Copyright
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 18 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 18 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


him ; and amongst the rest a galleon freighted with goods ; and
the crew of this galleon were Mamelukes ; so he gave him these
also, after offering to make him his Wazir whereto the barber
consented not. Presently he farewelled the King and set sail in
his own ship manned by his own crew ; nor did he cast anchor
till he reached Alexandria and made fast to the shore there.
Then they landed and one of his Mamelukes, seeing a sack on the
beach, said to Abu Sir, " O my lord, there is a great heavy sack
on the sea-shore, with the mouth tied up and I know not what
therein." So Abu Sir came up and opening the sack, found
therein the remains of Abu Kir, which the sea had borne thither.
He took it forth and burying it near Alexandria, built over the
grave a place of visitation and endowed it with mortmain writing
over the door these couplets :

Man is known among men as his deeds attest ; * Which make noble origin

manifest :
Backbite not, lest other men bite thy back ; * Who saith aught, the same

shall to him be addrest :
Shun immodest words and indecent speech * When thou speakest in

earnest or e'en in jest. 1
We bear with the dog which behaves itself * But the lion is chained lest

he prove a pest :
And the desert carcases swim the main * While union-pearls on the

sand-bank rest 2 :
No sparrow would hustle the sparrow-hawk, * Were it not by folly and

weakness prest r



1 This couplet was quoted to me by my friend the Rev. Dr. Badger when he heard
that I was translating " The Nights ": needless to say that it is utterly inappropriate.

2 For a similar figure see vol. i. 25.



Abdullah the Fisherman ana Abdullah the Merman. 165

A-sky is written on page of air, * "Who doth kindly of kind-

ness shall have the best ! "

'Ware of gathering sugar from bitter gourd :' * 'Twill prove to rts origin
like in taste.

After this Abu Sir abode awhile, till Allah took him to Himself,
and they buried him hard by the tomb of his comrade Abu Kir ;
wherefore that place was called Abu Kir and Abu Sir \ but it is
now known as Abu Kir only. This, then, is that which hath
reached us of their history, and glory be to Him who endureth
for ever and aye and by whose will interchange the night and the
day. And of the stories they tell is one anent



ABDULLAH 2 THE FISHERMAN AND ABDULLAH

THE MERMAN.

THERE was once a Fisherman named Abdullah, who had a large
family, to wit, nine children and their mother, so was he poor,
very poor, owning naught save his net. Every day he used to go
to the sea a-fishing, and if he caught little, he sold it and spent
the price on his children, after the measure of that which Allah
vouchsafed him of provision ; but, if he caught much, he would
cook a good mess of meat and buy fruit and spend without stint
till nothing was left him, saying to himself. " The daily bread of
to-morrow will come to-morrow." Presently, his wife gave birth to
another child, making a total of ten, and it chanced that day that
he had nothing at all ; so she said to him, " O my master, see and
get me somewhat wherewithal I may sustain myself." Quoth he,
" I am going (under favour of Almighty Allah) this day seawards
to fish on the luck of this new-born child, that we may see its fair
fortune ;" and quoth she, " Put thy trust in Allah ! " So he took
his net and went down to the sea-shore, where he cast it on the
luck of the little one, saying, " O my God, make his living of ea"se



1 Arab. "Hanzal": see vol. v. 19.

2 The tale begins upon the model of " Judar and his Brethren," vi. 213. Its hero's
full name is Alxlu'llahi= Slave of Allah, which vulgar Egyptians pronounce Abdallah
and purer speakers, Badawin and others, Abdullah : either form is therefore admissible.
It is more common among Moslems but not unknown to Christians especially Syrians
who borrow it from the Syriac Alloh. Mohammed is said to have said, "The names
most approved by Allah are Abdu'llah, Abd al- Rahman (Slave of the Compassionate)
and such lilce " (Pilgrimage i. 20).



1 66 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

not of unease, and abundant, not scant ! " Then he waited awhile
and drew in the net, which came up full of rubbish and sand and
pebbles and weeds, and he saw therein no sign of fish neither
muchel nor little. He cast it again and waited, then drew it in,
but found no catch in it, and threw it a third and a fourth and a
fifth time still not a single fish came up. So he removed to
another place beseeching his daily bread of Allah Almighty and
thus he kept working till the end of the day, but caught not so
much as a minnow j 1 whereat he fell a-marvelling in himself and
said self-communing, " Hath Allah then created this new born-
child without lot of provision ? This may never, never be. He
who slitteth the corners of the lips hath pledged Himself for its
provision, because Almighty Allah is the Bountiful, the Provider ! " 2
So saying, he shouldered his net and turned him homewards,
broken-spirited and heavy at heart about his family, for that he
had left them without food, more by token that his wife was in the
straw. And as he continued trudging along and saying in himself,
" How shall I do and what shall I say to the children to-night ? '
he came to a baker's oven and saw a crowd about it ; for the
season was one of dearth and in those days food was scant with
the folk ; so people were proffering the baker money, but he paid
no heed to any of them, by reason of the dense crowd. The
fisherman stood looking and snuffing the smell of the hot bread
(and indeed his soul longed for it, by reason of his hunger), till the
baker caught sight of him and cried out to him, " Come hither,
O fisherman ! " So he went up to him, and the baker said, " Dost
thou want bread ? " But he was silent. Quoth the baker, " Speak
out and be not ashamed, for Allah is bountiful. An thou have no
silver, I will give thee bread and have patience with thee till weal
betide thee." And quoth the fisherman, "By Allah, O master, I
have indeed no money ! But give me bread enough for my family,
and I will leave thee this net in pawn till the morrow." Rejoined
the baker, " Nay, my poor fellow, this net is thy shop and the door
of thy daily subsistence ; so an thou pawn it, wherewithal wilt



1 Arab. "Sirah" here probably used of the Nile-sprat (Clupea Sprattus Linn.) or
Sardine of which Forsk says, " Sardinn in Al-Yatnan is applied to a Red Sea fish of the
same name." Hasselquist the Swede notes that Egyptians stuff the Sardine with
marjoram and eat it fried even when half putrid.

2 i.e. by declaring in the Koran (Ixvii. 14 ; Ixxiv. 39 ; Ixxviii. 69 ; Ixxxviii. 17), that
each creature hath its appointed term and lot ; especially " Thinketh man that he shall
be left uncared for ? " (xl. 36).



Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman. 167

thou fish ? Tell me how much will suffice thee ? "; and replied the
fisherman, " Ten half-dirhams* worth." 1 So he gave him ten Nusfs'
worth of bread and ten in silver saying, " Take these ten Nusfs
and cook thyself a mess of meat therewith ; so wilt thou owe me
twenty, for which bring me fish to-morrow ; but, an thou catch
nothing again, come and take thy bread and thy ten Nusfs, and I

will have patience with thee till better luck betide thee, And

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



Koto fofjen tt foas tfje Nine l^un&relr anU

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
baker said to the fisherman, " Take whatso thou needest and I will
have patience with thee till better luck betide thee, after the which
thou shalt bring me fish for all thou owest me." Said the fisher-
man, Almighty Allah reward thee, and requite thee for me with
all good ! ' Then he took the bread and the coins and went
away, glad at heart, and buying what he could returned to his wife
whom he found sitting up, soothing the children, who were weeping
for hunger, and saying to them, " At once your father will be here
with what ye may eat." So he set the bread before them and they
ate, whilst he told his wife what had befallen him, and she said,
" Allah is bountiful." 2 On the morrow, he shouldered his net and
went forth of his house, saying, " I beseech thee, O Lord, to
vouchsafe me this day that which shall whiten my face with the
baker ! " s When he came to the sea-shore, he proceeded to cast
his net and pull it in ; but there came up no fish therein ; and he
ceased not to toil thus till ended day but he caught nothing.
Then he set out homewards, in great concern, and the way to his
house lay past the baker's oven ; so he said in himself," How shall
I go home ? But I will hasten my pace that the baker may not
see me." When he reached the shop, he saw a crowd about it and



1 Arab. "Nusf," see vol. ii. 37.

* Arab. "Allah Karfm " (which Turks pronounce Kyerfm) a consecrated formula
used especially when a man would show himself resigned to "small mercies." The
fisherman's wife was evidently pious as she was poor ; and the description of the pauper
household is simple and effective.

3 This is repeated in the Mac. Edit. pp. 496-97 ; an instance amongst many of most
careless editing.



168 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

walked the faster, being ashamed to face his creditor ; but the
baker raised his eyes to him and cried out to him, saying-, " Ho,
fisherman ! Come and take thy bread and spending-money.
Meseems thou forgettest." Quoth Abdullah, " By Allah, I had
not forgotten ; but I was ashamed to face thee, because I have
caught no fish this day ;" and quoth the baker, " Be not ashamed.
Said I not to thee, At thy leisure, 1 till better luck betide thee ? '
Then he gave him the bread and the ten Nusfs and he returned
and told his wife, who said, " Allah is bountiful. Better luck shall
yet betide thee and thou shalt give the baker his due, Inshallah.".
He ceased not doing on this wise forty days, betaking himself
daily to the sea, from the rising of the sun to the going down
thereof, and returning home without fish ; and still he took bread
and spending-money of the baker, who never once named the fish
to him nor neglected him nor kept him waiting like the folk, 2 but
gave him the bread and the ten half-dirhams without delay.
Whenever the fisherman said to him, " O my brother, reckon with
me," he would say, " Be off : 3 " this is no time for reckoning. Wait
till better luck betide thee, and then I will reckon with thee."
And the fisherman would bless him and go away thanking him.
On the one-and-fortieth day, he said to his wife, " I have a mind
to tear up the net and be quit of this life." She asked, " Why
wilt thou do this ? "; and he answered, u Meseems there is an end
of my getting my daily bread from the waters. How long shall
this last? By Allah, I burn with shame before the baker and I
will go no more to the sea, so I may not pass by his oven, for I
have none other way home ; and every time I pass he calleth me
and giveth me the bread and the ten silvers. How much longer
shall I run in debt to him ? " The wife replied, " Alhamdolillah
lauded be the Lord, the Most High, who hath inclined his heart to
thee, so that he giveth thee our daily bread ! What dislikest thou
in this ? "; and the husband rejoined, <( I owe him now a mighty
great sum of dirhams, and there is no doubt but that he will
demand his due." " Hath he vexed thee with words ?" " No, on



1 Arab. " A1& mahlak " (vulg.), a popular phrase, often corresponding with our =
Take it coolly.

2 For " He did not keep him waiting, as he did the rest of the folk." Lane prefers
41 nor neglected him as men generally would have done." But we are told supra that
the baker " paid no heed to the folk by reason of the dense crowd."

3 Arab. " Ruh ! " the most abrupt form, whose sound is coarse and offensive as the
Turkish yell, " Gyel ! " = come here !



Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman. 169

the contrary, he still refuseth to reckon with me, saying : Wait
till better luck betide thee." " If he press thee, say to him : Wait
till there come the good luck for which we hope, thou and I."
"And when will the good luck come that we hope for ?" "Allah
is bountiful. v " Sooth thou speakest ! " So saying he shouldered
his net and went down to the sea-side, praying, " O Lord provide
thou me, though but with one fish, that I may give it to the
baker ! " And he cast his net into the sea and pulling it in, found
it heavy ; so he tugged at it till he was tired with sore travail.
But when he got it ashore, he found in it a dead donkey swollen
and stinking ; whereat his senses sickened and he freed it from the
net, saying, " There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in
Allah, the Glorious, the Great ! Indeed, I can no more ! I say to
that wife of mine : There is no more provision for me in the
waters ; let me leave this craft. And she still answereth me :
Allah is bountiful : good will presently betide thee. Is this dead
ass the good whereof she speaketh ? " And he grieved with the
sorest grief. Then he turned to another place, so he might remove
from the stench of the dead donkey, and cast his net there and
waited a full hour : then he drew it in and found it heavy. There-
upon quoth he, " Good ; we are hauling up all the dead donkeys in
the sea and ridding it of its rubbish. 1 " However he gave not over
tugging at the net, till blood came from the palms of his hands,
and when he got it ashore, he saw a man 2 in it and took him for
one of the Ifrits of the lord Solomon, whom he was wont to im-
prison in cucurbits of brass and cast him into the main, believing
that the vessel had burst for length of years and that the Ifrit had
come forth and fallen into the net ; wherefore he fled from him,
crying out and saying, " Mercy, mercy, O Ifrit of Solomon ! ' But
the Adamite called out to him from within the net and said.



1 Bresl Edit. xi. $0-51

2 Arab. "Adami" = an Adamite, one descended from the mythical and typical Adam
for whom see Philo Judzeus. We are told in one place a few lines further on that the
mermai. is of humankind ; and in another that he is a kind of fish (Night dccccxlv).
This belief in mermen, possibly originating with the caricatures of the human face in the
intelligent seal and stupid manatee, is universal. Al-Kazwini declares that a waterman
wUh a tail was dried and exhibited, and that in Syria one of them was married to a woman
and had by her a son " who understood the languages of both his parents." The fable was
refined to perfect beauty by the Greeks : the mer-folk of the Arabs, Hindus and Northeners
(Scandinavians, etc.) are mere grotesques with green hair, etc. Art in its highest
expression never left the shores of the Mediterranean, and there is no sign that it ever
will.



170 A If Laylah wa Laylah*

" Come hither, O fisherman, and flee not from me ; for I am human
like thyself. Release me, so thou mayst get a recompense for me
of Allah." Whenas he heard these words, .the fisherman took
heart and coming up to him, said to him, " Art thou not an Ifrit of
the Jinn ? " ; and replied the other, " No : I am a mortal and a
believer in Allah and His Apostle." Asked the fisherman, " Who
threw thee into the sea ? " ; and the other answered, " I am of the
children of the sea, and was going about therein, when thou castest
the net over me. We are people who obey Allah's commandments
and show loving-kindness unto the creatures of the Almighty, and
but that I fear and dread to be of the disobedient, I had torn thy
net ; but I accept that which the Lord hath decreed unto me ;
wherefore by setting me free thou becomest my owner and I thy
captive. Wilt thou then set me free for the love 1 of Almighty
Allah and make a covenant with me and become my comrade ?
I will come to thee every day in this place, and do thou come to
me and bring me a gift of the fruits of the land. For with you
are grapes and figs and water-melons and peaches and pome-
granates and so forth, and all thou bringest me will be acceptable
unto me. Moreover, with us are coral and pearls and chrysolites
and emeralds and rubies and other gems, and I will fill thee the
basket, wherein thou bringest me the fruit, with precious stones of
the jewels of the sea. 2 What sayst thou to this, O my brother ? "
Quoth the fisherman, " Be the Opening Chapter of the Koran
between thee and me upon this ! " So they recited together the
Fatihah, and the fisherman loosed the Merman from the net and
asked him, "What is thy name ? " He replied, " My name is
Abdullah of the sea ; and if thou come hither and see me not, call
out and say, " Where art thou, O Abdullah, O Merman ? ; and I

will be with thee. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

and ceased to say her permitted say.



1 Here Lane translates "Wajh" lit. "the desire of seeing the face of God," and
explains in a note that a "Muslim holds this to be the greatest happiness that can be
enjoyed in Paradise." But I have noted that the tenet of seeing the countenance of
the Creator, except by the eyes of spirit, is a much disputed point amongst Moslems.

2 Artful enough is this contrast between the squalid condition of the starving fisherman
and the gorgeous belongings of the Merman.



Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman* 171

jtfoto fofjm tt foas tfje Ntue f^unbtefc anfc ^ortp-secouti

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah
of the sea thus enjoined the other, " An thou come hither and see
me not, call out and say, Where art thou, O Abdullah. O Mer-
man ? and I will be with thee forthwith. But thou, what is thy
name ? " Quoth the fisherman, " My name also is Abdullah ; " and
quoth the other, " Thou art Abdullah of the land and I am Ab-
dullah of the Sea ; but tarry here till I go and fetch thee a present."
And the fisherman repented him of having released him and said
to himself, " How know I that he will come back to me ? Indeed,
he beguiled me, so that I loosed him, and now he will laugh at
me. 1 Had I kept him, I might have made a show of him for the
diversion of the city-folk and taken silver from all men and gone
with him to the houses of the great." And he repented him of
having set him free and said, " Thou hast let thy prey from thy
hand away." But, as he was thus bemoaning his folly in releasing
the prisoner, behold, Abdullah the merman returned to him, with
both hands full of pearls and coral and smaragds and rubies and
other gems, and said to him, " Take these, O my brother, and
excuse me ; had I a fish-basket 2 I would have filled it for thee."
Abdullah the fisherman rejoiced and took the jewels from the Mer-
man who said to him, " Every day come hither, before sunrise," and
farewelling him, went down into the sea ; whilst the other returned
to the city, rejoicing, and stayed not walking till he came to the
baker's oven and said to him, " O my brother, good luck is come
to us at last ; so do thou reckon with me." Answered the baker,
" There needeth no reckoning. An thou have aught, give it me :
and if thou have naught, take thy bread and spending-money and
begone, against weal betide thee." Rejoined the fisherman, " O
my friend, indeed weal hath betided me of Allah's bounty, and I
owe thee much money ; but take this." So saying, he took for
him a handful of the pearls and coral and rubies and other jewels
he had with him (the handful being about half of the whole),and gave
them to the baker, saying, " Give me some ready money to spend



1 Lit. " Verily he laughed at me so that I set him free." This is a fair specimen of
obscure conciseness.

3 Arab. " Mishannah," which Lane and Payne translate basket : I have always heard
it used of an old gunny-bag or bag of plaited palm-leaves.



172 A If Laylah wa Lay la ft.

this day, till I sell these jewels." So the baker gave him all the
money he had in hand and all the bread in his basket ~and rejoiced
in the jewels, saying, " I am thy slave and thy servant." Then
he set all the bread on his head and following the fisherman home,
gave it to his wife and children, after which he repaired to the
market and brought meat and greens and all manner fruit. More-
over, he left his oven and abode with Abdullah all that day, busy-
ing himself in his service and fulfilling all his affairs. Said the
fisherman, " O my brother, thou weariest thyself;" and the baker
replied, " This is my duty, for I am become thy servant and thou
hast overwhelmed me with thy boons." Rejoined the fisherman,
" 'Tis thou who wast my benefactor in the days of dearth and
distress." And the baker passed that night with him enjoying
good cheer and became a faithful friend to him. Then the fisher-
man told his wife what had befallen him with the Merman, whereat
she rejoiced and said, " Keep thy secret, lest the government come
down upon thee ; " but he said, " Though I keep my secret from
all men, yet will I not hide it from the baker." On the morrow,
he rose betimes and, shouldering a basket which he had filled in
the evening with all manner fruits, repaired before sunrise to the
sea-shore, and setting down the crate on the water-edge called out,
" Where art thou, O Abdullah, O Merman ? " He answered,
" Here am I, at thy service ; " and came forth to him. The
fisherman gave him the fruit and he took it and plunging into the
sea with it, was absent a full hour, after which time he came up,
with the fish-basket full of all kinds of gems and jewels. The
fisherman set it on his head and went away ; and, when he came
to the oven, the baker said to him, " O my lord, I have baked
thee forty bunns 1 and have sent them to thy house ; 'and now I
will bake some firsts and as soon as all is done, I will bring it to
thy house and go and fetch thee greens and meat." Abdullah
handed to him three handsful of jewels out of the fish-basket and
going home, set it down there. Then he took a gem of price of



1 Arab. " Kaff Shurayk " applied to a single bun. The Shurayk is a bun, an oblong
cake about the size of a man's hand (hence the term " Kaff " = palm) with two long
cuts and sundry oblique crosscuts, made of leavened dough, glazed with egg and Samn
(clarified butter) and flavoured with spices (cinnamon, curcuma, artemisia and
prunes mahalab t and with aromatic seeds, (Rfhat al-'ajin) of which Lane (iit. 641)
specifies aniseed, nigella, absinthium, (Artemisia arborescens) and Kafurah (A. cam-
phorata Monspeliensis) etc. The Shurayk is given to the poor when visiting the tombfc
and on certain fetes.



Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman. 173

each sort and going to the jewel-bazar, stopped at the Syndic's
shop and said to him, " Buy these precious stones of me." " Show
them to me," said the Shaykh. So he showed them to him and
the jeweller said, " Hast thou aught beside these ?" ; and
Abdullah replied, " I have a basket-full at home." The Syndic
asked, " And where is thine house ? " and the fisherman answered,
" In such a quarter " ; whereupon the Shaykh took the jewels
from him and said to his followers, " Lay hold of him, for he is
the thief who stole the jewellery of the Queen, the wife of our
Sultan." And he bade beat him. So they bastinadoed him and
pinioned him ; after which the Syndic and all the people of the
jewel-market arose and set out for the palace, saying, " We have
caught the thief." Quoth one, " None robbed such an one but
this villain," and quoth another, " 'Twas none but he stole all that
was in such an one's house ; " and some said this and others said
that. All this while he was silent and spake not a word nor
returned a reply, till they brought him before the King, to whom
said the Syndic, " O King of the age, when the Queen's neck-
lace was stolen, thou sentest to acquaint us of the theft, requiring
of us the discovery of the culprit ; wherefore I strove beyond the
rest of the folk and have taken the thief for thee. Here he
standeth before thee, and these be the jewels we have recovered
from him." Thereupon the King said to the chief eunuch, " Carry
these jewels for the Queen to see, and say to her, Are these thy
property thou hast lost ? " So the eunuch took the jewels and
went in with them to the Queen, who seeing their lustre marvelled
at them and sent to the King to say, " I have found my necklace
in my own place and these jewels are not my property ; nay,
they are finer than those of my necklace. So oppress not the

man ; " And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased

saying her permitted say

Nofo fo&m it foas tfje Nine f^utrtrrrtr an* JFortg^tfjirfc Nigljt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
King's wife sent to the King to say," " These are not my
property ; nay, these gems are finer than those of my necklace.



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 18 of 38)