AL-HAJJAJ AND THE THREE YOUNG MEN [FN#117]



They tell that Al-Hajjáj [FN#118] once bade the Chief of Police go his rounds about Bassorah city by night, and whomsoever he found abroad after supper-tide that he should smite his neck.  So he went round one night of the nights and came upon three youths swaying and staggering from side to side, and on them signs of wine-bibbing.  So the watch laid hold of them and the captain said to them, “Who be you that ye durst transgress the commandment of the Commander of the Faithful [FN#119] and come abroad at this hour?”  quoth one of the youths, “I am the son of him to whom all necks [FN#120] abase themselves, alike the nose-pierced of them and the breaker; they come to him in their own despite, abject and submissive, and he taketh of their wealth and of their blood.”  The Master of Police held his hand from him,, saying, “Belike he is of the kinsman of the Prince of True Believers,” and said to the second, “Who art thou?”  Quoth he, “I am the son of him whose rank [FN#121] Time abaseth not, and if it be lowered one day, ’twill assuredly return to its former height; thou seest the folk crowd in troops to the light of his fire, some standing around it and some sitting.”  So the Chief of Police refrained from slaying him and asked the third, “Who art thou?”  He answered, I am the son of him who plungeth through the ranks [FN#122] with his might and levelleth them with the sword, so that they stand straight; his feet are not loosed from the stirrup, whenas the horsemen on the day of the battle are a-weary.”  So the Master of the Police held his hand from him also, saying, “Belike, he is the son of a Brave of the Arabs.  Then he kept them under guard, and when the morning morrowed, he referred their case to Al-Hajjaj, who caused bring them before him and enquiring into their affair, when behold, the first was the son of a barber-surgeon, the second of a bean-seller, and the third of a weaver.  So he marvelled at their eloquent readiness of speech and said to the men of his assembly, “Teach your sons the rhetorical use of Arabic: [FN#123] for, by Allah, but for their ready wit, I had smitten off their heads!”



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