The Queen of Sheba as You Never Knew Her

While attending the MESA conference inPortland in 1992, I wandered into a downtown bookstore which washolding a reception for MESA members. I was browsing through theMiddle Eastern books, thinking something new or significant mightturn up. All of a sudden I noticed a title (The Queen of Sheba: HerLife and Times) by Phinneas A. Crutch, B.A., M.A., F.P.A., S.O.S.Interesting degrees, but S.O.S.? I should have gathered something wasamiss from the start. This particular book was published by G. P.Putnam's Sons (New York and London) in 1922. I was unfamilar with thework of Mr. Crutch; the more I became familiar with it, the more Ifound myself laughing convulsively. As it turns out, this is a farce,a tongue-in-cheek swipe at the dry archaeological fare of the time.

There is a one page bibliography at theend of the book which at first seemed to test my Yemen triviapenchant to the limit. How many of you have heard of the following:An Autobiography of Balkis of Sheba, translated from the originalmanuscript by the Pan-Arabian Society in 1886; Filbert's Marib Oldand New, published in Boston in 1911; Hornblower's The Enigma ofSheba, also published in Boston in 1886; Outhouse's With Shush inAfrica, published in Philadelphia in 1894; Tortoni's Ma'in la Bella,printed in Florence in 1908; Trouthook's Street Cries and Epithets ofold Ma'in, London, 1806. Never heard of these before? Well, that'sbecause you never read anything by Phinneas A. Crutch before.

I have no idea who the author behindPhinneas A. Crutch is, but he or possibly she was not entirelyignorant of the Queen of Sheba story. Was this a disgruntled studentof Oriental Studies at a time when it was still chic to be anorientalist? Was it a well-known Assyriologist, who needed somethingto do in between translating biblical parallel annals? What, by theway, did Sir Leonard Woolley do for fun on those long,electricity-lacking nights on the dig at Ur? We can hardly blame MacGibson, because he wasn't even born at the time. If you have anyideas about the origin of this marvelous book, please send themalong.

Though tempted, I cannot reproduce theentire book. I provide you with a few excerpts, to be continued nextissue. In the meantime, no S.O.S. is needed, just sit back in yourfavorite easy chair and H.A.G.T. [D. Varisco]

Editors Note: This message provides aclue to the author:

23 Apr 2002

Dear Dr. Varisco,

I guess you're the person to write this to. I did a short bit of research on

who wrote Queen of Sheba: Her Life and Times. My main suspect is a

Mississippi born academic/novelist/artiste, Stark Young. The main bit of

evidence being that he published a play by the same title as the book around

the same time period. He wouldn't have been an Orientalist, but I would

imagine he was very erudite. A fellow librarian found the play in Worldcat

(OCLC), which is unavailable to me but might be available to you.


Richard Dengrove

The Queen of Sheba:

Her Life and Times

by Phinneas A. Crutch

(New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1922)

Yemen Update 36 (1995):16-19, 37 (1995): 10-20

The Queen of Sheba (from the frontispiece)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Countless volumes, incunabula, brochures andmiscellany, with which every student of history is intimatelyacquainted, have been issued concerning the more salient incidents ofthe life and reign of Balkis, Queen of Sheba.

One has only to speculate, as indeed one canscarcely abstain from doing in moments of fascinated leisure, uponthis richly controversial subject, to call to mind at once suchauthoritative works as Professor Hornblower's The Enigma of Sheba,with its masterly discussions based on contemporary sources, in whichhe conclusively disposes of the distorted reports touching upon theQueen's accession; Gorton's Secret Memoirs of the Court ofSheba, which, in spite of a deplorable tendency on the author'spart to accept canard for chronicle, nevertheless remains amonumental contribution of its kind to the bibliography of theperiod; Heimweh's scholarly monograph, Zeitgenossen der KoniginBalkis, an admirable study of the social and literary movementsof her time; and Gaston Poteau's delightful Voyages de la Reine deSaba, which needs no recommendation other than its own charm andwhimsicality of comment, even in less purely Sheban circles ofresearch.

If, at so late a date, one presumes to offeran additional treatise supplementing the foregoing, chosen at randomfrom amid the mass of printed material inspired by this extraordinaryreign, it is from a conviction, fathered by hope, that a wider surveyof the time than is set forth in any of the more specialized existingdocuments will be indulgently received &emdash; and particularly bythat great reading body of the public which is ever more deeplyconcerned with the human frailties of a career than with itsstagecraft, more warmly stirred by a glimpse of unrecorded impulsethan by the graven monuments of staid deliberation, more closelysympathetic to the personal record of advancing years than to thecold chronology of edicts.

It is in this spirit, therefore, a spirit oflenient toleration, of mild reserve in the face of temptatiouscriticism, of restrained veracity untouched by any gossipry, claver,or reportage, that one approached the life and age of Balkis, Queenof Sheba&emdash; she who was born before her time and remained tooutlive her day, in whom the East and the West were met and thelioness couchant with the ewe, whose way was paved withwell-intentioned errancy, for whom no reticence was too forbidding,no curiosity too shameless, no new departure too prodigal ofcandlelight. She, who was but a child, and yet who stood alone in themidst of bearded men, and, with many innocent questions, brought themto their separate ends,

La petite Balkis, as Gaston Poteau soquaintly puts it...

Chapter I: East of Suez

The first millennium, old style, dawnedlugubriously for Sheba.

For more than three centuries she had seenthe glory of the coming of a hundred lords. When it was not RamesesII it was Mernephthah. When it was not Mernephthah it was theChildren of Israel. In Assyria, no sooner was Shalmaneser laid withhis uncles and his aunts than Tiglathpileser I was afoot. And afterhim Ashurnazirpal. And after them both, Merdukzer andEulmashshakinshum, the Babylonians. Nearer home, the Kings of Ma'inwere a thorn in the flesh, a pebble in the shoe, a mote in the eye.More recently, too, the power of Tyre was risen to be a nightmare onthe face of the waters.

Sheba was become the cockpit ofArabia...

Chapter II: Baby Balkis


At a very early age the little Queen-to-begave evidence of two pronounced peculiarities. She was ambidextrous,and double-jointed throughout. In addition it had become apparent, asthe light burden of her young years began to accumulate, that she wasdestined to be deliriously beautiful, in the fatal Scythian styleevery characteristic of which &emdash; alabaster skin, jade coloredeyes, fiery red or "salamander" hair, tiny hands and feet &emdash;she possessed to a bewildering degree. Aside from that she was aromp, a hoyden, a madcap, a hotspur and a tomrig of the first water.So much so that when it came time to furnish a name for her, tosupplement her royal cryptonym which might of course never be utteredabove a whisper, the caconym of Balkis was chosen, meaningTomboy.

If any evidence of her vagarious natureother than the testimony of eye-witnesses were needed Balkis herselffurnishes it in striking fashion. Perhaps more than any ruler inhistory, certainly with infinitely greater prolixity than othercontemporary sovereigns, she rushed into script on all occasions andon all topics in a passion for self-revelation which provides averitable cranberry bog for her biographers, embarrassing though itmay have been for her relatives, friends and associates whom she doesnot spare in her autobiography.

Of her extraordinary diaries there are fourhundred and sixty-two volumes extant, half of which must be read withthe aid of a mirror since, on account of her ambidextrousness, it washer practice to write two volumes at a time, one forward and theother backwards. And on the subject of her youthful escapades she isvery explicit, and disarmingly shameless.

"Salhin Palace," she says once,"was designedin what is called the Sheban manorial style, with roofs and turrets,and tin camels on top of them. Such a beautiful structure.

I was a child of the sand dunes and quiteuntamable.

I rode my camel-foal up the front stairs andtried to teach the Governor's high stepping Bactrians to jump, whichthey, poor knock-kneed creatures, were not in the least prepared todo now that I look back on it. I climbed our perilously inclined roofand slid down off it into the dunes sitting on a slaver, by moonlightin my nightdress. Already in my earliest youth I had scrambled upevery monkey tree, walked on my hands on top of every wall, and satastride of every tin camel in my childhood home. I was, I suppose,utterly fearless. I thought absolutely nothing of running along thenarrow ridges of the roof at breakneck speed, shod only in my gumsandals. This alarmed people so much, however, that I was reluctantlyobliged to abandon this pastime."

In another chapter she statesthat:

"I very soon showed a remarkable proficiencyin dancing and contortionism, and could lift both my feet to thelevel of my finely penciled eyebrows and then clasp them behind myneck with disconcerting ease. This harmless amusement, or so I foundit, seemed to shock a great number of people who went around saying,'Look at Balkis with her Scythified airs.' A remark the full importof which I only appreciated later, but then I was never one to carewhat people said about me."

Again elsewhere she observes:

"I was the life, and very often nearly thedeath, of the palace, and what my nurse described as 'a perfect hellof a child.' Our camel driver's wife called me a little microbe.Bumptious, excessively passionate, disagreeably plainspoken,impertinent as well as foolhardy, and always scornful of etiquette Iwas, no doubt, almost impossible to tolerate."

So Balkis fearlessly describes herself. Itseems only fitting to add Talmud's famouscharacterization.

"Balkis," he admits in his own diaries, "wasnot a plaster saint, nor even a plaster cast. She was a calamitous,clackety, combustive little imp of creation, full of furore,improvisation, high temperatures, and the common or gardenbean."


In the meantime her education, as befittinga little Sheban Princess, was not being entirely neglected, in spiteof the great handicap under which her governesses and tutors laboredas a result of her well known habit of disappearing into the dunesfor days and nights at a time, accompanied only by her faithfulTyrian trundletails.

It was upon her return from one of theseabsences, which had been even more prolonged than usual, that shemade her famous entrance into the audience hall of the palace whereher guardians were assembled, discussing whether after all it werenot their duty, irrespective of their personal feelings, to cause atleast a nominal search to be made for her. The debate was at itshottest, many being of the opinion that it was a hopeless andentirely unnecessary task to look for a Princess in a sand dune, whenthe door suddenly flew open and Balkis came caracoling into the room,to the mingled relief and disappointment of the council.

"Here's me!" she announced in her shrilltreble.

It is almost exclusively owing to theefforts of her devoted nurse, Sophonisba, that any results whateverin the matter of proper upbringing and breeding were achieved withthe wayward child who defied correction and spurned instruction. ThisSophonisba seems to have been an extraordinary woman in many ways,that she should have been able to remain in close contact with herlittle charge for so long without losing either her mind or the childis proof of that; and, while in the company of her other governessesand teachers Balkis was forever giving way to tantrums andmiffs&emdash; often putting their eyes out with her thumbs andotherwise annoying them&emdash; with her nurse she never resorted toany bodily violence.


Notwithstanding the many interruptions inher schooling, Balkis was rigorously drilled in the fundamentals oflearning essential to a Sheban young lady of her station.

Besides her own native Sheban, she spokePhoenician, Mainim, Aramaic and Hebrew, and was able to make herselfquite clearly understood in Aspirine, Listerine, Phenacetine and thevarious Arsenic, Sulphuric and Antiseptic dialects. There was hardlya living language in fact of which she did not possess at least asmattering.

She was unusually proficient in cuneiformand hieroglyphics as also in the difficult Sheban consonantal script,written boustrophedon, alternately from right to left and left toright or as the ox plows. In the use of the abacus she was thoroughlyversed, although, as she often confessed afterwards, she hadabsolutely no head for figures and preferred counting on her fingersto any other method of computation. To her dying day she could nevermaster the number of finger-breadths in a palm, nor the table ofspans, cubits and reeds. Gaston Poteau attributes much of her laterenthusiasm for travel to her utter misconception ofdistances.

In the higher branches of culture shereceived instruction in sarcophagus painting, mummy gilding, stonecarving and papyrus chewing, as well as in the arts of perfumery,cosmetics, double-dying and depilation, palmistry, chiropody andpoisoning. She was a finished performer on the lute, the threestringed tanbur and the zamr, not to mention the harp and thedulcimer, a matchless exponent of the dance, both sacred and profane,and of course an accomplished camelwoman.

Her reading, as might have been expectedfrom her nature, was never confined to manuscripts especiallydedicated to her sex but always inclined to more masculine subjects.She soon tired of Saphira and her Friends, Three little Shulamites,Little Mainim Maidens and similar works, and turned eagerly to theboy stories of battle and adventure with which her half-brotherslittered the nursery.

At fifteen she talked like a boy, shebehaved like a boy, she often dressed like a boy, she could passanywhere for one.


Balkis was just fifteen years of age whenshe discovered her exact relation to the crown of Sheba and theprecise significance of the presence of her four older half-brothers.Hornblower vividly describes the scene.

"Until her fifteenth year," he says, "Balkishad been kept in ignorance of her close connection to the throne,very largely on account of her own supreme indifference to thehistory of her country." Her mother she could not remember; herfather she saw very seldom, and then only as Caliph of Marib, thetitle which he adopted when visiting his estates; her half-brothersavoided her like the plague and never discussed family matters withtheir half-sister; there was nothing to arouse in her any suspicionof the true state of affairs.

On her fifteenth birthday, however, sheaccidentally came across a cuneiform table, inscribed on a brickwhich had strayed from her oldest half-brother's historical stack,showing a list of the Kings and Queen Consorts of Sheba and theirprogeny. At the bottom of the list she found her name.

'Hot stuff!" she exclaimed. 'Everybody worksbut Father.'

Her whole attitude towards national historychanged at once. She summoned her tutors and soundly berated them forconcealing these vital statistics from her, and asked a hundred andone questions concerning the ultimate possibilities of her discovery.At the end of the interview, in spite of serious damage to severalmembers of her suite, she was forced to a realization of the factthat there had never been a Queen of Sheba in her own right. Hercomment on this point was characteristic.

'We shall change all that!" sheannounced.

When, at great personal risk, one of herteachers ventured to point out to her that in any case she was theyoungest of five children of the reigning sovereign, and consequentlyoutranked by four half-brothers each one of whom in turn would takeprecedence over any claims she might advance, Balkis burst into tearsand smashed the disappointing brick into a thousand fragments overthe unfortunate man's head. She retired, finally, to brood over hercheerless future and as she left the apartment she was heard toobserve &emdash;

'Eni, Meni, Maini, Mo,

Catch a brother by the toe,

If he cries don't let him go,

Eni, Meni, Maini, Mo!"

But as so often happens not enoughimportance was attached to this at the time." ...

Chapter VI. Pilgrim'sProgress

One of the greatest controversies arisingfrom the many perplexities bequeathed to posterity by the reign ofBalkis has raged for centuries over the question of the real motivefor her visit to Solomon, aside from her natural curiosity to seewith her own eyes the most talked of man in Asia Minor. A controversywhich has engaged the attention not only of scholars and historians,but of men in all walks of life in every period of the world'ssubsequent history; and has precipitated by far the larger portion ofthe world's bitterest disputes &emdash; if one is to accept theverdict of one of the most erudite investigators of alltime.

Gossoon, to whom reference is of coursemade, in his Underlying Causes of History, has given to society thefruit of his exhaustive, and, as he himself admits in his preface,exhausting researches into the actual wellsprings of the greatschisms which have rent mankind at various times. And it is hisunshakable conviction that the endless and acrimonious speculationconcerning the Queen's voyage is to be found at the roots of allthese successive evils.

According to Gossoon (1) "... one mayattribute to this one factor, to cite only a few cases at random, themerciless enmity of Rome against Carthage, the murder of JuliusCaesar, the advance of Attila upon Western Europe, the invasion ofBritain by William the Conqueror, the age-long strife between theGuelphs and the Ghibellines, the massacre of the Huguenots, theexecution of Mary Queen of Scots, the departure of the Puritans fromEngland, the American Revolution, the Reign of Terror, Napolean'sdivorce from Josephine, and the downfall of at least nine Frenchministries.(2)

For generations the human race has fought,burned and slaughtered to settle this atrabilious dispute, and theend is not yet...."

Three distinct schools of opinion had sprunginto being at so early a period even as the First Crusade, and didmuch to disrupt the harmony of effort of those ventures, untilfinally in more modern times the irreconcilable differences betweenthese groups became crystallized into definite phrontisteries ofthought which demand a brief analysis.


The first group, known as the NecessitarianSchool, whose greatest exponent is unquestionably Hornblower, hold tothe theory that Balkis did not undertake the journey of her ownaccord, but was sent for by Solomon and coerced into convening withhim; a belief expressed in their motto, Necessity is the mother ofconventions. Among the really important partisans of this theory onefinds Pontius Pilate, Ivan the Terrible, Martin Luther, Mary deMedici, Napolean, Wagner, Lord Gladstone, Adelina Patti and GeorgeWashington.

The second category, often spoken of as theHeroics, has numbered among its disciples such personalities asConfucius, Julius Caesar, Brian Boru, Lucrecia Borgia, QueenElizabeth, Cardinal Richelieu, Frederick the Great, the Duke ofWellington, Bismark, Victor Hugo, Lord Byron and FlorenceNightingale.

They, on their side, profess to find in thefamous journey a startling proof of statesmanship on the part ofBalkis and her advisers. To their minds Balkis was a heroine andShenanikin a paragon of diplomacy.

The third class, usually referred to as theAbolitionists, a smaller clique of which, as might be expected,Heimweh is the acknowledged master, flatly deny that the visit toSolomon ever took place; or, if they grudgingly admit it in the faceof scriptural testimony, it is only to assert that the visiting Queenwas not Balkis but another. Of the more outstanding adherents to thisview one may cite Cleopatra, Charlemagne, Abelard, Dante, ChristopherColumbus, Montezuma, William Tell, Charlotte Corday, Lord Tennyson,Tolstoi, and Queen Victoria.


One need have no hesitation whatever instating once and for all that all three of these schools arehopelessly in error.

One has only to go to Gaston Poteau for theexplanation. What, as he himself points out, Diogenes really spenthis life searching for and Archimedes actually discovered when hesprang from his bath shouting "Eureka," Poteau in turn unraveled.Without for a moment detracting from Gossoon's work, the truth ofwhich he regretfully admits, the Frenchman utterly refutesHornblower, Transom, Heimweh and the rest of them, and all theirtenets, and proves the correctness of his deductions beyondperadventure.(3)

Poteau rests his case on the testimony ofTalmud, Shenanikin and Balkis herself.

In Talmud's diaries of the period underconsideration he finds the following instructive passage:(4)

"Verily, the Queen suffers exceedingly fromloss of sleep, pondering throughout the night over the questionswhich do so vex her mind. It is her wish to visit Solomon, to laythese perplexing matters before him, and while I do not believe thatany lasting good will come of it I do encourage her in thisdetermination, deeming the journey may be beneficial toher."

This would seem to dispose of theNecessitarian theory, and, if anything, supports the Herioc point ofview. Poteau, however, immediately quotes the following significantextract from Shenanikin:

"Lay late this morning, thinking of this andof that, and in particular of the Queen's dilemma, and as troublesomea problem as I ever did see. The Queen it seems is minded to visitSolomon and seek his advice on this question, if possibly he may havewisdom to explain wherein she hath erred. And she would have me tellher what I think of this plan, which I, poor wretch, cannot do,having no head for such matters.

All day thereafter at my stint, for which Ihad no zest whatever, and many come interrupting me with foolishprattle of what the Queen should do which did but confuse me. And sohome and to bed."(5)

One is at a loss to see in this any trace ofthe Heroic's brilliant diplomat, any vestige of a heroic Queendisplaying phenomenal statesmanship in the face of internationalcomplications &emdash; any indications, in fact, of any suchemergency. There is no reference here, or in any of Shenanikin'swritings, to Shush, or to Tyre, or to any impeding danger to Shebasuch as one would expect from the Regent if these matters had everbeen under discussion. The Heroics are quite obviously cheering underthe wrong window, as someone has said. (6)

But the paragraphs from the Queen's owndiary which Poteau produces are even more conclusive.(7)

"... I have thought VERY deeply about thisthing," she says, "and I have decided that it must be due to somelittle fault of my own. We all have our own faults of course, and itis much better to recognize them and try to get the better of themthan to remain blind to them, as this only leads to unhappiness andoften prevents one from fulfilling one's highest mission in life, andof course one's mission in life is a very important thing.

But the trouble is I have tried and tried tothink of a fault and I can't find any. I am not in the leastconceited, but I can't help realizing that I am peculiar that way,because I really haven't any faults, and I always think that falsemodesty is worse in many ways than pride. And so I have decided to goand ask Solomon about it, since he has had so much experience and isreally TREMENDOUSLY clever. I thought it was awfully cute of him topretend to cut the baby in two when the mothers were quarreling aboutit last month, and he is always doing bright things like that, sothey say.

I have already begun to put down questions Iwant to ask him and shall add to them a little every day so that Ican really profit by my visit, and perhaps I can help him with somesuggestions. I always think there is nothing like an intelligentquestion to draw a person out. I find I already have four hundred andsixty-two of them on my list, and of course before I get to JerusalemI'll have a great many MORE..."

Can anyone seriously maintain that theforegoing does not entirely dispose of the Necessitarians, theHeroics, and the Abolitionists as well, at one stroke of the pen?Balkis went to Solomon in person, of her own free will, and forreasons far removed certainly from affairs of state, of which lattershe does not breathe a word, she who was wont to fill pages with bothhands concerning the most minute undertakings of her realm. Poteaumakes this very clear.

"Ce n'est pas pour des prunes," he writes inhis witty style, "it is not for a dish of prunes that the Queenundertook this journey. It was not for reasons of state, nor was itto take the air. It was to consult Solomon on a personal matter&emdash; une affaire tres delicate &emdash; concerning her owncharacter. What was the nature of this fault which she so desired todiscover, the basis of that experience which rendered him socompetent to enlighten her?

Why did la petite Balkis run at once to himwho had been married seven hundred times ...."

The answer "jumps into one's eyes," as heexpresses it. Balkis went to Solomon to ask him why it was &emdash;in his opinion, who had discovered attractions in so many differentwomen &emdash; that no man could be found who was willing to have herfor his wife.


As may be imagined, the Queen's cortege forthe journey was one of considerable splendor, and involved antecedentpreparations of overwhelming magnitude. From contemporary outsidesources one learns simply that she came to Solomon&emdash;

"... with a very great train, with camelsthat bore spices, and very much gold and precious stones."

This is a coldly furnished forth descriptionof the glittering pageant which filled her courtyards with the motleyof a thousand rainbows, and poured out of Marib into the plain beyondfor three days and nights. Never before perhaps, and certainly neversince, has Arabia witnessed such a procession winding across itsgolden sands, over the hills and far away.

Two such processions, for of this host onepart set out in advance of the other and proceeded by land up thecoast to the Ezion-geber, there to await the Queen. This caravan,compromising five hundred camels and several hundred mules guarded bythree thousand soldiers of all arms, carried with it nothing but theQueen's wardrobe and the bulk of her personal paraphernalia,contained in some two thousand pieces of baggage. (8)

The other section, which was infinitely moregorgeously caparisoned and more richly freighted than the rest,included the Queen's personal suite, attendants and scribes, theretainers attached to Sophonisba, who of course followed her royalmistress, and Balkis herself; an assemblage of several hundredpersonages, satellites and minions escorted by the entire ShebanGuards Brigade. Poteau describes the passage of this cavalcade asfollows:

"The line of march was headed by theHeralds, mounted on brindled dromedaries and supported by threecompanies of Guards. After them in single file came the officialsselected to constitute the Queen's staff, surrounded by their slaves,and riding in brilliantly ornamented litters covered with cloth ofgold to protect them from the stains of travel.

There next appeared another company ofGuards, especially detailed to watch over the ten gilded cagescontaining the Queen's cats, and preserve order in the twenty tanksof black goldfish from which these felines were fed, an extremelyarduous task owing to the peculiar ferocity of this breed of theicthyomorphic species.(9) The rear of this subdivision was occupiedby the royal servants, hair-dressers and manicurists, under theimmediate supervision of Sophonisba, and contained, besides, theQueen's ivory bath and the seventy-five white she-asses who providedthe milk in which she immersed herself daily in that commodiousreceptacle.

After these, in her jeweled litter of state&emdash; fitted for the occasion with jade wheels rimmed with goldand drawn by thirty full-blooded zebras jingling with silver bellsand diamond studded harness &emdash; preceded by a corps of airpurifiers known as Dust Biters, and attended by her tablet carriers,time passers and cramp eradicators, the Queen, in a simple travelingdress of spun glass with her locks concealed by a close fitting capof elephant's hair, feverishly dictating questions in preparation forher impending interview.

'It's the first seven hundred questions thatare the hardest,' one of the scribes is reported to have informedSophonisba.

The remainder of the train was made up ofslaves, cooks, dream interpreters and scribes, together with the fivehundred camels bearing the gifts for Solomon, and the other presentsin kind."(10)


The Queen's train reached the coast atHodeidah without mishap, it having been her intention to embark atthat point and proceed by sea to Ezion-geber there to rejoin thefirst section, and it was at the former port, according to Poteau,that one of the most ludicrous, and at the same time annoying,incidents of the voyage took place.

For it seems that camp having been pitched,while the camels and other beasts with their paraphernalia were beingloaded onto barges specially prepared for their reception, when itcame time to put the Queen's cats aboard, the latter were no soonersafely ensconced on the deck than the rats began to abandon thevessel in great haste, swarms of them scurrying ashore through everyloophole and down every rope.

Whereupon the sailors, ever a superstitiouslot, mutinied, declaring that the departure of rodents from a shipcould only spell disaster in the near future, and refusing to takepassage on such a foredoomed craft. The rebellion spread with greatcelerity throughout the entire fleet, the crews scrambling ashorealmost as rapidly as the rats, and bade fair to disrupt all thearrangements for the journey.

Balkis, when apprised of this state ofaffairs, flew into a rage.(11)

"Oh rats!" she exclaimed, and caused herselfto be carried down to the beach where she summoned the drippingsailory to her presence.

"Oh Queen, have a heart!" they implored her."This ain't no time to sail on this here, now, Red Sea, noMa'am!"

"And why not?" she enquired.

"It's because of them rats, Queen," theyexplained. "They've hooked it ashore, that's what, and that theregalloping menagerie ain't worth a chirp in a gale of wind, noMa'am."

"And what do you propose to do about it?"she demanded.

"Saving your presence, Ma'am," they informedher, "we ain't going to ship on no floating sarcophagus, not by Shebawe ain't! We're honest seafearing sailormen, we are, and we stand forour rights first and last!"

"Aye, mates, that we do, by the greatblistering barnacle! Yo ho and a bottle of gum..."

"But this is mutiny!" she warnedthem,

"Queen," they replied, "you guessed it thefirst time."

Things looked very black, but Balkis was notone to be abashed by circumstances. With a frown which, according toan eye-witness of the scene, would have split a rock in two shesprang from her litter and drew a line in the sand with her bigtoe.

"Sheba expects every man to do his duty,"she informed them. "When I've finished counting up to ten those ofyou who haven't stepped across this line and returned to your shipswill be put to death on the spot. Take your choice."

"Verily," they grumbled, "we are between theshe-devil and the deep Red Sea."

"One, two, three, four &emdash;" Balkisbegan to count.

At the word ten every man had steppedacross, and the great Hodeidah rat mutiny, or Whisker Rebellion as itwas always called henceforth for some reason, was at anend.(12)


A departure was finally made, amid greatdemonstrations of enthusiasm from the beach, and the fleet proceededin a leisurely manner up the coast, tacking this way and that beforethe varying winds, and resorting to the banked tiers of oars when acalm caught the heavy-laden barges drifting. Poteau statesthat:

"The presence aboard of so much live stockunaccustomed to watery locomotion, and consequently assailed byterror and other discomforts of a gastronomic nature, resulted in aconstant neighing and hee-hawing, a perpetual bleating and baaing andbellowing, an uninterrupted whiffling and burbling of camels, whichcould be heard for miles and drew men, women and children out fromthe coastwise villages on both shores of the Red Sea, marveling atthis unusual din upon the surface of the waters.

Added to this the intermittent mewing andpurring of the Queen's cats, the noise of the musicians making merrywith their trumpets and drums, the ceaseless whirring of gamblingwheels, and the singing of the sailors at their chanties all combinedto produce a terrifying cacophony in the midst of which the ship'scompanies sought such sleep as they might achieve, and which broughtthe fish gaping from the depths, as one chronicler hassaid.

As for Balkis, she seems to have spent hertime sorting out her question tablets and scrambling about in therigging to her heart's content. The sailors, already considerablydisturbed by the abnormal features of this voyage, were at first ingreat trepidation at the sight of the Queen walking carelessly frommast to mast along the ropes and winding herself around the spars,but they gradually became accustomed to the spectacle and derivedmuch innocent amusement from it."

So the days and nights passed and Coomfidaband Jeddah were astern, and then Yemho, Aboonood and Moilah; thewaters narrowed under the shadow of Sinai and the Gulf of Akabah wasentered, until finally on a placid morning the shining minarets ofEzion-geber came spiring over the horizon to greet the approachingarmada.


The Queen's barge anchored in the outerharbor, while the accompanying vessels were being made fast at thepiers to be unloaded of their freight, and a great concourse ofofficials, including the high dignitaries of Ezion and the chiefs ofher own caravan who were awaiting her, put out in small boats to doher homage and offer suitable tokens of loyalty andrespect.

The Address of Welcome itself wasunfortunately never delivered, owing to an accident to the craft inwhich it was being conveyed, as a result of which the majority of themarble slabs on which it had been inscribed were lost overboard andsank to the bottom of the Bay, together with the Captain of the Portof Ezion and a number of other minor patronages; but the Freedom ofthe City was successfully presented in a diamond casket andgraciously received by Balkis, who thereupon entertained her visitorsat a gorgeous banquet which is reported to have lasted three nightsand two days.

At last, on the fifth morning &emdash; theofficials having by then, according to Poteau, recovered sufficientlyto be taken back to land and prepare for her formal reception&emdash; the royal barge was towed into the inner harbor throughwaters strewn with roses of Sharon, and Balkis went ashore, amid themingled strains of the Sheban national anthem and the vociferousoutcries of a frenzied populace, where she was greeted by her recentguests and by the Envoy attached to her person by Solomon as hisspecial representative.(13)

The Queen stopped to inspect the guard ofhonor drawn up on the pier, exchanged a few kindly words with aveteran of the Philistine War, and then drove through the principalstreets behind her prancing zebras between closely packed ranks ofcheering humanity to the Governor's palace where a state luncheon wasserved, at the end of which she is supposed to have made her famousobservation, to the effect that:

"We, who are about to diet, saluteyou!"(14)

The remainder of the day was spent in areview of the garrison, during the course of which Balkis conferredthe Order of the Ivory Bath on a number of officers and was electedHonorary Captain of the Ezion Legion, and in the late afternoon herconvoy set out through the North Gate for Jerusalem, increased byMagog's voluminous suite and by her own sumptuary caravan.


From Ezion the great host traveled slowlynorthward through Edom, arranged in a hollow square of which theQueen's litter, attended now by Magog, was the center, and disposedin ranks of two hundred camels abreast the better to guard againststragglers. On through the Desert of Zin, past Mount Hor to Kadesh,and ever onward to Zephath at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea,or the Great Salt Lake as it was better known. Thence, bearingwestward, to Arad, and then northward again along the black stonepaved road until Hebron was reached, where Balkis rested for twoweeks while she sent couriers to Solomon with the news of her nearapproach.

Poteau says that "... the enthusiasm overher coming passed all bounds. All along the line of march the townsand villages were hung with garlands and decorated with triumphalarches; and the route which she followed was lined with spectatorscome from every corner of Israel, many of whom had been encamped onthe spot for weeks, sometimes for months, awaiting herarrival.

Her appearance was greeted everywhere withfrantic acclamations, and the magnificence of her enormous retinuearoused the bewildered, although always shrewdly appraising,admiration of the simple country folk.

'Oy, oy!' they cried continuously. 'Fromgold she got everything! What did she done she should get it so muchmezumeh? See now, zebras yet!'

It is estimated that Balkis received twohundred and forty deputations, accepted the freedom of more thanthree hundred communities, tasted some six hundred and fifty bowls ofgoat's milk, patted three thousand four hundred and seventy-sixlittle girls on the head, and had her hand kissed twelve thousandtimes, so much so, in fact, that her knuckles became calloused fromsuch indiscriminate osculation."

At the end of two weeks Balkis set forthwith a chosen escort on the last stages to Jerusalem, leaving thebulk of her establishment to follow a day later, and taking with heronly her immediate attendants, the nobles and Heralds, one each ofevery kind of present for Solomon, her wardrobe, and of course hercats. On to Solomon's Pools, past Bethlehem to Rachel's Grave onwhich she deposited a memorial tablet, and so finally at sunset intothe Plain of Ephraim where she pitched camp.

At the further side of the Valley of Hinnomspread before her, high above its four hills all aglow in the crimsonlight from the west, Balkis gazed long and rapturously uponJerusalem, the Royal City of David. And on the summit of Ophel, inthe porch of the House of Lebanon, summoning his wisdom against theunknown morrow, Solomon sat far into the night watching the twinklinglights of her hundred camp fires .....

Chapter VII. The YoungVisitor


One may not leave the account of those firstweeks in Jerusalem without some slight reference to the Queen's ownprivate impressions of Solomon, recorded in her intimate diaries. (15) Pilaster had been worthy of underlining and Colossus had earned hisscattered capitals, but in the case of her host Balkis found itnecessary to make use exclusively of the latter calligraphy in orderto express the immensity of her fascinated admiration.


Concerning the latter Balkisobserves:

"Solomon's wives are a pretty sad bunch onthe whole. Of course with so many of them you can't expect them allto be whirlwinds, but I was surprised to find how FEW of them canhold a candle to me, but then I suppose I'm exceptional thatway.

Ichneumon is the best-looking one, and Idaresay she was really quite beautiful in her day, in that washed-outEgyptian style which some people admire although I can't stand itmyself. Pilaff is perfectly AWFUL, so fat and greasy. Psha is adisagreeable little cat, and so stuck up although she's only aPersian and her family were really nothing at all. Panorama is rathersweet, but hasn't any brains to speak of and giggles all the time. Ishould think Solomon would go crazy when he's with her. I understandhe is very MUCH interested just now in a Shulamite girl, but ofcourse that's supposed to be a SECRET."

Of his wisdom she remarks elsewherethat:



In another paragraph she statesthat:



Perhaps it has something to do with thatShulamite girl. I must get Benaiah to tell me more about it, as heseems to be awfully up on everything that's going on and is quite aDARLING, although he is frightfully rude to Abishai and Magog andHoshea and the others when they come around. I'm very much afraidthey're all falling in love with me, poor dears, but what can Ido?

I sometimes wish that I were not so terriblyATTRACTIVE to married men..."


So the weeks passed in reciprocalfestivities and the time came for the Queen's official interview withSolomon. Poteau has interesting accounts of the elaboratepreparations made by both parties for this function &emdash; thesetting forth of Solomon's Library of Knowledge, in which everyconceivable question, from Who mends the crack of dawn to What keepsnight from breaking when it falls, was answered; the gatheringtogether in classified piles of the Queen's question tablets; and thefurnishing of the apartment in which the debate was to occur,including the installation of a temporary dormitory for the scribesand attendants.

The Six Day Cyclopedic Race, as it wasalways referred to subsequently, took place in the Porch of theThrone, or of Judgement, a beautiful structure made entirely of cedarin which the King was accustomed to render decisions; in the presenceof Jehoshaphat, the recorder of answers, Ahiah and Elihoreph, thechief scribes, the advisers whom Balkis had brought with her, RabbiBen Ezra, Omar Khayam and others, and her corps of ear scratchers andtongue rubbers.

"The Queen," Poteau relates, "sat on herthrone which had been conveyed for the purpose from her camp, facingSolomon who occupied his own judgement seat &emdash; a superb chairof ivory overlaid with gold, the arms of which were formed by twogreat beasts, and which was reached by a flight of six steps, each ofthem flanked with lions, leading up to his solid gold foot-stool. Atthe further end of the Porch an orchestra of chalis, shophars,mashrokitha, tophs, sistra, timbrels and sackbuts were on duty nightand day to furnish soft music during the sometimes quite lengthyintervals of thought between questions."

As was customary in such cases, the meetingopened with an address by the host in which every known branch ofknowledge was touched upon and set forth for the edification of theguest. As may be imagined, with such a lecturer as Solomon thisfeature of the program took up considerable time,16 and covered everysubject connected with the earth, the sea and the sky, the animal,mineral and vegetable kingdoms, the beautiful and the damned, and thehistory of the human race from the Age of Innocence down to theDangerous Ages, including the mysterious Wasted Generation&emdash;

"... all of it assembled," so Poteau states,"in compact form in what was known as Solomon's Outline of History,or Wells of Information, two cosmic volumes embellished withcharts."

The lecture once terminated, the second partof the program was entered upon to which a privileged public wasadmitted. Three black pennies having been flipped according tocustom, Solomon won the toss and prepared to ask his questions. Aswill be seen below from the stylographic reports of the proceedingsthe King's riddles give evidence of careful preparation and seem tohave troubled Balkis not a little.

SOLOMON: "Some hunters went hunting. Theysaid afterwards, 'What we caught we threw away, and what we did notcatch we kept.' What were they hunting?"

A long pause.

BALKIS: "Oh dear!"


BALKIS: "I don't know."

SOLOMON: "Fleas."

Laughter among the Shebans.

BALKIS: "Aren't you horrid!"

SOLOMON: "A temple rests upon a singlecolumn encircled by twelve cities. Each city has thirty buttresses.Each buttress has two women, one white and one black, that go roundit in turns. Solve the riddle."

BALKIS: "I'm all mixed up already. What wasthe first part?"

Question repeated. A long pause.

BALKIS: "How many buttresses did yousay?"

Question repeated. A long pause.

BALKIS: "Go ahead, I'll bite!"

Laughter. Suppressed.

SOLOMON: "The temple is the world, thecolumn the year, the twelve cities are the months, the thirtybuttresses are the days, the two women light anddarkness."

BALKIS: "Oh, but you'recheating!"

Sensation in the Porch.


BALKIS: "Some of the months have thirty-onedays. Of course I'd have known that &emdash;"

Loud laughter among the spectators.Suppressed. Objection sustained by the recorder. Exception taken bySolomon. Noted.

A SHEBAN: "Hooray our side!"

RECORDER: "Order in the Porch!"

SOLOMON: "There be four things which arelittle upon the earth, but they are exceedingly wise."

BALKIS: "Now don't hurry me&emdash;"

A very long pause.

BALKIS: "Fish, flesh or fowl?"

SOLOMON: "That's a leadingquestion."

Objection sustained by the recorder. A longpause.

BALKIS: "By me!"

SOLOMON: "The ants are a people not strong,yet they prepare their meat in summer. The conies are but a feeblefolk, yet they make their houses in the rocks. The locusts have noKing, yet they go forth all of them by bands. The spider taketh holdwith her hands, and is in the King's houses."


BALKIS: "I guessed it was animalsanyway."


BALKIS: "That's a lovely one, isn'tit?"

SOLOMON: "Just a little thing of myown."

Exit Ahishar.

SOLOMON: "My second has two legs, my wholeno more, and my first alone has always four."

BALKIS: "Now let methink&emdash;"

A long pause. Ahishar returns.

BALKIS: "Oh dear, you've got me!"

SOLOMON: "Horse-man."

BALKIS: "Doggone it! You know everything,don't you?"


SOLOMON: "No. There be three things whichare too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not."

BALKIS: "It is possible! What are they,perhaps I can tell you.

Loud laughter. Suppressed.

BALKIS: "What's funny aboutthat?"

RECORDER: "Order in the Porch. Pass outquietly please."

SOLOMON: "The way of an eagle in the air;the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst ofthe sea; and the way of a man with a maid."

Prolonged applause.

BALKIS: "Oh, that's lovely. I don't know howyou do it."

A VOICE:" You tell them, Balkis!"

RECORDER: "Throw that man out."

Scuffle. A spectator is ejected.

BALKIS: "It's too sweet, really!"

SOLOMON: "Just a little thing of myown."

Exit Ahishar.

BALKIS: "You're a wise one, all right allright, I'll tell the world."


And then it was the Queen's turn. Before anaudience which packed every available square foot of the Porch shespread out her tablets before her and expounded her riddles, some ofwhich seem to have thrown the meeting into an uproar and greatlyincensed Solomon, the more so since his wives insisted on beingpresent and kept up a continuous babel of recrimination at hisfailure to make a better showing.

BALKIS: "Ready?"

SOLOMON: "Shoot."

BALKIS: "Why does B come before C in theAlphabet?"

A pause.

ICHNEUMON: "Oh, that's easy!"

A pause.

BALKIS: "Can't you guess? Shall I tellyou?"

SOLOMON: "Go ahead."

P'SALT: "Quitter!"

BALKIS: "Because a man must be before he cansee. I think that's awfully good, don't you?"

SOLOMON: "Slick!"

ICHNEUMON: "Not so good."

BALKIS: " Why is a man sailing up the TigrisRiver like one putting his father into a sack?"

TCHALK: "Louder and funnier!"

SOLOMON: "Just a moment&emdash;"

A pause.

BALKIS: "It's a peach. You'll never guessit."

PSHA: "Chestnut, you mean."

A pause.

BALKIS: "Give it up?"

SOLOMON: "All right, spill it."

PILAFF: "You big bum!"

BALKIS: "Because he is going to Bagdad&emdash; see, bag dad?"

Groans. Suppressed. Laughter among theShebans.

BALKIS: "Got you that time. Here'sanother."

ICHNEUMON: "Now then Solomon, on yourtoes!"

BALKIS: "How many soft-boiled eggs couldGoliath eat on an empty stomach?"

PILAFF: "I think that's vulgar."

BALKIS: "Well, what do you say?"

SOLOMON: "Of course he wouldn't have put allhis eggs in the same bread basket!"

Cheers from the grand-stand.

P'SALT: "Yeah, Solomon!"

RECORDER: "Answer the question."

SOLOMON: "Seventy times seven."


BALKIS: "No, silly! Only one, because afterthat his stomach wouldn't be empty any longer. That's a good one,isn't it?"

SOLOMON: "Wonderful."

TCHALK: "You poor boob!"

BALKIS: "Why is a mouse like a bale ofhay?"

A long pause.

PANORAMA: "Tee hee, tee hee, tee hee&emdash;&emdash;"

SOLOMON: "Shut up!"

A pause.

BALKIS: "Give it up?"

PILAFF: "Certainly not&emdash;"

SOLOMON: "All right, why?"

BALKIS: "Because the cattle eat it. See,cat, cattle, it's a play on words."

Uproarious laughter among the Shebans. Loudgroans from the spectators. Hoshea is carried out by Abishai andothers.

BALKIS: "I think that's a splendid one,don't you?"

PHSA: "Rotten!"

SOLOMON: "Have you very many more likethat?"

Laughter. Suppressed.

BALKIS: "Lots. Try this one. Why are seeds,when sewn, like gateposts?"

ICHNEUMON: "Come on, Solomon!"

A pause.

BALKIS: "Give it up?"

SOLOMON: "Certainly not. Keep still amoment, can't you?"

A pause.

BALKIS: "Give it up, do you?"

SOLOMON: Expurgated by order of therecorder.

PANORAMA: "Tee hee, tee &emdash; I begpardon."

SOLOMON: "I know. Because they spring fromthe ground.

Prolonged applause.

PILAFF: "You can't laugh thatoff!"

BALKIS: "That's awfully good, of course, butit's not the right answer."

SOLOMON: Expurgated by order of therecorder.

ICHENEUMON: Expurgated by order of therecorder.

BALKIS: "How dare you speak to me likethat?"

PILAFF: Expurgated by order of therecorder.

PANORAMA: "Tee hee, tee &emdash; ouch, Psha,quit pinching me!"

PSHA: Expurgated by order of therecorder.

BALKIS: Expurgated by order of therecorder.

SOLOMON: "There's something in what yousay."

RECORDER: "Give the answer."


BALKIS: "The right answer is Because theypropagate &emdash; see, prop a gate!"

SOLOMON: "Oy, oy!"

Uproar. Three scribes drop dead. Balkislaughs for twenty minutes. Solomon has a fit of apoplexy. Meetingadjourned.


And finally the one last riddle of all,which the Queen put to Solomon in private on the evening before herdeparture for Sheba. The question which had brought her all the wayto Jerusalem, and his answer to which she does not ever seem to haveunderstood.

"Why is it," she asked him, "that I who amso beautiful and have had so many suitors cannot find ahusband?"

Solomon, so Poteau states, thought for along while and then made the following reply, couched in terms leastcalculated to offend his guest, to whom he often referred afterwardsas "that asphinxiating woman."

"Queen," he told her. "There's many a slipof the tongue twixt the cup and the lip, and the ear is always moresensitive than the eye."

"I don't get you at all," Balkis complained,"but it sounds awfully clever!"

"Just a little thing of my own," Solomonmurmured.

And with this cryptic utterance to ponderover she went from him, loaded with gifts &emdash; lead and tin fromTarshish and brass from Tubal, emeralds and cedar and fine linen fromSyria, honey and oil from Israel, purple and blue from Eden and Tyre&emdash; and returned to her own country.

"... in what perplexity of mind," to quotePoteau's beautiful passage, "one cannot surmise; leaving behind hersuch memories as one may not presume to speculate upon. A great andwelcome silence descended on Jerusalem, but from the summit of Ophela glory was departed, over the Valley of Hinnom the smoke of manycamp fires was dispersed, in the House of Lebanon a faint aromafloated for many days, and then died.

And on the throne in the Porch of Judgementperhaps one sat who brooded over many things, and came to regret hiswisdom. Who knows?"


1 Ch. 1, p. 2.

2 This is denied by Frenchauthorities.

3 That the results of his enquiryhave not hitherto been more widely accepted is merely an indicationof the fact that the public mind is always more inclined to believeobscurely complicated rumors than simple, unadornedverities.

4 Diaries of a Court Physicians,tablet 372.

5 Mirrors of Marib, chap. 18, p.7.

6 Attributed toPocahontas.

7 Personal, vol. 89, lefthanded.

8 For feminine students of thesubject, Poteau's detailed paragraphs covering the list of thesesartorial impediments will be found of engrossinginterest.

9 Ichthyosaurus Parvus.

10 The mere catalogue of theseofferings, as listed on a contemporary Assyrian inscription recentlyunearthed, gives one a more intelligent conception of the stupendouscharacter of this royal munificence than any labored descriptiveparagraphs could afford. "... of horses from Togatmah," so theinscription reads, "fifty milk-white steeds with skins of satin andflowing silk manes, each with his harness of finest leather studdedwith gold. And from the Isles that lie beyond the portals of the Sea,of ivory one hundred manehs of finest grain without any blemish; andof ebony yet another hundred, in diverse shapes fit for all manner ofusage and polished like unto a burnished mirror. And of lambs fromKedar one hundred, pure as snow; and of goats likewise a hundred, fora milking and a feasting; and of rams from that land yet anotherhundred to be an acceptable sacrifice. And of spice from Sheba, fiftycamel loads, all manner of spice therein for a seasoning and asweetening; and of gum another fifty camel loads, and of gold yetanother fifty camel loads. And of precious stones from Sheba, fiftycamel loads, to every five camels among them a different stone, andthe names thereof were sardius, topaz, diamond, beryl, onyx, jasper,sapphire, emerald, carbuncle and jade. This is the list of the gifts,nor has any been added thereto, all very fair and without anyblemish, and cunningly fashioned for a pleasure and a delight, whichthe Queen brought to the King, Solomon, for an offering ..." Assomeone remarked of travel in that day: "It was not the heat but thecupidity that came high!"

11 Annals of Sheba, cylinder9008.

12 Many of the sailors managed tocapture rats which they took aboard with them in cages, therebyassuaging their fears to some extent, which suggests to Steinkopf theorigin of mascots; the whole episode, moreover, furnishing in hisopinion the basis for the ceremonies of Crossing the Line still heldaboard shipboard to this day, in which, as he points out, the processof shaving plays an important part and undoubtedly has someconnection with the aforementioned reference to whiskers.

13 As for this Envoy, a certainMagog who appears to have borne some resemblance to Colossus, Poteauis also responsible for the statement that: "This personage performedhis duty with great zeal &emdash; avec beaucoup de conviction&emdash; and having been attached to the Queen's person by Solomon ashis representative, he also quite evidently became very much attachedto her on his own account, a fact to which she does not seem to havebeen entirely insensible." From Gorton one learns that " ... it was acommon talk around Ezion that the Envoy was all 'magog' overBalkis!"

14 Annals of Sheba, cylinder9618.

15 Solomon, vol. 52, lefthanded.

16 Some chroniclers estimate asmuch as two and a half days.

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