He said, ‘They have related that a Devotee after long celibacy* desired to put in practice the injunction, ‘Matrimony is my commandment, therefore he who turns away from my commandment is none of mine,’ and act in accordance with the mandate deserving of obedience, ‘Marry and beget children.’ He therefore conferred with one of the pious men of the time, and asked his blessing and his permission. The devotee [whom he addressed] responded, ‘Thou hast formed a very praiseworthy project, since matrimony is beneficial as relates to subsistence here, and is perfectly advantageous and protective in matters of religion, and by it is obtained a safeguard to household chattels, and, moreover an abundance of children, from which results a continuance of one’s name.

Ne’er on a man does radiant fortune smile,
Till a spouse light home’s cheering lamp for him.
Pass not thy life a celibate, the while
Thou mightest, bird-like, those glad gardens skim,
Where pleasures reign, and joys the goblet brim.

Nevertheless use thy endeavors to secure a tender partner, and avoid an unsuitable companion.’ The Devotee asked, ‘What sort of wife ought one to make choice of?’ The other replied, ‘A wife that is affectionate, and prolific, and sedate, that is to say, one that holds her husband dear, and brings him many children, and avoids crime. And a virtuous wife bestows new light on every house into which she enters.

Sweet is the converse of a virtuous wife;
Happy his fate who such a spouse possesses;
Who aids him here and in his future life.
Companionship man’s lot here truly blesses,
When fortune grants a friend, our trouble less is.’

The Devotee asked, ‘The society of what wife ought we to shun?’ The other replied, ‘Three kinds of wives ought to be avoided, a widow anxious to marry again; a woman who places her husband under an obligation; and a complaining woman. Now the first is one who has had a husband before thee, and has been separated from him by death or divorce, and ever remains longing to regain his society. The second is one who possesses property, and effects, and who, by her wealth, imposes on thee an obligation. The third is a wife who, when she sees thee, speaks with a feeble voice, and feigns herself to be ill when she is not, and the sight of such a wife is a renewal of death every hour.

In a good man’s house an evil wife
Is his hell above in this present life.
From a vixen wife protect us well;
Save us, O God! from the pains of hell.’*

Again the Devotee who wished to marry, asked, ‘Of what age shall I choose a wife?’ The other replied, ‘It must be a young maiden of tender years, since old women steal away the roses from the cheek, and converse with them brings on debility and weakness.

The wife, whose back is crooked as a bow,
Her mind is like an arrow, straight,* thou’lt learn.
Girls, who, while young, do nought but joy bestow,
In their old age to deadly poison turn.

And wives, from ten years old to twenty years, are places of security and promise; and from twenty to thirty years, they are the solace of the hearts of and lovers, and the delight of the souls of those who eagerly pursue them; their from thirty to forty years, controllers of the property and the children, and displayers also of high feelings; and from forty to fifty years they aim at name and reputation, and employ on those present, artifices and finesse. But after they have passed fifty years, they become dark calamities, and the destruction of property and rank, and withered gardens, and rain-penetrated mansions, and fallow fields, and serpents without treasure, and mines of trouble and annnoyance.

Wives, that on that side fifty tread,
’Twere best to shun, by stepping on this side:
For, though one may from fifty’s claws have fled,
’Tis but, at last, to sixty to be tied.’*

The questioning Devotee again asked, ‘What sayest thou as to beauty and good looks?’ The other replied, ‘The best thing in the matter of women is chastity and amiability. If to these be added the blessing of beauty it is like adding light to light.

All holy spirits will that form surround,
Where beauty, chastity, and worth are found.

But a beautiful and comely woman, if she be unamiable, is a mortal calamity and a perpetual source of annoyance; while an amiable woman, although she be plain-featured, is a kind companion and an ornament of the family.

A kindly partner, and a gentle friend,
E’en though not fair,—does yet the eyes illume:
But not thy heart to a cross mistress lend,
Though flowers beneath her footsteps seem to bloom.

And two or three couplets from the ‘Results of Meditation,’ composed by that illustrious author, which relate to this subject ought to be borne in mind.

A modest, chaste, and an obedient wife,
Lifts her poor husband to a kingly throne:
What though the livelong day with toils be rife!
The solace of his cares at night’s his own.
If she be modest, and her words be kind,
Mark not her beauty, or her want of grace;
The fairest woman, if deformed in mind,
Will in thy heart’s affections find no place:
Dazzling as Eden’s beauties to the eye,
In outward form; foul is her face within.
Better in dungeon, bound with chains, to lie,
Than mark at home a wife of frowning mien.
Better bare feet than pinching shoes. The woes
Of travel are less hard than broils at home.
Contentment’s door upon that mansion close,
Whence wrangling women’s high-pitched voices come.
Be woman’s eye to strangers blind; to those
Abroad, let it be dark as in the tomb.’

In short, after extensive inquiry and infinite pains, the Devotee, through the aid of his lofty fortune, and the help of his noble spirit, obtained a wife of a great family and an illustrious stock. The reflection of her countenance gave radiance to the morn, and the hue of her curling ringlets aided the perfumer of evening in intensifying his gloom. The azure sky had never beheld her equal, save in the mirror of the sun; and the swift-sighted limner of the imagination had ne’er looked on the like of her lovely semblance, save in the world of dreams.

The glories of thy sunny cheek the world of beauty warmly kiss;
Like the full moon, thou hast arisen amid the sky of loveliness;
Thy countenance the brightest rose, thy form the fairest cypress is;
That ever grew in beauty’s bower, or ’mid the flowers of comeliness.

And, together with this beauty of form, she was adorned with excellence of disposition, and the graces of her body were set off by those of her mind. The Devotee, in his daily prayers, returned thanks for such a blessing; and having thus commenced his intercourse with that partner whose face resembled the beauties of Eden, he desired to beget a son. And no wise person bases his desire for children on mere sensual appetite, nor yields his body to the task save in quest of a virtuous son, who, in procuring the blessings asked for by prayer, is equivalent to the perpetual offering of alms.

From woman’s pain, and what man’s toil has done,
Is formed the fair amusement of a son.

And when an interval had passed, and the desired event did not happen, the Devotee, losing hope, began to place the face of supplication on the ground of entreaty, and to let fly the arrow of prayer from the bow of sincerity; and since he was altogether absorbed in the path of prayer, according to the saying, ‘Who heareth the afflicted when he calleth upon him,’* the shaft of his supplication reached the target of acceptance.

The man, whose heart is moderate and pure,
His prayer will reach the All-Glorious One, be sure.
Rapt from himself, the prayer is not his own;
The prayer he utters is from God alone:
Vain is the creature, but the prayer is true;
Divine the prayer, and the acceptance too.

Then after his despair the gates of the heavenly favor were opened with the keys of mercy, and the wife of the Devotee became pregnant. Greatly did the holy man rejoice, and his wish was all day long to renew the mention of his son, and, after the performance of his daily devotions, his tongue did nought but utter his name. One day he said to his wife, ‘O partner of my life, and sympathizing friend! may it quickly happen that the princely pearl may reach the shore of manifestation, from the shell of thy womb: and that a fair son may step gracefully from the cabinet of the unseen to the plain of evidence, and that I may give him a good name and a becoming title. Then, may I next engage to the utmost of my power in his education and instruc­tion, that he may learn the precepts of the law, and that I may exert myself fairly in correcting and improving his manners. So will he become adorned with the demeanour which is fitting for a spiritual walk in life; and thus, in a short time, rise to fill an eminent station in the faith, and be a venerated leader possessed of miraculous gifts. I will then wed him at the proper season to a religious lady, and from them will spring children and grand­children, and through this blessed channel our seed will be perpetuated, and our name will, by means of our descendants, endure on the page of existence.

His name, with rolling time, will circle on,
Who leaves his own memorial in a son.
Hence men recall the memory of a shell
Through the rich pearl, once tenant of its cell.’

The wife replied, ‘Sweet friend and venerable leader of the faith! these words befit not a posture of adoration on the carpet of prayer, nor do they demand the ejaculation of thanksgivings. In the first place, thou hast set thy mind on a son, and it is possible that I may not bear a child, and if I should, it is likewise possible that it may not be a male, and though this should be the case, it is again possible that it may not survive nor be blessed with life. In short, the conclusion of this affair is not to be discerned, and thou, like a besotted visionary, hast taken thy seat on the steed of desire, and galloped the courser of thy hope—like foolish persons infatuated with their own longings—in the plain of expectation.

Thou canst not speed by hope and mere desire,
Nor by loud talk and boasting aught effect.
Thousands, consumed with longings vain, expire,
And fortune grants them nought their hearts expect.

And thy words resemble the conduct of that Religious Man, who besmeared his own face and hair with honey and oil.’ The Devotee inquired, ‘How was that?’