The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Volume 3: by John Payne


1. It need hardly be remarked that Eastern stirrups are made so to do duty as spurs.

2. i.e. The Seven Sleepers.

3. i.e. The birds of prey.

4. "O thou of the little stronghold." A sobriquet popularly bestowed on the fox, even as we call him "Reynard."

5. These verses are full of plays upon words. which it is impossible to render in a translation.

6. i.e. blood, like wine in colour.

7. The face.

8. The teeth.

9. The wine-cup.

10. Alluding to the Eastern practice of dying the hands with henna in concentric bands.

11. The lips, likened to the plum of the jujube-tree.

12. The teeth.

13. A well-known metaphor for the brilliant whiteness of the face shining through the black hair.

14. The lips.

15. The teeth.

16. Mejnoun, the well-known lover of Eastern romance.

17. These verses apparently relate to Aboulhusn, but it is possible that they may be meant to refer to Shemsennehar, as the masculine is constantly used for the feminine in Oriental love-poetry.

18. As that of a martyr. See Vol. II. p. 25, note 2. {Vol. 2, FN#15}

19.  Two fallen angels appointed to tempt men by teaching them the art of magic.

20. An idol or idols of the Arabs before Mohammed.

21. The browlocks, from their shape, are commonly likened by Eastern poets to scorpions.

22. Three stars so called in the Great Bear.

23. Or recite.

24. There are three orders of Jinn: the upper or inhabitants of the air, the lower or inhabitants of the earth and the divers or inhabitants of the waters.

25. Lit. lean and fat.

26. Syn. eye (nazir).

27. Syn. eyebrow (hajib).

28. A play upon words turning upon the literal meaning ("auspicious full moons") of the two names of women Budour and Suad.

29. Ring-mail.

30. i.e. Orvietan or Venice treacle, the well-known universal remedy of the middle ages, alluded to by Chaucer in the words, "And Christ that is unto all ills triacle."

31. Names of women.

32. Women's name.

33. Women's name.

34. i.e. a woman.

35. Women's names.

36. Wine.

37. i.e. by way of ornament.

38. The well-known semi-legendary sage and fabulist.

39. Playing upon his own name, Kemerezzeman, which means, "Moon of the time or of fortune." Budour means "Full moons."

40. Siwaka, a toothstick, (acc.) means also "other than thee."

41. Araka, a capparis-tree, (acc.) means also, "I see thee." Toothsticks are made of

the wood of this tree.

42. A treasury of money is a thousand purses or about 5,000.

43. This expression is of course metaphorical. Cf. Solomon's Song passim.

44. i.e. gum tragacanth.

45. See post p. 317. {see Vol. 3. Maan Ben Zaideh and the Three Girls, FN#121.}

46. The mansuetude of the Khalif Muawiyeh, the founder of the Ommiade dynasty, is a proverb among the Arabs, though hardly to be reconciled with the accredited records of his life and actions.

47. Alluding, for the sake of metaphor, to the months of purification which, according to the Muslim ceremonial law, must be accomplished by a divorced woman, before she can marry again.

48. A divorce three times pronounced cannot be revoked.

49. Fabulous peoples mentioned in the Koran.

50. Said to be so called, because they attract sparrows (asafir), but it seems to me more probable that the name denotes the colour of the fruit and is derived from usfur, safflower.

51. Koran, xxxiii. 38.

52.  Met. anus.

53.  Met. cunnus.

54. Kibleh, the point of the compass to which one turns in prayer. Mecca is the Kibleh of the Muslims, even as Jerusalem that of the Jews and Christians. The meaning of the text is obvious.

55. i.e. of God.--Koran, li. 9.

56. The word (futouh) translated "openings" may also be rendered "victories" or "benefits."

57. Cf. Aristophanes, Lysistrata and Ecclesiazusæ passim.

58. An audacious parody of the Koran, applied ironically, "And the pious work God shall raise up."--Koran, xxxv. 11.

59. Lit. The chapter of clearing (oneself from belief in any but God), or Unity, Koran, cxii. It ends with the words, "There is none like unto Him."

60. i.e. but for the soul that animated them.

The word "nights" (more commonly "days," sometimes also "days and nights," as in the verses immediately following) is constantly used in the sense of "fortune" or "fate" by the poets of the East.

Abdallah ibn ez Zubeir revolted (A.D. 680) against Yezid (second Khalif of the Ommiade dynasty) and was proclaimed Khalif at Mecca, where he maintained himself till A.D. 692, when he was killed in the siege of that town by the famous Hejjaj, general of Abdulmelik, the fifth Ommiade Khalif.

 The allusion here appears to be to the burning of part of Mecca, including the Temple and Kaabeh, during the (unsuccessful) siege by Hussein, A.D. 683.

Three Muslim sectaries (Kharejites), considering the Khalif Ali (Mohammed's son-in-law), Muawiyeh (founder of the Ommiade dynasty) and Amr (or Amrou), the conqueror of Egypt, as the chief authors of the intestine discords which then (A.D. 661 ) ravaged Islam, conspired to assassinate them; but only succeeded in killing Ali, Muawiyeh escaping with a wound and the fanatic charged with the murder of Amr slaying Kharijeh, the chief of the police at Cairo, by mistake, in his stead. The above verses are part of a famous but very obscure elegy on the downfall of one of the Muslim dynasties in Spain, composed in the twelfth century by Ibn Abdoun el Andalousi, one of the most celebrated of the Spanish Arabic poets.

i.e. fortune. The word dunya (world) is constantly used in poetry to signify "fortune" or "the fortune of this world."

This line is a characteristic example of the antithetical conceits so common in Oriental poetry. The meaning is, "My grief makes all I behold seem black to me, whilst my tears have washed out all the colour from my eyes."

i.e. the tomb.

The wood of which makes a peculiarly fierce and lasting fire.

Koran iv. 38.

Most happy.


Most happy.

73. The gift of God. The h in Nimeh becomes t before a vowel.

i.e. happiness.

Num is synonymous with Saad. The purpose of the change of name was to make the little one's name correspond with that of Nimeh, which is derived from the same root.

i.e. to any one, as we should say, "to Tom, Dick or Harry."

i.e. to any one, as we should say, "to Tom, Dick or Harry."

El Hejjaj ben Yousuf eth Thekefi, a famous statesman and soldier of the seventh and eighth centuries. He was governor of Chaldæa under the fifth and sixth Ommiade Khalifs and was renowned for his cruelty; but appears nevertheless to have been a prudent and capable administrator, who probably used no more rigour than was necessary to restrain the proverbially turbulent populations of Bassora and Cufa. Most of the anecdotes of his brutality and tyranny, some of which will be found in this collection, are, in all probability, apocryphal.

Wool is the distinctive wear of Oriental devotees.

Koran xxv. 70.

Of the Koran.

This verse contains a series of jeux-de-mots, founded upon the collocation of the three proper names, Num, Suada and Juml, with the third person feminine singular, preterite-present, fourth conjugation, of their respective verb-roots, i.e. idka anamet Num, if Num vouchsafe, etc., etc.


"And he (Jacob) turned from them, saying, 'Woe is me for Joseph!' And his eyes grew white for grief ... (Quoth Joseph to his brethren) 'Take this my shirt and throw it over my father's face and he will recover his sight' ... So, when the messenger of glad tidings came (to Jacob), he threw it (the shirt) over his face and he was restored to sight."--Koran xii. 84, 93, 96.

Hemzeh and Abbas were uncles of Mohammed. The Akil here alluded to is apparently a son of the Khalif Ali, who deserted his father and joined the usurper Muawiyeh, the founder of the Ommiade dynasty.

86. One of the numerous quack aphrodisiacs current in the middle ages, as with us cock's cullions and other grotesque prescriptions.

To conjure the evil eye.

i.e. him of the moles.

 Alluding to the redness of his cheeks, as if they had been flushed with wine. The passage may be construed, "As he were a white slave, with cheeks reddened by wine." The Turkish and other white slaves were celebrated for their beauty.

As a protection against the evil eye. We may perhaps, however, read, "Ask pardon of God!", i.e. for your unjust reproach.

See note, post, p. 299. {see Vol. 3, FN#114}

i.e. of the caravan.

A famous Muslim saint of the twelfth century and founder of the four great orders of dervishes. He is buried at Baghdad.

Koran xiii. 14.

Another well-known saint.

i.e. He engaged to do somewhat, undertaking upon oath in case of default to divorce his wife by pronouncing the triple formula of divorcement, and she therefore became divorced, by operation of law, on his failure to keep his engagement.

The 36th chapter of the Koran.

or "herself."

or "myself."

This passage is full of double-entendres, the meaning of most of which is obvious, but others are so obscure and farfetched as to defy explanation.

The raven is the symbol of separation.

One of the names of God (Breslau. The two other editions have it, "O David!"). It is the custom of the Arabs, as will appear in others of these tales, to represent inarticulate music (such as that of birds and instruments) as celebrating the praises of God.

lit. a fan.

One of the most celebrated, as well as the most witty and licentious, of Arab poets. He was one of Haroun er Reshid's boon-companions and died early in the ninth century.

See note, p. 274.{see Vol. 3, FN#102}

The above appears to be the meaning of this somewhat obscure passage; but we may perhaps translate it as follows: "May God preserve (us) from the mischief of he Commander of the Faithful!" "O Vizier," answered the Khalif, "the mischief is passing great."

Meaning that the robbery must have been committed by some inmate of the palace.

Amir. Thus the Breslau edition; the two others give Amin, i.e. one who is trusted or in a position of trust.

According to Mohammedan tradition, it was Ishmael, not Isaac, whom Abraham was commanded to sacrifice.

Apparently a sort of blackmail levied upon merchants and others by the soldiers who protected them against the Bedouins.

A village on the Gulf of Scanderoon.

Or perhaps dinars, the coin not being specified.

Or sectary of Ali. The Shiyaites did not acknowledge the first three Khalifs Abou Bekr, Omar, and Othman, and were wont to write their names upon their heels, in token of contempt. The Sunnites are the orthodox Muslims, who accept the actual order of things.

An open-fronted reception-room, generally on the first floor and giving on the interior court of the house.

Instead of "rank of Amir," we should perhaps read "knighthood."

i.e. It is not enough. See Vol. II, p. 74, note. {see Vol. 2, FN#29}



The Mohammedans accuse the Jews, as well as the Christians, of falsifying their sacred books, so as to suppress the mention of Mohammed.

120. A very famous Arab chieftain of the latter part of the sixth century, especially renowned for the extravagance with which he practiced the patriarchal virtues of generosity and hospitality. He died a few years after Mohammed's birth.

121.  Another famous Oriental type of generosity. He was a celebrated soldier and statesman of the eighth century and stood in high favour with the Ommiade Khalifs, as also (after the change of dynasty) with those of the house of Abbas.

122. Apparently meaning the upper part of the carpet whereon the Amir's chair was set. It is the place of honour and has a peculiar sanctity among the Arabs, it being a breach of good manners to tread upon it (or indeed upon any part of the carpet) with shodden feet.

123. Apparently Toledo.

124. Sixth Khalif of the Ommiade dynasty, A.D. 705-716.

125. Or perhaps "of that which is due to men of worth."

126. It is the invariable custom (and indeed the duty) of every Muslim to salute his co-religionist with the words "Peace be on thee!" upon first accosting him.

127. He having then returned to his palace.

128. i.e. of life.

129. Lit. to dispute about or defend itself, Koran xvi 112.

130.  The Rages of the Apocrypha; a great city of Persia, formerly its capital, but now a mere heap of ruins in the neighbourhood of Teheran.

Ibrahim ben El Mehdi was one of the most celebrated musicians and wits of his day. "He was a man of great merit and a perfect scholar, possessed of an open heart and a generous hand; his like had never before been seen among the sons of the Khalifs, none of whom spoke with more propriety and elegance or composed verses with greater ability." (Ibn Khellikan.)

Ibrahim of Mosul, the greatest musician of the time, a boon-companion and special favourite of Haroun er Reshid and his son.

Lit. the lord of the blood-revenge, i.e. the person entitled to exact the blood-wit.

His Vizier.

Joseph to his brethren, Koran xii. 92.

Playing upon the literal meaning, "blood-sucker," of the word kejjam, cupper or barber-surgeon.

137. The Arabic word is el Medineh, lit. the city. Perhaps the narrator meant to compare the citadel to the actual city of Medina.

A well-known theologian.

Koran lxxxix. 6, 7.

According to the Breslau edition, it was the prophet Hond who, being sent of God to exhort Sheddad and his people to embrace the true faith, promised them Paradise in the next world, as a reward, describing it as above. Quoth Sheddad, on hearing this description, "I will build me in this world the like of this Paradise and I have no need of that thou promisest me."

i.e. the prophet Houd (Heber).

142. Son of Ibrahim el Mausili and still more famous as a musician. He was also an excellent poet and a great favourite with the Khalif Mamoun.

Mamoun's own Vizier, a man of great wealth and munificence.

144. Witout the town.

145. Medewwerek, lit. "something round." This word generally means a small round cushion; but, in the present instance, a gong is evidently referred to.

146. The Prophet's uncle, from whom the Abbaside Khalifs were descended.

147. Lit. "fugleman," i.e. "leader of the people at prayer," a title bestowed upon the Khalifs, in recognition of their spiritual headship.

148. Dies albo lapide notanda.

149. Lit. Kaabeh.

150. Referring to the station in the Temple of Mecca, known as the Mecam or standing-place of Abraham. The wish inferred is that the Khalif's court may be as favourite a place of reverent resort as the station in question.

151. Or (quaere) a pair of forceps.

152. See ante, p. 335. {see Vol. 3, Here}

153. i.e. thieves.

154. See ante, p. 337. {Here}

155. A city on the Euphrates, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

156. The famous King of Persia.

157. In Arabia.

158. Lit. "a thorn-acacia tree." Quaere, the name of a town in Egypt?