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Folk-Lore/Volume 8/The History of Sindban and the Seven Wise Masters, Translated from the Syriac


Translated for the first time from the Syriac into English,

By Hermann Gollancz, M.A.

Of all the versions of the Seven Wise Masters, the oldest that has thus far come down to us is the Syriac version, published for the first time by Baethgen, Leipzig, 1879. This version represents, on the one hand, the supposed Arabic original, reflected in European literature in the old Spanish version; and it represents, on the other hand, the immediate source of the Greek translation made by Andreopolos.

I need not dwell here upon the relation which exists between the various versions of this collection of tales, considering that this subject has been exhaustively treated by Comparetti, whose work has been published by this Society in an English form. Nor need I touch upon the relation in which the Syriac text stands to the Arabic and other Oriental versions (Pehlevi, etc.), as Professor Nöldeke in his review of Baethgen's edition, has referred to these points in his usual masterly manner. Since then, Clouston has translated in part, and Mr. W. Rogers more fully, the Persian version, Clouston adding a sketch of the history of the work; and Paulus Cassel has published a minute comparison between the Syriac, Greek and Hebrew versions, in his Mischle Sindbad, Berlin, 1888. These various researches testify to the high value which attaches to the Syriac text in regard to the history of that world-wide cycle of tales which cluster round the name of Sindbad.

For this very reason I considered that an English translation, prepared from the Syriac direct, might not prove unwelcome, and would at the same time add a new link to the chain of evidences adduced by Comparetti in his work. It is to be regretted that the Syriac version is not quite complete. I have striven to be as literal as possible, making no substantial alterations, but only correcting here and there some slight inaccuracies in the text; and in one passage alone have I substituted a paraphrase in place of the literal translation.


In the Name of our Lord, the History of the wise Sindban and of his comrades.

There was once a king whose name was Cyrus, and all the days of his life he had no child, though he had seven wives. So he rose and prayed and vowed a vow, and anointed himself (or fasted?). And it pleased God to give him a son, and the boy grew and flourished like a cedar. So he gave him away, that he might learn wisdom; and he was three years with his teacher without having learnt anything. Whereupon the king exclaimed: "If this lad were ten thousand years with his teacher he would learn nothing. Now I will give him to the wise Sindban, since he is a wise man and excels all philosophers." So the king called Sindban and said to him: "Tell me how you wish to teach the boy." And Sindban answered, and said to the king: "I will instruct the boy in six months, so that he shall be able to discuss with all the philosophers that are under thy rule. And if I do not fulfil that which I have stated, let my life be destroyed from off the earth, and let all that I possess be yours; for I have learnt that, as regards the land in which a just king is born, and the king, who is son of a king, is diligent, he is as running waters both to the rich and poor, as a physician who does not act wrongfully, but uses his profession among mankind, in a manner so as to do {or lead) to that land all those things which we are to have in a land—such are his qualities.[1] I have learnt, moreover, that kings are like fire, which, when it comes in contact with a man, burns him. I will show you that I shall teach your son, my sovereign lord; and when his tuition shall be completed, thou shalt give me that which I shall request of thee." And the king said: "That which thou hast asked, I shall give thee." Sindban says: "Whatsoever thou dost not wish that a man do unto thee, do thou not unto another."

And they wrote an agreement between them; and Sindban gave his right hand to the king, who handed the child unto Sindban, charging and saying unto him, that after six months and two hours he should bring the lad to his father, failing which, he would not wait one hour without taking off the head of Sindban. And Sindban took hold of the child's hand, and brought him to his house, and built for him a spacious dwelling, and covered it with chalk, and whitewashed it, and wrote upon its walls. And Sindban sat by him, and used to instruct him; and in the same house they had food and drink, and no moment was lost of the appointed term which they had fixed between them; so that, at the expiration of six months, the boy had learnt an amount, the like of which, no human being could have learnt. Now a day previous the king had sent to Sindban, and said to him: "How fares it with thee?" Whereupon he answered and said: "According to thy desire, I will bring you the lad to-morrow, at the hour of two o'clock, the Lord being willing." And the king was glad and rejoiced. And Sindban turned to the child and said unto him: "This night do I wish to consult your star, for I am desirous of bringing you to your father." Now as soon as he looked at the star of the lad, he saw that it would not be right (for the boy) to speak for seven days, fearing for him, lest he might die. And as soon as Sindban saw it, he trembled hand and foot, and was sorely troubled on his account. And as the lad saw his master in trouble, he said unto him: "Why is this thing so grievous to thee? for if you bid me not to speak for a month, I would do it; only bid me that which you desire." Sindban replied: "According to the covenant which I made with your father (I sent word): 'To-morrow thy son will come to thee.' Now it does not seem right for me to alter it, nor do I desire to be false to your father. As for myself, therefore, I will hide myself; and you, my son, look to it that you speak not until six [sic] days shall have passed." On the morrow, he bade the youth go to his father. Now the father, out of love for his son, had assembled for him such companions as used to be with him, and had made for him a banquet. Then his father called him, and brought him to him and kissed him, and conversed with him; but he did not converse with his father. And he began to question him, but he replied not a word.

Then the king said unto those round about him: "What is the matter with my son?" And one answered and said: "His master has anointed him with some root in order that he might cause his instruction to gain firm ground in him, and by means of that root his tongue is bound." And this occurrence on the part of the child was a source of distress to the king; and as one of the king's wives saw it, she said to the king: "Leave him with me, him and me alone; maybe he makes known unto me his affair, inasmuch as he had confidence in me of old, and things which he was in the habit of not telling his mother, he would tell and reveal unto me." And because the mother of the boy was distressed on account of his silence, the woman took the boy and brought him to her house; and she began to converse with him, but he did not speak to her, nor answered her a word. Thereupon she said unto him: "I do not understand you, fool! and besides, are you not king? You don't escape my purpose. I will tell you something, and I don't let you go till you carry it out, and if you be a fellow (at all) and you desire it, do that which I tell you. I know that your father is old, and weak, and exhausted; I will slay your father, and you will become king in his stead, you taking me among your wives, and I becoming your wife." Now, after she had spoken these things to the youth, he was much enraged, and said unto her: "Know that I speak neither to thee, nor to any one else, until seven days shall have passed, when forthwith you will hear my reply to your words."

Now as soon as she heard these words, she knew that she had fallen from her glory, and she was afraid, and deliberated as to what she should do unto him. Whereupon she raised her voice aloud, struck herself on the face, and tore her garments. The king, having heard her cry, called her, and asked her, and said: "What ails thee?" Whereupon she replied unto him: "I was telling your son to speak to me, when suddenly he fell upon me, and wanted to insult me, and tore my face. I did know that all sorts of vices were in him, but I was not aware of this vice in him." And as she said these things to the king, he withdrew his favour from his son, and ordered him to be put to death.

But, as it happened, the king had philosophers as counsellors, so that he should do nothing in rashness before his having consulted with them. And when they heard this, how the king had commanded that his son should be killed without having consulted with them, they considered within themselves that the thing which the king had ordered he was doing in rage, having believed the woman; and the philosophers said: "He dare not be killed, nor dare the king kill his son, inasmuch as ultimately he will reproach himself, and remove us from his presence. But let us deliberate in what manner we may deliver the youth from death. Thereupon one of them said: "Let each of us go and save him, one day each"; and he went and entered the presence of the king, and prostrated himself, and said: "Kings should do nothing until they are sure of the truth."

1ST Philosopher. I.—The first philosopher spake: "Long live my sovereign lord! I heard that there was once a king, to whom there was nothing so pleasant as the love of women. One day he beheld and saw a beautiful woman, and love for her entered his heart, and he became enamoured of her; so one day he sent and called her husband, and sent him upon a message; then the king went to that woman, and requested to have intercourse with her. She, however, in her wisdom, said to the king: 'My lord, I am thy servant, do all that thou wishest.' Now her husband had a book which admonished greatly concerning fornication, and she bade the king read that book. The king took (it), read, and saw that it contained a warning against fornication; so the king rose in haste and departed, and his ring fell beneath the couch. Thus he left, and the woman was saved. Her husband came home and sat upon the couch, saw the ring and recognised it, while his wife did not notice it. The husband thought within himself: 'The king has been, and has had connection with my wife.' He was afraid of the king, so he did not live with her for some long time. The wafe then sent to her father, and informed him that her husband had estranged himself from her. Her father went to the king, and said: 'I had a field and gave it to this man in order that he might work it; he worked at it for a time, but now he has estranged himself from it, he does not work at it, but deserts it.' The king spake to the husband of the woman: 'What have you to say?' And he answered and said: 'In very deed, my lord, has he given me a field, nor have I neglected its cultivation as far as lay in my power. But it happened one day that I observed that there had come upon it the path of a lion's paw, and I was afraid on account of the lion to enter upon it any more.' The king said unto the man: 'It is true (the lion) did come upon it, but he did it no harm; go, enter upon the field and work it well, do not fear!'

"Now, my master and king, for this reason have I told you this parable, viz., that not everything which enters the heart of man is true; and I have further found concerning base women, that their wickedness is not to be overcome.

1st Philosopher. II.—"Now, further, there was a man who bought a bird which used to speak the language of man. He put it in a cage and hung it in his own room, charging it to acquaint him with everything that his wife did. And he left and went upon a journey, and the paramour of that woman came and stayed with her. And as the bird saw it, he knew all that they had done. And as soon as the husband of that woman had returned, the bird told him everything that his wife had done, nor did it omit to tell anything that it had seen. Now when the husband left her and was forming his plan with regard to her, the wife thought within herself that the maid had informed her husband, and she addressed her maid: 'It is you who told my husband what I've done.' But the maid swore that she had not told him. Thereupon the wife sought means whereby to make out the bird a liar. She took the cage, placed it near her all the night, and from time to time turned a mill with her hand; and she caused a mirror to send lightning-flashes, and sprinkled water upon the cage; and she was showing these phenomena all night long, until the bird thought it had been lightning, thundering, and raining during the whole night. She lit, too, a wax taper, now showing it, now hiding it from view. When the husband arrived in the morning, he fetched the bird and questioned it thus: 'What did you see this night, Polly?' The bird replied: 'The lightning, rain, and thunder did not suffer me to see anything.' As soon as the husband heard such things from the bird, he said: 'Everything that the bird has told me against my wife is false, for there was no rain during the whole of this night.' But it was through the cunning and wickedness of the woman that she had effected this, namely, that she made out the bird a liar. The owner of the bird brought it out and killed it, and was reconciled to his wife. Now, my sovereign lord! understand that there exists not a man who can overcome wicked women." And the king gave the order, that his son should not be put to death.

Wife. III.—The reply of the wicked woman on the second day, when, amid tears, she addressed the king:—"A man who deserves death must only be put to death, whether it be one's son or one's brother's son. For if thou dost not kill him, no man will have confidence in thy justice. For there was once a fuller who was washing in a stream; his son was with him; he began to play in the water, and his father did not restrain him. The stream carried him away and he got drowned, and the father was drowned with him. It will happen to thee in the same way, if thou dost not quickly kill thy son, before he waxes strong and destroys thee." Hereupon the king ordered his son to be put to death.

2nd Philosopher. IV.—Then the second wise man entered and made obeisance to the king, and said: "Long live my sovereign lord! Know, that if thou hadst a hundred sons, it would not be right of thee to slay one of them, let alone that thou hast but one, and him thou orderest to be put to death. It behoves thee to investigate the matter before thou killest thy son. Beware, my sovereign lord! lest thou kill him, and afterwards it repent thee, and thou call to mind that thou hast acted wickedly, it happening to thee as it befell a man, who, whenever he used to see anything nauseous, was wont neither to eat nor drink. Now once upon a time he went on business, and stayed in a certain town, and sent his lad to market to buy bread for themselves, and the lad went and found two loaves of white bread at a girl's stall. He was highly delighted with them, purchased them, and brought the bread to his master; he ate of it, and the taste of it pleased the merchant, and he said to the lad: 'Fetch us every day of that same bread.' And daily the lad used to buy of the same girl and bring it to his master. Now once it happened, as he went, that he found nothing at the girl's, and he returned to his master and told him: 'The girl has nothing that we can buy of her.' And his master said: 'Call the girl, that we may learn from her how she used to make the bread, so that we may make some as she was wont, and not buy of the market.' The lad went and called the girl, and brought her to his master, who enquired of her thus: 'Tell me how you used to make the bread which the lad bought of you; we would make it in like manner, for I enjoyed the taste of it immensely.' The girl answered the merchant: 'My master had a bad abscess come out on his back, and the doctor prescribed for him thus: *' Take a paste of fine meal, and knead it with honey and fat, place it on the boil, and you will be cured." We did so: and as soon as the paste was heavy with the (discharge of the) boil we threw it away. This I used to pick up and bake, and as I went out to market, your boy used to come and buy it of me. But when my master had recovered from that abscess, we made no more of the like.' When the merchant heard it, he wished death to himself, and said: 'Lo, my hands and mouth I may wash, but my stomach, how can I wash!'

"Now, my sovereign master! I tremble lest it may befal thee as it befell him, lest thou seek thy son and shalt not find him. But listen further to the wiles of wicked women:—

2nd Philosopher. V.—"There was once a woman who chose a paramour from among the king's body-guard, from those who used to bear arms before him. One day, he sent his page to that woman to see whether her husband was there or not; but, as soon as the woman espied the messenger, she laid hold of him, in order that he might commit a sin with her. Being thus engaged, he was delayed (in returning) to his master, who went after him. Now when the woman recognised that her paramour had, according to custom, come to her to stay with her, she bade the page go to the inner room, while his master entered to have connection with her. But during the time these two were occupied, her husband arrived: she was afraid of her paramour entering the inner room, lest he would see his page there, so she cried to her paramour: 'Draw your sword, and go out at the door, cursing me and saying everything that's bad of me, but don't speak to my husband.' Her paramour did as she had said: he drew his sword, and left, cursing and swearing at the woman. At once her husband entered, and asked her what was the matter with that fellow who had his sword drawn and was cursing her. And the wife replied to him: ' The servant of the king came trembling with fright, and entered my abode, and took refuge with me; and so I stood up against this man, and prevented him from entering the house; and thus he left, cursing me.' And the husband enquired: 'Where is the servant?' She answered: 'Lo, in the inner room.' On the husband going out to see whether the master of the servant had gone, and on his not seeing him, he returned and called the servant from within, and told him to go in peace, since his master had departed. And he addressed his wife thus: 'I am of opinion that you acted kindly to that servant.' And now, my sovereign lord! be aware that that which I have told thee is for this purpose, that thou shouldst not give ear to wicked women, for they are base to excess." And the king gave orders that his son be not killed.

Wife. VI.—The reply of the woman on the third day:—When the woman heard these things, she spake to the king on the third day thus: "These thy philosophers are wicked men, and they will be injurious to thee." The king replies: "How so?" She answers: "There was once a king, and he had a son, whom he loved exceedingly. The son of the king addresses the tutor (philosopher): 'Beg my father to allow me to go to the hunt.' And the tutor begged permission of the king. The king replied to the philosopher: 'If you go with him, I will let him go.' So the tutor accompanied the prince. They hit upon a wild ass, and the tutor cries: 'Chase this wild ass, that thou mayest hunt it to thy heart's content.' And the youth pursued the wild ass. But as soon as he had moved away from his tutor, he knew not whither he was going. He espied a certain path and went along it. On going down, he found on the way a maiden who was weeping, and he said unto her: 'What ails thee, that thou weepest?' Whereupon she replies unto him: 'I am the daughter of king so-and-so; I was riding on an elephant, and fell off without perceiving it. I don't know whither I am to go, for I have been running until I am now exhausted.' When the youth saw such was the case, he mounted the maiden behind him, riding along until she had brought him to a ruin. She then addresses him: 'I have some business to transact; I would descend and enter this ruin.' He followed her, and found out that she was a demon (daughter of Lilith); and he heard her voice saying to her two companions: 'Behold, I am bringing to you a beautiful youth mounted upon a horse;' they rejoining: 'Bear him to such and such a ruin.' As soon as the prince heard this thing, he turned and came to the place where the demon had left him; she came out towards him, and the youth began to tremble through fear. She addresses him: 'What is the matter with you, that you are all of a tremble?' and he replies: 'I was thinking of one of my companions, of whom I was very much afraid.' She rejoins: 'Wherefore do you not pacify him by means of money, which you say you possess?' He replies: 'He will not be pacified.' Then she says: 'Petition God against him, as if you were speaking to the king, and he will deliver you from his hands.' He answers: 'Thou hast spoken well.' He then raised his eyes towards heaven, and said: 'O Lord, give me strength against this demon, and deliver me from her wickedness.' As soon as she heard these words, she flung herself upon the ground and wallowed in the dust. She wanted to rise, but she was unable. The young man spurred his horse, and was rescued from the demon.

"As for thee, my sovereign lord! confide not in wicked philosophers, for they do not seek thy good. And now, if thou exact not the penalty from thy son, I shall slay myself with mine own hands."

And the king gave orders for his son to be put to death.

3rd Philosopher. VII.—Now the third philosopher arose and prostrated himself before the king, and said: "O my sovereign lord, live for ever! Know that human beings are apt to magnify an incident originally of little moment. It once happened, for example, that the inhabitants of two large towns annihilated one another on account of a drop of honey." The king exclaims: "How is this possible?" The philosopher replies as follows: "There was once a huntsman who found a beehive on the mountain; he took it and went to sell it. Now he had a dog with him. The man came to the shopkeeper, and showed him the honey; but the shopkeeper had a weasel, and as the weasel saw a bee coming out of the honey, she went to catch it. The dog saw the weasel, pounced upon it, and strangled it. The shopkeeper took a stick, thrashed the dog, and killed it. Now the owner of the dog rose and thrashed the shopkeeper, and there ensued a great row; the two towns assembled for war, and destroyed one another, so that not a man was left of them.

"And now, my sovereign lord, do not slay thy son for the sake of a trifling matter.

3rd Philosopher. VIII.— "Furthermore, hearken thou, mv lord. There was once a man who sent his wife to market to buy a zuz-worth of rice; his wife went to the market to buy the rice, and gave the shopman the zuz. On her taking the rice, the shopman says to her: 'Rice isn't eaten without sugar; possibly you have some?' She answers; 'No, I have none.' The shopkeeper says to her: 'If you will come with me into the shop, I will give you some sugar.' She replies: 'Give it me, and I will enter (the shop) in your company, for I am well aware of the craftiness of men.' So he weighed and gave it to her, and she bound the rice and the sugar together in her wrap, and gave it in charge of the shopboy, and then entered the shop in company with the shopkeeper. The boy rose there and then, untied the (bundle of) rice and sugar, and tied up dust in place of them. The woman came out, and not noticing anything that the boy had done, frightened and trembling, she took her wrap and went home. She gave her bundle of a wrap (lit. her wrap tied together) in charge of her husband, while she went to fetch the saucepan. Her husband loosened the knot of her cloak and saw the dust, and addressed her thus: 'Wife, is it dust or rice that you have brought us?' In an instant the woman saw it, let go the saucepan and brought a sieve, saying to her husband: 'Listen! as I was walking in the market, a calf kicked me from behind, and the money dropped from me. I looked for it, but found it not; so I brought the dust into which it had fallen. Take and sift it, perhaps the money may be found.' Her husband credited her story and began to sift, the sand going up into his beard, while she was laughing at him in her heart.

"And now, my sovereign, realise the baseness of women, that it is not to be overcome."

So the king gave orders that his son should not be killed.

Wife. IX.—Reply of the wicked woman:—On the fourth day, the wicked woman came and said to the king: "If you do not give me satisfaction for your son, I shall kill myself with a knife, but I have faith in God that he will give me victory over your wise men, as he and gave (victory) to the son of a certain king over a certain philosopher." Whereupon the king says to her: "How was this?" She replies: "There was a king who had a son, whom he engaged to the daughter of a king; the latter king sent after the son of the former king, saying: 'Send me my son-in-law, that I may make a banquet in his honour, and when he pleases, we shall give him his wife and he may depart.' The king accordingly bade his son go, bidding also his tutor to accompany him. Now, while the prince and his tutor were travelling, they were in quest of water, and found but one spring (which had this property), that the man who drank of it became a woman. Now the tutor knew the secret of the spring, without revealing it to the prince, and said to the prince: 'Wait for me at this spring, while I look whether there is a path here or no.' He left the youth by the spring, and returned to the king and said to him: 'Thy son has been devoured by a lion.' The youth was waiting for the tutor, and his thirst having grown upon him, he drank of that spring and became a woman. As he was standing and not knowing what to do, a man came by and said to him: 'Whence art thou, and who brought thee hither?' To whom he replied: 'I am a king's son, and was about to go to such-and-such a king, who was about to make a banquet in my honour. I proceeded with my companions, but I have got lost from them, and came hither and drank of this water, and now have I become a woman.' And the man had compassion upon him, and addressed him, saying: 'I will be a woman in your stead for four months, until you shall have taken part in the banquet; nevertheless, swear to me by God, that at the expiration of the four months you will return to me.' And the prince swore to that man: 'I will return to thee!' That man became a woman in his place, and pointed out to the king's son the road by which he should go, in order to celebrate the marriage-banquet. Now, after the four months, he (the prince) remembered the oath which he did swear unto that man, and he returned to him and found him pregnant. The prince addresses him: 'How can I be a woman instead of you, seeing that you are with child and, as for me, while I was a woman, I remained a virgin?' They engaged in a conflict with each other, and the king's son conquered that man, and departed to his wife. Having come to his father, he acquainted him with what the tutor had done to him, and the king gave instructions for that philosopher to be put to death. And so also am I filled with the hope in God, that he will grant me a conquest over thy wise men. Yea, I will destroy myself with mine own hands, for you have done me scant justice, 'twixt me and thy son who sought to defile me."

Thereupon the king ordered his son to be put to death.

4th Philosopher. X.—The fourth philosopher now entered and prostrated himself before the king, and addressed him thus: —

[A leaf missing in the original MS.]

". . . . the day fixed. And when the day fixed by her husband had passed, she went forth to look upon the way; and a man having seen her, became enamoured of her, and sought to have intercourse wdth her, but she was not willing. So the man took himself off, and went to an old woman, a neighbour of that woman, and narrated to her the whole matter. Whereupon the old woman says: 'I'll manage for you all that you wish, and I'll make her do your bidding.' So the old woman rose up, kneaded a dough with wine, and putting in it a great deal of pepper, baked it into a cake. Then she also took a bitch which she had, and thus (equipped), the old hag arrived at the door of the said woman. Having entered her house, she cast some of the cake to the bitch, and as soon as the animal had eaten of the cake, the tears came into its eyes, by reason of the quantity of pepper. Now the old dame took a seat beside that woman, and began to weep. The woman enquires of the old lady: 'What ails thee, that thou weepest, as does also thy dog?' The old woman answers: 'This bitch was once upon a time my neighbour: she was very beautiful, so a young man fell in love with her, but she didn't want him. On account of his love towards her he cried unto God concerning her, and she became a bitch, as you see; and as she observed that I was coming to you, she came with me, and I am weeping out of pity for her.' As the young woman heard these words from the old dame, she said to her: 'After me also a certain young fellow was running, and he was importuning me excessively, but I didn't care for him; now that I see your dog, I am very much afraid of that circumstance, on account of which (as you say) the girl was turned into a bitch, fearing lest he might petition God against me, and I become a bitch. But rise, and go to the man, and bring him to me, and whatever you demand I will give you.' The old hag replies: 'You rise, deck yourself, and enjoy yourself till I come back.' So the young woman arose and adorned herself, and spread her couch. She prepared a meal too; and the old woman went out after that man, but found him not. But she reasoned within herself thus: 'This young woman promised to give me a present; I'll look for another man, and bring him to her.' So the old woman went and walked about, (looking) after another young man. Now as she was going about, she lighted upon the husband of that (young) woman returning from a journey: and having seen him, she addressed him: 'Come in peace! come and stay in a neat house, containing everything that you may desire.' The man answers the old dame: 'Go on in front!' So she went on, he following her, until she arrived at his own dwelling. When the man saw that she had brought him to his own house, he was much distressed, and said in his heart: 'This has been my wife's occupation from the time I left her. Such are her practices!' And the old woman brought him in, and bade him seat himself upon his own couch. Now, as the wife perceived that it was her husband who was there, she resorted to a stratagem: she rose in an excited manner, caught hold of his beard, and began beating him in his face, while she took to crying and calling out: 'Oh, you fraud! you're a gentleman! These are the oaths and promises which you gave me, that we should not be treacherous to each other! and you've been walking after this old woman!' 'The husband says to her: 'What's the matter with you?' She answers him: 'I heard to-day that you were returning from the journey, and I wanted to see whether you would keep the contract which we had made with each other or no. I, accordingly, prepared myself, and sent this old woman to go forth to meet you, and to learn your intentions, whether you might be led astray (to go) after adultery, and I have found you transgressing against the vows which you plighted to me. And now I have no longer any love for thee.' Her husband rejoins: 'I was also contemplating against you, that this has been your game from the time that I have been away from you, that you had made such (preparations) for someone else.' As her husband spake these words, she called him a liar, and would not believe him, but proceeded to beat herself about the face and to tear her garments, shouting at him: 'O the imposture which has been practised on me!' And she was in a temper with him for a long time, and did'nt make it up until he had made her presents of gilt ornaments and a number of dresses of every description, after which she became reconciled.

"And now, my sovereign lord, understand that no man is able to surmount the wickedness of women."

As the king heard these things, he gave orders that his son should not be killed.

Wife. XI.—The woman's rejoinder:—Now as the woman heard that the king had given orders that his son should not be put to death, she went and stood in his presence, and said to him: "Behold the deadly poison which I have! I swear by the living God, that, if thou dost not do me justice against thy son, I will drink it and die: and thou wilt have to answer for my self-destruction, while thy philosophers—those who have given thee bad counsels—will avail thee nought. It will, moreover, occur to thee as it did to a sow, who was in the habit of going to a certain fig-tree, in order to eat of the fruit which used to drop off. Now one day she came to the tree, according as she w^as wont, and found that an ape had ascended the tree and was eating of the figs, and as it beheld the sow beneath, it threw her a fig, and the sow ate it, and enjoyed it much more than those which used to drop upon the ground. The sow, moreover, was gazing up at the ape that he should go on throwing, and so long did she hang her head back in front of the ape, that the vein of her neck withered and she perished."

Now when the king heard from the woman these words, he was afraid lest she might drink of the poison and die; so he ordered his son to be put to death.

5th Philosopher. XII.—As the fifth wise man heard that the king had ordered his son to be put to death, he entered and bowed in the presence of the king and exclaimed: "Long live my sovereign lord! It is a confirmed truth as far as thou art concerned, that thou art a wise and intelligent person. Now, wherefore, dost thou act rashly before arriving at the truth? But, listen, my lord and master! There was once a man in the service of the king who possessed a dog which he had reared from a little puppy, and whatever he used to tell him he obeyed, just like a human being. Now he was exceedingly fond of that dog. It happened one day that the man's wife left home to go to her parents, and left her son in charge of his father, saying to him: 'Look after your son till I return.' While the man was sitting (by the child), the king's messenger arrived and knocked at the door, and the man went out to see who it was. The messenger announced that the king required him, so the man called the dog and placed him by the side of the little one, charging him: 'Look after the boy, and after our house, that no one enters until I return.' He thereupon attired himself in the uniform of his office, took his sword, and departed on his way to the king. Now as the dog was lying crouched beside the boy who was asleep, it saw a huge serpent approaching the boy, in order to devour it. So the dog arose and closed battle with the serpent, and killed it, the dog's mouth being besmeared with the blood of the serpent. Just at that moment the officer returned home from the king's presence, and the dog went to meet his master at the door of the house, all of a glee that it had destroyed the serpent. But as the officer beheld that the dog's mouth was besmeared with blood, he said to himself: 'It has eaten the child.' He became enraged at the animal before having acquainted himself with the facts, drew his sword, and smote the dog and killed it. After this, he entered his house and found his son asleep, no harm (having been done) to him, and the serpent which had been killed lying near the head of the child. Then the man understood that the dog had killed the serpent; and he was much distressed at having destroyed the dog. And now, my lord and master, do not destroy your son on account of the report of a wicked woman, so that it may not befal thee as it did that man who destroyed his dog.

5th Philosopher. XIII.—"And listen further: There was once a wanton fellow, who had a desire for every woman that he heard was good-looking. One day he saw a beautiful woman in the country, and sent a message to her, but she did not return his advances (lit. did not agree to his desire). Whereupon he went to the woman's place and approached her, but she didn't care for him. Then he went to her neighbour, and disclosed to her his desire and his business. The old dame said to him: 'This woman whom you are wanting is a lady.' The man replies to the old dame: 'You go to her and tell her to do my bidding, and I'll give you all you wish.' Now as the woman heard these words from that man, she answers: 'I'll do what you want, only you go to her husband to the market and buy of him some sort of garment,' and she gave him a sign. He went to the market, saw the man who had the sign which the old dame had given him; and he knew that he was the husband of that lady. So he approached him, and said to him: 'Holloa, my man, sell me a cloak!' He, thereupon, sold it him, and he took the cloak, and brought it to the old woman. She then took the cloak and burnt it in three places, telling the man to stay in her house, so that no one should see him. Then she took the cloak, and went to that lady, and passed a while with her; in the course of silly conversation (lit. stories) on one topic or another, she deposited the cloak beneath the pillow of the woman's husband, without the woman observing it, and, having stayed a little longer, went home. Now when the merchant returned at meal-time, and reclined according to habit upon his couch, he found the pillow somewhat high, and was about to smooth it down, when he discovered under his pillow the cloak which he had sold. He, however, did not inform his wife on the subject of the cloak; but he there and then set about dealing her many blows, beating her almost to death. So the woman left in a temper and went to her parents, without knowing what was the matter. Now when the old hag got to hear that her husband had been beating her about, she went to her, saying: 'I've heard that your husband has been beating you, and that wicked people have been exercising a spell over you. Now, if you are willing, you may come to my house; for I have at home a certain person who has just arrived, a doctor, and he will treat you with care.' And as the lady heard this from the old woman, she placed faith in her, and was much rejoiced, and said to the old dame: 'I'll come with you, and if I get restored to health, I'll make you a grand present.' Thereupon the old woman took her, and brought her to her house and said to the man: 'This is the lady!' whereupon the man jumped up, caught hold of her, and ravished her. When morning came, the man addressed the old woman as follows: ' owe you an acknowledgment: nevertheless I am heartily sorry and displeased that you should have made mischief between man and wife.' The old dame replies to the man: 'Don't be sorry, for I'll manage a trick to make the matter smooth (lit. love) between them: only you go to her husband and stay with him; and as soon as he questions you concerning the cloak, you answer that you were covering yourself with it by the fire, and while you were seated, the fire reached the cloak and burnt it in three places: you were very sorry about it, and gave it to an old dame, to take it to someone to mend. And the old dame took it, and you've seen nothing further of it, and don't know what has become of it. The man will tell you to fetch the old dame to whom you gave the cloak, and I'll give the reply.' So the man went and did as she told him, and took a seat in the shop belonging to the lady's husband; the old woman to whom he had given the cloak came by, he called her, and asked her about the garment. But she craftily answered the merchant: 'For God's sake I beg of you deliver me from this fellow, because he gave me a cloak to take to the tailor, to have it patched and mended. I made a call at your wife's, having the garment with me; and I don't know whether it remained in your house, or in another place.' Now when the merchant heard this from the old woman, he said: 'God knows that both I and my wife have had great annoyance on account of this cloak.' And he gave it to the man and to the old woman; and the merchant went and became reconciled to his wife, and gave her presents; but it was with difficulty that she suffered herself to be reconciled to him. And now, my sovereign lord, realise that there is no end to the baseness of women."

And when the king heard it, he gave orders that his son should not be killed.

Wife. XIV.—Reply of the wicked woman:—When the woman heard that the king had ordered that his son be not killed, she entered the presence of the king, and addressed him: "I have faith in God, that he will grant me victory over those philosophers of thine who give thee base counsels, just as he granted victory to a certain man over a lion and over an ape." The king answers: "How so?" She replies: "There was a caravan of merchants journeying on the way, and they had a great quantity of cattle. As night approached, they entered and tarried in a large yard; but they did not close the gate. So a lion came and entered among the cattle, without anyone observing it. Now a thief came in order to steal, but it was night-time and dark. The thief felt the cattle, to see which beast was the fattest to steal, it being dark; and while, having entered, he was feeling about, his hand came in contact with the lion, and, having perceived that it was fat, he caught hold of it dragged it out, and mounted it, while, through fright, the lion leaped forth and came out, for the lion thought within himself: 'The one of whom I have heard that people call him the night-watchman is surely he who has mounted me.' And the lion was afraid of him, and ran all night long, with the man on his back. When it was morning, the lion entered a thicket; and the thief, recognising that it was a lion, in his fear, stretched forth his hand to one of the branches of the tree, and climbed up the tree. The lion escaped from beneath him and scampered off, when an ape met him, and asked him why he was trembling, to whom the lion replies: 'This night there caught hold of me the one whom men style the Watchman of the Night: he mounted me, and I ran with him on me all night long, till with difficulty I have been released from him.' The ape said to him: 'And where is he?' He beheld the man, while the lion was standing at a distance afraid, and was looking on, to learn what the ape would do. Now the man, out of fear both for the lion and for the ape, espied a tree which was hollow as the shape of a vessel. So the man entered therein, and the ape climbed up and took a seat above the man's head, and waved his hand to the lion, saying: 'Come along, let's kill him!' And the lion approached and stood beneath the tree. But it happened that the ape had genitalia magna, which had gone down into the cleft of the tree. So the thief put out his hand, caught hold of them, pressed them hard and tore them, and the ape fell from the tree dead. And when the lion saw that the ape was dead, he ran for fear, and exclaimed: 'In very truth the one who killed the ape is the very one who made me run all the night!' As for me, I have hope in God, that he will give me success over thy philosophers."

Thereupon the king commanded that his son be put to death.

6th Philosopher. XV.—Now the sixth philosopher came, and entered the king's presence, and exclaimed: "Long live my sovereign lord! Know, my sovereign, that if you had no son, it would have been meet for you to petition God to give you a son: and now that you have one, you order him to be killed, and moreover, through the advice of a base woman. If only it would not happen to thee as it happened to a certain dove, who was in the habit of gathering seeds after the reapers, and, having satiated himself, he used to collect and store them in an aperture until he had filled it. He said to his mate: 'Don't come near this aperture until the winter-time,' to which she replied: 'Thou hast spoken well.' So the dove departed, he and his mate, and fed in the open. But, as soon as the sun had warmed the seeds which were in the hole they became dry, after having been moist (sc. when placed there). And the dove came to look after the store which he had gathered, and found that it had greatly diminished. So he addressed his mate: 'Did I not of a certainty bid you not to approach this store?' And in his anger he smote and killed her, and was left solitary. Now when the winter came, there was the moisture of rain, the seeds swelled, and the hole became full; and as the dove saw it, he was greatly distressed, and became aware that he had committed a great wrong. And now, my sovereign lord, understand that if you kill your son without going to the root of the matter, it will happen to you as it happened to that dove.

6th Philosopher. XVI.—"And listen further, my lord and master! There was once on a time a husbandman, and when it was harvest, he went out to reap what he had sown; at meal-time his wife was bringing him to the field a roasted chicken and a barley-cake. She had placed them in a basket, and was starting for the field. But, as she was going on the way, she passed a ruin; and there came out of the ruin a robber, who caught hold of her, and took her into the ruin; he devoured all she had with her, leaving only a little of the cake, and forming it into the shape of an elephant; he placed the same in the basket as it was, and treated her with shame. The woman took up the basket in haste, covered as it was, for she knew not that its contents had been eaten by the robber, and brought it and placed it at the side of her husband. The husband opened it, and saw that there was nothing in it but a bit of cake in the shape of an elephant. The man asked his wife what was the meaning of it. As soon as the wife saw this, she understood that this had been done by the robber. So she hit upon a plan and said to her husband: 'This night I saw in my dreams, while I was asleep, that I was mounted on an elephant, and I fell off, and was trampled under foot. Now when I awoke I was in a great fright, so I betook myself to an interpreter of dreams, and repeated to him (my dream). He gave me the interpretation of the dream, and bade me make a cake in the shape of an elephant, bring it to my husband, and my dream would be solved. See to eat it, so that no harm befal me.' The husband ate the cake, believing that his wife had been telling the truth." As soon as the king saw it, he gave orders that his son should not be put to death. Reply of the wicked woman:—Hereupon the woman was bitterly wroth, and said within herself: "If the lad be not killed this day, to-morrow he will speak and do me harm, and I shall be handed over to destruction. And if I do not destroy myself, I have no defence to urge." Thereupon she collected everything that she possessed, and presented it to her relations, bidding them gather for her huge logs. These she kindled with fire, intending to throw herself into the fire before the seventh day had run out, fearing, as she did, lest the youth might tell, and because of that which she had proposed to him. And the king heard this news and was afraid. Whereupon he said to her: "Wherefore would you throw yourself into the fire?" She replies: "Because thou hast not done me justice against thy son." So he promised her that he would no longer suffer his son to live. Upon this (assurance) she restrained herself from the fire. And the king commanded that his son be put to death without delay. But when the philosophers heard that the king had ordered his son to be put to death, they were very much distressed; and the seven of them rose, and went to the executioner and persuaded him, telling him to wait a little, and not to kill the youth. And he was talked over by means of gifts with which they presented him; and so he did not kill him.

7th Philosopher. XVII.—Then the seventh wise man entered the king's presence, made obeisance to him, and spake as follows: "Long live my master and sovereign! Realise that, in ordering your son to be killed upon the report of the wicked woman, you are about to commit an extremely wicked action; and do you not know that, in consequence of vows and petitions, God gave you this son? But listen, my sovereign lord! There was once a man who possessed the spirit of divination, which used to cause great profits to accrue to him, and used to instruct him in the entire art of healing, (in fact) it used to acquaint him with everything concerning which people asked him. By means of it he amassed great wealth. Now it happened one day that the spirit addressed the man as follows: 'I am about to depart, and you will never again behold me; nevertheless, I shall teach you three things, and then I'm off.' So the man went about very miserable at the departure of the spirit. On his wife beholding him, she asked him: 'Wherefore is thy countenance sad, and thy colour changed?' He answers her: 'Because the spirit which I possessed, which was wont to instruct me in all things, and out of which I used to make profit, has now gone from me, never to return.' And as the man told his wife these things, she also was troubled; and seeing her troubled, he said to her: 'But he taught me this: Ask of God three things, and he will give them thee.' And she answered him: 'This is sufficient for thee, don't grieve!' The husband says to her: 'Now what do you advise me to ask of God?' The wife, owing to her being intemperate in her desire, answered him thus: 'You are aware that there is nothing which is as pleasing to a man as intercourse with women. Now, petition God that he increase unto you your desire.' And he replied: 'Thou hast spoken well.' And he besought God to give him increased desire, (he had but one before); and he furthermore besought incessantly, so that he had quite a number, and they harassed him. When he saw what had befallen him, his wife became an object of sport in his own eyes, he insulted his wife with reproaches, and gave her blows, and said to her: 'Are you not ashamed of yourself on my account, that such were your counsels?' To which she replied to him: 'Don't grieve! there remain to you two things: Petition God that these may depart from you!' Thereupon he prayed to God, and all of them departed from him, including the one which he had previously. Now the man became terribly excited and wanted to kill his wife: and she asked him: 'Why are you excited? there remains to you yet one thing: Beseech God to restore to you the first one.' And now, my sovereign lord, don't give ear to the story of a wicked woman.

7th Philosopher. XVIII.—Listen further, my Sovereign! "There was once a man who swore an oath not to take a wife, unless he could manage to learn the whole trickery of wicked women. . . . . . . . . . . . . . ."

[3 leaves missing.]

Thereupon the king called his wise men and philosophers, and asked them: "Make known unto me whose is the fault, mine, or the boy's, or the woman's?" One of them answered and said: "The fault is Sindban's; for since he was aware that, if he were to speak during these seven days, the boy would die, he was in duty bound to have taken the boy to his house, and not to have sent him to thee." The second philosopher addresses the king: "It is not the case that Sindban is at fault; for there was a limit of time agreed upon between him and the king, which he could neither increase nor diminish without playing the king false. On this account he kept out of the way. But blame attaches to the one who had given orders that the boy should be killed." The third philosopher spake: "It is not so! For the fault is not the king's, because there is nothing on earth colder than the wood of the camphor and the sandal-tree: whereas, if a man take and rub them against each other, fire comes out of them. And so it is when a man, who happens to be finished and polished as regards mind and intellect, quarrels with a woman, particularly with a person who is dear to him. But the fault lies with the woman, inasmuch as she belied the king's son, and sought to destroy him." Now the fourth philosopher answered and said: "It is not as you have stated, for the fault lies not with the woman; for, seeing that the boy was goodlooking and noble in stature, especially as they were alone in the room, she sought out how she might satisfy her passion. But, indeed, the boy is at fault, for not having kept his master's instruction, and for having said to the woman that thing which caused her to be afraid of him." Now Sindban answered and said: "Not as you have spoken does the case stand, for the fault is not the boy's. There is nothing more excellent than truthfulness; and whoever thinks within himself that he is wise and yet lies, he is counted not among the wise men, but among liars."

King's Son. XIX.—Then the king bade his son speak. And the boy lifted up his voice and addressed the philosophers thus: "My wisdom compared with your wisdom is like a fly compared to a monster. Nevertheless, there was once a man who made a banquet, and gave milk as a beverage. Now when the milk was all gone, the man sent his maid to market to buy some milk. So she took the pail, and went and bought the milk; and she carried the vessel on her head. But as the woman was returning to come home, a falcon happened to pass over her head bearing a serpent; and, the wind having blown upon that serpent, it spewed its poison into the pail of milk, without the maid perceiving it. She brought it to the master, he gave his guests to drink, and all of them died through the milk." And the lad spake: "Whose fault was it?"

The first philosopher began and said: "The fault belonged to the master of the house; because, before having given his guests to drink, he ought to have given the milk to the woman to taste."

The second began and said: "It is not so; for the master of the house was not the sinner: it was the serpent's fault."

The third one answered and said: "'Tis not so; the serpent was not at fault, for in its straits it let go and spewed the poison."

Then Sindban answered and said: "Let it be understood by you, that everything which God has created, and has within it a living soul, eats of that which God has put into its nature; and so also the falcon, the food which God gives it, it will eat. And therefore no fault attaches to this creature."

The king addresses his son thus: "I am of opinion, that these philosophers do not know whose was the fault. But as for you, what do you say?" And the king's son answered and said: "In very truth, my sovereign lord, it is not at all in the power of any of the philosophers of King Cyrus to understand the circumstance which occurred to those who drank of the milk. I am of opinion that it occurred because it was determined that this should be their fate." Now as the king heard these words from his son, he was greatly rejoiced, and began and said to Sindban: "Ask of me whatever you please, I will give it thee! but if, moreover, you have (more) wisdom, teach the lad." And Sindban answered the king: "He is quite perfect and pre-eminent in wisdom, above the wise men in thy dominion." The king addressed the philosophers: "Is this true, what Sindban asserts?" They answer him: "It is true." The lad began and said: "Let it be known to thee, my sovereign lord, that men who have not a finished education do not repay with kindness the person who has done them a kindness. My master, Sindban, has instructed me in the whole range of knowledge, by dint of great diligence which he has applied to me. Surely it should be repaid him in the manner that he has acted towards me, since the philosophers say that I excel them in wisdom.

King's Son. XX.—"Listen to this parable" (continued the king's son). "There were two boys, one three years old, and the other five; and there was an old man blind and lame, who was great in wisdom." His father said: "How was this?" The lad answered and said: "There was a man in whom the love for women was excessive; and whatever woman he heard about, that she was beautiful, he was in the habit of visiting. Now one day he heard of a beautiful woman, and went to her; but this woman had a boy three years of age, who said to his mother: 'Make me something to eat!' And as the woman saw that the man was impatient, she said to him: 'Sit down, while I prepare something for my son to eat.' Whereupon he replied: 'Leave your son alone and attend to me, for why shall I wait?' The woman answers him: 'If you knew the sense that this young fellow has!' And the woman rose, and took the rice which she had boiled and set it before her son. But he said to his mother: 'Give me more, for I am not full!' and she gave him more, but he did not cease crying. So that man began and spake to the boy: 'You are very impudent, and have no sense; because, if this had been placed before a couple of men, it would have satisfied them.' The boy answered and said to the man: 'You are the one wanting in sense; for you've come out to claim that which is not yours, and you've selected for yourself a business which God does not approve. But, moreover, what do you think of (the result of) my want of sense and of my weeping? Only that it makes my eyes the brighter, and clears my nostrils from their nasty mucus, and I get relief from my head-ache; and, besides, through my having cried, I got an additional quantity of food.' Now when the man heard that he excelled him in sense, he rose, folded his arms, and bowed down to the boy, saying: 'I will not be culpable in your presence, for I did not think that you had sense.' And the man rose and went home, without having committed any wrong.

King's Son. XXI.—"And the following is the story of the five-year-old boy: There were three companions who went to a strange place; and they entered a town, and stayed at an old woman's. Now they wanted to go to the baths, and they said to the old woman: 'Put out for us everything that's requisite for a wash in the bath.' She accordingly placed everything ready for them, but forgot to put the comb. Now these men delivered to her their money and said to her: 'Don't you give this money to any one of us, except we three are assembled together.' And the woman answered: 'I'll do so.' And they proceeded to go to the baths. Now when they noticed that there was no comb among the articles, they sent one of their number to the old woman to fetch the comb; and he came to the old woman and said to her: 'My companions tell you to give me the money.' But the old woman replied: 'I shall give nothing, except when the three of you are assembled together.' He says to her: 'But see, my companions tell you to give it to me.' And as soon as she went to the door of the baths, he went in to his companions and said to them: 'The old woman is standing outside at the door of the bath.' They call out to her: 'Old woman, give it to him.' But the old woman had brought out the money, and she gave it to him; and he took it and ran off, while his companions were expecting him to come, but he did not come. But the old dame went to them, and told them: 'As regards the money, your companion came and I gave it to him, according as you told me to give it to him.' They answer: 'We told him to bring a comb.' Whereupon she answered: 'He demanded the money of me.' Then they took hold of the old woman, and dragged her before the ruler. The ruler bids her give them their money. She says: 'I've given it to them.' They say: 'O my lord, be it understood by you that we were three companions, and we charged her thus: "Unless the three of us are assembled, don't let the money go out of your hands."' The ruler tells her: 'Give them their money;' and the old woman left, distressed and sorrowful. Now while she was crying, a boy aged five years met her, and said to her: 'Why, old lady, are you weeping?' She answered him: 'Leave me to my trouble.' But the boy did not leave her, until she disclosed it to him. He says to her: 'If I help you out, you'll give me a zuz that I may buy nuts for it?' She replies: 'If you help me out, I'll give it you.' He says to her: 'You go back to the ruler and say to him: "My lord, you must understand, that the three of them gave me the money, and commanded me not to give up the money, unless the three of them were met together.

Now, my lord, order them to bring their companion, that the three of them be assembled, and that they may receive the money."' So the old woman returned to the ruler, and spake to him as the boy had taught her. And the judge addressed the men: 'Is it true (what) the old woman thus (says)?' They reply: 'Yes.' He says to them: 'Go and bring your companion, and take the money.' The ruler then knew that someone had instructed her, and he addressed her: 'Disclose to me, old lady, who instructed you in this matter?' The old lady replies: 'A boy five years old taught me.' So the ruler sent, and had the boy brought, and addressed him: 'Did you instruct the old lady in these things?' To which he replied: 'Yes, my lord!' Thereupon the ruler took him, and made him chief over the philosophers.

King's Son. XXII.—"Now this is the story of the blind man. There was once a merchant, who bought sweet-smelling wood called aloes-wood. And he moreover heard. . . . . ."

[The MS. breaks off abruptly here; all the rest is missing.]

  1. I have attempted by the alteration or addition of one letter to make sense out of a passage hitherto considered hopeless.