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 2 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 2 of 41)
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of its fashion, but sensed no sound of speaker and saw no living
soul and stood in perplexed surprise, looking right and left and
knowing not whither he should wend. Then said he to himself,
" I may not do better than return to where I left my horse and
pass the night by it ; and as soon as day shall dawn I will mount

and ride away." And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

and ceased saying her permitted say.

Jiofo fofjen it foas tfje 3H)m $^untJttfJ ant) Jfilty^iinfy Jlt'sfjt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the
king's son to himself, " I may not do better than pass the night

* i.e. for fear of the evil eye injuring the palace and, haply, himselL

8 jAlf Lay I ah wa Laylah.

by my horse ; and as soon as day shall dawn I will mount and
ride away." However, as he tarried talking to himself, he espied
a light within the palace, and making towards it, found that it
came from a candle that stood before a door of the Harim, at the
head of a sleeping eunuch, as he were one of the Ifrits of Solomon
or a tribesman of the Jinn, longer than lumber and broader than
a bench. He lay before the door, with the pommel of his sword
gleaming in the flame of the candle, and at his head was a bag
of leather J hanging from a column of granite. When the Prince
saw this, he was affrighted and said, " I crave help from Allah the
Supreme ! mine Holy One, even as Thou hast already de-
livered me from destruction, so vouchsafe me strength to quit
myself of the adventure of this palace ! " So saying, he put out
his hand to the budget and taking it, carried it aside and opened
it and found in it food of the best. He ate his fill and refreshed
himself and drank water, after which he hung up the provision-
bag in its place and drawing the eunuch's sword from its sheath,
took it, whilst the slave slept on, knowing not whence destiny
should come to him. Then the Prince fared forwards into the
palace and ceased not till he came to a second door, with a curtain
drawn before it ; so he raised the curtain and behold, on entering
he saw a couch of the whitest ivory, inlaid with pearls and jacinths
and jewels, and four slave-girls sleeping about it. He went up to
the couch, to see what was thereon, and found a young lady lying
asleep, chemised with her hair 2 as she were the full moon rising 3
over the Eastern horizon, with flower-white brow and shining hair-
parting and cheeks like blood-red anemones and dainty moles
thereon. He was amazed at her as she lay in her beauty and
loveliness, her symmetry and grace, and he recked no more
of death. So he went up to her, trembling in every nerve and,
shuddering with pleasure, kissed her on the right cheek ; where-
upon she awoke forthright and opened her eyes, and seeing the
Prince standing at her head, said to him, "Who art thou and
whence comest thou ? " Quoth he, " I am thy slave and thy
. , , , . ....-_

1 The " Sufrah " before explained as acting provision-bag and table-cloth.

2 Eastern women in hot weather, lie mother-nude under a sheet here represented by
the hair. The Greeks and Romans also slept stripped and in mediaeval England the
most modest women saw nothing indelicate in sleeping naked by their naked husbands.
The "night-cap"' and the "night-gown" are comparatively modern inventions.

Hindu fable turns this simile into better poetry, " She was like a second and a more
wondrous moon made by the Creator."

The Ebony Horse. 9

lover." Asked she, "And who brought thee hither?" and he
answered, " My Lord and my fortune." Then said Shams
al-Nahar ' (for such was her name), " Haply thou art he who
demanded me yesterday of my father in marriage and he rejected
thee, pretending that thou wast foul of favour. By Allah, my sire
lied in his throat when he spoke this thing, for thou art not other
than beautiful." Now the son of the King of Hind had sought
her in marriage, but her father had rejected him, for that he was
ugly and uncouth, and she thought the Prince was he. So, when
she saw his beauty and grace (for indeed he was like the radiant
moon) the syntheism 2 of love gat hold of her heart as it were a
flaming fire, and they fell to talk and converse. Suddenly, her
waiting-women awoke and, seeing the Prince with their mistress,
said to her, " Oh my lady, who is this with thee ? " Quoth she,
" I know not ; I found him sitting by me, when I woke up : haply
'tis he who seeketh me in marriage of my sire." Quoth they,
" O my lady, by Allah the All-Father, this is not he who seeketh
thee in marriage, for he is hideous and this man is handsome
and of high degree. Indeed, the other is not fit to be his servant." 3
Then the handmaidens went out to the eunuch, and finding him
slumbering awoke him, and he started up in alarm. Said they, " How
happeth it that thou art on guard at the palace and yet men come
in to us, whilst we are asleep ? " When the black heard this, he
sprang in haste to his sword, but found it not ; and fear took him
and trembling. Then he went in, confounded, to "his mistress and
seeing the Prince sitting at talk with her, said to him, "O my lord,
art thou man or Jinni ?" Replied the Prince, "Woe to thee, O

1 "Sun of the Day."

2 Arab. " Shirk" =. worshipping more than one God. A theological term here most
appropriately used.

3 The Bui. Edit, as usual abridges (vol. i. 534) The Prince lands on the palace-
roof where he leaves his horse, and finding no one in the building goes back to the
terrace. Suddenly he sees a beautiful girl approaching him with a party of her women,
suggesting to him these couplets :

She came without tryst in the darkest hour, * Like full moon lighting horizon's night :
Slim-formed, there is not in the world her like * For grace of form or for gifts of sprite :
" Praise him who made her from semen-drop,"* I cried, when her beauty first struck

my sight :

1 guard her from eyes, seeking refuge with * The Lord of mankind and of morning-

The two then madt acquaint* QCB t id " foil, tvs what follow.."

io Aij Layiak wa LayUih.

unluckiest of slaves: how darest thou even the sons of the royal
Chosroes 1 with one of the unbelieving Satans ? " And he was as
a raging Hon. Then he took the sword in his hand and said to the
slave, " I am the King's son-in-law, and he hath married me to his
daughter and bidden me go in to her." And when the eunuch
heard these words he replied, " O my lord, if thou be indeed of kind
a man as thou avouchest, she is fit for none but for thee, and thou
art worthier of her than any other." Thereupon the eunuch ran
to the King, shrieking loud and rending his raiment and heaving
dust upon his head ; and when the King heard his outcry, he said
to him, " What hath befallen thee ? : speak quickly and be brief ;
for thou hast fluttered my heart." Answered the eunuch, "O King,
come to thy daughter's succour; for a devil of the Jinn, in the like-
ness of a King's son, hath got possession of her ; so up and at
him ! " When the King heard this, he thought to kill him and said,
" How earnest thou to be careless of my daughter and let this
demon come at her ? " Then he betook himself to the Princess's
palace, where he found her slave-women standing to await him and
asked them, " What is come to my daughter ? " " O King,"
answered they, " slumber overcame us and, when we awoke, We
found a young man sitting upon her couch in talk with her, as he
were the full moon ; never saw we aught fairer of favour than he.
So we questioned him of his case and he declared that thou hadst
given him thy daughter in marriage. More than this we know not,
nor do we know if he be a man or a Jinni ; but he is modest and
well bred, and doth nothing unseemly or which leadeth to dis-
grace." Now when the King heard these words, his wrath cooled
and he raised the curtain little by little and looking in, saw sitting
at talk with his daughter a Prince of the goodliest with a face like
the full moon for sheen. At this sight he could not contain him-
self, of his jealousy for his daughter's honour ; and, putting aside
the curtain, rushed in upon them drawn sword in hand like a
furious Ghul. Now when the Prince saw him he asked the

Princess, " Is this thy sire ? "; and she answered, " Yes." And

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

- - _ . _ - !_-.-. ft . . . . J- ' - I" ' -_ L I

1 Arab. " Akasirah," explained (vol. i., 75) as the plur. of Kisra.

The Ebony Horse. \ I

Nofo tofjcn it teas tfje Efjtee l^untrrefc antu Sbixttetf) JtftQfjt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
Prince saw the King rushing in upon them, drawn sword in hand,
like a furious Ghul he asked the Princess, " Is this thy sire?";
and she answered, " Yes." Whereupon he sprang to his feet and,
seizing his sword, cried out at the King with so terrible a cry that
he was confounded. Then the youth would have fallen on him
with the sword; but the King seeing that the Prince was doughtier
than he, sheathed his scymitar and stood till the young man came
up to him, when he accosted him courteously and said to him, " O
youth, art thou a man or a Jinni ?" Quoth the Prince, "Did I not
respect thy right as mine host and thy daughter's honour, I would
spill thy blood ! How darest thou fellow me with devils, me that
am a Prince of the sons of the royal Chosroes who, had they
wished to take thy kingdom, could shake thee like an earthquake
from thy gfory and thy dominions and spoil thee of all thy posses-
sions ?" Now when the King heard his words, he was confounded
with awe and bodily fear of him and rejoined, "If thou indeed be
of the sons of the Kings, as thou pretendest, how cometh it that
thou enterest my palace without my permission, and smirchest
mine honour, making thy way to my daughter and feigning that
thou art her husband and claiming that I have given her to thee
to wife, I that have slain Kings and King's sons, who sought her
of me in marriage ? And now who shall save thee from my might
and majesty when, if I cried but to my slaves and servants and
bade them put thee to the vilest of deaths they would slay thee
forthright? Who shall deliver thee out of my hand?" When
the Prince heard this speech of the King he answered, "Verily, I
wonder at thee and at the shortness and denseness of thy wit !
Say me, canst covet for thy daughter a mate comelier than myself,
and hast ever seen a stouter hearted man or one better fitted for
a Sultan or a more glorious in rank and dominion than I?"
Rejoined the King, " Nay, by Allah ! but I would have had thee,
O youth, act after the custom of Kings and demand her from me
to wife before witnesses, that I might have married her to thee
publicly ; and now, even were I to marry her to thee privily, yet
hast thou dishonoured me in her person." Rejoined the Prince,
"Thou sayest sooth, O King, but if thou summon thy slaves and
thy soldiers and they fall upon me and slay me, as thou pretendest,

12 A If Lay I ah wa Laylah.

thou wouldst but publish thine own disgrace, and the folk would
be divided between belief in thee and disbelief in thee. Wherefore,
O King, thou wilt do well, meseemeth, to turn from this thought
to that which I shall counsel thee." Quoth the King, " Let me
hear what thou hast to advise ; " and quoth the Prince, " What I
have to propose to thee is this : either do thou meet me in combat
singular, I and thou ; and he who slayeth his adversary shall be
held the worthier and having a better title to the kingdom ; or
else, let me be this night and, whenas dawns the morn, draw out
against me thy horsemen and footmen and servants ; but first tell
me their number." Said the King, " They are forty thousand
horse, besides my own slaves and their followers, 1 who are the like
of them in number." Thereupon said the Prince, " When the day
shall break, do thou array them against me and say to them
And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her
permitted say.

Jstofo fofjen it foas t|)e f)m l^un&refc anfc ^tag-first

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth
the Prince, " When day shall break, do thou array them against me
and say to them : This man is a suitor to me for my daughter's
hand, on condition that he shall do battle single-handed against
you all ; for he pretendeth that he will overcome you and put you
to the rout, and indeed that ye cannot prevail against him. After
which, leave me to do battle with them: if they slay me, then is thy
secret the surer guarded and thine honour the better warded ; and
if I overcome them and see their backs, then is it the like of me a
King should covet to his son-in-law." So the King approved of
his opinion and accepted his proposition, despite his awe at the
boldness of his speech and amaze at the pretensions of the Prince
to meet in fight his whole host, such as he had described it to him,
being at heart assured that he would perish in the fray and so he
should be quit of him and freed from the fear of dishonour. There-
upon he called the eunuch and bade him go to his Wazir without
stay and delay and command him to assemble the whole of the

1 The dearest ambition of a slave is not liberty but to have a slave of his own. This
was systematised by the servile rulers known in history as the Mameluke Beys and to the
Egyptians as the Ghuzz. Each had his household of servile page? and squires, who
looked forward to filling the master's place as knight or baron.

The Ebony Horse. 13

army and cause them don their arms and armour and mount their
steeds. So the eunuch carried the King's order to the Minister,
who straightway summoned the Captains of the host and the
Lords of the realm and bade them don their harness of derring-do
and mount horse and sally forth in battle array. Such was their
case ; but as regards the King, he sat a long while conversing with
the young Prince, being pleased with his wise speech and good
sense and fine breeding. And when it was day-break he returned
to his palace and, seating himself on his throne, commanded his
merry men to mount and bade them saddle one of the best of the
royal steeds with handsome selle and housings and trappings and
bring it to the Prince. But the youth said, " O King, I will not
mount horse, till I come in view of the troops and review them."
" Be it as thou wilt," replied the King. Then the two repaired to
the parade-ground, where the troops were drawn up, and the young
Prince looked upon them and noted their great number ; after
which the King cried out to them, saying, " Ho, all ye men, there
is come to me a youth who seeketh my daughter in marriage ; and
in very sooth never have I seen a goodlier than he ; no, nor a
stouter of heart nor a doughtier of arm, for he pretendeth that he
cart overcome you, single-handed, and force you to flight and that,
were ye an hundred thousand in number, yet for him would ye be
but few. Now when he chargeth down on you, do ye receive him
upon point of pike and sharp of sabre ; for, indeed, he hath under-
taken a mighty matter." Then quoth the King to the Prince,
" Up, O my son, and do thy devoir on them." Answered he, " O
King, thou dealest not justly and fairly by me : how shall I go
forth against them, seeing that I am afoot and the men be
mounted ? " The King retorted, " I bade thee mount, and thou
refusedst ; but choose thou which of my horses thou wilt" Then
he said, " Not one of thy horses pleaseth me, and I will ride none
but that on which I came." Asked the King, " And where is thy
horse ? " " Atop of thy palace." " In what part of my palace ? "
" On the roof." Now when the King heard these words, he cried,
" Out on thee ! this is the first sign thou hast given of madness.
How can the horse be on the roof? But we shall at once see if
thou speak truth or lies." Then he turned to one of his chief
officers and said to him, " Go to my palace and bring me what
thou findest on the roof." So all the people marvelled at the
young Prince's words, saying one to other, " How can a horse
come down the steps from the roof? Verily this is a thing whose

14 A If Laylah wa Lay I ah.

like we never heard." In the mean time the King's messenger
repaired to the palace and mounting to the roof, found the horse
standing there and never had he looked on a handsomer ; but
when he drew near and examined it, he saw that it was made of
ebony and ivory. Now the officer was accompanied by other high
officers, who also looked on and they laughed to one another,
saying, " Was it of the like of this horse that the youth spake ?
We cannot deem him other than mad ; however, we shall soon see

the truth of his case." And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of

day and ceased to say her permitted say.

fof)cn it foas

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
high officials looked upon the horse, they laughed one to other
and said, " Was it of the like of this horse that the youth spake ?
We cannot deem him other than mad ; however, we shall soon see
the truth of his case. Peradventure herein is some mighty matter,
and he is a man of high degree." Then they lifted up the horse
bodily and, carrying it to the King, set it down before him, and
all the lieges flocked round to look at it, marvelling at the beauty
of its proportions and the richness of its saddle and bridle. The
King also admired it and wondered at it with extreme wonder ;
and he asked the Prince, " O youth, is this thy horse ? " He
answered, " Yes, O King, this is my horse, and thou shalt soon see
the marvel it showeth." Rejoined the King, " Then take and
mount it," and the Prince retorted, " I will not mount till the
troops withdraw afar from it." So the King bade them retire a
bowshot from the horse ; whereupon quoth its owner, " O King,
see thou ; I am about to mount my horse and charge upon thy
host and scatter them right and left and split their hearts asunder."
Said the King, " Do as thou wilt ; and spare not their lives, for
they will not spare thine." Then the Prince mounted, whilst the
troops ranged themselves in ranks before him, and one said to
another, " When the youth cometh between the ranks, we will take
him on the points of our pikes and the sharps of our sabres."
Quoth another, " By Allah, this is a mere misfortune : how shal!
we slay a youth so comely of face and shapely of form ? " And a
third continued, " Ye will have hard work to get the better of him ;
for the youth had not done this, but for what he knew of his own

The Ebony Horse. 15

prowess and pre-eminence of valour." Meanwhile, having settled
himself in his saddle, the Prince turned the pin of ascent ; whilst
all eyes were strained to see what he would do, whereupon the
horse began to heave and rock and sway to and fro and make the
strangest of movements steed ever made, till its belly was filled
with air and it took flight with its rider and soared high into the
sky. When the King saw this, he cried out to his men, saying,
"Woe to you ! catch him, catch him, ere he 'scape you ! " But his
Wazirs and Viceroys said to him, " O King, can a man overtake
the flying bird ? This is surely none but some mighty magician
or Marid of the Jinn or devil, and Allah save thee from him. So
praise thou the Almighty for deliverance of thee and of all thy
host from his hand." Then the King returned to his palace
after seeing the feat of the Prince and, going in to his daughter,
acquainted her with what had befallen them both on the parade-
ground. He found her grievously afflicted for the Prince and
bewailing her separation from him ; wherefore she fell sick with
violent sickness and took to her pillow. Now when her father
saw her on this wise, he pressed her to his breast and kissing her
between the eyes, said to her, " O my daughter, praise Allah
Almighty and thank Him for that He hath delivered us from this
crafty enchanter, this villain, this low fellow, this thief who thought
only of seducing thee ! " And he repeated to her the story of the
Prince and how he had disappeared in the firmament ; and he
abused him and cursed him knowing not how dearly his daughter
loved him. But she paid no heed to his words and did but re-
double in her tears and wails, saying to herself, "By Allah, I will
neither eat meat nor drain drink, till Allah reunite me with him ! "
Her father was greatly concerned for her case and mourned much
over her plight ; but, for all he could do to soothe her, love-longing

only increased on her. And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of

day and ceased saying her permitted say.

fofjcrt ft foas tfje f&fym ^urrtfrefc nntt sbtxtg-tfjirti

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the King
mourned much over his daughter's plight but, for all he co.uld do
to soothe her, love-longing only increased on her. Thus far con-
cerning the King and Princess Shams al-Nahdr; but as regards
Prince Kamar al-Akmar, when he had risen high in air, he turned

1 6 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

his horse's head towards his native land, and being alone mused
upon the beauty of the Princess and her loveliness. Now he had
enquired of the King's people the name of the city and of its King
and his daughter ; and men had told him that it was the city of
Sana'a. 1 So he journeyed with all speed, till he drew near his
father's capital and, making an airy circuit about the city, alighted
on the roof of the King's palace, where he left his horse, whilst he
descended into the palace and seeing its threshold strewn with
ashes, thought that one of his family was dead. Then he entered,
as of wont, and found his father and mother and sisters clad in
mourning raiment of black, all pale of faces and lean of frames.
When his sire descried him and was assured that it was indeed his
son, he cried out with a great cry and fell down in a fit, but after
a time coming to himself, threw himself upon him and embraced
him, clipping him to his bosom and rejoicing in him with exceeding
joy and extreme gladness. His mother and sisters heard this; so
they came in and seeing the Prince, fell upon him, kissing him and
weeping, and joying with exceeding joyance. Then they questioned
him of his case ; so he told them all that had past from first to
last, and his father said to him, " Praised be Allah for thy safety,
O coolth of my eyes and core of my heart ! " Then the King bade
hold high festival, and the glad tidings flew through the city. So

1 The well-known capital of Al-Yaman, a true Arabia Felix, a Paradise inhabited by
demons in the shape of Turkish soldiery and Arab caterans. According to Moslem
writers Sana'a was founded by Shem son of Noah who, wandering southward with his
posterity after his father's death, and finding the site delightful, dug a well and founded
the citadel, Ghamdan, which afterwards contained a Maison Carree rivalling (or attempt-
ing to rival) the Meccan Ka'abah. The builder was Surahbil who, says M. C. de Perceval
coloured its four faces red, white, golden and green ; the central quadrangle had seven
stories (the planets) each forty cubits high, and the lowest was a marble hall ceiling'd with
a single slab. At the four corners stood hollow lions through whose mouths the winds
roared. This palatial citadel-temple was destroyed by order of Caliph Omar. The
city's ancient name was Azal or Uzal whom some identify with one of the thirteen sons
of Joktan (Genesis xi. 27) : it took its present name from the Ethiopian conquerors
(they say) who, seeing it for the first time, cried " Haza Sana' ah !" meaning in their
tongue, this is commodious, etc. I may note that the word is Kisawahili (Zanzibarian)
e.g. " Yambo sdnd is the state good?" Sana'a was the capital of the Tababi'ah or
Tobba Kings who judaized ; and the Abyssinians with their Negush made it Christian
while the Persians under Anushirwan converted it to Guebrism. It is now easily visited
but to little purpose ; excursions in the neighbourhood being deadly dangerous. More-
over the Turkish garrison would probably murder a stranger who sympathised with the
Arabs, and the Arabs kill one who took part with their hated and hateful conquerors.
The late Mr. Shapira of Jerusalem declared that he had visited it and Jews have great
advantages in such travel. But his friends doubted him.

The Ebony Horse. 17

they beat drums and cymbals and, doffing the weed of mourning,
they donned the gay garb of gladness and decorated the streets
and markets ; whilst the folk vied with one another who should be
the first to give the King joy, and the King proclaimed a general
pardon and opening the prisons, released those who were therein
prisoned. Moreover, he made banquets for the people, with great

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 2 of 41)