The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor
In the times of the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid there lived in Baghdad a poor porter named Hindbad, who on a very hot day was sent to carry a heavy load from one end of the city to the other. Before he had accomplished half the distance he was so tired that, finding himself in a quiet street where the pavement was sprinkled with rose water, and a cool breeze was blowing, he set his burden upon the ground, and sat down to rest in the shade of a grand house. Very soon he decided that he could not have chosen a pleasanter place; a delicious perfume came from the open windows and mingled with the scent of the rose water which steamed up from the hot pavement. Within the palace he heard some music, beautifully played, and the melodious songs of nightingales and other birds, and by this, and the appetizing smell of many dainty dishes of which he presently became aware, he realized that a celebration was going on. He wondered who lived in this magnificent house which he had never seen before, the street in which it stood being one which he seldom passed. To satisfy his curiosity he went up to some splendidly dressed servants who stood at the door, and asked one of them the name of the master of the mansion.
“What,” replied he, “Do you live in Baghdad, and not know that here lives the noble Sinbad the Sailor, that famous traveler who sailed over every sea upon which the sun shines?”
The porter, who had often heard people speak of the immense wealth of Sinbad, could not help feeling envious of one whose life seemed to be as happy as his own was miserable. Looking up to the sky he exclaimed aloud,
“Consider, Mighty Creator of all things, the differences between Sinbad’s life and mine. Every day I suffer a thousand hardships and misfortunes, and have hard work to get even enough bad barley bread to keep myself and my family alive, while the lucky Sinbad spends money right and left and lives so well! What has he done that you should give him this pleasant life? What have I done to deserve so hard a fate?”
So saying he stamped upon the ground like one beside himself with misery and despair. Just at this moment a servant came out of the palace, and taking him by the arm said, “Come with me, the noble Sinbad, my master wishes to speak to you.”
Hindbad was surprised at this, and feared that his hasty words might have upset the Sinbad, so he tried to excuse himself saying that he could not leave the burden which had been given to him in the street. However the servant promised him that it should be taken care of, and urged him to obey the call so that at last the porter was obliged to enter.
He followed the servant into a vast room, where a great number of people were seated round a table covered with all sorts of delicacies. In the place of honour sat a tall, man with a long white beard. Behind his chair, stood a crowd of attendants eager to serve him. This was the famous Sinbad himself. The porter, more than ever alarmed at the sight of so much magnificence, tremblingly bowed to the noble company. Sinbad, making a sign to him to approach, had him seated at his right hand, and himself heaped delicious food upon his plate, and poured out for him excellent wine, and presently, when the banquet came to an end, spoke to him, asking his name and occupation.
“My lord,” replied the porter, “I am called Hindbad.”
“I am glad to see you here,” continued Sinbad. “And I will answer for the rest of the company that they are equally pleased, but I wish you to tell me what it was that you said just now in the street.” For Sinbad, passing by the open window before the feast began, had heard his complaint and therefore had sent for him.
At this question Hindbad was covered with confusion, and hanging down his head, replied, “My lord, I confess that, overcome by weariness and a bad mood, I misspoke. I beg you pardon me.”
“Oh!” replied Sinbad, “do not imagine that I am so unjust as to blame you. On the contrary, I understand your situation and can pity you. Only you appear to be mistaken about me, and I wish to explain. You imagine that I have acquired all the wealth and luxury that you see me enjoy without difficulty or danger, but this is far indeed from being the case. I have only reached this happy state after having for years suffered every possible kind of hardship and danger.
“Yes, my noble friends,” he continued, addressing the company, “I assure you that my adventures have been strange enough to deter even the most greedy men from seeking wealth by voyaging across the seas. Since you have, perhaps, heard confused accounts of my seven voyages, and the dangers and wonders that I have met with by sea and land, I will now give you a full and true account of them, which I think you will be well pleased to hear.”
As Sinbad was relating his adventures chiefly because of the porter, he ordered, before beginning his tale, that the burden which had been left in the street should be carried by some of his own servants to the place for which Hindbad had set out at first, while he remained to listen to the story.