[Go back to The Sweep and the Noble Lady]
It is related that the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, was one night restless with extreme restlessness, so he summoned his Wazir Ja'afar the Barmecide, and said to him, "My breast is straitened and I have a desire to divert myself to-night by walking about the streets of Baghdad and looking into folks' affairs; but with this precaution that we disguise ourselves in merchants' gear, so none shall know us." He answered, "Hearkening and obedience." They rose at once and doffing the rich raiment they wore, donned merchants' habits and sallied forth three in number, the Caliph, Ja'afar and Masrur the sworder. Then they walked from place to place, till they came to the Tigris and saw an old man sitting in a boat; so they went up to him and saluting him, said, "O Shaykh, we desire thee of thy kindness and favour to carry us a- pleasuring down the river, in this thy boat, and take this dinar to thy hire."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-sixth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when they said to the old man, "We desire thee to carry us a-pleasuring in this thy boat and take this dinar;" he answered, "Who may go a- pleasuring on the Tigris? The Caliph Harun al-Rashid every night cometh down Tigris stream in his state-barge and with him one crying aloud: 'Ho, ye people all, great and small, gentle and simple, men and boys, whoso is found in a boat on the Tigris by night, I will strike off his head or hang him to the mast of his craft!' And ye had well nigh met him; for here cometh his carrack." But the Caliph and Ja'afar said, "O Shaykh, take these two dinars, and run us under one of yonder arches, that we may hide there till the Caliph's barge have passed." The old man replied, "Hand over your gold and rely we on Allah, the Almighty!" So he took the two dinars and embarked them in the boat; and he put off and rowed about with them awhile, when behold, the barge came down the river in mid-stream, with lighted flambeaux and cressets flaming therein. Quoth the old man, "Did not I tell you that the Caliph passed along the river every night?"; and ceased not muttering, "O Protector, remove not the veils of Thy protection!" Then he ran the boat under an arch and threw a piece of black cloth over the Caliph and his companions, who looked out from under the covering and saw, in the bows of the barge, a man holding in hand a cresset of red gold which he fed with Sumatran lign-aloes and the figure was clad in a robe of red satin, with a narrow turband of Mosul shape round on his head, and over one of his shoulders hung a sleeved cloak of cramoisy satin, and on the other was a green silk bag full of the aloes-wood, with which he fed the cresset by way of firewood. And they sighted in the stern another man, clad like the first and bearing a like cresset, and in the barge were two hundred white slaves, standing ranged to the right and left; and in the middle a throne of red gold, whereon sat a handsome young man, like the moon, clad in a dress of black, embroidered with yellow gold. Before him they beheld a man, as he were the Wazir Ja'afar, and at his head stood an eunuch, as he were Masrur, with a drawn sword in his hand; besides a score of cup-companions. Now when the Caliph saw this, he turned and said, "O Ja'afar," and the Minister replied, "At thy service, O Prince of True Believers." Then quoth the Caliph, "Belike this is one of my sons, Al Amin or Al-Maamun." Then he examined the young man who sat on the throne and finding him perfect in beauty and loveliness and stature and symmetric grace, said to Ja'afar, "Verily, this young man abateth nor jot nor tittle of the state of the Caliphate! See, there standeth before him one as he were thyself, O Ja'afar; yonder eunuch who standeth at his head is as he were Masrur and those courtiers as they were my own. By Allah, O Ja'afar, my reason is confounded and I am filled with amazement this matter!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph saw this spectacle his reason was confounded and he cried, "By Allah, I am filled with amazement at this matter!" and Ja'afar replied, "And I also, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful." Then the barge passed on and disappeared from sight whereupon the boatman pushed out again into the stream, saying, "Praised be Allah for safety, since none hath fallen in with us!" Quoth the Caliph, "O old man, doth the Caliph come down the Tigris-river every night?" The boatman answered, "Yes, O my lord; and on such wise hath he done every night this year past." "O Shaykh," rejoined Al-Rashid, "we wish thee of thy favour to await us here to-morrow night and we will give thee five golden dinars, for we are stranger folk, lodging in the quarter Al-Khandak, and we have a mind to divert ourselves." Said the oldster, "With joy and good will!" Then the Caliph and Ja'afar and Masrur left the boatman and returned to the palace; where they doffed their merchants' habits and, donning their apparel of state, sat down each in his several-stead; and came the Emirs and Wazirs and Chamberlains and Officers, and the Divan assembled and was crowded as of custom. But when day ended and all the folk had dispersed and wended each his own way, the Caliph said to his Wazir, "Rise, O Ja'afar, let us go and amuse ourselves by looking on the second Caliph." At this, Ja'afar and Masrur laughed, and the three, donning merchants' habits, went forth by a secret pastern and made their way through the city, in great glee, till they came to the Tigris, where they found the graybeard sitting and awaiting them. They embarked with him in the boat and hardly had they sat down before up came the mock Caliph's barge; and, when they looked at it attentively, they saw therein two hundred Mamelukes other than those of the previous night, while the link- bearers cried aloud as of wont. Quoth the Caliph, "O Wazir, had I heard tell of this, I had not believed it; but I have seen it with my own sight." Then said he to the boatman, "Take, O Shaykh' these ten dinars and row us along abreast of them, for they are in the light and we in the shade, and we can see them and amuse ourselves by looking on them, but they cannot see us." So the man took the money and pushing off ran abreast of them in the shadow of the barge,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-eighth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph Harun al-Rashid said to the old man, "Take these ten dinars and row us abreast of them;" to which he replied, "I hear and I obey." And he fared with them and ceased not going in the blackness of the barge, till they came amongst the gardens that lay alongside of them and sighted a large walled enclosure; and presently, the barge cast anchor before a postern door, where they saw servants standing with a she mule saddled and bridled. Here the mock Caliph landed and, mounting the mule, rode away with his courtiers and his cup-companions preceded by the cresset-bearers crying aloud, and followed by his household which busied itself in his service. Then Harun al-Rashid, Ja'afar and Masrur landed also and, making their way through the press of servants, walked on before them. Presently, the cresset-bearers espied them and seeing three persons in merchants' habits, and strangers to the country, took offense at them; so they pointed them out and brought them before the other Caliph, who looked at them and asked, "How came ye to this place and who brought you at this tide?" They answered, "O our lord, we are foreign merchants and far from our homes, who arrived here this day and were out a- walking to-night, and behold, ye came up and these men laid hands on us and brought us to thy presence; and this is all our story." Quoth the mock Caliph, "Since ye be stranger folk no harm shall befall you; but had ye been of Baghdad, I had struck off your heads." Then he turned to his Wazir and said to him, "Take these men with thee; for they are our guests to-night." "To hear is to obey, O our lord," answered he; and they companied him till they came to a lofty and splendid palace set upon the firmest base; no Sultan possesseth such a place; rising from the dusty mould and upon the merges of the clouds laying hold. Its door was of Indian teak-wood inlaid with gold that glowed; and through it one passed into a royal-hall in whose midst was a jetting fount girt by a raised estrade. It was provided with carpets and cushions of brocade and small pillows and long settees and hanging curtains; it was furnished with a splendour that dazed the mind and dumbed the tongue, and upon the door were written these two couplets,
"A Palace whereon be blessings and praise! * Which with all their beauty have robed the Days:
Where marvels and miracle-sights abound, * And to write its honours the pen affrays."
The false Caliph entered with his company, and sat down on a throne of gold set with jewels and covered with a prayer carpet of yellow silk; whilst the boon-companions took their seats and the sword bearer of high works stood before him. Then the tables were laid and they ate; after which the dishes were removed and they washed their hands and the wine-service was set on with flagons and bowls in due order. The cup went round till it came to the Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, who refused the draught, and the mock Caliph said to Ja'afar, "What mattereth thy friend that he drinketh not?" He replied, "O my lord, indeed 'tis a long while he hath drunk naught of this." Quoth the sham Caliph, "I have drink other than this, a kind of apple-wine, that will suit thy companion." So he bade them bring the cider which they did forthright; when the false Caliph, coming up to Harun al-Rashid, said to him, "As often as it cometh to thy turn drink thou of this." Then they continued to drink and make merry and pass the cup till the wine rose to their brains and mastered their wits;--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Eighty-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the false Caliph and his co sitters sat at their cups and gave not over drinking till the wine rose to their brains and mastered their wits; and Harun al-Rashid said to the Minister, "O Ja'afar, by Allah, we have no such vessels as these. Would to Heaven I knew what manner of man this youth is!" But while they were talking privily the young man cast a glance upon them and seeing the Wazir whisper the Caliph said, "'Tis rude to whisper." He replied, "No rudeness was meant: this my friend did but say to me, 'Verily I have travelled in most countries and have caroused with the greatest of Kings and I have companied with noble captains; yet never saw I a goodlier ordering than this entertainment nor passed a more delightful night; save that the people of Baghdad are wont to say, Wine without music often leaves you sick.'"When the second Caliph heard this, he smiled pleasantly and struck with a rod he had in his hand a round gong; and behold, a door opened and out came a eunuch, bearing a chair of ivory, inlaid with gold glittering fiery red and followed by a damsel of passing beauty and loveliness, symmetry and grace. He set down the chair and the damsel seated herself on it, as she were the sun shining sheen in a sky serene. In her hand she had a lute of Hindu make, which she laid in her lap and bent down over it as a mother bendeth over her little one, and sang to it, after a prelude in four-and-twenty modes, amazing all wits. Then she returned to the first mode and to a lively measure chanted these couplets,
"Love's tongue within my heart speaks plain to thee, * Telling thee clearly I am fain of thee
Witness the fevers of a tortured heart, * And ulcered eyelid tear-flood rains for thee
God's fate o'ertaketh all created things! * I knew not love till learnt Love's pain of thee."
Now when the mock Caliph heard these lines sung by the damsel, he cried with a great cry and rent his raiment to the very skirt, whereupon they let down a curtain over him and brought him a fresh robe, handsomer than the first. He put it on and sat as before, till the cup came round to him, when he struck the gong a second time and lo! a door opened and out of it came a eunuch with a chair of gold, followed by a damsel fairer than the first, bearing a lute, such as would strike the envious mute. She sat down on the chair and sang to her instrument these two couplets,
"How patient bide, with love in sprite of me, * And tears in tempest blinding sight of me?
By Allah, life has no delight of me! * How gladden heart whose core is blight of me?"
No sooner had the youth heard this poetry than he cried out with a loud cry and rent his raiment to the skirt: whereupon they let down the curtain over him and brought him another suit of clothes. He put it on and, sitting up as before, fell again to cheerful talk, till the cup came round to him, when he smote once more upon the gong and out came a eunuch with a chair, followed by a damsel fairer than she who forewent her. So she sat down on the chair, with a lute in her hand, and sang thereto these couplets,
"Cease ye this farness; 'bate this pride of you, * To whom my heart clings, by life-tide of you!
Have ruth on hapless, mourning, lover-wretch, * Desire-full, pining, passion-tried of you:
Sickness hath wasted him, whose ecstasy * Prays Heaven it may be satisfied of you:
Oh fullest moons that dwell in deepest heart! * How can I think of aught by side of you?"
Now when the young man heard these couplets, he cried out with a great cry and rent his raiment, whereupon they let fall the curtain over him and brought him other robes. Then he returned to his former case with his boon-companions and the bowl went round as before, till the cup came to him, when he struck the gong a fourth time and the door opening, out came a page-boy bearing a chair followed by a damsel. He set the chair for her and she sat down thereon and taking the lute, tuned it and sang to it these couplets,
"When shall disunion and estrangement end? * When shall my bygone joys again be kenned?
Yesterday we were joined in same abode; * Conversing heedless of each envious friend:
Trickt us that traitor Time, disjoined our lot * And our waste home to desert fate condemned:
Wouldst have me, Grumbler! from my dearling fly? * I find my vitals blame will not perpend:
Cease thou to censure; leave me to repine; * My mind e'er findeth thoughts that pleasure lend.
O Lords of me who brake our troth and plight, * Deem not to lose your hold of heart and sprite!"
When the false Caliph heard the girl's song, he cried out with a loud outcry and rent his raiment,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Ninetieth Night,
She said, When the false Caliph heard the girl's song, he cried with a loud outcry and rent his raiment and fell to the ground fainting; whereupon they would have let down the curtain over him, as of custom; but its cords stuck fast and Harun al-Rashid, after considering him carefully, saw on his body the marks of beating with palm-rods and said to Ja'afar, "By Allah, he is a handsome youth, but a foul thief!" "Whence knowest thou that, O Commander of the Faithful?" asked Ja'afar, and the Caliph answered, "Sawest thou not the whip-scars on his ribs?" Then they let fall the curtain over him and brought him a fresh dress, which he put on and sat up as before with his courtiers and cup- companions. Presently he saw the Caliph and Ja'afar whispering together and said to them, "What is the matter, fair sirs?" Quoth Ja'afar, "O my lord, all is well, save that this my comrade, who (as is not unknown to thee) is of the merchant company and hath visited all the great cities and countries of the world and hath consorted with kings and men of highest consideration, saith to me: 'Verily, that which our lord the Caliph hath done this night is beyond measure extravagant, never saw I any do the like doings in any country; for he hath rent such and such dresses, each worth a thousand dinars and this is surely excessive unthriftiness.'" Replied the second Caliph, "Ho thou, the money is my money and the stuff my stuff, and this is by way of largesse to my suite and servants; for each suit that is rent belongeth to one of my cup-companions here present, and I assign to them with each suit of clothes the sum of five hundred dinars." The Wazir Ja'afar replied, "Well is whatso thou doest, O our lord," and recited these two couplets,
"Virtue in hand of thee hath built a house, * And to mankind thou dost thy wealth expose:
If an the virtues ever close their doors, * That hand would be a key the lock to unclose."
Now when the young man heard these verses recited by the Minister Ja'afar, he ordered him to be gifted with a thousand dinars and a dress of honour. Then the cup went round among them and the wine was sweet to them; but, after a while quoth the Caliph to Ja'afar, "Ask him of the marks on his sides, that we may see what he will say by way of reply." Answered Ja'afar, "Softly, O my lord, be not hasty and soothe thy mind, for patience is more becoming." Rejoined the Caliph, "By the life of my head and by the revered tomb of Al Abbas, except thou ask him, I will assuredly stop thy breath!" With this the young man turned towards the Minister and said to him, "What aileth thee and thy friend to be whispering together? Tell me what is the matter with you." "It is nothing save good," replied Ja'afar; but the mock Caliph rejoined, "I conjure thee, by Allah, tell me what aileth you and hide from me nothing of your case." Answered the Wazir "O my lord, verily this one here saw on thy sides the marks of beating with whips and palm-fronds and marvelled thereat with exceeding marvel, saying, 'How came the Caliph to be beaten?'; and he would fain know the cause of this." Now when the youth heard this, he smiled and said, "Know ye that my story is wondrous and my case marvellous; were it graven with needles on the eye corners, it would serve as a warner to whoso would be warned." And he sighed and repeated these couplets,
"Strange is my story, passing prodigy; * By Love I swear, my ways wax strait on me!
An ye desire to hear me, listen, and * Let all in this assembly silent be.
Heed ye my words which are of meaning deep, * Nor lies my speech; 'tis truest verity.
I'm slain by longing and by ardent love; * My slayer's the pearl of fair virginity.
She hath a jet black eye like Hindi blade, * And bowèd eyebrows shoot her archery
My heart assures me our Imam is here, * This age's Caliph, old nobility:
Your second, Ja'afar highs, is his Wazir; * A Sahib, Sahib-son of high degree:
The third is called Masrur who wields the sword: * Now, if in words of mine some truth you see
I have won every wish by this event * Which fills my heart with joy and gladdest greet"
When they heard these words Ja'afar swore to him an ambiguous oath that they were not those he named, whereupon he laughed and said: "Know, O my lords, that I am not the Commander of the Faithful and that I do but style myself thus, to win my will of the sons of the city. My true name is Mohammed Ali, son of Ali the Jeweller, and my father was one of the notables of Baghdad, who left me great store of gold and silver and pearls and coral and rubies and chrysolites and other jewels, besides messuages and lands, Hammam-baths and brickeries, orchards and flower- gardens. Now as I sat in my shop one day surrounded by my eunuchs and dependents, behold, there came up a young lady, mounted on a she-mule and attended by three damsels like moons. Riding up to my shop she alighted and seated herself by my side and said 'Art thou Mohammed the Jeweller?' Replied I, 'Even so! I am he, thy Mameluke, thy chattel.' She asked, 'Hast thou a necklace of jewels fit for me?' and I answered, 'O my lady, I will show thee what I have; and lay all before thee and, if any please thee, it will be of thy slave's good luck; if they please thee not, of his ill fortune.' Now I had by me an hundred necklaces and showed them all to her; but none of them pleased her and she said, 'I want a better than those I have seen.' I had a small necklace which my father had bought at an hundred thousand dinars and whose like was not to be found with any of the great kings; so I said to her, 'O my lady, I have yet one necklace of fine stones fit for bezels, the like of which none possesseth, great or small. Said she, Show it to me,' so I showed it to her, and she said, 'This is what I wanted and what I have wished for all my life;' adding, 'What is its price?' Quoth I, 'It cost my father an hundred thousand dinars;' and she said, 'I will give thee five thousand dinars to thy profit.' I answered, 'O my lady, the necklace and its owner are at thy service and I cannot gainsay thee.' But she rejoined, 'Needs must thou have the profit, and I am still most grateful to thee.' Then she rose without stay or delay; and, mounting the mule in haste, said to me, 'O my lord, in Allah's name, favour us with thy company to receive the money; for this thy day with us is white as milk.' So I shut the shop and accompanied her, in all security, till we came to a house, on which were manifest the signs of wealth and rank; for its door was wrought with gold and silver and ultramarine, and thereon were written these two couplets,
'Hole, thou mansion! woe ne'er enter thee; * Nor be thine owner e'er misused of Fate
Excellent mansion to all guests art thou, * When other mansions to the guest are strait.'
The young lady dismounted and entered the house, bidding me sit down on the bench at the gate, till the money-changer should arrive. So I sat awhile, when behold, a damsel came out to me and said, 'O my lord, enter the vestibule; for it is a dishonour that thou shouldst sit at the gate.' Thereupon I arose and entered the vestibule and sat down on the settle there, and, as I sat, lo! another damsel came out and said to me, 'O my lord my mistress biddeth thee enter and sit down at the door of the saloon, to receive thy money.' I entered and sat down, nor had I sat a moment when behold, a curtain of silk which concealed a throne of gold was drawn aside, and I saw seated thereon the lady who had made the purchase, and round her neck she wore the necklace which looked pale and wan by the side of a face as it were the rounded moon; At her sight, my wit was troubled and my mind confounded, by reason of her exceeding beauty and loveliness, but when she saw me she rose from her throne and coming close up to me, said, 'O light of mine eyes, is every handsome one like thee pitiless to his mistress?' I answered, 'O my lady, beauty, all of it, is in thee and is but one of thy hidden charms.' And she rejoined, 'O Jeweller, know that I love thee and can hardly credit that I have brought thee hither.' Then she bent towards me and I kissed her and she kissed me and, as she caressed me, drew me towards her and to her breast she pressed me."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Ninety-first Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Jeweller continued: "Then she bent towards me and kissed and caressed me; and, as she caressed me, drew me towards her and to her breast she pressed me. Now she knew by my condition that I had a mind to enjoy her; so she said to me, 'O my lord, wouldst thou foregather with me unlawfully? By Allah, may he not live who would do the like of this sin and who takes pleasure in talk unclean! I am a maid, a virgin whom no man hath approached, nor am I unknown in the city. Knowest thou who I am?' Quoth I, 'No, by Allah, O my lady!'; and quoth she, 'I am the Lady Dunyá, daughter of Yáhyá bin Khálid the Barmecide and sister of Ja'afar, Wazir to the Caliph.' Now as I heard this, I drew back from her, saying, 'O my lady, it is no fault of mine if I have been over- bold with thee; it was thou didst encourage me to aspire to thy love, by giving me access to thee.' She answered, 'No harm shall befal-thee, and needs must thou attain thy desire in the only way pleasing to Allah. I am my own mistress and the Kazi shall act as my guardian in consenting to the marriage contract; for it is my will that I be to thee wife and thou be to me man.' Then she sent for the Kazi and the witnesses and busied herself with making ready; and, when they came, she said to them, 'Mohammed Ali, bin Ali the Jeweller, seeketh me in wedlock and hath given me the necklace to my marriage-settlement; and I accept and consent.' So they wrote out the contract of marriage between us; and ere I went in to her the servants brought the wine-furniture and the cups passed round after the fairest fashion and the goodliest ordering; and, when the wine mounted to our heads, she ordered a damsel, a lute-player, to sing. So she took the lute and sang to a pleasing and stirring motive these couplets,
'He comes; and fawn and branch and moon delight these eyne * Fie on his heart who sleeps o' nights without repine
Pair youth, for whom Heaven willed to quench in cheek one light, * And left another light on other cheek bright li'en:
I fain finesse my chiders when they mention him, * As though the hearing of his name I would decline;
And willing ear I lend when they of other speak; * Yet would my soul within outflow in foods of brine:
Beauty's own prophet, he is all a miracle * Of heavenly grace, and greatest shows his face for sign.
To prayer Bilál-like cries that Mole upon his cheek * To ward from pearly brow all eyes of ill design:
The censors of their ignorance would my love dispel * But after Faith I can't at once turn Infidel.'
We were ravished by the sweet music she made striking the strings, and the beauty of the verses she sang; and the other damsels went on to sing and to recite one after another, till ten had so done; when the Lady Dunya took the lute and playing a lively measure, chanted these couplets,
'I swear by swayings of that form so fair, * Aye from thy parting fiery
Pity a heart which burneth in thy love, * O bright as fullest moon in blackest air!
Vouchsafe thy boons to him who ne'er will cease * In light of wine-cup all thy charms declare,
Amid the roses which with varied hues * Are to the myrtle-bush a mere despair.'
When she had finished her verse I took the lute from her hands and, playing a quaint and not vulgar prelude sang the following verses,
'Laud to my Lord who gave thee all of loveliness; * Myself amid thy thralls I willingly confess:
O thou, whose eyes and glances captivate mankind, * Pray that I 'scape those arrows shot with all thy stress!
Two hostile rivals water and enflaming fire * Thy cheek hath married, which for marvel I profess:
Thou art Sa'ír in heart of me and eke Na'ím; * Thou agro-dolce, eke heart's sweetest bitterness.'
When she heard this my song she rejoiced with exceeding joy; then, dismissing her slave women, she brought me to a most goodly place, where they had spread us a bed of various colours. She did off her clothes and I had a lover's privacy of her and found her a pearl unpierced and a filly unridden. So I rejoiced in her and never in my born days spent I a more delicious night."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Ninety-second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Mohammed bin Ali the Jeweller continued: "So I went in unto the Lady Dunya, daughter of Yahya bin Khálid the Barmecide, and I found her a pearl unthridden and a filly unridden. So I rejoiced in her and repeated these couplets,
'O Night here stay! I want no morning light; * My lover's face to me is lamp and light:
As ring of ring-dove round his necks my arm; * And made my palm his mouth-veil, and, twas right.
This be the crown of bliss, and ne'er we'll cease * To clip, nor care to be in other plight.'
And I abode with her a whole month, forsaking shop and family and home, till one day she said to me, 'O light of my eyes, O my lord Mohammed, I have determined to go to the Hammam to day; so sit thou on this couch and rise not from thy place, till I return to thee.' 'I hear and I obey,' answered I, and she made me swear to this; after which she took her women and went off to the bath. But by Allah, O my brothers, she had not reached the head of the street ere the door opened and in came an old woman, who said to me, 'O my lord Mohammed, the Lady Zubaydah biddeth thee to her, for she hath heard of thy fine manners and accomplishments and skill in singing.' I answered, 'By Allah, I will not rise from my place till the Lady Dunya come back.' Rejoined the old woman, 'O my lord, do not anger the Lady Zubaydah with thee and vex her so as to make her thy foe: nay, rise up and speak with her and return to thy place.' So I rose at once and followed her into the presence of the Lady Zubaydah and, when I entered her presence she said to me, 'O light of the eye, art thou the Lady Dunya's beloved?' 'I am thy Mameluke, thy chattel,' replied I. Quoth she, 'Sooth spake he who reported thee possessed of beauty and grace and good breeding and every fine quality; indeed, thou surpassest all praise and all report. But now sing to me, that I may hear thee.' Quoth I, 'Hearkening and obedience;' so she brought me a lute, and I sang to it these couplets,
'The hapless lover's heart is of his wooing weary grown, * And hand of sickness wasted him till naught but skin and bone
Who should be amid the riders which the haltered camels urge, * But that same lover whose beloved cloth in the litters wone:
To Allah's charge I leave that moon-like Beauty in your tents * Whom my heart loves, albe my glance on her may ne'er be thrown.
Now she is fain; then she is fierce: how sweet her coyness shows; * Yea sweet whatever cloth or saith to lover loved one!'
When I had finished my song she said to me, 'Allah assain thy body and thy voice! Verily, thou art perfect in beauty and good breeding and singing. But now rise and return to thy place, ere the Lady Dunya come back, lest she find thee not and be wroth with thee.' Then I kissed the ground before her and the old woman forewent me till I reached the door whence I came. So I entered and, going up to the couch, found that my wife had come back from the bath and was lying asleep there. Seeing this I sat down at her feet and rubbed them; whereupon she opened her eyes and seeing me, drew up both her feet and gave me a kick that threw me off the couch, saying, 'O traitor, thou hast been false to thine oath and hast perjured thyself. Thou swarest to me that thou wouldst not rise from thy place; yet didst thou break thy promise and go to the Lady Zubaydah. By Allah, but that I fear public scandal, I would pull down her palace over her head!' Then said she to her black slave, 'O Sawáb, arise and strike off this lying traitor's head, for we have no further need of him.' So the slave came up to me and, tearing a strip from his skirt, bandaged with it my eyes and would have struck off my head;"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Ninety-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Mohammed the Jeweller continued: "So the slave came up to me and, tearing a strip from his skirt, bandaged with it my eyes and would have struck off my head, but all her women, great and small, rose and came up to her and said to her, 'O our lady, this is not the first who hath erred: indeed, he knew not thy humour and hath done thee no offence deserving death.' Replied she, 'By Allah, I must needs set my mark on him.' And she bade them bash me; so they beat me on my ribs and the marks ye saw are the scars of that fustigation. Then she ordered them to cast me out, and they carried me to a distance from the house and threw me down like a log. After a time I rose and dragged myself little by little to my own place, where I sent for a surgeon and showed him my hurts; and he comforted me and did his best to cure me. As soon as I was recovered I went to the Hammam and, as my pains and sickness had left me, I repaired to my shop and took and sold all that was therein. With the proceeds, I bought me four hundred white slaves, such as no King ever got together, and caused two hundred of them to ride out with me every day. Then I made me yonder barge whereon I spent five thousand gold pieces; and styled myself Caliph and appointed each of my servants to the charge of some one of the Caliph's officers and clad him in official habit. Moreover, I made proclamation, 'Whoso goeth a-pleasuring on the Tigris by night, I will strike off his head, without ruth or delay;' and on such wise have I done this whole year past, during which time I have heard no news of the lady neither happened upon any trace of her." Then wept he copiously and repeated these couplets,
"By Allah! while the days endure ne'er shall forget her I, * Nor draw to any nigh save those who draw her to me nigh
Like to the fullest moon her form and favour show to me, * Laud to her All-creating Lord, laud to the Lord on high,
She left me full of mourning, sleepless, sick with pine and pain * And ceaseth not my heart to yearn her mystery to espy."
Now when Harun al-Rashid heard the young man's story and knew the passion and transport and love lowe that afflicted him, he was moved to compassion and wonder and said, "Glory be to Allah, who hath appointed to every effect a cause!" Then they craved the young man's permission to depart; which being granted, they took leave of him, the Caliph purposing to do him justice meet, and him with the utmost munificence entreat; and they returned to the palace of the Caliphate, where they changed clothes for others befitting their state and sat down, whilst Masrur the Sworder of High Justice stood before them. After awhile, quoth the Caliph to Ja'afar, "O Wazir, bring me the young man'--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Two hundred and Ninety-fourth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the Caliph to his Minister, "Bring me the young man with whom we were last night." "I hear and obey," answered Ja'afar and, going to the youth, saluted him, saying, "Obey the summons of the Commander of the Faithful, the Caliph Harun al-Rashid." So he returned with him to the palace, in great anxiety by reason of the summons; and, going in to the King, kissed ground before him; and offered up a prayer for the endurance of his glory and prosperity, for the accomplishment of his desires, for the continuance of his beneficence and for the cessation of evil and punishment; ordering his speech as best he might and ending by saying, "Peace be on thee, O Prince of True Believers and Protector of the folk of the Faith!" Then he repeated these two couplets,
"Kiss thou his fingers which no fingers are; * Keys of our daily bread those fingers ken:
And praise his actions which no actions are, * But precious necklaces round necks of men."
So the Caliph smiled in his face and returned his salute, looking on him with the eye of favour; then he bade him draw near and sit down before him and said to him, "O Mohammed Ali, I wish thee to tell me what befel thee last night, for it was strange and passing strange." Quoth the youth, "Pardon, O Commander of the Faithful, give me the kerchief of immunity, that my dread may be appeased and my heart eased." Replied the Caliph, "I promise thee safety from fear and woes." So the young man told him his story from first to last, whereby the Caliph knew him to be a lover and severed from his beloved and said to him, "Desirest thou that I restore her to thee?" "This were of the bounty of the Commander of the Faithful," answered the youth and repeated these two couplets.
"Ne'er cease thy gate be Ka'abah to mankind; * Long may its threshold dust man's brow beseem!
That o'er all countries it may be proclaimed, * This is the Place and thou art Ibrahim."
Thereupon the Caliph turned to his Minister and said to him, "O Ja'afar, bring me thy sister, the Lady Dunya, daughter of the Wazir Yahya bin Khálid!" "I hear and I obey," answered he and fetched her without let or delay. Now when she stood before the Caliph he said to her, "Doss thou know who this is?"; and she replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, how should women have knowledge of men?" So the Caliph smiled and said, "O Dunya this is thy beloved, Mohammed bin Ali the Jeweller. We are acquainted with his case, for we have heard the whole story from beginning to end, and have apprehended its inward and its outward; and it is no more hidden from me, for all it was kept in secrecy." Replied she, "O Commander of the Faithful, this was written in the Book of Destiny; I crave the forgiveness of Almighty Allah for the wrong I have wrought, and pray thee to pardon me of thy favour." At this the Caliph laughed and, summoning the Kazi and witnesses, renewed the marriage-contract between the Lady Dunya and her husband, Mohammed Ali son of the Jeweller, whereby there betided them, both her and him the utmost felicity, and to their enviers mortification and misery. Moreover, he made Mohammed Ali one of his boon-companions, and they abode in joy and cheer and gladness, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies. And men also relate the pleasant tale of...
[Go to Ali the Persian]
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