Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Greek, Roman & Oriental
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XV: Greek—Roman—Oriental
 
Jests and Pranks
By Nasir-Ed-Din (14th Century)
 
AT a very late hour of the night the master (Nasir-ed-din) issued forth from his house, and wandered about the streets of the town. He was met by a captain of the police, who thus accosted him:  1
  “Sir, why do you walk abroad at this unseemly hour?”  2
  To which the master replied:  3
  “My sleep having flown, I came out to look for it.”  4
 
  One day the master bought a sheep’s lung, intending to consume it at supper. On the way home he met a friend, who asked him how he would prepare the lung.  5
  “I shall cook it,” said the master, “in the usual way.”  6
  “Do not so,” urged his friend, “but let me instruct you in a method to make the dish truly palatable.”  7
  But after being instructed, the master shook his head, saying:  8
  “All this I cannot remember. Will you not, in your kindness, aid my memory by writing on paper what I am to do?”  9
  So the friend complied, and the master, thanking him, bade him good day, and resumed his homeward road.  10
  Musing on the delicate repast in store for him, he did not perceive a raven which was hovering above his footsteps. Suddenly the raven swooped down and tore the lung from his hand.  11
  “Nay,” exclaimed the master, “you will not enjoy the lung, for you have not the receipt!”  12
  Another day he was requested the loan of his ass. He excused himself, saying:  13
  “I have none.”  14
  Just then the ass brayed aloud in the stable, and to the remonstrance offered the master replied:  15
  “I am astonished indeed that you put no faith in my denial, but rather believe the words of an ass.”  16
  The master was caressing a calf, when the animal kicked at him and ran away. Thereupon he took a stick and beat the calf’s mother. On being challenged why he thus punished an innocent cow, the master explained that the calf’s mother was at fault for having taught it to kick.  17
 
  The master and his wife were lying awake in bed one night. She wanted him to light the candle, saying that it stood at the right hand of the bed. To which he replied:  18
  “Woman, how shall I tell, in the dark, which is the right hand and which is the left?”  19
 
  The master’s wife being a shrew, upon the occasion of a dispute she ended it by giving her spouse a kick, so that he lost his balance and rolled down the stairs. Hearing the tumult, the neighbors hastened to find out the cause, and inquired of the master what had taken place.  20
  “My wife and I had words between us,” he informed them.  21
  “That may well be, but whence arose that loud noise as of great and rapid thumping?”  22
  “My wife became impatient in the argument, and flung my cloak down-stairs.”  23
  “But a cloak, even if folded tightly, would make no such loud noise as we heard.”  24
  “Then, since you drive me to it,” said the master, confess that I was inside the cloak.”  25
 
  Having lost his ass, the master went forth in search of it. During the search he was seen to raise his eyes to heaven, while his lips uttered the words, “Allah be praised!”  26
  On being asked what reason he had to offer up thanks for such a visitation, he answered:  27
  “I am grateful because I was not riding the ass, for then I must have been lost too.”  28
 
  Straying into a vegetable garden one day, the master saw that the vegetables were good, and plucked one here and there, dropping them into his wallet. The gardener, perceiving the master thus occupied, addressed himself to him, and the following talk ensued:  29
  Gardener.  Who are you?  30
  Master.  That is known to me, but evidently not to you.  31
  Gardener.  Then, why are you here?  32
  Master.  By chance.  33
  Gardener.  I mean, how came you here?  34
  Master.  By accident.  35
  Gardener.  Say now, without further ado, what brought you here?  36
  Master.  The will of Allah.  37
  Gardener.  How so?  38
  Master.  It must have been the will of Allah, since Allah is the governor of all nature, and nature is the cause of my presence in this garden. Could I resist the forces of nature?  39
  Gardener.  Bandy no words with me, but explain what force of nature it was that brought you hither to pluck my vegetables.  40
  Master.  The wind came, and, blowing mightily, carried me into this garden.  41
  Gardener.  And did the wind tear up my vegetables?  42
  Master.  Nay, friend; but the wind blew me so about that, to save myself, I clutched at every stalk which came near my hand, and thus, with each fresh gust of wind that bore me off, a vegetable remained in my grasp.  43
  Gardener.  A fine story, forsooth!  44
  Master.  Yes, a truly fine story, friend.  45
  Gardener.  And, now, tell me how the vegetables got into your wallet.  46
  Master.  Ah, that is really the chief question! Let us both spend the rest of the day in surmising how the vegetables might have got into my wallet.  47
 
 
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