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34 Pages

The Tale of the Girl Heart’s-Miracle, Lieutenant of the Birds

IT is related, O auspicious King, that in Baghdad, the city of peace, the home of joy, pleasure’s dwelling, and the garden of wit, the Khalifah Harun al-Rashid, Vicar of the Lord of the Three Worlds and Commander of the Faithful, had, as his cup-companion and perfect friend, a man whose fingers were wrought of harmony, whose hands were loved of lutes, whose voice was a lesson for the nightingale, the marvel of music, the king of singers, Ishak al-Nadim of Mosul. Harun had given him, in pure love, the fairest of his palaces, and Ishak’s duty there was to instruct the ablest of those girls sought in the markets of the world for his master’s harim in the arts of music and singing. When one of them excelled her companions in mastery of song and of the lute, Ishak would take her to the Khalifah, and she would sing and play before the throne. If she gave pleasure, she was raised straightway to the harim; if her accomplishments were not sufficient, she returned to her place among the pupils in Ishak’s palace.