HotFreeBooks.com
The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 4
by Richard F. Burton
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Severance-grief nighmost, Union done to death, * Down-railing tear-drops, heart fire tortureth! Redoubleth pine in one that hath no peace * For love and wake and woe he suffereth: O Lord, if there be thing to joy my soul * Deign Thou bestow it while I breathe my breath."

When the second year began, the old woman said to him, "O my son, all this thy weeping and wailing will not bring thee back thy mistress. Rise, therefore, gird the loins of resolution and seek for her in the lands: peradventure thou shalt light on some news of her." And she ceased not to exhort and hearten him, till he took courage and she carried him to the Hammam. Then she made him drink strong wine and eat white meats, and thus she did with him for a whole month, till he regained strength; and setting out journeyed without ceasing till he arrived at Zumurrud's city where he went to the horse-course, and sat down before the dish of sweet rice and put out his hand to eat of it. Now when the folk saw this, they were concerned for him and said to him, "O young man, eat not of that dish, for whoso eateth thereof, misfortune befalleth him." Answered he, "Leave me to eat of it, and let them do with me what they will, so haply shall I be at rest from this wearying life." Accordingly he ate a first mouthful, and Zumurrud was minded to have him brought before her, but then she bethought her that belike he was an hungered and said to herself, "It were properer to let him eat his fill." So he went on eating, whilst the folk looked at him in astonishment, waiting to see what would betide him; and, when he had satisfied himself, Zumurrud said to certain of her eunuchry, "Go to yonder youth who eateth of the rice and bring him to me in courteous guise, saying: 'Answer the summons of the King who would have a word with thee on some slight matter.'" They replied, "We hear and obey," and going straightways up to Ali Shar, said to him, "O my lord, be pleased to answer the summons of the King and let thy heart be at ease." Quoth he, "Hearkening and obedience;" and followed the eunuchs,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Twenty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ali Shar rejoined, "Hearkening and obedience;" and followed the eunuchs, whilst the people said to one another, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! I wonder what the King will do with him!" And others said, "He will do him naught but good: for had he intended to harm him, he had not suffered him to eat his fill." Now when the Castratos set him in presence of Zumurrud he saluted and kissed the earth before her, whilst she returned his salutation and received him with honour. Then she asked him, "What may be thy name and trade, and what brought thee to our city?"; and he answered, "O King my name is Ali Shar; I am of the sons of the merchants of Khorasan; and the cause of my coming hither is to seek for a slave-girl whom I have lost for she was dearer to me than my hearing and my seeing, and indeed my soul cleaveth to her, since I lost her; and such is my tale." So saying he wept, till he swooned away; whereupon she bade them sprinkle rose-water on his face, which they did till he revived, when she said, "Here with the table of sand and the brass pen." So they brought them and she took the pen and struck a geomantic scheme which she considered awhile; and then cried, "Thou hast spoken sooth, Allah will grant thee speedy reunion with her; so be not troubled." Upon this she commanded her head- chamberlain to carry him to the bath and afterwards to clothe him in a handsome suit of royal-apparel, and mount him on one of the best of the King's horses and finally bring him to the palace at the last of the day. So the Chamberlain, after saying "I hear and I obey," took him away, whilst the folk began to say to one another, "What maketh the King deal thus courteously with yonder youth?" And quoth one, "Did I not tell you that he would do him no hurt?; for he is fair of aspect; and this I knew, ever since the King suffered him to eat his fill." And each said his say; after which they all dispersed and went their ways. As for Zumurrud, she thought the night would never come, that she might be alone with the beloved of her heart. As soon as it was dark, she withdrew to her sleeping-chamber and made her attendants think her overcome with sleep; and it was her wont to suffer none to pass the night with her save those two little eunuchs who waited upon her. After a while when she had composed herself, she sent for her dear Ali Shar and sat down upon the bed, with candles burning over her head and feet, and hanging lamps of gold lighting up the place like the rising sun. When the people heard of her sending for Ali Shar, they marvelled thereat and each man thought his thought and said his say; but one of them declared, "At all events the King is in love with this young man, and to- morrow he will make him generalissimo of the army."[FN#319] Now when they brought him into her, he kissed the ground between her hands and called down blessings her, and she said in her mind, "There is no help for it but that I jest with him awhile, before I make myself known to him.''[FN#320] Then she asked him, "O Ali, say me, hast thou been to the Hammam?"[FN#321] and he answered, "Yes, O my lord." Quoth she, "Come, eat of this chicken and meat, and drink of this wine and sherbet of sugar; for thou art weary; and after that come thou hither." "I hear and I obey," replied he and did as she commanded him do. Now when he had made an end of eating and drinking, she said to him, "Come up with me on the couch and shampoo[FN#322] my feet." So he fell to rubbing feet and kneading calves, and found them softer than silk. Then said she, "Go higher with the massage;" and he, "Pardon me, O my lord, to the knee but no farther!" Whereupon quoth she, "Durst thou disobey me?: it shall be an ill-omened night for thee!"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Twenty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Zumurrud cried to her lord, Ali Shar, "Durst thou disobey me?: it shall be an ill-omened night for thee! Nay, but it behoveth thee to do my bidding and I will make thee my minion and appoint thee one of my Emirs." Asked Ali Shar, "And in what must I do thy bidding, O King of the age?" and she answered, "Doff thy trousers and lie down on thy face." Quoth he, "That is a thing in my life I never did; and if thou force me thereto, verily I will accuse thee thereof before Allah on Resurrection-day. Take everything thou hast given me and let me go from thy city." And he wept and lamented; but she said, "Doff thy trousers and lie down on thy face, or I will strike off thy head." So he did as she bade him and she mounted upon his back; and he felt what was softer than silk and smoother than cream and said in himself, "Of a truth, this King is nicer than all the women!" Now for a time she abode on his back, then she turned over on the bed, and he said to himself, "Praised be Allah! It seemeth his yard is not standing." Then said she, "O Ali, it is of the wont of my prickle that it standeth not, except they rub it with their hands; so, come, rub it with thy hand, till it be at stand, else will I slay thee." So saying, she lay down on her back and taking his hand, set it to her parts, and he found these same parts softer than silk; white, plumply-rounded, protuberant, resembling for heat the hot room of the bath or the heart of a lover whom love-longing hath wasted. Quoth Ali in himself, "Verily, our King hath a coynte; this is indeed a wonder of wonders!" And lust get hold on him and his yard rose and stood upright to the utmost of its height; which when Zumurrud saw, she burst out laughing and said to him, "O my lord, all this happeneth and yet thou knowest me not!" He asked "And who art thou, O King?"; and she answered, "I am thy slave- girl Zumurrud." Now whenas he knew this and was certified that she was indeed his very slave-girl, Zumurrud, he kissed her and embraced her and threw himself upon her as the lion upon the lamb. Then he sheathed his steel rod in her scabbard and ceased not to play the porter at her door and the preacher in her pulpit and the priest[FN#323] at her prayer niche, whilst she with him ceased not from inclination and prostration and rising up and sitting down, accompanying her ejaculations of praise and of "Glory to Allah!" with passionate movements and wrigglings and claspings of his member[FN#324] and other amorous gestures, till the two little eunuchs heard the noise. So they came and peeping from behind the curtains saw the King lying on his back and upon him Ali Shar, thrusting and slashing whilst she puffed and blew and wriggled. Quoth they, "Verily, this be no man's wriggle: belike this King is a woman.''[FN#325] But they concealed their affair and discovered it to none. And when the morrow came, Zumurrud summoned all the troops and the lords of the realm and said to them, "I am minded to journey to this man's country; so choose you a viceroy, who shall rule over you till I return to you." And they answered, "We hear and we obey." Then she applied herself to making ready the wants of the way, to wit provaunt and provender, monies and rarities for presents, camels and mules and so forth; after which she set out from her city with Ali Shar, and they ceased not faring on, till they arrived at his native place, where he entered his house and gave many gifts to his friends and alms and largesse to the poor. And Allah vouchsafed him children by her, and they both lived the gladdest and happiest of lives, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Severer of societies and the Garnerer of graves. And glorified be He the Eternal without cease, and praised be He in every case! And amongst other tales they tell one of



THE LOVES OF JUBAYR BIN UMAYR AND THE LADY BUDUR.



It is related that the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid was uneasy[FN#326] one night and could not sleep; so that he ceased not to toss from side to side for very restlessness, till, growing weary of this, he called Masrur and said to him, "Ho, Masrur, find me some one who may solace me in this my wakefulness." He answered, "O Prince of True Believers, wilt thou walk in the palace-garden and divert thyself with the sight of its blooms and gaze upon the stars and constellations and note the beauty of their ordinance and the moon among them rising in sheen over the water?" Quoth the Caliph, "O Masrur, my heart inclineth not to aught of this." Quoth he, "O my lord, there are in thy palace three hundred concubines, each of whom hath her separate chamber. Do thou bid all and every retire into her own apartment and then do thou go thy rounds and amuse thyself with gazing on them without their knowledge." The Caliph replied, "O Masrur, the palace is my palace and the girls are my property: furthermore my soul inclineth not to aught of this." Then Masrur rejoined, "O my lord, summon the doctors of law and religion and the sages of science and poets, and bid them contend before thee in argument and disputation and recite to thee songs and verses and tell thee tales and anecdotes." Replied the Caliph, "My soul inclineth not to aught of this;" and Masrur rejoined, "O my lord, bid pretty boys and the wits and the cup-companions attend thee and solace thee with witty sallies." "O Masrur," ejaculated the Caliph, "indeed my soul inclineth not to aught of this." "Then, O my lord," cried Masrur, "strike off my head;"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Twenty-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Masrur cried out to the Caliph, "O my lord, strike off my head; haply that will dispel thine unease and do away the restlessness that is upon thee." So Al-Rashid laughed at his saying and said, "See which of the boon-companions is at the door." Thereupon he went out and returning, said, "O my lord, he who sits without is Ali bin Mansur of Damascus, the Wag."[FN#327] "Bring him to me," quoth Harun: and Masrur went out and returned with Ibn Mansur, who said, on entering, "Peace be with thee, O Commander of the Faithful!" The Caliph returned his salutation and said to him, "O Ibn Mansur, tell us some of thy stories." Said the other, "O Commander of the Faithful, shall I tell thee what I have seen with my eyes or what I have only heard tell?" Replied the Caliph, "If thou have seen aught worth telling, let us hear it; for hearing is not like seeing." Said Ibn Mansur, "O Commander of the Faithful, lend me thine ear and thy heart;" and he answered, "O Ibn Mansur, behold, I am listening to thee with mine ears and looking at thee with mine eyes and attending to thee with my heart." So Ibn Mansur began: "Know then, O Commander of the Faithful, that I receive a yearly allowance from Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Hashimi, Sultan of Bassorah; so I went to him once upon a time, as usual, and found him ready to ride out hunting and birding. I saluted him and he returned my salute, and said, 'O son of Mansur, mount and come with us to the chase:' but I said, 'O my lord, I can no longer ride; so do thou station me in the guest-house and give thy chamberlains and lieutenants charge over me.' And he did so and departed for his sport. His people entreated me with the utmost honour and entertained me with the greatest hospitality; but said I to myself, 'By Allah, it is a strange thing that for so long I have been in the habit of coming from Baghdad to Bassorah, yet know no more of this town than from palace to garden and from garden to palace. When shall I find an occasion like this to view the different parts and quarters of Bassorah? I will rise forthwith and walk forth alone and divert myself and digest what I have eaten.' Accordingly I donned my richest dress and went out a walking about Bassorah. Now it is known to thee, O Commander of the Faithful, that it hath seventy streets, each seventy leagues[FN#328] long, the measure of Irak; and I lost myself in its by-streets and thirst overcame me. Presently, as I went along, O Prince of True Believers, behold, I came to a great door, whereon were two rings of brass,[FN#329] with curtains of red brocade drawn before it. And on either side of the door was a stone bench and over it was a trellis, covered with a creeping vine that hung down and shaded the door way. I stood still to gaze upon the place, and presently heard a sorrowful voice, proceeding from a heart which did not rejoice, singing melodiously and chanting these cinquains,

'My body bides the sad abode of grief and malady, * Caused by a fawn whose land and home are in a far countrie: O ye two Zephyrs of the wold which caused such pain in me * By Allah, Lord of you! to him my heart's desire, go ye And chide him so perchance ye soften him I pray.

And tell us all his words if he to hear your speech shall deign, * And unto him the tidings bear of lovers 'twixt you twain: And both vouchsafe to render me a service free and fain, * And lay my case before him showing how I e'er complain: And say, 'What ails thy bounder thrall this wise to drive away,

Without a fault committed and without a sin to show; * Or heart that leans to other wight or would thy love forego: Or treason to our plighted troth or causing thee a throe?' * And if he smile then say ye twain in accents soft and slow, 'An thou to him a meeting grant 'twould be the kindest way!

For he is gone distraught for thee, as well indeed, he might * His eyes are wakeful and he weeps and wails the livelong night :' If seem he satisfied by this why then 'tis well and right, * But if he show an angry face and treat ye with despite, Trick him and 'Naught we know of him!' I beg you both to say.'

Quoth I to myself, 'Verily, if the owner of this voice be fair, she conjoineth beauty of person and eloquence and sweetness of voice.' Then I drew near the door, and began raising the curtain little by little, when lo! I beheld a damsel, white as a full moon when it mooneth on its fourteenth night, with joined eyebrows twain and languorous lids of eyne, breasts like pomegranates twin and dainty, lips like double carnelian, a mouth as it were the seal-of Solomon, and teeth ranged in a line that played with the reason of proser and rhymer, even as saith the poet,

'O pearly mouth of friend, who set those pretty pearls in line, * And filled thee full of whitest chamomile and reddest wine? Who lent the morning-glory in thy smile to shimmer and shine * Who with that ruby-padlock dared thy lips to seal-and sign! Who looks on thee at early morn with stress of joy and bliss * Goes mad for aye, what then of him who wins a kiss of thine?'[FN#330]

And as saith another,

'O pearl-set mouth of friend * Pity poor Ruby's cheek Boast not o'er one who owns * Thee, union and unique.'

In brief she comprised all varieties of loveliness and was a seduction to men and women, nor could the gazer satisfy himself with the sight of her charms; for she was as the poet hath said of her,

'When comes she, slays she; and when back he turns, * She makes all men regard with loving eyes: A very sun! a very moon! but still * Prom hurt and harmful ills her nature flies. Opes Eden's garden when she shows herself, * And full moon see we o'er her necklace rise.'

How as I was looking at her through an opening of the curtain, behold, she turned; and, seeing me standing at the door, said to her handmaid, 'See who is at the door.' So the slave-girl came up to me and said, 'O Shaykh, hast thou no shame, or do impudent airs suit hoary hairs?' Quoth I, 'O my mistress, I confess to the hoary hairs, but as for impudent airs, I think not to be guilty of unmannerliness.' Then the mistress broke in, 'And what can be more unmannerly than to intrude thyself upon a house other than thy house and gaze on a Harim other than thy Harim?' I pleaded, 'O my lady, I have an excuse;' and when she asked, 'And what is thine excuse?' I answered, 'I am a stranger and so thirsty that I am well nigh dead of thirst.' She rejoined, 'We accept thine excuse,' —And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When It was the Three Hundred and Twenty-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young lady rejoined, 'We accept thine excuse,' and calling one of her slave maids, said to her, 'O Lutf,[FN#331] give him to drink in the golden tankard.' So she brought me a tankard of red gold, set with pearls and gems of price, full of water mingled with virgin musk and covered with a napkin of green silk, and I addressed myself to drink and was long about my drinking, for I stole glances at her the while, till I could prolong my stay no longer. Then I returned the tankard to the girl, but did not offer to go; and she said to me, 'O Shaykh, wend thy way.' But I said, 'O my lady, I am troubled in mind.' She asked me 'for what?' and I answered, 'For the turns of Time and the change of things.' Replied she, 'Well mayst thou be troubled thereat for Time breedeth wonders. But what hast thou seen of such surprises that thou shouldst muse upon them?' Quoth I, 'I was thinking of the whilom owner of this house, for he was my intimate in his lifetime.' Asked she, 'What was his name?'; and I answered, 'Mohammed bin Ali the Jeweller and he was a man of great wealth. Tell me did he leave any children?' Said she, 'Yes, he left a daughter, Budur by name, who inherited all his wealth?' Quoth I, 'Meseemeth thou art his daughter?' 'Yes,' answered she, laughing; then added, 'O Shaykh, thou best talked long enough; now wend thy ways.' Replied I, 'Needst must I go, but I see thy charms are changed by being out of health; so tell me thy case; it may be Allah will give thee comfort at my hands.' Rejoined she, 'O Shayth, if thou be a man of discretion, I will discover to thee my secret; but first tell me who thou art, that I may know whether thou art worthy of confidence or not; for the poet saith,[FN#332]

'None keepeth a secret but a faithful person: with the best of mankind remaineth concealed. I have kept my secret in a house with a lock, whose key is lost and whose door is sealed.'

Thereto I replied, 'O my lady, an thou wouldest know who I am, I am Ali bin Mansur of Damascus, the Wag, cup-companion to the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid.' Now when she heard my name, she came down from her seat and saluting me, said, 'Welcome, O Ibn Mansur! Now will I tell thee my case and entrust thee with my secret. I am a lover separated from her beloved.' I answered, 'O my lady, thou art fair and shouldest be on love terms with none but the fair. Whom then dost thou love?' Quoth she, 'I love Jubayr bin Umayr al-Shaybani, Emir of the Banu Shayban;[FN#333]' and she described to me a young man than whom there was no prettier fellow in Bassorah. I asked, 'O my lady, have interviews or letters passed between you?' and she answered 'Yes, but our love was tongue-love souls, not heart and souls- love; for he kept not his trust nor was he faithful to his troth.' Said I, 'O my lady, and what was the cause of your separation?', and she replied, 'I was sitting one day whilst my handmaid here combed my hair. When she had made an end of combing it, she plaited my tresses, and my beauty and loveliness charmed her; so she bent over me and kissed my cheek.[FN#334] At that moment he came in unawares, and, seeing the girl kiss my cheek, straightways turned away in anger, vowing eternal-separation and repeating these two couplets,

'If another share in the thing I love, * I abandon my love and live lorn of love. My beloved is worthless if aught she will, * Save that which her lover doth most approve.

And from the time he left me to this present hour, O Ibn Mansur, he hath neither written to me nor answered my letters.' Quoth I, 'And what purposes" thou to do?' Quoth she, 'I have a mind to send him a letter by thee. If thou bring me back an answer, thou shalt have of me five hundred gold pieces; and if not, then an hundred for thy trouble in going and coming.' I answered, 'Do what seemeth good to thee; I hear and I obey thee.' Whereupon she called to one of her slave-girls, 'Bring me ink case and paper,' and she wrote thereon these couplets,

'Beloved, why this strangeness, why this hate? * When shall thy pardon reunite us two? Why dost thou turn from me in severance? * Thy face is not the face I am wont to know. Yes, slanderers falsed my words, and thou to them * Inclining, madest spite and envy grow. An hast believed their tale, the Heavens forbid * Now thou believe it when dost better bow! By thy life tell what hath reached thine ear, * Thou know'st what said they and so justice show. An it be true I spoke the words, my words * Admit interpreting and change allow: Given that the words of Allah were revealed, * Folk changed the Torah[FN#335] and still changing go: What slanders told they of mankind before! * Jacob heard Joseph blamed by tongue of foe. Yea, for myself and slanderer and thee * An awful day of reckoning there shall be.'

Then she sealed the letter and gave it to me; and I took it and carried it to the house of Jubayr bin Umayr, whom I found absent a hunting. So I sat down to wait for him; and behold, he returned from the chase; and when I saw him, O Prince of True Believers, come riding up, my wit was confounded by his beauty and grace. As soon as he sighted me sitting at the house-door, he dismounted and coming up to me embraced me and saluted me; and meseemed I embraced the world and all therein. Then he carried me into his house and, seating me on his own couch, called for food. They brought a table of Khalanj-wood of Khorasan with feet of gold, whereon were all manners of meats, fried and roasted and the like. So I seated myself at the table and examining it with care found these couplets engraved upon it:"[FN#336]—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say,

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirtieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ali son of Mansur continued: "So I seated myself at the table of Jubayr bin Umayr al-Shaybani and, examining it with care, found these couplets engraved upon it,

'On these which once were-chicks, Your mourning glances fix, Late dwellers in the mansion of the cup, Now nearly eaten up! Let tears bedew The memory of that stew, Those partridges, once roast, Now lost!

The daughters of the grouse in plaintive strain Bemourn, and still bemourn, and mourn again! The children of the fry, We lately saw Half smothered in pilau With buttery mutton fritters smoking by! Alas! my heart, the fish! Who filled his dish,

With flaky form in varying colours spread On the round pastry cake of household bread! Heaven sent us that kabob! For no one could (Save heaven he should rob) Produce a thing so excellently good, Or give us roasted meat With basting oil so savourily replete!

But, oh! mine appetite, alas! for thee! Who on that furmeaty So sharpset west a little while ago— That furmeaty, which mashed by hands of snow, A light reflection bore, Of the bright bracelets that those fair hands wore; Again remembrance glads my sense With visions of its excellence!

Again I see the cloth unrolled Rich worked in many a varied fold! Be patient, oh! my soul, they say Fortune rules all that's new and strange, And though she pinches us to day, To-morrow brings full rations, and a change!'[FN#337]

Then said Jubayr, 'Put forth thy hand to our food and ease our heart by eating of our victual.' Answered I, 'By Allah, I will not eat a mouthful, till thou grant me my desire.' He asked, 'What is thy desire?'; so I brought out the letter and gave it to him; but, when he had read it and mastered its contents, he tore it in pieces and throwing it on the floor, said to me, 'O Ibn Mansur, I will grant thee whatever thou askest save thy desire which concerneth the writer of this letter, for I have no answer to her.' At this I rose in anger; but he caught hold of my skirts, saying, 'O Ibn Mansur, I will tell thee what she said to thee, albeit I was not present with you.' I asked, 'And what did she say to me?'; and he answered, 'Did not the writer of this letter say to thee, If thou bring me back an answer, thou shalt have of me five hundred ducats; and if not, an hundred for thy pains?' 'Yes,' replied I; and he rejoined, 'Abide with me this day and eat and drink and enjoy thyself and make merry, and thou shalt have thy five hundred ducats.' So I sat with him and ate and drank and made merry and enjoyed myself and entertained him with talk deep in to the night;[FN#338] after which I said to him, 'O my master, is there no music in thy house.' He answered, 'Verily for many a day we have drunk without music.' Then he called out, saying, 'Ho, Shajarat al-Durr?' Whereupon a slave- girl answered him from her chamber and came in to us, with a lute of Hindu make, wrapped in a silken bag. And she sat down and, laying the lute in her lap, preluded in one and twenty modes; then, returning to the first, she sang to a lively measure these couplets,

'We have ne'er tasted of Love's sweets and bitter draught, * No difference kens 'twixt presence-bliss and absence-stress; And so, who hath declined from Love's true road, * No diference kens 'twixt smooth and ruggedness: I ceased not to oppose the votaries of love, * Till I had tried its sweets and bitters not the less: How many a night my pretty friend conversed with me * And sipped I from his lips honey of love liesse: Now have I drunk its cup of bitterness, until * To bondman and to freedman I have proved me base. How short-aged was the night together we enjoyed, * When seemed it daybreak came on nightfall's heel to press! But Fate had vowed to disunite us lovers twain, * And she too well hath kept her vow, that votaress. Fate so decreed it! None her sentence can withstand: * Where is the wight who dares oppose his Lord's command?'

Hardly had she finished her verses, when her lord cried out with a great cry and fell down in a fit; whereupon exclaimed the damsel, 'May Allah not punish thee, O old man! This long time have we drunk without music, for fear the like of this falling sickness befal our lord. But now go thou to yonder chamber and there sleep.' So I went to the chamber which she showed me and slept till the morning, when behold, a page brought me a purse of five hundred dinars and said to me, 'This is what my master promised thee; but return thou not to the damsel who sent thee, god let it be as though neither thou nor we had ever heard of this matter.' 'Hearkening and obedience,' answered I and taking the purse, went my way. Still I said to myself, 'The lady must have expected me since yesterday; and by Allah there is no help but I return to her and tell her what passed between me and him: otherwise she will revile me and revile all who come from my country.' So I went to her and found her standing behind the door; and when she saw me she said, 'O Ibn Mansur, thou hast done nothing for me?' I asked, 'Who told thee of this?'; and she answered, 'O Ibn Mansur, yet another thing hath been revealed to me;[FN#339] and it is that, when thou handedst him the letter, he tore it in pieces. and throwing it on the floor, said to thee: 'O Ibn Mansur, I will grant thee whatever thou askest save thy desire which concerneth the writer of this letter; for I have no answer to her missive.' Then didst thou rise from beside him in anger; but he laid hold of thy skirts, saying: 'O son of Mansur, abide with me to day, for thou art my guest, and eat and drink and make merry; and thou shalt have thy five hundred ducats.' So thou didst sit with him, eating and drinking and making merry, and entertainedst him with talk deep into the night and a slave- girl sang such an air and such verses, whereupon he fell down in a fit.' So, O Commander of the Faithful, I asked her 'West thou then with us?'; and she answered, 'O Ibn Mansur, hast thou not heard the saying of the poet,

'The hearts of lovers have eyes I ken, * Which see the unseen by vulgar men.'

However, O Ibn Mansur, the night and day shift not upon anything but they bring to it change.'—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the lady exclaimed, 'O Ibn Mansur, the night and the day shift not upon anything but they bring to it change!' Then she raised her glance to heaven and said, 'O my God and my Leader and my Lord, like as Thou hast afflicted me with love of Jubayr bin Umayr, even so do Thou afflict him with love of me, and transfer the passion from my heart to his heart!'[FN#340] Then she gave me an hundred sequins for my trouble in going and coming and I took it and returned to the palace, where I found the Sultan come home from the chase; so I got my pension of him and fared back to Baghdad. And when next year came, I repaired to Bassorah, as usual, to seek my pension, and the Sultan paid it to me; but, as I was about to return to Baghdad, I bethought me of the Lady Budur and said to myself, 'By Allah, I must needs go to her and see what hath befallen between her and her lover!' So I went to her house and finding the street before her door swept and sprinkled and eunuchs and servants and pages standing before the entrance, said to myself, 'Most like grief hath broken the lady's heart and she is dead, and some Emir or other hath taken up his abode in her house.' So I left it and went on to the house of Jubayr, son of Umayr the Shaybani, where I found the benches of the porch broken down and ne'er a page at the door, as of wont and said to myself, 'Haply he too is dead.' Then I stood still before the door of his house and with my eyes running over with tears, bemoaned it in these couplets,

'O Lords of me, who fared but whom my heart e'er followeth, * Return and so my festal-days with you shall be renewed! I stand before the home of you, bewailing your abode; * Quiver mine eyelids and my eyes with tears are ever dewed: I ask the house and its remains that seem to weep and wail, * 'Where is the man who whilom wont to lavish goods and good?'' It saith, 'Go, wend thy way; those friends like travellers have fared * From Springtide-camp, and buried lie of earth and worms the food!' Allah ne'er desolate us so we lose their virtues' light * In length and breadth, but ever be the light in spirit viewed!'

As I, O Prince of True Believers, was thus keening over the folk of the house,[FN#341] behold, out came a black slave therefrom and said to me, 'Hold thy peace, O Shaykh! May thy mother be reft of thee! Why do I see thee bemoaning the house in this wise?' Quoth I, 'I frequented it of yore, when it belonged to a good friend of mine.' Asked the slave, 'What was his name?'; and I answered, 'Jubayr bin Umayr the Shaybani.' Rejoined he, And what hath befallen him? Praised be Allah, he is yet here with us in the enjoyment of property and rank and prosperity, except that Allah hath stricken him with love of a damsel called the Lady Budur;, and he is so whelmed by his love of her and his longing for her, that he is like a great rock cumbering the ground. If he hunger, he saith not, 'Give me meat;' nor, if he thirst, doth he say, 'Give me drink.' Quoth I, 'Ask leave for me to go in to him.' Said the slave, 'O my lord, wilt thou go in to one who understandeth or to one who understandeth not?'; and I said 'There is no help for it but I see him whatever be the case.' Accordingly he went in to ask and presently returned with permission for me to enter, whereupon I went in to Jubayr and found him like a rock that cumbereth the ground, understanding neither sign nor speech; and when I spoke to him he answered me not. Then said one of his servants, 'O my lord, if thou remember aught of verse, repeat it and raise thy voice; and he will be aroused by this and speak with thee.' So I versified in these two couplets,

'Hast quit the love of Moons[FN#342] or dost persist? * Dost wake o' nights or close in sleep thine eyes? If aye thy tears in torrents flow, then learn * Eternal-thou shalt dwell in Paradise.'[FN#343]

When he heard these verses he opened his eyes and said; 'Welcome, O son of Mansur! Verily, the jest is become earnest.' Quoth I, 'O my lord, is there aught thou wouldst have me do for thee?' Answered he, 'Yes, I would fain write her a letter and send it to her by thee. If thou bring me back her answer, thou shalt have of me a thousand dinars; and if not, two hundred for thy pains.' So I said, 'Do what seemeth good to thee;'—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ibn Mansur continued: "So I said, 'Do what seemeth good to thee;' whereupon he called to one of his slave-girls, 'Bring me ink case and paper;' and wrote these couplets,

'I pray in Allah's name, O Princess mine, be light * On me, for Love hath robbed me of my reason's sight' 'Slaved me this longing and enthralled me love of you; * And clad in sickness garb, a poor and abject wight. I wont ere this to think small things of Love and hold, * O Princess mine, 'twas silly thing and over-slight. But when it showed me swelling surges of its sea, * To Allah's hest I bowed and pitied lover's plight. An will you, pity show and deign a meeting grant, * An will you kill me still forget not good requite.'[FN#344]

Then he sealed the letter and gave it to me. So I took it and, repairing to Budur's house, raised the door-curtain little by little, as before, and looking in behold, I saw ten damsels, high-bosomed virgins, like moons, and the Lady Budur as she were the full moon among the stars, sitting in their midst, or the sun, when it is clear of clouds and mist; nor was there on her any trace of pain or care. And as I looked and marvelled at her case, she turned her glance upon me and, seeing me standing at the door, said to me, 'Well come, and welcome and all hail to thee, O Ibn Mansur! Come in.' So I entered and saluting her gave her the letter; and she read it and when she understood it, she said laughingly to me, 'O Ibn Mansur, the poet lied not when he sang,

'Indeed I'll bear my love for thee with firmest soul, * Until from thee to me shall come a messenger.

'Look'ye, O Ibn Mansur, I will write thee an answer, that he may give thee what he promised thee.' And I answered, 'Allah requite thee with good!' So she called out to a handmaid, 'Bring inkcase and paper,' and wrote these couplets,

'How comes it I fulfilled my vow the while that vow broke you? * And, seen me lean to equity, iniquity wrought you? 'Twas you initiated wrongous dealing and despite: * You were the treachetour and treason came from only you! I never ceased to cherish mid the sons of men my troth, * And keep your honour brightest bright and swear by name of you Until I saw with eyes of me what evil you had done; * Until I heard with ears of me what foul report spread you. Shall I bring low my proper worth while raising yours so high? * By Allah had you me eke I had honoured you! But now uprooting severance I will fain console my heart, * And wring my fingers clean of you for evermore to part!'

Quoth I, 'By Allah, O my lady, between him and death there is but the reading of this letter!' So I tore it in pieces and said to her, 'Write him other than these lines.' 'I hear and obey answered she and wrote the following couplets,

'Indeed I am consoled now and sleep without a tear, * And all that happened slandering tongues have whispered in mine ear: My heart obeyed my hest and soon forgot thy memory, * And learnt mine eyelids 'twas the best to live in severance sheer: He lied who said that severance is a bitterer thing than gall: * It never disappointed me, like wine I find it cheer: I learnt to hate all news of thee, e'en mention of thy name, * And turn away and look thereon with loathing pure and mere: Lookye! I cast thee out of heart and far from vitals mine; * Then let the slanderer wot this truth and see I am sincere.'

Quoth I, 'By Allah, O my lady, when he shall read these verses, his soul will depart his body!' Quoth she, 'O Ibn Mansur, is passion indeed come to such a pass with him that thou sayest this saying?' Quoth I, 'Had I said more than this verily it were but the truth: but mercy is of the nature of the noble.' Now when she heard this her eyes brimmed over with tears and she wrote him a note, I swear by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, there is none in thy Chancery could write the like of it; and therein were these couplets,

'How long shall I thy coyness and thy great aversion see? * Thou hast satisfied my censurers and pleased their enmity: I did amiss and wot it not; so deign to tell me now * Whatso they told thee, haply 'twas the merest calumny. I wish to welcome thee, dear love, even as welcome I * Sleep to these eyes and eyelids in the place of sleep to be. And since 'tis thou hast made me drain th' unmixed cup of love, * If me thou see with wine bemused heap not thy blame on me!'

And when she had written the missive,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Budur had written the missive, she sealed it and gave it to me; and I said, 'O my lady, in good sooth this thy letter will make the sick man whole and ease the thirsting soul.' Then I took it and went from her, when she called me back and said to me, 'O son of Mansur, say to him: 'She will be thy guest this night.' At this I joyed with exceeding great joy and carried the letter to Jubayr, whom I found with his eyes fixed intently on the door, expecting the reply and as soon as I gave him the letter and he opened and read it and understood it, he uttered a great cry and fell down in a fainting fit. When he came to himself, he said to me, 'O Ibn Mansur, did she indeed write this note with her hand and feel it with her fingers?' Answered I, 'O my lord, do folk write with their feet?' And by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I had not done speaking these words, when we heard the tinkle-tinkle of her anklets in the vestibule and she entered. And seeing her he sprang to his feet as though nothing pained or ailed him and embraced her like the letter L embraceth the letter A;[FN#345] and the infirmity, that erst would not depart at once left him.[FN#346] Then he sat down, but she abode standing and I said to her, 'O my lady, why dost thou not sit?' Said she, 'O Ibn Mansur, save on a condition that is between us, I will not sit.' I asked, 'And what is that?'; and she answered, 'None may know lovers' secrets,' and putting her mouth to Jubayr's ear whispered to him; where upon he replied, 'I hear and I obey.' Then he rose and said somewhat in a whisper to one of his slaves, who went out and returned in a little while with a Kazi and two witnesses. Thereupon Jubayr stood up and taking a bag containing an hundred thousand dinars, said, O Kazi, marry me to this young lady and write this sum to her marriage-settlement.' Quoth the Kazi to her, 'Say thou, I consent to this.' 'I consent to this,' quoth she, whereupon he drew up the contract of marriage and she opened the bag; and, taking out a handful of gold, gave it to the Kazi and the witnesses and handed the rest to Jubayr. Thereupon the Kazi and the witnesses withdrew, and I sat with them, in mirth and merriment, till the most part of the night was past, when I said in my mind, 'These are lovers and they have been this long while separated. I will now arise and go sleep in some place afar from them and leave them to their privacy, one with other.' So I rose, but she caught hold of my skirts, saying, 'What thinkest thou to do?' 'Nothing but so and so,' answered I; upon which she rejoined, 'Sit thee down; and when we would be rid of thee, we will send thee away.' So I sat down with them till near daybreak, when she said to me, 'O Ibn Mansur, go to yonder chamber; for we have furnished it for thee and it is thy sleeping-place.' Thereupon I arose and went thither and slept till morning, when a page brought me basin and ewer, and I made the ablution and prayed the dawn-prayer. Then I sat down and presently, behold, Jubayr and his beloved came out of the bath in the house, and I saw them both wringing their locks.[FN#347] So I wished them good morning and gave them joy of their safety and reunion, saying to Jubayr, 'That which began with constraint and conditions hath ended in cordial-contentment.' He answered, 'Thou sayest well, and indeed thou deservest thy honorarium;' and he called his treasurer, and said, 'Bring hither three thousand dinars.' So he brought a purse containing the gold pieces and Jubayr gave it to me, saying, 'Favour us by accepting this.' But I replied, 'I will not accept it till thou tell me the manner of the transfer of love from her to thee, after so huge an aversion.' Quoth he, 'Hearkening and obedience! Know that we have a festival-called New Year's day,[FN#348] when all the people fare forth and take boat and go a-pleasuring on the river. So I went out with my comrades, and saw a skiff, wherein were ten damsels like moons and amongst them, the Lady Budur lute in hand. She preluded in eleven modes, then, returning to the first, sang these two couplets,

'Fire is cooler than fires in my breast, * Rock is softer than heart of my lord Marvel I that he's formed to hold * In water soft frame heart rock-hard!'

Said I to her, 'Repeat the couplets and the air!' But she would not:'"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that "Jubayr continued, 'So cried I to her, Repeat the couplets and the air!' But she would not; whereupon I bade the boatmen pelt her with oranges, and they pelted her till we feared her boat would founder Then she went her way, and this is how the love was transferred from her heart to mine.' So I wished them joy of their union and, taking the purse with its contents, I returned to Baghdad." Now when the Caliph heard Ibn Mansur's story his heart was lightened and the restlessness and oppression from which he suffered forsook him. And they also tell the tale of



THE MAN OF AI-YAMAN AND HIS SIX SlAVE-GIRLS.



The Caliph Al-Maamun was sitting one day in his palace, surrounded by his Lords of the realm and Officers of state, and there were present also before him all his poets and cup- companions amongst the rest one named Mohammed of Bassorah. Presently the Caliph turned and said to him, "O Mohammed, I wish thee forthwith to tell me something that I have never before heard." He replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, dost thou wish me to tell thee a thing I have heard with my ears or a thing I have seen with my eyes?" Quoth Al-Maamun, "Tell me whichever is the rarer; so Mohammed al-Basri began: "Know, then, O Commander of the Faithful that there lived once upon a time wealthy man, who was a native of Al-Yaman;but he emigrated from his native land and came to this city of Baghdad, whose sojourn so pleased him that he transported hither his family and possessions. Now he had six slave-girls, like moons one and all; the first white, the second brown, the third fat, the fourth lean, the fifth yellow and the sixth lamp-black; and all six were comely of countenance and perfect in accomplishments and skilled in the arts of singing and playing upon musical-instruments. Now it so chanced that, one day, he sent for the girls and called for meat and wine; and they ate and drank and were mirthful and made merry Then he filled the cup and, taking it in his hand, said to the blonde girl, 'O new moon face, let us hear somewhat of thy pleasant songs.' So she took the lute and tuning it, made music thereon with such sweet melody that the place danced with glee; after which she played a lively measure and sang these couplets,

'I have a friend, whose form is fixed within mine eyes,[FN#349] * Whose name deep buried in my very vitals lies: Whenas remembers him my mind all heart am I, * And when on him my gaze is turned I am all eyes. My censor saith, 'Forswear, forget, the love of him,' * 'Whatso is not to be, how shall's be?' My reply is. Quoth I, 'O Censor mine, go forth from me, avaunt! * And make not light of that on humans heavy lies.'

Hereat their master rejoiced and, drinking off his cup, gave the damsels to drink, after which he said to the berry-brown girl, 'O brasier-light[FN#350] and joy of the sprite, let us hear thy lovely voice, whereby all that hearken are ravished with delight.' So she took the lute and thereon made harmony till the place was moved to glee; then, captivating all hearts with her graceful swaying, she sang these couplets,

'I swear by that fair face's life, I'll love but thee * Till death us part, nor other love but thine I'll see: O full moon, with thy loveliness mantilla'd o'er, * The loveliest of our earth beneath thy banner be: Thou, who surpassest all the fair in pleasantness * May Allah, Lord of worlds, be everywhere with thee!'

The master rejoiced and drank off his cup and gave the girls to drink; after which he filled again; and, taking the goblet in his hand, signed to the fat girl and bade her sing and play a different motive. So she took the lute and striking a grief- dispelling measure, sang these couplets,

'An thou but deign consent, O wish to heart affied! * I care not wrath and rage to all mankind betide. And if thou show that fairest face which gives me life, * I reck not an dimimshed heads the Kings go hide. I seek thy favours only from this 'versal-world: * O thou in whom all beauty cloth firm-fixt abide!'

The man rejoiced and, emptying his cup, gave the girls to drink. Then he signed to the thin girl and said to her, 'O Houri of Paradise, feed thou our ears with sweet words and sounds.' So she took the lute; and, tuning it, preluded and sang these two couplets,

'Say me, on Allah's path[FN#351] hast death not dealt to me, * Turning from me while I to thee turn patiently: Say me, is there no judge of Love to judge us twain, * And do me justice wronged, mine enemy, by thee?'

Their lord rejoiced and, emptying the cup, gave the girls to drink. Then filling another he signed to the yellow girl and said to her, O sun of the day, let us hear some nice verses.' So she took the lute and, preluding after the goodliest fashion, sang these couplets,

'I have a lover and when drawing him, * He draws on me a sword- blade glancing grim: Allah avenge some little of his wrongs, * Who holds my heart yet wreaks o erbearing whim Oft though I say, 'Renounce him, heart!' yet heart * Will to none other turn excepting him. He is my wish and will of all men, but * Fate's envious hand to me's aye grudging him.'

The master rejoiced and drank and gave the girls to drink; then he filled the cup and taking it in hand, signed to the black girl, saying, 'O pupil of the eye, let us have a taste of thy quality, though it be but two words.' So she took the lute and tuning it and tightening the strings, preluded in various modes, then returned to the first and sang to a lively air these couplets,

'Ho ye, mine eyes, let prodigal-tears go free; * This ecstasy would see my being unbe:[FN#352] All ecstasies I dreefor sake of friend * I fondle, maugre enviers' jealousy: Censors forbid me from his rosy cheek, * Yet e'er inclines my heart to rosery: Cups of pure wine, time was, went circuiting * In joy, what time the lute sang melody, While kept his troth the friend who madded me, * Yet made me rising star of bliss to see: But—with Time, turned he not by sin of mine; * Than such a turn can aught more bitter be? Upon his cheek there grows and glows a rose, * Nay two, whereof grant Allah one to me! An were prostration[FN#353] by our law allowed * To aught but Allah, at his feet I had bowed.'

Thereupon rose the six girls and, kissing the ground before their lord, said to him, 'Do thou justice between us, O our lord!' So he looked at their beauty and loveliness and the contrast of their colours and praised Almighty Allah and glorified Him. Then said he, 'There is none of you but hath learnt the Koran by heart, and mastered the musical-art and is versed in the chronicles' of yore and the doings of peoples which have gone before; so it is my desire that each one of you rise and, pointing finger at her opposite, praise herself and dispraise her co-concubine; that is to: say, let the blonde point to the brunette, the plump to the slenderer and the yellow to the black girl; after which the rivals, each in her turn, shall do the like with the former; and be this illustrated with citations from Holy Writ and somewhat of anecdotes and,; verse, so as to show forth your fine breeding and elegance of your pleading.' And they answered him, 'We hear and we obey!;"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the handmaids answered the man of Al-Yaman, "'We hear and we obey!' Accordingly the blonde rose first and, pointing at the black girl, said to her: 'Out on thee, blackamoor! It is told by tradition that whiteness saith, 'I am the shining light, I am the rising moon of the fourteenth night. My hue is patent and my brow is resplendent and of my beauty quoth the poet,'

'White girl with softly rounded polished cheeks * As if a pearl concealed by Beauty's boon: Her stature Alif-like;[FN#354] her smile like Mim[FN#355] * And o'er her eyes two brows that bend like Nun.[FN#356] 'Tis as her glance were arrow, and her brows * Bows ever bent to shoot Death-dart eftsoon: If cheek and shape thou view, there shalt thou find * Rose, myrtle, basil and Narcissus wone. Men wont in gardens plant and set the branch, * How many garths thy stature-branch cloth own!'

'So my colour is like the hale and healthy day and the newly culled orange spray and the star of sparkling ray;[FN#357] and indeed quoth Almighty Allah, in His precious Book, to his prophet Moses (on whom be peace!), Put thy hand into thy bosom; it shall come forth white, without hurt.'[FN#358] And again He saith, But they whose faces shall become white, shall be in the mercy of Allah; therein shall they remain forever.'[FN#359] My colour is a sign, a miracle, and my loveliness supreme and my beauty a term extreme. It is on the like of me that raiment showeth fair and fine and to the like of me that hearts incline. Moreover, in whiteness are many excellences; for instance, the snow falleth white from heaven, and it is traditional-that the beautifullest of a colours white. The Moslems also glory in white turbands, but I should be tedious, were I to tell all that may be told in praise of white; little and enough is better than too much of unfilling stuff. So now I will begin with thy dispraise, O black, O colour of ink and blacksmith's dust, thou whose face is like the raven which bringeth about the parting of lovers. Verily, the poet saith in praise of white and blame of black,

'Seest not that pearls are prized for milky hue, * But with a dirham buy we coals in load? And while white faces enter Paradise, * Black faces crowd Gehenna's black abode.'

And indeed it is told in certain histories, related on the authority of devout men, that Noah (on whom be peace!) was sleeping one day, with his sons Cham and Shem seated at his head, when a wind sprang up and, lifting his clothes, uncovered his nakedness; whereat Cham looked and laughed and did not cover him: but Shem arose and covered him. Presently, their sire awoke and learning, what had been done by his sons, blessed Shem and cursed Cham. So Shem's face was whitened and from him sprang the prophets and the orthodox Caliphs and Kings; whilst Cham's face was blackened and he fled forth to the land of Abyssinia, and of his lineage came the blacks.[FN#360] All people are of one mind in affirming the lack of understanding of the blacks, even as saith the adage, 'How shall one find a black with a mind?' Quoth her master, 'Sit thee down, thou hast given us sufficient and even excess.' Thereupon he signed to the negress, who rose and, pointing her finger at the blonde, said: Dost thou not know that in the Koran sent down to His prophet and apostle, is transmitted the saying of God the Most High, 'By the night when it covereth all things with darkness; by the day when it shineth forth!'[FN#361] If the night were not the more illustrious, verily Allah had not sworn by it nor had given it precedence of the day. And indeed all men of wit and wisdom accept this. Knowest thou not that black is the ornament of youth and that, when hoariness descendeth upon the head, delights pass away and the hour of death draweth in sight? Were not black the most illustrious of things, Allah had not set it in the core of the heart[FN#362] and the pupil of the eye; and how excellent is the saying of the poet,

'I love not black girls but because they show * Youth's colour, tinct of eye and heartcore's hue; Nor are in error who unlove the white, * And hoary hairs and winding-sheet eschew.'

And that said of another,

'Black[FN#363] girls, not white, are they * All worthy love I see: Black girls wear dark-brown lips;[FN#364] * Whites, blotch of leprosy.'

And of a third,

'Black girls in acts are white, and 'tis as though * Like eyes, with purest shine and sheen they show; If I go daft for her, be not amazed; * Black bile[FN#365] drives melancholic-mad we know 'Tis as my colour were the noon of night; * For all no moon it be, its splendours glow.

Moreover, is the foregathering of lovers good but in the night? Let this quality and profit suffice thee. What protecteth lovers from spies and censors like the blackness of night's darkness; and what causeth them to fear discovery like the whiteness of the dawn's brightness? So, how many claims to honour are there not in blackness and how excellent is the saying of the poet,

'I visit them, and night-black lendeth aid to me * Seconding love, but dawn-white is mine enemy.'

And that of another,

'How many a night I've passed with the beloved of me, * While gloom with dusky tresses veiled our desires: But when the morn-light showed it caused me sad affright; * And I to Morning said, 'Who worship light are liars!'[FN#366]

And saith a third,

'He came to see me, hiding neath the skirt of night, * Hasting his steps as wended he in cautious plight. I rose and spread my cheek upon his path like rug, * Abject, and trailed my skirt to hide it from his sight; But rose the crescent moon and strave its best to show * The world our loves like nail-slice raying radiant light:[FN#367] Then what befel befel: I need not aught describe; * But think thy best, and ask me naught of wrong or right. Meet not thy lover save at night for fear of slander * The Sun's a tittle-tattler and the Moon's a pander.'

And a fifth,

'I love not white girls blown with fat who puff and pant; * The maid for me is young brunette embonpoint-scant. I'd rather ride a colt that's darn upon the day * Of race, and set my friends upon the elephant.'

And a sixth,

My lover came to me one night, * And clips we both with fond embrace; And lay together till we saw * The morning come with swiftest pace. Now I pray Allah and my Lord * To reunite us of His grace And make night last me long as he * Lies in the arms that tightly lace.'

Were I to set forth all the praises of blackness, my tale would be tedious; but little and enough is better than too much of unfilling stuff. As for thee, O blonde, thy colour is that of leprosy and thine embrace is suffocation;[FN#368] and it is of report that hoar-frost and icy cold[FN#369] are in Gehenna for the torment of the wicked. Again, of things black and excellent is ink, wherewith is written Allah's word; and were it not for black ambergris and black musk, there would be no perfumes to carry to Kings. How many glories I may not mention dwell in blackness, and how well saith the poet,

'Seest not that musk, the nut brown musk, e'er claims the highest price * Whilst for a load of whitest lime none more than dirham bids? And while white speck upon the eye deforms the loveliest youth, * Black eyes discharge the sharpest shafts in lashes from their lids.'

Quoth her master, 'Sit thee down: this much sufficeth.' So she sat down and he signed to the fat girl, who rose"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that "the man of Al-Yaman, the master of the handmaids, signed to the fat girl who rose and, pointing her finger at the slim girl, bared her calves and wrists and uncovered her stomach, showing its dimples and the plump rondure of her navel. Then she donned a shift of fine stuff, that exposed her whole body, and said: 'Praised be Allah who created me, for that He beautified my face and made me fat and fair of the fattest and fairest; and likened me to branches laden with fruit, and bestowed upon me abounding beauty and brightness: and praised be He no less, for that He hath given me the precedence and honoured me, when He mentioneth me in His holy Book! Quoth the Most High, 'And he brought a fatted calf.'[FN#370] And He hath made me like unto a vergier full of peaches and pomegranates. In very sooth even as the townsfolk long for fat birds and eat of them and love not lean birds, so do the sons of Adam desire fat meat and eat of it. How many vauntful attributes are there not in fatness, and how well saith the poet,

'Farewell thy love, for see, the Cafilah's[FN#371] on the move: * O man, canst bear to say adieu and leave thy love? 'Tis as her going were to seek her neighbour's tent, * The gait of fat fair maid, whom hearts shall all approve.'

Sawest thou ever one stand before a flesher's stall but sought of him fat flesh? The wise say, 'Joyance is in three things, eating meat and riding meat and putting meat into meat.'[FN#372] As for thee, O thin one, thy calves are like the shanks of sparrows or the pokers of furnaces; and thou art a cruciform plank of a piece of flesh poor and rank; there is naught in thee to gladden the heart; even as saith the poet,

'With Allah take I refuge from whatever driveth me * To bed with one like footrasp[FN#373] or the roughest ropery: In every limb she hath a horn that butteth me whene'er * I fain would rest, so morn and eve I wend me wearily.'

Quoth her master, 'Sit thee down: this much sufficeth.' So she sat down and he signed to the slender girl, who rose, as she were a willow-wand, or a rattan-frond or a stalk of sweet basil, and said: 'Praised be Allah who created me and beautified me and made my embraces the end of all desire and likened me to the branch, whereto all hearts incline. If I rise, I rise lightly; if I sit, I sit prettily; I am nimble-witted at a jest and merrier-souled than mirth itself. Never heard I one describe his mistress, saying, 'My beloved is the bigness of an elephant or like a mountain long and broad;' but rather, 'My lady hath a slender waist and a slim shape.'[FN#374] Furthermore a little food filleth me and a little water quencheth my thirst; my sport is agile and my habit active; for I am sprightlier than the sparrow and lighter-skipping than the starling. My favours are the longing of the lover and the delight of the desirer; for I am goodly of shape, sweet of smile and graceful as the bending willow-wand or the rattan-cane[FN#375] or the stalk of the basil- plant; nor is there any can compare with me in loveliness, even as saith one of me,

'Thy shape with willow branch I dare compare, * And hold thy figure as my fortunes fair: I wake each morn distraught, and follow thee, * And from the rival's eye in fear I fare.'

It is for the like of me that amourists run mad and that those who desire me wax distracted. If my lover would draw me to him, I am drawn to him; and if he would have me incline to him, I incline to him and not against him. But now, as for thee, O fat of body, thine eating is the feeding of an elephant, and neither much nor little filleth thee. When thou liest with a man who is lean, he hath no ease of thee; nor can he anyways take his pleasure of thee; for the bigness of thy belly holdeth him off from going in unto thee and the fatness of thy thighs hindereth him from coming at thy slit. What goodness is there in thy grossness, and what courtesy or pleasantness in thy coarseness? Fat flesh is fit for naught but the flasher, nor is there one point therein that pleadeth for praise. If one joke with thee, thou art angry; if one sport with thee, thou art sulky; if thou sleep, thou snorest if thou walk, thou lollest out thy tongue! if thou eat, thou art never filled. Thou art heavier than mountains and fouler than corruption and crime. Thou hast in thee nor agility nor benedicite nor thinkest thou of aught save meat and sleep. When thou pissest thou swishes"; if thou turd thou gruntest like a bursten wine skin or an elephant transmogrified. If thou go to the water closet, thou needest one to wash thy gap and pluck out the hairs which overgrow it; and this is the extreme of sluggish ness and the sign, outward and visible, of stupidity[FN#376] In short, there is no good thing about thee, and indeed the poet Title of thee,

'Heavy and swollen like an urine-bladder blown, * With hips and thighs like mountain propping piles of stone; Whene'er she walks in Western hemisphere, her tread * Makes the far Eastern world with weight to moan and groan.'

Quoth her master, 'Sit thee down, this sufficeth;' so she sat down and he signed to the yellow girl, who rose to her feet and praised Allah Almighty and magnified His name, calling down peace and blessing on Mohammed the best of His creatures; after which she pointed her finger at the brunette and said to her," And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-seventh Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that "the yellow girl stood up and praised Almighty Allah and magnified His name; after which she pointed her finger at the brown girl and said to her: 'I am the one praised in the Koran, and the Compassionate hath described my complexion and its excellence over all other hues in His manifest Book, where Allah saith, 'A yellow, pure yellow, whose colour gladdeneth the beholders.'[FN#377] Wherefore my colour is a sign and portent and my grace is supreme and my beauty a term extreme; for that my tint is the tint of a ducat and the colour of the planets and moons and the hue of ripe apples. My fashion is the fashion of the fair, and the dye of saffron outvieth all other dyes; so my semblance is wondrous and my colour marvellous. I am soft of body and of high price, comprising all qualities of beauty. My colour is essentially precious as virgin gold, and how many boasts and glories cloth it not unfold! Of the like of me quoth the poet,

'Her golden yellow is the sheeny sun's; * And like gold sequins she delights the sight: Saffron small portion of her glance can show; * Nay,[FN#378] she outvies the moon when brightest bright.'

And I shall at once begin in thy dispraise, O berry-brown girl! Thy tincture is that of the buffalo, and all souls shudder at thy sight. If thy colour be in any created thing, it is blamed; if it be in food, it is poisoned; for thy hue is the hue of the dung- fly; it is a mark of ugliness even in dogs; and among the colours it is one which strikes with amazement and is of the signs of mourning. Never heard I of brown gold or brown pearls or brown gems. If thou enter the privy, thy colour changeth, and when thou comest out, thou addest ugliness to ugliness. Thou art a non- descript; neither black, that thou mayst be recognised, nor white, that thou mayst be described; and in thee there is no good quality, even as saith the poet,

'The hue of dusty motes is hers; that dull brown hue of hers * Is mouldy like the dust and mud by Cossid's foot upthrown:[FN#379] I never look upon her brow, e'en for eye-twinkling's space, * But in brown study fall I and my thoughts take browner tone.'

Quoth her master, 'Sit thee down; this much sufficeth;' so she sat down and he signed to the brunette. Now she was a model of beauty and loveliness and symmetry and perfect grace; soft of skin, slim of shape, of stature rare, and coal-black hair; with cheeks rosy-pink, eyes black rimmed by nature's hand, face fair, and eloquent tongue; moreover slender-waisted and heavy-hipped. So she rose and said: 'Praise be to Allah who hath created me neither leper-white nor bile-yellow nor charcoal-black, but hath made my colour to be beloved of men of wit and wisdom, for all the poets extol berry-brown maids in every tongue and exalt their colour over all other colours. To 'brown of hue (they say) praise is due;' and Allah bless him who singeth,

'And in brunettes is mystery, could'st" thou but read it right, * Thy sight would never dwell on others, be they red or white: Free-flowing conversation, amorous coquettishness * Would teach Harut himself a mightier spell of magic might.'

And saith another,

'Give me brunettes, so limber, lissom, lithe of sway, * Brunettes tall, slender straight like Samhar's nut-brown lance;[FN#380] Languid of eyelids and with silky down on either cheek, * Who fixed in lover's heart work to his life mischance.'

And yet another,

'Now, by my life, brown hue hath point of comeliness * Leaves whiteness nowhere and high o'er the Moon takes place; But an of whiteness aught it borrowed self to deck, * 'Twould change its graces and would pale for its disgrace: Not with his must[FN#381] I'm drunken, but his locks of musk * Are wine inebriating all of human race. His charms are jealous each of each, and all desire * To be the down that creepeth up his lovely face.'

And again another,

'Why not incline me to that show of silky down, * On cheeks of dark brunette, like bamboo spiring brown? Whenas high rank in beauty poets sing, they say * Brown ant-like specklet worn by nenuphar in crown. And see I sundry lovers tear out others' eyne * For the brown mole beneath that jetty pupil shown, Then why do censors blame me for one all a mole? * Allah I pray demolish each molesting clown!'[FN#382]

My form is all grace and my shape is built on heavy base; Kings desire my colour which all adore, rich and poor. I am pleasant, active, handsome, elegant, soft of skin and prized for price: eke I am perfect in seemlibead and breeding and eloquence; my aspect is comely and my tongue witty; my temper is bright and my play a pretty sight. As for thee, thou art like unto a mallow growing about the Luk Gate;[FN#383] in hue sallow and streaked-yellow and made all of sulphur. Aroynt thee, O copper-worth of jaundiced sorrel, O rust of brass-pot, O face of owl in gloom, and fruit of the Hell-tree Zakkum;[FN#384] whose bedfellow, for heart-break, is buried in the tomb. And there is no good thing in thee, even as saith the poet of the like of thee,

'Yellowness, tincturing her tho' nowise sick or sorry, * Straitens my hapless heart and makes my head sore ache; An thou repent not, Soul! I'll punish thee with kissing[FN#385] * Her lower face that shall mine every grinder break!'

And when she ended her lines, quoth her master, 'Sit thee down, this much sufficeth!'"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that "when the yellow girl ended her recitation, quoth her master, 'Sit thee down; this much sufficeth!' Then he made peace between them and clad them all in sumptuous robes of honour and hanselled them with precious jewels of land and sea. And never have I seen, O Commander of the Faithful, any when or any where, aught fairer than these six damsels fair." Now when Al-Maamun heard this story from Mohammed of Bassorah, he turned to him and said, "O Mohammed, knowest thou the abiding-place of these damsels and their master, and canst thou contrive to buy them of him for us?" He answered, "O Commander of the Faithful, indeed I have heard that their lord is wrapped up in them and cannot bear to be parted from them." Rejoined the Caliph, "Take thee ten thousand gold pieces for each girl, that is sixty thousand for the whole purchase; and carry the coin to his house and buy them of him." So Mohammed of Bassorah took the money and, betaking himself to the Man of Al-Yaman, acquainted him with the wish of the Prince of True Believers. He consented to part with them at that price to pleasure the Caliph; and despatched them to Al-Maamun, who assigned them an elegant abode and therein used to sit with them as cup-companions; marvelling at their beauty and loveliness, at their varied colours and at the excellence of their conversation. Thus matters stood for many a day; but, after awhile, when their former owner could no longer bear to be parted from them, he sent a letter to the Commander of the Faithful complaining to him of his own ardent love-longing for them and containing, amongst other contents, these couplets,

"Captured me six, all bright with youthful blee; * Then on all six be best salams from me! They are my hearing, seeing, very life; * My meat, my drink, my joy, my jollity: I'll ne'er forget the favours erst so charmed * Whose loss hath turned my sleep to insomny: Alack, O longsome pining and O tears! * Would I had farewelled all humanity: Those eyes, with bowed and well arched eyebrows[FN#386] dight, * Like bows have struck me with their archery."

Now when the letter came to the hands of Al-Maamun, he robed the six damsels in rich raiment; and, giving them threescore thousand dinars, sent them back to their lord who joyed in them with exceeding joy[FN#387] (more especially for the monies they brought him), and abode with them in all the comfort and pleasance of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Severer of societies. And men also recount the tale of



HARUN AL-RASHID AND THE DAMSEL AND ABU NOWAS.



The Caliph, Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, being one night exceedingly restless and thoughtful with sad thought, rose from his couch and walked about the by-ways of his palace, till he came to a chamber, over whose doorway hung a curtain. He raised that curtain and saw, at the upper end of the room, a bedstead whereon lay something black, as it were a man asleep, with a wax taper on his right hand and another on his left; and as the Caliph stood wondering at the sight, behold, he remarked a flagon full of old wine whose mouth was covered by the cup. The Caliph wondered even more at this, saying, "How came this black by such wine-service?" Then, drawing near the bedstead, he found that it was a girl lying asleep there, curtained by her hair; so he uncovered her face and saw that it was like the moon, on the night of his fulness.[FN#388] So the Caliph filled himself a cup of wine and drank it to the roses of her cheeks; and, feeling inclined to enjoy her, kissed a mole on her face, whereupon she started up from sleep, and cried out, "O Trusted of Allah,[FN#389] what may this be?" Replied he, "A guest who knocketh at thy door, hoping that thou wilt give him hospitality till the dawn;" and she answered; "Even so! I will serve him with my hearing and my sight." So she brought forward the wine and they drank together, after which she took the lute and tuning the strings, preluded in one-and-twenty modes, then returning to the first, played a lively measure and sang these couplets,

"The tongue of love from heart bespeaks my sprite, * Telling I love thee with love infinite: I have an eye bears witness to my pain, * And fluttering heart sore hurt by parting-plight. I cannot hide the love that harms my life; * Tears ever roll and growth of pine I sight: I knew not what love was ere loving thee; * But Allah's destiny to all is dight."

And when her verses were ended she said, "O Commander of the Faithful, I have been wronged!"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Thirty-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the damsel cried, "O Commander of the Faithful, I have been wronged!" Quoth he, "How so, and who hath wronged thee?" Quoth she "Thy son bought me awhile ago, for ten thousand dirhams, meaning to give me to thee; but thy wife, the daughter of thine uncle, sent him the said price and bade him shut me up from thee in this chamber." Whereupon said the Caliph, "Ask a boon of me," and she, "I ask thee to lie with me to-morrow night." Replied the Caliph, "Inshallah!" and leaving her, went away. Now as soon as it was morning, he repaired to his sitting-room and called for Abu Nowas, but found him not and sent his chamberlain to ask after him. The chamberlain found him in a tavern, pawned and pledged for a score of a thousand dirhams, which he had spent on a certain beardless youth, and questioned him of his case. So he told him what had betided him with the comely boy and how he had spent upon him a thousand silver pieces; whereupon quoth the chamberlain, "Show him to me; and if he be worth this, thou art excused." He answered, "Patience, and thou shalt see him presently.' As they were talking together, up came the lad, clad in a white tunic, under which was another of red and under this yet another black. Now when Abu Nowas saw him, he sighed a loud sigh and improvised these couplets,

"He showed himself in shirt of white, * With eyes and eyelids languor-digit. Quoth I, 'Doss pass and greet me not? * Though were thy greeting a delight? Blest He who clothed in rose thy cheeks, * Creates what wills He by His might!' Quoth he, 'Leave prate, forsure my Lord * Of works is wondrous infinite: My garment's like my face and luck; * All three are white on white on white.'"

When the beardless one heard these words, he doffed the white tunic and appeared in the red; and when Abu Nowas saw him he redoubled in expressions of admiration and repeated these couplets,

"He showed in garb anemone-red, * A foeman 'friend' entituled: Quoth I in marvel, 'Thou'rt full moon * Whose weed shames rose however red: Hath thy cheek stained it red, or hast * Dyed it in blood by lovers bled?' Quoth he, 'Sol gave me this for shirt * When hasting down the West to bed So garb and wine and hue of cheek * All three are red on red on red.'"

And when the verses came to an end, the beardless one doffed the red tunic and stood in the black; and, when Abu Nowas saw him, he redoubled in attention to him and versified in these couplets,

"He came in sable-hued sacque * And shone in dark men's heart to rack: Quoth I, 'Doss pass and greet me not? * Joying the hateful envious pack? Thy garment's like thy locks and like * My lot, three blacks on black on black.'"

Seeing this state of things and understanding the case of Abu Nowas and his love-longing, the Chamberlain returned to the Caliph and acquainted him therewith; so he bade him pouch a thousand dirhams and go and take him out of pawn. Thereupon the Chamberlain returned to Abu Nowas and, paying his score, carried him to the Caliph, who said, "Make me some verses containing the words, O Trusted of Allah, what may this be?" Answered he, "I hear and I obey, O Commander of the Faithful."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Fortieth Night,

She said, it hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu Nowas answered, "I hear and I obey, O Commander of the Faithful!" and forthwith he improvised these couplets,

"Long was my night for sleepless misery; * Weary of body and of thought ne'er free: I rose and in my palace walked awhile, * Then wandered thro' the halls of Haremry: Till chanced I on a blackness, which I found * A white girl hid in hair for napery: Here to her for a moon of brightest sheen! * Like willow-wand and veiled in pudency: I quaffed a cup to her; then drew I near, * And kissed the beauty-spot on cheek had she: She woke astart, and in her sleep's amaze, * Swayed as the swaying branch in rain we see; Then rose and said to me, 'O Trusted One * Of Allah, O Amin, what may this be? Quoth I, 'A guest that cometh to thy tents * And craves till morn thy hospitality.' She answered, 'Gladly I, my lord, will grace * And honour such a guest with ear and eye.'"

Cried the Caliph, "Allah strike thee dead! it is as if thou hadst been present with us.''[FN#390] Then he took him by the hand and carried him to the damsel and, when Abu Nowas saw her clad in a dress and veil of blue, he expressed abundant admiration and improvised these couplets,

"Say to the pretty one in veil of blue, * 'By Allah, O my life, have ruth on dole! For, when the fair entreats her lover foul, * Sighs rend his bosom and bespeak his soul By charms of thee and whitest cheek I swear thee, * Pity a heart for love lost all control Bend to him, be his stay 'gainst stress of love, * Nor aught accept what saith the ribald fool.'"

Now when he ended his verse, the damsel set wine before the Caliph; and, taking the lute, played a lively measure and sang these couplets,

"Wilt thou be just to others in thy love, and do * Unright, and put me off, and take new friend in lieu? Had lovers Kazi unto whom I might complain * Of thee, he'd peradventure grant the due I sue: If thou forbid me pass your door, yet I afar * Will stand, and viewing you waft my salams to you!"

The Caliph bade her ply Abu Nowas with wine, till he lost his right senses, thereupon he gave him a full cup, and he drank a draught of it and held the cup in his hand till he slept. Then the Commander of the Faithful bade the girl take the cup from his grasp and hide it; so she took it and set it between her thighs, moreover he drew his scymitar and, standing at the head of Abu Nowas, pricked him with the point; whereupon he awoke and saw the drawn sword and the Caliph standing over him. At this sight the fumes of the wine fled from his head and the Caliph said to him, "Make me some verses and tell me therein what is become of thy cup; or I will cut off thy head." So he improvised these couplets,

"My tale, indeed, is tale unlief; * 'Twas yonder fawn who play'd the thief! She stole my cup of wine, before * The sips and sups had dealt relief, And hid it in a certain place, * My heart's desire and longing grief. I name it not, for dread of him * Who hath of it command-in- chief."

Quoth the Caliph, "Allah strike thee dead![FN#391] How knewest thou that? But we accept what thou sayst." Then he ordered him a dress of honour and a thousand dinars, and he went away rejoicing. And among tales they tell is one of



THE MAN WHO STOLE THE DISH OF GOLD WHEREIN THE DOG ATE.



Sometime erst there was a man, who had accumulated debts, and his case was straitened upon him, so that he left his people and family and went forth in distraction; and he ceased not wandering on at random till he came after a time to a city tall of walls and firm of foundations. He entered it in a state of despondency and despair, harried by hunger and worn with the weariness of his way. As he passed through one of the main streets, he saw a company of the great going along; so he followed them till they reached a house like to a royal-palace. He entered with them, and they stayed not faring forwards till they came in presence of a person seated at the upper end of a saloon, a man of the most dignified and majestic aspect, surrounded by pages and eunuchs, as he were of the sons of the Wazirs.When he saw the visitors, he rose to greet them and received them with honour; but the poor man aforesaid was confounded at his own boldness, when beholding——And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Forty-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the poor man aforesaid was confounded at his own boldness, when beholding the goodliness of the place and the crowd of servants and attendants; so drawing back, in perplexity and fear for his life sat down apart in a place afar off. where none should see him. Now it chanced that whilst he was sitting, behold, in came a man with four sporting-dogs, whereon were various kinds of raw silk and brocade[FN#392] and wearing round their necks collars of gold with chains of silver, and tied up each dog in a place set privy for him; after which he went out and presently returned with four dishes of gold, full of rich meats, which he set severally before the dogs, one for each. Then he went away and left them, whilst the poor man began to eye the food, for stress of hunger, and longed to go up to one of the dogs and eat with him, but fear of them withheld him. Presently, one of the dogs looked at him and Allah Almighty inspired the dog with a knowledge of his case; so he drew back from the platter and signed to the man, who came and ate till he was filled. Then he would have withdrawn, but the dog again signed to him to take for himself the dish and what food was left in it, and pushed it towards him with his fore-paw. So the man took the dish and leaving the house, went his way, and none followed him. Then he journeyed to another city where he sold the dish and buying with the price a stock-in-trade, returned to his own town. There he sold his goods and paid his debts; and he throve and became affluent and rose to perfect prosperity. He abode in his own land; but after some years had passed he said to himself, "Needs must I repair to the city of the owner of the dish, and, carry him a fit and handsome present and pay him the money-value of that which his dog bestowed upon me." So he took the price of the dish and a suitable gift; and, setting out, journeyed day and night, till he came to that city; he entered it and sought the place where the man lived; but he found there naught save ruins mouldering in row and croak of crow, and house and home desolate and all conditions in changed state. At this, his heart and soul were troubled, and he repeated the saying of him who saith,

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse