Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 10 by Richard F. Burton

Part 3 out of 10

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

scenes and incidents; from the matter of fact surroundings of a
work-a-day world, a life of eating and drinking, sleeping and
waking, fighting and loving, into a society and a mise-en-scène
which we suspect can exist and which we know does not. Every man
at some turn or term of his life has longed for supernatural
powers and a glimpse of Wonderland. Here he is in the midst of
it. Here he sees mighty spirits summoned to work the human
mite's will, however whimsical, who can transport him in an eye-
twinkling whithersoever he wishes; who can ruin cities and build
palaces of gold and silver, gems and jacinths; who can serve up
delicate viands and delicious drinks in priceless chargers and
impossible cups and bring the choicest fruits from farthest
Orient: here he finds magas and magicians who can make kings of
his friends, slay armies of his foes and bring any number of
beloveds to his arms. And from this outraging probability and
out-stripping possibility arises not a little of that strange
fascination exercised for nearly two centuries upon the life and
literature of Europe by The Nights, even in their mutilated and
garbled form. The reader surrenders himself to the spell,
feeling almost inclined to enquire "And why may it not be
true?''[FN#245] His brain is dazed and dazzled by the splendours
which flash before it, by the sudden procession of Jinns and
Jinniyahs, demons and fairies, some hideous, others
preternaturally beautiful; by good wizards and evil sorcerers,
whose powers are unlimited for weal and for woe; by mermen and
mermaids, flying horses, talking animals, and reasoning
elephants; by magic rings and their slaves and by talismanic
couches which rival the carpet of Solomon. Hence, as one
remarks, these Fairy Tales have pleased and still continue to
please almost all ages, all ranks and all different capacities.

Dr. Hawkesworth[FN#246] observes that these Fairy Tales find
favour "because even their machinery, wild and wonderful as it
is, has its laws; and the magicians and enchanters perform
nothing but what was naturally to be expected from such beings,
after we had once granted them existence." Mr. Heron "rather
supposes the very contrary is the truth of the fact. It is
surely the strangeness, the unknown nature, the anomalous
character of the supernatural agents here employed, that makes
them to operate so powerfully on our hopes, fears, curiosities,
sympathies, and, in short, on all the feelings of our hearts. We
see men and women, who possess qualities to recommend them to our
favour, subjected to the influence of beings, whose good or ill
will, power or weakness, attention or neglect, are regulated by
motives and circumstances which we cannot comprehend: and hence,
we naturally tremble for their fate, with the same anxious
concern, as we should for a friend wandering, in a dark night,
amidst torrents and precipices; or preparing to land on a strange
island, while he knew not whether he should be received, on the
shore, by cannibals waiting to tear him piecemeal, and devour
him, or by gentle beings, disposed to cherish him with fond
hospitality." Both writers have expressed themselves well, but
meseems each has secured, as often happens, a fragment of the
truth and holds it to be the whole Truth. Granted that such
spiritual creatures as Jinns walk the earth, we are pleased to
find them so very human, as wise and as foolish in word and deed
as ourselves: similarly we admire in a landscape natural forms
like those of Staffa or the Palisades which favour the works of
architecture. Again, supposing such preternaturalisms to be
around and amongst us, the wilder and more capricious they prove,
the more our attention is excited and our forecasts are baffled
to be set right in the end. But this is not all. The grand
source of pleasure in Fairy Tales is the natural desire to learn
more of the Wonderland which is known to many as a word and
nothing more, like Central Africa before the last half century:
thus the interest is that of the "Personal Narrative" of a grand
exploration to one who delights in travels. The pleasure must be
greatest where faith is strongest; for instance amongst
imaginative races like the Kelts and especially Orientals, who
imbibe supernaturalism with their mother's milk. "I am
persuaded," writes Mr. Bayle St. John,[FN#247] "that the great
scheme of preternatural energy, so fully developed in The
Thousand and One Nights, is believed in by the majority of the
inhabitants of all the religious professions both in Syria and
Egypt." He might have added "by every reasoning being from
prince to peasant, from Mullah to Badawi, between Marocco and
Outer Ind."

The Fairy Tale in The Nights is wholly and purely Persian. The
gifted Iranian race, physically the noblest and the most
beautiful of all known to me, has exercised upon the world-
history an amount of influence which has not yet been fully
recognised. It repeated for Babylonian art and literature what
Greece had done for Egyptian, whose dominant idea was that of
working for eternity a . Hellas and Iran
instinctively chose as their characteristic the idea of Beauty,
rejecting all that was exaggerated and grotesque; and they made
the sphere of Art and Fancy as real as the world of Nature and
Fact. The innovation was hailed by the Hebrews. The so-called
Books of Moses deliberately and ostentatiously ignored the future
state of rewards and punishments, the other world which ruled the
life of the Egyptian in this world: the lawgiver, whoever he may
have been, Osarsiph or Moshe, apparently held the tenet unworthy
of a race whose career he was directing to conquest and isolation
in dominion. But the Jews, removed to Mesopotamia, the second
cradle of the creeds, presently caught the infection of their
Asiatic media; superadded Babylonian legend to Egyptian myth;
stultified The Law by supplementing it with the "absurdities of
foreign fable" and ended, as the Talmud proves, with becoming the
most wildly superstitious and "other worldly'' of mankind.

The same change befel Al-Islam. The whole of its supernaturalism
is borrowed bodily from Persia, which had "imparadised Earth by
making it the abode of angels." Mohammed, a great and commanding
genius, blighted and narrowed by surroundings and circumstances
to something little higher than a Covenanter or a Puritan,
declared to his followers,

"I am sent to 'stablish the manners and customs;"

and his deficiency of imagination made him dislike everything but
"women, perfumes, and prayers," with an especial aversion to
music and poetry, plastic art and fiction. Yet his system,
unlike that of Moses, demanded thaumaturgy and metaphysical
entities, and these he perforce borrowed from the Jews who had
borrowed them from the Babylonians: his soul and spirit, his
angels and devils, his cosmogony, his heavens and hells, even the
Bridge over the Great Depth are all either Talmudic or Iranian.
But there he stopped and would have stopped others. His enemies
among the Koraysh were in the habit of reciting certain Persian
fabliaux and of extolling them as superior to the silly and
equally fictitious stories of the "Glorious Koran." The leader
of these scoffers was one Nazr ibn Háris who, taken prisoner
after the Battle of Bedr, was incontinently decapitated, by
apostolic command, for what appears to be a natural and sensible
preference. It was the same furious fanaticism and one-idea'd
intolerance which made Caliph Omar destroy all he could find of
the Alexandrian Library and prescribe burning for the Holy Books
of the Persian Guebres. And the taint still lingers in Al-Islam:
it will be said of a pious man, "He always studies the Koran, the
Traditions and other books of Law and Religion; and he never
reads poems nor listens to music or to stories."

Mohammed left a dispensation or rather a reformation so arid,
jejune and material that it promised little more than the "Law of
Moses," before this was vivified and racially baptised by
Mesopotamian and Persic influences. But human nature was
stronger than the Prophet and, thus outraged, took speedy and
absolute revenge. Before the first century had elapsed, orthodox
Al-Islam was startled by the rise of Tasawwuf or Sufyism[FN#248]
a revival of classic Platonism and Christian Gnosticism, with a
mingling of modern Hylozoism; which, quickened by the glowing
imagination of the East, speedily formed itself into a creed the
most poetical and impractical, the most spiritual and the most
transcendental ever invented; satisfying all man's hunger for
"belief" which, if placed upon a solid basis of fact and proof,
would forthright cease to be belief.

I will take from The Nights, as a specimen of the true Persian
romance, "The Queen of the Serpents" (vol. v. 298), the subject
of Lane's Carlylean denunciation. The first gorgeous picture is
the Session of the Snakes which, like their Indian congeners the
Nága kings and queens, have human heads and reptile bodies, an
Egyptian myth that engendered the "old serpent" of Genesis. The
Sultánah welcomes Hásib Karím al-Dín, the hapless lad who had
been left in a cavern to die by the greedy woodcutters; and, in
order to tell him her tale, introduces the "Adventures of
Bulúkiyá": the latter is an Israelite converted by editor and
scribe to Mohammedanism; but we can detect under his assumed
faith the older creed. Solomon is not buried by authentic
history "beyond the Seven (mystic) Seas," but at Jerusalem or
Tiberias; and his seal-ring suggests the Jám-i-Jam, the crystal
cup of the great King Jamshíd. The descent of the Archangel
Gabriel, so familiar to Al-Islam, is the manifestation of Bahman,
the First Intelligence, the mightiest of the Angels who enabled
Zarathustra-Zoroaster to walk like Bulukiya over the Dálatí or
Caspian Sea. [FN#249] Amongst the sights shown to Bulukiya, as he
traverses the Seven Oceans, is a battle royal between the
believing and the unbelieving Jinns, true Magian dualism, the
eternal duello of the Two Roots or antagonistic Principles, Good
and Evil, Hormuzd and Ahriman, which Milton has debased into a
common-place modern combat fought also with cannon. Sakhr the
Jinni is Eshem chief of the Divs, and Kaf, the encircling
mountain, is a later edition of Persian Alborz. So in the Mantak
al-Tayr (Colloquy of the Flyers) the Birds, emblems of souls,
seeking the presence of the gigantic feathered biped Simurgh,
their god, traverse seven Seas (according to others seven Wadys)
of Search, of Love, of Knowledge, of Competence, of Unity, of
Stupefaction, and of Altruism (i.e. annihilation of self), the
several stages of contemplative life. At last, standing upon the
mysterious island of the Simurgh and "casting a clandestine
glance at him they saw thirty birds[FN#250] in him; and when they
turned their eyes to themselves the thirty birds seemed one
Simurgh: they saw in themselves the entire Simurgh; they saw in
the Simurgh the thirty birds entirely." Therefore they arrived
at the solution of the problem "We and Thou;" that is, the
identity of God and Man; they were for ever annihilated in the
Simurgh and the shade vanished in the sun (Ibid. iii. 250). The
wild ideas concerning Khalít and Malít (vol. v. 319) are again
Guebre. "From the seed of Kayomars (the androgyne, like pre-
Adamite man) sprang a tree shaped like two human beings and
thence proceeded Meshia and Meshianah, first man and woman,
progenitors of mankind;" who, though created for "Shídistán,
Light-land," were seduced by Ahriman. This "two-man-tree" is
evidently the duality of Physis and Anti-physis, Nature and her
counterpart, the battle between Mihr, Izad or Mithra with his
Surush and Feristeh (Seraphs and Angels) against the Divs who are
the children of Time led by the arch demon-Eshem. Thus when
Hormuzd created the planets, the dog, and all useful animals and
plants, Ahriman produced the comets, the wolf, noxious beasts and
poisonous growths. The Hindus represent the same metaphysical
idea by Bramhá the Creator and Visva- karma, the Anti-
creator,[FN#251] miscalled by Europeans Vulcan: the former
fashions a horse and a bull and the latter caricatures them with
an ass and a buffalo,--evolution turned topsy turvy. After
seeing nine angels and obtaining an explanation of the Seven
Stages of Earth which is supported by the Gav-i-Zamín, the
energy, symbolised by a bull, implanted by the Creator in the
mundane sphere, Bulukiya meets the four Archangels, to wit
Gabriel who is the Persian Rawánbakhsh or Life-giver; Michael or
Beshter, Raphael or Israfil alias Ardibihisht, and Azazel or
Azrail who is Dumá or Mordad, the Death-giver; and the four are
about to attack the Dragon, that is, the demons hostile to
mankind who were driven behind Alborz-Kaf by Tahmuras the ancient
Persian king. Bulukiya then recites an episode within an
episode, the "Story of Jánsháh," itself a Persian name and
accompanied by two others (vol. v. 329), the mise-en-scène being
Kabul and the King of Khorasan appearing in the proem. Janshah,
the young Prince, no sooner comes to man's estate than he loses
himself out hunting and falls in with cannibals whose bodies
divide longitudinally, each moiety going its own way: these are
the Shikk (split ones) which the Arabs borrowed from the Persian
Ním- chihrah or Half-faces. They escape to the Ape-island whose
denizens are human in intelligence and speak articulately, as the
universal East believes they can: these Simiads are at chronic
war with the Ants, alluding to some obscure myth which gave rise
to the gold-diggers of Herodotus and other classics, "emmets in
size somewhat less than dogs but bigger than foxes."[FN#252] The
episode then falls into the banalities of Oriental folk-lore.
Janshah, passing the Sabbation river and reaching the Jews' city,
is persuaded to be sewn up in a skin and is carried in the normal
way to the top of the Mountain of Gems where he makes
acquaintance with Shaykh Nasr, Lord of the Birds: he enters the
usual forbidden room; falls in love with the pattern Swan-maiden;
wins her by the popular process; loses her and recovers her
through the Monk Yaghmús, whose name, like that of King Teghmús,
is a burlesque of the Greek; and, finally, when she is killed by
a shark, determines to mourn her loss till the end of his days.
Having heard this story Bulukiya quits him; and, resolving to
regain his natal land, falls in with Khizr; and the Green
Prophet, who was Wazir to Kay Kobad (vith century B. C.) and was
connected with Macedonian Alexander (!) enables him to win his
wish. The rest of the tale calls for no comment.

Thirdly and lastly we have the histories, historical stories and
the "Ana" of great men in which Easterns as well as Westerns
delight: the gravest writers do not disdain to relieve the
dullness of chronicles and annals by means of such discussions,
humorous or pathetic, moral or grossly indecent. The dates must
greatly vary: some of the anecdotes relating to the early Caliphs
appear almost contemporary; others, like Ali of Cairo and Abu al-
Shamat, may be as late as the Ottoman Conquest of Egypt
(sixteenth century). All are distinctly Sunnite and show fierce
animus against the Shi'ah heretics, suggesting that they were
written after the destruction of the Fatimite dynasty (twelfth
century) by Salah al-Din (Saladin the Kurd) one of the latest
historical personages and the last king named in The Nights.
[FN#253] These anecdotes are so often connected with what a
learned Frenchman terms the "regne féerique de Haroun er-
Réschid,"[FN#254] that the Great Caliph becomes the hero of this
portion of The Nights. Aaron the Orthodox was the central figure
of the most splendid empire the world had seen, the Viceregent of
Allah combining the powers of Cæsar and Pope, and wielding them
right worthily according to the general voice of historians. To
quote a few: Ali bin Talib al-Khorásáni described him, in A.D.
934, a century and-a-half after his death when flattery would be
tongue-tied, as, "one devoted to war and pilgrimage, whose bounty
embraced the folk at large." Sa'adi (ob. A.D. 1291) tells a tale
highly favourable to him in the "Gulistan" (lib. i. 36). Fakhr
al-Din[FN#255] (xivth century) lauds his merits, eloquence,
science and generosity; and Al-Siyuti (nat. A.D. 1445) asserts
"He was one of the most distinguished of Caliphs and the most
illustrious of the Princes of the Earth" (p. 290). The Shaykh
al-Nafzáwi[FN#256] (sixteenth century) in his Rauz al-Átir fí
Nazáh al-Khátir = Scented Garden-site for Heart-delight, calls
Harun (chapt. vii.) the "Master of munificence and bounty, the
best of the generous." And even the latest writers have not
ceased to praise him. Says Alí Azíz Efendi the Cretan, in the
Story of Jewád[FN#257] (p. 81), "Harun was the most bounteous,
illustrious and upright of the Abbaside Caliphs."

The fifth Abbaside was fair and handsome, of noble and majestic
presence, a sportsman and an athlete who delighted in polo and
archery. He showed sound sense and true wisdom in his speech to
the grammarian-poet Al-Asma'î, who had undertaken to teach him:--
"Ne m'enseignez jamais en public, et ne vous empressez pas trop
de me donner des avis en particulier. Attendez ordinairement que
je vous interroge, et contentez vous de me donner une response
précise à ce que je vous demanderai, sans y rien ajouter de
superflu. Gardez vous surtout de vouloir me préoccuper pour vous
attirer ma creance, et pour vous donner de l'autorité. Ne vous
etendez jamais trop en long sur les histoires et les traditions
que vous me raconterez, si je ne vous en donne la permission.
Lorsque vous verrai que je m'eloignerai de l'équité dans mes
jugements, ramenez-moi avec douceur, sans user de paroles
fâcheuses ni de réprimandes. Enseignez-moi principalement les
choses qui sont les plus necessaires pour les dis cours que je
dois faire en public, dans les mosquées et ailleurs; et ne parlez
point en termes obscurs, ou mystérieux, ni avec des paroles trop

He became well read in science and letters, especially history
and tradition, for "his understanding was as the understanding of
the learned;" and, like all educated Arabs of his day, he was a
connoisseur of poetry which at times he improvised with success.
[FN#259] He made the pilgrimage every alternate year and
sometimes on foot, while "his military expeditions almost
equalled his pilgrimages." Day after day during his Caliphate he
prayed a hundred "bows," never neglecting them, save for some
especial reason, till his death; and he used to give from his
privy purse alms to the extent of a hundred dirhams per diem. He
delighted in panegyry and liberally rewarded its experts, one of
whom, Abd al-Sammák the Preacher, fairly said of him, "Thy
humility in thy greatness is nobler than thy greatness.""No
Caliph," says Al-Niftawayh, "had been so profusely liberal to
poets, lawyers and divines, although as the years advanced he
wept over his extravagance amongst other sins." There was
vigorous manliness in his answer to the Grecian Emperor who had
sent him an insulting missive:--"In the name of Allah! From the
Commander of the Faithful Harun al-Rashid, to Nicephorus the
Roman dog. I have read thy writ, O son of a miscreant mother!
Thou shalt not hear, thou shalt see my reply." Nor did he cease
to make the Byzantine feel the weight of his arm till he
"nakh'd"[FN#260] his camel in the imperial Court-yard; and this
was only one instance of his indomitable energy and hatred of the
Infidel. Yet, if the West is to be believed, he forgot his
fanaticism in his diplomatic dealings and courteous intercourse
with Carolus Magnus.[FN#261] Finally, his civilised and well
regulated rule contrasted as strongly with the barbarity and
turbulence of occidental Christendom, as the splendid Court and
the luxurious life of Baghdad and its carpets and hangings
devanced the quasi-savagery of London and Paris whose palatial
halls were spread with rushes.

The great Caliph ruled twenty-three years and a few months (A.H.
170-193 = A.D. 786-808); and, as his youth was chequered and his
reign was glorious, so was his end obscure.[FN#262] After a
vision foreshadowing his death,[FN#263] which happened, as
becomes a good Moslem, during a military expedition to Khorasan,
he ordered his grave to be dug and himself to be carried to it in
a covered litter: when sighting the fosse he exclaimed, "O son of
man thou art come to this!" Then he commanded himself to be set
down and a perfection of the Koran to be made over him in the
litter on the edge of the grave. He was buried (æt. forty-five)
at Sanábád, a village near Tús.

Aaron the Orthodox appears in The Nights as a headstrong and
violent autocrat, a right royal figure according to the Moslem
ideas of his day. But his career shows that he was not more
tyrannical or more sanguinary than the normal despot of the East,
or the contemporary Kings of the West: in most points, indeed, he
was far superior to the historic misrulers who have afflicted the
world from Spain to furthest China. But a single great crime, a
tragedy whose details are almost incredibly horrible, marks his
reign with the stain of infamy, with a blot of blood never to be
washed away. This tale, "full of the waters of the eye," as
Firdausi sings, is the massacre of the Barmecides; a story which
has often been told and which cannot here be passed over in
silence. The ancient and noble Iranian house, belonging to the
"Ebná" or Arabised Persians, had long served the Ommiades till,
early in our eighth century, Khálid bin Bermek,[FN#264] the
chief, entered the service of the first Abbaside and became Wazir
and Intendant of Finance to Al-Saffah. The most remarkable and
distinguished of the family, he was in office when Al-Mansur
transferred the capital from Damascus, the headquarters of the
hated Ommiades, to Baghdad, built ad hoc. After securing the
highest character in history by his personal gifts and public
services, he was succeeded by his son and heir Yáhyá (John), a
statesman famed from early youth for prudence and profound
intelligence, liberality and nobility of soul.[FN#265] He was
charged by the Caliph Al-Mahdi with the education of his son
Harun, hence the latter was accustomed to call him father; and,
until the assassination of the fantastic tyrant Al-Hádi, who
proposed to make his own child Caliph, he had no little
difficulty in preserving the youth from death in prison. The
Orthodox, once seated firmly on the throne, appointed Yáhyá his
Grand Wazir. This great administrator had four sons, Al-Fazl,
Ja'afar, Mohammed, and Musa,[FN#266] in whose time the house of
Bermek rose to that height from which decline and fall are, in
the East, well nigh certain and immediate. Al-Fazl was a foster-
brother of Harun, an exchange of suckling infants having taken
place between the two mothers for the usual object, a tightening
of the ties of intimacy: he was a man of exceptional mind, but he
lacked the charm of temper and manner which characterised

The poets and rhetoricians have been profuse in their praises of
the cadet who appears in The Nights as an adviser of calm sound
sense, an intercessor and a peace-maker, and even more remarkable
than the rest of his family for an almost incredible magnanimity
and generosity--une générosité effrayante. Mohammed was famed
for exalted views and nobility of sentiment and Musa for bravery
and energy: of both it was justly said, "They did good and harmed

For ten years (not including an interval of seven) from the time
of Al-Rashid's accession (A.D. 786) to the date of their fall,
(A.D. 803), Yahya and his sons, Al-Fazl and Ja'afar, were
virtually rulers of the great heterogeneous empire, which
extended from Mauritania to Tartary, and they did notable service
in arresting its disruption. Their downfall came sudden and
terrible like "a thunderbolt from the blue." As the Caliph and
Ja'afar were halting in Al-'Umr (the convent) near Anbár-town on
the Euphrates, after a convivial evening spent in different
pavilions, Harun during the dead of the night called up his page
Yásir al-Rikhlah[FN#268] and bade him bring Ja'afar's head. The
messenger found Ja'afar still carousing with the blind poet Abú
Zakkár and the Christian physician Gabriel ibn Bakhtiashú, and
was persuaded to return to the Caliph and report his death; the
Wazir adding, "An he express regret I shall owe thee my life;
and, if not, whatso Allah will be done." Ja'afar followed to
listen and heard only the Caliph exclaim "O sucker of thy
mother's clitoris, if thou answer me another word, I will send
thee before him!" whereupon he at once bandaged his own eyes and
received the fatal blow. Al-Asma'í, who was summoned to the
presence shortly after, recounts that when the head was brought
to Harun he gazed at it, and summoning two witnesses commanded
them to decapitate Yasir, crying, "I cannot bear to look upon the
slayer of Ja'afar!" His vengeance did not cease with the death:
he ordered the head to be gibbetted at one end and the trunk at
the other abutment of the Tigris bridge where the corpses of the
vilest malefactors used to be exposed; and, some months
afterwards, he insulted the remains by having them burned--the
last and worst indignity which can be offered to a Moslem. There
are indeed pity and terror in the difference between two such
items in the Treasury-accounts as these: "Four hundred thousand
dinars (£200,000) to a robe of honour for the Wazir Ja'afar bin
Yahya;" and, "Ten kírát, (5 shill.) to naphtha and reeds for
burning the body of Ja'afar the Barmecide."

Meanwhile Yahya and Al-Fazl, seized by the Caliph Harun's command
at Baghdad, were significantly cast into the prison "Habs al-
Zanádikah"--of the Guebres--and their immense wealth which, some
opine, hastened their downfall, was confiscated. According to
the historian, Al-Tabari, who, however, is not supported by all
the annalists, the whole Barmecide family, men, women, and
children, numbering over a thousand, were slaughtered with only
three exceptions; Yahya, his brother Mohammed, and his son Al-
Fazl. The Caliph's foster-father, who lived to the age of
seventy-four, was allowed to die in jail (A.H. 805) after two
years' imprisonment at Rukkah. Al-Fazl, after having been
tortured with two hundred blows in order to make him produce
concealed property, survived his father three years and died in
Nov. A.H. 808, some four months before his terrible foster-
brother. A pathetic tale is told of the son warming water for
the old man's use by pressing the copper ewer to his stomach.

The motives of this terrible massacre are variously recounted,
but no sufficient explanation has yet been, or possibly ever will
be, given. The popular idea is embodied in The Nights. [FN#269]
Harun, wishing Ja'afar to be his companion even in the Harem, had
wedded him, pro formâ, to his eldest sister Abbásah, "the
loveliest woman of her day," and brilliant in mind as in body;
but he had expressly said "I will marry thee to her, that it may
be lawful for thee to look upon her but thou shalt not touch
her." Ja'afar bound himself by a solemn oath; but his mother
Attábah was mad enough to deceive him in his cups and the result
was a boy (Ibn Khallikan) or, according to others, twins. The
issue was sent under the charge of a confidential eunuch and a
slave-girl to Meccah for concealment; but the secret was divulged
to Zubaydah who had her own reasons for hating husband and wife
and cherished an especial grievance against Yahya.[FN#270] Thence
it soon found its way to head-quarters. Harun's treatment of
Abbásah supports the general conviction: according to the most
credible accounts she and her child were buried alive in a pit
under the floor of her apartment.

But, possibly, Ja'afar's perjury was only "the last straw."
Already Al-Fazl bin Rabî'a, the deadliest enemy of the
Barmecides, had been entrusted (A.D. 786) with the Wazirate which
he kept seven years. Ja'afar had also acted generously but
imprudently in abetting the escape of Yahya bin Abdillah, Sayyid
and Alide, for whom the Caliph had commanded confinement in a
close dark dungeon: when charged with disobedience the Wazir had
made full confession and Harun had (they say) exclaimed, "Thou
hast done well!" but was heard to mutter, "Allah slay me an I
slay thee not."[FN#271] The great house seems at times to have
abused its powers by being too peremptory with Harun and
Zubaydah, especially in money matters;[FN#272] and its very
greatness would have created for it many and powerful enemies and
detractors who plied the Caliph with anonymous verse and prose.
Nor was it forgotten that, before the spread of Al-Islam, they
had presided over the Naubehár or Pyræthrum of Balkh; and Harun
is said to have remarked anent Yahya, "The zeal for magianism,
rooted in his heart, induces him to save all the monuments
connected with his faith."[FN#273] Hence the charge that they
were "Zanádakah," a term properly applied to those who study the
Zend scripture, but popularly meaning Mundanists, Positivists,
Reprobates, Atheists; and it may be noted that, immediately after
al-Rashid's death, violent religious troubles broke out in
Baghdad. Ibn Khallikan[FN#274] quotes Sa'id ibn Salim, a
well-known grammarian and traditionist who philosophically
remarked, "Of a truth the Barmecides did nothing to deserve Al-
Rashid's severity, but the day (of their power and prosperity)
had been long and whatso endureth long waxeth longsome." Fakhr
al-Din says (p. 27), "On attribue encore leur ruine aux manières
fières et orgueilleuses de Djafar (Ja'afar) et de Fadhl (Al-
Fazl), manières que les rois ne sauroient supporter." According
to Ibn Badrún, the poet, when the Caliph's sister
'Olayyah[FN#275] asked him, "O my lord, I have not seen thee
enjoy one happy day since putting Ja'afar to death: wherefore
didst thou slay him?" he answered, "My dear life, an I thought
that my shirt knew the reason I would rend it in pieces!" I
therefore hold with Al Mas'udi,

"As regards the intimate cause (of the catastrophe) it is unknown
and Allah is Omniscient."

Aaron the Orthodox appears sincerely to have repented his
enormous crime. From that date he never enjoyed refreshing
sleep: he would have given his whole realm to recall Ja'afar to
life; and, if any spoke slightingly of the Barmecides in his
presence, he would exclaim, "God damn your fathers! Cease to
blame them or fill the void they have left." And he had ample
reason to mourn the loss. After the extermination of the wise
and enlightened family, the affairs of the Caliphate never
prospered: Fazl bin Rabí'a, though a man of intelligence and
devoted to letters, proved a poor substitute for Yahya and
Ja'afar; and the Caliph is reported to have applied to him the

No sire to your sire,[FN#276] I bid you spare * Your calumnies or
their place replace.

His unwise elevation of his two rival sons filled him with fear
of poison, and, lastly, the violence and recklessness of the
popular mourning for the Barmecides,[FN#277] whose echo has not
yet died away, must have added poignancy to his tardy penitence.
The crime still "sticks fiery off" from the rest of Harun's
career: it stands out in ghastly prominence as one of the most
terrible tragedies recorded by history, and its horrible details
make men write passionately on the subject to this our

As of Harun so of Zubaydah it may be said that she was far
superior in most things to contemporary royalties, and she was
not worse at her worst than the normal despot-queen of the
Morning-land. We must not take seriously the tales of her
jealousy in The Nights, which mostly end in her selling off or
burying alive her rivals; but, even were all true, she acted
after the recognised fashion of her exalted sisterhood. The
secret history of Cairo, during the last generation, tells of
many a viceregal dame who committed all the crimes, without any
of the virtues which characterised Harun's cousin-spouse. And
the difference between the manners of the Caliphate and the
"respectability" of the nineteenth century may be measured by the
Tale called "Al-Maamun and Zubaydah."[FN#279] The lady, having
won a game of forfeits from her husband, and being vexed with him
for imposing unseemly conditions when he had been the winner,
condemned him to lie with the foulest and filthiest kitchen-wench
in the palace; and thus was begotten the Caliph who succeeded and
destroyed her son.

Zubaydah was the grand-daughter of the second Abbaside Al-Mansur,
by his son Ja'afar whom The Nights persistently term Al-Kasim:
her name was Amat al-Azíz or Handmaid of the Almighty; her
cognomen was Umm Ja'afar as her husband's was Abú Ja'afar; and
her popular name "Creamkin" derives from Zubdah,[FN#280] cream or
fresh butter, on account of her plumpness and freshness. She was
as majestic and munificent as her husband; and the hum of prayer
was never hushed in her palace. Al-Mas'udi[FN#281] makes a
historian say to the dangerous Caliph Al-Káhir, "The nobleness
and generosity of this Princess, in serious matters as in her
diversions, place her in the highest rank"; and he proceeds to
give ample proof. Al-Siyuti relates how she once filled a poet's
mouth with jewels which he sold for twenty thousand dinars. Ibn
Khallikan (i. 523) affirms of her, "Her charity was ample, her
conduct virtuous, and the history of her pilgrimage to Meccah and
of what she undertook to execute on the way is so well-known that
it were useless to repeat it." I have noted (Pilgrimage iii. 2)
how the Darb al-Sharki or Eastern road from Meccah to Al-Medinah
was due to the piety of Zubaydah who dug wells from Baghdad to
the Prophet's burial place and built not only cisterns and
caravanserais, but even a wall to direct pilgrims over the
shifting sands. She also supplied Meccah, which suffered
severely from want of water, with the chief requisite for public
hygiene by connecting it, through levelled hills and hewn rocks,
with the Ayn al-Mushásh in the Arafat subrange; and the fine
aqueduct, some ten miles long, was erected at a cost of 1,700,000
to 2,000,000 of gold pieces. [FN#282] We cannot wonder that her
name is still famous among the Badawin and the "Sons of the Holy
Cities." She died at Baghdad, after a protracted widowhood, in
A.H. 216 and her tomb, which still exists, was long visited by
the friends and dependents who mourned the loss of a devout and
most liberal woman.

The reader will bear with me while I run through the tales and
add a few remarks to the notices given in the notes: the glance
must necessarily be brief, however extensive be the theme. The
admirable introduction follows, in all the texts and MSS. known
to me, the same main lines but differs greatly in minor details
as will be seen by comparing Mr. Payne's translation with Lane's
and mine. In the Tale of the Sage Dúbán appears the speaking
head which is found in the Kamil, in Mirkhond and in the Kitáb
al-Uyún: M. C. Barbier de Meynard (v. 503) traces it back to an
abbreviated text of Al-Mas'udi. I would especially recommend to
students The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad (i. 82),
whose mighty orgie ends so innocently in general marriage. Lane
(iii. 746) blames it "because it represents Arab ladies as acting
like Arab courtesans"; but he must have known that during his day
the indecent frolic was quite possible in some of the highest
circles of his beloved Cairo. To judge by the style and changes
of person, some of the most "archaic" expressions suggest the
hand of the Ráwi or professional tale-teller; yet as they are in
all the texts they cannot be omitted in a loyal translation. The
following story of The Three Apples perfectly justifies my notes
concerning which certain carpers complain. What Englishman would
be jealous enough to kill his cousin-wife because a blackamoor in
the streets boasted of her favours? But after reading what is
annotated in vol. i. 6, and purposely placed there to give the
key-note of the book, he will understand the reasonable nature of
the suspicion; and I may add that the same cause has commended
these "skunks of the human race" to debauched women in England.

The next tale, sometimes called "The Two Wazírs," is notable for
its regular and genuine drama-intrigue which, however, appears
still more elaborate and perfected in other pieces. The richness
of this Oriental plot-invention contrasts strongly with all
European literatures except the Spaniard's, whose taste for the
theatre determined his direction, and the Italian, which in
Boccaccio's day had borrowed freely through Sicily from the East.
And the remarkable deficiency lasted till the romantic movement
dawned in France, when Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas showed
their marvellous powers of faultless fancy, boundless imagination
and scenic luxuriance, "raising French Poetry from the dead and
not mortally wounding French prose.''[FN#283] The Two Wazirs is
followed by the gem of the volume, The Adventure of the
Hunchback-jester (i. 225), also containing an admirable surprise
and a fine development of character, while its "wild but natural
simplicity" and its humour are so abounding that it has echoed
through the world to the farthest West. It gave to Addison the
Story of Alnaschar[FN#284] and to Europe the term "Barmecide
Feast," from the "Tale of Shacabac" (vol. i. 343). The
adventures of the corpse were known in Europe long before Galland
as shown by three fabliaux in Barbazan. I have noticed that the
Barber's Tale of himself (i. 317) is historical and I may add
that it is told in detail by Al-Mas'udi (chapt. cxiv).

Follows the tale of Núr al-Dín Alí, and what Galland miscalls
"The Fair Persian," a brightly written historiette with not a few
touches of true humour. Noteworthy are the Slaver's address
(vol. ii. 15), the fine description of the Baghdad garden (vol.
ii. 21-24), the drinking-party (vol. ii. 25), the Caliph's frolic
(vol. ii. 31-37) and the happy end of the hero's misfortunes
(vol. ii. 44) Its brightness is tempered by the gloomy tone of
the tale which succeeds, and which has variants in the Bagh o
Bahar, a Hindustani versionof the Persian "Tale of the Four
Darwayshes;" and in the Turkish Kirk Vezir or "Book of the Forty
Vezirs." Its dismal péripéties are relieved only by the witty
indecency of Eunuch Bukhayt and the admirable humour of Eunuch
Kafur, whose "half lie" is known throughout the East. Here also
the lover's agonies are piled upon him for the purpose of
unpiling at last: the Oriental tale-teller knows by experience
that, as a rule, doleful endings "don't pay."

The next is the long romance of chivalry, "King Omar bin al-
Nu'man" etc., which occupies an eighth of the whole repertory and
the best part of two volumes. Mr. Lane omits it because "obscene
and tedious," showing the license with which he translated; and
he was set right by a learned reviewer,[FN#285] who truly
declared that "the omission of half-a-dozen passages out of four
hundred pages would fit it for printing in any language[FN#286]
and the charge of tediousness could hardly have been applied more
unhappily." The tale is interesting as a picture of mediæval
Arab chivalry and has many other notable points; for instance,
the lines (iii. 86) beginning "Allah holds the kingship!" are a
lesson to the manichæanism of Christian Europe. It relates the
doings of three royal generations and has all the characteristics
of Eastern art: it is a phantasmagoria of Holy Places, palaces
and Harems; convents, castles and caverns, here restful with
gentle landscapes (ii. 240) and there bristling with furious
battle-pictures (ii. 117, 221-8, 249) and tales of princely
prowess and knightly derring-do. The characters stand out well.
King Nu'man is an old lecher who deserves his death; the ancient
Dame Zát al-Dawáhi merits her title Lady of Calamities (to her
foes); Princess Abrizah appears as a charming Amazon, doomed to a
miserable and pathetic end; Zau al-Makán is a wise and pious
royalty; Nuzhat al-Zamán, though a longsome talker, is a model
sister; the Wazir Dandán, a sage and sagacious counsellor,
contrasts with the Chamberlain, an ambitious miscreant; Kánmakán
is the typical Arab knight, gentle and brave:--

Now managing the mouthes of stubborne steedes
Now practising the proof of warlike deedes;

And the kind-hearted, simple-minded Stoker serves as a foil to
the villains, the kidnapping Badawi and Ghazbán the detestable
negro. The fortunes of the family are interrupted by two
episodes, both equally remarkable. Taj al-Mulúk[FN#287] is the
model lover whom no difficulties or dangers can daunt. In Azíz
and Azízah (ii. 291) we have the beau ideal of a loving woman:
the writer's object was to represent a "softy" who had the luck
to win the love of a beautiful and clever cousin and the mad
folly to break her heart. The poetical justice which he receives
at the hands of women of quite another stamp leaves nothing to be
desired. Finally the plot of "King Omar" is well worked out; and
the gathering of all the actors upon the stage before the curtain
drops may be improbable but it is highly artistic.

The long Crusading Romance is relieved by a sequence of sixteen
fabliaux, partly historiettes of men and beasts and partly
apologues proper--a subject already noticed. We have then (iii.
162) the saddening and dreary love-tale of Ali bin Bakkár, a
Persian youth and the Caliph's concubine Shams al-Nahár. Here
the end is made doleful enough by the deaths of the "two
martyrs," who are killed off, like Romeo and Juliet,[FN#288] a
lesson that the course of true Love is sometimes troubled and
that men as well as women can die of the so-called "tender
passion." It is followed (iii. 212) by the long tale of Kamar
al-Zamán, or Moon of the Age, the first of that name, the
"Camaralzaman" whom Galland introduced into the best European
society. Like "The Ebony Horse" it seems to have been derived
from a common source with "Peter of Provence" and "Cleomades and
Claremond"; and we can hardly wonder at its wide diffusion: the
tale is brimful of life, change, movement, containing as much
character and incident as would fill a modern three-volumer and
the Supernatural pleasantly jostles the Natural; Dahnash the Jinn
and Maymúnah daughter of Al-Dimiryát,[FN#289] a renowned King of
the Jann, being as human in their jealousy about the virtue of
their lovers as any children of Adam, and so their metamorphosis
to fleas has all the effect of a surprise. The troupe is again
drawn with a broad firm touch. Prince Charming, the hero, is
weak and wilful, shifty and immoral, hasty and violent: his two
spouses are rivals in abominations as his sons, Amjad and As'ad,
are examples of a fraternal affection rarely found in half-
brothers by sister-wives. There is at least one fine
melodramatic situation (iii. 228); and marvellous feats of
indecency, a practical joke which would occur only to the canopic
mind (iii. 300-305), emphasise the recovery of her husband by
that remarkable "blackguard," the Lady Budúr. The interpolated
tale of Ni'amah and Naomi (iv. I), a simple and pleasing
narrative of youthful amours, contrasts well with the boiling
passions of the incestuous and murderous Queens and serves as a
pause before the grand denouement when the parted meet, the lost
are found, the unwedded are wedded and all ends merrily as a
xixth century novel.

The long tale of Alá al-Din, our old friend "Aladdin," is wholly
out of place in its present position (iv. 29): it is a
counterpart of Ali Nûr al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-girl (vol.
ix. i); and the mention of the Shahbandar or Harbour-master (iv.
29), the Kunsul or Consul (p. 84), the Kaptan (Capitano), the use
of cannon at sea and the choice of Genoa city (p. 85) prove that
it belongs to the xvth or xvith century and should accompanyKamar
al-Zamàn II. and Ma'aruf at the
end of The Nights. Despite the lutist Zubaydah being carried off
by the Jinn, the Magic Couch, a modification of Solomon's carpet,
and the murder of the King who refused to islamize, it is
evidently a European tale and I believe with Dr. Bacher that it
is founded upon the legend of "Charlemagne's" daughter Emma and
his secretary Eginhardt, as has been noted in the counterpart
(vol. ix. 1).

This quasi-historical fiction is followed hy a succession of
fabliaux, novelle and historiettes which fill the rest of the
vol. iv. and the whole of vol. v. till we reach the terminal
story, The Queen of the Serpents (vol. v. pp. 304-329). It
appears to me that most of them are historical and could easily
be traced. Not a few are in Al-Mas'udi; for instance the grim
Tale of Hatim of Tayy (vol. iv. 94) is given bodily in "Meads of
Gold" (iii. 327); and the two adventures of Ibrahim al-Mahdi with
the barber-surgeon (vol. iv. 103) and the Merchant's sister (vol.
iv. 176) are in his pages (vol. vii. 68 and 18). The City of
Lubtayt (vol. iv. 99) embodies the legend of Don Rodrigo, last of
the Goths, and may have reached the ears of Washington Irving;
Many-columned Iram (vol. iv. 113) is held by all Moslems to be
factual and sundry writers have recorded the tricks played by Al-
Maamun with the Pyramids of Jizah which still show his
handiwork.[FN#290] The germ of Isaac of Mosul (vol. iv. 119) is
found in Al-Mas'udi who (vii. 65) names "Burán" the poetess (Ibn
Khall. i. 268); and Harun al-Rashid and the Slave-girl (vol. iv.
153) is told by a host of writers. Ali the Persian is a
rollicking tale of fun from some Iranian jest-book: Abu Mohammed
hight Lazybones belongs to the cycle of "Sindbad the Seaman,"
with a touch of Whittington and his Cat; and Zumurrud
("Smaragdine") in Ali Shar (vol. iv. 187) shows at her sale the
impudence of Miriam the Girdle-girl and in bed the fescennine
device of the Lady Budur. The "Ruined Man who became Rich," etc.
(vol. iv. 289) is historical and Al-Mas'udi (vii. 281) relates
the coquetry of Mahbúbah the concubine (vol. iv. 291): the
historian also quotes four couplets, two identical with Nos. 1
and 2 in The Nights (vol. iv. 292) and adding:--

Then see the slave who lords it o'er her lord * In lover privacy
and public site:
Behold these eyes that one like Ja'afar saw: * Allah on Ja'afar
reign boons infinite!

Uns al-Wujúd (vol. v. 32) is a love-tale which has been
translated into a host of Eastern languages; and The Lovers of
the Banu Ozrah belong to Al-Mas'udi's "Martyrs of Love" (vii.
355), with the ozrite "Ozrite love" of Ibn Khallikan (iv. 537).
"Harun and the Three Poets" (vol. v. 77) has given to Cairo a
proverb which Burckhardt (No. 561) renders "The day obliterates
the word or promise of the Night," for

The promise of night is effaced by day.

It suggests Congreve's Doris:--

For who o'er night obtain'd her grace,
She can next day disown, etc.

"Harun and the three Slave-girls" (vol. v. 81) smacks of
Gargantua (lib. i. c. 11): "It belongs to me, said one: 'Tis
mine, said another"; and so forth. The Simpleton and the Sharper
(vol. v. 83) like the Foolish Dominie (vol. v. 118) is an old Joe
Miller in Hindu as well as Moslem folk-lore. "Kisra Anushirwán"
(vol. v. 87) is "The King, the Owl and the Villages of Al-
Mas'udi" (iii. 171), who also notices the Persian monarch's four
seals of office (ii. 204); and "Masrur the Eunuch and Ibn Al-
Káribi" (vol. v. 109) is from the same source as Ibn al-Magházili
the Reciter and a Eunuch belonging to the Caliph Al-Mu'tazad
(vol. viii. 161). In the Tale of Tawaddud (vol. v. 139) we have
the fullest development of the disputations and displays of
learning then so common in Europe, teste the "Admirable
Crichton"; and these were affected not only by Eastern tale-
tellers but even by sober historians. To us it is much like
"padding" when Nuzhat al-Zamán (vol. ii. 156 etc.) fags her
hapless hearers with a discourse covering sixteen mortal pages;
when the Wazir Dandan (vol. ii. 195, etc.) reports at length the
cold speeches of the five high-bosomed maids and the Lady of
Calamities and when Wird Khan, in presence of his papa (Nights
cmxiv-xvi.) discharges his patristic exercitations and
heterogeneous knowledge. Yet Al-Mas'udi also relates, at dreary
extension (vol. vi. 369) the disputation of the twelve sages in
presence of Barmecide Yahya upon the origin, the essence, the
accidents and the omnes res of Love; and in another place (vii.
181) shows Honayn, author of the Book of Natural Questions,
undergoing a long examination before the Caliph Al-Wásik (Vathek)
and describing, amongst other things, the human teeth. See also
the dialogue or catechism of Al-Hajjáj and Ibn Al-Kirríya in Ibn
Khallikan (vol. i. 238-240).

These disjecta membra of tales and annals are pleasantly relieved
by the seven voyages of Sindbad the Seaman (vol. vi. 1-83). The
"Arabian Odyssey" may, like its Greek brother, descend from a
noble family, the "Shipwrecked Mariner" a Coptic travel-tale of
the twelfth dynasty (B. C. 3500) preserved on a papyrus at St.
Petersburg. In its actual condition "Sindbad," is a fanciful
compilation, like De Foe's "Captain Singleton," borrowed from
travellers' tales of an immense variety and extracts from Al-
Idrísi, Al-Kazwíni and Ibn al-Wardi. Here we find the
Polyphemus, the Pygmies and the cranes of Homer and Herodotus;
the escape of Aristomenes; the Plinian monsters well known in
Persia; the magnetic mountain of Saint Brennan (Brandanus); the
aeronautics of "Duke Ernest of Bavaria''[FN#291] and sundry
cuttings from Moslem writers dating between our ninth and
fourteenth centuries.[FN#292] The "Shayhk of the Seaboard"
appears in the Persian romance of Kámaraupa translated by
Francklin, all the particulars absolutely corresponding. The
"Odyssey" is valuable because it shows how far Eastward the
mediaeval Arab had extended: already in The Ignorance he had
reached China and had formed a centre of trade at Canton. But
the higher merit of the cento is to produce one of the most
charming books of travel ever written, like Robinson Crusoe the
delight of children and the admiration of all ages.

The hearty life and realism of Sindbad are made to stand out in
strong relief by the deep melancholy which pervades "The City of
Brass" (vol. vi. 83), a dreadful book for a dreary day. It is
curious to compare the doleful verses (pp. 103, 105) with those
spoken to Caliph Al-Mutawakkil by Abu al-Hasan Ali (A1-Mas'udi,
vii. 246). We then enter upon the venerable Sindibad-nameh, the
Malice of Women (vol. vi. 122), of which, according to the Kitab
al-Fihrist (vol. i. 305), there were two editions, a Sinzibád al-
Kabír and a Sinzibád al-Saghír, the latter being probably an
epitome of the former. This bundle of legends, I have shown, was
incorporated with the Nights as an editor's addition; and as an
independent work it has made the round of the world.

Space forbids any detailed notice of this choice collection of
anecdotes for which a volume would be required. I may, however,
note that the "Wife's device" (vol. vi. 152) has its analogues in
the Kathá (chapt. xiii.) in the Gesta Romanorum (No. xxviii.) and
in Boccaccio (Day iii. 6 and Day vi. 8), modified by La Fontaine
to Richard Minutolo (Contes lib. i. tale 2): it is quoted almost
in the words of The Nights by the Shaykh al-Nafzáwi (p. 207).
That most witty and indecent tale The Three Wishes (vol. vi. 180)
has forced its way disguised as a babe into our nurseries.
Another form of it is found in the Arab proverb "More luckless
than Basús" (Kamus), a fair Israelite who persuaded her husband,
also a Jew, to wish that she might become the loveliest of women.
Jehovah granted it, spitefully as Jupiter; the consequence was
that her contumacious treatment of her mate made him pray that
the beauty might be turned into a bitch; and the third wish
restored her to her original state.

The Story of Júdar (vol. vi. 207) is Egyptian, to judge from its
local knowledge (pp. 217 and 254) together with its ignorance of
Marocco (p. 223). It shows a contrast, in which Arabs delight,
of an almost angelical goodness and forgiveness with a well-nigh
diabolical malignity, and we find the same extremes in Abú Sír
the noble-minded Barber and the hideously inhuman Abú Kír. The
excursion to Mauritania is artfully managed and gives a novelty
to the mise-en-scène. Gharíb and Ajíb (vi. 207, vii. 91) belongs
to the cycle of Antar and King Omar bin Nu'man: its exaggerations
make it a fine type of Oriental Chauvinism, pitting the
superhuman virtues, valour, nobility and success of all that is
Moslem, against the scum of the earth which is non-Moslem. Like
the exploits of Friar John of the Chopping-knives (Rabelais i. c.
27) it suggests ridicule cast on impossible battles and tales of
giants, paynims and paladins. The long romance is followed by
thirteen historiettes all apparently historical: compare "Hind,
daughter of Al-Nu'man" (vol. viii. 7-145) and "Isaac of Mosul and
the Devil" (vol. vii. 136-139) with Al Mas'udi v. 365 and vi.
340. They end in two long detective-tales like those which M.
Gaboriau has popularised, the Rogueries of Dalilah and the
Adventures of Mercury Ali, based upon the principle, "One thief
wots another." The former, who has appeared before (vol. ii.
329), seems to have been a noted character: Al-Mas'udi says
(viii. 175) "in a word this Shaykh (Al-'Ukáb) outrivalled in his
rogueries and the ingenuities of his wiles Dállah (Dalilah?) the
Crafty and other tricksters and coney-catchers, ancient and

The Tale of Ardashir (vol. vii. 209-264) lacks originality: we
are now entering upon a series of pictures which are replicas of
those preceding. This is not the case with that charming Undine,
Julnár the Sea-born (vol. vii. 264-308) which, like Abdullah of
the Land and Abdullah of the Sea (vol. ix. Night cmxl.),
describes the vie intime of mermen and merwomen. Somewhat
resembling Swift's inimitable creations, the Houyhnhnms for
instance, they prove, amongst other things, that those who dwell
in a denser element can justly blame and severely criticise the
contradictory and unreasonable prejudices and predilections of
mankind. Sayf al-Mulúk (vol. viii. Night dcclviii.), the
romantic tale of two lovers, shows by its introduction that it
was originally an independent work and it is known to have
existed in Persia during the eleventh century: this novella has
found its way into every Moslem language of the East even into
Sindi, which calls the hero "Sayfal." Here we again meet the Old
Man of the Sea or rather the Shaykh of the Seaboard and make
acquaintance with a Jinn whose soul is outside his body: thus he
resembles Hermotimos of Klazamunae in Apollonius, whose spirit
left his mortal frame à discretion. The author,
philanthropically remarking (vol. viii. 4) "Knowest thou not that
a single mortal is better, in Allah's sight than a thousand
Jinn?" brings the wooing to a happy end which leaves a pleasant
savour upon the mental palate.

Hasan of Bassorah (vol. viii. 7-145) is a Master Shoetie on a
large scale like Sindbad, but his voyages and travels extend into
the supernatural and fantastic rather than the natural world.
Though long the tale is by no means wearisome and the characters
are drawn with a fine firm hand. The hero with his hen-like
persistency of purpose, his weeping, fainting and versifying is
interesting enough and proves that "Love can find out the way."
The charming adopted sister, the model of what the feminine
friend should be; the silly little wife who never knows that she
is happy till she loses happiness; the violent and hard-hearted
queen with all the cruelty of a good woman, and the manners and
customs of Amazon land are outlined with a life-like vivacity.
Khalífah the next tale (vol. viii. 147-184) is valuable as a
study of Eastern life, showing how the fisherman emerges from the
squalor of his surroundings and becomes one of the Caliph's
favourite cup-companions. Ali Nur al-Din (vol. viii. 264) and
King Jali'ad (vol. ix., Night dcccxciv) have been noticed
elsewhere and there is little to say of the concluding stories
which bear the evident impress of a more modern date.

Dr. Johnson thus sums up his notice of The Tempest. "Whatever
might have been the intention of their author, these tales are
made instrumental to the production of many characters,
diversified with boundless invention, and preserved with profound
skill in nature; extensive knowledge of opinions, and accurate
observation of life. Here are exhibited princes, courtiers and
sailors, all speaking in their real characters. There is the
agency of airy spirits and of earthy goblin, the operations of
magic, the tumults of a storm, the adventures of a desert island,
the native effusion of untaught affection, the punishment of
guilt, and the final happiness of those for whom our passions and
reason are equally interested."

We can fairly say this much and far more for our Tales. Viewed
as a tout ensemble in full and complete form, they are a drama of
Eastern life, and a Dance of Death made sublime by faith and the
highest emotions, by the certainty of expiation and the fulness
of atoning equity, where virtue is victorious, vice is vanquished
and the ways of Allah are justified to man. They are a panorama
which remains ken-speckle upon the mental retina. They form a
phantasmagoria in which archangels and angels, devils and
goblins, men of air, of fire, of water, naturally mingle with men
of earth; where flying horses and talking fishes are utterly
realistic: where King and Prince meet fisherman and pauper, lamia
and cannibal; where citizen jostles Badawi, eunuch meets knight;
the Kazi hob-nobs with the thief; the pure and pious sit down to
the same tray with the bawd and the pimp; where the professional
religionist, the learned Koranist and the strictest moralist
consort with the wicked magician, the scoffer and the debauchee-
poet like Abu Nowas; where the courtier jests with the boor and
where the sweep is bedded with the noble lady. And the
characters are "finished and quickened by a few touches swift and
sure as the glance of sunbeams." The work is a kaleidoscope
where everything falls into picture; gorgeous palaces and
pavilions; grisly underground caves and deadlywolds; gardens
fairer than those of the Hesperid; seas dashing with clashing
billows upon enchanted mountains; valleys of the Shadow of Death;
air-voyages and promenades in the abysses of ocean; the duello,
the battle and the siege; the wooing of maidens and the marriage-
rite. All the splendour and squalor, the beauty and baseness,
the glamour and grotesqueness, the magic and the mournfulness,
the bravery and the baseness of Oriental life are here: its
pictures of the three great Arab passions, love, war and fancy,
entitle it to be called "Blood, Musk and Hashish."[FN#293] And
still more, the genius of the story-teller quickens the dry bones
of history, and by adding Fiction to Pact revives the dead past:
the Caliphs and the Caliphate return to Baghdad and Cairo, whilst
Asmodeus kindly removes the terrace-roof of every tenement and
allows our curious glances to take in the whole interior. This
is perhaps the best proof of their power. Finally, the picture-
gallery opens with a series of weird and striking adventures and
shows as a tail-piece, an idyllic scene of love and wedlock in
halls before reeking with lust and blood.

I have noticed in my Foreword that the two main characteristics
of The Nights are Pathos and Humour, alternating with highly
artistic contrast, and carefully calculated to provoke tears and
smiles in the coffee-house audience which paid for them. The
sentimental portion mostly breathes a tender passion and a simple
sadness: such are the Badawi's dying farewell (vol i. 75); the
lady's broken heart on account of her lover's hand being cut off
(vol. i. 277); the Wazir's death, the mourner's song and the
"tongue of the case" (vol. ii. 10); the murder of Princess
Abrízah with the babe sucking its dead mother's breast (vol. ii.
128); and, generally, the last moments of good Moslems (e. g.
vol. 167), which are described with inimitable terseness and
naïveté. The sad and the gay mingle in the character of the good
Hammam-stoker who becomes Roi Crotte and the melancholy deepens
in the Tale of the Mad Lover (vol. v. 138); the Blacksmith who
could handle fire without hurt (vol. v. 271); the Devotee Prince
(vol. v. iii) and the whole Tale of Azízah (vol. ii. 298), whose
angelic love is set off by the sensuality and selfishness of her
more fortunate rivals. A new note of absolutely tragic dignity
seems to be struck in the Sweep and the Noble Lady (vol. iv.
125), showing the piquancy of sentiment which can be evolved from
the common and the unclean. The pretty conceit of the Lute (vol.
v. 244) is afterwards carried out in the Song (vol. viii. 281),
which is a masterpiece of originality[FN#294] and (in the Arabic)
of exquisite tenderness and poetic melancholy, the wail over the
past and the vain longing for reunion. And the very depths of
melancholy, of majestic pathos and of true sublimity are reached
in Many-columned Iram (vol. iv. 113) and the City of Brass (vol.
vi. 83): the metrical part of the latter shows a luxury of woe;
it is one long wail of despair which echoes long and loud in the
hearer's heart.

In my Foreword I have compared the humorous vein of the comic
tales with our northern "wut," chiefly for the dryness and
slyness which pervade it. But it differs in degree as much as
the pathos varies. The staple article is Cairene "chaff," a
peculiar banter possibly inherited from their pagan forefathers:
instances of this are found in the Cock and Dog (vol. i. 22), the
Eunuch's address to the Cook (vol. i. 244), the Wazir's
exclamation, "Too little pepper!" (vol. i. 246), the self-
communing of Judar (vol. vi. 219), the Hashish-eater in Ali Shár
(vol. iv. 213), the scene between the brother-Wazirs (vol. i.
197), the treatment of the Gobbo (vol. i. 221, 228), the Water of
Zemzem (vol. i. 284), and the Eunuchs Bukhayt and Kafur[FN#295]
(vol. ii. 49, 51). At times it becomes a masterpiece of fun, of
rollicking Rabelaisian humour underlaid by the caustic mother-wit
of Sancho Panza, as in the orgie of the Ladies of Baghdad (vol.
i. 92, 93); the Holy Ointment applied to the beard of Luka the
Knight-- "unxerunt regem Salomonem" (vol. ii. 222); and Ja'afar
and the Old Badawi (vol. v. 98), with its reminiscence of
"chaffy" King Amasis. This reaches its acme in the description
of ugly old age (vol. v. 3); in The Three Wishes, the wickedest
of satires on the alter sexus (vi. 180); in Ali the Persian (vol.
iv. 139); in the Lady and her Five Suitors (vol. vi. 172), which
corresponds and contrasts with the dully told Story of Upakosa
and her Four Lovers of the Kathá (p. 17); and in The Man of Al-
Yaman (vol. iv. 245) where we find the true Falstaffian touch.
But there is sterling wit, sweet and bright, expressed without
any artifice of words, in the immortal Barber's tales of his
brothers, especially the second, the fifth and the sixth (vol. i.
324, 325 and 343). Finally, wherever the honest and independent
old debauchee Abu Nowas makes his appearance the fun becomes
fescennine and milesian.

B.--The Manner of the Nights.

And now, after considering the matter, I will glance at the
language and style of The Nights. The first point to remark is
the peculiarly happy framework of the Recueil, which I cannot but
suspect set an example to the Decamerone and its host of
successors.[FN#296] The admirable Introduction, a perfect mise-
en-scène, gives the amplest raison d'être of the work, which thus
has all the unity required for a great romantic recueil. We
perceive this when reading the contemporary Hindu work the Kathá
Sarit Ságara,[FN#297] which is at once so like and so unlike The
Nights: here the preamble is insufficient; the whole is clumsy
for want of a thread upon which the many independent tales and
fables should be strung[FN#298]; and the consequent disorder and
confusion tell upon the reader, who cannot remember the sequence
without taking notes.

As was said in my Foreword "without The Nights no Arabian
Nights!" and now, so far from holding the pauses "an intolerable
interruption to the narrative," I attach additional importance to
these pleasant and restful breaks introduced into long and
intricate stories. Indeed beginning again I should adopt the
plan of the Cal. Edit. opening and ending every division with a
dialogue between the sisters. Upon this point, however, opinions
will differ and the critic will remind me that the consensus of
the MSS. would be wanting: The Bresl. Edit. in many places merely
interjects the number of the night without interrupting the tale;
the MS. in the Bibliotheque Nationale used by Galland contains
only cclxxxii and the Frenchman ceases to use the division after
the ccxxxvith Night and in some editions after the
cxcviith.[FN#299] A fragmentary MS. according to Scott whose
friend J. Anderson found it in Bengal, breaks away after Night
xxix; and in the Wortley Montagu, the Sultan relents at an early
opportunity, the stories, as in Galland, continuing only as an
amusement. I have been careful to preserve the balanced
sentences with which the tales open; the tautology and the prose-
rhyme serving to attract attention, e. g., "In days of yore and
in times long gone before there was a King," etc.; in England
where we strive not to waste words this becomes "Once upon a
time." The closings also are artfully calculated, by striking a
minor chord after the rush and hurry of the incidents, to suggest
repose: "And they led the most pleasurable of lives and the most
delectable, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and
the Severer of societies and they became as though they had never
been." Place this by the side of Boccaccio's favourite
formulae:--Egli conquistò poi la Scozia, e funne re coronato (ii,
3); Et onorevolmente visse infino alla fine (ii, 4); Molte volte
goderono del loro amore: Iddio faccia noi goder del nostro (iii,
6): E cosi nella sue grossezza si rimase e ancor vi si sta (vi,
8). We have further docked this tail into: "And they lived
happily ever after."

I cannot take up the Nights in their present condition, without
feeling that the work has been written down from the Ráwi or
Nakkál,[FN#300] the conteur or professional story-teller, also
called Kassás and Maddáh, corresponding with the Hindu Bhat or
Bard. To these men my learned friend Baron A. von Kremer would
attribute the Mu'allakat vulgarly called the Suspended Poems, as
being "indited from the relation of the Ráwi." Hence in our text
the frequent interruption of the formula Kal' al-Rawi = quotes
the reciter; dice Turpino. Moreover, The Nights read in many
places like a hand-book or guide for the professional, who would
learn them by heart; here and there introducing his "gag" and
"patter". To this "business" possibly we may attribute much of
the ribaldry which starts up in unexpected places: it was meant
simply to provoke a laugh. How old the custom is and how
unchangeable is Eastern life is shown, a correspondent suggests,
by the Book of Esther which might form part of The Alf Laylah.
"On that night (we read in Chap. vi. 1) could not the King sleep,
and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles;
and they were read before the King." The Ráwi would declaim the
recitative somewhat in conversational style; he would intone the
Saj'a or prose-rhyme and he would chant to the twanging of the
Rabáb, a one-stringed viol, the poetical parts. Dr.
Scott[FN#301] borrows from the historian of Aleppo a life-like
picture of the Story-teller. "He recites walking to and fro in
the middle of the coffee-room, stopping only now and then, when
the expression requires some emphatical attitude. He is commonly
heard with great attention; and not unfrequently in the midst of
some interesting adventure, when the expectation of his audience
is raised to the highest pitch, he breaks off abruptly and makes
his escape, leaving both his hero or heroine and his audience in
the utmost embarrassment. Those who happen to be near the door
endeavour to detain him, insisting upon the story being finished
before he departs; but he always makes his retreat good[FN#302];
and the auditors suspending their curiosity are induced to return
at the same time next day to hear the sequel. He has no sooner
made his exit than the company in separate parties fall to
disputing about the characters of the drama or the event of an
unfinished adventure. The controversy by degrees becomes serious
and opposite opinions are maintained with no less warmth than if
the fall of the city depended upon the decision."

At Tangier, where a murder in a "coffee-house" had closed these
hovels, pending a sufficient payment to the Pasha; and where,
during the hard winter of 1885-86, the poorer classes were
compelled to puff their Kayf (Bhang, cannabis indica) and sip
their black coffee in the muddy streets under a rainy sky, I
found the Ráwi active on Sundays and Thursdays, the market days.
The favourite place was the "Soko de barra," or large bazar,
outside the town whose condition is that of Suez and Bayrut half
a century ago. It is a foul slope; now slippery with viscous
mud, then powdery with fetid dust, dotted with graves and
decaying tombs, unclean booths, gargottes and tattered tents, and
frequented by women, mere bundles of unclean rags, and by men
wearing the haik or burnús, a Franciscan frock, tending their
squatting camels and chaffering over cattle for Gibraltar beef-
eaters. Here the market-people form a ring about the reciter, a
stalwart man affecting little raiment besides a broad waist-belt
into which his lower chiffons are tucked, and noticeable only for
his shock hair, wild eyes, broad grin and generally disreputable
aspect. He usually handles a short stick; and, when drummer and
piper are absent, he carries a tiny tom-tom shaped like an hour-
glass, upon which he taps the periods. This Scealuidhe, as the
Irish call him, opens the drama with extempore prayer, proving
that he and the audience are good Moslems: he speaks slowly and
with emphasis, varying the diction with breaks of animation,
abundant action and the most comical grimace: he advances,
retires and wheels about, illustrating every point with
pantomime; and his features, voice and gestures are so expressive
that even Europeans who cannot understand a word of Arabic divine
the meaning of his tale. The audience stands breathless and
motionless surprising strangers[FN#303] by the ingenuousness and
freshness of feeling hidden under their hard and savage exterior.
The performance usually ends with the embryo actor going round
for alms and flourishing in air every silver bit, the usual
honorarium being a few "f'lús," that marvellous money of Barbary,
big coppers worth one-twelfth of a penny. All the tales I heard
were purely local, but Fakhri Bey, a young Osmanli domiciled for
some time in Fez and Mequinez, assured me that The Nights are
still recited there.

Many travellers, including Dr. Russell, have complained that they
failed to find a complete MS. copy of The Nights. Evidently they
never heard of the popular superstition which declares that no
one can read through them without dying--it is only fair that my
patrons should know this. Yacoub Artín Pasha declares that the
superstition dates from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
and he explains it in two ways. Firstly, it is a facetious
exaggeration, meaning that no one has leisure or patience to wade
through the long repertory. Secondly, the work is condemned as
futile. When Egypt produced savants and legists like Ibn al-
Hajar, Al-'Ayni, and Al-Kastalláni, to mention no others, the
taste of the country inclined to dry factual studies and positive
science; nor, indeed, has this taste wholly died out: there are
not a few who, like Khayri Pasha, contend that the mathematic is
more useful even for legal studies than history and geography,
and at Cairo the chief of the Educational Department has always
been an engineer, i. e., a mathematician. The Olema declared war
against all "futilities," in which they included not only stories
but also what is politely entitled Authentic History. From this
to the fatal effect of such lecture is only a step. Society,
however, cannot rest without light literature; so the novel-
reading class was thrown back upon writings which had all the
indelicacy and few of the merits of The Nights.

Turkey is the only Moslem country which has dared to produce a
regular drama[FN#304] and to arouse the energies of such
brilliant writers as Muníf Pasha, statesman and scholar; Ekrem
Bey, literato and professor; Kemál Bey, held by some to be the
greatest writer in modern Osmanli-land and Abd al-Hakk Hamíd Bey,
first Secretary of the London Embassy. The theatre began in its
ruder form by taking subjects bodily from The Nights; then it
annexed its plays as we do--the Novel having ousted the Drama--
from the French; and lastly it took courage to be original. Many
years ago I saw Harun al-Rashid and the Three Kalandars, with
deer-skins and all their properties de rigueur in the court-yard
of Government House, Damascus, declaiming to the extreme
astonishment and delight of the audience. It requires only to
glance at The Nights for seeing how much histrionic matter they

In considering the style of The Nights we must bear in mind that
the work has never been edited according to our ideas of the
process. Consequently there is no just reason for translating
the whole verbatim et literatim, as has been done by Torrens,
Lane and Payne in his "Tales from the Arabic."[FN#305] This
conscientious treatment is required for versions of an author
like Camœns, whose works were carefully corrected and arranged by
a competent littérateur, but it is not merited by The Nights as
they now are. The Macnaghten, the Bulak and the Bayrut texts,
though printed from MSS. identical in order, often differ in
minor matters. Many friends have asked me to undertake the work:
but, even if lightened by the aid of Shaykhs, Munshis and
copyists, the labour would be severe, tedious and thankless:
better leave the holes open than patch them with fancy work or
with heterogeneous matter. The learned, indeed, as Lane tells us
(i. 74; iii. 740), being thoroughly dissatisfied with the plain
and popular, the ordinary and "vulgar" note of the language, have
attempted to refine and improve it and have more than once
threatened to remodel it, that is, to make it odious. This would
be to dress up Robert Burns in plumes borrowed from Dryden and

The first defect of the texts is in the distribution and
arrangement of the matter, as I have noticed in the case of
Sindbad the Seaman (vol. vi. 77). Moreover, many of the earlier
Nights are overlong and not a few of the others are overshort:
this, however, has the prime recommendation of variety. Even the
vagaries of editor and scribe will not account for all the
incoherences, disorder and inconsequence, and for the vain
iterations which suggest that the author has forgotten what he
said. In places there are dead allusions to persons and tales
which are left dark, e. g. vol. i. pp. 43, 57, 61, etc. The
digressions are abrupt and useless, leading nowhere, while sundry
pages are wearisome for excess of prolixity or hardly
intelligible for extreme conciseness. The perpetual recurrence
of mean colloquialisms and of words and idioms peculiar to Egypt
and Syria[FN#306] also takes from the pleasure of the perusal.
Yet we cannot deny that it has its use: this unadorned language
of familiar conversation, in its day adapted for the
understanding of the people, is best fitted for the Rawi's craft
in the camp and caravan, the Harem, the bazar and the coffee-
house. Moreover, as has been well said, The Nights is the only
written half-way house between the literary and colloquial Arabic
which is accessible to all, and thus it becomes necessary to the
students who would qualify themselves for service in Moslem lands
from Mauritania to Mesopotamia. It freely uses Turkish words
like "Khátún" and Persian terms as "Sháhbandar," thus requiring
for translation not only a somewhat archaic touch, but also a
vocabulary borrowed from various sources: otherwise the effect
would not be reproduced. In places, however, the style rises to
the highly ornate approaching the pompous; e. g. the Wazirial
addresses in the tale of King Jali'ad. The battle-scenes, mostly
admirable (vol. v. 365), are told with the conciseness of a
despatch and the vividness of an artist; the two combining to
form perfect "word-pictures." Of the Badí'a or euphuistic style,
"Parleying euphuism," and of AI Saj'a, the prose rhyme, I shall
speak in a future page.

The characteristics of the whole are naïveté and simplicity,
clearness and a singular concision. The gorgeousness is in the
imagery not in the language; the words are weak while the sense,
as in the classical Scandinavian books, is strong; and here the
Arabic differs diametrically from the florid exuberance and
turgid amplifications of the Persian story-teller, which sound so
hollow and unreal by the side of a chaster model. It abounds in
formulæ such as repetitions of religious phrases which are
unchangeable. There are certain stock comparisons, as Lokman's
wisdom, Joseph's beauty, Jacob's grief, Job's patience, David's
music, and Maryam the Virgin's chastity. The eyebrow is a Nún;
the eye a Sád, the mouth a Mím. A hero is more prudent than the
crow, a better guide than the Katá grouse, more generous than the
cock, warier than the crane, braver than the lion, more
aggressive than the panther, finer-sighted than the horse,
craftier than the fox, greedier than the gazelle, more vigilant
than the dog, and thriftier than the ant. The cup-boy is a sun
rising from the dark underworld symbolised by his collar; his
cheek-mole is a crumb of ambergris, his nose is a scymitar grided
at the curve; his lower lip is a jujube; his teeth are the
Pleiades or hailstones; his browlocks are scorpions; his young
hair on the upper lip is an emerald; his side beard is a swarm of
ants or a Lám ( -letter) enclosing the roses or anemones of his
cheek. The cup-girl is a moon who rivals the sheen of the sun;
her forehead is a pearl set off by the jet of her "idiot-fringe;"
her eyelashes scorn the sharp sword; and her glances are arrows
shot from the bow of the eyebrows. A mistress necessarily
belongs, though living in the next street, to the Wady Liwá and
to a hostile clan of Badawin whose blades are ever thirsting for
the lover's blood and whose malignant tongues aim only at the
"defilement of separation." Youth is upright as an Alif, or
slender and bending as a branch of the Bán-tree which we should
call a willow-wand,[FN#307] while Age, crabbed and crooked, bends
groundwards vainly seeking in the dust his lost juvenility. As
Baron de Slane says of these stock comparisons (Ibn Khall. i.
xxxvi.), "The figurative language of Moslem poets is often
difficult to be understood. The narcissus is the eye; the feeble
stem of that plant bends languidly under its dower, and thus
recalls to mind the languor of the eyes. Pearls signify both
tears and teeth; the latter are sometimes called hailstones, from
their whiteness and moisture; the lips are cornelians or rubies;
the gums, a pomegranate flower; the dark foliage of the myrtle is
synonymous with the black hair of the beloved, or with the first
down on the cheeks of puberty. The down itself is called the
izâr, or head-stall of the bridle, and the curve of the izar is
compared to the letters lâm ( ) and nûn ( ).[FN#308] Ringlets
trace on the cheek or neck the letter Waw ( ); they are called
Scorpions (as the Greek ), either from their dark colour
or their agitated movements; the eye is a sword; the eyelids
scabbards; the whiteness of the complexion, camphor; and a mole
or beauty-spot, musk, which term denotes also dark hair. A mole
is sometimes compared also to an ant creeping on the cheek
towards the honey of the mouth; a handsome face is both a full
moon and day; black hair is night; the waist is a willow-branch
or a lance; the water of the face is self-respect: a poet sells
the water of his face[FN#309] when he bestows mercenary praises
on a rich patron."

This does not sound promising: yet, as has been said of Arab
music, the persistent repetition of the same notes in the minor
key is by no means monotonous and ends with haunting the ear,
occupying the thought and touching the soul. Like the distant
frog-concert and chirp of the cicada, the creak of the water-
wheel and the stroke of hammers upon the anvil from afar, the
murmur of the fountain, the sough of the wind and the plash of
the wavelet, they occupy the sensorium with a soothing effect,
forming a barbaric music full of sweetness and peaceful pleasure.

§ IV.

I here propose to treat of the Social Condition which The Nights
discloses, of Al-Islam at the earlier period of its development,
concerning the position of women and about the pornology of the
great Saga-book.


A splendid and glorious life was that of Baghdad in the days of
the mighty Caliph,[FN#310] when the Capital had towered to the
zenith of grandeur and was already trembling and tottering to the
fall. The centre of human civilisation, which was then confined
to Greece and Arabia, and the metropolis of an Empire exceeding
in extent the widest limits of Rome, it was essentially a city of
pleasure, a Paris of the ixth century. The "Palace of Peace" (Dár
al-Salám), worthy successor of Babylon and Nineveh, which had
outrivalled Damascus, the "Smile of the Prophet," and Kufah, the
successor of Hira and the magnificent creation of Caliph Omar,
possessed unrivalled advantages of site and climate. The Tigris-
Euphrates Valley, where the fabled Garden of Eden has been
placed, in early ages succeeded the Nile- Valley as a great
centre of human development; and the prerogative of a central and
commanding position still promises it, even in the present state
of decay and desolation under the unspeakable Turk, a magnificent
future,[FN#311] when railways and canals shall connect it with
Europe. The city of palaces and government offices, hotels and
pavilions, mosques and colleges, kiosks and squares, bazars and
markets, pleasure grounds and orchards, adorned with all the
graceful charms which Saracenic architecture had borrowed from
the Byzantines, lay couched upon the banks of the Dijlah-Hiddekel
under a sky of marvellous purity and in a climate which makes
mere life a "Kayf"--the luxury of tranquil enjoyment. It was
surrounded by far extending suburbs, like Rusafah on the Eastern
side and villages like Baturanjah, dear to the votaries of
pleasure; and with the roar of a gigantic capital mingled the hum
of prayer, the trilling of birds, the thrilling of harp and lute,
the shrilling of pipes, the witching strains of the professional
Almah, and the minstrel's lay.

The population of Baghdad must have been enormous when the
smallest number of her sons who fell victims to Huláku Khan in
1258 was estimated at eight hundred thousand, while other
authorities more than double the terrible "butcher's bill." Her
policy and polity were unique. A well regulated routine of
tribute and taxation, personally inspected by the Caliph; a
network of waterways, canaux d'arrosage; a noble system of
highways, provided with viaducts, bridges and caravanserais, and
a postal service of mounted couriers enabled it to collect as in
a reservoir the wealth of the outer world. The facilities for
education were upon the most extended scale; large sums, from
private as well as public sources, were allotted to Mosques, each
of which, by the admirable rule of Al-Islam, was expected to
contain a school: these establishments were richly endowed and
stocked with professors collected from every land between
Khorasan and Marocco;[FN#312] and immense libraries[FN#313]
attracted the learned of all nations. It was a golden age for
poets and panegyrists, koranists and literati, preachers and
rhetoricians, physicians and scientists who, besides receiving
high salaries and fabulous presents, were treated with all the
honours of Chinese Mandarins; and, like these, the humblest
Moslem--fisherman or artizan--could aspire through knowledge or
savoir faire to the highest offices of the Empire. The effect was
a grafting of Egyptian, and old Mesopotamian, of Persian and
Græco-Latin fruits, by long Time deteriorated, upon the strong
young stock of Arab genius; and the result, as usual after such
imping, was a shoot of exceptional luxuriance and vitality. The
educational establishments devoted themselves to the three main
objects recognised by the Moslem world, Theology, Civil Law and
Belles Lettres; and a multitude of trained Councillors enabled
the ruling powers to establish and enlarge that complicated
machinery of government, at once concentrated and decentralized,
a despotism often fatal to the wealthy great but never neglecting
the interests of the humbler lieges, which forms the beau idéal
of Oriental administration. Under the Chancellors of the Empire
the Kazis administered law and order, justice and equity; and
from their decisions the poorest subject, Moslem or miscreant,
could claim with the general approval of the lieges, access and
appeal to the Caliph who, as Imám or Antistes of the Faith was
High President of a Court of Cassation.

Under wise administration Agriculture and Commerce, the twin
pillars of national prosperity, necessarily flourished. A
scientific canalisation, with irrigation works inherited from the
ancients, made the Mesopotamian Valley a rival of Kemi the Black
Land, and rendered cultivation a certainty of profit, not a mere
speculation, as it must ever be to those who perforce rely upon
the fickle rains of Heaven. The remains of extensive mines prove
that this source of public wealth was not neglected; navigation
laws encouraged transit and traffic; and ordinances for the
fisheries aimed at developing a branch of industry which is still
backward even during the xixth century. Most substantial
encouragement was given to trade and commerce, to manufactures
and handicrafts, by the flood of gold which poured in from all
parts of earth; by the presence of a splendid and luxurious
court, and by the call for new arts and industries which such a
civilisation would necessitate. The crafts were distributed into
guilds and syndicates under their respective chiefs, whom the
government did not "govern too much": these Shahbandars,
Mukaddams and Nakíbs regulated the several trades, rewarded the
industrious, punished the fraudulent and were personally
answerable, as we still see at Cairo, for the conduct of their
constituents. Public order, the sine quâ non of stability and
progress, was preserved, first, by the satisfaction of the lieges
who, despite their characteristic turbulence, had few if any
grievances; and, secondly, by a well directed and efficient
police, an engine of statecraft which in the West seems most
difficult to perfect. In the East, however, the Wali or Chief
Commissioner can reckon more or less upon the unsalaried
assistance of society: the cities are divided into quarters shut
off one from other by night, and every Moslem is expected, by his
law and religion, to keep watch upon his neighbours, to report
their delinquencies and, if necessary, himself to carry out the
penal code. But in difficult cases the guardians of the peace
were assisted by a body of private detectives, women as well as
men: these were called Tawwábún = the Penitents, because like our
Bow-street runners, they had given up an even less respectable
calling. Their adventures still delight the vulgar, as did the
Newgate Calendar of past generations; and to this class we owe
the Tales of Calamity Ahmad, Dalilah the Wily One, Saladin with
the Three Chiefs of Police (vol. iv. 271), and Al-Malik al-Záhir
with the Sixteen Constables (Bresl. Edit. xi. pp. 321- 99). Here
and in many other places we also see the origin of that
"picaresque" literature which arose in Spain and overran Europe;
and which begat Le Moyen de Parvenir. [FN#314]

I need say no more on this heading, the civilisation of Baghdad
contrasting with the barbarism of Europe then Germanic, The
Nights itself being the best expositor. On the other hand the
action of the state-religion upon the state, the condition of Al-
Islam during the reign of Al-Rashid, its declension from the
primitive creed and its relation to Christianity and Christendom,
require a somewhat extended notice. In offering the following
observations it is only fair to declare my standpoints.

1. All forms of "faith," that is, belief in things unseen, not
subject to the senses, and therefore unknown and (in our present
stage of development) unknowable, are temporary and transitory:
no religion hitherto promulgated amongst men shows any prospect
of being final or otherwise than finite.

2. Religious ideas, which are necessarily limited, may all be
traced home to the old seat of science and art, creeds and polity
in the Nile-Valley and to this day they retain the clearest signs
of their origin.

3. All so-called "revealed" religions consist mainly of three
portions, a cosmogony more or less mythical, a history more or
less falsified and a moral code more or less pure.

Al-Islam, it has been said, is essentially a fighting faith and
never shows to full advantage save in the field. The faith and
luxury of a wealthy capital, the debauchery and variety of vices
which would spring up therein, naturally as weeds in a rich
fallow, and the cosmopolitan views which suggest themselves in a
meeting-place of nations, were sore trials to the primitive
simplicity of the "Religion of Resignation"--the saving faith.
Harun and his cousin-wife, as has been shown, were orthodox and
even fanatical; but the Barmecides were strongly suspected of
heretical leanings; and while the many- headed showed itself, as
usual, violent, and ready to do battle about an Azan-call, the
learned, who sooner or later leaven the masses, were profoundly
dissatisfied with the dryness and barrenness of Mohammed's creed,
so acceptable to the vulgar, and were devising a series of
schisms and innovations.

In the Tale of Tawaddud (vol. v. 189) the reader has seen a
fairly extended catechism of the Creed (Dín), the ceremonial
observances (Mazhab) and the apostolic practices (Sunnat) of the
Shafi'í school which, with minor modifications, applies to the
other three orthodox. Europe has by this time clean forgotten
some tricks of her former bigotry, such as "Mawmet" (an idol!)
and "Mahommerie" (mummery[FN#315]), a place of Moslem worship:
educated men no longer speak with Ockley of the "great impostor
Mahomet," nor believe with the learned and violent Dr. Prideaux
that he was foolish and wicked enough to dispossess "certain poor
orphans, the sons of an inferior artificer" (the Banú Najjár!). A
host of books has attempted, though hardly with success, to
enlighten popular ignorance upon a crucial point; namely, that
the Founder of Al-Islam, like the Founder of Christianity, never
pretended to establish a new religion. His claims, indeed, were
limited to purging the "School of Nazareth" of the dross of ages
and of the manifold abuses with which long use had infected its
early constitution: hence to the unprejudiced observer his
reformation seems to have brought it nearer the primitive and
original doctrine than any subsequent attempts, especially the
Judaizing tendencies of the so-called "Protestant" churches. The
Meccan Apostle preached that the Hanafiyyah or orthodox belief,
which he subsequently named Al-Islam, was first taught by Allah,
in all its purity and perfection, to Adam and consigned to
certain inspired volumes now lost; and that this primal Holy Writ
received additions in the days of his descendants Shís (Seth) and
Idris (Enoch?), the founder of the Sabian (not "Sabæan") faith.
Here, therefore, Al-Islam at once avoided the deplorable
assumption of the Hebrews and the Christians,--an error which has
been so injurious to their science and their progress,--of
placing their "firstman" in circa B. C. 4000 or somewhat
subsequent to the building of the Pyramids: the Pre-
Adamite[FN#316] races and dynasties of the Moslems remove a great
stumbling-block and square with the anthropological views of the
present day. In process of time, when the Adamite religion
demanded a restoration and a supplement, its pristine virtue was
revived, restored and further developed by the books communicated
to Abraham, whose dispensation thus takes the place of the Hebrew
Noah and his Noachidæ. In due time the Torah, or Pentateuch,
superseded and abrogated the Abrahamic dispensation; the "Zabúr"
of David (a book not confined to the Psalms) reformed the Torah;
the Injíl or Evangel reformed the Zabur and was itself purified,
quickened and perfected by the Koran which means the
Reading or the Recital. Hence Locke, with many others, held
Moslems to be unorthodox, that is, anti-Trinitarian Christians
who believe in the Immaculate Conception, in the Ascension and in
the divine mission of Jesus; and when Priestley affirmed that
"Jesus was sent from God," all Moslems do the same. Thus they
are, in the main point of doctrine connected with the Deity,
simply Arians as opposed to Athanasians. History proves that the
former was the earlier faith which, though formally condemned in
A. D. 325 by Constantine's Council of Nice, [FN#317] overspread
the Orient beginning with Eastern Europe, where Ulphilas
converted the Goths; which extended into Africa with the Vandals,
claimed a victim or martyr as late as in the sixteenth century
[FN#318] and has by no means died out in this our day.

The Talmud had been completed a full century before Mohammed's
time and the Evangel had been translated into Arabic; moreover
travel and converse with his Jewish and Christian friends and
companions must have convinced the Meccan Apostle that
Christianity was calling as loudly for reform as Judaism had
done. [FN#319] An exaggerated Trinitarianism or rather Tritheism,
a "Fourth Person" and Saint-worship had virtually dethroned the
Deity; whilst Mariolatry had made the faith a religio muliebris,
and superstition had drawn from its horrid fecundity an
incredible number of heresies and monstrous absurdities. Even
ecclesiastic writers draw the gloomiest pictures of the Christian
Church in the fourth and seventh centuries, and one declares that
the "Kingdom of Heaven had become a Hell." Egypt, distracted by
the blood- thirsty religious wars of Copt and Greek, had been
covered with hermitages by a yens aeterna of semi-maniacal
superstition. Syria, ever "feracious of heresies," had allowed
many of her finest tracts to be monopolised by monkeries and
nunneries.[FN#320] After many a tentative measure Mohammed seems
to have built his edifice upon two bases, the unity of the
Godhead and the priesthood of the pater-familias. He abolished
for ever the "sacerdos alter Christus" whose existence, as some
one acutely said, is the best proof of Christianity, and whom all
know to be its weakest point. The Moslem family, however humble,
was to be the model in miniature of the State, and every father
in Al-Islam was made priest and pontiff in his own house, able
unaided to marry himself, to circumcise (to baptise as it were)
his children, to instruct them in the law and canonically to bury
himself (vol. viii. 22). Ritual, properly so called, there was
none; congregational prayers were merely those of the individual
en masse, and the only admitted approach to a sacerdotal order
were the Olema or scholars learned in the legistic and the Mullah
or schoolmaster. By thus abolishing the priesthood Mohammed
reconciled ancient with modern wisdom. "Scito dominum," said
Cato, "pro totâ familiâ rem divinam facere": "No priest at a
birth, no priest at a marriage, no priest at a death," is the
aspiration of the present Rationalistic School.

The Meccan Apostle wisely retained the compulsory sacrament of
circumcision and the ceremonial ablutions of the Mosaic law; and
the five daily prayers not only diverted man's thoughts from the
world but tended to keep his body pure. These two institutions
had been practiced throughout life by the Founder of
Christianity; but the followers who had never seen him, abolished
them for purposes evidently political and propagandist. By
ignoring the truth that cleanliness is next to godliness they
paved the way for such saints as Simon Stylites and Sabba who,
like the lowest Hindu orders of ascetics, made filth a
concominant and an evidence of piety: even now English Catholic
girls are at times forbidden by Italian priests a frequent use of
the bath as a sign post to the sin of "luxury." Mohammed would
have accepted the morals contained in the Sermon on the Mount
much more readily than did the Jews from whom its matter was
borrowed.[FN#321] He did something to abolish the use of wine,
which in the East means only its abuse; and he denounced games of
chance, well knowing that the excitable races of sub-tropical
climates cannot play with patience, fairness or moderation. He
set aside certain sums for charity to be paid by every Believer
and he was the first to establish a poor-rate (Zakát): thus he
avoided the shame and scandal of mendicancy which, beginning in
the Catholic countries of Southern Europe, extends to Syria and
as far East as Christianity is found. By these and other measures
of the same import he made the ideal Moslem's life physically
clean, moderate and temperace.

But Mohammed, the "master mind of the age," had, we must own, a
"genuine prophetic power, a sinking of self in the Divine not
distinguishable in kind from the inspiration of the Hebrew
prophets," especially in that puritanical and pharisaic
narrowness which, with characteristic simplicity, can see no good
outside its own petty pale. He had insight as well as outsight,
and the two taught him that personal and external reformation
were mean matters compared with elevating the inner man. In the
"purer Faith," which he was commissioned to abrogate and to
quicken, he found two vital defects equally fatal to its energy
and to its longevity. These were (and are) its egoism and its
degradation of humanity. Thus it cannot be a "pleroma": it needs
a Higher Law.[FN#322] As Judaism promised the good Jew all manner
of temporal blessings, issue, riches, wealth, honour, power,
length of days, so Christianity offered the good Christian, as a
bribe to lead a godly life, personal salvation and a future state
of happiness, in fact the Kingdom of Heaven, with an alternative
threat of Hell. It never rose to the height of the Hindu Brahmans
and Lao-Tse (the "Ancient Teacher"); of Zeno the Stoic and his
disciples the noble Pharisees[FN#323] who believed and preached
that Virtue is its own reward. It never dared to say, "Do good
for Good's sake;"[FN#324] even now it does not declare with
Cicero, "The sum of all is that what is right should be sought
for its own sake, because it is right, and not because it is
enacted." It does not even now venture to say with Philo Judæus,
"The good man seeks the day for the sake of the day, and the
light for the light's sake; and he labours to acquire what is
good for the sake of the good itself, and not of anything else."
So far for the egotism, naive and unconscious, of Christianity,
whose burden is, "Do good to escape Hell and gain Heaven."

A no less defect in the "School of Galilee" is its low view of
human nature. Adopting as sober and authentic history an Osirian-
Hebrew myth which Philo and a host of Rabbis explain away, each
after his own fashion, Christianity dwells, lovingly as it were,
upon the "Fall" of man[FN#325] and seems to revel in the
contemptible condition to which "original sin" condemned him;
thus grovelling before God ad majorem Dei gloriam. To such a
point was and is this carried that the Synod of Dort declared,
Infantes infidelium morientes in infantiâ reprobatos esse statui
mus; nay, many of the orthodox still hold a Christian babe dying
unbaptised to be unfit for a higher existence, and some have even
created a "limbo" expressly to domicile the innocents "of whom is
the kingdom of Heaven." Here, if any where, the cloven foot shows
itself and teaches us that the only solid stratum underlying
priestcraft is one composed of £ s. d.

And I never can now believe it, my Lord! (Bishop) we come to this
earth Ready damned, with the seeds of evil sown quite so thick at
our birth, sings Edwin Arnold.[FN#326] We ask, can infatuation or
hypocrisy--for it must be the one or the other--go farther? But
the Adamical myth is opposed to all our modern studies. The
deeper we dig into the Earth's "crust," the lower are the
specimens of human remains which occur; and hitherto not a single
"find" has come to revive the faded glories of

Adam the goodliest man of men since born (!)
His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.

Thus Christianity, admitting, like Judaism, its own saints and
santons, utterly ignores the progress of humanity, perhaps the
only belief in which the wise man can take unmingled
satisfaction. Both have proposed an originally perfect being with
hyacinthine locks, from whose type all the subsequent humans are
degradations physical and moral. We on the other hand hold, from
the evidence of our senses, that early man was a savage very
little superior to the brute; that during man's millions of years
upon earth there has been a gradual advance towards perfection,
at times irregular and even retrograde, but in the main
progressive; and that a comparison of man in the xixth century
with the caveman[FN#327] affords us the means of measuring past
progress and of calculating the future of humanity.

Mahommed was far from rising to the moral heights of the ancient
sages: he did nothing to abate the egotism of Christianity; he
even exaggerated the pleasures of its Heaven and the horrors of
its Hell. On the other hand he did much to exalt human nature. He
passed over the "Fall" with a light hand; he made man superior to
the angels; he encouraged his fellow creatures to be great and
good by dwelling upon their nobler not their meaner side; he
acknowledged, even in this world, the perfectability of mankind,
including womankind, and in proposing the loftiest ideal he acted
unconsciously upon the grand dictum of chivalry--Honneur
oblige.[FN#328] His prophets were mostly faultless men; and, if
the "Pure of Allah" sinned, he "sinned against himself." Lastly,
he made Allah predetermine the career and fortunes, not only of
empires, but of every created being; thus inculcating sympathy
and tolerance of others, which is true humanity, and a proud
resignation to evil as to good fortune. This is the doctrine
which teaches the vulgar Moslem a dignity observed even by the
"blind traveller," and which enables him to display a moderation,
a fortitude, and a self-command rare enough amongst the followers
of the "purer creed."

Christian historians explain variously the portentous rise of Al-
Islam and its marvellous spread over vast regions, not only of
pagans and idolators but of Christians. Prideaux disingenuously
suggests that it "seems to have been purposely raised up by God,
to be a scourge to the Christian Church for not living in
accordance with their most holy religion." The popular excuse is
by the free use of the sword; this, however, is mere ignorance:
in Mohammed's day and early Al-Islam only actual fighters were
slain:[FN#329] the rest were allowed to pay the Jizyah, or
capitation-tax, and to become tributaries, enjoying almost all
the privileges of Moslems. But even had forcible conversion been
most systematically practiced, it would have afforded an
insufficient explanation of the phenomenal rise of an empire
which covered more ground in eighty years than Rome had gained in
eight hundred. During so short a time the grand revival of
Monotheism had consolidated into a mighty nation, despite their
eternal blood-feuds, the scattered Arab tribes; a six-years'
campaign had conquered Syria, and a lustre or two utterly
overthrew Persia, humbled the Græco-Roman, subdued Egypt and
extended the Faith along northern Africa as far as the Atlantic.
Within three generations the Copts of Nile-land had formally cast
out Christianity, and the same was the case with Syria, the
cradle of the Nazarene, and Mesopotamia, one of his strongholds,
although both were backed by all the remaining power of the
Byzantine empire. Northwestern Africa, which had rejected the
idolatro-philosophic system of pagan and imperial Rome, and had
accepted, after lukewarm fashion, the Arian Christianity imported
by the Vandals, and the "Nicene mystery of the Trinity," hailed
with enthusiasm the doctrines of the Koran and has never ceased
to be most zealous in its Islam. And while Mohammedanism speedily
reduced the limits of Christendom by one-third, while through-out
the Arabian, Saracenic and Turkish invasions whole Christian
peoples embraced the monotheistic faith, there are hardly any
instances of defection from the new creed and, with the exception
of Spain and Sicily, it has never been suppressed in any land
where once it took root. Even now, when Mohammedanism no longer
wields the sword, it is spreading over wide regions in China, in
the Indian Archipelago, and especially in Western and Central
Africa, propagated only by self-educated individuals, trading
travellers, while Christianity makes no progress and cannot exist
on the Dark Continent without strong support from Government. Nor
can we explain this honourable reception by the "licentiousness"
ignorantly attributed to Al-Islam, one of the most severely moral
of institutions; or by the allurements of polygamy and
concubinage, slavery,[FN#330] and a "wholly sensual Paradise"
devoted to eating, drinking[FN#331] and the pleasures of the
sixth sense. The true and simple explanation is that this grand
Reformation of Christianity was urgently wanted when it appeared,
that it suited the people better than the creed which it
superseded and that it has not ceased to be sufficient for their
requirements, social, sexual and vital. As the practical
Orientalist, Dr. Leitner, well observes from his own experience,
"The Mohammedan religion can adapt itself better than any other
and has adapted itself to circumstances and to the needs of the
various races which profess it, in accordance with the spirit of
the age."[FN#332] Hence, I add, its wide diffusion and its
impregnable position. "The dead hand, stiff and motionless," is a
forcible simile for the present condition of Al-Islam; but it
results from limited and imperfect observation and it fails in
the sine quâ non of similes and metaphors, a foundation of fact.

I cannot quit this subject without a passing reference to an
admirably written passage in Mr. Palgrave's travels[FN#333] which
is essentially unfair to Al-Islam. The author has had ample
opportunities of comparing creeds: of Jewish blood and born a
Protestant, he became a Catholic and a Jesuit (Père Michel
Cohen)[FN#334] in a Syrian convent; he crossed Arabia as a good
Moslem and he finally returned to his premier amour, Anglicanism.
But his picturesque depreciation of Mohammedanism, which has
found due appreciation in more than one popular volume, [FN#335]
is a notable specimen of special pleading, of the ad captandum in
its modern and least honest form. The writer begins by assuming
the arid and barren Wahhabi-ism, which he had personally studied,
as a fair expression of the Saving Faith. What should we say to a
Moslem traveller who would make the Calvinism of the sourest
Covenanter, model, genuine and ancient Christianity? What would
sensible Moslems say to these propositions of Professor Maccovius
and the Synod of Dort:--Good works are an obstacle to salvation.
God does by no means will the salvation of all men: he does will
sin and he destines men to sin, as sin? What would they think of
the Inadmissible Grace, the Perseverance of the Elect, the
Supralapsarian and the Sublapsarian and, finally, of a Deity the
author of man's existence, temptation and fall, who deliberately
pre-ordains sin and ruin? "Father Cohen" carries out into the
regions of the extreme his strictures on the one grand vitalising
idea of Al-Islam, "There is no god but God;"[FN#336] and his
deduction concerning the Pantheism of Force sounds unreal and
unsound, compared with the sensible remarks upon the same subject
by Dr. Badgers[FN#337] who sees the abstruseness of the doctrine
and does not care to include it in hard and fast lines or to
subject it to mere logical analysis. Upon the subject of
"predestination" Mr. Palgrave quotes, not from the Koran, but
from the Ahádís or Traditional Sayings of the Apostle; but what
importance attaches to a legend in the Mischnah, or Oral Law, of
the Hebrews utterly ignored by the Written Law? He joins the many
in complaining that even the mention of "the love of God" is
absent from Mohammed's theology, burking the fact that it never
occurs in the Jewish scriptures and that the genius of Arabic,
like Hebrew, does not admit the expression: worse still, he keeps
from his reader such Koranic passages as, to quote no other,
"Allah loveth you and will forgive your sins" (iii. 29). He
pities Allah for having "no son, companion or counsellor" and, of
course, he must equally commiserate Jehovah. Finally his views of
the lifelessness of Al-Islam are directly opposed to the opinions
of Dr. Leitner and the experience of all who have lived in Moslem
lands. Such are the ingenious but not ingenuous distortions of
fact, the fine instances of the pathetic fallacy, and the
noteworthy illustrations of the falsehood of extremes, which have
engendered "Mohammedanism a Relapse: the worst form of
Monotheism,"[FN#338] and which have been eagerly seized upon and
further deformed by the authors of popular books, that is,
volumes written by those who know little for those who know less.

In Al-Rashid's day a mighty change had passed over the primitive
simplicity of Al-Islam, the change to which faiths and creeds,
like races and empires and all things sublunary, are subject. The
proximity of Persia and the close intercourse with the Græco-
Romans had polished and greatly modified the physiognomy of the
rugged old belief: all manner of metaphysical subtleties had
cropped up, with the usual disintegrating effect, and some of
these threatened even the unity of the Godhead. Musaylimah and
Karmat had left traces of their handiwork: the Mutazilites
(separatists or secessors) actively propagated their doctrine of
a created and temporal Koran. The Khárijí or Ibázi, who rejects
and reviles Abú Turáb (Caliph Ali), contended passionately with
the Shí'ah who reviles and rejects the other three "Successors;"
and these sectarians, favoured by the learned, and by the
Abbasides in their jealous hatred of the Ommiades, went to the
extreme length of the Ali-Iláhi--the God-makers of Ali--whilst
the Dahrí and the Zindík, the Mundanist and the Agnoetic,
proposed to sweep away the whole edifice. The neo-Platonism and
Gnosticism which had not essentially affected
Christendom,[FN#339] found in Al-Islam a rich fallow and gained
strength and luxuriance by the solid materialism and conservatism
of its basis. Such were a few of the distracting and resolving
influences which Time had brought to bear upon the True Believer
and which, after some half a dozen generations, had separated the
several schisms by a wider breach than that which yawns between
Orthodox, Romanist and Lutheran. Nor was this scandal in Al-Islam
abated until the Tartar sword applied to it the sharpest remedy.


The next point I propose to consider is the position of womanhood
in The Nights, so curiously at variance with the stock ideas
concerning the Moslem home and domestic policy still prevalent,
not only in England, but throughout Europe. Many readers of these
volumes have remarked to me with much astonishment that they find
the female characters more remarkable for decision, action and
manliness than the male; and are wonderstruck by their masterful
attitude and by the supreme influence they exercise upon public
and private life.

I have glanced at the subject of the sex in Al-Islam to such an
extent throughout my notes that little remains here to be added.
Women, all the world over are what men make them; and the main
charm of Amazonian fiction is to see how they live and move and
have their being without any masculine guidance. But it is the
old ever-new fable

"Who drew the Lion vanquished? 'Twas a man!''

The books of the Ancients, written in that stage of civilisation
when the sexes are at civil war, make women even more than in
real life the creatures of their masters: hence from the dawn of
literature to the present day the sex has been the subject of
disappointed abuse and eulogy almost as unmerited. Ecclesiastes,
perhaps the strangest specimen of an "inspired volume" the world
has yet produced, boldly declares "One (upright) man among a
thousand I have found; but a woman among all have I not found"
(vol. vii. 28), thus confirming the pessimism of Petronius:--

Femina nulla bona est, et si bona contigit ulla
Nescio quo fato res male facta bona est.

In the Psalms again (xxx. 15) we have the old sneer at the three
insatiables, Hell, Earth and the Parts feminine (os vulvæ); and
Rabbinical learning has embroidered these and other texts,
producing a truly hideous caricature. A Hadis attributed to
Mohammed runs, "They (women) lack wits and faith. When Eve was
created Satan rejoiced saying:--Thou art half of my host, the
trustee of my secret and my shaft wherewith I shoot and miss
not!" Another tells us, "I stood at the gate of Heaven, and lo!
most of its inmates were poor, and I stood at the gate of Hell,
and lo! most of its inmates were women.''[FN#340] "Take care of
the glass-phials!" cried the Prophet to a camel-guide singing
with a sweet voice. Yet the Meccan Apostle made, as has been
seen, his own household produce two perfections. The blatant
popular voice follows with such "dictes" as, "Women are made of
nectar and poison"; "Women have long hair and short wits" and so
forth. Nor are the Hindus behindhand. Woman has fickleness
implanted in her by Nature like the flashings of lightning (Kathá
s.s. i. 147); she is valueless as a straw to the heroic mind
(169); she is hard as adamant in sin and soft as flour in fear
(170) and, like the fly, she quits camphor to settle on compost
(ii. I7). "What dependence is there in the crowing of a hen?"
(women's opinions) says the Hindi proverb; also "A virgin with
grey hairs!" (i.e. a monster) and, "Wherever wendeth a fairy face
a devil wendeth with her." The same superficial view of holding
woman to be lesser (and very inferior) man is taken generally by
the classics; and Euripides distinguished himself by misogyny,
although he drew the beautiful character of Alcestis. Simonides,
more merciful than Ecclesiastes, after naming his swine-women,
dog-women, cat-women, etc., ends the decade with the admirable
bee-woman, thus making ten per cent. honest. In mediæval or
Germanic Europe the doctrine of the Virgin mother gave the sex a
status unknown to the Ancients except in Egypt, where Isis was
the help-mate and completion of Osiris, in modern parlance "The
Woman clothed with the Sun." The kindly and courtly Palmerin of
England, in whose pages "gentlemen may find their choice of sweet
inventions and gentlewomen be satisfied with courtly
expectations," suddenly blurts out, "But in truth women are never
satisfied by reason, being governed by accident or appetite"
(chaps. xlix).

The Nights, as might be expected from the emotional East,
exaggerate these views. Women are mostly "Sectaries of the god
Wünsch"; beings of impulse, blown about by every gust of passion;
stable only in instability; constant only in inconstancy. The
false ascetic, the perfidious and murderous crone and the old
hag-procuress who pimps like Umm Kulsum,[FN#341] for mere

Book of the day: