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Payne: The Unjust King and the Pilgrim Prince

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There was once, in the land of the West, a king who was unjust in his rule, tyrannous, violent and capricious, having no regard to the welfare or protection of his subjects nor of those who entered his kingdom; and from every one who came within his realm his officers took four-fifths of his good and left him one-fifth, and no more. God the Most High decreed that he should have a son, who was fortunate and favoured and seeing the things of the world to be unrighteous, renounced them in his youth and put away from him the world and that which is therein and went forth, a pilgrim, serving God the Most High, wandering over deserts and wastes and [bytimes] entering cities.

One day, he came to his father's capital and the guards laid hands on him and searched him, but found nothing upon him but two gowns, one old and the other new. So they stripped the new one from him and left him the old, after they had passing scurvily entreated him; whereat he complained and said, "Out on you, O oppressors! I am a poor man and a pilgrim, and what shall this gown profit you? Except ye restore it to me, I will go to the king and complain to him of you." "We do this by the king's commandment," answered they. "So do what seemeth good to thee."

So he betook himself to the king's palace; but the chamberlains denied him admittance, and he turned away, saying in himself, "There is nothing for me but to watch for his coming out and complain to him of my case and that which hath betided me." Accordingly, he waited till he heard one of the guards announce the king's coming forth; whereupon he crept up, little by little, till he stood before the gate; and when the king come out, he threw himself in his way and made his complaint to him, giving him to know that he was a man of the people of God, who had renounced the world and went wandering over the earth, seeking acceptance of God and entering every city and hamlet, whilst all the folk he met gave him alms according to their power. "I entered this thy city,' continued he, "hoping that the folk would deal with me as with others of my condition; but thy men 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 counselled thee to enter this city, unknowing the custom of its king?" And the pilgrim answered, "Give me back my gown and do with me what thou wilt."

When the king heard this, he fell into a rage and said, "O fool, we stripped thee of thy gown, so thou mightest humble thyself [to us]; but since thou troublest us with this clamour, we will strip thy soul from thee." Then he commanded to cast him into prison, where he began to repent of having answered the king and reproached himself for not having left him the gown and made off with his life. When it was the middle of the night, he rose to his feet and prayed long and fervently, saying, "O God, Thou art the Righteous Judge; Thou knowest my case and that which hath befallen me with this unjust king, and I, Thine oppressed servant, beseech Thee, of the fulness of Thy mercy, to deliver me from the hand of this unjust king 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 oppressed 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 afflicted one, O Thou to whom belong the power and the glory to the end of time!"

When the gaoler heard the prisoner's prayer, he trembled in every limb, and behold, a fire broke out in the king's palace and consumed the city and all that were therein, even to the door of the prison, and none was spared save the gaoler and the pilgrim. When the gaoler saw this he knew that it had not befallen save bemuse of the pilgrim's prayer; so he loosed him and fleeing with him forth of the burning, betook himself, he and the prince, to another city. So was the unjust king consumed, he and his city, by reason of his injustice, and he lost the goods both of this world and the next.

As for us, O august king,' continued the vizier, 'we neither lie down nor rise up without praying for thee and thanking God the Most High for His goodness in giving thee to us, tranquil in reliance on thy justice and the excellence of thy governance; and indeed we were sore concerned for thy lack of a son to inherit thy kingdom, fearing lest there betide us, after thee, a king unlike thee; but now God 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 Most High to make him a worthy successor [to thee] and endow him with eternal glory and felicity and abiding good.'

Then rose the fifth vizier and said, 'Blessed be the Most High God, Giver of [all] good gifts! We are well assured that God favours those who are grateful to Him and mindful of His faith; and thou, O august king, art renowned for these illustrious virtues and for just dealing and equity among thy subjects, in that which is acceptable to God the Most High. By reason of this hath God exalted thy dignity and made thy days happy and bestowed on thee the good gift of this happy child, after thou hadst despaired, wherefrom there hath betided up abiding gladness and joyance that may not be cut off; for before this we were in exceeding anxiety and sore concern because of thy lack of issue, and full of care, bethinking us of all thy justice and gentle dealing with us and fearful lest God 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 dissensions arise between us and there befall us what befell the crows.' 'And what befell the crows?' asked the king. 'Know, O august king,' replied the vizier, 'that...

[Go to The Crows and the Hawk]


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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