The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 1

The Tale of the Prince and the Ogress

translated by

Richard F. Burton


A CERTAIN KING, who had a son over much given to hunting and coursing, ordered one of his Wazirs to be in attendance upon him whithersoever he might wend. One day the youth set out for the chase accompanied by his father’s Minister; and, as they jogged on together, a big wild beast came in sight. Cried the Wazir to the King’s son, “Up and at yon noble quarry!” So the Prince followed it until he was lost to every eye and the chase got away from him in the waste; whereby he was confused and he knew not which way to turn, when lo! a damsel appeared ahead and she was in tears. The King’s son asked, “Who art thou?” and she answered, “I am daughter to a King among the Kings of Hind, and I was travelling with a caravan in the desert when drowsiness overcame me, and I fell from my beast unwittingly whereby I am cut off from my people and sore bewildered.” The Prince, hearing these words, pitied her case and, mounting her on his horse’s crupper, travelled until he passed by an old ruin1, when the damsel said to him, “O my master, I wish to obey a call of nature”: he therefore set her down at the ruin where she delayed so long that the King’s son thought that she was only wasting time; so he followed her without her knowledge and behold, she was a Ghulah,2 a wicked Ogress, who was saying to her brood, “O my children, this day I bring you a fine fat youth,3 for dinner;” whereto they answered, “Bring him quick to us, O our mother, that we may browse upon him our bellies full.” The Prince hearing their talk, made sure of death and his side muscles quivered in fear for his life, so he turned away and was about to fly. The Ghulah came out and seeing him in sore affright (for he was trembling in every limb? cried, “Wherefore art thou afraid?” and he replied, “I have hit upon an enemy whom I greatly fear.” Asked the Ghulah, “Diddest thou not say:—I am a King’s son?” and he answered, “Even so.” Then quoth she, “Why dost not give shine enemy something of money and so satisfy him?” Quoth he, “He will not be satisfied with my purse but only with my life, and I mortally fear him and am a man under oppression.” She replied, “If thou be so distressed, as thou deemest, ask aid against him from Allah, who will surely protect thee from his ill doing and from the evil whereof thou art afraid.” Then the Prince raised his eyes heavenwards and cried, “O Thou who answerest the necessitous when he calleth upon Thee and dispellest his distress; O my God! grant me victory over my foe and turn him from me, for Thou over all things art Almighty.” The Ghulah, hearing his prayer, turned away from him, and the Prince returned to his father, and told him the tale of the Wazir; whereupon the King summoned the Minister to his presence and then and there slew him. Thou likewise, O King, if thou continue to trust this leach, shalt be made to die the worst of deaths. He verily thou madest much of and whom thou entreatedest as an intimate, will work thy destruction. Seest thou not how he healed the disease from outside thy body by something grasped in thy hand? Be not assured that he will not destroy thee by something held in like manner! Replied King Yunan, “Thou hast spoken sooth, O Wazir, it may well be as thou hintest O my well advising Minister; and belike this Sage hath come as a spy searching to put me to death; for assuredly if he cured me by a something held in my hand, he can kill me by a something given me to smell.” Then asked King Yunan, “O Minister, what must be done with him?” and the Wazir answered, “Send after him this very instant and summon him to thy presence; and when he shall come strike him across the neck; and thus shalt thou rid thyself of him and his wickedness, and deceive him ere he can deceive thee.” “Thou hast again spoken sooth, O Wazir,” said the King and sent one to call the Sage who came in joyful mood for he knew not what had appointed for him the Compassionate; as a certain poet saith by way of illustration:—

O Thou who fearest Fate, confiding fare
            ⚪ Trust all to Him who built the world and wait:
What Fate saith “Be” perforce must be, my lord!
            ⚪ And safe art thou from th’ undecreed of Fate.

As Duban the physician entered he addressed the King in these lines:—

An fail I of my thanks to thee nor thank thee day by day
            ⚪ For whom composed I prose and verse, for whom my say and lay?
Thou lavishedst thy generous gifts ere they were craved by me
            ⚪ Thou lavishedst thy boons unsought sans pretext or delay:
How shall I stint my praise of thee, how shall I cease to laud
            ⚪ The grace of thee in secresy and patentest display?
Nay; I will thank thy benefits, for aye thy favours lie
            ⚪ Light on my thought and tongue, though heavy on my back they weigh.

And he said further on the same theme:—

Turn thee from grief nor care a jot!
            ⚪ Commit thy needs to Fate and Lot!
Enjoy the Present passing well
            ⚪ And let the Past be clean forgot
For whatso haply seemeth worse
            ⚪ Shall work thy weal as Allah wot
Allah shall do whate’er He wills
            ⚪ And in His will oppose Him not.

And further still.—

To th’ All wise Subtle One trust worldly things
            ⚪ Rest thee from all whereto the worldling clings:
Learn wisely well naught cometh by thy will
            ⚪ But e’en as willeth Allah, King of Kings.

And lastly.—

Gladsome and gay forget thine every grief
            ⚪ Full often grief the wisest hearts outwore:
Thought is but folly in the feeble slave
            ⚪ Shun it and so be savèd evermore.

Said the King for sole return, “Knowest thou why I have summoned thee?” and the Sage replied, “Allah Most Highest alone kenneth hidden things!” But the King rejoined, “I summoned thee only to take thy life and utterly to destroy thee.” Duban the Wise wondered at this strange address with exceeding wonder and asked, “O King, and wherefore wouldest thou slay me, and what ill have I done thee?” and the King answered, “Men tell me thou art a spy sent hither with intent to slay me; and lo! I will kill thee ere I be killed by thee;” then he called to his Sworder, and said, “Strike me off the head of this traitor and deliver us from his evil practices.” Quoth the Sage, “Spare me and Allah will spare thee; slay me not or Allah shall slay thee.” And he repeated to him these very words, even as I to thee, O Ifrit, and yet thou wouldst not let me go, being bent upon my death. King Yunan only rejoined, “I shall not be safe without slaying thee; for, as thou healedst me by something held in hand, so am I not secure against thy killing me by something given me to smell or otherwise.” Said the physician, “This then, O King, is thy requital and reward; thou returnest only evil for good.” The King replied, “There is no help for it; die thou must and without delay.” Now when the physician was certified that the King would slay him without waiting, he wept and regretted the good he had done to other than the good. As one hath said on this subject:—

Of wit and wisdom is Maymúnah4 bare
            ⚪ Whose sire in wisdom all the wits outstrippeth:
Man may not tread on mud or dust or clay
            ⚪ Save by good sense, else trippeth he and slippeth.

Hereupon the Sworder stepped forward and bound the Sage Duban’s eyes and bared his blade, saying to the King, “By thy leave;” while the physician wept and cried, “Spare me and Allah will spare thee, and slay me not or Allah shall slay thee,” and began repeating:—

I was kind and ’scaped not, they were cruel and escaped;
            ⚪ And my kindness only led me to Ruination Hall,
If I live I’ll ne’er be kind; if I die, then all be damned
            ⚪ Who follow me, and curses their kindliness befal.

“Is this,” continued Duban, “the return I meet from thee? Thou givest me, meseems, but crocodile boon.” Quoth the King,”What is the tale of the crocodile?”, and quoth the physician, “Impossible for me to tell it in this my state; Allah upon thee, spare me, as thou hopest Allah shall spare thee.” And he wept with exceeding weeping. Then one of the King’s favourites stood up and said, “O King! grant me the blood of this physician; we have never seen him sin against thee, or doing aught save healing thee from a disease which baffled every leach and man of science.” Said the King, “Ye wot not the cause of my putting to death this physician, and this it is. If I spare him, I doom myself to certain death; for one who healed me of such a malady by something held in my hand, surely can slay me by something held to my nose; and I fear lest he kill me for a price, since haply he is some spy whose sole purpose in coming hither was to compass my destruction. So there is no help for it; die he must, and then only shall I be sure of my own life.” Again cried Duban, “Spare me and Allah shall spare thee; and slay me not or Allah shall slay thee.” But it was in vain. Now when the physician, O Ifrit, knew for certain that the King would kill him, he said, “O King, if there be no help but I must die, grant me some little delay that I may go down to my house and release myself from mine obligations and direct my folk and my neighbours where to bury me and distribute my books of medicine. Amongst these I have one, the rarest of rarities, which I would present to thee as an offering: keep it as a treasure in thy treasury.” “And what is in the book?” asked the King and the Sage answered, “Things beyond compt; and the least of secrets is that if, directly after thou hast cut off my head, thou open three leaves and read three lines of the page to thy left hand, my head shall speak and answer every question thou deignest ask of it.” The King wondered with exceeding wonder and shaking5 with delight at the novelty, said, “O physician, cost thou really tell me that when I cut off thy head it will speak to me?” He replied, “Yes, O King!” Quoth the King, “This is indeed a strange matter!” and forthwith sent him closely guarded to his house, and Duban then and there settled all his obligations. Next day he went up to the King’s audience hall, where Emirs and Wazirs, Chamberlains and Nabobs, Grandees and Lords of Estate were gathered together, making the presence chamber gay as a garden of flower beds. And lo! the physician came up and stood before the King, bearing a worn old volume and a little étui of metal full of powder, like that used for the eyes.6 Then he sat down and said, “Give me a tray.” So they brought him one and he poured the powder upon it and levelled it and lastly spake as follows: “O King, take this book but do not open it till my head falls; then set it upon this tray, and bid press it down upon the powder, when forthright the blood will cease flowing. That is the time to open the book.” The King thereupon took the book and made a sign to the Sworder, who arose and struck off the physician’s head, and placing it on the middle of the tray, pressed it down upon the powder. The blood stopped flowing, and the Sage Duban unclosed his eyes and said, “Now open the book, O King!” The King opened the book, and found the leaves stuck together; so he put his finger to his mouth and, by moistening it, he easily turned over the first leaf, and in like way the second, and the third, each leaf opening with much trouble; and when he had unstuck six leaves he looked over them and, finding nothing written thereon, said, “O physician, there is no writing here!” Duban replied, “Turn over yet more;” and he turned over three others in the same way. Now the book was poisoned; and before long the venom penetrated his system, and he fell into strong convulsions and he cried out, “The poison hath done its work!” Whereupon the Sage Duban’s head began to improvise:—

There be rulers who have ruled with a foul tyrannic sway
            ⚪ But they soon became as though they had never, never been:
Just, they had won justice: they oppressed and were oppress
            ⚪ By Fortune, who requited them with ban and bane and teen:
So they faded like the morn, and the tongue of things repeats
            ⚪ “Take this far that, nor vent upon Fortune’s ways thy spleen.”

No sooner had the head ceased speaking than the King rolled over dead. Now I would have thee know, O Ifrit, that if King Yunan had spared the Sage Duban, Allah would have spared him, but he refused so to do and decreed to do him dead, wherefore Allah slew him; and thou too, O Ifrit, if thou hadst spared me, Allah would have spared thee. And Shahrázád perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say: then quoth Dunyázád, “O my sister, how pleasant is thy tale, and how tasteful; how sweet, and how grateful!” She replied, “And where is this compared with what I could tell thee this coming night, if I live and the King spare me?” Said the King in himself, “By Allah, I will not slay her until I hear the rest of her story, for truly it is wondrous.” They rested that night in mutual embrace until dawn: then the King went forth to his Darbar; the Wazirs and troops came in and the audience hall was crowded; so the King gave orders and judged and appointed and deposed and bade and forbade the rest of that day, when the court broke up, and King Shahryar entered his palace,

 

When it was the Sixth Night,

Her sister, Dunyázád, said to her,”Pray finish for us thy story;” and she answered, “I will if the King give me leave.” “Say on,” quoth the King. And she continued:—It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Fisherman said to the Ifrit, “If thou hadst spared me I would have spared thee, but nothing would satisfy thee save my death; so now I will do thee die by jailing thee in this jar and I will hurl thee into this sea.” Then the Marid roared aloud and cried, “Allah upon thee, O Fisher man, don’t! Spare me, and pardon my past doings; and, as I have been tyrannous, so be thou generous, for it is said among sayings that go current:—O thou who doest good to him who hath done thee evil, suffice for the ill doer his ill deeds, and do not deal with me as did Umamah to ‘Atikah.”7 Asked the Fisherman, “And what was their case?” and the Ifrit answered, “This is not the time for story telling and I in this prison; but set me free and I will tell thee the tale.” Quoth the Fisherman, “Leave this language: there is no help but that thou be thrown back into the sea nor is there any way for thy getting out of it for ever and ever. Vainly I placed myself under thy protection,8 and I humbled myself to thee with weeping, while thou soughtest only to slay me, who had done thee no injury deserving this at thy hands; nay, so far from injuring thee by any evil act, I worked thee nought but weal in releasing thee from that jail of thine. Now I knew thee to be an evil doer when thou diddest to me what thou didst, and know, that when I have cast thee back into the sea, I will warn whomsoever may fish thee up of what hath befallen me with thee, and I will advise him to toss thee back again; so shalt thou abide here under these waters till the End of Time shall make an end of thee.” But the Ifrit cried aloud, “Set me free; this is a noble occasion for generosity and I make covenant with thee and vow never to do thee hurt and harm; nay, I will help thee to what shall put thee out of want.” The Fisherman accepted his promises on both conditions, not to trouble him as before, but on the contrary to do him service; and, after making firm the plight and swearing him a solemn oath by Allah Most Highest he opened the cucurbit. Thereupon the pillar of smoke rose up till all of it was fully out; then it thickened and once more became an Ifrit of hideous presence, who forthright administered a kick to the bottle and sent it flying into the sea. The Fisherman, seeing how the cucurbit was treated and making sure of his own death, piddled in his clothes and said to himself, “This promiseth badly;” but he fortified his heart, and cried, “O Ifrit, Allah hath said9:—Perform your covenant; for the performance of your covenant shall be inquired into hereafter. Thou hast made a vow to me and hast sworn an oath not to play me false lest Allah play thee false, for verily he is a jealous God who respiteth the sinner, but letteth him not escape. I say to thee as said the Sage Duban to King Yunan, “Spare me so Allah may spare thee!” The Ifrit burst into laughter and stalked away, saying to the Fisherman, “Follow me;” and the man paced after him at a safe distance (for he was not assured of escape) till they had passed round the suburbs of the city. Thence they struck into the uncultivated grounds, and crossing them descended into a broad wilderness, and lo! in the midst of it stood a mountain tarn. The Ifrit waded in to the middle and again cried, “Follow me;” and when this was done he took his stand in the centre and bade the man cast his net and catch his fish. The Fisherman looked into the water and was much astonished to see therein vari coloured fishes, white and red, blue and yellow; however he cast his net and, hauling it in, saw that he had netted four fishes, one of each colour. Thereat he rejoiced greatly and more when the Ifrit said to him, “Carry these to the Sultan and set them in his presence; then he will give thee what shall make thee a wealthy man; and now accept my excuse, for by Allah at this time I wot none other way of benefiting thee, inasmuch I have lain in this sea eighteen hundred years and have not seen the face of the world save within this hour. But I would not have thee fish here save once a day.” The Ifrit then gave him God speed, saying, Allah grant we meet again;”10 and struck the earth with one foot, whereupon the ground clove asunder and swallowed him up. The Fisherman, much marvelling at what had happened to him with the Ifrit, took the fish and made for the city; and as soon as he reached home he filled an earthen bowl with water and therein threw the fish which began to struggle and wriggle about. Then he bore off the bowl upon his head and repairing to the King’s palace (even as the Ifrit had bidden him) laid the fish before the presence; and the King wondered with exceeding wonder at the sight, for never in his lifetime had he seen fishes like these in quality or in conformation. So he said, “Give those fish to the stranger slave girl who now cooketh for us,” meaning the bond maiden whom the King of Roum had sent to him only three days before, so that he had not yet made trial of her talents in the dressing of meat. Thereupon the Wazir carried the fish to the cook and bade her fry them11 saying, “O damsel, the King sendeth this say to thee:—I have not treasured thee, O tear o’ me! save for stress time of me; approve, then, to us this day thy delicate handiwork and thy savoury cooking; for this dish of fish is a present sent to the Sultan and evidently a rarity.” The Wazir, after he had carefully charged her, returned to the King, who commanded him to give the Fisherman four hundred dinars: he gave them accordingly, and the man took them to his bosom and ran off home stumbling and falling and rising again and deeming the whole thing to be a dream. However, he bought for his family all they wanted and lastly he went to his wife in huge joy and gladness. So far concerning him; but as regards the cookmaid, she took the fish and cleansed them and set them in the frying pan, basting them with oil till one side was dressed. Then she turned them over and, behold, the kitchen wall clave asunder, and therefrom came a young lady, fair of form, oval of face, perfect in grace, with eyelids which Kohl lines enchase.12 Her dress was a silken head kerchief fringed and tasseled with blue: a large ring hung from either ear; a pair of bracelets adorned her wrists; rings with bezels of priceless gems were on her fingers; and she hent in hand a long rod of rattan cane which she thrust into the frying pan, saying, “O fish! O fish! be ye constant to your covenant?” When the cookmaiden saw this apparition she swooned away. The young lady repeated her words a second time and a third time, and at last the fishes raised their heads from the pan, and saying in articulate speech “Yes! Yes!” began with one voice to recite:—

Come back and so will I! Keep faith and so will I!
            ⚪ And if ye fain forsake, I’ll requite till quits we cry!

After this the young lady upset the frying pan and went forth by the way she came in and the kitchen wall closed upon her. When the cook maiden recovered from her fainting fit, she saw the four fishes charred black as charcoal, and crying out, “His staff brake in his first bout,”13 she again fell swooning to the ground. Whilst she was in this case the Wazir came for the fish and looking upon her as insensible she lay, not knowing Sunday from Thursday, shoved her with his foot and said, “Bring the fish for the Sultan!” Thereupon recovering from her fainting fit she wept and in formed him of her case and all that had befallen her. The Wazir marvelled greatly and exclaiming, “This is none other than a right strange matter!”, he sent after the Fisherman and said to him, “Thou, O Fisherman, must needs fetch us four fishes like those thou broughtest before.” Thereupon the man repaired to the tarn and cast his net; and when he landed it, lo! four fishes were therein exactly like the first. These he at once carried to the Wazir, who went in with them to the cook maiden and said, “Up with thee and fry these in my presence, that I may see this business.” The damsel arose and cleansed the fish, and set them in the frying pan over the fire; however they remained there but a little while ere the wall clave asunder and the young lady appeared, clad as before and holding in hand the wand which she again thrust into the frying pan, saying, “O fish! O fish! be ye constant to your olden covenant?” And behold, the fish lifted their heads, and repeated “Yes! Yes!” and recited this couplet:

Come back and so will I! Keep faith and so will I!
            ⚪ But if ye fain forsake, I’ll requite till quits we cry!

And Shahrázád perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

 

When it was the Seventh Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the fishes spoke, and the young lady upset the frying pan with her rod, and went forth by the way she came and the wall closed up, the Wazir cried out, “This is a thing not to be hidden from the King.” So he went and told him what had happened, where upon quoth the King, “There is no help for it but that I see this with mine own eyes.” Then he sent for the Fisherman and commended him to bring four other fish like the first and to take with him three men as witnesses. The Fisherman at once brought the fish: and the King, after ordering them to give him four hundred gold pieces, turned to the Wazir and said, “Up and fry me the fishes here before me!” The Minister, replying “To hear is to obey,” bade bring the frying pan, threw therein the cleansed fish and set it over the fire; when lo! the wall clave asunder, and out burst a black slave like a huge rock or a remnant of the tribe Ad14 bearing in hand a branch of a green tree; and he cried in loud and terrible tones, “O fish! O fish! be ye all constant to your antique covenant?” whereupon the fishes lifted their heads from the frying pan and said, “Yes! Yes! we be true to our vow;” and they again recited the couplet:

Come back and so will I! Keep faith and so will I!
            ⚪ But if ye fain forsake, I’ll requite till quits we cry!

Then the huge blackamoor approached the frying pan and upset it with the branch and went forth by the way he came in. When he vanished from their sight the King inspected the fish; and finding them all charred black as charcoal, was utterly bewildered and said to the Wazir, “Verily this is a matter whereanent silence cannot be kept, and as for the fishes, assuredly some marvellous adventure connects with them.” So he bade bring the Fisherman and asked him, saying “Fie on thee, fellow! whence came these fishes?” and he answered, “From a tarn between four heights lying behind this mountain which is in sight of thy city.” Quoth the King, “How many days’ march?” Quoth he, “O our lord the Sultan, a walk of half hour.” The King wondered and, straight way ordering his men to march and horsemen to mount, led off the Fisherman who went before as guide, privily damning the Ifrit. They fared on till they had climbed the mountain and descended unto a great desert which they had never seen during all their lives; and the Sultan and his merry men marvelled much at the wold set in the midst of four mountains, and the tarn and its fishes of four colours, red and white, yellow and blue. The King stood fixed to the spot in wonderment and asked his troops and all present, “Hath any one among you ever seen this piece of water before now?” and all made answer, “O King of the age never did we set eyes upon it during all our days.” They also questioned the oldest inhabitants they met, men well stricken in years, but they replied, each and every, “A lakelet this we never saw in this place.” Thereupon quoth the King, “By Allah I will neither return to my capital nor sit upon the throne of my forbears till I learn the truth about this tarn and the fish therein.” He then ordered his men to dismount and bivouac all around the mountain; which they did; and summoning his Wazir, a Minister of much experience, sagacious, of penetrating wit and well versed in affairs, said to him, “’Tis in my mind to do a certain thing whereof I will inform thee; my heart telleth me to fare forth alone this night and root out the mystery of this tarn and its fishes. Do thou take thy seat at my tent door, and say to the Emirs and Wazirs, the Nabobs and the Chamberlains, in fine to all who ask thee:—The Sultan is ill at ease, and he hath ordered me to refuse all admittance;15 and be careful thou let none know my design.” And the Wazir could not oppose him. Then the King changed his dress and ornaments and, slinging his sword over his shoulder, took a path which led up one of the mountains and marched for the rest of the night till morning dawned; nor did he cease wayfaring till the heat was too much for him. After his long walk he rested for a while, and then resumed his march and fared on through the second night till dawn, when suddenly there appeared a black point in the far distance. Hereat he rejoiced and said to himself, “Haply some one here shall acquaint me with the mystery of the tarn and its fishes.” Presently drawing near the dark object he found it a palace built of swart stone plated with iron; and, while one leaf of the gate stood wide open, the other was shut, The King’s spirits rose high as he stood before the gate and rapped a light rap; but hearing no answer he knocked a second knock and a third; yet there came no sign. Then he knocked his loudest but still no answer, so he said, “Doubtless ’tis empty.” Thereupon he mustered up resolution and boldly walked through the main gate into the great hall and there cried out aloud, “Holla, ye people of the palace! I am a stranger and a wayfarer; have you aught here of victual?” He repeated his cry a second time and a third but still there came no reply; so strengthening his heart and making up his mind he stalked through the vestibule into the very middle of the palace and found no man in it. Yet it was furnished with silken stuffs gold starred; and the hangings were let down over the door ways. In the midst was a spacious court off which set four open saloons each with its raised dais, saloon facing saloon; a canopy shaded the court and in the centre was a jetting fount with four figures of lions made of red gold, spouting from their mouths water clear as pearls and diaphanous gems. Round about the palace birds were let loose and over it stretched a net of golden wire, hindering them from flying off; in brief there was everything but human beings. The King marvelled mightily thereat, yet felt he sad at heart for that he saw no one to give him account of the waste and its tarn, the fishes, the mountains and the palace itself. Presently as he sat between the doors in deep thought behold, there came a voice of lament, as from a heart grief spent and he heard the voice chanting these verses:—

I hid what I endured of him16 and yet it came to light,
            ⚪ And nightly sleep mine eyelids fled and changed to sleepless night:
Oh world! Oh Fate! withhold thy hand and cease thy hurt and harm
            ⚪ Look and behold my hapless sprite in colour and affright:
Wilt ne’er show ruth to highborn youth who lost him on the way
            ⚪ Of Love, and fell from wealth and fame to lowest basest wight.
Jealous of Zephyr’s breath was I as on your form he breathed
            ⚪ But whenas Destiny descends she blindeth human sight17
What shall the hapless archer do who when he fronts his foe
            ⚪ And bends his bow to shoot the shaft shall find his string undight?
When cark and care so heavy bear on youth18 of generous soul
            ⚪ How shall he ’scape his lot and where from Fate his place of flight?

Now when the Sultan heard the mournful voice he sprang to his feet; and, following the sound, found a curtain let down over a chamber door. He raised it and saw behind it a young man sitting upon a couch about a cubit above the ground; and he fair to the sight, a well shaped wight, with eloquence dight; his forehead was flower white, his cheek rosy bright, and a mole on his cheek breadth like an ambergris mite; even as the poet cloth indite:—

A youth slim waisted from whose locks and brow
            ⚪ The world in blackness and in light is set.
Throughout Creation’s round no fairer show
            ⚪ No rarer sight thine eye hath ever met:
A nut brown mole sits throned upon a cheek
            ⚪ Of rosiest red beneath an eye of jet.19

The King rejoiced and saluted him, but he remained sitting in his caftan of silken stuff pureed with Egyptian gold and his crown studded with gems of sorts; but his face was sad with the traces of sorrow. He returned the royal salute in most courteous wise adding, “O my lord, thy dignity demandeth my rising to thee; and my sole excuse is to crave thy pardon.”20 Quoth the King, “Thou art excused, O youth; so look upon me as thy guest come hither on an especial object. I would thou acquaint me with the secrets of this tarn and its fishes and of this palace and thy loneliness therein and the cause of thy groaning and wailing.” When the young man heard these words he wept with sore weeping;21 till his bosom was drenched with tears and began reciting—

Say him who careless sleeps what while the shaft of Fortune flies
            ⚪ How many cloth this shifting world lay low and raise to rise?
Although thine eye be sealed in sleep, sleep not th’ Almighty’s
            ⚪ And who hath found Time ever fair, or Fate in constant guise?

Then he sighed a long fetched sigh and recited:—

Confide thy case to Him, the Lord who made mankind;
            ⚪ Quit cark and care and cultivate content of mind;
Ask not the Past or how or why it came to pass:
            ⚪ All human things by Fate and Destiny were designed!

The King marvelled and asked him, “What maketh thee weep, O young man?” and he answered, “How should I not weep, when this is my case!” Thereupon he put out his hand and raised the skirt of his garment, when lo! the lower half of him appeared stone down to his feet while from his navel to the hair of his head he was man. The King, seeing this his plight, grieved with sore grief and of his compassion cried, “Alack and well away! in very sooth, O youth, thou heapest sorrow upon my sorrow. I was minded to ask thee the mystery of the fishes only: whereas now I am concerned to learn thy story as well as theirs. But there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!22 Lose no time, O youth, but tell me forthright thy whole tale.” Quoth he, “Lend me thine ears, thy sight and thine insight;” and quoth the King, “All are at thy service!” Thereupon the youth began, “Right wondrous and marvellous is my case and that of these fishes; and were it graven with gravers upon the eye corners it were a warner to whoso would be warned.” “How is that?” asked the King, and the young man began to tell

THE TALE OF THE ENSORCELLED PRINCE.


1.    The Bresl. Edit. absurdly has Jazírah (an island).    [back]

2.    The Ghúlah (fem. of Ghúl) is the Heb. Lilith or Lilis; the classical Lamia; the Hindu Yogini and Dakini, the Chaldean Utug and Gigim (desert-demons) as opposed to the Mas (hill-demon) and Telal (who steal into towns); the Ogress of our tales and the Bala yaga (Granny-witch) of Russian folk-lore. Etymologically “Ghul” is a calamity, a panic fear; and the monster is evidently the embodied horror of the grave and the graveyard.    [back]

3.    Arab. “Shább” (Lat. juvenis) between puberty and forty or according to some fifty; when the patient becomes a “Rajul ikhtiyár” (man of free will) politely termed, and then a Shaykh or Shaybah (gray-beard, oldster).    [back]

4.    Some proverbial name now forgotten. Torrens (p. 48) translates it “the giglot” (Fortune?) but “cannot discover the drift.”    [back]

5.    Arab. “Ihtizáz,” that natural and instinctive movement caused by good news suddenly given, etc.    [back]

6.     Arab. “Kohl,” in India, Surmah, not a “collyrium,” but powdered antimony for the eyelids. That sold in the bazars is not the real grey ore of antimony but a galena or sulphuret of lead. Its use arose as follows. When Allah showed Himself to Moses on Sinai through an opening the size of a needle, the Prophet fainted and the Mount took fire: thereupon Allah said, “Henceforth shalt thou and thy seed grind the earth of this mountain and apply it to your eyes!” The powder is kept in an étui called Makhalah and applied with a thick blunt needle to the inside of the eyelid, drawing it along the rim; hence etui and probe denote the sexual rem in re and in cases of adultery the question will be asked, “Didst thou see the needle in the Kohl-pot?” Women mostly use a preparation of soot or lamp-black (Hind. Kajala, Kajjal) whose colour is easily distinguished from that of Kohl. The latter word, with the article (Al-Kohl) is the origin of our “alcohol;” though even M. Littré fails to show how “fine powder” became “spirits of wine.” I found this powder (wherewith Jezebel “painted” her eyes) a great preservative from ophthalmia in desert-travelling: the use in India was universal, but now European example is gradually abolishing it.    [back]

7.    The tale of these two women is now forgotten.    [back]

8.    Arab. “Atadakhkhal.” When danger threatens it is customary to seize a man’s skirt and cry “Dakhíl-ak!” ( = under thy protection). Among noble tribes the Badawi thus invoked will defend the stranger with his life. Foreigners have brought themselves into contempt by thus applying to women or to mere youths.    [back]

9.    The formula of quoting from the Koran.    [back]

10.    Lit. “Allah not desolate me” (by thine absence). This is still a popular phrase—Lá tawáhishná = Do not make me desolate, i.e. by staying away too long, and friends meeting after a term of days exclaim “Auhashtani!” = thou hast made me desolate, Je suis désolé.    [back]

11.    Charming simplicity of manners when the Prime Minister carries the fish (shade of Vattel!)!) to the cookmaid. The “Gesta Romanorum” is nowhere more naïve.    [back]

12.    Arab. “Kahílat al-taraf” = lit. eyelids lined with Kohl; and figuratively “with black lashes and languorous look.” This is a phrase which frequently occurs in The Nights and which, as will appear, applies to the “lower animals” as well as to men. Moslems in Central Africa apply Kohl not to the thickness of the eyelid but upon both outer lids, fixing it with some greasy substance. The peculiar Egyptian (and Syrian) eye with its thick fringes of jet-black lashes, looking like lines of black drawn with soot, easily suggests the simile. In England I have seen the same appearance amongst miners fresh from the colliery.    [back]

13.    Of course applying to her own case.    [back]

14.    Prehistoric Arabs who measured from 60 to 100 cubits high: Koran, chaps. xxvi., etc. They will often be mentioned in The Nights.    [back]

15.    I Arab. “Dastúr” (from Persian) = leave, permission. The word has two meanings (see Burckhardt, Arab. Prov. No. 609) and is much used, ea. before walking up stairs or entering a room where strange women might be met. So “Tarík” = Clear the way (Pilgrimage, iii., 319). The old Persian occupation of Egypt, not to speak of the Persian-speaking Circassians and other rulers has left many such traces in popular language. One of them is that horror of travelers— “Bakhshísh” pron. bakh-sheesh and shortened to shísh from the Pers. “bakhshish.” Our “Christmas box” has been most unnecessarily derived from the same, despite our reading:—

Gladly the boy, with Christmas box in hand.

And, as will be seen, Persians have bequeathed to the outer world worse things than bad language, e.g. heresy and sodomy.    [back]

16.    He speaks of his wife but euphemistically in the masculine.    [back]

17.    A popular saying throughout Al-Islam.    [back]

18.    Arab. “Fata”: lit.=a youth; a generous man, one of noble mind (as youth-tide should be). It corresponds with the Lat. “vir,” and has much the meaning of the Ital. “Giovane,” the Germ. “Junker” and our “gentleman.”    [back]

19.    From the Bul. Edit.    [back]

20.    The vagueness of his statement is euphemistic.    [back]

21.    This readiness of shedding tears contrasts strongly with the external stoicism of modern civilization; but it is true to Arab character, and Easterns, like the heroes of Homer and Italians of Boccacio, are not ashamed of what we look upon as the result of feminine hysteria - “a good cry.”    [back]

22.    The formula (constantly used by Moslems) here denotes displeasure, doubt how to act and so forth. Pronounce, “Lá haula wa lá kuwwata illá bi ’lláhi ‘I-Aliyyi ‘I-Azim.” As a rule mistakes are marvellous: Mandeville (chaps. xii.) for “Lá iláha illa ’lláhu wa Muhammadun Rasúlu ’llah” writes “La ellec sila, Machomete rores alla.” The former (lá haula, etc.), on account of the four peculiar Arabic letters, is everywhere pronounced differently. and the exclamation is called “Haulak” or “Haukal.”    [back]


The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 1 - Contents    |     The Tale of the Ensorcelled Prince


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