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 14 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 14 of 40)
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An thou dare cross me in whate'er to thee I now indite o I of thy flesh

assuredly will make the vulture free.
Divorce Su'ad, equip her well, and in the hottest haste * With Al-Kumayt

and Zibda's son, hight Nasr, send to me.

Then he folded the letter and, sealing it with his seal, delivered it
to Al-Kumayt l and Nasr bin Zfban (whom he was wont to employ
on weighty matters, because of their trustiness) who took the
missive and carried it to Al-Medinah, where they went in to
Marwan and saluting him delivered to him the writ and told him
how the case stood. He read the letter and fell a-weeping ; but
he went in to Su'ad (as 'twas not in his power to refuse obedience
to the Caliph) and, acquainting her with the case, divorced her in
the presence of Al-Kumayt and Nasr ; after which he equipped
her and delivered her to them, together with a letter to the Caliph
wherein he versified as follows : -

Hurry not, Prince of Faithful Men ! with best of grace thy vow o I will accom-
plish as 'twas vowed and with the gladdest gree.

I sinned not adulterous sin when loved her I, then how o Canst charge
me with advowtrous deed or any villainy ?

Soon comes to thee that splendid sun which hath no living peer * On earth,
nor aught in mortal men or Jinns her like shalt see.

This he sealed with his own signet and gave to the messengers
who returned with Su'ad to Damascus and delivered to Mu'awiyah
the letter, and when he had read it he cried, " Verily, he hath
obeyed handsomely, but he exceedeth in his praise of the woman."
Then he called for her and saw beauty such as he had never seen,
for comeliness and loveliness, stature and symmetrical grace ;
moreover, he talked with her and found her fluent of speech and
choice in words. Quoth he, " Bring me the Arab." So they
fetched the man, who came, sore disordered for shifts and changes
of fortune, and Mu'awiyah said to him, " O Arab, an thou wilt
freely give her up to me, I will bestow upon thee in her stead
three slave girls, high-bosomed maids like moons, with each a
thousand dinars ; and I will assign thee on the Treasury such an
annual sum as shall content thee and enrich thee." When the

1 This is an instance when the article (Al) is correctly used with one proper name and
not with another. Al-Kumayt (P. N. of poet) lit. means a bay horse with black points :
Nasr is victory.

The Badawi and his Wife. 129

Arab heard this, he groaned one groan and swooned away, so that
Mu'awiyah thought he was dead ; and, as soon as he revived, the
Caliph said to him, "What aileth thee?" The Arab answered,
" With heavy heart and in sore need have I appealed to thee from
the injustice of Marwan bin al-Hakam ; but to whom shall I
appeal from thine injustice ? " And he versified in these
couplets :

Make me not (Allah save the Caliph !) one of the betrayed o Who from the

fiery sands to fire must sue for help and aid :
Deign thou restore Su'dd to this afflicted heart distraught, o Which every

morn and eve by sorest sorrow is waylaid :
Loose thou my bonds and grudge me not and give her back to me ; o And if

thou do so ne'er thou shalt for lack of thanks upbraid !

Then said he, " By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, wert
thou to give me all the riches contained in the Caliphate, yet
would I not take them without Su'ad." And he recited this
couplet :

I love Su'id and unto all but hers my love is dead, * Each morn I feel her
love to me is drink and daily bread.

Quoth the Caliph, " Thou confessest to having divorced her and
Marwan owned the like ; so now we will give her free choice. An
she choose other than thee, we will marry her to him, and if she
choose thee, we will restore her to thee." Replied the Arab,
" Do so." So Mu'awiyah said to her, " What sayest thou, O
Su'ad ? Which dost thou. choose ; the Commander of the
Faithful, with his honour and glory and dominion and palaces and
treasures and all else thou seest at his command, or Marwan bin
al-Hakam with his violence and tyranny, or this Arab, with his
hunger and poverty ? " So she improvised these couplets :

This one, whom hunger plagues, and rags enfold, o Dearer than tribe and kith

and kin I hold ;
Than crowned head, or deputy Marwan, e Or all who boast of silver

coins and gold.

Then said she, " By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I will
not forsake him for the shifts of Fortune or the perfidies of Fate,
there being between us old companionship we may not forget, and
love beyond stay and let ; and indeed 'tis but just that I bear with
him in his adversity, even as I shared with him in prosperity."

130 A If Laylah wa Laylak,

The Caliph marvelled at her wit and love and constancy and,
ordering her ten thousand dirhams, delivered her to the Arab, who
took his wife and went away. 1 And they likewise tell a tale of


THE Caliph Harun al-Rashid was sleepless one night ; so he sent
for Al-Asma'i and Husayn al-Khalf'a 2 and said to them, " Tell me
a story you twain and do thou begin, O Husayn." He said, " 'Tis
well, O Commander of the Faithful ; " and thus began : Some
years ago, I dropped down stream to Bassorah, to present to
Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Rabf i 3 a Kasidah or elegy I had
composed in his praise ; and he accepted it and bade me abide
with him. One day, I went out to Al-Mirbad, 4 by way of Al-
Muhaliyah ; 5 and, being oppressed by the excessive heat, went up
to a great door, to ask for drink, when I was suddenly aware of a
damsel, as she were a branch swaying, with eyes languishing, eye-
brows arched and finely pencilled and smooth cheeks rounded,
clad in a shift the colour of a pomegranate-flower, and a mantilla
of Sana'd 6 work ; but the perfect whiteness of her body overcame
the redness of her shift, through which glittered two breasts like
twin granadoes and a waist, as it were a roll of fine Coptic linen,
with creases like scrolls of pure white paper stuffed with musk. 7
Moreover, O Prince of True Believers, round her neck was slung
an amulet of red gold that fell down between her breasts, and on

1 This anecdote, which reads like truth, is ample set off for a cart-load of abuse of
\romen. But even the Hindus, determined misogynists in books, sometimes relent.
Says the Katha Sarit Sagara : " So you see, King, honourable matrons are devoted to
their husbands, and it is not the case that all women are always bad " (ii. 624). Let
me hope that after all this Mistress Su'ad did not lead her husband a hardish life.

2 Al-Khali'a has been explained in vol. i. 311 : the translation of Al-Mas'udi (vi. 10)
renders it " sce'le'rat." Abu AH al-Husayn the Wag was a Bassorite and a worthy com-
panion of Abu No was the Debauchee ; but he adorned the Court of Al-Amin the son,
not of Al-Rashid the father.

* Governor of Bassorah, but not in Al-Husayn's day.

* The famous market-place where poems were recited ; mentioned by Al-Hariri

* A quarter of Bassorah,

6 Capital of Al-Yaman, and then famed for its leather and other work (vol. v. 16).

* The creases in the stomach like the large navel are always insisted upon. Says the
Katha (ii. 525) " And he looked on that torrent river of the elixir of beauty, adorned
with a waist made charming by those wave-like wrinkles," etc.

The Lovers of Bassorah. 131

the plain of her forehead were browlocks like jet. 1 Her eyebrows
joined and her eyes were like lakes ; she had an aquiline nose and
thereunder shell-like lips showing teeth like pearls. Pleasantness
prevailed in every part of her ; but she seemed dejected, disturbed,
distracted and in the vestibule came and went, walking upon the
hearts of her lovers, whilst her legs 2 made mute the voices of their
ankle-rings ; and indeed she was as saith the poet :

Each portion of her charms we see o Seems of the whole a simile.

I was overawed by her, O Commander of the Faithful, and drew
near her to greet her, and behold, the house and vestibule and
highways breathed fragrant with musk. So I saluted her and she
returned my salam with a voice dejected and heart depressed and
with the ardour of passion consumed. Then said I to her, " O my
lady, I am an old man and a stranger and sore troubled by thirst.
Wilt thou order me a draught of water, and win reward in
heaven ? " She cried, " Away, O Shaykh, from me ! I am dis-
tracted from all thought of meat and drink." And Shahrazad

perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

Nofo to&en it foas tfje &tx f^un&reD anfc Ninetg^fourtb Nig&t,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
damsel said, "O Shaykh, I am distracted from all thought of meat
and drink." Quoth I (continued Husayn), " By what ailment, O
my lady?" and quoth she, "I love one who dealeth not justly
by me and I desire one who of me will none. Wherefore I am
afflicted with the wakefulness of those who wake star-gazing."
I asked, " O my lady, is there on the wide expanse of earth one
to whom thou hast a mind and who to thee hath no mind ? "
Answered she, " Yes ; and this for the perfection of beauty and
loveliness and goodliness wherewith he is endowed." " And why
standeth thou in this porch ?" enquired I. "This is his road,"
replied she, " and the hour of his passing by." I said, "O my lady,
have ye ever foregathered and had such commerce and converse as

1 Arab. Sabaj (not Sabali, as the Mac. Edit, misprints it) : I am not sure of its

2 A truly Arab conceit, suggesting

The mind, the music breathing from her face ;

her calves moved rhythmically, suggesting the movement and consequent sound of a
musical instrument.

132 A If Laylah wa Laytah.

might cause this passion ? " At this she heaved a deep sigh ; the
tears rained down her cheeks, as they were dew falling upon roses,
and she versified with these couplets :

We were like willow-boughs in garden shining o And scented joys in

happiest life combining ;
Whenas one bough from other self would rend o And oh ! thou seest

this for that repining !

Quoth I, " O maid, and what betideth thee of thy love for this
man ?"; and quot. she, " I see the sun upon the walls of his folk and
I think the sun is he ; or haply I catch sight of him unexpectedly
and am confounded and the blood and the life fly my body and I
abide in unreasoning plight a week or e'en a se'nnight." Said I,
" Excuse me, for I also have suffered that which is upon thee of
love-longing and distraction of soul and wasting of frame and loss
of strength ; and I see in thee pallor of complexion and emaciation,
such as testify of the fever-fits of desire. But how shouldst thou
be unsmitten of passion and thou a sojourner in the land of
Bassorah ? " Said she, " By Allah, before I fell in love of this
youth, I was perfect in beauty and loveliness and amorous grace
which ravished all the Princes of Bassorah, till he fell in love with
me" I asked, " O maid, and who parted you ? "; and she
answered, " The vicissitudes of fortune," but the manner of our
separation was strange ; and 'twas on this wise. One New Year's
day I had invited the damsels of Bassorah and amongst them a
girl belonging to Sfrdn, who had bought her out of Oman for four-
score thousand dirhams. She loved me and loved me to madness
and when she entered she threw herself upon me and well-nigh
tore me in pieces with bites and pinches. 1 Then we withdrew
apart, to drink wine at our ease, till our meat was ready 2 and our

1 The morosa voluplas of the Catholic divines. The Sapphist described in the text
would procure an orgasm (in gloria, as the Italians call it) by biting and rolling over the
girl she loved ; but by loosening the trouser-string she evidently aims at a closer tri-
badism the Arab " Musahikah."

2 We drink (or drank) after dinner; Easterns before the meal and half- Easterns (like the
Russians) before and after. We talk of liquor being unwholesome on an empty stomach ;
but the truth is that all is purely habit. And as the Russian accompanies his Vodki with
caviare, etc., so the Oriental drinks his Raki or Mahaya (Ma al-haydt aqua vitse) alter-
nately with a Salatah, for whose composition see Pilgrimage i. 198. The Eastern practice
has its advantages : it awakens the appetite, stimulates digestion and, what Easterns
greatly regard, it is economical ; half a bottle doing the work of a whole. Bhang and
Kusumba (opium dissolved and strained through a pledget of cotton) are always drunk
before dinner and thus the "jolly " time is the preprandial, not the postprandial.

The Lovers of Bassorah. 133

delight was complete, and she toyed with me and I with her, and
now I was upon her and now she was upon me. Presently, the
fumes of the wine moved her to strike her hand on the inkle of
my petticoat-trousers, whereby it became loosed, unknown of
either of us, and my trousers fell down in our play. At this
moment he came in unobserved and, seeing me thus, was wroth at
the sight and made off, as the Arab filly hearing the tinkle of her

bridle. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased

saying her permitted say.

Nofo fo&en it foas t&e &tx ^un&rcfc antr Nmetg=fifrt)

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
maiden said to Husayn al-Khali'a, " When my lover saw me playing,
as I described to thee, with Siran's girl, he went forth in anger.
And 'tis now, O Shaykh, three years ago, and since then I have
never ceased to excuse myself to him and coax him and crave his
indulgence, but he will neither cast a look at me from the corner
of his eye, nor write me a word nor speak to me by messenger nor
hear from me aught." Quoth I, " Harkye maid, is he an Arab or
an Ajam ? "; and quoth she, " Out on thee ! He is of the Princes
of Bassorah." " Is he old or young ? " asked I ; and she looked at
me laughingly and answered, " Thou art certainly a simpleton !
He is like the moon on the night of its full, smooth-cheeked and
beardless, nor is there any defect in him except his aversion to me.'*
Then I put the question, " What is his name ? " and she replied,
" What wilt thou do with him ? " I rejoined, " I will do my best
to come at him, that I may bring about reunion between you."
Said she, " I will tell thee on condition that thou carry him a
note ; " and I said " I have no objection to that." Then quoth
she, " His name is Zamrah bin al-Mughayrah, hight Abu al-Sakhd, 1
and his palace is in the Mirbad." Therewith she called to those
within for inkcase and paper and tucking up 2 her sleeves, showed
two wrists like broad rings of silver. She then wrote after the
Basmalah as follows, " My lord, the omission of blessings 3 at the
head of this my letter shows mine insufficiency, and know that had

1 "Abu al-Sakhi" (pronounced Abussakha) = Father of munificence.

a Arab. " Shammara," also used for gathering up the gown, so as to run the faster.

* i.e., blessing the Prophet and all True Believers (herself included).

134 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

my prayer been answered, thou hadst never left me ; for how often
have I prayed that thou shouldest not leave me, and yet thou
didst leave me ! Were it not that distress with me exceedeth the
bounds of restraint, that which thy servant hath forced herself to
do in writing this writ were an aidance to her, despite her despair of
thee, because of her knowledge of thee that thou wilt fail to answer.
Do thou fulfil her desire, my lord, of a sight of thee from the porch,
as thou passest in the street, wherewith thou wilt quicken the dead
soul in her. Or, far better for her still than this, do thou write her
a letter with thine own hand (Allah endow it with all excellence !),
and appoint it in requital of the intimacy that was between us in
the nights of time past, whereof thou must preserve the memory.
My lord, was I not to thee a lover sick with passion ? An thou
answer my prayer, I will give to thee thanks and to Allah praise ;
and so The Peace ! " ' Then she gave me the letter and I went
away. Next morning I repaired to the door of the Viceroy
Mohammed bin Sulayman, where I found an assembly of the
notables of Bassorah, and amongst them a youth who adorned the
gathering and surpassed in beauty and brightness all who were
there; and indeed the Emir Mohammed set him above himself.
I asked who he was and behold, it was Zamrah himself : so I
said in my mind, " Verily, there hath befallen yonder unhappy
one that which hath befallen her 2 !" Then I betook myself to
the Mirbad and stood waiting at the door of his house, till he
came riding up in state, when I accosted him and invoking more
than usual blessings on him, handed him the missive. When he
read it and understood it he said to me, "O Shaykh, we have
taken other in her stead. Say me, wilt thou see the substitute ? "
I answered, " Yes." Whereupon he called out a woman's name,
and there came forth a damsel who shamed the two greater lights ;
swelling-breasted, walking the gait of one who hasteneth without
fear, to whom he gave the note, saying, " Do thou answer it."
When she read it, she turned pale at the contents and said to
me, " O old man, crave pardon of Allah for this that thou hast
brought." So I went out, O Commander of the Faithful, dragging
my feet and returning to her asked leave to enter. When she saw
me, she asked, " What is behind thee ? "; and I answered, " Evil

1 The style of this letter is that of a public scribe in a Cairo market-place thirty years
3 i.e. she could not help falling in love with this beauty man.

The Lovers of Bassorah. 1 35

and despair." Quoth she, " Have thou no concern of him. Where
are Allah and His power ? " ! Then she ordered me five hundred
dinars and I took them and went away. Some days after I passed
by the place and saw there horsemen and footmen. So I went in
and lo ! these were the companions of Zamrah, who were begging
her to return to him ; but she said, " No, by Allah, I will not look
him in the face ! " And she prostrated herself in gratitude to
Allah and exultation over Zamrah's defeat. Then I drew near
her, and she pulled out to me a letter, wherein was written, after
the Bismillah, " My lady, but for my forbearance towards thee
(whose life Allah lengthen !) I would relate somewhat of what
betided from thee and set out my excuse, in that thou trans-
gressedst against me, whenas thou wast manifestly a sinner against
thyself and myself in breach of vows and lack of constancy and
preference of another over us ; for, by Allah, on whom we call for
help against that which was of thy free-will, thou didst trans-
gress against the love of me ; and so The Peace ! " Then she
showed me the presents and rarities he had sent her, which were
of the value of thirty thousand dinars. I saw her again after this,
and Zamrah had married her. Quoth Al-Rashid, " Had not
Zamrah been beforehand with us, I should certainly have had
to do with her myself." 2 And men tell the tale of

1 "Kudrat," used somewhat in the sense of our vague "Providence." The sentence
means, leave Omnipotence to manage him. Mr. Redhouse, who forces a likeness
between Moslem and Christian theology, tells us that "Qader is unjustly translated by
Fate and Destiny, an old pagan idea abhorrent to Al-Islam which reposes on God's
providence." He makes Kaza and Kismet quasi synonymes of "Qaza" and " Qader,"
the former signifying God's decree, the latter our allotted portion ; and he would render
both by dispensation. Of course it is convenient to forget the Guarded Tablet of the
learned and the Night of Power and skull-lectures of the vulgar. The eminent
Turkish scholar would also translate Salat by worship (du'd being prayer) because it
signifies a simple act of adoration without entreaty. If he will read the Opener of the
Koran, recited in every set of prayers, he will find an especial request to be " led to the
path which is straight." These vagaries are seriously adopted by Mr. E. J. W. Gibb in
his Ottoman Poems (p. 245, etc.) London : Triibner and Co., 1882 ; and they deserve,
I think, reprehension, because they serve only to mislead ; and the high authority of
the source whence they come necessarily recommends them to many.

2 The reader will have noticed the likeness of this tale to that of Ibn Mansur and the
Lady Budur (vol. iv., 228 et seq.) For this reason Lane leaves it untranslated (iii. 252).

136 A If Laylah wa Laylah.


QUOTH Ishak bin Ibrahim al-Mausili : I was in my house one
night in the winter-time, when the clouds had dispread them-
selves and the rains poured down in torrents, as from the mouths
of water-skins, and the folk forbore to come and go about the
ways for that which was therein of rain and slough. Now I was
straitened in breast because none of my brethren came to me nor
could I go to them, by reason of the mud and mire ; so I said
to my servant, " Bring me wherewithal I may divert myself."
Accordingly he brought me meat and drink, but I had no heart
to eat, without some one to keep me company, and I ceased not
to look out of window and watch the ways till nightfall, when I
bethought myself of a damsel belonging to one of the sons of
Al-Mahdi, 2 whom I loved and who was skilled in singing and
playing upon instruments of music, and said to myself, "Were
she here with us to-night, my joy would be complete and my
night would be abridged of the melancholy and restlessness
which are upon me." At this moment one knocked at the door,
saying, " Shall a beloved enter in who standeth at the door ? "
Quoth I to myself, " Meseems the plant of my desire hath
fruited." So I went to the door and found my mistress, with a
long green skirt 3 wrapped about her and a kerchief of brocade
on her head, to fend her from the rain. She was covered with
mud to her knees and all that was upon her was drenched with
water from gargoyles 4 and house-sprouts ; in short, she was in

1 Lane also omits this tale (Hi. 252). See Night dclxxxviii., vol. vii. p. 113 et seq. t
for a variant of the story.

2 Third Abbaside, A. H. 158-169 (=775-785), and father of Harun Al-Rashid. He
is known chiefly for his eccentricities, such as cutting the throats of all his carrier-
pigeons, making a man dine off marrow and sugar and having snow sent to him at
Meccah, a distance of 700 miles.

3 Arab. Mirt ; the dictionaries give a short shift, cloak or breeches of wool or
coarse silk.

4 Arab. " Mayazib" plur. of the Pers. Mizab (orig. Miz-i-ab = channel of water) a
spout for roof-rain. That which drains the Ka'abah on the N. W. side is called Mizab
al-Rahmah (Gargoyle of Mercy) and pilgrims stand under it for a douche of holy water.
It is supposed to be of gold, but really of silver gold-plated and is described of
Burckhardt and myself (Pilgrimage iii. 164). The length is 4 feet IO in. ; width 9 in. ;
height of sides 8 in. ; and slope at mouth I foot 6 in. long.

Ishak of Mosul and his Mistress and the Devil. 137

sorry plight. So I said to her, " O my mistress, what bringeth
thee hither through all this mud ? " Replied she, " Thy messenger
came and set forth to me that which was with thee of love and
longing, so that I could not choose but yield and hasten to thee.'*

I marvelled at this And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of

day and ceased to say her permitted say.

Nofo fohen it teas tfjf &fc $^untfre& anfc Nincts-suctf) Ni$t,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
damsel came and knocked at Ishak's door, he went forth to her
and cried, " O my lady, what bringeth thee hither through all this
mud ? "; and she replied, " Thy messenger came and set forth to
me that which was with thee of love and longing, so that I could
not choose but yield and hasten to thee." I marvelled at this,
but did not like to tell her that I had sent no messenger; where-
fore I said, " Praised be Allah for that He hath brought us
together, after all I have suffered by the mortification of patience !
Verily, hadst thou delayed an hour longer, I must have run to
thee, because of my much love for thee and longing for thy
presence." Then I called to my boy for water, that I might
better her plight, and he brought a kettle full of hot water such
as she wanted. I bade pour it over her feet, whilst I set to work
to wash them myself; after which I called for one of my richest
dresses and clad her therein after she had doffed the muddy
clothes. Then, as soon as we were comfortably seated, I would
have called for food, but she refused and I said to her, " Art thou
for wine ? "; and she replied, " Yes." So I fetched cups and she
asked me, " Who shall sing ? " " I, O my princess ! " "I care not
for that ; " " One of my damsels ? " " I have no mind to that

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 14 of 40)