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Burton: The Fishes and the Crab

[Go back to The Fakir and His Jar of Butter]

In a certain place there was a piece of water, wherein dwelt a number of Fishes, and it befel that the pond dwindled away and shrank and wasted, till there remained barely enough to suffice them and they were nigh upon death and said, "What will become of us? How shall we contrive and of whom shall we seek counsel for our deliverance?" Thereupon arose one of them, who was the chiefest in wit and age, and cried, "There is nothing will serve us save that we seek salvation of Allah; but let us consult the Crab and ask his advice: so come ye all and hie we himwards and hear his rede for indeed he is the chiefest and wisest of us all in coming upon the truth." Each and every approved of the Fish's advice and betook themselves in a body to the Crab, whom they found squatted in his hole, without news or knowledge of their strait. So they saluted him with the salam and said, "O our lord, cloth not our affair concern thee, who art ruler and the head of us?" The Crab returned their salutation, replying, "And on you be The Peace! What aileth you and what d'ye want?" So they told him their case and the strait wherein they were by reason of the wastage of the water, and that, when it should be dried up destruction would betide them, adding, "Wherefore we come to thee, expecting thy counsel and what may bring us deliverance for thou art the chiefest and the most experienced of us." The Crab bowed his head awhile and said, "Doubtless ye lack understanding, in that ye despair of the mercy of Allah Almighty and His care for the provision of His creatures one and all. Know ye not that Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) provideth all His creatures without account and that He foreordained their daily meat ere He created aught of creation and appointed to each of His creatures a fixed term of life and an allotted provision, of His divine All might? How then shall we burthen ourselves with concern for a thing which in His secret purpose is indite? Wherefore it is my rede that ye can do naught better than to seek aid of Allah Almighty, and it behoveth each of us to clear his conscience with his Lord, both in public and private, and pray Him to succour us and deliver us from our difficulties; for Allah the Most High disappointeth not the expectation of those who put their trust in Him and rejecteth not the supplications of those who prefer their suit to Him. When we have mended our ways, our affairs will be set up and all will be well with us, and when the winter cometh and our land is deluged, by means of a just one's prayer, He will not cast down the good He hath built up. So 'tis my counsel that we take patience and await what Allah shall do with us. An death come to us, as is wont, we shall be at rest, and if there befal us aught that calleth for flight, we will flee and depart our land whither Allah will.'' Answered all the fishes with one voice "Thou sayst sooth, O our lord: Allah requite thee for us with weal!" Then each returned to his stead, and in a few days the Almighty vouchsafed unto them a violent rain and the place of the pond was filled fuller than before. 'On likewise, O King," continued Shimas, "we despaired of a child being born to thee, and now that God hath blessed us and thee with this well omened son, we implore Him to render him blessed indeed and make him the coolth of thine eyes and a worthy successor to thee and grant us of him the like of that which He hath granted us of thee; for Almighty Allah disappointeth not those that seek Him and it behoveth none to cut off hope of the mercy of his God." Then, rose the second Wazir and saluting the King with the salam spake after his greeting was returned, as follows: "Verily, a King is not called a King save he give presents and do justice and rule with equity and show munificence and wisely govern his lieges, maintaining the obligatory laws and apostolic usages established among them and justifying them, one against other, and sparing their blood and warding off hurt from them; and of his qualities should be that he never abide incurious of the poor and that he succour the highest and lowest of them and give them each the rights to them due, so that all bless him and are obedient to his commend. Without doubt, a King who is after this wise of his lieges is beloved and gaineth of this world eminence and of the next honour and favour with the Creator thereof. And we, the body politic of thy subjects, acknowledge in thee, O King, all the attributes of kingship I have noted, even as it is said, 'The best of things is that the King of a people be just and equitable, their physician skilful and their teacher experience-full, acting according to his knowledge.' Now we enjoy this happiness, after we had despaired of the birth of a son to thee, to inherit thy kingship; however, Allah (extolled be His name!) hath not disappointed thine expectation, but hath granted thy petition, by reason of the goodliness of thy trust in Him and thy submission of thine affairs to Him. Then fair fall thy hope! there hath betided thee that which betided the Crow and the Serpent." Asked the King "What was that?"; and the Wazir answered, "Hear, O King, the tale of...

[Go to The Crow and the Serpent]


Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.


1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM


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