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

Tale of the Tailor

translated by

Richard F. Burton


KNOW, O King of the age, that most marvellous was that which befell me but yesterday, before I foregathered with the Hunchback. It so chanced that in the early day I was at the marriage feast of one of my companions, who had gotten together in his house some twenty of the handicraftsmen of this city, amongst them tailors and silk spinners and carpenters and others of the same kidney. As soon as the sun had risen, they set food1 before us that we might eat when behold, the master of the house entered, and with him a foreign youth and a well favoured of the people of Baghdad, wearing clothes as handsome as handsome could be; and he was of right comely presence save that he was lame of one leg. He came and saluted us and we stood up to receive him; but when he was about to sit down he espied amongst us a certain man which was a Barber; whereupon he refused to be seated and would have gone away. But we stopped him and our host also stayed him, making oath that he should not leave us and asked him, “What is the reason of thy coming in and going out again at once?”; whereto he answered, “By Allah, O my lord, do not hinder me; for the cause of my turning back is yon Barber of bad omen,2 yon black o’ face, yon ne’er do well!” When the housemaster heard these words he marvelled with extreme marvel and said, “How cometh this young man, who haileth from Baghdad, to be so troubled and perplexed about this Barber?” Then we looked at the stranger and said, “Explain the cause of thine anger against the Barber.” “O fair company,” quoth the youth, “there befell me a strange adventure with this Barber in Baghdad (which is my native city); he was the cause of the breaking of my leg and of my lameness, and I have sworn never to sit in the same place with him, nor even tarry in any town where he happens to abide; and I have bidden adieu to Baghdad and travelled far from it and came to stay in this your city; yet I have hardly passed one night before I meet him again. But not another day shall go by ere I fare forth from here.” Said we to him, “Allah upon thee, tell us the tale;” and the youth replied (the Barber changing colour from brown to yellow as he spoke): Know, O fair company, that my father was one of the chief merchants of Baghdad, and Almighty Allah had blessed him with no son but myself. When I grew up and reached man’s estate, my father was received into the mercy of Allah (whose Name be exalted!) and left me money and eunuchs, servants and slaves; and I used to dress well and diet well. Now Allah had made me a hater of women kind and one day, as I was walking along a street in Baghdad, a party of females met me face to face in the footway; so I fled from them and, entering an alley which was no thoroughfare, sat down upon a stone bench at its other end. I had not sat there long before the latticed window of one of the houses opposite was thrown open, and there appeared at it a young lady, as she were the full moon at its fullest; never in my life saw I her like; and she began to water some flowers on the window sill.3 She turned right and left and, seeing me watching her, shut the window and went away. Thereupon fire was suddenly enkindled in my heart; my mind was possessed with her and my woman hate turned to woman love. I continued sitting there, lost to the world, till sunset when lo! the Kazi of the city came riding by with his slaves before him and his eunuchs behind him, and dismounting entered the house in which the damsel had appeared. By this I knew that he was her father; so I went home sorrowful and cast myself upon my carpet bed in grief. Then my handmaids flocked in and sat about me, unknowing what ailed me; but I addressed no speech to them, and they wept and wailed over me. Presently in came an old woman who looked at me and saw with a glance what was the matter with me: so she by my head spoke me fair, saying, “O my son, tell me all about it and I will be the means of thy union with her.”4 So I related to her what had happened and she answered, “O my son, this one is the daughter of the Kazi of Baghdad who keepeth her in the closest seclusion; and the window where thou sawest her is her floor, whilst her father occupies the large saloon in the lower story. She is often there alone and I am wont to visit at the house; so thou shalt not win to her save through me. Now set thy wits to work and be of good cheer.” With these words she went away and I took heart at what she said and my people rejoiced that day, seeing me rise in the morning safe and sound. By and by the old woman returned looking chopfallen,5 and said, “O my son, do not ask me how I fared with her! When I told her that, she cried at me, ‘If thou hold not thy peace, O hag of ill omen, and leave not such talk, I will entreat thee as thou deservest and do thee die by the foulest of deaths.’ But needs must I have at her a second time.”6 When I heard this it added ailment to my ailment and the neighbours visited me and judged that I was not long for this world; but after some days, the old woman came to me and, putting her mouth close to my ear, whispered, “O my son; I claim from thee the gift of good news.” With this my soul returned to me and I said, “Whatever thou wilt shall be thine.” Thereupon she began, “Yesterday I went to the young lady who, seeing me broken in spirit and shedding tears from reddened eyes, asked me, ‘O naunty7 mine, what ails thee, that I see thy breast so straitened?’; and I answered her, weeping bitterly, ‘O my lady, I am just come from the house of a youth who loves thee and who is about to die for sake of thee!’ Quoth she (and her heart was softened), ‘And who is this youth of whom thou speakest?’; and quoth I, ‘He is to me as a son and the fruit of my vitals. He saw thee, some days ago, at the window watering thy flowers and espying thy face and wrists he fell in love at first sight. I let him know what happened to me the last time I was with thee, whereupon his ailment increased, he took to the pillow and he is naught now but a dead man, and no doubt what ever of it.’ At this she turned pale and asked, ‘All this for my sake?’; and I answered, ‘Ay, by Allah!8 what wouldst thou have me do?’ Said she, ‘Go back to him and greet him for me and tell him that I am twice more heartsick than he is. And on Friday, before the hour of public prayer, bid him here to the house, and I will come down and open the door for him. Then I will carry him up to my chamber and foregather with him for a while, and let him depart before my father return from the Mosque.’” When I heard the old woman’s words, all my sickness suddenly fell from me, my anguish ceased and my heart was comforted; I took off what clothes were on me and gave them to her and, as she turned to go, she said, “Keep a good heart!” “I have not a jot of sorrow left.” I replied. My household and intimates rejoiced in my recovery and I abode thus till Friday, when behold, the old woman came in and asked me how I did, to which I answered that I was well and in good case. Then I donned my clothes and perfumed myself and sat down to await the congregation going in to prayers, that I might betake myself to her. But the old woman said to me, “Thou hast time and to spare: so thou wouldst do well to go to the Hammam and have thy hair shaven off (especially after thy ailment), so as not to show traces of sickness.” “This were the best way,” answered I, “I have just now bathed in hot water, but I will have my head shaved.” Then I said to my page, “Go to the bazaar and bring me a barber, a discreet fellow and one not inclined to meddling or impertinent curiosity or likely to split my head with his excessive talk.”9 The boy went out at once and brought back with him this wretched old man, this Shaykh of ill omen. When he came in he saluted me and I returned his salutation; then quoth he, “Of a truth I see thee thin of body;” and quoth I, “I have been ailing.” He continued, “Allah drive far away from thee thy woe and thy sorrow and thy trouble and thy distress.” “Allah grant thy prayer!” said I. He pursued, “All gladness to thee, O my master, for indeed recovery is come to thee. Dost thou wish to be polled or to be blooded? Indeed it was a tradition of Ibn Abbas10 (Allah accept of him!) that the Apostle said, ‘Whoso cutteth his hair on a Friday, the Lord shall avert from him threescore and ten calamities;’ and again is related of him also that he said, ‘Cupping on a Friday keepeth from loss of sight and a host of diseases.’” “Leave this talk,” I cried; “come, shave me my head at once for I can’t stand it.” So he rose and put forth his hand in most leisurely way and took out a kerchief and unfolded it, and lo! it contained an astrolabe11 with seven parallel plates mounted in silver. Then he went to the middle of the court and raised head and instrument towards the sun’s rays and looked for a long while. When this was over, he came back and said to me, “Know that there have elapsed of this our day, which be Friday, and this Friday be the tenth of the month Safar in the six hundred and fifty-third year since the Hegira or Flight of the Apostle (on whom be the bestest of blessings and peace!) and the seven thousand three hundred and twentieth year of the era of Alexander, eight degrees and six minutes. Furthermore the ascendant of this our day is, according to the exactest science of computation, the planet Mars; and it so happeneth that Mercury is in conjunction with him, denoting an auspicious moment for hair cutting; and this also maketh manifest to me that thou desires union with a certain person and that your intercourse will not be propitious. But after this there occurreth a sign respecting a matter which will befall thee and whereof I will not speak.” “O thou,” cried I, “by Allah, thou weariest me and scatterest my wits and thy forecast is other than good; I sent for thee to poll my head and naught else: so up and shave me and prolong not thy speech.” “By Allah,” replied he, “if thou but knew what is about to befall thee, thou wouldst do nothing this day, and I counsel thee to act as I tell thee by computation of the constellations.” “By Allah,” said I, “never did I see a barber who excelled in judicial astrology save thyself: but I think and I know that thou art most prodigal of frivolous talk. I sent for thee only to shave my head, but thou comest and pesterest me with this sorry prattle.” “What more wouldst thou have?” replied he. “Allah hath bounteously bestowed on thee a Barber who is an astrologer, one learned in alchemy and white magic;12 syntax, grammar, and lexicology; the arts of logic, rhetoric and elocution; mathematics, arithmetic and algebra; astronomy, astromancy and geometry; theology, the Traditions of the Apostle and the Commentaries on the Koran. Furthermore, I have read books galore and digested them and have had experience of affairs and comprehended them. In short I have learned the theorick and the practick of all the arts and sciences; I know everything of them by rote and I am a past master in totâ re scibili. Thy father loved me for my lack of officiousness, argal, to serve thee is a religious duty incumbent on me. I am no busy body as thou seemest to suppose, and on this account I am known as The Silent Man, also, The Modest Man. Wherefore it behoveth thee to render thanks to Allah Almighty and not cross me, for I am a true counsellor to thee and benevolently minded towards thee. Would that I were in thy service a whole year that thou mightest do me justice; and I would ask thee no wage for all this.” When I heard his flow of words, I said to him, “Doubtless thou wilt be my death this day!”——And Shahrázád perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

 

When it was the Thirtieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young man said to the Barber, “Thou certainly will be the death of me this very day!” “O master mine,” replied he, “I am he, The Silent Man hight, by reason of the fewness of my words, to distinguish me from my six brothers. For the eldest is called Al-Bakbúk, the prattler; the second Al-Haddár, the babbler; the third Al-Fakík, the gabbler; the fourth, his name is Al-Kuz al-aswáni, the long necked Gugglet, from his eternal chattering; the fifth is Al-Nashshár, the tattler and tale teller; the sixth Shakáshik, or many clamours; and the seventh is famous as Al-Sámit, The Silent Man, and this is my noble self!” Whilst he redoubled his talk, I thought my gall bladder would have burst; so I said to the servant, “Give him a quarter dinar and dismiss him and let him go from me in the name of God who made him. I won’t have my head shaved to day.” “What words be these, O my lord?” cried he. “By Allah! I will accept no hire of thee till I have served thee and have ministered to thy wants; and I care not if I never take money of thee. If thou know not my quality, I know thine; and I owe thy father, an honest man, on whom Allah Almighty have mercy! many a kindness, for he was a liberal soul and a generous. By Allah, he sent for me one day, as it were this blessed day, and I went in to him and found a party of his intimates about him. Quoth he to me, ‘Let me blood;’ so I pulled out my astrolabe and, taking the sun’s altitude for him, I ascertained that the ascendant was inauspicious and the hour unfavourable for blooding. I told him of this, and he did according to my bidding and awaited a better opportunity. So I made these lines in honour of him:—

I went to my patron some blood to let him,
            ⚪ But found that the moment was far from good:
So I sat and I talked of all strangenesses,
            ⚪ And with jests and jokes his good will I wooed:
They pleased him and cried he, ‘O man of wit,
            ⚪ Thou hast proved thee perfect in merry mood!’
Quoth I, ‘O thou Lord of men, save thou
            ⚪ Lend me art and wisdom I’m fou and wood?
In thee gather grace, boon, bounty, suavity,
            ⚪ And I guerdon the world with lore, science and gravity.’

Thy father was delighted and cried out to the servant, ‘Give him an hundred and three gold pieces with a robe of honour!’ The man obeyed his orders, and I awaited an auspicious moment, when I blooded him; and he did not baulk me; nay he thanked me and I was also thanked and praised by all present. When the blood-letting was over I had no power to keep silence and asked him, ‘By Allah, O my lord, what made thee say to the servant, Give him an hundred and three dinars?’; and he answered, ‘One dinar was for the astrological observation, another for thy pleasant conversation, the third for the phlebotomisation, and the remaining hundred and the dress were for thy verses in my commendation.’” “May Allah show small mercy to my father,” exclaimed I, “for knowing the like of thee.” He laughed and ejaculated, “There is no god but the God and Mohammed is the Apostle of God! Glory to Him that changeth and is changed not! I took thee for a man of sense, but I see thou babblest and dotest for illness. Allah hath said in the Blessed Book,13 ‘Paradise is prepared for the goodly who bridle their anger and forgive men.’ and so forth; and in any case thou art excused. Yet I cannot conceive the cause of thy hurry and flurry; and thou must know that thy father and thy grandfather did nothing without consulting me, and indeed it hath been said truly enough, ‘Let the adviser be prized’; and, ‘There is no vice in advice’; and it is also said in certain saws, ‘Whoso hath no counsellor elder than he, will never himself an elder be’;14 and the poet says:—

Whatever needful thing thou undertake,
            ⚪ Consult th’ experienced and contraire him not!

And indeed thou shalt never find a man better versed in affairs than I, and I am here standing on my feet to serve thee. I am not vexed with thee: why shouldest thou be vexed with me? But whatever happen I will bear patiently with thee in memory of the much kindness thy father shewed me.” “By Allah,” cried I, “O thou with tongue long as the tail of a jackass, thou persistest in pestering me with thy prate and thou becomest more longsome in thy long speeches, when all I want of thee is to shave my head and wend thy way!” Then he lathered my head saying, “I perceive thou art vexed with me, but I will not take it ill of thee, for thy wit is weak and thou art but a laddy: it was only yesterday I used to take thee on my shoulder15 and carry thee to school.’ “O my brother,” said I, “for Allah’s sake do what I want and go thy gait!” And I rent my garments.16 When he saw me do this he took the razor and fell to sharpening it and gave not over stropping it until my senses were well nigh leaving me. Then he came up to me and shaved part of my head; then he held his hand and then he said, “O my lord, haste is Satan’s gait whilst patience is of Allah the Compassionate. But thou, O my master, I ken thou knowest not my rank; for verily this hand alighteth upon the heads of Kings and Emirs and Wazirs, and sages and doctors learned in the law, and the poet said of one like me:—

All crafts are like necklaces strung on a string,
            ⚪ But this Barber’s the union pearl of the band:
High over all craftsmen he ranketh, and why?
            ⚪ The heads of the Kings are under his hand!”17

Then said I, “Do leave off talking about what concerneth thee not: indeed thou hast straitened my breast and distracted my mind.” Quoth he, “Meseems thou art a hasty man;” and quoth I, “Yes! yes! yes!” and he, “I rede thee practice restraint of self, for haste is Satan’s pelf which bequeatheth only repentance and ban and bane, and He (upon whom be blessings and peace!) hath said, ‘The best of works is that wherein deliberation lurks;’ but I, by Allah! have some doubt about thine affair; and so I should like thee to let me know what it is thou art in such haste to do, for I fear me it is other than good.” Then he continued, “It wanteth three hours yet to prayer time; but I do not wish to be in doubt upon this matter; nay, I must know the moment exactly, for truly, ‘A guess shot in times of doubt, oft brings harm about;’ especially in the like of me, a superior person whose merits are famous amongst mankind at large; and it doth not befit me to talk at random, as do the common sort of astrologers.” So saying, he threw down the razor and taking up the astrolabe, went forth under the sun and stood there a long time; after which he returned and counting on his fingers said to me, “There remain still to prayer time three full hours and complete, neither more nor yet less, according to the most learned astronomicals and the wisest makers of almanacks.” “Allah upon thee,” cried I, “hold thy tongue with me, for thou breakest my liver in pieces.” So he took the razor and, after sharpening it as before and shaving other two hairs of my head, he again held his hand and said, “I am concerned about thy hastiness and indeed thou wouldst do well to let me into the cause of it; ’t were the better for thee, as thou knowest that neither thy father nor thy grandfather ever did a single thing save by my advice.” When I saw that there was no escape from him I said to myself, “The time for prayer draws near and I wish to go to her before the folk come out of the mosque. If I am delayed much longer, I know not how to come at her.” Then said I aloud, “Be quick and stint this talk and impertinence, for I have to go to a party at the house of some of my intimates.” When he heard me speak of the party, he said, “This thy day is a blessed day for me! In very sooth it was but yesterday I invited a company of my friends and I have forgotten to provide anything for them to eat. This very moment I was thinking of it: Alas, how I shall be disgraced in their eyes!” “Be not distressed about this matter,” answered I; “have I not told thee that I am bidden to an entertainment this day? So every thing in my house, eatable and drinkable, shall be thine, if thou wilt only get through thy work and make haste to shave my head.” He replied, “Allah requite thee with good! Specify to me what is in thy house for my guests that I may be ware of it.” Quoth I, “Five dishes of meat and ten chickens with reddened breasts18 and a roasted lamb.” “Set them before me,” quoth he “that I may see them.” So I told my people to buy, borrow or steal them and bring them in anywise, and had all this set before him. When he saw it he cried, “The wine is wanting,” and I replied, “I have a flagon or two of good old grape-juice in the house,” and he said, “Have it brought out!” So I sent for it and he exclaimed, “Allah bless thee for a generous disposition! But there are still the essences and perfumes.” So I bade them set before him a box containing Nadd,19 the best of compound perfumes, together with fine lign-aloes, ambergris and musk unmixed, the whole worth fifty dinars. Now the time waxed strait and my heart straitened with it; so I said to him, “Take it all and finish shaving my head by the life of Mohammed (whom Allah bless and keep!).” “By Allah,” said he, “I will not take it till I see all that is in it.” So I bade the page open the box and the Barber laid down the astrolabe, leaving the greater part of my head unpolled; and, sitting on the ground, turned over the scents and incense and aloes wood and essences till I was well nigh distraught. Then he took the razor and coming up to me shaved off some few hairs and repeated these lines:—

The boy like his father shall surely show,
            ⚪ As the tree from its parent root shall grow.”20

Then said he, “By Allah, O my son, I know not whether to thank thee or thy father; for my entertainment this day is all due to thy bounty and beneficence; and, although none of my company be worthy of it, yet I have a set of honourable men, to wit Zantut the bath-keeper and Sali’a the corn-chandler; and Silat the bean-seller; and Akrashah the greengrocer; and Humayd the scavenger; and Sa’id the camel-man; and Suwayd the porter; and Abu Makarish the bathman;21 and Kasim the watchman; and Karim the groom. There is not among the whole of them a bore or a bully in his cups; nor a meddler nor a miser of his money, and each and every hath some dance which he danceth and some of his own couplets which he caroleth; and the best of them is that, like thy servant, thy slave here, they know not what much talking is nor what forwardness means. The bath keeper sings to the tom-tom22 a song which enchants; and he stands up and dances and chants,

‘I am going, O mammy, to fill up my pot.’

As for the corn-chandler he brings more skill to it than any; he dances and sings,

O Keener,23 0 sweetheart, thou fallest not short’

and he leaves no one’s vitals sound for laughing at him. But the scavenger sings so that the birds stop to listen to him and dances and sings,

News my wife wots is not locked in a box!’24

And he hath privilege, for ’tis a shrewd rogue25 and a witty; and speaking of his excellence I am wont to say,

My life for the scavenger! right well I love him,
            ⚪ Like a waving bough he is sweet to my sight:
Fate joined us one night, when to him quoth I
            ⚪ (The while I grew weak and love gained more might)
‘Thy love burns my heart!’ ‘And no wonder,’ quoth he
            ⚪ ‘When the drawer of dung turns a stoker wight.’26

And indeed each is perfect in whatso can charm the wit with joy and jollity;” adding presently, “But hearing is not seeing; and indeed if thou make up thy mind to join us and put off going to thy friends, ’twill be better for us and for thee. The traces of illness are yet upon thee and haply thou art going among folk who be mighty talkers, men who commune together of what concerneth them not; or there may be amongst them some forward fellow who will split thy head, and thou half thy size from sickness.” “This shall be for some other day,” answered I, and laughed with heart angered: “finish thy work and go, in Allah Almighty’s guard, to thy friends, for they will be expecting thy coming.” “O my lord,” replied he, “I seek only to introduce thee to these fellows of infinite mirth, the sons of men of worth, amongst whom there is neither procacity nor dicacity nor loquacity; for never, since I grew to years of discretion, could I endure to consort with one who asketh questions concerning what concerneth him not, nor have I ever frequented any save those who are, like myself, men of few words. In sooth if thou were to company with them or even to see them once, thou wouldst forsake all thy intimates.” “Allah fulfil thy joyance with them,” said I, “needs must I come amongst them some day or other.” But he said, “Would it were this very day, for I had set my heart upon thy making one of us; yet if thou must go to thy friends to day, I will take these good things, wherewith thou hast honoured and favoured me, to my guests and leave them to eat and drink and not wait for me; whilst I will return to thee in haste and accompany thee to thy little party; for there is no ceremony between me and my intimates to prevent my leaving them. Fear not, I will soon be back with thee and wend with thee whithersoever thou wendest. There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!” I shouted, “Go thou to thy friends and make merry with them; and do let me go to mine and be with them this day, for they expect me.” But the Barber cried, “I will not let thee go alone;” and I replied, “The truth is none can enter where I am going save myself.” He rejoined, “I suspect that to day thou art for an assignation with some woman, else thou hadst taken me with thee; yet am I the right man to take, one who could aid thee to the end thou wishest. But I fear me thou art running after strange women and thou wilt lose thy life; for in this our city of Baghdad one cannot do any thing in this line, especially on a day like Friday: our Governor is an angry man and a mighty sharp blade.” “Shame on thee, thou wicked, bad, old man!” cried I, “Be off! what words are these thou givest me?” “O cold of wit,”27 cried he, “thou sayest to me what is not true and thou hidest thy mind from me, but I know the whole business for certain and I seek only to help thee this day with my best endeavour.” I was fearful lest my people or my neighbours should hear the Barber’s talk, so I kept silence for a long time whilst he finished shaving my head; by which time the hour of prayer was come and the Khutbah, or sermon, was about to follow. When he had done, I said to him, “Go to thy friends with their meat and drink, and I will await thy return. Then we will fare together.” In this way I hoped to pour oil on troubled waters and to trick the accursed loon, so haply I might get quit of him; but he said, “Thou art cozening me and thou wouldst go alone to thy appointment and cast thyself into jeopardy, whence there will be no escape for thee. Now by Allah! and again by Allah! do not go till I return, that I may accompany thee and watch the issue of thine affair.” “So be it,” I replied, “do not be long absent.” Then he took all the meat and drink I had given him and the rest of it and went out of my house; but the accursed carle gave it in charge of a porter to carry to his home but hid himself in one of the alleys. As for me I rose on the instant, for the Muezzins had already called the Salam of Friday, the salute to the Apostle;28 and I dressed in haste and went out alone and, hurrying to the street, took my stand by the house wherein I had seen the young lady. I found the old woman on guard at the door awaiting me, and went up with her to the upper story, the damsel’s apartment. Hardly had I reached it when behold, the master of the house returned from prayers and entering the great saloon, closed the door. I looked down from the window and saw this Barber (Allah’s curse upon him!) sitting over against the door and said, “How did this devil find me out?” At this very moment, as Allah had decreed it for rending my veil of secrecy, it so happened that a handmaid of the house master committed some offence for which he beat her. She shrieked out and his slave ran in to intercede for her, whereupon the Kazi beat him to boot, and he also roared out. The damned Barber fancied that it was I who was being beaten; so he also fell to shouting and tore his garments and scattered dust on his head and kept on shrieking and crying “Help! Help!” So the people came round about him and he went on yelling, “My master is being murdered in the Kazi’s house!” Then he ran clamouring to my place with the folk after him, and told my people and servants and slaves; and, before I knew what was doing, up they came tearing their clothes and letting loose their hair29 and shouting, “Alas, our master!”; and this Barber leading the rout with his clothes rent and in sorriest plight; and he also shouting like a madman and saying, “Alas for our murdered master!” And they all made an assault upon the house in which I was. The Kazi, hearing the yells and the uproar at his door, said to one of his servants, “See what is the matter”; and the man went forth and returned and said, “O my master, at the gate there are more than ten thousand souls what with men and women, and all crying out, ‘Alas for our murdered master!’; and they keep pointing to our house.” When the Kazi heard this, the matter seemed serious and he waxed wroth; so he rose and opening the door saw a great crowd of people; whereat he was astounded and said, “O folk! what is there to do?” “O accursed! O dog! O hog!” my servants replied; “’Tis thou who hast killed our master!” Quoth he, “O good folk, and what hath your master done to me that I should kill him?”——And Shahrázád perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

 

When it was the Thirty-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Kazi said to the servants, “What hath your master done to me that I should kill him? This is my house and it is open to you all.” Then quoth the Barber, “Thou didst beat him and I heard him cry out;” and quoth the Kazi, “But what was he doing that I should beat him, and what brought him in to my house; and whence came he and whither went he?” “Be not a wicked, perverse old man!” cried the Barber, “for I know the whole story; and the long and short of it is that thy daughter is in love with him and he loves her; and when thou knewest that he had entered the house, thou badest thy servants beat him and they did so: by Allah, none shall judge between us and thee but the Caliph; or else do thou bring out our master that his folk may take him, before they go in and save him perforce from thy house, and thou be put to shame.” Then said the Kazi (and his tongue was bridled and his mouth was stopped by confusion before the people), “An thou say sooth, do thou come in and fetch him out.” Whereupon the Barber pushed forward and entered the house. When I saw this I looked about for a means of escape and flight, but saw no hiding place except a great chest in the upper chamber where I was. So I got into it and pulled the lid down upon myself and held my breath. The Barber was hardly in the room before he began to look about for me, then turned him right and left and came straight to the place where I was, and stepped up to the chest and, lifting it on his head, made off as fast as he could. At this, my reason forsook me, for I knew that he would not let me be; so I took courage and opening the chest threw myself to the ground. My leg was broken in the fall, and the door being open I saw a great concourse of people looking in. Now I carried in my sleeve much gold and some silver, which I had provided for an ill day like this and the like of such occasion; so I kept scattering it amongst the folk to divert their attention from me and, whilst they were busy scrambling for it, I set off, hopping as fast as I could, through the by streets of Baghdad, shifting and turning right and left. But whithersoever I went this damned Barber would go in after me, crying aloud, “They would have bereft me of my master! They would have slain him who was a benefactor to me and my family and my friends! Praised be Allah who made me prevail against them and delivered my lord from their hands!” Then to me, “Where wilt thou go now? Thou wouldst persist in following thine own evil devices, till thou broughtest thyself to this ill pass; and, had not Allah vouchsafed me to thee, ne’er hadst thou escaped this strait into which thou hast fallen, for they would have cast thee into a calamity whence thou never couldest have won free. But I will not call thee to account for thine ignorance, as thou art so little of wit and inconsequential and addicted to hastiness!” Said I to him, “Doth not what thou hast brought upon me suffice thee, but thou must run after me and talk me such talk in the bazaar streets?” And I well nigh gave up the ghost for excess of rage against him. Then I took refuge in the shop of a weaver amiddlemost of the market and sought protection of the owner who drove the Barber away; and, sitting in the back room,30 I said to myself, “If I return home I shall never be able to get rid of this curse of a Barber, who will be with me night and day; and I cannot endure the sight of him even for a breathing space.” So I sent out at once for witnesses and made a will, dividing the greater part of my property among my people, and appointed a guardian over them, to whom I committed the charge of great and small, directing him to sell my houses and domains. Then I set out on my travels that I might be free of this pimp;31 and I came to settle in your town where I have lived some time. When you invited me and I came hither, the first thing I saw was this accursed pander seated in the place of honour. How then can my heart be glad and my stay be pleasant in company with this fellow who brought all this upon me, and who was the cause of the breaking of my leg and of my exile from home and native land. And the youth refused to sit down and went away. When we heard his story (continued the Tailor) we were amazed beyond measure and amused and said to the Barber, “By Allah, is it true what this young man saith of thee?” “By Allah,” replied he, “I dealt thus by him of my courtesy and sound sense and generosity. Had it not been for me he had perished and none but I was the cause of his escape. Well it was for him that he suffered in his leg and not in his life! Had I been a man of many words, a meddler, a busy body, I had not acted thus kindly by him; but now I will tell you a tale which befell me, that you may be well assured I am a man sparing of speech in whom is no forwardness and a very different person from those six Brothers of mine; and this it is.”

THE BARBER’S TALE OF HIMSELF.


1.    This “Futur” is the real “breakfast” of the East, the “Chhoti házri” (petit déjeüner) of India, a bit of bread, a cup of coffee or tea and a pipe on rising. In the text, however, it is a ceremonious affair.    [back]

2.    Arab. “Nahs,” a word of many meanings; a sinister aspect of the stars (as in Hebr. end Aram.) or, adjectivally, sinister, of ill-omen. Vulgarly it is used as the reverse of nice and corresponds, after a fashion, with our “nasty.”    [back]

3.    “Window-gardening,” new in England, is an old practice in the East.    [back]

4.    Her pimping instinct at once revealed the case to her.    [back]

5.    The usual “pander-dodge” to get more money.    [back]

6.    The writer means that the old woman’s account was all false, to increase apparent difficulties and pour se faire valoir.    [back]

7.    Arab. “Yá Khálati” = mother’s sister; a familiar address to the old, as uncle or nuncle (father’s brother) to a man. The Arabs also hold that as a girl resembles her mother so a boy follows his uncle (mother’s brother): hence the address “Ya tayyib al-Khál!” = O thou nephew of a good uncle. I have noted that physically this is often fact.    [back]

8.    “Ay w’ Alláhi,” contracted popularly to Aywa, a word in every Moslem mouth and shunned by Christians because against orders Hebrew and Christian. The better educated Turks now eschew that eternal reference to Allah which appears in The Nights and which is still the custom of the vulgar throughout the world of Al-Islam.    [back]

9.    The “Muzayyin” or barber in the East brings his basin and budget under his arm: he is not content only to shave, he must scrape the forehead, trim the eyebrows, pass the blade lightly over the nose and correct the upper and lower lines of the mustachios, opening the central parting and so forth. He is not a whit less a tattler and a scandal monger than the old Roman tonsor or Figaro, his confrère in Southern Europe. The whole scene of the Barber is admirable, an excellent specimen of Arab humour and not over-caricatured. We all have met him.    [back]

10.    Abdullah ibn Abbas was a cousin and a companion of the Apostle, also a well known Commentator on the Koran and conserver of the traditions of Mohammed.    [back]

11.    I have noticed the antiquity of this father of our sextant, a fragment of which was found in the Palace of Sennacherib. More concerning the “Arstable” (as Chaucer calls it) is given in my “Camoens: his Life and his Lusiads,” p. 381.    [back]

12.    Arab. “Simiyá” to rhyme with Kímiyá (alchemy proper). It is a subordinate branch of the Ilm al-Ruháni which I would translate “Spiritualism,” and which is divided into two great branches, “Ilwí or Rahmáni” (the high or related to the Deity) and Siflí or Shaytáni (low, Satanic). To the latter belongs Al-Sahr, magic or the black art proper, gramarye, egromancy, while Al-Simiyá is white magic, electro-biology, a kind of natural and deceptive magic, in which drugs and perfumes exercise an important action. One of its principal branches is the Darb al-Mandal or magic mirror, of which more in a future page. See Boccaccio’s Day x. Novel 5.    [back]

13.    Chap. iii., 128. See Sale (in loco) for the noble application of this text by the Imam Hasan, son of the Caliph Ali.    [back]

14.    These proverbs at once remind us of our old friend Sancho Panza and are equally true to nature in the mouth of the Arab and of the Spaniard.    [back]

15.    Our nurses always carry in the arms: Arabs place the children astraddle upon the hip and when older on the shoulder.    [back]

16.    Eastern clothes allow this biblical display of sorrow and vexation, which with our European garb would look absurd: we must satisfy ourselves with maltreating our hats    [back]

17.    Koran xlviii., 8. It may be observed that according to the Ahádis (sayings of the Prophet) and the Sunnat (sayings and doings of Mahommed), all the hair should be allowed to grow or the whole head be clean shaven. Hence the “Shúshah,” or topknot, supposed to be left as a handle for drawing the wearer into Paradise, and the Zulf, or side-locks, somewhat like the ringlets of the Polish Jews, are both vain “Bida’at,” or innovations, and therefore technically termed “Makrúh,” a practice not laudable, neither “Halál” (perfectly lawful) nor “Harám” (forbidden by the law). When boys are first shaved generally in the second or third year, a tuft is left on the crown and another over the forehead; but this is not the fashion amongst adults. Abu Hanifah, if I am rightly informed, wrote a treatise on the Shushah or long lock growing from the Násiyah (head-poll) which is also a precaution lest the decapitated Moslem’s mouth be defiled by an impure hand; and thus it would resemble the chivalry lock by which the Redskin brave (and even the “cowboy” of better times) facilitated the removal of his own scalp. Possibly the Turks had learned the practice from the Chinese and introduced it into Baghdad (Pilgrimage i., 240). The Badawi plait their locks in Kurún (horns) or Jadáil (ringlets) which are undone only to be washed with the water of the she-camel. The wild Sherifs wear Haffah, long elf-locks hanging down both sides of the throat, and shaved away about a finger’s breadth round the forehead and behind the neck (Pilgrimage iii., 35-36). I have elsewhere noted the accroche-cœurs, the “idiot fringe,” etc.    [back]

18.    Meats are rarely coloured in modern days; but Persian cooks are great adepts in staining rice for the “Puláo (which we call after its Turkish corruption “pilaff”): it sometimes appears in rainbow-colours, red, yellow and blue; and in India is covered with gold and silver leaf. Europe retains the practice in tinting Pasch (Easter) eggs, the survival of the mundane ovum which was hatched at Easter-tide; and they are dyed red in allusion to the Blood of Redemption.    [back]

19.    As I have noticed, this is a mixture.    [back]

20.    We say:—

’Tis rare the father in the son we see:
He sometimes rises in the third degree.
    [back]

21.    Arab. “Ballán” i.e. the body-servant: “Ballánah” is a tire-woman.    [back]

22.    Arab. “Darabukkah” a drum made of wood or earthen-ware (Lane, M. E., xviii.), and used by all in Egypt.    [back]

23.    Arab. “Naihah” more generally “Naddábah” Lat. præfica or carina, a hired mourner, the Irish “Keener” at the conclamatio or coronach, where the Hullabaloo, Hulululu or Ululoo showed the survivors’ sorrow.    [back]

24.    These doggerels, which are like our street melodies, are now forgotten and others have taken their place. A few years ago one often heard, “Dus ya lalli” (Tread, O my joy) and “Názil il’al-Ganínah” (Down into the garden) and these in due turn became obsolete. Lane (M. E. chaps. xviii.) gives the former e.g.

Tread, O my joy! Tread, O my joy!
Love of my love brings sore annoy,

A chorus to such stanzas as:—

Alexandrian damsels rare!
            ⚪ Daintily o’er the floor ye fare:
Your lips are sweet, are sugar-sweet,
            ⚪ And purfled Cashmere shawls ye wear!

It may be noted that “humming” is not a favourite practice with Moslems; if one of the company begin, another will say, “Go to the Kahwah” (the coffee-house, the proper music-hall) “and sing there!” I have elsewhere observed their dislike to Al-sifr or whistling.    [back]

25.    Arab. Khalí’a = worn out, crafty, an outlaw; used like Span. “Perdido.”    [back]

26.    “Zabbál” is the scavenger, lit. a dung-drawer, especially for the use of the Hammam which is heated with the droppings of animals. “Wakkád” (stoker) is the servant who turns the fire. The verses are mere nonsense to suit the Barber’s humour.    [back]

27.    Arab. “Yá bárid” = O fool.    [back]

28.    This form of blessing is chanted from the Minaret about half-an-hour before midday, when the worshippers take their places in the mosque. At noon there is the usual Azán or prayer-call, and each man performs a two-bow, in honour of the mosque and its gathering, as it were. The Prophet is then blessed and a second Salám is called from the raised ambo or platform (dikkah) by the divines who repeat the midday-call. Then an Imam recites the first Khutbah, or sermon “of praise”; and the congregation worships in silence. This is followed by the second exhortation “of Wa’az,” dispensing the words of wisdom. The Imam now stands up before the Mihráb (prayer niche) and recites the Ikámah which is the common Azan with one only difference: after “Hie ye to salvation” it adds “Come is the time of supplication;” whence the name, “causing” (prayer) “to stand” (i.e., to begin). Hereupon the worshippers recite the Farz or Koran commanded noon-prayer of Friday; and the unco’guid add a host of superogatories Those who would study the subject may consult Lane (M. E. chaps. iii. and its abstract in his “Arabian Nights,” I, p. 430, or note 69 to chaps. v.).    [back]

29.    i.e., the women loosed their hair; an immodesty sanctioned only by a great calamity.    [back]

30.    These small shops are composed of a “but” and a “ben.” (Pilgrimage i., 99.)    [back]

31.    Arab. “Kawwád,” a popular term of abuse; hence the Span. and Port. “Alco-viteiro.” The Italian “Galeotto” is from Galahalt, not Galahad.    [back]


The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 1 - Contents    |     The Barber’s Tale of Himself


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