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 3 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 3 of 38)
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and quoth he : With all my heart ! You must know that I once
sowed a crop of flax in these parts and pulled it and scutched it
and spent on it five hundred gold pieces ; after which I would
have sold it, but could get no more than this therefor, and the
folk said to me, " Carry it to Acre : for there thou wilt haply
make good gain by it." Now Acre was then in the hands of the
Franks 3 ; so I carried my flax thither and sold part of it at six
months' credit One day, as I was selling, behold, there came up
a Frankish woman (now 'tis the custom of the women of the
Franks to go about the market streets with unveiled faces), to
buy flax of me, and I saw of her beauty what dazed my wits.
So I sold her somewhat of flax and was easy with her concerning
the price ; and she took it and went away. Some days after, she

1 i.e. Saladin. See vol. iv. p. 116.

2 Usually called the Horns of Hattin (classically Hittin) North of Tiberias where
Saladin by good strategy and the folly of the Franks annihilated the Latin kingdom of
Jerusalem. For details see the guide-books. In this action (June 23, 1187), after three
bishops were slain in its defence, the last fragment of the True Cross (or rather the
cross verified by Helena) fell into Moslem hands. The Christians begged hard for it,
but Saladin, a conscientious believer, refused to return to them even for ransom "the
object of their iniquitous superstition." His son, however, being of another turn,
would have sold it to the Franks who then lacked money to purchase. It presently
disappeared and I should not be surprised if it were still lying, an unknown and inutile
lignum in some Cairene mosque.

3 'Akka (Acre) was taken by Saladin on July 29, 1187. The Egyptian states that he
was at Acre in 1184 or three years before the affair of Hattin (Night dcccxcv.).

2O A If Lay la h wa Laylak.

returned and bought somewhat more flax of me and I was yet
easier with her about the price ; and she repeated her visits to me,
seeing that I was in love with her. Now she was used to walk in
company of an old woman to whom I said, " I am sore enamoured
of thy mistress. Canst thou contrive for me to enjoy her ? "
Quoth she, " I will contrive this for thee ; but the secret must not
go beyond us three, me, thee and her ; and there is no help but
that thou be lavish with money, to boot." And I answered,
saying, " Though my life were the price of her favours 'twere no

great matter." And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased saying her permitted say.

Noto fo&tn ft toas tfce lEigfjt ^untorcfc an& Nt'iut^fiftf)

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old

woman said to the man, " However the secret must not go beyond

us three, to wit me, thee and her ; and there is no help but thou

be lavish of thy money to boot." He replied, " Though my life

were the price of her favours 'twere no great matter." So it was

agreed (continued the man of Upper Egypt), that I should pay

her fifty dinars and that she should come to me ; whereupon I

procured the money and gave it to the old woman. She took it

and said, " Make ready a place for her in thy house, and she will

come to thee this night." Accordingly I went home and made

ready what I could of meat and drink and wax candles and

sweetmeats. Now my -house overlooked the sea and 'twas the

season of summer ; so I spread the bed on the terrace roof.

Presently, the Frank woman came and we ate and drank, and the

night fell dark. We lay down under the sky, with the moon

shining on us, and fell to watching the shimmering of the stars in

the sea : and I said to myself, " Art thou not ashamed before

Allah (to whom belong Might and Majesty !) and thou a stranger,

under the heavens and in presence of the deep waters, to disobey

Him with a Nazarene woman and merit the torment of Fire ? "

Then said I, " O my God, I call Thee to witness that I abstain

from this Christian woman this night, of shamefastness before

Thee and fear of Thy vengeance ! " So I slept till the morning,

and she arose at peep of day full of anger and went away. I

walked to my shop and sat there ; and behold, presently she

passed, as she were the moon, accompanied by the old woman

The Man of Upper Egypt and his Prankish Wife. 21

who was also angry; whereat my heart sank within me and I
said to myself, " Who art thou that thou shouldst refrain from
yonder damsel ? Art thou Sarf al-Sakatf or Bishr Barefoot or
Junayd of Baghdad or Fuzayl bin 'lyaz 1 ?" Then I ran after the
old woman and coming up with her said to her, " Bring her to me
again ; " and said she, " By the virtue of the Messiah, she will not
return to thee but for an hundred ducats ! " Quoth I, " I will
give thee a hundred gold pieces." So I paid her the money and
the damsel came to me a second time ; but no sooner was she
with me than I returned to my whilome way of thinking and
abstained from her and forbore her for the sake of Allah
Almighty. Presently she went away and I walked to my shop,
and shortly after the old woman came up, in a rage. Quoth I
to her, " Bring her to me again ; " and quoth she, " By the virtue
of the Messiah, thou shalt never again enjoy her presence with
thee, except for five hundred ducats, and thou shalt perish in thy
pain !" At this I trembled and resolved to expend the whole price
of my flax and therewith ransom my life. But, before I could think,
I heard the crier proclaiming and saying, " Ho, all ye Moslems,
the truce which was between us and you is expired, and we give
all of you Mahometans who are here a week from this time to
have done with your business and depart to your own country."
Thus her visits were cut off from me and I betook myself to
getting in the price of my flax which men had bought upon
credit, and to bartering what remained in my hands for other
goods. Then I took with me fair merchandise and departed Acre
with a soul full of affection and love-longing for the Prankish
woman, who had taken my heart and my coin. So I journeyed
till I made Damascus, where I sold the stock in trade I had
brought from Acre, at the highest price, because of the cutting off
of communication by reason of the term of truce having expired ;
and Allah (extolled and exalted be He ! ) vouchsafed me good
gain. Then I fell to trading in captive slave-girls, thinking thus
to ease my heart of its pining for the Prankish woman, and in this
traffic engaged I abode three years, till there befel between Al-
Malik al-Nasir and the Franks what befel of the action of Hattin
and other encounters and Allah gave him the victory over them,

1 Famous Sufis and ascetics of the second and third centuries A.H. For Bishr
Barefoot, see vol. ii. p. 127. Al-Sakati means." the old-clothes man ; " and the names
of the others are all recorded in D'Herbelot.

22 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

so that he took all their Kings prisoners and he opened 1 the coast 2
cities by His leave. Now it fortuned one day after this, that a
man came to me and sought of me a slave-girl for Al-Malik al-
Nasir. Having a handsome handmaid I showed her to him and
he bought her of me for an hundred dinars and gave me ninety
thereof, leaving ten still due to me, for that there was no more
found in the royal treasury that day, because he had expended
all his monies in waging war against the Franks. Accordingly
they took counsel with him and he said, " Carry him to the
treasury 3 where are the captives' lodging and give him his choice
among the damsels of the Franks, so he may take one of them

for the ten dinars And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

and ceased to say her permitted say.

Noto fofjen it foas tf)e <&i$t ^un&rtfj anb Ninetg-sfxtfj ttiQ&t,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that
whenas Al-Malik al-Nasir said, " Give him his choice to take one
of the girls for the ten dinars that are due to him ; " they brought me
to the captives' lodging and showed me all who were therein,
and I saw amongst them the Prankish damsel with whom I had
fallen in love at Acre and knew her right well. Now she was the
wife of one of the cavaliers of the Franks. So I said, " Give me
this one," and carrying her to my tent, asked her, " Dost thou
know me?" She answered, " No ; " and I rejoined, "I am thy
friend, the sometime flax-merchant with whom thou hadst to do
at Acre and there befel between us what befel. Thou tookest
money of me and saidest, ' Thou shalt never again see me but
for five hundred dinars.' And now thou art become my property
for ten ducats." Quoth she, " This is a mystery. Thy faith is the
True Faith and I testify that there is no god but the God and that
Mohammed is the Messenger of God I And she made perfect

1 i.e. captured, forced open their gates.

2 Arab. " Al-Sahil" i.e. the seaboard of Syria ; properly Phoenicia or the coast-lands
of Southern Palestine. So the maritime lowlands of continental Zanzibar are called in
the plur. Sawahil - " the shores'* and the people Sawahfli = Shore-men.

3 Arab. " Al-Khizanah " both in Mac. Edit, and Breslau x, 426. Mr. Payne has
translated "tents" and says, " Saladin seems to have been encamped without Damascus
and the slave-merchant had apparently come out and pitched his tent near the camp foe
the purposes of his trade." But I can find no notice of tents till a few lines below.

The Man of Upper Egypt and his Prankish Wife. 2$

profession of Al-Islam. Then said I to myself, " By Allah, I will
not go in unto her till I have set her free and acquainted the
Kazi." So I betook myself to Ibn Shaddad 1 and told him what
had passed and he married me to her. Then I lay with her that
night and she conceived ; after which the troops departed and we
returned to Damascus. But within a few days there came an
envoy from the King of the Franks, to seek the captives and the
prisoners, according to the treaty between the Kings. So Al-
Malik al-Nasir restored all the men and women captive, till there
remained but the woman who was with me and the Franks said,
" The wife of such an one the Knight is not here." Then they
asked after her and making strict search for her, found that she
was with me ; whereupon they demanded her of me and I went in
to her sore concerned and with colour changed ; and she said to
me, " What aileth thee and what evil assaileth thee ? " Quoth I,
"A messenger is come from the King to take all the captives, and
they demand thee of me." Quoth she, " Have no fear, bring me
to the King and I know what to say before and to him." I carried
her into the presence of the Sultan Al-Malik al-Nasir, who was
seated, with the envoy of the King of the Franks on his right
hand, and I said to him, " This is the woman that is with me."
Then quoth the King and the envoy to her, " Wilt thou go to thy
country or to 2 thy husband ? For Allah hath loosed thy bonds
and those of thy fellow captives." Quoth she to the Sultan, " I am
become a Moslemah and am great with child, as by my middle ye
may see, and the Franks shall have no more profit of me." The
envoy asked, " Whether is dearer to thee, this Moslem or thy first
husband the knight such an one ? ; " and she answered him even
as she had answered the Sultan. Then said the envoy to the
Franks with him, " Heard ye her words ? " They replied, " Yes."
And he said to me, " Take thy wife and depart with her." So I
took her and went away ; but the envoy sent after me in haste and
cried, " Her mother gave me a charge for her, saying, My daughter
is a captive and naked : and I would have thee carry her this chest
Take it thou and deliver it to her." Accordingly I carried the
chest home and gave it to her. She opened it and found in it all
her raiment as she had left it and therein I saw the two purses of

1 Baha al-Din ibn Shaddad, then Kizi al-Askar (of the Army) or Judge- Advocate-
General under Saladin.

2 i.e. "abide with " thy second husband, the Egyptian.

24 -A If Laylah wa Laylah.

fifty and an hundred dinars which I had given her, untouched and
tied up with my own tying, wherefore I praised Almighty Allah.
These are my children by her and she is alive to this day and 'twas
she dressed you this food. We marvelled at his story and at that
which had befallen him of good fortune, and Allah is All-knowing.
But men also tell a tale anent the


THERE was of old time in Baghdad a man of condition, who' had
inherited from his father abounding affluence. He fell in love with
a slave-girl ; so he bought her and she loved him as he loved her ;
and he ceased not to spend upon her, till all his money was gone
and naught remained thereof; whereupon he sought a means of
getting his livelihood, but availed not to find any. Now this young
man had been used, in the days of his affluence, to frequent the
assemblies of those who were versed in the art of singing and had
thus attained to the utmost excellence therein. Presently he took
counsel with one of his intimates, who said to him, " Meseems thou
canst find no better profession than to sing, thou and thy slave-
girl ; for on this wise thou wilt get money in plenty and wilt eat
and drink."' But he misliked this, he and the damsel, and she said
to him, " I have bethought me of a means of relief for thee." He
asked, " What is it ? ; " and she answered, " Do thou sell me ;
thus shall we be delivered of this strait, thou and I, and I shall be
in affluence ; for none will buy the like of me save a man of fortune,
and with this I will contrive for my return to thee." He carried
her to the market and the first who saw her was a Hashimi 1 of
Bassorah, a man of good breeding, fine taste and generosity, who
bought her for fifteen hundred dinars. (Quoth the young man, the
damsel's owner), When I had received the price, I repented me
and wept, I and the damsel ; and I sought to cancel the sale ; but
the purchaser would not consent. So I took the gold in a bag,

1 A descendant of Hashim, the Apostle's great-grandfather from whom the Abbasides
were directly descended. The Ommiades were less directly akin to Mohammed, being
the descendants of Hashim's brother, Abd al-Shams. The Hashimis were famed for
liberality ; and the quality seems to have been inherited. The first Hashim got his
name from crumbling bread into the Sarid or brewis of the Meccan pilgrims during " The
Ignorance." He was buried at Ghazzah (Gaza) but his tomb was soon forgotten.

The Ruined Man of Baghdad and his Slave-Girl. 25

knowing not whither I should wend, now my house was desolate
of her, and buffeted my face and wept and wailed as I had never
done before. Then I entered a mosque and sat shedding tears, till
I was stupefied and losing my senses fell asleep, with the bag of
money under my head by way of pillow. Presently, ere I could be
ware, a man plucked the bag from under my head and ran off with
it at speed : whereupon I started up in alarm and affright and would
have arisen to run after him ; but lo ! my feet were bound with a
rope and I fell on my face. Then I took to weeping and buffeting
myself, saying, ''Thou hast parted with thy soul 1 and thy wealth

is lost ! " And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased saying her permitted say.

fo&m it foas tfje Ictgfjt f^untorrtJ antr Ninety - sebemf)

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
young man continued : So I said to myself, " Thou hast parted
with thy soul and thy wealth is lost." Then, of the excess of my
chagrin, I betook myself to the Tigris and wrapping my face in
my gown, cast myself into the stream. The bystanders saw me
and cried, " For sure, this is because of some great trouble that
hath betided him." They cast themselves in after me and
bringing me ashore, questioned me of my case. I told them what
misadventure had befallen me and they condoled with me. Then
an old man of them came to me and said, " Thou hast lost thy
money, but why goest thou about to lose thy life and become of
the people of The Fire ? 2 Arise, come with me, that I may see
thy lodging." I went with him to my house and he sat with me
awhile, till I waxed calmer, and becoming tranquil I thanked him
and he went away. When he was gone, I was like to kill myself,
but bethought me of the Future and the Fire ; so I fared forth
my house and fled to one of my friends and told him what had
befallen me. He wept for pity of me and gave me fifty dinars,
saying, " Take my advice and hie thee from Baghdad forthright
and let this provide thee till thy heart be diverted from the love
of her and thou forget her. Thy forbears were Secretaries and
Scribes and thy handwriting is fine and thy breeding right good :

1 i.e. thy lover.
-* i.e. of those destined to hell ; the especiaj home of Moslem suicides.

26 A If Laylah wa Laylak.

seek out, then, whom thou wilt of the Intendants ! and throw
thyself on his bounty ; thus haply Allah shall reunite thee with
thy slave-girl." I hearkened to his words (and indeed my mind
was strengthened and I was somewhat comforted) and resolved to
betake myself to Wasit, 2 where I had kinsfolk. So I went down
to the river-side, where I saw a ship moored and the sailors
embarking goods and goodly stuffs. I asked them to take me
with them and carry me to Wasit ; but they replied, " We cannot
take thee on such wise, for the ship belongeth to a Hashimi."
However I tempted them with promise of passage-money and
they said, " We cannot embark thee on this fashion ; 3 but, if it
must be, doff those fine clothes of thine and don sailor's gear and
sit with us as thou wert one of us." I went away and buying
somewhat of sailors' clothes, put them on ; after which I bought
me also somewhat of provisions for the voyage ; and, returning to
the vessel, which was bound for Bassorah, embarked with the
crew. But ere long I saw my slave-girl herself come on board,
attended by two waiting-women ; whereupon what was on me of
chagrin subsided and I said in myself, " Now shall I see her and
hear her singing, till we come to Bassorah." Soon after, up rode
the Hashimi, with a party of people, and they embarked aboard
the ship, which dropped down the river with them. Presently the
Hashimi brought out food and ate with the damsel, whilst the rest
ate amidships. Then said he to her, " How long this abstinence
from singing and permanence in this wailing and weeping ? Thou
art not the first that hath been parted from a beloved ! " Where-
fore I knew what she suffered for love of me. Then he hung a
curtain before her along the gunwale and calling those who ate
apart, sat down with them without the curtain ; and I enquired
concerning them and behold they were his brethren. 4 He set
before them what they needed of wine and dessert, and they
ceased not to press the damsel to sing, till she called for the lute
and tuning it, intoned these two couplets :

1 Arab. " 'Ummal " (plur. of 'Amil) viceroys or governors of provinces.

2 A town of Irak Arabi (Mesopotamia) between Baghdad and Bassorah built upon
the Tigris and founded by Al-Hajjaj : it is so called because the " Middle " or half-way
town between Basrah and Kufah. To this place were applied the famous lines :

41 In good sooth a right noble race are they ;

Whose men " yea " can't say nor their women " nay."
8 i.e. robed as thou art.
* i.e. his kinsfolk of the Hashimis.

The Ruined Man of Baghdad and his Slave-Girl.^ 27

The company left with my love by night, o Nor forbore to fare with my

heart's delight :
And raged, since their camels off paced, a fire o As of Ghazd'-wood in the

lover's sprite.

Then weeping overpowered her and she threw down the lute and
ceased singing ; whereat the folk were troubled and I slipped
down a-swoon. They thought I was possessed 2 and one of them
began reciting exorcisms in my ear ; nor did they cease to comfort
her and beseech her to sing, till she tuned the lute again and
chaunted these couplets twain :

I stood and bewailed who their loads had bound. And far yode but still in

my heart are found :
I drew near the ruins and asked of them And the camp was void

and lay waste the ground.

Then she fell down in a fainting-fit and weeping arose amongst
the folk ; and I also cried out and fainted away. The sailors
were startled by me and one of the Hashimi's pages said to them,
" How came ye to take this madman on board ? " So they said
one to other, " As soon as we come to the next village, we will
set him ashore and rid us of him." When I heard this, I was sore
troubled but I heartened and hardened myself, saying in thought,
" Nothing will serve me to deliver myself from their hands, except
I make shift to acquaint her with my presence in the ship, so she
may prevent my being set ashore. Then we sailed when we came
hard by a hamlet 3 and the skipper said, " Come, let us go ashore."
Therewith they all landed, save myself: and as evening fell I rose
and going behind the curtain took the lute and changed its accord,
mode 4 by mode, and tuning it after a fashion of my own, 5 that

1 See vol. ii. 24.

2 Arab. " Sur'itu "= I was possessed of a Jinn, the common Eastern explanation of
an epileptic fit long before the days of the Evangel. See vol. iv. 89.

3 Arab. " Zi'ah," village, feof or farm.

4 Arab. "Tarikah."

6 " Most of the great Arab musicians had their own peculiar fashion of tuning the
lute, for the purpose of extending its register or facilitating the accompaniment of songs
composed in uncommon keys and rhythms or possibly of increasing its sonority, and it
appears to have been a common test of (he skill of a great musician, such as Ishac el-
Mausili or his father Ibrahim, to require him to accompany a difficult song on a lute
purposely untuned. As a (partial) modern instance of the practice referred to in the
text, may be cited Paganini's custom of lowering or raising the G string of the violin in

28 Alf Laytah wa Laylah.

she had learnt of me, returned to my place in the ship ; And

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

Note fofjen t't foas tljc lEig&t l^untrrefc antt Ntnetg-ete&tb

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
young man continued : I returned to my place in the ship ; and
presently the whole party came on board again and the moon
shone bright upon river and height. Then said the Hashimi to
the damsel, " Allah upon thee, trouble not our joyous lives ! " So
she took the lute, and touching it with her hand, gave a sob, that
they thought her soul had fled her frame, and said. " By Allah,
my master and teacher is with us in this ship ! " Answered the
Hashimi, " By Allah, were this so, I would not forbid him our
conversation ! Haply he would lighten thy burthen, so we might
enjoy thy singing : but his being on board is far from possible."
However she said, " I cannot smite lute-string or sing sundry airs
I was wont to sing whilst my lord is with us." Quoth the
Hashimi, " Let us ask the sailors ;" and quoth she, " Do so." He
questioned them, saying, " Have ye carried anyone with you ! ";
and they answered, " No." Then I feared lest the enquiry should
end there ; so I laughed and said, " Yes ; I am her master and
taught her whenas I was her lord." Cried she, " By Allah, that
is my lord's voice ! '' Thereupon the pages carried me to the
Hashimi, who knew me at first sight and said to me, " Out on
thee ! What plight is this in which 1 see thee and what hath
brought thee to such condition ? " I related to him all that had
befallen me of my affair, weeping the while, and the damsel made
loud wail from behind the curtain. The Hashimi wept with sore
weeping, he and his brethren, for pity of me, and he said, " By
Allah, I have not drawn near this damsel nor enjoyed her, nor
have I even heard her sing till this day! I am a man to whom
Allah hath been ample and I came to Baghdad but to hear singing
and seek my allowances of the Commander of the Faithful. I

playing certain of his own compositions. According to the Kitab el-Aghani, Ishac
el-Mausili is said to have familiarized himself, by incessant practice, with the exact
sounds produced by each division of the strings of the four course lute of his day, under
every imaginable circumstance of tuning." It is regrettable that Mr. Payne does not
give us more of such notes.

The Ruined Man of Baghdad and his Slave~GirL_ 29

accomplished both my needments and being about to return home,
said to myself, ' Let us hear some what of the singing of Baghdad.'
Wherefore I bought this damsel, knowing not that such was the
case with you twain ; and I take Allah to witness that, when I
reach Bassorah I will free her and marry her to thee and assign

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 3 of 38)