P'hatman Tells Avt'handil the Story of Nestan-Daredjan
"IN this city it is a rule that on New Year's Day no
merchant trades, none sets out on a journey; we all
straightway begin to deck and beautify ourselves; the
sovereigns make a great court banquet.
"WE, great merchants, arc bound to take presents to court;
the sovereigns must give gifts befitting us. For ten days
there is heard everywhere the sound of the cymbal and
tambourine; in the moedan, tilting, ball-play, the stamping
of horses.
"MY husband, Usen, is the leader of the great merchants,
I lead their wives; I need none to invite me; rich or poor,
we give presents to the queen; we entertain ourselves
agreeably at court, we come home merry.
"NEW Year's Day was come, we gave our gifts to the
queen; we gave to them, they gave to us, we filled them,
we were filled. After a time we went forth merry, at our
will; again we sat down to rejoice, we behaved as we wished.
"AT eventide I went into the garden to sport; I took the
ladies with me, it behoved me to entertain them; I brought
with me minstrels, they discoursed sweet song; I played
and gambolled like a child, I changed veil and hair.
"THERE in the garden were fair mansions beautifully
built, lofty, with a prospect on every side, overhanging the
sea. Thither I led the ladies, them that were with me; anew
we made a banquet, we sat pleasantly, joyously.
"MERRY, I entertained the merchants' wives, pleasantly,
in a sisterly way. While drinking, without any cause
a distaste came upon me. When they perceived me thus,
they separated, all that sat at meal. I was left alone; some
sadness fell on my heart like soot.
"I OPENED the window and turned my face to the road,
I looked out, I shook off the sadness growing within me.
Far away I saw something small, it floated in the sea,
methought a bird or beast; to what else could I liken it ?
"FROM afar I could not recognize it; when it came near
it was a boat; two men clad in black, and black also of
visage, on either side stood close; only a head appeared:
they came ashore, that strange sight astonished me.
"THEY beached the boat; they landed in front of the
garden. They looked thither, they looked hither, if any
anywhere observed them, they saw no creature, nothing
alarmed them. Secretly I watched them; I was quiet
"WHAT they landed from the boat in a chest-they took
off the lid—was a maiden of wondrous form, who stepped
forth; on her head was a black veil, beneath she was clad in
green. It would suffice the sun to be like her in beauty.
"WHEN the maiden turned towards me, rays rose upon
the rock; the lightning of her cheeks flashed over land and
sky; I blinked mine eyes, I could no more gaze on her than
on the sun; I closed the door on my side; they could not
perceive that they were watched.
"I CALLED for slaves who waited upon me; I pointed:
'See what beauty the Indians hold captive! Steal down, go
forth, quietly, not racing hastily. If they will sell her to
you, give them the price, whatever they may be wanting.
"'IF they will not give her to you, let them not take her
away, capture her from them, slay them, bring hither that
moon, do the errand well, use your best endeavour!' My
slaves stole down from above as if they flew; they chaffered,
they sold not. 1 saw the blacks looked right ill pleased.
"I STOOD at the window; when I saw they would not sell her, I cried: 'Slay them!' They seized them and cut off their heads, they threw them out into the sea; they turned back, they guarded the maiden. I went down to meet her, I took her, she had not tarried long on the seashore.
"HOW can I tell thee her praise! what loveliness! what
delicacy! I swear she is the sun; 'tis untrue that the sun is
sun! Who can endure her rays, who can delineate her! If
she consume me, lo! I am ready, no preparation is needed
for this."
WHEN she had ended these words, P'hatman rent her face
with her hands; Avt'handil, too, wept, he shed hot tears;
they forgot each other, for her sake they became as mad;
the spring of tears flowing down from above melted the
slight new-fallen snow of the cheek.
THEY wept. The knight said: "Break not off! Conclude!"
P'hatman said: "I received her; I made my heart faithful
to her. I kissed her every part, and thereby I wearied her.
I seated her on my couch, I caressed her, I loved her.
"T SAID to her: 'Tell me, 0 sun, who thou art or of what
race a child! Whither were those Ethiops taking thee, lady
of the Pleiads of heaven ?' To all these words she made no
answer. I saw a hundred springs of tears dropping from her
"WHEN I pressed her with questions, with much discourse,
she wept with gentle voice, sobbing from the heart; a stream
flowed through the jetty trough other lashes from the
narcissi, upon the crystal and ruby. Gazing at her I burned,
I became dead-hearted.
"SHE said to me: 'To me thou art a mother, better than
a mother. Of what profit can my story be to thee ? It is but
the tale of chatterer. A lone wanderer am I, overtaken by
an unhappy fate. If thou ask me aught, may the might of
the All-Seeing blame thee!'
"I SAID to myself, 'It is not fitting untimely to summon
and carry off the sun; the captor will become mad and
wholly lose his wits. A request should be timely, the making
of every entreaty. How know I now that it is not a time to
converse with this sun!'
"I LED away that sun-faced one already praised, I cannot
call her upraised. By the longing I have for her, and by her
sun, I hardly could hide the ray of that sun! I enveloped
her in many fold of heavy brocade, not thin stuff." The tear
hails down, the rose is frost-bitten, from the lashes blows
a snowy blast.
"I LED into my home that sun-faced one, an aloe-tree in
form. For her I furnished a house, therein I put her very
secretly, I told no human being, I kept her privily, with
precaution; I caused a Negro to serve her; I used to enter,
I saw her alone.
"HOW, alas! can I tell thee of her strange behaviour! Day
and night weeping unceasing and flowing of tears! I
entreated her: 'Hush!' For but one moment would she
submit. Now without her how do I live; alas! woe is me!
"WHEN I went in, pools of tears stood before her; in the
inky abyss of her eyes were strewn jetty lances, from the
inky lakes into the bowls full of jet there was a stream, and
between the coral and cornelian glittered the twin pearls of
"BY reason of the ceaseless flow of tears I could not find
time for inquiry. If I asked even, 'Who art thou ? What
brought thee into this plight ?' like a fountain, a rivulet of
blood gushed forth from the aloe-tree. No human being
could endure more, unless made of stone.
"NO coverlet she wanted, nor mattress to lie upon, she was
ever in her veil and one short cloak, her arm she placed as
a headrest and reposed thereon. With a thousand entreaties
T could scarce persuade her to eat a little.
"BY-the-by, I will tell thee of the wonder of the veil and
cloak: I have seen all kinds of rare and costly things, but
I know not of what sort of stuff hers were made, for it had
the softness of woven material and the firmness of forged metal.
"THUS that lovely one tarried long in my house. I could
not trust my husband; I feared he would inform. I said to
myself: 'If I tell him, I know the rascal will betray my
secret at court.' Thus I thought at my frequent goings in
and comings out.
"I SAID to myself: 'If I tell him not, what am I to do, what
can I do for her ? I know not in the least what she wants,
nor what any could do to help her. If my husband finds
out, he will slay me, nothing can save me; how can I hide
that sun-like light!
'"I, ALAS! what can I do alone! The burning of my fire
increases. Come, I will trust him, I will not wrong Usen:
I will make him swear not to betray me; if he give me full
assurance, he cannot doom his soul, he will not be an oath-breaker!'
"ALONE I went to my husband; I frolicked and fondled
him. Then I said to him: 'I will tell thee something, but
first swear to me thou wilt tell no human being, give me a
binding oath.' He swore a fearful oath: 'May 1 beat my
head on the rocks!
"'WHAT thou tellest me I will reveal to no soul, even unto
death, neither to old nor young, friend nor foe!' Then I told
all to that kindhearted man, Usen: 'Come, I will lead thee
to a certain place here; come, 1 will show thee the sun's
"HE rose to accompany me, we departed, we entered the
palace gates. Usen marvelled; he even quaked when he saw
the sunbeams. He said: 'What hast thou shown me, what
have I seen, what is she, of what stuff? If she be verily an
earthly being, may God's eyes look upon me with wrath!'
"1 SAID : 'Nor know I aught of her being a creature of
flesh; I have no knowledge more than I have told thee. Let
me and thee ask who she is, and who is at fault that such
madness afflicts her; perchance she will tell us somewhat,
we will pray her to do us this great kindness.'
"WE went in, we both had a care to show her respect. We
said: '0 sun, for thy sake a furnace of flame burns us. Tell
us what is the cure for the waning moon, what hath
ensaffroned thee who art ruby-like in hue?'
"WHETHER she heard or hearkened not to what we said
we know not; the rose was glued together, it showed not the
pearl; the serpents of her locks were twined in disorder;
when she turned her face away, the sun was eclipsed by the
dragon, it dawned not upon us.
"BY our converse we could not induce her to answer. The
tiger-panther sits sullen-faced, we could not comprehend
her wrath; again we annoyed her, she wept tears flowing
like a fountain, and, 'I know not! Let me alone!' quoth she;
this only with her tongue she said to us.
"WE sat down and wept with her and poured forth tears.
What we had spoken to her made us sorry; how could we
venture to say aught else ? We could scarce persuade her
to be quiet, we calmed her, we soothed her; we offered her some fruit, but we could not make her eat at all.
"USEN said: 'She has wiped away a multitude of woes
from me. Those cheeks are fit for the sun; how can they be
kissed by man! Most right is he who sees not her if his
sufferings be increased a hundred-and-twenty-fold. If I
prefer my children may God slay them!'
"A LONG time we gazed at her, then we went forth with
sighs and moans; to be with her seemed to us joy, parting
grieved us greatly. When we had leisure from affairs of
trade we used to see her. Our hearts were inextricably
prisoned in her net.
"AFTER some time had passed, and nights and days were
sped, Usen said to me: 'I have not seen our king since the
day before yesterday; if thou advisest me, I will go and see
him, I will go and pay my court and present gifts." I replied
'Certainly, by God, since such is your desire.'
"USEN set out pearls and gems on a tray. I entreated him,
saying: 'At court thou wilt meet the drunken court folk.
Kill me! if thou be not wary of the story of that maid.'
Again he swore to me: 'I will not tell it, may swords strike
my head!'
"USEN went; he found the king sitting feasting. Usen is
the king's boon companion, and the king is his well-wisher.
The king called him forward; he accepted the gifts he had
brought. Now behold the tipsy merchant, how hasty, rash
and ill-bred he is!
"WHEN the king had drunk before Usen many
double-goblets, still they quaffed and again filled more
tankards and beakers; he forgot those oaths; what to him
were Korans and Meccas! Truly is it said: 'A rose befits not
a crow, nor do horns suit an ass!'
"THE great king said to the witless, drunken Usen: 'I
marvel much whence thou gettest these gems to give us,
where thou findest huge pearls and peerless rubies. By my
head! I cannot return thee one-tenth for thy gifts!'
"USEN saluted, and said: '0 mighty sovereign, shedder
of beams from above, 0 nourisher of creatures, 0 sun!
Whatever else I have, whose is it, be it gold or treasure ?
What brought I forth from my mother's womb? By you it
has been granted to me.
" 'BY your head! I make bold to say that gratitude for
gifts beseems you not. I have somewhat else, a daughter-in-
law for you, a bride to unite to your son; for this
undoubtedly you will thank me when you see the sun's
like; then will you oftener say: "Happiness is ours!"'
"WHY should I lengthen speech? He brake his oath, the
power of religion; he told of the finding of the maid
portrayed by gazers as a sun. This pleased the king greatly;
it gave gaiety to his heart. He ordered her conveyance to
court and the fulfilment of Usen's utterance.
"PLEASANTLY 1 was sitting here at home; hitherto I
had not sighed. At the door appeared the chief of the king’s
slaves, he brought with him sixty slaves, as is the custom
of kings; they came in, I was much astonished, I said:
'This is some high affair of state.'
"THEY greeted me: 'P'hatman,' said he, 'it is the
command of the equal of the sun: that maid like two suns
whom Usen presented to-day, now bring her to me, I shall
take her with me; we have not far to go.' When I heard
this, the heavens overwhelmed me, with wrath hill struck
"THEREUPON in amazement I inquired: 'What maid do
you want, which?' They said to me: 'Usen presented one
with a face flashing with lightning.' There was nought to
be done; the day of the taking away of my soul was fixed.
I trembled, I could not rise, neither could I remain sitting.
"I WENT in; I saw that lovely one weeping and flooded in
tears. I said: '0 sun, seest thou fully how black Fate hath
played me false! Heaven is turned towards me in wrath,
I am despoiled, I am wholly uprooted; I am denounced, the
king asketh for thee, therefore am I heartbroken.'
"SHE said to me: 'Sister, marvel not, however hard this
may be! Luckless Fate hath ever been a doer of ill upon me;
if some good had befallen me thou mightest have wondered.
what marvel is evil ? All kinds of woe are not new to me,
old are they.'
"HER eyes poured forth frequent tears like pearls. She
rose as fearless as if she were a tiger or a hero; joy no longer
seemed joy nor did woe seem woe to her. She begged me to
cover her form and face with a veil.
"I SENT into the treasure-house on which no price was set;
I took out gems and pearls as much as I could, every single
separate one was worth a city. I went back; I girded them
round the waist other for whose sake my heart was dying.
"I SAID: '0 my dear one! Perchance this sort of thing
may somewhere be of use to thee!' I gave that face, the
sun's peer, into the hands of the slaves. The king was
warned, he met her; the kettledrum was beaten, there was
hubbub. She went forward with bent head, calm, saying
"ONLOOKERS flocked upon her, there was trampling and
uproar; the officers could not hold them back, there was no
quiet there. When the king saw her, cypress-like, coming
towards him, he said in amazement: '0 sun, how art thou
brought hither ?'
"SUN-like, she made those who gazed on her to blink. The
king deigned to say: ' I have seen, she hath turned me into
one who has seen nought. Who but God could imagine her?
Right is he who is in love with her if he, alas! roam mad in
"HE seated her at his side, he talked to her with sweet
discourse; quoth he: 'Tell me who art thou, whose art thou,
of what race art thou come ?' With her sun-like face she
gave no answer; with bowed head, of gentle mien, sorrowful
she sits.
"WHATEVER he said, she hearkened not to the king.
Elsewhere was her heart; of somewhat else she thought.
The roses were glued together; she opened not the pearl.
She made them that looked on her wonder, what else could
they think.
"THE king said: 'What can we think of? With what can
we comfort our heart ? There can be no opinion save these
two: Either she is in love with someone, she is thinking of
her beloved, save him she has no leisure for any, to none
can she speak.
'"Or she is some sage, lofty and high-seeing; joy seems not
joy to her, nor sorrow when it is heaped on sorrow, as a
table she looks on misfortune and happiness alike; she is
elsewhere, elsewhere she soars, her mind is like a dove's.
"'GOD grant my son come home victorious. I will have for
his homecoming this sun ready for him; perchance he will
make her say something, and we also shall know what is
revealed; till then, let the moon rest with waning ray far
sundered from the sun.'
"OF the king's son I will tell thee: a good, fearless youth,
peerless in valour and beauty, fair in face and form; at that
time he was gone forth to war, there had he tarried long;
for him his father prepared her, the star-like one.
"THEY brought her and apparelled her form in maidenly
garb; on it was seen many a ray of glittering gems, on her
head they set a crown of a whole ruby, there the rose w as
beautified by the colour of the transparent crystal.
"THE king commanded: 'Deck the chamber of the princess
royal.' They set up a couch of gold, of red of the Occident.
The great king himself, the lord of the whole palace, arose
and set thereon that sun, the joy of the heart of beholders.
"HE commanded nine eunuchs to stand guard at the door.
The king sat down to a feast befitting their race; to Usen he
gave immeasurable gifts as a return for that peer of the sun;
they made trumpet and kettledrum to sound for the
increasing of the noise.
"THEY prolonged the feasting; the drinking went on
exceeding long. The sun-faced maiden says to Fate: 'What
a murderous Fate have I! Whence am I come hither, to
whom shall I belong, for whose sake am I mad ? What shall
I do ? What shall I undertake ? What will avail me ? A very
hard life have I!'
"AGAIN she says: 'I will not wither the rose-like beauty.
I will attempt somewhat; perchance God will protect me
from my foe. What reasonable man slays himself before
death comes? When he is in trouble, then it needs that the
intelligent should have his wits !'
"SHE called the eunuchs, and said: 'Hearken, come to
reason! You are deceived, mistaken as to my royalty; your
lord is in error in desiring me for a daughter-in-law. In vain,
alas! sounds he for me the trumpet, the kettledrum and
. '"I AM not suited to be your queen; elsewhither leads my
path. God keep man far from me, be he sun-faced, cypress-
formed ! You beg of me something different; my business is
of another kind. With you my life beseems me not.
"'WITHOUT fail I shall slay myself, I shall strike a knife
into my heart; your lord will kill you, you will have no time
of tarrying in the world. This then is better: I will give you
the weighty treasure wherewith my waist is girded, let me
steal away, let me go free, lest you regret.'
"SHE undid the pearls and gems that girdled her; she
doffed, too, the crown, transparent, of a whole ruby; she
gave them, she said: 'Take them, with burning heart I
implore you; let me go, and you will have paid a great debt
to your God!'
. "THE slaves were greedy for her costly treasure, they
forgot the fear of the king as of a bellman, they resolved to
let her of the peerless face escape. See what gold doth. that
crook from a devilish root!
"GOLD never gives joy to them that love it; till the day
of death greed makes them gnash their teeth. Gold comes
in and goes out, they murmur at the course of the planets
when it is lacking; moreover it binds the soul here, and
hinders it from soaring up.
"WHEN the eunuchs had ended the matter as she wished,
one took off his garment and gave it to her; they passed
through other doors because the great hall was full of
drunken men. The moon remained full, unswallowed by the
"THE slaves, too, disappeared; they stole forth with her.
The maiden knocked at my door, and asked for me,
P'hatman. I went, I knew her, I embraced her, was I not
surprised! She would not come in with me at all, saying:
'Why dost thou invite me F I regretted it.
"SHE said to me: 'I have bought myself with what thou
gavest me. May God in return reward thee with heavenly
favour! No longer canst thou hide me, let me go, send me
off swiftly on horseback ere the king get wit and send men
to gallop in pursuit.'
"SWIFTLY I entered the stable, I loosed the best steed,
I saddled it, set her upon it; cheerful was she, not sighing.
She was like the sun, the best of heaven's lights, when it
mounts the lion. My labour was lost; I could not harvest
what I had sown.
"THE day drew down to evening, the rumour spread, her
pursuers came; inside the city was a state of siege, they
raised a hue and cry; they questioned me, I said: 'If you
find her there in the house where I am, may I be guilty
towards the kings and answerable for their blood.'
"THEY sought, nought could they discover, they returned
abashed. From that time the king and all his familiars
mourn. Behold the palace folk; they are clad in raiment
dyed violet colour. The sun went away from us; since then
we lack light.
"NOW I shall narrate to thee anon the whereabouts of that
moon, but first of all I will tell thee why that man
threatened me. I, alas! was his she-goat; he was my he-goat.
Timidity slurs a man, and wantonness a woman.
"I AM not content with my husband, for he is lean and
ill-favoured; this man, the Chachnagir,1 was a gentleman
high at court; we loved each other, though I shall wear no
mourning weeds for him; would that one might give me
a cup of his blood to sip!
' Chachnagir-official taster of food and wine at the king's court.
"LIKE a woman, like a fool, I told him this story of the
coming of that sun to me, and of her stealing away like
a fox; he threatened me with exposure, not like a friend,
like a foe. Now when I think of him as a corpse, ah! how
relieved am I!
"WHENEVER we quarrelled alone he menaced me. When
I called thee I did not think he was at home; he had arrived,
he told me of his coming. Thou also wert coming; I was
afraid, so I begged thee: 'Do not come !' I sent a slave to
meet thee.
"YOU turned not back, you came, you brought beams of
light to me; you both met, you were assembled to fight
over me, so I feared, I could think of no way. He, alas!
desired my death in his heart, and not only with his
"IF thou hadst not slain him, and if he had gone forthwith
to court, in his wrath he would have denounced me, for
his heart was burned as with fire; the angry king would
have cleared away my house at one swoop, he would, 0
God! have made me eat my children, then he would have
stoned me with stone.
"GOD reward thee in return-what thanks can I render thee!
thee who hast delivered me safe from that serpent's gaze!
Now henceforth I can be happy in my star and Fate! No
longer do T fear death! Ha! ha! What has befallen me!"
AVTHANDIL said: "Fear not! Even in the book it is thus
written: 'Of all foes the most hateful is the friend-foe; if a
man be wise, he will not heartily confide.' Fear no more
from him, now is he corpse-like.
"TELL me the same story-since thou spedst the maiden,
all the tidings thou hast learned or heard of her." Again
P'hatman spoke weeping; again the tear flowed from her
eyes. Quoth she: "The ray which sun-like illumined the
fields was brought to nought."