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TALES FROM THE ARABIC
Of the Breslau and Calcutta (1814-18) editions of
The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night
not occurring in the other printed texts of the work,
Now first done into English
By John Payne
In Three Volumes:
VOLUME THE THIRD.
Contents of The Third Volume.
16. Noureddin Ali of Damascus and the Damsel Sitt El Milah 17. El Abbas and the King's Daughter of Baghdad 18. The Two Kings and the Vizier's Daughters 19. The Favourite and Her Lover 20. The Merchant of Cairo and the Favourite of the Khalif El Mamoun El Hakim Bi Amrillah Conclusion
Calcutta (1814-18) Text.
21. Story of Sindbad the Sailor and Hindbad the Porter a. The Sixth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor b. The Seventh Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor Note Table of Contents of the Calcutta (1839-42) and Boulac Editions Table of Contents of the Breslau Edition Table of Contents of the Calcutta Edition Alphabetical Table of the First Lines of the Verse in the "Tales from the Arabic" Index to the Names of the "Tales from the Arabic"
NOUREDDIN ALI OF DAMASCUS AND THE DAMSEL SITT EL MILAH.[FN#1]
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a merchant of the merchants of Damascus, by name Aboulhusn, who had money and riches and slaves and slave-girls and lands and houses and baths; but he was not blessed with a child and indeed his years waxed great; wherefore he addressed himself to supplicate God the Most High in private and in public and in his inclining and his prostration and at the season of the call to prayer, beseeching Him to vouchsafe him, before his admittance [to His mercy], a son who should inherit his wealth and possessions; and God answered his prayer. So his wife conceived and the days of her pregnancy were accomplished and her months and her nights and the pangs of her travail came upon her and she gave birth to a male child, as he were a piece of the moon. He had not his match for beauty and he put to shame the sun and the resplendent moon; for he had a shining face and black eyes of Babylonian witchery[FN#2] and aquiline nose and ruby lips; brief, he was perfect of attributes, the loveliest of the folk of his time, without doubt or gainsaying.
His father rejoiced in him with the utmost joy and his heart was solaced and he was glad; and he made banquets to the folk and clad the poor and the widows. He named the boy Sidi[FN#3] Noureddin Ali and reared him in fondness and delight among the slaves and servants. When he came to seven years of age, his father put him to school, where he learned the sublime Koran and the arts of writing and reckoning: and when he reached his tenth year, he learned horsemanship and archery and to occupy himself with arts and sciences of all kinds, part and parts.[FN#4] He grew up pleasant and subtle and goodly and lovesome, ravishing all who beheld him, and inclined to companying with brethren and comrades and mixing with merchants and travellers. From these latter he heard tell of that which they had seen of the marvels of the cities in their travels and heard them say, "He who leaveth not his native land diverteth not himself [with the sight of the marvels of the world,] and especially of the city of Baghdad."
So he was concerned with an exceeding concern for his lack of travel and discovered this to his father, who said to him, "O my son, why do I see thee chagrined?" And he answered, "I would fain travel." Quoth Aboulhusn, "O my son, none travelleth save those whose occasion is urgent and those who are compelled thereunto [by need]. As for thee, O my son, thou enjoyest ample fortune; so do thou content thyself with that which God hath given thee and be bounteous [unto others], even as He hath been bounteous unto thee; and afflict not thyself with the toil and hardship of travel, for indeed it is said that travel is a piece of torment."[FN#5] But the youth said, "Needs must I travel to Baghdad, the abode of peace."
When his father saw the strength of his determination to travel, he fell in with his wishes and equipped him with five thousand dinars in cash and the like in merchandise and sent with him two serving-men. So the youth set out, trusting in the blessing of God the Most High, and his father went out with him, to take leave of him, and returned [to Damascus]. As for Noureddin Ali, he gave not over travelling days and nights till he entered the city of Baghdad and laying up his loads in the caravanserai, made for the bath, where he did away that which was upon him of the dirt of the road and putting off his travelling clothes, donned a costly suit of Yemen stuff, worth an hundred dinars. Then he put in his sleeve[FN#6] a thousand mithcals[FN#7] of gold and sallied forth a-walking and swaying gracefully as he went. His gait confounded all those who beheld him, as he shamed the branches with his shape and belittled the rose with the redness of his cheeks and his black eyes of Babylonian witchcraft; indeed, thou wouldst deem that whoso looked on him would surely be preserved from calamity; [for he was] even as saith of him one of his describers in the following verses:
Thy haters say and those who malice to thee bear A true word, profiting its hearers everywhere; "The glory's not in those whom raiment rich makes fair, But those who still adorn the raiment that they wear."
So he went walking in the thoroughfares of the city and viewing its ordinance and its markets and thoroughfares and gazing on its folk. Presently, Abou Nuwas met him. (Now he was of those of whom it is said, "They love the fair,"[FN#8] and indeed there is said what is said concerning him.[FN#9] When he saw Noureddin Ali, he stared at him in amazement and exclaimed, "Say, I take refuge with the Lord of the Daybreak!"[FN#10] Then he accosted the young Damascene and saluting him, said to him, "Why do I see my lord alone and forlorn? Meseemeth thou art a stranger and knowest not this country; so, with my lord's permission, I will put myself at his service and acquaint him with the streets, for that I know this city." Quoth Noureddin, "This will be of thy favour, O uncle." Whereat Abou Nuwas rejoiced and fared on with him, showing him the markets and thoroughfares, till they came to the house of a slave-dealer, where he stopped and said to the youth, "From what city art thou?" "From Damascus," answered Noureddin; and Abou Nuwas said, "By Allah, thou art from a blessed city, even as saith of it the poet in the following verses:
Damascus is all gardens decked for the pleasance of the eyes; For the seeker there are black-eyed girls and boys of Paradise."
Noureddin thanked him and they entered the slave-merchant's house. When the people of the house saw Abou Nuwas, they rose to do him worship, for that which they knew of his station with the Commander of the Faithful. Moreover, the slave-dealer himself came up to them with two chairs, and they seated themselves thereon. Then the slave-merchant went into the house and returning with the slave-girl, as she were a willow-wand or a bamboo-cane, clad in a vest of damask silk and tired with a black and white turban, the ends whereof fell down over her face, seated her on a chair of ebony; after which quoth he to those who were present, "I will discover to you a face as it were a full moon breaking forth from under a cloud." And they said, "Do so." So he unveiled the damsel's face and behold, she was like the shining sun, with comely shape and day-bright face and slender [waist and heavy] hips; brief, she was endowed with elegance, the description whereof existeth not, [and was] even as saith of her the poet:
A fair one, to idolaters if she herself should show, They'd leave their idols and her face for only Lord would know; And if into the briny sea one day she chanced to spit, Assuredly the salt sea's floods straight fresh and sweet would grow.
The dealer stood at her head and one of the merchants said, "I bid a thousand dinars for her." Quoth another, "I bid eleven hundred dinars;" [and a third, "I bid twelve hundred"]. Then said a fourth merchant, "Be she mine for fourteen hundred dinars." And the biddings stood still at that sum. Quoth her owner, "I will not sell her save with her consent. If she desire to be sold, I will sell her to whom she willeth." And the slave-dealer said to him, "What is her name?" "Her name is Sitt el Milah,"[FN#11]
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