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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Mirza Fet-Ali (Mid-19th Century)

The Sieve

From “The Vizier of Lenkoran”

The VIZIER and CIBA, his oldest Wife.

Ciba.Pray give your commands, that I may know what it is your pleasure to desire for to-night’s supper.

Viz.Viper! You have stuffed me with almonds to such a degree that it will be a month before I am able to swallow another mouthful!(Accidentally stamps on the edge of a sieve lying upon the floor. The sieve turns up sharply, and strikes his shin-bone.)Hu-hu! My leg! My leg! The infernal fools! That cursed sieve! Yes, what is that sieve doing here, you daughter of Belial?

Ciba.How should I know what it is doing here? Whenever you catch a glimpse of me you begin to bawl and quarrel immediately. Your presents go to others; I get all the abuse.(Exit.)


Viz.How in the name of all the evil spirits did that sieve get into the middle of this room?

Haid. I will tell your Excellency. This morning, at daybreak, while I was sweeping here, Kerim, the groom, came in. He had a sieve in his hand, and stopped to speak to me. He must have forgotten the sieve, and left it behind.

Viz.Then call in the camel of a groom, so that I may question him.(Exit HAIDAR.)What business had the groom here? What business has a sieve here? I am pursued by ill-luck to-day, wherever I go. As soon as I put my foot into this miserable room something goes wrong.

Enter HAIDAR with KERIM.
Viz.(in a fury).Kerim, you lout! You scoundrel! How dare you come into this room? The stable is the place for you! How dare you show your face here, you pig! And what were you doing here this morning?

Ker.Your Excellency, I came in for a moment to ask Haidar if your Excellency wished to ride out to-day. When I had asked him this, I at once took my departure.

Viz.How did your sieve get here?

Ker.I had been sifting oats for the horses, and I left it by mistake.

Viz.Why did you not come back for it?

Ker.I did not remember where I had left it. I looked for it everywhere in vain.

Viz.Then where was your head, you thief?(To HAIDAR.)Go for Beshir, the steward, and bring back a bundle of canes and the stocks. Bring three servants too.(Exit HAIDAR.)

Ker.Mercy! In the name of Allah, mercy!

Viz.May your own breath suffocate you, son of a dog!

Ker.(moaning).Oh, your Excellency, I am your willing sacrifice! I made a mistake. I acknowledge my sin. But, your Excellency, by your father’s tombstone, I beseech you to forgive me! Oh, do forgive me! I know how black my guilt is, but grant me your pardon, and by the heads of my parents I swear never to enter this room again as long as I live!

Viz.May you suffocate, you camel!

Viz.Throw down the steward, and put his feet into the stocks!(HAIDAR and SERVANTS execute this order.)

Viz.Now, beat him.(Two SERVANTS beat BESHIR.)

Besh.Oh! Oh! Your Excellency, I am your faithful slave! But what have I done to be punished?

Viz.(pointing to the sieve).That sieve—what is it doing in my room?

Besh.What sieve, your Excellency?

Viz.After you have had your beating I will tell you what sieve I mean.—Go on with the canes!(Two SERVANTS continue beating BESHIR.)

Besh.Oh! Mercy! Justice! I am your faithful slave, Excellency! But what have I done? I am your willing sacrifice. Only vouchsafe to impart to me in what manner I have transgressed! Kill me afterward, if I deserve it!

Viz.(to the SERVANTS).Stop!—Beshir, listen to your offense. You have neglected to inform my servants of their duties. Every one in this house is under your orders. It is for you to instruct them all in the proper fulfilment of their offices, and to see that you are decently obeyed. It is you who are answerable for the state of my house. The place of a groom, for instance, is in the stable, and nowhere else, and his sieves are of no use to me in my apartments. But to-day Kerim was in this room with a sieve, and went away leaving it behind him. Not having foreseen such an event, I stepped on the sieve, and it hurt my leg so badly that I can scarcely move. If I, the vizier of a province, carry the burden of its affairs about with me wherever I go, why cannot a camel like you conduct the affairs of a single house, and manage its servants?

Besh.Allah has created your Excellency a great sage, and how should one as lowly as I venture to compare myself against you?

Viz.(to the SERVANTS).Beat him!

Besh.Oh, your Excellency, I am your willing sacrifice! But have mercy upon me this once! It shall never happen again!

Viz.(to the SERVANTS).Stop!—Well, then, since you promise, I will forgive you. But remember, if ever I find another sieve in my room, you shall die the death! Do you understand?

Besh.(after being released).Yes, your Excellency, count upon my word.

Viz.Then you may go.

Ker.(aside).Allah be praised!