Flowers from a Persian Garden and Other Papers
by W. A. Clouston
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The Talmudist thus explains this beautiful parable of the Desolate Island: The wealthy man of kindly disposition is God, and the slave to whom he gave freedom is the soul which he gives to man. The island at which the slave arrives is the world: naked and weeping he appears to his parents, who are the inhabitants that greet him warmly and make him their king. The friends who tell him of the ways of the country are his good inclinations. The year of his reign is his span of life, and the desolate island is the future world, which he must beautify by good deeds—the workmen and materials—or else live lonely and desolate for ever.[91]

[91] This is similar to the 10th parable in the spiritual romance of Barlaam and Joasaph, written in Greek, probably in the first half of the 7th century, and ascribed to a monk called John of Damascus. Most of the matter comprised in this interesting work (which has not been translated into English) was taken from well-known Buddhist sources, and M. Zotenberg and other eminent scholars are of the opinion that it was first composed, probably in Egypt, before the promulgation of Islam. The 10th parable is to this effect: The citizens of a certain great city had an ancient custom, to take a stranger and obscure man, who knew nothing of the city's laws and traditions, and to make him king with absolute power for a year's space; then to rise against him all unawares, while he, all thoughtless, was revelling and squandering and deeming the kingdom his for ever; and stripping off his royal robes, lead him naked in procession through the city, and banish him to a long-uninhabited and great island, where, worn down for want of food and raiment, he bewailed this unexpected change. Now, according to this custom, a man was chosen whose mind was furnished with much understanding, who was not led away by sudden prosperity, and was thoughtful and earnest in soul as to how he should best order his affairs. By close questioning, he learned from a wise counsellor the citizens' custom, and the place of exile, and was instructed how he might secure himself. When he knew this, and that he must soon go to the island and leave his acquired and alien kingdom to others, he opened the treasures of which he had for the time free and unrestricted use, and took an abundant quantity of gold and silver and precious stones, and giving them to some trusty servants sent them before him to the island. At the appointed year's end the citizens rose and sent him naked into exile, like those before him. But the other foolish and flitting kings had perished miserably of hunger, while he who had laid up that treasure beforehand lived in lusty abundance and delight, fearless of the turbulent citizens, and felicitating himself on his wise forethought. Think, then, the city this vain and deceitful world, the citizens the principalities and powers of the demons, who lure us with the bait of pleasure, and make us believe enjoyment will last for ever, till the sudden peril of death is upon us.—This parable (which seems to be of purely Hebrew origin) is also found in the old Spanish story-book El Conde Lucanor.

Closely allied to the foregoing is the characteristic Jewish parable of

The Man and his Three Friends.

A certain man had three friends, two of whom he loved dearly, but the other he lightly esteemed. It happened one day that the king commanded his presence at court, at which he was greatly alarmed, and wished to procure an advocate. Accordingly he went to the two friends whom he loved: one flatly refused to accompany him, the other offered to go with him as far as the king's gate, but no farther. In his extremity he called upon the third friend, whom he least esteemed, and he not only went willingly with him, but so ably defended him before the king that he was acquitted. In like manner, says the Talmudist, every man has three friends when Death summons him to appear before his Creator. His first friend, whom he loves most, namely, his money, cannot go with him a single step; his second, relations and neighbours, can only accompany him to the grave, but cannot defend him before the Judge; while his third friend, whom he does not highly esteem, the law and his good works, goes with him before the king, and obtains his acquittal.[92]

[92] This is the 9th parable in the romance of Barlaam and Joasaph, where it is told without any variation.

* * * * *

Another striking and impressive parable akin to the two immediately preceding is this of

The Garments.

A king distributed amongst his servants various costly garments. Now some of these servants were wise and some were foolish. And those that were wise said to themselves: "The king may call again for the garments; let us therefore take care they do not get soiled." But the fools took no manner of care of theirs, and did all sorts of work in them, so that they became full of spots and grease. Some time afterwards the king called for the garments. The wise servants brought theirs clean and neat, but the foolish servants brought theirs in a sad state, ragged and unclean. The king was pleased with the first, and said: "Let the clean garments be placed in the treasury, and let their keepers depart in peace. As for the unclean garments, they must be washed and purified, and their foolish keepers must be cast into prison."—This parable is designed to illustrate the passage in Eccles., xii, 7, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God, who gave it"; which words "teach us to remember that God gave us the soul in a state of innocence and purity, and that it is therefore our duty to return it unto him in the same state as he gave it unto us—pure and undefiled."

Solomon's Choice

of Wisdom, in preference to all other precious things, is thus finely illustrated: A certain king had an officer whom he fondly loved. One day he desired his favourite to choose anything that he could give, and it would at once be granted him. The officer considered that if he asked the king for gold and silver and precious stones, these would be given him in abundance; then he thought that if he had a more exalted station it would be granted; at last he resolved to ask the king for his daughter, since with such a bride both riches and honours would also be his. In like manner did Solomon pray, "Give thy servant an understanding heart," when the Lord said to him, "What shall I give thee?" (1st Kings, iii, 5, 9.)

But perhaps the most beautiful and touching of all the Talmudic parables is the following (Polano's version), in which Israel is likened to a bride, waiting sadly, yet hopefully, for the coming of her spouse:

Bride and Bridegroom.

There was once a man who pledged his dearest faith to a maiden beautiful and true. For a time all passed pleasantly, and the maiden lived in happiness. But then the man was called from her side, and he left her. Long she waited, but still he did not return. Friends pitied her, and rivals mocked her; tauntingly they pointed to her and said: "He has left thee, and will never come back." The maiden sought her chamber, and read in secret the letters which her lover had written to her—the letters in which he promised to be ever faithful, ever true. Weeping, she read them, but they brought comfort to her heart; she dried her eyes and doubted not. A joyous day dawned for her: the man she loved returned, and when he learned that others had doubted, while she had not, he asked her how she had preserved her faith; and she showed his letters to him, declaring her eternal trust. [In like manner] Israel, in misery and captivity, was mocked by the nations; her hopes of redemption were made a laughing-stock; her sages scoffed at; her holy men derided. Into her synagogues, into her schools, went Israel. She read the letters which her God had written, and believed in the holy promises which they contained. God will in time redeem her; and when he says: "How could you alone be faithful of all the mocking nations?" she will point to the law and answer: "Had not thy law been my delight, I should long since have perished in my affliction."[93]

[93] Psalm cxix, 92.—By the way, it is probably known to most readers that the twenty-two sections into which this grand poem is divided are named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; but from the translation given in our English Bible no one could infer that in the original every one of the eight verses in each section begins with the letter after which it is named, thus forming a very long acrostic.

* * * * *

In the account of the Call of Abraham given in the Book of Genesis, xii, 1-3, we are not told that his people were all idolaters; but in the Book of Joshua, xxiv, 1-2, it is said that the great successor of Moses, when he had "waxed old and was stricken with age," assembled the tribes of Israel, at Shechem, and said to the people: "Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nachor; and they served other gods." The sacred narrative does not state the circumstances which induced Abraham to turn away from the worship of false deities, but the information is furnished by the Talmudists—possibly from ancient oral tradition—in this interesting tale of

Abraham and the Idols.

Abraham's father Terah, who dwelt in Ur of the Chaldees, was not only an idolater, but a maker of idols. Having occasion to go a journey of some distance, he instructed Abraham how to conduct the business of idol-selling during his absence. The future founder of the Hebrew nation, however, had already obtained a knowledge of the true and living God, and consequently held the practice of idolatry in the utmost abhorrence. Accordingly, whenever any one came to buy an idol Abraham inquired his age, and upon his answering, "I am fifty (or sixty) years old," he would exclaim, "Woe to the man of fifty who would worship the work of man's hands!" and his father's customers went away shamefaced at the rebuke. But, not content with this mode of showing his contempt for idolatry, Abraham resolved to bring matters to a crisis before his father returned home; and an opportunity was presented for his purpose one day when a woman came to Terah's house with a bowl of fine flour, which she desired Abraham to place as a votive offering before the idols. Instead of doing this, however, Abraham took a hammer and broke all the idols into fragments excepting the largest, into whose hands he then placed the hammer. On Terah's return he discovered the destruction of his idols, and angrily demanded of Abraham, who had done the mischief. "There came hither a woman," replied Abraham, "with a bowl of fine flour, which, as she desired, I set before the gods, whereupon they disputed among themselves who should eat first, and the tallest god broke all the rest into pieces with the hammer." "What fable is this thou art telling me?" exclaimed Terah. "As for the god thou speakest of, is he not the work of my own hands?' Did I not carve him out of the timber of the tree which I cut down in the wilderness? How, then, could he have done this evil? Verily thou hast broken my idols!" "Consider, my father," said Abraham, "what it is thou sayest—that I am capable of destroying the gods which thou dost worship!" Then Terah took and delivered him to Nimrod, who said to Abraham: "Let us worship the fire." To which Abraham replied: "Rather the water that quenches the fire." "Well, the water." "Rather the cloud which carries the water." "Well, the cloud." "Rather the wind that scatters the cloud." "Well, the wind." "Rather man, for he endures the wind." "Thou art a babbler!" exclaimed Nimrod. "I worship the fire, and will cast thee into it. Perchance the God whom thou dost adore will deliver thee from thence." Abraham was accordingly thrown into a heated furnace, but God saved him.[94]

[94] After Abraham had walked to and fro unscathed amidst the fierce flames for three days, the faggots were suddenly transformed into a blooming garden of roses and fruit-trees and odoriferous plants.—This legend is introduced into the Kuran, and Muslim writers, when they expatiate on the almighty power of Allah, seldom omit to make reference to Nimrod's flaming furnace being turned into a bed of roses.

* * * * *

Alexander the Great is said to have wept because there were no more worlds for him to conquer; and truly says the sage Hebrew King, "The grave and destruction can never have enough, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied" (Prov. xxvii, 20), a sentiment which the following tale, or parable, is designed to exemplify:

The Vanity of Ambition.

Pursuing his journey through dreary deserts and uncultivated ground, Alexander came at last to a small rivulet, whose waters glided peacefully along their shelving banks. Its smooth, unruffled surface was the image of contentment, and seemed in its silence to say, "This is the abode of tranquility." All was still: not a sound was heard save soft murmuring tones which seemed to whisper in the ear of the weary traveller, "Come, and partake of nature's bounty," and to complain that such an offer should be made in vain. To a contemplative mind, such a scene might have suggested a thousand delightful reflections. But what charms could it have for the soul of Alexander, whose breast was filled with schemes of ambition and conquest; whose eye was familiarised with rapine and slaughter; and whose ears were accustomed to the clash of arms—to the groans of the wounded and the dying? Onward, therefore, he marched. Yet, overcome by fatigue and hunger, he was soon obliged to halt. He seated himself on the bank of the river, took a draught of the water, which he found of a very fine flavour and most refreshing. He then ordered some salt fish, with which he was well provided, to be brought to him. These he caused to be dipped in the stream, in order to take off the briny taste, and was greatly surprised to find them emit a fine fragrance. "Surely," said he, "this river, which possesses such uncommon qualities, must flow from some very rich and happy country."

Following the course of the river, he at length arrived at the gates of Paradise. The gates were shut. He knocked, and, with his usual impetuosity, demanded admittance. "Thou canst not be admitted here," exclaimed a voice from within; "this gate is the Lord's." "I am the Lord—the Lord of the earth," rejoined the impatient chief. "I am Alexander the Conqueror. Will you not admit me?" "No," was the answer; "here we know of no conquerors, save such as conquer their passions: None but the just can enter here." Alexander endeavoured in vain to enter the abode of the blessed—neither entreaties nor menaces availed. Seeing all his attempts fruitless, he addressed himself to the guardian of Paradise, and said: "You know I am a great king, who has received the homage of nations. Since you will not admit me, give me at least some token that I may show an astonished world that I have been where no mortal has ever been before me." "Here, madman," said the guardian of Paradise—"here is something for thee. It may cure the maladies of thy distempered soul. One glance at it may teach thee more wisdom than thou hast hitherto derived from all thy former instructors. Now go thy ways."

Alexander took the present with avidity, and repaired to his tent. But what was his confusion and surprise to find, on examining his present, that it was nothing but a fragment of a human skull. "And is this," exclaimed he, "the mighty gift that they bestow on kings and heroes? Is this the fruit of so much toil and danger and care?" Enraged and disappointed, he threw it on the ground. "Great king," said one of the learned men who were present, "do not despise this gift. Contemptible as it may appear in thine eyes, it yet possesses some extraordinary qualities, of which thou mayest soon be convinced, if thou wilt but cause it to be weighed against gold or silver." Alexander ordered this to be done. A pair of scales were brought. The skull was placed in one, a quantity of gold in the other; when, to the astonishment of the beholders, the skull over-balanced the gold. More gold was added, yet still the skull preponderated. In short, the more gold there was put in the one scale the lower sank that which contained the skull. "Strange," exclaimed Alexander, "that so small a portion of matter should outweigh so large a mass of gold! Is there nothing that will counterpoise it?" "Yes," answered the philosophers, "a very little matter will do it." They then took some earth and covered the skull with it, when immediately down went the gold, and the opposite scale ascended. "This is very extraordinary," said Alexander, astonished. "Can you explain this phenomenon?" "Great king," said the sages, "this fragment is the socket of a human eye, which, though small in compass, is yet unbounded in its desires. The more it has, the more it craves. Neither gold nor silver nor any other earthly possession can ever satisfy it. But when it is once laid in the grave and covered with a little earth, there is an end to its lust and ambition."

* * * * *

Shakspeare's well-known masterly description of the Seven Ages of Man, which he puts into the mouth of the melancholy Jaques (As You Like It, ii, 7), was anticipated by Rabbi Simon, the son of Eliezer, in this Talmudic description of

The Seven Stages of Human Life.

Seven times in one verse did the author of Ecclesiastes make use of the word vanity, in allusion to the seven stages of human life.[95]

[95] Eccles., i, 2. The word Vanity (remarks Hurwitz, the translator) occurs twice in the plural, which the Rabbi considered as equivalent to four, and three times in the singular, making altogether seven.

The first commences in the first year of human existence, when the infant lies like a king on a soft couch, with numerous attendants about him, all ready to serve him, and eager to testify their love and attachment by kisses and embraces.

The second commences about the age of two or three years, when the darling child is permitted to crawl on the ground, and, like an unclean animal, delights in dirt and filth.

Then at the age of ten, the thoughtless boy, without reflecting on the past or caring for the future, jumps and skips about like a young kid on the enamelled green, contented to enjoy the present moment.

The fourth stage begins about the age of twenty, when the young man, full of vanity and pride, begins to set off his person by dress; and, like a young unbroken horse, prances and gallops about in search of a wife.

Then comes the matrimonial state, when the poor man, like a patient ass, is obliged, however reluctantly, to toil and labour for a living.

Behold him now in the parental state, when surrounded by helpless children craving his support and looking to him for bread. He is as bold, as vigilant, and as fawning, too, as the faithful dog; guarding his little flock, and snatching at everything that comes in his way, in order to provide for his offspring.

At last comes the final stage, when the decrepit old man, like the unwieldy though most sagacious elephant, becomes grave, sedate, and distrustful. He then also begins to hang down his head towards the ground, as if surveying the place where all his vast schemes must terminate, and where ambition and vanity are finally humbled to the dust.

* * * * *

But the Talmudist, in his turn, was forestalled by Bhartrihari, an ancient Hindu sage, one of whose three hundred apothegms has been thus rendered into English by Sir Monier Williams:

Now for a little while a child; and now An amorous youth; then for a season turned Into a wealthy householder; then, stripped Of all his riches, with decrepit limbs And wrinkled frame, man creeps towards the end Of life's erratic course; and, like an actor, Passes behind Death's curtain out of view.

Here, however, the Indian philosopher describes human life as consisting of only four scenes; but, like our own Shakspeare, he compares the world to a stage and man to a player. An epigram preserved in the Anthologia also likens the world to a theatre and human life to a drama:

This life a theatre we well may call, Where every actor must perform with art; Or laugh it through, and make a farce of all, Or learn to bear with grace a tragic part.

It is surely both instructive and interesting thus to discover resemblances in thought and expression in the writings of men of comprehensive intellect, who lived in countries and in times far apart.



"Concise sentences," says Bacon, "like darts, fly abroad and make impressions, while long discourses are flat things, and not regarded." And Seneca has remarked that "even rude and uncultivated minds are struck, as it were, with those short but weighty sentences which anticipate all reasoning by flashing truths upon them at once." Wise men in all ages seem to have been fully aware of the advantage of condensing into pithy sentences the results of their observations of the course of human life; and the following selection of sayings of the Jewish Fathers, taken from the Pirke Aboth (the 41st treatise of the Talmud, compiled by Nathan of Babylon, A.D. 200), and other sources, will be found to be quite as sagacious as the aphorisms of the most celebrated philosophers of India and Greece:

This world is like an ante-chamber in comparison with the world to come; prepare thyself in the ante-chamber, therefore, that thou mayest enter into the dining-room.

Be humble to a superior, and affable to an inferior, and receive all men with cheerfulness.

Be not scornful to any, nor be opposed to all things; for there is no man that hath not his hour, nor is there anything which hath not its place.

Attempt not to appease thy neighbour in the time of his anger, nor comfort him in the time when his dead is lying before him, nor ask of him in the time of his vowing, nor desire to see him in the time of his calamity.[96]

[96] "Do not," says Nakhshabi, "try to move by persuasion the soul that is afflicted with grief. The heart that is overwhelmed with the billows of sorrow will, by slow degrees, return to itself."

Hold no man responsible for his utterances in times of grief.

Who gains wisdom? He who is willing to receive instruction from all sources. Who is rich? He who is content with his lot. Who is deserving of honour? He who honoureth mankind. Who is the mighty man? He who subdueth his temper.[97]

[97] "He who subdueth his temper is a mighty man," says the Talmudist; and Solomon had said so before him: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Prov. xvi, 32). A curious parallel to these words is found in an ancient Buddhistic work, entitled Buddha's Dhammapada, or Path of Virtue, as follows: "If one man conquer in battle a thousand times a thousand men, and if another conquer himself, he is the greatest of conquerors." (Professor Max Mueller's translation, prefixed to Buddhagosha's Parables, translated by Captain Rogers.)

When a liar speaks the truth, he finds his punishment in being generally disbelieved.

The physician who prescribes gratuitously gives a worthless prescription.

He who hardens his heart with pride softens his brains with the same.

The day is short, the labour vast; but the labourers are still slothful, though the reward is great, and the Master presseth for despatch.[98]

[98] Cf. Saadi, ante, page 41, "Life is snow," etc.

He who teacheth a child is like one who writeth on new paper; and he who teacheth old people is like one who writeth on blotted paper.[99]

[99] Locke was anticipated not only by the Talmudist, as above, but long before him by Aristotle, who termed the infant soul tabula rasa, which was in all likelihood borrowed by the author of the Persian work on the practical philosophy of the Muhammedans, entitled Akhlak-i-Jalaly, who says: "The minds of children are like a clear tablet, equally open to all inscriptions."

First learn and then teach.

Teach thy tongue to say, "I do not know."

The birds of the air despise a miser.

If thy goods sell not in one city, take them to another.

Victuals prepared by many cooks will be neither cold nor hot.[100]

[100] Too many cooks spoil the broth.—English Proverb.

Two pieces of money in a large jar make more noise than a hundred.[101]

[101] Two farthings and a thimble In a tailor's pocket make a jingle.—English Saying.

Into the well which supplies thee with water cast no stones.[102]

[102] "Don't speak ill of the bridge that bore you safe over the stream" seems to be the European equivalent.

When love is intense, both find room enough upon one bench; afterwards, they may find themselves cramped in a space of sixty cubits.[103]

[103] Python, of Byzantium, was a very corpulent man. He once said to the citizens, in addressing them to make friends after a political dispute: "Gentlemen, you see how stout I am. Well, I have a wife at home who is still stouter. Now, when we are good friends, we can sit together on a very small couch; but when we quarrel, I do assure you, the whole house cannot contain us."—Athenaeus, xii.

The place honours not the man; it is the man who gives honour to the place.

Few are they who see their own faults.[104]

[104] Compare Burns:

O wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!

Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend's friend has a friend: be discreet.[105]

[105] See the Persian aphorisms on revealing secrets, ante, p. 48.—Burns, in his "Epistle to a Young Friend," says:

Aye free aff hand your story tell When wi' a bosom crony, But still keep something to yoursel' Ye scarcely tell to ony.

Poverty sits as gracefully upon some people as a red saddle upon a white horse.

Rather be thou the tail among lions than the head among foxes.[106]

[106] The very reverse of our English proverb, "Better to be the head of the commonalty than the tail of the gentry."

The thief who finds no opportunity to steal considers himself an honest man.

Use thy noble vase to-day, for to-morrow it may perchance be broken.

Descend a step in choosing thy wife; ascend a step in choosing thy friend.

A myrtle even in the dust remains a myrtle.[107]

[107] Saadi has the same sentiment in his Gulislan—see ante, p. 49.

Every one whose wisdom exceedeth his deeds, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are many and its roots few; and the wind cometh and plucketh it up, and overturneth it on its face.[108]

[108] See also Saadi's aphorisms on precept and practice, ante, p. 47.

If a word spoken in time be worth one piece of money, silence in its place is worth two.[109]

[109] Here we have a variant of Thomas Carlyle's favourite maxim, "Speech is silvern; silence is golden."

Silence is the fence round wisdom.[110]

[110] "Nothing is so good for an ignorant man as silence; and if he were sensible of this he would not be ignorant."—Saadi.

A saying ascribed to Esop has been frequently cited with admiration. The sage Chilo asked Esop what God was doing, and he answered that he was "depressing the proud and exalting the humble." A parallel to this is presented in the answer of Rabbi Jose to a woman who asked him what God had been doing since the creation: "He makes ladders on which he causes the poor to ascend and the rich to descend," in other words, exalts the lowly and humbles the haughty.

* * * * *

The lucid explanation of the expression, "I, God, am a jealous God," given by a Rabbi, has been thus elegantly translated by Coleridge:[111]

[111] The Friend, ed. 1850, vol. ii, p. 249.

"Your God," said a heathen philosopher to a Hebrew Rabbi, "in his Book calls himself a jealous God, who can endure no other god besides himself, and on all occasions makes manifest his abhorrence of idolatry. How comes it, then, that he threatens and seems to hate the worshippers of false gods more than the false gods themselves?"

"A certain king," said the Rabbi, "had a disobedient son. Among other worthless tricks of various kinds, he had the baseness to give his dogs his father's names and titles. Should the king show anger with the prince or his dogs?"

"Well-turned," replied the philosopher; but if God destroyed the objects of idolatry, he would take away the temptation to it."

"Yea," retorted the Rabbi; "if the fools worshipped such things only as were of no farther use than that to which their folly applied them—if the idol were always as worthless as the idolatry is contemptible. But they worship the sun, the moon, the host of heaven, the rivers, the sea, fire, air, and what not. Would you that the Creator, for the sake of those fools, should ruin his own works, and disturb the laws applied to nature by his own wisdom? If a man steal grain and sow it, should the seed not shoot up out of the earth because it was stolen? O no! The wise Creator lets nature run its own course, for its course is his own appointment. And what if the children of folly abuse it to evil? The day of reckoning is not far off, and men will then learn that human actions likewise reappear in their consequences by as certain a law as that which causes the green blade to rise up out of the buried cornfield."

* * * * *

Not less conclusive was the form of illustration employed by Rabbi Joshuah in answer to the emperor Trajan. "You teach," said Trajan, "that your God is everywhere. I should like to see him." "God's presence," replied the Rabbi, "is indeed everywhere, but he cannot be seen. No mortal can behold his glory." Trajan repeated his demand. "Well," said the Rabbi, "suppose we try, in the first place, to look at one of his ambassadors." The emperor consented, and Joshuah took him into the open air, and desired him to look at the sun in its meridian splendour. "I cannot," said Trajan; "the light dazzles me." "Thou canst not endure the light of one of his creatures," said the Rabbi, "yet dost thou expect to behold the effulgent glory of the Creator!"

* * * * *

Our selections from the sayings of the Hebrew Fathers might be largely extended, but we shall conclude them with the following: A Rabbi, being asked why God dealt out manna to the Israelites day by day, instead of giving them a supply sufficient for a year, or more, answered by a parable to this effect: There was once a king who gave a certain yearly allowance to his son, whom he saw, in consequence, but once a year, when he came to receive it; so the king changed his plan, and paid him his allowance daily, and thus had the pleasure of seeing his son each day. And so with the manna: had God given the people a supply for a year they would have forgotten their divine benefactor, but by sending them each day the requisite quantity, they had God constantly in their minds.

* * * * *

There can be no doubt that the Rabbis derived the materials of many of their legends and tales of Biblical characters from foreign sources; but their beautiful moral stories and parables, which "hide a rich truth in a tale's pretence," are probably for the most part of their own invention; and the fact that the Talmud was partially, if not wholly, translated into Arabic shortly after the settlement of the Moors in Spain sufficiently accounts for the early introduction of rabbinical legends into Muhammedan works, apart from those found in the Kuran.



In the apocryphal Revelation of Moses, which appears to be of Rabbinical extraction, Adam, when near his end, informs his sons; that, because of his transgression, God had laid upon his body seventy strokes, or plagues. The trouble of the first stroke was injury to the eyes; the trouble of the second stroke, of the hearing; and so on, in succession, all the strokes should overtake him. And Adam, thus speaking to his sons, groaned out loud, and said, "What shall I do? I am in great grief." And Eve also wept, saying: "My lord Adam, arise; give me the half of thy disease, and let me bear it, because through me this has happened to thee; through me thou art in distresses and troubles." And Adam said to Eve: "Arise, and go with our son Seth near Paradise, and put earth upon your heads, and weep, beseeching the Lord that he may have compassion upon me, and send his angel to Paradise, and give me of the tree out of which flows the oil, that thou mayest bring it unto me; and I shall anoint myself and have rest, and show thee the manner in which we were deceived at first."... And Seth went with his mother Eve near Paradise, and they wept there, beseeching God to send his angel to give them the Oil of Compassion. And God sent to them the archangel Michael, who said to them these words: "Seth, man of God, do not weary thyself praying in this supplication about the tree from which flows the oil to anoint thy father Adam; for it will not happen to thee now, but at the last times.... Do thou again go to thy father, since the measure of his life is fulfilled, saving three days."

The Revelation, or Apocalypse, of Moses, remarks Mr. Alex. Walker (from whose translation the foregoing is extracted: Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, and Revelations, 1870), "belongs rather to the Old Testament than to the New. We have been unable to find in it any reference to any Christian writing. In its form, too, it appears to be a portion of some larger work. Parts of it at least are of an ancient date, as it is very likely from this source that the celebrated legend of the Tree of Life and the Oil of Mercy was derived"—an account of which, from the German of Dr. Piper, is given in the Journal of Sacred Literature, October, 1864, vol. vi (N.S.), p. 30 ff.


When "our first parents" were expelled from Paradise, Adam fell upon the mountain in Ceylon which still retains his name ("Adam's Peak"), while Eve descended at Juddah, which is the port of Mecca, in Arabia. Seated on the pinnacle of the highest mountain in Ceylon, with the orisons of the angelic choirs still vibrating in his ears, the fallen progenitor of the human race had sufficient leisure to bewail his guilt, forbearing all food and sustenance for the space of forty days.[112] But Allah, whose mercy ever surpasses his indignation, and who sought not the death of the wretched penitent, then despatched to his relief the angel Gabriel, who presented him with a quantity of wheat, taken from that fatal tree[113] for which he had defied the wrath of his Creator, with the information that it was to be for food to him and to his children. At the same time he was directed to set it in the earth, and afterwards to grind it into flour. Adam obeyed, for it was part of his penalty that he should toil for sustenance; and the same day the corn sprang up and arrived at maturity, thus affording him an immediate resource against the evils of hunger and famine. For the benevolent archangel did not quit him until he had farther taught him how to construct a mill on the side of the mountain, to grind his corn, and also how to convert the flour into dough and bake it into bread.

[112] The number Forty occurs very frequently in the Bible (especially the Old Testament) in connection with important events, and also in Asiatic tales. It is, in fact, regarded with peculiar veneration alike by Jews and Muhammedans. See notes to my Group of Eastern Romances and Stories (1889), pp. 140 and 456.

[113] The "fruit of the forbidden tree" was not an apple, as we Westerns fondly believe, but wheat, say the Muslim doctors.

With regard to the forlorn associate of his guilt, from whom a long and painful separation constituted another article in the punishment of his disobedience, it is briefly related that, experiencing also for the first time the craving of hunger, she instinctively dipped her hand into the sea and brought out a fish, and laying it on a rock in the sun, thus prepared her first meal in this her state of despair and destitution.

Adam continued to deplore his guilt on the mountain for a period of one hundred years, and it is said that from his tears, with which he moistened the earth during this interval of remorse, there grew up that useful variety of plants and herbs which in after times by their medicinal qualities served to alleviate the afflictions of the human race; and to this circumstance is to be ascribed the fact that the most useful drugs in the materia medica continue to this day to be supplied from the peninsula of India and the adjoining islands. The angel Gabriel had now tamed the wild ox of the field, and Allah himself had discovered to Adam in the caverns of the same mountain that most important of minerals, iron, which he soon learned to fashion into a variety of articles necessary to the successful prosecution of his increasing labours. At the termination of one hundred years, consumed in toil and sorrow, Adam having been instructed by the angel Gabriel in a penitential formula by which he might hope yet to conciliate Allah, the justice of Heaven was satisfied, and his repentance was finally accepted by the Most High. The joy of Adam was now as intense as his previous sorrow had been extreme, and another century passed, during which the tears with which Adam—from very different emotions—now bedewed the earth were not less effectual in producing every species of fragrant and aromatic flower and shrub, to delight the eye and gratify the sense of smell by their odours, than they were formerly in the generation of medicinal plants to assuage the sufferings of humanity.

Tradition has ascribed to Adam a stature so stupendous that when he stood or walked his forehead brushed the skies; and it is stated that he thus partook in the converse of the angels, even after his fall. But this, by perpetually holding to his view the happiness which he had lost, instead of alleviating, contributed in a great degree to aggravate his misery, and to deprive him of all repose upon earth. Allah, therefore, in pity of his sufferings, shortened his stature to one hundred cubits, so that the harmony of the celestial hosts should no longer reach his ear.

Then Allah caused to be raised up for Adam a magnificent pavilion, or temple, constructed entirely of rubies, on the spot which is now occupied by the sacred Kaaba at Mecca, and which is in the centre of the earth and immediately beneath the throne of Allah. The forlorn Eve—whom Adam had almost forgotten amidst his own sorrows—in the course of her weary wanderings came to the palace of her spouse, and, once more united, they returned to Ceylon. But Adam revisited the sacred pavilion at Mecca every year until his death. And wherever he set his foot there arose, and exists to this day, some city, town, or village, or other place to indicate the presence of man and of human cultivation. The spaces between his footsteps—three days' journey—long remained barren wilderness.

On the twentieth day of that disorder which terminated the earthly existence of Adam, the divine will was revealed to him through the angel Gabriel, that he was to make an immediate bequest of his power as Allah's vicegerent on earth to Shayth, or Seth, the discreetest and most virtuous of all his sons, which having done, he resigned his soul to the Angel of Death on the following day. Seth buried his venerable parent on the summit of the mountain in Ceylon ("Adam's Peak"); but some writers assert that he was buried under Mount Abu Kebyss, about three miles from Mecca. Eve died a twelvemonth after her husband, and was buried in his grave. Noah conveyed their remains in the ark, and afterwards interred them in Jerusalem, at the spot afterwards known as Mount Calvary.

* * * * *

The foregoing is considerably abridged from An Essay towards the History of Arabia, antecedent to the Birth of Mahommed, arranged from the 'Tarikh Tebry' and other authentic sources, by Major David Price, London, 1824, pp. 4, 11.—We miss in this curious legend the brief but pathetic account of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, as found in the last two verses of the 3rd chapter of Genesis, which suggested to Milton the fine conclusion of his Paradise Lost: how "some natural tears they dropped," as the unhappy pair went arm-in-arm out of Paradise—and "the world was all before them, where to choose." Adam's prolonged residence at the top of a high mountain in Ceylon seems to be of purely Muhammedan invention; and assuredly the Arabian Prophet did not obtain from the renegade Jew who is said to have assisted him in the composition of the Kuran the "information" that Allah taught Adam the mystery of working in iron, since in the Book of Genesis (iv, 22) it is stated that Tubal-cain was "an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron," as his brother Jubal was "the father of all such as handle the harp and the organ" (21).—The disinterment of the bones of Adam and Eve by Noah before the Flood began and their subsequent burial at the spot on which Jerusalem was afterwards built, as also the stature of Adam, are, of course, derived from Jewish tradition.


The following interesting legend is taken from Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali's Observations on the Mussulmans of India (1832), vol. i, pp. 170-175. It was translated by her husband (an Indian Muslim) from a commentary on the history of Musa, or Moses, the great Hebrew lawgiver, and in all probability is of rabbinical origin:

When the prophet Musa—to whose spirit be peace!—was on earth, there lived near him a poor but remarkably religious man, who had for many years supported himself and his wife by the daily occupation of cutting wood for his richer neighbours, four small copper coins being the reward of his toil, which at best afforded the poor couple but a scanty meal after his day's exertions. One morning the Prophet Musa, passing the woodcutter, was thus addressed: "O Musa! Prophet of the Most High! behold I labour each day for my coarse and scanty meal. May it please thee, O Prophet! to make petition for me to our gracious God, that he may, in his mercy, grant me at once the whole supply for my remaining years, so that I shall enjoy one day of earthly happiness, and then, with my wife, be transferred to the place of eternal rest." Musa promised, and made the required petition. His prayer was thus answered from Mount Tor: "This man's life is long, O Musa! Nevertheless, if he be willing to surrender life when his supply is exhausted, tell him thy prayer is heard, the petition accepted, and the whole amount shall be found beneath his prayer-carpet after his morning prayers."

The woodcutter was satisfied when Musa told him the result of his petition, and, the first duties of the morning being performed, he failed not in looking for the promised gift, and to his surprise found a heap of silver coins in the place indicated. Calling his wife, he told her what he had acquired of the Lord through his holy prophet Musa, and they both agreed that it was very good to enjoy a short life of happiness on earth and depart in peace; although they could not help again and again recurring to the number of years on earth they had thus sacrificed. "We will make as many hearts rejoice as this the Lord's gift will permit," they both agreed; "and thus we shall secure in our future state the blessed abode promised to those who fulfil the commands of God in this life, since to-morrow it must close for us."

The day was spent in procuring and preparing provisions for the feast. The whole sum was expended on the best sorts of food, and the poor were made acquainted with the rich treat the woodcutter and his wife were cooking for their benefit. The food being cooked, allotments were made to each hungry applicant, and the couple reserved to themselves one good substantial meal, which was to be eaten only after the poor were all served and satisfied. It happened at the very moment they were seated to enjoy this their last meal, as they believed, a voice was heard, saying: "O friend! I have heard of your feast; I am late, yet it may be that you have still a little to spare, for I am hungry to my very heart. The blessing of God be on him who relieves my present sufferings from hunger!" The woodcutter and his wife agreed that it would be much better for them to go to Paradise with half a meal than to leave one fellow creature famishing on earth. So they shared their own portion with him who had none, and he went away from them rejoicing. "Now," said the happy pair, "we shall eat of our half-share with unmixed delight, and with thankful hearts. By to-morrow evening we shall be transferred to Paradise."

They had scarcely raised the savoury food to their mouths when a bewailing voice arrested their attention, and stayed the hands already charged with food. A poor creature who had not tasted food for two days moaned his piteous tale, in accents which drew tears from the woodcutter and his wife; their eyes met and the sympathy was mutual: they were more willing to depart for Paradise without the promised benefit of one earthly enjoyment, than suffer the hungry man to die from want of that meal they had before them. The dish was promptly tendered to the unfortunate one, and the woodcutter and his wife consoled each other with reflecting that, as the time of their departure was now so near at hand, the temporary enjoyment of a meal was not worth one moment's consideration: "To-morrow we die; then of what consequence is it to us whether we depart with full or empty stomachs?"

And now their thoughts were set on the place of eternal rest. They slept, and arose to their morning orisons with hearts reposing humbly on their God, in the fullest expectation that this was their last day on earth. The prayer was concluded, and the woodcutter was in the act of rolling up his carpet, on which he had prostrated himself with gratitude, reverence, and love to his Creator, when he perceived a fresh heap of silver on the floor. He could scarcely believe but it was a dream. "How wonderful art thou, O God!" cried he. "This is thy bounteous gift, that I may indeed enjoy one day before I quit this earth." And Musa, when he came to him, was satisfied with the goodness and the power of God. But he retired again to the Mount, to inquire of God the cause of the woodcutter's respite. The reply which Musa received was as follows: "That man has faithfully applied the wealth given in answer to his petition. He is worthy to live out his numbered years on earth who, receiving my bounty, thought not of his own enjoyments whilst his fellow men had wants which he could supply." And to the end of the wood-cutter's long life God's bounty lessened not in substance; neither did the pious man relax in his charitable duties of sharing with the indigent all that he had, and with the same disregard of his own enjoyments.


Commentators on the Kuran state that while Solomon was still a mere youth he frequently upset the decisions of the judges in open court, and they became displeased with his interference, though they could not but confess to themselves that his judgment was always superior to theirs. Having prevailed upon King David to permit the sagacity of his son to be publicly tested, they plied him with what they deemed very difficult questions, which, however, were hardly uttered before he answered them correctly, and at length they became silent and shame-faced. Then Solomon rose and said (I take the paragraph which follows from the English translation of Dr. Weil's interesting work, The Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud, 1846, p. 165 f.):

"You have exhausted yourselves in subtleties, in the hope of manifesting your superiority over me before this great assembly. Permit me now also to put to you a very few simple questions, the solution of which needs no manner of study, but only a little intellect and understanding. Tell me: What is Everything, and what is Nothing? Who is Something, and who is less than Nothing?" Solomon waited long, and when the judge whom he had addressed was not able to answer, he said: "Allah, the Creator, is Everything, and the world, the creature, is Nothing. The believer is Something, but the hypocrite is less than Nothing." Turning to another, Solomon inquired: "Which are the most in number, and which are the fewest? What is the sweetest, and what is the most bitter?" But as the second judge also was unable to find proper answers to these questions, Solomon said: "The most numerous are the doubters, and they who possess a perfect assurance of faith are fewest in number. The sweetest is the possession of a virtuous wife, excellent children, and a respectable competency; but a wicked wife, undutiful children, and poverty are the most bitter." Finally Solomon put this question to a third judge: "Which is the vilest, and which is the most beautiful? What is the most certain, and what is the least so?" But these questions also remained unanswered until Solomon said: "The vilest thing is when a believer apostasises, and the most beautiful is when a sinner repents. The most certain thing is death and the last judgment, and the most uncertain, life and the fate of the soul after the resurrection. You perceive," he continued, "it is not the oldest and most learned that are always the wisest. True wisdom is neither of years nor of learned books, but only of Allah, the All-wise."

The judges were full of admiration, and unanimously lauded the unparalleled sagacity of the future ruler of Israel.—The Queen of Sheba's "hard questions" (already referred to, p. 218) were probably of a somewhat similar nature. Such "wit combats" seem to have been formerly common at the courts and palaces of Asiatic monarchs and nobles; and a curious, but rather tedious, example is furnished in the Thousand and One Nights, in the story of Abu al-Husn and his slave Tawaddad, which will be found in vol. iv of Mr. John Payne's and vol. v of Sir R. F. Burton's complete translations.


A curious popular tradition of Solomon, in French verse, is given by M. Emile Blemont in La Tradition (an excellent journal of folklore, etc., published at Paris) for March 1889, p. 73: Solomon, we are informed, in very ancient times ruled over all beings [on the earth], and, if we may believe our ancestors, was the King of magicians. One day Man appeared before him, praying to be delivered from the Serpent, who ever lay in wait to devour him. "That I cannot do," said Solomon; "for he is my preceptor, and I have given him the privilege to eat whatsoever he likes best." Man responded: "Is that so? Well, let him gorge himself without stint; but he has no right to devour me." "So you say," quoth Solomon; "but are you sure of it?" Said Man: "I call the light to witness it; for I have the high honour of being in this world superior to all other creatures." At these words the whole of the assembly [of animals] protested. "And I!" said the Eagle, with a loud voice, as he alighted on a rock. "Corcorico!" chanted the Cock. The Monkey was scratching himself and admiring his grinning phiz in the water, which served him for a looking-glass. Then the Buzzard was beside himself [with rage]. And the Cuckoo was wailing. The Ass rolled over and over, crying: "Heehaw! how ugly Man is!" The Elephant stamped about with his heavy feet, his trumpet raised towards the heavens. The Bear assumed dignified airs, while the Peacock was showing off his wheel-like tail. And in the distance the Lion was majestically exhaling his disdain in a long sigh.

Then said Solomon: "Silence! Man is right: is he not the only beast who gets drunk at all seasons? But, to accede to his request, as an honest prince, I ought to be able to give the Serpent something preferable, or at least equal, to his favourite prey. Therefore hear my decision: Let the Gnat—the smallest of animals—find out in what creature circulates the most exquisite blood in the world; and that creature shall belong to you, O Serpent. And I summon you all to appear here, without fail, on this day twelvemonths hence, that the Gnat may tell us the result of his experiments."

The year past, the Gnat—subtle taster—was slowly winging his way back when he met the Swallow. "Good day, friend Swallow," says he. "Good day, friend Gnat," replies the Swallow. "Have you accomplished your mission?" "Yes, my dear," responded the Gnat. "Well, what is then the most delicious blood under the heavens?" "My dear, it is that of Man." "What!—of him? I haven't heard. Speak louder." The Gnat was beginning to raise his voice, and opened his mouth to speak louder, when the Swallow quickly fell upon him and nipped off his tongue in the middle of a word. Spite of this, the Gnat continued his way, and arrived next day at the general assembly, where Solomon was already seated. But when the king questioned him, he had no means of proving his zeal. Said the king: "Give us thy report." "Bizz! bizz! bizz!" said the poor fellow. "Speak out, and let thy talk be clear," quoth the king. "Bizz! bizz! bizz!" cried the other again. "What's the matter with the little stupid?" exclaimed the king, in a rage. Here the Swallow intervened in a sweet and shrill tone: "Sire, it is not his fault. Yesterday we were flying side by side, when suddenly he became mute. But, by good luck, down there about the sacred springs, before he met with this misfortune, he told me the result of his investigations. May I depone in his name?" "Certainly," replied Solomon. "What is the best blood, according to thy companion?" "Sire, it is the blood of the Frog."

Everybody was astonished: the Gnat was mad with rage. "I hold," said Solomon, "to all that I promised. Friend Serpent, renounce Man henceforth—that food is bad. The Frog is the best meat; so eat as much Frog as you please." So the Serpent had to submit to his deplorable lot, and I leave you to think how the bile was stirred up within the rascally reptile. As the Swallow was passing him—mocking and sneering—the Serpent darted at her, but the bird swiftly passed beyond reach, and with little effort cleft the vast blue sky and ascended more than a league. The Serpent snapped only the end of the bird's tail, and that is how the Swallow's tail is cloven to this day; but, so far from finding it an inconvenience, she is thereby the more lively and beautiful. And Man, knowing what he owes to her, is full of gratitude. She has her abode under the eaves of our houses, and good luck comes wherever she nestles. Her gay cries, sweet and shrill, rouse the springtide. Is she not a bird-fairy—a good angel? On the other hand, the crafty Serpent hardly knows how to get out of the mud, and drags himself along, climbing and climbing; while the Swallow, free and light, flies in the gold of the day. For she is faithful Friendship—the little sister of Love.

M. Blemont does not say in what part of France this legend is current, but it is doubtless of Asiatic extraction—whether Jewish or Muhammedan.


A variant of the same incident occurs in No. IV of M. Emile Legrand's Receuil de Contes Populaires Grecs (Paris, 1881), where a prince sets out in quest of some maiden acquainted with "figurative language," whom he would marry. He comes upon an old man and his daughter, and overhears the latter address her father in metaphorical terms, which she has to explain to the old man, at which the prince is highly pleased, and following them to their hut desires and obtains shelter for the night. "As there was not much to eat, the old man bade them kill a cock, and when it was roasted it was placed on the table. Then the young girl got up and carved the fowl. She gave the head to her father; the body to her mother; the wings to the prince; and the flesh to the children. The old man, seeing his daughter divide the fowl in this manner, turned and looked at his wife, for he was ashamed to speak of it before the stranger. But when they were going to bed he said to his daughter: 'Why, my child, did you cut up the fowl so badly? The stranger has gone starving to bed.' 'Ah, my father,' she replied, 'you have not understood it; wait till I explain: I gave the head to you, because you are the head of this house; to my mother I gave the body, because, like the body of a ship, she has borne us in her sides; I gave the wings to the stranger, because to-morrow he will take his flight and go away; and lastly, to us the children I gave the bits of flesh, because we are the true flesh of the house. Do you understand it now, my good father?'"—The remainder of the story is so droll that, though but remotely related to the Capon-carver, I think it worth while to give a translation of it:

"As the room wherein the girl spoke with her father was adjacent to that in which the stranger lay, the latter heard all that she said. Great was his joy, and he said to himself that he would well like for wife one who could thus speak figurative language. And when it was day he rose, took his leave, and went away. On his return to the palace he called a servant and gave him in a sack containing 31 loaves, a whole cheese, a cock stuffed and roasted, and a skin of wine; and indicating to him the position of the cabin where he had put up, told him to go there and deliver these presents to a young girl of 18 years.

"The servant took the sack and set out to execute the orders of his master.—But, pardon me, ladies [quoth the story-teller], if I have forgotten to tell you this: Before setting out, the servant was ordered by the prince to say these words to the young girl: 'Many, many compliments from my master. Here is what he sends you: the month has 31 days; the moon is full; the chorister of the dawn is stuffed and roasted; the he-goat's skin is stretched and full.'—The servant then went towards the cabin, but on the way he met some friends. 'Good day, Michael. Where are you going with this load, and what do you carry?' 'I'm going over the mountain to a cabin where my master sends me.' 'And what have you got in there? The smell of it makes our mouths water.' 'Look, here are loaves, cheese, wine, and a roasted cock. It's a present which my master has given me to take to a poor girl.' 'O indeed, simpleton! Sit down, that we may eat a little. How should thy master ever know of it?' Down they sat on the green mountain sward and fell-to. The more they ate the keener their appetites grew, so that our fine fellows cleared away 13 loaves, half the cheese, the whole cock, and nearly half the wine. When they had eaten and drank their fill, the servant took up the remainder and resumed his way to the cabin. Arrived, he found the young girl, gave her the presents, and repeated the words which his master had ordered him to say.

"The girl took what he brought and said to him: 'You shall say to your master: "Many, many compliments. I thank him for all that he has sent me; but the month has only 18 days, the moon is only half full, the chorister of dawn was not there, and the he-goat's skin is lank and loose. But, to please the partridge, let him not beat the sow."' (That is to say, there were only 18 loaves, half a cheese, no roasted cock, and the wine-skin was scarcely half full; but that, to please the young girl, he was not to beat the servant, who had not brought the gift entire.)

"The servant left and returned to the palace. He repeated to the prince what the young girl had said to him, except the last clause, which he forgot. Then the prince understood all, and caused another servant to give the rogue a good beating. When the culprit had received such a caning that his skin and bones were sore, he cried out: 'Enough, prince, my master! Wait until I tell you another thing that the young girl said to me, and I have forgotten to tell you.' 'Come, what have you to say?—be quick.' 'Master, the young girl added, "But, to please the partridge, let him not beat the sow."' 'Ah, blockhead!' said the prince to him. 'Why did you not tell me this before? Then you would not have tasted the cane. But so be it.' A few days later the prince married the young girl, and fetes and great rejoicings were held."


In no other version of this fable does the Fox take a stone with him when he enters one of the buckets and then throw it away—nor indeed does he go into the bucket at all; he simply induces the other animal to descend into the well, in order to procure the "fine cheese." La Fontaine gives a variant of the fable, in which a fox goes down into a well with the same purpose, and gets out by asking a wolf to come down and feast on the "cheese": as the wolf descends in one bucket he draws up the fox in the other one, and so the wolf, like Lord Ullin, is "left lamenting."[114] M. Berenger-Feraud thinks this version somewhat analogous to a fable in his French collection of popular Senegambian Tales,[115] of the Clever Monkey and the Silly Wolf, of which, as it is short, I may offer a free translation, as follows:

A proud lion was pacing about a few steps forward, then a side movement, then a grand stride backward. A monkey on a tree above imitates the movements, and his antics enrage the lion, who warns him to desist. The monkey however goes on with the caricature, and at last falls off the tree, and is caught by the lion, who puts him into a hole in the ground, and having covered it with a large stone goes off to seek his mate, that they should eat the monkey together. While he is absent a wolf comes to the spot, and is pleased to hear the monkey cry, for he had a grudge against him. The wolf asks why the monkey cries. "I am singing," says the monkey, "to aid my digestion. This is a hare's retreat, and we two ate so heartily this morning that I cannot move, and the hare is gone out for some medicine. We have lots of more food." "Let me in," says the wolf; "I am a friend." The monkey, of course, readily consents, and just as the wolf enters he slips out, and, replacing the stone, imprisons the wolf. By-and-by the lion and his mate come up. "We shall have monkey to-day," says the lion, lifting the stone—"faith! we shall only have wolf after all!" So the poor wolf is instantly torn into pieces, while the clever monkey once more overhead re-enacts his lion-pantomime.[116]

[114] Fables de La Fontaine, Livre xi^e, fable v^e: "Le Loup et le Renard."

[115] Recueil de Contes Populaires de la Senegambie, recueillis par L.-J.-B.-Berenger-Feraud. Paris, 1885. Page 51.

[116] I have to thank my friend Dr. David Ross, Principal, E. C. Training College, Glasgow, for kindly drawing my attention to this diverting tale.

Strange as it may appear, there is a variant of the fable of the Fox and the Bear current among the negroes in the United States, according to Uncle Remus, that most diverting collection. In No. XVI, "Brer Rabbit" goes down in a bucket into a well, and "Brer Fox" asks him what he is doing there. "O I'm des a fishing, Brer Fox," says he; and Brer Fox goes into the bucket while Brer Rabbit escapes and chaffs his comrade.


There is a tale in the Gesta Romanorum (ch. 74 of the text translated by Swan) which seems to have been suggested by the Hebrew parable of the Desolate Island, and which has passed into general currency throughout Europe: A dying king bequeaths to his son a golden apple, which he is to give to the greatest fool he can find. The young prince sets out on his travels, and after meeting with many fools, none of whom, however, he deemed worthy of the "prize," he comes to a country the king of which reigns only one year, and finds him indulging in all kinds of pleasure. He offers the king the apple, explaining the terms of his father's bequest, and saying that he considers him the greatest of all fools, in not having made a proper use of his year of sovereignty.—A common oral form of this story is to the effect that a court jester came to the bedside of his dying master, who told him that he was going on a very long journey, and the jester inquiring whether he had made due preparation was answered in the negative. "Then," said the fool, "prithee take my bauble, for thou art truly the greatest of all fools."


As analogues, or variants, of incidents in several wide-spread European popular tales, other Hebrew legends are cited in some of my former books; e.g.: The True Son, in Popular Tales and Fictions, vol. i, p. 14; Moses and the Angel (the ways of Providence: the original of Parnell's "Hermit"), vol. i, p. 25; a mystical hymn, "A kid, a kid, my Father bought," the possible original of our nursery cumulative rhyme of "The House that Jack built," vol. i, p. 291; the Reward of Sabbath observance, vol. i, p. 399; the Intended Divorce, vol. ii, p. 328, of which, besides the European variants there cited, other versions will be found in Prof. Crane's Italian Popular Tales: "The Clever Girl" and Notes; the Lost Camel, in A Group of Eastern Romances and Stories, p. 512. In Originals and Analogues of some of Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' (for the Chaucer Society) I have cited two curious Jewish versions of the Franklin's Tale, in the paper entitled "The Damsel's Rash Promise," pp. 315, 317. A selection of Hebrew Facetiae is given at the end of the papers on Oriental Wit and Humour in the present volume (p. 117); and an amusing story, also from the Talmud, is reproduced in my Book of Sindibad, p. 103, note, of the Athenian and the witty Tailor; and in the same work, p. 340, note, reference is made to a Jewish version of the famous tale of the Matron of Ephesus. There may be more in these books which I cannot call to mind.


Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends. Midsummer Night's Dream.

Every land has its favourite tale of love: in France, that of Abelard and Eloisa, in Italy, of Petrarch and Laura; all Europe has the touching tale of Romeo and Juliet in common; and Muslims have the ever fresh tale of the loves and sorrows of Majnun and Layla. Of the ten or twelve Persian poems extant on this old tale those by Nizami, who died A.D. 1211, and Jami, of the 15th century, are considered as by far the best; though Hatifi's version (ob. 1520) is highly praised by Sir William Jones. The Turkish poet Fazuli (ob. 1562) also made this tale the basis of a fine mystical poem, of which Mr. Gibb has given some translated specimens—reproducing the original rhythm and rhyme-movement very cleverly—in his Ottoman Poems. The following is an epitome of the tale of Majnun and Layla:

Kays (properly, Qays), the handsome son of Syd Omri, an Arab chief of Yemen, becomes enamoured of a beauteous maiden of another tribe: a damsel bright as the moon,[117] graceful as the cypress;[118] with locks dark as night, and hence she was called Layla;[119] who captivated all hearts, but chiefly that of Kays. His passion is reciprocated, but soon the fond lovers are separated. The family of Layla remove to the distant mountains of Nejd, and Kays, distracted, with matted locks and bosom bare to the scorching sun, wanders forth into the desert in quest of her abode, causing the rocks to echo his voice, constantly calling upon her name. His friends, having found him in woeful plight, bring him home, and henceforth he is called Majnun—that is, one who is mad, or frantic, from love. Syd Omri, his father, finding that Majnun is deaf to good counsel—that nothing but the possession of Layla can restore him to his senses—assembles his followers and departs for the abode of Layla's family, and presenting himself before the maiden's father, proposes in haughty terms the union of his son with Layla; but the offer is declined, on the ground that Syd Omri's son is a maniac, and he will not give his daughter to a man bereft of his senses; but should he be restored to his right mind he will consent to their union. Indignant at this answer, Syd Omri returns home, and after his friends had in vain tried the effect of love-philtres to make Layla's father relent, as a last resource they propose that Majnun should wed another damsel, upon which the demented lover once more seeks the desert, where they again find him almost at the point of death, and bring him back to his tribe.

[117] Nothing is more hackneyed in Asiatic poetry than the comparison of a pretty girl's face to the moon, and not seldom to the disparagement of that luminary. Solomon, in his love-songs, exclaims: "Who is she that looketh forth in the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun?" The greatest of Persian poets, Firdausi, says of a damsel:

"Love ye the moon? Behold her face, And there the lucid planet trace."

And Kalidasa, the Shakspeare of India (6th century B.C.), says:

"Her countenance is brighter than the moon."

Amongst ourselves the epithet "moon-faced" is not usually regarded as complimentary, yet Spenser speaks of a beautiful damsel's "moon-like forehead."—Be sure, the poets are right!

[118] The lithe figure of a pretty girl is often likened by Eastern poets to the waving cypress, a tree which we associate with the grave-yard.—"Who is walking there?" asks a Persian poet. "Thou, or a tall cypress?"

[119] "Nocturnal."

Now the season of pilgrimage to Mecca draws nigh, and it is thought that a visit to the holy shrine and the waters of the Zemzem[120] might cure his frenzy. Accordingly Majnun, weak and helpless, is conveyed to Mecca in a litter. Most fervently his sorrowing father prays in the Kaaba for his recovery, but all in vain, and they return home. Again Majnun escapes to the desert, whence his love-plaints, expressed in eloquent verse, find their way to Layla, who contrives to reply to them, also in verse, assuring her lover of her own despair, and of her constancy.

[120] The sacred well in the Kaaba at Mecca, which, according to Muslim legends, miraculously sprang up when Hagar and her son Ishmael were perishing in the desert from thirst.

One day a gallant young chief, Ibn Salam, chances to pass near the dwelling of Layla, and, seeing the beauteous maiden among her companions, falls in love with her, and straightway asks her in marriage of her parents. Layla's father does not reject the handsome and wealthy suitor, who scatters his gold about as if it were mere sand, but desires him to wait until his daughter is of proper age for wedlock, when the nuptials should be duly celebrated; and with this promise Ibn Salam departs.

Meanwhile, Noufal, the chief in whose land Majnun has taken up his abode, while hunting one day comes upon the wretched lover, and, struck with his appearance, inquires the cause of his distress. Noufal conceives a warm friendship for Majnun, and sends a messenger to Layla's father to demand her in marriage with his friend. But the damsel's parent scornfully refused to comply, and Noufal then marches with his followers against him. A battle ensues, in which Noufal is victorious. The father of Layla then comes to Noufal, and offers submission; but he declares that rather than consent to his daughter's union with Majnun he would put her to death before his face. Seeing the old man thus resolute, Noufal abandons his enterprise and returns to his own country.

And now Ibn Salam, having waited the appointed time, comes with his tribesmen to claim the hand of Layla; and, spite of her tears and protestations, she is married to the wealthy young chief. Years pass on—weary years of wedded life to poor Layla, whose heart is ever true to her wandering lover. At length a stranger seeks out Majnun, and tells him that his beloved Layla wishes to have a brief interview with him, near her dwelling. At once the frantic lover speeds towards the rendezvous; but when Layla is informed of his arrival, her sense of duty overcomes the passion of her life, and she resolves to forego the dangerous meeting, and poor Majnun departs without having seen his darling. Henceforth he is a constant dweller in the desert, having for his companions the beasts and birds of the wilderness—his clothes in tatters, his hair matted, his body wasted to a shadow, his bare feet lacerated with thorns. After the lapse of many more years the husband of Layla dies, and the beautiful widow passes the prescribed period of separation ('idda),[121] after which Majnun hastens to embrace his beloved. Overpowered by the violence of their emotions, both are for a space silent; at length Layla addresses Majnun in tender accents; but when he finds voice to reply it is evident that the reaction has completely extinguished the last spark of reason: Majnun is now a hopeless maniac, and he rushes from the arms of Layla and seeks the desert once more. Layla never recovered from the shock occasioned by this discovery. She pined away, and with her last breath desired her mother to convey the tidings of her death to Majnun, and to assure him of her constant, unquenchable affection. When Majnun hears of her death he visits her tomb, and, exhausted with his journey and many privations, he lays himself down on the turf that covered her remains, and dies—the victim of pure, ever-during love.

[121] According to Muslim law, four months and ten days must elapse before a widow can marry again.

* * * * *

Possibly, readers of a sentimental turn—oft inclined to the "melting" mood—may experience a kind of pleasing sadness in perusing a rhythmical prose translation of the passage in Nizami's poem in which

Majnun bewails the Death of Layla.

When Zayd,[122] with heart afflicted, heard that in the silent tomb that moon[123] had set, he wept and mourned, and sadly flowed his tears. Who in this world is free from grief and tears? Then, clothed in sable garments, like one oppressed who seeks redress, he, agitated, and weeping like a vernal cloud, hastened to the grave of Layla; but, as he o'er it hung, ask not how swelled his soul with grief; while from his eyes the tears of blood incessant flowed, and from his sight and groans the people fled. Sometimes he mourned with grief so deep and sad that from his woe the sky became obscure. Then from the tomb of that fair flower he to the desert took his way. There sought the wanderer from the paths of man him whose night was now in darkness veiled, as that bright lamp was gone; and, seated near him, weeping and sighing, he beat his breast and struck upon the earth his head. When Majnun saw him thus afflicted he said: "What has befallen thee, my brother, that thy soul is thus overpowered? and why so pale that cheek? and why these sable robes?" He thus replied: "Because that fortune now has changed: a sable stream has issued from the earth, and even death has burst its iron gates; a storm of hail has on the garden poured, and not a leaf of all our rose-bower now remains. The moon has fallen from the firmament, and prostrate on the mead that waving cypress lies! Layla was, but from the world has now departed; and from the wound thy love had caused she died."

[122] An attendant, who had always befriended Majnun.

[123] "The moon," to wit, the unhappy Layla. See the note, p. 284.

Scarce had these accents reached his listening ear e'er, senseless, Majnun fell as one by lightning struck. A short time, fainting, thus he lay; recovered, then he raised his head to heaven and thus exclaimed: "O merciless! what fate severe is this on one so helpless? Why such wrath? Why blast a blade of grass with lightning, and on the ant [i.e. himself] thy power exert? One ant and a thousand pains of hell, when one single spark would be enough! Why thus with blood the goblet crown, and all my hopes deceive? I burned with flames that by that lamp were fed; and by that breath which quenched its light I too expire." Thus, like Asra, did he complain, and, like Wamik, traversed on every side the desert,[124] his heart broken, and his garments rent; while, as the beasts gazed on him, his tears so constant flowed, that in their eyes the tear-drop stood; and like a shadow Zayd his footsteps still pursued. When, weeping and mourning, Majnun thus o'er many a hill and many a vale had passed, as grief his path directed, he wished to view the tomb of all he loved; and then inquired of Zayd where was the spot that held her grave, and where the turf that o'er it grew.

[124] See Note on 'Wamik and Asra' at the end of this paper.

But soon as to the tomb he came, struck with its view, his senses fled. Recovering, then he thus exclaimed: "O Heaven! what shall I do, or what resource attempt, as like a lamp I waste away? Alas! that heart-enslaver was all that in this world I prized: and now, alas! in wrath, dire Fate with ruthless blow has snatched her from me. In my hand I held a lovely flower; the wind came and scattered all its leaves. I chose a cypress that in the garden graceful grew; but soon the wind of fate destroyed it. Spring bade a blossom bloom; but Fortune would not guard the flower. A group of lilies I preserved, pure as the thoughts that in my bosom rose; but one unjust purloined them. I sowed, but he the harvest reaped."

Then, resting within the tomb his head, he mourning wept, and said: "O lovely floweret, struck by autumn's blast, and from this world departed ere thou knewest it! A garden once in bloom, but now laid waste! O fruit matured, but not enjoyed! To earth's mortality can such as thou be subject, and such as thou within the darkness of the tomb repose? And where is now that mole which seemed a grain of musk?[125] And where those eyes soft as the gazelle's? Where those ruby lips? And where those curling ringlets? In what bright hues is now thy form adorned? And through the love of whom does now thy lamp consume? To whose fond eyes are now thy charms displayed? And whom to captivate do now thy tresses wave? Beside the margin of what stream is now that cypress seen? And in what bower is now the banquet spread? Ah, can such as thou have felt the pangs of death, and be reclined within this narrow cave?[126] But o'er thy cell I mourn, as thou wast all I loved; and ere my grief shall cease, the grave shall be my friend. Thou wast agitated like the sand of the desert; but now thou reposest as the water of the lake. Thou, like the moon, hast disappeared; but, though unseen, the moon is still the same; and now, although thy form from me is hid, still in my breast remains the loved remembrance. Though far removed beyond my aching sight, still is thy image in my heart beheld. Thy form is now departed, but grief eternal fills its place. On thee my soul was fixed, and never will thy memory be forgot. Thou art gone, and from this wilderness escaped, and now reposest in the bowers of Paradise. I, too, after some little time will shake off these bonds, and there rejoin thee. Till then, faithful to the love I vowed, around thy tomb my footsteps will I bend. Until I come to thee within this narrow cell, pure be thy shroud! May Paradise everlasting be thy mansion blest! And be thy soul received into the mercy of thy God! And may thy spirit by his grace be vivified to all eternity!"

[125] A mole on the fair face of Beauty is not regarded as a blemish, but the very contrary, by Asiatics—or by Europeans either, else why did the ladies of the last century patch their faces, if not (originally) to set off the clearness of their complexion by contrast with the little black wafer?—though (afterwards) often to hide a pimple! Eastern poets are for ever raving over the mole on a pretty face. Hafiz goes the length of declaring:

"For the mole on the cheek of that girl of Shiraz I would give away Samarkand and Bukhara"—

albeit they were none of his to give to anybody.

[126] Cf. Shelley, in the fine opening of that wonderful poetical offspring of his adolescence, Queen Mab:

"Hath, then, the gloomy Power Whose reign is in the tainted sepulchres Seized on her sinless soul?"

* * * * *

"This," methinks I hear some misogynist exclaim, after reading it—"this is rank nonsense—it is stark lunacy!" And so it is, perhaps. At all events, these impassioned words are supposed to be uttered by a poor youth who had gone mad from love. Our misogynist—and may I venture to include the experienced married man?—will probably retort, that all love between young folks is not only folly but sheer madness; and he will be the more confirmed in this opinion when he learns that, according to certain grave Persian writers, Layla was really of a swarthy visage, and far from being the beauty her infatuated lover conceived her to be: thus verifying the dictum of our great dramatist, in the ever-fresh passage where he makes "the lunatic, the lover, and the poet" to be "of imagination all compact," the lover seeing "Helen's beauty in the brow of Egypt!"—Notwithstanding all this, the ancient legend of Layla and Majnun has proved an inspiring theme to more than one great poet of Persia, during the most flourishing period of the literature of that country—for which let us all be duly thankful.


'WAMIK AND ASRA,' p. 289.

This is the title of an ancient Persian poem, composed in the reign of Nushirvan, A.D. 531-579, of which some fragments only now remain, incorporated with an Arabian poem. In 1833, Von Hammer published a German translation, at Vienna: Wamik und Asra; das ist, Gluehende und die Bluehende. Das aelteste Persische romantische Gedicht. Jun fuenftelsaft abgezogen, von Joseph von Hammer (Wamik and Asra; that is, the Glowing and the Blowing. The most ancient Persian Romantic Poem. Transfer the Fifth, etc.) The hero and heroine, namely, Wamik and Asra, are personifications of the two great principles of heat and vegetation, the vivifying energy of heaven and the correspondent productiveness of earth.—This noble poem is the subject of a very interesting article in the Foreign Quarterly Review, vol. xviii, 1836-7, giving some of the more striking passages in English verse, of which the following may serve as a specimen:

'The Blowing One' Asra was justly named, For she, in mind and form, a blossom stood; Of beauty, youth, and grace divinely framed, Of holiest spirit, filled with heavenly good. The Spring, when warm, in fullest splendour showing, Breathing gay wishes to the inmost core Of youthful hearts, and fondest influence throwing, Yet veiled its bloom, her beauty's bloom before; For her the devotee his very creed forswore. Her hair was bright as hyacinthine dyes; Her cheek was blushing, sheen as Eden's rose; The soft narcissus tinged her sleeping eyes, And white her forehead, as the lotus shows 'Gainst Summer's earliest sunbeams shimmering fair.

A curious story is related by Dawlat Shah regarding this poem, which bears a close resemblance to the story of the destruction of the Alexandrian Library, by order of the fanatical khalif 'Umar: One day when Amir Abdullah Tahir, governor of Khurasan under the Abbasside khalifs, was giving audience, a person laid before him a book, as a rare and valuable present. He asked: "What book is this?" The man replied: "It is the story of Wamik and Asra." The Amir observed: "We are the readers of the Kuran, and we read nothing except that sacred volume, and the traditions of the Prophet, and such accounts as relate to him, and we have therefore no use for books of this kind. They are besides compositions of infidels, and the productions of worshippers of fire, and are therefore to be rejected and contemned by us." He then ordered the book to be thrown into the water, and issued his command that whatever books could be found in the kingdom which were the composition of the Persian infidels should be immediately burnt.


Scarcely less celebrated than the story of Majnun and Layla—among the Arabs, at least—is that of the poet Jamil and the beauteous damsel Buthayna. It is said that Jamil fell in love with her while he was yet a boy, and on attaining manhood asked her in marriage, but her father refused. He then composed verses in her honour and visited her secretly at Wadi-'l Kura, a delightful valley near Medina, much celebrated by the poets. Jamil afterwards went to Egypt, with the intention of reciting to Abdu-'l Aziz Ibn Marwan a poem he had composed in his honour. This governor admitted Jamil into his presence, and, after hearing his eulogistic verses and rewarding him generously, he asked him concerning his love for Buthayna, and was told of his ardent and painful passion. On this Abdu-'l Aziz promised to unite Jamil to her, and bade him stay at Misr (Cairo), where he assigned him a habitation and furnished him with all he required. But Jamil died there shortly after, A.H. 82 (A.D. 701).

The following narrative is given in the Kitabal-Aghani, on the authority of the famous poet and philologist Al-Asma'i, who flourished in the 8th century:

A person who was present at the death of Jamil in Egypt relates that the poet called him and said: "If I give you all I leave after me, will you perform one thing which I shall enjoin you?" "By Allah, yes," said the other. "When I am dead," said Jamil, "take this cloak of mine and put it aside, but keep everything else for yourself. Then go to Buthayna's tribe, and when you are near them, saddle this camel of mine and mount her; then put on my cloak and rend it, and mounting on a hill, shout out these verses: 'A messenger hath openly proclaimed the death of Jamil. He hath now a dwelling in Egypt from which he will never return. There was a time when, intoxicated with love, he trained his mantle proudly in the fields and palm-groves of Wadi-'l Kura! Arise, Buthayna! and lament aloud: weep for the best of all thy lovers!'" The man did what Jamil ordered, and had scarcely finished the verses when Buthayna came forth, beautiful as the moon when it appears from behind a cloud. She was muffled in a cloak, and on coming up to him said: "Man, if what thou sayest be true, thou hast killed me; if false, thou hast dishonoured me!" [i.e. by associating her name with that of a strange man, still alive.] He replied: "By Allah! I only tell the truth," and he showed her Jamil's mantle, on seeing which she uttered a loud cry and smote her face, and the women of the tribe gathered around, weeping with her and lamenting her lover's death. Her strength at length failed her, and she swooned away. After some time she revived, and said [in verse]: "Never for an instant shall I feel consolation for the loss of Jamil! That time shall never come. Since thou art dead, O Jamil, son of Mamar! the pains of life and its pleasures are alike to me." And quoth the lover's messenger: "I never saw man or woman weep more than I saw that day."—Abridged from Ibn Khallikan's great Biographical Dictionary as translated by Baron De Slane, vol. i, pp. 331-326.


The origin of the Beast-Fable is still a vexed question among scholars, some of whom ascribe it to the doctrine of metempsychosis, or the transmigration of human souls into different animal forms; others, again, are of the opinion that beasts and birds were first adopted as characters of fictitious narratives, in order to safely convey reproof or impart wholesome counsel to the minds of absolute princes, who would signally resent "plain speaking."[127] Several nations of antiquity—notably the Greeks, the Hindus, the Egyptians—have been credited with the invention of the beast-fable, and there is no reason to believe that it may not have been independently devised in different countries. It is very certain, however, that Esop was not the inventor of this kind of narrative in Greece, while those fables ascribed to him, which have been familiar to us from our nursery days, are mostly spurious, and have been traced to ancient Oriental sources. The so-called Esopic apologue of the Lion and the House is found in an Egyptian papyrus preserved at Leyden.[128] Many of them are quite modern rechauffes of Hindu apologues, such as the Milkmaid and her Pot of Milk, which gave rise to our popular saying, "Don't count your chickens until they be hatched." Nevertheless, genuine fables of Esop were current in Athens at the best period of its literary history, though it does not appear that they existed in writing during his lifetime. Aristophanes represents a character in one of his plays as learning Esop's fables from oral recitation. When first reduced to writing they were in prose, and Socrates is said to have turned some of them into verse, his example being followed by Babrius, amongst others, of whose version but few fables remain entire. The most celebrated of his Latin translators is Phaedrus, who takes care to inform us that

If any thoughts in these Iambics shine, The invention's Esop's, and the verse is mine.[129]

[127] The reader may with advantage consult the article 'Beast-Fable,' by Mr. Thos. Davidson, in Chambers's Encylopaedia, new edition.

[128] But this papyrus might be of as late a period as the second century of our era.

[129] For the most complete history of the Esopic Fable, see vol. i of Mr. Joseph Jacobs' edition of The Fables of Aesop, as first printed by Caxton in 1484, with those of Avian, Alfonso, and Poggio, recently published by Mr. David Nutt; where a vast amount of erudite information will be found on the subject in all its ramifications. Mr. Jacobs, indeed, seems to have left little for future gleaners: he has done his work in a thorough, Benfey-like manner, and students of comparative folk-lore are under great obligations to him for the indefatigable industry he has devoted to the valuable outcome of his wide-reaching learning.

Little is authentically known regarding the career of the renowned fabulist, who is supposed to have been born about B.C. 620, and, as in the case of Homer, various places are assigned as that of his nativity—Samos, Sardis, Mesembria in Thrace, and Cotiaeium in Phrygia. He is said to have been brought as a slave to Athens when very young, and after serving several masters was enfranchised by Iadmon, the Samian. His death is thus related by Plutarch: Having gone to Delphos, by the order of Croesus, with a large quantity of gold and silver, to offer a costly sacrifice to Apollo and to distribute a considerable sum among the inhabitants, a quarrel arose between him and the Delphians, which induced him to return the money, and inform the king that the people were unworthy of the liberal benefaction he had intended for them. The Delphians, incensed, charged him with sacrilege, and, having procured his condemnation, precipitated him from a rock and caused his death.—The popular notion that Esop was a monster of ugliness and deformity is derived from a "Life" of the fabulist, prefixed to a Greek collection of fables purporting to be his, said to have been written by Maximus Planudes, a monk of the 14th century, which, however apocryphal, is both curious and entertaining, from whatever sources the anecdotes may have been drawn.

According to Planudes,[130] Esop was born at Amorium, in the Greater Phrygia, a slave, ugly exceedingly: he was sharp-chinned, snub-nosed, bull-necked, blubber-lipped, and extremely swarthy (whence his name, Ais-opos, or Aith-opos: burnt-face, blackamoor); pot-bellied, crook-legged, and crook-backed; perhaps uglier even than the Thersites of Homer; worst of all, tongue-tied, obscure and inarticulate in his speech; in short, everything but his mind seemed to mark him out for a slave. His first master sent him out to dig one day. A husbandman having presented the master with some fine fresh figs, they were given to a slave to be set before him after his bath. Esop had occasion to go into the house; meanwhile the other slaves ate the figs, and when the master missed them they accused Esop, who begged a moment's respite: he then drank some warm water and caused himself to vomit, and as he had not broken his fast his innocence was thus manifest. The same test discovered the thieves, who by their punishment illustrated the proverb:

Whoso against another worketh guile Thereby himself doth injure unaware.[131]

[130] Fabulae Romanenses Graece conscriptae ex recensione et cum adnotationibus, Alfredi Eberhard (Leipzig, 1872), vol. i, p. 226 ff.

[131] It would have been well had the sultan Bayazid compelled his soldier to adopt this plan when accused by an old woman of having drunk up all her supply of goat's milk. The soldier declared his innocence, upon which Bayazid ordered his stomach to be cut open, and finding the milk not yet digested, quoth he to the woman: "Thou didst not complain without reason." And, having caused her to be recompensed for her loss, "Now go thy way," he added, "for thou hast had justice for the wrong done thee."

Next day the master goes to town. Esop works in the field, and entertains with his own food some travellers who had lost their way, and sets them on the right road again. They are really priests of Artemis, and having received their blessing he falls asleep, and dreams that Tyche (i.e. Fortune) looses his tongue, and gives him eloquence. Waking, he finds he can say bous, onos, dikella, (ox, ass, mattock). This is the reward of piety, for "well-doing is full of good hopes." Zenas, the overseer, is rebuked by Esop for beating a slave. This is the first time he has been heard to speak distinctly. Zenas goes to his master and accuses Esop of having blasphemed him and the gods, and is given Esop to sell or give away as he pleases. He sells him to a trader for three obols (4-1/2d.), Esop pleading that, if useless for aught else, he will do for a bugbear to keep his children quiet. When they arrive home the little ones begin to cry. "Was I not right?" quoth Esop, and the other slaves think he has been bought to avert the Evil Eye.

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