Anecdote xxi.

At the period when I was in the service of that martyred prince the King of the Mountains (may God illuminate his tomb and exalt his station in Paradise!), that august personage had a high opinion of me, and showed himself a most generous patron towards me. Now on the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast one of the nobles of the city of Balkh (may God maintain its prosperity!), Amír 'Amíd Ṣafiyyu'd-Dín Abú Bakr*

Muḥammad b. al-Ḥusayn Rawánsháhí, came to the Court. He was a young man, an expert writer, a qualified Secretary of State, well endowed with culture and its fruits, popular with all, whose praises were on all tongues. And at this time I was not in attendance.

Now at a reception the King chanced to say, “Call Nidhámí.” Said the Amír 'Amíd Ṣafiyyu'd-Dín, “Is Nidhámí here?” They answered “Yes.” But he supposed that it was Nidhámí-i-Munírí.*

“Ah,” said he, “a fine poet and a man of wide fame!” When the messenger arrived to summon me, I put on my shoes, and, as I entered, did obeisance, and sat down in my place. When the wine had gone round several times, Amír 'Amíd said, “Nidhámí has not come.” “He is come,” replied the King; “see, there he is, seated in such-and-such a place.” “I am not speaking of this Nidhámí,” answered Amír 'Amíd; “that Nidhámí of whom I speak is another one, and as for this one, I do not even know him.” Thereupon I saw that the King was vexed; he at once turned to me and said, “Is there another Nidhámí besides thee?” “Yes, sire,” I answered, “there are two other Nidhámís, one of Samarqand, whom they call Nidhámí-i-Munírí, and one of Níshápúr, whom they call Nidhámí-i-Athírí; while me they call Nidhámí-i-'Arúḍí.” “Art thou better, or they?” demanded he. Then Amír 'Amíd perceived that he had spoken ill, and that the King was annoyed. “Sire,” said he, “those two Nidhámís are quarrelsome fellows, apt to break up social gatherings by their quarrelsomeness, and to cause trouble, and to do mischief.” “Wait,” said the King jestingly, “till you see this one drain a bumper and break up the meeting:*

but of these three Nidhámís which is the best poet?” “Of those two,” said the Amír 'Amíd, “I have personal knowledge, having seen them, while this one I have not previously seen, nor have I heard his poetry. If he will compose a couple of verses on this subject which we have been discussing, so that I may see his talents and hear his verse, I will tell you which of these three is best.”

Then the King turned to me, saying: “Now, O Nidhámí, do not shame us: say what 'Amíd desires.”

Now at that time, when I was in the service of this King, I possessed a copious talent and a brilliant genius, and the favours and gifts of my master had stimulated me to such a point that my improvisations came fluent as running water; so I took up a pen, and, ere the wine-cup had gone twice round, composed these five couplets and submitted them to the King:—

We are three Nidhámís in the world, O King, on account
of whom a whole world is filled with outcry.
I am at Warsá before the King's throne, while those two
others are in Merv before the Sultan.
To-day, in truth, in verse each one is the Pride of Khurásán.
Although they utter verse subtle as spirit, and although they
understand the Art of Speech like Wisdom,
I am the Wine, for, when I get hold of them, both desist
from their work

When I submitted these verses, the Amír 'Amíd Ṣafiyyu'd-Dín bowed and said: “O King, let alone the Nidhámís, I know of no poet in all Transoxania, 'Iráq, or Khurásán capable of improvising five such verses, more especially in respect of strength, energy, and sweetness, conjoined with such grace of diction and filled with ideas so original. Rejoice, O Nidhámí, for thou hast no peer on the face of the earth. O sire, he hath a graceful wit, a mind swift to apprehend, and a finished art. By the good fortune of the King of the age and his generosity he hath developed into a unique genius, and will even become more than this, for he is young and hath many days before him.”

Thereat the countenance of my King and Lord brightened mightily, and a great cheerfulness appeared in his gracious temperament, and he applauded me, saying: “I give thee the lead-mine of Warsá from this Festival until the Festival of the Sheep-sacrifice. Send an agent there.” I did so, sending Isḥáq the Jew. It was the middle of summer, and while they were working it they melted much of the ore, so that in seventy days twelve thousand maunds of lead*

accrued to me, while the King's opinion of me was increased a thousand-fold. May God (blessed and exalted is He) illuminate his august ashes with the light of His approval,*

by His Favour and Grace!