THE LOVERS OF THE BENOU TAI

Quoth a man of the Benou Temim (cited by Casim ben Adi), I went out one day in search of a stray beast and coming to the waters of the Benou Tai, saw two companies of people, near one another, and those of each company were disputing among themselves. So I watched them and observed, in one of the companies, a young man, wasted with sickness, as he were a worn-out water-skin. As I looked on him, he repeated the following verses:

      What ails the fair that she returneth not to me? Is't grudgingness in her or inhumanity?

      I sickened, and my folk to visit me came all. Why 'mongst the visitors wast thou then not to see?

      Hadst thou been sick, I would have hastened to thy side; Nor menaces nor threats had hindered me from thee.

      I miss thee midst the rest, and desolate am I: Thy loss, my heart's abode, is grievous unto me.

A damsel in the other company heard his words and hastened towards him. Her people followed her, but she repelled them with blows. Then the youth caught sight of her and ran towards her, whilst his people ran after him and laid hold of him. However, he struggled, till he freed himself from them, and she in like manner loosed herself; and they ran to each other and meeting between the two parties, embraced and fell down dead.

Thereupon there came out an old man from one of the tents and stood over them, weeping sore and exclaiming, "Verily, we are God's and to Him we return!" Then, "May God the Most High have mercy on you both!" said he." By Allah, though you were not united in your lives, I will at least unite you after death." And he bade lay them out. So they washed them and shrouded them in one shroud and buried them in one grave, after they had prayed over them; nor were there men nor women in the two parties but I saw weeping over them and buffeting their faces. Then I questioned the old man of them, and he said, "She was my daughter and he my brother's son; and love brought them to this pass." "May God amend thee!" exclaimed I. "But why didst thou not marry them to one another?" Quoth he, "I feared reproach and dishonour; and now I am fallen upon both."




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