Damnah said, ‘They have related that there was a lord of the marches, renowned for his eminent qualities, and famed and celebrated for his excellent nature and admirable gifts.

His manners please, his words the heart delight,
His sense unbounded and skill infinite.

And this lord of the marches had a wife, who, by her beauty, was a calamity to the soul; and by her grace, a source of mischief to the world. Her lip was more invigorating than the waters of life, and her mouth more sweet than a bundle* of sugar.

Her face like fire, her cheek like water, bright,
Than sun and moon more dazzling in its light:
Her brow the bow, its shaft she made a look,
And thus a hundred hearts she captive took.

She combined with perfect beauty and fascination, the grace of chastity and continence, and she adorned her mischief-exciting cheek with the mole of devotion and abstinence.

To worldly matters she had closed her eye,
Sate curtained by the veil of chastity;
Ee’n to the glass her form would not display,
And from her shadow shrank, alarmed, away.

And this lord of the marches had a slave from Balkh,* excessively bold and audacious, who forbade not the pupil of his eye to gaze on that which it was unlawful to see, nor cleansed the desires of his breast from the dust of debauchery and mischief. Now this slave was allotted the office of Falconer in the service of the lord-marcher, and was appointed to capture fowls. One day he caught sight of that chaste lady, and the fowl of his heart was taken captive by the snare of her love.

The falcon of this sorrowing heart amid thy snares is captive ta’en,
Ah! many is the noble bird that by thy glance’s dart is slain.

However much the slave who had lost his heart shook the chain of union, she was not drawn into a meeting, and, in spite of all his wishes, she became not his captive.

All my blandishments are vain with my fair but scornful friend,
Happy they whom with the fair, fortune’s favoring smiles attend.

The Falconer having girt the waist of hope in the desire of capturing that peacock of the garden of beauty, let fly the hawk of contrivance in the air of the desire of meeting, but however much he did so, it found not the way to the wished-for nest.

Go! for some other bird these arts apply,
The ’Anḳá has its lofty nest too high.

When he despaired of success, as is the wont of evil men, he determined to assail her reputation and employ a stratagem to secure her disgrace; he then purchased two parrots from a fowler, and taught one of them in the language of Balkh to say, ‘I saw the porter in the house sleeping with my mistress:’ and the other to repeat, ‘I for my part say nothing.’ In the space of a week, they had learned these two words. One day the lord of the marches had prepared a wine-party, and was sitting at his ease on the cushion of pleasure, when the Falconer entered, and, by way of an offering, presented the birds. The sweet-spoken parrots began their mellifluous discourse, and, in accordance with their custom, repeated tho same two sentences. The lord of the marches was ignorant of the language of Balkh, but was pleased at their merry prattle and the similarity of their words [to those of men], and taking a liking to those bewitching sounds, which excited joy, he delivered the birds to his wife, in order that she should attend to them and exert herself to cherish them. The hapless lady, too, was ignorant of the language the birds spoke. She took care of them and caressed her enemies under the guise of friends.

I fed my lusts, they proved my overthrow,
I knew not I was cherishing my foe.

In short the lord of the marches became so accustomed to the parrots that he would never sit at the wine-feast without their sweet notes and their unrivaled modulations; and to listen to their exhilarating trills he closed his ears to the touching sounds of the lute, and the exciting murmurs of the harp. One day a party of people from Balkh, came as guests to the lord of the marches, who caused the parrots to be brought into the assembly which he prepared for his visitors. The birds began, in their accustomed manner, to sing the same two sentences. When the guests heard that, they looked at one another, and at last holding down their heads, ashamed, remained astonished at the circumstance. The lord of the marches observed that the flame of his companions’ mirth was quenched and that the pleasurable excitement of his guests was exchanged for amazement and reflection. He asked for an explanation of this state of things, and pressed them for it beyond measure, and however much his guests excused themselves, he would not admit of a refusal. One of them, who had more boldness than the rest, said, ‘Perhaps, O lord of the marches! thou art ignorant of what these birds say?’ He replied, ‘I do not understand their words, but I feel a gratification and pleasure in my heart at their delightful tones. Do ye acquaint me with the meaning of what they say.

The night of Sulaimán ne’er met my eyes,*
That I should understand birds’ colloquies.’

They then told the lord of the marches the meaning of the words of the parrots, and made him understand the purport of their discourse. Hereupon he desisted from drinking, and said, ‘My friends! excuse me. I was ignorant of this matter, and now that I have learned the true state of the case, no other excuse is needed. In our city it is not the custom to entertain in a house where there is a profligate and unchaste wife.’ In the midst of this colloquy, the slave who acted as Falconer, cried out, ‘I have seen it repeatedly, and I bear witness to it.’ The lord-marcher started up, and gave orders to put his wife to death. The lady sent a person to him with this message, ‘O fortunate lord!

Wilt thou we live, or takest thou life away,
Thy will is law—a law that all obey.

Nevertheless reflect in this affair, and act not precipitately.

Haste not to slay me, for I am in thy power.

The wise think deliberation requisite in all affairs, especially in shedding blood, since if it be necessary to take life, the opportunity of doing so is left; and if—which God forbid!—they should, through precipitation, put an innocent person to death, and it should afterwards be known that he did not deserve to be slain, the remedy would be beyond the circle of possibility, and the punishment thereof would hang to all eternity on the neck of the guilty party.

Give not too hastily thine anger vent,
Lest in the end it cause thee to repent.’

The lord of the marches commanded that they should bring the lady to the party and place her behind a curtain, and he told her the state of the case, and said, ‘Parrots are not of the same nature as men, that what they say should be tainted with interested motives. They speak what they have seen, and the Falconer too adds his testimony to corroborate their charge, and this is not a matter that any eloquence can render excusable.

There is no absolution for this sin.’

The lady replied, ‘It is a religious duty to take the proper steps in my case, and whenever the circumstances of it are rightly known, if I be worthy of death, thou mayest in one instant set thy mind at rest on that head.’ The lord of the marches answered, ‘How can this affair be investigated?’ His wife replied, ‘Inquire of the men of Balkh whether the birds know aught else in the language of Balkh, save these two sentences. And when it is discovered that, except these two phrases, they utter nothing, it will occur to thee that that base and shameless person, whose wish I did not grant, and whose vain desire and profligate intentions did not terminate in success, has taught them these two speeches. But if they can speak anything else in that language, it becomes lawful for thee to shed my blood, and life is to me a thing prohibited.’ The lord of the marches proceeded with due circumspection, and for three days the guests examined into the matter. They heard nothing, however, from the tongue of the parrots except those two sentences, and as soon as the innocence of the lady was established, her husband abandoned his intention of putting her to death, and commanded them to bring in the Falconer. He entered with the utmost eagerness, saying to himself that he should, perhaps, obtain promotion. The lady asked him, ‘O cruel and treacherous man! didst thou behold me do anything in violation of God’s law.’ He replied, ‘Yes; I saw thee.’ The instant that he pronounced these words, a hawk, which he had in his hands, attacked his face and struck its beak into his eye, and tore it out. The lady exclaimed, ‘Verily, the punishment of the eye which pretends to have seen what it has not seen, is no other than this, ‘And the retaliation of evil ought to be an evil proportionate thereto.’*

To pluck the eye malignant out were best,
For all must him who pries for ill detest.’

And I have introduced this story to the end that ye may know that to be bold in calumniating, and to bear witness to what has not been seen, is the cause of shame in this world and of disgrace in the next.’

When Damnah’s speech was finished, they wrote it all down on the spot, and transmitted it to the Lion, and he showed what had passed to his mother. The lioness, having informed herself of it said, ‘O king! all my efforts in this matter have been no further beneficial than to cast suspicion on this execrable wretch, and hereafter his deceitful artifices will be occupied with compassing* the king’s destruction, and he will throw the affairs of both king and people into confusion, and he will accomplish more with respect to all the Pillars of the state than he ventured on with regard to Shanzabah, who was a sincere, attached, and loyal minister; for from a bad heart will spring nothing but bad actions, and from an infirm nature arises nought but mischief and audacity.

Hope not the Ḥumá’s blessings from the owl
Ill-starred; nor that the sparrow hawk-like deeds
Will do. Soon as the feet of miscreant foul
Are raised on high, is’t strange if he proceeds
To scatter all around him mischief’s seeds.*

This speech made a great impression* on the heart of the lion, and he was oppressed with long and anxious reflections. At last he said, ‘O mother! tell me from whom thou hast heard the tale of Damnah, that I may have a pretext for killing him?’ She replied, ‘O king! to divulge the secret of one who has placed confidence in me, is forbidden by the laws of honor, and a secret which they have committed to me as a deposit, I am necessitated by high feeling to preserve. I can go so far, I will ask that person’s permission, and if he concede it, I will then tell it plainly.’ To this the Lion assented, and the lioness coming out from his presence, honored her own court by proceeding thither, and sending for the leopard, gratified him by a variety of honorable attentions, and said,

O thou whose wrath destructive is as time;
Whose fame like sun-light spreads through every clime!

thou knowest the honors which the king of beasts vouchsafes to thee, and the marks of the royal favor and support towards thee are written in the volume of manifestation, and for this reason it is incumbent on thee to shew thy gratitude, in order that, according to the promise, ‘If ye be thankful, I will surely increase my favours towards you,’*the bounty of the king may be duly enlarged.’ The leopard replied, ‘O queen! the imperial favour and kingly bounty which the ruler of this age has lavished and still lavishes on his humble servant cannot be sufficiently acknowledged by me, whatever I might call in to aid me in the task; nor have I the power to evince my thanks for a thousandth part of his kindness, nor for a particle of their amplitude.

Grant that the lily’s tongues all met in me,
Ne’er from the praises due should I get free.

And I have oft traversed the plain of loyalty with the step of praise, and now too, in whatever the empress of the time may be pleased to indicate, she will observe nought but submission and devotion.’ The lioness said,

‘Thy work is founded with a manly soul,
Be generous now and thus complete the whole.
A favor is no favor till complete.

The Lion at the first communicated to thee the state of his thoughts, and thou didst undertake the duty of endeavoring, to the utmost extent of thy power, to exact from his perfidious foe vengeance for Shanzabah.

To-day thou must this covenant fulfil.

The advisable course is that thou shouldest proceed to the Lion, and truth­fully recount what thou hast seen and heard; otherwise the artifices of Damnah have reached that height that the Lion will forego the intention of putting him to death, and in that case no one will be safe from his malice at the Lion’s court, and in a short space he will, by his wily machinations bring destruction on the nobles and officers, and will contrive, by his calumnies and misrepresentations, the ruin of everyone concerned in his case and who strove to secure his death.’ The leopard replied, ‘O queen! I take upon me the carrying through of this matter.* And I hitherto kept back my evidence and withheld this true testimony, in order that the king might get a specimen of Damnah’s nature, and become acquainted with his subtle artifices and fraud, and had I, previous to this, plunged into the matter and meddled in the management of it, (as the king was unacquainted with the tricks of Damnah and the baseness of his nature, and the wicked­ness of his disposition,) it is probable that he would have imputed my words to selfish motives, and entertained evil suspicions of me. But now that the affair has reached this point, I will not neglect the public weal, and if I had a thousand lives, and could devote them to secure the king a moment’s ease of mind, I should still be unable to discharge one of all the duties of thankfulness, which I owe him for his favours, and should still regard myself as falling short of what loyalty imposes on me.

Both worlds for his one hair I’d give, but yet,
Must in both worlds still blushing own my debt.’

The lioness then went to the Lion, and recounted what had passed between Kalílah and Damnah, as she had heard it, and delivered this testimony in the assembly of the beasts. These tidings being bruited abroad, the thief also,* who had overheard their colloquy, sent some one to say that he, too, had evidence to give. The Lion issued his orders that he should attend; and he duly bore witness to what had passed between them in the prison. They asked him why he had not made a representation of it on the first day. He replied, ‘No sentence is pronounced on the evidence of only one person, and I thought it not right to bring punishment, uselessly, on an animal.’* The Lion approved of what he said; and on the evidence of these two, it became incumbent to sentence Damnah to be punished, and the signatures of the judges having been affixed, all the beasts agreed in pronouncing for his execution in retaliation for that of the Ox.

Each fool who sows the seed of others’ pain,
Will, for his harvest, punishment obtain.

The Lion commanded that they should find and keep him carefully in ward, and that they should withhold his food and torture him with various severities and threats, so that he at last expired of hunger and thirst in the prison, and the retributive disgrace of his fraud and perfidy reaching him, he passed from the hell of imprisonment to the incarceration of hell [according to the saying] ‘And the utmost part of the people, which had acted wickedly, was cut off; praise be unto God, the Lord of all creatures,* in order that it might be known that such is the end of deceivers and the termination of traitors.

Whoever places in man’s path a snare,
Himself will, in the sequel, stumble there.
Joy’s fruit upon the branch of kindness grows:
Who sows the bramble will not pluck the rose.
Since loss or gain are to our acts assigned,
Do good, for ’tis far better good to find.