P'hatman Tells Avt'handil the Story of Nestan-Daredjan
- "IN this city it is a rule that on New Year's
- merchant trades, none sets out on a journey;
- straightway begin to deck and beautify
- 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
- tambourine; in the moedan, tilting,
ball-play, the stamping
- of horses.
- "MY husband, Usen, is the leader of the great
- I lead their wives; I need none to invite me;
rich or poor,
- we give presents to the queen; we entertain
- agreeably at court, we come home merry.
- "NEW Year's Day was come, we gave our gifts
- queen; we gave to them, they gave to us, we
- 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
- "THERE in the garden were fair mansions
- built, lofty, with a prospect on every side,
- sea. Thither I led the ladies, them that were
with me; anew
- we made a banquet, we sat pleasantly,
- "MERRY, I entertained the merchants' wives,
- in a sisterly way. While drinking, without
- a distaste came upon me. When they perceived
- 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
- I looked out, I shook off the sadness growing
- Far away I saw something small, it floated in
- methought a bird or beast; to what else could
I liken it ?
- "FROM afar I could not recognize it; when it
- it was a boat; two men clad in black, and
black also of
- visage, on either side stood close; only a
- they came ashore, that strange sight
- "THEY beached the boat; they landed in front
- garden. They looked thither, they looked
hither, if any
- anywhere observed them, they saw no creature,
- alarmed them. Secretly I watched them; I was
- "WHAT they landed from the boat in a
- off the lid—was a maiden of wondrous form,
- 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
- 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
- '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
- "'IF they will not give her to you, let them
not take her
- away, capture her from them, slay them, bring
- moon, do the errand well, use your best
- slaves stole down from above as if they flew;
- they sold not. 1 saw the blacks looked right
- "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
- 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
- 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
- slight new-fallen snow of the cheek.
- THEY wept. The knight said: "Break not off!
- P'hatman said: "I received her; I made my
- to her. I kissed her every part, and thereby
I wearied her.
- I seated her on my couch, I caressed her, I
- "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
- she wept with gentle voice, sobbing from the
heart; a stream
- flowed through the jetty trough other lashes
- 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,
- a mother. Of what profit can my story be to
thee ? It is but
- the tale of chatterer. A lone wanderer am I,
- 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
- 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!
- 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
- form. For her I furnished a house, therein I
put her very
- secretly, I told no human being, I kept her
- 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
- and night weeping unceasing and flowing of
- entreated her: 'Hush!' For but one moment
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- him. Then I said to him: 'I will tell thee
- 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
- palace gates. Usen marvelled; he even quaked
when he saw
- the sunbeams. He said: 'What hast thou shown
- have I seen, what is she, of what stuff? If
she be verily an
- earthly being, may God's eyes look upon me
- "1 SAID : 'Nor know I aught of her being a
- 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
- we will pray her to do us this great
- "WE went in, we both had a care to show her
- said: '0 sun, for thy sake a furnace of flame
burns us. Tell
- us what is the cure for the waning moon, what
- ensaffroned thee who art ruby-like in hue?'
- "WHETHER she heard or hearkened not to what
- we know not; the rose was glued together, it
showed not the
- pearl; the serpents of her locks were twined
- 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
- tiger-panther sits sullen-faced, we could not
- her wrath; again we annoyed her, she wept
- 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
- What we had spoken to her made us sorry; how
- venture to say aught else ? We could scarce
- 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
- 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
- sighs and moans; to be with her seemed to us
- grieved us greatly. When we had leisure from
- trade we used to see her. Our hearts were
- prisoned in her net.
- "AFTER some time had passed, and nights and
- 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
- "USEN set out pearls and gems on a tray. I
- saying: 'At court thou wilt meet the drunken
- Kill me! if thou be not wary of the story of
- 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
- The king called him forward; he accepted the
gifts he had
- brought. Now behold the tipsy merchant, how
- and ill-bred he is!
- "WHEN the king had drunk before Usen many
- double-goblets, still they quaffed and again
- 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
- marvel much whence thou gettest these gems to
- where thou findest huge pearls and peerless
rubies. By my
- head! I cannot return thee one-tenth for thy
- "USEN saluted, and said: '0 mighty sovereign,
- 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
- gifts beseems you not. I have somewhat else,
- law for you, a bride to unite to your son;
- undoubtedly you will thank me when you see
- like; then will you oftener say: "Happiness
- "WHY should I lengthen speech? He brake his
- power of religion; he told of the finding of
- portrayed by gazers as a sun. This pleased
the king greatly;
- it gave gaiety to his heart. He ordered her
- court and the fulfilment of Usen's utterance.
- "PLEASANTLY 1 was sitting here at home;
- 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
- 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
- "THEREUPON in amazement I inquired: 'What
- you want, which?' They said to me: 'Usen
- 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
- "I WENT in; I saw that lovely one weeping and
- tears. I said: '0 sun, seest thou fully how
black Fate hath
- played me false! Heaven is turned towards me
- I am despoiled, I am wholly uprooted; I am
- king asketh for thee, therefore am I
- "SHE said to me: 'Sister, marvel not, however
- may be! Luckless Fate hath ever been a doer
of ill upon me;
- if some good had befallen me thou mightest
- what marvel is evil ? All kinds of woe are
not new to me,
- old are they.'
- "HER eyes poured forth frequent tears like
- 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
- round the waist other for whose sake my heart
- "I SAID: '0 my dear one! Perchance this sort
- may somewhere be of use to thee!' I gave that
- sun's peer, into the hands of the slaves. The
- warned, he met her; the kettledrum was
beaten, there was
- hubbub. She went forward with bent head,
- "ONLOOKERS flocked upon her, there was
- uproar; the officers could not hold them
back, there was no
- quiet there. When the king saw her,
- towards him, he said in amazement: '0 sun,
how art thou
- brought hither ?'
- "SUN-like, she made those who gazed on her to
- king deigned to say: ' I have seen, she hath
turned me into
- one who has seen nought. Who but God could
- 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
- 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
- she sits.
- "WHATEVER he said, she hearkened not to the
- Elsewhere was her heart; of somewhat else she
- The roses were glued together; she opened not
- She made them that looked on her wonder, what
- they think.
- "THE king said: 'What can we think of? With
- 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,
- peerless in valour and beauty, fair in face
and form; at that
- time he was gone forth to war, there had he
- for him his father prepared her, the
- "THEY brought her and apparelled her form in
- 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
- "THE king commanded: 'Deck the chamber of the
- royal.' They set up a couch of gold, of red
of the Occident.
- The great king himself, the lord of the whole
- and set thereon that sun, the joy of the
heart of beholders.
- "HE commanded nine eunuchs to stand guard at
- 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
- increasing of the noise.
- "THEY prolonged the feasting; the drinking
- exceeding long. The sun-faced maiden says to
- a murderous Fate have I! Whence am I come
- 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
- I will attempt somewhat; perchance God will
- from my foe. What reasonable man slays
- death comes? When he is in trouble, then it
needs that the
- intelligent should have his wits !'
- "SHE called the eunuchs, and said: 'Hearken,
- reason! You are deceived, mistaken as to my
- lord is in error in desiring me for a
daughter-in-law. In vain,
- alas! sounds he for me the trumpet, the
- . '"I AM not suited to be your queen;
elsewhither leads my
- path. God keep man far from me, be he
- formed ! You beg of me something different;
my business is
- of another kind. With you my life beseems me
- "'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
- doffed, too, the crown, transparent, of a
whole ruby; she
- gave them, she said: 'Take them, with burning
- implore you; let me go, and you will have
paid a great debt
- to your God!'
- . "THE slaves were greedy for her costly
- 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.
- in and goes out, they murmur at the course of
- 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
- one took off his garment and gave it to her;
- 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
- P'hatman. I went, I knew her, I embraced her,
was I not
- surprised! She would not come in with me at
- 'Why dost thou invite me F I regretted it.
- "SHE said to me: 'I have bought myself with
- gavest me. May God in return reward thee with
- 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
- 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
- what I had sown.
- "THE day drew down to evening, the rumour
- pursuers came; inside the city was a state of
- raised a hue and cry; they questioned me, I
said: 'If you
- find her there in the house where I am, may I
- towards the kings and answerable for their
- "THEY sought, nought could they discover,
- abashed. From that time the king and all his
- mourn. Behold the palace folk; they are clad
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- light to me; you both met, you were assembled
- over me, so I feared, I could think of no
way. He, alas!
- desired my death in his heart, and not only
- "IF thou hadst not slain him, and if he had
- to court, in his wrath he would have
denounced me, for
- his heart was burned as with fire; the angry
- have cleared away my house at one swoop, he
- God! have made me eat my children, then he
- stoned me with stone.
- "GOD reward thee in return-what thanks can I
- thee who hast delivered me safe from that
- Now henceforth I can be happy in my star and
- longer do T fear death! Ha! ha! What has
- 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
- all the tidings thou hast learned or heard of
- P'hatman spoke weeping; again the tear flowed
- eyes. Quoth she: "The ray which sun-like
- fields was brought to nought."