..........THREE APPLES..........
 
The tale is told of Apples Three
So long ago in history...

At first we see a fisherman
Who strove his way in life to make;
He worked as hard as any can:
Casting his net into the lake.
But one day he his craft did ply
From noon-time until set of sun,
Though he, with all his might, did try:
He caught no fish -- not even one!
Despondently he trod his course,
Hating his very existence;
His weary soul filled with remorse,
Begrudging life's long persistence.

Perchance there came two men his way
Now hear the words they had to say:

Old man, we cannot help but see
That things are not well with thy heart;
So tell us now what aileth thee:
What causeth thee to sting and smart?
The old man knew it was the king
And his servant who wished to know,
And so he told them ev'rything:
His effort, his failure, his woe.
The king was touched and moved to tears
Thus spoke he to the fisherman:
Bewail no more! Redemption nears,
Though none else can help: Thy king can.

He bade him to the lakeside go
And gave this plan to lift his woe:

Two Hundred coins of purest gold
I'll give thee for what thou shalt bring;
Cast now thy net, be brave, be bold:
Obedient be to thy king!
So in the net the man did cast,
And let it to the bottom go;
And as he pulled, now at long last,
God's mercy a catch did bestow.
'Twas not with fish his net was filled,
But filled it was, still all the same!
And how his weary heart was thrilled:
With bounty his hunger to tame.

A box he drew in with his net,
This box, for coins, the king did get.

Back to the palace took he it
And had his servant pry it free;
And by a lamp its contents lit,
He peered within the lid to see:
A garment sewn to make a bag,
(His lust to know would not abate);
The dress was new:  no tattered rag,
Why was it here within this crate?
Asunder rent he it, my friend,
And there a carpet did behold;
It was open on either end,
But with great care it had been rolled.

The servant laid it all before
The king upon the palace floor:

Within the carpet was concealed
The body of a maiden fair;
Her murder thus her bones revealed
The king, aghast, on it did stare.
He sought to know what brought this maid
To such an end as she did meet;
His mind upon her case was staid:
For e'en in death her form was sweet.
His servant sent he forth to find
The guilty one who this did do;
And lest the servant pay no mind:
The king said, "I'll kill him, or you."

Three days were giv'n, and three days went
And for the servant the king sent.

The servant fell before the throne
And kissed the ground between his feet;
The servant knelt there all alone:
He his assignment did not meet.
Without the guilty one to show,
The king, in anger, had him bound;
"Unto the gallows he must go!
For yet the guilty is not found."
The word was sent, the crowd drew near
To mourn for him now bound to die;
The servant was to all men dear,
Each eye was wet, each heart did sigh.

But then an old man rose and said:
"By my own hand this child is dead."

'Tis I who with my life should pay,
Alone I bear the dreadful shame;
Release this man, his fears allay,
And take my life -- I am to blame.
They freed the servant of the king,
And to the old man he then spoke:
"Why, man, hast thou now done this thing?
Carest not heaven's law ye broke?
Speak up -- give answer for your deed:
For soon before the king you'll stand,
For mercy then you'll be in need,
Lest you should fall beneath his hand."

Just then a young man stood to speak
And said, "I am the one you seek."

The crowd astir to him then turned
And on his ev'ry word did hang;
The truth on this they each one yearned,
Their ears tuned to the song he sang.
"'Twas I who cost this girl her life,
And with these hands her blood I shed:
This woman was my loving wife,
But now, because of me, she's dead."
The servant asked, "Which of these two
Who tell these tales shall we believe?
Which story shall be proven true?
Which man, I ask, sought to deceive?"

The servant led them to the king
And told him of this newest thing.

The old man spoke in much distress,
And to himself all blame he took,
"The crime," said he, "I now confess,
God's law I wantonly forsook.
I pray thee, king, now take my life,
For I this woman's blood have shed;
I never shall be free from strife
Until like her my flesh lies dead.
Please now speak forth -- and seal my doom
Unto the house of flames send me,
For men as I there is no room
In heaven's sweet eternity."

Then stood the younger of the two
And said, "These words of mine are true:

This woman truly was my wife,
This man her father, it is true.
But I from her did steal the life:
So life for me must now be through.
This burden I can bear no more
This guilt destroys my weary heart.
Send me now to that burning shore:
From this vile flesh grant me depart.
What wait ye for?  The deed was done,
The punishment is death, we know;
'Tis I that am the guilty one
Send me now to where I must go."

The king said, "Son, make clear to me
The meaning of this mystery."

"This woman was my loving bride
Three strapping sons to me she bore;
And now death takes her from my side,
Her friendship I shall know no more.
Some months ago my love took ill
And found herself in misery;
Near death she would be lingering still
But for my great iniquity.
As was my custom, I did ask
If I could be of any aid;
I would undertake any task:
This one request she to me made --

I wish, my lord, an apple sweet
To hasten me back to my feet.

So off I went this treat to seek,
At all the shops I shopped in vain;
No apple for my lover weak,
No treat to sooth her in her pain.
But then a friend who knew my plight
Informed me where my prize I'd find
The trip was long -- from light to light --
But all my cares I left behind.
I found the place and bought my prize
Three apples fine -- and costly, too;
Yet little did I realize
These apples meant her life was through.

Before my wife I set the prize,
Still naught but tears fell from her eyes.

Her weakness and fever increased,
The apples brought her no pleasure;
From pain she could not be released,
She could not enjoy her treasure.
Ten days passed by and she improved,
So much that I left her alone;
I thought her from danger removed,
If only... If then I had known...
To work I went, my shop to keep,
Thinking all at home was now well;
In retrospect I'm made to weep -
At what was to lead me to hell.

In keeping with the custom here
I longed for noontime to draw near.

At midday I a rest did take,
A great ugly vile slave saw I;
I soon made the gravest mistake,
For which I now deserve to die.
For what transpired led me to stand
Before thee, my lord, in shame;
Doomed to eternity's dark land,
Having soiled my father's good name.
(If only I'd stayed with my wife,
If only I'd waited one day...
I would not have taken her life:
I'd not now have to go away…)

I saw an apple in his hand,
And how I did misunderstand.

"O slave, O slave, lend me your ear,
Tell me, what is it that you hold?
Fear not, O slave, draw near, draw near:
Stand forth and answer me, be bold."
He laughed and said, "Behold, this prize,
My lord, I took from my mistress;
For me she held this grand surprise,
Though she was ill, in much distress.
She said her husband bought this treat
Down in Bossorah for much gold;
With her I then did drink and eat...
And now, lord, my story is told."

My anger I could not assuage,
Her life I then sought in my rage.

To her bedside I straightly went,
And on the table my gaze fell;
There I was filled with resentment:
I resolved to send her to hell.
"O wife," said I, "There are but two
Remaining of the apples three.
Pray tell me, dear, what did you do
With the other one I brought thee?"
"I wot not, husband, where 'tis gone:
When last I saw it 'twas right there."
I knew, right then, what must be done,
And I did it without a care.

The tale that slave had given me
Sealed her fate for eternity.

Without a word, without a sound,
I slit her throat, removed her head.
In her dress and a carpet bound
I her remains; there she lay dead.
Into a chest I placed the bag
And took it unto the river;
To the shore the chest I did drag,
(Grant mercy O Great Life-Giver.)
Back home I then sought to return
And to home I pressed on my way.
And, oh, the lesson I then learned:
By Allah! Cursed be that day!

For tears filled my eldest sons eyes,
Though my sin he'd not realized.

I said, "My boy, what makes thee weep?
What meaneth these tears you now cry?"
"Oh, father, when mother did sleep
Those three apples I did espy.
Temptation came and I gave in
And shamefully one apple took;
To explain - I cannot begin,
I fear on her face now to look.
I went with my brethren to play
And a great ugly slave drew near;
He wanted to take far away
The apple that mommy held dear.

He took the apple from my hand,
And asked, that he might understand:

"Whence hadst thou this?" he asked me;
I explained that mommy was frail,
I told him of your long journey:
I told him of ev'ry detail.
And then he knocked me to the ground,
And though oft with him I did plead
None to help me was to be found
So off went the slave with great speed.
O father, please, tell not this tale
To mother who's suffering so...
In her condition, sick and frail,
Please don't let my poor mother know.

'Twas then I came to know my sin,
The vilest deed e'er done by men.

'Twas all, my lord, a grave mistake,
Oh, that I could go back again;
Oh, that my dear wife could awake…
There is no relief for my pain!
I thought she lied, I thought, I thought...
I believed unfaithful she'd been;
Thus lawfully her life I sought,
If only that slave's lie I'd seen.
There is nothing to justify
The great guilt I will always bear,
'Tis only right that I should die
And with my wife death's darkness share.

This, Master, is the truth I tell;
Now send my weary soul to hell.

The Caliph marveled at these words,
"By Allah, the youth's not to blame;
This order I give to all lords:
Tell to me the guilty slave's name.
His lying caused this lass to die,
And with his own life he shall pay;
And, so, by my throne now swear I:
He will hang here on the third day!
If ill betide thee through thy slave,
Make him forthright thy sacrifice:
A many serviles thou shalt find,
But life comes once and never twice."
 

H. L. Gradowith

8-23-2000

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NOTE:  The story in its original form goes on, and it is interesting - but we must stop it here.  The final four lines of the narrative as I have given it appear in the story itself, and seem to be an ancient Arab parable.  That is why they differ from the others (in that the third line of the verse has no counterpart in rhyme).  For the record, the owner of the slave whose lie 'caused' the death of the woman, Jafar (Disney Movie  fans will know him), gets the slave off!  The entire story is based on pages 186-194 of  TALES FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, Selected from THE BOOK OF THE THOUSAND NIGHTS AND A NIGHT, Translated and Annotated by Richard F. Burton.  Crown Publishers, Inc.  Portland House, a division of Random  House Value Publishing, Inc.  ISBN 0-517-20972.
 

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