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

. (page 13 of 38)
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 13 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the King of Outer Hind ' maketh light of our monarch, and hath
sent him a letter berating him and saying to him : Build me a
castle amiddlemost the sea, or I will send unto thee Badi'a my
Wazir, with twelve hordes of horse, each, twelve thousand strong,
to seize upon thy kingdom and slay thy men and carry thee and
thy women into captivity. And he hath given him three days'
time to answer after the receipt of that missive. Now thou must
know, O my brother, that this King of Outer Hind is a masterful
tyrant, a man of might and prowess in fight, and in his realm are
much people ; so unless-our King make shift to fend him off from
himself, he will fall into perdition, whilst the King of Hind, after
slaying our Sovran, will seize on our possessions and massacre our
men and make prize of our women." When the King heard this
their talk, his agitation increased and he inclined to the boys,
saying, "-Surely, this boy is a wizard, in that he is acquainted with
this thing without learning it from me ; for the letter is in my
keeping and the secret also and none hath knowledge of such
matter but myself. How then knoweth this boy of it ? I will

1 Arab. ' Al-Hind -al-Aksa." The Sanskrit Sindhu (lands on the Indus River)
became in Zend " Hendu " and hence in Arabic Sind and Hind, which latter I wish we
had preserved instead of the classical " India " or the poetical " Ind."

King Wird Khan with his Women and Wazirs. 1 1 7

resort to him and talk with him and I pray Allah that our
deliverance may be at his hand." Hereupon the King approached
the boy softly and said to him, " O thou dear boy, what is this
thou sayest of our King, that he did ill of the evilest in slaying
his Wazirs and the Chiefs of his State ? Indeed he sinned against
himself and his subjects and thou art right in that which thou
sayest. But tell me, O my son, whence knowest thou that the
King of Outer Hind hath written him a letter, berating him and
bespeaking him with the grievous speech whereof thou tellest ? "
The boy replied, " O brother, I know this from the sand ' where-
with I take compt of night and day and from the saying of the
ancients : No mystery from Allah is hidden ; for the sons of
Adam have in them a spiritual virtue which discovereth to them
the darkest secrets." Answered Wird Khan, " True, O my son,
but whence learnedest thou geomancy and thou young of years ? "
Quoth the boy, " My father taught it me;" and quoth the King,
" Is thy father alive or dead ? " " He is dead," replied the boy.
Then Wird Khan asked, " Is there any resource or device for
our King, whereby to ward off from himself and his kingdom this
sore calamity?" And the boy answered, saying, "It befitteth
not that I speak with thee of this ; but, an the King send for me
and ask me how he shall do to baffle his foe and get free of his
snares, I will acquaint him with that wherein, by the power of
Allah Almighty, shall be his salvation." Rejoined Wird Khan,,
" But who shall tell the King of this that he may send for thee
and invite thee to him ? " The boy retorted, " I hear that he
seeketh men of experience and good counsel, so I will go up with
them to him and tell him that wherein shall be his welfare and
the warding off of this affliction from him ; but, an he neglect the
pressing matter and busy himself with his love-liesse among his
women and I go to him of my own accord designing to acquaint
him with the means of deliverance, he will assuredly give orders
to slay me, even as he slew those his Wazirs, and my courtesy to
him will be the cause of my destruction. Wherefore the folk will
think slightly of me and belittle my wit and I shall be of those of
whom it is said : He whose science excelleth his sense perisheth
by his ignorance." When the King heard the boy's words, he
was assured of his sagacity ; and the excellence of his merit was

1 i.e. by geomancy : see vol. iii. 269 for a note on Al-Raml. The passage is not in
the Mac. Edit.

Ii8 A If Laylah iva Lay la k.

manifest and he was certified that deliverance would betide him
and his subjects at the boy's hands. So presently he resumed the
colloquy and asked him, "Whence art thou and where is thy
home ? "; and the boy answered, "This is the wall of our house."
The King took note of the place and farewelling the boy, returned
to his palace in high spirits. There he changed his clothes and
called for meat and wine, forbidding his women from him ; and he
ate and drank and returned thanks to Allah the Most High and
besought Him of succour and deliverance ; and he craved His
pardon and forgiveness for that which he had done with his Wazirs
and Olema and turned to Him with sincere repentance, imposing
on himself many a prayer and long fasting, by way of discipline-
vow. On the morrow, he called one of his confidential eunuchs
and describing to him the boy's home, bade him repair thither and
bring him to his presence with all gentleness 1 . Accordingly the
slave sought out the boy and said to him, " The King summoneth
thee, that good may betide thee from him and that he may ask
thee a question ; then shalt thou return safe and sound to thy
dwelling." Asked the boy, " What is the King's need of me that
he biddeth me to him on this wise?"; and the eunuch answered,
" My lord's occasion with thee is question and answer." " A
thousand times hearkening and a thousand times obeying the
commandment of the King ! " replied the boy and accompanied
the slave to the palace. When he came into the presence, he
prostrated himself before Allah and after salaming, called down
blessings on the King who returned his salutation and bade him

be seated/ And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased to say her permitted say.

fofjcn tt foas tfje Nine ^unfcrrti anfc ^foentj^stxtf) Ntgfjt,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that wherv
the boy appeared before the King and saluted him with the salam,
Wird Khan returned his salutation and bade him be seated. So
he sat down and the King asked him, " Knowest thou who talked
with thee yesternight?" Answered the boy, "Yes;" and the
King said, "And where is he ?" " 'Tis he who speaketh with me
at this present," said the boy. Rejoined the King, " Thou sayst
sooth, O friend," and bade set him a chair beside his own, whereon
he made him sit and called for meat and drink. Then they

King Wird Khan with his Women and Wazirs. 119

talked awhile and the King said, " Ho thou the Wazir, 1 in our
talk yesternight thou toldest me that thou hadst a device whereby
thou couldst defend us from the malice of the King of Hind.
What is this contrivance and how shall we manoeuvre to ward off"
his mischief from us ? Tell me, that I may make thee chief of
those who speak with me in the realm and choose thee to be
my Grand Wazir and do according to thy judgment in all
thou counsellest me and assign thee a splendid honorarium.!'
Answered the boy, " O King, keep thy honorarium to thyself
and seek counsel and policy of thy women, who directed thee to
slay my father Shimas and the rest of the Wazirs." When the
King heard this, he was ashamed and sighed and said, " O thou
dear boy, was Shimas indeed thy sire ? " The boy replied,
" Shimas was indeed my sire, and I am in truth his son."
Whereupon the King bowed his head, whilst the tears ran from
his eyes, and he craved pardon of Allah. Then said he, " O boy,
indeed .1 did this of my ignorance and by the evil counsel of the
women ; for ' Great indeed is their malice **: but I beseech thee to
forgive me and I will set thee in thy father's stead and make thy
rank higher than his rank. Moreover, an thou do away from us
this retribution sent down from Heaven, I will deck thy neck with
a collar of gold and mount thee on the goodliest of steeds and bid
the crier make proclamation before thee, saying : This is the lief 3
boy, the Wazir who sitteth in the second seat after the King !
And touching what thou sayest of the women, I have it in mind
to do vengeance on them at such time as Almighty Allah shall
will it. But tell me now what thou hast with thee of counsel and
contrivance, that my heart may be content." Quoth the boy,
" Swear to me an oath that thou wilt not gainsay me in whatso I

1 This address gave the boy Wazirial rank. In many parts of Europe, England
included, if the Sovereign address a subject with a title not belonging to him, it is a
disputed point if the latter can or cannot claim it.

2 Koran, chapter of Joseph xii. 28, spoken by Potiphar after Joseph's innocence Tiad
been proved by a witness in Potiphar's house or according to the Talmud (Sepher
Hadjascher) by an infant in the cradle. The texts should have printed this as a
quotation (with vowel-points).

3 Arab. "Al-'Aziz," alluding to Joseph the Patriarch entitled in Egypt "Aziz
al-Misr"=:Magnifico of Misraim (Koran xii. 54). It is generally believed that Ismail
Pasha, whose unwise deposition has caused the English Government such a host of
troubles and load of obloquy, aspired to be named " 'Aziz " by the Porte; but was
compelled to be satisfied with Khadiv (vulg. written Khedive, and pronounced even
" Kedive' "), a Persian title, which simply means prince or Rajah, as Khadiv-i-Hind.

I2O A If Laylah wa Laylah.

shall say to thee and that I from that which I fear shall be safe ; "
and quoth the King, " This is the covenant of Allah between me
and thee, that I will not go from thy word and that thou shalt be my
chief counsellor and whatsoever thou biddest me, that will I do ;
and the Almighty Lord is witness betwixt us twain whatso I say."
Therewith the boy's breast waxed broad and the field of speech
was opened to him wide and he said, "O King, my rede to thee is
that thou await the expirati6n of the delay appointed to thee for
answering the courier of the King of Hind ; and when he cometh
before thee seeking the reply, do thou put him off to another day.
With this he will excuse himself to thee, on the ground of his
master having appointed him certain fixed days, and importune
for an answer ; but do thou rebut him and defer him to another day,
without specifying what day it be. Then will he go forth from thee
an-angered and betake himself into the midst of the city and
speak openly among the folk, saying : O people of the city, I am
a courier of the King of Outer Hind, who is a monarch of great
puissance and of determination such as softeneth iron, He sent
me with a letter to the King of this city appointing to me certain
days, saying : An thou be not with me by the time appointed,
my vengeance shall fall on thee. Now, behold, I went in to the
King of this city and gave him the missive, which when he had
read, he sought of me a delay of three days, after which he
would return me an answer to the letter and I agreed to this of
courtesy and consideration for him. When the three days were
past, I went to seek the reply of him, but he delayed me to
another day ; and now I have no patience to wait longer ; so I
am about to return to my lord, the King of Outer Hind, and
acquaint him with that which hath befallen me ; and ye, O folk,
are witnesses between me and him. All this will be reported to
thee and do thou send for him and speak him gently and say to
him : O thou who seekest thine own ruin, what hath moved thee
to blame us among our subjects ? Verily, thou deservest present
death at our hands ; but the ancients say : Clemency is of the
attributes of nobility. Know that our delay in answering arose not
from helplessness on our part, but from our much business and lack
of leisure to look into thine affair and write a reply to thy King."
Then call for the scroll and read it again and laugh loud and long
and say to the courier : Hast thou a letter other than this? If
so, we will write thee an answer to that also. He will say, I have
none other than this letter ; but do thou repeat thy question to

King Wird Khan with his Women and Wazirs. 1 21

him a second time and a third time, and he will reply, I
have none other at all. Then say to him, Verily, this thy King
is utterly witless in that he writeth us the like of this writ
seeking to arouse our wrath against him, so that we shall go forth
to him with our forces and domineer over his dominions and
capture his kingdom. But we will not punish him this time for
his unmannerly manners as shown in this letter, because he is
wanting in wit and feeble of foresight, and it beseemeth our dignity
that we first warn him not to repeat the like of these childish
extravagances ; and if he risk his life by returning to the like of
this, he will deserve speedy destruction. Indeed, methinks this
King of thine who sent thee on such errand must be an ignorant
fool, taking no thought to the issue of things and having no Wazir
of sense and good counsel, with whom he may advise. Were he
a man of mind, he had taken counsel with a Wazir, ere sending
us the like of this laughable letter. But he shall have a reply
similar to his script and surpassing it ; for I will give it to one of
the boys of the school to answer." Then send for me ; and, when
I come to the presence, bid me read the letter and reply thereto."
When the King heard the boy's speech, his breast broadened and
he approved his proposal and his device delighted him. So he
conferred gifts upon him and installing him in his father's office,
sent him away rejoicing. And as soon as expired the three days
of delay which he had appointed, the courier presented himself
and going in to the King, demanded the answer ; but he put him
off to another day ; whereupon he went to the end of the carpet-
room 1 and spake with unseemly speech, even as the boy had fore-
said. Then he betook himself to the bazar and cried, " Ho,
people of this city, I am a courier of the King of Outer Hind and
came with a message to your monarch who still putteth me off
from a reply. Now the term is past which my master limited to
me and your King hath no excuse, and ye are witnesses unto this."
When these words reached the King, he sent for that courier and
said to him, " O thou that seeketh thine own ruin, art thou not the
'bearer of a letter from King to King, between whom are secrets,
and how cometh it that thou goest forth among the fofk and
publishes! Kings' secrets to the vulgar ? Verily, thou meritest
retribution from us , but this we will forbare, for the sake of
returning an answer by thee to this fool of a King of thine :

1 i.e. The Throne room.

122 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

and it befitteth not that any return to him reply but the least of
the boys of the school." Then he sent for the Wazir's son, who
cfame and prostrating himself before Allah, offered up prayers
for the King's lasting glory and long life ; whereupon Wird Khan
threw him the letter, saying, " Read that letter and write me an
acknowledgment thereof in haste." The boy took the letter and
read it, smiled ; then he laughed ; then he laughed aloud and
asked the King, " Didst thou send for me to answer this letter ? "
y Yes," answered Wird Khan, and the boy said, "O King, me-
thought thou hadst sent for me on some grave occasion ; indeed,
a lesser than I had answered this letter but 'tis thine to command,
O puissant potentate." Quoth the King, " Write the reply forth-
right, on account of the courier, for that he is appointed a term
and we have delayed him another day." Quoth the boy, " With
the readiest hearkening and obedience," and pulling out paper

and inkcase 1 wrote as follows : And Shahrazad perceived the

dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say

Nofo fo&en it teas tfjc jlfne f^tmtrcrtu anti ^foentB=sebEnti) Nigijt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that whn the
boy took the letter and read it, he forthright pulled out inkcase
and paper and wrote as foflows : "In the name of Allah the
Compassionating, the Compassionate ! Peace be upon him who
hath gotten pardon and deliverance and the mercy of the
Merciful ! But after. O thou who pretendest thyself a mighty
King and art but a King in word and not in deed, we give thee
to know that thy letter hath reached us and we have read it and
have taken note of that which is therein of absurdities and
peregrine extravagances, whereby we are certified of thine ignor-
ance and ill-will to us. Verily, thou hast put out thy hand
to that whereunto thou canst never reach ; and, but that we have
compassion on Allah's creatures and the lieges, we had not held
back from thee. As for thy messenger, he went forth to the
market-streets and published the news of thy letter to great and
small, whereby he merited retaliation from us ; but we spared him

1 For the " Dawdt " or wooden inkcase containing reeds see vol. v. 239 and viii. 178.
I may remark that its origin is the Egyptian " Pes," of which there is a specimen in the
British Museum inscribed, " Amasis the good god and Lord of the two Lands."

King Wird Khan with his Women and Wazirs. 123

and remitted his offence, of pity for him, seeing that he is
excusable with thee and not for aught of respect to thyself. As
for that whereof thou makest mention in thy letter of the slaying
of my Wazirs and Olema and Grandees, this is the truth and this
I did for a reason that arose with me, and I slew not one man of
learning but there are with me a thousand of his kind, wiser than
he and cleverer and wittier ; nor is there with me a child but is
filled with knowledge, and I have, in the stead of each of the
slain, of those who surpass in his kind, what is beyond count.
Each man of my troops also cart cope with an horde of thine,
whilst, as for monies I have a manufactory that maketh every
day a thousand pounds of silver, besides gold, and precious stones
are with me as pebbles ; and as for the people of my possessions I
cannot set forth to thee their goodliness and abundance of means.
How darest thou, therefore, presume upon us and say to us, Build
me a castle amiddlemost the main ? Verily, this is a marvellous
thing, and doubtless it ariseth from the slightness of thy wit ; for
hadst thou aught of sense, thou hadst enquired of the beatings of
the billows and the waftings of the winds. But wall it off from
the waves and the surges of the sea and still the winds, and we
will build thee the castle. Now as for thy pretension that thou wilt
vanquish me, Allah forfend that such thing should befal and the
like of thee should lord it over us and conquer our realm ! Nay,
the Almighty hath given me the victory over thee, for that thou
hast transgressed against me and rebelled without due cause.
Know, therefore, that thou hast merited retribution from the Lord
and from me ; but I fear Allah in respect of thee and thy
subjects ' and will not take horse against thee except after warning.
Wherefore, an thou also fear Allah, hasten to send me this year's
tribute ; else will I not turn from my design to ride forth against
thee with a thousand thousand 2 and an hundred thousand fighting-
men, all furious giants on elephants, and I will range them round
about my Wazir and bid him besiege thee three years, in lieu of
the three days' delay thou appointedst to thy messenger, and I
will make myself master of thy dominion, except that I will slay

1 i.e. I am governed by the fear of Allah in my dealings to thee and thy subjects.

2 Arabic has no single word for million although the Maroccans have adopted
" Milyun " from the Spaniards (seep. 100 of the Rudimentos del Arabe vulgar que se
habla en el imperio de Marruccos por El P. Fr. Jose de Lerchundi, Madrid 1872):
This lack of the higher numerals, the reverse of the Hindu languages, makes Arabic
" arithmology " very primitive and almost as cumbrous as the Chinese.

124 A If Laylah wa Laylah,

none save thyself alone and take captive therefrom none but
thy Harim." Then the boy drew his own portrait in the margin
of the letter and wrote thereunder the words : " This answer was
written by the least of the boys of the school." After this he
sealed it and handed it to the King, who gave it to the courier, and
the man, after taking it and kissing the King's hands went forth
from him thanking Allah and the Sovran for his royal clemency
to him and marvelling at the boy's intelligence. He arrived
at the court of the King, his master, on the third day after
the expiration of the term appointed to him, and found
that he had called a meeting of his council, by reason of the
failure of the courier to return at the time appointed. So he
went in to the King and prostrating himself before him, gave
him the letter. The King took it and questioned him of the
cause of his tarrying and how it was with King Wird Khan.
So he told him all he had seen with his own eyes and heard
with his own ears ; whereat the King's wit was confounded and
he said, "Out on thee ! What tale is this thou tellest me of the
like of this King?" Answered the courier, "O mighty monarch,
here am I in thy presence, 1 but open the letter and read jt, and
the truth of my speech will be manifest to thee." So the King
opened the letter and read it and seeing the semblance of the boy
who had written it, made sure of the loss of his kingdom and was
perplexed anent the end of his affair. Then, turning to his Wazirs
and Grandees, he acquainted them with what had occurred and
read to them the letter, whereat they were affrighted with the
sorest affright and sought to sooth the King's terror with words
that were only from the tongue, whilst their hearts were torn
piecemeal with palpitations of alarm. But Badi'a (the Chief
Wazir) presently said, " Know, O King, that there is no profit
in that which my brother Wazirs have proffered, and it is my
rede that thou write this King a writ and excuse thyself to him
therein, saying : I love thee and loved thy father before thee and
sent thee not this letter by the courier except only to prove thee
and try thy constancy and see what was in thee of valiancy and
thy proficiency in matters of practick and theorick and skill in
enigmas and that wherewith thou art endowed of all perfections.
So we pray Almighty Allah to bless thee in thy kingdom and
strengthen the defences of thy capital and add to thy dominion,

1 i.e. I am thy slave to slay or to pardon.

King Wird Khan with his Women and Wazirs. 125

since thou art mindful of thyself and managest to accomplish
every need of thy subjects. And send it to him by another
courier." Exclaimed the King, " By Allah of All-might ! 'tis
a marvel of marvels that this man should be a mighty King and
ready for war, after his slaughter of all the wise men of his
kingdom and his counsellors and the captains of his host and
that his realm should be populous and prosper after this and
there should issue therefrom this prodigious power ! But the
marvelousest of all is that the little ones of its schools should
return the like of this answer for its King. Verily, of the vile-
ness of my greed I have kindled this fire upon myself and lieges,
and I know not how I shall quench it, save by taking the advice
of this my Wazir." Accordingly he gat ready a Costly present,
with eunuchs and slaves manifold, and wrote the following
reply: "In the name of Allah the Compassionating, the Com-
passionate ! To proceed : O Glorious King Wird Khan, son of
my dear brother, Jali'ad, may the Lord have mercy on thee and
continue thee ! Thine answer to our letter hath reached us and
we have read it and apprehended its contents and see therein that
which gladdeneth us and this is the utmost of that which we
sought of Allah for thee ; so we beseech Him to exalt thy dignity
and stablish the pillars of thy state and give thee the victory over
thy foes and those who purpose thee frowardness. Know, O King,
that thy father was my brother and that there were between us
in his lifetime pacts and covenants, and never saw he from me
aught save weal, nor ever saw I from him other than good ; and
when he deceased and thou tookest seat upon the throne of his
kingship, there betided us the utmost joy and gladness ; but, when
the news reached us of that which thou didst with thy Wazirs and
the Notables of thy State, we feared lest the report of thee should
come to the ears of some King other than ourselves and he should
presume against thee, for that we deemed thee negligent of thine
affairs and of the maintenance of thy defences and neglectful of
the interests of thy kingdom ; so we let write unto thee what
should arouse thy spirit. But, when we saw that thou return-
edest us the like of this reply, our heart was set at ease for thee,
may Allah give thee enjoyment 1 of thy kingdom and stablish
thee in thy dignity ! And so peace be with thee." Then he

1 Arab. " Matta'aka 'Hah "= Allah permit thee to enjoy, from the root mata',

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 13 of 38)