The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

Tale of Himself Told by the King607

I have a tale, O my lord the Kazi, which bewildereth the wits and it is on this wise. By birth and origin I was the son of a Khwájah, but my father owned much worldly wealth in money and effect and vaiselle and rarities and so forth, besides of landed estates and of fiefs and mortmains a store galore. And every year when the ships of Al-Hind would arrive bringing Indian goods and coffee from Al-Yaman the folk brought thereof one-fourth of the whole and he three-fourths paying in ready cash and hard money.608 So his word was heard and his works were preferred amongst the Traders and the Grandees and the Rulers. Also he had control609 in counseling the Kings and he was held in awe and obeyed by the merchants, one and all, who consulted him in each and every of their affairs. This endured until one year of the years when suddenly he fell sick and his sickness grew upon him and gained mastery over his frame, so he sent for me, saying, “Bring me my son.” Accordingly I went and entered to him and found him changed of condition and nearing his last gasp. But he turned to me and said, “O my son, I charge thee with a charge which do thou not transgress nor contrary me in whatso I shall declare to thee.” “What may that be?” asked I, and he answered, “O my son, do thou never make oath in Allah’s name, or falsely or truly, even although they fill the world for thee with wealth; but safeguard thy soul in this matter and gain-say it not, nor give ear to aught other.” But when it was midnight the Divine Mystery610 left him and he died to the mercy of Allah Almighty; so I buried him, and expending much money upon his funeral and graved him in a handsome tomb. He had left to me wealth in abundance such as the pens could not compute, but when a month or so had sped after his decease suddenly came to me a party of folk, each and every claming by way of debt from me and my sire the sum of some five thousand dinars. “Where be your written bond given by my father?” asked I; but they answered, “There be no instrument and if thou believe us not make oath by Allah.” Replied I saying, “Never will I swear at all,” and paid them whatso they demanded; after which all who feared not the Lord would come to me and say, “We have such-and-such owing to us by thy parent;” and I would pay them off until there remained to me of ready moneys a matter neither great nor small. Hereupon I fell to selling off my landed estates — And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawning 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 Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

607 This tale follows “The Kazi of Baghdd, his Treacheous Brother and his Virtuous Wife,” which is nothing but a replica o “The Jewish Kazi and his Pious Wife” (vol. v. 256). Scott has translated it, after his fashion, in vol. vi. p. 396-408, and follows it up with “The sultan’s Story of Himself,” which ends his volume as it shall be the conclusion of mine.

608 In text, “Wa yaakhazu ‘l thalátha arbá’ min máli-hi wa salbi hálí-hi.”

609 In text, “La-hu Diráah (for “Diráyah” = prudence) fí tadbírí ‘l-Mulúk.”

610 In text, “Al-Sirru ‘l-iláhi,” i.e. the soul, which is “divinû particula aurû.”

The Nine Hundred and Twelfth 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 King thus continued his relation to the Kazi:— I began selling off my landed estates and fiefs and letting out my settlements of bequeathal611 until naught of all that remained by me; so I fell to vending the house-gear and goods and carpets and pots and pans until I owned nothing whatever, and my case waxed straitened and the affair was grievous to me. Then I quoth to myself, “Allah’s earth for Allah’s folk!” and, albeit I had a wife and to male children, I left them and went forth under cover of the night a wanderer about the world and unknowing where I should bring myself to anchor. But suddenly, O my lord the Kazi, I was confronted by a man whose aspect bred awe, showing signs of saintliness and garbed wholly in spotless white; so I accosted him and kissed his hand, and he on seeing me said, “O my son, there is no harm to thee!” presently adding,

“Do thou be heedless of thy cark and care

And unto Fate commit thy whole affair;

The Lord shall widen what to thee is strait;

The Lord shall all for breadth of space prepare:

The Lord shall gladly end they grievous toils;

The Lord shall work His will, so jar forbear.”

After these words he took my hand and walked with me athwart those wilds and wolds till such time as we made a city and entered its gates. Here, however, we found no signs of creature-kind nor any mark of Son of Adam, and when I sighted whit my condition changed and fear and affright entered my heart. But presently the man turned to me and said, “Dread not nor be startled, for that this city shall (Inshallah!) be thy portion, and herein thou shalt become Sovran and Sultan.” Quoth I to myself, “Walláhi, verily this man be Jann-mad lacking wit and understanding! How shall become King and Kaysar in such place which is all ruins?” Then he turned to me yet another time, saying, “Trust in Allah and gainsay Him not; for verily shall come to thee joy out of that wherein thou wast of straitness and annoy."— 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 an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was,

611 In text, “Nuwájiru ‘l-wukúfat.” [I read “nuwájiru (for nuájiru”) ‘l-wukúfát,” taking the first word to be a verb corresponding to the preceding, “nabí‘u,” and the second a clerical error for “al-Maukúfát.” In this case the meaning would be: “and letting for hire such parts of my property as were inalienable."— ST.]

The Nine Hundred and Thirteenth 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 quoth the man to the youth612, “Trust in Allah, for verily joy shall assuredly come to thee from the Almighty.” “What joy?” quoth the Khwajah’s son, “and indeed this city is a ruinous heap nor is there indweller or habitant or any to attest God’s Unity.” But the man ceased not going about the highways of the deserted town with his companion till such time as he reached the Palace of the Sultanate, and the twain entering therein found it with its vases and its tapestry like a bride tricked out613. Bit the Spider had tented therein, so both the wights fell to shaking and sweeping for three days’ space till they had cleaned away all the webbing and dust of years; after which the elder man took the younger and entered a closet. Herein he came upon a trap-door which the two uplifted, when behold, they found a staircase leading below; so they descended and walked till they ended at a place with four open halls, one and all fulfilled with gold, and amiddlemost thereof rose a jetting fount twenty ells long by fifteen broad, and the whole basin was heaped up with glittering gems and precious ores. When the merchant’s son saw this sight, he was wildered on his wits and perplext in his thoughts, but the man said to him, “O my son, all this hath become thine own good.” After this the two replaced the trap-door as it was and quitted that place; then the man took him and led him to another stead concealed from the ken of man wherein he found arms and armour and costly raiment; and the two stinted not wandering about the palace until they reached the royal Throne-room. Now, when the Khwajah’s son looked upon it he waxed distraught and fell a-fainting to the floor for awhile614 and presently when he revived he asked his companion, “O my lord, what be this?” Answered he, “This be the throne of the Sultanate wherewith the Almighty hath gifted thee;” and quoth the other, “By Allah, O my lord, I believe that there is not in me or strength or long-suffering to take seat upon yonder throne.” All this the King (who erst was a merchant’s son) recounted to the Judge and presently resumed:615— Then the man, O my lord, said to me, “O my son, to all who shall come hither and seek thee be sure thou distribute gifts and do alms-deeds; so the folk, hearing of thy largesse, shall flock to thee and gather about thee and as often as one shall visit thee, exceed in honour and presents from the treasure-store thou hast sighted and whose site thou weetest.” And so speaking, O our lord the Kazi, he vanished from my view and I wist not an he had upflown to the firmament or had dived into the depths of the earth, but one thing I knew; to with, that I was alone. — 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 an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was,

612 Here the text has the normal enallage of persons, the third for the first, “the youth” for “I.” I leave it unaltered by way of specimen.

613 In text “’Arús muhallíyah.”

614 He fainted thinking of the responsibilities of whoso should sit thereupon.

615 Here is a third enallage, the King returning to the first person, the oratio directa.

The Nine Hundred and Fourteenth 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 merchant’s son resumed to the Kazi:— Then the man vanisht from my view and I wist no more thereof. So I seated me (and I was all alone) in that city for the first day and the second, but on the third behold, I saw a crowd making for me from the city-suburbs and they were seeking a site wherefrom they had somewhat to require. So I met them and welcomed them and seated them, and soon I arose and cooking for them food ate in their company and we nighted together; and when it was morning I presented each and every of them with an hundred dinars. These they accepted and fared forth from me and on reaching their homes they recounted the adventure to other folk who also flocked to me and received presents like those who preceded them. Anon appeared to me a multitude with their children and wives who said, “Billáhi,616 O my lord, accept of us that we may settle beside thee and be under thy protecting glance;” whereupon I ordered houses be given to them. Moreover there was amongst them a comely youth who showed signs of prosperity and him I made my assessor; so we two, I and he, would converse together. The crowd thickened, little by little, until the whilome ruined city became fulfilled of inhabitants, when I commanded sundry of them that they go forth and lay our gardens and orchards and plant tree-growth; and a full-told year had not elapsed ere the city returned to its older estate and waxed great as erst it was and I became therein Sovran and Sultan. Such was the case of this King;617 but as regards the matter of his wife and his two sons, whenas he fared forth from them he left them naught to eat and presently their case was straitened and the twain set out, each in his own direction, and overwandered the world and endured the buffets of life until their semblance was changed for stress of toil and travail and transit from region to region for a while of time. At last, by decree of the Decreer, the elder was thrown by Eternal Fate into the very town wherein was his sire and said to himself, “I will fare to the King of this city and take from him somewhat."— 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 an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was,

616 i.e. “by Allah;” for “Bi” (the particle proper of swearing) see viii. 310.

617 Here again is a fourth enallage; the scribe continuing the narrative.

The Nine Hundred and Fifteenth 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 young man went in to the Sultan and kissed the ground before him and the King regarding him felt his heart yearn himwards and said, “What wantest thou, O youth?” “My design is service with thee,” said the other; and the King rejoined, “Then welcome to thee!” So he abode in his employ for a term of four months until he became like unto a Mameluke618 and his first case was changed: the Sultan also drew him near and fell to consulting him in sundry matters the which proved propitious, so quoth the King, “By Allah, this young man meriteth naught less than to become my Wazir,” and accordingly made him his Minister of the Right. In his new degree he became as another liege lord619 and his word was heard, so the land was opened up by his hand and year by year he derived from it corvées and taxes, nor did he cease to be the Chief Councilor under the right hand of the King. Meanwhile his brother who was the younger stinted not faring from land to land until he was met by a party of wayfarers that said to him, “O youth, verily the Sultan who ruleth in such a capital is a liberal lord, loving the poor and paupers; so do thou seek him and haply shall he show himself bounteous to thee.” Quoth he, “I know not the city,” and quoth they, “We will lead thee thereto for we purpose to go by his town.” So they took him and he accompanied them until they reached the city when he farewelled them and entered the gates. After solacing himself with the sights he passed that night in the Wakálah and as soon as it was morning he fared forth to serve for somewhat wherewith he might nourish himself,620 and it was his lot and the doom of the Decreer that the Sultan, who had ridden forth to seek his pleasure in the gardens, met him on the highway. The King’s glance fell upon the youth and he was certified of his being a stranger and a wanderer for that his clothes were old and worn, so he thrust his hand into pouch and passed to him a few gold pieces which the other accepted right thankfully and blessed the giver and enlarged his benediction with eloquent tongue and the sweetest speech. The Sultan hearing this bade them bring to him the stranger, and whenas they did his bidding he questioned him of his case and was informed that he was a foreigner who had no friends in that stead; whereupon the Sovran took him in and clothed him and entreated him with kindness and liberality621. And after a time the Wazir of the Right became kindly hearted unto him and took him into his household where he fell to teaching him until the youth waxed experience in expression and right ready of the reply and acquired full knowledge of kingcraft. Presently quoth the Minister to the Sultan, “o King of the Age, indeed this youth befitteth naught save councillorship, so do thou make him Wazir of the Left.” The King said, “With love,” and followed his advice; nor was it long before his heart inclined o the hearts of his two Ministers and the time waxed clear to him and the coming of these two youths brought him serenity for a length of days and they also were in the most joyous of life. But as regards their mother; when her sons went forth from her, she bode alone — 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 an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was,

618 i.e. well fed, sturdy and bonny.

619 “Sára lá-hu Shanán.” [The work in the text, which is exceedingly badly written, looks to me as if it were meant for “Thániyan” = and he (the youth) became second to him (the Sultan), i.e. his alter ego. — ST.]

620 In text “Yatama’ash min-hu.” [A denominative of the 5th form from “Ma’ásh,” livelihood. It usually has the meaning of “earning one’s living,” but occurs in Makkari’s Life of Ibn al-Khatíb also in the sense of “feeding or glutting upon,” although applied there not to victuals but to books. — ST.]

621 In text “Sára yuráshí-h.” [“Yuráshí” and “yuráshú,” which had occured p. 304, are the 6th form of “rashá, yarshú” = he bestowed a gift (principally for the sake of bribery, hence “Rashwah” or “Rishwah” = a bribe), he treated kindly. — ST.]

The Nine Hundred and Sixteenth 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 woman who bode alone having been abandoned by her husband and her children, cried, “I am here sitting sans my mate and sans my sons; whatso ever shall I do?” and anon the case became grievous to her and she set out to bewander the regions saying, “Haply shall Allah reunite me with my children and my husband!” And she stinted not passing from place to place and shifting from site to site until she reached a town upon the margin of the main and found a vessel in cargo and about to sail.622 Now by the decree of the Decreer the ship-captain having heard tell of the Sultan’s generosity and open-handedness had made ready for him a present and was about to voyage therewith to his capital. Learning this the woman said to him, “Allah upon thee, O Captain, take me with thee;” and he did accordingly, setting sail with a fair wind. He sped over the billows of that sea for a space of forty days and throughout this time he kept all the precepts and commandments of religion, as regards the woman,623 supplying her with meat and drink; nay more, he was wont to address her, “O my mother.” And no sooner had they made the city than he landed and disembarked the present and loading it upon porters’ backs took his way therewith to the Sovran and continues faring until he entered the presence. The Sultan accepted the gift and largessed him in return, and at even-tide the skipper craved leave of return to his ship fearing lest any harm befal vessel or passengers. So he said, “O King of the Age, on board with me is a woman, but she is of goodly folk and godly and I am apprehensive concerning her.” “Do thou night here with us,” quoth the Sovran, “and I will dispatch my two Wazirs to keep guard over her until dawn shall break.” Quoth the Captain, “Hearing and obeying,” and he sat with the Sultan, who at night-fall commissioned his two Ministers and placed the vessel under their charge and said, “Look ye well to your lives, for an aught be lost from the ship I will cut off your heads,” So they went down to her and took their seats the one on poop and the other on prow until near midnight when both were seized by drowsiness; and said to each other, “Sleep is upon us, let us sit together624 and talk.” Hereupon he who was afore returned to him who was abaft the ship625 and they sat side by side in converse while the woman in the cabin sat listening to them. — 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 an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was,

622 “Markab Mausúkah,” from “Wask” = conceiving, being pregnant, etc.

623 “Mutawassi * * * al-Wisayát al-Támmah.” [“Mutawassi” has been met with before (see p. 303) and “Wisáyah” is the corresponding noun = he charged himself with (took upon himself) her complete charge, i.e. maintnance. — ST.]

624 [In Ar. “khallí-ná nak’ud,” a thoroughly modern expression. It reads like a passage from Spitta Bey’s Contes Arabes Modernes, where such phrases as: “khallí-ná niktib al-Kitáb,” let us write the marriage contract, “ma-ttkhallihsh (for “má takhallí-hu shay”) yishúfak,” let him not see thee and the like are very frequent. — ST.]

625 “Fi Kashshi ‘l-Markab;” According to custome in the East all the ship’s crew had run on shore about their own business as soon as she cast anchor. This has happened to me on board an Egyptian man-of-war where, on arriving at Suez, I found myself the sum total of the crew.

The Nine Hundred and Seventeenth 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 two sons foregathered in converse while the mother was listening and anon quoth the elder to the younger, “Allah upon thee, O Wazir of the Left, do thou relate to me whatso befel and betided thee in thy time and what was the true cause of thy coming to this city; nor conceal from me aught.” “By Allah, O Wazir of the Right,” quoth the other, “my tale is wondrous and mine adventure marvelous and were it paged upon paper the folk would talk thereanent race after race.”626 “And what may that be?” asked he, and the other answered, “’Tis this. My sire was son to a mighty merchant who had of moneys and goods and estates and such like what pens may not compute and which intelligence may not comprehend. Now this my grandsire was a man whose word was law and every day he held a Divan wherein the traders craved his counsel about taking and giving and selling and buying; and this endured until what while a sickness attacked him and he sensed his end drawing near. So he summoned his son and charged him and insisted thereon as his last will and testament that he never and by no means make oath in the name of Allah or truly or falsely.” Now the younger brother had not ended his adventure before the elder Wazir threw himself upon him and flinging his arms around his neck cried, “Walláhi, thou art my brother by father and mother!” and when the woman heard these words of the twain her wits wandered for joy, but she kept the matter hidden until morning. The two Wazirs rejoiced in having found each of them a long-lost brother and slumber fled their eyes until dawned the day when the woman sent for the Captain and as soon as he appeared said to him, “Thou broughtest two men to protect me but they caused me only trouble and travail.” The man hearing these words repaired forthright and reported them to the Sovran who waxed madly wroth and bade summon his two Ministers and when they stood between his hands asked them, “What was’t ye did in the ship?” They answered, “By Allah, O King, there befel us naught but every weal;” and each said, “I recognized this my brother for indeed hi is the son of the same parents,” whereat the Sovran wondered and quoth he, “Laud to the Lord, indeed these two Wazirs must have a strange story.” So he made them repeat whatso they had said in the ship and they related to him their adventure from the beginning to end. Hereupon the King cried, “By Allah, ye be certainly my sons,” when lo and behold! the woman came forwards and repeated to him all that the Wazirs had related whereby it was certified that she was the King’s lost wife and their lost mother.627 Hereupon they conducted her to the Harem and all sat down to banquet and they led ever after the most joyous of lives. All this the King related to the Judge and finally said, “O our lord the Kazi, such-and-such and so-and-so befel until Allah deigned re-unite me with my children and my wife.

626 In text, “Jílan ba’da Jíl:” the latter word = revolutions, change of days, tribe, people.

627 The dénoument is a replica of “The Tale of the King who lost kingdom and wife and wealth and Allah restored them to him” (Suppl. Nights, vol. i. 221). That a Sultan should send his Ministers to keep watch over a ship’s cargo sounds passably ridiculous to a European reader, but a coffee-house audience in the East would have found it perfectly natural. Also, that three men, the Sultan and his sons, should live together for years without knowing anything of one another’s lives seems to us an absurdity; in the case of an Oriental such detail would never strike him even as impossible or even improbable.

End of Volume xv.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/v15.24.html

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