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 6 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 6 of 38)
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of the wild beasts would flock to him ; but, when it was even-tide

1 Arab. " Sa'lab." See vol. in. 132, where it is a fox. I render it jackal because
that cousin of the fox figures as a carrion-eater in Hindu folk-lore, the Hitopadesa,
Panchopakhyan, etc. This tale, I need hardly say, is a mere translation ; as is shown
by the Katha s.s. " Both jackal and fox are nicknamed Joseph the Scribe (Talib Yusuf)
in the same principle that lawyers are called landsharks by sailors." (P. 65, Moorish
Lotus Leaves, etc., by George D. Cowan and R. L. N. Johnston, London, Tinsleys,

2 Arab. "Sahm mush'ab" not " barbed " (at the wings) but with double front, much
used for birding and at one time familiar in the West as in the East. And yet " barbed "
would make the fable read much better.

The Wild Ass and the Jackal. 49

and nothing fell to them, they returned to their abiding-places.
The Jackal, hearing the commotion at the mouth of his home, lay
quiet till nightfall, when he came forth of his lair, groaning for
weakness and hunger, and seeing the dead Ass lying at his door,
rejoiced with joy exceeding till he was like to fly for delight and
said, " Praised be Allah who hath won me my wish without toil !
Verily, I had lost hope of coming at a wild Ass or aught else ;
and assuredly ' the Almighty hath sent him to me and drave him
fall to my homestead." Then he sprang on the body and tearing
open its belly, thrust in his head and with his nose rummaged
about its entrails, till he found the heart and tearing a tid-bit
swallowed it : but, as soon as he had so done, the forked head of
the arrow struck deep in his gullet and he could neither get it
down into his belly nor bring it forth of his throttle. So he made
sure of destruction and said, " Of a truth it beseemeth not the
creature to seek for himself aught over and above that which
Allah hath allotted to him. Had I been content with what He
appointed to me, I had not come to destruction." " Wherefore,
O King," added the Wazir, " it becometh man to be content with
whatso Allah hath distributed to him and thank Him for His
bounties to him and cast not off hope of his Lord. And behold,
O King, because of the purity of thy purpose and the fair intent
of thy good works, Allah hath blessed thee with a son, after
despair : wherefore we pray the Almighty to vouchsafe him length
of days and abiding happiness and make him a blessed successor,
faithful in the observance of thy covenant, after thy long life."
Then arose the fourth Wazir and said, " Verily, an the King be a

man of understanding, a frequenter of the gates of wisdom,"

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

Nofo fofjen it foas tfje Nine p^unfrreti antr jFiftf) jtftQ&t,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
fourth Wazir arose and said, " Verily an the King be a man of
understanding, a frequenter of the gates of wisdom, versed in
science, government and policy, and eke upright in purpose and
just to his subjects, honouring those to whom honour is due,

1 Arab. " la'lla," usually = haply, belike; but used here and elsewhere = forsurs,

VOL ' IK.' D

5O A If Laylah wa Laylah.

revering those who are dign of reverence, tempering puissance
with using clemency whenas it behoveth, and protecting both
governors and governed, lightening all burthens for them and
bestowing largesse on them, sparing their blood and covering their
shame and keeping his troth with them. Such a King, I say, is
worthy of felicity both present and future worldly and other-
worldly, and this is of that which protecteth him from ill-will and
helpeth him to the stablishing of his Kingdom and the victory
over his enemies and the winning of his wish, together with in-
crease of Allah's bounty to him and His favouring him for his
praise of Him and the attainment of His protection. But an the
King be the contrary of this, he never ceaseth from misfortunes
and calamities, he and the people of his realm ; for that his op-
pression embraceth both stranger far and kinsman near and there
cometh to pass with him that which befel the unjust King with
the pilgrim Prince." King Jali'ad asked, "And how was that ?"
and the Wazir answered, " Hear, O King, the tale of


THERE was once in Mauritania-land 1 a King who exceeded in his
rule, a tyrant, violent and over severe, who had no respect for the
welfare or protection of his lieges nor of those who entered his
realm ; and from everyone who came within his Kingdom his
officers took four-fifths of his monies, leaving him one-fifth and
no more. Now Allah Almighty decreed that he should have a
son, who was fortunate and God-favoured and seeing the pomps
and vanities of this world to be transient as they are unrighteous,
renounced them in his youth and rejected the world and thai
which is therein and fared forth serving the Most High, wandering
pilgrim-wise over wolds and wastes and bytimes entering towns
and cities. One day, he came to his father's capital and the
guards laid hands on him and searched him but found naught

1 Arab. " Maghrib " (or in full Maghrib al-Aksa) lit. =the Land of the setting sun foi
whose relation to "Mauritania" see vol. vii. 220. It is almost synonymous wit!
" Al-Gharb" = the West whence Portugal borrowed the two Algarves, one being ii
Southern Europe and the other over the straits about Tangier-Ceuta ; fronting Spanisl
Trafalgar, i.e. Taraf al-Gharb, the edge of the West. I have noted (Pilgrimage i. 9^
the late Captain Peel's mis-translation " Cape of Laurels " (Al-Ghar).

The Unjust King and the Pilgrim Prince. 5 1

upon him save two gowns, one new and the other old. 1 So they
stripped the new one from him and left him the old, after they
had entreated him with contumely and contempt ; whereat he
complained and said, " Woe to you, O ye oppressors ! I am a
poor man and a pilgrim, 2 and what shall this gown by any means
profit you ? Except ye restore it to me, I will go to the King and
make complaint to him of you." They replied, " We act thus
by the King's command : so do what seemeth good to thee."
Accordingly he betook himself to the King's palace and would
have entered ; but the chamberlains denied him admittance, and
he turned away, saying in himself, "There is nothing for me
except to watch till he cometh out and complain to him of my
case and that which hath befallen me." And whilst he waited,
behold, he heard one of the guards announce the King's faring
forth ; whereupon he crept up, little by little, till he stood before
the gate ; and presently when the King came out, he threw him-
self in his way and after blessing him and wishing him weal, he
made his complaint to him informing him how scurvily he had
been entreated by the gatekeepers. Lastly he gave him to know
that he was a man of the people of Allah 3 who had rejected the
world seeking acceptance of Allah and who went wandering over
earth and entering every city and hamlet, whilst all the folk he
met gave him alms according to their competence. " I entered
this thy city " (continued he), " hoping that the folk would deal
kindly and graciously with me as with others of my condition 4 ;
but thy followers stopped me and stripped me of one of my gowns
and loaded me with blows. Wherefore do thou look into my case
and take me by the hand and get me back my gown and I will
not abide in thy city an hour. Quoth the unjust King, " Who
directed thee to enter this city, unknowing the custom of its
King ? "; and quoth the pilgrim, " Give me back my gown and do
with me what thou wilt." Now when the King heard this, his

1 Even the poorest of Moslem wanderers tries to bear with him a new suit of clothes
for keeping the two festivals and Friday service in the Mosque. See Pilgrimage i. 235 ;
iii. 257, etc.

J Arab. "Sayih " lit. a wanderer, subaudi for religious and ascetic objects ; and not
to be confounded with the " pilgrim " proper.

3 i.e. a Religious, a wandering beggar.

* This was the custom of the whole Moslem world and still is where uncorrupted by
Christian uncharity and contempt for all "men of God " save its own. But the change
in such places as Egypt is complete and irrevocable. Even in 1852 my Dervish's frock
brought me nothing but contempt in Alexandria and Cairo.

52 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

temper changed for the worse and he said, " O fool, 1 we strippe<
thee of thy gown, so thou mightest humble thyself to us ; bu
since thou makest this clamour I will strip thy soul from thee. 1
Then he commanded to cast him into gaol, where he began t<
repent of having answered the King and reproached himself fo
not having left him the gown and saved his life. When it was th<
middle of the night, he rose to Tiis feet and prayed long anc
prayerfully, saying, U O Allah, Thou art the Righteous Judge
Thou knowest my case and that which hath befallen me with this
tyrannical King, and I, Thine oppressed servant, beseech Thee
of the abundance of Thy mercy, to deliver me from the hand o
this unjust ruler and send down on him Thy vengeance ; for Thoi
art not unmindful of the unright of every oppressor. Wherefore
if Thou know that he hath wronged me, loose on him Thy ven
geance this night and send down on him Thy punishment ; foi
Thy rule is just and Thou art the Helper of every mourner, C
Thou to whom belong the power and the glory to the end o
time ! " When the gaoler heard the prayer of the poor prisoner
he trembled in every limb, and behold, a fire suddenly broke oul
in the King's palace and consumed it and all that were therein
even to the door of the prison, 2 and none was spared but the
gaoler and the pilgrim. Now when the gaoler saw this, he knevi
that it had not befallen save because of the pilgrim's prayer ; sc
he loosed him and fleeing with him forth of the burning, betook
himself, he and the King's son, to another city. So was th<
unjust King consumed, he and all his city, by reason of his in-
justice, and he lost the goods both of this world and the next
world. " As for us, O auspicious King" continued the Wazir
" we neither lie down nor rise up without praying for thee anc
thanking Allah the Most High for His grace in giving thee to us
tranquil in reliance on thy justice and the excellence of thj
governance ; and sore indeed was our care for thy lack of a son
to inherit thy kingdom, fearing lest after thee there betide us s
King unlike thee. But now the Almighty hath bestowed Hif
favours upon us and done away our concern and brought us glad-
ness in the birth of this blessed child ; wherefore we beseech the

1 Arab " Ya jahil," lit. =O ignorant. The popular word is Ahmak which, however,
in the West means a maniac, a madman, a Santon ; "Bohli " being = a fool.

2 The prison according to the practice of the East being in the palace : so th
Moorish " Kasbah," which lodges the Governor and his guard, always contains the jafl.

The Crows and tlie Hawk. 53

Lord to make him a worthy successor to thee and endow him
with glory and felicity enduring and good abiding." Then rose

the fifth Wazir and said, "Blessed be the Most High, And

Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her per-
mitted say.

Noto fofjcn it teas tfjc Nine ^un&retr anfc &>txt& Nigfjt,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
fifth Wazir said, " Blessed be the Most High, Giver of all good
gifts and graces the most precious ! But to continue : we are well
assured that Allah favoureth whoso are thankful to Him and
mindful of His faith ; and thou, O auspicious King, art far-famed
for these illustrious virtues and for justice and equitable dealing
between subject and subject and in that which is acceptable to
Allah Almighty. By reason of this hath the Lord exalted thy
dignity and prospered thy days and bestowed on thee the good
gift of this august child, after despair, wherefrom there hath betided
us gladness abiding and joys which may not be cut off; for we
before this were in exceeding cark and passing care, because of thy
lack of issue, and full of concern bethinking us of all thy justice
and gentle dealing with us and fearful lest Allah decree death to>
thee and there be none to succeed thee and inherit the kingdom;
after thee, and so we be divided in our counsels and dissensions
arise between us and there befal us what befel the Crows." Asked
the King, " And what befel the Crows ? "; and the Wazir answered
saying, " Hear O auspicious King, the tale of


THERE was once, in a certain desert, a spacious Wady, full of rills
and trees and fruits and birds singing the praises of Allah the One
of All-might, Creator of day and night; and among them was a
troop of Crows, which led the happiest of lives. Now they were
under the sway and government of a Crow who ruled them with
mildness and benignity, so that they were with him in peace and
contentment; and by reason of their wisely ordering their affairs,
none of the other birds could avail against them. Presently it
chanced that there befel their chief the doom irrevocably appointed

54 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

to all creatures and he departed life^ ; whereupon the others
mourned for him with sore mourning, and what added to their grief
was that there abided not amongst them like him one who should
fill his place. So they all assembled and took counsel together
concerning whom it befitted for his goodness and piety to set over
them : and a party of them choose one Crow, saying, " It
beseemeth that this be King over us ;" whilst others objected to
him and would none of him ; and thus there arose division and
dissension amidst them and the strife of excitement waxed hot
between them. At last they agreed amongst themselves and con-
sented to sleep the night upon it and that none should go forth at
dawn next day to seek his living, but that all must wait till high
morning, when they should gather together all in one place.
" Then," said they," we will all take flight at once and whichsoever
shall soar above the rest in his flying, he shall be accepted of us as
ruler and be made King over us." The fancy pleased them ; so
they made covenant together and did as they had agreed and took
flight all, but each of them deemed himself higher than his fellow ;
wherefore quoth this one, ;t I am highest," and that, " Nay ; that
am I." Then said the lowest of them, " Look up, all of you, and
whomsoever ye find the highest of you, let him be your chief." So
they raised their eyes and seeing the Hawk soaring over them, said
each to other, " We agreed that which bird soever should be the
highest of us we will make king over us, and behold, the Hawk is
the highest of us : what say ye to him ? " And they all cried out,
" We accept of him." Accordingly they summoned the Hawk and
said to him, " O Father of Good, 2 we have chosen thee ruler over
us, that thou mayst look into our affair." The Hawk consented,
saying, " Inshallah, ye shall win of me abounding weal." So they
rejoiced and made him their King. But after awhile, he fell to
taking a company of them every day and betaking himself with
them afar off to one of the caves, where he struck them down and
eating their eyes and brains, threw their bodies into the river.
And he ceased not doing on this wise, it being his intent to destroy
them all till, seeing their number daily diminishing, the Crows-
flocked to him and said, " O our King, we complain to thee because

1 Arab. " Tuwuffiya," lit.= was received (into the grace of God), an euphemistic and
more polite term than " mata " = he died. The latter ferm is avoided by the Founder
of Christianity ; and our Spiritualists now say "passed away to a higher life," a phrase
embodying a theory which, to say the least, is " not proven."

J Arab. " Y Aba al-Khayr " = our my good lord, sir, fellow, etc.

The Crows and the Hawk. 55

from the date we made thee Sovran and ruler over us, we are in the
sorriest case and every day a company of us is missing and we
know not the reason of this, more by token that the most part
thereof are the high in rank and of those in attendance on thee.
We must now look after our own safety." Thereupon the Hawk
waxed wroth with them and said to them, " Verily, ye are the
murtherers, and ye forestall me with accusation ! " So saying, he
pounced upon them and tearing to pieces half a score of their
chiefs in front of the rest, threatened them and drave them out
sorely cuffed and beaten, from before him. Hereat they repented
them of that which they had done and said, " We have known no
good since the death of our first King especially in the deed of this
stranger in kind ; but we deserve our sufferings even had he
destroyed us one by one to the last of us, and there is exemplified
in us the saying of him that saith, " Whoso submitteth him not to
the rule of his own folk, the foe hath dominion over him, of his
folly." And now there is nothing for it but to flee for our lives,
else shall we perish." So they took flight and dispersed to various
places. " And we also, O King," continued the Wazir, " feared
lest the like of this befal us and there become ruler over us a
King other than thyself; but Allah hath vouchsafed us this boon
and hath sent us this blessed child, and now we are assured of
peace and union and security and prosperity in our Mother-land.
So lauded be Almighty Allah and to Him be praise and thanks
and goodly gratitude ! And may He bless the King and us all his
subjects and vouchsafe unto us and him the acme of felicity and
make his life-tide happy and his endeavour constant ! * Then
arose the sixth Wazir and said, " Allah favour thee with all felicity,
O King, in this world and in the next world ! Verily, the ancients
have left us this saying : Whoso prayeth and fasteth and giveth
parents their due and is just in his rule meeteth his Lord and He
is well pleased with him. Thou hast been set over us and hast
ruled us justly and thine every step in this hath been blessed ;
wherefore we beseech Allah Almighty to make great thy reward
eternal and requite thee thy beneficence. I have heard what this
wise man hath said respecting our fear for the loss of our pros-
perity, by reason of the death of the King or the advent of another
who should not be his parallel, and how after him dissensions would
be rife among us and calamity betide from our division and how it
behoved us therefore to be instant in prayer to Allah the Most
High, so haply He might vouchsafe the King a happy son, to

56 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

inherit the kingship after him. But, after all, the issue of that:
which man desireth of mundane goods and wherefor he lusteth is
unknown to him and consequently it behoveth a mortal to ask not
of his Lord a thing whose end he wotteth not ; for that haply the
hurt of that thing is nearer to him than its gain and his destruction
may be in that he seeketh and there may befal him what befel the
Serpent-charmer, his wife and children and the folk of his house.
- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying
her permitted say.

TXTofo fofjen it teas tfje Nine f^un&ttlf an* &ebentf). tf t'gfjt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
sixth Wazir said, " It behoveth not a man to ask of his Lord aught
whereof he ignoreth the issue for that haply the hurt of that thing
may be nearer than its gain, his destruction may be in that he
seeketh and there may befal him what befel the Serpent-charmer,
his children, his wife and his household," the King asked,
" What was that ? " ; and the Wazir answered, " Hear, O King the
tale of


THERE was once a man, a Serpent-charmer, 1 who used to train
serpents, and this was his trade ; and he had a great basket, 2
wherein were three snakes but the people of his house knew this
not. Every day he used to go round with this pannier about the
town gaining his living and that of his family by showing the
snakes, and at eventide he returned to his house and clapped them
back into the basket privily. This lasted a long while ; but it
chanced one day, when he came home, as was his wont, his wife asked

1 Arab. " Hawi " from " Hayyah," a serpent. See vol. iii. 145. Most of the Egyp-
tian snake-charmers are Gypsies, but they do not like to be told of their origin. At
Baroda in Guzerat I took lessons in snake-catching, but found the sport too danger-
ous ; when the animal flies, the tail is caught by the left hand and the right is slipped up
to the neck, a delicate process, as a few inches too far or not far enough would be fol-
lowed by certain death in catching a Cobra. At last certain of my messmates killed one
of the captives and the snake-charmer would have no more to do with me.

2 Arab. "Sallah," also Pers., a basket of wickerwork. This article is everywhere
used for lodging snakes from Egypt to Morocco.

The Serpent Charmer and his Wife. 57

him, saying, " What is in this pannier ? " ; and he replied, " What
wouldest thou with it ? Is not provision plentiful with you ? Be thou
content with that which Allah hath allotted to thee and ask not of
aught else." With this the woman held her peace ; but she said
in herself, " There is no help but that I search this basket and
know what is there." So she egged on her children and enjoined
them to ask him of the pannier and importune him with their
questions, till he should tell them what was therein. They pre-
sently concluded that it contained something to eat and sought
every day of their father that he should show them what was
therein ; and he still put them off with pleasant pretences and
forbade them from asking this. On such wise they abode awhile,
the wife and mother still persisting in her quest till they agreed
with her that they would neither eat meat nor drain drink with
their father, till he granted them their prayer and opened the
basket to them. One night, behold, the Serpent-charmer came
home with great plenty of meat and drink and took his seat
calling them to eat with him : but they refused his company and
showed him anger ; whereupon he began to coax them with fair
words, saying, " Lookye, tell me what you would have, that I may
bring it you, be it meat or drink or raiment." Answered they,
" O our father, we want nothing of thee but that thou open this
pannier that we may see what is therein : else we will slay our-
selves." He rejoined, " O my children, there is nothing good for
you therein and indeed the opening of it will be harmful to you."
Hereat they redoubled in rage for all he could say, which when he
saw, he began to scold them and threaten them with beating,
except they returned from such condition ; but they only increased
in anger and persistence in asking, till at last he waxed wroth and
took a staff to beat them, and they fled from before him within
the house. Now the basket was present and the Serpent-charmer
had not hidden it anywhere ; so his wife left him occupied with
the children and opened the pannier in haste, that she might see
what was therein. Thereupon behold, the serpents came out and
first struck their fangs into her and killed her ; then they hied,
round about the house and slew all, great and small, who were
therein ; except the Serpent-charmer, who left the place and went
his way. " If then, O auspicious King," continued the Wazir,
" thou consider this, thou wilt be convinced that it is not for a
man to desire aught save that which God the Great refuseth not
to him ; nay, he should be content with what He willeth. And

58 A If Lay la h wa Laylah.

thou, O King 1 , for the overflowing of thy wisdom and the excellence
of thine understanding, Allah hath cooled thine eyes with the
advent of this thy son, after despair, and hath comforted thy heart ;
wherefore we pray the Almighty to make him of the just succes-
sors acceptable to Himself and to his subjects." Then rose the
seventh Wazir and said, " O King, I know and certify all that my
brethren, these Ministers wise and learned, have said in the pre-
sence, praising thy justice and the goodness of thy policy and
proving how thou art distinguished in this from all Kings other
than thyself ; wherefore they gave thee the preference over them.
Indeed, this be of that which is incumbent on us, O King, and I
say: Praised be Allah in that He hath guerdoned thee with His
gifts and vouchsafed thee of His mercy, the welfare of the realm ;
and hath succoured thee and ourselves, on condition that we in-
crease in gratitude to Him ; and all this no otherwise than by
thine existence! What while thou remainest amongst us, we

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 6 of 38)