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 5 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 5 of 38)
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her : and ere some four months had passed over her, the child
stirred in her womb, whereat she rejoiced with joy exceeding and
told the King. Quoth he, " My dream said sooth, by Allah the
Helper ! " ; and he lodged her in the goodliest of lodgings and

King Jalfad of Hind and his Wazir Shimas. 39

entreated her with all honour, bestowing on her store of rich gifts
and manifold boons. Then he sent one of his pages to fetch
his Wazir Shimas and as soon as he was in the presence told the
Minister what had betided, rejoicing and saying, " My dream is
come true and I have won my wish. It may be this burthen will
be a man-child and inherit the Kingship after me ; what sayest
thou of this, O Shimas ? " But he was silent and made no reply,
whereupon cried the King, " What aileth thee that thou rejoicest
not in my joy and returnest me no answer ? Doth the thing
mislike thee, O Shimas?" Hereat the Wazir prostrated himself
before him and said, " O King, may Allah prolong thy life ! What
availeth it to sit under the shade of a tree, if there issue fire there
from, and what is the delight of one who drinketh pure wine, if he
be choked thereby, and what doth it profit to quench one's thirst
with sweet cool water, if one be drowned therein ? I am Allah's
servant and thine, O King; but there are three things 1 whereof it
besitteth not the understanding to speak, till they be accomplished ;
to wit, the wayfarer, till he return from his way, the man who is in
fight, till he have overcome his foe, and the pregnant woman, till

she have cast her burthen. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn

of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

jfiofo fofjen it teas t&e Nine f^un&tefc antr &econ&

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that after
Shimas had enumerated to the King the three things whereof it
besitteth not the understanding to speak save after they are done,
he continued, ' For know, O King, that he, who speaketh of aught
before its accomplishment is like the Fakir who had hung over his
head the jar of clarified butter. 2 " " What is the story of the
Fakir," asked the King, " and what happened to him ?" Answered
the Wazir, " O King, they tell this tale anent

1 The three things not to be praised before death in Southern Europe are a horse, a
priest and a woman ; and it has become a popular saying that only fools prophesy
before the event.

* Arab, " Samn " = butter melted and skimmed. See vol. i. 144.

4O Alf Laylah wa Laylah.


A FAKIR 2 abode once with one of the nobles of a certain town,
who made him a daily allowance of three scones and a little
clarified butter and honey. Now such butter was dear in those
parts and the Devotee laid all that came to him together in a jar
he had, till he filled it and hung it up over his head for safe
keeping. One night, as he sat on his bed staff in hand, he fell a-
musing upon the butter and the greatness of its price and said in
himself: Needs must I sell all this butter I have by me and buy
with the price an ewe and take to partner therein a Fellah 3 fellow
who hath a ram. The first year she will bear a male lamb and a
female and the second a female and a male and these in their turn
will bear other males and other females, nor will they give over
bearing females and males, till they become a great matter. Then
will I take my share and vent thereof what I will. The males I
will sell and buy with them bulls and cows, which will also increase
and multiply and become many; after which I will purchase such
a piece of land and plant a garden therein and build thereon a
mighty fine 4 palace. Moreover, I will get me robes and raiment
and slaves and slave-girls and hold a wedding never was seen the
like thereof. I will slaughter cattle and make rich meats and
sweetmeats and confections and assemble all the musicians and
mimes and mountebanks and player-folk and after providing
flowers and perfumes and all manner sweet herbs I will bid rich
and poor, Fakirs and Olema, captains and lords of the land, and
whoso asketh for aught, I will cause it to be brought him ; and, I

1 This is a mere rechauffe of the Barber's tale of his Fifth Brother (vol. i. 335). In
addition to the authorities there cited I may mention the school reading-lesson in
Addison's Spectator derived from Galland's version of " Alnaschar and his basket of
Glass ;" the Persian version of the Hitopadesa or "Anwar-i-Suhayli (Lights of Canopes)
by Husayn Va'iz; the Foolish Sachali of " Indian Fairy Tales "(Miss Stokes); the
allusion in Rabelais to the fate of the " Shoemaker and his pitcher of milk " and the
" Dialogues of creatures moralised" (1516), whence probably La Fontaine drew his
fable, " La Laitiere et le Pot au lait."

2 Arab. " Nasik," a religious, a man of Allah from Nask, devotion : somewhat like
Salik (Dabistan iii. 251).

3 The well-known Egyptian term for a peasant, a husbandman, extending from the
Nile to beyond Mount Atlas.

4 This is again, I note, the slang sense of " "Azim," which in classical Arabic means
simply great.

The Fakir and his Jar of Butter. 41

will make ready all manner of meat and drink and send out a
crier to cry aloud and say, " Whoso seeketh aught, let him ask and
get it." Lastly I will go in to my bride, after her unveiling and
enjoy her beauty and loveliness; and I will eat and drink and
make merry and say to myself, " Verily, hast thou won thy wish,"
and will rest from devotion and divine worship. Then in due time
my wife will bear me a boy, and I shall rejoice in him and make
banquets in his honour and rear him daintily and teach him
philosophy and mathematics and polite letters ; l so that I shall
make his name renowned among men and glory in him among the
assemblies of the learned ; and I will bid him do good and he
shall not gainsay me, and I will forbid him from levvdness and
iniquity and exhort him to piety and the practice of righteousness ;
and, I will bestow on him rich and goodly gifts; and, if I see him
obsequious in obedience, I will redouble my bounties towards him :
but, an I see him incline to disobedience, I will come down on him
with this staff. So saying, he raised his hand, to beat his son
withal but the staff hit the jar of butter which overhung his head,
and brake it ; whereupon the shards fell upon him and the butter
ran down upon his head, his rags and his beard. So his clothes
and bed were spoiled and he became a caution to whoso will be
cautioned. " Wherefore, O King," added the Wazir, " it behoveth
not a man to speak of aught ere it come to pass." Answered the
King, " Thou sayest sooth ! Fair fall thee for a Wazir ! Verily the
truth thou speakest and righteousness thou counsellest. Indeed,
thy rank with me is such as thou couldst wish 2 and thou shalt
never cease to be accepted of me." Thereupon the Wazir pros-
trated himself before the King and wished him permanence of
prosperity, saying, " Allah prolong thy days and thy rank upraise!
Know that I conceal from thee naught, nor in private nor in public
aught ; thy pleasure is my pleasure, and thy displeasure my dis-
pleasure. There is no joy for me save in thy joyance and I cannot
sleep o' nights an thou be angered against me, for that Allah the
Most High hath vouchsafed me all good through thy bounties to
me ; wherefore I beseech the Almighty to guard thee with His

1 Arab. " Adab " ; see vol. i. 132. It also implies mental discipline, the culture
which leads to excellence, good manners and good morals ; and it is sometimes synony-
mous with literary skill and scholarship. " Ilm al-Adab," says Haji Khalfah (Lane's
Lex.), " is the science whereby man guards against error in the language of the Arabs
spoken or written."

2 i.e. I esteem thee as thou deservest.

4 2 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

angels, and to make fair thy reward whenas thou meetest Him."
The King rejoiced in this, whereupon Shimas arose and went out
from before him. In due time the King's wife bare a male child,
and the messengers hastened to bear the glad tidings and to con-
gratulate the Sovran, who rejoiced therein with joy exceeding and
thanked all with abundant thanks, saying, " Alhamdolillah laud
to the Lord who hath vouchsafed me a son, after I had despaired,
for He is pitiful and ruthful to His servants." Then he wrote to
all the lieges of his land, acquainting them with the good news
and bidding them to his capital ; and great were the rejoicings and
festivities in all the realm. Accordingly there came Emirs and
Captains, Grandees and Sages, Olema and literati, scientists and
philosophers from every quarter to the palace and all presenting
themselves before the King, company after company, according to
their different degrees, gave him joy, and he bestowed largesse
upon them. Then he signed to the seven chief Wazirs, whose
head was Shimas, to speak, each after the measure of his wisdom,
upon the matter which concerned him the most. So the Grand
Wazir Shimas began and sought leave of the King to speak, which
being granted, he spake as follows. 1 " Praised be Allah who
brought us into existence from non-existence and who favoureth
His servants with Kings that observe justice and equity in that
wherewith He hath invested them of rule and dominion, and who
act righteously with that which he appointeth at their hands of
provision for their lieges ; and most especially our Sovereign by
whom He hath quickened the deadness of our land, with that
which He hath conferred upon us of bounties, and hath blessed us
of His protection with ease of life and tranquillity and fair dealing !
What King did ever with his folk that which this King hath done
with us in fulfilling our needs and giving us our dues and doing us
justice, one of other, and in abundant carefulness over us and
redress of our wrongs ? Indeed, it is of the favour of Allah to
the people that their King be assiduous in ordering their affairs
and in defending them from their foes ; for the end of the enemy's
intent is to subdue his enemy and hold him in his hand ; and
many peoples 2 bring their sons as servants unto Kings, and they

1 The style is intended to be worthy of the statesman. In my " Mission to Dahome "
the reader will find many a similar scene.

* The Bresl. Edit, (vol viii. 22) reads " Turks " or "The Turk " in lieu of " many

The Fishes and the Crab. 43

become with them in the stead of slaves, to the intent that they
may repel ill-willers from them. 1 As for us, no enemy hath
trodden our soil in the days of this our King, by reason of this
passing good fortune and exceeding happiness, that no describer
may avail to describe, for indeed it is above and beyond all
description. And verily, O King, thou art worthy of this highest
happiness, and we are under thy safeguard and in the shadow of
thy wings, may Allah make fair thy reward and prolong thy life ! 3
Indeed, we have long been diligent in supplication to Allah
Almighty that He would vouchsafe an answer to our prayers and
continue thee to us and grant thee a virtuous son, to be the coolth
of thine eyes : and now Allah (extolled and exalted be He !) hath

accepted of us and replied to our petition " And Shahrazad

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

Koto fofjm ft foas t&e Nine f^un&retr anfc

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Shimas
the Wazir said to the King, "And now Almighty Allah hath
accepted of us and answered our petition and brought us speedy
relief, even as He did to the Fishes in the pond of water." The
King asked, " And how was that, and what is the tale ? " ; and
Shimas answered him, " Hear, O King the story of


IN a certain place there was a piece of water, wherein dwelt a
number of Fishes, and it befel that the pond dwindled away and
shrank and wasted, till there remained barely enough to suffice
them and they were nigh upon death and said, "What will become
of us ? How shall we contrive and of whom shall we seek counsel
for our deliverance ? " Thereupon arose one of them, who was the
chiefest in wit and age, and cried, " There is nothing will serve us

1 i.e. the parents.

2 The humour of this euphuistic Wazirial speech, purposely made somewhat pompous,
is the contrast between the unhappy Minister's praises and the result of his prognostica-
tion. I cannot refrain from complimenting Mr. Payne upon the admirable way in which
he has attacked and mastered all the difficulties of its abstniser passages.

44 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

save that we seek salvation of Allah ; but let us consult the Crab
and ask his advice: so come ye all 1 and hie we himwards and
hear his rede for indeed he is the chiefest and wisest of us all in
coming upon the truth." Each and every approved of the Fish's
advice and betook themselves in a body to the Crab, whom they
found squatted in his hole, without news or knowledge of their
strait. So they saluted him with the salam and said, " O our lord,
doth not our affair concern thee, who art ruler and the head of us?"
The Crab returned their salutation, replying, " And on you be The
Peace ! What aileth you and what d'ye want ? " So they told
him their case and the strait wherein they were by reason of the
wastage of the water, and that, when it should be dried up,
destruction would betide them, adding, " Wherefore we come to
thee, expecting thy counsel and what may bring us deliverance,
for thou art the chiefest and the most experienced of us." The
Crab bowed his head awhile and said, " Doubtless ye lack under-
standing, in that ye despair of the mercy of Allah Almighty and
His care for the provision of His creatures one and all. Know ye
not that Allah (extolled and exalted be He !) provideth all His
creatures without account and that He fore-ordained their daily
meat ere He created aught of creation and appointed to each of
His creatures a fixed term of life and an allotted provision, of His
divine All might ? How then shall we burthen ourselves with con-
cern for a thing which in His secret purpose is indite ? Wherefore
it is my rede that ye can do naught better than to seek aid of
Allah Almighty, and it behoveth each of us to clear his conscience
with his Lord, both in public and private, and pray Him to succour
us and deliver us from our difficulties ; for Allah the Most High
disappointeth not the expectation of those who put their trust in
Him and rejecteth not the supplications of those who prefer their
suit to Him. When we have mended our ways, our affairs will be
set up and all will be well with us, and when the winter cometh
and our land is deluged, by means of a just one's prayer, He will
not cast down the good He hath built up. So 'tis my counsel that

1 Arab. " Halummu " plur. of " Halumma" = draw near ! The latter form is used
by some tribes for all three numbers ; others affect a dual and a plural (as in the text).
Preston (Al-Hariri, p. 210) derives it from Heb. DvH but the geographers of Kufeh
and Basrah (who were not etymologists) are divided about its origin. He translates
(p. 221) " Halumma Jarran "=being the rest of the tale in continuation with this, i.e.
in accordance with it, like our "and so forth." And in p. 271, he makes Halumma =
Hayya i.e. hither ! (to prayer, etc).

The Fishes and the Crab. 45

we take patience and await what Allah shall do with us. An
death come to us, as is wont, we shall be at rest, and if there befal
us aught that calleth for flight, we will flee and depart our land
whither Allah will." 1 Answered all the fishes with one voice
" Thou sayst sooth, O our lord : Allah requite thee for us with
weal !" Then each returned to his stead, and in a few days the
Almighty vouchsafed unto them a violent rain and the place of
the pond was filled fuller than before. " On like wise, O King,"
continued Shimas, " we despaired of a child being born to thee,
and now that God hath blessed us and thee with this well-omened
son, we implore Him to render him blessed indeed and make him
the coolth of thine eyes and a worthy successor to thee and grant
us of him the like of that which He hath granted us of thee ; for
Almighty Allah disappointeth not those that seek Him and it
behoveth none to cut off hope of the mercy of his God." Then,
rose the second Wazir and saluting the King with the salam spake,
after his greeting was returned, as follows : " Verily, a King is not
called a King save he give presents and do justice and rule with
equity and show munificence and wisely govern his lieges, main-
taining the obligatory laws and apostolic usages established among
them and justifying them, one against other, and sparing their
blood and warding off hurt from them ; and of his qualities should
be that he never abide incurious of the poor and that he succour
the highest and lowest of them and give them each the rights to
them due, so that they all bless him and are obedient to his com-
mand. Without doubt, a King who is after this wise of his lieges
is beloved and gaineth of this world eminence and of the next
honour and favour with the Creator thereof. And we, the body
politic of thy subjects, acknowledge in thee, O King, all the
attributes of kingship I have noted, even as it is said: The best of
things is that the King of a people be just and equitable, their
physician skilful and their teacher experience-full, acting according
to his knowledge. Now we enjoy this happiness, after we had

1 This is precisely the semi-fatalistic and wholly superstitious address which would find
favour with Moslems of the present day : they still prefer " calling upon Hercules" to
putting their shoulders to the wheel. Mr. Redhouse had done good work in his day but
of late he has devoted himself, especially in the "Mesnevi," to a rapproachement between
Al-Islamand Christianity which both would reject (see supra, vol. vii. p. 135). The
Calvinistic predestination as shown in the term "vessel of wrath," is but a feeble
reflection of Moslem fatalism. On this subject I shall have more to say in a future

46 Alf Laylah iva Laylah.

despaired of the birth of a son to thee, to inherit thy kingship ;
however, Allah (extolled be His name !) hath not disappointed
thine expectation, but hath granted thy petition, by reason of the
goodliness of thy trust in Him and thy submission of thine affairs
to Him. Then fair fall thy hope ! There hath betided thee that
which betided the Crow and the Serpent.'' Asked the King,
" What was that ? J '; and the Wazir answered; " Hear, O King, the
tale of


A CROW once dwelt in a tree, he and his wife, in all delight of life,
till they came to the time of the hatching of their young, which
was the midsummer season, when a Serpent issued from its hole
and crawled up the tree wriggling around the branches till it came
to the Crows' nest, where it coiled itself up and there abode all
the days of the summer, whilst the Crow was driven away and
found no opportunity to clear his home nor any place wherein to
lie. When the days of heat were past, the Serpent went away to
its own place and quoth the Crow' to his wife, " Let us thank
Almighty Allah, who hath preserved us and delivered us from
this Serpent, albeit we are forbidden from increase this year. Yet
the Lord will not cut off our hope ; so let us express our gratitude
to Him for having vouchsafed us safety and soundness of body:
indeed, we have none other in whom to confide, and if He will
and we live to see the next year, He shall give us other young in
the stead of those we have missed this year." Next summer when
the hatching-season came round, the Serpent again sallied forth
from its place and made for the Crows' nest : but, as it was coiling
up a branch, a kite swooped down on it and struck claws into its
head and tare it, whereupon it fell to the ground a-swoon, and the
ants came out upon it and ate it." 1 So the Crow and his wife

1 The inhabitants of temperate climates have no idea what ants can do in the tropics.
The Kafirs of South Africa used to stake down their prisoners (among them a poor
friend of mine) upon an ant-hill and they were eaten atom after atom in a few hours.
The death must be the slowest form of torture ; but probably the nervous system soon
becomes insensible. The same has happened to more than one hapless invalid, help-
lessly bedridden, in Western Africa. I have described an invasion of ants in my
"Zanzibar," vol. ii. 169; and have suffered from such attacks in many places between
that and Dahomey.

The Crow and the Serpent. 47

abode in peace and quiet and bred a numerous brood and thanked 1
Allah for their safety and for the young that were born to them.
In like manner, O King, continued the Wazir, " it behoveth us to
thank God for that wherewith He hath favoured thee and us in
vouchsafing us this blessed child of good omen, after despair and
the cutting off of hope. May He make fair thy future reward

and the issue of thine affair !" And Shahrazad perceived the

dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

jiofo fo&cn it teas t&* Nine ^unfcrrti an* Jourtb Jiigfjt,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
the second Wazir had ended with the words, "Allah make fair
thy future reward and the issue of thine affair ! "; the third Wazir
presently rose and said, " Rejoice, O just King, in the assurance
of present prosperity and future felicity ; for him. whom the deni-
zens of Earth love, the denizens of Heaven likewise love ; and
indeed Almighty Allah hath made affection to be thy portion
and hath stablished it in the hearts of the people of thy kingdom ;
wherefore to Him be thanks and praise from us and from thee, so
He may deign increase His bounty unto thee and unto us in thee!
For know, O King, that man can originate naught but by command
of Allah the Most High and that He is the Giver and all good
which befalleth a creature hath its end and issue in Him. He
allotteth His favours to His creatures, as it liketh Him ; to some
he giveth gifts galore while others He doometh barely to win their
daily bread. Some He maketh Lords and Captains, and others
Recluses, who abstain from the world and aspire but to Him, for
He it is who saith : I am the Harmer with adversity and the
Healer with prosperity. I make whole and make sick. I enrich
and impoverish. I kill and quicken : in my hand is everything
and unto Me all things do tend. Wherefore it behoveth all men
to praise Him. Now, especially thou, O King, art of the fortunate,
the pious, of whom it is said : The happiest of the just is he for
whom Allah uniteth the weal of this world and of the next world ;
who is content with that portion which Allah allotteth to him and
who giveth Him thanks for that which He hath stablished. And
indeed he that is rebellious and seeketh other than the dole which
God hath decreed unto him and for him, favoureth the wild Ass

48 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

and the Jackal." The King asked, " And what is the story of
the twain ? "; the Wazir answered, " Hear, O King, the tale of


r A CERTAIN Jackal was wont every day to leave his lair and fare
forth questing his daily bread. Now one day, as he was in a certain
mountain, behold, the day was done and he set out to return when
he fell in with another Jackal who saw him on the tramp, and each
began to tell his mate of the quarry he had gotten. Quoth one
of them, " The other day I came upon a wild Ass and I was
an-hungred, for it was three days since I had eaten ; so I rejoiced
in this and thanked Almighty Allah for bringing him into my
power. Then I tare out his heart and ate it and was full and
returned to my home. That was three days ago, since which
time I have found nothing to eat, yet am I still full of meat."
When the other Jackal heard his fellow's story, he envied his
fulness and said in himself, " There is no help but that I eat the
heart of a wild Ass." So he left feeding for some days, till he became
emaciated and nigh upon death and bestirred not himself neither
did his endeavour to get food, but lay coiled up in his earth. And
whilst he was thus, behold, one day there came out two hunters
trudging in quest of quarry and started a wild Ass. They followed
on his trail tracking him all day, till at last one of them shot at
him a forked 2 arrow, which pierced his vitals and reached his heart
and killed him in front of the Jackal's hole. Then the hunters
came up and finding him dead, pulled out the shaft from his heart,
but only the wood came away and the forked head abode in the
Ass's belly. So they left him where he lay, expecting that others

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 5 of 38)