The Book Of The Thousand Nights And One Night, Volume IV
Part 2 out of 8
horse.' He made her no reply; so she put her hand to his face and
felt a beard like a bath-broom,[FN#21] as he were a hog that had
swallowed feathers and they had come out at his gullet; whereat
she took fright and said to him, 'What art thou?' 'O strumpet,'
answered he, 'I am the sharper Jewan the Kurd, of the band of
Ahmed ed Denef; we are forty sharpers, who will all tilt at thy
tail this night, from dusk to dawn.' When she heard his words,
she wept and buffeted her face, knowing that Fate had gotten the
better of her and that there was nothing for it but to put her
trust in God the Most High. So she took patience and submitted
herself to the ordinance of God, saying, 'There is no god but
God! As often as we escape from one trouble, we fall into a
Now the manner of Jewan's coming thither was thus: he had said to
Ahmed ed Denef, 'O captain, I have been here before and know a
cavern without the town, that will hold forty souls; so I will go
before you thither and set my mother therein. Then will I enter
the city and steal somewhat on your account and keep it till you
come; so shall you be my guests this day.' 'Do what thou wilt,'
replied Ahmed. So Jewan forewent them to the cavern and left his
mother there; but, as he came out, he found a trooper lying
asleep, with his horse tethered beside him; so he slew him and
taking his clothes and arms, hid them with his mother in the
cave, where also he tied up the horse. Then he betook himself to
the city and prowled about, till he happened on the Christian's
house and did with Ali Shar and Zumurrud as we have said. He
ceased not to run, with Zumurrud on his back, till he came to the
cavern, where he gave her in charge of his mother, saying, 'Keep
watch over her till I come back to thee at point of day,' and
Meanwhile Zumurrud said to herself, 'Now is the time to cast
about for a means of escape. If I wait till these forty men come,
they will take their turns at me, till they make me like a water-
logged ship.' Then she turned to the old woman and said to her,
'O my aunt, wilt thou not come without the cave, that I may louse
thee in the sun?' 'Ay, by Allah, O my daughter!' replied the old
woman. 'This long time have I been out of reach of the bath; for
these hogs cease not to hale me from place to place.' So they
went without the cavern, and Zumurrud combed out the old woman's
hair and killed the vermin in her head, till this soothed her and
she fell asleep; whereupon Zumurrud arose and donning the clothes
of the murdered trooper, girt herself with his sword and covered
her head with his turban, so that she became as she were a man.
Then she took the saddle-bags full of gold and mounted the horse,
saying in herself, 'O kind Protector, I adjure thee by the glory
of Mohammed, (whom God bless and preserve,) protect me! If I
enter the city, belike one of the trooper's folk will see me, and
no good will befall me.' So she turned her back on the city and
rode forth into the desert.
She fared on ten days, eating of the fruits of the earth and
drinking of its waters, she and her horse; and on the eleventh
day, she came in sight of a pleasant and safe city, stablished in
good; the season of winter had departed from it with its cold and
the spring-tide came to it with its roses and orange-blossoms;
its flowers blew bright, its streams welled forth and its birds
warbled. As she drew near, she saw the troops and Amirs and
notables of the place drawn up before the gate, at which she
marvelled and said to herself, 'The people of the city are all
collected at the gate: there must needs be a reason for this.'
Then she made towards them; but, as she drew near, the troops
hastened forward to meet her and dismounting, kissed the ground
before her and said, 'God aid thee, O our lord the Sultan!'
Then the grandees ranked themselves before her, whilst the troops
ranged the people in order, saying, 'God aid thee and make thy
coming a blessing to the Muslims, O Sultan of all men! God
stablish thee, O king of the age and pearl of the day and the
time!' 'What ails you, O people of the city?' asked Zumurrud; and
the chamberlain answered, 'Verily, He who is no niggard in giving
hath been bountiful to thee and hath made thee Sultan of this
city and ruler over the necks of all that are therein; for know
that it is the custom of the citizens, when their king dies,
leaving no son, that the troops should sally forth of the pace
and abide there three days; and whoever cometh from the quarter
whence thou hast come, they make him king over them. So praised
be God who hath sent us a well-favoured man of the sons of the
Turks; for had a lesser than thou presented himself, he had been
Now Zumurrud was well-advised in all she did; so she said, 'Think
not that I am of the common folk of the Turks; nay, I am a man of
condition; but I was wroth with my family, so I went forth and
left them. See these saddle-bags full of gold I brought with me,
that I might give alms thereof to the poor and needy by the way.'
So they called down blessings upon her and rejoiced in her with
an exceeding joy and she also rejoiced in them and said in
herself, 'Now that I have attained to this estate, it may be God
will reunite me with my lord in this place, for He can do what He
will.' Then the troops escorted her to the city and dismounting,
walked before her to the palace. Here she alighted and the Amirs
and grandees, taking her under the armpits, carried her into the
palace and seated her on the throne; after which they all kissed
the ground before her. Then she bade open the treasuries and gave
largesse to the troops, who offered up prayers for the continuance
of her reign, and all the townsfolk and the people of the kingdom
accepted her rule.
She abode thus awhile, ordering and forbidding, and remitted
taxes and released prisoners and redressed grievances, so that
all the people came to hold her in exceeding reverence and to
love her, by reason of her generosity and continence; but, as
often as she bethought her of her lord, she wept and besought God
to reunite them; and one night, as she was thinking of him and
calling to mind the days she had passed with him, her eyes ran
over with tears and she repeated the following verses:
My longing, 'spite of time, for thee is ever new; My weeping
wounds my lids and tears on tears ensue.
Whenas I weep, I weep for anguish of desire; For grievous
severance is a lover's heart unto.
Then she wiped away her tears and rising, betook herself to the
harem, where she appointed to the slave-girls and concubines
separate lodgings and assigned them pensions and allowances,
giving out that she was minded to live apart and devote herself
to works of piety. So she betook herself to fasting and praying,
till the Amirs said, 'Verily, this Sultan is exceeding devout.'
Nor would she suffer any attendants about her, save two little
eunuchs, to serve her.
She held the throne thus a whole year, during which time she
heard no news of Ali Shar, and this was exceeding grievous to
her; so, when her distress became excessive, she summoned her
Viziers and chamberlains and bid them fetch architects and
builders and make her a tilting ground, a parasang long and the
like broad, in front of the palace. They hastened to do her
bidding, and when the place was competed to her liking, she went
down into it and they pitched her there a great pavilion, wherein
the chairs of the Amirs were set in their order. Then she bade
spread in the tilting-ground tables with all manner rich meats
and ordered the grandees to eat. So they ate and she said to
them, 'It is my will that, on the first day of each month, ye do
on this wise and proclaim in the city that none shall open his
shop, but that all the people shall come and eat of the king's
banquet, and that whoso disobeyeth shall be hanged over his own
They did as she bade them, and when came the first day of the
next month, Zumurrud went down into the tilting-ground and the
crier proclaimed aloud, saying, 'Ho, all ye people, great and
small, whoso openeth shop or house or magazine shall straightway
be hanged over his own door; for it behoves you all to come and
eat of the king's banquet.' Then they laid the tables and the
people came in troops; so she bade them sit down at the tables
and eat their fill of all the dishes. So they sat down and she
sat on her chair of estate, watching them, whilst each thought
she was looking at none but him. Then they fell to eating and the
Amirs said to them, 'Eat and be not ashamed; for this is pleasing
to the King.' So they ate their fill and went away, blessing the
King and saying, one to the other, 'Never saw we a Sultan that
loved the poor as doth this Sultan.' And they wished her length
of life, whilst Zumurrud returned to the palace, rejoicing in her
device and saying in herself, 'If it please God the Most High, I
shall surely by this means happen on news of my lord Ali Shar.'
When the first day of the second month came round, she made the
banquet as before and the folk came and sat down at the tables,
company by company and one by one. As she sat on her throne, at
the head of the tables, watching the people eat, her eye fell on
Bersoum, the Nazarene who had bought the curtain of Ali Shar; and
she knew him and said in herself, 'This is the first of my solace
and of the accomplishment of my desire.' Bersoum came up to the
table and sitting down with the rest to eat, espied a dish of
sweet rice, sprinkled with sugar; but it was far from him. So he
pushed up to it and putting out his hand to it, took it and set
it before himself. His next neighbour said to him, 'Why dost thou
not eat of what is before thee? Art thou not ashamed to reach
over for a dish that is distant from thee?' Quoth Bersoum, 'I
will eat of none but this dish.' 'Eat then,' rejoined the other,
'and small good may it do thee!' But another man, a hashish-
eater, said, 'Let him eat of it, that I may eat with him.' 'O
unluckiest of hashish-eaters,' replied the first speaker, 'this
is no meat for thee; it is eating for Amirs. Let it be, that it
may return to those for whom it is meant and they eat it.'
But Bersoum heeded him not and putting his hand to the rice, took
a mouthful and put it in his mouth. He was about to take a second
mouthful, when Zumurrud, who was watching him, cried out to
certain of her guards, saying, 'Bring me yonder man with the dish
of sweet rice before him and let him not eat the mouthful he hath
ready, but throw it from his hand.' So four of the guards went up
to Bersoum and throwing the mouthful of rice from his hand, haled
him forthright before Zumurrud, whilst all the people left eating
and said to one another, 'By Allah, he did wrong in not eating of
the food meant for the like of him.' 'For me,' quoth one, 'I was
content with this frumenty that is before me.' And the hashish-
eater said, 'Praised be God who hindered me from eating of the
dish of sweet rice, for I looked for it to stand before him and
was only waiting for him to have stayed his hunger of it, to eat
with him, when there befell him what we see.' And they said, one
to another, 'Wait till we see what befalls him.'
Then said Zumurrud to Bersoum, 'Out on thee, O blue eyes! What is
thy name and why comest thou hither?' But the accursed fellow
miscalled himself, having a white turban,[FN#22] and answered, 'O
King, my name is Ali; I am a weaver and came hither to trade.'
'Bring me a table of sand and a pen of brass,' quoth Zumurrud,
and they brought her what she sought. She levelled the sand and
taking the pen, drew a geomantic figure, in the likeness of an
ape; then, raising her head, she considered Bersoum straitly and
said to him, 'O dog, how darest thou lie to kings? Art thou not a
Nazarene, Bersoum by name, and comest thou not hither in quest of
somewhat? Speak the truth, or, by the splendour of the Deity, I
will strike off thy head?' At this, Bersoum was confounded and
the Amirs and bystanders said, 'Verily, the King understands
geomancy: blessed be He who hath gifted him!' Then Zumurrud cried
out upon Bersoum and said, 'Tell me the truth, or I will make an
end of thee!' 'Pardon, O King of the age,' replied Bersoum; 'the
table hath told thee aright; thy slave is indeed a Nazarene.'
Whereupon all present wondered at the King's skill in geomancy,
saying, 'Verily, the King is a diviner, whose like there is not
in the world.'
Then Zumurrud bade flay the Christian and stuff his skin with
straw and hang it over the gate of the tilting-ground. Moreover,
she commanded to dig a pit without the city and burn his flesh
and bones therein and throw over his ashes offal and rubbish. 'We
hear and obey,' answered they and did with him as she bade. When
the people saw what had befallen the Christian, they said, 'He
hath his deserts; but what an unlucky mouthful was that for him!'
And another said, 'Be my wife triply divorced if ever I eat of
sweet rice as long as I live!' 'Praised be God,' quoth the
hashish-eater, 'who saved me from this fellow's fate by hindering
me from eating of the rice!' Then they all went out, minded
thenceforth to leave sitting in the Christian's place, over
against the dish of sweet rice.
When the first day of the third month came, they laid the tables
as of wont, and Queen Zumurrud came down and sat on her throne,
with her guards in attendance on her, fearing her danger. Then
the townsfolk entered, as usual, and went round about the tables,
looking for the place of the dish of sweet rice, and quoth one to
another, 'Hark ye, Hajji Khelef!' 'At thy service, O Hajji
Khalid,' answered the other. 'Avoid the dish of sweet rice,' said
Khalid, 'and look thou eat not thereof; for if thou do, thou wilt
be hanged.' Then they sat down to meat; and as they were eating,
Zumurrud chanced to look at the gate of the tilting-ground and
saw a man come running in. So she considered him and knew him for
Jewan the Kurd.
Now the manner of his coming was on this wise. When he left his
mother, he went to his comrades and said to them, 'I had fine
purchase yesterday; for I slew a trooper and took his horse.
Moreover there fell to me last night a pair of saddle-bags, full
of gold, and a girl worth more than the money; and I have left
them all with my mother in the cave.' At this they rejoiced and
repaired to the cavern at nightfall, whilst they forewent them,
that he might fetch them the booty. But he found the place empty
and questioned his mother, who told him what had befallen;
whereupon he bit his hands for despite and exclaimed, 'By Allah,
I will make search for yonder harlot and take her, wherever she
is, though it be in the shell of a pistachio-nut, and quench my
malice on her!' So he went forth in quest of her and journeyed
from place to place, till he came to Queen Zumurrud's city. He
found the town deserted and enquiring of some women whom he saw
looking from the windows, learnt that it was the Sultan's custom
to make a banquet for all the people on the first of each month
and was directed to the tilting-ground, where the feast was
So he came running in and finding no place empty, save that
before the dish of sweet rice, took his seat there and put out
his hand to the dish; whereupon the folk cried out to him,
saying, 'O brother, what wilt thou do?' Quoth he, 'I mean to eat
my fill of this dish.' 'If thou eat of it,' rejoined one of the
people, 'thou wilt assuredly be hanged.' But Jewan said, 'Hold
thy peace and talk not thus.' Then he stretched out his hand to
the dish aforesaid and drew it to him.
Now the hashish-eater, of whom we have before spoken, was sitting
by him; but when he saw him do this, the fumes of the hashish
left his head and he fled from his place and sat down afar off,
saying, 'I will have nothing to do with yonder dish.' Then Jewan
put out his hand, as it were a crow's foot, and dipping it in the
dish, scooped up therewith half the dishful and drew it out, as
it were a camel's hoof, and the bottom of the dish appeared. He
rolled the rice in his hand, till it was like a great orange, and
threw it ravenously into his mouth; and it rolled down his
gullet, with a noise like thunder. 'Praised by God,' quoth his
neighbour, 'who hath not made me meat before thee; for thou hast
emptied the dish at one mouthful.' 'Let him eat,' said the
hashish-eater; 'methinks he hath a gallows-face.' Then, turning
to Jewan, 'Eat,' added he, 'and small good may it do thee!'
Jewan put out his hand again and taking another mouthful, was
rolling it in his hands like the first, when Zumurrud cried out
to the guards, saying, 'Bring me yonder man in haste and let him
not eat the mouthful in his hand.' So they ran and seizing him,
as he bent over the dish, brought him to her, whilst the people
exulted over him and said, one to the other, 'He hath his
deserts, for we warned him, but he would not take warning.
Verily, this place is fated to be the death of whoso sits
therein, and yonder rice is fatal to all who eat of it.'
Then said Zumurrud to Jewan, 'What is thy name and condition and
why comest thou hither?' 'O our lord the Sultan,' answered he,
'my name is Othman; I am a gardener and am come hither in quest
of somewhat I have lost.' 'Bring me a table of sand,' said
Zumurrud. So they brought it, and she took the pen and drawing a
geomantic figure, considered it awhile, then raising her head,
exclaimed, 'Out on thee, thou sorry knave! How darest thou lie to
kings? This sand tells me that thy name is Jewan the Kurd and
that thou art by trade a robber, taking men's goods in the way of
unright and slaying those whom God hath forbidden to slay, save
for just cause.' And she cried out upon him, saying, 'O hog, tell
me the truth of thy case or I will cut off thy head!'
When he heard this, he turned pale and his teeth chattered; then,
deeming that he might save himself by telling the truth, he
replied, 'O King, thou sayest sooth; but I repent at thy hands
henceforth and turn to God the Most High!' Quoth she, 'I may not
leave a pest in the way of the true-believers.' And she said to
her guards, 'Take him and flay him and do with him as ye did by
his like last month.' And they did her commandment. When the
hashish-eater saw this, he turned his back upon the dish of rice,
saying, 'It is unlawful to present my face to thee.' Then, when
they had made an end of eating, they dispersed and Zumurrud
returned to her palace and dismissed her attendants.
When the fourth month came round, they made the banquet, as of
wont, and the folk sat awaiting leave to begin. Presently
Zumurrud entered and sitting down on her throne, looked at the
tables and saw that room for four people was left void before the
dish of rice, at which she wondered. As she sat, looking around,
she saw a man come running in at the gate, who stayed not till he
reached the tables and finding no room, save before the dish of
rice, took his seat there. She looked at him and knowing him for
the accursed Christian, who called himself Reshideddin, said in
herself, 'How blessed is this device of the food, into whose
toils this infidel hath fallen!'
Now the manner of his coming was extraordinary, and it was on
this wise. When he returned from his journey, the people of the
house told him that Zumurrud was missing and with her a pair of
saddle-bags full of gold; whereupon he rent his clothes and
buffeted his face and plucked out his beard. Then he despatched
his brother Bersoum in quest of her, and when he was weary of
awaiting news of him, he went forth himself, to seek for him and
for Zumurrud, and fate led him to the latter's city. He entered
it on the first day of the month and finding the streets deserted
and the shops shut, enquired of the women at the windows, who
told him that the King made a banquet on the first of each month
for the people, all of whom were bound to attend it, nor might
any abide in his house or shop that day; and they directed him to
So he betook himself thither and sitting down before the rice,
put out his hand to eat thereof, whereupon Zumurrud cried out to
her guards, saying, 'Bring me him who sits before the dish of
rice.' So they laid hands on him and brought him before Queen
Zumurrud, who said to him, 'Out on thee! What is thy name and
occupation, and what brings thee hither?' 'O King of the age,'
answered he, 'my name is Rustem and I have no occupation, for
I am a poor dervish.' Then said she to her attendants, 'Bring
me a table of sand and pen of brass.' So they brought her what
she sought, as usual; and she took the pen and drawing a
geomantic figure, considered it awhile, then raising her head to
Reshideddin, said, 'O dog, how darest thou lie to kings? Thy name
is Reshideddin the Nazarene; thou art outwardly a Muslim, but a
Christian at heart, and thine occupation is to lay snares for the
slave-girls of the Muslims and take them. Speak the truth, or
I will smite off thy head.' He hesitated and stammered, then
replied, 'Thou sayest sooth, O King of the age!' Whereupon she
commanded to throw him down and give him a hundred blows on each
sole and a thousand on his body; after which she bade flay him
and stuff his skin with hards of flax and dig a pit without the
city, wherein they should burn his body and cast dirt and rubbish
on his ashes. They did as she bade them and she gave the people
leave to eat.
So they ate their fill and went their ways, whilst Zumurrud
returned to her palace, thanking God for that He had solaced her
heart of those who had wronged her. Then she praised the Creator
of heaven and earth and repeated the following verses:
Lo, these erst had power and used it with oppression and unright!
In a little, their dominion was as it ne'er had been.
Had they used their power with justice, they had been repaid the
like; But they wrought unright and Fortune guerdoned them
with dole and teen.
So they perished and the moral of the case bespeaks them thus,
"This is what your crimes have earnt you: Fate is not to
blame, I ween."
Then she called to mind her lord Ali Shar and wept, but presently
recovered herself and said, 'Surely God, who hath given mine
enemies into my hand, will vouchsafe me speedy reunion with my
beloved; for He can do what He will and is generous to His
servants and mindful of their case!' Then she praised God (to
whom belong might and majesty) and besought forgiveness of Him,
submitting herself to the course of destiny, assured that to each
beginning there is an end, and repeating the saying of the poet:
Be at thine ease, for all things' destiny Is in His hands who
fashioned earth and sea.
Nothing of Him forbidden shall befall Nor aught of Him appointed
fail to thee.
And what another saith:
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.
And a third:
Be mild what time thou'rt ta'en with anger and despite And
patient, if there fall misfortune on thy head.
Indeed, the nights are quick and great with child by Time And of
all wondrous things are hourly brought to bed.
And a fourth:
Take patience, for therein is good; an thou be learn'd in it,
Thou shalt be calm of soul nor drink of anguish any whit.
And know that if, with a good grace, thou do not thee submit, Yet
must thou suffer, will or nill, that which the Pen hath
She abode thus another whole month's space, judging the folk and
commanding and forbidding by day, and by night weeping and
bewailing her separation from her lord Ali Shar. On the first day
of the fifth month, she bade spread the banquet as usual and sat
down at the head of the tables, whilst the people awaited the
signal to fall to, leaving the space before the dish of rice
vacant. She sat with eyes fixed upon the gate of the tilting-
ground, noting all who entered and saying, 'O Thou that
to Jacob and didst away the affliction of Job, vouchsafe of Thy
power and greatness to restore me my lord Ali Shar; for Thou
canst all things! O Lord of all creatures, O Guide of the erring,
O Hearer of those that cry, O Answerer of prayer, answer Thou my
prayer, O Lord of all creatures!'
Hardly had she made an end of her prayer, when she saw entering
the gate a young man, in shape like the willow wand, the
comeliest and most accomplished of youths, save that his face was
sallow and his form wasted. He came up to the tables and finding
no seat vacant save before the dish of rice, sat down there;
whereupon Zumurrud's heart fluttered and observing him narrowly,
she knew him for her lord Ali Shar and was like to have cried out
for joy, but restrained herself, fearing disgrace before the
folk. Her bowels were troubled and her heart throbbed; but she
concealed that which she suffered.
Now the manner of his coming thither was on this wise. When
he awoke and found himself lying on the bench outside the
Christian's house, with his head bare, he knew that some one had
come upon him and robbed him of his turban, whilst he slept. So
he spoke the word, which whoso saith shall never be confounded,
that is to say, 'Verily, we are God's and to Him we return!' and
going back to the old woman's house, knocked at the door. She
came out and he wept before her, till he swooned away. When he
came to himself, he told her all that had passed, and she blamed
him and chid him for his heedlessness, saying, 'Thou hast but
thyself to thank for thine affliction and calamity.' And she
gave not over reproaching him, till the blood streamed from his
nostrils and he again fainted away. When he revived, he saw her
weeping over him; so he bewailed himself and repeated the
How bitter is parting to friends, and how sweet Reunion to
lovers, for sev'rance that sigh!
May God all unite them and watch over me, For I'm of their number
and like for to die.
The old woman mourned over him and said to him, 'Sit here, whilst
I go in quest of news and return to thee in haste.' 'I hear and
obey,' answered he. So she left him and was absent till midday,
when she returned and said to him, 'O Ali, I fear me thou must
die in thy grief; thou wilt never see thy beloved again save on
Es Sirat;[FN#23] for the people of the Christian's house, when
they arose in the morning, found the window giving on the garden
broken in and Zumurrud missing, and with her a pair of saddle-
bags, full of the Christian's money. When I came thither, I found
the Master of Police and his officers standing at the door, and
there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the
When he heard this, the light in his eyes was changed to darkness
and he despaired of life and made sure of death; nor did he leave
weeping, till he lost his senses. When he recovered, love and
longing were sore upon him; there befell him a grievous sickness
and he kept his house a whole year; during which time the old
woman ceased not to bring him doctors and ply him with diet-
drinks and make him broths, till his life returned to him. Then
he recalled what had passed and repeated the following verses:
Union is parted; in its stead, of grief I am possessed: My tears
flow still, my heart's on fire for yearning and unrest.
Longing redoubles on a wight who hath no peace, so sore Of love
and wakefulness and pain he's wasted and oppressed.
Lord, I beseech Thee, if there be relief for me in aught,
Vouchsafe it, whilst a spark of life abideth in my breast.
When the second year began, the old woman said to him, 'O my son,
all this thy sadness and sorrowing will not bring thee back thy
mistress. Rise, therefore, take heart and seek for her in the
lands: haply thou shalt light on some news of her.' And she
ceased not to exhort and encourage him, till he took heart and
she carried him to the bath. Then she made him drink wine and eat
fowls, and thus she did with him for a whole month, till he
regained strength and setting out, journeyed without ceasing till
he arrived at Zumurrud's city, when he went to the tilting-ground
and sitting down before the dish of sweet rice, put out his hand
to eat of it.
When the folk saw this, they were concerned for him and said to
him, 'O young man, eat not of that dish, for whoso eats thereof,
misfortune befalls him.' 'Leave me to eat of it,' answered he,
'and let them do with me as they list, so haply I may be at rest
from this weary life.' Then he ate a first mouthful, and Zumurrud
was minded to have him brought to her; but bethought her that
belike he was anhungred and said in herself, 'It were well to let
him eat his fill.' So he went on eating, whilst the people looked
on in astonishment, waiting to see what would befall him; and
when he had done, Zumurrud said to certain of her eunuchs, 'Go to
yonder youth that eateth of the rice and bring him to me on
courteous wise, saying, 'The King would have speech of thee on
some slight matter.' 'We hear and obey,' answered they and going
up to Ali Shar, said to him, 'O my lord, the King desires the
favour of a word with thee, and let thy heart be easy.' 'I hear
and obey,' replied he and followed the eunuchs, who carried him
before Zumurrud, whilst the people said to one another, 'There is
no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! I
wonder what the King will do with him!' And others said, 'He will
do him nought but good; for, were he minded to harm him, he had
not suffered him to eat his fill.'
When he came before Zumurrud, he saluted and kissed the earth
before her, whilst she returned his greeting and received him
with honour. Then said she to him, 'What is thy name and
condition and what brought thee hither?' 'O King,' answered he,
'my name is Ali Shar; I am of the sons of the merchants of
Khorassan and the object of my coming hither is to seek for a
slave-girl whom I have lost; for she was dearer to me than my
sight and my hearing, and indeed my soul cleaves to her, since I
lost her.' And he wept, till he swooned away. She caused sprinkle
rose-water on his face, till he came to himself, when she said,
'Bring me the table of sand and the pen.' So they brought them
and she took the pen and drew a geomantic figure, which she
considered awhile; then, 'Thou hast spoken sooth,' quoth she.
'God will grant thee speedy reunion with her; so be not
troubled.' Then she bade her chamberlain carry him to the bath
and after clothe him in a handsome suit of royal apparel, and
mount him an one of the best of the King's horses and bring him
to the palace at end of day. So the chamberlain took him away,
whilst the folk said to one another, 'What makes the King deal
thus courteously with yonder youth?' And one said, 'Did I not
tell you that he would do him no hurt? For he is fair of aspect;
and this I knew, when the King suffered him to eat his fill.' And
each said his say; after which they all dispersed and went their
As for Zumurrud, she thought the night would never come, that she
might be alone with the beloved of her heart. As soon as it was
dusk, she withdrew to her sleeping-chamber and made as she were
overcome with sleep; and it was her wont to suffer none to pass
the night with her, save the two little eunuchs that waited upon
her. After a little, she sent for Ali Shar and sat down upon the
bed, with candles burning at her head and feet and the place
lighted with hanging lamps of gold that shone like the sun. When
the people heard of her sending for Ali Shar, they marvelled and
said, 'Algates, the King is enamoured of this young man, and to-
morrow he will make him commander of the troops.' And each
thought his thought and said his say. When they brought him in to
her, he kissed the earth before her and called down blessings on
her, and she said in herself, 'Needs must I jest with him awhile,
ere I make myself known to him.' Then said she to him, 'O Ali,
hast thou been to the bath?' 'Yes, O my lord,' answered he.
'Come, eat of this fowl and meat and drink of this wine and
sherbet of sugar,' said she; 'for thou art weary; and after come
hither.' 'I hear and obey,' replied he and did as she bade him.
When he had made an end of eating and drinking, she said to him,
'Come up with me on the couch and rub my feet.' So he fell to
rubbing her feet and legs and found them softer than silk. Then
said she, 'Go higher with the rubbing;' and he, 'Pardon me, O my
lord, I will go no higher than the knee.' Whereupon, 'Wilt thou
gainsay me?' quoth she. 'It shall be an ill-omened night for
thee! Nay, but it behoves thee to do my bidding and I will make
thee my minion and appoint thee one of my Amirs.' 'And in what
must I do thy bidding, O King of the age?' asked Ali. 'Put off
thy trousers,' answered she, 'and lie down on thy face.' Quoth
he, 'That is a thing I never in my life did; and if thou force me
thereto, I will accuse thee thereof before God on the Day of
Resurrection. Take all thou hast given me and let me go to my own
city.' And he wept and lamented. But she said, 'Put off thy
trousers and lie down on thy face, or I will strike off thy
head.' So he did as she bade him and she mounted upon his back.
And he felt what was softer than silk and fresher than cream and
said in himself, 'Of a truth, this King is better than all the
She abode a while on his back, then turned over on to the ground,
and he said [in himself], 'Praised be God! It seems his yard is
not in point.' Then said she, 'O Ali, it is of the wont of my
yard that it standeth not on end, except it be rubbed with the
hand; so, some, rub it with thy hand, till it be in point, else
will I kill thee.' So saying, she lay down on her back and taking
his hand, set it to her kaze, and he found it a kaze softer than
silk, white, plump and great, resembling for heat the hot room of
the bath or the heart of a lover, whom passion hath wasted. Quoth
Ali in himself, 'Verily, this King hath a kaze. This is a wonder
of wonders!' And desire got hold on him and his yard stood on end
to the utmost; which when Zumurrud saw, she burst out laughing
and said to him, 'O my lord, all this betideth and yet thou
knowest me not!' 'And who art thou, O King?' asked he; and she
said, 'I am thy slave-girl Zumurrud.'
When he knew this and was certified that she was indeed his very
slave-girl Zumurrud, he threw himself upon her, as the lion upon
the sheep, and kissed her and embraced her. Then he thrust his
yard into her poke and stinted not to play the porter at her door
and the Imam[FN#24] at her prayer-niche, whilst she with him
ceased not from inclination and prostration and rising up and
sitting down,[FN#25] accompanying her canticles of praise[FN#26]
with motitations and other amorous gestures, till the [two
little] eunuchs [aforesaid] heard [the noise]. So they came and
peeping out from behind the curtains, saw the King lying [on his
back] and Ali Shar upon him, thrusting and thronging amain,
whilst she puffed and blew and wriggled. Quoth they, 'This is no
man's wriggle; belike this King is a woman.' But they concealed
their affair and discovered it to none.
On the morrow, Zumurrud summoned all the troops and the grandees
of the realm and said to them, 'I am minded to journey to this
man's country; so choose a deputy, who shall rule over you, till
I return to you.' And they answered, 'We hear and obey.' Then she
applied herself to making ready for the journey and furnished
herself with victual and treasure and camels and mules and so
forth; after which she set out with Ali Shar, and they fared on,
till they arrived at his native place, where he entered his house
and gave alms and largesse. God vouchsafed him children by her,
and they both lived the happiest of lives, till there came to
them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies. Glory
be to God, the Eternal without cease, and praised be He in every
THE LOVES OF JUBEIR BEN UMEIR AND THE LADY
It is related the Khalif Haroun er Reshid was restless one night
and could not sleep; so that he ceased not to toss from side to
side for very restlessness, till, growing weary of this, he
called Mesrour and said to him, 'O Mesrour, look what may solace
me of this my restlessness.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,'
answered Mesrour, 'wilt thou walk in the garden of the palace and
divert thyself with the sight of its flowers and gaze upon the
stars and note the beauty of their ordinance and the moon among
them, shining on the water?' 'O Mesrour,' replied the Khalif, 'my
heart inclines not to aught of this.' 'O my lord,' continued
Mesrour, 'there are in thy palace three hundred concubines, each
of whom hath her separate lodging. Do thou bid retire each into
her own apartment and then go thou about and divert thyself with
gazing on them, without their knowledge.' 'O Mesrour,' answered
Haroun, 'the palace is mine and the girls are my property:
moreover, my soul inclineth not to aught of this.' 'O my lord,'
said Mesrour, 'summon the doctors and sages and poets and bid
them contend before thee in argument and recite verses and tell
thee tales and anecdotes.' 'My soul inclines not to aught of
this,' answered the Khalif; and Mesrour said, 'O my lord, bid the
minions and wits and boon-companions attend thee and divert thee
with witty sallies.' 'O Mesrour,' replied the Khalif, 'indeed my
soul inclineth not to aught of this.' 'Then, O my lord,' rejoined
Mesrour, 'strike off my head; maybe, that will dispel thine
unease and do away the restlessness that is upon thee.'
At this the Khalif laughed and said, 'See which of the boon-
companions is at the door.' So Mesrour went out and returning,
said, 'O my lord, he who sits without is Ali ben Mensour of
Damascus, the Wag.' 'Bring him to me,' quoth Haroun; and Mesrour
went out and returned with Ibn Mensour, who said, on entering,
'Peace be on thee, O Commander of the Faithful!' The Khalif
returned his salutation and said to him, 'O Ibn Mensour, tell us
one of thy stories.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' said the
other, 'shall I tell thee what I have seen with my eyes or what I
have only heard tell?' 'If thou have seen aught worth telling,'
replied the Khalif, 'let us hear it; for report is not like eye-
witness.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' said Ibn Mensour, 'lend
me thine ear and thy heart.' 'O Ibn Mensour,' answered the
Khalif, 'behold, I am listening to thee with mine ears and
looking at thee with mine eyes and attending to thee with my
'Know then, O Commander of the Faithful,' began Ibn Mensour,
'that I receive a yearly allowance from Mohammed ben Suleiman el
Hashimi, Sultan[FN#27] of Bassora; so I went to him, once upon a
time, as usual, and found him about to ride out a-hunting. I
saluted him, and he returned my salute and would have me mount and
go a-hunting with him; but I said, "O my lord, I cannot ride; so
do thou stablish me in the guest-house and give thy chamberlains
and officers charge over me." And he did so and departed for the
chase. His officers entreated me with the utmost honour and
hospitality; but I said in myself, "By Allah, it is a strange
thing that I should have used so long to come from Baghdad to
Bassora, yet know no more of the town than from the palace to
the garden and back again! When shall I find an occasion like
this to view the different parts of Bassora? I will rise at once
and walk forth alone and divert myself and digest what I have
So I donned my richest clothes and went out a-walking in Bassora.
Now it is known to thee, O Commander of the Faithful, that it
hath seventy streets, each seventy parasangs long of Irak
measure; and I lost myself in its by-streets and thirst overcame
me. Presently, as I went along, I came to a great door, on which
were two rings of brass, with curtains of red brocade drawn
before it. Over the door was a trellis, covered with a creeping
vine, that hung down and shaded the doorway; and on either side
the porch was a stone bench. I stood still, to gaze upon the
place, and presently heard a sorrowful voice, proceeding from a
mourning heart, warbling melodiously and chanting the following
My body is become th' abode of sickness and dismay, By reason of
a fawn, whose land and stead are far away.
O zephyr of the waste, that roused my pain in me, I pray, By God
your Lord, to him, with whom my heart dwells, take your way
And prithee chide him, so reproach may soften him,
And if to you he do incline and hearken, then make fair Your
speech and tidings unto him of lovers, 'twixt you, bear.
Yea, and vouchsafe to favour me with service debonair And unto
him I love make known my case and my despair,
Saying, "What ails thy bounden slave that, for
Should die without offence of her committed or despite Or
disobedience or breach of plighted faith or slight
Or fraud or turning of her heart to other or unright?" And if he
smile, with dulcet speech bespeak ye thus the wight:
"An thou thy company wouldst grant to her, 'twere well
For she for love of thee's distraught, as needs must be the case;
Her eyes are ever void of sleep; she weeps and wails apace."
If he show favour and incline to grant the wished-for grace, 'Tis
well and good; but, if ye still read anger in his face,
Dissemble then with him and say, "We know her not, not
Quoth I to myself, "Verily, if the owner of this voice be fair,
she unites beauty of person and eloquence and sweetness of
voice." Then I drew near the door, and raising the curtain little
by little, beheld a damsel, white as the moon, when it rises on
its fourteenth night, with joined eyebrows and languorous
eyelids, breasts like twin pomegranates and dainty lips like twin
corn-marigolds,[FN#28] mouth as it were Solomon's seal and teeth
that sported with the reason of rhymester and proser, even as
saith the poet:
O mouth of the beloved, who set thy pearls arow And eke with
wine fulfilled thee and camomiles like show,
And lent the morning-glory unto thy smile, and who Hath with a
padlock sealed thee of rubies sweet of show?
Whoso but looks upon thee is mad for joy and pride. How should
it fare with him, who kisseth thee, heigho!
And as saith another:
O pearls of the teeth of my love, Have ruth on cornelian and
spare To vie with it! Shall it not find You peerless and
In fine, she comprised all manner of loveliness and was a
ravishment to men and women, nor could the beholder satisfy
himself with the sight of her beauty; for she was as the poet
hath said of her:
If, face to face, she do appear, unveiled, she slays; and if
She turn her back, she makes all men her lovers far and
Like the full moon and eke the sun she is, but cruelty And
inhumanity belong not to her nature dear.
The garden-gates of Paradise are opened with her shift And the
full moon revolveth still upon her neck-rings' sphere.
As I looked at her through the opening of the curtains, she
turned and seeing me standing at the door, said to her maid,
"See who stands at the door." So the maid came up to me and
said, "O old man, hast thou no shame, or do gray hairs and
impudence go together?" "O my mistress," answered I, "I confess
to the gray hairs, but as for unmannerliness, I think not to be
guilty of it." "And what can be more unmannerly," rejoined her
mistress, "than to intrude thyself upon a house other than thy
house and gaze on a harem other than thy harem?" "O my lady,"
said I, "I have an excuse." "And what is thine excuse?" asked
she. Quoth I, "I am a stranger and well-nigh dead of thirst."
"We accept thine excuse," answered she and calling one of her
maids, said to her, "O Lutf, give him to drink in the golden
So she brought me a tankard of red gold, set with pearls and
jewels, full of water mingled with odoriferous musk and covered
with a napkin of green silk; and I addressed myself to drink
and was long about it, casting stolen glances at her the while,
till I could prolong it no longer. Then I returned the tankard
to the maid, but did not offer to go; and she said to me, "O old
man, go thy way." "O my lady," replied I, "I am troubled in mind."
"For what?" asked she; and I answered, "For the uncertainty of
fortune and the vicissitudes of events." "Well mayst thou be
troubled thereanent," replied she, "for Time[FN#29] is the
mother of wonders. But what hast thou seen of them that thou
shouldst muse upon?" Quoth I, "I was thinking of the former
owner of this house, for he was my good friend in his lifetime."
"What was his name?" asked she. "Mohammed ben Ali the Jeweller,"
answered I; "and he was a man of great wealth. Did he leave
any children?" "Yes," said she; "he left a daughter, Budour
by name, who inherited all his wealth." Quoth I, "Meseems
thou art his daughter?" "Yes," answered she, laughing; then
added, "O old man, thou hast talked long enough; go thy ways."
"Needs must I go," replied I; "but I see thou art out of health.
Tell me thy case; it may be God will give thee solace at
my hands." "O old man," rejoined she, "if thou be a man of
discretion, I will discover to thee my secret; but first
tell me who thou art, that I may know whether thou art worthy
of confidence or not; for the poet saith:
None keepeth secrets but the man who's trusty and discreet: A
secret's ever safely placed with honest fold and leal;
For me, my secrets I preserve within a locked-up house, Whose
key is lost and on whose door is set the Cadi's seal."
"O my lady," answered I, "an thou wouldst know who I am, I am
Ali ben Mensour of Damascus, the Wag, boon-companion to the
Khalif Haroun er Reshid." When she heard my name she came down
from her seat and saluting me, said, "Welcome, O Ibn Mensour!
Now will I tell thee my case and entrust thee with my secret.
Know that I am a lover separated from her beloved." "O my
lady," rejoined I, "thou art fair and shouldst love none but
the fair. Whom then dost thou love?" Quoth she, "I love Jubeir
ben Umeir es Sheibani, Prince of the Benou Sheiban;"[FN#30] and
she described to me a young man than whom there was none
handsomer in Bassora. "O my lady," asked I, "have letters or
interviews passed between you?" "Yes," answered she; "but his
love for me was of the tongue, not of the heart; for he kept
not his covenant nor was faithful to his troth." "And what was
the cause of your separation?" asked I.
"I was sitting one day," replied she, "whilst my maid here
combed my hair. When she had made an end of combing it, she
plaited my tresses, and my beauty and grace pleased her; so she
bent down to me and kissed my cheek. At that moment, he came
in, unawares, and seeing her kiss my cheek, turned away in
anger, vowing eternal separation and repeating the following
If any share with me in her I love, incontinent, I'll cast her
off from me and be to live alone content.
A mistress, sure, is nothing worth, if, in the way of love, She
wish for aught but that to which the lover doth consent.
And from that time to this, O Ibn Mensour," continued she, "he
hath neither written to me nor answered my letters." "And what
thinkest thou to do?" asked I. Quoth she, "I have a mind to send
him a letter by thee. If thou bring me back an answer, thou shalt
have of me five hundred dinars; and if not, then a hundred for
thy pains." "Do what seemeth good to thee," answered I. So she
called for inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:
Whence this estrangement and despite, beloved of my soul?
Whither have kindliness and love between us taken flight?
What makes thee with aversion turn from me? Indeed, thy face Is
not the face I used to know, when we our troth did plight.
Belike, the slanderers have made a false report of me, And thou
inclin'dst to them, and they redoubled in despite.
If thou believedst their report, far, far it should have been
From thee, that art too whole of wit at such a bait to
Yea, I conjure thee by thy life, tell me what thou hast heard:
For lo! thou knowest what was said and wilt not do
If aught I've said that angered thee, a speech of change
admits; Ay, and interpreting, I trow, may change its
Were it a word sent down from God; for even the Pentateuch Hath
falsified and garbled been of this and th' other
Whilst, as for lies, how many were of folk before us told!
Joseph to Jacob was traduced and blackened in his sight.
Yea, for the slanderer and myself and thee, an awful day Of
standing up shall come, when God to judgment all shall
Then she sealed the letter and gave it to me. I took it and
carried it to the house of Jubeir ben Umeir, whom I found
absent hunting. So I sat down, to wait for him, and presently
he returned; and when I saw him come riding up, my wit was
confounded by his beauty ands grace. As soon as he saw me
sitting at the door, he dismounted and coming up to me, saluted
and embraced me; and meseemed I embraced the world and all that
therein is. Then he carried me into his house and seating me on
his own couch, called for food. So they brought a table of
khelenj[FN#32] wood of Khorassan, with feet of gold, whereon
were all manner of meats, fried and roasted and the like. So I
seated myself at the table and examining it, found the following
verses engraved upon it:
Weep for the cranes that erst within the porringers did lie And
for the stews and partridges evanished heave a sigh!
Mourn for the younglings of the grouse; lament unceasingly, As,
for the omelettes and the fowls browned in the pan, do I.
How my heart yearneth for the fish that, in its different
kinds, Upon a paste of wheaten flour, lay hidden in the
Praised be God for the roast meat, as in the dish it lay, With
pot-herbs, soaked in vinegar, in porringers hard by,
And eke the rice with buffaloes' milk dressed and made savoury,
Wherein the hands were plunged and arms were buried
O soul, I rede thee patient be, for God is bountiful: What
though thy fortunes straitened be, His succour's ever
Then said Jubeir, "Put thy hand to our food and ease our heart
by eating of our victual." "By Allah," answered I, "I will not
eat a mouthful, till thou grant me my desire." "What is thy
desire?" asked he. So I brought out the letter and gave it to
him; but, when he had read it, he tore it into pieces and
throwing it on the floor, said to me, "O Ibn Mensour, I will
grant thee whatever thou askest, save this that concerns the
writer of this letter, for I have no answer to make to her." At
this, I rose in anger; but he caught hold of my skirts, saying,
"O Ibn Mensour, I will tell thee what she said to thee, for all
I was not present with you." "And what did she say to me?"
asked I. "Did she not say to thee," rejoined he, "'If thou bring
me back an answer, thou shalt have of me five hundred dinars;
and if not, a hundred for thy pains?'" "Yes," answered I; and
he said, "Abide with me this day and eat and drink and make
merry, and thou shalt have five hundred dinars."
So I sat with him and ate and drank and made merry and
entertained him with converse; after which I said to him, "O my
master, is there no music in thy house?" "Indeed," answered he,
"we have drunk this long while without music." Then he called
out, saying, "Ho, Shejeret ed Durr!" Whereupon a slave-girl
answered him from her chamber and came in to us, with a lute of
Indian make, wrapped in a silken bag. She sat down and laying
the lute in her lap, preluded in one-and-twenty modes, then,
returning to the first, sang the following verses to a lively
Who hath not tasted the sweet and the bitter of passion, I
trow, The presence of her whom he loves from her absence
he hardly shall know.
So he, from the pathway of love who hath wandered and fallen
astray, The smooth knoweth not from the rough of the
roadway, wherein he doth go.
I ceased not the votaries of love and of passion to cross and
gainsay, Till I too must taste of its sweet and its
bitter, its gladness and woe.
Then I drank a full draught of the cup of its bitters, and
humbled was I, and thus to the bondman of Love and its
freedman therein was brought low.
How many a night have I passed with the loved one, carousing
with him, Whilst I drank from his lips what was sweeter
than nectar and colder than snow!
How short was the life of the nights of our pleasance! It
seemed to us still, No sooner was night fallen down than
the daybreak to eastward did glow.
But Fortune had vowed she would sever our union and sunder our
loves; And now, in good sooth, she her vow hath
accomplished. Fate ordered it so;
Fate ordered it thus, and against its ordaining, appeal there
is none; For who shall gainsay a supreme one's
commandments or causes him forego?
Hardly had she made an end of these verses, when Jubeir gave a
great cry and fell down in a swoon; whereupon, "May God not
punish thee, O old man!" exclaimed the damsel. "This long time
have we drunk without music, for fear the like of this should
befall our master. But go now to yon chamber and sleep there."
So I went to the chamber in question and slept till the
morning, when a page brought me a purse of five hundred dinars
and said to me, "This is what my master promised thee; but
return thou not to her who sent thee and let it be as if
neither thou nor we had heard of this affair." "I hear and
obey," answered I and taking the purse, went my way.
However, I said in myself, "The lady will have expected me
since yesterday; and by Allah, I must needs return to her and
tell her what passed between me and him; or she will curse me
and all who come from my country." So I went to her and found
her standing behind the door; and when she saw me, she said, "O
Ibn Mensour, thou hast gotten me nought." "Who told thee of
this?" asked I; and she answered, "O Ibn Mensour, yet another
thing hath been revealed to me; and it is that, when thou
gavest hum the letter, he tore it in pieces and throwing it on
the floor, said to thee, 'O Ibn Mensour, ask me anything but
what relates to the writer of this letter; for I have no reply
to make to her.' Then didst thou rise from beside him in anger;
but he laid hold of thy skirts, saying, 'Abide with me to-day,
for thou art my guest, and eat and drink and make merry; and
thou shalt have five hundred dinars.' So thou didst sit with
him, eating and drinking and making merry, and entertainedst
him with converse; and a slave-girl sand such an air and such
verses, whereupon he fell down in a swoon." Quoth I, "Wast thou
then with us?" "O Ibn Mensour," replied she, "hast thou not
heard the saying of the poet:
The heart of the lover hath eyes, well I wot, That see what the
eyes of beholders see not.
But," added she, "day and night alternate not upon aught, but they
change it." Then she raised her eyes to heaven and said, "O my
God and my Master and my Lord, like as Thou hast afflicted me
with love of Jubeir ben Umeir, even so do Thou afflict him with
love of me and transfer the passion from my heart to his!" Then
she gave me a hundred dinars for my pains and I took it and
returned to the palace, when I found the Sultan come back from
hunting; so I took my pension of him and made my way back to
Next year, I repaired to Bassora, as usual, to seek my pension,
and the Sultan paid it to me; but as I was about to return to
Baghdad, I bethought me of the lady Budour and said to myself,
"By Allah, I must needs go and see what hath befallen between
her and her lover!" So I went to her house and finding the
porch swept and sprinkled and slaves and servants and pages
standing before the door, said to myself, "Most like grief hath
broken the lady's heart and she is dead, and some Amir or other
hath taken up his abode in her house." So I went on to Jubeir's
house, where I found the benches of the porch broken down and
no pages at the door, as of wont, and said to myself, "Belike
he too is dead." Then I took up my station before the door of
his house and with my eyes running over with tears, bemoaned it
in the following verses:
Lords, that are gone, but whom my heart doth evermore ensue,
Return; so shall my festal says return to me with you.
I stand before your sometime stead, bewailing your abodes, With
quivering lids, from which the tears rain down, like
Weeping, I question of the house and ruins, "Where is he Who
was the source of benefits and bounties ever new?"
[They answer] "Go thy ways, for those thou lov'st from the
abode Departed are and neath the dust are buried; so
May God not stint us of the sight [in dreams] of all their
charms Nor be their noble memories aye absent from men's
As I was thus bewailing the folk of the house, there came a
black slave thereout and said to me, "Hold thy peace, O old
man! May thy mother be bereft of thee! What ails thee to bemoan
the house thus?" Quoth I, "I knew it of yore, when it belonged
to a good friend of mine." "What was his name?" asked the
slave. And I answered, "Jubeir ben Umeir the Sheibani." "And
what hath befallen him?" rejoined he. "Praised be God, he is
yet in the enjoyment of wealth and rank and prosperity, except
that God hath stricken him with love of a damsel called the
lady Budour; and he is overcome with love of her, that, for the
violence of his passion and torment, he is like a great rock
overthrown. If he hunger, he saith not, 'Feed me;' nor, if he
thirst, doth he say, 'Give me to drink.'" Quoth I, "Ask leave
me to go in to him." "O my lord," said the slave, "Wilt thou go
in to him who understands or to him who understands not?" "I
must needs see him, whatever be his case," answered I.
Se he went in and presently returned with permission for me to
enter, whereupon I went in to Jubeir and found him like a rock
overthrown, understanding neither sign nor speech. I spoke to
him, but he answered me not; and one of his servants said to
me, "O my lord, if thou know aught of verse, repeat it, and
raise thy voice; and he will be aroused by this and speak with
thee." So I recited the following verses:
Budour's love hast thou forgotten or art deaf still to her
sighs? Wak'st anights, or do thine eyelids close upon thy
If thy tears flow fast and freely, night and day long, torrent-
wise, Know thou, then, that thou shalt sojourn evermore in
When he heard this, he opened his eyes and said, "Welcome, O
Ibn Mensour! Verily, the jest is become earnest." "O my lord,"
said I, "is there aught thou wouldst have me do for thee?"
"Yes," answered he; "I would fain write her a letter and send
it to her by thee. If thou bring me back an answer, thou shalt
have of me a thousand dinars; and if not, two hundred for thy
pains." "Do what seemeth good to thee," said I. So he called to
one of his slave-girls for inkhorn and paper and wrote the
By Allah, O my lady, have ruth on me, I pray! For all my wit by
passion is ravished quite away.
Yea, love for thee and longing have mastered me and clad With
sickness and bequeathed me abjection and dismay.
Aforetime, O my lady, by love I set small store And deemed it
light and easy to bear, until to-day;
But now that Love hath shown me the billows of its sea, Those I
excuse, repenting, who languish neath its sway.
Vouchsafe thy grace to grant me; or, if thou wilt me slay, At
least, then, for thy victim forget thou not to pray.
Then he sealed the letter and gave it to me. I took it and
repairing to Budour's house, raised the curtain of the door,
little by little, as of wont, and looking in, saw ten damsels,
high-bosomed maids, like moons, and the lady Budour sitting in
their midst, as she were the full moon among stars or the sun,
when it is clear of clouds; nor was there on her any trace of
pain or care. As I looked and marvelled at her case, she turned
and seeing me standing at the gate, said to me, "Welcome and
fair welcome to thee, O Ibn Mensour! Come in." So I entered and
saluting her, gave her the letter. She read it and laughing,
said to me, "O Ibn Mensour, the poet lied not when he said:
The love of thee I will endure with patient constancy, Till
such time as a messenger shall come to me from thee.
O Ibn Mensour," added she, "I will write thee an answer that
he may give thee what he promised thee." "May God requite thee
with good!" answered I. So she called for inkhorn and paper and
wrote the following verses:
How comes it my vows I fulfilled and thou, thou wast false to
thy plight? Thou sawst me do justice and truth, and yet
thou thyself didst unright.
'Twas thou that begannest on me with rupture and rigour, I
trow; 'Twas thou that play'dst foul, and with thee began
the untruth and the slight.
Yea, still I was true to my troth and cherished but thee among
men And ceased not thine honour to guard and keep it
unsullied and bright,
Till tidings of fashions full foul I heard, as reported of
thee, And saw with mine eyes what thou didst, to harm me
and work me despite.
Shall I then abase my estate, that thine may exalted become? By
God, hadst thou generous been, the like should thy conduct
So now unto solace I'll turn my heart, with forgetting, from
thee And washing my hands of thy thought, blot despair for
thee out of my spright.
"By Allah, O my lady," said I, "there needs but the reading of
this letter, to kill him!" So I tore it in pieces and said to
her, "Write him other than this." "I hear and obey," answered
she and wrote the following:
Indeed, I am consoled and sleep is pleasant to mine eyes; For I
have heard what came of prate of slanderers and spies.
My heart my summons hath obeyed, thee to forget; and eke My
lids to stint from wake for thee have seen it good and
He lies who says that severance is bitterness; for me I find
its taste none otherwise than sweet; indeed he lies.
I've grown to turn away from those who bring me news of thee
And look upon it as a thing at which my gorge doth rise.
Behold, I have forgotten thee with every part of me. Let then
the spy and who will else this know and recognise.
"By Allah, O my lady," said I, "when he reads these verses, his
soul will depart his body!" "O Ibn Mensour," quoth she, "is
passion indeed come to such a pass with him as thou sayst?"
"Had I said more than this," replied I, "it were but the truth:
but clemency is of the nature of the noble." When she heard
this, her eyes filled with tears and she wrote him a letter, O
Commander of the Faithful, there is none in thy court could
avail to write the like of it; and therein were these verses:
How long shall this despite continue and this pride? My enviers'
spite on me thou sure hast satisfied.
Mayhap, I did amiss and knew it not; so tell Me what thou heardst
of me, that did our loves divide.
Even as I welcome sleep unto mine eyes and lids, So would I
welcome thee, beloved, to my side.
I've quaffed the cup of love for thee, unmixed and pure; So, if
thou see me drunk, reproach me not nor chide.
Then she sealed it and gave it to me; and I said, "O my lady,
this thy letter will heal the sick and ease the thirsting soul."
Then I took it and was going away, when she called me back and
said to me, "Tell me that I will be his guest this night." At
this I rejoiced greatly and carried the letter to Jubeir, whom I
found with his eyes fixed on the door, expecting the reply. I
gave him the letter and he opened and read it, then gave a great
cry and fell down in a swoon. When he came to himself, he said to
me, "O Ibn Mensour, did she indeed write this letter with her
hand and touch it with her fingers?" "O my lord," answered I, "do
folk write with their feet?" And by Allah, O Commander of the
Faithful, I had not done speaking, when we heard the chink of her
anklets in the vestibule and she entered.
When he saw her, he sprang to his feet, as thou there ailed him
nought, and embraced her as the letter Lam embraces Alif,[FN#34]
and the malady, that would not depart, ceased from him. Then he
sat down, but she abode standing and I said to her, "O my lady,
why dost thou not sit?" Quoth she, "I will not sit, O Ibn
Mensour, save on a condition that is between us." "And what is
that?" asked I. "None may know lovers' secrets," answered she and
putting her mouth to Jubeir's ear, whispered to him; whereupon,
"I hear and obey," replied he and rising, said somewhat privily
to one of his slaves, who went out and returned, in a little,
with a Cadi and two witnesses. Then Jubeir rose and taking a bag
containing a hundred thousand dinars, said, "O Cadi, marry me to
this young lady and write this sum to her dowry." Quoth the Cadi
to her, "Say, 'I consent to this.'" "I consent to this," said
she, whereupon he drew up the contract of marriage, and she
opened the bag and taking out a handful of gold, gave it to the
Cadi and the witnesses and handed the rest to Jubeir.
Then the Cadi and the witnesses withdrew, and I sat with them, in
mirth and delight, till the most part of the night was past, when
I said in myself, "These are lovers and have been this long while
separated. I will go now and sleep in some place afar from them
and leave them to be private, one with the other." So I rose, but
she laid hold of my skirts, saying, "What thinkest thou to do?"
"So and so," answered I. But she rejoined, "Sit still, when we
would be rid of thee, we will send thee away." So I sat with them
till near daybreak, when she said to me, "O Ibn Mensour, go to
yonder chamber; for we have furnished it for thee, and it is thy
sleeping-place." So I went thither and slept till morning, when a
page brought me basin and ewer, and I made the ablution and
prayed the morning-prayer. Then I sat down and presently, Jubeir
and his mistress came out of the bath in the house, wringing
I wished them good morning and gave them joy of their safety and
reunion, saying to Jubeir, "That which began with constraint hath
ended in contentment." "Thou sayst well," replied he; "and indeed
thou deservest largesse." And he called his treasurer and bade
him fetch three thousand dinars. So he brought a purse containing
that sum, and Jubeir gave it to me, saying, "Favour us by
accepting this." "I will not take it," answered I, "till thou
tell me the manner of the transfer of love from her to thee,
after so great an aversion." "I hear and obey," said he. "Know
that we have a festival, called the festival of the New Year,
when all the people use to take boat and go a-pleasuring on the
river. So I went out, with my comrades, and saw a boat, wherein
were half a score damsels like moons, and amongst them, the lady
Budour, with her lute in her hand. She preluded in eleven modes,
then returning to the first, sang the following verses:
Fire is not so fierce and so hot as the fires in my heart that
glow, And granite itself is less hard than the heart of my
lord, I trow.
Indeed, when I think on his make and his fashion, I marvel to see
A heart that is harder than rock in a body that's softer
Quoth I to her, 'Repeat the verses and the air.' But she would
not; so I bade the boatmen pelt her with oranges, and they pelted
her till we feared her boat would sink. Then she went her way,
and this is how the love was transferred from her breast to
mine." So I gave them joy of their reunion and taking the purse,
with its contents, returned to Baghdad.
When the Khalif heard Ibn Mensour's story, his heart was
lightened and the restlessness and oppression from which he
suffered forsook him.
THE MAN OF YEMEN AND HIS SIX SLAVE-GIRLS
The Khalif El-Mamoun was sitting one day in his palace,
surrounded by his grandees and officers of state, and there were
present also before him all his poets and minions, amongst the
rest one named Mohammed of Bassora. Presently, the Khalif turned
to the latter and said to him, 'O Mohammed, I wish thee to tell
me something that I have never before heard.' 'O Commander of the
Faithful,' answered Mohammed, 'shall I tell thee a thing that I
have heard with my ears of a thing that I have seen with my
eyes?' 'Tell me whichever is the rarer,' said El Mamoun.
'Know then, O Commander of the Faithful,' began Mohammed, 'that
there lived once a wealthy man, who was a native of Yemen; but he
left his native land and came to this city of Baghdad, whose
sojourn so pleased him that he transported hither his family and
possessions. Now he had six slave-girls, the first fair, the
second dark, the third fat, the fourth thin, the fifth yellow and
the sixth black, all fair of face and perfectly accomplished and
skilled in the arts of singing and playing upon instruments of
music. One day he sent for them all and called for meat and
drink; and they ate and drank and made merry. Then he filled the
cup and taking it in his hand, said to the blonde, "O new-moon-
face, let us hear somewhat pleasing." So she took the lute and
tuning it, made music thereon with such melodious trills and
modulations that the place danced to the rhythm; after which she
played a lively measure and sang the following verses:
I have a friend, whose form is mirrored in mine eye, And deep
within my breast, his name doth buried lie.
Whenas I call him back to mind, I am all heart, And when on him I
gaze, all eyes indeed am I.
"Forswear the love of him," my censor says; and I, "That which is
not to be, how shall it be?" reply.
"Go forth from me," quoth I, "and leave me, censor mine: Feign
not that eath and light, that's grievous to aby."
At this their master was moved to mirth and drinking off his cup,
gave the damsels to drink, after which he said to the brunette,
"O light of the brasier[FN#35] and delight of souls, let us hear
thy lovely voice, wherewith all that hearken are ravished." So
she took the lute and trilled upon it, till the place was moved
to mirth; then, taking all hearts with her graceful bendings, she
sang the following verses:
As thy face liveth, none but thee I'll love nor cherish e'er,
Till death, nor ever to thy love will I be false, I swear.
O full moon, shrouded, as it were a veil, with loveliness, All
lovely ones on earth that be beneath thy banners fare.
Thou, that in pleasantness and grace excellest all the fair, May
God, the Lord of heaven and earth, be with thee everywhere!
The man was pleased and drank off his cup; after which he filled
again and taking the goblet in his hand, beckoned to the plump
girl and bade her sing and play. So she took the lute and
striking a grief-dispelling measure, sang as follows:
If but thy consent be assured, O thou who art all my desire, Be
all the folk angered 'gainst me; I set not a whit by their
And if thou but show me thy face, thy brilliant and beautiful
face, I reck not if all the kings of the earth from my
Thy favour, O thou unto whom all beauty must needs be referred,
Of the goods and the sweets of the world is all that I seek
The man was charmed and emptying his cup, gave the girls to
drink. Then he beckoned to the slender girl and said to her, "O
houri of Paradise, feed thou our ears with sweet sounds." So she
took the lute and tuning it, preluded and sang the following
Is it not martyrdom that I for thine estrangement dree, Seeing,
indeed, I cannot live, if thou depart from me?
Is there no judge, in Love its law, to judge betwixt us twain, to
do me justice on thy head and take my wreak of thee?
Their lord rejoiced and emptying the cup, gave the girls to
drink. Then he signed to the yellow girl and said to her, "O sun
of the day, let us hear some pleasant verses." So she took the
lute and preluding after the goodliest fashion, sang as follows:
I have a lover, whenas I draw him nigh, He bares upon me a sword
from either eye.
May God avenge me some whit of him! For lo, He doth oppress me,
whose heart in 's hand doth lie.
Oft though, "Renounce him, my heart," I say, yet it Will to none
other than him itself apply.
He's all I ask for, of all created things; Yet jealous Fortune
doth him to me deny.
The man rejoiced and drank and gave the girls to drink; then he
filled the cup and taking it in his hand, signed to the black
girl, saying, "O apple of the eye, let us have a taste of thy
fashion, though it be but two words." So she took the lute and
preluded in various modes, then returned to the first and sang
the following verses to a lively air:
O eyes, be large with tears and pour them forth amain, For, lo,
for very love my senses fail and wane.
All manner of desire I suffer for his sake I cherish, and my foes
make merry at my pain.
My enviers me forbid the roses of a cheek; And yet I have a heart
that is to roses fain.
Ay, once the cups went round with joyance and delight And to the
smitten lutes, the goblets did we drain,
What time my love kept troth and I was mad for him And in faith's
heaven, the star of happiness did reign.
But lo, he turned away from me, sans fault of mine! Is there a
bitterer thing than distance and disdain?
Upon his cheeks there bloom a pair of roses red, Blown ready to
be plucked; ah God, those roses twain!
Were't lawful to prostrate oneself to any else Than God, I'd sure
prostrate myself upon the swain.
Then rose the six girls and kissing the ground before their lord,
said to him, "Judge thou between us, O our lord!" He looked at
their beauty and grace and the difference of their colours and
praised God the Most High and glorified Him: then said he, "There
is none of you but has read the Koran and learnt to sing and is
versed in the chronicles of the ancients and the doings of past
peoples; so it is my desire that each of you rise and pointing to
her opposite, praise herself and dispraise her rival; that is to
say, let the blonde point to the black, the plump to the slender
and the yellow to the brunette; and after, the latter shall, each
in turn, do the like with the former; and be this illustrated
with citations from the Holy Koran and somewhat of anecdotes and
verse, so as to show forth your culture and elegance of
discourse." Quoth they, "We hear and obey."
So the blonde rose first and pointing at the black, said to her,
"Out on thee, blackamoor! It is told that whiteness saith, 'I am
the shining light, I am the rising full moon.' My colour is
patent and my forehead is resplendent, and of my beauty quoth the
A blonde with smooth and polished cheeks, right delicate and
fair, As if a pearl in beauty hid, as in a shell, she were.
Her shape a splendid Alif[FN#36] is, her smile a medial
Mim[FN#37] And over it her eyebrows make inverted
Nouns,[FN#38] a pair.
Yes, and the glances of her eyes are arrows, and her brows A bow
that therewithal is horned with death and with despair.
If to her cheeks and shape thou pass, her cheeks are roses red,
Sweet basil, ay, and eglantine and myrtles rich and rare.
'Tis of the saplings' wont, to be implanted in the meads But, in
the saplings of thy shape, how many meads are there!
My colour is like the wholesome day and the newly-gathered
orange-blossom and the sparkling star; and indeed quoth God the
Most High, in His precious book, to His prophet Moses (on whom be
peace), 'Put thy hand into thy bosom and it shall come forth
white without hurt.'[FN#39] And again He saith, 'As for those
whose faces are made white, they are in the mercy of God and
dwell for ever therein.'[FN#40] My colour is a miracle and my
grace an extreme and my beauty a term. It is in the like of me
that clothes show fair and to the like of me that hearts incline.
Moreover, in whiteness are many excellences; for instance, the
snow falls white from heaven, and it is traditional that white is
the most beautiful of colours. The Muslims also glory in white
turbans; but I should be tedious, were I to repeat all that may
be said in praise of white; little and enough is better than too
much. So now I will begin with thy dispraise, O black, O colour
of ink and blacksmith's dust, thou whose face is like the crow
that brings about lovers' parting! Verily, the poet saith in
praise of white and dispraise of black:
Seest not that for their milky hue white pearls in price excel
And charcoal for a groat a load the folk do buy and sell?
And eke white faces, 'tis well known, do enter Paradise, Whilst
faces black appointed are to fill the halls of Hell.
And indeed it is told in certain histories, related on the
authority of devout men, that Noah (on whom be peace) was
sleeping one day, with his sons Ham and Shem seated at his head,
when a wind sprang up and lifting his clothes, uncovered his
nakedness; whereat Ham laughed and did not cover him; but Shem
rose and covered him. Presently, Noah awoke and learning what had
passed, blessed Shem and cursed Ham. So Shem's face was whitened
and from him sprang the prophets and the orthodox Khalifs and
Kings; whilst Ham's face was blackened and he fled forth to the
land of Ethiopia, and of his lineage came the blacks. All people
are of a mind in affirming the lack of understanding of the
blacks, even as saith the adage, 'How shall one find a black
Quoth her master, "It sufficeth; sit down, thou hast been
prodigal." And he signed to the negress, who rose, and pointing
at the blonde, said, "Doth thou not know that, in the Koran sent
down to His prophet and apostle, is transmitted the saying of God
the Most High, 'By the night, when it veileth [the world with
darkness], and by the day, when it appeareth in all its
glory!'[FN#41] If the night were not more illustrious than the
day, why should God swear by it and give it precedence of the
day? And indeed those of sense and understanding accept this.
Knowst now that black [hair] is the ornament of youth and that,
when whiteness descends upon the head, delights pass away and the
hour of death draws nigh? Were not black the most illustrious of
things, God had not set it in the kernel of the heart and the
apple of the eye; and how excellent is the saying of the poet:
An if I cherish the dusky maids, this is the reason why; They
have the hue of the core of the heart and the apple of the
And youth; nor in error I eschew the whiteness of the blondes;
For 'tis the colour of hoary hair and shrouds in them shun
And that of another:
The brown, not the white, are first in my love And worthiest
eke to be loved of me,
For the colour of damask lips have they, Whilst the white have
the hue of leprosy.
And of a third:
Black women, white of deeds, are like indeed to eyne That, though
jet-black they be, with peerless splendours shine.
If I go mad for her, be not amazed; for black The source of
madness is, when in the feminine.[FN#42]
'Tis as my colour were the middle dark of night; For all no moon
it be, yet brings it light, in fine.
Moreover, is the companying together of lovers good but in the
night? Let this quality and excellence suffice thee. What
protects lovers from spies and censors like the blackness of the
shadows? And nought gives them cause to fear discovery like the
whiteness of the dawn. So, how many claims to honour are there
not in blackness and how excellent is the saying of the poet:
I visit them, and the mirk of night doth help me to my will And
seconds me, but the white of dawn is hostile to me still.
And that of another:
How many a night in joy I've passed with the beloved one, What
while the darkness curtained us about with tresses dun!
Whenas the light of morn appeared, it struck me with affright,
And I to him, 'The Magians lie, who worship fire and sun.'
And saith a third:
He came forth to visit me, shrouding himself in the cloak of the
night, And hastened his steps, as he wended, for caution and
fear and affright.
Then rose I and laid in his pathway my cheek, as a carpet it
were, For abjection, and trailed o'er my traces my skirts,
to efface them from sight.
But lo, the new moon rose and shone, like a nail-paring cleft
from the nail, And all but discovered our loves with the
gleam of her meddlesome light.
And then there betided between us what I'll not discover, i'
faith: So question no more of the matter and deem not of ill
And a fourth:
Foregather with thy lover, whilst night your loves may screen;
For that the sun's a telltale, the moon a go-between.
And a fifth:
I love not white women, with fat blown out and overlaid; The girl
of all girls for me is the slender dusky maid.
Let others the elephant mount, if it like them; as for me, I'll
ride but the fine-trained colt on the day of the cavalcade.
And a sixth:
My loved one came to me by night And we did clip and interlace
And lay together through the dark; But, lo, the morning broke
To God, my Lord, I pray that He Will reunite us of His grace
And make night last to me, what while I hold my love in my
Were I to set forth all the praise of blackness, I should be
tedious; but little and enough is better than great plenty and
too much. As for thee, O blonde, thy colour is that of leprosy
and thine embrace is suffocation; and it is of report that frost
and intense cold[FN#43] are in Hell for the torment of the
wicked. Again, of black things is ink, wherewith is written the
word of God; and were is not for black ambergris and black musk,
there would be no perfumes to carry to kings. How many glories
are there not in blackness and how well saith the poet:
Dost thou not see that musk, indeed, is worth its weight in gold,
Whilst for a dirhem and no more a load of lime is sold?
Black eyes cast arrows at men's hearts; but whiteness of the
eyes, In man, is judged of all to be unsightly to behold."
"It sufficeth," said her master. "Sit down." So she sat down and
he signed to the fat girl, who rose and pointing at the slim
girl, uncovered her arms and legs and bared her stomach, showing
its creases and the roundness of her navel. Then she donned a
shift of fine stuff, that showed her whole body, and said,
"Praised be God who created me, for that He beautified my face
and made me fat and fair and likened me to branches laden with
fruit and bestowed upon me abounding beauty and brightness; and
praised be He no less, for that He hath given me the precedence
and honoured me, when He speaks of me in His holy book! Quoth the
Most High, 'And he brought a fat calf.'[FN#44] And indeed He hath
made me like unto an orchard, full of peaches and pomegranates.
Verily, the townsfolk long for fat birds and eat of them and love
not lean birds; so do the sons of Adam desire fat meat and eat of
it. How many precious attributes are there not in fatness, and
how well saith the poet:
Take leave of thy love, for the caravan, indeed, is on the
start. O man, canst thou bear to say farewell and thus
from her to part?
'Tis as her going were, I trow, but to her neighbour's house,
The faultless gait of a fat fair maid, that never tires
Sawst thou ever one stop at a butcher's stall, but sought fat
meat of him? The wise say, 'Pleasure is in three things, eating
flesh and riding on flesh and the thrusting of flesh into
flesh.' As for thee, O thin one, thy legs are like sparrow's
legs or pokers, and thou art like a cruciform plank or a piece
of poor meat; there is nought in thee to gladden the heart;
even as saith of thee the poet:
Now God forfend that aught enforce me take for bedfellow A
woman like a foot-rasp, wrapt in palm-fibres and tow!
In every limb she has a horn, that butts me in my sleep, So
that at day-break, bruised and sore, I rise from her and
"It is enough," quoth her master. "Sit down." So she sat down
and he signed to the slender girl, who rose, as she were a
willow-wand or a bamboo-shoot or a plant of sweet basil, and
said, "Praised be God who created me and beautified me and made
my embraces the end of all desire and likened me to the branch,
to which all hearts incline. If I rise, I rise lightly; if
I sit, I sit with grace; I am nimble-witted at a jest and
sweeter-souled than cheerfulness [itself]. Never heard I one
describe his mistress, saying, 'My beloved is the bigness of an
elephant or like a long wide mountain;' but rather, 'My lady
hath a slender waist and a slim shape.'
A little food contents me and a little water stays my thirst;
my sport is nimble and my habit elegant; for I am sprightlier
than the sparrow and lighter-footed than the starling. My
favours are the desire of the longing and the delight of the
seeker; for I am goodly of shape, sweet of smile and graceful
as the willow-wand or the bamboo-cane of the basil-plant; nor
is there any can compare with me in grace, even as saith one of
Thy shape unto the sapling liken I And set my hope to win thee or
Distraught, I follow thee, and sore afraid, Lest any look on thee
with evil eye.
It is for the like of me that lovers run mad and that the longing
are distracted. If my lover be minded to draw me to him, I am
drawn to him, and if he would have me incline to him, I incline
to him and not against him. But as for thee, O fat of body, thine
eating is as that of an elephant, and neither much not little
contents thee. When thou liest with a man, he hath no ease of
thee, nor can he find a way to take his pleasure of thee; for the
bigness of thy belly holds him off from clipping thee and the
grossness of thy thighs hinders him from coming at thy kaze. What
comeliness is there in thy grossness and what pleasantness or
courtesy in thy coarse nature? Fat meat is fit for nought but
slaughter, nor is there aught therein that calls for praise. If
one joke with thee, thou art angry; if one sport with thee, thou
art sulky; if thou sleep, thou snorest; if thou walk, thou
pantest; if thou eat, thou art never satisfied. Thou art heavier
than mountains and fouler than corruption and sin. Thou hast in
thee nor movement nor blessing nor thinkest of aught but to eat
and sleep. If thou make water, thou scatterest; if thou void,
thou gruntest like a bursten wine-skin or a surly elephant. If
thou go to the draught-house, thou needest one to wash out thy
privy parts and pluck out the hairs; and this is the extreme of
laziness and the sign of stupidity. In fine, there is no good
thing in thee, and indeed the poet saith of thee:
Heavy and swollen with fat, like a blown-out water-skin, With
thighs like the pillars of stone that buttress a mountain's
Lo, if she walk in the West, so cumbrous her corpulence is The
Eastern hemisphere hears the sound of her heavy tread."
Quoth her master, "It is enough: sit down." So she sat down and
he signed to the yellow girl, who rose to her feet and praised
God and magnified His name, calling down peace and blessing on
the best of His creatures;[FN#45] after which she pointed at the
brunette and said to her, "I am praised in the Koran, and the
Compassionate One hath described my colour and its excellence
over all others in His manifest Book, where He saith, 'A yellow
[heifer], pure yellow, whose colour rejoices the beholders.'
[FN#46] Wherefore my colour is a portent and my grace an extreme
and my beauty a term; for that my colour is the colour of a dinar
and of the planets and moons and of apples. My fashion is the
fashion of the fair, and the colour of saffron outvies all
other colours; so my fashion is rare and my colour wonderful. I
am soft of body, and of great price, comprising all attributes of
beauty. My colour, in that which exists, is precious as virgin
gold, and how many glorious qualities are there not in me! Of the
like of me quoth the poet:
Yellow she is, as is the sun that shineth in the sky, And like to
golden dinars, eke, to see, her beauties are.
Nor with her brightness, anywise, can saffron hold compare, And
even the very moon herself her charms outvie by far.
And now I will begin in thy dispraise, O brown of favour! Thy
colour is that of the buffalo, and all souls shudder at thy
sight. If thy colour be in aught, it is blamed; if it be in food,
it is poisoned; for thy colour is that of flies and is a mark of
ugliness in dogs. It is, among colours, one which strikes with
amazement and is of the signs of mourning. Never heard I of brown
gold or brown pearls or brown jewels. If thou enter the wardrobe,
thy colour changes, and when thou comest out, thou addest a new
ugliness to thine ugliness. Thou art neither black, that thou
mayst be known, nor white, that thou mayst be described; and
there is no good quality in thee, even as saith of thee the poet:
As a complexion unto her, the hue of soot doth serve; Her mirky
colour is as dust on couriers' feet upcast.
No sooner fall mine eyes on her, thou but a moment's space, Than
troubles and misgivings straight beset me thick and fast."
"Enough," said her master. "Sit down." So she sat down and he
signed to the brunette. Now she was endowed with grace and beauty
and symmetry and perfection, delicate of body, with coal-back
hair, slender shape, rosy, oval cheeks, liquid black eyes, fair
face, eloquent tongue, slim waist and heavy buttocks. So she rose
and said, "Praised be God who hath created me neither blameably
fat nor lankily slender, neither white like leprosy nor yellow
like colic nor black like coal, but hath made my colour to be
beloved of men of wit; for all the poets praise brunettes in
every tongue and exalt their colour over all others. Brown of
hue, praiseworthy of qualities; and God bless him who saith:
In the brunettes a meaning is, couldst read its writ aright,
Thine eyes would never again look on others, red or white.
Free-flowing speech and amorous looks would teach Harout[FN#47]
himself The arts of sorcery and spells of magic and of
And saith another:
Give me brunettes; the Syrian spears, so limber and so
straight, Tell of the slender dusky maids, so lithe and
proud of gait.
Languid of eyelids, with a down like silk upon her cheek,
Within her wasting lover's heart she queens it still in
And yet another:
Yea, by my life, such virtues in goodly brownness lie, One spot
thereof makes whiteness the shining moons outvie;
But if the like of whiteness is borrowed, then, for sure, Its
beauty were transmuted unto reproach thereby.
Not with her wine[FN#48] I'm drunken, but with her
tresses[FN#49] bright That make all creatures drunken that
dwell beneath the sky.
Each of her charms doth envy the others; yea, and each To be
the down so silky upon her cheek doth sigh.
Why should I not incline me unto the silken down On the cheeks
of a dusky maiden, like the cane straight and brown,
Seeing the spot of beauty in waterlilies' cups Is of the poets
fabled to be all beauty's crown?
Yea, and I see all lovers the swarthy-coloured mole, Under the
ebon pupil, do honour and renown.
Why, then, do censors blame me for loving one who's all A mole?
May Allah rid me of every railing clown!
My form is beautiful and my shape slender; kings desire my colour
and all love it, rich and poor. I am pleasant, nimble, handsome,
elegant, soft of body and great of price. I am perfect in beauty
and breeding and eloquence; my aspect is comely and my tongue
fluent, my habit light and my sport graceful. As for thee,
[O yellow girl,] thou art like unto a mallow of Bab el Louc,
yellow and made all of sulphur. Perdition to thee, O pennyworth
of sorrel, O rust of copper, O owl's face and food of the damned!
Thy bedfellow, for oppression of spirit, is buried in the tombs,
and there is no good thing in thee, even as saith the poet of the
like of thee:
Paleness[FN#50] is sore on her, for all no illness doth her
fret; My breast is straitened by its sight; ay, and my
head aches yet.
If thou repent thee not, my soul, to punish thee, I vow, I'll
humble thee with a kiss of her face, my teeth on edge
"Enough," said her master; "sit down." Then he made peace
between them and clad them all in sumptuous dresses of honour
and handselled them with precious jewels of land and sea. And
never, O Commander of the Faithful, in any place or time have I
seen fairer than these six fair damsels.'
When the Khalif El Mamoun heard this story from Mohammed of Bassora,
he said to him, 'O Mohammed, knowest thou the abiding-place of
these damsels and their master, and canst thou make shift to buy
them of him for us?' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered he,
'I have heard that their master is wrapped up in them and cannot
endure to be parted from them.' 'Take threescore thousand dinars,
--that is, ten thousand for each girl,--' rejoined the Khalif,
'and go to his house and buy them of him.' So Mohammed took the
money and betaking himself to the man of Yemen, acquainted him
with the Khalif's wish. He consented to sell them at that price,
to pleasure him, and despatched them to El Mamoun, who assigned
them an elegant lodging and used to sit with them therein,
marvelling at their beauty and grace, no less than at their varied
colours and the excellence of their speech.
After awhile, when their former owner could no longer endure separation
from them, he sent a letter to the Khalif, complaining of his ardent
love for them and containing, amongst the rest, the following verses:
Six damsels fair and bright have captivated me; My blessing and
my peace the six fair maidens greet!
My life, indeed, are they, my hearing and my sight, Yea, and my
very drink, my pleasance and my meat.
No other love can bring me solace for their charms, And
slumber, after them, no more to me is sweet.
Alas, my long regret, my weeping for their loss! Would I have
ne'er been born, to know this sore defeat!
For eyes, bedecked and fair with brows like bended bows, Have
smitten me to death with arrows keen and fleet.
When the letter came to El Mamoun's hands, he clad the six
damsels in rich apparel and giving them threescore thousand
dinars, sent them back to their master, who rejoiced in them
with an exceeding joy,--more by token of the money they brought
him,--and abode with them in all delight and pleasance of life,
till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and the
Sunderer of Companies.
HAROUN ER RASHID AND THE DAMSEL AND
The Khalif Haroun er Reshid, being one night exceeding restless
and oppressed with melancholy thought, went out and walked
about his palace, till he came to a chamber, over whose doorway
hung a curtain. He raised the curtain and saw, at the upper end
of the room, a bed, on which lay something black, as it were a
man asleep, with a candle on his right hand and another on his
left and by his side a flagon of old wine, over against which
stood the cup. The Khalif wondered at this, saying, 'How came
yonder black by this wine-service?' Then, drawing near the bed,
he found that it was a girl asleep there, veiled with her hair,
and uncovering her face, saw that it was like the moon on the
night of her full. So he filled a cup of wine and drank it to
the roses of her cheeks; then bent over her and kissed a mole
on her face, whereupon she awoke and cried out, saying, 'O
Trusty One of God,[FN#51], what is to do?' 'A guest who knocks
at thy dwelling by night,' replied the Khalif, '[hoping] that
thou wilt give him hospitality till the dawn.' 'It is well,'
answered she; 'I will grace the guest with my hearing and my
So she brought the wine and they drank it together; after which
she took the lute and tuning it, preluded in one-and-twenty
modes, then returning to the first, struck a lively measure and
sang the following verses:
The tongue of passion in my heart bespeaks thee for my soul,
Telling I love thee with a love that nothing can control.
I have an eye, that testifies unto my sore disease, And eke a
heart with parting wrung, a-throb for love and dole.
Indeed, I cannot hide the love that frets my life away; Longing
increases still on me, my tears for ever roll.
Ah me, before the love of thee, I knew not what love was; But
God's decree must have its course on every living soul.
Then said she, 'O Commander of the Faithful, I am a wronged
woman.' 'How so?' quoth he, 'and who hath wronged thee?' She
answered, 'Thy son bought me awhile ago, for ten thousand
dirhems, meaning to give me to thee; but the daughter of thine
uncle[FN#52] sent him the price aforesaid and bade him shut me
up from thee in this chamber.' Whereupon, 'Ask a boon of me,'
said the Khalif; and she, 'I ask thee to lie to-morrow night
with me.' 'If it be the will of God,' replied the Khalif, and
leaving her, went away.
Next morning, he repaired to his sitting-room and called for
Abou Nuwas, but found him not and sent his chamberlain to seek
for him. The chamberlain found him in pawn, in a tavern, for a
score of a thousand dirhems, that he had spent on a certain
boy, and questioned him. So he told him what had befallen him
with the boy and how he had spent a thousand dirhems upon him;
whereupon quoth the chamberlain, 'Show him to me; and if he be
worth this, thou art excused.' 'Wait awhile,' replied the poet,
'and thou shalt see him presently.' As they were talking, up
came the boy, clad in a white tunic, under which was another of
red and yet another of black. When Abou Nuwas saw him, he
sighed and repeated the following verses:
To me he appeared in a garment of white, His eyes and his
eyelids with languor bedight.
Quoth I, "Dost thou pass and salutest me not? Though God knows
thy greeting were sweet to my spright.
Be He blessed who mantled with roses thy cheeks, Who creates,
without let, what He will, of His might!"
"Leave prating," he answered; "for surely my Lord Is wondrous
of working, sans flaw or dissight.
Yea, truly, my garment is even as my face And my fortune, each
white upon white upon white."
When the boy heard this, he put off the white tunic and
appeared in the red one; whereupon Abou Nuwas redoubled in
expressions of admiration and repeated the following verses:
Appeared in a garment, the colour of flame, A foeman of mine,
"The beloved," by name.
"Thou'rt a full moon," I said in my wonder, "And com'st In a
garment that putteth the roses to shame.
Hath the red of thy cheek clad that vest upon thee Or in
heart's blood of lovers hast tinctured the same?"
Quoth he, "'Twas the sun lately gave me the wede; From the
rubicund hue of his setting it came.
So my garment and wine and the colour so clear Of my cheek are
as flame upon flame upon flame."
Then the boy doffed the red tunic and abode in the black;
whereupon Abou Nuwas redoubled in attention to him and repeated
the following verses:
He came in a tunic all sable of hue And shone out, thus veiled
in the dark, to men's view.
"Thou passest," quoth I, "without greeting, and thus Givest
cause to exult to the rancorous crew.
Thy garment resembles thy locks and my lot, Yea, blackness and
blackness and blackness thereto."
Then the chamberlain returned to Haroun er Reshid and
acquainted him with the poet's predicament, whereupon he bade
him take a thousand dirhems and go and take him out of pawn. So
he returned to Abou Nuwas and paying his score, carried him to
the Khalif, who said, 'Make me some verses containing the
words, "O Trusty One of God, what is to do?"' 'I hear and obey,
O Commander of the Faithful,' answered he and improvised the
My night was long for sleeplessness and care. Weary I was and
many my thoughts were.
I rose and walked awhile in my own place, Then midst the
harem's cloistered courts did fare,
Until I chanced on somewhat black and found It was a damsel
shrouded in her hair.
God bless her for a shining moon! Her shape A willow-wand, and
pudour veiled the fair.
I quaffed a cup to her; then, drawing near, I kissed the mole
upon her cheek so rare.
She woke and swayed about in her amaze, Even as the branch
sways in the rain-fraught air;
Then rose and said, "O Trusty One of God, What is to do, and
thou, what dost thou there?"
"A guest", quoth I, "that sues to thee, by night, For shelter
till the hour of morning-prayer."
"Gladly," she said; "with hearing and with sight To grace the
guest, my lord, I will not spare."
'Confound thee!' cried the Khalif. 'It is as if thou hadst been
present with us.' Then he took him by the hand and carried him
to the damsel, who was clad in a dress and veil of blue. When
Abou Nuwas saw her, he was profuse in expressions of admiration
and recited the following verses:
Say to the lovely maid, i' the veil of azure dight, "By Allah,
O my life, have pity on my plight!
For when the fair entreats her lover cruelly, Sighs of all
longing rend his bosom day and night.
So, by thy charms and by the whiteness of thy cheek, Have ruth
upon a heart for love consumed outright.
Incline to him and be his stay 'gainst stress of love, Nor let
what fools may say find favour in thy sight."
Then the damsel set wine before the Khalif and taking the lute,
played a lively measure and sang the following verses:
Wilt thou be just in thy love to others and deal with me
Unjustly and put me away, while others have joy in thee?
Were there for lovers a judge, to whom I might complain Of
thee, he would do me justice and judge with equity.
If thou forbid me to pass thy door, yet from afar To greet thee
and to bless, at least, I shall be free.
The Khalif bade her ply Abou Nuwas with wine, till he lost his
wits; when he gave him a full cup, and he drank a draught of it
and held the cup in his hand. Er Reshid bade the girl take the
cup from him and conceal it; so she took it and hid it between
her thighs. Then he drew his sword and standing at the poet's
head, pricked him with the point; whereupon he awoke and saw
the Khalif standing over him, with a drawn sword. At this sight
the fumes of the wine fled from his head and the Khalif said to
him, 'Make me some verses and tell me therein what is come of
thy cup; or I will cut off thy head.' So he improvised the
My tale, indeed is hard to tell: The thief was none but yon
She stole my cup of wine, whereof My lips had drunken but one
And hid it in a place, for which My heart's desire's
I name it not, for awe of him, In whom the right thereof doth
'Confound thee!' quoth the Khalif. 'How knewst thou that? But
we accept what thou sayst.' Then he ordered him a dress of
honour and a thousand dinars, and he went away, rejoicing.
THE MAN WHO STOLE THE DISH OF GOLD IN
WHICH THE DOG ATE.
There was once a man, who was overborne with debt, and his case
was straitened upon him, so that he left his people and family
and went forth in distraction. He wandered on at random till he
came to a high-walled and splendidly built city and entered it
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