First Voyage

 

 

I had inherited considerable wealth from my parents, and being young and foolish I at first wasted it upon every kind of pleasure, but soon, finding that riches quickly disappear if managed as badly as I was managing mine, and remembering also that to be old and poor is miserable indeed, I began to consider how I could make the best of what still remained to me. I sold all my household goods by public auction, and joined a company of merchants who traded by sea, embarking with them at Basra on a ship

         We set sail towards the East Indies by the Persian Gulf, having the coast of Persia upon our left hand and upon our right the shores of Arabia. I was at first much troubled by sea sickness, but speedily recovered my health, and since that time haven’t been troubled by it again.

From time to time we landed at various islands, where we sold or exchanged our merchandise, and one day, when the wind dropped suddenly, we found ourselves becalmed close to a small island like a green meadow, which only rose slightly above the surface of the water. Our sails were lowered, and the captain gave permission to all who wished to land for a while and amuse themselves. I was among the number, but when after strolling about for some time we lighted a fire and sat down to enjoy the meal which we had brought with us, we were startled by a sudden and violent trembling of the island, while at the same moment those left upon the ship cried out for us to come back on board for our lives, since what we had thought was an island was nothing but the back of a sleeping whale. Those who were nearest to the boat threw themselves into it, others sprang into the sea, but before I could save myself the whale plunged suddenly into the depths of the ocean, leaving me clinging to a piece of the wood which we had brought to make our fire. Meanwhile a breeze had sprung up, and in the confusion, no one missed me and I was left alone in the middle of the sea. All that day I floated up and down, now this way, now that, and when night fell I despaired for my life; but, weary and exhausted as I was, I clung to the piece of wood, and great was my joy when the morning light showed me that I had drifted onto an island.

The cliffs were high and steep, but luckily for me some tree-roots stuck out in places, and with their help I climbed up at last, and stretched myself upon the grass at the top, where I lay, till the sun was high overhead. By that time I was very hungry, but after some searching I came upon some herbs, and a spring of clear water, and much refreshed I set out to explore the island. Presently I reached a great plain where a grazing horse was tied up, and as I stood looking at it I heard voices talking apparently underground, and in a moment a man appeared who asked me how I came upon the island. I told him my adventures, and heard in return that he was one of the grooms of Mihrage, the king of the island, and that each year they came to feed their master’s horses on that plain. He took me to a cave where his companions were assembled, and when I had eaten the food they set before me, they told me I was lucky to have met them when I did, since they were going back to their master the following day, and without their aid I could certainly never have found my way to the inhabited part of the island.

Early the next morning we set out, and when we reached the capital I was graciously received by the king, to whom I related my adventures, upon which he ordered that I should be well cared for and provided with such things as I needed. Being a merchant I looked for other merchants, and particularly those who came from foreign countries, as I hoped in this way to hear news from Baghdad, and find out some means of returning there because the capital was situated upon the sea-shore, and visited by ships from all parts of the world. In the meantime I heard many curious things, and answered many questions concerning my own country, for I talked willingly with all who came to me. Also to spend the time waiting I explored a little island named Cassel, which belonged to King Mihrage, and which was supposed to be inhabited by a spirit named Deggial. Indeed, the sailors assured me that often at night the playing of timbals could be heard upon it. However, I saw nothing strange upon my voyage, except some fish that were two hundred metres long, but were fortunately more afraid of us than even we were of them, and fled from us if we made a noise to frighten them. Other fishes there were only a metre long and had heads like owls.

One day after my return, as I went down to the quay, I saw a ship which had just dropped anchor, and was unloading her cargo. Drawing nearer I noticed that my own name was marked upon some of the packages, and after having carefully examined them, I felt sure that they were indeed those which I had put on board our ship at Basra. I then recognized the captain of the vessel, but as I was certain that he believed me to be dead, I went up to him and asked who owned the packages that I was looking at.

“There was on board my ship,” he replied, “a merchant of Baghdad named Sinbad. One day he and several of my other passengers landed upon what we supposed to be an island, but which was really an enormous whale floating asleep upon the waves. No sooner did it feel upon its back the heat of the fire which had been started, than it plunged into the depths of the sea. Several of the people who were upon it perished in the water, and among them this unlucky Sinbad. This merchandise is his, but I have decided to sell it for the benefit of his family if I should ever meet with them.”

“Captain,” said I, “I am that Sinbad whom you believe to be dead, and these are my possessions!”

When the captain heard these words he cried out in amazement, “Oh no!  In these days there is not an honest man to be met with. I saw with my own eyes Sinbad drown, and now you tell me that you are him! You look like an honest man, and yet to get something that does not belong to you, you are ready to invent this horrible lie.”

“Have patience, and do me the favour to hear my story,” said I.

“Speak then,” replied the captain, “I’m listening.”

So I told him of my escape and of my fortunate meeting with the king’s grooms, and how kindly I had been received at the palace. Very soon I began to see that I had made some impression upon him, and after the arrival of some of the other merchants, who showed great joy at once more seeing me alive, he said that he also recognized me.

He exclaimed, “Heaven be praised that you have escaped from so great a danger. As to your goods, I beg you take them, and sell them as you please.” I thanked him, and praised his honesty, begging him to accept several boxes of merchandise to show my gratitude, but he would take nothing. Of the best of my goods I prepared a present for King Mihrage, who was at first amazed, having known that I had lost everything. However, when I had explained to him how my goods had been miraculously returned to me, he graciously accepted my gifts, and in return gave me many valuable things. I then left him, and exchanging my merchandise for sandal and aloes wood, camphor, nutmegs, cloves, pepper, and ginger, I embarked upon the same vessel and traded so successfully upon our homeward voyage that I arrived in Basra with about one hundred thousand gold coins. My family received me with as much joy as I felt upon seeing them once more. I bought land and slaves, and built a great house in which I decided to live happily, and in the enjoyment of all the pleasures of life to forget my past sufferings.

Here Sinbad paused, and commanded the musicians to play again, while the feasting continued until evening. When the time came for the porter to depart, Sinbad gave him a purse containing one hundred gold coins, saying, “Take this, Hindbad, and go home, but tomorrow come again and you shall hear more of my adventures.”

The porter left quite overcome by so much generosity, and you may imagine that he was well received at home, where his wife and children thanked their lucky stars that he had found such a friend.

The next day Hindbad, dressed in his best, returned to the voyager’s house, and was warmly welcomed. As soon as all the guests had arrived the banquet began as before, and when they had feasted long and merrily, Sinbad spoke:

“My friends, I beg that you will give me your attention while I relate the adventures of my second voyage, which you will find even more astonishing than the first.”