[Go back to The Fifth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor]
I abode some time, after my return from my fifth voyage, in great joy and comfort, and forgot what I had suffered, till, one day, as I sat making merry and enjoying myself with my friends, there came in to me a company of merchants, bearing signs of travel, and talked with me of travel and adventure and greatness of gain and profit. Their sight recalled to my mind the days of my return from travel, and my joy at once more seeing my native land and foregathering with my friends and relations; and my soul yearned for travel and traffic. So I resolved to undertake another voyage, and buying me rich merchandise, made it up into bales, with which I journeyed from Baghdad to Bassora. Here I found a great ship ready for sea and full of merchants and notables, who had with them goods of price; so I joined myself to them and took passage in the vessel with my goods.
We left Bassora with a fair wind and sailed from place to place, in all delight and solace of life, buying and selling and profiting and diverting ourselves with the sight of foreign countries, till one day, as we went along, the captain suddenly gave a great cry and cast his turban on the deck. Then he buffetted his face and plucked out his beard and fell down in the waist of the ship, for stress of grief and chagrin. So all the merchants and sailors came about him and asked him what was to do, and he answered, saying, "Know, O folk, that we have wandered from our course and come into a sea whose ways I know not. Yonder is a great mountain, upon which we are drifting, and unless God vouchsafe us a means of escape, we are all dead men; wherefore pray ye to the Most High, that he deliver us from this strait."
Then he climbed the mast and would have loosed the sails; but the wind redoubled upon the ship and drove her backward; whereupon her rudder broke and she turned round three times and fell off towards the mountain. With this the captain came down from the mast, saying, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme, nor can we avert that which is decreed! By Allah, we are fallen on sure destruction, and there is no way of escape for us!"
Then we all gave ourselves up for lost and fell a-weeping over ourselves and bidding each other farewell. Presently the ship struck upon the mountain and broke up, and all on board her were plunged into the sea. Some were drowned and others made shift to get upon the mountain. I was amongst these latter, and when we got ashore, we found a great island, compassed about with a ring of mountains, whose base was strewn with wrecked ships and goods and gear in countless profusion, cast up by the sea. So we climbed the cliffs into the inward of the island, and my companions, dispersing hither and thither therein, were confounded at what they saw and became as madmen at sight of the countless riches with which its shores were strewn. As for me, I walked on inland, till I came to a stream of sweet water, that welled up at the foot of the mountains and disappeared in the earth under the range of hills on the opposite side. I looked into the bed of this stream and saw therein great plenty of rubies and great royal pearls and all kinds of jewels and precious stones, so that all the channel glittered by reason of their multitude, and they were as gravel in the bed of the rivulets that ran through the fields.
Moreover we found in the island abundance of the finest aloes-wood, both Chinese and Comorin; and there also is a spring of crude ambergris, which exudes over the sides, as it were gum, for the great heat of the sun, and runs down to the sea-shore, where the monsters of the deep come up and swallowing it, return into the sea. But it burns in their bellies; so they cast it up again and it rises to the top of the water, where it congeals and its colour and qualities are changed. By-and-by, the waves cast it ashore and the ambergris-gatherers collect and sell it. The rest of the ambergris congeals on the banks of the stream and when the sun shines on it, it melts and scents the whole valley with a musk-like fragrance: then, when the sun ceases from it, it congeals again. But none can get to this place where is the crude ambergris, because of the mountains aforesaid, which enclose the island on all sides and on which all ships that approach it are wrecked.
We continued thus to explore the island, marvelling at the riches we found there and the wonderful works of God, but sore troubled and dismayed for our own case. Now we had picked up on the beach some small matter of victual from the wreck and husbanded it carefully, eating but once every day or two, in our fear lest it should fail us and we perish miserably of hunger and thirst. Moreover, we were weak for sea-sickness and my companions died one after another, till there were but a few of us left. Each that died we washed and shrouded in some of the clothes and linen cast ashore by the waves; and after a little, the rest of my fellows died, one by one, till I had buried the last of the party and abode alone on the island, with but a little victual left. And I wept over myself, saying, "Would God I had died before my companions and they had washed me and buried me! It had been better than that I should die and none wash me and shroud me and bury me. But there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!" After awhile I arose and dug me a deep grave on the sea-shore, saying in myself, "When I grow weak and know that death cometh to me, I will lay me down in this grave and die there, so the wind may drift the sand over me and cover me and I be buried therein." Then I fell to reproaching myself for my little wit in leaving my native land and betaking me again to foreign travel, after all I had suffered during my first five voyages, each marked by greater perils and more terrible hardships than its forerunner, especially as I had no need of money, seeing that I had enough and more than enough and could not spend what I had, no, nor half of it, in all my life; and I repented me of my folly, having no hope of escape from my present stress, and bemoaned myself.
However, after a while, I bethought me and said to myself, "By Allah, this stream must have an issue somewhere, and belike its course leads to some inhabited place; so methinks I cannot do better than make me a little boat, big enough to sit in, and carry it down and launching it on the river, embark in it and commit myself to the current. If I escape, I escape, by God's leave; and if I perish, better die in the river than here." So I gathered a number of pieces of aloes-wood and bound them together with ropes from the wreckage; then I chose out from the broken-up ships straight planks of even size and fixed them firmly upon the aloes-wood. On this wise I made me a boat [or raft] a little narrower than the channel of the stream, and tying a piece of wood on its either side, to serve as an oar, launched it on the river. Then I loaded it with the best of the crude ambergris and pearls and jewels and of the wrecked goods and what was left me of victual, and embarking, did according to the saying of the poet:Depart from a place, if therein be oppression, And leave the house tell of its builder's fate
I drifted with the stream, pondering the issue of my affair, till I came to the place where it disappeared beneath the mountains, and the current carried the raft with it into the underground channel. Here I found myself in utter darkness and the stream bore me on through a narrow tunnel, which grew straiter and straiter, till the raft touched either side and my head rubbed against the roof. Then I blamed myself for having undertaken this adventure and said, "If this tunnel grow any straiter, the raft will not pass, and I cannot turn back; so I shall inevitably perish miserably in this place." And I threw myself down on my face on the raft, by reason of the straitness of the channel, whilst the stream ceased not to carry me along the tunnel, which now grew wider and now straiter. I fared on thus, knowing not night from day, for the excess of the darkness that encompassed me and my fear and concern for myself lest I should perish, till, being sore aweary for the intensity of the gloom and worn with hunger and watching, I fell asleep, as I lay on the raft on my face. How long I slept I know not, but, when I awoke, I found myself in the open air and the raft moored to an island in the midst of a number of Indians and blacks.
As soon as the folk saw that I was awake, they came up to me and bespoke me in their language; but I understood not what they said and thought I must be still asleep and that this was a dream that had betided me for stress of trouble and weariness. When they saw I understood them not and made them no answer, one of them came forward and said to me in Arabic, "Peace be on thee, O my brother! Who art thou and what brings thee hither? How camest thou into this river and what manner of land is beyond yonder mountains, for never knew we any make his way thence to us?" Quoth I, "Who are ye and what is this place?" "O my brother," answered he, "we are husbandmen and gardeners, who came out to water our fields and gardens and finding thee asleep on this raft, laid hold of it and made it fast by us, against thou shouldst awake at thy leisure. So tell us how thou camest hither?" "For God's sake, O my lord," rejoined I, "give me to eat, for I am starving; and after ask me what thou wilt." So he hastened to fetch me food and I ate my fill, till I was refreshed and my life returned to me. Then I returned thanks to God the Most High, rejoicing in the happy issue of my toils, and told them all my adventures from first to last.
When I had made an end of my story, they consulted among themselves and said to each other, "We must carry him with us and present him to our King, that he may acquaint him with his adventures." So they took me, together with the raft and its lading, and brought me to their King, telling him what had happened; whereupon he saluted me and bade me welcome. Then he questioned me of my condition and adventures, and I repeated to him my story, at which he marvelled exceedingly and gave me joy of my deliverance; after which I fetched from the raft great store of jewels and precious stones and ambergris and aloes-wood and presented them to the King, who accepted them and entreated me with the utmost honour, appointing me a lodging in his own palace. So I consorted with the chief of the islanders, and they paid me the utmost respect. Moreover, all the travellers and merchants who came to the place questioned me of the affairs of my native land and of the Khalif Haroun er Reshid and his rule there and I told them of him and of that for which he was renowned, and they praised him for this; whilst I in turn questioned them of the manners and customs of their own countries. One day, the King himself questioned me of the manners and way of government of my country, and I acquainted him with the fashion of the Khalif's sway in the city of Baghdad and the justice of his rule. The King marvelled at my account of his ordinances and said, "By Allah, the Khalif's ordinances are indeed wise and his fashions praiseworthy and thou hast made me love him by what thou tellest me; wherefore I have a mind to send him a present by thee." "I hear and obey, O my lord," answered I; "I will carry thy present to him and inform him that thou art his sincere lover."
Then I abode with the King in great honour and ease and consideration, till, one day, as I sat in his palace, I heard tell of a company of merchants, that were fitting out a ship for Bassora, and said in myself; "I cannot do better than make the voyage with these." So I rose at once and going in to the King, kissed his hand and acquainted him with my wish to set out with the merchants, for that I longed after my people and family and native land. Quoth he, "Thou art thine own master; yet, if it be thy will to abide with us, on our head and eyes be it, for thou gladdenest us with thy company.' "O my lord," answered I, "thou hast indeed overwhelmed me with thy favours; but I weary for a sight of my friends and family and native land." When he heard this, he summoned the merchants in question and commended me to their care, paying my freight and passage-money. Moreover, he bestowed on me great riches from his treasuries and committed to my charge a magnificent present for the Khalif Haroun er Reshid.
Then I took leave of him and of all my intimates and acquaintances in the island and embarked with the merchants aforesaid. We set sail with a fair wind, committing ourselves to the care of God (may He be exalted and glorified!), and by His permission in due time arrived, after a prosperous voyage, at Bassora, where I passed a few days, equipping myself and packing up my goods. Then I went on to Baghdad, where I sought an audience of the Khalif and laid the King's presents before him. He asked me whence they came and I said to him, "By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I know not the name of the city nor the way thither!" And I related to him all that had befallen me in my last voyage; at which he wondered exceedingly and bade his scribes record my story and lay it up in his treasuries, for the edification of all who saw it. Then he conferred on me exceeding great favours, and I repaired to my house, where I stored up all my goods and possessions. Presently, my friends came to me and I distributed presents among my family and gave alms and largesse; after which I gave myself up to pleasure and merry-making and forgot all that I had suffered. This, then, O my brothers, is what befell me in my sixth voyage, and to-morrow, if it please God the Most High, I will tell you the story of my seventh and last voyage, which is still more wonderful and extraordinary than that of the first six.
Then he bade lay the table, and the comnany ate the evening meal with him; after which he gave the porter an hundred dinars, as of wont, and they all went their ways, marvelling beyond measure at that which they had heard. Next morning, as soon as he had done his devotions, the porter and the rest of the guests betook themselves to the house of Sindbad the Sailor, and when they were all assembled, the host began the story of his seventh voyage, saying, 'Know, O company, that...
[Go to The Seventh 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