Story of Rostevan, King of the Arabians
THERE was in Arabia Rostevan, a king by the grace of
God, happy, exalted, generous, modest, lord of many hosts
and knights, just and gracious, powerful, far-seeing, himself
a peerless warrior, moreover, fluent in speech.
NO other child had the king save one only daughter, the
shining light of the world, to be ranked with nought but the
sunny group; whoever looked on her, she bereft him of
heart, mind and soul. It needs a wise man to praise her, and
ten thousand times a thousand tongues.
HER name is T'hinat'hin; let it be famous! When she had
grown up to full womanhood, she contemned even the sun.
The king called his viziers, seated himself, proud yet gentle,
and, placing them by his side, began to talk graciously
to them.
HE said: "I will declare to you the matter on which we
are to take counsel together. When the flower of the rose is
dried and withered it falls, and another blooms in the lovely
garden. The sun is set for us; we are gazing on a dark, moonless night
"MY day is done; old age, most grievous of all ills. Weighs
on me; if not to-day, then to-morrow I die—this is the way
of the world. What light is that on which darkness attends?
Let us instate as sovereign my daughter, of whom the sun is
not worthy."
THE viziers said: "0 king, why do you speak of your age?
Even when the rose fades we must needs give it its due; it
still excels all in scent and fair colour. How can a star
declare enmity even to the waning moon!
"SPEAK not then thus, 0 king. Your rose is not yet
faded. Even bad counsel from you is better than good
counsel from another. It was certainly fitting to speak
about what your heart desires. It is better. Give the
kingdom to her who prevails against the sun.
"THOUGH indeed she be a woman, still as sovereign she
is begotten of God. She knows how to rule. We say not this
to flatter you; we ourselves, in your absence, often say so.
Her deeds, like her radiance, are revealed bright as
sunshine. The lion's whelps are equal, be they male or female."
AVT'HANDIL was Spaspeti,1 son of the Amirspasalari.2
He was more graceful than the cypress; his presence was like sun and moon. Still beardless, he was to be likened to
famous crystal and enamel. The beauty of the host of
T'hinat'hin's eyelashes was slaying him.
HE kept his love hidden in his heart. When he was absent
and saw her not, his rose faded; when he saw her, the fires
were renewed, his wound smarted more. Love is pitiable; it
makes man heart-slain.
WHEN the king commanded that his daughter should be
enthroned as king, gladness came upon Avt'handil; the
fire that was burning Avt'handil was extinguished. He said
to himself: "Often will it now fall to my lot to gaze upon
her crystal face; perchance I may thus find a cure for my
THE great sovereign of the Arabs published throughout
Arabia an edict: "I, her father, appoint my T'hinat'hin
queen; she shall illumine all, even as the shining sun.
Come and see, all ye who praise and extol!"
ALL the Arabians came; the crowd of courtiers increased.
The sun-faced Avt'handil, chief of ten thousand times a
thousand soldiers, the vizier Sograt, the nearest to the
king of all his attendants. When they placed the throne the
people said: "Its worth is beyond words!"
T'HINAT'HIN, radiant in countenance, was led in by her
sire. He seated her, and with his own hands set the crown on
her head; he gave her the sceptre, and clad her in the royal
robes. The maiden looks on with understanding, all-seeing,
like the sun.
THE king and his armies retired and did homage. They
blessed her and established her as queen, many from many
places told forth her praises; the trumpets were blown and
the cymbals sounded sweetly. The maiden wept, she shed
many tears; she drooped her eyelashes, the tail feathers of
the raven.
SHE deemed herself unworthy to sit on her father's
throne; therefore she weeps, filling the rose-garden with
tears. The king admonishes her: "Every father hath a peer
in his child," quoth he. "Until now the raging fire in my
bosom has not been extinguished."
HE said: "Weep not, daughter, but hearken to my counsel :
To-day thou art queen of Arabia, appointed sovereign
by me; henceforth this kingdom is entrusted to thee; mayest
thou be discreet in thy doings, be modest and discerning.
"SINCE the sun shines alike on roses and middens, be not
thou weary of mercy to great and small. The generous binds
the free, and he who is already bound will willingly obey.
Scatter liberally, as the seas pour forth again the floods
they have received.
"MUNIFICENCE in kings is like the aloe planted in Eden.
All, even the traitor, are obedient to the generous. It is
very wholesome to eat and drink, but what profits it to
board ? What thou givest away is thine; what thou keepest
is lost."
THE maiden hearkened discreetly to this her father's
advice, she lent ear, she heard, she wearied not of
instruction. The king drank and sported; he was exceeding joyful. T'hinat'hin contemned the sun, but the sun was like to T'hinat'hin.
SHE sent for her faithful, trusty tutor, and said: "Bring
hither all my treasure sealed by thee, all the wealth
belonging to me as king's daughter. " He brought it; she
gave without measure, without count, inexhaustibly.
THAT day she gave away all she had gathered since her
childhood; she enriched both small folk and great. Then
she said: "I do the deed my father taught me; let none keep
back any of my hoarded treasure."
SHE said: "Go, open whatever treasure there is! Master
of the Horse, lead in the droves of asses, mules, and horses.
He brought them. She gave them away without measure;
she wearied not of generosity. The soldiers gathered together
stuff like pirates.
THEY pillaged her treasury as 'twere booty from Turks;
they carried off her fine, sleek Arab steeds. Her munificence
was like a snowstorm whirling down from the sky; none
remained empty, neither youth nor maiden.
ONE day passed; there was a banquet, food and drink—a
feast of fruit. A great gathering of warriors sat there to
make merry. The king hung his head, and his brow was
furrowed with sadness. They began to discuss this one with
another: "What weighs upon him, and why grieves he ?"
AT the head sat the sun-faced Avt'handil, desirable to
them that look upon him, the agile leader of the hosts;
like a tiger and a lion is he. The old vizier Sograt sat by his
side. They said one to the other: "What ails the king, and
why has he grown pale ?"
THEY said: "Some unpleasant thought has come into the
king's mind, for nothing has happened here to make him
sad." Quoth Avt'handil: "Let us inquire, 0 Sograt, let
him tell us why he is displeased with us; let us venture on
some pleasantry; why hath he shamed us?"
SOGRAT and the graceful Avt'handil arose; each filled his
winecup, and with meek mien drew nigh. Then with
smiling faces they cast themselves on their knees before the
king. The vizier sportively spoke thus, with eloquent
words :
"YOU look sad, 0 king; there is no longer a smile on your
face. Thou art right, for, lo! your daughter with lavish hand
has given away all your rich and costly treasure. Make her
not queen at all; why bring grief on thyself?"
WHEN the king heard him he looked up with a smile. He
marvelled how he had ventured thus, how he dared to speak
such words! "Well hast thou done!" He thanked his vizier.
He confirmed this what he said: "He who lays avarice to
my charge is a lying chatterer.
"THAT afflicts me not, 0 vizier. This it is that troubles
me: Old age draws nigh; I have spent the days of youth,
and nowhere in our dominions is there a man who hath
learned from me the knightly arts.
"IT is true I have a daughter tenderly nurtured, but God
has given me no son; I suffer in this fleeting life. There
is none to be compared with me in archery or at the game
of ball. It is true that Avt'handil resembles me somewhat,
thanks to my teaching."
THE proud youth hearkened modestly to these words of
the king; with bent head he smiled. Well did a smile befit
him; his shining white teeth gleamed like sunshine on a
mead. The king asked: "Why smilest thou? Or why wert
thou shy of me ?"
YET again he said: "Why dost thou laugh at me? What is
laughable in me ?" The youth replied: "I shall tell you if
you grant me leave to speak. With what I say be not
offended, be not wroth, blame me not, call me not bold,
ruin me not for this!"
HE anwered: "How can I take aught thou sayst as
displeasing ?" He took an oath by the sun of T'hinat'hin,
that contemner of the sun. Avt'handil said: "Then will
I speak boldly; vaunt not yourself of your archery, it is
better to speak modestly.
"I, AVT'HANDIL, earth under feet, am an archer before
you; let us lay a wager; let your armies attend as
witnesses. 'Who is like me in the lists ?' said you—vain
indeed is denial !-that is decided by the ball and the field."
"I WILL not let thee thus dispute with me! Say the word,
let us draw the bow; do not shirk. Let us make good men
witnesses of our rivalry; then in the field it will be manifest
whose praises should be sung."
AVT'HANDIL obeyed; they ceased their discourse. They
laughed, they sported like children, lovingly and becomingly
they behaved. They fixed the wager, and laid down this
condition: Whoever shall be beaten, let him go bareheaded
for three days.
THE king commanded, moreover: "Let twelve slaves be
chosen to attend us, twelve to give me arrows and wait
upon me; Shermadin alone is for thee; he is equal to
them. Let them count the shots and the hits, and give
a faithful, unerring report."
TO the huntsmen he said: "Travel over the plain, beat in
many droves, go yourselves to do this, invite the soldiers
to look on, assemble and close round!" The festivity and
banquet broke up; there were we pleasantly merry.
1 Spaspeti-captain of the troops.
2 Amirspasalari-commander-in-chief.