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710When 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.

711The 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 host.

712This 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."

713He 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.

714When 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.

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715"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.

716"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.

717"When I departed I 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.

718"All this I tell thee truly, not with braggart speech; he awaits me, and I cannot set forth. This it is that adds (fuel) to the hot fire; I cannot break my vow, I mad cannot abandon him mad. When and where did ever a breaker of oaths prevail?

719"Go to the palace, report on my behalf to King Rosten 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!

720"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.

721"'Now, O 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

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aught for him I shall set my heart at rest, mine oath will not have been broken.

722"'Let not my going anger or grieve your heart. Let that befall my head (self) 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 affrighted.'"

723Yet 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."

724The 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!

725"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.

726"A road cannot go over (beyond) itself.? 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 inform me there and then? Why art thou such a madman?' Life is better than loot; this I even now learn.

727"Even if the king permit thee to depart, why should

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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."

728The knight wept; with tears he spoke: "Must I strike a knife into my heart! O vizier, it is apparent in thee thou knowst not what love is, nor hast thou in others seen friendship or oath. Or if thou hast seen such, how canst thou prove that without him my joy is possible?

729"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.

730"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. The griefs a man has not seen cannot, be comprehended by him at all (?).

731"Now, O vizier, how can thy cursed heart be calm in this juncture! Iron in my place would become wax and not hard rock; I cannot repay his tears, even if Gihon flowed from mine eyes. Help me if thou wouldst, desire help from me.

732"If he give me not leave I shall steal away,. unknown shall I depart from him; as it entreats 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!'"

733The vizier said: "Thy fire consumes me also with fire.

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[paragraph continues] I can no longer look on thy tears, the world itself vanishes; sometimes speech is better than silence, sometimes by speaking we spoil (things). I shall speak; if I die it matters not, my life will be sacrificed for thee."

734When the vizier had said this he arose and went to the palace. He saw the king arrayed; the sunlike face looked straight upon him. He was afraid, he dared not tell him unpleasing news; perplexed he stood, he thought not on warlike matters.

735The 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.

736"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."

737With 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."

738When the king had heard this he was wroth, he lost his senses, his colour whiled 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 choice of a bad man to learn early what is evil.

739"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

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me now! Such a madman as thou art is unworthy to be vizier or aught else.

740"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!"

741Again 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!"

742He bent down, he threw chairs, he hit the wall and shattered them; he missed his aim, but for his (the vizier's) sake he made them (the chairs) like adamant, not willowlike. "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 (?).

743The 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.

744He 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!"

745The 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!"

746He begs the bribe and behaves sportively, albeit his

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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 Mourav 1. It is said: 'A bribe settles matters even in hell.'

747"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 patience.

748"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 with forethought. Still, for thy sake death seems joy to me; my woes are not in vain."

749The 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?

750"Without him I cannot bear to sit or lie. I will choose to roam like the beasts, with them to run. Why does he (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.

751"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 village will be uprooted."

752When they had conversed, the vizier made a banquet befitting them; he played the host, gave fair gifts to the

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fair (guest), he enriched his attendants, both youths and greybeards. They parted; the knight went home as the sun was setting.

753He (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? If I survive I shall die for thee; I shall make myself thy slave.

I shall repay love with love, with a like weight."

754How 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.


119:1 Headman, governor, chief of police, arbitrator.

Next: XX. Avt’handil's Discourse With Shermadin When He Stole Away