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The Ali And Gulhyndi
by [?]

There once lived in Bagdad a wealthy merchant named Ibrahim. His only son, Ali, a young man of eminent talent, though but little resembling his father, was his pride and delight. The father’s notion of happiness consisted in the enjoyment of life and in the industry requisite to procure the key to all earthly enjoyments–wealth; the son’s mind, on the contrary, was devoted to contemplation and the pursuit of knowledge. He but rarely quitted his room, and was only wont to walk in the cool of the evening along the banks of the Tigris outside the city, to the tomb of Iman Izaser, a Mahommedan saint, which stood in a circular temple surrounded by date trees, about a league distant. Here he usually seated himself in the shade, and his delight consisted in observing those who passed by on their way to the temple to perform their devotions. He had, above all, observed, as well as the close veil would permit, the slight and charming form of a female who went almost daily to the mosque, accompanied by an attendant, who appeared somewhat older than herself. His eyes followed with delight the muffled form as she gracefully moved along; he had often witnessed her kneeling in the temple, and praying fervently, and he imagined that he in his turn was not unnoticed by the stranger. Thus without having ever spoken to each other they had formed a kind of acquaintance, which, however, did not disturb Ali in his contemplations. As soon as the shadows of evening appeared, he rose and walked silently homewards, while his eyes gazed on the moonlit waves of the Tigris, or the fresh verdure of its banks.

“How is it possible, my son,” once said his father, on his return from a long journey, after his camels were unladen, “that you, so young in years, can totally renounce the world? I esteem your application; but you should not forget that next to our holy Koran, nature herself is the wisest book, and contains the most sublime doctrines on every page. What is knowledge without experience? Has not one of our wise men himself said, that a journey is a fire, around which the raw meat must be turned in order to become eatable and savoury.”

“Dear father,” answered Ali, “leave me but a few years longer to myself, and then on entering the world I shall work with much more energy. You were right in saying that nature is the wisest book; yet it is often written in so indistinct a style that it requires strong eyes to see and read it correctly. What we cannot do for ourselves we must leave to others to do for us; and thus I travel perhaps as much in my own room as you do upon your camel through the desert. All cannot travel. If I in conformity to the duty of a good Mussulman make a single journey in my life to Mecca, I shall perhaps have travelled enough.”

Though Ibrahim was not satisfied altogether by this contradiction of his favourite opinions, he could not help commending the singular industry of his son; moreover, it was not displeasing to his paternal vanity to hear all who knew Ali call him the pattern of a young man.

The words of the father were not, however, uttered without making some impression upon the son. He began to perceive the difference between mere ideas and actual enjoyments, and when he read of any thing grand, beautiful, or wonderful, he was no longer in such raptures at the mere reading. He now wished to experience the things themselves. When in this mood, he often ascended the balcony of the house, where he had a clear view of the Tigris and the sandy desert, and of the distant mountains, and where, in serene weather, he could descry the ruins of ancient Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates. For whole hours he would stand and dream himself into the most wonderful and adventurous situations. When, as usual, he went in the evening to Izaser’s temple under the date trees, it seemed to him monotonous and insignificant. He fancied he felt contempt for himself in contemplating the rapidly flowing waves of the Tigris, which had made such enormous journeys from the highland of Asia through caverns and rocks never yet seen. When thus sitting in the dusk of evening, it appeared as if the foaming waves which rushed over the pebbles, told him tales of events of which it had been an eye-witness on distant shores.