Chapter 10 – The Amir’s first meeting with the foremost among the beautiful ones of the age, that is, with Princess Mihr Nigar.
TEN — The Amir’s first meeting with the foremost among the beautiful ones of the age, that is, with Princess Mihr Nigar.
Love invents afresh and acts anew
With novel aspects everywhere in view–
Here are tears in an overwhelming flood,
There a tale of suffering: eyes drip blood.
Love pours salt on wounds until they smart,
Love, to the moth, is the candle’s blazing heart.
Love must be pined for, love must also pine,
Both love’s roles are part of its design.
The heart-torn pen of the pulse-readers of true lovers, the pen of the knowers of those who are ill with separation–that is, the pen which has a tumult in its head–brings themes of passion and desire to its tongue, and tells the dastan of separation and union. The Amir saw, from the roof of the palace, that Princess Mihr Nigar was seated amidst a group of moon-faced Pari-like ladies, and a flask filled with rose-colored wine was before her. A crystalline cup in her hand was brimming, purple wine was glistening in the cup. But a string of tear-pearls ran continuously from the tips of her eyelashes down to her mouth, the fire of love blazed in the furnace of her breast. Deep sighs were on her lips, and she gave herself over to laments.
By day the Amir had seen her from afar; now when he looked at her near at hand, he saw that the stream of the brilliant sun was a mere water-carrier compared to her beauty, and the shining moon drew its brightness from her radiant face. The Amir, seeing her heart-alluring beauty, was quite beside himself: even more flames of passion blazed up in his heart. Princess Mihr Nigar’s intimate confidantes were reasoning with her, and in their various ways were saying comforting things to her: “All this weeping and lamenting might bring a storm down on your head! If you keep on like this, God knows what will come of it! Don’t forget yourself so, pull yourself together a bit. After all, the one whom you’re suffering over has also seen you, he’ll have no peace either! He will be pining for you, he’ll find some way or other to meet you; come what may, he’ll devise some means to be together with you.”
Eventually, through everyone’s persuasions, the princess’s tears ceased. And Fitnah Bano, who was the daughter of the princess’s nurse, put a cup of wine into her hand and said, “Drink it up.” The princess said, “I will drink after everyone else, I’ll have a cup in a little while. First all of you drink to your own pursuers, let me have a bit of respite.” First of all Fitnah Bano filled her cup to the rim, and coquettishly drank it in the name of ‘Amar ‘Ayyar. When the Amir heard this, he was perturbed: “How did ‘Amar get in here?” He was still brooding over this when the second beauty drank a cup of rose-red wine to Muqbil the Faithful. And in this way all those present in the gathering drank cups of tulip-colored wine. The Amir reflected, “Well, well! I had no idea of all these secret affairs!”
The princess put the cup of scarlet wine to her lips with these words: “I drink in tribute to the slayer of Hisham bin ‘Alqamah of Khaibar, to the one who released you all from captivity.” When the Amir heard this he was overjoyed, and he learned a great deal from their confidential and affectionate talk. For fully three hours the lively wine-drinking party went on; the princess drank every cup in the name of the Sahib-qiran. When more than two watches of the night had passed, the party broke up. The princess went and lay down in a curtained bed. She tossed and turned, but the thought of the Sahib-qiran kept sleep away; she went on weeping profusely. Finally she wore herself out with tears.
The Sahib-qiran saw that the princess had gone to sleep, and every other woman had gone to her own quarters and was asleep as well. He came down the stairs from the roof, and went on tiptoe to the princess’s bed. He saw that the princess was asleep, but her eyes still seemed to be open in expectation:
In coquettish sleep she yet lies open-eyed
Mischief’s asleep, but mischief’s door is open wide.
For a long time he gazed at her dazzling face. He told himself, “You’ve taken a lot of trouble to come here, you’ve gone through so much to get this close to her! So indulge your heart’s desire.” Somehow or other the Sahib-qiran rested his hands on the small cushions behind her head and wanted to kiss her sweet lips and place a kiss on her radiant cheek as well.
The Amir’s hands slipped from the small pillows and touched the princess’s breasts. She awoke with a start. Not imagining that it could be the Amir, she screamed, and began to cry out “Thief, thief!” Her ladies awoke and came running from every direction. The Amir said, “My dearest, I am the slayer of Hisham bin ‘Alqamah of Khaibar, and I’ve been slain by the charm and coquetry of Mihr Nigar the Pari!” The princess recognized the Amir, felt very ashamed of having made such a commotion, and began to apologize; she instantly hid the Sahib-qiran under her bed. She put off her ladies with this excuse: “I had a nightmare, and it made me scream. It’s all right, you all go back to sleep, return to your own quarters.” They were all groggy with drowsiness anyway, they returned to their own quarters and went back to sleep.
The moment they left, the Sahib-qiran emerged from underneath the bed, he came up and sat next to Princess Mihr Nigar. The princess had only seen him from afar; now that she saw him close at hand she fell into an even deeper faint, she lost consciousness completely. When the Sahib-qiran put his mouth against hers and made her breathe his sweet breath, after a little while she was restored to her senses. In the meantime the white light of dawn appeared; the Sahib-qiran’s narcissus eyes filled with tears of longing like dewdrops, and he said, “Oh dearest, may the Lord protect you! Now the slayer of Hisham bin ‘Alqamah of Khaibar can stay no longer, for there’s a risk of our secret becoming known. I came away by giving the king the excuse that I wanted to go to sleep. If I live that long, I will come to you again by night, and may I take all your misfortunes upon myself! But don’t forget this one who has been wounded by the dagger of your charm, don’t let this victim of separation slip out of your heart.”
The princess gave a deep sigh and said, with tears in her eyes, “But I don’t know how I’ll get through such a long day, how my restless heart will be soothed! All right, I entrust you to the Lord’s keeping, I confide you to God’s care.
All right, you can go now, I agree
As for me, whatever will be will be.
For a little while I must endure the pain
Slowly, slowly my heart will find peace again.”
After this the Amir took his leave, and climbed back down from the roof. Taking Muqbil the Faithful with him, he went to join the gathering.
The king too had emerged from his bedchamber and brightened the company with his splendor: every officer and minister and noble had been given a share of the king’s attention. Since the morning breeze had opened the flower of the sun, and the sunflower had bloomed, the king seized the Amir’s hand and betook himself to the Four Gardens. The members of the gathering too went and attended him there. The Amir was as restless as heated quicksilver: he couldn’t manage to control his heart at all. Every second moment he rose, left the gathering, gazed toward Princess Mihr Nigar’s palace, and returned.
Buzurchmihr, seeing the Amir’s restlessness, guessed: “Beyond a doubt, the Amir has given his heart to someone.” He made a sign to ‘Amar. ‘Amar said, “I realized it before you did, I have guessed it already: His Honor has fallen in love with someone, the restlessness of his heart shows it.” Bakhtak too, seeing the Amir’s agitation, concluded, “The Amir is mad about someone! This restlessness is not without meaning, this much agitation shows that his heart is drawn toward someone.”
Bakhtak petitioned the king, “Some people are constantly getting up and going out, and the pleasure of the party is spoiled; they are breaking the mood of the gathering. Please command that anyone who leaves the gathering unnecessarily will have to pay a fine of a hundred tumans.” The king, liking the idea, said to the Amir, “Anyone who goes out from now on will pay a fine of one hundred tumans.” The Amir said, “That’s quite proper.” Despite his agreement, the Amir twice grew restless, left the gathering, and paid two hundred tumans by way of a fine. Buzurchmihr said to ‘Amar, “We must devise some scheme at once so that Bakhtak will leave the gathering and make himself scarce; he must not be allowed to stay here any longer.” ‘Amar said, “Why that’s a trifling matter, he’ll be gone like the wind; a word or two from me, and he’ll take to his heels.”
With these words, ‘Amar promptly obtained the royal ear, and petitioned the king, “How wonderful the mood is right now! If Your Majesty is pleased to give the command, this slave will serve Your Majesty a few cups of wine with his own hands.” The king said, “What could be better? I like the idea very much.” ‘Amar took the cup and flask in his hand, revolved them, and began to warm the party up. When he had served three or four cups in a row to the king, he served one to Crown Prince Hurmuz, then one to the Amir, then afterwards one to Khvajah Buzurchmihr. Moving around in this way, he placed a cup to the lips of Khvajah Wild Pig of the Faith, that is, Bakhtak.
Bakhtak felt a bell ring in his brain: “Now there’s something fishy about this, something’s definitely up! ‘Amar’s request to play cupbearer is not without purpose, he’s surely up to some mischief.” He said to ‘Amar, “As of yesterday I swore off wine; I won’t have any.” ‘Amar called out to them all, “Here’s a remarkable thing! All the members of the gathering, even up to the Refuge of the World, have allowed me to be cupbearer. But Bakhtak has not, he has turned up his nose. He doesn’t realize that if Satan himself had drunk a cup from my hand, he would have prostrated himself thousands of times before Hazrat Adam, he would never have lifted his swollen head from the ground!” The king and all the members of the gathering laughed at this jest of ‘Amar’s, and said to Bakhtak, “In point of fact, ‘Amar’s performance as cupbearer is not without sophistication! It’s astonishing that you refuse!” Having no choice, Bakhtak took the cup from ‘Amar and swallowed the wine like poison.
Since ‘Amar had mixed a raw laxative herb extract into the wine, it was not long before a painful rumbling and a wrenching gurgle began in Bakhtak’s stomach. He rose, asking leave of the king: “This hereditary slave is going to answer of call of nature and will be back in a moment.” When he had relieved himself and returned, not even a moment passed before a painful pressure again began in his stomach. He was obliged to rise and go out. ‘Amar said, “Now where are you going? You’ve just come back from outside!” He said, “To the privy.” ‘Amar said, “Are you all right? You’ve just come from there, and you want to go again?”
Bakhtak, paying the fine of one hundred tumans, answered the call of nature. He had not been back in his seat for even a moment when again he felt a twinge, but for fear of the fine he controlled himself and remained seated. When the need grew very strong, he could not restrain himself: his bowels opened and excrement flowed down the legs of his pyjamas.
‘Amar was just waiting for this to happen. Putting down the wine-cup, he petitioned the king, “Your Majesty’s senses have been heightened by wine. If you are pleased to stroll among the flower-beds, you will be doubly diverted, you will enjoy it very much; and through Your Majesty’s grace others also will amuse themselves, and will be able to fill the skirt of longing with pleasure.” The king said, “’Amar, I was just now thinking the same thing.”
The king, seizing the Amir’s hand, prepared to set out toward the gardens; all those present rose as well. Among the king’s retinue, Bakhtak too was obliged to be one of the first to rise. Everyone saw that Bakhtak’s couch was full of filth, and filth was flowing down his pyjama-legs also. The Kirmani carpet which had been spread out to sit on had also been soiled. ‘Amar informed the king, and told him of this situation. The king was already disgusted at Bakhtak’s previous behavior, and when he heard about this state of affairs he grew extremely furious. He sent for ‘Adi and commanded him, “This defecating boor is not fit for our company. Put him out of the garden, remove him from our presence!” ‘Adi was already poisonously angry at Bakhtak; the moment the order was given he seized Bakhtak by the beard and dragged him away.
Khvajah Buzurchmihr said to himself, “Although our shrewd move has removed Bakhtak from the royal gathering, the Amir’s agitation keeps growing moment by moment. God knows what is causing it! The king must not draw unfavorable conclusions and grow suspicious of him; that would alter everything.” With hands respectfully folded he petitioned the king, “Hamzah is very grateful for the esteem shown by Your Majesty. He will be indebted and obliged his whole life long; as long as he lives he will praise the esteem shown by the Sultan of the World. Now let the Center of the World go and make the royal throne radiant with his presence, for God’s creatures are waiting for the king’s judgment, the king’s subjects are hoping for a sight of him.” These words of Buzurchmihr’s pleased the king very much. Giving the Amir a royal robe of honor, he permitted him to depart. And he himself went into the audience hall, and busied himself with giving decisions and rendering justice.