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Burton: The Unjust King and the Pilgrim Prince

[Go back to The Wild Ass and the Jackal]

There was once in Mauritania-land a King who exceeded in his rule, a tyrant, violent and over severe, who had no respect for the welfare or protection of his lieges nor of those who entered his realm; and from everyone who came within his Kingdom his officers took four-fifths of his monies, leaving him one- fifth and no more. Now Allah Almighty decreed that he should have a son, who was fortunate and God-favoured and seeing the pomps and vanities of this world to be transient as they are unrighteous, renounced them in his youth and rejected the world and that which is therein and fared forth serving the Most High, wandering pilgrim-wise over words and wastes and bytimes entering towns and cities. One day, he came to his father's capital and the guards laid hands on him and searched him but found naught upon him save two gowns, one new and the other old. So they stripped the new one from him and left him the old, after they had entreated him with contumely and contempt; whereat he complained and said, "Woe to you, O ye oppressors! I am a poor man and a pilgrim, and what shall this gown by any means profit you? Except ye restore it to me, I will go to the King and make complaint to him of you." They replied, "We act thus by the King's command: so do what seemeth good to thee." Accordingly he betook himself to the King's palace and would have entered, but the chamberlains denied him admittance, and he turned away, saying in himself, "There is nothing for me except to watch till he cometh out and complain to him of my case and that which hath befallen me." And whilst he waited, behold, he heard one of the guards announce the King's faring forth; whereupon he crept up, little by little, till he stood before the gate; and presently when the King came out, he threw himself in his way and after blessing him and wishing him weal, he made his complaint to him informing him how scurvily he had been entreated by the gatekeepers. Lastly he gave him to know that he was a man of the people of Allah who had rejected the world seeking acceptance of Allah and who went wandering over earth and entering every city and hamlet, whilst all the folk he met gave him alms according to their competence. "I entered this thy city" (continued he), "hoping that the folk would deal kindly and graciously with me as with others of my condition, but thy followers stopped me and stripped me of one of my gowns and loaded me with blows. Wherefore do thou look into my case and take me by the hand and get me back my gown and I will not abide in thy city an hour." Quoth the unjust King, "Who directed thee to enter this city, unknowing the custom of its King?"; and quoth the pilgrim, "Give me back my gown and do with me what thou wilt." Now when the King heard this, his temper changed for the worse and he said, "O fool, we stripped thee of thy gown, so thou mightest humble thyself to us, but since thou makest this clamour I will strip thy soul from thee." Then he commanded to cast him into gaol, where he began to repent of having answered the King and reproached himself for not having left him the gown and saved his life. When it was the middle of the night, he rose to his feet and prayed long and prayerfully, saying, "O Allah, Thou art the Righteous Judge. Thou knowest my case and that which hath befallen me with this tyrannical King, and I, Thine oppressed servant, beseech Thee, of the abundance of Thy mercy, to deliver me from the hand of this unjust ruler and send down on him Thy vengeance; for Thou art not unmindful of the upright of every oppressor. Wherefore, if Thou know that he hath wronged me, loose on him Thy vengeance this night and send down on him Thy punishment; for Thy rule is just and Thou art the Helper of every mourner, O Thou to whom belong the power and the glory to the end of time!" When the gaoler heard the prayer of the poor prisoner he trembled in every limb, and behold, a fire suddenly broke out in the King's palace and consumed it and all that were therein, even to the door of the prison, and none was spared but the gaoler and the pilgrim. Now when the gaoler saw this, he knew that it had not befallen save because of the pilgrim's prayer; so he loosed him and fleeing with him forth of the burning, betook himself, he and the King's son, to another city. So was the unjust King consumed, he and all his city, by reason of his injustice, and he lost the goods both of this world and the next world. "As for us, O auspicious King" continued the Wazir, "we neither lie down nor rise up without praying for thee and thanking Allah the Most High for His grace in giving thee to us, tranquil in reliance on thy justice and the excellence of thy governance; and sore indeed was our care for thy lack of a son to inherit thy kingdom, fearing lest after thee there betide us a King unlike thee. But now the Almighty hath bestowed His favours upon us and done away our concern and brought us gladness in the birth of this blessed child; wherefore we beseech the Lord to make him a worthy successor to thee and endow him with glory and felicity enduring and good abiding." Then rose the fifth Wazir and said, "Blessed be the Most High,"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Sixth Night,

She resumed: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the fifth Wazir said, "Blessed be the Most High, Giver of all good gifts and graces the most precious! But to continue: we are well assured that Allah favoureth whoso are thankful to Him and mindful of His faith; and thou, O auspicious King, art far-famed for these illustrious virtues and for justice and equitable dealing between subject and subject and in that which is acceptable to Allah Almighty. By reason of this hath the Lord exalted thy dignity and prospered thy days and bestowed on thee the good gift of this august child, after despair, wherefrom there hath betided us gladness abiding and joys which may not be cut off; for we before this were in exceeding cark and passing care, because of thy lack of issue, and full of concern bethinking us of all thy justice and gentle dealing with us and fearful lest Allah decree death to thee and there be none to succeed thee and inherit the kingdom after thee, and so we be divided in our counsels and dissensigns arise between us and there befal us what befel the Crows." Asked the King, "And what befel the Crows?"; and the Wazir answered saying, "Hear, O auspicious King, the tale of...

[Go to The Crows and the Hawk]

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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