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Payne: The Story of The Physician Douban

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There was once in a city of Persia a powerful and wealthy king, named Younan, who had guards and troops and auxiliaries of every kind: but he was afflicted with a leprosy, which defied the efforts of his physicians and wise men. He took potions and powders and used ointments, but all to no avail, and not one of the doctors could cure him. At last, there came to the King's capital city a great physician, stricken in years, whose name was Douban: and he had studied many books, Greek, ancient and modern, and Persian and Turkish and Arabic and Syriac and Hebrew, and was skilled in medicine and astrology, both theoretical and practical. Moreover he was familiar with all plants and herbs and grasses, whether harmful or beneficial, and was versed in the learning of the philosophers; in brief, he had made himself master of all sciences, medical and other. He had not been long in the town before he heard of the leprosy with which God had afflicted the King, and of the failure of the physicians and men of science to cure him; whereupon he passed the night in study; and when the day broke and the morning appeared and shone, he donned his richest apparel and went in to the King and kissing the ground before him, wished him enduring honour and fair fortune, in the choicest words at his command. Then he told him who he was and said to him, "O King, I have learnt what has befallen thee in thy person and how a multitude of physicians have failed to find a means of ridding thee of it: but I will cure thee, O King, and that without giving thee to drink of medicine or anointing thee with ointment." When the King heard this, he wondered and said to him, "How wilt thou do this? By Allah, if thou cure me, I will enrich thee, even to thy children's children, and I will heap favours on thee, and whatever thou desirest shalt be shine, and thou shalt be my companion and my friend." Then he gave him a dress of honour and made much of him, saying, "Wilt thou indeed cure me without drugs or ointment?" "Yes," answered Douban, "I will cure thee from without." Whereat the King marvelled exceedingly and said, "O physician, when wilt thou do as thou hast said? Make haste, O my son!" Quoth Douban, "I hear and obey: it shall be done tomorrow." And he went down into the city and hired a house, in which he deposited his books and medicines. Then he took certain drugs and simples and fashioned them into a mall, which he hollowed out and made thereto a handle and a ball, adapted to it by his art. Next morning he presented himself before the King and kissing the ground before him, ordered him to repair to the tilting ground and play at mall there. So the King mounted and repaired thither with his amirs and chamberlains and viziers, and hardly had he reached the appointed place when the physician Douban came up and presented him with the mall and ball he had prepared, saying, "Take this mall and grip the handle thus and drive into the plain and stretch thyself well and strike this ball till thy hand and thy body sweat, when the drugs will penetrate thy hand and permeate thy body. When thou hast done and the medicine has entered into thee, return to thy palace and enter the bath and wash. Then sleep awhile and thou wilt awake cured, and peace be on thee!" The King took the mall and mounting a swift horse, threw the ball before him and drove after it with all his might and smote it: and his hand gripped the mall firmly. And he ceased not to drive after the bail and strike it, till his hand and all his body sweated, and Douban knew that the drugs had taken effect upon him and ordered him to return and enter the bath at once. So the King returned immediately and ordered the bath to be emptied for him. They turned the people out of the bath, and his servants and attendants hastened thither and made him ready change of linen and all that was necessary: and he went in and washed himself well and put on his clothes. Then he came out of the bath and went up to his palace and slept there. When he awoke, he looked at his body and found it clean as virgin silver, having no trace left of the leprosy: whereat he rejoiced exceedingly and his breast expanded with gladness. Next morning, he repaired to the Divan and sat down on his chair of estate, and the chamberlains and grandees attended on him. Presently, the physician Douban presented himself and kissed the earth before the king and repeated the following verses:

The virtues all exalted are, when thou art styled their sire: None else the title dares accept, of all that men admire. Lord of the radiant brow, whose light dispels the mists of doubt From every goal of high emprize whereunto folk aspire, Ne'er may thy visage cease to shine with glory and with joy, Although the face of Fate should gloom with unremitting ire! Even as the clouds pour down their dews upon the thirsting hills, Thy grace pours favour on my head, outrunning my desire. With liberal hand thou casteth forth thy bounties far and nigh, And so hast won those heights of fame thou soughtest to acquire.

The King rose to him in haste and embraced him and made him sit down and clad him in a splendid dress of honour. Then tables of rich food were brought in, and Douban ate with the King and ceased not to bear him company all that day. When it was night, the King gave him two thousand diners, besides other presents, and mounted him on his own horse; and the physician returned to his lodging, leaving the King astonished at his skill and saying, "This man cured me from without, without using ointments. By Allah, this is none other than consummate skill! And it behoves me to honour and reward him and make him my companion and bosom friend to the end of time." The King passed the night in great content, rejoicing in the soundness of his body and his deliverance from his malady. On the morrow, he went out and sat down on his throne; and the grandees stood before him, whilst the amirs and viziers sat on his right hand and on his left. Then he sent for the physician, who came and kissed the ground before him, whereupon the King rose to him and made him sit by his side and eat with him, and ceased not to converse with him and make much of him till night; when he commanded five dresses of honour and a thousand diners to be given to him, and he returned to his house, well contented with the King. Next morning, the King repaired as usual to his council-chamber, and the amirs and viziers and chamberlains took their places round him. Now he had among his viziers one who was forbidding of aspect, sordid, avaricious and envious: a man of ill omen, naturally inclined to malevolence: and when he saw the esteem in which the King held Douban and the favours he bestowed on him, he envied him and plotted evil against him; for, as says the byword, "Nobody is free from envy"--and again--"Tyranny is latent in the soul: weakness hides it and strength reveals it." So he came to the King and kissed the earth before him and said to him "O King of the age, thou in whose bounties I have grown up, I have a grave warning to give thee, which did I conceal from thee, I were a son of shame: wherefore, if thou command me to impart it to thee, I will do so." Quoth the King (and indeed the Vizier's words troubled him), "What is thy warning?" "O illustrious King," answered the Vizier, "the ancients have a saying, 'Whoso looks not to the issue of events, fortune is no friend of his :' and indeed I see the King in other than the right way, in that he favours his enemy, who seeks the downfall of his kingdom, and makes much of him and honours him exceedingly and is beyond measure familiar with him: and of a truth I am fearful for the King." Quoth King Younan (and indeed he was troubled and his colour changed), "Of whom dost thou speak?" The Vizier answered, "If thou sleepest, awake. I mean the physician Douban." "Out on thee!" said the King. "He is my true friend and the dearest of all men to me; seeing that he medicined me by means of a thing I held in my hand and cured me of my leprosy, which the doctors were unable to cure; and there is not his like to be found in this time, no, not in the whole world, East nor West; and it is of him that thou speakest thus! But from to-day I will assign him stipends and allowances and appoint him a thousand diners a month: and if I should share my kingdom with him, it were but a little thing. Methinks thou sayest this out of pure envy and wouldst have me kill him and after repent, as King Sindbad repented the killing of his falcon." "Pardon me, O King of the age," said the Vizier, "but how was that! Quoth the King, "It is said that...

[Go to The Story of King Sindbad and his Falcon]

Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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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