The Shaving of Shagpat (1856)/The Revival

The Shaving of Shagpat  (1856)  by George Meredith
The Revival


Now the feathers of Koorookh in his flight were ruffled by a chill breeze, and they were speeding through a light glow of cold rose-colour. Then said Noorna, "'Tis the messenger of morning, the blush. Oh, what changes will date from this day!"

The glow of rose became golden, and they beheld underneath them, on one side, the rim of the rising red sun, and rays streaming over the earth and its waters. And Noorna said, "I must warn Feshnavat, my father, and prepare him for our coming."

So she plucked a feather from Koorookh and laid the quill downward, letting it drop. Then said she, "Now for the awakening of my betrothed!"

Thereupon she hugged his head a moment, and kissed him on the eyelids, the cheeks, and the lips, crying, "By this means only!" Crying that, she pushed him, sliding, from the back of the bird, and he parted from them, falling head-foremost in the air like a stricken eagle. Then she called to Koorookh, "Seize him!" and the bird slanted his beak and closed his wings,—the two, Abarak and Noorna, clinging to him tightly; and he was down like an arrow between Shibli Bagarag and the ground, spreading beneath him like a tent, and Noorna caught the youth gently to her lap; then she pushed him off again, intercepting his descent once more, till they were on a level with one of the mountains of earth, from which the City of Shagpat is visible among the yellow sands like a white spot in the yolk of an egg. So by this time the eyes of the youth gave symptoms of a desire to look upon the things that be, peeping faintly beneath the lashes, and she exclaimed joyfully, raising her white hands above her head, "One plunge in the lake, and life will be his again!"

Below them was a green lake, tinted by the dawn with crimson and yellow, deep, and with high banks. As they crossed it to the middle, she slipped off the youth from Koorookh, and he with a great plunge was received into the stillness of the lake. Meanwhile Koorookh quivered his wings and seized him when he arose, bearing him tenderly to an end of the lake, where stood one dressed like a Dervise, and it was the Vizier Feshnavat, the father of Noorna. So, when he saw them, he shouted the shout of congratulation, catching Noorna to his breast, and Shibli Bagarag stretched as doth a heavy sleeper in his last doze, saying, in a yawning voice, "What trouble? I wot there is nought more for us now that Shagpat is shaved! Oh, I have had a dream, a dream! He that is among Houris in Paradise dreameth not a dream like that. And I dreamed——'tis gone!"

Then said he, staring at them, "Who be ye? What is this?"

Noorna took him again to her bosom, and held him there; and she plucked a herb, and squeezed it till a drop from it fell on either of his lids, applying to them likewise a dew from the serpents of the Sword, and he awoke to the reality of things. Surely then he prostrated himself and repeated the articles of his faith, taking one hand of his betrothed and kissing her; and he embraced Abarak and Feshnavat, saying to the father of Noorna, "I know, O Feshnavat, that by my folly and through my weakness I have lost time in this undertaking, but it shall be short work now with Shagpat. This thy daughter, the Eclipser of Reason, was ever such a prize as she? I will deserve her. Wullahy! I am now a new man, sprung like fire from weak ashes. Lo, I am revived by her for the great work."

Said Abarak, "O Master of the Event, secure now without delay the two slaves of the Sword, and lean the blade towards Aklis."

Upon that he ran up rapidly to the summit of the mountain and drew the Sword from his girdle, and leaned it towards Aklis, and it lengthened out over lands, the blade of it a beam of solid brilliance. Presently from forth the invisible remoteness they saw the two Genii, Karavejis and Veejravoosh, and they were footing the blade swiftly, like stars, speeding up till they were within reach of the serpents of the hilt, when they dropped to the earth, bowing their heads; so he commanded them to rise, crying, "Search ye the earth and its confines, and bring hither tidings of the Genie Karaz."

So they said, "To hear is to obey."

Then they began to circle each round the other, circling more and more sharply till beyond the stretch of sight, and Shibli Bagarag said to Feshnavat, "Am I not awake, O Feshnavat? I will know where is Karaz ere I seek to operate on Shagpat, for it is well spoken of the poet:

"'Obstructions first remove
Ere thou thy cunning prove;'

and I will encounter this Karaz that was our Ass ere I try the great shave.[1] Tell me now what has happened in the city while we were absent from it."

Feshnavat replied, "O Master of the Event, my son, no long story that." Then when Shibli Bagarag had invested himself in dry robes, and all were seated on the herbage, he said:

  1. From this point to the end of the chapter, and most of the following chapter are omitted from most later editions of this work. (Wikisource contributor note)