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 23 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 23 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

things and thou hadst not dealt thus generously by me but for a
special reason : so tell me thy case and thy secret thought ; belike
thou hast some wish to whose winning I may help thee." There-
upon he laid his hand in hers and, after exacting an oath of secrecy,

216 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

told her the whole story of his passion for the Princess and his
condition by reason thereof. The old woman shook her head and
said, " True ; but O my son, the wise say, in the current adage :
An thou wouldest be obeyed, abstain from ordering what may not
be made ; and thou, my son, thy name is Merchant, and though
thou hadst the keys of the Hidden Hoards, yet wouldst thou be
called naught but Merchant. An thou wouldst rise to high rank,
according to thy station, then seek the hand of a Kazi's daughter
or even an Emir's; but why, O my son, aspirest thou to none but
the daughter of the King of the age and the time, and she a clean
maid, who knoweth nothing of the things of the world and hath
never in her life seen anything but her palace wherein she
dwelleth ? Yet, for all her tender age, she is intelligent, shrewd,
vivacious, penetrating, quick of wit, sharp of act and rare of rede :
her father hath no other child and she is dearer to him than his
life and soul. Every morning he cometh to her and giveth her
good-morrow, and all who dwell in the palace stand in dread of
her. Think not, O my son, that any dare bespeak her with aught
of these words ; nor is there any way for me thereto. By Allah,
O my son, my heart and vitals love thee and were it in my power
to give thee access to her, I would assuredly do it ; but I will tell
thee somewhat, wherein Allah may haply appoint the healing of
thy heart, and will risk life and goods for thee, till I win thy will
for thee." He asked, " And what is that, O my mother ;" and
she answered, " Seek of me the daughter of a Wazir or an Emir,
and I will grant thy request ; but it may not be that one should
mount from earth to heaven at one bound." When the Prince
heard this, he replied to her with courtesy and sense, " O my
mother, thou art a woman of wit and knowest how things go.
Say me doth a man, when his head irketh him, bind up his hand ?"
Quoth she, " No, by Allah, O my son " ; and quoth he, " Even so my
heart seeketh none but her and naught slayeth me but love of her.
By Allah, I am a dead man, and I find not one to counsel me aright
and succour me ! Allah upon thee, O my mother, take pity on my

strangerhood and the streaming of my tears!" And Shahrazad

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

Nofo fofjtn it foas te >ebm f^unbrefc anfc {&:focntp*sef.on& Vfg&t,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Arda-
shir, the King's son said to the old woman, " Allah upon thee, O

Ardashir and Hay at al-Nufus. 217

my mother, take pity on my strangerhood and the streaming of my
tears." Replied she, " By Allah, O my son, thy words rend my
heart, but my hand hath no cunning wherewith to help thee."
Quoth he," I beseech thee of thy favour, carry her a letter and kiss
her hands for me." So she had compassion on him and said,
" Write what thou wilt and I will bear it to her." When he heard
this, he was ready to fly for joy and calling for ink-case and paper,
wrote these couplets :

Haya"t al-Nufus, be gen'rous, and incline o To one who loving thee for

parting's doomed to pine.

1 was in all delight, in gladsomest of life, o But now I am distraught with

sufferings condign.
To wakefulness I cling through longsomeness of night o And with me sorrow

chats 1 through each sad eve of mine;
Pity a lover sad, a sore afflicted wretch o Whose eyelids ever ulcered are

with tearful brine ;
And when the morning comes at last, the real morn o He finds him drunken

and distraught with passion's wine.

Then he folded the scroll and kissing it, gave it to the old woman ;
after which he put his hand to a chest and took out a second
purse containing an hundred dinars, which he presented to her,
saying, " Divide this among the slave girls." She refused it and
cried, " By Allah, O my son, I am not with thee for aught of
this ! "; however, he thanked her and answered, " There is no help
but that thou accept of it." So she took it and kissing his hands,
returned home ; and going in to the Princess, cried, " O my lady,
I have brought thee somewhat the like whereof is not with the
people of our city, and it cometh from a handsome young man,
than whom there is not a goodlier on earth's face ! " She asked,
*' O my nurse, and whence cometh the youth ? " and the old

1 Arab. " samir," one who enjoys the musamarah or night-talk outside the Arab tents.
" Samar " is the shade of the moon, or half darkness when only stars shine without a
moon, or the darkness of a moonless night. Hence the proverb (A. P. ii. 513) " M
af'al-hu al-samar wa'l kamar ;" I will not do it by moondarkness or by moonshine, i.e.
never. I have elsewhere remarked that " Early to bed and early to rise " is a civilised
maxim ; most barbarians sit deep into the night in the light of the moon of a camp-fire
and will not rise till nearly noon. They agree in our modern version of the old saw :

Early to bed and early to rise

Makes a man surly and gives him red eyes.

The Shayks of Arab tribes especially transact most of their public business during the
dark hours.

218 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

woman answered, " From the parts of Hind ; and he hath given
me this dress of gold brocade, embroidered with pearls and gems
and worth the Kingdom of Chosroes and Caesar." Thereupon she
opened the dress and the whole palace was illuminated by its
brightness, because of the beauty of its fashion and the wealth of
unions and jewels wherewith it was broidered, and all who were
present marvelled at it. The Princess examined it and, judging it
to be worth no less than a whole year's revenue of her father's
kingdom, said to the old woman, " O my nurse, cometh this dress
from him or from another?" 1 Replied she, " From him;" and
Hayat al-Nufus asked, " Is this trader of our town or a stranger ? "
The old woman answered, " He is a foreigner, O my lady, newly
come hither; and by Allah he hath servants and slaves; and he
is fair of face, symmetrical of form, well mannered, open-handed
and open-hearted, never saw I a goodlier than he, save thyself."
The King's daughter rejoined, " Indeed this is an extraordinary
thing, that a dress like this, which money cannot buy, should be
in the hands of a merchant ! What price did he set on it, O my
nurse ? " Quoth she, " By Allah, he would set no price on it, but
gave me back the money thou sentcst by me and swore that he
would take naught thereof, saying: 'Tis a gift from me to the
King's daughter ; for it beseemeth none but her ; and if she will
not accept it, I make thee a present of it." Cried the Princess,
"By Allah, this is indeed marvellous generosity and wondrous
munificence ! But I fear the issue of his affair, lest haply 2 he be
brought to necessity. Why didst thou not ask him, O my nurse,
if he had any desire, that we might fulfil it for him ? " The nurse
replied, " O my lady, I did ask him, and he said to me : I have
indeed a desire; but he would not tell me what it was. However,
he gave me this letter and said : Carry it to the Princess." So
Hayat al-Nufus took the letter and opened and read it to the end ;
whereupon she was sore chafed ; and lost temper and changing
colour for anger she cried out to the old woman, saying, " Woe to
thee, O nurse ! What is the name of this dog who durst write
this language to a King's daughter ? What affinity is there
between me and this hound that he should address me thus ? By
Almighty Allah, Lord of the well Zemzem and of the Hatim

1 Suspecting that it had been sent by some Royal lover.

2 Arab. " Rubbama " a particle more emphatic than rubba, = perhaps, sometimes,

Ardashir and Hay at al-Nufus. 219

Wall, 1 but that I fear the Omnipotent, the Most High, I would
send and bind the cur's hands behind him and slit his nostrils, and
shear off his nose and ears and after, by way of example, crucify
him on the gate of the bazar wherein is his booth !" When the old
woman heard these words, she waxed yellow; her side muscles 2
quivered and her tongue clave to her mouth ; but she heartened
her heart and said, " Softly, O my lady ! What is there in his
letter to trouble thee thus ? Is it aught but a memorial containing
his complaint to thee of poverty or oppression, from which he
hopeth to be relieved by thy favour ? " Replied she, " No, by
Allah, O my nurse, 'tis naught of this ; but verses and shameful
words ! However, O my nurse, this dog must be in one of three
cases : either he is Jinn-mad, and hath no wit, or he seeketh his
own slaughter, or else he is assisted to his wish of me by some
one of exceeding puissance and a mighty Sultan. Or hath he
heard that I am one of the baggages of the city, who lie a night
or two with whosoever seeketh them, that he writeth me immodest
verses to debauch my reason by talking of such matters ? " Re-
joined the old woman, " By Allah, O my lady, thou sayst sooth !
But reck not thou of yonder ignorant hound, for thou art seated in
thy lofty, firm-builded and unapproachable palace, to which the very
birds cannot soar neither the wind pass over it, and as for him,
he is clean distraught. Wherefore do thou write him a letter
and chide him angrily and spare him no manner of reproof, but
threaten him with dreadful threats and menace him with death
and say to him : Whence hast thou knowledge of me, that thou
durst write me, O dog of a merchant, O thou who trudgest far
and wide all thy days in wilds and wolds for the sake of gaining
a dirham or a dinar ? By Allah, except thou awake from thy
sleep and put off thine intoxication, I will assuredly crucify thee
on the gate of the market-street wherein is thy shop ! " Quoth
the Princess, " I fear lest he presume, if I write to him "; and
quoth the nurse, " And pray what is he and what is his rank that
he should presume to us ? Indeed, we write him but to the intent
that his presumption may be cut off and his fear magnified."

1 " The broken (wall) " from Hatim = breaking. It fences the Hijr or space where
Ishmael is buried (vol. vi. 205) ; and I have described it in Pilgrimage iii. 165.

2 Arab. " Farais " (plur. of farisah) : the phrase has often occurred and is = our
" trembled in every nerve." As often happens in Arabic, it is " horsey ;" alluding to
the shoulder-muscles (not shoulder-blades, Preston p. 89) between neck and flank which
readily quiver in blood-horses when excited or frightened.

22O Alf Loylah wa Lay la ft.

And she ceased not craftily to persuade her, till she called for
ink-case and paper and wrote him these couplets :

thou who claimest to be prey of love and ecstasy ; o Thou, who for

passion spendest nights in grief and Saddest gree :

Say, dost thou (haughty one !) desire enjoyment of the moon ? o Did man e'er sue
the moon for grace whate'er his lunacy ?

1 verily will counsel thee with rede the best to hear : o Cut short this

course ere come thou nigh sore risk, nay death, to dree !
If thou to this request return, surely on thee shall fall o Sore punishment,

for vile offence a grievous penalty.
Be reasonable then, be wise, hark back unto thy wits ; Behold, in very

truth I speak with best advice to thee :
By Him who did all things that be create from nothingness; o Who dressed the

face of heaven with stars in brightest radiancy :
If in the like of this thy speech thou dare to sin again ! o I'll surely have

thee crucified upon a trunk of tree.

Then she rolled up the letter and gave it to the old woman who
took it and, repairing to Ardashir's shop, delivered it to him,

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying

her permitted say.

Nofo toljm it teas t&e &eben $^un&rrt an& ^foentg-tfjtrtj TSIigfjt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
old woman took that letter from Hayat al-Nufus she fared forth
till she found the youth who was sitting in his shop and gave it
to him, saying, " Read thine answer and know that when she
perused thy paper she was wroth with exceeding wrath ; but
I soothed her and spake her fair, till she consented to write thee
a reply." He took the letter joyfully but, when he had read it
and understood its drift, he wept sore, whereat the old woman's
heart ached and she cried, " O my son, Allah never cause thine
eyes to weep nor thy heart to mourn ! What can be more gracious
than that she should answer thy letter when thou hast done what
thou diddest ? " He replied, " O my mother what shall I do for
a subtle device ? Behold, she writeth to me, threatening me with
death and crucifixion and forbidding me from writing to her ; and
I, by Allah, see my death to be better than my life ; but I beg
thee of thy grace * to carry her another letter from me." She

1 Arab. " Fazl " = exceeding goodness as in " Fazl wa ma'rifah " virtue and

Ardashir and Hay at al-Nufus. 221

said, " Write and I warrant I'll bring thee an answer. By Allah,
I will assuredly venture my life to win for thee thy wish, though
I die to pleasure thee ! " He thanked her and kissing her hands,
wrote these verses :

Do you threaten me wi' death for my loving you so well ? o When Death

to me were rest and all dying is by Fate ?
And man's death is but a boon, when so longsome to him grows o His life, and

rejected he lives in lonest state :
Then visit ye a lover who hath ne'er a soul to aid ; o For on pious works

of men Heaven's blessing shall await.
But an ye be resolved on this deed then up and on ; o I'm in bonds to you,

a bondsman confined within your gate :
What path have I whose patience without you is no more? o How is this, when

a lover's heart in stress of love is strait ?
O my lady show me ruth, who by passion am misused ; o For all who love

the noble stand for evermore excused.

He then folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, together
with two purses of two hundred dinars, which she would have
refused, but he conjured her by oath to accept of them. So she
took them both and said, " Needs must I bring thee to thy desire,
despite the noses of thy foes." Then she repaired to the palace
and gave the letter to Hayat al-Nufus who said, " What is this,
O my nurse ? Here are we in a correspondence and thou coming
and going ! Indeed, I fear lest the matter get wind and we be
disgraced." Rejoined the old woman, " How so, O my lady ?
Who dare speak such word ? " So she took the letter and after
reading and understanding it she smote hand on hand, saying,
" Verily, this is a calamity which is fallen upon us, and I know
not whence this young man came to us ! " Quoth the old woman,
" O my lady, Allah upon thee, write him another letter ; but be
rough with him this time and say to him : An thou write me
another word after this, I will have thy head struck off." Quoth
the Princess, " O my nurse, I am assured that the matter will not
end on such wise ; 'twere better to break off this exchange of
letters ; and, except the puppy take warning by my previous
threats, I will strike off his head." The old woman said, " Then
write him a letter and give him to know this condition." So
Hayat al-Nufus called for pen-case and paper and wrote these
couplets :

Ho, thou heedless of Time and his sore despight ! o Ho, thou heart whom
hopes of my favours excite !

222 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

Think O pride-full! would'st win for thyself the skies? o Would'st attain to
the moon shining clear and bright ?

I will burn thee with fire that shall ne'er be quenched, o Or will slay thee
with scymitar's sharpest bite !

Leave it, friend, and 'scape the tormenting pains, o Such as turn hair-

partings' from black to white.

Take my warning and fly from the road of love ; o Draw thee back

from a course nor seemly nor right !

Then she folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, who was
puzzled and perplexed by the matter. She carried it to Ardashir,
and the Prince read the letter and bowed his head to the earth,
making as if he wrote with his finger and speaking not a word.
Quoth the old woman, " How is it I see thee silent stay and not
say thy say ? " ; and quoth he, " O my mother, what shall I say,
seeing that she doth but threaten me and redoubleth in hard-
heartedness and aversion?" Rejoined the nurse, "Write her a
letter of what thou wilt : I will protect thee ; nor let thy heart
be cast down, for needs must I bring you twain together." He
thanked her for her kindness and kissing her hand, wrote these
couplets \

A heart, by Allah ! never soft to lover-wight, o Who sighs for union

only with his friends, his sprite !
Who with tear-ulcered eyelids evermore must bide, o When falleth upon

earth first darkness of the night :
Be just, be gen'rous, lend thy ruth and deign give alms o To love-molested lover,

parted, forced to flight !
He spends the length of longsome night without a doze; o Fire-brent and drent

in tear-flood flowing infinite :
Ah ; cut not off the longing of my fondest heart o Now disappointed,

wasted, flutt'ring for its blight.

Then he folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, together
with three hundred dinars, saying, " This is for the washing of thy
hands." She thanked him and kissed his hands, after which she
returned to the palace and gave the letter to the Princess, who
took it and read it and throwing it from her fingers, sprang to her
feet. Then she walked, shod as she was with pattens of gold, set
with pearls and jewels, till she came to her sire's palace, whilst
the vein of anger started out between her eyes, and none dared

1 Arab- "Al-Mafdrik " (plur. of Mafrak), = the pole or crown of the head, where
the hair parts naturally and where baldness mostly begins.

Ardashir and Hayat at-Nufus. 223

ask her of her case. When she reached the palace, she enquired
for the King, and the slave-girls and concubines replied to her,
"O my lady, he is gone forth a-hunting and sporting." So she
returned, as she were a rending lioness, and bespake none for the
space of three hours, when her brow cleared and her wrath cooled.
As soon as the old woman saw that her irk and anger were past,
she went up to her and, kissing ground between her hands, asked
her, " O my lady, whither went those noble steps ? " The Princess
answered, "To the palace of the King my sire." "And could
no one do thine errand ? " enquired the nurse. Replied the
Princess, " No, for I went to Acquaint him of that which hath
befallen me with yonder cur of a merchant, so he might lay hands
on him and on all the merchants of his bazar and crucify them
over their shops nor suffer a single foreign merchant to tarry in
our town," Quoth the old woman, "And was this thine only
reason, O my lady, for going to thy sire?"; and quoth Hayat
al-Nufus, "Yes, but I found him absent a-hunting and sporting
and now I await his return." Cried the old nurse, " I take refuge
with Allah, the All-hearing, the All-knowing ! Praised be He !
O my lady, thou art the most sensible of women and how couldst
thou think of telling the King these fond words, which it behoveth
none to publish ? " Asked the Princess, " And why so ? " and the
nurse answered, " Suppose thou had found the King in his palace
and told him all this tale and he had sent after the merchants and
commanded to hang them over their shops, the folk would have
seen them hanging and asked the reason and it would have been

answered them : They sought to seduce the King's daughter.

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

Nofo fofcen ft foas tfje Jfctbw f^unfcttfr anil ^foent^fouttij

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
old woman said to the Princess, " Suppose thou had told this to
the King and he had ordered the merchants to be hanged, would
not folk have seen them and have asked the cause of the execution
when the answer would have been : They sought to seduce the
King's daughter ? Then would they have dispread divers reports
concerning thee, some saying : She abode with them ten days,
away from her palace, till they had taken their fill of her; and

224 d/f Laylah wa Laylak.

other some in otherguise ; for woman's honour, O my lady, is like
curded milk, the least dust fouleth it ; and like glass, which, if it
be cracked, may not be mended. So beware of telling thy sire or
any other of this matter, lest thy fair fame be smirched, O mistress
mine, for 'twill never profit thee to tell folk aught ; no, never !
Weigh what I say with thy keen wit, and if thou find it not just,
do whatso thou wilt." The Princess pondered her words, and
seeing them to be altogether profitable and right, said, "Thou
speakest sooth, O my nurse ; but anger had blinded my judg-
ment." Quoth the old woman, "Thy resolve to tell no one is
pleasing to the Almighty ; but something remaineth to be done :
we must not let the shamelessness of yonder vile dog of a mer-
chant pass without notice. Write him a letter and say to him :
O vilest of traders, but that I found the King my father absent, I
had straightway commanded to hang thee and all thy neighbours.
But thou shalt gain nothing by this ; for I swear to thee, by Allah
the Most High, that an thou return to the like of this talk, I will
blot out the trace of thee from the face of earth ! And deal thou
roughly with him in words, so shalt thou discourage him in this
attempt and arouse him from his heedlessness." " And will these
words cause him to abstain from his offending ? " asked the
Princess ; and the old woman answered, " How should he not
abstain? Besides, I will talk with him and tell him what hath
passed." So the Princess called for ink-case and paper and wrote
these couplets :

To win our favours still thy hopes are bent ; o And still to win thy will
art confident !

Naught save his pride-full aim shall slay a man ; o And he by us shall die of
his intent.

Thou art no lord of might, no chief of men, o Nabob or Prince or Sol-
dan Heaven-sent ;

And were this deed of one who is our peer, o He had returned with
hair for fear white-sprent :

Yet will I deign once more excuse thy sin o So from this time thou

prove thee penitent.

Then she gave the missive to the old woman, saying, "O my nurse,
do thou admonish this puppy lest I be forced to cut off his head
and sin on his account." Replied the old woman, " By Allah, O
my lady, I will not leave him a side to turn on ! '\ Then she
returned to the youth and, when salams had been exchanged, she
gave him the letter. He read it and shook his head, saying,

Ardashir and Hay at al-Nufus. 22$

"Verily, we are Allah's and unto him shall we return!" adding,
"O my mother, what shall I do? My fortitude faileth me and
my patience palleth upon me ! " She replied, " O my son, be long-
sufiering : peradventure, after this Allah shall bring somewhat to
pass. Write that which is in thy mind and I will fetch thee an
answer, and be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear ;
for needs must I bring about union between thee and her,
Inshallah ! " He blessed her and wrote to the Princess a note
containing these couplets :

Since none will lend my love a helping hand, # And I by passion's bale in

death low-lain,
I bear a flaming fire within my heart * By day and night nor place of rest

How cease to hope in thee, my wishes' term ? * Or with my longings to be glad

and fain ?
The Lord of highmost Heaven to grant my prayer * Pray I, whom love of lady

fair hath slain ;
And as I'm clean o'erthrown by love and fear, * To grant me speedy union

deign, oh deign !

Then he folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, bringing
out at .the same time a purse of four hundred dinars. She took
the whole and returning to the palace sought the Princess to whom
she gave the letter; but the King's daughter refused to take it
and cried, " What is this ? " Replied the old woman, " O my lady,
this is only the answer to the letter thou sentest to that merchant
dog." Quoth Hayat al-Nufus, " Didst thou forbid him as I told
thee ? " ; and quoth she, " Yes, and this is his reply." So the
Princess took the letter and read it to the end ; then she turned
to the old woman and exclaimed, " Where is the result of thy
promise? " " O my lady, saith he not in his letter that he repent-
eth and will not again offend, excusing himself for the past ? "
" Not so, by Allah ! : on the contrary, he increaseth." " O my
lady, write him a letter and thou shalt presently see what I will

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 23 of 40)