It is related that Hind, daughter of Al–Nu’man, was the fairest woman of her day, and her beauty and loveliness were reported to Al–Hajjaj, who sought her in marriage and lavished much treasure on her. So he took her to wife, engaging to give her a dowry of two hundred thousand dirhams in case of divorce, and when he went into her, he abode with her a long time. One day after this, he went in to her and found her looking at her face in the mirror and saying,
“Hind is an Arab filly purest bred,
Which hath been covered by a mongrel mule;
An colt of horse she throw by Allah! well;
If mule, it but results from mulish rule.”2
When Al–Hajjaj heard this, he turned back and went his way, unseen of Hind; and, being minded to put her away, he sent Abdullah bin Tahir to her, to divorce her. So Abdullah went in to her and said to her, “Al–Hajjaj Abu Mohammed saith to thee: ‘Here be the two hundred thousand dirhams of thy contingent dowry he oweth thee’; and he hath deputed me to divorce thee.” Replied she, “O Ibn Tahir, I gladly agree to this; for know that I never for one day took pleasure in him; so, if we separate, by Allah, I shall never regret him, and these two hundred thousand dirhams I give to thee as a reward for the glad tidings thou bringest me of my release from yonder dog of the Thakafites.”3 After this, the Commander of the Faithful, Abd al-Malik bin Marwan, heard of her beauty and loveliness, her stature and symmetry, her sweet speech and the amorous grace of her glances and sent to her, to ask her in marriage; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Al–Mas’údí (chap. xcv.), mentions a Hind bint Asmá and tells a facetious story of her and the “enemy of Allah,” the poet Jarir.
2 Here the old Shiah hatred of the energetic conqueror of Oman crops out again. Hind’s song is that of Maysum concerning her husband Mu’áwiyah which Mrs. Godfrey Clark (‘Ilâm-en-Nâs, p. 108) thus translates:—
A hut that the winds make tremble
Is dearer to me than a noble palace;
And a dish of crumbs on the floor of my home
Is dearer to me than a varied feast;
And the soughing of the breeze through every crevice
Is dearer to me than the beating of drums.
Compare with Dr. Carlyle’s No. X.:—
The russet suit of camel’s hair
With spirits light and eye serene
Is dearer to my bosom far
Than all the trappings of a queen, etc. etc.
And with mine (Pilgrimage iii. 262):—
O take these purple robes away,
Give back my cloak of camel’s hair
And bear me from this towering pile
To where the black tents flap i’ the air, etc. etc.
3 Al-Hajjaj’s tribal name was Al–Thakifi or descendant of Thakíf. According to Al–Mas’udi, he was son of Faríghah (the tall Beauty) by Yúsuf bin Ukayl the Thakafite and vint au monde tout difforme avec l’anus obstrué. As he refused the breast, Satan, in human form, advised suckling him with the blood of two black kids, a black buck-goat and a black snake; which had the desired effect.
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Prince of True Believers, Abd al-Malik bin Marwan, hearing of the lady’s beauty and loveliness, sent to ask her in marriage; and she wrote him in reply a letter, in which, after the glorification of Allah and benediction of His Prophet, she said, “But afterwards. Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that the dog hath lapped in the vase.” When the Caliph read her answer, he laughed and wrote to her, citing his saying (whom may Allah bless and keep!) “If a dog lap in the vessel of one of you, let him wash seven times, once thereof with earth,” and adding, “Wash the affront from the place of use.”1 With this she could not gainsay him; so she replied to him, saying (after praise and blessing), “O Commander of the Faithful I will not consent save on one condition, and if thou ask me what it is, I reply that Al–Hajjaj lead my camel to the town where thou tarriest barefoot and clad as he is.”2 When the Caliph read her letter, he laughed long and loudly and sent to Al–Hajjaj, bidding him to do as she wished. He dared not disobey the order, so he submitted to the Caliph’s commandment and sent to Hind, telling her to make ready for the journey. So she made ready and mounted her litter, when Al–Hajjaj with his suite came up to Hind’s door and as she mounted and her damsels and eunuchs rode around her, he dismounted and took the halter of her camel and led it along, barefooted, whilst she and her damsels and tirewomen laughed and jeered at him and made mock of him. Then she said to her tirewoman, “Draw back the curtain of the litter;” and she drew back the curtain, till Hind was face to face with Al–Hajjaj, whereupon she laughed at him and he improvised this couplet,
“Though now thou jeer, O Hind, how many a night
I’ve left thee wakeful sighing for the light.”
And she answered him with these two,
“We reck not, an our life escape from bane,
For waste of wealth and gear that went in vain:
Money may be regained and rank re-won
When one is cured of malady and pain.”
And she ceased not to laugh at him and make sport of him, till they drew near the city of the Caliph, when she threw down a dinar with her own hand and said to Al–Hajjaj, “O camel-driver, I have dropped a dirham; look for it and give it to me.” So he looked and seeing naught but the dinar, said, “This is a dinar.” She replied, “Nay, ’tis a dirham.” But he said, “This is a dinar.” Then quoth she, “Praise be Allah who hath given us in exchange for a paltry dirham a dinar! Give it us.” And Al–Hajjaj was abashed at this. Then he carried her to the palace of the Commander of the Faithful, and she went in to him and became his favourite. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that men also tell a tale anent
There lived once, in the days of the Caliph Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik2 a man of the Banu Asad, by name Khuzaymah bin Bishr, who was famed for bounty and abundant wealth and excellence and righteous dealing with his brethren. He continued thus till times grew strait with him and he became in need of the aid of those Moslem brethren on whom he had lavished favour and kindness. So they succoured him a while and then grew weary of him, which when he saw, he went in to his wife who was the daughter of his father’s brother, and said to her, “O my cousin, I find a change in my brethren; wherefore I am resolved to keep my house till death come to me.” So he shut his door and abode in his home, living on that which he had by him, till it was spent and he knew not what to do. Now Ikrimah al-Raba’í, surnamed Al–Fayyáz, governor of Mesopotamia,3 had known him, and one day, as he sat in his Audience-chamber, mention was made of Khuzaymah, whereupon quoth Ikrimah, “How is it with him?” And quoth they, “He is in a plight past telling, and hath shut his door and keepeth the house.” Ikrimah rejoined, “This cometh but of his excessive generosity: but how is it that Khuzaymah bin Bishr findeth nor comforter nor requiter?” And they replied, “He hath found naught of this.” So when it was night, Ikrimah took four thousand dinars and laid them in one purse; then, bidding saddle his beast, he mounted and rode privily to Khuzaymah’s house, attended only by one of his pages, carrying the money. When he came to the door, he alighted and taking the purse from the page made him withdraw afar off; after which he went up to the door and knocked. Khuzaymah came out to him, and he gave him the purse, saying, “Better thy case herewith.” He took it and finding it heavy put it from his hand and laying hold of the bridle of Ikrimah’s horse, asked, “Who art thou? My soul be thy ransom!” Answered Ikrimah, “O man I come not to thee at a time like this desiring that thou shouldst know me.” Khuzaymah rejoined, “I will not let thee go till thou make thyself known to me,” whereupon Ikrimah said “I am hight Jabir Atharat al-Kiram.”4 Quoth Khuzaymah, “Tell me more.” But Ikrimah cried, “No,” and fared forth, whilst Khuzaymah went in to his cousin and said to her, “Rejoice for Allah hath sent us speedy relief and wealth; if these be but dirhams, yet are they many. Arise and light the lamp.” She said, “I have not wherewithal to light it.” So he spent the night handling the coins and felt by their roughness that they were dinars, but could not credit it. Meanwhile Ikrimah returned to his own house and found that his wife had missed him and asked for him, and when they told her of his riding forth, she misdoubted of him, and said to him, “Verily the Wali of Al–Jazirah rideth not abroad after such an hour of the night, unattended and secretly, save to a wife or a mistress.” He answered, “Allah knoweth that I went not forth to either of these.” “Tell me then wherefore thou wentest forth?” “I went not forth at this hour save that none should know it.” “I must needs be told.” “Wilt thou keep the matter secret, if I tell thee?” “Yes!” So he told her the state of the case, adding, “Wilt thou have me swear to thee?” Answered she, “No, no, my heart is set at ease and trusteth in that which thou hast told me.” As for Khuzaymah, soon as it was day he made his peace with his creditors and set his affairs in order; after which he got him ready and set out for the Court of Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik, who was then sojourning in Palestine.5 When he came to the royal gate, he sought admission of the chamberlain, who went in and told the Caliph of his presence. Now he was renowned for his beneficence and Sulayman knew of him; so he bade admit him. When he entered, he saluted the Caliph after the usual fashion of saluting6 and the King asked, “O Khuzaymah, what hath kept thee so long from us?” Answered he, “Evil case,” and quoth the Caliph, “What hindered thee from having recourse to us?” Quoth he, “My infirmity, O Commander of the Faithful!” “And why,” said Sulayman, “comest thou to us now?” Khuzaymah replied, “Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that I was sitting one night late in my house, when a man knocked at the door and did thus and thus;” and he went on to tell him of all that had passed between Ikrimah and himself from first to last. Sulayman asked, “Knowest thou the man?” and Khuzaymah answered, “No, O Commander of the Faithful, he was reserved7 and would say naught save, ‘I am hight Jabir Atharat al-Kiram.’” When Sulayman heard this, his heart burned within him for anxiety to discover the man, and he said, “If we knew him, truly we would requite him for his generosity.” Then he bound for Khuzaymah a banner8 and made him Governor of Mesopotamia, in the stead of Ikrimah Al–Fayyaz; and he set out for Al–Jazirah. When he drew near the city, Ikrimah and the people of the place came forth to meet him and they saluted each other and went on into the town, where Khuzaymah took up his lodging in the Government-house and bade take security for Ikrimah and that he should be called to account.9 So an account was taken against him and he was found to be in default for much money; whereupon Khuzaymah required of him payment, but he said, “I have no means of paying aught.” Quoth Khuzaymah, “It must be paid;” and quoth Ikrimah, “I have it not; do what thou hast to do.” So Khuzaymah ordered him to gaol. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 i.e. “The overflowing,” with benefits; on account of his generosity.
2 The seventh Ommiade A. H. 96–99 (715–719). He died of his fine appetite after eating at a sitting a lamb, six fowls, seventy pomegranates, and 11 1/4 lbs. of currants. He was also proud of his youth and beauty and was wont to say, “Mohammed was the Apostle and Abu Bakr witness to the Truth; Omar the Discriminator and Othman the Bashful, Mu’awiyah the Mild and Yazid the Patient; Abd al-Malik the Administrator and Walid the Tyrant; but I am the Young King!”
3 Arab. Al–Jazírah, “the Island;” name of the region and the capital.
4 i.e. “Repairer of the Slips of the Generous,” an evasive reply, which of course did not deceive the questioner.
5 Arab. “Falastín,” now obsolete. The word has echoed far west and the name of the noble race has been degraded to “Philister,” a bourgeois, a greasy burgher.
6 Saying, “The Peace be with thee, O Prince of True Believers!”
7 Arab. “Mutanakkir,” which may also mean proud or in disguise.
8 On appointment as viceroy. See vol. iii 307.
9 The custom with outgoing Governors. It was adopted by the Spaniards and Portuguese especially in America. The generosity of Ikrimah without the slightest regard to justice or common honesty is characteristic of the Arab in story-books.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Khuzaymah, having ordered the imprisonment of Ikrimah Al–Fayyaz, sent to him again to demand payment of the debt; but he replied, “I am not of those who preserve their wealth at the expense of their honour; do what thou wilt.” Then Khuzaymah bade load him with irons and kept him in prison a month or more, till confinement began to tell upon him and he became wasted. After this, tidings of his plight travelled to the daughter of his uncle who was troubled with sore concern thereat and, sending for a freedwoman of hers, a woman of abundant judgment, and experience, said to her, “Go forthwith to the Emir Khuzaymah’s gate and say, ‘I have a counsel for the Emir.’ If they ask what it is, add, ‘I will not tell it save to himself’; and when thou enterest to him, beg to see him in private and when private ask him, ‘What be this deed thou hast done? Hath Jabir Atharat al-Kiram deserved of thee no better reward than to be cast into strait prison and hard bond of irons?’” The woman did as she was bid, and when Khuzaymah heard her words, he cried out at the top of his voice, saying, “Alas, the baseness of it! Was it indeed he?” And she answered, “Yes.” Then he bade saddle his beast forthwith and, summoning the honourable men of the city, repaired with them to the prison and opening the door, went in with them to Ikrimah, whom they found sitting in evil case, worn out and wasted with blows and misery. When he looked at Khuzaymah, he was abashed and hung his head; but the other bent down to him and kissed his face; whereupon he raised his head and asked, “What maketh thee do this?” Answered Khuzaymah, “The generosity of thy dealing and the vileness of my requital.” And Ikrimah said, “Allah pardon us and thee!” Then Khuzaymah commanded the jailor to strike off Ikrimah’s fetters and clap them on his own feet; but Ikrimah said, “What is this thou wilt do?” Quoth the other, “I have a mind to suffer what thou hast suffered.” Quoth Ikrimah, “I conjure thee by Allah, do not so!” Then they went out together and returned to Khuzaymah’s house, where Ikrimah would have farewelled him and wended his way; but he forbade him and Ikrimah said, “What is thy will of me?” Replied Khuzaymah, “I wish to change thy case, for my shame before the daughter of thine uncle is yet greater than my shame before thee.” So he bade clear the bath and entering with Ikrimah, served him there in person and when they went forth be bestowed on him a splendid robe of honour and mounted him and gave him much money. Then he carried him to his house and asked his leave to make his excuses to his wife and obtained her pardon. After this he besought him to accompany him to the Caliph who was then abiding at Ramlah1 and he agreed. So they journeyed thither, and when they reached the royal quarters the chamberlain went in and acquainted the Caliph Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik with Khuzaymah’s arrival, whereat he was troubled and said, “What! is the Governor of Mesopotamia come without our command? This can be only on some grave occasion.” Then he bade admit him and said, before saluting him, “What is behind thee, O Khuzaymah?” Replied he, “Good, O Commander of the Faithful.” Asked Sulayman, “What bringeth thee?”; and he answered, saying, “I have discovered Jabir Atharat al-Kiram and thought to gladden thee with him, knowing thine excessive desire to know him and thy longing to see him.” “Who is he?” quoth the Caliph and quoth Khuzaymah, “He is Ikrimah Al–Fayyaz.” So Sulayman called for Ikrimah, who approached and saluted him as Caliph; and the King welcomed him and making him draw near his sitting-place, said to him, “O Ikrimah, thy good deed to him hath brought thee naught but evil,” adding, “Now write down in a note thy needs each and every, and that which thou desirest.” He did so and the Caliph commanded to do all that he required and that forthwith. Moreover he gave him ten thousand dinars more than he asked for and twenty chests of clothes over and above that he sought, and calling for a spear, bound him a banner and made him Governor over Armenia and Azarbiján2 and Mesopotamia, saying, “Khuzaymah’s case is in thy hands, an thou wilt, continue him in his office, and if thou wilt, degrade him.” And Ikrimah said, “Nay, but I restore him to his office, O Commander of the Faithful.” Then they went out from him and ceased not to be Governors under Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik all the days of his Caliphate. And they also tell a tale of
There lived in the reign of the Caliph Hishám, 1 son of Abd al-Malik, a man called Yúnus the Scribe well-known to the general, and he set out one day on a journey to Damascus, having with him a slave-girl of surpassing beauty and loveliness, whom he had taught all that was needful to her and whose price was an hundred thousand dirhams. When they drew near to Damascus, the caravan halted by the side of a lake and Yunus went down to a quiet place with his damsel and took out some victual he had with him and a leather bottle of wine. As he sat at meat, behold, came up a young man of goodly favour and dignified presence, mounted on a sorrel horse and followed by two eunuchs, and said to him, “Wilt thou accept me to guest?” “Yes,” replied Yunus. So the stranger alighted and said, “Give me to drink of thy wine.” Yunus gave him to drink and he said, “If it please thee, sing us a song.” So Yunus sang this couplet extempore,
“She joineth charms were never seen conjoined in mortal dress:
And for her love she makes me love my tears and wakefulness.”
At which the stranger rejoiced with exceeding joy and Yunus gave him to drink again and again, till the wine got the better of him and he said, “Bid thy slave-girl sing.” So she improvised this couplet,
“A houri, by whose charms my heart is moved to sore distress:
Nor wand of tree nor sun nor moon her rivals I confess!”
The stranger was overjoyed with this and they sat drinking till nightfall, when they prayed the evening-prayer and the youth said to Yunus, “What bringeth thee to our city?” He replied, “Quest of wherewithal to pay my debts and better my case.” Quoth the other, “Wilt thou sell me this slave-girl for thirty thousand dirhams?” Whereto quoth Yunus, “I must have more than that.” He asked, “Will forty thousand content thee?”; but Yunus answered, “That would only settle my debts, and I should remain empty-handed.” Rejoined the stranger, “We will take her of thee of fifty thousand dirhams2 and give thee a suit of clothes to boot and the expenses of thy journey and make thee a sharer in my condition as long as thou livest.” Cried Yunus, “I sell her to thee on these terms.” Then said the young man, “Wilt thou trust me to bring thee the money to-morrow and let me take her with me, or shall she abide with thee till I pay down her price?” Whereto wine and shame and awe of the stranger led Yunus to reply, “I will trust thee; take her and Allah bless thee in her!” Whereupon the visitor bade one of his pages sit her before him on his beast, and mounting his own horse, farewelled of Yunus and rode away out of sight. Hardly had he left him, when the seller bethought himself and knew that he had erred in selling her and said to himself, “What have I done? I have delivered my slave-girl to a man with whom I am unacquainted, neither know I who he is; and grant that I were acquainted with him, how am I to get at him?” So he abode in thought till the morning, when he prayed the dawn-prayers and his companions entered Damascus, whilst he sat, perplexed and wotting not what to do, till the sun scorched him and it irked him to abide there. He thought to enter the city, but said in his mind, “If I enter Damascus, I cannot be sure but that the messenger will come and find me not, in which case I shall have sinned against myself a second sin.” Accordingly he sat down in the shade of a wall that was there, and towards the wane of day, up came one of the eunuchs whom he had seen with the young man, whereat great joy possessed Yunus and he said in himself, “I know not that aught hath ever given me more delight than the sight of this castrato.” When the eunuch reached him, he said to him, “O my lord, we have kept thee long waiting”; but Yunus disclosed nothing to him of the torments of anxiety he had suffered. Then quoth the castrato, “Knowest thou the man who bought the girl of thee?”; and quoth Yunus, “No,” to which the other rejoined, “’Twas Walid bin Sahl,3 the Heir Apparent.” And Yunus was silent. Then said the eunuch, “Ride,” and made him mount a horse he had with him and they rode till they came to a mansion, where they dismounted and entered. Here Yunus found the damsel, who sprang up at his sight and saluted him. He asked her how she had fared with him who had bought her and she answered, “He lodged me in this apartment and ordered me all I needed.” Then he sat with her awhile, till suddenly one of the servants of the houseowner came in and bade him rise and follow him. So he followed the man into the presence of his master and found him yesternight’s guest, whom he saw seated on his couch and who said to him, “Who art thou?” “I am Yunus the Scribe.” “Welcome to thee, O Yunus! by Allah, I have long wished to look on thee; for I have heard of thy report. How didst thou pass the night?” “Well, may Almighty Allah advance thee!” “Peradventure thou repentedest thee of that thou didst yesterday and saidst to thyself: I have delivered my slave-girl to a man with who I am not acquainted, neither know I his name nor whence he cometh?” “Allah forbid, O Emir, that I should repent over her! Had I made gift of her to the Prince, she were the least of the gifts that are given unto him,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Tenth Ommiade A.H. 105–125 (=724–743), a wise and discreet ruler with an inclination to avarice and asceticism. According to some, the Ommiades produced only three statesmen, Mu’awayah, Abd al-Malik and Hisham; and the reign of the latter was the end of sage government and wise administration.
2 About £1,250, which seems a long price; but in those days Damascus had been enriched with the spoils of the world adjacent.
3 Eleventh Ommiade dynasty, A.H. 125–126 (=743–744). Ibn Sahl (son of ease, i.e. free and easy) was a nickname; he was the son of Yazíd II. and brother of Hishám. He scandalised the lieges by his profligacy, wishing to make the pilgrimage in order to drink upon the Ka’abah-roof; so they attacked the palace and lynched him. His death is supposed to have been brought about (27th of Jamáda al-Akhirah = April 16, 744) by his cousin and successor Yazíd (No. iii.) surnamed the Retrencher. The tale in the text speaks well for him; but generosity amongst the Arabs covers a multitude of sins, and people say, “Better a liberal sinner than a stingy saint.”
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Yunus the Scribe said to Walid, “Allah forbid I should repent over her! Had I made gift of her to the Prince, she were the least of gifts that are given to him, nor indeed is she worthy of his rank,” Walid rejoined, “By Allah, but I repented me of having carried her away from thee and said to myself, ‘This man is a stranger and knoweth me not, and I have taken him by surprise and acted inconsiderately by him, in my haste to take the damsel!’ Dost thou recall what passed between us?” Quoth Yunus, “Yes!” and quoth Walid, “Dost thou sell this damsel to me for fifty thousand dirhams?” And Yunus said, “I do.” Then the Prince called to one of his servants to bring him fifty thousand dirhams and a thousand and five hundred dinars to boot, and gave them all to Yunus, saying, “Take the slave’s price: the thousand dinars are for thy fair opinion of us and the five hundred are for thy viaticum and for what present thou shalt buy for thy people. Art thou content?” “I am content,” answered Yunus and kissed his hands, saying, “By Allah, thou hast filled my eyes and my hands and my heart!” Quoth Walid, “By Allah, I have as yet had no privacy of her nor have I taken my fill of her singing. Bring her to me!” So she came and he bade her sit, then said to her, “Sing.” And she sang these verses,
“O thou who dost comprise all Beauty’s boons!
O sweet of nature, fain of coquetry!
In Turks and Arabs many beauties dwell;
But, O my fawn, in none thy charms I see.
Turn to thy lover, O my fair, and keep
Thy word, though but in visioned phantasy:
Shame and disgrace are lawful for thy sake
And wakeful nights full fill with joy and glee:
I’m not the first for thee who fared distraught;
Slain by thy love how many a many be!
I am content with thee for worldly share
Dearer than life and good art thou to me!”
When he heard this, he was delighted exceedingly and praised Yunus for his excellent teaching of her and her fair education. Then he bade his servants bring him a roadster with saddle and housings for his riding, and a mule to carry his gear, and said to him, “O Yunus, when it shall reach thee that command hath come to me, do thou join me; and, by Allah, I will fill thy hands with good and advance thee to honour and make thee rich as long as thou livest!” So Yunus said, “I took his goods and went my ways; and when Walid succeeded to the Caliphate, I repaired to him; and by Allah, he kept his promise and entreated me with high honour and munificence. Then I abode with him in all content of case and rise of rank and mine affairs prospered and my wealth increased and goods and farms became mine, such as sufficed me and will suffice my heirs after me; nor did I cease to abide with Walid, till he was slain, the mercy of Almighty Allah be on him!” And men tell a tale concerning
The Caliph Harun al-Rashid was walking one day with Ja’afar the Barmecide, when he espied a company of girls drawing water and went up to them, having a mind to drink. As he drew near, one of them turned to her fellows and improvised these lines,
“Thy phantom bid thou fleet, and fly
Far from the couch whereon
So I may rest and quench the fire,
Bonfire in bones aye flaming high;
My love-sick form Love’s restless palm
Rolls o’er the rug whereon I sigh:
How ’tis with me thou wottest well
How long, then, union wilt deny?”
The Caliph marvelled at her elegance and eloquence. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph, hearing the girl’s verses, marvelled at her elegance and eloquence, and said to her, “O daughter of nobles, are these thine own or a quotation?” Replied she, “They are my very own,” and he rejoined, “An thou say sooth keep the sense and change the rhyme.” So she said,
“Bid thou thy phantom distance keep
And quit this couch the while I sleep;
So I may rest and quench the flames
Through all my body rageful creep,
In love-sick one, whom passion’s palms
Roll o’er the bed where grief I weep;
How ’tis with me thou wottest well;
All but thy union hold I cheap!”
Quoth the Caliph, “This also is stolen”; and quoth she, “Nay, ’tis my very own.” He said, “If it be indeed thine own, change the rhyme again and keep the sense.” So she recited the following,
“Unto thy phantom deal behest
To shun my couch the while I rest,
So I repose and quench the fire
That burns what lieth in my breast,
My weary form Love’s restless palm
Rolls o’er with boon of sleep unblest.
How ’tis with me thou wottest well
When union’s bought ’tis haply best!”
Quoth Al–Rashid, “This too is stolen”; and quoth she, “Not, so, ’tis mine.” He said, “If thy words be true change the rhyme once more.” And she recited,
“Drive off the ghost that ever shows
Beside my couch when I’d repose,
So I may rest and quench the fire
Beneath my ribs e’er flames and glows
In love-sick one, whom passion’s palms
Roll o’er the couch where weeping flows.
How ’tis with me thou wottest well
Will union come as union goes?”
Then said the Caliph, “Of what part of this camp art thou?”; and she replied, “Of its middle in dwelling and of its highest in tentpoles.”1 Wherefore he knew that she was the daughter of the tribal chief. “And thou,” quoth she, “of what art thou among the guardians of the horses?”; and quoth he, “Of the highest in tree and of the ripest in fruit.” “Allah protect thee, O Commander of the Faithful!” said she, and kissing ground called down blessings on him. Then she went away with the maidens of the Arabs, and the Caliph said to Ja’afar, “There is no help for it but I take her to wife.” So Ja’afar repaired to her father and said to him, “The Commander of the Faithful hath a mind to thy daughter.” He replied, “With love and goodwill, she is a gift as a handmaid to His Highness our Lord the Commander of the Faithful.” So he equipped her and carried her to the Caliph, who took her to wife and went in to her, and she became of the dearest of his women to him. Furthermore, he bestowed on her father largesse such as succoured him among Arabs, till he was transported to the mercy of Almighty Allah. The Caliph, hearing of his death, went in to her greatly troubled; and, when she saw him looking afflicted, she entered her chamber and doffing all that was upon her of rich raiment, donned mourning apparel and raised lament for her father. It was said to her, “What is the reason of this?”; and she replied, “My father is dead.” So they repaired to the Caliph and told him and he rose and going in to her, asked her who had informed her of her father’s death; and she answered “It was thy face, O Commander of the Faithful!” Said he, “How so?”; and she said, “Since I have been with thee, I never saw thee on such wise till this time, and there was none for whom I feared save my father, by reason of his great age; but may thy head live, O Commander of the Faithful!” The Caliph’s eyes filled with tears and he condoled with her; but she ceased not to mourn for her father, till she followed him — Allah have mercy on the twain! And a tale is also told of
1 The tents of black wool woven by the Badawi women are generally supported by three parallel rows of poles lengthways and crossways (the highest line being the central) and the covering is pegged down. Thus the outline of the roofs forms two or more hanging curves, and these characterise the architecture of the Tartars and Chinese; they are still preserved in the Turkish (and sometimes in the European) “Kiosque,” and they have extended to the Brazil where the upturned eaves, often painted vermilion below, at once attract the traveller’s notice.
The Commander of the Faithful Harun Al–Rashid was exceeding restless one night and rising from his bed, paced from chamber to chamber, but could not compose himself to sleep. As soon as it was day, he said, “Fetch me Al–Asma’i!”1 So the eunuch went out and told the doorkeepers; these sent for the poet and when he came, informed the Caliph who bade admit him and said to him, “O Asma’i, I wish thee to tell me the best thou hast heard of stories of women and their verses.” Answered Al–Asma’i, “Hearkening and obedience! I have heard great store of women’s verses; but none pleased me save three sets of couplets I once heard from three girls.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 See vol. iv., 159. The author of “Antar,” known to Englishmen by the old translation of Mr. Terrick Hamilton, secretary of Legation at Constantinople. There is an abridgement of the forty-five volumes of Al–Asma’i’s “Antar” which mostly supplies or rather supplied the “Antariyyah” or professional tale-tellers; whose theme was the heroic Mulatto lover.
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Al- Asma’i said to the Prince of True Believers, “Verily I have heard much, but nothing pleased me save three sets of couplets improvised by as many girls.” Quoth the Caliph, “Tell me of them,” and quoth he, “Know then, O Commander of the Faithful, that I once abode in Bassorah, and one day, as I was walking, the heat was sore upon me and I sought for a siesta-place but found none. However by looking right and left I came upon a porch swept and sprinkled, at the upper end whereof was a wooden bench under an open lattice-window, whence exhaled a scent of musk. I entered the porch and sitting down on the bench, would have stretcht me at full length when I heard from within a girl’s sweet voice talking and saying, ‘O my sisters, we are here seated to spend our day in friendly converse; so come, let us each put down an hundred dinars and recite a line of verse; and whoso extemporiseth the goodliest and sweetest line, the three hundred dinars shall be hers.’ ‘With love and gladness,’ said the others; and the eldest recited the first couplet which is this,
‘Would he come to my bed during sleep ’twere delight
But a visit on wake were delightsomer sight!’
Quoth the second,
‘Naught came to salute me in sleep save his shade
But ‘welcome, fair welcome,’ I cried to the spright!’
Then said the youngest,
‘My soul and my folk I engage for the youth
Musk-scented I see in my bed every night!’
Quoth I, ‘An she be fair as her verse hath grace, the thing is complete in every case.’ Then I came down from my bench1 and was about to go away, when behold, the door opened and out came a slave-girl, who said to me, ‘Sit, O Shaykh!’ So I climbed up and sat down again when she gave me a scroll, wherein was written, in characters of the utmost beauty, with straight Alifs,2 big-bellied Has, and rounded Waws, the following, ‘We would have the Shaykh (Allah lengthen his days!) to know that we are three maidens, sisters, sitting in friendly converse, who have laid down each an hundred dinars, conditioning that whoso recite the goodliest and sweetest couplet shall have the whole three hundred dinars; and we appoint thee umpire between us: so decide as thou seest best, and the Peace be on thee! Quoth I to the girl, ‘Here to me inkcase and paper.’ So she went in and, returning after a little, brought me a silvered inkcase and gilded pens3 with which I wrote these couplets,
They talked of three beauties whose converse was quite
Like the talk of a man with experience dight:
Three maidens who borrowed the bloom of the dawn
Making hearts of their lovers in sorriest plight.
They were hidden from eyes of the prier and spy
Who slept and their modesty mote not affright;
So they opened whatever lay hid in their hearts
And in frolicsome fun began verse to indite.
Quoth one fair coquette with her amorous grace
Whose teeth for the sweet of her speech flashed bright:—
Would he come to my bed during sleep ’twere delight
But a visit on wake were delightsomer sight!
When she ended, her verse by her smiling was gilt:
Then the second ‘gan singing as nightingale might:—
Naught came to salute me in sleep save his shade
But ‘welcome, fair welcome,’ I cried to the spright!
But the third I preferred for she said in reply,
With expression most apposite, exquisite:—
My soul and my folk I engage for the youth
Musk-scented I see in my bed every night!
So when I considered their words to decide,
And not make me the mock of the cynical wight;
I pronounced for the youngest, declaring her verse
Of all verses be that which is nearest the right.’
Then I gave scroll to the slave-girl, who went upsatirs with it, and behold, I heard a noise of dancing and clapping of hands and Doomsday astir. Quoth I to myself, ‘’Tis no time of me to stay here.’ So I came down from the platform and was about to go away, when the damsel cried out to me, ‘Sit down, O Asma’i!’ Asked I, ‘Who gave thee to know that I was Al–Asma’i?’ and she answered, ‘O Shaykh, an thy name be unknown to us, thy poetry is not!’ So I sat down again and suddently the door opened and out came the first damsel, with a dish of fruits and another of sweetmeats. I ate of both and praised their fashion and would have ganged my gait; but she cried out, ‘Sit down, O Asma’i!’ Wherewith I raised my eyes to her and saw a rosy palm in a saffron sleeve, meseemed it was the full moon rising splendid in the cloudy East. Then she threw me a purse containing three hundred dinars and said to me, ‘This is mine and I give it to thee by way of douceur in requital of thy judgment.’” Quoth the Caliph, “Why didst thou decide for the youngest?” and quoth Al–Asma’i, “O Commander of the Faithful, whose life Allah prolong! the eldest said, ‘I should delight in him, if he visited my couch in sleep.’ Now this is restricted and dependent upon a condition which may befal or may not befal; whilst, for the second, an image of dreams came to her in sleep, and she saluted it; but the youngest’s couplet said that she actually lay with her lover and smelt his breath sweeter than musk and she engaged her soul and her folk for him, which she had not done, were he not dearer to her than her sprite.” Said the Caliph, “Thou didst well, O Asma’i.” and gave him other three hundred ducats in payment of his story. And I have heard a tale concerning
1 The “Dakkah” or long wooden sofa, as opposed to the “mastabah” or stone bench, is often a tall platform and in mosques is a kind of ambo railed round and supported by columns. Here readers recite the Koran: Lane (M.E. chapt. iii.) sketches it in the “Interior of a Mosque.”
2 Alif, Ha and Waw, the first, twenty-seventh and twenty-sixth letters of the Arabic alphabet: No. 1 is the most simple and difficult to write caligraphically.
3 Reeds washed with gold and used for love-letters, &c.
Quoth Abu Ishak Ibrahim al-Mausili:— I asked Al–Rashid once to give me a day’s leave that I might be private with the people of my household and my brethren, and he gave me leave for Saturday the Sabbath. So I went home and betook myself to making ready meat and drink and other necessaires and bade the doorkeepers shut the doors and let none come in to me. However, presently, as I sat in my sitting-chamber, with my women who were looking after my wants, behold, there appeared an old man of comely and reverend aspect,2 clad in white clothes and a shirt of fine stuff with a doctor’s turband on his head and a silver- handled staff in his hand, and the house and porch were full of the perfumes wherewith he was scented. I was greatly vexed at his coming in to me and thought to turn away the doorkeepers; but he saluted me after the goodliest fashion and I returned his greeting and bade him be seated. So he sat down and began entertaining me with stories of the Arabs and their verses, till my anger left me and methought my servants had sought to pleasure me by admitting a man of such good breeding and fine culture. Then I asked him, “Art thou for meat?”; and he answered, “I have no need of it.” “And for drink?” quoth I, and quoth he, “That is as thou wilt.” So I drank off a pint of wine and poured him out the like. Then said he, “O Abu Ishak, wilt thou sing us somewhat, so we may hear of thine art that wherein thou excellest high and low?” His words angered me; but I swallowed my anger and taking the lute played and sang. “Well done, O Abu Ishak!”3 said he; whereat my wrath redoubled and I said to myself, “Is it not enough that he should intrude upon me, without my leave, and importune me thus, but he must call me by name, as though he knew not the right way to address me?” Quoth he, “An thou wilt sing something more we will requite thee.” I dissembled my annoyance and took the lute and sang again, taking pains with what I sang and rising thereto altogether, in consideration of his saying, “We will requite thee.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Lane introduced this tale into vol. i., p. 223, notes on chapt. iii., apparently not knowing that it was in The Nights. He gives a mere abstract, omitting all the verse, and he borrowed it either from the Halbat al-Kumayt (chapt. xiv.) or from Al–Mas’údí (chapt. cxi.). See the French translation, vol. vi. p. 340. I am at pains to understand why M. C. Barbier de Maynard writes “Réchid” with an accented vowel; although French delicacy made him render, by “fils de courtisane,” the expression in the text, “O biter of thy mother’s enlarged (or uncircumcised) clitoris” (Bazar).
2 In Al–Mas’údi the Devil is “a young man fair of favour and formous of figure,” which is more appropriate to a “Tempter.” He also wears light stuffs of dyed silks.
3 It would have been more courteous in an utter stranger to say, O my lord.
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Shaykh said to Abu Ishak, “If thou wilt sing something more we will requite thee,” I dissembled my annoyance (continued Ibrahim) and, taking the lute, sang again with great attention to my singing and rising altogether thereto, in consideration of his saying, “We will requite thee.” He was delighted, and cried, “Well done, O my lord!”; presently adding, “Dost thou give me leave to sing?” “As thou wilt,” answered I, deeming him weak of wit, in that he should think to sing in my presence, after that which he had heard from me. So he took the lute and swept the strings, and by Allah, I fancied they spoke in Arabic tongue, with a sweet and liquid and murmurous voice; then he began and sang these couplets,
“I bear a hurt heart, who will sell me for this
A heart whole and free from all canker and smart?
Nay, none will consent or to barter or buy
Such loss, ne’er from sorrow and sickness to part:
I groan wi’ the groaning of wine-wounded men
And pine for the pining ne’er freeth my heart.”
And by Allah, meseemed the doors and the walls and all that was in the house answered and sang with him, for the beauty of his voice, so that I fancied my very limbs and clothes replied to him, and I abode amazed and unable to speak or move, for the trouble of my heart. Then he sang these couplets,
“Culvers of Liwa!1 to your nests return;
Your mournful voices thrill this heart of mine
Then back a-copse they flew, and well-nigh took
My life and made me tell my secret pine.
With cooing call they one who’s gone, as though
Their breasts were maddened with the rage of wine:
Ne’er did mine eyes their like for culvers see
Who weep yet tear-drops never dye their eyne.”
And also these couplets,
“O Zephyr of Najd, when from Najd thou blow,
Thy breathings heap only new woe on woe!
The turtle bespake me in bloom of morn
From the cassia-twig an the willow-bough
She moaned with the moaning of love-sick youth
And exposed love-secret I ne’er would show:
They say lover wearies of love when near
And is cured of love an afar he go:
I tried either cure which ne’er cured my love;
But that nearness is better than farness I know:2
Yet — the nearness of love shall no ‘vantage prove
An whoso thou lovest deny thee of love.”
Then said he, “O Ibrahim, sing this song after me, and preserving the mode thereof in thy singing, teach it to thy slave-girls.” Quoth I, “Repeat it to me.” But he answered, “There needs no repetition; thou hast it by heart nor is there more to learn.” Then he suddenly vanished from my sight. At this I was amazed and running to my sword drew it and made for the door of the Harim, but found it closed and said to the women, “What have ye heard?” Quoth they, “We have heard the sweetest of singing and the goodliest.” Then I went forth amazed, to the house-door and, finding it locked, questioned the doorkeepers of the old man. They replied, “What old man? By Allah, no one hath gone in to thee this day!” So I returned pondering the matter, when, behold, there arose from one of the corners of the house, a Vox et praeterea nihil, saying, “O Abu Ishak, no harm shall befal thee. ’Tis I, Abú Murrah,3 who have been thy cup-companion this day, so fear nothing!” Then I mounted and rode to the palace, where I told Al–Rashid what had passed, and he said, “Repeat to me the airs thou heardest from him.” So I took the lute and played and sang them to him; for, behold, they were rooted in my heart. The Caliph was charmed with them and drank thereto, albeit he was no confirmed wine-bibber, saying, “Would he would some day pleasure us with his company, as he hath pleasured thee!”4 Then he ordered me a present and I took it and went away. And men relate this story anent
1 The Arab Tempe (of fiction, not of grisly fact).
2 These four lines are in Al–Mas’údi, chapt, cxviii. Fr. Trans. vii. 313, but that author does not tell us who wrote them.
3 i.e. Father of Bitterness=the Devil. This legend of the Foul Fiend appearing to Ibrahim of Mosul (and also to Isam, N. dcxcv.) seems to have been accepted by contemporaries and reminds us of similar visitations in Europe — notably to Dr. Faust. One can only exclaim, “Lor, papa, what nonsense you are talking!” the words of a small girl whose father thought proper to indoctrinate her into certain Biblical stories. I once began to write a biography of the Devil; but I found that European folk-lore had made such an unmitigated fool of the grand old Typhon–Ahriman as to take away from him all human interest.
4 In Al–Mas’udi the Caliph exclaims, “Verily thou hast received a visit from Satan!”
Quoth Masrur the Eunuch, “The Caliph Harun Al–Rashid was very wakeful one night and said to me, ‘See which of the poets is at the door to-night.’ So I went out and finding Jamíl bin Ma’amar al-Uzrí2 in the antechamber, said to him, ‘Answer the Commander of the Faithful.’ Quoth he, ‘I hear and I obey,’ and going in with me, saluted the Caliph, who returned his greeting and bade him sit down. Then he said to him, ‘O, Jamil, hast thou any of thy wonderful new stories to tell us?’ He replied, ‘Yes, O Commander of the Faithful: wouldst thou fainer hear that which I have seen with mine eyes or that which I have only heard?’ Quoth the Caliph, ‘Tell me something thou hast actually beheld.’ Quoth Jamil, ‘’Tis well, O Prince of True Believers; incline thy heart to me and lend me thine ears.’ The Caliph took a bolster of red brocade, purfled with gold and stuffed with ostrich-feathers and, laying it under his thighs, propped up both elbows thereon; then he said to Jamil, ‘Now3 for thy tale, O Jamil!’ Thereupon he begun, ‘Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that I was once desperately enamoured of a certain girl and used to pay her frequent visits.’”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Al–Mas’udi, chapt. cxix. (Fr. transl. vii., 351) mentions the Banu Odhrah as famed for lovers and tells the pathetic tale of ‘Orwah and ‘Afrá.
2 Jamil bin Ma’amar the poet has been noticed in Vol. ii. 102; and he has no business here as he died years before Al–Rashid was born. The tale begins like that of Ibn Mansúr and the Lady Budúr (Night cccxxvii.), except that Mansur does not offer his advice.
3 Arab. “Halumma,” an interjection=bring! a congener of the Heb. “Halúm”; the grammarians of Kufah and Bassorah are divided concerning its origin.
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph had propped his elbows upon the brocaded cushion, he said, “Out with thy tale, O Jamil!” and the poet begun:— Know, O Commander of the Faithful, I was desperately in love with a girl and used often to visit her, because she was my desire and delight of all the things of this world. After a while, her people removed with her, by reason of scarcity of pasture, and I abode some time without seeing her, till I grew restless for desire and longed for her sight and the flesh1 urged me to journey to her. One night, I could hold out no longer; so I rose and saddling my she-camel, bound on my turban and donned my oldest dress.2 Then I baldricked myself with my sword and slinging my spear behind me, mounted and rode forth in quest of her. I fared on fast till, one night, it was pitch dark and exceeding black, yet I persisted in the hard task of climbing down Wadys and up hills, hearing on all sides the roaring of lions and howling of wolves and the cries of the wild beasts. My reason was troubled thereat and my heart sank within me; but for all that my tongue ceased not to call on the name of Almighty Allah. As I went along thus, sleep overtook me and the camel carried me aside out of my road, till, presently, something3 smote me on the head, and I woke, startled and alarmed, and found myself in a pasturage full of trees and streams and birds on the branches, warbling their various speech and notes. As the trees were tangled I alighted and, taking my camel’s halter in hand, fared on softly with her, till I got clear of the thick growth and came out into the open country, where I adjusted her saddle and mounted again, knowing not where to go nor whither the Fates should lead me; but, presently, peering afar into the desert, I espied a fire in its middle depth. So I smote my camel and made for the fire. When I drew near, I saw a tent pitched, and fronted by a spear stuck in the ground, with a pennon flying4 and horses tethered and camels feeding, and said in myself, “Doubtless there hangeth some grave matter by this tent, for I see none other than it in the desert.” So I went up thereto and said, “Peace be with you, O people of the tent, and the mercy of Allah and His Blessing!” Whereupon there came forth to me a young man as youths are when nineteen years old, who was like the full moon shining in the East, with valour written between his eyes, and answered, saying, “And with thee be the Peace, and Allah’s mercy and His blessing! O brother of the Arabs, methinks thou hast lost thy way?” Replied I, “Even so, direct me right, Allah have mercy on thee!” He rejoined, “O brother of the Arabs, of a truth this our land is infested with lions and the night is exceeding dark and dreary, beyond measure cold and gloomy, and I fear lest the wild beasts rend thee in pieces; wherefore do thou alight and abide with me this night in ease and comfort, and to-morrow I will put thee in the right way.” Accordingly, I dismounted and hobbled my she-camel with the end of her halter;5 then I put off my heavy upper clothes and sat down. Presently the young man took a sheep and slaughtered it and kindled a brisk fire; after which he went into the tent and bringing out finely powdered salt and spices, fell to cutting off pieces of mutton and roasting them over the fire and feeding me therewith, weeping at one while and sighing at another. Then he groaned heavily and wept sore and improvised these couplets,
“There remains to him naught save a flitting breath
And an eye whose babe ever wandereth.
There remains not a joint in his limbs, but what
Disease firm fixt ever tortureth.
His tears are flowing, his vitals burning;
Yet for all his tongue still he silenceth.
All foemen in pity beweep his woes;
Ah for freke whom the foeman pitieth!”
By this I knew, O Commander of the Faithful, that the youth was a distracted lover (for none knoweth passion save he who hath tasted the passion-savour), and quoth I to myself, “Shall I ask him?” But I consulted my judgment and said, “How shall I assail him with questioning, and I in his abode?” So I restrained myself and ate my sufficiency of the meat. When we had made an end of eating, the young man arose and entering the tent, brought out a handsome basin and ewer and a silken napkin, whose ends were purfled with red gold and a sprinkling-bottle full of rose-water mingled with musk. I marvelled at his dainty delicate ways and said in my mind, “Never wot I of delicacy in the desert.” Then we washed our hands and talked a while, after which he went into the tent and making a partition between himself and me with a piece of red brocade, said to me, “Enter, O Chief of the Arabs, and take thy rest; for thou hast suffered more of toil and travel than sufficeth this night and in this thy journey.” So I entered and finding a bed of green brocade, doffed my dress and passed a night such as I had never passed in my life. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Nafs-í” which here corresponds with our canting “the flesh” the “Old Adam,” &c.
2 Arab. “Atmárí” used for travel. The Anglo–Americans are the only people who have the common sense to travel (where they are not known) in their “store clothes” and reserve the worst for where they are known.
3 e.g. a branch or bough.
4 Arab. “Ráyah káimah,” which Lane translates a “beast standing”!
5 Tying up the near foreleg just above the knee; and even with this a camel can hop over sundry miles of ground in the course of a night. The hobbling is shown in Lane. (Nights vol. ii., p. 46.)
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Jamil spoke, saying:— Never in my life passed I a night like that. I pondered the young man’s case, till the world was dark and all eyes slept, when I was aroused by the sound of a low voice, never heard I a softer or sweeter. I raised the curtain which hung between us and saw a damsel (never beheld I a fairer of face), by the young man’s side and they were both weeping and complaining, one to other of the pangs of passion and desire and of the excess of their longing for union.1 Quoth I, “By Allah, I wonder who may be this second one! When I entered this tent, there was none therein save this young man.” And after reflection I added, “Doubtless this damsel is of the daughters of the Jinn and is enamoured of this youth; so they have secluded themselves with each other in this solitary place.” Then I considered her closely and behold, she was a mortal and an Arab girl, whose face, when she unveiled, shamed the shining sun, and the tent was lit up by the light of her countenance. When I was assured that she was his beloved, I bethought me of lover-jealousy; so I let drop the curtain and covering my face, fell asleep. As soon as it was dawn I arose and donning my clothes, made the Wuzu-ablution and prayed such prayers as are obligatory and which I had deferred. Then I said, “O brother of the Arabs, wilt thou direct me into the right road and thus add to thy favours?” He replied, “At thy leisure, O chief of the Arabs, the term of the guest-rite is three days,2 and I am not one to let thee go before that time.” So I abode with him three days, and on the fourth day as we sat talking, I asked him of his name and lineage. Quoth he “As for my lineage, I am of the Banu Odhrah; my name is such an one, son of such an one and my father’s brother is called such an one.” And behold, O Commander of the Faithful, he was the son of my paternal uncle and of the noblest house of the Banú Uzrah. Said I, “O my cousin, what moved thee to act on this wise, secluding thyself in the waste and leaving thy fair estate and that of thy father and thy slaves and handmaids?” When he heard my words, his eyes filled with tears and he replied, “Know, O my cousin, that I fell madly in love of the daughter of my father’s brother, fascinated by her, distracted for her, passion-possessed as by a Jinn, wholly unable to let her out of my sight. So I sought her in marriage of her sire, but he refused and married her to a man of the Banu Odhrah, who went in to her and carried her to his abiding-place this last year. When she was thus far removed from me and I was prevented from looking on her, the fiery pangs of passion and excess of love-longing and desire drove me to forsake my clan3 and friends and fortune and take up my abode in this desert, where I have grown used to my solitude.” I asked, “Where are their dwellings?” and he answered, “They are hard by, on the crest of yonder hill; and every night, at the dead time, when all eyes sleep, she stealeth secretly out of the camp, unseen of any one, and I satisfy my desire of her converse and she of mine.4 So I abide thus, solacing myself with her a part of the night, till Allah work out that which is to be wrought; either I shall compass my desire, in spite5 of the envious, or Allah will determine for me and He is the best of determinators.” Now when the youth told me his case, O Commander of the Faithful, I was concerned for him and perplexed by reason of my jealousy for his honour; so I said to him, “O son of my uncle, wilt thou that I point out to thee a plan and suggest to thee a project, whereby (please Allah) thou shalt find perfect welfare and the way of right and successful issue whereby the Almighty shall do away from thee that thou dreadest?” He replied, “Say on, O my cousin”; and quoth I, “When it is night and the girl cometh, set her on my she-camel which is swift of pace, and mount thou thy steed, whilst I bestride one of these dromedaries. So will we fare on all night and when the morrow morns, we shall have traversed wolds and wastes, and thou wilt have attained thy desire and won the beloved of thy heart. The Almighty’s earth is wide, and by Allah, I will back thee with heart and wealth and sword.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 As opposed to “Severance” in the old knightly language of love, which is now apparently lost to the world. I tried it in the Lyrics of Camoens and found that I was speaking a forgotten tongue, which mightily amused the common sort of critic and reviewer.
2 More exactly three days and eight hours, after which the guest becomes a friend, and as in the Argentine prairies is expected to do friend’s duty. The popular saying is, “The entertainment of a guest is three days; the viaticum (jáizah) is a day and a night, and whatso exceedeth this is alms.”
3 Arab. “‘Ashírah.” Books tell us there are seven degrees of connection among the Badawin: Sha’ab, tribe or rather race; nation (as the Anazah) descended from a common ancestor; Kabílah the tribe proper (whence les Kabyles); Fasílah (sept), Imarah; Ashirah (all a man’s connections); Fakhiz (lit. the thigh, i.e., his blood relations) and Batn (belly) his kith and kin. Practically Kabílah is the tribe, Ashírah the clan, and Bayt the household; while Hayy may be anything between tribe and kith and kin.
4 This is the true platonic love of noble Arabs, the Ishk ‘uzrí, noted in vol. ii., 104.
5 Arab. “‘Alá raghm,” a favourite term. It occurs in theology; for instance, when the Shí‘ahs are asked the cause of such and such a ritual distinction they will reply, “Ala raghmi ‘l-Tasannun”: lit.=to spite the Sunnis.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Jamil advised the elopement and night journey, promising his aid as long as he lived, the youth accepted and said, “O cousin, wait till I take counsel with her, for she is quick-witted and prudent and hath insight into affairs.” So (continued Jamil) when the night darkened and the hour of her coming arrived, and he awaiting her at the appointed tide, she delayed beyond her usual time, and I saw him go forth the door of the tent and opening his mouth, inhale the wafts of breeze that blew from her quarter, as if to snuff her perfume, and he repeated these two couplets:—
“Breeze of East who bringest me gentle air
From the place of sojourn where dwells my fair:
O Breeze, of the lover thou bearest sign,
Canst not of her coming some signal bear?”
Then he entered the tent and sat weeping awhile; after which he said to me, “O my cousin, some mischance must have betided the daughter of mine uncle, or some accident must have hindered her from coming to me this night,” presently adding, “But abide where thou art, till I bring thee the news.” And he took sword and shield and was absent a while of the night, after which he returned, carrying something in hand and called aloud to me. So I hastened to him and he said, “O my cousin, knowest thou what hath happened?” I replied, “No, by Allah!” Quoth he, “Verily, I am distraught concerning my cousin this night; for, as she was coming to me, a lion met her in the way and devoured her, and there remaineth of her but what thou seest.” So saying, he threw down what he had in his hand, and behold, it was the damsel’s turband and what was left of her bones. Then he wept sore and casting down his bow,1 took a bag and went forth again saying, “Stir not hence till I return to thee, if it please Almighty Allah.” He was absent a while and presently returned, bearing in his hand a lion’s head, which he threw on the ground and called for water. So I brought him water, with which he washed the lion’s mouth and fell to kissing it and weeping; and he mourned for her exceedingly and recited these couplets,
“Ho thou lion who broughtest thyself to woe,
Thou art slain and worse sorrows my bosom rend!
Thou hast reft me of fairest companionship,
Made her home Earth’s womb till the world shall end.
To Time, who hath wrought me such grief, I say,
‘Allah grant in her stead never show a friend!’”
Then said he to me, “O cousin, I conjure thee by Allah and the claims of kindred and consanguinity2 between us, keep thou my charge. Thou wilt presently see me dead before thee; whereupon do thou wash me and shroud me and these that remain of my cousin’s bones in this robe and bury us both in one grave and write thereon these two couplets,
‘On Earth surface we lived in rare ease and joy
By fellowship joined in one house and home.
But Fate with her changes departed us,
And the shroud conjoins us in Earth’s cold womb.’”
Then he wept with sore weeping and, entering the tent, was absent awhile, after which he came forth, groaning and crying out. Then he gave one sob and departed this world. When I saw that he was indeed dead, it was grievous to me and so sore was my sorrow for him that I had well-nigh followed him for excess of mourning over him. Then I laid him out and did as he had enjoined me, shrouding his cousin’s remains with him in one robe and laying the twain in one grave. I abode by their tomb three days, after which I departed and continued to pay frequent pious visits3 to the place for two years. This then is their story, O Commander of the Faithful! Al–Rashid was pleased with Jamil’s story and rewarded him with a robe of honour and a handsome present. And men also tell a tale concerning
1 In the text “Al–Kaus” for which Lane and Payne substitute a shield. The bow had not been mentioned but — n’importe, the Arab reader would say. In the text it is left at home because it is a cowardly, far-killing weapon compared with sword and lance. Hence the Spaniard calls and justly calls the knife the “bravest of arms” as it wants a man behind it.
2 Arab. “Rahim” or “Rihm”=womb, uterine relations, pity or sympathy, which may here be meant.
3 Reciting Fátihahs and so forth, as I have described in the Cemetery of Al–Medinah (ii. 300). Moslems do not pay for prayers to benefit the dead like the majority of Christendom and, according to Calvinistic Wahhábi-ism, their prayers and blessings are of no avail. But the mourner’s heart loathes reason and he prays for his dead instinctively like the so-termed “Protestant.” Amongst the latter, by the bye, I find four great Sommités, (1) Paul of Tarsus who protested against the Hebraism of Peter; (2) Mohammed who protested against the perversions of Christianity; (3) Luther who protested against Italian rule in Germany, and lastly (4) one (who shall be nameless) that protests against the whole business.
Caliph Mu’áwiyah was sitting one day in his palace2 at Damascus, in a room whose windows were open on all four sides, that the breeze might enter from every quarter. Now it was a day of excessive heat, with no breeze from the hills stirring, and the middle of the day, when the heat was at its height, and the Caliph saw a man coming along, scorched by the heat of the ground and limping, as he fared on barefoot. Mu’awiyah considered him awhile and said to his courtiers, “Hath Allah (may He be extolled and exalted!) created any miserabler than he who need must hie abroad at such an hour and in such sultry tide as this?” Quoth one of them, “Haply he seeketh the Commander of the Faithful;” and quoth the Caliph, “By Allah, if he seek me, I will assuredly give to him, and if he be wronged, I will certainly succour him. Ho, boy! Stand at the door, and if yonder wild Arab seek to come in to me, forbid him not therefrom.” So the page went out and presently the Arab came up to him and he said, “What dost thou want?” Answered the other, “I want the Commander of the Faithful,” and the page said, “Enter.” So he entered and saluted the Caliph — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Lane transfers this to vol. i. 520 (notes to chapt. vii); and gives a mere abstract as of that preceding.
2 We learn from Ibn Batutah that it stood South of the Great Mosque and afterwards became the Coppersmiths’ Bazar. The site was known as Al–Khazrá (the Green) and the building was destroyed by the Abbasides. See Defrémery and Sanguinetti, i. 206.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48