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 15 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 15 of 40)
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either ! " " Then sing thyself." " Not I ! " " Who then shall sing
for thee ? " I enquired, and she rejoined, " Go out and seek some
one to sing for me." So I went out, in obedience to her, though
I despaired of finding any one in such weather and fared on till
I came to the main street, where I suddenly saw a blind man
striking the earth with his staff and saying, " May Allah not
requite with weal those with whom I was ! When I sang, they
listened not, and when I was silent, they made light of me." So
I said to him, " Art thou a singer ? ' and he replied, " Yes."
Quoth I, "Wilt thou finish thy night with us and cheer us with
thy company?"; and quoth he, " If it be thy will, take my hand."

138 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

So I took his hand and, leading him to my house, said to the
damsel, "O my mistress, I have brought a blind singer, with
whom we may take our pleasure and he will not see us." She
said, " Bring him to me." So I brought him in and invited him
to eat. He ate but a very little and washed his hands, after
which I brought him wine and he drank three cupsful. Then he
said to me, "Who art thou?"; and I replied, "I am Ishak bin
Ibrahim al-Mausili." Quoth he, " I have heard of thee and now
I rejoice in thy company;" and I, " O my lord, I am glad in thy
gladness." He said, " O Ishak, sing to me." So I took the lute,
by way of jest, and cried, " I hear and I obey." When I had
made an end of my song, he said to me, " O Ishak, thou
comest nigh to be a singer ! " His words belittled me in
mine own eyes and I threw the lute from my hand ; whereupon
he said, " Hast thou not with thee some one who is skilled in
singing ? " Quoth I, " I have a damsel with me ;" and quoth he,
" Bid her sing." I asked him, " Wilt thou sing, when thou hast
had enough of her singing ? "; and he answered " Yes." So she
sang and he said, " Nay, thou hast shown no art." Whereupon she
flung the lute from her hand in wrath and cried, " We have done
our best : if thou have aught, favour us with it by way of an
alms." Quoth he, " Bring me a lute hand hath not touched." So
I bade the servant bring him a new lute and he tuned it and pre-
luding in a mode I knew not began to sing, improvising these
couplets :

Clove through the shades and came to me in night so dark and sore * The lover

weeting of herself 'twas trysting-tide once more :
Naught startled us but her salam and first of words she said * " May a

beloved enter in who standeth at the door ! "

When the girl heard this, she looked at me askance and said,
" What secret was between us could not thy breast hold for one
hour, but thou must discover it to this man ? " However, I swore
to her that I had not told him and excused myself to her and fell
to kissing her hands and tickling her breasts and biting her
cheeks, till she laughed and, turning to the blind man, said to him,
" Sing, O my lord ! " So he took the lute and sang these two
couplets :

Ah, often have I sought the fair ; how often lief and fain * My palming felt the

finger ends that bear the varied stain !
And tickled pouting breasts that stand firm as pomegranates twain * And bit

the apple of her cheek kissed o'er and o'er again.


The Lovers of Al-Medinah, 139

So I said to her, u O my princess, who can have told him what we
were about ? " Replied she, " True," and we moved away from
him. Presently quoth he, " I must make water ;" and quoth I,
" O boy, take the candle and go before him." Then he went out
and tarried a long while. So we went in search of him, but could
not find him ; and behold, the doors were locked and the keys in
the closet, and we knew not whether to heaven he had flown or
into earth had sunk. Wherefore I knew that he was Ibli's and that
he had done me pimp's duty, and I returned, recalling to myself
the words of Abu Nowas in these couplets :

I marvel in Iblis such pride to see * Beside his low intent and villeiny :

He sinned to Adam who to bow refused, Yet pimps for all of Adam's progeny.

And they tell a tale concerning


QUOTH Ibrahim the father of Ishak, 1 I was ever a devoted friend
to the Barmecide family. And it so happened to me one day, as
I sat at home quite alone, a knock was heard at the door ; so my
servant went out and returned, saying, " A comely youth is at the
door, asking admission." J bade admit him and there came in to
me a young man, on whom were signs of sickness, and he said, " I
have long wished to meet thee, for I have need of thine aid."
" What is it thou requirest ? " asked I. Whereupon he pulled out
three hundred dinars and laying them before me, said, " I beseech
thee to accept these and compose me an air to two couplets I have
made." Said I, " Repeat them to me ;" And Shahrazad per-
ceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

Nofo fofcen it foas tfa bw |^un&rc& anfc Ninetg-sebtnti)

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
the youth came in to Ibrahim and placed the gold in his hands,

1 The Mac. and Bui. Edits, have by mistake " Son of Ishak." Lane has " Is-hak
the son of Ibrahim " following Trebutien (lit. 483) but suggests in a note the right read-
ing as above.

140 Alf LaylaJi wa Laylah.

saying, " Prithee accept it and compose me an air to two couplets/'
He replied, " Recite them to me," whereupon he recited :

By Allah, glance of mine ! thou hast opprest * My heart, so quench the fire that

burns my breast.
Blames me the world because in him 1 I live * Yet cannot see him till in shroud

I rest.

Accordingly, quoth Ibrahim, I set the verses to an air plaintive as
a dirge and sang it to him ; whereupon he swooned away and I
thought that he was dead. However, after a while, he came to
himself, and said to me, " Repeat the air." But I conjured him
by Allah to excuse me, saying, " I fear lest Ithou die." " Would
Heaven it were so ! " replied he and ceased not humbly to impor-
tune me, till I had pity on him and repeated it ; whereupon he
cried out with a grievous cry and fell into a fit worse than before
and I doubted not but that he was dead ; but I sprinkled rose-
water on him till he revived and sat up. I praised Allah for his
recovery and laying the ducats before him, said, " Take thy money
and depart from me." Quoth he, " I have no need of the money
and thou shalt have the like of it, if thou wilt repeat the air."
My breast broadened at the mention of the money and I said, " I
will repeat it, but on three conditions : the first, that thou tarry
with me and eat of my victual, till thou regain strength ; the
second, that thou drink wine enough to hearten thy heart ; and
the third, that thou tell me thy tale." He agreed to this and ate
and drank ; after which he said : " I am of the citizens of Al-Medi-
nah and I went forth one day a-pleasuring with my friends ; and,
following the road to Al-Akik, 2 saw a company of girls and
amongst them a damsel as she were a branch pearled with dew,
with eyes whose sidelong glances were never withdrawn till they
had stolen away his soul who looked on them. The maidens
rested in the shade till the end of the day, when they went away,

1 Again masculine for feminine.

* There are two of this name. The Upper Al-Akik contains the whole site of Al-Me-
dinah ; the Lower is on the Meccan road about four miles S.W. of the city. The
Prophet called it " blessed " because ordered by an angel to pray therein. The poets
have said pretty things about it, e.g.

O friend, this is the vale Akik ; here stand and strive in thought :
If not a very lover, strive to be by love distraught !

for whose esoteric meaning see Pilgrimage ii. 24. I passed through Al-Akik in July
when it was dry as summer dust and its " beautiful trees " were mere vegetable mummies.

The Lovers of Al-Medinah. 141

leaving in my heart wounds slow to heal. I returned next morn-
in'g to scent out news of her, but found none who could tell me of
her ; so I sought her in the streets and markets, but could come
on no trace of her ; wherefore I fell ill of grief and told my case
to one of my kinsmen, who said to me, No harm shall befal thee :
the days of spring are not yet past and the skies show sign of
rain, 1 whereupon she will go forth, and I will go out with thee, and
do thou thy will. His words comforted my heart and I waited
till Al-Akik ran with water, when I went forth with my friends and
kinsmen and sat in the very same place where I first saw her. We
had not been seated long before up came the women, like horses
running for a wager ; and I whispered to a girl of my kindred,
" Say to yonder damsel Quoth this man to thee, He did well who
spoke this couplet:

She shot my heart with shaft, then turned on heel * And flying dealt fresh
wound and scarring wheal."

So she went to her and repeated my words, to which she replied
saying, " Tell him that he said well who answered in this couplet :

The like of whatso feelest thou we feel ; # Patience ! perchance swift cure our
hearts shall heal."

I refrained from further speech for fear of scandal and rose to go
away. She rose at my rising, and I followed and she looked back
at me, till she saw I had noted her abode. Then she began to come
to me and I to go to her, so that we foregathered and met often, till
the case was noised abroad and grew notorious and her sire came to
know of it. However, I ceased not to meet her most assiduously
and complained of my condition to my father, who assembled our
kindred and repaired to ask her in marriage for me, of her sire,
who cried, " Had this been proposed to me before he gave her a
bad name by his assignations, I would have consented ; but now
the thing is notorious and I am loath to verify the saying of the

1 Those who live in the wet climates of the Northern lemperates can hardly under-
stand the delight of a shower in rainless lands, like Arabia and Nubia. In Sind we
used to strip and stand in the downfall and raise faces sky-wards to get the full benefit
of the douche. In Southern Persia food is hastily cooked at such times, wine strained,
Kaliuns made ready and horses saddled for a ride to the nearest gardens and a happy
drinking-bout under the cypresses. If a man refused, his friends would say of him, " See
how he turns his back upon the blessing of Allah ! " (like an ass which presents its tail
to the weather).

142 Alf LaylaJi, wa Lay/ah.

folk." Then (continued Ibrahim) I repeated the air to him and he
went away, after having acquainted me with his abode, and we
became friends. Now I was devoted to the Barmecides ; so next
time Ja'afar bin Yahya sat to give audience, I attended, as was my
wont, and sang to him the young man's verses. They pleased him
and he drank some cups of wine and said, " Fie upon thee !
whose song is this ? " So I told him the young man's tale and he
bade me ride over to him and give him assurances of the winning
of his wish. Accordingly I fetched him to Ja'afar who asked him
to repeat his story. He did so and Ja'afar said, " Thou art now
under my protection : trust me to marry thee to her." So his
heart was comforted and he abode with us. When the morning
morrowed Ja'afar mounted and went in to Al-Rashid, to whom he
related the story. The Caliph was pleased with it and sending for
the young man and myself, commanded me to repeat the air and
drank thereto. Then he wrote to the Governor of Al-Hijaz,
bidding him despatch the girl's father and his household in honour-
able fashion to his presence and spare no expense for their outfit.
So, in a little while, they came and the Caliph, sending for the
man, commanded him to marry his daughter to her lover ; after
which he gave him an hundred thousand dinars, and the father
went back to his folk. As for the young man, he abode one of
Ja'afar's cup-companions till there happened what happened ; !
whereupon he returned with his household to Al-Medinah ; may
Almighty Allah have mercy upon their souls one and all ! And
they also tell, O auspicious King, a tale of


THERE was given to Abu Amir bin Marwan, 2 a boy of the
Christians, than whom never fell eyes on a handsomer. Al-Nasir
the conquering Soldan saw him and said to Abu Amir, who was
his Wazir, " Whence cometh this boy ? " Replied he, " From
Allah ; " whereupon the other, " Wilt thou terrify us with stars

1 i.e. the destruction of the Barmecides.

8 He was Wazir to the Great "Saladin" (Salah al-Din = one conforming with the
Faith) : see vol. iv. 271, where Saladin is also entitled Al- Malik al-Nasir = the Con-
quering King. He was a Kurd and therefore fond of boys (like Virgil, Horace, etc.),
but that perversion did not prevent his being one of the noblest of men. He lies in the
Great Amawi Mosque of Damascus and I never visited a tomb with more reverence.

A I- Malik Al-Nasir and his W a stir. 143

and make us prisoner with moons ?" Abu Amir excused himself
to him and preparing a present, sent it to him with the boy, to
whom he said, " Be thou part of the gift : were it not of necessity,
my soul had not consented to give thee away." And he wrote
with him these two couplets :

My lord, this full moon takes in Heaven of thee new birth ; o Nor can deny

we Heaven excelleth humble earth :
Thee with my soul I please and oh ! the pleasant case ! o No man e'er

saw I who to give his soul prefer'th.

The thing pleased Al-Nasir and he requited him with much
treasure and the Minister became high in favour with him. After
this, there was presented to the Wazir a slave-girl, one of the
loveliest women in the world, and he feared lest this should come
to the King's ears and he desire her, and the like should happen
as with the boy. So he made up a present still costlier than the
first and sent it with her to the King, And Shahrazad per-
ceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

tofcen it foas t|je Sbt'x f^untirrtJ anU 3Ctwtg*eig&rtj

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
Wazir Abu Amir, when presented with the beautiful slave-girl,
feared lest it come to the Conquering King's ears and that the like
should happen as with the boy, so he made up a present still
costlier than the first and sent it with her to his master, accompany-
ing it with these couplets :

My lord this be the Sun, the Moon thou hadst before ; o So the two greater

lights now in thy Heaven unite :
Conjunction promising to me prosperity, * And Kausar-draught to thee and

Eden's long delight.
Earth shows no charms, by Allah, ranking as their third, o Nor King who

secondeth our Conquering King in might.

Wherefore his credit redoubled with Al-Nasir ; but, after a while,
one of his enemies maligned him to the King, alleging that there
still lurked in him a hot lust for the boy and that he ceased not to
desire him, whenever the cool northern breezes moved him, and to
gnash his teeth for having given him away. Cried the King,
" Wag not thou thy tongue at him, or I will shear off thy head."
However, he wrote Abu Amir a letter, as from the boy, to the

144 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

followrng effect: "O my lord, thou knowest that thou wast all
and one to me and that I never ceased from delight with thee.
Albeit I am with the Sultan, yet would I choose rather solitude
with thee, but that I fear the King's majesty : wherefore devise
thou to demand me of him." This letter he sent to Abu Amir
by a little foot-page, whom he enjoined to say, " This is from
such an one : the King never speaketh to him." When the Wazir
read the letter and heard the cheating message, he noted the
poison-draught 1 and wrote on the back of the note these
couplets :

Shall man experience-lectured ever care o Fool-like to thrust his head in lion's

lair ?
I'm none of those whose wits to love succumb o Nor witless of the snares

my foes prepare :
Wert thou my sprite, I'd give thee loyally ; o Shall sprite, from body

sundered, backwards fare ?

When Al-Nasir knew of this answer, he marvelled at the Wazir's
quickness of wit and would never again lend ear to aught of
insinuations against him. Then said he to him, " How didst
thou escape falling into the net ? " And he replied, " Because my
reason is unentangled in the toils of passion." And they also
tell a tale of


THERE lived in the time of Harun al-Rashid a man named Ahmad
al-Danaf and another Hasan Shuma'n 3 hight, the twain past
masters in fraud and feints, who had done rare things in their day ;
wherefore the Caliph invested them with caftans of honour and
made them Captains of the watch for Baghdad (Ahmad of the

1 Arab. " Ahassa bi'1-Shurbah ; " in our idiom " he smelt a rat."

2 This and the next tale are omitted by Lane (iii. 254) on " account of its vulgarity,
rendered more objectionable by indecent incidents." It has been honoured with a litho-
graphed reprint at Cairo A.H. 1278 and the Bresl. Edit. ix. 193 calls it the "Tale of
Ahmad al-Danaf with Dalilah."

3 "Ahmad, the Distressing Sickness," or "Calamity;" Hasan the Pestilent and
Dalilah the bawd. See vol. ii. 329, and vol. iv. 75.

The Rogueries of Dalilah and her Daughter Z ay nab. 145

right hand and Hasan of the left hand) and appointed to each of
them a stipend of a thousand dinars a month and forty stalwart
men to be at their bidding. Moreover to Calamity Ahmad was
committed the watch of the district outside the walls. So Ahmad
and Hasan went forth in company of the Emir Khalid, the Wali
or Chief of Police, attended each by his forty followers on horse-
back, and preceded by the Crier, crying aloud and saying, " By
command of the Caliph ! None is captain of the watch of
the right hand but Ahmad al-Danaf and none is captain of the
watch of the left hand but Hasan Shuman, and both are to
be obeyed when they bid and are to be held in all honour and
worship." Now there was in the city an old woman called Dalflah
the Wily, who had a daughter by name Zaynab the Coney-catcher.
They heard the proclamation made and Zaynab said to Dalilah,
"See, O my mother, this fellow, Ahmad al-Danaf! He came
hither from Cairo, a fugitive, and played the double-dealer in
Baghdad, till he got into the Caliph's company and is now become
captain of the right hand, whilst that mangy chap Hasan Shuman
is captain of the left hand, and each hath a table spread morning
and evening and a monthly wage of a thousand dinars; whereas
we abide unemployed and neglected in this house, without estate
and without honour, and have none to ask of us." Now Dalilah's
husband had been town-captain of Baghdad with a monthly wage
of one thousand dinars ; but he died leaving two daughters, one
married and with a son by name Ahmad al-Lakit 1 or Ahmad the
Abortion ; and the other called Zaynab, a spinster. And this
Dalilah was a past mistress in all manner. of craft and trickery and
double dealing ; she could wile the very dragon out of his den
and Iblis himself might have learnt deceit of her. Her father 2
had also been governor of the carrier-pigeons to the Caliph with a
solde of one thousand dinars a month. He used to rear the birds
to carry letters and messages, wherefore in time of need each was
dearer to the Caliph than one of his own sons. So Zaynab said
to her mother, " Up and play off some feint and fraud that may

haply make us notorious " And Shahrazad perceived the dawn

of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 A foetus, a foundling, a contemptible fellow.

8 In the Mac. Edit. " her husband ": the end of the tale shows the error, infra, p. 171.
The Bresl. Edit., x. 195, informs us that Dalilah was a "Faylasuflyah " = philoso-


146 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

Nofo fo&en ft foas tfje &>ix l^unfctrtj anfc Nfnetg - nint[)

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Zaynab
thus addressed her dam, " Up and play off some feint and fraud
which may haply make us notorious in Baghdad, so perchance we
shall win our father's stipend for ourselves." Replied the old
trot, " As thy head liveth, O my daughter, I will play off higher-
class rogueries in Baghdad than ever played Calamity Ahmad or
Hasan the Pestilent." So saying, she rose and threw over her
face the Lisam-veil and donned clothes such as the poorer Sufis
wear, petticoat-trousers falling over her heels, and a gown of
white wool with a broad girdle. She also took a pitcher ' and
filled it with water to the neck ; after which she set three dinars in
the mouth and stopped it up with a plug of palm-fibre. Then she
threw round her shoulder, baldrick-wise, a rosary as big as a load
of firewood, and taking in her hand a flag, made of parti-coloured
rags, red and yellow and green, went out, crying, " Allah ! Allah ! "
with tongue celebrating the praises of the Lord, whilst her heart
galloped in the Devil's race-course, seeking how she might play
some sharping trick upon town. She walked from street to street,
till she came to an alley swept and watered and marble-paved,
where she saw a vaulted gateway, with a threshold of alabaster,
and a Moorish porter standing at the door, which was of sandal-
wood plated with brass and furnished with a ring of silver for
knocker. Now this house belonged to the Chief of the Caliph's
Serjeant-ushers, a man of great wealth in fields, houses and allow-
ances, called the Emir Hasan Sharr al-Tan'k, or Evil of the Way,
and therefor called because his blow forewent his word. He was
married to a fair damsel, Khdtiin 2 hight, whom he loved and who
had made him swear, on the night of his going in unto her, that
he would take none other to wife over her nor lie abroad for a
single night. And so things went on till one day, he went to the
Divan and saw that each Emir had with him a son or two. Then
he entered the Hammam-bath and looking at his face in the

1 Arab. " Ibrlk " usually a ewer, a spout-pot, from the Pers. Ab-rfz = water-pourer ;
the old woman thus vaunted her ceremonial purity. The basin and ewer are called in
poetry "the two rumourers," because they rattle when borne about.

J Khatun in Turk, is = a lady, a dame of high degree ; at times, as here and else-
where, it becomes a P. N-

The Rogueries of Dalilah and her Daughter Z ay nab. 147

mirror, noted that the white hairs in his beard overlay its black,
and he said in himself, " Will not He who took thy sire bless thee
with a son ? " So he went in to his wife, in angry mood, and she
said to him, " Good evening to thee " ; but he replied, " Get thee
out of my sight ": from the day I saw thee I have seen naught of
good." " How so ? " quoth she. Quoth he, " On the night of my
going in unto thee, thou madest me swear to take no other wife
over thee, and this very day I have seen each Emir with a son
and some with two. So I minded me of death 1 ; and also that to
me hath been vouchsafed neither son nor daughter and that
whoso leaveth no male hath no memory. This, then, is the
reason of my anger, for thou art barren ; and knowing thee is like
planing a rock." Cried she, " Allah's name upon thee. Indeed,
I have worn out the mortars with beating wool and pounding
drugs, 2 and I am not to blame ; the barrenness is with thee, for
that thou art a snub-nosed mule and thy sperm is weak and
watery and impregnateth not neither getteth children." Said he,
" When I return from my journey, I will take another wife ; " and
she, " My luck is with Allah ! " Then he went out from her and
both repented of the sharp words spoken each to other. Now as
the Emir's wife looked forth of her lattice, as she were a Bride of
the Hoards 3 for the jewellery upon her, behold, there stood
Dalilah espying her and seeing her clad in costly clothes and
ornaments, said to herself, " 'Twould be a rare trick, O Dalilah, to
entice yonder young lady from her husband's house and strip her
of all her jewels and clothes and make off with the whole lot."
So she took up her stand under the windows of the Emir's house,
and fell to calling aloud upon Allah's name and saying, " Be
present, O ye Walis, ye friends of the Lord ! " Whereupon every
woman in the street looked from her lattice and, seeing a matron
clad, after Sufi fashion, in clothes of white wool, as she were a
pavilion of light, said, " Allah bring us a blessing by the aidance
of this pious old person, from whose face issueth light ! " And
Khatun, the wife of the Emir Hasan, burst into tears and said to

1 Arab. " Maut," a word mostly avoided in the Koran and by the Founder of

3 Arab. " Akakir," drugs, spices, simples which cannot be distinguished without study
and practice. Hence the proverb (Burckhardt, 703), Is this an art of drugs? difficult

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 15 of 40)