The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Volume II online

. (page 1 of 30)
Online LibraryAnonymousThe Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Volume II → online text (page 1 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by JC Byers and Cameron Fruit

Editorial Note: Project Gutenberg also has the translation of this work by
Richard F. Burton in 16 volumes.


Now First Completely Done Into English
Prose and Verse, From The Original Arabic,

By John Payne
(Author of "The Masque of Shadows," "Intaglios: Sonnets," "Songs
of Life and Death,"
"Lautrec," "The Poems of Master Francis Villon of Paris," "New
Poems," Etc, Etc.).

In Nine Volumes:



Delhi Edition

Contents of The Second Volume.

9. The History of King Omar Ben Ennuman and His Sons Sherkan
and Zoulmekan
a. Story of Taj El Mulouk and the Princess Dunya
aa. Story of Aziz and Azizeh
b. Bakoun's Story of the Hashish-Eater
c. Hemmand the Bedouin's Story



There reigned once in the City of Peace, (Baghdad), before the
Khalifate of Abdulmelik ben Merwan,[FN#1] a king called Omar ben
Ennuman, who was of the mighty giants and had subdued the kings
of Persia and the Emperors of the East, for none could warm
himself at his fire[FN#2] nor cope with him in battle, and when
he was angry, there came sparks out of his nostrils. He had
gotten him the dominion over all countries, and God had subjected
unto him all creatures; his commands were obeyed in all the great
cities and his armies penetrated the most distant lands: the East
and West came under his rule, with the regions between them, Hind
and Sind and China and Hejaz and Yemen and the islands of India
and China, Syria and Mesopotamia and the land of the blacks and
the islands of the ocean and all the famous rivers of the earth,
Jaxartes and Bactrus, Nile and Euphrates. He sent his ambassadors
to the farthest parts of the earth, to fetch him true report, and
they returned with tidings of justice and peace, bringing him
assurance of loyalty and obedience and invocations of blessings
on his head; for he was a right noble king and there came to him
gifts and tribute from all parts of the world. He had a son
called Sherkan, who was one of the prodigies of the age and the
likest of all men to his father, who loved him with an exceeding
love and had appointed him to be king after him. The prince grew
up till he reached man's estate and was twenty years old, and God
subjected all men to him, for he was gifted with great might and
prowess in battle, humbling the champions and destroying all who
made head against him. So, before long, this Sherkan became
famous in all quarters of the world and his father rejoiced in
him: and his might waxed, till he passed all bounds and magnified
himself, taking by storm the citadels and strong places.

Now King Omar had four lawful wives, but God had vouchsafed him
no son by them, except Sherkan, whom he had gotten of one of
them, and the rest were barren. Moreover he had three hundred and
threescore concubines, after the number of the days of the Coptic
year, who were of all nations, and he had lodged them all within
his palace. For he had built twelve pavilions, after the number
of the months of the year, in each thirty chambers, and appointed
to each of his concubines a night, which he lay with her and came
not to her again for a full year. As providence would have it,
one of them conceived and her pregnancy was made known, whereupon
the King rejoiced with an exceeding joy, saying, "Mayhap it will
be a son, in which case all my offspring will be males." Then he
recorded the date of her conception and made much of her. But
when the news came to Sherkan, he was troubled and it was
grievous to him, for he said, "Verily, there cometh one who shall
dispute the kingdom with me." So he said to himself, "If this
damsel bear a male child, I will kill it." But he kept this his
intent secret in his heart. Now the damsel in question was a
Greek girl, by name Sufiyeh,[FN#3] whom the King of Roum,[FN#4]
lord of Caesarea, had sent to King Omar as a present, together
with great store of rarities. She was the fairest of face and
most graceful of all his women and the most careful of his honour
and was gifted with abounding wit and surpassing loveliness. She
had served the King on the night of his lying with her, saying to
him, "O King, I desire of the God of the heavens that He grant
thee of me a male child, so I may rear him well and do my utmost
endeavour to educate him and preserve him from harm." And her
words pleased the King. She passed the time of her pregnancy in
devout exercises, praying fervently to God to grant her a goodly
male child and make his birth easy to her, till her months were
accomplished and she sat down on the stool of delivery. Now the
King had given an eunuch charge to let him know if the child she
should bring forth were male or female; and in like manner his
son Sherkan had sent one to bring him news of this. In due time,
Sufiyeh was delivered of a child, which the midwives took and
found to be a girl with a face more radiant than the moon. So
they announced this to the bystanders, whereupon the eunuch
carried the news to the King and Sherkan's messenger did the like
with his master, who rejoiced with exceeding joy; but after these
two had departed, Sufiyeh said to the midwives, "Wait with me
awhile, for I feel there is yet somewhat in my entrails." Then
she moaned and the pains of labour took her again but God made it
easy to her and she gave birth to a second child. The midwives
looked at it and found it a boy like the full moon, with
flower-white forehead and rose-red cheeks; whereupon the damsel
and her eunuchs and attendants rejoiced and she was delivered of
the afterbirth, whilst all who were in the palace set up cries of
joy. The other damsels heard of this and envied her; and the news
came to Omar, who was glad and rejoiced. Then he rose and went to
her and kissed her head, after which he looked at the boy and
bending down to it, kissed it, whilst the damsels smote the
tabrets and played on instruments of music; and he commanded that
the boy should be named Zoulmekan and the girl Nuzbet ez Zeman,
which was done accordingly. Then he appointed nurses, wet and
dry, and eunuchs and attendants to serve them and assigned them
rations of sugar and liquors and oil and other necessaries, such
as the tongue fails to set out. Moreover the people of Baghdad
heard of the children that God had vouchsafed to the King; so
they decorated the city and made proclamation of the good news.
Then came the amirs and viziers and grandees and wished the King
joy of his son and daughter, wherefore he thanked them and
bestowed dresses of honour and favours and largesse on them and
on all who were present, gentle and simple. Then he bade carry
great store of jewellery and apparel and money to Sufiyeh and
charged her to rear the children carefully and educate them well.
After this wise, four years passed by, during which time the King
sent every few days to seek news of Sufiyeh and her children; but
all this while, his son Sherkan knew not that a male child had
been born to his father, having news only of the birth of his
daughter Nuzhet ez Zeman, and they hid the thing from him, until
years and days had passed by, whilst he was busied in contending
with the men of war and tilting against the cavaliers.

One day, as the King was sitting on his throne, there came in to
him his chamberlains, who kissed the earth before him and said,
"O King, there be come ambassadors from the King of the Greeks,
lord of Constantinople the mighty, and they desire to be admitted
to pay their respects to thee: so if the King give them leave to
enter, we will admit them, and if not, there is no appeal from
his decree." He bade admit them, and when they entered, he turned
to them and asked them how they did and the reason of their
coming. They kissed the earth before him and replied, "O
illustrious King and lord of the long arm,[FN#5] know that King
Afridoun, lord of the lands of the Greeks and of the Nazarene
armies, holding the empire of Constantinople, hath sent us to
make known to thee that he is now waging grievous war with a
fierce rebel, the lord of Caesarea; and the cause of this war is
as follows. One of the kings of the Arabs, awhile since, chanced,
in one of his conquests, upon a treasure of the time of
Alexander, from which he carried away countless riches and
amongst other things, three round jewels, of the bigness of an
ostrich's egg, from a mine of pure white jewels, never was seen
the like. Upon each of these jewels were graven talismans in the
Greek character, and they had many properties and virtues,
amongst the rest that if one of them were hung round the neck of
a new-born child, no ailment would hurt him nor would he moan or
be fevered, so long as it was about his neck. When they came to
the hands of the Arabian King and he knew their virtues, he sent
the three jewels, together with other presents and rarities, as a
gift to King Afridoun, and to that end fitted out two ships, one
bearing the treasure and presents and the other men to guard them
against whoso should offer them hindrance on the sea, being
nevertheless assured that none would dare waylay them, for that
he was King of the Arabs, more by token that their way lay
through the sea in the dominions of the King of Constantinople
and they were bound to him, nor were there on the shores of that
sea any but subjects of the most mighty King Afridoun. The ships
set out and sailed till they drew near our city, when there
sallied out on them certain corsairs of the country and amongst
them troops of the King of Caesarea, who took all the treasures
and rarities in the ships, together with the three jewels, and
slew the men. When the news came to our King, he sent an army
against them, but they defeated it; then he sent another army,
stronger than the first, but they put this also to the rout;
whereupon the King was wroth and swore that he would go out
against them in person at the head of his whole army and not turn
back from them, till he had left Caesarea in ruins and laid waste
all the lands and cities over which its King held sway. So he
craves of the lord of the age and the time, the King of Baghdad
and Khorassan, that he succour us with an army, to the end that
glory may redound to him; and he has sent by us somewhat of
various kinds of presents and begs the King to favour him by
accepting them and accord us his aid." Then they kissed the earth
before King Omar and brought out the presents, which were fifty
slave-girls of the choicest of the land of the Greeks, and fifty
white male slaves in tunics of brocade, rich girdles of gold and
silver and in their ears pendants of gold and fine pearls, worth
a thousand dinars each. The damsels were adorned after the same
fashion and clad in stuffs worth much money. When the King saw
them, he rejoiced in them and accepted them. Then he commanded
that the ambassadors should be honourably entreated and summoning
his viziers, took counsel with them of what he should do.
Accordingly, one of them, an old man named Dendan, arose and
kissing the earth before King Omar, said, "O King, thou wouldst
do well to equip numerous army and set over it thy son Sherkan,
with us as his lieutenants; and to my mind it behoves thee to do
thus, for two reasons: first, that the King of the Greeks hath
appealed to thee for aid and hath sent thee presents, and thou
hast accepted them; and secondly, that no enemy dares attack our
country, and that if thy host succour the King of the Greeks and
his foe be put to the rout, the glory will fall to thee and the
news of it will be noised abroad in all cities and countries; and
especially, when the tidings reach the islands of the ocean and
the people of Western Africa, they will send thee presents and
tribute." When the King heard the Vizier's speech, it pleased him
and he approved his counsel: so he bestowed on him dress of
honour and said to him, "It is with such as thee that kings take
counsel and it befits that thou command the van of the army and
my son Sherkan the main battle." Then he sent for Sherkan and
expounded the matter to him, telling him what the ambassadors and
the Vizier had said, and enjoined him to take arms and prepare to
set out, charging him not to cross the Vizier Dendan in aught
that he should do. Then he bade him choose from among his troops
ten thousand horsemen armed cap-a-pie and inured to war and
hardship. Accordingly, Sherkan rose at once and chose out ten
thousand horsemen, in obedience to his father's commandment,
after which he entered his palace and mustered his troops and
distributed money to them, saying, "Ye have three days to make
ready." They kissed the earth before him and proceeded at once to
make their preparations for the campaign; whilst Sherkan repaired
to the armouries and provided himself with all the arms and
armour that he needed, and thence to the stables, whence he took
horses of choice breeds and others. When the three days were
ended, the troops marched out of Baghdad, and King Omar came
forth to take leave of his son, who kissed the earth before him,
and he gave him seven thousand purses.[FN#6] Then he turned to
the Vizier Dendan and commended to his care his son Sherkan's
army and charged the latter to consult the Vizier in all things,
to which they both promised obedience. After this, the King
returned to Baghdad and Sherkan commanded the officers to draw
out the troops in battle array. So they mustered them and the
number of the army was ten thousand horsemen, besides footmen and
followers. Then they loaded the beasts and beat the drums and
blew the clarions and unfurled the banners and the standards,
whilst Sherkan mounted, with the Vizier Dendan by his side and
the standards waving over them, and the army set out and fared
on, with the ambassadors in the van, till the day departed and
the night came, when they halted and encamped for the night. On
the morrow, as soon as God brought in the day, they took horse
and continued their march, nor did they cease to press onward,
guided by the ambassadors, for the space of twenty days. On the
twenty-first day, at nightfall, they came to a wide and fertile
valley, whose sides were thickly wooded and covered with grass,
and there Sherkan called a three days' halt. So they dismounted
and pitched their tents, dispersing right and left in the valley,
whilst the Vizier Dendan and the ambassadors alighted in the
midst. As for Sherkan, when he had seen the tents pitched and the
troops dispersed on either side and had commanded his officers
and attendants to camp beside the Vizier Dendan, he gave reins to
his horse, being minded to explore the valley and himself mount
guard over the army, having regard to his father's injunctions
and to the fact that they had reached the frontier of the land of
Roum and were now in the enemy's country. So he rode on alone
along the valley, till a fourth part of the night was passed,
when he grew weary and sleep overcame him, so that he could no
longer spur his horse. Now he was used to sleep on horseback; so
when drowsiness got the better of him, he fell asleep and the
horse paced on with him half the night and entered a forest; but
Sherkan awoke not, till the steed smote the earth with his hoof.
Then he started from sleep and found himself among trees; and the
moon arose and lighted up the two horizons. He was troubled at
finding himself alone in this place and spoke the words, which
whoso says shall never be confounded, that is to say, "There is
no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!"
But as he rode on, in fear of the wild beasts, behold, the trees
thinned and the moon shone out upon a meadow as it were one of
the meads of Paradise and he heard therein a noise of talk and
pleasant laughter such as ravishes the wit of men. So King
Sherkan dismounted and tying his horse to a tree, fared on a
little way, till he espied a stream of running water and heard a
woman talking and saying in Arabic, "By the virtue of the
Messiah, this is not handsome of you! But whoso speaks a word, I
will throw her down and bind her with her girdle." He followed in
the direction of the voice and saw gazelles frisking and wild
cattle pasturing and birds in their various voices expressing joy
and gladness: and the earth was embroidered with all manner of
flowers and green herbs, even as says of it the poet in the
following verses:

Earth has no fairer sight to show than this its blossom-time,
With all the gently running streams that wander o'er its
It is indeed the handiwork of God Omnipotent, The Lord of every
noble gift and Giver of all grace!

Midmost the meadow stood a monastery, and within the enclosure
was a citadel that rose high into the air in the light of the
moon. The stream passed through the midst of the monastery and
therenigh sat ten damsels like moons, high-bosomed maids, clad in
dresses and ornaments that dazzled the eyes, as says of them the

The meadow glitters with the troops Of lovely ones that wander
Its grace and beauty doubled are By these that are so passing
Virgins that, with their swimming gait, The hearts of all that
see ensnare;
Along whose necks, like trails of grapes, Stream down the tresses
of their hair:
Proudly they walk, with eyes that dart The shafts and arrows of
And all the champions of the world Are slain by their seductive

Sherkan looked at the ten girls and saw in their midst a lady
like the moon at its full, with ringleted hair and shining
forehead, great black eyes and curling brow-locks, perfect in
person and attributes, as says the poet:

Her beauty beamed on me with glances wonder-bright: The slender
Syrian spears are not so straight and slight:
She laid her veil aside, and lo, her cheeks rose-red! All manner
lovelyness was in their sweetest sight.
The locks, that o'er her brow fell down, were like the night,
From out of which there shines a morning of delight.

Then Sherkan heard her say to the girls, "Come on, that I may
wrestle with you, ere the moon set and the dawn come." So they
came up to her, one after another, and she overthrew them, one by
one, and bound their hands behind them with their girdles. When
she had thrown them all, there turned to her an old woman, who
was before her, and said, as if she were wroth with her, "O
wanton, dost thou glory in overthrowing these girls? Behold, I am
an old woman, yet have I thrown them forty times! So what hast
thou to boast of? But if thou have strength to wrestle with me,
stand up that I may grip thee and put thy head between thy feet."
The young lady smiled at her words, although her heart was full
of anger against her, and said, "O my lady Dhat ed Dewahi, wilt
indeed wrestle with me, or dost thou jest with me?" "I mean to
wrestle with thee in very deed," replied she. "Stand up to me
then," said the damsel, "if thou have strength to do so." When
the old woman heard this, she was sore enraged and the hair of
her body stood on end, like that of a hedge-hog. Then she sprang
up, whilst the damsel confronted her, and said, "By the virtue of
the Messiah, I will not wrestle with thee, except I be naked." "O
baggage!" So she loosed her trousers and putting her hand under
her clothes, tore them off her body; then, taking a handkerchief
of silk, she bound it about her middle and became as she were a
bald Afriteh or a pied snake. Then she turned to the young lady
and said to her, "Do as I have done." All this time, Sherkan was
watching them and laughing at the loathly favour of the old
woman. So the damsel took a sash of Yemen stuff and doubled it
about her waist, then tucked up her trousers and showed legs of
alabaster and above them a hummock of crystal, soft and swelling,
and a belly that exhaled musk from its dimples, as it were a bed
of blood-red anemones, and breasts like double pomegranates. Then
the old woman bent to her and they took hold of one another,
whilst Sherkan raised his eyes to heaven and prayed to God that
the damsel might conquer the old hag. Presently, the former bored
in under the latter, and gripping her by the breech with the left
hand and by the gullet with the right, hoisted her off the
ground; whereupon the old woman strove to free herself and in the
struggle wriggled out of the girl's hands and fell on her back.
Up went her legs and showed her hairy tout in the moonlight, and
she let fly two great cracks of wind, one of which smote the
earth, whilst the other smoked up to the skies. At this Sherkan
laughed, till he fell to the ground, and said, "He lied not who
dubbed thee Lady of Calamities![FN#7] Verily, thou sawest her
prowess against the others." Then he arose and looked right and
left, but saw none save the old woman thrown down on her back. So
he drew near to hear what should pass between them; and behold,
the young lady came up to the old one and throwing over her a
veil of fine silk, helped her to dress herself, making excuses to
her and saying, "O my lady Dhat ed Dewahi, I did not mean to
throw thee so roughly, but thou wriggledst out of my hands; so
praised be God for safety!" She returned her no answer, but rose
in her confusion and walked away out of sight, leaving the young
lady standing alone, by the other girls thrown down and bound.
Then said Sherkan to himself, "To every fortune there is a cause.
Sleep fell not on me nor did the steed bear me hither but for my
good fortune; for of a surety this damsel and what is with her
shall be my prize." So he turned back and mounted and drew his
scimitar; then he gave his horse the spur and he started off with
him, like an arrow from a bow, whilst he brandished his naked
blade and cried out, "God is Most Great!" When the damsel saw
him, she sprang to her feet and running to the bank of the river,
which was there six cubits wide, made a spring and landed on the
other side, where she turned and standing, cried out in a loud
voice, "Who art thou, sirrah, that breakest in on our pastime,
and that with thy whinger bared, as thou wert charging an army?
Whence comest thou and whither art thou bound? Speak the truth,
and it shall profit thee, and do not lie, for lying is of the
loser's fashion. Doubtless thou hast strayed this night from thy
road, that thou hast happened on this place. So tell me what thou
seekest: if thou wouldst have us set thee in the right road, we
will do so, or if thou seek help, we will help thee." When
Sherkan heard her words, he replied, "I am a stranger of the
Muslims, who am come out by myself in quest of booty, and I have
found no fairer purchase this moonlit night than these ten
damsels; so I will take them and rejoin my comrades with them."
Quoth she, "I would have thee to know that thou hast not yet come
at the booty: and as for these ten damsels, by Allah, they are no
purchase for thee! Indeed, the fairest purchase thou canst look
for is to win free of this place; for thou art now in a mead,
where, if we gave one cry, there would be with us anon four
thousand knights. Did I not tell thee that lying is shameful?"
And he said, "The fortunate man is he to whom God sufficeth and
who hath no need of other than Him." "By the virtue of the
Messiah," replied she, "did I not fear to have thy death at my
hand, I would give a cry that would fill the meadow on thee with
horse and foot; but I have pity on the stranger: so if thou seek
booty, I require of thee that thou dismount from thy horse and
swear to me, by thy faith, that thou wilt not approach me with
aught of arms, and we will wrestle, I and thou. If thou throw me,
lay me on thy horse and take all of us to thy booty; and if I
throw thee, thou shalt be at my commandment. Swear this to me,
for I fear thy perfidy, since experience has it that, as long as
perfidy is in men's natures, to trust in every one is weakness.
But if thou wilt swear, I will come over to thee." Quoth Sherkan
(and indeed he lusted after her and said to himself, "She does
not know that I am a champion of the champions."), "Impose on me
whatever oath thou deemest binding, and I will swear not to draw

Online LibraryAnonymousThe Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Volume II → online text (page 1 of 30)