This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
The party therefore wondered at him, and at the horrible nature of his form; and the Emir Musa said, There is no deity but God! Suleyman was endowed with a mighty dominion!-And the sheykh 'Abd-Es-Samad said to the 'Efrit, O thou, I ask thee concerning a thing of which do thou inform us. The 'Efrit replied, Ask concerning what thou wilt. And the sheykh said, Are there in this place any of the 'Efrits confined in bottles of brass from the time of Suleyman, on whom be peace? He answered, Yes, in the Sea of El-Karkar, where are a people of the descendants of Nuh (on whom be peace!), whose country the deluge reached not, and they are separated there from [the rest of] the sons of Adam.-And where, said the sheykh, is the way to the City of Brass, and the place wherein are the bottles? What distance is there between us and it?-The 'Efrit answered, It is near. So the party left him, and proceeded; and there appeared to them a great black object, with two [seeming] fires corresponding with each other in position, in the distance, in that black object; whereupon the Emir Musa said to the sheykh, What is this great black object, and what are these two corresponding fires? The guide answered him, Be rejoiced, O Emir; for this is the City of Brass, and this is the appearance of it that I find described in the Book of Hidden Treasures; that its wall is of black stones, and it hath two towers of brass of El-Andalus,8 which the beholder seeth resembling two corresponding fires; and thence it is named the City of Brass.-They ceased not to proceed until they arrived at it; and, lo, it was lofty, strongly fortified, rising high into the air, impenetrable: the height of its walls was eighty cubits, and it had five and twenty gates, none of which would open but by means of some artifice; and there was not one gate to it that had not, within the city, one like it: such was the beauty of the construction and architecture of the city. They stopped before it, and endeavoured to discover one of its gates; but they could not; and the Emir Musa said to the sheykh 'Abd-Es-Samad, O sheykh, I see not to this city any gate. The sheykh replied, O Emir, thus do I find it described in the Book of Hidden Treasures; that it hath five and twenty gates, and that none of its gates may be opened but from within the city.-And how, said the Emir, can we contrive to enter it, and divert ourselves with a view of its wonders ? Then the Emir Musa ordered one of his young men to mount a camel, and ride round the city, in the hope that he might discover a trace of a gate, or a place lower than that to which they were opposite. So one of his young men mounted, and proceeded around it for two days with their nights, prosecuting his journey with diligence, and not resting; and when the third day arrived, he came in sight of his companions, and he was astounded at that which he beheld of the extent of the city, and its height. Then he said, O
• Spain; uot merely Andalusia.
Emir, the easiest place in it is this place at which ye have alighted. And thereupon the Emir Musa took Talib the son of Sahl, and the sheykh 'Abd-Es-Samad, and they ascended a mountain opposite the city, and overlooking it; and when they had ascended that mountain, they saw a city than which eyes had not beheld any greater. Its pavilions were lofty, and its domes were shining; its mansions were in good condition, and its rivers were running; its trees were fruitful, and its gardens bore ripe produce. It was a city with impenetrable gates, empty, still, without a voice or a cheering inhabitant, but the owl hooting in its quarters, and birds skimming in circles in its areas, and the raven croaking in its districts and its great thoroughfare-streets, and bewailing those who had been in it. The Emir Musa paused, sorrowing for its being devoid of inhabitants, and its being despoiled of people and dwellers; and he said, Extolled be the perfection of Him whom ages and times change not, the Creator of the creation by his power! And while he was extolling the perfection of God (to whom be ascribed might and glory!), he happened to look aside, and, lo, there were seven tablets of white marble, appearing from a distance. So he approached them, and, behold, they were sculptured and inscribed; and he ordered that their writing should be read; therefore the sheykh 'Abd-Es-Samad advanced and examined them and read them; and they contained admonition, and matter for example and restraint, unto those endowed with faculties of discernment. Upon the first tablet was inscribed, in the ancient Greek character, O son of Adam, how heedless art thou of the case of him who hath been before thee! Thy years and age have diverted thee from considering him. Knowest thou not that the cup of death will be filled for thee, and that in a short time thou wilt drink it? Look then to thyself before entering thy grave. Where are those who possessed the countries and abased the servants of God and led armies? Death hath come upon them; and God is the terminator of delights and the separator of companions and the devastator of flourishing dwellings; so He hath transported them from the amplitude of palaces to the straitness of the graves.
And in the lower part of the tablet were inscribed these verses:
Where are the Kings and the peoplers of the earth? They have quitted that which they have built and peopled; And in the grave they are pledged for their past actions: there, after destruction, they have become putrid corpses.
Where are the troops? They repelled not, nor profited. And where is that which they collected and hoarded?
The decree of the Lord of the Throne surprised them. Neither riches nor refuge saved them from it.
And the Emir Musa fainted; his tears ran down upon his cheeks, and he said, By Allah, indifference to the world is the most appropriate and the most sure course! Then he caused an inkhorn and a paper to be brought, and he wrote the inscription of the first tablet; after which he drew near to the second tablet, and the third, and the fourth; and, having copied what was inscribed on them, he descended from the mountain; and the world had been pictured before his eyes.