Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/A wonderful Tale

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EL-MUBArRAD * relates : As I was journey- ing from el-BcLsrah to Baghdad, I passed by a lunatic asylum, and in it I beheld a madman than whom I never saw a more elegant or better dressed man. One of his hands was laid upon his breast ; and as I drew near he recited, saying :

Allih knows that I am sad ;

It is impossible to reveal my pain.

Two souls are mine. One country

Holds the one, another land the other.

If I contemplate the Resurrection, even Patience' self

Against its sternness nought. avails.f

And what my soul here present feels,

That feels my soaring soul in upward flight.

  • It is an anachronism to introduce the following tale in this

place. El-Mubdrrad was not born till more than forty years after the death of el-Mdhdy.

Abu-1-*Abbis Muhammad, generally known by the name of el-Mubdrrad, was a native of el-Bdsrah, but resided at Baghdad. He was an eminent author, philologer, and grammarian. He was born a.h. 210 (a.d. 826) ; or, as some say, A.H. 207, and died at Baghdad A.H. 285 or 286 (a.d. 900).

t Meaning that he was predestinated to his lot, and that nothing could change it.


So I said, " By AUdh ! thou deservest praise. AUih has richly endowed thee, O madman!"

Upon this, he seized hold of something to throw at me ; so I placed myself at a distance from him. Then he exclaimed, " I recited to thee what thou dost like and approve, and thou sayest to me, ' O madman ! * and dost league thyself with Fate against me ! "

" I have done wrong," I said. To which he replied,

" Thou art forgiven, having confessed thy fault ; " and

presently added, Shall I recite to thee another

poem .? " I said, " Yes." So he began, saying :

What slays more than separation from the beloved ?

And what more fills the lover's heart with woe ?

I myself brought to myself this pain,

Which has surely overcome both heart and brain.*

Alas ! that I pass the night a captive

Between two rivals — grief and wakefulness."

Then I said to him, " Thou hast done excellently,

by Allclh ! let us hear more."

So he continued :

Did they search me, burnt would they find my heart; Or unclothe me, consumed would be seen my flesh. What is in me has weakened me and increased my grief, But to no one will I my misery unfold.

  • Literally, liver. Arab poets suppose the liver to be the

seat of love, and the heart to be that of reason. In European poetry, love resides in the heart, and reason in the head.


I said, " By Alldh ! it is admirable. Let us hear more of it." To which he replied, " O young man ! I perceive that each time I have recited verses, thou hast said, ' Let us hear more of it ;' and this can only be because thou hast parted from a lover or a devoted friend." Then he added, " I believe in my heart that thou art Abu-'l-'Abbds, el-Mubarrad. By Alldh ! thou art^he !"

I said, " I am he. But where hast thou known me } "

" Can the moon be hidden ?" he asked ; and then said, "O Abu-'l-' AbbAs ! recite to me some of thy poetry, that my soul may be lifted out of its misery."

So I recited to him, saying :

I wept till the dew fell from Heaven for pity of me.

And my eyes wept for grief as the travellers departed.

O halting-place of the tribe ! where has the tribe halted ?

Whither the camels are driven, thither is driven my soul.

Rise, O Dawn ! may Allih water thee with dew,

And cause to descend upon thee heavy showers,

And for their sakes refresh thee ! May the home be united !

May the re-union be complete and the cord rejoined !

Long lasted the pleasure, and her lover was near her

When times were propitious and busybodies asleep.

But times have changed from what I knew them.

For Time is a ruler, he has the power of change over men.


They departed, and with them departed my hope ;

Than distance no greater affliction can fall on one.

And the union is broken, and the heart is consumed.

And tears overflow, for the caravan has gone.

So was my heart when their camels departed,

As wasted by sickneSs or drunk with wine.

Though the camels had knelt, yet at daiyn they arose.

And by hers my beloved one was borne away.

But her glance to a chink in her prison* she turned,

Looking toward me with tears from her eye streaming down.

O cameleer ! go slowly, that I may bid them farewell.

O cameleer ! in thy departure is my death.

By thy truth ! I shall never forget my intercourse with them.

Would I had known their long agreement to their deed !

Abu-'l-'AbMs, el-Mubdrrad, continues : "And when I had ended my poem, he asked me, * What was their deed }* I answered, 'Their death.'

"Then he cried with a loud cry, and fell down swooning. And I shook him, but found that he had really died. May God have mercy upon him 1 **

  • The litter in which an Arabian woman of any rank is carried

on camel-back when travelling