Richard F. Burton in 16 volumes.
THE BOOK OF THE THOUSAND NIGHTS AND ONE NIGHT:
Now First Completely Done Into English Prose and Verse, From The Original Arabic,
By John Payne
(Author of “The Masque of Shadows,” “Intaglios: Sonnets,” “Songs of Life and Death,”
“Lautrec,” “The Poems of Master Francis Villon of Paris,” “New Poems,” Etc, Etc.).
In Nine Volumes:
VOLUME THE THIRD.
Printed For Subscribers Only 1901
Contents of The Third Volume.
1. The Birds and Beasts and the Son of Adam 2. The Hermits
3. The Water-Foul and the Tortoise 4. The Wolf and the Fox
a. The Hawk and the Partridge
5. The Mouse and the Weasel
6. The Cat and the Crow
7. The Fox and the Crow
a. The Mouse and the Flea
b. The Falcon and the Birds
c. The Sparrow and the Eagle
8. The Hedgehog and the Pigeons
a. The Merchant and the Two Sharpers 9. The Thief and his Monkey
a. The Foolish Weaver
10. The Sparrow and the Peacock
11. Ali Ben Bekkar and Shemsennehar 12. Kemeezzeman and Boudour
a. Nimeh Ben er Rebya and Num his Slave Girl 13. Alaeddin Abou Esh Shamat
14. Hatim et Yai: His Generosity After Death 15. Maan Ben Zaideh and the Three Girls
16. Maan Ben Zaideh and the Bedouin 17. The City of Lebtait
18. The Khalif Hisham and the Arab Youth 19. Ibrahim Ben el Mehdi and the Barber-surgeon 20. The City of Irem
21. Isaac of Mosul’s Story of Khedijeh and the Khalif Mamoun 22. The Scavenger and the Noble Lady of Baghdad 23. The Mock Khalif
24. Ali the Persian and the Kurd Sharper
THE BOOK OF THE THOUSAND NIGHTS AND ONE NIGHT
When Shehrzad had made an end of the history of King Omar teen Ennuman and his sons, Shehriyar said to her, “I desire that thou tell me some story about birds;” and Dunyazad, hearing this, said to her sister, “All this while I have never seen the Sultan light at heart till this night; and this gives me hope that the issue may be a happy one for thee with him.” Then drowsiness overcame the Sultan; so he slept and Shehrzad, perceiving the approach of day, was silent.
When it was the hundred and forty-sixth night, Shehrzad began as follows: “I have heard tell, O august King, that
STORY OF THE BIRDS AND BEASTS AND THE SON OF ADAM.
A peacock once abode with his mate on the sea-shore, in a place that abounded in trees and streams, but was infested with lions and all manner other wild beasts, and for fear of these latter, the two birds were wont to roost by night upon a tree, going forth by day in quest of food. They abode thus awhile, till, their fear increasing on them, they cast about for some other place wherein to dwell, and in the course of their search, they happened on an island abounding in trees and streams. So they alighted there and ate of its fruits and drank of its waters. Whilst they were thus engaged, up came a duck, in a state of great affright, and stayed not till she reached the tree on which the two peacocks were perched, when she seemed reassured. The peacock doubted not but that she had some rare story; so he asked her of her case and the cause of her alarm, to which she replied, ‘I am sick for sorrow and my fear of the son of Adam: beware, O beware of the sons of Adam!’ ‘Fear not,’ rejoined the peacock, ‘now that thou hast won to us.’ ‘Praised be God,’ cried the duck, ‘who hath done away my trouble and my concern with your neigbourhood! For indeed I come, desiring your friendship.’ Thereupon the peahen came down to her and said, ‘Welcome and fair welcome! No harm shall befall thee: how can the son of Adam come at us and we in this island midmost the sea? From the land he cannot win to us, neither can he come up to us out of the sea. So be of good cheer and tell us what hath betided thee from him. ‘Know then, O peahen,’ answered the duck, ‘that I have dwelt all my life in this island in peace and safety and have seen no disquieting thing, till one night, as I was asleep, I saw in a dream the semblance of a son of Adam, who talked with me and I with him. Then I heard one say to me, “O duck, beware of the son of Adam and be not beguiled by his words nor by that he may suggest to thee; for he aboundeth in wiles and deceit; so beware with all wariness of his perfidy, for he is crafty and guileful, even as saith of him the poet:
He giveth thee honeyed words with the tip of his tongue, galore. But sure he will cozen thee, as the fox cloth, evermore.
For know that the son of Adam beguileth the fish and draweth them forth of the waters and shooteth the birds with a pellet of clay and entrappeth the elephant with his craft. None is safe from his mischief, and neither beast nor bird escapeth him. Thus have I told thee what I have heard concerning the son of Adam.” I awoke, fearful and trembling (continued the duck), and from that time to this my heart hath not known gladness, for fear of the son of Adam, lest he take me unawares by his craft or trap me in his snares. By the time the end of the day overtook me, I was grown weak and my strength and courage failed me; so, desiring to eat and drink, I went forth, troubled in spirit and with a heart ill at ease. I walked on, till I reached yonder mountain, where I saw a tawny lion-whelp at the door of a cave. When he saw me, he rejoiced greatly in me, for my colour pleased him and my elegant shape: so he cried out to me, saying “Draw nigh unto me.” So I went up to him and he said to me, “What is thy name and thy kind?” Quoth I, “My name is ‘duck,’ and I am of the bird-kind; but thou, why tarriest thou in this place till now?” “My father the lion,” answered he, “has bidden me many a day beware of the son of Adam, and it befell this night that I saw in my sleep the semblance of a son of Adam.” And he went on to tell me the like of that I have told you. When I heard this, I said to him, “O lion, I resort to thee, that thou mayst kill the son of Adam and steadfastly address thy thought to his slaughter; for I am greatly in fear for myself of him, and fear is added to my fear, for that thou also fearest the son of Adam, and thou the Sultan of the beasts. Then, O my sister, I ceased not to bid him beware of the son of Adam and urge him to slay him, till he rose of a sudden from his stead and went out, lashing his flanks with his tail. He fared on, and I after him, till we came to a place, where several roads met, and saw cloud of dust arise, which, presently clearing away, discovered a naked runaway ass, and now running and galloping and now rolling in the dust. When the lion saw the ass, he cried out to him, and he came up to him submissively. Then said the lion, “Harkye, crack-brain! What is thy kind and what brings thee hither?” “O, son of the Sultan,” answered the ass, “I am by kind an ass, and the cause of my coming hither is that I am fleeing from the son of Adam.” “Dost thou fear then that he will kill thee?” asked the lion-whelp. “Not so, O son of the Sultan,” replied the ass; “but I fear lest he put a cheat on me; for he hath a thing called the pad, that he sets on my back, and a thing called the girth, that he binds about my belly, and a thing called the crupper, that he puts under my tail, and a thing called the bit, that he places in my mouth; and he fashions me a goad and goads me with it and makes me run more than my strength. If I stumble, he curses me, and if I bray, he reviles me; and when I grow old and can no longer run, he puts a wooden pannel on me and delivers me to the water-carriers, who load my back with water from the river, in skins and other vessels, such as jars, and I wear out my life in misery and abasement and fatigue till I die, when they cast me on the rubbish-heaps to the dogs. So what misery can surpass this, and what calamities can be greater than these?” When, O peahen, I heard the ass’s words, my skin shuddered at the son of Adam and I said to the lion-whelp, “Of a verity, O my lord, the ass hath excuse, and his words add terror to my terror.” Then said the lion to the ass, “Whither goest thou?” “Before the rising of the sun” answered he, “I espied the son of Adam afar off and fled from him, and now I am minded to flee forth and run without ceasing, for the greatness of my fear of him, so haply I may find a place to shelter me from the perfidious son of Adam.” Whilst he was thus discoursing, seeking the while to take leave of us and go away, behold, another cloud of dust arose, at sight of which the ass brayed and cried out and let fly a great crack of wind. Presently, the dust lifted and discovered a handsome black horse of elegant shape, with white feet and fine legs and a brow-star like a dirhem, which made towards us, neighing, and stayed not till he stood before the whelp, the son of the lion, who, when he saw him, marvelled at his beauty and said to him, “What is thy kind, O noble wild beast, and wherefore fleest thou into this vast and wide desert?” “O lord of the beasts,” answered he, “I am of the horse-kind, and I am fleeing from the son of Adam.” The whelp wondered at the horse’s words and said to him, “Say not thus; for it is shame for thee, seeing that thou art tall and stout. How comes it that thou fearest the son of Adam, thou, with thy bulk of body and thy swiftness of running, when I, for all my littleness of body, am resolved to find out the son of Adam, and rushing on him, eat his flesh, that I may allay the affright of this poor duck and make her to dwell in peace in her own place. But now thou hast wrung my heart with thy talk and turned me back from what I had resolved to do, in that, for all thy bulk, the son of Adam hath mastered thee and feared neither thy height nor thy breadth, though, wert thou to kick him with thy foot, thou wouldst kill him, nor could he prevail against thee, but thou wouldst make him drink the cup of death.” The horse laughed, when he heard the whelp’s words, and replied, “Far, far is it from my power to overcome him, O king’s son! Let not my length and my breadth nor yet my bulk delude thee, with respect to the son of Adam; for he, of the excess of his guile and his cunning, fashions for me a thing called a hobble and hobbles my four legs with ropes of palm-fibres, bound with felt, and makes me fast by the head to a high picket, so that I remain standing and can neither sit nor lie down, being tied up. When he hath a mind to ride me, he binds on his feet a thing of iron called a stirrup and lays on my back another thing called a saddle, which he fastens by two girths, passed under my armpits. Then he sets in my mouth a thing of iron he calls a bit, to which he ties a thing of leather called a rein; and when he mounts on the saddle on my back, he takes the rein in his hand and guides me with it, goading my flanks the while with the stirrups[FN#1], till he makes them bleed: so do not ask, O king’s son, what I endure from the son of Adam. When I grow old and lean and can no longer run swiftly, he sells me to the miller, who makes me turn in the mill, and I cease not from turning night and day, till I grow decrepit. Then he in turn sells me to the knacker, who slaughters me and flays off my hide, after which he plucks out my tail, which he sells to the sieve-makers, and melts down my fat for tallow.” At this, the young lion’s anger and vexation redoubled, and he said to the horse, “When didst thou leave the son of Adam?” “At mid-day,” replied the horse; “and he is now on my track.” Whilst the whelp was thus conversing with the horse, there arose a cloud of dust and presently subsiding, discovered a furious camel, which made toward us, braying and pawing the earth with his feet. When the whelp saw how great and lusty he was, he took him to be the son of Adam and was about to spring at him, when I said to him, “O king’s son, this is not the son of Adam, but a camel, and me seems he is fleeing from the son of Adam.” As I spoke, O my sister, the camel came up and saluted the lion-whelp, who returned his greeting and said to him, “What brings thee hither?” Quoth he, “I am fleeing from the son of Adam.” “And thou,” said the whelp, “with thy huge frame and length and breadth, how comes it that thou fearest the son of Adam, seeing that one kick of thy foot would kill him?” “O son of the Sultan,” answered the camel, “know that the son of Adam has wiles, which none can withstand, nor can any but Death prevail against him; for he puts in my nostrils a twine of goat’s-hair he calls a nose-ring and over my head a thing he calls a halter; then he delivers me to the least of his children, and the youngling draws me along by the nose-ring, for all my size and strength. Then they load me with the heaviest of burdens and go long journeys with me and put me to hard labours all hours of the day and night. When I grow old and feeble, my master keeps me not with him, but sells me to the knacker, who slaughters me and sells my hide to the tanners and my flesh to the cooks: so do not ask what I suffer from the son of Adam.” “When didst thou leave the son of Adam?” asked the young lion. “At sundown,” replied the camel; “and I doubt not but that, having missed me, he is now in search of me: wherefore, O son of the Sultan, let me go, that I may flee into the deserts and the wilds.” “Wait awhile, O camel,” said the whelp, “till thou see how I will rend him in pieces and give thee to eat of his flesh, whilst I crunch his bones and drink his blood.” “O king’s son,” rejoined the camel, “I fear for thee from the son of Adam, for he is wily and perfidious.” And he repeated the following verse:
Whenas on any land the oppressor cloth alight, There’s nothing left for those, that dwell therein, but flight.
Whilst the camel was speaking, there arose a cloud of dust, which opened and showed a short thin old man, with a basket of carpenters’ tools on his shoulder and a branch of a tree and eight planks on his head. He had little children in his hand, and came on at a brisk pace, till he drew near us. When I saw him, O my sister, I fell down for excess of affright; but the young lion rose and went to meet the carpenter, who smiled in his face and said to him, with a glib tongue, “O illustrious king and lord of the long arm, may God prosper shine evening and shine endeavour and increase thy velour and strengthen thee! Protect me from that which hath betided me and smitten me with its mischief, for I have found no helper save only thee.” And he stood before him, weeping and groaning and lamenting. When the whelp heard his weeping and wailing, he said, “I will succour thee from that thou fearest. Who hath done thee wrong and what art thou, O wild beast, whose like I never saw in my life nor saw I ever one goodlier of form or more eloquent of tongue than thou? What is thy case?” “O lord of the beasts,” answered the man, “I am a carpenter; he who hath wronged me is a son of Adam, and by break of dawn he will be with thee in this place.” When the lion heard this, the light in his face was changed to darkness and he roared and snorted and his eyes cast forth sparks. Then he said, “By Allah, I will watch this night till the dawn, nor will I return to my father till I have compassed my intent. But thou,” continued he, addressing the carpenter, “I see thou art short of step, and I would not wound thy feelings, for that I am generous of heart; yet do I deem thee unable to keep pace with the wild beasts: tell me then whither thou goest.” “Know,” answered the carpenter, “that I am on my way to thy father’s Vizier, the Lynx; for when he heard that the son of Adam had set foot in this country, he feared greatly for himself and sent one of the beasts for me, to make him a house, wherein he should dwell, that it might shelter him and hold his enemy from him, so not one of the sons of Adam should come at him.” When the young lion heard this, he envied the lynx and said to the carpenter, “By my life, thou must make me a house with these planks, ere thou make one for the lynx! When thou hast done my work, go to the lynx and make him what he wishes.” “O lord of the beasts,” answered the carpenter, “I cannot make thee aught, till I have made the lynx what he desires: then will I return to thy service and make thee a house, to ward thee from shine enemy.” “By Allah,” exclaimed the whelp, “I will not let thee go hence, till thou make me a house of these planks!” So saying, he sprang upon the carpenter, thinking to jest with him, and gave him a cuff with his paw. The blow knocked the basket off the man’s shoulder and he fell down in a swoon, whereupon the young lion laughed at him and said, “Out on thee, O carpenter! Of a truth thou art weak and hast no strength; so it is excusable in thee to fear the son of Adam.” Now the carpenter was exceeding wroth; but he dissembled his anger, for fear of the whelp, and sat up and smiled in his face, saying, “Well, I will make thee the house.” With this, he took the planks, and nailing them together, made a house in the form of a chest, after the measure of the young lion. In this he cut a large opening, to which he made a stout cover and bored many holes therein, leaving the door open. Then he took out some nails of wrought iron and a hammer and said to the young lion, “Enter this opening, that I may fit it to thy measure.” The whelp was glad and went up to the opening, but saw that it was strait; and the carpenter said to him, “Crouch down and so enter.” So the whelp crouched down and entered the chest, but his tail remained outside. Then he would have drawn back and come out; but the carpenter said to him, “Wait till I see if there be room for thy tail with thee.” So saying, he twisted up the young lion’s tail, and stuffing it into the chest, whipped the lid on to the opening and nailed it down; whereat the whelp cried out and said, “O carpenter, what is this narrow house thou hast made me? Let me out.” But the carpenter laughed and answered, “God forbid! Repentance avails nothing for what is passed, and indeed thou shalt not come out of this place. Verily thou art fallen into the trap and there is no escape for thee from duresse, O vilest of wild beasts!” “O my brother,” rejoined the whelp, “what manner of words are these?” “Know, O dog of the desert,” answered the man, “that thou hast fallen into that which thou fearedst; Fate hath overthrown thee, nor did thought-taking profit thee.” When the whelp heard these words, he knew that this was indeed the very son of Adam, against whom he had been warned by his father on wake and by the mysterious voice in sleep; and I also, O my sister, was certified that this was indeed he without doubt; wherefore there took me great fear of him for myself and I withdrew a little apart and waited to see what he would do with the young lion. Then I saw the son of Adam dig a pit hard by the chest and throwing the latter therein, heap brushwood upon it and burn the young lion with fire. At this sight, my fear of the son of Adam redoubled, and in my affright I have been these two days fleeing from him.'”
When the peahen heard the duck’s story, she wondered exceedingly and said to her, ‘O my sister, thou art safe here from the son of Adam, for we are in one of the islands of the sea, whither there is no way for him; so do thou take up shine abode with us, till God make easy shine and our affair.’ Quoth the duck, ‘I fear lest some calamity come upon me by night, for no runaway can rid him of fate.’ ‘Abide with us,’ rejoined the peahen, ‘and be even as we;’ and ceased not to persuade her, till she yielded, saying, ‘O my sister, thou knowest how little is my fortitude: had I not seen thee here, I had not remained.’ ‘That which is written on our foreheads,’ said the peahen, ‘we must indeed fulfil, and when our appointed day draws near, who shall deliver us? But not a soul passes away except it have accomplished its predestined term and fortune.’ As they talked, a cloud of dust appeared, at sight of which the duck shrieked aloud and ran down into the sea, crying out, ‘Beware, beware, albeit there is no fleeing from Fate and Fortune!’ After awhile, the dust subsided and discovered an antelope; whereat the duck and the peahen were reassured and the latter said to her companion, ‘O my sister, this thou seest and wouldst have me beware of is an antelope, and he is making for us. He will do us no hurt, for the antelope feeds upon the herbs of the earth, and even as thou art of the bird-kind, so is he of the beast-kind. So be of good cheer and leave care-taking; for care-taking wasteth the body.’ Hardly had the peahen done speaking, when the antelope came up to them, thinking to shelter under the shade of the tree, and seeing the two birds, saluted them and said, ‘I came to this island to-day, and I have seen none richer in herbage nor more pleasant of habitance.’ Then he besought them of company and amity, and they, seeing his friendly behaviour to them, welcomed him and gladly accepted his offer. So they swore friendship one to another and abode in the island in peace and safety, eating and drinking and sleeping in common, till one day there came thither a ship, that had strayed from its course in the sea. It cast anchor near them, and the crew landing, dispersed about the island. They soon caught sight of the three animals and made for them, whereupon the peahen flew up into the tree and the antelope fled into the desert, but the duck abode paralysed (by fear). So they chased her, till they caught her and carried her with them to the ship, whilst she cried out and said, ‘Caution availed me nothing against Fate and destiny!’ When the peahen saw what had betided the duck, she came down from the tree, saying, ‘I see that misfortunes lie in wait for all. But for yonder ship, parting had not befallen between me and this duck, for she was one of the best of friends. Then she flew off and rejoined the antelope, who saluted her and gave her joy of her safety and enquired for the duck, to which she replied, ‘The enemy hath taken her, and I loathe the sojourn of this island after her.’ Then she wept for the loss of the duck and repeated the following verses:
The day of severance broke my heart in tway. God do the like unto the severance-day!
And also these:
I pray that we may yet foregather once again. That I may tell her all that parting wrought of pain.
The antelope was greatly moved at hearing of their comrade’s fate, but dissuaded the peahen from her resolve to leave the island. So they abode there together, eating and drinking in peace and safety, save that they ceased not to mourn for the loss of the duck, and the antelope said to the peahen, ‘Thou seest, O my sister, how the folk who came forth of the ship were the means of our severance from the duck and of her destruction; so do thou beware of them and guard thyself from them and from the craft of the son of Adam and his perfidy.’ But the peahen replied, ‘I am assured that nought caused her death but her neglect to celebrate the praises of God, and indeed I said to her, “Verily I fear for thee, because thou art not careful to praise God; for all things that He hath made do glorify Him, and if any neglect to do so, it leadeth to their destruction.”‘ When the antelope heard the peahen’s words, he exclaimed, ‘May God make fair thy face!’ and betook himself to the celebration of the praises of the Almighty, never after slackening therefrom. And it is said that his form of adoration was as follows: ‘Glory be to the Requiter of good and evil, the Lord of glory and dominion!’
There was once a hermit, who served God on a certain mountain, whither resorted a pair of pigeons; and he was wont to make two parts of his daily bread, eating one half himself and giving the other to the pigeons. He prayed also for them, that they might be blest with increase; so they increased and multiplied greatly. Now they resorted only to that mountain, and the reason of their foregathering with the holy man was their assiduity in celebrating the praises of God; for it is said that the pigeons’ formula of praise is, ‘Glory be to the Creator of all things, Who appointeth to every one his daily bread, Who builded the heavens and spread out the earth like a carpet!’ They dwelt thus together, in the happiest of life, they and their brood, till the holy man died, when the company of the pigeons was broken up, and they all dispersed among the towns and villages and mountains.
Now in a certain other mountain there dwelt a shepherd, a man of piety and chastity and understanding; and he had flocks of sheep, which he tended, and made his living by their milk and wool. The mountain aforesaid abounded in trees and pasturage and wild beasts, but the latter had no power over the peasant nor over his flocks; so he continued to dwell therein, in security, taking no thought to the things of the world, by reason of his happiness and assiduity in prayer and devotion, till God ordained that he should fall exceeding sick. So he betook himself to a cavern in the mountain, and his sheep used to go out in the morning to the pasturage and take refuge at night in the cave. Now God was minded to try him and prove his obedience and constancy; so He sent him one of His angels, who came in to him in the semblance of a fair woman and sat down before him. When the shepherd saw the woman seated before him, his flesh shuddered with horror of her and he said to her, ‘O woman, what brings thee hither? I have no need of thee, nor is there aught betwixt thee and me that calls for thy coming in to me.’ ‘O man,’ answered she, ‘dost thou not note my beauty and grace and the fragrance of my breath and knowest thou not the need women have of men and men of women? Behold, I have chosen to be near thee and desire to enjoy thy company; so who shall forbid thee from me? Indeed, I come to thee willingly and do not withhold myself from thee: there is none with us whom we need fear; and I wish to abide with thee as long as thou sojournest in this mountain and be thy companion. I offer myself to thee, for thou needest the service of women; and if thou know me, thy sickness will leave thee and health return to thee and thou wilt repent thee of having forsworn the company of women during thy past life. Indeed, I give thee good advice: so give ear to my counsel and draw near unto me.’ Quoth he, ‘Go out from me, O deceitful and perfidious woman! I will not incline to thee nor approach thee. I want not thy company; he who coveteth thee renounceth the future life, and he who coveteth the future life renounceth thee, for thou seduces the first and the last. God the Most High lieth in wait for His servants and woe unto him who is afflicted with thy company!’ ‘O thou that errest from the truth and wanderest from the path of reason,’ answered she, ‘turn thy face to me and look upon my charms and profit by my nearness, as did the wise who have gone before thee. Indeed, they were richer than thou in experience and greater of wit; yet they rejected not the society of women, as thou dost, but took their pleasure of them and their company, and it did them no hurt, in body or in soul. Wherefore do thou turn from thy resolve and thou shalt praise the issue of shine affair.’ ‘All thou sayest I deny and abhor,’ rejoined the shepherd, ‘and reject all thou offerest; for thou art cunning and perfidious and there is no faith in thee, neither honour. How much foulness cost thou hide under thy beauty and how many a pious man hast thou seduced, whose end was repentance and perdition! Avaunt from me, O thou who devotes thyself to corrupt others!’ So saying, he threw his goat’s-hair cloak over his eyes, that he might not see her face, and betook himself to calling upon the name of his Lord. When the angel saw the excellence of his obedience (to God), he went out from him and ascended to heaven.
Now hard by the mountain was a village wherein dwelt a pious man, who knew not the other’s stead, till one night he saw in a dream one who said to him, ‘In such a place near to thee is a pious man: go to him and be at his command.’ So when it was day, he set out afoot to go thither, and at the time when the heat was grievous upon him, he came to a tree, which grew beside a spring of running water. He sat down to rest in the shadow of the tree, and birds and beasts came to the spring to drink; but when they saw him, they took fright and fled. Then said he, ‘There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High! I am resting here, to the hurt of the beasts and fowls.’ So he rose and went on, blaming himself and saying, ‘My tarrying here hath wronged these beasts and birds, and what excuse have I towards my Creator and the Creator of these creatures, for that I was the cause of their flight from their watering-place and their pasture? Alas, my confusion before my Lord on the day when He shall avenge the sheep of the goats!’ And he wept and repeated the following verses:
By Allah, if men knew for what they are create, They would not go and sleep, unheeding of their fate!
Soon cometh death, then wake and resurrection come; Then judgment and reproof and terrors passing great. Obey me or command, the most of us are like. The dwellers in the cave, [FN#2] asleep early and late.
Then he fared on, weeping for that he had driven the birds and beasts from the spring by sitting down under the tree, till he came to the shepherd’s dwelling and going in, saluted him. The shepherd returned his greeting and embraced him, weeping and saying, ‘What brings thee hither, where no man hath ever come in to me?’ Quoth the other, ‘I saw in my sleep one who described to me this thy stead and bade me repair to thee and salute thee: so I came, in obedience to the commandment.’ The shepherd welcomed him, rejoicing in his company, and they both abode in the cavern, doing fair service to their Lord and living upon the flesh and milk of their sheep, having put away from them wealth and children and other the goods of this world, till there came to them Death, the Certain, the Inevitable. And this is the end of their story.”
“O Shehrzad,” said King Shehriyar, “thou puttest me out of conceit with my kingdom and makest me repent of having slain so many women and maidens. Hast thou any stories of birds?” “Yes,” answered she, and began as follows:
THE WATER-FOWL AND THE TORTOISE
“A water-fowl flew high up into the air and alighted on rock in the midst of a running water. As it sat, behold, the water floated up a carcase, that was swollen and rose high out of the water, and lodged it against the rock. The bird drew near and examining it, found that it was the dead body of a man and saw in it spear and sword wounds. So he said in himself, ‘Belike, this was some evil-doer, and a company of men joined themselves together against him and slew him and were at peace from him and his mischief.’ Whilst he was marvelling at this, vultures and eagles came down upon the carcase from all sides; which when the water-fowl saw, he was sore affrighted and said, ‘I cannot endure to abide here longer.’ So he flew away in quest of a place where he might harbour, till the carcase should come to an end and the birds of prey leave it, and stayed not in his flight, till he came to a river with a tree in its midst. He alighted on the tree, troubled and distraught and grieved for his separation from his native place, and said to himself, ‘Verily grief and vexation cease not to follow me: I was at my ease, when I saw the carcase, and rejoiced therein exceedingly, saying, “This is a gift of God to me;” but my joy became sorrow and my gladness mourning, for the lions of the birds[FN#3] took it and made prize of it and came between it and me. How can I trust in this world or hope to be secure from misfortune therein? Indeed, the proverb says, “The world is the dwelling of him who hath no dwelling: he who hath no understanding is deceived by it and trusteth in it with his wealth and his child and his family and his folk; nor doth he who is deluded by it leave to rely upon it, walking proudly upon the earth, till he is laid under it and the dust is cast over him by him who was dearest and nearest to him of all men; but nought is better for the noble than patience under its cares and miseries.” I have left my native place, and it is abhorrent to me to quit my brethren and friends and loved ones.’ Whilst he was thus devising with himself, behold, a tortoise descended into the water and approaching the bird, saluted him, saying, ‘O my lord, what hath exiled thee and driven thee afar from thy place?’ ‘The descent of enemies thereon,’ replied the water-fowl; ‘for the understanding cannot brook the neighbourhood of his enemy; even as well says the poet:
Whenas on any land the oppressor doth alight, There’s nothing left for those, that dwell therein, but flight.’
Quoth the tortoise, ‘If the case be as thou sayest, I will not leave thee nor cease to be before thee, that I may do thy need and fulfil thy service; for it is said that there is no sorer desolation than that of him who is an exile, cut off from friends and country; and also that no calamity equals that of severance from virtuous folk; but the best solace for the understanding is to seek companionship in his strangerhood and be patient under adversity. Wherefore I hope that thou wilt find thine account in my company, for I will be to thee a servant and a helper.’ ‘Verily, thou art right in what thou sayest,’ answered the water-fowl; ‘for, by my life, I have found grief and pain in separation, what while I have been absent from my stead and sundered from my friends and brethren, seeing that in severance is an admonition to him who will be admonished and matter of thought for him who will take thought. If one find not a companion to console him, good is cut off from him for ever and evil stablished with him eternally; and there is nothing for the wise but to solace himself in every event with brethren and be instant in patience and constancy; for indeed these two are praiseworthy qualities, that uphold one under calamities and shifts of fortune and ward off affliction and consternation, come what will.’ ‘Beware of sorrow,’ rejoined the tortoise, ‘for it will corrupt thy life to thee and do away thy fortitude.’ And they gave not over converse, till the bird said, ‘Never shall I leave to fear the strokes of fortune and the vicissitudes of events.’ When the tortoise heard this, he came up to him and kissing him between the eyes, said to him, ‘Never may the company of the birds cease to be blest in thee and find good in thy counsel! How shalt thou be burdened with inquietude and harm?’ And he went on to comfort the water-fowl and soothe his disquiet, till he became reassured. Then he flew to the place, where the carcase was, and found the birds of prey gone and nothing left of the body but bones; whereupon he returned to the tortoise and acquainted him with this, saying, ‘I wish to return to my stead and enjoy the society of my friends; for the wise cannot endure separation from his native place.’ So they both went thither and found nought to affright them; whereupon the water-fowl repeated the following verses:
Full many a sorry chance doth light upon a man and fill His life with trouble, yet with God the issue bideth still. His case is sore on him, but when its meshes straitened are To att’rest, they relax, although he deem they never will.
So they abode there in peace and gladness, till one day fate led thither a hungry hawk, which drove its talons into the bird’s belly and killed him, nor did caution stand him in stead seeing that his hour was come. Now the cause of his death was that he neglected to praise God, and it is said that his form of adoration was as follows, ‘Glory be to our Lord in that He ordereth and ordaineth, and glory be to our Lord in that He maketh rich and maketh poor!'”
“O Shehrzad,” said the Sultan, “verily, thou overwhelmest me with admonitions and salutary instances! Hast thou any stories of beasts?” “Yes,” answered she. “Know, O King, that
THE WOLF AND THE FOX.
A fox and a wolf once dwelt in the same den, harbouring therein together day and night; but the wolf was cruel and oppressive to the fox. They abode thus awhile, till one day the fox exhorted the wolf to use gentle dealing and leave evil-doing, saying, ‘If thou persist in thine arrogance, belike God will give the son of Adam power over thee, for he is past master in guile and craft and knavery. By his devices he brings down the birds from the air and draws the fish forth of the waters and sunders mountains in twain and transports them from place to place. All this is of his craft and wiliness; wherefore do thou betake thyself to equity and fair dealing and leave evil and tyranny; and thou shalt fare the better for it.’ But the wolf rejected his counsel and answered him roughly, saying, ‘Thou hast no call to speak of matters of weight and stress.’ And he dealt the fox a buffet that laid him senseless; but, when he revived, he smiled in the wolf’s face and excused himself for his unseemly speech, repeating the following verses:
If I have sinned in aught that’s worthy of reproach Or if I’ve made default against the love of you, Lo, I repent my fault; so let thy clemency The sinner comprehend, that doth for pardon sue.
The wolf accepted his excuse and held his hand from him, saying, ‘Speak not of that which concerns thee not, or thou shalt hear what will not please thee.’ ‘I hear and obey,’ answered the fox; ‘henceforth I will abstain from what pleaseth thee not; for the sage says, “Speak thou not of that whereof thou art not asked; answer not, when thou art not called upon; leave that which concerns thee not for that which does concern thee and lavish not good counsel on the wicked, for they will repay thee therefor with evil.”‘ And he smiled in the wolf’s face, but in his heart he meditated treachery against him and said in himself, ‘Needs must I compass the destruction of this wolf.’ So he bore with his ill usage, saying in himself, ‘Verily arrogance and falsehood lead to perdition and cast into confusion, and it is said, “He who is arrogant suffers and he who is ignorant repents and he who fears is safe: fair dealing is a characteristic of the noble, and gentle manners are the noblest of gains.” It behoves me to dissemble with this tyrant, and needs must he be cast down.’ Then said he to the wolf, ‘Verily, the Lord pardons his erring servant and relents towards him, if he confess his sins; and I am a weak slave and have sinned in presuming to counsel thee. If thou knewest the pain that befell me by thy buffet, thou wouldst see that an elephant could not stand against it nor endure it: but I complain not of the pain of the blow, because of the contentment that hath betided me through it; for though it was exceeding grievous to me, yet its issue was gladness. As saith the sage, “The blow of the teacher is at first exceeding grievous, but the end of it is sweeter than clarified honey.”‘ Quoth the wolf, ‘I pardon thine offence and pass over thy fault; but be thou ware of my strength and avow thyself my slave; for thou knowest how rigorously I deal with those that transgress against me.’ Thereupon the fox prostrated himself to the wolf, saying, ‘May God prolong thy life and mayst thou cease never to subdue thine enemies!’ And he abode in fear of the wolf and ceased not to wheedle him and dissemble with him.
One day, the fox came to a vineyard and saw a breach in its wall; but he mistrusted it and said in himself, ‘Verily, there must be some reason for this breach and the adage says, “He who sees a cleft in the earth and doth not shun it or be wary in going up to it, is self-deluded and exposes himself to destruction.” Indeed, it is well known that some folk make a semblant of a fox in their vineyards, even to setting before it grapes in dishes, that foxes may see it and come to it and fall into destruction. Meseems, this breach is a snare and the proverb says, “Prudence is the half of cleverness.” Now prudence requires that I examine this breach and see if there be ought therein that may lead to perdition; and covetise shall not make me cast myself into destruction.’ So he went up to the breach and examining it warily, discovered a deep pit, lightly covered (with boughs and earth), which the owner of the vineyard had dug, thinking to trap therein the wild beasts that laid waste his vines. Then he drew back from it, saying in himself, ‘I have found it as I expected. Praised be God that I was wary of it! I hope that my enemy the wolf, who makes my life miserable, will fall into it; so will the vineyard be left to me and I shall enjoy it alone and dwell therein in peace.’ So saying, he shook his head and laughed aloud, repeating the following verses:
Would God I might see, even now, A wolf fallen into yon pit, That this long time hath tortured my heart And made me quaff bitters, God wit!
God grant I may live and be spared And eke of the wolf be made quit!
So the vineyard of him shall be rid And I find my purchase in it.
Then he returned in haste to the wolf and said to him, ‘God hath made plain the way for thee into the vineyard, without toil. This is of thy good luck; so mayst thou enjoy the easy booty and the plentiful provant that God hath opened up to thee without trouble!’ ‘What proof hast thou of what thou sayest?’ asked the wolf; and the fox answered, ‘I went up to the vineyard and found that the owner was dead, having been devoured by wolves: so I entered and saw the fruit shining on the trees.’ The wolf misdoubted not of the fox’s report and gluttony got hold on him; so he rose and repaired to the breach, blinded by greed; whilst the fox stopped short and lay as one dead, applying to the case the following verse:
Lustest after Leila’s favours? Look thou rather bear in mind That ’tis covetise plays havoc with the necks of human kind.
Then said he to the wolf, ‘Enter the vineyard: thou art spared the trouble of climbing, for the wall is broken down, and with God be the rest of the benefit.’ So the wolf went on, thinking to enter the vineyard; but when he came to the middle of the covering (of the pit), he fell in; whereupon the fox shook for delight and gladness; his care and concern left him and he sang out for joy and recited the following verses:
Fortune hath taken ruth on my case; Yea, she hath pitied the length of my pain,
Doing away from me that which I feared And granting me that whereto I was fain.
So I will pardon her all the sins She sinned against me once and again;
Since for the wolf there is no escape From certain ruin and bitter bane,
And now the vineyard is all my own And no fool sharer in my domain.
Then he looked into the pit, and seeing the wolf weeping for sorrow and repentance over himself, wept with him; whereupon the wolf raised his head to him and said, ‘Is it of pity for me thou weepest, O Aboulhussein?’ [FN#4] ‘Not so,’ answered the fox, ‘by Him who cast thee into the pit! I weep for the length of thy past life and for regret that thou didst not sooner fall into the pit; for hadst thou done so before I met with thee, I had been at peace: but thou wast spared till the fulfilment of thine allotted term.’ The wolf thought he was jesting and said, ‘O sinner, go to my mother and tell her what has befallen me, so haply she may make shift for my release.’ ‘Verily,’ answered the fox, ‘the excess of thy gluttony and thy much greed have brought thee to destruction, since thou art fallen into a pit whence thou wilt never escape. O witless wolf, knowest thou not the proverb, “He who taketh no thought to results, Fate is no friend to him, nor shall he be safe from perils?”‘ ‘O Aboulhussein,’ said the wolf, ‘thou wast wont to show me affection and covet my friendship and fear the greatness of my strength. Bear me not malice for that I did with thee, for he who hath power and forgiveth, his reward is with God; even as saith the poet:
Sow benefits aye, though in other than fitting soil. A benefit’s never lost, wherever it may be sown;
And though time tarry full long to bring it to harvest-tide, Yet no man reapeth its fruit, save he who sowed it alone.’
‘O most witless of beasts of prey and stupidest of the wildings of the earth,’ rejoined the fox, ‘hast thou forgotten thine arrogance and pride and tyranny and how thou disregardedst the due of comradeship and wouldst not take counsel by what the poet says:
Do no oppression, whilst the power thereto is in thine hand, For still in danger of revenge the sad oppressor goes. Thine eyes will sleep anon, what while the opprest, on wake, call down Curses upon thee, and God’s eye shuts never in repose.’
‘O Aboulhussein,’ replied the wolf, ‘reproach me not for past offences; for forgiveness is expected of the noble, and the practice of kindness is the best of treasures. How well says the poet:
Hasten to do good works, whenever thou hast the power, For thou art not able thereto at every season and hour.’
And he went on to humble himself to the fox and say to him, ‘Haply, thou canst do somewhat to deliver me from destruction.’ ‘O witless, deluded, perfidious, crafty wolf,’ answered the fox, ‘hope not for deliverance, for this is but the just reward of thy foul dealing.’ Then he laughed from ear to ear and repeated the following verses:
A truce to thy strife to beguile me! For nothing of me shalt thou gain. Thy prayers are but idle; thou sowedst Vexation; so reap it amain.
‘O gentlest of beasts of prey,’ said the wolf, ‘I deem thee too faithful to leave me in this pit.’ Then he wept and sighed and recited the following verses, whilst the tears streamed from his eyes:
O thou, whose kindnesses to me are more than one, I trow, Whose bounties unto me vouchsafed are countless as the sand, No shift of fortune in my time has ever fall’n on me, But I have found thee ready still to take me by the hand.
‘O stupid enemy,’ said the fox, ‘how art thou reduced to humility and obsequiousness and abjection and submission, after disdain and pride and tyranny and arrogance! Verily, I companied with thee and cajoled thee but for fear of thy violence and not in hope of fair treatment from thee: but now trembling is come upon thee and vengeance hath overtaken thee.’ And he repeated the following verses:
O thou that for aye on beguiling art bent, Thou’rt fall’n in the snare of thine evil intent.
So taste of the anguish that knows no relent And be with the rest of the wolven forspent!
‘O clement one,’ replied the wolf, ‘speak not with the tongue of despite nor look with its eyes; but fulfil the covenant of fellowship with me, ere the time for action pass away. Rise, make shift to get me a rope and tie one end of it to a tree; then let the other end down to me, that I may lay hold of it, so haply I may escape from this my strait, and I will give thee all my hand possesseth of treasures.’ Quoth the fox, ‘Thou persistest in talk of that wherein thy deliverance is not. Hope not for this, for thou shalt not get of me wherewithal to save thyself; but call to mind thy past ill deeds and the craft and perfidy thou didst imagine against me and bethink thee how near thou art to being stoned to death. For know that thy soul is about to leave the world and cease and depart from it; so shalt thou come to destruction and evil is the abiding-place to which thou goest!’ ‘O Aboulhussein,’ rejoined the wolf, ‘hasten to return to friendliness and persist not in this rancour. Know that he, who saves a soul from perdition, is as if he had restored it to life, and he, who saves a soul alive, is as if he had saved all mankind. Do not ensue wickedness, for the wise forbid it: and it were indeed the most manifest wickedness to leave me in this pit to drink the agony of death and look upon destruction, whenas it lies in thy power to deliver me from my strait. Wherefore go thou about to release me and deal benevolently with me.’ ‘O thou barbarous wretch,’ answered the fox, ‘I liken thee, because of the fairness of thy professions and the foulness of thine intent and thy practice, to the hawk with the partridge.’ ‘How so ?’ asked the wolf; and the fox said,
The Hawk and the Partridge.
‘I entered a vineyard one day and saw a hawk stoop upon a partridge and seize it: but the partridge escaped from him and entering its nest, hid itself there. The hawk followed and called out to it, saying, “O wittol, I saw thee in the desert, hungry, and took pity on thee; so I gathered grain for thee and took hold of thee that thou mightest eat; but thou fledst, wherefore I know not, except it were to slight me. So come out and take the grain I have brought thee to eat, and much good may it do thee!” The partridge believed what he said and came out, whereupon the hawk stuck his talons into him and seized him. “Is this that which thou saidst thou hadst brought me from the desert,” cried the partridge, “and of which thou badest me eat, saying, ‘Much good may it do thee?’ Thou hast lied to me and may God make what thou eatest of my flesh to be a deadly poison in thy maw!” So when the hawk had eaten the partridge, his feathers fell off and his strength failed and he died on the spot. Know, then, O wolf, that he, who digs a pit for his brother, soon falls into it himself, and thou first dealtest perfidiously with me.’ ‘Spare me this talk and these moral instances,’ said the wolf, ‘and remind me not of my former ill deeds, for the sorry plight I am in suffices me, seeing that I am fallen into a place, in which even my enemy would pity me, to say nothing of my friend. So make thou some shift to deliver me and be thou thereby my saviour. If this cause thee aught of hardship, think that a true friend will endure the sorest travail for his friend’s sake and risk his life to deliver him from perdition; and indeed it hath been said, “A tender friend is better than an own brother.” So if thou bestir thyself and help me and deliver me, I will gather thee such store of gear, as shall be a provision for thee against the time of want, and teach thee rare tricks to gain access to fruitful vineyards and strip the fruit-laden trees.’ ‘How excellent,’ rejoined the fox, laughing, ‘is what the learned say of those who are past measure ignorant, like unto thee!’ ‘What do they say?’ asked the wolf; and the fox answered, ‘They say that the gross of body are gross of nature, far from understanding and nigh unto ignorance. As for thy saying, O perfidious, stupid self-deceiver, that a friend should suffer hardship to succour his friend, it is true, as thou sayest: but tell me, of thine ignorance and poverty of wit, how can I be a true friend to thee, considering thy treachery? Dost thou count me thy friend? Behold, I am thine enemy, that exulteth in thy misfortune; and couldst thou understand it, this word were sorer to thee than slaughter and arrow-shot. As for thy promise to provide me a store against the time of want and teach me tricks to enter vineyards and spoil fruit-trees, how comes it, O crafty traitor, that thou knowest not a trick to save thyself from destruction? How far art thou from profiting thyself and how far am I from lending ear to thy speech! If thou have any tricks, make shift for thyself to save thee from this peril, wherefrom I pray God to make thine escape distant! So look, O idiot, if there be any trick with thee and save thyself from death therewith, before thou lavish instruction on others. But thou art like a certain sick man, who went to another, suffering from the same disease, and said to him, “Shall I heal thee of thy disease?” “Why dost thou not begin by healing thyself?” answered the other; so he left him and went his way. And thou, O ignorant wolf, art like this; so stay where thou art and be patient under what hath befallen thee.’ When the wolf heard what the fox said, he knew he had no hope from him; so he wept for himself, saying, ‘Verily, I have been heedless of mine affair; but if God deliver me from this scrape, I will assuredly repent of my arrogance towards those who are weaker than I and will put on wool and go upon the mountains, celebrating the praises of God the Most High and fearing His wrath. Yea, I will sunder myself from all the other wild beasts and feed the poor and those who fight for the Faith.’ Then he wept and lamented, till the heart of the fox was softened and he took pity on him, whenas he heard his humble words and his professions of repentance for his past arrogance and tyranny. So he sprang up joyfully and going to the brink of the pit, sat down on his hind quarters and let his tail fall therein; whereupon the wolf arose and putting out his paw, pulled the fox’s tail, so that he fell down into the pit with him. Then said the wolf, ‘O fox of little ruth, why didst thou exult over me, thou that wast my companion and under my dominion? Now thou art fallen into the pit with me and retribution hath soon overtaken thee. Verily, the wise have said, “If one of you reproach his brother with sucking the teats of a bitch, he also shall suck her,” and how well saith the poet:
When fortune’s blows on some fall hard and heavily, With others of our kind as friend encampeth she.
So say to those who joy in our distress, “Awake; For those who mock our woes shall suffer even as we.”
And death in company is the best of things; wherefore I will make haste to kill thee, ere thou see me killed.’ ‘Alas! Alas!’ said the fox in himself. ‘I am fallen in with this tyrant, and my case calls for the use of craft and cunning; for indeed it is said that a woman fashions her ornaments for the festival day, and quoth the proverb, “I have kept thee, O my tear, against the time of my distress!” Except I make shift to circumvent this overbearing beast, I am lost without recourse; and how well says the poet:
Provide thee by craft, for thou liv’st in a time Whose folk are as lions that lurk in a wood,
And set thou the mill-stream of knavery abroach, That the mill of subsistence may grind for thy food,
And pluck the fruits boldly; but if they escape From thy grasp, then content thee with hay to thy food.’
Then said he to the wolf, ‘Hasten not to slay me, for that is not my desert and thou wouldst repent it, O valiant beast, lord of might and exceeding prowess! If thou hold thy hand and consider what I shall tell thee, thou wilt know that which I purpose; but if thou hasten to kill me, it will profit thee nothing and we shall both die here.’ ‘O wily deceiver,’ answered the wolf, ‘how hopest thou to work my deliverance and thine own, that thou wouldst have me grant thee time? Speak and let me know thy purpose.’ ‘As for my purpose,’ replied the fox, ‘it was such as deserves that thou reward me handsomely for it; for when I heard thy promises and thy confession of thy past ill conduct and regrets for not having earlier repented and done good and thy vows, shouldst thou escape from this thy stress, to leave harming thy fellows and others and forswear eating grapes and other fruits and devote thyself to humility and cut thy claws and break thy teeth and don wool and offer thyself as a sacrifice to God the Most High,–when (I say), I heard thy repentance and vows of amendment, compassion took me for thee, though before I was anxious for thy destruction, and I felt bound to save thee from this thy present plight. So I let down my tail, that thou mightest grasp it and make thine escape. Yet wouldst thou not put off thy wonted violence and brutality nor soughtest to save thyself by fair means, but gavest me such a tug that I thought my soul would depart my body, so that thou and I are become involved in the same stead of ruin and death. There is but one thing can deliver us, to which if thou agree, we shall both escape; and after it behoves thee to keep the vows thou hast made, and I will be thy friend.’ ‘What is it thou hast to propose?’ asked the wolf. ‘It is,’ answered the fox, ‘that thou stand up, and I will climb up on to thy head and so bring myself nigh on a level with the surface of the earth. Then will I give a spring and as soon as I reach the ground, I will fetch thee what thou mayst lay hold of and make thine escape.’ ‘I have no faith in thy word,’ rejoined the wolf, ‘for the wise have said, “He who practices trust in the place of hate, errs,” and “He who trusts in the faithless is a dupe; he who tries those that have been [already] tried (and found wanting) shall reap repentance and his days shall pass away without profit; and he who cannot distinguish between cases, giving each its due part, his good fortune will be small and his afflictions many.” How well saith the poet:
Be thy thought ever ill and of all men beware; Suspicion of good parts the helpfullest was e’er.
For nothing brings a man to peril and distress As doth the doing good (to men) and thinking fair.
Be constant ever in suspect; ’twill save thee aye anew; For he who lives a wakeful life, his troubles are but few. Meet thou the foeman in thy way with open, smiling face; But in thy heart set up a host shall battle with him do.
And yet another:
Thy worst of foes is thy nearest friend, in whom thou puttest trust; So look thou be on thy guard with men and use them warily aye.
‘Tis weakness to augur well of fate; think rather ill of it. And be in fear of its shifts and tricks, lest it should thee bewray.’
‘Verily,’ said the fox, ‘distrust is not to be commended in every case; on the contrary, a confiding disposition is the characteristic of a noble nature and its issue is freedom from terrors. Now it behoves thee, O wolf, to put in practice some device for thy deliverance from this thou art in and the escape of us both will be better than our death: so leave thy distrust and rancour; for if thou trust in me, one of two things will happen; either I shall bring thee whereof to lay hold and escape, or I shall play thee false and save myself and leave thee; and this latter may not be, for I am not safe from falling into some such strait as this thou art in, which would be fitting punishment of perfidy. Indeed the adage saith, “Faith is fair and perfidy foul.” It behoves thee, therefore, to trust in me, for I am not ignorant of the vicissitudes of Fortune: so delay not to contrive some device for our deliverance, for the case is too urgent for further talk.’ ‘To tell thee the truth,’ replied the wolf, ‘for all my want of confidence in thy fidelity, I knew what was in thy mind and that thou wast minded to deliver me, whenas thou heardest my repentance, and I said in myself, “If what he asserts be true, he will have repaired the ill he did: and if false, it rests with God to requite him.” So, behold, I accept thy proposal, and if thou betray me, may thy perfidy be the cause of thy destruction!’ Then he stood upright in the pit and taking the fox upon his shoulders, raised him to the level of the ground, whereupon the latter gave a spring and lighted on the surface of the earth. When he found himself in safety, he fell down senseless, and the wolf said to him, ‘O my friend, neglect not my case and delay not to deliver me.’ The fox laughed derisively and replied, ‘O dupe, it was but my laughing at thee and making mock of thee that threw me into thy hands: for when I heard thee profess repentance, mirth and gladness seized me and I frisked about and danced and made merry, so that my tail fell down into the pit and thou caughtest hold of it and draggedst me down with thee. Why should I be other than a helper in thy destruction, seeing that thou art of the host of the devil! I dreamt yesterday that I danced at thy wedding and related my dream to an interpreter, who told me that I should fall into a great danger and escape from it. So now I know that my falling into thy hand and my escape are the fulfilment of my dream, and thou, O ignorant dupe, knowest me for thine enemy; so how canst thou, of thine ignorance and lack of wit, hope for deliverance at my hands, after all thou hast heard of harsh words from me, and wherefore should I endeavour for thy deliverance, whenas the wise have said, “In the death of the wicked is peace for mankind and purgation for the earth?” Yet, but that I fear to reap more affliction by keeping faith with thee than could follow perfidy, I would do my endeavour to save thee.’ When the wolf heard this, he bit his paws for despite and was at his wit’s end what to do. Then he gave the fox fair words, but this availed nought; so he said to him softly, ‘Verily, you foxes are the most pleasant spoken of folk and the subtlest in jest, and this is but a jest of thine; but all times are not good for sport and jesting.’ ‘O dolt,’ answered the fox, ‘jesting hath a limit, that the jester overpasses not, and deem not that God will again give thee power over me, after having once delivered me from thee.’ Quoth the wolf, ‘It behoves thee to endeavour for my release, by reason of our brotherhood and fellowship, and if thou deliver me, I will assuredly make fair thy reward.’ ‘The wise say,’ rejoined the fox,’ “Fraternize not with the ignorant and wicked, for he will shame thee and not adorn thee,–nor with the liar, for if thou do good, he will hide it, and if evil, he will publish it;” and again, “There is help for everything but death: all may be mended, save natural depravity, and everything may be warded off, except Fate.” As for the reward thou promisest me, I liken thee therein to the serpent that fled from the charmer. A man saw her affrighted and said to her, “What ails thee, O serpent?” Quoth she, “I am fleeing from the serpent-charmer, who is in chase of me, and if thou wilt save me and hide me with thee, I will make fair thy recompense and do thee all manner of kindness.” So he took her, moved both by desire of the promised recompense and a wish to find favour with God, and hid her in his bosom. When the charmer had passed and gone his way and the serpent had no longer any reason to fear, he said to her, “Where is the recompense thou didst promise me? Behold, I have saved thee from that thou dreadest.” “Tell me where I shall bite thee,” replied she, “for thou knowest we overpass not that recompense.” So saying, she gave him a bite, of which he died. And I liken thee, O dullard, to the serpent in her dealings with the man. Hast thou not heard what the poet says?
Trust not in one in whose heart thou hast made wrath to abide And thinkest his anger at last is over and pacified. Verily vipers, though smooth and soft to the feel and the eye And graceful of movements they be, yet death-dealing venom they hide.’
‘O glib-tongue, lord of the fair face,’ said the wolf, ‘thou art not ignorant of my case and of men’s fear of me and knowest how I assault the strong places and root up the vines. Wherefore, do as I bid thee and bear thyself to me as a servant to his lord.’ ‘O stupid dullard,’ answered the fox, ‘that seekest a vain thing, I marvel at thy stupidity and effrontery, in that thou biddest me serve thee and order myself towards thee as I were a slave bought with thy money; but thou shalt see what is in store for thee, in the way of breaking thy head with stones and knocking out thy traitor’s teeth.’ So saying, he went up to a hill that gave upon the vineyard and standing there, called out to the people of the place, nor did he give over crying, till he woke them and they, seeing him, came up to him in haste. He held his ground till they drew near him and near the pit, when he turned and fled. So they looked into the pit and spying the wolf, fell to pelting him with heavy stones, nor did they leave smiting him with sticks and stones and piercing him with lances, till they killed him and went away; whereupon the fox returned to the pit and looking down, saw the wolf dead: so he wagged his head for excess of joy and chanted the following verses:
Fate took the soul o’ the wolf and snatched it far away; Foul fall it for a soul that’s lost and perished aye! How oft, O Gaffer Grim, my ruin hast thou sought! But unrelenting bale is fallen on thee this day.
Thou fellst into a pit, wherein there’s none may fall Except the blasts of death blow on him for a prey.
Then he abode alone in the vineyard, secure and fearing no hurt.
THE MOUSE AND THE WEASEL.
A mouse and a weasel once dwelt in the house of a poor peasant, one of whose friends fell sick and the doctor prescribed him husked sesame. So he sought of one of his comrades sesame and gave the peasant a measure thereof to husk for him; and he carried it home to his wife and bade her dress it. So she steeped it and husked it and spread it out to dry. When the weasel saw the grain, he came up to it and fell to carrying it away to his hole, nor stinted all day, till he had borne off the most of it. Presently, in came the peasant’s wife, and seeing great part of the sesame gone, stood awhile wondering; after which she sat down to watch and find out the cause. After awhile, out came the weasel to carry off more of the grain, but spying the woman seated there, knew that she was on the watch for him and said to himself, ‘Verily, this affair is like to end ill. I fear me this woman is on the watch for me and Fortune is no friend to those who look not to the issues: so I must do a fair deed, whereby I may manifest my innocence and wash out all the ill I have done.’ So saying, he began to take of the sesame in his hole and carry it out and lay it back upon the rest. The woman stood by and seeing the weasel do thus, said in herself, ‘Verily, this is not the thief, for he brings it back from the hole of him that stole it and returns it to its place. Indeed, he hath done us a kindness in restoring us the sesame and the reward of those that do us good is that we do them the like. It is clear that this is not he who stole the grain. But I will not leave watching till I find out who is the thief.’ The weasel guessed what was in her mind, so he went to the mouse and said to her, ‘O my sister, there is no good in him who does not observe the claims of neighbourship and shows no constancy in friendship.’ ‘True, O my friend,’ answered the mouse, ‘and I delight in thee and in thy neighbourhood; but what is the motive of thy speech?’ Quoth the weasel, ‘The master of the house has brought home sesame and has eaten his fill of it, he and his family, and left much; every living soul has eaten of it, and if thou take of it in thy turn, thou art worthier thereof than any other.’ This pleased the mouse and she chirped and danced and frisked her ears and tail, and greed for the grain deluded her; so she rose at once and issuing forth of her hole, saw the sesame peeled and dry, shining with whiteness, and the woman sitting watching, armed with a stick. The mouse could not contain herself, but taking no thought to the issue of the affair, ran up to the sesame and fell to messing it and eating of it; whereupon the woman smote her with the stick and cleft her head in twain: so her greed and heedlessness of the issue of her actions led to her destruction.”
“By Allah,” said the Sultan to Shehrzad, “this is a goodly story! Hast thou any story bearing upon the beauty of true friendship and the observance of its obligations in time of distress and rescuing from destruction?” “Yes, answered she; “it hath teached me that
THE CAT AND THE CROW.
A crow and a cat once lived in brotherhood. One day, as they were together under a tree, they spied a leopard making towards them, of which they had not been ware, till he was close upon them. The crow at once flew up to the top of the tree; but the cat abode confounded and said to the crow, ‘O my friend, hast thou no device to save me? All my hope is in thee.’ ‘Indeed,’ answered the crow, ‘it behoveth brethren, in case of need, to cast about for a device, whenas any peril overtakes them, and right well saith the poet:
He is a right true friend who is with thee indeed And will himself undo, to help thee in thy need, Who, when love’s severance is by evil fate decreed, To join your sundered lives will risk his own and bleed.’
Now hard by the tree were shepherds with their dogs; so the crow flew towards them and smote the face of the earth with his wings, cawing and crying out, to draw their attention. Then he went up to one of the dogs and flapped his wings in his eyes and flew up a little way, whilst the dog ran after him, thinking to catch him. Presently, one of the shepherds raised his head and saw the bird flying near the ground and lighting now and then; so he followed him, and the crow gave not over flying just out of the dogs’ reach and tempting them to pursue and snap at him: but as soon as they came near him, he would fly up a little; and so he brought them to the tree. When they saw the leopard, they rushed upon it, and it turned and fled. Now the leopard thought to eat the cat, but the latter was saved by the craft of its friend the crow. This story, O King, shows that the friendship of the virtuous saves and delivers from difficulties and dangers.
THE FOX AND THE CROW.
A fox once dwelt in a cave of a certain mountain, and as often as a cub was born to him and grew stout, he would eat it, for, except he did so, he had died of hunger; and this was grievous to him. Now on the top of the same mountain a crow had made his nest, and the fox said to himself, ‘I have a mind to strike up a friendship with this crow and make a comrade of him, that he may help me to my day’s meat, for he can do what I cannot.’ So he made for the crow’s stead, and when he came within earshot, he saluted him, saying, ‘O my neighbour, verily a true-believer hath two claims upon his true-believing neighbour, that of neighbourliness and that of community of faith; and know, O my friend, that thou art my neighbour and hast a claim upon me, which it behoves me to observe, the more that I have been long thy neighbour. Moreover, God hath set in my breast a store of love to thee, that bids me speak thee fair and solicit thy friendship. What sayst thou?’ ‘Verily,’ answered the crow, ‘the best speech is that which is soothest, and most like thou speakest with thy tongue that which is not in thy heart. I fear lest thy friendship be but of the tongue, outward, and shine enmity of the heart, inward; for that thou art the Eater and I the Eaten, and to hold aloof one from the other were more apt to us than friendship and fellowship. What, then, maketh thee seek that thou mayst not come at and desire what may not be, seeing that thou art of the beast and I of the bird kind? Verily, this brotherhood [thou profferest] may not be, neither were it seemly.’ He who knoweth the abiding-place of excellent things,’ rejoined the fox, ‘betters choice in what he chooses therefrom, so haply he may win to advantage his brethren; and indeed I should love to be near thee and I have chosen thy companionship, to the end that we may help one another to our several desires; and success shall surely wait upon our loves. I have store of tales of the goodliness of friendship, which, an it like thee, I will relate to thee.’ ‘Thou hast my leave,’ answered the crow; ‘let me hear thy story and weigh it and judge of thine intent thereby.’ ‘Hear then, O my friend,’ rejoined the fox, ‘that which is told of a mouse and a flea and which bears out what I have said to thee.’ ‘How so?’ asked the crow. ‘It is said,’ answered the fox, ‘that
The Mouse and the Flea.
A mouse once dwelt in the house of a rich and busy merchant. One night, a flea took shelter in the merchant’s bed and finding his body soft and being athirst, drank of his blood. The smart of the bite awoke the merchant, who sat up and called to his serving men and maids. So they hastened to him and tucking up their sleeves, fell to searching for the flea. As soon as the latter was ware of the search, he turned to flee and happening on the mouse’s hole, entered it. When the mouse saw him, she said to him, “What brings thee in to me, seeing that thou art not of my kind and canst not therefore be assured of safety from violence or ill-usage?” “Verily,” answered the flea, “I took refuge in thy dwelling from slaughter and come to thee, seeking thy protection and not anywise coveting thy house, nor shall aught of mischief betide thee from me nor aught to make thee leave it. Nay, I hope to repay thy favours to me with all good, and thou shalt assuredly see and praise the issue of my words.” “If the case be as thou sayest,” answered the mouse, “be at thine ease here; for nought shall betide thee, save what may pleasure thee; there shall fall on thee rain of peace alone nor shall aught befall thee, but what befalls me. I will give thee my love without stint and do not thou regret thy loss of the merchant’s blood nor lament for thy subsistence from him, but be content with what little of sufficient sustenance thou canst lightly come by; for indeed this is the safer for thee, and I have heard that one of the moral poets saith as follows:
I have trodden the road of content and retirement And lived out my life with whatever betided;
With a morsel of bread and a draught of cold water, Coarse salt and patched garments content I abided. If God willed it, He made my life easy of living; Else, I was contented with what He provided.”
“O my sister,” rejoined the flea, “I hearken to thine injunction and submit myself to yield thee obedience, nor have I power to gainsay thee, till life be fulfilled, in this fair intent.” “Purity of intent suffices to sincere affection,” replied the mouse. So love befell and was contracted between them and after this, the flea used (by night) to go to the merchant’s bed and not exceed moderation (in sucking his blood) and harbour with the mouse by day in the latter’s hole. One night, the merchant brought home great store of dinars and began to turn them over. When the mouse heard the chink of the coin, she put her head out of her hole and gazed at it, till the merchant laid it under his pillow and went to sleep, when she said to the flea, “Seest thou not the favourable opportunity and the great good fortune! Hast thou any device to bring us to our desire of yonder dinars?” “Verily,” answered the flea, “it is not good for one to strive for aught, but if he be able to compass his desire; for if he lack of ableness thereto, he falls into that of which he should be ware and attains not his wish for weakness, though he use all possible cunning, like the sparrow that picks up grain and falls into the net and is caught by the fowler. Thou hast no strength to take the dinars and carry them into thy hole, nor can I do this; on the contrary, I could not lift a single dinar; so what hast thou to do with them?” Quoth the mouse, “I have made me these seventy openings, whence I may go out, and set apart a place for things of price, strong and safe; and if thou canst contrive to get the merchant out of the house, I doubt not of success, so Fate aid me.” “I will engage to get him out of the house for thee,” answered the flea and going to the merchant’s bed, gave him a terrible bite, such as he had never before felt, then fled to a place of safety. The merchant awoke and sought for the flea, but finding it not, lay down again on his other side. Then came the flea and bit him again, more sharply than before. So he lost patience and leaving his bed, went out and lay down on the bench before the door and slept there and awoke not till the morning. Meanwhile the mouse came out and fell to carrying the dinars into her hole, till not one was left; and when it was day, the merchant began to accuse the folk and imagine all manner of things. And know, O wise, clear-sighted and experienced crow (continued the fox), that I only tell thee this to the intent that thou mayst reap the recompense of thy goodness to me, even as the mouse reaped the reward of her kindness to the flea; for see how he repaid her and requited her with the goodliest of requitals.’ Quoth the crow, ‘It lies with the benefactor to show benevolence or not; nor is it incumbent on us to behave kindly to whoso seeks an impossible connection. If I show thee favour, who art by nature my enemy, I am the cause of my own destruction, and thou, O fox, art full of craft and cunning. Now those, whose characteristics these are, are not to be trusted upon oath, and he who is not to be trusted upon oath, there is no good faith in him. I heard but late of thy perfidious dealing with thy comrade the wolf and how thou leddest him into destruction by thy perfidy and guile, and this though he was of thine own kind and thou hadst long companied with him; yet didst thou not spare him; and if thou didst thus with thy fellow, that was of thine own kind, how can I have confidence in thy fidelity and what would be thy dealing with thine enemy of other than thy kind? Nor can I liken thee and me but to the Falcon and the Birds.’ ‘How so?’ asked the fox. ‘They say,’ answered the crow, ‘that
The Falcon and the Birds.
There was once a falcon who was a cruel tyrant in the days of his youth, so that the beasts of prey of the air and of the earth feared him and none was safe from his mischief; and many were the instances of his tyranny, for he did nothing but oppress and injure all the other birds. As the years passed over him, he grew weak and his strength failed, so that he was oppressed with hunger; but his cunning increased with the waning of his strength and he redoubled in his endeavour and determined to go to the general rendezvous of the birds, that he might eat their leavings, and in this manner he gained his living by cunning, whenas he could do so no longer by strength and violence. And thou, O fox, art like this: if thy strength fail thee, thy cunning fails not; and I doubt not that thy seeking my friendship is a device to get thy subsistence; but I am none of those who put themselves at thy mercy, for God hath given me strength in my wings and caution in my heart and sight in my eyes, and I know that he who apeth a stronger than he, wearieth himself and is often destroyed, wherefore I fear for thee lest, if thou ape a stronger than thou, there befall thee what befell the sparrow.’ ‘What befell the sparrow?’ asked the fox. ‘I conjure thee, by Allah, to tell me his story.’ ‘I have heard,’ replied the crow, ‘that
The Sparrow and the Eagle.
A sparrow was once hovering over a sheep-fold, when he saw a great eagle swoop down upon a lamb and carry it off in his claws. Thereupon the sparrow clapped his wings and said, “I will do even as the eagle hath done;” and he conceited himself and aped a greater than he. So he flew down forthright and lighted on the back of a fat ram, with a thick fleece that was become matted, by his lying in his dung and stale, till it was like felt. As soon as the sparrow lighted on the sheep’s back, he clapped his wings and would have flown away, but his feet became tangled in the wool and he could not win free. All this while the shepherd was looking on, having seen as well what happened with the eagle as with the sparrow; so he came up to the latter in a rage and seized him. Then he plucked out his wing-feathers and tying his feet with a twine, carried him to his children and threw him to them. “What is this?” asked they and he answered, “This is one that aped a greater than himself and came to grief.” Now thou, O fox,’ continued the crow, ‘art like this and I would have thee beware of aping a greater than thou, lest thou perish. This is all I have to say to thee; so go from me in peace.’ When the fox despaired of the crow’s friendship, he turned away, groaning and gnashing his teeth for sorrow and disappointment, which when the crow heard, he said to him, ‘O fox, why dost thou gnash thy teeth?’ ‘Because I find thee wilier than myself,’ answered the fox and made off to his den.”
“O Shehrzad,” said the Sultan, “how excellent and delightful are these thy stories! Hast thou more of the like edifying tales?” “It is said,” answered she, “that
THE HEDGEHOG AND THE PIGEONS.
A hedgehog once took up his abode under a palm-tree, on which roosted a pair of wood-pigeons, that had made their nest there and lived an easy life, and he said to himself, ‘These pigeons eat of the fruit of the palm-tree, and I have no means of getting at it; but needs must I go about with them.’ So he dug a hole at the foot of the palm-tree and took up his lodging there, he and his wife. Moreover, he made a place of prayer beside the hole, in which he shut himself and made a show of piety and abstinence and renunciation of the world. The male pigeon saw him praying and worshipping and inclined to him for his much devoutness and said to him, ‘How long hast thou been thus?’ ‘Thirty years,’ replied the hedgehog. ‘What is thy food?’ asked the bird and the other answered, ‘What falls from the palm-tree.’ ‘And what is thy clothing?’ asked the pigeon. ‘Prickles,’ replied the hedgehog; ‘I profit by their roughness.’ ‘And why,’ continued the bird, ‘hast thou chosen this place rather than another?’ ‘I chose it,’ answered the hedgehog, ‘that I might guide the erring into the right way and teach the ignorant.’ ‘I had thought thee other-guise than this,’ rejoined the pigeon; but now I feel a yearning for that which is with thee.’ Quoth the hedgehog, ‘I fear lest thy deed belie thy speech and thou be even as the husbandman, who neglected to sow in season, saying, “I fear lest the days bring me not to my desire, and I shall only waste my substance by making haste to sow.” When the time of harvest came and he saw the folk gathering in their crops, he repented him of what he had lost by his tardiness and died of chagrin and vexation.’ ‘What then shall I do,’ asked the pigeon, ‘that I may be freed from the bonds of the world and give myself up altogether to the service of my Lord?’ ‘Betake thee to preparing for the next world,’ answered the hedgehog, ‘and content thyself with a pittance of food.’ ‘How can I do this,’ said the pigeon, ‘I that am a bird and may not go beyond the palm-tree whereon is my food? Nor, could I do so, do I know another place, wherein I may abide.’ Quoth the hedgehog, ‘Thou canst shake down of the fruit of the palm what shall suffice thee and thy wife for a year’s victual; then do ye take up your abode in a nest under the tree, that ye may seek to be guided in the right way, and do ye turn to what ye have shaken down and store it up against the time of need; and when the fruits are spent and the time is long upon you, address yourselves to abstinence from food.’ ‘May God requite thee with good,’ exclaimed the pigeon, ‘for the fair intent with which thou hast reminded me of the world to come and hast directed me into the right way!’ Then he and his wife busied themselves in knocking down the dates, till nothing was left on the palm-tree, whilst the hedgehog, finding whereof to eat, rejoiced and filled his den with the dates, storing them up for his subsistence and saying in himself, ‘When the pigeon and his wife have need of their provant, they will seek it of me, trusting in my devoutness and abstinence; and from what they have heard of my pious counsels and admonitions, they will draw near unto me. Then will I seize them and eat them, after which I shall have the place and all that drops from the palm-tree, to suffice me.’ Presently the pigeon and his wife came down and finding that the hedgehog had carried off all the dates, said to him, ‘O pious and devout-spoken hedgehog of good counsel, we can find no sign of the dates and know not on what else we shall feed.’ ‘Belike,’ replied the hedgehog, ‘the winds have carried them away; but the turning from the provision to the Provider is of the essence of prosperity, and He who cut the corners of the mouth will not leave it without victual.’ And he gave not over preaching to them thus and making a show of piety and cozening them with fine words, till they put faith in him and entered his den, without suspicion, where-upon he sprang to the door and gnashed his tusks, and the pigeon, seeing his perfidy manifested, said to him, ‘What has to-night to do with yester-night? Knowest thou not that there is a Helper for the oppressed? Beware of treachery and craft, lest there befall thee what befell the sharpers who plotted against the merchant.’ ‘What was that?’ asked the hedgehog. ‘I have heard tell,’ answered the pigeon, ‘that
The Merchant and the Two Sharpers.
There was once in a city called Sendeh a very wealthy merchant, who made ready merchandise and set out with it for such a city, thinking to sell it there. There followed him two sharpers, who had made up into bales what goods they could get and giving out to him that they also were merchants, companied with him by the way. At the first halting-place, they agreed to play him false and take his goods; but, at the same time, each purposed inwardly foul play to the other, saying in himself, “If I can cheat my comrade, it will be well for me and I shall have all to myself.” So each took food and putting therein poison, brought it to his fellow; and they both ate of the poisoned mess and died. Now they had been sitting talking with the merchant; so when they left him and were long absent from him, he sought for them and found them both dead; whereby he knew that they were sharpers, who had plotted to play him foul, but their treachery had recoiled upon themselves; so the merchant was preserved and took what they had.'”
“O Shehrzad,” said the Sultan, “verily thou hast aroused me to all whereof I was negligent! Continue to edify me with these fables.” Quoth she, “It has come to my knowledge, O King, that
THE THIEF AND HIS MONKEY.
A certain man had a monkey and was a thief, who never entered one of the markets of the city in which he dwelt, but he made off with great purchase. One day, he saw a man offering for sale worn clothes, and he went calling them in the market, but none bid for them, and all to whom he showed them refused to buy of him. Presently, the thief saw him put the clothes in a wrapper and sit down to rest for weariness; so he made the ape sport before him, and whilst he was busy gazing at it, stole the parcel from him. Then he took the ape and made off to a lonely place, where he opened the wrapper and taking out the old clothes, wrapped them in a piece of costly stuff. This he carried to another market and exposed it for sale with what was therein, making it a condition that it should not be opened and tempting the folk with the lowness of the price he set on it. A certain man saw the wrapper and it pleased him; so he bought the parcel on these terms and carried it home, doubting not but he had gotten a prize. When his wife saw it, she said, ‘What is this?’ And he answered, ‘It is precious stuff, that I have bought below its worth, meaning to sell it again and take the profit.’ ‘O dupe,’ rejoined she, ‘would this stuff be sold under its value, except it were stolen? Dost thou not know that he who buys a ware, without examining it, erreth? And indeed he is like unto the weaver.’ ‘What is the story of the weaver?’ asked he; and she said, ‘I have heard tell that
The Foolish Weaver.
There was once in a certain village a weaver who could not earn his living save by excessive toil. One day, it chanced that a rich man of the neighbourhood made a feast and bade the folk thereto. The weaver was present and saw such as were richly clad served with delicate meats and made much of by the master of the house, for what he saw of their gallant array. So he said in himself, “If I change this my craft for another, easier and better considered and paid, I shall amass store of wealth and buy rich clothes, that so I may rise in rank and be exalted in men’s eyes and become like unto these.” Presently, one of the mountebanks there climbed up to the top of a steep and lofty wall and threw himself down, alighting on his feet; which when the weaver saw, he said to himself, “Needs must I do as this fellow hath done, for surely I shall not fail of it.” So he climbed up on to the wall and casting himself down to the ground, broke his neck and died forthright. I tell thee this (continued the woman) that thou mayst get thy living by that fashion thou knowest and throughly understandest, lest greed enter into thee and thou lust after what is not of thy competence.’ Quoth he, ‘Not every wise man is saved by his wisdom nor is every fool lost by his folly. I have seen a skilful charmer versed in the ways of serpents, bitten by a snake and killed, and I have known others prevail over serpents, who had no skill in them and no knowledge of their ways.’ And he hearkened not to his wife, but went on buying stolen goods below their value, till he fell under suspicion and perished.
THE SPARROW AND THE PEACOCK.
There was once a sparrow, that used every day to visit a certain king of the birds and was the first to go in to him and the last to leave him. One day, a company of birds assembled on a high mountain, and one of them said to another, ‘Verily, we are waxed many and many are the differences between us, and needs must we have a king to order our affairs, so shall we be at one and our differences will cease.’ Thereupon up came the sparrow and counselled them to make the peacock,–that is, the prince he used to visit,–king over them. So they chose the peacock to their king and he bestowed largesse on them and made the sparrow his secretary and vizier. Now the sparrow was wont bytimes to leave his assiduity [in the personal service of the king] and look into affairs [in general]. One day, he came not at the usual time, whereat the peacock was sore troubled; but presently, he returned and the peacock said to him, ‘What hath delayed thee, that art the nearest to me of all my servants and the dearest?’ Quoth the sparrow, ‘I have seen a thing that is doubtful to me and at which I am affrighted.’ ‘What was it thou sawest?’ asked the king; and the sparrow answered, ‘I saw a man set up a net, hard by my nest, and drive its pegs fast into the ground. Then he strewed grain in its midst and withdrew afar off. As I sat watching what he would do, behold, fate and destiny drove thither a crane and his wife, which fell into the midst of the net and began to cry out; whereupon the fowler came up and took them. This troubled me, and this is the reason of my absence from thee, O king of the age; but never again will I abide in that nest, for fear of the net.’ ‘Depart not thy dwelling,’ rejoined the peacock; ‘for precaution will avail thee nothing against destiny.’ And the sparrow obeyed his commandment, saying, ‘I will take patience and not depart, in obedience to the king.’ So he continued to visit the king and carry him food and water, taking care for himself, till one day he saw two sparrows fighting on the ground and said in himself, ‘How can I, who am the king’s vizier, look on and see sparrows fighting in my neighbourhood? By Allah, I must make peace between them!’ So he flew down to them, to reconcile them; but the fowler cast the net over them and taking the sparrow in question, gave him to his fellow, saying, ‘Take care of him, for he is the fattest and finest I ever saw.’ But the sparrow said in himself, ‘I have fallen into that which I feared and it was none but the peacock that inspired me with a false security. It availed me nothing to beware of the stroke of fate, since for him who taketh precaution there is no fleeing from destiny; and how well says the poet:
That which is not to be shall by no means be brought To pass, and that which is to be shall come, unsought, Even at the time ordained; but he that knoweth not The truth is still deceived and finds his hopes grown nought.’
STORY OF ALI BEN BEKKAR AND SHEMSENNEHAR.
There lived once [at Baghdad] in the days of the Khalif Haroun er Reshid a merchant named Aboulhusn Ali ben Tahir, who was great of goods and grace, handsome and pleasant-mannered, beloved of all. He used to enter the royal palace without asking leave, for all the Khalif’s concubines and slave-girls loved him, and he was wont to company with Er Reshid and recite verses to him and tell him witty stories. Withal he sold and bought in the merchants’ bazaar, and there used to sit in his shop a youth named Ali ben Bekkar, a descendant of the ancient kings of Persia, who was fair of face and elegant of shape, with rosy cheeks and joined eyebrows, sweet of speech and laughing-lipped, a lover of mirth and gaiety. It chanced one day, as they sat laughing and talking, there came up ten damsels like moons, every one of them accomplished in beauty and symmetry, and amongst them a young lady riding on a mule with housings of brocade and golden stirrups. She was swathed in a veil of fine stuff, with a girdle of gold-embroidered silk, and was even as says the poet:
She hath a skin like very silk and a soft speech and sweet; Gracious to all, her words are nor too many nor too few. Two eyes she hath, quoth God Most High, “Be,” and forthright they were; They work as wine upon the hearts of those whom they ensue.
Add to my passion, love of her, each night; and, solacement Of loves, the Resurrection be thy day of rendezvous!
The lady alighted at Aboulhusn’s shop and sitting down there, saluted him, and he returned her salute. When Ali ben Bekkar saw her, she ravished his understanding and he rose to go away; but she said to him, ‘Sit in thy place. We came to thee and thou goest away: this is not fair.’ ‘O my lady,’ answered he, ‘by Allah, I flee from what I see; for the tongue of the case saith:
She’s the sun and her dwelling’s in heaven on high; Look, then, to thine heart thou fair patience commend. Thou mayst not climb up to her place in the sky, Nor may she to thee from her heaven descend.’
When she heard this, she smiled and said to Aboulhusn, ‘What is the name of this young man?’ ‘He is a stranger,’ answered he. ‘What countryman is he?’ asked she, and the merchant replied, ‘He is a descendant of the (ancient) kings of Persia; his name is Ali ben Bekkar, and indeed it behoves us to use strangers with honour.’ ‘When my damsel comes to thee,’ rejoined she, ‘come thou at once to us and bring him with thee, that we may entertain him in our abode, lest he blame us and say, “There is no hospitality in the people of Baghdad:” for niggardliness is the worst fault that a man can have. Thou hearest what I say to thee and if thou disobey me, thou wilt incur my displeasure and I will never again visit thee or salute thee.’ ‘On my head and eyes,’ answered Aboulhusn; ‘God preserve me from thy displeasure, fair lady!’ Then she rose and went away, leaving Ali ben Bekkar in a state of bewilderment. Presently, the damsel came and said to the merchant, ‘O my lord Aboulhusn, my lady Shemsennehar, the favourite of the Commander of the Faithful Haroun er Reshid, bids thee to her, thee and thy friend, my lord Ali ben Bekkar.’ So he rose and taking Ali with him, followed the girl to the Khalif’s palace, where she carried them into a chamber and made them sit down. They talked together awhile, till she set trays of food before them, and they ate and washed their hands. Then she brought them wine, and they drank and made merry; after which she bade them rise and carried them into another chamber, vaulted upon four columns and adorned and furnished after the goodliest fashion with various kinds of furniture and decorations, as it were one of the pavilions of Paradise. They were amazed at the rarities they saw and as they were gazing at these marvels, up came ten damsels, like moons, with a proud and graceful gait, dazzling the sight and confounding the wit, and ranged themselves in two ranks, as they were of the houris of Paradise. After awhile, in came ten other damsels, with lutes and other instruments of mirth and music in their hands, who saluted the two guests and sitting down, fell to tuning their instruments. Then they rose and standing before them, played and sang and recited verses: and indeed each one of them was a seduction to the faithful. Whilst they were thus occupied, there entered other ten damsels like unto them, high-bosomed and of an equal age, with black eyes and rosy cheeks, joined eyebrows and languorous looks, a seduction to the faithful and a delight to all who looked upon them, clad in various kinds of coloured silks, with ornaments that amazed the wit. They took up their station at the door, and there succeeded them yet other ten damsels, fairer than they, clad in gorgeous apparel, such as defies description; and they also stationed themselves by the door. Then in came a band of twenty damsels and amongst them the lady Shemsennehar, as she were the moon among the stars, scarved with the luxuriance of her hair and dressed in a blue robe and a veil of silk, embroidered with gold and jewels. About her middle she wore a girdle set with various kinds of precious stones, and she advanced with a graceful and coquettish gait, till she came to the couch that stood at the upper end of the chamber and seated herself thereon. When Ali ben Bekkar saw her, he repeated the following couplets:
Yes, this is she indeed, the source of all my ill, For whom with long desire I languish at Love’s will. Near her, I feel my soul on fire and bones worn waste For yearning after her that doth my heart fulfih
Then said he to Aboulhusn, ‘Thou hadst dealt more kindly with me to have forewarned me of these things; that I might have prepared my mind and taken patience to support what hath befallen me ;’ and he wept and groaned and complained. ‘O my brother,’ replied Aboulhusn, ‘I meant thee nought but good; but I feared to tell thee of this, lest such transport should overcome thee as might hinder thee from foregathering with her and intervene between thee and her: but take courage and be of good heart, for she is well disposed to thee and inclineth to favour thee.’ ‘What is the lady’s name?’ asked Ali ben Bekkar. ‘She is called Shemsennehar,’ answered Aboulhusn ‘she is one of the favourites of the Commander of the Faithful Haroun er Reshid and this is the palace of the Khalifate.’ Then Shemsennehar sat gazing upon Ali ben Bekkar’s charms and he upon hers, till each was engrossed with love of the other. Presently, she commanded the damsels to sit; so they sat down, each in her place, on a couch before one of the windows, and she bade them sing; whereupon one of them took a lute and sang the following verses:
Twice be the message to my love made known, And take the answer from his lips alone.
To thee, O monarch of the fair, I come And stand, of this my case to make my moan.
O thou my sovereign, dear my heart and life, That in my inmost bosom hast thy throne,
Prithee, bestow a kiss upon thy slave; If not as gift, then even as a loan.
I will repay it, (mayst thou never fail!) Even as I took it, not a little gone.
Or, if thou wish for more than thou didst lend, Take and content thee; it is all thine own.
May health’s fair garment ever gladden thee, Thee that o’er me the wede of woe hast thrown!
Her singing charmed Ali ben Bekkar, and he said to her, ‘Sing me more of the like of these verses.’ So she struck the strings and sang as follows:
By excess of estrangement, beloved mine, Thou hast taught long weeping unto my eyne.
O joy of my sight and its desire, O goal of my hopes, my worship’s shrine,
Have pity on one, whose eyes are drowned In the sorrowful lover’s tears of brine!
When she had finished, Shemsennehar said to another damsel, ‘Sing us somewhat, thou.’ So she played a lively measure and sang the following verses:
His looks ’twas made me drunken, in sooth, and not his wine; And the grace of his gait has banished sleep from these eyes of mine.
‘Twas not the wine-cup dazed me, but e’en his glossy curls; His charms it was that raised me and not the juice o’ the vine. His winding browlocks have routed my patience, and my wit Is done away by the beauties his garments do enshrine.[FN#5]
When Shemsennehar heard this, she sighed heavily, and the song pleased her. Then she bade another damsel sing; so she took the lute and chanted the following:
A face that vies, indeed, with heaven’s lamp, the sun; The welling of youth’s springs upon him scarce begun. His curling whiskers write letters wherein the sense Of love in the extreme is writ for every one.
Beauty proclaimed of him, whenas with him it met, “A stuff in God’s best loom was fashioned forth and done!”
When she had finished, Ali Ben Bekkar. said to the damsel nearest him, ‘Sing us somewhat, thou.’ So she took the lute and sang these verses:
The time of union’s all too slight For coquetry and prudish flight.
Not thus the noble are. How long This deadly distance and despite?
Ah, profit by the auspicious time, To sip the sweets of love-delight.
Ali ben Bekkar followed up her song with plentiful tears; and when Shemsennehar saw him weeping and groaning and lamenting, she burned with love-longing and desire and passion and transport consumed her. So she rose from the couch and came to the door of the alcove, where Ali met her and they embraced and fell down a-swoon in the doorway; whereupon the damsels came to them and carrying them into the alcove, sprinkled rose-water upon them. When they revived, they missed Aboulhusn, who had hidden himself behind a couch, and the young lady said, ‘Where is Aboulhusn?’ So he showed himself to her from beside the couch, and she saluted him, saying, ‘I pray God to give me the means of requiting thee thy kindness!’ Then she turned to Ali ben Bekkar and said to him, ‘O my lord, passion has not reached this pass with thee, without doing the like with me; but there is nothing for it but to bear patiently what hath befallen us.’ ‘By Allah, O my lady,’ rejoined he, ‘converse with thee may not content me nor gazing upon thee assuage the fire of my heart, nor will the love of thee, that hath mastered my soul, leave me, but with the passing away of my life.’ So saying, he wept and the tears ran down upon his cheeks, like unstrung pearls. When Shemsennehar saw him weep, she wept for his weeping; and Aboulhusn exclaimed, ‘By Allah, I wonder at your plight and am confounded at your behaviour; of a truth, your affair is amazing and your case marvellous. If ye weep thus, what while ye are yet together, how will it be when ye are parted? Indeed, this is no time for weeping and wailing, but for foregathering and gladness; rejoice, therefore, and make merry and weep no more.’ Then Shemsennehar signed to a damsel, who went out and returned with handmaids bearing a table, whereon were silver dishes, full of all manner rich meats. They set the table before them, and Shemsennehar began to eat and to feed Ali ben Bekkar, till they were satisfied, when the table was removed and they washed their hands. Presently the waiting-women brought censors and casting bottles and sprinkled them with rose-water and incensed them with aloes and ambergris and other perfumes; after which they set on dishes of graven gold, containing all manner of sherbets, besides fruits and confections, all that the heart can desire or the eye delight in, and one brought a flagon of carnelian, full of wine. Then Shemsennehar chose out ten handmaids and ten singing-women to attend on them and dismissing the rest to their apartments, bade some of those who remained smite the lute. They did as she bade them and one of them sang the following verses:
My soul be a ransom for him who returned my salute with a smile And revived in my breast the longing for union after despair!
The hands of passion have brought my secret thoughts to the light And that which is in my bosom unto my censors laid bare. The very tears of my eyes press betwixt me and him, As though they, even as I, enamoured of him were.
When she had finished, Shemsennehar rose and filling a. cup, drank it off, then filled it again and gave it to Ali ben Bekkar; after which she bade another damsel sing; and she sang the following verses:
My tears, as they flow, are alike to my wine, as I brim it up! For my eyes pour forth of their lids the like of what froths in my cup.[FN#6]
By Allah, I know not, for sure, whether my eyelids it is Run over with wine or else of my tears it is that I sup!
Then Ali ben Bekkar drank off his cup and returned it to Shemsennehar. She filled it again and gave it to Aboulhusn, who drank it off. Then she took the lute, saying, ‘None shall sing over my cup but myself.’ So she tuned the strings and sang these verses:
The hurrying tears upon his cheeks course down from either eye’ For very passion, and love’s fires within his heart flame high.
He weeps whilst near to those he loves, for fear lest they depart: So, whether near or far they be, his tears are never dry.
Our lives for thee, O cupbearer, O thou whom beauty’s self From the bright parting of thy hair doth to the feet army! The full moon[FN#7] from thy collar-folds rises, the Pleiades[FN#8] Shine from thy mouth and in thine hands there beams the sun of day.[FN#9]
I trow, the goblets wherewithal thou mak’st us drunk are those Thou pourest to us from thine eyes, that lead the wit astray.
Is it no wonder that thou art a moon for ever full And that thy lovers ’tis, not thou, that wane and waste away?