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Ross, James / The Persian Literature, Comprising The Shah Nameh, The Rubaiyat, The Divan, and The Gulistan, Volume 2
E-text prepared by Juliet Sutherland, Karen Lofstrom, and the Project
Online Distributed Proofreading Team

Notes: Volume 1 of this work can be found in Project 's library.
See http://www..net/etext/10315

A few original typesetter's errors (inconsistent spelling,
superfluous quotation marks, and the like) have been corrected
in the interests of producing a smooth-reading text.

The reader will also occasionally find a line of asterisks
between sections. These are found in the original and they
indicate a missing section. It is not clear why the translator
skipped these sections. Reference to another, complete,
translation of the Gulistan shows no appreciable differences,
in length or subject, between the sections included and those




Revised Edition, Volume 2


With a special introduction by
Professor of Rabbinical Literature and the Semitic Languages
at Columbia University





I. Of the Customs of Kings

II. Of the Morals of Dervishes

III. On the Preciousness of Contentment

IV. On the Benefit of Being Silent

V. On Love and Youth

VI. Of Imbecility and Old Age

VII. Of the Impressions of Education

VIII. Of the Duties of Society




[Translation by James Ross]


The Persian poet Sa'di, generally known in literary history as
Muslih-al-Din, belongs to the great group of writers known as the
Shirazis, or singers of Shiraz. His "Gulistan," or "Rose Garden," is the
mature work of his life-time, and he lived to the age of one hundred and
eight. The Rose Garden was an actual thing, and was part of the little
hermitage, to which he retired, after the vicissitudes and travels of
his earlier life, to spend his days in religious contemplation, and the
embodiment of his experience in reminiscences, which took the form of
anecdotes, sage and pious reflections, _bon-mots_, and exquisite lyrics.
When a friend visited him in his cell and had filled a basket with
nosegays from the garden of the poet with roses, hyacinths, spikenards,
and sweet-basils, Sa'di told him of the book he was writing, and
added:--"What can a nosegay of flowers avail thee? Pluck but one leaf
from my Rose Garden; the rose from yonder bush lasts but a few days, but
this Rose must bloom to all eternity."

Sa'di has been proved quite correct in this estimate of his own work.
The book is indeed a sweet garden of unfading freshness. If we compare
Sa'di with Hafiz, we find that both of them based their theory of life
upon the same Sufic pantheism. Both of them were profoundly religious
men. Like the strong and life-giving soil out of whose bosom sprang the
rose-tree, wherein the nightingales sang, was the fixed religious
confidence, which formed the support of each poet's mind, amid all the
vagaries of fancy, and the luxuriant growth of fruit and flower which
their genius gave to the world. Hafiz is the Persian Anacreon. As he
raises his voice of thrilling and unvarying sweetness, his steps reel,
he waves the thyrsus, and his flushed cheek shows the inspiration of the
vine. To him the Supreme Being has much in common with the Indian or
Thracian Dionysus, the god of perennial youth, joyous revel, and
exhilaration. Hafiz can never be the guide, though he may be the cheerer
of mortals, adding more to the gayety than to the wisdom of life. But
both in the western and in the eastern world Sa'di must always be looked
upon as the guide and enlightener of those who taste life, and love
poetry. It has been said by a wise man that poetry is the great
instructor of mature minds. Many a man turning away in weariness from
the controversies, the insincerities, and the pretentiousness of the
intellectualists around him, has exclaimed, "Give me my Horace." But
Horace with all his _bonhommie_, his common sense, and his acuteness, is
but the representative of a narrow Roman coterie of the Augustan age.
How thin, flimsy, and unspiritual does he appear in comparison with the
marvellous depth, the spiritual insight, the tenderness and power of
expression which characterized Sa'di.

Sa'di had begun his life as a student of the Koran and became early
imbued with the quietism of Islam. The cheerfulness and exuberant joy
which characterize the poems he wrote before he reached his fortieth
year, had bubbled up under the repressions of severe discipline and
austerity. But the religion of Mohammed was soon exchanged by him, under
the guidance of a famous teacher, for the wider and more transcendental
system of Sufism. Within the area of this magnificent scheme, the
boldest ever formulated under the name of religion, he found the liberty
which his soul desired. Early discipline had made him a morally sound
man, and it is the goodness of Sa'di that lends such a warm and
endearing charm to his works. The last finish was given to his
intellectual training by the travels which he took after the Tartar
invasion desolated Persia, in the thirteenth century. India, Arabia,
Syria, were in turn visited. He found Damascus a congenial
halting-place, and lived there for some time, with an increasing
reputation as a sage and poet. He preached at Baalbec on the
fugitiveness of human life, on faith, love, and rest in God. He
wandered, like Jerome, in the wilderness about Jerusalem, and worked as
a slave in Africa in the trenches of Tripoli: he travelled the length
and breadth of Asia Minor. When he arrived back at Shiraz, he had passed
the limit of three-score years and ten, and there he remained in his
hermitage and his garden, to arrange the result of all his studies, his
experiences, and his sufferings, in that consummate work which he has
named the "Rose Garden," after the little cultivated plot in which he
spent his declining days and drew his last breath.

The "Gulistan" is divided into eight chapters, each dealing with a
specific subject and partaking of the nature of an essay: although these
chapters are composed of disjointed paragraphs, generally beginning with
an aphorism or an anecdote and closing with an original poem of a few
lines. Sometimes these paragraphs are altogether lyrical. We are struck,
first of all, by the personal character of these paragraphs; many of
them relate the experience of the poet in some part of his travels,
expressing his comment upon what he had seen and heard. His comments
generally take the form of practical wisdom, or religious suggestion. He
gives us the impression that he knows life and the human heart
thoroughly. It may be said of him, as Arnold said of Sophocles, he was
one "who saw life steadily, and saw it whole." On the other hand, there
is not the slightest trace of cynical acerbity in his writings. He has
passed through the world in the independence of a self-possessed soul,
and has found it all good, saving for the folly of fools and the
wretchedness and degradation of the depraved. There is no bitter
fountain in the "Rose Garden," and the old man's heart is as fresh as
when he left Shiraz, thirty years before; the sprightliness of his
poetry has only been ripened and tempered to a more exquisite flavor, by
the increase of wisdom and the perfecting of art.

Above all, we find in Sa'di the science of life, as comprising morality
and religion, set forth in a most suggestive and a most attractive form.
In some way or other the "Rose Garden" may remind us of the "Essays" of
Bacon, which were published in their complete form the year before the
great English philosopher died. Both works cover a large area of thought
and experience; but the Englishman is clear, cold, and sometimes
cynical, while the Persian is more spiritual, though not less acute, and
has the fervor of the poet which Bacon lacks, and the religious devotion
which the "Essays" altogether miss. The "Rose Garden" has maxims which
are not unworthy of being cherished amid the highest Christian
civilization, while the serenity of mind, the poetic fire, the
transparent sincerity of Sa'di, make his writings one of those books
which men may safely take as the guide and inspirer of their inmost
life. Sa'di died at Shiraz about the year 1292 at the reputed age of one
hundred and ten.



Of the Customs of Kings


I have heard of a king who made the sign to put a captive to death. The
poor wretch, in that state of desperation, began to abuse the king in
the dialect which he spoke, and to revile him with asperity, as has been
said; whoever shall wash his hands of life will utter whatever he may
harbor in his heart:--"_When a man is desperate he will give a latitude
to his tongue, like as a cat at bay will fly at a dog_"--"at the moment
of compulsion when it is impossible to fly, the hand will grasp the
sharp edge of a sword." The king asked, saying, "What does he say?" One
of the Vizirs (or nobles in attendance), and a well-disposed man, made
answer, "O my lord! he is expressing himself and saying, _(paradise is
for such) as are restraining their anger and forgiving their
fellow-creatures; and God will befriend the benevolent_." The king felt
compassion for him, and desisted from shedding his blood. Another
nobleman, and the rival of that former, said, "It is indecorous for such
peers, as we are, to use any language but that of truth in the presence
of kings; this man abused his majesty, and spoke what was unworthy of
him." The king turned away indignant at this remark, and replied, "I was
better pleased with his falsehood than with this truth that you have
told; for that bore the face of good policy, and this was founded in
malignity; and the intelligent have said, 'A peace-mingling falsehood is
preferable to a mischief-stirring truth':--Whatever prince may do that
which he (his counsellor) will recommend, it must be a subject of regret
if he shall advise aught but good."

They had written over the portico of King Feridún's palace:--"This
world, O brother! abides with none. Set thy heart upon its maker, and
let him suffice thee. Rest not thy pillow and support on a worldly
domain which has fostered and slain many such as thou art. Since the
precious soul must resolve on going, what matters it whether it departs
from a throne or the ground."


One of the kings of Khorasan saw, in a dream, Sultan Mahmud, the son of
Saboktagin, an hundred years after his death, when his body was decayed
and fallen into dust, all but his eyes, which as heretofore were moving
in their sockets and looking about them. All the learned were at a stand
for its interpretation, excepting one dervish, who made his obeisance,
and said:--"He is still looking about him, because his kingdom and
wealth are possessed by others!--Many are the heroes whom they have
buried under ground, of whose existence above it not one vestige is
left; and of that old carcase which they committed to the earth, the
earth has so consumed it that not one bone is left. Though many ages are
gone since Nushirowan was in being, yet in the remembrance of his
munificence is his fair renown left. Be generous, O my friend! and avail
thyself of life, before they proclaim it as an event that such a person
is not left."


I have heard of a king's son who was short and mean, and his other
brothers were lofty in stature and handsome. On one occasion the king,
his father, looked at him with disparagement and scorn. The son, in his
sagacity, understood him and said, "O father! a short wise man is
preferable to a tall blockhead; it is not everything that is mightier in
stature that is superior in value:--_a sheep's flesh is wholesome, that
of an elephant carrion_.--_Of the mountains of this earth Sinai is one
of the least, yet is it most mighty before God in state and
dignity_.--Heardst thou not what an intelligent lean man said one day to
a sleek fat dolt? An Arab horse, notwithstanding his slim make, is more
prized thus than a herd of asses."

The father smiled; the pillars of the state, or courtiers, nodded their
assent, and the other brothers were mortified to the quick. Till a man
has declared his mind, his virtue and vice may have lain hidden; do not
conclude that the thicket is unoccupied, peradventure the tiger is gone

I have heard that about that time a formidable antagonist appeared
against the king. Now that an army was levied in each side, the first
person that mounted his horse and sallied upon the plain was that son,
and he exclaimed: "I cannot be that man whose back thou mayest see on
the day of battle, but am him thou mayest descry amidst the thick of it,
with my head covered with dust and blood; for he that engages in the
contest sports with his own blood, but he who flees from it sports with
the blood of an army on the day of fight." He so spoke, assaulting the
enemy's cavalry, and overthrew some renowned warriors. When he came
before the king he kissed the earth of obeisance, and said, "O thou, who
didst view my body with scorn, whilst not aware of valor's rough
exterior, it is the lean steed that will prove of service, and not the
fatted ox, on the day of battle."

They have reported that the enemy's cavalry was immense, and those of
the king few in number; a body of them was inclined to fly, when the
youth called aloud, and said, "Be resolute, my brave men, that you may
not have to wear the apparel of women!" The troops were more courageous
on this speech, and attacked altogether. I have heard that on that day
they obtained a complete victory over the enemy. The king kissed his
face and eyes, and folded him in his arms, and became daily more
attached to him, till he declared him heir-apparent to the throne. The
brothers bore him a grudge, and put poison into his food. His sister saw
this from a window, and closed the shutter; and the boy understood the
sign, and withdrew his hand from the dish, and said, "It is hard that
the virtuous should perish and that the vicious should occupy their
places." Were the homayi, or phoenix, to be extinct in the world, none
would take refuge under the shadow of an owl. They informed the father
of this event; he sent for the brothers and rebuked them, as they
deserved. Then he made a division of his domains, and gave a suitable
portion to each, that discontent might cease; but the ferment was
increased, as they have said: Ten dervishes can sleep on one rug, but
two kings cannot be accommodated in a whole kingdom. When a man after
God's heart can eat the moiety of his loaf, the other moiety he will
give in alms to the poor. A king may acquire the sovereignty of one
climate or empire; and he will in like manner covet the possession of


A horde of Arab robbers had possessed themselves of the fastness of a
mountain, and waylaid the track of the caravan. The yeomanry of the
villages were frightened at their stratagems, and the king's troops
alarmed, inasmuch as they had secured an impregnable fortress on the
summit of the mountain, and made this stronghold their retreat and

The superintendents of the adjacent districts consulted together about
obviating their mischief, saying: If they are in this way left to
improve their fortune, any opposition to them may prove impracticable.
The tree that has just taken root, the strength of one man may be able
to extract; but leave it to remain thus for a time, and the machinery of
a purchase may fail to eradicate it: the leak at the dam-head might have
been stopped with a plug, while, now it has a vent, we cannot ford its
current on an elephant.

Finally it was determined that they should set a spy over them, and
watch an opportunity when they had made a sally upon another tribe, and
left their citadel unguarded. Some companies of able warriors and
experienced troops were sent, that they might conceal themselves in the
recesses of the mountain. At night, when the robbers were returned,
jaded with their march and laden with spoil, and had stripped themselves
of their armor, and deposited their plunder, the foremost enemy they had
to encounter was sleep. Now that the first watch of night was
gone:--"the disc of the sun was withdrawn into a shade, and Jonas had
stepped into the fish's mouth "--the bold-hearted warriors sprang from
their ambush and secured the robbers by pinioning them one after

In the morning they presented them at the royal tribunal, and the king
gave an order to put the whole to death. There happened to be among them
a stripling, the fruit of whose early spring was ripening in its bloom,
and the flower-garden of his cheek shooting into blossom. One of the
vizirs kissed the foot of the imperial throne, and laid the face of
intercession on the ground, and said, "This boy has not yet tasted the
fruit of the garden of life, nor enjoyed the fragrance of the flowers of
youth: such is my confidence in the generous disposition of his Majesty
that it will favor a devoted servant by sparing his blood." The king
turned his face away from this speech; as it did not accord with his
lofty way of thinking, he replied:--"The rays of the virtuous cannot
illuminate such as are radically vicious; to give education to the
worthless is like throwing walnuts upon a dome:--it were wiser to
eradicate the tree of their wickedness, and annihilate their tribe; for
to put out a fire and leave the embers, and to kill a viper and foster
its young, would not be the acts of rational beings. Though the clouds
pour down the water of vegetation, thou canst never gather fruit from a
willow twig. Exalt not the fortune of the abject, for thou canst never
extract sugar from a mat or common cane."

The vizir listened to this speech; willingly or not he approved of it,
and applauded the good sense of the king, and said:--"What his majesty,
whose dominion is eternal, is pleased to remark is the mirror of probity
and essence of good policy, for had he been brought up in the society of
those vagabonds, and confined to their service, he would have followed
their vicious courses. Your servant, however, trusts that he may be
instructed to associate with the virtuous, and take to the habits of the
prudent; for he is still a child, and the lawless and refractory
principles of that gang cannot have yet tainted his mind; and it is in
tradition that--_Whatever child is born, and he is verily born after the
right way of orthodoxy, namely Islamism, afterwards his father and his
mother bring him up as a Jew, Christian, or Guebre_.--The wife of Lot
associated with the wicked, and her posterity failed in the gift of
prophecy; the dog of the seven sleepers (at Ephesus) for some time took
the path of the righteous, and became a rational being."

He said this, and a body of the courtiers joined him in intercession,
till the king acceded to the youth's pardon, and answered: "I gave him
up, though I saw not the good of it.--Knowest thou what Zal said to the
heroic Rustem: 'Thou must not consider thy foe as abject and helpless. I
have often found a small stream at the fountain-head, which, when
followed up, carried away the camel and its load.'"

In short, the vizir took the boy home, and educated him with kindness
and liberality. And he appointed him masters and tutors, who taught him
the graces of logic and rhetoric, and all manner of courtier
accomplishments, so that he met general approbation. On one occasion the
vizir was detailing some instances of his proficiency and talents in the
royal presence, and saying: "The instruction of the wise has made an
impression upon him, and his former savageness is obliterated from his
mind." The king smiled at this speech, and replied:--"The whelp of a
wolf must prove a wolf at last, notwithstanding he may be brought up by
a man."

Two years after this a gang of city vagabonds got about him, and joined
in league, till on an opportunity he murdered the vizir and his two
sons; and, carrying off an immense booty, he took up the station of his
father in the den of thieves, and became a hardened villain. The king
was apprised of this event; and, seizing the hand of amazement with the
teeth of regret, said:--"How can any person manufacture a tempered sabre
from base iron; nor can a base-born man, O wiseacre, be made a gentleman
by any education! Rain, in the purity of whose nature there is no
anomaly, cherishes the tulip in the garden and common weed in the
salt-marsh. Waste not thy labor in scattered seed upon a briny soil, for
it can never be made to yield spikenard; to confer a favor on the wicked
is of a like import, as if thou didst an injury to the good."


At the gate of Oghlamish Patan, King of Delhi, I (namely Sa'di) saw an
officer's son, who, in his wit and learning, wisdom and understanding,
surpassed all manner of encomium. In the prime of youth, he at the same
time bore on his forehead the traces of ripe age, and exhibited on his
cheek the features of good fortune:--"Above his head, from his prudent
conduct, the star of superiority shone conspicuous."

In short, it was noticed with approbation by the king that he possessed
bodily accomplishments and mental endowments. And sages have remarked
that worth rests not on riches, but on talents; and the discretion of
age, not in years, but on good sense. His comrades envied his good
fortune, charged him with disaffection, and vainly attempted to have him
put to death:--"but what can the rival effect so long as the charmer is
our friend?"

The king asked, saying, "Why do they show such a disinclination to do
you justice?" He replied: "Under the shadow of his majesty's good
fortune I have pleased everybody, excepting the envious man, who is not
to be satisfied but with a decline of my success; and let the prosperity
and dominion of my lord the king be perpetual!" I can so manage as to
give umbrage to no man's heart; but what can I do with the envious man,
who harbors within himself the cause of his own chagrin? Die, O ye
envious, that ye may get a deliverance; for this is such an evil that
you can get rid of it only by death. Men soured by misfortune anxiously
desire that the state and fortune of the prosperous may decline; if the
eye of the bat is not suited for seeing by day, how can the fountain of
the sun be to blame? Dost thou require the truth? It were better a
thousand such eyes should suffer, rather than that the light of the sun
were obscured.


They tell a story of a Persian king who had stretched forth the arm of
oppression over the subjects' property, and commenced a system of
violence and rapacity to such a degree that the people emigrated to
avoid the vexatiousness of his tyranny, and took the road of exile to
escape the annoyance of his extortions. Now that the population was
diminished and the resources of the state had failed, the treasury
remained empty, and enemies gathered strength on all sides. Whoever may
expect a comforter on the day of adversity, say, let him practise
humanity during the season of prosperity; if not treated cordially, thy
devoted slave will forsake thee; show him kindness and affection, and
the stranger may become the slave of thy devotion.

One day they were reading, in his presence, from the Sháh Námeh, of the
tyrant Zohák's declining dominion and the succession of Feridún. The
vizir asked the king, saying: "Can you so far comprehend that Feridún
had no revenue, domain, or army, and how the kingdom came to be
confirmed with him?" He answered: "As you have heard, a body of people
collected about him from attachment, and gave their assistance till he
acquired a kingdom." The vizir said: "Since, O sire, a gathering of the
people is the means of forming a kingdom, how come you in fact to cause
their dispersion unless it be that you covet not a sovereignty? So far
were good that thou wouldst patronize the army with all thy heart, for a
king with an army constitutes a principality." The king asked: "What are
the best means of collecting an army and yeomanry?" He replied:
"Munificence is the duty of a king, that the people may assemble around
him, and clemency, that they may rest secure under the asylum of his
dominion and fortune, neither of which you have. A tyrant cannot govern
a kingdom, for the duty of a shepherd is not expected from the wolf. A
king that can anyhow be accessory to tyranny will undermine the wall of
his own sovereignty."

The advice of the prudent minister did not accord with the disposition
of the king. He ordered him to be confined, and immured him in a
dungeon. It soon came to pass that the sons of the king's uncle rose in
opposition, levied an army in support of their pretensions, and claimed
the sovereignty of their father. A host of the people, who had cruelly
suffered under the arm of his extortion and were dispersed, gathered
around and succored them till they dispossessed him of his kingdom and
established them in his stead. That king who can approve of tyrannizing
over the weak will find his friend a bitter foe in the day of hardship.
Deal fairly with thy subjects, and rest easy about the warfare of thine
enemies, for with an upright prince his yeomanry is an army.

* * * * *


They asked Hormuz, son of Nushirowan, "What fault did you find with your
father's ministers that you ordered them into confinement?" He replied:
"I saw no fault that might deserve imprisonment; yet I perceived that
any reverence for me makes a slight impression on their minds, and that
they put no implicit reliance on my promise. I feared lest from an
apprehension of their own safety they might conspire my ruin;
therefore, put in practice that maxim of philosophers who have told us:
'Stand in awe, O wise man, of him who stands in awe of thee,
notwithstanding thou canst cope with a hundred such as he. Therefore
will the snake bite the herdsman's foot, because it fears that he will
bruise its head with a stone. Seest thou not that now that the cat is
desperate it will tear out the tiger's eyes with its claws.'"


In his old age an Arab king was grievously sick, and had no hopes of
recovery, when, lo! a messenger on horseback presented himself at the
palace-gate, and joyfully announced, saying: "Under his majesty's good
fortune we have taken such a stronghold, made the enemy prisoners of
war, and reduced all the landholders and vassals of that quarter to
obedience as subjects." On hearing this news the king fetched a cold
sigh, and answered: "These glad tidings are not intended for me but for
my rivals, namely, the heirs of the sovereignty. My precious life has,
alas! been wasted in the hope that what my heart chiefly coveted might
enter at my gate. My bounden hope was gratified; yet what do I benefit
by that? There is no hope that my passed life can return. The hand of
death beats the drum of departure. Yes, my two eyes, you must bid adieu
to my head. Yes, palm of my hand, wrist, and arm, all of you say
farewell, and each take leave of the other. Death has overtaken me to
the gratification of my foes; and you, O my friends, must at last be
going. My days were blazed away in folly; what I did not do let you take
warning (and do)."


At the metropolitan mosque of Damascus I was one year fervent in prayer
over the tomb of Yahiya, or John the Baptist and prophet, on whom be
God's blessing, when one of the Arab princes, who was notorious for his
injustice, chanced to arrive on a pilgrimage, and he put up his
supplication, asked a benediction, and craved his wants.--The rich and
poor are equally the devoted slaves of this shrine, and the richer they
are the more they stand in need of succor. Then he spoke to me, saying:
"In conformity with the generous resolution of dervishes and their
sincere zeal, you will, I trust, unite with me in prayer, for I have
much to fear from a powerful enemy." I answered him, "Have compassion on
your own weak subjects, that you may not see disquiet from a strong foe.
With a mighty arm and heavy hand it is dastardly to wrench the wrists of
poor and helpless. Is he not afraid who is hardhearted with the fallen
that if he slip his foot nobody will take him by the hand?--Whoever
sowed the seed of vice and expected a virtuous produce, pampered a vain
brain and encouraged an idle whim. Take the cotton from thy ear and do
mankind justice, for if thou refusest them justice there is a day of
retribution. The sons of Adam are members one of another, for in their
creation they have a common origin. If the vicissitudes of fortune
involve one member in pain, all the other members will feel a sympathy.
Thou, who art indifferent to other men's affliction, if they call thee a
man art unworthy of the name."


A dervish, whose prayers had a ready acceptance (with God), made his
appearance at Bagdad. Hojaj Yusuf (a great tyrant) sent for him and
said: "Put up a good prayer for me." He prayed, "O God! take from him
his life!" Hojaj said, "For God's sake, what manner of prayer is this?"
He answered: "It is a salutary prayer for you, and for the whole sect of
Mussulmans.--O mighty sir, thou oppressor of the feeble, how long can
this violence remain marketable? For what purpose came the sovereignty
to thee? Thy death were preferable to thy tyrannizing over mankind."


An unjust king asked a holy man, saying, "What is more excellent than
prayers?" He answered: "For you to remain asleep till mid-day, that for
this one interval you might not afflict mankind."--I saw a tyrant lying
dormant at noon, and said, "This is mischief, and is best lulled to
sleep. It were better that such a reprobate were dead whose state of
sleep is preferable to his being awake."


I have heard of a king who had turned night into day in the midst of
conviviality, and in the gayety of intoxication was exclaiming--"I never
was in this life happier than at this present moment, for I have no
thought of evil or good, and care for nobody!"--A naked dervish, who had
taken up his rest in the cold outside, answered--"O thou, who in good
fortune hast not thy equal in the world, I admit that thou hast no cause
of care for thyself, but hast thou none for us?"--The king was pleased
at this speech. He put a purse of a thousand dinars out at the window,
and said: "O dervish! hold up your skirt." He replied, "Where can I find
a skirt, who have not a garment." The king was still more touched at the
hardship of his condition, and adding an honorary dress to that
donation, sent them out to him.

The dervish squandered all that ready cash within a few days, and
falling again into distress, returned.--"Money makes no stay in the hand
of a religious independent; neither does patience in a lover's heart,
nor water in a sieve."--At a time when the king had no thought about
him, they obtruded his case, and he took offence and turned away his
face. And it is on such an occasion that men of prudence and experience
have remarked that it behooves us to guard against the wrath and fury of
kings, whose noble thoughts are chiefly occupied with important affairs
of state, and cannot endure the importunate clamors of the vulgar.--The
bounty of the sovereign is forbid to him who does not watch a proper
opportunity. Till thou canst perceive a convenient time for obtruding an
opinion, undermine not thy consequence by idle talk.--The king said,
"Let this impudent beggar and spendthrift be beaten and driven away, who
in a short time dissipated such a sum of money, for the treasury of the
Beat-al-mal, or charity fund, is intended to afford mouthfuls to the
poor, and not bellyfuls to the imps of the devil.--That fool who can
illuminate the day with a camphorated taper must soon feel a want of oil
for his lamp at night."

One of his discreet ministers said: "O king, it were expedient to supply
such people with their means of subsistence by instalments, that they
may not squander their absolute necessaries; but, with respect to what
your majesty commanded as to coercion and prohibition, though it be
correct, a party might impute it to parsimony. Nor does it moreover
accord with the principles of the generous to encourage a man to hope
for kindness and then overwhelm him with heartbreaking distrust:--Thou
must not open upon thyself the door of covetousness; and when opened,
thou must not shut it with harshness.--Nobody will see the thirsty
pilgrims crowding towards the shore of the briny ocean; but men, birds,
and reptiles will flock together wherever they can meet a fresh water


One of the ancient kings was easy with the yeomanry in collecting his
revenue, but hard on the soldiery in his issue of pay; and when a
formidable enemy showed its face, these all turned their
backs.--Whenever the king is remiss in paying his troops, the troops
will relax in handling their arms. What bravery can he display in the
ranks of battle whose hand is destitute of the means of living?

One of those who had excused themselves was in some sort my intimate. I
reproached him and said, "He is base and ungrateful, mean and
disreputable who, on a trifling change of circumstances, can desert his
old master and forget his obligation of many years' employment." He
replied: "Were I to speak out, I swear by generosity you would excuse
me. Peradventure, my horse was without corn, and the housings of his
saddle in pawn.--And the prince who, through parsimony, withholds his
army's pay cannot expect it to enter heartily upon his service."--Give
money to the gallant soldier that he may be zealous in thy cause, for if
he is stinted of his due he will go abroad for service.--_So long as a
warrior is replenished with food he will fight valiantly, and when his
belly is empty he will run away sturdily_.


One of the vizirs was displaced, and withdrew into a fraternity of
dervishes, whose blessed society made its impression upon him and
afforded consolation to his mind. The king was again favorably disposed
towards him, and offered his reinstatement in office; but he consented
not, and said, "With the wise it is deemed preferable to be out of
office than to remain in place.--Such as sat within the cell of
retirement blunted the teeth of dogs, and shut the mouths of mankind;
they destroyed their writings, and broke their writing reeds, and
escaped the lash and venom of the critics."--The king answered: "At all
events I require a prudent and able man, who is capable of managing the
state affairs of my kingdom." The ex-minister said: "The criterion, O
sire, of a wise and competent man is that he will not meddle with such
like matters.--The homayi, or phoenix, is honored above all other birds
because it feeds on bones, and injures no living creature."

A Tamsil, or application in point.--They asked a Siyah-gosh, or
lion-provider, "Why do you choose the service of the lion?" He answered:
"Because I subsist on the leavings of his prey, and am secure from the
ill-will of my enemies under the asylum of his valor." They said: "Now
you have got within the shadow of his protection and admit a grateful
sense of his bounty, why do you not approach more closely, that he may
include you within the circle of select courtiers and number you among
his chosen servants?" He replied, "I should not thus be safe from his
violence."--Though a Guebre may keep his fire alight for a hundred
years, if he fall once within its flame it will burn him.--_Procul à
Jove, procul à fulmine_. It on one occasion may chance that the courtier
of the king's presence shall pick up a purse of gold, and the next that
he shall lie shorter by the head. And philosophers have remarked,
saying, "It is incumbent on us to be constantly aware of the fickle
dispositions of kings, who will one moment take offence at a salutation,
and at another make an honorary dress the return for an act of rudeness;
and they have said, That to be over much facetious is the accomplishment
of courtiers and blemish of the wise.--Be wary, and preserve the state
of thine own character, and leave sport and buffoonery to jesters and


One of my associates brought me a complaint of his perverse fortune,
saying, "I have small means and a large family, and cannot bear up with
my load of poverty. Often has a thought crossed my mind, suggesting, Let
me remove into another country, that in whatever way I can manage a
livelihood none may be informed of my good or bad luck."--(Often he
went asleep hungry, and nobody was aware, saying, "Who is he?" Often did
his life hang upon his lip, and none lamented over him.)--"On the other
hand, I reflect on the exultation of my rivals, saying, They will
scoffingly sneer behind my back, and impute my zeal in behalf of my
family to a want of humanity.--Do but behold that graceless vagabond who
can never witness the face of good fortune. He will consult the ease of
his own person and abandon to distress his wife and children.--And, as
is known, I have some small skill in the science of accounts. If,
through your respected interest, any office can be obtained that may be
the means of quieting my mind, I shall not, during the remainder of
life, be able to express my sense of its gratitude."

I replied, "O brother, the service of kings offers a twofold prospect--a
hope of maintenance and a fear for existence; and it accords not with
the counsel of the wise, under that expectation, to incur this risk.--No
tax-gatherer will enter the dervish's abode, saying, Pay me the rent of
a field and orchard; either put up with trouble and chagrin, or give thy
heartstrings to the crows to pluck."

He said, "This speech is not made as applicable to my case, nor have you
given me a categorical answer. Have you not heard what has been
remarked, 'His hand will tremble on rendering his account who has been
accessory to a dishonest act.--Righteousness will insure the divine
favor; I never met him going astray who took the righteous path.'--And
philosophers have said, 'Four orders of people are mortally afraid of
four others--the revenue embezzler, of the king; the thief, of the
watchman; the fornicator, of the eavesdropper; and the adulteress, of
the censor.' But what has he to fear from the comptroller who has a fair
set of account-books?--'Be not extravagant and corrupt while in office
if thou wishest that the malice of thy rival may be circumscribed on
settling thy accounts. Be undefiled, O brother, in thy integrity, and
fear nobody; washermen will beat only dirty clothes against a stone.'"

I replied, "The story of that fox suits your case, which they saw
running away, stumbling and getting up. Somebody asked him, 'What
calamity has happened to put you in such a state of trepidation?' He
said, 'I have heard that they are putting a camel in requisition.' The
other answered, 'O silly animal! what connection has a camel with you,
or what resemblance is there between you and it?' He said, 'Be silent;
for were the envious from malevolence to insist that this is a camel,
and I should be seized for one, who would be so solicitous about me as
to inquire into my case?' And before they can bring the antidote from
Irac the person bitten by the snake may be dead. In like manner, you
possess knowledge and integrity, discrimination and probity, yet spies
lie in ambush, and informers lurk in corners, who, notwithstanding your
moral rectitude, will note down the opposite; and should you anyhow
stand arraigned before the king, and occupy the place of his
reprehension, who in that state would step forward in your defence?
Accordingly, I would advise that you should secure the kingdom of
contentment, and give up all thoughts of preferment. As the wise have
said:--'The benefits of a sea voyage are innumerable; but if thou
seekest for safety, it is to be found only on shore.'"

My friend listened to this speech; he got into a passion, cavilled at my
fable, and began to question it with warmth and asperity, saying, "What
wisdom or propriety, good sense or morality, is there in this? Here is
verified that maxim of the sage, which tells us they are friends alone
that can serve us in a jail, for all our enemies may pretend friendship
at our own table.--'Esteem him not a friend who during thy prosperity
will brag of his love and brotherly affection.' I account him a friend
who will take his friend by the hand when struggling with despair, and
overwhelmed with misfortune."

I perceived within myself, saying, "He is disturbed, and listens to my
advice with impatience;" and, having called the sahib diwan, or lord
high treasurer, in virtue of a former intimacy that subsisted between
us, I stated his case and spoke so fully upon his skill and merits, that
he put him in nomination for a trifling office.

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Library mainpage -> Ross, James -> The Persian Literature, Comprising The Shah Nameh, The Rubaiyat, The Divan, and The Gulistan, Volume 2