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Excerpt from the introduction: « Antar is no imaginary personage. He was the son of an Arab Prince of the tribe of Abs, by a black woman, whom his father had made captive in a predatory excursion: and he raised himself by the heroic qualities which he displayed from his earliest youth, and by his extraordinary genius for poetry, from the state of slavery in which he was born, to the confidence of his king, and to a preeminence above all the Chiefs of Arabia. He flourished during the close of the sixth, and the early part of the seventh century, of the Christian æra; there is, consequently, little or no allusion to the customs or institutions of Islamism throughout the work; though the Hero is frequently designated as “He by whom God organized the earth and the world for the appearance of the Lord of slaves.” « The following Romance, as it may be called, was first put together, probably from traditionary tales current at the time, by Osmay, one of the eminent scholars, who adorned the courts of Haroun-al-Raschid, and of his two learned successors, Al-Amyn, and Al-Mamoun; and it still continues to be the principal source whence the story-tellers of the coffee-houses in Egypt, Syria, and Arabia, draw their most interesting tales: but, notwithstanding, its general circulation in the Levant, the name of Antar is hitherto only known to us in Europe, as that of the Author of one of the seven poems, suspended in the temple of Mecca, and from that circumstance called, The Moallakat. The Author of this poem, and the Hero of our history, are identified, as well by the similar names which occur; in both; as by the insertion of the poem itself in the body of the history, when, after much persecution and opposition, Antar at length succeeds in suspending the poem within the Holy Sanctuary which surrounds the Kaaba. « There is reason to believe that this is the first attempt to transpose into an European language, a real Arabian story, depicting the original manners of the Arabs of the desert, uncorrupted by the artificial and refined customs of the neighbouring cities in Syria, Egypt, and Persia. The characteristics of the real Arabs or Bedowins are here presented in their native simplicity. An eager desire for the property of their neighbour; an unconquerable fondness for strife and battle; a singular combination of profuse hospitality, with narrow economy—quick perception—deep cunning—great personal courage, a keen sense of honour, respect for their women, and a warm admiration and ready use of the poetical beauties of their unrivalled language. » This is the first volume of the series. Distributed by GRAAL Editions
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Transcriber’s Note: The page numbering in the original book was misprinted: page numbers 177-180 were omitted, but no pages are actually missing.
ANTAR, A BEDOUEEN ROMANCE.
TRANSLATED FROM THE ARABIC.
BY TERRICK HAMILTON, ESQ.ORIENTAL SECRETARY TO THE BRITISH EMBASSY AT CONSTANTINOPLE.
LONDON:JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE-STREET. 1819.
London: Printed by W. Bulmer and Co. Cleveland Row, St. James’s.
The Translator of “The History of Antar” being out of England, it is not in the Editor’s power to give to the reader much preliminary information on the contents or nature of the Epic Tale, which is now for the first time in part submitted to the European Public.
Antar is no imaginary personage. He was the son of an Arab Prince of the tribe of Abs, by a black woman, whom his father had made captive in a predatory excursion: and he raised himself by the heroic qualities which he displayed from his earliest youth, and by his extraordinary genius for poetry, from the state of slavery in which he was born, to the confidence of his king, and to a preeminence above all the Chiefs of Arabia. He flourished during the close of the sixth, and the early part of the seventh century, of the Christian æra; there is, consequently, little or no allusion to the customs or institutions of Islamism throughout the work; though the Hero is frequently designated as “He by whom God organized the earth and the world for the appearance of the Lord of slaves.”
The following Romance, as it may be called, was first put together, probably from traditionary tales current at the time, by Osmay, one of the eminent scholars, who adorned the courts of Haroun-al-Raschid, and of his two learned successors, Al-Amyn, and Al-Mamoun; and it still continues to be the principal source whence the story-tellers of the coffee-houses in Egypt, Syria, and Arabia, draw their most interesting tales: but, notwithstanding, its general circulation in the Levant, the name of Antar is hitherto only known to us in Europe, as that of the Author of one of the seven poems, suspended in the temple of Mecca, and from that circumstance called, The Moallakat.
The Author of this poem, and the Hero of our history, are identified, as well by the similar names which occur; in both; as by the insertion of the poem itself in the body of the history, when, after much persecution and opposition, Antar at length succeeds in suspending the poem within the Holy Sanctuary which surrounds the Kaaba.
There is reason to believe that this is the first attempt to transpose into an European language, a real Arabian story, depicting the original manners of the Arabs of the desert, uncorrupted by the artificial and refined customs of the neighbouring cities in Syria, Egypt, and Persia.
The characteristics of the real Arabs or Bedowins are here presented in their native simplicity. An eager desire for the property of their neighbour; an unconquerable fondness for strife and battle; a singular combination of profuse hospitality, with narrow economy—quick perception—deep cunning—great personal courage, a keen sense of honour, respect for their women, and a warm admiration and ready use of the poetical beauties of their unrivalled language.
The supposition of the learned orientalist Mons. Langlès, that the Thousand and One Nights were originally composed in the Pehlevi, or the old Persian, and from that language translated into Arabic, appears still more probable, when we observe the rich and gorgeous descriptions of the works of art and nature which abound in them, their enchanted palaces—their sultans and viziers, and all the attendant magnificence of a court; their genii and magicians—their want of individual character in the leading personages;—and when we contrast with those details the simple manners of the Kings and Chieftains of the desert, pourtrayed in this Romance; their rude tents; the familiarity with which they live amongst each other, controuled only by the rules of patriarchal authority; the almost total absence of supernatural agents; and above all, the striking distinctions of character, which mark the whole progress of the story. In this work indeed, The Subordination of the warriors and others, whether of high or low rank, to the irresistible Antar; in undaunted courage; in active prowess; in intellectual acquirements; in public spirit; in the ardour of his love; in the excellence of his poetry; and in acts of private generosity and benevolence, is strictly consistent with the best rules which the Critics have derived from the Homeric writings, for the conduct of the Heroic poem.
In an adherence to these rules indeed, the early European writers of Romantic Adventures, who followed the age of Charlemagne, and to whom, perhaps, Antar was better known than to their successors, did not follow the steps of their prototype. But whether he really deserve that appellation, that is, whether from the frequent intercourse between the Eastern and Western kingdoms of the Roman world, in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries, our Romance writers imbibed their taste for the adventures of Chivalry from this singular Tale, is a question, to the solution of which we may look forward, when the whole of it shall be before the public. It may be observed, however, that little more was wanting in order to compose the Romances of the middle age, than to engraft on the war, love, and courtesy of the Arabs, the splendid and soft luxuries of the other countries of the East, the witchcraft of Africa, the religious fervour of the South of Europe, and the gloomy superstitions of the North.
The Editor abstains from adding any further observations at present upon this subject. It had been his intention to request the indulgence of the reader for the oriental phraseology which frequently occurs in the following pages; but he prefers leaving the public to form their own opinion, how far the Translator has rightly judged, in presenting a literal translation of his original, by which the Arabic idioms might be best preserved, rather than (by giving to it a strictly English dress, and thereby destroying its native freshness,) to have been led into an indulgence of ornament, which would have been equally remote from the nice refinement of the languages of Europe, and from the copious simplicity of that of the desert.
Ishmael, son of Abraham, was the father of Adnan, who had a son called Maad; and Maad was the father of Nizar, whose four sons, Rebeeah, Medher, Ayad, and Anmar, reigned over the Arabs in great glory for many years, and their descendants continued to flourish and multiply till they amounted to twenty thousand horsemen, when disturbances arising among them, they separated and migrated from the valley of Mecca and the holy sanctuary, and many of them settled in a spot called Ibreem-oob-mootemim, which was the furthermost point of Hijaz, and the first in the land of Yemen. And they had a king called Rebeeah, a man much respected and feared, and he was of the tribe of Medher, a fair-raced people; and he had five sons, the eldest was called Nayil, the second, Taweed, the third, Mohelhil, the fourth, Medher, and the fifth, Adee; and their father was a stout and intrepid warrior, he conquered the whole country by his bravery, and ruled over the wilds and the deserts.
Again the Arabs disagreed amongst themselves and dispersed, and every division had its chief and its leader. They carried away their property and their camels, and among them was Harith, son of Obad the Yashkirite, with the tribe of Yashkir, and the chief Dibyan with the tribe of Dibyan, and the chief Abd Shems with his tribe, and Jazeemah with the tribe of Abs and Adnan, and Bahiej with the tribe of Ghiftan; and it was Jazeemah, King of the tribe of Abs and Adnan that attacked Rebeeah, and having slain him, appointed Mohelhil to succeed his father. But on the death of Mohelhil all his cousins went away with their property and camels, afraid of the surrounding Arabs, and settled with the tribe of Abs and Adnan, and their chief Jazeemah; and among all the Arabs there was no government better regulated than his, for he was experienced in all affairs, and had ten sons who were all hardy lions, bold, endued with great bodily strength, and in war they were unrivalled; they courted battles and plunged into slaughter, and their reputation was spread among the Arabs, and among them were Amroo and Jancah, and Asyed and Zoheir, and the rest of the ten brothers. But Amroo was the eldest, and King Jazeemah hoped that Amroo would reign at his death. But one day Amroo went to the lake Zatool Irsad, early in the morning, and with him was a slave called Nizah; and Amroo had round his neck a chain of gold studded with jewels and diamonds; and when he came to the lake he stripped off his clothes, and took off the string of jewels from his neck, and then going down into the lake left them all with his slave. When he sprang into the water and plunged in, his body disappeared, and was borne away.
The slave perceiving that his master remained too long under water, felt assured that his breath was extinct; so he ran away to Jazeemah, and told him of this dreadful catastrophe. He was in the deepest grief, and he dashed his fist against his face for the loss of his son Amroo. Over the whole tribe the dismay was general, the affliction was universal, and the lamentations deep. Many days and nights they remained in this state, when at last King Jazeemah, wishing to relieve his mind from his anguish, went out to the chase, and whilst he was thus occupied, lo! there appeared a fawn, which he eagerly pursued; but as it launched into the waste in full flight, he could not catch it. Still he hoped to succeed; but at last it entered a forest abounding in trees, and waters, and thickets, and Jazeemah still pursued it. And whilst he was struggling through the branches, behold a man quite naked stood before him! He fled away in terror, fancying that it was a dæmon; O King! exclaimed the man, be not afraid, for I am thy son Amroo! If thou art my son, cried the King, follow me and quit this spot. Jazeemah issued from the forest, and the man coming up with him, he gazed at him, and lo! he was his son! He was greatly rejoiced, and running up to him, O my son, said he, what has happened to thee! who brought thee to this place? and thou art naked! So he explained all that had occurred to him, and the cause of his being snatched away from the lake was a dæmon, who bore him to this place. His father joyed in seeing him, and clothed him in some of his own garments, and returned with him to his tribe and companions, and unbounded was the delight and satisfaction at the return of Amroo. Acclamations were loud, and the time passed happily away, and they forgot the evils of fortune.
All the Arabs took refuge with King Jazeemah, and paid him taxes and tribute, and there was not one but obeyed him and submitted, save a single Queen, who was called Robab. And this Queen was very powerful, and had numerous armies and slaves. She had subdued the heroes, and humbled the bravest, and her tribe, was the most intrepid of the Arabs, and they were called the tribe of Reeyan. And when they heard that King Jazeemah was become powerful and had extended his influence, and that the Arabs gave him tribute in cattle and camels; We, said they, will not give any one even a rope’s end, and whoever demand goods of us, nothing will we give them but blows and battle.
Upon hearing this, Jazeemah assembled his armies and warriors, and the Arabs came to him from all the vallies and the waters, and he marched away with them in quest of the tribe of Reeyan, and their Queen Robab, that he might send down destruction and torments upon them, and leave their property to be pillaged by the Arabs. Now when the tribe of Reeyan saw those armies that were advancing upon them, they set up a loud shout, and they thronged in haste from all quarters, and the mountains trembled at the uproar. This tribe was exceedingly numerous, and moreover, they had been joined by a great multitude who came to them and settled round them, to be under the protection of that tribe and their Queen Robab; so great was her reputation, and so far famed her name.
And when the armies arrived and were all established about her, they waited in anxious expectation of the event. So the Queen summoned one of her tribe, a man of great consequence, and said to him—I wish thou wouldst go to these advancing people, and see what they are resolved to do, what place they come from, and what they want. The man went away; and when he came up with the troops, they stopped. Whither in such haste? they cried; speak ere thou art a lost man! Arabs, said he, I am come as a messenger to ye; I want to see your chief. Tell me what is your object; who are you? how are you called? We are the noble tribe of Abs, said they; and we are come to devastate your lands, and plunder your property, and capture your wives and families. Arab Chiefs, he replied, shew me your King, lead me to him, that I speak with him about the object of this expedition. They accordingly introduced him to the King, and he kissed the ground before him. Jazeemah asked what he wanted, and what brought him there. So he told him that Robab had sent him. O King! he continued, what has brought thee forth from thy country? What is the cause of thy departure from home? He then informed him that he was come to slay the people, and to plunder their property. Mighty King! said the other, may God for ever confirm thee in thy possessions! Why wouldst thou act thus towards us? On account of your refractory conduct towards me, said Jazeemah, and the language I have heard; for all the Arabs have submitted to my rule, and obeyed my call, and give me tribute and taxes, all but you, ye cowards! and I have heard of your base designs. But I must assail you without further preparation, and I shall command these armies, numerous as the locusts, to assault you, and to grind you like grain, and to ride you like lions. Return then to her who sent thee, and tell her what I have said to thee.
So the messenger returned with this answer; and when he reached Robab, he communicated all he had heard to her. Away back to him, said she, and tell him to-morrow morning to sally forth into the plain, and to meet me in the field of battle before these horsemen. If he subdues me, I will submit to him and pay him tribute; but if I vanquish him, I will grant him his life, and take his ransom, and by this means we shall spare the lives of the people, and be released from war and carnage, and then return home to our country.
The messenger returned to King Jazeemah, and informed him of the conditions Robab had proposed. He agreed, and consented, and immediately he came down to the field, and he was like a furious lion; he galloped and charged before the warriors, and rushed in to the scene of blows and thrusts. Queen Robab dashed down on him, mounted on a raven-coloured steed, strong-sinewed. She charged with him over the plain till the horsemen were amazed. Then they began the storm and bluster, the sport and exertion, the give and take, the struggle and the wrestle, and every eye gazed intently on them, and every neck was stretched out at them. Just then passed between them two matchless spear-thrusts. King Jazeemah’s was the first, so roused was he by the terrors and calamities that threatened him. But when Robab beheld the spear-thrust coming upon her, and that death was in it, she bent herself forward till her breast touched the horse, and the well-aimed thrust passed without effect. She then replaced herself on her saddle, and dashed furiously at him, and attacked him; she struck him with horror, and drove the spear through his chest, and forced out the point sparkling at his back. He tottered from his horse, and his senses were annihilated. Then the Arabs assailed one another, and the earth shook beneath them. Blows fell right and wrong, necks were hewn off, and hoary beards were stained with blood. The struggle was intense; and all the Arabs in those vallies were in universal commotion, like so many Genii.
Soon fled the tribe of Abs and Adnan and all their allies, and sought their homes and abodes in fear of death and annihilation; neither did they halt in their flight and rout till they reached their own camp; and when they learnt the extent of their misfortune, and how many kings and chiefs had been slain, the lamentations were general. Calamities struck them all; they threw down their tents and pavilions; and thus they continued seven days and nights, when King Amroo seated himself on the throne of his father, and the Arabs came to condole with him, and congratulated him on his kingdom. But he lived only a short time, and when he died his brother Zoheir succeeded him, and reigned in glory and power. His authority was universally acknowledged, and the Arabian tribes, far and near, obeyed and feared him. His subjects were happy under his dominion, on account of his great influence, and chiefs hastened to testify their allegiance. As soon as he was established on his throne he resolved on taking his revenge, and for this purpose he assembled his armies and auxiliaries, and demanded the presence of all the Arabian princes.
In a short time his troops were all prepared, and immediately he set out on his expedition against the hostile tribe of Reeyan and their Queen Robab. He stopped not till he entered their country. As soon as the Princess was informed of this invasion, she called together her adherents, who came from all parts and from the mountains; but they feared for their families, and their wives, and their cattle and camels. They marched eagerly to the conflict, and delayed not a moment till they attacked the tribe of Abs: they rushed forwards with the intention to destroy them. The two tribes soon engaged. Fierce was the combat and loud the clamour on all sides. The battle raged; dreadful were the blows of the sabre, and frequent the rush of darts and javelins; numbers were wounded; every warrior stood firm; but the cowards fled: patient were the noble hearted, but the weak sought safety in flight. Many drank the bitter poison of death. King Zoheir encountered the queen of Reeyan on the field of battle, whilst she was encouraging her troops. The King furiously assaulted her, and exclaimed, “Revenge for King Jazeemah.” He then hurled his lance and struck her on the chest, and forced out the weapon between her shoulders, and again cried out—O by the noble Arabs! Their only reply was a loud scream, and the battle still continued. But when the tribe of Reeyan saw the Princess dead, and perceived their attempts were frustrated, they were alarmed. Then rushed forward the tribe of Abs, and attacked them with renewed violence. The Reeyanians were routed, and fled towards their habitations;—the Absians pursued them, and spread desolation among them; slew them with their swords, and dispersed them amongst their wilds and deserts, until they reached their country, where they took possession of their tents and plundered their property. Zoheir returned home and rejoiced in the execution of his vengeance. He divided the wealth and lands of all that belonged to his enemies among his own people, and all the spoil was given to the rich and poor, to his slaves and his chiefs. Many of the hostile leaders were put to death: all the Arabs far and near were terrified at the extent of his dominion, and the power of his arm.
At this period the Caaba and the holy Mecca were visited, as at this day. Numerous were the pilgrims at the shrine of Abraham. Sacred were the months of pilgrimage; and had a man even killed his father at that period, his crime was never mentioned. Zoheir, after he had accomplished these glorious deeds, wished to make a pilgrimage; which he executed, attended by all the chiefs of his tribe. His admiration was great in performing the ceremony of walking round the Caaba, and in kissing the sacred stone. On his return home, he was anxious to erect a building similar to the sacred altar, whither pilgrims should resort, where travellers might be entertained, and the hungry fed, and the fearful be in security; in whose precincts no beasts of prey should be chased; no blood should be shed; and a transgressor of my law shall be instantly put to death with this sword, he exclaimed. These sentiments he expressed to his tribe assembled in council. All were in dismay at this resolution, but no one dared to disapprove or make any answer. But an old Shiekh, who had passed all his days in perusing ancient chronicles, and was well acquainted with all the sayings of the wise men, who acknowledged the unity of God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, ventured forth, and expostulated with Zoheir, telling him the Caaba was the mansion of the blessed Abraham, and were he to presume to imitate it, a cruel death would avenge the insult; and thus he addressed him:—
“O great King, O Son of noble chiefs! hold and listen to my words, and renounce the habits of the ignobly born. Mount not the horse of Outrage, for it will not rescue thee from the messengers of Death: and soon mayest thou expect him, should’st thou erect in the desert a mansion like the sacred shrine of the Caaba shouldst thou establish similar rites and ceremonies and resemblances to Menah and Zengein and the temple. Away, away, their land is the land of a tribe superior to all mankind; and from them shall appear a noted man, the prophet of God, the torch of darkness, whose faith shall extend east and west with the death bearing-sword of a noble warrior. Away with what thou hast said, for thy God is swift of vengeance.”
The King was not easily dissuaded, but at last gave way to the argument of the Chief, and no longer persisted in his resolution: he was moreover induced to resign his plan in compliance with all his Chiefs, who seconded the word of the Shiekh. In this situation remained King Zoheir for some years; when he became anxious to marry, and to take a wife eminent for her beauty, and elegance of form, and of a noble family. He made all enquiries on the subject, and at last heard there was an Arab, strong and mighty in arms, and a famous horseman, called Amroo, son of Shedeed, and he had a daughter whose name was Temadhur, whose equal was to be found neither in the plains nor in the cities. Her father was a severe man, and would let no one address her, saying his daughter would not marry. When Zoheir heard this, he longed for her as a thirsty man wishes to have water. He pictured to himself her perfections, before he had ascertained her worth by enquiries. However, he did not send to demand her in marriage, but made her father some handsome presents, and evinced the greatest fondness for him, making him one of his particular companions, and thus gained his affections. He then persuaded him to come and settle in his country expressing his great love for him; and thus he never ate or drank but in his society.
The excess of his passion increased daily, to such a degree, that he resolved to assemble a party of his followers called the tribe of Ghorab, and instruct them to attack the family of Amroo, and plunder his property, but not to kill any one, or do any personal injury. So by this stratagem he expected to discover Temadhur among his prisoners, and then have an opportunity of speaking to her. The tribe of Ghorab were accordingly ordered on this expedition, and instantly they set out, in number five hundred. Without difficulty they seized the property, took Amroo prisoner with his wife and family, and plundered his camels and cattle, but refrained from slaying any one. When the King heard what had happened, he mounted his horse in order to behold what he anxiously desired. He found them in dismay, expecting assistance from the tribe of Abs. The family were looking at their flocks dispersed about, but Temadhur was standing at the door of the tent, blooming as the dawning sun, and her forehead bright as its rays, and her cheeks were red as the piony, her hair dishevelled, black as night. When Zoheir saw this, his passion greatly increased; he cried out, and instantly his people rushed forward and furiously attacked the tribe of Ghorab: the women fled, but Zoheir ordered Rebia, son of Jead, to hide Temadhur under her veil, which was accordingly done.
Thirty prisoners were secured belonging to the tribe of Ghorab; they and their property were delivered up; and when quiet was restored, the King ordered a magnificent feast to be prepared, that he might make merry with his tribe and followers. They and the father of Temadhur soon assembled together, and in less than an hour grief was converted into joy; the wine was plentifully distributed, and the uproar was great. The King soon became intoxicated, and launched out into violent praise of Amroo the son of Shedeed; and he ceased not to extol and laud his deeds till the tears came into his eyes, and the wine disordered his senses. Then Amroo got on his legs and addressed Zoheir:—O mighty and magnanimous King, I am your slave. My tongue fails in description of your virtues. God has given me nothing that I prize but my daughter Temadhur, from whom I have kept all suitors. I request of ye, assembled Chiefs, that he may accept her as his handmaiden.
As soon as Zoheir heard this, he rejoiced and was glad; and the Absians answered, and we too will beg King Zoheir to accept her, and to cause the daughters of noble chiefs to wait on her. As soon as Zoheir heard these words, he leaped up, and taking the old man by the hand, most earnestly entreated him to consent. He richly clothed him, and made him handsome presents, and then said, She shall be, O Chief, equal to the most elevated in rank, and highest in dignity. The marriage canopy was instantly pitched, and there was no further demur. The damsels advanced conducting the concealed treasure. Her approach was at that moment sweeter to him than sleep to the wearied eyelids, and he beheld in her the stem of a tall reed, and the rose of the soul. They were immediately united; on the second day Zoheir arose and thanked his fortune, irritated as he had been. He made presents, and distributed the gold and silver, and he made Amroo’s people remain with him, that he might treat them for seven days, when he made the marriage-feast, slaughtering camels and sheep.
The King’s surprise and delight made him so vain and conceited, that at last he imparted to his wife the stratagem by which he had obtained her without a dower or settlement. When she heard this, her soul revolted at the act. She was a shrewd sensible woman, but she said nothing to him about it all the next day; when intoxicated, he wished to caress her, she repulsed him, and turning away from him, said—Are you not ashamed of what you have done? Do you pretend to liberality and generosity, and thus seize the daughters of brave men by force, and refuse them a dower?
These words irritated the Chief greatly, and he answered, I have not been so avaricious; I had recourse to this violent act, because your father yielded not to my proposals, and repulsed all suitors from you. I had therefore no other means of dealing with him but by this outrage; and you know, that had your father accepted my proposals for marriage at first, then you would have seen what I would have given you, and the dower I would have presented. You have confessed the deed, she replied, and you have won me by force; this is the work of violence; but we are indeed more cunning than you.
As soon as Zoheir heard these words he was greatly enraged, and his anger exceeded all bounds: he rose from his bed and exclaimed, Where have you seen any folly in me? and where, as you say, are you more sagacious than I am? Be not angry, O King, said she; know that he who speaks too freely will often have a bitter reply, and he who contemptuously treats women, will get into difficulties. Know then that I am the sister of that woman you beheld, so beautiful and fair; you have not succeeded with her, and have not obtained possession of her charms. She is more beautiful than the sun and moon. I am not worthy to be her handmaid; I do not possess a particle of her charms. On the face of the earth there is not her equal: amongst the daughters of Arabia there is not her like. By your show of liberality you deceived my father; he gave me to you; but my sister’s name is Temadhur, at the sight of whom every beholder is amazed, and every heart is in raptures. But I am called Khidaa; and between her and me there is a vast distance, both in beauty and disposition; but it is now too late: had you not done this, I would not have informed you of what has passed.
The pleasing dream fled. How can I believe you? said the King. If, said she, you wish to prove my words, you have only to order some old woman to go and look at my sister behind her veil, and then the truth and mistake will be evident. No human being can behold your sister, added he, but a merchant, or a blacksmith, or an astrologer, or a perfumer. You are right, she replied, for the daughters of Arabia value the goods of a merchant, a blacksmith, an astrologer, and a perfumer. Then, said the King, there is no intelligence like the eyes, and no sight like the hearing of the ears. I am myself an Arab, and I must undertake the business myself. I will execute all that is necessary, and will go to your house in the form of a perfumer.
He slept till the day dawned, when he said to his attendants, If any one should demand admittance to me to-morrow, say You cannot enter to day. He undressed himself and took off his royal robes, and habited himself as a poor man, and took with him some perfumes and drugs; for he was greatly vexed at what had passed. He departed from his tent, his loins girt round, and his feet naked, and when he was at some distance he quickened his pace.
But his wife Temadhur, as soon as the King was gone, also rose, and threw off her veil, and putting on the cloak of her husband, dressed herself as a man, and leaving the tent, sought the tent of her family. When she reached it she sent for her mother, and her father, and her brothers, and told them all she had heard from the King her husband. When her father and brothers heard this, they were greatly surprised at her cunning and her disguise. She kissed her father, and said to him, Do you and my brothers withdraw instantly and conceal yourselves close at hand; and when King Zoheir arrives and comes towards us, with his cloak-bag over his shoulders, we will let him in and detain him; do you also rush in, and instantly lay hold of him, keep him fast, and do not let him go until he makes good the marriage dower; or we shall be a scandal among the Arabs. And if he abuses you for this, tell him it is a return for his acts towards us, and the disgraces his stratagem has brought on your daughter. On this, they retired, armed themselves with swords, and lay concealed. Temadhur took off her man’s attire, and put on the robes of a secluded female, and drew her veil over her eyes, and blackened her eyelids with antimony, and sat down, expecting Zoheir would arrive, conversing in the mean time with her mother.
Zoheir soon appeared from amongst the tents, and his eyes were like the eyes of a fox. Temadhur’s mother cried out, Enter, merchant; have you any perfumes that will suit my daughter? He entered, and throwing down his cloak-bag off his shoulders, and looking towards his wife, said, Are the perfumes for this damsel? Yes, said she. He was much confounded, but asked her name. She said, Temadhur. He then asked, Have you any other daughter? Yes, said she, her sister, whose name is Khidaa; but when King Zoheir demanded her in marriage, we did not consent to it, and so gave him her sister. He knows nothing about it, but we hope to marry her to one of the noblest chiefs.
The light became darkness in his eyes. He thought within himself, verily I will carry off this damsel, and her father and brothers shall die with rage. And when he wished that they would choose some of his drugs, that he might return, the father and brothers rushed upon him like lions, seized him, and bound him hand and foot. His wife stood before him, and threw off her veil, and rejoicing in her heart, O King, said she, what think you of your situation and your artifices? Who of us is the most cunning?
The King was in despair, and considered himself as dead; but when he saw his wife, his life and spirits revived. Well, said he, what do you intend by this? Your disgrace for your acts towards us, replied she, and your boast in having got possession of me by fraud and deceit; and we swear by God and Abraham, we will not let you go, neither shall you see me yield to you, or listen to you, or obey you, until you grant me a favour, and swear by the Holy Zemzem that you will give to my father and brethren your protection, and confirm my marriage with a grant of camels and other beasts. Do this immediately, or you shall for ever remain in durance.
When Zoheir heard what she said, he smiled at what she had done, and was ashamed of his own deeds. I will give you, said he, five hundred camels; so now let me go. It is not enough for one hour that I have been your wife, said she. I will moreover, continued he, add five hundred high priced camels. That, said she, will be even little for a single day. If, O Temadhur, cried Zoheir, you must reckon up every hour of each night, and each day, and buy them as at a market, you will take from me all my property, both my he-camels and she-camels. Upon that she smiled, and let him loose, and they settled the business between them, viz. that he should give them a thousand he and she-camels, twenty horses, fifty male slaves, and fifty female. To this he swore by the God of the holy shrine of Zemzem and Mekam. They then went to dinner, and he remained with them until dark, when he returned with his wife, her father and brothers in company until they came to his tent; there they separated, King Zoheir retiring to his wife; and as his love for her greatly increased by reason of her conduct, he gave her vast possessions; but no one knew what had happened to him, and things remained in this state until she brought forth ten sons, all like lions; of whom were Shas, Keseer, Cais, Nakshel, Malik, Nooful, Harith, Khidash, Warcah, Gandil, and afterwards one daughter, who was Mootejeredah.
And it was a custom among the Arabs, that when a woman brought forth ten male children, she should be called Moonejeba, i.e. ennobled, and her name be published amongst the Arabs; and they used to say that the wife of such a one is ennobled. Now Mootejeredah, the daughter of King Zoheir, was the beauty of the age, and in wit and sense surpassed all the daughters of Arabia. And Fatima, the daughter of Hewseb, was also a Moonejeba, the wife of Zeead, the son of Abdallah, and she also brought forth ten sons; they were called Rebia, Amarah, Ans, Hafiz, Talib, Ghalib, Dinrak, Amroo, and Zitak. Thus the children of Zoheir, and Carad, and Zeead, became the chiefs of the tribe of Abs, and their noble leaders, particularly the family of Carad, who consisted of Shedad, Malek, and Zakmet-ool Jewad, who were all illustrious warriors. King Zoheir was established in his dominions, and all the Arabs and Kings of the age obeyed him, and sent him presents from every quarter. And the tribe of Abs passed their time in plundering and killing the chieftains, till all Arabia was overawed by their power, and all the dwellers of the deserts feared them.
Now the narrators of this History, Asmael, and Zoheinah, and Aboo Obeidah state, that ten horsemen of the family of Carad quitted the country to seek their fortunes, and among them was Shedad the son of Carad, and he was called the Knight of Jirwet, for his mare was called Jirwet, whose like was unknown. Kings negotiated with him for her, but he would not part with her, and would accept of no offer or bribe for her; and thus he used to talk of her in his verses:
“Seek not to purchase my horse, for Jirwet is not to be bought or borrowed. I am a strong castle on her back, and in her bounds is glory and greatness. I would not part with her were strings of camels to come to me with their shepherds following them. She flies with the wind without wings, and tears up the waste and the desert. I will keep her for the day of calamities, and she will rescue me when the battle-dust rises.”
The party set out from the land of Shuerebah; the ten were all reputed warriors and famed horsemen; they were all clothed in iron armour and brilliant cuirasses; their object was to obtain horses and camels. They continued their journey till they entered the country of Cahtan: they lay concealed all day, and only travelled by night. At length they reached the mountains of Aja and Selma; and there, between two hills, they discovered a wealthy tribe, possessed of considerable property and great riches; they were called the tribe of Jezeela. Numerous were their tents, and their dwellings, and their warlike weapons, &c., and the camp was like the boisterous sea dashing its waves, so numerous were their slaves, and attendants, and their horses of various colours. It was a tribe under no apprehension from the changes of fortune.
And when the Absians perceived their vast wealth and prosperous situation, they feared to attack them, so they accordingly quitted them and made for their pasture ground, where they perceived a thousand camels grazing, there being much grass in that spot, and with them was a black woman, who was watching them. She was uncommonly beautiful and well-shaped; her appearance was elegant and striking; and with her were two children, looking after the camels and running about. As soon as the Absians saw the camels, they attacked them, and hunted them like hares with their spears, then drove them away, together with the woman and children; yet keeping in the rear, ready to attack whoever might overtake them; and they had not gone far ere the people came after them, crying out, Whither would flight secure you, you wretches? here are we in pursuit of you. Verily your feet have borne you to your ruin and destruction. Upon this the Absians fixed their spears, and gave the reins to their horses, and met their assailants, pouncing down on them like falcons. They stood firm of soul, and plied their lances among them: blood flowed, and the horsemen were stretched on the earth, where they left them as carrion for the wild beasts of the desert. The tribe of Jezeela fled, unable to resist the foe, and retreated to their own country, their heroes being slain and their property captured.
The Absians drove away the camels and cattle, and returning home, they halted by the side of a stream, in order to divide the property. But the woman who was carried off with the camels had made a great impression on the heart of Shedad, and he longed for her in his soul; her form was delicate, her eye inspired love, her smile was enchanting, and her gestures graceful. As the poet has said, “In blackness there is some virtue, if you observe its beauty well, thy eyes do not regard the white or red. Were it not for the black of the mole on a fair cheek, how would lovers feel the value of its brilliancy. Were not musk black, it would not be precious. Were it not for the black of night, the dawn would not rise. Were it not for the black of the eye, where would be its beauty? and thus it is, that the black ambergris has the purest fragrance.” He therefore took the woman, and gave them the booty, that they might renounce her. So he kept her to himself.
This woman’s name was Zebeeba, and the two children were hers; the eldest was called Jereer, and the youngest Shiboob. He remained with the woman in the field, and the children tended the flocks. Shedad visited her morning and evening; and thus matters continued till she became pregnant; and when her time came, she brought forth a boy, black and swarthy like an elephant, flat nosed, blear eyed, harsh featured, shaggy haired; the corners of his lips hanging down, and the inner angles of his eyes bloated; strong boned, long footed; he was like a fragment of a cloud, his ears immensely long, and with eyes whence flashed sparks of fire. His shape, limbs, form, and make resembled Shedad; and Shedad was overjoyed at seeing him, and called him Antar, and for many days he continued to gaze on him with delight. But when Zebeeba wished to wean him, he grumbled and growled exceedingly, and the corners of his eyes became fiery red, so that he appeared like a mass of crimson blood; and this was his condition till he was weaned. And he grew up, and his name became known; but those who had accompanied Shedad in the expedition, having heard of him, all wanted to claim him as theirs. So they all assembled and hastened to him, each imagining he belonged to him, and gave him his name; till at last they disputed about him, and almost drew their swords, and would have fought, had not respect for King Zoheir prevented them. The circumstance soon reached the King, who ordered them to his presence; and it happened on that day that he had many guests with him at dinner; and whilst they were sitting down, Shedad and his companions came and kissed the ground in the presence of the King. He asked them what had happened, and what was the cause of the quarrel. They then informed him, and related all that had passed between Shedad and the woman in their excursion; how he had taken her to himself, and had given them the plunder; how she bare him a son, whose shape and appearance resembled a negro, and how they now all claimed the child as their slave, because he was very stout and strong.
When Zoheir heard this adventure he was greatly surprised, and he said to Shedad, I wish you would produce the young slave that is the object of contention, that I may see him. Upon that, Shedad departed and brought Antar before him; and the King beheld him, and lo! he was like a lion when he roars. As soon as he saw him he gave a loud scream, and threw a piece of meat at him; but a dog that was there got before him, and snatched up the meat like a hawk, and ran away. But Antar followed him till he came up with him; he was greatly enraged, and seized hold of him with all his strength. He wrenched open his jaws, and tore them in twain even to the shoulders, and snatched the meat out of his mouth. When the King saw this, he was astonished, and the Arab chiefs that were present were amazed; and exclaimed, what ingenuity, what power, strength, and ability! O my friends, said King Zoheir, contend no more about such a wretch as this! but if it is absolutely necessary that this business should be decided, I must refer you to the Cadi Bashar, son of Codha’ah the Fazarean, let him give sentence on this point, and settle to whom this slave belongs. Tell him the story, for he is the Cadi of the Arabs.
When they heard King Zoheir’s remarks, they instantly withdrew their hands from their swords, and mounting their horses, went before the Cadi, to whom they explained what had happened. In fine, the Cadi decided that the child should be the property of Shedad; for he was their leader, and no one but him had any connexion with the woman. You agreed to the partition, said he, and he affixed
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