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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Bar-Hebraeus (Abu’l-Faraj Gregorius) (1226–1286)

Advice of Physicians

From “Book of Laughable Stories”

WHEN a sick man asked his physician, who was wont to jest, about a drug, he said to him, “Take an emollient of violet which hath grown as large as a clod of dung, and pour upon it as much boiling water as the juice which cometh out from a gourd; macerate them together until the mixture becometh like oil, and drink it.” The sick man said to him, “Perhaps if I were beaten with a hundred stripes I might do the things which thou sayest, but without the stripes I never will.”

Another physician was asked, “What is the aim and end of the art of healing?” He replied, “The preservation of health in our equals and friends, and the driving of sickness into our enemies.”

When a certain man came to a physician to inquire of him concerning an attack of colic which had come upon him, the physician said to him, “Eat a few thorns.” And the man brought out ink and paper to write upon, and said to the physician, “Repeat, pray, what dost thou advise?” And the physician said unto him, “Eat a few thorns, together with a bushel of barley.” And the man said, “Thou saidst nothing at all about barley at first.” And the mediciner replied to him, “No, I did not, for I did not know until this moment that thou wert an ass.”

An actor once said to a jovial physician, “The colic hath got hold of the ends of my hair, and my belly is becoming black.” The physician said to him, “Shave thy head and thy beard, and thou wilt never again have colic in the ends of thy hair; and as for the duskiness of thy belly, paint it with antimony, and thou wilt be gratified therewith.”

When a certain mirthful physician was passing by the door of a bath he saw a naked man coming out, and he said to him, “Why art thou going forth naked? Go in, lest thou suffer harm.” And the man said, “They have stolen my clothes, and I am going out to seek for them.” And the physician said, “Let me bleed thee, then, that thy affliction may be diminished.”

To another mediciner it was said, “What is the most convenient time for eating?” And he replied, “To him that hath anything to eat when he is hungry, and to him that hath nothing when he findeth something.”

The possessor of a delicate stomach coming to a doctor of physic, he asked him the reason why he was sick, and he replied, “I have eaten burnt bread.” And the physician said to him, “Paint thine eyes with stibium, or with something that will sharpen thy vision.” To which the patient replied, “I did not ask thee about mine eyes, but about my stomach.” “I know that,” was the answer, “but I say unto thee, paint thine eyes with something that will sharpen thy vision, in order that thou mayest observe the bread which is burnt, and mayest not eat of it.”

An individual who had once been a painter left off painting and became a doctor of medicine. When it was said to him, “Why hast thou done this?” he replied, “The errors made in painting all eyes see and scrutinize; but the mistakes of the healing art the ground covereth.”

Seeing a man who had had a blow on the head about to bind it up with salt and caraway seeds, his physician said to him, “Art thou going to send down thine head to the oven to be baked?”