Home - FAQ - Images - Bibliography | complete versions by Burton - Dixon - Lang - Payne - Scott

Payne: Prince Behram of Persia and the Princess Ed Detma

[Go back to The Two Pigeons]

There was once a king's daughter, by name Ed Detma, who had no equal in her time for beauty and elegance and symmetry and amorous grace and the art of ravishing men's wits, nor was there one more accomplished than she in horsemanship and martial exercises and all that behoveth a cavalier, and all the king's sons sought her in marriage; but she would none of them, saying, "None shall marry me except he overcome me at push of pike and stroke of sword in the open field. If any can do this, I will willingly wed him; but, if I overcome him, I will take his horse and clothes and arms and write with fire upon his forehead, 'This is the freedman of Ed Detma.'" So the eons of the kings flocked to her from far and near, and she overcame them and put them to shame, stripping them of their arms and branding them with fire.

At last, the son of a king of the kings of the Persians, by name Behram, heard of her and journeyed from afar to her father's court, bringing with him men and horses and great store of wealth and royal treasures. When he drew near the city, he sent her father a rich present and the king came out to meet him and received him with the utmost honour. Then the prince sent a message to him by his vizier, demanding his daughter's hand in marriage; but the king answered, saying, "O my son, I have no power over my daughter Ed Detma, for she hath sworn by her soul to marry none except he overcome her in the listed field." Quoth the prince, "It was to this intent that I journeyed hither from my father's court." And the king said, "Thou shalt meet her to-morrow." Accordingly, on the morrow, he sent to bid his daughter, who donned her harness of war, and the folk, hearing of the coming encounter, flocked from all sides to the field. Presently the princess rode into the lists, armed cap-a-pie and vizor down, and the prince pricked out to meet her, equipped at all points after the goodliest fashion. Then they drove at each other and fought a great while, wheeling and feinting and advancing and retreating, till the princess, finding in him such valour and horsemanship as she had seen in none else, began to fear lest he should put her to shame before the bystanders and knew that he would assuredly overcome her, unless she could contrive to trick him. So she raised her vizor and discovered her face, more brilliant than the full moon, which when he saw, he was confounded by her beauty and his strength failed and his heart faltered. When she knew this, she fell upon him at unawares and tore him from his saddle, and he became in her hands as he were a sparrow in the clutches of an eagle, knowing not what was done with him for amazement and confusion. So she took his horse and cIothes and armour and branding him with fire, let him go.

When he recovered from his stupor, he abode several days without eating or drinking, for despite and love of the princess that had taken hold upon his heart. Then he sent a letter by certain of his slaves to his father, advising him that he could not return home, till he had gotten his will of the princess or died for lack of her. When his father read the letter, he was sore concerned for his son and would have succoured him with troops and soldiers; but his viziers dissuaded him from this and exhorted him to patience; so he committed his affair to God the Most High.

Meanwhile, the prince cast about for a means of coming to his desire and disguising himself as a decrepit old man, repaired to a garden, in which the princess used to walk most of her days. Here he sought out the gardener and said to him, "I am a stranger from a far country and from my youth upward I have been a gardener, and none is more skilled than I in the care of trees and the culture of fruits and flowers and so forth." When the gardener heard this, he rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and carried him into the garden, where he commended him to his underlings, and the prince betook himself to the service of the garden and the tending of the trees and the bettering of their fruits.

One day, as he was thus employed, he saw some slaves enter the garden, leading mules laden with carpets and vessels, and asked them the meaning of this, to which they replied that the princess was minded to take her pleasure. When he heard this, he hastened to his lodging and fetching some of the jewels and raiment he had brought with him from Persia, sat down in the garden and spread them out before him, shaking and trembling, as if for decrepitude, and making a show of extreme old age. Presently a company of damsels and eunuchs entered, with the princess in their midst, as she were the moon among stars, and dispersed about the garden, plucking the fruits and diverting themselves. By and by they espied the prince sitting under one of the trees and making towards him, found him, [as it seemed,] a very old man, whose hands and feet trembled for decrepitude, and before him store of precious jewels and splendid ornaments. So they marvelled at his case and asked him what he did there with the jewels. Quoth he, "I would fain buy me one of you to wife therewith." They laughed at him and said, "If one of us marry thee, what wilt thou do with her?" "I will give her one kiss," answered he, "and let her go." Then said the princess, "I give thee this damsel to wife." So he rose and coming up to her, trembling and staggering and leaning on a staff; kissed her and gave her the jewels and ornaments; whereat she rejoiced and they went away, laughing at him. Next day, they came again to the garden and finding him seated in the same place, with more jewels and ornaments than before, said to him, "O old man, what wilt thou do with these jewels?" And he answered, saying, "I wish to take one of you to wife with them, even as yesterday." So the princess said, "I marry thee to this damsel ;" and he came up to her and kissed her and gave her the jewels, and they went away.

But the princess said in herself; "I have more right to all these fine things than my waiting-women, and no harm can betide me." So, on the morrow, she went down privily into the garden, in the habit of one of her damsels, and presenting herself before the prince, said to him, "O old man, the king's daughter hath sent me to thee, that thou mayst marry me." He looked at her and knew her; so he answered, "With all my heart," and gave her jewels and ornaments of the costliest. Then he rose to kiss her, and she off her guard and fearing nothing; but, when he came up to her, he suddenly laid hold of her with a strong hand and throwing her down, did away her maidenhead. Then he pulled the beard from his face and said to her, "Dost thou not know me?" "Who art thou?" asked she, and he answered, "I am Behram, the king's son of Persia, who have changed my favour and am become a stranger to my people and estate for thy sake and have lavished my treasures for thy love."

So she rose from under him in silence and spoke not a word of reply to him, being dazed for what had befallen her and seeing nothing for it but to be silent, for fear of disgrace; and she bethought herself and said "If I kill him, it will profit me nothing, and nought will serve me but that I flee with him to his own country." Then she gathered together her wealth and treasures and sent to him, acquainting him with her resolve, to the intent that he also might equip himself; and they agreed upon a night on which to depart. So, at the appointed time, they mounted swift horses and set out under cover of the night, nor did day break till they had traversed a great distance; and they fared on till they drew near his father's capital in the land of the Persians. When the king heard of his son s coming, he came out to meet him with his troops and rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy. Then, after a few days, he sent the princess's father a splendid present, with a letter to the effect that his daughter was with him and demanding her wedding equipage. Ed Detma's father received the messengers with exceeding joy, (for that he had deemed his daughter lost and had grieved sore for her loss,) and invested them with robes of honour; after which he made bride-feasts and summoning the Cadi and the witnesses, let draw up the marriage contract between his daughter and the prince of Persia. Then he made ready her equipage and despatched it to her, and Prince Behram abode with her till death sundered them.

See, therefore, O King,' continued the favourite, 'the malice of men in their dealing with women. As for me, I will not go back from my due till I die.' So the King once more commanded to put his son to death; but the seventh vizier came in to him and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O King, have patience with me whilst I speak words of good counsel to thee; for he who is patient and acteth deliberately attaineth unto his hope aud enjoyeth his desire, but whoso acteth hastily, repentance overtaketh him. Now I have seen how this damsel hath profligately striven to abuse the King and incite him to unnatural cruelties; but I his slave, whom he hath overwhelmed with his favours and bounties, do proffer him true and loyal counsel; for that I, O King, know of the malice of women that which none knoweth but myself; and [in particular] there hath come to my knowledge, on this subject, the story of the old woman and the son of the merchant.' 'And what fell out between them, O vizier?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O King,' answered the seventh vizier, 'that...

[Go to The House With the Belvedere]

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

powered by FreeFind