The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Whorish Wife who Vaunted her Virtue.

It is related that once upon a time there was a man which was an astronomer396 and he had a wife who was singular in beauty and loveliness. Now she was ever and aye boasting and saying to him “O man, there is not amongst womankind my peer in nobility397 and chastity;” and as often as she repeated this saying to him he would give credit to her words and cry, “Walláhi, no man hath a wife like unto the lady my wife for high caste and continence!” Now he was ever singing her praises in every assembly; but one day of the days as he was sitting in a séance of the great, who all were saying their says anent womankind and feminine deeds and misdeeds, the man rose up and exclaimed, “Amongst women there is none like my wife, for that she is pure of blood and behaviour;” hereat one of those present said to him, “Thou liest, O certain person!”— And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased saying her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet and tasteful is thy tale, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

396 “Sáhib al-Hayát:” this may also=a physiognomist, which, however, is probably not meant here.

397 In text “Harárah”=heat, but here derived from “Hurr”=freeborn, noble.

The Seven Hundred and Fifty-fourth Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that while the man was singing the praises of his spouse one of those present rose and said to him, “Walláhi, thou liest, O certain person!” “Wherein do I lie?” quoth he, and quoth the other, “I will teach thee and show thee manifestly whether thy wife be a lady or a whore. Do thou rise up from amongst us and hie thee home and go thou in to her and say, ‘O woman, I am intent upon travelling to a certain place and being absent for a matter of four days and after will return; so do thou arise, O woman, and bring me some bread and a mould of cheese by way of viaticum.’ Then go thou forth from beside her and disappear for a while; and presently returning home hide thee in a private place without uttering a word.” Cried those present, “By Allah, indeed these words may not be blamed.” Accordingly, the man went forth from them and fared till he entered his house where he said, “O woman, bring me something of provision for a journey: my design is to travel and to be absent for a space of four days or haply six.” Cried the wife, “O my lord, thou art about to desolate me nor can I on any wise bear parting from thee; and if thou needs must journey do thou take me with thee.” Now when the man heard these the words of his wife he said to himself, “By Allah, there cannot be the fellow of my spouse amongst the sum of womankind,” presently adding to her, “I shall be away from four to six days but do thou keep watch and ward upon thyself and open not my door to anyone at all.” Quoth she, “O Man, how canst thou quit me?398 and indeed I cannot suffer such separation.” Quoth he, “I shall not long be separated from thee;” and so saying he fared forth from her and disappeared for the space of an hour, after which he returned home softly walking and hid himself in a place where none could see him. Now after the space of two hours behold, a Costermonger399 came into the house and she met him and salam’d to him and said, “What hast thou brought for me?” “Two lengths of sugar-cane,” said he, and said she, “Set them down in a corner of the room.” Then he asked her, “Whither is thy husband gone?” and she answered, “On a journey: may Allah never bring him back nor write his name among the saved and our Lord deliver me from him as soon as possible!” After this she embraced him and he embraced her and she kissed him and he kissed her and enjoyed her favours till such time as he had his will of her; after which he went his ways. When an hour had passed a Poulterer400 came to the house, whereupon she arose and salam’d to him and said, “What hast thou brought me?” He answered, “A pair of pigeon-poults;” so she cried, “Place them under yon vessel.”401 Then the man went up to the woman and he embraced her and she embraced him and he tumbled402 her and she tumbled him; after which he had his will of her and presently he went off about his own business. When two hours or so had gone by there came to her another man which was a Gardener;403 so she arose and met him with a meeting still fairer than the first two and asked him, “What hast thou brought with thee?” “A somewhat of pomegranates,” answered he; so she took them from him and led him to a secret place where she left him and changed her dress and adorned herself and perfumed herself and Kohl’d404 her eyes. After that she returned to the pomegranate-man and fell a-toying with him and he toyed with her and she hugged him and he hugged her and at last he rogered and had his wicked will of her and went his ways. Hereupon the woman doffed her sumptuous dress and garbed herself in her everyday garment. All this and the husband was looking on through the chinks of the door behind which he was lurking and listening to whatso befel, and when all was ended he went forth softly and waited awhile and anon returned home. Hereupon the wife arose and her glance falling upon her husband she noted him and accosted him and salam’d to him and said, “Hast thou not been absent at all?” Said he, “O Woman, there befel me a tale on the way which may not be written on any wise, save with foul water upon disks of dung,405 and indeed I have endured sore toil and travail, and had not Allah (be He praised and exalted!) saved me therefrom, I had never returned.” Quoth his wife, “What hath befallen thee?”— And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent, and ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

398 In text “Azay má tafút-ní?”

399 In the Arab. “Rajul Khuzarí”=a green-meat man. [The reading “Khuzarí” belongs to Lane, M.E. ii. 16, and to Bocthor. In Schiaparelli’s Vocabulista and the Muhít the form “Khuzrí” is also given with the same meaning. — ST.]

400 [In text “Farárijí,” as if the pl. of “Farrúj”=chicken were “Farárij” instead of “Faráríj.” In modern Egyptian these nouns of relation from irregular plurals to designate tradespeople not only drop the vowel of the penultimate but furthermore, shorten that of the preceding syllable, so that “Farárijí” becomes “Fararjí.” Thus “Sanádikí,” a maker of boxes, becomes “Sanadkí,” and “Dakhákhiní, a seller of tobacco brands,” “Dakhakhní.” See Spitta Bey’s Grammar, p. 118. — ST.]

401 In the Arab. “Al-Májúr,” for “Maajúr”=a vessel, an utensil.

402 In text “shaklaba” here=”shakala”=he weighed out (money, whence the Heb. Shekel), he had to do with a woman.

403 [The trade of the man is not mentioned here, p. 22 of the 5th vol. of the MS., probably through negligence of the copyist, but it only occurs as far lower down as p. 25. — ST.]

404 A certain reviewer proposes “stained her eyes with Kohl,” showing that he had never seen the Kohl-powder used by Asiatics.

405 [“Bi-Má al-fasíkh ’alà Akrás al-Jullah.” “Má al-Fasíkh”=water of salt-fish, I would translate by “dirty brine” and “Akrás al-Jullah” by “dung-cakes,” meaning the tale should be written with a filthy fluid for ink upon a filthy solid for paper, more expressive than elegant. — ST.]

The Seven Hundred and Fifty-fifth Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale, that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the wife asked the husband saying, “What hath befallen thee on thy way?” And he answered, “O Woman, when I went forth the town and took the road, behold, a basilisk issued from his den and coming to the highway stretched himself therealong, so I was unable to step a single footstep; and indeed, O Woman, his length was that of yon sugar cane, brought by the Costermonger and which thou placedst in the corner. Also he had hair upon his head like the feathers of the pigeon-poults presented to thee by the Poulterer-man, and which thou hast set under the vessel; and lastly, O Woman, his head was like the pomegranates which thou tookest from the Market Gardener406 and carriedst within the house.” Whenas the wife heard these words, she lost command of herself and her right senses went wrong and she became purblind and deaf, neither seeing nor hearing, because she was certified that her spouse had sighted and eye-witnessed what she had wrought of waywardness and frowardness. Then the man continued to her, “O Whore! O Fornicatress! O Adulteress! How durst thou say to me, ‘There is not amongst womankind my better in nobility and purity’? and this day I have beheld with my own eyes what thy chastity may be. So do thou take thy belongings and go forth from me and be off with thyself to thine own folk.” And so saying he divorced her with the triple divorce and thrust her forth the house. Now when the Emir heard the aforetold tale from his neighbour, he rejoiced therein; this being a notable wile of the guiles of womankind which they are wont to work with men for “Verily great is their craft.”407 And presently he dismissed the fourth lover, his neighbour, even as he had freed the other three, and never again did such trouble befal him and his wife, or from Kazi or from any other.408 And to the same purport (quoth Shahrazad), to wit, the sleights and snares of the sex, they also tell the tale of

406 “Al-Janínáti”; or, as the Egyptians would pronounce the word, “Al-Ganínátí”. [Other Egyptian names for gardener are “Janáiní,” pronounced “Ganáiní,” “Bustánjí” pronounced “Bustangi,” with a Turkish termination to a Persian noun, and “Bakhshawángí,” for Baghchawánjí,” where the same termination is pleonastically added to a Persian word, which in Persian and Turkish already means “gardener.”— ST.]

407 A Koranic quotation from “Joseph,” chap. xii. 28: Sale has “for verily your cunning is great,” said by Potiphar to his wife.

408 I have inserted this sentence, the tale being absolutely without termination. So in the Mediaeval Lat. translations the MSS. often omit “explicit capitulum (primum). Sequitur capitulum secundum,” this explicit being a sine qua non.

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