[Go back to Al-Mutalammis and His Wife Umaymah]
The Caliph Harun al-Rashid loved the Lady Zubaydah with exceeding love and laid out for her a pleasaunce, wherein he made a great tank and set thereabouts a screen of trees and led thither water from all sides; hence the trees grew and interlaced over the basin so densely, that one could go in and wash, without being seen of any, for the thickness of the leafage. It chanced, one day, that Queen Zubaydah entered the garden and, coming to the swimming-bath,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Three Hundred and Eighty-sixth Night
She said, It hath reached me, "O auspicious King, that Queen Zubaydah entered the garden one day and, coming to the swimming- bath, gazed upon its goodliness; and the sheen of the water and the overshading of the trees pleased her. Now it was a day of exceeding heat; so she doffed her clothes and, entering the tank, which was not deep enough to cover the whole person, fell to pouring the water over herself from an ewer of silver. It also happened that the Caliph heard she was in the pool; so he left his palace and came down to spy upon her through the screen of the foliage. He stood behind the trees and espied her mother- nude, showing everything that is kept hidden. Presently, she became aware of him and turning, saw him behind the trees and was ashamed that he should see her naked. So she laid her hands on her parts, but the Mount of Venus escaped from between them, by reason of its greatness and plumpness; and the Caliph at once turned and went away, wondering and reciting this couplet,
"I looked on her with loving eyne * And grew anew my old repine:"
But he knew not what to say next; so he sent for Abu Nowas and said to him, "Make me a piece of verse commencing with this line." "I hear and obey," replied the poet and in an eye- twinkling extemporised these couplets,
"I looked on her with longing eyne * And grew anew my old repine
For the gazelle, who captured me * Where the two lotus-trees incline:
There was the water poured on it * From ewer of the silvern mine;
And seen me she had hidden it * But 'twas too plump for fingers fine.
Would Heaven that I were on it, * An hour, or better two hours, li'en."
Thereupon the Commander of the Faithful smiled and made him a handsome present and he went away rejoicing. And I have heard another story of...
[Go to Harun Al-Rashid and the Three Poets]
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