The Book Of The Thousand Nights And One Night, Volume IV
Part 5 out of 8
ABOUL ASWED AND HIS SQUINTING SLAVE-GIRL.
Aboul Aswed bought a native-born slave-girl, who was squint-
eyed, and she pleased him; but his people decried her to him;
whereat he wondered and spreading out his hands, recited the
They run her down to me, and yet no fault in her find I, Except
perhaps it be a speck she hath in either eye.
To compensate this fault, if fault it be, o' the upper parts
She's slim and heavy of the parts beneath the waist that
HAROUN ER RESHID AND THE TWO SLAVE-GIRLS.
The Khalif Haroun er Reshid lay one night between two slave-girls,
one from Medina and the other from Cufa, and the latter rubbed his
hands, whilst the former rubbed his feet and made his yard to
stand up. Quoth the Cufan girl, 'I see thou wouldst keep the whole
of the stock-in-trade to thyself; give me my share of it.' And the
other answered, 'I have been told by Malik, on the authority of
Hisham ibn Orweh,[FN#100] who had it of his [grand]father,[FN#101]
that the Prophet said, "Whoso bringeth the dead to life, it is
his."' But the Cufan took her unawares and pushing her away, took
it all in her own hand and said, 'El Aamesh[FN#102] tells us, on
the authority of Kheithemeh,[FN#103] who had it of Abdallah ben
Mesoud,[FN#104] that the Prophet said, "Game belongeth to him who
taketh it, not to him who raiseth it."'
THE KHALIF HAROUN ER RESHID AND THE THREE
The Khalif Haroun er Reshid lay once with three slave-girls, a
Meccan, a Medinan and an Irakite. The Medina girl put her hand
to his yard and handled it, whereupon it rose and the Meccan
sprang up and drew it to herself. Quoth the other, 'What is
this unjust aggression? I have heard of Malik,[FN#105] on the
authority of Ez Zuhri,[FN#106] who had it of Abdallah ibn
Salim,[FN#107] on the report of Said ben Zeid,[FN#108] that the
Apostle (whom God bless and preserve) said, "Whoso revivifies a
dead land, it is his."' And the Meccan answered, 'Sufyan[FN#109]
tells us, on the authority of Abou Zenad,[FN#110] who had it of
El Aarej,[FN#111] on the report of Abou Hureireh,[FN#112] that
the Apostle of God said, "The game is his who catches it, not
his who starts it."' But the Irak girl pushed them both away and
taking it to herself, said, 'This is mine, till your contention
THE MILLER AND HIS WIFE.
There was a miller, who had an ass to turn his mill; and he was
married to a wicked wife, whom he loved; but she hated him and
loved a neighbour of hers, who liked her not and held aloof
from her. One night, the miller saw, in his sleep, one who said
to him, 'Dig in such a spot of the ass's circuit in the mill,
and thou shalt find a treasure.' When he awoke, he told his
wife the dream and charged her keep it secret; but she told her
neighbour, thinking to win his favour, and he appointed with
her to come to her by night. So he came and they dug in the
mill and found the treasure and took it forth. Then said he to
her, 'How shall we do with this?' 'We will share it equally
between us,' answered she; 'and do thou leave thy wife and I
will cast about to rid me of my husband. Then shalt thou marry
me, and when we are united, we will add the two halves of the
treasure, one to the other, and it will be [all] in our hands.'
Quoth he, 'I fear lest Satan seduce thee and thou take some man
other than myself; for gold in the house is like the sun in the
world. Meseems, therefore, it were better that the money be all
in my hands, so thou mayst study to win free of thy husband and
come to me.' 'I fear the like of thee,' rejoined she, 'and I
will not yield up my part to thee; for it was I directed thee
to it.' When he heard this, covetise prompted him to kill her;
so he killed her and threw her body into the empty hole; but
the day overtook him and hindered him from covering it up; so
he took the treasure and went away.
Presently, the miller awoke and missing his wife, went into the
mill, where he fastened the ass to the beam and shouted to it.
It went on a little, then stopped; whereupon he beat it
grievously; but the more he beat it, the more it drew back; for
it was affrighted at the dead woman and could not go on. So he
took out a knife and goaded it again and again, but still it
would not budge. Then he was wroth with it, knowing not the
cause of its obstinacy, and drove the knife into its flanks,
and it fell down dead. When the sun rose, he saw his wife lying
dead, in the place of the treasure, and great was his rage and
sore his chagrin for the loss of the treasure and the death of
his wife and his ass. All this came of his letting his wife
into his secret and not keeping it to himself.
THE SIMPLETON AND THE SHARPER.
A certain simple fellow was once going along, haling his ass
after him by the halter, when a couple of sharpers saw him and
one said to his fellow, 'I will take that ass from yonder man.'
'How wilt thou do that?' asked the other. 'Follow me and I will
show thee,' replied the first. So he went up to the ass and
loosing it from the halter, gave the beast to his fellow; then
clapped the halter on his own head and followed the simpleton,
till he knew that the other had got clean off with the ass,
when he stood still. The man pulled at the halter, but the
thief stirred not; so he turned and seeing the halter on a
man's neck, said to him, 'Who art thou?' Quoth the sharper, 'I
am thine ass and my story is a strange one. Know that I have a
pious old mother and came in to her one day, drunk; and she
said to me, "O my son, repent to God the Most High of these thy
transgressions." But I took the cudgel and beat her, whereupon
she cursed me and God the Most High changed me into an ass and
caused me fall into thy hands, where I have remained till now.
However, to-day, my mother called me to mind and her heart
relented towards me; so she prayed for me, and God restored me
to my former shape of a man.' 'There is no power and no virtue
but in God the Most High, the Supreme!' cried the simpleton. 'O
my brother, I conjure thee by Allah, acquit me of what I have
done with thee, in the way of riding and so forth.'
Then he let the sharper go and returned home, drunken with
chagrin and concern. His wife asked him, 'What ails thee and
where is the ass?' And he answered, 'Thou knowest not what was
this ass; but I will tell thee.' So he told her the story, and
she exclaimed, 'Woe worth us for God the Most High! How could
we have used a man as a beast of burden, all this while?' And
she gave alms and asked pardon of God. Then the man abode
awhile at home, idle, till she said to him, 'How long wilt thou
sit at home, idle? Go to the market and buy us an ass and do
thy business with it.' Accordingly, he went to the market and
stopping by the ass-stand, saw his own ass for sale. So he went
up to it and clapping his mouth to its ear, said to it, 'Out on
thee, thou good-for-nought! Doubtless thou hast been getting
drunk again and beating thy mother! But, by Allah, I will never
buy thee more!' And he left it and went away.
THE IMAM ABOU YOUSUF WITH HAROUN ER
RESHID AND ZUBEIDEH.
The Khalif Haroun er Reshid went up one noon-tide to his couch,
to lie down, and mounting, found thereon fresh semen; whereat
he was startled and sore perturbed and troubled. So he called
the princess Zubeideh and said to her, 'What is that spilt on
the bed?' She looked at it and replied, 'O Commander of the
Faithful, it is semen.' 'Tell me truly what this means,' said he;
'or I will lay violent hands on thee forthright.' 'O Commander of
the Faithful,' answered she, 'indeed, I know not how it came
there and I am guiltless of that whereof thou suspectest me.'
So he sent for the Imam Abou Yousuf and told him the case. The
Imam raised his eyes to the roof and seeing a crack therein,
said to the Khalif, 'O Commander of the Faithful, the bat hath
semen like that of a man, and this is bats' semen.' Then he
called for a lance and thrust it into the crack, whereupon down
fell the bat. In this manner the Khalif's suspicions were
dispelled and Zubeideh's innocence was made manifest; whereat
she gave vent to her joy and promised Abou Yousuf a liberal
Now there were with her magnificent fruits, out of their
season, and she knew of others in the garden; so she said to
Abou Yousuf, 'O Imam of the Faith, which wouldst thou rather of
the two kinds of fruits, those that are here or those that are
not here?' 'Our code forbids us to pronounce judgment on the
absent,' answered he. 'When they are present, we will give
judgment.' So she caused bring the two kinds of fruits before
him, and he ate of both. Quoth she, 'What is the difference
between them?' And he answered, 'As often as I think to praise
one kind, the other puts in its claim.' The Khalif laughed at
his answer and made him a present. Zubeideh also gave him what
she had promised him, and he went away, rejoicing. See, then,
the blessed qualities of this Imam and how at his hands were
made manifest the truth and the innocence of the lady Zubeideh.
THE KHALIF EL HAKIM AND THE MERCHANT.
The Khalif El Hakim bi Amrillah was riding out in state one day,
when he came to a garden, in which he saw a man, surrounded by
slaves and servants. He asked him for a draught of water, and
the man gave him to drink, saying, 'Peradventure, the Commander
of the Faithful will honour me by alighting in this my garden.'
So the Khalif dismounted and entered the garden with his suite;
whereupon the man brought out to them a hundred carpets and a
hundred leather mats and a hundred cushions and set before them
a hundred dishes of fruits, a hundred saucers of sweetmeats and
a hundred bowls full of sherbets of sugar; whereat the Khalif
marvelled and said to his host, 'O man, this thy case is a
strange one. Didst thou know of our coming and make this
preparation for us?' 'No, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,'
answered the other, 'I knew not of thy coming and am but a
merchant of the rest of thy subjects. But I have a hundred
concubines; so, when the Commander of the Faithful honoured
me by alighting with me, I sent to each of them, bidding her
send me the morning-meal here. So they sent me each of her
furniture and of the excess of her meat and drink: and every
day each sends me a dish of meat and another of marinades, also
a plate of fruits and a saucer of sweetmeats and a bowl of
sherbet. This is my every- day noon-meal, nor have I added
aught thereto for thee.'
The Khalif prostrated himself in thanksgiving to God the Most
High and said, 'Praised be God, who hath been so bountiful to
one of our subjects, that he entertaineth the Khalif and his
suite, without making ready for them, but of the surplus of his
day's victual!' Then he sent for all the dirhems in the
treasury, that had been struck that year,--and they were in
number three thousand and seven hundred thousand;--nor did he
mount, till the money came, when he gave it to the merchant,
saying, 'Use this for the maintenance of thy state; and thy
desert is more than this.' Then he mounted and rode away.
KING KISRA ANOUSHIRWAN AND THE VILLAGE
The just King, Kisra Anoushirwan,[FN#113] was hunting one day
and became separated from his suite, in pursuit of an antelope.
Presently, he caught sight of a hamlet, near at hand, and being
sore athirst, made for the door of a house, that stood by the
wayside, and asked for a draught of water. A damsel came out
and looked at him; then, going back into the house, pressed the
juice from a sugar-cane into a tankard and mixed it with water;
after which she strewed on the top somewhat of perfume, as it
were dust, and carried it to the King. He took it and seeing in
it what resembled dust, drank it, little by little, till he
came to the end. Then said he to her, 'O damsel, the drink is
good and sweet, but for this dust in it, that troubles it.' 'O
guest,' answered she, 'I put that in, of intent.' 'And why
didst thou thus?' asked he; and she replied, 'I saw that thou
wast exceeding thirsty and feared that thou wouldst swallow the
whole at one draught and that this would do thee a mischief;
and so hadst thou done, but for this dust that troubled the
drink.' The King wondered at her wit and good sense and said to
her, 'How many sugar-canes didst thou press for this draught?'
'One,' answered she; whereat the King marvelled and calling for
the roll of the taxes of the village, saw that its assessment
was but little and bethought him to increase it, on his return
to his palace, saying in himself, 'Why is a village so lightly
taxed, where they get this much juice out of one sugar-cane?'
Then he left the village and pursued his chase. As he came back
at the end of the day, he passed alone by the same door and
called again for drink; whereupon the same damsel came out and
knowing him, went in to fetch him drink. It was some time
before she returned and the King wondered at this and said to
her, 'Why hast thou tarried?' Quoth she, 'Because one sugar-
cane yielded not enough for thy need. So I pressed three; but
they yielded not so much as did one aforetime.' 'What is the
cause of that?' asked the King; and she answered, 'The cause of
it is that the King's mind is changed.' Quoth he, 'How knewst
thou that?' 'We hear from the wise,' replied she, 'that, when
the King's mind is changed against a folk, their prosperity
ceaseth and their good waxeth less.' Anoushirwan laughed and
put away from his mind that which he had purposed against the
people of the village. Moreover, he took the damsel to wife
then and there, being pleased with her much wit and acuteness
and the excellence of her speech.
THE WATER-CARRIER AND THE GOLDSMITH'S
There was once, in the city of Bokhara, a water-carrier, who
used to carry water to the house of a goldsmith and had done
thus thirty years. Now the goldsmith had a wife of exceeding
beauty and elegance and withal renowned for modesty, chastity
and piety. One day, the water-carrier came, as of wont, and
poured the water into the cisterns. Now the woman was standing
in the midst of the court; so he went up to her and taking her
hand, stroked it and pressed it, then went away and left her.
When her husband came home from the bazaar, she said to him, 'I
would have thee tell me what thou hast done in the bazaar,
today, to anger God the Most High.' Quoth he, 'I have done
nothing.' 'Nay,' rejoined she, 'but, by Allah, thou hast indeed
done something to anger God; and except thou tell me the truth,
I will not abide in thy house, and thou shalt not see me, nor
will I see thee.' 'I will tell thee the truth,' answered he.
'As I was sitting in my shop this day, a woman came up to me
and bade me make her a bracelet. Then she went away and I
wrought her a bracelet of gold and laid it aside. Presently,
she returned and I brought her out the bracelet. She put out
her hand and I clasped the bracelet on her wrist; and I
wondered at the whiteness of her hand and the beauty of her
wrist and recalled what the poet says:
Bracelets, upon her wrists, of glittering virgin gold She hath,
like fire ablaze on running water cold.
It is as if the wrists and bracelets thereabout Were water girt
with fire, right wondrous to behold.
So I took her hand and pressed it and squeezed it.' 'God is
Most Great!' exclaimed the woman. 'Why didst thou this ill
thing? Know that the water-carrier, who has come to our house
these thirty years, nor sawst thou ever any treason in him,
took my hand to day and pressed and squeezed it.' Quoth her
husband, 'O woman, let us crave pardon of God! Verily, I repent
of what I did, and do thou ask forgiveness of God for me.' 'God
pardon me and thee,' said she, 'and vouchsafe to make good the
issue of our affair!'
Next day, the water-carrier came in to the jeweller's wife and
throwing himself at her feet, grovelled in the dust and
besought pardon of her, saying, 'O my lady, acquit me of that
which Satan deluded me to do; for it was he that seduced me and
led me astray.' 'Go thy ways,' answered she; 'the fault was not
in thee, but in my husband, for that he did what he did in his
shop, and God hath retaliated upon him in this world.' And it
is related that the goldsmith, when his wife told him how the
water-carrier had used her, said, 'Tit for tat! If I had done
more, the water-carrier had done more.' And this became a
current byword among the folk.
So it behoveth a wife to be both outward and inward with her
husband, contenting herself with little from him, if he cannot
give her much, and taking pattern by Aaisheh[FN#114] the
Truthful and Fatimeh[FN#115] the Clean Maid, (may God the Most
High accept of them), that she may be of the company of the
KHUSRAU AND SHIRIN WITH THE FISHERMAN.
King Khusrau[FN#117] of Persia loved fish; and one day, as he
sat in his saloon, he and Shirin[FN#118] his wife, there came a
fisherman, with a great fish, and presented it to the King, who
was pleased and ordered the man four thousand dirhems. When he
was gone, Shirin said to the King, 'Thou hast done ill.'
'Wherefore?' asked he; and she answered, 'Because if, after
this, thou give one of thy courtiers a like sum, he will
disdain it and say, "He hath but given me the like of what he
gave the fisherman." And if thou give him less, he will say,
"He makes light of me and gives me less than he gave the
fisherman."' 'Thou art right,' rejoined Khusrau; 'but the thing
is done and it ill becomes a king to go back on his gift.'
Quoth Shirin, 'An thou wilt, I will contrive thee a means to
get it back from him.' 'How so?' asked he; and she said, 'Call
back the fisherman and ask him if the fish be male or female.
If he say, "Male," say thou, "We want a female," and if he say,
"Female," say, "We want a male."'
So he sent for the fisherman, who was a man of wit and
discernment, and said to him, 'Is this fish male or female?'
The fisherman kissed the ground and answered, 'It is of the
neuter gender, neither male nor female.' The King laughed and
ordered him other four thousand dirhems. So the fisherman went
to the treasurer and taking his eight thousand dirhems, put
them in a bag he had with him. Then, throwing the bag over his
shoulder, he was going away, when he dropped a dirhem; so he
laid the bag off his back and stooped down to pick it up. Now
the King and Shirin were looking on, and the latter said, 'O
King, didst thou note the meanness and greediness of yon man,
in that he must needs stoop down, to pick up the one dirhem,
and could not bring himself to leave it for one of the King's
servants?' When the King heard this, he was wroth with the
fisherman and said, 'Thou art right, O Shirin!' So he called
the man back and said to him, 'Thou low-minded fellow! Thou art
no man! How couldst thou put the bag off thy shoulder and stoop
to pick up the one dirhem and grudge to leave it where it
fell?' The fisherman kissed the earth before him and answered,
'May God prolong the King's life! Indeed, I did not pick up the
dirhem, because of its value in my eyes; but because on one of
its faces is the likeness of the King and on the other his
name; and I feared lest any should unwittingly set his foot
upon it, thus dishonouring the name and presentment of the
King, and I be blamed for the offence.' The King wondered at
his wit and shrewdness and ordered him yet other four thousand
dirhems. Moreover, he let cry abroad in his kingdom, saying,
'It behoveth none to order himself by women's counsel; for
whoso followeth their advice, loseth, with his one dirhem,
YEHYA BEN KHALID THE BARMECIDE AND THE
Yehya ben Khalid the Barmecide was returning home, one day,
from the Khalif's palace, when he saw a man at the gate of his
house, who rose at his approach and saluted him, saying, 'O
Yehya, I am in need of that which is in thy hand, and I make
God my intermediary with thee.' So Yehya caused set apart a
place for him in his house and bade his treasurer carry him a
thousand dirhems every day and that his food should be of the
choicest of his own meat. The man abode thus a whole month, at
the end of which time, having received in all thirty thousand
dirhems, he departed by stealth, fearing lest Yehya should take
the money from him, because of the greatness of the sum; and
when they told Yehya of this, he said, 'By Allah, though he had
tarried with me to the end of his days, yet had I not scanted
him of my largesse nor cut off from him the bounties of my
hospitality!' For, indeed, the excellences of the Barmecides
were past count nor can their virtues be told; especially those
of Yehya teen Khalid, for he abounded in noble qualities, even
as saith the poet of him:
I asked munificence, "Art free?" It answered, "No, perdie!
Yehya ben Khalid's slave am I; my lord and master he."
"A boughten slave?" asked I; but, "Nay, so heaven forfend!"
quoth it. "From ancestor to ancestor he did inherit me."
MOHAMMED EL AMIN AND JAAFER BEN EL HADI.
Jaafer ben Mousa el Hadi[FN#119] once had a slave-girl, a lute
player, called El Bedr el Kebir, than whom there was not in her
time a fairer of face nor a better-shaped nor a more elegant of
manners nor a more accomplished in singing and smiting the
strings; she was indeed perfect in beauty and charm. Mohammed
el Amin,[FN#120] son of Zubeideh, heard of her and was instant
with Jaafer to sell her to him; but he replied, 'Thou knowest
it beseems not one of my rank to sell slave-girls nor traffic
in concubines; but, were it not that she was reared in my
house, I would send her to thee, as a gift, nor grudge her to
Some days after this, El Amin went to Jaafer's house, to make
merry; and the latter set before him that which it behoves to
set before friends and bade El Bedr sing to him and gladden
him. So she tuned the lute and sang right ravishingly, whilst El
Amin fell to drinking and making merry and bade the cupbearers
ply Jaafer with wine, till he became drunken, when he took the
damsel and carried her to his own house, but laid not a finger
on her. On the morrow, he sent to invite Jaafer; and when he
came, he set wine before him and bade the girl sing to him, from
behind the curtain. Jaafer knew her voice and was angered at
this, but, of the nobleness of his nature and the greatness of
his mind, he dissembled his vexation and let no change appear in
When the carousel was at an end, El Amin commanded one of his
servants to fill the boat, in which Jaafer had come, with
dirhems and dinars and all manner jewels and jacinths and rich
clothes and other treasures of price. So he laid therein a
thousand myriads of money and a thousand fine pearls, each
worth twenty thousand dirhems; nor did he give over loading the
barge with all manner of precious things, till the boatmen
cried out for quarter, saying, 'The boat cannot hold any more;'
whereupon he bade them carry all this to Jaafer's palace. Such
are the fashions of the magnanimous, may God have mercy on
THE SONS OF YEHYA BEN KHALID AND SAID BEN
SALIM EL BAHILI.
(Quoth Said ben Salim el Bahili[FN#121]), I was once, in the
days of Haroun er Reshid, in very narrow case and greatly
oppressed with debts, that had accumulated upon me and that I
had no means of discharging. My doors were blocked up with
creditors and I was without cease importuned for payment by
claimants, who dunned me in crowds, till I was at my wits'
end what to do. At last, being sore perplexed and troubled,
I betook myself to Abdallah ben Malik el Khuzai[FN#122] and
besought him to aid me with his judgment and of his good
counsel direct me to the door of relief; and he said, "None can
quit thee of this thy strait but the Barmecides." Quoth I, "Who
can brook their pride and put up with their arrogance?" And he
answered, "Thou must put up with it, for the sake of amending
thy case." So I left him and went straight to El Fezl and
Jaafer, sons of Yehya ben Khalid, to whom I related my case.
"God give thee His aid," answered they, "and enable thee by
His bounties to dispense with the aid of His creatures and
vouchsafe thee abundant good and bestow on thee what shall
suffice thee, without the need of any but Himself; for He can
what He will and is gracious and provident with His servants."
I went out from them and returned to Abdallah, disappointed and
perplexed and heavy at heart, and told him what they had said.
Quoth he, "Thou wouldst do well to abide with us this day, that
we may see what God the Most High will decree." So I sat with
him awhile, and lo, up came my servant, who said to me, "O my
lord, there are at our door many laden mules, and with them a
man, who says he is the agent of Fezl and Jaafer ben Yehya."
Quoth Abdallah, "I trust that relief is come to thee: go and
see what is to do." So I left him and running to my house,
found at the door a man, who gave me a letter, wherein was
written the following: "Know that, after thou hadst been with
us and acquainted us with thy case, we betook ourselves to the
Khalif and informed him that the case had reduced thee to the
humiliation of begging; whereupon he ordered thee a million
dirhems from the Treasury. We represented to him that thou
wouldst spend this money in paying thy creditors and said,
'Whence shall he provide for his subsistence?' So he ordered
thee other three hundred thousand, and we have sent thee, of
our own money, a million dirhems each, so that thou hast now
three millions and three hundred thousand dirhems, wherewithal
to order thine affair and amend thine estate."
See, then, the munificence of these generous men; may God the
Most High have mercy on them!
THE WOMAN'S TRICK AGAINST HER HUSBAND.
A man brought his wife a fish one Friday and bidding her cook
it against the end of the congregational prayers, went out to
his business. Meanwhile, there came in her friend,[FN#123] who
bade her to a wedding at his house; so she agreed and laying
the fish in a jar of water, went off with him and was absent a
whole week, whilst her husband sought her from house to house
and enquired after her; but none could give him any news of
On the following Friday, she came home, [and he fell to chiding
and reproaching her;] but she brought out to him the fish alive
from the jar and assembled the folk against him. He told them
his case; but they credited him not and said, 'It cannot be
that the fish should have remained alive all this while.' So
they caused adjudge him mad and imprisoned him and laughed at
him, whereupon he wept sore and recited the following verses:
A hag, that holds high rank, indeed, in lewdness! In her face
Are witnesses that testify to filth and wantonness.
When she's unclean, she bawds; and when she's clean, she plays
the whore: So, all her time, she's either bawd or else
THE DEVOUT WOMAN AND THE TWO WICKED
There was once, of old time, a virtuous woman among the children
of Israel, who was pious and devout and used every day to go out
to the place of prayer, first entering a garden, which adjoined
thereto, and there making the ablution. Now there were in this
garden two old men, its keepers, who fell in love with her
and sought her favours; but she refused, whereupon said they,
'Except thou yield thyself to us, we will bear witness against
thee of fornication.' Quoth she, 'God will preserve me from your
wickedness!' Then they opened the garden-gate and cried out, and
the folk came to them from all sides, saying, 'What ails you?'
Quoth they, 'We found this damsel in company with a youth, who
was doing lewdness with her; but he escaped from our hands.'
Now it was the use of the people of those days to expose an
adulteress to public ignominy for three days and after stone
her. So they pilloried her three days, whilst the two old men
came up to her daily and laying their hands on her head, said,
'Praised be God who hath sent down His vengeance on thee!'
On the fourth day, they carried her away, to stone her; but a
lad of twelve years old, by name Daniel, followed them to the
place of execution and said to them, 'Hasten not to stone her,
till I judge between them.' So they set him a chair and he sat
down and caused bring the old men before him separately. (Now
he was the first that separated witnesses.) Then said he to the
first, 'What sawest thou?' So he repeated to him his story, and
Daniel said, 'In what part of the garden did this befall?' 'On
the eastern side,' replied the elder, 'under a pear-tree.' Then
he called the other old man and asked him the same question;
and he replied, 'On the western side of the garden, under an
apple-tree.' Meanwhile the damsel stood by, with her hands and
eyes uplift to heaven, imploring God for deliverance. Then God
the Most High sent down His vengeful thunder upon the two old
men and consumed them and made manifest the innocence of the
This was the first of the miracles of the Prophet Daniel, on
whom and on the Prophet be blessing and peace!
JAAFER THE BARMECIDE AND THE OLD
The Khalif Haroun er Reshid went out one day, with Abou Yousuf
the minion and Jaafer the Barmecide and Abou Nuwas, into the
desert, where they fell in with an old man, leant upon his ass.
The Khalif bade Jaafer ask him whence he came; so he said to
him, 'Whence comest thou?' 'From Bassora,' answered the
Bedouin. 'And whither goest thou?' asked Jaafer. 'To Baghdad,'
said the other. 'And what wilt thou do there?' asked Jaafer. 'I
go to seek medicine for my eye,' replied the old man. Quoth the
Khalif, 'O Jaafer, make us sport with him.' 'If I jest with
him,' answered Jaafer, 'I shall hear what I shall not like.'
But Er Reshid rejoined, 'I charge thee, on my authority, jest
So Jaafer said to the Bedouin, 'If I prescribe thee a remedy
that shall profit thee, what wilt thou give me in return?'
Quoth the other, 'God the Most High will requite thee for me
with better than I can give thee.' 'Harkye, then,' said Jaafer,
'and I will give thee a prescription, which I have given to
none but thee.' 'What is that?' asked the Bedouin; and Jaafer
answered, 'Take three ounces of wind-wafts and the like of
sunbeams and moonshine and lamp-light; mix them together and
let them lie in the wind three months. Then bray them three
months in a mortar without a bottom and laying them in a cleft
platter, set it in the wind other three months; after which use
three drachms every night in thy sleep, and (God willing) thou
shalt be cured.'
When the Bedouin heard this, he stretched himself out on the
ass's back and letting fly a terrible great crack of wind, said
to Jaafer, 'Take this, in payment of thy prescription. When I
have followed it, if God grant me recovery, I will give thee a
slave-girl, who shall serve thee in thy lifetime a service,
wherewith God shall cut short thy term; and when thou diest and
God hurries thy soul to the fire, she shall blacken thy face
with her ordure, of her mourning for thee, and lament and
buffet her face, saying, "O frosty-beard, what a ninny thou
wast!"'[FN#125] The Khalif laughed till he fell backward, and
ordered the Bedouin three thousand dirhems.
THE KHALIF OMAR BEN KHETTAB AND THE
The sheriff[FN#126] Hussein ben Reyyan relates that the Khalif
Omar ben Khettab was sitting one day, attended by his chief
counsellors, judging the folk and doing justice between his
subjects, when there came up to him two handsome young men,
haling by the collar a third youth, perfectly handsome and
well dressed, whom they set before him. Omar looked at him and
bade them loose him; then, calling him near to himself, said
to them, 'What is your case with him?' 'O Commander of the
Faithful,' answered they, 'we are two brothers by one mother
and known as followers of the truth. We had a father, a very
old man of good counsel, held in honour of the tribes, pure of
basenesses and renowned for virtues, who reared us tenderly,
whilst we were little, and loaded us with favours, when we
grew up; in fine, a man abounding in noble and illustrious
qualities, worthy of the poet's words:
"Is Abou es Sekr of Sheiban[FN#127]?" they questioned of me;
and "No," I answered, "my life upon it! But Sheiban's of
him, I trow.
How many a father hath ris'n in repute by a noble son, As
Adnan,[FN#128] by God's Apostle, to fame and glory did
He went forth this day to his garden, to take his pleasure
amongst its trees and pluck the ripe fruits, when this young
man slew him and swerved from the road of righteousness;
wherefore we demand of thee the retribution of his crime and
call upon thee to pass judgment upon him, according to the
commandment of God.'
The Khalif cast a terrible look at the accused youth and said
to him, 'Thou hearest the complaint of these young men; what
hast thou to say in reply?' Now he was stout of heart and ready
of speech, having doffed the wede of faint-heartedness and put
off the apparel of affright; so he smiled and after paying the
usual ceremonial compliment to the Khalif, in the most eloquent
and elegant words, said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, I have
given ear to their complaint, and they have said sooth in that
which they avouch, so far as they have set out what befell; and
the commandment of God is a decreed decree.[FN#129] But I will
state my case before thee, and thine be it to decide thereon.
Know then, O Commander of the Faithful, that I am a very Arab
of the Arabs, the noblest of those that are beneath the skies.
I grew up in the dwellings of the desert, till evil and hostile
times fell upon my tribe, when I came to the utterward of this
town, with my children and good and household. As I went along
one of the paths between the gardens, with my she-camels, high
in esteem with me and precious to me, and midst them a stallion
of noble race and goodly shape, a plenteous getter, by whom the
females bore abundantly and who walked among them, as he were a
crowned king,--behold, one of the she-camels broke away and
running to the garden of these young men's father, began to
crop the branches that showed above the wall. I ran to her, to
drive her away, when there appeared, at a breach of the wall,
an old man, whose eyes sparkled with anger, holding a stone in
his right hand and swaying to and fro, like a lion preparing
for a spring. He cast the stone at my stallion, and it struck
him in a vital part and killed him. When I saw the stallion
drop dead beside me, live coals of anger were kindled in my
heart; so I took up the stone and throwing it at the old man,
it was the cause of his end: thus his own wrongful act returned
against him and the man was slain of that wherewith he slew.
When the stone struck him, he cried out with a terrible great
cry, and I hastened from the spot; but these young men hurried
after me and laying hands on me, carried me before thee.'
Quoth Omar, (may God the Most High accept of him), 'Thou hast
confessed thy crime and acquittal is impossible; for [the law
of] retaliation is imperative and there is no time of escape.'
[FN#130] 'I hear and obey the judgment of the Imam,' answered
the Bedouin, 'and am content to submit me to the requirement
of the law of Islam; but I have a young brother, whose old
father, before his death, appointed to him great store of
wealth and much gold and committed his affair to me, saying,
"I give this into thy hand for thy brother; keep it for him
with thy might." So I took the money and buried it; nor doth
any know of it but I. Now, if thou adjudge me to die forthright,
the money will be lost and thou wilt be the cause of its loss;
wherefore the little one will sue thee for his due on the day
when God shall judge His creatures. But, if thou wilt grant
me three days' delay, I will appoint one to undertake the boy's
affair, in my stead, and return to answer my debt; and I have
one who will be my surety for this my word.'
The Khalif bowed his head awhile, then raised it and looking
round upon those present, said, 'Who will be surety to me for
his return?' The Bedouin looked at the faces of those who were
in company and pointing to Abou Dherr,[FN#131] said, 'This man
will answer for me and be my surety.' 'O Abou Dherr,' said Omar,
'dost thou hear what this youth says and wilt thou be surety
to me for his return?' 'Yes, O Commander of the Faithful,'
answered Abou Dherr, 'I will be surety for him three days.'
So the Khalif accepted his guarantee and let the young man go.
Now, at the appointed time, when the days of grace were nearly
or quite at end and still the Bedouin came not, the Khalif sat
in his council, with the Companions[FN#132] surrounding him,
like the stars about the moon, Abou Dherr and the plaintiffs
being also present; and the latter said, 'O Abou Dherr, where
is the defendant and how shall he return, having once escaped?
But we will not stir hence, till thou bring him to us, that we
may take our wreak of him.' 'As the All-Wise King liveth,'
replied Abou Dherr, 'if the days of grace expire and the young
man return not, I will fulfil my warranty and surrender myself
to the Imam.' 'By Allah,' rejoined Omar, 'if the young man
tarry, I will assuredly execute on Abou Dherr that which is
prescribed by the law of Islam!' Thereupon the eyes of the
bystanders ran over with tears; those who looked on raised
groans, and great was the clamour. Then the chiefs of the
Companions were instant with the plaintiffs to accept the
bloodwit and win the thanks of the folk, but they refused and
would nothing but the talion. However, as the folk were swaying
to and fro and clamorously bemoaning Abou Dherr, up came the
young Bedouin, with face beaded with sweat and shining like the
new moon, and standing before the Imam, saluted him right
fairly and said to him, 'I have given the boy in charge to his
mother's brothers and have made them acquainted with all that
pertains to his affairs and let them into the secret of his
good; after which I braved the heats of midday and am come to
redeem the promise of a free-born man.'
The folk marvelled at his good faith and loyalty and his
intrepid offering himself to death; and one said to him, 'How
noble a youth art thou and how loyal to thy promise and thy
duty!' 'Are ye not certified,' rejoined he, 'that when death
presenteth itself none can escape from it? And indeed I have
kept faith, that it be not said, "Loyalty is gone from among
men."' 'By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,' said Abou
Dherr, 'I became warrant for this young man, without knowing to
what tribe he belonged, nor had I seen him before that day; but
when he turned away from all else who were present and singled
me out, saying, "This man will answer for me and be my surety,"
I thought ill to refuse him, and humanity forbade to baulk his
expectation, there being no harm in compliance with his desire,
that it be not said, "Benevolence is gone from among men."'
Then said the two young men, 'O Commander of the Faithful, we
forgive this youth our father's blood,--seeing that [by his
noble behaviour] he hath changed desolation into cheer,--that
it be not said, "Humanity is gone from among men."'
The Khalif rejoiced in the acquittance of the young Bedouin and
his truth and good faith; moreover, he extolled the humanity of
Abou Dherr, over all his companions, and approved the benevolent
resolve of the two young men, giving them grateful praise and
applying to their case the saying of the poet:
He who doth good among the folk shall be repaid again; For
works of Good are never lost betwixten God and men.
Then he offered to pay them, from the Treasury, the bloodwit
for their father; but they refused, saying, 'We forgave him but
of our desire unto God the Bountiful, the Exalted; and he who
is thus minded followeth not his benefits with reproach neither
THE KHALIF EL MAMOUN AND THE PYRAMIDS OF
It is told that the Khalif El Mamoun, son of Haroun er Reshid,
when he entered the [God-]guarded city of Cairo, was minded to
pull down the Pyramids, that he might take what was therein;
but, when he went about to do this, he could not avail thereto,
for all his endeavour. He expended great sums of money in the
attempt, but only succeeded in opening up a small gallery in
one of them, wherein he found treasure, to the exact amount of
the money he had spent in the works, neither more nor less; at
which he marvelled and taking what he found there, desisted
from his intent.
Now the Pyramids are three in number, and they are one of the
wonders of the world; nor is there on the face of the earth
their like for height and fashion and skilful ordinance; for
they are builded of immense rocks, and they who built them
proceeded by piercing one block of stone and setting therein
upright rods of iron; after which they pierced a second block
of stone and lowered it upon the first. Then they poured melted
lead upon the joints and set the blocks in geometrical order,
till the building was complete. The height of each pyramid was
a hundred cubits, of the measure of the time, and it was four-
square, each side three hundred cubits long, at the bottom, and
sloping upward thence to a point. The ancients say that, in the
western Pyramid, are thirty chambers of vari-coloured granite,
full of precious stones and treasures galore and rare images
and utensils and costly arms, which latter are anointed with
magical unguents, so that they may not rust till the day of
Resurrection. Therein, also, are vessels of glass, that will
bend and not break, containing various kinds of compound drugs
and medicinal waters. In the second Pyramid are the records of
the priests, written on tablets of granite,--to each priest his
tablet, on which are set out the wonders of his craft and his
achievements; and on the walls are figures like idols, working
with their hands at all manner crafts and seated on thrones. To
each pyramid there is a guardian, that keeps watch over it and
guards it, to all eternity, against the ravages of time and the
vicissitudes of events; and indeed the marvels of these
pyramids astound all who have eyes and wit. Many are the poems
that describe them, thou shalt profit no great matter thereby,
and among the rest, quoth one of them:
The high resolves of kings, if they would have them to abide In
memory, after them, are in the tongues of monuments.
Dost thou not see the Pyramids? They, of a truth, endure And
change not for the shifts of time or chances of events.
Consider but the Pyramids and lend an ear to all They tell of
bygone times and that which did of yore befall.
Could they but speak, assuredly they would to us relate What
time and fate have done with first and last and great and
I prithee, tell me, friend of mine, stands there beneath the
sky A building with the Pyramids of Egypt that can vie
In skilful ordinance? Behold, Time's self's afraid of them,
Though of all else upon the earth 'tis dreaded, low and
My sight no longer rests upon their wondrous ordinance, Yet are
they present evermore unto my spirit's eye.
Where's he the Pyramids who built? What was his tribe, His time
and what the place where he was stricken dead?
The monuments survive their lords awhile; then death O'ertaketh
them and they fall prostrate in their stead.
THE THIEF TURNED MERCHANT AND THE OTHER
There was once a thief who repented to God the Most High and
making good his repentance, opened himself a shop for the sale
of stuffs, where he continued to trade awhile. One day, he
locked his shop and went home; and in the night there came to
the bazaar a cunning thief, disguised in the habit of the
merchant, and pulling out keys from his sleeve, said to the
watchman of the market, 'Light me this candle.' So the watchman
took the candle and went to get a light, whilst the thief
opened the shop and lit another candle he had with him. When
the watchman came back, he found him seated in the shop,
looking over the account-books and reckoning with his fingers;
nor did he leave to do thus till point of day, when he said to
the man, 'Fetch me a camel-driver and his camel, to carry some
goods for me.' So the man fetched him a camel, and the thief
took four bales of stuffs and gave them to the camel-driver,
who loaded them on his beast. Then he gave the watchman two
dirhems and went away after the camel-driver, the watchman the
while believing him to be the owner of the shop.
Next morning, the merchant came and the watchman greeted
him with blessings, because of the two dirhems, much to the
surprise of the former, who knew not what he meant. When he
opened his shop, he saw the droppings of the wax and the
account-book lying on the floor, and looking round, found
four bales of stuffs missing. So he asked the watchman what
had happened and he told him what had passed in the night,
whereupon the merchant bade him fetch the camel-driver and said
to the latter, 'Whither didst thou carry the stuffs?' 'To such
a wharf,' answered the driver; 'and I stowed them on board such
a vessel.' 'Come with me thither,' said the merchant. So the
camel-driver carried him to the wharf and showed him the barque
and her owner. Quoth the merchant to the latter, 'Whither didst
thou carry the merchant and the stuff?' 'To such a place,'
answered the master, 'where he fetched a camel-driver and
setting the bales on the camel, went I know not whither.'
'Fetch me the camel-driver,' said the merchant; so he fetched
him and the merchant said to him, 'Whither didst thou carry the
bales of stuffs from the ship?' 'To such a khan,' answered he.
'Come thither with me and show it to me,' said the merchant.
So the camel-driver went with him to a khan at a distance from
the shore, where he had set down the stuffs, and showed him the
mock merchant's magazine, which he opened and found therein his
four bales untouched and unopened. The thief had laid his
mantle over them; so the merchant took the bales and the cloak
and delivered them to the camel-driver, who laid them on his
camel; after which the merchant locked the magazine and went
away with the camel-driver. On the way, he met the thief, who
followed him, till he had shipped the bales, when he said to
him, 'O my brother (God have thee in His keeping!), thou hast
recovered thy goods, and nought of them is lost; so give me
back my cloak.' The merchant laughed and giving him back his
cloak, let him go unhindered.
MESROUR THE EUNUCH AND IBN EL CARIBI
The Khalif Haroun er Reshid was very restless one night; so he
said to his Vizier Jaafer, 'I am sleepless tonight and my heart
is oppressed and I know not what to do.' Now his henchman
Mesrour was standing before him, and he laughed. Quoth the
Khalif, 'Dost thou laugh in derision of me or art thou mad?'
'Neither, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,' answered
Mesrour, 'by thy kinship to the Prince of Apostles, I did it
not of my free-will; but I went out yesterday to walk and
coming to the bank of the Tigris, saw there the folk collected
about a man named Ibn el Caribi, who was making them laugh; and
but now I recalled what he said, and laughter got the better of
me; and I crave pardon of thee, O Commander of the Faithful!'
'Bring him to me forthright,' said the Khalif. So Mesrour
repaired in all haste to Ibn el Caribi and said to him, 'The
Commander of the Faithful calls for thee.' 'I hear and obey,'
answered the droll. 'But on condition,' added Mesrour, 'that,
if he give thee aught, thou shalt have a fourth and the rest
shall be mine.' 'Nay,' replied the other, 'thou shalt have half
and I half.' 'Not so,' insisted Mesrour; 'I will have three-
quarters.' 'Thou shalt have two-thirds, then,' rejoined Ibn el
Caribi; 'and I the other third.' To this Mesrour agreed, after
much haggling, and they returned to the palace together.
When Ibn el Caribi came into the Khalif's presence, he saluted
him, as became his rank, and stood before him; whereupon said
Er Reshid to him, 'If thou do not make me laugh, I will give
thee three blows with this bag.' Quoth Ibn el Caribi in
himself, 'Three strokes with that bag were a small matter,
seeing that beating with whips irketh me not;' for he thought
the bag was empty. Then he clapped into a discourse, such as
would make a stone laugh, and gave vent to all manner of
drolleries; but the Khalif laughed not neither smiled, whereat
Ibn el Caribi marvelled and was chagrined and affrighted. Then
said the Khalif, 'Now hast thou earned the beating,' and gave
him a blow with the bag, in which were four pebbles, each two
pounds in weight. The blow fell on his neck and he gave a great
cry, then calling to mind his compact with Mesrour, said,
'Pardon, O Commander of the Faithful! Hear two words from me.'
'Say on,' replied the Khalif. Quoth Ibn el Caribi, 'Mesrour
made it a condition with me that, whatsoever might come to me
of the bounties of the Commander of the Faithful, one-third
thereof should be mine and the rest his; nor did he agree to
leave me so much as one-third save after much haggling. Now
thou hast bestowed on me nothing but beating; I have had my
share and here stands he, ready to receive his; so give him the
two other blows.'
When the Khalif heard this, he laughed till he fell backward;
then calling Mesrour, he gave him a blow, whereat he cried out
and said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, one-third sufficeth me:
give him the two-thirds.' The Khalif laughed at them and
ordered them a thousand diners each, and they went away,
THE DEVOUT PRINCE.
The Khalif Haroun er Reshid had a son, who, from the time he
attained the age of sixteen, renounced the world and walked in
the way of ascetics and devotees. He was wont to go out to the
tombs and say, 'Behold, ye that lie here once possessed the
world, but that was no deliverer for you [from death], and now
are ye come to your graves! Would God I knew what ye say and
what is said to you!' And he wept, as one weeps that is
troubled and fearful, and repeated the words of the poet:
Whene'er the funerals pass, my heart with fear is torn, And the
wailing of the mourners maketh me to mourn.
One day, as he sat among the tombs, according to his wont, his
father passed by, in all his state, surrounded by his viziers
and grandees and the officers of his household, who saw the
Khalif's son, with a gown of woollen stuff on his body and a
cowl of the same on his head, and said to one another, 'This
youth dishonours the Commander of the Faithful among Kings:
but, if he reproved him, he would leave his present way of
life.' The Khalif heard what they said; so he bespoke his son
of this, saying, 'O my son, thou puttest me to shame by thy
present way of life.' The young man looked at him and made no
reply: then he beckoned to a bird, that was perched on the
battlements of the palace, and said to it, 'O bird, I conjure
thee, by Him who created thee, alight upon my hand.' And
straightway it flew down and perched on his hand. Quoth he,
'Return to thy place;' and it did so. Then he said, 'Alight on
the hand of the Commander of the Faithful;' but it refused, and
he said to his father, 'It is thou that puttest me to shame,
amongst the friends of God, by thy love of the world; and now I
am resolved to depart from thee, never to return to thee, save
in the world to come.' Then he went down to Bassora, where he
fell to working with those that wrought in mud,[FN#133] taking,
as his day's hire, but a dirhem and a danic.[FN#134] With the
danic he fed himself and gave alms of the dirhem.
(Quoth Abou Aamir of Bassora), There fell down a wall in my
house: so I went out to the station of the artisans, to find
one who should set it up for me, and my eyes fell on a handsome
youth of a radiant countenance. So I accosted him and said to
him, "O my friend, dost thou seek work?" "Yes," answered he;
and I said, "Come with me and build a wall." "On two conditions,"
replied he. Quoth I, "What are they, O my friend?" "First,"
said he, "that my hire be a dirhem and a danic, and secondly,
that, when the Muezzin calls to prayer, thou shalt let me
go pray with the congregation." "It is well," answered I
and carried him to my house, where he fell to work, such work
as I never saw the like of. Presently, I named to him the
morning meal; but he said, "No;" and I knew that he was
fasting. When he heard the call to prayer, he said to me, "Thou
knowest the condition?" "Yes," answered I. So he loosed his
girdle and applying himself to the ablution, made it after a
fashion than which I never saw a goodlier; then went to the
mosque and prayed with the congregation and returned to his
work. He did the like upon the call to afternoon-prayer, and
when I saw him fall to work again thereafterward, I said to
him, "O my friend, the hours of labour are over for to-day; a
workman's day is but till the time of afternoon-prayer." "Glory
be to God," answered he, "my service is till the night." And he
ceased not to work till nightfall, when I gave him two dirhems.
Quoth he, "What is this?" "By Allah," answered I, "this is
[but] part of thy wage, because of thy diligence in my service."
But he threw me back the two pieces, saying, "I will have no
more than was agreed upon between us." I pressed him to take
them, but could not prevail upon him; so I gave him the dirhem
and the danic, and he went away.
Next morning early, I went to the station, but found him not;
so I enquired for him and was told that he came thither only on
Saturdays. So, when Saturday came, I betook me to the market
and finding him there, said to him, "In the name of God, do me
the favour to come and work for me." ["Willingly,"] said he,
"upon the conditions thou wottest of." "It is well," answered I
and carrying him to my house, stood watching him, unseen of
him, and saw him take a handful of mud and lay it on the wall,
when, behold, the stones ranged themselves one upon another;
and I said, "On this wise are the friends of God." He worked
out his day and did even more than before; and when it was
night, I gave him his hire, and he took it and went away.
When the third Saturday came round, I went to the standing, but
found him not; so I enquired for him and was told that he lay
sick in the hut of such a woman. Now this was an old woman,
renowned for piety, who had a hut of reeds in the burial-
ground. So I went thither and found him lying on the naked
earth, with a brick for a pillow and his face beaming with
light. I saluted him and he returned my salute; and I sat
down at his head, weeping over his tenderness of years and
strangerhood and submission to the will of his Lord. Then said
I to him, "Hast thou any need?" "Yes," answered he; and I said,
"What is it?" He replied, "Come hither tomorrow in the forenoon
and thou wilt find me dead. Wash me and dig my grave and tell
none thereof: but shroud me in this my gown, after thou hast
unsewn it and taken out what thou shalt find in the bosom,
which keep with thee. Then, when thou hast prayed over me and
laid me in the dust, go to Baghdad and watch for the Khalif
Haroun er Reshid, till he come forth, when do thou bear him my
salutation and give him what thou shalt find in the breast of
my gown." Then he made the profession of the Faith and glorified
his Lord in the most eloquent of words, reciting the following
Carry the trust of him on whom the wished-for death hath come
To Er Reshid, and thy reward with thy Creator stand!
"An exile greets thee," say, "who longed full sorely for thy
sight; With long desire he yearned for thee, far in a
Nor hate nor weariness from thee estranged him, for, indeed, To
God Most High he was brought near by kissing thy right
But, O my father, 'twas his heart, shunning the vain delights
Of this thy world, that drove him forth to seek a distant
Then he betook himself to prayer, asking pardon of God and
blessing the Lord of the Just[FN#135] and repeating verses of
the Koran; after which he recited the following:
Let not prosperity delude thee, father mine; For fortune wastes
and life itself must pass away.
Whenas thou com'st to know of folk in evil plight, Think thou
must answer it upon the Judgment Day;
And when thou bearest forth the dead unto the tombs, Think that
thou, too, must pass upon the self-same way!
Then I left him and went home. On the morrow, I returned, at
the appointed hour, and found him indeed dead, the mercy of God
be on him! So I washed him and unsewing his gown, found in the
bosom a ruby worth thousands of diners and said to myself, "By
Allah, this youth was indeed abstracted from the things of this
world!" After I had buried him, I made my way to Baghdad and
going to the Khalif's palace, waited till he came forth, when I
accosted him in one of the streets and gave him the ruby, which
when he saw, he knew and fell down in a swoon. His attendants
laid hands on me, but he revived and bade them unhand me and
bring me courteously to the palace. They did his bidding, and
when he returned, he sent for me and carrying me into his
closet, said to me, "How doth the owner of this ruby?" Quoth I,
"He is dead;" and told him what had passed; whereupon he fell
a-weeping and said, "The son hath profited, but the father is
disappointed." Then he called out, saying, "Ho, such an one!"
And behold, a woman came out to him. When she saw me, she would
have withdrawn; but he said to her, "Come; and heed him not."
So she entered and saluted, and he threw her the ruby, which
when she knew, she gave a great shriek and fell down in a
swoon. As soon as she came to herself, she said, "O Commander
of the Faithful, what hath God done with my son?" And he said
to me, "Do thou tell her;" for he could not speak for weeping.
So I repeated the story to her, and she began to weep and say
in a failing voice, "How I have longed for thy sight, O
consolation of my eyes! Would I might have given thee to drink,
when thou hadst none to tend thee! Would I might have companied
with thee, whenas thou foundest none to cheer thee!" And she
poured forth tears and recited the following verses:
I weep for one to whom death came, an exile and in pain: Alone
he died, without a friend to whom he might complain.
Puissant and honoured and conjoined with those that loved him
dear, To live alone and seeing none, unfriended, he was
That which the days conceal shall yet be manifest to us: Not
one of us by death, indeed, unsmitten may remain.
O absent one, the Lord of all decreed thy strangerhood, And
thou left'st far behind the love that was betwixt us
Though death, my son, forbid me hope to see thee in this life,
Tomorrow, on the Reckoning-Day, we two shall meet again.
Quoth I, "O Commander of the Faithful, was he indeed thy son?"
"Yes," answered he; "and indeed, before I succeeded to this
office, he was wont to visit the learned and company with the
devout; but, when I became Khalif, he grew estranged from me
and withdrew himself apart. Then said I to his mother, 'This
thy son is absorbed in God the Most High, and it may be that
tribulations shall befall him and he be smitten with stress of
evil chance; wherefore, do thou give him this ruby, that it may
be to him a resource in the hour of need.' So she gave it him,
conjuring him to take it, and he obeyed her. Then he left the
things of our world to us and removed himself from us; nor did
he cease to be absent from us, till he went to the presence of
God (to whom belong might and majesty) with a holy and pure
mind." Then said he, "Come, show me his grave." So we repaired
to Bassora and I showed him his son's grave. When he saw it, he
wept and lamented, till he fell down in a swoon; after which he
came to himself and asked pardon of God, saying, "We are God's,
and to Him we return!" and invoked blessings on the dead. Then he
besought me of companionship; but I said to him, "O Commander of
the Faithful, verily, in thy son's case is for me the gravest of
admonitions!" And I recited the following verses:
'Tis I am the stranger! None harbours the wight, Though he lie
in his native city by night.
'Tis I am the exile! Nor children nor wife Nor comrades have I,
to take ruth on my plight.
The mosques are my refuge; I haunt them indeed: My heart from
their shelter shall never take flight.
To the Lord of all creatures, to God be the praise, Whilst yet
in the body abideth the spright!
THE SCHOOLMASTER WHO FELL IN LOVE BY
(Quoth one of the erudite), I passed once by a [school, in
which a] schoolmaster, comely of aspect and well dressed, was
teaching children; so I entered, and he rose and made me sit
with him. Then I examined him in the Koran and in syntax and
poetry and lexicography, and found him perfect in all that was
required of him and said to him, "God strengthen thy purpose!
Thou art indeed versed in all that is sought of thee." So I
frequented him awhile, discovering daily some new excellence
in him, and said to myself, "This is indeed a wonder in a
schoolmaster; for the understanding are agreed upon the lack of
wit of those that teach children." Then I separated myself from
him and sought him out and visited him [only] every few days,
till, one day, coming to see him as of wont, I found the school
shut and made enquiry of the neighbours, who said, "Some one is
dead in his house." So I said to myself, "It behoves me to pay
him a visit of condolence," and going to his house, knocked at
the door. A slave-girl came out to me and said, "What dost thou
want?" "I want thy master," answered I. Quoth she, "He is
sitting alone, mourning." "Tell him," rejoined I, "that his
friend so and so seeks to condole with him." She went in and
told him; and he said, "Admit him." So she brought me in to
him, and I found him seated alone and his head bound [with the
fillets of mourning]. "May God amply requite thee!" said I.
"This is a road all must perforce travel, and it behoves thee
to take patience. But who is dead unto thee?" "One who was
dearest and best beloved of the folk to me," answered he. Quoth
I, "Perhaps thy father?" He replied, "No;" and I said, "Thy
mother?" "No," answered he. "Thy brother?" "No." "One of thy
kindred?" "No." "Then," asked I, "what relation was the dead to
thee?" "My mistress," answered he. Quoth I to myself, "This is
the first sign of his lack of wit." Then I said to him, "There
are others than she and fairer;" and he answered, "I never saw
her, that I might judge whether or no there be others fairer
than she." Quoth I to myself, "This is another sign" Then I
said to him, "And how couldst thou fall in love with one thou
hast never seen?" Quoth he, "I was sitting one day at the
window, when there passed by a man, singing the following
Umm Amri,[FN#136] God requite thee thy generosity! Give back my
heart, prithee, wherever it may be!
When I heard this, I said to myself, 'Except this Umm Amri were
without equal in the world, the poets had not celebrated her in
amorous verse.' So I fell in love with her; but, two days
after, the same man passed, singing the following verse:
The jackass with Umm Amri departed; but, alas, Umm Amri! She
returned not again, nor did the ass.
Thereupon I knew that she was dead and mourned for her. This
was three days ago, and I have been mourning ever since." So I
left him and went away, having assured myself of the feebleness
of his wit.
THE FOOLISH SCHOOLMASTER
A man of elegant culture once entered a school and sitting down
by the master, entered into discourse with him and found him an
accomplished theologian, poet, grammarian and lexicographer,
intelligent, well bred and pleasant; whereat he wondered,
saying in himself, 'It cannot be that a man, who teaches
children in a school, should have a perfect wit.' When he was
about to go away, the schoolmaster said to him, 'Thou art my
guest to-night;' and he consented and accompanied him to his
house, where he made much of him and set food before him. They
ate and drank and sat talking, till a third part of the night
was past, when the host spread his guest a bed and went up to
his harem. The other lay down and addressed himself to sleep,
when, behold, there arose a great clamour in the harem. He
asked what was to do, and they said, 'A terrible thing hath
befallen the sheikh, and he is at the last gasp.' 'Take me up
to him,' said he. So they carried him to the schoolmaster, whom
he found lying insensible, with his blood streaming down. He
sprinkled water on his face and when he revived, he said to
him, 'What has betided thee? When thou leftest me, thou west in
all good cheer and sound of body.' 'O my brother,' answered the
schoolmaster, 'after I left thee, I sat meditating on the works
of God the Most High and said to myself, "In every thing God
hath created for man there is an use; for He (to whom be glory)
created the hands to seize, the feet to walk, the eyes to see,
the ears to hear and the yard to do the deed of kind; and so on
with all the members of the body, except these two cullions;
there is no use in them." So I took a razor I had by me and cut
them off; and there befell me what thou seest.' So the guest
left him and went away, saving, 'He was in the right who said,
"No schoolmaster who teaches children can have a perfect wit,
though he know all sciences."
THE IGNORANT MAN WHO SET UP FOR A
There was once, among the hangers-on of the collegiate mosque,
a man who knew not how to read and write and got his bread by
gulling the folk. One day, he bethought him to open a school
and teach children; so he got him tablets and written scrolls
and hung them up in a [conspicuous] place. Then he enlarged his
turban and sat down at the door of the school. The people, who
passed by and saw his turban and the tablets and scrolls,
thought he must be a very learned doctor; so they brought him
their children; and he would say to this, 'Write,' and to that,
'Read;' and thus they taught one another.
One day, as he sat, as of wont, at the door of the school, he
saw a woman coming up, with a letter in her hand, and said to
himself, 'This woman doubtless seeks me, that I may read her
the letter she has in her hand. How shall I do with her seeing
I cannot read writing?' And he would fain have gone down and
fled from her; but, before he could do this, she overtook him
and said to him, 'Whither away?' Quoth he, 'I purpose to pray
the noontide-prayer and return.' 'Noon is yet distant,' said
she; 'so read me this letter.' He took the letter and turning
it upside down, fell to looking at it, now shaking his head and
anon knitting his eyebrows and showing concern. Now the letter
came from the woman's husband, who was absent; and when she saw
the schoolmaster do thus, she said, 'Doubtless my husband is
dead, and this learned man is ashamed to tell me so.' So she
said to him, 'O my lord, if he be dead, tell me.' But he shook
his head and held his peace. Then said she, 'Shall I tear my
clothes?' 'Tear,' answered he. 'Shall I buffet my face?' asked
she; and he said, 'Buffet.' So she took the letter from his
hand and returning home, fell a-weeping, she and her children.
One of her neighbours heard her weeping and asking what ailed
her, was answered, 'She hath gotten a letter, telling her that
her husband is dead.' Quoth the man, 'This is a lying saying;
for I had a letter from him but yesterday, advising me that he
is in good health and case and will be with her after ten
days.' So he rose forthright and going in to her, said, 'Where
is the letter thou hast received?' She brought it to him, and
he took it and read it; and it ran as follows, after the usual
salutations, 'I am well and in good health and case and will be
with thee after ten days. Meanwhile, I send thee a quilt and an
extinguisher.'[FN#137] So she took the letter and returning
with it to the schoolmaster, said to him, 'What moved thee to
deal thus with me?' And she repeated to him what her neighbour
had told her of her husband's well-being and of his having sent
her a quilt and an extinguisher. 'Thou art in the right,'
answered he. 'But excuse me, good woman; for I was, at the
time, troubled and absent-minded and seeing the extinguisher
wrapped in the quilt, thought that he was dead and they had
shrouded him.' The woman, not smoking the cheat, said, 'Thou
art excused.' and taking the letter, went away.
THE KING AND THE VIRTUOUS WIFE
A certain King once went forth in disguise, to look into the
affairs of his subjects. Presently, he came to a great village
and being athirst, stopped at the door of a house and asked for
water. There came out to him a fair woman, with a pitcher of
water, which she gave him, and he drank. When he looked at her,
he was ravished with her and required her of love. Now she knew
him; so she brought him into the house and making him sit down,
brought out a book and said to him, 'Look in this book, whilst
I order my affair and return to thee.' So he looked into the
book, and behold, it treated of the Divine prohibition against
adultery and of the punishments that God hath prepared for
those that do it. When he read this, his flesh quaked and he
repented to God the Most High: then he called the woman and
giving her the book, went away. Now her husband was absent and
when he returned, she told him what had passed, whereat he was
confounded and said in himself, 'I fear lest the King's desire
have fallen upon her.' And he dared not have to do with her
After awhile, the wife told her kinsfolk of her husband's
conduct, and they complained of him to the King, saying, 'May
God advance the King! This man hired of us a piece of land, for
tillage, and tilled it awhile; then left it fallow and tilled
it not, neither forsook it, that we might let it to one who
would till it. Indeed, harm is come to the field, and we fear
its corruption, for that land, if it be not tilled' spoileth.'
Quoth the King to the man, 'What hinders thee from tilling thy
land?' 'May God advance the King!' answered he. 'It came to my
knowledge that a lion entered the field, wherefore I stood in
awe of him and dared not approach it, seeing that I know I
cannot cope with the lion, and I stand in fear of him.' The
King understood the parable and rejoined, saying, 'O fellow,
the lion trampled not thy land, and it is good for tillage; so
do thou till it and God prosper thee in it, for the lion hath
done it no hurt.' Then he bade give the man and his wife a
handsome present and sent them away.
ABDURREHMAN THE MOOR'S STORY OF THE ROC.
There was once a man of the people of Morocco, called
Abdurrehman the Moor, and he was known, to boot, as the
Chinaman, for his long sojourn in Cathay. He had journeyed far
and wide and traversed many seas and deserts and was wont to
relate wondrous tales of his travels. He was once cast upon an
island, where he abode a long while and returning thence to his
native country, brought with him the quill of the wing-feather
of a young roe, whilst yet unhatched and in the egg; and this
quill was big enough to hold a skinful of water, for it is said
that the length of the young roe's wing, when it comes forth of
the egg, is a thousand fathoms. The folk marvelled at this
quill, when they saw it, and Abdurrehman related to them the
He was on a voyage in the China seas, with a company of
merchants, when they sighted a great island so they steered
for it and casting anchor before it, saw that it was large and
spacious. The ship's people went ashore to get wood and water,
taking with them skins and ropes and axes, and presently espied
a great white gleaming dome, a hundred cubits high. So they
made towards it and drawing near, found that it was a roe's
egg and fell on it with axes and stones and sticks, till they
uncovered the young bird and found it as it were a firm-set
mountain. They went about to pluck out one of its wing-feathers,
but could not win to do so, save by helping one another, for
all the feathers were not full grown; after which they took
what they could carry of the young bird's flesh and cutting
the quill away from the feather-part, returned to the ship.
Then they spread the canvas and putting out to sea, sailed
with a fair wind all that night, till the sun rose, when they
saw the old roc come flying after them, as he were a vast
cloud, with a rock in his talons, like a great mountain, bigger
than the ship. As soon as he came over the vessel, he let fall
the rock upon it; but the ship, having great way on her,
forewent the rock, which fell into the sea with a terrible
crash. So God decreed them safety and delivered them from
destruction; and they cooked the young bird's flesh and ate it.
Now there were amongst them old grey bearded men; and when they
awoke on the morrow, they found that their beards had turned
black, nor did any who had eaten of the young roc ever grow
grey. Some held the cause of the return of youth to them and
the ceasing of hoariness from them to be that they had heated
the pot with arrow-wood, whilst others would have it that it
came of eating the young roe's flesh; and this is indeed a
wonder of wonders.
ADI BEN ZEID AND THE PRINCESS HIND.
En Numan ben el Mundhir, King of the Arabs [of Irak], had a
daughter named Hind, who was eleven years old and was the
loveliest woman of her age and time. She went out one Easter,
which is a feast-day of the Nazarenes,[FN#138] to the White
Church, to take the sacrament. Now that day came to El Hireh a
young man called Adi ben Zeid,[FN#139] with presents from
Chosroes,[FN#140] to En Numan, and he also went into the White
Church, to communicate. He was tall and well-favoured, with
handsome eyes and smooth cheeks, and had with him a company of
his people. Now there was with Hind a slave-girl named Mariyeh,
who was enamoured of Adi, but had not been able to win to him.
So, when she saw him in the church, she said to Hind, 'Look at
yonder youth. By Allah, he is handsomer than all thou seest!'
'And who is he?' asked Hind. 'Adi ben Zeid,' answered Mariyeh
Quoth the princess, 'I fear lest he know me, if I draw near,
to look on him closelier.' 'How should he know thee,' said
Mariyeh, 'when he has never seen thee?' So she drew near him
and found him jesting with his companions; and indeed he
surpassed them all, not only in his beauty, but in the excellence
of his speech and the eloquence of his tongue and the richness
of his apparel. When the princess saw him, she was ravished with
him, her reason was confounded and her colour changed; and
Mariyeh, seeing her inclination to him, said to her, 'Speak to
him.' So she spoke to him and went away.
When he saw her and heard her speech, he was captivated by her
and his wit was dazed; his colour changed and his heart
fluttered, so that his companions misdoubted of him, and he
whispered one of them to follow her and find out who she was.
The man followed her and returning to his master, informed him
that she was the princess Hind, daughter of En Numan. So Adi
left the church, knowing not whither he went, for stress of
love, and reciting the following verses:
Companions mine, yet one more favour I entreat: Address ye to
the ways once more your travelling feet.
Turn me towards the lands, the lands where Hinda dwells; Then
go and her I love with tidings of me greet.
Then he went to his lodging and lay that night, restless nor
tasting sleep. On the morrow, Mariyeh accosted him, and he
received her kindly, though before he would not hearken to her,
and said to her, 'What is thy will?' Quoth she, 'I have a suit
to thee.' 'Name it,' answered he; 'for, by Allah, thou shalt
not ask me aught, but I will give it thee!' So she told him
that she was in love with him, and her suit to him was that he
would grant her a lover's privacy; and he agreed to do her
will, on condition that she would serve him with Hind and make
shift to bring them together. Then he took her into a vintner's
shop, in one of the by-streets of Hireh, and lay with her;
after which she returned to Hind and said to her, 'Dost thou
not long to see Adi?' 'How can this be?' replied the princess.
'Indeed my longing for him makes me restless, and no repose is
left me since yesterday, on his account.' Quoth Mariyeh, 'I
will appoint him to be in such a place, where thou canst look
on him from the palace.' 'Do what thou wilt,' replied Hind and
agreed with her upon the place.
So Adi came, and the princess looked out upon him; and when she
saw him, she was like to fall down from the top of the palace
and said to Mariyeh, 'Except thou bring him in to me this
night, I shall die.' So saying, she fell down in a swoon, and
her serving-women lifted her up and bore her into the palace;
whilst Mariyeh hastened to En Numan and discovered the whole
matter to him, saying, 'Verily, she is mad for love of Adi; and
except thou marry her to him, she will be put to shame and die
of love for him.' The King bowed his head awhile in thought and
exclaimed again and again, 'Verily, we are God's and to Him we
return!' Then said he, 'Out on thee! How shall the marriage be
brought about, seeing it misliketh me to open the matter to
him?' 'He is yet more ardently in love and yet more desireful
of her than she of him,' answered Mariyeh; 'and I will so order
the matter that he shall be unaware that his case is known to
thee; but do not betray thyself, O King.'
Them she went to Adi and said to him, 'Make a feast and bid the
King thereto; and when wine hath gotten the better of him, ask
of him the hand of his daughter, for he will not refuse thee.'
Quoth Adi, 'I fear lest this enrage him against me and be the
cause of enmity between us.'
But she answered, 'I came not to thee, till I had settled the
whole matter with him.' Then she returned to En Numan and said
to him, 'Seek of Adi that he entertain thee in his house.'
'There is no harm in that,' replied the King and after three
days, besought Adi to give him and his lords the morning-meal
in his house. The young man consented, and the King went to
him; and when the wine had taken effect on En Numan, Adi rose
and sought of him his daughter in marriage. He consented and
married them and brought her to him after three days; and they
abode at En Numan's court, in all delight and solace of life,
three years, at the end of which time the King was wroth with
Adi and slew him. Hind mourned for him with an exceeding grief
and built her a convent without the city, whither she retired
and devoted herself to religious exercises, weeping and
bemoaning her husband, till she died. And her convent is extant
to this day without El Hireh.
DIBIL EL KHUZAI WITH THE LADY AND MUSLIM
BEN EL WELID.
(Quoth Dibil el Khuzai[FN#141]), I was sitting one day at the
gate of El Kerkh,[FN#142] when a lady came up to me, never saw
I a handsomer or better shaped than she, walking with a swaying
gait and ravishing, with her flexile grace, all who beheld her.
When my eyes fell on her, I was captivated by her and my
entrails trembled and meseemed my heart fled forth of my
breast; so I accosted her with the following verse:
Unsealed are the springs of tears for mine eyes, heigho! And
sealed are the springs of sleep to my lids, for woe.
She turned her head and looking at me, made answer forthright
with the following:
And surely, an ailing eye to have, for him Whom her looks
invite, is a little thing, I trow.
I was astounded at the readiness of her reply and the sweetness
of her speech and rejoined with this verse:
And doth then the heart of my fair indeed incline To favour him
whose tears as a river flow?
She answered me, without hesitation, thus:
If thou desire us of love, betwixt us love Is a loan to be
returned, I'd have thee know.
Never entered my ears sweeter than her speech nor ever saw I
brighter than her face: so I changed the rhyme and measure, to
try her, in my wonder at her speech, and repeated the following
Will destiny e'er gladden us with union and delight And one
desireful one at last with other one unite?
She smiled at this, (never saw I fairer than her mouth nor
sweeter than her lips,) and answered me, without hesitation, as
I prithee, what hath destiny to do betwixt us twain? Thou'rt
destiny: rejoice us, then, with union and delight.
At this, I sprang up and kissing her hands, said, "I had not
thought that Fortune would vouchsafe me such an opportunity. Do
thou follow me, not of command or against thy will, but of thy
grace and favour to me." Then I went on and she after me.
Now I had not, at that time, a lodging I deemed fit for the
like of her; Muslim ben El Welid[FN#143] was my fast friend,
and he had a handsome house. So I made for his abode and
knocked at the door, whereupon he came out, and I saluted him,
saying, "It is for a time like this that friends are treasured
up." "With all my heart," answered he; "enter." So we entered,
I and the lady, but found money scarce with him. However, he
gave me a handkerchief, saying, "Carry it to the market and
sell it and buy meat and what else thou needest." So I took the
handkerchief and hastening to the market, sold it and bought
meat and what else we required; but, when I returned, I found
that Muslim had retired, with the lady, to an underground
chamber.[FN#144] When he heard me, he came out and said to me,
"God requite thee the kindness thou hast done me, O Abou
Ali,[FN#145] and reckon it of thy good deeds on the Day of
Resurrection!" So saying, he took from me the meat and wine and
shut the door in my face His words enraged me and I knew not
what to do; but he stood behind the door, shaking for mirth;
and when he saw me thus, he said to me, "I conjure thee on my
life, O Abou Ali, tell me who it was composed this verse?
I lay in the arms of the fair one all night, Whilst my friend
slept, clean-limbed, but polluted of spright."
At this, my rage redoubled, and I replied, "He who wrote this
One, I wish him in's girdle a thousand of horns, Exceeding the
idol Menaf[FN#146] in their height!"
Then I began to revile him and reproach him with the foulness
of his conduct and his lack of honour; and he was silent. But,
when I had finished, he smiled and said, "Out on thee, O fool!
Thou hast entered my house and sold my handkerchief and spent
my money: so, with whom art thou wroth, O pimp?" Then he left
me and went away to her, whilst I said, "By Allah, thou art
right to call me a fool and a pimp!" Then I left his door and
went away in sore concern, whereof I feel the trace in my heart
to this day; and I never had my desire of her nor ever heard of
ISAAC OF MOSUL AND THE MERCHANT.
(Quoth Ishac ben Ibrahim el Mausili), One day, being weary of
assiduous attendance upon the Khalif, I mounted my horse and
went forth, at break of day, having a mind to ride out and take
my pleasure in the open country, and I said to my servant, "If
there come a messenger from the Khalif or another, say that I
set out at daybreak, upon a pressing business, and that thou
knowest not whither I am gone." So I rode forth alone and went
round about the city, till the sun grew hot, when I halted in a
street, known as El Herem, and stood my horse under the
spacious jutting porch of one of the houses there, to shelter
me from the glare of the sun.
I had not stood long, before there came up a black slave,
leading an ass with jewelled housings, on which sat a damsel,
clad in the richest of clothes, richness can go no farther; and
I saw that she was elegantly made, with languorous looks and
graceful carriage. I asked one of the passers-by who she was,
and he said, "She is a singer." And I fell in love with her at
sight, so that I could scarce keep my seat on my horse's back.
She entered the house at whose gate I stood; and as I cast
about for a device to gain access to her, there came up two
comely young men, who sought admission, and the master of the
house gave them leave to enter. So they alighted and entered,
and I with them, they supposing that the master of the house
had invited me; and we sat awhile, till food was brought and we
ate. Then they set wine before us, and the damsel came out,
with a lute in her hand. She sang and we drank, till I rose to
do an occasion. During my absence, the host questioned the two
others of me, and they replied that they knew me not; whereupon
quoth he, "This fellow is a spunger, but he is well-bred and
pleasant; so entreat him fairly." Then I came back and sat down
in my place, whilst the damsel sang the following verses to a
Say thou unto the she-gazelle, who yet is no gazelle, And the
wild heifer, languorous-eyed, who yet no heifer is,
"One, who in dalliance affects the male, no female is, And he
who is effeminate of step's no male, ywis."
She sang it excellent well, and the company drank and her song
pleased them. Then she sang various songs to rare tunes, and
amongst the rest one of mine, to the following words:
The pleasant girls have gone and left The homesteads empty and
Of their sweet converse, after cheer, All void and ruined by
She sang this even better than the first; then she sang other
rare songs, old and new, and amongst them, another of mine,
with the following words:
To the loved one, who turneth in anger away And vrithdraweth
himself far apart from thee, say,
"The mischief thou wroughtest, thou wroughtest indeed, For all,
per-adventure, thou west but in play."
I asked her to repeat the song, that I might correct it for
her; whereupon one of the men turned to me and said, "Never saw
I a more brazen-faced parasite than thou. Art thou not content
with spunging, but thou must meddle, to boot? Verily, in thee
is the saying made true, 'A parasite and a meddler.'" I hung
down my head for shame and made him no answer, whilst his
companion would have restrained him from me; but he would not
be restrained. Presently, they rose to pray, but I hung behind
a little and taking the lute, tuned it after a particular
fashion and stood up to pray with the rest. When we had made an
end of prayer, the same man fell again to flouting and reviling
me and persisted in his churlishness, whilst I held my peace.
Then the damsel took the lute and touching it, knew that it was
other than as she had left it and said, "Who hath touched my
lute?" Quoth they, "None of us hath touched it." "Nay, by
Allah," rejoined she, "some one hath touched it, and he a past
master in the craft; for he hath ordered the strings and tuned
them after the fashion of one who is right skilled in the art."
Quoth I, "It was I tuned it." "Then, God on thee," answered
she, "take it and play on it!" So I took it and playing a rare
and difficult measure, that came nigh to deaden the live and
raise the dead, sang thereto the following verses:
I had a heart, wherewith of yore I lived: 'Twas seared with
fire and all consumed indeed.
Her love, alack I was not vouchsafed to me; Unto the slave
'twas not of Heaven decreed.
If what I taste be passion's very food, Then all who love upon
its like must feed.
When I had finished, there was not one of the company but
sprang from his place and sat down before me,[FN#147] saying
"God on thee, O our lord, sing us another song." "With all my
heart," said I and playing another measure in masterly fashion,
sang thereto the following:
O thou whose heart, for fortune's blows, is all consumed and
sped, Sorrows with whom from every side have taken up
Unlawful unto her, my heart who pierces with her shafts, Is
that my blood which, breast-bones 'twixt and
vitals,[FN#148] she hath shed.
'Twas plain, upon the parting day, that her resolve, our loves
To sunder, unto false suspect must be attributed.
She pours forth blood she had not shed, if passion had not
been. Will none my murderess ensue and wreak me on her
When I had made an end of this song, there was not one of them
but rose to his feet and threw himself to the ground, for
excess of delight. Then I cast the lute from my hand; but they
said, "Allah on thee, let us hear another song, so God increase
thee of His bounty!" "O folk," replied I, "I will sing you
another song and another and another and will tell you who I
am. Know that I am Ishac ben Ibrahim el Mausili, and by Allah,
I bear myself haughtily to the Khalif, when he seeks me. Ye
have today made me hear [abuse from] an unmannerly fellow such
as I loathe; and by Allah, I will not speak a word nor sit with
you, till ye put yonder quarrelsome churl out from among you!"
Quoth the latter's companion to him, "This is what I feared and
warned thee against." So they took him by the hand and put him
out; and I took the lute and sang over again the songs of my
fashion that the damsel had sung. Then I whispered the host
that she had taken my heart and that I had no patience to
endure from her. Quoth he, "Thou shalt have her and all that
pertains to her of clothes and jewels, on one condition." "What
is that?" asked I. "It is," answered he, "that thou abide with
me a month." "It is well," rejoined I; "I will do this." So I
abode with him a whole month, whilst none knew where I was and
the Khalif sought me everywhere, but could come by no news of
me; and at the end of this time, the merchant delivered to me
the damsel, together with all that pertained to her of things
of price and an eunuch to attend her.
I brought her to my lodging, feeling as I were lord of the
whole world, for stress of delight in her; then rode forthright
to El Mamoun. When he saw me, he said, "Out on thee, O Isaac,
where hast thou been all this while?" I acquainted him with the
story and he said, "Bring me the man at once." So I told him
where he dwelt, and he sent and fetched him and questioned him
of the case; whereupon he repeated the story and the Khalif
said to him, "Thou art a man of a generous mind, and it is just
that thou be upheld in thy generosity." Then he ordered him a
hundred thousand dirhems and said to me, "O Isaac, bring me the
damsel." So I brought her to him, and she sang and delighted
him. He was greatly gladdened by her and ordered her fifty
thousand dirhems, saying to me, "I appoint her of service every
Thursday, when she must come and sing to me from behind the
curtain." So, by Allah, this ride of mine was a source of
profit both to me and to others.
THE THREE UNFORTUNATE LOVERS.
(Quoth El Utbi[FN#149]), I was sitting one day with a company
of men of culture, telling stories of the folk, when the talk
turned upon anecdotes of lovers and each of us said his say
thereon. Now there was in our company an old man, who remained
silent, till we had all spoken and had no more to say, when he
said, "Shall I tell you a thing, the like of which you never
heard?" "Yes," answered we; and he said, "Know, then, that I
had a daughter, who loved a youth, but we knew it not. The
youth in question loved a singing-girl, who, in her turn,
was enamoured of my daughter. One day, I was present at an
assembly, where were also the young man and the girl; when the
latter sang the following verses:
Tears are the token by which, for love, Abjection in lovers
still is shown,
And more by token in one who finds No friend, to whom he may
make his moan.
'By Allah, thou hast said well, O my lady!' exclaimed the
youth. 'Doss thou bid me die?' 'Yes,' answered the girl from
behind the curtain, 'if thou be in love.' So he laid his head
on a cushion and closed his eyes; and when the cup came round
to him, we shook him and found that he was dead. Therewith we
all flocked to him, and our joy was troubled and we grieved and
broke up forthright. When I came home, my people taxed me with
returning before the appointed time, and I told them what had
befallen the youth, thinking to surprise them. My daughter
heard my words and rising, went into another chamber, whither I
followed her and found her lying, with her head on a cushion,
as I had told of the young man. I shook her and behold, she
was dead. So we laid her out and set forth next morning with
her funeral, whilst the friends of the young man carried him
out, likewise, to bury him. As we were on the way to the
burial-place, we met a third funeral and enquiring whose it
was, were told that it was that of the singing-girl, who,
hearing of my daughter's death, had done even as she and was
dead. So we buried them all three on one day, and this is the
rarest story that ever was heard of lovers."
THE LOVERS OF THE BENOU TAI.
Quoth a man of the Benou Temim (cited by Casim ben Adi), I went
out one day in search of a stray beast and coming to the waters
of the Benou Tai, saw two companies of people, near one
another, and those of each company were disputing among
themselves. So I watched them and observed, in one of the
companies, a young man, wasted with sickness, as he were a
worn-out water-skin. As I looked on him, he repeated the
What ails the fair that she returneth not to me? Is't
grudgingness in her or inhumanity?
I sickened, and my folk to visit me came all. Why 'mongst the
visitors wast thou then not to see?
Hadst thou been sick, I would have hastened to thy side; Nor
menaces nor threats had hindered me from thee.
I miss thee midst the rest, and desolate am I: Thy loss, my
heart's abode, is grievous unto me.
A damsel in the other company heard his words and hastened
towards him. Her people followed her, but she repelled them
with blows. Then the youth caught sight of her and ran towards
her, whilst his people ran after him and laid hold of him.
However, he struggled, till he freed himself from them, and she
in like manner loosed herself; and they ran to each other and
meeting between the two parties, embraced and fell down dead.
Thereupon there came out an old man from one of the tents and
stood over them, weeping sore and exclaiming, "Verily, we are
God's and to Him we return!" Then, "May God the Most High have
mercy on you both!" said he. "By Allah, though you were not
united in your lives, I will at least unite you after death."
And he bade lay them out. So they washed them and shrouded them
in one shroud and buried them in one grave, after they had
prayed over them; nor were there men nor women in the two
parties but I saw weeping over them and buffeting their faces.
Then I questioned the old man of them, and he said, "She was my
daughter and he my brother's son; and love brought them to this
pass." "May God amend thee!" exclaimed I. "But why didst thou
not marry them to one another?" Quoth he, "I feared reproach
and dishonour; and now I am fallen upon both."
THE MAD LOVER.
(Quoth Aboulabbas el Muberred[FN#150]), I set out one day with
a company to El Berid on an occasion, and coming to the
monastery of Heraclius,[FN#151] we alighted in its shade.
Presently a man came out to us and said, "There are madmen in
the monastery, and amongst them one who speaketh wisdom; if ye
saw him, ye would marvel at his speech." So we arose all and
went into the monastery, where we saw a man seated on a leather
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