June 24: Of Love


Let us take as our text -- well, actually, our text is The Tale of the Christian Broker from The Thousand and One Nights, but let us take as our motto some Auden:

Money cannot buy
the fuel of Love,
but is excellent kindling.
And if, to continue in an Audenesque vein, about suffering the Old Masters were never wrong, this old tale is onto something about love too. The Christian Broker is not the kind of broker who makes an ass of himself in lower Manhattan on summer Friday afternoons; he seems to be a nice Cairo-area merchant who happens to fall in with a rich, mysterious client who eats with the left hand -- a faux pas in the Arabia of the day, second only to invading a country under false pretenses (/soapbox). He confesses that he has no right hand, and, you guessed it -- a woman is mixed up in it.

It seems that our hero is lounging with one of his clients when a dame walks in with a veil up to here:
She wore a headkerchief inclined on one side, and the odours of sweet perfumes were diffused from her, and she captivated my reason by her beauty and loveliness as she raised her izar and I beheld her black eyes.
But what wins her heart is the fact that she wants to buy a piece of gold cloth on credit and he pays cash on the nail:
I then took the piece of stuff from him, and wrote him the paper with my own hand, and gave the piece of stuff to the lady, saying to her, Take it and go; and if thou wilt, bring the price to me in the market; or, if thou wilt, it shall be my present to thee. She replied, God recompense thee, and bless thee with my property, and make thee my husband!
I'd like to see Axe body spray do that. Well, it's love, and here's the big night:
She wore a crown set with pearls and jewels; her hands and feet were stained with henna; and her bosom was ornamented with gold. As soon as she beheld me she smiled in my face, and embraced me, saying, Is it true that thou hast come to me, or is this a dream?—I am thy slave, I answered: and she said, Thou art welcome. ... and not long had I thus remained when a repast was placed before me, consisting of the most exquisite dishes, as fricandoes and hashes and stuffed fowls.
The alert reader will be reminded of nothing so much as Smoove B:
I will serve you cooked pheasant with succulent gravy and white wine. I will serve you hand and foot. I will serve you on a soft, silk table-cloth that has been freshly laundered and purchased from the finest table-cloth store in all of creation. It will be the most spectacular dinner you have ever consumed.

There will also be corn served.
Well, to make a long story medium, as each of these assignations involve our hero bringing fifty gold pieces to his lady, eventually he winds up broke, tries to steal, and gets his hand cut off. And it turns out she was rich too! Why this is surprising to our guy what with the crown set with pearls and jewels, I don't know; but I just went with it, because I was charmed with what I took to be the subtext: these two genuinely loved each other, but it was because they were both rich. They could smell each other rich essences -- it was cash calling out to cash. And when he was poor, he was willing to do anything to appear rich; none of the My Man Godfrey crap in old Cairo. It's the unembarassed-ness of it, the Austenesque frankness (or Sex and the City-esque, maybe), that charms.

Photo courtesy flickr user Cembas

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