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The Laughable Stories of Bar-Hebraeus, by Bar-Hebraeus, tr. E.A.W. Budge, [1897], at

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The Twelfth Chapter


CCCCXIII. A certain poet rebuked a certain king in the following words, saying,

"I made a mistake in praising him having drunk wine from out of his cups,
"For evil lieth in ambush in his cups, and his walls are built upon it."

[paragraph continues] Now when the king heard these words he was neither grieved nor angry, but he sent to him a thousand dînârs, and said to him, "Spend these on thy supper, and come not inside our walls lest the evil which is in our cups meeteth thee."

CCCCXIV. The wife of a certain liberal and wealthy man said to him, "I have never seen any behaviour worse than that of thy brethren, for in the time of thy prosperity they come round about thee, but in the time of thy poverty and misery they kept aloof from thee." He replied to her, "This ariseth from the nicety of their discretion, because they do not wish to be a weight upon us when our hand is forced to give."

CCCCXV. A man came to a certain liberal man and asked alms of him, and he unwittingly set the end of the stick upon which he rested upon his toe, and leaned his weight upon it. And when the rich man

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had granted him his request and the beggar had gone, those who were about him said, "How couldst thou bear him to put the end of his stick on thy toe with-out thy saying a word?" He replied, "I was afraid to say anything to him, lest being ashamed he would not condescend to ask [anything of me]."

CCCCXVI. A certain king whilst riding through the market heard the voice of a woman calling to her son by the royal name, and he said, "Who is this that hath the same name as the king? Give him one hundred dînârs." Thus it came to pass that every woman who bore a male child used to call it by the king's name, and she went and received a hundred dînârs.

CCCCXVII. A certain wealthy man having been sick for some days, no man came in to visit him. And he said to those who were round about him, "How is it that no man cometh to me?" They said to him, "They are afraid because of the debts which thou hast against them, and fear lest thou shouldst remember them and shouldst demand the payment thereof from them." When he heard these words he said to the criers, "Go ye forth and cry in the markets, saying, I, so and so, hereby testify that no man shall be held to be in debt to me, neither during my lifetime nor to my children after me." Thus he made a present of several thousands of pieces of silver in one day to the people.

CCCCXVIII. Another rich man having been asked by a poor man for a piece of silver, and not having one with him, wrote him an order with his own hand, saying that he owed him two pieces of silver until the end of the month, thus giving [them] to him.

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CCCCIX. Another wealthy merchant bought a maiden for sixty thousand pieces of silver in the market, and he wanted a beast whereon she could ride and go with him to his house; and as at the moment there was no animal ready a certain soldier brought his mule to her to ride upon. And when she was mounted he that had bought her said unto him that had lent her his beast to ride, "She shall be thine, and she shall go with thee to thine house." And the soldier being bashful and hardly liking to accept her, her master swore that neither the maid nor the price thereof should come into his possession; and, thus he made a gift [worth] sixty thousand zûzê in a moment 1.

CCCCXX. Another man brought a gift to a certain king, and having accepted it the king was sad. And when he was asked why he was sad, he replied, "How can I help being sad, for, behold, every time that I give this man the price thereof, he will only consider it to be what he hath given to me. Therefore it is meet for kings to give rather than that gifts should be made to them."

CCCCXXI. A certain player of music asked a king to give him something which he could ride, and the king commanded them to give him a camel, and a horse, and a mule, and an ass, and a maiden, saying to him, "If we could find anything else which could be ridden we would have given it to thee."

CCCCXXII. A poet asked a certain king to give him [some] flour, but he did not give it to him. And when the report thereof reached a certain neighbouring

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king he sent the poet a sack of flour, wherein were one thousand dînârs, and he wrote to him, saying, "We "have sent thee flour to eat, together with a thousand dînârs which thou mayest spend in purchasing other things that may be needed by thee."

CCCCXXIII. Another man dwelt in the neighbourhood of a certain rich man, and he wished to sell his house. And when some one came to buy it the owner of the house said, "And how much wilt thou give extra for the wealthy man who liveth in the neighbourhood?" The would-be buyer said to him, "How canst thou imagine that thou oughtest to receive extra money because of the wealthy man in the neighbourhood?" The owner of the house said, "Wilt thou not purchase from me [this] neighbourship? Now everything which thou lackest he would have supplied thee with, and whenever thou wert overburdened he would have set thee free. Go, thou art not worthy to buy my house." And it came to pass that when the rich man heard [these things], he sent to the owner of the house one thousand dînârs, saying, "Spend whatsoever thou needest to spend, but do not sell thy house."

CCCCXXIV. Another rich man said unto a certain needy man who had asked a gift from him, "Go and ask so and so, for he hath never looked upon the back of the man who went without a gift from him."

CCCCXXV. A certain king, wishing to go forth on a journey of pleasure, said to one of those who desired to go forth with him, "See what money I have in the treasury, and let the governors thereof allow thee to take some, and thou shalt come forth with us." And the man went and took nine hundred thousand pieces of silver and came back and kissed the king's hand,

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saying, "I have taken nine hundred thousand pieces of silver;" and he began to return thanks [to the king]. And when he had gone out, the king said to those who were about him, "What have I said to him? [I told him] to take the money and to come forth with us that he might spend it upon what we needed, but he thought that I had given it as a gift to him. As, however, he has thought thus, even as he hath believed so shall it be to him." So he allowed him to have all this sum [of money].

CCCCXXVI. Another rich man being asked, "What is the height of liberality?" said, "For a man to grant the request of the poor man in the time of his need."

CCCCXXVII. A poet having gone to the house of a certain governor and sung a song in his praise, the governor made him a present of much money. And it came to pass that when he wished to depart the governor's servants did not attend him to set him on his way, neither did they pay attention unto him [when he called]. And when he began to reprove them for behaving thus, the servants said unto him, "We do not consider that we are obliged to wait upon him that is about to leave us, but only upon him that arriveth, and we rejoice more in him that cometh than in him that goeth away, because we are accustomed to receive travellers only." Then the poet, wondering at their intelligence, said, "Ye are much more worthy of praise than your master."

CCCCXXVIII. A certain lawyer related [the following story]. "There were three of us students together, and each of us invested ten [talents] of silver. With their money my companions bought houses, and vineyards, and gardens, but I spent mine on my own wants

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and in making sundry and divers gifts to the king's servants. And after a little time it was discovered that a robbery had been committed, and the king commanded them to confiscate everything which we possessed, and to shut us all up in prison. Whereupon the king's servants having made entreaty and supplication on my behalf, they brought me out again, but behold, my former companions are still languishing in restraint, and they are begging for alms."


107:1 I.e., £ 1500, if we reckon the zûzâ at sixpence.

Next: The Thirteenth Chapter: Stories of Misers