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 26 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 26 of 41)
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She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth
the Death-messenger to the King, " Well-away, well-away ! this
may be in no way. How can I grant thee a reprieve when the
days of thy life are counted and thy breaths numbered and thy
moments fixed and written ?" " Grant me an hour," asked the
King ; but the Angel answered saying, " The hour was in the
account and hath sped, and thou unheeding aught ; and hath fled,
and thou taking no thought : and now thy breathings are accom-
plished, and there remaineth to thee but one breath." Quoth the
King, " Who will be with me when I am transported to my
tomb?" Quoth the Angel, "Naught will be with thee but thy
works good or evil." " I have no works," said the King ; and the
Angel, " Doubtless thy long home will be in hell-fire and thy doom
the wrath of the Almighty." Then he seized the soul of the King,
and he fell off his throne and dropped on the earth dead. And
there arose a mighty weeping and wailing and clamour of keening

1 Alluding to the " formication" which accompanies a stroke of paralysis.

25 2 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

for him among the people of his court, and had they known that
to which he went of the wrath of his Lord, their weeping for him
had been sorer and their wailing louder and more abounding.
And a story is told of


IT is related that Iskandar Zu al-Karnayn 2 once came, in his
journeyings, upon a tribe of small folk, who owned naught of the
weals of the world and who dug their graves over against the
doors of their houses and were wont at all times to visit them and
sweep the earth from them and keep them clean and pray at them

1 Pronounce Zool Karnayn.

2 i.e. the Koranic and our mediaeval Alexander, Lord of the two Horns (East and
West) much " Matagrobolized " and very different from him of Macedon. The title is
variously explained, from two protuberances on his head or helm, from two long lock?
and, possibly, from the ram-horns of Jupiter Ammon. The anecdote in the text
seems suggested by the famous interview (probably a canard) with Diogenes : see
in the Gesta, Tale cxlvi. "The answer of Diomedes the Pirate to Alexander."
Iskandar was originally called Marzban (Lord of the Marches), son of Marzabah ;
and, though descended from Yundn, son of Japhet, the eponymus of the Greeks,
was born obscure, the son of an old woman. According to the Persians he was the
son of the Elder Darab (Darius Codomannus of the Kayanian or Second dynasty),
by a daughter of Philip of Macedon ; and was brought up by his grandfather. When
Abraham and Isaac had rebuilt the Ka'abah they foregathered with him and Allah
sent him forth against the four quarters of the earth to convert men to the faith of
the Friend or to cut their throats ; thus he became one of the four world-conquerors
with Nimrod, Solomon, Bukht al-Nasr (Nabochodonosor) ; and he lived down two
generations of men. His Wazir was Aristu (the Greek Aristotle) and he carried a
couple of flags, white and black, which made day and night for him and facilitated
his conquests. At the end of Persia, where he was invited by the people, on
account of the cruelty of his half brother Darab II., he came upon two huge moun-
tains on the same line, behind which dwelt a host of abominable pygmies, two spans
high, with curious eyes, ears which served as mattresses and coverlets, huge fanged
mouths, lions' claws and hairy hind quarters. They ate men, destroyed everything,
copulated in public and had swarms of children. These were Yajuj and Majuj (Gog
and Magog) descendants of Japhet. Sikandar built against them the famous wall
with stones cemented and riveted by iron and copper. The "Great Wall" of China,
the famous bulwark against the Tartars dates from B.C. 320; (Alexander of Macedon
died B.C. 324) and as the Arabs knew Canton well before Mohammed's day, they
may have built their romance upon it. The Guebres consigned Sikandar to bell for
burning the Nusks or sections of the Zendavesta.

Iskandar Zu al-Karnayn. 253

and worship Almighty Allah at them ; and they had no meat save
grasses and the growth of the ground. So Iskandar sent a man
to summon their King, but he refused to come, saying, " I have no
need of him." Thereupon Iskandar went to him and said, " How
is it with you and what manner of men are ye ? ; for I see with
you forsooth naught of gold or silver, nor find I with you aught
of the weals of the world." Answered the King, " None hath his
fill of the weals of the world." Iskandar then asked Why do
you dig your graves before your house-doors?"; and the King
answered, " That they may be the prospective of our eye-glances ;
so we may look on them and ever renew talk and thought -of
death, neither forget the world to come ; and on this wise the love
of the world be banished from our hearts and we be not thereby
distracted from the service of our Lord, the Almighty." Quoth
Iskandar, " Why do ye eat grasses ?" ; and the other replied,
" Because we abhor to make our bellies the tombs of animals
and because the pleasure of eating outstrippeth not the gullet."
Then putting forth his hand he brought out a skull of a son
of Adam and, laying it before Iskandar, said, " O Zu al-Karnayn,
Lord of the Two Horns, knowest thou who owned this skull ?"
Quoth he, " Nay ;" and quoth the other, " He who owned this
skull was a King of the Kings of the world, who dealt tyrannously
with his subjects, specially wronging the weak and wasting his
time in heaping up the rubbish of this world, till Allah took his
sprite and made the fire his abiding-site ; and this is his head."
He then put forth his hand and produced another skull and, laying
it before Iskandar, said to him, " Knowest thou this ?" " No,'*
answered the conqueror ; and the other rejoined, "" This is the
skull of another King, who dealt justly by his lieges and was
kindly solicitous for the folk of his realm and his dominions, till
Allah took his soul and lodged him in His Garden and made high
his degree in Heaven." Then laying his hands on Iskandar's
head he said, " Would I knew which of these two art thou."
Whereupon Iskandar wept with sore weeping and straining the
King to his bosom cried, " If thou be minded to company with me,
I will commit to thee as Wazir the government of my affairs and
share with thee my kingdom." Cried the other, " Well-away,
well-away! I have no mind to this." "And why so?" asked
Iskandar, and the King answered, " Because all men are thy
foes by reason of the wealth and the worlds thou hast won :

2 54 A If Laylah iva Laylak.

while all m c ,i are my true friends, because of my contentment
and pauperdom, for that I possess nothing, neither covet aught
of the goods of life ; I have no desire to them nor wish for
them, neither reck I aught save contentment." So Iskandar
pressed him to his breast and kissed him between the eyes and
went his way. 1 And among the tales they tell is one con-


IT is told of Anushirwan, the just King, that once upon a time
he feigned himself sick, and bade his stewards and intendants
go round about the provinces of his empire and the quarters of
his dominion and seek him out a mud-brick thrown away from
some ruined village, that he might use it as medicine, informing
his intimates that the leaches had prescribed this to him. So
they went the round of the provinces of his reign and of all the
lands under his sway and said to him on return, " In all the realm
we have found nor ruined site nor castaway mud-brick." At this
Anushirwan rejoiced and rendered thanks to the Lord, saying, "I
was but minded to try my kingdom and prove mine empire, that I
might know if any place therein remained ruined and deserted, so
J might rebuild and repeople it ; but, since there be no place in it
but is inhabited, the affairs of the reign are best-conditioned and

1 These terrific preachments to Eastern despots (who utterly ignore them) are a staple
produce of Oriental tale-literature and form the chiaro-oscuro> as it were, of a picture
whose lights are brilliant touches of profanity and indelicate humour. It certainly has
the charm of contrast. Much of the above is taken from the Sikandar-nameh (Alexander
Book) of the great Persian poet, Nizami, who flourished A.H. 515 597, between the
aays of Firdausi (ob. A.D. 1021) and Sa'adi (ob. A.D. 1291). In that romance
Sikandar builds, "where the sun goes down," a castle of glittering stone which kill*
men by causing excessive laughter and surrounds it with yellow earth like gold. Hence
the City of Brass. He also converts, instead of being converted by, the savages of the
text. He finds a stone of special excellence which he calls Almas (diamond) ; and he
obtains it from the Valley of Serpents by throwing down flesh to the eagles. Lastly ha
is accompanied by " Bilinas " or " Bilinus," who is apparently Apollonius of Tyana.

2 I have explained the beautiful name in Night cclxxxix: He is still famous for having
introduced into Persia the fables of Pilpay (Bidyapati, the lord of lore) and a game which
the genius of Pers' d*'"eloped into chess.

The Righteousness of King Anushiriuan. 255

its ordinance is excellent ; and its populousness * hath reached the

pitch of perfection." And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of

day and ceased saying her permitted say.

fo&m it foas tfic ^out f^untirft nntr &ixts - fiftl) XtQfjt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
high officials returned and reported, " We have found in the empire
nor ruined site nor rotten brick," the Just King thanked his God
and said, " Verily the affairs of the realm are best-conditioned and
its ordinance is excellent and its populousness hath reached the
pink of perfection." And ken thou, O King, continued Shahrazad,
that these olden Kings strave not and toiled not for the peopling
of their possessions, but because they knew that the more populous
a country is, the more abundant is that which is desired therein ;
and because they wist the saying of the wise and the learned to be
true without other view, namely, " Religion dependeth on the King,
the King on the troops, the troops on the treasury, the treasury on
the populousness of the country and its prosperity on the justice
done to the lieges." Wherefore they upheld ao one in tyranny or
oppression ; neither suffered their dependants and suite to work
injustice, knowing that kingdoms are not established upon tyranny,
but that cities and places fall into ruin when oppressors are set as
rulers over them, and their inhabitants disperse and flee to other
governments ; whereby ruin falleth upon the realm, the imports
fail, the treasuries become empty and the pleasant lives of the
subjects are perturbed ; for that they love not a tyrant and cease
not to offer up successive prayers against him ; so that the King
hath no ease of his kingdom, and the vicissitudes of fortune
speedily bring him to destruction. And they tell a tale con-

1 Here we find an eternal truth, of which Malthusians ever want reminding ; that the
power of a nation simply consists in its numbers of fighting men and in their brute bodily
force. The conquering race is that which raises most foot-pounds: hence the North
conquers the South in the Northern hemisphere and vice vend.

256 A If Laylah wa Laylah*


AMONG the Children of Israel one of the Kazis had a wife of
surpassing beauty, constant in fasting and abounding in patience
and long-suffering ; and he, being minded to make the pilgrimage
to Jerusalem, appointed his own brother Kazi in his stead, during
his absence, and commended his wife to his charge. Now this
brother had heard of her beauty and loveliness and had taken a
fancy to her. So no sooner was his brother gone than he went to
her and sought her love-favours ; but she denied him and held fast
to her chastity. The more she repelled him, the more he pressed
his suit upon her ; till, despairing of her and fearing lest she should
acquaint his brother with his misconduct whenas he should return,
he suborned false witnesses to testify against her of adultery ;
and cited her and carried her before the King of the time who
adjudged her to be stoned. So they dug a pit, and seating her
therein stoned her, till she was covered with stones, and the
man said, " Be this hole her grave ! " But when it was dark a
passer-by, making for a neighbouring hamlet, heard her groaning
in sore pain ; and, pulling her out of the pit, carried her home to
his wife, whom he bade dress her wounds. The peasant woman
tended her till she recovered and presently gave her her child to be
nursed ; and she used to lodge with the child in another house by
night. Now a certain thief saw her and lusted after her. So he
sent to her seeking her love-favours, but she denied herself to
him ; wherefore he resolved to slay her and, making his way into
her lodging by night (and she sleeping), thought to strike at her
with a knife ; but it smote the little one and killed it. Now when he
knew his misdeed, fear overtook him and he went forth the house
and Allah preserved from him her chastity. But as she awoke in
the morning, she found the child by her side with throat cut ; and
presently the mother came and seeing her boy dead, said to the
nurse, "'Twas thou didst murther him." Therewith she beat her
a grievous beating and purposed to put her to death ; but her
husband interposed and delivered the woman, saying, " By Allah,
thou shalt not do on this wise." So the woman, who had somewhat
of money with her, fled forth for her life, knowing not whither she
should wend. Presently, she came to a village, where she saw a

The Jewish Kazi and his Pious Wife. ..57

crowd of people about a man crucified to a tree-stump, but still in
the chains of life. " What hath he done ? " she asked, and they
answered, " He hath committed a crime, which nothing can expiate
but death or the payment of such a fine by way of alms." So she
said to them, "Take the money and let him go ;" and, when they
did so, he repented at her hands and vowed to serve her, for the
love of Almighty Allah till death should release him. Then he
built her a cell and lodged her therein ; after which he betook
himself to woodcutting and brought her daily her bread. As for
her, she was constant in worship, so that there came no sick man
or demoniac to her, but she prayed for him and he was straightway
healed. - And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased
to say her permitted say.

fo|)m it teas t!)e Jfour f^un&relJ anlr bixtp - sixtf) Nigbt,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
woman's cell was visited by folk (and she constant in worship), it
befel by decree of the Almighty that He sent down upon her
husband's brother (the same who had caused her to be stoned), a
cancer in the face, and smote the villager's wife (the same who had
beaten her) with leprosy, and afflicted the thief (the same who had
murthered the child) with palsy. Now when the Kazi returned from
his pilgrimage, he asked his brother of his wife, and he told him that
she was dead, whereat he mourned sore and accounted her with her
Maker. After awhile, very many folk heard of the pious recluse
and flocked to her cell from all parts of the length and breadth of
the earth ; whereupon said the Kazi to his brother, " O my brother,
wilt thou not seek out yonder pious woman ? Haply Allah shall
decree thee healing at her hands ! " and he replied, " O my brother,
carry me to her." Moreover, the husband of the leprous woman
heard of the pious devotee and carried his wife to her, as did also
the people of the paralytic thief; and they all met at the door of
the hermitage. Now she had a place wherefrom she could look out
upon those who came to her, without their seeing her ; and they
waited till her servant came, when they begged admittance and
obtained permission. Presently she saw them all and recognized
them ; so she veiled and cloaked face and body and went out and
stood in the door, looking at her husband and his brother and the
thief and the peasant-woman ; but they could not recognise her.

258 A If Lay la h wa Laylah.

Then said she to them, " Ho folk, ye shall not be relieved of what
is with you till ye confess your sins ; for, when the creature con-
fesseth his sins the Creator relenteth towards him and granteth
him that wherefore he resorteth to Him." Quoth the Kazi to his
brother, " O my brother, repent to Allah and persist not in thy
frowardness, for it will be more helpful to thy relief." And the
tongue of the case spake this speech :

This day oppressor and oppressed meet, o And Allah sheweth secrets we

secrete :
This is a place where sinners low are brought ; o And Allah raiseth saint to

highest seat.
Our Lord and Master shows the truth right clear, o Though sinner froward be

or own defeat :
Alas ' for those who rouse the Lord to wrath, * As though of Allah's wrath they

nothing weet !
O whoso seekest honours, know they are o From Allah, and His fear with love


(Saith the relator), Then quoth the brother, " Now I will tell the
truth : I did thus and thus with thy wife ; " and he confessed the
whole matter, adding, "And this is my offence." Quoth the
leprous woman, " As for me, I had a woman with me and imputed
to her that of which I knew her to be guiltless, and beat her
grievously ; and this is my offence." And quoth the paralytic,
" And I went in to a woman to kill her, after I had tempted her to
commit adultery and she had refused ; and I slew a child that lay
by her side ; and this is my offence." Then said the pious woman,
" O my God, even as Thou hast made them feel the misery of
revolt, so show them now the excellence of submission, for Thou
over all things art Omnipotent ! " And Allah (to whom belong
Majesty and Might !) made them whole. Then the Kazi fell to
looking on her and considering her straitly, till she asked him why
he looked so hard and he said, " I had a wife and were she not
dead, I had said thou art she." Hereupon, she made herself
known to him and both began praising Allah (to whom belong
Majesty and Might !) for that which He had vouchsafed them of
the reunion of their loves ; but the brother and the thief and the
villager's wife joined in imploring her forgiveness. So she forgave

1 Arab. "Wayha," not so strong as "Woe to," etc. Al-Hariri often uses it as
formula of affectionate remonstrance.

The Shipwrecked Woman and her Child. 259

them one and all, and they worshipped Allah in that place and
rendered her due service, till Death parted them. And one of the
Sayyids 1 hath related this tale of


I WAS circuiting the Ka'abah one dark night, when I heard a
plaintive voice, speaking from a contrite heart and saying, " O
Bountiful One, Thy past boon ! Indeed, by my heart shall Thy
covenant never be undone." Hearing this voice, my heart fluttered
so that I was like to die ; but I followed the sound and behold, it
came from a woman, to whom I said, " Peace be with thee, O
handmaid of Allah ; " whereto she replied, " And with thee be
peace, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings ! " Quoth I, " I
conjure thee, by Allah the Most Great, tell me what is the covenant
to which thy heart is constant." Quoth she, " But that thou
adjurest me by the Omnipotent, I would not tell thee my secrets.
See what is before me." So I looked and lo ! there was a child
lying asleep before her and breathing heavily in his slumber. Said
she, " Know, that I set forth, being big with this boy, to make
the pilgrimage to this House and took passage in a ship ; but the
waves rose against us and the winds blew contrary and the vessel
broke up. I saved myself on a plank ; and, on that bit of wood, I
gave birth to this child ; and while he lay on my bosom and the

waves beating upon me," And Shahrazad perceived the dawn

of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

fo&en it foas tfje jpour f^unfcrrtJ anfc &txtB=sebwtf)

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the woman
continued, " Now while the boy lay on my bosom and the waves

1 Asa rule (much disputed) the Sayyid is a descendant from Mohammed through his
grandchild Hasan, and is a man of the pen ; whereas the Sharif derives from Husayn and
is a man of the sword. The Najfb al-taraf is the son of a common Moslemah by a Sayyid,
as opposed to the " Najib al-tarafayn," when both parents are of Apostolic blood. The
distinction is not noticed in Lane's " Modern Egyptians." The Shaiif is a fanatic and
often dangerous, as I have instanced in Pilgrimage iii. 132

260 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

beat upon me, there swam up to me one of the sailors, who climbed
on the plank and said : By Allah, I desired thee whilst thou wast
yet in the ship, and now I have come at thee : so yield thy body
to me, or I will throw thee into the sea. Said I : Out on thee!
hast thou no memory of that which thou hast seen and is it no
warning to thee ? Quoth he : I have seen the like of this many
a time and come off safe and care not. Quoth I : O fellow, we
are now in a calamity, whence we hope to be delivered by obe-
dience to Allah and not by disobedience. But he persisted with
me, and I feared him and thought to put him off; so I said to
him : Wait till this babe shall sleep ; but he took the child off
my lap and threw him into the sea. Now when I saw this despe-
rate deed, my heart sank and sorrow was sore upon me ; so I
raised my eyes heavenwards and said : O Thou that interposest
between a man and his heart, intervene between me and this
leonine brute ; for Thou over all things art Omnipotent ! And by
Allah, hardly had I spoken when a beast rose out of the sea and
snatched him off the plank. When I saw myself alone my sorrows
redoubled and my grief and longing for my child, and I recited :

My coolth of eyes, the darling child of me o Is lost, and racked my heart with
agony ;

My body wrecked, and red-hot coals of love o Burning my liver with sore
pangs, I see.

In this my sorrow shows no gleam of joy ; Save Thy high grace and my ex-
pectancy :

Hast seen, O Lord, what unto me befel ; * My son aye lost and parting pangs
I dree :

Take ruth on us and make us meet again ; o For now my stay and only hope's
in Thee !

I abode in this condition a day and a night ; and, when morning
dawned, I caught sight of the sails of a vessel shining afar off, nor
did the waves cease to drive me and the winds to waft me on, till
I reached the ship, whose sails I had sighted. The sailors took
me up and I looked and behold, my babe was amongst them : so
I threw myself upon him and said : O folk, this is my child : how
and whence came ye by him ? Quoth they : Whilst we were
sailing along the seas the ship suddenly stood still and lo ! that
which stayed us was a beast, as it were a great city, and this babe
on its back, sucking his thumbs. So we took him up. Now
when I heard this, I told them my tale and all that had betided
me and returned thanks to my Lord for His goodness, and vowed

The Pious Black Slave. 261

to Him that never, whilst I lived, would I stir from His House nor
swerve from His service ; and sfnce then I have never asked of
Him aught but He hath given it me." Now when she had made
an end of her story (quoth the Sayyid), I put my hand to my
alms-pouch and would have given to her, but she exclaimed,
" Away from me, thou idle man ! Have I not told thee of His
mercies and the graciousness of His dealings and shall I take an
alms from other than His hand ? " And I could not prevail with
her to accept aught of me : so I left her and went away, reciting
these couplets :

How many boons conceals the Deity, o Eluding human sight in mystery :
How many graces come on heels of stresses, And fill the burning heart with

Jubilee :
How many a sorrow in the morn appears, And turns at night-tide into

gladdest gree :
If things go hard with thee some day, yet trust a Th* Eterne, th' Almighty

God of Unity :
And pray the Prophet that he intercede ; o Through intercession every wish

shalt see.

And she left not the service of her Lord, cleaving unto His House,
till death came to her. And a tale is also .told, by Malik bin
Dfndr ! (Allah have mercy on him !) of


WE were once afflicted with drought at Bassorah and went forth
sundry times to pray for rain, but saw no sign of our prayers being
accepted. So I went, I and 'Itaa al-Salamf and Sabit al-Banani
and Naja al-Bakaa and Mohammed bin Wasi'a and Ayyub al-

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 26 of 41)