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Scott: The First Voyage

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I inherited from my father considerable property, the greater part of which I squandered in my youth in dissipation; but I perceived my error, and reflected that riches were perishable, and quickly consumed by such ill managers as myself. I farther considered, that by my irregular way of living I wretchedly misspent my time; which is, of all things, the most valuable. I remembered the saying of the great Solomon, which I had frequently heard from my father; That death is more tolerable than poverty. Struck with these reflections, I collected the remains of my fortune, and sold all my effects by public auction. I then entered into a contract with some merchants, who traded by sea. I took the advice of such as I thought most capable of assisting me: and resolving to improve what money I had, I went to Bussorah, and embarked with several merchants on board a ship which we had jointly fitted out.

We set sail, and steered our course towards the Indies, through the Persian gulf, which is formed by the coasts of Arabia Felix on the right, and by those of Persia on the left, and, according to common opinion is seventy leagues wide at the broadest place. The eastern sea, as well as that of the Indies, is very spacious. It is bounded on one side by the coasts of Abyssinia, and is 4,500 leagues in length to the isles of Vakvak. At first I was troubled with the sea-sickness, but speedily recovered my health, and was not afterwards subject to that complaint.

In our voyage we touched at several islands, where we sold or exchanged our goods. One day, whilst under sail, we were becalmed near a small island, but little elevated above the level of the water, and resembling a green meadow. The captain ordered his sails to be furled, and permitted such persons as were so inclined to land; of this number I was one.

But while we were enjoying ourselves in eating and drinking, and recovering ourselves from the fatigue of the sea, the island on a sudden trembled, and shook us terribly.

The trembling of the island was perceived on board the ship, and we were called upon to re-embark speedily, or we should all be lost; for what we took for an island proved to be the back of a sea monster. The nimblest got into the sloop, others betook themselves to swimming; but for myself I was still upon the back of the creature, when he dived into the sea, and I had time only to catch hold of a piece of wood that we had brought out of the ship to make a fire. Meanwhile, the captain, having received those on board who were in the sloop, and taken up some of those that swam, resolved to improve the favourable gale that had just risen, and hoisting his sails pursued his voyage, so that it was impossible for me to recover the ship.

Thus was I exposed to the mercy of the waves. I struggled for my life all the rest of the day and the following night. By this time I found my strength gone, and despaired of saving my life, when happily a wave threw me against an island, The bank was high and rugged; so that I could scarcely have got up, had it not been for some roots of trees, which fortune seemed to have preserved in this place for my safety. Having reached the land, I lay down upon the ground half dead, until the sun appeared. Then, though I was very feeble, both from hard labour and want of food, I crept along to find some herbs fit to eat, and had the good luck not only to procure some, but likewise to discover a spring of excellent water, which contributed much to recover me. After this I advanced farther into the island, and at last reached a fine plain, where at a great distance I perceived a horse feeding. I went towards it, fluctuating between hope and fear, for I knew not whether in advancing I was more likely to endanger or to preserve my life. As I approached, I perceived it to be a very fine mare, tied to a stake. Whilst I was admiring its beauty, I heard from beneath the voice of a man, who immediately appeared, and asked me who I was? I related to him my adventure, after which, taking me by the hand, he led me into a cave, where there were several other people, no less amazed to see me than I was to see them.

I partook of some provisions which they offered me. I then asked them what they did in such a desert place? to which they answered, that they were grooms belonging to Maha-raja, sovereign of the island; that every year, at the same season, they brought thither the king's mares, and fastened them as I had seen, until they were covered by a sea-horse, who afterwards endeavoured to destroy the mares; but was prevented by their noise, and obliged to return to the sea. The mares when in foal were taken back, and the horses thus produced were kept for the king's use, and called seahorses. They added, that they were to return home on the morrow, and had I been one day later, I must have perished, because the inhabited part of the island was at a great distance, and it would have been impossible for me to have got thither without a guide.

While they entertained me thus, the horse came out of the sea, as they had told me, covered the mare, and afterwards would have devoured her; but upon a great noise made by the grooms, he left her, and plunged into the sea.

Next morning they returned with their mares to the capital of the island, took me with them, and presented me to the Maha-raja. He asked me who I was, and by what adventure I had come into his dominions? After I had satisfied him, he told me he was much concerned for my misfortune, and at the same time ordered that I should want nothing; which commands his officers were so generous and careful as to see exactly fulfilled.

Being a merchant, I frequented men of my own profession, and particularly enquired for those who were strangers, that perchance I might hear news from Bagdad, or find an opportunity to return. For the Maha-raja's capital is situated on the sea- coast, and has a fine harbour, where ships arrive daily from the different quarters of the world. I frequented also the society of the learned Indians, and took delight to hear them converse; but withal, I took care to make my court regularly to the Maha-raja, and conversed with the governors and petty kings, his tributaries, that were about him. They put a thousand questions respecting my country; and I being willing to inform myself as to their laws and customs, asked them concerning every thing which I thought worth knowing.

There belongs to this king an island named Cassel. They assured me that every night a noise of drums was heard there, whence the mariners fancied that it was the residence of Degial. I determined to visit this wonderful place, and in my way thither saw fishes of 100 and 200 cubits long, that occasion more fear than hurt; for they are so timorous, that they will fly upon the rattling of two sticks or boards. I saw likewise other fish about a cubit in length, that had heads like owls.

As I was one day at the port after my return, a ship arrived, and as soon as she cast anchor, they began to unload her, and the merchants on board ordered their goods to be carried into the customhouse. As I cast my eye upon some bales, and looked to the name, I found my own, and perceived the bales to be the same that I had embarked at Bussorah. I also knew the captain; but being persuaded that he believed me to be drowned, I went, and asked him whose bales these were? He replied, that they belonged to a merchant at Bagdad, called Sinbad, who came to sea with him; but one day, being near an island, as was supposed, he went ashore, with several other passengers, upon this island, which was only a monstrous fish, that lay asleep upon the the sur-face of the water: but as soon as he felt the heat of the fire they had kindled upon his back, to dress some victuals, began to move, and dived under water. Most of the persons who were upon him perished, and among them the unfortunate Sinbad. Those bales belonged to him, and I am resolved to trade with them until I meet with some of his family, to whom I may return the profit. "I am that Sinbad," said I, "whom you thought to be dead, and those bales are mine."

When the captain heard me speak thus, "Heavens!" he exclaimed, "whom can we trust in these times? There is no faith left among men. I saw Sinbad perish with my own eyes, as did also the passengers on board, and yet you tell me you are that Sinbad. What impudence is this? To look on you, one would take you to be a man of probity, and yet you tell a horrible falsehood, in order to possess yourself of what does not belong to you." "Have patience," replied I; "do me the favour to hear what I have to say." "Very well," said he, "speak, I am ready to hear you." Then I told him how I had escaped, and by what adventure I met with the grooms of Maha-raja, who had brought me to his court.

His confidence began to abate upon this declaration, and he was at length persuaded that I was no cheat: for there came people from his ship who knew me, paid me great compliments, and expressed much joy at seeing me alive. At last he recollected me himself, and embracing me, "Heaven be praised," said he, "for your happy escape. I cannot express the joy it affords, me; there are your goods, take and do with them as you please." I thanked him, acknowledged his probity, and in requital, offered him part of my goods as a present, which he generously refused.

I took out what was most valuable in my bales, and presented them to the Maha-raja, who, knowing my misfortune, asked me how I came by such rarities. I acquainted him with the circumstance of their recovery. He was pleased at my good luck, accepted my present, and in return gave me one much more considerable. Upon this, I took leave of him, and went aboard the same ship, after I had exchanged my goods for the commodities of that country. I carried with me wood of aloes, sandal, camphire, nutmegs, cloves, pepper, and ginger. We passed by several islands, and at last arrived at Bussorah, from whence I came to this city, with the value of l00,000 sequins. My family and I received one another with all the transports of sincere affection. I bought slaves of both sexes, and a landed estate, and built a magnificent house. Thus I settled myself, resolving to forget the miseries I had suffered, and to enjoy the pleasures of life.

Sinbad stopped here, and ordered the musicians to proceed with their concert, which the story had interrupted. The company continued enjoying themselves till the evening, and it was time to retire, when Sinbad sent for a purse of 100 sequins and giving it to the porter, said, "Take this, Hindbad, return to your home, and come back to-morrow to hear more of my adventures." The porter went away, astonished at the honour done, and the present made him. The account of this adventure proved very agreeable to his wife and children, who did not fail to return thanks to God for what providence had sent him by the hand of Sinbad.

Hindbad put on his best apparel next day, and returned to the bountiful traveller, who received him with a pleasant air, and welcomed him heartily. When all the guests had arrived, dinner was served, and continued a long time. When it was ended, Sinbad, addressing himself to the company, said, "Gentlemen, be pleased to listen to the adventures of my second voyage; they deserve your attention even more than those of the first." Upon which every one held his peace, and Sinbad proceeded.

[Go to The Second Voyage]


Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.


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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