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Burton: King Mohammed Bin Sabaik and the Merchant Hasan

[Go back to Julnar the Sea-Born and Her Son King Badr Basim of Persia]

There was once, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before, a King of the Kings of the Persians, by name Mohammed bin Sabaik, who ruled over Khorasan-land and used every year to go on razzia into the countries of the Miscreants in Hind and Sind and China and the lands of Mawarannahr beyond the Oxus and other regions of the barbarians and what not else. He was a just King, a valiant and a generous, and loved table-talk and tales and verses and anecdotes and histories and entertaining stories and legends of the ancients. Whoso knew a rare recital and related it to him in such fashion as to please him he would bestow on him a sumptuous robe of honour and clothe him from head to foot and give him a thousand dinars, and mount him on a horse saddled and bridled besides other great gifts; and the man would take all this and wend his way. Now it chanced that one day there came an old man before him and related to him a rare story, which pleased the King and made him marvel, so he ordered him a magnificent present, amongst other things a thousand dinars of Khorasan and a horse with its housings and trappings. After this, the bruit of the King's munificence was blazed abroad in all countries and there heard of him a man, Hasan the Merchant hight, who was a generous, open-handed and learned, a scholar and an accomplished poet. Now the King had an envious Wazir, a multum-in-parvo of ill, loving no man, rich nor poor, and whoso came before the King and he gave him aught he envied him and said, "Verily, this fashion annihilateth wealth and ruineth the land; and such is the custom of the King." But this was naught save envy and despite in that Minister. Presently the King heard talk of Hasan the Merchant and sending for him, said to him as soon as he came into the presence, "O Merchant Hasan, this Wazir of mine vexeth and thwarteth me concerning the money I give to poets and boon-companions and story-tellers and glee-men, and I would have thee tell me a goodly history and a rare story, such as I have never before heard. An it please me, I will give thee lands galore, with their forts, in free tenure, in addition to thy fiefs and untaxed lands; besides which I will put my whole kingdom in thy hands and make thee my Chief Wazir; so shalt thy sit on my right hand and rule my subjects. But an thou bring me not that which I bid thee, I will take all that is thy hand and banish thee my realm." Replied Hasan, "Hearkening and obedience to our lord the King! But thy slave beseecheth thee to have patience with him a year; then will he tell thee a tale, such as thou hast never in thy life heard, neither hath other than thou heard its like, not to say a better than it." Quoth the King, "I grant thee a whole year's delay." And he called for a costly robe of honour wherein he robed Hasan, saying, "Keep thy house and mount not horse, neither go nor come for a year's time, till thou bring me that I seek of thee. An thou bring it, especial favour awaiteth thee and thou mayst count upon that which I have promised thee; but an thou bring it not, thou art not of us nor are we of thee."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Fifty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when King Mohammed son of Sabaik said to Hasan the Merchant, "An thou bring me that I seek of thee, especial favour awaiteth thee and thou mayest now rejoice in that which I have promised thee; but, an thou bring it not, thou art not of us nor are we of thee." Hasan kissed ground before the King and went out from the presence. Then he chose five of the best of his Mamelukes, who could all write and read and were learned, intelligent, accomplished; and he gave each of them five thousand dinars, saying, "I reared you not save for the like of this day; so do ye help me to further the King's desire and deliver me from his hand." Quoth they, "What wilt thou have us do? Our lives be thy ransom!" Quoth he, "I wish you to go each to a different country and seek out diligently the learned and erudite and literate and the tellers of wondrous stories and marvellous histories and do your endeavour to procure me the story of Sayf al-Muluk. If ye find it with any one, pay him what price soever he asketh for it although he demand a thousand dinars; give him what ye may and promise him the rest and bring me the story; for whoso happeneth on it and bringeth it to me, I will bestow on him a costly robe of honour and largesse galore, and there shall be to me none more worshipped than he." Then said he to one of them, "Hie thou to Al-Hind and Al-Sind and all their provinces and dependencies." To another, "Hie thou to the home of the Persians and to China and her climates." To the third, "Hie thou to the land of Khorasan with its districts." To the fourth, "Hie thou to Mauritania and all its regions, districts, provinces and quarters." And to the fifth, "Hie thou to Syria and Egypt and their outliers." Moreover, he chose them out an auspicious day and said to them, "Fare ye forth this day and be diligent in the accomplishment of my need and be not slothful, though the case cost you your lives." So they farewelled him and departed, each taking the direction perscribed to him. Now, four of them were absent four months, and searched but found nothing; so they returned and told their master, whose breast was straitened, that they had ransacked towns and cities and countries for the thing he sought, but had happened upon naught thereof. Meanwhile, the fifth servant journeyed till he came to the land of Syria and entered Damascus, which he found a pleasant city and a secure, abounding in trees and rills, leas and fruiteries and birds chanting the praises of Allah the One, the All-powerful of sway, Creator of Night and Day. Here he tarried some time, asking for his master's desire, but non answered him, wherefore he was on the point of departing thence to another place, when he met a young man running and stumbling over his skirts. So he asked of him, "Wherefore runnest thou in such eagerness and whither dost thou press?" And he answered, "There is an elder here, a man of learning, who every day at this time taketh his seat on a stool and relateth tales and stories and delectable anecdotes, whereof never heard any the like; and I am running to get me a place near him and fear I shall find no room, because of the much folk." Quoth the Mameluke, "Take me with thee;" and quoth the youth, "Make haste in thy walking." So he shut his door and hastened with him to the place of recitation, where he saw an old man of bright favour seated on a stool holding forth to the folk. He sat down near him and addressed himself to hear his story, till the going down of the sun, when the old man made an end of his tale and the people, having heard it all, dispersed from about him; whereupon the Mameluke accosted him and saluted him, and he returned his salam and greeted him with the utmost worship and courtesy. Then said the messenger to him, "O my lord Shaykh, thou art a comely and reverend man, and thy discourse is goodly; but I would fain ask thee of somewhat." Replied the old man, "Ask of what thou wilt!" Then said the Mameluke, "Hast thou the story of Sayf al-Muluk and Badi'a al-Jamal?" Rejoined the elder, "And who told thee of this story and informed thee thereof?" Answered the messenger, "None told me of it, but I am come from a far country, in quest of this tale, and I will pay thee whatever thou askest for its price if thou have it and wilt, of thy bounty and charity, impart it to me and make it an alms to me, of the generosity of thy nature for, had I my life in my hand and lavished it upon thee for this thing, yet were it pleasing to my heart." Replied the old man, "Be of good cheer and keep thine eye cool and clear: thou shalt have it; but this is no story that one telleth in the beaten highway, nor do I give it to every one." Cried the other, "By Allah, O my lord, do not grudge it me, but ask of me what price thou wilt." And the old man, "If thou wish for the history give me an hundred dinars and thou shalt have it; but upon five conditions." Now when the Mameluke knew that the old man had the story and was willing to sell it to him, he joyed with exceeding joy and said, "I will give thee the hundred dinars by way of price and ten to boot as a gratuity and take it on the conditions of which thou speakest." Said the old man, "Then go and fetch the gold pieces, and take that thou seekest." So the messenger kissed his hands and joyful and happy returned to his lodging, where he laid an hundred and ten dinars in a purse he had by him. As soon as morning morrowed, he donned his clothes and taking the dinars, repaired to the story-teller, whom he found seated at the door of his house. So he saluted him and the other returned his salam. Then he gave him the gold and the old man took it and carrying the messenger into his house made him sit down in a convenient place, when he set before him ink-case and reed-pen and paper and giving him a book, said to him, "Write out what thou seekest of the night-story of Sayf al-Muluk from this book." Accordingly the Mameluke fell to work and wrote till he had made an end of his copy, when he read it to the old man, and he corrected it and presently said to him, "Know, O my son, that my five conditions are as follows; firstly, that thou tell not this story in the beaten high road nor before women and slave-girls nor to black slaves nor feather-heads; nor again to boys; but read it only before Kings and Emirs and Wazirs and men of learning, such as expounders of the Koran and others." Thereupon the messenger accepted the conditions and kissing the old man'shand, took leave of him, and fared forth.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Fifty-eighth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Mameluke of Hasan the Merchant had copied the tale out of the book belonging to the old man of Damascus, and had accepted his conditions and farewelled him, he fared forth on the same day, glad and joyful, and journeyed on diligently, of the excess of his contentment, for that he had gotten the story of Sayf al-Muluk, till he came to his own country, when he despatched his servant to bear the good news to his master and say to him, "Thy Mameluke is come back in safety and hath won his will and his aim." (Now of the term appointed between Hasan and the King there wanted but ten days.) Then, after taking rest in his own quarters he himself went in to the Merchant and told him all that had befallen him and gave him the book containing the story of Sayf al-Muluk and Badi'a al-Jamal, when Hasan joyed with exceeding joy at the sight and bestowed on him all the clothes he had on and gave him ten thoroughbred horses and the like number of camels and mules and three negro chattels and two white slaves. Then Hasan took the book and copied out the story plainly in his own hand; after which he presented himself before the King and said to him, "O thou auspicious King, I have brought thee a night-story and a rarely pleasant relation, whose like none ever heard at all." When these words reached the King's ear, he sent forthright for all the Emirs, who were men of understanding, and all the learned doctors and folk of erudition and culture and poets and wits; and Hasan sat down and read the history before the King, who marvelled thereat and approved it, as did all who were present, and they showered gold and silver and jewels upon the Merchant. Moreover, the King bestowed on him a costly robe of honour of the richest of his raiment and gave him a great city with its castles and outliers; and he appointed him one of his Chief Wazirs and seated him on his right hand. Then he caused the scribes write the story in letters of gold and lay it up in his privy treasures: and whenever his breast was straitened, he would summon Hasan and he would read him the story, which was as follows:--

[Go to Story of Prince Sayf Al-Muluk and the Princess Badi'a Al-Jamal]

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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