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 27 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 27 of 38)
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Then said he, " O Dervish, rise, that I may shut my shop." So the
Dervish rose and the merchant shut his shop and taking his son,
walked away. The Dervish and the folk followed them, till they
reached their place, when the boy went in and his father, turning
to the Dervish, said to him, " What wouldst thou, O Dervish, and
why do I see thee weep ? " He replied, " O my lord, I would fain
be thy guest this night, for the guest is the guest of Almighty
Allah." Quoth the merchant, "Welcome to the guest of God:

enter, O Dervish ! " And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 The verses are very mal-a-propos, like many occurring in The Nights, for the
maligned Shaykh is proof against all the seductions of the pretty boy and falls in
love with a woman after the fashion of Don Quixote. Mr. Payne complains of the
obscurity of the original owing to>abuse of the figure enallage ; but I find them explicit
enough, referring to some debauched elder after the type of Abu Nowas.

2 Arab. " 'Irk " = a root which must here mean a sprig, a twig. The basil grows to a
comparatively large size in the East.

252 A If Laylah wa Lay la k.

Noto fo&en (t foas tfje Nine f^untirrtr an* &fxtB=fiftf)

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
the merchant, the father of Kamar al-Zaman, heard the saying of the
Dervish, " I am Allah's guest," he replied, " Welcome to the guest
of God : enter, O Dervish ! " But he said to himself, " An the
beggar be enamoured of the boy and sue him for sin, needs must
I slay him this very night and bury him secretly. But, an there
be no lewdness in him, the guest shall eat his portion." Then he
brought him into a saloon, where he left him with Kamar al-Zaman,
after he had said privily to the lad, " O my son, sit thou beside the
Dervish when I am gone out and sport with him and provoke him
to love-Hesse and if he seek of thee lewdness, I who will be watching
you from the window overlooking the saloon will come down to
him and kill him." So, as soon as Kamar al-Zaman was alone in
the room with the Dervish, he sat down by his side and the old
man began to look upon him and sigh and weep. Whenever the
lad bespake him, he answered him kindly, trembling the while and
would turn to him groaning and crying, and thus he did till supper
was brought in, when he fell to eating, with his eyes on the boy
but refrained not from shedding tears. When a fourth part of the
night was past and talk was ended and sleep-tide came, Abd
al-Rahman said to the lad, " O my son, apply thyself to the service
of thine uncle the Dervish and gainsay him not : " and would have
gone out ; but the Dervish cried to him, " O my lord, carry thy
son with thee or sleep with us." Answered the merchant, " Nay,
my son shall lie with thee : haply thy soul may desire somewhat,
and he will look to thy want and wait upon thee.'* Then he went
out leaving them both together, and sat down in an adjoining
room which had a window giving upon the saloon. Such was the
case with the merchant ; but as to the lad, as soon as his sire had
left them, he came up to the Dervish and began to provoke him
and offer himself to him, whereupon he waxed wroth and said,
" What talk is this, O my son ? I take refuge with Allah from
Satan the Stoned ! O my Lord,, indeed this is a denial of Thee
which pleaseth Thee not ! Avaunt from me, O my son ! " So
saying, the Dervish arose and sat down at a distance ; but the boy
followed him and threw himself upon him, saying, " Why, O
Dervish, wilt thou deny thyself the joys of my possession, and I
with a heart that loveth thee?" Hereupon the Dervish's anger

Kamar Al-Zaman and the Jeweller's Wife. 253

redoubled and he said, " An thou refrain not from me, I will
summon thy sire and tell him of thy doings." Quoth the lad,
" My father knoweth my turn for this and it may not be that he
will hinder me : so heal thou my heart. Why dost thou hold off
from me ? Do I not please thee ? " Answered the Dervish, " By
Allah, O my son, I will not do this, though I be hewn in pieces
with sharp-edged swords ! " ; and he repeated the saying of the
poet :

Indeed my heart loves all the lovely boys o As girls ; nor am I slow to

such delight,
But, though I sight them every night and morn, o I'm neither of Lot's folk 1

nor wencher-wighL

Then he shed tears and said, " Arise, open the door, that I may
wend my way, for I will lie no longer in this lodging." Therewith
he rose to his feet ; but the boy caught hold of him, saying, " Look
at the fairness of my face and the cramoisy of my cheeks and the
softness of my sides and the lusciousness of my lips." Moreover
he discovered to him calves that would shame wine and cup-
carrier 2 and gazed on him with fixed glance that would baffle
enchanter and enchantments ; for he was passing of loveliness
and full of blandishment, even as saith of him one of the poets
who sang :

I can't forget him, since he rose and showed with fair design o Those calves of

legs whose pearly shine make light in nightly gloom :
Wonder not an my flesh uprise as though 'twere Judgment-day o When every

shank shall bared be and that is Day of Doom. 3

Then the boy displayed to him his bosom, saying, "Look at my
breasts which be goodlier than the breasts of maidens and my
lip-dews are sweeter than sugar-candy. So quit scruple and
asceticism and cast off devoutness and abstinence and take thy

1 Arab. " Lait" = one connected with the tribe of Lot, see vol. v. 161.

2 For the play upon " Saki " (oblique case of sak, leg-calf) and Saki a cupbearer see

Vol. ii. 327.

3 " On a certain day the leg shall be bared and men shall be called upon to bow in
adoration, but they shall not be a^ble " (Koran, Ixviii. 42). " Baring the leg" implies
a grievous calamity, probably borrowed from the notion of tucking up the skirts and
stripping for flight. On the dangerous San Francisco River one of the rapids is called
' Tira-calcoens " = take off your trousers (Highlands of the Brazil, U. 35)- - But bere
the allusion is simply ludicrous and to a Moslem blasphemous.

254 A If Laylah wa Laylak.,

fill of my possession and enjoy my loveliness. Fear naught, for
thou art safe from hurt, and leave this hebetude for 'tis a bad
habit." And he went on to discover to him his hidden beauties,
striving to turn the reins of his reason with his bendings in grace-
ful guise, whilst the Dervish turned away his face and said, " I
seek refuge with Allah ! Have some shame, O my son * ! This
is a forbidden thing I deem and I will not do it, no, not even in
dream." The boy pressed upon him, but the Dervish got free from
him and turning towards Meccah addressed himself to his devo-
tions. Now when the boy saw him praying, he left him till he
had prayed a two-bow prayer and saluted, 2 when he would have
accosted him again ; but the Dervish again repeated the intent 8
and prayed a second two-bow prayer, and thus he did a third and
a fourth and a fifth time. Quoth the lad, " What prayers are
these ? Art thou minded to take flight upon the clouds ? Thou
lettest slip our delight, Whilst thou passest the whole night in the
prayer-niche." So saying, he threw himself upon the Dervish and
kissed him between the eyes ; but the Shaykh said, O my son, put
Satan away from thine estate and take upon thee obedience of
the Compassionate." Quoth the other, " An thou do not with me
that which I desire, I will call my sire and say to him, The
Dervish is minded to do lewdness with me. Whereupon he will
come in to thee and beat thee till thy bones be broken upon thy
flesh." All this while Abd al-Rahman was watching with his
eyes and hearkening with his ears, and he was certified that there
was no frowardness in the Dervish and he said to himself, " Were he
a lewd fellow, he had not stood out against all this importunity."
The boy continued, to beguile the Dervish and every time he
expressed purpose of prayer, he interrupted him, till at last he
waxed wroth with passing wrath and was rough with him and
beat him. Kamar al-Zaman wept and his father came in and
having wiped away his tears and comforted him said to the

1 Arab. " Istahi," a word of every day use in reproof. So the Hindost. " Kuchh
sharm nahin ? " hast thou no shame ? Shame is a passion with Orientals and very little
known to the West.

2 i.e. Angels and men saying, "The Peace (of God) be on us and on all righteous
servants of Allah ! " This ends every prayer.

3 Arab. " Al-Niyah," the ceremonial purpose or intent to pray, without which prayer
is null and void. See vol. v. 163. The words would be " I purpose to pray a two-bow
prayer in this hour of deadly danger to my soul." Concerning such prayer see
vol. i. 142.

Kamar Al-Kaman and the Jeweller's Wife, 255

Dervish, " O my brother, since thou art in such case, why didst
thou weep and sigh when thou sawest my son ? Say me, is there
a reason for this ?" He replied, " There is ;" and Abd al-Rahman
pursued, "When I saw thee weep at his sight, I deemed evil of
thee and bade the boy do with thee thus, that I might try thee,
purposing in myself, if I saw thee sue him for sin, to come in upon
thee and kill thee. But, when I saw what thou dids, I knew
thee for one of those who are virtuous to the end. Now Allah
upon thee, tell me the cause of thy weeping ! ' The Dervish
sighed and said, " O my lord, chafe not a closed * wound." But
the merchant said, " There is no help but thou tell me ;" and the
other began : Know thou that I am a Dervish who wander in
the lands. and the countries, and take warning by the display 2 of
the Creator of Night and Day. It chanced that one Friday I

entered the city of Bassorah in the undurn. And Shahrazad

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

Nob fof)tn it foas tfje Xine ^unfcrcB anfc S>(xtp^st'xtf) Ntgfjt,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
Dervish said to the merchant: Know, then, that I a wandering
mendicant chanced one Friday to enter the city of Bassorah in the
undurn and saw the shops open and full of all manner of wares and
meat and drink ; but the place was deserted and therein was
neither man nor woman nor girl nor boy : nor in the markets and
the main streets was there dog or cat nor sounded sound nor
friend was found. I marvelled at this and said to myself, " I
wonder whither the people of the city be gone with their cats and
dogs and what hath Allah done with them ? " Now I was
anhungred so I took hot bread from a baker's oven and going into
the shop of an oilman, spread the bread with clarified butter and
honey and ate. Then I entered the shop of a sherbet-seller and
drank what I would ; after which, seeing a coffee-shop open, I
went in and found the pots on the fire, full of coffee ; 3 but there
was no one there. So I drank my fill and said, ' Verily, this is a

1 Arab. " Sakin " = quiescent, Let a sleeping hound lie.

2 Arab. " Asar " lit. traces i.e. the works, the mighty signs and marvels.

8 The mention of coffee now frequently occurs in this tale and in that which follows ;
the familiar use of it showing a comparatively late date, and not suggesting the copyist's

256 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

wondrous thing ! It seemeth as though Death had stricken the
people of this city and they had all died this very hour, or as if they
had taken fright at something which befel them and fled, without
having time to shut their shops." Now whilst pondering this
matter, lo ! I heard a sound of a band of drums beating ; whereat
I was afraid and hid myself for a while : then, looking out through
a crevice, I saw damsels, like moons, come walking through the
market, two by two, with uncovered heads and faces displayed.
They were in forty pairs, thus numbering fourscore and in their
midst a young lady, riding on a horse that could hardly move his
legs for that which was upon it of silvern trappings and golden and
jewelled housings. Her face was wholly unveiled, and she was
adorned with the costliest ornaments and clad in the richest of
raiment and about her neck she wore a collar of gems and on her
bosom were necklaces of gold ; her wrists were clasped with
bracelets which sparkled like stars, and her ankles With bangles of
gold set with precious stones. The slave-girls walked before her
and behind and on her right and left and in front of her was a
damsel bearing in baldric a great sword, with grip of emerald and
tassels of jewel-encrusted gold. When that young lady came to
where I lay hid, she pulled up her horse and said, " O damsels, I
hear a noise of somewhat within yonder shop : so do ye search it,
lest haply there be one hidden there, with intent to enjoy a look
at us, whilst we have our faces unveiled." So they searched the
shop opposite the coffee-house * wherein I lay hid, whilst I abode
in terror ; and presently I saw them come forth with a man and
they said to her, " O our lady, we found a man there and here he
is before thee." Quoth she to the damsel with the sword, " Smite
his neck." So she went up to him and struck off his head ; then,
leaving the dead man lying on the ground, they passed on. When
I saw this, I was affrighted ; but my heart was taken with love of
the young lady. After an hour or so, the people reappeared and
every one who had a shop entered it ; whilst the folk began to
come and go about the bazars a'nd gathered around the slain man,
staring at him as a curiosity. Then I crept forth from my hiding
place by stealth, and none took note of me, but love of that lady
had gotten possession of my heart, and I began to enquire of her
privily. None, however, gave me news of her ; so I left Bassorah,

1 Arab. "Al-Kahwah," the place being called from its produce. See Pilgrimage

Kamar Al-Zaman and tlie Jewel/er's VVift, 257

with vitals yearning for her love ; and when I came upon this thy
son, I saw him to be the likest of all creatures to the young Jady ;
wherefore he reminded me of her and his sight revived the fire of
passion in me and kindled anew in my heart the flames of love-
longing and distraction. And such is the cause of my shedding
tears! ' Then he wept with sore weeping till he could no more
and said, " O my lord, I conjure thee by Allah, open the door to me,
so I may gang my gate ! " Accordingly Abd al-Rahman opened
the door and he went forth. Thus fared it with him ; but as
regards Kamar al-Zaman, when he heard the Dervish's story, his
heart was taken with love of the lady and passion gat the mastery
of him and raged in him longing and distraction ; so, on the
morrow, he said to his sire, " All the sons of the merchants wander
about the world to attain their desire, nor is there one of them but
his father provideth for him a stock-in-trade wherewithal he may
travel and traffic for gain. Why, then, O my father, dost thou
not outfit me with merchandise, so I may fare with it and find
my luck ? " He replied, " O my son, such merchants lack money ;
so they send their sons to foreign parts for the sake of profit and
pecuniary gain and provision of the goods of the world. But I
have monies in plenty nor do I covet more : why then should I
exile thee ? Indeed, I cannot brook to be parted from thee an
hour, more especially as thou art unique in beauty and loveliness
and perfect grace and I fear for thee." But Kamar al-Zaman
said, "O my father, nothing will serve but thou must furnish me
with merchandise wherewithal to travel ; else will I fly from thee
at unawares though without money or merchandise. So, an thou
wish to solace my heart, make ready for me a stock-in-trade, that
I may travel and amuse myself by viewing the countries of men."
Abd al-Rahman, seeing his son enamoured of travel, acquainted
his wife with this, saying, " Verily thy son would have me provide
him with goods, so he may fare therewith to far regions, albeit
Travel is Travail. 1 " Quoth she, " What is there to displease thee
in this ? Such is the wont of the sons of the merchants and they
all vie one with other in glorifying globe-trotting and gain."
Quoth he, " Most of the merchants are poor and seek growth of
good ; but I have wealth galore." She replied, " More of a good

1 Arab. " Al-Ghurbah Kurbah : " the translation in the text is taken from my late
friend Edward Eastwick, translator of the Gulistan and author of a host of works which
show him to have been a ripe Oriental scholar.


2 $8 A If Laylah wa Lay I ah.

thing hurteth not ; and, if thou comply not with his wish, I will
furnish him with goods of my own monies." Quoth Abd al-Ralv
man, " I fear strangerhood for him, inasmuch as travel is the
worst of trouble ; " but she said, " There is no harm in stranger-
hood for him when it leadeth to gaining good ; and, if we consent
not, our son will go away and we shall seek him and not find him
and be dishonoured among the folk." The merchant accepted his
wife's counsel and provided his son with merchandise to the value
of ninety thousand gold pieces, whilst his mother gave him a
purse containing forty bezel-stones, jewels of price, the least of
the value of one of which was five hundred ducats, saying, " O
my son, be careful of this jewellery for 'twill be of service to
thee." Thereupon Kamar al-Zaman took the jewels and set out

for Bassorah, And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased saying her permitted say.

tofjen ft teas tf) Nine |^untitct( an& &ixtg=&benti)

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Kamar
al-Zaman took the jewels and set out for Bassorah after he had
laid them in a belt, which he buckled about his waist ; and he
stayed not till there remained aught but a day's journey between
that city and himself ; when the Arabs came out upon him and
stripped him naked and slew his men and servants ; but he lay
himself down among the slain and wallowed in their blood, so that
the wildlings took him for dead and left him without even turning
him over and made off with their booty. When the Arabs had
gone their ways, Kamar al-Zaman arose, having naught left but
the jewels in his girdle, and fared on nor ceased faring till he came
to Bassorah. It chanced that his entry was on a Friday and the
town was void of folk, even as the Dervish had informed him.
He found the market-streets deserted and the shops wide open
and full of goods ; so he ate and drank and looked about him.
Presently, he heard a band of drums beating and hid himself in
a shop, .till the slave-girls came up, when he looked at them ; and,
seeing the young lady riding amongst them, love and longing
overcame him and desire and distraction overpowered him, so that
he had no force to stand. After awhile, the people reappeared
and the bazars filled. Whereupon he went to the market and
repairing to a jeweller and pulling out one of his forty gems sold

Kamar Al-Zaman and the Jeweller's Wife. 259

It for a thousand dinars, wherewith he returned to his place and
passed the night there ; and when morning morrowed he changed
his clothes and going to the Hammam came forth as he were
the full moon. Then he sold other four stones for four thousand
dinars and sauntered solacing himself about the main streets of
Bassorah, clad in the costliest of clothes ; till he came to a
market, where he saw a barber's shop. So he went in to the
barber who shaved his head ; and, clapping up an acquaintance
with him, said to him, "O my father, I am a stranger in these
parts and yesterday I entered this city and found it void of folk,
nor was there in it any living soul, man nor Jinni. Then I saw a
troop of slave-girls and amongst them a young lady riding in
state : " and he went on to tell him all he had seen. Said the
barber, " O my son, hast thou told any but me of this ? " ; and he
said,' "No." The other rejoined, " Then, O my son, beware thou
mention this before any but me ; for all folk cannot keep a secret
and thou art but a little lad and I fear lest the talk travel from
man to man, till it reach those whom it concerneth and they slay
thee. For know, O my son, that this thou hast seen, none ever
kenned nor knew in other than this city. As for the people of
Bassorah they are dying of this annoy ; for every Friday forenoon
they shut up the dogs and cats, to hinder them from going about
the market-streets, and all the people of the city enter the
cathedral-mosques, where they lock the doors on them, 1 and not
one of them can pass about the bazar nor even look out of case-
ment ; nor knoweth any the cause of this calamity. But, O my
son, to-night I will question my wife concerning the reason
thereof, for she is a midwife and entereth the houses of the
notables and knoweth all the city news. So Inshallah, do thou
come to me to-morrow and I will tell thee what she shall have
told me." With this Kamar al-Zaman pulled out a handful of
gold and said to him, " O my father, take this gold and give it to
thy wife, for she is become my mother." Then he gave him a
second handful, saying, "Take this for thyself." Whereupon
quoth the barber, " O my son, sit thou in thy place, till I gt> to

1 The fiction may have been suggested by the fact that in all Moslem cities from
India to Barbary the inner and outer gates are carefully shut during the noontide devo-
tions, not ' because Friday is the day on which creation was finished and Mohammed
entered Al-Medinah ; " but because there is a popular idea that in times now approach-
ing the Christians will rise up against the Moslems during prayers and will repeat the
"Sicilian Vespers."

260 Alf L&ylak wa Laylah.

my wife and ask her and bring thee news of the true state of
the case." So saying, he left him in the shop and going home,
acquainted his wife with the young man's case, saying, " I would
have thee tell me the truth of this city-business, so I may report
it to this young merchant, for he hath set his heart on weeting the
reason why men and beasts are forbidden the market-streets every
Friday forenoon ; and methinks he is a lover, for he is open-
handed and liberal, and if we tell him what he would trow, we
shall get great good of him." Quoth she, " Go back and say to
him: Come, speak with thy mother, my wife, who sendeth her
salam to thee and saith to thee, Thy wish is won." Accordingly
he returned to the shop, where he found Kamar al-Zaman sitting
awaiting him and repeated him the very words spoken by his
spouse. Then he carried him in to her and she welcomed him
and bade him sit down-; whereupon he pulled out an hundred
ducats and gave them to her, saying, " O my mother, tell me who
this young lady may be." Said she, " Know, O my son, that
there came a gem to the Sultan of Bassorah from the King of
Hind, and he was minded to. have it pierced. So he summoned
all the jewellers in a body and said to them, I wish you to drill
me this jewel. Whoso pierceth it, I will give him whatsoever he
shall ask ; but if he break it, I will cut off his head. At this
they were afraid and said, O King of the age, a jewel is soon
spoilt and there are few who can pierce them without injury, for
most of them have a flaw. So do not thou impose upon us a
task to which we are unable ; for our hands cannot avail to drill
this jewel. However, our Shaykh * is more experienced than we.'*
Asked the King, "And who is your Shaykh ? "; and they answered,
" Master Obayd : he is more versed than we in this art and hath
wealth galore and of skill great store. Therefore do thou send
for him to the presence and bid him pierce thee this jewel."
Accordingly the King sent for Obayd and bade him pierce the
jewel, imposing on him the condition aforesaid. He took it and
pierced it to the liking of the King, who said to him, " Ask a boon
of me, O master ! "; and said he, " O King of the age, allow me delay
till to-morrow." Now the reason of this was that he wished to take
counsel with his wife, who is the young lady thou sawest riding
in procession ; for he loveth her with exceeding love, and of the
greatness of his affection for her, he doth naught without con-

i - ,

1 i.e. the syndic of the Guild of Jewellers.

Kamar Al-Zaman and the Jeweller's Wife. 261

suiting her ; wherefore he put off asking till the morrow. When
he went home, he said to her : I have pierced the King a jewel
and he hath granted me a boon which I deferred asking till
to-morrow, that I might consult thee. Now what dost thou wish,
that I may ask it ? " Quoth she, We have riches such as fires
may not consume ; but, an thou love me, ask of the King to make
proclamation in the streets of Bassorah that all the townsfolk
shall every Friday enter the mosques, two hours before the hour 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 27 of 38)