The Arabian Nights are full of changes in fate and fortune. The bull finds the donkey in a clean stable with good food, and congratulates him. The donkey advises the bull to pretend to be sick when brought out to plough. The bull does, and the owner uses the donkey to plough all day instead. So the donkey tells the bull that he heard the owner say, if the bull is sick again he should be given to the butcher. So when the bull is taken from the stable next, he runs away. I love the cynicism of the donkey, and the way the outcomes baffle his objectives.
The wise man does a favour to the king, and the king distrusts him: for if he could do me good so cleverly, he could harm me as easily. “Betray him before he betrays you” advises the vizier, and they have the wise man beheaded. The head speaks, and advises the king to read a book: in turning the pages with his licked finger, the king ingests poison from the impregnated pages, and dies.
What is female beauty?
He saw a lady of medium height, with jutting breasts, beautiful, comely, resplendent, with a perfekct and well-proportioned figure, a radiant brow, red cheeks and eyes rivalling those of a wild cow or a gazelle. Her eyebrows were like the crescent moon of the month of Shaban, she had cheeks like red anemones, a mouth like the seal of Solomon, coral red lips, teeth like camomile blossoms or pearls on a string, and a gazelle-like neck. Her bosom was like an ornate fountain, with breasts like twin pomegranates, she had an elegant belly and a navel that could contain an ounce of unguent.
Great learning may benefit you little:
-Do you know any craft by which to make your living?
I told him, “I am a lawyer, a scientist, a scribe, a mathematician and a calligrapher.”
-There is no market for that kind of thing here. No one inthis city has any knowledge of science or of writing and their only concern is making money.
So he gives the man an axe, and he becomes a woodcutter.
Inexplicable misery afflicts people:
By God, the Merciful, surely my affair bewilders me;
I do not know the source of sorrows that have surrounded me.
I shall endure until endurance itself cannot match mine,
Continuing until God closes my affairs.
I may be conquered, but I shall not show pain,
As a thirsty man endures in a hot valley
I shall endure until endurance itself learns
I can endure what is more bitter than aloes,
Itself the bitterest of all,
But bitterer than all this would be for patience to betray me.
It gives wise advice, such as these five injunctions:
Do not be on intimate terms with anyone, for in this way you will be safe from the evil they may do you.
Injure no man lest time injure you, for this world is a loan to be repaid.
Keep silence and concern yourself with your own faults and not those of others.
Be on your guard against drinking wine, for wine is the root of all discord and it carries away men’s wits
Guard your wealth and it will guard you. Do not overspend.