She said:— I will relate the
It hath reached me, O august King, that in days of yore and in times and ages long gone before, during the Caliphate of Harun al-Rashid, there was a merchant who named his son Abú al-Hasan1 Ali bin Táhir; and the same was great of goods and grace, while his son was fair of form and face and held in favour by all folk. He used to enter the royal palace without asking leave, for all the Caliph’s concubines and slave-girls loved him, and he was wont to be companion with Al–Rashid in his cups and recite verses to him and tell him curious tales and witty. Withal he sold and bought in the merchants’ bazar, and there used to sit in his shop a youth named Ali bin Bakkár, of the sons of the Persian Kings2 who was formous of form and symmetrical of shape and perfect of figure, with cheeks red as roses and joined eyebrows; sweet of speech, laughing-lipped and delighting in mirth and gaiety. Now it chanced one day, as the two sat talking and laughing behold, there came up ten damsels like moons, every one of them complete in beauty and loveliness, and elegance and grace; and amongst them was a young lady riding on a she-mule with a saddle of brocade and stirrups of gold. She wore an outer veil of fine stuff, and her waist was girt with a girdle of gold-embroidered silk; and she was even as saith the poet,
“Silky her skin and silk that zoned waist;
Sweet voice; words not o’er many nor too few:
Two eyes quoth Allah ‘Be,’ and they became;
And work like wine on hearts they make to rue:
O love I feel! grow greater every night:
O solace! Doom-day bring our interview.”
And when the cortège reached Abu al-Hasan’s shop, she alighted from her mule, and sitting down on the front board,3 saluted him, and he returned her salam. When Ali bin Bakkar saw her, she ravished his understanding and he rose to go away; but she said to him, “Sit in thy place. We came to thee and thou goest away: this is not fair!” Replied he, “O my lady, by Allah, I flee from what I see; for the tongue of the case saith,
‘She is a sun which towereth high a-sky;
So ease thy heart with cure by Patience lent:
Thou to her skyey height shalt fail to fly;
Nor she from skyey height can make descent.’”
When she heard this, she smiled and asked Abu al-Hasan, “What is the name of this young man?”; who answered, “He is a stranger;” and she enquired, “What countryman is he?”; whereto the merchant replied, “He is a descendant of the Persian Kings; his name is Ali son of Bakkar and the stranger deserveth honour.” Rejoined she, “When my damsel comes to thee, come thou at once to us and bring him with thee, that we may entertain him in our abode, lest he blame us and say, ‘There is no hospitality in the people of Baghdad’; for niggardliness is the worst fault a man can have. Thou hearest what I say to thee and, if thou disobey me, thou wilt incur my displeasure and I will never again visit thee or salute thee.” Quoth Abu al-Hasan, “On my head and my eyes: Allah preserve me from thy displeasure, fair lady!” Then she rose and went her way. Such was her case; but as regards Ali bin Bakkar he remained in a state of bewilderment. Now after an hour the damsel came to Abu al-Hasan and said to him, “Of a truth my lady Shams al-Nahár, the favourite of the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, biddeth thee to her, thee and thy friend, my lord Ali bin Bakkar.” So he rose and, taking Ali with him, followed the girl to the Caliph’s palace, where she carried them into a chamber and made them sit down. They talked together awhile, when behold, trays of food were set before them, and they ate and washed their hands. Then she brought them wine, and they drank deep and made merry; after which she bade them rise and carried them into another chamber, vaulted upon four columns, furnished after the goodliest fashion with various kinds of furniture, and adorned with decorations as it were one of the pavilions of Paradise. They were amazed at the rarities they saw; and, as they were enjoying a review of these marvels, suddenly up came ten slave-girls, like moons, swaying and swimming in beauty’s pride, dazzling the sight and confounding the sprite; and they ranged themselves in two ranks as if they were of the black-eyed Brides of Paradise. And after a while in came other ten damsels, bearing in their hands lutes and divers instruments of mirth and music; and these, having saluted the two guests, sat down and fell to tuning their lute-strings. Then they rose and standing before them, played and sang and recited verses: and indeed each one of them was a seduction to the servants of the Lord. Whilst they were thus busied there entered other ten damsels like unto them, high-bosomed maids and of an equal age, with black-eyes and cheeks like the rose, joined eyebrows and looks languorous; a very fascination to every faithful wight and to all who looked upon them a delight; clad in various kinds of coloured silks, with ornaments that amazed man’s intelligence. They took up their station at the door, and there succeeded them yet other ten damsels even fairer than they, clad in gorgeous array, such as no tongue can say; and they also stationed themselves by the doorway. Then in came a band of twenty damsels and amongst them the lady, Shams al-Nahar hight, as she were the moon among the stars swaying from side to side, with luring gait and in beauty’s pride. And she was veiled to the middle with the luxuriance of her locks, and clad in a robe of azure blue and a mantilla of silk embroidered with gold and gems of price; and her waist was girt with a zone set with various kinds of precious stones. She ceased not to advance with her graceful and coquettish swaying, till she came to the couch that stood at the upper end of the chamber and seated herself thereon. But when Ali bin Bakkar saw her, he versified with these verses,
“Source of mine evils, truly, she alone ‘s,
Of long love-longing and my groans and moans;
Near her I find my soul in melting mood,
For love of her and wasting of my bones.”
And finishing his poetry he said to Abu al-Hasan, “Hadst thou Dealt more kindly with me thou haddest forewarned me of these things ere I came hither, that I might have made up my mind and taken patience to support what hath befallen me.” And he wept and groaned and complained. Replied Abu al-Hasan, “O my brother, I meant thee naught but good; but I feared to tell thee this, lest such transport should betide thee as might hinder thee from foregathering with her, and be a stumbling-block between thee and her. But be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear;4 for she to thee inclineth and to favour thee designeth.” Asked Ali bin Bakkar, “What is this young lady’s name?” Answered Abu al-Hasan, “She is hight Shams al-Nahar, one of the favourites of the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, and this is the palace of the Caliphate.” Then Shams al-Nahar sat gazing upon the charms of Ali bin Bakkar and he upon hers, till both were engrossed with love for each other. Presently she commanded the damsels, one and all, to be seated, each in her rank and place, and all sat on a couch before one of the windows, and she bade them sing; whereupon one of them took up the lute and began caroling,
“Give thou my message twice
Bring clear reply in trice!
To thee, O Prince of Beau
— ty5 with complaint I rise:
My lord, as heart-blood dear
And Life’s most precious prize!
Give me one kiss in gift
Or loan, if thou devise: And if thou crave for more
Take all that satisfies.6 Thou donn’st me sickness-dress
Thee with health’s weed I bless.”
Her singing charmed Ali bin Bakkar, and he said to her, “Sing me more of the like of these verses.” So she struck the strings and began to chaunt these lines,
“By stress of parting, O beloved one,
Thou mad’st these eyelids torment — race to run:
Oh gladness of my sight and dear desire,
Goal of my wishes, my religion!
Pity the youth whose eyne are drowned in tears
Of lover gone distraught and clean undone.”
When she had finished her verses, Shams al-Nahar said to another damsel, “Let us hear something from thee!” So she played a lively measure and began these couplets,
“His7 looks have made me drunken, not his wine;
His grace of gait disgraced sleep to these eyne:
Dazed me no cup, but cop with curly crop;
His gifts overcame me not the gifts of vine:
His winding locks my patience-clue unwound:
His robed beauties robbed all wits of mine.”
When Shams Al–Nahar heard this recital from the damsel, she sighed heavily and the song pleased her. Then she bade another damsel sing; so she took the lute and began chanting,
“Face that with Sol in Heaven lamping vies;
Youth-tide’s fair fountain which begins to rise;
Whose curly side-beard writeth writ of love,
And in each curl concealeth mysteries:
Cried Beauty, ‘When I met this youth I knew
’Tis Allah’s loom such gorgeous robe supplies.’”
When she had finished her song, Ali bin Bakkar said to the slave-maiden nearest him, “Sing us somewhat, thou O damsel.” So she took the lute and began singing,
“Our trysting-time is all too short
For this long coyish coquetry:
How long this ‘Nay, Nay!’ and ‘Wait, wait?’
This is not old nobility!
And now that Time deigns lend delight
Profit of th’ opportunity.”
When she ended, Ali bin Bakkar followed up her song with flowing tears; and, as Shams al-Nahar saw him weeping and groaning and complaining, she burned with love-longing and desire; and passion and transport consumed her. So she rose from the sofa and came to the door of the alcove, where Ali met her and they embraced with arms round the neck, and fell down fainting in the doorway; whereupon the damsels came to them and carrying them into the alcove, sprinkled rose-water upon them both. When they recovered, they found not Abu al-Hasan who had hidden himself by the side of a couch, and the young lady said, “Where is Abu al-Hasan?” So he showed himself to her from beside the couch and she saluted him, saying, “I pray Allah to give me the means of requiting thee, O kindest of men!” Then she turned to Ali bin Bakkar and said to him, “O my lord, passion hath not reached this extreme pass with thee without my feeling the like; but we have nothing to do save to bear patiently what calamity hath befallen us.” Replied he, “By Allah, O my lady, union with thee may not content me nor gazing upon thee assuage the fire thou hast lighted, nor shall leave me the love of thee which hath mastered my heart but with the leaving of my life.” So saying, he wept and the tears ran down upon his cheeks like thridded pearls; and when Shams al-Nahar saw him weep, she wept for his weeping. But Abu al-Hasan exclaimed, “By Allah, I wonder at your case and am confounded at your condition; of a truth, your affair is amazing and your chance dazing. What! this weeping while ye are yet together: then how will it be what time ye are parted and far separated?” And he continued, “Indeed, this is no tide for weeping and wailing, but a season for meeting and merry-making; rejoice, therefore, and take your pleasure and shed no more tears!” Then Shams al-Nahar signed to a slave-girl, who arose and presently returned with handmaids bearing a table, whose dishes of silver were full of various rich viands. They set the table before the pair and Shams al-Nahar began to eat8 and to place tid-bits in the mouth of Ali bin Bakkar; and they ceased not so doing till they were satisfied, when the table was removed and they washed their hands. Then the waiting-women fetched censers with all manner of incense, aloe-wood and ambergris and mixed scents; and sprinkling-flasks full of rose-water were also brought and they were fumigated and perfumed. After this the slaves set on vessels of graven gold, containing all kinds of sherbets, besides fruits fresh and dried, that heart can desire and eye delight in; and lastly one brought a flagon of carnelion full of old wine. Then Shams al-Nahar chose out ten handmaids to attend on them and ten singing women; and, dismissing the rest to their apartments, bade some of those who remained strike the lute. They did as she bade them and one of them began to sing,
“My soul to him who smiled back my salute,
In breast reviving hopes that were no mo’e:
The hand o’ Love my secret brought to light,
And censor’s tongues what lies my ribs below:9
My tear-drops ever press twixt me and him,
As though my tear-drops showing love would flow.”
When she had finished her singing, Shams al-Nahar rose and, filling a goblet, drank it off, then crowned it again and handed it to Ali bin Bakkar; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Lane (ii. 1) writes “Abu-l-Hasan;” Payne (iii. 49) “Aboulhusn” which would mean “Father of Beauty (Husn)” and is not a Moslem name. Hasan (beautiful) and its dimin. Husayn, names now so common, were (it is said), unknown to the Arabs, although Hassán was that of a Tobba King, before the days of Mohammed who so called his two only grandsons. In Anglo–India they have become “Hobson and Jobson.” The Bresl. Edit. (ii. 305) entitles this story “Tale of Abu ‘l Hasan the Attár (druggist and perfumer) with Ali ibn Bakkár and what befel them with the handmaid (=járiyah) Shams al-Nahár.”
2 i.e. a descendant, not a Prince.
3 The Arab shop is a kind of hole in the wall and buyers sit upon its outer edge (Pilgrimage i. 99).
4 By a similar image the chamæleon is called Abú Kurrat=Father of coolness; because it is said to have the “coldest” eye of all animals and insensible to heat and light, since it always looks at the sun.
5 This dividing the hemistich words is characteristic of certain tales; so I have retained it although inevitably suggesting:—
I left Matilda at the U-
niversity of Gottingen.
6 These naïve offers in Eastern tales mostly come from the true seducer — Eve. Europe and England especially, still talks endless absurdity upon the subject. A man of the world may “seduce” an utterly innocent (which means an ignorant) girl. But to “seduce” a married woman! What a farce!
7 Masculine again for feminine: the lines are as full of word-plays, vulgarly called puns, as Sanskrit verses.
8 The Eastern heroine always has a good appetite and eats well. The sensible Oriental would infinitely despise that maladive Parisienne in whom our neighbours delight, and whom I long to send to the Hospital.
9 i.e. her rivals have discovered the secret of her heart.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Shams al-Nahar filled a goblet and handed it to Ali bin Bakkar; after which she bade another damsel sing; and she began singing these couplets,
“My tears thus flowing rival with my wine,
Pouring the like of what fills cup to brink:1
By Allah wot I not an run these eyne
Wi’ wine, or else it is of tears I drink.”
And when she ended her recitation, Ali bin Bakkar drained his cup and returned it to Shams al-Nahar. She filled it again and gave it to Abu al-Hasan who tossed it off. Then she took the lute, saying, “None shall sing over my cup save myself;” so she screwed up the strings and intoned these verses,
“The tears run down his cheeks in double row,
And in his breast high flameth lover-lowe:
He weeps when near, a-fearing to be far;
And, whether far or near, his tear-drops flow.”
And the words of another,
“Our life to thee, O cup-boy Beauty-dight!
From parted hair to calves; from black to white:
Sol beameth from thy hands, and from thy lips
Pleiads, and full Moon through thy collar’s night,2
Good sooth the cups, which made our heads fly round,
Are those thine eyes pass round to daze the sight:
No wonder lovers hail thee as full moon
Waning to them, for self e’er waxing bright:
Art thou a deity to kill and quicken,
Bidding this fere, forbidding other wight?
Allah from model of thy form made Beau
— ty and the Zephyr scented with thy sprite.
Thou art not of this order of human
— ity but angel lent by Heaven to man.”
When Ali bin Bakkar and Abu al-Hasan and those present heard Shams al-Nahar’s song, they were like to fly for joy, and sported and laughed; but while they were thus enjoying themselves lo! up came a damsel, trembling for fear and said, “O my lady, the Commander of the Faithful’s eunuchs are at the door, Afíf and Masrúr and Marján3 and others whom wot I not.” When they heard this they were like to die with fright, but Shams al-Nahar laughed and said, “Have no fear!” Then quoth she to the damsel, “Keep answering them whilst we remove hence.” And she caused the doors of the alcove to be closed upon Ali and Abu al-Hasan, and let down the curtains over the entrance (they being still within); after which she shut the door of the saloon and went out by the privy wicket into the flower-garden, where she seated herself on a couch she had there and made one of the damsels knead her feet.4 Then she dismissed the rest of her women to their rooms and bade the portress admit those who were at the door; whereupon Masrur entered, he and his company of twenty with drawn swords. And when they saluted her, she asked, “Wherefore come ye?”; whereto they answered, “The Commander of the Faithful saluteth thee. Indeed he is desolated for want of thy sight; he letteth thee know that this be to him a day of joy and great gladness and he wisheth to seal his day and complete his pleasure with thy company at this very hour. So say, wilt go to him or shall he come to thee?” Upon this she rose and, kissing the earth, replied, “I hear and I obey the commandment of the Prince of True Believers!” Then she summoned the women guards of her household and other slave-damsels, who lost no time in attending upon her and made a show of obeying the Caliph’s orders. And albeit everything about the place was in readiness, she said to the eunuchs, “Go to the Commander of the Faithful and tell him that I await him after a little space, that I may make ready for him a place with carpets and other matters.” So they returned in haste to the Caliph, whilst Shams al-Nahar, doffing her outer gear, repaired to her lover, Ali bin Bakkar, and drew him to her bosom and bade him farewell, whereat he wept sore and said, “O my lady, this leave-taking will cause the ruin of my very self and the loss of my very soul; but I pray Allah grant me patience to support the passion wherewith he hath afflicted me!” Replied she, “By Allah, none shall suffer perdition save I; for thou wilt fare forth to the bazar and consort with those that shall divert thee, and thy life will be sound and thy love hidden forsure; but I shall fall into trouble and tristesse nor find any to console me, more by token that I have given the Caliph a tryst, wherein haply great peril shall betide me by reason of my love for thee and my longing for thee and my grief at being parted from thee. For with what tongue shall I sing and with what heart shall I present myself before the Caliph? and with what speech shall I company the Commander of the Faithful in his cups? and with what eyes shall I look upon a place where thou art absent? and with what taste shall I drink wine of which thou drinkest not?” Quoth Abu al-Hasan, “Be not troubled but take patience and be not remiss in entertaining the Commander of the Faithful this night, neither show him any neglect, but be of good heart.” Now at this juncture, behold, up came a damsel, who said to Shams al-Nahar, “O my lady, the Caliph’s pages are come.” So she hastily rose to her feet and said to the maid, “Take Abu al-Hasan and his friend and carry them to the upper balcony5 giving upon the garden and there leave them till darkness come on; when do thou contrive to carry them forth.” Accordingly the girl led them up to the balcony and, locking the door upon them both, went her way. As they sat looking on the garden lo! the Caliph appeared escorted by near an hundred eunuchs, with drawn swords in hand and girt about with a score of damsels, as they were moons, all clad in the richest of raiment and on each one’s head was a crown set with jewels and rubies; while each carried a lighted flambeau. The Caliph walked in their midst, they encompassing him about on all sides, and Masrur and Afíf and Wasíf6 went before him and he bore himself with a graceful gait. So Shams al-Nahar and her maidens rose to receive him and, meeting him at the garden-door, kissed ground between his hands; nor did they cease to go before him till they brought him to the couch whereon he sat down, whilst all the waiting-women who were in the garden and the eunuchs stood before him and there came fair handmaids and concubines holding in hand lighted candles and perfumes and incense and instruments of mirth and music. Then the Sovereign bade the singers sit down, each in her place, and Shams al-Nahar came up and, seating herself on a stool by the side of the Caliph’s couch, began to converse with him; all this happening whilst Abu al-Hasan and Ali bin Bakkar looked on and listened, unseen of the King. Presently the Caliph fell to jesting and toying with Shams al-Nahar and both were in the highest spirits, glad and gay, when he bade them throw open the garden pavilion. So they opened the doors and windows and lighted the tapers till the place shone in the season of darkness even as the day. Then the eunuchs removed thither the wine-service and (quoth Abu al-Hasan) “I saw drinking-vessels and rarities whose like mine eyes never beheld, vases of gold and silver and all manner of noble metals and precious stones, such as no power of description can describe, till indeed it seemed to me I was dreaming, for excess of amazement at what I saw!” But as for Ali bin Bakkar, from the moment Shams al-Nahar left him, he lay strown on the ground for stress of love and desire; and, when he revived, he fell to gazing upon these things that had not their like and saying to Abu al-Hasan, “O my brother, I fear lest the Caliph see us or come to know of our case; but the most of my fear is for thee. For myself, of a truth I know that I am about to be lost past recourse, and the cause of my destruction is naught but love and longing and excess of desire and distraction, and disunion from my beloved after union with her; but I beseech Allah to deliver us from this perilous predicament.” And they ceased not to look out of the balcony on the Caliph who was taking his pleasure, till the banquet was spread before him, when he turned to one of the damsels and said to her, “O Gharám,7 let us hear some of thine enchanting songs.” So she took the lute and tuning it, began singing,
“The longing of a Bedouin maid, whose folks are far away,
Who yearns after the willow of the Hejaz and the bay,8 —
Whose tears, when she on travellers lights, might for their water serve
And eke her her passion, with its heat, their bivouac-fire purvey —
Is not more fierce nor ardent than my longing for my love,
Who deems that I commit a crime in loving him alway.”9
Now when Shams al-Nahar heard these verses she slipped off the stool whereon she sat and fell to the earth fainting and became insensible to the world around her; upon which the damsels came and lifted her up. And when Ali bin Bakkar saw this from the balcony he also slipped down senseless, and Abu al-Hasan said, “Verily Fate hath divided love-desire equally upon you twain!”10 As he spoke lo! in came the damsel who had led them up to the balcony and said to him, “O Abu al-Hasan, arise thou and thy friend and come down, for of a truth the world hath waxed strait upon us and I fear lest our case be discovered or the Caliph become aware of you; unless you descend at once we are dead ones.” Quoth he, “And how shall this youth descend with me seeing that he hath no strength to rise?” Thereupon the damsel began sprinkling rose-water on Ali bin Bakkar till he came to his senses, when Abu al-Hasan lifted him up and the damsel made him lean upon her. So they went down from the balcony and walked on awhile till the damsel opened a little iron door, and made the two friends pass through it, and they came upon a bench by the Tigris’ bank. Thereupon the slave-girl clapped her hands11 and there came up a man with a little boat to whom said she, “Take up these two young men and land them on the opposite side.” So both entered the boat and, as the man rowed off with them and they left the garden behind them, Ali bin Bakkar looked back towards the Caliph’s palace and the pavilion and the grounds; and bade them farewell with these two couplets,
“I offered this weak hand as last farewell,
While to heart-burning fire that hand is guided:
O let not this end union! Let not this
Be last provision for long road provided!”
Thereupon the damsel said to the boatman, “Make haste with them both.” So he plied his oars deftly (the slave-girl being still with them); — And Shahrazad perceived the dawning day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 i.e. blood as red as wine.
2 The wine-cup (sun-like) shines in thy hand; thy teeth are bright as the Pleiads and thy face rises like a moon from the darkness of thy dress-collar.
3 The masculine of Marjánah (Morgiana) “the she coral-branch;” and like this a name generally given to negroes. We have seen white applied to a blackamoor by way of metonomy and red is also connected with black skins by way of fun. A Persian verse says:
“If a black wear red, e’en an ass would grin.”
4 Suggesting that she had been sleeping.
5 Arab. “Raushan,” a window projecting and latticed: the word is orig. Persian: so Raushaná (splendour)=Roxana. It appears to me that this beautiful name gains beauty by being understood.
6 The word means any servant, but here becomes a proper name. “Wasífah” usually= a concubine.
7 i.e. eagerness, desire, love-longing.
8 Arab. “Rind,” which may mean willow (oriental), bay or aloes wood: Al–Asma’i denies that it ever signifies myrtle.
9 These lines occur in Night cxiv.: by way of variety I give (with permission) Mr. Payne’s version (iii. 59).
10 Referring to the proverb “Al–Khauf maksúm”=fear (cowardice) is equally apportioned: i.e. If I fear you, you fear me.
11 The fingers of the right hand are struck upon the palm of the left.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the boatman rowed them towards the other bank till they reached it and landed, whereupon she took leave of them, saying, “It were my wish not to abandon you, but I can go no farther than this.” Then she turned back, whilst Ali bin Bakkar lay prostrate on the ground before Abu al-Hasan and by no manner of means could he rise, till his friend said to him, “Indeed this place is not sure and I fear lest we lose our lives in this very spot, by reason of the lewd fellows who infest it and highwaymen and men of lawlessness.” Upon this Ali bin Bakkar arose and walked a little but could not continue walking. Now Abu al-Hasan had friends in that quarter; so he made search for one of them, in whom he trusted, and who was of his intimates, and knocked at the door. The man came out quickly and seeing them, bade them welcome and brought them into his house, where he seated them and talked with them and asked them whence they came. Quoth Abu al-Hasan, “We came out but now, being obliged thereto by a person with whom I had dealings and who hath in his hands dirhams of mine. And it reached me that he designed to flee into foreign parts with my monies; so I fared forth to-night in quest of him, taking with me for company this youth, Ali bin Bakkar; but, when we came hoping to see the debtor, he hid from us and we could get no sight of him. Accordingly we turned back, empty-handed without a doit, but it was irksome to us to return home at this hour of the night; so weeting not whither to go, we came to thee, well knowing thy kindness and wonted courtesy.” “Ye are welcome and well come!” answered the host, and studied to do them honour; so the twain abode with him the rest of their night and as soon as the daylight dawned, they left him and made their way back without aught of delay to the city. When they came to the house of Abu al-Hasan, he conjured his comrade to enter; so they went in and lying down on the bed, slept awhile. As soon as they awoke, Abu al-Hasan bade his servants spread the house with rich carpets, saying in his mind, “Needs must I divert this youth and distract him from thinking of his affliction, for I know his case better than another.” Then he called for water for Ali bin Bakkar who, when it was brought, rose up from his bed and making his ablutions, prayed the obligatory prayers which he had omitted for the past day and night1; after which he sat down and began to solace himself by talking with his friend. When Abu al-Hasan saw this, he turned to him and said, “O my lord, it were fitter for thy case that thou abide with me this night, so thy breast may be broadened and the distress of love-longing that is upon thee be dispelled and thou make merry with us, so haply the fire of thy heart may thus be quenched.” Ali replied, “O my brother, do what seemeth good to thee; for I may not on any wise escape from what calamity hath befallen me; so act as thou wilt.” Accordingly, Abu al-Hasan arose and bade his servants summon some of the choicest of his friends and sent for singers and musicians who came; and meanwhile he made ready meat and drink for them; so they sat eating and drinking and making merry through the rest of the day till nightfall. Then they lit the candles, and the cups of friendship and good fellowship went round amongst them and the time passed pleasantly with them. Presently, a singing-woman took the lute and began singing,
“I’ve been shot by Fortune, and shaft of eye
Down struck me and parted from fondest friend:
Time has proved him foe and my patience failed,
Yet I ever expected it thus would end.”
When Ali bin Bakkar heard her words, he fell to the earth in a swoon and ceased not lying in his fainting fit till day-break; and Abu al-Hasan despaired of him. But, with the dawning, he came to himself and sought to go home; nor could his friend hinder him, for fear of the issue of his affair. So he made his servants bring a she-mule and, mounting Ali thereon, carried him to his lodgings, he and one of his men. When he was safe at home, Abu al-Hasan thanked Allah for his deliverance from that sore peril and sat awhile with him, comforting him; but Ali could not contain himself, for the violence of his love and longing. So Abu al-Hasan rose to take leave of him and return to his own place. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 There are intricate rules for “joining” the prayers; but this is hardly the place for a subject discussed in all religious treatises. (Pilgrimage iii. 239.)
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Abu al-Hasan rose to take leave of him, Ali son of Bakkar exclaimed, “O my brother, leave me not without news.” “I hear and obey,” replied the other; and forthwith went away and, repairing to his shop, opened it and sat there all day, expecting news of Shams al-Nahar. But none came. He passed the night in his own house and, when dawned the day, he walked to Ali bin Bakkar’s lodging and went in and found him thrown on his bed, with his friends about him and physicians around him prescribing something or other, and the doctors feeling his pulse. When he saw Abu al-Hasan enter he smiled, and the visitor, after saluting him, enquired how he did and sat with him till the folk withdrew, when he said to him, “What plight is this?” Quoth Ali bin Bakkar, “It was bruited abroad that I was ill and my comrades heard the report; and I have no strength to rise and walk so as to give him the lie who noised abroad my sickness, but continue lying strown here as thou seest. So my friends came to visit me; say, however, O my brother, hast thou seen the slave-girl or heard any news of her?” He replied, “I have not seen her, since the day we parted from her on Tigris’ bank;” and he presently added, “O my brother, beware thou of scandal and leave this weeping.” Rejoined Ali, “O my brother, indeed, I have no control over myself;” and he sighed and began reciting,
“She gives her woman’s hand a force that fails the hand of me,
And with red dye on wrist she gars my patience fail and flee:
And for her hand she fears so sore what shafts her eyes discharge,
She’s fain to clothe and guard her hand with mail-ring panoply:1
The leach in ignorance felt my pulse the while to him I cried,
‘Sick is my heart, so quit my hand which hath no malady:’
Quoth she to that fair nightly vision favoured me and fled,
‘By Allah picture him nor add nor ‘bate in least degree!’
Replied the Dream, ‘I leave him though he die of thirst,’
‘Stand off from water-pit and say why this persistency.’
Rained tear-pearls her Narcissus-eyes, and rose on cheek belit
She made my sherbet, and the lote with bits of hail she bit.”2
And when his recital was ended he said, “O Abu al-Hasan, I am smitten with an affliction from which I deemed myself in perfect surety, and there is no greater ease for me than death.” Replied he, “Be patient, haply Allah will heal thee!” Then he went out from him and repairing to his shop opened it, nor had he sat long, when suddenly up came the handmaid who saluted him. He returned her salam and looking at her, saw that her heart was palpitating and that she was in sore trouble and showed signs of great affliction: so he said to her, “Thou art welcome and well come! How is it with Shams al-Nahar?” She answered, “I will presently tell thee, but first let me know how doth Ali bin Bakkar.” So he told her all that had passed and how his case stood, whereat she grieved and sighed and lamented and marvelled at his condition. Then said she, “My lady’s case is still stranger than this; for when you went away and fared homewards, I turned back, my heart beating hard on your account and hardly crediting your escape. On entering I found her lying prostrate in the pavilion, speaking not nor answering any, whilst the Commander of the Faithful sat by her head not knowing what ailed her and finding none who could make known to him aught of her ailment. She ceased not from her swoon till midnight, when she recovered and the Prince of the Faithful said to her, ‘What harm hath happened to thee, O Shams al-Nahar, and what hath befallen thee this night?’ Now when she heard the Caliph’s words she kissed his feet and said, ‘Allah make me thy ransom, O Prince of True Believers! Verily a sourness of stomach lighted a fire in my body, so that I lost my senses for excess of pain, and I know no more of my condition.’ Asked the Caliph, ‘What hast thou eaten to-day?’; and she answered, ‘I broke my fast on something I had never tasted before.’ Then she feigned to be recovered and calling for a something of wine, drank it, and begged the Sovereign to resume his diversion. So he sat down again on his couch in the pavilion and the sitting was resumed, but when she saw me, she asked me how you fared. I told her what I had done with you both and repeated to her the verses which Ali bin Bakkar had composed at parting-tide, whereat she wept secretly, but presently held her peace. After awhile, the Commander of the Faithful ordered a damsel to sing, and she began reciting,
‘Life has no sweet for me since forth ye fared;
Would Heaven I wot how fare ye who forsake:
’Twere only fit my tears were tears of blood,
Since you are weeping for mine absence sake.’
But when my lady heard this verse she fell back on the sofa in a swoon,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 The hands being stained with Henna and perhaps indigo in stripes are like the ring rows of chain armour. See Lane’s illustration (Mod. Egypt, chaps. i.).
2 She made rose-water of her cheeks for my drink and she bit with teeth like grains of hail those lips like the lotus-fruit, or jujube: Arab. “Unnab” or “Nabk,” the plum of the Sidr or Zizyphus lotus.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the slave-girl continued to Abu al-Hasan, “But when my lady heard this verse, she fell back on the sofa in a swoon, and I seized her hand and sprinkled rose-water on her face, till she revived, when I said to her, ‘O my lady, expose not thyself and all thy palace containeth. By the life of thy beloved, be thou patient!’ She replied, ‘Can aught befal me worse than death which indeed I seek, for by Allah, my ease is therein?’ Whilst we were thus talking, another damsel sang these words of the poet,
‘Quoth they, ‘Maybe that Patience lend thee ease!’
Quoth I, ‘Since fared he where is Patience’ place?
Covenant he made ‘twixt me and him, to cut
The cords of Patience at our last embrace!’1
And as soon as she had finished her verse Shams al-Nahar swooned away once more, which when the Caliph saw, he came to her in haste and commanded the wine to be removed and each damsel to return to her chamber. He abode with her the rest of the night, and when dawned the day, he sent for chirurgeons and leaches and bade them medicine her, knowing not that her sickness arose from love and longing. I tarried with her till I deemed her in a way of recovery, and this is what kept me from thee. I have now left her with a number of her body-women, who were greatly concerned for her, when she bade me go to you two and bring her news of Ali bin Bakkar and return to her with the tidings.” When Abu al-Hasan heard her story, he marvelled and said, “By Allah, I have acquainted thee with his whole case; so now return to thy mistress; and salute her for me and diligently exhort her to have patience and say to her, ‘Keep thy secret!’; and tell her that I know all her case which is indeed hard and one which calleth for nice conduct.” She thanked him and taking leave of him, returned to her mistress. So far concerning her; but as regards Abu al-Hasan, he ceased not to abide in his shop till the end of the day, when he arose and shut it and locked it and betaking himself to Ali bin Bakkar’s house knocked at the door. One of the servants came out and admitted him; and when Ali saw him, he smiled and congratulated himself on his coming, saying, “O Abu al-Hasan, thou hast desolated me by thine absence this day; for indeed my soul is pledged to thee during the rest of my time.” Answered the other, “Leave this talk! Were thy healing at the price of my hand, I would cut it off ere thou couldst ask me; and, could I ransom thee with my life, I had already laid it down for thee. Now this very day, Shams al-Nahar’s handmaid hath been with me and told me that what hindered her coming ere this was the Caliph’s sojourn with her mistress; and she acquainted me with everything which had betided her.” And he went on to repeat to him all that the girl had told him of Shams al-Nahar; at which Ali bin Bakkar lamented sore and wept and said to him, “Allah upon thee, O my brother, help me in this affliction and teach me what course I shall take. Moreover, I beg thee of thy grace to abide with me this night, that I may have the solace of thy society.” Abu al-Hasan agreed to this request, replying that he would readily night there; so they talked together till even-tide darkened, when Ali bin Bakkar groaned aloud and lamented and wept copious tears, reciting these couplets,
“Thine image in these eyne, a-lip thy name,
My heart thy home; how couldst thou disappear?
How sore I grieve for life which comes to end,
Nor see I boon of union far or near.”
And these the words of another,
“She split my casque of courage with eye-swords that sorely
She pierced my patience’ ring-mail with her shape like cane-spear light:
Patched by the musky mole on cheek was to our sight displayed
Camphor set round with ambergris, light dawning through the night.2
Her soul was sorrowed and she bit carnelion stone with pearls
Whose unions in a sugared tank ever to lurk unite:3
Restless she sighed and smote with palm the snows that clothe her breast,
And left a mark whereon I looked and ne’er beheld such sight,
Pens, fashioned of her coral nails with ambergris for ink,
Five lines on crystal page of breast did cruelly indite:
O swordsmen armed with trusty steel! I bid you all beware
When she on you bends deadly glance which fascinates the sprite:
And guard thyself, O thou of spear! whenas she draweth near
To tilt with slender quivering shape, likest the nut-brown spear.”
And when Ali bin Bakkar ended his verse, he cried out with a great cry and fell down in a fit. Abu al-Hasan thought that his soul had fled his body and he ceased not from his swoon till day- break, when he came to himself and talked with his friend, who continued to sit with him till the forenoon. Then he left him and repaired to his shop; and hardly had he opened it, when lo! the damsel came and stood by his side. As soon as he saw her, she made him a sign of salutation which he returned; and she delivered to him the greeting message of her mistress and asked, “How doth Ali bin Bakkar?” Answered he, “O handmaid of good, ask me not of his case nor what he suffereth for excess of love-longing; he sleepeth not by night neither resteth he by day; wakefulness wasteth him and care hath conquered him and his condition is a consternation to his friend.” Quoth she, “My lady saluteth thee and him, and she hath written him a letter, for indeed she is in worse case than he; and she entrusted the same to me, saying, ‘Do not return save with the answer; and do thou obey my bidding.’ Here now is the letter, so say, wilt thou wend with me to him that we may get his reply?” “I hear and obey,” answered Abu al-Hasan, and locking his shop and taking with him the girl he went, by a way different from that whereby he came, to Ali bin Bakkar’s house, where he left her standing at the door and walked in. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Meaning to let Patience run away like an untethered camel.
2 i.e. her fair face shining through the black hair. “Camphor” is a favourite with Arab poets: the Persians hate it because connected in their minds with death; being used for purifying the corpse. We read in Burckhardt (Prov. 464) “Singing without siller is like a corpse without Hanút”— this being a mixture of camphor and rose-water sprinkled over the face of the dead before shrouded. Similarly Persians avoid speaking of coffee, because they drink it at funerals and use tea at other times.
3 i.e. she is angry and bites her carnelion lips with pearly teeth.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu al-Hasan went with the girl to the house of Ali son of Bakkar, where he left her standing at the door and walked in to his great joy. And Abu al-Hasan said to him, “The reason of my coming is that such an one hath sent his handmaid to thee with a letter, containing his greeting to thee and mentioning therein that the cause of his not coming to thee was a matter that hath betided him. The girl standeth even now at the door: shall she have leave to enter?”; and he signed to him that it was Shams al-Nahar’s slave-girl. Ali understood his signal and answered, “Bring her in,” and when he saw her, he shook for joy and signed to her, “How doth thy lord?; Allah grant him health and healing!” “He is well,” answered she and pulling out the letter gave it to him. He took it and kissing it, opened and read it; after which he handed it to Abu al-Hasan, who found these verses written therein,
“This messenger shall give my news to thee;
Patience what while my sight thou canst not see:
A lover leav’st in love’s insanity,
Whose eyne abide on wake incessantly:
I suffer patience-pangs in woes that none
Of men can medicine; — such my destiny!
Keep cool thine eyes; ne’er shall my heart forget,
Nor without dream of thee one day shall be.
Look what befel thy wasted frame, and thence
Argue what I am doomed for love to dree!
Without fingers 2 I have written to thee, and without tongue I have spoken to thee to resume my case,
I have an eye wherefrom sleeplessness departeth not
and a heart whence sorrowful thought stirreth not
It is with me as though health I had never known
nor in sadness ever ceased to wone
nor spent an hour in pleasant place
but it is as if I were made up of pine and of the pain of passion and chagrin
Sickness unceasingly troubleth
and my yearning ever redoubleth
desire still groweth
and longing in my heart still gloweth
I pray Allah to hasten our union
and dispel of my mind the confusion
And I would fain thou favour me with some words of thine
that I may cheer my heart in pain and repine
Moreover, I would have thee put on a patience lief,
until Allah vouchsafe relief
And His peace be with thee.”3
When Ali bin Bakkar had read this letter he said in weak accents and feeble voice, “With what hand shall I write and with what tongue shall I make moan and lament? Indeed she addeth sickness to my sickness and draweth death upon my death!” Then he sat up and taking in hand ink-case and paper, wrote the following reply, “In the name of Allah, the Compassionating, the Compassionate!4 Thy letter hath reached me, O my lady, and hath given ease to a sprite worn out with passion and love-longing, and hath brought healing to a wounded heart cankered with languishment and sickness; for indeed I am become even as saith the poet,
‘Straitened bosom; reveries dispread;
Slumberless eyelids; body wearied;
Patience cut short; disunion longsomest;
Reason deranged and heart whose life is fled!’
And know that complaining is unavailing; but it easeth him whom love-longing disordereth and separation destroyeth and, with repeating, ‘Union,’ I keep myself comforted and how fine is the saying of the poet who said,
‘Did not in love-plight joys and sorrows meet,
How would the message or the writ be sweet?’”
When he had made an end of this letter, he handed it to Abu al-Hasan, saying, “Read it and give it to the damsel.” So he took it and read it and its words stirred his soul and its meaning wounded his vitals. Then he committed it to the girl, and when she took it Ali bin Bakkar said to her, “Salute thy lady for me and acquaint her with my love and longing and how passion is blended with my flesh and my bones; and say to her that in very deed I need a woman who shall snatch me from the sea of destruction and save me from this dilemma; for of a truth Fortune oppresseth me with her vicissitudes; and is there any helper to free me from her turpitudes?” And he wept and the damsel wept for his weeping. Then she took leave of him and went forth and Abu al-Hasan went out with her and farewelled her. So she ganged her gait and he returned to his shop, which he opened and sat down there, as was his wont; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Wa ba’ad;” the formula which follows “Bismillah”— In the name of Allah. The French translate it or sus, etc. I have noticed the legend about its having been first used by the eloquent Koss, Bishop of Najran.
2 i.e. Her mind is so troubled she cannot answer for what she writes.
3 The Bul. Edit. (i. 329) and the Mac. Edit. (i. 780) give to Shams al-Nahar the greater part of Ali’s answer, as is shown by the Calc. Edit. (230 et seq.) and the Bresl. Edit. (ii. 366 et seq.) Lane mentions this (ii. 74) but in his usual perfunctory way gives no paginal references to the Calc. or Bresl.; so that those who would verify the text may have the displeasure of hunting for it.
4 Arab. “Bi’smi ‘lláhi’ r-Rahmáni’r-Rahím.” This auspicatory formula was borrowed by Al–Islam not from the Jews but from the Guebre “Ba nám-i-Yezdán bakhsháishgar-i-dádár!” (in the name of Yezdan–God — All-generous, All-just!). The Jews have, “In the name of the Great God;” and the Christians, “In the name of the Father, etc.” The so-called Sir John Mandeville begins his book, In the name of God, Glorious and Almighty. The sentence forms the first of the Koran and heads every chapter except only the ninth, an exception for which recondite reasons are adduced. Hence even in the present day it begins all books, letters and writings in general; and it would be a sign of Infidelity (i.e. non-Islamism) to omit it. The difference between “Rahmán” and “Rahím” is that the former represents an accidental (compassionating), the latter a constant quality (compassionate). Sale therefore renders it very imperfectly by “In the name of the most merciful God;” the Latinists better, “In nomine Dei misericordis, clementissimi” (Gottwaldt in Hamza Ispahanensis); Mr. Badger much better, “In the name of God, the Pitiful, the Compassionate”— whose only fault is not preserving the assonance: and Maracci best, “In nomine Dei miseratoris misericordis.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu al-Hasan farewelled the slave-girl and returned to his shop which he opened and sat down there according to his custom; but as he tarried, he found his heart oppressed and his breast straitened, and he was perplexed about his case. So he ceased not from melancholy the rest of that day and night, and on the morrow he betook himself to Ali bin Bakkar, with whom he sat till the folk withdrew, when he asked him how he did. Ali began to complain of desire and to descant upon the longing and distraction which possessed him, and repeated these words of the poet.
“Men have ‘plained of pining before my time,
Live and dead by parting been terrified:
But such feelings as those which my ribs immure
I have never heard of, nor ever espied.”
And these of another poet,
“I have borne for thy love what never bore
For his fair, Kays the ‘Daft one’1 hight of old:
Yet I chase not the wildlings of wold and wild
Like Kays, for madness is manifold.”
Thereupon quoth Abu al-Hasan, “Never did I see or hear of one like unto thee in thy love! When thou sufferest all this transport and sickness and trouble being enamoured of one who returneth thy passion, how would it be with thee if she whom thou lovest were contrary and contumelious, and thy case were discovered through her perfidy?” “And Ali the son of Bakkar” (says Abu al-Hasan) “was pleased with my words and he relied upon them and he thanked me for what I had said and done. I had a friend” (continued Abu al-Hasan), “to whom I discovered my affair and that of Ali and who knew that we were intimates; but none other than he was acquainted with what was betwixt us. He was wont to come to me and enquire how Ali did and after a little, he began to ask me about the damsel; but I fenced him off, saying, ‘She invited him to her and there was between him and her as much as can possibly take place, and this is the end of their affair; but I have devised me a plan and an idea which I would submit to thee.’” Asked his friend, “And what is that?” Answered Abu al-Hasan, “I am a person well known to have much dealing among men and women, and I fear, O my brother, lest the affair of these twain come to light and this lead to my death and the seizure of my goods and the rending of my repute and that of my family. Wherefore I have resolved to get together my monies and make ready forthright and repair to the city of Bassorah and there abide, till I see what cometh of their case, that none may know of me; for love hath lorded over both and correspondence passeth between them. At this present their go-between and confidante is a slave-girl who hath till now kept their counsel, but I fear lest haply anxiety get the better of her and she discover their secret to some one and the matter, being bruited abroad, might bring me to great grief and prove the cause of my ruin; for I have no excuse to offer my accusers.” Rejoined his friend, “Thou hast acquainted me with a parlous affair, from the like of which the wise and understanding will shrink with fear. Allah avert from thee the evil thou dreadest with such dread and save thee from the consequences thou apprehendest! Assuredly thy recking is aright.” So Abu al-Hasan returned to his place and began ordering his affairs and preparing for his travel; nor had three days passed ere he made an end of his business and fared forth Bassorah-wards. His friend came to visit him three days after but finding him not, asked of him from the neighbours who answered, “He set out for Bassorah three days ago, for he had dealings with its merchants and he is gone thither to collect monies from his debtors; but he will soon return.” The young man was confounded at the news and knew not whither to wend; and he said in his mind, “Would I had not parted from Abu al-Hasan!” Then he bethought him of some plan whereby he should gain access to Ali bin Bakkar; so he went to his lodging, and said to one of his servants, “Ask leave for me of thy lord that I may go in and salute him.” The servant entered and told his master and presently returning, invited the man to walk in. So he entered and found Ali bin Bakkar thrown back on the pillow and saluted him. Ali returned his greeting and bade him welcome; whereupon the young man began to excuse himself for having held aloof from him all that while and added, “O my lord, between Abu al-Hasan and myself there was close friendship, so that I used to trust him with my secrets and could not sever myself from him an hour. Now it so chanced that I was absent three days’ space on certain business with a company of my friends; and, when I came back and went to him, I found his shop locked up; so I asked the neighbours about him and they replied, ‘He is gone to Bassorah.’ Now I know he had no surer friend than thou; so, by Allah, tell me what thou knowest of him.” When Ali bin Bakkar heard this, his colour changed and he was troubled and answered, “I never heard till this day of his departure and, if the case be as thou sayest, weariness is come upon me.” And he began repeating,
“For joys that are no more I wont to weep,
While friends and lovers stood by me unscattered;
This day when disunited me and them
Fortune, I weep lost loves and friendship shattered.”
Then he hung his head ground-wards in thought awhile and presently raising it and looking to one of his servants, said, “Go to Abu al-Hasan’s house and enquire anent him whether he be at home or journeying abroad. If they say, ‘He is abroad’; ask whither he be gone.” The servant went out and returning after a while said to his master, “When I asked for Abu al-Hasan, his people told me that he was gone on a journey to Bassorah; but I saw a damsel standing at the door who, knowing me by sight, though I knew her not, said to me, ‘Art thou not servant to Ali bin Bakkar?’ ‘Even so,’ answered I; and she rejoined, ‘I bear a message for him from one who is the dearest of all folk to him.’ So she came with me and she is now standing at the door.” Quoth Ali bin Bakkar, “Bring her in.” The servant went out to her and brought her in, and the man who was with Ali looked at her and found her pretty. Then she advanced to the son of Bakkar and saluted him. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say,
1 Arab. Majnún (i.e. one possessed by a Jinni) the well-known model lover of Layla, a fictitious personage for whom see D’Herbelot (s. v. Megnoun). She was celebrated by Abu Mohammed Nizam al-Din of Ganjah (ob. A.H. 597=1200) pop. known as Nizámi, the caustic and austere poet who wrote:—
The weals of this world are the ass’s meed!
Would Nizami were of the ass’s breed.
The series in the East begins chronologically with Yúsuf and Zulaykhá (Potiphar’s wife) sung by Jámi (nat. A.H. 817=1414); the next in date is Khusraw and Shirin (also by Nizami); Farhad and Shirin; and Layla and Majnun (the Night-black maid and the Maniac-man) are the last. We are obliged to compare the lovers with “Romeo and Juliet,” having no corresponding instances in modern days: the classics of Europe supply a host as Hero and Leander, Theagenes and Charicleia, etc. etc.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the slave-girl came in to Ali bin Bakkar, she advanced to him and saluted him and spake with him secretly; and from time to time during the dialogue he exclaimed with an oath and swore that he had not talked and tattled of it. Then she took leave of him and went away. Now Abu al-Hasan’s friend was a jeweller,1 and when she was gone, he found a place for speech and said to Ali bin Bakkar, “Doubtless and assuredly the Caliph’s household have some demand upon thee or thou hast dealings therewith?” “Who told thee of this?” asked Ali; and the jeweller answered, “I know it by yonder damsel who is Shams al-Nahar’s slave-girl; for she came to me a while since with a note wherein was written that she wanted a necklace of jewels; and I sent her a costly collar.” But when Ali bin Bakkar heard this, he was greatly troubled, so that the jeweller feared to see him give up the ghost, yet after a while he recovered himself and said, “O my brother, I conjure thee by Allah to tell me truly how thou knowest her.” Replied he, “Do not press this question upon me;” and Ali rejoined, “Indeed, I will not turn from thee till thou tell me the whole truth.” Quoth the jeweller, “I will tell thee all, on condition that thou distrust me not, and that my words cause thee no restraint; nor will I conceal aught from thee by way of secret but will discover to thee the truth of the affair, provided that thou acquaint me with the true state of thy case and the cause of thy sickness.” Then he told him all that had passed from first to last between Abu al-Hasan and himself, adding, “I acted thus only out of friendship for thee and of my desire to serve thee;” and assured him that he would keep his secret and venture life and good in his service. So Ali in turn told him his story and added, “By Allah, O my brother, naught moved me to keep my case secret from thee and from others but my fear lest folk should lift the veils of protection from certain persons.” Rejoined the jeweller, “And I desired not to foregather with thee but of the great affection I bear thee and my zeal for thee in every case, and my compassion for the anguish thy heart endureth from severance. Haply I may be a comforter to thee in the room of my friend, Abu al-Hasan, during the length of his absence: so be thou of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear.” Thereupon Ali thanked him and repeated these couplets,
“An say I, ‘Patient I can bear his faring,’
My tears and sighings give my say the lie;
How can I hide these tears that course adown
This plain, my cheek, for friend too fain to fly?”
Then he was silent awhile, and presently said to the jeweller “Knowest thou what secret the girl whispered to me?” Answered he, “Not I, by Allah, O my lord!” Quoth Ali, “She fancied that I directed Abu al-Hasan to go to Bassorah and that I had devised this device to put a stop to our correspondence and consorting. I swore to her that this was on nowise so; but she would not credit me and went away to her mistress, persisting in her injurious suspicions; for she inclined to Abu al-Hasan and gave ear to his word.” Answered the young jeweller, “O my brother, I understood as much from the girl’s manner; but I will win for thee thy wish, Inshallah!” Rejoined Ali bin Bakkar, “Who can be with me in this and how wilt thou do with her, when she shies and flies like a wildling of the wold?” Cried the jeweller “By Allah, needs must I do my utmost to help thee and contrive to scrape acquaintance with her without exposure or mischief!” Then he asked leave to depart and Ali bin Bakkar said, “O my brother, mind thou keep my counsel;” and he looked at him and wept. The jeweller bade him good-bye and fared forth. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 The jeweller of Eastern tales from Marocco to Calcutta, is almost invariably a rascal: here we have an exception.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the jeweller bade him good-bye and fared forth not knowing what he should do to win for him his wishes; and he ceased not walking, while over-musing the matter, till he spied a letter lying in the road. He took it up and looked at its direction and superscription, then read it and behold, it ran:—“From the least worthy of lovers to the most worthy of beloveds.” So he opened it and found these words written therein,
“A messenger from thee came bringing union-hope,
But that he erred somehow with me the thought prevailed;
So I rejoiced not; rather grew my grief still more;
Weeting my messenger of wits and wit had failed.
“But afterwards: Know, O my lord! that I ken not the reason why our correspondence between thee and me hath been broken off: but, if the cruelty arise from thy part, I will requite it with fidelity, and if thy love have departed, I will remain constant to my love of the parted, for I am with thee even as says the poet,
‘Be proud; I’ll crouch! Bully; I’ll bear! Despise; I’ll pray!
Go; I will come! Speak; I will hear! Bid; I’ll obey!’”
As he was reading lo! up came the slave-girl, looking right and left, and seeing the paper in the jeweller’s hand, said to him, “O my master, this letter is one I let fall.” He made her no answer, but walked on, and she walked behind him, till he came to his house, when he entered and she after him, saying, “O my master, give me back this letter, for it fell from me.” Thereon he turned to her and said, “O handmaid of good, fear not neither grieve, for verily Allah the Protector loveth those who protect; but tell me in truthful way thy case, as I am one who keepeth counsel. I conjure thee by an oath not to hide from me aught of thy lady’s affairs; for haply Allah shall help me to further her wishes and make easy by my hand that which is hard.” When the slave-girl heard these words she said, “O my lord, indeed a secret is not lost whereof thou art the secretist; nor shall any affair come to naught for which thou strivest. Know that my heart inclineth to thee and would interest thee with my tidings, but do thou give me the letter.” Then she told him the whole story, adding, “Allah is witness to whatso I say.” Quoth he, “Thou hast spoken truly, for I am acquainted with the root of the matter.” Then he told her his tale of Ali bin Bakkar and how he had learned his state of mind; and related to her all that had passed from first to last, whereat she rejoiced; and they two agreed that she should take the letter and carry it to Ali and return and acquaint the jeweller with all that happened. So he gave her the letter and she took it and sealed it up as it was before, saying, “My mistress Shams al-Nahar gave it to me sealed; and when he hath read it and given me its reply, I will bring it to thee.” Then she took leave and repaired to Ali bin Bakkar, whom she found waiting, and gave him the letter. He read it and writing a paper by way of reply, gave it to her; and she carried it to the jeweller, who tore asunder the seal1 and read it and found written therein these two couplets,
“The messenger, who kept our commerce hid,
Hath failed, and showeth wrath without disguise;2
Choose one more leal from your many friends
Who, truth approving, disapproves of lies.
Verily, I have not entered upon perfidy
nor have I abandoned fidelity
I have not used cruelty
neither have I out off lealty
no covenant hath been broken by me
nor hath love-tie been severed by me
I have not parted from penitence
nor have I found aught but misery and ruin after severance
I know nothing of that thou avouchest
nor do I love aught but that which thou lovest
By Him who knoweth the secret of hidden things none discover
I have no desire save union with my lover
and my one business is my passion to conceal
albeit with sore sickness I ail.
This is the exposition of my case and now all hail!”
When the jeweller read this letter and learnt its contents he wept with sore weeping, and the slave-girl said to him, “Leave not this place till I return to thee; for he suspecteth me of such and such things, in which he is excusable; so it is my desire to bring about a meeting between thee and my mistress, Shams al-Nahar, howsoever I may trick you to it. For the present I left her prostrate, awaiting my return with the reply.” Then she went away and the jeweller passed the night with a troubled mind. And when day dawned he prayed his dawn-prayer and sat expecting the girl’s coming; and behold, she came in to him rejoicing with much joy and he asked her, “What news, O damsel?” She answered, “After leaving thee I went to my mistress and gave her the letter written by Ali bin Bakkar; and, when she read it and understood it, she was troubled and confounded; but I said to her, ‘O my lady, have no fear of your affair being frustrated by Abu al-Hasan’s disappearance, for I have found one to take his place, better than he and more of worth and a good man to keep secrets.’ Then I told her what was between thyself and Abu al-Hasan and how thou camest by his confidence and that of Ali bin Bakkar and how that note was dropped and thou camest by it; and I also showed her how we arranged matters betwixt me and thee.” The jeweller marvelled with much wonder, when she resumed, “And now my mistress would hear whatso thou sayest, that she may be assured by thy speech of the covenants between thee and him; so get thee ready to go with me to her forthwith.” When the jeweller heard the slave-girl’s words, he saw that the proposed affair was grave and a great peril to brave, not lightly to be undertaken or suddenly entered upon, and he said to her, “O my sister, verily, I am of the ordinary and not like unto Abu al-Hasan; for he being of high rank and of well-known repute, was wont to frequent the Caliph’s household, because of their need of his merchandise. As for me, he used to talk with me and I trembled before him the while. So, if thy mistress would speak with me, our meeting must be in some place other than the Caliph’s palace and far from the abode of the Commander of the Faithful; for my common sense will not let me consent to what thou proposest.” On this wise he refused to go with her and she went on to say that she would be surety for his safety, adding, “Take heart and fear no harm!” and pressed him to courage till he consented to accompany her; withal, his legs bent and shivered and his hands quivered and he exclaimed, “Allah forbid that I should go with thee! Indeed, I have not strength to do this thing!” Replied she, “Hearten thy heart, if it be hard for thee to go to the Caliph’s palace and thou canst not muster up courage to accompany me, I will make her come to thee; so budge not from thy place till I return to thee with her.” Then the slave-girl went away and was absent for a while, but a short while, after which she returned to the jeweller and said to him, “Take thou care that there be with thee none save thyself, neither man-slave nor girl-slave.” Quoth he, “I have but a negress, who is in years and who waiteth on me.”3 So she arose and locked the door between his negress and the jeweller and sent his man-servants out of the place; after which she fared forth and presently returned, followed by a lady who, entering the house, filled it with the sweet scent of her perfumes. When the jeweller saw her, he sprang up and set her a couch and a cushion; and she sat down while he seated himself before her. She abode awhile without speaking till she had rested herself, when she unveiled her face and it seemed to the jeweller’s fancy as if the sun had risen in his home. Then she asked her slave-girl, “Is this the man of whom thou spakest to me?” “Yes,” answered she; whereupon the lady turned to the jeweller and said to him, “How is it with thee?” Replied he, “Right well! I pray Allah for thy preservation and that of the Commander of the Faithful.” Quoth she, “Thou hast moved us to come to thee and possess thee with what we hold secret.” Then she questioned him of his household and family; and he disclosed to her all his circumstance and his condition and said to her, “I have a house other than this; and I have set it apart for gathering together my friends and brethren; and there is none there save the old negress, of whom I spoke to thy handmaid.” She asked him on what wise he came first to know how the affair began and the matter of Abu al-Hasan and the cause of his way-faring: accordingly he told her all he knew and how he had advised the journey. Thereupon she bewailed the loss of Abu al-Hasan and said to the jeweller, “Know, O such an one,4 that men’s souls are active in their lusts and that men are still men; and that deeds are not done without words nor is end ever reached without endeavour. Rest is won only by work.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 This must not be understood of sealing-wax, which, however, is of ancient date. The Egyptians (Herod. ii. 38) used “sealing earth” ( ) probably clay, impressed with a signet ( ); the Greeks mud-clay ( ); and the Romans first cretula and then wax (Beckmann). Mediæval Europe had bees-wax tempered with Venice turpentine and coloured with cinnabar or similar material. The modern sealing-wax, whose distinctive is shell-lac, was brought by the Dutch from India to Europe; and the earliest seals date from about A.D. 1560. They called it Ziegel-lak, whence the German Siegel-lack, the French preferring cire-à-cacheter, as distinguished from cire-à-sceller, the softer material. The use of sealing-wax in India dates from old times and the material, though coarse and unsightly, is still preferred by Anglo–Indians because it resists heat whereas the best English softens like pitch.
2 Evidently referring to the runaway Abu al-Hasan, not to the she-Mercury.
3 An unmarried man is not allowed to live in a respectable quarter of a Moslem city unless he takes such precaution. Lane (Mod. Egypt. passim) has much to say on this point; and my excellent friend the late Professor Spitta at Cairo found the native prejudice very troublesome.
4 Arab. “Yá fulán”=O certain person (fulano in Span. and Port.) a somewhat contemptuous address.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52