Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Story of Es-Sindibad of the Sea and Es-Sindibad of the Land
THERE was, in the time of Khalifeh, the Prince of the Faithful, Harun Er-Rashid, in the city of Baghdad, a man called Es-Sindibad the Porter. He was a man in poor circumstances, who bore burdens for hire upon his head. And it happened to him that he bore one day a heavy burden, and that day was excessively hot; so he was wearied by the load, and perspired profusely, the heat violently oppressing him. In this state he passed by the door of a merchant, the ground before which was swept and sprinkled, and there the air was temperate; and by the side of the door was a wide mastabah. The porter therefore put down his burden upon that mastabah, to rest himself, and to scent the air; and when he had done so, there came forth upon him, from the door, a pleasant, gentle gale, and an exquisite odour, wherewith the porter was delighted. He seated himself upon the edge of the mastabah, and heard in that place the melodious sounds of stringed instruments, with the lute among them, and mirth-exciting voices, and varieties of distinct recitations. He heard also the voices of birds, warbling, and praising God (whose name be exalted!) with diverse tones and with all dialects; consisting of turtle-doves and hezars and blackbirds and nightingales and ring-dove and kirawans;1 whereupon he wondered in his mind, and was moved with great delight. He then advanced to that door, and found within the house a great garden, wherein he beheld pages and slaves and servants and other dependants, and such things as existed not elsewhere save in the abodes of Kings and Sultans; and after that, there blew upon him the odour of delicious, exquisite viands, of all different kinds, and of delicious wine.
Upon this he raised his eyes towards heaven, and said, Extolled be thy perfection, O Lord! O Creator! O Supplier of the conveniences of life! Thou suppliest whom Thou wilt without reckoning! O Allah, I implore thy forgiveness of all offences, and turn to Thee repenting of all faults! O Lord, there is no animadverting upon Thee with respect to thy judgment, and thy power; for Thou not be questioned regarding that which Thou doest, and Thou art able to do whatsoever Thou wilt! Extolled by thy perfection! Thou enrichest whom Thou wilt, and whom Thou wilt Thou impoverishest! Thou magnifiest whom Thou wilt, and whom Thou wilt Thou abasest! There is no deity but Thou! How great is thy dignity! and how mighty is thy dominion! and how excellent is thy government! Thou hast bestowed favours upon him whom Thou choosest among thy servants, and the owner of this place is in the utmost affluence, delighting himself with pleasant odours and delicious meats and exquisite beverages of all descriptions. And Thou has appointed unto thy creatures what Thou wilt, and what Thou hast predestined for them; so that among them one is weary, and another is at ease; and one of them is prosperous, and another is like me, in the extreme of fatigue and abjection!And he recited thus:
How many wretched persons are destitute of ease! and how many are in luxury, reposing in the shade!
I find myself afflicted by trouble beyond measure; and strange is my condition, and heavy is my load!
Others are in prosperity, and from wretchedness are free, and never for a single day have borne a load like mine;
Incessantly and amply blest, throughout the course of life, with happiness and grandeur, as well as drink and meat.
All men whom God hath made are in origin alike; and I resemble this man, and he resembleth me;
But otherwise, between us is a difference as great as the difference that we find between wine and vinegar.
Yet in saying this, I utter no falsehood against Thee, [O my Lord;] art wise, and with justice Thou hast judged.
And when Es-Sindibad the Porter had finished the recitation of his verses, he desired to take up his burden and to depart. But, lo, there came forth to him from that door a young page, handsome in countenance, comely in stature, magnificent in apparel; and he laid hold upon the porters hand, saying to him, Enter: answer the summons of my master; for he calleth for thee. And the porter would have refused to enter with the page; but he could not. He therefore deposited his burden with the doorkeeper in the entrance passage, and, entering the house with the page, he found it to be a handsome mansion, presenting an appearance of joy and majesty. And he looked towards a grand chamber, in which he beheld noblemen and great lords; and in it were all kinds of flowers, and all kinds of sweet scents, and varieties of dried and fresh fruits, together with abundance of various kinds of exquisite viands, and beverage prepared from the fruit of the choicest grape-vines. In it were also instruments of music and mirth, and varieties of beautiful slave-girls, all ranged in proper order. And at the upper end of that chamber was a great and venerable man, in the sides of whose beard grey hairs had begun to appear. He was of handsome form, comely in countenance, with an aspect of gravity and dignity and majesty and stateliness. So, upon this, Es-Sindibad the Porter was confounded, and he said within himself, By Allah, this place is a portion of Paradise, or it is the palace of a King or Sultan! Then, putting himself in a respectful posture, he saluted the assembly, prayed for them, and kissed the ground before them; after which he stood, hanging down his head in humility. But the master of the house gave him permission to seat himself. He therefore sat. And the master of the house had caused him to draw near unto him, and now began to cheer him with conversation, and to welcome him; and he put before him some of the various excellent, delicious, exquisite viands. So Es-Sindibad the Porter advanced, and, having said, In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,ate until he was satisfied and satiated, when he said, Praise be to God in every case!and washed his hands, and thanked them for this.
The master of the house then said, Thou art welcome, and thy day is blessed. What is thy name, and what trade dost thou follow?O my master, he answered, my name is Es-Sindibad the Porter, and I bear upon my head mens merchandise for hire. And at this, the master of the house smiled, and he said to him, Know, O porter, that thy name is like mine; for I am Es-Sindibad of the Sea: but, O porter, I desire that thou let me hear the verses that thou wast reciting when thou wast at the door. The porter therefore was ashamed, and said to him, I conjure thee by Allah that thou be not angry with me; for fatigue and trouble, and paucity of what the hand possesseth, teach a man ill manners, and impertinence. His host, however, replied, Be not ashamed; for thou hast become my brother; recite then the verses, since they pleased me when I heard them from thee as thou recitedst them at the door. So upon this the porter recited to him those verses, and they pleased him, and he was moved with delight on hearing them. He then said to him, O porter, know that my story is wonderful, and I will inform thee of all that happened to me and befell me before I attained this prosperity and sat in this place wherein thou seest me. For I attained not this prosperity and this place save after severe fatigue and great trouble and many terrors. How often have I endured fatigue and toil in my early years! I have performed seven voyages, and connected with each voyage is a wonderful tale, that would confound the mind. All that which I endured happened by fate and destiny, and from that which is written there is no escape nor flight.