Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 4.djvu/36

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Then he looked at Ni'amah (who was still disguised as a woman), and said to the Princess, "O my sister, what damsel is this by Naomi's side?" She replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, thou hast here a handmaid, one of thy concubines and the bosom friend of Naomi who will neither eat nor drink without her." And she repeated the words of the poet,

"Two contraries, and both concur in opposite charms, * And charms so contraried by contrast lovelier show."

Quoth the Caliph, "By Allah Omnipotent, verily she is as handsome as Naomi, and to-morrow I will appoint her a separate chamber beside that of her friend and send her furniture and stuffs and all that befitteth her, in honour of Naomi." Then the Princess called for food and set it before her brother, who ate and made himself at home in their place and company. Then filling a cup he signed to Naomi to sing; so she took the lute, after draining two of them and sang these two couplets,

"Since my toper-friend in my hand hath given * Three cups that
     brim and bubble, e'er since
I've trailed my skirts throughout night for pride * As tho',
     Prince of the Faithful, I were thy Prince!"

The Prince of True Believers was delighted and filling another cup, gave it to Naomi and bade her sing again; so after draining the cup and sweeping the strings, she sang as follows:—

"O most noble of men in this time and stound, * Of whom none may
     boast he is equal-found!
O matchless in greatness of soul and gifts, * O thou Chief, O
     thou King amongst all renowned:
Lord, who dealest large boons to the Lords of Earth, * Whom thou
     vexest not nor dost hold them bound
The Lord preserve thee, and spoil thy foes, * And ne'er cease thy
     lot with good Fortune crowned!"

Now when the Caliph heard these couplets, he exclaimed, "By Allah, good! By Allah, excellent! Verily the Lord hath been copious[1] to thee, O

  1. Li'lláhi (darr') al-káil, a characteristic idiom. "Darr"=giving (rich) milk copiously and the phrase expresses admiration, "To Allah be ascribed (or Allah be praised for) his rich eloquence who said etc. Some Hebraists would render it, "Divinely (well) did he speak who said," etc., holding "Allah" to express a superlative like "Yah" Jah) in Gen. iv. 1; x. 9. Nimrod was a hunter to the person (or presence) of Yah, i.e. mighty hunter.