A certain King, who had a son over much given to hunting and coursing, ordered one of his Wazirs to be in attendance upon him whithersoever he might wend. One day the youth set out for the chase accompanied by his father’s Minister; and, as they jogged on together, a big wild beast came in sight. Cried the Wazir to the King’s son, “Up and at yon noble quarry!” So the Prince followed it until he was lost to every eye and the chase got away from him in the waste; whereby he was confused and he knew not which way to turn, when lo! a damsel appeared ahead and she was in tears. The King’s son asked, “Who art thou?” and she answered, “I am daughter to a King among the Kings of Hind, and I was travelling with a caravan in the desert when drowsiness overcame me, and I fell from my beast unwittingly whereby I am cut off from my people and sore bewildered.” The Prince, hearing these words, pitied her case and, mounting her on his horse’s crupper, travelled until he passed by an old ruin 1, when the damsel said to him, “O my master, I wish to obey a call of nature”: he therefore set her down at the ruin where she delayed so long that the King’s son thought that she was only wasting time; so he followed her without her knowledge and behold, she was a Ghulah,2 a wicked Ogress, who was saying to her brood, “O my children, this day I bring you a fine fat youth, 3 for dinner;” whereto they answered, “Bring him quick to us, O our mother, that we may browse upon him our bellies full.” The Prince hearing their talk, made sure of death and his side muscles quivered in fear for his life, so he turned away and was about to fly. The Ghulah came out and seeing him in sore affright (for he was trembling in every limb? cried, “Wherefore art thou afraid?” and he replied, “I have hit upon an enemy whom I greatly fear.” Asked the Ghulah, “Diddest thou not say:— I am a King’s son?” and he answered, “Even so.” Then quoth she, “Why cost not give thine enemy something of money and so satisfy him?” Quoth he, “He will not be satisfied with my purse but only with my life, and I mortally fear him and am a man under oppression.” She replied, “If thou be so distressed, as thou deemest, ask aid against him from Allah, who will surely protect thee from his ill doing and from the evil whereof thou art afraid.” Then the Prince raised his eyes heavenwards and cried, “O Thou who answerest the necessitous when he calleth upon Thee and dispellest his distress; O my God! grant me victory over my foe and turn him from me, for Thou over all things art Almighty.” The Ghulah, hearing his prayer, turned away from him, and the Prince returned to his father, and told him the tale of the Wazir; whereupon the King summoned the Minister to his presence and then and there slew him. Thou likewise, O King, if thou continue to trust this leach, shalt be made to die the worst of deaths. He verily thou madest much of and whom thou entreatedest as an intimate, will work thy destruction. Seest thou not how he healed the disease from outside thy body by something grasped in thy hand? Be not assured that he will not destroy thee by something held in like manner! Replied King Yunan, “Thou hast spoken sooth, O Wazir, it may well be as thou hintest O my well advising Minister; and belike this Sage hath come as a spy searching to put me to death; for assuredly if he cured me by a something held in my hand, he can kill me by a something given me to smell.” Then asked King Yunan, “O Minister, what must be done with him?” and the Wazir answered, “Send after him this very instant and summon him to thy presence; and when he shall come strike him across the neck; and thus shalt thou rid thyself of him and his wickedness, and deceive him ere he can I deceive thee.” ‘Thou hast again spoken sooth, O Wazir,” said the King and sent one to call the Sage who came in joyful mood for he knew not what had appointed for him the Compassionate; as a certain poet saith by way of illustration:—
O Thou who fearest Fate, confiding fare
Trust all to Him who built the world and wait:
What Fate saith “Be” perforce must be, my lord!
And safe art thou from th undecreed of Fate.
As Duban the physician entered he addressed the King in these lines:—
An fail I of my thanks to thee nor thank thee day by day
For whom com posed I prose and verse, for whom my say and lay?
Thou lavishedst thy generous gifts ere they were craved by me
Thou lavishedst thy boons unsought sans pretext or delay:
How shall I stint my praise of thee, how shall I cease to laud
The grace of thee in secresy and patentest display?
Nay; I will thank thy benefits, for aye thy favours lie
Light on my thought and tongue, though heavy on my back they weigh.
And he said further on the same theme:—
Turn thee from grief nor care a jot!
Commit thy needs to Fate and Lot!
Enjoy the Present passing well
And let the Past be clean forgot
For whatso haply seemeth worse
Shall work thy weal as Allah wot
Allah shall do whate’er He wills
And in His will oppose Him not.
And further still. —
To th’ All wise Subtle One trust worldly things
Rest thee from all whereto the worldling clings:
Learn wisely well naught cometh by thy will
But e’en as willeth Allah, King of Kings.
And lastly. —
Gladsome and gay forget thine every grief
Full often grief the wisest hearts outwore:
Thought is but folly in the feeble slave
Shun it and so be saved evermore.
Said the King for sole return, “Knowest thou why I have summoned thee?” and the Sage replied, “Allah Most Highest alone kenneth hidden things!” But the King rejoined, “I summoned thee only to take thy life and utterly to destroy thee.” Duban the Wise wondered at this strange address with exceeding wonder and asked, “O King, and wherefore wouldest thou slay me, and what ill have I done thee?” and the King answered, “Men tell me thou art a spy sent hither with intent to slay me; and lo! I will kill thee ere I be killed by thee;” then he called to his Sworder, and said, “Strike me off the head of this traitor and deliver us from his evil practices.” Quoth the Sage, “Spare me and Allah will spare thee; slay me not or Allah shall slay thee.” And he repeated to him these very words, even as I to thee, O Ifrit, and yet thou wouldst not let me go, being bent upon my death. King Yunan only rejoined, “I shall not be safe without slaying thee; for, as thou healedst me by something held in hand, so am I not secure against thy killing me by something given me to smell or otherwise.” Said the physician, “This then, O King, is thy requital and reward; thou returnest only evil for good.” The King replied, “There is no help for it; die thou must and without delay.” Now when the physician was certified that the King would slay him without waiting, he wept and regretted the good he had done to other than the good. As one hath said on this subject:—
Of wit and wisdom is Maymunah4 bare
Whose sire in wisdom all the wits outstrippeth:
Man may not tread on mud or dust or clay
Save by good sense, else trippeth he and slippeth.
Hereupon the Sworder stepped forward and bound the Sage Duban’s eyes and bared his blade, saying to the King, “By thy leave;” while the physician wept and cried, “Spare me and Allah will spare thee, and slay me not or Allah shall slay thee,” and began repeating:—
I was kind and ’scaped not, they were cruel and escaped;
And my kindness only led me to Ruination Hall,
If I live I’ll ne’er be kind; if I die, then all be damned
Who follow me, and curses their kindliness befal.
“Is this,” continued Duban, “the return I meet from thee? Thou givest me, meseems, but crocodile boon.” Quoth the King,“What is the tale of the crocodile?”, and quoth the physician, “Impossible for me to tell it in this my state; Allah upon thee, spare me, as thou hopest Allah shall spare thee.” And he wept with ex ceeding weeping. Then one of the King’s favourites stood up and said, “O King! grant me the blood of this physician; we have never seen him sin against thee, or doing aught save healing thee from a disease which baffled every leach and man of science.” Said the King, “Ye wot not the cause of my putting to death this physician, and this it is. If I spare him, I doom myself to certain death; for one who healed me of such a malady by something held in my hand, surely can slay me by something held to my nose; and I fear lest he kill me for a price, since haply he is some spy whose sole purpose in coming hither was to compass my destruction. So there is no help for it; die he must, and then only shall I be sure of my own life.” Again cried Duban, “Spare me and Allah shall spare thee; and slay me not or Allah shall slay thee.” But it was in vain. Now when the physician, O Ifrit, knew for certain that the King would kill him, he said, “O King, if there be no help but I must die, grant me some little delay that I may go down to my house and release myself from mine obligations and direct my folk and my neighbours where to bury me and distribute my books of medicine. Amongst these I have one, the rarest of rarities, which I would present to thee as an offering: keep it as a treasure in thy treasury.” “And what is in the book?” asked the King and the Sage answered, “Things beyond compt; and the least of secrets is that if, directly after thou hast cut off my head, thou open three leaves and read three lines of the page to thy left hand, my head shall speak and answer every question thou deignest ask of it.” The King wondered with exceeding wonder and shaking5 with delight at the novelty, said, “O physician, cost thou really tell me that when I cut off thy head it will speak to me?” He replied, “Yes, O King!” Quoth the King, “This is indeed a strange matter!” and forthwith sent him closely guarded to his house, and Duban then and there settled all his obligations. Next day he went up to the King’s audience hall, where Emirs and Wazirs, Chamberlains and Nabobs, Grandees and Lords of Estate were gathered together, making the presence chamber gay as a garden of flower beds. And lo! the physician came up and stood before the King, bearing a worn old volume and a little etui of metal full of powder, like that used for the eyes.6 Then he sat down and said, “Give me a tray.” So they brought him one and he poured the powder upon it and levelled it and lastly spake as follows: “O King, take this book but do not open it till my head falls; then set it upon this tray, and bid press it down upon the powder, when forthright the blood will cease flowing. That is the time to open the book.” The King thereupon took the book and made a sign to the Sworder, who arose and struck off the physician’s head, and placing it on the middle of the tray, pressed it down upon the powder. The blood stopped flowing, and the Sage Duban unclosed his eyes and said, “Now open the book, O King!” The King opened the book, and found the leaves stuck together; so he put his finger to his mouth and, by moistening it, he easily turned over the first leaf, and in like way the second, and the third, each leaf opening with much trouble; and when he had un stuck six leaves he looked over them and, finding nothing written thereon, said, “O physician, there is no writing here!” Duban re plied, “Turn over yet more;” and he turned over three others in the same way. Now the book was poisoned; and before long the venom penetrated his system, and he fell into strong convulsions and he cried out, “The poison hath done its work!” Whereupon the Sage Duban’s head began to improvise:—
There be rulers who have ruled with a foul tyrannic sway
But they soon became as though they had never, never been:
Just, they had won justice: they oppressed and were oppress
By Fortune, who requited them with ban and bane and teen:
So they faded like the morn, and the tongue of things repeats
“Take this far that, nor vent upon Fortune’s ways thy spleen.”
No sooner had the head ceased speaking than the King rolled over dead. Now I would have thee know, O Ifrit, that if King Yunan had spared the Sage Duban, Allah would have spared him, but he refused so to do and decreed to do him dead, wherefore Allah slew him; and thou too, O Ifrit, if thou hadst spared me, Allah would have spared thee. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say: then quoth Dunyazad, “O my sister, how pleasant is thy tale, and how tasteful; how sweet, and how grateful!” She replied, “And where is this compared with what I could tell thee this coming night, if I live and the King spare me?” Said the King in himself, “By Allah, I will not slay her until I hear the rest of her story, for truly it is wondrous.” They rested that night in mutual embrace until dawn: then the King went forth to his Darbar; the Wazirs and troops came in and the audience hall was crowded; so the King gave orders and judged and appointed and deposed and bade and forbade the rest of that day, when the court broke up, and King Shahryar entered his palace,
1 The Bresl. Edit. absurdly has Jazírah (an island).
2 The Ghúlah (fem. of Ghúl) is the Heb. Lilith or Lilis; the classical Lamia; the Hindu Yogini and Dakini, the Chaldean Utug and Gigim (desert-demons) as opposed to the Mas (hill-demon) and Telal (who steal into towns); the Ogress of our tales and the Bala yaga (Granny-witch) of Russian folk-lore. Etymologically “Ghul” is a calamity, a panic fear; and the monster is evidently the embodied horror of the grave and the graveyard.
3 Arab. “Shább” (Lat. juvenis) between puberty and forty or according to some fifty; when the patient becomes a “Rajul ikhtiyár” (man of free will) politely termed, and then a Shaykh or Shaybah (gray-beard, oldster).
4 Some proverbial name now forgotten. Torrens (p. 48) translates it “the giglot” (Fortune?) but “cannot discover the drift.”
5 Arab. “Ihtizáz,” that natural and instinctive movement caused by good news suddenly given, etc.
6 Arab. “Kohl,” in India, Surmah, not a “collyrium,” but powdered antimony for the eyelids. That sold in the bazars is not the real grey ore of antimony but a galena or sulphuret of lead. Its use arose as follows. When Allah showed Himself to Moses on Sinai through an opening the size of a needle, the Prophet fainted and the Mount took fire: thereupon Allah said, “Henceforth shalt thou and thy seed grind the earth of this mountain and apply it to your eyes!” The powder is kept in an étui called Makhalah and applied with a thick blunt needle to the inside of the eyelid, drawing it along the rim; hence etui and probe denote the sexual rem in re and in cases of adultery the question will be asked, “Didst thou see the needle in the Kohl-pot?” Women mostly use a preparation of soot or lamp-black (Hind. Kajala, Kajjal) whose colour is easily distinguished from that of Kohl. The latter word, with the article (Al–Kohl) is the origin of our “alcohol;” though even M. Littré fails to show how “fine powder” became “spirits of wine.” I found this powder (wherewith Jezebel “painted” her eyes) a great preservative from ophthalmia in desert-travelling: the use in India was universal, but now European example is gradually abolishing it.
Her sister, Dunyazad, said to her,“Pray finish for us thy story;” and she answered, “I will if the King give me leave.” “Say on,” quoth the King. And she continued:— It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Fisherman said to the Ifrit, “If thou hadst spared me I would have spared thee, but nothing would satisfy thee save my death; so now I will do thee die by jailing thee in this jar and I will hurl thee into this sea.” Then the Marid roared aloud and cried, “Allah upon thee, O Fisher man, don’t! Spare me, and pardon my past doings; and, as I have been tyrannous, so be thou generous, for it is said among sayings that go current:— O thou who doest good to him who hath done thee evil, suffice for the ill doer his ill deeds, and do not deal with me as did Umamah to ‘Atikah.”1 Asked the Fisherman, “And what was their case?” and the Ifrit answered, “This is not the time for story telling and I in this prison; but set me free and I will tell thee the tale.” Quoth the Fisherman, “Leave this language: there is no help but that thou be thrown back into the sea nor is there any way for thy getting out of it for ever and ever. Vainly I placed myself under thy protection,2 and I humbled my self to thee with weeping, while thou soughtest only to slay me, who had done thee no injury deserving this at thy hands; nay, so far from injuring thee by any evil act, I worked thee nought but weal in releasing thee from that jail of thine. Now I knew thee to be an evil doer when thou diddest to me what thou didst, and know, that when I have cast thee back into the sea, I will warn whomsoever may fish thee up of what hath befallen me with thee, and I will advise him to toss thee back again; so shalt thou abide here under these waters till the End of Time shall make an end of thee.” But the Ifrit cried aloud, “Set me free; this is a noble occasion for generosity and I make covenant with thee and vow never to do thee hurt and harm; nay, I will help thee to what shall put thee out of want.” The Fisherman accepted his promises on both conditions, not to trouble him as before, but on the contrary to do him service; and, after making firm the plight and swearing him a solemn oath by Allah Most Highest he opened the cucurbit. Thereupon the pillar of smoke rose up till all of it was fully out; then it thickened and once more became an Ifrit of hideous presence, who forthright ad ministered a kick to the bottle and sent it flying into the sea. The Fisherman, seeing how the cucurbit was treated and making sure of his own death, piddled in his clothes and said to himself, “This promiseth badly;” but he fortified his heart, and cried, “O Ifrit, Allah hath said3:— Perform your covenant; for the performance of your covenant shall be inquired into hereafter. Thou hast made a vow to me and hast sworn an oath not to play me false lest Allah play thee false, for verily he is a jealous God who respiteth the sinner, but letteth him not escape. I say to thee as said the Sage Duban to King Yunan, “Spare me so Allah may spare thee!” The Ifrit burst into laughter and stalked away, saying to the Fisherman, “Follow me;” and the man paced after him at a safe distance (for he was not assured of escape) till they had passed round the suburbs of the city. Thence they struck into the uncultivated grounds, and crossing them descended into a broad wilderness, and lo! in the midst of it stood a mountain tarn. The Ifrit waded in to the middle and again cried, “Follow me;” and when this was done he took his stand in the centre and bade the man cast his net and catch his fish. The Fisherman looked into the water and was much astonished to see therein vari coloured fishes, white and red, blue and yellow; however he cast his net and, hauling it in, saw that he had netted four fishes, one of each colour. Thereat he rejoiced greatly and more when the Ifrit said to him, “Carry these to the Sultan and set them in his presence; then he will give thee what shall make thee a wealthy man; and now accept my excuse, for by Allah at this time I wot none other way of benefiting thee, inasmuch I have lain in this sea eighteen hundred years and have not seen the face of the world save within this hour. But I would not have thee fish here save once a day.” The Ifrit then gave him God speed, saying, Allah grant we meet again;”4 and struck the earth with one foot, whereupon the ground clove asunder and swallowed him up. The Fisherman, much marvelling at what had happened to him with the Ifrit, took the fish and made for the city; and as soon as he reached home he filled an earthen bowl with water and therein threw the fish which began to struggle and wriggle about. Then he bore off the bowl upon his head and repairing to the King’s palace (even as the Ifrit had bidden him) laid the fish before the presence; and the King wondered with exceeding wonder at the sight, for never in his lifetime had’ he seen fishes like these in quality or in conformation. So he said, “Give those fish to the stranger slave girl who now cooketh for us,” meaning the bond maiden whom the King of Roum had sent to him only three days before, so that he had not yet made trial of her talents in the dressing of meat. Thereupon the Wazir carried the fish to the cook and bade her fry them5 saying, “O damsel, the King sendeth this say to thee:— I have not treasured thee, O tear o’ me! save for stress time of me; approve, then, to us this day thy delicate handiwork and thy savoury cooking; for this dish of fish is a present sent to the Sultan and evidently a rarity.” The Wazir, after he had carefully charged her, returned to the King, who commanded him to give the Fisherman four hundred diners: he gave them accordingly, and the man took them to his bosom and ran off home stumbling and falling and rising again and deeming the whole thing to be a dream. However, he bought for his family all they wanted and lastly he went to his wife in huge joy and gladness. So far concerning him; but as regards the cookmaid, she took the fish and cleansed them and set them in the frying pan, basting them with oil till one side was dressed. Then she turned them over and, behold, the kitchen wall crave asunder, and therefrom came a young lady, fair of form, oval of face, perfect in grace, with eyelids which Kohl lines enchase.6 Her dress was a silken head kerchief fringed and tasseled with blue: a large ring hung from either ear; a pair of bracelets adorned her wrists; rings with bezels of priceless gems were on her fingers; and she hent in hand a long rod of rattan cane which she thrust into the frying pan, saying, “O fish! O fish! be ye constant to your covenant?” When the cookmaiden saw this apparition she swooned away. The young lady repeated her words a second time and a third time, and at last the fishes raised their heads from the pan, and saying in articulate speech “Yes! Yes!” began with one voice to recite:—
Come back and so will I! Keep faith and so will I!
And if ye fain forsake, I’ll requite till quits we cry!
After this the young lady upset the frying pan and went forth by the way she came in and the kitchen wall closed upon her. When the cook maiden recovered from her fainting fit, she saw the four fishes charred black as charcoal, and crying out, “His staff brake in his first bout,”7 she again fell swooning to the ground. Whilst she was in this case the Wazir came for the fish and looking upon her as insensible she lay, not knowing Sunday from Thursday, shoved her with his foot and said, “Bring the fish for the Sultan!” Thereupon recovering from her fainting fit she wept and in formed him of her case and all that had befallen her. The Wazir marvelled greatly and exclaiming, “This is none other than a right strange matter!”, he sent after the Fisherman and said to him, “Thou, O Fisherman, must needs fetch us four fishes like those thou broughtest before.” Thereupon the man repaired to the tarn and cast his net; and when he landed it, lo! four fishes were therein exactly like the first. These he at once carried to the Wazir, who went in with them to the cook maiden and said, “Up with thee and fry these in my presence, that I may see this business.” The damsel arose and cleansed the fish, and set them in the frying pan over the fire; however they remained there but a little while ere the wall crave asunder and the young lady appeared, clad as before and holding in hand the wand which she again thrust into the frying pan, saying, “O fish! O fish! be ye constant to your olden covenant?” And behold, the fish lifted their heads, and repeated “Yes! Yes!” and recited this couplet:
Come back and so will I! Keep faith and so will I!
But if ye fain forsake, I’ll requite till quits we cry!
And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 The tale of these two women is now forgotten.
2 Arab. “Atadakhkhal.” When danger threatens it is customary to seize a man’s skirt and cry “Dakhíl-ak!” ( = under thy protection). Among noble tribes the Badawi thus invoked will defend the stranger with his life. Foreigners have brought themselves into contempt by thus applying to women or to mere youths.
3 The formula of quoting from the Koran.
4 Lit. “Allah not desolate me” (by thine absence). This is still a popular phrase — Lá tawáhishná = Do not make me desolate, i.e. by staying away too long, and friends meeting after a term of days exclaim “Auhashtani!”=thou hast made me desolate, Je suis desole.
5 Charming simplicity of manners when the Prime Minister carries the fish (shade of Vattel!)!) to the cookmaid. The “Gesta Romanorum” is nowhere more naïve.
6 Arab. “Kahílat al-taraf” = lit. eyelids lined with Kohl; and figuratively “with black lashes and languorous look.” This is a phrase which frequently occurs in The Nights and which, as will appear, applies to the “lower animals” as well as to men. Moslems in Central Africa apply Kohl not to the thickness of the eyelid but upon both outer lids, fixing it with some greasy substance. The peculiar Egyptian (and Syrian) eye with its thick fringes of jet-black lashes, looking like lines of black drawn with soot, easily suggests the simile. In England I have seen the same appearance amongst miners fresh from the colliery.
7 Of course applying to her own case.
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the fishes spoke, and the young lady upset the frying pan with her rod, and went forth by the way she came and the wall closed up, the Wazir cried out, “This is a thing not to be hidden from the King.” So he went and told him what had happened, where upon quoth the King, “There is no help for it but that I see this with mine own eyes.” Then he sent for the Fisherman and commended him to bring four other fish like the first and to take with him three men as witnesses. The Fisherman at once brought the fish: and the King, after ordering them to give him four hundred gold pieces, turned to the Wazir and said, “Up and fry me the fishes here before me!” The Minister, replying “To hear is to obey,” bade bring the frying pan, threw therein the cleansed fish and set it over the fire; when lo! the wall crave asunder, and out burst a black slave like a huge rock or a remnant of the tribe Ad1 bearing in hand a branch of a green tree; and he cried in loud and terrible tones, “O fish! O fish! be ye all constant to your antique covenant?” whereupon the fishes lifted their heads from the frying pan and said, “Yes! Yes! we be true to our vow;” and they again recited the couplet:
Come back and so will I! Keep faith and so will I!
But if ye fain forsake, I’ll requite till quits we cry!
Then the huge blackamoor approached the frying pan and upset it with the branch and went forth by the way he came in. When he vanished from their sight the King inspected the fish; and finding them all charred black as charcoal, was utterly bewildered and said to the Wazir, “Verily this is a matter whereanent silence cannot be kept, and as for the fishes, assuredly some marvellous adventure connects with them.” So he bade bring the Fisherman and asked him, saying “Fie on thee, fellow! whence came these fishes?” and he answered, “From a tarn between four heights lying behind this mountain which is in sight of thy city.” Quoth the King, “How many days’ march?” Quoth he, “O our lord the Sultan, a walk of half hour.” The King wondered and, straight way ordering his men to march and horsemen to mount, led off the Fisherman who went before as guide, privily damning the Ifrit. They fared on till they had climbed the mountain and descended unto a great desert which they had never seen during all their lives; and the Sultan and his merry men marvelled much at the wold set in the midst of four mountains, and the tarn and its fishes of four colours, red and white, yellow and blue. The King stood fixed to the spot in wonderment and asked his troops and all present, “Hath any one among you ever seen this piece of water before now?” and all made answer, “O King of the age never did we set eyes upon it during all our days.” They also questioned the oldest inhabitants they met, men well stricken in years, but they replied, each and every, “A lakelet this we never saw in this place.” Thereupon quoth the King, “By Allah I will neither return to my capital nor sit upon the throne of my forbears till I learn the truth about this tarn and the fish therein.” He then ordered his men to dismount and bivouac all around the mountain; which they did; and summoning his Wazir, a Minister of much experience, sagacious, of penetrating wit and well versed in affairs, said to him, “’Tis in my mind to do a certain thing whereof I will inform thee; my heart telleth me to fare forth alone this night and root out the mystery of this tarn and its fishes. Do thou take thy seat at my tent door, and say to the Emirs and Wazirs, the Nabobs and the Chamberlains, in fine to all who ask thee:— The Sultan is ill at ease, and he hath ordered me to refuse all admittance;2 and be careful thou let none know my design.” And the Wazir could not oppose him. Then the King changed his dress and ornaments and, slinging his sword over his shoulder, took a path which led up one of the mountains and marched for the rest of the night till morning dawned; nor did he cease wayfaring till the heat was too much for him. After his long walk he rested for a while, and then resumed his march and fared on through the second night till dawn, when suddenly there appeared a black point in the far distance. Hereat he rejoiced and said to himself, “Haply some one here shall acquaint me with the mystery of the tarn and its fishes.” Presently drawing near the dark object he found it a palace built of swart stone plated with iron; and, while one leaf of the gate stood wide open, the other was shut, The King’s spirits rose high as he stood before the gate and rapped a light rap; but hearing no answer he knocked a second knock and a third; yet there came no sign. Then he knocked his loudest but still no answer, so he said, “Doubtless ’tis empty.” Thereupon he mustered up resolution and boldly walked through the main gate into the great hall and there cried out aloud, “Holla, ye people of the palace! I am a stranger and a wayfarer; have you aught here of victual?” He repeated his cry a second time and a third but still there came no reply; so strengthening his heart and making up his mind he stalked through the vestibule into the very middle of the palace and found no man in it. Yet it was furnished with silken stuffs gold starred; and the hangings were let down over the door ways. In the midst was a spacious court off which set four open saloons each with its raised dais, saloon facing saloon; a canopy shaded the court and in the centre was a jetting fount with four figures of lions made of red gold, spouting from their mouths water clear as pearls and diaphanous gems. Round about the palace birds were let loose and over it stretched a net of golden wire, hindering them from flying off; in brief there was everything but human beings. The King marvelled mightily thereat, yet felt he sad at heart for that he saw no one to give him account of the waste and its tarn, the fishes, the mountains and the palace itself. Presently as he sat between the doors in deep thought behold, there came a voice of lament, as from a heart grief spent and he heard the voice chanting these verses:—
I hid what I endured of him3 and yet it came to light,
And nightly sleep mine eyelids fled and changed to sleepless night:
Oh world! Oh Fate! withhold thy hand and cease thy hurt and harm
Look and behold my hapless sprite in colour and affright:
Wilt ne’er show ruth to highborn youth who lost him on the way
Of Love, and fell from wealth and fame to lowest basest wight.
Jealous of Zephyr’s breath was I as on your form he breathed
But whenas Destiny descends she blindeth human sight4
What shall the hapless archer do who when he fronts his foe
And bends his bow to shoot the shaft shall find his string undight?
When cark and care so heavy bear on youth5 of generous soul
How shall he ’scape his lot and where from Fate his place of flight?
Now when the Sultan heard the mournful voice he sprang to his feet; and, following the sound, found a curtain let down over a chamber door. He raised it and saw behind it a young man sitting upon a couch about a cubit above the ground; and he fair to the sight, a well shaped wight, with eloquence dight; his forehead was flower white, his cheek rosy bright, and a mole on his cheek breadth like an ambergris mite; even as the poet cloth indite:—
A youth slim waisted from whose locks and brow
The world in blackness and in light is set.
Throughout Creation’s round no fairer show
No rarer sight thine eye hath ever met:
A nut brown mole sits throned upon a cheek
Of rosiest red beneath an eye of jet.6
The King rejoiced and saluted him, but he remained sitting in his caftan of silken stuff pureed with Egyptian gold and his crown studded with gems of sorts; but his face was sad with the traces of sorrow. He returned the royal salute in most courteous wise adding, “O my lord, thy dignity demandeth my rising to thee; and my sole excuse is to crave thy pardon.”7 Quoth the King, “Thou art excused, O youth; so look upon me as thy guest come hither on an especial object. I would thou acquaint me with the secrets of this tarn and its fishes and of this palace and thy loneliness therein and the cause of thy groaning and wailing.” When the young man heard these words he wept with sore weeping;8 till his bosom was drenched with tears and began reciting —
Say him who careless sleeps what while the shaft of Fortune flies
How many cloth this shifting world lay low and raise to rise?
Although thine eye be sealed in sleep, sleep not th’ Almighty’s eyes
And who hath found Time ever fair, or Fate in constant guise?
Then he sighed a long fetched sigh and recited:—
Confide thy case to Him, the Lord who made mankind;
Quit cark and care and cultivate content of mind;
Ask not the Past or how or why it came to pass:
All human things by Fate and Destiny were designed!
The King marvelled and asked him, “What maketh thee weep, O young man?” and he answered, “How should I not weep, when this is my case!” Thereupon he put out his hand and raised the skirt of his garment, when lo! the lower half of him appeared stone down to his feet while from his navel to the hair of his head he was man. The King, seeing this his plight, grieved with sore grief and of his compassion cried, “Alack and well away! in very sooth, O youth, thou heapest sorrow upon my sorrow. I was minded to ask thee the mystery of the fishes only: whereas now I am concerned to learn thy story as well as theirs. But there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!9 Lose no time, O youth, but tell me forthright thy whole tale.” Quoth he, “Lend me thine ears, thy sight and thine in sight;” and quoth the King, “All are at thy service!” Thereupon the youth began, “Right wondrous and marvellous is my case and that of these fishes; and were it graven with gravers upon the eye corners it were a warner to whoso would be warned.” “How is that?” asked the King, and the young man began to tell
1 Prehistoric Arabs who measured from 60 to 100 cubits high: Koran, chaps. xxvi., etc. They will often be mentioned in The Nights.
2 I Arab. “Dastúr” (from Persian) = leave, permission. The word has two meanings (see Burckhardt, Arab. Prov. No. 609) and is much used, ea. before walking up stairs or entering a room where strange women might be met. So “Tarík” = Clear the way (Pilgrimage, iii., 319). The old Persian occupation of Egypt, not to speak of the Persian speaking Circassians and other rulers has left many such traces in popular language. One of them is that horror of travelers — “Bakhshísh” pron. bakh-sheesh and shortened to shísh from the Pers. “bakhshish.” Our “Christmas box” has been most unnecessarily derived from the same, despite our reading:–
Gladly the boy, with Christmas box in hand.
And, as will be seen, Persians have bequeathed to the outer world worse things than bad language, e.g.. heresy and sodomy.
3 He speaks of his wife but euphemistically in the masculine.
4 A popular saying throughout Al–Islam.
5 Arab. “Fata”: lit.=a youth; a generous man, one of noble mind (as youth-tide should be). It corresponds with the Lat. “vir,” and has much the meaning of the Ital. “Giovane,” the Germ. “Junker” and our “gentleman.”
6 From the Bul.Edit.
7 The vagueness of his statement is euphemistic.
8 This readiness of shedding tears contrasts strongly with the external stoicism of modern civilization; but it is true to Arab character, and Easterns, like the heroes of Homer and Italians of Boccacio, are not ashamed of what we look upon as the result of feminine hysteria — “a good cry.”
9 The formula (constantly used by Moslems) here denotes displeasure, doubt how to act and so forth. Pronounce, “Lá haula wa lá kuwwata illá bi ‘lláhi ‘I-Aliyyi ‘I-Azim.” As a rule mistakes are marvellous: Mandeville (chaps. xii.) for “Lá iláha illa ‘lláhu wa Muhammadun Rasúlu ’llah” writes “La ellec sila, Machomete rores alla.” The former (lá haula, etc.), on account of the four peculiar Arabic letters, is everywhere pronounced differently. and the exclamation is called “Haulak” or “Haukal.”
Know then, O my lord, that whilome my sire was King of this city, and his name was Mahmud, entitled Lord of the Black Islands, and owner of what are now these four mountains. He ruled three score and ten years, after which he went to the mercy of the Lord and I reigned as Sultan in his stead. I took to wife my cousin, the daughter of my paternal uncle,1 and she loved me with such abounding love that whenever I was absent she ate not and she drank not until she saw me again. She cohabited with me for five years till a certain day when she went forth to the Hammam bath; and I bade the cook hasten to get ready all requisites for our supper. And I entered this palace and lay down on the bed where I was wont to sleep and bade two damsels to fan my face, one sitting by my head and the other at my feet. But I was troubled and made restless by my wife’s absence and could not sleep; for although my eyes were closed my mind and thoughts were wide awake. Presently I heard the slave girl at my head say to her at my feet, “O Mas’udah, how miserable is our master and how wasted in his youth and oh! the pity of his being so be trayed by our mistress, the accursed whore!’’2 The other replied, “Yes indeed: Allah curse all faithless women and adulterous; but the like of our master, with his fair gifts, deserveth something better than this harlot who lieth abroad every night.” Then quoth she who sat by my head, “Is our lord dumb or fit only for bubbling that he questioneth her not!” and quoth the other, “Fie on thee! cloth our lord know her ways or cloth she allow him his choice? Nay, more, cloth she not drug every night the cup she giveth him to drink before sleep time, and put Bhang3 into it? So he sleepeth and wotteth not whither she goeth, nor what she doeth; but we know that after giving him the drugged wine, she donneth her richest raiment and perfumeth herself and then she fareth out from him to be away till break of day; then she cometh to him, and burneth a pastile under his nose and he awaketh from his deathlike sleep.” When I heard the slave girl’s words, the light became black before my sight and I thought night would never-fall. Presently the daughter of my uncle came from the baths; and they set the table for us and we ate and sat together a fair half hour quaffing our wine as was ever our wont. Then she called for the particular wine I used to drink before sleeping and reached me the cup; but, seeming to drink it according to my wont, I poured the contents into my bosom; and, lying down, let her hear that I was asleep. Then, behold, she cried, “Sleep out the night, and never wake again: by Allah, I loathe thee and I loathe thy whole body, and my soul turneth in disgust from cohabiting with thee; and I see not the moment when Allah shall snatch away thy life!” Then she rose and donned her fairest dress and perfumed her person and slung my sword over her shoulder; and, opening the gates of the palace, went her ill way. I rose and followed her as she left the palace and she threaded the streets until she came to the city gate, where she spoke words I understood not, and the padlocks dropped of themselves as if broken and the gate leaves opened. She went forth (and I after her without her noticing aught) till she came at last to the outlying mounds4 and a reed fence built about a round roofed hut of mud bricks. As she entered the door, I climbed upon the roof which commanded a view of the interior, and lo! my fair cousin had gone in to a hideous negro slave with his upper lip like the cover of a pot, and his lower like an open pot; lips which might sweep up sand from the gravel-floor of the cot. He was to boot a leper and a paralytic, lying upon a strew of sugar cane trash and wrapped in an old blanket and the foulest rags and tatters. She kissed the earth before him, and he raised his head so as to see her and said, “Woe to thee! what call hadst thou to stay away all this time? Here have been with me sundry of the black brethren, who drank their wine and each had his young lady, and I was not content to drink because of thine absence.” Then she, “O my lord, my heart’s love and coolth of my eyes 5 knowest thou not that I am married to my cousin whose very look I loathe, and hate myself when in his company? And did not I fear for thy sake, I would not let a single sun arise before making his city a ruined heap wherein raven should croak and howlet hoot, and jackal and wolf harbour and loot; nay I had removed its very stones to the back side of Mount Kaf.” 6 Rejoined the slave, Thou liest, damn thee! Now I swear an oath by the velour and honour of blackamoor men (and deem not our manliness to be; the poor manliness of white men), from today forth if thou stay away till this hour, I will not keep company with thee nor will I glue my body with thy body and strum and belly bump Dost play fast and loose with us, thou cracked pot, that we may satisfy thy dirty lusts? stinkard! bitch! vilest of the vile whites!” When I heard his words, and saw with my own eyes what passed between these two wretches, the world waxed dark be fore my face and my soul knew not in what place it was. But my wife humbly stood up weeping before and wheedling the slave, and saying, O my beloved, and very fruit of my heart, there is none left to cheer me but thy dear self; and, if thou cast me off who shall take me in, O my beloved, O light of my eyes?” And she ceased not weeping and abasing herself to him until he deigned be reconciled with her. Then was she right glad and stood up and doffed her clothes, even to her petticoat trousers, and said, 0 my master what hast thou here for thy handmaiden to eat? Uncover the basin,” he grumbled, “and thou shalt find t the bottom the broiled bones of some rats we dined on, pick at them, and then go to that slop pot where thou shalt find some leavings of beer 7 which thou mayest drink.” So she ate and drank and washed her hands, and went and lay down by the side of the slave, upon the cane trash and, stripping herself stark naked, she crept in with him under his foul coverlet and his rags and tatters. When I saw my wife, my cousin, the daughter of my uncle, do this deed8 I clean lost my wits, and climbing down from the roof, I entered and took the sword which she had with her and drew it, determined to cut down the twain. I first struck at the slave’s neck and thought that the death decree had fallen on him.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 An Arab holds that he has a right to marry his first cousin, the daughter of his father’s brother, and if any win her from him a death and a blood-feud may result. It was the same in a modified form amongst the Jews and in both races the consanguineous marriage was not attended by the evil results (idiotcy, congenital deafness, etc.) observed in mixed races like the English and the Anglo–American. When a Badawi speaks of “the daughter of my uncle” he means wife; and the former is the dearer title, as a wife can be divorced, but blood is thicker than water.
2 Arab. “Kahbah;” the coarsest possible term. Hence the unhappy “Cave” of Don Roderick the Goth, which simply means The Whore.
3 The Arab “Banj” and Hindú “Bhang” (which I use as most familiar) both derive from the old Coptic “Nibanj” meaning a preparation of hemp (Cannabis sativa seu Indica); and here it is easy to recognise the Homeric “Nepenthe.” Al — Kazwini explains the term by “garden hemp (Kinnab bostáni or Sháhdánaj). On the other hand not a few apply the word to the henbane (hyoscyamus niger) so much used in mediæval Europe. The Kámús evidently means henbane distinguishing it from Hashish al haráfísh” = rascals’ grass, i.e. the herb Pantagruelion. The “Alfáz Adwiya” (French translation) explains “Tabannuj” by “Endormir quelqu’un en lui faisant avaler de la jusquiame.” In modern parlance Tabannuj is = our anæsthetic administered before an operation, a deadener of pain like myrrh and a number of other drugs. For this purpose hemp is always used (at least I never heard of henbane); and various preparations of the drug are sold at an especial bazar in Cairo. See the “powder of marvellous virtue” in Boccaccio, iii., 8; and iv., 10. Of these intoxicants, properly so termed, I shall have something to say in a future page.
The use of Bhang doubtless dates from the dawn of civilisation, whose earliest social pleasures would be inebriants. Herodotus (iv. c. 75) shows the Scythians burning the seeds (leaves and capsules) in worship and becoming drunken with the fumes, as do the S. African Bushmen of the present day. This would be the earliest form of smoking: it is still doubtful whether the pipe was used or not. Galen also mentions intoxication by hemp. Amongst Moslems, the Persians adopted the drink as an ecstatic, and about our thirteenth century Egypt, which began the practice, introduced a number of preparations to be noticed in the course of The Nights.
4 The rubbish heaps which outlie Eastern cities, some (near Cairo) are over a hundred feet high.
5 Arab. “Kurrat al-aye;” coolness of eyes as opposed to a hot eye (“sakhin”) one red with tears. The term is true and picturesque so I translate it literally. All coolness is pleasant to dwellers in burning lands: thus in Al–Hariri Abu Z yd says of Bassorah, “I found there whatever could fill the eye with coolness.” And a “cool booty” (or prize) is one which has been secured without plunging into the flames of war, or imply a pleasant prize.
6 Popularly rendered Caucasus (see Night cdxcvi): it corresponds so far with the Hindu “Udaya” that the sun rises behind it; and the “false dawn” is caused by a hole or gap. It is also the Persian Alborz, the Indian Meru (Sumeru), the Greek Olympus and the Rhiphæan Range (Veliki Camenypoys) or great starry girdle of the world, etc.
7 Arab. “Mizr” or “Mizar;” vulg. Búzah; hence the medical Lat. Buza, the Russian Buza (millet beer), our booze, the O. Dutch “buyzen” and the German “busen.” This is the old of negro and negroid Africa, the beer of Osiris, of which dried remains have been found in jars amongst Egyptian tombs. In Equatorial Africa it known as Pombe; on the Upper Nile “Merissa” or “Mirisi” and amongst the Kafirs (Caffers) “Tshuala,” “Oala” or “Boyala:” I have also heard of “Buswa”in Central Africa which may be the origin of “Buzah.” In the West it became, (Romaic, Xythum and cerevisia or cervisia, the humor ex hordeo, long before the days of King Gambrinus. Central Africans drink it in immense quantities: in Unyamwezi the standing bedsteads, covered with bark-slabs, are all made sloping so as to drain off the liquor. A chief lives wholly on beef and Pombe which is thick as gruel below. Hops are unknown: the grain, mostly Holcus, is made to germinate, then pounded, boiled and left to ferment. In Egypt the drink is affected chiefly by Berbers, Nubians and slaves from the Upper Nile, but it is a superior article and more like that of Europe than the “Pombe.” I have given an account of the manufacture in The Lake Regions of Central Africa, vol. ii., p. 286. There are other preparations, Umm-bulbul (mother nightie gale), Dinzáyah and Súbiyah, for which I must refer to the Shaykh El–Tounsy.
8 There is a terrible truth in this satire, which reminds us of the noble dame who preferred to her handsome husband the palefrenier laid, ord et infâme of Queen Margaret of Navarre (Heptameron No. xx.). We have all known women who sacrificed everything despite themselves, as it were, for the most worthless of men. The world stares and scoffs and blames and understands nothing. There is for every woman one man and one only in whose slavery she is “ready to sweep the floor.” Fate is mostly opposed to her meeting him but, when she does, adieu husband and children, honour and religion, life and “soul.” Moreover Nature (human) commands the union of contrasts, such as fair and foul, dark and light, tall and short; otherwise mankind would be like the canines, a race of extremes, dwarf as toy-terriers, giants like mastiffs, bald as Chinese “remedy dogs,” or hairy as Newfoundlands. The famous Wilkes said only a half truth when he backed himself, with an hour s start, against the handsomest man in England; his uncommon and remarkable ugliness (he was, as the Italians say, un bel brutto) was the highest recommendation in the eyes of very beautiful women.
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young ensorcelled Prince said to the King, “When I smote the slave with intent to strike off his head, I thought that I had slain him; for he groaned a loud hissing groan, but I had cut only the skin and flesh of the gullet and the two arteries! It awoke the daughter of my uncle, so I sheathed the sword and fared forth for the city; and, entering the palace, lay upon my bed and slept till morning when my wife aroused me and I saw that she had cut off her hair and had donned mourning garments. Quoth she:— O son of my uncle, blame me not for what I do; it hath just reached me that my mother is dead, and my father hath been killed in holy war, and of my brothers one hath lost his life by a snake sting and the other by falling down some precipice; and I can and should do naught save weep and lament. When I heard her words I refrained from all reproach and said only:— Do as thou list; I certainly will not thwart thee. She continued sorrowing, weeping and wailing one whole year from the beginning of its circle to the end, and when it was finished she said to me. — I wish to build me in thy palace a tomb with a cupola, which I will set apart for my mourning and will name the House of Lamentations.1 Quoth I again:— Do as thou list! Then she builded for herself a cenotaph wherein to mourn, and set on its centre a dome under which showed a tomb like a Santon’s sepulchre. Thither she carried the slave and lodged him; but he was exceeding weak by reason of his wound, and unable to do her love service; he could only drink wine and from the day of his hurt he spake not a word, yet he lived on because his appointed hour2 was not come. Every day, morning and evening, my wife went to him and wept and wailed over him and gave him wine and strong soups, and left not off doing after this manner a second year; and I bore with her patiently and paid no heed to her. One day, however, I went in to her unawares; and I found her weeping and beating her face and crying:— Why art thou absent from my sight, O my heart’s delight? Speak to me, O my life; talk with me, O my love? Then she recited these verses:—
For your love my patience fails and albeit you forget
I may not, nor to other love my heart can make reply:
Bear my body, bear my soul wheresoever you may fare
And where you pitch the camp let my body buried lie:
Cry my name above my grave, and an answer shall return
The moaning of my bones responsive to your cry.3
Then she recited, weeping bitterly the while:—
The day of my delight is the day when draw you near
And the day of mine affright is the day you turn away:
Though I tremble through the night in my bitter dread of death
When I hold you in my arms I am free from all affray
Once more she began reciting:—
Though a morn I may awake with all happiness in hand
Though the world all be mine and like Kisra-kings4 I reign;
To me they had the worth of the winglet of the gnat
When I fail to see thy form, when I look for thee in vain
When she had ended for a time her words and her weeping I said to her — O my cousin, let this thy mourning suffice, for in pouring forth tears there is little profit! Thwart me not, answered she, in aught I do, or I will lay violent hands on myself! So I held my peace and left her to go her own way; and she ceased not to cry and keen and indulge her affliction for yet another year. At the end of the third year I waxed aweary of this lonesome mourning, and one day I happened to enter the cenotaph when vexed and angry with some matter which had thwarted me, and suddenly I heard her say:— O my lord, I never hear thee vouch safe a single word to me! Why cost thou not answer me, O my master? and she began reciting:—
O thou tomb! O, thou tomb! be his beauty set in shade?
Hast thou darkened that countenance all sheeny as the noon?
O thou tomb! neither earth nor yet heaven art to me
Then how cometh it in thee are conjoined my sun and moon?
When I heard such verses as these rage was heaped upon my rage I cried out:— Well away! how long is this sorrow to last? and I began repeating:—
O thou tomb! O thou tomb! be his horrors set in blight?
Hast thou dark ened his countenance that sickeneth the soul?
O thou tomb! neither cess pool nor pipkin art to me
Then how cometh it in thee are conjoined soil and coal?
When she heard my words she sprang to her feet crying. — Fie upon thee, thou cur! all this is of thy doings; thou hast wounded my heart s darling and thereby worked me sore woe and thou hast wasted his youth so that these three years he hath lain abed more dead than alive! In my wrath I cried:— O thou foulest of harlots and filthiest of whores ever futtered by negro slaves who are hired to have at thee!5 Yes indeed it was I who did this good deed; and snatching up my sword I drew it and made at her to cut her down. But she laughed my words and mine intent to scorn crying: To heel, hound that thou art! Alas6 for the past which shall no more come to pass nor shall any one avail the dead to raise. Allah hath indeed now given into my hand him who did to me this thing, a deed that hath burned my heart with a fire which died not and a flame which might not be quenched! Then she stood up; and, pronouncing some words to me unintelligible, she said:— By virtue of my egromancy become thou half stone and half man; whereupon I became what thou seest, unable to rise or to sit, and neither dead nor alive. Moreover she ensorcelled the city with all its streets and garths, and she turned by her gramarye the four islands into four mountains around the tarn whereof thou questionest me; and the citizens, who were of four different faiths, Moslem, Nazarene, Jew and Magian, she transformed by her enchantments into fishes; the Moslems are the white, the Magians red, the Christians blue and the Jews yellow.7 And every day she tortureth me and scourgeth me with an hundred stripes, each of which draweth floods of blood and cutteth the skin of my shoulders to strips; and lastly she clotheth my upper half with a hair cloth and then throweth over them these robes.” Hereupon the young man again shed tears and began reciting:—
In patience, O my God, I endure my lot and fate;
I will bear at will of Thee whatsoever be my state:
They oppress me; they torture me; they make my life a woe
Yet haply Heaven’s happiness shall compensate my strait:
Yea, straitened is my life by the bane and hate o’ foes
But Mustafa and Murtaza8 shall ope me Heaven’s gate.
After this the Sultan turned towards the young Prince and said, “O youth, thou hast removed one grief only to add another grief; but now, O my friend, where is she; and where is the mausoleum wherein lieth the wounded slave?” “The slave lieth under yon dome,” quoth the young man, “and she sitteth in the chamber fronting yonder door. And every day at sunrise she cometh forth, and first strippeth me, and whippeth me with an hundred strokes of the leathern scourge, and I weep and shriek; but there is no power of motion in my lower limbs to keep her off me. After ending her tormenting me she visiteth the slave, bringing him wine and boiled meats. And to morrow at an early hour she will be here.” Quoth the King, “By Allah, O youth, I will as suredly do thee a good deed which the world shall not willingly let die, and an act of derring do which shall be chronicled long after I am dead and gone by.” Then the King sat him by the side of the young Prince and talked till nightfall, when he lay down and slept; but, as soon as the false dawn9 showed, he arose and doffing his outer garments10 bared his blade and hastened to the place wherein lay the slave. Then was he ware of lighted candles and lamps, and the perfume of incenses and unguents, and directed by these, he made for the slave and struck him one stroke killing him on the spot: after which he lifted him on his back and threw him into a well that was in the palace. Presentry he returned and, donning the slave’s gear, lay down at length within the mausoleum with the drawn sword laid close to and along his side. After an hour or so the accursed witch came; and, first going to her husband, she stripped off his clothes and, taking a whip, flogged him cruelly while he cried out, “Ah! enough for me the case I am in! take pity on me, O my cousin!’ But she replied, “Didst thou take pity on me and spare the life of my true love on whom I coated?” Then she drew the cilice over his raw and bleeding skin and threw the robe upon all and went down to the slave with a goblet of wine and a bowl of meat broth in her hands. She entered under the dome weeping and wailing, “Well-away!” and crying, “O my lord! speak a word to me! O my master! talk awhile with me!” and began to recite these couplets. —
How long this harshness, this unlove, shall bide?
Suffice thee not tear floods thou hast espied?
Thou cost prolong our parting purposely
And if wouldst please my foe, thou’rt satisfied!
Then she wept again and said, “O my lord! speak to me, talk with me!” The King lowered his voice and, twisting his tongue, spoke after the fashion of the blackamoors and said “‘lack! ‘lack! there be no Ma’esty and there be no Might save in Allauh, the Gloriose, the Great!” Now when she heard these words she shouted for joy, and fell to the ground fainting; and when her senses returned she asked, “O my lord, can it be true that thou hast power of speech?” and the King making his voice small and faint answered, “O my cuss! cost thou deserve that I talk to thee and speak with thee?” “Why and wherefore?” rejoined she; and he replied “The why is that all the livelong day thou tormentest thy hubby; and he keeps calling on ‘eaven for aid until sleep is strange to me even from evenin’ till mawnin’, and he prays and damns, cussing us two, me and thee, causing me disquiet and much bother: were this not so, I should long ago have got my health; and it is this which prevents my answering thee.” Quoth she, “With thy leave I will release him from what spell is on him;“and quoth the King, “Release him and let’s have some rest!” She cried, “To hear is to obey;” and, going from the cenotaph to the palace, she took a metal bowl and filled it with water and spake over it certain words which made the contents bubble and boil as a cauldron seetheth over the fire. With this she sprinkled her husband saying, “By virtue of the dread words I have spoken, if thou becamest thus by my spells, come forth out of that form into thine own former form.” And lo and behold! the young man shook and trembled; then he rose to his feet and, rejoicing at his deliverance, cried aloud, “I testify that there is no god but the God, and in very truth Mohammed is His Apostle, whom Allah bless and keep!” Then she said to him, “Go forth and return not hither, for if thou do I will surely slay thee;” screaming these words in his face. So he went from between her hands; and she returned to the dome and, going down to the sepulchre, she said, “O my lord, come forth to me that I may look upon thee and thy goodliness!” The King replied in faint low words, “What11 thing hast thou done? Thou hast rid me of the branch but not of the root.” She asked, “O my darling! O my negro ring! what is the root?” And he answered, “Fie on thee, O my cuss! The people of this city and of the four islands every night when it’s half passed lift their heads from the tank in which thou hast turned them to fishes and cry to Heaven and call down its anger on me and thee; and this is the reason why my body’s baulked from health. Go at once and set them free then come to me and take my hand, and raise me up, for a little strength is already back in me.” When she heard the King’s words (and she still supposed him to be the slave) she cried joyously, O my master, on my head and on my eyes be thy commend, Bismillah12!’’ So she sprang to her feet and, full of joy and gladness, ran down to the tarn and took a little of its water n the palm of her hand — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Every Moslem burial-ground has a place of the kind where honourable women may sit and weep unseen by the multitude. These visits are enjoined by the Apostle:— Frequent the cemetery, ’twill make you think of futurity! Also:— Whoever visiteth the graves of his parents (or one of them) every Friday, he shall be written a pious son, even though he might have been in the world, before that, a disobedient. (Pilgrimage, ii., 71.) The buildings resemble our European “mortuary chapels.” Said, Pasha of Egypt, was kind enough to erect one on the island off Suez, for the “use of English ladies who would like shelter whilst weeping and wailing for their dead.” But I never heard that any of the ladles went there.
2 Arab. “Ajal”=the period of life, the appointed time of death: the word is of constant recurrence and is also applied to sudden death. See Lane’s Dictionary, s.v.
3 “The dying Badawi to his tribe” (and lover) appears to me highly pathetic. The wild people love to be buried upon hill slopes whence they can look down upon the camp; and they still call out the names of kinsmen and friends as they pass by the grave-yards. A similar piece occurs in Wetzstein (p. 27, “Reisebericht ueber Hauran,” etc.):—
O bear with you my bones where the camel bears his load
And bury me before you, if buried I must be;
And let me not be burled ‘neath the burden of the vine
But high upon the hill whence your sight I ever see!
As you pass along my grave cry aloud and name your names
The crying of your names shall revive the bones of me:
I have fasted through my life with my friends, and in my death,
I will feast when we meet, on that day of joy and glee.
4 The Akásirah (plur. of Kasrá=Chosroës) is here a title of the four great dynasties of Persian Kings. 1. The Peshdadian or Assyrian race, proto-historics for whom dates fail, 2. The Káyánián (Medes and Persians) who ended with the Alexandrian invasion in B. C. 331. 3. The Ashkánián (Parthenians or Arsacides) who ruled till A. D. 202; and 4. The Sassanides which have already been mentioned. But strictly speaking “Kisri” and “Kasra” are titles applied only to the latter dynasty and especially to the great King Anushirwan. They must not be confounded with “Khusrau” (P. N. Cyrus, Ahasuerus? Chosroës?), and yet the three seem to have combined in “Cæsar,” Kaysar and Czar. For details especially connected with Zoroaster see vol. I, p. 380 of the Dabistan or School of Manners, translated by David Shea and Anthony Troyer, Paris, 1843. The book is most valuable, but the proper names are so carelessly and incorrectly printed that the student is led into perpetual error.
5 The words are the very lowest and coarsest; but the scene is true to Arab life.
6 Arab.“Hayhát:” the word, written in a variety of ways is onomatopoetic, like our “heigh-ho!” it sometimes means “far from me (or you) be it!” but in popular usage it is simply “Alas.”
7 Lane (i., 134) finds a date for the book in this passage. The Soldan of Egypt, Mohammed ibn Kala’ún, in the early eighth century (Hijrah = our fourteenth), issued a sumptuary law compelling Christians and Jews to wear indigo-blue and saffron-yellow turbans, the white being reserved for Moslems. But the custom was much older and Mandeville (chaps. ix.) describes it in A. D. 1322 when it had become the rule. And it still endures; although abolished in the cities it is the rule for Christians, at least in the country parts of Egypt and Syria. I may here remark that such detached passages as these are absolutely useless for chronology: they may be simply the additions of editors or mere copyists.
8 The ancient “Mustaphá” = the Chosen (prophet, i. e. Mohammed), also titled Al–Mujtaba, the Accepted (Pilgrimage, ii., 309). “Murtaza”=the Elect, i.e. the Caliph Ali is the older “Mortada” or “Mortadi” of Ockley and his day, meaning “one pleasing to (or acceptable to) Allah.” Still older writers corrupted it to “Mortis Ali” and readers supposed this to be the Caliph’s name.
9 The gleam (zodiacal light) preceding the true dawn; the Persians call the former Subh-i-kázib (false or lying dawn) opposed to Subh-i-sádik (true dawn) and suppose that it is caused by the sun shining through a hole in the world — encircling Mount Kaf.
10 So the Heb. “Arún” = naked, means wearing the lower robe only; = our “in his shirt.”
11 Here we have the vulgar Egyptian colloquialism “Aysh” (— Ayyu shayyin) for the classical “Má” = what.
12 “In the name of Allah!” here said before taking action.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the young woman, the sorceress, took in hand some of the tarn water and spake over it words not to be understood, the fishes lifted their heads and stood up on the instant like men, the spell on the people of the city having been removed. What was the lake again became a crowded capital; the bazars were thronged with folk who bought and sold; each citizen was occupied with his own calling and the four hills became islands as they were whilome. Then the young woman, that wicked sorceress, returned to the King and (still thinking he was the negro) said to him, O my love! stretch forth thy honoured hand that I may assist thee to rise.” “Nearer to me,” quoth the King in a faint and feigned tone. She came close as to embrace him when he took up the sword lying hid by his side and smote her across the breast, so that the point showed gleaming behind her back. Then he smote her a second time and cut her in twain and cast her to the ground in two halves. After which he fared forth and found the young man, now freed from the spell, awaiting him and gave him joy of his happy release while the Prince kissed his hand with abundant thanks. Quoth the King, “Wilt thou abide in this city or go with me to my capital?” Quoth the youth, “O King of the age, wottest thou not what journey is between thee and thy city?” “Two days and a half,” answered he, whereupon said the other, “An thou be sleeping, O King, awake! Between thee and thy city is a year’s march for a well girt walker, and thou haddest not come hither in two days and a half save that the city was under enchantment. And I, O King, will never part from thee; no, not even for the twinkling of an eye.” The King rejoiced at his words and said, “Thanks be to Allah who hath bestowed thee upon me! From this hour thou art my son and my only son, for that in all my life I have never been blessed with issue.” Thereupon they embraced and joyed with exceeding great joy; and, reaching the palace, the Prince who had been spell bound informed his lords and his grandees that he was about to visit the Holy Places as a pilgrim, and bade them get ready all things necessary for the occasion. The preparations lasted ten days, after which he set out with the Sultan, whose heart burned in yearning for his city whence he had been absent a whole twelvemonth. They journeyed with an escort of Mamelukes1 carrying all manners of precious gifts and rarities, nor stinted they wayfaring day and night for a full year until they approached the Sultan’s capital, and sent on messengers to announce their coming. Then the Wazir and the whole army came out to meet him in joy and gladness, for they had given up all hope of ever seeing their King; and the troops kissed the ground before him and wished him joy of his safety. He entered and took seat upon his throne and the Minister came before him and, when acquainted with all that had be fallen the young Prince, he congratulated him on his narrow escape. When order was restored throughout the land the King gave largesse to many of his people, and said to the Wazir, “Hither the Fisherman who brought us the fishes!” So he sent for the man who had been the first cause of the city and the citizens being delivered from enchantment and, when he came in to the presence, the Sultan bestowed upon him a dress of honour, and questioned him of his condition and whether he had children. The Fisherman gave him to know that he had two daughters and a son, so the King sent for them and, taking one daughter to wife, gave the other to the young Prince and made the son his head treasurer. Furthermore he invested his Wazir with the Sultanate of the City in the Black Islands whilome belonging to the young Prince, and dispatched with him the escort of fifty armed slaves together with dresses of honour for all the Emirs and Grandees. The Wazir kissed hands and fared forth on his way; while the Sultan and the Prince abode at home in all the solace and the delight of life; and the Fisherman became the richest man of his age, and his daughters wived with Kings, until death came to them. And yet, O King! this is not more wondrous than the story of
1 Arab. “Mamlúk” (plur. Mamálik) lit. a chattel; and in The Nights a white slave trained to arms. The “Mameluke Beys” of Egypt were locally called the “Ghuzz,” I use the convenient word in its old popular sense;
’Tis sung, there’s a valiant Mameluke
In foreign lands ycleped (Sir Luke)—
And hence, probably, Molière’s “Mamamouchi”; and the modern French use “Mamalue.” See Savary’s Letters, No. xl.
Once upon a time there was a Porter in Baghdad, who was a bachelor and who would remain unmarried. It came to pass on a certain day, as he stood about the street leaning idly upon his crate, behold, there stood before him an honourable woman in a mantilla of Mosul1 silk, broidered with gold and bordered with brocade; her walking shoes were also purfled with gold and her hair floated in long plaits. She raised her face veil2 and, showing two black eyes fringed with jetty lashes, whose glances were soft and languishing and whose perfect beauty was ever blandishing, she accosted the Porter and said in the suavest tones and choicest language, “Take up thy crate and follow me.” The Porter was so dazzled he could hardly believe that he heard her aright, but he shouldered his basket in hot haste saying in himself, “O day of good luck! O day of Allah’s grace!” and walked after her till she stopped at the door of a house. There she rapped, and presently came out to her an old man, a Nazarene, to whom she gave a gold piece, receiving from him in return what she required of strained wine clear as olive oil; and she set it safely in the hamper, saying “Lift and follow.” Quoth the Porter, “This, by Allah, is indeed an auspicious day, a day propitious for the granting of all a man wisheth.” He again hoisted up the crate and followed her; till she stopped at a fruiterer’s shop and bought from him Shami3 apples and Osmani quinces and Omani4 peaches, and cucumbers of Nile growth, and Egyptian limes and Sultani oranges and citrons; besides Aleppine jasmine, scented myrtle berries, Damascene nenuphars, flower of privet5 and camomile, blood red anemones, violets, and pomegranate bloom, eglantine and narcissus, and set the whole in the Porter’s crate, saying, “Up with it.” So he lifted and followed her till she stopped at a butcher’s booth and said, “Cut me off ten pounds of mutton.” She paid him his price and he wrapped it in a banana leaf, whereupon she laid it in the crate and said “Hoist, O Porter.” He hoisted accordingly, and followed her as she walked on till she stopped at a grocer’s, where she bought dry fruits and pistachio kernels, Tihamah raisins, shelled almonds and all wanted for dessert, and said to the Porter, “Lift and follow me.” So he up with his hamper and after her till she stayed at the confectioner’s, and she bought an earthen platter, and piled it with all kinds of sweetmeats in his shop, open worked tarts and fritters scented with musk and “soap cakes,” and lemon loaves and melon preserves,6 and “Zaynab’s combs,” and “ladies’ fingers,” and “Kazi’s tit-bits” and goodies of every description; and placed the platter in the Porter’s crate. Thereupon quoth he (being a merry man), “Thou shouldest have told me, and I would have brought with me a pony or a she camel to carry all this market stuff.” She smiled and gave him a little cuff on the nape saying, “Step out and exceed not in words for (Allah willing!) thy wage will not be wanting.” Then she stopped at a perfumer’s and took from him ten sorts of waters, rose scented with musk, grange Lower, waterlily, willow flower, violet and five others; and she also bought two loaves of sugar, a bottle for perfume spraying, a lump of male in cense, aloe wood, ambergris and musk, with candles of Alex’ andria wax; and she put the whole into the basket, saying, “Up with thy crate and after me.” He did so and followed until she stood before the greengrocer’s, of whom she bought pickled safflower and olives, in brine and in oil; with tarragon and cream cheese and hard Syrian cheese; and she stowed them away in the crate saying to the Porter, “Take up thy basket and follow me.” He did so and went after her till she came to a fair mansion fronted by a spacious court, a tall, fine place to which columns gave strength and grace: and the gate thereof had two leaves of ebony inlaid with plates of red gold. The lady stopped at the door and, turning her face veil sideways, knocked softly with her knuckles whilst the Porter stood behind her, thinking of naught save her beauty and loveliness. Presently the door swung back and both leaves were opened, whereupon he looked to see who had opened it; and behold, it was a lady of tall figure, some five feet high; a model of beauty and loveliness, brilliance and symmetry and perfect grace. Her forehead was flower white; her cheeks like the anemone ruddy bright; her eyes were those of the wild heifer or the gazelle, with eyebrows like the crescent moon which ends Sha’aban and begins Ramazan;7 her mouth was the ring of Sulayman,8 her lips coral red, and her teeth like a line of strung pearls or of camomile petals. Her throat recalled the antelope’s, and her breasts, like two pomegranates of even size, stood at bay as it were,9 her body rose and fell in waves below her dress like the rolls of a piece of brocade, and her navel10 would hold an ounce of benzoin ointment. In fine she was like her of whom the poet said:—
On Sun and Moon of palace cast thy sight
Enjoy her flower like face, her fragrant light:
Thine eyes shall never see in hair so black
Beauty encase a brow so purely white:
The ruddy rosy cheek proclaims her claim
Though fail her name whose beauties we indite:
As sways her gait I smile at hips so big
And weep to see the waist they bear so slight.
When the Porter looked upon her his wits were waylaid, and his senses were stormed so that his crate went nigh to fall from his head, and he said to himself, “Never have I in my life seen a day more blessed than this day!” Then quoth the lady portress to the lady cateress, “Come in from the gate and relieve this poor man of his load.” So the provisioner went in followed by the portress and the Porter and went on till they reached a spacious ground floor hall,11 built with admirable skill and beautified with all manner colours and carvings; with upper balconies and groined arches and galleries and cupboards and recesses whose curtains hung before them. In the midst stood a great basin full of water surrounding a fine fountain, and at the upper end on the raised dais was a couch of juniper wood set with gems and pearls, with a canopy like mosquito curtains of red satin silk looped up with pearls as big as filberts and bigger. Thereupon sat a lady bright of blee, with brow beaming brilliancy, the dream of philosophy, whose eyes were fraught with Babel’s gramarye12 and her eye brows were arched as for archery; her breath breathed ambergris and perfumery and her lips were sugar to taste and carnelian to see. Her stature was straight as the letter I13 and her face shamed the noon sun’s radiancy; and she was even as a galaxy, or a dome with golden marquetry or a bride displayed in choicest finery or a noble maid of Araby.14 Right well of her sang the bard when he said:—
Her smiles twin rows of pearls display
Chamomile-buds or rimey spray
Her tresses stray as night let down
And shames her light the dawn o’ day.
15The third lady rising from the couch stepped forward with grace ful swaying gait till she reached the middle of the saloon, when she said to her sisters, “Why stand ye here? take it down from this poor man’s head!” Then the cateress went and stood before him, and the portress behind him while the third helped them, and they lifted the load from the Porter’s head; and, emptying it of all that was therein, set everything in its place. Lastly they gave him two gold pieces, saying, “Wend thy ways, O Porter.” But he went not, for he stood looking at the ladies and admiring what uncommon beauty was theirs, and their pleasant manners and kindly dispositions (never had he seen goodlier); and he gazed wistfully at that good store of wines and sweet scented flowers and fruits and other matters. Also he marvelled with exceeding marvel, especially to see no man in the place and delayed his going; whereupon quoth the eldest lady, “What aileth thee that goest not; haply thy wage be too little?” And, turning to her sister the cateress, she said, “Give him another diner!” But the Porter answered, “By Allah, my lady, it is not for the wage; my hire is never more than two dirhams; but in very sooth my heart and my soul are taken up with you and your condition. I wonder to see you single with ne’er a man about you and not a soul to bear you company; and well you wot that the minaret toppleth o’er unless it stand upon four, and you want this same fourth; and women’s pleasure without man is short of measure, even as the poet said:—
Seest not we want for joy four things all told
The harp and lute, the flute and flageolet;
And be they companied with scents four fold
Rose, myrtle, anemone and violet
Nor please all eight an four thou wouldst withold
Good wine and youth and gold and pretty pet.
You be there and want a fourth who shall be a person of good sense and prudence; smart witted, and one apt to keep careful counsel.” His words pleased and amused them much; and they laughed at him and said, “And who is to assure us of that? We are maidens and we fear to entrust our secret where it may not be kept, for we have read in a certain chronicle the lines of one Ibn al-Sumam:-
Hold fast thy secret and to none unfold
Lost is a secret when that secret’s told
An fail thy breast thy secret to conceal
How canst thou hope another’s breast shall hold?
And Abu Nowás16 said well on the same subject:—
Who trusteth secret to another’s hand
Upon his brow deserveth burn of brand!”
When the Porter heard their words he rejoined, “By your lives! I am a man of sense and a discreet, who hath read books and perused chronicles; I reveal the fair and conceal the foul and I act as the poet adviseth:—
None but the good a secret keep
And good men keep it unrevealed:
It is to me a well shut house
With keyless locks and door ensealed”17
When the maidens heard his verse and its poetical application addressed to them they said, “Thou knowest that we have laid out all our monies on this place. Now say, hast thou aught to offer us in return for entertainment? For surely we will not suf fer thee to sit in our company and be our cup companion, and gaze upon our faces so fair and so rare without paying a round sum.18 Wottest thou not the saying:—
Sans hope of gain
Love’s not worth a grain?”
Whereto the lady portress added, “If thou bring anything thou art a something; if no thing, be off with thee, thou art a nothing;” but the procuratrix interposed, saying, “Nay, O my sisters, leave teasing him for by Allah he hath not failed us this day, and had he been other he never had kept patience with me, so whatever be his shot and scot I will take it upon myself.” The Porter, over joyed, kissed the ground before her and thanked her saying, “By Allah, these monies are the first fruits this day hath given me.” Hearing this they said, “Sit thee down and welcome to thee,” and the eldest lady added, “By Allah, we may not suffer thee to join us save on one condition, and this it is, that no questions be asked as to what concerneth thee not, and frowardness shall be soundly flogged.” Answered the Porter, “I agree to this, O my lady, on my head and my eyes be it! Lookye, I am dumb, I have no tongue. Then arose the provisioneress and tightening her girdle set the table by the fountain and put the flowers and sweet herbs in their jars, and strained the wine and ranged the flasks in row and made ready every requisite. Then sat she down, she and her sisters, placing amidst them the Porter who kept deeming himself in a dream; and she took up the wine flagon, and poured out the first cup and drank it off, and likewise a second and a third.19 After this she filled a fourth cup which she handed to one of her sisters; and, lastly, she crowned a goblet and passed it to the Porter, saying:—
“Drink the dear draught, drink free and fain
What healeth every grief and pain.”
He took the cup in his hand and, louting low, returned his best thanks and improvised:—
Drain not the bowl save with a trusty friend
A man of worth whose good old
For wine, like wind, sucks sweetness from the sweet
And stinks when over stench It haply blow:”
Drain not the bowl; save from dear hand like thine
The cup recall thy gifts; thou, gifts of wine.”
After repeating this couplet he kissed their hands and drank and was drunk and sat swaying from side to side and pursued:—
“All drinks wherein is blood the Law unclean
Doth hold save one, the blood shed of the vine:
Fill! fill! take all my wealth bequeathed or won
Thou fawn! a willing ransom for those eyne.”
Then the cateress crowned a cup and gave it to the portress, who took it from her hand and thanked her and drank. Thereupon she poured again and passed to the eldest lady who sat on the couch, and filled yet another and handed it to the Porter. He kissed the ground before them; and, after drinking and thanking them, he again began to recite:
“Here! Here! by Allah, here!
Cups of the sweet, the dear’
Fill me a brimming bowl
The Fount o’ Life I speer
Then the Porter stood up before the mistress of the house and said, “O lady, I am thy slave, thy Mameluke, thy white thrall, a, thy very bondsman;” and he began reciting:—
“A slave of slaves there standeth at thy door
Lauding thy generous boons and gifts galore
Beauty! may he come in awhile to ‘joy
Thy charms? for Love and I part nevermore!”
She said to him, “Drink; and health and happiness attend thy drink.” So he took the cup and kissed her hand and recited these lines in sing song:
“I gave her brave old wine that like her cheeks
Blushed red or flame from furnace flaring up:
She bussed the brim and said with many a smile
How durst thou deal folk’s cheek for folk to sup?
“Drink!” (said I) “these are tears of mine whose tinct
Is heart blood sighs have boiled in the cup.”
She answered him in the following couplet:—
“An tears of blood for me, friend, thou hast shed
Suffer me sup them, by thy head and eyes!”
Then the lady took the cup, and drank it off to her sisters’ health, and they ceased not drinking (the Porter being in the midst of them), and dancing and laughing and reciting verses and singing ballads and ritornellos. All this time the Porter was carrying on with them, kissing, toying, biting, handling, groping, fingering; whilst one thrust a dainty morsel in his mouth, and another slapped him; and this cuffed his cheeks, and that threw sweet flowers at him; and he was in the very paradise of pleasure, as though he were sitting in the seventh sphere among the Houris20 of Heaven. They ceased not doing after this fashion until the wine played tucks in their heads and worsted their wits; and, when the drink got the better of them, the portress stood up and doffed her clothes till she was mother naked. However, she let down her hair about her body by way of shift, and throwing herself into the basin disported herself and dived like a duck and swam up and down, and took water in her mouth, and spurted it all over the Porter, and washed her limbs, and between her breasts, and inside her thighs and all around her navel. Then she came up out of the cistern and throwing herself on the Porter’s lap said, “O my lord, O my love, what callest thou this article?” pointing to her slit, her solution of continuity. “I call that thy cleft,” quoth the Porter, and she rejoined, Wah! wah, art thou not ashamed to use such a word?” and she caught him by the collar and soundly cuffed him. Said he again, Thy womb, thy vulva;” and she struck him a second slap crying, “O fie, O fie, this is another ugly word; is here no shame in thee?” Quoth he, “Thy coynte;” and she cried, O thou! art wholly destitute of modesty?” and thumped and bashed him. Then cried the Porter, “Thy clitoris,”21 whereat the eldest lady came down upon him with a yet sorer beating, and said, “No;” and he said, “’Tis so,” and the Porter went on calling the same commodity by sundry other names, but whatever he said they beat him more and more till his neck ached and swelled with the blows he had gotten; and on this wise they made him a butt and a laughing stock. At last he turned upon them asking, And what do you women call this article?” Whereto the damsel made answer, “The basil of the bridges.”22 Cried the Porter, “Thank Allah for my safety: aid me and be thou propitious, O basil of the bridges!” They passed round the cup and tossed off the bowl again, when the second lady stood up; and, stripping off all her clothes, cast herself into the cistern and did as the first had done; then she came out of the water and throwing her naked form on the Porter’s lap pointed to her machine and said, “O light of mine eyes, do tell me what is the name of this concern?” He replied as before, “Thy slit;” and she rejoined, “Hath such term no shame for thee?” and cuffed him and buffeted him till the saloon rang with the blows. Then quoth she, “O fie! O fie! how canst thou say this without blushing?” He suggested, “The basil of the bridges;” but she would not have it and she said, “No! no!” and stuck him and slapped him on the back of the neck. Then he began calling out all the names he knew, “Thy slit, thy womb, thy coynte, thy clitoris;” and the girls kept on saying, “No! no!” So he said, “I stick to the basil of the bridges;” and all the three laughed till they fell on their backs and laid slaps on his neck and said, “No! no! that’s not its proper name.” Thereupon he cried, “O my sisters, what is its name?” and they replied, “What sayest thou to the husked sesame seed?” Then the cateress donned her clothes and they fell again to carousing, but the Porter kept moaning, “Oh! and Oh!” for his neck and shoulders, and the cup passed merrily round and round again for a full hour. After that time the eldest and handsomest lady stood up and stripped off her garments, whereupon the Porter took his neck in hand, and rubbed and shampoo’d it, saying, “My neck and shoulders are on the way of Allah!”23 Then she threw herself into the basin, and swam and dived, sported and washed; and the Porter looked at her naked figure as though she had been a slice of the moon24 and at her face with the sheen of Luna when at full, or like the dawn when it brighteneth, and he noted her noble stature and shape, and those glorious forms that quivered as she went; for she was naked as the Lord made her. Then he cried “Alack! Alack!“ and began to address her, versifying in these couplets:—
“If I liken thy shape to the bough when green
My likeness errs and I sore mistake it;
For the bough is fairest when clad the most
And thou art fairest when mother naked.”
When the lady heard his verses she came up out of the basin and, seating herself upon his lap and knees, pointed to her genitory and said, “O my lordling, what be the name of this?” Quoth he, “The basil of the bridges;” but she said, “Bah, bah!” Quoth he, “The husked sesame;” quoth she, “Pooh, pooh!” Then said he, “Thy womb;” and she cried, “Fie, Fie! art thou not ashamed of thyself?” and cuffed him on the nape of the neck. And whatever name he gave declaring “’Tis so,” she beat him and cried “No! no!” till at last he said, “O my sisters, and what is its name?” She replied, “It is entitled the Khan25 of Abu Mansur;” whereupon the Porter replied, “Ha! ha! O Allah be praised for safe deliverance! O Khan of Abu Mansur!” Then she came forth and dressed and the cup went round a full hour. At last the Porter rose up, and stripping off all his clothes, jumped into the tank and swam about and washed under his bearded chin and armpits, even as they had done. Then he came out and threw himself into the first lady’s lap and rested his arms upon the lap of the portress, and reposed his legs in the lap of the cateress and pointed to his prickle26 and said, “O my mistresses, what is the name of this article?” All laughed at his words till they fell on their backs, and one said, “Thy pintle!” But he replied, “No!” and gave each one of them a bite by way of forfeit. Then said they, “Thy pizzle!” but he cried “No,” and gave each of them a hug; And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 The name of this celebrated succesor of Nineveh, where some suppose The Nights were written, is orig. (middle-gates) because it stood on the way where four great highways meet. The Arab. form “Mausil” (the vulgar “Mosul”) is also significant, alluding to the “junction” of Assyria and Babylonis. Hence our “muslin.”
2 This is Mr. Thackeray’s “nose-bag.” I translate by “walking-shoes” the Arab “Khuff” which are a manner of loose boot covering the ankle; they are not usually embroidered, the ornament being reserved for the inner shoe.
3 i.e. Syria (says Abulfeda) the “land on the left” (of one facing the east) as opposed to Al–Yaman the “land on the right.” Osmani would mean Turkish, Ottoman. When Bernard the Wise (Bohn, p.24) speaks of “Bagada and Axiam” (Mabillon’s text) or “Axinarri” (still worse), he means Baghdad and Ash–Shám (Syria, Damascus), the latter word puzzling his Editor. Richardson (Dissert, lxxii.) seems to support a hideous attempt to derive Shám from Shámat, a mole or wart, because the country is studded with hillocks! Al–Shám is often applied to Damascus-city whose proper name Dimishk belongs to books: this term is generally derived from Damáshik b. Káli b. Málik b. Sham (Shem). Lee (Ibn Batùtah, 29) denies that ha-Dimishki means “Eliezer of Damascus.”
4 From Oman = Eastern Arabia.
5 Arab. “Tamar Hannà” lit. date of Henna, but applied to the flower of the eastern privet (Lawsonia inermis) which has the sweet scent of freshly mown hay. The use of Henna as a dye is known even in Enland. The “myrtle” alluded to may either have been for a perfume (as it is held an anti-intoxicant) or for eating, the bitter aromatic berries of the “Ás” being supposed to flavour wine and especially Raki (raw brandy).
6 Lane. (i. 211) pleasantly remarks, “A list of these sweets is given in my original, but I have thought it better to omit the names” (!) Dozy does not shirk his duty, but he is not much more satisfactory in explaining words interesting to students because they are unfound in dictionaries and forgotten by the people. “Akrás (cakes) Laymunìyah (of limes) wa Maymunìyah” appears in the Bresl. Edit. as “Ma’amuniyah” which may mean “Ma’amun’s cakes” or “delectable cakes.” “Amshát” = (combs) perhaps refers to a fine kind of Kunàfah (vermicelli) known in Egypt and Syria as “Ghazl al-banát” = girl’s spinning.
7 The new moon carefully looked for by all Moslems because it begins the Ramazán-fast.
8 Solomon’s signet ring has before been noticed.
9 The “high-bosomed” damsel, with breasts firm as a cube, is a favourite with Arab tale tellers. Fanno baruffa is the Italian term for hard breasts pointing outwards.
10 A large hollow navel is looked upon not only as a beauty, but in children it is held a promise of good growth.
11 Arab. “Ka’ah,” a high hall opening upon the central court: we shall find the word used for a mansion, barrack, men’s quarters, etc.
12 Babel = Gate of God (El), or Gate of Ilu (P. N. of God), which the Jews ironically interpreted “Confusion.” The tradition of Babylonia being the very centre of witchcraft and enchantment by means of its Seven Deadly Spirits, has survived in Al–Islam; the two fallen angels (whose names will occur) being confined in a well; Nimrod attempting to reach Heaven from the Tower in a magical car drawn by monstrous birds and so forth. See p. 114, Francois Fenormant’s “Chaldean Magic,” London, Bagsters.
13 Arab. “Kámat Alfíyyah” = like the letter Alif, a straight perpendicular stroke. In the Egyptian hieroglyphs, the origin of every alphabet (not syllabarium) known to man, one form was a flag or leaf of water-plant standing upright. Hence probably the Arabic Alif-shape; while other nations preferred other modifications of the letter (ox’s head, etc), which in Egyptian number some thirty-six varieties, simple and compound.
14 I have not attempted to order this marvellous confusion of metaphors so characteristic of The Nights and the exigencies of Al-Saj’a = rhymed prose.
15 Here and elsewhere I omit the “kála (dice Turpino)” of the original: Torrens preserves “Thus goes the tale” (which it only interrupts). This is simply letter-wise and sense-foolish.
16 Of this worthy more at a future time.
17 i.e., sealed with the Kazi or legal authority’s seal of office.
18 “Nothing for nothing” is a fixed idea with the Eastern woman: not so much for greed as for a sexual point d’ honneur when dealing with the adversary — man.
19 She drinks first, the custom of the universal East, to show that the wine she had bought was unpoisoned. Easterns, who utterly ignore the “social glass” of Western civilisation drink honestly to get drunk; and, when far gone are addicted to horse-play (in Pers. “Badmasti” = le vin mauvais) which leads to quarrels and bloodshed. Hence it is held highly irreverent to assert of patriarchs, prophets and saints that they “drank wine;” and Moslems agree with our “Teatotallers” in denying that, except in the case of Noah, inebriatives are anywhere mentioned in Holy Writ.
20 Arab. “Húr al-Ayn,” lit. (maids) with eyes of lively white and black, applied to the virgins of Paradise who will wive with the happy Faithful. I retain our vulgar “Houri,” warning the reader that it is a masc. for a fem. (“Huríyah”) in Arab, although accepted in Persian, a genderless speach.
21 Arab. “Zambúr,” whose head is amputated in female circumcision. See Night cccclxxiv.
22 Ocymum basilicum noticed in Introduction, the bassilico of Boccaccio iv. 5. The Book of Kalilah and Dimnah represents it as “sprouting with something also whose smell is foul and disgusting and the sower at once sets to gather it and burn it with fire.” (The Fables of Bidpai translated from the later Syriac version by I. G. N. Keith–Falconer, etc., etc., etc., Cambridge University Press, 1885). Here, however, Habk is a pennyroyal (mentha puligium), and probably alludes to the pecten.
23 i. e. common property for all to beat.
24 “A digit of the moon” is the Hindú equivalent.
25 Better known to us as Caravanserai, the “Travellers’ Bungalow” of India: in the Khan, however, shelter is to be had, but neither bed nor board.
26 Arab. “Zubb.” I would again note that this and its synonyms are the equivalents of the Arabic, which is of the lowest. The tale-teller’s evident object is to accentuate the contrast with the tragical stories to follow.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48