Tales of the Peries
There is a story which every class of author is fond of relating, whether they be learned historians or skillful astrologers, whether they record the deeds of ancient times, or collect the grape clusters in the harvest of language, whether they adorn the wonders of reality or display the beauties of fiction.
In the time of the celebrated Sheik Sunian, the Emperor Azar Shah reigned in Abez, a city in the Western region of the World. Azar Shah had long been anxious for an heir, but his queen Lulullah brought him no children. On a day he convened all the Astrologers of the city, and ordered them to examine the tablets of his destiny to see if there was any hope of having a son. The astrologers asked a delay, to make their observations and comply with the demands of the Emperor.
When they had finished their observations, they announced the report of the stars, that the Emperor was to have no child unless by Semen Ruh, Daughter of the King of the East. In elegance of form this lady surpassed all comparison. The splendour of the full Moon grew dim before her countenance and the sun was darkened by the rays of her beauty—
No maid of mortal charms but far
Excelling each celestial star,
Well may she boast her regal stem
Fair jewel of the diadem
The beams that round her forehead play
Surpass the moon’s empurpled ray.1
One of the Vizirs named Khujisteray ben Moosahib, a wise and knowing man, arose and bending the forehead of obedience to the ground said, "May the King live forever, the world will never see a sovereign like thee whose reign is crowned with good fortune and the favor of God. He whom thou shalt order to undertake the journey of the East shall quickly make by the crown of his head, by the sole of his foot, ‘by dint of gold, by courage bold, or any means of mortal mold,’ the desire of the Emperor be accomplished."
In like manner another Vizir rose and said, "May the fortune of the Emperor be expanded like a full blown blossom. His orders shall certainly be fulfilled."
An elegant epistle was immediately penned and given to Khujisteray, with the most singular curiosities and rarities of the country, to carry to the regions of the East. The Vizir set out and, after a long journey, arrived at the Eastern Sea, but with whatever speed he travelled, the news of his route preceded his arrival at the court of the Emperor of the East. When the object of his mission was reported to the emperor, he expressed great surprise that such should be the popular talk before any Embassy had come from the west.
The Vizir Khujisteray appeared in the Hall of audience, and according to the custom of ambassadors presented to the King of the East the Letter with all the curiosities and rarities which he had brought. The Emperor was highly pleased with the presents and, with the utmost joy and satisfaction, received the proposal contained in the Letter. He requested the Vizir to remain a few days till the bridal festivities could be prepared, at the end of which he promised to permit him to commence his journey. The Vizir kissed the ground, took his leave in the most respectful manner, and went to reside in a caravanserai.
The Emperor entered the harem and related the news to the Mother of the Princess. The Princess, as well the Mother, was greatly pleased at the intelligence. The naqqare of joy, was ordered to be beat and the Court prepared for the nuptial festivities.
In a few days every thing was ready. The Princess was arrayed in royal robes and golden ornaments splendid as those of the famous Emperor Khosroo, mounted on an Elephant whose howdah and caparison shone like gold, and attended by maids beautiful as the Sun in its splendor, boys of elegant form, and Eunuchs graceful as the Moon in countenance. All were arrayed in princely garments and proceeded along with Khujisteray. From stage to stage, from caravanserai to caravanserai, they journeyed onwards in a procession, to use the words of the Poet Huzret Mullah, like a rose garden in its beauty—
As o’er the sands they hold their way,
Their tents they pitch with banners gay,
The desert blooms through all its coasts,
Fair as the meads which China boasts.
They arrived at length in the vicinity of Abez. In the neighborhood of that city was a garden named Baghi Murad which had been made by the father of Azar Shah; it was planted with various kinds of trees. The pine, the cypress, the boser, The fir, and the elm there intermingled their branches, clashing each other like a scimitar belt; Flowers of different kinds, the rose, the tulip, the sweet basil, the hyacinth, and others of a similar species were arranged in order on several banks and channels of running water and were dispersed among the roots of the trees according to the verse—
Where’er the rivulet wanders slow
A thousand musky roses blow,
Where languid streamlets sleep between
The verdure wakes in livelier green,
While every rose a thousand tints,
Along its blushing leaves depaints
And as the glowing petals smile
Sweet fragrance makes for many a mile.2
In this new Paradise of a garden, they halted. They pitched a tent under fortunate auspices, spread beautiful carpets, and displaced furniture rich as that of Khosroo. They illuminated the tent with a luster, and there the Princess Semen Ruh took up her residence. The report of their arrival reached Azar Shah and as the poet Huzret Mullah says—
The present precious moment seize,
When fortune falls in every breeze,
And ere the Power have time to roam
Bestir yourself invite her home.
The Emperor immediately ordered the cymbal of joy and the cymbalnaqqara of rejoicing to be beat, the cornet, the pipes, the trumpets, the fifes and the cymbals to be sounded, the streets to be adorned with mirrors, the city to be illuminated with lamps and torches, and all the taxes of the country to be remitted for one year.
When the news reached his former queen Lulullah, the sighs of her pride rose to all the Heavens.
"Ah alas!" said she. "What stratagem shall I contrive to separate Semen Ruh from the king and expel her love from his heart?"
At last she thought of a will. She bent both her eyes downward on her feet and skillfully planned a scheme to supplant the Princess.
When Semen Ruh learned that the Emperor was impatient to visit her, she ordered green carpets and rich garments to be strewed from the streets of the city to the lanes of the garden and commanded the damsels beautiful as Peries and her youths whose faces rivaled the moon in gracefulness to present him with basins filled with rubies, jacinths, emeralds, and pearls. The King arrived in the garden adorned in the splendid manner. In every place Semen Ruh had caused rich carpets to be spread for his reception. A throne of polished emerald was in one quarter, in another a throne of ruby, jacinth, and fretted gold.
The Emperor was astonished at the magnificence of the exhibition and seated himself on the throne, greatly delighted with the grandeur of the lady’s taste. He ordered a royal feast to be prepared and invited all the vizirs, the judges, the nobles, the skillful men of business, and the principal persons of the city. The king embraced Khujisteray and rewarded him with the highest honors. He presented him with royal robes, a diadem adorned with gold and jewels, a scimitar, a dagger, and a sash of curious worksmanship. He gave also the steed Dewzard, which he had kept as a memorial of his own father, with the bridle and saddle likewise ornamented with gold and jewels.
That night they spent in festivity; it was like the conjunction of the moon and the planet Jupiter, and afterwards Semen Ruh was conducted in the most magnificent manner to the royal harem—
On the Emperors burnished throne
The splendid moon of beauty shone
His heart wild thrilling with delight
He hardly dared to trust his sight.
No sooner had the glance of the emperor lighted on the earth-illuminating fair Semen Ruh, then an arrow from the bent bow of her brows pierced his bosom. It penetrated to the very wing and notch of the arrow, and he said with a sigh—
Gentle be the beauty reign
Oe’r captives which the smiles enchain.
When Semen Ruh beheld the king she descended from the throne and stood before him, veiling her face with the fold of her garment. The king could not restrain himself. Flinging the arm of affection over the neck of desire, he drew her to his bosom and snatched an invaluable kiss from her ruby lips. Having taken the hand of the fair, he seated her on the throne and gently unveiling her face. The timid drops of perspiration on her sweet countenance shone like the dew drops on the ruby rose. Azar Shah gently dried them with the fold of his tunic and said—
The timid drops of dew that grace
A jasmine coloured charmer’s face
Exceed the rapid torrent force
That wastes a country in its course.3
The attendants all withdrew and the curtains were drawn on the four sides of the chamber. The emperor drew Semen Ruh amorously to his side, but no sooner did she meet his embrace than the keenness of desire instantly departed and he perceived himself under the influence of a magical charm. The king had immediate recourse to his physicians and astrologers, but they were equally at a loss concerning the nature of his malady and the means of affecting a cure.
At last a magician more knowing that the rest informed him of the famous Sheik Sunian of Baghdad. The King directly called his vizir Khujisteray and desired him to go and prevail on Sheik Sunian to undertake the cure.
"Beseech him to pity my situation and not to reckon the fatigues of the journey, painful to the sole of his foot."
Immediately Khujisteray set off. In a few days he reached the presence of the Sheik and related to him the particulars of his commission. The Sheik made many excuses and the Vizir made lamentations till the importunity of the latter prevailed and he succeeded in conducting him safely to the city of Abez. The King came out to meet him and introduced him into the city with great honors.
When all the particulars were related minutely to the Sheik, he said there were two disciples who perfectly understood the distemper. The name of the one was Danadil but he was absent on his travels in the region of the south. The name of the other was Roshen Zemir but he too was unluckily absent in the North.
The Sheik immediately addressed a letter to them in these terms: "We are in the city of Abez in the presence of Azar Shah. On sight of this letter proceed to join us with the utmost haste and without delay."
The two disciples received the letters and, proceeding with the utmost expedition, arrived in the presence of the him that his former queen had bewitched him by a spell, from which, with Heaven, she would endeavour to free him. The king rewarded him nobly and the magician, having by his skill discovered the charm which was buried beneath the ground, dug it up and recovered the king completely.
That wicked and crafty woman no sooner perceived that the spell was broken than she fell on another contrivance. She took a magical stone of such potency that a little of its powder swallowed instantly deprived a person of his senses. She grated a little of it to powder and gave it to a trusty and skillful servant to mix secretly with the food of Semen Ruh.
The servant too well acquitted herself of the wicked commission. In a single hour, the mind of the princess was alienated and she became deplorable frantic. Night came, but she replied to the tenderest caresses of the king with the coldest indifference and aversion. In vain he attempted to soothe her. Thee next day her distemper was a hundred times worse and soon increased beyond all remedy. Azar Shah was greatly distressed. Again he assembled his astrologers and physicians and ordered them on pain of death to find some remedy for her malady.
All their efforts were vain and they came in a body to the king, saying, "Kill or reward us the stars. The business does not prosper in our hands, but if any man in the world can cure her it is the sheik."
They were immediately conducted to court with due honors by the vizir. The Sheik related to them the particulars of the case and all five, the King, his vizir, the Sheik, and his disciples, began to concert measures for the cure.
After a dead pause, Danadil raised his head and said, "Reverend Senior (Din), the case is indeed beyond the Power of Medicine unless the method I propose succeeds. Let the Princess be diverted and amused by marvelous stories and tales of wonders. When her heart is engaged by the stories of the past perhaps the intoxication of frenzy will go out of her head."
"Who knows such stories better than yourself," said the Sheik. "Relate then the wonders you yourself have seen and heard, but relate them in such a manner that when you and I are dead and gone they may still be recorded in the page of existence."
Danadil ,without further apology, desired the sitting room to be prepared, and as soon as carpets were spread and the queen brought in he thus commenced his narration.
The Tale of Melech Mahommed and Gheti Afroz, Queen of the Peris, and the First Transformation of the Dove.
Once on a day, as Melech Mahommed, a brother of mine, was on his travels, he came by chance to a town called Ekbalia and took up his lodging in a caravanserai. The first watch of the night was suddenly illuminated with brilliant lights and began to resound with the music of innumerable instruments. Behind the lights, Peris and Perizadis arrayed in garments of golden tissue advanced in troop and, with wonderful tumult, spread themselves over the whole face of the sky. They were a marvelous company such as had never been heard or seen.
In surprise, he asked some people of the place, "What is this and who are these?"
Somebody told him that it was Gheti Afroz, Daughter of the king of the Peris and that, having quarreled with her father, she resided in this lower world. Her place was in the vicinity of the city.
"Can a person see her?" said he.
"Better for him to fail of it," said the other, "for she generally changes her visitants into the shape of some animal."
It seems my brother had some animal inclinations. "Ah," said he, "that must be very fine and curious," and off he set for that place.
Next morning when he came near the place, he saw that the top of it reached to the very sky; the building consisted of alternate layers of burned bricks and pure silver, and at least the one half of all the birds in the air and all the doves in the universal world were perched on the roof.
He came up to the door, which was shut, and cried aloud, "Open to Melech Mahommed."
As nobody ever came there because of the fear of being a beast, the Princess had ordered when any one approached to open the door and give him his deserts. Accordingly the door was opened and, without dread or fear, in stepped Melech Mahommed. He saw a throne composed of a single jacinth and adorned with the richest cushions and carpets. A lady beautiful as the silver moon sat on the throne with a hundred Perizadis brilliant as so many stars standing round her—
What can Descriptions powers avail
The pen the pencils art must fail
No power of fancy e’er portrayed
The graces of that peerless maid
Sweet angel nature formed to prove
The fond fidelity of love
Her mouths sweet circle formed a line
The pencil never drew one so fine
Her ruby lips appeared when closed
Arose leaf in two halves disposed.4
When Melech Mahommed saw these Daughters of Paradise, their queen fair as the mid-month moon and her damsels and musicians arranged in rows before her, he stood stupefied with wonder.
The back of the Queen was towards him as he entered, but she perceived him with the corner of her eyes and, pointing to a golden seat near the throne, said, "Come, come along, you are welcome." As soon as he had seated himself, she enquired, "Whence, who, and why have you come hither?"
Melech Mohammed answered like one drunk and distracted—
Drunk with the win of love I roam
This path and seek no other home
Far from my grasp stole? the tie
Of prudence though for love I die.
Gheti Afroz immediately gave him a place in her affections, and ordered Ruh Afza, a Perazadi that excelled in elegance of form, to bring the ruby coloured wine, for a guest was come. Ruh Afza had an apple in her hand, which she presented to him.
Gheti Afroz said, "Why are you angry at our guest that you present him with an apple?"
"He who stomachs an apple must be angry indeed," said Ruh Afza.
"Better, however, it were a quince," said Gheti Afroz, and immediately a quince as a sign of welcome was presented to Melech Mahommed. Still, however, my brother’s confusion prevented him from entering on conversation till the ruby wine, that foe to modesty, was handed round in silver goblets. Ruh Afza acted the cup-bearer and, when she had presented ten goblets to Melech Mahommed, he became a little more tranquil.
Gheti Afroz then looking him in the face said, "How do you now guess I will make you a present of your fair cup bearer?
"The object of my devotion is single and sufficient," said he. "I can receive no other."
Gheti Afroz was pleased and said, "I am glad to find your affection so refined and shall be happy to see you some days in this company, but man is an impatient creature. From his impatience results many misfortunes which he is very apt to lay to our charge. You had better take Ruh Afza as a remedy of impatience and with the throat of a thirsty lip imbibe the wine of her affection."
"The sight of you is too propitious to me," said Melech Mahommed. "I am too much delighted with the view of these charms."
In such conversation the day passed, and at night Gheti Afroz ordered a couch to be prepared for Melech Mahommed in the chamber of Ruh Afza.
Melech Mahommed said, "What cruel speech is this a second time? Is not the view of your charms enough for me?"
Gheti Afroz bent her under lip with a sarcastic smile. "I fear you will not be as easily satisfied, but remember any indiscretion will be your farewell to my society."
"The view of your charms even from a distance is too great a pleasure for me," said he. "I shall be in no danger of indiscretion."
"You know best," said Gheti Afroz.
Within the place was a basin of water, on the one side of which she ordered her own couch to be spread and on the other that of Melech Mahommed. That night he passed very vexatiously.
Next day they caroused by the basin of water and Ruh Afza was cup bearer of the party. Melech Mahommed’s love waxed so warm that he could brook no further delay and passionately threw himself at the feet of Gheti Afroz.
"Be content and cautious," said the princess, "for any indiscretion will make a beast of you, and that you will find no easy thing to remedy. It is better to be patient even under a thousand difficulties. Be seated and compose yourself."
But in the victory of the senses, what room is there for patience or propriety? A Perizadi brought in a scented rose to present to the princess. Melech Mahommed led her forward in hopes that his hand might chance to touch that of Gheti Afroz. The princess stretched out her hand to take the Rose when Melech Mahommed, devoid of self command, fixed an impassionate kiss on it.
"Ah, you cursed billing dove," said Gheti Afroz, "what is that for?"
Immediately, Melech Mohammed, baffled of his desire, whirled round and round in the form of a dove.
The poor dove was quite petrified at this token of affection. The live long day he flew from turret to turret and hopped from branch to branch before his unrelenting mistress, but, finding it was all to no purpose, he next took the nearest road to his own house. He flew into it without ceremony but presently observed with very little satisfaction that his servants, with great glee, were setting gins and traps to catch him.
This was an unforeseen stroke, but providence stood his friend and it came into the head of one of them to say, "Poor little dove. Let it go my lads, for the love of our master who has not been seen these many days."
Then they let him go, but he overheard one of them say to another, "Our master’s uncle Danish Bait, the King’s vizir of this city, has been enquiring after him, and I told him that Melech Mahommed had not been seen since he set out for the place of the Peries. ‘For the place of the Peries,’ said he, ‘that cursed race, can, in a single moment, turn a man into a beast. If he comes looking, let me know, and do not let him return to them.’"
When the dove heard this, he thanked his stars and immediately flew to the house of Danish Bait. The Vizir was sitting on his seat of dignity, surrounded by the mew of business and engaged in the discussion of some important matters. The dove flew round the chamber and perched on the lap of his uncle.
Danish Bait thought a mere bird would not have been so familiar with him and immediately conjectured this to be his nephew, metamorphosed by the Perizadis into the shape of a dove. He called Cafoor, a eunuch of the Seraglia , to bring him a box of medicine. Having inserted a little of it to the bill of the dove, it fluttered round and round in a circle and immediately Melech Mahommed recovered his own form.
Danish Bait embraced his nephew with great joy. He strenuously advised him to send for his effects and his servants and never to visit that caravanserai again, for if the same misfortune befell him a second time he would be unable to restore him.
"I have done with it," said his nephew. "I may well think one visit enough."
When Melech Mahommed returned to his own house, his servants all came to congratulate him and enquire what had befallen him.
"Befallen me?" said he. "I fell into your hands, and a fine hospitable reception I met with. You wanted to cut off my head with my own knife. God-a-mercy that I got out of your clutches."
His servants could not comprehend his meaning till he mentioned the circumstance of the dove. When they thanked their stars that worse had not happened, Melech Mahommed rewarded handsomely the man whose compassion had saved his life, and the man for many days lived as happy as the day was long.
The Second Transformation of the Water Bird
By chance, as he was sitting one night in a musing mood, he thought, "I wonder if Gheti Afroz has ever compassionated the situation she reduced me to."
The more he mused, the more he got perplexed, till at last he called for wine to drive the thought out of his head. He tossed off a couple of goblets, but instead of driving he idea out of his head, it drove it into his heart till he became quite impatient to see her again.
"Make an ass or a dog of me," said he, "I will not desert the lovely charmer."
He kicked down his bottle and glass on the ground, quite forgetting his uncle’s advice, and up he got to set out for the Place of Gheti Afroz. The people of the house, when they perceived his intention, ran with doleful hubbub to hinder him, all in vain-
Fearful of harm without delay
Where love and beauty led the way
He took the path intend to gain
His heart’s dear solace all in vain.
When he came to the door of the palace, he called aloud, "Open to the faithful Melech Mohammed."
The door was opened. In he went and saw Gheti Afroz dressed in robes of incomparable beauty. Her lovely face was flushed with the juice of the grape, and she sat in such a delicious posture that he was enflamed with love a hundred thousand times more than ever.
Smiling, she asked him, "What strange disorder seized you? How could a wise man like you be guilty of such an indiscretion?"
"Ah," said he, "it was very hard to be so severely punished for one kiss of that charming hand."
"Well," said she, "I love you so dearly that to compensate the misfortune you shall have free leave to kiss both my hands and my feet as often as you please, but beware of further indiscretion or you know what will happen—
His bursting joy so long denied
Impetuous all restraint defied
So glad to wanton unconfined
She like pistachios bursts its rind5
He prostrated himself on the ground for delight. The music played and the cup of friendship went jovially round till the decline of day. Then night closed her sable canopy over their heads and they spread their couches of repose. Gheti Afroz ordered his couch as before to be spread on the other side of the basin of water.
Melech Mahommed objected, "How can I then have pleasure of kissing your hands and feet?"
She said, "I do not wish to have you to punish again for indiscretion."
He protested. She relented and finally permitted him to have his couch placed by her own.
"Ah," thought Melech Mahommed, "I see she has more affection for me than she is willing to show. I was anxious to have an opportunity of admiring her even at a distance, and she has given me a place close beside her."
The goblet went round. They were both warmed with wine and hour after hour he kissed her hands and her feet. He could not help aspiring to her lips and her mouth.
"Ah," said he, "there is nothing like lip to lip. How shall I accomplish this?"
Fear of falling from his present good fortune and being again converted into a beast restrained him, but for all that he could not command himself. Ah, that mischievous power of wine, when does it leave a person the power of self-restraint?
"Betide whatever betide," said he as he placed his two hands on the sides of her couch and bent to kiss her peach-like lip.
As his breath reached her nostrils, she awaked and saw that he had assumed a strange position. Smiling disdainfully, she said, "Ah, you simpleton, what was it you promised? Be cautious or you must once more take your departure."
Melech Mahommed retreated to his couch in disgrace. "Gods, what a fate is mine," said he to himself, "to be still baffled of attaining my desire at the very moment when it seems within my reach." –
When the golden sun appeared at the windows of the East, they assembled round the basin of the water. Gheti Afroz exclaimed—
"Where is the fair cheeked damsel you
From whose soft pearly hand alone
The ruddy goblets as they flow,
Can mitigate the lovers woe,"
Ruh Afza immediately entered with the silver featured cupbearers and brought in the ruby wine, saying—
"Well may the ruby boast its hew
Mid jewels hanged to court the view
But golden cups of ruby wine
The ruby’s richest hues outshine."6
When night had arrayed the world in her party-coloured vesture, they retired to their couch of repose and, the conversation having turned on jewels, Melech Mohammed said that he possessed two which were brilliant as the lamp of the night. Gheti Afroz requested he would send for them next morning.
When Gheti Afroz fell asleep, Melech Mohammed, impelled by love, advanced and, laying hold of her hand, moved it over his eyes. Casting his eyes on her lips, he exclaimed—
"In fancy once with headlong haste
I dared that ruby lip to taste
And never never from my heart
Can the dear delusion part."
He could have wished to have restrained the impetuosity of his passion but was quite unable—
That sugared juicy lip too sweet
With lips of mortal man to meet
Inflamed his soul that lip to gain
Might recompense an age of pain
No longer able to brook restraint, he snatched a kiss immediately.
Gheti Afroz awoke and angrily exclaimed, "Ha, water bird, what is that?"
Melech Mohammed fluttered pendulously and in a moment appeared in the form of a water bird.
At that period of the story Semen Ruh, the queen of Azar Shah, asked, "Did the poor, unfortunate lover ever regain his form?"
Orders were immediately issued to beat the drums for joy and proclaim the success of the Sheik and his disciples, who then proceeded as follows.
When Melech Mohammed was changed into a water bird, servants of the princess drove him away from the couch. It was a dark night, and, as he did not know where to bend his course, he remained in the basin of the water.
"A malice on bad luck," said he, "what a jade of a star is mine to play me such a dog’s trick."
When the golden sun displayed his radiance from the east, Gheti Afroz, according to custom, sealed herself by the basin of water.
Observing backwards and forwards, she exclaimed, "Ah, you impatient creature, did not I tell you to be respectful or some misfortune would happen? But you would not listen to me, and now, why do you flutter about there which can avail you nothing? Why do you not go to your uncle, who perhaps may restore you to your own form?"
Melech Mahommed now perceived that, though he stayed a thousand years, it would be to no purpose, so he immediately got under wing for his own city.
By chance the sultan had that day gone a hawking and was taking his diversion by the side of a lake that abounded in water fowl. A hungry falcon was perched on his fist, and his eye caught a glimpse of Melech Mahommed as he was passing. He immediately threw off the falcon, which soon grasped Melech Mohammed like grim death by the neck with his talons. Unable to extricate himself, almost at the last gasp he precipitated himself with the falcon into the lake. After two or three plunges beneath the surface, the hawk, who had got out of his element and whose feathers were all ruffled and spoiled by the water, released his prey and with extreme difficulty got out of the lake.
The king was angry when he saw that he did not fetch the quarry and told the falconer who had charge of him that he should suffer for having neglected the hawk. Melech Mohammed repined quite despairingly of escaping while the king continued his diversion. When the king departed, the falconer whom he had chided returned to the lake, thinking the bird which had been wounded might still linger behind. As ill luck would have it, he observed Melech Mahommed on the act of taking his flight.
"Blessed be the mark," said he. "Here is the very bird." He immediately threw off a falcon. Melech Mahommed saw a very large falcon pursuing him and put all his hope in flight. The hawk pounced at him and seized him in the air. The water bird with great difficulty dragged him again under water and escaped severely wounded in the struggle.
Melech Mahommed remained in the lake till the danger was over, when he took flight and, arriving at his uncles house, perched on the roof. His uncle at that very time was looking at the game which had been brought in and expressing his regret that the water bird had escaped from the clutches of the hawk and the hawk had been dabbled in the water.
Melech Mahommed thought this a fit time to make his appearance and, draggled and stained with blood as he was, darted into the middle of the party. Every body was surprised at the circumstance and thought it ominous for a water fowl to venture amid a company of men. But, when Danish Bait saw the woeful flight in which the bird was with his feathers and wings all ruffled and bespattered with blood, he immediately divined that it was Melech Mahommed who had been wounded by the claws of the hawk.
He said, "Water bird, if you be my nephew, rustle your feathers." The bird complied and his uncle railed at him bitterly. "Miscreant," said he, "you would have been finely served had the hawk ended your unlucky days. Did I not tell you to avoid these ill fated beings? But you would still return to that place of perdition."
After sitting long silent and sulky he began to pity the poor bird and said, "If you will take a solemn oath never again to be a miscreant I will forgive you this once."
The water bird nodded assent and Danish Bait sent the eunuch Cafoor for the box of medicine. He put a little of it into his mouth, by virtue of which he recovered his own form. After a severe admonition, he proceeded to his own house and his people, who had been greatly alarmed at his absence, came round him.
They demonstrated, "What a sad madness is this which has fallen over on you, to be constantly deserting us in so strange a manner. Your uncle has taken a solemn oath that if you do so any more, he will have no pity on you though you should die for it."
He told them that he repented of his freaks and resolved never again to go.
The Third Transformation of the Ass
Melech Mahommed lived for some time in his usual manner and every day visited his uncle. But, as he was one night sitting at home, he heard a strange tumult in the air and, looking up, he saw Gheti Afroz seated in a splendid throne surrounded with hosts of Perizadiz, music of exquisite modulation playing before her; a miraculous spectacle with strange hubbub and riotous mirth diffused all over the face of the sky.
At this sight, Melech Mohammed was ready to dance alone. "What a poor ninny am I," thought he, "to have deserted so delectable a company to live in a pitiful place like this."
Till the Perezadis disappeared he stood staring as if he would gaze his eyes out, and then, like a frantic person, he ordered his horse for he would go to visit his uncle. As this was his usual practice, nobody had any suspicion of him. Having taken the jewels which he had mentioned to Gheti Afroz along with him, he mounted his horse and took the load to the palace of the Peris.
When he come to the door, he rattled the ring and called out, "Open to the faithful Melech Mahommed."
So said, so done. He entered and saw Gheti Afroz a thousand times more charming than ever, arrayed in robes of unearthly splendor and seated on her throne.
As soon as she saw him, she cried, "Come away. You are welcome. I am glad to see that you have not forgotten me."
She gave him a seat on her own cushion and enquired after his adventures. He produced jewels and presented them in the most respectful manner. She gave them to her steward, saying, "Well, well, but Melech Mahommed, when did you get rid of the form of a water bird?"
Fetching a deep sigh he answered—
Wound on wound and grief on grief
And still to sigh without relief
Must be the hapless lover’s part
I fence your beauty pierce his heart7
"But it is yourself," said she, casting her arms round his neck, "who have brought all these woes on your own head. How can I prevent them?" She added with an embrace—
To kiss my hands and kiss my feet
For true love is no longer meet
Now to my glowing lips aspire
But there but there restrain desire
He protested that the honour equally exceeded his deserts and his expectations. Goblets of ruby were then ushered in by the silver-featured cupbearers, bustling and jingling the glasses to show their alacrity. They enjoyed the festive board till midnight when their couches were prepared by the basin of water.
In a moment, a strange tumult spread over the azure expanse of heaven. Gheti Afroz and Melech Mohammed started from their sleep and enquired from Ruh Afza the cause of the unusual noise. A messenger announced the arrival of Filsoof , her father’s Vizier. At that instant, the Vizier entered the door and with profound obeisance presented a letter. She placed it on her eyes and, having perused it, cast a blushful look down on the ground. The Vizier, however, took up the conversation in a style of respectful remonstrance.
"Princess," said he, "what sort of baseness is this to be engaged in to associate yourself with a mortal man? What have the Perizadis to do with mankind? Our whole race is in a passion at your conduct, and affection scarce lives in the breast of your father, though he is continually reminding himself that—
A child whose faults unnumbered rise
Is blameless in his father’s eyes
For children joys uncounted give
But childless it is death to live
Shake off this base infatuation immediately and come along with me to your father. It is long since all your relations have been anxious to see you."
After a long pause, Gheti Afroz raised her eyes and said, "This letter of reprehension is, I see, a fabrication of your own and is as futile as it is false. This man of mortal race has been long a tried friend of mine. For me, he has endured every kind of misery. I have several times changed him into the shape of some animal, but in spite of all my injuries he has been faithful and has not forsaken my society. I am now ashamed to confess the vehemence of me affection for him, for I have neither peace nor tranquility except in his presence and could not live out of his sight."
With this she threw her arms round the neck of Melech Mohammed and they mutually impressed the most fervent kisses on each others’ lips. The Vizier sighed with indignation while Melech Mohammed repeated this stanza—
All earthly happiness in mine
No more I joy no more repine
No care have I of good or ill
Save of my sovereign lady’s will
The Vizier saw no remedy for the evil and remained silent for pure rage.
"Vizier," said Gheti Afroz, "my father and mother have no longer any affection for me. Tell them to set their hearts on some other. I am entangled in the mazes of an earthly love—
My father leaves me without a mock?
But when were the chickens hatched by the cock
My haughty mother adieu to thee
My humble love is enough for me
My brother of me has little heed
Two harvests we of different seed
But let my busy prying aunt
Be careful to avoid my haunt
The little ant my aunt shall be
For my earthly love is enough for me.8
When the Vizier heard this, unable any longer to restrain himself, he rose and said abruptly, "God’s curse on my head if ever more I see thy face."
"Amen," said Gheti Afroz.
He shook open the fold of his garment. "Long be the life of Ansar Shah. We have nothing more to do with thee," and immediately he departed with his attendants.
When he presented himself before Ansar Shah, he related the bad [periesms.034.1.34] success of his mission and mentioned what he had seen and heard. The elder brother of Gheti Afroz immediately proposed to pay her a visit and reclaim her to her duty. "At all events," said Ansar Shah, "let us destroy this man of mortal mirth, and then her affections may take another course."
Melech Mohammed, however, was all the while congratulating himself extremely on all that had happened. "Ah," said he, "I go on prosperously."
"You see in what style," said Gheti Afroz, "for the love of another, I have dismissed my father’s Vizier."
"My soul is unable to express the fervor of my gratitude," answered Melech Mohammed.
The silver-limbed cupbearers bought in the ruby wine and, after having quaffed several goblets, they embraced each other tenderly. They passed the time in affectionate caresses till midnight, when then retired to the same couch.
"Be cautious," said Gheti Afroz, "not to transgress your prescribed limits, and be not guilty of any indiscretion that you will have cause to repent of."
"I am too happy," he answered, "to be permitted to kiss your hands and feet."
Twining their arms affectionately around each other’s necks, they laid themselves down to sleep. Sleep, however, was the least thing that Melech Mohammed thought of, as the verse says—
Ah how can patience e’er reside
With youthful sovereigns drunk with pride
Ah how can patience e’er empty
A youthful lover drunk with joy
Incapable of rest, he rose and beheld the Narcissus-like eyes of the princess closed in the profound sleep of wine and the drops of perspiration standing on her brow. Melech Mohammed said, as he kissed her hand and her cheek—
Upon her rosy features shine
The pearly dews of joyous wine
As dew drops bright the rose pervade
Whose leaves expand beneath the shade
"Betide what may," thought he, "I will endure no more delay."
As he attempted to unloose the cestus of desire, Gheti Afroz [EW1] started from sleep. "Melech Mohammed," said she, "why will you not love compassion on yourself? Are you so anxious to be again under wing?"
Melech Mohammed, ashamed of his conduct, retired to his couch, and, after some reflection and a cup of reconciliation, Gheti Afroz again lay down to sleep—
The Loseph new of golden light
From daemon gloom emerges bright
So Tunis shone when bursting free
From the dark monster of the sea
Gheti Afroz arose and walked with Melech Mahommed through the garden, afterwards taking him along with her in the ornamented car. They went a-hunting into the desert. They hunted east, they hunted west, wherever there was plenty of game. Then they prepared to noble feast in a spot of uncommon beauty, roasted the produce of the chase, and jovially quaffed the flowing goblet, after which they turned their faces homeward and arrived at the palace in the twinkling of an eye. The musicians then brought their instruments and struck up the most delightful harmony and they amused themselves with music and dancing—
When evening starred with roses bright
Returns with soft and dangerous light
And quick the ruddy goblets move
Sin in the tempting hour of love
As down the West the Sun declines
His disk a golden goblet shines
To bathe in western water sent
O’er the green fritted firmament
As slow the dusky mists congeal
Their magic lines of fate reveal
Their freckled character which lie
Obscure along the evening sky
Like a lion for the chase
Upstarts the moon with sanguine face
And tell the raven night be o’er
Immerses fierce her claws in gore
When evening set in, she ordered her car. Having seated herself with Melech Mahommed and attended with innumerable torches, they set out for the garden of the Shah. In a moment they had entered the gate and were traversing the garden; they proceeded to the brink of the reservoir and, there having seated themselves, they passed the goblet jovially round ’til half the night was spent. Then they remounted the car, returned to the place in an instant, and retired to their couches of repose again.
Melech Mahommed rested by the side of the Princess. He awaked during the night and saw Gheti Afroz in all her charms sleeping in a careless position and bathing her lovely face in the dew of her perspiration. He exclaimed—
How fair the scene that courts my view
A sweet rose garden bathes in dew
Pure as the crystal streams that run
From the dear fountain of the sun9
He kissed her charming countenance. Perceiving that she was greatly overcome with wine, he said to himself, "Hap what may, I will assay," and quickly unloosed the cestus of desire.
That instant Gheti Afroz awoke and, perceiving his indiscretion in great fury, exclaimed, "Ha! Cursed ass, what is that?" Melech Mahommed without remedy instantly took a long leap in the form of an ass—
At this period of the narration, the queen Semen Ruh again raised her eyes and enquired if the poor fellow ever recovered his own form. The drums were immediately ordered to be beat for joy. Ansar Shah expressed the proudest gratitude to the Sheik and his disciples and they all said by the blessing of God the queen would certainly recover from her malady.
When the servant of Gheti Afroz saw that Melech Mahommed was transformed into an ass, they took sticks and beat him and drove him out of the apartments of the queen.
"God a mercy," thought he. "What an unlucky job is this I have brought on my own head. What shall I do now, or what scheme I fall upon?" Having no other resource, he trudged off to the city and, coming to his uncle’s house, attempted to enter. The Chobolans presently saluted him with their cudgels and, having thrashed him well, drove him away. It was then he felt all the disgrace of his ass’s shape and being quite at a loss to which hand to turn himself, he consoled himself with the idea that—
Whatever by a friend is thrown
Is lucky, be it stick or stone.
He then took the road to his own house, when who should he encounter but his own servants again, who ran for sticks to beat him. But there the ass had the heels of them, and scampering nimbly into his own house he tumbled directly into his bed.
"By all that is wonderful," said the servants. "This can be nobody but our master and love has made an ass of him as it oft has done of many good men. Who ever heard of an ass going to bed? Aye, it can be nobody but our master. He would not mind what his uncle told him." They then proceeded to inform him of the indignation of his uncle at his infamous conduct and that he had taken a solemn oath never to pity him though he should die. The doleful ass showed by his mumping that he knew their meaning. Day passed after day, but no remedy came for the poor ass.
At last his servants said, "It is true the old curmudgeon will have no pity on him but yet it is fit that we should try what can be done." They set out in a body to Danish Bait and told him that his nephew was again transformed, and transformed into an ass too. The vizir was quite ashamed at the account and reviled him bitterly.
"No," said he, "though the soul should go out of his unlucky carcass I will have nothing to do with him. Let him wear his ass hide to the end of time, till death strip it over his ears." The servants of Melech Mahommed were quite nonplussed and returned all in the dumps to their master the ass. Finding there was no remedy, he resigned himself to fate like an ass of patience—
Disasters on my head let fall
Thy humble slave shall bear them all
And unrepiningly submit
To all Majestic power deems fit.
Nine weary months he remained in this situation, and all the while his uncle made not the least enquiry after him.
The visit of King Anu Shah to the Place of the Peries
It happened by chance one night that Anu Shah, King of that country, was carousing on the terraced roof of his places when the Perizadis with the sound of mirth and exquisite music appeared on the face of the sky; strange and splendid company such as had never else been seen. He beheld Gheti Afroz in splendid array seated on a throne composed of a single polished jacinth, a vizir beautiful as the Moon with the flowing goblet passing and repassing before her. Anu Shah was inflamed with love at her aspect.
"What a wonderfully charming place," said he, "it must be the residence of these Perizadis. Their charms would render any place quite delightful. I wonder if it possible for a person to form an acquaintance with them."
"Who fails of that fares the better," said Danish Bait, "for they never fail some way or other to ruin the person that has any intercourse with them. They generally conclude by changing him into some animal, and he is lucky man that ever recovers his own form."
"Amusing enough, to be sure," said the King, "but the question is how to get acquainted with them."
Said another vizir, who owed a sort of grudge to Danish Bait: "Of all the men in the world, nobody is so well acquainted with them as his own nephew who has visited them a hundred times and could tell you all about them had they not out of pure good will and friendship lately changed him into an ass."
"Oh send for him, by all means," said the Shah. "I long to hear what account he gives of them.”
Danish Bait, who during the narration was ready to sink into the ground for perfect shame, protested and swore that he has never had a nephew in existence.
“Poh” said the shah, “be done with your nonsense, and bring him instantly here, or I shall be quite indignant.”
Danish Bait saw that all his asseverations gained no credit and, fearful of provoking the prince, he was forced to trudge off to his nephew’s house. The poor ass, who had long been moping sadly about, no sooner saw his uncle than he made him an awkward bow and attempted to resign his place to him. Danish Bait, with great indignation, told him the place of an ass was fit only for an ass and began to revile him in the bitterest torn.
“Abominable, worthless animal,” said he, “Did not I tell you to what a black end you would bring yourself? It is not enough for you to bring ruin on your own head, but you must bring irretrievable disgrace on every person connected with you. I have now left you to wear your ass’s hide for 9 months to see if it be possible to make you feel your own disgrace. And now, though you ought to be left to die in that pretty figure you cut, come along instantly for King Anu Shah wishes to hear the history of this pretty amour of yours, which gave you so much satisfaction. Bring a halter youth,” said he to the servants, “So that we may teach him to relish the sweetness of love.”
They bound a halter round the neck of the helpless ass and led him out of the door. Danish Bait mounted his horse and ordered them to drive him on before them so that everybody might see an idiot in his true shape. Melech Mahommed took it all with patience, thinking it less than he deserved to pay for his folly.
When Danish Bait, however, had proceeded a few paces, he began to pity his situation: “Though he is but an ass at best, though he bears my nephew’s name, and people would not,it would be well done of me to carry him to court in this situation.” He therefore turned out of the public road and when he came to his own house, he sent the eunuch Cafoor to bring the box of medicine. He found it nearly empty.
“Bring water,” cried he, “An ass must by all means fill his belly.” He diluted what remained of the medicine and poured it down the throat of the ass which immediately took a
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