The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

Tale of the Two Kings and the Wazir’s Daughters447

I overtravelled whileome lands and climes and towns and visited the cities of high renown and traversed the ways of dangers and hardships. Towards the last of my life, I entered a city of the cities of China,448 wherein was a king of the Chosroës and the Tobbas449 and the CFsars.450 Now that city had been peopled with its inhabitants by means of justice and equity; but its then king was a tyrant dire who despoiled lives and souls at his desire; in fine, there was no warming oneself at his fire, 451 for that indeed he oppressed the believing band and wasted the eland. Now he had a younger brother, who was king in Sarmarkand of the Persians, and the two kings sojourned a while of time, each in his own city and stead, till they yearned unto each other and the elder king despatched his Wazir to fetch his younger brother. When the Minister came to the King of Samarkand and acquainted him with his errand, he submitted himself to the bidding of his brother and answered, “To hear is to obey.” Then he equipped himself and made ready for wayfare and brought forth his tents and pavilions. A while after midnight, he went in to his wife, that he might farewell her, and found her with a strange man, lying by her in one bed. So he slew them both and dragging them out by the feet, cast them away and set forth on his march. When he came to his brother’s court, the elder king rejoiced in him with joy exceeding and lodged him in the pavilion of hospitality beside his own palace. Now this pavilion overlooked a flower-garden belonging to the elder brother and there the younger abode with him some days. Then he called to mind that which his wife had done with him and remembered her slaughter and bethought him how he was a king, yet was not exempt from the shifts of Time; and affected him with exceeding affect, so that it drave him to abstain from meat and drink, or, if he ate anything, it profited him naught. When his brother saw him on such wise, he deemed that this had betided him by reason of severance from his folk and family, and said to him, “Come, let us fare forth a-coursing and a-hunting.” But he refused to go with him; so the elder brother went to the chase, while the younger abode in the pavilion aforesaid. Now, as he was diverting himself by looking out upon the flower-garden from the latticed window of the palace, behold, he saw his brother’s wife and with her ten black slaves and ten slave-girls. Each slave laid hold of a damsel and another slave came forth and did the like with the queen; and when they had their wills one of other they all returned whence they came. Hereat there betided the King of Samarkand exceeding surprise and solace and he was made whole of his malady, little by little. After a few days, his brother returned, and finding him cured of his complaint, said to him, “Tell me, O my brother, what was the cause of thy sickness and thy pallor, and what is the reason of the return of health to thee and of rosiness to thy face after this?” So he acquainted him with the whole case and this was grievous to him; but they hid their affair and agreed to leave the kingship and fare forth a-pilgrimaging and adventuring at hap-hazard, for they deemed that there had befallen none the like of what had befallen them. Accordingly, they went forth and as they journeyed, they saw by the way a woman imprisoned in seven chests, whereon were five padlocks, and sunken deep in the midst of the salt sea, under the guardianship of an Ifrit; yet for all this that woman issued out of the ocean and opened those padlocks and coming forth of those chests, did what she would with the two brothers, after she had practised upon the Ifrit. When the two kings saw that woman’s fashion and how she circumvented the Ifrit, who had lodged her in the abyss of the main, they turned back to their kingdoms and the younger betook himself to Samarkand, whilst the elder returned to China and contrived for himself a custom in the slaughter of damsels, which was, his Wazir used to bring him every night a girl, with whom he lay that night, and when he arose in the morning, he gave her to the Minister and bade him do her die. After this fashion he abode a long time, and the commons cried out by reason of that grievous affair into which they were fallen and feared the wrath of Allah Almighty, dreading lest He destroy them by means of this. still the king persisted in that practice and in his blameworthy intent of the killing of damsels and the despoilment of maidens concealed by veils,452 wherefore the girls sought succor of the Lord of All-might, and complained to Him of the tyranny of the eking and of his oppression. Now the king’s Wazir had two daughters, sisters german, the elder of whom had read the books and made herself mistress of the sciences and studied the writings of the sages and the stories of the cup-companions,453 and she was a maiden of abundant lore and knowledge galore and wit than which naught can be more. She heard that which the folk suffered from that king in his misuage of their children; whereupon ruth for them gat hold of her and jealousy and she besought Allah Almighty that He would bring the king to renounce that his new accursed custom,454 and the Lord answered her prayer. Then she consulted her younger sister and said to her, “I mean to devise a device for freeing the children of folk; to wit, I will go up to the king and offer myself to marry him, and when I come to his presence, I will send to fetch thee. When thou comest in to me and the king had his carnal will of me, do thou say to me, ‘O my sister, let me hear a story of thy goodly stories, wherewith we may beguile the waking hours of our night, till the dawn, when we take leave of each other; and let the king hear it likewise!’” The other replied, “’Tis well; forsure this contrivance will deter the king from this innovation he practiseth and thou shalt be requited with favour exceeding and recompense abounding in the world to come, for that indeed thou perilest thy life and wilt either perish or win to thy wish.” So she did this and Fortune favoured her and the Divine direction was vouchsafed to her and she discovered her design to her sire, the Wazir, who thereupon forbade her, fearing her slaughter. However, she repeated her words to him a second time and a third, but he consented not. Then he cited to her a parable, which should deter her, and she cited to him a parable of import contrary to his, and the debate was prolonged between them and the adducing of instances, till her father saw that he was powerless to turn her from her purpose and she said to him, “There is no help but that I marry the King, so haply I may be a sacrifice for the children of the Moslems: either I shall turn him from this his heresy or I shall die.” When the Minister despaired of dissuading her, he went up to the king and acquainted him with the case, saying, “I have a maiden daughter and she desireth to give herself in free gift to the King.” Quoth the King, “How can thy soul consent to this, seeing that thou knowest I abide but a single night with a girl and when I arise on the morrow, I do her dead, and ’tis thou who slayest her, and again and again thou hast done this?” Quoth the Wazir, “Know, O king, that I have set forth all this to her, yet consented she not to aught, but needs must she have thy company and she chooseth to come to thee and present herself before thee, albeit I have cited to her the sayings of the sages; but she hath answered me with more than that which I said to her and contrariwise.” Then quoth the king, “Suffer her visit me this night and to-morrow morning come thou and take her and kill her; and by Allah, an thou slay her not, I will slay thee and her also!” the Minister obeyed the king’s bidding and going out from the presence returned home. When it was night, he took his elder daughter and carried her up to the king; and when she came before him she wept;455 whereupon he asked her, “What causeth thee to weep? Indeed, ’twas thou who willedst this.” She answered, “I weep not but of longing after my little sister; for that, since we grew up, I and she, I have never been parted from her till this day; so, an it please the King to send for her, that I may look on her, and listen to her speech and take my fill of her till the morning, this were a boon and an act of kindness of the King.” So he bade fetch the damsel and she came. Then there befel that which befel of his union with the elder sister,456 and when he went up to his couch, that he might sleep, the younger sister said to her elder, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be not asleep, tell us a tale of thy goodly tales, wherewith me may beguile the watches of our night, ere day dawn and parting.” Said she, “With love and gladness;” and fell to relating to her, whilst the king listened. Her story was goodly and delectable, and whilst she was in the middle of telling it, the dawn brake. Now the king’s heart clave to the hearing of the rest of the story; so he respited her till the morrow; and, when it was the next night, she told him a tale concerning the marvels of the land and the wonders of Allah’s creatures which was yet stranger and rarer than the first. In the midst of the recital, appeared the day and she was silent from the permitted say. So he let her live till the following night, that he might hear the end of the history and after that slay her. On this wise it fortuned with her; but as regards the people of the city, they rejoiced and were glad and blessed the Wazir’s daughters, marvelling for that three days had passed and that the king had not put his bride to death and exulting in that he had returned to the ways of righteousness and would never again burthen himself with blood-guilt against any of the maidens of the city. Then, on the fourth night, she related to him a still more extraordinary adventure, and on the fifth night she told him anecdotes of Kings and Wazirs and Notables. Brief, she ceased not to entertain him many days and nights, while the king said to himself, “Whenas I shall have heard the end of the tale, I will do her die,” and the people redoubled their marvel and admiration. Also, the folk of the circuits and cities heard of this thing, to wit, that the king had turned from his custom and from that which he had imposed upon himself and had renounced his heresy, wherefor they rejoiced and the lieges returned to the capital and took up there abode therein, after they had departed thence; and they were constant in prayer to Allah Almighty that He would stablish the king in his present stead.” “And this, said Shahrazad, “is the end of that which my friend related to me.” Quoth Shahryar,457 “O Shahrazad, finish for us the tale thy friend told thee, inasmuch as it resembleth the story of a King whom I knew; but fain would I hear that which betided the people of this city and what they said of the affair of the King, so I may return from the case wherein I was.” She replied, “With love and gladness!” Know, O auspicious king and lord of right rede and praiseworthy meed and prowest of deed, that, when the folk heard how the king had put away from him his malpractice and returned from his unrighteous wont, they rejoiced in this with joy exceeding and offered up prayers for him. Then they talked one with other of the cause of the slaughter of the maidens, and the wise said, “Women are not all alike, nor are the fingers of the hand alike.” Now when King Shahryar heard this story he came to himself and awakening from his drunkenness,458 said, “By Allah, this story is my story and this case is my case, for that indeed I was in reprobation and danger of judgment till thou turnedst me back from this into the right way, extolled be the Causer of causes and the Liberator of necks!” presently adding, “Indeed, O Shahrazad, thou hast awakened me to many things and hast aroused me from mine ignorance of the right.” Then said she to him, “O chief of the kings, the wise say, ‘The kingship is a building, whereof the troops are the base, and when the foundation is strong, the building endureth;’ wherefore it behoveth the king to strengthen the foundation, for that they say, ‘Whenas the base is weak, the building falleth.’ In like fashion it befitteth the king to care for his troops and do justice among his lieges, even as the owner of the garden careth for his trees and cutteth away the weeds that have no profit in them; and so it befitteth the king to look into the affairs of his Ryots and fend off oppression from them. As for thee, O king, it behoveth thee that thy Wazir be virtuous and experienced in the requirements of the people and the peasantry; and indeed Allah the Most High hath named his name459 in the history of Musa (on whom be the Peace!) when he saith, ‘And make me a Wazir of my people, Aaron.’ Now could a Wazir have been dispensed withal, Moses son of Imran had been worthier than any to do without a Minister. As for the Wazir, the Sultan discovereth unto him his affairs, private and public; and know, O king, that the likeness of thee with the people is that of the leach with the sick man; and the essential condition of the Minister is that he be soothfast in his sayings, reliable in all his relations, rich in ruth for the folk and in tenderness of transacting with them. Verily, it is said, “O king, that good troops be like the druggist; if his perfumes reach thee not, thou still smellest the fragrance of them; and bad entourage be like the blacksmith; if his sparks burn thee not, thou smellest his evil smell. So it befitteth thee to take to thyself a virtuous Wazir, a veracious counsellor, even as thou takest unto thee a wife displayed before thy face, because thou needest the man’s righteousness for thine own right directing, seeing that, if thou do righteously, the commons will do right, and if thou do wrongously, they will also do wrong.” When the King heard this, drowsiness overcame him and he slept and presently awaking, called for the candles; so they were lighted and he sat down on his couch and seating Shahrazad by him, smiled in her face. She kissed the ground before him and said, “O king of the age and lord of the time and the years, extolled be the Forgiving, the Bountiful, who hath sent me to thee, of His grace and good favour, so I have incited thee to longing after Paradise; for verily this which thou wast wont do was never done of any of the kings before thee. then laud be to the Lord who hath directed thee into the right way, and who from the paths of frowardness hath diverted thee! as for women, Allah Almighty maketh mention of them also when He saith in His Holy Book, ‘Truly, the men who resign themselves to Allah460 and the women who resign themselves, and the true-believing men and the true-believing women and the devout men and the devout women and truthful men and truthful women, and long-suffering men and long-suffering women, and the humble men and the humble women, and charitable men and charitable women, and the men who fast and the women who fast, and men who guard their privities and women who guard their privities, and men who are constantly mindful of Allah and women who are constantly mindful, for them Allah hath prepared forgiveness and a rich reward.’461 as for that which hath befallen thee, verily, it hath befallen many kings before thee and their women have falsed them, for all they were more majestical of puissance than thou, and mightier of kingship and had troops more manifold. If I would, I could relate to thee, O king, concerning the wiles of women, that whereof I should not make an end all my life long; and indeed, in all these my nights that I have passed before thee, I have told thee many tales of the wheedling of women and of their craft; but soothly the things abound on me;462 so, an thou please, O king, I will relate to thee somewhat of that which befel olden kings of perfidy from their women and of the calamities which overtook them by reason of these deceivers."” Asked the king, “How so? Tell on;” and she answered, “Hearkening and obedience. It hath been told me, O king, that a man once related to a company the following tale:”

447 Bresl. Edit., vol. xii. Pp. 384-412.

448 This clause is taken from the sequence, where the older brother’s kingdom is placed in China.

449 For the Tobbas = “Successors” or the Himyaritic kings, see vol. i. 216.

450 Kayásirah, opp. to Akásirah, here and in many other places.

451 See vol. ii. 77. King Kulayb (“little dog”) al-Wá’il, a powerful chief of the Banu Ma’ad in the Kasín district of Najd, who was connected with the war of Al-Basús. He is so called because he lamed a pup (kulayb) and tied it up in the midst of his Himá (domain, place of pasture and water), forbidding men to camp within sound of its bark or sight of his fire. Hence “more masterful than Kulayb,” A.P. ii. 145, and Al-Hariri Ass. Xxvi. (Chenery, p. 448). This angry person came by his death for wounding in the udder a trespassing camel (Sorab) whose owner was a woman named Basús. Her friend (Jasús) slew him; and thus arose the famous long war between the tribes Wá’il Bakr and Taghlib. It gave origin to the saying, “Die thou and be an expiation for the shoe-latchet of Kulayb.”

452 Arab. “Mukhaddarát,” maidens concealed behind curtains and veiled in the Harem.

453 i.e. the professional Ráwis or tale-reciters who learned stories by heart from books like “The Arabian Nights.” See my Terminal Essay, vol. x. 144.

454 Arab. “Bid’ah,” lit. = an innovation, a new thing, an invention, any change from the custom of the Prophet and the universal practice of the Faith, where it be in the cut of the beard or a question of state policy. Popularly the word = heterodoxy, heresy; but theologically it is not necessarily used in a bad sense. See vol. v. 167.

455 About three parts of this sentence have been supplied by Mr. Payne, the careless scribe having evidently omitted it.

456 Here, as in the Introduction (vol. i. 24), the king consummates his marriage in presence of his virgin sister-in-law, a process which decency forbids amongst Moslems.

457 Al-Mas’udi (vol. iv. 213) uses this term to signify viceroy in “Shahryár Sajastán.”

458 i.e. his indifference to the principles of right and wrong, which is a manner of moral intoxication.

459 i.e. hath mentioned the office of Wazir (in Koran xx. 30).

460 i.e. Moslems, who practice the Religion of Resignation.

461 Koran xxxiii. 35. This is a proemium to the “revelation” concerning Zayd and Zaynab.

462 i.e. I have an embarras de richesse in my repertory.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/v12.6.html

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