She said, it hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the damsel ended her notice of Second Day the astronomer said to her “Now tell me what will occur if New Year’s day fall on Third Day (Tuesday).” She replied, “That is Mars’ day and portendeth death of great men and much destruction and deluge of blood and dearness of grain; lack of rain and scarcity of fish, which will anon be in excess and anon fail. Lentils and honey in this year will be cheap and linseed dear and only barley will thrive, to the exception of all other cereals: great will be the fighting among kings and death will be in the blood and there will be much mortality among asses.” Q “What if it fall on Fourth Day?” “That is Mercury’s day and portendeth great tumult among the folk and much enmity and, though rains be moderate, rotting of some of the green crops; also that there will be sore mortality among cattle and young children and much fighting by sea; that wheat will be dear from Barmúdah to Misra425 and other grains cheap; thunder and lightning will abound and honey will be dear, palm-trees will thrive and bear abundantly and flax and cotton will be plentiful, while radishes and onions will be dear; but Allah is All-knowing!” Q “What if it fall on Fifth Day?” “That is Jupiter’s day and portendeth equity in Wazirs and righteousness in Kazis and Fakirs and the Ministers of religion; and that good will be plentiful: rains and fruit and trees and grain will abound, and flax, cotton, honey, grapes and fish be cheap; and Allah is Omniscient!” Q “What if it fall on Meeting Day or Friday?” “That day appertaineth to Venus and portendeth oppression in the chiefs of the Jinn and talk of forgery and back-biting; there will be much dew; the autumn crops will be good in the land and there will be cheapness in one town and not in another: ungraciousness will be rife by land and sea; linseed will be dear, also wheat, in Hátúr, but cheap in Amshír; honey will be dear and grapes and water-melons will rot; and Allah is Omniscient!” Q “What if it fall on the Sabbath (Saturday)?” “That is Saturn’s day and portendeth the preferment of slaves and Greeks and those in whom there is no good, neither in their neighbourhood; there will be great drought and dearth; clouds will abound and death will be rife among the sons of Adam and woe to the people of Egypt and Syria from the oppression of the Sultan and failure of blessing upon the green crops and rotting of grain; and Allah is All-knowing!”426 Now with this, the astronomer hung his head very low, and she said to him, “O astronomer, I will ask thee one question, which if thou answer not, I will take thy clothes.” “Ask,” replied he. Quoth she, “Where is Saturn’s dwelling-place?”; and he answered, “In the seventh heaven.” Q “And that of Jupiter?” “In the sixth heaven.” Q “And that of Mars?” “In the fifth heaven.” Q “And that of the Sun?” “In the fourth heaven.” Q “And that of Venus?” “In the third heaven.” Q “And that of Mercury?” “In the second heaven.” Q “And that of the Moon?” “In the first heaven.” Quoth she, “Well answered; but I have one more question to ask thee;” and quoth he, “Ask!” Accordingly she said, “Now tell me concerning the stars, into how many parts are they divided.” But he was silent and answered nothing; and she cried to him, “Put off thy clothes.” So he doffed them and she took them; after which the Caliph said to her, “Tell us the answer to thy question.” She replied: “O Commander of the Faithful, the stars are divided into three parts, whereof one-third is hung in the sky of the earth,427 as it were lamps, to give light to the earth, and a part is used to shoot the demons withal, when they draw near by stealth to listen to the talk in heaven. Quoth Allah Almighty, ‘Verily, we have dight the sky of the earth with the adornment of the stars; and have appointed them for projectiles against every rebellious Satan.’428 And the third part is hung in air to illuminate the seas and give light to what is therein.” Quoth the astronomer, “I have one more question to ask, which if she answer, I will avow myself beaten.” “Say on,” answered she.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
425 The 8th and 12th months partly corresponding with April and August: Hátúr is the 3rd (November) and AmshRr the 6th (February).
426 Moslems have been compelled to adopt infidel names for the months because Mohammed’s Koranic rejection of Nasy or intercalation makes their lunar months describe the whole circle of the seasons in a cycle of about thirty-three and a half years. Yet they have retained the terms which contain the original motive of the denomination. The first month is Muharram, the “Holy,” because war was forbidden; it was also known as Safar No. 1. The second Safar=“Emptiness,” because during the heats citizens left the towns and retired to Táif and other cool sites. Rabí‘a (first and second) alluded to the spring-pasturages; Jumádá (first and second) to the “hardening” of the dry ground and, according to some, to the solidification, freezing, of the water in the highlands. Rajab (No.7)=“worshipping,” especially by sacrifice, is also known as Al–Asamm the deaf; because being sacred, the rattle of arms was unheard. Sha’abán=“collecting,” dispersing, ruining, because the tribal wars recommenced: Ramazan (intensely hot) has been explained and Shawwál (No. 10) derives from Shaul (elevating) when the he-camels raise their tails in rut. Zú‘l-Ka’adah, the sedentary, is the rest time of the year, when fighting is forbidden and Zu’l-Hijjah explains itself as the pilgrimage-month.
427 The lowest of the seven.
428 Koran xxxvii. 5.
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the astronomer said, “Now tell me what four contraries are based upon other four contraries?” Replied she, “The four qualities of Caloric and Frigoric, Humidity and Siccity; for of heat Allah created fire, whose nature is hot-dry; of dryness, earth, which is cold-dry; of cold, water which is cold-wet; of moisture, air, which is hot-wet. Moreover, He created twelve Signs of the Zodiac, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces; and appointed them of the four humours; three fiery, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius; three earthly, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn; three airy, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius; and three watery, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.” Hereupon the astronomer rose, and saying, “Bear witness against me that she is more learned than I,” away he went beaten. Then quoth the Caliph, “Where is the philosopher429?”; at which one rose hastily and came forward and said to Tawaddud, “What is Time and what be its limits, and its days, and what things bringeth it?” Replied she, “Time is a term applied to the hours of the night and day, which are but the measures of the courses of the sun and moon in their several heavens, even as Allah Almighty telleth us when he saith, ‘A sign to them also is the Night, from which we strip off the day, and lo! they are plunged in darkness, and the Sun runneth to her place of rest; this is the ordinance of the Sublime, the All-knowing.’”430 Q “How cometh unbelief to the son of Adam?” “It is reported of the Apostle (whom Allah bless and preserve!) that he said, ‘Unbelief in a man runneth as the blood runneth in his veins, when he revileth the world and Time and night and the Hour.’ And again, ‘Let none of you revile Time, for Time is God; neither revile the world, for she saith, ‘May Allah not aid him who revileth me!;’ neither revile the hour, for, ‘The Hour is surely coming, there is no doubt thereof’;431 neither revile the earth, for it is a portent, according to the saying of the Most High, ‘Out of the ground have we created you, and into the same will we cause you to return, and we will bring you forth yet thence another time.’”432 Q “What are the five that ate and drank, yet came not out of loins nor womb?” “Adam and Simeon433 and Salih’s she-camel 434 and Ishmael’s ram and the bird that Abu Bakr the Truth-teller saw in the cave.435” Q “Tell me of five that are in Paradise and are neither humans, Jinns nor angels?” “Jacob’s wolf and the Seven Sleepers’ dog and Esdras’s ass and Salih’s camel and Duldul the mule of the Prophet (upon whom be blessings and peace!).” Q “What man prayed a prayer neither on earth nor in heaven?” “Solomon, when he prayed on his carpet, borne by the wind.” Q “Ree me this riddle:—A man once looked at a handmaid during dawn-prayer, and she was unlawful to him; but, at noonday she became lawful to him: by mid-afternoon,, she was again unlawful, but at sundown, she was lawful to him: at supper time she was a third time unlawful, but by daybreak, she became once more lawful to him.” “This was a man who looked at another’s slave-girl in the morning, and she was then unlawful to him; but at midday he bought her, and she became lawful to him: at mid-afternoon he freed her, and she became unlawful to him; but at sundown he married her and she was again lawful to him. At nightfall he divorced her and she was then a third time unlawful to him; but, next morning at daybreak, he took her back, and she became once more lawful to him.” Q “Tell me what tomb went about with him that lay buried therein?” “Jonah’s whale, when it had swallowed him.” Q “What spot of lowland is it, upon which the sun shone once, but will never again shine till Judgment–Day?” “The bottom of the Red Sea, when Moses smote it with his staff, and the sea clave asunder in twelve places, according to the number of the tribes;436 then the sun shone on the bottom and will do so nevermore until Judgment–Day.” And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
429 Arab. “Faylasúf,” an evident corruption from the Greek. Amongst the vulgar it denotes a sceptic, an atheist; much the same a “Frammásún” or Freemason. The curious reader will consult the Dabistan, vol. iii. chapt. xi. p. 138 et seq. “On the Religion of the Wise” (philosophi), and, Beaconsfield’s theft from Shaftesbury.
430 Koran xxxvi. 37–38.
431 Koran xxii. 7. The Hour i.e. of Judgment.
432 Koran xx. 58. The Midrasch Tanchumah on Exod. vii. gives a similar dialogue between Pharaoh and Moses. (Rodwell, in loco.)
433 Arab. “Sham’ún” or “Shim’ún,” usually applied to Simon Peter (as in Acts xv. 14). But the text alludes to Saint Simeon (Luke ii. 25–35). See Gospel of Infancy (ii. 8) and especially the Gospel of Nicodemus (xii. 3) which makes him a High–Priest.
434 Sálih the Patriarch’s she-camel, miraculously produced from the rock in order to convert the Thamúd-tribe. (Koran vii.)
435 When Abu Bakr was hiding with Mohammed in a cave on the Hill Al–Saur (Thaur or Thúr, Pilgrimage ii. 131) South of Meccah, which must not be confounded with the cave on Jabal Hirá now called Jabal Núr on the way to Arafat (Pilgrimage iii. 246), the fugitives were protected by a bird which built her nest at the entrance (according to another legend it was curtained by a spider’s web), whilst another bird (the crow of whom I shall presently speak) tried to betray them. The first bird is popularly supposed to have been a pigeon, and is referred to by Hudibras,
“Th’ apostles of this fierce religion
Like Mahomet, were ass and widgeon.”
The ass I presume alludes to the marvellous beast Al–Burák which the Greeks called from (Euthymius in Pocock, Spec. A.H. p.144) and which Indian Moslems picture with human face, ass’s ears, equine body and peacock’s wings and tail. The “widgeon” I presume to be a mistake or a misprint for pigeon.
436 The Arabs are not satisfied with the comparative moderation of the Hebrew miracle, and have added all manner of absurdities. (Pilgrimage ii. 288.)
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the philosopher then addressed the damsel saying, “What was the first skirt that trailed over the face of the earth?” She replied, “That of Hagar, out of shame before Sarah; and it became a custom among the Arabs.” Q “What is that which breatheth without life?” “Quoth Almighty Allah, ‘By the morning when it breatheth!’”437 Q “Ree me this riddle:—A number of pigeons came to a high tree and lighted, some on the tree and others under it. Said those on the tree to those on the ground, ‘If one of you come up to us, ye will be a third part of us all in number; and if one of us descend to you, we shall be like unto you in number,’ How many pigeons were there in all?” “Twelve: seven alighted on the tree and five beneath; and, if one go up, those above would be eight to four; and, if one go down, both would be six and Allah is all-knowing.”438 With this the philosopher put off his clothes and fled: whereupon the next contest took place, for she turned to the Olema present and said, “Which of you is the rhetorician that can discourse of all arts and sciences?” There came forward a sage hight Ibrahim bin Siyyár and said to her, “Think me not like the rest.” Quoth she, “It is the more assured to me that thou wilt be beaten, for that thou art a boaster; and Allah will help me to victory over thee, that I may strip thee of thy clothes. So, if thou sentest one to fetch thee wherewithal to cover thyself, ‘twould be well for thee.” Cried he, “By Allah, I will assuredly conquer thee and make thee a byword among the peoples, generation after generation!” Rejoined she, “Do penance in advance for thy broken oath.” Then he asked, “What five things did Allah create before he made man?”; and she answered, “Water and earth and light and darkness and the fruits of the earth.” Q “What did Allah create with the hand of omnipotence?” “The ‘Arsh, throne of God or the empyreal heaven and the tree Túbá439 and Adam and the garden of Eden; these Allah created with the hand of His omnipotence; but to all other created things He said, ‘Be,’—and they were.” Q “Who is thy father in Al–Islam?” “Mohammed, whom Allah bless and preserve!” Q “Who was the father in Al–Islam of Mohammed?” “Abraham, the Friend of God.” Q “What is the Faith of Al–Islam?” “The professing that there is no god but the God and that Mohammed is the apostle of God.” Q “What is thy first and thy last?” “My first is man’s seed in the shape of foul water and my last filthy carrion: the first of me is dust and the last of me is dust. Quoth the poet,
‘Of dust was I created, and man did I become,
In question ever
ready and aye fluent in reply,
Then, I unto the dust return’d, became of it again,
in very deed, of dust at first create was I.’”
He continued, “What thing was it, whose first state was wood and its last life?” “Moses’ staff,440 when he cast it on the valley-ground and it became, by permission of Allah, a writhing serpent.” Q “What is the meaning of the word of the Lord, ‘And I have other occasion for it?’”441 “He, Moses, was wont to plant his staff in the ground, and it would flower and fruit and shade him from the heat and from the cold. Moreover, it would carry him when he was weary, and whilst he slept, guard his sheep from lions and wild beasts.” Q “What woman was born of a man alone and what man of a woman alone?” “Eve of Adam and Jesus of Mary.442” Q “Tell me of the four fires, what fire eateth and drinketh; what fire eateth but drinketh not; what fire drinketh but eateth not and what other neither eateth nor drinketh?” “The fire of the world eateth but drinketh not; the fire which eateth and drinketh is Hell-fire; the fire of the sun drinketh but eateth not, and the fire of the moon neither eateth nor drinketh.” Q “Which is the open door and which the shut?” “The Traditional Ordinances are the open door, the Koranic the shut door.” Q “Of what doth the poet speak, when he saith,
‘And dweller in the tomb whose food is at his head,
eateth of that meat, of words he waxeth fain:
He riseth and he walketh and he talketh without tongue;
And returneth to the tomb where his kith and kin are lain.
No living wight is he, yet, in honour he abides;
Nor dead yet he deserveth that Allah him assain.’”
She replied, “The reed-pen.”443 Quoth he “What doth the poet refer to in these verses,
‘Two vests in one; blood flowing easiest wise;
Rosy red ears
and mouth wide open lies;
It hath a cock-like form, its belly pecks
And, if you price it,
half a dirham buys.’”
She replied, “The ink-case.” Quoth he, “And in these,
‘Ho say to men of wisdom, wit and lore
To sapient, reverend,
Tell me what was’t you saw that bird bring forth
Arab-land and Ajam o’er?
No flesh it beareth and it hath no blood,
Nor down nor any feathers e’er it wore.
’Tis eaten cooked and eke ’tis eaten cold;
’Tis eaten buried
‘neath the flames that roar:
It showeth twofold colours, silver white
And yellow brighter than pure golden ore:
’Tis not seen living or we count it dead:
So ree my riddle rich
She replied, “Thou makest longsome the questioning anent an egg worth a mite.” Q “And this?,
‘I waved to and fro and he waved to and fro,
With a motion so
pleasant, now fast and now slow;
And at last he sunk down on my bosom of snow;
“No friend, my fan;”444 said she. Q “How many words did Allah speak to Moses?” “It is related of the Apostle that he said, ‘God spoke to Moses fifteen hundred and fifteen words.’” Q “Tell me of fourteen things that speak to the Lord of the Worlds?” “The seven heavens and the seven earths, when they say, ‘We come obedient to Thy command.’”445—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
437 Koran lxxxi. 18. Sale translates “by the morning when it appeareth;” and the word (tanaffus) will bear this meaning. Mr. Rodwell prefers, “By the dawn when it clears away the darkness by its breath.”
438 As a rule Moslems are absurdly ignorant of arithmetic and apparently cannot master it. Hence in Egypt they used Copts for calculating-machines and further East Hindds. The mildest numerical puzzle, like the above, is sure of success.
439 The paradiseal tree which supplied every want. Mohammed borrowed it from the Christians (Rev. xxi. 10–21 and xxii. 1–2) who placed in their paradise the Tree of Life which bears twelve sorts of fruits and leaves of healing virtue. (See also the 3rd book of Hermas, his Similitudes.) The Hebrews borrowed it from the Persians. Amongst the Hindus it appears as “Kalpavriksha;” amongst the Scandinavians as Yggdrasil. The curious reader will consult Mr. James Fergusson’s learned work, “Tree and Serpent Worship,” etc. London, 1873.
440 Aaron’s Rod becomes amongst Moslems (Koran vii. 110) Moses’ Staff; the size being that of a top-mast. (Pilgrimage i. 300, 301.) In Koran xx. 18, 19, we find a notice of its uses; and during the Middle Ages it reappeared in the Staff of Wamba the Goth (A.D.672–680) the witch’s broomstick was its latest development.
441 Christ, say the Eutychians, had only one nature, the divine; so he was crucified in effigy.
442 Jesus is compared with Adam in the Koran (chapt. iii.): his titles are Kalámu ’llah (word of God) because engendered without a father, and Rúhu ’llah (breath of God) because conceived by Gabriel in the shape of a beautifui youth breathing into the Virgin’s vulva. Hence Moslems believe in a “miraculous conception” and consequently determine that one so conceived was, like Elias and Khizr, not subject to death; they also hold him born free from “original sin” (a most sinful superstition), a veil being placed before the Virgin and Child against the Evil One who could not touch them. He spoke when a babe in cradle; he performed miracles of physic; he was taken up to Heaven; he will appear as the forerunner of Mohammed on the White Tower of Damascus, and finally he will be buried at Al–Medinah. The Jews on the other hand speak of him as “that man:” they hold that he was begotten by Joseph during the menstrual period and therefore a born magician. Moreover he learned the Sham ha-maphrash or Nomen tetragrammaton, wrote it on parchment and placed it in an incision in his thigh, which closed up on the Name being mentioned (Buxtorf, Lex Talmud, 25–41). Other details are given in the Toldoth Jesu (Historia Joshuæ Nazareni). This note should be read by the eminent English littérateur who discovered a fact, well known to Locke and Carlyle, that “Mohammedans are Christians.” So they are and something more.
443 In the Kalamdán, or pen-case, is a little inkstand of metal occupying the top of the long, narrow box.
444 A fair specimen of the riddle known as the “surprise.”
445 Koran xli. 10.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the damsel made the answer, the philosopher continued, “Tell me of Adam and how he was first created?” and she said, “Allah created Adam of clay: the clay He made of foam and the foam of the sea, the sea of darkness, darkness of light, light of a fish, the fish of a rock, the rock of a ruby, the ruby of water, and the water He created by His Omnipotence according to His saying (exalted be His name!), ‘His commandment when He willeth aught, is but to say, BE,—and It is.’”446 Q “What is meant by the poet in these verses,
‘And eater lacking mouth and even maw;
Yet trees and beasts to
it are daily bread:
Well fed it thrives and shows a lively life,
But give it water
and you do it dead?’”
“This,” quoth she, “is Fire.” “And in these;” he asked,
“Two lovers barred from every joy and bliss,
Who through the
livelong night embracing lie:
They guard the folk from all calamities,
But with the rising sun apart they fly?”
She answered, “The leaves of a door.” Quoth he, “Tell me of the gates of Gehenna?” Quoth she, “They are seven in number and their names are comprised in these two couplets,
‘Jahannam, next Lazá, and third Hatím;
Then count Sa’ír and
Sakar eke, five-fold,
Sixth comes Jahím and Háwiyah the seventh;
Here are seven Hells
in four lines briefly told.’”
Quoth he “To what doth the poet refer when he saith,
‘She wears a pair of ringlets long let down
Behind her, as she
comes and goes at speed,
And eye that never tastes of sleep nor sheds
A tear, for ne’er
a drop it hath at need;
That never all its life wore stitch of clothes;
Yet robes mankind in every-mode of weed?’”
Quoth she, “A needle.” Q “What is the length and what the breadth of the bridge Al–Sirát?” “Its length is three thousand years’ journey, a thousand in descent and a thousand in ascent and a thousand level: it is sharper than a sword and finer than a hair.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
446 Koran xxxvi. 82.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the damsel had described to him Al–Sirat, the philosopher said, “Inform me how many intercessions with Allah hath the Prophet for each soul?”447 “Three.” Q “Was Abu Bakr the first who embraced Al–Islam?” “Yes.” Q “Yet Ali became a Moslem before him?” “Ali came to the Prophet, when he was a boy of seven years old, for Allah vouchsafed him knowledge of the way of salvation in his tender youth, so that he never prostrated himself to idols.” Quoth he, “Tell me which is the more excellent, Ali or Abbás?” Now she knew that, in propounding this question, Ibrahim was laying a trap for her; for if she said, “Ali is more excellent than Abbas,” she would lack excuse with the Caliph for undervaluing his ancestor; so she bowed her head awhile, now reddening, then paling, and lastly said, “Thou askest me of two excellent men, each having his own excellence. Let us return to what we were about.” When the Caliph Harun al-Rashid heard her, he stood up and said, “Thou hast spoken well, by the Lord of the Ka’abah, O Tawaddud!” Then quoth Ibrahim the rhetorician, “What meaneth the poet when he saith,
‘Slim-wasted one, whose taste is sweetest-sweet,
Likest a lance
whereon no head we scan:
And all the lieges find it work them weal,
Eaten of afternoon in Ramazan.’”
She answered, “The sugar-cane;” and he said, “Tell me of many things.” Asked she, “What are they?” and he said, “What is sweeter than honey; what is sharper than the sword; what is swifter than poison; what is the delight of a moment and what the contentment of three days; what is the pleasantest of days; what is the joy of a week; what is that debt the worst debtor denieth not; what is the prison of the tomb; what is the joy of the heart; what is the snare of the soul; what is death-in-life; what is the disease that may not be healed; what is the shame that may not be wiped off; what is the beast that woneth not in cultivated fields, but lodgeth in waste places and hateth the sons of Adam and hath in him somewhat of the make of seven strong and violent beasts?” Quoth she, “Hear what I shall say in reply; then put off thy clothes, that I may explain to thee;” and the Caliph said, “Expound, and he shall doff his clothes.” So she said, “Now that, which is sweeter than honey, is the love of pious children to their two parents; that, which is sharper than the sword, is the tongue; that, which is swifter than poison, is the Envier’s eye; the delight of a moment is carnal copulation and the contentment of three days is the depilatory for women; the pleasantest of days is that of profit on merchandise; the joy of a week is the bride; the debt, which the worst debtor denieth not, is death; the prison of the tomb is a bad son; the joy of the heart is a woman obedient to her husband (and it is said also that, when fleshmeat descendeth upon the heart, it rejoiceth therein); the snare of the soul is a disobedient slave; death-in-life is poverty; the disease that may not be healed is an ill-nature, and the shame that may not be wiped away is an ill daughter; lastly, the beast that woneth not in cultivated fields, but lodgeth in waste places and hateth the sons of Adam and hath in him somewhat of the make of seven strong and violent beasts, is the locust, whose head is as the head of a horse, its neck as the neck of the bull, its wings as the wings of the vulture, its feet as the feet of the camel, its tail as the tail of the serpent, its belly as the belly of the scorpion and its horns as the horns of the gazelle.” The Caliph was astounded at her quickness and understanding, and said to the rhetorician, “Doff thy clothes.” So he rose up and cried, “I call all who are present in this assembly to witness that she is more learned than I and every other learned man.” And he put off his clothes and gave them to her, saying, “Take them and may Allah not bless them to thee!” So the Caliph ordered him fresh clothes and said, “O Tawaddud, there is one thing left of that for which thou didst engage, namely, chess.” And he sent for experts of chess and cards448 and trictrac. The chess-player sat down before her, and they set the pieces, and he moved and she moved; but, every move he made she speedily countered,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
447 Here we enter upon a series of disputed points. The Wahhábis deny the intercession of the Apostle (Pilgrimage ii. 76–77). The Shi’ahs place Ali next in dignity to Mohammed and there is a sect (Ali–Iláhi) which believes him to be an Avatar or incarnation of the Deity. For the latter the curious reader will consult the “Dabistan,” ii. 451. The Koran by its many contradictions seems to show that Mohammed never could make up his own mind on the subject, thinking himself at times an intercessor and then sharply denying all intercession.
448 Arab. “Kanjifah”=a pack of cards; corrupted from the Persian “Ganjífah.” We know little concerning the date or origin of this game in the East, where the packs are quite unlike ours.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the damsel was playing chess with the expert in presence of the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, whatever move he made was speedily countered by her, till she beat him and he found himself checkmated. Quoth he, “I did but lead thee on, that thou mightest think thyself skilful: but set up again, and thou shalt see.” So they placed the pieces a second time, when he said in himself, “Open thine eyes or she will beat thee.” And he fell to moving no piece, save after calculation, and ceased not to play, till she said, “Thy King is dead!—Checkmate.” When he saw this he was confounded at her quickness and understanding; but she laughed and said, “O professor, I will make a wager with thee on this third game. I will give thee the queen and the right-hand castle and the left-hand knight; if thou beat me, take my clothes, and if I beat thee, I will take thy clothes.” Replied he, “I agree to this;” and they replaced the pieces, she removing queen, castle and knight.449 Then said she, “Move, O master.” So he moved, saying to himself, “I cannot but beat her, with such odds,” and planned a combination; but, behold, she moved on, little by little, till she made one of her pawns450 a queen and pushing up to him pawns and other pieces, to take off his attention, set one in his way and tempted him to take it. Accordingly, he took it and she said to him, “The measure is meted and the loads equally balanced.451 Eat till thou are over-full; naught shall be thy ruin, O son of Adam, save thy greed. Knowest thou not that I did but tempt thee, that I might finesse thee? See: this is check-mate!” adding, “So doff off thy clothes.” Quoth he, “Leave me my bag-trousers, so Allah repay thee;” and he swore by Allah that he would contend with none, so long as Tawaddud abode in the realm of Baghdad. Then he stripped off his clothes and gave them to her and went away. Thereupon came the backgammon-player, and she said to him, “If I beat thee, this day, what wilt thou give me?” Quoth he, “I will give thee ten suits of brocade of Constantinople, figured with gold, and ten suits of velvet and a thousand gold pieces; and if I beat thee, I ask nothing but that thou write me an acknowledgment of my victory.” Quoth she, “To it, then, and do thy best.” So they played, and he lost and went away, chattering in Frankish jargon and saying, “By the bounty of the Commander of the Faithful, there is not her like in all the regions of the world!” Then the Caliph summoned players on instruments of music and asked her, “Dost thou know aught of music?”; when she answered, “Even so!” He bade bring a worn lute, polished by use, whose owner forlorn and lone was by parting trodden down; and of which quoth one, describing it
“Allah watered a land, and upsprang a tree
Struck root deep
down, and raised head a-sky:
The birds o’ersang it when green its wood;
And the Fair o’ersing now the wood is dry.”
So they brought the lute in a bag of red satin, with tassels of saffron-coloured silk: and she opened the bag, and took it out and behold on it was graven,
“Oft hath a tender bough made lute for maid,
whose swift sweet
lays at feast men’s hearts invade:
She sings; it follows on her song, as though
The Bulbuls452 taught her all the modes she played.”
She laid her lute in her lap and with bosom inclining over it, bent to it with the bending of a mother who suckleth her child; then she preluded in twelve different modes, till the whole assembly was agitated with delight, like a waving sea, and she sang the following,
“Cut short this strangeness, leave unruth of you;
shall love you aye, by youth of you!
Have ruth on one who sighs and weeps and moans,
Pining and yearning for the troth of you.”
The Caliph was ravished and exclaimed, “Allah bless thee and be merciful to him who taught thee!”: whereupon she rose and kissed the ground before him. Then he sent for money and paid her master Abu al-Husn an hundred thousand gold pieces to her price; after which he said to her, “O Tawaddud, ask a boon of me!” Replied she, “I ask of thee that thou restore me to my lord who sold me.” “’Tis well,” answered the Caliph and restored her to her master and gave her five thousand dinars for herself. Moreover, he appointed Abu al-Husn one of his cup-companions for a permanence,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
449 It is interesting to compare this account with the pseudo Ovid and with Tale clxvi. in Gesta “Of the game of Schaci.” Its Schacarium is the chess-board. Rochus (roccus, etc.) is not from the Germ. Rock (a coat) but from Rukh (Pers. a hero, a knight-errant) Alphinus (Ital. Alfino) is Al–Firzán (Pers. science, wise).
450 Arab, “Baydak” or “Bayzak”; a corruption of the Persian “Piyádah”=a footman, peon, pawn; and proving whence the Arabs derived the game. The Persians are the readiest backgammon-players known to me, better even than the Greeks; they throw the dice from the hand and continue foully abusing the fathers and mothers of the “bones” whilst the game lasts. It is often played in the intervals of dinner by the higher classes in Persia.
451 Metaphor from loading camels and mules. To “eat” a piece is to take it.
452 Arab. “Bilábil”; a plural of “Bulbul” with a double entendre balábil (plur. of ballalah)=heart’s troubles, and “balá, bul”=a calamity, nay, etc.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph gave the damsel five thousand dinars for herself and restored her to her master whom he appointed one of his cup-companions for a permanence and assigned him a monthly stipend of a thousand dinars so long as he should live; and he abode with the damsel Tawaddud in all solace and delight of life. Marvel then, O King, at the eloquence of this damsel and the hugeness of her learning and understanding and her perfect excellence in all branches of art and science; and consider the generosity of the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, in that he gave her master this money and said to her, “Ask a boon of me;” and she besought him to restore her to her lord. So he restored her to him and gave her five thousand dinars for herself and made him one of his boon-companions. Where is such generosity to be found after the Abbaside Caliphs?—May Allah Almighty have mercy upon them, one and all! And they tell a tale of
It is related, O auspicious King, that one of the olden monarchs was once minded to ride out in state with the Officers of his realm and the Grandees of his retinue and display to the folk the marvels of his magnificence. So he ordered his Lords and Emirs equip them therefor and commanded his keeper of the wardrobe to bring him of the richest of raiment, such as befitted the King in his state; and he bade them bring his steeds453 of the finest breeds and pedigrees every man heeds; which being done, he chose out of the raiment what rejoiced him most and of the horses that which he deemed best; and, donning the clothes, together with a collar set with margarites and rubies and all manner jewels, mounted and set forth in state, making his destrier prance and curvet among his troops and glorying in his pride and despotic power. And Iblis came to him and, laying his hand upon his nose, blew into his nostrils the breath of hauteur and conceit, so that he magnified and glorified himself and said in his heart, “Who among men is like unto me?” And he became so puffed up with arrogance and self-sufficiency, and so taken up with the thought of his own splendour and magnificence, that he would not vouchsafe a glance to any man. Presently, there stood before him one clad in tattered clothes and saluted him, but he returned not his salam; whereupon the stranger laid hold of his horse’s bridle. “Lift thy hand,” cried the King, “thou knowest not whose bridle-rein it is whereof thou takest hold.” Quoth the other, I have a need of thee.” Quoth the King, “Wait till I alight and then name thy need.” Rejoined the stranger, “It is a secret and I will not tell it but in thine ear.” So the King bowed his head to him and he said, “I am the Angel of Death and I purpose to take thy soul.” Replied the King, “Have patience with me a little, whilst I return to my house and take leave of my people and children and neighbours and wife.” “By no means so,” answered the Angel; “thou shalt never return nor look on them again, for the fated term of thy life is past.” So saying, he took the soul of the King (who fell off his horse’s back dead) and departed thence. Presently the Death Angel met a devout man, of whom Almighty Allah had accepted, and saluted him. He returned the salute, and the Angel said to him, “O pious man, I have a need of thee which must be kept secret.” “Tell it in my ear,” quoth the devotee; and quoth the other, “I am the Angel of Death.” Replied the man, “Welcome to thee! and praised be Allah for thy coming! I am aweary of awaiting thine arrival; for indeed long hath been thine absence from the lover which longeth for thee.” Said the Angel, “If thou have any business, make an end of it;” but the other answered, saying, “There is nothing so urgent to me as the meeting with my Lord, to whom be honour and glory!” And the Angel said “How wouldst thou fain have me take thy soul? I am bidden to take it as thou willest and choosest.” He replied, “Tarry till I make the Wuzu-ablution and pray; and, when I prostrate myself, then take my soul while my body is on the ground.”454 Quoth the Angel, “Verily, my Lord (be He extolled and exalted!) commanded me not to take thy soul but with thy consent and as thou shouldst wish; so I will do thy will.” Then the devout man made the minor ablution455 and prayed: and the Angel of Death took his soul in the act of prostration and Almighty Allah transported it to the place of mercy and acceptance and forgiveness. And they tell another tale of
453 The popular English idea of the Arab horse is founded upon utter unfact. Book after book tells us, “There are three distinct breeds of Arabians —the Attechi, a very superior breed; the Kadishi, mixed with these and of little value; and the Kochlani, highly prized and very difficult to procure.” “Attechi” may be At-Tázi (the Arab horse, or hound) or some confusion with “At” (Turk.) a horse. “Kadish” (Gadish or Kidish) is a nag; a gelding, a hackney, a “pacer” (generally called “Rahwán”). “Kochlani” is evidently “Kohláni,” the Kohl-eyed, because the skin round the orbits is dark as if powdered. This is the true blue blood; and the bluest of all is “Kohláni al-Ajúz” (of the old woman) a name thus accounted for. An Arab mare dropped a filly when in flight; her rider perforce galloped on and presently saw the foal appear in camp, when it was given to an old woman for nursing and grew up to be famous. The home of the Arab horse is the vast plateau of Al–Najd: the Tahámah or lower maritime regions of Arabia, like Malabar, will not breed good beasts. The pure blood all descends from five collateral lines called Al–Khamsah (the Cinque). Literary and pedantic Arabs derive them from the mares of Mohammed, a native of the dry and rocky region, Al–Hijaz, whither horses are all imported. Others go back (with the Koran, chapt. xxviii.) to Solomon, possibly Salmán, a patriarch fourth in descent from Ishmael and some 600 years older than the Hebrew King. The Badawi derive the five from Rabí‘at al-Faras (R. of the mare) fourth in descent from Adnán, the fount of Arab genealogy. But they differ about the names: those generally given are Kahilan (Kohaylat), Sakláwi (which the Badawin pronounce Sagláwi), Abayán, and Hamdáni; others substitute Manákhi (the long-maned), Tanís and Jalfún. These require no certificate amongst Arabs; for strangers a simple statement is considered enough. The Badawin despise all half-breeds (Arab sires and country mares), Syrian, Turkish, Kurdish and Egyptian. They call these (first mentioned in the reign of Ahmes, B.C. 1600) the “sons of horses”; as opposed to “sons of mares,” or thorough-breds. Nor do they believe in city-bred animals. I have great doubts concerning our old English sires, such as the Darley Arabian which looks like a Kurdish half-bred, the descendant of those Cappadocians so much prized by the Romans: in Syria I rode a “Harfúshí” (Kurd) the very image of it. There is no difficulty in buying Arab stallions except the price. Of course the tribe does not like to part with what may benefit the members generally; but offers of £500 to £1,000 would overcome men’s scruples. It is different with mares, which are almost always the joint property of several owners. The people too dislike to see a hat on a thorough-bred mare: “What hast thou done that thou art ridden by that ill-omened Kafir?” the Badawin used to mutter when they saw a highly respectable missionary at Damascus mounting a fine Ruwalá mare. The feeling easily explains the many wars about horses occurring in Arab annals, e.g. about Dáhis and Ghabrá. (C. de Perceval, Essas, vol.ii.)
454 The stricter kind of Eastern Jew prefers to die on the floor, not in bed, as was the case with the late Mr. Emmanuel Deutsch, who in his well-known article on the Talmud had the courage to speak of “Our Saviour.” But as a rule the Israelite, though he mostly appears as a Deist, a Unitarian, has a fund of fanatical feelings which crop up in old age and near death. The “converts” in Syria and elsewhere, whose Judaism is intensified by “conversion,” when offers are made to them by the missionaries repair to the Khákhám (scribe) and, after abundant wrangling determine upon a modus vivendi. They are to pay a proportion of their wages, to keep careful watch in the cause of Israel and to die orthodox. In Istria there is a legend of a Jew Prior in a convent who was not discovered till he announced himself most unpleasantly on his death-bed. For a contrary reason to Jewish humility, the Roman Emperors preferred to die standing.
455 He wished to die in a state of ceremonial purity; as has before been mentioned.
A certain King had heaped up coin beyond count and gathered store of all precious things, which Allah the Most Highest hath created. So, in order that he might take his pleasure whenas he should find leisure to enjoy all this abounding wealth he had collected, he built him a palace wide and lofty such as befitteth and beseemeth Kings; and set thereto strong doors and appointed, for its service and its guard, servants and soldiers and doorkeepers to watch and ward. One day, he bade the cooks dress him somewhat of the goodliest of food and assembled his household and retainers and boon-companions and servants to eat with him, and partake of his bounty. Then he sat down upon the sofa of his kingship and dominion; and, propping his elbow upon the cushion, addressed himself, saying, “O soul, thou hast gathered together all the wealth of the world; so now take thy leisure therein and eat of this good at thine ease, in long life and prosperity ever rife!”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that hardly had the King made an end of saying to himself, “Eat of this weal at thine ease, in long life and prosperity ever rife!” when a man clad in tattered raiment, with an asker’s wallet hanging at his neck, as he were one who came to beg food, knocked with the door-ring a knock so loud and terrible that the whole palace shook as with quake of earth and the King’s throne trembled. The servants were affrighted and rushed to the door, and when they saw the man who had knocked they cried out at him, saying, “Woe to thee! what manner of unmannerly fashion be this? Wait till the King eateth and we will then give thee of what is left.” Quoth he, “Tell your lord to come out and speak with me, for I have of him a pressing need and a matter to heed.” They cried, “Away, fool! who art thou that we should bid our lord come forth to thee?” But he said, “Tell him of this.” So they went in and told the King, who said, “Did ye not rebuke him and draw upon him and threaten him!” Now as he spoke, behold, there came another knock at the gate, louder than the first knock, whereupon the servants sprang at the stranger with staves and weapons, to fall upon him and slay him; but he shouted at them, saying, “Bide in your steads, for I am the Angel of Death.” Hereat their hearts quaked and their wits forsook them; their understandings were in confusion, their side-muscles quivered in perturbation and their limbs lost the power of motion. Then said the King to them, “Tell him to take a substitute456 in my place and one to relieve me in this case.” But the Angel answered, saying, “I will take no substitute, and I come not but on thine account, to cause separation between thee and the goods thou hast gathered together and the riches thou hast heaped up and entreasured.” When the King heard this, he wept and groaned, saying, “Allah curse the treasure which hath deluded and undone me and diverted me from the service of my Lord! I deemed it would profit me, but to-day it is a regret for me and a calamity to me, and behold, I go forth, empty-handed of it, and leave it to my foes.” Thereupon Allah caused the Treasure to speak out and it said, “Wherefore cursest thou me?457 Curse thyself, for Allah created both me and eke thyself of the dust and appointed me to be in thine hand, that thou mightest provide thee with me a viaticum for the next world and give alms with me to the poor and the needy and the sick; and build mosques and hospices and bridges and aqueducts, so might I be an aidance unto thee in the world to come. But thou didst garner me and hoard me up and on thine own vanities bestowedst me, neither gavest thou thanks for me, as was due, but wast ungrateful to me; and now thou must leave me to thy foes and thou hast naught save thy regretting and thy repenting. But what is my sin, that thou shouldest revile me?” Then the Angel of Death took the King’s soul as he sat on his throne before he ate of the food, and he fell down dead. Quoth Allah Almighty, “While they were rejoicing for that which had been given them, we suddenly laid hold on them; and, behold, they were seized with despair.”458 And they tell another tale of
456 Arab. “Badal”: in Sind (not to speak of other places) it was customary to hire a pauper “badal” to be hanged in stead of a rich man. Sir Charles Napier signed many a death-warrant before he ever heard of the practice.
457 Arab. “La’an” = curse. The word is in every mouth though strongly forbidden by religion. Even of the enemies of Al–Islam the learned say, “Ila’an Yezíd wa lá tazíd” = curse Yezid but do not exceed (i.e. refrain from cursing the others). This, however, is in the Shafi’í school and the Hanafís do not allow it (Pilgrimage i. 198). Hence the Moslem when scrupulous uses na’al (shoe) for la’an (curse) as Ina’al abúk (for Ila’an abu’-k) or, drat (instead of damn) your father. Men must hold Supreme Intelligence to be of feeble kind if put off by such miserable pretences.
458 Koran vi. 44, speaking of the Infidels. It is a most unamiable chapter, with such assertions as “Allah leadeth into error whom He pleaseth,” etc.
There was a puissant despot among the Kings of the Banú Isráíl, who sat one day upon the throne of his kingship, when he saw come in to him, by the gate of the hall, a man of forbidding aspect and horrible presence. The King was affrighted at his sudden intrusion and his look terrified him; so he sprang up before him and said, “Who art thou, O man? Who gave thee leave to come in to me and who invited thee to enter my house?” Quoth the stranger, “Verily the Lord of the House sent me to thee, nor can any doorkeeper exclude me, nor need I leave to come in to Kings; for I reck not of a Sultan’s majesty neither of the multitude of his guards. I am he from whom no tyrant is at rest, nor can any man escape from my grasp: I am the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies.” Now when the King heard this a palsy crept over him459 and he fell on his face in a swoon; but presently coming to himself, he asked, “Art thou then the Angel of Death?”; and the stranger answered, “Yes.” “I conjure thee, by Allah,” quoth the King, “grant me one single day’s respite, that I may pray pardon of my sins and ask absolution of my Lord and restore to their rightful owners the monies which are in my treasures, so I may not be burdened with the woe of a reckoning nor with the misery of punishment therefor.” Replied the Angel, “Well-away! well-away! this may be in no way.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
459 Alluding to the “formication” which accompanies a stroke of paralysis.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the Death-messenger to the King, “Well-away, well-away! this may be in no way. How can I grant thee a reprieve when the days of thy life are counted and thy breaths numbered and thy moments fixed and written?” “Grant me an hour,” asked the King; but the Angel answered saying, “The hour was in the account and hath sped, and thou unheeding aught; and hath fled, and thou taking no thought: and now thy breathings are accomplished, and there remaineth to thee but one breath.” Quoth the King, “Who will be with me when I am transported to my tomb?” Quoth the Angel, “Naught will be with thee but thy works good or evil.” “I have no works,” said the King; and the Angel, “Doubtless thy long home will be in hell-fire and thy doom the wrath of the Almighty.” Then he seized the soul of the King, and he fell off his throne and dropped on the earth dead. And there arose a mighty weeping and wailing and clamour of keening for him among the people of his court, and had they known that to which he went of the wrath of his Lord, their weeping for him had been sorer and their wailing louder and more abounding. And a story is told of
It is related that Iskandar Zu al-Karnayn461 once came, in his journeyings, upon a tribe of small folk, who owned naught of the weals of the world and who dug their graves over against the doors of their houses and were wont at all times to visit them and sweep the earth from them and keep them clean and pray at them and worship Almighty Allah at them; and they had no meat save grasses and the growth of the ground. So Iskandar sent a man to summon their King, but he refused to come, saying, “I have no need of him.” Thereupon Iskandar went to him and said, “How is it with you and what manner of men are ye?; for I see with you forsooth naught of gold or silver, nor find I with you aught of the weals of the world.” Answered the King, “None hath his fill of the weals of the world.” Iskandar then asked “Why do you dig your graves before your house-doors?”; and the King answered, “That they may be the prospective of our eye-glances; so we may look on them and ever renew talk and thought of death, neither forget the world to come; and on this wise the love of the world be banished from our hearts and we be not thereby distracted from the service of our Lord, the Almighty.” Quoth Iskandar, “Why do ye eat grasses?”; and the other replied, “Because we abhor to make our bellies the tombs of animals and because the pleasure of eating outstrippeth not the gullet.” Then putting forth his hand he brought out a skull of a son of Adam and, laying it before Iskandar, said, “O Zu al-Karnayn, Lord of the Two Horns, knowest thou who owned this skull?” Quoth he, “Nay;” and quoth the other, “He who owned this skull was a King of the Kings of the world, who dealt tyrannously with his subjects, specially wronging the weak and wasting his time in heaping up the rubbish of this world, till Allah took his sprite and made the fire his abiding-site; and this is his head.” He then put forth his hand and produced another skull and, laying it before Iskandar, said to him, “Knowest thou this?” “No,” answered the conqueror; and the other rejoined, “This is the skull of another King, who dealt justly by his lieges and was kindly solicitous for the folk of his realm and his dominions, till Allah took his soul and lodged him in His Garden and made high his degree in Heaven.” Then laying his hands on Iskandar’s head he said, “Would I knew which of these two art thou.” Whereupon Iskandar wept with sore weeping and straining the King to his bosom cried, “If thou be minded to company with me, I will commit to thee as Wazir the government of my affairs and share with thee my kingdom.” Cried the other, “Well-away, well-away! I have no mind to this.” “And why so?” asked Iskandar, and the King answered, “Because all men are thy foes by reason of the wealth and the worlds thou hast won: while all men are my true friends, because of my contentment and pauperdom, for that I possess nothing, neither covet aught of the goods of life; I have no desire to them nor wish for them, neither reck I aught save contentment.” So Iskandar pressed him to his breast and kissed him between the eyes and went his way.462 And among the tales they tell is one concerning
460 Pronounce Zool Karnayn.
461 i.e. the Koranic and our mediæval Alexander, Lord of the two Horns (East and West) much “Matagrobolized” and very different from him of Macedon. The title is variously explained, from two protuberances on his head or helm, from two long locks and, possibly, from the ram-horns of Jupiter Ammon. The anecdote in the text seems suggested by the famous interview (probably a canard) with Diogenes: see in the Gesta, Tale cxlvi., “The answer of Diomedes the Pirate to Alexander.” Iskandar was originally called Marzbán (Lord of the Marches), son of Marzabah; and, though descended from Yunán, son of Japhet, the eponymus of the Greeks, was born obscure, the son of an old woman. According to the Persians he was the son of the Elder Dáráb (Darius Codomannus of the Kayanian or Second dynasty), by a daughter of Philip of Macedon; and was brought up by his grandfather. When Abraham and Isaac had rebuilt the Ka’abah they foregathered with him and Allah sent him forth against the four quarters of the earth to convert men to the faith of the Friend or to cut their throats; thus he became one of the four world-conquerors with Nimrod, Solomon, Bukht al-Nasr (Nabochodonosor); and he lived down two generations of men. His Wazir was Aristú (the Greek Aristotle) and he carried a couple of flags, white and black, which made day and night for him and facilitated his conquests. At the end of Persia, where he was invited by the people, on account of the cruelty of his half brother Darab II., he came upon two huge mountains on the same line, behind which dwelt a host of abominable pygmies, two spans high, with curious eyes, ears which served as mattresses and coverlets, huge fanged mouths, lions’ claws and hairy hind quarters. They ate men, destroyed everything, copulated in public and had swarms of children. These were Yájúj and Májúj (Gog and Magog) descendants of Japhet. Sikandar built against them the famous wall with stones cemented and riveted by iron and copper. The “Great Wall” of China, the famous bulwark against the Tartars, dates from B.C. 320 (Alexander of Macedon died B.C. 324); and as the Arabs knew Canton well before Mohammed’s day, they may have built their romance upon it. The Guebres consigned Sikandar to hell for burning the Nusks or sections of the Zendavesta.
462 These terrific preachments to Eastern despots (who utterly ignore them) are a staple produce of Oriental tale-literature and form the chiaro-oscuro, as it were, of a picture whose lights are brilliant touches of profanity and indelicate humour. It certainly has the charm of contrast. Much of the above is taken from the Sikandar-nameh (Alexander Book) of the great Persian poet, Nizámi, who flourished A.H. 515–597, between the days of Firdausi (ob. A.D.1021) and Sa’adi (ob. A.D. 1291). In that romance Sikandar builds, “where the sun goes down,” a castle of glittering stone which kills men by causing excessive laughter and surrounds it with yellow earth like gold. Hence the City of Brass. He also converts, instead of being converted by, the savages of the text. He finds a stone of special excellence which he calls Almás (diamond); and he obtains it from the Valley of Serpents by throwing down flesh to the eagles. Lastly he is accompanied by “Bilínas” or “Bilínus,” who is apparently Apollonius of Tyana.
It is told of Anushirwan, the Just King, that once upon a time he feigned himself sick, and bade his stewards and intendants go round about the provinces of his empire and the quarters of his dominion and seek him out a mud-brick thrown away from some ruined village, that he might use it as medicine, informing his intimates that the leaches had prescribed this to him. So they went the round of the provinces of his reign and of all the lands under his sway and said to him on return, “In all the realm we have found nor ruined site nor castaway mud-brick.” At this Anushirwan rejoiced and rendered thanks to the Lord, saying, “I was but minded to try my kingdom and prove mine empire, that I might know if any place therein remained ruined and deserted, so I might rebuild and repeople it; but, since there be no place in it but is inhabited, the affairs of the reign are best-conditioned and its ordinance is excellent; and its populousness464 hath reached the pitch of perfection.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
463 I have explained the beautiful name in Night cclxxxix: He is stil famous for having introduced into Persia the fables of Pilpay (Bidyapati, the lord of lore) and a game which the genius of Persia developed into chess.
464 Here we find an eternal truth, of which Malthusians ever want reminding; that the power of a nation simply consists in its numbers of fighting men and in their brute bodily force. The conquering race is that which raises most foot-pounds: hence the North conquers the South in the Northern hemisphere and visa versa.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the high officials returned and reported, “We have found in the empire nor ruined site nor rotten brick,” the Just King thanked his God and said, “Verily the affairs of the realm are best-conditioned and its ordinance is excellent and its populousness hath reached the pink of perfection.” And ken thou, O King, continued Shahrazad, that these olden Kings strave not and toiled not for the peopling of their possessions, but because they knew that the more populous a country is, the more abundant is that which is desired therein; and because they wist the saying of the wise and the learned to be true without other view, namely, “Religion dependeth on the King, the King on the troops, the troops on the treasury, the treasury on the populousness of the country and its prosperity on the justice done to the lieges.” Wherefore they upheld no one in tyranny or oppression; neither suffered their dependants and suite to work injustice, knowing that kingdoms are not established upon tyranny, but that cities and places fall into ruin when oppressors are set as rulers over them, and their inhabitants disperse and flee to other governments; whereby ruin falleth upon the realm, the imports fail, the treasuries become empty and the pleasant lives of the subjects are perturbed; for that they love not a tyrant and cease not to offer up successive prayers against him; so that the King hath no ease of his kingdom, and the vicissitudes of fortune speedily bring him to destruction. And they tell a tale concerning
Among the Children of Israel one of the Kazis had a wife of surpassing beauty, constant in fasting and abounding in patience and long-suffering; and he, being minded to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, appointed his own brother Kazi in his stead, during his absence, and commended his wife to his charge. Now this brother had heard of her beauty and loveliness and had taken a fancy to her. So no sooner was his brother gone than he went to her and sought her love-favours; but she denied him and held fast to her chastity. The more she repelled him, the more he pressed his suit upon her; till, despairing of her and fearing lest she should acquaint his brother with his misconduct whenas he should return, he suborned false witnesses to testify against her of adultery; and cited her and carried her before the King of the time who adjudged her to be stoned. So they dug a pit, and seating her therein stoned her, till she was covered with stones, and the man said, “Be this hole her grave!” But when it was dark a passer-by, making for a neighbouring hamlet, heard her groaning in sore pain; and, pulling her out of the pit, carried her home to his wife, whom he bade dress her wounds. The peasant woman tended her till she recovered and presently gave her her child to be nursed; and she used to lodge with the child in another house by night. Now a certain thief saw her and lusted after her. So he sent to her seeking her love-favours, but she denied herself to him; wherefore he resolved to slay her and, making his way into her lodging by night (and she sleeping), thought to strike at her with a knife; but it smote the little one and killed it. Now when he knew his misdeed, fear overtook him and he went forth the house and Allah preserved from him her chastity. But as she awoke in the morning, she found the child by her side with throat cut; and presently the mother came and seeing her boy dead, said to the nurse, “Twas thou didst murther him.” Therewith she beat her a grievous beating and purposed to put her to death; but her husband interposed and delivered the woman, saying, “By Allah, thou shalt not do on this wise.” So the woman, who had somewhat of money with her, fled forth for her life, knowing not whither she should wend. Presently, she came to a village, where she saw a crowd of people about a man crucified to a tree-stump, but still in the chains of life. “What hath he done?” she asked, and they answered, “He hath committed a crime, which nothing can expiate but death or the payment of such a fine by way of alms.” So she said to them, “Take the money and let him go;” and, when they did so, he repented at her hands and vowed to serve her, for the love of Almighty Allah till death should release him. Then he built her a cell and lodged her therein; after which he betook himself to woodcutting and brought her daily her bread. As for her, she was constant in worship, so that there came no sick man or demoniac to her, but she prayed for him and he was straightway healed.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the woman’s cell was visited by folk (and she constant in worship), it befel by decree of the Almighty that He sent down upon her husband’s brother (the same who had caused her to be stoned), a cancer in the face, and smote the villager’s wife (the same who had beaten her) with leprosy, and afflicted the thief (the same who had murthered the child) with palsy. Now when the Kazi returned from his pilgrimage, he asked his brother of his wife, and he told him that she was dead, whereat he mourned sore and accounted her with her Maker. After awhile, very many folk heard of the pious recluse and flocked to her cell from all parts of the length and breadth of the earth; whereupon said the Kazi to his brother, “O my brother, wilt thou not seek out yonder pious woman? Haply Allah shall decree thee healing at her hands!” and he replied, “O my brother, carry me to her” Moreover, the husband of the leprous woman heard of the pious devotee and carried his wife to her, as did also the people of the paralytic thief; and they all met at the door of the hermitage. Now she had a place wherefrom she could look out upon those who came to her, without their seeing her; and they waited till her servant came, when they begged admittance and obtained permission. Presently she saw them all and recognized them; so she veiled and cloaked face and body and went out and stood in the door, looking at her husband and his brother and the thief and the peasant-woman; but they could not recognize her. Then said she to them, “Ho folk, ye shall not be relieved of what is with you till ye confess your sins; for, when the creature confesseth his sins the Creator relenteth towards him and granteth him that wherefore he resorteth to him.” Quoth the Kazi to his brother, “O my brother, repent to Allah and persist not in thy frowardness, for it will be more helpful to thy relief.” And the tongue of the case spake this speech,
“This day oppressor and oppressed meet,
And Allah sheweth
secrets we secrete:
This is a place where sinners low are brought;
And Allah raiseth saint to highest seat.
Our Lord and Master shows the truth right clear,
froward be or own defeat:
Alas465 for those who rouse the Lord to wrath,
As though of Allah’s wrath they nothing weet!
O whoso seekest honours, know they are
From Allah, and His fear
with love entreat.”
(Saith the relator), Then quoth the brother, “Now I will tell the truth: I did thus and thus with thy wife;” and he confessed the whole matter, adding, “And this is my offence.” Quoth the leprous woman, “As for me, I had a woman with me and imputed to her that of which I knew her to be guiltless, and beat her grievously; and this is my offence.” And quoth the paralytic, “And I went in to a woman to kill her, after I had tempted her to commit adultery and she had refused; and I slew a child that lay by her side; and this is my offence.” Then said the pious woman, “O my God, even as Thou hast made them feel the misery of revolt, so show them now the excellence of submission, for Thou over all things art Omnipotent!” And Allah (to whom belong Majesty and Might!) made them whole. Then the Kazi fell to looking on her and considering her straitly, till she asked him why he looked so hard and he said, “I had a wife and were she not dead, I had said thou art she.” Hereupon, she made herself known to him and both began praising Allah (to whom belong Majesty and Might!) for that which He had vouchsafed them of the reunion of their loves; but the brother and the thief and the villager’s wife joined in imploring her forgiveness. So she forgave them one and all, and they worshipped Allah in that place and rendered her due service, till Death parted them. And one of the Sayyids466 hath related this tale of
465 Arab. “Wayha,” not so strong as “Woe to,” etc. Al–Hariri often uses it as a formula of affectionate remonstrance.
466 As a rule (much disputed) the Sayyid is a descendant from Mohammed through his grandchild Hasan, and is a man of the pen; whereas the Sharif derives from Husayn and is a man of the sword. The Najíb al-taraf is the son of a common Moslemah by a Sayyid, as opposed to the “Najib al-tarafayn,” when both parents are of Apostolic blood. The distinction is not noticed in Lane’s “Modern Egyptians”. The Sharif is a fanatic and often dangerous, as I have instanced in Pilgrimage iii. 132.
“I was circuiting the Ka’abah one dark night, when I heard a plaintive voice, speaking from a contrite heart and saying, ‘O Bountiful One, Thy past boon! Indeed, by my heart shall Thy covenant never be undone.’ Hearing this voice, my heart fluttered so that I was like to die; but I followed the sound and behold, it came from a woman, to whom I said, ‘Peace be with thee, O handmaid of Allah;’ whereto she replied, ‘And with thee be peace, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings!’ Quoth I, ‘I conjure thee, by Allah the Most Great, tell me what is the covenant to which thy heart is constant.’ Quoth she, ‘But that thou adjurest me by the Omnipotent, I would not tell thee my secrets. See what is before me.’ So I looked and lo! there was a child lying asleep before her and breathing heavily in his slumber. Said she, “Know, that I set forth, being big with this boy, to make the pilgrimage to this House and took passage in a ship; but the waves rose against us and the winds blew contrary and the vessel broke up. I saved myself on a plank; and, on that bit of wood, I gave birth to this child; and while he lay on my bosom and the waves beating upon me,’”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
Last updated on Thu Mar 30 16:01:09 2006 for eBooks@Adelaide.