She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu Mohammed Lazybones continued: “So I alighted and, saluting him, seated myself beside him, and my Mamelukes and negro-slaves stood before me. Said the Sharif, ‘Haply, thou hast some business with us which we may have pleasure of transacting?’ Replied I, ‘Yes, I have business with thee.’ Asked he, ‘And what is it?’; and I answered, ‘I come to thee as a suitor for thy daughter’s hand.’ So he said, ‘Thou hast neither cash nor rank nor family;’ whereupon I pulled him out a purse of a thousand dinars, red gold, and said to him, ‘This is my rank1 and my family; and he (whom Allah bless and keep!) hath said, The best of ranks is wealth. And how well quoth the poet,
‘Whoso two dithams hath, his lips have learnt
Speech of all kinds with eloquence bedight:
Draw near2 his brethren and crave ear of him,
And him thou seest haught in pride-full height:
Were ‘t not for dirhams wherein glories he,
Hadst found him ’mid man kind in sorry plight.
When richard errs in words they all reply,
“Sooth thou hast spoken and hast said aright!”
When pauper speaketh truly all reply
‘Thou liest;’ and they hold his sayings light.3
Verily dirhams in earth’s every stead
Clothe men with rank and make them fair to sight
Gold is the very tongue of eloquence;
Gold is the best of arms for might who’d fight!’
Now when the Sharif heard these my words and understood my verse, he bowed his head awhile groundwards then raising it, said, ‘If it must be so, I will have of thee other three thousand gold pieces.’ ‘I hear and I obey,’ answered I, and sent one of my Mamelukes home for the money. As soon as he came back with it, I handed it to the Sharif who, when he saw it in his hands, rose, and bidding his servants shut his shop, invited his brother merchants of the bazar the wedding; after which he carried me to his house and wrote out my contract of marriage with his daughter saying to me, ‘After ten days, I will bring thee to pay her the first visit.’ So I went home rejoicing and, shutting myself up with the ape, told him what had passed; and he said ‘Thou hast done well.’ Now when the time appointed by the Sharif drew near, the ape said to me, ‘There is a thing I would have thee do for me; and thou shalt have of me (when it is done) whatso thou wilt.’ I asked, ‘What is that?’ and he answered, ‘At the upper end of the chamber wherein thou shalt meet thy bride, the Sharif’s daughter, stands a cabinet, on whose door is a ring-padlock of copper and the keys under it. Take the keys and open the cabinet in which thou shalt find a coffer of iron with four flags, which are talismans, at its corners; and in its midst stands a brazen basin full of money, wherein is tied a white cock with a cleft comb; while on one side of the coffer are eleven serpents and on the other a knife. Take the knife and slaughter the cock; cut away the flags and upset the chest, then go back to the bride and do away her maidenhead. This is what I have to ask of thee.’ ‘Hearkening and obedience,’ answered I, and betook myself to the house of the Sharif. So as soon as I entered the bride-chamber, I looked for the cabinet and found it even as the ape had described it. Then I went in unto the bride and marvelled at her beauty and loveliness and stature and symmetrical-grace, for indeed they were such as no tongue can set forth. I rejoiced in her with exceeding joy; and in the middle of the night, when my bride slept, I rose and, taking the keys, opened the cabinet. Then I seized the knife and slew the cock and threw down the flags and upset the coffer, whereupon the girl awoke and, seeing the closet open and the cock with cut throat, exclaimed, ‘There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! The Marid hath got hold of me!’ Hardly had she made an end of speaking, when the Marid swooped down upon the house and, snatching up the bride, flew away with her; whereupon there arose a mighty clamour and behold, in came the Sharif, buffetting his face and crying, ‘O Abu Mohammed, what is this deed thou hast done? Is it thus thou requiitest us? I made this talisman in the cabinet fearing for my daughter from this accursed one who, for these six years, hath sought to steal-away the girl, but could not. But now there is no more abiding for thee with us, so wend thy ways.’ Thereupon I went forth and returned to my own house, where I made search for the ape but could not find him nor any trace of him; whereby I knew that it was he who was the Marid, and that he had carried off my wife and had tricked me into destroying the talisman and the cock, the two things which hindered him from taking her, and I repented, rending my raiment and cuffing my face. And there was no land but was straitened upon me; so I made for the desert forthright and ceased not wandering on till night overtook me, for I knew not whither I was going. And whilst I was deep in sad thought behold, I met two serpents, one tawny and the other white, and they were fighting to kill each other. So I took up a stone and with one cast slew the tawny serpent, which was the aggressor; whereupon the white serpent glided away and was absent for a while, but presently she returned accompanied by ten other white serpents which glided up to the dead serpent and tore her in pieces, so that only the head was left. Then they went their ways and I fell prostrate for weariness on the ground where I stood; but as I lay, pondering my case lo! I heard a Voice though I saw no one and the Voice versified with these two couplets,
‘Let Fate with slackened bridle fare her pace,
Nor pass the night with mind which cares an ace
Between eye-closing and its opening,
Allah can foulest change to fairest case.’
Now when I heard this, O Commander of the Faithful, great concern get hold of me and I was beyond measure troubled, and behold, I heard a Voice from behind me extemporise these couplets,
‘O Moslem! thou whose guide is Alcorán,
Joy in what brought safe peace to thee, O man.
Fear not what Satan haply whispered thee,
And in us see a Truth-believing
Then said I, ‘I conjure thee, by the truth of Him thou wore shippest, let me know who thou art!’ Thereupon the Invisible Speaker assumed the form of a man and said, ‘Fear not; for the report of thy good deed hath reached us, and we are a people of the true-believing Jinn. So, if thou lack aught, let us know it that we may have the pleasure of fulfilling thy want.’ Quoth I, ‘Indeed I am in sore need, for I am afflicted with a grievous affliction and no one was ever afflicted as I am!’ Quoth he, ‘Perchance thou art Abu Mohammed Lazybones?’ and I replied, ‘Yes.’ He rejoined, ‘I, O Abu Mohammed, am the brother of the white serpent, whose foe thou slewest, we are four brothers by one father and mother, and we are all indebted to thee for thy kindness. And know thou that he who played this trick on thee in the likeness of an ape, is a Marid of the Marids of the Jinn; and had he not used this artifice, he had never been able to get the girl; for he hath loved her and had a mind to take her this long while, but he was hindered of that talisman; and had it remained as it was, he could never have found access to her. However, fret not thyself for that; we will bring thee to her and kill the Marid; for thy kindness is not lost upon us.’ Then he cried out with a terrible outcry”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Hasab” (=quaneity), the honour a man acquires for himself; opposed to “Nasab” (genealogy) honours inherited from ancestry: the Arabic well expresses my old motto (adopted by Chinese Gordon),
“Honour, not Honours.”
2 Note the difference between “Takaddum” ( = standing in presence of, also superiority in excellence) and “Takádum” (priority in time).
3 Lane (ii. 427) gives a pleasant Eastern illustration of this saying.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Ifrit continued, “‘Verily thy kindness is not lost upon us.’ Then he cried out with a terrible outcry in a horrible voice, and behold, there appeared a troop of the Jinn, of whom he enquired concerning the ape; and one of them said, ‘I know his abiding-place;’ and the other asked ‘Where abideth he?’ Said the speaker ‘He is in the City of Brass whereon sun riseth not.’ Then said the first Jinni to me, ‘O Abu Mohammed, take one of these our slaves, and he will carry thee on his back and teach thee how thou shalt get back the girl; but know that this slave is a Marid of the Marids and beware, whilst he is carrying thee, lest thou utter the name of Allah, or he will flee from thee and thou wilt fall and be destroyed.’ ‘I hear and obey,’ answered I and chose out one of the slaves, who bent down and said to me, ‘Mount.’ So I mounted on his back, and he flew up with me into the firmament, till I lost sight of the earth and saw the stars as they were the mountains of earth fixed and firm1 and heard the angels crying, ‘Praise be to Allah,’ in heaven while the Marid held me in converse, diverting me and hindering me from pronouncing the name of Almighty Allah.2 But, as we flew, behold, One clad in green raiment,3 with streaming tresses and radiant face, holding in his hand a javelin whence flew sparks of fire, accosted me, saying, ‘O Abu Mohammed, say:— There is no god but the God and Mohammed is the Apostle of God; or I will smite thee with this javelin.’ Now already I felt heart-broken by my forced silence as regards calling on the name of Allah; so I said, ‘There is no god but the God, and Mohammed is the Apostle of God. Whereupon the shining One smote the Marid with his javelin and he melted away and became ashes; whilst I was thrown from his back and fell headlong towards the earth, till I dropped into the midst of a dashing sea, swollen with clashing surge. And behold I fell hard by a ship with five sailors therein, who seeing me, made for me and took me up into the vessel; and they began to speak to me in some speech I knew not; but I signed to them that I understood not their speech. So they fared on till the last of the day, when they cast out a net and caught a great fish and they broiled it and gave me to eat; after which they ceased not sailing on till they reached their city and carried me to their King and set me in his presence. So I kissed ground before him, and he bestowed on me a dress of honour and said to me in Arabic (which he knew well), ‘I appoint thee one of my officers.’ Thereupon I asked him the name of the city, and he replied, ‘It is called Hanád4 and is in the land of China.’ Then he committed me to his Wazir, bidding him show me the city, which was formerly peopled by Infidels, till Almighty Allah turned them into stones; and there I abode a month’s space, diverting myself with viewing the place, nor saw I ever greater plenty of trees and fruits than there. And when this time had past, one day, as I sat on the bank of a river, behold, there accosted me a horseman, who said to me, ‘Art thou not Abu Mohammed Lazybones?’ ‘Yes,’ answered I; whereupon, he said, ‘Fear not, for the report of thy good deed hath reached us.’ Asked I, ‘Who art thou?’ and he answered, ‘I am a brother of the white serpent, and thou art hard by the place where is the damsel whom thou seekest.’ So saying, he took off his clothes and clad me therein, saying, ‘Fear not, for the slave who perished under thee was one of our slaves.’ Then the horseman took me up behind him and rode on with me to a desert place, when he said, ‘Dismount now and walk on between these two mountains, till thou seest the City of Brass;5 then halt afar off and enter it not, ere I return to thee and tell thee how thou shalt do.’ ‘To hear is to obey,’ replied I and, dismounting from behind him, walked on till I came to the city, the walls whereof I found of brass. Then I began to pace round about it, hoping to find a gate, but found none; and presently as I persevered, behold, the serpent’s brother rejoined me and gave me a charmed sword which should hinder any from seeing me,6 then went his way. Now he had been gone but a little while, when lo! I heard a noise of cries and found myself in the midst of a multitude of folk whose eyes were in their breasts; and seeing me quoth they, ‘Who art thou and what cast thee into this place?’ So I told them my story, and they said, ‘The girl thou seekest is in this city with the Marid; but we know not what he hath done with her. Now we are brethren of the white serpent,’ adding, ‘Go thou to yonder spring and note where the water entereth, and enter thou with it; for it will bring thee into the city.’ I did as they bade me, and followed the water-course, till it brought me to a Sardab, a vaulted room under the earth, from which I ascended and found myself in the midst of the city. Here I saw the damsel seated upon a throne of gold, under a canopy of brocade, girt round by a garden full of trees of gold, whose fruits were jewels of price, such as rubies and chrysolites, pearls and coral. And the moment she saw me, she knew me and accosted me with the Moslem salutation, saying, ‘O my lord, who guided thee hither?’ So I told her all that had passed, and she said, ‘Know, that the accursed Marid, of the greatness of his love for me, hath told me what bringeth him bane and what bringeth him gain; and that there is here a talisman by means whereof he could, an he would, destroy the city and all that are therein; and whoso possesseth it, the Ifrits will do his commandment in everything. It standeth upon a pillar’— Whereat I asked her, ‘And where is the pillar?’ and she answered, ‘It is in such a place.’ ‘And what manner of thing may the talisman be?’ said I: said she, ‘It is in the semblance of a vulture7 and upon it is a writing which I cannot read. So go thou thither and seize it, and set it before thee and, taking a chafing dish, throw into it a little musk, whereupon there will arise a smoke which will draw the Ifrits to thee, and they will all present themselves before thee, nor shall one be absent; also they shall be subject to thy word and, whatsoever thou biddest them, that will they do. Arise therefore and fall to this thing, with the blessing of Almighty Allah.’ I answered, ‘Hearkening and obedience’ and, going to the column, did as she bade me, where-upon the Ifrits all presented themselves before me saying, ‘Here are we, O our lord! Whatsoever thou biddest us, that will we do.’ Quoth I, ‘Bind the Marid who brought the damsel hither from her home.’ Quoth they, ‘We hear and obey,’ and off they flew and bound that Marid in straitest bonds and returned after a while, saying, ‘We have done thy bidding.’ Then I dismissed them and, repairing to my wife, told her what had happened and said to her, ‘O my bride, wilt thou go with me?’ ‘Yes,’ answered she. So I carried her forth of the vaulted chamber whereby I had entered the city and we fared on, till we fell in with the folk who had shown me the way to find her.” And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
So I mounted on his back, and he flew up with me into the firmament. . . . But as we flew, behold! one clad in green raiment, with streaming tresses and radiant face, holding in his hand a javelin whence flew sparks of fire, accosted me
1 A Koranic fancy; the mountains being the pegs which keep the earth in place. “And he hath thrown before the earth, mountains firmly rooted, lest it should move with you.” (Koran, chaps. xvi.) The earth when first created was smooth and thereby liable to a circular motion, like the celestial-orbs; and, when the Angels asked who could stand on so tottering a frame, Allah fixed it the next morning by throwing the mountains in it and pegging them down. A fair prolepsis of the Neptunian theory.
2 Easy enough for an Englishman to avoid saying “by God,” but this common incident in Moslem folk-lore appeals to the peoples who are constantly using the word Allah Wallah, Billah, etc. The Koran expressly says, “Make not Allah the scope (object, lit. arrow-butt) of your oaths” (chaps. ii. 224), yet the command is broken every minute.
3 This must be the ubiquitous Khizr, the Green Prophet; when Ali appears, as a rule he is on horseback.
4 The name is apparently imaginary; and a little below we find that it was close to Jinn land. China was very convenient for this purpose: the medieval-Moslems, who settled in considerable numbers at Canton and elsewhere, knew just enough of it to know their own ignorance of the vast empire. Hence the Druzes of the Libanus still hold that part of their nation is in the depths of the Celestial–Empire.
5 I am unwilling to alter the old title to “City of Copper” as it should be; the pure metal having been technologically used long before the alloy of copper and zinc. But the Maroccan City (Night dlxvi. et seq.) was of brass (not copper). The Hindus of Upper India have an Iram which they call Hari Chand’s city (Colonel Tod); and I need hardly mention the Fata Morgana, Island of Saint Borondon; Cape Fly-away; the Flying Dutchman, etc. etc., all the effect of “looming.”
6 This sword which makes men invisible and which takes place of Siegfried’s Tarnkappe (invisible cloak) and of “Fortunatus’ cap” is common in Moslem folk-lore. The idea probably arose from the venerable practice of inscribing the blades with sentences, verses and magic figures.
7 Arab. “‘Ukáb,” in books an eagle (especially black) and P. N. of constellation but in Pop. usage= a vulture. In Egypt it is the Neophron Percnopterus (Jerdon) or N. Gingianus (Latham), the Dijájat Far’aun or Pharaoh’s hen. This bird has been known to kill the Báshah sparrow-hawk (Jerdon i. 60); yet, curious to say, the reviewers of my “Falconry in the Valley of the Indus” questioned the fact, known to so many travellers, that the falcon is also killed by this “tiger of the air,” despite the latter’s feeble bill (pp. 35–38). I was faring badly at their hands when the late Mr. Burckhardt Barker came to the rescue. Falconicide is popularly attributed, not only to the vulture, but also to the crestless hawk-eagle (Nisætus Bonelli) which the Hindus call Morángá=peacock slayer.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that he continued on this wise: “And we fared on till we fell in with the folk who had shown me the way to her. So I said to them, ‘Point me out a path which shall lead me to my home,’ and they did accordingly, and brought us a-foot to the sea-shore and set us aboard a vessel which sailed on before us with a fair wind, till we reached Bassorah-city. And when we entered the house of my father-in-law and her people saw my wife, they rejoiced with exceeding joy. Then I fumigated the vulture with musk and lo! the Ifrits flocked to me from all sides, saying, ‘At thy service what wilt thou have us do?’ So I bade them transport all that was in the City of Brass of monies and noble metals and stones of price to my house in Bassorah, which they did; and I then ordered them to bring me the ape. They brought him before me, abject and contemptible, and I said to him, ‘O accursed, why hast thou dealt thus perfidiously with me?’ Then I com mended the Ifrits to shut him in a brazen vessel1 so they put him in a brazen cucurbite and sealed it with lead. But I abode with my wife in joy and delight; and now, O Commander of the Faithful, I have under my hand precious things in such measure and rare jewels and other treasure and monies on such wise as neither reckoning may express nor may limits comprise; and, if thou lust after wealth or aught else, I will command the Jinn at once to do thy desire. But all this is of the bounty of Almighty Allah.” Thereupon the Commander of the Faithful wondered greatly and bestowed on him imperial gifts, in exchange for his presents, and entreated him with the favour he deserved.
1 Here I translate “Nahás”=brass, as the “kumkum” (cucurbite) is made of mixed metal, not of copper.
And men also tell the tale of the
It is told that Harun al-Rashid, in the days before he became jealous of the Barmecides, sent once for one of his guards, Salih by name, and said to him, “O Sálih, go to Mansúr1 and say to him: ‘Thou owest us a thousand thousand dirhams and we require of thee immediate payment of this amount.’ And I command thee, O Salih, unless he pay it between this hour and sundown, sever his head from his body and bring it to me.” “To hear is to obey,” answered Salih and, going to Mansur, acquainted him with what the Caliph had said, whereupon quoth he, “I am a lost man, by Allah; for all my estate and all my hand owneth, if sold for their utmost value, would not fetch a price of more than an hundred thousand dirhams. Whence then, O Salih, shall I get the other nine hundred thousand?” Salih replied, “Contrive how thou mayst speedily acquit thyself, else thou art a dead man; for I cannot grant thee an eye-twinkling of delay after the time appointed me by the Caliph; nor can I fail of aught which the Prince of True Believers hath enjoined on me. Hasten, therefore, to devise some means of saving thyself ere the time expire.” Quoth Mansur, “O Salih, I beg thee of thy favour to bring me to my house, that I may take leave of my children and family and give my kinsfolk my last injunctions.” Now Salih relateth: “So I went with him to his house where he fell to bidding his family farewell, and the house was filled with a clamour of weeping and lamentations and calling for help on Almighty Allah. Thereupon I said to him, ‘I have bethought me that Allah may haply vouchsafe thee relief at the hands of the Barmecides. Come, let us go to the house of Yáhyá bin Khálid.’ So we went to Yahya’s house, and Mansur told him his case, whereat he was sore concerned and bowed him groundwards for a while, then raising his head, he called his treasurer and said to him, ‘How much have we in our treasury?’ ‘A matter of five thousand dirhams,’ answered the treasurer, and Yahya bade him bring them and sent a messenger to his son, Al–Fazl, saying, ‘I am offered for sale a splendid estate which may never be laid waste; so send me somewhat of money.’ Al–Fazl sent him a thousand thousand dirhams, and he despatched a mes senger with a like message to his son Ja’afar, saying, ‘We have a matter of much moment and for it we want money;’ whereupon Ja’afar at once sent him a thousand thousand dirhams; nor did Yahya leave sending to his kinsmen of the Barmecides, till he had collected from them a great sum of money for Mansur. But Salih and the debtor knew not of this; and Mansur said to Yahya, ‘O my lord, I have laid hold upon thy skirt, for I know not whither to look for the money but to thee, in accordance with thy wonted generosity; so discharge thou the rest of my debt for me and make me thy freed slave.’ Thereupon Yahya hung down his head and wept; then he said to a page, ‘Harkye, boy, the Commander of the Faithful gave our slave- girl Danánír a jewel of great price: go thou to her and bid her send it to us.’ The page went out and presently returned with the jewel, whereupon quoth Yahya, ‘O Mansur, I bought this jewel of the merchant for the Commander of the Faithful, at a price of two hundred thousand dinars,2 and he gave it to our slave-girl Dananir, the lute-player; and when he sees it with thee, he will know it and spare thy blood and do thee honour for our sake; and now, O Mansur, verily thy money is complete.’ (Salih continued) So I took the money and the jewel and carried them to al-Rashid together with Mansur, but on the way I heard him repeat this couplet, applying it to his own case,
‘’Twas not of love that fared my feet to them;
’Twas that I feared me lest they shoot their shafts!’
Now when I heard this, I marvelled at his evil nature and his depravity and mischief-making and his ignoble birth and provenance and, turning upon him, I said, ‘There is none on the face of the earth better or more righteous than the Barmecides, nor any baser nor more wrongous than thou; for they bought thee off from death and delivered thee from destruction, giving thee what should save thee; yet thou thankest them not nor praises” them, neither acquittest thee after the manner of the noble; nay, thou meetest their benevolence with this speech.’ Then I went to Al–Rashid and acquainted him with all that had passed” And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Salih con tinued: “So I acquainted the Commander of the Faithful with all that passed and Al–Rashid marvelled at the generosity and benevolence of Yahya and the vileness and ingratitude of Mansur, and bade restore the jewel to Yahya, saying, ‘Whatso we have given it befitteth us not to take again.’ After that Salih returned to Yahya and acquainted him with the tale of Mansur and his ill-conduct; whereupon replied he, ‘O Salih, when a man is in want, sick at heart and sad of thought, he is not to be blamed for aught that falleth from him; for it cometh not from the heart;’ and on this wise he took to seeking excuse for Mansur. But Salih wept and exclaimed, ‘Never shall the revolving heavens bring forth into being the like of thee, O Yahya! Alas, and well-away, that one of such noble nature and generosity should be laid in the dust!’ And he repeated these two couplets,
‘Haste to do kindness thou cost intend;
Thou canst not always on boons expend:
How many from bounty themselves withheld,
Till means of bounty had come to end!’”
And men tell another tale of the
There was between Yáhyá bin Khálid and Abdullah bin Málik al- Khuzá‘i,1 an enmity which they kept secret; the reason of the hatred being that Harun al-Rashid loved Abdullah with exceeding love, so that Yahya and his sons were wont to say that he had bewitched the Commander of the Faithful. And thus they abode a long while, with rancour in their hearts, till it fell out that the Caliph invested Abdullah with the government of Armenia2 and despatched him thither. Now soon after he had settled himself in his seat of government, there came to him one of the people of Irak, a man of good breeding and excellent parts and abundant cleverness; but he had lost his money and wasted his wealth and his estate was come to ill case; so he forged a letter to Abdullah bin Malik in the name of Yahya bin Khálid and set out therewith for Armenia. Now when he came to the Governor’s gate, he gave the letter to one of the Chamberlains, who took it and carried it to his master. Abdullah opened it and read it and, considering it attentively, knew it to be forged; so he sent for the man, who presented himself before him and called down blessings upon him and praised him and those of his court. Quoth Abdullah to him, “What moved thee to weary thyself on this wise and bring me a forged letter? But be of good heart; for we will not disappoint thy travail.” Replied the other, “Allah prolong the life of our lord the Wazir! If my coming annoy thee, cast not about for a pretext to repel me, for Allah’s earth is wide and He who giveth daily bread still liveth. Indeed, the letter I bring thee from Yahya bin Khalid is true and no forgery.” Quoth Abdullah, “I will write a letter to my agent3 at Baghdad and command him enquire concerning this same letter. If it be true, as thou sayest, and genuine and not forged by thee, I will bestow on thee the Emirship of one of my cities; or, if thou prefer a present, I will give thee two hundred thousand dirhams, besides horses and camels of price and a robe of honour. But, if the letter prove a forgery, I will order thou be beaten with two hundred blows of a stick and thy beard be shaven.” So Abdullah bade confine him in a chamber and furnish him therein with all he needed, till his case should be made manifest. Then he despatched a letter to his agent at Baghdad, to the following effect: “There is come to me a man with a letter purporting to be from Yahya bin Khálid. Now I have my suspicions of this letter: therefore delay thou not in the matter, but go thyself and look carefully into the case and let me have an answer with all speed, in order that we may know what is true and what is untrue.” When the letter reached Baghdad, the agent mounted at once — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Intendant of the Palace to Harun al-Rashid. The Bres. Edit. (vii. 254) begins They tell that there arose full enmity between Ja’afar Barmecide and a Sahib of Misr” (Wazir or Governor of Egypt). Lane (ii. 429) quotes to this purpose amongst Arab; historians Fakhr al-Din. (De Sacy’s Chrestomathie Arabe i., p. 26, edit. ii.)
2 Arab. “Armaníyah” which Egyptians call after their mincing fashion “Irminiyeh” hence “Ermine” (Mus Ponticus). Armaniyah was much more extensive than our Armenia, now degraded to a mere province of Turkey, and the term is understood to include the whole of the old Parthian Empire.
3 Even now each Pasha-governor must keep a “Wakíl” in Constantinople to intrigue and bribe for him at head-quarters.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the agent of Abdullah, son of Malik al-Khuza’i, on receipt of the letter at Baghdad, mounted at once and repaired to the house of Yahya bin Khálid, whom he found sitting with his officers and boon- companions. After the usual salute he gave him the letter and Yahya read it and said to the agent, “Come back to me tomorrow for my written answer.” Now when the agent had gone away, Yahya turned to his companions and said, “What doth he deserve who forgeth a letter in my name and carrieth it to my foe?” They answered all and each, saying this and that, and every one proposing some kind of punishment; but Yahya said, “Ye err in that ye say and this your counsel is of the baseness of your spirits and the meanness of your minds. Ye all know the close favour of Abdullah with the Caliph and ye weet of what is between him and us of anger and enmity; and now Almighty Allah hath made this man the means of reconciliation between us; and hath fitted him for such purpose and hath appointed him to quench the fire of ire in our hearts, which hath been growing these twenty years; and by his means our differences shall be adjusted. Wherefore it behoveth me to requite such man by verifying his assertion and amending his estate; so I will write him a letter to Abdullah son of Malik, praying that he may use him with increase of honour and continue to him his liberality.” Now when his companions heard what he said, they called down blessings on him and marvelled at his generosity and the greatness of his magnanimity. Then he called for paper and ink and wrote Abdullah a letter in his own hand, to the following effect: “In the name of Allah, the Compassionating’ the Compassionate! Of a truth thy letter hath reached me (Allah give thee long life!) and I am glad to hear of thy safety and am pleased to be assured of thine immunity and prosperity. It was thy thought that a certain worthy man had forged a letter in my name and that he was not the bearer of any message from the same; but the case is not so, for the letter I myself wrote, and it was no forgery; and I hope, of thy courtesy and consideration and the nobility of thy nature, that thou wilt gratify this generous and excellent man of his hope and wish, and honour him with the honour he deserveth and bring him to his desire and make him the special-object of thy favour and munificence. Whatso thou dost with him, it is to me that thou dost the kindness, and I am thankful to thee accordingly.” Then he superscribed the letter and after sealing it, delivered it to the agent, who despatched it to Abdullah. Now when the Governor read it, he was charmed with its contents, and sending for the man, said to him, “Whichever of the two promised boons is the more acceptable to thee that will I give thee.” The man replied, “The money gift were more acceptable to me than aught else,” whereupon Abdullah ordered him two hundred thousand dirhams and ten Arab horses, five with housings of silk and other five with richly ornamented saddles, used in state processions; besides twenty chests of clothes and ten mounted white slaves and a proportionate quantity of jewels of price. Moreover, he bestowed on him a dress of honour and sent him to Baghdad in great splendour. So when he came thither, he repaired to the door of Yahya’s house, before he went to his own folk, and craved permission to enter and have audience. The Chamberlain went in to Yahya and said to him, “O my lord, there is one at the door who craveth speech of thee; and he is a man of apparent wealth, courteous in manner, comely of aspect and attended by many servants.” Then Yahya bade admit him; and, when he entered and kissed the ground before him, Yahya asked him, “Who art thou?” He answered, “Hear me, O my lord, I am he who was done dead by the tyranny of fortune, but thou didst raise me to life again from the grave of calamities and exalt me to the paradise of my desires. I am the man who forged a letter in thy name and carried it to Abdullah bin Malik al-Khuza’i.” Yahya asked, “How hath he dealt with thee and what did he give thee?”; and the man answered, “He hath given me, thanks to thy hand and thy great liberality and benevolence and to thy comprehensive kindness and lofty magnanimity and thine all-embracing generosity, that which hath made me a wealthy man and he hath distinguished me with his gifts and favours. And now I have brought all that he gave me and here it is at thy door; for it is thine to decide and the command is in thy hand.” Rejoined Yahya, “Thou hast done me better service than I did thee and I owe thee a heavy debt of gratitude and every gift the white hand1 can give, for that thou hast changed into love and amity the hate and enmity that were between me and a man whom I respect and esteem. Wherefore I will give thee the like of what Abdullah bin Malik gave thee.” Then he ordered him money and horses and chests of apparel, such as Abdullah had given him; and thus that man’s fortune was restored to him by the munificence of these two generous ones. And folk also relate the tale of the
1 The symbol of generosity, of unasked liberality, the “black hand” being that of niggardness.
It is said of Al–Maamun that, among the Caliphs of the house of Abbas, there was none more accomplished in all branches of knowledge than he. Now on two days in each week, he was wont to preside at conferences of the learned, when the lawyers and theologians disputed in his presence, each sitting in his several-rank and room. One day as he sat thus, there came into the assembly a stranger, clad in ragged white clothes, who took seat in an obscure place behind the doctors of the law. Then the assembly began to speak and debate difficult questions, it being the custom that the various propositions should be submitted to each in turn, and that whoso bethought him of some subtle addition or rare conceit, should make mention of it. So the question went round till it came to the strange man, who spake in his turn and made a goodlier answer than any of the doctors’ replies; and the Caliph approved his speech. —— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph Al–Maamun approved his speech and ordered him to come up from his low place to a high stead. Now when the second question came to him, he made a still more notable answer, and Al–Maamun ordered him to be preferred to a yet higher seat; and when the third question reached him, he made answer more justly and appropriately than on the two previous occasions, and Al–Maamun bade him come up and sit near himself. Presently the discussion ended when water was brought and they washed their hands after which food was set on and they ate; and the doctors arose and withdrew; but Al–Maamun forbade the stranger to depart with them and, calling him to himself, treated him with especial-favour and promised him honour and profit. Thereupon they made ready the séance of wassail; the fair-faced cup-companions came and the pure wine1 went round amongst them, till the cup came to the stranger, who rose to his feet and spake thus, “If the Commander of the Faithful permit me, I will say one word.” Answered the Caliph, “Say what thou wilt.” Quoth the man “Verily the Exalted Intelligence (whose eminence Allah increase!) knoweth that his slave was this day, in the august assembly, one of the unknown folk and of the meanest of the company; and the Commander of the Faithful raised his rank and brought him near to himself, little as were the wit and wisdom he displayed, preferring him above the rest and advancing him to a station and a degree where to his thought aspired not. But now he is minded to part him from that small portion of intellect which raised him high from his lowness and made him great after his littleness. Heaven forfend and forbid that the Commander of the Faithful should envy his slave what little he hath of understanding and worth and renown! Now, if his slave should drink wine, his reason would depart far from him and ignorance draw near to him and steal-away his good breeding, so would he revert to that low and contemptible degree, whence he sprang, and become ridiculous and despicable in the eyes of the folk. I hope, therefore, that the August Intelligence, of his power and bounty and royal-generosity and magnanimity, will not despoil his slave of this jewel.” When the Caliph Al–Maamun heard his speech, he praised him and thanked him and making him sit down again in his place, showed him high honour and ordered him a present of an hundred thousand silver pieces. Moreover he mounted him upon a horse and gave him rich apparel; and in every assembly he was wont to exalt him and show him favour over all the other doctors of law and religion till he became the highest of them all in rank. And Allah is All knowing.2 Men also tell a tale of
1 Arab. Ráh =pure (and old) wine. Arabs, like our classics, usually drank their wine tempered. So Imr al-Keys in his Mu’allakah says, “Bring the well tempered wine that seems to be saffron-tinctured; and, when water-mixed, o’erbrims the cup.” (v. 2.)
2 There is nothing that Orientals relish more than these “goody-goody” preachments; but they read and forget them as readily as Westerns.
There lived once in the days of yore and the good old times long gone before, in the land of Khorasan, a merchant called Majd al-Dín, who had great wealth and many slaves and servants, white and black, young and old; but he had not been blessed with a child until he reached the age of threescore, when Almighty Allah vouchsafed him a son, whom he named Alí Shár. The boy grew up like the moon on the night of fulness; and when he came to man’s estate and was endowed with all kinds of perfections, his father fell sick of a death-malady and, calling his son to him, said, “O my son, the fated hour of my decease is at hand, and I desire to give thee my last injunctions.” He asked, “And what are they, O my father?”; and he answered, “O my son, I charge thee, be not over-familiar with any2 and eschew what leadeth to evil and mischief. Beware lest thou sit in company with the wicked; for he is like the blacksmith; if his fire burn thee not, his smoke shall bother thee: and how excellent is the saying of the poet,3
‘In thy whole world there is not one, Whose friendship thou may’st count upon, Nor plighted faith that will stand true, When times go hard, and hopes are few. Then live apart and dwell alone, Nor make a prop of any one, I’ve given a gift in that I’ve said, Will stand thy friend in every stead:’
And what another saith,
‘Men are a hidden malady;
Rely not on the sham in them:
For perfidy and treachery
Thou’lt find, if thou examine them.’
And yet a third saith,
‘Converse with men hath scanty weal, except
To while away the time in chat and prate:
Then shun their intimacy, save it be
To win thee lore, or better thine estate.’
And a fourth saith,
‘If a sharp-witted wight e’er tried mankind,
I’ve eaten that which only tasted he:4
Their amity proved naught but wile and guile,
Their faith I found was but hypocrisy.’”
Quoth Ali, “O my father, I have heard thee and I will obey thee what more shall I do?” Quoth he, “Do good whereas thou art able; be ever kind and courteous to men and regard as riches every occasion of doing a good turn; for a design is not always easily carried out; and how well saith the poet,
“Tis not at every time and tide unstable,
We can do kindly acts and charitable:
When thou art able hasten thee to act,
Lest thine endeavour prove anon unable!’”
Said Ali, “I have heard thee and I will obey thee.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Lane (ii. 435) ill-advisedly writes “Sher,” as “the word is evidently Persian signifying a Lion.” But this is only in the debased Indian dialect, a Persian, especially a Shirazi, pronounces “Shír.” And this is how it is written in the Bresl. Edit., vii. 262. “Shár” is evidently a fancy name, possibly suggested by the dynastic name of the Ghurjistan or Georgian Princes.
2 Again old experience, which has learned at a heavy cost how many a goodly apple is rotten at the core.
3 This couplet has occurred in Night xxi. I give Torrens (p. 206) by way of specimen.
4 Arab. “Záka” = merely tasting a thing which may be sweet with a bitter after-flavour
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth replied, “I have heard thee and I will obey thee; what more?” And his sire continued, “Be thou, O my son, mindful of Allah, so shall He be mindful of thee. Ward thy wealth and waste it not; for an thou do, thou wilt come to want the least of mankind. Know that the measure of a man’s worth is according to that which his right hand hendeth: and how well saith the poet,1
‘When fails my wealth no friend will deign befriend,
And when it waxeth all men friendship show:
How many a foe for wealth became my friend,
Wealth lost, how many a friend became a foe!’”
Asked Ali, “What more?” And Majd al-Din answered, “O my son, take counsel of those who are older than thou and hasten not to do thy heart’s desire. Have compassion on those who are below thee, so shall those who are above thee have compassion on thee; and oppress none, lest Allah empower one who shall oppress thee. How well saith the poet,
‘Add other wit to thy wit, counsel craving,
For man’s true course hides not from minds of two
Man is a mirror which but shows his face,
And by two mirrors he his back shall view.’
And as saith another,2
‘Act on sure grounds, nor hurry fast,
To gain the purpose that thou hast
And be thou kindly to all men
So kindly thou’lt be called again;
For not a deed the hand can try,
Save ‘neath the hand of God on high,
Nor tyrant harsh work tyranny,
Uncrushed by tyrant harsh as he.’
And as saith yet another,3
‘Tyrannize not, if thou hast the power to do so; for the tyrannical is in danger of revenges.
Thine eye will sleep while the oppressed, wakeful, will call down curses on thee, and God’s eye sleepeth not.’
Beware of wine-bibbing, for drink is the root of all evil: it doeth away the reason and bringeth to contempt whoso useth it; and how well saith the poet,
‘By Allah, wine shall not disturb me, while my soul
Join body, nor while speech the words of me explain:
No day will I be thralled to wine-skin cooled by breeze4
Nor choose a friend save those who are of cups unfair.’
This, then, is my charge to thee; bear it before thine eyes, and Allah stand to thee in my stead.” Then he swooned away and kept silent awhile; and, when he came to himself, he besought pardon of Allah and pronounced the profession of the Faith, and was admitted to the mercy of the Almighty. So his son wept and lamented for him and presently made proper preparation for his burial; great and small walked in his funeral-procession and Koran readers recited Holy Writ about his bier; nor did Ali Shar omit aught of what was due to the dead. Then they prayed over him and committed him to the dust and wrote these two couplets upon his tomb,
‘Thou west create of dust and cam’st to life,
And learned’st in eloquence to place thy trust;
Anon, to dust returning, thou becamest
A corpse, as though ne’er taken from the dust.”
Now his son Ali Shar grieved for him with sore grief and mourned him with the ceremonies usual among men of note; nor did he cease to weep the loss of his father till his mother died also, not long afterwards, when he did with her as he had done with his sire. Then he sat in the shop, selling and buying and consorting with none of Almighty Allah’s creatures, in accordance with his father’s injunction. This wise he continued to do for a year, at the end of which time there came in to him by craft certain whoreson fellows and consorted with him, till he turned after their example to lewdness and swerved from the way of righteousness, drinking wine in flowing bowls and frequenting fair women night and day; for he said to himself, “Of a truth my father amassed this wealth for me, and if I spend it not, to whom shall I leave it? By Allah, I will not do save as saith the poet,
‘An through the whole of life
Thou gett’st and gain’st for self;
Say, when shalt thou enjoy
Thy gains and gotten pelf?’”
And Ali Shar ceased not to waste his wealth all whiles of the day and all watches of the night, till he had made away with the whole of his riches and abode in pauper case and troubled at heart. So he sold his shop and lands and so forth, and after this he sold the clothes off his body, leaving himself but one suit; and, as drunkenness quitted him and thoughtfulness came to him, he fell into grief and sore care. One day, when he had sat from day-break to mid-afternoon without breaking his fast, he said in his mind, “I will go round to those on whom I spent my monies: perchance one of them will feed me this day.” So he went the round of them all; but, as often as he knocked at any one’s door of them, the man denied himself and hid from him, till his stomach ached with hunger. Then he betook himself to the bazar of the merchants — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 This tetraseich was in Night xxx. with a difference.
2 The lines have occurred in Night xxx. I quote Torrens, p. 311.
3 This tetrastich is in Night clxix. I borrow from Lane (ii. 62).
4 The rude but effective refrigerator of the desert Arab who hangs his water-skin to the branch of a tree and allows it to swing in the wind.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ali Shar feeling his stomach ache with hunger, betook himself to the merchants’ bazar where he found a crowd of people assembled in ring, and said to himself, “I wonder what causeth these folk to crowd together thus? By Allah, I will not budge hence till I see what is within yonder ring!” So he made his way into the ring and found therein a damsel exposed for sale who was five feet tall,1 beautifully proportioned, rosy of cheek and high of breast; and who surpassed all the people of her time in beauty and loveliness and elegance and grace; even as saith one, describing her,
“As she willèd she was made, and in such a way that when
She was cast in Nature’s mould neither short nor long was she:
Beauty woke to fall in love with the beauties of her form,
Where combine with all her coyness her pride and pudency:
The full moon is her face2and the branchlet is her shape,
And the musk-pod is her scent — what like her can there be?
’Tis as though she were moulded from water of the pearl,
And in every lovely limblet another moon we see!”
And her name was Zumurrud — the Smaragdine. So when Ali Shar saw her, he marvelled at her beauty and grace and said, “By Allah, I will not stir hence till I see how much this girl fetcheth, and know who buyeth her!” So he took standing-place amongst the merchants, and they thought he had a mind to buy her, knowing the wealth he had inherited from his parents. Then the broker stood at the damsel’s head and said, “Ho, merchants! Ho, ye men of money! Who will open the gate of biddings for this damsel, the mistress of moons, the union pearl, Zumurrud the curtain-maker, the sought of the seeker and the delight of the desirous? Open the biddings’ door and on the opener be nor blame nor reproach for evermore.” Thereupon quoth one merchant, “Mine for five hundred dinars;” “And ten,” quoth another. “Six hundred,” cried an old man named Rashíd al-Din, blue of eye3 and foul of face. “And ten,” cried another. “I bid a thousand,” rejoined Rashid al-Din; whereupon the rival merchants were tongue-tied, and held their peace and the broker took counsel with the girl’s owner, who said, “I have sworn not to sell her save to whom she shall choose: so consult her.” Thereupon the broker went up to Zumurrud and said to her, “O mistress of moons this merchant hath a mind to buy thee.” She looked at Rashid al-Din and finding him as we have said, replied, “I will not be sold to a gray-beard, whom decrepitude hath brought to such evil plight. Allah inspired his saying who saith,
‘I craved of her a kiss one day; but soon as she beheld
My hoary hairs, though I my luxuries and wealth display’d;
She proudly turned away from me, showed shoulders, cried aloud:—
‘No! no! by Him, whose hest mankind from nothingness hath made
For hoary head and grizzled chin I’ve no especial-love:
What! stuff my mouth with cotton4 ere in sepulchre I’m laid?’”
Now when the broker heard her words he said, “By Allah, thou art excusable, and thy price is ten thousand gold pieces!” So he told her owner that she would not accept of old man Rashid al-Din, and he said, “Consult her concerning another.” Thereupon a second man came forward and said, “Be she mine for what price was offered by the oldster she would have none of;” but she looked at him and seeing that his beard was dyed, said “What be this fashion lewd and base and the blackening of the hoary face?” And she made a great show of wonderment and repeated these couplets,
“Showed me Sir Such-an-one a sight and what a frightful sight!
A neck by Allah, only made for slipper-sole to smite5
A beard the meetest racing ground where gnats and lice contend,
A brow fit only for the ropes thy temples chafe and bite.6
O thou enravish” by my cheek and beauties of my form,
Why so translate thyself to youth and think I deem it right?
Dyeing disgracefully that white of reverend aged hairs,
And hiding for foul purposes their venerable white!
Thou goest with one beard and comest back with quite another,
Like Punch-and-Judy man who works the Chinese shades by night.7
And how well saith another’
Quoth she, ‘I see thee dye thy hoariness:’8
‘To hide, O ears and eyes! from thee,’ quoth I:
She roared with laugh and said, ‘Right funny this;
Thou art so lying e’en
Now when the broker heard her verse he exclaimed, “By Allah thou hast spoken sooth!” The merchant asked what she said: so the broker repeated the verses to him; and he knew that she was in the right while he was wrong and desisted from buying her. Then another came forward and said, “Ask her if she will be mine at the same price;” but, when he did so, she looked at him and seeing that he had but one eye, said, “This man is one-eyed; and it is of such as he that the poet saith,9
‘Consort not with the Cyclops e’en a day;
Beware his falsehood and his mischief fly:
Had this monocular a jot of good,
Allah had ne’er brought blindness to his eye!’”
Then said the broker, pointing to another bidder, “Wilt thou be sold to this man?” She looked at him and seeing that he was short of stature10 and had a beard that reached to his navel, cried, “This is he of whom the poet speaketh,
‘I have a friend who hath a beard
Allah to useless length unroll’d:
’Tis like a certain11 winter night,
Longsome and darksome, drear and cold.’”
Said the broker, “O my lady, look who pleaseth thee of these that are present, and point him out, that I may sell thee to him.” So she looked round the ring of merchants, examining one by one their physiognomies, till her glance fell on Ali Shar — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab “Khumásiyah” which Lane (ii. 438) renders “of quinary stature.” Usually it means five spans, but here five feet, showing that the girl was young and still growing. The invoice with a slave always notes her height in spans measured from ankle-bone to ear and above seven she loses value as being full grown. Hence Sudási (fem. Sudásiyah) is a slave six spans high, the Shibr or full span (9 inches) not the Fitr or short span from thumb to index. Faut is the interval-between every finger, Ratab between index and medius, and Atab between medius and annularis.
2 “Moon faced” now sounds sufficiently absurd to us, but it was not always so. Solomon (Cant. vi. 10) does not disdain the image “fair as the moon, clear as the sun,” and those who have seen a moon in the sky of Arabia will thoroughly appreciate it. We find it amongst the Hindus, the Persians, the Afghans, the Turks and all the nations of Europe. We have, finally, the grand example of Spenser,
“Her spacious forehead, like the clearest moon, etc.”
3 Blue eyes have a bad name in Arabia as in India: the witch Zarká of Al–Yamamah was noted for them; and “blue eyed” often means “fierce-eyed,” alluding to the Greeks and Daylamites, mortal-enemies to Ishmael. The Arabs say “ruddy of mustachio, blue of eye and black of heart.”
4 Before explained as used with camphor to fill the dead man’s mouth.
5 As has been seen, slapping on the neck is equivalent to our “boxing ears,” but much less barbarous and likely to injure the child. The most insulting blow is that with shoe sandal-or slipper because it brings foot in contact with head. Of this I have spoken before.
6 Arab. “Hibál” (= ropes) alluding to the A’akál-fillet which binds the Kúfiyah-kerchief on the Badawi’s head. (Pilgrimage, i. 346.)
7 Arab. “Khiyál”; afterwards called Kara Gyuz (= “black eyes,” from the celebrated Turkish Wazir). The mise-en-scène was like that of Punch, but of transparent cloth, lamp lit inside and showing silhouettes worked by hand. Nothing could be more Fescenntne than Kara Gyuz, who appeared with a phallus longer than himself and made all the Consuls–General-periodically complain of its abuse, while the dialogue, mostly in Turkish, as even more obscene. Most ingenious were Kara Gyuz’s little ways of driving on an Obstinate donkey and of tackling a huge Anatolian pilgrim. He mounted the Neddy’s back face to tail, and inserting his left thumb like a clyster, hammered it with his right when the donkey started at speed. For the huge pilgrim he used a ladder. These shows now obsolete, used to enliven the Ezbekiyah Gardens every evening and explain Ovid’s Words,
“Delicias videam, Nile jocose, tuas!”
8 Mohammed (Mishkát al-Masábih ii. 360–62) says, “Change the whiteness of your hair but not with anything black.” Abu Bakr, who was two years and some months older than the Prophet, used tincture of Henna and Katam. Old Turkish officers justify black dyes because these make them look younger and fiercer. Henna stains white hair orange red; and the Persians apply after it a paste of indigo leaves, the result is successively leek-green, emerald-green, bottle-green and lastly lamp-black. There is a stage in life (the youth of old age) when man uses dyes: presently he finds that the whole face wants dye; that the contrast between juvenile coloured hair and ancient skin is ridiculous and that it is time to wear white.
9 This prejudice extends all over the East: the Sanskrit saying is “Kvachit káná bhaveta sádhus” now and then a monocular is honest. The left eye is the worst and the popular idea is, I have said, that the damage will come by the injured member
10 The Arabs say like us, “Short and thick is never quick” and “Long and thin has little in.”
11 Arab. “Ba’azu layáli,” some night when his mistress failed him.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the girl’s glance fell on Ali Shar, she cast at him a look with longing eyes, which cost her a thousand sighs, and her heart was taken with him; for that he was of favour passing fair and pleasanter than zephyr or northern air; and she said, “O broker, I will be sold to none but to this my lord, owner of the handsome face and slender form whom the poet thus describeth,
‘Displaying that fair face
The tempted they assailed
Who, had they wished me safe
That lovely face had veiled!’
For none shall own me but he, because his cheek is smooth and the water of his mouth sweet as Salsabil;1 his spittle is a cure for the sick and his charms daze and dazzle poet and proser, even as saith one of him,
‘His honey dew of lips is wine; his breath
Musk and those teeth, smile shown, are camphor’s hue:
Rizwán2 hath turned him out o’ doors, for fear
The Houris lapse from virtue at the view
Men blame his bearing for its pride, but when
In pride the full moon sails, excuse is due.’
Lord of the curling locks and rose red cheeks and ravishing look of whom saith the poet,
‘The fawn-like one a meeting promised me
And eye expectant waxed and heart unstirred:
His eyelids bade me hold his word as true;
But, in their languish,3 can he keep his word?’
And as saith another,
‘Quoth they, ‘Black letters on his cheek are writ!
How canst thou love him and a side-beard see?’
Quoth I, ‘Cease blame and cut your chiding short;
If those be letters ’tis a forgery:’
Gather his charms all growths of Eden garth
Whereto those Kausar4-lips bear testimony.’”
When the broker heard the verses she repeated on the charms of Ali Shar, he marvelled at her eloquence, no less than at the brightness of her beauty; but her owner said to him, “Marvel not at her splendour which shameth the noonday sun, nor that her memory is stored with the choicest verses of the poets; for besides this, she can repeat the glorious Koran, according to the seven readings,5 and the august Traditions, after ascription and authentic transmission; and she writeth the seven modes of handwriting6 and she knoweth more learning and knowledge than the most learned. Moreover, her hands are better than gold and silver; for she maketh silken curtains and selleth them for fifty gold pieces each; and it taketh her but eight days to make a curtain.” Exclaimed the broker, “O happy the man who hath her in his house and maketh her of his choicest treasures!”; and her owner said to him, “Sell her to whom she will.” So the broker went up to Ali Shar and, kissing his hands, said to him, “O my lord, buy thou this damsel, for she hath made choice of thee.”7 Then he set forth to him all her charms and accomplishments, and added, “I give thee joy if thou buy her, for this be a gift from Him who is no niggard of His giving.” Whereupon Ali bowed his head groundwards awhile, laughing at himself and secretly saying, “Up to this hour I have not broken my fast; yet I am ashamed before the merchants to own that I have no money wherewith to buy her.” The damsel, seeing him hang down his head, said to the broker, “Take my hand and lead me to him, that I may show my beauty to him and tempt him to buy me; for I will not be sold to any but to him.” So the broker took her hand and stationed her before Ali Shar, saying, “What is thy good pleasure, O my lord?” But he made him no answer, and the girl said to him, “O my lord and darling of my heart, what aileth thee that thou wilt not bid for me? Buy me for what thou wilt and I will bring thee good fortune.” So he raised his eyes to her and said, “Is buying perforce? Thou art dear at a thousand dinars.” Said she, “Then buy me, O my lord, for nine hundred.” He cried, “No,” and she rejoined, “Then for eight hundred;” and though he again said, “Nay,” she ceased not to abate the price, till she came to an hundred dinars. Quoth he, “I have not by me a full hundred.” So she laughed and asked, “How much dost thou lack of an hundred?” He answered, “By Allah, I have neither an hundred dinars, nor any other sum; for I own neither white coin nor red cash, neither dinar nor dirham. So look out thou for another and a better customer.” And when she knew that he had nothing, she said to him, “Take me by the hand and carry me aside into a by-lane, as if thou wouldst examine me privily.” He did so and she drew from her bosom a purse containing a thousand dinars, which she gave him, saying, “Pay down nine hundred to my price and let the hundred remain with thee by way of provision.” He did as she bid him and, buying her for nine hundred dinars, paid down the price from her own purse and carried her to his house. When she entered it, she found a dreary desolate saloon without carpets or vessels; so she gave him other thousand dinars, saying, “Go to the bazar and buy three hundred dinars’ worth of furniture and vessels for the house and three dinars’ worth of meat and drink.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 The fountain in Paradise before noticed.
2 Before noticed as the Moslem St. Peter (as far as the keys go).
3 Arab. “Munkasir” = broken, frail, languishing the only form of the maladive allowed. Here again we have masculine for feminine: the eyelids show love-desire, but, etc.
4 The river of Paradise.
5 See Night xii. “The Second Kalandar’s Tale “ vol. i. 113.
6 Lane (ii. 472) refers for specimens of calligraphy to Herbin’s “Développements, etc.” There are many more than seven styles of writing as I have shown in Night xiii.; vol. i. 129.
7 Amongst good Moslems this would be a claim upon a man.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King that quoth the slave-girl, “Bring us meat and drink for three dinars, furthermore a piece of silk, the size of a curtain, and bring golden and silvern thread and sewing silk of seven colours.” Thus he did, and she furnished the house and they sat down to eat and drink; after which they went to bed and took their pleasure one of the other. And they lay the night embraced behind the curtain and were even as saith the poet,1
“Cleave fast to her thou lovestand let the envious rail amain,
For calumny and envy ne’er to favour love were fain.
Lo, whilst I slept, in dreams I saw thee lying by my side
And, from thy lips the sweetest, sure, of limpid springs did drain.
Yea, true and certain all I saw is, as I will avouch,
And ‘spite the envier, thereto I surely will attain.
There is no goodlier sight, indeed, for eyes to look upon,
Than when one couch in its embrace enfoldeth lovers twain.
Each to the other’s bosom clasped, clad in their twinned delight,
Whilst hand with hand and arm with arm about their necks enchain
Lo, when two hearts are straitly knit in passion and desire,
But on cold iron smite the folk who chide at them in vain.
Thou, that for loving censurest the votaries of love,
Canst thou assain a heart diseased or heal-a cankered brain?
If in thy time thou kind but one to love thee and be true,
I rede thee cast the world away and with that one remain.”
So they lay together till the morning and love for the other waxed firmly fixed in the heart of each. And on rising, Zumurrud took the curtain and embroidered it with coloured silks and purpled it with silver and gold thread and she added thereto a border depicting round about it all manner of birds and beasts; nor is there in the world a feral but she wrought his semblance. This she worked in eight days, till she had made an end of it, when she trimmed it and glazed and ironed it and gave it to her lord, saying, “Carry it to the bazar and sell it to one of the merchants at fifty dinars; but beware lest thou sell it to a passer-by, as this would cause a separation between me and thee, for we have foes who are not unthoughtful of us.” “I hear and I obey,” answered he and, repairing to the bazar, sold the curtain to a merchant, as she bade him; after which he bought a piece of silk for another curtain and gold and silver and silken thread as before and what they needed of food, and brought all this to her, giving her the rest of the money. Now every eight days she made a curtain, which he sold for fifty dinars, and on this wise passed a whole year. At the end of that time, he went as usual to the bazar with a curtain, which he gave to the broker; and there came up to him a Nazarene who bid him sixty dinars for it; but he refused, and the Christian continued bidding higher and higher, till he came to an hundred dinars and bribed the broker with ten ducats. So the man returned to Ali Shar and told him of the proffered price and urged him to accept the offer and sell the article at the Nazarene’s valuation, saying, “O my lord, be not afraid of this Christian for that he can do thee no hurt.” The merchants also were urgent with him; so he sold the curtain to the Christian, albeit his heart misgave him; and, taking the money, set off to return home. Presently, as he walked, he found the Christian walking behind him; so he said to him, “O Nazarene,2 why dost thou follow in my footsteps?” Answered the other “O my lord, I want a something at the end of the street, Allah never bring thee to want!”; but Ali Shar had barely reached his place before the Christian overtook him; so he said to him, “O accursed, what aileth thee to follow me wherever I go?” Replied the other, “O my lord, give me a draught of water, for I am athirst; and with Allah be thy reward!”3 Quoth Ali Shar to himself, “Verily, this man is an Infidel who payeth tribute and claimeth our protection4 and he asketh me for a draught of water; by Allah, I will not baulk him!”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 These lines have occurred twice already: and first appear in Night xxii. I have borrowed from Mr. Payne (iv. 46).
2 Arab. “Ya Nasráni”, the address is not intrinsically slighting but it may easily be made so. I have elsewhere noted that when Julian (is said to have) exclaimed “Vicisti Nazarene!” he was probably thinking in Eastern phrase “Nasarta, yá Nasráni!”
3 Thirst is the strongest of all pleas to an Eastern, especially to a Persian who never forgets the sufferings of his Imam, Husayn, at Kerbela: he would hardly withhold it from the murderer of his father. There is also a Hadis, “Thou shalt not refuse water to him who thirsteth in the desert.”
4 Arab. “Zimmi” which Lane (ii. 474) aptly translates a “tributary.” The Koran (chaps. ix.) orders Unbelievers to Islamize or to “pay tribute by right of subjection” (lit. an yadin=out of hand, an expression much debated). The least tribute is one dinar per annum which goes to the poor-rate. and for this the Kafir enjoys protection and almost all the civil rights of Moslems. As it is a question of “loaves and fishes” there is much to say on the subject; “loaves and fishes” being the main base and foundation of all religious establishments.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth Ali Shar to himself, “This man is a tributary Unbeliever and he asked me for a draught of water; by Allah, I will not baulk him!” So he entered the house and took a gugglet of water; but the slave-girl Zumurrud saw him and said to him, “O my love, hast thou sold the curtain?” He replied, “Yes;” and she asked, “To a merchant or to a passer-by? for my heart presageth a parting.” And he answered, “To whom but to a merchant?” Thereupon she rejoined, “Tell me the truth of the case, that I may order my affair; and why take the gugglet of water?” And he, To give the broker to drink,” upon which she exclaimed, There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!”; and she repeated these two couplets,1
“O thou who seekest separation, act leisurely, and let not the embrace of the beloved deceive thee!
Act leisurely; for the nature of fortune is treacherous, and the end of every union is disjunction.
Then he took the gugglet and, going out, found the Christian within the vestibule and said to him, “How comest thou here and how darest thou, O dog, enter my house without my leave?” Answered he, “O my lord, there is no difference between the door and the vestibule, and I never intended to stir hence, save to go out; and my thanks are due to thee for thy kindness and favour, thy bounty and generosity.” Then he took the mug and emptying it, returned it to Ali Shar, who received it and waited for him to rise up and to go; but he did not move. So Ali said to him, “Why dost thou not rise and wend thy way?”; and he answered, “O my lord, be not of those who do a kindness and then make it a reproach, nor of those of whom saith the poet,2
‘They’re gone who when thou stoodest at their door
Would for thy wants so generously cater:
But stand at door of churls who followed them,
They’d make high favour of a draught of water!’”
And he continued, “O my lord, I have drunk, and now I would have thee give me to eat of whatever is in the house, though it be but a bit of bread or a biscuit with an onion.” Replied Ali Shar, “Begone, without more chaffer and chatter; there is nothing in the house.” He persisted, “O my lord, if there be nothing in the house, take these hundred dinars and bring us something from the market, if but a single scone, that bread and salt may pass between us.”3 With this, quoth Ali Shar to himself, “This Christian is surely mad; I will take his hundred dinars and bring him somewhat worth a couple of dirhams and laugh at him.” And the Nazarene added, “O my lord, I want but a small matter to stay my hunger, were it but a dry scone and an onion; for the best food is that which doeth away appetite, not rich viands; and how well saith the poet,
‘Hunger is sated with a bone-dry scone,
How is it then4 in woes of want I wone?
Death is all-justest, lacking aught regard
For Caliph-king and beggar woe-begone.’”
Then quoth Ali Shar, “Wait here, while I lock the saloon and fetch thee somewhat from the market;” and quoth the Christian, “To hear is to obey.” So Ali Shar shut up the saloon and, locking the door with a padlock, put the key in his pocket: after which he went to market and bought fried cheese and virgin honey and bananas5 and bread, with which he returned to the house. Now when the Christian saw the provision, he said, “O my lord, this is overmuch; ’tis enough for half a score of men and I am alone; but belike thou wilt eat with me.” Replied Ali, “Eat by thyself, I am full;” and the Christian rejoined, “O my lord, the wise say, Whoso eateth not with his guest is a son of a whore.” Now when Ali Shar heard these words from the Nazarene, he sat down and ate a little with him, after which he would have held his hand; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 This tetrastich has before occurred, so I quote Lane (ii. 444).
2 In Night xxxv. the same occurs with a difference.
3 The old rite, I repeat, has lost amongst all but the noblest of Arab tribes the whole of its significance; and the traveller must be careful how he trusts to the phrase “Nahnu málihin” we are bound together by the salt.
4 Arab. “Aláma” = Alá-má = upon what? wherefore?
5 Arab. “Mauz”; hence the Linnean name Musa (paradisiaca, etc.). The word is explained by Sale (Koran, chaps. xxxvii. 146) as “a small tree or shrub;” and he would identify it with Jonah’s gourd.
Last updated Monday, September 7, 2015 at 12:07