Friday, August 14, 2009

Consolations of literature

Appointment in Samara
(a very old Babylonian story, retold)

A certain merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market to buy some provisions. A little while later, the servant returned, white in the face. In a trembling voice he said, "Just now in the market place I was jostled by a man in the crowd, and when I turned I saw it was Death. He looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Please lend me your horse. I want to go to Samara where Death will never find me."

The merchant agreed and lent the man his horse. The servant mounted and rode away as fast as the animal could gallop.

Later that day, the merchant went down to the market place and saw Death standing in the crowd. He approached him and said, "Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?"

"That was not a threatening gesture," said Mr. Death. "It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara."

[n. The above is from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Note that Death's banner is the white rose, a symbol of life, perhaps spiritual life.]

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