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 34 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 34 of 38)
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speech ! " Then I left him and entering the city, beheld a man
standing in the road : so I went up to him and scrutinised him
and found him stone. Presently, as I walked adown the broad-
ways, and saw that this was every where the case. I met an old
woman bearing on her head a bundle of clothes ready for washing ;
so I went up to her and examining her, saw that she was stone,
and the bundle of clothes on her head was stone also. 1 Then I
fared for the market, where I saw an oilman with his scales set
up and fronted by various kinds of wares such as cheese and so
forth, all of stone. Moreover, I saw all manner of tradesmen
seated in their shops and men and women and children, some
standing and some sitting ; but they were all stone; and the stuffs
were like spiders' webs. I amused myself with looking upon
them, and as often as I laid hold upon a piece of stuff, it powdered
in my hands like dust dispread. Presently I saw some chests and

These petrified folk have occurred in the "Eldest Lady's Tale" (vol. i. 165), where
they are of " black stone."

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 31^

opening one of them, found it full of gold in bags ; so I laid hold
upon the bags, but they crumbled away in my grasp, whilst the
gold abode unchanged. I carried off of it what I could carry
and said to myself, " Were my brothers with me, they might take
of this gold their fill and possess themselves of these hoards which
have no owner." Then I entered another shop and found therein'
more than this, but could bear away no more than I had borne.
I left this market and went on to another and thence to another
and another, much enjoying the sight of all manner of creatures
of various kinds, all several stones, even to the dogs and the cats,
till I came to the goldsmiths' bazar, where I saw men sitting in
their shops, with their stock-in-trade about them, some in their
hands and others in crates of wicker-work. When I saw this, O
Commander of the Faithful, I threw down the gold and loaded
myself with goldsmiths' ware, as much as I could carry. Then I.
went on to the jewel-market and saw there the jewellers seated in
their shops, each with a tray before him, full of all sorts of precious
stones, jacinths and diamonds and emeralds and balass rubies and
so forth : but all the shop-keepers were stones; whereupon I threw
away the goldsmiths' ware and carried off as many jewels as I
could carry, regretting that my brothers were not with me, so they
might take what they would of those costly gems. Then I left
the jewel-market and went on till I came to a great door, quaintly
gilded and decorated after the fairest fashion, within which were
wooden benches and in the porch sat eunuchs, and body-guards ;
horsemen, and footmen and officers of police each and every robed
in the richest of raiment ; but they were all stones. I touched one
of them and his clothes crumbled away from his body like cob-
webs. Then I passed through the door and saw a palace without
equal for its building and the goodliness of the works that were
therein. Here I found an audience-chamber, full of Grandees and
Wazirs and Officers and Emirs, seated upon chairs and every one
of them stone. Moreover, I saw a throne of red gold, crusted with
pearls and gems, and seated thereon a son of Adam arrayed in
the most sumptuous raiment and bearing oh his head a Chosroan l
crown, diademed with the finest stones that shed a light like the
light of day ; but, when I came up to him, I found him stone.
Then I went on to the gate of the Harim and entering, found
myself in the Queen's presence-chamber, wherein I saw a throne

' s^- T

."" <

1 Arab. " Taj Kisrawi," such as was worn by the Chosroes Kings. See vol. i. 75.

320 L Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

of red gold, inlaid with pearls and gems, and the Queen seated
thereon. On her head she wore a crown diademed with finest
jewels, and round about her were women like moons, seated upon
chairs and clad in the most sumptuous clothing of all colours.
There also the eunuchry, with their hands upon their breasts, 1
were standing in the attitude of service, and indeed this hall
confounded the beholder's wits with what was therein of quaint
gilding and rare painting and curious carving and fine furniture.
There hung the most brilliant lustres 2 of limpid crystal, and in
every globe 3 of the crystal was an unique jewel, whose price
money might not fulfil. So I threw down that which was with
me, O Prince of True Believers, and fell to taking of these jewels
what I could carry, bewildered as to what I should bear away
and what I should leave ; for indeed I saw the place as it were
a treasure of the treasures of the cities. Presently I espied a
wicket 4 standing open and within it a staircase: so I entered
and mounting forty steps, heard a human voice reciting the
Koran in a low tone. I walked towards that sound till I came
to the main door hung with a silken curtain, laced with wires of
gold whereon were strung pearls and coral and rubies and cut
emeralds which gave forth a light like the light of stars. The
voice came from behind the curtain : so I raised it and discovered
a gilded door, whose beauty amazed the mind. I passed through
the door and found myself in a saloon as it were a hoard upon
earth's surface 5 and therein a girl as she were the sun shining
fullest sheen in the zenith of a sky serene. She was robed in the
costliest of raiment and decked with ornaments the most precious
that could be and withal she was of passing beauty and love-'

.* The familiar and far-famed Napoleonic pose, with the arms crossed over the breast,
is throughout the East the attitude assumed by slave and servant in presence of his
master. Those who send statues to Anglo- India should remember this.

2 Arab. " Ta' dlik " = hanging lamps, often in lantern shape with coloured glass and
profuse ornamentation : the Maroccan are now familiar to England.

8 Arab. " Kidrah," lit. = a pot, kettle : it can hardly mean " an interval."

4 The wicket or small doorway, especially by the side of a gate or porfal, is called
" the eye of the needle " and explains Matt. xix. 24, and Koran vii. 38. In the
Rabbinic form of the proverb the camel becomes an elephant. Some have preferred to
change the Koranic Jamal (camel) for Habl (cable) and much ingenuity has been wasted
by Christian commentators on Mark x. 25, and Luke xviii. 25.

5 i.e. A " Kanz " (enchanted treasury) usually hidden underground but opened by a
counter-spell aud transferred to earth's face. The reader will note the gorgeousness of
the picture.

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 321

liness, a model of symmetry and seemliness, of elegance and
perfect grace, with waist slender and hips heavy and dewy lips
such as heal the sick and eyelids lovely in their langour, as it were
she of whom the sayer spake when he said :

My best salam to what that robe enrobes of symmetry, o And what that

blooming garth of cheek enguards of rosy blee :
It seems as though the Pleiades depend upon her brow ; o And other lights of

Night in knots upon her breast we see :
Did she but don a garment weft of Rose's softest leaf, o The leaf of Rose

would draw her blood * when pluckt that fruit from tree :
And did she crache in Ocean's face, next Morn would see a change o To

sweeter than the honeycomb of what was briny sea :
And did she deign her favours grant to grey-beard staff-enpropped o He'd

wake and rend the lion's limbs for might and valiancy.

1 Oriental writers, Indian and Persian, as well as Arab, lay great stress upon the
extreme delicacy of the skin of the fair ones celebrated in their works, constantly
attributing to their heroines bodies so sensitive as to brook with difficulty the contact
of the finest shift. Several instances of this will be found in the present collection and
we may fairly assume that the skin of an Eastern beauty, under the influence of constant
seclusion and the unremitting use of cosmetics and the bath, would in time attain a
pitch of delicacy and sensitiveness such as would in some measure justify the seemingly
extravagant statements of their poetical admirers, of which the following anecdote
(quoted by Ibn Khellikan from the historian Et Teberi) is a fair specimen. Ardeshir
ibn Babek (Artaxerxes I.), the first Sassanian King of Persia (A.D. 226-242), having
long unsuccessfully besieged El Hedr, a strong city of Mesopotamia belonging to the
petty King Es Satiroun, at last obtained possession of it by the treachery of the owner's
daughter Nezireh and married the latter, this having been the price stipulated by her
for the betrayal to him of the place. " It happened afterwards that, one night, as she
was unable to sleep and turned from side to side in the bed, Ardeshir asked her what
prevented her from sleeping. She replied, ' I never yet slept on a rougher bed than
this; I feel something irk me.' Reordered the bed to be changed, but she was still
unable co sleep. Next morning, she complained of her side, and on examination, a
myrtle-leaf was found adhering to a fold of the skin, from which it had drawn blood.
Astonished at this circumstance, Ardeshir asked her if it was this that had kept her
awake and she replied in the affirmative. ' How then,' asked he, ' did your father bring
you up ? ' She answered, ' He spread me a bed of satin and clad me in silk and fed me
with marrow and cream and the honey of virgin bees and gave me pure wine to drink.'
Quoth Ardeshir, ' The same return which you made your father for his kindness would
be made much more readily to me' ; and bade bind her by the hair to the tail of c. horse,
which galloped off with her and killed her." It will be remembered that the true
princess, in the well-known German popular tale, is discovered by a similar incident to
that of the myrtle-leaf. I quote this excellent note from Mr. Payne (ix. 148), only
regretting that annotation did not enter into his plan of producing The Nights.
Amongst Hindu story-tellers a phenomenal softness of the skin is a lieu commun : see
Vikram and the Vampire (p. 285, " Of the marvellous delicacy of their Queens "} ; and
the Tale of the Sybarite might be referred to in the lines given above.


322 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

Then Abdullah continued : O Prince of True Believers, as soon
as I saw that, girl I fell passionately in love with her and going
straight up to her, found her seated on a high couch, reciting by
heart and in grateful memory the Book of Allah, to whom belong
honour and glory ! Her voice was like the harmony of the gates
of Heaven, when Rizwan openeth them, and the words came from
her lips like a shower of gems ; whilst her face was with beauty
dight, bright and blossom-white, even as saith the poet of a similar
sight :

thou who gladdenest man by speech and rarest quality ; o Grow longing and

repine for thee and grow beyond degree !

In thee two things consume and melt the votaries of Love ; o The dulcet song
of David joined with Joseph's brilliancy.

When I heard her voice of melody reciting the sublime Koran, my
heart quoted from her killing glances, ' Peace, a word from a com-
passionating Lord ; n but I stammered 2 in my speech and could not
say the salam-salutation aright, for my mind and sight were
confounded and I was become as saith the bard :

Love-longing urged me not except to trip in speech o'er free ; 3 Nor, save to
shed my blood I passed the campment's boundary :

1 ne'er will hear a word from those who love to rail, but I o Will testify

to love of him with every word of me.

Then I hardened myself against the horrors of repine and said to
her, " Peace be with thee, O noble Lady, and treasured jewel !
Allah grant endurance "to the foundation of thy fortune fair and
upraise the pillars of thy glory rare ! ' Said she, " And on thee

1 " (55) Indeed joyous on that day are the people of Paradise in their employ ; (56) In
shades, on bridal couches reclining they and their wives : (57) Fruits have they therein
and whatso they desire. (58) ' Peace ! ' shall be a word from a compassionating Jx>rd."
Koran xxxvi. 55-58, the famous Chapt. " Ya Sin ;" which most educated Moslems
leam by heart. See vol. iii. 19. In addition to the proofs there offered that the Moslem
Paradise is not wholly sensual I may quote, " No soul wotteth what coolth of the eyes
is reserved (for the good) in recompense of their works" (Koran Ixx. 17). The
Paradise of eating, drinking, and copulating which Mr. Palgrave (Arabia, i. 368) calls
" an everlasting brothel between forty celestial concubines " was preached solely to the
baser sort of humanity which can understand and appreciate only the pleasures of the
flesh. To talk of spiritual joys before the Badawin would have been a twn-sens, even as
it would be to the roughs of our great cities.

2 Arab. " Lajlaj " lit. = rolling anything round the mouth when eating ; hence
speaking inarticulately, being tongue-tied, stuttering, etc.

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 323

from me be peace and salutation and high honour, O Abdullah, O
son of Fazil ! Well come and welcome and fair welcome to thee,
O dearling mine and coolth of mine eyne ! " Rejoined I, " O my
lady, whence wettest thou my name and who art thou and what
case befel the people of this city, that they are become stones ? I
would have thee tell me the truth of the matter, for indeed I am
admiring at this city and its citizens and that I have found none
alive therein save thyself. So, Allah upon thee, tell me the cause
of all this, according to the truth ! " Quoth she, " Sit, O Abdullah,
and Inshallah, I will talk with thee and acquaint thee in full with
the facts of my case and of this place and its people ; and there is
no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the
Great ! " So I sat me down by her side and she said to me, " Know,
O Abdullah, (may Allah have mercy on thee!) that I am the
daughter of the King of this city and that it is my sire whom thou
sawest seated on the high stead in the Divan, and those who are
round about him were the Lords of his land and the Guards of his
empery. He was a King of exceeding prowess and had under his
hand a thousand thousand and sixty thousand troopers. The
number of the Emirs of his Empire was four-and-twenty thousand,
all of them Governors and Dignitaries. He was obeyed by a
thousand cities, besides towns, hamlets and villages ; and sconces
and citadels, and the Emirs 1 of the wild Arabs under his hand were
a thousand in number, each commanding twenty thousand horse.
Moreover, he had monies and treasures and precious stones and
jewels and things of price, such as eye never saw nor of which ear

ever heard. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased saying her permitted say.

NToto foben ft foas tfce Ntiu f&untirrtJ anto

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Princess,
daughter to the King of the Stone-city, thus continued : Verily,
O Abdullah my father had monies and hoards, such as eye never
saw and of which ear never heard. He used to debel Kings and
do to death champions and braves in battle and in the field of
fight, so that the Conquerors feared him and the Chosroes 2 humbled

1 The classical " Phylarchs," who had charge of the Badawin.

1 " The Jababirah " (giant-rulers of Syria) and the " Akasirah " (Chosroes-Kings of
Persia) .

324 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

themselves to him. For all this, he was a miscreant In creed
ascribing to Allah partnership and adoring idols, instead of the
Lord of worship ; and all his troops were of images fain in lieu of
the All-knowing Sovereign. One day of the days as he sat on
the throne of his Kingship, compassed about with the Grandees of
his realm, suddenly there came in to him a Personage, whose face
illumined the whole Divan with its light. My father looked at him
and saw him clad in a garb of green, 1 tall of stature and with
hands that reached beneath his knees. He was of reverend aspect
and awesome and the light 2 shone from his face. Said he to my
sire, " O rebel, O idolater, how long wilt thou take pride in wor-
shipping idols and abandoning the service of the All-knowing
King ? Say : I testify that there is no god but the God and that
Mohammed is His servant and His messenger. And embrace
Al-Islam, thou and thy tribe ; and put away from you the worship
of idols, for they neither suffice man's need nor intercede. None
is worshipful save Allah alone, who raised up the heavens without
columns and spread out the earths like carpets in mercy to His
creatures." 3 Quoth my father, " Who art thou, O man who
rejectest the worship of idols, that thou sayst thus ? Fearest thou
not that the idols will be wroth with thee ? " He replied, " The
idols are stones ; their anger cannot prejudice me nor their favour
profit me. So do thou set in my presence thine idol which thou
adorest and bid all thy folk bring each his image : and when they
are all present, do ye pray them to be wroth with me and I will
pray my Lord to be wroth with them, and ye shall descry the
difference between the anger of the creature and that of the Creator.
For your idols, ye fashioned them yourselves and the Satans clad
themselves therewith as with clothing, and they it is who spake to
you from within the bellies of the images, 4 for your idols are
made and the maker is my God to whom naught is impossible.
An the True appear to you, do ye follow it, and if the False appear
to you do ye leave it." Cried they, " Give us a proof of thy god,

1 This shows (and we are presently told) that the intruder was Al-Khizr, the "Green
Prophet," for whom see vol. iv. 175.

2 i.e. of salvation supposed to radiate from all Prophets, esp. from Mohammed.

3 This formula which has occurred from the beginning (vol. i. l) is essentially Koranic :
See Chapt. li. 18-19 and passim.

4 This trick of the priest hidden within the image may date from the days of the vocal
Memnon, and was a favourite in India eps. at the shrine of Somnauth (Soma-nath), the
Moon -god, Atergatis Aphrodite, etc.

Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brothers. 325

that we may see it ; " and quoth he, " Give me proof of your
gods." So the King bade every one who worshipped his Lord in
image-form to bring it, and all the armies brought their idols to
the Divan. Thus fared it with them ; but as for me, I was sitting
behind a curtain, whence I could look upon my father's Divan, and
I had an idol of emerald whose bigness was as the bigness of a
son of Adam. My father demanded it, so I sent it to the Divan,
where they set it down beside that of my sire, which was of
jacinth, whilst the Wazir's idol was of diamond. 1 As for those of
the Grandees and Notables, some were of balass-ruby and some
of carnelian, others of coral or Comorin aloes-wood and yet others
of ebony or silver or gold ; and each had his own idol, after the
measure of his competence ; whilst the idols of the common
soldiers and of the people were some of granite, some of wood,
some of pottery and some of mud ; and all were of various hues
yellow and red ; green, black and white. Then said the Personage
to my sire, " Pray your idol and these idols to be wroth with me."
So they aligned the idols in a Divan, 2 setting my father's idol
on a chair of gold at the upper end, with mine by its side, and
ranking the others each according to the condition of him who
owned it and worshipped it. Then my father arose and prostrat-
ing himself to his own idol, said to it, " O my god, thou art the
Bountiful Lord, nor is there among the idols a greater than
thyself. Thou knowest that this person cometh to me, attacking
thy divinity and making mock of thee ; yea, he avoucheth that
he hath a god stronger than thou and ordereth us leave adoring
thee and adore his god. So be thou wrath with him, O my god ! ">
And he went on to supplicate the idol ; but the idol returned him
no reply neither bespoke him with aught of speech ; whereupon
quoth he, " O my god, this is not of thy wont, for thou usedst to
answer me, when I addressed thee. How cometh it that I see

1 Arab. "Almas" = Gr. Adamas. In opposition to the learned ex-Professor
Maskelyne I hold that the cutting of the diamond is of very ancient date. Mr. W. M.
Flinders Patrie (The Pyramids and Temples of Gizah, London : Field and Tuer, 1884)
whose studies have thoroughly demolished the freaks and unfacts, the fads and fancies of
the " Pyramidists," and who may be said to have raised measurement to the rank of a
fine art, believes that the Euritic statues of old Egypt such as that of Khufu (Cheops) in
the Bulak Museum were drilled by means of diamonds. Athenaeus tells us (lib. v.) that
the Indians brought pearls and diamonds to the procession of Ptolemy Philadelphus ; and
this suggests cutting, as nothing can be less ornamental than the uncut stone.

2 i.e. as if they were holding a " Durbar "; the King's idol in the Sadr or place of
honour and the others ranged about it in their several ranks.

3^ 6 A If Laylah wa Laylak.

thee silent and speaking not ? Art thou unheeding or asleep ? '
Awake ; succour me and speak to me ! " And he shook it with
his hand ; but it spake not neither stirred from its stead. There-
upon quoth the Personage, " What aileth thine idol that it speaketh
not ?"; and quoth the King, " Methinks he is absent-minded or
asleep." Exclaimed the other, " O enemy of Allah, how canst
thou worship a god that speaketh not nor availeth unto aught
and not worship my God, who to prayers deigns assent and who is
ever present and never absent, neither unheeding nor sleeping,
whom conjecture may not ween, who seeth and is not seen and
who overall things terrene is omnipotent ? Thy god is powerless
and cannot guard itself from harm ; and indeed a stoned Satan
had clothed himself therewith as with a coat that he might debauch
thee and delude thee. But now hath its devil departed ; so do
thou worship Allah and testify that there is no god but He and
that none is worshipful nor worshipworth but Himself; neither is
there any good but His good. As for this thy god, it cannot
ward off hurt from it ; so how shall it ward off harm from thee ?
See with thine own eyes its impotence." So saying, he went up
to the idol and dealt it a cuff on the neck, that it fell to the ground ;
whereupon the King waxed wroth and cried to the bystanders,
"This froward atheist hath smitten my god Slay him!" So
they would have arisen to smite him, but none of them could stir
from his place. Then he propounded to them Al-Islam ; but they
refused to become Moslems and he said, " I will show you the wroth
of my Lord." Quoth they, " Let us see it ! " So he spread out
his hands and said, " O my God and my Lord, Thou art my stay
and my hope ; answer Thou my prayer against these lewd folk,
who eat of Thy good and worship other gods. O Thou the Truth,
O Thou of All-might, O Creator of Day and Night, I beseech Thee
to turn these people into stones, for Thou art the Puissant nor is
aught impossible to Thee, and Thou over all things are omni-
potent!' 5 And Allah transformed the people of this city into
stones ; but, as for me, when I saw the manifest proof of His deity,

1 These words are probably borrowed from the taunts of Elijah to the priests of Baal
(l Kings xviii. 27), Both Jews and Moslems wilfully ignored the proper use of the
image or idol which was to serve as a Keblah or direction of prayer and an object upon
which to concentrate thought and looked only to the abuse of the ignobile vulgus who
believe in its intrinsic powers. Christendom has perpetuated the dispute : Romanism
affects statues and pictures ! Greek orthodoxy pictures and not statues and the so-called
Protestantism ousts both.


Abdullah bin Fazil and his Brol/ters. 327

I submitted myself to Him and was saved from that which befel
the rest. Then the Personage drew near me and said " Felicity '
was fore-ordained of Allah to thee and in this a purpose had He."
And he went on to instruct me and I took unto him the oath and
covenant. 2 I was then seven years of age and am now thirty
years old. Then said I to him, " O my lord, all that is in the
city and all its citizens are become stones by thine effectual prayer,
and I am saved, for that I embraced Al-Islam at thy hands.
Wherefore thou art become my Shaykh ; so do thou tell me thy
name and succour me with thy security and provide me with
provision whereon I may subsist." Quoth he, " My name is Abu
al-'Abbas al-Khizr"; and he planted me a pomegranate-tree,
which forthright grew up and foliaged, flowered and fruited, and
bare one pomegranate ; whereupon quoth he, " Eat of that where-
with Allah the Almighty provideth thee and worship Him with the

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 34 of 38)