The Book Of The Thousand Nights And A Night, Vol 1 Page-183

The Book Of The Thousand Nights And A Night, Vol 1

A plain and literal translation of the arabian nights entertainments

They relate, O King of the age and lord of the time and of these days, that the Caliph Harun al-Rashid summoned his Wazir Ja’afar one night and said to him, ‘I desire to go down into the city and question the common folk concerning the conduct of those charged with its governance; and those of whom they complain we will depose from office and those whom they commend we will promote.” Quoth Ja’afar, “Hearkening and obedience!” So the Caliph went down with Ja’afar and Eunuch Masrur to the town and walked about the streets and markets and, as they were threading a narrow alley, they came upon a very old man with a fishing-net and crate to carry small fish on his head, and in his hand a staff; and, as he walked at a leisurely pace, he repeated these lines:— “They say me: —Thou shinest a light to mankind * With thy lore as the night which the Moon doth uplight! I answer, “A truce to your jests and your gibes; * Without luck what is learning? —a poor-devil wight! If they take me to pawn with my lore in my pouch, With my volumes to read and my ink-case to write, For one day’s provision they never could pledge me; As likely on Doomsday to draw bill at sight:” How poorly, indeed, doth it fare wi’ the poor, With his pauper existence and beggarly plight: In summer he faileth provision to find; In winter the fire-pot’s his only delight: The street-dogs with bite and with bark to him rise, And each losel receives him with bark and with bite: If he lift up his voice and complain of his wrong, None pities or heeds him, however he’s right; And when sorrows and evils like these he must brave * His happiest homestead were down in the grave.” When the Caliph heard his verses he said to Ja’afar, “See this poor man and note his verses, for surely they point to his necessities.” Then he accosted him and asked, “O Shaykh, what be thine occupation?” and the poor man answered, “O