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Tale of Nur Al-Din Ali and His Son Badr Al-Din Hasan

Then she wept and related to him what had befallen her since his departure, and he told her what he had suffered, and they thanked Allah Almighty for their reunion.
Two days after his arrival the Wazir Shams al-Din went in to the Sultan and, kissing the ground between his hands, greeted him with the greeting due to kings. The Sultan rejoiced at his return and his face brightened and, placing him hard by his side, asked him to relate all he had seen in his wayfaring and whatso had betided him in his going and coming. So the Wazir told him all that had passed from first to last and the Sultan said: "Thanks be to Allah for thy victory and the winning of thy wish and thy safe return to thy children and thy people! And now I needs must see the son of thy brother, Hasan of Bassorah, so bring him to the audience hall tomorrow." Shams al-Din replied, "Thy slave shall stand in thy presence tomorrow, Inshallah, if it be God’s will." Then he saluted him and, returning to his own house, informed his nephew of the Sultan’s desire to see him, whereto replied Hasan, whilom the Bassorite, "Me slave is obedient to the orders of his lord." And the result was that next day he accompanied his uncle, Shams al-Din, to the Divan, and after saluting the Sultan and doing him reverence in most ceremonious obeisance and with most courtly obsequiousness, he began improvising these verses:

"The first in rank to kiss the ground shall deign
Before you, and all ends and aims attain.
You are Honor’s fount, and all that hope of you,
Shall gain more honor than Hope hoped to gain."

The Sultan smiled and signed to him to sit down. So he took a seat close to his uncle, Shams al-Din, and the King asked him his name. Quoth Badr al-Din Hasan, "The meanest of thy slaves is known as Hasan the Bassorite, who is instant in prayer for thee day and night." The Sultan was pleased at his words and, being minded to test his learning and prove his good breeding, asked him, "Dost thou remember any verses in praise of the mole on the cheek?" He answered, "I do," and began reciting:

"When I think of my love and our parting smart,
My groans go forth and my tears upstart.
He’s a mole that reminds me in color and charms
O’ the black o’ the eye and the grain of the heart."

The King admired and praised the two couplets and said to him: "Quote something else. Allah bless thy sire, and may thy tongue never tire!" So he began:

That cheek mole’s spot they evened with a grain
Of Musk, nor did they here the simile strain.
Nay, marvel at the face comprising all
Beauty, nor falling short by single grain."

The King shook with pleasure and said to him: "Say more. Allah bless thy days!" So be began:

"O you whose mole on cheek enthroned recalls
A dot of musk upon a stone of ruby,
Grant me your favors! Be not stone at heart!
Core of my heart, whose only sustenance you be!"

Quoth the King: "Fair comparison, O Hasan! Thou hast spoken excellently well and hast proved thyself accomplished in every accomplishment! Now explain to me how many meanings be there in the Arabic language for the word khal or mole." He replied, "Allah keep the King! Seven and fifty, and some by tradition say fifty." Said the Sultan, "Thou sayest sooth," presently adding, "Hast thou knowledge as to the points of excellence in beauty?" "Yes," answered Badr al-Din Hasan. "Beauty consisteth in brightness of face, clearness of complexion, shapeliness of nose, gentleness of eyes, sweetness of mouth, cleverness of speech, slenderness of shape, and seemliness of all attributes. But the acme of beauty is in the hair and indeed al-Shihab the Hijazi hath brought together all these items in his doggrel verse of the meter Rajaz, and it is this:

"Say thou to skin ’Be soft,’ to face ’Be fair,’
And gaze, nor shall they blame howso thou stare.
Fine nose in Beauty’s list is high esteemed,
Nor less an eye full, bright and debonnair.
Eke did they well to laud the lovely lips
(Which e’en the sleep of me will never spare),
A winning tongue, a stature tall and straight,
A seemly union of gifts rarest rare.
But Beauty’s acme in the hair one views it,
So hear my strain and with some few excuse it!"

The Sultan was captivated by his converse and, regarding him as a friend, asked, "What meaning is there in the saw ’Shurayh is foxier than the fox’?" And he answered, "Know, O King (whom Almighty Allah keep!), that the legist Shurayh was wont, during the days of the plague, to make a visitation to Al-Najaf, and whenever he stood up to pray, there came a fox which would plant himself facing him and which, by mimicking his movements, distracted him from his devotions. Now when this became longsome to him, one day he doffed his shirt and set it upon a cane and shook out the sleeves. Then, placing his turban on the top and girding its middle with a shawl, he stuck it up in the place where he used to pray. Presently up trotted the fox according to his custom and stood over against the figure, whereupon Shurayh came behind him, and took him. Hence the sayer saith, ’Shurayh is foxier than the fox.’" When the Sultan heard Badr al-Din Hasan’s explanation he said to his uncle, Shams al-Din, "Truly this the son of thy brother is perfect in courtly breeding and I do not think that his like can be found in Cairo." At this Hasan arose and kissed the ground before him and sat down again as a Mameluke should sit before his master.
When the Sultan had thus assured himself of his courtly breeding and bearing and his knowledge of the liberal arts and belles-lettres, he joyed with exceeding joy and invested him with a splendid robe of honor and promoted him to an office whereby he might better his condition. Then Badr al-Din Hasan arose and, kissing the ground before the King, wished him continuance of glory and asked leave to retire with his uncle, the Wazir Shams al-Din. The Sultan gave him leave and he issued forth, and the two returned home, where food was set before them and they ate what Allah had given them. After finishing his meal Hasan repaired to the sitting chamber of his wife, the Lady of Beauty, and told her what had past between him and the Sultan, whereupon quoth she: "He cannot fail to make thee a cup companion and give thee largess in excess and load thee with favors and bounties. So shalt thou, by Allah’s blessing, dispread, like the greater light, the rays of thy perfection wherever thou be, on shore or on sea." Said he to her, "I purpose to recite a Kasidah, an ode, in his praise, that he may redouble in affection for me." "Thou art right in thine intent," she answered, "so gather thy wits together and weigh thy words, and I shall surely see my husband favored with his highest favor." Thereupon Hasan shut himself up and composed these couplets on a solid base and abounding in inner grace and copied them out in a handwriting of the nicest taste. They are as follows:

Mine is a Chief who reached most haught estate,
Treading the pathways of the good and great.
His justice makes all regions safe and sure,
And against froward foes bars every gate.
Bold lion, hero, saint, e’en if you call
Seraph or Sovran he with an may rate!
The poorest suppliant rich from him returns,
All words to praise him were inadequate.
He to the day of peace is saffron Morn,
And murky Night in furious warfare’s bate,
Bow ’neath his gifts our necks, and by his deeds
As King of freeborn souls he ’joys his state.
Allah increase for us his term of years,
And from his lot avert all risks and fears!

When he had finished transcribing the lines, he dispatched them in charge of one of his uncle’s slaves to the Sultan, who perused them, and his fancy was pleased, so he read them to those present and all praised them with the highest praise. Thereupon he sent for the writer to his sitting chamber and said to him: "Thou art from this day forth my boon companion, and I appoint to thee a monthly solde of a thousand dirhams, over and above that I bestowed on thee aforetime." So Hasan rose and, kissing the ground before the King several times, prayed for the continuance of his greatness and glory and length of life and strength. Thus Badr al-Din Hasan the Bassorite waxed high in honor and his fame flew forth to many regions, and he abode in all comfort and solace and delight of life with his uncle and his own folk till death overtook him.
When the Caliph Harun al-Rashid heard this story from the mouth of his Wazir, Ja’afar the Barmecide, he marveled much and said, "It behooves that these stories be written in letters of liquid gold." Then he set the slaves at liberty and assigned to the youth who had slain his wife such a monthly stipend as sufficed to make his life easy. He also gave him a concubine from amongst his own slave girls, and the young man became one of his cup companions.

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