Gustav Karpeles.

The thousand and one nights; or, The Arabian nights entertainments online

. (page 38 of 47)
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the bowels of the earth, there would I find gold and rubies.
and rivers still more precious. The moon rises in the horizon
to supply the place of the absent sun. The stars, dispensers
of the dew, have already advanced before her. You shall De
refreshed, ye barren sands. But the sun, when he darts his
rays upon you, cannot mo^e you. Nothing can ever fertilize
your barren nature. T^e 'mgrateoil b^.art is like the sand of
the desert. The faiors of bd<we*vi^c *hower<*i IU>OF i^ ipith


fcut making any impression which may show them to hav*
been there.

" Courage, Habib ! thou shalt never despise what has beei?
done for thee. Behold that emotion in the sky. There, at
this very instant, is thy destiny weighed. Away then with
tear ! put a steady and vigorous foot on the balance ; thou
shalt thus weigh it down to thy side. See how calm the upper
region ! There are thy judges ; Mohammed and his seven
prophets are soliciting for thee !

u Great Prophet, friend of God ! a Mussulman cries to the*-
in the desert ; hear, hear his voice !

" The object he pursues is worthy of a hero. Thou wast
on earth a model for heroes. Glory and love inflame his
heart ! Thou disdainest none who bear the stamp of virtue."

Thus Habib, as he travelled, forgot his wants and fatigues.
As he looked towards the desert he thought he discerned a
small black spot. " At last," said he, " this plain has limits ;
what I see is no doubt a mountain, or a collection of vapors
over some tract of inhabitable country. Thou shalt see meo,
Habib. The passions, indeed, arm us against one another ;
but man always rejoices at the sight of his fellow. These
have, perhaps, never seen the child of Providence ; I shall
show him to them, and force them to believe in Providence.
I will not say I must have gold, silver, flocks, tents, or slaves !
I will only ask a pitcher of water, a handful of rice, and the
road to Caucasus ! "

Habib in vain made prodigious efforts to reach the black
spot. It still appeared at the same distance. He was tortured
to agony by hunger and thirst, and scorched by the burning
heat. He stopped at length, and laid down. His imagination,
filbd with ideal hopes, soon soothed him into sleep. The
coolness of the evening awaked him. He had been tossed
(jnd agitated with painful dreams. A rivulet seemed to run
backwards to it source, to refuse him drink ; abundance of
aumptuous meats were set before him, but before he could
taste the~n they were removed by invisible hands. He


greatly fatigued, and hoped that after continuing his journey
through the night, by morning to have reached the object
towards which his eyes were constantly directed. lie exerted
all his strength, and used every means to withstand the fatigue
which exhausted him. Strong in his own courage solely, he
yet triumphed, and rose superior to himself.

Day at length returned ; but still the black spot appeared at
the same distance as before. Habib's feet were uncovered, and
the torrid sand scorched them ; one cloud of dust was still
blown upon him after another, and his strength was entirely
exhausted ; everything seemed to fail him, and he became al-
most hopeless. He spread the tiger's skin upon the sand, fell
down with his knees upon it, and raising his hands, thus ad-
dressed his ardent prayer to heaven, calling out in a voice of
grief mixed with confidence :

u I am lost^ in an ocean of sand, the limits of which I cannot
perceive. The earth flees before me like a cloud. I have
called on the burning sand to afford me water for ablution ; i/
obeyed, and I am purified. The Creator will bring the earth
to meet me, and supply my wants.

" See, my feet refuse to bear me, my legs stagger, my knees
bend ; yet I will crawl, even on my belly, to the place whither
I am called by the decrees of fate. But what wilt thou say,
O great Prophet, to see a child of thy tribe crawl like a
worm ? "

While he thus spoke, and his eyes were still fixed on the
object towards which he seemed to be vainly travelling, he ob-
served a point parting from it, and moving towards him through
the air ; it sailed for some time through the firmament, after
which it came down. .It proved to be a bird of monstrous size.
It was a roc. It alighted within fifty paces of him, and there
rested for some time, motionless.

Habib arose and advanced towards the bird. As soon as he
was near enough to be heard : " Bird," said he, "thou art a
creature of the Lord ; and I respect thee as a production of
Ws power. If thou art sent to the assistance of an unfortunate


but faithful Mussulman, abandoned by his brethren, I command
thee, in the name of God, and his prophet, to give some sigfl
by which I may know that thou art sent by tnem. ~

The roc immediately extended its wings, clapped them three
times, and bowed its head to Habib. The young sultan went
close up to it, and perceived a damask cushion suspended be-
tween its feet by silken cords ; he caught hold of the cords,
*nd seated himself upon the cushion. No sooner was he thus
placed, than the bird arose and flew aloft into the air.

" The earth which seemed to flee before me, now recedes
ander my feet," said Habib, as he was carried upwards among
the clouds. " Ye frightful piles of sand, ye are no more than
a grain of dust to my eyes ! Present famine and death to the
monsters and venomous reptiles which inhabit you ; you can
do nothing against the slave of God, the servant of the great
prophet ; a path is opened to him through the air. Thou bird,
who art the messenger of the Most High, obey the orders of a
faithful Mussulman. Bear him to mount Caucasus, where the
arms of the sage and powerful Solomon are deposited.

The obedient roc bore young Habib to the mountain which
was the destined term of his journey. His senses were con-
founded by the rapidity of its flight, which increased his weak-
ness. II Haboul received him, and bore him to a place whero
an agreeable warmth soon revived him.

When with the return of his strength he recovered sense,
his lips opened with expressions of gratitude. " What ! is it
you, my dear H Haboul ? you have not forsaken me, then I "

" The orders of my superiors, O valiant sultan, have brought
you hither," replied the geni. " A bird of the great Solomon's
has borne you from the desert ; I am- appointed to receive
7ou ; you will easily judge how pleasant I find the task. I am
ZM>t unacquainted with the treachery to which you have been
exposed, or the distress which you have suffered in the desert,
or the afflictions of Salamis, your father. I am the keeper of
the Measures of Solomon which are deposited in the bowels of
the 3arth, and without his orders dare not remove ; otherwise*



I would have come to your assistance. It is the will of heaveti
that virtue be proved by trials ; and you have undergone a
very severe trial. The sufferings of emir Salamis, and Ami-
rala are not less than yours. Crowns of glory await you<
but they must be taken by violence. Such is the lot of ail
who are highly favored among the sons of men. 3 *

While he spoke thus, a collation was set upon the table eon*-
listing of such meats as were not too heavy or cloying to ft
Btomach of which the powers were worn out by long abstinence,

Habib proceeded to refresh himself; but was surprised at
the same time to find such plenty, even of delicacies, amidst the
most dreary desert in nature.

" This is the abode of enchantment," said II Haboul. " No
resource can be wanting to the great Solomon. To his wisdom
all nature is subject. Before he went to take his place beside
our great prophet, he buried his treasures here, to hide them from
the daring avarice of men, who seldom find enjoyment except
in the abuse of what providence bestows. Here are the arms
deposited with which he combatted rebellious men and spirits.
Illabousatrous, grandfather to Dorathil-goase, I, and the genii
of the race of Eblis, felt our inferiority ere it was too late, and
submitted without resistance. Others were less wise than we,
and are shut up in dungeons not far distant. The formidable
Abarikaff, with whom you are to contend, with a number of
others, have made their escape by flight, by fraud, and even
by force.

" Hitherto, my dear Habib, you have shown unshrinking
firmness, and displayed your strength and courage in combat-
ting wild beasts. Want and difficulties have not slackened
your valor. The eye that watches over you has assisted you
when you could do nothing for yourself. When the roc
alighted before you, you had yet five icy mountains to pass,
before you could have reached the summit of Caucasus, which
you had seen at two hundred leagues distance. But th
Bangers which now await you, are of a different sort. It it
lot by the exertion of strength they are to be opposed 5 but by


salm fortitude ; by courage, which no terrors can me ve Tfaua
siiall you penetrate into the treasury of the great Solomon, and
bring out the arms which no power can resist. As soon as your
body shall be reinvigorated by rest, I will speak to you con-
cerning the tasks you have to fulfil, and the means to be em-

After this, H Haboul made his pupil enter his cavern, and
then furnished him with conveniences for rest after his fatigues.
Exhausted as Habib was, more than one day was necessary to
restore his health, and fit him for the enterprise in which he
was about to engage. Had it not been for the authority which
the geni had assumed over him, from his infancy, it might have
been difficult to restrain so passionate a lover. But the sage
II Haboul could avail himself of a power which long habit
had confirmed ; and he accordingly prevailed with his pupil to
expose himself to no new trials, till he should have fully recov-
ered his strength. In the mean time, he informed him what
was to be done in order that he might accomplish the purpose
of his journey to mount Caucasus.

" My dear Habib," said he, " you are called by destiny to be
the avenger of Dorathil-goase, and to punish the rebellion of
the barbarous AbarikafF. The dominions of that princess lie
at a vast distance. Deserts as immense as those you have tra-
versed, divide you from the seas which surround the seven
islands ; and if you should think of going by sea, the road to
the snore is neither short nor open. The only way is through
the centre of the earth. But what care and prudence are requi-
site, that you may travel successfully by this line! What
energy of mind must you possess, my dear sultan, if you can
undertake so dangerous a journey ! If forty brazen gates,
guarded by malevolent genii endowed with extraordinary
strength and courage, shall stop you ; if confusion and forget-
fulness surprise you but for a moment, you will be exposed
lo ths greatest of all misfortunes 1

a You must pass through all the rooms in which Solomon'g
treasures are deposited. The first of these contains the mostf


precious of all, those very arm* with which he attained thai
high degree of power which astonished the world. This part
is the least strictly guarded, and the most open to the researches
of men. Happy would they be if they could content themselves
with penetrating thus far, and acquiring those arms, without
dosiring to advance farther.

tt Solomon surpassed all the men on the earth in knowledge,
He fixed its principles and illustrations by three hundred an*!
eixty-six hieroglyphics, each of which required a day's appli-
cation from even the ablest understanding, before its myste-
rious sense could be understood. Would you take time to pen-
fitrate into these mysteries ? " "I love Dorathil-goase," said
Habib ; " she is in danger ; I must have the arms to fight with
AbarikafF ; I shall endeavor to acquire this knowledge after I
have conquered him." " It is possible to be less inexcusable
for such a failure in you ; but since Solomon left the earth, five
hundred knights have penetrated into these deserts ; all have
neglected the studies which I propose to you, and gone in search
of the treasures deposited in the cavities of this immense sub-
terraneous recess. They would, first of all, gratify their pas-
sions, and not one of them has returned ; they have all failed
through ignorance. Let us, however, strive to save you from
the same disgrace.

" I will conduct you to the first gate ; at your feet you will
see a golden key ; pick it up, and open the gate ; the bolt of the
lock you may move by the slightest effort. Be careful to shu
the gate behind you, PO gently that it may not make the least

In the nrst hall you will find a black slave of a gigantic ska
Forty keys of the other apartments through which you are to
pass, are suspended by <t chain of diamonds, which hangs from
las left hand. At sight of you he will utter a tremendous yell,
which will shake the vaults of the subterranean rooms, and
will at the same time raise over your head an enormous sci me-
ter. Preserve your soul unmoved with fear ; look upon his
vrire; you know I have taught you to read the talismank


characters. Pronounce aloud the words written Mpon the
blade ; commit them to memory, so that whatever trials and
dangers you may be exposed to, they may never be effaced,
Your safety depends upon them.

" The slave will then become subject to you. You must dis-
arm him, and take from him the keys, and the scimetar of the
great Solomon ; but you will look in vain for the talisman ; it
will disappear at the moment you pronounce the words of which
it consists. You will then open the first of the forty doors,
and shut it behind you, with the same precautions as before.
There you will see the arms of Solomon ; but touch not his
casque, his cuirass, nor his buckler. You have his scimetar,
and it is not with steel you are to arm yourself. Solomon was
victorious through courage, vigor, patience and prudence. Four
statues, engraved with hieroglyphics, will exhibit before you
representations of these four virtues. Reflect long upon those
emblems, and learn to decipher their meaning. These are
arms whicn can never be taken from you. Examine carefully
the arms of the prophet, as well as the scimetar of the slave.
The knowledge you may acquire from them will enable you to
vanquish all enemies that may rise up against you ; but with-
out this, and without retaining in your memory the characters
engraven on the sabre, remember that you have in your hands
nothing but a piece of steel, which rust and the teeth of time
will consume away.

" When you have stayed in the first apartment as long as
you think proper, you may then with a bound advance over the
epace which leads to the second hall. Open and shut this door
with the same care as before. The sabre which you wear, and
the words which you pronounce, will make you master of the
slaves which guard the door, whoever they are. I shall not
enter into a particular detail of the immense riches which you
will find here. In the eyes of Solomon, gold and jewels wera
things of small price, although he employed them in construct-
ing works, the memory of which shall last forever ; yet ne re-
them with pleasure to the bowels of the earth, from



which his knowledge had enabled him to extract them fl!
thought them not necessary to the happiness of men.

" li, in passing through these forty halls, you meet with any
one object whose nature you cannot comprehend, rub the blade
ot your scimetar, repeat the words which you must have taken
care to remember, and you will thus discover the sense of the
enigmas presented to you.

" I have no need O virtuous sultan, to warn you against
avarice, or indiscretion, the first causes of the loss of those
knights who tried this perilous adventure before you. You
nave learned in the tents of emir Salamis, in what true riches
and real power consist. Gold gave no lustre to his pavilions,
nor was he forced first to gather and then to scatter it. A
formidable army marched when he gave the signal. A wise
choice of things useful, and contempt of superfluities, consti-
tuted his abundance.

" Curiosity is also a fault against which you must be upon
your guard. Remember that, whatever can move curiosity, in
the path on which you are entering, must be extremely danger-
ous to the man who is unacquainted with the three hundred
and sixty-six truths, the only principles of the wisdom of

" Above all, when you have opened the fortieth door, withir
which your subterraneous journey terminates, beware of look
ing curiously at what you shall see. A veil of silk, and golden
characters in relief, shall meet your eyes. Turn from them.
If you read, it is your death-warrant, and will be instantly
execuled ; but lift up the curtain, and you will be struck with
the most beautiful sight that can be beheld, if you have wisely
observed all the rules of prudence which I have taught you.
You will see the first of the seven seas, which you must pass
before you can join Dorathil-goase, and you will find every-
thing ready to conduct you thither. But if you fail in a single
point of the instructions which I have given you, you will be
exposed to the most dreadful dangers." " It is, perhaps, un-
fortunate for me," replied Habib, that I am a stranger to fear


Itnd A it be so, I may blame you, and Salamis, and Amirala
You taught me to arm my breast against every sentiment of
terror, and perhaps, to depend with too much confidence on nry
own strength. But I shall strive to practise the lessons which
you taught me."

4 March on, then, valiant hero, under the eyes of the great
Solomon. May his spirit accompany you. I form the warm-
set wishes for your success, and in it shall I find the recompense
for the pains which I took in your education."

11 Haboul deposited in his cavern the skin of the tigress, the
buckler, and the poniard which the sultan bore. He dressed
him in a light and simple garb, the most suitable for the enter-
prise in which he was engaging. The geni then took him by
the hand, and led him through a winding alley of the cavern
to the first brazen door of which they perceived the key.

" Take this key," said his governor. " Forget not when you
shall see the sabre of the first slave raised over your head, to
pronounce aloud the talismanic characters inscribed upon ita
blade. Read them with such care that you may never forget
them. Repeat them upon every appearance of danger, as well
within as without the immense cavern you are going to traverse.
Open and shut the doors with the greatest caution ; remember
that in this recess all is symbolical, and that your actions must
correspond. You will not forget my other advices ; but I have
insisted more particularly upon the most important. Embrace
me, my dear Habib ! I return whither duty calls me." H
Haboul retired. Habib opened and shut the first door softly.
He perceived a gigantic black, who, when he saw him, uttered
a cry tf hich resounded through the vaults of the first grotto.
The monster raised his dreadful scimetar. Habib, watchful
cast his eyes upon the blade, and pronounced aloud the word,
power, which he saw written upon it in letters of gold. The
slave w-is instantly disarmed. The scimetar and keys fell U>
gether from his hand, and he bowed down before his coir

The young sultan seized the redoubtable weapon, adv&noed


to the second door, and it opened to him. Seven differs*-
roads appeared, but all were dark. Uncertain which to choosy
he pronounced in a loud voice, the enchanted word. A pair
and glimmering light then became visible at the entrance, upot
the fourth road. He pursued a light down a flight of fourteen
hundred and ninety steps.

He came then to the third door, still continuing to conduct
himself with the same prudence. He was received by two
monsters, who were half-women, who brandished two enormous
grappling hooks of iron, to seize him. He pronounced the
word power ; the iron became soft, and the monsters fled.

Habib was struck with a ravishing sight. A lustre of car-
buncles illuminated a round hall, the roof of which was sup-
ported by columns of jasper. The armor of the great Solo-
mon appeared as a trophy in the centre ; the phoenix expand-
ing all her feathers, crowned the casque. The glance of the
cuirass and the buckler was brighter than the eyes of man
could bear ; the steel-pointed lance sparkled like fire. There
was no scimetar ; but Habib with pleasure observed that the
scimetar he held in his hand corresponded to the other pieces
of the armor. Mysterious characters were engraven upon all
those weapons ; of these he tried to discover the s*;nse, and
read on the cuirass : " Firmness of soul is the best c' /rass man
can put on."

He proceeded, and found on the other parts of .he armor
" Patience is his buckler. His tongue is his str igest lance-
Wisdom must be his casque. Prudence his viz^r. Without
valor his arms are defenceless. Without constancy his leg!
are infirm."

" O great Solomon I " cried the hero, " the Phoenix still
proudly expands its feathers on the crest of your helmet.

" Cover yourselves with coats of mail, ye feeble warriors of
the earth I The prophet of the Almighty marched on to vic-
tory through the aid of virtue."

Habib next contemplated the three hundred and sixty-six
Hieroglyphics which ornamented the walls of the saloon. On


*f these was singularly simple in its nature, yet te could noi
comprehend its meaning. Another more complicated imme-
diately discovered its mysterious import. The three hundred
and sixty-six hieroglyphics explained themselves, yet can only
be explained one by one.

" Science ! " said he, " thou wast made for my heart ; I feel
it ; but my understanding is far from thee. Who shall give
me the eyes of the lynx to penetrate thy mysteries ? The
lustre with which thou shinest in my eyes forces me to turn
them downwards.

" Habib ! march on to thy destiny ; a crown of glory is pro-
mised thee. Wisdom descends from the heaven of heavens ;
desire it still more and more, and proceed on thy career under
the propitious influence of thy star ! "

As he spoke thus, he advanced towards the door by which
he was to be admitted into the apartments where Solomon's
riches were deposited. Descending by new flights of steps,
and by winding paths, he came to the different doors, which
ne successively opened and shut without noise. Wherever he
advanced he met with monsters that strove to terrify him, by
displaying their deformity, and by their cries and menaces.
Of one the head resembled a human skull, armed with horns,
an& terminating before in an eagle's bill. In another the three
forms of a lion, a tiger and an elephant, were monstrously
blended together. A hydra Having three women's heads, with
twisted serpents for hair, presented itself among the rest, to
terrify our hero.

But Habib, armed with undaunted courage, and faithful to
the counsels of the geni, awed with a word these threatening
phantoms, and looked with indifference upon the heaps of gold
and diamonds, and the broken idols which lay before him.
He passed rapidly from one door to another, where the objects
which he saw exhibited no sign symbolical of the prophet's
victories. He * topped, however, at one place.

It was an immense hall, around which an infinite numbef
f beings in the human form were seated. T aey appeared to


be it'teninft to the most venerable person in the company, whrt
was seated upon an elevated seat, before a reading-desk, and
read aloud. When Habib entered, the whole assembly rose,
and bowed to the hero. The reader paused out of respect to
him, and the sultan, addressing himself to that venerable per
son, spoke as follows :

" If you are at liberty to inform me, tell me who you are,
and what it is you are reading?" "I am a geni, slave to
Solomon/ said the reader; u my task is to instruct my breth-
ren, whom you see here ; they will be set at liberty when
they shall nave acquired all the knowledge necessary for the
direction o^ their conduct. The book I read is the Alcoran.
Alas ! I have explained it to them for these several centuries,
and yet there are still an eighth part of my hearers who
understand not tven the first line ! Proceed, young Mussul-
man; you have nothing to learn either from them or me;
follow your destiny, and continue to be as circumspect as you
have been."

Habib left this school, reflecting with himself how difficult

Online LibraryGustav KarpelesThe thousand and one nights; or, The Arabian nights entertainments → online text (page 38 of 47)