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Gentlemen, you long without doubt to know, how, after having been shipwrecked five times, and escaped so many dangers, I could resolve again to tempt fortune, and expose myself to new hardships? I am, myself, astonished at my conduct when I reflect upon it, and must certainly have been actuated by my destiny. But be that as it may, after a year's rest I prepared for a sixth voyage, notwithstanding the entreaties of my kindred and friends, who did all in their power to dissuade me.
Instead of taking my way by the Persian gulf, I travelled once more through several provinces of Persia and the Indies, and arrived at a sea-port, where I embarked in a ship, the captain of which was bound on a long voyage. It was long indeed, and at the same time so unfortunate, that the captain and pilot lost their course. They however at last discovered where they were, but we had no reason to rejoice at the circumstance. Suddenly we saw the captain quit his post, uttering loud lamentations. He threw off his turban, pulled his beard, and beat his head like a madman. We asked him the reason, and he answered, that he was in the most dangerous place in all the ocean. "A rapid current carries the ship along with it, and we shall all perish in less than a quarter of an hour. Pray to God to deliver us from this peril; we cannot escape, if he do not take pity on us." At these words he ordered the sails to be lowered; but all the ropes broke, and the ship was carried by the current to the foot of an inaccessible mountain, where she struck and went to pieces, yet in such a manner that we saved our lives, our provisions, and the best of our goods.
This being over, the captain said to us, "God has done what pleased him. Each of us may dig his grave, and bid the world adieu; for we are all in so fatal a place, that none shipwrecked here ever returned to their homes." His discourse afflicted us sensibly, and we embraced each other, bewailing our deplorable lot.
The mountain at the foot of which we were wrecked formed part of the coast of a very large island. It was covered with wrecks, and from the vast number of human bones we saw everywhere, and which filled us with horror, we concluded that multitudes of people had perished there. It is also incredible what a quantity of goods and riches we found cast ashore. All these objects served only to augment our despair. In all other places, rivers run from their channels into the sea, but here a river of fresh water runs out of the sea into a dark cavern, whose entrance is very high and spacious. What is most remarkable in this place is, that the stones of the mountain are of crystal, rubies, or other precious stones. Here is also a sort of fountain of pitch or bitumen, that runs into the sea, which the fish swallow, and evacuate soon afterwards, turned into ambergris: and this the waves throw up on the beach in great quantities. Trees also grow here, most of which are wood of aloes, equal in goodness to those of Comari.
To finish the description of this place, which may well be called a gulf, since nothing ever returns from it, it is not possible for ships to get off when once they approach within a certain distance. If they be driven thither by a wind from the sea, the wind and the current impel them; and if they come into it when a land-wind blows, which might seem to favour their getting out again, the height of the mountain stops the wind, and occasions a calm, so that the force of the current carries them ashore: and what completes the misfortune is, that there is no possibility of ascending the mountain, or of escaping by sea.
We continued upon the shore in a state of despair, and expected death every day. At first we divided our provisions as equally as we could, and thus every one lived a longer or shorter time, according to his temperance, and the use he made of his provisions.
Those who died first were interred by the survivors, and I paid the last duty to all my companions: nor are you to wonder at this; for besides that I husbanded the provision that fell to my share better than they, I had some of my own which I did not share with my comrades; yet when I buried the last, I had so little remaining, that I thought I could not long survive: I dug a grave, resolving to lie down in it, because there was no one left to inter me. I must confess to you at the same time, that while I was thus employed, I could not but reproach myself as the cause of my own ruin, and repented that I had ever undertaken this last voyage. Nor did I stop at reflections only, but had well nigh hastened my own death, and began to tear my hands with my teeth.
But it pleased God once more to take compassion on me, and put it in my mind to go to the bank of the river which ran into the great cavern. Considering its probable course with great attention, I said to myself, "This river, which runs thus under ground, must somewhere have an issue. If I make a raft, and leave myself to the current, it will convey me to some inhabited country, or I shall perish. If I be drowned, I lose nothing, but only change one kind of death for another; and if I get out of this fatal place, I shall not only avoid the sad fate of my comrades, but perhaps find some new occasion of enriching myself. Who knows but fortune waits, upon my getting off this dangerous shelf, to compensate my shipwreck with usury."
I immediately went to work upon large pieces of timber and cables, for I had choice of them, and tied them together so strongly, that I soon made a very solid raft. When I had finished, I loaded it with some bulses of rubies, emeralds, ambergris, rock-crystal, and bales of rich stuffs. Having balanced my cargo exactly, and fastened it well to the raft, I went on board with two oars that I had made, and leaving it to the course of the river, resigned myself to the will of God.
As soon as I entered the cavern, I lost all light, and the stream carried me I knew not whither. Thus I floated some days in perfect darkness, and once found the arch so low, that it very nearly touched my head, which made me cautious afterwards to avoid the like danger. All this while I ate nothing but what was just necessary to support nature; yet, notwithstanding my frugality, all my provisions were spent. Then a pleasing stupor seized upon me. I cannot tell how long it continued; but when I revived, I was surprised to find myself in an extensive plain on the brink of a river, where my raft was tied, amidst a great number of negroes. I got up as soon as I saw them, and saluted them. They spoke to me, but I did not understand their language. I was so transported with joy, that I knew not whether I was asleep or awake; but being persuaded that I was not asleep, I recited the following words in Arabic aloud: "Call upon the Almighty, he will help thee; thou needest not perplex thyself about any thing else: shut thy eyes, and while thou art asleep, God will change thy bad fortune into good."
One of the blacks, who understood Arabic, hearing me speak thus, came towards me, and said, "Brother, be not surprised to see us, we are inhabitants of this country, and came hither to-day to water our fields, by digging little canals from this river, which comes out of the neighbouring mountain. We observed something floating upon the water, went to see what it was, and, perceiving your raft, one of us swam into the river, and brought it thither, where we fastened it, as you see, until you should awake. Pray tell us your history, for it must be extraordinary; how did you venture yourself into this river, and whence did you come?" "I begged of them first to give me something to eat, and then I would satisfy. their curiosity. They gave me several sorts of food, and when I had satisfied my hunger, I related all that had befallen me, which they listened to with attentive surprise. As soon as I had finished, they told me, by the person who spoke Arabic and interpreted to them what I said, that it was one of the most wonderful stories they had ever heard, and that I must go along with them, and tell it their king myself; it being too extraordinary to be related by any other than the person to whom the events had happened. I assured them that I was ready to do whatever they pleased.
They immediately sent for a horse, which was brought in a little time; and having helped me to mount, some of them walked before to shew the way, while the rest took my raft and cargo and followed.
We marched till we came to the capital of Serendib, for it was in that island I had landed. The blacks presented me to their king; I approached his throne, and saluted him as I used to do the kings of the Indies; that is to say, I prostrated myself at his feet. The prince ordered me to rise, received me with an obliging air, and made me sit down near him. He first asked me my name, and I answered, "People call me Sinbad the voyager, because of the many voyages I have undertaken, and I am a citizen of Bagdad." "But," resumed he, "how came you into my dominions, and from whence came you last?"
I concealed nothing from the king; I related to him all that I have told you, and his majesty was so surprised and pleased, that he commanded my adventures to be written in letters of gold, and laid up in the archives of his kingdom. At last my raft was brought in, and the bales opened in his presence; he admired the quantity of wood of aloes and ambergris, but, above all, the rubies and emeralds, for he had none in his treasury that equalled them.
Observing that he looked on my jewels with pleasure, and viewed the most remarkable among them one after another, I fell prostrate at his feet, and took the liberty to say to him, "Sir, not only my person is at your majesty's service, but the cargo of the raft, and I would beg of you to dispose of it as your own." He answered me with a smile, "Sinbad, I will take care not to covet any thing of yours, or to take any thing from you that God has given you; far from lessening your wealth, I design to augment it, and will not let you quit my dominions without marks of my liberality." All the answer I returned were prayers for the prosperity of that nobly minded prince, and commendations of his generosity and bounty. He charged one of his officers to take care of me, and ordered people to serve me at his own expence. The officer was very faithful in the execution of his commission, and caused all the goods to be carried to the lodgings provided for me.
I went every day at a set hour to make my court to the king, and spent the rest of my time in viewing the city, and what was most worthy of notice.
The isle of Serendib is situated just under the equinoctial line; so that the days and nights there are always of twelve hours each, and the island is eighty parasangs in length, and as many in breadth.
The capital stands at the end of a fine valley, in the middle of the island, encompassed by mountains the highest in the world. They are seen three days' sail off at sea. Rubies and several sorts of minerals abound, and the rocks are for the most part composed of a metalline stone made use of to cut and polish other precious stones. All kinds of rare plants and trees grow there, especially cedars and cocoa-nut. There is also a pearl-fishing in the mouth of its principal river; and in some of its valleys are found diamonds. I made, by way of devotion, a pilgrimage to the place where Adam was confined after his banishment from Paradise, and had the curiosity to go to the top of the mountain.
When I returned to the city, I prayed the king to allow me to return to my own country, and he granted me permission in the most obliging and most honourable manner. He would needs force a rich present upon me; and when I went to take my leave of him, he gave me one much more considerable, and at the same time charged me with a letter for the commander of the faithful, our sovereign, saying to me, "I pray you give this present from me, and this letter to the caliph, and assure him of my friendship." I took the present and letter in a very respectful manner, and promised his majesty punctually to execute the commission with which he was pleased to honour me. Before I embarked, this prince sent for the captain and the merchants who were to go with me, and ordered them to treat me with all possible respect.
The letter from the king of Serendib was written on the skin of a certain animal of great value, because of its being so scarce, and of a yellowish colour. The characters of this letter were of azure, and the contents as follows:
"The king of the Indies, before whom march one hundred elephants, who lives in a palace that shines with one hundred thousand rubies, and who has in his treasury twenty thousand crowns enriched with diamonds, to caliph Haroon al Rusheed.
"Though the present we send you be inconsiderable, receive it however as a brother and a friend, in consideration of the hearty friendship which we bear for you, and of which we are willing to give you proof. We desire the same part in your friendship, considering that we believe it to be our merit, being of the same dignity with yourself. We conjure you this in quality of a brother. Adieu."
The present consisted first, of one single ruby made into a cup, about half a foot high, an inch thick, and filled with round pearls of half a drachm each. 2. The skin of a serpent, whose scales were as large as an ordinary piece of gold, and had the virtue to preserve from sickness those who lay upon it. 3. Fifty thousand drachms of the best wood of aloes, with thirty grains of camphire as big as pistachios. 4. A female slave of ravishing beauty, whose apparel was all covered over with jewels.
The ship set sail, and after a very successful navigation we landed at Bussorah, and from thence I went to Bagdad, where the first thing I did was to acquit myself of my commission.
Scheherazade stopped, because day appeared, and next night proceeded thus.
I took the king of Serendib's letter, and went to present myself at the gate of the commander of the faithful, followed by the beautiful slave, and such of my own family as carried the presents. I stated the reason of my coming, and was immediately conducted to the throne of the caliph. I made my reverence, and, after a short speech, gave him the letter and present. When he had read what the king of Serendib wrote to him, he asked me, if that prince were really so rich and potent as he represented himself in his letter? I prostrated myself a second time, and rising again, said, "Commander of the faithful, I can assure your majesty he doth not exceed the truth. I bear him witness. Nothing is more worthy of admiration than the magnificence of his palace. When the prince appears in public, he has a throne fixed on the back of an elephant, and marches betwixt two ranks of his ministers, favourites, and other people of his court; before him, upon the same elephant, an officer carries a golden lance in his hand; and behind the throne there is another, who stands upright, with a column of gold, on the top of which is an emerald half a foot long, and an inch thick; before him march a guard of one thousand men, clad in cloth of gold and silk, and mounted on elephants richly caparisoned.
"While the king is on his march, the officer, who is before him on the same elephant, cries
from time to time, with a loud voice, ‘Behold the great monarch, the potent and redoubtable sultan of the Indies, whose palace is covered with one hundred thousand rubies, and who possesses twenty thousand crowns of diamonds. Behold the monarch greater than Solomon, and the powerful Maha-raja.' After he has pronounced those words, the officer behind the throne cries in his turn, ‘This monarch, so great and so powerful, must die, must die, must die.' And the officer before replies, ‘Praise be to him who lives for ever.'
"Farther, the king of Serendib is so just, that there are no judges in his dominions. His people have no need of them. They understand and observe justice rigidly of themselves."
The caliph was much pleased with my account. "The wisdom of that king," said he, "appears in his letter, and after what you tell me, I must confess, that his wisdom is worthy of his people, and his people deserve so wise a prince." Having spoken thus, he dismissed me, and sent me home with a rich present.
Sinbad left off, and his company retired, Hindbad having first received one hundred sequins; and next day they returned to hear the relation of his seventh and last voyage.
[Go to The Seventh and Last 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