Wednesday, 4 July 2012

lake of the ingots of gold

One of the most singular things that we have been told about the island of Zabaj, is that which concerns one of its former kings. This king was called the Maharaja. His palace faced onto a thalaj which emanates from the sea; one means by thalaj an estuary resembling those which the Tigris forms when it passes by Baghdad and Basra, an estuary which the salt water of the sea invades at high tide and which is fresh at low tide. This water formed a small lagoon adjoining the palace of the king. Every morning the steward is brought before the king and offers him an ingot of gold in the form of a brick. Each brick weighs a certain number of mann, the amount of which is not known to me. Next, in the presence of the king, the steward throws this brick into the lagoon. At high tide, the water covers this brick and all the other bricks which are piled there, so that they cannot be seen, and when the water goes down, the bricks appear and shine in the sun. When the king gives an audience he sits in a room which overlooks the lake with his face turned towards the water. This custom must never be interrupted: every day a golden brick is thrown into this lake and as long as the king lives, the bricks are not touched.
At his death, however, his successor extracts the bricks without leaving any. They are counted and melted down, and the gold is distributed to the princes of the royal family, both men and women, to their children, their officers and their eunuchs, in proportion to their rank and the prerogatives attached to their various functions. Any which remains is given to the poor and the sick. They take care to make a record of the golden bricks and their total weight. It is written down that so and so, the king, had reigned so many years, and they had thrown so many bricks into the royal lake, and weighing so much; and that after his death these bricks had been divided up amongst the court and the royal family. lt was a great honour for the king who had reigned the greatest number of years and had amassed the greatest number of golden bricks. 

Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold [where] they fine [it].

Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass [is] molten [out of] the stone.

He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death.

The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; [even the waters] forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men.

[As for] the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire.

The stones of it [are] the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold.

[There is] a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:

The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.

He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots.

He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing.

He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and [the thing that is] hid bringeth he forth to light.
But where shall wisdom be found? and where [is] the place of understanding?

Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living.

The depth saith, It [is] not in me: and the sea saith, [It is] not with me.

It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed [for] the price thereof.

It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.

The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it [shall not be for] jewels of fine gold.

No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom [is] above rubies.

The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.

Whence then cometh wisdom? and where [is] the place of understanding?

Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.

Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.

God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.

For he looketh to the ends of the earth, [and] seeth under the whole heaven;

To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.

When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder:

Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.

And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that [is] wisdom; and to depart from evil [is] understanding.

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