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 19 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 19 of 38)
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So oppress not this man ; but, if he will sell them, buy them for
thy daughter Umm al-Su'ud, 1 that we may set them in a neck-

*-*' Mother of Prosperities."

Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

lace for her.'* When the eunuch returned and told the King
what the Queen said, he damned the Syndic of the jewellers,
him and his company, with the damnation of Ad and Thamud, 1
and they said to him, " O King of the age, we knew this man for
a poor fisherman and deemed such things too much for him, 2 so
we supposed that he had stolen them." Cried the King, " O ye
filthy villains, begrudge ye a True Believer good fortune ? Why
did ye not make due enquiry of him ? Haply Allah Almighty
hath vouchsafed him these things from a source whereupon he
reckoned not. Why did ye make him out a thief and disgrace
him amongst the folk ? Begone, and may Allah never bless you ! "
So they went out affrighted and the King said to Abdullah, " O
man (Allah bless thee in all He hath bestowed on thee !), no harm
shall befal thee ; but tell me truly, whence gottest thou these
jewels ; for I am a King yet have I not the like of them." The
fisherman replied, " O King of the age, I have a fish-basket full
of them at home and the case is thus and thus." Then he told
him of his friendship with the Merman, adding, "We have made
a covenant together that I shall bring him every day a basket
full of fruit and that he shall fill me the basket with these jewels."
Quoth the King, O man this is thy lucky lot ; but wealth needeth
rank,3 I will defend thee for the present against men's domineer-
ing ; but haply I shall be deposed or die and another rule in my
stead, and he shall slay thee because of his love of the goods of
this world and his covetousness. So I am minded to marry thee
to my daughter and make thee my Wazir and bequeath thee the
kingdom after me, so none may hanker for thy riches when I am
gone. Then said he, " Hie with this man to the Hammam." So
they bore him to the Baths and bathed his body and robed him
in royal raiment, after which they brought him back to the King,
and he made him his Wazir and sent to his house couriers and
the soldiers of his guard and all the wives of the notables,
who clad his wife and children in Kingly costume and mounting
the woman in a horse-litter, with the little child in her lap, walked
before her to the palace, escorted by the troops and couriers and
officers. They also brought her elder children in to the King

1 Tribes of pre-historic Arabs who were sent to Hell for bad behaviour to Prophets
Salih and Hud. See v 1. iii. 294.

2 " Too much for hi to come by lawfully."

8 To protect it. The Arab, is "Jah " =: high station, dignity.

Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman, 175

who made much of them, taking them in his lap and seating them
by his side ; for-they were nine children male and the King had
no son and heir nor had he been blessed with any child save this
one daughter, Umm al-Su'ud hight. Meanwhile the Queen
entreated Abdullah's wife with honour and bestowed favours on
her and made her Waziress to her. Then the King bade draw up
the marriage contract between his daughter and Abdullah of the
Land 1 who assigned to her, as her dower, all the gems and
precious stones in his possession, and they opened the gates of
festival. The King commanded by proclamation to decorate the
city, in honour of his daughter's wedding. Then Abdullah went
in unto the Princess and abated her maidenhead. Next morning
the King looked out of the lattice and saw Abdullah carrying on
his head a fish-crate full of fruit. So he called to him, " What
hast thou there, O my son-in-law, and whither wendest thou ? "
The fisherman replied, " To my friend Abdullah the Merman ; "
and the King said, " O my son-in-law, this is no time to go to thy
comrade." Quoth Abdullah. <; Indeed, I fear to break tryst with
him, lest he reckon me a liar and say : The things of the world
have diverted thee from me ; " and quoth the King, " Thou
speakest sooth : go to thy friend and God help thee ! So he
walked through the city on his way to his companion ; and, as
he went, he heard the folk who knew him say, " There goeth the
King's son-in-law to exchange fruit for gems ; " whilst those who

1 The European reader, especially feminine, will think this a hard fate for the pious
first wife but the idea would not occur to the Moslem mind. After bearing ten children
a woman becomes " Umm al-banati w' al-banin " = a mother of daughters and sons,
and should hold herself unfit for love-disport. The seven ages of womankind are thus
described by the Arabs and I translate the lines after a well-known (Irish) model :

From ten years to twenty

Of beauty there's plenty.

From twenty to thirty

Fat, fair and alert t'ye.

From thirty to forty

Lads and lasses she bore t'ye.

From forty to fifty

An old 'un and shifty.

From fifty to sixty
' A sorrow that sticks t'ye.

From sixty to seventy

A curse of God sent t'ye.

For these ana other sentiments upon the subject of women and marriage see Pilgrimage
ii. 285-87.

176 Alf Lay/ah wa Laylah.

knew him not said, " Ho, fellow, how much a pound ? Come, sell
to me." And he answered, saying, " Wait till I come back to
thee," for that he would not hurt the feelings of any man. Then
he fared on till he came to the sea-shore and foregathered with his
friend Abdullah the Merman, to whom he delivered the fruit,
receiving gems in return. He ceased not doing thus till one day,
as he passed by the baker's oven, he found it closed ; and so he
did ten days, during which time the oven remained shut and he
saw nothing of the baker.' So he said to himself, " This is a
strange thing ! Would I wot whither the baker went ! >: Then
he enquired of his neighbour, saying, " O my brother, where is
thy neighbour the baker and what hath Allah done with him ? " ;
and the other responded, " O my lord, he is sick and cometh not
forth of his house." " Where is his house ? " asked Abdullah ;
and the other answered, " In such a quarter." So he fared thither
and enquired of him ; but, when he knocked at the door, the baker
looked out of window and seeing his friend the fisherman, full
basket on head, came down and opened the door to him. Abdullah
entered and throwing himself on the baker embraced him and wept,
saying, " How dost thou, O my friend ? Every day, I pass by
thine oven and see it unopened ; so I asked thy neighbour, who
told me that thou wast sick ; therefore I enquired for thy house,
that I might see thee." Answered the baker, " Allah requite thee
for me with all good ! Nothing aileth me ; but it reached me that
the King had taken thee, for that certain of the folk had lied
against thee and accused thee of being a robber wherefore I
feared and shut shop and hid myself." " True," said Abdullah
and told him all that had befallen him with the King and the
Shaykh of the jewellers' bazar, adding " Moreover, the King hath
given me his daughter to wife and made me his Wazir ; " and,
after a pause, " So do thou take what is in this fish-basket to thy
share and fear naught." Then he left him, after having done
away from him his affright, and returned with the empty crate to
the King, who said to him, " O my son-in-law, 'twould seem thou
hast not foregathered with thy friend the Merman to-day." Replied
Abdullah, " I went to him but that which he gave me I gave to
my gossip the baker, to whom I owe kindness." "Who may be
this baker ?" asked the King ; and the fisherman answered, " He
is a benevolent man, who did with me thus and thus in the days
of my poverty and never neglected me a single day nor hurt my
feelings." Quoth the King, " What is his name ? " ; and quoth the

Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman. 177

fisherman " Hi's name is Abdullah the Baker ; and my name is
Abdullah of the Land and that of my friend the merman Abdullah
of the Sea." Rejoined the King, " And my name also is Abdullah ;
and the servants of Allah 1 are all brethren. So send and fetch thy
friend the baker, that I may make him my Wazir of the left." 2
So he sent for the baker who speedily came to the presence, and
the King invested him with the Wazirial uniform and made him
Wazir of the left, making Abdullah of the Land his Wazir of the

right. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased

to say her permitted say.

ttfoto toljnt ft foas tbt ^tne 2$utrtjteto antr jportg^fourtf) Ntgfjt,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
King made his son-in-law, Abdullah of the Land, Wazir of the
right and Abdullah the baker Wazir of the left In such condition
the fisherman abode a whole year, every day carrying for the Mer-
man the crate full of fruit and receiving it back, full of jewels ; and
when fruit failed from the gardens, he carried him raisins and
almonds and filberts and walnuts and figs and so forth ; and all
that he brought for him the Merman accepted and returned him
the fish-basket full of jewels according to his custom. Now it
chanced one day that he carried him the crate, full of dry 3
fruits as was his wont, and his friend took them from him. Then
they sat down to converse, Abdullah the fisherman on the beach
and Abdullah the Merman in the water near the shore, and dis-
coursed ; and the talk went round between them, till it fell upon
the subject of sepulchres ; whereat quoth the Merman, " O my
brother, they say that the Prophet (whom Allah assain and save !)
is buried with you on the land. Knowest thou his tomb ? >:
Abdullah replied, " Yes ; it lieth in a city called Yathrib. 4 " Asked

1 Abdullah, as has been said, means "servant or rather slave of Allah."

2 Again the " Come to my arms, my slight acquaintance," of the Anti-Jacobin.

3 Arab. " Nukl," e,g. the quatre mendiants as opposed to " Fakihah " =r fresh fruit.
The Persians, a people who delight in gross practical jokes, get the confectioner to coat
with sugar the droppings of sheep and goats and hand them to the bulk of the party.
This pleasant confection is called "Nukl-i-peshkil " dung-dragees.

4 The older name of Madinat al-Nabi, the city of the Prophet ; vulg. called Al-
Medinah per excellentiam. See vol. iv. 114. In the Mac. and Bui. texts we have
" Tayyibah" = the goodly, one of the many titles of that Holy City : see Pilgrimage
ii. 119.


178 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

the Merman, " And do the people of the land visit it ?" "Yes,"
answered the fisherman, and the other said, " I give you joy, O
people of the land, of visiting 1 that noble Prophet and com-
passionate, which whoso visiteth meriteth his intercession ! Hast
thou made such visitation, O my brother ? " Replied the fisher-
man, " No : for I was poor and had not the necessary sum 2 to
spend by the way, nor have I been in easy case but since I knew
thee and thou bestowedst on me this good fortune. But such
visitation behoveth me after I have pilgrimed to the Holy House
of Allah 3 and naught withholdeth me therefrom but my love to
thee, because I cannot leave thee for one day." Rejoined the
Merman, " And dost thou set the love of me before the visitation
of the tomb of Mohammed (whom Allah assain and save ! ), who
shall intercede for thee on the Day of Review before Allah and
shall save thee from the Fire and through whose inter-
cession thou shalt enter Paradise? And dost thou, for the
love of the world, neglect to visit the tomb of thy Prophet*
Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve ? " Replied Abdullah,
" No, by Allah, I set the visitation of the Prophet's tomb above
all else, and I crave thy leave to pray before it this year."
The Merman rejoined, " I grant thee leave, on condition that
when thou shalt stand by his sepulchre thou salute him for me
with the Salam. Furthermore I have a trust to give thee ; so come

1 Not " visiting the tomb of " etc. but visiting the Prophet himself, who is said to
have declared that "Ziyarah" (visitation) of his tomb was in religion the equivalent of a
personal call upon himself.

2 Arab. "Nafakah"; for its conditions see Pilgrimage iii. 224. I have again and
again insisted upon the Anglo-Indian Government enforcing the regulations of the Faith
upon pauper Hindi pilgrims who go to the Moslem Holy Land as beggars and die of
hunger in the streets. To an "Empire of Opinion" this is an unmitigated evil
(Pilgrimage iii. 256) ; and now, after some thirty-four years, there are signs that the
suggestions of common sense are to be adopted. England has heard of the extraordinary
recklessness and inconsequence of the British -Indian " fellow subject."

3 The Ka'abah of Meccah.

4 When Moslems apply "Nabi ! " to Mohammed it is in the peculiar sense of " prophet "
(Trpo^-njs) = one who speaks before the people, not one who predicts, as such
foresight was abjured by the Apostle. Dr. A. Neubauer (The Athenaeum No. 3031) finds
the root of " Nabi ! " in the Assyrian Nabu and Heb. Noob (occurring in Exod. vii. i.
" Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." i.e. orator, speaker before the people), and
holds it to be a Canaanite term which supplanted " Roeh " (the Seer) e.g. \ Samuel ix.
9. The learned Hebraist traces the cult of Nebo, a secondary deity in Assyria to
Palestine and Phoenicia, Palmyra, Edessa (in the Nebok of Abgar) and Hierapolis in
Syria or Mabug (Nabog ?).

Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman. 179

thou with me into the sea, that I may carry thee to my city and
entertain thee in my house and give thee a deposit ; which when
thou takest thy station by the Prophet's tomb, do thou lay thereon,
saying : O apostle of Allah, Abdullah the Merman saluteth thee
and sendeth thee this present, imploring thine intercession to save
him from the Fire." Said the fisherman, " O my brother,
thou wast created in the water and water is thy abiding-
place and doth thee no hurt, but, if thou shouldst come forth
to the land, would any harm betide thee ? " The Merman
replied, " Yes ; my body would dry up and the breezes of the
land would blow upon me and I should die," Rejoined the
fisherman, f< And I, in like manner, was created on the land and
the land is my abiding-place ; but, an I went down into the sea,
the water would enter my belly and choke me and I should die."
Retorted the other, " Have no fear for that, for I will bring thee an
ointment, wherewith when thou hast anointed thy body, the water
will do thee no hurt, though thou shouldst pass the lave of thy life
going about in the great deep : and thou shalt lie down and rise
up in the sea and naught shall harm thee." Quoth the fisherman,
" An the case be thus, well and good ; but bring me the ointment, so
that I may make trial of it ; " and quoth the Merman, " So be it ; "
then, taking the fish-basket disappeared in the depths. He was
absent awhile, and presently returned with an unguent as it were
the fat of beef, yellow as gold and sweet of savour. Asked the
fisherman, " What is this, O my brother ? " ; and answered the
Merman, "'Tis the liver-fat of a kind of fish called the Dandan, 1
which is the biggest of all fishes and the fiercest of our foes. His
bulk is greater than that of any beast of the land, and were he to
meet a camel or an elephant, he would swallow it at a single
mouthful." Abdullah enquired, " O my brother, what doth this
baleful beast?"; and the Merman replied, "He eateth of the
beasts of the sea. Hast thou not heard the saying: Like the
fishes of the sea : forcible eateth feeble ? 2 " " True ; but have you
many of these Dandans in the sea ? " " Yes, there be many of
them with us. None can tell their tale save Almighty Allah."

1 I cannot find "Dandan" even in Lib. Quintusde Aquaticis Animalibus of the learned
Sam. Bochavt's " Hierozo'icon " (London, 1663) and must conjecture that as " Dandan "
in Persian means a tooth (vol. ii. 83) the writer applied it fro a sun-fish or some such
well-fanged monster of the deep.

2 A favourite proverb with the Fellah, when he alludes to the Pasha and to himself.

180 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

"Verily, I fear lest, if I go down with thee into the deep a creature
of this kind fall in with me and devour me." " Have no fear :
when he seeth thee, he will know thee for a son of Adam and will
fear thee and flee. He dreadeth none in the sea as he dreadeth a.
son of Adam ; for that an he eateth a man he dieth forthright,
because human fat is a deadly poison to this kind of creature ; nor
do we collect its liver-speck save by means of a man, when he
falleth into the sea and is drowned ; for that his semblance be-
cometh changed and ofttimes his flesh is torn ; so the Dandan
eateth him, deeming him the same of the denizens of the deep,
and dieth. Then we light upon our enemy dead and take the
speck of his liver and grease ourselves so that we can over-wander
the main in safety. Also, wherever there is a son of Adam, though
there be in that place an hundred or two hundred or a thousand

or more of these beasts, all die forthright an they but hear him

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

Xofo fofjtn tt foas tfte STtne f^untfrefc antr ^ortg^ftftlj NiQ&t,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah
of the Sea said to Abdullah of the Land, " And if a thousand or
more of this kind hear an Adamite cry a single cry, forthright all
die nor hath one of them power to remove from his place ; so,
whenever a son of Adam falleth into the sea, we take him and
anoint him with this fat and go round about the depths with
him, and whenever we see a Dandan or two or three or more, we
bid him cry out and they all die forthright for his once crying."
Quoth the fisherman, " I put my trust in Allah ; " and, doffing his
clothes, buried them in a hole which he dug in the beach ; after
which he rubbed his body from head to heels with that ointment.
Then he descended into the water and diving, opened his eyes and
the brine did him no hurt. So he walked right and left, and if he
would, he rose to the sea-face, and if he would, he sank to the
base. And he beheld the water as it were a tent over his head ;
yet it wrought him no hurt. Then said the Merman to him,
" What seest thou, O my brother ? " ; and said he, " O my brother,
I see naught save weal 1 ; and indeed thou spakest truth in that

1 An euphemistic answer, unbernfcn as the Germans say.

Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman. 181

which thou saidst to me; for the water doth me no hurt." Quoth
the Merman, " Follow me." So he followed him and they ceased
not faring on from place to place, whilst Abdullah discovered be-
fore him and on his right and left mountains of water and solaced
himself by gazing thereon and on the various sorts of fish, some great
and some small, which disported themselves in the main. Some
of them favoured buffaloes 1 others oxen and others dogs and yet
others human beings ; but all to which they drew near fled, whenas
they saw the fisherman, who said to the Merman, " O my brother,
how is it that I see all the fish, to which we draw near, flee 'from
us afar ? " Said the other, " Because they fear thee, for all things
that Allah hath made fear the son of Adam. 2 " The fisherman
ceased not to divert himself with the marvels of the deep, till they
came to a high mountain and fared on beside it. Suddenly, he
heard a mighty loud cry and turning, saw some black thing, the
bigness of a camel or bigger, coming down upon him from the
liquid mountain and crying out. So he asked his friend, " What
is this, O my brother ? " ; and the Merman answered, " This is the
Dandan. He cometh in search of me, seeking to devour me ; so
cry out at him, O my brother, ere he reach us ; else he will snatch
me up and devour me." Accordingly Abdullah cried out at the
beast and behold, it fell down dead ; which when he saw, he said,
" Glorified be the perfection of God and His praise ! I smote it
not with sword nor knife ; how cometh it that, for all the vastness of
the creature's bulk, it could not bear my cry, but died ? " Replied
the Merman, " Marvel not, for, by Allah, O my brother, were there
a thousand or two thousand of these creatures, yet could they not
endure the cry of a son of Adam." Then they walked on, till

1 It is a temptation to derive this word from btzuf & feau, but I fear that the theory
\vill not hold water. The " buffaloes '' of Alexandria laughed it to scorn.

2 Here the writer's zoological knowledge is at fault. Animals, which never or very
rarely see man, have no fear of him whatever. This is well-known to those who visit
the Gull-fairs at Ascension Island, Santos and many other isolated rocks; the hen birds
xvill peck at the intruder's ankles but they do not rise from off their eggs. For details
concerning the "Gull-fair" of the Summer Islands consult p. 4 "The History of the
Bermudas," edited by Sir J. H. Lefroy for the Hakluyt Society, 1882. I have seen
birds on Fernando Po peak quietly await a second shot ; and herds of antelopes, the most
timid of animals, in the plains of Somali-land only stared but were not startled by the
report of the gun. But Arabs are not the only moralists who write zoological nonsense ;
witness the notable verse,

Birds in their little nests agree,
when the feathered tribes are the most pugnacious of breathing beings.

1 82 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

they made a city, whose inhabitants the fisherman saw to be all
women, there being no male among them ; so he said to his com-
panion, " O my brother, what city is this and what are these
women ? " " This is the city of women ; for its inhabitants are of
the women of the sea." " Are there any males among them ? "
" No ! " " Then how do they conceive and bear young, without
males ! ? " " The King of the sea banisheth them hither and they
conceive not neither bear children. All the women of the sea, with
whom he is wroth, he sendeth to this city, and they cannot
leave it; for, should one of them come forth therefrom, any of
the beasts of the sea that saw her would eat her. But in
other cities of the main there are both males and females."
Thereupon asked the fisherman, "Are there then other cities
than this in the sea ? " ; and the Merman answered, " There are
many." Quoth the fisherman, " And is there a Sultan over you
in the sea ? " " Yes," quoth the Merman. Then said Abdullah
" O my brother, I have indeed seen many marvels in the main !"
But the Merman said, " And what hast thou seen of its marvels 2 ?
Hast thou not heard the saying : The marvels of the sea are
more manifold than the marvels of the land ? " " True," rejoined
the fisherman and fell to gazing upon those women, whom he saw
with faces like moons and hair like women's hair, but their hands
and feet were in their middle and they had tails like fishes' tails.
Now when the Merman had shown him the people of the city, he
carried him forth therefrom and forewalked him to another city,
which he found full of folk, both males and females, formed like
the women aforesaid and having tails ; but there was neither
selling nor buying amongst them, as with the people of the land,
nor were they clothed, but went all naked and with their shame
uncovered. Said Abdullah "O my brother, I see males and
females alike with their shame exposed 3 ,'' and the other said,
" This is because the folk of the sea have no clothes." Asked

1 Lane finds these details " silly and tiresome or otherwise objectionable," and omits

2 Meaning, "Thou hast as yet seen little or nothing." In most Eastern tongues a
question often expresses an emphatic assertion. See vol. i. 37.

3 Easterns wear as a rule little clothing but it suffices for the essential purposes of
decency and travellers will live amongst them for years without once seeing an acci-
dental "exposure of the person." In some cases, as with the Nubian thong-apron,
this demand of modesty requires not a little practice of the muscles ; and we all know
the difference in a Scotch kilt worn by a Highlander and a cockney sportsman.

Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman. 183

the fisherman, " And how do they when they marry ? " The
Merman answered, " They do not marry ; but every one who
taketh a liking to a female doth his will of her." Quoth Ab-
dullah, " This is unlawful ! Why doth he not ask her in marriage
and dower her and make her a wedding festival and marry her,
in accordance with that which is pleasing to Allah and His
Apostle ? "; and quoth the other, " We are not all of one religion :
some of us are Moslems, believers in The Unity, others Nazarenes
and what not else ; and each marrieth in accordance with the
ordinances of his creed ; but those of us who marry are mostly

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 19 of 38)