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 15 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 15 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

him ; Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying

her permitted say.

Note fofjm tt foas tfje Nine f^untrwtr anli Wttg - fust

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that every time
the owner of an article came to the dyer he would put him off with
any pretext 1 and would swear to him ; nor would he cease to
promise and swear to him, as often as he came, till the customer
lost patience and said, " How often wilt thou say to me,
' To-morrow ? ' Give me my stuff : I will not have it dyed."
Whereupon the dyer would make answer, " By Allah, O my
brother, I am abashed at thee ; but I must tell the truth and may
Allah harm all who harm folk in their goods ! " The other would
exclaim, " Tell me what hath happened ;" and Abu Kir would

1 It is interesting to note the superior gusto with which the Eastern, as well as the
Western tale-teller describes his scoundrels and villains whilst his good men and women
are mostly colourless and unpicturesque. So Satan is the true hero of Paradise-Lost
and by his side God and man are very ordinary ; and Mephistopheles is much better
society than Faust and Margaret.

136 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

reply, " As for thy stuff I dyed that same on matchless wise and
hung it on the drying rope but 'twas stolen and I know not who
stole it." If the owner of the stuff were of the kindly he would
say, "Allah will compensate me ;" and if he were of the ill-condi-
tioned, he would haunt him with exposure and insult, but would
get nothing of him, though he complained of him to the judge.
He ceased not doing thus till his report was noised abroad among
the folk and each used to warn other against Abu Kir who became
a byword amongst them. So they all held aloof from him and
none would be entrapped by him save those who were ignorant of
his character ; but, for all this, he failed not daily to suffer insult
and exposure from Allah's creatures. By reason of this his trade
became slack and he used to go to the shop of his neighbour the
barber Abu Sir and sit there, facing the dyery and with his eyes
on the door. Whenever he espied any one who knew him not
standing at the dyery-door, with a piece of stuff in his hand, he
would leave the barber's booth and go up to him saying, " What
seekest thou, O thou ? "; and the man would reply, " Take and
dye me this thing." So the dyer would ask, " What colour wilt
thou have it ? " For, with all his knavish tricks his hand was in
all manner of dyes ; but he was never true to any one ; wherefore
poverty had gotten the better of him. Then he would take the
stuff and say, " Give me my wage in advance and come to-morrow
and take the stuff." So the stranger would advance him the
money and wend his way ; whereupon Abu Kir would carry the
cloth to the market-street and sell it and with its price buy meat
and vegetables and tobacco 1 and fruit and what not else he needed;
but, whenever he saw any one who had given him stuff to dye
standing at the door of his shop, he would not come forth to him
or even show himself to him. On this wise he abode years and
years, till it fortuned one day that he received cloth to dye from a
man of wrath and sold it and spent the proceeds. The owner
came to him every day, but found him not in his shop ; for, when-
ever he espied any one who had claim against him, he would flee
from him into the shop of the barber Abu Sir. At last, that angry

1 Arab. " Dukhan," lit. = smoke, here tobacco for the Chibouk, "Timbak" or
14 Tumbak " being the stronger (Persian and other) variety which must be washed before
smoking in the Shishah or water-pipe. Tobacco is mentioned here only and is evidently
inserted by some scribe : the " weed " was not introduced into the East before the end
of the sixteenth century (about a hundred years after coffee), when it radically changed
the manners of society.

Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber. 137

man finding that he was not to be seen and growing weary of such
work, repaired to the Kazi and bringing one of his Serjeants to the
shop, nailed up the door, in presence of a number of Moslems, and
scaled it, for that he saw therein naught save some broken pans of
earthenware to stand him instead of his stuff; after which the
serjeant took the key, saying to the neighbours, "Tell him to bring
back this man's cloth then come to me 1 and take his shop key;"
and went his way, he and the man. Then said Abu Sir to Abu
Kir, "What ill business is this? 2 Whoever bringcth thee aught
thou losest it for him. What hath become of this angry man's
stuff?" Answered the dyer, "O my neighbour, 'twas stolen from
me." " Prodigious ! " exclaimed the barber. " Whenever any one
giveth thee aught, a thief stcaleth it from thee ! Art thou then
the meeting-place of every rogue upon town ? But I doubt me
thou liest : so tell me the truth." Replied Abu Kir, " O my
neighbour, none hath stolen aught from me." Asked Abu Sir,
" What then dost thou with the people's property ? " ; and the
dyer answered, "Whenever any one giveth me aught to dye, I sell
it and spend the price." Quoth Abu Sir, " Is this permitted thee
of Allah?" and quoth Abu Kir, "I do this only out of poverty,
because business is slack with me and I .am poor and have
nothing." 3 And he went on to complain to him of the dulness
of his trade and his lack of means. Abu Sir in like manner
lamented the little profit of his own calling, saying, "I- am a
master of my craft and have not my equal in this city ; but no one
cometh to me to be polled, because I am a pauper ; and I loathe
this art and mystery, O my brother." Abu Kir replied, "And I
also loathe my own craft, by reason of its slackness; but, O my
brother, what call is there for our abiding in this town ? Let us
depart from it, I and thou, and solace ourselves in the lands of
mankind, carrying in our hands our crafts which are in demand all
the world over; so shall we breathe the air and rest from this
grievous trouble." And he ceased not to commend travel to

1 Which meant that the serjeant, after the manner of such officials, would make him
pay dearly before giving up the key. Hence a very seVere punishment in the East is to
"call in a policeman" who carefully fleeces all those who do not bribe him to leave
them in freedom.

3 Arab. "Ma Dahiyatak?" lit. "What is thy misfortune?" The phrase is slighting
if not insulting.

3 Amongst Moslems the plea of robbing to keep life and body together would be
accepted by a good man like Abu Sir, who still consorted with a self-confessed thief.

138 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

Abu Sir, till the barber became wishful to set out ; so they agreed

upon their route, And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

and ceased to say her permitted say.

fofjen t't foas tfje Jlme pjun&rrtr anlJ TOttg^stconli

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu
Kir ceased not his praises of wayfaring to Abu Sir till the barber
became wishful to depart ; so they agreed upon their route, at
which decision Abu Kir rejoiced and improvised these lines :

Leave thy home for abroad an wouldst rise on high, o And travel whence

benefits five-fold rise ;
The soothing of sorrow and winning of bread, * Knowledge, manners and

commerce with good men and wise.
An they say that in travel are travail and care, o And disunion of friends and

much hardship that tries ;
Yet to generous youth death is better than life o In the house of contempt

betwixt haters and spies.

When they agreed to travel together Abu Kir said to Abu Sir, " O
my neighbour, we are become brethren and there is no difference
between us, so it behoveth us to recite the Fatihah ! that he of us
who gets work shall of his gain feed him who is out of work, and
whatever is left, we will lay in a chest ; and when we return to
Alexandria, we will divide it farrly and equally." " So be it,"
replied Abu Sir, and they repeated the Opening Chapter of the
Koran on this understanding. Then Abu Sir locked up his shop
and gave the key to its owner, whilst Abu Kir left his door locked
and sealed and let the key lie with the Kazi's serjeant ; after which
they took their baggage and embarked on the morrow in a galleon 2
upon the salt sea. They set sail the same day and fortune attended
them, for, of Abu Sir's great good luck, there was not a barber in
the ship albeit it carried an hundred and twenty men, besides
captain and crew. So, when they loosed the sails, the barber said
to the dyer, " O my brother, this is the sea and we shall need meat
and drink ; we have but little provaunt with us and haply the

1 To make their agreement religiously binding. See-vol. iv. 36.

2 Arab. " Ghaliyun " many of our names for craft seem connected with Arabic : I have
already noted " C arrack " harrak : to which add Uskuf in Marocco pronounced
*Skuff= skiff; Katfrah = a cutter ; Barijah = a barge; etc.- etc.

Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber. 139

voyage will be long upon us ; wherefore methinks I will shoulder
my budget and pass among the passengers, and may be some one
will say to me : Come hither, O barber, and shave me, and I will
shave him for a scone or a silver bit or a draught of water: so
shall we profit by this, I and thou too." "There's no harm in
that," replied the dyer and laid down his head and slept, whilst
the barber took his gear and water-tasse 1 and throwing over his
shoulder a rag, to serve as napkin (because he was poor), passed
among the passengers. Quoth one of them, " Ho, master, come
and shave me." So he shaved him, and the man gave him a half-
dirham ; 2 whereupon quoth Abu Sir, "O my brother, I have no
use for this bit ; hadst thou given me a scone 'twere more blessed
to me in this sea, for I have a shipmate and we are short of pro-
vision." So he gave him a loaf and a slice of cheese and filled him
the tasse with sweet water. The barber carried all this to Abu
Kir and said, " Eat the bread and cheese and drink the water."
Accordingly he ate and drank, whilst Abu Sir again took up his
shaving gear and, tasse in hand and rag on shoulder, went round
about the deck among the passengers. One man he shaved for
two scones and another for a bittock of cheese, and he was in
demand, because there was no other barber on board. Also he
bargained with every one who said to him, " Ho, master, shave
me ! " for two loaves and a half dirham, and they gave him what-
ever he sought, so that, by sundown, he had collected thirty loaves
and thirty silvers with store of cheese and olives and botargoes. 5
And besides these he got from the passengers whatever he
asked for and was soon in possession of things galore. Amongst
the rest he shaved the Captain, 4 to whom he complained of his
lack of victual for the voyage, and the skipper said to him, " Thou
art welcome to bring thy comrade every night and sup with me
and have no care for that so long as ye sail with us." Then he

1 The patient is usually lathered in a big basin of tinned brass, a " Mambrino's helmet "
with a break in the rim to fit the throat ; but the poorer classes carry only a small cup
with water instead of soap and water ignoring the Italian proverb, " Barba ben saponata
mezza fatta"= well lathered is half shaved. A napkin fringed at either end is usually
thrown over the Figaro's shoulder and used to wipe the razor.

2 Arab. "Nusf." See vol. ii. 37.

3 Arab. "Batarikh" the roe (sperm or spawn) of the salted Fasikh (fish) and the Buri
(mugil cephalus) a salt-water fish caught in the Nile and considered fair eating. Some
write Butargha from the old Egyptian town Burat, now a ruin between Tinnis and
Damietta (Sonnini).

4 Arab. " Kaplan," see vol. iv. 85,

140 Aif Laylah wa Laylak.

returned to the dyer, whom he found asleep ; so he roused him ;
and when Abu Kir awoke, he saw at his head an abundance of
bread and cheese and olives and botargoes and said, "Whence
gottest thou all this ? " " From the bounty of Allah Almighty,"
replied Abu Sir. Then Abu Kir would have fallen to, but the
barber said to him, " Eat not of this, O my brother; but leave it
to serve us another time ; for know that I shaved the Captain and
complained to him of our lack of victual : whereupon quoth he :
Welcome to thee ! Bring thy comrade and sup both of ye with me
every night And this night we sup with him for the first time.",
But Abu Kir replied, " My head goeth round with sea-sickness
and I cannot rise from my stead; so let me sup off these things
and fare thou alone to the Captain." Abu Sir replied, " There is
no harm in that ; " and sat looking at the other as he ate, and
saw him hew off gobbets, as the quarryman heweth stone from
the hill-quarries and gulp them down with the gulp of an elephant
which hath not eaten^for days, bolting another mouthful ere he
had swallowed the previous one and glaring the while at that
which was before him with the glowering of a Ghul and blowing
as blowing as bloweth the hungry bull over his beans and
bruised straw. Presently up came a sailor and said to the
barber, " O craftsmaster, the Captain biddeth thee come to supper
and bring thy comrade." Quoth the barber to the dyer, " Wilt
thou come with us ? " ; but quoth he, " I cannot walk." So the
barber went by himself and found the Captain sitting before a tray
whereon were a score or more of dishes and all the company were
awaiting him and his mate. When the Captain saw him he
asked, " Where is thy friend ?"; and Abu Sir answered, " O my
lord, he is sea-sick." Said the skipper, " That will do him no
harm ; his sickness will soon pass off; but do thou carry him his
supper and come back, for we tarry for thee." Then he set apart
a porringer of Kabdbs and putting therein some of each dish, till
there was enough for ten, gave it to Abu Sir, saying, " Take this
to thy chum." He took it and carried it to the dyer, whom he
found grinding away with his dog-teeth 1 at the food which was
before him, as he were a camel, and heaping mouthful on mouth-
ful in his hurry. Quoth Abu Sir, " Did I not say to thee :

1 Arab. " Anyab," plur. of Nab applied to the grinder teeth but mostly to the
canines or eye teeth, tusks of animals etc. (See vol. vii. p. 339) opp. to Saniyah, one of
the four central incisors, a camel in the sixth year and horse, cow, sheep and goat in
fourth year,^

Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber. 141

Eat not of this ? Indeed the Captain is a kindly man. See what
he hath sent thee, for that I told him thou wast sea-sick." " Give
it here," cried the dyer. So the barber gave him the platter, and
he snatcked it from him and fell upon his food, ravening for it
and resembling a grinning dog or a raging lion or a Rukh pouncing
on a pigeon or one well-nigh dead for hunger who seeing meat
falls ravenously to eat. Then Abu Sir left him and going back to
the Captain, supped and enjoyed himself and drank coffee 1 with
him ; after which he returned to Abu Kir and found that he had

eaten all that was in the porringer and thrown it aside, empty.

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

foben it fcoas tfje ^tne ^unbcetr an& 3Ef)irtB=tfw&

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
Abu Sir returned to Abu Kir he saw that he had eaten all that
was in the porringer and had thrown it aside empty. So he took
it up and gave it to one of the Captain's servants, then went back
to Abu Kir and slept till the morning. On the morrow he
continued to shave, and all he got by way of meat and drink he
gave to his shipmate, who ate and drank and sat still, rising not
save to do what none could do for him, and every night the barber
brought him a full porringer from the Captain's table. They
fared thus twenty days until the galleon cast anchor in the
harbour of a city ; whereupon they took leave of the skipper and
landing, entered the town and hired them a closet in a Khan. Abu
Sir furnished it and buying a cooking pot and a platter and
spoons 2 and what else they needed, fetched meat and cobked it ;
but Abu Kir fell asleep the moment he entered the Caravanserai
and awoke not till Abu Sir aroused him and set the tray of food 3

1 The coffee (see also vol. viii. 274) like the tobacco is probably due to the scribe ;
but the tale appears to be comparatively modern. In The Nights men eat, drink and
wash their hands but do not smoke and sip coffee like the moderns. See my Terminal
Essay $ 2.

2 Arab. " Mi'lakah " (Bresl. Edit, x, 456). The fork is modem even in the East and
the Moors borrow their term for it from fourchette. But the spoon, which may have
begun with a cockle-shell, dates from the remotest antiquity.

3 Arab. "Sufrah" properly the cloth or leather upon which food is placed. See
vol. i. 178.

142 A If Lay la h wa Lay I ah.

before him. When he awoke, he ate and saying to Abu Sir,
" Blame me not, for I am giddy," fell asleep again. Thus he did
forty days, whilst, every day, the barber took his gear and making
the round of the city, wrought for that which fell 'to his lot, 1 and
returning, found the dyer asleep and aroused him. The moment
he awoke he fell ravenously upon the food, eating as one who
cannot have his fill nor be satisfied ; after which he went asleep
again. On this wise he passed other forty days and whenever the
barber said to him, " Sit up and be comfortable 2 and go forth
and take an airing in the city, for 'tis a gay place and a pleasant
and hath not its equal among the cities," he would reply, " Blame
me not, for I am giddy." Abu Sir cared not to hurt his feelings
nor give him hard words ; but, on the forty-first day, he himself
fell sick and could not go abroad ; so he engaged the porter of
the Khan to serve them both, and he did the needful for them
and brought them meat and drink whilst Abu Kir would do
nothing but eat and sleep. The man ceased not to wait upon
them on this wise for four days, at the end of which time the
barber's malady redoubled on him, till he lost his senses for stress
of sickness; and Abu Kir, feeling .the sharp pangs of hunger, arose
and sought in his comrade's clothes, where he found a thousand
silver bits. He took them and, shutting the door of the closet
upon Abu Sir, fared forth without telling any ; and the doorkeeper
was then at market and thus saw him not go out. Presently Abu
Kir betook himself to the bazar and clad himself in costly clothes, at
a price of five hundred half-dirhams; then he proceeded to walk
about the streets and divert himself by viewing the city which he
found to be one whose like was not among cities ; but he noted
that all its citizens were clad in clothes of white and blue, without
other colour. Presently he came to a dyer's and seeing naught
but blue in his shop, pulled out to him a kerchief and said, " O
master, take this and dye it and win thy wage." Quoth the dyer,
" The cost of dyeing this will be twenty dirhams ; " and quoth Abu
Kir, " In our country we dye it for two." " Then go and dye it in
your own country ! As for me, my, price is twenty dirhams and I
will not bate a little thereof." " What colour wilt thou dye it ? "
" I will dye it blue." " But I want it dyed red." " I know not
how to dye red." " Then dye it green." " I know not how to dye

1 i.e. gaining much one day and little another.

2 Lit. " Rest thyself" i.e. by changing posture.

Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber. 143

green." "Yellow." "Nor yet yellow." Thereupon Abu Kir
went on to name the different tints to him, one after other,
till the dyer said, " We are here in this city forty master-
dyers, not one more nor one less ; and when one of us dieth,
we teach his son the craft. If he leave no son, we abide lacking
one, and if he leave two sons, we teach one of them the craft, and
if he die, we teach his brother. This our craft is strictly ordered,
and we know how to dye but blue and no other tint whatsoever."
Then said Abu Kir, " Know that I too am a dyer and wot how to
dye all colours ; and I would have thee take me into thy service
on hire, and I will teach thee everything of my art, so thou mayst
glory therein over all the company of dyers." But the dyer
answered, " We never admit a stranger into our craft." Asked
Abu Kir, " And what if I open a dyery for myself? "; whereto the
other answered, " We will not suffer thee to do that on any wise ;"
whereupon he left him and going to a second dyer, made him the
like proposal ; but he returned him the same answer as the first ;
and he ceased not to go from one to other, till he had made the
round of the whole forty masters ; but they would not accept him
either to master or apprentice. Then he repaired to the Shaykh
of the Dyers and told him what had passed, and he said, " We
admit no strangers into our craft." Hereupon Abu Kir became
exceeding wroth and going up to the King of that city, n>ade com-
plaint to him, saying, " O King of the age, I am a stranger and a
dyer by trade" ; and he told him whatso had passed between him-
self and the dyers of the town, adding, " I can dye various kinds
of red, such as rose-colour and jujubel-colour and varous kinds of
green, such as grass-green and pistachio-green and olive and
parrot's wing, and various kinds of black, such as coal-black and
Kohl-black, and various shades of yellow, such as orange and
lemon-colour," and went on to name to him the rest of the colours.
Then said he, " O King of the age, all the dyers in thy city can not
turn out of hand any one of these tincts, for they know not how to
dye aught but blue ; yet will they not admit me amongst them,
either to master or apprentice." Answered the King, " Thou sayst
sooth for that matter, but I will open to thee a dyery and give thee
capital and have thou no care anent them ; for whoso offereth to
do thee let or hindrance, I will hang him over his shop-door."
Then he sent for builders and said to them, " Go round about the

1 Arab. " 'Unnbi " =: between dark yellow and x

144 .A If Lay I ah wa Laylah.

city with this master-dyer, and whatsoever place pleaseth him, be
it shop or Khan or what not, turn out its occupier and build him a
dyery after his wish. Whatsoever he biddeth you, that do ye and
oppose him not in aught." And he clad him in a handsome suit
and gave him two white slaves to serve him, and a horse with
housings of brocade and a thousand dinars, saying, " Expend this
upon thyself against the building be completed." Accordingly
Abu Kir donned the dress and mounting the horse, became as he
were an Emir. Moreover the King assigned him a house and

bade furnish it ; so they furnished it for him. And Shahrazad

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

ttfofo fofan ft foas tftf Wine f^unlitrtJ antJ Twtg=fourtf)

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
King assigned a house to Abu Kir and bade furnish it and he took
up his abode therein. On the morrow he mounted and rode
through the city, whilst the architects went before him ; and he
looked about him till he saw a place which pleased him and said,
" This stead is seemly ;" whereupon they turned out the owner
and carried him to the King, who gave him as the price of his
holding, what contented him and more. Then the builders fell to
work, whilst Abu Kir said to them, " Build thus and thus and do
this and that," till they built him a dyery that had not its like ;
whereupon he presented himself before the King and informed
him that they had done building the dyery and that there needed
but the price of the dye-stuffs and gear to set it going. Quoth the
King, "Take these four thousand dinars to thy capital and let me
see the first fruits of thy dyery." So he took the money and went
to the market where, finding dye-stuffs 1 plentiful and well-nigh
worthless, he bought all he needed of materials for dyeing ; and
the King sent him five hundred pieces of stuff, which he set
himself to dye of all colours and then he spread them before the
door of his dyery. When the folk passed by the shop, they saw

1 Arab. "Nilah" lit. =: indigo, but here applied to all the materials for dyeing. The
word is the Sansk. ~^\^ and the growth probably came from India although duiing the
Crusaders' occupation of Jerusalem it was cultivated in the valley of the lower Jordan.
I need hardly say that it has nothing to do with the word " Nile" whose origin is still
sub judice. And yet I lately met a sciolist who pompously announced to me this philo-
logical absurdity as a discovery of his own.

Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber. 145

a wonder-sight whose like they had never in their lives seen ; so
they crowded about the entrance, enjoying the spectacle and ques-
tioning the dyer and saying, " O master, what are the names of

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 15 of 38)