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 7 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 7 of 38)
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fear not oppression neither dread unright, nor can any take long-
handed advantage of our weakness ! and indeed it is said, The
greatest good of a people is a just King and their greatest ill an
unjust King ; and again, Better dwell with rending lions than with
a tyrannous Sultan. So praised be Almighty Allah with eternal
praise for that He hath blessed us with thy life and vouchsafed
thee this blessed child, whenas thou wast stricken in years and
hadst despaired of issue ! For the goodliest of the gifts in this
world is a virtuous sire, and it is said, Whoso hath no progeny his
life is without result and he leaveth no memory. As for thee,
because of the righteousness of thy justice and thy pious reliance
on Allah the Most High, thou hast been vouchsafed this happy
son ; yea, this blessed ' child cometh as a gift from the Most High
Lord to us and to thee, for the excellence of thy governance and
the goodliness of thy long-sufferance; and in this thou hast fared
even as fared the Spider and the Wind." Asked the King,

" And what is the story of the Spider and the Wind ? " And

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

1 Arab. "Mubarak."' It is a favourite name for a slave in Morocco; the slave-girl
being called Mubarakah ; and the proverb being, " Blessed is the household which hath
neither M'bark nor M'barkah" (as they contract the words).

The Spider and the Wind.

Nofo fofjen ft foas tfje Nine pjuntorefc anfl <!Etgf)tf)

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
the King asked, " And what is the story of the twain ? " ; the Wazif
answered, " Give ear, O King, to the tale of


A SPIDER once attached herself to a high gate l and a retired
and span her web there and dwelt therein in peace, giving thanks
to the Almighty, who had made this dwelling-place easy to her
and had set her in safety from noxious reptiles. On this wise she
abode a long while, still giving thanks to Allah for her ease and
regular supply of daily bread, till her Creator bethought Him to
try her and make essay of her gratitude and patience. So he
sent upon her a strong east Wind, which carried her away, web
and all, and cast her into the main. The waves washed her ashore
and she thanked the Lord for safety and began to upbraid the
Wind, saying, " O Wind, why hast thou dealt thus with me and
what good hast thou gotten by bearing me hither from my abiding-
place, where indeed I was in safety, secure in my home on the top
of that gate ? " Replied the Wind, saying, " O Spider, hast thou
not learnt that this world is a house of calamities ; and, say me,
who can boast of lasting happiness that such portion shall be
thine? Wottest thou not that Allah tempteth His creatures in
order to learn by trial what may be their powers of patience ?
How, then, doth it beset thee to upbraid me, thou who hast been
saved by me from the vasty deep ? " " Thy words are true, O
Wind," replied the Spider, " yet not the less do I desire to escape
from this stranger land into which thy violence hath cast me."
The Wind rejoined, " Cease thy blaming ; for right soon I will
bear thee back and replace thee in thy place, as thou wast afore-
time." So the Spider waited patiently, till the north-east Wind
left blowing and there arose a south-west Wind, which gently
caught her up and flew with her towards her dwelling-place ; and

1 The Bresl. Edit. (viii. 48) instead of the Gate (Bab) gives a Badhanj = a Ventila-
tor ; for which latter rendering see vol. i. 257. The spider's web is Koranic (Ixxxi. 40)
" Verily frailest of all houses is the house of the spider/'

60 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

when she came to her abode, she knew it and clung to it. " And
we," continued the Wazir, " beseech Allah (who hath rewarded
the King for his singleness of heart and patience and hath taken
pity on his subjects and blessed them with His favour, and ' hath
vouchsafed the King this son in his old age, after he had despaired
of issue and removed him not from the world, till He had blessed
him with coolth of eyes and bestowed on him what He hath
bestowed of Kingship and Empire !) to vouchsafe unto thy son
that which He hath vouchsafed unto thee of dominion and
Sultanship and glory! Amen." Then said the King, " Praised
be Allah over all praise and thanks be to Him over all thanks !
There is no god but He, the Creator of all things, by the light of
whose signs we know the glory of His greatness and who giveth
kingship and command over his own country to whom He willeth
of His servants ! He chooseth of them whomso He please to
make him His viceroy and viceregent over His creatures and
commandeth him to just and equitable dealing with them and
the maintenance of religious laws and practices and right conduct
and constancy in ordering their affairs to that which is most
acceptable to Him and most grateful to them. Whoso doth thus
and obeyeth the commandment of his Lord, his desire attaineth
and the orders of his God maintaineth ; so Providence preserveth
him from the perils of the present world and maketh ample his
recompense in the future world ; for indeed He neglecteth not the
reward of the righteous. And whoso doth otherwise than as
Allah biddeth him sinneth mortal sin and disobeyeth his Lord,
preferring his mundane to his supra-mundane weal. He hath no
trace in this world and in the next no portion : for Allah spareth
not the unjust and the mischievous, nor doth He neglect any of
His servants. These our Wazirs have set forth how, by reason of
our just dealing with them and our wise governance of affairs,
Allah hath vouchsafed us and them His grace, for which it
behoveth us to thank Him, because of the great abundance of
His mercies: each of them hath also spoken that wherewith the
Almighty inspired Him concerning this matter, and they have
vied one with another in rendering thanks to the Most High Lord
and praising Him for His favours and bounties. I also render
thanks to Allah for that I am but a slave commanded ; my heart
is in His hand and my tongue in His subjection, accepting that
which He adjudgeth to me and to them, come what may thereof.
Each one of them hath said what passed through his mind on the

King Jali 1 ad of Hind and his Wazir Shimas. 6 1

subject of this boy and hath set forth that which was of the
renewal of divine favour to us, after my years had reached the
term when confidence faileth and despair assaileth. So praised
be Allah who hath saved us from disappointment and from the
alternation of rulers, like to the alternation of night and day!
For verily, this was a great boon both to them and to us ; where-
fore we praise Almighty Allah who hath given a ready answer to
our prayer and hath blessed us with this boy and set him in high
place, as the inheritor of the kingship. And we entreat Him, of
His bounty and clemency, to make him . happy in his actions,
prone to pious works, so he may become a King and a Sultan
governing his people with justice and equity, guarding them from
perilous error and frowardness, of His grace, goodness and
generosity ! " When the King had made an end of his speech,
the sages and Olema rose and prostrated themselves before Allah
and thanked the King ; after which they kissed his hands and
departed, each to his own house, whilst Jali'ad withdrew into his
palace, where, he looked upon the new-born and offered up
prayers for him and named him Wird Khdn. 1 The boy grew up
till he attained the age of twelve, 2 when the King being minded
to have him taught the arts and sciences, bade build him a palace
amiddlemost the city, wherein were three hundred and threescore
rooms, 3 and lodged him therein. Then he assigned him three
wise men of the Olema and bade them not be lax in teaching him
day and night and look that there was no kind of learning but
they instruct him therein, so he might become versed in all
knowledge. He also commanded them to sit with him one day
in each of the rooms by turn and write on the door thereof that
which they had taught him therein of various kinds of lore and
report to himself, every seven days, whatso instructions they had
imparted to him. So they went in to the Prince and stinted not
from educating him day nor night, nor withheld from him aught of
that they knew ; and presently there appeared in him readiness to
receive instruction such as none had shown before him. Every
seventh day his governors reported to the King what his son had

1 Prob. from the Persian \Vird := a pupil, a disciple.

* And yet, as the next page shows the youth's education was complete in his twelfth
year. But as all three texts agree, I do not venture upon changing the number to six
or seven, the age at which royal education outside the Harem usually begins.

3 i.e. One for each day in the Moslem year. For these object-lessons, somewhat in
Kinder-garten style, see the Book of Sindibad or The Malice of Women (vol. vi. 126).

62 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

learnt and mastered, whereby Jali'ad became proficient in goodly
learning and fair culture , and the Olema said to him, " Never
saw we one so richly gifted with understanding as is this boy :
Allah bless thee in him and give thee joy of his life ! " When the
Prince had completed his twelfth year, he knew the better part of
every science and excelled all the Olema and sages of his day:
wherefore his governors brought him to his sire and said to him,
" Allah gladden thine eyes, O King, with this auspicious youth !
We bring him to thee, after he hath learnt all manner knowledge,
and there is not one of the learned men of the time nor a scientist
who hath attained to that whereto he hath attained of science."
The King rejoiced in this with joy exceeding and thanking the
Almighty prostrated himself in gratitude before Allah (to whom
belong Majesty and Might!), saying, "Laud be to the Lord for His
mercies incalculable ! " Then he called his Chief Wazir and said
to him, " Know, O Shimas, that the governors of my son are come
to tell me that he hath mastered every kind of knowledge and
there is nothing but they have instructed him therein, so that he
surpasseth in this all who forewent him. What sayst thou, O
Shimas?" Hereat the Minister prostrated himself before Allah
(to whom belong Might and Majesty !) and kissed the King's
hand, saying, " Loath is the ruby-stone, albe it be bedded in the
hardest rock on hill, to do aught but shine as a lamp, and this thy
son is such a gem ; his tender age hath not hindered him from
becoming a sage and Alhamdolillah praised be Allah for that
which He deigned bestow on him ! But to-morrow I will call an
assembly of the flower of the Emirs and men of learning and
examine the Prince and cause him speak forth that which is with

him in their presence, Inshallah ! " And Shahrazad perceived

the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

Nofo fofjen it teas tfje KTine ^tmUrefc anU Ntntf)

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
the King Jali'ad heard the words of his Wazir Shimas, he com-
manded the attendance of the keenest-witted l of the Olema and
most accomplished of the learned and sages of his dominions, and

1 Arab. "Jahabizah " plur. of " Jahbiz "= acute, intelligent (from the Pers. Kahbad
or Kihbad?).

King Jaltad of Hind and his Wazir Shimas. 63

they all presented themselves on the morrow at the door of the
palace, whereupon the King bade, admit them. Then entered
Shimas and kissed the hands of the Prince, who rose and
prostrated himself to the Minister : but Shimas said, " It
behoveth not the lion-whelp to prostrate himself to any of the
wild beasts, nor besitteth it that Light prostrate itself to shade."
Quoth the Prince, " Whenas the lion-whelp seeth the leopard, 1 he
riseth up to him and prostrateth himself before him, because of
his wisdom, and Light prostrateth itself to shade for the purpose
of disclosing that which is therewithin." Quoth Shimas, " True,
O my lord ; but I would have thee answer me anent whatso I shall
ask thee, by leave of His Highness and his lieges." And the
youth said, " And I, with permission of my sire, will answer thee."
So Shimas began and said, " Tell me what is the Eternal, the
Absolute, and what are the two manifestations 2 thereof and
whether of the two is the abiding one ? " Answered the Prince,
" Allah (to whom belong Might and Majesty ! ) is the Eternal, the
Absolute ; for that He is Alpha, without beginning, and Omega
without end. Now his two manifestations are this world and the
next ? and the abiding one of the two is the world to come."
(<) " Thou sayst truly and I approve thy reply : but I would have
thee tell me, how knowest thou that one of Allah's manifestations
is this world and the other the world to come ? " " I know this
because this world was created from nothingness and had not its
being from any existing thing ; wherefore its affair is referable to
the first essence. Moreover, it is a commodity swift of ceasing,
the works whereof call for requital of action and this postulateth
the reproduction 3 of whatso passeth away : so the next world is
the second manifestation." Q) 'Now inform me how knowest
thou that the world to come is the abiding one of the two
existences ? " " Because it is the house of requital for deeds done
in this world prepared by the Eternal sans surcease." (<) " Who

'Arab. "Nimr" in the Bresl. Edit. viii. 58. The Mac. Edit, suggests that the
leopard is the lion's Wazir.

2 Arab. " Kaun " lit. = Being, existence. Trebutien (iii. 20), has it, " Qu'est-ce que
1'etre (God), Pexistence (Creation), 1'etre dans 1'existence (the world), et la duree de
1'etre dans 1'existence (the other world).

3 i.e. for the purpose of requital. All the above is orthodox Moslem doctrine, which
utterly ignores the dictum " ex nihilo nihil fit ; " and which would look upon Creation
by Law (Darwinism) as opposed to Creation by miracle (e.g. the Mosaic cosmogony)
as rank blasphemy. On the other hand the Eternity of Matter and its transcendental
essence are tenets held by a host of Gnostics, philosophers and Eastern Agnostics.

64 A If Laylah wa Laylah,

are the people of this world most to be praised for their practice ? "
u Those who prefer their weal in the world to come before their
weal in this world." (<) " And who is he that preferreth his
future to his present welfare ? " " He who knoweth that he
dwelleth in a perishing house, that he was created but to vade
away and that, after vading away, he will be called to account ;
and indeed, were there in this world one living and abiding for
ever, he would not prefer it to the next world." (<j) Can the
future life subsist permanently without the present ? " " He who
hath no present life hath no future life : and indeed I liken this
world and its folk and the goal to which they fare with certain
workmen, for whom an Emir buildeth a narrow house and
lodgeth them therein, commanding each of them to do a certain
task and assigning to him a set term and appointing one to act
as steward over them. Whoso doeth the work appointed unto
him, the steward bringeth him forth of that straitness ; but
whoso doeth it not within the stablished term is punished. After
awhile, behold, they find honey exuding from the chinks of the
house, 1 and when they have -eaten thereof and tasted its sweetness
of savour, they slacken in their ordered task and cast it behind
their backs. So they patiently suffer the straitness and distress
wherein they are, with what they know of the future punishment
whereto they are fast wending, and are content with this worthless
and easily won sweetness : and the Steward leaveth not to fetch
every one of them forth of the house, for ill or good, when his
appointed period shall have come. Now we know the world to
be a dwelling wherein all eyes are dazed, and that each of its
folk hath his set term ; and he who findeth the little sweetness
that is in the world and busieth himself therewith is of the number
of the lost, since he preferreth the things of this world to the
things of the next world : but whoso payeth no heed to this poor
sweetness and preferreth the things of the coming world to those
of this world, is of those who are saved." (<) " I have heard
what thou sayest of this world and the next and I accept thine
answer ; but I see they are as two placed in authority over man ;
needs must he content them both, and they are contrary one to
other. So, if the creature set himself to seek his livelihood, it is
harmful to his soul in the future : and if he devote himself to

1 This is a Moslem lieu commun ; usually man is likened to one suspended in a
bottomless well by a thin rope at which a rodent is continually gnawing and who amuses
himself in licking a few drops of honey left by bees on the revetement.

The Two Kings. 65

the next world, it is hurtful to his body ; and there is no way
for him of pleasing these two contraries at once." " Indeed, the
quest of one's worldly livelihood with pious intent and on lawful
wise is a viaticum for the quest of the goods of the world to come,
if a man spend a part of his days in seeking his livelihood in
this world, for the sustenance of his body, and devote the rest of
his day to seeking the goods of the next world, for the repose of
his soul and the warding off of hurt therefrom ; and indeed I see
this world and the other world as they were two Kings, a just and
an unjust." Asked Shimas, "How so?" and the youth began
the tale of


THERE were once two Kings, a just and an unjust ; and this one
had a land abounding in trees and fruits and herbs ; but he let
no merchant pass without robbing him of his monies and his
merchandise, and the traders endured this with patience, by
reason of their profit from the fatness of the earth in the
means of life and its pleasantness, more by token that it was
renowned for its richness in precious stones and gems. Now
the just King, who loved jewels, heard of this land and sent one
of his subjects thither, giving him much specie and bidding him
pass with it into the other's realm and buy jewels therefrom.
So he went thither ; and, it being told to the unjust King that
a merchant was come to his kingdom with much money to buy
jewels withal, he sent for him to the presence and said to him,
" Who art thou and whence comest thou and who brought thee
thither and what is thy errand ? " Quoth the merchant, " I am
of such and such a region, and the King of that land gave me
money and bade me buy therewith jewels from this country ;
so I obeyed his bidding and came." Cried the unjust King,
" Out on thee ! Knowest thou not my fashion of dealing with
the people of my realm and how each day I take their monies ?
How then comest thou to my country ? And behold, thou hast
been a sojourner here since such a time ! " Answered the trader,
" The money is not mine, not a mite of it ; nay, 'tis a trust in
my hands, till I bring its equivalent to its owner." But the
King said, " I will not let thee take thy livelihood of my land
or go out therefrom, except thou ransom thyself with this money

66 -A If Laylah wa Laylah.

all of it." And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased to say her permitted say.

Koto fofjen it foas tfje Nine f^untorti an* entf) Nii^t,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
unjust Ruler said to the trader who came to buy jewels from
his country, " 'Tis not possible for thee to take thy livelihood of
my land except thou ransom thy life with this money, all of it;
else shalt thou die." So the man said in himself, " I am fallen
between two Kings, and I know that the oppression of this ruler
embraceth all who abide in his dominions : and if I satisfy him
not, I shall lose both life and money (whereof is no doubt) and
shall fail of my errand ; whilst, on the other hand, if I give him
all the gold, it will most assuredly prove my ruin with its owner,
the other King : wherefore no device will serve me but that I
give this one a trifling part thereof and content him therewith
and avert from myself and from the money perdition. Thus shall
I get my livelihood of the fatness of this land, till I buy that
which I desire of jewels ; and, after satisfying the tyrant with
gifts, I will take my portion of the profit and return to the owner
of the money with his need, trusting in his justice and indulgence,
and unfearing that he will punish me for that which this unjust
King taketh of the treasure, especially if it be but a little." Then
the trader called down blessings on the tyrant and said to him, " O
King, I will ransom myself and this specie with a small portion
thereof, from the time of my entering thy country to that of my
going forth therefrom." The King agreed to this and left him at
peace for a year, till he bought all manner jewels with the rest of
the money and returned therewith to his master, to whom he made
his excuses, confessing to having saved himself from the unjust
King as before related. The just King accepted his excuse and
praised him for his wise device and set him on his right hand in
his divan and appointed him in his kingdom an abiding inherit-
ance and a happy life-tide. 1 Now the just King is the similitude
of the future world and the unjust King that of the present world ;
the jewels that be in the tyrant's dominions are good deeds and
pious works. The merchant is man and the money he hath with

1 A curious pendent to the Scriptural parable of the Unjust Steward.

The Blind Man and the Cripple. 6/

him is the provision appointed him of Allah. When I consider
this, I know that it behoveth him who seeketh his livelihood in
this world to leave not a day without seeking the goods of the
world to come, so shall he content this world with that which he
gaineth of the fatness of the earth and satisfy the other world with
that which he spendeth of his life in seeking after it." (;) " Are
the spirit } and the body alike in reward and retribution, or is the
body, as the luster of lusts and doer of sinful deeds, and especially
affected with punishment ? " " The inclination to lusts and sins
may be the cause of earning reward by the withholding of the soul
therefrom and the repenting thereof; but the command 2 is in the
hand of Him who doth what He will, and things by their contraries
are distinguished. Thus subsistence is necessary to the body, but
there is no body without soul ; and the purification of the spirit is
in making clean the intention in this world and taking thought to
that which shall profit in the world to come. Indeed, soul and
body are like two horses racing for a wager or two foster-brothers
or two partners in business. By the intent are good deeds dis-
tinguished and thus the body and soul are partners in actions and
in reward and retribution, and in this they are like the Blind man
and the Cripple with the Overseer of the garden." Asked Shimas,
" How so ? " ; and the Prince said, " Hear, O Wazir, the tale of


A BLIND man and a Cripple were travelling-companions and used
to beg alms In company. One day they sought admission into the
garden of some one of the benevolent, and a kind-hearted wight,
hearing their talk, took compassion on them and carried them into
his garden, where he left them after plucking for them some of its
produce and went away, bidding them do no waste nor damage
therein. When the fruits became ripe, the Cripple said to the
Blind man, " Harkye, I see ripe fruits and long for them ; but I
cannot rise to eat thereof; so go thou arise, for thou art sound of
either leg, and fetch us somewhat that we may eat." Replied the

1 Arab. " Ruh " Heb. Ruach : lit. breath (spiritus) which in the animal kingdom is
the surest sign of life. See vol. v. 29. Nothing can be more rigidly materialistic than
the so-called Mosaic law.

J Arab. " Al-Amr" which may also mean the business, the matter, the affair.

68 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

Blind, " Fie upon thee ! I had no thought of them, but now that
thou callest them to my mind, I long to eat of them and I am
impotent unto this, being unable to see them; so how shall we do
to get at them ?" At this moment, behold, up came the Overseer
of the garden, who was a man of understanding, and the Cripple
said to him, " Harkye, O Overseer ! I long for somewhat of those
fruits ; but we are as thou seest ; I am a cripple and my mate here
is stone-blind : so what shall we do ? " Replied the Overseer,
" Woe to you ! Have ye forgotten that the master of the garden
stipulated with you that ye should do nothing whereby waste or

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 7 of 38)