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The Maqámát of Badí‘ al-Zamán al-Hamadhání, tr. W.J. Prendergast [1915] at


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: When I was invested with authority over Baṣra, and was going down thither from the Presence, 3 there accompanied me on the boat a youth, as though he were health in the body. He said: 'In the sides of the world and its directions I am lost, but I can be counted equal to a thousand and I can take the place of a line. Dost thou desire to take me as a favourite, 4 and not seek from me any recommendation?' I said: 'What recommendation stronger than thy excellence, and what means greater than thy wisdom?

p. 149

[paragraph continues] Nay, but I will render thee the service of a friend 1 and be partners with thee in easy and straitened circumstances.' So we travelled on. Now, when we reached Baṣra, he disappeared from me for days, and, because of his absence, my endurance was straitened 2 and I had no patience left, so I searched for him in the interior 3 of the country till I found him. Then I asked him: 'What didst thou disapprove of and why didst thou flee?' He said: 'Verily estrangement rankles in the breast as fire is kindled in the fire-stick. If it be extinguished, it will subside 4 and vanish, but, if it continue to exist, it will scatter and spread. And the vessel Will fill and overflow, if the drops fall into it consecutively; and reproach, when it is left alone, will hatch and lay. 5 No snare catches the free-born like bounty, and no scourge repels him like rudeness. But, in any case, we look down from above, upon the generous with an amorous glance, and upon the ignoble with a contemptuous regard. Therefore he who meets us with a long nose, 6 we will meet him with an elephant's trunk, and him who regards us askance, we will dispose of for a paltry price. Now, thou didst not plant me for thy slave to uproot me, nor didst thou buy me for thy servants to sell me. A man is known by his servants, as a book i s known by its superscription. Therefore, if their rudeness was something that thou didst command, what made it necessary? And, if thou vast not aware of it, that is most surprising.' Then He said

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'The two hands of Khalaf 1 ibn Aḥmad have prospered, for he is
Easy of access, and his servants are respectful.
Hast thou not observed that generosity passes over mankind
And takes its abiding place in his hand?'

Said ‘Ísá Ibn Hishám: 'Then he turned away and I followed him to conciliate him, and I ceased not to soothe him till he turned back after he had sworn, "I will not go to one whose company is bad." So I gave him the respect due to him.'


148:2 Khalaf ibn Ahmed: Amír of Sijistan (Seistan) (b. 326, died in prison A.H. 399). The date of his appointment by the Samanide ruler is not given but in 354 there is a reference to a revolt against his rule (Ibn al-Athír, viii, 416). In 393 Maḥmúd of Ghazna wrested Sijistan from him and sent him into honourable captivity to Juzján, but four years later he was detected in an attempt to incite Ilik Khan against the conqueror and was kept in close confinement in Jardiz till his death in A.H. 399. He was a great patron of letters and is said to have got together a number of learned men to make an exhaustive compilation of interpretations of the Qur’án. The result of their labours was a work of a hundred volumes! His cruel treatment of his sons and the treacherous way he compassed the death of the Qáḍí Abú Yúsuf have cast a stain upon his memory. (H. F. Ahmedroz in the JRAS, 1901, pp. 524-31, and Ibn al-Athír, ix, 113-123.)

148:3 From the Presence: That is, from the presence of the Khalífa at Baghdad.

148:4 A favourite: Literally, a good action.

149:1 The friend: Another, and more appropriate, reading 'the slave'.

149:2 My endurance was straitened: Literally, my arm, the symbol of power, was contracted.

149:3 Interior: Literally, the pockets; and also the approaches of a country.

149:4 Will subside: (Literally, spread). Another reading and the one I have translated, subsided. Cf. the expression sedition spread. )

149:5 Hatch and lay: The natural order has been reversed for the sake of the rhyme. Probably an allusion to the tradition quoted by Lane (p. 2362) The Devil made his fixed abode among them like as a bird keeps to the place of its eggs and young ones.

149:6 With a long nose: Figurative for great disdain.

150:1 The two hands of Khalaf: Metre, kámil. Cf. Letters, pp. 264-5.

Next: XXXIX. The Maqáma of Nishapur