Richard Francis Burton.

The book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) online

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Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonThe book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) → online text (page 10 of 38)
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rascality of its prophets (the so-called Mediums) has brought it into universal disrepute.
It has been said that Catholicism must be true to co-exist with the priest and it is the
same with Spiritualism proper, by which I understand the belief in a life beyond the
grave, a mere continuation of this life ; it flourishes (despite the Medium) chiefly because
it has laid before man the only possible and intelligible idea of a future state.

King Jali ad of Hind and his Wazir Skimas, 87

next life is better for us and more profitable." Said the Prince,
" O sage, thou hast dispelled the darkness that was upon my
heart by the light of thy shining lamp and hast directed me into
the right road I must tread on the track of Truth and hast given
me a lantern whereby I may see." Then rose one of the learned
men who were in the presence and said, " When cometh the
season of Prime, needs must the hare seek the pasture as well as
the elephant ; and indeed I have heard from you twain such
questions and solutions as I never before heard ; but now leave
that and let me ask you of somewhat. Tell me, what is the best
of the goods of the world ? " Replied the Prince, " Health of
body, lawful livelihood and a virtuous son." (<;) " What is the
greater and what is the less ? " " The greater is that to which a
lesser than itself submitteth and the less that which submitteth to
a greater than itself." (<;) " What are the four things wherein
concur all creatures ? " " Men concur in meat and drink, the
sweet of sleep, the lust of women and the agonies of death."
(<;) " What are the three things whose foulness none can do
away ? " " Folly, meanness of nature, and lying." (<j) " What is
the best kind of lie, 1 though all kinds are foul ? " " That which
averteth harm from its utterer and bringeth gain." (<;) " What
kind of truthfulness is foul, though all kinds are fair ? " " That
of a man glorying in that which he hath and vaunting himself
thereof." (<<) What is the foulest of foulnesses ? " " When a man
boasteth himself of that which he hath not." (<) '' Who is the
most foolish of men ? " " He who hath no thought but of what he
shall put in his belly." Then said Shimas, " O King, verily thou
art our King, but we desire that thou assign the kingdom to thy
son after thee, and we will be thy servants and lieges." So the
King exhorted the Olema and others who were in the presence to
remember that which they had heard and do according thereto
and enjoined them to obey his son's commandment, for that he
made him his heir-apparent, 2 so he should be the successor of the
King his sire ; and he took an oath of all the people of his empire,

1 See vol. vi. p. 7. The only lie which degrades a man in his own estimation and in
that of others, is that told for fear of telling the truth. Au reste, human society and
civilised intercourse are built upon a system of conventional lying ; and many droll
stories illustrate the consequences of disregarding the dictum, la veritl n'est fas toujours
bonne ct dire.

2 Arab. " Wali 'ahd " which may mean heir-presumptive (whose heirship is contingent)
or heir-apparent.

88 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

literates and braves and old men and boys, to mention none
other, that they would not oppose him in the succession nor
transgress against his commandment. Now when the Prince was
seventeen years old, the King sickened of a sore sickness and
came nigh to die ; so, being certified that his decease was at hand,
he said to the people of his household, " This is disease of Death
which is upon me ; wherefore do ye summon my son and kith and
kin and gather together the Grandees and Notables of my empire,
so not one of them may remain except he be present." Accordingly
they fared forth and made proclamation to those who were near
and published the summons to those who were afar off, and they
all assembled and went in to the King. Then said they to him,
" How is it with thee, O King, and how deemest thou for thyself
of these thy dolours ? " Quoth Jali'ad, " Verily, this my malady is
mortal and the shaft of death hath executed that which Allah
Almighty decreed against me : this is the last of my days in the
world here and the first of my days in the world hereafter." Then
said he to his son, " Draw near unto me." So the youth drew
near, weeping with weeping so sore, that he well nigh drenched the
bed, whilst the King's eyes welled tears and all who were present
wept. Quoth Jali'ad, " Weep not, O my son ; I am not the first
whom this Inevitable betideth ; nay, it is common to all that Allah
hath created. But fear thou the Almighty and do good deeds
which shall precede thee to the place whither all creatures tend
and wend. Obey not thy lusts, but occupy thy soul with lauding
the Lord in thy standing up and thy sitting down, in thy waking
and in thy sleeping. Make the Truth the aim of thine eyes ; this

is the last of my speech with thee and The Peace." And

Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her per-
mitted say.

it foas tfje Jitnt ^un&refc antr &ebenteenti)

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
King Jali'ad charged his son with such injunctions and made him
his heir to succeed him in his reign, the Prince said, " O dear
father mine, 1 thou knowest that I have ever been to thee obedient
and thy commandment carrying out, mindful of thine injunctions

1 Arab. " Ya abati " = my papa (which here would sound absurd).

King J ali' ad of Hind and his Wazir Shimas, 89

and thine approof seeking ; for thou hast been to me the best of
fathers ; how, then, after thy death, shall I depart from that which
contenteth thee ? And now, having fairly ordered my nurture thou
art about to depart from me and I have no power to bring thee
back to me ; but, an I be mindful of thy charge, I shall be blessed
therein and great good fortune shall betide me." Quoth the
King, and indeed he was in the last agony of departing life,
" Dear my son, cleave fast unto ten precepts, which if thou
hold, Allah shall profit thee herewith in this world and the next
world, and they are as follows. Whenas thou art wroth, curb thy
wrath ; when thou art afflicted, be patient ; when thou speakest be
soothfast ; when thou promisest, perform ; when thou judgest, do
justice; when thou hast power, be merciful; deal generously by
thy governors and lieutenants ; forgive thy foes ; be lavish of good
offices to thine adversary, and stay thy mischief from him. Ob-
serve also other ten precepts, 1 wherewith Allah shall profit thee
among the people of thy realm, to wit, when thou dividest, be just ;
when thou punishest, oppress not ; when thou engagest thyself,
fulfil thine engagement ; hearken to those that give thee loyal
counsel ; when offence is offered to thee, neglect it ; abstain from
contention ; enjoin thy subjects to the observance of the divine
laws and of praiseworthy practices ; abate ignorance with a sharp
sword; withhold thy regard from treachery and its untruth ; and,
lastly, do equal justice between the folk, so they may love thee,
great and small, and the wicked and corrupt of them may fear
thee." Then he addressed himself to the Emirs and Olema which
were present when he appointed his son to be his successor, say-
ing, " Beware ye of transgressing the commandment of your King
and neglecting to hearken to your chief, for therein lieth ruin for
your realm and sundering for your society and bane for your
bodies and perdition for your possessions ; and your foe would
exult over you. Well ye wot the covenant ye made with me, and
even thus shall be your covenant with this youth and the troth
which plighted between you and me shall be also between you and
him ; wherefore it behoveth you to give ear unto and obey his
commandment, for that in this is the well-being of your condi-
tions. So be ye constant with him anent that wherein ye were
with me and your estate shall prosper and your affairs be fair ;
for behold, he hath the Kingship over you and is the lord of your

1 All the texts give a decalogue ; but Mr. Payne has reduced it to a heptalogue.

90 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

fortune, and The Peace?" Then the death-agony 1 seized him
and his tongue was bridled : so he pressed Jhis son to him and
kissed him and gave thanks unto Allah ; after which his hour came
and his soul fared forth. All his subjects and the people of his
court mourned and keened over him and they shrouded him and
buried him with pomp and honour and reverence ; after which
they returned with the Prince and clad him in the royal robes and
crowned him with his father's crown and put the seal-ring on his
finger, after seating him on the Throne of Sovranship. The young
King ordered himself towards them, after his father's fashion of
mildness and justice and benevolence, for a little while till the world
waylaid him and entangled him in its lusts, whereupon, its plea-
sures made him their prey and he turned to its gilding and gew-
gaws, forsaking the engagements which his father had imposed
upon him and casting off his obedience to him, neglecting the
affairs of his reign and treading a road wherein was his own de-
struction. The love of women waxed stark in him and came to
such a pass that, whenever he heard tell of a beauty, he would
send for her and take her to wife; and after this wise, he collected
women more in number than ever had Solomon, David-son, King
of the children of Israel. Also he would shut himself up with a
company of them for a month at a time, during which he went
not forth neither enquired of his realm or its rule nor looked into
the grievances of such of his subjects as complained to him ; and
if they wrote to him, he returned them no reply. Now when they
saw this and witnessed his neglect of their affairs and lack of care
for their interests and those of the state, they were assured that
ere long some calamity would betide them and this was grievous
to them. So they met privily one with other and took counsel
together blaming their King, and one of them said to the rest,
" Come, let us go to Shimas, Chief of the Wazirs, and set forth to

1 The Arabs who had a variety of anaesthetics never seem to have studied the subject
of "euthanasia." They preferred seeing a man expire in horrible agonies to relieving
him by means of soporifics and other drugs : so I have heard Christians exult in saying
that the sufferer " kept his senses to the last." Of course superstition is at the bottom
of this barbarity ; the same which a generation ago made the silly accoucheur refuse to
give ether because of the divine (?) saying "In sorrow shall thoil bring forth children."
(Gen. iii. 16). In the Bosnia-Herzegovina campaign many of the Austrian officers carried
with them doses of poison to be used in case of being taken prisoners by the ferocious
savages against whom they were fighting. As many anecdotes about " Easing off the
poor dear" testify, the Euthanasia-system is by no means unknown to the lower classes
in England. I shall have more to say on this subject.

King Wird Khan with his Women and Wazirs. 91

him our case and acquaint him with that wherein we are by reason
of this King, so he may admonish him; else, in a little, calamity
will dawn upon us, for the world hath dazzled the Sovran with its
delights and seduced him with its snares." Accordingly, they re-
paired to Shimas and said to him, " O wise man and prudent, the
world hath dazed the King with its delights and taken him in its
toils, so that he turneth unto vanity and worketh for the undoing
of the state. Now with the disordering of the state the commons
will be corrupted and our affairs will run to ruin. We see him not
for days and months nor cometh there forth from him any com-
mandment to us or to the Wazir or any else. We cannot refer aught
of our need to him and he looketh not to the administration of justice
nor taketh thought to the condition of any of his subjects, in his
disregard of them. 1 And behold we are come to acquaint thee with
the truth of things, for that thou art the chiefest and most accom-
plished of us and it behoveth not that calamity befal a land
wherein thou dwellest, seeing that thou art most able of any to
amend this King. Wherefore go thou and speak with him : haply
he will hearken to thy word and return unto the way of Allah." 2
So Shimas arose forthright and repairing to the palace, fore-
gathered with the first page he could find and said to him, " Fair
my son, I beseech thee ask leave for me to go in to the King, for I
have an affair, concerning which I would fain see his face and
acquaint him therewith and hear what he shall answer me there-
anent." Answered the page, " O my lord, by Allah, this month
past hath he given none leave to come in to him, nor have I all
this time looked upon his face ; but I will direct thee to one who
shall crave admission for thee. Do thou lay hold of such a blacka-
moor slave who standeth at his head and bringeth him food from
the kitchen. When he cometh forth to go to the kitchen, ask him
whatseemeth good to thee ; for he will do for thee that which thou
desirest." So the Wazir repaired to the door of the kitchen and
sat there a little while, till up came the black and would have
entered the kitchen ; but Shimas caught hold of him and said to

1 See vol. iii. p. 253 for the consequences of royal seclusion of which Europe in the
present day can contribute examples. The lesson which it teaches simply is that the
world can get on very well without royalties.

2 The grim Arab humour in the text is the sudden change for the worse of the good
young man. Easterns do not believe in the Western saw, " Nemo repente fuit turpissi-
mus." The spirited conduct of the subjects finds many parallels in European history,
especially in Portugal : see my Life of Camoens p. 234.

92 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

him, " Dear my son, I would fain stand in presence of the King-
and speak with him of somewhat especially concerneth him ; so
prithee, of thy kindness, when he hath ended his undurn-meal and
his temper is at its best, speak for me and get me leave to
approach him, so I may bespeak him of that which shall suit him."
" I hear and obey," answered the black and taking the food carried
it to the King, who ate thereof and his temper was soothed
thereby. Then said the black to him, " Shimas standeth at the
door and craveth admission, so he may acquaint thee with matters
that specially concern thee." At this the King was alarmed and

disquieted and commanded to admit the Minister. And

Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her per-
mitted say.

Nofo fofcen it foas tfje iJUne f^unfcrrtr anlr CB(gf)ttentf)

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
the King bade the blackamoor admit Shimas, the slave went forth
to him and bade him enter ; whereupon he went in and falling
prone before Allah, kissed the King's hands and blessed him.
Then said the King, "What hath betided thee, O Shimas, that
thou seekest admission unto me ? " He answered, " This long while
have I not looked upon the face of my lord the King and indeed I
longed sore for thee ; and now, behold, I have seen thy countenance
and come to thee with a word which I would lief say to thee, O
King stablished in all prosperity ! " Quoth the King, " Say what
seemeth good to thee ;" and quoth Shimas, " I would have thee
bear in mind O King, that Allah Almighty hath endowed thee
with learning and wisdom, for all the tenderness of thy years, such
as He never vouchsafed unto any of the Kings before thee, and
hath fulfilled the measure of his bounties to thee with the King-
ship; and He loveth not that thou depart from that wherewith He
hath endowed thee unto other than it, by means of thy disobedience
to Him ; wherefore it behoveth thee not to levy war against 1 Him
with thy hoards but of His injunctions to be mindful and unto
His commandments obedient. Indeed, I have seen thee, this while
past, forget thy sire and his charges and reject his covenant and

1 Arab. " Muharabah" lit. = doing battle; but is sometimes used in the sense of
gainsaying or disobeying.

The Foolish Fisherman. 93

neglect his counsel and words of wisdom and renounce his justice
and good governance, remembering not the bounty of Allah to
thee neither requiting it with gratitude and thanks to Him," The
King asked, " How so ? And what is the manner of this ? ;" and
Shimas answered, " The manner of it is that thou neglectest to
administer the affairs of the state and that which Allah hath com-
mitted unto thee of the interests of thy lieges and surrenderest
thyself to thy lower nature in that which it maketh fair to thee ol
the slight lusts of the world. Verily it is said that the welfare of
the state and of the Faith and of the folk is of the things which it
behoveth the King to watch ; wherefore it is my rede, O King,
that thou look fairly to the issue of thine affair, for thus wilt thou
find the manifest road wherein is salvation, and not accept a
trifling pleasure and a transient which leadeth to, the abyss of
destruction, lest there befal thee that which befel the Fisherman."
The King asked, " What was that ? "; and Shimas answered, u There
hath reached me this tale of


A FISHERMAN went forth to a river for fishing therein as was his
wont ; and when he came thither and walked upon the bridge, he
saw a great fish and said in himself, " 'Twill not serve me to abide
here, but I will follow yonder fish whitherso it goeth, till I catch it,
for it will relieve me from fishing for days and days." So he did
off his clothes and plunged into the river after the fish. The
current bore him along till he overtook it and laid hold of it, when
he turned and found himself far from the bank. But albeit he saw
what the stream had done with him, he would not loose the fish and
return, but ventured life and gripping it fast with both hands, let
his body float with the flow, which carried him on till it cast him
into a whirlpool 1 none might enter and come out therefrom. With
this he fell to crying out and saying, " Save a drowning man ! "
And there came to him folk of the keepers of the river and said to
him, "What ailed thee to cast thyself into this great peril?"
Quoth he, " It was I myself who forsook the plain way wherein

1 Arab. "Duwa'mah." (from "duwam" =: vertigo, giddiness) also applied to a boy's

94 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

was salvation and gave myself over to concupiscence and perdition."
Quoth they, " O fellow, why didst thou leave the way of safety
and cast thyself into this destruction, knowing from of old that
none may enter herein and be saved ? What hindered thee from
throwing away what was in thy hand and saving thyself? So hadst
thou escaped with thy life and not fallen into this perdition, whence
there is no deliverance ; and now not one of us can rescue thee
from this thy ruin." Accordingly the man cut off all his hopes of
life and lost that which was in his hand and for which his flesh had
prompted him to venture himself, and died a miserable death.
" And I tell thee not this parable, O King," added Shimas, " but
that thou mayest leave this contemptible conduct that diverteth
thee from thy duties and look to that which is committed to thee
of the rule of thy folk and the maintenance of the order of thy
realm, so that none may see fault in thee." The King asked,
" What wouldst thou have me do ? " And Shimas answered, " To-
morrow, an thou be well and in good case, 1 give the folk leave to
come in to thee and look into their affairs and excuse thyself to
them and promise them of thine own accord good governance and
prosperity." Quoth the King, " O Shimas, thou hast spoken
sensibly and rightly ; and to-morrow, Inshallah, I will do that
which thou counsellest me." So the Wazir went out from him and
told the lieges all he had said to him ; and, when morning
morrowed, the King came forth of his privacy and bade admit the
people, to whom he excused himself, promising them that thence-
forward he would deal with them as they wished, wherewith they
were content and departed each to his own dwelling. 2 Then one
of the King's wives, who was his best-beloved of them and most
in honour with him, visited him and seeing him changed of colour

1 Arab. " Khayr o (wa) Afiyah," a popular phrase much used in salutations, &c.

2 Another instance, and true to life, of the democracy of despotism in which the
express and combined will of the people is the only absolute law. Hence Russian
autocracy is forced into repeated wars for the possession of Constantinople which, in the
present condition of the Empire, would be an unmitigated evil to her and would be only
too glad to see a Principality of Byzantium placed under the united protection of the
European Powers. I have treated of this in my paper on the "Partition of Turkey,"
which first appeared, headed the " Future of Turkey," in the Daily Telegraph, of
March 7, 1880, and subsequently by its own name in the Manchester Examiner, January 3,
1881. The main reason why the project is not carried out appears to be that the
" politicals " would thereby find their occupation gone and they naturally object to
losing so fine a field of action. So Turkey still plays the role of the pretty young lady
being courted by a rabble of valets.

The Boy and the Thieves. 95

and thoughtful over his affairs, by reason of that which he had
heard from his chief Wazir, said to him, " O King, how is it that
I see thee troubled in mind ? Hast thou aught to complain of ? "
Answered he, " No : but my pleasures have distracted me from
my duties. What right have I to be thus negligent of my affairs
and those of my subjects ? If I continue on this wise, soon, very
soon, the kingdom will pass out of my hand." She rejoined, " I
see, O King, that thou hast been duped by the Wazirs and
Ministers, who wish but to torment and entrap thee, so thou
mayst have no joyance of this thy kingship neither feel ease nor
taste delight ; nay, they would have thee consume thy life in
warding off trouble from them, till thy days be wasted in travail
and weariness and thou be as one who slayeth himself for the
benefit of another or like the Boy and the Thieves." Asked the
King, " How was that ? " and she answered, " They tell the follow-
ing tale anent


SEVEN Thieves once went out to steal, according to their custom,
and fell in with a Boy, poor and orphaned to boot, who besought
them for somewhat to eat. One of them asked him, "Wilt go
with us, O Boy, and we will feed thee and give thee drink, clothe
thee and entreat thee kindly?" And he answered, "Needs must
I go with you whitherso ye will and ye are as my own kith and
kin." So they took him and fared on with him till they came to
a garden, and entering, went round about therein, till they found
a walnut-tree laden with ripe fruit and said to him, " O Boy, wilt
thou enter this garden with us and swarm up this tree and eat of
its walnuts thy sufficiency and throw the rest down to us?" He
consented and entered with them, - And Shahrazad perceived
the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

ttfoto tofjen it teas tfje Nine l^unUrctJ an& Ninetecmf)

She said. It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
the Boy consented and entered with the Thieves, one of them
said to other " Look which is the lightest and smallest of us and
make him climb the tree." And they said, "None of us is

96 A If Laylah wa Laylak.

slighter than this Boy." So they sent him up into the tree and
said to him, "O Boy, touch not aught of the fruit, lest some one
see thee and work thee a mischief." He asked. " How then shall
I do?", and they answered, "Sit among the boughs and shake
them one by one with all thy might, so that which is thereon
may fall, and we will pick it up. Then, when thou hast made an
end of shaking down the fruit, come down and take thy share of
that which we have gathered." Accordingly he began to shake
every branch at which he could come, so that the nuts fell and the
thieves picked them up and ate some and hid other some till all
were full, save the Boy who had eaten naught. As they were
thus engaged, behold, up came the owner of the garden who,
standing to witness the spectacle, enquired of them, "What do
ye with this tree?" They replied "We have taken naught
thereof; but we were passing by and seeing yonder Boy on the
tree, took him for the owner thereof and besought him to give
us to eat of the fruit Thereat he fell to shaking one of the
branches, so that the nuts dropped down, and we are not at

Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonThe book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) → online text (page 10 of 38)