STORY VIII. The Prince who, after having been beguiled by
a Courtesan, returned to his True Love.
A certain king dreamed that his dearly beloved son, a youth of great promise,
had come to an untimely end. On awaking he was rejoiced to find that his son
was still alive; but he reflected that an accident might carry him off at any
moment, and therefore decided to marry him without delay, in order that the
succession might be secured. Accordingly he chose the daughter of a pious
Darvesh as a bride for his son, and made preparations for the wedding. But his wife
and the other ladies of his harem did not approve of the match, considering it
below the dignity of the prince to marry the daughter of a beggar. The king
rebuked them, saying that a Darvesh who had renounced worldly wealth for the
sake of God was not to be confounded with an ordinary beggar, and insisted on
the consummation of the marriage. After the marriage the prince refused to have
anything to do with his bride, though she was very fair to look on, and he
carried on an intrigue with an ugly old woman who had bewitched him by sorcery.
After a year, however, the king found some physicians who succeeded in breaking
the spell, and the prince returned to his senses, and his eyes were opened to
the superior attractions of his wife, and he renounced his ugly paramour and
fell in love with his wife. This is a parable, the true wife being the Deity,
the old paramour the world, and the physicians the prophets and saints. Another
illustration is a child who played at besieging a mimic fort with his fellows,
and succeeded in capturing it and keeping the others out. At this moment God
"bestowed on him wisdom, though a child," 1 and it became to
him a day "when a man flees from his brethren," 2 and he
recognized the emptiness of this idle sport, and engaged in the pursuit of
holiness and piety. This is followed by an anecdote of a devotee who had so
concentrated his thoughts on things above that he was utterly careless of all
earthly troubles, and was cheerful and rejoicing even in the midst of a severe
The world is the outward form of "Universal Reason" (Muhammad), and
he who grieves him must expect trouble in the world. 3
The whole world is the outward form of Universal Reason,
For it is the father of all creatures of reason.
When a man acts basely towards Universal Reason,
Its form, the world, shows its teeth at him.
Be loyal to this father and renounce disobedience,
That this earthy house may furnish you golden carpets.
Then the judgment-day will be the "cash of your state,"
Earth and heavens will be transfigured before you. 4
I am ever in concord with this father of ours,
And earth ever appears to me as a Paradise.
Each moment a flesh form, a new beauty,
So that weariness vanishes at these ever-fresh sights.
I see the world filled with blessings,
Fresh waters ever welling up from new fountains.
The sound of those waters reaches my ears,
My brain and senses are intoxicated therewith.
Branches of trees dancing like fair damsels,
Leaves clapping hands like singers.
These glories are a mirror shining through a veil;
If the mirror were unveiled, how would it be?
I tell not one in a thousand of them,
Because every ear is stopped with doubt.
To men of illusions these tales are mere good tidings,
But men of knowledge deem them not tidings, but ready cash.
This is illustrated by an anecdote of Ezra or 'Uzair and his sons. 5 On
his return from Babylon, whither he had been carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar,
Ezra beheld the ruins of Jerusalem, and he said, "How shall God give life
to this city after it hath been dead?" And God caused him to die for a
hundred years, and then raised him again to life, and said to him, "How
long hast thou waited?" He said, "I have waited a day." God
said, "Nay, thou hast waited a hundred years. Look at the dead bones of
thine ass; we will raise them and clothe them with flesh." Ezra was raised
from the dead as a young man, whereas his sons were then, of course, very old
men. They met him, and asked if he had seen their father. He replied, "I have
seen him; he is coming." Some of them rejoiced, considering this good
news; but others, who had loved him more dearly, knew him and fainted with joy.
What was mere good tidings to the men of opinion was the "ready money of
their state" to men of real knowledge.