confidence;’ and I replied, ‘May I be thy ransom! I needed no charge to this.’ Then I took leave of her and she sent a handmaid to show me the way and open the house door; so I went forth and returned to my own place, where I prayed the morning prayer and slept. Now after a time there came to me a messenger from Al–Maamun, so I went to him and passed the day in his company. And when the night fell I called to mind my yesternight’s pleasure, a thing from which none but an ignoramus would abstain, and betook myself to the street, where I found the basket, and seating myself therein, was drawn up to the place in which I had passed the previous night. When the lady saw me, she said, ‘Indeed, thou hast been assiduous;’ and I answered, ‘Meseemeth rather that I am neglectful.’ Then we fell to discoursing and passed the night as before in general-conversation and reciting verses and telling rare tales, each in turn, till daybreak, when I wended me home; and I prayed the dawn prayer and slept. Presently there came to me a messenger from Al–Maamun; so I went to him and spent my day with him till nightfall, when the Commander of the Faithful said to me, ‘I conjure thee to sit here, whilst I go out for a want and come back.’ As soon as the Caliph was gone, and quite gone, my thoughts began to tempt and try me and, calling to mind my late delight, I recked little what might befal me from the Prince of True Believers. So I sprang up and turning my back upon the sitting-room, ran to the street aforesaid, where I sat down in the basket and was drawn up as before. When the lady saw me, she said, ‘I begin to think thou art a sincere friend to us.’ Quoth I, ‘Yea, by Allah!’ and quoth she, ‘Hast thou made our house thine abiding-place?’ I replied, ‘May I be thy ransom! A guest claimeth guest right for three days and if I return after this, ye are free to spill my blood.’ Then we passed the night as before; and when the time of departure drew near, I bethought me that Al Maamun would assuredly question me nor would ever be content save with a full explanation: so I said to her, ‘I see thee to be of those who delight in singing. Now I have a cousin, the son of my father’s brother, who is fairer than I in face and higher of rank and better of breeding; and he is the most intimate of Allah’s creatures with Isaac.’ Quoth she, ‘Art thou a parasite1 and an importunate one?’ Quoth I, ‘It is for thee to decide in this matter;’ and she, ‘If thy cousin be as thou hast described him, it would not mislike us to make acquaintance with him.’ Then, as the time was come, I left her and returned to my house, but hardly had I reached it, ere the Caliph’s runners came down on me and carried me before him by main force and roughly enough.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “A Tufayli?” So the Arab. Prov. (ii. 838) “More intrusive than Tufayl” (prob. the P.N. of a notorious sponger). The Badawin call “Wárish” a man who sits down to meat unbidden and to drink Wághil; but townsfolk apply the latter to the “Wárish.”

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Isaac of Mosul continued, “And hardly had I reached my house ere the Caliph’s runners came down upon me and carried me before him by main force and roughly enough. I found him seated on a chair, wroth with me, and he said to me, ‘O Isaac, art thou a traitor to thine allegiance?’ replied I, ‘No, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful!’ and he rejoined, ‘What hast thou then to say? tell me the whole truth;’ and I, ‘Yes, I will, but in private.’ So he signed to his attendants, who withdrew to a distance, and I told him the case, adding, ‘I promised her to bring thee,’ and he said, ‘Thou didst well.’ Then we spent the day in our usual-pleasures, but Al–Maamun’s heart was taken up with her, and hardly was the appointed time come, when we set out. As we went along, I cautioned him, saying, ‘Look that thou call me not by my name before her; and I will demean myself like thine attendant.’ And having agreed upon this, we fared forth till we came to the place, where we found two baskets hanging ready. So we sat down in them and were drawn up to the usual-place, where the damsel came forward and saluted us. Now when Al Maamun saw her, he was amazed at her beauty and loveliness; and she began to entertain him with stories and verses. Presently, she called for wine and we fell to drinking she paying him special attention and he repaying her in kind. Then she took the lute and sang these verses,

‘My lover came in at the close of night,

I rose till he sat and remained upright;

And said ‘Sweet heart, hast thou come this hour?

Nor feared on the watch and ward to ‘light:’

Quoth he ‘The lover had cause to fear,

But Love deprived him of wits and fright.’

And when she ended her song she said to me, ‘And is thy cousin also a merchant?’ I answered, ‘Yes,’ and she said, ‘Indeed, ye resemble each other nearly.’ But when Al–Maamun had drunk three pints,1 he grew merry with wine and called out, saying, ‘Ho, Isaac!’ And I replied, ‘Labbayk, Adsum, O Commander of the Faithful,’ whereupon quoth he, ‘Sing me this air.’ Now when the young lady learned that he was the Caliph, she withdrew to another place and disappeared; and, as I had made an end of my song, Al–Maamun said to me, ‘See who is the master of this house’, whereupon an old woman hastened to make answer, saying, ‘It belongs to Hasan bin Sahl.’2 ‘Fetch him to me,’ said the Caliph. So she went away and after a while behold, in came Hasan, to whom said Al–Maamun ‘Hast thou a daughter?’ He said, ‘Yes, and her name is Khadijah.’ Asked the Caliph, ‘Is she married?’ Answered Hasan, ‘No, by Allah!’ Said Al–Maamun, Then I ask her of thee in marriage.’ Replied her father, ‘O Commander of the Faithful, she is thy handmaid and at thy commandment.’ Quoth Al–Maamun, ‘I take her to wife at a present settlement of thirty thousand dinars, which thou shalt receive this very morning, and, when the money has been paid thee, do thou bring her to us this night.’ And Hasan answered, ‘I hear and I obey.’ Thereupon we went forth and the Caliph said to me, ‘O Isaac, tell this story to no one.’ So I kept it secret till Al–Maamun’s death. Surely never did man’s life gather such pleasures as were mine these four days’ time, whenas I companied with Al–Maamun by day and Khadijah by night; and, by Allah, never saw I among men the like of Al–Maamun nor among women have I ever set eyes on the like of Khadijah; no, nor on any that came near her in lively wit and pleasant speech! And Allah is All knowing. But amongst stories is that of

1 Arab. “Artál”=rotoli, pounds; and

“A pint is a pound

All the world round;”

except in highly civilised lands where the pint has a curious power of shrinking.

2 One of Al–Maamun’s Wazirs. The Caliph married his daughter whose true name was Búrán; but this tale of girl’s freak and courtship was invented (?) by Ishak. For the splendour of the wedding and the munificence of the Minister see Lane, ii. 350–352.

The Sweep and the Noble Lady.

During the season of the Meccan pilgrimage, whilst the people were making circuit about the Holy House and the place of compassing was crowded, behold, a man laid hold of the covering of the Ka’abah1 and cried out, from the bottom of his heart, saying, ‘I beseech thee, O Allah, that she may once again be wroth with her husband and that I may know her!’ A company of the pilgrims heard him and seized him and carried him to the Emir of the pilgrims, after a sufficiency of blows; and, said they, ‘O Emir, we found this fellow in the Holy Places, saying thus and thus.’ So the Emir commanded to hang him; but he cried, ‘O Emir, I conjure thee, by the virtue of the Apostle (whom Allah bless and preserve!), hear my story and then do with me as thou wilt.’ Quoth the Emir, ‘Tell thy tale forthright.’ ‘Know then, O Emir,’ quoth the man, ‘that I am a sweep who works in the sheep-slaughterhouses and carries off the blood and the offal to the rubbish-heaps outside the gates. And it came to pass as I went along one day with my ass loaded, I saw the people running away and one of them said to me, ‘Enter this alley, lest haply they slay thee.’ Quoth I, ‘What aileth the folk running away?’ and one of the eunuchs, who were passing, said to me, ‘This is the Harim2 of one of the notables and her eunuchs drive the people out of her way and beat them all, without respect to persons.’ So I turned aside with the donkey’”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 I have described this scene, the wretch clinging to the curtain and sighing and crying as if his heart would break (Pilgrimage iii. 216 and 220). The same is done at the place Al–Multazam’“the attached to;” (ibid. 156) and various spots called Al–Mustajáb, “where prayer is granted” (ibid. 162). At Jerusalem the Wailing place of the Jews” shows queer scenes; the worshippers embrace the wall with a peculiar wriggle crying out in Hebrew, “O build Thy House, soon, without delay,” etc.

2 i.e. The wife. The scene in the text was common at Cairo twenty years ago; and no one complained of the stick. See Pilgrimage i., 120.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the man, “So I turned aside with the donkey and stood still awaiting the dispersal of the crowd; and I saw a number of eunuchs with staves in their hands, followed by nigh thirty women slaves, and amongst them a lady as she were a willow-wand or a thirsty gazelle, perfect in beauty and grace and amorous languor, and all were attending upon her. Now when she came to the mouth of the passage where I stood, she turned right and left and, calling one of the Castratos, whispered in his ear; and behold, he came up to me and laid hold of me, whilst another eunuch took my ass and made off with it. And when the spectators fled, the first eunuch bound me with a rope and dragged me after him till I knew not what to do; and the people followed us and cried out, saying, ‘This is not allowed of Allah! What hath this poor scavenger done that he should be bound with ropes?’ and praying the eunuchs, ‘Have pity on him and let him go, so Allah have pity on you!’ And I the while said in my mind, ‘Doubtless the eunuchry seized me, because their mistress smelt the stink of the offal and it sickened her. Belike she is with child or ailing; but there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!’ So I continued walking on behind them, till they stopped at the door of a great house; and, entering before me, brought me into a big hall — I know not how I shall describe its magnificence — furnished with the finest furniture. And the women also entered the hall; and I bound and held by the eunuch and saying to myself, ‘Doubtless they will torture me here till I die and none know of my death.’ However, after a while, they carried me into a neat bath-room leading out of the hall; and as I sat there, behold, in came three slave-girls who seated themselves round me and said to me, ‘Strip off thy rags and tatters.’ So I pulled off my threadbare clothes and one of them fell a-rubbing my legs and feet whilst another scrubbed my head and a third shampooed my body. When they had made an end of washing me, they brought me a parcel of clothes and said to me, ‘Put these on’; and I answered, ‘By Allah, I know not how!’ So they came up to me and dressed me, laughing together at me the while; after which they brought casting-bottles full of rose-water, and sprinkled me therewith. Then I went out with them into another saloon; by Allah, I know not how to praise its splendour for the wealth of paintings and furniture therein; and entering it, I saw a person seated on a couch of Indian rattan”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the sweep continued, “When I entered that saloon I saw a person seated on a couch of Indian rattan, with ivory feet and before her a number of damsels. When she saw me she rose to me and called me; so I went up to her and she seated me by her side. Then she bade her slave-girls bring food, and they brought all manner of rich meats, such as I never saw in all my life; I do not even know the names of the dishes, much less their nature. So I ate my fill and when the dishes had been taken away and we had washed our hands, she called for fruits which came without stay or delay and ordered me eat of them; and when we had ended eating she bade one of the waiting-women bring the wine furniture. So they set on flagons of divers kinds of wine and burned perfumes in all the censers, what while a damsel like the moon rose and served us with wine to the sound of the smitten strings; and I drank, and the lady drank, till we were seized with wine and the whole time I doubted not but that all this was an illusion of sleep. Presently, she signed to one of the damsels to spread us a bed in such a place, which being done, she rose and took me by the hand and led me thither, and lay down and I lay with her till the morning, and as often as I pressed her to my breast I smelt the delicious fragrance of musk and other perfumes that exhaled from her and could not think otherwise but that I was in Paradise or in the vain phantasies of a dream. Now when it was day, she asked me where I lodged and I told her, ‘In such a place;’ whereupon she gave me leave to depart, handing to me a kerchief worked with gold and silver and containing somewhat tied in it, and took leave of me, saying, ‘Go to the bath with this.’ I rejoiced and said to myself, ‘If there be but five coppers here, it will buy me this day my morning meal.’ Then I left her, as though I were leaving Paradise, and returned to my poor crib where I opened the kerchief and found in it fifty miskals of gold. So I buried them in the ground and, buying two farthings’ worth of bread and ‘kitchen,’1 seated me at the door and broke my fast; after which I sat pondering my case and continued so doing till the time of afternoon, prayer, when lo! a slave-girl accosted me saying, ‘My mistress calleth for thee.’ I followed her to the house aforesaid and, after asking permission, she carried me into the lady, before whom I kissed the ground, and she commanded me to sit and called for meat and wine as on the previous day; after which I again lay with her all night. On the morrow, she gave me a second kerchief, with other fifty dinars therein, and I took it and going home, buried this also. In such pleasant condition I continued eight days running, going in to her at the hour of afternoon prayer and leaving her at daybreak; but, on the eighth night, as I lay with her, behold, one of her slave-girls came running in and said to me, ‘Arise, go up into yonder closet.’ So I rose and went into the closet, which was over the gate, and presently I heard a great clamour and tramp of horse; and, looking out of the window which gave on the street in front of the house, I saw a young man as he were the rising moon on the night of fulness come riding up attended by a number of servants and soldiers who were about him on foot. He alighted at the door and entering the saloon found the lady seated on the couch; so he kissed the ground between her hands then came up to her and kissed her hands; but she would not speak to him. However, he continued patiently to humble himself, and soothe her and speak her fair, till he made his peace with her, and they lay together that night.”— And Shahrazed perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Udm, Udum” (plur. of Idám) = “relish,” olives, cheese, pickled cucumbers, etc.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the scavenger continued, “Now when her husband had made his peace with the young lady, he lay with her that night; and next morning, the soldiers came for him and he mounted and rode away; whereupon she drew near to me and said, ‘Sawst thou yonder man?’ I answered, ‘Yes;’ and she said, ‘He is my husband, and I will tell thee what befell me with him. It came to pass one day that we were sitting, he and I, in the garden within the house, and behold, he rose from my side and was absent a long while, till I grew tired of waiting and said to myself: Most like, he is in the privy. So I arose and went to the water-closet, but not finding him there, went down to the kitchen, where I saw a slave-girl; and when I enquired for him, she showed him to me lying with one of the cookmaids. Hereupon, I swore a great oath that I assuredly would do adultery with the foulest and filthiest man in Baghdad; and the day the eunuch laid hands on thee, I had been four days going round about the city in quest of one who should answer to this description, but found none fouler nor filthier than thy good self. So I took thee and there passed between us that which Allah fore ordained to us; and now I am quit of my oath.’ Then she added, ‘If, however, my husband return yet again to the cookmaid and lie with her, I will restore thee to thy lost place in my favours.’ Now when I heard these words from her lips, what while she pierced my heart with the shafts of her glances, my tears streamed forth, till my eyelids were chafed sore with weeping, and I repeated the saying of the poet,

‘Grant me the kiss of that left hand ten times;

And learn it hath than right hand higher grade;1

For ’tis but little since that same left hand

Washed off Sir Reverence when ablution made.’

Then she made them give me other fifty dinars (making in all four hundred gold pieces I had of her) and bade me depart. So I went out from her and came hither, that I might pray Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) to make her husband return to the cookmaid, that haply I might be again admitted to her favours.’ When the Emir of the pilgrims heard the man’s story, he set him free and said to the bystanders, ‘Allah upon you, pray for him, for indeed he is excusable.’” And men also tell the tale of

1 I have noticed how the left hand is used in the East. In the second couplet we have “Istinjá”=washing the fundament after stool. The lines are highly appropriate for a nightman. Easterns have many foul but most emphatic expressions like those in the text I have heard a mother say to her brat, “I would eat thy merde!” (i.e. how I love thee!).

The Mock Caliph.

It is related that the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, was one night restless with extreme restlessness, so he summoned his Wazir Ja’afar the Barmecide, and said to him, “My breast is straitened and I have a desire to divert myself to-night by walking about the streets of Baghdad and looking into folks’ affairs; but with this precaution that we disguise ourselves in merchants’ gear, so none shall know us.” He answered, “Hearkening and obedience.” They rose at once and doffing the rich raiment they wore, donned merchants’ habits and sallied forth three in number, the Caliph, Ja’afar and Masrur the sworder. Then they walked from place to place, till they came to the Tigris and saw an old man sitting in a boat; so they went up to him and saluting him, said, “O Shaykh, we desire thee of thy kindness and favour to carry us a-pleasuring down the river, in this thy boat, and take this dinar to thy hire.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when they said to the old man, “We desire thee to carry us a-pleasuring in this thy boat and take this dinar;” he answered, “Who may go a-pleasuring on the Tigris? The Caliph Harun al-Rashid every night cometh down Tigris stream in his state-barge1 and with him one crying aloud: ‘Ho, ye people all, great and small, gentle and simple, men and boys, whoso is found in a boat on the Tigris by night, I will strike off his head or hang him to the mast of his craft!’ And ye had well nigh met him; for here cometh his carrack.” But the Caliph and Ja’afar said, “O Shaykh, take these two dinars, and run us under one of yonder arches, that we may hide there till the Caliph’s barge have passed.” The old man replied, “Hand over your gold and rely we on Allah, the Almighty!” So he took the two dinars and embarked them in the boat; and he put off and rowed about with them awhile, when behold, the barge came down the river in mid-stream, with lighted flambeaux and cressets flaming therein. Quoth the old man, “Did not I tell you that the Caliph passed along the river every night?”; and ceased not muttering, “O Protector, remove not the veils of Thy protection!” Then he ran the boat under an arch and threw a piece of black cloth over the Caliph and his companions, who looked out from under the covering and saw, in the bows of the barge, a man holding in hand a cresset of red gold which he fed with Sumatran lign-aloes and the figure was clad in a robe of red satin, with a narrow turband of Mosul shape round on his head, and over one of his shoulders hung a sleeved cloak2 of cramoisy satin, and on the other was a green silk bag full of the aloes-wood, with which he fed the cresset by way of firewood. And they sighted in the stern another man, clad like the first and bearing a like cresset, and in the barge were two hundred white slaves, standing ranged to the right and left; and in the middle a throne of red gold, whereon sat a handsome young man, like the moon, clad in a dress of black, embroidered with yellow gold. Before him they beheld a man, as he were the Wazir Ja’afar, and at his head stood an eunuch, as he were Masrur, with a drawn sword in his hand; besides a score of cup-companions. Now when the Caliph saw this, he turned and said, “O Ja’afar,” and the Minister replied, “At thy service, O Prince of True Believers.” Then quoth the Caliph, “Belike this is one of my sons, Al Amin or Al–Maamun.” Then he examined the young man who sat on the throne and finding him perfect in beauty and loveliness and stature and symmetric grace, said to Ja’afar, “Verily, this young man abateth nor jot nor tittle of the state of the Caliphate! See, there standeth before him one as he were thyself, O Ja’afar; yonder eunuch who standeth at his head is as he were Masrur and those courtiers as they were my own. By Allah, O Ja’afar, my reason is confounded and I am filled with amazement this matter!”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Harrák,” whence probably our “Carack” and “Carrack” (large ship), in dictionaries derived from Carrus Marinus.

2 Arab. “Gháshiyah”=lit. an étui, a cover; and often a saddle-cover carried by the groom.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph saw this spectacle his reason was confounded and he cried, “By Allah, I am filled with amazement at this matter!” and Ja’afar replied, “And I also, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful.” Then the barge passed on and disappeared from sight whereupon the boatman pushed out again into the stream, saying, “Praised be Allah for safety, since none hath fallen in with us!” Quoth the Caliph, “O old man, doth the Caliph come down the Tigris-river every night?” The boatman answered, “Yes, O my lord; and on such wise hath he done every night this year past.” “O Shaykh,” rejoined Al–Rashid, “we wish thee of thy favour to await us here to-morrow night and we will give thee five golden dinars, for we are stranger folk, lodging in the quarter Al–Khandak, and we have a mind to divert ourselves.” Said the oldster, “With joy and good will!” Then the Caliph and Ja’afar and Masrur left the boatman and returned to the palace; where they doffed their merchants’ habits and, donning their apparel of state, sat down each in his several-stead; and came the Emirs and Wazirs and Chamberlains and Officers, and the Divan assembled and was crowded as of custom. But when day ended and all the folk had dispersed and wended each his own way, the Caliph said to his Wazir, “Rise, O Ja’afar, let us go and amuse ourselves by looking on the second Caliph.” At this, Ja’afar and Masrur laughed, and the three, donning merchants’ habits, went forth by a secret pastern and made their way through the city, in great glee, till they came to the Tigris, where they found the graybeard sitting and awaiting them. They embarked with him in the boat and hardly had they sat down before up came the mock Caliph’s barge; and, when they looked at it attentively, they saw therein two hundred Mamelukes other than those of the previous night, while the link-bearers cried aloud as of wont. Quoth the Caliph, “O Wazir, had I heard tell of this, I had not believed it; but I have seen it with my own sight.” Then said he to the boatman, “Take, O Shaykh’ these ten dinars and row us along abreast of them, for they are in the light and we in the shade, and we can see them and amuse ourselves by looking on them, but they cannot see us.” So the man took the money and pushing off ran abreast of them in the shadow of the barge — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph Harun al-Rashid said to the old man, “Take these ten dinars and row us abreast of them;” to which he replied, “I hear and I obey.” And he fared with them and ceased not going in the blackness of the barge, till they came amongst the gardens that lay alongside of them and sighted a large walled enclosure; and presently, the barge cast anchor before a postern door, where they saw servants standing with a she mule saddled and bridled. Here the mock Caliph landed and, mounting the mule, rode away with his courtiers and his cup-companions preceded by the cresset-bearers crying aloud, and followed by his household which busied itself in his service. Then Harun al-Rashid, Ja’afar and Masrur landed also and, making their way through the press of servants, walked on before them. Presently, the cresset-bearers espied them and seeing three persons in merchants’ habits, and strangers to the country, took offense at them; so they pointed them out and brought them before the other Caliph, who looked at them and asked, “How came ye to this place and who brought you at this tide?” They answered, “O our lord, we are foreign merchants and far from our homes, who arrived here this day and were out a-walking to-night, and behold, ye came up and these men laid hands on us and brought us to thy presence; and this is all our story.” Quoth the mock Caliph, “Since ye be stranger folk no harm shall befall you; but had ye been of Baghdad, I had struck off your heads.” Then he turned to his Wazir and said to him, “Take these men with thee; for they are our guests to-night.” “To hear is to obey, O our lord,” answered he; and they companied him till they came to a lofty and splendid palace set upon the firmest base; no Sultan possesseth such a place; rising from the dusty mould and upon the merges of the clouds laying hold. Its door was of Indian teak-wood inlaid with gold that glowed; and through it one passed into a royal-hall in whose midst was a jetting fount girt by a raised estrade. It was provided with carpets and cushions of brocade and small pillows and long settees and hanging curtains; it was furnished with a splendour that dazed the mind and dumbed the tongue, and upon the door were written these two couplets,

“A Palace whereon be blessings and praise!

Which with all their beauty have robed the Days:

Where marvels and miracle-sights abound,

And to write its honours the pen affrays.”

The false Caliph entered with his company, and sat down on a throne of gold set with jewels and covered with a prayer carpet of yellow silk; whilst the boon-companions took their seats and the sword bearer of high works stood before him. Then the tables were laid and they ate; after which the dishes were removed and they washed their hands and the wine-service was set on with flagons and bowls in due order. The cup went round till it came to the Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, who refused the draught, and the mock Caliph said to Ja’afar, “What mattereth thy friend that he drinketh not?” He replied, “O my lord, indeed ’tis a long while he hath drunk naught of this.” Quoth the sham Caliph, “I have drink other than this, a kind of apple-wine,1 that will suit thy companion.” So he bade them bring the cider which they did forthright; when the false Caliph, coming up to Harun al-Rashid, said to him, “As often as it cometh to thy turn drink thou of this.” Then they continued to drink and make merry and pass the cup till the wine rose to their brains and mastered their wits; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Sharáb al-tuffáh” = melapio or cider.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the false Caliph and his co sitters sat at their cups and gave not over drinking till the wine rose to their brains and mastered their wits; and Harun al-Rashid said to the Minister, “O Ja’afar, by Allah, we have no such vessels as these. Would to Heaven I knew what manner of man this youth is!” But while they were talking privily the young man cast a glance upon them and seeing the Wazir whisper the Caliph said, “’Tis rude to whisper.” He replied, “No rudeness was meant: this my friend did but say to me, ‘Verily I have travelled in most countries and have caroused with the greatest of Kings and I have companied with noble captains; yet never saw I a goodlier ordering than this entertainment nor passed a more delightful night; save that the people of Baghdad are wont to say, Wine without music often leaves you sick.’“When the second Caliph heard this, he smiled pleasantly and struck with a rod he had in his hand a round gong;1 and behold, a door opened and out came a eunuch, bearing a chair of ivory, inlaid with gold glittering fiery red and followed by a damsel of passing beauty and loveliness, symmetry and grace. He set down the chair and the damsel seated herself on it, as she were the sun shining sheen in a sky serene. In her hand she had a lute of Hindu make, which she laid in her lap and bent down over it as a mother bendeth over her little one, and sang to it, after a prelude in four-and-twenty modes, amazing all wits. Then she returned to the first mode and to a lively measure chanted these couplets,

“Love’s tongue within my heart speaks plain to thee,

Telling thee clearly I am fain of thee

Witness the fevers of a tortured heart,

And ulcered eyelid tear-flood rains for thee

God’s fate o’ertaketh all created things!

I knew not love till learnt Love’s pain of thee.”

Now when the mock Caliph heard these lines sung by the damsel, he cried with a great cry and rent his raiment to the very skirt, whereupon they let down a curtain over him and brought him a fresh robe, handsomer than the first. He put it on and sat as before, till the cup came round to him, when he struck the gong a second time and lo! a door opened and out of it came a eunuch with a chair of gold, followed by a damsel fairer than the first, bearing a lute, such as would strike the envious mute. She sat down on the chair and sang to her instrument these two couplets,

“How patient bide, with love in sprite of me,

And tears in tempest2 blinding sight of me?

By Allah, life has no delight of me!

How gladden heart whose core is blight of me?”

No sooner had the youth heard this poetry than he cried out with a loud cry and rent his raiment to the skirt: whereupon they let down the curtain over him and brought him another suit of clothes. He put it on and, sitting up as before, fell again to cheerful talk, till the cup came round to him, when he smote once more upon the gong and out came a eunuch with a chair, followed by a damsel fairer than she who forewent her. So she sat down on the chair, with a lute in her hand, and sang thereto these couplets,

“Cease ye this farness; ‘bate this pride of you,

To whom my heart clings, by life-tide of you!

Have ruth on hapless, mourning, lover-wretch,

Desire-full, pining, passion-tried of you:

Sickness hath wasted him, whose ecstasy

Prays Heaven it may be satisfied of you:

Oh fullest moons3 that dwell in deepest heart!

How can I think of aught by side of you?”

Now when the young man heard these couplets, he cried out with a great cry and rent his raiment, whereupon they let fall the curtain over him and brought him other robes. Then he returned to his former case with his boon-companions and the bowl went round as before, till the cup came to him, when he struck the gong a fourth time and the door opening, out came a page-boy bearing a chair followed by a damsel. He set the chair for her and she sat down thereon and taking the lute, tuned it and sang to it these couplets,

“When shall disunion and estrangement end?

When shall my bygone joys again be kenned?

Yesterday we were joined in same abode;

Conversing heedless of each envious friend:4

Trickt us that traitor Time, disjoined our lot

And our waste home to desert fate condemned:

Wouldst have me, Grumbler! from my dearling fly?

I find my vitals blame will not perpend:

Cease thou to censure; leave me to repine;

My mind e’er findeth thoughts that pleasure lend.

O Lords5 of me who brake our troth and plight,

Deem not to lose your hold of heart and sprite!”

When the false Caliph heard the girl’s song, he cried out with a loud outcry and rent his raiment — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Mudawwarah,” which generally means a small round cushion, of the Marocco-work well known in England. But one does not strike a cushion for a signal, so we must revert to the original-sense of the word “something round,” as a circular plate of wood or metal, a gong, a “bell” like that of the Eastern Christians.

2 Arab. “Túfán” (from the root tauf, going round) a storm, a circular gale, a cyclone the term universally applied in Al-lslam to the “Deluge,” the “Flood” of Noah. The word is purely Arabic; with a quaint likeness to the Gr. {Greek letters}, in Pliny typhon, whirlwind, a giant (Typhœus) whence “Typhon” applied to the great Egyptian god “Set.” The Arab word extended to China and was given to the hurricanes which the people call “Tee foong,” great winds, a second whimsical-resemblance. But Sir John Davis (ii. 383) is hardly correct when he says, “the name typhoon, in itself a corruption of the Chinese term, bears a singular (though we must suppose an accidental) resemblance to the Greek {Greek letters}. ”

3 Plurale majestatis acting superlative; not as Lane supposes (ii. 224) “a number of full moons, not only one.” Eastern tongues abound in instances beginning with Genesis (i. 1), “Gods (he) created the heaven,” etc. It is still preserved in Badawi language and a wildling greatly to the astonishment of the citizens will address his friend “Yá Rijál”= O men!

4 Arab. “Hásid” = an envier: in the fourth couplet “Azúl” (Azzál, etc.) = a chider, blamer; elsewhere “Lawwám” = accuser, censor, slanderer; “Wáshí,”=whisperer, informer; “Rakib”=spying, envious rival; “Ghábit”=one emulous without envy; and “Shámit”= a “blue” (fierce) enemy who rejoices over another’s calamities. Arabic literature abounds in allusions to this unpleasant category of “damned ill-natured friends;” and Spanish and Portuguese letters, including Brazilian, have thoroughly caught the trick. In the Eastern mind the “blamer” would be aided by the “evil eye.”

5 Another plural for a singular, “O my beloved!”

When it was the Two Hundred and Ninetieth Night,

She said, When the false Caliph heard the girl’s song, he cried with a loud outcry and rent his raiment and fell to the ground fainting; whereupon they would have let down the curtain over him, as of custom; but its cords stuck fast and Harun al-Rashid, after considering him carefully, saw on his body the marks of beating with palm-rods and said to Ja’afar, “By Allah, he is a handsome youth, but a foul thief!” “Whence knowest thou that, O Commander of the Faithful?” asked Ja’afar, and the Caliph answered, “Sawest thou not the whip-scars on his ribs?” Then they let fall the curtain over him and brought him a fresh dress, which he put on and sat up as before with his courtiers and cup- companions. Presently he saw the Caliph and Ja’afar whispering together and said to them, “What is the matter, fair sirs?” Quoth Ja’afar, “O my lord, all is well,1 save that this my comrade, who (as is not unknown to thee) is of the merchant company and hath visited all the great cities and countries of the world and hath consorted with kings and men of highest consideration, saith to me: ‘Verily, that which our lord the Caliph hath done this night is beyond measure extravagant, never saw I any do the like doings in any country; for he hath rent such and such dresses, each worth a thousand dinars and this is surely excessive unthriftiness.’” Replied the second Caliph, “Ho thou, the money is my money and the stuff my stuff, and this is by way of largesse to my suite and servants; for each suit that is rent belongeth to one of my cup-companions here present, and I assign to them with each suit of clothes the sum of five hundred dinars.” The Wazir Ja’afar replied, “Well is whatso thou doest, O our lord,” and recited these two couplets,

“Virtue in hand of thee hath built a house,

And to mankind thou dost thy wealth expose:

If an the virtues ever close their doors,

That hand would be a key the lock to unclose.”

Now when the young man heard these verses recited by the Minister Ja’afar, he ordered him to be gifted with a thousand dinars and a dress of honour. Then the cup went round among them and the wine was sweet to them; but, after a while quoth the Caliph to Ja’afar, “Ask him of the marks on his sides, that we may see what he will say by way of reply.” Answered Ja’afar, “Softly, O my lord, be not hasty and soothe thy mind, for patience is more becoming.” Rejoined the Caliph, “By the life of my head and by the revered tomb of Al Abbas,2 except thou ask him, I will assuredly stop thy breath!” With this the young man turned towards the Minister and said to him, “What aileth thee and thy friend to be whispering together? Tell me what is the matter with you.” “It is nothing save good,” replied Ja’afar; but the mock Caliph rejoined, “I conjure thee, by Allah, tell me what aileth you and hide from me nothing of your case.” Answered the Wazir “O my lord, verily this one here saw on thy sides the marks of beating with whips and palm-fronds and marvelled thereat with exceeding marvel, saying, ‘How came the Caliph to be beaten?’; and he would fain know the cause of this.” Now when the youth heard this, he smiled and said, “Know ye that my story is wondrous and my case marvellous; were it graven with needles on the eye corners, it would serve as a warner to whoso would be warned.” And he sighed and repeated these couplets,

“Strange is my story, passing prodigy;

By Love I swear, my ways wax strait on me!

An ye desire to hear me, listen, and

Let all in this assembly silent be.

Heed ye my words which are of meaning deep,

Nor lies my speech;

’tis truest verity.

I’m slain3 by longing and by ardent love;

My slayer’s the pearl of fair virginity.

She hath a jet black eye like Hindi blade,

And bowèd eyebrows shoot her archery

My heart assures me our Imam is here,

This age’s Caliph, old nobility:

Your second, Ja’afar hight, is his Wazir;

A Sahib,4

Sahib-son of high degree:

The third is called Masrur who wields the sword:

Now, if in words of mine some truth you see

I have won every wish by this event

Which fills my heart with joy and gladdest greet”

When they heard these words Ja’afar swore to him an ambiguous oath that they were not those he named, whereupon he laughed and said: “Know, O my lords, that I am not the Commander of the Faithful and that I do but style myself thus, to win my will of the sons of the city. My true name is Mohammed Ali, son of Ali the Jeweller, and my father was one of the notables of Baghdad, who left me great store of gold and silver and pearls and coral and rubies and chrysolites and other jewels, besides messuages and lands, Hammam-baths and brickeries, orchards and flower-gardens. Now as I sat in my shop one day surrounded by my eunuchs and dependents, behold, there came up a young lady, mounted on a she-mule and attended by three damsels like moons. Riding up to my shop she alighted and seated herself by my side and said ‘Art thou Mohammed the Jeweller?’ Replied I, ‘Even so! I am he, thy Mameluke, thy chattel.’ She asked, ‘Hast thou a necklace of jewels fit for me?’ and I answered, ‘O my lady, I will show thee what I have; and lay all before thee and, if any please thee, it will be of thy slave’s good luck; if they please thee not, of his ill fortune.’ Now I had by me an hundred necklaces and showed them all to her; but none of them pleased her and she said, ‘I want a better than those I have seen.’ I had a small necklace which my father had bought at an hundred thousand dinars and whose like was not to be found with any of the great kings; so I said to her, ‘O my lady, I have yet one necklace of fine stones fit for bezels, the like of which none possesseth, great or small. Said she, Show it to me,’ so I showed it to her, and she said, ‘This is what I wanted and what I have wished for all my life;’ adding, ‘What is its price?’ Quoth I, ‘It cost my father an hundred thousand dinars;’ and she said, ‘I will give thee five thousand dinars to thy profit.’ I answered, ‘O my lady, the necklace and its owner are at thy service and I cannot gainsay thee.’ But she rejoined, ‘Needs must thou have the profit, and I am still most grateful to thee.’ Then she rose without stay or delay; and, mounting the mule in haste, said to me, ‘O my lord, in Allah’s name, favour us with thy company to receive the money; for this thy day with us is white as milk.’5 So I shut the shop and accompanied her, in all security, till we came to a house, on which were manifest the signs of wealth and rank; for its door was wrought with gold and silver and ultramarine, and thereon were written these two couplets,

‘Hole, thou mansion! woe ne’er enter thee;

Nor be thine owner e’er misused of Fate

Excellent mansion to all guests art thou,

When other mansions to the guest are strait.’

The young lady dismounted and entered the house, bidding me sit down on the bench at the gate, till the money-changer should arrive. So I sat awhile, when behold, a damsel came out to me and said, ‘O my lord, enter the vestibule; for it is a dishonour that thou shouldst sit at the gate.’ Thereupon I arose and entered the vestibule and sat down on the settle there, and, as I sat, lo! another damsel came out and said to me, ‘O my lord my mistress biddeth thee enter and sit down at the door of the saloon, to receive thy money.’ I entered and sat down, nor had I sat a moment when behold, a curtain of silk which concealed a throne of gold was drawn aside, and I saw seated thereon the lady who had made the purchase, and round her neck she wore the necklace which looked pale and wan by the side of a face as it were the rounded moon; At her sight, my wit was troubled and my mind confounded, by reason of her exceeding beauty and loveliness, but when she saw me she rose from her throne and coming close up to me, said, ‘O light of mine eyes, is every handsome one like thee pitiless to his mistress?’ I answered, ‘O my lady, beauty, all of it, is in thee and is but one of thy hidden charms.’ And she rejoined, ‘O Jeweller, know that I love thee and can hardly credit that I have brought thee hither.’ Then she bent towards me and I kissed her and she kissed me and, as she caressed me, drew me towards her and to her breast she pressed me.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Khayr”=good news, a euphemistic reply even if the tidings be of the worst.

2 Abbás (from ‘Abs, being austere; and meaning the “grim faced”) son of Abd al-Muttalib; uncle to Mohammed and eponym of the Abbaside Khalifahs. A.D. 749=1258.

3 Katíl = the Irish “kilt.”

4 This hat been explained as a wazirial title of the time.

5 The phrase is intelligible in all tongues: in Arabic it is opposed to “dark as night,” “black as mud” and a host of unsavoury antitheses.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/part39.html

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