Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Hatefulness of Old Husbands

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

Sadi (c. 1213–1291)

Hatefulness of Old Husbands

From “The Rose Garden” (Gulistan)

AN OLD man married a young virgin. He adorned the bridal chamber with flowers, seated himself with her in private, and riveted his heart and eyes upon her. Many a long night he would lie awake and indulge in pleasantries and jests, in order to remove any coyness on her part, and encourage familiarity. One of those nights he addressed her thus:

“Lofty fortune was your friend, and the eye of your prosperity broad awake, when you fell into the society of such an old gentleman as I am, being of mature judgment, well-bred, worldly experienced, inured to the vicissitudes of heat and cold, and practised in the goods and evils of life, who can appreciate the rights of good-fellowship and fulfil the duties of loving attachment and is kind and affable, sweet-spoken, and cheerful. I will treat you with affection, as far as I can, and if you deal with me unkindly, I will not be unkind in return. If, like a parrot, thy food be sugar, I will devote my sweet life for thy nourishment. And you did not become the victim of a rude, conceited, rash, and headstrong youth, who one moment gratifies his lust, and the next has a fresh object; who every night shifts his abode, and every day changes his mistress. Young men are lively and handsome, but they keep good faith with nobody. Expect not constancy from nightingales, who will every moment serenade a fresh rose. Whereas my class of seniors regulate their lives by good breeding and sense, and are not deluded by youthful ignorance.”

Court the society of a superior, and make much of the opportunity; for in the company of an equal thy good fortune must decline.

The old man spoke a great deal in this style, and thought that he had caught her heart in his snare, and made sure of her as his prey, when she suddenly drew a cold sigh from the bottom of a much-afflicted bosom, and answered:

“All this speech which you have delivered has not, in the scale of my judgment, the weight of that one sentence which I have heard of my nurse, that it were better to plant a spear in a young maiden’s side than to lay her by an old man in bed. Much contention and strife will arise in that house where the wife shall get dissatisfied with her husband.”

Unable to rise without the help of a staff, how can an old man stir the staff of life?

In short, there being no prospect of concord, they agreed to separate. After lapse of the period prescribed by the law, she united in wedlock with a young man of an ill-tempered and sullen disposition, and in very narrow circumstances, so that she endured much tyranny and violence, penury and hardship. Yet she was thus offering up thanksgivings for the Almighty’s goodness, and saying:

“Praised be God that I have escaped from such hell-torment, and secured a blessing so permanent. With all this violence and impetuosity of temper, I bear with his caprice, because he is handsome. It were better for me to burn with him in hell-fire than to dwell in paradise with the other.”

The smell of an onion from the mouth of the lovely is sweeter than that of a rose in the hand of the ugly.