THE EMPEROR’S DREAM—THE GOLDEN APPARITION—THE FOUR TREASURE-SEEKERS.
We are not without instances in European popular fictions of two young persons dreaming of each other and falling in love, although they had never met or known of each other's existence. A notable example is the story of the Two Dreams in the famous History of the Seven Wise Masters. Incidents of this kind are very common in Oriental stories: the romance of Kámarupa (of Indian origin, but now chiefly known through the Persian version) is based upon a dream which the hero has of a certain beautiful princess, with whom he falls in love, and he sets forth with his companions to find her, should it be at the uttermost ends of the earth. It so happens that the damsel also dreams of him, and, when they do meet, they need no introduction to each other. The Indian romance of Vasayadatta has a similar plot. But the royal dreamer and lover in the following story, told by the Parrot on the 39th Night, according to the India Office MS. No. 2573, adopted a plan for the discovery of the beauteous object of his vision more conformable to his own ease:
The Emperor’s Dream.
An emperor of China dreamt of a very beautiful damsel whom he had never seen or heard of, and, being sorely pierced with the darts of love for the creature of his dreaming fancy, he could find no peace of mind. One of his vazírs, who was an excellent portrait painter, receiving from the emperor a minute description of the lady’s features, drew the face, and the imperial lover acknowledged the likeness to be very exact. The vazír then went abroad with the portrait, to see whether any one could identify it with the fair original. After many disappointments he met with an old hermit, who at once recognised it as the portrait of the princess of Rúm,46 who, he informed the vazír, had an unconquerable aversion against men ever since she beheld, in her garden, a peacock basely desert his mate and their young ones, when the tree on which their nest was built had been struck by lightning. She believed that all men were quite as selfish as that peacock, and was resolved never to marry. Returning to his imperial master with these most interesting particulars regarding the object of his affection, he next undertakes to conquer the strange and unnatural aversion of the princess. Taking with him the emperor’s portrait and other pictures, he procures access to the princess of Rúm; shows her, first, the portrait of the emperor of China, and then pictures of animals in the royal menagerie, among others that of a deer, concerning which he relates a story to the effect that the emperor, sitting one day in his summer-house, saw a deer, his doe, and their fawn on the bank of the river, when suddenly the waters overflowed the banks, and the doe, in terror for her life, fled away, while the deer bravely remained with the fawn and was drowned. This story, so closely resembling her own, struck the fair princess with wonder and admiration, and she at once gave her consent to be united to the emperor of China; and we may suppose that “they continued together in joy and happiness until they were overtaken by the terminater of delights and the separator of companions.”
There can be little or no doubt, I think, that in this tale we find the original of the frame, or leading story, of the Persian Tales, ascribed to a dervish named Mukhlis, of Isfahán, and written after the Arabian Nights, as it is believed, in which the nurse of the Princess has to relate almost as many stories to overcome her aversion against men (the result of an incident similar to that witnessed by the Lady of Rúm) as the renowned Sheherazade had to tell her lord, who entertained—for a very different reason—a bitter dislike of women.
I now present a story unabridged, translated by Gerrans in the latter part of the last century. It is assuredly of Buddhistic origin:
The Golden Apparition.
In the extreme boundaries of Khurasán there once lived, according to general report, a merchant named Abdal-Malik, whose warehouses were crowded with rich merchandise, and whose coffers overflowed with money. The scions of genius ripened into maturity under the sunshine of his liberality; the sons of indigence fattened on the bread of his hospitality; and the parched traveller amply slaked his thirst in the river of his generosity. One day, as he meditated on the favours which his Creator had so luxuriantly showered upon him, he testified his gratitude by the following resolution: “Long have I traded in the theatre of the world, much have I received, and little have I bestowed. This wealth was entrusted to my care, with no other design or intention but to enable me to assist the unfortunate and indigent. Before, therefore, the Angel of Death shall come to demand the spoil of my mortality, it is my last wish and sole intention to expiate my sins and follies by voluntary oblations of this she-camel [alluding to the Muslim Feast of the Camel] in the last month of her pregnancy, and to proclaim to all men, by this late breakfasting [alluding to the Feast of Ramadan, when food is only permitted after sunset], my past mortification.”
In the tranquil hour of midnight an apparition stood before him, in the habit of a fakír. The merchant cried: “What art thou?” It answered: “I am the apparition of thy good fortune and the genius of thy future happiness. When thou, with such unbounded generosity, didst bequeath all thy wealth to the poor, I determined not to pass by thy door unnoticed, but to endow thee with an inexhaustible treasure, conformable to the greatness of thy capacious soul. To accomplish which I will, every morning, in this shape, appear to thee; thou shalt strike me a few blows on the head, when I shall instantly fall low at thy feet, transformed into an image of gold. From this freely take as much as thou shalt have occasion for; and every member or joint that shall be separated from the image shall be instantly replaced by another of the same precious metal.”47
At daybreak the demon of avarice had conducted Hajm, the covetous, to the durbar of Abdal-Malik, the generous. Soon after his arrival the apparition presented itself. Abdal-Malik immediately arose, and after striking it several blows on the head it fell down before him, and was changed into an image of gold. As much as sufficed for the necessities of the day he took for himself, and gave a much larger portion to his visitor. Hajm was overjoyed at the present, and concluded from what he had seen that he or any other person who should treat a fakír in the same manner could convert him into gold, and consequently that by beating a number he might multiply his golden images. Heated with this fond imagination, he quickly returned to his house and gave the necessary orders for a most sumptuous entertainment, to which he invited all the fakírs in the province.
When the keen appetite was assuaged, and the exhilarating sherbet began to enliven the convivial meeting, Hajm seized a ponderous club, and with it regaled his guests till he broke their heads, and the crimson torrent stained the carpet of hospitality. The fakírs elevating the shriek of sore distress, the kutwal’s guard came to their assistance, and soon a multitude of people assembled, who, after binding the offender with the strong cord of captivity, carried him, together with the fakírs, before the governor of the city. He demanded to know the reason why he had so inhospitably and cruelly behaved to these harmless people. The confounded Hajm replied: “As I was yesterday in the house of Abdal-Malik, a fakír suddenly appeared. The merchant struck him some blows on the head, and he fell prostrate before him, transformed into a golden image. Imagining that any other person could, by a similar behaviour, force any fakír to undergo the like metamorphosis, I invited these men to a banquet, and regaled them with some blows of my cudgel to compel them to a similar transformation; but the demon of avarice has deceived me, and the fascinating temptation of gold has involved me in a labyrinth of ills.”
The governor at once sent for Abdal-Malik, and, demanding a solution of Hajm’s mysterious tale, was thus answered by the charitable merchant: “The unfortunate Hajm is my neighbour. Some days ago he began to exhibit symptoms of a disordered imagination and distracted brain, and during these violent paroxysms of insanity he related some ridiculous fable of me and the rest of my neighbours. No better specimen can be adduced than the extravagant action of which he now stands accused, and the absurd tale by which he attempts to apologise for the commission of it. That madness may no longer usurp the palace of reason, to revel upon the ruins of his mind, deliver him to the sons of ingenuity, the preservers and restorers of health; let them purify his blood by sparing diet, abridge him of his daily potations, and by the force of medicinal beverage recall him from the precipice of ruin.” This advice was warmly applauded by the governor, who, after Hajm had been compelled to ask pardon of the fakírs for the ill-treatment they had received, was soundly bastinadoed before the tribunal, and carried to the hospital for madness.
That each man has his “genius” of good or evil fortune is an essentially Buddhistic idea. The same story occurs, in a different form, in the Hitopadesa, or Friendly Counsel, an ancient Sanskrit collection of apologues, and an abridgment of the Panchatantra, or Five Chapters, where it forms Fable 10 of Book III: In the city of Ayodhya (Oude) there was a soldier named Churamani, who, being anxious for money, for a long time with pain of body worshipped the deity, the jewel of whose diadem is the lunar crescent. Being at length purified from his sins, in his sleep he had a vision in which, through the favour of the deity, he was directed by the lord of the Yakshas [Kuvera, the god of wealth] to do as follows: “Early in the morning, having been shaved, thou must stand, club in hand, concealed behind the door of the house; and the beggar whom thou seest come into the court thou wilt put to death without mercy by blows of thy staff. Instantly the beggar will become a pot full of gold, by which thou wilt be comfortable for the rest of thy life.” These instructions being followed, it came to pass accordingly; but the barber who had been brought to shave him, having witnessed it all, said to himself, “O is this the mode of gaining a treasure? Why, then, may not I also do the same?” From that day forward the barber in like manner, with club in hand, day after day awaited the coming of the beggar. One day a beggar being so caught was attacked by him and killed with the stick, for which offence the barber himself was beaten by the king’s officers, and died.—In the Panchatantra, in place of a soldier, a banker who had lost all his wealth determines to put an end to his life, when he dreams that the personification of Kuvera, the god of riches, appears before him in the form of a Jaina mendicant—a conclusive proof of the Buddhistic origin of the story.—A trunkless head performs the same part in the Russian folk-tale of the Stepmother’s Daughter, on which Mr. Ralston remarks that, “according to Buddhist belief the treasure which has belonged to anyone in a former existence may come to him in the form of a man, who, when killed, is turned to gold.”48
There is an analogous story to this of the Golden Apparition in an entertaining little book entitled, The Orientalist; or, Letters of a Rabbi, by James Noble, published at Edinburgh in 1831, of which the following is the outline:
An old Dervish falls ill in the house of a poor widow, who tends him with great care, and when he recovers his health he offers to take charge of her only son, Abdallah. The good woman gladly consents, and the Dervish sets out accompanied by his young ward, having intimated to his mother that they must perform a journey which would last about two years. One day they arrived at a solitary place, and the Dervish said to Abdallah: “My son, we are now at the end of our journey. I shall employ my prayers to obtain from Allah that the earth shall open and make an entrance wide enough to permit thee to descend into a place where thou shalt find one of the greatest treasures that the earth contains. Hast thou courage to descend into the vault?” Abdallah assured him that he might depend on his fidelity; and then the Dervish lighted a small fire, into which he cast a perfume: he read and prayed for some minutes, after which the earth opened, and he said to the young man: “Thou mayest now enter. Remember that it is in thy power to do me a great service; and that this is perhaps the only opportunity thou shalt ever have of testifying to me that thou art not ungrateful. Do not let thyself be dazzled by the riches that thou shalt find there: think only of seizing upon an iron candlestick with twelve branches, which thou shalt find close to the door. That is absolutely necessary to me: come up with it at once.” Abdallah descended, and, neglecting the advice of the Dervish, filled his vest and sleeves with the gold and jewels which he found heaped up in the vault, whereupon the opening by which he had entered closed of itself. He had, however, sufficient presence of mind to seize the iron candlestick, and endeavoured to find some other means of escape from the vault. At length he discovers a narrow passage, which he follows until he reaches the surface of the earth, and looking for the Dervish saw him not, but to his surprise found that he was close to his mother’s house. On showing his wealth to his mother, it all suddenly vanished. But the candlestick remained. He lighted one of the branches, upon which a dervish appeared, and after turning round an hour he threw down an asper (about three farthings in value) and vanished. Next night he put a lighted candle in each of the branches, when twelve dervishes appeared, and having continued their gyrations for an hour each threw down an asper and vanished. In this way did Abdallah and his mother contrive to live for a time, till at length he resolved to carry the candlestick to the good Dervish, hoping to obtain from him the treasure which he had seen in the vault. He remembered his name and city, and on reaching his dwelling found the Dervish living in a magnificent palace, with fifty porters at the gate. The Dervish thus addressed Abdallah: “Thou art an ungrateful wretch! Hadst thou known the value of the candlestick thou wouldst never have brought it to me. I will show thee its true use.” Then the Dervish placed a light in each branch, whereupon twelve dervishes appeared and began to whirl, but on his giving each a blow with a stick, in an instant they were changed into twelve heaps of sequins, diamonds, and other precious stones. Ungrateful as Abdallah had shown himself, yet the Dervish gave him two camels laden with gold, and a slave, telling him that he must depart the next morning. During the night Abdallah stole the candlestick and placed it at the bottom of his sacks. At daybreak he took leave of the generous Dervish and set off. When about half a day’s journey from his own city he sold the slave, that there should be no witness to his former poverty, and bought another in his stead. Arriving home, he carefully placed his loads of treasure in a private chamber, and then put a light in each branch of the candlestick; and when the twelve dervishes appeared, he dealt each of them a blow with a stick. But he had not observed that the good Dervish employed his left hand, and he had naturally used his right, in consequence of which the twelve dervishes drew each from under their robes a heavy club and beat him till he was nearly dead, and then vanished, as did also the treasure, the camels, the slave, and the wonder-working candlestick!49
A warning against avarice is intended to be conveyed in the tale, or rather apologue, or perhaps we should consider it as a sort of allegory, related by the sagacious bird on the 47th Night, according to the India Office MS., but the 16th Night of Kádirí’s abridgment. It is to the following effect, and may be entitled
The Four Treasure-Seekers.
Once on a time four intimate friends, who made a common fund of all their possessions, and had long enjoyed the wealth of their industrious ancestors, at length lost all their goods and money, and, barely saving their lives, quitted together the place of their nativity. In the course of their travels they meet a wise Bráhman, to whom they relate the history of their misfortunes. He gives each of them a pearl, which he places on their heads, telling them, whenever the pearl drops from the head of any of them, to examine the spot, and share equally what they find there. After walking some distance the pearl drops from the head of one of the companions, and on examining the place he discovers a copper mine, the produce of which he offers to share with the others, but they refuse, and, leaving him, continue their journey. By-and-by the pearl drops from the head of another of the friends, and a silver mine is found; but the two others, believing that better things were in store farther on, left him to his treasure, and proceeded on their way till the pearl of the third companion dropped, and they found in the place a rich gold mine. In vain does he endeavour to persuade his companion to be content with the wealth here obtainable: he disdainfully refuses, saying that, since copper, silver, and gold had been found, fortune had evidently reserved something infinitely better for him; and so he quitted his friend and went on, till he reached a narrow valley destitute of water; the air like that of Jehennan;50 the surface of the earth like infernal fire; no animal or bird was to be seen; and chilling blasts alternated with sulphurous exhalations. Here the fourth pearl dropped and the owner discovered a mine of diamonds and other gems, but the ground was covered with snakes, cockatrices, and the most venomous serpents. On seeing this he determines to return and share the produce of the third companion’s gold mine; but when he comes to the spot he can find no trace of the mine or of the owner. Proceeding next to the silver mine, he finds it is exhausted, and his friend who owned it has gone; so he will now content himself with copper; but, alas! his first friend had died the day before his arrival, and strangers were now in possession of the mine, who laughed at his pretensions, and even beat him for his impertinence. Sad at heart, he journeys on to where he and his companions had met the Bráhman, but he had long since departed to a far distant country; and thus, through his obstinacy and avarice, he was overwhelmed with poverty and disgrace—without money and without friends.
This story of the Four Treasure-seekers forms the third of Book V of the Panchatantra, where the fourth companion, instead of finding a diamond mine guarded by serpents, etc., discovers a man with a wheel upon his head, and on his asking this man where he could procure water, who he was, and why he stood with the wheel on his head, straightway the wheel is transferred to his own head, as had been the case of the former victim who had asked the same questions of his predecessor. The third man, who had found the gold mine, wondering that his companion tarried so long, sets off in search of him, and, finding him with the wheel on his head, asks why he stood thus. The fourth acquaints him of the property of the wheel, and then relates a number of stories to show that those who want common sense will surely come to grief.
It is more than probable that several of the tales and apologues in the Panchatantra were derived from Buddhist sources; and the incident of a man with a wheel on his head is found in the Chinese-Sanskrit work entitled Fu-pen-hing-tsi-king, which Wassiljew translates ‘Biography of Sákyamuni and his Companions,’ and of which Dr. Beal has published an abridged English translation under the title of the Romantic History of Buddha. In this work (p. 342 ff.) a merchant, who had struck his mother because she would not sanction his going on a trading voyage, in the course of his wanderings discovers a man “on whose head there was placed an iron wheel, this wheel was red with heat, and glowing as from a furnace, terrible to behold. Seeing this terrible sight, Máitri exclaimed: ‘Who are you? Why do you carry that terrible wheel on your head?’ On this the wretched man replied: ‘Dear sir, is it possible you know me not? I am a merchant chief called Gorinda.’ Then Máitri asked him and said: ‘Pray, then, tell me, what dreadful crime have you committed in former days that you are constrained to wear that fiery wheel on your head.’ Then Gorinda answered: ‘In former days I was angry with and struck my mother as she lay on the ground, and for this reason I am condemned to wear this fiery iron wheel around my head.’ At this time Máitri, self-accused, began to cry out and lament; he was filled with remorse on recollection of his own conduct, and exclaimed in agony: ‘Now am I caught like a deer in the snare.’ Then a certain Yaksha, who kept guard over that city, whose name was Viruka, suddenly came to the spot, and removing the fiery wheel from off the head of Gorinda, he placed it on the head of Máitri. Then the wretched man cried out in his agony and said: ‘O what have I done to merit this torment?’ to which the Yaksha replied: ‘You, wretched man, dared to strike your mother on the head as she lay on the ground; now, therefore, on your head you shall wear this fiery wheel; through 60,000 years your punishment shall last: be assured of this, through all these years you shall wear this wheel.’”