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The History of Caliph Vathek

The History Of The Caliph Vathek
Vathek, ninth Caliph of the race of the Abassides, was the son of Motassem, and the
grandson of Haroun Al Raschid. From an early accession to the throne, and the talents he
possessed to adorn it, his subjects were induced to expect that his reign would be long
and happy. His figure was pleasing and majestic; but when he was angry one of his eyes
became so terrible that no person could bear to behold it, and the wretch upon whom it
was fixed instantly fell backward, and sometimes expired. For fear, however, of
depopulating his dominions and making his palace desolate he but rarely gave way to his
Being much addicted to women and the pleasures of the table, he sought by his affability
to procure agreeable companions; and he succeeded the better as his generosity was
unbounded, and his indulgences unrestrained, for he was by no means scrupulous, nor did
he think with the Caliph Omar Ben Abdalaziz that it was necessary to make a hell of this
world to enjoy Paradise in the next.
He surpassed in magnificence all his predecessors. The palace of Alkoremmi, which his
father Motassem had erected on the hill of Pied Horses, and which commanded the whole
city of Samarah, was in his idea far too scanty; he added therefore five wings, or rather
other palaces, which he destined for the particular gratification of each of his senses.
In the first of these were tables continually covered with the most exquisite dainties,
which were supplied both by night and by day, according to their constant consumption,
whilst the most delicious wines and the choicest cordials flowed forth from a hundred
fountains that were never exhausted. This palace was called "The Eternal or Unsatiating
The second was styled "The Temple of Melody, or the Nectar of the Soul." It was
inhabited by the most skilful musicians and admired poets of the time, who not only
displayed their talents within, but, dispersing in bands without, caused every surrounding
scene to reverberate their songs, which were continually varied in the most delightful
The palace named "The Delight of the Eyes, or the Support of Memory," was one entire
enchantment. Rarities collected from every corner of the earth were there found in such
profusion as to dazzle and confound, but for the order in which they were arranged. One
gallery exhibited the pictures of the celebrated Mani, and statues that seemed to be alive.
Here a well-managed perspective attracted the sight; there the magic of optics agreeably
deceived it; whilst the naturalist on his part exhibited, in their several classes, the various
gifts that Heaven had bestowed on our globe. In a word, Vathek omitted nothing in this
palace that might gratify the curiosity of those who resorted to it, although he was not
able to satisfy his own, for he was of all men the most curious.