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AFTER Solomon had paid the last honors to his father, he was resting in a valley between Hebron and Jerusalem, when suddenly he swooned away. On reviving, there appeared to him eight angels, each of whom had immeasurable wings of every color and form, and thrice they bowed down to him. "Who are you?" demanded Solomon, while his eyes were yet half closed. They replied, "We are the angels set over the eight winds. Allah, our Creator and thine, sends us to swear fealty, and to surrender to thee the power over us and the eight winds which are at our command. According to thy pleasure and designs, they shall either be tempestuous or gentle, and shall blow from that quarter to which thou shalt turn thy back; and at thy demand they shall rise out of the earth to bear thee up, and to raise thee above the loftiest mountains." The most exalted of the eight angels then presented to him a jewel with this inscription: "To Allah belong greatness and might:" and said, "If thou hast need of us, raise this stone toward heaven, and we shall appear to serve thee." As soon as these angels had left him, there came four others, differing from each p. 201 other in form and name. One of them resembled an immense whale; the other, an eagle; the third, a lion; and the fourth, a serpent. "We are the lords of all creatures living in earth and water," they said, bowing profoundly to Solomon, "and appear before thee at the command of our Lord, to do fealty unto thee. Dispose of us at thy pleasure. We grant to thee and to thy friends all the good and pleasant things with which the Creator has endowed us, but use all the noxious that are in our power against thy foes." The angel who represented the kingdom of birds then gave him a jewel with the inscription, "All created things praise the Lord;" and said, "By virtue of this stone, which thou needest only to raise above thy head, thou mayest call us at any moment, and impart to us thy commands." Solomon did so instantly, and commanded them to bring a pair of every kind of animal that live in the water, the earth, and the air, and to present them to him. The angels departed quick as lightning, and in the twinkling of an eye there were standing before him every imaginable creature, from the largest elephant down to the smallest worm; also all kinds of fish and birds. Solomon caused each of them to describe its whole manner of life; he listened to their complaints, and abolished many of their abuses. But he conversed longest with the birds, p. 202 both on account of their delicious language which he knew as well as his own, as also for the beautiful proverbs that are current among them. The song of the peacock, translated into human language, means, "As thou judgest, so shalt thou be judged." The song of the nightingale signifies, "Contentment is the greatest happiness." The turtle-dove sings, "It were better for many a creature had it never been born." The hoopoo, "He that shows no mercy shall not obtain mercy." The bird syrdak, "Turn to Allah, O ye sinners." The swallow, "Do good, for you shall be rewarded hereafter." The pelican, "Blessed be Allah in heaven and earth!" The dove, "All things pass away; Allah alone is eternal." The kata, "Whosoever can keep silence goes through life most securely." The eagle, "Let our life be ever so long, yet it must end in death." The raven, "The farther from mankind, the pleasanter." The cock, "Ye thoughtless men, remember your Creator."
Solomon chose the cock and the hoopoo for his constant attendants. The one, on account of his monitory sentence, and the other, inasmuch as his eyes, piercing as they do through the earth as if it were crystal, enabled him during the travels of the king to point out the place where fountains of water were hid, so that water p. 203 never failed Solomon, either to quench his thirst, or to perform the prescribed ablutions before prayer. But, after having stroked the heads of the doves, he commanded them to appoint unto their young the temple which he was about to erect as their habitation. (This pigeon pair had, in the course of a few years, increased so much, through Solomon's blessed touch, that all who visited the temple walked from the remotest quarter of the city under the shadow of their wings.)
When Solomon was again alone, there appeared an angel, whose upper part looked like earth, and whose lower like water. He bowed down toward the earth, and said, "I am created by Allah to manifest his will both to the dry land and to the sea; but he has placed me at thy disposal, and thou mayest command, through me, over earth and sea: at thy will the highest mountains shall disappear, and others rise out of the ground; rivers and seas shall dry up, and fruitful countries be turned into seas or oceans." He then presented to him before he vanished a jewel, with the inscription, "Heaven and earth are the servants of Allah."
Finally, another angel brought to him a fourth jewel, which bore the inscription, "There is no GOD but one, and Mohammed is his messenger." "By means of this stone," said the angel, "thou p. 204 obtainest the dominion over the kingdom of spirits, which is much greater than that of man and beasts, and fills up the whole space between the earth and heaven. Part of these spirits," continued the angel, "believe in the only GOD, and pray to him; but others are unbelieving. Some adore the fire; others the sun; others, again, the different stars; and many even the water. The first continually hover round the pious, to preserve them from evil and sin; but the latter seek in every possible manner to torment and to seduce them, which they do the more easily, since they render themselves invisible, or assume any form they please." Solomon desired to see the genii in their original form. The angel rushed like a column of fire through the air, and soon returned with a host of demons and genii, whose appalling appearance filled Solomon, spite of his dominion over them, with an inward shudder. He had no idea that there were such misshapen and frightful beings in the world. He saw human heads on the necks of horses, with asses' feet; the wings of eagles on the dromedary's back; and the horns of the gazelle on the head of the peacock. Astonished at this singular union, he prayed the angel to explain it to him, since Djan, from whom all the genii were descended, had only a simple form. "This is the consequence," replied the angel, "of their wicked p. 205 lives and their shameless intercourse with men, beasts, and birds; for their desires know no bounds, and the more they multiply the more they degenerate."
When Solomon returned home, he commanded the four jewels which the angels had given him to be set in a signet ring, in order that he might be able at any moment to rule over spirits and animals, and over wind and water. His first care was to subdue the demons and genii. He caused them all to come before him save the mighty Sachr, who kept himself concealed in an unknown island of the ocean, and Iblis, the master of all evil spirits, to whom God had promised the most perfect independence till the day of judgment. When they were assembled, he stamped his signet ring on each of their necks, to mark them as his slaves. He obliged the male genii to erect various public buildings; among others, also a temple after the plan of that at Mecca, which he had once seen during his travels to Arabia. The female genii he obliged to cook, to bake, to wash, to weave, to spin, to, carry water, and to perform other domestic labors. The stuffs they produced Solomon distributed among the poor, and the food which they prepared was placed on tables of two leagues square, for the daily consumption amounted to thirty thousand oxen and as many sheep, with a p. 206 great number of fowls and fish, of which he could obtain as many as he chose by virtue of his ring, notwithstanding his remoteness from the ocean. The genii and demons sat at iron tables, the poor at tables of wood, the chiefs of the people and of the army at tables of silver, but the learned and eminently pious at golden ones, and the latter were waited on by Solomon himself.
One day, when all the spirits, men, beasts, and birds, had risen, satisfied, from their various tables, Solomon prayed to Allah that he might permit him to entertain all the creatures of the earth.
"Thou demandest an impossibility," replied Allah; "but make a beginning to-morrow with the inhabitants of the sea."
Solomon thereupon commanded the genii to load with corn one hundred thousand camels and as many mules, and to lead them to the sea-shore. He himself followed, and cried, "Come hither, ye inhabitants of the sea, that I may satisfy your hunger." Then came all kinds of fish to the surface of the sea. Solomon flung corn unto them till they were satisfied and dived down again. On a sudden, a whale protruded his head, resembling a mighty mountain. Solomon made his flying spirits to pour one sack of corn after the, other into its jaws; p. 207 but it continued its demand for more, until not a single grain was left. Then it bellowed aloud, "Feed me, Solomon, for I never suffered so much from hunger as to-day."
Solormon inquired of it "whether there were more fish of the kind in the sea."
"There are of my species alone," replied the whale, "seventy thousand kinds, the least of which is so large that thou wouldst appear in its body like a grain of sand in the wilderness."
Solomon threw himself on the ground, and began to weep, and besought the Lord to pardon his senseless demand.
"My kingdom," cried Allah to him, "is still greater than thine: arise, and behold but one of those creatures whose rule I can not confide to man."
Then the sea began to rage and to storm, as if all the eight winds had set it in motion at once; and there rose up a sea monster so huge that it could easily have swallowed seventy thousand like the first, which Solomon was not able to satisfy, and cried with a voice like the most terrible thunder, "Praised be Allah, who alone has the power to save me from starvation!"
When Solomon was returning again to Jerusalem, he heard such a noise, proceeding from the constant hammering of the genii, who were p. 208 occupied with the building of the temple, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were no longer able to converse with each other. He therefore commanded the spirits to suspend their labors, and inquired whether none of them was acquainted with a means by which the various metals might be wrought without producing such a clamor. Then there stepped out one from among them, and said, "This is known only to the mighty Sachr; but he has hitherto succeeded in escaping from thy dominion."
"Is, then, this Sachr utterly inaccessible?" inquired Solomon.
"Sachr," replied the genius, "is stronger than all of us put together, and is as much our superior in swiftness as in power. Still, I know that he drinks from a fountain in the province of Hidjr once in every month. Perhaps thou mayest succeed, O wise king! to subdue him there to thy scepter."
Solomon commanded forthwith a division of his swift-flying genii to empty the fountain, and to fill it with intoxicating liquor. Some of them he then ordered to linger in its vicinity until they should see Sachr approaching, and then instantly to return and bring him word. A few weeks afterward, when Solomon was standing on the terrace of his palace, he beheld a genius flying from the direction of Hidjr swifter than p. 209 the wind. The king inquired of him if he brought news respecting Sachr.
"Sachr is lying overcome with wine at the brink of the fountain," replied the genius, "and we have bound him with chains as massive as the pillars of thy temple; but he will burst them asunder as the hair of a virgin when he has slept off his wine."
Solomon then mounted hastily the winged genius, and in less than an hour was borne to the fountain. It was high time, for Sachr had already opened his eyes again; but his hands and feet were still chained, so that Solomon set the signet on his neck without any hinderance. Sachr uttered such a cry of woe that the whole earth quaked; but Solomon said to him, "Fear not, mighty genius! I will restore thee to liberty as soon as thou shalt indicate the means whereby I may work the hardest metals without noise."
"I myself know of no such," replied Sachr; "but the raven will best be able to advise thee. Take only the eggs from a raven's nest, and cover them with a crystal bowl, and thou shalt see how the mother-bird shall cut it through."
Solomon followed Sachr's advice. A raven came and flew about the bowl; but, finding that she could not get access to the eggs, she flew away, and a few hours afterward reappeared p. 210 with a stone in her beak, called Samur, which had no sooner touched the bowl than it fell in two halves.
"Whence hast thou this stone?" inquired Solomon of the raven.
"From a mountain in the distant west," replied the raven.
Solomon then commanded some of the genii to follow the raven to the mountain, and to procure more of these stones; but Sachr he set free again, according to his promise. When the chains were taken from him, he shouted with exultation; but his joy sounded in Solomon's ear like the laughter of scorn. As soon as the spirits returned with the Samur stones, he caused himself to be carried back to Jerusalem by one of them, and divided the stones among the genii, who could now continue their labors without making the slightest noise.
Solomon then constructed a palace for himself, with a profusion of gold, silver, and precious stones, the like of which no king had ever possessed before him. Many of its halls had crystal floors and ceilings, and he erected a throne of sandal-wood, covered with gold, and embossed with the most costly jewels. While the building of his palace was in progress, he made a journey to the ancient city of Damascus, whose environs are reckoned among the four earthly paradises.
The genius on whom he rode pursued the straightest course, and flew over the valley of ants, which is surrounded by such lofty cliffs, and deep, impassable ravines, that no man had been able to enter it before.
Solomon was much astonished to see beneath him a host of ants, which were as large as wolves, and which, owing to their gray eyes and feet, appeared at a distance like a cloud.
But, on the other hand, the queen of the ants, which had never seen a human being, was in no small trouble on perceiving the king, and cried to her subjects, "Retire quickly to your caverns!"
But Allah said to her, "Assemble all thy vassals, and do homage to Solomon, who is king of the whole creation."
Solomon, to whom the winds had wafted these words, then at a distance of six leagues, descended to the queen, and in a short time the whole valley was covered with ants as far as his eye could reach. Solomon then asked the queen, who was standing at their head, "Why fearest thou me, since thy hosts are so numerous that they could lay waste the whole earth?"
"I fear none but Allah," replied the queen; "for if my subjects which thou now beholdest were threatened with danger, seventy times their number would appear at a single nod from me."
"Why, then, didst thou command thy ants to retire while I was passing above thee?"
"Because I feared lest they might look after thee, and thus forget their Creator for a moment."
"Is there any favor that I may show thee ere I depart?" inquired Solomon.
"I know of none: but rather let me advise thee so to live that thou mayest not be ashamed of thy name, which signifies 'The Immaculate;' beware also of ever giving away thy ring without first saying, 'In the name of Allah the All-merciful.'"
Solomon once more exclaimed, "Lord, thy kingdom is greater than mine!" and took leave of the queen of ants.
On his return he commanded the genius to fly in another direction, so as not to disturb the devotions of the queen and her subjects.
On arriving at the frontiers of Palestine, he heard how some one prayed:
"My God, who hast chosen Abraham to be thy friend, redeem me soon from this woeful existence!"
Solomon descended to him, and beheld an aged man bowed down with years, and trembling in all his limbs.
"Who art thou?"
"I am an Israelite of the tribe of Judah."
"How old art thou?"
"Allah alone knows. I counted up to my three hundredth year, and since that time full fifty or sixty more must have passed away."
"How camest thou to so great an age, which, since Abraham's time, no human being has attained?"
"I once saw a shooting star in the night of Al-Kadr, and expressed the senseless wish that I might meet with the mightiest prophet before I died."
"Thou hast now reached the goal of thy expectations: prepare thyself to die, for I am the king and prophet Solomon, to whom Allah has granted a power such as no mortal before me ever possessed." Scarcely had he finished these words, when the Angel of Death descended in human form, and took the soul of the aged man.
"Thou must have been quite close to me, since thou camest so promptly," said Solomon to the angel.
"How great is thy mistake! Be it known to thee, O king! that I stand on the shoulders of an angel whose head reaches ten thousand years beyond the seventh heaven, whose feet are five hundred years below the earth, and who, withal, is so powerful, that if Allah permitted it, he could swallow the earth, and all that it contains, without the slightest effort.
"He it is who points out to me when, where, and how I must take a soul. His gaze is fixed on the tree Sidrat Almuntaha, which bears as many leaves inscribed with names as there are men living on the earth.
"At each birth a new leaf, bearing the name of the newly born, bursts forth; and when any one has reached the end of his life, his leaf withers and falls off, and at the same instant I am with him to receive his soul."
"How dost thou proceed in this matter, and whither takest thou the souls at death?"
"As often as a believer dies, Gabriel attends me, and wraps his soul in a green silken sheet, and then breathes it into a green bird, which feeds in Paradise until the day of the resurrection. But the soul of the sinner I take alone, and having wrapped it in a coarse, pitch-covered woolen cloth, carry it to the gates of hell, where it wanders among abominable vapors until the last day."
Solomon thanked the angel for his information, and besought him, when he should one day come to take his soul, to conceal his death from all men and spirits.
He then washed the body of the deceased, buried him, and having prayed for his soul, begged for a mitigation of his bodily pains at the p. 215 trial he was to undergo before the angels Ankir and Munkir.*
This journey had fatigued Solomon so much, that he ordered the genii, on his return to Jerusalem, to weave strong silken carpets, which might contain him and his followers, together with all the requisite utensils and equipages for traveling. Whenever he desired thereafter to make a journey, he caused one of these carpets, of a larger or smaller size, according to the number of his attendants, to be spread out before the city, and as soon as all that he required was placed upon it, he gave a signal to the eight winds to raise it up. He then seated himself on his throne, and guided them into whatever direction he pleased, even as a man guides his horses with bit and reins.
One night Abraham appeared to him in a dream, and said, "Allah has distinguished thee above all other men by thy wisdom and power. He has subjected to thy rule the genii, who are erecting a temple at thy command, the like of which the earth has never borne before; and thou ridest on the winds as I once rode on Borak, p. 216 who shall dwell in Paradise until the birth of Mohammed. Show thyself grateful, therefore, unto the only God, and, taking advantage of the ease with which thou canst travel from place to place, visit the cities of Jathrib,* where the greatest of prophets shall one day find shelter and protection, and of Mecca, the place of his birth, where now the holy temple stands which I and my son Ismael (peace be on him!) rebuilt after the flood."
The next morning, Solomon proclaimed that he would undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca, and that each and every Israelite would be permitted to accompany him. There immediately applied so many pilgrims, that Solomon was obliged to have a new carpet woven by the spirits, two leagues in length and two in breadth.
The empty space which remained he filled with camels, oxen, and smaller cattle, which he designed to sacrifice at Mecca, and to divide among the poor.
For himself he had a throne erected, which was so studded with brilliant jewels that no one could raise his eyes to him. The men of distinguished piety occupied golden seats near the throne: the learned were seated on silver, and part of the common people on wood. The genii and demons were commanded to fly before p. 217 him, for he trusted them so little that he desired to have them constantly in his presence, and therefore always drank out of crystal cups so as never to lose sight of them, even when he was compelled to satisfy his thirst. But the birds he directed to fly above the carpet in close array, to protect the travelers from the sun.
When the arrangements were complete, and men, spirits, birds, and beasts were assembled, he commanded the eight winds to raise up the carpet, with all that it contained, and to carry it to Medina. In the vicinity of that city, he made a signal to the birds to lower their wings, whereupon the winds gradually abated until the carpet rested on the earth.
But no one was permitted to leave the carpet, for Medina was then inhabited by worshipers of idols, with whom the king would not suffer his subjects to come in contact.
Solomon went unattended to the spot where, in later times, Mohammed erected his first mosque—it was then a burial-ground—performed his midday devotions, and then returned to the carpet. The birds, at his nod, spread their wings, the winds bore up the carpet, and swept on with it to Mecca. This city was then governed by the Djorhamides, who had migrated there from the Southern Arabia, and were at that time worshipers of the only God, keeping the Kaaba as p. 218 pure from idolatry as it was in the days of Abraham and of Ismael. Solomon therefore entered it, with all his attendants, performed the ceremonies obligatory on pilgrims, and when he had slain the victims which he brought with him from Jerusalem, he pronounced in the Kaaba a long discourse, in which he predicted the future birth of Mohammed, and exhorted all his hearers to enforce faith in him upon their children and descendants.
After a stay of three days, King Solomon resolved to return again to Jerusalem. But when the birds had unfolded their wings, and the carpet was already in motion, he suddenly discovered a ray of light striking upon it, whence he concluded that one of his birds had left its post.
He therefore summoned the eagle, and directed him to call over the names of all the birds, and to report which was absent. The eagle obeyed, and soon came back with the answer that the hoopoo was wanting.
The king grew enraged; the more so, because he needed the hoopoo during the journey, since no other bird possessed its powers to descry the hidden fountains of the desert.
"Soar aloft," he cried harshly to the eagle; "search for the hoopoo, and bring it hither, that I may pluck off its feathers, and expose it naked to the scorching sun, until the worms shall have consumed it."
The eagle soared heavenward until the earth beneath him appeared like an inverted bowl. He then halted, and looked in every direction to discover the truant subject. As soon as he spied it coming from the south, he plunged down, and would have seized it in his talons, but the hoopoo adjured him by Solomon to forbear.
"Darest thou to invoke the king's protection?" replied the eagle. "Well may thy mother weep for thee. The king is enraged, for he has discovered thy absence, and sworn to punish it terribly."
"Lead me to him," rejoined the other. "I know that he will excuse my absence when he hears where I have been, and what I have to report of my excursion."
The eagle led him to the king, who was sitting on his judgment throne with wrathful countenance, and instantly drew the delinquent violently toward him. The hoopoo trembled in every limb, and hung down his plumage in token of submission. But when Solomon would have grasped him still more tightly, he cried, "Remember, O prophet of Allah! that thou, too, shalt one day give an account unto the Lord: let me, therefore, not be condemned unheard."
"How canst thou excuse thy absenting thyself without my permission?"
"I bring information respecting a country p. 220 and a queen whose names thou hast not even heard of—the country of Saba, and Queen Balkis."
"These names are indeed quite strange to me. Who has informed thee of them?"
"A hoopoo from those regions, whom I met during one of my short excursions in the course of our conversation I spoke to him of thee, and thy extensive dominions, and he was astonished that thy fame should not yet have reached his home. He entreated me, therefore, to accompany him there, and convince myself that it would be worth thy while to subject the land of Saba unto thy scepter.
"On our way he related to me the whole history of that country down to its present queen, who rules over so large an army that she requires twelve thousand captains to command it."
Solomon relinquished his hold of the hoopoo, and commanded him to recount all that he had heard of that country and its history, whereupon the bird began as follows: "Most mighty king and prophet! be it known to thee that Saba is the capital of an extensive country in the south of Arabia, and was founded by King Saba, Ibn Jashab, Ibn Sarab, Ibn Kachtan. His name was properly Abd Shems (the servant of the Sun); but he had received the surname of Saba p. 221 (one who takes captive) by reason of his numerous conquests."
Saba was the largest and most superb city ever constructed by the hand of man, and, at the same time, so strongly fortified that it might have defied the united armies of the world.
But that which especially distinguished this city of marble palaces were the magnificent gardens in the center of which it stood.
For King Saba had, in compliance with the counsels of the wise Lockman, constructed vast dikes and numerous canals, both to guard the people from inundation during the rainy season, and also against want of water in time of drought.
Thus it came to pass, that this country, which is so vast that a good horseman would require a month to traverse it, became rapidly the richest and most fertile of the whole earth. It was covered with the finest trees in every direction, so that its travelers knew nothing of the scorching sun. Its air, too, was so pure and refreshing, and its sky so transparent, that the inhabitants lived to a very great age, in the enjoyment of perfect health.
The land of Saba was, as it were, a diadem on the brow of the universe.
This state of felicity endured as long as it pleased Allah. King Saba, its founder, died, p. 222 and was succeeded by other kings, who enjoyed the fruits of Lockman's labors without thinking of preserving them; but time was busy with their destruction. The torrents, plunging from the adjacent mountains, gradually undermined the dike which had been constructed to restrain and to distribute them into the various canals, so that it fell in at last, and the whole country was, in consequence, laid waste by a fearful flood. The first precursors of an approaching disaster showed themselves in the reign of King Amru. In his time it was that the priestess Dharifa beheld in a dream a vast dark cloud, which, bursting amid terrific thunderings, poured destruction upon the land. She told her dream to the king, and made no secret of her fears respecting the welfare of his empire; but the king and his courtiers endeavored to silence her, and continued, as before, their heedless, careless courses.
One day, however, while Amru was in a grove in dalliance with two maidens, the priestess stepped before him with disheveled hair and ruffled countenance, and predicted anew the speedy desolation of the country.
The king dismissed his companions; and having seated the priestess beside him, inquired of her what new omen foreboded this evil. "On my way hither," replied Dharifa, "I met crimson p. 223 rats standing erect, and wiping their eyes with their feet; and a turtle, which lay on its back, struggling in vain to rise: these are certain signs of a flood, which shall reduce this country to the sad condition in which it was in ancient times."
"What proof givest thou me of the truth of thy statement?" inquired Amru.
"Go to the dike, and thine own eyes shall convince thee."
The king went, but speedily came back to the grove with distracted countenance. "I have seen a dreadful sight," he cried. "Three rats as large as porcupines were gnawing the dikes with their teeth, and tearing off pieces of rock which fifty men would not have been able to move."
Dharifa then gave him still other signs; and he himself had a dream, in which he saw the tops of the loftiest trees covered with sand—an evident presage of the approaching flood—so that he resolved to fly from his country.
Yet, in order to dispose of his castles and possessions to advantage, he concealed what he had seen and heard, and invented the following pretext for his emigration.
One day he gave a grand banquet to his highest officers of state and the chiefs of his army, but arranged with his son beforehand that he p. 224 should strike him in the face during a discussion. When this accordingly took place at the public table, the king sprang up, drew his sword, and feigned to slay his son; but, as he had foreseen his guests rushed in between them, and hurried away the prince. Amru then swore that he would no longer remain in a country where he had suffered such a disgrace. But, when all his estates were sold, he avowed the true motive of his emigration, and many tribes joined themselves to him.
Soon after his departure the predicted calamities took place, for the inhabitants of Saba, or Mareb, as this city is sometimes called, listened neither to the warnings of Dharifa nor the admonition of a prophet whom Allah had sent them. The strong dike fell in, and the waters, pouring from the mountain, devastated the city and the entire vicinity. "As, however, the men of Saba," continued the hoopoo, in his narrative before King Solomon, "who had fled into the mountain, were improved by their misfortune, and repented, they soon succeeded, with the help of Allah, in constructing new dams, and in restoring their country to a high degree of power and prosperity, which went on increasing under the succeeding kings, though the old vices too reappeared, and, instead of the Creator of heaven and earth, they even worshiped the sun." p. 225 The last king of Saba, named Sharahbil, was a monster of tyranny. He had a vizier descended from the ancient royal house of the Himiarites, who was so handsome that he found favor in the eyes of the daughters of the genii, and they often placed themselves in his way in the shape of gazelles, merely to gaze upon him. One of them, whose name was Umeira, felt so ardent an attachment for the vizier, that she completely forgot the distinction between men and genii, and one day, while he was following the chase, appeared in the form of a beautiful virgin, and offered him her hand, on condition that he would follow her, and never demand an account of any of her actions. The vizier thought the daughter of the genii so far exalted above all human beauty, that he lost his self-command, and consented, without reflection, to all that she proposed. Umeira then journeyed with him to the island where she lived, and married him. Within a year's time she bore a daughter, whom she called Balkis; but soon after that she left her husband, because he (as Moses had done with Al-kidhr) had repeatedly inquired into her motives when unable to comprehend her actions. The vizier then returned with Balkis to his native country, and concealed himself in one of its valleys at a distance from the capital: there Balkis grew up like the fairest flower of Yemen; but p. 226 she was obliged to live in greater retirement the older she became, for her father feared lest Sharahbil might hear of her, and treat her as remorselessly as the other maidens of Saba.
Nevertheless, Heaven had decreed that all his precautions should be abortive; for the king, in order to learn the condition of his empire, and the secret sentiments of his subjects, once made a journey on foot, disguised like a beggar, throughout the land. When he came to the region where the vizier lived, he heard both him and his daughter much spoken of, because no one knew who he was, nor whence he had come, nor why he lived in such obscurity. The king therefore caused his residence to be pointed out, and he reached it at the moment when the vizier and his daughter were seated at table. His first glance fell on Balkis, who was then in her fourteenth year, and beautiful like an houri of Paradise, for, with the grace and loveliness of woman, she combined the transparent complexion and the majesty of the genii. But how great was his astonishment, when, fixing his eye on her father, he recognized his former vizier, who had so suddenly disappeared, and whose fate had rernained unknown!
As soon as the vizier observed that the king had recognized him, he fell down at his feet, imploring his favor, and relating all that had befallen p. 227 him during his absence. Sharahbil pardoned him from love to Balkis, but demanded that he should resume his former functions, and at the same time presented him with a palace in the finest situation near his capital. But a few weeks had scarcely elapsed when the vizier one morning returned from the city with a heavily clouded brow, and said to Balkis, "My fears are now realized! The king has asked thy hand, and I could not refuse without endangering my life, although I would rather see thee laid in thy grave than in the arms of this tyrant."
"Dismiss your fears, my father," replied Balkis; "I shall free me and my whole sex from this abandoned man. Only put on a cheerful brow, that he may not conceive any suspicion, and request of him, as the only favor I demand, that our nuptials be solemnized here in privacy."
The king cheerfully agreed to the wish of his bride, and repaired on the following morning, accompanied by a few servants, to the vizier's palace, where he was entertained with royal magnificence. After the repast, the vizier retired with his guests, and Balkis remained alone with the king; but on a given signal her female slaves appeared: one of them sang, another played on the harp, a third danced before them, and a fourth presented wine in golden cups. The last was, by Balkis's directions, especially active, so p. 228 that the king, whom she urged by every art to partake of the strongest wines, soon fell back lifeless on his divan. Balkis now drew forth a dagger from beneath her robe, and plunged it so deeply into the heart of Sharahbil, that his soul rushed instantly to hell. She then called her father, and pointing to the corpse before her, said, "To-morrow morning, let the most influential men of the city, and also some chiefs of the army, be commanded, in the king's name, to send him their daughters. This will produce a revolt, which we shall improve to our advantage."
Balkis was not mistaken in her conjecture; for the men, whose daughters were threatened with infamy, called their kinsmen together, and marched in the evening to the palace of the vizier, threatening to set it on fire unless the king should be delivered up to them.
Balkis then cut off the king's head, and flung it through the window to the assembled insurgents. Instantly there arose the loud exultations of the multitude; the city was festively illumined, and Balkis, as protectress of her sex, was proclaimed Queen of Saba. "This queen," concluded the hoopoo, "has been reigning there since many years in great wisdom and prudence, and justice prevails throughout her now flourishing empire. She assists at all the councils of her p. 229 viziers, concealed from the gaze of men by a fine curtain, seated on a lofty throne of most skillful workmanship, and adorned with jewels; but, like many of the kings of that country before her, she is a worshiper of the sun."
"We shall see," said Solomon, when the hoopoo had concluded the account of his journey, "whether thou hast spoken the truth, or art to be numbered among deceivers."
He then caused a fountain to be pointed out by the hoopoo, performed his ablutions, and, when he had prayed, wrote the following lines: "From Solomon, the son of David and servant of Allah, to Balkis, queen of Saba, in the name of Allah the All-merciful and Gracious, blessed are they who follow the guidance of Fate! follow thou my invitation, and present thyself before me as a believer." This note he sealed with musk, stamped his signet on it, and gave it to the hoopoo, with the words, "Take this letter to Queen Balkis; then retire, but not so far as to preclude thee from hearing what she shall advise with her viziers respecting it."
The hoopoo, with the letter in his bill, darted away like an arrow, and arrived next day at Mared. The queen was surrounded by all her counselors, when he stepped into her hall of state, and dropped the letter into her lap. She started as soon as she beheld Solomon's mighty p. 230 signet, opened the letter hurriedly, and, having first read it to herself communicated it to her counselors, among whom were also her highest chieftains, and entreated their counsel on this important matter.
But they replied with one voice, "You may rely on our power and courage, and act according to your good pleasure and wisdom."
"Before, then, I engage in war," said Balkis, "which always entails much suffering and misfortune upon a country, I will send some presents to King Solomon, and see how he will receive my ambassadors. If he suffers himself to be bribed, he is no more than other kings who have fallen before our power; but if he reject my presents, then is he a true prophet, whose faith we must embrace."
She then dressed five hundred youths like maidens, and as many maidens like young men, and commanded the former to behave in the presence of Solomon like girls, and the latter like boys. She then had a thousand carpets prepared, wrought with gold and silver; a crown, composed of the finest pearls and hyacinths; and many loads of musk, amber, aloes, and other precious products of South Arabia. To these she added a closed casket containing an unperforated pearl, a diamond intricately pierced, and a goblet of crystal.
"As a true prophet," she wrote to him, "thou wilt no doubt be able to distinguish the youths from the maidens, to divine the contents of the closed casket, to perforate the pearl, to thread the diamond, and to fill the goblet with water that has neither dropped from the clouds nor gushed forth from the earth."
All these presents and her letter she sent to him by experienced and intelligent men, to whom she said at their departure, "If Solomon meet you with pride and harshness, be not cast down, for these are indications of human weakness; but if he receive you with kindness and condescension, be on your guard, for you then have to do with a prophet."
The hoopoo heard all this, for he had kept close to the queen until the ambassadors had departed. He then flew in a direct line, without resting, to the tent of Salomon, to whom he reported what he had heard. The king then commanded the genii to produce a carpet which should cover the space of nine parasangs, and to spread it out at the steps of his throne toward the south. To the eastward, where the carpet ceased, he caused a lofty golden wall to be erected, and to the westward, one of silver. On both sides of the carpet he ranged the rarest foreign animals, and all kinds of genii and demons.
The ambassadors were greatly confused on arriving in Solomon's encampment, where splendor and magnificence were displayed such as they had never conceived of before. The first thing they did on beholding the immense carpet, which their eyes were unable to survey, was to fling away their thousand carpets which they had brought as a present for the king. The nearer they came the greater waxed their perplexity, on account of the many singular birds, and beasts, and spirits through whose ranks they had to pass in approaching Solomon; but their hearts were relieved as soon as they stood before him, for he greeted them with kindness, and inquired with smiling lips what bad brought them to him.
"We are the bearers of a letter from Queen Balkis," replied the most eloquent of the embassy while he presented the letter.
"I know its contents," replied Solomon, "without opening it, as well as those of the casket which you have brought with you; and I shall, by the help of Allah, perforate your pearl, and cause your diamond to be threaded. But I will first of all fill your goblet with water which has not fallen from the clouds nor gushed from the earth, and distinguish the beardless youths from the virgins who accompany you." He then caused one thousand silver bowls and basins to p. 233 be brought, and commanded the male and female slaves to wash themselves. The former immediately put their hands, on which the water was poured to their faces; but the latter first emptied it into their right hands as it flowed from the bowl into their left, and then washed their faces with both their hands. Hereupon Solomon readily discovered the sexes of the slaves, to the great astonishment of the ambassadors. This being done, he commanded a tall and corpulent slave to mount on a young and fiery horse, and to ride through the camp at the top of his speed, and to return instantly to him. When the slave returned with the steed to Solomon, there poured from him whole torrents of perspiration, so that the crystal goblet was immediately filled.
"Here," said Solomon to the ambassadors, "is water which has neither come out of the earth nor from heaven." The pearl he perforated with the stone, for the knowledge of which he was indebted to Sachr and the raven; but the threading of the diamond, in whose opening there was every possible curve, puzzled him, until a demon brought him a worm, which crept through the jewel, leaving a silken thread behind. Solomon inquired of the worm how he might reward him for this great service, by which he had saved his dignity as a prophet. The worm p. 234 requested that a fine fruit-tree should be appointed to him as his dwelling. Solomon gave him the mulberry-tree, which from that time affords a shelter and nourishment to the silk-worm forever.
"You have seen now," said Solomon to the ambassadors, "that I have successfully passed all the trials which your queen has imposed on me. Return to her, together with the presents destined for me, of which I do not stand in need, and tell her that if she do not accept my faith and do homage unto me, I shall invade her country with an army which no human power shall be able to resist, and drag her a wretched captive to my capital."
The ambassadors left Solomon under the fullest conviction of his might, and mission a prophet; and their report respecting all that had passed between them and the king made the same impression on Queen Balkis.
"Solomon is a mighty prophet," said she to the viziers who surrounded her, and had listened to the narrative of the ambassadors. "The best plan I can adopt is to journey to him with the leaders of my army, in order to ascertain what he demands of us." She then commanded the necessary preparations for the journey to be made; but, before her departure, she locked up her throne, which she left with the greatest reluctance, p. 235 in a hall which it was impossible to reach without first stepping through six other closed halls; and all the seven halls were in the innermost of the seven closed apartments, of which the palace, guarded by her most faithful servants, consisted.
When Queen Balkis, attended by her tweve thousand captains, each of whom commanded several thousand men, had come within a parasang of Solomon's encampment, he said to his hosts, "Which of you will bring me the throne of Queen Balkis before she come to me as a believer, that I may rightfully appropriate this curious piece of art while yet in the possession of an infidel?"
Hereupon a misshapen demon (who was as large as a mountain) said, "I will bring it to thee before noon, ere thou dismiss thy council. I am not wanting in power for the achievement, and thou mayest intrust me with the throne without any apprehension."
But Solomon had not so much time left, for he already perceived at a distance the clouds of dust raised by the army of Saba.
"Then," said his vizier Assaf, the son of Burahja, who, by reason of his acquaintance with the holy names of Allah, found nothing too difficult, "raise thy eyes toward heaven, and before thou shalt be able to cast them down again to p. 236 the earth, the throne of the Queen of Saba shall stand here before thee."
Solomon gazed heavenward, and Assaf called Allah by his holiest name, praying that he might send him the throne of Balkis. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, the throne rolled through the bowels of the earth until it came to the throne of Solomon, and rose up through the opening ground, whereupon Solomon exclaimed, "How great is the goodness of Allah! this was assuredly intended as a trial whether I should be grateful to him or not; but whosoever acknowledgeth the goodness of Allah, does it to himself, and whoever denieth it, does no less so. Allah has no need of human gratitude "
After having admired the throne, he said to one of his servants, "Make some change on it, and let us see whether Balkis will recognize if again." The servants took several parts of the throne to pieces, and replaced them differently; but when Balkis was asked whether he throne was like it, she replied, "It seems as if it were the same."
This and other replies of the queen convinced Solomon of her superior understanding, for she had undoubtedly recognized her throne; but her answer was so equivocal that it did not sound either reproachful or suspicious. But, before he would enter into more intimate relations p. 237 with her, he desired to clear up a certain point respecting her, and to see whether she actually had cloven feet, as several of his demons would have him to believe, or whether they had only invented the defect from fear lest he might marry her and beget children, who, as descendants of the genii, would be even more mighty than himself. He therefore caused her to be conducted through a hall whose floor was of crystal, and under which water, tenanted by every variety of fish, was flowing. Balkis, who had never seen a crystal floor, supposed that there was water to be passed through, and therefore raised her robe slightly, when the king discovered, to his great joy, a beautifully-shaped female foot. When his eye was satisfied, he called to her, "Come hither! there is no water here, but only a crystal floor; and confess thyself to the faith in one only GOD." Balkis approached the throne, which stood at the end of the hall, and in Solomon's presence abjured the worship of the sun.
Solomon then married Balkis, but reinstated her as Queen of Saba, and spent three days in every month with her.
On one of his progresses from Jerusalem to Mareb, he passed through a valley inhabited by apes, which, however, dressed and lived like men, and had more comfortable dwellings than p. 238 other apes, and even bore all kinds of weapons. He descended from his flying carpet, and marched into the valley with a few of his troops. The apes hurried together to drive him back, but one of their elders stepped forward and said, "Let us rather seek safety in submission, for our foe is a holy prophet." Three apes were immediately chosen as ambassadors to negotiate with Solomon. He received them kindly, and inquired to which class of apes they belonged, and how it came to pass that they were so skilled in all human arts. The ambassadors replied, "Be not astonished at us, for we are descended from men, and are the remnant of a Jewish community, which, notwithstanding all admonition, continued to desecrate the Sabbath until Allah cursed them, and turned them into apes.* Solomon was moved to compassion and, to protect them from all farther animosity on the part of man, gave them a parchment, in which he secured to them forever the undisturbed possession of this valley.
[At the time of the Calif Omar, there came a division of troops into this valley; but when they would have raised their tents to occupy it, there came an aged ape, with a scroll of parchment in his hands, and presented it to the leader of the soldiers. Yet, as no one was able to read p. 239 it, they sent it to Omar at Medina, to whom it was explained by a Jew, who had been converted to Islam. He sent it back forthwith, and commanded the troops to evacuate the valley.]
Meanwhile, Balkis soon found a dangerous rival in Djarada, the daughter of King Nubara, who governed one of the finest islands in the Indian Ocean. This king was a fearful tyrant, and forced all his subjects to worship him as a god.
As soon as Solomon heard of it, he marched against him with as many troops as his largest carpet could contain, conquered the island, and slew the king with his own hand. When he was on the point of leaving the palace of Nubara, there stepped before him a virgin who far surpassed in beauty and grace the whole harem of Solomon, not even the Queen of Saba excepted. He commanded her to be led to his carpet, and, threatening her with death, forced her to accept his faith and his hand.
But Djarada saw in Solomon only the murderer of her father, and replied to his caresses with sighs and tears.
Solomon hoped that time would heal her wounds, and reconcile her to her fate; but when, at the expiration of a whole year, her heart still remained closed against love and joy, he overwhelmed her with reproaches, and inquired how he might assuage her grief.
"As it is not in thy power," replied Djarada, "to recall my father to life, send a few genii to my home: let them bring his statue, and place it in my chamber: perhaps the very sight of his image will procure me some consolation."
Solomon was weak enough to comply with her request, and to defile his palace with the image of a man who had deified himself and to whom even Djarada secretly paid divine honors. This idol worship had lasted forty days, when Assaf was informed of it. He therefore mounted the rostrum, and, before the whole assembled people, pronounced a discourse, in which he described the pure and God-devoted life of all the prophets, from Adam until David. In passing to Solomon, he praised the wisdom and piety of the first years of his reign, but regretted that his later courses showed less of the true fear of God.
As soon as Solomon had learned the contents of this discourse, he summoned Assaf, and inquired of him whereby he had deserved to be thus censured before the whole people.
Assaf replied, "Thou hast permitted thy passion to blind thee, and suffered idolatry in thy palace."
Solomon hastened to the apartments of Djarada, whom he found prostrate in prayer before the image of her father, and exclaiming,
"We belong unto Allah, and shall one day return to Him!" he shivered the idol to pieces, and punished the princess. He then put on new robes, which none but pure virgins had touched, strewed ashes on his head, went into the desert, and implored Allah for forgiveness.
Allah pardoned his sin; but he was to atone for it during forty days. On returning home in the evening, having given his signet into the keeping of one of his wives until he should return from an unclean place, Sachr assumed his form, and obtained from her the ring. Soon after, Solomon himself claimed it; but he was laughed at and derided, for the light of prophecy had departed from him, so that no one recognized him as king, and he was driven from his palace as a deceiver and impostor. He now wandered up and down the country, and wherever he gave his name he was mocked as a madman, and shamefully entreated. In this manner he lived nine-and-thirty days, sometimes begging, sometimes living on herbs. On the fortieth day he entered into the service of a fisherman, who promised him as his daily wages two fishes, one of which he hoped to exchange for bread. But on that day the power of Sachr came to an end; for this wicked spirit had, notwithstanding his external resemblance to Solomon, and his possession of the signet ring, by p. 242 which he had obtained power over spirits, men, and animals, excited suspicion by his ungodly deportment, and his senseless and unlawful ordinances.
The elders of Israel came daily to Assaf, preferring new charges against the king; but Assaf constantly found the doors of the palace closed against him.
But when, finally, on the fortieth day, even the wives of Solomon came and complained that the king no longer observed any of the prescribed rules of purification, Assaf, accompanied by some doctors of the law, who were reading aloud in the Thora, forced his way, spite of the gate-keepers and sentinels, who would have hindered him, into the hall of state, where Sachr sojourned. No sooner did he hear the word of God, which had been revealed to Moses,* than he shrunk back into his native form, and flew in haste to the shore of the sea, where the signet ring dropped from him.
By the providence of the Lord of the universe, p. 243 the ring was caught up and swallowed by a fish, which was soon afterward driven into the net of the fisherman whom Solomon served. Solomon received this fish as the wages of his labor, and when he ate it in the evening he found his ring.
He then commanded the winds to take him back to Jerusalem, where he assembled around him al the chiefs of men, birds, beasts, and spirits, and related to them all that had befallen him during the last forty days, and how Allah had, in a miraculous manner, restored the ring which Sachr had wilily usurped.
He then caused Sachr to be pursued, and forced him into a copper flask, which he sealed with his signet, and flung between two rocks into the Sea of Tiberias, where he must remain until the day of the resurrection.
The government of Solomon, which after this occurrence lasted ten years, was not clouded again by misfortune. Djarada, the cause of his calamity, he never desired to see again, although she was now truly converted. But Queen Balkis he visited regularly every month until the day of her death.
When she died, he caused her remains to be taken to the city of Tadmor, which she had founded, and buried her there. But her grave remained unknown until the reign of Calif Walid, p. 244 when, in consequence of long-continued rains, the walls of Tadmor fell in, and a stone coffin was discovered sixty cubits long and forty wide, bearing this inscription:
"Here is the grave of the pious Balkis, the Queen of Saba and consort of the Prophet Solomon, the son of David. She was converted to the true faith in the thirteenth year of Solomon's accession to the throne, married him in the 14th, and died on Monday, the second day of Rabi-Awwal, in the three-and-twentieth year of his reign."
The son of the calif caused the lid of the coffin to be raised up, and discovered a female form, which was as fresh and well preserved as if it had but just been buried. He immediately made a report of it to his father, inquiring what should be done with the coffin.
Walid commanded that it should be left in the place where it was found, and be so built up with marble stones that it should never be desecrated again by human hands.
This command was obeyed; and, notwithstanding the many devastations and changes which the city of Tadmor and her walls have suffered, no traces have been found of the tomb of Queen Balkis.
A few months after the death of the Queen p. 245 of Saba, the Angel of Death appeared unto Solomon with six faces: one to the right, and one to the left; one in front, and one behind; one above his head, and one below it. The king, who had never seen him in this form, was startled, and inquired what this sixfold visage signified. "With the face to the right," replied the Angel of Death, "I fetch the souIs from the east; with that to the left, the souls from the west; with that above, the souls of the inhabitants of heaven; with that below, the demons from the depths of the earth; with that behind, the souls of the people of Madjudj and Jadjudj (Gog and Magog); but with that in front, those of the Faithful, to whom also thy soul belongs."
"Must, then, even the angels die?"
"All that lives becomes the prey of death as soon as Israfil shall have blown the trumpet the second time. Then I shall put to death even Gabriel and Michael, and immediately after that must myself die, at the command of Allah. Then God alone remains, and exclaims, 'Whose is the world?' but there shall not a living creature be left to answer him! And forty years must elapse, when Israfil shall be recalled to life, that he may blow his trumpet a third time, to wake all the dead."
"And who among men shall rise first from the grave?"
"Mohammed, the prophet, who shall in later times spring from the descendants of Ismael.
"Israfil himself and Gabriel, together with other angels, shall came to his grave at Medina, and cry, 'Thou purest and noblest of souls! return again to thy immaculate body, and revive it again.' Then shall he rise from his grave, and shake the dust from his head. Gabriel greets him, and points to the winged Borak, who stands prepared for him, and to a standard and a crown which Allah sends him from Paradise. The angel then says to him, 'Come to thy Lord, and mine, thou elect among all creatures! The gardens of Eden are festively adorned for thee; the houris await thee with impatience.' He then lifts him upon Borak, places the heavenly standard in his hand, and the crown upon his head, and leads him into Paradise. Thereupon the rest of mankind shall be called to life. They shall all be brought to Palestine, where the great tribunal shall be held, and where no other intercession than that of Mohammed is accepted. That will be a fearful day, when every one shall think only of himself. Adam will cry, 'O Lord, save my soul only! I care not for Eve, nor for Abel.' Noah will exclaim, 'O Lord, preserve me from hell, and do with Ham and Shem as thou pleasest!' Abraham shall say, 'I pray neither for Ismael nor p. 247 Isaac, but for my own safety only.' Even Moses shall forget his brother Aaron, and Christ his mother, so greatly shall they be concerned for themselves. None but Mohammed shall implore the mercy of God for all the faithful of his people. They that are risen will then be conducted over the bridge Sirat, which is composed of seven bridges, each of which is three thousand years long. This bridge is as sharp as a sword, and as fine as a hair. One third of it is an ascent, one third is even, and one third is a descent. He alone who passes all these bridges with success can be admitted into Paradise. The unbelievers fall into hell from the first bridge; the prayerless, from the second; the uncharitable, from the third; whoever has eaten in Ramadhan, from the fourth; whoever has neglected the pilgrimage, from the fifth; whoever hath not commended the good, from the sixth; and whoso hath not prevented evil, from the seventh."
"When shall the resurrection be?"
"That is known only to Allah; but assuredly not before the advent of Mohammed, the last of all prophets. Previously to it the prophet Isa (Christ), sprung from thy own family, shall preach the true faith, shall be lifted up by Allah, and be born again. The nations of Jadjudj and Madjudj shall burst the wall behind which p. 248 Alexander hath confined them. The sun shall rise in the west, and many other signs and wonders shall precede."
"Suffer me to live until the completion of my temple, for at my death the genii and demons will cease their labor."
"Thy hour-glass has run out, and it is not in my power to prolong thy life another second."
"Then follow me to my crystal hall!"
The Angel of Death accompanied Solomon unto the hall, whose walls were entirely of crystal. There Solomon prayed; and, leaning upon his staff, requested the angel to take his soul in that position. The angel consented; and his death was thus concealed from the demons a whole year, till the temple was finished. It was not until the staff, when destroyed by worms, broke down with him, that his death was observed by the spirits, who, in order to revenge themselves, concealed all kinds of magical books under his throne, so that many believers thought Solomon had been a sorcerer. But he was a pure and divine prophet, as it is written in the Koran, "Solomon was no infidel, but the demons were unbelievers, and taught all manner of sorceries." When the king was lying on the ground, the angels carried him, together with his signet ring, to a cave, where they shall guard him until the day of the resurrection.
* These two angels make inquiry of the dead conceming his God and his faith, and torment him if he be not able to answer properly.
Similar things are said in the "Chibut hakebar" (knocking at the tomb) of the Rabbis.—Compare Maraccius, Prodrom., § iii., p. 90.
* The ancient name of Medina, where Mohammed died.
* Mohammed mentions this in the Koran as a fact.
* There is an allusion here to the peculiar ideas which both Mohammedans and Jews attach to the recitation of scriptural or imagined sacred words and sentences.
They believe their bare reading or repetition valuable:
1. As being meritorious before God, independent of any reaction which it may produce on their heart and understanding.
2. Because every letter is supposed to possess a (cabalistic) charm acting with resistless power upon spirits, und even upon the Lord himself.—E. T.