The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

When it was the Nine Hundred and Fortieth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicous King, that when the King heard the words spoken by the door-keeper of the Caravanserai and the workmen of the dyery, he was certified of the vileness of Abu Kir; so he upbraided him with flout and fleer and said to his guards, “Take him and parade him about the city and the market-streets; then set him in a sack and cast him into the sea.” Whereupon quoth Abu Sir, “O King of the age, accept my intercession for him, for I pardon him all he hath done with me.” But quoth the King, “An thou pardon him all his offences against thee, I cannot pardon him his offences against me.” And he cried out, saying, “Take him.” So they took him and paraded him about the city, after which they set him in a sack with quicklime and cast him into the sea, and he died, drowned and burnt. Then said the King to the barber, “O Abu Sir, ask of me what thou wilt and it shall be given thee.” And he answered, saying, “I ask of thee to send me back to my own country, for I care no longer to tarry here.” Then the King gifted him great store of gifts, over and above that which he had whilome bestowed on the crew of this galleon were Mamelukes; so he gave him these also, after offering to make him his Wazir whereto the barber consented not. Presently he farewelled the King and set sail in his own ship manned by his own crew; nor did he cast anchor till he reached Alexandria and made fast to the shore there. Then he landed and one of his Mamelukes, seeing a sack on the beach, said to Abu Sir, “O my lord, there is a great heavy sack on the sea-shore, with the mouth tied up and I know not what therein.” So Abu Sir came up and opening the sack, found therein the remains of Abu Kir, which the sea had borne thither. He took it forth and burying it near Alexandria, built over the grave a place of visitation and endowed it with mortmain writing over the door these couplets,

“Man is known among me as his deeds attest;

Which make noble origin manifest:

Backbite not, lest other men bit thy back;

Who saith aught, the same shall to him be addrest:

Shun immodest words and indecent speech

When thou speakest in earnest or e’en in jest.1

We bear with the dog which behaves itself

But the lion is chained lest he prove a pest:

And the desert carcases swim the main

While union-pearls on the sandbank rest2:

No sparrow would hustle the sparrow-hawk,

Were it not by folly and weakness prest:

A-sky is written on page of air

‘Who doth kindly of kindness shall have the best!’

‘Ware of gathering sugar from bitter gourd:3

’Twill prove to its origin like in taste.”

After this Abu Sir abode awhile, till Allah took him to Himself, and they buried him hard by the tomb of his comrade Abu Kir; wherefore that place was called Abu Kir and Abu Sir; but it is now known as Abu Kir only. This, then, is that which hath reached us of their history, and glory be to Him who endureth for ever and aye and by whose will interchange the night and the day. And of the stories they tell is one anent

1 This couplet was quoted to me by my friend the Rev. Dr. Badger when he heard that I was translating “The Nights”: needless to say that it is utterly inappropriate.

2 For a similar figure see vol i. 25.

3 Arab. “Hanzal”: see vol. v. 19.

Abdullah1 The Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman.

There was once a Fisherman named Abdullah, who had a large family, to wit, nine children and their mother, so was he poor, very poor, owning naught save his net. Every day he used to go to the sea a-fishing, and if he caught little, he sold it and spent the price on his children, after the measure of that which Allah vouchsafed him of provision; but if he caught much, he would cook a good mess of meat and buy fruit and spend without stint till nothing was left him, saying to himself, “The daily bread of to-morrow will come to-morrow.” Presently, his wife gave birth to another child, making a total of ten, and it chanced that day that he had nothing at all; so she said to him, “O my master, see and get me somewhat wherewithal I may sustain myself.” Quoth he, “I am going (under favour of Almighty Allah) this day seawards to fish on the luck of this new-born child, that we may see its fair fortune;” and quoth she, “Put thy trust in Allah!” So he took his net and went down to the sea-shore, where he cast it on the luck of the little one, saying, “O my God, make his living of ease not of unease, and abundant, not scant!” Then he waited awhile and drew in the net, which came up full of rubbish and sand and pebbles and weeds, and he saw therein no sign of fish neither muchel nor little. He cast it again and waited, then drew it in, but found no catch in it, and threw it a third and a fourth and a fifth time still not a single fish came up. So he removed to another place beseeching his daily bread of Allah Almighty and thus he kept working till the end of the day, but caught not so much as a minnow;2 whereat he fell a-marvelling in himself and said self-communing, “Hath Allah then created this new-born child without lot of provision? This may never, never be. He who slitteth the corners of the lips hath pledged Himself for its provision, because Almighty Allah is the Bountiful, the Provider!”3 So saying, he shouldered his net and turned him homewards, broken-spirited and heavy at heart about his family, for that he had left them without food, more by token that his wife was in the straw. And as he continued trudging along and saying in himself, “How shall I do and what shall I say to the children to-night?” he came to a baker’s oven and saw a crowd about it; for the season was one of dearth and in those days food was scant with the folk; so people were proffering the baker money, but he paid no heed to any of them, by reason of the dense crowd. The fisherman stood looking and snuffing he smell of the hot bread (and indeed his soul longed for it, by reason of his hunger), till the baker caught sight of him and cried out to him, “Come hither, O fisherman!” So he went up to him, and the baker said, “Dost thou want bread?” But he was silent. Quoth the baker, “Speak out and be not ashamed, for Allah is bountiful. An thou have no silver, I will give thee bread and have patience with thee till weal betide thee.” And quoth the fisherman, “By Allah, O master, I have indeed no money! But give me bread enough for my family, and I will leave thee this net in pawn till the morrow.” Rejoined the baker, “Nay, my poor fellow, this net is thy shop and the door of thy daily subsistence; so an thou pawn it, wherewithal wilt thou fish? Tell me how much will suffice thee?”; and replied the fisherman, “Ten half-dirhams’ worth.”4 So he gave him ten Nusfs worth of bread and ten in silver saying, “Take these ten Nusfs and cook thyself a mess of meat therewith; so wilt thou owe me twenty, for which bring me fish to-morrow; but, an thou catch nothing again, come and take thy bread and thy ten Nusfs, and I will have patience with thee till better luck betide thee,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 The tale begins upon the model of “Júdar and his Brethren,” vi. 213. Its hero’s full name is Abdu’lláhi=Slave of Allah, which vulgar Egyptians pronounce Abdallah and purer speakers, Badawin and others, Abdullah: either form is therefore admissible. It is more common among Moslems but not unknown to Christians especially Syrians who borrow it from the Syriac Alloh. Mohammed is said to have said, “The names most approved by Allah are Abdu’llah, Abd al-Rahmán (Slave of the Compassionate) and such like” (Pilgrimage i. 20).

2 Arab. “Sírah” here probably used of the Nile-sprat (Clupea Sprattus Linn.) or Sardine of which Forsk says, “Sardinn in Al–Yaman is applied to a Red Sea fish of the same name.” Hasselquist the Swede notes that Egyptians stuff the Sardine with marjoram and eat it fried even when half putrid.

3 i.e. by declaring in the Koran (lxvii. 14; lxxiv. 39; lxxviii. 69; lxxxviii. 17), that each creature hath its appointed term and lot; especially “Thinketh man that he shall be left uncared for?” (xl. 36).

4 Arab. “Nusf,” see vol. ii. 37.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-first Night,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the baker said to the fisherman, “Take whatso thou needest and I will have patience with thee till better luck betide thee, after the which thou shalt bring me fish for all thou owest me.” Said the fisherman, Almighty Allah reward thee, and requite thee for me with all good!” Then he took the bread and the coins and went away, glad at heart, and buying what he could returned to his wife whom he found sitting up, soothing the children, who were weeping for hunger, and saying to them, “At once your father will be here with what ye may eat.” So he set the bread before them and they ate, whilst he told his wife what had befallen him, and she said, “Allah is bountiful.”1 On the morrow, he shouldered his net and went forth of his house, saying, “I beseech thee, O Lord, to vouchsafe me this day that which shall whiten my face with the baker!”2 When he came to the sea-shore, he proceeded to cast his net and pull it in; but there came up no fish therein; and he ceased not to toil thus till ended day but he caught nothing. Then he set out homewards, in great concern, and the way to his house lay past the baker’s oven; so he said to himself, “How shall I go home? But I will hasten my pace that the baker may not see me.” When he reached the shop, he saw a crowd about it and walked the faster, being ashamed to face his creditor; but the baker raised his eyes to him and cried out to him, saying, “Ho, fisherman! Come and take thy bread and spending-money. Meseems thou forgettest.” Quoth Abdullah, “By Allah, I had not forgotten; but I was ashamed to face thee, because I have caught no fish this day;” and quoth the baker, “Be not ashamed. Said I not to thee, At thy leisure,3 till better luck betide thee?” Then he gave him the bread and the ten Nusfs and he returned and told his wife, who said, “Allah is bountiful. Better luck shall yet betide thee and thou shalt give the baker his due, Inshallah.” He ceased not doing on this wise forty days, betaking himself daily to the sea, from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, and returning home without fish; and still he took bread and spending-money of the baker, who never once named the fish to him nor neglected him nor kept him waiting like the folk,4 but gave him the bread and the ten half-dirhams without delay. Whenever the fisherman said to him, “O my brother, reckon with me,” he would say, “Be off:5 this is no time for reckoning. Wait till better luck betide thee, and then I will reckon with thee.” And the fisherman would bless him and go away thanking him. On the one-and-fortieth day, he said to his wife, “I have a mind to tear up the net and be quit of this life.” She asked, “Why wilt thou do this?”; and he answered, “Meseems there is an end of my getting my daily bread from the waters. How long shall this last? By Allah, I burn with shame before the baker and I will go no more to the sea, so I may not pass by his oven, for I have none other way home; and every time I pass he calleth me and giveth me the bread and the ten silvers. How much longer shall I run in debt to him?” The wife replied, “Alhamdolillah — lauded be the Lord, the Most High, who hath inclined his heart to thee, so that he giveth thee our daily bread! What dislikest thou in this?”; and the husband rejoined, “I owe him now a mighty great sum of dirhams, and there is no doubt but that he will demand his due.” “Hath he vexed thee with words?” “No, on the contrary, he still refuseth to reckon with me, saying, ‘Wait till better luck betide thee.’” “If he press thee, say to him, ‘Wait till there come the good luck for which we hope, thou and I.’” “And when will the good luck come that we hope for?” “Allah is bountiful.” “Sooth thou speakest!” So saying he shouldered his net and went down to the sea-side, praying, “O Lord provide thou me, though but with one fish, that I may give it to the baker!” And he cast his net into the sea and pulling it in, found it heavy; so he tugged at it till he was tired with sore travail. But when he got it ashore, he found in it a dead donkey swollen and stinking; whereat his senses sickened and he freed it from the net, saying, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Indeed, I can no more! I say to that wife of mine, ‘There is no more provision for me in the waters; let me leave this craft.’ And she still answereth me, ‘Allah is bountiful: good will presently betide thee.’ Is this dead ass the good whereof she speaketh?” And he grieved with the sorest grief. Then he turned to another place, so he might remove from the stench of the dead donkey, and cast his net there and waited a full hour: then he drew it in and found it heavy. Thereupon quoth he, “Good; we are hauling up all the dead donkeys in the sea and ridding it of its rubbish.6” However he gave not over tugging at the net, till blood came from the palms of his hands, and when he got it ashore, he saw a man7 in it and took him for one of the Ifrits of the lord Solomon, whom he was wont to imprison in cucurbits of brass and cast him into the main, believing that the vessel had burst for length of years and that the Ifrit had come forth and fallen into the net; wherefore he fled from him, crying out and saying, “Mercy, mercy, O Ifrit of Solomon!” But the Adamite called out to him from within the net and said, “Come hither, O fisherman, and flee not from me; for I am human like thyself. Release me, so thou mayst get a recompense for me of Allah.” Whenas he heard these words, the fisherman took heart and coming up to him, said to him, “Art thou not an Ifrit of the Jinn?”; and replied the other, “No: I am a mortal and a believer in Allah and His Apostle.” Asked the fisherman, “Who threw thee into the sea?”; and the other answered, “I am of the children of the sea, and was going about therein, when thou castest the net over me. We are people who obey Allah’s commandments and show loving-kindness unto the creatures of the Almighty, and but that I fear and dread to be of the disobedient, I had torn thy net; but I accept that which the Lord hath decreed unto me; wherefore by setting me free thou becomest my owner and I thy captive. Wilt thou then set me free for the love8 of Almighty Allah and make a covenant with me and become my comrade? I will come to thee every day in this place, and do thou come to me and bring me a gift of the fruits of the land. For with you are grapes and figs and water-melons and peaches and pomegranates and so forth, and all thou bringest me will be acceptable unto me. Moreover, with us are coral and pearls and chrysolites and emeralds and rubies and other gems, and I will fill thee the basket, wherein thou bringest me the fruit, with precious stones of the jewels of the sea.9 What sayest thou to this, O my brother?” Quoth the fisherman, “Be the Opening Chapter of the Koran between thee and me upon this!” So they recited together the Fátihah, and the fisherman loosed the Merman from the net and asked him, “What is thy name?” He replied, “My name is Abdullah of the sea; and if thou come hither and see me not, call out and say, ‘Where are thou, O Abdullah, O Merman?’ and I will be with thee.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Allah Karim” (which Turks pronounce Kyerím) a consecrated formula used especially when a man would show himself resigned to “small mercies.” The fisherman’s wife was evidently pious as she was poor; and the description of the pauper household is simple and effective.

2 This is repeated in the Mac. Edit. pp. 496–97; an instance amongst many of most careless editing.

3 Arab. “Alà mahlak” (vulg.), a popular phrase, often corresponding with our “Take it coolly.”

4 For “He did not keep him waiting, as he did the rest of the folk.” Lane prefers “nor neglected him as men generally would have done.” But we are told supra that the baker “paid no heed to the folk by reason of the dense crowd.”

5 Arab. “Ruh!” the most abrupt form, whose sound is coarse and offensive as the Turkish yell, “Gyel!”=come here.

6 Bresl. Edit. xi. 50–51.

7 Arab. “Ádami”=an Adamite, one descended from the mythical and typical Adam for whom see Philo Judæus. We are told in one place a few lines further on that the merman is of humankind; and in another that he is a kind of fish (Night dccccxlv). This belief in mermen, possible originating with the caricatures of the human face in the intelligent seal and stupid manatee, is universal. Al–Kazwini declares that a waterman with a tail was dried and exhibited, and that in Syria one of them was married to a woman and had by her a son “who understood the languages of both his parents.” The fable was refined to perfect beauty by the Greeks: the mer-folk of the Arabs, Hindus and Northerners (Scandinavians, etc) are mere grotesques with green hair, etc. Art in its highest expression never left the shores of the Mediterranean, and there is no sign that it ever will.

8 Here Lane translates “Wajh” lit. “the desire of seeing the face of God,” and explains in a note that a “Muslim holds this to be the greatest happiness that can be enjoyed in Paradise.” But I have noted that the tenet of seeing the countenance of the Creator, except by the eyes of spirit, is a much disputed point amongst Moslems.

9 Artful enough is this contrast between the squalid condition of the starving fisherman and the gorgeous belongings of the Merman.

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He gave not over tugging at the net till blood came from the palms of his hands, and when he got it ashore, he saw a man in it, and took him for one of the Ifrits of the lord Solomon . . . wherefore he fled from him

When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-second Night,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah of the sea thus enjoined the other, “An thou come hither and see me not, call out and say, ‘Where art thou, O Abdullah, O Merman?’ and I will be with thee forthwith. But thou, what is thy name?” Quoth the fisherman, “My name also is Abdullah;” and quoth the other, “Thou art Abdullah of the land and I am Abdullah of the Sea; but tarry here till I go and fetch thee a present.” And the fisherman repented him of having released him and said to himself, “How know I that he will come back to me? Indeed, he beguiled me, so that I loosed him, and now he will laugh at me.1 Had I kept him, I might have made a show of him for the diversion of the city-folk and taken silver from all men and gone with him to the houses of the great.” And he repented him of having set him free and said, “Thou hast let thy prey from thy hand away.” But, as he was thus bemoaning his folly in releasing the prisoner, behold, Abdullah the merman returned to him, with both hands full of pearls and coral and smaragds and rubies and other gems, and said to him, “Take these, O my brother, and excuse me; had I a fish-basket2 I would have filled it for thee.” Abdullah the fisherman rejoiced and took the jewels from the Merman who said to him, “Every day come hither, before sunrise,” and farewelling him, went down into the sea; whilst the other returned to the city, rejoicing, and stayed not walking till he came to the baker’s oven and said to him, “O my brother, good luck is come to us at last; so do thou reckon with me.” Answered the baker, “There needeth no reckoning. An thou have aught, give it me: and if thou have naught, take thy bread and spending-money and begone, against weal betide thee.” Rejoined the fisherman, “O my friend, indeed weal hath betided me of Allah’s bounty, and I owe thee much money; but take this.” So saying, he took for him a handful of the pearls and coral and rubies and other jewels he had with him (the handful being about half of the whole), and gave them to the baker, saying, “Give me some ready money to spend this day, till I sell these jewels.” So the baker gave him all the money he had in hand and all the bread in his basket and rejoiced in the jewels, saying, “I am thy slave and thy servant.” Then he set all the bread on his head and following the fisherman home, gave it to his wife and children, after which he repaired to the market and brought meat and greens and all manner fruit. Moreover, he left his oven and abode with Abdullah all that day, busying himself in his service and fulfilling all his affairs. Said the fisherman, “O my brother, thou weariest thyself;” and the baker replied, “This is my duty, for I am become thy servant and thou hast overwhelmed me with thy boons.” Rejoined the fisherman, “’Tis thou who wast my benefactor in the days of dearth and distress.” And the baker passed that night with him enjoying good cheer and became a faithful friend to him. Then the fisherman told his wife what had befallen him with the Merman, whereat she rejoiced and said, “Keep thy secret, lest the government come down upon thee;” but he said, “Though I keep my secret from all men, yet will I not hide it from the baker.” On the morrow, he rose betimes and, shouldering a basket which he had filled in the evening with all manner fruits, repaired before sunrise to the sea-shore, and setting down the crate on the water-edge called out, “Where art thou, O Abdullah, O Merman?” He answered, “Here am I, at thy service;” and came forth to him. The fisherman gave him the fruit and he took it and plunging into the sea with it, was absent a full hour, after which time he came up, with the fish-basket full of all kinds of gems and jewels. The fisherman set it on his head and went away; and, when he came to the oven, the baker said to him, “O my lord, I have baked thee forty buns3 and have sent them to thy house; and now I will bake some firsts and as soon as all is done, I will bring it to thy house and go and fetch thee greens and meat.” Abdullah handed to him three handfuls of jewels out of the fish-basket and going home, set it down there. Then he took a gem of price of each sort and going to the jewel-bazar, stopped at the Syndic’s shop and said to him, “Buy these precious stones of me.” “Show them to me,” said the Shaykh. So he showed them to him and the jeweller said, “Hast thou aught beside these?”; and Abdullah replied, “I have a basket-full at home.” The Syndic asked, “And where is thine house?” and the fisherman answered, “In such a quarter”; whereupon the Shaykh took the jewels from him and said to his followers, “Lay hold of him, for he is the thief who stole the jewellery of the Queen, the wife of our Sultan.” And he bade beat him. So they bastinadoed him and pinioned him; after which the Syndic and all the people of the jewel-market arose and set out for the palace, saying, “We have caught the thief.” Quoth one, “None robbed such an one but this villain,” and quoth another, “’Twas none but he stole all that was in such an one’s house;” and some said this and others said that. All this while he was silent and spake not a word nor returned a reply, till they brought him before the King, to whom said the Syndic, “O King of the age, when the Queen’s necklace was stolen, thou sentest to acquaint us of the theft, requiring of us the discovery of the culprit; wherefore I strove beyond the rest of the folk and have taken the thief for thee. Here he standeth before thee, and these be the jewels we have recovered from him.” Thereupon the King said to the chief eunuch, “Carry these jewels for the Queen to see, and say to her, ‘Are these thy property thou hast lost?’” So the eunuch took the jewels and went in with them to the Queen, who seeing their lustre marvelled at them and sent to the King to say, “I have found my necklace in my own place and these jewels are not my property; nay, they are finer than those of my necklace. So oppress not the man;”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Lit. “Verily he laughed at me so that I set him free.” This is a fair specimen of obscure conciseness.

2 Arab. “Mishannah,” which Lane and Payne translate basket: I have always heard it used of an old gunny-bag or bag of plaited palm-leaves.

3 Arab. “Kaff Shurayk” applied to a single bun. The Shurayk is a bun, an oblong cake about the size of a man’s hand (hence the term “Kaff”=palm) with two long cuts and sundry oblique crosscuts, made of leavened dough, glazed with egg and Samn (clarified butter) and flavoured with spices (cinnamon, curcuma, artemisia and prunes mahalab) and with aromatic seeds, (Rihat al-‘ajin) of which Lane (iii. 641) specifies aniseed, nigella, absinthium, (Artemisia arborescens) and Káfúrah (A. camphorata Monspeliensis) etc. The Shurayk is given to the poor when visiting the tombs and on certain fêtes.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King’s wife sent to the King to say, “These are not my property; nay, these gems are finer than those of my necklace. So oppress not this man; but, if he will sell them, buy them for thy daughter Umm al-Su’úd,1 that we may set them in a necklace for her.” When the eunuch returned and told the King what the Queen said, he damned the Syndic of the jewellers, him and his company, with the damnation of Ád and Thamúd,2 and they said to him, “O King of the age, we knew this man for a poor fisherman and deemed such things too much for him,3 so we supposed that he had stolen them.” Cried the King, “O ye filthy villains, begrudge ye a True Believer good fortune? Why did ye not make due enquiry of him? Haply Allah Almighty hath vouchsafed him these things from a source whereupon he reckoned not. Why did ye make him out a thief and disgrace him amongst the folk? Begone, and may Allah never bless you!” So they went out affrighted and the King said to Abdullah, “O man (Allah bless thee in all He hath bestowed on thee!), no harm shall befal thee; but tell me truly, whence gottest thou these jewels; for I am a King yet have I not the like of them.” The fisherman replied, “O King of the age, I have a fish-basket full of them at home and the case is thus and thus.” Then he told him of his friendship with the Merman, adding, “We have made a covenant together that I shall bring him every day a basket full of fruit and that he shall fill me the basket with these jewels.” Quoth the King, O man this is thy lucky lot; but wealth needeth rank,4 I will defend thee for the present against men’s domineering; but haply I shall be deposed or die and another rule in my stead, and he shall slay thee because of his love of the goods of this world and his covetousness. So I am minded to marry thee to my daughter and make thee my Wazir and bequeath thee the kingdom after me, so none may hanker for thy riches when I am gone. Then said he, “Hie with this man to the Hammam.” So they bore him to the Baths and bathed his body and robed him in royal raiment, after which they brought him back to the King, and he made him his Wazir and sent to his house couriers and the soldiers of his guard and all the wives of the notables, who clad his wife and children in Kingly costume and mounting the woman in a horse-litter, with the little child in her lap, walked before her to the palace, escorted by the troops and couriers and officers. They also brought her elder children in to the King who made much of them, taking them in his lap and seating them by his side; for they were nine children male and the King had no son and heir nor had he been blessed with any child save this one daughter, Umm al-Su’ud hight. Meanwhile the Queen entreated Abdullah’s wife with honour and bestowed favours on her and made her Waziress to her. Then the King bade draw up the marriage contract between his daughter and Abdullah of the Land5 who assigned to her, as her dower, all the gems and precious stones in his possession, and they opened the gates of festival. The King commanded by proclamation to decorate the city, in honour of his daughter’s wedding. Then Abdullah went in unto the Princess and abated her maidenhead. Next morning the King looked out of the lattice and saw Abdullah carrying on his head a fish-crate full of fruit. So he called to him, “What hast thou there, O my son- in-law, and whither wendest thou?” The fisherman replied, “To my friend, Abdullah the Merman;” and the King said, “O my son-in-law, this is no time to go to thy comrade.” Quoth Abdullah, “Indeed, I fear to break tryst with him, lest he reckon me a liar and say, ‘The things of the world have diverted thee from me,’” and quoth the King, “Thou speakest sooth: go to thy friend and God help thee!” So he walked through the city on his way to his companion; and, as he went, he heard the folk who knew him say, “There goeth the King’s son-in-law to exchange fruit for gems;” whilst those who knew him not said, “Ho, fellow, how much a pound? Come, sell to me.” And he answered, saying, “Wait till I come back to thee,” for that he would not hurt the feelings of any man. Then he fared on till he came to the sea-shore and foregathered with his friend Abdullah the Merman, to whom he delivered the fruit, receiving gems in return. He ceased not doing thus till one day, as he passed by the baker’s oven, he found it closed; and so he did ten days, during which time the oven remained shut and he saw nothing of the baker. So he said to himself, “This is a strange thing! Would I wot whither the baker went!” Then he enquired of his neighbour, saying, “O my brother, where is thy neighbour the baker and what hath Allah done with him?”; and the other responded, “O my lord, he is sick and cometh not forth of his house.” “Where is his house?” asked Abdullah; and the other answered, “In such a quarter.” So he fared thither and enquired of him; but, when he knocked at the door, the baker looked out of window and seeing his friend the fisherman, full basket on head, came down and opened the door to him. Abdullah entered and throwing himself on the baker embraced him and wept, saying, “How dost thou, O my friend? Every day, I pass by thine oven and see it unopened; so I asked thy neighbour, who told me that thou wast sick; therefore I enquired for thy house, that I might see thee.” Answered the baker, “Allah requite thee for me with all good! Nothing aileth me; but it reached me that the King had taken thee, for that certain of the folk had lied against thee and accused thee of being a robber wherefore I feared and shut shop and hid myself.” “True,” said Abdullah and told him all that had befallen him with the King and the Shaykh of the jewellers’ bazar, adding “Moreover, the King hath given me his daughter to wife and made me his Wazir;” and, after a pause, “So do thou take what is in this fish-basket to thy share and fear naught.” Then he left him, after having done away from his affright, and returned with the empty crate to the King, who said to him, “O my son-in-law, ‘twould seem thou hast not foregathered with thy friend the Merman to-day.” Replied Abdullah, “I went to him but that which he gave me I gave to my gossip the baker, to whom I owe kindness.” “Who may be this baker?” asked the King; and the fisherman answered, “He is a benevolent man, who did with me thus and thus in the days of my poverty and never neglected me a single day nor hurt my feelings.” Quoth the King, “What is his name?”; and quoth the fisherman “His name is Abdullah the Baker; and my name is Abdullah of the Land and that of my friend the Merman Abdullah of the Sea.” Rejoined the King, “And my name also is Abdullah; and the servants of Allah6 are all brethren. So send and fetch thy friend the baker, that I may make him my Wazir of the left.”7 So he sent for the baker who speedily came to the presence, and the King invested him with the Wazirial uniform and made him Wazir of the left, making Abdullah of the Land his Wazir of the right. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 “Mother of Prosperities.”

2 Tribes of pre-historic Arabs who were sent to Hell for bad behaviour to Prophets Sálih and Húd. See vol. iii. 294.

3 “Too much for him to come by lawfully.”

4 To protect it. The Arab. is “Jáh”=high station, dignity.

5 The European reader, especially feminine, will think this a hard fate for the pious first wife but the idea would not occur to the Moslem mind. After bearing ten children a woman becomes “Umm al-banáti w’al-banín”=a mother of daughters and sons, and should hold herself unfit for love-disport. The seven ages of womankind are thus described by the Arabs and I translate the lines after a well-known (Irish) model:—

From ten years to twenty —

Of beauty there’s plenty.

From twenty to thirty —

Fat, fair and alert t’ye.

From thirty to forty —

Lads and lasses she bore t’ye.

From forty to fifty —

An old’un and shifty.

From fifty to sixty —

A sorrow that sticks t’ye.

From sixty to seventy —

A curse of God sent t’ye.

For these and other sentiments upon the subject of women and marriage see Pilgrimage ii. 285–87.

6 Abdullah, as has been said, means “servant or rather slave of Allah.”

7 Again the “Come to my arms, my slight acquaintance,” of the Anti–Jacobin.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-fourth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the King made his son-in-law, Abdullah of the Land, Wazir of the right and Abdullah the baker Wazir of the left. In such condition the fisherman abode a whole year, every day carrying for the Merman the crate full of fruit and receiving it back, full of jewels; and when fruit failed from the gardens, he carried him raisins and almonds and filberts and walnuts and figs and so forth; and all that he brought for him the Merman accepted and returned him the fish-basket full of jewels according to his custom. Now it chanced one day that he carried him the crate, full of dry1 fruits as was his wont, and his friend took them from him. Then they sat down to converse, Abdullah the fisherman on the beach and Abdullah the Merman in the water near the shore, and discoursed; and the talk went round between them, till it fell upon the subject of sepulchres; whereat quoth the Merman, “O my brother, they say that the Prophet (whom Allah assain and save!) is buried with you on the land. Knowest thou his tomb?” Abdullah replied, “Yes; it lieth in a city called Yathrib.2” Asked the Merman, “And do the people of the land visit it?” “Yes,” answered the fisherman, and the other said, “I give you joy, O people of the land, of visiting3 that noble Prophet and compassionate, which whoso visiteth meriteth his intercession! Hast thou made such visitation, O my brother?” Replied the fisherman, “No: for I was poor and had not the necessary sum4 to spend by the way, nor have I been in easy case but since I knew thee and thou bestowedst on me this good fortune. But such visitation behoveth me after I have pilgrimed to the Holy House of Allah5 and naught withholdeth,me therefrom but my love to thee, because I cannot leave thee for one day.” Rejoined the Merman, “And dost thou set the love of me before the visitation of the tomb of Mohammed (whom Allah assain and save!), who shall intercede for thee on the Day of Review before Allah and shall save thee from the Fire and through whose intercession thou shalt enter Paradise? And dost thou, for the love of the world, neglect to visit the tomb of thy Prophet6 Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve?” Replied Abdullah, “No, by Allah, I set the visitation of the Prophet’s tomb above all else, and I crave thy leave to pray before it this year.” The Merman rejoined, “I grant thee leave, on condition that when thou shalt stand by his sepulchre thou salute him for me with the Salam. Furthermore I have a trust to give thee; so come thou with me into the sea, that I may carry thee to my city and entertain thee in my house and give thee a deposit; which when thou takest thy station by the Prophet’s tomb, do thou lay thereon, saying, ‘O apostle of Allah, Abdullah the Merman saluteth thee, and sendeth thee this present, imploring thine intercession to save him from the Fire.’” Said the fisherman, “O my brother, thou wast created in the water and water is thy abiding-place and doth thee no hurt, but, if thou shouldst come forth to the land, would any harm betide thee?” The Merman replied, “Yes; my body would dry up and the breezes of the land would blow upon me and I should die.” Rejoined the fisherman, “And I, in like manner, was created on the land and the land is my abiding-place; but, an I went down into the sea, the water would enter my belly and choke me and I should die.” Retorted the other, “Have no fear for that, for I will bring thee an ointment, wherewith when thou hast anointed thy body, the water will do thee no hurt, though thou shouldst pass the lave of thy life going about in the great deep: and thou shalt lie down and rise up in the sea and naught shall harm thee.” Quoth the fisherman, “An the case by thus, well and good; but bring me the ointment, so that I may make trial of it;” and quoth the Merman, “So be it;” then, taking the fish-basket disappeared in the depths. He was absent awhile, and presently returned with an unguent as it were the fat of beef, yellow as gold and sweet of savour. Asked the fisherman, “What is this, O my brother?”; and answered the Merman, “’Tis the liver-fat of a kind of fish called the Dandan,7 which is the biggest of all fishes and the fiercest of our foes. His bulk is greater than that of any beast of the land, and were he to meet a camel or an elephant, he would swallow it at a single mouthful.” Abdullah enquired, “O my brother, what doth this baleful beast?”; and the Merman replied, “He eateth of the beasts of the sea. Hast thou not heard the saying, ‘Like the fishes of the sea: forcible eateth feeble?8’” “True; but have you many of these Dandans in the sea?” “Yes, there be many of them with us. None can tell their tale save Almighty Allah.” “Verily, I fear lest, if I go down with thee into the deep a creature of this kind fall in with me and devour me.” “Have no fear: when he seeth thee, he will know thee for a son of Adam and will fear thee and flee. He dreadeth none in the sea as he dreadeth a son of Adam; for that an he eateth a man he dieth forthright, because human fat is a deadly poison to this kind of creature; nor do we collect its liver-speck save by means of a man, when he falleth into the sea and is drowned; for that his semblance becometh changed and ofttimes his flesh is torn; so the Dandan eateth him, deeming him the same of the denizens of the deep, and dieth. Then we light upon our enemy dead and take the speck of his liver and grease ourselves so that we can over-wander the main in safety. Also, wherever there is a son of Adam, though there be in that place an hundred or two hundred or a thousand or more of these beasts, all die forthright an they but hear him — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Nukl,” e.g. the quatre mendicants as opposed to “Fákihah”=fresh fruit. The Persians, a people who delight in gross practical jokes, get the confectioner to coat with sugar the droppings of sheep and goats and hand them to the bulk of the party. This pleasant confection is called “Nukl-i-peshkil”— dung-dragées.

2 The older name of Madínat al-Nabi, the city of the Prophet; vulg. called Al–Medinah per excellentiam. See vol. iv. 114. In the Mac. and Bul. texts we have “Tayyibah”=the goodly, one of the many titles of that Holy City: see Pilgrimage ii. 119.

3 Not “visiting the tomb of,” etc. but visiting the Prophet himself, who is said to have declared that “Ziyárah” (visitation) of his tomb was in religion the equivalent of a personal call upon himself.

4 Arab. “Nafakah”; for its conditions see Pigrimage iii. 224. I have again and again insisted upon the Anglo–Indian Government enforcing the regulations of the Faith upon pauper Hindi pilgrims who go to the Moslem Holy Land as beggars and die of hunger in the streets. To an “Empire of Opinion” this is an unmitigated evil (Pilgrimage iii. 256); and now, after some thirty-four years, there are signs that the suggestions of common sense are to be adopted. England has heard of the extraordinary recklessness and inconsequence of the British–Indian “fellow-subject.”

5 The Ka’abah of Meccah.

6 When Moslems apply “Nabí!” to Mohammed it is in the peculiar sense of “prophet” ({Greek letters})=one who speaks before the people, not one who predicts, as such foresight was adjured by the Apostle. Dr. A. Neubauer (The Athenæum No. 3031) finds the root of “Nabí!” in the Assyrian Nabu and Heb. Noob (occurring in Exod. vii. 1. “Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” i.e. orator, speaker before the people), and holds it to be a Canaanite term which supplanted “Roeh” (the Seer) e.g. 1 Samuel ix. 9. The learned Hebraist traces the cult of Nebo, a secondary deity in Assyria to Palestine and Phœnicia, Palmyra, Edessa (in the Nebok of Abgar) and Hierapolis in Syria or Mabug (Nabog?).

7 I cannot find “Dandán” even in Lib. Quintus de Aquaticis Animalibus of the learned Sam. Bochart’s “Hierozoïcon” (London, 1663) and must conjecture that as “Dandán” in Persian means a tooth (vol. ii. 83) the writer applied it to a sun-fish or some such well-fanged monster of the deep.

8 A favourite proverb with the Fellah, when he alludes to the Pasha and to himself.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-fifth Night,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah of the sea said to Abdullah of the Land, “And if a thousand or more of this kind hear an Adamite cry a single cry, forthright all die nor hath one of them power to remove from his place; so, whenever a son of Adam falleth into the sea, we take him and anoint him with this fat and go round about the depths with him, and whenever we see a Dandan or two or three or more, we bid him cry out and they all die forthright for his once crying.” Quoth the fisherman, “I put my trust in Allah;” and, doffing his clothes, buried them in a hole which he dug in the beach; after which he rubbed his body from head to heels which that ointment. Then he descended into the water and diving, opened his eyes and the brine did him no hurt. So he walked right and left, and if he would, he rose to the sea-face, and if he would, he sank to the base. And he beheld the water as it were a tent over his head; yet it wrought him no hurt. Then said the Merman to him, “What seest thou, O my brother?”; and said he, “O my brother, I see naught save weal1; and indeed thou spakest truth in that which thou saidst to me; for the water doth me no hurt.” Quoth the Merman, “Follow me.” So he followed him and they ceased not faring on from place to place, whilst Abdullah discovered before him and on his right and left mountains of water and solaced himself by gazing thereon and on the various sorts of fish, some great and some small, which disported themselves in the main. Some of them favoured buffaloes2 others oxen and others dogs and yet others human beings; but all to which they drew near fled, whenas they saw the fisherman, who said to the Merman, “O my brother, how is it that I see all the fish, to which we draw near, flee from us afar?” Said the other, “Because they fear thee, for all things that Allah hath made fear the son of Adam.3” The fisherman ceased not to divert himself with the marvels of the deep, till they came to a high mountain and fared on beside it. Suddenly, he heard a mighty loud cry and turning, saw some black thing, the bigness of a camel or bigger, coming down upon him from the liquid mountain and crying out. So he asked his friend, “What is this, O my brother?”; and the Merman answered, “This is the Dandan. He cometh in search of me, seeking to devour me; so cry out at him, O my brother, ere he reach us; else he will snatch me up and devour me.” Accordingly Abdullah cried out at the beast and behold, it fell down dead; which when he saw, he said, “Glorified be the perfection of God and His praise! I smote it not with the sword nor knife; how cometh it that, for all the vastness of the creature’s bulk, it could not bear my cry, but died?” Replied the Merman, “Marvel not, for, by Allah, O my brother, were there a thousand or two thousand of these creatures, yet could they not endure the cry of a son of Adam.” Then they walked on, till they made a city, whose inhabitants the fisherman saw to be all women, there being no male among them; so he said to his companion, “O my brother, what city is this and what are these women?” “This is the city of women; for its inhabitants are of the women of the sea.” “Are there any males among them?” “No!” “Then how do they conceive and bear young, without males?4” “The King of the sea banisheth them hither and they conceive not neither bear children. All the women of the sea, with whom he is wroth, he sendeth to this city, and they cannot leave it; for, should one of them come forth therefrom, any of the beasts of the sea that saw her would eat her. But in other cities of the main there are both males and females.” Thereupon asked the fisherman, “Are there then other cities than this in the sea?”; and the Merman answered, “There are many.” Quoth the fisherman, “And is there a Sultan over you in the sea?” “Yes,” quoth the Merman. Then said Abdullah “O my brother, I have indeed seen many marvels in the main!” But the Merman said, “And what hast thou seen of its marvels?5 Hast thou not heard the saying, ‘The marvels of the sea are more manifold than the marvels of the land?’” “True,” rejoined the fisherman and fell to gazing upon those women, whom he saw with faces like moons and hair like women’s hair, but their hands and feet were in their middle and they had tails like fishes’ tails. Now when the Merman had shown him the people of the city, he carried him forth therefrom and forewalked him to another city, which he found full of folk, both males and females, formed like the women aforesaid and having tails; but there was neither selling nor buying amongst them, as with the people of the land, nor were they clothed, but went all naked and with their same uncovered. Said Abdullah “O my brother, I see males and females alike with their shame exposed,6” and the other said, “This is because the folk of the sea have no clothes.” Asked the fisherman, “And how do they when they marry?” The Merman answered, “They do not marry; but every one who taketh a liking to a female doth his will of her.” Quoth Abdullah, “This is unlawful! Why doth he not ask her in marriage and dower her and make her a wedding festival and marry her, in accordance with that which is pleasing to Allah and His Apostle?”; and quoth the other, “We are not all of one religion: some of us are Moslems, believers in The Unity, others Nazarenes and what not else; and each marrieth in accordance with the ordinances of his creed; but those of us who marry are mostly Moslems.” The fisherman continued, “Ye are naked and have neither buying nor selling among you: of what then is your wives’ dowry? Do ye give them jewels and precious stones?” The Merman rejoined, “Gems with us are only stones without worth: but upon the Moslem who is minded to marry they impose a dowry of a certain number of fishes of various kinds that he must catch, a thousand or two thousand, more or less, according to the agreement between himself and the bride’s father. As soon as he bringeth the amount required, the families of the bride and bridegroom assemble and eat the marriage-banquet; after which they bring him in to his bride, and he catcheth fish and feedeth her; or, if he be unable, she catcheth fish and feedeth him.” Enquired the fisherman, “And how if a woman commit adultery?”; and the other replied, “If a woman be convicted of this case, they banish her to the City of Women; and if she be with child by her gallant, they leave her till she be delivered; then, if she give birth to a girl, they banish her with her, calling her adulteress, daughter of adulteress, and she abideth a maid till she die; but, if the woman give birth to a male child, they carry it to the Sultan of the Sea, who putteth it to death.” Abdullah marvelled at this and the Merman carried him to another city and thence to another and yet another, till he had diverted him with the sight of eighty cities, and he saw the people of each city unlike those of every other. Then said he to the Merman, “O my brother, are there yet other cities in the main?”; whereto said the other, “And what hast thou seen of the cities of the sea and its wondrous spectacles? By the virtue of the noble Prophet, the benign, the compassionate, were I to show thee every day a thousand cities for a thousand years, and in each city a thousand marvels, I should not have shown thee one carat of the four-and-twenty carats of the cities of the sea and its miracles! I have but shown thee our own province and country, nothing more.” The fisherman thus resumed, “O my brother, since this is the case, what I have seen sufficeth me, for I am a-weary of eating fish, and these fourscore days I have been in thy company, thou hast fed me, morning and night, upon nothing but raw fish, neither broiled nor boiled.” “And what is broiled or boiled?” “We broil fish with fire and boil it in water and dress it in various ways and make many dishes of it.” “And how should we come by fire in the sea? We know not broiled nor boiled nor aught else of the kind.” “We also fry it in olive-oil and oil of sesame.7” How should be come by olive-oil and oil of sesame in the sea? Verily we know nothing of that thou namest.” “True, but O my brother, thou hast shown me many cities; yet hast thou not shown me thine own city.” “As for mine own city, we passed it a long way, for it is near the land whence we came, and I left it and came with thee hither, thinking only to divert thee with the sight of the greater cities of the sea.” “That which I have seen of them sufficeth me; and now I would have thee show me thine own city.” “So be it,” answered Abdullah of the Sea; and, returning on his traces, carried him back thither and said to him, “This is my city.” Abdullah of the Land looked and saw a city small by comparison with those he had seen; then he entered with his comrade of the deep and they fared on till they came to a cave. Quoth the Merman, “This is my house and all the houses in the city are like this, caverns great and small in the mountains; as are also those of every other city of the sea. For whoso is minded to make him a house must repair to the King and say to him, ‘I wish to make me a house in such a place.’ Whereupon the King sends with him a band of the fish called ‘Peckers,’8 which have beaks that crumble the hardest rock, appointing for their wage a certain quantum of fish. They betake themselves to the mountain chosen by the intended owner and therein pierce the house, whilst the owner catcheth fish for them and feedeth them, till the cave is finished, when they wend their ways and the house-owner taketh up his abode therein. On such wise do all the people of the sea; they traffic not one with other nor serve each other save by means of fish; and their food is fish and they themselves are a kind of fish.9” Then he said to him, “Enter!” So Abdullah entered and the Merman cried out, saying, “Ho, daughter mine!” when behold, there came to him a damsel with a face like the rondure of the moon and hair long, hips heavy, eyes black-edged and waist slender; but she was naked and had a tail. When she saw Abdullah of the Land she said to her sire, “O my father, what is this No-tail10 thou hast brought with thee?” He replied, “O my daughter this is my friend of the land, from whom I used to bring thee the fruits of the ground. Come hither and salute him with the salam.” So she came forward and saluted the fisherman with loquent tongue and eloquent speech; and her father said to her, “Bring meat for our guest, by whose visit a blessing hath betided us:11” whereupon she brought him two great fishes, each the bigness of a lamb, and the Merman said to him, “Eat.” So he ate for stress of hunger, despite himself; because he was tired of eating fish and they had naught else save fish. Before long, in came the Merman’s wife, who was beautiful of form and favour and with her two children, each having in his hand a young fish, which he craunched as a man would craunch a cucumber. When she saw the fisherman with her husband, she said, “What is this No-tail?” And she and her sons and their sister came up to him and fell to examining the back parts of Abdullah of the Land, and saying, “Yea, by Allah, he is tailless!”; and they laughed at him. So he said to the Merman, “O my brother, hast thou brought me hither to make me a butt and a laughing-stock for thy children and thy consort?”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 An euphemistic answer, unbernfen as the Germans say.

2 It is a temptation to derive this word from bœuf à l’eau, but I fear that the theory will not hold water. The “buffaloes” of Alexandria laughted it to scorn.

3 Here the writer’s zoological knowledge is at fault. Animals, which never or very rarely see man, have no fear of him whatever. This is well-known to those who visit the Gull-fairs at Ascension Island, Santos and many other isolated rocks; the hen birds will peck at the intruder’s ankles but they do not rise from off their eggs. For details concerning the “Gull-fair” of the Summer Islands consult p. 4 “The History of the Bermudas,” edited by Sir J. H. Lefroy for the Hakluyt Society, 1882. I have seen birds on Fernando Po peak quietly await a second shot; and herds of antelopes, the most timed of animals, in the plains of Somali-land only stared but were not startled by the report of the gun. But Arabs are not the only moralists who write zoological nonsense: witness the notable verse,

“Birds in their little nests agree,”

when the feathered tribes are the most pugnacious of breathing beings.

4 Lane finds these details “silly and tiresome or otherwise objectionable,” and omits them.

5 Meaning, “Thou hast as yet seen little or nothing.” In most Eastern tongues a question often expresses an emphatic assertion. See vol. i. 37.

6 Easterns wear as a rule little clothing but it suffices for the essential purposes of decency and travellers will live amongst them for years without once seeing an accidental “exposure of the person.” In some cases, as with the Nubian thong-apron, this demand of modesty requires not a little practice of the muscles; and we all know the difference in a Scotch kilt worn by a Highlander and a cockney sportsman.

7 Arab. “Shíraj”=oil extracted from rape seed but especially from sesame. The Persians pronounce it “Síraj” (apparently unaware that it is their own word “Shírah”=juice in Arabic garb) and have coined a participle “Musayrij” e.g., Bú-i-musayrij, taint of sesame-oil applied especially to the Jews who very wisely prefer, in Persia and elsewhere, oil which is wholesome to butter which is not. The Moslems, however, declare that its immoderate use in cooking taints the exudations of the skin.

8 Arab. “Nakkárún” probably congeners of the redoubtable “Dandán.”

9 Bresl. Edit. xi. 78. The Mac. says “They are all fish” (Kullu-hum) and the Bul. “Their food (aklu-hum) is fish.”

10 Arab. “Az’ar,” usually=having thin hair. The general term for tailless is “abtar.” See Koran cviii. 3, when it means childless.

11 A common formula of politeness.

plate49
There came to him a damsel with a face like the rondure of the moon and hair long, hips heavy, eyes black-edged and waist slender; but she was naked and had a tail. . . . In came the Merman’s wife, who was beautiful of form and favour, and with her two children

When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-sixth Night,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah of the Land said to Abdullah of the sea, “O my brother, hast thou brought me hither to make me a butt and a laughing-stock for thy children and thy consort?” Cried the Merman, “Pardon, O my brother! Those who have no tails are rare among us, and whenever one such is found, the Sultan taketh him, to make fun of him, and he abideth a marvel amongst us, and all who see him laugh at him. But, O my brother, excuse these young children and this woman, for they lack wits.” Then he cried out to his family, saying, “Silence!”; so they were afraid and held their peace; whilst he went on to soothe Abdullah’s mind. Presently, as they were talking, behold, in came some ten Merman, tall and strong and stout, and said to him, “O Abdullah, it hath reached the King that thou hast with thee a No-tail of the No-tails of the earth.” Answered the Merman, “Yes; and this is he; but he is not of us nor of the children of the sea. He is my friend of the land and hath come to me as a guest and I purpose to carry him back to the land.” Quoth they, “We cannot depart but with him; so, an thou have aught to say, arise and come with him before the King; and whatso thou wouldst say to us, say thou that same to the King.” Then quoth the Merman to the fisherman, “O my brother, my excuse is manifest, and we may not disobey the King: but go thou with me to him and I will do my best to deliver thee from him, Inshallah! Fear not, for he deemeth thee of the children of the sea; but, when he seeth thee, he will know thee to be of the children of the land, and he will surely entreat thee honourably and restore thee to the land.” And Abdullah of the Land replied, “’Tis thine to decide, I will trust in Allah and wend with thee.” So he took him and carried him to the King, who, when he saw him, laughed at him and said, “Welcome to the No-tail!” And all who were about the King began to laugh at him and say, “Yea, by Allah, he is tailless!” Then Abdullah of the Sea came forward and acquainted the King with the fisherman’s case, saying, “This man is of the children of the land and he is my comrade and cannot live amongst us, for that he loveth not the eating of fish, except it be fried or boiled; wherefore I desire that thou give me leave to restore him to the land.” Whereto the King replied, “Since the case is so, and he cannot live among us, I give thee leave to restore him to his place, after due entertainment,” presently adding, “Bring him the guest-meal.” So they brought him fish of various kinds and colours and he ate, in obedience to the royal behest; after which the King said to him, “Ask a boon of me.” Quoth he, “I ask of thee that thou give me jewels;” and the King said, “Carry him to the jewel-house and let him choose that whereof he hath need.” So his friend carried him to the jewel-house and he picked out whatso he would, after which the Merman brought him back to his own city and pulling out a purse, said to him, “Take this deposit and lay it on the tomb of the Prophet, whom Allah save and assain!” And he took it, knowing not what was therein. Then the Merman went forth with him, to bring him back to land, and by the way he heard singing and merrymaking and saw a table spread with fish and folk eating and singing and holding mighty high festival. So Abdullah of the Land said to his friend, “What aileth these people to rejoice thus? Is there a wedding among them?” Replied Abdullah of the Sea, “Nay; one of them is dead.” Asked the fisherman, “Then do ye, when one dieth amongst you, rejoice for him and sing and feast?”; and the Merman answered, “Yes: and ye of the land, what do ye?” Quoth Abdullah of the Land, “When one dieth amongst us, we weep and keen for him and the women beat their faces and rend the bosoms of their raiment, in token of mourning for the dead.” But Abdullah the Merman stared at him with wide eyes and said to him, “Give me the deposit!” So he gave it to him. Then he set him ashore and said to him, “I have broken off our companionship and our amity; wherefore from this day forward thou shalt no more see me, nor I see thee.” Cried the fisherman, “Why sayst thou this?”; and the other said, “Are ye not, O folk of the land, a deposit of Allah?” “Yes.” “Why then,” asked the Merman, “is it grievous to you that Allah should take back His deposit and wherefore weep ye over it? How can I entrust thee with a deposit for the Prophet (whom Allah save and assain!), seeing that, when a child is born to you, ye rejoice in it, albeit the Almighty setteth the soul therein as a deposit; and yet, when he taketh it again, it is grievous to you and ye weep and mourn? Since it is hard for thee to give up the deposit of Allah, how shall it be easy to thee to give up the deposit of the Prophet?1 Wherefore we need not your companionship.” Saying thus he left him and disappeared in the sea. Thereupon Abdullah of the Land donned his dress and taking the jewels, went up to the King, who met him lovingly and rejoiced at his return saying, “How dost thou, O my son-in-law, and what is the cause of thine absence from me this while?” So he told him his tale and acquainted him with that which he had seen of marvels in the sea, whereat the King wondered. Then he told him what Abdullah the Merman had said2; and the King replied, “Indeed ’twas thou wast at fault to tell him this.” Nevertheless, he continued for some time to go down to the shore and call upon Abdullah of the Sea, but he answered him not nor came to him; so, at last, he gave up all hope of him and abode, he and the King his father-in-law and the families of them both in the happiest of case and the practice of righteous ways, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Severer of societies and they died all. Wherefore glory be to the Living, who dieth not, whose is the empire of the Seen and the Unseen, who over all things is Omnnipotent and is gracious to His servants and knowth their every intent! And amongst the tales they tell is one anent

1 Bresl. Edit. xi. 82; meaning, “You will probably keep it for yourself.” Abdullah of the Sea is perfectly logical; but grief is not. We weep over the deaths of friends mostly for our own sake: theoretically we should rejoice that they are at rest; but practically we are afflicted by the thought that we shall never again see their pleasant faces.

2 i.e. about rejoicing over the newborns and mourning over the dead.

Harun Al-Rashid and Abu Hasan, the Merchant of Oman.

The Caliph Harun al-Rashid was one night wakeful exceedingly; so he called Masrur and said to him as soon as he came, “Fetch me Ja’afar in haste.” Accordingly, he went out and returned with the Wazir, to whom said the Caliph, “O Ja’afar wakefulness hath mastered me this night and forbiddeth sleep from me, nor wot I what shall drive it away from me.” Replied Ja’afar, “O Commander of the Faithful, the wise say, ‘Looking on a mirror, entering the Hamman-bath and hearkening unto song banish care and chagrin.’” He rejoined, “O Ja’afar I have done all this, but it hath brought me naught of relief, and I swear by my pious forbears unless thou contrive that which shall abate from me this insomny, I will smite thy neck.” Quoth Ja’afar, “O Commander of the Faithful, wilt thou do that which I shall counsel thee?” whereupon quoth the Caliph, “And what is that thou counselleth?” He replied, “It is that thou take boat with us and drop down Tigris River with the tide to a place called Karn al-Sirat, so haply we may hear what we never heard or see what we never saw, for ’tis said, ‘The solace of care is in one of three things; that a man see what he never before saw or hear what he never yet heard or tread an earth he erst hath never trodden.’ It may be this shall be the means of remedying thy restlessness, O Commander of the Faithful, Inshallah! There, on either side of the river, are windows and balconies one facing other, and it may be we shall hear or see from one of these somewhat wherewith our hearts may be heartened.” Ja’afar’s counsel pleased the Caliph, so he rose from his place and taking with him the Wazir and his brother Al–Fazl and Isaac1 the boon-companion and Abu Nowas and Abu Dalaf2 and Masrur the Sworder — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 i.e. Ishak of Mosul, for whom see vol. iv. 119. The Bresl. Edit. has Fazíl for Fazl.

2 Abu Dalaf al-Ijili, a well-known soldier equally famed for liberality and culture.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph arose from his seat with Ja’afar and the rest of the party, all entered the wardrobe, where they donned merchant’s gear. Then they went down to the Tigris and embarking in a gilded boat, dropped down with the stream, till they came to the place they sought, when they heard the voice of a damsel singing to the lute and chanting these couplets,

“To him when the wine cup is near I declare,

While in coppice loud shrilleth and trilleth Hazár,

‘How long this repining from joys and delight?

Wake up for this life is a borrowed ware!’

Take the cup from the hand of the friend who is dear

With languishing eye-lids and languorous air.

I sowed on his cheek a fresh rose, which amid

His side-locks the fruit of granado-tree bare.

Thou wouldst deem that the place where he tare his fair cheek1

Were ashes, while cheeks hues incendiary wear.

Quoth the blamer, ‘Forget him! But where’s my excuse

When his side-face is growing the downiest hair?2’”

When the Caliph heard this, he said, “O Ja’afar, how goodly is that voice!”; and the Wazir replied, “O our lord, never smote my hearing aught sweeter or goodlier than this singing! But, good my lord, hearing from behind a wall is only half hearing; how would it be an we heard it from behind a curtain?” Quoth the Caliph, “Come, O Ja’afar, let us play the parasites with the master of this house; and haply we shall look upon the songstress, face to face;” and quoth Ja’afar, “I hear and I obey.” So they landed and sought admittance; when behold, there came out to them a young man, fair of favour, sweet of speech and fluent of tongue, who said to them, “Well come and welcome, O lords that honour me with your presence! Enter in all comfort and convenience!” So they went in (and he with them) to a saloon with four faces, whose ceiling was decorated with gold and its walls adorned with ultramarine.3 At its upper end was a dais, whereon stood a goodly row of seats4 and thereon sat an hundred damsels like moons. The house-master cried out to them and they came down from their seats. Then he turned to Ja’afar and said to him, “O my lord, I know not the honourable of you from the more honourable: Bismillah! deign he that is highest in rank among you favour me by taking the head of the room, and let his brethren sit each in his several stead.” So they sat down, each according to his degree, whilst Masrur abode standing before them in their service; and the host asked them, “O my guests, with your leave, shall I set somewhat of food before you?” and they answered, “Yes.” Hearing this he bade his handmaids bring food, whereupon four damsels with girded waists placed in front of them a table, whereon were rare meats of that which flieth and walketh earth and swimmeth seas, sand-grouse and quails and chickens and pigeons; and written on the raised edge of the tray were verses such as sorted with the entertainment. So they ate till they had enough and washed their hands, after which said the young man, “O my lords, if you have any want, let us know it, that we may have the honour of satisfying it.” They replied, “’Tis well: we came not to thy dwelling save for the sake of a voice we heard from behind the wall of thy house, and we would fain hear it again and know her to whom it belongeth. So, an thou deem right to vouchsafe us this favour, it will be of the generosity of thy nature, and after we will return whence we came.” Quoth the host, “Ye are welcome;” and, turning to a black slave-girl, said to her, “Fetch me thy mistress such an one.” So she went away and returning with a chair of chinaware, cushioned with brocade, set it down: then withdrew again and presently returned with a damsel, as she were the moon on the night of its full, who sat down on the chair. Then the black girl gave her a bag of satin wherefrom she brought out a lute, inlaid with gems and jacinths and furnished with pegs of gold. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Takhmísh,” alluding to the familiar practice of tearing face and hair in grief for a loss, a death, etc.

2 i.e. When he is in the very prime of life and able to administer fiers coups de canif.

“For ladies e’en of most uneasy virtue

Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty.”

Don Juan 1. 62.

3 Arab. “Lázuward”: see vol. iii. 33.

4 Arab. “Sidillah.” The Bresl. Edit. (v. 99), has, “a couch of ivory and ebony, whereon was that which befitted it of mattresses and cushions and on it five damsels.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/part97.html

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