Richard Francis Burton.

A plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, now entituled The book of the thousand nights and a night : with introduction, explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men, and a terminal essay upon the history of The nights (Volume 7) online

. (page 12 of 40)
Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonA plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, now entituled The book of the thousand nights and a night : with introduction, explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men, and a terminal essay upon the history of The nights (Volume 7) → online text (page 12 of 40)
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" Sing " And she sang these verses :

thou who dost comprise all Beauty's boons ! o sweet of nature, fain of

coquetry !
In Turks and Arabs many beauties dwell ; o But, O my fawn, in none thy

charms I see.
Turn to thy lover, O my fair, and keep o 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 !

1 am content with thee for wordly share Dearer than life and good art thou

tome 1

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,

IO8 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

" 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 con-
tent 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 o Far from the couch whereon I lie ;
So I may rest and quench the fire, o Bonfire in bones aye flaming high ;
My love-sick form Love's restless palm o 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.

Nofo to&m it foas tfce &fx ^unfcrefc an& 3Eu$tgstxti)

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 o And quit this couch the while I sleep ;
So I may rest and quench the flames o Through all my body rageful creep,
In love-sick one, whom passion's palms o Roll o'er the bed where grief I weep.
How 'tis with me thou wottest well ; All but thy union hold I cheap !

Harun Al-Rashid and the Arab Girl. 109

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 o To shun my couch the while I rest,

So I repose and quench the fire o That burns what lieth in my breast,

My weary form Love's restless palm o Rolls o'er with boon of sleep unblest.

How 'tis with me thou wottest well o 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 o Beside my couch when I'd repose,
So I may rest and quench the fire o Beneath my ribs e'er flames and

In love-sick one, whom passion's palms o Roll o'er the couch where weeping

How 'tis with me thou wottest well o Will union come as union goes ?

Then said the Caliph, " Of what part of this camp art thou ? "; and
she replid, " Of its middle in dwelling and of its highest in tent-
poles." * 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

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.

no A If Laylah wa Laylah.

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


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 ! " * 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 trans-
lation 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.

Al-AsmcCi and the Three Girls of Bassorah. in

fo&en it foas tfje Sbtx l^un&rtfj anfc 3Et'g!)tgsrf)ent!J J2tg!)t,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that AN
Asma'i said to the Prince cf True Believers, " Verily I have heard
much, but nothing pleased me save three sets of couplets impro-
vised 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 bench 1 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

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."

112 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

up and sat down again when she gave me a scroll, wherein was
written, in characters of the utmost beauty, with straight Alifs, 1
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 pens 2 with
which I wrote these couplets :

They talked of three beauties whose converse was quite o Like the talk of a

man with experience dight :
Three maidens who borrowed the bloom of the dawn o Making hearts of

their lovers in sorriest plight.
They were hidden from eyes of the prier and spy o Who slept and

their modesty mote not affright ;
So they opened whatever lay hid in their hearts o 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 o But a visit on wake

were delightsomer sight !
When she ended, her verse by her smiling was gilt : o Then the second

'gan singing as nightingale might :
Naught came to salute me in sleep save his shade o But welcome, fair

welcome, I cried to the spright 1
But the third I preferred for she said in reply, o With expression

most apposite, exquisite :
My soul and ray folk I engage for the youth o Musk-scented I se

in my bed every night !
So when I considered their words to decide, o And not make me

the mock of the cynical wight ;
I pronounced for the youngest, declaring her verse o Of all verses be

that which is nearest the right.

Then I gave the scroll to the slave-girl, who went upstairs with it,
and behold, I heard a noise of dancing and clapping of hands
and Doomsday astir. Quoth I to myself, " 'Tis no time for me

1 Alif (I) Ha () and Waw (j), the first, twenty-seventh and twenty-sixth letters of the
Arabic alphabet : No. I is the most simple and difficult to write caligraphically.
8 Reeds washed with gold and used for love-letters, &c.

Ibrahim of Mosul and the Devil. 1 1 3

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 un-
known to us, thy poetry is not ! " So I sat down again and sud-
denly 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 judg-
ment." Quoth the Caliph, "Why didst thou decide for the young-
est ? " 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 you ngest'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,
4< Thou didst well, O Asma'i,*' and gave him other three hundred
ducats in payment of his story. And I have heard a tale con-


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

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 (chapl. xiv.) or from Al-Mas'udf
(chapt. cxi.). See the French translation, vol. vi. p. 340. I am at pains to understand
why M. C. Barbier de Maynard writes "Rechid"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).


1 14 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

and drink and other necessaries 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, 1 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 where-
with 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 ! " 2 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 some-
thing 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.

Note fo&m tt toa& tfje Sfct'x ^tmtrrEtt anU

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

1 In Al-Mas'udl the Devil is "a young man fair of favour and formous of figure, 1
which is more appropriate to a " Tempter." He also wears light stufls of dyed silks.
* It would have been more courteous in an utter stranger to say, my lord.

Ibrahim of Mosul and tJie Devil. 1 1 5

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 o A heart whole and free from

all canker and smart ?
Nay, none will consent or to barter or buy o Such loss, ne'er torn sorrow

and sickness to part :
I groan wi' the groaning of wine-wounded men o 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 ! ' to your nests return ; o Your mournful voices thrill

this heart of mine.
Then back a-copse they flew, and well-nigh took o My life and made me tell my

secret pine.
With cooing call they one who's gone, as though o Their breasts were maddened

with the rage of wine :
Ne'er did mine eyes their like for culvers see o Who weep yet tear-drops,

never dye their eyne.

And also these couplets :

O Zephyr of Najd, when from Najd thou blow, o Thy breathings heap only

new woe on woe !
The turtle bespake me in bloom of morn o From the cassia-twig and

the willow-bough
She moaned with the moaning of love-sick youth o And exposed love-secret 1

ne'er would show :
They say lover wearies of love when near - And is cured of love an

afar he go :

1 The Arab Tempe (of fiction, not of grisly (act).

A If Laylah wa Lay/ah.

I tried either cure which ne'er cured my love ; o But that nearness is better

than farness I know :*
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, Abu Murrah, 2 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 ! " *
Then he ordered me a present and I took it and went away. And
men relate this story anent

1 These four lines are in Al-Mas'udi, chapt. cxviii. Fr. trans, vii. 313, but thatauthor
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 con-
temporaries 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.

9 ID Al-Mas'udi the Caliph exclaims, "Verily thou bast received a visit from
Sat ant"

The Lovers of the Banu Uzrak. 117


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 Jamil bin
Ma'amar al-Uzri 2 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 greet-
ing 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, "Now 3 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 saving her permitted say.

fofcm it foas t&e &tx f^untrrefc anfc lEf

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

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 'Afra.

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
Mansur and the Lady Budur (Night cccxxvii.), except that Mansur does not offer hi*

8 Arab " Halumma," an interjection = bring ! a congener of the Heb. " Halum *
the grammarians of Kufah and Bassorah are divided concerning its origin.

n8 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

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 flesh 1 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

Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonA plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, now entituled The book of the thousand nights and a night : with introduction, explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men, and a terminal essay upon the history of The nights (Volume 7) → online text (page 12 of 40)