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 16) online

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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 16) → online text (page 6 of 40)
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hearts of enjoyers can engage." (i) "And in her fortieth year ?"
" Fat, fresh and fair doth she appear." (<) " And of the half
century ? " " The mother of men and maids in plenty." (i) :< And
a crone of three score ? " " Men ask of her never more." (<)
" And v/hen three score and ten ? " " An old trot and remnant
of men." (<) " And one who reacheth four score ? " " Unfit for
the world and for the faith foriore." (<) "And one of ninety?"
"Ask not of whoso in Jahi'm be" 2 (<) " And a woman who to
an hundred hath owned ? " " I take refuge with Allah from Satan
the Stoned." Then Al-Hajjaj laughed aloud and said, O young
man, I desire of thee even as thou describedst womankind in
prose so thou show me their conditions in verse ; '' and the Sayyid,

taghru-ha (read thaghru-ha) Liiluan lam yuskab wa rfku-ha" min al-Zulal a'zab (foi
a'zab min al-Zulal)," which I would translate : Who if she look upon the heavens, the
very rocks cover themselves with verdure, and an she look upon the earth, her lips rain
unpierced pearls (words of virgin eloquence) and the dews of whose mouth are sweeter
than the purest water. ST.]

1 These lines have often occurred before : see index (vol. x. 443) " Wa lau anunaha" li
1-Mushrikin," etc. I have therefore borrowed from Mr. Payne, vol viii 78, whose
version is admirable.

2 For the Jahim-hell, see vol, viii. in.

56 Supplemental Nights.

having answered, " Hearkening and obedience, O Hajjaj/' fell to

improvising these couplets * :

" When a maid owns to ten her new breasts arise And like diver's pearl

with fair neck she hies :
The damsel of twenty defies compare o Tis she whose disport we desire and

prize :
She of thirty hath healing on cheeks of her ; o She's a pleasure, a plant whose

sap never dries :
If on her in the forties thou happily hap o She's best of her sex, hail to him

with her lies !
She of fifty (pray Allah be copious to her !) o With wit, craft and wisdom her

children supplies.
The dame of sixty hath lost some force o Whose remnants are easy to ravenous

eyes :
At three score ten few shall seek her house o Age-threadbare made till

afresh she rise :
The fourscore dame hath a bunchy back o From mischievous eld whom

perforce Love flies :
And the crone of ninety hath palsied head o And lies wakeful o' nights and

in watchful guise ;
And with ten years added would Heaven she bide Shrouded in sea with a

shark for guide ! "

Hereupon Al-Hajjaj laughed aloud and all who were with him in
assembly ; and presently he resumed, " O youth, tell me con-
cerning the first man who spake in verse 2 and that was our
common sire, Adam (The Peace be upon him !) what time Kabfl 3

1 For the Seven Ages of womankind (on the Irish model) see vol. ix. 175. Some
form of these verses is known throughout the Moslem East to prince and peasant. They
usually begin :

From the tenth to the twentieth year To the gaze a charm doth appear ;
and end with :

From sixty to three score ten On all befal Allah's malison.

2 [Here I suppose the word "kal" has been dropped after "bi '1-shi'r, 1 ' and it
should be: He (the youth) replied, that was our common sire, Adam, etc. ST.]

3 " Habil" and "Kabil" are the Arab, equivalent of Abel and Cain. Neither are
named in the Koran (Surah v. "The Table," vv. 30-35), which borrows a dialogue
between the brothers derived from the Targum (Jeirus. on Gen. iv. 8) and makes the
raven show the mode of burial to Cain, not to Adam as related by the Jews. Rod-
well's Koran, p. 543.

History of Al-Hdjjaj bin Yusuf and the Young Sayyid. 57

slew Hclbfl his brother when our forefather improvised these
lines : .

" Changed I see my country and ail thereon ; Earth is now a blackavice,

ugly grown :
The hue and flavour of food is fled And cheer is fainting from fair face

An'thou, O Abel, be slain this day Thy death I bemourn with heart torn

and lone.
Weep these eyes and 'sooth they have right to weep e Their tears are as rills

flowing hills adown.
Kdbil slew HAbil did his brother dead ; Oh my woe for that lovely face,

ochone ! '' '

Hereat Al-Hajjaj asked, " O, young man, what drove our ancestoi

to poetry?" whereto answered the youth And Shahrazad was

surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased saying her
permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, " How sweet
and tasteful is thy tale, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and
delectable ! " Quoth she, <{ And where is this compared with that
I would relate to you on the coming night an the Sovran suffer
me to survive ? " Now when it was the next night and that was

antj (tgf)ttentf)

DUNYAZAD said to her, Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou
be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short
the watching of this our latter night ! " She replied : - With
love and good will ! It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the
director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and
of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the youth

1 Sit venia verbo : I have the less hesitation in making Adam anticipate the widow
Malone from a profound conviction that some Hibernian antiquary, like Vallancey who
found the Irish tongue in the Punic language of Plautus, shall distinctly prove that out
first forefather spoke Keltic.

$8 Supplemental Nights.

replied, " He was driven to poetry by Iblis (whom Allah accurse !)
when he spake in this verse :

" Thou bewailest the land and all thereon * And scant was the breadth of Eden

didst own,
Where thou wast girded by every good o O' life and in rest ever wont to

wone :

But ne'er ceased my wiles and rny guile until c The wind o'erthrew thee by
folly blown." l

Whereupon quoth Al-Hajjaj, " O young man, inform me concern-
ing the first couplet of verse spoken by the Arab in praise of
munificence ;" and quoth the youth, " O Hajjaj, the first Arabic
distich known to me was spoken by Hatim of Tayy, and 'twas as
follows :

" And the guest I greet ere from me he go o Before wife and weans in my
weal and woe."

Then cried Al-Hajjaj, " Thou hast said well and hast spoken fair,
O young man ; and thy due is incumbent upon us for that thou hast
drowned us in the deeps of thy wisdom." Presently the Lieutenant
of Kufah turning towards one of his eunuchs said, " Bring me at
this very moment a purse containing ten thousand dirhams 2 upon
a charger of red gold and a suit of the rarest of my raiment and a
blood mare the noblest steed of my steeds with a saddle of
gold and a haubergeon ; 3 and a lance of full length and a hand-

1 In text "Rih," wind, gust (of temper), pride, rage. Amongst the Badawin it is
the name given to rheumatism (gout being unknown), and all obscure aching diseases by
no means confined to flatulence or distension. [The MS. has: " ilaan kata-ka 'l-'amal
al-rabih," which gives no sense whatever. Sir Richard reads: "katala-ka 'l-'amal
al-rih," and thus arrives at the above translation. I would simply drop a dot oa the
first letter of " kata-ka," reading " fata-ka," when the meaning of the line as it stands,
would be: until the work that is profitable passed away from thee, i.e., until thou
ceasedst to do good. The word "rabih" is not found in Dictionaries, but it is
evidently an intensive of "rabih" (tijarah rabihah = a profitable traffic) and its root
occurs in the Koran, ii. 15 : "Fa-ma rabihat Tijaratuhum" = but their traffic has not
been gainful. ST.]

2 Arab. "Badrah": see vol. iv. 281. [According to the Kdmiis, " Badrah " is a
purse of one thousand or ten thousand dirhams, or of seven thousand dinars. As lower
down it is called " Badrat Zahab," a purse of gold, I would take it here in the third
sense. ST.]

3 In text " Zardiya," for " Zaradiyyah " = a small mail-coat, a light helmet.

History of Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf and the Young Sayy id. 59

maid the handsomest of my slave-girls." The attendant dis-
appeared for a while, and presently brought all this between the
hands of Al-Hajjaj, who said, " O young man, this damsel is the
fairest of my chattels, and this be the purse on a charger of gold,
and this mare is the purest in blood of my steeds together with her
housings, so do thou take whatever thou desirest thereof, either the
mare with all upon her or the purse of gold or the concubine,"
presently saying to himself, " If the young man prefer the purse,
'twill prove that he loveth the world and I will slay him, also if he
choose the girl, he lusteth after womankind, and I will do him die :
but if he take the mare and her furniture, he will show himself the
brave of braves, and he meriteth not destruction at my hands."
Then the youth came forward and took the mare and her appoint-
ments. Now the damsel was standing by the young Sayyid, and
she winked at him with her eye as one saying, " Do thou choose
me and leave all the rest ;" whereupon he began to improvise the
following couplets :

The jingling bridle on Bayard's neck * Is dearer to me than what sign thou

deign :
I fear when I fall into straits and fare *- Abroad, no comrade in thee to

I fear when lain on my couch and long c My sickness, thou prove thee nor

fond nor fain :
I fear me that time grovveth scant my good c And my hand be strait thou

shall work me bane :
A helpmate I want shall do what do I * And bear patient the pasture of barren

plain." l

Presently the handmaid answered his verse v/ith the following
couplets :

" Forfend me, Allah, from all thou say'st Though my left with my right thou

shah hew in twain
A husband's honour my works shall keep e And I'll wone content with his

smallest gain :
Didst know me well and my nature weet * Thou hadst found me mate of the

meekest strain.

' Avab. " 'Ind 'us^dti 's-sinfni" = lit. the thorny shrubs of ground bare of pasture.

60 Supplemental Nights.

Nor all of women are like to sight c Nor all of men are of similar grain.
The charge of a mate to the good belongs Let this oath by Allah belief

Hearing these words Al-Hajjaj exclaimed, " Woe to thee,
O damsel, dost thou answer him in his verse? and do thou
O young man, take the whole, and may Allah give thee no
blessing therein." ! Answered the young Sayyid, " Here with
them, O Hajjaj, inasmuch as thou hast given them to me, I will
not oppose the order of Allah through thee, but another time
there is no union between us twain, me and thee, as there hath
been this day." Now the city of Al-Hajjaj had two gates the
door of Destruction and the door of Salvation ; and when the
youth asked him, " O Hajjaj, shall I go forth from this or from
that ? " the Lieutenant of Kufah cried, " Issue by this outlet/*
and showed him the Gate of Safety. Then the youth took all
the presents and fared forth by the passage which had been shown
to him, and went his ways and was seen no more. Hereupon the
Grandees of the kingdom said to Al-Hajjaj, " O our lord, how
hast thou given to him these gifts and he hath on nowise thanked
thee, nor wished thee well 2 for thy favours, and yet hast thou
pointed out to him the Gate of Salvation ? " Hereupon he replied,
"Verily, the youth asked direction of me, and it becometh the
director to be trustworthy and no traitor (Allah's curse be upon
him who betrayeth !), and this youth meriteth naught save mercy
by reason of his learning." 3

1 This is another form of " inverted speech," meaning the clean contrary : see vols. ii.
265 ; vi. 262 ; and viii. 179.

2 In text " Lam yakthir Khayrak " : this phrase (pronounced " Kattir Khayrak ") is
the Egyptian (and Moslem) equivalent for our "thank you." Vols. iv. 6 ; v. 171.
Scott (p. 267) makes Al-Hajjaj end with, " Cursed is he who doth not requite a sincere
adviser, declaretl our sacred Koran."

3 In the W. M. MS. this tale is followed by the " History of Uns al-Wujud and the
Wazir's daughter Rose-in-hood," for which see vol. v. 32 et seq. Then comes the
long romance " Mdzin of Khordsdn," which is a replica of "Hasan of Bassorah and
the King's daughter of the Jinn" (vol. viii. 7). I have noted (vol. x. 78) that this
story shows us the process of transition from the Persian original to the Arabic copy.
I' Mdzin" is also the P. N. of an Arab tribe : De Sacy, Chrest. i. 406.



IT is told in various relations of the folk (but Allah is All-knowing
of His secret purpose and All-powerful and All-beneficent and
All-merciful in whatso of bygone years transpired and amid
peoples of old took place) that the Caliph Harun al-Rashfd being
straitened of breast one day summoned his Chief of the Eunuchs
and said to him, " O Masrur ! " Quoth he, " Adsum, O my
lord ; " and quoth the other, " This day my breast is straitened
and I would have thee bring me somewhat to hearten my heart
and consume rny care." Replied Masrur, " O my lord, do thou go
forth to thy garden and look upon the trees and the blooms and
the rills and listen to the warblings of the fowls." Harun replied,
"O Masrur, thou hast mentioned a matter which palleth on my
palate 2 nor may my breast be broadened by aught thou hast
commended." Rejoined the Eunuch, " Then do thou enter thy
palace and having gathered thy handmaids before thee, let each
and every say her say whilst all are robed in the choicest of
raiment and ornaments; so shalt thou look upon them and thy
spirits shall be cheered." The Caliph retorted, " O Masrur, we
want other than this ; " whereupon quoth the slave, " O Prince of
True Believers, send after the Wazirs and thy brotherhood of
learned men and let them improvise for thee poetry and set before

1 MS. vol. v. pp. 92-94 : Scott, vol. vi. 343 : Gauttier, vi. 376. The story is a
replica of the Mock Caliph (vol. iv. 130) and the Tale of the First Lunatic (Suppl.
vol. iv.) ; but I have retained it on account of the peculiar freshness and naivete of
treatment which distinguishes it, also as a specimen of how extensively editors and
scriveners can vary the same subject.

"* In text " Natar " (watching) for " Nataf" (indigestion, disgust).

64 Supplemental Nights.

thee stories whereby shall thy care be solaced." Quoth he, " O
Masrur, naught of this shall profit me." Hereat cried the Eunuch,
"Then, O my lord, I see naught for thee save to take thy sabre
and smite the neck of thy slave : haply and peradventure this may
comfort thee and do away with thy disgust." 1 When the King
Harun al-Rashid heard these words, he laughed aloud and said to
him, " O Masrur, go forth to the gate where haply thou shalt find
some one of my cup-companions." Accordingly he went to the
porte in haste and there came upon one of the courtiers which was
Ali ibn Mansur Al-Dimishki and brought him in. The Com-
mander of the Faithful seeing him bade him be seated and said,
" O Ibn Mansur, I would have thee tell me a tale somewhat rare
and strange ; so perchance my breast may be broadened and my
doleful dumps from me depart." Said he, " O Prince of True
Believers, dost thou desire that I relate to thee of the things
which are past and gone or I recount a matter I espied with
my own eyes?" Al-Rashid replied, "An thou have sighted
somewhat worthy seeing relate it to us for hearing is not like
beholding." He rejoined, " O Emir al-Muumim'n, whilst I tell
thee this tale needs must thou lend me ear and mind ; " and the
Caliph 2 retorted, " Out with thy story, for here am I hearkening
to thee with ears and eyes wide awake, so that my soul may
understand the whole of this say." Hereupon Ibn Mansur related
to him

1 Here again we have the formula " Kala '1-Rawi "= the reciter saith, showing the
purpose of the MS. See Terminal Essay, p. 163.

2 It were well to remind the reader that " Khalifah " (never written "Khalff")is
= a viceregent or vicar, i.e. of the Prophet of Allah, not of Allah himself, a sense
which was especially deprecated by the Caliph Abubakr as "vicar" supposes Fabsencc
du chef; or Dieu est present fartout et <J tout instant. Ibn Khal. ii. 496.


Now when AI-Rashid heard the tale of Ibn Mansur there fell
from him somewhat of his cark and care but he was not wholly
comforted. He spent the night in this case and when it was
morning he summoned the Wazir Ja'afar ibn Yahya the Barmaki,
and cried to him, " O Ja'afar ! " He replied, " Here am I ! Allah
lengthen thy life, and make permanent thy prosperity." The
Caliph resumed, " Verily my breast is straitened and it hath
passed through my thought that we fare forth, I and thou (and
Eunuch Masrur shall make a third), and we will promenade the
main streets of Baghdad and solace ourselves with seeing its
several places and peradventure I may espy somewhat to hearten
my heart and clear off my care and relieve me of what is with me
of straitness of breast." Ja'afar made answer, " O Commander of
the Faithful, know that thou art Caliph and Regent and Cousin to
the Apostle of Allah and haply some of the sons of the city may
speak words that suit thee not and from that matter may result
other matter with discomfort to thy heart and annoyance to thy
mind, the offender unknowing the while that thou art walking the
streets by night. Then thou v/ilt command his head to be cut off
and what was meant for pleasure may end in displeasure and wrath
and wrong-doing." Al-Rashid replied, " I swear by the rights of
my forbears and ancestors even if aught mishap to us from the
meanest of folk as is wont to happen or he speak words which
should not be spoken, that I will neither regard them nor reply
thereto, neither will I punish the aggressor, nor shall aught linger
in my heart against the addresser ; but need must I pass through

1 This tale, founded on popular belief in tribadism has already been told in vol. vii.
130: in the W.M. MS. it occupies 23 pages (pp. 95-118). Scott (vi. 343) has
1 ' Mesroor retired and brought in Ali Ibn Munsoor Damuskkee, who related to the
Caliph a foolish narrative (!) of two lovers of Bussorah, each of whom was coy when
the other wished to be kind." The respectable Britisher evidently cared not to " read
between the lines."


66 Supplemental Nights.

the Bazar this very night." Hereupon quoth Ja'afar to the
Caliph, "O Viceregent of Allah upon earth, do thou be steadfast
of purpose and rely upon Allah ! " J Then they arose and arousing
Masrur doffed what was upon them of outer dress and bag-trousers
and habited themselves each one of them in garments differing
from those of the city folks. Presently they sallied forth by the
private postern and walked from place to place till they came to
one of the highways of the capital and after threading its length
they arrived at a narrow street whose like was never seen about
all the horizons. 2 This they found swept and sprinkled with the
sweet northern breeze playing through it and at the head thereof
rose a mansion towering from the dust and hanging from the
necks of the clouds. Its whole length was of sixty cubits
whereas its breadth was of twenty ells ; its gate was of ebony
inlaid with ivory and plated with plates of yellow brass while
athwart the doorway hung a curtain of sendal and over it was a
chandelier of gold fed with oil of 'Iraki violets which brightened
all that quarter with its light. The King Harun al-Rashid and
the Wazir and the Eunuch stood marvelling at what they saw of
these signs and at what they smelt of the scents breathing from
the clarity 3 of this palace as though they were the waftings of the
perfumed gardens of Paradise and they cast curious glances at the
abode so lofty and of base so goodly and of corners so sturdy,
whose like was never builded in those days. Presently they
noted that its entrance was poikilate with carvings manifold and
arabesques of glittering gold and over it was a line writ in
letters of lapis lazuli. So Al-Rashid took seat under the

1 In pop. parlance " Let us be off."

2 Arab. " Al-Afak " plur. of Ufk, " elegant " (as the grammarians say) for the world,
the universe.

3 -[In MS. "Rankah" or " Ranakah," probably for " Raunakah," which usually
means " troubled," speaking of water, but which, according to Schiaparelli's Vocabu-
lista, has also the meaning of " Raunak " = amenitas. As however " Ranakah " taken
as fem. of " Ranak," shares with Raunakah the signification of "troubled," it may
perhaps also be a parallel form to the latter in the second sense. ST.]

Night Adventure of Harun al-Rashid and the Youth Manjab. 67

candelabrum with Ja'afar standing on his right and Masrur afoot
to his left and he exclaimed, " O Wazir, this mansion is naught
save in the utmost perfection of beauty and degree ; and verily its
lord must have expended upon it wealth galore and of gold a
store ; and, as its exterior is magnificent exceedingly, so would to
Heaven I knew what be its interior." Then the Caliph cast a
glance at the upper lintel of the door whereupon he saw inscribed
in letters of golden water which glittered in the rays of the


Hereupon quoth Al-Rashid, " O Ja'afar, the house-master never
wrote yonder lines save for a reason and I desire to discover what
may be his object, so let us forgather with him and ask him the
cause of this legend being inscribed in this place." Quoth Ja'afar,
" O Prince of True Believers, yonder lines were never written save
in fear of the curtain of concealment being withdrawn." - And
Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day, and fell silent and
ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad,
" How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and
delectable ! " Quoth she, " And where is this compared with that
I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me
to survive ? " Now when it was the next night, and that was


DUNYAZAD said to her, " Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou
be other than sleepy finish for us thy tale that we may cut short
the watching of this our latter night ! '' She replied : - With
love and good will ! It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the
director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and
of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that Ja'afar the

Supplemental Nights.

Barmecide said to the King, " Verily the master of this house
never wrote yonder lines save in fear lest the curtain of conceal-
ment be withdrawn." Hearing this the Caliph held his peace for
a while and fell to pondering this matter then said he, " O Ja'afar,
knock at the door and ask for us a gugglet of water ; " and when
the Wazir did his bidding one of the slaves called out from within
the entrance, " Who is it rappeth at our gate ? " Hereupon said
Masrur to him, " O son of my uncle, open to us the door and give
us a gugglet of water for that our lord thirsteth." The chattel
went in to his master, the young man, Manjab hight, who owned
the mansion, and said, " O my lord, verily there be at our door
three persons who have rapped for us and who ask fora drink of
water." The master asked, " What manner of men may they
be ? " and the slave answered, " One of them sitteth under the
chandelier and another of them standeth by his side and the third
is a black slave between their hands ; and all three show signs of
staidness and dignity than which naught can be more." " Go forth
to them/' exclaimed the master, " and say to them : My lord
inviteth you to become of his guests." So the servile went out
and delivered the message, whereat they entered and found five
lines of inscription in different parts of the hall with a candelabrum
overhanging each and every and the whole five contained the
sentence we have before mentioned ; furthermore all the lights
were hung up over the legend that the writing might be made
manifest unto whoso would read it. Accordingly Harun al-Rashid
entered and found a mansion of kingly degree 1 and of marvellous

1 The text has " Martabat Saltanah " (for Sultaniyah) which may mean a royal Divan.
The " Martabah " is a mattress varying in size and thickness, stuffed with cotton and
covered with cloths of various colours and the latter mostly original and admirable of
figuration but now supplanted by the wretched printed calicoes of civilisation. It is
placed upon the ground and garnished with cushions which are usually of length
equalling the width of the mattress and of a height measuring about half of that breadth.
When the "Martabah" is placed upon its "Mastabah" (bench of masonry or timber)
or upon its "Sarir" (a frameworl- of "jarid" or midribs of the palm), it becomes the
Diwan = divan-

Night Adventure of Harun al-Rashid and the Youth Manjab. 69

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 16) → online text (page 6 of 40)