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Hassan: The Story of Hassan of Baghdad and How He Came to by James Elroy Flecker

Part 2 out of 3

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appears YASMIN.)

YASMIN
Look, look, Selim! there's a man being beaten.

SELIM
Come in quick! this is a riot or some trouble; come in quick,
and shut the shutters fast.

YASMIN
You are a valiant protection indeed for frail-as-a-rose ladies
in danger's hour.

(They remain at window.)

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
(To CHIEF OF POLICE) Sir.

CHIEF OF POLICE
Sir.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
(Saluting) Captain of the Victorious Army, at your service.

CHIEF OF POLICE
(Saluting) Chief of the August Police, at yours.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
(Bowing) I am honoured.

CHIEF OF POLICE
(Bowing) I am overwhelmed.

ISHAK
Come, Sirs, brush away, I implore you, the cobwebs of ceremony
with the broom of expedition.

CHIEF OF POLICE
Sir, when men of action meet, the place of the man of letters
is inside his pencase.
CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
A moment! Ere we proceed, Chief of Police, may I ask why this man
is undergoing punishment?

CHIEF OF POLICE
Since your excellency deigns to enquire, for urgent reasons of police.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
They must have been very urgent indeed before you would permit
such an inopportune disturbance outside the very house where
our Lord the Caliph is imprisoned. You have seriously impaired
our chances of a speedy and effective rescue.

CHIEF OF POLICE
(Drawing his sword and whirling it about) Thou melon head,
thou, thou dung pig, thou brother of disaster, get thee hence
with thy knock-kneed band of fatherless brigands, ere I have thee
arrested for unnatural crime.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
Out with thy sword, thou big-bellied snatcher up of burglars,
thou manacler of little boys, thou terror of the peaceful market,
I will teach thee to insult the slaughterers of the infidel host.

ISHAK
(Interrupting the COMBATANTS) Is this a time for indecent brawling?
Quick, where are the ladders?

A SOLDIER
(Pompously) In the rear, Sir, in the rear.

(The ladders are brought along.)

CHIEF OF POLICE
(To POLICEMAN) Place a ladder.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
(To SOLDIERS) Place a ladder.

(Each goes up his ladder at the same time: bang at wall and are answered:
shout for levers which are procured, and assistance which speedily arrives.
The iron wall is lifted up, and CALIPH and the REST disclosed seated
peaceably awaiting their deliverance, the lamp still burning.)

CHIEF OF POLICE
My royal master!

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
August Lord.

CHIEF AND CAPTAIN
(Together) I have saved thee, Master.

(Each attempts to seize the CALIPH.)

CHIEF OF POLICE
Honourable Police!...

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
Honourable Military!...

CHIEF OF POLICE
It has been the high privilege of this grovelling slave to rescue
the Lamp of the World! I shall carry him down.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
Permit me to observe, O fire-spitting Battle Cleaver,
that I was the first up this ladder, and though I tremble to obscure
the Sun's Brilliance with my dirty little hand,
yet it is I who have the prior claim.

(MASRUR pushes them aside, and assists the CALIPH down the ladder.
JAFAR and HASSAN follow. Shouts of "Long live the Caliph" from all
the people gathered in the street. The SOLDIERS salute.
The CALIPH raises his hand. Silence.)

CALIPH
Is my Palace safe?

MASRUR
O Lord and Master, we pray so.

CALIPH
And my people?

JAFAR
Around thee, O Lord and Master.

YASMIN
(From her balcony) By the Prophet, here is Hassan with the Caliph!

CALIPH
Are we all saved?

MASRUR
All, by the providence of Allah.

JAFAR
And the wisdom of Hassan.

CALIPH
And the Guard warned?

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
All warned and at their posts, my Lord.

CALIPH
Allah, deliver our enemies into their hands. Let Hassan come to me.

HASSAN
(Prostrating himself) Master!

CALIPH
(Raising him) Rise, Hassan. This Hassan, yesterday a stranger,
has to-night by his skill and invention, saved my life and rescued
this city from a greater peril than my death.

CROWD
May it be far!

CALIPH
Therefore here and now, in the presence of all, I nominate Hassan to my court,
to hold rank among my subjects second to none save to Jafar, my Grand Vizier.

YASMIN
(Who has been at her balcony with SELIM) O Allah!

CROWD
Honour to Hassan. Honour to Hassan.

HASSAN
Master, I sold confectionary in the market.

JAFAR
Thou shalt now confection the sweets of prosperity.

ISHAK
(To HASSAN) Why, Hassan. You are the man with the broken lute.

CALIPH
Is that the voice of Ishak?

ISHAK
It is the voice of Ishak that has often sung to you.

CALIPH
Why did you abandon me, Ishak, and flee into the night? I do not know
I shall forgive you.

ISHAK
I was weary of you, Haroun-ar-Raschid.

CALIPH
And if I weary of you?
ISHAK
You will one day or another, and you will have me slain.

CALIPH
And what of this day that dawns?

ISHAK
Dawn is the hour when most men die.

CALIPH
Your death is granted you, Ishak; you have but to kneel.

(A red glow on the horizon.)

ISHAK
(As he kneels calmly) Why have they pinned the carpet of execution
on the sky?

MASRUR
It is the Caliph's dawn.

JAFAR
Thy dawn, O Master!

ISHAK
Thy dawn, O Master of the world, thy dawn;
The hour the lilies open on the lawn,
The hour the grey wings pass beyond the mountains,
The hour of silence, when we hear the fountains,
The hour that dreams are brighter and winds colder,
The hour that young love wakes on a white shoulder,
O Master of the world, the Persian Dawn.

That hour, O Master, shall be bright for thee:
Thy merchants chase the morning down the sea,
The braves who fight thy war unsheathe the sabre,
The slaves who work thy mines are lashed to labour,
For thee the waggons of the world are drawn--
The ebony of night, the red of dawn!

CALIPH
Sheathe thy sword, Masrur! Would you kill my friend?

MASRUR
I hear and obey.

CALIPH
I must go swiftly to my palace. But to you, Ishak, I leave
the care of this man you sent up to me in the basket,
who proved the salvation of Bagdad. Teach him the ceremonies
and regulations.
Is my chair ready?

MASRUR
Ready, Lord and Master.

(Exit CALIPH in chair, and JAFAR and CROWD. ISHAK signs to those
who would kiss HASSAN's feet to leave him.)

YASMIN
(On balcony opposite. Giving SELIM a great clout on the ear)
Go, leave my sight, you fool. I shall burst with fury.
You made me insult Hassan, and now he is going to court.

SELIM
(Astonished) Eh, Yasmin, Yasmin how could I know?

ISHAK
Ah, bismillah, I had not forgotten you, O man with the broken lute.

HASSAN
The broken lute? The broken lute?

ISHAK
Here you were lying, at this fountain, like one dead.

HASSAN
Was it here? Is that the balcony? Who are you? What do you know?

ISHAK
Quietly, friend, quietly, your head is weak with joy.

HASSAN
With joy? Do I know what is true or false? Do I know if the Caliph
is the Caliph? And if the Caliph is the Caliph may he not mock me too?
What is joy? Let me look at that balcony for joy. I dare not look,
I fear she is there. Ah. it is she.

(YASMIN takes the rose from her hair and flings it at HASSAN,
then retires within.)

ISHAK
Are you fortunate in love as well as in life, O Hassan? But come away.
This conduct ill beseems a minister of state; you are not unobserved.

HASSAN
I am coming. The rose is poisoned.

ISHAK
O friend, is this talk for the ardent lover?

HASSAN
Are you my friend? You, Ishak, the glorious singer of Islam?
And if you are my friend, are you like those who were my friends before?

ISHAK
Last night, I found you lying like a filthy corpse beneath this window,
but I knew by your lute and your countenance that you were a poet,
like myself, and I was sorry to think you dead.

HASSAN
A poet? I? I am a confectioner.

ISHAK
You are my friend, Hassan.

HASSAN
Then consider this rose. This rose is more bitter than colocynth.
For, look you, friend, had she not flung this rose, I would have said
she hated me and loved another; it is well. She had the right to hate
and love. She could hate and she could love. But now, ah, tell me,
you who seem to be my friend, are all you poets liars?

ISHAK
Ya, Hassan, but we tell excellent lies.

HASSAN
Why do you say that beauty has a meaning? Why do you not say
that beauty is hollow as a drum? Why do you not say that it is sold?

ISHAK
All this disillusionment because a fair lady flung you a rose!

HASSAN
Last night I baked sugar and she flung me water:
this morning I bake gold and she flings me a rose.
Empty, empty, I tell you, friend, all the blue sky.

ISHAK
Come, forget her and come away. I will instruct you in the pleasures
of the court.

HASSAN
Forget, forget? O rose of morning and O rose of evening,
vainly for me shall you fade on domes of ebony or azure.
This rose has faded, and this rose is bitter, and this rose
is nothing but the world.

CURTAIN

ACT III

SCENE I

The Garden of the CALIPH's palace: in front of a pavilion.
The CALIPH: HASSAN in fine raiment, a sword of honour at his side.

CALIPH
Yes, what the chief Eunuch told you is all true, my Hassan.
Our late host, the King of the Beggars, was captured hiding
in the gutter of his roof. This evening I shall judge him and his crew
in full divan. And in the divan thou shalt appear, O Hassan,
clothed in thy robe of ceremony, and seated on my right hand.

HASSAN
Alas, O Serene Splendour, thy servant is a man of humble origin
and limited desires. I am one who would obey the old poet's behest:

Give all thy day to dreaming and all thy night to sleep:
Let not Ambition's Tyger devour Contentment's Sheep!

I am not one to open my mouth at divans, or to strut among courtiers
in robes of state. Sir, excuse me from these things.
Dispose thy favour like a high golden wall, and protect
the life of your servant from the wind of complication.
But at evening, when God flings roses through the sky,
call me then to some calm pavilion, and let us hear Ishak play
and let us hear Ishak sing, till you forget you are Lord of all the World,
and I forget I am a base-born tradesman; till we discover the speech
of things that have no life, and know what the clods of earth
are saying to the roots of the garden trees.

CALIPH
Have no fear. You shall inhabit the place I shall assign you
in untroubled peace, and meditate till your beard grows
into the soil and you become wiser than Aflatun.
But in this case you are a witness and must be present at my divan,
be it but for this once only. And you shall call me Emir of the Faithful,
Redresser of Wrong, the Shadow of God on Earth, and Peacock of the World.
But in this garden you are Hassan, and I am your friend Haroun,
and you must address me as a friend a friend.

HASSAN
(Kissing the CALIPH's hand) O master, you speak gently,
but I must fear you all the more.

CALIPH
But why? I am but a kindly man. I love single-heartedness in men
as I love simplicity in my palace. There you have seen floors with but
one carpet--but that carpet like a meadow. You have seen walls with but
one curtain--but that curtain a sunset on the sea. You have seen white rooms
all naked marble: but they await my courtiers, all dressed like flowers.
If, therefore, I avoid complexity in the matter of walls and floors,
shall I not be simple in the things of heart and soul?
Shall I not, Hassan, be just your friend?

HASSAN
Master, I find thy friendship like thy palace, endowed with all
the charm of beauty and the magic of surprise. As thou knowest,
I am but a man of the streets of Bagdad, and there men say,
"The Caliph's Palace, Mashallah! The walls are stiff with gold
and the ceilings plated with silver, and the urinals thereof
are lined with turquoise blue." And hearing men say this,
many a time hath Hassan the Confectioner stroked the chin
of Hassan the Confectioner saying, "O, Hassan, thy back parlour
is less ugly than that, with its tub for boiling sugar,
and its one good Bokhara carpet hanging on the wall.
And twelve months did I work at the tub, boiling sugar to buy that carpet."

CALIPH
What a man you are for poetry and carpets! When you tread on a carpet,
you drop your eyes to earth to catch the pattern
and when you hear a poem, you raise your eyes to heaven to hear the tune.
Whoever saw a confectioner like this? When did you learn poetry,
Hassan of my heart?

HASSAN
In that great school, the Market of Bagdad. For thee, Master of the World,
poetry is a princely diversion, but for us it was a deliverance from Hell.
Allah made poetry a cheap thing to buy and a simple thing to understand.
He gave men dreams by night that they might learn to dream by day.
Men who work hard have special need of these dreams.
All the town of Bagdad is passionate for poetry, O Master.
Dost thou not know what great crowds gather to hear the epic
of Antari sung in the streets at evening? I have seen cobblers weep
and butchers bury their great faces in their hands!

CALIPH
By Eblis and the powers of Hell, should I not know this,
and know that therein lies the secret of the strength of Islam?
In poems and in tales alone shall live the eternal memory of this city
when I am dust and thou art dust, when the Bedouin shall build
his hut upon my garden and drive his plough beyond the ruins of my palace,
and all Bagdad is broken to the ground. Ah, if there shall ever arise
a nation whose people have forgotten poetry or whose poets have forgotten
the people, though they send their ships around Taprobane
and their armies across the hills of Hindustan, though their city
be greater than Babylon of old, though they mine a league into earth
or mount to the stars on wings--what of them?

HASSAN
They will be a dark patch upon the world.

CALIPH
Well said! By your luck you have saved the life of the Caliph,
O Hassan; but by your conversation you have won the friendship of Haroun.
Indeed--but at what are you gazing as if enchanted?

HASSAN
What a beautiful fountain, with the silver dolphin and the naked boy.

CALIPH
A Greek of Constantinople made it, who came travelling hither
in the days of my father, the Caliph El Madhi (may earth be gentle
to his body and Paradise refreshing to his soul!).
He showed this fountain to my father, who was exceptionally pleased,
and asked the Greek if he could make more as fine. "A hundred,"
replied the delighted infidel. Whereupon my father cried,
"Impale the pig." Which having been done, this fountain remains
the loveliest in the world.

HASSAN
(With anguish) O Fountain, dost thou never run with blood?

CALIPH
Why, what is the matter, Hassan?

HASSAN
You have told a tale of death and tyranny, O Master of the World.

CALIPH
(In a sudden and towering rage) Do you accuse my father of tyranny,
O fellow, for slaying a filthy Christian?

HASSAN
(Prostrating himself) I meant no offence. My life is at your feet.
But you bade me talk to you as a friend.

CALIPH
Not Ishak, not Ishak himself, who has been my friend for years,
would dare address me thus. (Bursting into laughter)
Rise, Hassan. Thy impudence has a monstrous beauty,
like the hindquarters of an elephant.

HASSAN
Forgive me, forgive me.

CALIPH
I forgive you with all my heart, but, I advise you,
speak in conformity with your character and of things you understand,
and never leave the Garden of Art for the Palace of Action.
Trouble not your head with the tyranny of Princes,
or you may catch a cold therein from the Wind of Complication.
Keep to your poetry and carpets, Hassan, and make no reference to politics,
for which even the market of Bagdad is an insufficient school.

HASSAN
(Dolefully) I hear and obey.

CALIPH
Forget it now; set your mind on pleasant things. Have you noticed
this little pavilion in front of which we have talked so long?
This is your little house, good Hassan, where you shall find
a shelter from the wind you so much dislike and all all other blasts
that harm or chill.

HASSAN
My little house?

CALIPH
I chose it for you, knowing your disposition. Here in this remote corner
of the garden you will hear no noise of street or Palace,
but enjoy complete repose.

HASSAN
(With rapture) Mine, this little house? Mine, this sweet-scented door!

CALIPH
Knock on it and see.

(HASSAN knocks. A door opens and ALDER, WILLOW, JUNIPER,
and TAMARISK appear. TAMARISK the youngest, has somewhat
of a mouse's squeak.)

ALDER
(To CALIPH with prostration) O, Emir of the Faithful!

WILLOW
(To CALIPH with prostration) O, Redresser of Wrong!

JUNIPER
(To CALIPH with prostration) O, Shadow of God on earth!

TAMARISK
(To CALIPH with prostration) O, Peacock of the World!

ALDER
(To HASSAN with prostration) Master!

WILLOW
(To HASSAN with prostration) Master!

JUNIPER
(To HASSAN with prostration) Master!

TAMARISK
(To HASSAN with prostration) Master!

(They stand, their hands in their sleeves, across the doorway.)

HASSAN
But these are the slaves of the King of the Beggars, who bathed me,
and anointed me, and brought back my soul into my eyes,
whence a woman had all but driven it forever.

CALIPH
I have rescued them from the ruin of their master's house
as their polite and finished manners deserve, and I have given
them to you since you are likely to need and appreciate their service.

HASSAN
And so faces not altogether strange will welcome me to my home.
(Kneels and kisses Caliph's hand.)

CALIPH
Say not a word. For the pen of happiness hath written on thy face
the ode of gratitude.
(To SLAVES) Is all ready?

ALDER
(Pompously) Ready, O Gardener of the Vale of Islam.

WILLOW
Prepared, O Lion...

CALIPH
Enough! Conduct your master into his house, show him
all there is inside, and serve him faithfully.

Enter with them, Hassan; delicious has been our converse, but Jafar,
the Vizier has been awaiting me some two hours.
(As Hassan is about to prostrate himself)
No, it is thus Haroun takes leave of his friends.
(Kisses him on both cheeks. HASSAN watches till he is out of sight,
pensive. Then he goes to the fountain and observes it a moment.
Then advances slowly to the folding door of the pavilion
which ALDER and WILLOW hold open for him.)

ALDER
Fortunate be thy entry!

WILLOW
Prosperous thy sojourn!

JUNIPER
Quiet thy days!

TAMARISK
And riotous thy nights!

SCENE II

The private apartment within the pavilion. A bed. Fine furniture.
A window with a view on the garden.

(Enter HASSAN followed by his SLAVES.)

HASSAN
In that apartment, therefore, I shall receive guests.
But in this apartment, whom?

ALDER
Such ladies, Master, as you desire to honour.

HASSAN
Yes, yes. I must visit the market and see.
(Staring at the floor, with a start) Wulluhi, what is that?

TAMARISK
The carpet, Master.

HASSAN
One of the wonderful new carpets of Ispahan. A hunting scene.
The Prince. His followers. Leopards and stags and three tigers,
and an elephant--his head only. O amazing carpet.
And everywhere great scarlet flowers, very stiff and fine.
O exquisite carpet. I have never seen so bright as scarlet.
(With a sudden earnestness)
Tell me. You were his slaves...?

ALDER
Master?

HASSAN
Well, well, we will not talk of it. How clearly that fountain
sounds outside with its little splash!

ALDER
I pray you, Master, the Caliph said you should particularly observe
this mirror with the carven frame.

HASSAN
(Looking at himself) By the Prophet, what a Phoenix I have become!
Provided I do not stumble on my sword.

WILLOW
The Caliph hoped you should not fail to remark this exquisitely
upholstered couch.

JUNIPER
The Caliph hopes you would admire these toilet requisites in alabaster.

TAMARISK
The Caliph hopes you will make good use of this very slender whip
for our correction.

HASSAN
A whip? For your correction, O slaves of charm? Am I the man to spoil
good almond paste with streaks of cochineal?

ALDER
Thou art pleased, O my Master?

HASSAN
Pleased? Look at the acacia tapping at my window; one night it will come
in softly and fling its moonlit blossom at my feet. But this is no place
for a man to live alone. Without a doubt I must visit the market.
They have Circassians; I have always wanted a Circassian. She must be
very young.... I have not finished the excellencies of the room.
These three chests, what do they contain?

ALDER
This chest, O Master, contains your new robes. One of them is embroidered
with red carnations and silver bells.

HASSAN
Was there ever generosity like this!

WILLOW
This chest, O master, contains curtains, hangings, and cushions
for the sofa. One of the cushions is embellished with fifteen peacocks.

HASSAN
Fifteen peacocks! And all those peacocks dumb!

JUNIPER
This chest O master, contains fresh linen for your bed.
All marked with your name.

HASSAN
Marked with my name! And what have you to say, Tamarisk?

TAMARISK
That bed...

HASSAN
That bed is not a chest. But doubtless it also contains fresh linen
marked with my name.

TAMARISK
(Tremulous) That bed contains a most beautiful lady.

HASSAN
(Jumping) What?

TAMARISK
A most beautiful lady. She said she must see you, and gave me ten dinars.

YASMIN
(As HASSAN tears aside the curtains of the bed) Hassan!
(She is dressed in a cloak and veiled.)

HASSAN
What voice?

YASMIN
Hassan. (She unveils.)

HASSAN
Thou!

YASMIN
I came: I hid: I waited.

HASSAN
Why?

YASMIN
Why does a woman hide in the bed of a man?

HASSAN
(Furiously) You dared! Stay here, slaves.
Will you leave me at this moment, you fools who let this women in?
(To YASMIN) You dared?

YASMIN
What is there a beautiful woman dare not dare?

HASSAN
But your impudence is vile. Out of it! Get you back to Selim.

YASMIN
I have left Selim.

HASSAN
Left Selim to come to me?

YASMIN
I found Selim a coward and a fool. I have discovered in you
a man of taste and valour. How could I have known before?
But what matter? Am I not white enough to follow the caravans
of Wealth and Power?
(Flinging out her arms) Is this for Selim or that for Selim?

HASSAN
Back to him, and no more words! You darken the world before my eyes.
If he is a fool and a coward, you're nothing but a whore.
Go, or my slaves shall fling you head foremost down my steps.

YASMIN
I have left Selim because he proved a coward, a fool, a poor man
and a nobody. I have come to you because you are rich, famous,
and a man of taste. The day you fall into disfavour (may it be far,
O my Master!) I shall undoubtedly leave you. Till that day you
will find me faithful. I am that which you call me--but I bring you
a fair merchandise.

HASSAN
I thank you, O seller of yourself. I buy no tainted meat.
I beg you seek another market, and that extremely soon.

YASMIN
(Rubbing her face and rising lightly) I did not know I had a taint,
O Master. The mirror must deceive me. But merchandise must be
well inspected before its inferiority is assured.
It must be seen and touched. Will you see and will you touch?

HASSAN
(Stepping back) Oh, away, away! Why did you seek me out?
Is it to rain back my words upon my face?
Or do you hope once more to show me yourself limb after limb
in the embrace of a new Selim? I pray you, however, spare the water
from the jug. My fire needs no quenching.

YASMIN
(Suppliant) Be generous. It beseems the Caliph's friend to be generous.
If I have made you jealous, do I not not offer you a sumptuous revenge?

HASSAN
Rise, take your pardon, and depart. Shall I tell you again?
If you need money, the slaves will give it you at the door.

YASMIN
You are as cold as ice.

HASSAN
You are brazen.

YASMIN
I am brave. Farewell, I see you are not a man of love.

HASSAN
Farewell. And defile no more the word love with your painted lips.

YASMIN
(Lingering at the door) Yet there is a little of love's language
that I do not know. When the bird of night sings on the bough
of the tree that rustles outside your window, and the shadows
creep away from the moon across the floor, I could have sung
you a song sweeter than the nightingales and shown you a whiteness
whiter than the moon.

HASSAN
Ah--go!

YASMIN
Because I was cruel could I not be kind? Because you can buy my body,
can you buy my soul? Because I am of the people have I no songs to sing?
Because I have sinned have I no secret to impart? Go to market,
O Hassan, and buy your Circassian girl. And one day you shall say:
Had Yasmin but lied to me of love, it were better than this fool's sincerity.

HASSAN
Ah, leave me!

YASMIN
There are lilies by the thousand in the meadows: there are roses
by the thousand in the gardens, and all as like as like--
but there is only one shape in the world like mine.
There is only one face in the world where the eyebrows arch
and the eyes flash--where the nostrils are set just so,
and the lips are parted thus. There is no other arm beneath the skies
that has has here this curve and here this dimple,
and here the light soft golden hairs. There are rows and rows
of young fair girls in the Caliph's harem and many as fair as I,
but none whose veins are these veins, whose flesh is this flesh,
fiery and cool, whose body swings like mine upon the heel.
(Flinging off her cloak) Will you see and will you touch?
(Approaching.) Will you see and will you touch?
(Putting her arm round his neck) Will you touch?

HASSAN
(With a shout as he pushes her back) Slaves, tear off this woman!

YASMIN
(As the SLAVES force her back) Eh, your slaves are violent!

HASSAN
(To SLAVES) Hold her!

YASMIN
But you must let me go.

HASSAN
I will not let you go.

YASMIN
Come, I see you are but a sour fellow, for whom pleasure is but vain.
I will take away the hateful. Let me pass.
(She attempts to escape.)

HASSAN
(To his SLAVES) Hold her!

(ALDER and WILLOW each grip an arm. JUNIPER grips her ankles.
She is held standing. Her cloak falls. She is clothed in short jacket
and trousers of white silk with a pattern of blue flowers:
her waist is naked, in the Persian style.)

YASMIN
Ah--what will you do to me? You forgave me.

HASSAN
(To YASMIN) Ah, I forgave you the insults and all that hour of shame.
And Allah shall forgive you your trade if Allah wills.
But you have pressed your foul body on mine--you have breathed
your poison on my cheek, and twined your snakes (God break them!)
round my breast. Preparethen to die, for it is not right
for the sake of mankind would you should walk any more upon the road of earth..

YASMIN
(Quietly, but in terror) To die! What do you mean! No, no!
Ah, murder, ah!

HASSAN
Do you hear the fountain dripping--drop by drop--drop by drop?
So shall your blood fall on my carpet and colour me more red flowers.

YASMIN
(Recovering) I am not afraid.

HASSAN
Do you expect mercy? I left mercy with my sweets.
For all these years I have been a humble man, of soft and kindly disposition--
such a man as the world and a woman hate. But now I shall never again
be the fool of my fellows. Now all Bagdad shall know and say:
"We thought Hassan a mild man and a kind man; our children stole his sweets
and he did but stroke his beard, while to a beggar he had known three days
he would instantly lend three dinars. And behold, he has become powerful
and hath cut down the body of Yasmin the infamous who had done him wrong,
as a woodman cuts a tree. Yallah, our knees shall bend when Hassan
goes driving by!" Yasmin, stiffen your sinews and close your eyes.

YASMIN
Not with the sword, not with the sword!

HASSAN
Let me taste the ecstasy of power. Let me drink of the fulness of life.
Let me be one of those who conquer because they do not care.
(He draws the sword: Yasmin cries out loud.)
You are Yasmin, the poor, the beautiful, the proud: I am Hassan,
rich and passionate and strong. You have hurt me, I will hurt you;
it is the rule of the game, and the way of the world.
Do I hate you? I do not know or care. Do I love you?--
then love shall drive the blade in deep. You are the world's
own stupendous harlot, and I will cut you clean in two.
(He swings sword over his head to strike.)

YASMIN
(With a shout at once of terror and triumph) I will not close my eyes!
I will look at you. You dare not do it, looking at my eyes!

(HASSAN whirls sword round.)

You dare not do it, looking at my eyes!

(HASSAN flings the sword across the room and falls across the
divan, his face in his hands.)

HASSAN
O Hassan the Confectioner, thou art nothing but an old man and a fool!

(YASMIN comes up to HASSAN. The BOYS silently disappear.
He draws her toward him.)

(With infinite tenderness) Yasmin!

SCENE III

The Great Hall of the Palace. The room is plain, white marble.
ISHAK alone, in his robes of Court Chamberlain.

(Enter SOLDIERS with the CAPTAIN OF THE MILITARY and the CHIEF OF POLICE.)
(The SOLDIERS intone "The War Song of the Saracens.")

SOLDIERS sing

We are they who come faster than fate: we are they who ride early
or late:
We storm at your ivory gate: Pale Kings of the sunset beware!
Not on silk nor on samet we lie, nor in curtained solemnity die
Among women who chatter and cry and children who mumble a prayer.
But we sleep by the ropes of the camp, and we rise with a shout and
we tramp
With the sun or the moon for a lamp, and the spray of the wind in
our hair.

From the lands where the elephant are to the forts of Merou and
Balghar,
Our steel we have brought and our star to shine on the ruins of
Rum.
We have marched from the Indies to Spain, and by God we will go
there again;
We have stood on the shore of the plain where the Waters of Destiny
boom.
A mart of destruction we made at Yalula where men were afraid,
For death was a difficult trade, and the sword was a broker of
doom;
And the Spear was a Desert Physician, who cured not a few of
ambition,
And drave not a few to perdition with medicine bitter and strong.

And the shield was a grief to the fool and as bright as a desolate
pool,
And as straight as the rock of Stamboul when our cavalry thundered
along:
For the coward was drowned with the brave when our battle sheered
up like a wave,
And our dead to the desert we gave, and the glory to God in our
song.

THE SOLDIERS
(Cheering) Allah Akbar! (etc.)

CHIEF OF POLICE
That is a splendid song your soldiers sing, O breaker of infidel bones.
Permit an inglorious policeman to inquire what flaming victory
you celebrate today. Such is my loathly ignorance, I knew not
the Caliph's army (may it be ever plosh in seas of hostile blood!)
had even left Baghdad.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
It is true we have not left Baghdad, But perchance we have saved it
from destruction. For when the Caliph's Police have allowed a conspiracy
to ripen undetected, It is our duty to mow down the conspirators.
It is true we did but vanquish beggars--but they were beggars to fight.
Half of them we slew and one-half we captured, and,
since the police believe no clue but the ocular, here they are.
A victory is well worth a song.

CHIEF OF POLICE
Allah, such a song! I thought: "At the least they have captured Cairo."

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
To save Bagdad is better than to capture Cairo.

CHIEF OF POLICE
(Pointing to the captive BEGGARS) Behold only the chain-mail
of the vanquished!

CHIEF OF MILITARY
It is an old song, a glorious great battle song, and in mocking it
thou has displayed on an absence of education, thou dragger of dead dogs
from obscure gutters.

ISHAK
Is this talk for the high divan, Captain? Ye have saved Bagdad?
Bagdad is no longer worth saving. You rose-petal-bellied parasites
of the palace, how dare you sing that song?

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
Allah, these poets talk in rhyme.

(Enter the Herald announcing various personages, who enter as he announces
them and are motioned to their place by ISHAK.)

HERALD
Abu Said, Prince of Basra, to do homage. Fahraddin, Prince of Damascus,
to do homage. Al Mustansir, Prince of Koniah, to do homage.
Tahir Dhu'l Yaminayn, governor of Khorasan, to do homage.

The great calligraphist, Afiq of Diarbekir, master of the riqa
and the shikasta hands: also of the Peacock style, and of painting
in miniature.

ISHAK
(Aside) Episodes of considerable obscenity.

HERALD
The celebrated Turkoman wrestler, Yurghiz Khan, whose thighs are
three cubits in circumference.

ISHAK
(Aside) As fat as a woman's, but not as nice.

HERALD
Abu Nouwas, the Caliph's jester. The Rajah of the Upper Ganges,
come hither to do homage with a present of 800 bales of indigo.

ISHAK
(Aside) And never dyed his beard.

HERALD
Hang Wung, the wisest philosopher in China, come hither to study
the excellence of the habits of true believers. He is a hundred and ten
years old....

ISHAK
(Aside) And perfectly blind.

HERALD
Anastasius Johannes Georgius, ambassador of the infidel Empress Irene,
mistress till God wills of Constaniniyeh and the lands of Rum,
come here on a vain errand....

ISHAK
He understands no word, and believes we do honour to his name.
But the jest is thin, my Herald.

HERALD
Abul Asal, the wandering dervish, come hither to remind kings that they
are but dust.

ISHAK
"Where lies Nushiravan the Just?"

DERVISH
The rhyme helps reason. In the dust.

ISHAK
The platitudes of dervishes do not much disturb the beatitudes of kings.

HERALD
Masrur, the Executioner, come hither to make several beggars
the dusty equivalents of monarchs.

ISHAK
Ah, you may well shiver, poor captives: it is draughty among your rags.

HERALD
Hassan ben Hassan al Bagdadi, the Caliph's friend.

SOLDIERS
Long live Hassan and the shadow of Hassan and the friend of Hassan
ben Hassan al Bagdadi!

ISHAK
(Drawing HASSAN aside) Come hither, friend of the Caliph;
do not forget that you are the man with the broken lute.

HASSAN
What is a friend?

ISHAK
Are you not in favour? Has not the Caliph taught you?
You have a royal friend.

HASSAN
He is generous: he is gracious: he is intimate. He has leant on
my arm, he has embraced me, he has called me by that name "friend".
But I tremble before his eyes.

ISHAK
You have found out. No man can ever be his friend.

HASSAN
Alas, that is because he is exalted far above mankind!

ISHAK
Alas, no: but because he uses that supremacy to play the artist
with the lives of men.

HASSAN
What do you mean, Ishak?

ISHAK
Have you not seen the designer of carpets, O Hassan of Bagdad,
put here the blue and here the gold, here the orange here the green?
So have I seen the Caliph take the life of some helpless man--
who was contented in his little house and garden, enjoying the blue
of happy days--and colour his life with the purple of power,
and streak it with the crimson of lust: then whelm it all
with the gloom-greys of abasement, touched with the glaring reds of pain,
and edge the whole with the black border of annihilation.

HASSAN
He has been so generous. Do not say he is a tyrant!
Do not say he delights in the agony of men!

ISHAK
Agony is a fine colour, and he delights therein as a painter
in vermilion new brought from Kurdistan. But shall so great an artist
not love contrast? To clasp a silver belt round the loins
of a filthy beggar while a slave darkens the soles of his late vizier,
is for him but a jest touched with a sense of the appropriate:
and I have seen it enacted in this very room.

HASSAN
But you are his friend.

ISHAK
As you are. It is elegant for a monarch to condescend: it is refreshing
for a monarch to talk as man to man. It is artistic for a monarch
to enjoy the pleasures of contrast and escape the formalities of Court....
But here comes the preceder of the Caliph, the penultimate splendour
of the divan, a man noble without passion, sagacious without inspiration,
and weak as a miser's coffee.

HERALD
The Tulip of the Parterre of Government, the Shadow of the Cypress Tree,
the Sun's Moon, Jafar the Barmecide.

SOLDIERS
Long live the great Vizier!

HERALD
Let all mouths close but mine. (Lifting his staff.) The Holy, the Just,
the High-born, the Omnipotent; the Gardener of the Vale of Islam,
the Lion of the Imperial Forests, the Rider on the Spotless Horse,
the Cyprus on the Golden Hill, the Master of Spears, the Redresser of Wrong,
the Drinker of Blood, the Peacock of the World, the Shadow of God on
Earth, the Commander of the Faithful, Haroun ar Raschid ben Mohammed,
Ibn Abdullah Ibn Mohammed Ibn Ali ben Abdullah, Ibn 'Abbas, the Caliph.

SOLDIERS
The Holy, the High-born, the Just One, the Caliph!
The Cypress, the Peacock, the Lion, the Caliph!
From Rum to Bokhara one monarch, the Caliph!

DERVISH
(Gloomily) A clay thing, a plaything, a shadow, the Caliph!

CALIPH
The Divan is open. Let all mouths close but mine. Our justice today
will be swift as a blow of the sword. In the Book of the Wisdom of Rulers
I read: "Be sudden to uproot the tree of conspiracy for it scatters
far its seed." Are you the Beggars?

BEGGARS
We are the beggars of Bagdad.

CALIPH
Thou, spokesman, come hither! Wherefore didst thou plot
against my throne and the safety of all Islam?
Didst thou not fear not only for thy life but for thy salvation?

BEGGAR
Master and Lord of the World, hast thou been poor, hast thou been hungry?
Dost thou know what dreams enter the gaunt heads of starving men
as they lie against the back of thy garden wall, and moan:
"Bread in God's name, bread in the name of God?"

CALIPH
Dost thou deny conspiracy?

BEGGAR
I conspired.

CALIPH
Is there one of you denieth conspiracy?

(Silence.)

Masrur, lead out the conspirators to death.

(MASRUR executes the order.)

CALIPH
Let those whose duty it is fetch him who is called the King of the Beggars
from his cell, and let him who did us the great service of capturing alive
that dangerous man, step forth into the midst.

CHIEF OF POLICE
(Stepping forward) Lord of the World--but I am dirt.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
(Simultaneously advancing) Lord of the World--but I am dung.

CALIPH
Where you both concerned in his capture? My favour is doubled upon you.
Let two robes of honour be brought before my throne.

CHIEF OF POLICE
Sir, I fail to comprehend the presence of this military man.
He was but a spectator when I dragged out the King of Beggars
from the gutter of his roof.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
O thou civilian, I caught a valiant hold of his legs, despite his heavy
and continuous kicks, whilst thou didst but timidly pluck at his sleeve.

CHIEF OF POLICE
Pluck at his sleeve, tin-coated murderer! Summon the twenty drops
of blood that trickle round thy lank and withered frame and let them
mount to thy mendacious cheek!

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
Thou dropsical elephant!

CALIPH
Enough! I love to hear the speech of heroes, but enough. It is clear
the glory is divided. Give me one of those robes of honour,
and summon the tailor of the court.

COURT TAILOR
(Very prostrate) O Master of the World, O Master!

CALIPH
Slit me this robe in twain.

COURT TAILOR
(Moaning as he does so) Allah is great, Allah is great.
Such a well-cut robe: such excellent silk!

CALIPH
Come hither both.

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
(Hanging back) The glory is all to the police.

CHIEF OF POLICE
The credit is entirely due to my honourable friend.

CALIPH
(Insisting) Come hither both.

(They are fitted with half a robe of honour each amid laughter.)

SOLDIERS
Long live those whom the Caliph delights to honour!

CAPTAIN OF MILITARY
(Under his teeth) Mutinous swine!

CALIPH
And now bring forth the King of the Beggars.

(The KING OF THE BEGGARS is brought in chained hand and foot,
but still dressed in gold.)

The Salaam to my host of yesternight.

RAFI, KING OF BEGGARS
The Salaam, O man of Basra. I see thy fellow-merchant in the robes
of the Grand Vizier. But the negro, that most disgusting Negro,
seems to be absent. To Hassan, my congratulations on his advancement.

CALIPH
Thou dost speak with the impudence of a king, but thy subjects are taken
from thee. They will soon be black crows in the pine-wood by the walls.

RAFI
Had I but known thee last night, thou man of Basra, whom men call
Caliph of the Faithful--O thou massacrer of good men--had I but known thee,
had I but known thee!

CHIEF OF POLICE
Shall I tear out his tongue?

CALIPH
Let him talk. I have found a man who does not flatter me. Let me study
the hatred in his eyes.

RAFI
It is not enough for thee to misrule a quarter of the world.
Thou art not only a fool tyrant, but a mean tradesman, thou dog-hearted spy!

JAFAR
It is not decent to let this man continue his coarse abuse, O Master.
Wilt thou not end him?

CALIPH
He shall end in his time.
(To KING OF THE BEGGARS) Thy impudence will not redound to thy advantage,
Rafi! Wherefore dost thou not bite the tongue of insolence
with the tooth of discretion?

RAFI
I am a man in the presence of death.

CALIPH
There a thousand paths to the delectable tavern of death,
and some run straight and some run crooked.

RAFI
Cut, scourge, burn, rack thy uttermost. The nobler the aim
the baser the failure. Do not I deserve to feel
every separate pain of those whom my folly has sent to cruel death?

CHINESE PHILOSOPHER
I am a hundred and ten years old, and I have never heard a remark
in more exquisite taste.

CALIPH
It is well. But before I send thee to a death so cruel
that thy conscience will be fully satisfied in this world and the next,
answer me this: Hast thou forgotten that unparalleled lady whom
the zeal of my servants ravished from thy embrace?

RAFI
Thou devil of Eblis! Have I forgotten? Have I not prayed
thou shouldst forget?

CALIPH
Shall a gallant man forget the name of a beautiful woman?
We will look on her, for whom thou didst attempt to raze
the central fort of Islam.
(To ATTENDANTS) Bring in this lady, Pervaneh.

RAFI
(In supplication) O Master of the World! O Master of the World!

CALIPH
Thou changest tone abruptly but late.

RAFI
I was insolent only that her name should be forgotten in thy anger
and my death, O Splendour of Islam!

CALIPH
A crafty excuse for impoliteness. Wilt thou now begin to be polite
to the tyrant whose coffin was to be nailed over his open eyes?
He who hopes for his audience to forget the subject of his discourse
should moderate his style.

RAFI
God blind me that I may not see her!

CALIPH
Why? Dost thou not love her still? Is not the sight of his beloved
to the victim of separation like the vision of a fountain to him
who dies of thirst?

HASSAN
(Aside) But if that fountain be a fountain whose drops are blood?

RAFI
Thou, thou hast held her in thy arms! O God, have pity on my soul!

CALIPH
But with this knowledge thou didst still desire her, and was ready
to wreck Bagdad for the sparkle of her eyes.

RAFI
But first the blood of her possessor should have washed her honour clean.

CALIPH
Thou art a most ridiculous man. Thou hast built thy monstrous tower
of crime on a foundation of painted smoke. Dost thou imagine
I have tasted all the fruit of my garden?

RAFI
Allah has given thee men's bodies, but it is for him alone to torment
the soul. By thy faith, O Caliph, speak the truth!

CALIPH
Do I know every slave whom my industrious officials sweep in
from the streets? To my knowledge I have never set my eyes
on this woman of thine.

HERALD
The maiden Pervaneh!

CALIPH
Let her come before me.

(PERVANEH is ushered into the Presence.)

PERVANEH
(With due reverence) O Master of the World!

CALIPH
It is written in the Sacred Law: In the King's presence a woman may unveil,
without fear of censure.

PERVANEH
Ah, Master, but only the eagle dare look upon the sun.

CALIPH
Thy speech is proud enough for all the eagles, Lady Pervaneh,
and I doubt not thy eyes, which I desire to see, are steady
in the blaze of danger. Must I command thee to unveil?

PERVANEH
Alas, Master of the World, my eyes are dim with long confinement
in a jewelled cage, and the wings of my soul are numb.
Only on the hills of my country where the rolling sun of Heaven
has his morning home, only on their windy hills do the women
of my country go unveiled.

ISHAK
(To himself, half singing) The hills, the hills,
the morning on the hills!

CALIPH
(To PERVANEH) I command thee to unveil.

PERVANEH
If thou wilt tear my veil off my face, I will tear my face
before thy eyes.

RAFI
Ah, no!...

PERVANEH
Who art thou who dost cry, "Ah, no!"? Who art thou who dost hide
thy face in fettered hands ...

RAFI
A prisoner.

PERVANEH
dissembling thy voice...

RAFI
A prisoner awaiting death.

PERVANEH
trembling when I touch thee?

RAFI
A man afraid.

PERVANEH
(In a voice of exaltation) For thee, Sultan, I raise my veil;
and wait, thy captive, to share thy destiny.

HASSAN
Oh, Ishak! The fire of the heart of beauty!

RAFI
Leave me, Pervaneh! Walk not upon my path! You do not know
what a foul doom is mine.

PERVANEH
Foul dooms? Foul dooms? Rafi, I can forget ten centuries of doom
now that I see your eyes again!

RAFI
I conspired against his throne to win you freedom.
Through my fault I failed, through my fault my thousand followers
are dancing in the wind.

PERVANEH
For me you conspired? For me--for me?

RAFI
I would have drowned Bagdad in blood to kiss your lips again.

PERVANEH
O lover!

RAFI
(Showing his fettered hands) Lover indeed!

PERVANEH
There are a thousand eyes around us, O my beloved, but what care I?
The voice of the world cries out, "Thou art a slave in the Palace,
and thy lover a prisoner in chains." (Embracing him.) But we have
heard the Trumpets of Reality that drown the vain din
of the Thing that Seems. We have walked with the Friend of Friends
in the Garden of the Stars, and He is pitiable to poor lovers
who are pierced by the arrows of this ghostly world.
Your lips are the only lips, my lover, your eyes the only eyes--
all the other eyes but phantom lights that glitter in the mist of dream.

COURTIER
This is sheer heresy.

ISHAK
Then a plague on your religion.

JAFAR
This is Sufic doctrine, and most dangerous to the State.

HASSAN
Then a plague on the State!

CALIPH
Ye who make love in full Divan, can ye yet listen to the voice of the world?

PERVANEH
(Dazed) They are speaking.

CALIPH
O Rafi, King of the Beggars, since after all thou art much entangled
in the web of unreality, it is necessary that I ask thee some
phantom questions concerning thy apparent acts.

Firstly, dost thou deny thou didst call thyself Caliph of the
Unbelievers, and blaspheme thy faith in my presence and in the presence
of Jafar, my Vizier, Masrur, the Executioner, and Hassan, my friend?

RAFI
I have nothing to deny.

CALIPH
Dost thou, secondly, deny that thou didst swear in the presence
of the same to nail the Caliph of the Faithful alive in his coffin,
or that thou didst conspire with the beggars to slay me, to seize
Bagdad and to usurp the throne?

RAFI
I have nothing to deny.

CALIPH
Dost thou, thirdly, deny that thou didst scheme this monstrous crime
for the sake of a woman?

RAFI
I have nothing to deny.

CALIPH
Rafi, thou art confessed a Blasphemer, a Traitor...and a Lunatic.
It remains to consider thy punishment.

RAFI
As thou wilt.

CALIPH
Thou art brave, but I fear the shafts of unreality will prick thee
extremely hard. For thou hast merited not one but a dozen deaths.
Now, if I impale thee for conspiracy, how shall I burn thee
for blasphemy? But with such other pains as man can suffer,
judicious arrangement carries the day over unthinking brutality.
For if I skin thee for thy impudence, how can I flog thee for thy folly?
But if the order is reversed thou canst enjoy the benefits of both expiations.

RAFI
Thou hast certainly studied the art of pain.

CALIPH
Yet what are the worst tortures thou shalt undergo to the horror
of the death thou didst contrive for me?

RAFI
(With impatience) What is my condemnation?

CALIPH
For Lunacy to be nailed, for Conspiracy to be stretched,
for Blasphemy to be split.

PERVANEH
Ah!

(Murmurs of horror and satisfaction fill the Court at the announcement
of this savage punishment.)

RAFI
As Allah wills.

PERVANEH
(Falling at the CALIPH's feet) Spare, Spare, O Master of the World!

CALIPH
Dost thou think I will absolve him for thy "spare"?

PERVANEH
Mercy! Oh, Mercy!

CALIPH
Why dost thou cry "Mercy" and clasp my feet? Is not pain a fancy
and this world a cloud?

PERVANEH
(Rising to her feet) This world is Hell, but those that dig Hell deeper
shall find the Hell-beneath-the-Hells which they search for.

CALIPH
Thou hast metaphysic, but hast thou logic? Invent me a reason--
one small and subtle reason--why I should show mercy to this man.

PERVANEH
Ah--wilt thou have reasons?

CALIPH
Was not my sentence just?

PERVANEH
Wilt thou have justice?

CALIPH
If I had stood bound before him, would he have listened to my prayer?

PERVANEH
Wilt thou have revenge?

CALIPH
Shall I scorn reason, pervert justice, and put aside revenge--
for thy dark eyes?

PERVANEH
Turn thy justice, turn thy revenge on me in the name of the dark eyes
of God! They say a woman suffers longer and sharper than a man.

CALIPH
Lady, dost thou mean this with all its meaning, or say it to implore pity?
Beware of thy answer! The rack and the whip are ready and near at hand.

PERVANEH
(Her arms outstretched) Then give the word. Knock off those fetters
before my eyes--and nail me to the wall.

RAFI
Pervaneh!

CALIPH
Ecstasy! Ecstasy! Thou art an ecstatic and wilt not suffer.
I know the thick skin of martyrs. I refuse.

PERVANEH
(To RAFI) Alas, what can I do!

RAFI
Let me die! I have seen you again. It is nothing for a man to die.

PERVANEH
Nothing for a man to die? 'Tis Heaven wide open for a man to die.
But they will tear you, Rafi, Rafi!

RAFI
Shall I fear the pain you called upon yourself,
or shrink where you were brave?

PERVANEH
(To the CALIPH) I ask so small a boon. Grant my lover a clean death!

CALIPH
Thou dost ask a very great boon indeed. For as thou sayest, what is death?
Shall the man who shakes my kingdom slip into eternity like a thief
men catch in the bazaar? Shall he who does the greater wrong not suffer
the greater pain?

PERVANEH
He is not afraid of pain.

CALIPH
That is not to say he feels not pain.

PERVANEH
Just and reasonable, yet there is a holier thing than reason and justice.

DERVISH
(His orthodoxy disturbed) A holier thing than justice?

PERVANEH
Yes, Dervish. There is that which should not be defiled.

CALIPH
Whither now does thy plea wander?

PERVANEH
O Father of Islam, can thine eyes that love flowers behold man's body
hewn into foul shapes and monstrous as the phantoms
that go wailing round the graves? Can thy ears that love the music
of Ishak, listen to the gasps of the tormented droning
through their bodies like a winter wind among the pines?

CALIPH
I shall not honour Rafi with my attendance: I shall be far
from sight and sound.

PERVANEH
The thought of it--the thought of it!

CALIPH
I have been ordering executions all my life. There is only one thought
that can haunt me--the thought of a coffin closing on open eyes,
the sway of the coffin carried to the grave, the crash at the bottom
of the pit, the rumble of earth on the lid, the gasping for breath
and light.

PERVANEH
He was distraught by passion, he spoke in fury: but thou dost judge
him with a quiet mind. He is a man among men, but thou art
the representative of God on earth, the sole Priest of Islam.
Thou shalt not order God's image to be defiled.

CALIPH
So you would have me spare him for the sake of the perfection
of man's body? O Pervaneh, I am far more likely to spare him
for the perfection of woman's.

PERVANEH
(Shrinking from the implied menace) For those that have wits,
O Master, perfection is sundered from desire.

CALIPH
You are a woman--perfect--but a woman.

PERVANEH
By the curse of God.

CALIPH
And however much you sunder perfection from desire, from desire
your perfection is not sundered.

PERVANEH
I am the slave of thy household to come or go, to fetch or to carry,
to be struck or slain; but my perfection is not the slave of your
desire.

CALIPH
(Softly) Yet if you return to my household...

PERVANEH
(In fury) To die.

CALIPH
You would not be forgotten or neglected...and your presence would be
a consolation and a charm....

PERVANEH
Not to you, frigid tyrant, not to you!

CALIPH
(Softly) Nor yet to the one who let your lover go in peace?

PERVANEH
Is there no shame in the world of Islam? Will you unclothe your lust
in full Divan?

CALIPH
You have already given the example. Come, shall I set your lover free?

PERVANEH
I would choke if you touched me, I would choke. Oh, the shame on me,
the shame! You are smiling. It is not me you want but my shame!
Is there a God in heaven that lets you sit and smile! But you can set
him free. Ah, will you set him free? I am your slave--I am your slave.
You can rob me of rope and knife--the very means of death.
If you will set him free! I am your slave, what choice have I?

CALIPH
Thou hast not the manners or the heart of a slave. Thou wast brought
to my household by violence, a free woman born, and art no slave of mine.
In the presence of my Divan I pronounce thee free. Thou art free
to come and free to go, free to buy and free to sell,
free to walk out or free to stay, free to wed and free to die--
and free to make a choice....

PERVANEH
To make a choice? What choice? Between his death and my dishonour?

CALIPH
No, between love and life.

PERVANEH
Explain, O Master of the World.

CALIPH
Between two deaths with torment and two lives with a separation.
Between a day of love and all the years of life.

PERVANEH
Enlighten my understanding.

CALIPH
I have considered this matter. I have decided this matter.
I will speak plain and clear.
(Rising) This is my irrevocable judgment from which there is no appeal.
I give a choice to Pervaneh and Rafi, the King of the Beggars,
and I grant them till sunset to consult their hearts
and make that choice together. They shall both live on these conditions:
that the lady Pervaneh return forthwith to my harem to be my wife
in lawful wedlock, and be treated with all the honour her boldness
and her beauty merit. That the King of the Beggars leave Bagdad,
and that these two lovers part for ever till they die.

But if they refuse this separation, I offer them one day of love,
from sunset to-night to sunset on the morrow, unfettered and alone,
with no more guard than may keep them from self-destruction.
But when that day is over they shall die together in merciless torment.

In the name of Allah the most merciful, the Divan is closed.

CURTAIN

ACT IV

SCENE I

In the vaults of the palace, outside the cell of the KING OF THE BEGGARS.
Drop Scene.

(Enter HASSAN)

HASSAN
Which way? Which way? I am lost in this dark passage. My voice
rings around the arches. What's that noise? Is there an army coming?
Or are all the prisoners stamping with wrath?...No....It is only
someone walking....I wonder who! And if this stranger asks me
my business what shall I say to him? Do I know what brought me
to this dismal region?

ISHAK
(From the darkness) Who goes there? Who goes there? What dost thou here?
What is thy business?

HASSAN
Who calls? I am Hassan, inspecting the security of the imperial prisons.
Who art thou?

ISHAK
Who am I? Ten books were written by Aflatun and twenty by Aristu
to answer that mighty question, O Hassan of my heart.

HASSAN
Ishak! Come out of hiding, Ishak. What are you doing here?

ISHAK
I gather mushrooms, O inspector of the vaults of vice!

HASSAN
Have you come too? I do not know why I came. I hoped...I do not know
why I came, but I think our hearts do beat together like the hearts
of friends. Did you come here because of _them_?

ISHAK
I came here to hear a play more tragic than the mysteries of Hossein,
to listen to a debate more weighty than the council talk of kings....

HASSAN
You do not mean?...

ISHAK
I mean the debate of love and life.

HASSAN
Could you spy on that? How cruel!

ISHAK
The poet must learn what man's agony can teach him.

HASSAN
Is it then not better not to be a poet?

ISHAK
(Bitterly) Allah did not ask me that question when he made me a poet
and a dissector of souls. It is my trade: I do but follow my master,
the exalted Designer of human carpets, the Ruler of the world.
If he prepared the situation, shall I not observe the characters?
Thus I corrupt my soul to create--Allah knoweth what--ten little words
like rubies in a row. As for you, I think you begin to understand
the Caliph of the Faithful.

HASSAN
Why speak of him? All men are brutes, you and he and I.
I thought that I was kinder than other men--but I was only more afraid.
This day is the first day of my exaltation, I have begun it
the all but murderer of a woman, and I end it a spy on souls in trouble.

ISHAK
Do not worry any longer, dear Hassan, on the moral problem.
The moths of curiosity will always flutter round the lamp of circumstances.
Here comes the Guard, they shall direct us.

(Enter 2 GUARDS)

ISHAK
(To the GUARD) Ho, soldier, whither?

Ist GUARD
(Saluting) To the cell of the King of the Beggars, my masters,
to relieve the Guard.

ISHAK
What, will you stand inside the cell?

Ist GUARD
Inside, O my masters.

ISHAK
A shame, I say, a shame to spy on a pair of lovers. Will they fly
off through the keyhole?

Ist GUARD
We know the ways of prisoners, O my masters. Masrur is disappointed
when we bring him corpses to be whipped.
(To 2nd GUARD) Is he not disappointed, Mohamed?

2nd GUARD
(In deep, lugubrious and respectful tones) Oh, sir,
he is bitterly disappointed.

ISHAK
Well, it is your fault, my fine fellows, if you leave daggers
and ropes lying about in your prisoners' cells.

Ist GUARD
Ah, you do not know the artfulness of prisoners, my masters.

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