Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Story of King Yunan and the Sage Duban
KNOW, O Efrit, that there was, in former times, in the country of the Persians, a monarch who was called King Yunan, possessing great treasures and numerous forces, valiant, and having troops of every description; but he was afflicted with leprosy, which the physicians and sages had failed to remove; neither their potions, nor powders, nor ointments were of any benefit to him; and none of the physicians was able to cure him. At length there arrived at the city of this king a great sage, stricken in years, who was called the sage Duban: he was acquainted with ancient Greek, Persian, modern Greek, Arabic, and Syrian books, and with medicine and astrology, both with respect to their scientific principles and the rules of their practical applications for good and evil; as well as the properties of plants, dried and fresh; the injurious and the useful: he was versed in the wisdom of the philosophers, and embraced a knowledge of all the medical and other sciences.
After this sage had arrived in the city, and remained in it a few days, he heard of the case of the King, of the leprosy with which God had afflicted him, and that the physicians and men of science had failed to cure him. In consequence of this information, he passed the next night in deep study; and when the morning came, and diffused its light, and the sun saluted the Ornament of the Good,1 he attired himself in the richest of his apparel, and presented himself before the King. Having kissed the ground before him, and offered up a prayer for the continuance of his power and happiness, and greeted him in the best manner he was able, he informed him who he was, and said, O King, I have heard of the disease which hath attacked thy person, and that many of the physicians are unacquainted with the means of removing it; and I will cure thee without giving thee to drink any potion, or anointing thee with ointment. When King Yunan heard his words, he wondered, and said to him, How wilt thou do this? By Allah, if thou cure me, I will enrich thee and thy childrens children, and I will heap favours upon thee, and whatever thou shalt desire shall be thine, and thou shalt be my companion and my friend.He then bestowed upon him a robe of honour, and other presents, and said to him, Wilt thou cure me of this disease without potion or ointment? He answered, Yes; I will cure thee without any discomfort to thy person. And the King was extremely astonished, and said, O Sage, at what time, and on what day, shall that which thou hast proposed to me be done? Hasten it, O my Son.He answered, I hear and obey.
He then went out from the presence of the King, and hired a house, in which he deposited his books, and medicines, and drugs. Having done this, he selected certain of his medicines and drugs, and made a goff-stick, with a hollow handle, into which he introduced them; after which he made a ball for it, skilfully adapted; and on the following day, after he had finished these, he went again to the King, and kissed the ground before him, and directed him to repair to the horse-course, and to play with the ball and goff-stick. The King, attended by his Emirs and Chamberlains and Wezirs, went thither, and, as soon as he arrived there, the sage Duban presented himself before him, and handed to him the goff-stick, saying, Take this goff-stick, and grasp it thus, and ride along the horse-course, and strike the ball with it with all thy force, until the palm of thy hand and thy whole body become moist with perspiration, when the medicine will penetrate into thy hand, and pervade thy whole body; and when thou hast done this, and the medicine remains in thee, return to thy palace, and enter the bath, and wash thyself, and sleep; then shalt thou find thyself cured: and peace be on thee. So King Yunan took the goff-stick from the sage, and grasped it in his hand, and mounted his horse; and the ball was thrown before him, and he urged his horse after it until he overtook it, when he struck it with all his force; and when he had continued this exercise as long as was necessary, and bathed and slept; he looked upon his skin, and not a vestige of the leprosy remained: it was clear as white silver. Upon this he rejoiced exceedingly; his heart was dilated, and he was full of happiness.
On the following morning he entered the council-chamber, and sat upon his throne; and the Chamberlains and great officers of his court came before him. The sage Duban also presented himself; and when the King saw him, he rose to him in haste, and seated him by his side. Services of food were then spread before them, and the sage ate with the King, and remained as his guest all the day; and when the night approached, the King gave him two thousand pieces of gold, besides dresses of honour and other presents, and mounted him on his own horse, and so the sage returned to his house. And the King was astonished at his skill; saying, This man hath cured me by an external process, without anointing me with ointment: by Allah, this is consummate science; and it is incumbent on me to bestow favours and honours upon him, and to make him my companion and familiar friend as long as I live. He passed the night happy and joyful on account of his recovery, and when he arose, he went forth again, and sat upon his throne; the officers of his court standing before him, and the Emirs and Wezirs sitting on his right hand and on his left; and he called for the sage Duban, who came, and kissed the ground before him; and the king rose, and seated him by his side, and ate with him, and greeted him with compliments: he bestowed upon him again a robe of honour and other presents, and after conversing with him till the approach of night, gave orders that five other robes of honour should be given to him, and a thousand pieces of gold; and the sage departed, and returned to his house.
Again, when the next morning came, the King went as usual to his council chamber, and the Emirs and Wezirs and Chamberlains surrounded him. Now there was, among his Wezirs, one of ill aspect, and of evil star; sordid, avaricious, and of an envious and malicious disposition; and when he saw that the King had made the sage Duban his friend, and bestowed upon him these favours, he envied him his distinction, and meditated evil against him; agreeably with the adage which saith, There is no one void of envy;and another, which saith, Tyranny lurketh in the soul: power manifesteth it, and weakness concealeth it. So he approached the King, and kissed the ground before him, and said, O King of the age, thou art he whose goodness extendeth to all men, and I have an important piece of advice to give thee: if I were to conceal it from thee, I should be a base-born wretch: therefore, if thou order me to impart it, I will do so. The King, disturbed by these words of the Wezir, said, What is thy advice? He answered, O glorious King, it hath been said, by the ancients, He who looketh not to results, fortune will not attend him:now I have seen the King in a way that is not right; since he hath bestowed favours upon his enemy, an upon him who desireth the downfall of his dominion: he hath treated him with kindness, and honoured him with the highest honours, and admitted him to the closest intimacy: I therefore fear, for the King, the consequence of this conduct.At this the King was troubled and his countenance changed; and he said, Who is he whom thou regardest as mine enemy, and to whom I shew kindness? He replied, O King, if thou hast been asleep, awake! I allude to the sage Duban.The King said, He is my intimate companion, and the dearest of men in my estimation; for he restored me by a thing that I merely held in my hand, and cured me of my disease which the physicians were unable to remove, and there is not now to be found one like to him in the whole world, from west to east. Wherefore, then, dost thou utter these words against him? I will, from this day, appoint him a regular salary and maintenance, and give him every month a thousand pieces of gold; and if I give him a share of my kingdom it were but a small thing to do unto him. I do not think that thou hast said this from any other motive than that of envy. If I didst what thou desirest, I should repent after it, as the man repented who killed his parrot.