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The Laughable Stories of Bar-Hebraeus, by Bar-Hebraeus, tr. E.A.W. Budge, [1897], at

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The Twentieth Chapter


DCLXXVIII. Soft hair indicateth timidity, and harsh hair is a sign of bravery. For behold, the camel, and the hare, and the lamb have soft hair, but the lion and the wild pig have harsh hair; now this characteristic is found also in the fowl of the air. An abundance of hair on the belly indicateth a strong desire for marriage; and this [observation] is derived from winged fowl.

DCLXXIX. The man with coarse hair, and lofty stature, and a broad belly, and a closely knit back, and broad shoulders, and little flesh on his neck, and a fleshy breast, and small thighs, and red and dry eyes, and a long and pointed forehead, is a mighty man and a hunter; but he who hath the reverse of these attributes is a weak and timid man.

DCLXXX. He whose flesh is soft, and who is not fat overmuch, whose arms move easily, whose hair is soft and not black overmuch, and whose complexion is between red and white, is a good man by nature and in him there is no wickedness.

DCLXXXI. He that hath much flesh on his neck, and large feet, and shoulders drawn upwards, and a round belly, and forehead and a tinge of green in his eyes, is a man who is without sexual passion.

DCLXXXII. He that hath his eyes open always, and

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thick eyebrows, and a meagre stature, and hasty movements, and a ruddy colour, and a round face, and a mole on his cheek, is an impudent and audacious man.

DCLXXXIII. He that hath an emaciated face, and eyebrows which do not meet, and slow movements, is a man who grieveth and despaireth habitually.

DCLXXXIV. He whose head leaneth to the right, and whose knees are stretched out from each other in walking, who moveth his arms as he goeth along, who leaneth with his hand on the top of his side when he sitteth down, and who doth not look upon the various sides [of a matter] in a disordered manner, is a man who is blessed in all his movements and actions, and he is naturally noble.

DCLXXXV. He that hath a broad cheek, and coarse thick hair upon it, and quick movements. of the head, is a man of wrath.

DCLXXXVI. He that hath the upper lip larger than the lower one, and a ruddy colour, and a hasty gait, is a man easily [moved] to words of abuse.

DCLXXXVII. He that hath a whitish colour, and very fat eyes, and a round nose, and moist eyes, is a man prone to the passion of love and to the love of women; he will never allow himself to do harm to any man whatsoever, and usually daughters are born to him.

DCLXXXVIII. The man who hath the upper members of his body larger than the lower ones, and a flat nose, and a fat body, and a fluent speech, and a superabundance of hair on his belly, loveth his children exceedingly.

DCLXXXIX. The man who hath a thick neck is a man of wrath, and is even like the bull.

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DCXC. The man who hath a long and thin neck is a man addicted to love like the gazelle.

DCXCI. He that hath a very meagre neck is a crafty man like the wolf.

DCXCII. He that shaketh his legs as he goeth along is one who meditateth upon lofty subjects and is even like the lion, especially if his arms are curved.

DCXCIII. He that hath thin and mobile lips, with the upper one falling over the lower, is a hunter even as are the lion and large dogs.

DCXCIV. He that hath a thick upper lip, which appeareth to cover over the lower one, is a man lacking in intelligence, and dense in understanding and is even like the ass.

DCXCV. He that hath a thick nose-end is a sluggish man and is even like the ox; but he that hath a thin nose-end is a man of wrath like the dog.

DCXCVI. He that hath large ears is like unto the ass in his movements, for behold, those dogs which have small ears are very swift and active in their movements.

DCXCVII. He that hath deep-set eyes is cunning like the ape, and he that hath very prominent eyes is simple like the ass.

DCXCVIII. He whose complexion is very black or very white is a timid man, like the Indians and the whole race of women.

DCXCIX. He whose complexion is ruddy overmuch is one who leadeth into error, like the fox.

DCC. He that hath a very red face is a lover of wine; now this indication is derived from the drunkard.

DCCI. He that hath blue or gray eyes is a timid man.

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DCCII. The man whose eyes are absolutely colourless is a fool, even like the goat.

DCCIII. He that hath hair overmuch on his breast and belly hath neither foundation nor stability in his actions, and is even as are certain feathered fowl.

DCCIV. He that hath no hair upon his breast is an impudent man, and he is even like unto a woman; but he that hath hair upon his breast is even like a lion.

DCCV. He whose hair covereth his forehead is a man who is fitted naturally to be a slave.

DCCVI. He whose steps are long behaveth wickedly in his actions: and he is accounted excellent, even as is the lion, especially if there be a sound [when he moveth] his arms.

DCCVII. He whose eyes have swift motions is a plunderer, even as the hawk.

DCCVIII. He that hath a dense body is a fool like unto the ass, especially if he hath a loud voice.

DCCIX. The man who at the beginning speaketh with a loud voice and endeth his speech in a thin, small voice is one who grieveth and who beareth many burdens like the ox.

DCCX. The man whose voice is feeble is timid like the lamb, and he whose voice is sharp and disjointed is a fool like the goat.

DCCXI. The man who reigneth when yet exceedingly young, that is to say in his childhood, being naturally of a good disposition, will not live to an old age, and in his hands the sovereignty will pass from his race, and things will happen in his time which have never happened before. Similarly, if a man reign in the prime of life, and he be naturally of a wicked, avaricious, and

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greedy disposition, his kingdom will not endure. But the kingdom of the man who cometh to the throne when he is forty or fifty years of age, being naturally of a good disposition, will endure in proportion to the age which he is when he beginneth to reign. This fact hath been demonstrated by the experience of a great many sages of old.

DCCXII. The man who hath round eyes which project from his head and have red streaks in them is a miser, and an avaricious and corrupt man; and if it happen that they are directed upwards continually he hath not a single good trait in his character. Similarly a broad face is a sign of good nature, and for a man to have a face which is broad at the top and narrow at the chin is an indication of an evil nature.

DCCXIII. The man who hath a wide space between the eyebrows, and who winketh with the left eye, and whose ear is full of hair, and who looketh on the ground is crafty, and subtle, and deceitful, especially if his nose inclineth to the left.

DCCXIV. The man whose eyes are deep-set, and who hath a high forehead, and slightly elongated face, is an audacious fellow who will live long.

DCCXV. The man who hath large lips, and a flat nose, and great eyes which stare upwards is a fool, and no trust can be placed in him.

DCCXVI. The man who hath small eyes, and long eyelashes, and a high forehead, and a loose mouth, and crisp hair, and a bald skull, is a tyrant and one who sheddeth blood.

DCCXVII. The man who hath large eyes, with a cast(?) in the left one, and a handsome face, is a lover of wisdom, and is of keen intelligence; he is also

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addicted to fornication and is not entirely free from fraud.

DCCXVIII. The woman whose nose-end is slightly large, and who hath large black eyes with a slight tinge of red in the left one is chaste; she shunneth marriage with the greatest care, and hideth herself in corners.

DCCXIX. Thick and bushy eyebrows, small eyes, thick lips, and a sharp nose are bad signs in a woman.

DCCXX. No woman with a round face, and a small nose, and a pointed head, and whose eye is darker than her complexion, and whose hair is crisp, can escape fornication.

DCCXXI. The man whose eyes project from his head and who prolongeth his gaze on anything, is one who boasteth of himself and hath a high spirit, and is strenuous in worldly matters.

DCCXXII. He whose nose-end is high is one who hateth occupation.

DCCXXIII. Sharpness of nose, exceeding blackness of the eye, length of hair, and hasty speech, are signs of wrath and anger; the inward qualities of the man who hath them do not testify to his externals, and he is the offspring of fornication.

DCCXXIV. Furthermore, little compassion, avariciousness, mercilessness, lasciviousness, insolent speech and weakness in action are the signs of an adulterer and of one who is the offspring of fornication.

DCCXXV. Aristotle the Great said 1, "Since the soul

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and the body are counterparts in growth and are the natural kinsmen, each of the other, each of them

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acteth upon the other, and each is acted upon by his fellow. The soul is acted upon by the body in seasons of anger, and love, and sadness, and because the body is the revealer of our senses, the soul concealeth by means of the body the motion whereby we came to know this. And this is the science of physiognomy, and the signs which it possesseth are threefold. For either by the resemblance which we see between some human and some animal form do we identify the motions of the person from the motions of the animal; or by the likeness which we see between a certain human being and a certain being among the various human races—as we might say the Ethiopians, or the Huns, or the Hittites—and when we compare the habits of the person with those of [one belonging to] these nations we cannot make a mistake; or the form of some person whom we see being like unto the form of him that is angry, or him that is afraid, or him that lusteth; therefore he who is naturally a man of wrath, or a timid man, or a man of lust we

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can describe and be certain that we are right. And this art hath need of a subtle intellect, and a profound understanding, and a perfect mind, and the heavenly aid of God—may His glory be adored! And he, who will ornament [his] understanding with spiritual light and, will devote himself to the understanding [of physical signs], will be even like unto the sun in true light in respect of the things which are visible, for without it no single eye is able to attain thereunto."

DCCXXVI. A certain wise man wished to listen rather than to speak, and being asked "Why?" replied, "It was for this reason that God created one tongue and two ears for man."

DCCXXVII. Another wise man said, "As men are wont to try vessels of earthenware by their ring, even so also is a man tried by the word of his mouth."

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"The writer saith:—

Peradventure having meditated upon these miscellaneous stories which I have gathered together and arranged in this my book, thou mayest find one which lieth beyond the pale of the path of chastity, and which should be neither said nor done by him that dwelleth chastely in flourishing and well-ordered monasteries, and mayest begin to heap imprecations upon me; but do not do this. For as in the tabernacle of wisdom 1 every kind of thing is necessary, nothing whatsoever that in a natural way sharpeneth the intelligence, and enlighteneth the understanding, and comforteth and rejoiceth the mind which is sorrowful and suffering, should ever be rejected. So likewise is it in a large house: for not only are vessels of gold and silver necessary, but even vessels made of gourdskins. And to speak after the manner of an apostle, whist thou dost purify thy mind and dost refine thine understanding, thou wilt not find in this book a single petty or contemptible story, or one which is absolutely destitute of some intellectual profit."

Here endeth the book.

Glory be to God Who hath given [me] strength; and to the Son Who hath helped [me]; and to the Holy Ghost Who brought [the work] to an end and completed it.


182:1 For the original Greek text see Didot's edition of Aristotle, fol. iv. p. 1. The following passage, having reference to the same subject, I extract from Bar-Hebraeus' great translation of p. 183 Aristotle's work entitled, "Butter of Wisdom," ###).

186:1 read ###.

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