The Emir and his companions wept; then, drawing near unto the pavilion, they saw that it had eight doors of sandal-wood, studded with nails of gold and stars of silver and inlaid with all manner precious stones. On the first door were written these verses,
"What I left, I left it not for nobility of soul, * But through sentence and decree that to every man are dight. What while I lived happy, with a temper haught and high, * My hoarding-place defending like a lion in the fight, I took no rest, and greed of gain forbad me give a grain * Of mustard seed to save from the fires of Hell my sprite, Until stricken on a day, as with arrow, by decree * Of the Maker, the Fashioner, the Lord of Might and Right. When my death was appointed, my life I could not keep * By the many of my stratagems, my cunning and my sleight: My troops I had collected availed me not, and none * Of my friends and of my neighbours had power to mend my plight: Through my life I was weaned in journeying to death * In stress or in solace, in joyance or despight: So when money-bags are bloated, and dinar unto dinar * Thou addest, all may leave thee with fleeting of the night: And the driver of a camel and the digger of a grave[FN#115] * Are what shine heirs shall bring ere the morning dawneth bright: And on Judgment Day alone shalt thou stand before thy Lord, * Overladen with thy sins and thy crimes and shine affright: Let the world not seduce thee with lurings, but behold * What measure to thy family and neighbours it hath doled."
When Musa heard these verses, he wept with such weeping that he swooned away; then, coming to himself, he entered the pavilion and saw therein a long tomb, awesome to look upon, whereon was a tablet of China steel and Shaykh Abd al-Samad drew near it and read this inscription: "In the name of Ever-lasting Allah, the Never-beginning, the Never-ending; in the name of Allah who begetteth not nor is He begot and unto whom the like is not; in the name of Allah the Lord of Majesty and Might; in the name of the Living One who to death is never dight!"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Sixty-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Shaykh Abd al-Samad, having read the aforesaid, also found the following, "O thou who comest to this place, take warning by that which thou seest of the accidents of Time and the vicissitudes of Fortune and be not deluded by the world and its pomps and vanities and fallacies and falsehoods and vain allurements, for that it is flattering, deceitful end treacherous, and the things thereof are but a loan to us which it will borrow back from all borrowers. It is like unto the dreams of the dreamer and the sleep-visions of the sleeper or as the mirage of the desert, which the thirsty take for water;[FN#116] and Satan maketh it fair for men even unto death These are the ways of the world; wherefore put not thou thy trust therein neither incline thereto, for it bewrayeth him who leaneth upon it and who committeth himself thereunto in his affairs. Fall not thou into its snares neither take hold upon its skirts, but be warned by my example. I possessed four thou sand bay horses and a haughty palace, and I had to wife a thou sand daughters of kings, high-bosomed maids, as they were moons: I was blessed with a thousand sons as they were fierce lions, and I abode a thousand years, glad of heart and mind, and I amassed treasures beyond the competence of all the Kings of the regions of the earth, deeming that delight would still endure to me. But there fell on me unawares the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies, the Desolator of domiciles and the Spoiler of inhabited spots, the Murtherer of great and small, babes and children and mothers, he who hath no ruth on the poor for his poverty, or feareth the King for all his bidding or forbidding. Verily, we abode safe and secure in this palace, till there descended upon us the judgment of the Lord of the Three Worlds, Lord of the Heavens, and Lord of the Earths, the vengeance of the Manifest Truth[FN#117] overtook us, when there died of us every day two, till a great company of us had perished. When I saw that destruction had entered our dwellings and had homed with us and in the sea of deaths had drowned us, I summoned a writer and bade him indite these verses and instances and admonitions, the which I let grave, with rule and compass, on these doors and tablets and tombs. Now I had an army of a thousand thousand bridles, men of warrior mien with forearms strong and keen, armed with spears and mail-coats sheen and swords that gleam; so I bade them don their long-hanging hauberks and gird on their biting blades and mount their high-mettled steeds and level their dreadful lances; and whenas there fell on us the doom of the Lord of heaven and earth, I said to them, 'Ho, all ye soldiers and troopers, can ye avail to ward off that which is fallen on me from the Omnipotent King?' But troopers and soldiers availed not unto this and said, 'How shall we battle with Him to whom no chamberlain barreth access, the Lord of the door which hath no doorkeeper?' Then quoth I to them, 'Bring me my treasures' Now I had in my treasuries a thousand cisterns in each of which were a thousand quintals[FN#118] of red gold and the like of white silver, besides pearls and jewels of all kinds and other things of price, beyond the attainment of the kings of the earth. So they did that and when they had laid all the treasure in my presence, I said to them, 'Can ye ransom me with all this treasure or buy me one day of life therewith?' But they could not! So they resigned themselves to fore-ordained Fate and fortune and I submitted to the judgment of Allah, enduring patiently that which he decreed unto me of affliction, till He took my soul and made me to dwell in my grave. And if thou ask of my name, I am Kush, the son of Shaddad son of Ad the Greater." And upon the tablets were engraved these lines,
"An thou wouldst know my name, whose day is done * With shifts of time and chances 'neath the sun, Know I am Shaddad's son, who ruled mankind * And o'er all earth upheld dominion! All stubborn peoples abject were to me; * And Sham to Cairo and to Adnanwone;[FN#119] I reigned in glory conquering many kings; * And peoples feared my mischief every one. Yea, tribes and armies in my hand I saw; * The world all dreaded me, both friends and fone. When I took horse, I viewed my numbered troops, * Bridles on neighing steeds a million. And I had wealth that none could tell or count, * Against misfortune treasuring all I won; Fain had I bought my life with all my wealth, * And for a moment's space my death to shun; But God would naught save what His purpose willed; * So from my brethren cut I 'bode alone: And Death, that sunders man, exchanged my lot * To pauper hut from grandeur's mansion When found I all mine actions gone and past * Wherefor I'm pledged[FN#120] and by my sin undone. Then fear, O man, who by a brink dost range, * The turns of Fortune and the chance of Change."
The Emir Musa was hurt to his heart and loathed his life for what he saw of the slaughtering-places of the folk; and, as they went about the highways and byeways of the palace, viewing its sitting-chambers and pleasaunces, behold they came upon a table of yellow onyx, upborne on four feet of juniper-wood,[FN#121] and there-on these words graven, "At this table have eaten a thousand kings blind of the right eye and a thousand blind of the left and yet other thousand sound of both eyes, all of whom have departed the world and have taken up their sojourn in the tombs and the catacombs." All this the Emir wrote down and left the palace, carrying off with him naught save the table aforesaid. Then he fared on with his host three days' space, under the guidance of the Shaykh Abd al-Samad, till they came to a high hill, whereon stood a horseman of brass. In his hand he held a lance with a broad head, in brightness like blinding leven, whereon was graven, "O thou that comest unto me, if thou know not the way to the City of Brass, rub the hand of this rider and he will turn round and presently stop. Then take the direction whereto he faceth and fare fearless, for it will bring thee, without hardship, to the city aforesaid."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventieth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Emir Musa rubbed the horseman's hand he revolved like the dazzling lightning, and stopped facing in a direction other than that wherein they were journeying. So they took the road to which he pointed (which was the right way) and, finding it a beaten track, fared on through their days and nights till they had covered a wide tract of country. Then they came upon a pillar of black stone like a furnace chimney wherein was one sunken up to his armpits. He had two great wings and four arms, two of them like the arms of the sons of Adam and other two as they were lion's paws, with claws of iron, and he was black and tall and frightful of aspect, with hair like horses' tails and eyes like blazing coals, slit upright in his face. Moreover, he had in the middle of his forehead a third eye, as it were that of a lynx, from which flew sparks of fire, and he cried out saying, "Glory to my Lord, who hath adjudged unto me this grievous torment and sore punishment until the Day of Doom!" When the folk saw him, they lost their reason for affright and turned to flee; so the Emir Musa asked the Shaykh Abd al-Samad, "What is this?"; and he answered, "I know not." Whereupon quoth Musa, "Draw near and question him of his condition; haply he will discover to thee his case." "Allah assain thee, Emir! Indeed, I am afraid of him;" replied the Shaykh; but the Emir rejoined, saying, "Fear not; he is hindered from thee and from all others by that wherein he is." So Abd al-Samad drew near to the pillar and said to him which was therein, "O creature, what is thy name and what art thou and how camest thou here in this fashion?" "I am an Ifrit of the Jinn," replied he, "by name Dahish, son of Al-A'amash,[FN#122] and am confined here by the All-might, prisoned here by the Providence and punished by the judgement of Allah, till it pleases Him, to whom belong Might and Majesty, to release me." Then said Musa, "Ask him why he is in durance of this column?" So the Shaykh asked him of this, and the Ifrit replied, saying, "Verily my tale is wondrous and my case marvellous, and it is this. One of the sons of Iblis had an idol of red carnelian, whereof I was guardian, and there served it a King of the Kings of the sea, a Prince of puissant power and prow of prowess, over-ruling a thousand thousand warriors of the Jann who smote with swords before him and answered his summons in time of need. All these were under my commandment and obeyed my behest, being each and every rebels against Solomon, son of David, on whom be peace! And I used to enter the belly of the idol and thence bid and forbid them. Now this King's daughter loved the idol and was frequent in prostration to it and assiduous in its service; and she was the fairest woman of her day, accomplished in beauty and loveliness, elegance and grace. She was described unto Solomon and he sent to her father, saying, 'Give me thy daughter to wife and break shine idol of carnelian and testify saying, There is no god but the God and Solomon is the Prophet of Allah!' an thou do this, our due shall be thy due and thy debt shall be our debt, but, if thou refuse, make ready to answer the summons of the Lord and don thy grave-gear, for I will come upon thee with an irresistible host, which shall fill the waste places of earth and make thee as yesterday that is passed away and hath no return for aye.' When this message reached the King, he waxed insolent and rebellious, pride-full and contumacious and he cried to his Wazirs, 'What say ye of this? Know ye that Solomon son of David hath sent requiring me to give him my daughter to wife, and break my idol of carnelian and enter his faith!' And they replied, 'O mighty King, how shall Solomon do thus with thee? Even could he come at thee in the midst of this vast ocean, he could not prevail against thee, for the Marids of the Jann will fight on thy side and thou wilt ask succour of shine idol whom thou servest, and he will help thee and give thee victory over him. So thou wouldst do well to consult on this matter thy Lord,' (meaning the idol aforesaid) 'and hear what he saith. If he say, Fight him, fight him, and if not, not.' So the King went in without stay or delay to his idol and offered up sacrifices and slaughtered victims; after which he fell down before him, prostrate and weeping, and repeated these verses,
'O my Lord, well I weet thy puissant hand: * Sulayman would break thee and see thee bann'd. O my Lord, to crave succour here I stand * Command and I bow to thy high command!'
Then I" (continued the Ifrit addressing the Shaykh and those about him), "of my ignorance and want of wit and recklessness of the commandment of Solomon and lack of knowledge anent his power, entered the belly of the idol and made answer as follows.
'As for me, of him I feel naught affright, * For my lore and my wisdom are infinite: If he wish for warfare I'll show him fight * And out of his body I'll tear his sprite!'
When the King heard my boastful reply, he hardened his heart and resolved to wage war upon the Prophet and to offer him battle; wherefore he beat the messenger with a grievous beating and returned a foul answer to Solomon, threatening him and saying, 'Of a truth, thy soul hath suggested to thee a vain thing; dost thou menace me with mendacious words? But gird thyself for battle; for, an thou come not to me, I will assuredly come to thee.' So the messenger returned to Solomon and told him all that had passed and whatso had befallen him, which when the Prophet heard, he raged like Doomsday and addressed himself to the fray and levied armies of men and Jann and birds and reptiles. He commanded his Wazir Al-Dimiryat, King of the Jann, to gather together the Marids of the Jinn from all parts, and he collected for him six hundred thousand thousand of devils.[FN#123] Moreover, by his order, his Wazir Asaf bin Barkhiya levied him an army of men, to the number of a thousand thousand or more. These all he furnished with arms and armour and mounting, with his host, upon his carpet, took flight through air, while the beasts fared under him and the birds flew overhead, till he lighted down on the island of the refractory King and encompassed it about, filling earth with his hosts."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-first Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Ifrit continued, "So when Solomon the prophet (with whom be peace!) lighted down with his host on the island he sent to our King, saying, 'Behold, I am come: defend thy life against that which is fallen upon thee, or else make thy submission to me and confess my apostleship and give me thy daughter to lawful wife and break thine idol and worship the one God, the alone Worshipful; and testify, thou and shine, and say, 'There is no God but the God, and Solomon is the Apostle of Allah![FN#124] This if thou do, thou shalt have pardon and peace; but if not, it will avail thee nothing to fortify thyself in this island, for Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) hath bidden the wind obey me; so I will bid it bear me to thee on my carpet and make thee a warning and an example to deter others.' But the King made answer to his messenger, saying, 'It may not on any wise be as he requireth of me; so tell him I come forth to him,' With this reply the messenger returned to Solomon, who thereupon gathered together all the Jinn that were under his hand, to the number of a thousand thousand, and added to them other than they of Marids and Satans from the islands of the sea and the tops of the mountains and, drawing them up on parade, opened his armouries and distributed to them arms and armour. Then the Prophet drew out his host in battle array, dividing the beasts into two bodies, one on the right wing of the men and the other on the left, and bidding them tear the enemies' horses in sunder. Furthermore, he ordered the birds which were in the island to hover over their heads and, whenas the assault should be made, that they should swoop down and tear out the foe's eyes with their beaks and buffet their faces with their wings; and they answered, saying, 'We hear and we obey Allah and thee, O Prophet of Allah!' Then Solomon seated himself on a throne of alabaster, studded with precious stones and plated with red gold; and, commanding the wind to bear him aloft, set his Wazir Asaf bin Barkhiya[FN#125] and the kings of mankind on his right and his Wazir Al-Dimiryat and the kings of the Jinn on his left, arraying the beasts and vipers and serpents in the van. Thereupon they all set on us together, and we gave them battle two days over a vast plain; but, on the third day, disaster befel us, and the judgment of Allah the Most High was executed upon us. Now the first to charge upon them were I and my troops, and I said to my companions, 'Abide in your places, whilst I sally forth to them and provoke Al-Dimiryat to combat singular.' And behold, he came forth to the duello as he were a vast mountain, with his fires flaming and his smoke spireing, and shot at me a falling star of fire; but I swerved from it and it missed me. Then I cast at him in my turn, a flame of fire, and smote him; but his shaft[FN#126] overcame my fire and he cried out at me so terrible a cry that meseemed the skies were fallen flat upon me, and the mountains trembled at his voice. Then he commanded his hosts to charge; accordingly they rushed on us and we rushed on them, each crying out upon other, and battle reared its crest rising in volumes and smoke ascending in columns and hearts well nigh cleaving. The birds and the flying Jinn fought in the air and the beasts and men and the foot-faring Jann in the dust and I fought with Al- Dimiryat, till I was aweary and he not less so. At last, I grew weak and turned to flee from him, whereupon my companions and tribesmen likewise took to flight and my hosts were put to the rout, and Solomon cried out, saying, 'Take yonder furious tyrant, the accursed, the infamous!' Then man fell upon man and Jinn upon Jinn and the armies of the Prophet charged down upon us, with the wild beasts and lions on their right hand and on their left, rending our horses and tearing our men; whilst the birds hovered over-head in air pecking out our eyes with their claws and beaks and beating our faces with their wings, and the serpents struck us with their fangs, till the most of our folk lay prone upon the face of the earth, like the trunks of date-trees. Thus defeat befel our King and we became a spoil unto Solomon. As to me, I fled from before Al-Dimiryat, but he followed me three months' journey, till I fell down for weariness and he overtook me, and pouncing upon me, made me prisoner. Quoth I, 'By the virtue of Him who hath exalted thee and abased me, spare me and bring me into the presence of Solomon, on whom be peace!' So he carried me before Solomon, who received me after the foulest fashion and bade bring this pillar and hollow it out. Then he set me herein and chained me and sealed me with his signet-ring, and Al- Dimiryat bore me to this place wherein thou seest me. Moreover, he charged a great angel to guard me, and this pillar is my prison until Judgment-day." Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Jinni who was prisoned in the pillar had told them his tale, from first to last, the folk marvelled at his story and at the frightfulness of his favour, and the Emir Musa said, "There is no God but the God! Soothly was Solomon gifted with a mighty dominion." Then said the Shaykh Abd al-Samad to the Jinni, "Ho there! I would fain ask thee of a thing, whereof do thou inform us." "Ask what thou wilt," answered the Ifrit Dahish and the Shaykh said, "Are there hereabouts any of the Ifrits imprisoned in bottles of brass from the time of Solomon (on whom be peace!)?" "Yes," replied the Jinni; "there be such in the sea of al-Karkar[FN#127] on the shores whereof dwell a people of the lineage of Noah (on whom be peace!); for their country was not reached by the Deluge and they are cut off there from the other sons of Adam." Quoth Abd al-Samad, "And which is the way to the City of Brass and the place wherein are the cucurbites of Solomon, and what distance lieth between us and it?" Quoth the Ifrit, "It is near at hand," and directed them in the way thither. So they left him and fared forward till there appeared to them afar off a great blackness and therein two fires facing each other, and the Emir Musa asked the Shaykh, "What is yonder vast blackness and its twin fires?"; and the guide answered, "Rejoice O Emir, for this is the City of Brass, as it is described in the Book of Hidden Treasures which I have by me. Its walls are of black stone and it hath two towers of Andalusian brass,[FN#128] which appear to the beholder in the distance as they were twin fires, and hence is it named the City of Brass." Then they fared on without ceasing till they drew near the city and behold, it was as it were a piece of a mountain or a mass of iron cast in a mould and impenetrable for the height of its walls and bulwarks; while nothing could be more beautiful than its buildings and its ordinance. So they dismounted down and sought for an entrance, but saw none neither found any trace of opening in the walls, albeit there were five-and-twenty portals to the city, but none of them was visible from without. Then quoth the Emir, "O Shaykh, I see to this city no sign of any gate;" and quoth he, "O Emir, thus is it described in my Book of Hidden Treasures; it hath five-and-twenty portals; but none thereof may be opened save from within the city." Asked Musa, " And how shall we do to enter the city and view its wonders?" and Talib son of Sahl, his Wazir, answered, "Allah assain the Emir! let us rest here two or three days and, God willing, we will make shift to come within the walls." Then said Musa to one of his men, "Mount thy camel and ride round about the city, so haply thou may light upon a gate or a place somewhat lower than this fronting us, or Inshallah! a breach whereby we can enter." Accordingly he mounted his beast, taking water and victuals with him, and rode round the city two days and two nights, without drawing rein to rest, but found the wall thereof as it were one block, without breach or way of ingress; and on the third day, he came again in sight of his companions, dazed and amazed at what he had seen of the extent and loftiness of the place, and said, "O Emir, the easiest place of access is this where you have alighted." Then Musa took Talib and Abd al-Samad and ascended the highest hill which overlooked the city. When they reached the top, they beheld beneath them a city, never saw eyes a greater or a goodlier, with dwelling-places and mansions of towering height, and palaces and pavilions and domes gleaming gloriously bright and sconces and bulwarks of strength infinite; and its streams were a-flowing and flowers a-blowing and fruits a glowing. It was a city with gates impregnable; but void and still, without a voice or a cheering inhabitant. The owl hooted in its quarters; the bird skimmed circling over its squares and the raven croaked in its great thoroughfares weeping and bewailing the dwellers who erst made it their dwelling.[FN#129] The Emir stood awhile, marvelling and sorrowing for the desolation of the city and saying, Glory to Him whom nor ages nor changes nor times can blight, Him who created all things of His Might!" Presently, he chanced to look aside and caught sight of seven tablets of white marble afar off. So he drew near them and finding inscriptions graven thereon, called the Shaykh and bade him read these. Accordingly he came forward and, examining the inscriptions, found that they contained matter of admonition and warning and instances and restraint to those of understanding. On the first tablet was inscribed, in the ancient Greek character: "O son of Adam, how heedless art thou of that which is before thee! Verily, thy years and months and days have diverted thee therefrom. Knowest thou not that the cup of death is filled for thy bane which in a little while to the dregs thou shalt drain? Look to thy doom ere thou enter thy tomb. Where be the Kings who held dominion over the lands and abased Allah's servants and built these palaces and had armies under their commands? By Allah, the Destroyer of delights and the Severer of societies and the Devastator of dwelling-places came down upon them and transported them from the spaciousness of their palaces to the staitness of their burial-places." And at the foot of the tablet were written the following verses,
"Where are the Kings earth-peopling, where are they? * The built and peopled left they e'er and aye! They're tombed yet pledged to actions past away * And after death upon them came decay. Where are their troops? They failed to ward and guard! * Where are the wealth and hoards in treasuries lay? Th' Empyrean's Lord surprised them with one word, * Nor wealth nor refuge could their doom delay!"
When the Emir heard this, he cried out and the tears ran down his cheeks and he exclaimed, "By Allah, from the world abstaining is the wisest course and the sole assaining!" And he called for pen- case and paper and wrote down what was graven on the first tablet. Then he drew near the second tablet and found these words graven thereon, "O son of Adam, what hath seduced thee from the service of the Ancient of Days and made thee forget that one day thou must defray the debt of death? Wottest thou not that it is a transient dwelling wherein for none there is abiding; and yet thou taketh thought unto the world and cleaves" fast thereto? Where be the kings who Irak peopled and the four quarters of the globe possessed? Where be they who abode in Ispahan and the land of Khorasan? The voice of the Summoner of Death summoned them and they answered him, and the Herald of Destruction hailed them and they replied, Here are we! Verily, that which they builded and fortified profited them naught; neither did what they had gathered and provided avail for their defence." And at the foot of the tablet were graven the following verses,
Where be the men who built and fortified * High places never man their like espied? In fear of Fate they levied troops and hosts, * Availing naught when came the time and tide, Where be the Kisras homed in strongest walls? * As though they ne'er had been from home they tried!"
The Emir Musa wept and exclaimed, "By Allah, we are indeed created for a grave matter!" Then he copied the inscription and passed on to the third tablet,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Emir Musa passed on to the third tablet, whereon was written, "O son of Adam, the things of this world thou lovest and prizest and the hest of thy Lord thou spurnest and despisest. All the days of thy life pass by and thou art content thus to aby. Make ready thy viaticum against the day appointed for thee to see and prepare to answer the Lord of every creature that be!" And at the foot were written these verses,
"Where is the wight who peopled in the past * Hind land and Sind; and there the tyrant played? Who Zanj[FN#130] and Habash bound beneath his yoke, * And Nubia curbed and low its puissance laid. Look not for news of what is in his grave. * Ah, he is far who can thy vision aid! The stroke of death fell on him sharp and sure; * Nor saved him palace, nor the lands he swayed."
At this Musa wept with sore weeping and, going on to the fourth tablet, he read inscribed thereon, "O son of Adam, how long shall thy Lord bear with thee and thou every day sunken in the sea of thy folly? Hath it then been stablished unto thee that some day thou shalt not die? O son of Adam, let not the deceits of thy days and nights and times and hours delude thee with their delights; but remember that death lieth ready for thee ambushing, fain on thy shoulders to spring, nor doth a day pass but he morneth with thee in the morning and nighteth with thee by night. Beware, then, of his onslaught and make provision there-against. As was with me, so it is with thee; thou wastest thy whole life and squanderest the joys in which thy days are rife. Hearken, therefore, to my words and put thy trust in the Lord of Lords; for in the world there is no stability; it is but as a spider's web to thee." And at the foot of the tablet were written these couplets,
"Where is the man who did those labours ply * And based and built and reared these walls on high? Where be the castles' lords? Who therein dwelt * Fared forth and left them in decay to lie. All are entombed, in pledge against the day * When every sin shall show to every eye. None but the Lord Most High endurance hath, * Whose Might and Majesty shall never die."
When the Emir read this, he swooned away and presently coming to himself marvelled exceedingly and wrote it down. Then he drew near the fifth tablet and behold, thereon was graven, "O son of Adam, what is it that distracteth thee from obedience of thy Creator and the Author of thy being, Him who reared thee whenas thou west a little one, and fed thee whenas thou west full-grown? Thou art ungrateful for His bounty, albeit He watcheth over thee with His favours, letting down the curtain of His protection over thee. Needs must there be for thee an hour bitterer than aloes and hotter than live coals. Provide thee, therefore, against it; for who shall sweeten its gall or quench its fires? Bethink thee who forewent thee of peoples and heroes and take warning by them, ere thou perish." And at the foot of the tablet were graven these couplets,
"Where be the Earth-kings who from where they 'bode, * Sped and to grave yards with their hoardings yode: Erst on their mounting-days there hadst beheld * Hosts that concealed the ground whereon they rode: How many a king they humbled in their day! * How many a host they led and laid on load! But from th' Empyrean's Lord in haste there came * One word, and joy waxed grief ere morning glowed."
The Emir marvelled at this and wrote it down; after which he passed on to the sixth tablet and behold, was inscribed thereon, "O son of Adam, think not that safety will endure for ever and aye, seeing that death is sealed to thy head alway. Where be thy fathers, where be thy brethren, where thy friends and dear ones? They have all gone to the dust of the tombs and presented themselves before the Glorious, the Forgiving, as if they had never eaten nor drunken, and they are a pledge for that which they have earned. So look to thyself, ere thy tomb come upon thee." And at the foot of the tablet were these couplets,
"Where be the Kings who ruled the Franks of old? * Where be the King who peopled Tingis-wold[FN#131]? Their works are written in a book which He, * The One, th' All- father shall as witness hold."
At this the Emir Musa marvelled and wrote it down, saying, "There is no god but the God! Indeed, how goodly were these folk!" Then he went up to the seventh tablet and behold, thereon was written, "Glory to Him who fore-ordaineth death to all He createth, the Living One, who dieth not! O son of Adam, let not thy days and their delights delude thee, neither shine hours and the delices of their time, and know that death to thee cometh and upon thy shoulder sitteth. Beware, then, of his assault and make ready for his onslaught. As it was with me, so it is with thee; thou wastest the sweet of thy life and the joyance of shine hours. Give ear, then, to my rede and put thy trust in the Lord of Lords and know that in the world is no stability, but it is as it were a spider's web to thee and all that is therein shall die and cease to be. Where is he who laid the foundation of Amid[FN#132] and builded it and builded Farikin[FN#133] and exalted it? Where be the peoples of the strong places? Whenas them they had inhabited, after their might into the tombs they descended. They have been carried off by death and we shall in like manner be afflicted by doom. None abideth save Allah the Most High, for He is Allah the Forgiving One." The Emir Musa wept and copied all this, and indeed the world was belittled in his eyes. Then he descended the hill and rejoined his host, with whom he passed the rest of tile day, casting about for a means of access to the city. And he said to his Wazir Talib bin Sahl and to the chief officers about him, "How shall we contrive to enter this city and view its marvels?: haply we shall find therein wherewithal to win the favour of the Commander of the Faithful." "Allah prolong the Emir's fortune!" replied Talib, "let us make a ladder and mount the wall therewith, so peradventure we may come at the gate from within." Quoth the Emir, "This is what occurred to my thought also, and admirable is the advice!" Then he called for carpenters and blacksmiths and bade them fashion wood and build a ladder plated and banded with iron. So they made a strong ladder and many men wrought at it a whole month. Then all the company laid hold of it and set it up against the wall, and it reached the top as truly as if it had been built for it before that time. The Emir marvelled and said, "The blessing of Allah be upon you. It seems as though ye had taken the measure of the mure, so excellent is your work." Then said he to his men, "Which of you will mount the ladder and walk along the wall and cast about for a way of descending into the city, so to see how the case stands and let us know how we may open the gate?" Whereupon quoth one of them, "I will go up, O Emir, and descend and open to you"; and Musa answered, saying, "Go and the blessing of Allah go with thee!" So the man mounted the ladder; but, when he came to the top of the wall, he stood up and gazed fixedly down into the city, then clapped his hands and crying out, at the top of his voice, "By Allah, thou art fair!" cast himself down into the place, and Musa cried, "By Allah, he is a dead man!" But another came up to him and said, "O Emir, this was a madman and doubtless his madness got the better of him and destroyed him. I will go up and open the gate to you, if it be the will of Allah the Most High." "Go up," replied Musa, "and Allah be with thee! But beware lest thou lose thy head, even as did thy comrade." Then the man mounted the ladder, but no sooner had he reached the top of the wall than he laughed aloud, saying, "Well done! well done!"; and clapping palms cast himself down into the city and died forthright. When the Emir saw this, he said, "An such be the action of a reasonable man, what is that of the madman? If all our men do on this wise, we shall have none left and shall fail of our errand and that of the Commander of the Faithful. Get ye ready for the march: verily we have no concern with this city." But a third one of the company said, "Haply another may be steadier than they." So a third mounted the wall and a fourth and a fifth and all cried out and cast themselves down, even as did the first, nor did they leave to do thus, till a dozen had perished in like fashion. Then the Shaykh Abd al-Samad came forward and heartened himself and said, "This affair is reserved to none other than myself; for the experienced is not like the inexperienced." Quoth the Emir, "Indeed thou shalt not do that nor will I have thee go up: an thou perish, we shall all be cut off to the last man since thou art our guide." But he answered, saying, "Peradventure, that which we seek may be accomplished at my hands, by the grace of God Most High!" So the folk all agreed to let him mount the ladder, and he arose and heartening himself, said, "In the name of Allah, the Compassionating, the Compassionate!" and mounted the ladder, calling on the name of the Lord and reciting the Verses of Safety.[FN#134] When he reached the top of the wall, he clapped his hands and gazed fixedly down into the city; whereupon the folk below cried out to him with one accord, saying "O Shaykh Abd al-Samad, for the Lord's sake, cast not thyself down!"; and they added, "Verily we are Allah's and unto Him we are returning! If the Shaykh fall, we are dead men one and all." Then he laughed beyond all measure and sat a long hour, reciting the names of Allah Almighty and repeating the Verses of Safety; then he rose arid cried out at the top of his voice, saying, O Emir, have no fear; no hurt shall betide you, for Allah (to whom belong Might and Majesty!) hath averted from me the wiles and malice of Satan, by the blessing of the words, 'In the name of Allah the Compassionating the Compassionate!'" Asked Musa, "What didst thou see, O Shaykh?"; and Abd al-Samad answered, "I saw ten maidens, as they were Houris of Heaven calling to me with their hands"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-fourth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Shaykh Abd al-Samad answered, "I saw ten maidens like Houris of Heaven,[FN#135] and they calling and signing,[FN#136] 'Come hither to us'; and meseemed there was below me a lake of water. So I thought to throw myself down, when behold, I espied my twelve companions lying dead; so I restrained myself and recited somewhat of Allah's Book, whereupon He dispelled from me the damsels' witchlike wiles and malicious guiles and they disappeared. And doubtless this was an enchantment devised by the people of the city, to repel any who should seek to gaze upon or to enter the place. And it hath succeeded in slaying our companions." Then he walked on along the wall, till he came to the two towers of brass aforesaid and saw therein two gates of gold, without pad locks or visible means of opening. Hereat he paused as long as Allah pleased[FN#137] and gazed about him awhile, till he espied in the middle of one of the gates, a horseman of brass with hand outstretched as if pointing, and in his palm was somewhat written. So he went up to it and read these words, "O thou who comest to this place, an thou wouldst enter turn the pin in my navel twelve times and the gate will open." Accordingly, he examined the horseman and finding in his navel a pin of gold, firm-set and fast fixed, he turned it twelve times, whereupon the horseman revolved like the blinding lightning and the gate swung open with a noise like thunder. He entered and found himself in a long passage,[FN#138] which brought him down some steps into a guard-room furnished with goodly wooden benches, whereon sat men dead, over whose heads hung fine shields and keen blades and bent bows and shafts ready notched. Thence, he came to the main gate of the city; and, finding it secured with iron bars and curiously wrought locks and bolts and chains and other fastenings of wood and metal, said to himself, "Belike the keys are with yonder dead folk." So he turned back to the guard-room and seeing amongst the dead an old man seated upon a high wooden bench, who seemed the chiefest of them, said in his mind, "Who knows but they are with this Shaykh? Doubtless he was the warder of the city and these others were under his hand." So he went up to him and lifting his gown, behold, the keys were hanging to his girdle; whereat he joyed with exceeding joy and was like to fly for gladness. Then he took them and going up to the portal, undid the padlocks and drew back the bolts and bars, whereupon the great leaves flew open with a crash like the pealing thunder by reason of its greatness and terribleness. At this he cried out saying, "Allaho Akbar—God is most great!" And the folk without answered him with the same words, rejoicing and thanking him for his deed. The Emir Musa also was delighted at the Shaykh's safety and the opening of the city-gate, and the troops all pressed forward to enter; but Musa cried out to them, saying, "O folk, if we all go in at once we shall not be safe from some ill-chance which may betide us. Let half enter and other half tarry without." So he pushed forwards with half his men, bearing their weapons of war, and finding their comrades lying dead, they buried them; and they saw the doorkeepers and eunuchs and chamberlains and officers reclining on couches of silk and all were corpses. Then they fared on till they came to the chief market-place, full of lofty buildings whereof none overpassed the others, and found all its shops open, with the scales hung out and the brazen vessels ordered and the caravanserais full of all manner goods; and they beheld the merchants sitting on the shop-boards dead, with shrivelled skin and rotted bones, a warning to those who can take warning; and here they saw four separate markets all replete with wealth. Then they left the great bazar and went on till they came to the silk market, where they found silks and brocades, orfrayed with red gold and diapered with white silver upon all manner of colours, and the owners lying dead upon mats of scented goats' leather, and looking as if they would speak; after which they traversed the market-street of pearls and rubies and other jewels and came to that of the schroffs and money-changers, whom they saw sitting dead upon carpets of raw silk and dyed stuffs in shops full of gold and silver. Thence they passed to the perfumers' bazar where they found the shops filled with drugs of all kinds and bladders of musk and ambergris and Nadd-scent and camphor and other perfumes, in vessels of ivory and ebony and Khalanj-wood and Andalusian copper, the which is equal in value to gold; and various kinds of rattan and Indian cane; but the shopkeepers all lay dead nor was there with them aught of food. And hard by this drug-market they came upon a palace, imposingly edified and magnificently decorated; so they entered and found therein banners displayed and drawn sword blades and strung bows and bucklers hanging by chains of gold and silver and helmets gilded with red gold. In the vestibules stood benches of ivory, plated with glittering gold and covered with silken stuffs, whereon lay men, whose skin had dried up on their bones; the fool had deemed them sleeping; but, for lack of food, they had perished and tasted the cup of death. Now when the Emir Musa saw this, he stood still, glorifying Allah the Most High and hallowing Him and contemplating the beauty of the palace and the massiveness of its masonry and fair perfection of its ordinance, for it was builded after the goodliest and stablest fashion and the most part of its adornment was of green[FN#139] lapis-lazuli, and on the inner door, which stood open, were written in characters of gold and ultramarine, these couplets,
"Consider thou, O man, what these places to thee showed * And be upon thy guard ere thou travel the same road: And prepare thee good provision some day may serve thy turn * For each dweller in the house needs must yede wi' those who yode Consider how this people their palaces adorned * And in dust have been pledged for the seed of acts they sowed They built but their building availed them not, and hoards * Nor saved their lives nor day of Destiny forslowed: How often did they hope for what things were undecreed. * And passed unto their tombs before Hope the bounty showed And from high and awful state all a sudden they were sent * To the straitness of the grave and oh! base is their abode: Then came to them a Crier after burial and cried, * What booted thrones or crowns or the gold to you bestowed: Where now are gone the faces hid by curtain and by veil, * Whose charms were told in proverbs, those beauties a-la-mode? The tombs aloud reply to the questioners and cry, * 'Death's canker and decay those rosy cheeks corrode' Long time they ate and drank, but their joyaunce had a term, * And the eater eke was eaten, and was eaten by the worm."
When the Emir read this, he wept, till he was like to swoon away- -And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred ante Seventy-fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Emir wept till he was like to swoon away, and bade write down the verses, after which he passed on into the inner palace and came to a vast hall, at each of whose four corners stood a pavilion lofty and spacious, washed with gold and silver and painted in various colours. In the heart of the hall was a great jetting- fountain of alabaster, surmounted by a canopy of brocade, and in each pavilion was a sitting-place and each place had its richly- wrought fountain and tank paved with marble and streams flowing in channels along the floor and meeting in a great and grand cistern of many-coloured marbles. Quoth the Emir to the Shaykh Abd al-Samad, "Come let us visit yonder pavilion!" So they entered the first and found it full of gold and silver and pearls and jacinths and other precious stones and metals, besides chests filled with brocades, red and yellow and white. Then they repaired to the second pavilion, and, opening a closet there, found it full of arms and armour, such as gilded helmets and Davidean[FN#140] hauberks and Hindi swords and Arabian spears and Chorasmian[FN#141] maces and other gear of fight and fray. Thence they passed to the third pavilion, wherein they saw closets padlocked and covered with curtains wrought with all manner of embroidery. They opened one of these and found it full of weapons curiously adorned with open work and with gold and silver damascene and jewels. Then they entered the fourth pavilion, and opening one of the closets there, beheld in it great store of eating and drinking vessels of gold and silver, with platters of crystal and goblets set with fine pearls and cups of carnelian and so forth. So they all fell to taking that which suited their tastes and each of the soldiers carried off what he could. When they left the pavilions, they saw in the midst of the palace a door of teak-wood marquetried with ivory and ebony and plated with glittering gold, over which hung a silken curtain purfled with all manner of embroideries; and on this door were locks of white silver, that opened by artifice without a key. The Shaykh Abd al-Samad went valiantly up thereto and by the aid of his knowledge and skill opened the locks, whereupon the door admitted them into a corridor paved with marble and hung with veil- like[FN#142] tapestries embroidered with figures of all manner beasts and birds, whose bodies were of red gold and white silver and their eyes of pearls and rubies, amazing all who looked upon them. Passing onwards they came to a saloon builded all of polished marble, inlaid with jewels, which seemed to the beholder as though the floor were flowing water[FN#143] and whoso walked thereon slipped. The Emir bade the Shaykh strew somewhat upon it, that they might walk over it; which being done, they made shift to fare forwards till they came to a great domed pavilion of stone, gilded with red gold and crowned with a cupola of alabaster, about which were set lattice-windows carved and jewelled with rods of emerald,[FN#144] beyond the competence of any King. Under this dome was a canopy of brocede, reposing upon pillars of red gold and wrought with figures of birds whose feet were of smaragd, and beneath each bird was a network of fresh- hued pearls. The canopy was spread above a jetting fountain of ivory and carnelian, plated with glittering gold and thereby stood a couch set with pearls and rubies and other jewels and beside the couch a pillar of gold. On the capital of the column stood a bird fashioned of red rubies and holding in his bill a pearl which shone like a star; and on the couch lay a damsel, as she were the lucident sun, eyes never saw a fairer. She wore a tight-fitting body-robe of fine pearls, with a crown of red gold on her head, filleted with gems, and on her forehead were two great jewels, whose light was as the light of the sun. On her breast she wore a jewelled amulet, filled with musk and ambergris and worth the empire of the Caesars; and around her neck hung a collar of rubies and great pearls, hollowed and filled with odoriferous musk And it seemed as if she gazed on them to the right and to the left.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-sixth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the damsel seemed to be gazing at the folk to the right and to the left. The Emir Musa marvelled at her exceeding beauty and was confounded at the blackness of her hair and the redness of her cheeks, which made the beholder deem her alive and not dead, and said to her, "Peace be with thee, O damsel!" But Talib ibn Sahl said to him, "Allah preserve thee, O Emir, verily this damsel is dead and there is no life in her; so how shall she return thy salam?" adding, ' Indeed, she is but a corpse embalmed with exceeding art; her eyes were taken out after her death and quicksilver set under them, after which they were restored to their sockets. Wherefore they glisten and when the air moveth the lashes, she seemeth to wink and it appeareth to the beholder as though she looked at him, for all she is dead." At this the Emir marvelled beyond measure and said, "Glory be to God who subjugateth His creatures to the dominion of Death!" Now the couch on which the damsel lay, had steps, and thereon stood two statues of Andalusian copper representing slaves, one white and the other black. The first held a mace of steel[FN#145] and the second a sword of watered steel which dazzled the eye; and between them, on one of the steps of the couch, lay a golden tablet, whereon were written, in characters of white silver, the following words: "In the name of God, the Compassionating, the Compassionate! Praise be to Allah, the Creator of mankind; and He is the Lord of Lords, the Causer of Causes! In the name of Allah, the Never beginning, the Everlasting, the Ordainer of Fate and Fortune! O son of Adam! what hath befooled thee in this long esperance? What hath unminded thee of the Death-day's mischance? Knowest thou not that Death calleth for thee and hasteneth to seize upon the soul of thee? Be ready, therefore, for the way and provide thee for thy departure from the world; for, assuredly, thou shalt leave it without delay. Where is Adam, first of humanity? Where is Noah with his progeny? Where be the Kings of Hind and Irak-plain and they who over earth's widest regions reign? Where do the Amalekites abide and the giants and tyrants of olden tide? Indeed, the dwelling-places are void of them and they have departed from kindred and home. Where be the Kings of Arab and Ajam? They are dead, all of them, and gone and are become rotten bones. Where be the lords so high in stead? They are all done dead. Where are Kora and Haman? Where is Shaddad son of Ad? Where be Canaan and Zu'l-Autad,[FN#146] Lord of the Stakes? By Allah, the Reaper of lives hath reaped them and made void the lands of them. Did they provide them against the Day of Resurrection or make ready to answer the Lord of men? O thou, if thou know me not, I will acquaint thee with my name: I am Tadmurah,[FN#147] daughter of the Kings of the Amalekites, of those who held dominion over the lands in equity and brought low the necks of humanity. I possessed that which never King possessed and was righteous in my rule and did justice among my lieges; yea, I gave gifts and largesse and freed bondsmen and bondswomen. Thus lived I many years in all ease and delight of life, till Death knocked at my door and to me and to my folk befel calamities galore; and it was on this wise. There betided us seven successive years of drought, wherein no drop of rain fell on us from the skies and no green thing sprouted for us on the face of earth.[FN#148] So we ate what was with us of victual, then we fell upon the cattle and devoured them, until nothing was left. Thereupon I let bring my treasures and meted them with measures and sent out trusty men to buy food. They circuited all the lands in quest thereof and left no city unsought, but found it not to be bought and returned to us with the treasure after a long absence; and gave us to know that they could not succeed in bartering fine pearls for poor wheat, bushel for bushel, weight for weight. So, when we despaired of succour, we displayed all our riches and things of price and, shutting the gates of the city and its strong places, resigned ourselves to the deme of our Lord and committed our case to our King. Then we all died,[FN#149] as thou seest us, and left what we had builded and all we had hoarded. This, then, is our story, and after the substance naught abideth but the trace." Then they looked at the foot of the tablet and read these couplets,
"O child of Adam, let not hope make mock and flyte at thee, * Prom all thy hands have treasured, removed thou shalt be; I see thou covetest the world and fleeting worldly charms, * And races past and gone have done the same as thou I see. Lawful and lawless wealth they got; but all their hoarded store, * Their term accomplished, naught delayed of Destiny's decree. Armies they led and puissant men and gained them gold galore; * Then left their wealth and palaces by Pate compelled to flee, To straitness of the grave-yard and humble bed of dust * Whence, pledged for every word and deed, they never more win free: As a company of travellers had unloaded in the night * At house that lacketh food nor is o'erfain of company: Whose owner saith, 'O folk, there be no lodging here for you;' * So packed they who had erst unpacked and fared hurriedly: Misliking much the march, nor the journey nor the halt * Had aught of pleasant chances or had aught of goodly greet Then prepare thou good provision for to-morrow's journey stored, * Naught but righteous honest life shall avail thee with the Lord!"
And the Emir Musa wept as he read, "By Allah, the fear of the Lord is the best of all property, the pillar of certainty and the sole sure stay. Verily, Death is the truth manifest and the sure behest, and therein, O thou, is the goal and return place evident. Take warning, therefore, by those who to the dust did wend and hastened on the way of the predestined end. Seest thou not that hoary hairs summon thee to the tomb and that the whiteness of thy locks maketh moan of thy doom? Wherefore be thou on the wake ready for thy departure and shine account to make. O son of Adam, what hath hardened thy heart in mode abhorred? What hath seduced thee from the service of thy Lord? Where be the peoples of old time? They are a warning to whoso will be warned! Where be the Kings of al-Sin and the lords of majestic mien? Where is Shaddad bin Ad and whatso he built and he stablished? Where is Nimrod who revolted against Allah and defied Him? Where is Pharaoh who rebelled against God and denied Him? Death followed hard upon the trail of them all, and laid them low sparing neither great nor small, male nor female; and the Reaper of Mankind cut them off, yea, by Him who maketh night to return upon day! Know, O thou who comest to this place, that she whom thou seest here was not deluded by the world and its frail delights, for it is faithless, perfidious, a house of ruin, vain and treacherous; and salutary to the creature is the remembrance of his sins; wherefore she feared her Lord and made fair her dealings and provided herself with provaunt against the appointed marching day. Whoso cometh to our city and Allah vouchsafeth him competence to enter it, let him take of the treasure all he can, but touch not aught that is on my body, for it is the covering of my shame[FN#150] and the outfit for the last journey; wherefore let him fear Allah and despoil naught thereof; else will he destroy his own self. This have I set forth to him for a warning from me and a solemn trust to be; wherewith, peace be with ye and I pray Allah to keep you from sickness and calamity." And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-seventh Night,
She said, it hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Emir Musa read this, he wept with exceeding weeping till he swooned away and presently coming to himself, wrote down all he had seen and was admonished by all he had witnessed. Then he said to his men, "Fetch the camels and load them with these treasures and vases and jewels." "O Emir," asked Talib, "shall we leave our damsel with what is upon her, things which have no equal and whose like is not to be found and more perfect than aught else thou takest; nor couldst thou find a goodlier offering wherewithal to propitiate the favour of the Commander of the Faithful?" But Musa answered, "O man, heardest thou not what the Lady saith on this tablet? More by token that she giveth it in trust to us who are no traitors." "And shall we," rejoined the Wazir Talib, "because of these words, leave all these riches and jewels, seeing that she is dead? What should she do with these that are the adornments of the world and the ornament of the worldling, seeing that one garment of cotton would suffice for her covering? We have more right to them than she." So saying he mounted the steps of the couch between the pillars, but when he came within reach of the two slaves, lo! the mace-bearer smote him on the back and the other struck him with the sword he held in his hand and lopped off his head, and he dropped down dead. Quoth the Emir, "Allah have no mercy on thy resting-place! Indeed there was enough in these treasures, and greed of gain assuredly degradeth a man." Then he bade admit the troops; so they entered and loaded the camels with those treasures and precious ores; after which they went forth and the Emir commanded them to shut the gate as before. They fared on along the sea-shore a whole month, till they came in sight of a high mountain overlooking the sea and full of caves, wherein dwelt a tribe of blacks, clad in hides, with burnooses also of hide and speaking an unknown tongue. When they saw the troops they were startled like shying steeds and fled into the caverns, whilst their women and children stood at the cave doors, looking on the strangers. "O Shaykh Abd al-Samad," asked the Emir, "what are these folk?" and he answered, "They are those whom we seek for the Commander of the Faithful." So they dismounted and setting down their loads, pitched their tents; whereupon, almost before they had done, down came the King of the blacks from the mountain and drew near the camp. Now he understood the Arabic tongue; so, when he came to the Emir he saluted him with the salam and Musa returned his greeting and entreated him with honour. Then quoth he to the Emir, "Are ye men or Jinn?" "Well, we are men," quoth Musa; "but doubtless ye are Jinn, to judge by your dwelling apart in this mountain which is cut off from mankind, and by your inordinate bulk." "Nay," rejoined the black; "we also are children of Adam, of the lineage of Ham, son of Noah (with whom be peace!), and this sea is known as Al-Karkar." Asked Musa, "O King, what is your religion and what worship ye?"; and he answered, saying, "We worship the God of the heavens and our religion is that of Mohammed, whom Allah bless and preserve!" "And how came ye by the knowledge of this," questioned the Emir, "seeing that no prophet was inspired to visit this country?" "Know, Emir," replied the King, "that there appeared to us whilere from out the sea a man, from whom issued a light that illumined the horizons and he cried out, in a voice which was heard of men far and near, saying, 'O children of Ham, reverence to Him who seeth and is not seen and say ye, 'There is no god but the God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God!' And he added, 'I am Abu al-Abbas al-Khizr.' Before this we were wont to worship one another, but he summoned us to the service of the Lord of all creatures; and he taught us to repeat these words, 'There is no god save the God alone, who hath for partner none, and His is the kingdom and His is the praise. He giveth life and death and He over all things is Almighty.' Nor do we draw near unto Allah (be He exalted and extolled!) except with these words, for we know none other; but every eve before Friday[FN#151] we see a light upon the face of earth and we hear a voice saying, 'Holy and glorious, Lord of the Angels and the Spirit! What He willeth is, and what He willeth not, is not. Every boon is of His grace and there is neither Majesty nor is there Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!' But ye," quoth the King, "who and what are ye and what bringeth you to this land?" Quoth Musa, "We are officers of the Sovereign of Al-Islam, the Commander of the Faithful, Abd al- Malik bin Marwan, who hath heard tell of the lord Solomon, son of David (on whom be peace!) and of that which the Most High bestowed upon him of supreme dominion; how he held sway over Jinn and beast and bird and was wont when he was wroth with one of the Marids, to shut him in a cucurbite of brass and, stopping its mouth on him with lead, whereon he impressed his seal ring, to cast him into the sea of Al-Karkar. Now we have heard tell that this sea is nigh your land; so the Commander of the Faithful hath sent us hither, to bring him some of these cucurbites, that he may look thereon and solace himself with their sight. Such, then, is our case and what we seek of thee, O King, and we desire that thou further us in the accomplishment of our errand commanded by the Commander of the Faithful." "With love and gladness," replied the black King, and carrying them to the guest house, entreated them with the utmost honour and furnished them with all they needed, feeding them upon fish. They abode thus three days, when he bade his divers fetch from out the sea some of the vessels of Solomon. So they dived and brought up twelve cucurbites, whereat the Emir and the Shaykh and all the company rejoiced in the accomplishment of the Caliph's need. Then Musa gave the King of the blacks many and great gifts; and he, in turn, made him a present Of the wonders of the deep, being fishes in human form,[FN#152] saying "Your entertainment these three days hath been of the meat of these fish." Quoth the Emir, "Needs must we carry some of these to the Caliph, for the sight of them will please him more than the cucurbites of Solomon." Then they took leave of the black King and, setting out on their homeward journey, travelled till they came to Damascus, where Musa went in to the Commander of the Faithful and told him all that he had sighted and heard of verses and legends and instances, together with the manner of the death of Talib bin Sahl; and the Caliph said, "Would I had been with you, that I might have seen what you saw!" Then he took the brazen vessels and opened them, cucurbite after cucurbite, whereupon the devils came forth of them, saying, "We repent, O Prophet of Allah! Never again will we return to the like of this thing; no never!" And the Caliph marvelled at this. As for the daughters of the deep presented to them by the black King, they made them cisterns of planks, full of water, and laid them therein; but they died of the great heat. Then the Caliph sent for the spoils of the Brazen City and divided them among the Faithful,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say,
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-eighth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph marvelled much at the cucurbites and their contents; then he sent for the spoils and divided them among the Faithful, saying, "Never gave Allah unto any the like of that which he bestowed upon Solomon David-son!" Thereupon the Emir Musa sought leave of him to appoint his son Governor of the Province in his stead, that he might be take himself to the Holy City of Jerusalem, there to worship Allah. So the Commander of the Faithful invested his son Harun with the government and Musa repaired to the Glorious and Holy City, where he died. This, then, is all that hath come down to us of the story of the City of Brass, and God is All-knowing! Now (continued Shahrazad) I have another tale to tell anent the
CRAFT AND MALICE OF WOMEN,[FN#153] OR THE TALE OF THE KING, HIS SON, HIS CONCUBINE AND THE SEVEN WAZIRS.
There was, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before, a puissant King among the Kings of China, the crown of crowned heads, who ruled over many men of war and vassals with wisdom and justice, might and majesty; equitable to his Ryots, liberal to his lieges and dearly beloved by the hearts of his subjects. He was wealthy as he was powerful, but he had grown old without being blessed with a son, and this caused him sore affliction. He could only brood over the cutting off of his seed and the oblivion that would bury his name and the passing of his realm into the stranger's hands. So he secluded himself in his palace, never going in and out or rising and taking rest till the lieges lost all tidings of him and were sore perplexed and began to talk about their King. Some said, "He's dead"; others said, "No, he's not"; but all resolved to find a ruler who could reign over them and carry out the customs of government. At last, utterly despairing of male issue, he sought the intercession of the Prophet (whom Allah bless and keep!) with the Most High and implored Him, by the glory of His Prophets and Saints and Martyrs and others of the Faithful who were acceptable to Heaven that he would grant him a son, to be the coolth of his eyes and heir to the kingdom after him. Then he rose forthright and, withdrawing to his sitting-saloon, sent for his wife who was the daughter of his uncle. Now this Queen was of surpassing beauty and loveliness, the fairest of all his wives and the dearest to him as she was the nearest: and to boot a woman of excellent wit and passing judgement. She found the King dejected and sorrowful, tearful-eyed and heavy-hearted; so she kissed ground between his hands and said, "O King, may my life ransom thy life! may Time never prove thy foe, nor the shifts of Fortune prevail over thee; may Allah grant thee every joy and ward off from thee all annoy! How is it I see thee brooding over thy case and tormented by the displeasures of memory?" He replied, "Thou wottest well that I am a man now shotten in years, who hath never been blessed with a son, a sight to cool his eyes; so I know that my kingdom shall pass away to the stranger in blood and my name and memory will be blotted out amongst men. 'Tis this causeth me to grieve with excessive grief." "Allah do away with thy sorrows," quoth she: "long ere this day a thought struck me; and yearning for issue arose in my heart even as in thine. One night I dreamed a dream and a voice said to me, 'The King thy husband pineth for progeny: if a daughter be vouchsafed to him, she will be the ruin of his realm; if a son, the youth will undergo much trouble and annoy but he will pass through it without loss of life. Such a son can be conceived by thee and thee only and the time of thy conception is when the moon conjoineth with Gemini!' I woke from my dream, but after what I heard that voice declare I refrained from breeding and would not consent to bear children." "There is no help for it but that I have a son, Inshallah, —God willing!" cried the King. Thereupon she soothed and consoled him till he forgot his sorrows and went forth amongst the lieges and sat, as of wont, upon his throne of estate. All rejoiced to see him once more and especially the Lords of his realm. Now when the conjunction of the moon and Gemini took place, the King knew his wife carnally and, by order of Allah Almighty she became pregnant. Presently she anounced the glad tidings to her husband and led her usual life until her nine months of pregnancy were completed and she bare a male child whose face was as the rondure of the moon on its fourteenth night. The lieges of the realm congratulated one another thereanent and the King commanded an assembly of his Olema and philosophers, astrologers and horoscopists, whom he thus addressed, "I desire you to forecast the fortune of my son and to determine his ascendant[FN#154] and whatever is shown by his nativity." They replied "'Tis well, in Allah's name, let us do so!" and cast his nativity with all diligence. After ascertaining his ascendant, they pronounced judgement in these words, "We see his lot favourable and his life viable and durable; save that a danger awaiteth his youth." The father was sorely concerned at this saying, when they added "But, O King, he shall escape from it nor shall aught of injury accrue to him!" Hereupon the King cast aside all cark and care and robed the wizards and dismissed them with splendid honoraria; and he resigned himself to the will of Heaven and acknowledged that the decrees of destiny may not be countervailed. He committed his boy to wet nurses and dry nurses, handmaids and eunuchs, leaving him to grow and fill out in the Harim till he reached the age of seven. Then he addressed letters to his Viceroys and Governors in every clime and by their means gathered together Olema and philosophers and doctors of law and religion, from all countries, to a number of three hundred and three score. He held an especial assembly for them and, when all were in presence, he bade them draw near him and be at their ease while he sent for the food-trays and all ate their sufficiency. And when the banquet ended and the wizards had taken seats in their several degrees, the King asked them, "Wot ye wherefore I have gathered ye together?"; whereto all answered, "We wot not, O King!" He continued, "It is my wish that you select from amongst you fifty men, and from these fifty ten, and from these ten one, that he may teach my son omnem rem scibilem; for whenas I see the youth perfect in all science, I will share my dignity with the Prince and make him partner with me in my possessions." "Know, O King," they replied, "that among us none is more learned or more excellent than Al-Sindibad,[FN#155] hight the Sage, who woneth in thy capital under thy protection. If such be thy design, summon him and bid him do thy will." The King acted upon their advice and the Sage, standing in the presence, expressed his loyal sentiments with his salutation, whereupon his Sovereign bade him draw nigh and thus raised his rank, saying, "I would have thee to know, O Sage, that I summoned this assembly of the learned and bade them choose me out a man to teach my son all knowledge; when they selected thee without dissenting thought or voice. If, then, thou feel capable of what they claimed for thee, come thou to the task and understand that a man's son and heir is the very fruit of his vitals and core of his heart and liver. My desire of thee is thine instruction of him; and to happy issue Allah guideth!" The King then sent for his son and committed him to Al-Sindibad conditioning the Sage to finish his education in three years. He did accordingly but, at the end of that time, the young Prince had learned nothing, his mind being wholly occupied with play and disport; and when summoned and examined by his sire, behold, his knowledge was as nil. Thereupon the King turned his attention to the learned once more and bade them elect a tutor for his youth; so they asked, "And what hath his governor, Al-Sindibad, been doing?" and when the King answered, "He hath taught my son naught;" the Olema and philosophers and high officers summoned the instructor and said to him, "O Sage, what prevented thee from teaching the King's son during this length of days?" "O wise men," he replied, "the Prince's mind is wholly occupied with disport and play; yet, an the King will make with me three conditions and keep to them, I will teach him in seven months what he would not learn (nor indeed could any other lesson him) within seven years." "I hearken to thee," quoth the King, "and I submit myself to thy conditions;" and quoth Al-Sindibad, "Hear from me, Sire, and bear in mind these three sayings, whereof the first is, 'Do not to others what thou wouldest not they do unto thee';[FN#156] and second, 'Do naught hastily without consulting the experienced'; and thirdly, 'Where thou hast power show pity.'[FN#157] In teaching this lad I require no more of thee but to accept these three dictes and adhere thereto." Cried the King, "Bear ye witness against me, O all ye here assembled, that I stand firm by these conditions!"; and caused a proces verbal to be drawn up with his personal security and the testimony of his courtiers. Thereupon the Sage, taking the Prince's hand, led him to his place, and the King sent them all requisites of provaunt and kitchen-batteries, carpets and other furniture. Moreover the tutor bade build a house whose walls he lined with the whitest stucco painted over with ceruse,[FN#158] and, lastly, he delineated thereon all the objects concerning which he proposed to lecture his pupil. When the place was duly furnished, he took the lad's hand and installed him in the apartment which was amply furnished with belly-timber; and, after stablishing him therein, went forth and fastened the door with seven padlocks. Nor did he visit the Prince save every third day when he lessoned him on the knowledge to be extracted from the wall-pictures and renewed his provision of meat and drink, after which he left him again to solitude. So whenever the youth was straitened in breast by the tedium and ennui of loneliness, he applied himself diligently to his object-lessons and mastered all the deductions therefrom. His governor seeing this turned his mind into other channel and taught him the inner meanings of the external objects; and in a little time the pupil mastered every requisite. Then the Sage took him from the house and taught him cavalarice and Jerid play and archery. When the pupil had thoroughly mastered these arts, the tutor sent to the King informing him that the Prince was perfect and complete in all things required to figure favourably amongst his peers. Hereat the King rejoiced; and, summoning his Wazirs and Lords of estate to be present at the examination, commanded the Sage to send his son into the presence. Thereupon Al-Sindibad consulted his pupil's horoscope and found it barred by an inauspicious conjunction which would last seven days; so, in sore affright for the youth's life, he said, "Look into thy nativity-scheme." The Prince did so and, recognising the portent, feared for himself and presently asked the Sage, saying, "What dost thou bid me do?" "I bid thee," he answered, "remain silent and speak not a word during this se'nnight; even though thy sire slay thee with scourging. An thou pass safely through this period, thou shalt win to high rank and succeed to thy sire's reign; but an things go otherwise then the behest is with Allah from the beginning to the end thereof." Quoth the pupil, "Thou art in fault, O preceptor, and thou hast shown undue haste in sending that message to the King before looking into my horoscope. Hadst thou delayed till the week had passed all had been well." Quoth the tutor, "O my son, what was to be was; and the sole defaulter therein was my delight in thy scholarship. But now be firm in thy resolve; rely upon Allah Almighty and determine not to utter a single word." Thereupon the Prince fared for the presence and was met by the Wazirs who led him to his father. The King accosted him and addressed him but he answered not; and sought speech of him but he spake not. Whereupon the courtiers were astounded and the monarch, sore concerned for his son, summoned Al-Sindibad. But the tutor so hid himself that none could hit upon his trace nor gain tidings of him; and folk said, "He was ashamed to appear before the King's majesty and the courtiers." Under these conditions the Sovereign heard some of those present saying, "Send the lad to the Serraglio where he will talk with the women and soon set aside this bashfulness;" and, approving their counsel, gave orders accordingly. So the Prince was led into the palace, which was compassed about by a running stream whose banks were planted with all manner of fruit-trees and sweet-smelling flowers. Moreover, in this palace were forty chambers and in every chamber ten slave-girls, each skilled in some instrument of music, so that whenever one of them played, the palace danced to her melodious strains. Here the Prince passed one night; but, on the following morning, the King's favourite concubine happened to cast eyes upon his beauty and loveliness, his symmetrical stature, his brilliancy and his perfect grace, and love gat hold of her heart and she was ravished with his charms.[FN#159] So she went up to him and threw herself upon him, but he made her no response; whereupon, being dazed by his beauty, she cried out to him and required him of himself and importuned him; then she again threw herself upon him and clasped him to her bosom kissing him and saying, "O King's son, grant me thy favours and I will set thee in thy father's stead; I will give him to drink of poison, so he may die and thou shalt enjoy his realm and wealth." When the Prince heard these words, he was sore enraged against her and said to her by signs, "O accursed one, so it please Almighty Allah, I will assuredly requite thee this thy deed, whenas I can speak; for I will go forth to my father and will tell him, and he shall kill thee." So signing, he arose in rage, and went out from her chamber; whereat she feared for herself. Thereupon she buffeted her face and rent her raiment and tare her hair and bared her head, then went in to the King and cast herself at his feet, weeping and wailing. When he saw her in this plight, he was sore concerned and asked her, "What aileth thee, O damsel? How is it with thy lord, my son? Is he not well?"; and she answered, "O King, this thy son, whom thy courtiers avouch to be dumb, required me of myself and I repelled him, whereupon he did with me as thou seest and would have slain me; so I fled from him, nor will I ever return to him, nor to the palace again, no, never again!" When the King heard this, he was wroth with exceeding wrath and, calling his seven Wazirs, bade them put the Prince to death. However, they said one to other, "If we do the King's commandment, he will surely repent of having ordered his son's death, for he is passing dear to him and this child came not to him save after despair; and he will round upon us and blame us, saying, 'Why did ye not contrive to dissuade me from slaying him?'" So they took counsel together, to turn him from his purpose, and the chief Wazir said, "I will warrant you from the King's mischief this day." Then he went in to the presence and prostrating himself craved leave to speak. The King gave him permission, and he said, "O King, though thou hadst a thousand sons, yet were it no light matter to thee to put one of them to death, on the report of a woman, be she true or be she false; and belike this is a lie and a trick of her against thy son; for indeed, O King, I have heard tell great plenty of stories of the malice, the craft and perfidy of women." Quoth the King, "Tell me somewhat of that which hath come to thy knowledge thereof." And the Wazir answered, saying, 'Yes, there hath reached me, O King, a tale entituled
The King and his Wazir's Wife.[FN#160]
There was once a King of the Kings, a potent man and a proud, who was devoted to the love of women and one day being in the privacy of his palace, he espied a beautiful woman on the terraceroof of her house and could not contain himself from falling consumedly in love with her.[FN#161] He asked his folk to whom the house and the damsel belonged and they said, "This is the dwelling of the Wazir such an one and she is his wife." So he called the Minister in question and despatched him on an errand to a distant part of the kingdom, where he was to collect information and to return; but, as soon as he obeyed and was gone, the King contrived by a trick to gain access to his house and his spouse. When the Wazir's wife saw him, she knew him and springing up, kissed his hands and feet and welcomed him. Then she stood afar off, busying herself in his service, and said to him, "O our lord, what is the cause of thy gracious coming? Such an honour is not for the like of me." Quoth he, "The cause of it is that love of thee and desire thee-wards have moved me to this. Whereupon she kissed ground before him a second time and said, "By Allah, O our lord, indeed I am not worthy to be the handmaid of one of the King's servants; whence then have I the great good fortune to be in such high honour and favour with thee?" Then the King put out his hand to her intending to enjoy her person, when she said, "This thing shall not escape us; but take patience, O my King, and abide with thy handmaid all this day, that she may make ready for thee somewhat to eat and drink." So the King sat down on his Minister's couch and she went in haste and brought him a book wherein he might read, whilst she made ready the food. He took the book and, beginning to read, found therein moral instances and exhortations, such as restrained him from adultery and broke his courage to commit sin and crime. After awhile, she returned and set before him some ninety dishes of different kinds of colours, and he ate a mouthful of each and found that, while the number was many, the taste of them was one. At this, he marvelled with exceeding marvel and said to her, "O damsel, I see these meats to be manifold and various, but the taste of them is simple and the same." "Allah prosper the King!" replied she, "this is a parable I have set for thee, that thou mayst be admonished thereby." He asked, "And what is its meaning?"; and she answered, "Allah amend the case of our lord the King!; in thy palace are ninety concubines of various colours, but their taste is one."[FN#162] When the King heard this, he was ashamed and rising hastily, went out, without offering her any affront and returned to his palace; but, in his haste and confusion, he forgot his signet-ring and left it under the cushion where he had been sitting and albeit he remembered it he was ashamed to send for it. Now hardly had he reached home when the Wazir returned and, presenting himself before the King, kissed the ground and made his report to him of the state of the province in question. Then he repaired to his own house and sat down on his couch and chancing to put his hand under the cushion, behold, he found the King's seal-ring. So he knew it and taking the matter to heart, held aloof in great grief from his wife for a whole year, not going in unto her nor even speaking to her, whilst she knew not the reason of his anger. —And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir held aloof from his wife, whilst she knew not the cause of his wrath. At last, being weary of the longsome neglect, she sent for her sire and told him the case; whereupon quoth he, "I will complain of him to the King, at some time when he is in the presence." So, one day, he went in to the King and, finding the Wazir and the Kazi of the army before him,[FN#163] complained thus saying, "Almighty Allah amend the King's case! I had a fair flower-garden, which I planted with mine own hand and thereon spent my substance till it bare fruit; and its fruitage was ripe for plucking, when I gave it to this thy Wazir, who ate of it what seemed good to him, then deserted it and watered it not, so that its bloom wilted and withered and its sheen departed and its state changed." Then said the Wazir, "O my King, this man saith sooth. I did indeed care for and guard the garden and kept it in good condition and ate thereof, till one day I went thither and I saw the trail of the lion there, wherefore I feared for my life and withdrew from the garden." The King understood him that the trail of the lion meant his own seal-ring, which he had forgotten in the woman's house; so he said, "Return, O Wazir, to thy flower-garden and fear nothing, for the lion came not near it. It hath reached me that he went thither; but, by the honour of my fathers and forefathers, he offered it no hurt." "Hearkening and obedience," answered the Minister and, returning home sent for his wife and made his peace with her and thenceforth put faith in her chastity. "This I tell thee, O King (continued the Wazir), for no other purpose save to let thee know how great is their craft and how precipitancy bequeatheth repentance.[FN#164] And I have also heard the following