Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Fourth Voyage of Es-Sindibad of the Sea
KNOW, O my brothers, that when I returned to the city of Baghdad, and met my companions and my family and my friends, and was enjoying the utmost pleasure and happiness and ease, and had forgotten all that I had experienced, by reason of the abundance of my gains, and had become immersed in sport and mirth, and the society of friends and companions, leading the most delightful life, my wicked soul suggested to me to travel again to the countries of other people, and I felt a longing for associating with the different races of men, and for selling and gains. So I resolved upon this, and purchased precious goods, suitable to a sea-voyage, and, having packed up many bales, more than usual, I went from the city of Baghdad to the city of El-Basrah, where I embarked my bales in a ship, and joined myself to a party of the chief men of El-Basrah, and we set forth on our voyage. The vessel proceeded with us, confiding in the blessing of God (whose name be exalted!), over the roaring sea agitated with waves, and the voyage was pleasant to us; and we ceased not to proceed in this manner for a period of nights and days, from island to island and from sea to sea, until a contrary wind rose against us one day. The master therefore cast the anchors, and stayed the ship in the midst of the sea, fearing that she would sink in the midst of the deep. And while we were in this state, supplicating, and humbling ourselves to God (whose name be exalted!), there rose against us a great tempest, which rent the sails in strips, and the people were submerged with all their bales and their commodities and wealth. I was submerged among the rest, and I swam in the sea for half a day, after which I abandoned myself; but God (whose name be exalted!) aided me to lay hold upon a piece of one of the planks of the ship, and I and a party of the merchants got upon it. We continued sitting upon this plank, striking the sea with our feet, and the waves and the wind helping us; and we remained in this state a day and a night. And on the following day, shortly before the mid-time between sunrise and noon, a wind rose against us, the sea became boisterous, the waves and the wind were violent, and the water cast us upon an island; and we were like dead men, from excess of sleeplessness and fatigue, and cold and hunger, and fear and thirst.
We walked along the shores of that island, and found upon it abundant herbs; so we ate some of them to stay our departing spirits, and to sustain us; and passed the next night upon the shore of the island. And when the morning came, and diffused its light and shone, we rose and walked about the island to the right and left, and there appeared to us a building in the distance. We therefore proceeded over the island in the direction of that building which we had seen from a distance, and ceased not to proceed until we stood at its door. And while we were standing there, lo, there came forth to us from that door a party of naked men, who, without speaking to us, seized us, and took us to their King, and he commanded us to sit. So we sat; and they brought to us some food, such as we knew not, nor in our lives had we seen the like of it; wherefore my stomach consented not to it, and I ate none of it in comparison with my companions, and my eating so little of it was owing to the grace of God (whose name be exalted!), in consequence of which I have lived to the present time. For when my companions ate of that food, their minds became stupefied, and they ate like madmen, and their states became changed. Then the people brought to them cocoa-nut-oil, and gave them to drink of it, and anointed them with it; and when my companions drank of that oil, their eyes became turned in their faces, and they proceeded to eat of that food contrary to their usual manner. Upon this, therefore, I was confounded respecting their case, and grieved them, and became extremely anxious by reason of the violence of my fear for myself with regard to these naked men. I observed them attentively, and, lo, they were a Magian people, and the King of their city was a ghul; and every one who arrived at their country, or whom they saw or met in the valley or the roads, they brought to their King, and they fed him with that food, and anointed him with that oil, in consequence of which his body became expanded, in order that he might eat largely; and his mind was stupefied, his faculty of reflection was destroyed, and he became like an idiot. Then they gave him to eat and drink in abundance of that food and oil, until he became fat and stout, when they slaughtered him and roasted him, and served him as meat to their King. But as to the companions of the King, they ate the flesh of men without roasting or otherwise cooking it. So when I saw them do thus, I was in the utmost anguish on my own account and on account of my companions. The latter, by reason of the excessive stupefaction of their minds, knew not what was done unto them, and the people committed them to a person who took them every day and went forth to pasture them on that island like cattle.
But as for myself, I became, through the violence of fear and hunger, infirm and wasted in body, and my flesh dried upon my bones. So when they saw me in this state, they left me and forgot me, and not one of them remembered me, nor did I occur to their minds, until I contrived a stratagem one day, and, going forth from that place, walked along the island to a distance. And I saw a herdsman sitting upon something elevated in the midst of the sea; and I certified myself of him, and, lo, he was the man to whom they had committed my companions that he might pasture them; and he had with him many like them. As soon, therefore, as that man beheld me, he knew that I was in possession of my reason, and that nought of that which had afflicted my companions had afflicted me. So he made a sign to me from a distance, and said to me, Turn back, and go along the road that is on thy right hand; thou wilt so reach the Kings highway. Accordingly I turned back, as this man directed me, and, seeing a road on my right hand, I proceeded along it, and ceased not to go on, sometimes running by reason of fear, and sometimes walking at my leisure until I had taken rest. Thus I continued to do until I was hidden from the eyes of the man who directed me to the way, and I saw him not nor did he see me. The sun had disappeared from me, and darkness approached; wherefore I sat to rest, and desired to sleep; but sleep came not to me that night on account of the violence of my fear and hunger and fatigue. And when it was midnight, I arose and walked on over the island, and I ceased not to proceed until day arrived, and the morning came and diffused its light and shone, and the sun rose over the tops of the high hills and over the low gravelly plains. I was tired and hungry and thirsty: so I began to eat of the herbs and vegetables that were upon the island, and continued to eat of them till I was satiated, and my departing spirit was stayed; after which I arose and walked on again over the island; and thus I ceased not to do all the day and the next night; whenever I was hungry, eating of the vegetables.
In this manner I proceeded for the space of seven days with their nights: and on the morning of the eighth day, I cast a glance, and beheld a faint object in the distance. So I went towards it, and ceased not to proceed until I came up to it, after sunset; and I looked at it with a scrutinizing eye, while I was yet distant from it, and with a fearful heart in consequence of what I had suffered first and after, and, lo, it was a party of men gathering pepper. And when I approached them, and they saw me, they hastened to me, and came to me and surrounded me on every side, saying to me, Who art thou, and whence hast thou come? I answered them, Know ye, O people, that I am a poor foreigner. And I informed them of my whole case, and of the horrors and distresses that had befallen me, and what I had suffered; whereupon they said, By Allah, this is a wonderful thing! But how didst thou escape from the blacks, and how didst thou pass by them in this island, when they are a numerous people, and eat men, and no one is safe from them, nor can any pass by them?So I acquainted them with that which had befallen me among them, and with the manner in which they had taken my companions, and fed them with food of which I did not eat. And they congratulated me on my safety, and wondered at that which had befallen me. Then they made me sit among them until they had finished their work, and they brought me some nice food. I therefore ate of it, being hungry, and rested with them a while; after which they took me and embarked with me in a vessel, and went to their island and their abodes. They then took me to their King, and I saluted him, and he welcomed me and treated me with honour, and inquired of me my story. So I related to him what I had experienced, and what had befallen me and happened to me from the day of my going forth from the city of Baghdad until I had come unto him. And the King wondered extremely at my story, and at the events that had happened to me; he, and all who were present in his assembly. After that, he ordered me to sit with him. Therefore I sat; and he gave orders to bring the food, which accordingly they brought, and I ate of it as much as sufficed me, and washed my hands, and offered up thanks for the favour of God (whose name be exalted!), praising Him and glorifying Him. I then rose from the presence of the King, and diverted myself with a sight of his city; and, lo, it was a flourishing city, abounding with inhabitants and wealth, and with food and markets and goods, and sellers and buyers.
So I rejoiced at my arrival at that city, and my heart was at ease; I became familiar with its inhabitants, and was magnified and honoured by them and by their King above the people of his dominions and the great men of his city. And I saw that all its great men and its small rode excellent and fine horses without saddles; whereat I wondered; and I said to the King, Wherefore, O my lord, dost thou not ride on a saddle; for therein is ease to the rider, and additional power? He said, What kind of thing is a saddle? This is a thing that in our lives we have never seen, nor have we ever ridden upon it.And I said to him, Wilt thou permit me to make for thee a saddle to ride upon and to experience the pleasure of it? He answered me, Do so. I therefore said to him, Furnish me with some wood. And he gave orders to bring me all that I required. Then I asked for a clever carpenter, and sat with him, and taught him the construction of the saddle, and how he should make it. Afterwards I took some wool, and teased it, and made felt of it; and I caused some leather to be brought, and covered the saddle with it, and polished it. I then attached its straps, and its girth: after which I brought the blacksmith, and described to him the form of the stirrups, and he forged an excellent pair of stirrups; and I filed them, and tinned them. Then I attached fringes of silk. Having done this, I arose and brought one of the best of the Kings horses, girded upon him that saddle, attached to it the stirrups, bridled him, and brought him forward to the King; and it pleased him, and was agreeable to him. He thanked me, and seated himself upon it, and was greatly delighted with that saddle; and he gave me a large present as a reward for that which I had done for him. And when his Wezir saw that I had made that saddle, he desired of me one like it. So I made for him a saddle like it. The grandees and dignitaries likewise desired of me saddles, and I made for them. I taught the carpenter the construction of the saddle; and the blacksmith, the mode of making stirrups; and we employed ourselves in making these things, and sold them to the great men and masters. Thus I collected abundant wealth, and became in high estimation with them, and they loved me exceedingly.
I continued to enjoy a high rank with the King and his attendants and the great men of the country and the lords of the state, until I sat one day with the King, in the utmost happiness and honour; and while I was sitting, the King said to me, Know, O thou, that thou hast become magnified and honoured among us, and hast become one of us, and we cannot part with thee, nor can we suffer thee to depart from our city; and I desire of thee that thou obey me in an affair, and reject not that which I shall say. So I said to him, And what dost thou desire of me, O King? For I will not reject that which thou shalt say, since thou hast shewn favour and kindness and beneficence to me, and (praise be to God!) I have become one of thy servants.And he answered, I desire to marry thee among us to a beautiful, lovely, elegant wife, possessed of wealth and loveliness, and thou shalt become a dweller with us, and I will lodge thee by me in my palace: therefore oppose me not, nor reject what I say. And when I heard the words of the King, I was abashed at him, and was silent, returning him no answer, by reason of the exceeding bashfulness with which I regarded him. So he said, Wherefore dost thou not reply to me, O my son? And I answered him, O my master, it is thine to command, O King of the age! And upon this he sent immediately and caused the Kadi and the witnesses to come, and married me forthwith to a woman of noble rank, of high lineage, possessing abundant wealth and fortune, of great origin, of surprising loveliness and beauty, owner of dwellings and possessions and buildings. Then he gave me a great, handsome house, standing alone, and he gave me servants and other dependents, and assigned me supplies and salaries. Thus I became in a state of the utmost ease and joy and happiness, forgetting all the fatigue and affliction and adversity that had happened to me; and I said within myself, When I set forth on my voyage to my country, I will take her with me. But every event that is predestined to happen to man must inevitably take place, and no one knoweth what will befall him. I loved her and she loved me with a great affection, concord existed between me and her, and we lived in a most delightful manner, and most comfortable abode, and ceased not to enjoy this state for a length of time.
Then God (whose name be exalted!) caused to die the wife of my neighbour, and he was a companion of mine. So I went in to him to console him for the loss of his wife, and beheld him in a most evil state, anxious, weary in soul and heart; and upon this I consoled him and comforted him, saying to him, Mourn not for thy wife. God will happily compensate thee by giving thee one better than she, and thy life will be long if it be the will of God, whose name be exalted!But he wept violently, and said to me, O my companion, how can I marry another after her, or how can God compensate me by giving me a better than she, when but one day remaineth of my life? So I replied, O my brother, return to thy reason, and do not announce thine own death; for thou art well, in prosperity and health. But he said to me, O my companion, by thy life, to-morrow thou wilt lose me, and never in thy life wilt thou see me again.And how so? said I. He answered me, This day they will bury my wife, and they will bury me with her in the sepulchre; for it is our custom in our country, when the wife dieth, to bury with her her husband alive; and when the husband dieth, they bury with him his wife alive; that neither of them may enjoy life after the other. I therefore said to him, By Allah, this custom is exceedingly vile, and none can endure it!And while we were thus conversing, lo, most of the people of the city came, and proceeded to console my companion for the loss of his wife and for himself. They began to prepare her body for burial according to their custom, brought a bier, and carried the woman in it, with all her apparel and ornaments and wealth, taking the husband with them; and they went forth with them to the outside of the city, and came to a place in the side of a mountain by the sea. They advanced to a spot there, and lifted up from it a great stone, and there appeared, beneath the place of this, a margin of stone, like the margin of a well. Into this they threw down that woman; and, lo, it was a great pit beneath the mountain. Then they brought the man, tied him beneath his bosom by a rope of fibres of the palm-tree, and let him down into the pit. They also let down to him a great jug of sweet water, and seven cakes of bread; and when they had let him down, he loosed himself from the rope, and they drew it up, and covered the mouth of the pit with that great stone as it was before, and went their ways, leaving my companion with his wife in the pit.So I said within myself, By Allah, this death is more grievous than the first death! I then went to their King, and said to him, O my lord, how is it that ye bury the living with the dead in your country? And he answered me, Know that this is our custom in our country: when the husband dieth, we bury with him his wife; and when the wife dieth, we bury with her her husband alive; that we may not separate them in life nor in death; and this custom we have received from our forefathers. And I said, O King of the age, and in like manner the foreigner like me, when his wife dieth among you do ye with him as ye have done with this man? He answered me, Yes: we bury him with her, and do with him as thou hast seen. And when I heard these words from him, my gall-bladder almost burst by reason of the violence of my grief and mourning for myself; my mind was stupefied, and I became fearful lest my wife should die before me and they should bury me alive with her. Afterwards, however, I comforted myself, and said, Perhaps I shall die before her: and no one knoweth which will precede and which will follow. And I proceeded to beguile myself with occupations.
And but a short time had elapsed after that when my wife fell sick, and she remained so a few days, and died. So the greater number of the people assembled to console me, and to console her family for her death; and the King also came to console me for the loss of her, as was their custom. Then they brought for her a woman to wash her, and they washed her, and decked her with the richest of her apparel, and ornaments of gold, and necklaces and jewels. And when they had attired my wife, and put her in the bier, and carried her and gone with her to that mountain, and lifted up the stone from the mouth of the pit, and cast her into it, all my companions, and the family of my wife, advanced to bid me farewell and to console me for the loss of my life. I was crying out among them, I am a foreigner, and am unable to endure your custom! But they would not hear what I said, nor pay any regard to my words. They laid hold upon me and bound me by force, tying with me seven cakes of bread and a jug of sweet water, according to their custom, and let me down into that pit. And, lo, it was a great cavern beneath that mountain. They said to me, Loose thyself from the ropes. But I would not loose myself. So they threw the ropes down upon me, and covered the mouth of the pit with the great stone that was upon it, and went their ways. I beheld in that cavern many dead bodies, and their smell was putrid and abominable; and I blamed myself for that which I had done, saying, By Allah, I deserve all that happeneth to me and befalleth me! I knew not night from day; and I sustained myself with little food, not eating until hunger almost killed me, nor drinking until my thirst became violent, fearing the exhaustion of the food and water that I had with me. I said, There is no strength nor power but in God, the High, the Great! What tempted me to marry in this city? And every time that I say, I have escaped from a calamity, I fall into a calamity that is more mighty than the preceding one! By Allah, my dying this death is unfortunate! Would that I had been drowned in the sea, or had died upon the mountains! It had been better for me than this evil death!And I continued in this manner, blaming myself. I laid myself down upon the bones of the dead, begging aid of God (whose name be exalted!), and wished for death, but I found it not, by reason of the severity of my sufferings. Thus I remained until hunger burned my stomach, and thirst inflamed me; when I sat, and felt for the bread, and ate a little of it, and I swallowed after it a little water. Then I rose and stood up, and walked about the sides of the cavern, and I found that it was spacious sideways, and with vacant cavities; but upon its bottom were numerous dead bodies, and rotten bones, that had lain there from old times. And upon this I made for myself a place in the side of the cavern, remote from the fresh corpses, and there I slept.
At length my provision became greatly diminished, little remaining with me. During each day, or in more than a day, I had eaten but once and drunk one draught, fearing the exhaustion of the water and food that was with me before my death; and I ceased not to do this until I was sitting one day, and while I sat, meditating upon my case, thinking what I should do when my food and water were exhausted, lo, the mass of rock was removed from its place, and the light beamed down upon me. So I said, What can be the matter? And, behold, the people were standing at the top of the pit, and they let down a dead man with his wife with him alive, and she was weeping and crying out for herself; and they let down with her a large quantity of food and water. I saw the woman; but she saw not me; and they covered the mouth of the pit with the stone, and went their ways. Then I arose, and, taking in my hand a long bone of a dead man, I went to the woman, and struck her upon the middle of the head; whereupon she fell down senseless; and I struck her a second and a third time, and she died. So I took her bread and what else she had, and I found upon her abundance of ornaments and apparel, necklaces and jewels and minerals. And having taken the water and food that was with her, I sat in a place that I had prepared in a side of the cavern, wherein to sleep, and proceeded to eat a little of that food, as much only as would sustain me, lest it should be exhausted quickly, and I should die of hunger and thirst.
I remained in that cavern a length of time; and whenever they buried a corpse, I killed the person who was buried with it alive, and took that persons food and drink, to subsist upon it, until I was sleeping one day, and I awoke from my sleep, and heard something make a noise in a side of the cavern. So I said, What can this be? I then arose and walked towards it, taking with me a long bone of a dead man; and when it was sensible of my presence, it ran away, and fled from me; and, lo, it was a wild beast. But I followed it to the upper part of the cavern, and thereupon a light appeared to me from a small spot, like a star. Sometimes it appeared to me, and sometimes it was concealed from me. Therefore when I saw it, I advanced towards it; and the nearer I approached to it, the larger did the light from it appear to me. So upon this I was convinced that it was a hole in that cavern, communicating with the open country; and I said within myself, There must be some cause for this: either it is a second mouth, like that from which they let me down, or it is a fissure in this place. I meditated in my mind a while, and advanced towards the light; and, lo, it was a perforation in the back of that mountain, which the wild beasts had made, and through which they entered this place; and they ate of the dead bodies until they were satiated, and went forth through this perforation. When I saw it, therefore, my mind was quieted, my soul was tranquillized, and my heart was at ease; I made sure of life after death, and became as in a dream. Then I managed to force my way through that perforation, and found myself on the shore of the sea, upon a great mountain, which formed a barrier between the sea on the one side, and the island and city on the other, and to which no one could gain access. So I praised God (whose name be exalted!), and thanked Him, and rejoiced exceedingly, and my heart was strengthened. I then returned through that perforation into the cavern, and removed all the food and water that was in it, that I had spared. I also took the clothes of the dead, and clad myself in some of them, in addition to those I had on me; and I took abundance of the things that were on the dead, consisting of varieties of necklaces and jewels, long necklaces of pearls, ornaments of silver and gold set with various minerals, and rarities; and, having tied up some clothes of the dead in apparel of my own, I went forth from the perforation to the back of the mountain, and stood upon the shore of the sea. Every day I entered the cavern, and explored it; and whenever they buried a person alive, I took the food and water, and killed that person, whether male or female; after which I went forth from the perforation, and sat upon the shore of the sea, to wait for relief from God (whose name be exalted!), by means of a ship passing by me. And I removed from that cavern all the ornaments that I found, and tied them up in the clothes of the dead.
I ceased not to remain in this state for a length of time; and afterwards, as I was sitting one day, upon the shore of the sea, meditating upon my case, lo, a vessel passed along in the midst of the roaring sea agitated with waves. So I took in my hand a white garment, of the clothes of the dead, and tied it to a staff, and ran with it along the sea-shore, making a sign to the people with that garment, until they happened to look, and saw me upon the summit of the mountain. They therefore approached me, and heard my voice, and sent to me a boat in which was a party of men from the ship; and when they drew near to me they said to me, Who art thou, and what is the reason of thy sitting in this place, and how didst thou arrive at this mountain; for in our lives we have never seen any one who hath come unto it? So I answered them, I am a merchant. The vessel that I was in was wrecked, and I got upon a plank, together with my things, and God facilitated my landing at this place, with my things, by means of my exertion and my skill, after severe toil. They therefore took me with them in the boat, and embarked all that I had taken from the cavern, tied up in the garments and grave-clothes, and they proceeded with me until they took me up into the ship, to the master, and all my things with me. And the master said to me, O man, how didst thou arrive at this place, which is a great mountain, with a great city behind it? All my life I have been accustomed to navigate this sea, and to pass by this mountain; but have never seen anything there except the wild beasts and the birds.I answered him, I am a merchant. I was in a great ship, and it was wrecked, and all my merchandise, consisting of these stuffs and clothes which thou seest, was submerged; but I placed it upon a great plank, one of the planks of the ship, and destiny and fortune aided me, so that I landed upon this mountain, where I waited for some one to pass by and take me with him.
And I acquainted them not with the events that had befallen me in the city, or in the cavern; fearing that there might be with them in the ship some one from that city. Then I took forth and presented to the owner of the ship a considerable portion of my property, saying to him, O my master, thou hast been the means of my escape from this mountain: therefore receive from me this as a recompense for the favour which thou hast done to me. But he would not accept it from me; and he said to me, We take nothing from any one; and when we behold a shipwrecked person on the shore of the sea or on an island, we take him with us, and feed him and give him to drink; and if he be naked, we clothe him; and when we arrive at the port of safety, we give him something of our property as a present, and act towards him with kindness and favour for the sake of God, whose name be exalted!So upon this I offered up prayers for the prolongation of his life.
We ceased not to proceed on our voyage from island to island and from sea to sea. I hoped to escape, and was rejoiced at my safety; but every time that I reflected upon my abode in the cavern with my wife, my reason left me. We pursued our course until we arrived at the Island of the Bell, when we proceeded to the island of Kela in six days. Then we came to the kingdom of Kela, which is adjacent to India, and in it are a mine of lead, and places where the Indian cane groweth, and excellent camphor; and its King is a King of great dignity, whose dominion extendeth over the Island of the Bell. In it is a city called the City of the Bell, which is two days journey in extent.At length, by the providence of God, we arrived in safety at the city of El-Basrah, where I landed, and remained a few days; after which I came to the city of Baghdad, and to my quarter, and entered my house, met my family and my companions, and made inquiries respecting them; and they rejoiced at my safety, and congratulated me. I stored all the commodities that I had brought with me in my magazines, gave alms and presents, and clad the orphans and the widows; and I became in a state of the utmost joy and happiness, and returned to my former habit of associating with familiars and companions and brothers, and indulging in sport and merriment.Such were the most wonderful of the events that happened to me in the course of the fourth voyage. But, O my brother, [O Sindibad of the Land, sup thou with me, and observe thy custom by coming to me to-morrow, when I will inform thee what happened to me and what befell me during the fifth voyage; for it was more wonderful and extraordinary than the preceding voyages.