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Burton: Prince Behram and the Princess Al-Datma

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There was once a King's daughter, who had no equal in her time for beauty and loveliness and symmetrical stature and grace, brilliancy, amorous lace and the art of ravishing the wits of the masculine race and her name was Al-Datma. She used to boast, "Indeed there is none like me in this age." Nor was there one more accomplished than she in horsemanship and martial exercises and all that behoveth a cavalier. So all the Kings' sons sought her to wife; but she would take none of them, saying, "No man shall marry me except he overcome me at lunge of lance and stroke of sword in fair field and patent plain. If any can do this, I will willingly wed him; but, if I overcome him, I will take his horse and clothes and arms and write with fire upon his forehead, 'This is the freed man of Al-Datma.'" Now the sons of the Kings flocked to her from every quarter far and near, and she overcame them and put them to shame, stripping them of their arms and branding them with fire. Presently the son of a King of the Kings of the Persians, by name Behram ibn Taji, heard of her and journeyed from afar to her father's court, bringing with him men and horses and great store of wealth and royal treasures. When he drew near the city, he sent her parent a rich present and the King came out to meet him and honoured him with the utmost honour. Then the King's son sent a message to him by his Wazir, demanding his daughter's hand in marriage; but the King answered, saying, "O my son, as regards my daughter Al-Datma, I have no power over her, for she hath sworn by her soul to marry none except he overcome her in the listed field." Quoth the Prince, "I journeyed hither from my father's court with no other object but this; I came here to woo and for thine alliance to sue;" quoth the King, "Thou shalt meet her tomorrow." So next day he sent to bid his daughter who, making ready for battle, donned her harness of war, and the folk, hearing of the coming joust, flocked from all sides to the field. Presently the Princess rode into the lists, armed cap-a-pie and belted and with vizor down, and the Persian King's son came out singlehanded to meet her, equipped at all points after the fairest of fashions. Then they drove at each other and fought a great while, wheeling and falsing, advancing and retreating, till the Princess, finding in him such courage and cavalarice as she had seen in none else, began to fear for herself lest he put her to shame before the bystanders and knew that he would assuredly overcome her. So she resolved to trick him and, raising her vizor, lo! her face appeared more brilliant than the full moon, which when he saw, he was confounded by her beauty and his strength failed and his spirit faltered. When she perceived this, she fell upon him unawares in his moment of weakness, and tare him from his saddle, and he became in her hands as he were a sparrow in the clutches of an eagle, knowing not what was done with him for amazement and confusion. So she took his steed and clothes and armour and, branding him with fire, let him wend his ways. When he recovered from his stupor, he abode several days without meat or drink or sleep for despite and love of the girl which had taken hold upon his heart. Then he sent a letter by certain of his slaves to his father, advising him that he could not return home till he had won his will of the Princess or died for want of her. When his sire got the letter, he was sore concerned for his son and would have succoured him by sending troops and soldiers; but his Wazirs dissuaded him from this and exhorted him to patience; so he committed his affair to Almighty Allah. Meanwhile, the Prince cast about for a means of coming to his desire; and presently, disguising himself as a decrepit old man, with a white beard over his own black beard repaired to a garden of the Princess wherein she used to walk most of her days. Here he sought out the gardener and said to him, "I am a stranger from a far country and from my youth upwards I have been a gardener, and in the grafting of trees and the culture of fruits and flowers and care of the vine none is more skilled than I." When the gardener heard this, he rejoiced in him with exceeding joy and carried him into the garden, where he commended him to his underlings, and the Prince betook himself to the service of the garden and the tending of the trees and the bettering of their fruits and improving the Persian water-wheels and disposing the irrigation-channels. One day, as he was thus employed, lo! he saw some slaves enter the garden, leading mules laden with carpets and vessels, and asked them the meaning of this, to which they answered, "The Princess is minded to take her pleasure." When he heard these words he hastened to his lodging and, fetching some of the jewels and ornaments he had brought with him from home, sat down in the garden and spread somewhat of them out before him, shaking and making a show of extreme old age,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the son of the Persian King, after disguising himself as an old man shotten in years and taking a seat in the garden, spread out somewhat of the jewels and ornaments before him and made a show of shaking and trembling as if for decrepitude and the weakness of extreme senility. After an hour or so a company of damsels and eunuchs entered with the Princess in their midst, as she were the moon among the stars, and dispersed about the garden, plucking the fruits and diverting themselves. Presently they espied a man sitting under one of the trees; and, making towards him (who was the Prince), found him a very old man, whose hands and feet trembled for decrepitude, and before him store of precious jewels and royal ornaments. So they marvelled at his case and asked him what he did there with the jewels; when he answered, "With these trinkets I would fain buy me to wife one of you." They laughed together at him and said, "If one of us marry thee, what wilt thou do with her?" Said he, "I will give her one kiss and divorce her." Then quoth the Princess, "I give thee this damsel to wife." So he rose and coming up to her, leaning on his staff and shivering and staggering, kissed her and gave her the jewels and ornaments; whereat she rejoiced and they, laughing at him, went their way. Next day, they came again to the garden, and finding him seated in the same place, with more jewels and ornaments than before spread in front of him, asked him, "O Shaykh, what wilt thou do with this jewellery?"; and he answered, saying, "I wish therewith to take one of you to wife even as yesterday." So the Princess said, "I marry thee to this damsel;" and he came up to her and kissed her and gave her the jewels, and they all went their ways. But, seeing such generosity to her handmaids, the Princess said in herself, "I have more right to all these fine things than these baggages, and no harm can betide me." So when morning morrowed she went down from her chamber singly into the garden, in the habit of one of her damsels, and presenting herself privily before the Prince, said to him, "O Shaykh, the King's daughter hath sent me to thee, that thou mayst marry me." He looked at her and knew her; so he answered, "With love and gladness," and gave her jewels and ornaments of the finest and costliest. Then he rose to kiss her, and she off her guard and fearing nothing but, when he came up to her, he suddenly laid hold of her with a strong hand and instantly throwing her down, on the ground abated her maidenhead. Then he pulled the beard from his face and said to her, "Dost thou not know me?" Asked she, "Who art thou?" and he answered, "I am Behram, the King's son of Persia, who have changed my favour and am become a stranger to my people and estate for thy sake and have lavished my treasures for thy love." So she rose from under him in silence and answered not his address nor spake a word of reply to him, being dazed for what had befallen her and seeing nothing better than to be silent, for fear of shame; and she bethought herself and said, "If I kill myself it will be useless and if I do him die, his death will profit me naught;" and presently added, "Nothing will serve me but that I elope with him to his own country." Then she gathered together her monies and treasures and sent to him, acquainting him therewith, to the intent that he also might equip himself with his wealth and needs; and they agreed upon a night on which to depart. So, at the appointed time, they mounted race-horses and set out under cover of the gloom, nor did morning morrow till they had traversed a great distance; and they ceased not faring forwards till they drew near his father's capital in the land of the Persians. When the King heard of his son's coming, he rode out to meet him with his troops and rejoiced in him with exceeding joy. Then, after a few days, he sent the Princess's father a splendid present, and a letter to the effect that his daughter was with him and demanding her wedding equipage. Al-Datma's father came out to meet the messengers with the greatest gladness (for that he had deemed his daughter lost and had grieved sore for her loss): after which he made bride-feasts and, summoning the Kazi and the witnesses, let draw up the marriage-contract between his daughter and the Prince of Persia. He invested the envoys with robes of honour, then he made ready her equipage and despatched it to her; and Prince Behram abode with her till death sundered their union. "See therefore, O King" (continued the favourite), "the malice of men in their dealing with women. As for me, I will not go back from my due till I die." So the King once more commanded to put his son to death; but the seventh Wazir came in to him and kissing the ground before him, said, "O King, have patience with me whilst I speak these words of good counsel to thee; how many patient and slow-moving men unto their hope attain, and how many who are precipitate fall into shameful state! Now I have seen how this damsel hath profligately excited the King by lies to horrible and unnatural cruelties; but I his Mameluke, whom he hath overwhelmed with his favours and bounties, do proffer him true and loyal rede; for that I, O King, know of the malice of women that which none knoweth save myself; and in particular there hath reached me, on this subject, the story of the old woman and the son of the merchant with its warning instances." Asked the King, "And what fell out between them, O Wazir?" and the seventh Wazir answered, "I have heard tell, O King, the tale of...

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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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