THE KHALIF HAROUN ER RESHID AND THE ARAB GIRL

The Khalif Haroun er Reshid was walking one day with Jaafer the Barmecide, when he espied a company of girls drawing water and went up to them, having a mind to drink. As he drew near, one of them turned to her fellows and recited the following verses:

      Bid thou thy spright from my couch, I pray, At the season of slumber turn away,
      So I may rest me and eke the fire In my bones that rages may have allay.
      For me, the love-lorn, whom passion's hands Turn on the carpet of sickness aye,
      Thou knowest well how it is with me: Doth thy favour last for a single day?

The Khalif marvelled at her beauty and eloquence and said to her, 'O daughter of nobles, are these verses thine own or a quotation?' 'They are my own,' answered she. 'If thou say sooth,' rejoined the Khalif, 'keep the sense and change the rhyme.' So she said:

      Bid thou thy phantom forswear my stead At the season of sleep and drowsihead,
      So I may rest me and eke the fire Be quenched in my body that rages red.
      For me, a sick one, whom passion's hands Turn on affliction's unrestful bed,
      Thou knowest well how it is with me: Can aught of thy favours stand in stead?

Quoth the Khalif, 'This also is stolen.' 'Nay,' replied she, 'it is my own.' 'If it be indeed thine own,' said Er Reshid, 'change the rhyme again and keep the sense.' So she recited the following:

      Bid thine image hold off from my place of repose, What time in slumber men's eyes do close,
      So I may rest me and eke the fire Be quenched in mine entrails that ever glows.
      For me, a sick one, whom passion's hands Turn on the carpet of wake and woes,
      Thou knowest well how it is with me: Are thy favours bought with a price, who knows?

Quoth Er Reshid, 'This too is stolen.' 'Not so,' said she; 'it is mine.' 'If it be so,' rejoined he, 'change the rhyme once more.' And she recited as follows:

      Bid thou thine image no more molest My couch at the season of sleep and rest,
      So I may ease me and eke the fire Be quenched that flames in my tortured breast.
      For me, a sick one, whom passion's hands On the couch of weeping turn East and West,
      My plight thou know'st; will thy favour ne'er Come back, relenting, to make me blest?

Then said the Khalif, 'Of what [part] of this encampment [art thou]?' And she answered, 'Of its midmost in dwelling and of its highest in tent-pole.' Wherefore he knew that she was the chief's daughter of the tribe. (51) 'And thou,' asked she, 'of what [art thou among] the guardians of the horses?' Quoth he, 'Of the highest in tree and of the ripest in fruit.' 'God protect thee, O Commander of the Faithful!' said she and called down blessings on him. Then she went away with the maidens of the Arabs, and the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'Needs must I take her to wife.' So Jaafer repaired to her father and said to him, 'The Commander of the Faithful hath a mind to thy daughter.' 'With all my heart,' replied he; 'she is a gift as a handmaid to His Highness our lord the Commander of the Faithful.' So he equipped her and carried her to the Khalif, who took her to wife and went in to her, and she became of the dearest of his women to him.

Moreover, he bestowed on her father largesse such as succoured him among the Arabs, till he was transported to the mercy of God the Most High. The Khalif, hearing of his death, went in to her, troubled; and when she saw him thus, she entered her chamber and putting off all that was upon her of rich apparel, donned mourning raiment and raised lament for her father. It was said to her, 'What is the reason of this?' And she answered, saying, 'My father is dead.' So they went in to the Khalif and told him and he rose and going in to her, asked her who had given her to know of her father's death; and she answered, 'It was thy face, O Commander of the Faithful!' 'How so?' asked he; and she said, 'Since I have been with thee, I never saw thee thus till now, and there was none for whom I feared save my father, by reason of his great age; but may thy head live, O Commander of the Faithful!' When the Khalif heard this, his eyes filled with tears and he condoled with her; but she ceased not to mourn for her father, till she followed him [to the grave,] may God have mercy on them both!




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