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Payne: The First Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

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My father was one of the richest and most considerable merchants of my native place and died, whilst I was yet a child, leaving me much wealth in money and lands and houses. When I grew up, I laid hands on the whole and ate and drank freely and wore rich clothes and lived lavishly with my friends and companions of my own age, thinking this way of life would last for ever. Thus did I a great while, till, at last, when I returned to my senses and awoke from my heedlessness, I found my wealth wasted and my case changed, and gone was all I had. At this I was stricken with dismay and confusion and bethought me of a saying of our lord Solomon, son of David (on whom be peace), which I had heard aforetime from my father, "Three things are better than other three; the day of death is better than the day of birth, a live dog than a dead lion and the grave than poverty." Then I sold the remains of my property and got together three thousand dirhems, with which I resolved to travel to foreign countries, remembering the saying of the poet:       By sheer endeavour, one winneth to fortune's height, And he who craveth advancement must watch anight.

      In midmost ocean the seeker of pearls must plunge And so attaineth to wealth and lordship and might;
      And he sans travail who seeketh eminence His life in the quest of vanity wasteth quite.

So I bought me merchandise and what not else was needed for a seavoyage and embarked, with a company of merchants, on board a ship bound for Bassora. There we took ship again and putting out to sea, sailed days and nights and passed from island to island and ocean to ocean and place to place, buying and selling and bartering every-where, till we came to an island as it were one of the pleasaunces of Paradise. Here the captain cast anchor and making fast to the shore, put out the landing-stage. So all on board landed and made furnaces and lighting fires therein, busied themselves in various ways, some cooking and some washing, whilst other some walked about the island for their pleasure and the rest fell to eating and drinking and making merry. I was one of those who explored the place, but, as we were thus variously engaged, behold, the captain cried out to us from the deck at the top of his voice, saying, "Ho, passengers, flee for your lives and leave your gear and hasten back to the ship and save yourselves from destruction, God preserve you! For this is no island, but a great fish stationary in the midst of the sea, on which the sand has settled and trees have sprung up of old time, so that it is become like unto an island; but, when we lighted fires on it, it felt the heat and moved; and presently it will sink with you into the sea and ye will all be drowned. So leave your gear and save yourselves ere ye perish!"

When we heard the captain's warning, we left our gear and fled back to the ship for our lives and some reached it; but, before the rest, of whom I was one, could do so, the island shook and sank into the abysses of the deep, with all that were thereon, and the surging sea closed over it with its clashing billows. I sank with the others, but God the Most High preserved me from drowning and threw in my way a great wooden tub of those that had served the ship's company for washing. I gripped it for dear life and bestriding it, paddled with my feet, whilst the waves sported with me right and left. Meanwhile the captain made sail and departed with those who had reached the ship, regardless of the drowning men, and I followed the vessel with my eyes, till she disappeared from sight and I looked for nothing but death.

In this plight, the darkness closed in upon me and the winds and waves bore me on all that night and the next day, till the tub brought to with me under the lee of a lofty island, with trees overhanging the water. I caught hold of a branch and made shift to clamber up on to the land, after coming nigh upon death. When I reached the shore, I found my feet cramped and bearing traces of the nibbling of fish upon their soles, the which I felt not for excess of fatigue and misery. I threw myself down on the ground, like a dead man, and swooned away, nor did I return to my senses till next morning, when the sun revived me. I tried to walk, but found my feet swollen, so made shift to crawl on my hands and knees towards the interior of the island where I found abundance of fruits and springs of sweet water. I ate of the fruits and drank of the springs; and thus I abode days and nights, till my strength and spirits began to revive and I was able to move about. So I bethought me and cutting myself a staff to lean upon, fell to exploring the island and diverting myself with gazing upon the things that God the Most High had created there.

One day, as I walked along the sea-shore, I caught sight of some live thing in the distance and thought it a wild beast or one of the creatures of the sea; but, as I drew near it, I saw that it was a magnificent mare, tethered on the beach. So I went up to her, but she cried out against me with a great cry, so that I trembled for fear and turned to go away, when there came forth a man from under the earth and followed me, crying out and saying, "Who and whence art thou and how camest thou hither?" "O my lord," answered I, "I am a shipwrecked man, a stranger, to whom God vouchsafed a wooden tub; so I saved myself thereon and it floated with me, till the waves cast me up on this island." When he heard this, he said, "Come with me," and taking me by the hand, carried me into a great underground chamber and made me sit down at the upper end. Then he brought me food and I ate, being anhungred, till I was satisfied and refreshed; after which he questioned me of myself, and I told him all that had befallen me, adding, "For God's sake, O my lord, excuse me; I have told thee the truth of my case; and now I desire that thou tell me who thou art and why thou abidest here under the earth and why thou hast tethered yonder mare on the brink of the sea. "Know," answered he, "that I am one of several who are stationed in different parts of the island, and we are of the grooms of King Mihrjan and under our hand are all his horses. Every month, at the new moon, we bring hither the best of the King's mares, that have never been covered, and tether them on the sea-shore and hide ourselves in this place under the ground, so that none may see us. Presently, the stallions of the sea scent the mares and come up out of the water and seeing no one, leap the mares and cover them. When they have done their will of them, they try to drag them away with them, but cannot, by reason of the tether; so they cry out at them and set on them with hoofs and teeth, which we hearing, know that the stallions have dismounted; so we run out and shout at them, whereupon they are affrighted and return to the sea. Then the mares conceive by them and bear colts and fillies worth a treasury of money, whose like is not to be found on the face of the earth. This is the time of the coming forth of the sea-horses; and so it please God the Most High, I will carry thee to King Mihrjan and show thee our country. Well is it for thee that thou hast happened on us, else hadst thou perished miserably and none known of thee, for there cometh none hither save ourselves: but I will be the means of the saving of thy life and of thy return to thine own land."

I called down blessings on him and thanked him for his kindness and courtesy. While we were talking, the stallion came up out of the sea and giving a great cry, sprang upon the mare and covered her. When he had done his will of her, he dismounted and would have carried her away with him, but could not by reason of the tether. She kicked and cried out at him, whereupon the groom took a sword and buckler and ran out, smiting the buckler with the sword and calling to his companions. With this up came a company of men, shouting and brandishing spears, and the stallion took fright at them and plunging into the sea; like a buffalo, disappeared under the waves. After this, we sat a while, till the rest of the grooms came up, each leading a mare, and seeing me with their fellow, questioned me, and I repeated my story to them. Thereupon they drew near me and spreading the table, ate and invited me to eat; so I ate with them, after which they took horse and mounting me on one of the mares, set out with me and fared on without ceasing, till they came to the capital city of King Mihrjan, and going in to him, acquainted him with my case. Then he sent for me and gave me a cordial welcome and bade me repeat my story to him. So I related to him all that had befallen me from first to last, whereat he marvelled exceedingly and said to me, "By Allah, O my son, thou hast indeed been miraculously preserved! Were not the term of thy life a long one, thou hadst not escaped from these straits; but praised be God for safety!" Then he spoke comfortably to me and entreated me with kindness and consideration. Moreover, he made me his agent for the port and registrar of all ships that entered the harbour and clad me in sumptuous apparel. In this capacity, I attended him regularly, to receive his commandments, and he favoured me and did me all manner of kindness. Indeed, I was high in credit with him, as an intercessor for the folk and an intermediary between them and him, whenas they would aught of him.

I abode thus a great while and as often as I went down to the port, I questioned the merchants and travellers and sailors of the city of Baghdad, so haply I might hear of an occasion to return to my native land, but could find none who knew it or knew any who resorted thither. At this I was chagrined, for I was weary of long strangerhood; but, one day, going in to King Mihrjan, I found with him a company of Indians and saluted them. They returned my salutation and asked me of my country; after which I questioned them of theirs and they told me that they were of various castes, some being called Shatriyas, who are the noblest of their castes and neither oppress nor offer violence to any, and others Brahmins, a folk who abstain from wine, but live in delight and solace and merriment and own camels and horses and cattle. Moreover, they told me that the people of India are divided into two-and-seventy castes, and I marvelled at this exceedingly.

Amongst other things that I saw in King Mihrjan's dominions was an island called Kasil, wherein all night is heard the beating of drums and tabrets, but we were told by the neighbouring islanders and by travellers that the inhabitants are people of diligence and judgment. In this sea I saw also a fish two hundred cubits long and another half that length, with a head like that of an owl, besides many other wonders and rarities, which it would be tedious to recount to you. I occupied myself thus in exploring the islands till, one day, as I stood in the port, with a staff in my hand, according to my wont, I saw a great ship, wherein were many merchants, making for the harbour. When it reached the anchorage, the master furled his sails and making fast to the shore, put out the landing-stage, whereupon the crew fell to unlading the cargo, whilst I stood by, taking note of them. They were long in bringing the goods ashore and I said to the master, "Is there aught left in thy ship?" "Yes, O my lord," answered he; "there are divers bales of merchandise in the hold, whose owner was drowned at one of the islands in our way; so his goods abode in our charge and we purpose to sell them and note their price, that we may carry it to his people in the city of Baghdad, the Abode of Peace." "What was the merchant's name?' asked I, and he answered, "Sindbad;" whereupon I straitly considered him and knowing him, cried out to him with a great cry, saying, "O master, I am that Sindbad of whom thou speakest and these are my goods; for, when the fish sank under us and we were plunged into the sea, God threw in my way a great tub of wood, of those the crew had used to wash withal, and the winds and waves carried me to this island, where, by God's grace, I fell in with King Mihrjan's grooms and they brought me hither to their master. When the latter heard my story, he entreated me with favour and made me his harbour-master, and I have prospered in his service and found acceptance with him."

When the master heard what I said, he exclaimed, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! Verily, there is neither conscience nor good faith left among men I" "O captain," said I, "what mean these words, seeing that I have told thee my case?" And he answered, saying, "Because thou heardest me say that I had with me goods whose owner was drowned, thou thinkest to take them without right; but this is forbidden to thee, for we saw him drown before our eyes, together with many others, nor was one of them saved. So how canst thou pretend that thou art the owner of the goods?" "O captain," said I, "listen to my story and give heed to my words, and my soothfastness will be manifest to thee; for falsehood is of the fashion of the hypocrites." Then I recounted to him all that had befallen me since I left Baghdad with him up to the time when we came to the fish, which we took for an island, and reminded him of certain things that had passed between him and me; whereupon both he and the merchants were certified of the truth of my story and recognized me and gave me joy of my deliverance, saying, "By Allah, we thought not that thou hadst escaped drowning! But God hath granted thee new life." Then they delivered my bales to me, and I found my name written thereon, nor was aught thereof lacking. So I opened them and making up a present for King Mihrjan of the richest and most costly of the contents, caused the sailors carry it to the palace,vhere I presented it to the King, acquainting him with what had happened, at which he wondered exceedingly and the truth of all that I had told him was made manifest to him. Wherefore his affection for me redoubled and he showed me exceeding honour and bestowed on me a great present in return for mine. Then I sold my bales and what else I possessed, making a great profit on them, and bought me other goods and gear of the growth and fashion of the island. When the ship was about to start on her homeward voyage, I embarked in her all that I possessed and going in to the King, thanked him for all his favours and craved his leave to return to my country and friends. He gave me leave and bestowed on me great plenty of the stuffs and produce of the country; and I took my leave of him and embarked. Then we set sail and fared on nights and days, by the permission of God the Most High, and Fortune served us and Fate was favourable to us, so that we arrived in safety at Bassora, where I landed, rejoiced at my safe return to my native land. Thence, after a short stay, I set out again for Baghdad and in due time reached that city, with store of goods and commodities of great price. I went straight to my house and all my friends and kinsfolk came to greet me. Then I bought me slaves and servants, black and white and male and female, in great plenty, and houses and lands and gardens, till I was richer and in better case than before, and gave myself up to feasting and banqueting and making merry with my friends and companions more assiduously than ever, forgetting all I had suffered of fatigue and hardship and strangerhood and all the perils of travel. This, then, is the story of my first voyage, and to-morrow, God willing, I will tell you that of the second of my seven voyages.'

Then Sindbad the Sailor made the porter sup with him and gave him an hundred dinars, saying, 'Thou hast cheered us with thy company this day.' The porter thanked him and went his way, pondering that which he had heard and marvelling at the things that betide mankind. He passed the night in his own house and on the morrow repaired to the abode of Sindbad the Sailor, who received him with honour and seated him by himself. Then, as soon as the rest of the company were assembled, he set meat and drink beIore them and when they had well eaten and drunken and were merry and in cheerful case, he took up his discourse and bespoke them, saying, 'Know, O my brethren, that...

[Go to The Second Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor]

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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