The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

When it was the Four Hundred and Second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth then betook himself to asking pardon of Allah and to invoking prayer and praise upon the Apostle and the Lord of the Just and repeating verses of the Koran; after which he recited these couplets,

“O sire, be not deceived by worldly joys;

For life must pass, and joy must learn to mourn;

When thou art told of folk in evil plight,

Think thou must answer for all hearts forlorn;

And when thou bear thy dead towards the tombs,

Know thou wilt likewise on that way be bourne.”

Continued Abu the Basri, “Now when the youth had ended his charge and his verses I left him and went home. On the morrow, I returned, at the appointed hour, and found him indeed dead, the mercy of Allah be upon him! So I washed him and, unsewing his gown, found in the bosom a ruby worth thousands of gold pieces and said to myself, ‘By Allah, this youth was indeed weaned from worldly things!’ After I had buried him, I made my way to Baghdad and, going to the Caliph’s palace, waited till he came forth, when I addressed him in one of the streets and gave him the ruby, which when he saw, he knew and fell down in a fainting- fit. His attendants laid hands on me, but he revived and said to them, ‘Release him and bring him courteously to the palace.’ They did his bidding, and when he returned, he sent for me and carrying me into his chamber said to me, ‘How doth the owner of this ruby?’ Quoth I, ‘Verily, he is dead;’ and told him what had passed; whereupon he fell a-weeping and said, ‘The son hath gained; but the sire hath lost.’ Then he called out, saying, ‘Ho, such an one!’; and behold there came out to him a lady who, when she saw me, would have withdrawn; but he cried to her, ‘Come, and mind him not.’ So she entered and saluted, and he threw her the ruby, which when she saw and she knew, she shrieked a great shriek and fell down in a swoon. As soon as she came to herself, she said, ‘O Commander of the Faithful, what hath Allah done with my son?’; and he said to me, ‘Do thou tell her his case’ (as he could not speak for weeping). Accordingly, I repeated the story to her, and she began to shed tears and say in a faint and wailing voice, ‘How I have longed for thy sight, O solace of mine eyes!1 Would I might have given thee to drink, when thou hadst none to slake thy thirst! Would I might have cheered thee, whenas thou foundest never a cheerer!’ And she poured forth tears and recited these couplets,

‘I weep for one whose lot a lonely death befel;

Without a friend to whom he might complain and moan:

And after glory and glad union with his friends,

He woke to desolation, friendless, lorn and lone;

What Fortune hides a while she soon to all men shall show;

Death never spared a man; no, not a single one:

O absent one, my Lord decreed thee strangerhood,

Far from thy nearest friends and to long exile gone:

Though Death forbid my hope of meeting here again,

On Doom-day’s morrow we shall meet again, my son!2

Quoth I, ‘O Commander of the Faithful, was he indeed thy son?’ Quoth he, ‘Yes, and indeed, before I succeeded to this office, he was wont to visit the learned and company with the devout; but, when I became Caliph, he grew estranged from me and withdrew himself apart.3 Then said I to his mother, ‘Verily this thy son hath cut the world and devoted his life to Almighty Allah, and it may be that hard times shall befal him and he be smitten with trial of evil chance; wherefore do thou given him this ruby, which he may find useful in hour of need.’ So she gave it him, conjuring him to take it, and he obeyed her bidding. Then he left to us the things of our world and removed himself from us; nor did he cease to be absent from us, till he went to the presence of Allah (to whom be Honour and Glory!), pious and pure.’ Then said he, ‘Come, show me his grave.’ So, I travelled with him to Bassorah and showed him his son’s grave; and when he saw it, he wept and lamented, till he fell down in a swoon; after which he recovered and asked pardon of the Lord, saying, ‘We are Allah’s and unto Him we are returning!’; and involved blessings on the dead. Then he asked me to become his companion, but I said to him, “O Commander of the Faithful, verily, in thy son’s case is for me the most momentous of admonitions!’ And I recited these couplets,

“‘Tis I am the stranger, visited by none;

I am the stranger though in town my own:

‘Tis I am the stranger! Lacking kith and son,

And friend to whom I mote for aidance run.

I house in mosques which are my only home;

My heart there wones and shall for ever wone:

Then laud ye Allah, Lord of Worlds, as long

As soul and body dwell in union!’”

And a famous tale is told of

1 This young saint was as selfish and unnatural a sinner as Saint Alexius of the Gesta Romanorum (Tale xv.), to whom my friend, the late Thomas Wright, administered just and due punishment.

2 The verses are affecting enough, though by no means high poetry.

3 The good young man cut his father for two reasons: secular power (an abomination to good Moslems) and defective title to the Caliphate. The latter is a trouble to Turkey in the present day and with time will prove worse.

The Unwise Schoolmaster Who Fell in Love by Report

Quoth one of the learned, “I passed once by a school, wherein a schoolmaster was teaching children; so I entered, finding him a good-looking man and a well-dressed; when he rose to me and made me sit with him. Then I examined him in the Koran and in syntax and prosody and lexicography; and behold, he was perfect in all required of him, so I said to him, ‘Allah strengthen thy purpose! Thou art indeed versed in all that is requisite,’ thereafter I frequented him a while, discovering daily some new excellence in him, and quoth I to myself, ‘This is indeed a wonder in any dominie; for the wise are agreed upon a lack of wit in children’s teachers.’ Then I separated myself from him and sought him and visited him only every few days, till coming to see him one day as of wont, I found the school shut and made enquiry of his neighbors, who replied, ‘Some one is dead in his house.’ So I said in my mind, ‘It behoveth me to pay him a visit of condolence,’ and going to his house, knocked at the door, when a slave-girl came out to me and asked, ‘What dost thou want?’ and I answered, ‘I want thy master.’ She replied, ‘He is sitting alone, mourning;’ and I rejoined, ‘Tell him that his friend so and so seeketh to console him.’ She went in and told him; and he said, ‘Admit him.’ So she brought me in to him, and I found him seated alone and his head bound with mourning fillets. So I said to him, ‘Allah requite thee amply! this is a path all must perforce tread, and it behoveth thee to take patience;’ adding, ‘But who is dead unto thee?’ He answered, ‘One who was dearest of the folk to me, and best beloved.’ ‘Perhaps thy father?’ ‘No!’ ‘Thy brother?’ “No!’ “One of thy kindred?’ ‘No!’ Then asked I, ‘What relation was the dead to thee?’; and he answered, ‘My lover.’ Quoth I to myself, ‘This is the first proof to swear by his lack of wit.’ So I said to him, ‘Assuredly there be others than she and fairer;’ and he made answer, ‘I never saw her, that I might judge whether or no there be others fairer than she.’ Quoth I to myself, ‘This is another proof positive.’ Then I said to him, ‘And how couldst thou fall in love with one thou hast never seen?’ He replied ‘Know that I was sitting one day at the window, when lo! there passed by a man, singing the following distich,

‘Umm Amr’,1 thy boons Allah repay!

Give back my heart be’t where it may!’”

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Umm Amrí (written Amrú and pronounced Amr’) a matronymic, “mother of Amru.” This story and its terminal verse is a regular Joe Miller.

When it was the Four Hundred and Third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the schoolmaster continued, “ ‘When I heard the man humming these words as he passed along the street, I said to myself ‘Except this Umm Amru were without equal in the world, the poets had not celebrated her in ode and canzon.’ So I fell in love with her; but, two days after, the same man passed, singing the following couplet,

‘Ass and Umm Amr’ went their way;

Nor she, nor ass returned for aye.’

Thereupon I knew she was dead and mourned for her. This was three days ago, and I have been mourning ever since. So I left him, (concluded the learned one) and fared forth, having assured myself of the weakness of the gerund-grinder’s wit.” And they tell another and a similar tale of

The Foolish Dominie1

Once upon a time, a schoolmaster was visited by a man of letters who entered a school and, sitting down by the host’s side, entered into discourse with him and found him an accomplished theologian, poet grammarian, philologist and poet; intelligent, well bred and pleasant spoken; whereat he wondered, saying in himself, “It cannot be that a man who teacheth children in a school, should have a perfect wit.” Now when he was about to go away, the pedant said to him, “Thou are my guest to-night;” and he consented to receive hospitality and accompanied him to his house, where he made much of him and set food before him. They ate and drank and sat talking, till a third part of the night was past when the host spread his guest a bed and went up to his Harim. The stranger lay down and addressed himself to sleep, when, behold, there arose a great clamour in the women’s rooms. He asked what was the matter and they said, “A terrible thing hath befallen the Shaykh and he is at the last gasp.” Said he, “Take me up to him”; so they took him up to the pedagogue whom he found lying insensible, with his blood streaming down. He sprinkled water on his face and when he revived, he asked him, “What hath betided thee? When thou leftest me, thou wast in all good cheer and whole of body,” and he answered, “O my brother, after I left thee, I sat meditating on the creative works of Almighty Allah, and said to myself: ‘In every thing the Lord hath created for man, there is an use; for He (to Whom be glory!) made the hands to seize, the feet to walk, the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the penis to increase and multiply; and so on with all the members of the body, except these two ballocks; there is no use in them.’ So I took a razor I had by me and cut them off; and there befel me what thou seest.” So the guest left him and went away, saying, “He was in the right who said, ‘Verily no schoolmaster who teacheth children can have a perfect wit, though he know all the sciences.’” And they tell a pleasant tale of the

1 Abuse and derision of schoolmaster are staple subjects in the East as in the West, (Quem Dii oderunt pædagogum fecerunt). Anglo–Indians will remember:

“Miyán-ji ti-ti!

Bachche-kí gánd men anguli kí thi!”

(“Schoolmaster hum!

Who fumbled and fingered the little boy’s bum?”)

Illiterate Who Set Up for A Schoolmaster

There was once, among the menials1 of a certain mosque, a man who knew not how to write or even to read and who gained his bread by gulling folk. One day, it occurred to him to open a school and teach children; so he got together writing-tablets and written papers and hung them up in a high place. Then he greatened his turband2 and sat down at the door of the school; and when the people, who passed by, saw his huge head-gear and tablets and scrolls, they thought he must be a very learned pedagogue; so they brought him their children; and he would say to this, “Write,” and to that “Read”; and thus the little ones taught each other. Now one day, as he sat as of wont, at the door of the school, behold, up came a woman letter in hand, and he said in his mind, “This woman doubtless seeketh me, that I may read her the missive she hath in her hand: how shall I do with her, seeing I cannot read writing?” And he would fain have gone down and fled from her; but, before he could do this, she overtook him and said to him, “Whither away?” Quoth he, “I purpose to pray the noon-prayer and return.” Quoth she, “Noon is yet distant, so read me this letter.” He took the letter and turning it upside down, fell to looking at it, now shaking his head till his turband quivered, then dancing his eyebrows and anon showing anger and concern. Now the letter came from the woman’s husband, who was absent; and when she saw the dominie do on this wise, she said to herself, “Doubtless my husband is dead, and this learned doctor of law and religion is ashamed to tell me so.” So she said to him, “O my lord, if he be dead, tell me;” but he shook his head and held his peace. Then said she, “Shall I rend my raiment?” “Rend!” replied he. “Shall I beat my face?” asked she; and he answered, “Beat!” So she took the letter from his hand and returned home fell a-weeping, she and her children. Presently, one of her neighbours heard her sobbing and asking what aileth her, was answered, “Of a truth she hath gotten a letter, telling her that her husband is dead.” Quoth the man, “This is a falsehood; for I had a letter from him but yesterday, advising me that he is whole and in good health and will be with her after ten days.” So he rose forthright and going in to her, said, “Where is the letter which came to thee?” She brought it to him, and he took it and read it; and lo! it ran as follows, “After the usual salutations, I am well and in good health and whole and will be with you all after ten days. Meanwhile, I send you a quilt and an extinguisher.”3 So she took the letter and, returning to the schoolmaster, said to him, “What induced thee to deal thus with me?” And she repeated to him what her neighbour had told her of her husband’s well-being and of his having sent her a quilt and an extinguisher. Answered he, “Thou art in the right, O good woman; for I was, at the time”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Mujawirin” = the lower servants, sweepers, etc. See Pilgrimage ii. 161, where it is also applied to certain “settlers” at Al–Medinah. Burckhardt (No. 480) notices another meaning “foreigners who attend mosque-lectures” and quotes the saying, “A. pilgrimaged:” quoth B. “yes! and for his villanies resideth (Mujáwir) at Meccah.”

2 The custom (growing obsolete in Egypt) is preserved in Afghanistan where the learned wear turbans equal to the canoe-hats of the Spanish cardinals.

3 Arab. “Makmarah,” a metal cover for the usual brasier or pan of charcoal which acts as a fire-place. Lane (ii. 600) does not translate the word and seems to think it means a belt or girdle, thus blunting the point of the dominie’s excuse.

When it was the Four Hundred and Fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the pedagogue replied, “Verily I was at that time fashed and absent-minded and, seeing the extinguisher wrapped up in the quilt, I thought that he was dead and they had shrouded him.” The woman, not smoking the cheat, said, “Thou art excused,” and taking the letter, went her ways.1 And they relate a story of

1 This story, a very old Joe Miller, was told to Lane as something new and he introduced it into his Modern Egyptians, end of chapt. ii.

The King and the Virtuous Wife.

A certain King once went forth in disguise, to look into the affairs of his lieges. Presently, he came to a great village which he entered unattended and being athirst, stopped at the door of a house and asked for water. There came out to him a fair woman with a gugglet, which she gave him, and he drank. When he looked at her, he was ravished with her and besought her favours. Now she knew him; so she led him into the house and, making him sit down, brought out a book and said to him, “Look therein whilst I order my affair and return to thee.” So he looked into the book, and behold, it treated of the Divine prohibition against advoutry and of the punishments which Allah hath prepared for those who commit adulterous sin. When he read this, his flesh quaked and his hair bristled and he repented to Almighty Allah: then he called the woman and, giving her the book, went away. Now her husband was absent and when he returned, she told him what had passed, whereat he was confounded and said in himself, “I fear lest the King’s desire have fallen upon her.” And he dared not have to do with her and know her carnally after this. When some time had past, the wife told her kinsfolk of her husband’s conduct, and they complained of him to the King, saying, “Allah advance the King! This man hired of us a piece of land for tillage, and tilled it awhile; then left it fallow and neither tilled it nor forsook it, that we might let it to one who would till it. Indeed, harm is come to the field, and we fear its corruption, for such land as that if it be not sown, spoileth.” Quoth the King to the man, “What hindereth thee from sowing thy land?” Answered he, “Allah advance the King! It reached me that the lion entered the field wherefore I stood in awe of him and dared not draw near it, since knowing that I cannot cope with the lion, I stand in fear of him.” The King understood the parable and rejoined, saying, “O man, the lion trod and trampled not thy land, and it is good for seed so do thou till it and Allah prosper thee in it, for the lion hath done it no hurt.” Then he bade give the man and his wife a handsome present and sent them away.1 And amongst the stories is that of

1 This tale is a mere abbreviation of “The King and his Wazir’s Wife,” in the Book of Sindibad or the Malice of Women, Night dcxxviii., {which see for annotations}.

Abd Al-Rahman the Maghribi’s Story of the Rukh.1

There was once a man of the people of West Africa who had journeyed far and wide and traversed many a desert and a tide. He was once cast upon an island, where he abode a long while and, returning thence to his native country, brought with him the quill of a wing feather of a young Rukh, whilst yet in egg and unhatched; and this quill was big enough to hold a goat skin of water, for it is said that the length of the Rukh chick’s wing, when he cometh forth of the egg, is a thousand fathoms. The folk marvelled at this quill, when they saw it, and the man who was called Abd al-Rahman the Moor (and he was known, to boot, as the Chinaman, for his long sojourn in Cathay), related to them the following adventure, one of many of his traveller’s tales of marvel. He was on a voyage in the China seas — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 The older “Roe” which may be written “Rukh” or “Rukhkh.” Colonel Yule, the learned translator of Marco Polo, has shown that “Roc’s” feathers were not uncommon curiosities in mediæval ages; and holds that they were mostly fronds of the palm Raphia vinifera, which has the largest leaf in the vegetable kingdom and which the Moslems of Zanzibar call “Satan’s date-tree.” I need hardly quote “Frate Cipolla and the Angel Gabriel’s Feather.” (Decameron vi. 10.)

When it was the Four Hundred and Fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abd al- Rahman, the Moorman, the Chinaman, was wont to tell wondrous tales amongst which was the following. He was on a voyage in the China seas with a company of merchants, when they sighted an island from afar; so they steered for it and, making fast thereto, saw that it was large and spacious. The ship’s crew went ashore to get wood and water, taking with them hatchets and ropes and water skies (the travellers accompanying them), and presently espied a great dome, white and gleaming, an hundred cubits long. So they made towards it and drawing near, found that it was an egg of the Rukh and fell on it with axes and stones and sticks till they uncovered the young bird and found the chick as it were a firm set hill. So they plucked out one of the wing feathers, but could not do so, save by helping one another, for all the quills were not full grown, after which they took what they could carry of the young bird’s flesh and cutting the quill away from the vane, returned to the ship. Then they set sail and putting out to sea, voyaged with a fair wind all that night, till the sun rose; and while everything went well, they saw the Rukh come flying after them, as he were a vast cloud, with a rock in his talons, like a great heap bigger than the ship. As soon as he poised himself in air over the vessel, he let fall the rock upon it; but the craft, having great way on her, outwent the rock, which fell into the sea with a loud crash and a horrible. So Allah decreed their deliverance and saved them from doom; and they cooked the young bird’s flesh and ate it. Now there were amongst them old white bearded men; and when they awoke on the morrow, they found that their beards had turned black, nor did any who had eaten of the young Rukh grow gray ever after. Some said the cause of the return of youth to them and the ceasing of hoariness from them was that they had heated the pot with arrow wood, whilst others would have it that it came of eating the Rukh chick’s flesh; and this is indeed a wonder of wonders.1 And a story is related of

1 The tale is told in a bald, disjointed style and will be repeated in Sindbad the Seaman where I shall again notice the “Roc.” See Night dxxxvii., etc.

Adi Bin Zayd and the Princess Hind.

Al–Nu’uman Bin Al–Munzir, King of the Arabs of Irak, had a daughter named Hind, who went out one Pasch, which is a feast day of the Nazarenes, to the White Church, to take the sacrament; she was eleven years old and was the loveliest woman of her age and time; and it so chanced that on the same day came to Hirah1 a young man called ‘Adí bin Zayd 2 with presents from the Chosroë to Al–Nu’uman, and he also went to the White Church, to communicate. He was tall of stature and fair of favour, with handsome eyes and smooth cheeks, and had with him a company of his people. Now there was with Hind bint al-Nu’uman a slave girl named Máriyah, who was enamoured of Adi, but had not been able to foregather with him. So, when she saw him in the church, she said to Hind, “Look at yonder youth. By Allah, he is handsomer than all thou seest!” Hind asked, “And who is he?” and Mariyah answered, “Adi bin Zayd.” Quoth Al–Nu’uman’s daughter, “I fear lest he know me, if I draw nearer to look on him.” Quoth Mariyah, “How should he know thee when he hath never seen thee?” So she drew near him and found him jesting with the youths his companions; and indeed he surpassed them all, not only in his personal charms but in the excellence of his speech, the eloquence of his tongue and the richness of his raiment. When the Princess saw him, she was ravished with him, her reason was confounded and her colour changed; and Mariyah, seeing her inclination to him, said to her, “Speak him.” So she spoke to him and went away. Now when he looked upon her and heard her speech, he was captivated by her and his wit was dazed; his heart fluttered, and his colour changed so that his companions suspected him, and he whispered one of them to follow her and find out who she was. The young man went after her and returning informed him that she was princess Hind, daughter of Al–Nu’uman. So Adi left the church, knowing not whither he went, for excess of love, and reciting these two couplets,

“O friends of me, one favour more I pray:

Unto the convents3 find more your way:

Turn me that so I face the land of Hind;

Then go, and fairest greetings for me say.”

Then he went to his lodging and lay that night, restless and without appetite for the food of sleep. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Hírah in Mesopotamia was a Christian city and principality subject to the Persian Monarchs; and a rival to the Roman kingdom of Ghassán. It has a long history, for which see D’Herbelot.

2 A pre-Islamite poet.

3 Arab. “Biká‘a,” alluding to the pilgrimages made to monasteries and here equivalent to, “Address ye to the road,” etc.

When it was the Four Hundred and Sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Adi ended his verses he went to his lodging and lay that night restless and without appetite for the food of sleep. Now on the morrow Mariyah accosted him and he received her kindly, though before he would not incline to her, and said to her, “What is thy will?” Quoth she, “I have a want of thee;” and quoth he, “Name it, for by Allah, thou shalt not ask me aught, but I will give it thee!” So she told him that she loved him, and her want of him was that he would grant her a lover’s privacy; and he agreed to do her will, on condition that she would serve him with Hind and devise some device to bring them together. Then he took her into a vintner’s tavern in one of the by streets of Hirah, and lay with her; after which she returned to Hind and asked her, “Dost thou not long to see Adi?” She answered, “How can this be? Indeed my longing for him makes me restless, and no repose is left me since yesterday.” Quoth Mariyah, “I will appoint him to be in such a place, where thou canst look on him from the palace.” Quoth Hind, “Do what thou wilt,” and agreed with her upon the place. So Adi came, and the Princess looked out upon him; and, when she saw him, she was like to topple down from the palace top and said, “O Mariyah, except thou bring him in to me this night, I shall die.” So saying, she fell to the ground in a fainting fit, and her serving women lifted her up and bore her into the palace; whilst Mariyah hastened to Al–Nu’uman and discovered the whole matter to him with perfect truth, telling him that indeed she was mad for the love of Adi; and except he marry her to him she must be put to shame and die of love for him, which would disgrace her father among the Arabs, adding at the end, “There is no cure for this but wedlock.” The King bowed his head awhile in thought and exclaimed again and again, “Verily, we are Allah’s and unto Him we are returning!” Then said he “Woe to thee! How shall the marriage be brought about, seeing I mislike to open the matter?” And she said, “He is yet more ardently in love and yet more desireful of her than she is of him; and I will so order the affair that he shall be unaware of his case being known to thee; but do not betray thyself, O King.” Then she went to Adi and, after acquainting him with everything said, “Make a feast and bid the King thereto; and, when the wine hath gotten the better of him, ask of him his daughter, for he will not refuse thee.” Quoth Adi, “I fear lest this enrage him against me and be the cause of enmity between us.” But quoth she, “I came not to thee, till I had settled the whole affair with him.” Then she returned to Al-Nu’uman and said to him, “Seek of Adi that he entertain thee in his house.” Replied the King, “There is no harm in that;” and after three days, besought Adi to give him and his lords the morning meal in his house. He consented and the King went to him; and when the wine had taken effect on Al–Nu’uman, Adi rose and sought of him his daughter in wedlock. He consented and married them and brought her to him after three days; and they abode at Al–Nu’uman’s court, in all solace of life and its delight — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Adi abode with Hind bint Al–Nu’uman bin Munzir three years in all solace of life and its delight, after which time the King was wroth with Adi and slew him. Hind mourned for him with grievous mourning and built her an hermitage outside the city, whither she retired and became a religious, weeping and bewailing her husband till she died. And her hermitage is seen to this day in the suburbs of Hirah. They also tell a tale of

Di’ibil Al-Khuza’i with the Lady and Muslim Bin Al-Walid.

Quoth Di’ibil al Khuzá‘i1, “I was sitting one day at the gate of Al Karkh,2 when a damsel came past. Never saw I a fairer faced or better formed than she, walking with a voluptuous swaying gait and ravishing all beholders with her lithe and undulating pace. Now as my eyes fell on her, I was captivated by her and my vitals trembled and meseemed my heart flew forth of my breast; so I stood before her and I accosted her with this verse,

‘The tears of these eyes find easy release;

But sleep flies these eyelids without surcease.’

Whereon she turned her face and looking at me, straightway made answer with this distich,

‘A trifle this an his eyes be sore,

When her eyes say ‘yes’ to his love’s caprice!’

I was astounded at the readiness of her reply and the fluency of her speech and rejoined with this verse,

‘Say, cloth heart of my fair incline to him

Whose tears like a swelling stream increase?’

And she answered me without hesitation, thus,

‘If thou crave our love, know that love’s a loan;

And a debt to be paid by us twain a piece.’

Never entered my ears aught sweeter than her speech nor ever saw I brighter than her face: so I changed rhyme and rhythm to try her, in my wonder at her words, and repeated this couplet,

‘Will Fate with joy of union ever bless our sight,

And one desireful one with other one unite.’

She smiled at this (never saw I fairer than her mouth nor sweeter than her lips), and answered me, without stay or delay, in the following distich,

“Pray, tell me what hath Fate to do betwixt us twain?

Thou’rt Elate: so bless our eyne with union and delight.’

At this, I sprang up and fell to kissing her hands and cried, ‘I had not thought that Fortune would vouchsafe me such occasion. Do thou follow me, not of bidding or against thy will, but of the grace of thee and thy favour to me.’ Then I went on and she after me. Now at that time I had no lodging I deemed fit for the like of her; but Muslim bin al-Walíd3 was my fast friend, and he had a handsome house. So I made for his abode and knocked at the door, whereupon he came out, and I saluted him, saying, ‘’Tis for time like this that friends are treasured up’; and he replied, ‘With love and gladness! Come in you twain.’ So we entered but found money scarce with him: however, he gave me a kerchief, saying, ‘Carry it to the bazar and sell it and buy food and what else thou needest.’ I took the handkerchief, and hastening to the market, sold it and bought what we required of victuals and other matters; but when I returned, I found that Muslim had retired, with her to an underground chamber.4 When he heard my step he hurried out and said to me, ‘Allah requite thee the kindness thou hast done me, O Abu Ali and reward thee in time to come and reckon it of thy good deeds on the Day of Doom!’ So saying, he took from me the food and wine and shut the door in my face. His words enraged me and I knew not what to do, but he stood behind the door, shaking for mirth; and, when he saw me thus, he said to me, ‘I conjure thee on my life, O Abu Ali, tell who it was composed this couplet?,

‘I lay in her arms all night, leaving him

To sleep foul-hearted but clean of staff.’

At this my rage redoubled, and I replied, ‘He who wrote this other couplet’,

‘One, I wish him in belt a thousand horns,

Exceeding in mighty height Manaf.’5

Then I began to abuse him and reproach him with the foulness of his action and his lack of honour; and he was silent, never uttering a word. But, when I had finished, he smiled and said, ‘Out on thee, O fool! Thou hast entered my house and sold my kerchief and spent my silver: so, with whom art thou wroth, O pimp?’6 Then he left me and went away to her, whilst I said, ‘By Allah, thou art right to twit me as nincompoop and pander!’ Then I left his door and went away in sore concern, and I feel its trace in my heart to this very day; for I never had my will of her nor, indeed, ever heard of her more.” And amongst other tales is that about

1 Whose by name was Abu Ali, a poet under the Abbasides (eighth and ninth centuries).

2 A well-known quarter of Baghdad, often mentioned in The Nights.

3 Another well-known poet of the time.

4 Arab. “Sardáb”: noticed before.

5 A gigantic idol in the Ka’abah, destroyed by Mohammed: it gave name to a tribe.

6 Arab. “Ya Kawwád:” hence the Port. and Span. Alcoviteiro.

Isaac of Mosul and the Merchant.

Quoth Ishak bin Ibrahim al Mausili, “It so chanced that, one day feeling weary of being on duty at the Palace and in attendance upon the Caliph, I mounted horse and went forth, at break of dawn, having a mind to ride out in the open country and take my pleasure. So I said to my servants, ‘If there come a messenger from the Caliph or another, say that I set out at day break, upon a pressing business, and that ye know not whither I am gone.’ Then I fared forth alone and went round about the city, till the sun waxed hot, when I halted in a great thoroughfare known as Al Haram,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ishak bin Ibrahim the Mausili continued: “When the sun waxed hot I halted in a great thoroughfare known as Al–Haram, to take shelter in the shade and found it in a spacious wing of a house which projected over the street. And I stood there but a little while before there came up a black slave, leading an ass bestridden by a damsel; and under her were housings set with gems and pearls and upon her were the richest of clothes, richness can go no farther; and I saw that she was elegant of make with languorous look and graceful mien. I asked one of the passers by who she was, and he said, ‘She is a singer,’ so I fell in love with her at first sight: hardly could I keep my seat on horseback. She entered the house at whose gate I stood; and, as I was planning a device to gain access to her, there came up two men young and comely who asked admission and the housemaster gave them leave to enter. So they alighted and I also and they entered and I with them, they supposing that the master of the house had invited me; and we sat awhile, till food was brought and we ate. Then they set wine before us, and the damsel came out, with a lute in her hand. She sang and we drank, till I rose to obey a call of nature. Thereupon the host questioned the two others of me, and they replied that they knew me not; whereupon quoth he, ‘This is a parasite1; but he is a pleasant fellow, so treat him courteously.’ Then I came back and sat down in my place, whilst the damsel sang to a pleasing air these two couplets,

‘Say to the she gazelle, who’s no gazelle,

And Kohl’d ariel who’s no ariel.2

Who lies with male, and yet no female is,

Whose gait is female most unlike the male.’

She sang it right well, and the company drank and her song pleased them. Then she carolled various pieces to rare measures, and amongst the rest one of mine, which consisted of this distich,

‘Bare hills and campground desolate

And friends who all have ganged their gait.

How severance after union leaves

Me and their homes in saddest state!’

Her singing this time was even better than the first; then she chanted other rare pieces, old and new, and amongst them, another of mine with the following two couplets,

‘Say to angry lover who turns away,

And shows thee his side whatso thou

‘Thou wroughtest all that by thee was wrought,

Albe ’twas haply thy sport and play.’

I prayed her to repeat the song, that I might correct it for her; whereupon one of the two men accosted me and said, ‘Never saw we a more impudent lick platter than thou. Art thou not content with sponging, but thou must eke meddle and muddle? Of very sooth, in thee is the saying made true, Parasite and pushing wight.’ So I hung down my head for shame and made him no answer, whilst his companion would have withheld him from me, but he would not be restrained. Presently, they rose to pray, but I lagged behind a little and, taking the lute, screwed up the sides and brought it into perfect tune. Then I stood up in my place to pray with the rest; and when we had ended praying, the same man fell again to blaming me and reviling me and persisted in his rudeness, whilst I held my peace. Thereupon the damsel took the lute and touching it, knew that it had been altered, and said, ‘Who hath touched my lute?’ Quoth they, ‘None of us hath touched it.’ Quoth she, ‘Nay, by Allah, some one hath touched it, and he is an artist, a past master in the craft; for he hath arranged the strings and tuned them like one who is a perfect performer.’ Said I, ‘It was I tuned it;’ and said she, ‘Then, Allah upon thee, take it and play on it!’ So I took it; and, playing a piece so difficult and so rare, that it went nigh to deaden the quick and quicken the dead, I sang thereto these couplets,

‘I had a heart, and with it lived my life:

’Twas seared with fire and burnt with loving-lowe:

I never won the blessing of her love;

God would not on His slave such boon bestow:

If what I’ve tasted be the food of Love,

Must taste it all men who love food would know.’”

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab “Tufayli,” a term before noticed; the class was as well-known in Baghdad and Cairo as in ancient Rome.

2 Arab. “Jauzar”=a bubalus (Antilope defessa), also called “Aye” from the large black eyes. This bovine antelope is again termed Bakar al-Wahsh (wild cattle) or “Bos Sylvestris” (incerti generic, Forsk.). But Janzar also signifies hart, so I render it by “Ariel” (the well-known antelope).

When it was the Four Hundred and Ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ishak of Mosul thus continued: “Now when I had finished my verse, there was not one of the company but sprang from his place and sat down like schoolboys before me, saying, ‘Allah upon thee, O our lord, sing us another song.’ ‘With pleasure,’ said I, and playing another measure in masterly fashion, sang thereto these couplets,

‘Ho thou whose heart is melted down by force of Amor’s fire,

And griefs from every side against thy happiness conspire:

Unlawful is that he who pierced my vitals with his shaft,

My blood between my midriff and my breast bone1 he desire,

’Twas plain, upon our severance day, that he had set his mind

On an eternal parting, moved by tongue of envious liar:

He sheds my blood he ne’er had shed except by wound of love,

Will none demand my blood of him, my wreck of him require?’

When I had made an end of this song, there was not one of them but rose to his feet and threw himself upon the ground for excess of delight. Then I cast the lute from my hand, but they said, ‘Allah upon thee, do not on this wise, but let us hear another song, so Allah Almighty increase thee of His bounty!’ Replied I, ‘O folk, I will sing you another song and another and another and will tell you who I am. I am Ishak bin Ibrahim al Mausili, and by Allah, I bear myself proudly to the Caliph when he seeketh me. Ye have today made me hear abuse from an unmannerly carle such as I loathe; and by Allah, I will not speak a word nor sit with you, till ye put yonder quarrelsome churl out from among you!’ Quoth the fellow’s companion to him, ‘This is what I warned thee against, fearing for thy good name.’ So they hent him by the hand and thrust him out; and I took the lute and sang over again the songs of my own composing which the damsel had sung. Then I whispered the host that she had taken my heart and that I had no patience to abstain from her. Quoth he ‘She is thine on one condition.’ I asked, ‘What is that?’ and he answered, ‘It is that thou abide with me a month, when the damsel and all belonging to her of raiment and jewellery shall be thine.’ I rejoined, ‘It is well, I will do this.’ So I tarried with him a whole month, whilst none knew where I was and the Caliph sought me everywhere, but could come by no news of me; and at the end of this time, the merchant delivered to me the damsel, together with all that pertained to her of things of price and an eunuch to attend upon her. So I brought all that to my lodging, feeling as I were lord of the whole world, for exceeding delight in her; then I rode forthright to Al–Maamun. And when I stood in the presence, he said, ‘Woe to thee, O Ishak, where hast thou been?’ So I acquainted him with the story and he said, ‘Bring me that man at once.’ Thereupon I told him where he lived and he sent and fetched him and questioned him of the case; when he repeated the story and the Caliph said to him, ‘Thou art a man of right generous mind, and it is only fitting that thou be aided in thy generosity.’ Then he ordered him an hundred thousand dirhams and said to me, ‘O Ishak, bring the damsel before me.’ So I brought her to him, and she sang and delighted him; and being greatly gladdened by her he said to me, ‘I appoint her turn of service every Thursday, when she must come and sing to me from behind the curtain.’ And he ordered her fifty thousand dirhams, so by Allah, I profited both myself and others by my ride.” And amongst the tales they tell is one of

1 Arab. “Taráib” plur. of taríbah. The allusion is to the heart, and “the little him’s a her.”

The Three Unfortunate Lovers.

Quoth Al-‘Utbí1, “I was sitting one day with a company of educated men, telling stories of the folk, when the talk turned upon legends of lovers and each of us said his say thereanent. Now there was in our company an old man, who remained silent, till all had spoken and had no more to say, when quoth he, ‘Shall I tell you a thing, the like of which you never heard; no, never?’ ‘Yes,’ quoth we; and he said, ‘Know, then, that I had a daughter, who loved a youth, but we knew it not; while the youth loved a singing girl, who in her turn loved my daughter. One day, I was present at an assembly, wherein were also the youth’”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 A well-known poet of the ninth century (A.D.).

When it was the Four Hundred and Tenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Shaykh continued: ‘One day, I was present at an assembly wherein were also the youth and the singing girl and she chanted to us these couplets,

‘Prove how Love bringeth low

Lover those tears that run

Lowering him still the more

When pity finds he none.’

Cried the youth, ‘By Allah, thou hast said well, O my mistress.’ Dost thou incite me to die?’ Answered the girl from behind the curtain, ‘Yes, if thou be a true lover.’ So he laid his head on a cushion and closed his eyes; and when the cup came round to him, we shook him and behold, he was dead.1 Therewith we all flocked to him, and our pleasure was troubled and we grieved and broke up at once. When I came home, my people took in bad part my returning before the appointed time, and I told them what had befallen the youth, thinking that thereby I should greatly surprise them. My daughter heard my words and rising, went from the sitting chamber into another, whither I followed her and found her lying with her head on a cushion, even as I had told of the young man. So I shook her and lo! she was dead. Then we laid her out and set forth next morning to bury her, whilst the friends of the young man set forth in like guise to bury him. As we were on the way to the burial place, we met a third funeral and asking whose it was, were told that it was that of the singing girl who, hearing of my daughter’s death, had done even as she did and was dead. So we buried them all three on one day, and this is the rarest tale that ever was heard of lovers.” And they also tell a tale of

1 These easy deaths for love are a lieu common: See sundry of them in the Decameron (iv. 7, etc.); and, in the Heptameron (Nouv. Ixx.), the widow who lay down and died of love and sorrow that her passion had become known. For the fainting of lovers see Nouvelle xix.

How Abu Hasan Brake Wind.

They recount that in the City Kaukabán of Al–Yaman there was a man of the Fazlí tribe who had left Badawi life, and become a townsman for many years and was a merchant of the most opulent merchants. His wife had deceased when both were young; and his friends were instant with him to marry again, ever quoting to him the words of the poet,

“Go, gossip! re-wed thee, for Prime draweth near:

A wife is an almanac — good for the year.”

So being weary of contention, Abu Hasan entered into negotiations with the old women who procure matches, and married a maid like Canopus when he hangeth over the seas of Al–Hind. He made high festival therefor, bidding to the wedding banquet kith and kin, Olema and Fakirs; friends and foes and all his acquaintances of that countryside. The whole house was thrown open to feasting: there were rices of five several colours, and sherbets of as many more; and kids stuffed with walnuts and almonds and pistachios and a camel colt1 roasted whole. So they ate and drank and made mirth and merriment; and the bride was displayed in her seven dresses and one more, to the women, who could not take their eyes off her. At last, the bridegroom was summoned to the chamber where she sat enthroned; and he rose slowly and with dignity from his divan; but in so doing, for that he was over full of meat and drink, lo and behold! he let fly a fart, great and terrible. Thereupon each guest turned to his neighbour and talked aloud and made as though he had heard nothing, fearing for his life. But a consuming fire was lit in Abu Hasan’s heart; so he pretended a call of nature; and, in lieu of seeking the bride chamber, he went down to the house court and saddled his mare and rode off, weeping bitterly, through the shadow of the night. In time he reached Láhej where he found a ship ready to sail for India; so he shipped on board and made Calicut of Malabar. Here he met with many Arabs, especially Hazramís2, who recommended him to the King; and this King (who was a Kafir) trusted him and advanced him to the captainship of his body guard. He remained ten years in all solace and delight of life; at the end of which time he was seized with home sickness; and the longing to behold his native land was that of a lover pining for his beloved; and he came near to die of yearning desire. But his appointed day had not dawned; so, after taking the first bath of health, he left the King without leave, and in due course landed at Makallá of Hazramaut. Here he donned the rags of a religious; and, keeping his name and case secret, fared for Kaukaban afoot; enduring a thousand hardships of hunger, thirst and fatigue; and braving a thousand dangers from the lion, the snake and the Ghul. But when he drew near his old home, he looked down upon it from the hills with brimming eyes, and said in himself, “Haply they might know thee; so I will wander about the outskirts, and hearken to the folk. Allah grant that my case be not remembered by them!” He listened carefully for seven nights and seven days, till it so chanced that, as he was sitting at the door of a hut, he heard the voice of a young girl saying, “O my mother, tell me the day when I was born; for such an one of my companions is about to take an omen3 for me.” And the mother answered, “Thou was born, O my daughter, on the very night when Abu Hasan farted.” Now the listener no sooner heard these words than he rose up from the bench, and fled away saying to himself, “Verily thy fart hath become a date, which shall last for ever and ever; even as the poet said,

‘As long as palms shall shift the flower;

As long as palms shall sift the flour.’4

And he ceased not travelling and voyaging and returned to India; and there abode in self exile till he died; and the mercy of Allah be upon him!5 And they tell another story of

1 This is a favourite Badawi dish, but too expensive unless some accident happen to the animal. Old camel is much like bull-beef, but the young meat is excellent, although not relished by Europeans because, like strange fish, it has no recognised flavour. I have noticed it in my “First Footsteps” (p. 68, etc.). There is an old idea in Europe that the maniacal vengeance of the Arab is increased by eating this flesh, the beast is certainly vindictive enough; but a furious and frantic vengefulness characterises the North American Indian who never saw a camel. Mercy and pardon belong to the elect, not to the miserables who make up “ humanity.”

2 i.e. of the Province Hazramaut, the Biblical Hazarmaveth (Gen. x. 26). The people are the Swill of Arabia and noted for thrift and hard bargains; hence the saying, If you meet a serpent and a Hazrami, slay the Hazrami. To prove how ubiquitous they are it is related that a man, flying from their society, reached the uttermost parts of China where he thought himself safe. But, as he was about to pass the night in some ruin, he heard a voice bard by him exclaim, “O Imád al-Din!” (the name of the patron-saint of Hazramaut). Thereupon he arose and fled and he is, they say, flying still.

3 Arab. “Fál” alluding to the Sortes Coranicæ and other silly practices known to the English servant-girs when curious about her future and her futur.

4 i.e., in Arab-land (where they eat dates) and Ajam, or lands non-Arab (where bread is the staff of life); that is, all the world over.

5 This story is curious and ethnologically valuable. The Badawi who eructates as a civility, has a mortal hatred to a crepitus ventris; and were a by-stander to laugh at its accidental occurrence, he would at once be cut down as a “pundonor.” The same is the custom amongst the Highlanders of Afghanistan, and its artificial nature suggests direct derivation, for the two regions are separated by a host of tribes, Persians and Baloch, Sindis and Panjábis who utterly ignore the point of honour and behave like Europeans. The raids of the pre-Islamitic Arabs over the lands lying to the north-east of them are almost forgotten; still there are traces, and this may be one of them.

The Lovers of the Banu Tayy.

Kásim, son of Adi, was wont to relate that a man of the Banú Tamím spake as follows: “I went out one day in search of an estray and, coming to the waters of the Banu Tayy, saw two companies of people near one another, and behold, those of one company were disputing among themselves even as the other. So I watched them and observed, in one of the companies, a youth wasted with sickness, as he were a worn-out dried-up waterskin. And as I looked on him, lo! he repeated these couplets,

‘What ails the Beauty she returneth not?

Is’t Beauty’s irk or grudging to my lot?

I sickened and my friends all came to call;

What stayed thee calling with the friendly knot?

Hadst thou been sick, I had come running fast

To thee, nor threats had kept me from the spot:

Mid them I miss thee, and I lie alone;

Sweetheart, to lose thy love sad loss I wot!’

His words were heard by a damsel in the other company who hastened towards him, and when her people followed her, she fought them off. Then the youth caught sight of her and sprang up and ran towards her, whilst the people of his party ran after him and laid hold of him. However he haled and freed himself from them, and she in like manner loosed herself; and, when they were free, each ran to other and meeting between the two parties, embraced and fell dead upon the ground.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Eleventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that “the young man and the maid met between the two parties and embraced and both fell dead upon the ground; whereat came there out an old man from one of the tents and stood over them exclaiming, ‘Verily, we are Allah’s and unto Him we are returning!’ Then weeping sore he said, ‘Allah have ruth on you both! by the Almighty, though you were not united in your lives, I will at least unite you after your deaths.’ And he bade lay them out: so they washed them and shrouded them in one shroud and dug for them one grave and prayed one prayer over them both and buried them in one tomb; nor was there man or woman in the two parties but I saw weeping over them and buffeting their faces. Then I questioned the Shaykh of them, and he said, ‘She was my daughter and he my brother’s son; and love brought them to the pass thou seest.’ I exclaimed, ‘Allah amend thee! but why didst thou not marry them to each other?’ Quoth he, ‘I feared shame1 and dishonour; and now I am fallen into both.’ “ And they tell a tale of

1 Arab. “Al-‘Ár.” The Badawi saying is “Al-nár wa lá l-‘ár” (Hell-)fire, but not shame. The sentiment is noble. Hasan the Prophet’s grandson, a poor creature demoralised by over-marrying, chose the converse, “Shame is better than Hell-fire.” An old Arabic poem has,

“The Fire and not shame be the Lord of thee

And e’en to The Fire from shame go flee.”

Al–Hariri (Ass. of the Badawin) also has,

“For rather would I die my death than shame —

On bier be borne than bear a caitiff’s name.”

The Mad Lover.

Quoth Abu ‘l-Abbás al-Mubarrad,1 “I set out one day with a company to Al-Bárid on an occasion and, coming to the monastery of Hirakl,2 we alighted in its shade. Presently a man came out to us and said, ‘There are madmen in the monastery,3 and amongst them one who speaketh wisdom; if ye saw him, ye would marvel at his speech.’ So we arose all and went into the monastery’ where we saw a man seated on a skin mat in one of the cells, with bare head and eyes intently fixed upon the wall. We saluted him, and he returned our salaam, without looking at us, and one said to us, ‘Repeat some verses to him; for, when he heareth verse, he speaketh.’ So I repeated these two couplets,

‘O best of race to whom gave Hawwa4 boon of birth,

Except for thee the world were neither sweet nor fair!

Thou’rt he, whose face, by Allah shown to man,

Doth ward off death, decay and hoary hair.’

When he heard from me this praise of the Apostle he turned towards us and repeated these lines,

‘Well Allah wotteth I am sorely plagued:

Nor can I show my pain to human sight.

Two souls have I, one soul is here contained,

While other woneth in another site.

Meseems the absent soul’s like present soul,

And that she suffers what to me is dight.’

Then he asked us. ‘Have I said well or said ill? And we answered, ‘Thou hast said the clean contrary of ill, well and right well.’ Then he put out his hand to a stone, that was by him and took it up; whereupon thinking he would throw it at us we fled from him; but he fell to beating upon his breast therewith violent blows and said to us, ‘Fear not, but draw near and hear somewhat from me and receive it from me.’ So we came back, and he repeated these couplets,

‘When they made their camels yellow white kneel down at dawning grey

They mounted her on crupper and the camel went his way,

Mine eye balls through the prison wall beheld them, and I cried

With streaming eyelids and a heart that burnt in dire dismay

O camel driver turn thy beast that I farewell my love!

In parting and farewelling her I see my doomed day

I’m faithful to my vows of love which I have never broke,

Would Heaven I kenned what they have done with vows that vowed they!’

Then he looked at me and said, ‘Say me, dost thou know what they did?’5 Answered I, ‘Yes, they are dead; Almighty Allah have mercy on them!’ At this his face changed and he sprang to his feet and cried out, ‘How knowest thou they be dead?;’ and I replied, ‘Were they alive they had not left thee thus.’ Quoth he, ‘By Allah, thou art right, and I care not to live after them.’ Then his side muscles quivered and he fell on his face; and we ran up to him and shook him and found him dead, the mercy of the Almighty be on him! At this we marvelled and mourned for him and, sore mourning, laid him out and buried him”. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 A grammarian and rhetorician of ninth century.

2 Once existing in Syrian Hamáh (the Biblical Hamath); and so called because here died the Emperor Heraclius called by the Arabs “Hirakl.”

3 Till lately it was the custom to confine madmen in Syrian monasteries, hoping a cure from the patron Saint, and a terrible time they had of it. Every guide book relates the healing process as formerly pursued at the Maronite Convent Koshaya not far from Bayrut. The idiot or maniac was thrust headlong by the monks into a dismal cavern with a heavy chain round his neck, and was tied up within a span of the wall to await the arrival of Saint Anthony who especially affects this holy place. In very few weeks the patient was effectually cured or killed by cold, solitude and starvation.

4 The Moslem Eve, much nearer the Hebrew “Hawah” = the “manifester,” because (Gen. iii. 20) she was (to be) the mother of all that live (“Kull hayy”).

5 The mad lover says “they” for “she,” which would be too familiar in speaking to strangers.

When it was the Four Hundred and Twelfth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that al-Mubarrad thus continued: “When the man fell we mourned over him with sore mourning and laid him out and buried him. And when I returned to Baghdad and went in to the Caliph al-Mutawakkil, he saw the trace of tears on my face and said to me, ‘What is this?’ So I told him what had passed and it was grievous to him and he cried, ‘What moved thee to deal thus with him?1 By Allah, if I thought thou didst not repent it and regret him I would punish thee therefor!’ And he mourned for him the rest of the day.” And amongst the tales they tell is one of

1 i.e. falsely to report the death.

The Prior Who Became A Moslem.

Quoth Abu Bakr Mohammed ibn Al–Anbári1: “I once left Anbár on a journey to ‘Amúríyah,2 where there came out to me the prior of the monastery and superior of the monkery, Abd al-Masíh hight, and brought me into the building. There I found forty religious, who entertained me that night with fair guest rite, and I left them after seeing among them such diligence in adoration and devotion as I never beheld the like of in any others. Next day I farewelled them and fared forth and, after doing my business at ‘Amuriyah, I returned to my home at Anbar. And next year I made pilgrimage to Meccah and as I was circumambulating the Holy House I saw Abd al-Masih the monk also compassing the Ka’abah, and with him five of his fellows, the shavelings. Now when I was sure that it was indeed he, I accosted him, saying, ‘Art thou not Abd al-Masih, the Religious?’ and he replied, ‘Nay, I am Abdallah, the Desirous.’3 Therewith I fell to kissing his grey hairs and shedding tears; then, taking him by the hand, I led him aside into a corner of the Temple and said to him, ‘Tell me the cause of thy conversion to al-Islam;’ and he made reply, ‘Verily, ’twas a wonder of wonders, and befell thus. A company of Moslem devotees came to the village wherein is our convent, and sent a youth to buy them food. He saw, in the market, a Christian damsel selling bread, who was of the fairest of women; and he was struck at first sight with such love of her, that his senses failed him and he fell on his face in a fainting fit. When he revived, he returned to his companions and told them what had befallen him, saying, ‘Go ye about your business; I may not go with you.’ They chided him and exhorted him, but he paid no heed to them; so they left him whilst he entered the village and seated himself at the door of the woman’s booth.4 She asked him what he wanted, and he told her that he was in love with her whereupon she turned from him; but he abode in his place three days without tasting food, keeping his eyes fixed on her face. Now whenas she saw that he departed not from her, she went to her people and acquainted them with his case, and they set on him the village boys, who stoned him and bruised his ribs and broke his head; but, for all this, he would not budge. Then the villagers took counsel together to slay him; but a man of them came to me and told me of his case, and I went out to him and found him lying prostrate on the ground. So I wiped the blood from his face and carried him to the convent, and dressed his wounds; and there he abode with me fourteen days. But as soon as he could walk, he left the monastery”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 A famous grammarian, etc., of the tenth century.

2 The classical Amorium in Phrygia now Anatolia: Anbár is a town (before mentioned) on the Euphrates; by the rules of Arabic grammar the word is pronounced (though never written) Ambár.

3 “Art thou not the slave of the Messiah, the Ráhib (monk)?” “No! I am the slave of Allah, the Rághib (desirous of mercy from the Almighty). “ A fair specimen of the Saj’a or rhymed prose. Abdallah (properly “Abdu’llah:”) is a kind of neutral name, neither Jewish, Moslem nor Christian; hence I adopted it, (Pilgrimage i. 20.)

4 Arab. “Hanut,” prop. a tavern where liquors are sold, a term applied contemptuously to shops, inns, etc., kept by Christians.

When it was the Four Hundred and Thirteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdallah the Religious continued: “So I carried him to the convent and dressed his wounds, and he abode with me fourteen days. But as soon as he could walk, he left the monastery and returned to the door of the woman ‘s booth, where he sat gazing on her as before. When she saw him she came out to him and said, ‘By Allah thou movest me to pity! wilt thou enter my faith that I may marry thee?’ He cried, ‘Allah forbid that I should put off the faith of Unity and enter that of Plurality!’1 Quoth she, ‘Come in with me to my house and take thy will of me and wend thy ways in peace.’ Quoth he, ‘Not so, I will not waste the worship of twelve years for the lust of an eye-twinkle.’ Said she, ‘Then depart from me forthwith;’ and he said, ‘My heart will not suffer me to do that;’ whereupon she turned her countenance from him. Presently the boys found him out and began to pelt him with stones; and he fell on his face, saying, ‘Verily, Allah is my protector, who sent down the Book of the Koran; and He protecteth the Righteous!2 At this I sallied forth and driving away the boys, lifted his head from the ground and heard him say, ‘Allah mine, unite me with her in Paradise!’ Then I carried him to the monastery, but he died, before I could reach it, and I bore him without the village and I dug for him a grave and buried him. And next night when half of it was spent, the damsel cried with a great cry (and she in her bed); so the villagers flocked to her and questioned her of her case. Quoth she, ‘As I slept, behold the Moslem man came in to me and taking me by the hand, carried me to the gate of Paradise; but the Guardian denied me entrance, saying, ’Tis forbidden to unbelievers.’ So I embraced Al Islam at his hands and, entering with him, beheld therein pavilions and trees, such as I cannot describe to you. Moreover, he brought me to a pavilion of jewels and said to me, ‘Of a truth this is my pavilion and thine, nor will I enter it save with thee; but, after five nights thou shalt be with me therein, if it be the will of Allah Almighty.’ Then he put forth his hand to a tree which grew at the door of the pavilion and plucked there from two apples and gave them to me, saying, ‘Eat this and keep the other, that the monks may see it.’ So I ate one of them and never tasted I aught sweeter.’ “— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Shirk” = syntheism of the “Mushrik” (one who makes other gods partners with God), a word pronounced “Mushrit” by the Wahhabis and the Badawin.

2 Koran vii. 195. The passage declaims against the idols of the Arabs, sun, moon. stars, etc.

When it was the Four Hundred and Fourteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the woman continued: “‘So he plucked two apples and gave them to me, saying, ‘Eat this and keep the other that the monks may see it.’ So I ate one of them and never tasted I aught sweeter. Then he took my hand and fared forth and carried me back to my house; and, when I awoke, I found the taste of the apple in my mouth and the other in my hand.’ So saying she brought out the apple, and in the darkness of the night it shone as it were a sparkling star. So they carried her (and the apple with her) to the monastery, where she repeated her vision and showed it to us; never saw we its like among all the fruits of the world. Then I took a knife and cut the apple into pieces according as we were folk in company; and never knew we aught more delicious than its savour nor more delightsome than its scent; but we said, ‘Haply this was a devil that appeared unto her to seduce her from her faith.’ Thereupon her people took her and went away; but she abstained from eating and drinking and on the fifth night she rose from her bed, and going forth the village to the grave of her Moslem lover threw herself upon it and died, her family not knowing what was come of her. But, on the morrow, there came to the village two Moslem elders, clad in hair cloth, and with them two women in like garb, and said, ‘O people of the village, with you is a woman Saint, a Waliyah of the friends of Allah, who died a Moslemah; and we will take charge of her in lieu of you.’ So the villagers sought her and found her dead on the Moslem’s grave; and they said, ‘This was one of us and she died in our faith; so we will take charge of her.’ Rejoined the two old men, ‘Nay, she died a Moslemah and we claim her.’ And the dispute waxed to a quarrel between them, till one of the Shaykhs said, ‘Be this the test of her faith: the forty monks of the monastery shall come and try to lift her from the grave. If they succeed, then she died a Nazarene; if not, one of us shall come and lift her up and if she be lifted by him, she died a Moslemah.’ The villagers agreed to this and fetched the forty monks, who heartened one another, and came to her to lift her, but could not. Then we tied a great rope round her middle and haled at it; but the rope broke in sunder, and she stirred not; and the villagers came and did the like, but could not move her from her place.1 At last, when all means failed, we said to one of the two Shaykhs, ‘Come thou and lift her.’ So he went up to the grave and, covering her with his mantle, said, ‘In the name of Allah the Compassionating, the Compassionate, and of the Faith of the Apostle of Allah, on whom be prayers and peace!’ Then he lifted her and, taking her in his bosom, betook himself with her to a cave hard by, where they laid her, and the two women came and washed her and shrouded her. Then the two elders bore her to her Moslem lover’s grave and prayed over her and buried her by his side and went their ways. Now we were eye witnesses of all this; and, when we were alone with one another, we said, ‘In sooth, the truth is most worthy to be followed;’2 and indeed the verity hath been made manifest to us, nor is there a proof more patent of the truth of al-Islam than that we have seen this day with our eyes.’ So I and all the monks became Moslems and on like wise did the villagers; and we sent to the people of Mesopotamia for a doctor of the law, to instruct us in the ordinances of al-Islam and the canons of the Faith. They sent us a learned man and a pious, who taught us the rites of prayer and the tenets of the faith; and we are now in ease abounding; so to Allah be the praise and the thanks!” And they also tell a tale of

1 This minor miracle is commonly reported, and is not, I believe, unknown to modern “Spiritualism.” The dead Wali or Waliyah (Saintess) often impels the bier-bearers to the spot where he would be buried: hence in Cairo the tombs scattered about the city. Lane notices it, Mod. E. chaps. xxviii.

2 Koran x. 36, speaking of being turned aside from the true worship.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/part49.html

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