Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Story of Nur-Ed-din and Enis-El-Jelis
THERE was, in El-Basrah, a certain King, who loved the poor and indigent, and regarded his subjects with benevolence; he bestowed of his wealth upon him who believed in Mohammad (God bless and save him!) and was such as one of the poets who have written of him hath thus described:
He used his lances as pens; and the hearts of his enemies, as paper; their blood being his ink;
And hence, I imagine, our forefathers applied to the lance the term Khattiyeh.
The name of this King was Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni; and he had two Wezirs; one of whom was named El-Moin the son of Sawi; and the other, El-Fadl the son of Khakan. El-Fadl the son of Khakan was the most generous of the people of his age, upright in conduct, so that all hearts agreed in loving him, and the wise complied with his counsel, and all the people supplicated for him length of life: for he was a person of auspicious aspect, a preventer of evil and mischief: but the Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi hated others, and loved not good; he was a man of inauspicious aspect; and in the same degree that the people loved Fadl-ed-Din the son of Khakan, so did they abhor El-Moin the son of Sawi in accordance with the decree of the Almighty.
Now the King Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni was sitting one day upon his throne, surrounded by the officers of his court, and he called to his Wezir El-Fadl the son of Khakan, and said to him, I desire a female slave unsurpassed in beauty by any in her age, of perfect loveliness and exquisite symmetry, and endowed with all praiseworthy qualities.Such as this, replied his courtiers, is not to be found for less than ten thousand pieces of gold. And the Sultan thereupon called out to the treasurer, saying, Carry ten thousand pieces of gold to the house of El-Fadl the son of Khakan. So the treasurer did as he commanded, and the Wezir departed, after the Sultan had ordered him to repair every day to the market, and to commission the brokers to procure what he had described, and had commanded also that no female slave of a greater price than one thousand pieces of gold should be sold without having been shewn to the Wezir.
The brokers, therefore, sold no female slave without shewing her to him, and he complied with the Kings command, and thus he continued to do for a considerable time, no slave pleasing him: but on a certain day, one of the brokers came to the mansion of the Wezir El-Fadl, and found that he had mounted to repair to the palace of the King; and he laid hold upon his stirrup, and repeated these two verses:
O thou who hast reanimated what was rotten in the state! Thou art the Wezir ever aided in Heaven.
Thou hast revived the noble qualities that were extinct among men. May thy conduct never cease to be approved by God!
He then said, O my master, the female slave for the procuring of whom the noble mandate was issued hath arrived. The Wezir replied, Bring her hither to me. So the man returned, and, after a short absence, came again, accompanied by a damsel of elegant stature, high-bosomed, with black eyelashes, and smooth cheek, and slender waist, and large hips, clad in the handsomest apparel; the moisture of her lips was sweeter than syrup; her figure put to shame the branches of the Oriental willow; and her speech was more soft than the zephyr passing over the flowers of the garden; as one of her describers hath thus expressed:
Her skin is like silk, and her speech is soft, neither redundant nor deficient:
Her eyes, God said to them, Be,and they were, affecting mens hearts with the potency of wine.
May my love for her grow more warm each night, and cease not until the day of judgment!
The locks on her brow are dark as night, while her forehead shines like the gleam of morning.
When the Wezir beheld her, she pleased him extremely, and he looked towards the broker, and said to him, What is the price of this damsel? The broker answered, The price bidden for her hath amounted to ten thousand pieces of gold, and her owner hath sworn that this sum doth not equal the cost of the chickens which she hath eaten, nor the cost of the dresses which she hath bestowed upon her teachers; for she hath learnt writing and grammar and lexicology, and the interpretation of the Kuran, and the fundamentals of law and religion, and medicine, and the computation of the calendar, and the art of playing upon musical instruments. The Wezir then said, Bring to me her master:and the broker immediately brought him; and lo, he was a foreigner, who had lived so long that time had reduced him to bones and skin, as the poet hath said,
How hath time made me to tremble! For time is powerful and severe.
I used to walk without being weary; but now I am weary and do not walk.
And the Wezir said to him, Art thou content to receive for this damsel ten thousand pieces of gold from the Sultan Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni? The foreigner answered, As she is for the Sultan, it is incumbent on me to give her a present to him, without price. So the Wezir, upon this, ordered that the money should be brought, and then weighed the pieces of gold for the foreigner; after which, the slave-broker addressed the Wezir, and said, With the permission of our lord the Wezir, I will speak.Impart what thou hast to say, replied the Wezir.It is my opinion then, said the broker, that thou shouldst not take up this damsel to the Sultan to-day; for she hath just arrived from her journey, and the change of air hath affected her, and the journey hath fatigued her; but rather let her remain with thee in thy palace ten days, that she may take rest, and her beauty will improve; then cause her to be taken into the bath, and attire her in clothes of the handsomest description, and go up with her to the Sultan: so shalt thou experience more abundant good-fortune. And the Wezir considered the advice of the slavebroker, and approved it. He therefore took her into his palace, and gave her a private apartment to herself, allotting her every day what she required of food and drink and other supplies, and she continued a while in this state of enjoyment.
Now the Wezir El-Fadl had a son like the shining full moon, with brilliant countenance, and red cheek, marked with a mole like a globule of ambergris, and with grey down. The youth knew not of this damsel, and his father had charged her, saying, Know that I have purchased thee for the King Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni, and that I have a son who hath not left a girl in the quarter without making love to her; therefore keep thyself concealed from him, and beware of shewing him thy face, or suffering him to hear thy voice. The damsel replied, I hear and obey:and he left her and departed. And it happened, as fate had ordained, that she went one day into the bath which was in the house, and, after certain of the female slaves had bathed her, she attired herself in rich apparel, and her beauty and loveliness increased in consequence. She then went in to the Wezirs wife, and kissed her hand, and said to her, May it be favourable, O Enis-el-Jelis! How didst thou find this bath?O my mistress, she answered, I wanted nothing but thy presence there. And upon this, the mistress of the house said to the female slaves, Arise, and let us go into the bath. And they complied with her command, and went, accompanied by their mistress, who first charged two young slave-girls to keep the door of the private apartment in which was Enis-el-Jelis, saying to them, Suffer no one to go in to the damsel;and they replied, We hear and obey. But while Enis-el-Jelis was sitting in her chamber, lo, the Wezirs son, whose name was Ali Nur-ed-Din, came in, and asked after his mother and the family. The two girls answered, They are gone into the bath. Now the damsel Enis-el-Jelis heard the speech of Ali Nur-ed-Din as she sat in her chamber, and she said within herself, I wonder what this youth is like, of whom the Wezir hath told me that he hath not left a girl in the quarter without making love to her: by Allah, I have a desire to see him. She then rose upon her feet, fresh as she was from the bath, and, approaching the door of the chamber, looked at Ali Nur-ed-Din, and beheld him to be a youth like the full moon. The sight of him occasioned her a thousand sighs: and a look from the youth, at her, affected him also in the same manner. Each was caught in the snare of the others love, and the youth approached the two slave-girls, and cried out at them; whereupon they fled from before him, and stopped at a distance, looking to see what he would do. He then advanced to the door of the chamber, and, opening it, went in, and said to the damsel, Art thou she whom my father hath purchased for me? She answered, Yes. And upon this, the youth, who was in a state of intoxication, went up to her, and embraced her, while she, in like manner, threw her arms around his neck, and kissed him. But the two slave-girls, having seen their young master enter the chamber of the damsel Enis-el-Jelis, cried out. The youth, therefore, soon ran forth, and fled for safety, fearing the consequence of his intrusion; and when the mistress of the house heard the cry of the two slave-girls, she came out dripping from the bath, saying, What is the cause of this cry in the house? And when she drew near to the two slave-girls whom she had placed at the door of the private chamber, she said to them, Wo to you! What is the matter?They answered, as soon as they beheld her, Our master Ali Nur-ed-Din came to us and beat us, and we fled from him, and he went into the chamber of Enis-el-Jelis, and when we cried out to thee he fled. The mistress of the house then went to Enis-el-Jelis, and said to her, What is the news?O my mistress, she answered, as I was sitting here, a youth of handsome person came in to me, and said to me, Art thou she whom my father hath purchased for me?And I answered, Yes.By Allah, O my mistress, I believed that what he said was true; and he came up to me and embraced me, and kissed me three times, and left me overcome by his love.
Upon this, the mistress of the house wept, and slapped her face, and her female slaves did the like, fearing for Ali Nur-ed-Din, lest his father should slay him; and while they were in this state, lo, the Wezir came in, and inquired what had happened. His wife said to him, Swear that thou wilt listen to that which I shall say. He replied, Well? So she told him what his son had done; and he mourned, and rent his clothes, and slapped his face, and plucked his beard. His wife then said to him, Kill not thyself. I will give thee, of my own property, ten thousand pieces of gold, her price.But upon this, he raised his head towards her, and said to her, Wo to thee! I want not her price, but I fear the loss of my life and my property.Wherefore, O my master? she asked.Knowest thou not, said he, that we have this enemy El-Moin the son of Sawi? When he heareth of this event, he will repair to the sultan, and say to him, Thy Wezir whom thou imaginest to love thee hath received from thee ten thousand pieces of gold, and purchased therewith a female slave such as no one hath seen equalled, and when she pleased him, he said to his son, Take her; for thou art more worthy of her than the Sultan:and he took her; and the damsel is now with him.Then the King will say, Thou liest. And he will say to the King, With thy permission, I will break in upon him suddenly, and bring her to thee. And he will give him permission to do so: he will therefore make a sudden attack upon the house, and take the damsel, and conduct her into the presence of the Sultan, and he will question her, and she will not be able to deny: he will then say, O my lord, I give thee good counsel, but I am not in favour with thee:and the Sultan will make an example of me, and all the people will make me a gazing-stock, and my life will be lost.His wife, however, replied, Acquaint no one; for this thing hath happened privily: commit, therefore, thine affair unto God, in this extremity. And upon this, the heart of the Wezir was quieted, and his mind was relieved.
Such was the case of the Wezir.Now as to Nur-ed-Din, he feared the result of his conduct, and so passed each day in the gardens, not returning to his mother until towards the close of the night: he then slept in her apartment, and rose before morning without being seen by any one else. Thus he continued to do for the space of a month, not seeing the face of his father; and at length his mother said to his father, O my master, wilt thou lose the damsel and lose the child? For if it long continue thus with the youth, he will flee his country.And what is to be done? said he. She answered, Sit up this night, and when he cometh, lay hold upon him, and be reconciled to him, and give him the damsel; for she loveth him, and he loveth her; and I will give thee her price. So the Wezir sat up the whole night, and when his son came, he laid hold upon him, and would have cut his throat; but his mother came to his succour, and said to her husband, What dost thou desire to do unto him? He answered her, I desire to slay him. The youth then said to his father, Am I of so small account in thy estimation? And upon this, the eyes of his father filled with tears, and he said to him, O my son, is the loss of my property and my life of small account with thee?Listen, O my father, rejoined the youth:and he implored his forgiveness. So the Wezir rose from the breast of his son, and was moved with compassion for him; and the youth rose, and kissed his fathers hand; and the Wezir said, O my son, if I knew that thou wouldst act equitably to Enis-el-Jelis, I would give her to thee.O my father, replied the youth, wherefore should I not act equitably towards her? And his father said, I charge thee, O my son, that thou take not a wife to share her place, and that thou do her no injury, nor sell her. He replied, O my father, I swear to thee that I will neither take a wife to share her place, nor sell her:and he promised him by oaths to act as he had said, and took up his abode with the damsel, and remained with her a year; and God (whose name be exalted!) caused the King to forget the affair of the female slave; but the matter became known to El-Moin the son of Sawi; yet he could not speak of it, on account of the high estimation in which the other Wezir was held by the Sultan.
After this year had expired, the Wezir Fadl-ed-Din the son of Khakan entered the bath, and came out in a state of excessive perspiration, in consequence of which the external air smote him, so that he became confined to his bed, and long remained sleepless; and his malady continued unremittingly; so he called, thereupon, his son, Ali Nur-ed-Din, and when he came before him, said to him, O my son, verily the means of life are apportioned, and its period is decreed, and every soul must drink the cup of death. I have nothing with which to charge thee but the fear of God, and forethought with regard to the results of thine actions, and that thou conduct thyself kindly to the damsel Enis-el-Jelis.O my father, said the youth, who is like unto thee? Thou hast been celebrated for virtuous actions, and the praying of the preachers for thee on the pulpits.O my son, rejoined the Wezir, I hope for the approbation of God, whose name be exalted! And then he pronounced the two professions of the faith, and uttered a sigh, and was recorded among the company of the blest. And upon this, the palace was filled with shrieking, and the news reached the ears of the Sultan, and the people of the city heard of the death of El-Fadl the son of Khakan, and even the boys in the schools wept for him. His son Ali Nur-ed-Din arose, and prepared his funeral, and the Emirs and Wezirs and other officers of the state attended it, and among them was the Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi; and as the procession passed out from the mansion, one of the mourners recited these verses:
I said to the man who was appointed to wash him,Would that he had yielded obedience to my counsel,
Put away from him the water, and wash him with the tears of honour, shed in lamentation for him:
And remove these fragrant substances collected for his corpse, and perfume him rather with the odours of his praise:
And order the noble angels to carry him in honour. Dost thou not behold them attending him?
Cause not mens necks to be strained by bearing him: enough are they laden already by his benefits.
Ali Nur-ed-Din for a long time remained in a state of violent grief for the loss of his father; but as he was sitting one day in his fathers house, a person knocked at the door, and he rose up and opened it, and lo, there was a man who was one of his fathers intimate companions, and he kissed the hand of Nur-ed-Din, and said to him, O my master, he who hath left a son like thee hath not died. This is the destination of the lord of the first and the last among mankind.1 O my master, cheer up thy heart, and give over mourning.And upon this, Ali Nur-ed-Din arose, and went to the guestchamber, and removed thither all that he required, and his companions came together to him, and he took again his slave. Ten of the sons of the merchants became his associates, and he gave entertainment after entertainment, and began to be lavish with presents. His steward, therefore, came to him, and said to him, O my master Nur-ed-Din, hast thou not heard the saying, He who expendeth and doth not calculate is reduced to poverty? This profuse expenditure, and these magnificent presents, will annihilate the property.But when Ali Nur-ed-Din heard these words of his steward, he looked at him, and replied, Of all that thou hast said to me, I will not attend to one word. How excellent is the saying of the poet:
If I be possessed of wealth and be not liberal, may my hand never be extended, nor my foot raised!
Shew me the avaricious who hath attained glory by his avarice, and the munificent who hath died through his munificence.
Know, O Steward, he continued, that if there remain in thy hands what will suffice for my dinner, thou shalt not burden me with anxiety respecting my supper.So the steward left him, and went his way; and Ali Nur-ed-Din resumed his habits of extravagant generosity: whenever any one of his companions said, Verily this thing is beautiful!he would reply, It is a present to thee:and if any said, O my master, verily such a house is delightful!he would reply, It is a present to thee.
He ceased not to give entertainments to his companions from the commencement of day, one after another, until he had passed in this manner a whole year; after which, as he was sitting with them, he heard the slavegirl recite these two verses:
Thou thoughtest well of the days when they went well with thee, and fearedst not the evil that destiny was bringing.
Thy nights were peaceful, and thou wast deceived by them: in the midst of their brightness there cometh gloom.
And immediately after, a person knocked at the door; so Nur-ed-Din rose, and one of his companions followed him without his knowledge; and when he opened the door, he beheld his steward, and said to him, What is the news?O my master, answered the steward, that which I feared on thy account hath happened to thee.How is that? asked Nur-ed-Din. The steward answered, Know that there remaineth not of thy property in my hands, anything equivalent to a piece of silver, or less than a piece of silver; and these are the accounts of thy expenses, and of thy original property, When Ali Nur-ed-Din heard these words, he hung down his head towards the ground, and exclaimed, There is no strength nor power but in God! And the man who had followed him secretly to pry into his case, as soon as he heard what the steward told him, returned to his companions, and said to them, See what ye will do; for Ali Nur-ed-Din hath become a bankrupt. So when Nur-ed-Din returned to them, grief appeared to them in his countenance, and immediately one of them rose, and, looking towards him, said to him, O my master, I desire that thou wouldst permit me to depart.Why thus depart to-day? said Nur-ed-Din. His guest answered, My wife is to give birth to a child this night, and it is impossible for me to be absent from her: I desire, therefore, to go and see her. And he gave him leave. Then another rose, and said to him, O my master Nur-ed-Din, I desire to-day to visit my brother; for he celebrateth the circumcision of his son. Thus each of them asked leave of him deceitfully, and went his way, until all had departed.
So Ali Nur-ed -Din remained alone; and he called his slave-girl, and said to her, O Enis-el-Jelis, seest thou not what hath befallen me? And he related to her what the steward had told him. She replied, O my master, for some nights past, I have been anxious to speak to thee of this affair; but I heard thee reciting these two verses:
When fortune is liberal to thee, be thou liberal to all others before she escape from thee:
For liberality will not annihilate thy wealth when she is favourable; nor avarice preserve it when she deserteth thee.
And when I heard thee repeat these words, I was silent, and would not make any remark to thee.O Enis-el-Jelis, he rejoined, thou knowest that I have not expended my wealth but on my companions; and I do not think that they will abandon me without relief.By Allah, said she, they will be of no use to thee. But he said, I will immediately arise and go to them, and knock at their doors; perhaps I shall obtain from them something which I will employ as a capital wherewith to trade, and I will cease from diversion and sport. So he arose instantly, and proceeded without stopping until he arrived at the bystreet in which his ten companions resided; for they all lived in that same street: and he advanced to the first door, and knocked; and there came forth to him a slave-girl, who said to him, Who art thou? He answered, Say to thy master,Ali Nur-ed-Din is standing at the door, and saith to thee, Thy slave kisseth thy hands, looking for a favour from thee.And the girl entered and acquainted her master; but he called out to her, saying, Return, and tell him, He is not here.The girl, therefore, returned to Nur-ed-Din, and said to him, My master, Sir, is not here. And he went on, saying within himself, If this is a knave, and hath denied himself, another is not. He then advanced to the next door, and said as he had before; and the second also denied himself; and Nur-ed-Din exclaimed,
They are gone, who, if thou stoodest at their door, would bestow upon thee the bounty thou desirest.
By Allah, he added, I must try all of them: perchance one of them may stand me in the place of all the others. And he went round to all the ten; but found not that one of them would open the door, or shew himself, or even order him a cake or bread; and he recited the following verses:
A man in prosperity resembleth a tree, around which people flock as long as it hath fruit;
But as soon as it hath dropped all that it bore, they disperse from beneath it, and seek another.
Perdition to all the people of this age! for I find not one man of integrity among ten.
He then returned to his slave: his anxiety had increased, and she said to him, O my master, said I not unto thee that they would not profit thee?By Allah, he replied, not one of them shewed me his face.O my master, rejoined she, sell of the movables of the house a little at a time, and expend the produce. And he did so until he had sold all that was in the house, and there remained nothing in his possession; and upon this he looked towards Enis-el-Jelis, and said to her, What shall we do now?It is my advice, O my master, she answered, that thou arise immediately, and take me to the market, and sell me; for thou knowest that thy father purchased me for ten thousand pieces of gold, and perhaps God may open to thee a way to obtain a part of this price; and if God have decreed our reunion, we shall meet again. But he replied, O Enis-el-Jelis, it is not easy for me to endure thy separation for one hour.Nor is the like easy to me, said she: but necessity is imperious. And upon this, he took Enis-el-Jelis, his tears flowing down his cheeks, and went and delivered her to the broker, saying to him, Know the value of that which thou art to cry for sale.O my master Nur-ed-Din, replied the broker, noble qualities are held in remembrance. Is she not Enis-el-Jelis, whom thy father purchased of me for ten thousand pieces of gold?He answered, Yes. And the broker thereupon went to the merchants; but he found that they had not all yet assembled; so he waited until the rest had come; and the market was filled with all varieties of female slaves, Turkish and Greek and Circassian and Georgian and Abyssinian; and when he beheld its crowded state, he arose and exclaimed, O merchants! O possessors of wealth! everything that is round is not a nut; nor is everything long, a banana; nor is everything that is red, meat; nor is everything white, fat; nor is everything that is ruddy, wine; nor is everything tawny, a date! O merchants! this precious pearl, whose value no money can equal, with what sum will ye open the bidding for her?And one of the merchants answered, With four thousand and five hundred pieces of gold.
But, lo, the Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi was in the market, and, seeing Ali Nur-ed-Din standing there, he said within himself, What doth he want here, having nothing left wherewith to purchase female slaves? Then casting his eyes around, and hearing the broker as he stood crying in the market with the merchants around him, he said within himself, I do not imagine anything else than that he hath become a bankrupt, and come forth with the slave-girl to sell her; and if this be the case, how pleasant to my heart! He then called the crier, who approached him, and kissed the ground before him; and the Wezir said to him, I desire this female slave whom thou art crying for sale. The broker, therefore, being unable to oppose his wish, brought the slave and placed her before him; and when he beheld her, and considered her charms, her elegant figure and her soft speech, he was delighted with her, and said to the broker. To what has the bidding for her amounted? The broker answered, Four thousand and five hundred pieces of gold. And as soon as the merchants heard this, not one of them could bid another piece of silver or of gold; but all of them drew back, knowing the tyrannical conduct of that Wezir. El-Moin the son of Sawi then looked towards the broker, and said to him, Why standest thou still? Take away the slave-girl for me at the price of four thousand and five hundred pieces of gold, and thou wilt have five hundred for thyself.So the broker went to Ali Nur-ed-Din, and said to him, O my master, the slave-girl is lost to thee without price.How so? said Nur-ed-Din. The broker answered, We opened the bidding for her at four thousand and five hundred pieces of gold; but this tyrant El-Moin the son of Sawi came into the market, and when he beheld the damsel she pleased him, and he said to me, Ask her owner if he will agree for four thousand pieces of gold, and five hundred for thee:and I doubt not but he knoweth that the slave belongeth to thee; and if he give thee her price immediately, it will be through the goodness of God; but I know, from his injustice, that he will write thee an order upon some of his agents for the money, and then send to them and desire them to give thee nothing; and every time that thou shalt go to demand it of them, they will pay thee:and they will not cease to promise thee, and to defer from day to day, notwithstanding thy pride; and when they are overcome by thy importunity they will say, Give us the written order: and as soon as they have received the paper from thee they will tear it in pieces: so thou wilt lose the price of the slave.
When Nur-ed-Din, therefore, heard these words of the broker, he said to him, What is to be done? The broker answered, I will give thee a piece of advice, and if thou receive it from me, thou will have better fortune.What is it? Asked Nur-ed-Din.That thou come to me immediately, answered the broker, while I am standing in the midst of the market, and take the slave-girl from me, and give her a blow with thy hand, and say to her, Wo to thee! I have expiated my oath that I swore, and brought thee to the market, because I swore to thee that thou shouldst be exposed in the market, and that the broker should cry thee for sale.If thou do this, perhaps the trick will deceive him and people, and they will believe that thou tookest her not to the market but to expiate the oath.This, replied Nur-ed-Din, is the right counsel. So the broker returned into the midst of the market, and, taking hold of the hand of the slave-girl, made a sign to the Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi, saying, O my lord, this is her owner who hath just come. Then Ali Nur-ed-Din advanced to the broker, and tore the damsel from him, and struck her with his hand, saying to her, Wo to thee! I have brought thee to the market for the sake of expiating my oath. Go home, and disobey me not again. I want not thy price, that I should sell thee; and if I sold the furniture of the house and everything else of the kind over and over again, their produce would not amount to thy price.But when El-Moin the son of Sawi, beheld Nur-ed-Din, he said to him, Wo to thee! Hast thou anything left to be sold or bought?And he would have laid violent hands upon him. The merchants then looked towards Nur-ed-Din (and they all loved him), and he said to them, Here am I before you, and ye have all known his tyranny.By Allah, exclaimed the Wezir, were it not for you, I had killed him! Then all of them made signs, one to another, with the eye, and said, Not one of us will interfere between thee and him. And upon this, Ali Nur-ed-Din, went up to the Wezir, the son of Sawi (and Nur-ed-Din was a man of courage), and he dragged the Wezir from his saddle, and threw him upon the ground. There was at that spot a kneading-place for mud,2 and the Wezir fell into the midst of it, and Nur-ed-Din beat him with his fist, and a blow fell upon his teeth, by which his beard became dyed with his blood. Now there were with the Wezir ten memluks, and when they saw Nur-ed-Din treat their master in this manner, they put their hands upon the hilts of their swords, and would have fallen upon him and cut him in pieces; but the people said to them, This is a Wezir, and this is the son of Wezir, and perhaps they may make peace with each other, and ye will incur the anger of both of them; or perhaps a blow may fall upon your master, and ye will all of you die the most ignominious of deaths: it is advisable, therefore, that ye interfere not between them.And when Ali Nur-ed-Din had ceased from beating the Wezir, he took his slave-girl and returned to his house.
The Wezir, the son of Sawi, then immediately arose, and his dress, which before was white, was now dyed with three colours, the colour of mud, and the colour of blood, and the colour of ashes; and when he beheld himself in this condition, he took a round mat, and hung it to his neck, and took in his hand two bundles of coarse grass, and went and stood beneath the palace of the Sultan, and cried out, O King of the age! I am oppressed!So they brought him before the King, who looked at him attentively, and saw that he was his Wezir, El-Moin the son of Sawi. He said, therefore, Who hath done thus unto thee?and the Wezir cried and moaned, and repeated these two verses:
Shall fortune oppress me while thou existest; and the dogs devour me when thou art a lion?
Shall all else who are dry drink freely from thy tanks, and I thirst in thine asylum when thou art as rain?
O my lord, he continued, thus is every one who loveth thee and serveth thee: these afflictions always befall him.And who, said the King again, hath done thus unto thee?Know, answered the Wezir, that I went forth to-day to the market of the female slaves with the idea of buying a cook-maid, and saw in the market a slave-girl the like of whom I had never in my life beheld, and the broker said that she belonged to Ali Nur-ed-Din. Now our lord the Sultan had given his father ten thousand pieces of gold to buy for him with it a beautiful female slave, and he bought that girl, and she pleased him; so he gave her to his son; and when his father died, the son pursued the path of prodigality, until he sold all his houses and gardens and utensils; and when he had become a bankrupt, nothing else remaining in his possession, he took the slave-girl to the market to sell her, and delivered her to the broker: so he cried her for sale, and the merchants continued bidding for her until her price amounted to four thousand pieces of gold; whereupon I said to myself, I will buy this for our lord the Sultan; for her original price was from him. I therefore said, O my son, receive her price, four thousand pieces of gold. But when he heard my words, he looked at me and replied, O ill-omened old man! I will sell her to the Jews and the Christians rather than to thee,I then said to him, I would not buy her for myself, but for our lord the Sultan, who is our benefactor. As soon, however, as he had heard these words from me, he was filled with rage, and dragged me and threw me down from the horse, notwithstanding my advanced age, and beat me, and ceased not to do so until he left me in the state in which thou seest me. Nothing exposed me to all this ill treatment but my coming to purchase this slave-girl for your majesty.The Wezir then threw himself upon the ground, and lay weeping and trembling.
Now when the Sultan beheld his condition, and had heard his speech, the vein of anger swelled between his eyes, and he looked towards the members of his court who were attending him; whereupon forty swordsmen stood before him, and he said to them, Descend immediately to the house of Ali the son of El-Fadl the son of Khakan, and plunder it and demolish it, and bring hither him and the slave-girl with their hands bound behind them: drag them along upon their faces, and so bring them before me. They replied, we hear and obey:and went forth to repair to the house of Ali Nur-ed-Din. But there was in the court of the Sultan a chamberlain named Alam-ed-in Senjer, who had been one of the memluks of El-Fadl the son of Khakan, the father of Ali Nur-ed-Din; and when he heard the order of the Sultan, and saw the enemies prepared to slay his masters son, it was insupportable to him; so he mounted his horse, and proceeded to the house of Ali Nur-ed-Din, and knocked at the door. Nur-ed-Din came forth to him, and, when he saw him, knew him, and would have saluted him; but he said, O my master, this is not a time for salutation, nor for talking. Nur-ed-Din said, O Alam-ed-Din, what is the news? He replied, Save thyself by flight, thou and the slave-girl; for El-Moin the son of Sawi hath set up a snare for you, and if ye fall into his hands he will slay you: the Sultan hath sent to you forty swordsmen, and it is my advice that ye fly before the evil fall upon you. Then Senjer stretched forth his hand to Nur-ed-Din with some pieces of gold, and he counted them, and found them to be forty pieces; and he said, O my master, receive these, and if I had with me more, I would give it thee; but this is not a time for expostulating. And upon this, Nur-ed-Din went in to the damsel, and acquainted her with the occurrence, and she was confounded.
The two then went forth immediately from the city, and God let down the veil of his protection upon them, and they proceeded to the bank of the river, where they found a vessel ready to sail: the master was standing in the midst of it, and saying, He who hath anything to do, whether leave-taking or procuring provisions, or who hath forgotten aught, let him do what he desireth and return; for we are going. And they all replied, We have nothing remaining to do, O master. So, upon this, the master said to his crew, Quick! Loose the ropes end, and pull up the stake.And Ali Nur-ed-Din exclaimed, Whither, O master? He answered, To the abode of Peace, Baghdad. And Nur-ed-Din embarked, and the damsel with him, and they set the vessel afloat, and spread the sails and it shot along like a bird with its pair of wings, carrying them forward with a favourable wind.
Meanwhile, the forty men whom the Sultan had sent came to the house of Ali Nur-ed-Din, and broke open the doors and entered, and searched all the chambers, but without success; so they demolished the house, and returned, and acquainted the Sultan, who said, Search for them in every place where they may be:and they replied, We hear and obey. The Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi then descended to his house, after the Sultan had invested him with a robe of honour, and had said to him, None shall take vengeance for thee but myself. And he greeted the King with a prayer for long life, and his heart was set at ease: and the Sultan gave orders to proclaim throughout the city, O all ye people! our lord the Sultan hath commanded that whoever shall meet with Ali Nur-ed-Din, and bring him to the Sultan, shall be invested with a robe of honour, and he will give him a thousand pieces of gold; and he who shall conceal him, or know where he is, and not give information thereof, will merit the exemplary punishment that shall befall him! So all the people began to search for him; but could not trace him.Such was the case with these people.
Now as to Ali Nur-ed-Din and his slave, they arrived in safety at Baghdad, and the master of the vessel said to them, This is Baghdad, and it is a city of security: winter with its cold hath departed from it, and the springquarter hath come with its roses, and its trees are in blossom, and its waters are flowing. And upon this, Ali Nur-ed-Din landed with his slavegirl, and gave the master five pieces of gold. They then walked a little way, and destiny cast them among the gardens, and they came to a place which they found swept and sprinkled, with long mastabahs, and pots suspended filled with water, and over it was a covering of trellis-work of canes extending along the whole length of a lane, at the upper end of which was the gate of a garden; but this was shut. And Nur-ed-Din said to the damsel, By Allah, this is a pleasant place!and she replied, O my master, let us sit down a while upon one of these mastabahs. So they mounted and seated themselves there, and they washed their faces and hands, and enjoyed the current of the zephyr, and slept.Glory be to Him who sleepeth not!
This garden was called the Garden of Delight, and in it was a palace called the Palace of Diversion, and it belonged to the Khalifeh Harun Er-Rashid, who, when his heart was contracted, used to come to this garden, and enter the palace above mentioned, and there sit. The palace had eighty latticed windows, and eighty lamps were suspended in it, and in the midst of it was a great candlestick of gold; and when the Khalifeh entered it, he commanded the female slaves to open the windows, and ordered Ishak, the cup-companion, to sing with them: so his heart became dilated, and his anxiety ceased. There was a superintendent to the garden, an old man, named the sheykh Ibrahim; and it happened that he went forth once to transact some business, and found there persons diverting themselves with women of suspicious character, whereupon he was violently enraged, and having waited until the Khalifeh came thither some days after, he acquainted him with this occurrence, and the Khalifeh said, Whomsoever thou shalt find at the gate of the garden, do with him what thou wilt. Now on this day the sheykh Ibrahim went out to transact an affair of business, and found the two sleeping at the garden-gate, covered with a single izar; and he said, Do not these two persons know that the Khalifeh hath given me permission to kill every one whom I find here? But I will only give these two a slight beating, that no one may again approach the gate of the garden. He then cut a green palm-stick, and went forth to them, and raised his hand until the whiteness of his arm-pit appeared, and was about to beat them; but he reflected in his mind, and said, O Ibrahim, how shouldst thou beat them when thou knowest not their case? They may be two strangers, or of the children of the road,3 whom destiny hath cast here. I will therefore uncover their faces, and look at them.So he lifted up the izar from their faces and said, These are two handsome persons, and it is not proper that I should beat them. And he covered their faces again, and, approaching the foot of Ali Nur-ed-Din, began to rub it gently; whereupon Nur-ed-Din opened his eyes, and saw that he was an old man; and he blushed, and drew in his, feet and, sitting up, took the hand of the sheykh Ibrahim and kissed it; and the sheykh said to him, O my some, whence are ye?O my master, he answered, we are strangers.And a tear gushed from his eye. The sheykh Ibrahim then said to him, O my son, know that the Prophet (God bless and save him!) hath enjoined generosity to the stranger. Wilt thou not arise, O my some, and enter the garden, and divert thyself in it, that thy heart may be dilated?O my master, said Nur-ed-Din, to whom doth this garden belong? The sheykh answered, O my son, this garden I inherited from my family. And his design in saying this was only that they might feel themselves at ease, and enter the garden. And when Nur-ed-Din heard his words, he thanked him, and arose, together with his slave, and, the sheykh Ibrahim preceding them, they entered the garden.
The gate was arched, and over it were vines with grapes of different colours; the red, like rubies; and the black, like ebony. They entered a bower, and found within it fruits growing in clusters and singly, and the birds were warbling their various notes upon the branches: the nightingale was pouring forth its melodious sounds; and the turtle-dove filled the place with its cooing; and the black-bird, in its singing, resembled a human being, and the ring-dove, a person exhilarated by wine. The fruits upon the trees, comprising every description that was good to eat, had ripened; and there were two of each kind: there were the camphor-apricot, and the almond-apricot, and the apricot of Khurasan; the plum of a colour like the complexion of beauties; the cherry delighting the sense of every man; the red, the white, and the green fig, of the most beautiful colours; and flowers like pearls and coral; the rose, whose redness put to shame the cheeks of the lovely; the violet, like sulphur in contact with fire; the myrtle, the gilliflower, the lavender, and the anemone; and their leaves were bespangled with the tears of the clouds; the chamomile smiled, displaying its teeth, and the narcissus looked at the rose with its negroes eyes; the citrons resembled round cups the limes were like bullets of gold; the ground was carpeted with flowers of every colour, and the place beamed with the charms of spring; the river murmured by while the birds sang, and the wind whistled among the trees, the season was temperate, and the zephyr was languishing.
The sheykh Ibrahim conducted them into the elevated saloon, and they were charmed with its beauty and the extraordinary elegances which it displayed, and seated themselves in one of the windows; and Nur-ed-Din, reflecting upon his past entertainments, exclaimed, By Allah, this place is most delightful! It hath reminded me of past events, and quenched in me an anguish like the fire of the ghada.The sheykh Ibrahim then brought to them some food, and they ate to satisfaction, and washed their hands, and Nur-ed-Din, seating himself again in one of the windows, called to his slave, and she came to him; and they sat gazing at the trees laden with all kinds of fruits; after which, Nur-ed-Din looked towards the sheykh, and said to him, O sheykh Ibrahim, hast thou not any beverage? For people drink after eating.So the sheykh brought him some sweet and cold water: but Nur-ed-Din said, This is not the beverage I desire.Dost thou want wine? asked the sheykh.Yes, answered Nur-ed-Din. The sheykh exclaimed, I seek refuge with Allah from it! Verily, for thirteen years I have done nothing of that kind; for the Prophet (God bless and save him!) cursed its drinker and its presser and its carrier.Hear from me two words, said Nur ed-Din. The sheykh replied, Say what thou wilt. So he said, If thou be neither the presser of the wine, nor its drinker, nor its carrier, will aught of the curse fall upon thee? The sheykh answered, No.Then take this piece of gold, rejoined Nur-ed-Din, and these two pieces of silver, and mount the ass, and halt at a distance from the place, and whatsoever man thou findest to buy it, call to him, and say to him, take these two pieces of silver, and with this piece of gold buy some wine, and place it upon the ass:so, in this case, thou wilt be neither the carrier nor the presser, nor the buyer; and nothing will befall thee of that which befalleth the rest.
The sheykh Ibrahim, after laughing at his words, replied, By Allah, I have never seen one more witty than thou, nor heard speech more sweet. And Nu-ed-Din said to him, We have become dependent upon thee, and thou hast nothing to do but to comply with our wishes: bring us, therefore, all that we require.O my son, said the sheykh, my buttery here is before thee (and it was the store-room furnished for the Prince of the Faithful): enter it then, and take from it what thou wilt; for it containeth more than thou desirest. So Nur-ed-Din entered the store-room, and beheld in it vessels of gold and silver and crystal, adorned with a variety of jewels; and he took out such of them as he desired, and poured the wine into the vessels of earthenware and bottles of glass; and he and the damsel began to drink, astonished at the beauty of the things which they beheld. The sheykh Ibrahim then brought to them sweet-scented flowers, and seated himself at a distance from them; and they continued drinking, in a state of the utmost delight, until the wine took effect upon them, and their cheeks reddened, and their eyes wantoned like those of the gazelle, and their hair hung down; whereupon the sheykh Ibrahim said, What aileth me that I am sitting at a distance from them? Why should I not sit by them? And when shall I be in the company of such as these two, who are like two moons?He then advanced, and seated himself at the edge of the raised portion of the floor; and Nur-ed-Din said to him, O my master, by my life I conjure thee to approach and join us. So he went to them; and Nur-ed-Din filled a cup, and, looking at the sheykh, said to him, Drink, that thou mayest know how delicious is its flavour. But the sheykh Ibrahim exclaimed, I seek refuge with Allah! Verily, for thirteen years I have done nothing of that kind.And Nur-ed-Din, feigning to pay no attention to him, drank the cup, and threw himself upon the ground, pretending that intoxication had overcome him.
Upon this, Enis-el-Jelis looked towards the sheykh, and said to him, O sheykh Ibrahim, see how this man hath treated me,O my mistress, said he, what aileth him? She rejoined, Always doth he treat me thus: he drinketh a while, and then sleepeth, and I remain alone, and find no one to keep me company over my cup. If I will drink, who will serve me? And if I sing, who will hear me?The sheykh, moved with tenderness and affection for her by her words, replied, It is not proper that a cup-companion be thus. The damsel then filled a cup, and, looking at the sheykh Ibrahim, said to him, I conjure thee by my life that thou take it and drink it; reject it not, but accept it, and refresh my heart. So he stretched forth his hand, and took the cup, and drank it; and she filled for him a second time, and handed it to him, saying, O my master, this remaineth for the. He replied, By Allah, I cannot drink it; that which I have drunk is enough for me. But she said, By Allah, it is indispensable:and he took the cup, and drank it. She then gave him the third; and he took it, and was about to drink it, when loNur-ed-din, raised himself, and said to him, O sheykh Ibrahim, what is this? Did I not conjure thee a while ago, and thou refusedst, and saidst, Verily, for thirteen years I have not done it?The sheykh Ibrahim, touched with shame, replied, By Allah, I am not in fault; for she pressed me. And Nur-ed-Din laughed, and they resumed their carousal, and the damsel, turning her eyes towards her master, said to him, O my master, drink thou, and do not urge the sheykh Ibrahim; that I may divert thee with the sight of him. So she began to fill and to hand to her master, and her master filled and gave to her, and thus they continued to do, time after time; till at length the sheykh Ibrahim looked towards them and said, What meaneth this? And what sort of carousal is this? Wherefore do ye not give me to drink, since I have become your cup-companion?At this they both laughed until they became almost senseless; and then drank, and gave him to drink; and they continued thus until the expiration of a third of the night, when the damsel, said, O sheykh Ibrahim, with thy permission shall I rise and light one of the candles which are arranged here?Rise, he answered; but light not more than one candle. But she sprang upon her feet, and, beginning with the first candle, proceeded until she had lighted eighty. She then sat down again; and presently Nur-ed-Din said, O sheykh Ibrahim, in what favour am I held with thee? Wilt thou not allow me to light one of these lamps?The sheykh answered, Arise, and light one lamp, and be not thou also troublesome. So he arose, and, beginning with the first lamp, lighted all the eighty; and the saloon seemed to dance. And after this the sheykh Ibrahim, overcome by intoxication, said to them, Ye are more frolicsome than I:and he sprang upon his feet, and opened all the windows, and sat down again with them, and they continued carousing and reciting verses; and the place rang with their merriment.
Now God, the all-seeing and all-knowing, who hath appointed a cause to every event, had decreed that the Khalifeh should be sitting that night at one of the windows looking towards the Tigris, by moonlight; and he looked in that direction, and saw the light of lamps and candles reflected in the river, and, turning his eyes up towards the palace in the garden he beheld it beaming with those candles and lamps, and exclaimed, Bring hither to me Jafar El-Barmeki! In the twinkling of an eye, Jafar stood before the Prince of the Faithful; and the Khalifeh said to him, O dog of Wezirs, dost thou serve me and not acquaint me with what happeneth in the city of Baghdad?what, asked Jafar, is the occasion of these words? The Khalifeh answered, If the city of Baghdad were not taken from me, the Palace of Diversion were not enlivened with the light of the lamps and candles, and its windows were not opened. Wo to thee! Who could do these things unless the office of Khalifeh were taken from me?Who, said Jafar (the muscles of his side quivering from fear), informed thee that the lamps and candles were lighted in the Palace of Diversion, and that its windows were opened? The Khalifeh replied, Advance hither to me, and look. So Jafar approached the Khalifeh, and, looking towards the garden, beheld the palace as it were a flame of fire, its light surpassing that of the moon. He desired, therefore, to make an excuse or the sheykh Ibrahim, the superintendent, thinking, from what he beheld, that the event might have occurred through his permission: and accordingly he said, O Prince of the Faithful, the sheykh Ibrahim last week said to me, O my master Jafar, I am desirous of entertaining my children during my life and the life of the Prince of the Faithful.And what, said I, is thy design in saying this? He answered, It is my wish that thou wouldst obtain for me permission from the Khalifeh that I may celebrate the circumcision of my sons in the palace. So I said, Do what thou wilt with respect to the entertainment of thy sons, and, if God will, I shall have an interview with the Khalifeh, and will acquaint him with it. And he left me thus; and I forgot to acquaint thee.O Jafar, said the Khalifeh, thou wast guilty of one offence against me, and then thine offence became two: for thou hast erred in two points: the first, thy not acquainting me with this affair; and the second, thy not accomplishing the desire of the sheykh Ibrahim; for he did not come to thee and address thee with these words but to hint a request for some money by the aid of which to effect his design, and thou neither gavest him anything nor acquaintedst me that I might give him.O Prince of the Faithful, replied Jafar, I forgot.
The Khalifeh then said, By my forefathers, I will not pass the remainder of my night but with him, for he is a just man, who frequenteth the sheykhs, and attendeth to the poor, and favoureth the indigent; and I imagine all his acquaintances are with him this night: so I must repair to him: perhaps one of them may offer up for us a prayer productive of good to us in this world and the next; and probably some advantage may accrue to him from my presence, and he will receive pleasure from this, together with his friends.O Prince of the Faithful, replied Jafar, the greater part of the night hath passed, and they are now about to disperse. But the Khalifeh said, We must go to them. And Jafar was silent, and was perplexed in his mind, not knowing what to do. So the Khalifeh rose upon his feet, and Jafar rose and preceded him, and Mesrur the eunuch went with them. The three walked on reflecting, and, departing from the palace, proceeded through the streets, in the attire of merchants, until they arrived at the gate of the garden above mentioned; and the Khalifeh, approaching it, found it open; and he was surprised, and said, See, O Jafar, how the sheykh Ibrahim hath left the gate open until this hour, which is not his usual custom. They then entered, and came to the end of the garden, where they stopped beneath the palace; and the Khalifeh said, O Jafar, I desire to take a view of them secretly before I go up to them, that I may see how the sheykhs are occupied in the dispensing of their blessings and the employment of their miraculous powers; for they have qualities which distinguish them both in their private retirements and in their public exercises; and now we hear not their voices, nor discover any indication of their presence. Having thus said, he looked around, and, seeing a tall walnut-tree, he said, O Jafar, I would climb this tree (for its branches are near to the windows) and look at them. And accordingly he ascended the tree, and climbed from branch to branch until he came to that which was opposite to one of the windows, and there he sat, and, looking in through this window of the palace, beheld a damsel and a young man, like two moons (extolled be the perfection of Him who created them!); and he saw the sheykh Ibrahim sitting with a cup in his hand, and saying, O mistress of beauties, drinking unaccompanied by merry sounds is not pleasant. Hast thou not heard the saying of the poet?
Circulate it in the large cup, and in the small; and receive it from the hand of the shining moon;4
And drink not without merry sounds; for I have observed that horses drink to the sound of whistling.
When the Khalifeh witnessed this conduct of the sheykh Ibrahim, the vein of anger swelled between his eyes, and he descended, and said, O Jafar, I have never seen anything of the miraculous performances of the just such as I have beheld this night: ascend, therefore, thyself also, into this tree, and look, lest the blessings of the just escape thee.On hearing the words of the Prince of the Faithful, Jafar was perplexed at his situation; and he climbed up into the tree, and looked, and saw Nur-ed-Din and the sheykh Ibrahim and the damsel, and the sheykh Ibrahim had the cup in his hand. As soon as he beheld this, he made sure of destruction; and he descended, and stood before the Prince of the Faithful, and the Khalifeh said, O Jafar, praise be to God who hath made us to be of the number of those who follow the external ordinances of the holy law, and averted from us the sin of disguising ourselves by the practice of hypocrisy! But Jafar was unable to reply, from his excessive confusion. The Khalifeh then looked towards him, and said, Who can have brought these persons hither, and admitted them into my palace? But the like of this young man and this damsel, in beauty and loveliness and symmetry of form, mine eye hath never beheld.Jafar, now conceiving a hope that the Khalifeh might be propitiated, replied, Thou hast spoken truly, O Prince of the Faithful. And the Khalifeh said, O Jafar, climb up with us upon this branch which is opposite them, that we may amuse ourselves by observing them. So they both climbed up into the tree, and, looking at them, heard the sheykh Ibrahim say, O my mistress, I have relinquished decorum by the drinking of wine; but the pleasure of this is not complete without the melodious sounds of stringed instruments.O sheykh Ibrahim, replied Enis-el-Jelis, by Allah, if we had any musical instrument, our happiness were perfect. And when the sheykh Ibrahim heard her words, he rose upon his feet.The khalifeh said to Jafar, What may he be going to do? Jafar replied, I know not.And the sheykh Ibrahim went away, and returned with a lute; and the Khalifeh, looking attentively at it, saw that it was the lute of Ishak the cup-companion; and said, By Allah, if this damsel sing not well, I will crucify you all; but if she sing well, I will pardon them, and crucify thee. So Jafar said, O Allah, let her not sing well!Why? asked the Khalifeh.That thou mayest crucify all of us, answered Jafar; and then we shall cheer one another by conversation. And the Khalifeh laughed: and the damsel took the lute, and tuned its strings, and played upon it in a manner that would melt iron, and inspire an idiot with intellect; after which she sang with such sweetness that the Khalifeh exclaimed, O Jafar, never in my life have I heard so enchanting a voice as this!Perhaps, said Jafar, the anger of the Khalifeh hath departed from him?Yea, he answered; it hath departed. He then descended with Jafar from the tree, and, looking towards him, said, I am desirous of going up to them, to sit with them, and to hear the damsel sing before me.O Prince of the Faithful, replied Jafar, if thou go up to them, probably they will be troubled by thy presence; and as to the sheykh Ibrahim, he will assuredly die of fear. The Khalifeh therefore said, O Jafar, thou must acquaint me with some stratagem by means of which I may learn the truth of the affair without their knowing that I have discovered them. And he and Jafar walked towards the Tigris, reflecting upon this matter; and lo, a fisherman stood beneath the windows of the palace, and he threw his net, hoping to catch something by means of which to obtain his subsistence.Now the Khalifeh had, on a former occasion, called to the sheykh Ibrahim, and said to him, What was that noise that I heard beneath the windows of the palace?and he answered, The voices of the fishermen, who are fishing:so he said, Go down and forbid them from coming to this place. They were therefore forbidden to come thither; but this night there came a fisherman named Kerim, and, seeing the garden-gate open, he said within himself, This is a time of inadvertence, and perhaps I may catch some fish on this occasion:so he took his net, and threw it into the river, and then recited some verses, contrasting the condition of the poor fisherman, toiling throughout the night, with that of the lord of the palace, who, awaking from a pleasant slumber, findeth the fawn in his possession; and as soon as he had finished his recitation, lo, the Khalifeh, unattended, stood at his head. The Khalifeh knew him, and exclaimed, O Kerim!and the fisherman, hearing him call him by his name, turned towards him; and when he beheld the Khalifeh, the muscles of his side quivered, and he said, By Allah, O Prince of the Faithful, I did not this in mockery of the mandate; but poverty and the wants of my family impelled me to the act of which thou art witness. The Khalifeh replied, Throw thy net for my luck. And the fisherman advanced, rejoicing exceedingly, and cast the net, and, having waited until it had attained its limit and become steady at the bottom, drew it in again, and there came up in it a variety of fish that could not be numbered.
The Khalifeh was delighted at this, and said, O Kerim, strip off thy clothes:and he did so. He was clad in a jubbeh5 in which were a hundred patches of coarse woollen stuff, containing vermin of the most abominable kind, and among them fleas in such numbers that he might almost have been transported by their means over the face of the earth; and he took from his head a turban which for three years he had never unwound; but when he happened to find a piece of rag he twisted it around it: and when he had taken off the jubbeh and the turban, the Khalifeh pulled off from his own person two vests of silk of Alexandria and Balbekk, and a melwatah6 and a farajiyeh, and said to the fisherman, Take these, and put them on. The Khalifeh then put on himself the fishermans jubbeh and turban, and, having drawn a litham7 over his face, said to the fisherman, Go about thy business;and he kissed the feet of the Khalifeh, and thanked him, reciting these two verses:
Thou hast granted me favours beyond my power to acknowledge, and completely satisfied all my wants.
I will thank thee, therefore, as long as I live, and when I die my bones will thank thee in their grave.
But scarcely had he finished his verses, when the vermin overran the person of the Khalifeh, and he began to seize them with his right hand and his left from his neck, and to throw them down; and he exclaimed, O fisherman, wo to thee! What are these abundant vermin in this jubbeh?O my lord, he answered, at present they torment thee; but when r week shall have passed over thee, thou wilt not feel them, nor think of them. The Khalifeh laughed, and said to him, How can I suffer this jubbeh to remain upon me? The fisherman replied, I wish to tell thee something; but I am ashamed, through my awe of the Khalifeh.Impart, said the Khalifeh, what thou hast to tell me. So he said to him, It hath occurred to my mind, O Prince of the Faithful, that thou desirest to learn the art of fishing, in order that thou mayest be master of a trade that may profit thee; and if such be thy desire, this jubbeh is suitable to thee. And the Khalifeh laughed at his words.
The fisherman then went his way, and the Khalifeh took the basket of fish, and, having put upon it a little grass, went with it to Jafar, and stood before him; and Jafar, thinking that he was Kerim the fisherman, feared for him, and said, O Kerim, what brought thee hither? Save thyself by flight; for the Khalifeh is here this night.And when the Khalifeh heard the words of Jafar, he laughed until he fell down upon his back. So Jafar said, Perhaps thou art our lord the Prince of the Faithful?Yes, O Jafar, answered the Khalifeh, and thou art my Wezir, and I came with thee hither, and thou knowest me not. How then should the sheykh Ibrahim know me when he is drunk? Remain where thou art until I return to thee.Jafar replied, I hear and obey:and the Khalifeh advanced to the door of the palace, and knocked. The sheykh Ibrahim arose, therefore, and said, Who is at the door? He answered, I, O sheykh Ibrahim. The sheykh said, Who art thou?and the Khalifeh answered, I am Kerim the fisherman: I heard that there were guests with thee, and have therefore brought thee some fish; for it is excellent.Now Nur-ed-Din and the damsel were both fond of fish, and when they heard the mention of it they rejoiced exceedingly, and said, O my master, open to him, and let him come in to us with the fish which he hath brought. So the sheykh Ibrahim opened the door, and the Khalifeh, in his fishermans disguise, entered, and began by salutation; and the sheykh Ibrahim said to him, Welcome to the robber, the thief, the gambler! Come hither, and shew us the fish which thou hast brought.He therefore shewed it to them; and lo, it was alive, and moving; and the damsel exclaimed, By Allah, O my master, this fish is excellent! I wish it were fried!By Allah, said the sheykh Ibrahim, thou hast spoken truth. Then, addressing the Khalifeh, he said, O fisherman, I wish thou hadst brought this fish fried. Arise, and fry it for us, and bring it.On the head be thy commands, replied the Khalifeh: I will fry it, and bring it.Be quick, said they, in doing it.
The Khalifeh therefore arose and ran back to Jafar, and said O Jafar, they want the fish fried.O Prince of the Faithful, replied he, give it me, and I will fry it. But the Khalifeh said, By the tombs of my ancestors, none shall fry it but myself: with my own hand will I do it! He then repaired to the hut of the superintendent, and, searching there, found in it everything that he required, the frying-pan, and even the salt, and wild marjoram, and other things. So he approached the fire-place, and put on the frying-pan, and fried it nicely; and when it was done, he put it upon a banana-leaf, and, having taken from the garden some limes, he went up with the fish, and placed it before them. The young man, therefore, and the damsel and the sheykh Ibrahim advanced and ate; and when they had finished, they washed their hands, and Nur-ed-Din said, By Allah, O fisherman, thou hast done us a kindness this night. Then putting his hand into his pocket, he took forth for him three pieces of gold, of those which Senjer had presented to him when he was setting forth on his journey, and said, O fisherman, excuse me; for, by Allah, if I had known thee before the events that have lately happened to me, I would have extracted the bitterness of poverty from thy heart; but take this as accordant with my present circumstances. So saying, he threw the pieces of gold to the Khalifeh, who took them, and kissed them, and put them in his pocket. The object of the Khalifeh in doing this was only that he might hear the damsel sing: so he said to him, Thou hast treated me with beneficence, and abundantly recompensed me; but I beg of thy unbounded indulgence that this damsel may sing an air, that I may hear her. Nur-ed-Din therefore said, O Enis-e-Jelis! She replied, Yes.By my life, said he, sing to us something for the gratification of this fisherman; for he desireth to hear thee. And when she had heard what her master said, she took the lute, and tried it with her fingers, after she had twisted its pegs, and sang to it these two verses:
The fingers of many a fawn-like damsel have played upon the lute, and the soul hath been ravished by the touch.
She hath made the deaf to hear her songs; and the dumb hath exclaimed, Thou hast excelled in thy singing!
Then she played again, in an extraordinary manner, so as to charm the minds of her hearers, and sang the following couplet:
We are honoured by your visiting our abode, and your splendour hath dispelled the darkness of the moonless night:
It is therefore incumbent upon me to perfume my dwelling with musk and rosewater and camphor.
Upon this, the Khalifeh was affected with violent emotion, and overcome by ecstasy, so that he was no longer master of himself from excessive delight; and he began to exclaim, Allah approve thee! Allah approve thee! Allah approve thee! So Nur-ed-Din said to him, O fisherman, have the damsel and her art in striking the chords pleased thee?Yea, by Allah! exclaimed the Khalifeh. And Nur-ed-Din immediately said, She is bestowed upon thee as a present from me, the present of a generous man who will not revoke his gift. And he rose upon his feet, and took a melwatah, and threw it upon the Khalifeh in the fishermans disguise, ordering him to depart with the damsel. But she looked towards him, and said, O my master, wilt thou part from me without bidding me farewell? If we must be separated, pause while I take leave of thee.And she recited the following couplet:
If you depart from me, still your abode will be in my heart, in the recess of my bosom.
I implore the Compassionate to grant our reunion; and a boon such as this, God will grant to whom He pleaseth.
And when she had finished, Nur-ed-Din thus replied to her:
She bade me farewell on the day of separation, saying, while she wept from the pain that it occasioned,
What wilt thou do after my departure?Say this, I replied, unto him who will survive it.
The Khalifeh, when he heard this, was distressed at the thought of separating them, and, looking towards the young man, he said to him, O my master, art thou in fear an account of any crime, or art thou in debt to any one? Nur-ed-Din answered, By Allah, O fisherman, a wonderful event, and an extraordinary adventure, happened to me and this damsel: if it were engraved on the understanding, it would be a lesson to him who would be admonished.Wilt thou not, rejoined the Khalifeh, relate to us thy story, and acquaint us with thy case? Perhaps thy doing so may be productive of relief; for the relief of God is near.So Nur-ed-Din said, Wilt thou hear our story in poetry or in prose?Prose, answered the Khalifeh, is mere talk; and verse, words put together like pearls. And Nur-ed-Din hung down his head towards the ground, and then related his story in a series of verses; but when he had finished, the Khalifeh begged him to explain his case more fully. He therefore acquainted him with the whole of his circumstances from beginning to end; and when the Khalifeh understood the affair, he said to him, Whither wouldst thou now repair? He answered, Gods earth is wide. The Khalifeh then said to him, I will write for thee a letter which thou shalt convey to the Sultan Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni, and when he shall have read it, he will do thee no injury.Is there in the world said Nur-ed-Din, a fisherman who correspondeth with Kings? Verily this is a thing that can never be,Thou hast spoken truly, rejoined the Khalifeh; but I will acquaint thee with the cause. Know that I read in the same school with him, under a master, and I was his monitor; and after that, prosperity was his lot, and he became a Sultan, while God made me to be a fisherman: yet I have never sent to request anything of him, but he hath performed my wish; and if I sent to him every day to request a thousand things of him, he would do what I asked. When Nur-ed-Din, therefore, heard his words, he said to him, Write, that I may see. And he took an ink-horn and a pen, and wrote (after the phrase, In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.)To proceed.This letter is from Harun Er-Rashid the son of El-Mahdi, to his highness Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni, who hath been encompassed by my beneficence, and whom I constituted my viceroy of a portion of my dominions. I acquaint thee that the bearer of this letter is Nur-ed-Din the son of El-Fadl the son of Khakan the Wezir, and on his arrival in thy presence thou shalt divest thyself of the regal authority, and seat him in thy place; for I have appointed him to the office to which I formerly appointed thee: so disobey not my commands: and peace be on thee.He then gave the letter to Ali Nur-ed-Din, who took it and kissed it and put it in his turban, and immediately set forth on his journey.
The sheykh Ibrahim now looked towards the Khalifeh in his fishermans disguise, and said to him, O most contemptible of fishermen, thou hast brought us two fish worth twenty half-dirhems, and received three pieces of gold, and desirest to take the slave also. But when the Khalifeh heard these words, he cried out at him, and made a sign to Mesrur, who immediately discovered himself, and rushed in upon him. Jafar, meanwhile, had sent one of the attendants of the garden to the porter of the palace to demand a suit of clothing of him for the Prince of the Faithful; and the man went, and brought the dress, and kissed the ground before the Khalifeh, who took off and gave to him that with which he was then clad, and put on this suit. The sheykh Ibrahim was sitting on a chair: the Khalifeh paused to see the result: and the sheykh was astounded, and began to bite the ends of his fingers through his confusion, saying, Am I asleep or awake? The Khalifeh then looked at him, and said, O sheykh Ibrahim, what is this predicament in which thou art placed? And upon this, the sheykh recovered from his intoxication, and, throwing himself upon the ground, implored forgiveness: and the Khalifeh pardoned him; after which he gave orders that the damsel should be conveyed to the palace where he resided; and when she had arrived there, he appropriated to her a separate lodging, and appointed persons to wait upon her, and said to her, Know that I have sent thy master as Sultan of El-Basrah, and, if God please, I will despatch to him a dress of honour, and send thee also to him with it.
As to Nur-ed-Din, he continued his journey until he entered El-Basrah, and went up to the palace of the Sultan, when he uttered a loud cry, whereupon the Sultan desired him to approach; and when he came into the presence of the King, he kissed the ground before him, and produced the letter, and handed it to him. And as soon as the Sultan saw the superscription in the handwriting of the Prince of the Faithful, he rose upon his feet, and, having kissed it three times, said, I hear and pay obedience to God (whose name be exalted!) and to the Prince of the Faithful. He then summoned before him the four Kadis,8 and the Emirs, and was about to divest himself of the regal office: but lo, the Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi was before him, and the Sultan gave him the letter of the Prince of the Faithful, and when he saw it, he rent it in pieces, and put it into his mouth, and chewed it, and threw it down. The Sultan, enraged, cried, Wo to thee! What hath induced thee to act thus?He answered, This man hath had no interview with the Khalifeh nor with his Wezir; but is a young wretch, an artful devil, who, having met with a paper containing the handwriting of the Khalifeh, hath counterfeited it, and written what he desired: wherefore then shouldst thou abdicate the sovereignty, when the Khalifeh hath not sent to thee an envoy with a royal autographical mandate; for if this affair were true, he had sent with him a Chamberlain or a Wezir; but he came alone.What then is to be done? said the Sultan. The Wezir answered, Send away this young man with me, and I will take charge of him, and despatch him in company with a Chamberlain to the city of Baghdad; and if his words be true, he will bring us a royal autographical mandate and diploma of investiture; and if not true, they will send him back to us with the Chamberlain, and I will take my revenge upon my offender.
When the Sultan heard what the Wezir said, it pleased him; and the Wezir took him away, and cried out to the pages, who threw down Nur-ed-Din, and beat him until he became insensible. He then ordered to put a chain upon his feet, and called to the jailer; and when he came, he kissed the ground before him. This jailer was named Kuteyt; and the Wezir said to him, O Kuteyt, I desire that thou take this person, and cast him into one of the subterranean cells which are in thy prison, and torture him night and day. The jailer replied, I hear and obey:and he put Nur-ed-Din into the prison, and locked the door upon him; but after having done this, he gave orders to sweep a mastabah within the door, and furnished it with a prayer-carpet and a pillow, and seated Nur-ed-Din upon it, and loosed his chain, and treated him with kindness. The Wezir every day sent to him, commanding him to beat him; and the jailer pretended that he tortured him, while, on the contrary, he treated him with benignity.
Thus he continued to do for forty days; and on the forty-first day, there came a present from the Khalifeh, and when the Sultan saw it, it pleased him, and he conferred with the Wezirs upon the subject; but one said, Perhaps this present was designed for the new Sultan. Upon this, the Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi remarked, It were proper to have slain him on his arrival:and the Sultan exclaimed, Now thou hast reminded me of him, go down and bring him, and I will strike off his head. The Wezir replied, I hear and obey:and arose, saying, I desire to proclaim throughout the city, He who wisheth to witness the decapitation of Nur-ed-Din Ali the son of El-Fadl the son of Khakan, let him come to the palace:so that all the people may come to behold it, and I may gratify my heart, and mortify my enviers. The Sultan said, Do what thou wilt. So the Wezir descended, full of joy and happiness, and went to the Wali, and ordered him to make this proclamation; and when the people heard the crier, they all grieved and wept, even the boys in the schools, and the tradesmen in their shops; and numbers of the people strove together to take for themselves places where they might behold the spectacle, while others repaired to the prison, to accompany him thence. The Wezir then went forth, attended by ten memluks, to the prison: and Kuteyt the jailer said to him, What dost thou desire, O our lord the Wezir?Bring forth to me, said the Wezir, this young wretch. The jailer replied, He is in a most miserable state from the excessive beating that I have inflicted upon him. And he entered, and found him reciting some verses, commencing thus:
Who is there to aid me in my affliction? For my pain hath become intense, and my remedy is scarce procurable!
And the jailer pulled off from him his clean clothes, and, having clad him in two dirty garments, brought him out to the Wezir. Nur-ed-Din then looked at him, and saw that he was his enemy who had incessantly desired his destruction; and when he beheld him, he wept, and said to him, Art thou secure from misfortune? Hast thou not heard the saying of the poet?
They made use of their power, and used it tyrannically; and soon it became as though it never had existed.
O Wezir, know that God (whose perfection be extolled, and whose name be exalted!) is the doer of whatsoever He willeth.O Ali, replied the Wezir, wouldst thou frighten me by these words? I am now going to strike off thy head, in spite of the people of El-Basrah; and I will pay no regard to thy counsel; but I will rather attend to the saying of the poet:
Let fortune do whatever it willeth, and bear with cheerful mind the effects of fate.
How excellent also is the saying of another poet:
He who liveth after his enemy a single day, hath attained his desire.
The Wezir then ordered his pages to convey him on the back of a mule; whereupon they said to him (being distressed to obey), Suffer us to stone him and cut him in pieces, though our lives should be sacrificed in consequence. But he replied, Never do it. Have ye not heard what the poet hath said:
A decreed term is my inevitable lot; and as soon as its days have expired, I die.
If the lions dragged me into their forest, they could not close it while aught of it remained.
So they proceeded to proclaim before Nur-ed-Din, This is the smallest recompense of him who forgeth a letter from the Khalifeh to the Sultan. And they continued to parade him throughout El-Basrah until they stationed him beneath the window of the palace, and in the place of blood, when the executioner approached him, and said to him, I am a slave under command; and if thou hast any want, acquaint me with it, that I may perform it for thee; for there remaineth not of thy life any more than the period until the Sultan shall put forth his face from the window. And upon this, Nur-ed-Din looked to the right and left, and recited these verses:
Is there among you a merciful friend, who will aid me? I conjure you by Allah to answer me!
My life hath passed, and my death is at hand! Is there any who will pity me, to obtain my recompense,
And consider my state, and relieve my anguish, by a draught of water that my torment may be lightened?
And the people were excited to tears for him; and the executioner took some water to hand it to him; but the Wezir arose from his place, and struck the kulleh9 of water with his hand, and broke it, and called to the executioner, commanding him to strike off his head; whereupon he bound Nur-ed-Dins eyes. The people, however, called out against the Wezir, and raised a tumultuous cry against him, and many words passed between them; and while they were in this state, lo, a dust rose, and filled the sky and the open tracts; and when the Sultan beheld it, as he sat in the palace, he said to his attendants, See what is the news. The Wezir said, After thou shalt first have beheaded this man. But the Sultan replied, Wait thou until we see what is the news.
Now this dust was the dust of Jafar, the Wezir of the Khalifeh, and of his attendants; and the cause of their coming was this:The Khalifeh had passed thirty days without remembering the affair of Ali the son of El-Fadl the son of Khakan, and no one mentioned it to him, until he came one night to the private apartment of Enis-el-Jelis, and heard her lamenting, as she recited, with a soft voice, the saying of the poet:
Thine image [is before me] whether distant or near, and my tongue never ceaseth to mention thee.
Her lamentation increased, and lo, the Khalifeh opened the door, and entered the chamber, and saw Enis-el-Jelis weeping. On beholding the Khalifeh, she fell at his feet, and, having kissed them three times, recited these two verses:
O thou of pure origin, and of excellent birth; of ripe-fruitful branch, and of unsullied race!
I remind thee of the promise thy beneficence granted, and far be it from thee that thou shouldst forget it.
The Khalifeh said to her, Who art thou? She answered, I am the present given to thee by Ali the son of El-Fadl the son of Khakan; and I request the fulfilment of the promise which thou gavest me, that thou wouldst send me to him with the honorary gift; for I have now been here thirty days and have not tasted sleep. And upon this, the Khalifeh summoned Jafar El-Barmeki, and said to him, For thirty days I have heard no news of Ali the son of El-Fadl the son of Khakan, and I imagine nothing less than that the Sultan hath killed him: but, by my head! by the tombs of my ancestors! if any evil event have happened to him, I will destroy him who hath been the cause of it, though he be the dearest of men in my estimation! I desire, therefore, that thou journey immediately to El-Basrah, and bring me an account of the conduct of the King Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni to Ali the son of El-Fadl the son of Khakan.
So Jafar obeyed his commands, and set forth on his journey, and when he approached, and saw this tumult and crowd, he said, What is the occasion of this crowd? They related to him, therefore, the situation in which they were with regard to Nur-ed-Din; and when he heard their words, he hastened to go up to the Sultan, and, having saluted him, acquainted him with the cause of his coming, and told him, that if any evil event had happened to Ali Nur-ed-Din, the Khalifeh would destroy him who was the cause of it. He then arrested the Sultan, and the Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi, and gave orders to liberate Ali Nur-ed-Din, and enthroned him as Sultan in the place of the Sultan Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni; after which he remained in El-Basrah three days, the usual period of entertainment; and on the morning of the fourth day, Ali Nur-ed-Din said to Jafar, I have a longing desire to see the Prince of the Faithful. So Jafar said to the King Mohammad the son of Suleyman, Prepare thyself for travelling; for we will perform the morning-prayers, and depart to Baghdad. He replied, I hear and obey:and they performed the morning-prayers, and mounted all together, with the Wezir El-Moin the son of Sawi, who now repented of what he had done. As to Ali Nur-ed-Din, he rode by the side of Jafar: and they continued their journey until they arrived at Baghdad, the Abode of Peace.
They then presented themselves before the Khalifeh and related to him the case of Nur-ed-Din; whereupon the Khalifeh addressed him, saying, Take this sword, and strike off with it the head of thine enemy. And he took it, and approached El-Moin the son of Sawi; but he looked at him, and said to him, I did according to my nature, and do thou according to thine. And Nur-ed-Din threw down the sword from his hand, and, looking towards the Khalifeh, said, O Prince of the Faithful, he hath beguiled me. So the Khalifeh said, Do thou leave him:and he said to Mesrur, O Mesrur, advance thou, and strike off his head. Mesrur, therefore, did so: and upon this, the Khalifeh said to Ali the son of El-Fadl the son of Khakan, Request of me what thou wilt. He replied, O my lord, I have no want of the sovereignty of El-Basrah, and desire nothing but to have the honour of serving thee.Most willingly I assent, said the Khalifeh:and he summoned the damsel, and when she had come before him, he bestowed favours upon them both: he gave to them one of the palaces of Baghdad, and assigned to them regular allowances, and made Nur-ed-Din one of his companions at the table; and he remained with him until death overtook him.
Note 2. By this is meant, a place where mud was kneaded to be employed in building. The mortar generally used in the construction of Arab houses is composed of mud in the proportion of one-half, with a fourth part of lime, and the remaining part of the ashes of straw and rubbish. [back]