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 4 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 4 of 38)
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you what shall suffice you, and more; but on condition that, when-
ever I have a mind to hear music, a curtain shall be hung for her
and she shall sing to me from behind it, and thou shalt be of the
number of my brethren and boon-companions." Hereat I rejoiced
and the Hashimi put his head within the curtain and said to her,
"Will that content thee?"; whereupon she fell to blessing and
thanking him. Then he called a servant and said to him, "Take
this young man and do off his clothes and robe him in costly
raiment and incense him * and bring him back to us." So the
servant did with me as his master bade him and brought me back
to him, and served me with wine, even as the rest of the com-
pany. Then the damsel began singing after the goodliest fashion
and chanted these couplets :

They blamed me for causing my tears to well o When came my beloved to

bid farewell :
They ne'er tasted the bitters of parting nor felt o Fire beneath my ribs that

flames fierce and fell !
None but baffled lover knows aught of Love, Whose heart is lost where

he wont to dwell.

The folk rejoiced in her song with exceeding joy and my gladness
redoubled, so that I took the lute from the damsel and preluding
after the most melodious fashion, sang these couplets :

Ask (if needs thou ask) the Compassionate, o And the generous donor of high

estate .
For asking the noble honours man o And asking the churl entails bane and

bate :
When abasement is not to be 'scaped by wight o Meet it asking boons of the

good and great.
Of Grandee to sue ne'er shall vilify man, o But 'tis vile on the vile of mankind

to 'wait.

The company rejoiced in me with joy exceeding and they ceased
not from pleasure and delight, whilst anon I sang and anon the
damsel, till we came to one of the landing-places, where the vessel

1 See vol. vii. 363 for the use of these fumigations.

3O Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

moored and all on board disembarked and I with them. Now I
was drunken with wine and squatted on my hams to make water ;
but drowsiness overcame me and I slept, and the passengers re-
turned to the ship which ran down stream without any missing
me, for that they also were drunken, and continued their voyage
till they reached Bassorah. As for me I awoke not till the heat
of the sun aroused me, when I rose and looked about me, but saw
no one. Now I had given my spending-money to the damsel and
had naught left : I had also forgotten to ask the Hashimi his name
and where his house was at Bassorah and his titles ; thus I was
confounded and my joy at meeting the damsel had been but a
dream ; and I abode in perplexity till there came up a great vessel
wherein I embarked and she carried me to Bassorah. Now I knew
none there much less the Hashimi's house, so I accosted a grocer

and taking of him inkcase and paper, And Shahrazad perceived

the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

Noto to&en tt teas tfct IStgfjt f^untaetj anfc Kmetg-nmtt)

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
Baghdad man who owned the maid entered Bassorah, he was
perplexed for not knowing the Hashimi's house. So I accosted
(said he) a grocer and, taking of him inkcase and paper, sat down
to write. He admired my handwriting and seeing my dress stained
and soiled, questioned me of my case, to which I replied that I
was a stranger and poor. Quoth he, " Wilt thou abide with me
and order the accounts of my shop and I will give thee thy food
and clothing and half a dirham a day for ordering the accompts of
my shop ? " ; and quoth I, " Tis well," and abode with him and
kept his accounts and ordered his income and expenditure for a
month, at the end of which he found his income increased and his
disbursements diminished ; wherefore he thanked me and made
my wage a dirham a day. When the year was out, he proposed
to me to marry his daughter and become his partner in the shop.
I agreed to this and went in to my wife and applied me to the
shop. But I was broken in heart and spirit, and grief was mani-
fest upon me ; and the grocer used to drink and invite me thereto,
but I refrained for melancholy. I abode on this wise two years
till, one day, as I sat in the shop, behold, there passed by a parcel
of people with meat and drink, and I asked the grocer what was

The Ruined Man of Baghdad and his Slave-Girl. 31

the matter. Quoth he, " This is the day of the pleasure-makers,
when all the musicians and dancers of the town go forth with the
young men of fortune to the banks of the Ubullah river 1 and eat
and drink among the trees there." The spirit prompted me to
solace myself with the sight of this thing and I said in my mind,
" Haply among these people I may foregather with her I love."
So I told the grocer that I had a mind to this and he said, " Up
and go with them an thou please." He made me ready meat and
drink and I went till I came to the River of Ubullah, when, behold.
the folk were going away : I also was about to follow, when I
espied the Rais of the bark wherein the Hashimi had been with
the damsel and he was going along the river. I cried out to
him and his company who knew me and took me on board with
them and said to me, " Art thou yet alive ? " ; and they embraced
me and questioned me of my case. I told them my tale and they
said, " Indeed, we thought that drunkenness had gotten the better
of thee and that thou hadst fallen into the water and wast drowned."
Then I asked them of the damsel, and they answered, " When she
came to know of thy loss, she rent her raiment and burnt the lute
and fell to buffeting herself and lamenting and when we returned
with the Hashimi to Bassorah we said to her, " Leave this weeping
and wailing." Quoth she, " I will don black and make me a tomb
beside the house and abide thereby and repent from singing. 2
We allowed her so to do and on this wise she abideth to this day."
Then they carried me to the Hashimi's house, where I saw the
damsel as they had said. When she espied me, she cried out a
great cry, methought she had died, and I embraced her with a
long embrace. Then said the Hashimi to me, " Take her ; " and I
said, " 'Tis well : but do thou free her and according to thy
promise marry her to me." Accordingly he did this and gave us
costly goods and store of raiment and furniture and five hundred
dinars, saying, " This is the amount of that which I purpose to

1 In the Mac. Edit. "Aylah" for Ubullah: the latter is one of the innumerable
canals, leading from Bassorah to Ubullah-town a distance of twelve miles. Its banks
are the favourite pleasure-resort of the townsfolk, being built over with villas and pavilions
(now no more) and the orchards seem to form one great garden, all confined by one wall.
See Jaubert's translation of Al-Idrisi, vol. i. pp. 368-69. The Aylah, a tributary of the
Tigris, waters (I have noted) the Gardens of Bassorah.

7 Music having been forbidden by Mohammed who believed with the vulgar that the
Devil has something to do with it. Even Paganini could not escape suspicion in the
nineteenth century.

'$2. Alf Laytah wa Laylah.

allow you~every month, but on condition that thou be my cup-
companion and that I hear the girl sing when I will." Further-
more, he assigned us private quarters and bade transport thither all
our need ; so, when I went to the house, I found it filled full of
furniture and stuffs and carried the damsel thither. Then I betook
me to the grocer and told him all that had betided me, begging
to hold me guiltless for divorcing his daughter, without offence
on her part ; and I paid her her dowry ' and what else behoved
me. 2 I abode with the Hashimi in this way two years and
became a man of great wealth and was restored to the former
estate of prosperity wherein I had been at Baghdad, I and the
damsel. And indeed Allah the Bountiful put an end to our
troubles and loaded us with the gifts of good fortune and caused
our patience to result in the attainment of our desire : wherefore
to Him be the praise in this world and the next whereto we are,
[.returning. 3 And among the tales men tell is^that of





THERE was once in days of yore and in ages and times long gone'
before, in the land of Hind," a mighty King, tall of presence and
fair of favour and goodly of parts, noble of nature and generous,
beneficent to the poor and loving to his lieges_and all the people

1 The " Mahr," or Arab dowry consists of two parts, one paid down on consumma-
tion and the other agreed to be paid to the wife, contingently upon her being divorced by
her husband. If she divorce him this portion, which is generally less than the half,
cannot be claimed by her ; and I have related the Persian abomination which compel*
the woman to sacrifice her rights. See vol. iii. p. 304.

2 i.e. the cost of her maintenance during the four months of single blessedness which
must or ought to elapse before she can legally many again.

8 Lane translates most incompletely, "To Him, then, be praise, first and last! "
4 Lane omits because it is " extremely puerile " this most characteristic tale, one of
the two oldest in The Nights which Al-Mas'udi mentions as belonging to the Hazar
Afsaneh (See Terminal Essay). Von Hammer (Preface in Trebutien's translation p. xxv.)
refers the fables to an Indian (Egyptian ?) origin and remarks, "sous le rapport de leur
antiquite' et de la morale qu'ils renferment, elles me"ritent la plus grande attention, mais
d'un autre cote elles ne sont rien moins qu' amusantes."

King Jali'ad of Hind and his Wazir Shimas. 33'

of his realm. His name was Jali'ad and under his hand were two
and-seventy Kings and in his cities three hundred and fifty Kazis.
He had three score and ten Wazirs and over every ten of them he


set a premier. The chiefest of all his ministers was a man called
Shimds 1 who was then 2 two-and-twenty years old, a statesman
of pleasant presence and noble nature, sweet of speech and ready
in reply ; shrewd in all manner of business, skilful withal and
sagacious, for all his tender age, a man of good counsel and fine
manners versed in all arts and sciences and accomplishments ; and
the King loved him with exceeding love and cherished him by
reason of his proficiency in eloquence and/hetoric and the art of
government and for that which Allah had given him of compassion
and brooding care 3 with his lieges for he was a King just in his
Kingship and a protector of his peoples, constant in beneficence
to great and small and giving them that which befitted them of
good governance and bounty and protection and security and a
lightener of their loads in taxes and tithes. And indeed he was
loving to them each and every, high and low, entreating them with
kindness and solicitude and governing them in such goodly guise
as none had done before him. But, with all this, Almighty Allah
had not blessed him with a child, and this was grievous to him and
to the people of his reign. It chanced, one night, as Jali'ad 4 lay
in his bed, occupied with anxious thought of the issue of the affair
of his Kingdom, that sleep overcame him and he dreamt that he

poured water upon the roots of a tree, And Shahrazad per*/

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

Nofo fo&m ft foas the Jline J^untrrefctf) Ntgfjt,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
King saw himself in his vision pouring water upon the roots of a
tree, about which were many other trees ; and lo and behold ! there
came fire out of this tree and burnt up every growth which
encompassed it ; whereupon Jali'ad awoke affrighted and trembl-
ing, and calling one of his pages said to him, " Go fetch the Wazir

1 Lane (iii. 579) writes the word " Shemmas " : the Bresl. Edit. (viii. 4) "Shima's."

2 i.e. When the tale begins.

3 Arab. " Khafz al-jinah " drooping the wing as a brooding bird. In the Koraa
(Ivii. 88) "lowering the wing" = demeaning oneself gently.

4 The Bresl. Edit. (viii. 3) writes " Kil'ad " : Trebutien (iii. I) " le roi Djilia.'^


34 ^ If Laylah wa Laylah.

Shimas in all haste." So he betook himself to Shimas and said
to him, " The King calleth for thee forthright because he hath
awoke from his sleep in affright and hath sent me to bring thee to
him in haste." When Shimas heard this, he arose without stay or
delay and going to the King, found him seated on his bed. He
prostrated himself before him, wishing him permanence of glory
and prosperity, and said, " May Allah not cause thee grieve, O
King ! What hath troubled thee this night, and what is the cause
of thy seeking me thus in haste ? " The King bade him be seated ;
and, as soon as he sat down, began telling his tale and said to
him, " I have dreamt this night a dream which terrified me, and
'twas, that methought I poured water upon the roots of a tree
where about were many other trees and as I was thus engaged,
Fo and behold ! fire issued therefrom and burnt up all the growths
that were around it ; wherefore I was affrighted and fear took me.
Then I awoke and sent to bid thee to me, because of thy know-
ledge and skill in the interpretation of dreams and of that which
I know of the vastness of thy wisdom and the greatness of thine
understanding." At this Shimas the Wazir bowed his head
groundwards awhile and presently raising it, smiled ; so the King
said to him, "What deemest thou, O Shimas ? Tell me the truth
of the matter and hide naught from me." Answered Shimas,
" O King, verily Allah Almighty granteth thee thy wish and
cooleth thine eyes ; for the matter of this dream presageth all
good, to wit, that the Lord will bless thee with a son, who shall
inherit the Kingdom from thee, after thy long life. But there is
somewhat else I desire not to expound at this present, seeing that
the time is not favourable for interpretation." The King rejoiced
in these words with exceeding joy and great was his contentment;
his trouble departed from him, his mind was at rest and he said,
" If the case be thus of the happy presage of my dream, do thou
complete to me its exposition when the fitting time betideth : for
that which it behoveth not to expound to me now, it behoveth
that thou expound to me when its time cometh, so my joy may
be fulfilled, because I seek naught in this save the approof of
Allah extolled and exalted be He ! " Now when the Wazir Shimas
saw that the King was urgent to have the rest of the exposition,
he put him off with a pretext ; but Jali'ad assembled all the
astrologers and interpreters of dreams of his realm and as soon as
they were in the presence related to them his vision, saying, " I
desire you to tell me the true interpretation of this." Whereupon

Tke Mouse and tke Cat. 35

one of them came forward and craved the King's permission to
speak, which being granted, he said, " Know, O King, that thy
Wazir Shimas is nowise unable to interpret this thy dream ; but
he shrank from troubling thy repose : wherefore he disclosed not
unto thee the. whole thereof: but, an thou suffer me to speak I
will expose to thee that which he concealed from thee." The
King replied, " Speak without respect for persons, O interpreter,
and be truthful in thy speech." The interpreter said, " Know then,
O King, that there will be born to thee a boy-child who shall
inherit the Kingship from thee, after thy long life ; but he shall
not order himself towards the lieges after thy fashion ; nay, he shall
transgress thine ordinances and oppress thy subjects, and there
shall befal him what befel the Mouse with the Cat ' ; and I seek
refuge with Almighty Allah 2 ! " The King asked, " But what is
the story of the Cat and the Mouse ? "; and the interpreter answered
"May Allah prolong the King's life! They tell the following
tale of


A GRIMALKIN, that is to say, a Cat, went out one night to a
certain garden, in search of what she might devour, but found
nothing and became weak for the excess of cold and rain that
prevailed that night. So she sought for some device whereby to
save herself. As she prowled about in search of prey, she espied
a nest at the foot of a tree, and drawing near unto it, sniffed
thereat and purred till she scented a Mouse within and went round
about it, seeking to enter and seize the inmate. When the Mouse
smelt the Cat, he turned his back to her and scraped up the earth
with his forehand, to stop the nest-door against her; whereupon
she assumed a weakly voice and said, " Why dost thou thus, O my
brother ? I come to seek refuge with thee, hoping that thou wilt
take pity on me and harbour me in thy nest this night ; for I am
weak because of the greatness of my age and the loss of my
strength, and can hardly move. I have ventured into thy garden

1 As the sequel shows the better title would be, " The Cat and the Mouse " as in the
headings of the Mac. Edit, and " What befel the Cat with the Mouse," as a punishment
for tyranny. But all three Edits, read as in the text and I have not cared to change it.
In our European adaptations the mouse becomes a rat.

2 So that I may not come to grief by thus daring to foretell evil things.

36 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

to-night, and how many a time have I called upon death, that I
might be at rest from this pain ! Behold, here am I at thy door,
prostrate for cold and rain and I beseech thee, by Allah, take of
thy chanty my hand and bring me in with thee and give me
shelter in the vestibule of thy nest ; for I am a stranger and
wretched and 'tis said : Whoso sheltereth a stranger and a
wretched one in his home his shelter shall be Paradise on the
Day of Doom. And thou, O my brother, it behoveth thee to
earn eternal reward by succouring me and suffering me abide
with thee this night till the morning, when I will wend my way."

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying

her permitted say.

Jloto tofjm it foas tfje Jtine ^unfcrtfr anU Jptrst Jltgfjt,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth
the Cat to the Mouse, " So suffer me to night with thee this night,
after which I will wend my way." Hearing these words the
Mouse replied, " How shall I suffer thee enter my nest seeing
that thou art my natural foe and thy food is of my flesh ? Indeed
I fear lest thou false me, for that is of thy nature and there is no
faith in thee, and the byword saith : It befitteth not to entrust a
lecher with a fair woman nor a moneyless man with money nor
fire with fuel. Neither doth it behove me to entrust myself to
thee ; and 'tis said : Enmity of kind, as the enemy himself
groweth weaker groweth stronger." The Cat made answer in the
faintest voice, as she were in most piteous case, saying, " What
thou advancest of admonitory instances is the truth and I deny
not my offences against thee ; but I beseech thee to pardon that
which is past of the enmity of kind between me and thee ; for
'tis said : Whoso forgiveth a creature like himself, his Creator
will forgive him his sins. 'Tis true that whilome I was thy foe,
but here am I a suitor for thy friendship, and they say, " An thou
wilt have thy foe become thy friend, do with him good. O my
brother, I swear to thee by Allah and make a binding covenant
with thee that I will hurt thee nevermore and for the best of
reasons, to wit, that I have no power thereto ; wherefore place thy
trust in Allah and do good and accept my oath and covenant."
Quoth the Mouse, " How can I accept the covenant of one between

The Mouse and the Cat. 37

whom and me there is a rooted enmity, and whose wont it is to
deal treacherously by me ? Were the feud between us aught but
one of blood, this were light to me; but it is an enmity of kind
between souls, and it is said : Whoso trusteth himself to his foe
is as one who thrusteth hand into a serpent's l mouth." Quoth
the Cat, full of wrath, " My breast is strait and my soul is faint :
indeed I am in arliculo mortis and ere long I shall die at thy door
and my blood will be on thy head, for that thou hadst it in thy
power to save me in mine extremity : and this is my last word to
thee." Herewith the fear of Allah Almighty overcame the Mouse
and ruth gat hold upon his heart and he said in himself, "Whoso
would have the succour of Allah the Most High against his foe,
let him entreat him with compassion and kindness show. I rely
upon the Almighty in this matter and will deliver this Cat from
this her strait and earn the divine reward for her." So he went
forth and dragged into his nest the Cat, where she abode till she
was rested and somewhat strengthened and restored, when she
began to bewail her weakness and wasted strength and want of
gossips. The Mouse entreated her in friendly guise and comforted
her and busied himself with her service ; but she crept along till
she got command of the issue of the nest, lest the Mouse should
escape. So when the nest-owner would have gone out after his
wont, he drew near the Cat ; whereupon she seized him and taking
him in her claws, began to bite him and shake him and take him
in her mouth and lift him up and cast him down and run after
him and cranch him and torture him. 2 The Mouse cried out for
help, beseeching deliverance of Allah and began to upbraid the
Cat, saying, "Where is the covenant thou madest with me and
where are the oaths thou swarest to me ? Is this my reward from

J Arab. "Af'a," pi. Afa'f =. 5< tSj both being derived from O. Egypt. Hfi, a
worm, snake. Af'a is applied to many species of the larger ophidia, all supposed to
be venomous, and synonymous with "Sail" (a malignant viper) in Al-Mutalammis.
See Preston's Al-Hariri, p. 101.

2 This apparently needless cruelty of all the feline race is a strong weapon in the
band of the Eastern " Dahri " who holds that the world is God and is governed by its
own laws, in opposition to the religionists believing in a Personal Deity whom, more-
over, they style the Merciful, the Compassionate, etc. Some Christians have opined
that cruelty came into the world with "original Sin;" but how do they account for
the hideous waste of life and the fearful destructiveness of the fishes which certainly
never learned anything from man? The mystery of the cruelty of things can be
explained only by a Law without a Law-giver.

38 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

thee ? I brought thee into my nest and trusted myself to thee :
but sooth he speaketh that saith : Whoso relieth on his enemy's
promise desireth not salvation for himself. And again : Whoso
confideth himself to his foe deserveth his own destruction. Yet
do I put my trust in my Creator, for He will deliver me from
thee." Now as he was in this condition, with the Cat about to
pounce on him and devour him, behold, up came a huntsman,
with hunting dogs trained to the chase. One of the hounds
passed by the mouth of the nest and hearing a great scuffling,
thought that within was a fox tearing somewhat ; so he crept into
the hole, to get at him, and coming upon the Cat, seized on her.
When she found herself in the dog's clutches, she was forced to
take thought anent saving herself and loosed the Mouse alive and
whole without wound. Then the hound brake her neck and
dragging her forth of the hole, threw her down dead : and thus
was exemplified the truth of the saying, "Who hath compassion
shall at the last be compassionated. Whoso oppresseth shall pre-
sently be oppressed." "This, then, O King," added the inter-
preter, " is what befel the Mouse and the Cat and teacheth that
none should break faith with those who put trust in him ; for who-
ever doth perfidy and treason, there shall befal him the like of
that which befel the Cat. As a man meteth, so shall it be meted
unto him, and he who betaketh himself to good shall gain his
eternal reward. But grieve thou not, neither let this trouble thee,
O King, for that assuredly thy son, after his tyranny and oppres-
sion, shall return to the goodliness of thy policy. And I would
that yon learned man, thy Wazir Shimas, had concealed from thee
naught in that which he expounded unto thee ; and this had been
well-advised of him, for 'tis said : Those of the folk who most
abound in fear are the amplest of them in knowledge and the
most emulous of good." The King received the interpreter's
speech with submission and gifted him and his fellows with rich
gifts ; then, dismissing them he arose and withdrew to his own
apartments and fell to pondering the issue of his affair. When
night came, he went in to one of his women, who was most in
favour with him and dearest to him of them all, and lay with

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 4 of 38)