A ragged dervish accompanied us along with the caravan for Hijaz, and a certain Arab prince presented him with a hundred dinars for the support of his family. Suddenly a gang of Khafachah robbers attacked the caravan, and completely stripped it. The merchants set up a weeping and wailing, and made much useless lamentation and complaint:—“Whether thou supplicatest them, or whether thou complainest, the robbers will not return thee their plunder":—all but that ragged wretch, who stood collected within himself, and unmoved by this adventure. I said: “Perhaps they did not plunder you of that money?” He replied: “Yes, they took it; but I was not so fond of my pet as to break my heart at parting with it. We should not fix our heart so on any thing or being as to find any difficulty in removing it.”
I said: “What you have remarked corresponds precisely with what once befell myself; for in my juvenile days I took a liking to a young man, and so sincere was my attachment that the Cabah, or fane, of my eye was his perfect beauty, and the profit of this life’s traffic his much-coveted society:—Perhaps the angels might in paradise, otherwise no living form can on this earth display such a loveliness of person. By friendship I swear that after his demise all loving intercourse is forbidden; for no human emanation can stand a comparison with him.
“All at once the foot of his existence stumbled at the grave of annihilation; and the sigh of separation burst from the dwelling of his family. For many days I sat a fixture at his tomb, and, of the many dirges I composed upon his demise, this is one:—’On that day, when thy foot was pierced with the thorn of death, would to God the hand of fate had cloven my head with the sword of destruction, that my eyes might not this day have witnessed the world without thee. Such am I, seated at the head of thy dust, as the ashes are seated on my own:—whoever could not take his rest and sleep till they first had spread a bed of roses and narcissuses for him: the whirlwind of the sky has scattered the roses of his cheek, and brambles and thorns are shooting from his grave.’
“After my separation from him I came to a steady and firm determination, that during my remaining life I would fold up the carpet of enjoyment, and never re-enter the gay circle of society:—Were it not for the dread of its waves, much would be the profits of a voyage at sea; were it not for the vexation of the thorn, charming might be the society of the rose. Yesterday I was walking stately as a peacock in the garden of enjoyment; to-day I am writhing like a snake from the absence of my mistress.”
To a certain king of Arabia they were relating the story of Laila and Mujnun, and his insane state, saying: “Notwithstanding his knowledge and wisdom, he has turned his face towards the desert, and abandoned himself to distraction.” The king ordered that they bring him into his presence; and he reproved him, and spoke, saying: “What have you seen unworthy in the noble nature of man that you should assume the manners of a brute, and forsake the enjoyment of human society?”