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Supplemental Nights, Volume 2 by Richard F. Burton

Part 3 out of 8

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he fell in with his wishes and fitted him out with five thousand
dinars in cash and the like in merchandise and sent with him two
serving-men. So the youth fared forth, on the blessing of Allah
Almighty;[FN#286] and his parent went out with him, to take leave
of him, and returned to Damascus. As for Nur al-Din Ali, he
ceased not travelling days and nights till he entered Baghdad
city, and laying up his loads in the Wakalah,[FN#287] made for
the Hammam-bath, where he did away that which was upon him of the
soil of the road and doffing his travelling clothes, donned a
costly suit of Yamani stuff, worth an hundred dinars. Then he
loaded his sleeve with a thousand miskals of gold and sallied
forth a-walking and swaying gracefully as he paced along. His
gait confounded all those who gazed upon him, as he shamed the
branches with his shape and belittled the rose with the redness
of his cheeks and his black eyes of Babili witchcraft: thou
wouldst deem that whoso looked on him would surely be preserved
from bane and bale;[FN#288] for he was even as saith of him one
of his describers in these couplets:--

"Thy haters and enviers say for jeer * A true say that profits
what ears will hear;
'No boast is his whom the gear adorns; * The boast be his who
adorns the gear!'"

So Sidi Nur al-Din went walking in the highways of the city and
viewing its edifices and its bazars and thoroughfares and gazing
on its folk. Presently, Abu Nowas met him. (Now he was of those
of whom it is said, "They love fair lads," and indeed there is
said what is said concerning him.)[FN#289] When he saw Nur al-Din
Ali, he stared at him in amazement and exclaimed, "Say, I take
refuge with the Lord of the Daybreak!" Then he accosted the youth
and saluting him, asked him, "Why do I see my lord lone and lorn?
Meseemeth thou art a stranger and knowest not this country; so,
with leave of my lord, I will put myself at his service and
acquaint him with the streets, for that I know this city." Nur
al-Din answered, "This will be of thy favour, O nuncle." Abu
Nowas rejoiced at this and fared on with him, showing him the
streets and bazars, till they came to the house of a
slave-dealer, where he stopped and said to the youth, "From what
city art thou?" "From Damascus," replied Nur al-Din; and Abu
Nowas said, "By Allah, thou art from a blessed city, even as
saith of it the poet in these couplets,

'Now is Damascus a garth adorned * For her seekers, the Houris
and Paradise-boys.'"

Sidi Nur al-Din thanked him and the twain entered the mansion of
the slave-merchant. When the people of the house saw Abu Nowas,
they rose to do him reverence, for that which they knew of his
rank with the Commander of the Faithful; and the slave-dealer
himself came up to them with two chairs whereon they seated
themselves. Then the slave-merchant went inside and returning
with a slave-girl, as she were a branch of Ban or a rattan-cane,
clad in a vest of damask silk and tired with a black and white
headdress whose ends fell down over her face, seated her on a
chair of ebony; after which he cried to those who were present,
"I will discover to you a favour as it were a full moon breaking
forth from under a cloud-bank." They replied, "Do so;" whereupon
he unveiled the damsel's face and behold, she was like the
shining sun, with shapely shape and dawn-bright cheeks and
thready waist and heavy hips; brief, she was endowed with an
elegance, whose description is unfound, and was even as saith of
her the poet,[FN#290]

"A fair one, to idolaters if she herself should show, They'd
leave their idols and her face for only Lord would know;
And if into the briny sea one day she chanced to spit, Assuredly
the salt sea's floods straight fresh and sweet would grow."

The dealer stood at the hand-maid's head and one of the merchants
said, "I bid a thousand dinars for her." Quoth another, "I bid
one thousand one hundred dinars;" and a third, "I bid twelve
hundred." Then said a fourth merchant, "Be she mine for fourteen
hundred ducats." And the biddings standing still at that sum, her
owner said, "I will not sell her save with her consent: an if she
desire to be sold, I will sell her to whom she willeth." The
slave-dealer asked him, "What is her name?" Answered the other,
"Her name is Sitt al-Milah;"[FN#291] whereupon the dealer said to
her, "With thy leave, I will sell thee to yonder merchant for
this price of fourteen hundred dinars." Quoth she, "Come hither
to me." So the man-vendor came up to her and when he drew near,
gave him a kick with her foot and cast him to the ground, saying,
"I will not have that oldster." The slave-dealer arose, shaking
the dust from his dress and head, and cried, "Who biddeth more of
us? Who is desirous?"[FN#292] Said one of the merchants, "I," and
the dealer said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, shall I sell thee to
this merchant?" She replied, "Come hither to me;" but he
rejoined, "Nay; speak and I will hear thee from my place, for I
will not trust myself to thee nor hold myself safe when near
thee." So she cried, "Indeed I will not have him." Then the
slave-dealer looked at her and seeing her fix eyes on the young
Damascene, for that in very deed he had fascinated her with his
beauty and loveliness, went up to him and said to him, "O my
lord, art thou a looker-on or a buyer? Tell me." Quoth Nur
al-Din, "I am both looker-on and buyer. Wilt thou sell me yonder
slave-girl for sixteen hundred ducats?" And he pulled out the
purse of gold. Hereupon the dealer returned, dancing and clapping
his hands and saying, "So be it, so be it, or not at all!" Then
he came to the damsel and said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, shall I
sell thee to yonder young Damascene for sixteen hundred dinars?"
But she answered, "No," of bashfulness before her master and the
bystanders; whereupon the people of the bazar and the
slave-merchant departed, and Abu Nowas and Ali Nur al-Din arose
and went each his own way, whilst the damsel returned to her
owner's house, full of love for the young Damascene. When the
night darkened on her, she called him to mind and her heart hung
to him and sleep visited her not; and on this wise she abode days
and nights, till she sickened and abstained from food. So her
lord went in to her and asked her, "O Sitt al-Milah, how findest
thou thyself?" Answered she, "O my lord, dead without chance of
deliverance and I beseech thee to bring me my shroud, so I may
look upon it ere I die." Therewith he went out from her, sore
concerned for her, and betaking himself to the bazar, found a
friend of his, a draper, who had been present on the day when the
damsel was cried for sale. Quoth his friend to him, "Why do I see
thee troubled?" and quoth he, "Sitt al-Milah is at the point of
death and for three days she hath neither eaten nor drunken. I
questioned her to-day of her case and she said, 'O my lord, buy
me a shroud so I may look upon it ere I die.'" The draper
replied, "Methinks naught aileth her but that she is in love with
the young Damascene, and I counsel thee to mention his name to
her and declare to her that he hath foregathered with thee on her
account and is desirous of coming to thy quarters, so he may hear
somewhat of her singing. An she say, 'I reck not of him, for
there is that to do with me which distracteth me from the
Damascene and from other than he,' know that she saith sooth
concerning her sickness; but, an she say thee other than this,
acquaint me therewith." So the man returned to his lodging and
going in to his slave-girl said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, I went
out for thy need and there met me the young man of Damascus, and
he saluted me with the salam and saluteth thee; he seeketh to win
thy favour and prayed me to admit him as a guest in our dwelling,
so thou mayst let him hear somewhat of thy singing." When she
heard speak of the young Damascene, she gave a sob, that her soul
was like to leave her body, and answered, "He knoweth my plight
and how these three days past I have not eaten nor drunken, and I
beseech thee, O my lord, by Allah of All-Might, to do thy duty by
the stranger and bring him to my lodging and make excuse to him
for me." When her master heard this, his reason fled for joy, and
he went to his familiar the draper and said to him, "Thou wast
right in the matter of the damsel, for that she is in love with
the young Damascene; so how shall I manage?" Said the other, "Go
to the bazar and when thou seest him, salute him, and say to him,
'Thy departure the other day, without winning thy wish, was
grievous to me; so, an thou be still minded to buy the maid, I
will abate thee of that which thou badest for her an hundred
sequins by way of gaining thy favour; seeing thou be a stranger
in our land.' If he say to thee, 'I have no desire for her,' and
hold off from thee, be assured that he will not buy; in which
case, let me know, so I may devise thee another device; and if he
say to thee other than this, conceal not from me aught." So the
girl's owner betook himself to the bazar, where he found the
youth seated at the upper end of the place where the merchants
mostly do meet, selling and buying and taking and giving, as he
were the moon on the night of its full, and saluted him. The
young man returned his salam and he said to him, "O my lord, be
not offended at the damsel's speech the other day, for her price
shall be lowered to the intent that I may secure thy favour. An
thou desire her for naught, I will send her to thee or an thou
wouldst have me abate to thee her price, I will well, for I
desire nothing save what shall content thee; seeing thou art a
stranger in our land and it behoveth us to treat thee hospitably
and have consideration for thee." The youth replied, "By Allah, I
will not take her from thee but at an advance on that which I
bade thee for her afore; so wilt thou now sell her to me for one
thousand and seven hundred dinars?" And the other rejoined, "O my
lord, I sell her to thee, may Allah bless thee in her!" Thereupon
the young man went to his quarters and fetching a purse, sent for
the girl's owner and weighed out to him the price aforesaid,
whilst the draper was between the twain. Then said he, "Bring her
forth;" but the other replied, "She cannot come forth at this
present; but be thou my guest the rest of this day and night, and
on the morrow thou shalt take thy slave-girl and go in the ward
of Allah." The youth agreed with him on this and he carried him
to his house, where, after a little, he bade meat and wine be
brought, and they ate and drank. Then said Nur al-Din to the
girl's owner, "I would have thee bring me the damsel, because I
bought her not but for the like of this time." So he arose and
going in to the girl, said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, the young
man hath paid down thy price and we have bidden him hither; so he
hath come to our quarters and we have entertained him, and he
would fain have thee be present with him." Therewith the damsel
rose deftly and doffing her dress, bathed and donned sumptuous
apparel and perfumed herself and went out to him, as she were a
branch of Ban or a cane of rattan, followed by a black
slave-girl, bearing the lute. When she came to the young man, she
saluted him and sat down by his side. Then she took the lute from
the slave-girl and screwing up its pegs,[FN#293] smote thereon in
four-and-twenty modes, after which she returned to the first and
sang these couplets,

"My joy in this world is to see and sit near thee. * Thy love's
my religion; thy Union my pleasure.
Attest it these tears when in memory I speer thee, * And
unchecked down my cheeks pours the flood without measure.
By Allah, no rival in love hast to fear thee; * I'm thy slave as
I sware, and this troth is my treasure.
Be not this our last meeting: by Allah I swear thee * Thy
severance to me were most bitter displeasure!"

The young man was moved to delight and cried, "By Allah, thou
sayest well, O Sitt al-Milah! Let me hear more." Then he
largessed her with fifty gold pieces and they drank and the cups
made circuit among them; and her seller said to her, "O Sitt
al-Milah, this is the season of farewelling; so let us hear
somewhat thereon." Accordingly she struck the lute and touching
upon that which was in her heart, improvised these couplets,

"I thole longing, remembrance and sad repine, * Nor my heart can
brook woes in so lengthened line.
O my lords think not I forget your love; * My case is sure case
and cure shows no sign.
If creature could swim in the flood of his tears, * I were first
to swim in these floods of brine:
O Cup-boy withhold cup and bowl from a wretch * Who ne'er ceaseth
to drink of her tears for wine!
Had I known that parting would do me die, * I had shirked to
part, but--'twas Fate's design."

Now whilst they were thus enjoying whatso is most delicious of
ease and delight, and indeed the wine was to them sweet and the
talk a treat, behold, there came a knocking at the door. So the
house-master went out, that he might see what might be the
matter, and found ten head of the Caliph's eunuchs at the
entrance. When he saw this, he was startled and said, "What is to
do?" "The Commander of the Faithful saluteth thee and requireth
of thee the slave-girl whom thou hast exposed for sale and whose
name is Sitt al-Milah." "By Allah, I have sold her." "Swear by
the head of the Commander of the Faithful that she is not in thy
quarters." The slaver made oath that he had sold her and that she
was no longer at his disposal: yet they paid no heed to his word
and forcing their way into the house, found the damsel and the
young Damascene in the sitting-chamber. So they laid hands upon
her, and the youth said, "This is my slave-girl, whom I have
bought with my money;" but they hearkened not to his speech and
taking her, carried her off to the Prince of True Believers.
Therewith Nur al-Din's pleasure was troubled: he arose and donned
his dress, and his host said, "Whither away this night, O my
lord?" Said he, "I purpose going to my quarters, and tomorrow I
will betake myself to the palace of the Commander of the Faithful
and demand my slave-girl." The other replied, "Sleep till the
morning, and fare not forth at the like of this hour." But he
rejoined, "Needs must I go;" and the host said to him, "Go in
Allah his safeguard." So the youth went forth and, drunkenness
having got the mastery of his wits, he threw himself down on a
bench before one of the shops. Now the watchmen were at that hour
making their rounds and they smelt the sweet scent of essences
and wine that reeked from him; so they made for it and suddenly
beheld the youth lying on the bench, without sign of recovering.
They poured water upon him, and he awoke, whereupon they carried
him off to the office of the Chief of Police and he questioned
him of his case. He replied "O my lord, I am an alien in this
town and have been with one of my friends: I came forth from his
house and drunkenness overcame me." The Wali bade carry him to
his lodging; but one of those in attendance upon him, Al-Muradi
hight, said to him, "What wilt thou do? This man is robed in rich
raiment and on his finger is a golden ring, whose bezel is a ruby
of great price; so we will carry him away and slay him and take
that which is upon him of clothes and bring to thee all we get;
for that thou wilt not often see profit the like thereof,
especially as this fellow is a foreigner and there is none to ask
after him."[FN#294] Quoth the Chief, "This wight is a thief and
that which he saith is leasing." Nur al-Din said, "Allah forfend
that I should be a thief!" but the Wali answered, "Thou liest."
So they stripped him of his clothes and taking the seal-ring from
his finger, beat him with a grievous beating, what while he cried
out for succour, but none succoured him, and besought protection,
but none protected him. Then said he to them, "O folk, ye are
quit[FN#295] of that which ye have taken from me; but now restore
me to my lodging." They replied, "Leave this knavery, O rascal!
thine intent is to sue us for thy clothes on the morrow." The
youth cried, "By the truth of the One, the Eternal One, I will
not sue any for them!" but they said, "We find no way to this."
And the Prefect bade them bear him to the Tigris and there slay
him and cast him into the stream. So they dragged him away, while
he wept and said the words which shall nowise shame the sayer:
"There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the
Glorious, the Great!" When they came to the Tigris, one of them
drew the sword upon him and Al-Muradi said to the sworder, "Smite
off his head;" but one of them, hight Ahmad, cried, "O folk, deal
softly with this poor wretch and slay him not unjustly and
wickedly, for I stand in fear of Allah Almighty, lest He burn me
with his fire." Quoth Al-Muradi, "A truce to this talk!" and
quoth the Ahmad aforesaid, "An ye do with him aught, I will
acquaint the Commander of the Faithful." They asked, "How, then,
shall we do with him?" and he answered, "Let us deposit him in
prison and I will be answerable to you for his provision; so
shall we be quit of his blood, for indeed he is a wronged man."
Accordingly they agreed to this and taking him up cast him into
the Prison of Blood,[FN#296] and then went their ways. So far as
regards them; but returning to the damsel, they carried her to
the Commander of the Faithful and she pleased him; so he assigned
her a chamber of the chambers of choice. She tarried in the
palace, neither eating nor drinking, and weeping sans surcease
night and day, till, one night, the Caliph sent for her to his
sitting-hall and said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, be of good cheer
and keep thine eyes cool of tear, for I will make thy rank higher
than any of the concubines and thou shalt see that which shall
rejoice thee." She kissed ground and wept; whereupon the Prince
of True Believers called for her lute and bade her sing: so in
accordance with that which was in her heart, she sang these
improvised couplets,

"By the sheen of thy soul and the sheen of thy smile,[FN#297] *
Say, moan'st thou for doubt or is't ring-dove's moan?
How many have died who by love were slain! * Fails my patience
but blaming my blamers wone."

Now when she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from
her hand and wept till she fainted away, whereupon the Caliph
bade carry her to her chamber. But he was fascinated by her and
loved her with exceeding love; so, after a while, he again
commanded to bring her in to the presence, and when she came, he
ordered her to sing. Accordingly, she took the lute and chanted
to it that which was in her heart and improvised these couplets,

"Have I patience and strength to support this despair? * Ah, how
couldst thou purpose afar to fare?
Thou art swayed by the spy to my cark and care: * No marvel an
branchlet sway here and there![FN#298]
With unbearable load thou wouldst load me, still * Thou loadest
with love which I theewards bear."

Then she cast the lute from her hand and fainted away; so she was
carried to her sleeping-chamber and indeed passion grew upon her.
After along while the Prince of True Believers sent for her a
third time and commanded her to sing. So she took the lute and
chanted these couplets,

"O of piebald wild ye dunes sandy and drear, * Shall the teenful
lover 'scape teen and tear?
Shall ye see me joined with a lover, who * Still flies or shall
meet we in joyful cheer?
O hail to the fawn with the Houri eye, * Like sun or moon on
horizon clear!
He saith to lovers, 'What look ye on?' * And to stony hearts,
'Say, what love ye dear?'[FN#299]
I pray to Him who departed us * With severance-doom, 'Be our
union near!'"

When she had made an end of her verse, the Commander of the
Faithful said to her, "O damsel, thou art in love." She replied,
"Yes;" and he asked, "With whom?" Answered she, "With my lord and
sovran of my tenderness, for whom my love is as the love of the
earth for rain, or as the desire of the female for the male; and
indeed the love of him is mingled with my flesh and my blood and
hath entered into the channels of my bones. O Prince of True
Believers, whenever I call him to mind my vitals are consumed,
for that I have not yet won my wish of him, and but that I fear
to die, without seeing him, I had assuredly slain myself."
Thereupon quoth he, "Art thou in my presence and durst bespeak me
with the like of these words? Forsure I will gar thee forget thy
lord." Then he bade take her away; so she was carried to her
pavilion and he sent her a concubine, with a casket wherein were
three thousand ducats and a collar of gold set with seed-pearls
and great unions, and jewels, worth other three thousand, saying
to her, "The slave-girl and that which is with her are a gift
from me to thee." When she heard this, she cried, "Allah forfend
that I be consoled for the love of my lord and my master, though
with an earth-full of gold!" And she improvised and recited these

"By his life I swear, by his life I pray; * For him fire I'd
enter unful dismay!
'Console thee (cry they) with another fere * Thou lovest!' and I,
'By 's life, nay, NAY!'
He's moon whom beauty and grace array; * From whose cheeks and
brow shineth light of day."

Then the Commander of the Faithful summoned her to his presence a
fourth time and said, "O Sitt al-Milah, sing." So she recited and
sang these couplets,

"The lover's heart by his beloved is oft disheartened * And by
the hand of sickness eke his sprite dispirited,
One asked, 'What is the taste of love?"[FN#300] and I to him
replied, * 'Love is a sweet at first but oft in fine
I am the thrall of Love who keeps the troth of love to
them[FN#301] * But oft they proved themselves 'Urkub[FN#302]
in pact with me they made.
What in their camp remains? They bound their loads and fared
away; * To other feres the veiled Fairs in curtained litters
At every station the beloved showed all of Joseph's charms: * The
lover wone with Jacob's woe in every shift of stead."

When she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from her
hand and wept herself a-swoon. So they sprinkled on her
musk-mingled rose-water and willow-flower water; and when she
came to her senses, Al-Rashid said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, this
is not just dealing in thee. We love thee and thou lovest
another." She replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, there is no
help for it." Thereupon he was wroth with her and cried, "By the
virtue of Hamzah[FN#303] and 'Akil[FN#304] and Mohammed, Prince
of the Apostles, an thou name in my presence one other than I, I
will assuredly order strike off thy head!" Then he bade return
her to her chamber, whilst she wept and recited these couplets,

'Oh brave!' I'd cry an I my death could view; * My death were
better than these griefs to rue,
Did sabre hew me limb by limb; this were * Naught to affright a
lover leal-true."

Then the Caliph went in to the Lady Zubaydah, complexion-altered
with anger, and she noted this in him and said to him, "How
cometh it that I see the Commander of the Faithful changed of
colour?" He replied, "O daughter of my uncle, I have a beautiful
slave-girl, who reciteth verses by rote and telleth various
tales, and she hath taken my whole heart; but she loveth other
than myself and declareth that she affecteth her former lord; so
I have sworn a great oath that, if she come again to my sitting-
hall and sing for other than for me, I will assuredly shorten her
highest part by a span."[FN#305] Quoth Zubaydah, "Let the
Commander of the Faithful favour me by presenting her, so I may
look on her and hear her singing." Accordingly he bade fetch her
and she came, upon which the Lady Zubaydah withdrew behind the
curtain,[FN#306] where the damsel saw her not, and Al-Rashid said
to her, "Sing to us." So she took the lute and tuning it, recited
these couplets,

"O my lord! since the day when I lost your sight, * My life was
ungladdened, my heart full of teen;
The memory of you kills me every night; * And by all the worlds
is my trace unseen;
All for love of a Fawn who hath snared my sprite * By his love
and his brow as the morning sheen.
Like a left hand parted from brother right * I became by parting
thro' Fortune's spleen.
On the brow of him Beauty deigned indite * 'Blest be Allah, whom
best of Creators I ween!'
And Him I pray, who could disunite * To re-unite us. Then cry

When Al-Rashid heard the end of this, he waxed exceeding wroth
and said, "May Allah not reunite you twain in gladness!" Then he
summoned the headsman, and when he presented himself, he said to
him, "Strike off the head of this accursed slavegirl." So Masrur
took her by the hand and led her away; but, when she came to the
door, she turned and said to the Caliph, "O Commander of the
Faithful, I conjure thee, by thy fathers and forefathers, behead
me not until thou give ear to that I shall say!" Then she
improvised and recited these couplets,

"Emir of Justice, be to lieges kind * For Justice ever guides thy
generous mind;
And, oh, who blamest love to him inclining! * Are lovers blamed
for laches undesigned?
By Him who gave thee rule, deign spare my life * For rule on
earth He hath to thee assigned."

Then Masrur carried her to the other end of the sitting-hall and
bound her eyes and making her sit, stood awaiting a second order:
whereupon quoth the Lady Zubaydah, "O Prince of True Believers,
with thy permission, wilt thou not vouchsafe this damsel a
portion of thy clemency? An thou slay her, 'twere injustice."
Quoth he, "What is to be done with her?" and quoth she, "Forbear
to slay her and send for her lord. If he be as she describeth him
in beauty and loveliness, she is excused, and if he be not on
this wise then kill her, and this shall be thy plea aainst
her."[FN#308] Al-Rashid replied, "No harm in this rede;" and
caused return the damsel to her chamber, saying to her, "The Lady
Zubaydah saith thus and thus." She rejoined, "God requite her for
me with good! Indeed, thou dealest equitably, O Commander of the
Faithful, in this judgment." And he retorted, "Go now to thy
place, and tomorrow we will bid them bring thy lord." So she
kissed ground and recited these couplets,

"I indeed will well for whom love I will: * Let chider chide and
let blamer blame:
All lives must die at fixt tide and term * But I must die ere my
life-term came:
Then Oh whose love hath afflicted me * Well I will but thy
presence in haste I claim."

Then she arose and returned to her chamber. Now on the morrow,
the Commander of the Faithful sat in his hall of audience and his
Wazir Ja'afar bin Yahya the Barmecide came in to him; whereupon
he called to him, saying, "I would have thee bring me a youth who
is lately come to Baghdad, hight Sidi Nur al-Din Ali the
Damascene." Quoth Ja'afar, "Hearing and obeying," and going forth
in quest of the youth, sent to the bazars and Wakalahs and Khans
for three successive days, but discovered no trace of him,
neither happened upon the place of him. So on the fourth day he
presented himself before the Caliph and said to him, "O our lord,
I have sought him these three days, but have not found him." Said
Al-Rashid, "Make ready letters to Damascus. Peradventure he hath
returned to his own land." Accordingly Ja'afar wrote a letter and
despatched it by a dromedary-courier to the Damascus-city; and
they sought him there and found him not. Meanwhile, news was
brought that Khorasan had been conquered;[FN#309] whereupon
Al-Rashid rejoiced and bade decorate Baghdad and release all in
the gaol, giving each of them a ducat and a dress. So Ja'afar
applied himself to the adornment of the city and bade his brother
Al-Fazl ride to the prison and robe and set free the prisoners.
Al-Fazl did as his brother commanded and released all save the
young Damascene, who abode still in the Prison of Blood, saying,
"There is no Majesty, and there is no Might save in Allah, the
Glorious, the Great! Verily, we are God's and to Him are we
returning." Then quoth Al-Fazl to the gaoler, "Is there any left
in the prison?" Quoth he, "No," and Al-Fazl was about to depart,
when Nur al-Din called out to him from within the prison, saying,
"O our lord, tarry awhile, for there remaineth none in the prison
other than I and indeed I am wronged. This is a day of pardon and
there is no disputing concerning it." Al-Fazl bade release him;
so they set him free and he gave him a dress and a ducat.
Thereupon the young man went out, bewildered and unknowing
whither he should wend, for that he had sojourned in the gaol a
year or so and indeed his condition was changed and his favour
fouled, and he abode walking and turning round, lest Al-Muradi
come upon him and cast him into another calamity. When Al-Muradi
learnt his release, he betook himself to the Wali and said, "O
our lord, we are not assured of our lives from that youth,
because he hath been freed from prison and we fear lest he
complain of us." Quoth the Chief, "How shall we do?" and quoth
Al-Muradi, "I will cast him into a calamity for thee." Then he
ceased not to follow the Damascene from place to place till he
came up with him in a narrow stead and cul-de-sac; whereupon he
accosted him and casting a cord about his neck, cried out, "A
thief!" The folk flocked to him from all sides and fell to
beating and abusing Nur al-Din,[FN#310] whilst he cried out for
aidance but none aided him, and Al-Muradi kept saying to him,
"But yesterday the Commander of the Faithful released thee and
to-day thou robbest!" So the hearts of the mob were hardened
against him and again Al-Muradi carried him to the Chief of
Police, who bade hew off his hand. Accordingly, the hangman took
him and bringing out the knife, proceeded to cut off his hand,
while Al-Muradi said to him, "Cut and sever the bone and
fry[FN#311] not in oil the stump for him, so he may lose all his
blood and we be at rest from him." But Ahmad, he who had before
been the cause of his deliverance, sprang up to him and cried, "O
folk, fear Allah in your action with this youth, for that I know
his affair, first and last, and he is clear of offence and
guiltless: he is of the lords of houses,[FN#312] and unless ye
desist from him, I will go up to the Commander of the Faithful
and acquaint him with the case from beginning to end and that the
youth is innocent of sin or crime." Quoth Al-Muradi, "Indeed, we
are not assured from his mischief;" and quoth Ahmad, "Set him
free and commit him to me and I will warrant you against his
doings, for ye shall never see him again after this." So they
delivered Nur al-Din to him and he took him from their hands and
said to him, "O youth, have ruth on thyself, for indeed thou hast
fallen into the hands of these folk twice and if they prevail
over thee a third time, they will make an end of thee; and I in
doing thus with thee, aim at reward for thee and recompense in
Heaven and answer of prayer."[FN#313] So Nur al-Din fell to
kissing his hand and blessing him said, "Know that I am a
stranger in this your city and the completion of kindness is
better than its commencement; wherefore I pray thee of thy favour
that thou make perfect to me thy good offices and generosity and
bring me to the city-gate. So will thy beneficence be
accomplished unto me and may God Almighty requite thee for me
with good!" Ahmad replied, "No harm shall betide thee: go; I will
bear thee company till thou come to thy place of safety." And he
left him not till he brought him to the city-gate and said to
him, "O youth, go in Allah's guard and return not to the city,
for, an they fall in with thee again, they will make an end of
thee." Nur al-Din kissed his hand and going forth the city, gave
not over walking, till he came to a mosque that stood in one of
the suburbs of Baghdad and entered therein with the night. Now he
had with him naught wherewith he might cover himself; so he
wrapped himself up in one of the mats of the mosque and thus
abode till dawn, when the Muezzins came and finding him seated in
such case, said to him, "O youth, what is this plight?" Said he,
"I cast myself on your protection, imploring this defence from a
company of folk who seek to slay me unjustly and wrongously,
without cause." And one of the Muezzins said, "I will protect
thee; so be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool of tear." Then
he brought him old clothes and covered him therewith; he also set
before him somewhat of victual and seeing upon him signs of fine
breeding, said to him, "O my son, I grow old and desiring help
from thee, I will do away thy necessity." Nur al-Din replied, "To
hear is to obey;" and abode with the old man, who rested and took
his ease, while the youth did his service in the mosque,
celebrating the praises of Allah and calling the Faithful to
prayer and lighting the lamps and filling the spout-pots[FN#314]
and sweeping and cleaning out the place of worship. On this-wise
it befel the young Damascene; but as regards Sitt al-Milah, the
Lady Zubaydah, the wife of the Commander of the Faithful, made a
banquet in her palace and assembled her slave-girls. And the
damsel came, weeping-eyed and heavy-hearted, and those present
blamed her for this, whereupon she recited these couplets,

"Ye blame the mourner who weeps his woe; * Needs must the mourner
sing, weeping sore;
An I see not some happy day I'll weep * Brine-tears till followed
by gouts of gore."

When she had made an end of her verses, the Lady Zubaydah bade
each damsel sing a song, till the turn came round to Sitt
al-Milah, whereupon she took the lute and tuning it, carolled
thereto four-and-twenty carols in four-and-twenty modes; then she
returned to the first and sang these couplets,

"The World hath shot me with all her shafts * Departing friends
parting-grief t' aby:
So in heart the burn of all hearts I bear * And in eyes the
tear-drops of every eye."

When she had made an end of her song, she wept till she garred
the bystanders weep and the Lady Zubaydah condoled with her and
said to her, "Allah upon thee, O Sitt al-Milah, sing us some,
what, so we may hearken to thee." The damsel replied, "Hearing
and obeying," and sang these couplets,

"People of passion, assemble ye! * This day be the day of our
The Raven o' severance croaks at our doors; * Our raven which
nigh to us aye see we.
The friends we love have appointed us * The grievousest
parting-dule to dree.
Rise, by your lives, and let all at once * Fare to seek our
friends where their sight we see."

Then she threw the lute from her hand and shed tears till she
drew tears from the Lady Zubaydah who said to her, "O Sitt
al-Milah, he whom thou lovest methinks is not in this world, for
the Commander of the Faithful hath sought him in every place, but
hath not found him." Whereupon the damsel arose and kissing the
Princess's hands, said to her, "O my lady, an thou wouldst have
him found, I have this night a request to make whereby thou mayst
win my need with the Caliph." Quoth the Lady, "And what is it?"
and quoth Sitt al-Milah, "'Tis that thou get me leave to fare
forth by myself and go round about in quest of him three days,
for the adage saith, Whoso keeneth for herself is not like whoso
is hired to keen![FN#315] An if I find him, I will bring him
before the Commander of the Faithful, so he may do with us what
he will, and if I find him not, I shall be cut off from hope of
him and the heat of that which is with me will be cooled." Quoth
the Lady Zubaydah, "I will not get thee leave from him but for a
whole month; so be of good cheer and eyes cool and clear."
Whereat Sitt al-Milah rejoiced and rising, kissed ground before
her once more and went away to her own place, and right glad was
she. As for Zubaydah, she went in to the Caliph and talked with
him awhile; then she fell to kissing him between the eyes and on
his hands and asked him for that which she had promised to Sitt
al-Milah, saying, "O Commander of the Faithful, I doubt me her
lord is not found in this world; but, an she go about seeking him
and find him not, her hopes will be cut off and her mind will be
set at rest and she will sport and laugh; and indeed while she
nourisheth hope, she will never take the right direction." And
she ceased not cajoling him till he gave Sitt al-Milah leave to
fare forth and make search for her lord a month's space and
ordered a riding-mule and an eunuch to attend her and bade the
privy purse give her all she needed, were it a thousand dirhams a
day or even more. So the Lady Zubaydah arose and returning to her
palace bade summon Sitt al-Milah and, as soon as she came,
acquainted her with that which had passed; whereupon she kissed
her hand and thanked her and called down blessings on her. Then
she took leave of the Princess and veiling her face with a
mask,[FN#316] disguised herself;[FN#317] after which she mounted
the she-mule and sallying forth, went round about seeking her
lord in the highways of Baghdad three days' space, but happed on
no tidings of him; and on the fourth day, she rode forth without
the city. Now it was the noon-hour and fierce was the heat, and
she was aweary and thirst came upon her. Presently, she reached
the mosque of the Shaykh who had lodged the young Damascene, and
dismounting at the door, said to the old Muezzin, "O Shaykh, hast
thou a draught of cold water? Verily, I am overcome with heat and
thirst." Said he, "'Tis with me in my house." So he carried her
up into his lodging and spreading her a carpet, seated her; after
which he brought her cold water and she drank and said to her
eunuch, "Go thy ways with the mule and to-morrow come back to me
here." Accordingly he went away and she slept and rested herself.
When she awoke, she asked the old man, "O Shaykh, hast thou aught
of food?" and he answered, "O my lady, I have bread and olives."
Quoth she, "That be food which befitteth only the like of thee.
As for me, I will have naught save roast lamb and soups and
reddened fowls right fat and ducks farcis with all manner
stuffing of pistachio-nuts and sugar." Quoth the Muezzin, "O my
lady, I have never heard of this chapter[FN#318] in the Koran,
nor was it revealed to our lord Mohammed, whom Allah save and
assain!"[FN#319] She laughed and said, "O Shaykh, the matter is
even as thou sayest; but bring me pen-case and paper." So he
brought her what she sought and she wrote a note and gave it to
him, together with a seal-ring from her finger, saying, "Go into
the city and enquire for Such-an-one the Shroff and give him this
my note." Accordingly the oldster betook himself to the city, as
she bade him, and asked for the money-changer, to whom they
directed him. So he gave him ring and writ, seeing which, he
kissed the letter and breaking it open, read it and apprehended
its contents. Then he repaired to the bazar and buying all that
she bade him, laid it in a porter's crate and made him go with
the Shaykh. The old man took the Hammal and went with him to the
mosque, where he relieved him of his burden and carried the rich
viands in to Sitt al-Milah. She seated him by her side and they
ate, he and she, of those dainty cates, till they were satisfied,
when the Shaykh rose and removed the food from before her. She
passed that night in his lodging and when she got up in the
morning, she said to him, "O elder, may I not lack thy kind
offices for the breakfast! Go to the Shroff and fetch me from him
the like of yesterday's food." So he arose and betaking himself
to the money-changer, acquainted him with that which she had
bidden him. The Shroff brought him all she required and set it on
the heads of Hammals; and the Shaykh took them and returned with
them to the damsel, when she sat down with him and they ate their
sufficiency, after which he removed the rest of the meats. Then
she took the fruits and the flowers and setting them over against
herself, wrought them into rings and knots and writs, whilst the
Shaykh looked on at a thing whose like he had never in his life
seen and rejoiced in the sight. Presently said she to him "O
elder, I would fain drink." So he arose and brought her a gugglet
of water; but she cried to him, "Who said to thee, Fetch that?"
Quoth he, "Saidst thou not to me, I would fain drink?" and quoth
she, "'I want not this; nay, I want wine, the solace of the soul,
so haply, O Shaykh, I may refresh myself therewith." Exclaimed
the old man, "Allah forfend that strong drink be drunk in my
house, and I a stranger in the land and a Muezzin and an Imam,
who leadeth the True Believers in prayer, and a servant of the
House of the Lord of the three Worlds!" "Why wilt thou forbid me
to drink thereof in thy house?" "Because 'tis unlawful." "O
elder, Allah hath forbidden only the eating of blood and
carrion[FN#320] and hog's flesh: tell me, are grapes and honey
lawful or unlawful?" "They are lawful." "This is the juice of
grapes and the water of honey." "Leave this thy talk, for thou
shalt never drink wine in my house." "O Shaykh, people eat and
drink and enjoy themselves and we are of the number of the folk
and Allah is indulgent and merciful."[FN#321] "This is a thing
that may not be." "Hast thou not heard what the poet saith?" And
she recited these couplets,

"Cease thou to hear, O Sim'an-son,[FN#322] aught save the say of
me; * How bitter 'twas to quit the monks and fly the
When, on the Fete of Palms there stood, amid the hallowed
fane,[FN#323] * A pretty Fawn whose lovely pride garred me
sore wrong to dree.
May Allah bless the night we spent when he to us was third, *
While Moslem, Jew, and Nazarene all sported fain and free.
Quoth he, from out whose locks appeared the gleaming of the morn,
* 'Sweet is the wine and sweet the flowers that joy us
comrades three.
The garden of the garths of Khuld where roll and rail amain, *
Rivulets 'neath the myrtle shade and Ban's fair branchery;
And birds make carol on the boughs and sing in blithest lay, *
Yea, this indeed is life, but, ah! how soon it fades away.'"

She then asked him, "O Shaykh, an Moslems and Jews and Nazarenes
drink wine, who are we that we should reject it?" Answered he,
"By Allah, O my lady, spare thy pains, for this be a thing
whereto I will not hearken." When she knew that he would not
consent to her desire, she said to him, "O Shaykh, I am of the
slave-girls of the Commander of the Faithful and the food waxeth
heavy on me and if I drink not, I shall die of indigestion, nor
wilt thou be assured against the issue of my case.[FN#324] As for
me, I acquit myself of blame towards thee, for that I have bidden
thee beware of the wrath of the Commander of the Faithful, after
making myself known to thee." When the Shaykh heard her words and
that wherewith she threatened him, he sprang up and went out,
perplexed and unknowing what he should do, and there met him a
Jewish man, which was his neighbour, and said to him, "How cometh
it that I see thee, O Shaykh, strait of breast? Eke, I hear in
thy house a noise of talk, such as I am unwont to hear with
thee." Quoth the Muezzin, "'Tis of a damsel who declareth that
she is of the slave-girls of the Commander of the Faithful, Harun
al-Rashid; and she hath eaten meat and now would drink wine in my
house, but I forbade her. However she asserteth that unless she
drink thereof, she will die, and indeed I am bewildered
concerning my case." Answered the Jew, "Know, O my neighbour,
that the slavel-girls of the Commander of the Faithful are used
to drink wine, and when they eat and drink not, they die; and I
fear lest happen some mishap to her, when thou wouldst not be
safe from the Caliph's fury." The Shaykh asked, "What is to be
done?" and the Jew answered, "I have old wine that will suit
her." Quoth the Shaykh, "By the right of neighbourship, deliver
me from this descent[FN#325] of calamity and let me have that
which is with thee!" Quoth the Jew, "Bismillah, in the name of
Allah," and passing to his quarters, brought out a glass flask of
wine, wherewith the Shaykh returned to Sitt al-Milah. This
pleased her and she cried to him, "Whence hadst thou this?" He
replied, "I got it from the Jew, my neighbour: I set forth to him
my case with thee and he gave me this." Thereupon Sitt al-Milah
filled a cup and emptied it; after which she drank a second and a
third. Then she crowned the cup a fourth time and handed it to
the Shaykh, but he would not accept it from her. However, she
conjured him, by her own head and that of the Prince of True
Believers, that he take the cup from her, till he received it
from her hand and kissed it and would have set it down; but she
sware him by her life to smell it. Accordingly he smelt it and
she said to him, "How deemest thou?" Said he, "I find its smell
is sweet;" and she conjured him by the Caliph's life to taste
thereof. So he put it to his mouth and she rose to him and made
him drink; whereupon quoth be, "O Princess of the Fair,[FN#326]
this is none other than good." Quoth she, "So deem I: hath not
our Lord promised us wine in Paradise?" He answered, "Yes! The
Most High saith, 'And rivers of wine, delicious to the
drinkers.'[FN#327] And we will drink it in this world and in the
next world." She laughed and emptying the cup, gave him to drink,
and he said, "O Princess of the Fair, indeed thou art excusable
in thy love for this." Then he bent in hand from her another and
another, till he became drunken and his talk waxed great and his
prattle. The folk of the quarter heard him and assembled under
the window; and when the Shaykh was ware of them, he opened the
window and said to them, "Are ye not ashamed, O pimps? Every one
in his own house doth whatso he willeth and none hindereth him;
but we drink one single day and ye assemble and come, panders
that ye are! To-day, wine, and to-morrow business;[FN#328] and
from hour to hour cometh relief." So they laughed together and
dispersed. Then the girl drank till she was drunken, when she
called to mind her lord and wept, and the Shaykh said to her,
"What maketh thee weep, O my lady?" Said she, "O elder, I am a
lover and a separated." He cried, "O my lady, what is this love?"
Cried she, "And thou, hast thou never been in love?" He replied,
"By Allah, O my lady, never in all my life heard I of this thing,
nor have I ever known it! Is it of the sons of Adam or of the
Jinn?" She laughed and said, "Verily, thou art even as those of
whom the poet speaketh, in these couplets,

"How oft shall they admonish and ye shun this nourishment; * When
e'en the shepherd's bidding is obeyed by his flocks?
I see you like in shape and form to creatures whom we term *
Mankind, but in your acts and deeds you are a sort of

The Shaykh laughed at her speech and her verses pleased him. Then
cried she to him, "I desire of thee a lute." So he arose and
brought her a bit of fuel.[FN#330] Quoth she, "What is that?" and
quoth he "Didst thou not say: Bring me fuel?" Said she, "I do not
want this," and said he, "What then is it that is hight fuel,
other than this?" She laughed and replied, "The lute is an
instrument of music, whereunto I sing." Asked he, "Where is this
thing found and of whom shall I get it for thee?" and answered
she, "Of him who gave thee the wine." So he arose and betaking
himself to his neighbour the Jew, said to him, "Thou favouredst
us before with the wine; so now complete thy favours and look me
out a thing hight lute, which be an instrument for singing; for
she seeketh this of me and I know it not." Replied the Jew,
"Hearkening and obedience," and going into his house, brought him
a lute. The old man carried it to Sitt al-Milah, whilst the Jew
took his drink and sat by a window adjoining the Shaykh's house,
so he might hear the singing. The damsel rejoiced, when the old
man returned to her with the lute, and taking it from him, tuned
its strings and sang these couplets,

"Remains not, after you are gone, or trace of you or sign, * But
hope to see this parting end and break its lengthy line:
You went and by your wending made the whole world desolate; * And
none may stand this day in stead to fill the yearning eyne.
Indeed, you've burdened weakling me, by strength and force of you
* With load no hill hath power t'upheave nor yet the plain
low li'en:
And I, whenever fain I scent the breeze your land o'erbreathes, *
Lose all my wits as though they were bemused with heady
O folk no light affair is Love for lover woe to dree * Nor easy
'tis to satisfy its sorrow and repine.
I've wandered East and West to hap upon your trace, and when *
Spring-camps I find the dwellers cry, 'They've marched,
those friends o' thine!'
Never accustomed me to part these intimates I love; * Nay, when I
left them all were wont new meetings to design."

Now when she had ended her song, she wept with sore weeping, till
presently sleep overcame her and she slept. On the morrow, she
said to the Shaykh, "Get thee to the Shroff and fetch me the
ordinary;" so he repaired to the money-changer and delivered him
the message, whereupon he made ready meat and drink, according to
his custom, with which the old man returned to the damsel and
they ate their sufficiency. When she had eaten, she sought of him
wine and he went to the Jew and fetched it. Then the twain sat
down and drank; and when she waxed drunken, she took the lute and
smiting it, fell a-singing and chanted these couplets,

"How long ask I the heart, the heart drowned, and eke * Refrain
my complaint while I my tear-floods speak?
They forbid e'en the phantom to visit me, * (O marvel!) her
phantom my couch to seek."[FN#331]

And when she had made an end of her song, she wept with sore
weeping. All this time, the young Damascene was listening, and
now he likened her voice to the voice of his slave-girl and then
he put away from him this thought, and the damsel had no
knowledge whatever of his presence. Then she broke out again into
song and chanted these couplets,

"Quoth they, 'Forget him! What is he?' To them I cried, * 'Allah
forget me when forget I mine adored!'
Now in this world shall I forget the love o' you? * Heaven grant
the thrall may ne'er forget to love his lord!
I pray that Allah pardon all except thy love * Which, when I meet
Him may my bestest plea afford."

After ending this song she drank three cups and filling the old
man other three, improvised these couplets,

"His love he hid which tell-tale tears betrayed; * For burn of
coal that 'neath his ribs was laid:
Giv'n that he seek his joy in spring and flowers * Some day, his
spring's the face of dear-loved maid.
O ye who blame me for who baulks my love! * What sweeter thing
than boon to man denayed?
A sun, yet scorcheth he my very heart! * A moon, but riseth he
from breasts a-shade!"

When she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from her
hand and wept, whilst the Shaykh wept for her weeping. Then she
fell down in a fainting fit and presently recovering, crowned the
cup and drinking it off, gave the elder to drink, after which she
took the lute and breaking out into song, chanted these couplets,

"Thy parting is bestest of woes to my heart, * And changed my
case till all sleep it eschewed:
The world to my being is desolate; * Then Oh grief! and O
lingering solitude!
Maybe The Ruthful incline thee to me * And join us despite what
our foes have sued!"

Then she wept till her voice rose high and her wailing was
discovered to those without; after which she again began to drink
and plying the Shaykh with wine, sang these couplets,

"An they hid thy person from eyen-sight, * They hid not thy name
fro' my mindful sprite:
Or meet me; thy ransom for meeting I'll be[FN#332] * Or fly me;
and ransom I'll be for thy flight!
Mine outer speaks for mine inner case, * And mine inner speaks
for mine outer plight."

When she had made an end of her verses, she threw the lute from
her hand and wept and wailed. Then she slept awhile and presently
awaking, said, "O Shaykh, say me, hast thou what we may eat?" He
replied, "O my lady, I have the rest of the food;" but she cried,
"I will not eat of the orts I have left. Go down to the bazar and
fetch us what we may eat." He rejoined, "Excuse me, O my lady, I
cannot rise to my feet, because I am bemused with wine; but with
me is the servant of the mosque, who is a sharp youth and an
intelligent. I will call him, so he may buy thee whatso thou
wantest." Asked she, "Whence hast thou this servant?" and he
answered, "He is of the people of Damascus." When she heard him
say "of the people of Damascus," she sobbed such a sob that she
swooned away; and when she came to herself, she said, "Woe is me
for the people of Damascus and for those who are therein! Call
him, O Shaykh, that he may do our need." Accordingly, the old man
put his head forth of the window and called the youth, who came
to him from the mosque and sought leave to enter. The Muezzin
bade him come in, and when he appeared before the damsel, he knew
her and she knew him; whereupon he turned back in bewilderment
and would have fled at hap-hazard; but she sprang up to him and
held him fast, and they embraced and wept together, till they
fell to the floor in a fainting fit. When the Shaykh saw them in
this condition, he feared for himself and fared forth in fright,
seeing not the way for drunkenness. His neighbour the Jew met him
and asked him, "How is it that I behold thee astounded?" Answered
the old man, "How should I not be astounded, seeing that the
damsel who is with me is fallen in love with the mosque servant
and they have embraced and slipped down in a swoon? Indeed, I
fear lest the Caliph come to know of this and be wroth with me;
so tell me thou what is thy device for that wherewith I am
afflicted in the matter of this damsel." Quoth the Jew, "For the
present, take this casting-bottle of rose-water and go forthright
and sprinkle them therewith: an they be aswoon for this their
union and embrace, they will recover, and if otherwise, then take
to flight." The Shaykh snatched the casting-bottle from the Jew
and going up to the twain, sprinkled their faces, whereupon they
came to themselves and fell to relating each to other that which
they had suffered, since both had been parted, for the pangs of
severance. Nur al-Din also acquainted Sitt al-Milah with that
which he had endured from the folk who would have killed[FN#333]
him and utterly annihilated him; and she said to him, "O my lord,
let us for the nonce leave this talk and praise Allah for reunion
of loves, and all this shall cease from us." Then she gave him
the cup and he said, "By Allah, I will on no wise drink it,
whilst I am in this case!" So she drank it off before him and
taking the lute, swept the strings and sang these couplets,

"O absent fro' me and yet present in place, * Thou art far from
mine eyes and yet ever nigh!
Thy farness bequeathed me all sorrow and care * And my troublous
life can no joy espy:
Lone, forlorn, weeping-eyelidded, miserablest, * I abide for thy
sake as though banisht I:
Then (ah grief o' me!) far thou hast fared from sight * Yet canst
no more depart me than apple of eye!"

When she had made an end of her verse, she wept and the young man
of Damascus, Nur al-Din, wept also. Then she took the lute and
improvised these couplets,

"Well Allah wots I never named you * But tears o'erbrimming eyes
in floods outburst;
And passion raged and pine would do me die, * Yet my heart rested
wi' the thought it nurst;
O eye-light mine, O wish and O my hope! * Your face can never
quench mine eyes' hot thirst."

When Nur al-Din heard these his slave-girl's verses, he fell
a-weeping, while she strained him to her bosom and wiped away his
tears with her sleeve and questioned him and comforted his mind.
Then she took the lute and sweeping its strings, played thereon
with such performing as would move the staidest to delight and
sang these couplets,

"Indeed, what day brings not your sight to me, * That day I
rem'mber not as dight to me!
And, when I vainly long on you to look, * My life is lost, Oh
life and light o' me!"

After this fashion they fared till the morning, tasting not the
nourishment of sleep;[FN#334] and when the day lightened, behold
the eunuch came with the she-mule and said to Sitt al-Milah, "The
Commander of the Faithful calleth for thee." So she arose and
taking by the hand her lord, committed him to the Shaykh, saying,
"This is the deposit of Allah, then thy deposit,[FN#335] till
this eunuch cometh to thee; and indeed, O elder, my due to thee
is the white hand of favour such as filleth the interval betwixt
heaven and earth." Then she mounted the mule and repairing to the
palace of the Commander of the Faithful, went in to him and
kissed ground before him. Quoth he to her, as who should make
mock of her, "I doubt not but thou hast found thy lord;" and
quoth she, "By thy felicity and the length of thy continuance on
life, I have indeed found him!" Now Al-Rashid was leaning back;
but, when he heard this, he sat upright and said to her "By my
life, true?" She replied, "Ay, by thy life!" He said, "Bring him
into my presence, so I may see him;" but she said, "O my lord,
there have happened to him many hardships and his charms are
changed and his favour faded; and indeed the Prince of True
Believers vouchsafed me a month; wherefore I will tend him the
rest of the month and then bring him to do his service to the
Commander of the Faithful." Quoth Al-Rashid, "Sooth thou sayest:
the condition certainly was for a month; but tell me what hath
betided him." Quoth she, "O my lord (Allah prolong thy
continuance and make Paradise thy place of returning and thine
asylum and the fire the abiding-place of thy foes!), when he
presenteth himself to serve thee, he will assuredly expound to
thee his case and will name to thee his wrongdoers; and indeed
this is an arrear that is due to the Prince of True Believers, by
whom may Allah fortify the Faith and vouchsafe him the victory
over rebel and froward wretch!" Thereupon he ordered her a fine
house and bade furnish it with carpets and vessels of choice and
commanded them to give all she needed. This was done during the
rest of the day, and when the night came, she sent the eunuch
with a suit of clothes and the mule, to fetch Nur al-Din from the
Muezzin's lodging. So the young man donned the dress and
mounting, rode to the house, where he abode in comfort and luxury
a full-told month, while she solaced him with four things, the
eating of fowls and the drinking of wine and the sleeping upon
brocade and the entering the bath after horizontal
refreshment.[FN#336] Furthermore, she brought him six suits of
linen stuffs and took to changing his clothes day by day; nor was
the appointed time of delay accomplished ere his beauty and
loveliness returned to him; nay, his favour waxed tenfold fairer
and he became a seduction to all who looked upon him. One day of
the days Al-Rashid bade bring him to the presence; so his
slave-girl changed his clothes and robing him in sumptuous
raiment, mounted him on the she-mule. Then he rode to the palace
and presenting himself before the Caliph, saluted him with the
goodliest of salutations and bespake him with Truchman's[FN#337]
speech eloquent and deep-thoughted. When Al-Rashid saw him, he
marvelled at the seemliness of his semblance and his loquence and
eloquence and asking of him, was told that he was Sitt al-Milah's
lord; whereupon quoth he, "Indeed, she is excusable in her love
for him, and if we had put her to death wrongfully, as we were
minded to do, her blood would have been upon our heads." Then he
accosted the young man and entering into discourse with him,
found him well-bred, intelligent, clever, quick-witted, generous,
pleasant, elegant, excellent. So he loved him with exceeding love
and questioned him of his native city and of his sire and of the
cause of his journey to Baghdad. Nur al-Din acquainted him with
that which he would know in the goodliest words and concisest
phrases; and the Caliph asked him, "And where hast thou been
absent all this while? Verily, we sent after thee to Damascus and
Mosul and all other cities, but happened on no tidings of thee."
Answered the young man, "O my lord, there betided thy slave in
thy capital that which never yet betided any." Then he acquainted
him with his case, first and last, and told him that which had
befallen him of evil from Al-Muradi and the Chief of Police. Now
when Al-Rashid heard this, he was chagrined with sore chagrin and
waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and cried, "Shall this thing
happen in a city wherein I am?" And the Hashimi vein [FN#338]
started out between his eyes. Then he bade fetch Ja'afar, and
when he came between his hands, he acquainted him with the
adventure and said to him, "Shall this thing come to pass in my
city and I have no news of it?" Thereupon he bade Ja'afar fetch
all whom the young Damascene had named,and when they came, he
bade smite their necks: he also summoned him whom they called
Ahmad and who had been the means of the young man's deliverance a
first time and a second, and thanked him and showed him favour
and bestowed on him a costly robe of honour and made him Chief of
Police in his city.[FN#339] Then he sent for the Shaykh, the
Muezzin, and when the messenger came to him and told him that the
Commander of the Faithfull summoned him, he feared the
denunciation of the damsel and walked with him to the palace,
farting for fear as he went, whilst all who passed him by laughed
at him. When he came into the presence of the Commander of the
Faithful, he fell a-trembling and his tongue was tied,[FN#340] so
that he could not speak. The Caliph smiled at him and said, "O
Shaykh, thou hast done no offence; so why fearest thou?" Answered
the old man (and indeed he was in the sorest of that which may be
of fear), "O my lord, by the virtue of thy pure forefathers,
indeed I have done naught, and do thou enquire of my manners and
morals." The Caliph laughed at him and ordering him a thousand
dinars, bestowed on him a costly robe of honour and made him
headman of the Muezzins in his mosque. Then he called Sitt
al-Milah and said to her, "The house wherein thou lodgest with
all it containeth is a largesse to thy lord: so do thou take him
and depart with him in the safeguard of Allah Almighty; but
absent not yourselves from our presence." Accordingly she went
forth with the young Damascene and when she came to the house,
she found that the Prince of True Believers had sent them gifts
galore and good things in store. As for Nur al-Din, he sent for
his father and mother and appointed for himself agents in the
city of Damascus, to receive the rent of the houses and gardens
and Wakalahs and Hammams; and they occupied themseves with
collecting that which accrued to him and sending it to him every
year. Meanwhile, his father and mother came to him, with that
which they had of monies and merchandise of price and,
foregathering with their son, found that he was become of the
chief officers and familiars of the Commander of the Faithful and
of the number of his sitting-companions and nightly entertainers,
wherefore they rejoiced in reunion with him and he also rejoiced
in them. The Caliph assigned them solde and allowances; and as
for Nur al-Din, his father brought him those riches and his
wealth waxed and his estate was stablished, till he became the
richest of the folk of his time in Baghdad and left not the
presence of the Commander of the Faithful or by night or by day.
He was vouchsafed issue by Sitt al-Milah, and he ceased not to
live the goodliest of lives, he and she and his father and his
mother, a while of time, till Abu al-Hasan sickened of a sore
sickness and departed to the mercy of Allah Almighty. Presently,
his mother also died and he carried them forth and shrouded them
and buried and made them expiations and funeral
ceremonies.[FN#341] In due course his children grew up and became
like moons, and he reared them in splendour and affection, while
his wealth waxed and his case never waned. He ceased not to pay
frequent visits to the Commander of the Faithful, he and his
children and his slave-girl Sitt al-Milah, and they abode in all
solace of life and prosperity till there came to them the
Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies; and laud to
the Abiding, the Eternal! This is all that hath come down to us
of their story.


There was once, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone
before, in the city of Baghdad, the House of Peace, a king mighty
of estate, lord of understanding and beneficence and generosity
and munificence, and he was strong of sultanate and endowed with
might and majesty and magnificence. His name was Ins bin Kays bin
Rabi' al-Shaybani,[FN#343] and when he took horse, there rode
about him riders from the farthest parts of the two
Iraks.[FN#344] Almighty Allah decreed that he should take to wife
a woman hight 'Afifah, daughter of Asad al-Sundusi, who was
endowed with beauty and loveliness and brightness and perfect
grace and symmetry of shape and stature; her face was like the
crescent moon and she had eyes as they were gazelle's eyes and an
aquiline nose like Luna's cymb. She had learned cavalarice and
the use of arms and had mastered the sciences of the Arabs; eke
she had gotten by heart all the dragomanish[FN#345] tongues and
indeed she was a ravishment to mankind. She abode with Ins bin
Kays twelve years, during which time he was not blessed with
children by her; so his breast was straitened by reason of the
failure of lineage, and he besought his Lord to vouchsafe him a
son. Accordingly the queen conceived, by permission of Allah
Almighty; and when the days of her pregnancy were accomplished,
she gave birth to a maid-child, than whom never saw eyes fairer,
for that her face was as it were a pearl pure-bright or a lamp
raying light or a candle gilt with gold or a full moon breaking
cloudy fold, extolled be He who her from vile water dight and
made her to the beholders a delight! When her father saw her in
this fashion of loveliness, his reason fled for joy, and when she
grew up, he taught her writing and belles-lettres and philosophy
and all manner of tongues. So she excelled the folk of her time
and surpassed her peers; and the sons of the kings heard of her
and all of them longed to look upon her. The first who sought her
to wife was King Nabhan[FN#346] of Mosul, who came to her with a
great company, bringing an hundred she-camels, laden with musk
and lign-aloes and ambergris and five score loaded with camphor
and jewels and other hundred laden with silver monies and yet
other hundred loaded with raiment of silken stuffs, sendal and
brocade, besides an hundred slave-girls and a century of choice
steeds of swift and generous breeds, completely housed and
accoutred, as they were brides; and all this he had laid before
her father, demanding her of him in wedlock. Now King Ins bin
Kays had bound himself by an oath that he would not marry his
daughter save to him whom she should choose; so, when King Nabhan
sought her in marriage, her father went in to her and consulted
her concerning his affair. She consented not and he repeated to
Nabhan that which she said, whereupon he departed from him. After
this came King Bahram, lord of the White Island, with treasures
richer than the first; but she accepted not of him and he
returned disappointed; nor did the kings cease coming to her
sire, on her account, one after other, from the farthest of the
lands and the climes, each glorying in bringing more than those
who forewent him; but she heeded not any one of them. Presently,
Al-'Abbas, son of King Al-'Aziz, lord of the land of Al-Yaman and
Zabidun[FN#347] and Meccah (which Allah increase in honour and
brightness and beauty!) heard of her; and he was of the great
ones of Meccah and Al-Hijaz,[FN#348] and was a youth without hair
on his side-face. So he presented himself one day in his sire's
assembly, whereupon the folk made way for him and the king seated
him on a chair of red gold, crusted with pearls and gems. The
Prince sat, with his head bowed groundwards, and spake not to
any: whereby his father knew that his breast was straitened and
bade the cup-companions and men of wit relate marvellous
histories, such as beseem the sessions of kings; nor was there
one of them but spoke forth the goodliest of that which was with
him; but Al-'Abbas still abode with his head bowed down. Then the
king bade his sitting-companions withdraw, and when the chamber
was private, he looked at his son and said to him, "By Allah,
thou cheerest me with thy coming in to me and chagrinest me for
that thou payest no heed to any of the familiars nor of the
cup-companions. What is the cause of this?" Answered the Prince,
"O my papa, I have heard tell that in the land of Al-Irak is a
woman of the daughters of the kings, and her father is called
King Ins bin Kays, lord of Baghdad; she is famed for beauty and
loveliness and brightness and perfect grace, and indeed many of
the kings have sought her in marriage; but her soul consented not
unto any one of them. Wherefore my thought prompteth me to travel
herwards, for that my heart cleaveth to her, and I beseech thee
suffer me to go to her." His sire replied, "O my son, thou
knowest that I have none other than thyself of children and thou
art the coolth of mine eyes and the fruit of my vitals; nay, I
cannot brook to be parted from thee a single hour and I purpose
to seat thee on the throne of the kingship and espouse thee to
one of the daughters of the kings, who shall be fairer than she."
Al-Abbas gave ear to his father's word and dared not gainsay him;
wherefore he abode with him awhile, whilst the love-fire raged in
his vitals. Then the king took rede with himself to build his son
a Hammam and adorn it with various paintings, so he might display
it to him and divert him with the sight thereof, to the intent
that his body might be solaced thereby and that the accident of
travel might cease from him and he be turned from his purpose of
removal from his parents. Presently he addressed himself to the
building of the bath and assembling architects and artisans from
all his cities and citadels and islands, assigned them a
foundation-site and marked out its boundaries. Then the workmen
occupied themselves with the building of the Hammam and the
ordinance and adornment of its cabinets and roofs. They used
paints and precious minerals of all kinds, according to the
contrast of their colours, red and green and blue and yellow and
what not else of all manner tincts; and each artisan wrought at
his craft and each painter at his art, whilst the rest of the
folk busied themselves with transporting thither vari-coloured
stones. One day, as the Master-painter wrought at his work, there
came in to him a poor man, who looked long upon him and observed
his mystery; whereupon quoth the artist to him, "Knowest thou
aught of painting?" Quoth the stranger, "Yes;" so he gave him
tools and paints and said to him, "Limn for us a rare semblance."
Accordingly the pauper stranger entered one of the bath-chambers
and drew on its walls a double border, which he adorned on both
sides, after a fashion than which eyes never saw a fairer.
Moreover, amiddlemost the chamber he limned a picture to which
there lacked but the breath,[FN#349] and it was the portraiture
of Mariyah, daughter to the king of Baghdad. Then, when he had
finished the portrait, he went his way and told none of what he
had done, nor knew any wight the chambers and doors of the bath
and the adornment and ordinance thereof. Presently the chief
artisan came to the palace and sought audience of the king who
bade admit him. So he entered and kissing the earth, saluted him
with a salam beseeming Sultans and said, "O king of the time and
lord of the age and the tide, may prosperity endure to thee and
acceptance and eke thy degree over all the kings both morning and
evening[FN#350] exalted be! The work of the bath is accomplished,
by the king's fair fortune and the purity of his purpose, and
indeed, we have done all that behoved us and there remaineth but
that which behoveth the king." Al-Aziz ordered him a costly robe
of honour and expended monies galore, giving unto each who had
wroughten after the measure of his work. Then he assembled in the
Hammam all the Lords of his realm, Emirs and Wazirs and
Chamberlains and Nabobs, and the chief officers of his kingdom
and household, and sending for his son Al-Abbas, said to him, "O
my son, I have builded thee a bath, wherein thou mayst take thy
pleasance; so enter that thou mayst see it and divert thyself by
gazing upon it and viewing the beauty of its ordinance and
decoration." "With love and gladness," replied the Prince and
entered the bath, he and the king and the folk about them, so
they might divert themselves with viewing that which the
workmen's hands had worked. Al-Abbas went in and passed from
place to place and chamber to chamber, till he came to the room
aforesaid and espied the portrait of Mariyah, whereupon he fell
down in a fainting-fit and the workmen went to his father and
said to him, "Thy son Al-Abbas hath swooned away." So the king
came and finding his son cast down, seated himself at his head
and bathed his face with rose-water. After awhile he revived and
the king said to him, "I seek refuge with Allah for thee, O my
son! What accident hath befallen thee?" The Prince replied, "O my
father, I did but look on yonder picture and it bequeathed me a
thousand qualms and there befel me that which thou beholdest."
Therewith the king bade fetch the Master-painter, and when he
stood before him, he said to him, "Tell me of yonder portrait and
what girl is this of the daughters of the kings; else I will take
thy head." Said the painter, "By Allah, O king, I limned it not,
neither know I who she is; but there came to me a poor man and
looked hard at me. So I asked him, Knowest thou the art of
painting? and he answered, Yes. Whereupon I gave him the gear and
said to him, Limn for us a rare semblance. Accordingly he painted
yonder portrait and went away and I wot him not neither have I
ever set eyes on him save that day." Hearing this, the king
ordered all his officers to go round about in the thoroughfares
and colleges and to bring before him all strangers they found
there. So they went forth and brought him much people, amongst
whom was the pauper who had painted the portrait. When they came
into the presence, the Sultan bade the crier make public
proclamation that whoso wrought the portrait should discover
himself and have whatso he wished. Thereupon the poor man came
forward and kissing the ground before the king, said to him, "O
king of the age, I am he who limned yonder likeness." Quoth
Al-Aziz, "And knowest thou who she is?" and quoth the other,
"Yes, this is the portrait of Mariyah, daughter of the king of
Baorhdad." The king ordered him a robe of honour and a slave-girl
and he went his way. Then said Al-Abbas, "O my papa, give me
leave to seek her, so I may look upon her: else shall I farewell
the world, withouten fail." The king his father wept and
answered, "O my son, I builded thee a Hammam, that it might turn
thee from leaving me, and behold, it hath been the cause of thy
going forth; but the behest of Allah is a determinate
decree."[FN#351] Then he wept again and Al-Abbas said to him,
"Fear not for me, for thou knowest my prowess and puissance in
returning answers in the assemblies of the land and my good
breeding and accomplishments together with my skill in rhetoric;
and indeed for him whose father thou art and whom thou hast
reared and bred and in whom thou hast united praiseworthy
qualities, the repute whereof hath traversed the East and the
West, thou needest not fear aught, more especially as I purpose
but to seek pleasuring and return to thee, an it be the will of
Allah Almighty." Quoth the king, "Whom wilt thou take with thee
of attendants and what of monies?" Replied Al-Abbas, "O my papa,
I have no need of horses or camels or weapons, for I purpose not
warfare, and I will have none go forth with me save my page 'Amir
and no more." Now as he and his father were thus engaged in talk,
in came his mother and caught hold of him; and he said to her,
"Allah upon thee, let me gang my gait and strive not to divert me
from what purpose I have purposed, for needs must I go." She
replied, "O my son, if it must be so and there be no help for it,
swear to me that thou wilt not be absent from me more than a
year." And he sware to her. Then he entered his father's
treasuries and took therefrom what he would of jewels and
jacinths and everything weighty of worth and light of load: he
also bade his servant Amir saddle him two steeds and the like for
himself, and whenas the night beset his back,[FN#352] he rose
from his couch and mounting his horse, set out for Baghdad, he
and Amir, whilst the page knew not whither he intended.[FN#353]
He gave not over going and the journey was joyous to him, till
they came to a goodly land, abounding in birds and wild beasts,
whereupon Al-Abbas started a gazelle and shot it with a shaft.
Then he dismounted and cutting its throat, said to his servant,
"Alight thou and skin it and carry it to the water." Amir
answered him with "Hearkening and obedience" and going down to
the water, built a fire and broiled the gazelle's flesh. Then
they ate their fill and drank of the water, after which they
mounted again and fared on with diligent faring, and Amir still
unknowing whither Al-Abbas was minded to wend. So he said to him,
"O my lord, I conjure thee by Allah of All-might, wilt thou not
tell me whither thou intendest?" Al-Abbas looked at him and in
reply improvised these couplets,

"In my vitals are fires of desire and repine; * And naught I
reply when they flare on high:
Baghdad-wards I hie me on life-and-death work, * Loving one who
distorts my right judgment awry:
A swift camel under me shortcuts the wold * And deem it a cloud
all who nearhand espy:
O 'Amir make haste after model of her * Who would heal mine ill
and Love's cup drain dry:
For the leven of love burns the vitals of me; * So with me seek
my tribe and stint all reply."

When Amir heard his lord's verses, he knew that he was a slave of
love and that she whom he loved abode in Baghdad. Then they fared
on night and day, traversing plain and stony way, till they
sighted Baghdad and lighted down in its environs[FN#354] and
there lay their night. When they arose in the morning, they
removed to the bank of the Tigris where they encamped and
sojourned a second day and a third. As they abode thus on the
fourth day, behold, a company of folk giving their beasts the
rein and crying aloud and saying, "Quick! Quick! Haste to our
rescue, Ho thou the King!" Therewith the King's chamberlains and
officers accosted them and said, "What is behind you and what
hath betided you?" Quoth they, "Bring us before the King." So
they carried them to Ins bin Kays; and when they saw him, they
said to him, "O king, unless thou succour us, we are dead men;
for that we are a folk of the Banu Shayban,[FN#355] who have
taken up our abode in the parts of Bassorah, and Hodhayfah the
wild Arab hath come down on us with his steeds and his men and
hath slain our horse-men and carried off our women and children;
nor was one saved of the tribe but he who fled; wherefore we
crave help first by Allah Almighty, then by thy life." When the
king heard their speech, he bade the crier proclaim in the
highways of the city that the troops should busk them to march
and that the horsemen should mount and the footmen fare forth;
nor was it but the twinkling of the eye ere the kettle-drums beat
and the trumpets blared; and scarce was the forenoon of the day
passed when the city was blocked with horse and foot. Presently,
the king reviewed them and behold, they were four-and-twenty
thousand in number, cavalry and infantry. He bade them go forth
to the enemy and gave the command of them to Sa'ad ibn al-Wakidi,
a doughty cavalier and a dauntless champion; so the horsemen set
out and fared on along the Tigris-bank. Al-Abbas, son of King
Al-Aziz, looked at them and saw the flags flaunting and the
standards stirring and heard the kettle-drums beating; so he bade
his page saddle him a blood-steed and look to the surcingles and
bring him his harness of war, for indeed horsemanship[FN#356] was
rooted in his heart. Quoth Amir, "And indeed I saw Al-Abbas, his
eyes waxed red and the hair of his hands on end." So he mounted
his charger, whilst Amir also bestrode a destrier, and they went
forth with the commando and fared on two days. On the third day,
after the hour of the midafternoon prayer, they came in sight of
the foe and the two armies met and the two ranks joined in fight.
The strife raged amain and sore was the strain, whilst the dust
rose in clouds and hung in vaulted shrouds, so that all eyes were
blinded; and they ceased not from the battle till the night
overtook them,[FN#357] when the two hosts drew off from the
mellay and passed the night, perplexed concerning themselves.
When Allah caused the morning to morrow, the two hosts were
aligned in line and their thousands fixed their eyne and the
troops stood looking one at other. Then sallied forth Al-Haris
ibn Sa'ad between the two lines and played with his lance and
cried out and improvised these couplets,

"You are in every way this day our prey; * And ever we prayed
your sight to see:
The Ruthful drave you Hodhayfah-wards * To the Brave, the Lion
who sways the free:
Say, amid you's a man who would heal his ills, * With whose lust
of battle shrewd blows agree?
Then by Allah meet me who come to you * And whoso is wronged
shall the wronger be."[FN#358]

Thereupon there sallied forth to him Zuhayr bin Habib, and they
wheeled about and wiled a while, then they exchanged strokes.
Al-Haris forewent his foe in smiting and stretched him weltering
in his gore; whereupon Hodhayfah cried out to him, "Gifted of
Allah[FN#359] art thou, O Haris! Call out another of them." So he
cried aloud, "I say, who be a champion?" But they of Baghdad held
back from him; and when it appeared to Al-Haris that
consternation was amongst them, he charged down upon them and
overrolled the first of them upon the last of them and slew of
them twelve men. Then the evening caught him and the Baghdadis
began addressing themselves to flight. No sooner had the morning
morrowed than they found themselves reduced to a fourth part of
their number and there was not one of them had dismounted from
his horse. Wherefore they made sure of destruction and Hodhayfah
rushed out between the two lines (now he was reckoned good for a
thousand knights) and cried out, "Harkye, my masters of Baghdad!
Let none come forth to me but your Emir, so I may talk with him
and he with me; and he shall meet me in combat singular and I
will meet him, and may he who is clear of offence come off safe."
Then he repeated his words and said, "How is it I see your Emir
refuse me a reply?" But Sa'ad, the Emir of the army of Baghdad,
answered him not, and indeed his teeth chattered in his mouth,
when he heard him summon him to the duello. Now when Al-Abbas
heard Hodhayfah's challenge and saw Sa'ad in this case, he came
up to the Emir and asked him, "Wilt thou suffer me to answer him
and I will be thy substitute in replying him and in monomachy
with him and will make my life thy sacrifice?" Sa'ad looked at
him and seeing knighthood shining from between his eyes, said to
him, "O youth, by the virtue of Mustafa the Chosen Prophet (whom
Allah save and assain), tell me who thou art and whence thou
comest to bring us victory."[FN#360] Quoth the Prince, "This is
no place for questioning;" and quoth Sa'ad to him, "O Knight, up
and at Hodhayfah! Yet, if his Satan prove too strong for thee,
afflict not thyself on thy youth."[FN#361] Al-Abbas cried, "Allah
is He of whom help is to be sought;"[FN#362] and, taking his
arms, fortified his purpose and went down into the field, as he
were a fort of the forts or a mountain's contrefort. Thereupon
Hodhayfah cried out to him, saying, "Haste thee not, O youth! Who
art thou of the folk?" He replied, "I am Sa'ad ibn al-Wakidi,
commander of the host of King Ins, and but for thy pride in
challenging me, I had not come forth to thee; for thou art no
peer for me to front nor as mine equal dost thou count nor canst
thou bear my brunt. Wherefore get thee ready for the last
march[FN#363] seeing that there abideth but a little of thy
life." When Hodhayfah heard this speech, he threw himself
backwards,[FN#364] as if in mockery of him, whereat Al-Abbas was
wroth and called out to him, saying, "O Hodhayfah, guard thyself
against me." Then he rushed upon him, as he were a swooper of the
Jinn,[FN#365] and Hodhayfah met him and they wheeled about a long
while. Presently, Al-Abbas cried out at Hodhayfah a cry which
astounded him and struck him a stroke, saying, "Take this from
the hand of a brave who feareth not the like of thee." Hodhayfah
met the sabre-sway with his shield, thinking to ward it off from
him; but the blade shore the target in sunder and descending upon
his shoulder, came forth gleaming from the tendons of his throat
and severed his arm at the armpit; whereupon he fell down,
wallowing in his blood, and Al-Abbas turned upon his host; not
had the sun departed the dome of the welkin ere Hodhayfah's army
was in full flight before Al-Abbas and the saddles were empty of
men. Quoth Sa'ad, "By the virtue of Mustafa the Chosen Prophet,
whom Allah save and assain, I saw Al-Abbas with the blood upon
his saddle-pads, in clots like camels' livers, smiting with the
sword right and left, till he scattered them abroad in every
gorge and wold; and when he hied him back to the camp, the men of
Baghdad were fearful of him." But as soon as they saw this
victory which had betided them over their foes, they turned back
and gathering together the weapons and treasures and horses of
those they had slain, returned to Baghdad, victorious, and all by
the knightly valour of Al-Abbas. As for Sa'ad, he foregathered
with his lord, and they fared on in company till they came to the
place where Al-Abbas had taken horse, whereupon the Prince
dismounted from his charger and Sa'ad said to him, "O youth,
wherefore alightest thou in other than thy place? Indeed, thy
rights be incumbent upon us and upon our Sultan; so go thou with
us to the dwellings, that we may ransom thee with our souls."
Replied Al-Abbas, "O Emir Sa'ad, from this place I took horse
with thee and herein is my lodging. So, Allah upon thee, mention
not me to the king, but make as if thou hadst never seen me
because I am a stranger in the land." So saying he turned away
from him and Sa'ad fared on to his palace, where he found all the
courtiers in attendance on the king and recounting to him that
which had betided them with Al-Abbas. Quoth the king, "Where is
he?" and quoth they, "He is with the Emir Sa'ad." So, when the
Emir entered, the king looked, but found none with him; and
Sa'ad, seeing at a glance that he longed to look upon the youth,
cried out to him, saying, "Allah prolong the king's days! Indeed,
he refuseth to present himself before thee, without order or
leave." Asked the king, "O Sa'ad, whence cometh this man?" and
the Emir answered, "O my lord, I know not; but he is a youth fair
of favour, amiable of aspect, accomplished in address, ready of
repartee, and valour shineth from between his eyes." Quoth the
king, "O Sa'ad, fetch him to me, for indeed thou describest to me
at full length a mighty matter."[FN#366] And he answered, saying,
"By Allah, O my lord, hadst thou but seen our case with
Hodhayfah, when he challenged me to the field of fight and the
stead of cut-and-thrust and I held back from doing battle with
him! Then, as I thought to go forth to him, behold, a knight gave
loose to his bridle-rein and called out to me, saying, 'O Sa'ad,
wilt thou suffer me to be thy substitute in waging war with him
and I will ransom thee with myself?' and quoth I, 'By Allah, O
youth, whence comest thou?' and quoth he, 'This be no time for
thy questions, while Hodhayfah standeth awaiting thee.'"
Thereupon he repeated to the king all that had passed between
himself and Al-Abbas from first to last; whereat cried Ins bin
Kays, "Bring him to me in haste, so we may learn his tidings and
question him of his case." "'Tis well," replied Sa'ad, and going
forth of the king's presence, repaired to his own house, where he
doffed his war-harness and took rest for himself. On this wise
fared it with the Emir Sa'ad, but as regards Al-Abbas, when he
dismounted from his destrier, he doffed his war-gear and repose
himself awhile; after which he brought out a body-dress of
Venetian[FN#367] silk and a gown of green damask and donning
them, bound about his head a turband of Damietta stuff and zoned
his waist with a kerchief. Then he went out a-walking in the
highways of Baghdad and fared on till he came to the bazar of the
traders. There he found a merchant, with chess before him; so the
Prince stood watching him, and presently the other looked up at
him and asked him, "O youth, what wilt thou bet upon the game?"
He answered, "Be it thine to decide." Said the merchant, "Then be
it an hundred dinars," and Al-Abbas consented to him; whereupon
quoth he, "Produce the money, O youth, so the game may be fairly
stablished." Accordingly Al-Abbas brought out a satin purse,
wherein were a thousand dinars, and laid down an hundred dinars
therefrom on the edge of the carpet, whilst the merchant produced
the like, and indeed his reason fled for joy when he saw the gold
in possession of Al-Abbas. The folk flocked about them, to divert
themselves with watching the play, and they called the bystanders
to witness the wager and after the stakes were duly staked, the
twain fell a-playing. Al-Abbas forebore the merchant, so he might
lead him on, and dallied with him a full hour; and the merchant
won and took of him the hundred dinars. Then said the Prince,
"Wilt thou play another partie?" and the other said, "O youth, I
will not play again, save for a thousand dinars." Quoth the
youth, 'Whatsoever thou stakest, I will match thy stake with its
like." So the merchant brought out a thousand dinars and the
Prince covered them with other thousand. Then the game began, but
Al-Abbas was not long with him ere he beat him in the house of
the elephant[FN#368] nor did he cease to do thus till he had
beaten him four times and won of him four thousand dinars. This
was all the merchant had of money; so he said, "O youth, I will
play thee another game for the shop." Now the value of the shop
was four thousand dinars; so they played and Al-Ahbas beat him
and won his shop, with whatso was therein; upon which the other
arose, shaking his clothes,[FN#369] and said to him, "Up, O
youth, and take thy shop." Accordingly Al-Abbas arose and
repairing to the shop, took possession thereof, after which he
returned to the place where he had left his servant 'Amir, and
found there the Emir Sa'ad, who was come to bid him to the
presence of the king. The Prince consented to this and
accompanied him till they came before King Ins bin Kays,
whereupon he kissed the ground and saluted him and
exaggerated[FN#370] the salutation. So the king asked him,
"Whence comest thou, O youth, and whither goest thou?" and he
answered, "I come from Al-Yaman." Then said the king, "Hast thou
a need we may fulfil to thee; for indeed thou hast strong claims
to our favour after that which thou didst in the matter of
Hodhayfah and his folk." And he commanded to cast over him a
mantle of Egyptian satin, worth an hundred dinars. He also bade
his treasurer give him a thousand dinars and said to him, "O
youth, take this in part of that which thou deservest of us; and
if thou prolong thy sojourn with us, we will give thee slaves and
servants." Al-Abbas kissed ground and said, "O king, Allah grant
thee abiding weal, I deserve not all this." Then he put his hand
to his pouch and pulling out two caskets of gold, in each of
which were rubies whose value none could estimate, gave them to
the king, saying, "O king, Allah cause thy welfare to endure, I
conjure thee by that which the Almighty hath vouchsafed thee,
heal my heart by accepting these two caskets, even as I have
accepted thy present." So the king accepted the two caskets and
Al-Abbas took his leave and went away to the bazar. Now when the
merchants saw him, they accosted him and said, "O youth, wilt
thou not open thy shop?" As they were addressing him, up came a
woman, having with her a boy bare of head, and stood looking at
Al-Abbas, till he turned to her, when she said to him, "O youth,
I conjure thee by Allah, look at this boy and have ruth on him,
for that his father hath forgotten his skull-cap in the shop he
lost to thee; so, an thou see fit to give it him, thy reward be
with Allah! For indeed the child maketh our hearts ache with his
excessive weeping, and the Lord be witness for us that, had they
left us aught wherewith to buy him a cap in its stead, we had not
sought it of thee." Replied Al-Abbas, "O adornment of
womankind,[FN#371] indeed, thou bespeakest me with thy fair
speech and supplicatest me with thy goodly words! But bring me
thy husband." So she went and fetched the merchant, whilst a
crowd collected to see what Al-Abbas would do. When the man came,
he returned him the gold he had won of him, art and part, and
delivered him the keys of the shop, saying, "Requite us with thy
pious prayers." Therewith the woman came up to him and kissed his
feet, and in like fashion did the merchant her husband: and all
who were present blessed him, and there was no talk but of
Al-Abbas. Thus fared it with him; but as for the merchant, he
bought him a head of sheep[FN#372] and slaughtering it, roasted
it and dressed birds and other meats of various kinds and colours
and purchased dessert and sweetmeats and fresh fruits; then he
repaired to Al-Abbas and conjured him to accept of his
hospitality and visit his home and eat of his provaunt. The
Prince consented to his wishes and went with him till they came
to his house, when the merchant bade him enter: so Al-Abbas went
in and saw a goodly house, wherein was a handsome saloon, with a
vaulted ceiling. When he entered the saloon, he found that the
merchant had made ready food and dessert and perfumes, such as
may not be described; and indeed he had adorned the table with
sweet-scented flowers and sprinkled musk and rose-water upon the
food; and he had smeared the saloon walls with ambergris and had
burned aloes-wood therein and Nadd. Presently, Al-Abbas looked
out of the window of the saloon and saw by its side a house of
goodly ordinance, tall of base and wide of space, with rooms
manifold and two upper stories crowning the whole; but therein
was no sign of inhabitants. So he said to the merchant, "Verily,
thou exaggeratest in doing us honour; but, by Allah, I will not
eat of thy meat until thou tell me what hath caused the voidance
of yonder house." Said he, "O my lord, that was Al-Ghitrif's
house and he passed away to the mercy of the Almighty and left no
heir save myself; whereupon the mansion became mine, and by
Allah, an thou have a mind to sojourn in Baghdad, take up thine
abode in this house, whereby thou mayst be in my neighbourhood;
for that verily my heart inclineth unto thee with affection and I
would have thee never absent from mine eyes, so I may still have
my fill of thee and hearken to thy speech." Al-Abbas thanked him
and said to him, "By Allah, thou art indeed friendly in thy
converse and thou exaggeratest in thy discourse, and needs must I
sojourn in Baghdad. As for the house, if it please thee to lodge
me, I will abide therein; so accept of me its price." Therewith
he put hand to his pouch and bringing out from it three hundred
dinars, gave them to the merchant, who said in himself, "Unless I
take his dirhams, he will not darken my doors." So he pocketed
the monies and sold him the mansion, taking witnesses against
himself of the sale. Then he arose and set food before Al-Abbas
and they sat down to his good things; after which he brought him
dessert and sweetmeats whereof they ate their sufficiency, and
when the tables were removed they washed their hands with musked
rose-water and willow-water. Then the merchant brought Al-Abbas a
napkin scented with the smoke of aloes-wood, on which he wiped
his right hand, and said to him, "O my lord, the house is become
thy house; so bid thy page transport thither the horses and arms
and stuffs." The Prince did this and the merchant rejoiced in his
neighbourhood and left him not night nor day,[FN#373] so that
Al-Abbas said to him, "By the Lord, we distract thee from thy
livelihood." He replied, "Allah upon thee, O my lord, name not to
me aught of this, or thou wilt break my heart, for the best of
traffic art thou and the best of livelihood." So there befel
straight friendship between them and all ceremony was laid aside.
Meanwhile[FN#374] the king said to his Wazir, "How shall we do in
the matter of yonder youth, the Yamani, on whom we thought to
confer gifts, but he hath gifted us with tenfold our largesse and
more, and we know not an he be a sojourner with us or not?" Then
he went into the Harim and gave the rubies to his wife Afifah,
who asked him, "What is the worth of these with thee and with
other of the kings?" Quoth he, "They are not to be found save
with the greatest of sovrans nor can any price them with monies."
Quoth she, "Whence gottest thou them?" So he recounted to her the
story of Al-Abbas from beginning to end, and she said, "By Allah,
the claims of honour are imperative on us and the King hath
fallen short of his devoir; for that we have not seen him bid the
youth to his assembly, nor hath he seated him on his left hand."
When the king heard his wife's words, it was as if he had been
asleep and awoke; so he went forth the Harim and bade kill
poultry and dress meats of every kind and colour. Moreover, he
assembled all his courtiers and let bring sweetmeats and dessert
and all that beseemeth the tables of kings. Then he adorned his
palace and despatched after Al-Abbas a man of the chief officers
of his household, who found him coming forth of the Hammam, clad
in a jerkin[FN#375] of fine goats' hair and over it a Baghdadi
scarf; his waist was girt with a Rustaki[FN#376] kerchief and on
his head he wore a light turband of Damietta[FN#377] stuff. The
messenger wished him joy of the bath and exaggerated in doing him
honour: then he said to him, "The king biddeth thee in
weal."[FN#378] "To hear is to obey," quoth Al-Abbas and
accompanied the officer to the king's palace. Now Afifah and her
daughter Mariyah were behind the curtain, both looking at him;
and when he came before the sovran he saluted him and greeted him
with the greeting of kings, whilst all present gazed at him and
at his beauty and loveliness and perfect grace. The king seated
him at the head of the table; and when Afifah saw him and
considered him straitly, she said, "By the virtue of Mohammed,
prince of the Apostles, this youth is of the sons of the kings
and cometh not to these parts save for some noble purpose!" Then
she looked at Mariyah and saw that her favour was changed, and
indeed her eye-balls were as dead in her face and she turned not
her gaze from Al-Abbas a twinkling of the eyes, for that the love
of him had sunk deep into her heart. When the queen saw what had
befallen her daughter, she feared for her from reproach
concerning Al-Abbas; so she shut the casement-wicket that the
Princess might not look upon him any more. Now there was a
pavilion set apart for Mariyah, and therein were boudoirs and
bowers, balconies and lattices, and she had with her a nurse, who
served her as is the fashion with the daughters of the Kings.
When the banquet was ended and the folk had dispersed, the King
said to Al-Abbas, "I would fain have thee abide with me and I
will buy thee a mansion, so haply we may requite thee for thy
high services; and indeed imperative upon us is thy due and
magnified in our eyes is thy work; and soothly we have fallen
short of thy deserts in the matter of distance."[FN#379] When the
youth heard the king's speech, he rose and sat down[FN#380] and
kissing ground, returned thanks for his bounty and said, "I am
the King's thrall, wheresoever I may be, and under his eye." Then
he told him the tale of the merchant and the manner of the buying
of the house, and the king said, "In very truth I would fain have
had thee in my neighbourhood and by side of me." Presently
Al-Abbas took leave of the king and went away to his own house.
Now it chanced that he passed under the palace of Mariyah, the
king's daughter, and she was sitting at a casement. He happened
to look round and his eyes met those of the Princess, whereupon
his wit departed and he was ready to swoon away, whilst his
colour changed, and he said, "Verily, we are Allah's and unto Him
are we returning!" But he feared for himself lest severance
betide him; so he concealed his secret and discovered not his
case to any of the creatures of Allah Almighty. When he reached
his quarters, his page Amir said to him, "I seek refuge for thee
with Allah, O my lord, from change of colour! Hath there betided
thee a pain from the Lord of All-might or aught of vexation? In
good sooth, sickness hath an end and patience doeth away
trouble." But the Prince returned him no answer. Then he brought
out ink-case[FN#381] and paper and wrote these couplets:

I cry (and mine's a frame that pines alway), * A mind which fires
of passion e'er waylay;
And eyeballs never tasting sweets of sleep; * Yet Fortune spare
its cause I ever pray!
While from world-perfidy and parting I * Like Bishram with
Hind,[FN#382] that well-loved may;--
Yea, grown a bye-word 'mid the folk but aye * Spend life
unwinning wish or night or day.
"Ah say, wots she my love when her I spied * At the high lattice
shedding sunlike ray?"
Her glances, keener than the brand when bared * Cleave soul of
man nor ever 'scapes her prey:
I looked on her in lattice pierced aloft * When bare her cheat of
veil that slipped away;
And shot me thence a shaft my liver pierced * When thrall to care
and dire despair I lay
Knowst thou, O Fawn o' the palace, how for thee * I fared from
farness o'er the lands astray?
Then read my writ, dear friends, and show some ruth * To wight
who wones black-faced, distraught, sans stay!

And when he ended inditing, he folded up the letter. Now the
merchant's wife aforesaid, who was the nurse of the king's
daughter, was watching him from a window, unknown of him, and
when she saw him writing and reciting, she knew that some rare
tale attached to him; so she went in to him and said, "Peace be
with thee, O afflicted wight, who acquaintest not leach with thy
plight! Verily, thou exposest thy life to grievous blight. I
conjure thee by the virtue of Him who hath afflicted thee and
with the constraint of love-liking hath stricken thee, that thou
acquaint me with thine affair and disclose to me the truth of thy
secret; for that indeed I have heard from thee verses which
trouble the mind and melt the body." Accordingly he acquainted
her with his case and enjoined her to secrecy, whereof she
consented, saying, "What shall be the recompense of whoso goeth
with thy letter and bringeth thee its reply?" He bowed his head
for shame before her and was silent; and she said to him, "Raise
thy head and give me thy writ": so he gave her the letter and she
hent it and carrying it to the Princess, said to her, "Take this
epistle and give me its answer." Now the dearest of all things to
Mariyah was the recitation of poesy and verses and linked rhymes
and the twanging of lute-strings, and she was versed in all
tongues; wherefore she took the writ and opening it, read that
which was therein and understood its purport. Then she threw it
to the ground and cried, "O nurse, I have no answer to make to
this letter." Quoth the nurse, "Indeed, this is weakness in thee
and a reproach to thee, for that the people of the world have
heard of thee and commend thee for keenness of wit and
understanding; so do thou return him an answer, such as shall
trick his heart and tire his soul." Quoth she, "O nurse, who may
be the man who presumeth upon me with this correspondence? Haply
'tis the stranger youth who gave my father the rubies." The woman
said, "It is himself," and Mariyah said, "I will answer his
letter in such fashion that thou shalt not bring me other than
it." Cried the nurse, "So be it."[FN#383] Thereupon the Princess
called for ink-case and paper and wrote these couplets:--

Thou art bold in the copy thou sentest! May be * 'Twill increase
the dule foreign wight must dree!
Thou hast spied me with glance that bequeaths thee woe * Ah! far
is thy hope, a mere foreigner's plea!
Who art thou, poor freke, that wouldst win my love * Wi' thy
verse? What seeks thine insanity?
An thou hope for my favours and greed therefor; * Where find thee
a leach for such foolish gree?
Then rhyme-linking leave and fool-like be not * Hanged to Cross
at the doorway of ignomy!
Deem not that to thee I incline, O youth! * 'Mid the Sons of the
Path[FN#384] is no place for me.
Thou art homeless waif in the wide wide world; * So return thee
home where they keen for thee:[FN#385]
Leave verse-spouting, O thou who a-wold dost wone, * Or minstrel
shall name thee in lay and glee:
How many a friend who would meet his love * Is baulked when the
goal is right clear to see!
So begone and ne'er grieve for what canst not win * Albe time be
near, yet thy grasp 'twill flee.
Now such is my say and the tale I'd tell; * So master my meaning
and--fare thee well!

When Mariyah had made an end of her verses, she folded the letter
and delivered it to the nurse, who hent it and went with it to
Al-Abbas. When she gave it to him, he took it and breaking it
open, read it and comprehended its contents; and when he reached
the end of it, he swooned away. After awhile, he came to himself
and cried, "Praise be to Allah who hath caused her return a reply
to my writ! Canst thou carry her another missive, and with Allah
Almighty be thy requital?" Said she, "And what shall letters
profit thee, seeing that such is her reply;" but he said,
"Peradventure, she may yet be softened." Then he took ink-case
and paper and wrote these couplets:--

Reached me the writ and what therein didst write, * Whence grew
my pain and bane and blight:
I read the marvel-lines made wax my love * And wore my body out
till slightest slight.[FN#386]
Would Heaven ye wot the whole I bear for love * Of you, with
vitals clean for you undight!
And all I do t' outdrive you from my thought * 'Vails naught and
'gainst th' obsession loses might:
Couldst for thy lover feel 'twould ease his soul; * E'en thy dear
Phantom would his sprite delight!
Then on my weakness lay not coyness-load * Nor in such breach of
troth be traitor-wight:
And, weet ye well, for this your land I fared * Hoping to 'joy
the union-boon forthright:
How many a stony wold for this I spanned; * How oft I waked when
men kept watch o'night!
To fare fro' another land for sight of you * Love bade, while
length of way forbade my sprite:
So by His name[FN#387] who molt my frame, have ruth, * And quench
the flames thy love in me did light:
Thou fillest, arrayed with glory's robes and rays, * Heaven's
stars with joy and Luna with despight.
Then who dare chide or blame me for my love * Of one that can all
Beauty's boons unite?

When Al-Abbas had made an end of his verses, he folded the letter
and delivering it to the nurse, charged her keep the secret. So
she took it and carrying it to Mariyah, gave it to her. The
Princess broke it open and read it and apprehended its purport;
then cried she, "By Allah, O nurse, my heart is chagrined with
exceeding chagrin, never knew I a sorer, because of this
correspondence and of these verses." And the nurse made answer to
her "O my lady, thou art in thy dwelling and thy palace and thy
heart is void of care; so return to him a reply and reck not."
Accordingly, the Princess called for ink-case and paper and wrote
these couplets:--

Ho thou who wouldst vaunt thee of cark and care; * How many
love-molten, tryst-craving be there?
An hast wandered the wold in the murks of night * Bound afar and
anear on the tracks to fare,
And to eyne hast forbidden the sweets of sleep, * Borne by Devils
and Marids to dangerous lair;
And beggest my boons, O in tribe-land[FN#388] homed * And to urge
thy wish and desire wouldst dare;
Now, woo Patience fair, an thou bear in mind * What The Ruthful
promised to patient prayer![FN#389]
How many a king for my sake hath vied, * Craving love and in
marriage with me to pair.
Al-Nabhan sent, when a-wooing me, * Camels baled with musk and
Nadd scenting air.
They brought camphor in boxes and like thereof * Of pearls and
rubies that countless were;
Brought pregnant lasses and negro-lads, * Blood steeds and arms
and gear rich and rare;
Brought us raiment of silk and of sendal sheen, * And came
courting us but no bride he bare:
Nor could win his wish, for I 'bode content * To part with far
parting and love forswear;
So for me greed not, O thou stranger wight * Lest thou come to
ruin and dire despair!

When she had made an end of her verses, she folded the letter and
delivered it to the nurse, who took it and carried it to
Al-Abbas. He broke it open and read it and comprehended its
contents; then took ink-case and paper and wrote these improvised

Thou hast told me the tale of the Kings, and of them * Each was
rending lion, a furious foe:
And thou stolest the wits of me, all of them * And shotst me with
shaft of thy magic bow:
Thou hast boasted of slaves and of steeds and wealth; * And of
beauteous lasses ne'er man did know;
How presents in mighty store didst spurn, * And disdainedst
lovers both high and low:
Then I followed their tracks in desire for thee, * With naught
save my scymitar keen of blow;
Nor slaves nor camels that run have I; * Nor slave-girls the
litters enveil, ah, no!
But grant me union and soon shalt sight * My trenchant blade with
the foeman's woe;
Shalt see the horsemen engird Baghdad * Like clouds that wall the
whole world below,
Obeying behests which to them I deal * And hearing the words to
the foes I throw.
An of negro chattels ten thousand head * Wouldst have, or Kings
who be proud and prow
Or chargers led for thee day by day * And virgin girls high of
bosom, lo!
Al-Yaman land my command doth bear * And my biting blade to my
foes I show.
I have left this all for the sake of thee, * Left Aziz and my
kinsmen for ever-mo'e;
And made Al-Irak making way to thee * Under nightly murks over
rocks arow;
When the couriers brought me account of thee * Thy beauty,
perfection, and sunny glow,
Then I sent thee verses whose very sound * Burns the heart of
shame with a fiery throe;
Yet the world with falsehood hath falsed me, * Though Fortune was
never so false as thou,
Who dubbest me stranger and homeless one * A witless fool and a
slave-girl's son!

Then he folded the letter and committed it to the nurse and gave
her five hundred dinars, saying, "Accept this from me, for by
Allah thou hast indeed wearied thyself between us." She replied,
"By Allah, O my lord, my aim is to bring about forgathering
between you, though I lose that which my right hand possesseth."
And he said, "May the Lord of All-might requite thee with good!"
Then she carried the letter to Mariyah and said to her, "Take
this letter; haply it may be the end of the correspondence." So
she took it and breaking it open, read it, and when she had made
an end of it, she turned to the nurse and said to her, "This one
foisteth lies upon me and asserteth unto me that he hath cities
and horsemen and footmen at his command and submitting to his
allegiance; and he wisheth of me that which he shall not win; for
thou knowest, O nurse, that kings' sons have sought me in
marriage, with presents and rarities; but I have paid no heed
unto aught of this; how, then, shall I accept of this fellow, who
is the ignoramus of his time and possesseth naught save two
caskets of rubies, which he gave to my sire, and indeed he hath
taken up his abode in the house of Al-Ghitrif and abideth without
silver or gold? Wherefore, Allah upon thee, O nurse, return to
him and cut off his hope of me." Accordingly the nurse rejoined
Al-Abbas, without letter or answer; and when she came in to him,
he looked at her and saw that she was troubled, and he noted the
marks of anger on her face; so he said to her, "What is this
plight?" Quoth she, "I cannot set forth to thee that which
Mariyah said; for indeed she charged me return to thee without
writ or reply." Quoth he, "O nurse of kings, I would have thee
carry her this letter and return not to her without it." Then he
took ink-case and paper and wrote these couplets:--

My secret now to men is known though hidden well and true * By
me: enough is that I have of love and love of you:
I left familiars, friends, and kin to weep the loss of me * With
floods of tears which like the tide aye flowed and flowed
Then, left my home myself I bore to Baghdad-town one day, * When
parting drave me there his pride and cruelty to rue:
I have indeed drained all the bowl whose draught
repression[FN#390] was * Handed by friend who bitter
gourd[FN#391] therein for drinking threw.
And, oft as strove I to enjoin the ways of troth and faith, * So
often on refusal's path he left my soul to sue.
Indeed my body molten is with care I'm doomed dree; * And yet I
hoped relenting and to win some grace, my due.
But wrong and rigour waxed on me and changed to worse my case; *
And love hath left me weeping-eyed for woes that aye pursue.
How long must I keep watch for you throughout the nightly gloom?
* How many a path of pining pace and garb of grief endue?
And you, what while you joy your sleep, your restful pleasant
sleep, * Reck naught of sorrow and of shame that to your
friend accrue:
For wakefulness I watched the stars before the peep o' day, *
Praying that union with my dear in bliss my soul imbrue;
Indeed the throes of long desire laid waste my frame and I * Rise
every morn in weaker plight with hopes e'er fewer few:
"Be not" (I say) "so hard of heart!" for did you only deign * In
phantom guise to visit me 'twere joy enough to view.
But when ye saw my writ ye grudged to me the smallest boon * And
cast adown the flag of faith though well my troth ye knew;
Nor aught of answer you vouchsafe, albe you wot full well * The
words therein address the heart and pierce the spirit
You deemed yourself all too secure for changes of the days * And

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