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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 Fifteenth Chapter


CCCCLXXXVII. To a certain comedian it was said, "When a cock riseth up in the early morning hours, why doth he hold one foot in the air?" He replied, "If he should lift up both feet together he would fall down."

CCCCLXXXVIII. Another comedian said, "If it be only those that are weary and heavy-laden who are to enter Paradise, as our Lord said 1, there is nothing that who will go in before the harp, for in this world he endureth much trial and tribulation. His throat is squeezed, his ear is twisted, his belly is smitten, and when he is old he is thrown into the fire."

CCCCLXXXIX. Another actor said, "When I was young and was learning the actor's art, my master used to say to me, 'Take heed and learn well how thou mayest become used to do the exact opposite of the words which are spoken to thee, that is to say, if people say unto thee, 'Go, thou must come,' and when they say unto thee, 'Come, thou must go.' And in the morning he himself used to say, 'Good evening,' and in the evening, 'Good morning.' And it came to pass one day that having been into the king's presence and made him laugh, the king commanded them to write him an order on the Treasury

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to give him a thousand pieces of silver. Now when he had taken the paper he came out, to me and gave it to me, saying, 'Collect [the money] for me.' And I went straightway and soaked the paper in water, and when I had brought it to him it was torn into shreds; and the guards would not let him go into the king's presence again in order that he might give him another order. Then, being greatly wroth, he said to me, 'Go then utterly to perdition, for thou hast no longer any need of me.'"

CCCCXC. Another actor used to say, "With one small experiment I can vanquish the believer who saith that everything, both of good and of evil, cometh from God, and that man hath no power to do anything of himself." And when it was said to him, "How is this?" he said, I will lift up my hand over a man's neck, and I will ask him, 'Am I able to smite thy neck, or not?' If he saith, 'Yes,' behold he hath repudiated what he confesseth; and if he saith 'No,' I will smite him and shew him that I have the power to do so."

CCCCXCI. Unto another actor who was lame it was said, "What is the cause [of thy lameness]?" He replied, "I wish to go forth into the country to-morrow, but I shall not get far if a thorn run into my foot."

CCCCXCII. Another actor said, "I and my brother were twins, and we both came forth from the womb at one time. He hath become a merchant whilst I am a wandering beggar. How then can the opinions of the astronomers be held to be true? This proof alone is quite sufficient to shew their falsehood."

CCCCXCIII. Another actor was eating his supper with his friend, whose wife waited upon them, when straightway there fell in front of them a pebble from

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the roof, and then another and another. And looking up he said to his handmaiden, "Go up to the roof and see if the sun hath set;" and having gone up and tarried for a season, she came down and said, "Yes." His friend then said to him, "Didst thou not know that the sun had set and that darkness reigned?" And he answered, saying, "Yes, how could I help knowing it? But unless I had made the girl go up with some such excuse as this to those who wanted her, they would never have ceased calling her and making signs to her to go up. Dost thou understand?" He said to him, "Yes, I understand."

CCCCXCIV. Whilst another comic actor was in the company of a judge, a certain woman came in with her face covered, and her eyes, which were very beautiful, alone were visible; and she began to weep and to make railing accusations against her adversary. And the actor said to the judge, "Believe [me], this woman is an evil-speaking person, but her eyes proclaim her to be suffering oppression." And having spoken further and at great length she uncovered her face, and behold she had on her face a most hideous nose [as flat] as a sixpence; and when he had eyed her closely the actor said to the judge, "Nay, my lord, although her eyes shew that she is an injured woman, yet her nose testifieth that she is a liar and an abominable person, and she is not worthy that any man should shew pity upon her."

CCCCXCV. Another actor whilst eating with his children at table [observed] that they seized their meat before he could do so, and ate it, and he said to them, "Take heed, now, for the Law commandeth [you, "saying], 'Honour thy father and thy mother,' now, as

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far as I am concerned, ye may curse me a thousand times; but do not then take a morsel of meat before I have done so."

CCCCXCVI. Another actor was asked, "What do comic actors resemble?" He replied, "A man whose left hand is filled with filth, and [who hath] his right hand [stretched out for] 1 alms, and [who saith] 'yes,' and 'no?' If ye do not 2 say to him 'Take,' he causeth pollution 3."

CCCXCVII. Another actor having taken money on loan from a certain man denied [that he had done so], and having been brought before a judge, the judge said to the owner of the money, "Hast thou any witnesses?" And the lender said, "No." The judge said to the actor, "Swear now to me that thou hast not received the money," and the actor replied, "If thou wilt allow it, prithee let my brother swear for me, for I know certainly that he hath not taken anything."

CCCCXC VIII. Unto another actor it was said, "Dost thou wish that a dînâr might be given to thee now?" And he said, "Yes, only stop them from giving me twenty stripes with sticks." The people said to him, "Why?" He said to them, "Because I know that the children of men of this age never give for nothing."

CCCCXCIX. Another actor was going about in Sebastia (i.e., Sîwâs) in the winter season dressed in a new flaxen garment, and a certain man said to him, "Give me this tunic of thine and thou wilt still have thy cloak, and thy Christ commanded thee to give both thy tunic

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and thy cloak to whosoever asked thee for them 1." And he replied, "Let the mind of Christ be far from me on this matter! For this commandment was [not] given by Him to the people of Sebastia in the winter season, although it may have been given to the people of Palestine in the summer season."

D. Another actor was quarrelling with a shopkeeper called Zakrôn, who said to him, "Art thou not ashamed of me? Thy mother was like a sister to me at the time when thou wert a child among us." And being much offended the actor went to his mother and said to her, "My mother, knowest thou Zakrôn the shop-keeper?" And she said "Dost thou mean Zakrôn the son of Isaac?" And the actor said, "Now I believe that the man did not lie in what he said, I did imagine that thou couldst never have known him, but behold, thou hast known his father also."

DI. Mimus alius interrogatus, "Quis tibi foramen istud perfossit, quod in ano geris?" respondit, "Idem qui matri tuae duo foramina, alterum in parte anteriore, alterum a tergo."

DII. Another actor went into his house and found a man with his wife and the door wide open; and he said to the man, "What a senseless dolt thou art to imagine that this woman doth not know the difference between good and evil; art thou in reality thus wanting in sense?"

DIII. Another actor saw his wife halfway up a ladder, and swore that he would never again have any more to do with her, whether she came down or whether she went up. And when the woman heard this she threw herself down from the ladder on the ground,

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and said, "Behold, I did not come down, and I did not go up, but I fell down." Her husband said to her, "Believe me, if only the people of the city were acquainted with thee they would certainly hire thee to teach them cunning ways of making their decisions."

DIV. When another actor was drunk his wife said to him, "I wish to God that He would make the drinking of wine abominable in thy sight." And he said to her, "And I also wish that he would make sweet-meats, and cakes, and dainty foods abominable in thy sight, for behold thou hast ruined my house by the buying of flour, and dripping, and honey."

DV. Mimus alius quidam deformem quamdam viduam uxorem duxerat interrogatus, "Qualis sit ista femina," regessit, "Vaginae latitudine aream Arani 1 refert, frigiditate autem Montem Libanum."

DVI. Another actor was asked if it were possible for a child to be born to a man seventy years old, and he replied, "Yes, if he hath a neighbour handy aged thirty."

DVII. The wife of another actor being with child looked at her husband's ugly face and said, "Woe is me if the child which I carry in my womb resembleth thee." And he said, "Nay, but woe be to thee if he doth not resemble me, for thou shalt no longer eat my bread, and I will send thee away to him whom the child shall resemble."

DVIII. Another actor saw a Jew who had become a Christian and who was not leading a very good life, and he said to him, "O thou who didst provoke Moses to wrath, and who dost not please Christ, go now to Muhammed. Perhaps, however, thou wilt die on thy first coming to him, and before thou hast time to

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provoke him to wrath, for I know that if thou wert converted to him for long thou wouldst anger him."

DIX. When the neighbour of another actor wanted from him a spoon, he said, "I only wish that we had something which we could eat in our fingers."

DX. Whilst another actor was eating fish and milk it was said to him, "Art thou not afraid to put milk and fish into thy stomach together?" And he replied, "How can the fish be sensitive to the milk seeing that he is dead already?"

DXI. Another actor was quarrelling with his wife whom he wished to put away from him, and she said to him, "Remember the very long time wherein we have lived together." And he said to her, "Believe me, thou hast never committed any [greater] folly than this, for thou hast tarried too long with me, and behold I am sated with thee, and I hate thee."

DXII. Once when it was winter another actor said to his wife, "Make me a key, for I greatly desire it." His wife said to him, "Whatever stores have we which need [locking up with] a key?" And he replied, "The coldness of the air which will freeze them, and behold the place will be ready for the time when we prepare flesh and vinegar 1, and salt, and wood."

DXIII. As another actor was going into a place where there were some drunken men they struck him, and when it was said to him, "Why dost thou not curse them?" he said, "They are drunken men and would not understand curses, and therefore I am not going to waste my abuse upon them in vain."

DXIV. Another actor went into his house and found

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a sieve laid upon his couch, and he went and hung himself up on the peg in the wall. His wife said to him, "What is this? Art thou possessed of a devil?" And he said to her, "Nay, but when I saw the sieve in my place, I went to its place."

DXV. A certain woman asked her neighbour, saying, "Why should a man have power to buy a handmaiden and to lie with her and to do whatsoever he pleaseth with her, while a woman hath no power to do any such things freely and openly?" And she said to her, "Because the kings, and the judges, and the lawgivers are all men; and they have therefore acted the parts of advocates of their own causes and have oppressed the women."

DXVI. Another actor went to a certain merchant and begged him to lend him a hundred silver zûzê, and he said to him, "What wilt thou deposit with me as surety?" And the actor said, "I have no pledge [to leave], but I will write thee an acknowledgment, so that at the time of payment if I do not produce witnesses [to swear] that I have paid thee I will swear [it myself] without either reason or speech."

DXVII. Another actor said to his servant, "When thou goest on any business 1 and returnest, if it be ended satisfactorily say 'Wheat,' and if not say 'Barley. And one day when he had gone and returned, the actor asked him, "Wheat or Barley?" and he replied, "Something quite different." The actor said, "What meanest thou?" And the servant said, "Not only did they not perform the business on which I went, but they cursed me and beat me."

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DXVIII. Another actor heard a man saying to his companion, "When thou art travelling by night and wouldst that the dogs should not molest thee, shout in their faces the Psalm wherein occur the words, '[And save] my only one from the mouth of the dogs 1.' And he said to him, "Nay, but let him also take a stick in his hand, for all dogs do not understand the Psalms, although there may be among them some who read them."

DXIX. A judge commanded them to shave off the beard of an actor, and when the barber wanted to do so, he said to him, "Fill thy mouth with air." The actor said to him, "O fool, did the judge command thee to shave my beard or to teach me how to blow a whistle?"

DXX. Mimus alius interrogatus quot eduxisset liberos, regessit, "Deos obtestor uxorem meam saepius peperisse quam cum illâ concubuerim."

DXXI. Unto another actor who had been bitten by a dog it was said, "If thou wishest to know whether he was mad or not, give him bread made of fine wheaten flour; if he eateth it then he is mad." The actor said, "If I were to do this there is not a dog in the world but would bite me in order to be tried in this same way."

DXXII. Certain men told lies about another actor concerning some offences [which had been committed], and the judge took him and gave him fifty stripes with a stick, but some time afterwards, when the judge discovered that the men had accused him falsely, he said to the actor, "I punished thee by mistake." The

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actor said, "Nay, but keep an account of my stripes by thee, so that when I in .very deed do commit some offence, thou mayest reckon them as my punishment and not inflict chastisement upon me afresh."

DXXIII. Unto another actor it was said, "What sayest thou to some cakes fried in butter and honey?" The actor said, "What am I able to say? But indeed this I know of a certainty. If Moses the prophet had gone into Pharaoh's presence with cakes fried in butter and honey, the king would have believed his words straightway; but since he went in with a rod, Pharaoh is not to be blamed overmuch because he did not believe, for he was a king and was angry."

DXXIV. Another actor who hated the egg plant, having been invited by a certain nobleman, found that all his meats were made therewith; and he said to the servant, "Give me some water that I may drink, that is, if there be no egg plant in it."

DXXV. Another actor was invited to a feast by a certain nobleman who began to eat the yelks of hard-boiled eggs and to set the white of the eggs before the actor to eat. And the actor said, "May God have mercy on the sphere wherein all exactitude is found," that is to say wherein the yelk and the white are bound closely together.

DXXVI. Another actor went to the house of a certain rich man who was sick, and enquired concerning his illness, and the sick man said to him, "Boils have broken out upon me in a loathsome place." The actor said, "I do not see any in thy face," meaning "thy face is a loathsome place."

DXXVII. Another actor, who was sitting at meat with a certain miserly nobleman, let fall some of his

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food on to his garments, and the nobleman said to the servants, "Wash the meat off his garments for him." The actor said, "Thy meat doth not need to be washed off," that is to say, "there is no grease in it."

DXXVIII. Another actor had a wife whose face was very ugly, and one rainy and gloomy day she said to him, "How can one use such a day as this advantageously?" He said to her, "In divorce and separation."

DXXIX. Unto another actor it was said, "Is wheat flour very dear in the market to-day?" And he replied, "I never asked, for I only buy baked bread."

DXXX. When another actor saw a man who had sore eyes, he said, "With what dost thou treat the disease in thine eyes?" And he replied, "With the singing of Psalms and with the prayers of my mother who is a nun." The actor made answer, "These are very excellent things indeed, but a little antimony is needed with them."

DXXXI. Another actor said, "For six kinds of men it is not good to drink wine: for him who when singing is a fool; for him who reclineth at meat on his right side; for him who eateth green herbs overmuch; for him who drinketh of the first cup; for him who rejoiceth in suppers; and for him who is in the habit of defiling his garment."

DXXXI. Another actor was sick, and when his master, who was a very foolish man, went out he asked him, "What wouldst thou that I should do for thee?" he replied, "I very much want thee not to come into my presence again."


129:1 St. Matthew xi. 28.

132:1 Supply some word like ### or ###.

132:2 Read ###.

132:3 I.e., "If you will not give me something I will throw dirt at you."

133:1 St. Matthew v. 40.

134:1 = I.e., Ornan or Araunah. See 2 Samuel xxiv. 16; 1 Chronicles xxi. 18.

135:1 For ### read ###.

136:1 I.e., Arab. ###.

137:1 Psalm xxii. 20.

Next: The Sixteenth Chapter: Stories of Clowns and Simpletons