The Gulistan of Sa'di
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The Gulistan of Sa'di.
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The Gulistan of Sa'di
Written 1258 A.C.E.
On Weakness and Old Age
I was holding a disputation with a company of learned men in the
cathedral mosque of Damascus when a youth stepped among us, asking whether
anyone knew Persian, whereon most of them pointed to me. I asked him what
the matter was and he said that an old man, aged one hundred and fifty
years, was in the agony of death but saying something in Persian which
nobody could understand and that if I were kindly to go and see him I might
obtain the information whether he was perhaps desirous of making his last
will. When I approached his pillow, he said:
'A while ago I said I shall take some rest
But alas, the way of my breath is choked.
Alas, that from the variegated banquet of life
We were eating a while and told it is enough.'
I interpreted these words in the Arabic language to the Damascenes
and they were astonished that despite of his long life he regretted the
termination of it so much. I asked him how he felt and he replied: 'What
shall I say?'
Hast thou not seen what misery he feels,
The teeth of whose mouth are being extracted?
Consider what his state will be at the hour
When life, so precious to him, abandons his body.
I told him not to worry his imagination with the idea of death
and not to allow a hallucination to obtain dominion over his nature because
Ionian philosophers have said that although the constitution may be good
no reliance is to be placed on its permanence and although a malady may
be perilous it does not imply a full indication of death. I asked: 'If
thou art willing, I shall call a physician to treat thee?' He lifted his
eyes and said, smiling:
'The skilled doctor strikes his hands together
On beholding a rival prostrate like a potsherd.
A gentleman is engaged in adorning his hall with
Whilst the very foundation of the house is ruined.
An aged man was lamenting in his last agony
Whilst his old spouse was rubbing him with sandal.
When the equilibrium of the constitution is destroyed
Neither incantations nor medicines are of any avail.'
It is related that an old man, having married a girl, was sitting
with her privately in an apartment adorned with roses, fixing his eyes
and heart upon her. He did not sleep during long nights but spent them
in telling her jokes and witty stories, hoping to gain her affection and
to conquer her shyness. One night, however, he informed her that luck had
been friendly to her and the eye of fortune awake because she had become
the companion of an old man who is ripe, educated, experienced in the world,
of a quiet disposition, who had felt cold and warm, had tried good and
bad, who knows the diities of companionship, is ready to fulfil the conditions
of love, is benevolent, kind, good-natured and sweet-tongued.
As far as I am able I shall hold thy heart
And if injured I shall not injure in return.
Though sugar may be thy food as of a parrot
I shall sacrifice sweet life to thy support.
Thou hast not fallen into the hands of a giddy youth, fun of whims,
headstrong, fickle minded, running about every moment in search of another
pleasure and entertaining another opinion, sleeping every night in another
place and taking every day another friend.
Young men are joyous and of handsome countenance
But inconstant in fidelity to anyone.
Expect not faithfulness from nightingales
Who sing every moment to another rose.
Contrary to aged men who spend their lives according to wisdom
and propriety; not according to the impulses of folly and
Find one better than thyself and consider it
Because with one like thyself thou wilt be disappointed.
The old man said: 'I continued in this strain, thinking that I
had captivated her heart and that it had become my prey.' She drew, however,
a deep sigh from her grief-filled heart and said: 'All the words thou hast
uttered, weighed in the scales of my understanding, are not equivalent
to the maxim I once heard enounced in my tribe: An arrow in the side of
a young woman is better than an old man.'
When she perceived in the hands of her husband
Something pendant like the nether lip of a fasting
She said: 'This fellow has a corpse with him
But incantations are for sleepers not for corpses.'
A woman who arises without satisfaction from a
Will raise many a quarrel and contention.
An old man who is unable to rise from his place,
Except by the aid of a stick, how can his own stick
In short, there being no possibility of harmony, a separation at
last took place. When the time of the lady's uddat had terminated, she
was given in marriage to a young man who was violent, ill-humoured and
empty-handed. She suffered much from his bad temper and tyrannical behaviour,
and experienced the miseries of penury. She nevertheless said: 'Praise
be to Allah for having been delivered from that wretched torment, and attained
this permanent blessing.'
Despite of all this violence and hasty nature
I shall try to please thee because thou art beauteous.
To be with thee in hell burning is for me
Better than to be with the other in paradise.
The smell of an onion from the mouth of a pretty
Is indeed better than a rose from an ugly hand.
A nice face and a gown of gold brocade,
Essence of roses, fragrant aloes, paint, perfume and
All these are ornaments of women.
Take a man; and his testicles are a sufficient ornament.
I was in Diarbekr, the guest of an old man, who possessed abundant
wealth and a beautiful son. One night he narrated to me that he had all
his life no other son but this boy, telling me that in the locality people
resorted to a certain tree in a valley to offer petitions and that he had
during many nights prayed at the foot of the said tree, till the Almighty
granted him this son. I overheard the boy whispering to his companion:
'How good it would be if I knew where that tree is that I might pray for
my father to die.' Moral: The gentleman is delighted that his son is intelligent
and the boy complains that his father is a dotard.
Years elapse without thy visiting
The tomb of thy father.
What good hast thou done to him
To expect the same from thy son?
One day, in the pride of youth, I had travelled hard and arrived
perfectly exhausted in the evening at the foot of an acclivity. A weak
old man, who had likewise been following the caravan, came and asked me
why I was sleeping, this not being the place for it. I replied: 'How am
I to travel, having lost the use of my feet?' He said: 'Hast thou not heard
that it is better to walk gently and to halt now and then than to run and
to become exhausted?'
O thou who desirest to reach the station
Take my advice and learn patience.
An Arab horse gallops twice in a race.
A camel ambles gently night and day.
The active, graceful, smiling, sweet-tongued youth happened once
to be in the circle of our assembly. His heart had been entered by no kind
of grief and his lips were scarcely ever closed from laughter. After some
time had elapsed, I accidentally met him again and I learned that he had
married a wife and begotten children but I saw that the root of merriment
had been cut and the roses of his countenance were withered. I asked him
how he felt and what his circumstances were. He replied: 'When I had obtained
children I left off childishness.'
Where is youth when age has changed my ringlets?
And the change of time is a sufficient monitor.
When thou art old abstain from puerility.
Leave play and jokes to youths.
Seek not a youth's hilarity in an old man
For the water gone from the brook returns no more.
When the harvest-time of a field arrives
It will no longer wave in the breeze like a young
The period of youth has departed.
Alas, for those heart-enchanting times.
The force of the lion's claws is gone.
Now we are satisfied with cheese Eke a leopard.
An old hag had dyed her hair black.
I said to her: 'O little mother of ancient days,
Thou hast cunningly dyed thy hair but consider
That thy bent back will never be straight.'
In the folly of youth I one day shouted at my mother who then sat
down with a grieved heart in a corner and said, weeping: 'Hast thou forgotten
thy infancy that thou art harsh towards me?'
How sweetly said the old woman to her son
When she saw him overthrow a tiger, and elephant-bodied:
'If thou hadst remembered the time of thy infancy
How helpless thou wast in my arms
Thou would'st this day not have been harsh
For thou art a lion-like man, and I an old woman.'
The son of a wealthy but avaricious old man, having fallen sick,
his well-wishers advised him that it would be proper to get the whole Quran
recited or else to offer a sacrifice. He meditated a while and then said:
'It is preferable to read the Quran because the flock is at a distance.'
A holy man, who had heard this, afterwards remarked: 'He selected the reading
of the Quran because it is at the tip of the tongue but the money at the
bottom of the heart.'
It is useful to bend the neck in prayers
If they are to be accompanied by almsgiving.
For one dinar he would remain sticking in mud like an
But if thou askest for Alhamdu he will recite it a hundred
An old man, having been asked why he did not marry, replied that
he could not be happy with an aged woman, and on being told that as he
was a man of property, he might take a young one, he said: 'I being an
old man and unwilling to associate with an old woman, how could a young
one conceive friendship for me who am aged?'
Let not a man of seventy years make love.
Thou art confessedly blind, kiss her and sleep.
The lady wants strength, not gold.
One passage is preferable to her than ten mann of
I have heard that in these days a decrepit aged
Took the fancy in his old head to get a spouse.
He married a beauteous little girl, Jewel by name,
When he had concealed his casket of jewels from the eyes of
A spectacle took place as is customary in weddings.
But in the first onslaught the organ of the sheikh fell
He spanned the bow but hit not the target; it being
impossible to sew
A tight coarse robe except with a needle of steel.
He complained to his friends and showed proofs
That his furniture had been utterly destroyed by her
Such fighting and contention arose between man and
That the affair came before the qazi; and Sa'di
'After all this reproach and villainy the fault is not the
Thou whose hand trembles, how canst thou bore a