VI - ON WEAKNESS AND OLD AGE
I was holding a disputation
with a company of learned men in the cathedral mosque of Damascus
when a youth stepped among us, asking whether anyone knew Persian,
whereon most of them pointed to me. I asked him what the matter
was and he said that an old man, aged one hundred and fifty years,
was in the agony of death but saying something in Persian which
nobody could understand and that if I were kindly to go and see
him I might obtain the information whether he was perhaps desirous
of making his last will. When I approached his pillow, he said:
A while ago I said
I shall take some rest
But alas, the way of my
breath is choked.
Alas, that from the variegated
banquet of life
We were eating a while and
told it is enough.
I interpreted these words
in the Arabic language to the Damascenes and they were astonished
that despite of his long life he regretted the termination of
it so much. I asked him how he felt and he replied: What
shall I say?
Hast thou not seen what
misery he feels,
The teeth of whose mouth
are being extracted?
Consider what his state
will be at the hour
When life, so precious to
him, abandons his body.
I told him not to worry
his imagination with the idea of death and not to allow a hallucination
to obtain dominion over his nature because Ionian philosophers
have said that although the constitution may be good no reliance
is to be placed on its permanence and although a malady may be
perilous it does not imply a full indication of death. I asked:
If thou art willing, I shall call a physician to treat
thee? He lifted his eyes and said, smiling:
The skilled doctor
strikes his hands together
On beholding a rival prostrate
like a potsherd.
A gentleman is engaged in
adorning his hall with paintings
Whilst the very foundation
of the house is ruined.
An aged man was lamenting
in his last agony
Whilst his old spouse was
rubbing him with sandal.
When the equilibrium of
the constitution is destroyed
Neither incantations nor
medicines are of any avail.
It is related that an old
man, having married a girl, was sitting with her privately in
an apartment adorned with roses, fixing his eyes and heart upon
her. He did not sleep during long nights but spent them in telling
her jokes and witty stories, hoping to gain her affection and
to conquer her shyness. One night, however, he informed her that
luck had been friendly to her and the eye of fortune awake because
she had become the companion of an old man who is ripe, educated,
experienced in the world, of a quiet disposition, who had felt
cold and warm, had tried good and bad, who knows the diities
of companionship, is ready to fulfil the conditions of love,
is benevolent, kind, good-natured and sweet-tongued.
As far as I am able I shall
hold thy heart
And if injured I shall not
injure in return.
Though sugar may be thy
food as of a parrot
I shall sacrifice sweet
life to thy support.
Thou hast not fallen into
the hands of a giddy youth, fun of whims, headstrong, fickle
minded, running about every moment in search of another pleasure
and entertaining another opinion, sleeping every night in another
place and taking every day another friend.
Young men are joyous and
of handsome countenance
But inconstant in fidelity
Expect not faithfulness
Who sing every moment to
Contrary to aged men who
spend their lives according to wisdom and propriety; not according
to the impulses of folly and youth.
The old man said: I
continued in this strain, thinking that I had captivated her
heart and that it had become my prey. She drew, however,
a deep sigh from her grief-filled heart and said: All the
words thou hast uttered, weighed in the scales of my understanding,
are not equivalent to the maxim I once heard enounced in my tribe:
An arrow in the side of a young woman is better than an old man.
When she perceived in the
hands of her husband
Something pendant like the
nether lip of a fasting man,
She said: This fellow
has a corpse with him
But incantations are for
sleepers not for corpses.
A woman who arises without
satisfaction from a man
Will raise many a quarrel
An old man who is unable
to rise from his place,
Except by the aid of a stick,
how can his own stick rise?
In short, there being no
possibility of harmony, a separation at last took place. When
the time of the ladys uddat had terminated, she was given
in marriage to a young man who was violent, ill-humoured and
empty-handed. She suffered much from his bad temper and tyrannical
behaviour, and experienced the miseries of penury. She nevertheless
said: Praise be to Allah for having been delivered from
that wretched torment, and attained this permanent blessing.
Despite of all this violence
and hasty nature
I shall try to please thee
because thou art beauteous.
To be with thee in hell
burning is for me
Better than to be with the
other in paradise.
The smell of an onion from
the mouth of a pretty face
Is indeed better than a
rose from an ugly hand.
A nice face and a gown of
Essence of roses, fragrant
aloes, paint, perfume and lust:
All these are ornaments
Take a man; and his testicles
are a sufficient ornament.
I was in Diarbekr, the guest
of an old man, who possessed abundant wealth and a beautiful
son. One night he narrated to me that he had all his life no
other son but this boy, telling me that in the locality people
resorted to a certain tree in a valley to offer petitions and
that he had during many nights prayed at the foot of the said
tree, till the Almighty granted him this son. I overheard the
boy whispering to his companion: How good it would be if
I knew where that tree is that I might pray for my father to
die. Moral: The gentleman is delighted that his son is
intelligent and the boy complains that his father is a dotard.
Years elapse without thy
The tomb of thy father.
What good hast thou done
To expect the same from
One day, in the pride of
youth, I had travelled hard and arrived perfectly exhausted in
the evening at the foot of an acclivity. A weak old man, who
had likewise been following the caravan, came and asked me why
I was sleeping, this not being the place for it. I replied: How
am I to travel, having lost the use of my feet? He said:
Hast thou not heard that it is better to walk gently and
to halt now and then than to run and to become exhausted?
O thou who desirest to reach
Take my advice and learn
An Arab horse gallops twice
in a race.
A camel ambles gently night
The active, graceful, smiling,
sweet-tongued youth happened once to be in the circle of our
assembly. His heart had been entered by no kind of grief and
his lips were scarcely ever closed from laughter. After some
time had elapsed, I accidentally met him again and I learned
that he had married a wife and begotten children but I saw that
the root of merriment had been cut and the roses of his countenance
were withered. I asked him how he felt and what his circumstances
were. He replied: When I had obtained children I left off
Where is youth when age
has changed my ringlets?
And the change of time is
a sufficient monitor.
When thou art old abstain
Leave play and jokes to
Seek not a youths
hilarity in an old man
For the water gone from
the brook returns no more.
When the harvest-time of
a field arrives
It will no longer wave in
the breeze like a young crop.
The period of youth has
Alas, for those heart-enchanting
The force of the lions
claws is gone.
Now we are satisfied with
cheese Eke a leopard.
An old hag had dyed her
I said to her: O little
mother of ancient days,
Thou hast cunningly dyed
thy hair but consider
That thy bent back will
never be straight.
In the folly of youth I
one day shouted at my mother who then sat down with a grieved
heart in a corner and said, weeping: Hast thou forgotten
thy infancy that thou art harsh towards me?
How sweetly said the old
woman to her son
When she saw him overthrow
a tiger, and elephant-bodied:
If thou hadst remembered
the time of thy infancy
How helpless thou wast in
Thou wouldst this
day not have been harsh
For thou art a lion-like
man, and I an old woman.
The son of a wealthy but
avaricious old man, having fallen sick, his well-wishers advised
him that it would be proper to get the whole Quran recited or
else to offer a sacrifice. He meditated a while and then said:
It is preferable to read the Quran because the flock is
at a distance. A holy man, who had heard this, afterwards
remarked: He selected the reading of the Quran because
it is at the tip of the tongue but the money at the bottom of
It is useful to bend the
neck in prayers
If they are to be accompanied
For one dinar he would remain
sticking in mud like an ass,
But if thou askest for Alhamdu
he will recite it a hundred times.
An old man, having been
asked why he did not marry, replied that he could not be happy
with an aged woman, and on being told that as he was a man of
property, he might take a young one, he said: I being an
old man and unwilling to associate with an old woman, how could
a young one conceive friendship for me who am aged?
Let not a man of seventy
years make love.
Thou art confessedly blind,
kiss her and sleep.
The lady wants strength,
One passage is preferable
to her than ten mann of flesh.
I have heard that in these
days a decrepit aged man
Took the fancy in his old
head to get a spouse.
He married a beauteous little
girl, Jewel by name,
When he had concealed his
casket of jewels from the eyes of men
A spectacle took place as
is customary in weddings.
But in the first onslaught
the organ of the sheikh fell asleep.
He spanned the bow but hit
not the target; it being impossible to sew
A tight coarse robe except
with a needle of steel.
He complained to his friends
and showed proofs
That his furniture had been
utterly destroyed by her impudence.
Such fighting and contention
arose between man and wife
That the affair came before
the qazi; and Sadi said:
After all this reproach
and villainy the fault is not the girls.
Thou whose hand trembles,
how canst thou bore a Jewel?