IBRAHIM OF MOSUL AND THE DEVIL. [FN#118]
Quoth Abu Ishak Ibrahim al-Mausili:--I asked Al-Rashid once to give me a day's leave that I might be private with the people of my household and my brethren, and he gave me leave for Saturday the Sabbath. So I went home and betook myself to making ready meat and drink and other necessaires and bade the doorkeepers shut the doors and let none come in to me. However, presently, as I sat in my sitting-chamber, with my women who were looking after my wants, behold, there appeared an old man of comely and reverend aspect, [FN#119] clad in white clothes and a shirt of fine stuff with a doctor's turband on his head and a silver-handled staff in his hand, and the house and porch were full of the perfumes wherewith he was scented. I was greatly vexed at his coming in to me and thought to turn away the doorkeepers; but he saluted me after the goodliest fashion and I returned his greeting and bade him be seated. So he sat down and began entertaining me with stories of the Arabs and their verses, till my anger left me and methought my servants had sought to pleasure me by admitting a man of such good breeding and fine culture. Then I asked him, "Art thou for meat?"; and he answered, "I have no need of it." "And for drink?" quoth I, and quoth he, "That is as thou wilt." So I drank off a pint of wine and poured him out the like. Then said he, "O Abu Ishak, wilt thou sing us somewhat, so we may hear of thine art that wherein thou excellest high and low?" His words angered me; but I swallowed my anger and taking the lute played and sang. "Well done, O Abu Ishak!" [FN#120] said he; whereat my wrath redoubled and I said to myself, "Is it not enough that he should intrude upon me, without my leave, and importune me thus, but he must call me by name, as though he knew not the right way to address me?" Quoth he, "An thou wilt sing something more we will requite thee." I dissembled my annoyance and took the lute and sang again, taking pains with what I sang and rising thereto altogether, in consideration of his saying, "We will requite thee."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Eighty-eighth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Shaykh said to Abu Ishak, "If thou wilt sing something more we will requite thee," I dissembled my annoyance (continued Ibrahim) and, taking the lute, sang again with great attention to my singing and rising altogether thereto, in consideration of his saying, "We will requite thee." He was delighted, and cried, "Well done, O my lord!"; presently adding, "Dost thou give me leave to sing?" "As thou wilt," answered I, deeming him weak of wit, in that he should think to sing in my presence, after that which he had heard from me. So he took the lute and swept the strings, and by Allah, I fancied they spoke in Arabic tongue, with a sweet and liquid and murmurous voice; then he began and sang these couplets,
"I bear a hurt heart, who will sell me for this * A heart whole and free from all canker and smart?
Nay, none will consent or to barter or buy * Such loss, ne'er from sorrow and sickness to part:
I groan wi' the groaning of wine-wounded men * And pine for the pining ne'er freeth my heart."
And by Allah, meseemed the doors and the walls and all that was in the house answered and sang with him, for the beauty of his voice, so that I fancied my very limbs and clothes replied to him, and I abode amazed and unable to speak or move, for the trouble of my heart. Then he sang these couplets,
"Culvers of Liwa! [FN#121] to your nests return; * Your mournful voices thrill this heart of mine
Then back a-copse they flew, and well-nigh took * My life and made me tell my secret pine.
With cooing call they one who's gone, as though * Their breasts were maddened with the rage of wine:
Ne'er did mine eyes their like for culvers see * Who weep yet tear-drops never dye their eyne."
And also these couplets,
"O Zephyr of Najd, when from Najd thou blow, * Thy breathings heap only new woe on woe!
The turtle bespake me in bloom of morn * From the cassia-twig an the willow-bough
She moaned with the moaning of love-sick youth * And exposed love-secret I ne'er would show:
They say lover wearies of love when near * And is cured of love an afar he go:
I tried either cure which ne'er cured my love; * But that nearness is better than farness I know: [FN#122]
Yet,--the nearness of love shall no 'vantage prove * An whoso thou lovest deny thee of love."
Then said he, "O Ibrahim, sing this song after me, and preserving the mode thereof in thy singing, teach it to thy slave-girls." Quoth I, "Repeat it to me." But he answered, "There needs no repetition; thou hast it by heart nor is there more to learn." Then he suddenly vanished from my sight. At this I was amazed and running to my sword drew it and made for the door of the Harim, but found it closed and said to the women, "What have ye heard?" Quoth they, "We have heard the sweetest of singing and the goodliest." Then I went forth amazed, to the house-door and, finding it locked, questioned the doorkeepers of the old man. They replied, "What old man? By Allah, no one hath gone in to thee this day!" So I returned pondering the matter, when, behold, there arose from one of the corners of the house, a Vox et praeterea nihil, saying, "O Abu Ishak, no harm shall befal thee. 'Tis I, Abú Murrah, [FN#123] who have been thy cup-companion this day, so fear nothing!" Then I mounted and rode to the palace, where I told Al-Rashid what had passed, and he said, "Repeat to me the airs thou heardest from him." So I took the lute and played and sang them to him; for, behold, they were rooted in my heart. The Caliph was charmed with them and drank thereto, albeit he was no confirmed wine-bibber, saying, "Would he would some day pleasure us with his company, as he hath pleasured thee!" [FN#124] Then he ordered me a present and I took it and went away. And men relate this story anent