She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph ceased not to frequent the tomb for the period of a whole month, at the end of which time it so happened one day that he entered the Serraglio, after dismissing the Emirs and Wazirs, and lay down and slept awhile; and there sat at his head a slave girl fanning him, and at his feet a second rubbing and shampooing them. Presently he awoke and, opening his eyes, shut them again and heard the handmaid at his head saying to her who was at his feet, “A nice business this, O Khayzarán!” and the other answered her “Well, O Kazíb al-Bán?”1 “Verily” said the first, “our lord knoweth naught of what hath happened and sitteth waking and watching by a tomb wherein is only a log of wood carved by the carpenter’s art.” “And Kut al-Kulub,” quoth the other, “what hath befallen her?” She replied, “Know that the Lady Zubaydah sent a pellet of Bhang by one of the slave women who was bribed to drug her; and when sleep overpowered her she let put her in a chest, and ordered Sawab and Kafur and Bukhayt to throw her amongst the tombs.” “What dost thou say, O Kazib al-Ban;” asked Khayzaran, “is not the lady Kut al-Kulub dead?” “Nay, by Allah!” she answered “and long may her youth be saved from death! but I have heard the Lady Zubaydah say that she is in the house of a young merchant named Ghanim bin Ayyub of Damascus, hight the Distraught, the Thrall o’ Love; and she hath been with him these four months, whilst our lord is weeping and watching by night at a tomb wherein is no corpse.” They kept on talking this sort of talk, and the Caliph gave ear to their words; and, by the time they had ceased speaking, he knew right well that the tomb was a feint and a fraud, and that Kut al-Kulub had been in Ghanim’s house for four months. Whereupon he was angered with exceeding anger and rising up, he summoned the Emirs of his state; and his Wazir Ja’afar the Barmaki came also and kissed the ground between his hands. The Caliph said to him in fury, “Go down, O Ja’afar, with a party of armed men and ask for the house of Ghanim son of Ayyub: fall upon it and spoil it and bring him to me with my slave girl, Kut al-Kulub, for there is no help but that I punish him!” “To hear is to obey,” said Ja’afar; and setting out with the Governor and the guards and a world of people, repaired to Ghanim’s house. Now about that time the youth happened to have brought back a pot of dressed meat and was about to put forth his hand to eat of it, he and Kut al-Kulub, when the lady, happening to look out saw calamity surrounding the house on every side; for the Wazir and the Governor, the night guard and the Mamelukes with swords drawn had girt it as the white of the eye girdeth the black. At this she knew that tidings of her had reached the Caliph, her lord; and she made sure of ruin, and her colour paled and her fair features changed and her favour faded. Then she turned to Ghanim and said to him, “O my love! fly for thy life!” “What shall I do,” asked he, “and whither shall I go, seeing that my money and means of maintenance are all in this house?”; and she answered, “Delay not lest thou be slain and lose life as well as wealth.” “O my loved one and light of mine eyes!” he cried, “how shall I do to get away when they have surrounded the house?” Quoth she, “Fear not;” and, stripping off his fine clothes, dressed him in ragged old garments, after which she took the pot and, putting in it bits of broken bread and a saucer of meat,2 placed the whole in a basket and setting it upon his head said, “Go out in this guise and fear not for me who wotteth right well what thing is in my hand for the Caliph.”3 So he went out amongst them, bearing the basket with its contents, and the Protector vouchsafed him His protection and he escaped the snares and perils that beset him, by the blessing of his good conscience and pure conduct. Meanwhile Ja’afar dismounted and entering the house, saw Kut al-Kulub who had dressed and decked herself in splendid raiments and ornaments and filled a chest with gold and jewellery and precious stones and rarities and what else was light to bear and of value rare. When she saw Ja’afar come in, she rose and, kissing the ground before him, said, “O my lord, the Reed hath written of old the rede which Allah decreed!’’4 “By Allah, O my lady,” answered Ja’afar, “he gave me an order to seize Ghanim son of Ayyub;” and she rejoined, “O my lord, he made ready his goods and set out therewith for Damascus and I know nothing more of him; but I desire thee take charge of this chest and deliver it to me in the Harim of the Prince of the Faithful.” “Hearing and obedience,” said Ja’afar, and bade his men bear it away to the head quarters of the Caliphate together with Kut al-Kulub, commanding them to entreat her with honour as one in high esteem. They did his bidding after they had wrecked and plundered Ghanim’s house. Then Ja’afar went in to the Caliph and told him all that had happened, and he ordered Kut al-Kulub to be lodged in a dark chamber and appointed an old women to serve her, feeling convinced that Ghanim had debauched her and slept with her. Then he wrote a mandate to the Emir Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, his viceroy in Damascus, to this effect: “The instant thou shalt receive this our letter, seize upon Ghanim bin Ayyub and send him to us.” When the missive came to the viceroy, he kissed it and laid it on his head; then he let proclaim in the bazars, “Whoso is desirous to plunder, away with him to the house of Ghanim son of Ayyub.”5 So they flocked thither, when they found that Ghanim’s mother and sister had built him a tomb6 in the midst of the house and sat by it weeping for him; whereupon they seized the two without telling them the cause and, after spoiling the house, carried them before the viceroy. He questioned them concerning Ghanim and both replied, “For a year or more we have had no news of him.” So they restored them to their place. Thus far concerning them; but as regards Ghanim, when he saw his wealth spoiled and his ruin utterest he wept over himself till his heart well nigh brake. Then he fared on at random till the last of the day, and hunger grew hard on him and walking wearied him. So coming to a village he entered a mosque7 where he sat down upon a mat and propped his back against the wall; but presently he sank to the ground in his extremity of famine and fatigue. There he lay till dawn, his heart fluttering for want of food; and, owing to his sweating, the lice8 coursed over his skin; his breath waxed fetid and his whole condition was changed. When the villagers came to pray the dawn prayer, they found him prostrate, ailing, hunger lean, yet showing evident signs of former affluence. As soon as prayers were over, they drew near him; and, understanding that he was starved with hunger and cold, they gave him an old robe with ragged sleeves and said to him, “O stranger, whence art thou and what sickness is upon thee?” He opened his eyes and wept but returned no answer; whereupon one of them, who saw that he was starving, brought him a saucer of honey and two barley scones. He ate a little and they sat with him till sun rise, when they went to their work. He abode with them in this state for a month, whilst sickness and weakliness grew upon him; and they wept for him and, pitying his condition, took counsel with one another upon his case and agreed to forward him to the hospital in Baghdad.9 Meanwhile behold, two beggar women, who were none other than Ghanim’s mother and sister,10 came into the mosque and, when he saw them, he gave them the bread that was at his head; and they slept by his side that night but he knew them not. Next day the villagers brought a camel and said to the cameleer, “Set this sick man on thy beast and carry him to Baghdad and put him down at the Spital door; so haply he may be medicined and be healed and thou shalt have thy hire.”11 “To hear is to comply,” said the man. So they brought Ghanim, who was asleep, out of the mosque and set him, mat and all, on the camel; and his mother and sister came out among the crowd to gaze upon him, but they knew him not. However, after looking at him and considering him carefully they said, “Of a truth he favours our Ghanim, poor boy!; can this sick man be he?” Presently, he woke and finding himself bound with ropes on a camel’s back, he began to weep and complain,12 and the village people saw his mother and sister weeping over him, albeit they knew him not. Then they fared forth for Baghdad, but the camel-man forewent them and, setting Ghanim down at the Spital gate, went away with his beast. The sick man lay there till dawn and, when the folk began to go about the streets, they saw him and stood gazing on him, for he had become as thin as a toothpick, till the Syndic of the bazar came up and drove them away from him, saying, “I will gain Paradise through this poor creature; for if they take him into the Hospital, they will kill him in a single day.”13 Then he made his young men carry him to his house, where they spread him a new bed with a new pillow,14 and he said to his wife, “Tend him carefully;” and she replied, “Good! on my head be it!” Thereupon she tucked up her sleeves and warming some water, washed his hands, feet and body; after which she clothed him in a robe belonging to one of her slave girls and made him drink a cup of wine and sprinkled rose wafer over him. So he revived and complained, and the thought of his beloved Kut al-Kulub made his grief redouble. Thus far concerning him; but as regards Kut al-Kulub, when the Caliph was angered against her — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 The first name means “Rattan”, the second “Willow wand,” from the “Bán” or “Khiláf” the Egyptian willow (Salix Ægyptiaca Linn.) vulgarly called “Safsáf.” Forskal holds the “Bán” to be a different variety.
2 Arab. “Ta’ám,” which has many meanings: in mod. parlance it would signify millet holcus seed.
3 i.e. “I well know how to deal with him.”
4 The Pen (title of the Koranic chaps. Ixviii.) and the Preserved Tablet (before explained).
5 These plunderings were sanctioned by custom. But a few years ago, when the Turkish soldiers mutinied about arrears of pay (often delayed for years) the governing Pasha would set fire to the town and allow the men to loot what they pleased during a stated time. Rochet (soi-disant D’Hericourt) amusingly describes this manoeuvre of the Turkish Governor of Al–Hodaydah in the last generation. (Pilgrimage iii. 381.)
6 Another cenotaph whose use was to enable women to indulge in their pet pastime of weeping and wailing in company.
7 The lodging of pauper travellers, as the chapel in Iceland is of the wealthy. I have often taken benefit of the mosque, but as a rule it is unpleasant, the matting being not only torn but over-populous. Juvenal seems to allude to the Jewish Synagogue similarly used: “in quâ te quæro proseuchâ”? (iii. 296) and in Acts iii. we find the lame, blind and impotent in the Temple-porch.
8 This foul sort of vermin is supposed to be bred by perspiration. It is an epoch in the civilised traveller’s life when he catches his first louse.
9 The Moslem peasant is a kind hearted man and will make many sacrifices for a sick stranger even of another creed. It is a manner of “pundonor” with the village.
10 Such treatment of innocent women was only too common under the Caliphate and in contemporary Europe.
11 This may also mean, “And Heaven will reward thee,” but camel-men do not usually accept any drafts upon futurity.
12 He felt that he was being treated like a corpse.
13 This hatred of the Hospital extends throughout Southern Europe, even in places where it is not justified.
14 The importance of the pillow (wisádah or makhaddah) to the sick man is often recognised in The Nights. “He took to his pillow” is = took to his bed.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph was angered against Kut al-Kulub, he ordered her to a dark chamber where she abode eighty days, at the end of which the Caliph, happening to pass on a certain day the place where she was, heard her repeating poetry, and after she ceased reciting her verse, saying, “O my darling, O my Ghanim! how great is thy goodness and how chaste is thy nature! thou didst well by one who did ill by thee and thou guardedst his honour who garred thine become dishonour, and his Harim thou didst protect who to enslave thee and thine did elect! But thou shalt surely stand, thou and the Commander of the Faithful, before the Just Judge, and thou shalt be justified of him on the Day when the Lord (to whom be honour and glory!) shall be Kazi and the Angels of Heaven shall be witnesses!” When the Caliph heard her com plaint, he knew that she had been wronged and, returning to the palace, sent Masrur the Eunuch for her. She came before him with bowed head and eyes tearful and heart sorrowful; and he said to her, “O Kut al-Kulub, I find thou accuses me of tyranny and oppression, and thou avouches that I have done ill by one who did well by me. Who is this who hath guarded my honour while I garred his become dishonour? Who protected my Harim and whose Harim I wrecked?” “He is Ghanim son of Ayyub,” replied she, “for he never approached me in wantonness or with lewd intent, I swear by thy munificence, O Commander of the Faithful!” Then said the Caliph, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah! Ask what thou wilt of me, O Kut al-Kulub.” “O Prince of the Faithful!”, answered she, “I require of thee only my beloved Ghanim son of Ayyub.” He did as she desired, whereupon she said, “O Lord of the Moslems, if I bring him to thy presence, wilt thou bestow me on him?”; and he replied, “If he come into my presence, I will give thee to him as the gift of the generous who revoketh not his largesse.” “O Prince of True Believers,” quoth she, “suffer me to go and seek him; haply Allah may unite me with him:” and quoth he, “Do even as thou wilt.” So she rejoiced and, taking with her a thousand diners in gold, went out and visited the elders of the various faiths and gave alms in Ghanim’s name.1 Next day she walked to the merchants’ bazar and disclosed her object to the Syndic and gave him money, saying, “Bestow this in charity to the stranger!” On the following Friday she fared to the bazar (with other thousand diners) and, entering the goldsmiths’ and jewellers’ market street, called the Chief and presented to him a thousand diners with these words, “Bestow this in charity to the stranger!” The Chief looked at her (and he was the Syndic who had taken in Ghanim) and said, “O my lady, wilt thou come to my house and look upon a youth, a stranger I have there and see how goodly and graceful he is?” Now the stranger was Ghanim, son of Ayyub, but the Chief had no knowledge of him and thought him to be some wandering pauper, some debtor whose wealth had been taken from him, or some lover parted from his beloved. When she heard his words her heart fluttered2 and her vitals yearned, and she said to him, “Send with me one who shall guide me to thy house.” So he sent a little lad who brought her to the house wherein was the head man’s stranger guest and she thanked him for this. When she reached the house, she went in and saluted the Syndic’s wife, who rose and kissed the ground between her hands, for she knew her. Then quoth Kut al-Kulub, “Where is the sick man who is with thee?” She wept and replied, “Here is he, O my lady; by Allah, he is come of good folk and he beareth the signs of gentle breeding: you see him lying on yonder bed.” So she turned and looked at him: and she saw something like him, but he was worn and wasted till he had become lean as a toothpick, so his identity was doubtful to her and she could not be certain that it was he. Yet pity for him possessed her and she wept saying, “Verily the stranger is unhappy, even though he be a prince in his own land!”; and his case was grievous to her and her heart ached for him, yet she knew him not to be Ghanim. Then she furnished him with wine and medicines and she sat awhile by his head, after which she mounted and returned to her palace and continued to visit every bazar in quest of her lover. Meanwhile Ghanim’s mother and sister Fitnah arrived at Baghdad and met the Syndic, who carried them to Kut al-Kulub and said to her, “O Princess of beneficent ladies, there came to our city this day a woman and her daughter, who are fair of favour and signs of good breeding and dignity are apparent in them, though they be dressed in hair cloth and have each one a wallet hanging to her neck; and their eyes are tearful and their hearts are sorrowful. So I have brought them to thee that thou mayst give them refuge, and rescue them from beggary, for they are not of asker folk and, if it please Allah, we shall enter Paradise through them.” “By Allah, O my master,” cried she, “thou makest me long to see them! Where are they?”, adding, “Here with them to me!” So he bade the eunuch bring them in; and, when she looked on them and saw that they were both of distinguished beauty, she wept for them and said, “By Allah, these are people of condition and show plain signs of former opulence.” “O my lady,” said the Syndic’s wife, “we love the poor and the destitute, more especially as reward in Heaven will recompense our love; and, as for these persons, haply the oppressor hath dealt hardly with them and hath plundered their property and harried their houses.” Then Ghanim’s mother and sister wept with sore weeping, remembering their former prosperity and contrasting it with their present poverty and miserable condition; and their thoughts dwelt upon son and brother, whilst Kut al-Kulub wept for their weeping; and they said, “We beseech Allah to reunite us with him whom we desire, and he is none other but my son named Ghanim bin Ayyud!” When Kut al-Kulub heard this, she knew them to be the mother and sister of her lover and wept till a swoon came over her. When she revived she turned to them and said, “Have no fear and sorrow not, for this day is the first of your prosperity and the last of your adversity!”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Kut al-Kulub had consoled them she bade the Syndic lead them to his house and let his wife carry them to the Hammam and dress them in handsome clothes and take care of them and honour them with all honour; and she gave him a sufficient sum of money. Next day, she mounted and, riding to his house, went in to his wife who rose up and kissed her hands and thanked her for her kindness. There she saw Ghanim’s mother and sister whom the Syndic’s wife had taken to the Hammam and clothed afresh, so that the traces of their former condition became manifest upon them. She sat talking with them awhile, after which she asked the wife about the sick youth who was in her house and she replied, “He is in the same state.” Then said Kut al-Kulub, “Come, let us go and visit him.” So she arose, she and the Chief’s wife and Ghanim’s mother and sister, and went in to the room where he lay and sat down near him. Presently Ghanim bin Ayyub, the Distraught, the Thrall o’ Love, heard them mention the name of Kut al-Kulub; whereupon life returned to him, emaciated and withered as he was and he raised his head from the pillow and cried aloud, “O Kut al-Kulub!” She looked at him and made certain it was he and shrieked rather than said, “Yes, O my beloved!” “Draw near to me;” said he, and she replied, “Surely thou art Ghanim bin Ayyub?”; and he rejoined “I am indeed!” Hereupon a swoon came upon her; and, as soon as Ghanim’s mother and his sister Fitnah heard these words, both cried out “O our joy’” and fainted clean away. When they all recovered, Kut al-Kulub exclaimed “Praise be to Allah who hath brought us together again and who hath reunited thee with thy mother and thy sister!” And she related to him all that had befallen her with the Caliph and said “I have made known the truth to the Commander of the Faithful, who believed my words and was pleased with thee; and now he desireth to see thee,” adding, “He hath given me to thee.” Thereat he rejoiced with extreme joy, when she said, “Quit not this place till I come back” and, rising forthwith, betook herself to her palace. There she opened the chest which she had brought from Ghanim’s house and, taking out some of the diners, gave them to the Syndic saying, “Buy with this money for each of them four complete suits of the finest stuffs and twenty kerchiefs, and else beside of whatsoever they require;” after which she carried all three to the baths and had them washed and bathed and made ready for them consommés, and galangale-water and cider against their coming out. When they left the Hammam, they put on the new clothes, and she abode with them three days feeding them with chicken meats and bouillis, and making them drink sherbert of sugar candy. After three days their spirits returned; and she carried them again to the baths, and when they came out and had changed their raiment, she led them back to the Syndic’s house and left them there, whilst she returned to the palace and craved permission to see the Caliph. When he ordered her to come in, she entered and, kissing the ground between his hands, told him the whole story and how her lord, Ghanim bin Ayyub, yclept the Distraught, the Thrall o’ Love, and his mother and sister were now in Baghdad. When the Caliph heard this, he turned to the eunuchs and said, “Here with Ghanim to me.” So Ja’afar went to fetch him; but Kut al-Kulub forewent him and told Ghanim, “The Caliph hath sent to fetch thee before him,” and charged him to show readiness of tongue and firmness of heart and sweetness of speech. Then she robed him in a sumptuous dress and gave him diners in plenty, saying, “Be lavish of largesse to the Caliph’s household as thou goest in to him.” Presently Ja’afar, mounted on his Nubian mule, came to fetch him; and Ghanim advanced to welcome the Wazir and, wishing him long life, kissed the ground before him. Now the star of his good fortune had risen and shone brightly; and Ja’afar took him; and they ceased not faring together, he and the Minister, till they went in to the Commander of the Faithful. When he stood in the presence, he looked at the Wazirs and Emirs and Chamberlains, and Viceroys and Grandees and Captains, and then at the Caliph. Hereupon he sweetened his speech and his eloquence and, bowing his head to the ground, broke out in these extempore couplets,
“May that Monarch’s life span a mighty span,
Whose lavish of largesse all Empyrean! lieges scan:
None other but he shall be Kaysar hight,
Lord of lordly hall and of haught Divan:
Kings lay their gems on his threshold-dust
As they bow and salam to the mighty man;
And his glances foil them and all recoil,
Bowing beards aground and with faces wan:
Yet they gain the profit of royal grace,
The rank and station of high
Earth’s plain is scant for thy world of men,
Camp there in Kay wan’s1 Empyrean!
May the King of Kings ever hold thee dear;
Be counsel thine and right steadfast plan
Till thy justice spread o’er the wide spread earth
And the near and the far be of equal worth.”
When he ended his improvisation the Caliph was pleased by it and marvelled at the eloquence of his tongue and the sweetness of his speech — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 The Pers. name of the planet Saturn in the Seventh Heaven. Arab. “Zuhal”; the Kiun or Chiun of Amos vi. 26.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph, after marvelling at his eloquence of tongue and sweetness of speech, said to him, “Draw near to me.” So he drew near and quoth the King, “Tell me thy tale and declare to me thy case.” So Ghanim sat down and related to him what had befallen him in Baghdad, of his sleeping in the tomb and of his opening the chest after the three slaves had departed, and informed him, in short, of everything that had happened to him from commencement to conclusion none of which we will repeat for interest fails in twice told tales. The Caliph was convinced that he was a true man; so he invested him with a dress of honour, and placed him near himself in token of favour, and said to him, “Acquit me of the responsibility I have incurred.’’1 And Ghanim so did, saying, “O our lord the Sultan, of a truth thy slave and all things his two hands own are his master’s.” The Caliph was pleased at this and gave orders to set apart a palace for him and assigned to him pay and allowances, rations and donations, which amounted to something immense. So he removed thither with sister and mother; after which the Caliph, hearing that his sister Fitnah was in beauty a very “fitnah,”2 a mere seduction, demanded her in marriage of Ghanim who replied, “She is thy handmaid as I am thy slave.” The Caliph thanked him and gave him an hundred thousand diners, then summoned the witnesses and the Kazi, and on one and the same day they wrote out the two contracts of marriage between the Caliph and Fitnah and between Ghanim bin Ayyub and Kut al-Kulub; and the two marriages were consummated on one and the same night. When it was morning, the Caliph gave orders to record the history of what had befallen Ghanim from first to last and to deposit it in the royal muniment rooms, that those who came after him might read it and marvel at the dealings of Destiny and put their trust in Him who created the night and the day. Yet, O auspicious King, this story to which thou hast deigned give ear is on no wise more wondrous than the
The King asked her, “And what was their story?” and she answered: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that there was in the City of Safety, Baghdad, before the Caliphate of Abd al-Malik bin Marwán,2 a King, Omar bin al-Nu’umán hight, who was of the mighty giants and had subjected the Chosroës of Persia and the Kaysars of Eastern Rome; for none could warm himself at his fire;3 nor could any avail to meet him in the field of foray and fray; and, when he was angered, there came forth from his nostrils sparks of flame. He had made himself King over all quarters, and Allah had subjected to him all His creatures; his word went forth to all great cities and his hosts had harried the farthest lands. East and West had come under his command with whatsoever regions lay interspersed between them, Hind and Sind and Sin,4 the Holy Land, Al–Hijaz, the rich mountains of Al–Yaman and the archipelagos of India and China. Moreover, he reigned supreme over the north country and Diyár Bakr, or Mesopotamia, and over Sudán, the Eastern Negro land and the Islands of the Ocean, and all the far famed rivers of the earth, Sayhún and Jayhún,5 Nile and Euphrates. He sent envoys and ambassadors to capitals the most remote, to provide him with true report; and they would bring back tidings of justice and peace, with assurance of loyalty and obedience and of prayers in the pulpits for King Omar bin al-Nu’uman; for he was, O Ruler of the Age, a right noble King; and there came to him presents of rarities and toll and tribute from all lands of his governing. This mighty monarch had a son yclept Sharrkan,6 who was likest of all men to his father and who proved himself one of the prodigies of his time for subduing the brave and bringing his contemporaries to bane and ban. For this his father loved him with love so great none could be greater, and made him heir to the kingdom after himself. This Prince grew up till he reached man’s estate and was twenty years old, and Allah subjected His servants to him, by reason of his great might and prowess in battle. Now his father, King Omar, had four wives legally married, but Allah had vouchsafed him no son by them, save Sharrkan, whom he had begotten upon one of them, and the rest were barren. Moreover he had three hundred and sixty concubines, after the number of days in the Coptic year, who were of all nations; and he had furnished for each and every a private chamber within his own palace. For he had built twelve pavilions, after the number of the months, each containing thirty private chambers, which thus numbered three hundred and three score, wherein he lodged his handmaids: and he appointed according to law for each one her night, when he lay with her and came not again to her for a full year;7 and on this wise he abode for a length of time. Meanwhile his son Sharrkan was making himself renowned in all quarters of the world and his father was proud of him and his might waxed and grew mightier; so that he passed all bounds and bore himself masterfully and took by storm castles and cities. Presently, by decree of the Decreer, a handmaid among the handmaids of Omar bin Nu’uman became pregnant; and, her pregnancy being announced to the Harim, the King was informed thereof; whereupon he rejoiced with exceeding joy and said, “Haply it will be a son, and so all my offspring will be males!” Then he documented the date of her conception and entreated her with all manner of kindness. But when the tidings came to Sharrkan, he was troubled and the matter seemed to him a sore one and a grievous; and he said, “Verily one cometh who shall dispute with me the sovereignty:” so quoth he to himself, “If this concubine bear a male child I will kill it:” but he kept that intention hidden in his heart. Such was the case with Sharrkan; but what happened in the matter of the damsel was as follows. She was a Roumiyah, a Greek girl, by name Sofiyah or Sophia,8 whom the King of Roum and Lord of Cæsarea had sent to King Omar as a present, together with great store of gifts and of rarities: she was the fairest of favour and loveliest of all his handmaids and the most regardful of her honour; and she was gifted with a wit as penetrating as her presence was fascinating. Now she had served the King on the night of his sleeping with her, saying to him, “O King! I desire of the God of the Heavens that he bless thee this night with a male child by me, so I may bring him up with the best of rearing, and enable him to reach man’s estate perfect in intelligence, good manners and prudent bearing”9 — a speech which much pleased the King. During her pregnancy she was instant in prayer, fervently supplicating the Lord to bless her with a goodly male child and make his birth easy to her; and Allah heard her petition so that after her months were accomplished she sat safely upon the birth stool.10 Now the King had deputed a eunuch to let him know if the child she should bring forth were male or female; and in like way his son Sharrkan had sent one to bring him tidings of the same. In due time Sophia was delivered of a child, which the midwives examined and found to be a girl with a face sheenier than the moon. So they announced this to all present in the room, whereupon the King’s messenger carried the news to him; and Sharrkan’s eunuch did the like with his master who rejoiced with exceeding joy. But, after the two had departed, quoth Sophia to the midwives, “Wait with me awhile, for I feel as if there were still somewhat in my womb.” Then she cried out and the pains of child bed again took her; and Allah made it easy to her and she gave birth to a second child. The wise women looked at it and found it a boy like the full moon, with forehead flower white, and cheek ruddy bright with rosy light; whereupon the mother rejoiced, as did the eunuchs and attendants and all the company; and Sophia was delivered of the after birth whilst all in the palace sent forth the trill of joy.11 The rest of the concubines heard it and envied her lot; and the tidings reached Omar son of Al — Nu’uman, who was glad and rejoiced at the excellent news. Then he rose and went to her and kissed her head, after which he looked at the boy; and, bending over him, kissed him, whilst the damsels struck the tabors and played on instruments of music; and the King gave order that the boy should be named Zau al-Makán and his sister Nuzhat al-Zamán.12 They answered “Hearing and obedience,” and did his bidding; so he appointed wet nurses and dry nurses and eunuchs and attendants to serve them; and assigned them rations of sugar and diet drinks and unguents and else beside, beyond the power of tongue to rehearse. Moreover the people of Baghdad, hearing that Allah had blessed their King with issue, decorated the city and made proclamation of the glad tidings with drum and tom tom; and the Emirs and Wazirs and high dignitaries came to the palace and wished King Omar bin al-Nu’uman joy of his son, Zau al-Makan, and of his daughter Nuzhat al-Zaman, wherefore he thanked them and bestowed on them dresses of honour and further favoured them with gifts, and dealt largesse to all, gentle and simple, who were present. After this fashion he did for four days full told, and he lavished upon Sophia raiment and ornaments and great store of wealth; and, every few days he would send a messenger to ask after her and the new-borns. And when four years had gone by, he provided her with the wherewithal to rear the two children carefully and educate them with the best of instructions. All this while his son Sharrkan knew not that a male child had been born to his father, Omar son of Al–Nu’uman, having news only that he had been blessed with the birth of Nuzhat al-Zaman; and they hid the intelligence from him, until days and years had sped by, whilst he was busied in battling with the brave and fighting single handed against the knights. One day, as King Omar was sitting in his palace, his Chamberlains came in to him and, kissing the ground before him, said, “O King there be come Ambassadors from the King of Roum, Lord of Constantinople the Great, and they desire admission to thee and submission to thy decree: if the King commend us to introduce them we will so do; and, if not, there is no disputing his behest.” He bade them enter and, when they came in, he turned to them and, courteously receiving them, asked them of their case, and what was the cause of their coming. They kissed the ground before him and said, “O King glorious and strong! O lord of the arm that is long! know that he who despatched us to thee is King Afrídún,13 Lord of Ionia land 14 and of the Nazarene armies, the sovereign who is firmly established in the empery of Constantinople, to acquaint thee that he is now waging fierce war and fell with a tyrant and a rebel, the Prince of Casarea; and the cause of this war is as follows. One of the Kings of the Arabs in past time, during certain of his conquests, chanced upon a hoard of the time of Alexander,15 whence he removed wealth past compute; and, amongst other things, three round jewels, big as ostrich eggs, from a mine of pure white gems whose like was never seen by man. Upon each were graven characts in Ionian characters, and they have many virtues and properties, amongst the rest that if one of these jewels be hung round the neck of a new-born child, no evil shall befal him and he shall neither wail, nor shall fever ail him as long as the jewel remain without fail.16 When the Arab King laid hands upon them and learned their secrets, he sent to King Afridun presents of certain rarities and amongst them the three jewels afore mentioned; and he equipped for the mission two ships, one bearing the treasure and the other men of might to guard it from any who might offer hindrance on the high seas, albeit well assured that none would dare waylay his vessels, for that he was King of the Arabs, and more by token that their course lay over waters subject to the King of Constantinople and they were bound to his port; nor were there on the shores of that sea any save the subjects of the Great King, Afridun. The two ships set out and voyaged till they drew near our city, when there sallied out on them certain corsairs from that country and amongst them troops from the Prince of Caesarea, who took all the treasures and rarities in the ships, together with the three jewels, and slew the crews. When our King heard of this, he sent an army against them, but they routed it; then he marched a second and a stronger but they put this also to flight — whereupon the King waxed wroth and swore that he would not go forth17 against them save in his own person at the head of his whole army; nor would he turn back from them till he had left Caesarea, of Armenia18 in ruins and had laid waste all the lands and cities over which her Prince held sway. So he sent us to the Lord of the age and the time, Sultan Omar bin al-Nu’uman, King of Baghdad and of Khorasan, desiring that he aid us with an army, so may honour and glory accrue to him; and he hath also forwarded by us somewhat of various kinds of presents, and of the King’s grace he beggeth their acceptance and the friendly boon of furtherance.” Then the Ambassadors kissed the ground before him — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 This knightly tale, the longest in the Nights (xliv. — cxlv.), about one-eighth of the whole, does not appear in the Bres. Edit. Lane, who finds it “objectionable,” reduces it to two of its episodes, Azíz-cum-Azízah and Táj al-Mulúk. On the other hand it has been converted into a volume (8vo, pp. 240) “Scharkan, Conte Arabe,” etc. Traduit par M. Asselan Riche, etc. Paris: Dondey–Dupré. 1829. It has its longueurs and at times is longsome enough; but it is interesting as a comparison between the chivalry of Al–Islam and European knight-errantry. Although all the characters are fictitious the period is evidently in the early crusading days. Cæsarea, the second capital of Palestine, taken during the Caliphate of Omar (A.H. 19) and afterwards recovered, was fortified in A.H. 353 = 963 as a base against the Arabs by the Emperor Phocas, the Arab. “Nakfúr” i.e. Nicephorus. In A.H. 498=1104, crusading craft did much injury by plundering merchantmen between Egypt and Syria, to which allusion is found in the romance. But the story teller has not quite made up his mind about which Cæsarea he is talking, and M. Riche tells us that Césarée is a “ville de la Mauritanie, en Afrique” (p. 20).
2 The fifth Ommiade Caliph reign. A.H. 65–86 = 685–704.
3 This does not merely mean that no one was safe from his wrath: or, could approach him in the heat of fight: it is a reminiscence of the masterful “King Kulayb,” who established game-laws in his dominions and would allow no man to approach his camp-fire. Moreover the Jinn lights a fire to decoy travellers, but if his victim be bold enough to brave him, he invites him to take advantage of the heat.
5 The Jaxartes and the Bactrus (names very loosely applied).
6 In full “Sharrun kána” i.e. an evil (Sharr) has come to being (kána) that is, “bane to the foe” a pagan and knightly name. The hero of the Romance “Al–Dalhamah” is described as a bitter gourd (colocynth), a viper, a calamity.
7 This is a Moslem law (Koran chaps. iv. bodily borrowed from the Talmud) which does not allow a man to marry one wife unless he can carnally satisfy her. Moreover he must distribute his honours equally and each wife has a right to her night unless she herself give it up. This was the case even with the spouses of the Prophet; and his biography notices several occasions when his wives waived their rights in favour of one another M. Riche kindly provides the King with la piquante francaise (p. 15).
8 So the celebrated mosque in Stambul, famed for being the largest church in the world is known to the Greeks as “Agia (pron. Aya) Sophia” and to Moslems as “Aye Sofíyeh” (Holy Wisdom) i.e. the Logos or Second Person of the Trinity (not a Saintess). The sending a Christian girl as a present to a Moslem would, in these days, be considered highly scandalous. But it was done by the Mukaukis or Coptic Governor of Egypt (under Heraclius) who of course hated the Greeks. This worthy gave two damsels to Mohammed; one called Sírín and the other Máriyah (Maria) whom the Prophet reserved for his especial use and whose abode is still shown at Al–Medinah. The Rev. Doctor Badger (loc. cit. p. 972) gives the translation of an epistle by Mohammed to this Mukaukis, written in the Cufic character (??) and sealed “Mohammed, The Apostle of Allah.” My friend seems to believe that it is an original, but upon this subject opinions will differ. It is, however, exceedingly interesting, beginning with “Bismillah,” etc., and ending (before the signature) with a quotation from the Koran (iii. 57); and it may be assumed as a formula addressee to foreign potentates by a Prophet who had become virtually “King of Arabia.”
9 This prayer before “doing the deed of kind” is, I have said, Moslem as well Christian.
10 Exodus i. 16, quoted by Lane (M. E., chaps. xxvii.). Torrens in his Notes cites Drayton’s “Moon-calf’:—
Bring forth the birth-stool — no, let it alone;
She is so far beyond all compass grown,
Some other new device us needs must stead,
Or else she never can be brought to bed.
It is the “groaning-chair” of Poor Robin’s Almanac (1676) and we find it alluded to in Boccaccio, the classical sedile which according to scoffers has formed the papal chair (a curule seat) ever since the days of Pope Joan, when it has been held advisable for one of the Cardinals to ascertain that His Holiness possesses all the instruments of virility. This “Kursí al-wiládah” is of peculiar form on which the patient is seated. A most interesting essay might be written upon the various positions preferred during delivery, e.g. the wild Irish still stand on all fours, like the so-called “lower animals.” Amongst the Moslems of Waday, etc., a cord is hung from the top of the hut, and the woman in labour holds on to it standing with her legs apart, till the midwife receives the child.
11 Some Orientalists call “lullilooing” the trilling cry, which is made by raising the voice to its highest pitch and breaking it by a rapid succession of touches on the palate with the tongue-tip, others “Ziraleet” and Zagaleet, and one traveller tells us that it began at the marriage-festival of Isaac and Rebecca (!). Arabs term it classically “Tahlíl” and vulgarly “Zaghrutah” (Plur. Zaghárit) and Persians “Kil.” Finally in Don Quixote we have “Lelilies,” the battle-cry of the Moors (Duffield iii. 289). Dr. Buchanan likens it to a serpent uttering human sounds, but the good missionary heard it at the festival of Jagannath. (Pilgrimage iii. 197 )
12 i.e. “Light of the Place” (or kingdom) and “Delight of the Age.”
13 It is utterly absurd to give the old heroic Persian name Afridun or Furaydun, the destroyer of Zohák or Zahhák to a Greek, but such anachronisms are characteristic of The Nights and are evidently introduced on purpose. See Boccaccio, ix. 9.
14 Arab. “Yunán” lit. Ionia, which applies to all Greece, insular and continental, especially to ancient Greece.
15 In 1870 I saw at Sidon a find of some hundreds of gold “Philippi” and “Alexanders.”
16 M. Riche has (p. 21), “Ces talismans travaillés par le ciseau du célèbre Califaziri,” adding in a note, “Je pense que c’est un sculpteur Arabe.”
17 This periphrase, containing what seems to us a useless negative, adds emphasis in Arabic.
18 This bit of geographical information is not in the Bull Edit.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that, after the Ambassadors and retinue from the Constantinopolitan King had kissed the ground before Omar and had delivered their embassage, they brought out the presents, which were fifty damsels of the choicest from Graecia-land, and fifty Mamelukes in tunics of brocade, belted with girdles of gold and silver, each wearing in his ears hoops of gold with pendants of fine pearls costing a thousand ducats every one. The girls were adorned in like fashion and were clad in stuffs worth a treasury of money. When the King saw them, he rejoiced in them and accepted them; then he bade the Ambassadors be honourably entreated and, summoning his Wazirs, took counsel with them of what he should do. Herewith rose up among them a Wazir, an ancient man, Dandan1 hight, who kissed the ground before Omar and said, “O King, there is nothing better to do in this matter than equip an army valiant and victorious, and set over it thy son Sharrkan with us as his lieutenants; and this rede commendeth itself to me on two counts; first, because the King of Roum hath invoked thine assistance and hath sent thee gifts which thou hast accepted; and, secondly, because while no enemy dareth attack our country, thine army may go forth safely and, should it succour the King of Graecia-land and defeat his foe, the glory will be thine. Moreover, the news of it will be noised abroad in all cities and countries and especially, when the tidings shall reach the Islands of the Ocean and the Kings of Mauritania shall hear it, they will send thee offerings of rarities and pay thee tribute of money.” The King pleased by the Wazir’s words and approving his rede, gave him a dress of honour and said to him, “Of the like of thee should Kings ask counsel, and it seemeth fit that thou shouldst conduct the van of our army and our son Sharrkan command the main battle.” Then he sent for his son who came and kissed ground before him and sat down; and he expounded to him the matter, telling him what the Ambassadors and the Wazir Dandan had said, and he charged him to take arms and equip himself for the campaign, enjoining him not to gainsay Dandan in aught he should do. Moreover, he ordered him to pick out of his army ten thousand horsemen, armed cap-à-pie and inured to onset and stress of war. Accordingly, Sharrkan arose on the instant, and chose out a myriad of horsemen, after which he entered his palace and mustered his host and distributed largesse to them, saying, “Ye have delay of three days.” They kissed the earth before him in obedience to his commands and began at once to lay in munitions, and provide provisions for the occasion; whilst Sharrkan repaired to the armouries and took therefrom whatsoever he required of arms and armour, and thence to the stable where he chose horses of choice blood and others. When the appointed three days were ended, the army drew out to the suburbs of Baghdad city;2 and King Omar came forth to take leave of his son who kissed the ground before him and received from the King seven parcels of money.3 Then he turned to Danden and commended to his care the army of his son; and the Wazir kissed the ground before him and answered, “I hear and I obey;” and lastly he charged Sharrkan that he should consult the Wazir on all occasions, which he promised to do. After this, the King returned to his city and Sharrkan ordered the officers to muster their troops in battle array. So they mustered them and their number was ten thousand horsemen, besides footmen and camp followers. Then they loaded their baggage on their beasts and the war drums beat and the trumpets blared and the bannerols and standards were unfurled, whilst Sharrkan mounted horse, with the Wazir Dandan by his side, and the colours fluttering over their heads. So the host fared forth and stinted not faring, with the ambassadors preceding them, till day departed and night drew nigh, when they alighted and encamped for the night. And as soon as Allah caused the morn tomorrow, they mounted and tried on, guided by the Ambassadors, for a space of twenty days; and by the night of the twenty first they came to a fine and spacious Wady well grown with trees and shrubbery. Here Sharrkan ordered them to alight and commanded a three days’ halt, so they dismounted and pitched their tents, spreading their camp over the right and the left slopes of the extensive valley, whilst the Wazir Dandan and the Ambassadors of King Afridun pitched in the sole of the Wady.4 As for Sharrkan, he tarried behind them for awhile till all had dismounted and had dispersed themselves over the valley sides; he then slacked the reins of his steed, being minded to explore the Wady and to mount guard in his own person, because of his father’s charge and owing to the fact that they were on the frontier of Graecia land and in the enemy’s country. So he rode out alone after ordering his armed slaves and his body guard to camp near the Wazir Dandan, and he fared on along the side of the valley till a fourth part of the night was passed, when he felt tired and drowsiness overcame him, so that he could no longer urge horse with heel. Now he was accustomed to take rest on horseback; so when slumber overpowered him, he slept and the steed ceased not going on with him till half the night was spent and entered one of the thickets5 which was dense with growth; but Sharrkan awoke not until his horse stumbled over wooded ground. Then he started from sleep and found himself among the trees, and the moon arose and shone brightly over the two horizons, Eastern and Western. He was startled when he found himself alone in this place and said the say which ne’er yet shamed its sayer, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!” But as he rode on, in fear of wild beasts, behold, the moon spread her glad light over a meadow as if it were of the meads of Paradise; and he heard pleasant voices and a loud noise of talk and laughter captivating the senses of men. So King Sharrkan alighted and, tying his steed to one of the trees, went over a little way till he came upon a stream and heard a woman talking in Arabic and saying, “Now by the crush of the Messiah, this is not well of you! but whose utters a word, I will throw her and truss her up with her own girdle6!” He kept walking in the direction of the sound and when he reached the further side he looked and behold, a stream was gushing and flowing, and antelopes at large were frisking and roving, and wild cattle amid the pasture moving, and birds expressed joy and gladness in their divers tongues, and that place was purfled with all manner flowers and green herbs, even as a poet described it in these couplets,
“Most beautiful is earth in budding bloom,
When lucid waters course through plain and wood:
No work but His th’ All great, th’ All glorious,
Giver of all gifts, Giver of all good!”
And as Sharrkan considered the place, he saw in it a Christian Monastery within whose enceinte a castle towered high in air catching the light of the moon.7 Through the midst of the convent passed a stream, the water flowing amongst its gardens; and upon the bank sat the woman whose voice he had heard, while before her stood ten handmaids like moons and wearing various sorts of raiment and ornaments that dazed and dazzled the beholder, high bosomed virgins, as saith of them the poet in these couplets,
“The mead is bright with what is on’t
Of merry maidens debonnair:
Double its beauty and its grace
Those trooping damsels slender-fair:
Virgins of graceful swimming gait
Ready with eye and lip to ensnare;
And like the tendril’d vine they loose
The rich profusion of their hair:
Shooting their shafts and arrows from
Beautiful eyes beyond compare;
Overpowering and transpiercing
Every froward adversaire.”
Sharrkan gazed upon the ten girls and saw in their midst a lady like the moon at fullest, with ringleted hair and forehead sheeny white, and eyes wondrous wide and black and bright, and temple locks like the scorpion’s tail; and she was perfect in essence and attributes, as the poet said of her in these couplets,
“She beamed on my sight with a wondrous glance,
And her straight slender stature enshamed the lance:
She burst on my sight with cheeks rosy red,
Where all manner of beauties have habitance:
And the locks on her forehead were lowering as night
Whence issues a dawn tide of happiest chance.”
Then Sharrkan heard her say to the handmaids, “Come ye on, that I may wrestle with you and gravel you, ere the moon set and the dawn break!” So each came up to her in turn and she grounded them forthright, and pinioned them with their girdles, and ceased not wrestling and pitching them until she had overthrown one and all. Then there turned to her an old woman who was before her, and the beldam said as in wrath, “O strumpet, cost thou glory in grounding these girls? Behold I am an old woman, yet have I thrown them forty times! So what hast thou to boast of? But if thou have the strength to wrestle with me, stand up that I may grip thee and set thy head between thy heels!” The young lady smiled at her words, but she was filled with inward wrath, and she jumped up and asked, “O my lady Zat al-Dawahi,8 by the truth of the Messiah, wilt thou wrestle with me in very deed, or dost thou jest with me?”; and she answered, “Yea,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 In Pers. = a tooth, the popular word.
2 This preliminary move, called in Persian Nakl-i Safar, is generally mentioned. So the Franciscan monks in California, when setting out for a long journey through the desert, marched three times round the convent and pitched tents for the night under its walls.
3 In Arab. “Khazinah” or “Khaznah” lit. a treasure, representing 1,000 “Kís” or purses (each=£5). The sum in the text is 7,000 purses X 5=£35,000.
4 Travellers often prefer such sites because they are sheltered from the wind, and the ground is soft for pitching tents; but many have come to grief from sudden torrents following rain.
5 Arab “Ghábah” not a forest in our sense of the word, but a place where water sinks and the trees (mostly Mimosas), which elsewhere are widely scattered, form a comparatively dense growth and collect in thickets. These are favourite places for wild beasts during noon-heats.
6 At various times in the East Jews and Christians were ordered to wear characteristic garments, especially the Zunnár or girdle.
7 The description is borrowed from the Coptic Convent, which invariably has an inner donjon or keep. The oldest monastery in the world is Mar Antonios (St. Anthony the Hermit) not far from Suez. (Gold Mines of Midian, p. 85.)
8 “Dawáhí,” plur. of Dáhiyah = a mishap. The title means “Mistress of Misfortunes” or Queen of Calamities (to the enemy); and the venerable lady, as will be seen, amply deserved her name, which is pronounced Zát al-Dawáhí.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the young lady asked Zat al-Dawahi, “By the truth of the Messiah, wilt wrestle with me or dost jest?”, and she answered, “Yea, I will wrestle with thee in very deed” (Sharrkan looking on the while), the damsel cried, “Rise up for the fall an thou have spunk so to do.” When the old woman heard this, she raged with exceeding rage, and her body hair stood on end like the bristles of a fretful hedgehog.1 Then she sprang to her feet, whilst the damsel stood up to her, and said, “Now by the truth of the Messiah, I will not wrestle with thee unless I be naked, Mistress whore!”2 So she loosed her petticoat trousers and, putting her hand under her clothes, tore them off her body; then twisted up a silken kerchief into cord shape, girt it round her middle and became as she were a scald head If ritah or a spotted snake. With this she inclined towards the damsel and said, “Do thou as I have done.” All this time, Sharrkan was gazing at the twain, and laughing at the beldam’s loathly semblance. So the damsel leisurely rose and, taking a sash of Yamani stuff, passed it twice round her waist, then she tucked up her trousers and displayed two calves of alabaster carrying a mound of crystal, smooth and rounded, and a stomach which exhaled musk from its dimples, as it were a bed of Nu’uman’s anemones; and breasts like double pomegranates. Then the old woman leant towards her, and the two laid hold either of each, while Sharrkan raised his head Heavenwards and prayed Allah that the belle might beat the beldam. Presently the young woman get beneath the old woman; and, gripping her waist cloth with the left and circling her neck with the right hand, hoisted her off the ground with both; whereupon the old woman strove to free herself and, in so doing fell on her back arsiversy, with her legs high in air and her hairy bush between them showed manifest in the moonshine; furthermore she let fly two great farts3 one of which blew up the dust from the earth’s face and the other steamed up to the gate of Heaven. Sharrkan laughed till he fell back upon the ground. Then he arose and, baring his brand looked right and left, but he saw no one save the old woman sprawling on her back, and said to himself, “He lied not who named thee Lady of Calamities! Verily thou knewest her prowess by her performance upon the others.” So he drew near them to hear what should pass between them. Then the young lady went up to the old one and, throwing a wrapper of thin silk upon her nakedness, helped her to don her clothes and made excuses saying, “O my lady Zat al-Dawahi, I intended only to throw thee and not all this, but thou triedst to twist out of my hands; so laud to Allah for safety!” She returned her no answer, but rose in her shame and walked away till out of sight, leaving the handmaids prostrate and pinioned, with the fair damsel standing amongst them. Quoth Sharrkan to himself, “Every luck hath its cause. Sleep did not fall upon me nor the war horse bear me hither save for my good fortune; for doubtless this maid and what is with her shall become booty to me.” So he made towards his steed and mounted and heeled4 him on, when he sped as the shaft speeds from the bow and in his hand he still hent his brand bare of sheath, which he brandished shouting the while his war cry, “Allah is All mighty5!” When the damsel saw him she sprang to her feet and, taking firm stand on the bank of the stream, whose breadth was six ells, the normal cubits, made one bound and landed clear on the farther side,6 where she turned and cried out with a loud voice, “Who art thou, O thou fellow, that breakest in upon our privacy and pastime, and that too hanger in hand as if charging a host? Whence camest thou and whither art thou going? Speak sooth, for truth will stand thee in good stead, and lie not, for lies come of villein breed Doubtless thou hast wandered this night from thy way, that thou chancedst upon this place whence escape were the greatest of mercies; for thou art now in an open plain and, did we shout but a single shout, would come to our rescue four thousand knights.7 So tell me what thou wantest; and if thou wouldst only have us set thee on the right road, we will do so.” When Sharrkan heard her words he replied, “I am a stranger of the Moslems, who fared forth this night single handed, seeking for spoil; nor could this moonlight show me a fairer booty than these ten maidens; so I shall seize them and rejoin my comrades with them.” Quoth she, “I would have thee know that as for the booty thou hast not come at it; and, as for the handmaids, by Allah, they shall never be thy spoil. Have I not told thee that to lie is villein vile?” Quoth he, “The wise man is he who taketh warning by others.” Thereupon quoth she, “By the truth of the Messiah, did I not fear that thy death would be on my hands, I would shout a shout should fill the mead for thee with war steeds and with men of might, but I take pity upon the stranger. So, if thou seek booty, I require of thee that thou alight from thy steed and swear to me, by thy faith, that thou wilt not advance against me aught like arms in hand, and we will wrestle, I and thou. If thou throw me, set me on thy steed and take all of us to thy booty; but if I throw thee, thou shalt become under my command. Swear this to me, for I fear thy treachery: indeed it hath become a common saw, ‘Where Perfidy is innate there Trust is a weakly mate.’ Now an thou wilt swear I will return and draw near to thee and tackle thee.” Answered Sharrkan (and indeed he lusted to seize her and said in his soul, “Truly she knoweth not that I am a champion of champions”); “Swear me by what oath thou wilt and by what thou deemest most binding, and I will not approach thee with aught till thou hast made thy preparation and sayest, ‘Draw near that I wrestle with thee.’ If thou throw me, I have money where withal to ransom myself; and if I throw thee, ’twill be booty and booty enough for me!” Rejoined the damsel, “I am content herewith!” and Sharrkan was astounded at her words and said, “And by the truth of the Apostle (whom Allah bless and keep!) I too am content on the other part!” Then said she, “Swear to me by Him who sprite in body dight and dealt laws to rule man kind aright, that thou wilt not offer me aught of violence save by way of wrestling; else mayst thou die without the pale of Al-Islam.” Sharrkan replied, “By Allah! were a Kazi to swear me, even though he were a Kazi of the Kazis,8 he would not impose upon me such an oath as this!” Then he sware to her by all she named and tied his steed to a tree; but he was drowned in the sea of thought, saying in himself, “Praise be to Him who fashioned her from dirty water!”9 Then he girt himself and made ready for wrestling, and said to her, “Cross the stream to me;” but she replied, “It is not for me to come over to thee: if thou wilt, pass thou over here to me.” “I cannot do that,” quoth he, and quoth she, “O boy, I will come across to thee.” So she tucked up her skirts and, leaping, landed on the other side of the stream by his side; whereupon he drew near to her and bent him forwards and clapped palms.10 But he was confounded by her beauty and loveliness; for he saw a shape which the Hand of Power had tanned with the dye leaves of the Jann, which had been fostered by the Hand of Beneficence and fanned by the Zephyrs of fair fortune and whose birth a propitious ascendant had greeted. Then she called out to him, “O Moslem, come on and let us wrestle ere the break of morning,” and tucked up her sleeves from a forearm like fresh curd, which illumined the whole place with its whiteness; and Sharrkan was dazzled by it. Then he bent forwards and clapped his palms by way of challenge, she doing the like, and caught hold of her, and the two grappled and gripped and interlocked hands and arms. Presently he shifted his hands to her slender waist, when his finger tips sank into the soft folds of her middle, breeding languishment, and he fell a trembling like the Persian reed in the roaring gale. So she lifted him up and, throwing him to the ground, sat upon his breast with hips and hinder cheeks like mounds of sand, for his soul had lost mastery over his senses. Then she asked him, “O Moslem! the slaying of Nazarenes is lawful to you folk; what then hast thou to say about being slain thyself?”; and he answered, “O my lady, thy speech as regards slaying me is not other than unlawful; for our prophet Mohammed (whom Allah bless and preserve!) prohibited the slaying of women and children, old men and monks!” “As it was thus revealed to your Prophet,” she replied, “it behoveth us to render the equivalent of his mercy; so rise. I give thee thy life, for generosity is never lost upon the generous.” Then she got off his breast and he rose and stood shaking the dust from his head against the owners of the curved rib, even women; and she said to him, “Be not ashamed; but verily one who entereth the land of Roum in quest of booty, and cometh to assist Kings against Kings, how happeneth it that he hath not strength enough to defend himself from one made out of the curved rib?” “’Twas not for lack of strength in me,” he answered; “nor didst thou throw me by thy force; it was thy loveliness overthrew me; so if thou wilt grant me another bout, it will be of thy courtesy.” She laughed and said, “I grant thee thy request: but these handmaids have long been pinioned and their arms and sides are weary, and it were only right I should loose them, for haply this next wrestling bout will be long.” Then she went to the slave girls and, unbinding them, said to them in the tongue of Greece, “Get ye to some safe place, till I foil this Moslem’s lust and longing for you.” So they went away, whilst Sharrkan kept gazing at them and they kept turning to look at the two. Then each approached the adversary and he set his breast against hers, but when he felt waist touch waist, his strength failed him; and she, waxing ware of this, lifted him with her hands swiftlier than the blinding leven-flash, and threw him to the ground. He fell on his back,11 and then she said to him, “Rise: I give thee thy life a second time. I spared thee in the first count because of thy Prophet, for that he made unlawful the slaying of women; and I do so on the second count because of thy weakliness and the greenness of thine years and thy strangerhood; but I charge thee, if there be in the Moslem army sent by Omar bin al-Nu’uman to succour the King of Constantinople, a stronger than thou, send him hither and tell him of me: for in wrestling there are shifts and trips, catches and holds, such as the feint or falsing and the snap or first grip, the hug, the feet-catch, the thigh Lite,12 the jostle and the leg-lock.” “By Allah, O my lady,” quoth Sharrkan (and indeed he was highly incensed against her), “had I been Master al-Safdí, Master Mohammed Kimál or Ibn al-Saddí,13 as they were in their prime, I had kept no note of these shifts thou mentionest; for O my mistress, by Allah, thou hast not grassed me by thy strength, but by the blandishments of thy back parts; for we men of Mesopotamia so love a full formed thigh that nor sense was left me nor foresight. But now, an thou wish, thou shalt try a third fall with me while my wits are about me, and this last match is allowed me by the laws of the game which sayeth the best of three: moreover I have regained my presence of mind.” When she heard his words she said to him, “Hast thou not had a belly full of this wrestling, O vanquished one? However come on, an thou wilt; but know that this must be the last round.” Then she bent forward and challenged him and Sharrkan did likewise, setting to it in real earnest and being right cautious about the throw: so the two strove awhile and the damsel found in him a strength such as she had not observed before and said to him, “O Moslem, thou art now on thy mettle.” “Yes,” he replied, “thou knowest that there remaineth to me but this one round, after which each of us will wend a different way.” She laughed and he laughed too;14 then she overreached at his thigh and caught firm hold of it unawares, which made him greet the ground and fall full on his back. She laughed at him and said, “Art thou an eater of bran? Thou are like a Badawi’s bonnet which falleth off with every touch or else the Father of Winds15 that droppeth before a puff of air. Fie upon thee, O thou poor thing!” adding, “Get thee back to the Moslem army and send us other than thyself, for thou fairest of thews; and proclaim for us, among the Arabs and Persians, the Turks and Daylamites,16 whoso hath might in him, let him come to us.” Then she made a spring and landed on the other side of the stream and said to Sharrkan, laughing, “Parting with thee is right grievous to me, O my lord; but get thee to thy mates before dawn, lest the Knights come upon thee and pick thee up on their lance points. Thou hast no strength to defend thee against a woman, so how couldst thou hold thine own amongst men of might and Knights?” Sharrkan was confounded and called to her (as she turned from him making towards the convent), “O my lady, wilt thou go away and leave the miserable stranger, the broken hearted slave of love?” So she turned to him laughing and said, “What is thy want? I will grant thee thy prayer.” “Have I set foot in thy country and tasted the sweetness of thy courtesy,” replied he, “and shall I return without eating of thy victual and tasting thy hospitality; I who have become one of thy servitors!” “None baulk kindliness save the base,” she rejoined, “honour us in Allah’s name, on my head and eyes be it! Mount thy steed and ride along the brink of the stream over against me, for now thou art my guest.” At this Sharrkan was glad and, hastening back to his horse, mounted and walked him abreast of her, and she kept faring on till they came to a drawbridge17 built of beams of the white poplar, hung by pullies and steel chains and made fast with hooks and padlocks. When Sharrkan looked, he saw awaiting her upon the bridge the same ten handmaids whom she had thrown in the wrestling bouts; and, as she came up to them, she said to one in the Greek tongue, “Arise and take the reins of his horse and conduct him across into the convent.” So she went up to Sharrkan and led him over, much puzzled and perturbed with what he saw, and saying to himself, “O would that the Wazir Dandan were here with me that his eyes might look upon these fairest of favours.” Then he turned to the young lady and said to her, “O marvel of loveliness, now I have two claims upon thee; first the claim of good fellowship, and secondly for that thou hast carried me to thy home and offered me thy hospitality. I am now under thy commandance and thy guidance; so do me one last favour by accompanying me to the lands of Al–Islam; where thou shalt look upon many a lion hearted warrior and thou shalt learn who I am.” When she heard this she was angered and said to him, “By the truth of the Messiah, thou hast proved thyself with me a man of keen wit; but now I see what mischief there is in thy heart, and how thou canst permit thyself a speech which proveth thy traitorous intent. How should I do as thou sayest, when I wot that if I came to that King of yours, Omar bin al — Nu’uman, I should never get free from him? For truly he hath not the like of me or behind his city walls or within his palace halls, Lord of Baghdad and of Khorasan though he be, who hath built for himself twelve pavilions, in number as the months of the year, and in each a concubine after the number of the days; and if I come to him he would not prove shy of me, for your folk believe I am lawful to have and to hold as is said in your writ, ‘Or those women whom your right hand shall possess as slaves.’18 So how canst thou speak thus to me? As for thy saying, ‘Thou shalt look upon the braves of the Moslems,’ by the truth of the Messiah, thou sayest that which is not true, for I saw your army when it reached our land, these two days ago; and I did not see that your ordinance was the ordinance of Kings, but I beheld only a rabble of tribesmen gathered together. And as to thy words, ‘Thou shalt know who I am,’ I did not do thee kindness because of thy dignity but out of pride in myself; and the like of thee should not talk thus to the like of me, even wert thou Sharrkan, Omar bin al — Nu’uman’s son, the prowess name in these days!” “Knowest thou Sharrkan?” asked he; and she answered Yes! and I know of his coming with an army numbering ten thousand horsemen; also that he was sent by his sire with this force to gain prevalence for the King of Constantinople.” “O my lady,” said Sharrkan, “I adjure thee by thy religion, tell me the cause of all this, that sooth may appear to me clear of untruth, and with whom the fault lies.” “Now by the virtue of thy faith,” she replied, “did I not fear lest the news of me be bruited abroad that I am of the daughters of Roum, I would adventure myself and sally forth single handed against the ten thousand horsemen and slay their leader, the Wazir Dandan and vanquish their champion Sharrkan.19 Nor would aught of shame accrue to me thereby, for I have read books and studied the rules of good breeding in the language of the Arabs. But I have no need to vaunt my own prowess to thee, more by token as thou hast proved in thy proper person my skill and strength in wrestling; and thou hast learnt my superiority over other women. Nor, indeed, had Sharrkan himself been here this night and it were said to him, ‘Clear this stream,’ could he have done it; and I only long and lust that the Messiah would throw him into my hands in this very convent, that I might go forth to him in the habit of a man and drag him from his saddle seat and make him my captive and lay him in bilboes.” — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Kunfuz”=hedgehog or porcupine.
2 These flowers of speech are mere familiarities, not insults. In societies where the sexes are separated speech becomes exceedingly free. “Étourdie que vous êtes,” says M. Riche, toning down the text.
3 Arab. “Zirt,” a low word. The superlative “Zarrát” (fartermost) or, “Abu Zirt” (Father of farts) is a facetious term among the bean-eating Fellahs and a deadly insult amongst the Badawin (Night ccccx.). The latter prefer the word Taggáa (Pilgrimage iii. 84). We did not disdain the word in farthingale=pet en air.
4 Arab. “kicked” him, i.e. with the sharp corner of the shovel-stirrup. I avoid such expressions as “spurring” and “pricking over the plain,” because apt to give a wrong idea.
5 Arab. “Allaho Akbar!” the classical Moslem slogan.
6 Arab horses are never taught to leap, so she was quite safe on the other side of a brook nine feet broad.
7 “Batrík” (vulg. Bitrík)=patricius, a title given to Christian knights who commanded ten thousand men; the Tarkhan (or Nobb) heading four thousand, and the Kaumas (Arab. Káid) two hundred. It must not be confounded with Batrak (or Batrik)=patriarcha. (Lane’s Lex.)
8 Arab. “Kázi al-Kuzát,” a kind of Chief Justice or Chancellor. The office wag established under the rule of Harun al Rashid, who so entitled Abú Yúsuf Ya’akab al-Ansári: therefore the allusion is anachronistic. The same Caliph also caused the Olema to dress as they do still.
9 The allusion is Koranic: “O men, if ye be in doubt concerning the resurrection, consider that He first created you of the dust of the ground (Adam), afterwards of seed” (chaps. xxii.). But the physiological ideas of the Koran are curious. It supposes that the Mani or male semen is in the loins and that of women in the breast bone (chaps Ixxxvi.); that the mingled seed of the two (chaps. Ixxvi.) fructifies the ovary and that the child is fed through the navel with menstruous blood, hence the cessation of the catamenia. Barzoi (Kalilah and Dímnah) says:— “Man’s seed, falling into the woman’s womb, is mixed with her seed and her blood: when it thickens and curdles the Spirit moves it and it turns about like liquid cheese; then it solidifies, its arteries are formed, its limbs constructed and its joints distinguished. If the babe is a male, his face is placed towards his mother’s back; if a female, towards her belly.” (P. 262, Mr. L G.N. Keith — Falconer’s translation.) But there is a curious prolepsis of the spermatozoa-theory. We read (Koran chaps. vii.), “Thy Lord drew forth their posterity from the loins of the sons of Adam;” and the commentators say that Allah stroked Adam’s back and extracted from his loins all his posterity, which shall ever be, in the shape of small ants; these confessed their dependence on God and were dismissed to return whence they came.” From this fiction it appears (says Sale) that the doctrine of pre-existence is not unknown to the Mohammedans, and there is some little conformity between it and the modern theory of generatio ex animalculis in semine marium. The poets call this Yaum-i-Alast = the Day of Am-I-not (-your Lord)? which Sir William Jones most unhappily translated “Art thou not with thy Lord?” (Alasta bi Rabbi — kum); fand they produce a grand vision of unembodied spirits appearing in countless millions before their Creator.
10 The usual preliminary of a wrestling bout.
11 In Eastern wrestling this counts as a fair fail. So Ajax fell on his back with Ulysses on his breast. (Iliad xxxii., 700, etc.)
12 So biting was allowed amongst the Greeks in the
, the final struggle on the ground.
13 Supposed to be names of noted wrestlers. “Kayim” (not El–Kim as Torrens has it) is a term now applied to a juggler or “professor” of legerdemain who amuses people in the streets with easy tricks. (Lane, M. E., chaps. xx.)
14 Lit. “laughed in his face” which has not the unpleasant meaning it bears in English.
15 Arab. “Abu riyáh”=a kind of child’s toy. It is our “bull-roarer” well known in Australia and parts of Africa.
16 The people of the region south of the Caspian which is called “Sea of Daylam.” It has a long history; for which see D’Herbelot, s.v. “Dilem.”
17 Coptic convents in Egypt still affect these drawbridges over the keep-moat.
18 Koran iv., xxii. etc., meaning it is lawful to marry women taken in war after the necessary purification although their husbands be still living. This is not permitted with a free woman who is a True Believer. I have noted that the only concubine slave-girl mentioned in the Koran are these “captives possessed by the right hand.”
19 The Amazonian dame is a favourite in folk-lore and is an ornament to poetry from the Iliad to our modern day. Such heroines, apparently unknown to the Pagan Arabs, were common in the early ages of Al–Islam as Ockley and Gibbon prove, and that the race is not extinct may be seen in my Pilgrimage (iii. 55) where the sister of Ibn Rumi resolved to take blood revenge for her brother.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52