Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kashmiri Singing Girl and The Goldsmith

Image of Queen Scheherazade tells her stories to King ShahryarThe Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 6
A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainments
Translated and Annotated by Richard F. Burton

135. The Craft and Malice of Woman
m. The Goldsmith and the Cashmere Singing-Girl


When it was the Five Hundred and Eighty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
fourth Wazir had told his tale, the King turned from his purpose
to slay his son; but, on the fifth day, the damsel came in to him
hending a bowl of poison in hand, calling on Heaven for help and
buffeting her cheeks and face, and said to him, "O King, either
thou shalt do me justice and avenge me on thy son, or I will
drink up this poison-cup and die, and the sin of my blood shall
be on thy head at the Day of Doom. These thy Ministers accuse me
of malice and perfidy, but there be none in the world more
perfidious than men. Hast thou not heard the story of the
Goldsmith and the Cashmere[FN#190] singing-girl?" "What befel the
twain, O damsel?" asked the King; and she answered, saying,
"There hath come to my knowledge, O august King, a tale of the

Goldsmith and the Cashmere Singing-Girl.

There lived once, in a city of Persia a goldsmith who delighted
in women and in drinking wine. One day, being in the house of one
of his intimates, he saw painted on the wall the figure of a
lutanist, a beautiful damsel, beholder never beheld a fairer or a
more pleasant. He looked at the picture again and again,
marvelling at its beauty, and fell so desperately in love with
it, that he sickened for passion and came near to die. It chanced
that one of his friends came to visit him and sitting down by his
side, asked how he did and what ailed him, whereto the goldsmith
answered, "O my brother, that which ails me is love, and it befel
on this wise. I saw a figure of a woman painted on the house-
wall of my brother such an one and became enamoured of it."
Hereupon the other fell to blaming him and said, "This was of thy
lack of wit; how couldst thou fall in love with a painted figure
on a wall, that can neither harm nor profit, that seeth not
neither heareth, that neither taketh nor withholdeth." Said the
sick man, "He who painted yonder picture never could have limned
it save after the likeness of some beautiful woman." "Haply,"
rejoined his friend, "he painted it from imagination." "In any
case," replied the goldsmith, "here am I dying for love of the
picture, and if there live the original thereof in the world, I
pray Allah Most High to protect my life till I see her." When
those who were present went out, they asked for the painter of
the picture and, finding that he had travelled to another town,
wrote him a letter, complaining of their comrade's case and
enquiring whether he had drawn the figure of his own inventive
talents or copied it from a living model; to which he replied, "I
painted it after a certain singing-girl belonging to one of the
Wazirs in the city of Cashmere in the land of Hind." When the
goldsmith heard this, he left Persia for Cashmere-city, where he
arrived after much travail. He tarried awhile there till one day
he went and clapped up an acquaintance with a certain of the
citizens who was a druggist, a fellow of a sharp wit, keen,
crafty; and, being one even-tide in company with him, asked him
of their King and his polity; to which the other answered,
saying, "Well, our King is just and righteous in his governance,
equitable to his lieges and beneficent to his commons and
abhorreth nothing in the world save sorcerers; but, whenever a
sorcerer or sorceress falls into his hands, he casteth them into
a pit without the city and there leaveth them in hunger to die."
Then he questioned him of the King's Wazirs, and the druggist
told him of each Minister, his fashion and condition, till the
talk came round to the singing-girl and he told him, "She
belongeth to such a Wazir." The goldsmith took note of the
Minister's abiding place and waited some days, till he had
devised a device to his desire; and one night of rain and thunder
and stormy winds, he provided himself with thieves' tackle and
repaired to the house of the Wazir who owned the damsel. Here he
hanged a rope-ladder with grappling-irons to the battlements and
climbed up to the terrace-roof of the palace. Thence he descended
to the inner court and, making his way into the Harim, found all
the slave-girls lying asleep, each on her own couch; and amongst
them reclining on a couch of alabaster and covered with a
coverlet of cloth of gold a damsel, as she were the moon rising
on a fourteenth night. At her head stood a candle of ambergris,
and at her feet another, each in a candlestick of glittering
gold, her brilliancy dimming them both; and under her pillow lay
a casket of silver, wherein were her Jewels. He raised the
coverlet and drawing near her, considered her straitly, and
behold, it was the lutanist whom he desired and of whom he was
come in quest. So he took out a knife and wounded her in the back
parts, a palpable outer wound, whereupon she awoke in terror;
but, when she saw him, she was afraid to cry out, thinking he
came to steal her goods. So she said to him, "Take the box and
what is therein, but slay me not, for I am in thy protection and
under thy safe-guard[FN#191] and my death will profit thee
nothing." Accordingly, he took the box and went away.--And
Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her
permitted say.

When is was the Five Hundred and Eighty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the
goldsmith had entered the Wazir's palace he wounded the damsel
slightly in the back parts and, taking the box which contained
her jewels, wended his way. And when morning morrowed he donned
clothes after the fashion of men of learning and doctors of the
law and, taking the jewel-case went in therewith to the King of
the city, before whom he kissed the ground and said to him, "O
King, I am a devout man; withal a loyal well-wisher to thee and
come hither a pilgrim to thy court from the land of Khorasan,
attracted by the report of thy just governance and righteous
dealing with thy subjects and minded to be under thy standard. I
reached this city at the last of the day and finding the gate
locked and barred, threw me down to sleep without the walls; but,
as I lay betwixt sleep and wake, behold, I saw four women come
up; one riding on a broom-stick, another on a wine-jar, a third
on an oven-peel and a fourth on a black bitch,[FN#192] and I knew
that they were witches making for thy city. One of them came up
to me and kicked me with her foot and beat me with a fox's tail
she had in her hand, hurting me grievously, whereat I was wroth
and smote her with a knife I had with me, wounding her in the
back parts, as she turned to flee from me. When she felt the
wound, she fled before me and in her flight let drop this casket,
which I picked up and opening, found these costly jewels therein.
So do thou take it, for I have no need thereof, being a wanderer
in the mountains[FN#193] who hath rejected the world from my
heart and renounced it and all that is in it, seeking only the
face of Allah the Most High." Then he set the casket before the
King and fared forth. The King opened the box and emptying out
all the trinkets it contained, fell to turning them over with his
hand, till he chanced upon a necklace whereof he had made gift to
the Wazir to whom the girl belonged. Seeing this, he called the
Minister in question and said to him, "This is the necklace I
gave thee?" He knew it at first sight and answered, "It is; and I
gave it to a singing girl of mine." Quoth the King, "Fetch that
girl to me forthwith." So he fetched her to him, and he said,
"Uncover her back parts and see if there be a wound therein or
no." The Wazir accordingly bared her backside and finding a
knife-wound there, said, "Yes, O my lord, there is a wound." Then
said the King, "This is the witch of whom the devotee told me,
and there can be no doubt of it," and bade cast her into the
witches' well. So they carried her thither at once. As soon as it
was night and the goldsmith knew that his plot had succeeded, he
repaired to the pit, taking with him a purse of a thousand
dinars, and, entering into converse with the warder, sat talking
with him till a third part of the night was passed, when he
broached the matter to him, saying, "Know, O my brother, that
this girl is innocent of that they lay to her charge and that it
was I brought this calamity upon her." Then he told him the whole
story, first and last, adding, "Take, O my brother, this purse of
a thousand dinars and give me the damsel, that I may carry her to
my own land, for these gold pieces will profit thee more than
keeping her in prison; moreover Allah will requite thee for us,
and we too will both offer up prayers for thy prosperity and
safety." When the warder heard this story, he marvelled with
exceeding marvel at that device and its success; then taking the
money, he delivered the girl to the goldsmith, conditioning that
he should not abide one hour with her in the city. Thereupon the
goldsmith took the girl and fared on with her, without ceasing,
till he reached his own country and so he won his wish. "See,
then, O King" (said the damsel), "the malice of men and their
wiles. Now thy Wazirs hinder thee from doing me justice on thy
son; but to-morrow we shall stand, both thou and I, before the
Just Judge, and He shall do me justice on thee, O King." When the
King heard this, he commanded to put his son to death; but the
fifth Wazir came in to him and kissing the ground before him,
said, "O mighty King, delay and hasten not to slay thy son: speed
will oftentimes repentance breed; and I fear for thee lest thou
repent, even as did the man who never laughed for the rest of his
days." "And how was that, O Wazir?" asked the King. Quoth he, "I
have heard tell, O King, this tale concerning

The Man who never Laughed during the Rest of his Days.

Author's Footnote:
[FN#190] The Kashmir people, men and women, have a very bad name
in Eastern tales, the former for treachery and the latter for
unchastity. A Persian distich says:

If folk be scarce as food in dearth ne'er let three lots come
near ye:
First Sindi, second Jat, and third a rascally Kashmeeree.

The women have fair skins and handsome features but, like all
living in that zone, Persians, Sindis, Afghans, etc., their
bosoms fall after the first child and become like udders. This is
not the case with Hindú women, Rajpúts, Maráthís, etc.

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