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 33 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 33 of 38)
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thee. But write me a royal rescript 2 and I will go to him and
bring him back to thee." So the Caliph gave him an autograph
and he took it and repaired to Bassorah. Seeing him come in
the governor said, "Allah forfend us from the mischief of thy
return, O Abu Ishak ! How cometh it I see thee return in haste ?
Peradventure the tribute is deficient and the Caliph will not
accept it ? " Answered Abu Ishak, " O Emir Abdullah, my return
is not on account of the deficiency of the tribute, for 'tis full
measure and the Caliph accepteth it ; but I hope that thou wilt
excuse me, for that I have failed in my duty as thy guest and
indeed this lapse of mine was decreed of Allah Almighty."
Abdullah enquired, "And what may be the lapse?*' and he re-
plied, " Know that when I was with thee, I followed thee three
following nights and saw thee rise at midnight and beat the dogs
and return ; whereat I marvelled, but was ashamed to question
thee thereof. When I came back to Baghdad, I told the Caliph
of thine affair, casually and without design, whereupon he charged
me to return to thee, and here is a letter under his hand. Had I
known that the affair would lead to this, I had not told him, but
Destiny foreordained thus." And he went on to excuse himself
to him ; whereupon said Abdullah, " Since thou hast told him.
this, I will bear out thy report with him, lest he deem thee a liar,
for thou art my friend, Were it other than thou, I had denied
the affair and given him the lie. But now I will go with thee
and carry the two dogs with me, though this be to me ruin-rife
and the ending of my term of life." Rejoined the other, " Allah
will veil 3 thee, even as thou hast veiled my face with the Caliph!"
Then Abdullah took a present beseeming the Commander of the
Faithful and mounting the dogs with him, each on a camel, bound
with chains 4 of gold, journeyed with Abu Ishak to Baghdad,
where he went in to the Caliph and kissed ground before him.
He deigned bid him sit ; so he sat down and brought the two
dogs before Al-Rashid, who said to him " What be these dogs,

1 Lit. "the calamity of man (insan) is from the tongue" (lisan).

2 For Khatt Sharif, lit. = a noble letter, see vol. ii. 39.-

3 Arab. "Allah yastura-k " protect thee by hiding what had better be hidden.

4 Arab. "Janazfr" = chains, an Arabised plural of the Pers. Zanjir with the
metathesis or transposition of letters peculiar to the yulgar ; " Janazfr" Jor "Zanajfr."

3IO Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

O Emir Abdullah?" Whereupon they fell to kissing the floor
between his hands and wagging their tails and weeping, as if
complaining to him. The Caliph marvelled at this and said to
the governor, "Tell me the history of these two dogs and the
reason of thy beating them and after entreating them with
honour." He replied, " O Vicar of Allah, these be no dogs, but
two young men, endowed with beauty and seemliness, symmetry
and shapeliness, and they are my brothers and the sons of my
father and mother." Asked the Caliph, " How is it that they
were men and are become dogs ? " ; and he answered, " An thou
give me leave, O Prince of True Believers, I will acquaint thee
with the truth of the circumstance." Said Al-Rashid, "Tell me
and 'ware of leasing, for 'tis of the fashion of the hypocrites, and
look thou tell truth, for that is the Ark * of safety and the mark
of virtuous men." Rejoined Abdullah, " Know then', O vice-regent
of Allah, when I tell thee the story of these dogs, they will both
bear witness against me : an I speak sooth they will certify it and
if I lie they will give me the lie." Cried the Caliph, " These are of
the dogs ; they cannot speak nor answer ; so how can they testify
for thee or against thee ? " But Abdullah said to them, " O my
brothers, if I speak a lying word, do ye lift your heads and stare
with your eyes ; but, if I say sooth hang down your heads and
lower your eyes." Then said he to the Caliph : Know, O Com-
mander of the Faithful, that we are three brothers by one mother
and the same father. Our sire's name was Fazil and he was so
named because his mother bare two sons at one birth, one of
whom died forthright and the other twin remained alive, where-
fore his sire named him Fazil the Remainder. His father
brought him up and reared him well, till he grew to manhood
when he married him to our mother and died. Our mother con-
ceived a first time and bare this my first brother, whom our sire
named Mansur ; then she conceived again and bare this my
second brother, whom he named Nasir 2 ; after which she con-
ceived a third time and bare me, whom he named Abdullah. My

1 Arab. "Safinah" = (Noah's) Ark, a myth derived from the Baris of Egypt with
subsequent embellishments from the Babylonian deluge-legends : the latter may have
been survivals of the days when the waters of the Persian Gulf extended to the mountains
of Eastern Syria. Hence I would explain the existence of extinct volcanoes within
sight of Damascus (see Unexplored Syria i. p. 159) visited, I believe, for the first time
by my late friend Charles F. Tyrwhitt-Drake and myself in May, 1871.

2 Mansur and Nasir arc passive and active participles from the same root, Nasr =:
victory ; the former means triumphant and the latter triumphing.

A bdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 3 1 1

father reared us all three till we came to man's estate, when he
died, leaving us a house and a shop full of coloured stuffs of all
kinds, Indian and Greek and Khorasani and what not, besides
sixty thousand dinars. We washed him and buried him to the
ruth of his Lord, after which we built him a splendid monument
and let pray for him prayers for the deliverance of his soul from
the fire and held perlections of the Koran and gave alms on his
behalf, till the forty days * were past ; when I called together the
merchants and nobles of the folk and made them a sumptuous
entertainment. As soon as they had eaten, I said to them, " O
merchants, verily this world is ephemeral, but the next world is
eternal, and extolled be the perfection of Him who endureth
always after His creatures have passed away ! Know ye why I
have called you together this blessed day ? " And they answered,
" Extolled be Allah sole Scient of the hidden things. 2 " Quoth
I, " My father died, leaving much of money, and I fear lest any
have a claim against him for a debt or a pledge 3 or what not else,
and I desire to discharge my father's obligations towards the folk.
So whoso hath any demand on him, let him say : He oweth me
so and so, and I will satisfy it to him, that I may acquit the
responsibility of my sire. 4 " The merchants replied, "O Abdullah,
verily the goods of this world stand not in stead of those of the
world to come, and we are no fraudful folk, but all of us know
the lawful from the unlawful and fear Almighty Allah and abstain
from devouring the substance of the orphan. We know that thy
father (Allah have mercy on him !) still let his money lie with the
folk, 5 nor did he suffer any man's claim on him to go unquitted,

1 The normal term of Moslem mourning, which Mohammed greatly reduced dis-
liking the abuse of it by the Jews who even in the present day are the strictest in its

2 An euphuistic and euphemistic style of saying, " No, we don't know."

3 Arab. " Rahan," an article placed with him in pawn.

4 A Moslem is bound, not only by honour but by religion, to discharge the debts of
his dead father and mother and so save them from punishment on Judgment-day.
Mohammed who enjoined mercy to debtors while in the 8esh (chapt. ii. 280, etc.) said
"Allah covereth all faults except debt; that is to say, there will be punishment
therefor." Also "A martyr shall be pardoned every fault but debt." On one occasion
he refused to pray for a Moslem who died insolvent. Such harshness is a curious con-
trast with the leniency which advised the creditor to remit debts by way of alms. And
practically this mild view of indebtedness renders it highly unadvisable to oblige a
Moslem friend with a loan.

5 i.e. he did not press them for payment ; and, it must be remembered, he received
no interest upon his monies, this being forbidden in the Koran.

g 1 2 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

and we have ever heard him declare : I am fearful of the people's
substance. He used always to say in his prayers, O my God,
Thou art my stay and my hope ! Let me not die while in debt.
And it was of his wont that, if he owed any one aught, he would
pay it to him, without being pressed, and if any owed him aught
he would not dun him, but would say to him, At thy leisure. If
his debtor were poor, he would release him from his liability and
acquit him of responsibility ; and if he were not poor and died in
his debt, he would say, Allah forgive him what he owed me ! And
we all testify that he owed no man aught." Quoth I, " May Allah
bless you ! " Then I turned to these my brothers and said, " Our
father owed no man aught and hath left us much money and stuffs,
besides the house and the shop. Now we are three and each of us
is entitled to one third part. So shall we agree to waive division
and wone copartners in our wealth and eat together and drink
together, or shall we apportion the stuffs and the money and take
each his part ? " Said they, " We will divide them and take each
his share." (Then Abdullah turned to the two dogs and said to
them, " Did it happen thus, O my brothers ? "; and they bowed
their heads and lowered their eyes, as to say, " Yes.") Abdullah
continued : I called in a departitor from the Kazi's court, O
Prince of True Believers, and he distributed amongst us the money
and the stuffs and all our father had left, allotting the house and
shop to me in exchange for a part of the coin and clothes to which
I was entitled. We were content with this ; so the house and shop
fell to my share, whilst my brothers took their portion in money
and stuffs. I opened the shop and stocking it with my stuffs
bought others with the money apportioned to me. over and above
the house and shop, till the place was full, and I sat selling and
buying. As for my brothers, they purchased stuffs and hiring a
ship, set out on a voyage to the far abodes of folk. Quoth I,
" Allah aid them both ! As for me, my livelihood is ready to my
hand and peace is priceless." I abode thus a whole year, during
which time Allah opened the door of fortune to me and I gained
great gains, till I became possessed of the like of that which
our father had left us. One day, as I sat in my shop, with
two fur pelisses on me, one of sable and the other of meniver. 1 for

1 Al-Mas'udi (chap, xvii.) alludes to furs of Sable (Samur), hermelline (Al-Farwah)
and Bortas (Turkish) furs of black and red foxes. For Samur see vol. iv. 57. Sinjab
is Persian for the skin of the grey squirrel (Mus lemmus, the lemming), the meniver,

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 313

it was the season of winter and the time of the excessive cold,
behold, there came up to me my two brothers, each clad in a
ragged shirt and nothing more, and their lips were white with cold,
and they were shivering. When I saw them in this plight, it was
grievous to me and I mourned for them And Shahrazad per-
ceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

to&en u inas tfje Iftiu f^untrtrtJ anto

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdullah
bin Fazil continued to the Caliph : When I saw them in this
plight, it was grievous to me and I mourned for them and my
reason fled my head. So I rose and embraced them and wept over
their condition : then I put on one of them the pelisse of sable
and on the other the fur coat of meniver and, carrying them to the
Hammam, sent thither for each of them a suit of apparel such as
befitted a merohant worth a thousand. 1 When they had washed and
donned each his suit, I carried them to my house where, seeing
them well nigh famished, I set a tray of food before them and ate
with them, caressing them and comforting them. (Then he again
turned to the two dogs and said to them, " Was this so, O my
brothers ? "; and they bent their heads and lowered their eyes.)
So Abdullah continued : When they had eaten, O Vicar of Allah,
quoth I to them, " What hath befallen you and where are your
goods ? "; and quoth they, " We fared up the river, 2 till we came to
a city called Cufa, where we sold for ten dinars the piece of stuff
that had cost half a ducat and that which cost us a ducat for
twenty. So we profited greatly and bought Persian stuffs at the rate
of ten sequins per piece of silk worth forty in Bassorah. Thence
we removed to a city called Al-Karkh 3 where we sold and bought

erroneously miniver, (menu vair) as opposed to the ermine = (Mus Armenius, or mustda
ermmia.) I never visit England without being surprised at the vile furs worn by the rich,
and the folly of the poor in not adopting the sheepskin with the wool inside and the
leather well tanned which keeps the peasant warm and comfortable between Croatia and

1 Arab. " Tajir Alfi " which may mean a thousand dinars ( 500) or a thousand purses
(=5,000). "Alfi "is not an uncommon P. N., meaning that the bearer (Pasha 01
pauper) had been bought for a thousand left indefinite.

1 Tigris-Euphrates.

3 Possibly the quarter of Baghdad so called and mentioned in The Nights more than

3*4 A If Laylah wa Lay la h.

and made gain galore and amassed of wealth great store." And
they went on to set forth to me the places and the profits. So I
said to them, " Since ye had such good luck and lot, how cometh
it that I see you return naked ? " They sighed and answered, " O
our brother, some one must have evileyed us, and in travel there is
no trusting. When we had gotten together these monies and
goods, we freighted a ship therewith and set sail, intending for
Bassorah. We fared on three days and on the fourth day we saw
the sea rise and fall and roar and foam and swell and dash, whilst
the waves clashed together with a crash, striking out sparks like
fire 1 in the darks. The winds blew contrary for us and our craft
struck upon the point of a bill-projected rock, where it brake up
and plunged us into the river, and all we had with us was lost in
the waters. We abode struggling on the surface a day and a night,
till Allah sent us another ship, whose crew picked us up and we
begged our way from town to town, suffering mighty sore hardships
and selling our body-clothes piecemeal, to buy us food, till we drew
near Bassorah ; nor did we make the city till we had drained the
draught of a thousand miseries. But, had we come safely off with
that which was by us, we had brought back riches that might be
evened with those of the King : but this was fore ordained to us
of Allah." I said, " O my brothers, let not your hearts be grieved,
for wealth is the ransom of bodies and safety is property. Since
Allah hath written you of the saved, this is the end of desire, for
want and wealth are but as it were illusions of dreams and God-
gifted is he who said :

If a man from destruction can save his head Let him hold his wealth as a
slice of nail.

I continued, " O my brothers we will suppose that our sire died
to-day and left us all this wealth that is with me, for I am right
willing to share it with you equally." So I fetched a departitor
from the Kazi's court and brought out to him all my money, which
he distributed into three equal parts, and we each took one. Then
said I to them, " O my brothers, Allah blesseth a man in his daily
bread, if he be in his own country : so let each of you open him a
shop and sit therein to get his living ; and he to whom aught is
ordained in the Secret Purpose, 2 needs must he get it." Accordingly,

1 For this fiery sea see Sind Revisited i. 19.

2 Arab. " Al-Ghayb " which may also mean " in the future " (unknown to man).

Abdullah bin Fazil and his BrotJiers. 315

I helped each of them to open a shop and filled it for him with
goods, saying to them, " Sell and buy and keep your monies and
spend naught thereof ; for all ye need of meat and drink and so
forth I will furnish to you." I continued to entreat them generously,
and they fell to selling and buying by day and returning at even-
tide to my house where they lay the night ; nor would I suffer
them to expend aught of their own substance. But, whenever I
sat talking with them, they would praise travel and proclaim its
pleasures and vaunt the gains they had made therein ; and they
ceased not to urge me to accompany them in travelling over
foreign parts. (Then he said to the dogs, " Was this so, O my
brothers ? " and they again bowed their heads and lowered their
eyes in confirmation of his words). He continued : On such
wise, O Vicar of Allah, they continued to urge me and tempt me
to travel by vaunting the great gains and profit to be obtained
thereby till I said to them, " Needs must I fare with you for your
sake ! " Then I entered into a contract of partnership with them
and we chartered a ship and packing up all manner of precious
stuffs and merchandise of every kind, freighted it therewith ; after
which we embarked in it all we needed and, setting sail from Bas-
sorah, launched out into the dashing sea, swollen with clashing
surge whereinto whoso entereth is lone and lorn and whence
whoso cometh forth is as a babe new-born. We ceased not sailing
on till we came to a city of the cities, where we sold and bought
and made great cheape. Thence we went on to another place,
and we ceased not to pass from land to land and port to port,
selling and buying and profiting, till we had gotten us great wealth
and much advantage. Presently, we came to a mountain, 1 where
the captain cast anchor and said to us, " O passengers, go ye
ashore ; ye shall be saved from this day, 2 and make search ; it
may be ye shall find water." So all landed I amongst the crowd,
and dispersed about the island in search of water. As for me, I
climbed to the top of the mountain, and whilst I went along, lo
and behold ! I saw a white snake fleeing and followed by a black
dragon, foul of favour and frightful of form, hotly pursuing her.
Presently he overtook her and clipping her, seized her by the head
and wound his tail about her tail, whereupon she cried out and I

1 Arab. " Jabal " ; here a mountainous island : see vol. i. 140.

2 i.e. ye shall be spared this day's miseries. See my Pilgrimage vol. i. 314, and the
delight with which we glided into Marsa Damghah.

316 A If Lay la h wa Laylah.

knew that he purposed to rape her. So I was moved to ruth for
her and taking up a lump of granite, 1 five pounds or more in
weight, hurled it at the dragon. It smote him on the head and
crushed it, and ere I knew, the white snake changed and became
a young girl bright with beauty and loveliness and brilliancy -and
perfect grace, as she were the shining full moon, who came up to
me and kissing my hands, said to me, " Allah veil thee with two-
fold veils, one, from shame in this world and the other from the
flame in the world to come on the day of the Great Upstanding,
the day when neither wealth nor children shall avail save to him
who shall come to Allah with a sound heart!" 2 And presently
she continued, " O mortal, thou hast saved my honour and I am
indebted to thee for kindness, wherefore it behoveth me to requite
thee." So saying, she signed with her hand to the earth, which
opened and she descended thereinto : then it closed up again over
her and by this I knew that she was of the Jinn. As for the
dragon, fire was kindled in him and consumed him and he became
ashes. I marvelled at this and returned to my comrades, whom I
acquainted with whatso I had seen, and we passed the night in the
island. On the morrow the Captain weighed anchor and spread
the sails and coiled the ropes and we sailed till the shore faded
from our gaze. We fared on twenty days, without seeing or land
or bird, till our water came to an end and quoth the Rais to us,
" O folk, our fresh water is spent.'* Quoth we, " Let us make for
land ; haply we shall find water." But he exclaimed, " By Allah,
I have lost my way and I know not what course will bring me to
the seaboard.'* Thereupon betided us sore chagrin and we wept
and besought Almighty Allah to guide us into the right course.
We passed that night in the sorriest case : but God-gifted is he
who said :

How many a night have I spent in woes o That would grizzle the suckling-babe
with fear :

1 Arab. "Suwin" r= " Syenite" (-granite) also used for flint and other hard stones.
See vol. i. 238.

8 Koran xxiv. Male children are to the Arab as much prized an object of possession
as riches, since without them wealth is of no value to him. Mohammed, therefore,
couples wealth with children as the two things wherewith one wards off the ills of this
world, though they are powerless against those of the world to come.

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 317

But morrowed not morn ere to me there came o ' Aidance from Allah and victory
near.' *

But when the day arose in its sheen and shone, we caught sight of
a high mountain and rejoiced therein. When we came to its
skirts, the Captain said to us, " O folk, go ashore and seek for
water." So we all landed and sought water but found none,
whereat we were sore afflicted because we were suffering for
want of it. As. for me, I climbed up to the mountain-top
and on the other side thereof I saw a spacious circle 2 distant
from us an hour's journey or more. Presently I called my com-
panions and as soon as they all rejoined me, said to them "Look
at yonder basin behind this mountain ; for I see therein a city
high of base and a strong-cornered place girt with sconce and
rampartry, pasturage and lea and doubtless it wanteth not water
and good things. So hie we thither and fetch drink therefrom
and buy what we need of provisions, meat and fruit, and return '
But they said, " We fear lest the city-folk be Kafirs ascribing to
Allah partners and enemies of The Faith and lay hand on us and
take us captive or else slay us ; so should we cause the loss of our
own lives, having cast ourselves into destruction and evil emprise.
Indeed, the proud and presumptuous are never praiseworthy, for
that they ever fare in danger of calamities, even as saith of such
an one a certain poet :

Long as earth is earth, long as sky is sky, The o'erproud is blamed tho' from
risk he fly!

So we will not expose ourselves to peril." I replied, " O folk, I
have no authority over you ; so I will take my brothers and go to
yonder city." But my brothers said to me, " We also fear this
thing and will not go with thee." Quoth I, " As for me, I am
resolved to go thither, and I put my trust in Allah and accept
whatsoever He shall decree to me. Do ye therefore await me,

whilst I wend thither and return to you twain." And Shahrazad

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

1 An exclamation derived from the Surat Nasr (ex. i) one of the most affecting in the
Koran. It gave Mohammed warning of his death and caused Al-Abbas to shed tears ;
the Prophet sings a song of victory in the ixth year of the Hijrah (he died on the xth)
and implores the pardon of his Lord.

2 Arab. " Dairah," a basin surrounded by hills. The words which follow may mean,
41 An hour's journey or more in breadth."

31 8 A If Laylak wa Laylak.

Ncfo fofoen it.toas tfa Nine f^un&rtfjf an& (Btg|)tn=sam&

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that
Abdullah said, " Do ye twain await me whilst I wend thither and
return to you." So I left them and walked on till I came to the
gate of the place and saw it a city of building wondrous and pro-
jection marvellous, with boulevards high-towering and towers
strong-builded and palaces high-soaring. Its portals were of
Chinese iron, rarely gilded and graven on such wise as confounded
the wit. I entered the gateway and saw there a stone bench,
whereon sat a man bearing on his forearm a chain of brass, whereto
hung fourteen keys ; so I knew him to be the porter of the city
and that it had fourteen gates. I drew near him and said to
him, " Peace be with thee ! "; but he returned not my salam and
I saluted him a second and a third time ; but he made me no
reply. Then I laid my hand on his shoulder and said to him,
" Ho thou, why dost thou not return my salam ? Art thou asleep
or deaf or other than a Moslem, that thou refrainest from ex-
changing the salutation ? " But he answered me not neither
stirred ; so I considered him and saw that he was stone. Quoth
I, " Verily an admirable matter ! This is a stone wroughten in
the semblance of a son of Adam and wanting in naught save

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 33 of 38)