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Burton: Tale of the Wazir and the Sage Duban (cont.)

[Go back to Tale of the Prince and the Ogress]

Thou likewise, O King, if thou continue to trust this leach, shalt be made to die the worst of deaths. He verily thou madest much of and whom thou entreatedest as an intimate, will work thy destruction. Seest thou not how he healed the disease from outside thy body by something grasped in thy hand? Be not assured that he will not destroy thee by something held in like manner! Replied King Yunan, "Thou hast spoken sooth, O Wazir, it may well be as thou hintest O my well advising Minister; and belike this Sage hath come as a spy searching to put me to death; for assuredly if he cured me by a something held in my hand, he can kill me by a something given me to smell." Then asked King Yunan, "O Minister, what must be done with him?" and the Wazir answered, "Send after him this very instant and summon him to thy presence; and when he shall come strike him across the neck; and thus shalt thou rid thyself of him and his wickedness, and deceive him ere he can I deceive thee." 'Thou hast again spoken sooth, O Wazir," said the King and sent one to call the Sage who came in joyful mood for he knew not what had appointed for him the Compassionate; as a certain poet saith by way of illustration:--

O Thou who fearest Fate, confiding fare * Trust all to Him who built the world and wait:
What Fate saith "Be" perforce must be, my lord! * And safe art thou from th undecreed of Fate.

As Duban the physician entered he addressed the King in these lines:--

An fail I of my thanks to thee nor thank thee day by day * For whom com posed I prose and verse, for whom my say and lay?
Thou lavishedst thy generous gifts ere they were craved by me * Thou lavishedst thy boons unsought sans pretext or delay:
How shall I stint my praise of thee, how shall I cease to laud * The grace of thee in secresy and patentest display?
Nay; I will thank thy benefits, for aye thy favours lie * Light on my thought and tongue, though heavy on my back they weigh.

And he said further on the same theme:--

Turn thee from grief nor care a jot! * Commit thy needs to Fate and Lot!
Enjoy the Present passing well * And let the Past be clean forgot
For whatso haply seemeth worse * Shall work thy weal as Allah wot
Allah shall do whate'er He wills * And in His will oppose Him not.

And further still.--

To th' All wise Subtle One trust worldly things * Rest thee from all whereto the worldling clings:
Learn wisely well naught cometh by thy will * But e'en as willeth Allah, King of Kings.

And lastly.--

Gladsome and gay forget thine every grief * Full often grief the wisest hearts outwore:
Thought is but folly in the feeble slave * Shun it and so be saved evermore.

Said the King for sole return, "Knowest thou why I have summoned thee?" and the Sage replied, "Allah Most Highest alone kenneth hidden things!" But the King rejoined, "I summoned thee only to take thy life and utterly to destroy thee." Duban the Wise wondered at this strange address with exceeding wonder and asked, "O King, and wherefore wouldest thou slay me, and what ill have I done thee?" and the King answered, "Men tell me thou art a spy sent hither with intent to slay me; and lo! I will kill thee ere I be killed by thee;" then he called to his Sworder, and said, "Strike me off the head of this traitor and deliver us from his evil practices." Quoth the Sage, "Spare me and Allah will spare thee; slay me not or Allah shall slay thee." And he repeated to him these very words, even as I to thee, O Ifrit, and yet thou wouldst not let me go, being bent upon my death. King Yunan only rejoined, "I shall not be safe without slaying thee; for, as thou healedst me by something held in hand, so am I not secure against thy killing me by something given me to smell or otherwise." Said the physician, "This then, O King, is thy requital and reward; thou returnest only evil for good." The King replied, "There is no help for it; die thou must and without delay." Now when the physician was certified that the King would slay him without waiting, he wept and regretted the good he had done to other than the good. As one hath said on this subject:--

Of wit and wisdom is Maymunah bare * Whose sire in wisdom all the wits outstrippeth:
Man may not tread on mud or dust or clay * Save by good sense, else trippeth he and slippeth.

Hereupon the Sworder stepped forward and bound the Sage Duban's eyes and bared his blade, saying to the King, "By thy leave;" while the physician wept and cried, "Spare me and Allah will spare thee, and slay me not or Allah shall slay thee," and began repeating:--

I was kind and 'scaped not, they were cruel and escaped; * And my kindness only led me to Ruination Hall,
If I live I'll ne'er be kind; if I die, then all be damned * Who follow me, and curses their kindliness befall.

"Is this," continued Duban, "the return I meet from thee? Thou givest me, meseems, but crocodile boon." Quoth the King,"What is the tale of the crocodile?", and quoth the physician, "Impossible for me to tell it in this my state; Allah upon thee, spare me, as thou hopest Allah shall spare thee." And he wept with ex ceeding weeping. Then one of the King's favourites stood up and said, "O King! grant me the blood of this physician; we have never seen him sin against thee, or doing aught save healing thee from a disease which baffled every leach and man of science." Said the King, "Ye wot not the cause of my putting to death this physician, and this it is. If I spare him, I doom myself to certain death; for one who healed me of such a malady by something held in my hand, surely can slay me by something held to my nose; and I fear lest he kill me for a price, since haply he is some spy whose sole purpose in coming hither was to compass my destruction. So there is no help for it; die he must, and then only shall I be sure of my own life." Again cried Duban, "Spare me and Allah shall spare thee; and slay me not or Allah shall slay thee." But it was in vain. Now when the physician, O Ifrit, knew for certain that the King would kill him, he said, "O King, if there be no help but I must die, grant me some little delay that I may go down to my house and release myself from mine obligations and direct my folk and my neighbours where to bury me and distribute my books of medicine. Amongst these I have one, the rarest of rarities, which I would present to thee as an offering: keep it as a treasure in thy treasury." "And what is in the book?" asked the King and the Sage answered, "Things beyond compt; and the least of secrets is that if, directly after thou hast cut off my head, thou open three leaves and read three lines of the page to thy left hand, my head shall speak and answer every question thou deignest ask of it." The King wondered with exceeding wonder and shaking with delight at the novelty, said, "O physician, cost thou really tell me that when I cut off thy head it will speak to me?" He replied, "Yes, O King!" Quoth the King, "This is indeed a strange matter!" and forthwith sent him closely guarded to his house, and Duban then and there settled all his obligations. Next day he went up to the King's audience hall, where Emirs and Wazirs, Chamberlains and Nabobs, Grandees and Lords of Estate were gathered together, making the presence chamber gay as a garden of flower beds. And lo! the physician came up and stood before the King, bearing a worn old volume and a little etui of metal full of powder, like that used for the eyes. Then he sat down and said, "Give me a tray." So they brought him one and he poured the powder upon it and levelled it and lastly spake as follows: "O King, take this book but do not open it till my head falls; then set it upon this tray, and bid press it down upon the powder, when forthright the blood will cease flowing. That is the time to open the book." The King thereupon took the book and made a sign to the Sworder, who arose and struck off the physician's head, and placing it on the middle of the tray, pressed it down upon the powder. The blood stopped flowing, and the Sage Duban unclosed his eyes and said, "Now open the book, O King!" The King opened the book, and found the leaves stuck together; so he put his finger to his mouth and, by moistening it, he easily turned over the first leaf, and in like way the second, and the third, each leaf opening with much trouble; and when he had un stuck six leaves he looked over them and, finding nothing written thereon, said, "O physician, there is no writing here!" Duban re plied, "Turn over yet more;" and he turned over three others in the same way. Now the book was poisoned; and before long the venom penetrated his system, and he fell into strong convulsions and he cried out, "The poison hath done its work!" Whereupon the Sage Duban's head began to improvise:--

There be rulers who have ruled with a foul tyrannic sway * But they soon became as though they had never, never been:
Just, they had won justice: they oppressed and were oppress * By Fortune, who requited them with ban and bane and teen:
So they faded like the morn, and the tongue of things repeats * "Take this far that, nor vent upon Fortune's ways thy spleen."

No sooner had the head ceased speaking than the King rolled over dead.

[Resume The Fisherman and the Jinni]

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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