It must be a marvel to you how, after having five shipwrecks and unheard of perils, I could again set sail. I am even surprised myself when I look back, but after a year of rest I prepared to make a sixth voyage, regardless of the begging of my friends and relations, who did all they could to keep me at home. Instead of going by the Persian Gulf, I traveled a considerable way overland and finally embarked at a distant Indian port with a captain who meant to make a long voyage. And truly he did so, for we met stormy weather which drove us completely off our course, so that for many days the captain did not know where we were, nor where we were going. When he did at last discover our position we had no reason for rejoicing, for the captain, throwing his turban upon the deck and tearing his beard, declared that we were in the most dangerous spot upon the whole wide sea, and had been caught by a current which was at that minute sweeping us to destruction. It was too true! In spite of all the sailors could do we were driven with frightful speed towards the foot of a mountain, which rose sheer out of the sea. Our ship was smashed to pieces upon the rocks, not, however, until we had managed to scramble on shore, carrying with us the most precious of our possessions. When we had done this the captain said to us,” Now we are here we may as well begin to dig our graves at once, since from this fatal spot no shipwrecked seaman has ever returned.”
This speech discouraged us greatly, and we began to cry over our sad fate.
The mountain formed the sea boundary of a large island, and the narrow strip of rocky shore upon which we stood was covered with the wreckage of a thousand ships. The bones of the unfortunate seamen shone white in the sunshine, and we shuddered to think how soon our own would be added to the pile. All around, too, lay vast quantities of the most precious merchandise, and treasures. It struck me as a very strange thing that a river of clear fresh water, which gushed out from the mountain not far from where we stood, instead of flowing into the sea as rivers generally do, turned off sharply, and flowed out of sight under a natural archway of rock, and when I went to examine it more closely I found that inside the cave the walls were thick with diamonds, and rubies, and masses of crystal, and the floor was covered with ambergris. Here, then, upon this terrible shore we surrendered ourselves to our fate, for there was no possibility of climbing the mountain, and if a ship had appeared it could only have shared our doom. The first thing our captain did was to divide equally amongst us all the food we possessed, and then the length of each man’s life depended on the time he could make his share last. I myself could live upon very little.
Nevertheless, by the time I had buried the last of my companions my food was so little that I hardly thought I should live long enough to dig my own grave, which I set about doing. But luckily for me the luck took me to stand once more beside the river where it plunged out of sight in the depths of the cavern, and as I did so an idea struck me. This river which hid itself underground doubtless emerged again at some distant spot. Why should I not build a raft and trust myself to its swiftly flowing waters? If I perished before I could reach the light of day once more I should be no worse off than I was now, for death stared me in the face. While there was always the possibility that, as I was born under a lucky star, I might find myself safe and sound in some better place. I decided at any rate to risk it, and speedily built myself a strong raft of driftwood with strong rope. I then made up many packages of rubies, emeralds, rock crystal, ambergris, and precious stuffs, and tied them to my raft. Then I sat on it, having two small oars that I had made, and untied the rope which held it to the bank. Once out in the current my raft flew swiftly under the archway, and I found myself in total darkness, carried smoothly forward by the rapid river. On I went as it seemed to me for many nights and days. Once the channel became so small that I had a narrow escape of being crushed against the rocky roof, and after that I took the precaution of lying flat upon my precious boxes. Though I only ate what was absolutely necessary to keep myself alive, the moment came when, after swallowing my last piece of food, I began to wonder if I must after all die of hunger. Then, worn out with anxiety and fatigue, I fell into a deep sleep, and when I again opened my eyes I was once more in the light of day. A beautiful country lay before me, and my raft, which was tied to the river bank, was surrounded by friendly looking black men. I rose and greeted them, and they spoke to me in return, but I could not understand a word of their language. Feeling perfectly bewildered by my sudden return to life and light, I murmured to myself in Arabic, “Close your eyes, and while you sleep Heaven will change your fortune from evil to good.”
One of the natives, who understood this, then came forward saying,” My brother, do not be surprised to see us .This is our land, and as we came to get water from the river we noticed your raft floating down it, and one of us swam out and brought you to the shore. We have waited for you to awaken. Tell us now where you come from and why you were going by that dangerous way?”
I replied that nothing would please me better than to tell them, but that I was starving, and would rather eat something first. I was soon provided with all I needed, and having satisfied my hunger I told them all that had happened to me. They were lost in wonder at my tale when it was interpreted to them, and said that adventures so surprising must be told to their king only by the man to whom they had happened. So, finding me a horse, they put me on it, and we set out, followed by several strong men carrying my raft upon their shoulders. We marched into the city of Serendib, where the natives presented me to their king, whom I greeted in the Indian fashion, kneeling at his feet and kissing the ground, but the monarch told me to rise and sit beside him, asking first what my name was.
“I am Sinbad,” I replied, “whom men call `the Sailor,’ for I have voyaged much upon many seas.”
“And how did you come here?” asked the king.
I told my story, and his surprise and delight were so great that he ordered my adventures to be written in letters of gold and placed in the grand library of his kingdom.
Presently my raft was brought in and the boxes opened in front of him, and the king declared that in all his treasury there were no such rubies and emeralds as those which lay in great heaps before him. Seeing that he looked at them with interest, I offered them to him, but he answered me smiling:
“No, Sinbad. Heaven forbid that I should envy your riches. I will add to them, for I do not want you to leave my kingdom without some gift.” He then commanded his officers to provide me with a suitable accommodation, and sent slaves to serve me and carry my raft and my boxes to my new place. You may imagine that I praised his generosity and gave him grateful thanks, also I presented myself everyday in his court, and for the rest of my time I amused myself by visiting the interesting parts of the city. The capital city is placed at the end of a beautiful valley, formed by the highest mountain in the world, which is in the middle of the island. I climbed to its very summit. Here are found rubies and many precious things, and rare plants grow abundantly, with cedar trees and cocoa palms. On the seashore and at the mouths of the rivers the divers seek pearls, and in some valleys diamonds are plentiful. After many days I asked the king that I might return to my own country, to which he kindly agreed. Moreover, he loaded me with rich gifts, and when I went to leave him he gave me a royal present and a letter to our King, saying, “I ask you give these to the Caliph Haroun al Raschid, and tell him of my friendship.”
I accepted the task respectfully, and soon embarked on the ship which the king himself had chosen for me. The king’s letter was written in blue characters upon a rare and precious skin of yellowish colour, and these were the words on it: “The King of the Indies, before whom walk a thousand elephants, who lives in a palace, of which the roof blazes with a hundred thousand rubies, and whose treasure house contains twenty thousand diamond crowns, to the Caliph Haroun al Raschid sends greeting. Though the gift we present to you is unworthy, we beg you to accept it as a mark of the respect and friendship which we have for you, and of which we gladly send you.
The present consisted of a vase carved from a single ruby, six inches high and as thick as my finger. This was filled with the best pearls, large, and of perfect shape and colour. Secondly, a huge snake skin, with scales as large as a gold coin, which would keep from sickness those who slept upon it. Then quantities of aloes wood, camphor, and pistachio-nuts; and lastly, a beautiful slave girl, whose robes glittered with precious stones.
After a long and prosperous voyage we landed at Basra, and I quickly went to reach Baghdad, and taking the king’s letter I presented myself at the palace gate, followed by the beautiful slave, and various members of my own family, carrying the treasure.
As soon as I had stated my business I was taken into see the Caliph. After I had paid my respects, I gave the letter and the king’s gift, and when he had examined them he demanded to know whether the Prince of Serendib was really as rich and powerful as he claimed to be.
“Your Majesty,” I replied, again bowing humbly before him, “I can assure your Majesty that he has in no way exaggerated his wealth and grandeur. Nothing can equal the magnificence of his palace. When he goes abroad his throne is prepared upon the back of an elephant, and on either side of him ride his ministers, his favourites, and courtiers. On his elephant’s neck sits an officer, his golden lance in his hand, and behind him stands another bearing a pillar of gold, at the top of which is an emerald as long as my hand. A thousand men in cloth of gold, mounted upon richly decorated elephants, go before him, and as the procession moves forward the officer who guides his elephant cries aloud, `Behold the mighty monarch, the powerful and valiant Sultan of the Indies, whose palace is covered with a hundred thousand rubies, who possesses twenty thousand diamond crowns. Behold a king greater than Solomon and Mihrage in all their glory!'”
“Then the one who stands behind the throne answers, ‘This king, so great and powerful, must die, must die, must die!'”
“And the first takes up the chant again, `All praise to Him who lives for evermore.'”
“Further, my lord, in Serendib no judge is needed, because his people come to him for justice.”
The Caliph was well satisfied with my report.
“From the king’s letter,” said he, “I judged that he was a wise man. It seems that he is worthy of his people, and his people of him.”
So saying he sent me away with rich presents, and I returned in peace to my own house.
When Sinbad had done speaking, his guests left. Hindbad received a hundred gold coins, but all returned the next day to hear the story of the seventh voyage. Sinbad thus began.