Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Fifth Voyage of Es-Sindibad of the Sea
KNOW, O my brothers, that when I returned from the fourth voyage, and became immersed in sport and merriment and joy, and had forgotten all that I had experienced, and what had befallen me, and what I had suffered, by reason of my excessive joy at the gain and profit and benefits that I had obtained, my mind again suggested to me to travel, and to divert myself with the sight of the countries of other people, and the islands. So I arose and meditated upon that subject, and bought precious goods, suited for a sea-voyage. I packed up the bales, and departed from the city of Baghdad to the city of ElBasrah; and, walking along the bank of the river, I saw a great, handsome, lofty vessel, and it pleased me; wherefore I purchased it. Its apparatus was new, and I hired for it a master and sailors, over whom I set my black slaves and my pages as superintendents, and I embarked in it my bales. And there came to me a company of merchants, who also embarked their bales in it, and paid me hire. We set sail in the utmost joy and happiness, and rejoicing in the prospect of safety and gain, and ceased not to pursue our voyage from island to island and from sea to sea, diverting ourselves with viewing the islands and towns, and landing at them and selling and buying. Thus we continued to do until we arrived one day at a large island, destitute of inhabitants. There was no person upon it: it was deserted and desolate; but on it was an enormous white dome, of great bulk; and we landed to amuse ourselves with a sight of it, and, lo, it was a great egg of a rukh. Now when the merchants had landed, and were diverting themselves with viewing it, not knowing that it was the egg of a rukh, they struck it with stones; whereupon it broke, and there poured down from it a great quantity of liquid, and the young rukh appeared within it. So they pulled it and drew it forth from the shell, and killed, it, and took from it abundance of meat. I was then in the ship, and knew not of it, and they acquainted me not with that which they did. But in the mean time one of the passengers said to me, O my master, arise and divert thyself with the sight of this egg which we imagined to be a dome. I therefore arose to take a view of it, and found the merchants striking the egg. I called out to them, Do not this deed; for the rukh will come and demolish our ship, and destroy us. But they would not hear my words.
And while they were doing as above related, behold, the sun became concealed from us, and the day grew dark, and there came over us a cloud by which the sky was obscured. So we raised our heads to see what had intervened between us and the sun, and saw that the wings of the rukh were what veiled from us the suns light, so that the sky was darkened. And when the rukh came, and beheld its egg broken, it cried out at us; whereupon its mate, the female bird, came to it, and they flew in circles over the ship, crying out at us with a voice more vehement than thunder. So I called out to the master and the sailors, and said to them, Push off the vessel, and seek safety before we perish. The master therefore hastened, and, the merchants having embarked, he loosed the ship, and we departed from that island. And when the rukhs saw that we had put forth to sea, they absented themselves from us for a while. We proceeded, and made speed, desiring to escape from them, and to quit their country; but, lo, they had followed us, and they now approached us, each of them having in its claws a huge mass of rock from a mountain; and the male bird threw the rock that he had brought upon us. The master, however, steered away the ship, and the mass of rock missed her by a little space. It descended into the sea by the ship, and the ship went up with us, and down, by reason of the mighty plunging of the rock, and we beheld the bottom of the sea in consequence of its vehement force. Then the mate of the male rukh threw upon us the rock that she had brought, which was smaller than the former one, and, as destiny had ordained, it fell upon the stern of the ship, and crushed it, making the rudder fly into twenty pieces, and all that was in the ship became submerged in the sea.
I strove to save myself, impelled by the sweetness of life, and God (whose name be exalted!) placed within my reach one of the planks of the ship; so I caught hold of it, and, having got upon it, began to row upon it with my feet, and the wind and the waves helped me forward. The vessel had sunk near an island in the midst of the sea, and destiny cast me, by permission of God (whose name be exalted!), to that island. I therefore landed upon it; but I was at my last breath, and in the state of the dead, from the violence of the fatigue and distress and hunger and thirst that I had suffered. I then threw myself down upon the shore of the sea, and remained lying there a while, until my soul felt at ease, and my heart was tranquillized, when I walked along the island, and saw that it resembled one of the gardens of Paradise. Its trees bore ripe fruits, its rivers were flowing, and its birds were warbling the praises of Him to whom belongeth might and permanence. Upon that island was an abundance of trees and fruits, with varieties of flowers. So I ate of the fruits until I was satiated, and I drank of those rivers until I was satisfied with drink; and I praised God (whose name be exalted!) for this, and glorified Him. I then remained sitting upon the island till evening came, and night approached; whereupon I rose; but I was like a slain man, by reason of the fatigue and fear that I had experienced; and I heard not in that island a voice, nor did I see in it any person.
I slept there without interruption until the morning, and then rose and stood up, and walked among the trees; and I saw a streamlet, by which sat an old man, a comely person, who was clad from the waist downwards with a covering made of the leaves of trees. So I said within myself, Perhaps this old man hath landed upon this island and is one of the shipwrecked persons with whom the vessel fell to pieces. I then approached him and saluted him, and he returned the salutation by a sign, without speaking; and I said to him, O sheykh, what is the reason of thy sitting in this place? Whereupon he shook his head, and sighed, and made a sign to me with his hand, as though he would say, Carry me upon thy neck, and transport me from this place to the other side of the streamlet. I therefore said within myself, I will act kindly with this person, and transport him to this place to which he desireth to go: perhaps I shall obtain for it a reward [in heaven]. Accordingly I advanced to him, and took him upon my shoulders, and conveyed him to the place that he had indicated to me; when I said to him, Descend at thine ease. But he descended not from my shoulders. He had twisted his legs round my neck, and I looked at them, and I saw that they were like the hide of the buffalo in blackness and roughness. So I was frightened at him, and desired to throw him down from my shoulders; but he pressed upon my neck with his feet, and squeezed my throat, so that the world became black before my face, and I was unconscious of my existence, falling upon the ground in a fit, like one dead. He then raised his legs, and beat me upon my back and my shoulders; and I suffered violent pain; wherefore I rose with him. He still kept his seat upon my shoulders, and I had become fatigued with bearing him; and he made a sign to me that I should go in among the trees, to the best of the fruits. When I disobeyed him, he inflicted upon me, with his feet, blows more violent than those of whips; and he ceased not to direct me with his hand to every place to which he desired to go, and to that place I went with him. If I loitered, or went leisurely, he beat me; and I was as a captive to him. We went into the midst of the island, among the trees, and he descended not from my shoulders by night nor by day: when he desired to sleep, he would wind his legs round my neck, and sleep a little, and then he would arise and beat me, whereupon I would arise with him quickly, unable to disobey him, by reason of the severity of that which I suffered from him; and I blamed myself for having taken him up, and having had pity on him. I continued with him in this condition, enduring the most violent fatigue, and said within myself, I did a good act unto this person, and it hath become an evil to myself! By Allah, I will never more do good unto any one as long as I live!I begged of God (whose name be exalted!), at every period and in every hour, that I might die, in consequence of the excessive fatigue and distress that I suffered.
Thus I remained for a length of time, until I carried him one day to a place in the island where I found an abundance of pumpkins, many of which were dry. Upon this I took a large one that was dry, and, having opened its upper extremity, and cleansed it, I went with it to a grape-vine, and filled it with the juice of the grapes. I then stopped up the aperture, and put it in the sun, and left it for some days, until it had become pure wine; and every day I used to drink of it, to help myself to endure the fatigue that I underwent with that obstinate devil; for whenever I was intoxicated by it, my energy was strengthened. So, seeing me one day drinking, he made a sign to me with his hand, as though he would say, What is this? And I answered him, This is something agreeable, that invigorateth the heart, and dilateth the mind. Then I ran with him, and danced among the trees; I was exhilarated by intoxication, and clapped my hands, and sang, and was joyful. Therefore when he beheld me in this state, he made a sign to me to hand him the pumpkin, that he might drink from it; and I feared him, and gave it to him; whereupon he drank what remained in it, and threw it upon the ground, and, being moved with merriment, began to shake upon my shoulders. He then became intoxicated, and drowned in intoxication; all his limbs, and the muscles of his sides, became relaxed, and he began to lean from side to side upon my shoulders. So when I knew that he was drunk, and that he was unconscious of existence, I put my hand to his feet, and loosed them from my neck. Then I stooped with him, and sat down, and threw him upon the ground. I scarcely believed that I had liberated myself and escaped from the state in which I had been; but I feared him, lest he should arise from his intoxication, and torment me. I therefore took a great mass of stone from among the trees, and, coming to him, struck him upon his head as he lay asleep, so that his flesh became mingled with his blood, and he was killed. May no mercy of God be on him!
After that, I walked about the island, with a happy mind, and came to the place where I was before, on the shore of the sea. And I remained upon that island eating of its fruits, and drinking of the water of its rivers, for a length of time, and watching to see some vessel passing by me, until I was sitting one day, reflecting upon the events that had befallen me and happened to me, and I said within myself, I wonder if God will preserve me in safety, and if I shall return to my country, and meet my family and my companions. And, lo, a vessel approached from the midst of the roaring sea agitated with waves, and it ceased not in its course until it anchored at that island; where upon the passengers landed there. So I walked towards them; and when they beheld me, they all quickly approached me and assembled around me, inquiring respecting my state, and the cause of my coming to that island I therefore acquainted them with my case, and with the events that had befallen me; whereat they wondered extremely. And they said to me, This man who rode upon thy shoulders is called the Old Man of the Sea, and no one ever was beneath his limbs and escaped from him except thee; and praise be to God for thy safety! Then they brought me some food, and I ate until I was satisfied; and they gave me some clothing, which I put on, covering myself decently. After this, they took me with them in the ship; and when we had proceeded days and nights, destiny drove us to a city of lofty buildings, all the houses of which overlooked the sea. That city is called the City of the Apes; and when the night cometh, the people who reside in it go forth from the doors that open upon the sea, and, embarking in boats and ships, pass the night upon the sea, in their fear of the apes, lest they should come down upon them in the night from the mountains.
I landed to divert myself in this city, and the ship set sail without my knowledge. So I repented of my having landed there, remembering my companions, and what had befallen them from the apes, first and afterwards; and I sat weeping and mourning. And thereupon a man of the inhabitants of the city advanced to me and said to me, O my master, it seemeth that thou art a stranger in this country. I therefore replied, Yes: I am a stranger, and a poor man. I was in a ship which anchored at this city, and I landed from it to divert myself in the city, and returned, but saw not the ship.And he said, Arise and come with us, and embark in the boat; for if thou remain in the city during the night, the apes will destroy thee. So I replied, I hear and obey. I arose immediately, and embarked with the people in the boat, and they pushed it off from the land until they had propelled it from the shore of the sea to the distance of a mile. They passed the night, and I with them; and when the morning came, they returned in the boat to the city, and landed, and each of them went to his occupation. Such hath been always their custom, every night; and to every one of them who remaineth behind in the city during the night, the apes come, and they destroy him. In the day, the apes go forth from the city, and eat of the fruits in the gardens, and sleep in the mountains until the evening, when they return to the city. And this city is in the furthest parts of the country of the blacks. Among the most wonderful of the events that happened to me in the treatment that I met with from its inhabitants, was this. A person of the party with whom I passed the night said to me, O my master, thou art a stranger in this country. Art thou skilled in any art with which thou mayest occupy thyself?And I answered him, No, by Allah, O my brother: I am acquainted with no art, nor do I know how to make any thing. I was a merchant, a person of wealth and fortune, and I had a ship, my own property, laden with abundant wealth and goods; but it was wrecked in the sea, and all that was in it sank, and I escaped not drowning but by the permission of God; for He provided me with a piece of a plank, upon which I placed myself; and it was the means of my escape from drowning.And upon this the man arose and brought me a cotton bag, and said to me, Take this bag, and fill it with pebbles from this city, and go forth with a party of the inhabitants. I will associate thee with them, and give them a charge respecting thee, and do thou as they shall do. Perhaps thou wilt accomplish that by means of which thou wilt be assisted to make thy voyage, and to return to thy country.
Then that man took me and led me forth from the city, and I picked up small pebbles, with which I filled that bag. And, lo, a party of men came out from the city, and he associated me with them, giving them a charge respecting me, and saying to them, This is a stranger; so take him with you, and teach him the mode of gathering. Perhaps he may gain the means of subsistence, and ye will obtain [from God] a reward and recompense.And they replied, We hear and obey. They welcomed me, and took me with them, and proceeded, each of them having a bag like mine, filled with pebbles; and we ceased not to pursue our way until we arrived at a wide valley, wherein were many lofty trees, which no one could climb. In that valley were also many apes, which, when they saw us, fled from us, and ascended those trees. Then the men began to pelt the apes with the stones that they had with them in the bags; upon which the apes began to pluck off the fruits of those trees, and to throw them at the men; and I looked at the fruits which the apes threw down, and, lo, they were cocoa-nuts. Therefore when I beheld the party do thus, I chose a great tree, upon which were many apes, and, advancing to it, proceeded to pelt those apes with stones; and they broke off nuts from the tree and threw them at me. So I collected them as the rest of the party did, and the stones were not exhausted from my bag until I had collected a great quantity. And when the party had ended this work, they gathered together all that was with them, and each of them carried off as many of the nuts as he could. We then returned to the city during the remainder of the day, and I went to the man, my companion, who had associated me with the party, and gave him all that I had collected, thanking him for his kindness. But he said to me, Take these and sell them, and make use of the price. And afterwards he gave me the key of a place in his house, and said to me, Put here these nuts that thou hast remaining with thee, and go forth every day with the party as thou hast done this day; and of what thou bringest, separate the bad, and sell them, and make use of their price; and the rest keep in thy possession in this place. Perhaps thou wilt accumulate of them what will aid thee to make thy voyage.So I replied, Thy reward is due from God, whose name be exalted! I did as he told me, and continued every day to fill the bag with stones, and to go forth with the people, and do as they did. They used to commend me, one to another, and to guide me to the tree upon which was abundance of fruit; and I ceased not to lead this life for a length of time, so that I collected a great quantity of good cocoa-nuts, and I sold a great quantity, the price of which became a large sum in my possession. I bought every thing that I saw and that pleased me, my time was pleasant, and my good fortune increased throughout the whole city.
I remained in this state for some time; after which, as I was standing by the seaside, lo, a vessel arrived at that city, and cast anchor by the shore. In it were merchants, with their goods, and they proceeded to sell and buy, and to exchange their goods for cocoa-nuts and other things. So I went to my companion, informed him of the ship that had arrived, and told him that I desired to make the voyage to my country. And he replied, It is thine to determine. I therefore bade him farewell, and thanked him for his kindness to me. Then I went to the ship, and, accosting the master, engaged with him for my passage, and embarked in that ship the cocoa-nuts and other things that I had with me, after which they set sail that same day. We continued our course from island to island and from sea to sea, and at every island at which we cast anchor I sold some of those cocoa-nuts, and exchanged; and God compensated me with more than I had before possessed and lost. We passed by an island in which are cinnamon and pepper, and some persons told us that they had seen upon every bunch of pepper, a large leaf that shadeth it and wardeth from it the rain whenever it raineth; and when the rain ceaseth to fall upon it, the leaf turneth over from the bunch, and hangeth down by its side. From that island I took with me a large quantity of pepper and cinnamon, in exchange for cocoa-nuts. We passed also by the Island of El-Asirat, which is that wherein is the Kamari aloes-wood. And after that, we passed by another island, the extent of which is five days journey, and in it is the Sanfi aloes-wood, which is superior to the Kamari; but the inhabitants of this island are worse in condition and religion than the inhabitants of the island of the Kamari aloes-wood; for they love depravity and the drinking of wines, and know not the call to prayer, nor the act of prayer. And we came after that to the pearl-fisheries; whereupon I gave to the divers some cocoa-nuts, and said to them, Dive for my luck and lot. Accordingly they dived in the bay there, and brought up a great number of large and valuable pearls; and they said to me, O my master, by Allah, thy fortune is good! So I took up into the ship what they had brought up for me, and we proceeded, relying on the blessing of God (whose name be exalted!), and continued our voyage until we arrived at El-Basrah, where I landed, and remained a short time. I then went thence to the city of Baghdad, entered my quarter, came to my house, and saluted my family and companions, who congratulated me on my safety. I stored all the goods and commodities that I had brought with me, clothed the orphans and the widows, bestowed alms and gifts, and made presents to my family and my companions and my friends. God had compensated me with four times as much as I had lost, and I forgot what had happened to me, and the fatigue that I had suffered, by reason of the abundance of my gain and profits, and resumed my first habits of familiar intercourse and fellowship.Such were the most wonderful things that happened to me in the course of the fifth voyage: but sup ye, and to-morrow come again, and I will relate to you the events of the sixth voyage; for it was more wonderful than this.