The Gulistan of Sa'di
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The Gulistan of Sa'di
Written 1258 A.C.E.
The Manners of Kings
I heard a padshah giving orders to kill a prisoner. The helpless
fellow began to insult the king on that occasion of despair, with the tongue
he had, and to use foul expressions according to the
Who washes his hands of life
Says whatever he has in his heart.
When a man is in despair his tongue becomes long and he is like
a vanquished cat assailing a dog.
In time of need, when flight is no more possible,
The hand grasps the point of the sharp sword.
When the king asked what he was saying, a good-natured vezier replied:
'My lord, he says: Those who bridle their anger and forgive men; for Allah
loveth the beneficent.'
The king, moved with pity, forbore taking his life but another
vezier, the antagonist of the former, said: 'Men of our rank ought to speak
nothing but the truth in the presence of padshahs. This fellow has insulted
the king and spoken unbecomingly.' The king, being displeased with these
words, said: 'That lie was more acceptable to me than this truth thou hast
uttered because the former proceeded from a conciliatory disposition and
the latter from malignity; and wise men have said: "A falsehood resulting
in conciliation is better than a truth producing trouble."'
He whom the shah follows in what he says,
It is a pity if he speaks anything but what is good.
The following inscription was upon the portico of the hall of
O brother, the world remains with no one.
Bind the heart to the Creator, it is enough.
Rely not upon possessions and this world
Because it has cherished many like thee and slain
When the pure soul is about to depart,
What boots it if one dies on a throne or on the
One of the kings of Khorasan had a vision in a dream of Sultan
Mahmud, one hundred years after his death. His whole person appeared to
have been dissolved and turned to dust, except his eyes, which were revolving
in their orbits and looking about. All the sages were unable to give an
interpretation, except a dervish who made his salutation and said: 'He
is still looking amazed how his kingdom belongs to others.'
Many famous men have been buried under ground
Of whose existence on earth not a trace has remained
And that old corpse which had been surrendered to the
Was so consumed by the soil that not a bone remains.
The glorious name of Nushirvan survives in good
Although much time elapsed since he passed away.
Do good, O man, and consider life as a good fortune,
The more so, as when a shout is raised, a man exists no
I have heard that a royal prince of short stature and mean presence,
whose brothers were tall and good-looking, once saw his father glancing
on him with aversion and contempt but he had the shrewdness and penetration
to guess the meaning and said: 'O father, a puny intelligent fellow is
better than a tall ignorant man, neither is everything bigger in stature
higher in price. A sheep is nice to eat and an elephant is
The smallest mountain on earth is Jur; nevertheless
It is great with Allah in dignity and station.
Hast thou not heard that a lean scholar
One day said to a fat fool:
'Although an Arab horse may be weak
It is thus more worth than a stable full of asses.'
The father laughed at this sally, the pillars of the state approved
of it, but the brothers felt much aggrieved.
While a man says not a word
His fault and virtue are concealed.
Think not that every desert is empty.
Possibly it may contain a sleeping tiger.
I heard that on the said occasion the king was menaced by a powerful
enemy and that when the two armies were about to encounter each other,
the first who entered the battlefield was the little fellow who
'I am not he whose back thou wilt see on the day of
But he whom thou shalt behold in dust and blood.
Who himself fights, stakes his own life
In battle but he who flees, the blood of his army.'
After uttering these words he rushed among the troops of the enemy,
slew several warriors and, returning to his father, made humble obeisance
'O thou, to whom my person appeared contemptible,
Didst not believe in the impetuosity of my valour.
A horse with slender girth is of use
On the day of battle, not a fattened ox.'
It is related that the troops of the enemy were numerous, and that
the king's, being few, were about to flee, but that the puny youth raised
a shout, saying: 'O men, take care not to put on the garments of women.'
These words augmented the rage of the troopers so that they made a unanimous
attack and I heard that they gained the victory on the said occasion. The
king kissed the head and eyes of his son, took him in his arms and daily
augmented his affection till he appointed him to succeed him on the throne.
His brothers became envious and placed poison in his food but were perceived
by his sister from her apartment, whereon she closed the window violently
and the youth, shrewdly guessing the significance of the act, restrained
his hands from touching the food, and said: 'It is impossible that men
of honour should die, and those who possess none should take their
No one goes under the shadow of an owl
Even if the homa should disappear from the world.
This state of affairs having been brought to the notice of the
father, he severely reproved the brothers and assigned to each of them
a different, but pleasant, district as a place of exile till the confusion
was quelled and the quarrel appeased; and it has been said that ten dervishes
may sleep under the same blanket but that one country cannot hold two
When a pious man eats half a loaf of bread
He bestows the other half upon dervishes.
If a padshah were to conquer the seven climates
He would still in the same way covet another.
A band of Arab brigands having taken up their position on the top
of a mountain and closed the passage of caravans, the inhabitants of the
country were distressed by their stratagems and the troops of the sultan
foiled because the robbers, having obtained an inaccessible spot on the
summit of the mountain, thus had a refuge which they made their habitation.
The chiefs of that region held a consultation about getting rid of the
calamity because it would be impossible to offer resistance to the robbers
if they were allowed to remain.
A tree which has just taken root
May be moved from the place by the strength of a
But, if thou leavest it thus for a long time,
Thou canst not uproot it with a windlass.
The source of a fountain may be stopped with a bodkin
But, when it is full, it cannot be crossed on an
The conclusion was arrived at to send one man as a spy and to wait
for the opportunity till the brigands departed to attack some people and
leave the place empty. Then several experienced men, who had fought in
battles, were despatched to keep themselves in ambush in a hollow of the
mountain. In the evening the brigands returned from their excursion with
their booty, divested themselves of their arms, put away their plunder
and the first enemy who attacked them was sleep, till about a watch of
the night had elapsed:
The disk of the sun went into darkness.
Jonah went into the mouth of the fish.
The warriors leapt forth from the ambush, tied the hands of every
one of the robbers to his shoulders and brought them in the morning to
the court of the king, who ordered all of them to be slain. There happened
to be a youth among them, the fruit of whose vigour was just ripening and
the verdure on the rose-garden of whose cheek had begun to sprout. One
of the veziers, having kissed the foot of the king's throne and placed
the face of intercession upon the ground, said: 'This boy has not yet eaten
any fruit from the garden of life and has not yet enjoyed the pleasures
of youth. I hope your majesty will generously and kindly confer an obligation
upon your slave by sparing his life.' The king, being displeased with this
'He whose foundation is bad will not take instruction from the
To educate unworthy persons is like throwing nuts on a
'It is preferable to extirpate the race and offspring of these
people and better to dig up their roots and foundations, because it is
not the part of wise men to extinguish fire and to leave burning coals
or to kill a viper and leave its young ones.
If a cloud should rain the water of life
Never sip it from the branch of a willow-tree.
Associate not with a base fellow
Because thou canst not eat sugar from a mat-reed.'
The vezier heard these sentiments, approved of them nolens volens,
praised the opinion of the king and said: 'What my lord has uttered is
the very truth itself because if the boy had been brought up in the company
of those wicked men, he would have become one of themselves. But your slave
hopes that he will, in the society of pious men, profit by education and
will acquire the disposition of wise persons. Being yet a child the rebellious
and perverse temper of that band has not yet taken hold of his nature and
there is a tradition of the prophet that every infant is born with an inclination
for Islam but his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a
The spouse of Lot became a friend of wicked
His race of prophets became extinct.
The dog of the companions of the cave for some days
Associated with good people and became a man.
When the vezier had said these words and some of the king's courtiers
had added their intercession to his, the king no longer desired to shed
the blood of the youth and said: 'I grant the request although I disapprove-of
Knowest thou not what Zal said to the hero Rastam:
'An enemy cannot be held despicable or helpless.
I have seen many a water from a paltry spring
Becoming great and carrying off a camel with its
In short, the vezier brought up the boy delicately, with every
comfort, and kept masters to educate him, till they had taught him to address
persons in elegant language as well as to reply and he had acquired every
accomplishment. One day the vezier hinted at his talents in the presence
of the king, asserting that the instructions of wise men had taken effect
upon the boy and had expelled his previous ignorance from his nature. The
king smiled at these words and said:
'At last a wolf's whelp will be a wolf
Although he may grow up with a man.'
After two years had elapsed a band of robbers in the locality joined
him, tied the knot of friendship and, when the opportunity presented itself,
he killed the vezier with his son, took away untold wealth and succeeded
to the position of his own father in the robber-cave where he established
himself. The king, informed of the event, took the finger of amazement
between his teeth and said:
'How can a man fabricate a good sword of bad
O sage, who is nobody becomes not somebody by education.
The rain, in the beneficence of whose nature there is no
Will cause tulips to grow in a garden and weeds in bad
Saline earth will not produce hyacinths.
Throw not away thy seeds or work thereon.
To do good to wicked persons is like Doing evil to good
I saw at the palace-gate of Oglimish the son of a military officer
who was endued with marvellous intellect, sagacity, perception and shrewdness;
also the signs of future greatness manifested themselves on his forehead
whilst yet a small boy.
From his head intelligence caused
The star of greatness to shine.
In short, he pleased the sultan because he had a beautiful countenance
and a perfect understanding; and philosophers have said: 'Power consists
in accomplishments, not in wealth and greatness in intellect, not in years.'
His companions, being envious, made an attempt upon his life and desired
to kill him but their endeavours remained fruitless.
What can a foe do when the friend is kind?
The king asked: 'What is the cause of their enmity to thee?' He
replied: 'Under the shadow of the monarchy of my lord I have satisfied
my contemporaries except the envious, who will not be contented but by
the decline of my prosperity, and may the monarchy and good fortune of
my lord be perpetual.'
I may so act as not to hurt the feelings of
But what can I do to an envious man dissatisfied with
Die, O envious man, for this is a malady,
Deliverance from which can be obtained only by death.
Unfortunate men sometimes ardently desire
The decline of prosperous men in wealth and dignity.
If in daytime, bat-eyed persons do not see
Is it the fault of the fountain of light, the sun?
Thou justly wishest that a thousand such eyes
Should be blind rather than the sun dark.
It is narrated that one of the kings of Persia had stretched forth
his tyrannical hand to the possessions of his subjects and had begun to
oppress them so violently that in consequence of his fraudulent extortions
they dispersed in the world and chose exile on account of the affliction
entailed by his violence. When the population had diminished, the prosperity
of the country suffered, the treasury remained empty and on every side
enemies committed violence.
Who desires succour in the day of calamity,
Say to him: 'Be generous in times of prosperity.'
The slave with a ring in his ear, if not cherished will
Be kind because then a stranger will become thy
One day the Shahnamah was read in his assembly, the subject being
the ruin of the dominion of Zohak and the reign of Feridun. The vezier
asked the king how it came to pass that Feridun, who possessed neither
treasure nor land nor a retinue, established himself upon the throne. He
replied: 'As thou hast heard, the population enthusiastically gathered
around him and supported him so that he attained royalty.' The vezier said:
'As the gathering around of the population is the cause of royalty, then
why dispersest thou the population? Perhaps thou hast no desire for
It is best to cherish the army as thy life
Because a sultan reigns by means of his troops.
The king asked: 'What is the reason for the gathering around of
the troops and the population?' He replied: 'A padshah must practise justice
that they may gather around him and clemency that they may dwell in safety
under the shadow of his government; but thou possessest neither of these
A tyrannic man cannot be a sultan
As a wolf cannot be a shepherd.
A padshah who establishes oppression
Destroys the basis of the wall of his own reign.
The king, displeased with the advice of his censorious vezier,
sent him to prison. Shortly afterwards the sons of the king's uncle rose
in rebellion, desirous of recovering the kingdom of their father. The population,
which had been reduced to the last extremity by the king's oppression and
scattered, now assembled around them and supported them, till he lost control
of the government and they took possession of it.
A padshah who allows his subjects to be oppressed
Will in his day of calamity become a violent foe.
Be at peace with subjects and sit safe from attacks of
Because his subjects are the army of a just shahanshah.
A padshah was in the same boat with a Persian slave who had never
before been at sea and experienced the inconvenience of a vessel. He began
to cry and to tremble to such a degree that he could not be pacified by
kindness, so that at last the king became displeased as the matter could
not be remedied. In that boat there happened to be a philosopher, who said:
'With thy permission I shall quiet him.' The padshah replied: 'It will
be a great favour.' The philosopher ordered the slave to be thrown into
the water so that he swallowed some of it, whereon be was caught and pulled
by his hair to the boat, to the stern of which he clung with both his hands.
Then he sat down in a corner and became quiet. This appeared strange to
the king who knew not what wisdom there was in the proceeding and asked
for it. The philosopher replied: 'Before he had tasted the calamity of
being drowned, he knew not the safety of the boat; thus also a man does
not appreciate the value of immunity from a misfortune until it has befallen
O thou full man, barley-bread pleases thee not.
She is my sweetheart who appears ugly to thee.
To the huris of paradise purgatory seems hell.
Ask the denizens of hell. To them purgatory is paradise.
There is a difference between him whose friend is in his
And him whose eyes of expectation are upon the door.
Hormuzd, being asked what fault the veziers of his father had committed
that he imprisoned them, replied: 'I discovered no fault. I saw that boundless
awe of me had taken root in their hearts but that they had no full confidence
in my promises, wherefore I apprehended that they, fearing calamities would
befall them, might attempt my life and I acted according to the maxim of
sages who have said:
'Dread him who dreads thee, O sage,
Although thou couldst cope with a hundred like him.
Seest thou not when the cat becomes desperate
How he plucks out with his claws the eyes of a tiger?
The viper stings the shepherd's foot
Because it fears he will strike his head with a
An Arab king was sick in his state of decrepitude so that all hopes
of life were cut off. A trooper entered the gate with the good news that
a certain fort had been conquered by the good luck of the king, that the
enemies had been captured and that the whole population of the district
had been reduced to obedience. The king heaved a deep sigh and replied:
'This message is not for me but for my enemies, namely the heirs of the
I spent my precious life in hopes, alas!
That every desire of my heart will be fulfilled.
My wishes were realized, but to what profit? Since
There is no hope that my past life will return.
The hand of fate has struck the drum of departure.
O my two eyes, bid farewell to the head.
O palm, forearm, and arm of my hand,
All take leave from each other.
Death, the foe of my desires, has fallen on me
For the last time, O friends. Pass near me.
My life has elapsed in ignorance.
I have done nothing, be on your guard.
I was constantly engaged in prayer, at the head of the prophet
Yahia's tomb in the cathedral mosque of Damascus, when one of the Arab
kings, notorious for his injustice, happened to arrive on a pilgrimage
to it, who offered his supplications and asked for compliance with his
The dervish and the plutocrat are slaves on the floor of
And those who are the wealthiest are the most needy.
Then he said to me: 'Dervishes being zealous and veracious in their
dealings, unite thy mind to mine, for I am apprehensive of a powerful enemy.'
I replied: 'Have mercy upon thy feeble subjects that thou mayest not be
injured by a strong foe.'
With a powerful arm and the strength of the
To break the five fingers of a poor man is sin.
Let him be afraid who spares not the fallen
Because if he falls no one will take hold of his
Whoever sows bad seed and expects good fruit
Has cudgelled his brains for nought and begotten vain
Extract the cotton from thy ears and administer justice to
And if thou failest to do so, there is a day of
The sons of Adam are limbs of each other
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a
A dervish, whose prayers met with answers, made his appearance,
and Hejaj Yusuf, calling him, said: 'Utter a good prayer for me', whereon
the dervish exclaimed: 'O God, take his life.' He replied: 'For God's sake,
what prayer is this?' The dervish rejoined: 'It is a good prayer for thee
and for all Musalmans.'
O tyrant, who oppressest thy subjects,
How long wilt thou persevere in this?
Of what use is authority to thee?
To die is better for thee than to oppress men.
An unjust king asked a devotee what kind of worship is best? He
replied: 'For thee the best is to sleep one half of the day so as not to
injure the people for a while.'
I saw a tyrant sleeping half the day.
I said: 'This confusion, if sleep removes it, so much the
But he whose sleep is better than his wakefulness
Is better dead than leading such a bad life.'
I heard a king, who had changed might into day by pleasures, saying
in his drunkenness:
'We have in the world no moment more delightful than
Because I care neither for good nor for bad nor for
A naked dervish, who was sleeping outside in the cold, then
'O thou like whom in happiness there is no one in the
I take it if thou carest not, we also do not care.'
The king, being pleased with these words of unconcern, held out
a bag of a thousand dinars from the window and said: 'Dervish, spread out
thy skirt.' He replied: 'Whence can I, who have no robe, bring a skirt?'
The padshah took pity on his helpless condition, added a robe to his gift
and sent it out to him but the dervish squandered the money in a short
time and returned.
Property cannot abide in the hands of the free,
Neither patience in the heart of a lover nor water in a
The case of the dervish having been brought to the notice of the
king when he was not in good humour, he became angry and turned his face
away. Therefore it has been said that intelligent and experienced men ought
to be on their guard against the violence and despotism of kings because
their thoughts are generally occupied with important affairs of state so
that they cannot bear to be importuned by the crowd of vulgar
He will be excluded from the beneficence of the
Who cannot watch for the proper opportunity.
Before thou seest the occasion for speaking at hand
Destroy not thy power by heedless talk.
The king said: 'Drive away this impudent and prodigal mendicant
who has in so short a time thrown away so much money. He does not know
that the Beit-ulmal is intended to offer a morsel to the needy and not
to feed the brothers of devils.'
The fool who burns by day a camphor-light
Will soon not have an oil-lamp for the night.
One of councillor-veziers said: 'My lord, it would seem proper
to grant to such persons a sufficient allowance to be drawn from time to
time so that they may not squander it. But anger and repulsion, as manifested
by thee, are unworthy of a generous disposition as also to encourage a
man by kindness and then again to distress him by disappointing his
The door ought not to be opened to applicants
That, when it is ajar, it may not be shut again.
Nobody sees the thirsty pilgrims to Hejaz
Crowding at the bank of briny water.
Wherever a sweet spring happens to be
Men, birds and insects flock around it.
One of the ancient kings neglected the government of his realm
and kept the army in distress. Accordingly the whole of it ran away when
a powerful enemy appeared.
If he refrains from giving treasure to the troops
They refrain from putting their hands to the sword.
What bravery will they display in battle array
When their hands are empty and affairs deplorable?
I was on terms of friendship with one of those who had acted treacherously
and reproached him, telling him that it was base, ungrateful, despicable
and undutiful to abandon an old master when his affairs have changed a
little and to disregard the obligations incurred for benefits received
during many years. He replied: 'If I inform thee, perhaps thou wilt excuse
me for my horse had no barley and my saddle-cloth was pawned. A sultan
who grudges money to his troops, they cannot bravely risk their lives for
Give gold to the soldier that he may serve thee.
If thou witholdest gold, he will serve elsewhere.
When a warrior is full, he will be brave infight but if his belly
be empty, he will be brave in flight.
A vezier, who had been removed from his post, entered the circle
of dervishes and the blessing of their society took such effect upon him
that he became contented in his mind. When the king was again favourably
disposed towards him and ordered him to resume his office, he refused and
said: 'Retirement is better than occupation.'
Those who have sat down in the corner of safety
Have bound the teeth of dogs and tongues of men.
They tore the paper up and broke the pen
And are saved from the hands and tongues of slanderers.
The king said: 'Verily we stand in need of a man of sufficient
intelligence who is able to carry on the administration of the government.'
He replied: 'It is a sign of sufficient intelligence not to engage in such
The homa excels all other birds in nobility
Because it feeds on bones and injures no living
A donkey, having been asked for what salary he had elected to attend
upon the lion, replied: 'That I may consume the remnants of his prey and
live in safety from my enemies by taking refuge under his bravery.' Being
again asked that, as he had entered into the shadow of the lion's protection
and gratefully acknowledged his beneficence, why he had not joined the
circle of intimacy so as to be accounted one of his favourite servants,
he replied: 'I am in the same way also not safe of his
Should a Guebre kindle fire a hundred years
If he falls one moment into it he will be burnt.
It may happen that a companion of his majesty the sultan receives
gold and it is possible that he loses his head. Philosophers have said
that it is necessary to be on guard of the fickle temper of padshahs because
sometimes they are displeased with politeness and at others they bestow
robes of honour for rudeness. It is also said that much jocularity is an
accomplishment in courtiers but a fault in sages.
Abide thou by thy dignity and gravity.
Leave sport and jocularity to courtiers.
One of my friends complained of the unpropitious times, telling
me that he had a slender income, a large family, without strength to bear
the load of poverty and had often entertained the idea to emigrate to another
country so that no matter how he made a living no one might become aware
of his good or ill luck.
Many a man slept hungry and no one knew who he
Many a man was at the point of death and no one wept for
He was also apprehensive of the malevolence of enemies who would
laugh behind his back and would attribute the struggle he underwent for
the benefit of his family to his want of manly independence and that they
'Behold that dishonourable fellow who will never
See the face of prosperity,
Will choose bodily comfort for himself,
Abandoning his wife and children to misery.'
He also told me that as I knew he possessed some knowledge of arithmetic,
I might, through my influence, get him appointed to a post which would
become the means of putting his mind at ease and place him under obligations
to me, which he could not requite by gratitude during the rest of his life.
I replied: 'Dear friend! Employment by a padshah consists of two parts,
namely, the hope for bread and the danger of life, but it is against the
opinion of intelligent men to incur this danger for that
No one comes to the house of a dervish
To levy a tax on land and garden.
Either consent to bear thy anxiety or grief
Or carry thy beloved children to the crows.
He replied: 'Thou hast not uttered these words in conformity with
my case nor answered my question. Hast thou not heard the saying? "Whoever
commits treachery let his hand tremble at the account."'
Straightness is the means of acceptance with
I saw no one lost on the straight road.
Sages have said: 'Four persons are for life in dread of four persons:
a robber of the sultan, a thief of the watchman, an adulterer of an informer,
and a harlot of the muhtasib. But what has he to fear whose account of
the conscience is clear?'
Be not extravagant when in office, if thou desirest
On thy removal to see thy foes embarrassed for imputations
Be thou pure, O brother, and in fear of no one.
Washermen beat only impure garments against stones.
I said: 'The story of that fox resembles thy case, who was by some
persons seen fleeing with much trouble and asked for the cause of his fear
replied: 'I have heard that camels are being forced into the service.'
They said: 'O fool, what connection hast thou with a camel and what resemblance
does the latter bear to thee?' The fox rejoined: 'Hush. If the envious
malevolently say that I am a camel and I am caught, who will care to release
me or investigate my case? Till the antidote is brought from Eraq the snake-bitten
person dies.' Thou art a very excellent and honest man but enemies sit
in ambush and competitors in every corner. If they describe thy character
in a contrary manner, thou wouldst be called upon to give explanations
to the padshah and incur reproof. Who would on that occasion venture to
say anything? Accordingly I am of opinion that thou shouldst retire to
the domain of contentment and abandon aspirations to dominion. Wise men
'In the sea there are countless gains,
But if thou desirest safety, it will be on the shore.'
My friend, having heard these words, became angry, made a wry face
and began to reproach me, saying: 'What sufficiency of wisdom and maturity
of intellect is this? The saying of philosophers has come true, that friends
are useful in prison because at table all enemies appear as
Account him not a friend who knocks at the door of
Boasts of amity and calls himself thy adopted brother.
I consider him a friend who takes a friend's hand
When he is in a distressed state and in poverty.
Seeing that he had thus changed and ascribed my advice to an interested
motive, I paid a visit to the President of the State Council and, trusting
in my old acquaintance with him, explained the case of my friend whom he
then appointed to a small post. In a short time my friend's affable behaviour
and good management elicited approbation so that he was promoted to a higher
office. In this manner the star of his good luck ascended till he reached
the zenith of his aspirations, became a courtier of his majesty the sultan,
generally esteemed and trusted. I was delighted with his safe position
'Be not apprehensive of tangled affairs and keep not a broken
Because the spring of life is in darkness.'
Do not grieve, O brother in misery,
Because the Ill-merciful has hidden favours.
Sit not morose on account of the turns of time; for
Although bitter, nevertheless possesses a sweet
At that time I happened to go with a company of friends on a journey
to Mekkah and on my return he met me at a distance of two stages. I perceived
his outward appearance to be distressed, his costume being that of dervishes.
I asked: 'What is the matter?' He replied: 'As thou hast predicted, some
persons envied me and brought against me an accusation of treason. The
king ordered no inquiry on its truthfulness and my old well-wishers with
my kind friends who failed to speak the word of truth forgot our old
'Seest thou not in front of the possessor of
They place the hands on their heads, praising him;
But, if fortune's turn causes his fall,
All desire to Place their foot on his head.
'In short, I was till this week undergoing various persecutions,
when the news of the pilgrims' approach from Mekkah arrived, whereon I
was released from my heavy bonds and my hereditary property confiscated.'
I replied: 'Thou hast not paid attention to my remarks when I said that
the service of padshahs is like a sea voyage, profitable and dangerous,
so that thou wilt either gain a treasure or perish in the
The khajah either takes gold with both hands to the
Or the waves throw him one day dead upon the shore.
Not thinking it suitable to scratch the wound of the dervish more
than I had already done and so sprinkle salt thereon, I contented myself
with reciting the following two distichs:
Knewest thou not that thou wilt see thy feet in
If the advice of people cannot penetrate into thy
Again, if thou canst not bear the pain of the
Put not thy finger into the hole of a scorpion.
Several men were in my company whose external appearance displayed
the adornment of piety. A great man who had conceived a very good opinion
of these persons had assigned them a fixed allowance but, after one of
them had done something unbecoming the profession of dervishes, his opinion
changed and they fell into disgrace. I desired in some way to save the
allowance of my friends and intended to wait upon the great man but the
doorkeeper would not allow me to enter and was rude. I pardoned him, because
it has been said:
The door of an amir, vezier or sultan
Is not to be approached without an introduction.
When a dog or a doorkeeper sees a stranger
The former takes hold of his skirt, the latter of his
When those who could at any time approach the presence of the said
great man became aware of my case, they took me in with compliments and
desired to assign me a high seat but I humbly took a lower one and
'Allow me who am the smallest slave
To sit in the line of slaves.'
He said: 'Allah, Allah, what need is there for such
If thou sittest on my head and eyes
I shall be polite, for thou art polite.
In short, I took a seat and we conversed on a variety of topics
till the affair of the error of my companions turned up and I
'What crime has my lord seen, who was bountiful,
To make the slave despicable in his sight?
To God that magnanimity and bounty is surrendered
Which beholds the crime but nevertheless bestows the
The governor, being pleased with these words, ordered the support
of my friends to be attended to as before and the arrears to be made good.
I expressed my gratitude, kissed the ground of obedience, apologized for
my boldness, and said:
'Since the Ka'bah has become the Qiblah of wants from distant
The people go to visit it from many farsangs.
Thou must suffer the importunity of such as we are
Because no one throws stones on a tree without fruit.'
A royal prince, having inherited abundant treasures from his father,
opened the hand of liberality and satisfied his impulse of generosity by
lavishing without stint benefits upon the army and the
A tray of lignum aloes will emit no odour.
Place it on fire, it will smell like ambergris.
If thou wishest to be accounted great, be liberal
Because grain will not grow unless it be sown.
One of his courtiers began heedlessly to admonish him, saying:
'Former kings have by their exertions accumulated this wealth and deposited
it for a useful purpose. Cease this movement because calamities may arise
in front and enemies in the rear. It is not meet for thee to be helpless
at a time of necessity.'
If thou distributest a treasure to the multitude
Each householder will receive a grain of rice.
Why takest thou not from each a barley-corn of silver
That thou mayest accumulate every day a treasure?
The royal prince turned away his face at these words and said:
'God the most high has made me the possessor of this country, to enjoy
and to bestow, not to guard and to retain.'
Qarun, who possessed forty treasure houses,
Nushirvan has not died because he obtained a good
It is related that, whilst some game was being roasted for Nushirvan
the just during a hunting party, no salt could be found. Accordingly a
boy was sent to an adjoining village to bring some. Nushirvan said: 'Pay
for the salt lest it should become a custom and the village be ruined.'
Having been asked what harm could arise from such a trifling demand, Nushirvan
replied: 'The foundation of oppression was small in the world but whoever
came augmented it so that it reached its present magnitude.'
If the king eats one apple from the garden of a
His slaves will pull him up the tree from the roots.
For five eggs which the sultan allows to be taken by
The people belonging to his army will put a thousand
fowls on the spit.
A tyrant does not remain in the world
But the curse on him abides for ever.
I heard that an oppressor ruined the habitations of the subjects
to fill the treasury of the sultan, unmindful of the maxim of philosophers,
who have said: 'Who offends God the most high to gain the heart of a created
being, God will use that very being to bring on his destruction in the
Fire burning with wild rue will not
Cause a smoke like that of afflicted hearts.
The prince of all animals is the lion and the meanest of beasts
the ass. Nevertheless sages agree that an ass who carries loads is better
than a lion who destroys men.
The poor donkey though void of discernment
Is nevertheless esteemed when he carries a burden.
Oxen and asses who carry loads
Are superior to men oppressing mankind.
When the king had obtained information of some of the oppressor's
misdeeds and bad conduct, he had him put on the rack and slain by various
Thou wilt not obtain the approbation of the
Unless thou seekest the goodwill of his subjects.
If thou desirest God to condone thy transgressions,
Do good to the people whom God has created.
One of the oppressed who passed near him said:
'Not everyone who possesses strength of arm and
In the sultanate may with impunity plunder the people.
A hard bone may be made to pass down the throat
But it will tear the belly when it sticks in the
It is narrated that an oppressor of the people, a soldier, hit
the head of a pious man with a stone and that the dervish, having no means
of taking vengeance, preserved the stone till the time arrived when the
king became angry with that soldier, and imprisoned him in a well. Then
the dervish made his appearance and dropped the stone upon his head. He
asked: 'Who art thou, and why hast thou hit my head with this stone?' The
man replied: 'I am the same person whom thou hast struck on the head with
this stone on such and such a day.' The soldier continued: 'Where hast
thou been all this time?' The dervish replied: 'I was afraid of thy dignity
but now when I beheld thee in the well I made use of the
When thou seest an unworthy man in good luck
Intelligent men have chosen submission.
If thou hast not a tearing sharp nail
It will be better not to contend with the wicked.
Who grasps with his fist one who has an arm of steel
Injures only his own powerless wrist.
Wait till inconstant fortune ties his hand.
Then, to please thy friends, pick out his brains.
A king was subject to a terrible disease, the mention of which
is not sanctioned by custom. The tribe of Yunani physicians agreed that
this pain cannot be allayed except by means of the bile of a person endued
with certain qualities. Orders having been issued to search for an individual
of this kind, the son of a landholder was discovered to possess the qualities
mentioned by the doctors. The king summoned the father and mother of the
boy whose consent he obtained by giving them immense wealth. The qazi issued
a judicial decree that it is permissible to shed the blood of one subject
for the safety of the king and the executioner was ready to slay the boy
who then looked heavenwards and smiled. The king asked: 'What occasion
for laughter is there in such a position?' The youth replied: 'A son looks
to the affection of his father and mother to bring his case before the
qazi and to ask justice from the padshah. In the present instance, however,
the father and mother have for the trash of this world surrendered my blood,
the qazi has issued a decree to kill me, the sultan thinks he will recover
his health only through my destruction and I see no other refuge besides
God the most high.'
To whom shall I complain against thy hand
If I am to seek justice also from thy hand?
The sultan became troubled at these words, tears rushed to his
eyes and he said: 'It is better for me to perish than to shed innocent
blood.' He kissed the head and eyes of the youth, presented him with boundless
wealth and it is said that the king also recovered his health during that
I also remember the distich recited
By the elephant-driver on the bank of the Nile:
'If thou knewest the state of the ant under thy
It is like thy own condition under the foot of an
One of the servants of Umrulais had fled but some men, having been
sent in pursuit, brought him back. The vezier who bore a grudge towards
him desired him to be killed that the other servants may not imitate his
example. He placed his head on the ground before Umrulais and
'Whatever befalls my head is lawful with thy
What plea can the slave advance? The sentence is the
'But, having been nourished by the bounty of this dynasty, I am
loth that on the day of resurrection thou shouldst be punished for having
shed my blood; but, if thou desirest to kill me, do so according to the
provisions of the law.' He asked: 'How am I to interpret it?' The slave
continued: 'Allow me to kill the vezier and then take my life in retaliation
so that I may be killed justly.' The king smiled and asked the vezier what
he thought of the matter. He replied: 'My lord, give freedom to this bastard
as an oblation to the tomb of thy father for fear he would bring trouble
on me likewise. It is my fault for not having taken account of the maxim
of philosophers who have said:
When thou fightest with a thrower of clods
Thou ignorantly breakest thy own head.
When thou shootest an arrow at the face of a foe
Be on thy guard for thou art sitting as a target for
King Zuzan had a khajah of noble sentiments and of good aspect
who served his companions when they were present and spoke well of them
when they were absent. He happened to do something whereby he incurred
the displeasure of the king who inflicted a fine on him and also otherwise
punished him. The officials of the king, mindful of the benefits they had
formerly received from him and being by them pledged to gratitude, treated
him kindly whilst in their custody and allowed no one to insult
If thou desirest peace from the foe, whenever
Finds fault behind thy back praise him to his face.
A vicious fellow's mouth must utter words.
If thou desirest not bitter words, sweeten his mouth.
He was absolved of some accusations brought by the king against
him but retained in prison for some. Another king in those regions secretly
dispatched a message to him, to the purport that the sovereigns of that
country, not knowing his excellent qualities, had dishonoured him, but
that if his precious mind (may Allah prosper the end of his affairs) were
to look in this direction, the utmost efforts would be made to please him,
because the nobles of this realm would consider it an honour to see him
and are waiting for a reply to this letter. The khajah, who had received
this information, being apprehensive of danger, forthwith wrote a brief
and suitable answer on the back of the sheet of paper and sent it back.
One, however, of the king's courtiers, who noticed what had taken place,
reported to him that the imprisoned khajah was in correspondence with the
princes of the adjacent country. The king became angry and desired this
affair to be investigated. The courier was overtaken and deprived of the
letter, the contents of which were found on perusal to be as follows: 'The
good opinion of high personages is more than their servant's merit deserves,
who is unable to comply with the honour of reception which they have offered
him, because having been nourished by the bounty of this dynasty, he cannot
become unthankful towards his benefactor in consequence of a slight change
of sentiments of the latter, since it is said:
He who bestows every moment favours upon thee
Is to be pardoned by thee if once in his life he injures
The king approved of his gratitude, bestowed upon him a robe of
honour, gave him presents and asked his pardon, saying: 'I committed a
mistake.' He replied: 'My lord, it was the decree of God the most high
that a misfortune should befall this servant but it was best that it should
come from thy hands which had formerly bestowed favours upon him and placed
him under obligations.'
If people injure thee grieve not
Because neither rest nor grief come from the people.
Be aware that the contrasts of friend and foe are from
Because the hearts of both are in his keeping.
Although the arrow is shot from the bow
Wise men look at the archer.
One of the Arab kings ordered his officials to double the allowance
of a certain attendant because he was always at the palace expecting orders
while the other servants were engaged in amusements and sports, neglecting
their duties. A pious man who heard this remarked that high degrees at
the court of heaven are similarly bestowed upon servants:
If a man comes two mornings to serve the shah
He will on the third certainly look benevolently on
Sincere worshippers entertain the hope
That they will not be disappointed at the threshold of
Superiority consists in attending to commands.
The neglect of commands leads to exclusion.
Who possesses the criterion of righteousness
Places the head upon the threshold.
It is narrated that a tyrant who purchased wood from dervishes
forcibly gave it away to rich -people gratuitously. A pious man passing
'Thou art a snake, stingest whom thou beholdest,
Or an owl; wherever thou sittest thou destroyest.
Although thy oppression may pass among us
It cannot pass with the Lord who knows all secrets.
Oppress not the denizens of the earth
That their supplications may not pass to heaven.'
The tyrant, being displeased with these words, got angry and took
no notice of him until one night, when fire from the kitchen fell into
the store of his wood and burnt all he possessed-transferring him from
his soft bed to a hot mound of ashes-the same pious man happened again
to pass and to hear him saying to his friends: 'I do not know whence this
fire has fallen into my house.' replied: 'From the smoke of the hearts
Beware of the smoke of internal wounds
Because at last an internal wound will break out.
Forbear to uproot one heart as long as thou canst
Because one sigh may uproot a world.
Upon the diadem of Kaikhosru the following piece was
For how many years and long lives
Will the people walk over my head on the ground?
As from hand to hand the kingdom came to us
So it will also go to other hands.
A man had attained great excellence in the art of wrestling, who
knew three hundred and sixty exquisite tricks and daily exhibited something
new. He had a particular affection for the beauty of one of his pupils
whom he taught three hundred and fifty-nine tricks, refraining to impart
to him only one. At last the youth had attained such power and skill that
no one was able to contend with him and he went so far as to say to the
sultan: 'I allow superiority to my teacher on account of his age and from
gratitude for his instruction but my strength is not less than his and
my skill equal.' The king, who was not pleased with this want of good manners,
ordered them to wrestle with each other and a spacious locality having
been fixed upon, the pillars of state and courtiers of his majesty made
their appearance. The youth made an onslaught like a mad elephant with
an impulse which might have uprooted a mountain of brass from its place
but the master, who knew that he was in strength superior to himself, attacked
him with the rare trick he had reserved to himself and which the youth
was unable to elude; whereon the master, lifting him up with his hands
from the ground, raised him above his head and then threw him down. Shouts
were raised by the spectators and the king ordered a robe of honour with
other presents to be given to the teacher but reproached and blamed the
youth for having attempted to cope with his instructor and succumbed. He
replied: 'My lord, he has not vanquished me by his strength but there was
a slender part in the art of wrestling which he had withheld from me and
had today thereby got the upper hand of me.' The master said: 'I had reserved
it for such an occasion because wise men have said: "Do not give so much
strength to thy friend that, if he becomes thy foe, he may injure thee."
Hast thou not heard what the man said who suffered molestation from one
whom he had educated?
Either fidelity itself does not exist in this
Or nobody practices it in our time.
No one had learnt archery from me
Without at last making a target of me.'
A solitary dervish was sitting in a corner of the desert when a
padshah happened to pass by but, ease having made him independent, he took
no notice. The sultan, in conformity with his royal dignity, became angry
and said: 'This tribe of rag-wearers resembles beasts.' The vezier said:
'The padshah of the surface of the earth has passed near thee. Why hast
thou not paid homage and shown good manners?' He replied: 'Tell the king
to look for homage from a man who expects benefits from him and also that
kings exist for protecting subjects and subjects not for obeying
The padshah is the guardian of the dervish
Although wealth is in the glory of his reign.
The sheep is not for the shepherd
But the shepherd for the service of it.
Today thou beholdest one man prosperous
And another whose heart is wounded by struggling.
Wait a few days till the earth consumes
The brain in the head of the visionary.
Distinction between king and slave has ceased
When the decree of fate overtakes them.
If a man were to open the tombs of the dead
He would not distinguish a rich from a poor man.
The king, who was pleased with the sentiments of the dervish, asked
him to make a request but he answered that the only one he had to make
was to be left alone. The king then asked for advice and the dervish
'Understand now while wealth is in thy hand
That fortune and kingdom will leave thy hand.'
A vezier paid a visit to Zulnun Misri and asked for his favour,
saying: 'I am day and night engaged in the service of the sultan and hoping
to be rewarded but nevertheless dread to be punished by him.' Zulnun wept
and said: 'Had I feared God, the great and glorious, as thou fearest the
sultan, I would be one of the number of the righteous.'
If there were no hope of rest and trouble
The foot of the dervish would be upon the sphere
And if the vezier feared God
Like the king he would be king.
A padshah having issued orders to kill an innocent man, the latter
said: 'O king, seek not thine own injury on account of the anger thou bearest
towards me.' He asked: 'How?' The man replied: 'This punishment will abide
with me one moment but the sin of it for ever with thee.'
The period of life has passed away like the desert
Bitter and sweet, ugliness and beauty have passed
The tyrant fanded he had done injury to us.
It remained on his neck and passed away from us.
This admonition having taken effect, the king spared his
The veziers of Nushirvan happened to discuss an important affair
of state, each giving his opinion according to his knowledge. The king
likewise gave his opinion and Barzachumihr concurred with it. Afterwards
the veziers secretly asked him: 'What superiority hast thou discovered
in the opinion of the king above so many other reflections of wise men?'
The philosopher replied: 'Since the termination of the affair is unknown
and it depends upon the will of God whether the opinion of the others will
turn out right or wrong, it was better to agree with the opinion of the
king so that, if it should turn out to have been wrong, we may, on account
of having followed it, remain free from blame.'
To proffer an opinion contrary to the king's
Means to wash the hands in one's own blood.
Should he in plain day say it is night,
It is meet to shout: 'Lo, the moon and the pleiads!'
An impostor arranged his hair in a peculiar fashion, pretended
to be a descendant of A'li and entered the town with a caravan from the
Hejaz, saying that he had just arrived from a pilgrimage. He also presented
an elegy to the king, alleging that he had himself composed it. One of
the king's courtiers, who had that year returned from a journey, said:
'I have seen him at Bosrah on the Azhah festival, then how can he be a
Haji?' Another said: 'His father was a Christian at Melitah. How can he
be a descendant of A'li? And his poetry has been found in the Divan of
Anvari.' The king ordered him to be beaten and expelled the country for
his great mendacity. The man said: 'O lord of the surface of the earth,
I shall say something more and, if it is not true, I shall deserve any
punishment which thou mayest decree.' He asked: 'What is
When a stranger brings before thee buttermilk
Two measures of it will be water and a spoonful sour
If thou hast heard heedless talk from thy slave, be not
A man who has seen the world utters much falsehood.
The king laughed, told him that all his life he had not uttered
more true words than these and ordered the present which the fellow hoped
for to be got ready.
One of the veziers of a king treated his subordinates with kindness
and sought the goodwill of his colleagues. Once he happened to be called
to account by the king for something he had done whereon his colleagues
endeavoured to effect his liberation. Those who guarded him treated him
leniently and the great men expatiated upon his good character to the padshah
till he renounced all further inquiry. A pious man who took cognizance
of this affair said:
'In order to gain the hearts of friends
Sell even the garden of thy father.
In order to boil the pot of well-wishers
Burn even all the furniture of the house.
Do good even to a malevolent fellow.
Tie up the mouth of the dog with a sop.'
One of the sons of Harun-ur-Rashid went to his father and angrily
informed him that the son of an official had used insulting expressions
towards him whereon Harun asked his courtiers what requital he deserved.
One of them proposed capital punishment, another the amputation of the
tongue whilst a third recommended fine and imprisonment. Then Harun said:
'Oh my son, it would be generous to pardon him but, if thou art unable
to do so, use likewise insulting expressions concerning his mother; not
however to such a degree as to exceed the bounds of vengeance because in
that case the wrong will be on thy side.'
He is not reputed a man by the wise
Who contends with a furious elephant
But he is a man in reality
Who when angry speaks not idle words.
An ill-humoured fellow insulted a man
Who patiently bore it saying: 'O hopeful youth,
I am worse than thou speakest of me
For I am more conscious of my faults than thou.'
I was sitting in a vessel with a company of great men when a boat
which contained two brothers happened to sink near us. One of the great
men promised a hundred dinars to a sailor if he could save them both. Whilst
however the sailor was pulling out one, the other perished. I said: 'He
had no longer to live and therefore delay took place in rescuing him.'
The sailor smiled and replied: 'What thou hast said is certain. Moreover,
I preferred to save this one because, when I once-happened to lag behind
in the desert, he seated me on his camel, whereas I had received a whipping
by the hands of the other. When I was a boy I recited: He, who doth right,
doth it to his own soul and he, who doth evil, doth it against the
As long as thou canst, scratch the interior of no
Because there are thorns on this road.
Be helpful in the affairs of a dervish
Because thou also hast affairs.
There were two brothers: one of them in the service of the sultan
and the other gaining his livelihood by the effort of his arm. The wealthy
man once asked his destitute brother why he did not serve the sultan in
order to be delivered from the hardship of labouring. He replied: 'Why
labourest thou not to be delivered from the baseness of service because
philosophers have said that it is better to eat barley bread and to sit
than to gird oneself with a golden belt and to stand in
To leaven mortar of quicklime with the hand
Is better than to hold them on the breast before the
My precious life was spent in considering
What I am to eat in summer and wear in winter.
O ignoble belly, be satisfied with one bread
Rather than to bend the back in service.
Someone had brought information to Nushirvan the just that an enemy
of his had been removed from this world by God the most high. He asked:
'Hast thou heard anything about his intending to spare
There is no occasion for our rejoicing at a foe's
Because our own life will also not last for ever.
A company of philosophers were discussing a subject in the palace
of Kesra and Barzachumihr, having remained silent, they asked him why he
took no share in the debate. He replied: 'Veziers are like physicians and
the latter give medicine to the sick only but, as I perceive that your
opinions are in conformity with propriety, I have nothing to say about
When an affair succeeds without my idle talk
It is not meet for me to speak thereon.
But if I see a blind man near a well
It is a crime for me to remain silent.
Harun-ur-Rashid said when the country of Egypt was surrendered
to him: 'In contrast to the rebel who had in his arrogance of being sovereign
of Egypt pretended to be God, I shall bestow this country upon the meanest
of my slaves.' He had a stupid negro, Khosaib by name, whom he made governor
of Egypt but his intellect and discrimination were so limited that when
the tribe of Egyptian agriculturists complained and stated that they had
sown cotton along the banks of the Nile and that an untimely rain had destroyed
it he replied: 'You ought to have sown wool.' A pious man heard this, and
'If livelihood were increased by knowledge
None would be more needy than the ignorant.
Nevertheless the ignorant receive a livelihood
At which the learned stand aghast.
The luck of wealth consists not in skill
But only in the aid of heaven.
It happens in the world that many
Silly men are honoured and sages despised.
If an alchemist has died in grief and misery,
A fool discovered a treasure amidst ruins.'
A Chinese slave-girl having been brought to a king, he desired
to have connection with her whilst in a state of intoxication but, as she
repelled him, he became angry and presented her to one of his negro-slaves
whose upper lip was higher than his nostrils whilst the lower one hung
down to his neck. His stature was such that the demon Sakhrah would have
been put to flight and a fountain of pitch emitted stench from his
Thou wouldst say that, till the resurrection,
Is his stamp as that of Joseph was beauty.
His person was of so wretched an aspect
That his ugliness surpassed all description
And from his armpits we take refuge with Allah,
They were like a corpse in the month of Merdad.
At that time the desire of the negro was libidinous, his lust overcame
him, his love leapt up and he took off the seal of her virginity. In the
morning the king sought the girl but could not find her and, having obtained
information of what had taken place, he became angry, ordered the negro
and the girl to be firmly tied together by their hands and feet and to
be thrown from the lofty building into a ditch. One of the veziers, placing
the face of intercession upon the ground, pleaded that there was no guilt
in the negro since all the servants of his majesty usually receive presents
and benefits as he had received the girl. The king rejoined: 'What would
it have mattered if he had for one night delayed his enjoyment?' He said:
'My lord, hast thou not heard that it was said:
When a man with a burning thirst reaches a limpid
Think not that he will care for a mad elephant.
When a hungry infidel is in an empty house at table
Reason will not believe that he cares for the Ramazan.'
The king, being pleased with this sally, exclaimed: 'I make thee
a present of the negro. What am I to do with the girl?' He replied: 'Give
the girl to the negro because that half is also due to a dog of which he
has consumed the other half.'
The thirsty heart does not wish for limpid water
Half of which was consumed by a fetid mouth.
How can the king's hand again touch
An orange after it has fallen into dung?
Iskandur Rumi, having been asked how he had conquered the east
and the west, considering that the treasures, territories, reigns and armies
of former kings exceeded his own and they had not gained such a victory,
replied: 'Whatever country I conquered by the aid of God the most high,
I abstained from distressing its population and spoke nothing but good
of the king.'
The intelligent will not call him great
Who speaks ill of the great.
All this is nothing as it passes away:
Throne and luck, command and prohibition, taking and
Injure not the name of those who have passed away
In order that thy own name may subsist.