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Payne: Story of Taj El Mulouk and the Princess Dunya

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There stood once, behind the mountains of Ispahan, a town called the Green City, in which dwelt a king named Suleiman Shah, a man of virtue and beneficence, just, generous and loyal, to whom travellers resorted from all parts, for his renown was noised abroad in all cities and countries; and he reigned over the country for many years, in all honour and prosperity, save that he had neither wife nor child. Now he had a vizier who was akin to him in goodness and generosity, and one day, he sent for him and said to him, 'O my Vizier, my heart is heavy and my patience at end and my strength fails me, for that I have neither wife nor child. This is not of the fashion of kings that rule over all, princes and beggars; for they rejoice in leaving behind them children, who shall succeed them and by whom both their number and strength are multiplied. Quoth the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve), "Marry and engender and multiply, that I may boast myself of you over the peoples on the Day of Resurrection." So what is thy counsel, O Vizier? Advise me what is fitting to be done.' When the Vizier heard this, the tears streamed from his eyes and he replied, 'God forbid, O king of the age, that I should speak on that which is of the pertinence of the Compassionate One! Wilt thou have me cast into the fire by the wrath of the All-powerful King? Buy a concubine.' 'Know, O Vizier,' rejoined the King, 'that when a prince buys a female slave, he knows neither her condition nor her lineage and thus cannot tell if she be of mean extraction, that he may abstain from her, or of gentle blood, that he may be intimate with her. So if he have commerce with her, belike she will conceive by him and her son be a hypocrite, a tyrant and a shedder of blood. Indeed such a woman may be likened to a salt soil, which, if one till it, yields only worthless crops; for it may be the son in question will be obnoxious to the wrath of his Lord, doing not that which He commandeth him neither abstaining from that which He forbiddeth him. Wherefore I will never risk being the cause of this, through the purchase of a concubine; and it is my will, therefore, that thou demand for me in marriage the daughter of some one of the kings, whose lineage is known and whose beauty is renowned. If thou canst direct me to some king's daughter of the Muslims, who is a woman of good birth and piety, I will seek her hand and marry her before witnesses, that the favour of the Lord of all creatures may accrue to me thereby.' 'O King,' said the Vizier, 'God hath fulfilled thy need and hath brought thee to thy desire; for it hath come to my knowledge that King Zehr Shah, Lord of the White Country, hath a daughter of surpassing beauty, whom report fails to describe; she hath not her equal in this age, being perfect in beauty and symmetry, with melting black eyes and long hair, slender-waisted and heavy-hipped. When she draws nigh, she seduces, and when she turns her back, she slays, ravishing heart and sight, even as says of her the poet:

A slender one, her shape confounds the branch of the cassia tree; Nor sun nor moon can with her face for brightness evened be. Meseems, the water of her mouth is honey blent with wine; Ay, and her teeth are finer pearls than any in the sea. The purest white and deepest black meet in her glittering glance And shapelier than the black-eyed maids of Paradise is she. How many a man her eyes have slain, who perished in despair; The love of her's a way wherein are fear and misery. If I would live, behold, she's death! I may not think of her, Lest I should die; for, lacking her, life's nothing worth to me.

So it is my counsel, O King, that thou despatch to her father a sagacious and experienced ambassador, versed in the conduct of affairs, who shall with courteous and persuasive speech demand her in marriage for thee; for she hath not her equal in the world, far or near. So shalt thou enjoy her beauty in the way of right and the Lord of Glory be content with thee; for it is reported of the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) that he said, "There is no monkery in Islam." At this the King was transported to the perfection of delight; his heart was lightened and his breast dilated and care and anxiety ceased from him; and he said to the Vizier, 'None shall go about this business but thou, by reason of thy consummate wit and good breeding; wherefore do thou make ready by the morrow and depart and demand me this girl in marriage, with whom thou hast made my heart to be engrossed; nor do thou return to me but with her.' 'I hear and obey,' replied the Vizier, and withdrawing to his own house, made ready a present such as befits kings, of jewels and other precious things, light of carriage but heavy of worth, besides Arabian horses and coats of mail, fine-wrought as those which David made, and chests of treasure, such as speech &fails to describe. These all he loaded upon camels and mules and set out, with flags and banners flying before him and attended by a hundred white slaves and the like number of black and a hundred slave-girls. The King charged him to return to him speedily; so he set out, leaving Suleiman Shah on coals of fire, engrossed night and day with desire for the princess, and fared on, without ceasing, night and day, across plains and deserts, till there remained but a day's journey between him and the city to which he was bound. Here he halted on the banks of a river, and calling one of his chief officers, bade him hasten forward to King Zehr Shah and announce his approach. Accordingly, the messenger rode on in haste to the city and was about to enter it, when the King, who chanced to be seated in one of his pleasaunces before the gate, espied him and knowing him for a stranger, bade bring him before him. So when the messenger came into his presence, he informed him of the approach of the Vizier of the mighty King Suleiman Shah, Lord of the Green Country and of the mountains of Ispahan; whereat King Zehr Shah rejoiced and bade him welcome. Then he carried him to his palace and said to him, 'Where didst thou leave the Vizier?' 'I left him,' replied the messenger, 'at the first of the day, on the banks of such a river, and he will be with thee to-morrow, may God continue His favours to thee and have mercy upon thy parents!' Whereupon the King commanded one of his Viziers to take the better part of his nobles and chamberlains and officers and grandees and go out to meet the ambassador, in honour of King Suleiman Shah, for that his dominion extended over the country.

Meanwhile, King Suleiman's Vizier abode in his stead, till the night was half spent, when he set out for the city; but hardly had the day appeared and the sun risen upon the hills and plains, when he saw King Zehr Shah's Vizier approaching with his retinue and the two parties joined company at some parasangs' distance from the city. At this the Vizier made sure of the success of his errand and saluted the new-comers, who escorted him to the King's palace and forewent him to the seventh vestibule, where none might enter on horseback, for it was near the presence chamber of the King. So the Vizier alighted and walked on till he came to a lofty hall, at the upper end whereof stood a couch of alabaster, set with pearls end jewels and having four elephants' tusks for feet. It was covered with a mattress of green satin, embroidered with red gold, and surmounted by a canopy adorned with pearls and jewels, and on it sat King Zehr Shah, whilst his officers of state stood in attendance on him. When the Vizier stood before him, he composed himself and loosing his tongue, displayed such skill of speech as befits viziers and saluted the King in eloquent and complimentary language, reciting the following verses in his honour:

He cometh, bending gracefully in his robes and shedding dew Of bounty over the thirsting land and the folk to him that sue. Indeed, he charmeth; nor amulets nor spells nor magic may Avail to ward off the faithful glance of those his eyes from you. Say to the censurers, "Blame me not: whilst life abide in me, I'll never swerve from the love of him nor turn to love anew." Lo, slumber surely is tired of me and fallen in love with him, And even my heart hath played me false and but to him is true! O heart, thou art not the only one that loves and tenders him, So get thee gone and bide with him and leave me here to rue! Except the praise of the King Zehr Shah it be that folk acclaim, There's nought rejoices mine ears, in sooth, to hearken thereunto. A King, the sight of whose glorious face would well thy pains repay; Though thou shouldst lavish thy heart's best blood, so great a grace to woo. If thou be minded to offer up a pious prayer for him, Thou'lt find but true believer, and sharers the whole world through. O folk of this realm, if any forswear his governance And look for another, I hold him none of the faithful few

When the Vizier had made an end of his speech, the King bade him draw near and showed him the utmost honour then seating him by his own side, he smiled in his face and made him a gracious reply. They conversed till the time of the morning-meal, when the attendants brought in the tables of food and they all ate till they were satisfied, after which the tables were removed and all who were present withdrew, with the exception of the chief officers; which when the Vizier saw, he rose to his feet, and after complimenting the King a second time and kissing the earth before him, spoke as follows: 'O mighty king and august prince, I have travelled hither and am come to thee upon an errand, wherein is profit and good and prosperity for thee; and it is that I come as ambassador to thee, seeking the hand of thy noble and illustrious daughter, from the most just, loyal and excellent King Suleiman Shah, Lord of the Green Country and of the mountains of Ispahan, who sends thee many and rare presents and gifts of price, ardently desiring thine alliance. Art thou, then, minded to him as he to thee?' And he was silent, awaiting a reply. When the King heard his words he sprang to his feet and kissed the earth respectfully before the Vizier, to the amazement of the bystanders, whose minds were confounded at his condescension to the ambassador. Then he praised Him who is the Lord of glory and honour and replied, still standing, 'O mighty Vizier and illustrious lord, hear what I say. Verily we are of the subjects of King Suleiman Shah and are ennobled by his alliance and aspire ardently thereto. My daughter is one of his handmaids, and it is my dearest wish that he may become my stay and my support in time of need.' Then he summoned the Cadis and the witnesses, who took act that King Suleiman had deputed his Vizier his proxy to conclude the marriage, and King Zehr Shah joyfully consented on behalf of his daughter. So the Cadis drew up the marriage contract and offered up prayers for the happiness and prosperity of the contracting parties; after which the Vizier arose and fetching the gifts and rarities and precious things that he had brought with him, laid them all before the King, who betook himself to the equipment of his daughter, honourably entreating the Vizier and feasting great and small; and they held high festival for two months, omitting nought that could gladden heart and eye. When all was ready that was needful for the bride, the King caused the tents to be pitched without the city and they packed the bride's clothes and jewels in chests and loaded them on mules and camels. Now he had provided his daughter with Greek handmaids and Turkish slave-girls and great store of jewels and precious things, and had let make for her a litter of red gold inlaid with pearls and jewels, which within was as one of the chambers of a palace and without as one of the pavilions of Paradise, whilst its mistress seemed as she were of the lovely hours. Moreover, he furnished her also with twenty mules for the journey and brought her three parasangs forward on her road, after which he bade her and the Vizier farewell and returned to his own city in peace and gladness. Meanwhile, the Vizier and his company fared on by forced marches, traversing plains and deserts and staying not day or night, till they came within three days' journey of King Suleiman's capital, when the Vizier despatched a messenger to acquaint the King with their arrival. The messenger hastened forward till he reached the King's presence and announced to him the coming of the bride, whereat he rejoiced and bestowed on him a dress of honour. Then he bade his troops don their richest apparel and sally forth in grand procession, with banners flying, to meet the princess and her company and do them honour, and let cry throughout the city that neither cloistered damsel nor honoured lady nor infirm old woman should fail to go forth to meet the bride. So they all went out to meet her and the chiefest of them vied in doing her service, meaning to bring her to the King's palace by night. Moreover, the grandees agreed to decorate the road and stand on either side, whilst the bride should pass by, clad in the robes her father had given her and preceded by her eunuchs and serving-women. So at the appointed time, she made her appearance, surrounded by the troops, these on her right hand and those on her left, and the litter ceased not going with her, till they drew near the palace; nor was there any one but came forth to gaze upon the show. The drums beat and the lances were brandished, the trumpets blared and the banners fluttered and the horses pranced, whilst fragrant odours breathed around, till they reached the gate of the palace and the pages entered with the litter through the private gate. The place shone with its splendours and the walls glittered for the lustre of its ornaments. When the night came, the eunuchs threw open the doors of the bride-chamber and stood on either hand; whereupon the bride entered, among her damsels, like the moon among stars or a pearl of matchless beauty in a string of lesser pearls, and seated herself upon a couch of alabaster inlaid with pearls and jewels, that had been set for her there. Then came the King in to her and God filled his heart with love of her; so he did away her maidenhead, and his trouble and disquiet ceased from him. She conceived by him the first night, and he abode with her well-nigh a month, at the end of which time he went forth and seating himself on his throne of state, dispensed justice to his subjects, till the months of her pregnancy were accomplished. Towards daybreak on the last night of the ninth month, the queen was seized with the pangs of labour; so she sat down on the stool of delivery and God made the travail easy to her, so that she gave birth to a male child, on whom appeared the signs of happy fortune. When the King heard of this, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and rewarded the bearer of the good tidings with much treasure. Then, of his gladness, he went in to the child and kissed him between the eyes, wondering at his brilliant beauty; for in him was the saying of the poet made truth:

God hath a lion given in him unto the forts of fame And in the heaven of high estate hath set another star. Lo, at his birth, the spears shake all and all the wild deer start And all the chieftains of the folk and all the men of war! So mount him not upon the breasts, for he shall surely deem That horses' backs for such as he the softer sitting are; And wean ye him from sucking milk, for he eftsoon shall find The blood of foemen in the field the sweeter drink by far.

The midwives took the new-born child and cut the cord of his navel, after which they anointed his eyes with kohl and named him Taj el Mulouk Kharan. He was suckled at the breast of delight and reared in the lap of favouring fortune, and the days ran on and the years passed by, till he reached the age of seven. Then the King his father summoned the doctors and learned men and bade them teach his son writing and science and polite letters. This they did for some years, till he had learnt all that was needful, when the King took him out of the professors' hands and committed him to a master, who taught him horsemanship and the use of arms, till the boy attained the age of fourteen and became proficient in martial exercises. Moreover, he outshone all the people of his time for the excess of his beauty; so that, whenever he went abroad on any occasion, all who saw him were ravished with him and made verses in his honour, and even the virtuous were seduced by his brilliant loveliness. Quoth the poet of him:

A tender branch, that from the breeze hath ta'en its nourishment! I clipped him and straightway became drunk with his sweetest scent; Not drunken with the drunkenness of one who drinketh wine, But with the honey of his mouth fulfilled of languishment. All loveliness comprised is within his perfect form, So that o'er all the hearts of men he reigns omnipotent. By God, forgetfulness of him shall never cross my mind. What while I wear the chains of life, nor even when they're rent! Lo, if I live, in love of him I'll live; and, if I die Of love-longing for him, I'll say, "O rare! O excellent!"

When he reached his eighteenth year, the tender down began to invade the table of his rosy cheeks, which were adorned by a black mole like a grain of ambergris, and he captivated the minds and eyes of all who looked on him, even as says of him the poet in the following verses:

He is become the Khalif of beauty in Joseph's place; The hearts of all lovers dread him, whenas they see his grace. Pause thou with me and fasten thy gaze on him! thou'lt see The sign of the Khalifate set in sable on his face.

And as says another:

Thine eyes have never looked upon a fairer sight, Of all the things that are to see beneath the sky, Than yonder mole of brown, that nestles on his face, Midmost the rosy cheek, beneath the coal-black eye.

And a third:

I marvel at yon mole that serves the fire eternal, Upon his cheek, yet is not burned, all Kafir though it be; And eke I marvel that he's sent or God, with every glance To work true miracles; and yet a sorcerer is he! The many gall-bladders that burst for him it is that make The shining fringes of his cheek so black and bright to see.

And yet a fourth:

I wonder to hear the folk ask of the water of life And question in which of the lands its magical fountain flows Whenas I see it well from the damask lips of a fawn, Under his tender moustache and his cheek's perennial rose. And eke 'tis a wonder of wonders that Moses, finding it there Flowing, yet took no patience nor laid him down to repose.

When he came to man's estate, his beauty increased and he had many comrades and friends; and every one who drew near to him hoped that he would become Sultan after his father's death and that he himself might be one of his officers. He had a passion for hunting and would hardly leave the chase a single hour. His father would have restrained him, fearing for him the perils of the desert: and the wild beasts; but he paid no heed to him. One day, he bade his attendants take ten days' provender and setting out for the chase, rode on into the desert four days long, at the end of which time he came to a verdant champaign, full of wild beasts pasturing and trees laden with ripe fruit and springs welling forth. Then he said to his followers, 'Set up the nets in a wide circle and let our general rendezvous be at the mouth of the ring, in such a spot.' So they staked out a wide circle with the nets; and there gathered together a multitude of all kinds of wild beasts and gazelles, which cried out for fear of them and threw themselves in terror right in the face of the horses. Then they loosed the dogs and sakers and hunting lynxes on them and smote them with arrows in the vitals; so, by the time they came to the closed end of the ring of nets, they took a great number of the wild beasts, and the rest fled. Then the prince sat down by the water-side and letting spread the game before himself, apportioned it among his men, after he had set apart the choicest thereof for his father King Suleiman and despatched it to him; and other part he divided among the officers of his court. He passed the night in that place, and when it was morning, there came up a caravan of merchants, with their slaves and servants, and halted by the water and the verdure. When Taj el Mulouk saw this, he said to one of his companions, 'Go, bring me news of yonder folk and ask them why they have halted here.' So the man went up to them and said, 'Tell me who ye are, and answer quickly.' 'We are merchants,' replied they, 'and have halted here to rest, for that the next station is distant and we have confidence in King Suleiman Shah and his son Taj el Mulouk, knowing that all who alight in their dominions are in peace and safety; and we have with us precious stuffs, that we have brought for the prince.' The messenger returned with this news to the prince, who said, I will not depart hence till I see what they have brought for me. Then he mounted and rode to the caravan, followed by his servants. The merchants rose to receive him and invoked on him the aid and favour of God, with continuance of glory and virtues; after which they pitched him a pavilion of red satin, emblazoned with pearls and jewels, in which they spread him a royal divan, upon a silken carpet embroidered at the upper end with emeralds. The prince seated himself on the divan, whilst his servants stood in attendance upon him, and bade the merchants bring out all that they had with them. Accordingly, they produced all their merchandise, and he viewed it and took of it what liked him, paying them the price. Then he remounted and was about to ride onward, when his eyes fell on a handsome young man, well dressed and elegantly made, with flower-white forehead and face brilliant as the moon, save that his beauty was wasted and that pallor had invaded his cheeks by reason of separation from those he loved: sighing and lamentation were grievous upon him and the tears streamed from his eyelids, as he repeated the following verses:

Absence is long and care and fear are heavy on my soul, Whilst from mine eyes the tears, O friend, without cessation roll. Alas, I left my heart behind upon the parting day, And now sans heart, sans hope, abide all lonely in my dole. Pause with me, O my friend, what while I take my leave of one By whose sweet speech diseases all and sorrows are made whole.

Having said this, he wept awhile and fell down in a swoon, whilst Taj el Mulouk looked at him wonderingly then coming to himself, he stared fixedly before him, with distracted air, and repeated these other verses:

I rede thee beware of her glance, for, lo, 'tis a wizard, I ween! None 'scapeth unscathed of the shafts of her eyes, that has gazed on their sheen. For, trust me, black eyes, that are armed with the grace of a languorous look, Are swifter and sharper to wound than scimitars, tempered and keen. And let not thy mind be beguiled by the sweet and the soft of her words; For the fever that springs from her speech o'ermasters the senses, demesne. Soft-sided, were silk but to press on her skin, it would cause it to bleed, So delicate-bodied she is and so nesh, as forsooth thou hast seen. Right chary she is of the charms 'twixt her neck and her anklets that lie, And what is the sweetest of scents to the fragrance that breathes from my queen!

Then he gave a sob and swooned away a second time. When Taj el Mulouk saw him thus, he was perplexed about his case and went up to him. So when he came to himself and saw the prince standing by him, he sprang to his feet and kissed the earth before him; and Taj el Mulouk said to him, 'Why didst thou not show us thy merchandise?' 'O my lord,' answered the young merchant, 'there is nought among my stock worthy of thine august highness.' 'It matters not,' said the prince, 'thou must show me what thou hast and acquaint me with thy case; for I see thee weeping-eyed and mournful-hearted. If thou hast been wronged, we will do away thine oppression, and if thou be in debt, we will discharge thy debt; for my heart aches for thee, since I first set eyes on thee.' Then he called for seats and they set him a chair of ebony and ivory, netted with gold and silk, and spread him a silken carpet. So he sat down on the chair and bidding the young merchant seat himself on the carpet, again commanded him to show him his merchandise. 'O my lord,' said he, 'do not name this to me; for I have nought worthy of thee.' 'I will have it so,' rejoined Taj el Mulouk and bade some of the servants fetch the goods. So they brought them in spite of the merchant; and when he saw this, the tears streamed from his eyes and he wept and sighed and lamented; sobs rose from his bosom and he repeated the following verses:

By the witching amorous sweetness and the blackness of thine eyes, By the tender flexile softness in thy slender waist that lies, By the graces and the languor of thy body and thy shape, By the fount of wine and honey from thy coral lips that rise, O my hope, to see thine image in my dreams were sweeter far Than were safety to the fearful, languishing in woful wise!

Then he opened his bales and displayed their contents to Taj el Mulouk, piece by piece, till he came to a mantle of satin brocaded with gold, worth two thousand dinars from which, when he opened it, there fell a piece of linen. As soon as he saw this, he caught up the piece of linen in haste and hid it under his thigh; and indeed he seemed as though he had lost his reason, and he repeated the following verses:

When shall my sad tormented heart be healed, alas, of thee? The Pleiades were nearer far than is thy grace to me. Distance estrangement, longing pain and fire of love laid waste, Procrastination and delay, in these my life doth flee. For no attainment bids me live nor exile slays me quite, Travel no nigher doth me bring, nor wilt thou nearer be. There is no justice to be had of thee nor any ruth In thee; no winning to thy grace and yet no breaking free. Alack, for love of thee, the ways are straitened all on me; So that I know not where I go nor any issue see!

The prince wondered greatly at his behaviour, and said to him, 'What is that piece of linen?' 'O my lord,' replied the merchant, 'thou hast no concern with it.' 'Show it me,' said the prince; and the merchant answered, 'O my lord, it was on account of this piece of linen that I refused to show thee my goods; for I cannot let thee look on it.' But Taj el Mulouk rejoined, 'I must and will see it;' and insisted and became angry. So he drew it out from under his thigh, weeping and lamenting and redoubling his sighs and groans, and repeated the following verses:

Blame ye the lover not, for blame but irketh him to hear; Indeed, I spoke him truth, but he to me would lend no ear. God have her in His care, my moon that rises far away, Down in the valley, midst the camp, from out the collars' sphere! I left her; would to God my love had left me peace of life! So had I never parted been from her that held me dear. O how she pleaded for my sake upon our parting day, What while adown her cheeks and mine tear followed upon tear! May God belie me not! The wede of my excuse from me Was all to rent for loss of her; but I will mend my cheer. No bed is easy to my side, nor is her resting-place Ayemore reposeful unto her, now I'm no longer near. For Fate with an ill-omened hand hath wrought upon our loves And hindered me from my delight and her from hers, yfere. Indeed, what time it filled the cup, whereof she drank what I E'en made her drink, it poured us out grief, all unmixed and sheer.

Quoth Taj el Mulouk, 'Thy conduct perplexes me; tell me why thou weepest at the sight of this piece of linen.' When the young merchant heard speak of the piece of linen, he sighed and answered, 'O my lord, my story is a strange and eventful one, with regard to this piece of linen and her from whom I had it and her who wrought the figures and emblems that be thereon.' So saying, he unfolded the piece of linen, and behold, thereon were the figures of two gazelles, facing one another, one wrought in silk and gold and the other in silver with a ring of red gold and three bugles of chrysolite about its neck. When Taj el Mulouk saw the figures and the beauty of their fashion, he exclaimed, 'Glory be to God who teacheth man that which he knoweth not!' And his heart was filled with longing to hear the merchant's story; so he said to him, 'Tell me thy story with her who gave thee these gazelles.' 'Know, O my lord,' replied the young man, 'that

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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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