Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Story of the City of Brass
THERE was, in olden time, and in an ancient age and period, in Damascus of Syria, a King, one of the Khalifehs, named Abd-el-Melik the son of Marwan; and he was sitting, one day, having with him the great men of his empire, consisting of Kings and Sultans, when a discussion took place among them, respecting the traditions of former nations. They called to mind the stories of our lord Suleyman the son of Daud (on both of whom be peace!), and the dominion and authority which God (whose name be exalted!) had bestowed upon him over mankind and the Jinn and the birds and the wild beasts and other things; and they said, We have heard from those who were before us that God (whose perfection be extolled, and whose name be exalted!) bestowed not upon any one the like of that which He bestowed upon our lord Suleyman, and that he attained to that to which none other attained, so that he used to imprison the Jinn and the Marids and the Devils in bottles of brass, and pour molten lead over them, and seal this cover over them with a signet.
Then Talib [the son of Sahl] related, that a man embarked in a ship with a company of others, and they voyaged to the island of Sicily, and ceased not in their course until there arose against them a wind which bore them away to one of the lands of God, whose name be exalted! This happened during the black darkness of night, and when the day shone forth, there came out to them, from caves in that land, people of black complexion and with naked bodies, like wild beasts, not understanding speech. They had a King of their own race, and none of them knew Arabic save their King. So when they saw the ship and those who were in her, he came forth to them attended by a party of his companions, and saluted them and welcomed them, and inquired of them respecting their religion. They therefore acquainted him with their state; and he said to them, No harm shall befall you. And when he asked them respecting their religion, each of them was of some one of the religions prevailing before the manifestation of El-Islam, and before the mission of Mohammad, may God bless and save him!wherefore the people of the ship said, We know not what thou sayest. Then the King said to them, There hath not come to us any one of the sons of Adam before you. And he entertained them with a banquet of the flesh of birds and of wild beasts and of fish, beside which they had no food. And after this, the people of the ship went down to divert themselves in the city, and they found one of the fishermen who had cast his net in the sea to catch fish, and he drew it up, and lo, in it was a bottle of brass, stopped with lead, which was sealed with the signet of Suleyman the son of Daud, on both of whom be peace! And the fisherman came forth and broke it; whereupon there proceeded from it a blue smoke, which united with the clouds of heaven; and they heard a horrible voice, saying, Repentance! repentance! O Prophet of God!Then, of that smoke there was formed a person of terrible aspect, of terrific make, whose head would reach [as high as] a mountain; and he disappeared from before their eyes. As to the people of the ship, their hearts were almost eradicated; but the blacks thought nothing of the event. And a man returned to the King, and asked him respecting this; and the King answered him, Know that this is one of the Jinn whom Suleyman the son of Daud, when he was incensed against them, imprisoned in these bottles, and he poured lead over them, and threw them into the sea. When the fishermen casteth his net, it generally bringeth up these bottles; and when they are broken, there cometh forth from them a Jinni, who imagineth that Suleyman is still living; wherefore he repenteth, and saith, Repentance! O Prophet of God!
And the Prince of the Faithful, Abd-el-Melik the son of Marwan, wondered at these words, and said, Extolled be the perfection of God! Suleyman was endowed with a mighty dominion!And among those who were present in that assembly was En-Nabighah Edh-Dhubyani;1 and he said, Talib hath spoken truth in that which he hath related, and the proof of his veracity is the saying of the Wise, the First, [thus versified]
And [consider] Suleyman, when the Deity said to him, Perform the office of Khalifeh, and govern with diligence;
And whoso obeyeth thee, honour him for doing so; and whoso disobeyeth thee, imprison him forever.
He used to put them into bottles of brass, and to cast them into the sea.And the Prince of the Faithful approved of these words, and said, By Allah, I desire to see some of these bottles! So Talib the son of Sahl replied, O Prince of the Faithful, thou art able to do so, and yet remain in thy country. Send to thy brother Abd-el-Aziz, the son of Marwan, desiring him to bring them to thee from the Western country,2 that he may write orders to Musa3 to journey from the Western Country to this mountain which we have mentioned, and to bring thee what thou desirest of these bottles; for the furthest tract of his province is adjacent to this mountain.And the Prince of the Faithful approved of his advice, and said, O Talib, thou hast spoken truth in that which thou hast said, and I desire that thou be my messenger to Musa the son of Nuseyr for this purpose, and thou shalt have a white ensign, together with what thou shalt desire of wealth or dignity or other things, and I will be thy substitute to take care of thy family. To this, Talib replied, Most willingly, O Prince of the Faithful. And the Khalifeh said to him, Go in dependence on the blessing of God, and his aid. Then he gave orders that they should write for him a letter to his brother Abd-el-Aziz, his viceroy in Egypt, and another letter to Musa, his viceroy in the Western Country, commanding him to journey, himself, in search of the bottles of Suleyman, to leave his son to govern the country in his stead, and to take with him guides, to expand wealth, and to collect a large number of men, and not to be remiss in accomplishing that object, nor to use any pretext to excuse himself. He sealed the two letters, and delivered them to Talib the son of Sahl, commanding him to hasten, and to elevate the ensigns over his head; and he gave him riches and riders and footmen to aid him in his way: he gave orders also to supply his house with every thing requisite.
So Talib went forth on his way to Egypt. He proceeded with his companions, traversing the districts from Syria, until they entered Misr;4 when the Governor of Egypt met him, and lodged him with him; and he treated him with the utmost honour during the period of his stay with him. Then he sent with him a guide who accompanied him to Upper Egypt until they came to the Emir Musa the son of Nuseyr; and when he knew of his approach, he went forth to him and met him, and rejoiced at his arrival; and Talib handed to him the letter. So he took it and read it and understood its meaning; and he put it upon his head saying, I hear and obey the command of the Prince of the Faithful. He determined to summon the great men; and they presented themselves; and he inquired of them respecting that which had been made known to him by the letter; whereupon they said, O Emir, if thou desire him who will guide thee to that place, have recourse to the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad the son of Abd-el-Kuddus El-Masmudi; for he is a knowing man, and hath travelled much, and he is acquainted with the deserts and wastes and the seas, and their inhabitants and their wonders, and the countries and their districts. Have recourse therefore to him, and he will direct thee to the object of thy desire. Accordingly he gave orders to bring him, and he came before him; and, lo, he was a very old man, whom the vicissitudes of years and times had rendered decrepit. The Emir Musa saluted him, and said to him, O sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, our lord the Prince of the Faithful, Abd-El-Melik the son of Marwan, hath commanded us thus and thus, and I possess little knowledge of that land, and it hath been told me that thou art acquainted with that country and the routes. Hast thou then a wish to accomplish the affair of the Prince of the Faithful?The sheykh replied, Know, O Emir, that this route is difficult, far extending, with few tracks. The Emir said to him, How long a period doth it require? He answered, It is a journey of two years and some months going, and the like returning; and on the way are difficulties and horrors, and extraordinary and wonderful things. Moreover, thou art a warrior for the defence of the faith, and our country is near unto the enemy; so perhaps the Christians may come forth during our absence: it is expedient therefore that thou leave in thy province one to govern it.He replied, Well. And he left his son Harun as his substitute in his province, exacted an oath of fidelity to him, and commanded the troops that they should not oppose him, but obey him in all that he should order them to do. And they heard his words, and obeyed him. His son Harun was of great courage, an illustrious hero, and a bold champion; and the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad pretended to him that the place in which were the things that the Prince of the Faithful desired was four months journey distant, on the shore of the sea, and that throughout the whole route were halting-places adjacent one to another, and grass and springs. And he said, God will assuredly make this affair easy to us through the blessing attendant upon thee, O Viceroy of the Prince of the Faithful. Then the Emir Musa said, Knowest thou if any one of the Kings have trodden this land before us? He answered him, Yes, O Emir; this land belonged to the King of Alexandria, Darius the Greek.
After this they departed, and they continued their journey until they arrived at a palace; whereupon the sheykh said, Advance with us to this palace, which presenteth a lesson to him who will be admonished. So the Emir Musa advanced thither, together with the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad and his chief companions, till they came to its entrance. And they found it open, and having lofty angles, and steps, among which were two wide steps of coloured marbles, the like of which hath not been seen; the ceilings and walls were decorated with gold and silver and minerals, and over the entrance was a slab, whereon was an inscription in ancient Greek; and the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad said, Shall I read it, O Emir? The Emir answered, Advance and read. May God bless thee! for nought hath happened to us during this journey but what hath been the result of the blessing attendant upon thee.So he read it; and, lo, it was poetry; and it was this:
Here was a people whom, after their works, thou shalt see wept over for their lost dominion;
And in this palace is the last information respecting lords collected in the dust.
Death hath destroyed them and disunited them, and in the dust they have lost what they amassed;
As though they had only put down their loads to rest a while; quickly have they departed!
And the Emir Musa wept until he became insensible, and he said, There is no deity but God, the Living, the Enduring without failure! He then entered the palace, and was confounded by its beauty and its construction; and he looked at the figures and images that it contained. And, lo, over the second door were inscribed some verses. So the Emir Musa said, Advance, O sheykh, and read. Accordingly he advanced and read; and the verses were these:
How many companies have alighted in the tabernacles since times of old, and taken their departure!
Consider thou then what the accidents of fortune have done with others when they have befallen them.
They have shared together what they collected, and they have left the pleasure thereof, and departed.
What enjoyments they had! and what food did they eat! and then in the dust they themselves were eaten!
And again the Emir Musa wept violently: the world became yellow before his face; and he said, We have been created for a great object!
Then they attentively viewed the palace; and, lo, it was devoid of inhabitants, destitute of household and occupants: its courts were desolate, and its apartments were deserted; and in the midst of it was a chamber covered with a lofty dome, rising high into the air, around which were four hundred tombs. To these tombs the Emir Musa drew near, and, behold, among them was a tomb constructed of marble, whereupon were engraved these verses:
How often have I stood [in fight]! and how often slain! and to how many things have I been a witness!
And how often have I eaten! and how often drunk! and how often have I heard the songs of beauteous damsels!
And how often have I ordered! and how often forbidden! and how many strong fortresses are seen,
Which I have besieged and searched, and from which I have taken the lovely females ornaments!
But in my ignorance I transgressed to obtain things wished for, which proved at last to be frail.
Then consider attentively thy case, O man, before thou shalt drink the cup of death;
For after a little while shall the dust be poured upon thee, and thou wilt be lifeless.
And the Emir Musa, and those who were with him, wept. Then he drew near to the dome-crowned chamber, and, lo, it had eight doors of sandal-wood, with nails of gold, ornamented with stars of silver set with various jewels. And over the first door were inscribed these verses:
What I have left, I left not from generosity; but through the sentence and decree operating upon man.
Long time I lived, happy and enraged, defending my asylum like a fierce lion.
I was never quiet, nor would I bestow a mustard-seed, by reason of my avarice, though I were cast into the fire.
Thus did I until I was smitten by the decree of the glorious Deity, the Creator, the Maker.
When my death was appointed soon to take place, I could not prevent it by my numerous stratagems;
My troops that I had collected availed not, and none of my friends aided me, nor my neighbour.
Throughout my whole life was I wearied in my journey to the grave, now in ease, and now in difficulty.
So, when the purses have become laden, shouldst thou accumulate dinar upon dinar,
It will all pass before the morning to another, and they will have brought thee a camel-driver and a grave-digger;
And on the day of thy judgment, lone shalt thou meet God, laden with sin and crimes and heavy burdens.
Then let not the world deceive thee with its beauty; but see what it hath done to thy family and neighbour.
And when the Emir Musa heard these verses, he wept again so violently that he became insensible; and after he had recovered, he entered the chamber covered with the dome, and beheld in it a long tomb, of terrible appearance, whereon was a tablet of iron of China; and the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad drew near to it, and read its inscription; and, lo, on it was written,
In the name of God, the Eternal, the Everlasting throughout all ages; in the name of God, who begetteth not, and who is not begotten, and unto whom there is none like: in the name of God, the Mighty and Powerful: in the name of the Living who dieth not.To proceed:O thou who arrivest at this place, be admonished by the misfortunes and calamities that thou beholdest, and be not deceived by the world and its beauty, and its falsity and calumny, and its fallacy and finery; for it is a flatterer, a cheat, a traitor. Its things are borrowed, and it will take the loan from the borrower: and it is like the confused visions of the sleeper, and the dream of the dreamer, as though it were the sarab5 of the plain, which the thirsty imagineth to be water: the Devil adorneth it for man until death. These are the characteristics of the world: confide not therefore in it, nor incline to it; for it will betray him who dependeth upon it, and who in his affairs relieth upon it. Fall not in its snares, nor cling to its skirts. For I possessed four thousand bay horses in a stable; and I married a thousand damsels, of the daughters of Kings, high-bosomed virgins, like moons; and I was blessed with a thousand children, like stern lions; and I lived a thousand years, happy in mind and heart; and I amassed riches such as the Kings of the regions of the earth were unable to procure, and I imagined that my enjoyments would continue without failure. But I was not aware when there alighted among us the terminator of delights and the separator of companions, the desolator of abodes and the ravager of inhabited mansions, the destroyer of the great and the small and the infants and the children and the mothers. We had resided in this palace in security until the event decreed by the Lord of all creatures, the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the earths, befell us, and the thunder of the Manifest Truth assailed us, and there died of us every day two, till a great company of us had perished. So when I saw that destruction had entered our dwellings, and had alighted among us, and drowned us in the sea of deaths, I summoned a writer, and ordered him to write these verses and admonitions and lessons, and caused them to be engraved upon these doors and tablets and tombs. I had an army comprising a thousand thousand bridles, composed of hardy men, with spears, and coats of mail, and sharp swords, and strong arms; and I ordered them to clothe themselves with the long coats of mail, and to hang on the keen swords, and to place in rest the terrible lances, and mount the highblooded horses. Then, when the event appointed by the Lord of all creatures, the Lord of the earth and the heavens, befell us, I said, O companies of troops and soldiers, can ye prevent that which hath befallen me from the Mighty King? But the soldiers and troops were unable to do so, and they said, How shall we contend against Him from whom none hath secluded, the Lord of the door that hath no door-keeper? So I said, Bring to me the wealth. (And it was contained in a thousand pits, in each of which were a thousand hundredweights of red gold, and in them were varieties of pearls and jewels, and there was the like quantity of white silver, with treasures such as the Kings of the earth were unable to procure.) And they did so; and when they had brought the wealth before me, I said to them, Can ye deliver me by means of all these riches, and purchase for me therewith one day during which I may remain alive? But they could not do so. They resigned themselves to fate and destiny, and I submitted to God with patient endurance of fate and affliction until He took my soul, and made me to dwell in my grave. And if thou ask concerning my name, I am Kush the son of Sheddad the son of Ad the Greater.
And upon the same tablet were also inscribed these verses:
Shouldst thou think upon me after the length of my age, and the vicissitudes of days and circumstances,
I am the son of Sheddad, who held dominion over mankind and each tract of the whole earth.
All the stubborn troops became abject unto me, and Esh-Sham from Misr unto Adnan.
In glory I reigned, abasing their Kings, the people of the earth fearing my dominion;
And I beheld the tribes and armies in my power, and saw the countries and their inhabitants dread me.
When I mounted, I beheld my army comprising a million bridles upon neighing steeds;
And I possessed wealth that could not be calculated, which I treasured up against misfortunes,
Determining to devote the whole of my property for the purpose of extending the term of my life.
But the Deity would nought save the execution of his purpose; and thus I became separated from my brethren.
Death, the disuniter of mankind, came to me, and I was removed from grandeur to the mansion of contempt;
And I found [the recompense of] all my past actions, for which I am pledged: for I was sinful!
Then raise thyself, lest thou be upon a brink; and beware of calamities! Mayest thou be led aright!
And again the Emir Musa wept until he became insensible, in considering the fates of the people; after which, as they were going about through the different apartments of the palace, and viewing attentively its chambers and its places of diversion, they came to a table upon four legs of alabaster, whereon was inscribed,
Upon this table have eaten a thousand one-eyed Kings, and a thousand Kings each sound in both eyes. All of them have quitted the world, and taken up their abode in the burial-grounds and the graves.
And the Emir Musa wrote all this. Then he went forth, and took not with him from the palace aught save the table.
The soldiers proceeded, with the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad before them shewing them the way, until all the first day had passed, and the second, and the third. They then came to a high hill, at which they looked, and, lo, upon it was a horseman of brass, on the top of whose spear was a wide and glistening head that almost deprived the beholder of sight, and on it was inscribed, O thou who comest up to me, if thou know not the way that leadeth to the City of Brass, rub the hand of the horseman, and he will turn, and then will stop, and in whatsoever direction he stoppeth, thither proceed, without fear and without difficulty; for it will lead thee to the City of Brass.And when the Emir Musa had rubbed the hand of the horseman, it turned like the blinding lightning, and faced a different direction from that in which they were travelling.
The party therefore turned thither and journeyed on, and it was the right way. They took that route, and continued their course the same day and the next night until they had traversed a wide tract of country. And as they were proceeding, one day, they came to a pillar of black stone, wherein was a person sunk to his arm-pits, and he had two huge wings, and four arms; two of them like those of the sons of Adam, and two like the fore-legs of lions, with claws. He had hair upon his head like the tails of horses, and two eyes like two burning coals, and he had a third eye, in his forehead, like the eye of the lynx, from which there appeared sparks of fire. He was black and tall; and he was crying out, Extolled be the perfection of my Lord, who hath appointed me this severe affliction and painful torture until the day of resurrection! When the party beheld him, their reason fled from them, and they were stupefied at the sight of his form, and retreated in flight; and the Emir Musa said to the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, What is this? He answered, I know not what he is. And the Emir said, Draw near to him and investigate his case: perhaps he will discover it, and perhaps thou wilt learn his history. The sheykh Abd-Es-Samad replied, May God amend the state of the Emir! Verily we fear him.Fear ye not, rejoined the Emir; for he is withheld from injuring you and others by the state in which he is. So the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad drew near to him, and said to him, O thou person, what is thy name, and what is thy nature, and what hath placed thee here in this manner? And he answered him, As to me, I am an Efrit of the Jinn, and my name is Dahish the son of El-Amash, and I am restrained here by the majesty, confined by the power, [of God,] tormented as long as God (to whom be ascribed might and glory!) willeth. Then the Emir Musa said, O sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, ask him what is the cause of his confinement in this pillar. He therefore asked respecting that, and the Efrit answered him, Verily my story is wonderful; and it is this:
There belonged to one of the sons of Iblis an idol of red carnelian, of which I was made guardian; and there used to worship it one of the Kings of the sea, of illustrious dignity, of great glory, leading, among his troops of the Jann, a million warriors who smote with swords before him, and who answered his prayer in cases of difficulty. These Jann who obeyed him were under my command and authority, following my words when I ordered them: all of them were in rebellion against Suleyman the son of Daud (on both of whom be peace!); and I used to enter the body of the idol, and command them and forbid them. Now the daughter of that King was a frequent adorer of the idol, assiduous in the worship of it, and she was the handsomest of the people of her age, endowed with beauty and loveliness, and elegance and perfection; and I described her to Suleyman, on whom be peace!
So he sent to her father, saying to him, Marry to me thy daughter and break thy carnelian-idol, and bear witness that there is no deity but God, and that Suleyman is the Prophet of God. If thou do so, thy due shall be the same as our due, and thy debt as our debt. But if thou refuse, I bring against thee forces with which thou hast not power to contend: therefore prepare an answer to the question,6 and put on the garment of death; for I will come to thee with forces that shall fill the vacant region, and leave thee like yesterday that hath passed.And when the messenger of Suleyman (on whom be peace!) came to him, he was insolent and contumacious, and magnified himself and was proud. Then he said to his wezirs, What say ye respecting the affair of Suleyman the son of Daud? For he hath sent demanding my daughter, and commanding me to break my carnelian-idol, and to adopt his faith.And they replied, O great King, can Suleyman do unto thee that, when thou art in the midst of this vast sea? If he come unto thee, he cannot prevail against thee; since the Marids of the Jinn will fight on thy side; and thou shalt seek aid against him of thine idol that thou worshippest; for he will aid thee against him and will defend thee. The right opinion is, that thou consult thy lord (and they meant by him the red carnelian-idol), and hear what will be his reply: if he counsel thee to fight him, fight him; but otherwise, do not.And upon this the King went immediately, and, going in to his idol, after he had offered a sacrifice and slain victims, fell down before it prostrate, and began to weep, and to recite these verses:
O my lord, verily I know thy dignity; and, behold, Suleyman desireth to break thee.
O my lord, verily I seek thy defence: command then; for I am obedient to thy command.
(Then that Efrit, the half of whom was in the pillar, said to the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, while those around him listened,) And thereupon I entered the body of the idol, by reason of my ignorance, and the paucity of my sense, and my solicitude respecting the affair of Suleyman, and recited this couplet:
As for me, I am not in fear of him; for I am acquainted with everything.
If he wish to wage war with me, I will go forth, and I will snatch his soul from him.
So when the King heard my reply to him, his heart was strengthened, and he determined to wage war with Suleyman the Prophet of God (on whom be peace!) and to fight against him. Accordingly, when the messenger of Suleyman came, he inflicted upon him a painful beating, and returned him a shameful reply; and he sent to threaten Suleyman, saying to him, by the messenger, Thy mind hath suggested to thee desires. Dost thou threaten me with false words? Either come thou to me, or I will go to thee.
Then the messenger returned to Suleyman, and acquainted him with all that had occurred and happened to him. And when the Prophet of God, Suleyman, heard that, [it was as though] his resurrection took place;7 his resolution was roused, and he prepared his forces, consisting of Jinn and men, and wild beasts, and birds and reptiles. He commanded his Wezir Ed-Dimiryat, the King of the Jinn, to collect the Marids of the Jinn from every place: so he collected for him, of the Devils, six hundred millions. He also commanded Asaf the son of Barkhiya [his Wezir of men] to collect his soldiers of mankind; and their number was one million or more. He made ready the accoutrements and weapons, and mounted, with his forces of the Jinn and of mankind, upon the carpet, with the birds flying over his head, and the wild beasts beneath the carpet marching, until he alighted upon his enemys coast, and surrounded his island, having filled the land with the forces. He then sent to our King, saying to him, Behold, I have arrived: therefore repel from thee that which hath come down, or else submit thyself to my authority, and acknowledge my mission, and break thine idol, and worship the One, the Adored God, and marry to me thy daughter according to law, and say thou, and those who are with thee, I testify that there is no deity but God, and I testify that Suleyman is the Prophet of God. If thou say that, peace and safety shall be thy lot. But if thou refuse, thy defending thyself from me in this island shall not prevent thee: for God (whose name be blessed and exalted!) hath commanded the wind to obey me, and I will order it to convey me unto thee on the carpet, and will make thee an example to restrain others.So the messenger came to him, and communicated to him the message of the Prophet of God, Suleyman, on whom be peace! But the King said to him, There is no way for the accomplishment of this thing that he requireth of me: therefore inform him that I am coming forth unto him. Accordingly the messenger returned to Suleyman, and gave him the reply. The King then sent to the people of his country, and collected for himself, of the Jinn that were under his authority, a million; and to these he added others, of the Marids and Devils that were in the islands of the seas and on the tops of the mountains; after which he made ready his forces, and opened the armouries, and distributed to them the weapons. And as the Prophet of God, Suleyman (on whom be peace!), he disposed his troops, commanding the wild beasts to form themselves into two divisions, on the right of the people and on their left, and commanding the birds to be upon the islands. He ordered them also, when the assault should be made, to tear out the eyes of their antagonists with their beaks, and to beat their faces with their wings; and he ordered the wild beasts to tear in pieces their horses; and they replied, We hear and obey God and thee, O Prophet of God! Then Suleyman, the Prophet of God, set for himself a couch of alabaster adorned with jewels, and plated with plates of red gold, and he placed his Wezir Asaf the son of Barkhiya on the right side, and his Wezir Ed-Dimiryat on the left side, and the Kings of mankind on his right, and the Kings of the Jinn on his left, and the wild beasts and the vipers and serpents before him.
After this, they came upon us all together, and we contended with him in a wide tract for a period of two days; and calamity befell us on the third day, and the decree of God (whose name be exalted!) was executed among us. The first who charged upon Suleyman were I and my troops; and I said to my companions, Keep in your places in the battlefield while I go forth to them and challenge Ed-Dimiryat. And, lo, he came forth, like a great mountain, his fires flaming, and his smoke ascending; and he approached, and smote me with a flaming fire; and his arrow prevailed over my fire. He cried out at me with a prodigious cry, so that I imagined the heaven had fallen and closed over me, and the mountains shook at his voice. Then he commanded his companions, and they charged upon us all together: we also charged upon them, and we cried out, one to another: the fires rose and the smoke ascended, the hearts of the combatants were almost cleft asunder, and the battle raged. The birds fought in the air; and the wild beasts in the dust; and I contented with Ed-Dimiryat until he wearied me and I wearied him; after which I became weak, and my companions and troops were enervated, and my tribes were routed. The Prophet of God, Suleyman, cried out, Take ye this great tyrant, the ill-omened, the infamous! And the men charged upon the men, and the Jinn upon the Jinn; defeat befell our King, and we became unto Suleyman a spoil. His troops charged upon our forces, with the wild beasts on their right and left, and the birds were over our heads, tearing out the eyes of the people, sometimes with their talons and sometimes with their beaks, and sometimes they beat with their wings upon the faces of the combatants, while the wild beasts bit the horses and tore in pieces the men, until the greater portion of the party lay upon the face of the earth like the trunks of palm-trees. As to me, I flew from before Ed-Dimiryat; but he followed me a journey of three months, until he overtook me. I had fallen down through fatigue, and he rushed upon me, and made me a prisoner. So I said to him, By Him who hath exalted thee and abased me, pity me, and take me before Suleyman, on whom be peace! But when I came before Suleyman, he met me in a most evil manner: he caused this pillar to be brought, and hollowed it, and put me in it, and sealed me with his signet; after which, he chained me, and Ed-Dimiryat conveyed me to this place, where he set me down as thou seest me; and this pillar is my prison until the day of resurrection. He charged a great king to guard me in this prison, and I am in this condition tortured as thou seest me.
The party therefore wondered at him, and at the horrible nature of his form; and the Emir Musa said, There is no deity but God! Suleyman was endowed with a mighty dominion!And the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad said to the Efrit, O thou, I ask thee concerning a thing of which do thou inform us. The Efrit replied, Ask concerning what thou wilt. And the sheykh said, Are there in this place any of the Efrits confined in bottles of brass from the time of Suleyman, on whom be peace? He answered, Yes, in the Sea of El-Karkar, where are a people of the descendants of Nuh (on whom be peace!), whose country the deluge reached not, and they are separated there from [the rest of] the sons of Adam.And where, said the sheykh, is the way to the City of Brass, and the place wherein are the bottles? What distance is there between us and it?The Efrit answered, It is near. So the party left him, and proceeded; and there appeared to them a great black object, with two [seeming] fires corresponding with each other in position, in the distance, in that black object; whereupon the Emir Musa said to the sheykh, What is this great black object, and what are these two corresponding fires? The guide answered him, Be rejoiced, O Emir; for this is the City of Brass, and this is the appearance of it that I find described in the Book of Hidden Treasures; that its wall is of black stones, and it hath two towers of brass of El-Andalus,8 which the beholder seeth resembling two corresponding fires; and thence it is named the City of Brass.They ceased not to proceed until they arrived at it; and, lo, it was lofty, strongly fortified, rising high into the air, impenetrable: the height of its walls was eighty cubits, and it had five and twenty gates, none of which would open but by means of some artifice; and there was not one gate to it that had not, within the city, one like it: such was the beauty of the construction and architecture of the city. They stopped before it, and endeavoured to discover one of its gates; but they could not; and the Emir Musa said to the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, O sheykh, I see not to this city any gate. The sheykh replied, O Emir, thus do I find it described in the Book of Hidden Treasures; that it hath five and twenty gates, and that none of its gates may be opened but from within the city.And how, said the Emir, can we contrive to enter it, and divert ourselves with a view of its wonders?
Then the Emir Musa ordered one of his young men to mount a camel, and ride round the city, in the hope that he might discover a trace of a gate, or a place lower than that to which they were opposite. So one of his young men mounted, and proceeded around it for two days with their nights, prosecuting his journey with diligence, and not resting; and when the third day arrived, he came in sight of his companions, and he was astounded at that which he beheld of the extent of the city, and its height. Then he said, O Emir, the easiest place in it is this place at which ye have alighted. And thereupon the Emir Musa took Talib the son of Sahl, and the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, and they ascended a mountain opposite the city, and overlooking it; and when they had ascended that mountain, they saw a city than which eyes had not beheld any greater. Its pavilions were lofty, and its domes were shining; its mansions were in good condition, and its rivers were running; its trees were fruitful, and its gardens bore ripe produce. It was a city with impenetrable gates, empty, still, without a voice or a cheering inhabitant, but the owl hooting in its quarters, and birds skimming in circles in its areas, and the raven croaking in its districts and its great thoroughfare-streets, and bewailing those who had been in it. The Emir Musa paused, sorrowing for its being devoid of inhabitants, and its being despoiled of people and dwellers; and he said, Extolled be the perfection of Him whom ages and times change not, the Creator of the creation by his power! And while he was extolling the perfection of God (to whom be ascribed might and glory!), he happened to look aside, and, lo, there were seven tablets of white marble, appearing from a distance. So he approached them, and, behold, they were sculptured and inscribed; and he ordered that their writing should be read; therefore the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad advanced and examined them and read them; and they contained admonition, and matter for example and restraint, unto those endowed with faculties of discernment. Upon the first tablet was inscribed, in the ancient Greek character,
O son of Adam, how heedless art thou of the case of him who hath been before thee! Thy years and age have diverted thee from considering him. Knowest thou not that the cup of death will be filled for thee, and that in a short time thou wilt drink it? Look then to thyself before entering thy grave. Where are those who possessed the countries and abased the servants of God and led armies? Death hath come upon them; and God is the terminator of delights and the separator of companions and the devastator of flourishing dwellings; so He hath transported them from the amplitude of palaces to the straitness of the graves.
And in the lower part of the tablet were inscribed these verses:
Where are the Kings and the peoplers of the earth? They have quitted that which they have built and peopled;
And in the grave they are pledged for their past actions: there, after destruction, they have become putrid corpses.
Where are the troops? They repelled not, nor profited. And where is that which they collected and hoarded?
The decree of the Lord of the Throne surprised them. Neither riches nor refuge saved them from it.
And the Emir Musa fainted; his tears ran down upon his cheeks, and he said, By Allah, indifference to the world is the most appropriate and the most sure course! Then he caused an inkhorn and a paper to be brought, and he wrote the inscription of the first tablet; after which he drew near to the second tablet, and the third, and the fourth; and, having copied what was inscribed on them, he descended from the mountain; and the world had been pictured before his eyes.
And when he came back to the troops, they passed the day devising means of entering the city; and the Emir Musa said to his Wezir, Talib the son of Sahl, and to those of his chief officers, who were around him, How shall we contrive to enter the city, that we may see its wonders? Perhaps we shall find in it something by which we may ingratiate ourselves with the Prince of the Faithful.Talib the son of Sahl replied, May God continue the prosperity of the Emir! Let us make a ladder, and mount upon it, and perhaps we shall gain access to the gate from within.And the Emir said, This is what occurred to my mind, and excellent is the advice. Then he called to the carpenters and blacksmiths, and ordered them to make straight some pieces of wood, and to construct a ladder covered with plates of iron. And they did so, and made it strong. They employed themselves in constructing it a whole month, and many men were occupied in making it. And they set it up and fixed it against the wall, and it proved to be equal to the wall in height, as though it had been made for it before that day. So the Emir Musa wondered at it, and said, God bless you! It seemeth, from the excellence of your work, as though ye had adapted it by measurement to the wall.He then said to the people, Which of you will ascend this ladder, and mount upon the wall, and walk along it, and contrive means of descending into the city, that he may see how the case is, and then inform us of the mode of opening the gate? And one of them answered, I will ascend it, O Emir, and descend and open the gate. The Emir therefore replied, Mount. God bless thee!Accordingly, the man ascended the ladder until he reached the top of it; when he stood, and fixed his eyes towards the city, clapped his hands, and cried out with his loudest voice, saying, Thou art beautiful! Then he cast himself down into the city, and his flesh became mashed with his bones. So the Emir Musa said, This is the action of the rational. How then will the insane act? If we do thus with all our companions, there will not remain of them one; and we shall be unable to accomplish our affair, and the affair of the Prince of the Faithful. Depart ye; for we have no concern with this city.But one of them said, Perhaps another than this may be more steady than he. And a second ascended, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth; and they ceased not to ascend by that ladder to the top of the wall, one after another, until twelve men of them had gone, acting as acted the first. Therefore the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad said, There is none for this affair but myself, and the experienced is not like the inexperienced. But the Emir Musa said to him, Thou shalt not do that, nor will I allow thee to ascend to the top of this wall; for shouldst thou die, thou wouldst be the cause of the death of us all, and there would not remain of us one; since thou art the guide of the party. The sheykh however replied, Perhaps the object will be accomplished by my means, through the will of God (whose name be exalted!) And thereupon all the people agreed to his ascending.
Then the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad arose, and encouraged himself, and, having said, In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful!he ascended the ladder, repeating the praises of God (whose name be exalted!), and reciting the Verses of Safety, until he reached the top of the wall; when he clapped his hands, and fixed his eyes. The people therefore all called out to him, and, said, O sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, do it not, and cast not thyself down! And they said, Verily to God we belong, and verily unto Him we return! If the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad fall, we all perish!Then the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad laughed immoderately, and sat a long time repeating the praises of God (whose name be exalted!), and reciting the Verses of Safety; after which he rose with energy, and called out with his loudest voice, O Emir, no harm shall befall you; for God (to whom be ascribed might and glory!) hath averted from me the effect of the artifice and fraudulence of the Devil, through the blessing resulting from the utterance of the words, In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.So the Emir said to him, What hast thou seen, O sheykh? He answered, When I reached the top of the wall, I beheld ten damsels, like moons, who made a sign with their hands, as though they would say, Come to us. And it seemed to me that beneath me was a sea (or great river) of water; whereupon I desired to cast myself down, as our companions did: but I beheld them dead; so I withheld myself from them, and recited some words of the book of God (whose name be exalted!), whereupon God averted from me the influence of those damsels artifice, and they departed from me; therefore I cast not myself down, and God repelled from me the effect of their artifice and enchantment. There is no doubt that this is an enchantment and an artifice which the people of this city contrived in order to repel from it every one who should desire to looks down upon it, and wish to obtain access to it; and these our companions are laid dead.
He then walked along the wall till he came to the two towers of brass, when he saw that they had two gates of gold, without locks upon them, or any sign of the means of opening them. Therefore the sheykh paused as long as God willed, and, looking attentively, he saw in the middle of one of the gates a figure of a horseman of brass, having one hand extended, as though he were pointing with it, and on it was an inscription, which the sheykh read, and, lo, it contained these words:Turn the pin that is in the middle of the front of the horsemans body twelve times, and then the gate will open. So he examined the horseman, and in the middle of the front of his body was a pin, strong, firm, well fixed; and he turned it twelve times; whereupon the gate opened immediately, with a noise like thunder; and the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad entered. He was a learned man, acquainted with all languages and characters. And he walked on until he entered a long passage, whence he descended some steps, and he found a place with handsome wooden benches, on which were people dead, and over their heads were elegant shields, and keen swords, and strung bows, and notched arrows. And behind the [next] gate were a bar of iron, and barricades of wood, and locks of delicate fabric, and strong apparatus. Upon this, the sheykh said within himself, Perhaps the keys are with these people. Then he looked, and, lo, there was a sheykh who appeared to be the oldest of them, and he was upon a high wooden bench among the dead men. So the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad said, May not the keys of the city be with this sheykh! Perhaps he was the gatekeeper of the city, and these were under his authority.He therefore drew near to him, and lifted up his garments, and, lo, the keys were hung to his waist. At the sight of them, the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad rejoiced exceedingly; his reason almost fled from him in consequence of his joy; and he took the keys, approached the gate, opened the locks, and pulled the gate and the barricades and other apparatus, which opened, and the gate also opened, with a noise like thunder, by reason of its greatness and terribleness, and the enormousness of its apparatus. Upon this, the sheykh exclaimed, God is most great!and the people made the same exclamation with him, rejoicing at the event. The Emir Musa also rejoiced at the safety of the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, and at the opening of the gate of the city; the people thanked the sheykh for that which he had done, and all the troops hastened to enter the gate. But the Emir Musa cried out to them, O people, if all of us enter, we shall not be secure from some accident that may happen. Half shall enter, and half shall remain behind.
The Emir Musa then entered the gate, and with him half of the people, who bore their weapons of war. And the party saw their companions lying dead: so they buried them. They saw also the gate-keepers and servants and chamberlains and lieutenants lying upon beds of silk, all of them dead. And they entered the market of the city, and beheld a great market, with lofty buildings, none of which projected beyond another: the shops were open, and the scales hung up, and the utensils of brass ranged in order, and the khans were full of all kinds of goods. And they saw the merchants dead in their shops: their skins were dried, and their bones were carious and they had become examples of him who would be admonished. They saw likewise four markets of particular shops filled with wealth. And they left this place, and passed on to the silk-market, in which were silks and brocades interwoven with red gold and white silver upon various colours, and the owners were dead, lying upon skins, and appearing almost as though they would speak. Leaving these, they went on to the market of jewels and pearls and jacinths; and they left it, and passed on to the market of the money-changers, whom they found dead, with varieties of silks beneath them, and their shops were filled with gold and silver. These they left, and they proceeded to the market of the perfumers; and, lo, their shops were filled with varieties of perfumes, and bags of musk, and ambergris, and aloes-wood, and nedd, and camphor, and other things; and the owners were all dead, not having with them any food. And when they went forth from the market of the perfumers, they found near unto it a palace, decorated, and strongly constructed; and they entered it, and found banners unfurled, and drawn swords, and strung bows, and shields hung up by chains of gold and silver, and helmets gilded with red gold. And in the passages of that palace were benches of ivory, ornamented with plates of brilliant gold, and with silk, on which were men whose skins had dried upon the bones: the ignorant would imagine them to be sleeping; but, from the want of food, they had died, and tasted mortality. Upon this, the Emir Musa paused, extolling the perfection of God (whose name be exalted!), and his holiness, and contemplating the beauty of that palace, and its strong construction, and its wonderful fabrication in the most beautiful form and with the firmest architecture; and most of its decoration was an ultramarine. Around it were inscribed these verses:
Consider what thou beholdest, O man; and be on thy guard before thou departest;
And prepare good provision, that thou mayest enjoy it; for every dweller in a house shall depart.
Consider a people who decorated their abodes, and in the dust have become pledged for their actions.
They built; but their buildings availed not: and treasured; but their wealth did not save them when the term had expired.
How often they hoped for what was not decreed them! But they passed to the graves, and hope did not profit them;
And from their high and glorious state they were removed to the narrowness of the sepulchre. Evil is their abode!
Then there came to them a crier, after they were buried, saying, Where are the thrones and the crowns and the apparel?
Where are the faces which were veiled and curtained, and on which, for their beauty, proverbs were composed?
And the grave plainly answered the inquirer for them, As to the cheeks, the rose is gone from them.
Long time they ate and drank; but now, after pleasant eating, they themselves have been eaten.
And the Emir Musa wept until he became senseless; and afterwards, having given orders to write these verses, he went on into the interior of the palace. There he beheld a great hall, and four large and lofty chambers, each one fronting another, wide, decorated with gold and silver and with various colours. In the midst of the hall was a great fountain of alabaster, over which was a canopy of brocade; and in those chambers were places [one in each chamber] containing decorated fountains, and tanks lined with marble; and channels of water flowed along the floors of those chambers, the four streams meeting together in a great tank lined with marbles of various colours.The Emir Musa then said to the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, Enter these chambers with us. So they entered the first chamber; and they found it filled with gold and with white silver, and pearls and jewels, and jacinths and precious minerals. They found in it also chests full of red and yellow and white brocades. And they went thence to the second chamber, and opened a closet in it, and, lo, it was filled with arms and weapons of war, consisting of gilded helmets, and Davidean coats of mail, and Indian swords, and lances of Khatt Hejer, and maces of Khuwarezm, and other instruments of war and battle. Then they passed thence to the third chamber, in which they found closets having upon their doors closed locks, and over them were curtains worked with various kinds of embroidery. They opened one of these closets, and found it filled with weapons decorated with varieties of gold and silver and jewels. And they went thence to the fourth chamber, where also they found closets, one of which they opened, and they found it full of utensils for food and drink, consisting of various vessels of gold and silver, and saucers of crystal, and cups set with brilliant pearls, and cups of carnelian, and other things. So they began to take what suited them of those things, and each of the soldiers carried off what he could. And when they determined to go forth from those chambers, they saw there a door of saj inlaid with ivory and ebony, and adorned with plates of brilliant gold, in the midst of that palace. Over it was hung a curtain of silk worked with various kinds of embroidery, and upon it were locks of white silver, to be opened by artifice, without a key. The sheykh Abd-Es-Samad therefore advanced to those locks, and he opened them by his knowledge and boldness and excellent skill. And the party entered a passage paved with marble, upon the sides of which were curtains whereon were figured various wild beasts and birds, all these being worked with red gold and white silver, and their eyes were of pearls and jacinths: whosoever beheld them was confounded. Next they came to a saloon, on beholding which the Emir Musa and the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad were amazed at its construction.
They then passed on, and found a saloon constructed of polished marble adorned with jewels. The beholder imagined that upon its floor was running water, and if any one walked upon it he would slip. The Emir Musa therefore ordered the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad to throw upon it something that they might be enabled to walk on it; and he did this, and contrived so that they passed on. And they found in it a great dome constructed of stones gilded with red gold. The party had not beheld, in all that they had seen, any thing more beautiful than it. And in the midst of that dome was a great dome-crowned structure of alabaster, around which were lattice-windows, decorated, and adorned with oblong emeralds, such as none of the Kings could procure. In it was a pavilion of brocade, raised upon columns of red gold, and within this were birds, the feet of which were of emeralds; beneath each bird was a net of brilliant pearls, spread over a fountain; and by the brink of the fountain was placed a couch adorned with pearls and jewels and jacinths, whereon was a damsel resembling the shining sun. Eyes had not beheld one more beautiful. Upon her was a garment of brilliant pearls, on her head was a crown of red gold, with a fillet of jewels, on her neck was a necklace of jewels in the middle of which were refulgent gems, and upon her forehead were two jewels the light of which was like that of the sun; and she seemed as though she were looking at the people, and observing them to the right and left. When the Emir Musa beheld this damsel, he wondered extremely at her loveliness, and was confounded by her beauty and the redness of her cheeks and the blackness of her hair. Any beholder would imagine that she was alive, and not dead. And they said to her, Peace be on thee, O damsel! But Talib the son of Sahl said to the Emir, May God amend thy state. Know that this damsel is dead. There is no life in her. How then can she return the salutation?And he added, O Emir, she is skillfully embalmed; and her eyes have been taken out after her death, and quicksilver hath been put beneath them, after which they have been restored to their places; so they gleam; and whenever the air putteth them in motion, the beholder imagineth that she twinkleth her eyes, though she is dead.Upon this the Emir Musa said, Extolled be the perfection of God, who hath subdued his servants by death!And as to the couch upon which was the damsel, it had steps, and upon the steps were two slaves, one of them white and the other black; and in the hand of one of them was a weapon of steel, and in the hand of the other a jewelled sword that blinded the eyes; and before the two slaves was a tablet of gold, whereon was read an inscription, which was this:
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Praise be to God, the Creator of man; and He is the Lord of lords, and the Cause of causes. In the name of God, the Everlasting, the Eternal: in the name of God, the Ordainer of fate and destiny. O son of Adam, how ignorant art thou in the long indulgence of hope! and how unmindful art thou of the arrival of the predestined period! Knowest thou not that death hath called for thee, and hath advanced to seize thy soul? Be ready then for departure, and make provision in the world; for thou wilt quit it soon. Where is Adam, the father of mankind? Where are Nuh and his offspring? Where are the sovereign Kisras and Cæsars? Where are the kings of India and El-Irak? Where are the Kings of the regions of the earth? Where are the Amalekites? Where are the mighty monarchs? The mansions are void of their presence, and they have quitted their families and homes. Where are the Kings of the foreigners and the Arabs? They have all died, and become rotten bones. Where are the lords of high degree? They have all died. Where are Karun and Haman?9 Where is Sheddad the son of Ad? Where are Kenan and the Lord of the Stakes?10 God hath cut them off, and it is He who cutteth short the lives of mankind, and He hath made the mansions to be void of their presence. Did they prepare provision for the day of resurrection, and make themselves ready to reply to the Lord of men?O thou, if thou know me not, I will acquaint thee with my name and my descent. I am Tedmur, the daughter of the King of the Amalekites, of those who ruled the countries with equity. I possessed what none of the Kings possessed, and ruled with justice, and acted impartially towards my subjects; I gave and bestowed, and I lived a long time in the enjoyment of happiness and an easy life, and possessing emancipated female and male slaves. Thus I did until the summoner of death came to my abode, and disasters occurred before me. And the case was this:Seven years in succession came upon us, during which no water descended on us from heaven, nor did any grass grow for us on the face of the earth. So we ate what food we had in our dwellings, and after that we fell upon the beasts and ate them, and there remained nothing. Upon this, therefore, I caused the wealth to be brought, and meted it with a measure, and sent it by trusty men, who went about with it through all the districts, not leaving unvisited a single large city, to seek for some food. But they found it not; and they returned to us with the wealth, after a long absence. So thereupon we exposed to view our riches and our treasures, locked the gates of the fortresses in our city, and submitted ourselves to the decree of our Lord, committing our case to our Master; and thus we all died, as thou beholdest, and left what we had built and what we had treasured. This is the story: and after the substance there remaineth not aught save the vestige.
And they looked at the lower part of the tablet, and saw inscribed upon it these verses:
Child of Adam, let not hope make game of thee. From all that thy hands have reassured thou shalt be removed.
I see thee desirous of the world and its embellishments; and the past generations have pursued the same course.
They acquired wealth, both lawful and forbidden; but it repelled not fate when the term expired:
The led troops in multitudes, and collected riches; and they left their wealth and buildings, and departed
To the narrow graves, and lay down in the dust; and there they have remained, pledged for their actions;
As if the company of travellers had put down their baggage during night in a house where was no food for guests.
And its owner had said to them, O people, there is not any lodging for you in it. So they packed after alighting:
And they all thereupon became fearful and timid: neither halting nor journeying was pleasant unto them.
Then prepare good provision that will rejoice thee to-morrow; and act not save agreeably with the fear of thy Lord.
And upon the tablet were also inscribed these words:
Whoso arriveth at our city, and entereth it, God facilitating his entrance into it, let him take of the wealth what he can, but not touch any thing that is on my body; for it is the covering of my person, and the attire with which I am fitted forth from the world. Therefore let him fear God, and not seize aught of it; for he would destroy himself. I have caused this to be an admonition from me unto him, and a charge which I give him in confidence. And peace be on you! I beg God, moreover, to save you from the evil of trials and sickness.
The Emir Musa, when he heard these words, again wept so violently that he became insensible; and after he had recovered, he wrote all that he saw, and was admonished by what he witnessed. He then said to his companions, Bring the sacks, and fill them with part of these riches and these vessels and rarities and jewels. And thereupon, Talib the son of Sahl said to the Emir Musa, O Emir, shall we leave this damsel with the things that are upon her. They are things that have no equal, nor is the like of them at any time found, and they are more than the riches thou hast taken, and will be the best present by which thou mayest ingratiate thyself with the Prince of the Faithful.But the Emir replied, O thou, heardest thou not that which the damsel hath given as a charge, in the inscription upon this tablet? Moreover, and especially, she hath given it as a charge offered in confidence, and we are not of the people of treachery.The Wezir Talib, however, said, And on account of these words wilt thou leave these riches and these jewels, when she is dead? What then should she do with these things, which are the ornaments of the world, and the decoration of the living? With a garment of cotton might this damsel be covered, and we are more worthy of the things than she.Then he drew near to the steps, and ascended them until he reached the spot between the two men [the slaves before mentioned], when, lo, one of these two smote him upon his back, and the other smote him with the sword that was in his hand, and struck off his head, and he fell down dead. So the Emir Musa said, May God not regard with mercy thy resting-place! There was, in these riches, a sufficiency; and covetousness doth doubtlessly dishonour the person in whom it existeth!He thereupon gave orders for the entry of the troops, who accordingly entered, and they loaded the camels with part of those riches and minerals; after which the Emir Musa commanded them to close the gate as it was before.
They then proceeded along the sea-coast until they came in sight of a high mountain overlooking the sea. In it were many caves, and, lo, in these was a people of the blacks, clad in hides, and with burnuses of hides upon their heads, whose language was not known. And when they saw the troops, they ran from them, and fled to those caves, while their women and their children stood at the entrances of the caves. So the Emir Musa said, O sheykh Abd-Es-Samad, what are these people? And he answered, These are the objects of the inquiry of the Prince of the Faithful. They therefore alighted, and the tents were pitched, and the riches were put down; and they had not rested when the King of the blacks came down from the mountain, and drew near to the troops. He was acquainted with the Arabic language; therefore, when he came to the Emir Musa, he saluted him; and the Emir returned his salutation, and treated him with honour. Then the King of the blacks said to the Emir, Are ye of mankind, or the Jinn? The Emir answered, As to us, we are of mankind; and as to you, there is no doubt but that ye are of the Jinn, because of your seclusion in this mountain that is separated from the world, and because of the greatness of your make. But the King of the blacks replied, Nay, we are a people of the race of Adam, of the sons of Ham the son of Nuh, on whom be peace! And as to this sea, it is known by the name of El-Karkar.So the Emir Musa said to him, And whence obtained ye knowledge, when there hath not come unto you any prophet divinely inspired in such a country as this? He answered, Know, O Emir, that there appeareth unto us, from this sea, a person diffusing a light whereby the surrounding tracts are illuminated; and he proclaimeth, with a voice which the distant and the near hear, O sons of Ham, be abashed at Him who seeth and is not seen; and say, There is no deity but God: Mohammad is the Apostle of God. And I am Abu-l-Abbas El-Khidr.Before that, we used to worship one another; but he called us to the worship of the Lord of mankind.Then he said to the Emir Musa, He hath also taught us some words to say.And what, asked the Emir, are those words? He answered, They are these:There is no deity but God alone: He hath no partner: to Him belongeth dominion, and to Him belongeth praise: He giveth life and killeth: and He is able to accomplish every thing. And we seek not access to God (to whom be ascribed might and glory!) save by these words, nor know we any others. Also, every night of Friday we see a light upon the face of the earth, and we hear a voice saying, Perfect! Holy! Lord of the Angels and the Spirit! Whatsoever God willeth cometh to pass, and what He willeth not cometh not to pass! Every benefit from God is a gratuitous favour! And there is no strength nor power but in God, the High, the Great!
The Emir Musa then said to him, We are the associates of the King of El-Islam, Abd-el-Melik the son of Marwan; and we have come on account of the bottles of brass that are here in your sea, and wherein are the devils imprisoned from the time of Suleyman the son of Daud (on both of whom be peace!). He hath commanded us to bring him some of them, that he may see them, and divert himself by the view of them.And the King of the blacks replied, Most willingly. Then he feasted him with fish, and ordered the divers to bring up from the sea some of the bottles of Suleyman; and they brought up for them twelve bottles; wherewith the Emir Musa was delighted, and the sheykh Abd-Es-Samad also, and the soldiers, on account of the accomplishment of the affair of the Prince of the Faithful. The Emir Musa thereupon presented to the King of the blacks many presents, and gave him large gifts. In like manner too the King of the blacks gave to the Emir Musa a present consisting of wonders of the sea, in the form of human beings, and said to him, Your entertainment for these three days shall be of these fish. And the Emir replied, We must carry with us some of them, that the Prince of the Faithful may see them; for thereby will his heart be pleased more than by the bottles of Suleyman.
Then they bade him farewell, and they journeyed back until they came to the land of Syria, and went in to the Prince of the Faithful; whereupon the Emir Musa acquainted him with all that he had seen, and all that had occurred to him with respect to the verses and histories and admonitions, and told him of the case of Talib the son of Sahl. And the Prince of the Faithful said to him, Would that I had been with you, that I might have beheld what ye beheld! He then took the bottles, and proceeded to open one after another, and the devils came forth from them, saying, Repentance, O Prophet of God! We will not return to the like conduct ever!And Abd-el-Melik the son of Marwan wondered at this. But as to the damsels of the sea, with the like of which the King of the blacks feasted them, they made for them troughs of wood, which they filled with water, and into these they put them. They died, however, in consequence of the intensity of the heat. After this, the Prince of the Faithful caused the riches to be brought before him, and divided them among the Muslims. And he said, God hath not bestowed upon any one the like of what He bestowed upon Suleyman the son of Daud. Then the Emir Musa begged the Prince of the Faithful that he might appoint his son in his place as Governor of the province, and that he might himself go to the noble Jerusalem, there to worship God. So the Prince of the Faithful appointed his son to the government, and he himself went to the noble Jerusalem, and he died there.