THE KHALIF HISHAM AND THE ARAB YOUTH.

The Khalif Hisham ben Abdulmelik ben Merwan was hunting one day, when he sighted an antelope and pursued it with his dogs. As he was following the chase, he saw an Arab youth pasturing sheep and said to him, 'Ho, boy, up and stop yonder antelope, for it escapeth me!' The youth raised his head and replied, 'O ignorant of the worth of the worthy, (125) thou lookest on me with disdain and speakest to me with contempt; thy speech is that of a tyrant and thy conduct that of an ass.' 'Out on thee,' cried Hisham. ' Dost thou not know me?' 'Verily,' rejoined the youth, 'thine unmannerliness hath made thee known to me, in that thou spokest to me, without beginning by the salutation." (126) 'Out on thee!' repeated the Khalif. 'I am Hisham ben Abdulmelik.' 'May God not favour thy dwellings,' replied the Arab, 'nor guard thine abiding-place! How many are thy words and how few thy generosities!' Hardly had he spoken, when up came the troops from all sides and surrounded him, saying, ' Peace be on thee, O Commander of the Faithful!' Quoth Hisham, 'Leave this talk and seize me yonder boy.' So they laid hands on him; and when he saw the multitude of chamberlains and viziers and officers of state, he was in nowise concerned and questioned not of them, but let his chin fall on his breast and looked where his feet fell, till they brought him to the Khalif, (127) when he stood before him, with head bowed down, and saluted him not neither spoke. So one of the attendants said to him, 'O dog of the Arabs, what ails thee that thou salutest not the Commander of the Faithful?' The youth turned to him angrily and replied, 'O packsaddle of an ass, the length of the way it was that hindered me from this and the steepness of the steps and sweat.' Then said Hisham (and indeed he was exceeding wroth), 'O boy, thou art come to thy last hour; thy hope is gone from thee and thy life is past.' 'By Allah, O Hisham,' answered the Arab, 'if the time (128) be prolonged and its cutting short be not ordained of destiny, thy words irk me not, be they much or little.' Then said the (chief) chamberlain to him, 'O vilest of the Arabs, what art thou to bandy words with the Commander of the Faithful?' He answered promptly, 'Mayest thou meet with adversity and may woe and mourning never depart from thee! Hast thou not heard the saying of God the Most High? "One day, every soul shall come to give an account of itself."' (129) "At this, Hisham rose, in great wrath, and said, 'O headsman, bring me his head; for indeed he multiplies talk, such as passes conception, and fears not reproach.' So the headsman took him and making him kneel on the carpet of blood, drew his sword and said to the Khalif, 'O Commander of the Faithful, shall I smite off the head of this thy misguided slave, who is on the way to his grave, and be quit of his blood?' 'Yes,' replied Hisham. He repeated his question and the Khalif again replied in the affirmative. Then he asked leave a third time, and the youth, knowing that, if the Khalif assented yet once more, it would be the signal of his death, laughed till his wang-teeth appeared; at which Hisham's wrath redoubled and he said to him, 'O boy, meseems thou art mad; seest thou not that thou art about to depart the world? Why then dost thou laugh in mockery of thyself?' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered the young Arab, 'if my life is to be prolonged, none can hurt me, great or small; but I have bethought me of some verses, which do thou hear, for my death cannot escape thee.' 'Say on and be brief,' replied Hisham; so the Arab repeated the following verses: A hawk once seized a sparrow, so have I heard men say, A sparrow of the desert, that fate to him did throw; And as the hawk was flying to nestward with his prize, The sparrow in his clutches did thus bespeak his foe: "There's nought in me the stomach of such as thou to stay; Indeed, I'm all too paltry to fill thy maw, I trow." The hawk was pleased and flattered with pride and self conceit; He smiled for self-contentment and let the sparrow go. At this Hisham smiled and said, 'By my kinship to the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve), had he spoken thus at first, I had given him all he asked, except the Khalifate!' Then he bade his servants stuff his mouth with jewels and entreat him courteously; so they did as he bade them and the Arab went his way.




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