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 21 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 21 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

hath need. When his last hour drew near, he called me to him
and gave me the customary charge ; then Almighty Allah took
him and admitted him to His mercy and may He continue the
Commander of the Faithful on life ! Now my late father had
partners trading with his coin and voyaging on the ocean. So one
day, as I sat in my house with a company of merchants, a certain
of my servants came in to me and said, " O my lord, there is at
the door a man who craveth admittance to thee ! " I gave leave
and he came in, bearing on his head a something covered. He
set it down and uncovered it, and behold it was a box wherein
were fruits out of season and herbs conserved in salt and fresh,
such as are not found in our land. I thanked him and gifted him
with an hundred dinars, and he went away grateful. Then I
divided these things amongst my friends and guests who were
present and asked them whence they came. Quoth they, "They
come from Bassorah," and praised them and went on to portray
the beauties of Bassorah and all agreed that there was naught in
the world goodlier than Baghdad and its people. Then they fell
to describing Baghdad and the fine manners of its folk and the
excellence of its air and the beauty of its ordinance, till my soul
longed for it and all my hopes clave to looking upon it. So I arose
and selling my houses and lands, ships and slaves, negroes and hand-
maids, I got together my good, to wit, a thousand thousand dinars,
besides gems and jewels, wherewith I freighted a vessel and setting
out therein with the whole of the property, voyaged awhile. Then
I hired a barque and embarking therein with all my monies sailed
up the river some days till we arrived at Baghdad. I enquired
where the merchants abode and what part was pleasantest for
domicile and was answered, " The Karkh quarter." So I went
thither and hiring a house in a thoroughfare called the Street of

194 Alf Lay la k wa Laylah.

Saffron, transported all my goods to it and took up my lodging
therein for some time. At last one day which was a Friday, I
sallied forth to solace myself taking with me somewhat of coin. I
went first to a cathedral-mosque, called the Mosque of Mansur,
where the Friday service was held, and when we had made an end
of congregational prayers, I fared forth with the folk to a place
hight Karn al-Sirat, where I saw a tall and goodly mansion, with
a balcony overlooking the river-bank and pierced with a lattice-
window. So I betook myself thither with a company of folk and
sighted there an old man sitting, handsomely clad and exhaling
perfumes. His beard forked upon his breast in two waves like
silver-wire, and about him were four damsels and five pages. So I
said to one of the folk, " What is the name of this old man and
what is his business ? " ; and the man said, " His name is Tahir
ibn al-Alaa, and he is a keeper of girls : all who go into him eat and
drink and look upon fair faces." Quoth I, " By Allah, this long
while have I wandered about in search of something like this ! "

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying

her permitted say.

Nofo foljm ft foas tf)t Nuu l^unforeti antr jportp-nmt]) Xigijt,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
young merchant cried, " By Allah this long while I have gone
about in search of something like this ! So I went up to the
Shaykh, O Commander of the Faithful, and saluting him said to
him, " O my lord, I need somewhat of thee ! " He replied, " What
is thy need ? " and I rejoined, " 'Tis my desire to be thy guest to-
night." He said, " With all my heart ; but, O my son, with me are
many damsels, some whose night is ten dinars, some forty and
others more. Choose which thou wilt have." Quoth I, "I
choose her whose night is ten dinars." And I weighed out to him
three hundred dinars, the price of a month ; whereupon he com-
mitted me to a page, who carried me to a Hammam within the
house and served me with goodly service. When I came out of
the Bath he brought me to a chamber and knocked at the door,
whereupon out came a handmaid, to whom said he, " Take thy
guest ! " She met me with welcome and cordiality, laughing and
rejoicing, and brought me into a mighty fine room decorated with
gold. I considered her and saw her like the moon on the night of
its fulness having in attendance on her two damsels as they were

Harun Al-Rashid and Abu Hasan. 195

constellations. She made me sit and seating herself by my side,
signed to her slave-girls who set before us a tray covered with
dishes of various kinds of meats, pullets and quails and sand-
grouse and pigeons. So we ate our sufficiency, and never in my
life ate I aught more delicious than this food. When we had eaten
she bade remove the tray and set on the service of wine and
flowers, sweetmeats and fruits ; and I abode with her a month in
such case. At the end of that time, I repaired to the Bath ; then,
going to the old man, I said to him, "O my lord, I want her whose
night is twenty dinars." " Weigh down the gold," said he. So I
fetched money and weighed out to him six hundred dinars for a
month's hire, whereupon he called a page and said to him, " Take
thy lord here." Accordingly he carried me to the Hammam and
thence to the door of a chamber, whereat he knocked and there
came out a handmaid, to whom quoth he, "Take thy guest ! " She
received me with the goodliest reception and I found in attendance
on her four slave-girls, whom she commanded to bring food. So
they fetched a tray spread with all manner meats, and I ate.
When I had made an end of eating and the tray had been
removed, she took the lute and sang thereto these couplets :

waftings of musk from the Babel-land ! o Bear a message from me

which my longings have planned :
My troth is pledged to that place of yours, o And to friends there 'biding

a noble band ;
And wherein dwells she whom all lovers love o And would bend, but she

cometh to no man's hand.

1 abode with her a month, after which I returned to the Shaykh
and said to him, " I want the forty dinar one." " Weigh out the
money," said he. So I weighed out to him twelve hundred dinars,
the mensual hire, and abode with her one month as it were one day,
for what I saw of the comeliness of her semblance and the goodli-
ness of her converse. After this I went to the Shaykh one evening
and heard a great noise and loud voices ; so I asked him, " What
is to do ? " ; and he answered, saying, " This is the night of our
remarkablest nights, when all souls embark on the river and divert
themselves by gazing one upon other. Hast thou a mind to go up
to the roof and solace thyself by looking at the folk ? " " Yes,"
answered I, and went up to the terrace-roof, 1 whence I could see a

1 Arab. " Al-Sath." whence the Span. Azotea. The lines that follow are from the
Eresl. Edit. v. no.

A If Laylah wa Laylah.

gathering of people with flambeaux and cressets, and great mirth
and merriment. Then I went up to the end of the roof and beheld
there, behind a goodly curtain, a little chamber in whose midst
stood a couch of juniper'-wood plated with shimmering gold and
covered with a handsome carpet. On this sat a lovely young lady,
confounding all beholders with her beauty and comeliness and
symmetry and perfect grace, and by her side a youth, whose hand
was on her neck ; and he was kissing her and she kissing him.
When I saw them, O Prince of True Believers, I could not contain
myself nor knew where I was, so dazed and dazzled was I by her
beauty : but, when I came down, I questioned the damsel with
whom I was and described the young lady to her. " What wilt
thou with her?" asked she ; and I, "She hath taken my wit." "O
Abu al-Hasan, hast thou a mind to her?" "Ay, by Allah ! for
she hath captivated my heart and soul." " This is the daughter of
Tahir ibn al-Alaa ; she is our mistress and we are all her hand-
maids ; but knowest thou, O Abu al-Hasan, what be the price of
her night and her day ? " " No ! " " Five hundred dinars, for she
is a regret to the heart of Kings ! " 2 " By Allah, I will spend all I
have on this damsel ! " So saying I lay, heartsore for desire,
through the livelong night till the morning, when I repaired to the
Hammam and presently donned a suit of the richest royal raiment
and betaking myself to Ibn al-Alaa, said to him, " O my lord, I
want her whose night is five hundred dinars." Quoth he, "Weigh
down the money." So I weighed out to him fifteen thousand
dinars for a month's hire and he took them and said to the page,
" Carry him to thy mistress such an one J " Accordingly he took
me and carried me to an apartment, than which my eyes never saw
a goodlier on the earth's face and there I found the young lady
seated. When I saw her, O Commander of the Faithful, my reason
was confounded with her beauty, for she was like the full moon on

its fourteenth night, And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of

day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 This " 'Ar'ar " is probably the Callitris quadrivalvis whose resin (" Sandarac ") is
imported as varnish from African Mogador to England. Also called the Thuja, it is of
cypress shape, slow growing and finely veined in the lower part of the base. Most
travellers are agreed that it is the Citrus-tree of Roman Mauritania, concerning which
Pliny (xiii. 29) gives curious details, a single table costing from a million sesterces (900)
to 1,400,000. For other details see p. 95. " Morocco and the Moors," by my late
friend Dr. Leared (London : Sampson Low, 1876).

2 i.e. Kings might sigh for her in vain.

Harnn Al-Raskid and Abu Hasan. 197

fo?)cn tt foas ilje ftTme |l^untirctJ antj Jptfiiet^

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
young man continued to describe before the Prince of True
Believers the young lady's characteristics, saying : She was like
the full moon on her fourteenth night, a model of grace and
symmetry and loveliness. Her speech shamed the tones of the
lute, and it was as it were she whom the poet meant in these
verses :

She cried while played in her side Desire, o And Night o'er hung

her with blackest blee :
*' O Night shall thy murk bring me ne'er a chum o To tumble and futter this

coynte of me ? "
And she smote that part with her palm and sighed o Sore sighs and a weeping

continued she :
41 As the toothstick beautifies teeth e'en so o Must prickle to coynte

as a toothstick be.

Moslems, is never a stand to your tools, o To assist a woman's

necessity? ''
Thereat rose upstanding beneath its clothes o My yard, as crying, *' At

thee ! at thee ! "
And I loosed her trouser-string, startling her : o " Who art thou ? " and I

said, "A reply to thy plea ! "
And began to stroke her with wrist-thick yard, o Hurting hinder cheeks

by its potency :
And she cried as I rose after courses three o " Suit thy gree the

stroke ! " and I " suit thy gree ! "

And how excellent is the saying of another! 1

A fair one, to idolaters if she her face should show, They'd leave their idols
and her face for only Lord would know.

If in the Eastward she appeared unto a monk, for sure, He'd cease from turn-
ing to the West and to the East bend low ;

And if into the briny sea one day she chanced to spit, Assuredly the salt sea's
floods straight fresh and sweet would grow.

And that of another :

1 looked at her one look and that dazed me o Such rarest gifts of mind

and form to see,

When doubt inspired her that I loved her, and o Upon her cheeks the doubt
showed showily.

1 These lines are in vol. viii. 279. I quote Mr. Payne.

198 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

\ saluted her and she said to me, " Well come and welcome, and
fair welcome ! " ; and taking me by the hand, O Prince of True
Believers, made me sit down by her side ; whereupon, of the
excess of my desire, I fell a-weeping for fear of severance and
pouring forth the tears of the eye, recited these two couplets :

I love the nights of parting though I joy not in the same o Time haply may

exchange them for the boons of Union-day :
And the days that bring Union I unlove for single thought, o Seeing everything

in life lacking steadfastness of stay.

Then she strave to solace me with soft sweet speech, but I was
drowned in the deeps of passion, fearing even in union the pangs
of disunion, for excess of longing and ecstasy of passion ; and I
bethought me of the lowe of absence and estrangement and
repeated these two couplets :

I thought of estrangement in her embrace o And my eyes rained tears

red as 'Andam-wood.
So I wiped the drops on that long white neck; o For camphor Ms wont to

stay flow of blood.

Then she bade bring food and there came four damsels, high-
bosomed girls and virginal, who set before us food and fruits and
confections and flowers and wine, such as befit none save kings.
So, O Commander of the Faithful, we ate, and sat over our wine,
compassed about with blooms and herbs of sweet savour, in a
chamber suitable only for kings. Presently, one of her maids
brought her a silken bag, which she opened and taking thereout
a lute, laid it in her lap and smote its strings, whereat it com-
plained as child complaineth to mother, and she sang these two
couplets :

Drink not pure wine except from hand of slender youth o Like wine for

daintiness and like him eke the wine :
For wine no joyance brings to him who drains the cup o Save bring the

cup-boy cheek as fair and fain and fine.

So, I abode with her, O Commander of the Faithful, month after
month in similar guise, till all my money was spent; wherefore I
began to bethink me of separation as I sat with her one day and

1 A most unsavoury comparison to a Persian who always connects camphor with
the idea of a corpse.

Hanm Al-Rashid and Abu Hasan. 199

my tears railed down upon my cheeks like rills, and I became not
knowing night from light. Quoth she, " Why dost thou weep ? " ;
and quoth I, " O light of mine eyes, I weep because of our
parting." She asked, "And what shall part me and thee, O my
lord ? " ; and I answered, " By Allah, O my lady, from the day I
came to thee, thy father hath taken of me, for every night, five
hundred dinars, and now I have nothing left. Right soothfast is
the saw : Penury maketh strangerhood at home and money
maketh a home in strangerhood ; and indeed the poet speaks
truth when he saith :

Lack of good is exile to man at home ; o And money shall house him
where'er he roam."

She replied, " Know that it is my father's custom, whenever a
merchant abideth with him and hath spent all his capital, to
entertain him three days ; then doth he put him out and he may
return to us nevermore. But keep thou thy secret and conceal
thy case and I will so contrive that thou shalt abide with me till
such time as Allah will ; * for, indeed, there is in my heart a great
love for thee. Thou must know that all my father's money is
under my hand and he wotteth not its full tale ; so, every morning,
I will give thee a purse of five hundred dinars which do thou offer
to my sire, saying : Henceforth, I will pay thee only day by
day. He will hand the sum to me, and I will give it to thee
again, and we will abide thus till such time as may please Allah." '
Thereupon I thanked her and kissed her hand ; and on this wise,
O Prince of True Believers, I abode with her a whole year, till it
chanced on a certain day that she beat one of her handmaids
grievously and the slave-girl ^aid, " By Allah, I will assuredly
torture thy heart, even as thou hast tortured me ! " So she went
to the girl's father and exposed to him all that had passed, first
and last, which when Tahir ibn Alaa heard he arose forthright and
coming in to me, as I sat with his daughter, said, " Ho, such an
one ! " ; and I said, " At thy service." Quoth he, " 'Tis our wont,
when a merchant grow poor with us, to give him hospitality three
days ; but thou hast had a year with us, eating and drinking and
doing what thou wouldst." Then he turned to his pages and cried
to them, " Pull off his clothes." They did as he bade them and

1 Arab. " Ila ma shaa' Ilah" i.e. as long as you like.

2OO A If Laylah wa Laylah.

gave me ten dirhams and an old suit worth five silvers; after
which he said to me, " Go forth ; I will not beat thee nor abuse
thee ; but wend thy ways and if thou tarry in this town, thy blood
be upon thine own head." So I went forth, O Commander of the
Faithful, in my own despite, knowing not whither to hie, for had
fallen on my heart all the trouble in the world and I was occupied
with sad thought and doubt Then I bethought me of the wealth
which I had brought from Oman and said in myself, " I came
hither with a thousand thousand dinars, part price of thirty ships,
and have made away with it all in the house of yonder ill-omened
man, and now I go forth from him, bare and broken-hearted ! But
there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the
Glorious, the Great ! " Then I abode three days in Baghdad,
without tasting meat or drink, and on the fourth day seeing a ship
bound for Bassorah, I took passage in her of the ownec, and when
we reached our port, I landed and went into the bazar, being sore
anhungered. Presently, a man saw me, a grocer, whom I had
known aforetime, and coming up to me, embraced me, for he had
been my friend and my father's friend before me. Then he ques-
tioned me of my case, seeing me clad in those tattered clothes ;
so I told him all that had befallen me, and he said, " By Allah,
this is not the act of a sensible man ! But after this that hath
befallen thee what dost thou purpose to do ? " Quoth I, " I know
not what I shall do," and quoth he, " Wilt thou abide with me
and write my outgo and income and thou shalt have two dirhams
a day, over and above thy food and drink ?" I agreed to this and
abode with him, O Prince of True Believers, selling and buying,
till I had gotten an hundred dinars ; when I hired me an upper
chamber by the river-side, so haply a ship should come up with
merchandise, that I might buy goods with the dinars and go back
with them to Baghdad. Now it fortuned that one day, there came
ships with merchandise, and all the merchants resorted to them to
buy, and I went with them on board, when behold, there came
two men out of the hold and setting themselves chairs on the
deck, sat down thereon. The merchants addressed themselves to
the twain with intent to buy, and the man said to one of the crew,
*' Bring the carpet." Accordingly he brought the carpet and
spread it, and another came with a pair of saddle-bags, whence
he took a budget and emptied it on the carpet ; and our sights
were dazzled with that which issued therefrom of pearls and corals
and jacinths and carnelians and other jewels of all sorts and

Harun Al-Rashid and Abu Hasan. 201

colours. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased saying her permitted say.

fofjen it teas tfje Jitne ^unUreU an& Jftft^firgt

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young
merchant, after recounting to the Caliph the matter of the bag and
its containing jewels of all sorts, continued : Presently, O Com-
mander of the Faithful, said one of the men on the chairs," O company
of merchants, we will sell but this to-day, by way of spending-
money, for that we are weary." So the merchants fell to bidding
one against other for the jewels and bid till the price reached four
hundred dinars. Then said to me the owner of the bag (for he
was an old acquaintance of mine, and when he saw me, he came
down to me and saluted me), " Why dost thou not speak and bid
like the rest of the merchants?" I said, "O my lord, by Allah,
the shifts of fortune have run against me and I have lost my
wealth and have only an hundred dinars left in the world."
Quoth he, "O Omani, after this vast wealth, can only an
hundred dinars remain to thee ? " And I was abashed before
him and my eyes filled with tears ; whereupon he looked
at me and indeed my case was grievous to him. So he said
to the merchants, " Bear witness against me that I have sold
all that is in this bag of various gems and precious stones to
this man for an hundred gold pieces, albeit I know them to be
worth so many thousand dinars, and this is a present from
me to him." Then he gave me the saddle-bag and the carpet,
with all the jewels that were thereon, for which I thanked him, and
each and every of the merchants present praised him. Presently
I carried all this to the jewel-market -and sat there to sell and buy.
Now among the precious stones was a round amulet of the handi-
work of the masters, 1 weighing half a pound : it was red of the
brightest, a carnelian on both whose sides were graven characts
and characters, like the tracks of ants ; but I knew not its worth.
I sold and bought a whole year, at the end of which I took the
amulet 2 and said, "This hath been with me some while, and I

1 i.e. of gramarye.

2 Arab. " Ta'wiz" = the Arab Tilasm, our Talisman, a charm, an amulet; and in
India mostly a magic square. The subject is complicated and occupies in Herklots some
sixty pages, 222-284.

2O2 A If Laylak wa Laylah.

know not what it is nor what may be its value." So I gave it to
the broker who took it and went round with it and returned, saying,
" None of the merchants will give me more than ten dirhams for
it." Quoth I; " I will not sell it at that price ; " and he threw it in
my face and went away. Another day I again offered it for sale
and its price reached fifteen dirhams ; whereupon I took it from
the broker in anger and threw it back into the tray. But a few
days after, as I sat in my shop, there came up to me a man, who
bore the traces of travel, and saluting me, said, " By thy leave, I
will turn over what thou hast of wares." Said I, " 'Tis well," and
indeed, O Commander of the Faithful, I was still wroth by reason
of the lack of demand for the talisman. So the man fell to turning
over my wares, but took nought thereof save the amulet, which
when he saw, he kissed his hand and cried, " Praised be Allah ! "
Then said he to me, " O my lord, wilt thou sell this?"; and I
replied, " Yes," being still angry. Quoth he, " What is its price ? "
And I asked, " How much wilt thou give ? " He answered,
" Twenty dinars " : so I thought he was making mock of me and
exclaimed, " Wend thy ways." But he resumed, " I will give thee
fifty dinars for it." I made him no answer, and he continued, " A
thousand dinars." But I was silent, declining to reply, whilst he
laughed at my silence and said, " Why dost thou not return me an
answer?" " Hie thee home," repeated I and was like to quarrel
with him. But he bid thousand after thousand, and I still made
him no reply, till he said, " Wilt thou sell it for twenty thousand
dinars ? " I still thought he was mocking me ; but the people
gathered about me and all of them said, " Sell to him, and if he
buy not, we will all up and at him and drub him and thrust him
forth the city." So quoth I to him, " Wilt thou buy or dost thou
jest ? " ; and quoth he, " Wilt thou sell or dost thou joke ? " I said,
" I will sell if thou wilt buy ; '* then he said, " I will buy it for
thirty thousand dinars ; take them and make the bargain ; " so I
cried to the bystanders, " Bear witness against him," adding to
him, " But on condition that thou acquaint me with the virtues and
profit of this amulet for which thou payest all this money." He
answered, " Close the bargain, and I will tell thee this ; " I rejoined,
" I sell it to thee ; " and he retorted, " Allah be witness of that
which thou sayst and testimony ! ' : Then he brought out the
gold and giving it to me took the amulet, and set it in his bosom ;
after which he turned to me and asked, " Art thou content ? "
Answered I, "Yes," and he said to the people, "Bear witness

Harun Al-Rashid and Abu Hasan. 203

against him that he hath closed die bargain and touched the price,
thirty thousand dinars." Then he turned to me and said, " Harkye,
my poor fellow, hadst thou held back from selling, by Allah I
would have bidden thee up to an hundred thousand dinars, nay,
even to a thousand thousand ! " When I heard these words, O
Commander of the Faithful, the blood fled my face, and from that
day there overcame it this pallor thou seest. Then said I to him,
"Tell me the reason of this and what is the use of this amulet. 1 *
And he answered, saying, " Know that the King of Hind hath
a daughter, never was seen a thing fairer than she, and she is
possessed with a falling sickness. 1 So the King summoned the
Scribes and men of science and Divines, but none of them could
relieve her of this. Now I was present in the assembly ; so I said

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 21 of 38)