Avt’handil’s Request to King Rostevan, and the Vizier
WHEN day dawned the knight arrayed himself and went
forth early. He says: "I would that my love be not revealed.
that I may conceal it!" For patience he prays: "Contrive
something for my heart!" The moon-like one mounted his
horse; he went to the house of the vizier.
THE vizier heard of it, went to meet him: "The sun is
risen upon my house; this day, meseems, a presentiment of
joy announced to me this good news." He met Avt'handil,
saluted him, respectfully addressed to the perfect one
perfect praise. A welcome guest should have a cheerful
THIS host, not listless, ill-disposed or idle, helped the
knight to dismount; they stretched on the floor under his
feet a Cathayan rug. The knight illumined the house as the
sun's beam the universe. They said: "To-day the western
gale has wafted us the fragrant odour of roses."
HE sat; they that looked on him truly maddened their
hearts. They who gazed on him accounted it an honour to
swoon for his sake; many sighs were uttered, not once but
a thousand times; they were ordered to depart, they went
away, the household was thinned out.
WHEN the household was gone, the knight addressed the
vizier; quoth he: "In the council chamber nought will ever
be hidden from thee; in every matter of state the king does
what thou desirest, and agrees with thee. Now hearken to
my woes; cure me with what will heal me.
"THE fire of yon knight burns me, the flame that consumes
him afflicts me; I am slain by longing and by not seeing
the object of my desire; he would not grudge his life for me;
what is due must be paid; one must love a generous
ungrudging friend.
"THE sight of him caught my heart as in a net, therein
it stays; my patience, too, remains with him; in that he
burns those near him. God created him indeed a sun.
Moreover, Asmat'h is become a sister to me, more than
a born sister.
"WHEN I departed 1 swore with a fearful oath: 'I shall come
again, I shall see thee not with a face despised of foes;
thou art of darkened heart, I shall seek light for thee.'
It is time for me to go, therefore am I burned with hot fire.
"ALL this I tell thee truly, not with braggart speech; he
awaits me, and I cannot set forth. This it is that adds to the
hot fires; I cannot break my vow, I mad cannot abandon
him mad. When and where did ever a breaker of oaths
prevail ?
"GO to the palace, report on my behalf to King Rostevan
what I have told thee. By his head I swear to thee, Vizier
Ustasra, if he keep me not captive I shall not stay; if he
keep me captive what can he make of me ? Help me; let
not the fire hurt and destroy my heart!
"SAY from me: 'Let every mouth which is not speechless
praise thee! Let God, the means of light, make known to
thee how I fear thee. But that knight, an aloe-tree in form,
burned me with fire; forthwith he took away my heart, in
no wise could I keep it.
"'NOW, 0 king, for me existence lacking him is utterly
impossible; he, the dauntless, has my heart. Of what avail
am I here ? If I can be of any service to him, to you first
will the glory belong; if I fail to accomplish aught for him
I shall set my heart at rest, mine oath will not have been
"'LET not my going anger or grieve your heart. Let that
befall my head whate'er God wills. May He grant you the
victory, and send me your servant back to you; but if
I return not may you still reign, may your foes be
YET again the sun-faced one says to the vizier: "I have
shortened my speech. Now speak thus to the king till others
come in to inform him, pleasantly entreat for me my congee,
summon up thy courage, and a hundred thousand red pieces
shall be bestowed on thee as a bribe."
THE vizier said with a smile: "Keep thy bribe for thyself:
for me it is sufficient favour from thee that thou hast found
the road hither. How can I dare tell the king what I have
now heard from you! I know of a truth he will fill me with
favours, and gain is not disagreeable!
"BY his head! he will slay me straightway: I doubt
whether he will delay even a moment. Thy gold will remain
with thee, but for me, luckless, there will be earth for a
grave. Slay me! What is of equal value with life to a man!
The thing cannot be said and I cannot say it, however much
anyone should reproach me.
"THIS road leads to no aim. How can I, luckless, lay down
my life for thee? He will despoil me or kill me. He will say:
'How dost thou speak these words ? Why didst thou not
guess all there is to be done ? Why art thou such a
madman ?' Life is better than loot ; this I even now learn.
"EVEN if the king permit thee to depart, why should the
hosts also be deceived ? Why should they let thee go, why
should they be hoodwinked, or why should they be removed
far from their sun ? If thou depart, our foes will become
bold, will even themselves with us; but this must not be, as
sparrows cannot change to hawks."
THE knight wept; with tears he spoke: "Must I strike
a knife into my heart! O vizier, it is apparent in thee thou
knowest not what love is, nor hast thou in others seen
friendship or oath. Or if thou hast seen surch, how canst thou
prove that without him my joy is possible?
"THE sun has turned. I knew not what would make the sun
turn. Now let us help him; it is better for us, in return he
will warm our day. No one knows mine affairs like myself;
what embitters me, what sweetens me. The discourse of
idle men greatly grieves a man.
"OF what profit can I be to the king or his hosts since I am
mad now, and my tears flow unceasingly! It is better that
I go away; I will not break my word; oaths prove a man.
What man has borne grief that Tariel has not?
"Now, o vizier, how can thy cursed heart be calm in this
juncture! Iron in my place would become wax and vot hard
rock; I cannot repay his tears, even if Gihon1 flowed from
mine eyes. Help me if thou wouldst desire help from me.
1 River in Messopotamia
"IF he give me not leave I shall steal away, unknown shall
I depart from him; as it intreats me so shall I deliver my
Heart to be consumed by fire. I know he will do nothing to
Thee because of me, if he be not disposed to exile thee.
Promise me-whatever may happen to thee- ‘I shall
Sacrifice myself to be tortured!’"
THE vizier said: "Thy fire consumes me also with fire.
I can no longer look on thy tears, the world itself vanishes;
sometimes speech is better than silence, sometimes by
speaking we spoil things. T shall speak; if I die it matters
not, my life will be sacrificed for thee."
WHEN the vizier had said this he arose and went to the
palace. He saw the king arrayed; the sun-like face looked
straight upon him. He was afraid, he dared not tell him
unpleasing news; perplexed he stood, he thought not on
war-like matters.
THE king saw the vizier struck dumb by sadness. He said:
"What grieves thee ? What knowest thou ? Why art thou
come sad?" He answered: "I know nothing at all, but I am
indeed wretched. You will be justified in slaying me when
you hear the astounding news.
"MY mourning neither adds to my grief nor surpasses it;
I am afraid, though an envoy has no care for fear. Now
Avt'handil bids thee farewell, he entreats, he wrangles not;
he says that for him the world and life are nought without
yon knight."
WITH timorous tongue he told him all he knew. He added,
thereafter: "How canst thou know by such words in what
a plight I saw him and how his tears flowed ? Though you
should let your wrath fall forthwith on me, you are just."
WHEN the king had heard this he was wroth, he lost his
senses, his colour waned and he became terrible, he would
have terrified onlookers. He cried: "What has made a
madman of thee ? Who else would have related this ? It is
the plight of a bad man to learn early what is evil.
"TRAITOR-LIKE, thou hast told me of this as if it were
a merry matter; what more could anyone do to me save
slay me faithlessly, treacherously ? Madman, how couldst
thou employ thy tongue to dare to speak thus to me now!
Such a madman as thou art is unworthy to be vizier or
aught else.
"SHOULD not a man spare his lord what is irksome, when
he stupidly chatters stupid speech ? Why were mine ears not
deafened before hearing such a thing! If I kill thee, my neck
must bear the responsibility for thy blood!"
AGAIN he spake: "If thou hadst not now been sent hither
by him, by my head! I had cut off thy head, let there be no
doubt of this! Go, withdraw! Look at the mad, stupid,
desperate improper fellow! Brave word, brave man, brave
the deed done by him!"
HE bent down, he threw chairs, he hit the wall and
shattered them; he missed his aim, but for the vizier's sake
he made the chairs like diamond, not willow-like. "How
couldst thou tell me of the going of him who plaited the
aloe-tree branches!" Hot tears hollowed out channels in the
vizier's white cheeks.
THE wretched vizier hurried away; he dared say no more.
He crept off crestfallen like a fox; his wounded heart pains
him. He comes in a courtier, he goes out gloomy, so much
does the tongue dishonour him. A foe cannot hurt a foe
as a man harms himself.
HE said: "What more will God show me like unto my
woes ? Why was I deceived ? Why was I darkened ? Would
that someone might enlighten me! Whoever announces
anything so boldly to a sovereign, my evil days stand upon
him too; how can he ever enjoy peace!"
THE disgraced vizier went away in black luck. Gloomily,
sad-faced, he said to Avt'handil: "What thanks can I give
thee! Thanks to thee, what a courtier am I become! Alas!
I have lost my peerless self by mine own fault!"
HE begs the bribe and behaves sportively, albeit his tears
were not dry. I marvel why he spends his time in making
jokes, why he is not grieved in heart! Quoth he: "He who
gives not what he promised quarrels with the Mourav1. It is
said: 'A bribe settles matters even in hell.'
1 Mourav—the headman of a town.
"HOW he took the matter, what he said to me, it is not to
be told by me. What evil, what stupidity, what idiocy, what
madness he attributed to me! I myself am no longer worthy
of the name of man; no longer have I sense. At this I
marvel—why he slew me not; God must have given him
"I KNEW too what I did; it happened not to me by
mistake. I had pondered, I knew he would be wroth with
me, therefore is my grief increased. None can avoid
vengeance for a deed done by Providence. Still, for thy sake
death seems joy to me; my woes are not in vain."
THE knight replied: "It is wholly impossible for me not to
depart. When the rose withers the nightingale then dies;
he must seek a dewdrop of water, for the sake of this he
must rove everywhere, and if he cannot find it what will he
do or wherewith shall he soothe his heart ?
"WITHOUT him I cannot bear to sit or lie. I will choose
to roam like the beasts, with them to run. Why does
Rostevan desire me who am in such a state to fight his
adversaries! It is better to have no man at all than to have
a dissatisfied one.
"I WILL tell him once again; now, however angry the king
may be, surely he can judge how my heart burns and
flames. If he grant me not leave, I shall steal away when
hope is gone. If I die, my portion and world will be
WHEN they had conversed, the vizier made a banquet
befitting them; he played the host, gave fair gifts to the
fair guest, he enriched his attendants, both youths and
greybeards. They parted; the knight went home as the sun
was setting.
THE form of the sun-faced Avt'handil was like that of
a cypress; he bound up a hundred thousand pieces of gold,
three hundred pieces of gold brocade—he was generous
and open-handed—sixty precious rubies and jacinths, the
colour of which could not displease. He sent a man to carry
these presents from him.
AVT'HANDIL sent a message to the king saying: "How
can I give or bestow on thee that which befits thee ? What
return can I think of for the debts I owe thee ? Tf I survive
I shall die for thee; I shall make myself thy slave. I shall
repay love with love, with a like weight."
HOW can I tell his peerlessness, valour, and praise him!
He was a man fitting and worthy even of such a deed. Thus
should service be, as much as lies in one's power. When
a man is in trouble then needs he brother and kinsman.