LATELY — 9 April 2002

Why You Might Like to Read This Story

You might like to read the following story, “The Man and His Wife” (from Arabian Nights), for:

  1. the stirring use of “wilt” at the end of the third paragraph.
  2. instruction in the use of the words assiduous, except, orision, perdition, rede, succour, and suffer.
  3. the welcome reminder that women can never, ever, not-at-all be trusted. Especially if sex is involved.

The Man and His Wife

… a certain man had a wife whom he loved and honoured, giving ear to her speech and doing according to her rede. Moreover, he had a garden, which he had newly planted with his own hand, and was wont to go thither every day, to tend and water it. One day his wife asked him “What hast thou planted in they garden?” and he answered, “All thou lovest and desirest, and I am assiduous in tending and watering it.” Quoth she, “Wilt thou not carry me thither and show it to me, so I may look upon it and offer thee up a pious prayer for its prosperity, seeing that my orisons are effectual?” Quoth he, “I will well; but have patience with me till the morrow, when I will come and take thee.”

So early on the ensuing day, he carried her to the garden which he entered with her. Now two young men saw them enter from afar and said each to other, “Yonder man is an adulterer and yonder woman an adultress, and they have not entered this garden but to commit adultery.” Thereupon they followed the couple to see what they would do, and hid themselves in a corner of the garden.

The man and his wife after entering abode awhile therein, and presently he said to her, “Pray me the prayer thou didst promise me;” but she replied, saying, “I will not pray for thee, until thou do away my desire of that which women seek from men.” Cried he, “Out on thee, O woman! Hast thou not thy fill of me in the house? Here I fear scandal, especially as thou divertest me from my affairs. Fearest thou not that some one will see us?” Quoth she, “We need have no care for that, seeing that we do neither sin nor lewdness; and, as for the watering of the garden, that may wait, because thou canst water it when thou wilt.”

And she would take neither excuse nor reason from him, but was insistant with him in seeking carnal coition. So he arose and lay with her, which when the young men aforesaid saw, they ran upon them and seized them, saying, “We will not let you go, for ye are adulterers, and except we have carnal knowledge of the woman, we will report you to the police.” Answered the man, “Fie upon you! This is my wife and I am the master of the garden.” They paid no heed to him, but fell upon the woman, who cried out to him for succour, saying, “Suffer them not to defile me!” Accordingly he came up to them, calling out for help; but one of them turned on him and smote him with his dagger and slew him. After slaying the husband the two young men returned to the wife and ravished her.

“This I tell thee, O King,” continued the Wazir, “but that thou mayest know that it becometh not men to give ear unto a woman’s talk neither obey her in aught nor accept her judgment in counsel. Beware, then, lest thou don the dress of ignorance, after the robe of knowledge and wisdom, and follow perverse rede, after knowing that which is righteous and profitable. Whereupon pursue thou not a paltry pleasure, whose trending is to corruption and whose inclining is unto sore and uttermost perdition.”

(tr. Sir Richard Burton)