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 5) online

. (page 12 of 41)
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 5) → online text (page 12 of 41)
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wont to go out to the grave-yards and say, " Ye once ruled thj
world, but that saved you not from death, and now are ye come to
your sepulchres ! Would Heaven I knew what ye said and what
is said to you ! " 2 And he wept as one weepeth who is troubled
with fear and apprehension, and repeated the words of the poet :

Affright me funerals at every time ; o And wailing women grieve me to the
soul !

Now it chanced one day, as he sat among the tombs, according to
his custom, his father passed by in all his state, surrounded by his
Wazirs and Lords of the realm and the Officers of his household,
who seeing the Caliph's son with a gown of woollen stuff on his
body and a twist of wool on his head by way of turband, said to
one another, " Verily this youth dishonoureth the Commander of
the Faithful among Kings : but, if he reproved him, he would
leave his present way of life." The Caliph heard these words ;
so quoth he to his son, " O my dear child, of a truth thou dis-
gracest me by thy present way of life." The young" man looked
at him and made no reply : then he beckoned to a bird perched
on the battlements of the palace, and said to it, " O thou bird, I
conjure thee by Him who created thee, alight upon my hand."

Arab. " Tarikah " r= the path trodden by ascetics and mystics in order to attain
true knowledge (Ma'rifat in Pers. Danish). These are extensive subjects: for the
present I must refer readers to the Dabistan, iii. 35 and iii. 29, 36-7.

2 Alluding to the Fishar or " Squeeze of the tomb." This is the Jewish Hibbut
hak-keber which all must endure, save those who lived in the Holy Land or died on the
Sabbath-eve (Friday night). Then comes the questioning by the Angels Munkar and
Nakir (vulgarly called Nakir and Nakir) for which see Lane (M. E. chapt. xviii.). In
Egypt a " Mulakkin " (intelligencer) is hired to prompt and instruct the dead. Moslems
are beginning to question these facts of their faith : a Persian acquaintance of mine
filled his dead father's mouth with flour and finding it in loco on opening the grave,
publicly derided tbe belief. But the Mullahs had him on the hip, after the fashion of
reverends, declaring that the answers were made through the whole l -"->dy, r.ot only by the
mouth. At last the Voltairean had to quit Shiran.

H2 A If Laylah wet Laylah.

Whereupon straightway it swooped down ana perched on his
finger. Then quoth he, " Return to thy place ;" and it did sa
Presently he said, "Alight on the hand of the Commander of the
Faithful ;" but it refused there to perch, and he cried to his father,
M It is thou that disgracest me amongst the Holy * Ones, by the
love of the world ; and now I am resolved to part from thee, never
to return to thee, save in the world to come." Then he went
down to Bassorah, where he took to working with those which
wrought in clay, 2 receiving, as his day's hire, but a dirham and a
danik; 3 and with the danik he fed himself and gave alms of the
dirham. (Quoth Abu Amir of Bassorah) There fell down a wall
in my house : so I went forth to the station of the artisans to find
a man who should repair it forme, and my eyes fell on a handsome
youth of a radiant countenance. So I saluted him and asked him,
" O my friend, dost thou seek work ? " " Yes," answered he ; and
I said, " Come with me and build a wall." He replied, " On certain
conditions I will make with thee." Quoth I " What are they, O
my friend ? " ; and quoth he, " My wage must be a dirham and a
danik, and again when the Mu'ezzin calleth to prayer, thou shalt
let me go pray with the congregation." " It is well," answered I
and carried him to my place, where he fell to work, such work as I
never saw the like of. Presently, I named to him the morning-
meal ; but he said, " No ;" and I knew that he was fasting. 4 When
he heard the call to prayer, he said to me, " Thou knowest the
condition?" "Yes," answered I. So he loosed his girdle and,
applying himself to the lesser ablution, made it after a fashion
than which I never saw a fairer ; 5 then he went to the mosque and

1 Arab. "Wall" = a saint, Santon (Ital. form) also a slave. See in Richardson
(Dissert, iii.), an illustration of the difference between Wali and Wali as exemplified by
the Caliph al-Kadir and Mahmud of Ghazni.

2 Arab. "Tin" = the tenacious clay puddled with chaff which serves as mortar for
walls built of Adobe or sundried brick. I made a mistake in my Pilgrimage (i. 10]
translating Ras al-Tin .the old Pharos of Alexandria, by " Headland of Figs-." It is
Headland of Clay, so called from the argile there found and which supported an old

3 The danik (Pers. Dang) is the sixth of a dirham. Mr. S. L. Poole (The Acad.
April 26, '79) prefers his uncle's translation "a sixth" (what of?) to Mr. Payne's
" farthing." The latter at any rate is intelligible.

4 The devotee was " Saim al-dahr " i.e. he never ate nor drank from daylight to
dark throughout the year.

6 The ablution of a common man differs from that of an educated Moslem as much as
the eating of a clown and a gentleman. Moreover there are important technical differ*
ences between the Wuzu of the Sunni and the Shi'ah

The Devotee Prince. \ \ 3

prayed with the congregation and returned to his work. He did
the same upon the call to mid-afternoon prayer, and when I saw
him fall to work again thereafterward, I said to him,'' O my friend,
verily the hours of labour are over ; a workman's day is but till the
time of afternoon-prayer." But he replied, " Praise to the Lord,
my service is till the night." And he ceased not to work till
nightfall, when I gave him two dirhams ; whereupon he asked
" What is this ! " ; and I answered, " By Allah, this is but part of
thy wage, because of thy diligence in my service." But he threw
them back to me saying, " I will have no more than was agreed
upon between us twain." I urged him to take them, but could
not prevail upon him ; so I gave him the dirham and the danik,
and he went away. And when morning dawned, I went to the
station but found him not ; so I enquired for him and was told,
" He cometh thither only on Sabbaths." Accordingly, when
Saturday came, I betook me to the market and finding him there,
said to him, " Bismillah, do me the favour to come and work for
me." Said he, " Upon the conditions thou wottest ;" and I answered
" Yes ! ' : Then carrying him to my house I stood to watch him
where he could not see me; and he took a handful of puddled clay
and laid it on the wall, when, behold, the stones ranged them-
selves one upon other ; and I said, " On this wise are Allah's
holy ones." He worked out his day and did even more than
before ; and when it was night, I gave him his hire, and he took
it and walked away. Now when the third Saturday came round,
I went to the place of standing, but found him not ; so I asked
after him and they told me, " He is sick and lying in the shanty
of such a woman." Now this was an old wife, renowned for piety,
who had a hovel of reeds in the burial-ground. So I fared thither
and found him stretched on the floor which was bare, with a brick
for a pillow and his face beaming like the new moon with light.
I saluted him and he returned my salam ; and I sat down at his
head weeping over his fair young years and absence from home
and submission to the will of his Lord. Then said I to him,
" Hast thou any need ? " " Yes," answered he ; and I said, " What
is it ? " He replied, " Come hither to-morrow in the forenoon and
thou wilt find me dead. Wash me and dig my grave and tell none
thereof: but shroud me in this my gown, after thou hast unsewn
it and taken out what thou shalt find in the bosom-pocket, which
keep with thee. Then, when thou hast prayed over me and laid
VOL. v. H

1 '4 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

me in the dust, go to Baghdad and watch for the Caliph Harun
al-Rashid, till he come forth, when do thou give him what thou
shalt find in the breast of my gown and bear him my salutation."
Then he ejaculated the profession of the Faith and glorified his
God in the most eloquent of words reciting these couplets :

Carry the trust of him whom death awaits - To Al-Rashid, and God

reward thy care !
And say, "An exile who desired thy sight * Long loving, from afar sends

greeting fair.
Nor hate nor irk (No!) him from thee withdrew, * Kissing thy right to Heaven

brought him near. 1
But what estranged his soul, O sire, from thee * Is that thy worldly joys it

would not share ! "

Then he betook himself to prayer, asking pardon of Allah

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

Nofo fofjen it tons tfje J^otu ^unfcrrtJ anfc ecoirt

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth
then betook himself to asking pardon of Allah and to invoking
prayer and praise upon the Apostle and the Lord of the Just and
repeating verses of the Koran ; after which he recited these
couplets :

O sire, be not deceived by worldly joys ; * For life must pass, and joy

must learn to mourn ;
When thou art told of folk in evil plight, * Think thou must answer for

all hearts forlorn ;
And when thou bear thy dead toward the tombs, * Know thou wilt likewise on

that way be borne.

(Continued Abu Amir the Basri) Now when the youth had ended
his charge and his verses I left him and went home. On the
morrow, I returned, at the appointed hour, and found him indeed
dead, the mercy of Allah be upon him ! So I washed him and,
unsewing his gown, found in the bosom a ruby worth thousands of
gold pieces and said to myself, " By Allah, this youth was indeed

i.e. by honouring his father.

The Devotee Prince. 115

leaned from worldly things ! " After I had buried him, I made
my way to Baghdad and, going to the Caliph's palace, waited till
he came forth, when I addressed him in one of the streets and
gave him the ruby, which when he saw, he knew and fell down in
a fainting-fit. His attendants laid hands on me, but he revived
and said to them, " Release him and bring him courteously to the
palace." They did his bidding, and when he returned, he sent
for me and carrying me into his chamber said to me, " How doth
the owner of this ruby ? " Quoth I, " Verily he is dead ; " and
told him what had passed ; whereupon he fell a-weeping and said,
" The son hath gained ; but the sire hath lost." Then he called
out, saying, " Ho, such an one!"; and behold, there came out to
him a lady who, when she saw me, would have withdrawn ; but he
cried to her, " Come ; and mind him not." So she entered and
saluted, and he threw her the ruby, which when she saw and she
knew, she shrieked a great shriek and fell down in a swoon. As
soon as she came to herself, she said, " O Commander of the
Faithful, what hath Allah done with my son ? " ; and he said to
me, " Do thou tell her his case ; " (as he could not speak for
weeping). Accordingly, I repeated the story to her, and she began
to shed tears and say in a faint and failing voice, " How I have
longed for thy sight, O solace of mine eyes ! l Would I might have
given thee to drink, when thou hadst none to slake thy thirst !
Would I might have cheered thee, whenas thou foundest never a
cheerer !" And she poured forth tears and recited these couplets :

I weep for one whose lot a lonely death befel ; Without a frie-nd to

whom he might complain and moan :

And after glory and glad union with his friends, * He woke to desola-

tion, friendless, lorn and lone :

What Fortune hides awhile she soon to men shall show; * Death never spared
a man ; no, not a single one :

O absent one, my Lord decreed thee strangerhood, * Far from thy nearest

friends and to long exile gone :

Though Death forbid my hope of meeting here again, * On Doom - day's
morrow we shall meet again, my son ! *

Quoth I, " O Commander of the Faithful, was he indeed thy

1 This young saint was as selfish and unnatural a sinner as Saint Alexius of the Gesta
Romanornm (Tale xv.), to whom my friend, the late Thomas Wright, administered just,

end due punishment.
8 The verses are affecting enough, though by no means high poetry.

Ii6 A If Laylah wa Laylak.

son ? " Quoth he, " Yes, and indeed, before I succeeded to this
office, he was wont to visit the learned and company with the
devout ; but, when I became Caliph, he grew estranged from me
and withdrew himself apart. 1 Then said I to his mother, Verily
this thy son hath cut the world and devoted his -life to Almighty
Allah, and it may be that hard times shall befal him and he be
smitten with trial of evil chance ; wherefore do thou give him this
ruby, which he may find useful in hour of need. So she gave it
him, conjuring him to take it, and he obeyed her bidding. Then
he left to us the things of our world and removed himself from us ;
nor did he cease to be absent from us, till he went to the presence
of Allah (to whom be Honour and Glory !), pious and pure."
Then said he, " Come, show me his grave." So, I travelled with
him to Bassorah and showed him his son's grave ; and when he
saw it, he wept and lamented, till he fell down in a swoon ; after
which he recovered and asked pardon of the Lord, saying, " We
are Allah's and unto Him we are returning!"; and invoked
blessings on the dead. Then he asked me to become his com-
panion, but I said to him, " O Commander of the Faithful, verily,
in thy son's case is for me the most momentous of admonitions ! "
And I recited these couplets :

'Tis I am the stranger, visited by none ; * I am the stranger though in

town my own :
'Tis I am the stranger ! lacking kith and son, * And friend to whom I mote for

aidance run.
I house in mosques which are my only home; * My heart there wones and shall

for ever wone :
Then laud ye Allah, Lord of Worlds, as long * As soul and body dwell in

union !

And a famous tale is told of

1 The good young man cut his father for two reasons : secular power (an abomination
to good Moslems) and defective title to the Caliphate. The latter is a trouble to Turkey
in the present day and with time will prove worse.

The Unwise Schoolmaster who Fell in Love by Report. 117



(QUOTH one of the learned) I passed once by a school, wherein a
schoolmaster was teaching children ; so I entered, finding him a
good-looking man and a well-dressed ; when he rose to me and
made me sit with him. Then I examined him in the Koran and in.
syntax and prosody and lexicography ; and behold, he was perfect
in all required of him, so I said to him, " Allah strengthen thy
purpose ! Thou art indeed versed in all that is requisite."
Thereafter I frequented him a while, discovering daily some new
excellence in him, and quoth I to myself, " This is indeed a wonder
in any dominie ; for the wise are agreed upon a lack of wit in
children's teachers." Then I separated myself from him and
sought him and visited him only every few days, till coming to
see him one day as of wont, I found the school shut and made
enquiry of his neighbours, who replied, " Some one is dead in his
house." So I said in my mind, " It behoveth me to pay him a
visit of condolence," and going to his house, knocked at the door,
when a slave-girl came out to me and asked, " What dost thou
want ? " and I answered, " I want thy master." She replied,
" He is sitting alone, mourning ; " and I rejoined, " Tell him that
his friend so and so seeketh to console him." She went in and
told him ; and he said, " Admit him." So she brought me in to
him, and I found him seated alone and his head bound with
mourning fillets. So I said to him, " Allah requite thee amply!
this is a path all must perforce tread, and it behoveth thee to take
patience ;" adding, " But who is dead unto thee ? " He answered,
" One who was dearest of the folk to me and best beloved." " Per-
haps thy father ? " " No ! " " Thy brother ? " " No ! " " One of thy
kindred ? " " No ! " Then asked I, " What relation was the dead
to thee ? " ; and he answered, " My lover." Quoth I to myself
" This is the first proof to swear by of his lack of wit " So I said
to him, "Assuredly there be others than she and fairer;" and he
made answer, " I never saw her, that I might judge whether or no
there be others fairer than she." Quoth I to myself, " This is
'another proof positive." Then I said to him, " And how couldst
thou fall in love with one thou hast never seen ? ' He replied

Il8 A If Laylah wa Lay la h.

" Know that I was sitting one day at the window, when lo ! there
passed by a man, singing the following distich :

Umm Amr*, 1 thy boons Allah repay ! o Give back my heart be't where it ma'y I

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

ICofo fofjim it foas tfje jFottr ^untrreti anfc

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the school^
master continued, " When I heard the man humming these words
as he passed along the street, I said to myself: Except this
Umm Amru were without equal in the world, the poets had not
celebrated her in ode and canzon. So I fell in love with her ;
but, two days after, the same man passed, singing the following
couplet :

Ass and Umm Amr* went their way ; o Nor she, nor ass returned for aye.

Thereupon I knew that she was dead and mourned for her. This
was three days ago, and I have been mourning ever since." So I
left him and fared forth, having assured myself of the weakness of
the gerund-grinder's wit. And they tell another and a similar
tale of


ONCE upon a time, a schoolmaster was visited by a man of letters
who entered a school and, sitting down by the host's side, entered
into discourse with him and found him an accomplished theo-
logian, poet, grammarian, philologist and poet ; intelligent, well
bred and pleasant spoken ; whereat he wondered, saying in him-

1 Umm Amri (written Amru and pronounced Amr') a matronymic, " mother of Amru."
This story and its terminal verse is a regular Joe Miller.

* Abuse and derision of schoolmaster are staple subjects in the East as in the West,
(Quera DU oderunt pscdagogum fecerunt). Anglo-Indians will remember :

Miyan-ji ti-ti !

Bachche-ki glnd men anguli ki thi !

(Schoolmaster hum !

Who fumbled and fingered the little boy's bunt ?}

TJte Illiterate who set up for a Schoolmaster. 1 191

self, " It cannot be that a man who teacheth children in a school,
should have a perfect wit." Now when he was about to go away,
the pedant said to him, "Thou art my guest to-night ;" and he
consented to receive hospitality and accompanied him to his house,
where he made much of him and set food before him. They ate
and drank and sat talking, till a third part of the night was past
when the host spread his guest a bed and went up to his Harim.
The stranger lay down and addressed himself to sleep, when, behold,
there arose a great clamour in the women's rooms. He asked
what was the matter and they said, " A terrible thing hath be-
fallen the Shaykh and he is at the last gasp." Said he, " Take me
up to him " ; so they took him up to the pedagogue whom he
found lying insensible, with his blood streaming down. He
sprinkled water on his face and when he revived, he asked him
" What hath betided thee ? When thou leftest me, thou wast in
all good cheer and whole of body ; " and he answered, " O my
brother, after I left thee, I sat meditating on the creative works of
Almighty Allah, and said to myself: In every thing the Lord
hath created for man, there is an use ; for He (to Whom be glory !)
made the hands to seize, the feet to walk, the eyes to see, the ears
to hear and the penis to increase and multiply ; and so on with all
the members of the body, except these two ballocks ; there is no
use in them. So I took a razor I had by me and cut them off;
and there befel me what thou seest." So the guest left him and
went away, saying, " He was in the right who said : Verily no
schoolmaster who teacheth children can have a perfect wit, though
he know all the sciences." And they tell a pleasant tale of the


THERE was once, among the menials 1 of a certain mosque, a
man who knew not how to write or even to read and who gained
his bread by gulling folk. One day, it occurred to him to open a
school and teach children ; so he got together writing-tablets and
written papers and hung them up in a high place. Then he

1 Arab. " Mujawirio " = the lower servants, sweepers etc. See Pilgrimage ii. 161
where it is also applied to certain " settlers " at Al-Medinah. Burckhardt (No. 480
notices another meaning " foreigners who attend mosque-lectures " and quotes the saying,
"A. pilgrimaged : " quoth B. " yes ! and for his villainies resideth (Mujawir) at Meccah."

1 2O Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

greatened his turband 1 and sat down at the door of the school ;
and when the people, who passed by, saw his huge head-gear and
tablets and scrolls, they thought he must be a very learned peda-
gogue; so they brought him their children ; and he would say to
this, " Write," and to that " Read " ; and thus the little ones
taught one another. Now one day, as he sat as of wont, at the
door of the school, behold, up came a woman letter in hand, and
he said in his mind, " This woman doubtless seeketh me, that I
may read her the missive she hath in her hand : how shall I do
with her, seeing I cannot read writing? " And he would fain have
gone down and fled from her ; but, before he could do this, she
overtook him and said to him, "Whither away?" Quoth he, " I
purpose to pray the noon-prayer and return." Quoth she, " Noon
is yet distant, so read me this letter." He took the letter and
turning it upside down, fell to looking at it, now shaking his head
till his turband quivered, then dancing his eyebrows and anon
showing anger and concern. Now the letter came from the woman's
husband, who was absent ; and when she saw the dominie do on
this wise, she said to herself, " Doubtless my husband is dead, and
this learned doctor of law and religion is ashamed to tell me so."
So she said to him, " O my lord, if he be dead, tell me ; " but he
shook his head and held his peace. Then said she, " Shall I rend
my raiment ? " " Rend ! " replied he. " Shall I beat my face ? "
asked she ; and he answered, " Beat ! " So she took the letter
from his hand and returning home fell a-weeping, she and her
children. Presently, one of her neighbours heard her sobbing and
asking what ailed her, was answered, *' Of a truth she hath gotten
a letter, telling her that her husband is dead." Quoth the man,
" This is a falsehood ; for I had a letter from him but yesterday (
advising me that he is whole and in good health and will be with
her after ten days." So he rose forthright and going in to her, said,
" Where is the letter which came to thee ? " She brought it to him,
and he took it and read it ; and lo ! it ran as follows, " After the
usual salutations, I am well and in good health and whole and will
be with you all after ten days. Meanwhile, I send you a quilt and
an extinguisher." 2 So she took the letter and, returning with it

1 The custom (growing obsolete in Egypt) is preserved in Afghanistan where the
learned wear turbans equal to the canoe-hats of the Spanish cardinals.

2 Arab. " Makmarah," a metal cover for the usual brasier or pan of charcoal which
acts fire-place. Lane (ii. 600) does not translate the word and seems to think it
means a belt or girdle, thus blunting the point of th dominie's excuse.

The King and the Virtuous Wife. 121

to the schoolmaster, said to him, " What induced thee to deal thus
with me?" And she repeated to him what her neighbour had
told her of her husband's well-being and of his having sent her a
quilt and an extinguisher. Answered he, " Thou art in the right,
O good woman ; for I was, at the time" And Shahrazad per-
ceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

Woto toljen it teas the jFour |)untitj anti jFourtf) Nicnjt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the peda-
gogue replied, " Verily I was at that time fashed and absent-
minded and, seeing the extinguisher wrapped up in the quilt,
I thought that he was dead and they had shrouded him." The
woman, not smoking the cheat, said, "Thou art excused," and
taking the letter, went her ways. 1 And they relate a story of


A CERTAIN King once went forth in disguise, to look into the
affairs of his lieges. Presently, he came to a great village which
he entered unattended and being athirst, stopped at the door of a
house and asked for water. There came out to him a fair woman
with a gugglet, which she gave him, and he drank. When he

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 5) → online text (page 12 of 41)