Arabian nights: The First Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

IN the reign of the Caliph Haroun Alraschid, there lived in Bagdad a poor porter, who was named Hindbad. One day; during the most violent heat of summer, he was carrying a heavy load from one extremity of the city to the other. Much fatigued by the length of the way he had come, he arrived in a street where the pavement was sprinkled with rose-water, and a grateful coolness refreshed the air. Delighted with this mild and pleasant situation, he placed his load on the ground, and took his station near a large mansion. The delicious scent of aloes and frankincense which issued from the windows, the sound of a charming concert issuing from within the house accompanied with the melody of the nightingales, and other birds peculiar to the climate ofBagdad , added to the smell of different sorts of viands, led Hindbad to suppose that some grand feast was in progress. He wished to know to whom this house belonged. To satisfy his curiosity, therefore, he approached some magnificently dressed servants who were standing at the door, and inquired who was the master of that mansion. ‘What,’ replied the servant, ‘are you an inhabitant ofBagdad , and do not know that this is the residence of Sindbad the sailor, that famous voyager, who has roamed over all the seas under the sun?’ The porter, who had heard of the immense riches of Sindbad, could not help comparing the situation of this man, whose lot appeared so enviable, with his own deplorable position; and distressed by the reflection, he raised his eyes to heaven, and exclaimed in a loud voice: ‘ Almighty Creator of all things, deign to consider the difference that there is between Sindbad and myself. I suffer daily a thousand ills, and have the greatest difficulty in supplying my wretched family with bad barley bread, whilst the fortunate Sindbad lavishes his riches in profusion, and enjoys every pleasure. What has he done to obtain so happy a destiny, or what crime has been mine to merit a fate so rigorous?’ He was still musing on his fate, when a servant came towards him from the house, and said: ‘Come, follow me; my master Sindbad wishes to speak with you.’

“Hindbad was not a little surprised at the compliment thus paid him. Remembering the words he had just uttered, he began to fear that Sindbad sent for him to reprimand him, and therefore he tried to excuse himself from going. He declared that he could not leave his load in the middle of the street. But the servant assured him that it should be taken care of, and pressed him so much to go thatthe porter could no longer refuse.

“His conductor led him into a spacious room, where a number of persons were seated round a table, which was covered with all kinds of delicate viands. In the principal Seat sat a grave and venerable personage, whose long white beard hung down to his breast, and behind him stood a crowd of officers and servants ready to wait on him. This person was Sindbad. Quite confused by the number of the company and the magnificence of the entertainments,the porter made his obeisance with fear and trembling. Sindbad desired him to approach, and seating him at his right hand, helped him to the choicest dishes, and made him drink some of the excellent wine with which the sideboard was plentifully supplied.

“Towards the end of the repast, Sindbad began to speak; and addressing Hindbad by the title ‘my brother,’ the common salutation amongst the Arabians when they converse familiarly, he inquired the name and profession of his guest.

‘Sir,’ replied the porter, ‘my name is Hindbad.’ ‘ I am happy to see you,’ said Sindbad, ‘but I wish to know from your own lips what it was you said just now in the street;’ for Sindbad, before he went to dinner, had heard from the window every word of Hindbad’s ejaculation, which was the reason of his sending for him. At this request, Hindbad, full of confusion, hung down his head, and replied: ‘Sir, I must confess to you that, put out of humour by weariness and exhaustion, I uttered some indiscreet words, which I entreat you to pardon,’ Oh,’ resumed Sindbad, ‘do not imagine that I am so unjust as to have any resentment on that account. I feel for your situation, and pity you heartily; but I must undeceive you on one point respecting my own history, in which you seem to be in error. You appear to suppose that the riches and comforts I enjoy have been obtained without any labour or trouble. In this you are mistaken. Before attaining my present position, I have endured for many years the greatest mental and bodily sufferings that you can possibly conceive. Yes, gentlemen,’ continued the venerable host, addressing himself to the whole company, ‘I assure you that my sufferings have been so acute that they might deprive the greatest miser of his love of riches. Perhaps you have heard only a confused account of my adventures in the seven voyages I have made on different seas; and as an opportunity now offers, I will, with your leave, relate the dangers I have encountered; and I think the story will not be uninteresting to you.

I SQUANDERED the greater part of my paternal inheritance in youthful dissipation; but at length I saw my folly, and became convinced that riches were not of much use, when applied to such purposes as those to which I had devoted them; and I reflected that the time I spent in dissipation was of still greater value than gold, and that nothing could be more truly deplorable than poverty in old age. Feeling the truth of this reflection, I resolved to collect the small remains of my patrimony and to sell my goods by auction. In short, I determined to employ to some profit the small sum I had remaining; and no sooner was this resolution formed than I put it into execution. I repaired to Balsora, where I embarked with several merchants in a vessel which had been equipped at our united expense.

“We set sail, and steered towards the East Indies by the Persian Gulf. I was at first troubled with the sickness that attacks voyagers by sea; but I soon recovered my health. In the course of our voyage we touched at several islands, and sold or exchanged our merchandise. One day, when our vessel was in full sail, we were unexpectedly becalmed before a small island which appeared just above the water, and in its verdure resembled a beautiful meadow. The captain ordered the sails to be lowered, and gave permission to those passengers who wished it to go ashore, and of this number I formed one. But while we were enjoying ourselves the island suddenly trembled, and we felt a severe shock.

“The people who had remained in the ship perceived the earthquake in the island, and immediately called us to re-embark or we should all perish; but what we supposed to be an island was nothing but the back of a whale. The most active of the party jumped into the boat, whilst others threw themselves into the water, to swim to the ship; as for me, I was still on the island, or, more properly speaking, on the whale, when it dived below the surface; and I had only time to seize a piece of wood which had been brought to make a fire with, when the monster disappeared beneath the waves. Meantimethe captain , willing to avail himself of a fair breeze, which had sprung up, set sail with those who had reached his vessel, and left me to the mercy of the waves. I remained in this deplorable situation the whole of that day and the following night. On the return of morning, I had neither strength nor hope left; but a breaker happily threw me on an island.

“Though extremely enfeebled by the fatigues I had undergone, I still tried to creep about in search of some herb or fruit that might satisfy my hunger. I found some, and had also the good luck to meet with a stream of excellent water. Having in a great measure regained my strength. I began to explore the island, and entered a beautiful plain, where I perceived a horse grazing. I bent my steps towards it, trembling between fear and joy, for I could not ascertain whether I was advancing to safety or perdition. I remarked, as I approached, that the creature was a mare tied to a stake; her beauty attracted my attention; but whilst I was admiring her I heard from underground the voice of a man, who shortly after appeared, and, coming to me, asked me who I was. I related my adventure to him; whereupon he took me by the hand, and led me into a cave, where I found some other persons, who were not less astonished to see me than I was to meet them there.

“I ate some food which they offered me; and upon my asking them what they did in a place which appeared so barren, they replied that they were grooms to King Mihrage, who was the sovereign of that isle; and that they came hither every year, about this season, with some mares belonging to the king, for the purpose of having a breed between them and a sea-horse which came on shore at that spot. They tied up the mares as I had seen, because they were obliged almost immediately, by their cries, to drive back the sea-horse, which otherwise began to tear the mares in pieces. As soon as the mares were with foal they carried them back, and the colts were called sea-colts, and set apart for the king’s use. They told me that the morrow was the day fixed for their departure, and if I had beenone day later I must certainly have perished; because they lived so far off that it was impossible to reach their habitations without a guide.

“Whilst they were talking to me, the horse rose out of the sea, as they described, and immediately attacked the mares. He would have torn them to pieces; but the grooms began to make such a noise that he let go his prey, and again plunged into the ocean.

“The following day they returned, with the mares, to the capital of the island, whither I accompanied them. On our arrival, King Mihragé, to whom I was presented, asked me who I was, and by what chance I had reached his dominions; and when I had satisfied his curiosity, he expressed pity at my misfortune. At the same time, he gave orders that I should be taken care of, and be supplied with everything I might want.

“As I was a merchant, I associated with persons of my profession. I sought, in particular, such as were foreigners, partly to hear some intelligence of Bagdad, and partly in the hope of meeting some one with whom I could return; for the capital of King Mihragé is situated on the seacoast, and has a beautiful port, where vessels from all parts of the world daily arrive.

“As I was standing one day near the port, I saw a ship come towards the land. When the crew had cast anchor, they began to unload its goods, and the merchants to whom the cargo belonged took it away to their warehouses. Happening to cast my eyes on some of the packages, I saw my name written thereon, and, having attentively examined them, I recognized them as the same which I had embarked in the ship in which I left Balsora. I also recollectedthe captain ; but as I felt assured that he thought me dead, I went up to him, and asked him to whom those parcels belonged. ‘I had on board with me,’ replied he, ‘a merchant of Bagdad, named Sindbad.One day when we were near an island, or at least what appeared to be one, he went ashore with some other passengers, on this supposed island, which was nothing but an enormous whale that had fallen asleep onthe surface of the water. The fish no sooner felt the heat of a fire they lighted on its back to cook their provisions, than it began to move and flounce about in the sea. Most of the persons who were on it were drowned, and the unfortunate Sindbad was one of the number. These parcels belonged to him; and I have resolved to sell them, that if I meet with any of his family I may be able to pay over to them the profit I shall have made on the principal.’ ‘ Captain,’ said I then, ‘ I am that Sindbad, whom you supposed dead, but who is still alive; and these parcels are my property and merchandise.’

“When the captain heard me speak thus he exclaimed: ‘Great God! whom shall I trust? There is no longer truth in man! With my own eyes I saw Sindbad perish; the passengers I had on board were also witnesses of his death; and you have the assurance to say that you are that same Sindbad? At first sight you appeared a man of probity and honour; yet you assert an impious falsity, to possess yourself of some merchandise which does not belong to you.’ ‘ Have patience,’ replied I, ‘and do me the favour to listen to what I have to say.’ I then related in what manner I had been saved, and by what accident I had met with King Mihrage’s grooms, who had brought me to his court.

“The captain was rather staggered at my discourse, but was soon convinced that I was not an impostor; for some people who arrived from his ship knew, me, and began to congratulate me on my fortunate escape. At last he recollected me himself, and embracing me, exclaimed: ‘Heaven be praised that you have happily escaped from that great peril. Here are your goods; take them, for they are yours.’ I thanked him, and praised his honourable conduct.

“I selected the most precious and valuable things in my bales as presents for King Mihragé. As this prince had been informed of my misfortunes, he asked me where I had obtained such rare curiosities. I related to him the manner in which I had recovered my property, and he had the condescension to express his joy at my good fortune. He accepted my presents, and gave me others of far greater value. Hereupon I took my leave, and re-embarked in the same vessel in which I had come; having first exchanged what merchandise remained for products of the country, consisting of aloes and sandal wood, camphor, nutmegs, cloves, pepper, and ginger. We touched at several islands, and at last landed at Balsora, from whence I came here, having realized about a hundred thousand sequins. I returned to my family, and was received by them with the joy of true and sincere friendship. I purchased slaves of both sexes, and bought a magnificent house and grounds. Thus I established myself, determined to forget the hardships I had endured, and to enjoy the pleasures of life.”

Thus Sindbad concluded the story of his first voyage. The company continued to feast till night approached; and when it was time to separate, Sindbad ordered a purse containing a hundred sequins to be brought to him, and gave it to the porter, with these words: ‘ Take this, Hindbad; return to your home, and come again to-morrow, to hear the continuation of my history.’ The porter retired quite confused by the honour conferred on him, and the present he had received. The account he gave of his adventure to his wife and children rejoiced them greatly, and they did not fail to return thanks to Providence for the bounties bestowed by means of Sindbad.

“Hindbad dressed himself in his best clothes on the following day, and betook himself to the house of his liberal patron, who received him with smiling looks and a friendly air. As soon as the guests had all arrived the feast was served, and they sat down to eat. When the repast was over, Sindbad thus addressed his guests. ‘My friends, I request you to have the kindness to listen to me while I relate the adventures of my second voyage. The company were silent, and Sindbad began to speak as follows…

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