OTBEH AND REYYA.

(Quoth Abdallah ben Maamer el Caisi), I went one year on the pilgrimage to the Holy House of God, and when I had accomplished my pilgrimage, I turned back to visit the tomb of the Prophet, whom God bless and preserve! One night, as I sat in the Garden, (34) between the tomb and the pulpit, I heard a low moaning in a soft voice; so I listened and heard one repeat the following verses:

      Is it the lamentation of the doves of the lotus-tree That stirs the springs of sadness up in the heart of thee?
      Or doth remembrance irk thee of maiden fair and sweet, That hath thy soul afflicted with care and misery?
      O night, thou lingerest sadly on one who's sick for love! Of love and lack of patience full sore complaineth he.
      Thou makest him still wakeful, who's all with passion's heat Consumed, as on live embers he burns unquenchably.
      The full moon is my witness that I am passion's slave, Love-maddened for a maiden who's like the moon to see.
      I deemed not I should ever enamoured be, until This wise I was afflicted and knew it not, ah me!

Then the voice ceased and I abode perplexed, not knowing whence it came to me; but presently it again took up its lament and recited the following verses:

      Was it the ghost of Reyya that racked thy heart, when she, By night black-tressed and sombre, in dreams did visit thee?
      Doth longing to thine eyelids cleave with its wakefulness, And doth the nightly phantom still rob thy soul of glee?
      Unto my night, whilst darkness even as an ocean was, Wherein waves clashed and billowed, sea surging against sea,
      I cried, "O night, thou weariest a lover unto whom, Except the morn, nor helper nor succour may there be."
      But, "Rail not at my slowness; for love's the present cause Of sadness and affliction," it answered unto me.

Now, at the first of the verses, I sprang up and made for the quarter whence the sound came, nor had the voice made an end of repeating them, ere I was with the speaker and saw a youth of the utmost beauty, the hair of whose face had not sprouted and in whose cheeks tears had worn two furrows. Quoth I to him, 'Fair befall thee for a youth!' And he, 'And thee also. Who art thou?' 'Abdallah ben Maamer el Caisi,' answered I, and he said, 'Dost thou want aught?' Quoth I, 'I was sitting in the Garden and nought hath troubled me this night but thy voice. With my life would I ransom thee! What aileth thee?' And he replied, 'Sit down.' So I sat down and he said, 'I am Otbeh ben el Hubab ben el Mundhir ben El Jemouh the Ansari. (35) I went out in the morning to the Mosque of El Ahzab (36) and occupied myself there awhile with inclinations and prostrations, after which I withdrew apart, to worship [privily]. Presently, up came women, as they were moons, walking with a swaying gait, and midmost them a damsel of surpassing loveliness, accomplished in beauty and grace, who stopped before me and said, 'O Otbeh, what sayst thou of union with one who seeks union with thee?' So saying, she left me and went away; and since then I have had no tidings of her nor come upon any trace of her; and behold, I am distracted and do nought but remove from place to place.' Then he cried out and fell down in a swoon. When he came to himself, it was as if the damask of his cheeks were dyed with turmeric, and he recited the following verses:

      I see you with my heart from lands that yet far distant are; I wonder eke if with your hearts ye see me from afar.
      My heart and eyes alike for you do sorrow; yea, with you My soul abideth and the thoughts of you with me still are.
      I cannot take delight in life, till I upon you look; Your lack the very pleasantness of Paradise would mar.

'O Otbeh, O son of my uncle,' said I, 'repent to thy Lord and seek pardon for thine offence; for before thee is the terror of the standing up [to judgment].' 'Away!' answered he. 'I shall never leave to love till the two mimosa-gatherers return.' (37)

I abode with him till daybreak, when I said to him, 'Come, let us go to the Mosque [of El Ahzab].' So we went thither and sat there, till we had prayed the midday prayers, when up came the women; but the damsel was not among them. Quoth they to him, 'O Otbeh, what deemest thou of her who seeketh union with thee?' 'And what of her?' asked he. 'Her father hath taken her,' answered they, 'and departed to Es Semaweh.' I asked them the name of the damsel and they said, 'She is called Reyya, daughter of El Ghitrif es Suleimi.' Whereupon Otbeh raised his head and recited these verses:

      Reyya hath mounted, O my friends, and fared away at dawn; Unto Semaweh's distant land her caravan is gone.
      Friends, I have wept till I can weep no more: hath any tears, That I may borrow them and weep my love from me withdrawn?

Then said I to him, 'O Otbeh, I have brought with me great store of wealth, wherewith I desire to succour men of merit; and by Allah, I will lavish it before thee, so thou mayst come to thy desire and more than thy desire! Come with me to the assembly of the Ansaris.' So we arose and went, till we came to their assembly, when I saluted them and they returned my greeting on goodly wise. Then said I to them, 'O assembly, what say ye of Otbeh and his father?' And they answered, saying, 'They are of the chiefs of the Arabs.' Quoth I, 'Know that he is smitten with the calamity of love and I desire your furtherance to Es Semaweh.' (38) And they said, 'We hear and obey.' So they mounted with us and we rode till we drew near the place of the Benou Suleim.

When Ghitrif heard of our coming, he hastened forth to meet us, saying, 'Long life to you, O nobles!' 'And to thee also!' answered we. 'Behold we are thy guests.' Quoth he, 'Ye have lighted down at a most hospitable and well-furnished abode.' So saying, he alighted and cried out, 'Ho, all ye serving folk, come down!' So the slaves came down and spread rugs and cushions and slaughtered sheep and cattle; but we said, 'We will not taste of thy victual, till thou have accomplished our need.' 'And what is your need?' asked he. Quoth we, 'We demand thy noble daughter in marriage for the illustrious and well-born Otbeh ben Hubab ben Mundhir.' 'O my brethren,' said he, 'she whom you demand is her own mistress, and I will go in to her and tell her?' So he arose in anger and went in to Reyya, who said to him, 'O my father, why do I see anger apparent on thee?' And he answered, saying, 'Certain of the Ansaris have come to demand thy hand of me in marriage.' Quoth she, 'They are noble chiefs; the Prophet, on whom be the most excellent of blessings and peace, intercedeth for them [with God]. For whom among them do they ask me in marriage?' 'For a youth known as Otbeh ben el Hubab,' answered he; and she said, 'I have heard of this Otbeh that he performs what he promises and attains what he seeks.' Quoth Ghitrif, 'I swear that I will never marry thee to him, for there hath been reported to me somewhat of thy converse with him.' 'What was that?' said she. 'But in any case, I swear that the Ansaris shall not be uncivilly rejected; wherefore do thou make them a fair answer.' 'How so?' asked he; and she, 'Make the dowry heavy to them and they will desist.' Quoth he, 'Thou sayst well,' and going out in haste, said to the Ansaris, 'The girl consents; but she requires a dowry worthy herself; who, then, engageth for this?' 'I,' answered I. Then said he, 'I require for her a thousand bracelets of red gold and five thousand dirhems of the coinage of Hejer and a hundred pieces of woollen stuffs and striped stuffs of Yemen and five bladders of ambergris.' 'Thou shalt have this,' answered I; 'dost thou consent?' And he said, 'I do consent.' So I despatched to Medina the Luminous a company of the Ansaris, who brought all for which I had engaged; whereupon they slaughtered sheep and cattle and the folk assembled to eat of the food.

We abode thus forty days, at the end of which time Ghitrif said to us, 'Take your bride.' So we set her in a litter and her father equipped her with thirty camel-loads of things of price; after which we took leave of him and journeyed till we came within a day's journey of Medina, when there fell upon us horsemen, with intent to plunder, and methinks they were of the Benou Suleim. Otbeh drove at them and slew of them much people, but presently fell back, wounded by a spear-thrust, and dropped to the earth. Then there came to us a succour of the country people, who drove away the highwaymen; but Otbeh's days were ended. So we said, 'Alas for Otbeh!' Which when the damsel heard, she cast herself down from the camel and throwing herself upon him, cried out grievously and recited the following verses:

      Patience I feign, yet natheless am not patient, verily: I soothe my soul but with the thought that I shall follow thee.
      Had my soul dealt but righteously by me, it would indeed Have gone to death before thyself, forestalling all that be.
      None, whenas thou and I are gone away, unto a friend Will just and righteous be, I trow, nor soul with soul agree.

Then she sobbed once and gave up the ghost. We dug one grave for them and laid them in the earth, and I returned to the dwellings of my people, where I abode seven years. Then I betook me again to the Hejaz and entering Medina the Luminous, to visit [the tomb of the Prophet], said in myself, 'By Allah, I will go again to Otbeh's tomb!' So I repaired thither, and behold, over the grave was a tall tree, on which hung fillets of red and green and yellow stuffs. So I said to the people of the place, 'How is this tree called?' And they answered, 'The tree of the Bride and the Bridegroom.' I abode by the tomb a day and a night, then went my way; and this is all I know of Otbeh, may God the Most High have mercy upon him!




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