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 33 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 33 of 40)
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Then he caused the scribes write the story in letters of gold and
lay it up in his privy treasures; and whenever his breast was

314 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

straitened, he would summon Hasan and he would read him the
story, 1 which was as follows :


THERE was once, in days of old and in ages and times long told,
a King in Egypt called Asim bin Safwan, 2 who was a liberal and
beneficent sovran, venerable and majestic. He owned many cities
and sconces and fortresses and troops and warriors and had a
Wazir named Faris bin Salih, 3 and he and all his subjects
worshipped the sun and the fire, instead of the All-powerful Sire,
the Glorious, the Victorious. Now this King was become a very
old man, weakened and wasted with age and sickness and de-
crepitude ; for he had lived an hundred and fourscore years and
had no child, male or female, by reason whereof he was ever in
cark and care from morning to night and from night to morn. It
so happened that one day of the days, he was sitting on the throne
of his Kingship, with his Emirs and Wazirs and Captains and
Grandees in attendance on him, according to their custom, in their
several stations, and whenever there came in an Emir, who had
with him a son or two sons, or haply three who stood at the sides
of their sires the King envied him and said in himself, " Every
one of these is happy and rejoiceth in his children, whilst I, I
have no child, and to-morrow I die and leave my reign and
throne and lands and hoards, and strangers will take them and
none will bear me in memory nor will there remain any mention
of me in the world." Then he became drowned in the sea of
thought and for the much thronging of griefs and anxieties upon
his heart, like travellers faring for the well, he shed tears and
descending from his throne, sat down upon the floor, 4 weeping
and humbling himself before the Lord. Now when the Wazir and

1 The pomp and circumstance, with which the tale is introduced to the reader showing
the importance attached to it. Lane, most injudiciously I think, transfers the Proemium
to a note in chapt. xxiv., thus converting an Arabian Night into an Arabian Note.

2 'Asim = defending (honour) or defended, son of Safwan =: clear, cold (dry).
Tr^butien ii. 126, has Safran.

J Faris = the rider, the Knight, son of Salih = the righteous, the pious, the just.
' In sign of the deepest dejection, when a man would signify that he can fall no lower.

Sayf al-Muluk and Badta al-Jamal. 3 1 5

notables of the realm and others who were present in the assembly
saw him do thus with his royal person, they feared for their lives
and let the poursuivants cry aloud to the lieges, saying, " Hie ye
to your homes and rest till the King recover from what aileth
him." So they went away, leaving none in the presence save the
Minister who, as soon as the King came to himself, kissed ground
between his hands and said, " O King of the Age and the time,
wherefore this weeping and wailing? Tell me who hath trans-
gressed against thee of the Kings or Castellans or Emirs or
Grandees, and inform me who hath thwarted thee, O my liege
lord, that we may all fall on him and tear his soul from his two
sides." But he spake not neither raised his head ; whereupon the
Minister kissed ground before him a second time and said to him,
" O Master, 1 I am even as thy son and thy slave, nay, I have
reared thee ; yet know I not the cause of thy cark and chagrin and
of this thy case ; and who should know but I who should stand in
my stead between thy hands ? Tell me therefore why this weeping
and wherefore thine affliction." Nevertheless, the King neither
opened his mouth nor raised his head, but ceased not to weep and
cry with a loud crying and lament with exceeding lamentation
and ejaculate, " Alas ! " The Wazir took patience with him awhile,
after which he said to him, " Except thou tell me the cause of this
thine affliction, I will set this sword to my heart and will slay
myself before thine eyes, rather than see thee thus distressed."
Then King Asim raised his head and, wiping away his tears, said,
" O Minister of good counsel and experience, leave me to my care
and my chagrin, for that which is in my heart of sorrow sufficeth
me." But Faris said, " Tell me, O King, the cause of this thy
weeping, haply Allah will appoint thee relief at my hands. -
And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her
permitted say.

tfofo fo&en it foas t&e Sbeben f^untKttb anfc jptftg-ntntj

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
Wazir said to King Asim, " Tell me the cause of this thy weeping :

1 Arab. Ya Khawand (in Bresl. Edit. vol. iv. 191) and fern, form Khawandah
(p. 20) from Pers. Khawand or Khawandagar = superior, lord, master ; Khudawand
is still used in popular as in classical Persian, and is universally understood in

316 Alf Laylah iva Laylah.

haply Allah shall appoint thee relief at my hands." Replied the
King, " O Wazir, I weep not for monies nor horses nor kingdoms
nor aught else, but that I am become an old man, yea, very old
nigh upon an hundred and fourscore years of age, and I have not
been blessed with a child, male or female : so, when I die, they
will bury me and my trace will be effaced and my name cut off ;
the stranger will take my throne and reign and none will ever
make mention of my being." Rejoined the Minister Faris, "O
King of the Age, I am older than thou by an hundred years yet
have I never been blest with boon of child and cease not day
and night from cark and care and concern ; so how shall we do,
I and thou ? " Quoth Asim, " O Wazir, hast thou no device or
shift in this matter ? " and quoth the Minister, " Know, O King
that I have heard of a Sovran in the land of Saba * by name
Solomon David-son (upon the twain be the Peace !), 2 who pre-
tendeth to prophetship and avoucheth that he hath a mighty Lord
who can do all things and whose kingdom is in the Heavens and
who hath dominion over all mankind and birds and beasts and
over the wind and the Jinn. Moreover, he kenneth the speech of
birds and the language of every other created thing ; and withal,
he calleth all creatures to the worship of his Lord and discoursed!
to them of their service. So let us send him a messenger in the
King's name and seek of him our need, beseeching him to put up
prayer to his Lord, that He vouchsafe each of us boon of issue.
If his Faith be soothfast and his Lord Omnipotent, He will
assuredly bless each of us with a child male or female, and if the
thing thus fall out, we will enter his faith and worship his Lord ;
else will we take patience and devise us another device." The
King cried, " This is well seen, and my breast is broadened by
this thy speech ; but where shall we find a messenger befitting
this grave matter, for that this Solomon is no Kinglet and the
approaching him is no light affair ? Indeed, I will send him none,
on the like of this matter, save thyself ; for thou art ancient and
versed in all manner affairs and the like of thee is the like of
myself; wherefore I desire that thou weary thyself and journey
to him and occupy thyself sedulously with accomplishing this

1 The Biblical Sheba, whence came the Queen of many Hebrew fables.

3 These would be the interjections of the writer or story-teller. The Mac. Edit, is
here a sketch which must be filled up by the Bresl. Edit. vol. iv 189-318: "Tale of
King Asim and his son Sayf al-Muluk with Badi'a al-Jamal."

Sayf al-Muluk and Bad? a ai-Jamal. 317

matter, so haply solace may be at thy hand." The Minister said,
" I hear and I obey ; but rise thou forthwith and seat thee upon
the throne, so the Emirs and Lords of the realm and officers and
the lieges may enter applying themselves to thy service, according
to their custom ; for they all went away from thee, troubled at
heart on thine account. Then will I go out and set forth on the
Sovran's errand." So the King arose forthright and sat down on
the throne of his kingship, whilst the Wazir went out and said to
the Chamberlain, " Bid the folk proceed to their service, as of their
wont." Accordingly the troops and Captains and Lords of the
land entered, after they had spread the tables and ate and drank
and withdrew as was their wont, after which the Wazir Faris
went forth from King Asim and, repairing to his own house,
equipped himself for travel and returned to the King, who opened
to him the treasuries and provided him with rarities and things
of price and rich stuffs and gear without compare, such as nor
Emir nor Wazir hath power to possess. Moreover, King Asim
charged him to accost Solomon with reverence, foregoing him
with the salam but not exceeding in speech; "and (continued
he) then do thou ask of him thy need, and if he say 'tis granted,
return to us in haste, for I shall be awaiting thee." Accordingly,
the Minister kissed hands and took the presents and setting out,
fared on night and day, till he came within fifteen days' journey
of Saba. Meanwhile Allah (extolled and exalted be He !) inspired
Solomon the son of David (the Peace be upon both !) and said
to him> " O Solomon, the King of Egypt sendeth unto thee his
Chief Wazir, with a present of rarities and such and such things
of price ; so do thou also despatch thy Counsellor Asaf bin
Barkhiya to meet him with honour and with victual at the halting-
places ; and when he cometh to thy presence, say unto him :
Verily, thy King hath sent thee in quest of this and that and thy
business is thus and thus. Then do thou propound to him The
Saving Faith." '* Whereupon Solomon bade his Wazir make
ready a company of his retainers and go forth to meet the

1 The oath by the Seal-ring of Solomon was the Stygian " swear " in Fairy-land.
The signet consisted of four jewels, presented by as many angels, representing the
Winds, the Birds, Earth (including sea) and Spirits, and the gems were inscribed with
as many sentences (i) To Allah belong Majesty and Might : (2) All created things
praise the Lord ; (3) Heaven and Earth are Allah's slaves and (4) There is no god but
the God and Mohammed is His messenger. For Sakhr and his theft of the signet see
Dr. Weil's, " The Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud."

318 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

Minister of Egypt with honour and sumptuous provision at the
halting-places. So Asaf made ready all that was needed for their
entertainment and setting out, fared on till he fell in with Paris
and accosted htm with the salam, honouring him and his company
with exceeding honour. Moreover, he brought them provaunt
and provender at the halting-places and said to them, " Well come
and welcome and fair welcome to the coming guests! Rejoice in
the certain winning of your wish ! Be your souls of good cheer
and your eyes cool and clear and your breasts be broadened ! "
Quoth Faris in himself, " Who acquainted him with this ? " ; and
he said to Asaf, 1 " O my lord, and who gave thee to know of us
and our need?" "It was Solomon son of David (on whom be
the Peace !), told us of this ! " " And who told our lord Solomon ?'*
" The Lord of the heaven and the earth told him, the God of all
creatures ! " " This is none other than a mighty God ! " " And
do ye not worship him ? " " We worship the Sun, and prostrate
ourselves thereto." " O Wazir Faris, the sun is but a star of the
stars created by Allah (extolled and exalted be He !), and Allah
forbid that it should be a Lord ! Because whiles it riseth and
whiles it setteth, but our Lord is ever present and never absent
and He over all things is Omnipotent ! " Then they journeyed on
a little while till they came to the land Saba and drew near the
throne of Solomon David-son, (upon the twain be peace !), who
commanded his hosts of men and Jinn and others 2 to form line on
their road. So the beasts of the sea and the elephants and leopards
and lynxes and all beasts of the land ranged themselves in espalier
on either side of the way, after their several kinds, and similarly
the Jinn drew out in two ranks, appearing all to mortal eyes
without concealment, in divers forms grisly and gruesome. So
they lined the road on either hand, and the birds bespread their
wings over the host of creatures to shade them, warbling one to
other in all manner of voices and tongues. Now when the people
of Egypt came to this terrible array, they dreaded it and durst
not proceed ; but Asaf said to them, " Pass on amidst them and
walk forward and fear them not : for they are slaves of Solomon
son of David, and none of them will harm you." So saying, he

1 Tre"butien (ii. 128) remarks, "Get Assaf peut etre celui auquel David adresse
plusieurs de ses psaumes, et que nos interpretes disent avoir e"te* son maitre de chapelle
(from Biblioth. Orient).

2 Mermen, monsters, beasts, etc.

Sayf al-Muluk and Bad fa al-Jamal. 319

entered between the ranks, followed by all the folk and amongst
them the Wazir of Egypt and his company, fearful : and they
ceased not faring forwards till they reached the city, where they
lodged the embassy in the guest-house and 'for the space of three
days entertained them sumptuously entreating them with the
utmost honour. Then they carried them before Solomon, prophet
of Allah (on whom be the Peace !), and when entering they would
have kissed the earth before him ; but he forbade them, saying,
" It besitteth not a man prostrate himself to earth save before
Allah (to whom belong Might and Majesty !), Creator of Earth
and Heaven and all other things ; wherefore, whosoever of you
hath a mind to sit let him be seated in my service, or to stand,
let him stand, but let none stand to do me worship." So they
obeyed him and the Wazir Faris and some of his intimates sat
down, whilst certain of the lesser sort remained afoot to wait on
him. When they had sat awhile, the servants spread the tables
and they all, men and beasts, ate their sufficiency. 1 Then Solomon
bade Faris expound his errand, that it might be accomplished,
saying, " Speak and hide naught of that wherefor thou art come ;
for I know why ye come and what is your errand, which is thus
and thus. The King of Egypt who despatched thee, Asim hight,
hath become a very old man, infirm, decrepit ; and Allah (whose
name be exalted !) hath not blessed him with offspring, male or
female. So he abode in cark and care and chagrin from morn to
night and from night to morn. It so happened that one day of
the days as he sat upon the throne of his kingship with his Emirs
and Wazirs, and Captains and Grandees in attendance on him, he
saw some of them with two sons others with one and others with
even three who came with their sire to do him service. So he
said in himself, of the excess of his sorrow, " Who shall get my
kingdom after my death ? Will any save a stranger take it ?
And thus shall I pass out of being as though I had never been ! "
On this account he became drowned in the sea of thought, until
his eyes were flooded with tears and he covered his face with his
kerchief and wept with sore weeping. Then he rose from off his

1 This is in accordance with Eastern etiquette ; the guest must be fed before his errand
is asked. The Porte, in the days of its pride, managed in this way sorely to insult the
Ambassadors of the most powerful European kingdoms and the first French Republic
had the honour of abating the barbarians' nuisance. So the old Scottish Highlanders
never asked the name or clan of a chance guest, lest he prove a foe before he had eaten
their food.

320 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

throne and sat down upon the floor wailing and lamenting and
none knew what was in heart as he grovelled in the ground save

Allah Almighty. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

and ceased to say her permitted say.

fo&cn ft foas tfje Sbeben l^untjrrt an* Jbfrttetf)

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Solomon
David-son (upon both of whom be peace !) after disclosing to the
Wazir Faris that which had passed between himself and his master,
King Asim, said to him, " Is this that I have told thee the truth,
O Wazir ? " Replied Faris, " O prophet of Allah, this thou hast
said is indeed sooth and verity ; but when we discoursed of this
matter, none was with the King and myself, nor was any ware of
our case; who, then told thee of all these things?" Answered
Solomon, " They were told to me by my Lord who knoweth whatso
is concealed * from the eye and what is hidden in the breasts.'*
Quoth Faris, " O Prophet of Allah, verily this is none other than a
mighty Lord and an omnipotent God ! " And he Islamized with
all his many. Then said Solomon to him, " Thou hast with thee
such and such presents and rarities ; " and Faris replied " Yes."
The prophet continued, " I accept them all and give them in free
gift unto thee. So do ye rest, thou and thy company, in the place
where you have been lodging, till the fatigue of the journey shall
cease from you ; and to-morrow, Inshallah ! thine errand shall be
accomplished to the uttermost, if it be the will of Allah the Most
High, Lord of heaven and earth and the light which followeth the
gloom ; Creator of all creatures." So Faris returned to his quarters
and passed the night in deep thought. But when morning mor-
rowed he presented himself before the Lord Solomon, who said
to him, " When thou returnest to King Asim bin Safwan and you
twain are re-united, do ye both go forth some day armed with
bow, bolts and brand, and fare to such a place, where ye shall
find a certain tree. Mount upon it and sit silent until the mid-
hour between noon-prayer and that of mid-afternoon, when the
noontide heat hath cooled ; then descend and look at the foot
of the tree, whence ye will see two serpents come forth, one
with a head like an ape's and the other with a head like an

1 In Bresl. Edit. (301) Khdfiyah : in Mac. Khainah, the perfidy.

Sayf al-Muluk and Bad? a al-Jamal. 321

Ifrit's. Shoot them ye twain with bolts and kill them both;
then cut off a span's length from their heads and the like from
their tails and throw it away. The rest of the flesh cook and
cook well and give it to your wives to eat : then lie with them
that night and, by Allah's leave, they shall conceive and bear
male children." Moreover, he gave him a seal-ring a sword and
a wrapper containing two tunics 1 embroidered with gold and
jewels, saying, "O Wazir Paris, when your sons grow up to
man's estate, give to each of them one of these tunics." Then
said he, " In the name of Allah ! May the Almighty accomplish
your desire ! And now nothing remaineth for thee but to depart,
relying on the blessing of the Lord the Most High, for the King
looketh for thy return night and day and his eye is ever gazing
on the road." So the Wazir advanced to the prophet Solomon
son of David (upon both of whom be the Peace !) and farewelled
him and fared forth from him after kissing his hands. Rejoicing
in the accomplishment of his errand he travelled on with all
diligence night and day, and ceased not wayfaring till he drew
near to Cairo, when he despatched one of his servants to
acquaint King Asim with his approach and the successful issue
of his journey ; which when the King heard he joyed with
exceeding joy, he and his Grandees and Officers and troops
especially in the Wazir's safe return. When they met, the
Minister dismounted and, kissing ground before the King, gave
him the glad news anent the winning of his wish in fullest
fashion ; after which he expounded the True Faith to him, and
the King and all his people embraced Al-Islam with much joy
and gladness. Then said Asim to his Wazir, " Go home and
rest this night and a week to boot ; then go to the Hammam-
bath and come to me, that I may inform thee of what we shall
have to consider." So Faris kissed ground and withdrew, with
his suite, pages and eunuchs, to his house, where he rested eight
days ; after which he repaired to the King and related to him
all that had passed between Solomon and himself, adding, " Do
thou rise and go forth with me alone." Then the King and the
Minister took two bows and two bolts and repairing to the tree
indicated by Solomon, clomb up into it and there sat in silence
till the mid-day heat had passed away and it was near upon the

1 So in the Mac. Edit., in the Bresl. only one " Kabi " or Kaftan ; but from the sequel
it seems to be a clerical error.


322 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

hour of mid-afternoon prayer, when they descended and looking
about them saw a serpent-couple 1 issue from the roots of the
tree. The King gazed at them, marvelling to see them ringed
with collars of gold about their necks, and said to Paris, " O
Wazir, verily these snakes have golden torques ! By Allah, this
is forsooth a rare thing! Let us catch them and set them in a
cage and keep them to look upon." But the Minister said,
" These hath Allah created for profitable use ; 2 so do thou
shoot one and I will shoot the other with these our shafts."
Accordingly they shot at them with arrows and slew them ;
after which they cut off a span's length of their heads and tails
and threw it away. Then they carried the rest to the King's
palace, where they called the kitchener and giving him that
flesh said, " Dress this meat daintily, with onion-sauce 3 and
spices, and ladle it out into two saucers and bring them

hither at such an hour, without delay ! " And Shahrazad

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

fofjm ft foas t&e &cten ^un&tt& anfc &ixtp=6rst Nfgfit,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
King and the Wazir gave the serpents' flesh to the kitchener,
saying, " Cook it and ladle it out into two saucers and bring
them hither without delay ! "; the cook took the meat and went
with it to the kitchen, where he cooked it and dressed it in skilful
fashion with a mighty fine onion-sauce and hot spices ; after which
he ladled it out into two saucers and set them before the King
and the Wazir, who took each a dish and gave their wives to eat
of the meat. Then they went in that night unto them and knew
them carnally, and by the good pleasure of Allah (extolled and
exalted be He!) and His all-might and furtherance, they both
conceived on one and the same night. The King abode three

1 Arab. "Su'uban" (Thu'uban) popularly translated "basilisk." The Egyptians
suppose that when this serpent forms ring round the Ibn 'Irs (weasel or ichneumon)
the latter emits a peculiar air which causes the reptile to burst.

2 i.e. that prophesied by Solomon.

3 Arab. " Takliyah " from kaly, a fry : Lane's Shaykh explained it as " onions cooked
in clarified butter, after which they are put upon other cooked food." The mention
of onions points to Egypt as the origin of this tale and certainly not to Arabia, where
the strong-smelling root is hated.

Sayf al-Muluk and Bad? a al-Jamal. 323

months, troubled in mind and saying in himself, " I wonder
whether this thing will prove true or untrue"; till one day, as
the lady his Queen was sitting, the child stirred in her womb and
she felt a pain and her colour changed. So she knew that she
was with child and calling the chief of her eunuchs, gave him
this command, " Go to the King, wherever he may be and con-
gratulate him saying : O King of the Age, I bring thee the
glad tidings that our lady's pregnancy is become manifest, for
the child stirreth in her womb." So the eunuch went out in
haste, rejoicing, and finding the King alone, with cheek on palm,
pondering this thing, kissed ground between his hands and
acquainted him with his wife's pregnancy. When the King
heard his words, he sprang to his feet and in the excess of his
joy, he kissed ! the eunuch's hands and head and doffing the
clothes he had on, gave them to him. Moreover, he said to
those who were present in his assembly, " Whoso loveth me, let
him bestow largesse upon this man." 2 And they gave him of
coin and jewels and jacinths and horses and mules and estates
and gardens what was beyond count or calculation. At that
moment in came the Wazir Paris and said to Asim, " O my
master, but now I was sitting alone at home and absorbed in
thought, pondering the matter of the pregnancy and saying
to myself: Would I wot an this thing be true and whether
my wife Khatun 3 have conceived or not ! when, behold, an
eunuch came in to me and brought me the glad tidings that
his lady was indeed pregnant, for that her colour was changed
and the child stirred in her womb ; whereupon, in my joy, I
doffed all the clothes I had on and gave them to him, together
with a thousand dinars, and made him Chief of the Eunuchs."

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 33 of 40)