The Laughable Stories of Bar-Hebraeus, by Bar-Hebraeus, tr. E.A.W. Budge, , at sacred-texts.com
[The following verses are not found in the India Office Ms.]
EXHORTATION TO A LIFE OF EXCELLENCE.
As a mourner weeping thou didst enter the world on the day of thy birth,
Though thou didst bring joy and laughter to thy kinsfolk;
Take care that thou art joyful and innocent on the day of thy death,
When they are weeping and wailing by reason of thy 5 departure.
THE WORTHLESSNESS OF [THIS] FLEETING LIFE.
The [days of] men's lives are few and evil, as hath been said,
And are for the most part, [full of] toil, and pain, and suffering, and disgrace.
Childhood hath [its] faults and stripes of correction; And manhood its fatiguing passions and goadings of 10 the flesh;
And in old age sickness and pain wear [a man] to nothing.
Then, straightway, death snatcheth [him] away to the storehouse of the grave,
And, behold, there are for him henceforth either the awful judgment, and the fiery furnace,
And the torment and the thick darkness wherein there is no light,
15 Or happiness with the angels in the shining heavens.
ON THE TRANSIENT NATURE OF [THIS] WORLD.
The moon, by reason of her phases, may be taken as a type of man.
She cometh into being, she waxeth, she groweth old,
she dieth, and is as if she had never been.
The course of her hours daily depicteth the form of the end,
20 And teacheth us that in the same manner the world
and the things thereof must pass away.
ON DEATH AND THE RESURRECTION.
The mornings and the evenings without written words depict
The story of death and of the resurrection by means of things which are visible.
Night, like death, cometh upon all beings and creatures,
25 And spreadeth out over all rest and silence and tranquillity.
He carrieth away the crowns of exalted kings shamelessly,
And all the ranks of mighty men sink to rest at his approach.
He depriveth thrones also of their splendour,
And from princes he demandeth tax and tribute.
30 He maketh merchants to cease suddenly from travelling,
And handicraftsmen also from their trades and handicrafts.
He sheweth the way to all husbandmen coming from their fields,
And work and tillage upon all homesteads come to an end.
He burieth every man in his bed as if he were dead,
And he draweth over his face the gate of sleep as it 35 were a curtain.
He bindeth on crowns and is boastful, and commandeth all creation,
And he subdueth the sceptres of sea and of land [to his] dominion.
He maketh the earth to appear unformed, and waste, and void,
And he stilleth the clamour of all those who are prosperous through trafficking.
And as with colour he depicteth to every man the 40 type of the end,
And how the course of the world and of the vault of heaven will cease.
Morn riseth like unto the sun of righteousness,
And with his beams he driveth away the night from the ends of the earth.
Like a trumpet the light it beareth forth into the inhabited world,
And men rise up from sleep as out of the grave. 45
Suddenly each man possesseth himself of life and wakefulness,
And every one pursueth his labours with zeal and diligence.
Morn commandeth the earth to beget its offspring from the womb of night,
And each man riseth up to the things which belong to him in due order;
The rich man riseth up to his riches and the poor man 50 to his poverty without confusion.
Morn painteth the picture of the great day of the Resurrection,
And sheweth how every man will possess the [fruit of] his labour from justice.
OF THE FOOLS WHO MAGNIFY THEMSELVES OVER THE WISE.
The time when foxes shall turn into lions hath not yet been recorded,
55 Nor when slaves shall have obtained dominion over their lords.
OF THE DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST ON OUR BEHALF.
O turtle-dove, I am struck with wonder at thee,. for I marvel at thee,
For though thou hast ornaments on thy neck, yet hast
thou pitch in thy hands, and weeping in thy mouth.
If thou art a bride why have thy wailings disturbed the woods?
60 And if thou art a mourner wherein do thine ornaments benefit thy body?
The dove replieth, "The love of my spouse hangeth upon my neck like a jewelled ornament,
"And my hands are dyed with his precious blood as it were with a pledge.
"And, behold, I suffer henceforth through what he suffered for me,
"Even as I take pride in and am glad because of his resurrection."
65 THE DISSOLUTION OF THE WORLD.
A certain wise man likened the world to the globe of the sun,
Which in turning in the hands of children indicateth the end;
It leapeth from one to another and passeth on without stopping.
And it indicateth to us that temporal glory is a dream.
The new moon sheweth the vanishing of the time of 70 my life,
And I take pride therein, and my mind, rejoiceth in the sight thereof.
She is born, she waxeth, she waneth, she dieth away, and finally disappeareth,
And every man occupieth himself with vain things and feareth not.
For the lamb is bound beneath the knife whilst its fellow leapeth,
And men are greatly moved by things which are to 75 be greatly desired whilst death spoileth.
O young man, thou lover of the world, let not this [present] enjoyment flatter thee,
For the name of this world is derived from labour 1, yea, even from vexation.
OF THE CRAFTY MAN, AND OF THE MOCKER, AND OF THE BOASTER.
The man who is wicked, and is crafty, and is a boaster, 80
Continually pryeth into the lapses of his neighbour.
And rather than gaze upon virtues he closeth the eye,
And, like the fly, never seeketh anything but a sore.
OF THE AVARICIOUS MAN.
85 The man who is sluggish and altogether lazy in [doing] good
Leaveth behind not any to pollute the wall.
That the miser may heap up money he will even wear sandals of iron,
For never by any means whatsoever doth he improve in virtue.
He is a fountain from which man draweth not water. 90
And even though such a fountain were the spring of Siloam it would be meet for it to be shut up.
When such a fountain is choked man complaineth not,
And when its waters are cut off every man rejoiceth, and leaveth it, and is at peace.
The perverse prince of a people should first of all correct himself,
95 And then his people; otherwise his labour will be in vain.
For the crooked shadow cannot be straight
Except the wood from which it cometh be also straight.
ON THE DEATH OF A BELOVED ONE.
O our brother, at thy death I am stricken with amazement, I am afflicted and am utterly undone, 100
And what I shall say of both matters I know not.
For either in thy death have I eaten of the second death,
Or death in thy death hath swallowed me up like a dragon.
O our little brother, among the brethren thou wert splendid and glorious,
Even as thou wert splendid and glorious among the stars of clay.
Thou didst dissipate all afflictions and sorrows, 105
Even as the rays of the sun scatter the darkness at noonday.
Against sufferings we had a buckler and armour,
And by thy converse every disagreeable thing was driven away.
The Lord, Who hath wrought great and mighty deeds 110 on earth,
And hath made the dead to live and hath given strength to the feeble,
Will give thee, O my brother, happiness with the angelic hosts,
And will sprinkle thee with the dew of mercy and of glorious things
And the spirits of the righteous will be friends and brethren of thine.
ON THE DEATH OF THE PATRIARCH JOHN BAR-MA‘DANÎ 1,
BY GREGORY BAR-HEBRÆUS.
O Angel of Death, why hast thou smitten me with such sorrow as this,
And hast pitilessly rewarded me with such evil as this?
The sun of time, the luminary, the prop of the Church,
The head of the soul, the soul of the spirit, the right 120 spirit,
The fruit of the heart, the life of life, the light of the pupil of the eye,
The holy of holies, the pure in feelings, the new spirit,
Hast thou taken away from us; and our lament is one of mourning.
Thou hast cast our crown to earth, thou hast overturned our exalted horn.
125 Under thy protection it became springtime for us throughout the year,
And even winter took upon itself the attribute of summer.
In the time of December as in the time of January
We possessed a rose without any hateful thing and grapes on the vine.
No man among us ever drew nigh to the fig-tree
130 Without seeing it to be full of fruit, yea, richly dowered therewith.
[Our] garden was like unto the Garden of Eden,
And, behold, without our father, it is like unto the bottommost hell.
O father of truth, let all life perish except thy life,
And if I forget thee, let this my beloved right hand forget me.
135 Through thy removal, behold, the Church hath become filled with grief,
And through the want of the perfection which belongeth
to thee it hath become a defective thing.
That which belonged to thyself alone hath become a strange form,
And to thee alone hath come the manhood of our Lord.
Tell me, O our father, where thy blessed habitation is,
140 And how the eye which hath become infirm can see thee.
Though there fall to me the fiercest path of fire,
Yet I will travel on the top thereof, even though it blaze with flame.
The pure soul which was in thy body hath become perfect,
And it hath straightway become mingled with the phalanxes of the Watchers and of the spiritually wise;
Above the fiery coals among the wheels [hast thou] set 145 thy footstep.
If thou couldst permit me to see the divine Shechinah,
The eye of the soul which though now it were bashful,
Yet at the sight of thy shadow would it become luminous.
This despised form [of mine] would be unworthy to see thee,
Therefore hath thy Lord made for thee a house in the 150 heavens.
In all the world my soul hath become a wretched and apostate thing,
And thyself alone in all the world wast its friend.
Why didst thou leave it in despair and solitude?
Why didst thou not take it with thee as a handmaiden or as a servant?
Since it never at any time spared itself in [thy] service, 155
Why didst thou leave it in tears behind thee like a rejected thing?
From the time when it came into being it never heard the voice of weeping,
But through thy departure it hath become skilled in the arts of grief.
What one who mourneth for a lover or for a mistress,
Payeth heed to the voice of him that draweth nigh 160 with speech of consolation?
Though thinking to give comfort to others like the tragedian,
Its own habitation is far removed from consolation.
in the dreams of the night when [my] rational soul is empty,
It becometh painted with shapes of vanity in thy form, 165
For thou knowest that that which was sweet hath become most bitter.
And what ill luck hath come upon the soul that was thine handmaiden, O mistress!
From the time when became certain to thee the intention of departure
It became empty and destitute of both knowledge and understanding.
In the treasury of the mind blazing fire hath been piled up, 170
Which overcometh with fierce flame and burning the Babylonish woman.
With the dew of life of thine angelic shadow
Unless thou sprinkle her behold she will be burnt up like the Chaldean woman.
Her liver hath become to her a well—like the Israelitish woman—
And in it is preserved the unquenchable fire of thy love.
175 In two mighty fire-temples it hath become a dweller,
And within a very little it had worshipped the fire like a Persian.
In the heart and liver, which are the houses of life, the fire kindleth,
And into them entereth the Magian prophetess to prophesy.
Inasmuch as her body is enfeebled and her mind wandereth,
180 If she erreth in her speech let her not be blamed.
My heart hath no peace and quietness, and my mind getteth no rest,
And without thy likeness there will never remain perception in my brain.
[My] sleep by day and by night is washed with tears,
And for this reason a sleepless eye hath come to me.
If an unwatchful eye hath ever been seen, * 185
It would fix itself to see thee; and if [it] did not no man would see it sunk in slumber. *
For at thy gate [my] soul standeth like a beggar,
Asking a vision of thyself in a dream and not a cake.
191:1 The play here is on the words ### "world", and ### "labour".
193:1 He was created Maphrian A.D. 1232, and Patriarch in 1252, and he died in 1263.
197:* I am uncertain about the meaning of these lines.