The Art of Tetman Callis Lit & Crit Same as it ever was

Same as it ever was

“A story is told that a powerful king of the Israelites was sitting one day on his royal throne when he saw a man coming in through the palace door with an appearance that was both unpleasing and awesome. The king shrank back in fear at this as the man approached, but then, jumping up in front of him, he said: ‘Man, who are you and who gave you permission to enter my palace and come into my presence?’ ‘It was the master of the house who ordered me to come,’ said the man. ‘No chamberlain can keep me out; I need no permission to come into the presence of kings; I fear the power of no ruler or the number of his guards. I am the one from whom no tyrant can find refuge, nor can any flee from my grasp. I am the destroyer of delights and the parter of friends.’ When the king heard this, he fell on his face and his whole body trembled. At first he lost consciousness, but when he recovered he said: ‘Are you the angel of death?’ ‘Yes,’ said the angel, and the king then said: ‘Allow me a single day’s delay so that I may ask pardon for my sins and seek forgiveness from my Lord, returning the wealth that is in my treasuries to its owners lest I have to endure the hardship of having to account for it and the pain of punishment for it.’ The angel said: ‘Impossible—there is no way in which you can be granted this. How can I allow you any delay when the days of your life have been counted, your breaths numbered and all your minutes set down in the book of fate?’ ‘Give me just one hour,’ the king said, but the angel replied: ‘The hour has been accounted for. It passed while you were still paying no attention and you have used up all your breaths except for one.’ ‘Who will be with me when I am carried to my grave?’ asked the king, and the angel said: ‘Nothing will be with you except for your own deeds.’

The Arabian Nights (trans. Lyons, et al.)

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