Quoth Amrú bin Masa’dah:1 “Abú Isá, son of al-Rashíd and brother to al-Maamun, was enamoured of one Kurrat al-Ayn, a slave girl belonging to Ali bin Hishám,2 and she also loved him; but he concealed his passion, complaining of it to none neither discovering his secret to anyone, of his pride and magnanimity; for he had used his utmost endeavour to purchase her of her master, but he had failed. At last when his patience was at an end and his passion was sore on him and he was helpless in the matter, he went in to al-Maamun, one day of state after the folk had retired, and said to him, ‘O Commander of the Faithful, if thou wilt this day make trial of thine Alcaydes by taking them unawares, thou wilt know the generous from the mean and note each one’s place, after the quality of his mind.’ But, in saying this he purposed only to sit with Kurrat al-Ayn in her lord’s house. Quoth al-Maamun, ‘Right is thy recking,’ and bade make ready a barge, called ‘the Flyer,’ wherein he embarked with Abu Isa and a party of his chief officers. The first mansion he visited unexpectedly was that of Hamíd al-Tawil of Tús, whom he found seated”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 One of the Wazirs of al-Maamun, Kurrat al-Ayn = “coolness (i.e. delight) of the eyes” Ali bin Hishám surnamed Abu’l-Hasan, was prefect of Baghdad under the same reign.
2 The Mac. Edit. (ii. 448) reads for Kawáid (plur. of Káid = Governors, Span. Alcayde) “Fawáid”: hence Lane (ii. 606) translates “ try thy heart.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that al-Maamun embarked with his chief officers and fared on till they reached the mansion of Hamíd al-Tawil of Tús; and, unexpectedly entering they found him seated on a mat and before him singers and players with lutes and flageolets and other instruments of music in their hands. So Al Maamun sat with him awhile and presently he set before him dishes of nothing but flesh meat, with no birds among them. The Caliph would not taste thereof and Abu Isa said to him, “O Commander of the Faithful, we have taken the owner of this place unawares, and he knew not of thy coming; but now let us go to another place which is prepared for thee and fitted for thee.” Thereupon the Caliph arose and betook himself with his brother Abu Isa and his suite, to the abode of Ali son of Hisham who, on hearing of their approach, came out and received them with the goodliest of reception, and kissed the earth before the King. Then he brought them into his mansion and opened to them a saloon than which seer never saw a goodlier. Its floors, pillars and walls were of many coloured marbles, adorned with Greek paintings: and it was spread with matting of Sind1 whereon were carpets and tapestry of Bassorah make, fitted to the length and breadth of the room. So the Caliph sat awhile, examining the house and its ceilings and walls, then said, “Give us somewhat to eat.” So they brought him forthwith nearly an hundred dishes of poultry besides other birds and brewises, fritters and cooling marinades. When he had eaten, he said, “Give us some thing to drink, O Ali;” and the host set before him, in vessels of gold and silver and crystal, raisin wine boiled down to one third with fruits and spices; and the cupbearers were pages like moons, clad in garments of Alexandrian stuff interwoven with gold and bearing on their breasts beakers of crystal, full of rose water mingled with musk. So al-Maamun marvelled with exceeding marvel at all he saw and said, “Ho thou, Abu al-Hasan!” Whereupon Ali sprang to the Caliph’s carpet and kissing it, said, “At thy service, O Commander of the Faithful!” and stood before him. Quoth al-Maamun, “Let us hear some pleasant and merry song.” Replied Ali, “I hear and obey, O Commander of the Faithful,” and said to one of his eunuchs, “Fetch the singing women.” So the slave went out and presently returned, followed by ten castratos, bearing ten stools of gold, which they set down in due order; and after these came ten damsels, concubines of the master, as they were shining full moons or gardens full of bloom, clad in black brocade, with crowns of gold on their heads; and they passed along the room till they sat down on the stools, when sang they sundry songs. Al–Maamun looked at one of them; and, being captivated by her elegance and fair favour, asked her, “What is thy name, O damsel?”; and she answered, “My name is Sajáhí,2 O Commander of the Faithful,” and he said, “Sing to us, O Sajahi!” So she played a lively measure and sang these couplets,
“I walk, for fear of interview, the weakling’s walk
Who sees two lion whelps the fount draw nigh:
My cloak acts sword, my heart’s perplex’d with fright,
Lest jealous hostile eyes th’ approach descry:
Till sudden hapt I on a delicate maid
Like desert-doe that fails her fawns to espy.”
Quoth the Caliph, “Thou hast done well, O damsel! whose are these lines?” She answered, “Written by Amru bin Ma’di Karib al -Zubaydi,3 and the air is Ma’abid’s.”4 Then the Caliph and Abu Isa and Ali drank and the damsels went away and were succeeded by other ten, all clad in flowered silk of Al–Yaman, brocaded with gold, who sat down on the chairs and sang various songs. The Caliph looked at one of the concubines, who was like a wild heifer of the waste, and said to her, “What is thy name, O damsel?” She replied, “My name is Zabiyah,5 0 Commander of the Faithful;” and he, “Sing to us Zabiyah;” so she warbled like a bird with many a trill and sang these two couplets,
“Houris, and highborn Dames who feel no fear of men,
Like Meccan game forbidden man to slam:6
Their soft sweet voices make you deem them whores,
But bars them from all whoring Al–Islam.”
When she had finished, al-Maamun cried, “favoured of Allah art thou!”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 The mats of Sind were famous even in my day, but under English rule native industries are killed out by Manchester and Birmingham.
2 Sajáh was the name of a famous female impostor, a contemporary of “Musaylimah the Liar.”
3 A poet of Mohammed’s day.
4 A singer and composer of the first century (A. H.).
5 Arab = a roe, a doe; also the Yoni (of women, mares and bitches). It is the Heb. Tabitha and the Greek Dorcas.
6 Within the Hudúd al-Harem (bounds of the Holy Places), at Al–Medinah as well as Meccah, all “Muharramát” (forbidden sins) are doubly unlawful, such as drinking spirits, immoral life, etc. The Imam Malik forbids slaying animals without, however, specifying any penalty. The felling of trees is a disputed point; and no man can be put to death except invaders, infidels and desecraters. (Pilgrimage ii. 167.)
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the slave girl finished her song, al-Maamun cried, “Favoured of Allah art thou! Whose is this verse?” and she answered, “Jarír’s1 and the air is By Ibn Surayj.” Then the Caliph and his company drank, whilst the girls went away and there came forth yet other ten, as they were rubies, robed in red brocade inwoven with gold and purfled with pearls and jewels whilst all their heads were bare. They sat down on the stools and sang various airs; so the Caliph looked at one of them, who was like the sun of the day, and asked her, “What is thy name, O damsel?”; and she answered, “O Commander of the Faithful, my name is Fátin.” “Sing to us, O Fatin,” quoth he; whereat she played a lively measure and sang these couplets,
“Deign grant thy favours; since ’tis time I were engraced;
Tnough of severance hath it been my lot to taste.
Thou’rt he whose face cloth every gift and charm unite,
Yet is my patience spent for that ’twas sore misplaced:
I’ve wasted life in loving thee; and would high Heaven
Grant me one meeting hour for all this wilful waste.”
“Well sung, O Fatin!’’ exclaimed the Caliph; “whose verse is this?” And she answered, “Adi bin Zayd’s, and the air is antique.” Then all three drank, whilst the damsels retired and were succeeded by other ten maidens, as they were sparkling stars, clad in flowered silk embroidered with red gold and girt with jewelled zones. They sat down and sang various motives; and the Caliph asked one of them, who was like a wand of willow, “What is thy name, O damsel?”; and she answered, “My name is Rashaa,2 0 Commander of the Faithful.” “Sing to us, O Rashaa,” quoth he; so she played a lively measure and sang these couplets,
“And wand-like Houri, who can passion heal
Like young gazelle that paceth o’er the plain:
I drain this wine cup on the toast, her cheek,
Each cup disputing till she bends in twain
Then sleeps the night with me, the while I cry
‘This is the only gain my Soul would gain!’ ”
Said the Caliph, “Well done, O damsel! Sing us something more.” So she rose and kissing the ground before him, sang the following distich,
“She came out to gaze on the bridal at ease
In a shift that reeked of ambergris.”
The Caliph was highly pleased with this couplet and, when the slave girl saw how much it delighted him, she repeated it several times. Then said al-Maamun, “Bring up ‘the Flyer,’” being minded to embark and depart: but Ali bin Hisham said to him, “O Commander of the Faithful, I have a slave girl, whom I bought for ten thousand diners; she hath taken my heart in whole and part, and I would fain display her to the Commander of the Faithful. If she please him and he will accept of her, she is his: and if not, let him hear something from her.” Said the Caliph, “Bring her to me;” and forth came a damsel, as she were a branchlet of willow, with seducing eyes and eyebrows set like twin bows; and on her head she wore a crown of red gold crusted with pearls and jewelled, under which was a fillet bearing this couplet wrought in letters of chrysolite,
“A Jinniyah this, with her Jinn, to show
How to pierce man’s heart with a stringless bow!”
The handmaiden walked, with the gait of a gazelle in flight and fit to damn a devotee, till she came to a chair, whereon she seated herself. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 A poet of the first century (A.H.).
2 In Arab. =a fawn beginning to walk, also the 28th lunar mansion or station, usually known as Batn al-Hut or Whale’s belly. These mansions or houses, the constellations through which the moon passes in her course along her orbit, are much used in Moslem astrology and meteorology.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the hand maiden walked with the gait of a gazelle in flight, fit to damn a devotee, till she came to a chair whereon she seated herself. And Al–Maamun marvelled at her beauty and loveliness; but, when Abu Isa saw her, his heart throbbed with pain, his colour changed to pale and wan and he was in evil case. Asked the Caliph, “O Abu Isa, what aileth thee to change thus?”; and he answered, “O Commander of the Faithful, it is because of a twitch that seizeth me betimes.” Quoth the Caliph, “Hast thou known yonder damsel before to day?” Quoth he, “Yes, O Commander of the Faithful, can the moon be concealed?” Then said al-Maamun to her, “What is thy name, O damsel?”; and she replied, “My name is Kurrat al-Ayn. O Commander of the Faithful,” and he rejoined, “Sing to us, O Kurrat al-Ayn.” So she sang these two couplets,
“The loved ones left thee in middle night,
And fared with the pilgrims when dawn shone bright:
The tents of pride round the domes they pitched,
And with broidered curtains were veiled fro’ sight.”
Quoth the Caliph, “Favoured of Heaven art thou, O Kurrat al-Ayn! Whose song is that?”; whereto she answered “The words are by Di’ibil al-Khuza’i, and the air by Zurzúr al-Saghír.” Abu Isa looked at her and his tears choked him; so that the company marvelled at him. Then she turned to al-Maamun and said to him, “O Commander of the Faithful, wilt thou give me leave to change the words?” Said he, “Sing what thou wilt;” so she played a merry measure and carolled these couplets,
“If thou should please a friend who pleaseth thee
Frankly, in public practise secrecy.
And spurn the slanderer’s tale, who seldom1 seeks
Except the severance of true love to see.
They say, when lover’s near, he tires of love,
And absence is for love best remedy:
Both cures we tried and yet we are not cured,
Withal we judge that nearness easier be:
Yet nearness is of no avail when he
Thou lovest lends thee love unwillingly.”
But when she had finished, Abu Isa said, “O Commander of the Faithful,” — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. Kalla-má = it is seldom (rare) that etc. used in books.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Kurrat al-Ayn had finished her verse, Abu Isa said, “O Commander of the Faithful, though we endure disgrace, we shall be at ease.1 Dost thou give me leave to reply to her?” Quoth the Caliph, “Yes, say what thou wilt to her.” So he swallowed his tears and sang these two distichs,
“Silent I woned and never owned my love;
But from my heart I hid love’s blissful boon;
Yet, if my eyes should manifest my love,
’Tis for my nearness to the shining moon.”
Then Kurrat al-Ayn took the lute and played a lively tune and rejoined with these couplets,
“An what thou claimest were the real truth,
With only Hope content thou hadst not been
Nor couldest patient live without the girl
So rare of inner grace and outward mien.
But there is nothing in the claim of thee
At all, save tongue and talk that little mean.”
When Abu Isa heard this he fell to weeping and wailing and evidencing his trouble and anguish. Then he raised his eyes to her and sighing, repeated these couplets,
“Under my raiment a waste body lies,
And in my spirit all comprising prize.
I have a heart, whose pain shall aye endure,
And tears like torrents pour these woeful eyes.
Whene’er a wise man spies me, straight he chides
Love, that misleads me thus in ways unwise:
O Lord, I lack the power this dole to bear:
Come sudden Death or joy in bestest guise!”
When he had ended, Ali bin Hisham sprang up and kissing his feet, said, “O my lord, Allah hearing thy secret hath answered thy prayer and consenteth to thy taking her with all she hath of things rare and fair, so the Commander of the Faithful have no mind to her.” Quoth Al Maamun, “Had we a mind to her, we would prefer Abu Isa before ourselves and help him to his desire.” So saying, he rose and embarking, went away, whilst Abu Isa tarried for Kurrat al-Ayn, whom he took and carried to his own house, his breast swelling with joy. See then the generosity of Ali son of Hisham! And they tell a tale of
1 Dishonoured by his love being made public. So Hafiz, Petrarch and Camoens.
Al–Amin,1 brother of al-Maamun, once entered the house of his uncle Ibrahim bin al-Mahdi, where he saw a slave girl playing upon the lute; and, she being one of the fairest of women, his heart inclined to her. Ibrahim, seeing how it was with him, sent the girl to him, with rich raiment and precious ornaments. When he saw her, he thought that his uncle had lain with her; so he was loath to have to do with her, because of that, and accepting what came with her sent her back to Ibrahim. His uncle learnt the cause of this from one of al-Amin’s eunuchs; so he took a shift of watered silk and worked upon its skirt, in letters of gold, these two couplets,
“No! I declare by Him to whom all bow,
Of nothing ‘neath her petticoat I trow:
Nor meddle with her mouth; nor aught did I
But see and hear her, and it was enow!”
Then he clad her in the shift and, giving her a lute, sent her back again to his nephew. When she came into al-Amin’s presence, she kissed ground before him and tuning the lute, sang thereto these two couplets,
“Thy breast thou baredst sending back the gift;
Showing unlove for me withouten shift:
An thou bear spite of Past, the Past forgive,
And for the Caliphate cast the Past adrift.”
When she had made an end of her verse, Al–Amin looked at her and, seeing what was upon her skirt, could no longer control him self, And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Sixth Abbaside, A.D. 809–813.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Al–Amin looked at the damsel and saw what was upon her skirt, he could no longer control himself, but drew near unto her and kissed her and appointed her a separate lodging in his palace. Moreover, he thanked his uncle for this and bestowed on him the government of Rayy. And a tale is told of
Al–Mutawakkil1 was once taking medicine, and folk sent him by way of solace all sorts of presents and rarities and things costly and precious. Amongst others, al-Fath bin Khákán2 sent him a virgin slave, high breasted, of the fairest among women of her time, and with her a vase of crystal, containing ruddy wine, and a goblet of red gold, whereon were graven in black these couplets,
“Since our Imam came forth from medicine,
Which made him health and heartiness rewin,
There is no healing draught more sovereign
Than well boiled wine this golden goblet in:
Then let him break the seal for him secured;
’Tis best prescription after medicine3
Now when the damsel entered, the physician Yohanná4 was with the Caliph, and as he read the couplets, he smiled and said, “By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, Fath is better versed than I in the art of healing: so let not the Prince of True Believers gainsay his prescription.” Accordingly, the Caliph followed the recipe contained in the poetry and was made whole by the blessing of Allah and won his every wish. And among tales they tell is one of
1 Ala’llah, tenth Abbaside, A. H. 232–47 (847–61), grandson of Al–Rashid who succeeded Al-Wásik. He was a fanatic Sunni, much opposed to the Shi’ahs and he ordered the Christians to wear round their necks the Ghull (collar of wood, iron, or leather), to dress in yellow head-gear and girdles, use wooden stirrups and place figures of devils in front of their dwelling-houses. He also gave distinct dresses to their women and slaves. The Ghull, or collar, was also used for a punishment and vermin gathered under it when riveted round the neck: hence Golius calls it “pediculosum columbar.”
2 Wazir of the above. killed by al-Muntasir Billah A. H. 247 (= 861).
3 Easterns during purgation are most careful and deride the want of precaution in Europeans. They do not leave the house till all is passed off, and avoid baths, wine and women which they afterwards resume with double zest. Here “breaking the seal” is taking the girl’s maidenhead.
4 Johannes, a Greek favoured by Al–Mutawakkil and other Abbaside Caliphs.
Quoth a certain man of learning, “I never saw amongst woman kind one wittier, and wiser, better read and by nature more generously bred; and in manners and morals more perfected than a preacher of the people of Baghdad, by name Sitt al-Mashá‘ikh.1 It chanced that she came to Hamah city in the year of the Flight five hundred and sixty and one2; and there delivered salutary exhortations to the folk from the professorial chair. Now there used to visit her house a number of students of divinity and persons of learning and polite letters, who would discuss with her questions of theology and dispute with her on controversial points. I went to her one day, with a friend of mine, a man of years and education; and when we had taken our seats, she set before us a dish of fruit and seated herself behind a curtain. Now she had a brother, a handsome youth, who stood behind us, to serve us. And when we had eaten we fell to disputing upon points of divinity, and I propounded to her a theological question bearing upon a difference between the Imams, the Founders of the Four Schools. She proceeded to speak in answer, whilst I listened; but all the while my friend fell to looking upon her brother’s face and admiring his beauties without paying any heed to what she discoursed. Now as she was watching him from behind the curtain; when she had made an end of her speech, she turned to him and said, ‘Methinks thou be of those who give men the preference over women!’ He replied, ‘Assuredly,’ and she asked, ‘And why so?’; whereto he answered, ‘For that Allah hath made the masculine worthier than the feminine,’” — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Shaykh replied, “ ‘For that Allah hath made the masculine worthier than the feminine; and I like the excelling and mislike the excelled.’ She laughed and presently said, ‘Wilt thou deal fairly with me in debate, if I battle the matter with thee?’ and he rejoined, ‘Yes.’ Then quoth she, ‘What is the evidence of the superiority of the male to the female?’ Quoth he, ‘It is of two kinds, traditional and reasonable. The authoritative part deriveth from the Koran and the Traditions of the Apostle. As for the first we have the very words of Almighty Allah, ‘Men shall have the pre-eminence above women because of those advantages wherein Allah hath caused the one of them to excel the other;1 and again, ‘If there be not two men, let there be one man and two women;’2 and again, when treating of inheritance, ‘If there be brothers and sisters let a male have as much as the portion of two females.’3 Thus Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) hath in these places preferred the male over the female and teacheth that a woman is as the half of a man, for that he is worthier than she. As for the Sunnah traditions, is it not reported of the Prophet (whom Allah save and assain!) that he appointed the blood money for a woman to be half that of a man. And as for the evidence of reason, the male is the agent and active and the female the patient and passive.’4 Rejoined she, ‘Thou hast said well, O my lord, but, by Allah, thou hast proved my contention with thine own lips and hast advanced evidence which telleth against thee, and not for thee. And thus it is: Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) preferred the male above the female solely because of the inherent condition and essential quality of masculinity; and in this there is no dispute between us. Now this quality of male-hood is common to the child, the boy, the youth, the adult and the old man; nor is there any distinction between them in this. If, then, the superior excellence of male masculant belong to him solely by virtue of manhood, it behoveth that thy heart incline and thy sole delight in the graybeard, equally with the boy; seeing that there is no distinction between them, in point of male-hood. But the difference between thee and me turneth upon the accident of qualities that are sought as constituting the pleasure of intercourse and its enjoyment; and thou hast adduced no proof of the superiority of the youth over the young girl in this matter of non-essentials.’ He made answer, ‘O reverend lady, knowest thou not that which is peculiar to the youth of limber shape and rosy cheeks and pleasant smile and sweetness of speech? Youths are, in these respects superior to women; and the proof of this is what they traditionally report of the Prophet (whom Allah bless and preserve!) that he said, ‘Stay not thy gaze upon the beardless, for in them is a momentary eye glance at the black eyed girls of Paradise.’ Nor indeed is the superiority of the lad over the lass hidden to any of mankind, and how well saith Abu Nowas,5
‘The least of him is the being free
From monthly courses and pregnancy.’
And the saying of another poet,
‘Quoth our Imam, Abu Nowas, who was
For mad debauch and waggishness renowned:
‘O tribe that loves the cheeks of boys, take fill
Of joys in Paradise shall ne’er be found!’
So if any one enlarge in praise of a slave girl and wish to enhance her value by the mention of her beauties, he likeneth her to a youth,’” — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Koran iv. 38. I have before noted what the advantages are.
2 Koran ii. 282, “of those whom ye shall choose for witnesses.”
3 Koran iv. 175, “Whereas if there be two sisters, they inherit only two-thirds between them.”
4 The secondary meaning is “Fá‘il” = the active sodomite and “Mafa’úl” = the passive, a catamite: the former is not an insulting word, the latter is a most injurious expression. “Novimus et qui te!”
5 It is an unpleasant fact that almost all the poetry of Háfiz is addressed to youths, as we see by the occasional introduction of Arabic (e.g., Afáka’lláh). Persian has no genders properly so called, hence the effect is less striking. Sa’di, the “Persian Moralist” begins one of the tales, “A certain learned man fell in love with a beautiful son of a blacksmith,” which Gladwin, translating for the general, necessarily changed to “daughter.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Shaykh continued, “‘So if any one enlarge in praise of a slave girl and wish to enhance her value by the mention of her beauties, he likeneth her to a youth, because of the illustrious qualities that belong to the male, even as saith the poet,
‘Boy like of backside, in the deed of kind,
She sways, as sways the wand like boughs a-wind.’
An youths, then, were not better and fairer than girls, why should these be likened to them? And know also (Almighty Allah preserve thee!) that a youth is easy to be led, adapting himself to every rede, pleasant of converse and manners, inclining to assent rather than dissent, especially when his side face is newly down’d and his upper lip is first embrowned, and the purple lights of youth on his cheeks abound, so that he is like the full moon sound; and how goodly is the saying of Abu Tammám1,
‘The slanderers said ‘There’s hair upon his cheeks’;
Quoth I, ‘Exceed not, that’s no blemish there.’
When he could bear that haling of his hips
And pearl-beads shaded by mustachio hair;2
And Rose swore solemn, holiest oath that is,
From that fair cheek she nevermore would fare
I spoke with eyelids without need of speech,
And they who answered me his eyebrows were.
He’s even fairer than thou knewest him,
And cheek down guards from all would overdare.
Brighter and sweeter now are grown his charms,
Since down robes lip and cheek before were bare.
And those who blame me for my love of him,
When him they mention say of him, ‘Thy Fair’!’
And quoth al-Hariri3 and quoth excellently well,
‘My censors say, ‘What means this pine for him?
Seest not the flowing hair on cheeks a flowing?’
I say, ‘By Allah, an ye deem I dote,
Look at the truth in those fine eyes a-showing!
But for the down that veils his cheek and chin,
His brow had dazed all eyes no sight allowing:
And whoso sojourns in a growthless land,
How shall he move from land fair growths a-growing?’
And quoth another,
‘My blamers say of me, ‘He is consoled,’ And lie!
No consolation comes to those who pine and sigh.
I had no solace when Rose bloomed alone on cheek,
Now Basil blooms thereon and now consoled am I.’
‘Slim waisted one, whose looks with down of cheek
In slaughtering mankind each other hurtle
With the Narcissus blade he sheddeth blood,
The baldrick of whose sheath is freshest myrtle.’4
‘Not with his must I’m drunk, but verily
Those curls turn manly heads like newest wine5
Each of his beauties envies each, and all
Would be the silky down on side face li’en.’
Such are the excellencies of the youth which women do not own, and they more than suffice to give those the preference over these.’ She replied, ‘Allah give thee health! verily, thou hast imposed the debate upon thyself; and thou hast spoken and hast not stinted and hast brought proofs to support every assertion. But, ‘Now is the truth become manifest;’6 so swerve thou not from the path thereof; and, if thou be not content with a summary of evidence, I will set it before thee in fullest detail. Allah upon thee, where is the youth beside the girl and who shall compare kid and wild cow? The girl is soft of speech, fair of form, like a branchlet of basil, with teeth like chamomile-petals and hair like halters wherefrom to hang hearts. Her cheeks are like blood-red anemones and her face like a pippin: she hath lips like wine and breasts like pomegranates twain and a shape supple as a rattan-cane. Her body is well formed and with sloping shoulders dight; she hath a nose like the edge of a sword shining bright and a forehead brilliant white and eyebrows which unite and eyes stained by Nature’s hand black as night. If she speak, fresh young pearls are scattered from her mouth forthright and all hearts are ravished by the daintiness of her sprite; when she smileth thou wouldst ween the moon shone out her lips between and when she eyes thee, sword blades flash from the babes of her eyes. In her all beauties to conclusion come, and she is the centre of attraction to traveller and stay-at-home. She hath two lips of cramoisy, than cream smoother and of taste than honey sweeter,’” — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 The famous author of the Anthology called Al–Hamásah.
2 i.e., teeth under the young mustachio.
3 The “Silk man” and the celebrated author of the Makámát, assemblies or seances translated (or attempted) into all the languages of Europe. We have two in English, the first by Theodore Preston, M.A. (London, Madden, 1850); but it contains only twenty of the fifty pieces. The second by the late Mr. Chenery (before alluded to) ends with the twenty-sixth assembly: one volume in fact, the other never having been finished. English readers, therefore, are driven to the grand edition of the Makámát in folio by Baron Silvestre de Sacy.
4 The sword of the eye has a Hamáil (baldrick worn over right shoulder, Pilgrimage i. 352) to support the “Ghimd” (vulg. Ghamad) or scabbard (of wood or leather): and this baldrick is the young whisker.
5 The conceit of “Suláfat” (ptisane, grape juice allowed to drain on the slabs) and “Sawálif” (tresses, locks) has been explained. The newest wine is the most inebriating, a fact not much known in England, but familiar to the drinker of “Vino novo.”
6 Koran xii. 51, this said by the nobleman’s (Potiphar’s) wife who adds, “I selected him to lie with me; and he (Joseph) is one of those who speak truth.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the preacher woman thus pursued her theme in the praise of fair maids, “‘She hath two lips of cramoisy, than cream smoother and than honey sweeter;’ adding, ‘And she hath a bosom, as it were a way two hills between which are a pair of breasts like globes of ivory sheen; likewise, a stomach right smooth, flanks soft as the palm-spathe and creased with folds and dimples which overlap one another, and liberal thighs, which like columns of pearl arise, and back parts which billow and beat together like seas of glass or mountains of glance, and two feet and hands of gracious mould like unto ingots of virgin gold. So, O miserable! where are mortal men beside the Jinn? Knowest thou not that puissant princes and potent Kings before women ever humbly bend and on them for delight depend? Verily, they may say, ‘We rule over necks and rob hearts.’ These women! how many a rich man have they not paupered, how many a powerful man have they not prostrated and how many a superior man have they not enslaved! Indeed, they seduce the sage and send the saint to shame and bring the wealthy to want and plunge the fortune favoured into penury. Yet for all this, the wise but redouble in affection of them and honour; nor do they count this oppression or dishonour. How many a man for them hath offended his Maker and called down on him self the wrath of his father and mother! And all this because of the conquest of their love over hearts. Knowest thou not, O wretched one, that for them are built pavilions, and slave girls are for sale;1 that for them tear floods rail and for them are collected jewels of price and ambergris and musk odoriferous; and armies are arrayed and pleasaunces made and wealth heaped up and smitten off is many a head? And indeed he spoke sooth in the words, ‘Whoso saith the world meaneth woman.’ Now as for thy citation from the Holy Traditions, it is an argument against thee and not for thee in that the Prophet (whom Allah bless and preserve!) compareth the beardless with the black eyed girls of Paradise. Now, doubtless, the subject of comparison is worthier than the object there with compared; so, unless women be the worthier and the goodlier, wherefore should other than they be likened to them? As for thy saying that girls are likened to boys, the case is not so, but the contrary: boys are likened to girls; for folk say, Yonder boy is like a girl. As for what proof thou quotest from the poets, the verses were the product of a complexion unnatural in this respect; and as for the habitual sodomites and catamites, offenders against religion, Almighty Allah hath condemned them in His Holy Book,2 herein He denounceth their filthy practices, saying, ‘Do ye approach unto the males among mankind3 and leave your wives which your Lord hath created for you? Surely ye are a people who transgress!’ These it is that liken girls to boys, of their exceeding profligacy and ungraciousness and inclination to follow the fiend and own lusts, so that they say, ‘She is apt for two tricks,’4 and these are all wanderers from the way of right and the righteous. Quoth their chief Abu Nowas,
‘Slim waist and boyish wits delight
Wencher, as well as Sodomite,’5
As for what thou sayest of a youth’s first hair on cheek and lips and how they add to his beauty and loveliness, by Allah, thou strayest from the straight path of sooth and sayest that which is other than the truth; for whiskers change the charms of the comely into ugliness (quoting these couplets),
‘That sprouting hair upon his face took wreak
For lovers’ vengeance, all did vainly seek.
I see not on his face a sign fuli —
genous, except his curls are hue of reek.
If so his paper6 mostly be begrimed
Where deemest thou the reed shall draw a streak?
If any raise him other fairs above,
This only proves the judge of wits is weak.’
And when she ended her verse she resumed, ‘Laud be to Allah Almighty,’” — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Here we have a specimen of the strained Saj’a or balanced prose: slave-girls (jawárí) are massed with flowing tears (dam’u jári) on account of the Káfiyah or rhyme.
2 The detected sodomite is punished with death according to Moslem law, but again comes the difficulty of proof. At Shiraz I have heard of a pious Moslem publicly executing his son.
3 Koran xxvi. 165 et seq. The Lord speaks to the “people of Lot” (Sodomites). Mr. Payne renders “Min al-álamíma,” “from the four corners of the world.”
4 Meaning before and behind, a Moslemah “Bet Balmanno.”
5 Arab. “ Lúti,” (plur. Lawátí), much used in Persian as a buffoon, a debauchee, a rascal. The orig. sig. is “One of (the people of) Lot.” The old English was Ingle or Yngle (a bardachio, a catamite, a boy kept for sodomy), which Minsheu says is, “Vox hispanica et significat Latinè Inguen” (the groin). Our vulgar modern word like the Italian bugiardo is pop. derived from Fr. Bougre, alias Bulgarus, a Bulgarian, a heretic: hence Boulgrin (Rabelais i. chaps. ii.) is popularly applied to the Albigeois (Albigenses, whose persecution began shortly after A.D. 1200) and the Lutherans. I cannot but think that “bougre” took its especial modern signification after the French became acquainted with the Brazil, where the Huguenots (in A.D. 1555) were founding a Nouvelle France, alias Equinoctiale, alias Antarctique, and whence the savages were carried as curiosities to Paris. Their generic name was “Bugre” (properly a tribe in Southern Brazil, but applied to all the redskins) and they were all born Sodomites. More of this in the terminal Essay.
6 His paper is the whiteness of his skin. I have quoted the Persian saying of a young beard: “his cheeks don mourning for his beauty’s death.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the preacher woman ended her verse she resumed, addressing the man, ” ‘Laud to Allah Almighty! how can it be hid from thee that the perfect pleasure is in women and that abiding blessings are not to be found but with them, seeing that Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) hath promised His prophets and saints black eyed damsels in Paradise and hath appointed these for a recompense of their godly works. And had the Almighty known that the joy supreme was in the possession of other than women, He had rewarded them therewith and promised it to them. And quoth he (whom Allah bless and preserve!), ‘The things I hold dearest of the things of your world are three: women and perfume and the solace of my eyes in prayer.’ Verily Allah hath appointed boys to serve his prophets and saints in Paradise, because Paradise is the abode of joy and delight, which could not be complete without the service of youths; but, as to the use of them for aught but service, it is Hell’s putridity1 and corruption and turpitude. How well saith the poet,
‘Men’s turning unto bums of boys is bumptious;
Whoso love noble women show their own noblesse.
How many goodly wights have slept the night, enjoying
Buttocks of boys, and woke at morn in foulest mess
Their garments stained by safflower, which is yellow merde;
Their shame proclaiming, showing colour of distress.
Who can deny the charge, when so bewrayed are they
That e’en by day light shows the dung upon their dress?
What contrast wi’ the man, who slept a gladsome night
By Houri maid for glance a mere enchanteress,
He rises off her borrowing wholesome bonny scent;
That fills the house with whiffs of perfumed goodliness.
No boy deserved place by side of her to hold;
Canst even aloes wood with what fills pool of cess!’2
Then said she, ‘O folk ye have made me to break the bounds of modesty and the circle of free born women and indulge in idle talk of chambering and wantonness, which beseemeth not people of learning. But the breasts of free-borns are the sepulchres of secrets’ and such conversations are in confidence. Moreover, actions are according to intentions,3 and I crave pardon of Allah for myself and you and all Moslems, seeing that He is the Pardoner and the Compassionate.’ Then she held her peace and thereafter would answer us of naught; so we went our way, rejoicing in that we had profited by her contention and yet sorrowing to part from her.” And among the tales they tell is one of
1 Arab. “Khabál,” lit. the pus which flows from the bodies of the damned.
2 Most characteristic of Egypt is all this scene. Her reverence, it is true, sits behind a curtain; but her virtue uses language which would shame the lowest European prostitute; and which is filthy almost as Dean Swift’s.
3 Arab. “Niyat:” the Moslem’s idea of intentions quite runs with the Christian’s. There must be a “Niyat” or purpose of prayer or the devotion is valueless. Lane tells a pleasant tale of a thief in the Mosque, saying “I purpose (before Prayer) to carry off this nice pair of new shoes!”
Quoth Abu Suwayd, “I and a company of my friends, entered a garden one day to buy somewhat of fruit; and we saw in a corner an old woman, who was bright of face, but her head-hair was white, and she was combing it with an ivory comb. We stopped before her, yet she paid no heed to us neither veiled her face: so I said to her, ‘O old woman,1 wert thou to dye thy hair black, thou wouldst be handsomer than a girl: what hindereth thee from this?’ She raised her head towards me”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Ya ‘l-Ajúz” (in Cairo “Agooz” pronounced “Ago-o-oz”): the address is now insulting and would elicit “The old woman in thine eye” (with fingers extended). In Egypt the polite address is “O lady (Sitt), O pilgrimess, O bride, and O daughter” (although she be the wrong side of fifty). In Arabia you may say “O woman (Imraah)” but in Egypt the reply would be “The woman shall see Allah cut out thy heart!” So in Southern Italy you address “bella fé” (fair one) and cause a quarrel by “vecchiarella.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu Suwayd continued: “When I spake these words to the ancient dame she raised her head towards me and, opening wide her eyes, recited these two couplets,
‘I dyed what years have dyed, but this my staining
Lasts not, while that of days is aye remaining:
Days when beclad in gear of youth I fared,
Raked fore and aft by men with joy unfeigning.’
I cried, ‘By Allah, favoured art thou for an old woman! How sincere art thou in thine after-pine for forbidden pleasures and how false is thy pretence of repentance from frowardness!’” And another tale is that of
Once on a time was displayed for sale to Ali bin Mohammed bin Abdallah bin Táhir1 a slave-girl called Muunis who was superior to her fellows in beauty and breeding, and to boot an accomplished poetess; and he asked her of her name. Replied she, “Allah advance the Emir, my name is Muunis.”2 Now he knew this before; so he bowed his head awhile, then raising his eyes to her, recited this verse,
“What sayest of one by a sickness caught
For the love of thy love till he waxed distraught?”
Answered she, “Allah exalt the Emir!” and recited this verse in reply,
“If we saw a lover who pains as he ought,
Wi’ love we would grant him all favours he sought.”
Quoth Abu al-Ayná, “There were in our street two women, one of whom had for lover a man and the other a beardless youth, and they foregathered one night on the terrace-roof of a house adjoining mine, knowing not that I was near. Quoth the boy’s lover to the other, ‘O my sister, how canst thou bear with patience the harshness of thy lover’s beard as it falleth on thy breast, when he busseth thee and his mustachios rub thy cheek and lips?’ Replied the other, ‘Silly that thou art, what decketh the tree save its leaves and the cucumber but its warts?1 Didst ever see in the world aught uglier than a scald-head bald of his beard? Knowest thou not that the beard is to men as the sidelocks to women; and what is the difference between chin and cheek?2 Knowest thou not that Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) hath created an angel in Heaven, who saith: ‘Glory be to Him who ornamenteth men with beards and women with long hair?’ So, were not the beard even as the tresses in comeliness, it had not been coupled with them, O silly! How shall I spread-eagle myself under a boy, who will emit long before I can go off and forestall me in limpness of penis and clitoris; and leave a man who, when he taketh breath clippeth close and when he entereth goeth leisurely, and when he hath done, repeateth, and when he pusheth poketh hard, and as often as he withdraweth, returneth?’ The boy’s leman was edified by her speech and said, ‘I forswear my lover by the lord of the Ka’abah!’” And amongst tales is one of
There lived once, in the city of Cairo, a merchant who had great store of monies and bullion, gems and jewels, and lands and houses beyond count, and his name was Hasan the Jeweller, the Baghdad man. Furthermore Allah had blessed him with a son of perfect beauty and brilliancy; rosy-cheeked, fair of face and well-figured, whom he named Ali of Cairo, and had taught the Koran and science and elocution and the other branches of polite education, till he became proficient in all manner of knowledge. He was under his father’s hand in trade but, after a while, Hasan fell sick and his sickness grew upon him, till he made sure of death; so he called his son to him — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, it hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Jeweller, the Baghdadi, fell sick and made sure of death, he called to him his son, named Ali of Cairo, and said, “O my son, verily this world passeth away; but the next world endureth for aye. Every soul shall taste of death;1 and now, O my son, my decease is at hand and I desire to charge thee with a charge, which if thou observe, thou shalt abide in safety and prosperity, till thou meet Almighty Allah; but if thou follow it not, there shall befal thee much weariness and thou wilt repent of having transgressed mine injunctions.” Replied Ali, “O my father, how shall I do other than hearken to thy words and act according to thy charge, seeing that I am bounden by the law of the Faith to obey thee and give ear to thy command?” Rejoined his father, “O my son, I leave thee lands and houses and goods and wealth past count; so that wert thou each day to spend thereof five hundred dinars, thou wouldst miss naught of it. But, O my son, look that thou live in the fear of Allah and follow His Chosen One, Mustafa, (whom may He bless and preserve!) in whatso he is reported to have bidden and forbidden in his traditional law.2 Be thou constant in alms-deeds and the practice of beneficence and in consorting with men of worth and piety and learning; and look that thou have a care for the poor and needy and shun avarice and meanness and the conversation of the wicked or those of suspicious character. Look thou kindly upon thy servants and family, and also upon thy wife, for she is of the daughters of the great and is big with child by thee; haply Allah will vouchsafe thee virtuous issue by her.” And he ceased not to exhort him thus, weeping and saying, “O my son, I beseech Allah the Bountiful, the Lord of the glorious Empyrean3 to deliver thee from all straits that may encompass thee and grant thee His ready relief!” Thereupon his son wept with sore weeping and said, “O my father, I am melted by thy words, for these are as the words of one that saith farewell.” Replied the merchant, “Yes, O my son, I am aware of my condition: forget thou not my charge.” Then he fell to repeating the two professions of the Faith and to reciting verses of the Koran, until the appointed hour arrived, when he said, “Draw near unto me, O my son.” So Ali drew near and he kissed him; then he sighed and his soul departed his body and he went to the mercy of Almighty Allah.4 Therewith great grief fell upon Ali; the clamour of keening arose in his house and his father’s friends flocked to him. Then he betook himself to preparing the body for burial and made him a splendid funeral. They bore his bier to the place of prayer and prayed over him, then to the cemetery, where they buried him and recited over him what suited of the sublime Koran; after which they returned to the house and condoled with the dead man’s son and wended each his own way. Moreover, Ali prayed the Friday prayer for his father and had perlections of the Koran every day for the normal forty, during which time he abode in the house and went not forth, save to the place of prayer; and every Friday he visited his father’s tomb. So he ceased not from his praying and reciting for some time, until his fellows of the sons of the merchants came in to him one day and saluting him, said, “How long this thy mourning and neglecting thy business and the company of thy friends? Verily, this is a fashion which will bring thee weariness, and thy body will suffer for it exceedingly.” Now when they came in to him, Iblis the Accursed was with them, prompting them; and they went on to recommend him to accompany them to the bazar, whilst Iblis tempted him to consent to them, till he yielded — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 “And We will prove you with evil, and with good, for a trial of you; and unto Us shall ye return.” (Koran xxi. 36.) The saying is always in the Moslem’s mouth.
2 Arab. “Sunnat,” lit.=a law, especially applied to the habit and practice of the Apostle in religious and semi-religious matters, completing the “Hadis,” or his spoken words. Anything unknown is entitled “Bida’ah”=innovation. Hence the strict Moslem is a model Conservative whose exemplar of life dates from the seventh century. This fact may be casuistically explained away; but is not less an obstacle to all progress and it will be one of the principal dangers threatening Al–Islam. Only fair to say that an “innovation” introduced by a perfect follower of the Prophet is held equal theoretically to a Sunnat; but vulgarly it is said, “The rabble will not take gold which is not coined.”
3 Arab. “Arsh”=the ninth Heaven, the Throne of the Deity, above the Seven Heavens of the planets and the Primum Mobile which, in the Ptolemaic system, sets them all in motion.
4 This description of a good Moslem’s death is at once concise, pathetic and picturesque.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the sons of the merchants went in to Ali the Cairene, son of Hasan the Jeweller, they recommended him to accompany them to the bazar, till he yielded, that the will of Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) might be fulfilled; and he left the house of mourning with them. Presently they said, “Mount thy she-mule and ride with us to such a garden, that we may solace us there and that thy grief and despondency may depart from thee.” So he mounted and taking his slave, went with them to the garden in question; and when they entered one of them went and making ready the morning-meal, brought it to them there. So they ate and were merry and sat in talk, till the end of the day, when they mounted and returned each to his own lodging, where they passed the night. As soon as the morrow dawned, they again visited Ali and said, “Come with us.” Asked he, “Whither?”; and they answered, “To such a garden; for it is finer than the first and more pleasurable.” So he went with them to the garden, and one of them, going away, made ready the morning-meal and brought it to them, together with strong heady wine; and after eating, they brought out the wine, when quoth Ali, “What is this? and quoth they, “This is what dispelleth sadness and brighteneth gladness. And they ceased not to commend it to him, till they prevailed upon him and he drank with them. Then they sat, drinking and talking, till the end of the day, when each returned home. But as for Ali, the Cairene, he was giddy with wine and in this plight went in to his wife, who said to him, “What aileth thee that thou art so changed?” He said, “We were making merry to-day, when one of my companions brought us liquor; so my friends drank and I with them, and this giddiness came upon me.” And she replied, “O my lord, say me, hast thou forgotten thy father’s injunction and done that from which he forbade thee, in consorting with doubtful folk?” Answered he, “These be of the sons of the merchants; they are no suspicious folk, only lovers of mirth and good cheer.” And he continued to lead this life with his friends, day after day, going from place to place and feasting with them and drinking, till they said to him, “Our turns are ended, and now it is thy turn.” “Well come, and welcome and fair cheer!” cried he; so on the morrow, he made ready all that the case called for of meat and drink, two-fold what they had provided, and taking cooks and tent-pitchers and coffee-makers,1 repaired with the others to Al–Rauzah2 and the Nilometer, where they abode a whole month, eating and drinking and hearing music and making merry. At the end of the month, Ali found that he had spent a great sum of money; but Iblis the Accursed deluded him and said to him, “Though thou shouldst spend every day a like sum yet wouldst thou not miss aught of it.” So he took no account of money expenses and continued this way of life for three years, whilst his wife remonstrated with him and reminded him of his father’s charge; but he hearkened not to her words, till he had spent all the ready monies he had, when he fell to selling his jewels and spending their price, until they also were all gone. Then he sold his houses, fields, farms and gardens, one after other, till they likewise were all gone and he had nothing left but the tenement wherein he lived. So he tore out the marble and wood-work and sold it and spent of its price, till he had made an end of all this also, when he took thought with himself and, finding that he had nothing left to expend, sold the house itself and spent the purchase-money. After that, the man who had bought the house came to him and said “Seek out for thyself a lodging, as I have need of my house.” So he bethought himself and, finding that he had no want of a house, except for his wife, who had borne him a son and daughter (he had not a servant left), he hired a large room in one of the mean courts3 and there took up his abode, after having lived in honour and luxury, with many eunuchs and much wealth; and he soon came to want one day’s bread. Quoth his wife, “Of this I warned thee and exhorted thee to obey thy father’s charge, and thou wouldst not hearken to me; but there is no Majesty and there is no Might, save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Whence shall the little ones eat? Arise then, go round to thy friends, the sons of the merchants: belike they will give thee somewhat on which we may live this day.” So he arose and went to his friends one by one; but they all hid their faces from him and gave him injurious words revolting to hear, but naught else; and he returned to his wife and said to her, “They have given me nothing.” Thereupon she went forth to beg of her neighbours the wherewithal to keep themselves alive — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 This is the first mention of coffee; apparently introduced by the scribe: the word rendered “coffee-makers” is “Kahwajiyah”; an Arab. plur. of a Turkish termination (-ji) to an Arab. word “Kahwah” (before noticed).
2 Picnics are still made to Rauzah (Rodah) island: I have enjoyed many a one, but the ground is all private property.
3 Arab. “Hosh,” plur. Híshán, the low courts surrounded by mean lodgings which in “native” Cairo still contrast so strongly with the “gingerbread” of the new buildings.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the wife of Ali the Cairene, seeing her husband return empty-handed, went forth to beg of her neighbours the wherewithal to keep themselves alive and repaired to a woman, whom she had known in former days. When she came in to her and she saw her case, she rose and receiving her kindly, wept and said, “What hath befallen you?” So she told her all that her husband had done, and the other replied, “Well come and welcome and fair cheer!; whatever thou needest, Seek it of me, without price.” Quoth she, “Allah requite thee abundantly!”1 Then her friend gave her as much provision as would suffice herself and her family a whole month, and she took it and returned to her lodging. When her husband saw her, he wept and asked, “Whence hadst thou that?”; and she answered, “I got it of such a woman; for, when I told her what had befallen us, she failed me not in aught, but said, ‘Seek of me all thou needest.’” Whereupon her husband rejoined, “Since thou hast this much I will betake myself to a place I have in my mind; peradventure Allah Almighty will bring us relief.”2 With these words he took leave of her and kissed his children and went out, not knowing whither he should go, and he continued walking on till he came to Bulák, where he saw a ship about to sail for Damietta.3 Here he met a man, between whom and his father there had been friendship, and he saluted him and said to him, “Whither now?” Replied Ali, “To Damietta: I have friends there, whom I would enquire after and visit them and then return.” The man took him home and treated him honourably; then, furnishing him with vivers for the voyage and giving him some gold pieces, embarked him on board the vessel bound for Damietta. When they reached it, Ali landed, not knowing whither to go; but as he was walking along, a merchant saw him and had pity on him, and carried him to his house. Here he abode awhile, after which he said in himself, “How long this sojourning in other folk’s homes?” Then he left the merchant’s place and walked to the wharf where, after enquiry, he found a ship ready to sail for Syria. His hospitable host provided him with provision and embarked him in the ship; and it set sail and Ali reached in due season the Syrian shores where he disembarked and journeyed till he entered Damascus. As he walked about the great thoroughfare behold, a kindly man saw him and took him to his house, where he tarried for a time till, one day, going abroad, he saw a caravan about to start for Baghdad and bethought himself to journey thither with it. Thereupon he returned to his host and taking leave of him, set out with the Cafilah. Now Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) inclined to him the heart of one of the merchants, so that he took him with him, and Ali ate and drank with him, till they came within one day’s journey of Baghdad. Here, however, a company of highwaymen fell upon the caravan and took all they had and but few of the merchants escaped. These made each for a separate place of refuge; but as for Ali the Cairene he fared for Baghdad, where he arrived at sundown, as the gatekeepers were about to shut the gates, and said to them, “Let me in with you.” They admitted him and asked him, “Whence come, and whither wending?” and he answered, “I am a man from Cairo-city and have with me mules laden with merchandise and slaves and servants. I forewent them, to look me out a place wherein to deposit my goods: but, as I rode along on my she-mule, there fell upon me a company of banditti, who took my mule and gear; nor did I escape from them but at my last gasp.” The gate-guard entreated him honourably and bade him be of good cheer, saying, “Abide with us this night, and in the morning we will look thee out a place befitting thee.” Then he sought in his breast-pocket and, finding a dinar of those given to him by the merchant at Bulak, handed it to one of the gatekeepers, saying, “Take this and change it and bring us something to eat.” The man took it and went to the market, where he changed it, and brought Ali bread and cooked meat: so he ate, he and the gate-guards, and he lay the night with them. Now on the morrow, one of the warders carried him to a certain of the merchants of Baghdad, to whom he told the same story, and he believed him, deeming that he was a merchant and had with him loads of merchandise. Then he took him up into his shop and entreated him with honour; moreover, he sent to his house for a splendid suit of his own apparel for him and carried him to the Hammam. “So,” quoth Ali of Cairo: “I went with him to the bath, and when we came out, he took me and brought me to his house, where he set the morning-meal before us, and we ate and made merry. Then said he to one of his black slaves, ‘Ho Mas’dd, take this thy lord: show him the two houses standing in such a place, and whichever pleaseth him, give him the key of it and come back.’ So I went with the slave, till we came to a street-road where stood three houses side by side, newly built and yet shut up. He opened the first and I looked at it; and we did the same to the second; after which he said to me ‘Of which shall I give thee the key?’ ‘To whom doth the big house belong?’ ‘To us!’ ‘Open it, that I may view it.’ ‘Thou hast no business there.’ ‘Wherefore?’ ‘Because it is haunted, and none nighteth there but in the morning he is a dead man; nor do we use to open the door, when removing the corpse, but mount the terrace-roof of one of the other two houses and take it up thence. For this reason my master hath abandoned the house and saith: ‘I will never again give it to any one.’ ‘Open it,’ I cried, ‘that I may view it;’ and I said in my mind, ‘This is what I seek; I will pass the night there and in the morning be a dead man and be at peace from this my case.’ So he opened it and I entered and found it a splendid house, without its like; and I said to the slave, ‘I will have none other than this house; give me its key.’ But he rejoined, ‘I will not give thee this key till I consult my master,’”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 This is the Moslem equivalent of “thank you.” He looks upon the donor as the channel through which Allah sends him what he wants and prays for more to come. Thus “May your shadow never be less” means, May you increase in prosperity so that I may gain thereby! And if a beggar is disposed to be insolent (a very common case), he will tell you his mind pretty freely on the subject, and make it evident to you that all you have is also his and that La propriété (when not shared) est le vol.
2 I have noticed in my Pilgrimage (i. 51–53) the kindly care with which the stranger is treated by Moslems, a marvellous contrast to the ways of “civilization.”
3 Arab. “Dimyat,” vulg. pronounced “Dumíyat.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the negro (continued Ali of Cairo) “rejoined, ‘I will not give thee its key till I consult my master,’” and going to him, reported, “‘The Egyptian trader saith, ‘I will lodge in none but the big house.’” Now when the merchant heard this, he rose and coming to Ali, spake thus to him, “O my lord, thou hast no need of this house.” But he answered, “I will lodge in none other than this; for I care naught for this silly saying.” Quoth the other, “Write me an acknowledgment that, if aught happen to thee, I am not responsible.” Quoth Ali, “So be it;” whereupon the merchant fetched an assessor from the Kazi’s court and, taking the prescribed acknowledgment, delivered to him the key wherewith he entered the house. The merchant sent him bedding by a blackamoor who spread it for him on the built bench behind the door1 and walked away. Presently Ali went about and, seeing in the inner court a well with a bucket, let this down and drew water, wherewith he made the lesser ablution and prayed the obligatory prayers. Then he sat awhile, till the slave brought him the evening meal from his master’s house, together with a lamp, a candle and candlestick, a basin and ewer and a gugglet2; after which he left him and returned home. Ali lighted the candle, supped at his ease and prayed the night-prayer; and presently he said to himself, “Come, take the bedding and go upstairs and sleep there; ’twill be better than here.” So he took the bed and carried it upstairs, where he found a splendid saloon, with gilded ceiling and floor and walls cased with coloured marbles. He spread his bed there and sitting down, began to recite somewhat of the Sublime Koran, when (ere he was ware) he heard one calling to him and asking, “O Ali, O son of Hasan, say me, shall I send thee down the gold?” And he answered, “Where be the gold thou hast to send?” But hardly had he spoken, when gold pieces began to rain down on him, like stones from a catapult, nor ceased till the saloon was full. Then, after the golden shower, said the Voice, “Set me free, that I may go my way; for I have made an end of my service and have delivered unto thee that which was entrusted to me for thee.” Quoth Ali, “I adjure thee, by Allah the Almighty, to tell me the cause of this gold-rain.” Replied the Voice, “This is a treasure that was talisman’d to thee of old time, and to every one who entered the house, we used to come and say: ‘O Ali, O son of Hasan, shall we send thee down the gold?’ Whereat he would be affrighted and cry out, and we would come down to him and break his neck and go away. But, when thou camest and we accosted thee by thy name and that of thy father, saying, ‘Shall we send thee down the gold?’ and thou madest answer to us, ‘And where be the gold?’ we knew thee for the owner of it and sent it down. Moreover, there is yet another hoard for thee in the land of Al–Yaman and thou wouldst do well to journey thither and fetch it. And now I would fain have thee set me free, that I may go my way.” Said Ali, “By Allah, I will not set thee free, till thou bring me hither the treasure from the land of Al–Yaman!” Said the Voice, “An I bring it to thee, wilt thou release me and eke the servant of the other hoard?” “Yes,” replied Ali, and the Voice cried, “Swear to me.” So he swore to him, and he was about to go away, when Ali said to him, “I have one other need to ask of thee;” and he, “What is that?” Quoth Ali, “I have a wife and children at Cairo in such a place; thou needs must fetch them to me, at their ease and without their unease.” Quoth he, “I will bring them to thee in a mule-litter3 and much state, with a train of eunuchs and servants, together with the treasure from Al–Yaman, Inshallah!”4 Then he took of him leave of absence for three days, when all this should be with him, and vanished. As soon as it was morning Ali went round about the saloon, seeking a place wherein to store the gold, and saw on the edge of the dais a marble slab with a turning-pin; so he turned the pin and the slab sank and showed a door which he opened and entering, found a great closet, full of bags of coarse stuff carefully sewn. So he began taking out the bags and fell to filling them with gold and storing them in the closet, till he had transported thither all the hoarded gold, whereupon he shut the door and turning the pin, the slab returned to its place. Then he went down and seated himself on the bench behind the door; and presently there came a knock; so he opened and found the merchant’s slave who, seeing him comfortably sitting, returned in haste to his master — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
Last updated Monday, September 7, 2015 at 12:07