THE LOVERS OF MEDINA.

[Quoth Ibrahim Abou Ishac], I was once in my house, when one knocked at the door; so my servant went out and returned, saying, 'A comely youth is at the door, seeking admission.' I bade admit him and there came in to me a young man, on whom were traces of sickness, and he said, 'I have long wished to meet thee, for I have an occasion to thee.' 'What is it?' asked I. Whereupon he pulled out three hundred diners and laying them before me, said, 'I beseech thee to accept these and compose me an air to two lines of verse I have made.' 'Repeat them to me,' said I. And he recited the following lines:

      By Allah, O mine eyes that sinned against my heart of yore, Quench with your tears the fire of woe that burneth ever sore.
      Fate is of those that chide at me for her, my heart's abode, Whom, though in grave-clothes I be lapped, I never shall see more

So I set the verses to a plaintive air and sang it to him; whereupon he swooned away and I thought that he was dead. However, after awhile, he came to himself and said to me, 'Repeat the air.' But I conjured him by Allah to excuse me, saying, 'I fear lest thou die.' 'Would it might be so!' replied he and ceased not to importune me, till I had pity on him and repeated it; whereupon he cried out grievously and fell into a worse [swoon] than before and I doubted not but that he was dead; but, after I had sprinkled rose-water on him awhile, he revived and sat up. I praised God for his recovery and laying the dinars before him, said to him, 'Take thy money and depart from me.' Quoth he, 'I have no need of the money and thou shalt have the like of it, if thou wilt repeat the air.' My heart rejoiced in the money and I said, 'I will repeat it, but on three conditions: the first, that thou abide with me and eat of my victual, till thou regain strength; the second, that thou drink wine enough to cheer thy heart; and the third, that thou tell me thy story.'

He agreed to this and ate and drank; after which he said, 'I am of the people of Medina and I went forth one day a-pleasuring with my friends and following the road to El Akic, (69) saw a company of girls and amongst them a damsel as she were a branch pearled with dew, with eyes whose glances stole away his soul who looked on them. They rested in the shade till the end of the day, when they went away, leaving in my heart wounds slow to heal. I returned [next day], to seek news of her, but found none who could tell me of her; so I sought her in the streets and markets, but could come on no trace of her; wherefore I fell ill of grief and told my case to one of my kinsmen, who said to me, "No harm shall befall thee: the days of spring are not yet past and by and by it will rain, whereupon she will go forth, and I will go out with thee, and do thou thy will." His words comforted my heart and I waited till El Akic ran [with water], when I went forth with my friends and kinsmen and sat in the same place as before. We had not sat long before up came the women, like horses running for a wager; and I said to a girl of my kindred, "Say to yonder damsel, 'Quoth yonder man to thee, "He did well who said:

      She shot a shaft at me that pierced my bosom through and through Then turned away and by that act did wound and scars renew." ' "

So she went to her and repeated my words, to which she replied, saying, "Tell him that he said well who answered thus:

      'There is with us the like of that whereof thou dost complain: Patience belike, to heal our hearts relief shall soon ensue.'"

I refrained from further speech for fear of scandal and rose to go away. She rose at my rising, and I followed and she looked back at me, till she saw I had noted her abode. Then she began to come to me and I to go to her, so that we foregathered and met often, till the thing was noised abroad and grew notorious and her father came to know it. However, I ceased not to do my endeavour to meet her and complained of my case to my father, who assembled our kindred and repaired to her father, to ask her in marriage for me. But her father said, "Had this been proposed to me before he dishonoured her, I would have consented; but now the thing is notorious and I am loath to verify the saying of the folk."'

Then (continues Ibrahim) I repeated the air to him and he went away, after having acquainted me with his abode, and we became friends. Now I was devoted to the Barmecides; so next time Jaafer ben Yehya sat [to receive visits], I attended, as of my wont, and sang to him the young man's verses. They pleased him and he drank some cups of wine and said, 'Out on thee! Whose song is that?' So I told him the young man's story and he bade me ride to him and give him assurance of the attainment of his desire. Accordingly I fetched him to Jaafer, who asked him to repeat his story. He did so and Jaafer said, 'Trust me, I will marry thee to her.' So his heart was comforted and he abode with us.

On the morrow, Jaafer mounted and went in to Er Reshid, to whom he related the story. The Khalif was pleased with it and sending for the young man and myself, commanded me to repeat the air and drank thereto. Then he wrote to the governor of the Hejaz, bidding him send the girl's father and his household to his court in honourable fashion and spare no expense for their outfit. So, in a little while, they came and the Khalif, sending for the man, commanded him to marry his daughter to her lover; after which he gave him a hundred thousand dinars, and the man returned to his people. As for the young man, he abode one of Jaafer's boon-companions, till there happened what happened; (70) whereupon he returned with his household to Medina, may God the Most High have mercy upon all their souls!




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