The Book Of The Thousand Nights And One Night, Volume II

Part 4 out of 7

hosts joined battle. The mill-wheels of war whirled round, with
cutting and thrusting; the swords and spears played and the
plains and valleys were filled with blood. The priests and monks
prayed aloud, girding on their girdles and uplifting the crosses,
whilst the Muslims shouted out the praises of the Requiting King
and chanted verses of the Koran. The hosts of the Compassionate
God fought against the legions of Satan and heads flew from
bodies, what while the good angels hovered above the people of
the Chosen Prophet, nor did the sword cease to play, till the day
departed and the night came with the shadows. Now the unbelievers
had encompassed the Muslims and made sure of overcoming the host
of the True Faith with the dawn, deeming not that they could
escape destruction. As soon as it was light, the Chamberlain
mounted, he and his men, trusting that God would help them, and
the two armies came together and joined battle. The fight raged
all along the line and heads flew from bodies, whilst the brave
stood fast and the faint-hearted turned their backs and fled; and
the Judge of death judged and gave sentence, so that the
champions fell from their saddles and the meadows were heaped
with the slain. Then the Muslims began to give back and the
Greeks took possession of some of their tents; whereupon the
Muslims were about to break and retreat, when behold, up came
Sherkan, with the rest of their troops and the standards of the
believers in the Unity of God, and fell upon the infidels,
followed by Zoulmekan and the Vizier Dendan and the Amirs Behram
and Rustem and Terkash. When the Christians saw this, they lost
their senses and their reason fled, and the dust clouds rose till
they covered the country, whilst the true believers joined their
pious comrades. Then Sherkan accosted the Chamberlain and praised
him for his steadfastness, and he in turn gave him joy of his
timely succour. Therewith the Muslims rejoiced and their hearts
were fortified; so they rushed upon the foe and devoted
themselves to God, in the battle for the Faith. When the infidels
saw the Mohammedan standards and read thereon the words
proclaiming the Unity of God, they shrieked aloud and said,
"Woe!" and "Ruin!" and besought succour of the priests and monks.
Moreover they fell to calling upon Jesus and Mary and the
abhorrent Cross and stayed their hands from the battle, whilst
King Afridoun went up to King Herdoub (to consult with him), for
the two kings stood one at the head of each wing. Now there was
with them also a famous cavalier named Lawiya, who was in command
of the centre, and the infidels drew out in battle-array; but
indeed they were full of alarm and disquiet. Meanwhile, the
Muslims arrayed their forces and Sherkan came to his brother
Zoulmekan and said to him, "O king of the age, doubtless they
mean to joust? and that is also what we desire; but it is my wish
to set in our van-ward battle the stoutest-hearted of our men:
for wise ordering is the half of life." "As thou wilt, O man of
good counsel," replied the Sultan. "It is my wish," added
Sherkan, "to be myself in the centre of the line, with the Vizier
Dendan on my left and thee on my right, whilst Behram and Rustem
command the right and left wing; and thou, O mighty King, shalt
be under the standards and the ensigns, for that thou art our
stay and upon thee, after God, is our dependence, and we will all
be thy ransom from aught that can harm thee." Zoulmekan thanked
him and the battle-cries arose and the sabres were drawn, when,
behold, there came forth a cavalier from the Grecian ranks; and
as he drew near, they saw that he was mounted on a slow-paced
mule, fleeing with her master from the shock of swords. Her
housings were of white silk, surmounted by a carpet of Cashmere
stuff, and on her back sat a gray-bearded old man of comely and
reverend aspect, clad in a gown of white wool. He spurred her on
till he came to the Muslims, to whom said he, "I am an ambassador
to you, and all an ambassador has to do is to deliver his
message; so give me a safe conduct and the right of speech, that
I may do my errand to you." "Thou art in safety," replied
Sherkan; "fear neither stroke of sword nor thrust of lance."
Thereupon the old man dismounted and taking the cross from his
neck, (laid it) before the Sultan and carried himself humbly to
him, after the fashion of one who hopes for fair treatment. Then
said the Muslims to him, "What is thy news?" He answered, "I am
an ambassador from King Afridoun, whom I counselled to avert the
destruction of all these manly bodies and images of the
Compassionate; and it seemed good to him to stop the shedding of
blood and limit the strife to the encounter of two horsemen in
battle; so he agreed to this and says to you, 'Verily, I will
ransom my troops with my life; so let the Muslim king do likewise
and ransom his army with his life. If he kill me, there will be
no stability left in the army of the Greeks, and if I kill him,
it will be the like with the Muslims.'" When Sherkan heard this,
he said, "O monk, we agree to this, for it is just; and behold I
will joust: with him, for I am champion of the Muslims, even as
he of the Christians; and if he slay me, he will have gained the
victory and there will remain for the Muslim army nothing but
flight. So return to him, O monk, and tell him that the combat
shall be for to-morrow, seeing that to-day we are weary with our
journey; but after rest there shall be neither reproach nor
blame." So the monk returned, rejoicing, to King Afridoun and
King Herdoub and told them what Sherkan had said, whereat
Afridoun was exceeding glad and lightened of anxiety and trouble
and said in himself, "No doubt but this Sherkan is the hardest
hitter of them with the sword and the dourest at push of pike;
and when I have slain him, their hearts will fail them and their
strength will be broken." Now Dhat ed Dewahi had written to King
Afridoun of this and told him that Sherkan was a cavalier of
cavaliers and a champion of champions and had warned him against
him; but Afridoun was a stalwart cavalier, who fought in many a
fashion; he could hurl stones and javelins and smite with the
iron mace and feared not the doughtiest of prowess in the dint of
war. So when he heard from the monk that Sherkan agreed to joust,
he well-nigh lost his reason for stress of joy, for that he had
confidence in himself and deemed that none could stand against
him. Then the infidels passed the night in joy and merry-making
and wine-drinking, and as soon as it was day, the two armies drew
out in battle array, with their brown spears and white swords.
Presently, they saw a cavalier prick out into the plain, mounted
on a stout and swift charger equipped for war: he was of great
stature and was clad in a cuirass of steel made for stress of
battle. On his breast he wore a jewelled mirror and in his hand
he bore a keen scimitar and a lance of khelenj wood[FN#114] of
curious Frankish workmanship. He uncovered his face and cried
out, saying, "Whoso knoweth me hath enough of me, and whoso
knoweth me not shall see who I am. I am Afridoun he who is
overborne by the blessing of Shewahi Dhat ed Dewahi." Before he
had made an end of speaking, Sherkan, the champion of the
Muslims, spurred out to meet him, mounted on a sorrel horse worth
a thousand [dinars] of red gold, with housings embroidered in
pearls and jewels, and girt with a sword of watered Indian steel,
that shore through necks and made hard ventures easy. He drove
his charger between the two armies, whilst the horsemen all gazed
on him, and cried out to Afridoun, saying, "Out on thee, O
accursed one, dost thou think me as one of the horsemen thou hast
met, that cannot stand against thee in the mellay?" Then they
rushed upon one another and came together like two mountains
crashing or two seas breaking each against each. So they advanced
and retreated and drew together and parted and ceased not to
joust and battle with stroke of sword and thrust of spear, whilst
the two armies looked on. Some said, "Afridoun will conquer," and
other some, "Sherkan;" and they stayed not their hands from the
battle, till the clamour of the bystanders subsided and the
dust-clouds rose and the day waned and the sun began to grow
pale. Then King Afridoun cried out to Sherkan, saying, "By the
virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith, thou art a doughty
horseman and a stalwart fighting man, but thou art guileful and
thy nature is not that of the freeborn and meseemeth thy fashion
is other than praiseworthy nor is thy fighting that of a prince;
for see, thy people even thee with slaves[FN#115] and bring thee
out a charger other than thine, that thou mayst (mount him and)
return to the battle. But by the virtue of the Messiah, thy
fighting fatigues me and I am weary of cutting and thrusting with
thee; and if thou wert purposed to do battle with me tonight thou
wouldst not change aught of thy harness nor thy horse till thou
hadst shown the cavaliers thy valour and skill in fight." When
Sherkan heard him say that his own folk evened him with slaves,
he was angry and turned towards his men, meaning to sign to them
and bid them not prepare him change of armour or horse, when,
behold, Afridoun shook his javelin in the air and hurled it at
Sherkan. Now, when the latter turned, he found none behind him
and knew that this was a trick of the accursed infidel; so he
wheeled round in haste and seeing the javelin coming at him,
swerved from it, till his head was level with the pommel of his
saddle. The javelin grazed his breast and pierced the skin, for
Sherkan was high-bosomed: so he gave one cry and swooned away.
Then the accursed Afridoun was glad, thinking that he had slain
him, and called to the Christians to rejoice, whereat the
infidels were encouraged and the true believers wept. When
Zoulmekan saw his brother reeling from side to side in his
saddle, so that he had well-nigh fallen, he sent cavaliers to his
succour; whereupon the infidels drove at the Muslims and the two
hosts joined battle, whilst the keen Yemen blades played among
them. The first to reach Sherkan were Dendan and Rustem and
Behram, who found him on the point of falling off his horse; so
they stayed him in his saddle and carried him to Zoulmekan; then
giving him in charge to his servants, returned to the battle.
Then the strife redoubled and the weapons clashed, and there was
nought to be heard but the roar of the battle nor to be seen but
blood flowing and necks bending beneath the blows; nor did the
swords cease to play on men's necks nor the strife to rage more
and more, till the most part of the night was past and the two
hosts were weary of battle. So they called a truce and each army
returned to its tents, whilst all the infidels repaired to King
Afridoun and kissed the earth before him, and the priests and
monks wished him joy of his victory over Sherkan. Then he went up
into Constantinople and sat down upon his throne; and King
Herdoub came to him and said, "May the Messiah strengthen thine
arm and cease never to be thy helper and hearken to the prayers
of my pious mother on thy behalf! Know that the Muslims can make
no stand, now they have lost Sherkan." "To-morrow," replied
Afridoun, "shall end the war, for I will seek out Zoulmekan and
slay him, and their army shall turn tail and take to flight."

Meanwhile, Zoulmekan returned to his tent thinking of nothing but
his brother, and going in to the latter's pavilion, found him in
evil plight; whereat he was sore troubled and sent for the Vizier
Dendan and the Amirs Behram and Rustem, that he might take
counsel with them. When they entered, they were all of accord to
summon the physicians to treat Sherkan, and they wept and said,
"The age will not lightly afford his like!" They watched by him
all that night, and towards morning there came to them the
pretended recluse, weeping. When Zoulmekan saw her, he rose to
receive her; and she stroked Sherkan's wound with her hand,
chanting somewhat of the Koran and repeating some of the signs of
the Compassionate One. Then she kept watch over him till the day,
when he came to himself and opening his eyes, moved his tongue in
his mouth and spoke. At this Zoulmekan rejoiced, saying, "Verily
the blessing of the holy man hath taken effect on him!" And
Sherkan said, "Praised be God for recovery; indeed, I am well
now. Yonder accursed one played me false, and but that I swerved
aside quicklier than lightning, the javelin had pierced me
through and through. So praised be God for my safety! How is it
with the Muslims?" "They weep for thee," answered Zoulmekan.
Quoth Sherkan, "I am well and in good case; but where is the holy
man?" Now she was sitting by him and said, "At thy head." So he
turned to her and kissed her hand; and she said, "O my son, it
behoves thee to arm thyself with patience, and God shall make
great thy reward; for the guerdon is measured by that which has
been endured." Quoth Sherkan, "Pray for me," and she did so. As
soon as it was morning and the day arose and shone, the Muslims
sallied out into the field, and the Christians made ready to cut
and thrust. Then the host of the Muslims advanced and offered
battle; and Zoulmekan and Afridoun made ready to tilt at one
another. But when Zoulmekan sallied out into the field, there
came with him Dendan and Behram and the Chamberlain, saying, "We
will be thy sacrifice." "By the Holy House and the Well Zemzem
and the Stead of Abraham,"[FN#116] exclaimed he, "I will not be
hindered from going forth against these barbarians!" So he rode
out into the field and played with sword and spear, till both
armies wondered; then he rushed upon the right wing of the Greek
army and slew two knights and in like manner dealt he with the
left wing. Then he stayed his steed in the midst of the field and
cried out, "Where is Afridoun, that I may make him drink the cup
of humiliation?" But King Herdoub conjured Afridoun not to budge
from the field, saying, "O King, it was thy turn yesterday:
to-day it is mine. I reck not of his prowess." So he pricked out
towards Zoulmekan, with a sabre in his hand and under him a jet
black horse, swift as he were Abjer, he that was Antar's horse,
even as says the poet:

He vies with the glance of the eye on a swift-footed steed, That
fares as it had a mind to outstrip Fate.
The hue of his hide is the blackest of all things black, Like
night, when the shadows shroud it in sable state.
The sound of his neighing troubles the hearts of men, As it were
thunder that echoes in heaven's gate.
If he run a race with the wind, he leads the way, Nor can the
lightning outstrip him, early or late.

Then each rushed upon the other, guarding himself from his blows
and showing the rare qualities that were in him and the wonders
of his prowess; and they fell to advancing and retreating and
ceased not to flee and return to the attack and wheel hither and
thither, till the breasts of the bystanders were straitened (for
anxiety) and they were weary of waiting for the event. At last,
Zoulmekan cried out and rushing upon Herdoub, King of Caesarea,
dealt him such a blow that he shore his head from his body and
made an end of him. When the infidels saw this, they all rushed
at Zoulmekan, who met them in mid-field, and they fell to cutting
and thrusting, till the blood ran in streams. Then the Muslims
cried out, "God is most great;" and "There is no god but God;"
and invoked blessings on the Giver of Good Tidings, the
Admonisher of Mankind,[FN#117] and there befell a great battle.
But God sent help to the faithful and confusion to the infidels.
The Vizier Dendan shouted, "Avenge King Omar ben Ennuman and his
son Sherkan!" and baring his head, cried out to the Turks. Now
there were beside him more than twenty thousand horse, who all
charged with him as one man, and the unbelievers found nothing
for it but flight. So they turned their backs to flee, whilst the
keen sabres wrought havoc amongst them and the Muslims slew of
them that day more than fifty thousand cavaliers and took more
than that: and much people also were slain at the going in of the
gates by reason of the greatness of the crowd, whilst the
Christians mounted the walls, fearing an assault. Then the
Muslims returned to their tents, fortified and victorious, and
King Zoulmekan went in to his brother, whom he found in the most
joyous case. So he returned thanks to the Bountiful, the Exalted
One and gave Sherkan joy of his deliverance. "Verily," answered
he, "we are all under the benediction of this holy and God-
fearing man, nor would you have been victorious, but for his
effectual prayers; for all day he hath never ceased to invoke
victory on the Muslims. I found strength return to me, when I
heard you cry, 'God is most great!' for then I knew you had
gotten the better of your enemies. But now tell me, O my brother,
what befell thee." So he told him all that had passed, how he had
slain the accursed Herdoub and he had gone to the malediction of
God; and Sherkan praised his prowess. When Dhat ed Dewahi heard
tell of her son's death, the blood fled from her face and her
eyes ran over with streaming tears; however, she kept her counsel
and feigned to the Muslims that she was glad and wept for excess
of joy: but she said in herself, "By the virtue of the Messiah,
there remains no profit of my life, if I make not his heart bleed
for his brother Sherkan, even as he has made mine bleed for King
Herdoub, the mainstay of the Christian faith and the hosts of the

The Vizier Dendan and Zoulmekan and the Chamberlain abode with
Sherkan, till they had dressed his wound and anointed it; after
which they gave him medicines and he began to recover his
strength; whereat they were exceeding glad and told the troops,
who rejoiced greatly, saying, "To-morrow he will ride with us and
take part in the siege." Then said Sherkan to them, "You have
fought all day and are weary, and it behoves that you return to
your tents and sleep and not watch." So they went away all to
their tents and there remained none with Sherkan but Dhat ed
Dewahi and a few servants. He talked with her awhile, then lay
down to rest, he and his servants, and soon sleep overcame them
all and they were as dead men. But the old woman abode awake and
looking at Sherkan, saw that he was drowned in sleep. So she
sprang to her feet, as she were a bald she-bear or a speckled
snake, and drew from her girdle a poisoned knife, that would have
melted a rock if laid thereon; then going up to Sherkan, she drew
the knife across his throat and cut off his head. After this, she
went up to the sleeping servants and cut off their heads also,
lest they should awake. Then she left the tent and made for the
Sultan's pavilion, but finding the guards awake, turned to that
of the Vizier. He was reading the Koran and seeing her, said,
"Welcome, O holy man!" When she heard this, her heart trembled
and she said, "The reason of my coming hither at this time is
that I heard the voice of a friend of God and am going to him."
Then she went away, but the Vizier said to himself, "By Allah, I
will follow the holy man to-night!" So he rose and went after
her: but the accursed old woman heard his footsteps and knew that
he was following her: wherefore she feared discovery and said in
herself, "Except I put him off with some trick, he will discover
me." So she turned and said to him from afar, "Harkye, Vizier, I
am going after this saint, that I may know who he is; and after I
will ask his leave for thee to join him. Then I will come back
and tell thee; for I fear to let thee accompany me, without his
leave, lest he take umbrage at seeing thee with me." When the
Vizier heard this, he was abashed and knew not what to answer; so
he left her and returning to his tent, would have slept; but
sleep was not favourable to him and the world was straitened upon
him. So he rose and went out, saying in himself, "I will go talk
with Sherkan till the morning." But when he came to Sherkan's
tent, he found the blood running like a rivulet and saw the
servants lying dead. At this he gave a cry that aroused all who
were asleep, and they hastened to him and seeing the blood
streaming, set up a clamour of weeping and lamentation. The noise
awoke the Sultan, who enquired what was the matter, and they said
to him, "Sherkan and his servants are murdered." So he rose in
haste and entering the tent, saw his brother's headless trunk and
the Vizier by it shrieking aloud. At this sight, he swooned away
and all the troops stood round him, weeping and crying aloud,
till he came to himself, when he looked at Sherkan and wept sore,
whilst all who were present did the like. Then said Zoulmekan,
"Know ye who did this, and how is it I see not the recluse, him
who hath put away the things of the world?" Quoth the Vizier,
"And who should have been the cause of this our affliction, save
that devotee of Satan? By Allah, my heart shrank from him from
the first, because I know that all who profess to be absorbed in
the things of the faith are corrupt and treacherous!" And he told
the King how he would have followed the devotee, but he forbade
him; whereupon the folk broke out into weeping and lamentation
and besought Him who is ever near at hand, Him who answereth
prayer, to cause the false recluse, who denied His evidences, to
fall into their hands. Then they laid Sherkan out and buried him
in the mountain aforesaid, mourning over his renowned virtues,
after which they looked for the opening of the city-gate; but it
opened not and none appeared to them on the walls; whereat they
wondered exceedingly, and King Zoulmekan said, "By Allah, I will
not turn back from them, though I tarry here years and years,
till I take my wreak of my brother Sherkan and lay Constantinople
in ruins and slay the King of the Nazarenes, even if death
overcome me and I be at rest from this sorry world!" Then he
brought out the treasure he had taken from the hermitage of
Metrouhena and mustering the troops, divided it amongst them, nor
was there one of them but he gave him what contented him.
Moreover, he called together three hundred horse of every
division and said to them, "Do ye send succours to your family,
for I am resolved to camp here, till I have taken my revenge for
my brother Sherkan, even if I die in this place." Then he
summoned couriers and gave them letters and charged them to do
the soldiers' errands to their families and let them know that
they were safe and in good heart, but that they were encamped
before Constantinople, resolved either to destroy it or perish,
and that, though they should abide there months and years, they
would not depart thence till they had taken the city. Moreover,
he bade Dendan write to his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman, acquainting
her with what had befallen them and with their situation and
commending his child to her care, since that, when he went out to
war, his wife was near her delivery and must needs by that time
have been brought to bed; and if she had given birth to a son, he
charged the messengers to hasten their return and bring him the
news. Then he gave them money and they set out at once, and all
the people came out to take leave of them and entrust them with
the money and the messages they wished to send to their families.
After they had departed, Zoulmekan turned to the Vizier and
commanded him to push forward with the army against the city
walls. So the troops advanced, but found none on the walls,
whereat they marvelled and Zoulmekan was troubled.

To return to Dhat ed Dewahi. As soon as she had slain Sherkan,
she hastened to the walls of Constantinople and called out in the
Greek tongue to the guards, to throw her down a rope. Quoth they,
"Who art thou?" and she said, "I am the princess Dhat ed Dewahi."
They knew her and threw her down a rope, to which she tied
herself, and they drew her up into the city. Then she went in to
King Afridoun and said to him, "What is this I hear from the
Muslims? They say that my son King Herdoub is slain." He
answered, "It is true;" and when she heard this, she shrieked out
and wept so grievously, that she made Afridoun and all who were
present weep also. Then she told the King how she had slain
Sherkan and thirty of his servants, whereat he rejoiced and
thanked her and kissed her hands and exhorted her to resignation
for the loss of her son. "By the Messiah," said she, "I will not
rest content with killing one of the Muslim dogs in revenge for
my son, a king of the kings of the age! But I will assuredly make
shift to kill the Sultan Zoulmekan and the Vizier Dendan and the
Chamberlain and Rustem and Behram and ten thousand cavaliers of
the army of Islam to boot; for it shall never be that my son's
head be paid with the blood-wit of Sherkan's head only." Then
said she to Afridoun, "It is my wish that mourning be made for my
son Herdoub and that the girdle be cut and the crosses broken."
"Do what thou wilt," replied Afridoun; "I will not gainsay thee
in aught. And if thou prolong thy mourning, it were a little
thing; for though the Muslims beleaguer us years and years, they
will never compass their will of us nor get aught of us but
trouble and weariness." Then she took ink-horn and paper and
wrote the following letter: "Shewaha Dhat ed Dewahi to the host
of the Muslims. Know that I entered your country and duped your
nobles and slew your king Omar ben Ennuman in the midst of his
palace. Moreover, I slew, in the battle of the mountain pass and
of the grotto, many of your men, and the last I killed were
Sherkan and his servants. And if fortune favour me and Satan obey
me, I will assuredly kill your Sultan and the Vizier Dendan, for
I am she who came to you in the disguise of a recluse and ye were
the dupes of my tricks and devices. Wherefore, if you be minded
to be in safety, depart at once; and if you covet your own
destruction, abide where you are; for though ye abide here years
and years, ye shall not come by your desire of us; and so peace
be on you." Then she devoted three days to mourning for her son
King Herdoub, and on the fourth day, she called a knight and bade
him make the letter fast to an arrow and shoot it into the Muslim
camp; after which she entered the church and gave herself up to
weeping and lamentation for the loss of her son, saying to him
who took the kingship after him, "Nothing will serve me but I
must kill Zoulmekan and all the princes of Islam."

Meanwhile, the Muslims passed three days in concern and anxiety,
and on the fourth day, they saw a knight on the wall, holding a
bow and about to shoot an arrow to which was fastened a letter.
So they waited till he had shot, and the King bade the Vizier
Dendan take the letter and read it. He did so, and when Zoulmekan
heard its purport, his eyes filled with tears and he shrieked for
anguish at the old woman's perfidy, and Dendan said, "By Allah,
my heart shrank from her!" "How could this traitress impose upon
us twice?" exclaimed Zoulmekan. "By Allah, I will not depart
hence till I fill her kaze with molten lead and set her in a
cage, as men do birds, then bind her with her hair and crucify
her at the gate of Constantinople." Then he addressed himself
again to the leaguer of the city, promising his men that, if it
should be taken, he would divide its treasures equally among
them. After this, he bethought him of his brother and wept sore;
and his tears ceased not to flow, till his body was wasted with
grief, as it were a bodkin. But the Vizier Dendan came in to him
and said, "Take comfort and be consoled; thy brother died not but
because his hour was come, and there is no profit in this
mourning. How well says the poet:

That which is not to be shall by no means be brought To pass, and
that which is to be shall come, unsought,
Even at the time ordained: but he that knoweth not The truth is
still deceived and finds his hopes grown nought.

Wherefore do thou leave this weeping and lamentation and
strengthen thy heart to bear arms." "O Vizier," replied
Zoulmekan, "my heart is heavy for the death of my brother and
father and our absence from our native land, and my mind is
concerned for my subjects." Thereupon the Vizier and the
bystanders wept; but they ceased not from the leaguer of
Constantinople, till, after awhile, news arrived from Baghdad, by
one of the Amirs, that the Sultan's wife had given birth to a son
and that the princess Nuzhet ez Zeman had named him Kanmakan.
Moreover, his sister wrote to him that the boy bid fair to be a
prodigy and that she had commanded the priests and preachers to
pray for them from the pulpits; also, that they were all well and
had been blessed with abundant rains and that his comrade the
stoker was in the enjoyment of all prosperity, with slaves and
servants to attend upon him; but that he was still ignorant of
what had befallen him. Zoulmekan rejoiced greatly at this news
and said to the Vizier Dendan, "Now is my hope fulfilled and my
back strengthened, in that I have been vouchsafed a son.
Wherefore I am minded to leave mourning and let make recitations
of the Koran over my brother's tomb and do almsdeeds on his
account." Quoth the Vizier, "It is well." Then he caused tents to
be pitched over his brother's tomb and they gathered together
such of the troops as could repeat the Koran. Some fell to
reciting the Koran, whilst others chanted the litanies of the
praise of God, and thus they did till the morning, when Zoulmekan
went up to the tomb of his brother Sherkan and shedding copious
tears, repeated the following verses:

They bore him forth, whilst all who went behind him wept and
cried Such cries as Moses gave, when God broke down the
mountain side,
Till to a tomb they came, whose grave seemed dug in all men's
hearts By whom the unity of God is held and glorified.
I had not thought, or ere they bore thee forth upon the bier, To
see my joy upon the hands of men uplifted ride;
Nor, till they laid thee in the grave, could I have ever deemed
That stars could leave their place in heaven and in the dark
earth hide.
Is the indweller of the tomb the hostage of a pit, In which, for
that his face is there, splendour and light abide?
Lo, praise has ta'en upon itself to bring him back to life; Now
that his body's hid, his fame's shown forth and magnified.

When he had made an end of reciting these verses, he wept and all
the troops wept with him; then he threw himself on the tomb, wild
with grief, and the Vizier repeated the words of the poet:

That which fleets past thou hast left and won what endureth for
aye, And even as thou are the folk, that were and have
passed away;
And yet it was not of thy will that thou quittedst this house of
the world; For here hadst thou joy and delight of all that
befell in thy day.
How oft hast thou proven thyself a succour and shield from the
foe, When the arrows and javelins of war flew thick in the
midst of the fray!
I see that this world's but a cheat and a vanity after all, And
ever to seek out the Truth all creatures desire and essay!
The Lord of the Empyrean vouchsafe thee in heaven to dwell And
the Guide assign thee therein a goodly sojourn, I pray!
I bid thee adieu with a sigh and I see, for the loss of thee, The
East and the West o'ershadowed with mourning and dismay.

When the Vizier had finished, he wept sore, and the tears fell
from his eyes, like a network of pearls. Then came forward one of
Sherkan's boon-companions, weeping till his eyes resembled
rivers, and recalled the dead man's noble qualities, reciting the
following cinquains:

Where be thy giving, alas! and the hand of thy bounty fled? They
lie in the earth, and my body is wasted for drearihead.
O guide of the camel-litters,[FN#118] (may God still gladden thy
stead!) My tears on my cheeks have written, in characters of
That which would both rejoice thee and fill thee with
pain and dread!
By Allah, 'twixt me and my heart, not a word of thee is said Nor
doth the thought of thy grace and thy glory pass through my
But that mine eyes are wounded by dint of the tears I shed! Yea,
if to rest on another my glance be ever led,
May my lids be drawn in slumber by longing for the

Then Zoulmekan and Dendan wept sore and the whole army lamented
aloud; after which they all withdrew to their tents, and
Zoulmekan turned to Dendan and took counsel with him concerning
the conduct of the war. On this wise they passed days and nights,
what while Zoulmekan was weighed down with grief and concern,
till at last he said to the Vizier, "I have a mind to hear
stories of adventures and chronicles of kings and tales of folk
oppressed of love, so haply God may make this to solace the heavy
anxiety that is on my heart and do away from me weeping and
lamentation." "O King," replied Dendan, "if nought but hearing
pleasant tales of bygone kings and peoples and stories of folk
oppressed of love and so forth can dispel thy trouble, the thing
is easy, for I had no other business, in the lifetime of thy late
father, than to tell him stories and repeat verses to him; so,
this very night, I will tell thee a story of a lover and his
beloved, which shall lighten thy heart." When Zoulmekan heard
this, his heart yearned after that which the Vizier promised him
and he did nothing but watch for the coming of the night, that he
might hear what he had to tell. So, no sooner had the night
closed in, than he bade light the lamps and the candles and bring
all that was needful of meat and drink and perfumes and what not
and sending for Dendan, Rustem, Behram, Terkash and the Grand
Chamberlain, turned to the Vizier and said, "O Vizier, behold,
the night is come and hath let down its veils over us, and we
desire that thou tell us that which thou didst promise us." "With
all my heart," replied the Vizier "Know, O august King, that I
have heard tell a story of a lover and a loved one and of the
discourse between them and of the rare and pleasant things that
befell them, a story such as does away care from the heart and
dispels sorrow like unto that of the patriarch Jacob: and it is
as follows:

Story of Taj El Mulouk and the Princess Dunya.

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

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

So it is my counsel, O King, that thou despatch to her father a
sagacious and experienced ambassador, versed in the conduct of
affairs, who shall with courteous and persuasive speech demand
her in marriage for thee; for she hath not her equal in the
world, far or near. So shalt thou enjoy her beauty in the way of
right and the Lord of Glory be content with thee; for it is
reported of the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) that he
said, "There is no monkery in Islam." At this the King was
transported to the perfection of delight; his heart was lightened
and his breast dilated and care and anxiety ceased from him; and
he said to the Vizier, 'None shall go about this business but
thou, by reason of thy consummate wit and good breeding;
wherefore do thou make ready by the morrow and depart and demand
me this girl in marriage, with whom thou hast made my heart to be
engrossed; nor do thou return to me but with her.' 'I hear and
obey,' replied the Vizier, and withdrawing to his own house, made
ready a present such as befits kings, of jewels and other
precious things, light of carriage but heavy of worth, besides
Arabian horses and coats of mail, fine-wrought as those which
David made,[FN#119] and chests of treasure, such as speech &fails
to describe. These all he loaded upon camels and mules and set
out, with flags and banners flying before him and attended by a
hundred white slaves and the like number of black and a hundred
slave-girls. The King charged him to return to him speedily; so
he set out, leaving Suleiman Shah on coals of fire, engrossed
night and day with desire for the princess, and fared on, without
ceasing, night and day, across plains and deserts, till there
remained but a day's journey between him and the city to which he
was bound. Here he halted on the banks of a river, and calling
one of his chief officers, bade him hasten forward to King Zehr
Shah and announce his approach. Accordingly, the messenger rode
on in haste to the city and was about to enter it, when the King,
who chanced to be seated in one of his pleasaunces before the
gate, espied him and knowing him for a stranger, bade bring him
before him. So when the messenger came into his presence, he
informed him of the approach of the Vizier of the mighty King
Suleiman Shah, Lord of the Green Country and of the mountains of
Ispahan; whereat King Zehr Shah rejoiced and bade him welcome.
Then he carried him to his palace and said to him, 'Where didst
thou leave the Vizier?' 'I left him,' replied the messenger, 'at
the first of the day, on the banks of such a river, and he will
be with thee to-morrow, may God continue His favours to thee
and have mercy upon thy parents!' Whereupon the King commanded
one of his Viziers to take the better part of his nobles and
chamberlains and officers and grandees and go out to meet the
ambassador, in honour of King Suleiman Shah, for that his
dominion extended over the country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is become the Khalif of beauty in Joseph's place; The hearts
of all lovers dread him, whenas they see his grace.
Pause thou with me and fasten thy gaze on him! thou'lt see The
sign of the Khalifate set in sable[FN#120] on his face.

And as says another:

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

And a third:

I marvel at yon mole that serves the fire eternal, Upon his
cheek, yet is not burned, all Kafir[FN#121] though it be;
And eke I marvel that he's sent or God, with every glance To work
true miracles; and yet a sorcerer is he!
The many gall-bladders that burst for him it is that make The
shining fringes of his cheek so black and bright to see.

And yet a fourth:

I wonder to hear the folk ask of the water of life And question
in which of the lands its magical fountain flows
Whenas I see it well from the damask lips of a fawn, Under his
tender moustache and his cheek's perennial rose.
And eke 'tis a wonder of wonders that Moses,[FN#122] finding it
there Flowing, yet took no patience nor laid him down to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story of Aziz and Azizeh.

My father was one of the chief merchants (of my native town) and
God had vouchsafed him no other child than myself; but I had a
cousin, the daughter of my father's brother, who was brought up
with me in our house; for her father was dead and before his
death, he had agreed with my father that I should marry her. So
when I reached man's estate and she became a woman, they did not
separate us, and we ceased not to sleep on the same couch,
knowing no evil, albeit she was more thoughtful, more intelligent
and quicker-witted than I, till at last, my father spoke to my
mother and said, "This very year we will draw up the contract of
marriage between Aziz and Azizeh." So they agreed upon this, and
he betook himself to preparing victual for the marriage
festivities. When he had made an end of his preparations and
there remained nought but to draw up the contract and consummate
the marriage, he appointed the wedding for a certain Friday,
after the congregational prayers, and going round to his friends
among the merchants and others, acquainted them with this, whilst
my mother invited her female friends and kindred. When the day
came, they cleaned the guest-chamber and washed the marble floor,
then spread carpets about the house and set out thereon what
was needful, after they had hung the walls with cloth of gold.
Now the folk had agreed to come to our house after the Friday-
prayers; so my father went and let make cates and dishes
of sweetmeats, and there remained nothing to do but to draw up
the contract. Then my mother sent me to the bath and sent after
me a suit of new clothes of the richest kind which I put on, when
I came out. The clothes were perfumed, and as I went along, there
exhaled from them a delicious fragrance, that scented the way. I
was about to repair to the mosque, when I bethought me of one of
my friends and was minded to go in quest of him that he might be
present at the drawing up of the contract, saying in myself,
"This will occupy me till near the time of prayer." So I turned
back and came to a by-street, that I had never before entered.
Now I was in a profuse perspiration, from the effects of the bath
and the new clothes on my body, and the sweat streamed from me,
whilst the perfume of my clothes was wafted abroad: so I sat down
to rest on a stone bench at the upper end of the street,
spreading under me an embroidered handkerchief I had with me. The
heat redoubled on me, so that my forehead sweated and the drops
ran down on to my cheeks; but I could not wipe my face with my
handkerchief, because I lay upon it. So I was about to take the
skirt of my gaberdine and wipe my cheeks with it, when suddenly
there fell on me from above a white handkerchief, softer to the
feel than the zephyr and pleasanter to the sight than recovery to
the sick. I seized on it and looking up to see whence it came, my
eyes met those of the lady who gave me these gazelles. She was
looking out of a wicket in a lattice of brass and never saw my
eyes a fairer than she; my tongue fails to picture her beauty.
When she saw me looking at her, she put her forefinger to her
mouth, then joined her middle and index fingers and laid them on
her bosom, between her breasts; after which she drew in her head
and shut the wicket. With this, fire broke out and raged in my
heart; the glance I had of her cost me a thousand sighs and I
abode perplexed, having heard no word from her and understanding
not the meaning of her signs. I looked again at the window, but
found it shut and waited till sundown but heard no sound and saw
no one. When I despaired of seeing her again, I rose and taking
up the handkerchief, opened it, whereupon there exhaled from it a
scent of musk, which caused me such ease that meseemed I was in
Paradise. Then I spread it out before me and there dropped from
it a little scroll of paper. I opened the scroll, which was
scented with a delicious perfume, and found written therein the
following verses:

I sent my love a scroll, complaining of desire Writ in a fine,
small hand; for writings vary still.
"Why is thy writing thus," my lover said to me, "Attenuate and
small, uneath to read and ill?"
Quoth I, "Because I too am wasted, ay, and thin. Thus should
their writing be, who weary at Love's will."

Then, casting my eyes on the beauty of the handkerchief, I saw
embroidered on one of its borders the following verses:

The down of his whiskers writes (good luck to it for A scribe!)
Two lines, in the basil[FN#124] hand, on the table of his
O the wilderment of the moon at him, when he appears! And O the
shame of the branch at sight of his flexile grace!

And on the opposite border were the following verses:

The whiskers write upon his cheeks, with ambergris on pearl, Two
lines, as 'twere with jet upon an apple, line for line.
Death harbours in his languid eyes and slays with every glance;
And in his cheeks is drunkenness, and not in any wine.

When I read what was written on the handkerchief, the flames of
love raged in my heart, and longing and trouble redoubled on me.
So I took the handkerchief and the scroll and went home, knowing
no means to compass my desire, for that I was inexperienced in
love affairs and unskilled in the interpretation of the language
of signs used therein. The night was far spent before I reached
my house, and when I entered, I found my cousin sitting weeping.
As soon as she saw me, she wiped away her tears and coming up to
me, took off my (outer) clothes and asked me the reason of my
absence, saying, "All the folk, amirs and notables and merchants
and others, assembled here, and the Cadi and the witnesses came
also at the appointed time. They ate and sat awhile, awaiting thy
coming for the drawing up of the contract, till they despaired of
thee, when they dispersed and went their ways. And indeed," added
she, "thy father was exceeding wroth, by reason of this, and
swore that he would not celebrate our marriage till next year,
for that he hath spent much money on this occasion. What hath
befallen thee to make thee tarry till now?" "O my cousin,"
replied I, "do not ask me what hath befallen me." Then I told her
all that had passed and showed her the handkerchief and the
scroll. She took them and read what was written therein;
whereupon the tears ran down her cheeks and she repeated the
following verses:

Who says to thee, the first of love is free, Tell him, not so;
but, on the contrary,
'Tis all constraint, wherein no blame can be. History indeed
attests this verity;
It does not style the good coin falsified.
Say, if thou wilt, the taste of pain is sweet, Or to be spurned
by Fortune's flying feet;
Of need or vengeance, fortune or defeat, With joy or dole it
makes the heart to beat:
'Twixt phrase and counterphrase I'm stupefied.
But as for him whose happy days are light, Fair maids, whose lips
with smiles are ever bright,
Borne on the fragrant gales of their delight, Who hath his will,
unhindered of despite,
'Tis not with him A craven heart may bide.

Then she asked me what she said and what signs she made to me.
"She spoke not," answered I; "but put her index finger to her
mouth, then joining it to her middle finger, laid them both on
her bosom and pointed in the ground, after which she drew in her
head and shut the wicket and I saw her no more. She took my heart
with her and I sat till sundown, expecting her to appear again at
the window; but she came not: so, when I despaired of her, I rose
and went home. This is my story, and I beg thee to help me in
this my affliction." With this, she raised her face to me and
said, "O my cousin, if thou soughtest my eye, I would tear it
from its socket for thee, and I cannot choose but help thee to
thy desire and her also to hers; for she is passionately
enamoured of thee, even as thou of her." "And what is the meaning
of her signs?" asked I. "As for the putting her finger to her
mouth," replied Azizeh, "it meant that thou art to her as her
soul to her body and that she would bite upon union with thee
with her wisdom-teeth. The handkerchief is the token of greeting
from lover to beloved and the scroll is a sign that her heart is
bound up in thee. As for the laying her two fingers between her
breasts, it is as if she said to thee, 'Return hither after two
days, that the sight of thy countenance may dispel my anguish.'
For know, O my cousin, that she loves thee and trusts in thee.
This is my reading of her signs, and could I come and go at will,
I would quickly bring you and her together and cover you both
with my skirt." I thanked her and said to myself, "I will wait
two days." So I abode two days in the house, without going out,
and ate not nor drank, but lay with my head in my cousin's lap,
whilst she comforted me and bade me take heart and be of good
cheer. When the two days were past, she said to me, "Take courage
and dress thyself and go to her, according to the tryst." Then
she rose and changed my clothes and perfumed me with incense. So
I took heart and went out and walked on till I came to the
by-street, where I sat down on the bench. After awhile, the
wicket opened and I looked up and seeing the lady, fell down in a
swoon. When I revived, I took courage to look again at her and
again became insensible. Then I came to myself and looking at
her, saw that she had a mirror and a red handkerchief in her
hand. When she saw me, she bared her forearms and smote her
breast with her palm and five fingers; after which she raised her
hands and holding the mirror forth of the wicket, took the red
handkerchief and retired with it, but immediately returned and
putting out her hand with the handkerchief, lowered it towards
the ground and raised it again three several times. Then she
wrung it out and folded it in her hands, bowing her head the
while; after which she drew in her head and shutting the window,
went away, without saying a word, leaving me confounded and
knowing not what she meant. I sat there till the evening and did
not return home till near midnight, when I found my cousin
sitting, weeping bitterly and repeating the following verses:

Ah me, what ails the censurer, that he at thee should flite? How
shall I be consoled for thee, and thou a sapling slight?
O thou, the splendour of whose sight has ta'en my heart by storm,
Whose supple bending grace compels to passion's utmost
Whose eyes, with Turkish languor caught, work havoc in the breast
And leave such wounds as ne'er were made by falchion in the
Thou layst on me a heavy load of passion and desire, On me that
am too weak to bear a shift upon me dight.
Ay, tears of blood I weep, for that my censors say to me, "A
sudden sword, from out his lids thou lovest, shall thee
Ah, would my heart were like to thine, even as my body is Like to
thy waist, all thin and frail and dwindled for despite!
Thou, that my prince in beauty art, a steward[FN#126] hast, whose
rule Aggrieves me and a chamberlain[FN#127] that doth me
foul upright.
He lies who says, "All loveliness in Joseph was comprised." How
many Josephs are there not within thy beauty bright!
I force myself to turn from thee, for fear of spying eyes, Though
sore it irks me to forswear the solace of thy sight.

At this, trouble and grief redoubled on me and I fell down in a
corner; whereupon she sprang up and coming to me, lifted me up
and took off my outer clothes and wiped my face with her sleeve.
Then she asked me how I had fared, and I told her all that had
happened. "O my cousin," said she, "as for her sign to thee with
her palm and five fingers, it meant, 'Return after five days;'
and her gestures with the mirror and the putting forth of her
head and the lowering and raising of the red handkerchief meant,
'Sit in the dyer's shop, till my messenger come to thee.'" When I
heard this, fire flamed up in my heart and I exclaimed, "O my
cousin, by Allah, thou sayst sooth in this thine interpretation;
for I saw the shop of a Jewish dyer in the street." Then I wept,
and she said, "O my cousin, summon up resolution and be steadfast
of heart: others are occupied with love for years and are
constant to endure the ardour of passion, whilst thou hast but a
week[FN#128] to wait; so why art thou thus impatient?" Then she
went on to cheer me with comfortable talk and brought me food: so
I took a mouthful, but could not eat and abstained from meat and
drink and knew not the solace of sleep, till my colour paled and
I lost my good looks; for I had never before been in love nor
tasted the ardour of passion. So I fell sick and my cousin also
sickened on my account; but every night she would divert me with
stories of love and lovers, till I fell asleep; and whenever I
awoke, I used to find her wakeful for my sake, with the tears
running down her cheeks. Thus we did till the five days were
past, when she rose and heating water, bathed me with it. Then
she dressed me and said to me, "Go to her and may God fulfil your
wish and bring thee to thy desire of thy beloved!" So I went out
and walked on, till I came to the by-street. I found the dyer's
shop shut, for it was Saturday, and sat before it, till I heard
the call to afternoon-prayer. Then the sun turned pale, the
Muezzins chanted the call to the prayer of sunset and the night
came; but I saw no sign nor heard aught of her. With this, I
feared for myself, sitting there alone; so I rose and went home,
staggering like a drunken man. When I reached the house, I found
my cousin Azizeh standing, with one hand grasping a peg driven
into the wall and the other on her breast; and she was sighing
heavily and repeating the following verses:

The longing of a Bedouin maid, whose folk are far away, Who
yearns after the willow of the Hejaz and the hay,[FN#129]
Whose tears, when she on travellers lights, might for their water
serve And eke her passion, with its heat, their bivouac-fire
Is not more fierce nor ardent than my longing for my love, Who
deems that I commit a crime in loving him alway.

When she had finished, she turned and seeing me, wiped away her
tears and mine with her sleeve. Then she smiled in my face and
said, "O my cousin, God grant thee joy of that which He hath
given thee! Why didst thou not pass the night with thy beloved
and why hast thou not fulfilled thy desire of her?" When I heard
what she said, I gave her a kick in the breast and she fell over
on to the edge of the estrade and struck her forehead against a
peg there. I looked at her and saw that her forehead was cut open
and the blood running; but she was silent and did not utter a
syllable. She made some tinder of rags and staunching the wound
with it, bound her forehead with a bandage; after which she wiped
up the blood that had fallen on the carpet, and it was as if
nothing had happened. Then she came up to me and smiling in my
face, said, with gentle speech, "By Allah, O my cousin, I had it
not in my thought to mock at thee or at her! I was troubled with
a pain in my head and thought to be let blood, but now thou hast
eased my head and brow; so tell me what has befallen thee
to-day." So I told her what had passed and she wept and said, "O
my cousin, rejoice in the near fulfilment of thy desire and the
attainment of thy hopes. Verily, this is a sign of acceptance;
she only stayed away, because she wished to try thee and know if
thou wert patient and sincere in thy love for her or not.
To-morrow, do thou go to her at the old place and note what signs
she makes to thee; for indeed thy gladness is near and the end of
thy grief is at hand." And she went on to comfort me; but my
trouble and affliction ceased not to increase on me. Presently,
she brought me food, but I kicked the dishes away, so that their
contents were scattered in all directions, and said, "Every lover
is a madman; he inclines not to food neither enjoys sleep." "By
Allah, O my cousin," answered she, "these are indeed the signs of
love!" And the tears streamed down her cheeks, whilst she
gathered the fragments of the dishes and wiped up the food; then
she sat down by me and talked to me, whilst I prayed God to
hasten the coming of the day. When, at last, the morning arose
with its light and shone, I went out and hastening to the
by-street in question, sat down on the bench, when behold, the
wicket opened and she put out her head, laughing. Then she went
in and returned with a mirror, a bag, a pot of flowering plants
and a lamp. First, she took the mirror and putting it into the
bag, tied it up and threw it back into the room; after which she
let down her hair over her face and set the lamp an instant on
the pot of flowers; then took up all the things and shutting the
window, went away, without saying a word. My heart was tortured
by her obscure signs and mysterious gestures, and passion and
distraction redoubled on me. So I retraced my steps, tearful-eyed
and mournful-hearted, and returning home, found Azizeh sitting,
with her face to the wall; for her heart was on fire for grief
and anxiety and jealousy; albeit the love she bore me forbade her
to acquaint me with what she suffered, by reason of what she saw
of the excess of my passion and distraction (for another). I
looked at her and saw that she had two bandages on her head, one
on account of the wound on her forehead, and the other over her
eye, which pained her for excess of weeping; and she was in very
sorry plight, weeping and repeating the following verses:

I count the nights, night after night, the weary nights and slow;
Yet would I, once upon a time, unreckoned let them go.
I have no knowledge, O my friend, of that which God ordains Of
Leila or what He decrees to me, but this I know
He to another her adjudged and cursed me with her love: So hath
He not afflicted me with other than her woe.

When she had finished, she looked round and seeing me through her
tears, wiped them away and came up to me, but could not speak for
excess of emotion. So she was silent awhile, then said to me, "O
my cousin, tell me what befell thee with her this time." So I
told her all that had passed, and she said, "Be patient, for the
time of thy delight is come, and thou hast won to the attainment
of thy hopes. As for her sign with the mirror and the bag, it was
as if she said to thee, 'When the sun is set;' and the letting
down of her hair over her face signified, When the night is come
and hath let fall the blackness of the dark and overmastered the
daylight, come hither.' As for her gesture with the flower-pot
and the lamp, it meant, 'When thou comest, enter the garden
behind the street, and where as thou seest the lamp burning, go
thither and seat thyself beneath it and wait for me; for the love
of thee is killing me.'" When I heard this, I cried out for
excess of passion and said, "How long wilt thou deceive me with
promises and I go to her, but get not my will nor find any truth
in thine interpreting?" At this, she laughed and replied, "Thou
needest but have patience for the rest of the day, till the light
depart and the night come with the darkness, and thou shalt enjoy
fruition and accomplish thy hopes. And indeed this is true
without leasing." And she repeated the following verses:

Let the days pass, as they list, and fare, And enter thou not the
house of despair.
Full oft when the quest of a thing is hard, The next hour brings
us the end of our care.

Then she came to me and began to comfort me with soothing words,
but dared not offer me food, fearing my wrath and seeking to make
me incline to her: so she only took off my upper garment and said
to me, "Sit, O my cousin, that I may entertain thee with talk,
till the end of the day; and God willing, thou shalt be with thy
beloved as soon as it is night." But I paid no heed to her and
gave not over looking for the coming of the night, saying, "O
Lord, hasten the coming of the night!" till the hour of the
evening-prayer, when she wept sore and giving me a grain of pure
musk, said to me, "O my cousin, put this in thy mouth, and when
thou foregatherest with thy beloved and hast taken thy will of
her and she hath granted thee thy desire, repeat to her this

Tell me, O lovers, for God's sake, I do entreat of you, When love
is sore upon a maid, alack! what shall she do?"

And she kissed me and made me swear not to repeat this to my
mistress, till I should be about to leave her. Then I went out
and walked on till I came to the garden. I found the door open;
so I entered, and seeing a light in the distance, made towards it
and came to a great pavilion, vaulted over with a dome of ivory
and ebony, from the midst of which hung the lamp. The floor was
spread with silken carpets, embroidered in gold and silver, and
under the lamp stood a great candle, burning in a stand of gold.
Midmost the pavilion was a fountain, adorned with all manner of
figures; and by it stood a table of food, covered with a silken
napkin, and a great porcelain vase full of wine, with a goblet of
crystal, sprayed with gold. Near these was a great covered dish
of silver, which I uncovered and found therein fruits of all
kinds, figs and pomegranates and grapes and oranges and citrons
and shaddocks, together with all manner sweet-scented flowers,
such as roses and jasmine and myrtle and eglantine and narcissus
and all kinds of sweet-smelling herbs; but I saw there not a
living soul, no, not even a slave, male or female, to guard these
things. I was transported with delight at what I saw, and my
grief and anxiety ceased from me. So I sat down to await the
coming of the beloved of my heart: but the first hour of the
night passed by, and the second and the third, and still she came
not. Then I grew sore an hungred, for that it was long since I
had tasted food by reason of the violence of my passion: but when
I found the garden even as my cousin had told me and saw the
truth of her interpretation of my mistress's signs, my mind was
set at rest and I made sure of attaining my desire, so that
nature resumed its sway and I felt the pangs of hunger. Moreover
the odour of the viands on the table excited in me a longing to
eat: so I went up to the table, and lifting the cover, found in
the middle a porcelain dish, containing four fricasseed fowls,
seasoned with spices, round which were four smaller dishes, one
containing sweetmeats, another conserve of pomegranate-seeds, a
third almond patties and a fourth honey fritters, and the
contents of these dishes were part sweet and part acid. So I ate
of the fritters and a piece of meat, then went on to the almond
patties and ate what I would of them; after which I attacked the
sweetmeats, of which I ate a spoonful or two or three or four,
ending with part of a fowl and a mouthful of bread. With this my
stomach became full and my limbs heavy and I grew drowsy; so I
laid my head on a cushion, after having washed my hands, and
sleep overcame me; and I knew not what happened to me after this
nor did I awake till the sun's heat burnt me, for that I had not
tasted sleep for days. When I awoke, I found myself lying on the
naked marble, with a piece of salt and another of charcoal on my
stomach; so I stood up and shook my clothes and turned right and
left, but could see no one. At this I was perplexed and
afflicted; the tears ran down my cheeks and I mourned grievously
for myself. Then I returned home, and when I entered, I found my
cousin beating her bosom and weeping like the rain-clouds, as she
repeated the following verses:

From out my loved one's land a breeze blows cool and sweet: The
fragrance of its wafts stirs up the ancient heat.
Blow, zephyr of the East! Each lover hath his lot, His
heaven-appointed doom of fortune or defeat.
Lo, if we might, we would embrace thee for desire, Even as a
lover clips his mistress, when they meet.
Whenas my cousin's face is absent, God forbids All pleasance
[unto me] and all life has of sweet.
Ah, would I knew his heart was even as is mine, All wasted and
consumed by passion's flaming feet!

When she saw me, she rose in haste and wiping away her tears,
accosted me with her soft speech, saying, "O my cousin, verily
God hath been gracious to thee in thy love, in that she whom thou
lovest loves thee, whilst I pass my time in weeping and lamenting
my separation from thee that blamest and chidest me; but may God
not reproach thee for my sake!" Then she smiled in my face, a sad
smile, and caressed me; then taking off my outer clothes, she
spread them out and said, "By Allah, this is not the scent of one
who hath enjoyed his mistress! Tell me what has befallen thee, O
my cousin." So I told her all that had passed, and she smiled
again, a sad smile, and said, "Verily, my heart is full of pain;
but may he not live who would hurt thy heart! Indeed, this woman
makes herself extravagantly difficult to thee, and by Allah, I
fear for thee from her. Know that the meaning of the salt is that
thou wert drowned in sleep and she likens thee to insipid food,
at which the soul sickens; and it is as if she said to thee, 'It
behoves that thou be salted, lest nature reject thee. Thou
professest to be of the true lovers, but sleep is forbidden to a
lover; therefore, thy love is false.' But it is her love for thee
that is false; for she saw thee asleep, yet awoke thee not, and
were her love for thee sincere, she had aroused thee. As for the
charcoal, it means, 'God blacken thy face, for that thou makest
a lying presence of love, whereas thou art but a child and
hast no concern but to eat and drink and sleep!' This is the
interpretation of her signs, and may God the Most High deliver
thee from her!" When I heard my cousin's words, I beat my breast
with my hand and cried out, "By Allah, this is the truth, for I
slept and lovers sleep not! Indeed, I have sinned against myself,
for nought could have done me more hurt than eating and sleeping.
What shall I do!" Then I wept sore and said to her, "Have
compassion on me and tell me what to do, so may God have
compassion on thee: else I shall die." Now my cousin loved me
very dearly; so she replied, "On my head and eyes. But, O my
cousin, as I have told thee often, could I go in and out at will,
I would very soon bring you together and cover you both with my
skirt: nor would I do this but hoping to win thy favour. God
willing, I will do my utmost endeavour to bring about your union;
but hearken thou to me and do as I bid thee. Go to the garden at
nightfall and sit down in the same place and look thou eat not,
for eating induces sleep; and beware of sleeping, for she will
not come to thee, till a fourth part of the night be passed. And
may God save thee from her mischief!" When I heard this, I
rejoiced and besought God to hasten the night. As soon as it was
dark, I rose to go, and my cousin said to me, "If thou foregather
with her, repeat to her the verse I taught thee, at the time of
leave-taking." "On my head and eyes," replied I, and going out,
repaired to the garden, where I found all as on the previous
night, with meat and drink spread ready, and dessert and flowers
and so forth. I went up into the pavilion and smelt the odour of
the viands and my soul lusted after them; but I forbore awhile,
till at last I could no longer restrain my appetite. So I went up
to the table, and raising the cover, found a dish of fowls,
surrounded by four smaller dishes, containing various meats. I
ate a mouthful of each dish and a piece of meat and as much as I
would of the sweetmeat: then I tasted a dish of rice dressed with
honey and saffron and liking it, supped of it by the spoonful,
till I was satisfied and my belly was full. With this, my eyelids
became heavy; so I took a cushion and put it under my head,
saying, "Surely I can recline upon it, without going to sleep."
Then I closed my eyes and slept, nor did I wake till the sun had
risen, when I found myself lying on the bare marble, with a die
of bone, a play-stick,[FN#130] a green date-stone[FN#131] and a
carob-bean on my stomach. There was no furniture nor aught else
in the place, and it was as if there had been nothing there
yesterday. So I rose and shaking all these things off me, went
out in a rage, and going home, found my cousin sighing and
repeating the following verses:

Wasted body and heart a-bleeding for despair And tears that down
my cheeks stream on and on for e'er,
And a beloved one persistent in disdain; Yet all a fair one does
must needs be right and fair.
O cousin mine, thou'st filled my heart with longing pain And
wounded are mine eyes with tears that never spare.

I chid her and reviled her, at which she wept; then wiping away
her tears, she came up to me and kissed me and pressed me to her
bosom, whilst I held back from her and blamed myself. Then she
said to me, "O my cousin, meseems thou didst sleep again last
night?" "Yes," replied I; "and when I awoke, I found on my
stomach a die of bone, a play-stick, a green date-stone and a
carob-bean, and I know not why she did this." Then I wept and
said to her, "Expound to me her meaning in this and tell me what
I shall do and help me in this my strait." "On my head and eyes,"
answered she. "Know then that, by the figure of the die and the
play-stick, she says to thee, 'Thy body is present, but thy heart
absent. Love is not thus: so do not reckon thyself among lovers.'
As for the date-stone, it is as if she said to thee, 'If thou
wert in love, thy heart would be on fire with passion and thou
wouldst not taste the delight of sleep; for the sweet of love is
like a green date and kindles a fire in the entrails.' As for the
carob-bean, it signifies, 'The lover's heart is wearied; so be
thou patient under our separation, even as Job was patient.'"
When I heard this, fires raged in my entrails and grief redoubled
upon my heart and I cried out, saying, "God ordained sleep to me,
of my ill-fortune!" Then I said to her, "O my cousin, I conjure
thee by my life, contrive me some device whereby I may win to
her!" She wept and answered, "O Aziz, O my cousin, verily my
heart is full of melancholy thought and I cannot speak: but go
thou again to-night to the same place and look that thou sleep
not, and thou shalt surely attain thy desire. This is my counsel
and peace be on thee." "God willing," said I, "I will not sleep,
but will do as thou biddest me." Then she rose and set food
before me, saying, "Eat now what may suffice thee, that thy heart
may be free." So I ate my fill, and when the night came, my
cousin rose and bringing me a sumptuous suit of clothes, clad me
therein. Then she made me promise to repeat the verse aforesaid
to my mistress and bade me beware of sleeping. So I left her and
repairing to the garden, went up into the pavilion, where I
occupied myself with gazing on the garden, holding my eyes open
with my fingers and wagging my head from side to side, as the
night darkened on me. Presently I grew hungry with watching, and
the smell of the meats, being wafted towards me, increased my
hunger: so I went up to the table and taking off the cover, ate a
piece of meat and a mouthful of every dish; after which I turned
to the vessel of wine, saying in myself, "I will drink one cup."
So I drank one cup and a second and a third, till I had drunk
full half a score, when the air smote me and I fell to the earth
like a dead man. I lay thus till day, when I awoke and found
myself without the garden, with a large sharp knife and an iron
dirhem[FN#132] on my stomach. I arose trembling and taking the
knife and the dirhem, went home where I found my cousin saying,
"Verily, I am in this house wretched and sorrowful, having no
helper but weeping." When I entered, I fell down at full length
and fainted, throwing the knife and the dirhem from my hand. As
soon as I came to myself, I told her what had passed and said,
"Indeed, I shall never enjoy my desire." The sight of my tears
and my passion redoubled her distress on my account, and she
said, "Verily, I can no more. I warned thee against sleeping; but
thou wouldst not listen to my counsel, and my words profited thee
nothing." "By Allah," cried I, "I conjure thee to explain to me
the meaning of the knife and the dirhem." "By the dirhem,"
replied she, "she alludes to her right eye, and it is as if she
said to thee, 'I swear, by the Lord of all creatures and by my
right eye, that, if thou come here again and sleep, I will slay
thee with this knife!' And indeed, O my cousin, I fear for thee
from her malice; my heart is full of anguish for thee and I
cannot speak. Nevertheless, if thou canst be sure of thyself not
to sleep, return to her and thou shalt attain thy desire; but if
thou sleep, according to thy wont, she will surely slay thee." "O
my cousin," said I, "what shall I do? I conjure thee, by Allah,
to help me in this my affliction!" "On my head and eyes," replied
she. "If thou wilt hearken to me and do as I say, thou shalt have
thy will." Quoth I, "I will indeed hearken to thee and do thy
bidding." And she said, "When it is time for thee to go, I will
tell thee." Then she pressed me to her bosom and laying me on the
bed, rubbed my feet, till drowsiness overcame me and I was
drowned in sleep; when she took a fan and seating herself at my
head, ceased not to fan my face till the end of the day. Then she
awoke me, and I found her sitting at my head weeping, with the
fan in her hand and her clothes wet with tears. When she saw that
I was awake, she wiped away her tears and fetching food, set it
before me. I refused it, but she said to me, "Didst thou not
promise to do my bidding? Eat." So I ate and did not cross her,
and she proceeded to put the food into my mouth and I to eat,
till I was full. Then she made me drink sherbet of jujube-fruit
and sugar and washed my hands and dried them with a napkin; after
which she sprinkled me with rose-water, and I sat with her
awhile, restored to health and spirits. When the night had closed
in, she dressed me and said to me, "O my cousin, watch all night
and sleep not; for she will not come to thee this time till the
last of the night, and God willing, thou shalt foregather with
her this night: but do not forget my charge." Then she wept, and
my heart was sore for her by reason of her much weeping, and I
said to her, "What is the charge thou gavest me?" "When thou art
about to take leave of her," replied she, "repeat to her the
verse I taught thee." So I left her, full of gladness, and
repairing to the garden, entered the pavilion, where I sat down
satiated with food, and watched till a fourth part of the night
was past. The night was tedious to me as it were a year: but I
remained awake, till it was three quarters spent and the cocks
cried out and I became sore an hungred for long watching. So I
went up to the table and ate my fill, whereupon my head grew
heavy and I was on the point of falling asleep, when I espied a
light making towards me from afar. So I sprang up and washed my
hands and mouth and roused myself; and before long, up came the
lady, accompanied by ten damsels, in whose midst she shone, like
the full moon among the stars. She was clad in a dress of green
satin, embroidered with red gold, and she was as says the poet:

She lords it over her lovers in garments all of green, With open
vest and collars and flowing hair beseen.
"What is thy name?" I asked her, and she replied, "I'm she Who
burns the hearts of lovers on coals of love and teen."
I made my moan unto her of passion and desire; "Upon a rock," she
answered, "thy plaints are wasted clean."
"Even if thy heart," I told her, "be rock in very deed, Yet hath
God made fair water well from the rock, I ween."

When she saw me, she laughed and said, "How is it that thou art
awake and that sleep hath not overcome thee. Now that thou hast
passed the night without sleep, I know that thou art in love, for
it is the mark of a lover to watch the night for stress of
longing." Then she signed to her women and they went away,
whereupon she came up to me and strained me to her bosom and
kissed me and sucked my upper lip, whilst I kissed her and sucked
her lower lip. I put my hand to her waist and pressed it and we
came to the ground at the same moment. Then she undid her
trousers and they fell down to her anklets and we fell to
clipping and toying and cricketing and speaking softly and biting
and intertwining of legs and going round about the House and the
corners thereof,[FN#133] till her senses failed her for delight
and she swooned away. And indeed that night was heart-gladdening
and eye-refreshing, even as says the poet:

The sweetest of all the nights that ever the world can show! The
cup in it stinted never from hand to hand to go.
Therein I did dissever mine eyes from sleep and made The
ear-drop[FN#134] and the anklet[FN#135] foregather evermo'.

We lay together till the morning, when I would have gone away,
but she stopped me, saying, "Stay, till I tell thee somewhat and
give thee a charge." So I waited, whilst she undid a handkerchief
and taking out this piece of linen, spread it out before me. I
saw worked on it these two figures of gazelles and admired it
exceedingly; and she said to me, "Keep this carefully, for it is
my sister's work." "What is thy sister's name?" asked I, and she
answered, "Nour el Huda." Then I took the piece of linen and went
away, joyful, after we had agreed that I should visit her every
night in the garden; but in my joy I forgot to repeat to her the
verse my cousin had taught me. When I reached home, I found
Azizeh lying down; but, as soon as she saw me, she rose, with the
tears running from her eyes, and coming up to me, kissed me on
the breast and said, "Didst thou repeat the verse to her, as I
enjoined thee?" "I forgot it," answered I; "and here is what made
me forget it." And I threw the piece of linen down before her.
She rose and sat down again, but was unable to contain herself
and her eyes ran over with tears, whilst she repeated the
following verses:

O thou that seekest severance, forbear; Let not the fair delude
thee with their sleight.
Softly, for fortune's nature is deceit And parting is the end of

Then she said, "O my cousin, give me this piece of linen." So I
gave it to her, and she took it and unfolding it, saw what was
therein. When the time came for my going to my mistress, she said
to me, "Go and peace be with thee; and when thou art about to
leave her, repeat to her the verse I taught thee and which thou
forgottest." Quoth I, "Repeat it to me." So she repeated it. Then
I went to the garden and entered the pavilion, where I found the
lady awaiting me. When she saw me, she rose and kissed me and
made me sit in her lap; and we ate and drank and did our desire
as on the previous night. In the morning, I repeated to her my
cousin's verse:

Tell me, O lovers, for God's sake I do entreat of you, When love
is sore upon a maid, alack! what shall she do?

When she heard this, her eyes filled with tears and she answered
with the following verse:

Against her passion she must strive and hide her case from view
And humble and submissive be, whatever may ensue.

This I committed to memory and returned home, rejoiced at having
done my cousin's errand. When I entered the house, I found Azizeh
lying on the bed and my mother at her head, weeping over her
condition. When the latter saw me, she said to me, "Out on thee
for a cousin! How couldst thou leave the daughter of thine uncle
in ill case and not ask what ailed her?" Azizeh, seeing me,
raised her head and sat up and said, "O Aziz, didst thou repeat
the verse to her?" "Yes," replied I; "and she wept and recited,
in answer, another verse, which I remember." "Tell it me," said
Azizeh. I did so; and she wept and repeated the following verses:

How shall she temper her desire, It doth her fire undo, And still
with each recurring day her heart is cleft in two.
Indeed, she strives for patience fair, but findeth nought in her
Except a heart too weak to bear the love that makes her rue.

"When thou goest to thy mistress as of wont," added she, "repeat
to her these verses also." "I hear and obey," answered I and
betook myself, at the wonted time, to the garden, where there
passed between my mistress and myself what the tongue fails to
describe. As I was about to leave her, I repeated to her my
cousin's verses; whereupon the tears streamed from her eyes and
she replied:

If she her secret cannot hide and lack of patience due, I see no
help for her but death, of all things old and new.

Then I returned home, where I found Azizeh fallen of a swoon and
my mother sitting at her head. When she heard my voice, she
opened her eyes and said, "O Aziz, didst thou repeat the verses
to her?" "Yes," answered I; "and she replied with this verse."
And I repeated it; whereupon my cousin swooned again, and when
she came to herself, she recited the following verses:

"I hearken, I obey, I die; yet bear to one who slew My hopes of
union and delight, my greeting and adieu.
Fair fall the happy of their joy, alack! and fair befall The
wretched lover of the cup that's set her lips unto."

When it was night, I repaired, as of wont, to the garden, where I
found my mistress awaiting me. We sat down and ate and drank,
after which we did our need and slept till the morning; and as I
was going away, I repeated to her Azizeh's verses. When she heard
them, she gave a loud cry and was greatly moved and exclaimed,
"Alas! Alas! She who said these words is dead!" Then she wept and
said to me, "Out on thee! What kin is she, who spoke thus, to
thee?" "She is the daughter of my father's brother," replied I.
"Thou liest," rejoined she. "By Allah, were she thy cousin, thou
wouldst have loved her even as she loved thee! It is thou who
hast killed her, and may God in like manner kill thee! By Allah,
hadst thou told me thou hadst a cousin, I would not have admitted
thee to my favours!" Quoth I, "Indeed, she is my cousin, and it
was she who interpreted to me thy signs and taught me how to come
at thee and how I should deal with thee; and but for her, I had
never won to thee." "Did she then know of us?" asked she. "Yes,"
answered I; and she exclaimed, "God give thee sorrow of thy
youth, even as thou hast wasted hers!" Then she said to me, "Go
and see after her." So I went away, troubled at heart, and when I
reached our street, I heard a sound of wailing, and asking about
it, was answered, "We found Azizeh dead behind the door." I
entered the house, and when my mother saw me, she said to me,
"Her death lies at thy door, and may God not acquit thee of her
blood! Out on thee for a cousin!" Then came my father, and we
laid her out and did her the last offices and buried her.
Moreover, we let make recitations of the Koran over her tomb and
abode there three days, after which we returned home, grieving
for her. When I entered the house, my mother came to me and said,
"I would fain know what thou didst to her, to break her heart,
for, O my son, I questioned her many times of the cause of her
malady, but she would tell me nothing. So, God on thee, tell me
what thou didst to her, that she died." Quoth I, "I did nothing."
"May God avenge her on thee!" rejoined my mother. "She told me
nothing, but kept her secret till she died, of her affection for
thee. But when she died, I was with her, and she opened her eyes
and said to me, 'O wife of my uncle, may God hold thy son
guiltless of my blood and punish him not for that he hath done
with me! And now He transporteth me from this transitory house of
the world to the other and eternal dwelling-place.' 'O my
daughter,' said I, 'God preserve thee and preserve thy youth!'
And I questioned her of the cause of her illness; but she made me
no answer. Then she smiled and said, 'O wife of my uncle, when my
cousin is about to repair to the place whither he goes every day,
bid him repeat these two words at his going away: "Faith is fair
and perfidy foul." For this is of my tenderness over him, that I
am solicitous for him in my lifetime and after my death.' Then
she gave me somewhat for thee and made me swear that I would not
give it to thee, till I should see thee weeping for her and
lamenting her death. The thing is with me, and when I see thee as
I have said, I will give it to thee." "Show it me," quoth I: but
she would not. Then I gave myself up to my pleasures and thought
no more of my cousin's death; for I was light-witted and would
fain have been with my beloved day and night. So hardly had the
night fallen, when I betook myself to the garden, where I found
the lady sitting on coals of fire, for much waiting. As soon as
she saw me, she ran to me and throwing her arms about my neck,
enquired of my cousin. "She is dead," replied I; "and we have
caused litanies and recitations of the Koran to be performed for
her; and it is now four nights since she died." When she heard
this, she shrieked aloud and wept, saying, "Did I not tell thee
that thou hadst slain her? Hadst thou let me know of her before
her death, I would have requited her the kindness she did me, in
that she served me and brought thee to me; for but for her, we
had never come together; and I fear lest some calamity befall
thee by reason of thy sin against her." Quoth I, "She acquitted
me before she died." And I repeated to her what my mother had
told me. "God on thee," rejoined she, "when thou returnest to thy
mother, learn what it is she hath for thee." Quoth I, "My mother
also said to me, 'Before thy cousin died, she laid a charge upon
me, saying, "When thy son is about to go whither of wont, teach
him these two words, 'Faith is fair and perfidy foul.'" When my
mistress heard this, she exclaimed, "The mercy of God the Most
High be upon her! Indeed, she hath delivered thee from me, for I
had it in mind to do thee a mischief, but now I will not hurt
thee nor trouble thee." I wondered at this and said to her, "What
then didst thou purpose to do with me, and we lovers?" Quoth she,
"Thou art infatuated with me; for thou art young and witless; thy
heart is free from guile and thou knowest not our perfidy and
malice. Were she yet alive, she would protect thee, for she is
the cause of thy preservation and hath delivered thee from
destruction. And now I charge thee that thou speak not with
neither accost any of our sex, young or old, for thou art young
and simple and knowest not the wiles of women and their malice,
and she who explained the signs to thee is dead. And indeed I
fear for thee, lest thou fall into some calamity and find none to
deliver thee from it, now that thy cousin is dead. Alas, the pity
of her! Would God I had known her before her death, that I might
have visited her and requited her the fair service she did me!
The mercy of the Most High be upon her, for she kept her secret
and revealed not what she suffered, and but for her, thou hadst
never won to me! But there is one thing I desire of thee." "What
is it?" said I. "It is," answered she, "that thou bring me to her
grave, that I may visit her in the tomb wherein she is and write
some verses thereon." "To-morrow," replied I, "if it be the will
of God." Then I lay with her that night, and she ceased not, from
time to time, to say, "Would thou hadst told me of thy cousin,
before her death!" And I said to her, "What is the meaning of the
two words she taught me?" But she made me no answer. As soon as
it was day, she rose and taking a purse of dinars, said to me,
"Come, show me her tomb, that I may visit it and grave some
verses thereon and build a dome over it and commend her to the
mercy of God and bestow these dinars in alms for her soul." "I
hear and obey," replied I and went on before her, whilst she
followed me, giving alms by the way and saying to all to whom she
gave, "This is an alms for the soul of Azizeh, who kept her
counsel, till she drank the cup of death, and discovered not the
secret of her passion." And she stinted not thus to give alms and
say, "For Azizeh's soul," till the purse was empty and we came to
the burial-place. When she saw the tomb, she wept and threw
herself upon it; then pulling out a graver of steel and a light
mallet, she graved the following verses, in fine characters, upon
the stone at the head of the tomb:

I passed by a ruined tomb, in the midst of a garden-way, Upon
whose letterless stone seven blood-red anemones lay.
"Who sleeps in this unmarked grave?" I said; and the earth, "Bend
low; For a lover lies here and waits for the Resurrection
"God help thee, O victim of love," I cried, "and bring thee to
dwell In the highest of all the heavens of Paradise, I pray!
How wretched are lovers all, even in the sepulchre, When their
very graves are covered with ruin and decay!
Lo, if I might, I would plant thee a garden round about And with
my streaming tears the thirst of its flowers allay!"

Then she returned to the garden, weeping, and I with her, and she
said to me, "By Allah, thou shalt never leave me!" "I hear and
obey," answered I. Then I devoted myself wholly to her and paid
her frequent visits, and she was good and generous to me. As
often as I passed the night with her, she would make much of me
and ask me of the two words my cousin told my mother, and I would
repeat them to her.

I abode thus a whole year, till, what with eating and drinking
and dalliance and wearing change of rich raiment, I waxed stout
and fat, so that I lost all thought of sorrow and anxiety and
forgot my cousin Azizeh. At the end of this time, I went one
day to the bath, where I refreshed myself and put on a rich
suit of clothes, scented with various perfumes; then, coming
out I drank a cup of wine and smelt the fragrance of my new
clothes, whereupon my breast dilated, for I knew not the
perfidy of fortune nor the calamities of events. When the hour
of evening-prayer came, I thought to repair to my mistress; but
being heated with wine, I knew not where I went, so that, on the
way, my drunkenness turned me into a by-street called En Nekib,
where, as I was going along, I met an old woman with a lighted
flambeau in one hand and a folded letter in the other; and she
was weeping and repeating the following verses:

O welcome, bearer of glad news, thrice welcome to my sight; How
sweet and solaceful to me thy tidings of delight!
Thou that the loved one's greeting bringst unto my longing soul,
God's peace, what while the zephyr blows, dwell with thee
day and night!

When she saw me, she said to me, "O my son, canst thou read?" And
I, of my officiousness, answered, "Yes, O old aunt." "Then, take
this letter," rejoined she, "and read it to me." So I took the
letter, and unfolding it, read it to her. Now it contained the
greetings of an absent man to his friends; and when she heard its
purport, she rejoiced and was glad and called down blessings on
me, saying, "May God dispel thine anxiety, as thou hast dispelled
mine!" Then she took the letter and walked on. Meanwhile, I was
seized with a pressing need and squatted down on my heels to make
water. When I had finished, I stood up and cleansed myself with
pebbles, then shaking down my clothes, was about to go my way,
when the old woman came up to me again and bending down to kiss
my hand, said, "O my lord, God give thee joy of thy youth! I
entreat thee to go with me to yonder door, for I told them what
thou readest to me of the letter, and they believe me not: so
come with me two steps and read them the letter from behind the
door and accept my devout prayers." "What is the history of this
letter?" asked I; and she answered, "O my son, it is from my son,
who hath been absent from us these ten years. He set out with
merchandise and tarried long in foreign parts, till we lost hope
of him, supposing him to be dead. Now comes this letter from him,
and he has a sister, who weeps for him day and night; so I said
to her, 'He is in good health and case.' But she will not believe
and says, 'Thou must needs bring me one who will read the letter
in my presence, that my heart may be set at rest and my mind
eased.' Thou knowest, O my son, that those who love are prone to
imagine evil: so do me the favour to go with me and read the
letter, standing without the door, whilst I call his sister to
listen behind the curtain, so shalt thou dispel our anxiety and
fulfil our need. Quoth the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve),
'He who eases an afflicted one of one of the troubles of this
world, God will ease him of a hundred troubles;' and according to
another tradition, 'Whoso relieves his brother of one of the
troubles of this world, God will relieve him of two-and-seventy
troubles of the Day of Resurrection.' And I have betaken myself
to thee; so do not disappoint me." "I hear and obey," replied I.
"Do thou go before me." So she went on and I followed her a
little way, till she came to the gate of a large handsome house,
whose door was plated with copper. I stood without the door,


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