Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night— Volume 4

Author: Unknown

Ali the Persian.

It is said that the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, being restless one night, sent for his Wazir and said to him, "O Ja’afar, I am sore wakeful and heavy-hearted this night, and I desire of thee what may solace my spirit and cause my breast to broaden with amuse meet." Quoth Ja’afar, "O Commander of the Faithful, I have a friend, by name Ali the Persian, who hath store of tales and plea sent stories, such as lighten the heart and make care depart." Quoth the Caliph, "Fetch him to me," and quoth Ja’afar, "Hearkening and obedience;" and, going out from before him, sent to seek Ali the Persian and when he came said to him, "Answer the summons of the Commander of the Faithful." "To hear is to obey," answered Ali;—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Ninety-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Persian replied, "To hear is to obey;" and at once followed the Wazir into the presence of the Caliph who bade him be seated and said to him, "O Ali, my heart is heavy within me this night and it hath come to my ear that thou hast great store of tales and anecdotes; so I desire of thee that thou let me hear what will relieve my despondency and brighten my melancholy." Said he, "O Commander of the Faithful, shall I tell thee what I have seen with my eyes or what I have heard with my ears?" He replied, "An thou have seen aught worth the telling, let me hear that." Replied Ali: "Hearkening and obedience. Know thou, O Commander of the Faithful, that some years ago I left this my native city of Baghdad on a journey, having with me a lad who carried a light leathern bag. Presently we came to a certain city, where, as I was buying and selling, behold, a rascally Kurd fell on me and seized my wallet perforce, saying, ’This is my bag, and all which is in it is my property.’ Thereupon, I cried aloud ’Ho Moslems,[FN#211] one and all, deliver me from the hand of the vilest of oppressors!’ But the folk said, ’Come, both of you, to the Kazi and abide ye by his judgment with joint consent.’ So I agreed to submit myself to such decision and we both presented ourselves before the Kazi, who said, ’What bringeth you hither and what is your case and your quarrel?’ Quoth I, ’We are men at difference, who appeal to thee and make complaint and submit ourselves to thy judgment.’ Asked the Kazi, ’Which of you is the complainant?’; so the Kurd came forward[FN#212] and said, ’Allah preserve our lord the Kazi! Verily, this bag is my bag and all that is in it is my swag. It was lost from me and I found it with this man mine enemy.’ The Kazi asked, ’When didst thou lose it?’; and the Kurd answered, ’But yesterday, and I passed a sleepless night by reason of its loss.’ ’An it be thy bag,’ quoth the Kazi, ’tell me what is in it.’ Quoth the Kurd, ’There were in my bag two silver styles for eye-powder and antimony for the eyes and a kerchief for the hands, wherein I had laid two gilt cups and two candlesticks. Moreover it contained two tents and two platters and two spoons and a cushion and two leather rugs and two ewers and a brass tray and two basins and a cooking-pot and two waterjars and a ladle and a sacking-needle and a she-cat and two bitches and a wooden trencher and two sacks and two saddles and a gown and two fur pelisses and a cow and two calves and a she-goat and two sheep and an ewe and two lambs and two green pavilions and a camel and two she-camels and a lioness and two lions and a she-bear and two jackals and a mattress and two sofas and an upper chamber and two saloons and a portico and two sitting-rooms and a kitchen with two doors and a company of Kurds who will bear witness that the bag is my bag.’ Then said the Kazi to me, ’And thou, sirrah, what sayest thou?’ So I came forward, O Commander of the Faithful (and indeed the Kurd’s speech had bewildered me) and said, ’Allah advance our lord the Kazi! Verily, there was naught in this my wallet, save a little ruined tenement and another without a door and a dog house and a boys’ school and youths playing dice and tents and tent-ropes and the cities of Bassorah and Baghdad and the palace of Shaddad bin Ad and an ironsmith’s forge and a fishing-net and cudgels and pickets and girls and boys and a thousand pimps who will testify that the bag is my bag.’ Now when the Kurd heard my words, he wept and wailed and said, ’O my lord the Kazi, this my bag is known and what is in it is a matter of renown; for in this bag there be castles and citadels and cranes and beasts of prey and men playing chess and draughts. Furthermore, in this my bag is a brood-mare and two colts and a stallion and two blood-steeds and two long lances; and it containeth eke a lion and two hares and a city and two villages and a whore and two sharking panders and an hermaphrodite and two gallows birds and a blind man and two wights with good sight and a limping cripple and two lameters and a Christian ecclesiastic and two deacons and a patriarch and two monks and a Kazi and two assessors, who will be evidence that the bag is my bag.’ Quoth the Kazi to me, ’And what sayst thou, O Ali?’ So, O Commander of the Faithful, being filled with rage, I came forward and said, ’Allah keep our lord the Kazi!’"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Ninety-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Persian continued: "So being filled with rage, O Commander of the Faithful, I came forward and said, ’Allah keep our lord the Kazi I had in this my wallet a coat of mail and a broadsword and armouries and a thousand fighting rams and a sheep-fold with its pasturage and a thousand barking dogs and gardens and vines and flowers and sweet smelling herbs and figs and apples and statues and pictures and flagons and goblets and fair-faced slave-girls and singing-women and marriage-feasts and tumult and clamour and great tracts of land and brothers of success, which were robbers, and a company of daybreak-raiders with swords and spears and bows and arrows and true friends and dear ones and Intimates and comrades and men imprisoned for punishment and cup-companions and a drum and flutes and flags and banners and boys and girls and brides (in all their wedding bravery), and singing-girls and five Abyssinian women and three Hindi maidens and four damsels of Al-Medinah and a score of Greek girls and eighty Kurdish dames and seventy Georgian ladies and Tigris and Euphrates and a fowling net and a flint and steel and Many-columned Iram and a thousand rogues and pimps and horse-courses and stables and mosques and baths and a builder and a carpenter and a plank and a nail and a black slave with his flageolet and a captain and a caravan leader and towns and cities and an hundred thousand dinars and Cufa and Anbar[FN#213] and twenty chests full of stuffs and twenty storehouses for victuals and Gaza and Askalon and from Damietta to Al-Sawan[FN#214]; and the palace of Kisra Anushirwan and the kingdom of Solomon and from Wadi Nu’uman to the land of Khorasan and Balkh and Ispahan and from India to the Sudan. Therein also (may Allah prolong the life of our lord the Kazi!) are doublets and cloths and a thousand sharp razors to shave off the Kazi’s beard, except he fear my resentment and adjudge the bag to be my bag.’ Now when the Kazi heard what I and the Kurd avouched, he was confounded and said, ’I see ye twain be none other than two pestilent fellows, atheistical-villains who make sport of Kazis and magistrates and stand not in fear of reproach. Never did tongue tell nor ear hear aught more extraordinary than that which ye pretend. By Allah, from China to Shajarat Umm Ghaylan, nor from Fars to Sudan nor from Wadi Nu’uman to Khorasan, was ever heard the like of what ye avouch or credited the like of what ye affirm. Say, fellows, be this bag a bottomless sea or the Day of Resurrection that shall gather together the just and unjust?’ Then the Kazi bade them open the bag; so I opened it and behold, there was in it bread and a lemon and cheese and olives. So I threw the bag down before the Kurd and ganged my gait." Now when the Caliph heard this tale from Ali the Persian, he laughed till he fell on his back and made him a handsome present.[FN#215] And men also relate a


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Chicago: Unknown, "Ali the Persian.," Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night— Volume 4, trans. Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890 in Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night—Volume 4 Original Sources, accessed April 16, 2024,

MLA: Unknown. "Ali the Persian." Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night— Volume 4, translted by Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890, in Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night—Volume 4, Original Sources. 16 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Unknown, 'Ali the Persian.' in Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night— Volume 4, trans. . cited in , Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night—Volume 4. Original Sources, retrieved 16 April 2024, from