Persian Literature, Volume 2Comprising The Shah Nameh, The Rubaiyat, The Divan, and The Gulistan

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
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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 excluded.




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 Feridun’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 asleep!

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 another.


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 dwelling.

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 another.

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 Shah Nameh, of the tyrant Zohak’s declining dominion and the succession of Feridun. The vizir asked the king, saying: “Can you so far comprehend that Feridun 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 fountain.”


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 a Jove, procul a 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 courtiers.”


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. After some time, having adverted to his kindly disposition and approved of his good management, his promotion was in train, and he got confirmed in a much higher station. Thus was the star of his good fortune in ascension, till it rose into the zenith of ambition; and he became the favorite of his majesty the king, towards whom all turned for counsel, and upon whom all eyes rested their hopes! I rejoiced at this prosperous change of his affairs, and said:–“Repine not at thy bankrupt circumstances, nor let thy heart despond, for the fountain of immortality has its source of chaos.–_Take heed, O brother in affliction! and be not disheartened, for God has in store many hidden mercies_.–Sit not down soured at the revolutions of the times, for patience is bitter, yet it will yield sweet fruit.”

At that juncture I happened to accompany a party of friends on a journey to Hijaz, or Arabia Petraea. On my return from the pilgrimage to Mecca, he came out two stages to meet me. I perceived that his outward plight was wretched, and his garb that of dervishes. I asked, “How is this?” He replied, “Just as you said, a faction bore me a grudge and charged me with malpractices; and the king, be his reign eternal, would not investigate the truth of that charge, and my old and best friends stood aloof from my defence, and overlooked my claims on our former acquaintance.–When, through an act of God, a man has fallen, the whole world will put their feet upon his neck; when they see that fortune has taken him by the hand, they will put their hands upon their breasts, and be loud in his praise.–In short, I underwent all manner of persecution till within this week, that the tidings of the safe return of the pilgrims reached us, when I got a release from my heavy durance and a confiscation of my hereditary tenements.” I said, “At that time you did not listen to my admonition, when I warned you that the service of princes is, like a voyage at sea, profitable but hazardous: you either get a treasure or perish miserably.–The merchant gains the shore with gold in both his hands, or a wave will one day leave him dead on its beach.”–Not deeming it generous any further to irritate a poor man’s wound with the asperity of reproach, or to sprinkle his sore with the salt of harsh words, I made a summary conclusion in these two verses, and said:–“Wert thou not aware that thou shouldst find fetters on thy feet when thou wouldst not listen to the generous man’s counsel? Thrust not again thy finger into a scorpion’s hole till thou canst endure the pain of its sting.”


I was the companion of a holy fraternity, whose manners were correct from piety, and minds disciplined from probity. An eminent prince entertained a high and respectful opinion of the worth of this brotherhood, and had assigned it an endowment. Perhaps one of them committed an act unworthy of the character of dervishes; for the good opinion of that personage was forfeited, and the market of their support shut. I wished that I could by any means re-establish the maintenance of my friends, and attempted to wait on the great man; but his porter opposed my entrance, and turned me away with rudeness. I excused him conformably with what the witty have said:–“Till thou canst take an introduction along with thee approach not the gate of a prince, vizir, or lord; for the dog and the doorkeeper, on espying a beggar, will the one seize his skirt and the other his collar.”

When the favorite attendants of that great man were aware of my situation, they ushered me into his presence with respect, and offered me the highest seat; but in humility I took the lowest, and said: “Permit that I, the slave of the abject, should seat myself on a level with servants.”–The great man answered, “My God, my God! what room is there for this speech? Wert thou to seat thyself upon the pupil of mine eye, I would court thy dalliance, for thou art lovely.”

In short, I took my seat, and entered upon a variety of topics, till the indiscretion of my friends was brought upon the carpet, when I said: “What fault did the lord of past munificence remark, that his servant should seem so contemptible in his sight? Individually with God is the perfection of majesty and goodness, who can discern our failings and continue to us his support.” When the prince heard this sentiment he subscribed to its omnipotence; and, with regard to the stipendiary allowance of my friends, he ordered its continuance as heretofore, and a faithful discharge of all arrears. I thanked him for his generosity, kissed the dust of obeisance, apologized for my boldness, and at the moment of taking my leave, added: “When the fane of the Caabah, at Mecca, became their object from a far distant land, pilgrims would hurry on to visit it for many farsangs. It behooves thee to put up with such as we are, for nobody will throw a stone at a tree that bears no fruit.”


A prince inherited immense riches by succeeding to his father. He opened the hand of liberality, displayed his munificence, and bestowed innumerable gifts upon his troops and people. “The brain will not be perfumed by a censer of green aloes-wood; place it over the fire that it may diffuse fragrance like ambergris. If ambitious of a great name, make a practice of munificence, for the crop will not shoot till thou shalt sow the seed.”

A narrow-minded courtier began to admonish him, saying, “Verily, former sovereigns have collected this wealth with scrupulosity and stored it advisedly. Check your hand in this waste, for accidents wait ahead, and foes lurk behind. God forbid that you should want it on a day of need.–Wert thou to distribute the contents of a granary among the people, every master of a family might receive a grain of rice; why not exact a grain of silver from each, that thou mightest daily hoard a chamber full of treasure?”

The prince turned his face aside from this speech, so contrary to his own lofty sentiments, and harshly reprimanded him, saying, “A great and glorious God made me sovereign of this property, that I might enjoy and spend it; and posted me not a sentinel, to hoard and watch over it.–Carown perished, who possessed forty magazines of treasure; Nushirowan died not, who left behind him a fair reputation.”


They have related that at a hunting seat they were roasting some game for Nushirowan, and as there was no salt they were despatching a servant to the village to fetch some. Nushirowan called to him, saying, “Take it at its fair price, and not by force, lest a bad precedent be established and the village desolated.” They asked, “What damage can ensue from this trifle?” He answered, “Originally, the basis of oppression in this world was small, and every newcomer added to it, till it reached to its present extent:–Let the monarch eat but one apple from a peasant’s orchard, and his guards, or slaves, will pull up the tree by its root. From the plunder of five eggs, that the king shall sanction, his troops will stick a thousand fowls on their spits.”


I have heard of a revenue-collector who would distrain the huts of the peasantry, that he might enrich the treasury of the sovereign, regardless of that maxim of the wise, who have said, “Whoever can offend the Most High, that he may gain the heart of a fellow-creature, God on high will instigate that creature against him, till he dig out the foundation of his fortune:–That crackling in the flame is not caused by burning rue, but it is the sigh of the afflicted that occasions it.”

They say, of all animals the lion is the chief; and of beasts the ass is the meanest; yet, with the concurrence of the wise, the burden-bearing ass is preferable to the man-devouring lion. “The poor ass, though devoid of understanding, will be held precious when carrying a burden; oxen and asses that carry loads are preferable to men that injure their fellow-creatures.”

The king had reported to him a part of his nefarious conduct. He put him to the rack, and tortured him to death. “Thou canst not obtain the sovereign’s approbation till thou make sure of the good-will of his people. Wishest thou that God shall be bountiful to thee, be thou good thyself to the creatures of God.”

One who had suffered from his oppression passed him at the time of his execution, and said: “It is not every man that may have the strong arm of high station, that can in his government take an immoderate freedom with the subjects’ property. It is possible to cram a bone down the throat, but when it sticks at the navel it will burst open the belly.”


They tell a story of an evil-disposed person who struck a pious good man on the head with a stone. Having no power of revenge, the dervish was keeping the stone by him till an occasion when the sovereign let loose the army of his wrath, and cast him into a dungeon. The poor man went up and flung that stone at his head. The person spoke to him, saying, “Who are you, and why did you throw this stone at my head?” He answered, “I am that poor man, and this is the same stone that you on a certain occasion flung at my head.” He said, “Where have you been all this time?” The poor man answered, “I stood in awe of your high station, but now that I find you in a dungeon, I avail myself of the opportunity, as they have said–‘Whilst they saw the worthless man in prosperity, the wise thought proper to show him respect. Now thou hast not sharp and tearing nails, it is prudent for thee to defer to engage with the wicked. Whoever grappled with a steel-armed wrist exposed his own silver arm to torture. Wait till fortune can manacle his hands, then beat out his brains to the satisfaction of thy friends.'”

* * * * *


One of King Umraw-layas’s slaves had absconded, and people that went after him brought him back. The vizir, who had a dislike to him, used his interest to have him put to death, that the other slaves (as he pretended) might not commit the same offence. The poor slave fell at Umraw-layas’s feet, and said: “Whatever may befall me, if thou approve of it, it is so far proper. What plea can a vassal offer against his lord and master’s decree?–Nevertheless, inasmuch as I am the nurtured gift of this house, I could not wish that on the last day’s reckoning my blood should stand charged to your account. If, at all events, you are resolved to put this your slave to death, let it be done with a plea of legality, that you may not be censured at the day of resurrection.” The king asked, “How can I set up a legal plea?” He replied, “Issue your command that I may kill the vizir, then give an order to put me to death in retaliation for him, that you may kill me according to law!” The king smiled and asked the vizir, “What is your advice in this case?” The vizir said, “O sovereign of the world! I beg, for the sake of God, that you will manumit this audacious fellow as a propitiation at the tomb of your forefathers, lest he also involve me in calamity. The fault was on my side, in not doing justice to the saying of the wise, who have warned us:–‘When thou didst enter the lists with a practised slinger, in thy want of skill thou exposest thine own head to be broken. When thou didst discharge thine arrow at thy antagonist’s face thou shouldst have been upon thy guard, for thou hadst become his butt.'”


King Zuzan had a minister of a generous spirit and kindly disposition, who was polite to all persons while present, and spoke well of them when absent. One of his acts happened to displease the king, who put him under stoppages, and in rigorous confinement. The officers of the crown were sensible of his former benefits, and pledged to show their gratitude of them. Accordingly, whilst under their charge, they treated him with courtesy and benevolence, and would not use any coercion or violence:–“If thou desirest to remain at peace with a rival, whenever he slanders thee behind thy back speak well of him to his face. The perverse man cavils for the last word; unless thou preferest his bitter remarks, make his mouth sweet.”

Of the charge against him at the king’s exchequer, part had been adjusted according to its settlement, and he remained in durance for the balance. A bordering prince sent him underhand a letter, stating, “The sovereign of that quarter has not appreciated such worth, nay, has dishonored it, and with us it bore a heavy price. If the precious mind of a certain personage, may God facilitate his deliverance, will incline favorably towards us, every possible exertion shall be made to conciliate his good-will, and the cabinet ministers of this kingdom are exulting in the prospect of seeing him, and anxious for the answer of this letter.” The minister made himself master of the contents. He pondered on the danger, wrote such a brief answer as seemed discreet upon the back of the letter, and returned it. One of the hangers-on at court had notice of this circumstance. He apprised the king, saying, “A certain person whom you have put in confinement is corresponding with a neighboring prince.” The king was wroth, and ordered an investigation of this intelligence. The messenger was seized, and letter read. On the back of it he had written, stating, “The good opinion of his Majesty exceeds the merits of this slave; but the honored approbation he has bestowed upon a servant cannot possibly have his consent, for he is the fostered gift of this house, and he cannot, on a trifling change of affection, betray his ancient benefactor and patron.–Though once in his life he may grate thee with harshness, excuse him who on every occasion else has soothed thee with kindness.” The king commended his fidelity, bestowed on him an honorary dress and largess, and made his excuses, saying, “I was to blame, that could do you an injury.” He replied, “In this instance, my lord, your servant sees no blame that attaches to you; but such was the ordination of God, whose name was glorified, that this your devoted slave should verily be overtaken with a calamity. Accordingly, it is more tolerable at the hand of you, who possess the rights of past good, and have claims of gratitude on this servant:–Be not offended with mankind should any mischief assail thee, for neither pleasure nor pain originate with thy fellow-being. Know that the contrariety of foe and friend proceeds from God, and that the hearts of both are at his disposal. Though the arrow may seem to issue from the bow, the intelligent can see that the archer gave it its aim.”


I have heard that one of the kings of Arabia directed the officers of his treasury, saying, “You will double a certain person’s salary, whatever it may be, for he is constant in attendance and ready for orders, while the other courtiers are diverted by play, and negligent of their duty.” A good and holy man overheard this, and heaved a sigh and groan from the bottom of his bosom. They asked, saying, “What vision did you see?” He replied, “The exalted mansions of his devoted servants will be after this manner portioned out at the judgment-seat of a Most High and Mighty Deity!–If for two mornings a person is assiduous about the person of the king, on the third he will in some shape regard him with affection. The sincerely devout exist in the hope that they shall not depart disappointed from God’s threshold. The rank of a prince is the reward of obedience. Disobedience to command is a proof of rejection. Whoever has the aspect of the upright and good will lay the face of duty at this threshold.”


They tell a story of a tyrant who bought fire-wood from the poor at a low price, and sold it to the rich at an advance. A good and holy man went up to him and said, “Thou art a snake, who bitest everybody thou seest; or an owl, who diggest up and makest a ruin of the place where thou sittest:–Although thy injustice may pass unpunished among us, it cannot escape God, the knower of secrets. Be not unjust with the people of this earth, that their complaints may not rise up to heaven.”

They say the unjust man was offended at his words, turned aside his face, and showed him no civility, as they have expressed it (in the Koran):–_He, the glorified God, overtook him amidst his sins_:–till one night, when the fire of his kitchen fell upon the stack of wood, consumed all his property, and laid him from the bed of voluptuousness upon the ashes of hell torments. That good and holy man happened to be passing and observed that he was remarking to his friends, “I cannot fancy whence this fire fell upon my dwelling.” He said, “From the smoke of the hearts of the poor!–Guard against the smoke of the sore-afflicted heart, for an inside sore will at last gather into a head. Give nobody’s heart pain so long as thou canst avoid it, for one sigh may set a whole world into a flame.”

They have related that these verses were inscribed in golden letters upon Kai-khosrau’s crown:–“How many years, and what a continuance of ages, that mankind shall on this earth walk over my head. As the kingdom came to me from hand to hand, so it shall pass into the hands of others.”


A person had become a master in the art of wrestling; he knew three hundred and sixty sleights in this art, and could exhibit a fresh trick for every day throughout the year. Perhaps owing to a liking that a corner of his heart took for the handsome person of one of his scholars, he taught him three hundred and fifty-nine of those feats, but he was putting off the instruction of one, and under some pretence deferring it.

In short the youth became such a proficient in the art and talent of wrestling that none of his contemporaries had ability to cope with him, till he at length had one day boasted before the reigning sovereign, saying, “To any superiority my master possesses over me, he is beholden to my reverence of his seniority, and in virtue of his tutorage; otherwise I am not inferior in power, and am his equal in skill.” This want of respect displeased the king. He ordered a wrestling match to be held, and a spacious field to be fenced in for the occasion. The ministers of state, nobles of the court, and gallant men of the realm were assembled, and the ceremonials of the combat marshalled. Like a huge and lusty elephant, the youth rushed into the ring with such a crash that had a brazen mountain opposed him he would have moved it from its base. The master being aware that the youth was his superior in strength, engaged him in that strange feat of which he had kept him ignorant. The youth was unacquainted with its guard. Advancing, nevertheless, the master seized him with both hands, and, lifting him bodily from the ground, raised him above his head and flung him on the earth. The crowd set up a shout. The king ordered them to give the master an honorary dress and handsome largess, and the youth he addressed with reproach and asperity, saying, “You played the traitor with your own patron, and failed in your presumption of opposing him.” He replied, “O sire! my master did not overcome me by strength and ability, but one cunning trick in the art of wrestling was left which he was reserved in teaching me, and by that little feat had to-day the upper hand of me.” The master said, “I reserved myself for such a day as this. As the wise have told us, ‘Put it not so much into a friend’s power that, if hostilely disposed, he can do you an injury.’ Have you not heard what that man said who was treacherously dealt with by his own pupil:–‘Either in fact there was no good faith in this world, or nobody has perhaps practised it in our days. No person learned the art of archery from me who did not in the end make me his butt.'”


A solitary dervish had taken up his station at the corner of a desert. A king was passing by him. Inasmuch as contentment is the enjoyment of a kingdom, the dervish did not raise his head, nor show him the least mark of attention; and, inasmuch as sovereignty is regal pomp, the king took offence, and said, “The tribe of ragged mendicants resemble brute beasts, and have neither grace nor good manners.” The vizir stepped up to him, and said: “O generous man! the sovereign of the universe has passed by you; why did you not do him homage, and discharge the duty of obeisance?” He answered and said, “Speak to your sovereign, saying: Expect service from that person who will court your favor; let him moreover know that kings are meant for the protection of the people, and not the people for the subjects of kings.–Though it be for their benefit that his glory is exalted, yet is the king but the shepherd of the poor. The sheep are not intended for the service of the shepherd, but the shepherd is appointed to tend the sheep.–To-day thou mayest observe one man proud from prosperity, another with a heart sore from adversity; have patience for a few days till the dust of the grave can consume the brain of that vain and foolish head. When the record of destiny came to take effect, the distinction of liege and subject disappeared. Were a person to turn up the dust of the defunct, he could not distinguish that of the rich man from the poor.”

These sayings made a strong impression upon the king; he said: “Ask me for something.” He replied: “What I desire is, that you will not trouble me again!” The king said, “Favor me with a piece of advice.” He answered: “Attend to them now that the good things of this life are in thy hands; for wealth and dominion are passing from one hand into another.”

* * * * *


A king ordered an innocent person to be put to death. The man said, “Seek not your own hurt by venting any anger you may entertain against me.” The king asked, “How?” He replied, “The pain of this punishment will continue with me for a moment, but the sin of it will endure with you forever.–The period of this life passes by like the wind of the desert. Joy and sorrow, beauty and deformity, equally pass away. The tyrant vainly thought that he did me an injury, but round his neck it clung and passed over me.”

The king profited by this advice, spared his life, and asked his forgiveness.


The cabinet ministers of Nushirowan were debating an important affair of state, and each delivered his opinion according to the best of his judgment. In like manner the king also delivered his sentiments, and Abu-zarchamahr, the prime minister, accorded in opinion with him. The other ministers whispered him, saying, “What did you see superior in the king’s opinion that you preferred it to the judgment of so many wise heads?” He replied: “Because the event is doubtful, and the opinion of all rests in the pleasure of the most high God whether it shall be right or wrong. Accordingly it is safer to conform with the judgment of the king, because if that shall prove wrong, our obsequiousness to his will shall secure us from his displeasure.–To sport an opinion contrary to the judgment of the king were to wash our hands in our own blood. Were he verily to say this day is night, it would behoove us to reply: Lo! there are the moon and seven stars.”


An impostor plaited his hair and spake, saying, “I am a descendant of Ali;” and he entered the city along with the caravan from Hijaz, saying, “I come a pilgrim from Mecca;” and he presented a Casidah or elegy to the king, saying, “I have composed it!” The king gave him money, treated him with respect, and ordered him to be shown much flattering attention; till one of the courtiers, who had that day returned from a voyage at sea, said, “I saw him on the Eeduzha, or anniversary of sacrifice at Busrah; how then can he be a Haji, or pilgrim?” Another said, “Now I recollect him, his father was a Christian at Malatiyah (Malta); how then can he be a descendant of Ali?” And they discovered his verses in the divan of Anwari. The king ordered that they should beat and drive him away, saying, “How came you to utter so many falsehoods?” He replied, “O sovereign of the universe! I will utter one speech more, and if that may not prove true, I shall deserve whatever punishment you may command.” The king asked, “What may that be?” He said: “If a peasant bring thee a cup of junket, two measures of it will be water and one spoonful of it buttermilk. If thy slave spake idly be not offended, for great travellers deal most in the marvellous!” The king smiled and replied, “You never in your life spake a truer word.” He directed them to gratify his expectations, and he departed happy and content.


They have related that one of the vizirs would compassionate the weak and meditate the good of everybody. He happened to fall under the royal displeasure, and they all strove to obtain his release. Such as had him in custody were indulgent in their restraint, and his fellow-grandees were loud in proclaiming his virtues, till the king pardoned his fault. A good and holy man was apprised of these events, and said:–“In order to conciliate the good-will of friends, it were better to sell our patrimonial garden; in order to boil the pot of well-wishers, it were good to convert our household furniture into fire-wood. Do good even to the wicked; it is as well to shut a dog’s mouth with a crumb.”


One of Harun-al-Rashid’s children went up to his father in a passion, saying, “A certain officer’s son has abused me in my mother’s name.” Harun asked his ministers, “What ought to be such a person’s punishment?” One made a sign to have him put to death; another to have his tongue cut out; and a third, to have him fined and banished. Harun said: “O my child! it were generous to forgive him; but if you have not resolution to do that, do you abuse his mother in return, yet not to such a degree as to exceed the bounds of retaliation, for in that case the injury would be on our part, and the complaint on that of the antagonist.–In the opinion of the prudent he is no hero that can dare to combat a furious elephant; but that man is in truth a hero who, when provoked to anger, will not speak intemperately. A cross-grained fellow abused a certain person; he bore it patiently, and said, O well-disposed man! I am still more wicked than thou art calling me; for I know my defects better than thou canst know them.”


I was seated in a vessel, along with some persons of distinction, when a boat sunk astern of us and two brothers were drawn into the whirlpool. One of our gentlemen called to the pilot, saying, “Save those two drowning men and I will give you a hundred dinars.” The pilot went and rescued one of them, but the other perished. I observed, “That man’s time was come, therefore you were tardy in assisting him, and alert in saving this other.” The pilot smiled, and replied, “What you say is the essence of inevitable necessity; yet was my zeal more hearty in rescuing this one, because on an occasion when I was tired in the desert he set me on a camel; whereas, when a boy, I had received a horsewhipping from that other.”–_God Almighty was all justice and equity: whoever labored unto good experienced good in himself; and he who toiled unto evil experienced evil_.–So long as thou art able grate nobody’s heart, for in this path there must be thorns. Expedite the concerns of the poor and needy; for thy own concerns may need to be expedited.

* * * * *


A person announced to Nushirowan the Just, saying, “I have heard that God, glorious and great, has removed from this world a certain man who was your enemy.” He said, “Have you had any intelligence that he has overlooked me? In the death of a rival I have no room for exultation, since my life also is not to last forever.”


At the court of Kisra, or Nushirowan, a cabinet council was debating some state affair. Abu-zarchamahr, who sat as president, was silent. They asked him, “Why do you not join us in this discussion?” He replied, “Such ministers of state are like physicians, and a physician will prescribe a medicine only to a sick man; accordingly, so long as I see that your opinions are judicious, it were ill-judged in me to obtrude a word.–While business can proceed without my interference, it does not behoove me to speak on the subject; but were I to see a blind man walking into a pit, I would be much to blame if I remained silent.”


When he reduced the kingdom of Misr, or Egypt, to obedience, Harun-al-Rashid said, “In contempt of that impious rebel (Pharaoh), who, in his pride of the sovereignty of Egypt, boasted a divinity, I will bestow its government only on the vilest of my slaves.” He had a negro bondsman, called Khosayib, preciously stupid, and him he appointed to rule over Egypt. They tell us that his judgment and understanding were such, that when a body of farmers complained to him, saying, “We had planted some cotton shrubs on the banks of the Nile, and the rains came unseasonably, and swept them all away;”–he replied, “You ought to sow wool, that it might not be swept away!” A good and holy man heard this, and said: “Were our fortune to be increased in proportion to our knowledge, none could be scantier than the share of the fool; but fortune will bestow such wealth upon the ignorant as shall astonish a hundred of the learned. Power and fortune depend not on knowledge, they are obtained only through the aid of heaven; for it has often happened in this world that the illiterate are honored, and the wise held in scorn. The fool in his idleness found a treasure under a ruin; the chemist, or projector, fell the victim of disappointment and chagrin.”


Of the Morals of Dervishes


A person of distinction asked a parsa, or devout and holy man, saying, “What do you offer in justification of a certain abid, another species of Mohammedan monk, whose character others have been so ready to question?” He replied: “In his outward behavior I see nothing to blame, and with the secrets of his heart I claim no acquaintance.–Whomsoever thou seest in a parsa’s habit, consider him a parsa, or holy, and esteem him as a good man; and if thou knowest not what is passing in his mind, what business has the mohtasib, or censor, with the inside of the house?”


I saw a dervish who, having laid his head at the fane of the Cabah of Mecca, was complaining and saying, “O gracious, O merciful God! thou knowest what can proceed from the sinful and ignorant that may be worthy of thy acceptance!–I brought my excuse of imperfect performance, for I have no claim on the score of obedience. The wicked repent them of their sins; such as know God confess a deficiency of worship.”

Abids, or the pious, seek a reward of their devotion, merchants a profit on their traffic. I, a devoted servant, have brought hope, not obedience, and have come as a beggar, and not for lucre!–_Do unto me what is worthy of thyself; but deal not with me as I myself have deserved_.–Whether thou wilt slay me or pardon my offence, my head and face are prostrate at thy threshold. Thy servant has no will of his own; whatever thou commandest, that he will perform. At the door of the Cabah I saw a petitioner, who was praying and weeping bitterly. I ask not, saying, “Approve of my obedience, but draw the pen of forgiveness across my sins.”


Within the sanctuary of the Cabah, at Mecca, I saw Abd-u’l-cadur the Gilani, who having laid his face upon the Hasa, or black stone, was saying, “Spare and pardon me, O God! and if, at all events, I am doomed to punishment, raise me up at the day of resurrection blindfolded, that I may not be put to shame in the eyes of the righteous.” Every morning when the day begins to dawn, with my face in the dust of humility, I am saying, “O thou, whom I never can forget, dost thou ever bestow a thought on thy servant?”


A thief got into a holy man’s cell; but, however much he searched, he could find nothing to steal, and was going away disappointed. The good soul was aware of what was passing, and taking up the rug on which he had slept, he put it in his way that he might not miss his object.–I have heard that the heroes on the path of God will not distress the hearts of their enemies. How canst thou attain this dignified station who art at strife and warfare with thy friends?

The loving kindness of the righteous, whether before your face or behind your back, is not such that they will censure you when absent, and offer to die for you when present.–Face to face meek as a lamb, behind your back like a man-devouring wolf. Whoever brings you, and sums up the faults of others, will doubtless expose your defects to them.


Some travelling mendicants had agreed to club in a body and participate in the cares and comforts of society. I expressed a wish that I might be one of the party, but they refused to admit me. I said: “It is rare and inconsistent with the generous dispositions of dervishes to turn their faces from a good-fellowship with the poor, and to deny them its benefits, for on my part I feel such a zeal and good-will, that in the service of the liberal I am likely to prove rather an active associate than a grievous load.–_Though not one of those who are mounted on the camels, I will do my best, that I may carry their saddle-cloths_.”

One of them answered and said: “Be not offended at what you have heard, for some days back a thief joined us in the garb of a dervish, and strung himself upon the cord of our acquaintance.–How can people know what he is that wears that dress? The writer can alone tell the contents of the letter.” In consequence of that reverence in which the dervish character is held, they did not think of his profligacy and admitted him into their society. The outward character of the holy is a patched cloak; this much is sufficient, that it has a threadbare hood. Be industrious in thy calling, and wear whatever dress thou choosest. Put a diadem on thy head, and bear a standard on thy shoulder. Holiness does not consist in a coarse frock. Let a zahid, or holy man, be truly pious, and he may dress in satin. Sanctity is not merely a change of dress; it is an abandonment of the world, its pomp and vanity. It requires a hero to wear a coat of mail, for what would it profit to dress an hermaphrodite, or coward, in a suit of armor?

In short we had one day travelled till dark, and at night composed ourselves for sleep under the wall of a castle. That graceless thief took up his neighbor’s ewer, saying, “I am going to my ablutions;” and he was setting out for plunder. Behold a religious man, who threw a patched cloak over his shoulders; he made the covering of the Cabah the housing of an ass. So soon as he got out of the sight of the dervishes, he scaled a bastion of the fort and stole a casket. Before break of day that gloomy-minded robber had got a great way off, and left his innocent companions asleep. In the morning they were all carried into the citadel, and thrown into a dungeon. From that time we have declined any addition to our party, and kept apart to ourselves, _for there is safety in unity, but danger in duality or a multitude_.–When an individual of a sect committed an act of folly, the high and the low sunk in their dignity. Dost thou not see that one ox in a pasturage will cast a slur upon all the oxen of the village?

I said: “Let there be thanksgiving to a Deity of majesty and glory that I am not forbid the benefits of dervishes, notwithstanding I am in appearance excluded from their society; and I am instructed by this narration, and others like me may profit by its moral during their remaining lives.–From one indiscreet person in an assembly a host of the prudent may get hurt. If they fill a cistern to the brim with rose-water, and let a dog fall into it, the whole will be contaminated.”


A zahid was the guest of a king. When he sat down at table he ate more sparingly from that than his appetite inclined him, and when he stood up at prayers he continued longer at them than it was his custom; that they might form a high opinion of his sanctity.–I fear, O Arab! that thou wilt not reach the Caabah; for the road that thou art taking leads to Turkistan, or the region of infidels.

When he returned home he ordered the table to be spread that he might eat. His son was a youth of a shrewd understanding. He said: “O father, perhaps you ate little or nothing at the feast of the king?” He answered, “In his presence I ate scarce anything that could answer its purpose!” Then retorted the boy, “Repeat also your prayers, that nothing be omitted that can serve a purpose.” Yes, thy virtues thou hast exposed in the palm of thy hand, thy vices thou hast hid under thy arm-pit. Take heed, O hypocrite, what thou wilt be able to purchase with this base money on the day of need or day of judgment.


I remember that in my early youth I was overmuch religious and vigilant, and scrupulously pious and abstinent. One night I sat up in attendance on my father, on whom be God’s mercy, never once closed my eyes during the whole night, and held the precious Koran open on my lap, while the company around us were fast asleep. I said to my father: “Not an individual of these will raise his head that he may perform his genuflections, or ritual of prayer; but they are all so sound asleep, that you might conclude they were dead.” He replied: “O emanation of your father, you had also better have slept than that you should thus calumniate the failings of mankind.–The braggart can discern only his own precious person; he will draw the veil of conceit all around him. Were fortune to bestow upon him God’s all-searching eye, he would find nobody weaker than himself.”

* * * * *


On one occasion, at the metropolitan mosque of Balbek, I was holding forth, by way of admonition to a congregation cold and dead at heart, and not to be moved from the materialism of this world into the paths of mysticism. I perceived that the spirit of my discourse was making no impression, nor were the sparks of my enthusiasm likely to strike fire into their humid wood. I grew weary of instructing brutes, and of holding up a mirror to an assembly of the blind; but the door of exposition was thrown open, and the chain of argument extended; and in explanation of this text in the Koran–_We are nearer to him_ (God) _than the vein of his neck_.–I had reached that passage of my sermon where I thus express myself:–“Such a mistress as is closer to me in her affection than I am to myself, but this is marvellous that I am estranged from her. What shall I say, and to whom can I tell it, that she lies on my bosom and I am alienated from her.”

The intoxicating spirit of this discourse ran into my head, and the dregs of the cup still rested in my hand, when a traveller, as passing by, entered the outer circle of the congregation, and its expiring undulation lit upon him. He sent forth such a groan that the others in sympathy with him joined in lamentation, and the rawest of the assembly bubbled in unison. I exclaimed, “Praise be to God! those far off are present in their knowledge, and those near by are distant from their ignorance. If the hearer has not the faculty of comprehending the sermon, expect not the vigor of genius in the preacher. Give a scope to the field of inclination, that the orator may have room to strike the ball of eloquence over it.”


One night in the desert of Mecca, from an excess of drowsiness, I had not a foot to enable me to proceed; and, laying my head on the earth, I gave myself up for lost, and desired the camel-driver to leave me to my fate.–How could the foot of the poor jaded pedestrian go on, now that the Bactrian dromedary got impatient of its burden? While the body of a fat man is getting lean, a lean man must fall the victim of a hardship.

The camel-driver replied: “O brother, holy Mecca is ahead, and the profane robber behind; if you come forward you escape, but if you stay here you die!” During the night journey of the caravan, and in the track of the desert, it is fascinating to dose under the acacia-thorn tree; but, on this indulgence, we must resign all thoughts of surviving it.


I saw on the sea-shore a holy man who had been torn by a tiger, and could get no salve to heal his wound. For a length of time he suffered much pain, and was all along offering thanks to the Most High. They asked him, saying, “Why are you so grateful?” He answered, “God be praised that I am overtaken with misfortune and not with sin! Were that beloved friend, God, to give me over to death, take heed, and think not that I should be solicitous about life. I would ask, What hast thou seen amiss in thy poor servant that thy heart should take offence at me? for that could alone give me a moment’s uneasiness.”


Having some pressing occasion, a dervish stole a rug from the hut of a friend. The judge ordered that they should cut off his hand. The owner of the rug made intercession for him, saying, “I have forgiven him.” The judge replied, “At your instance I cannot relax the extreme sentence of the law.” He said: “In what you ordered you spoke justly. Nevertheless, whoever steals a portion of any property dedicated to alms must not suffer the forfeiture of his hand, for a _religious mendicant is not the proprietor of anything_; and whatever appertains to dervishes is devoted to the necessitous.” The judge withdrew his hand from punishing him, and by way of reprimand asked, “Had the world become so circumscribed that you could not commit a theft but in the dwelling of such a friend?” He answered, “Have you not heard what they have said, ‘Sweep everything away from the houses of your friends, but knock not at the doors of your enemies.’ When overwhelmed with calamity let not thy body pine in misery. Strip thy foes of their skins, and thy friends of their jackets.”


A king said to a holy man, “Are you ever thinking of me?” “Yes,” replied he, “at such time as I am forgetting God Almighty! He will wander all around whom God shall drive from his gate; and he will not let him go to another door whom he shall direct into his own.”


One of the righteous in a dream saw a king in paradise, and a parsa, or holy man, in hell. He questioned himself, saying, “What is the cause of the exaltation of this, and the degradation of that, for we have fancied their converse?” A voice came from above, answering, “This king is in heaven because of his affection for the holy, and that parsa is in hell because of his connection with the kingly.”–What can a coarse frock, rosary, and patched cloak avail? Abstain from such evil works as may defile thee. There is no occasion to put a felt cowl upon thy head. Be a dervish in thy actions, and wear a Tartarian coronet.


A pedestrian, naked from head to foot, left Cufah with the caravan of pilgrims for Hijaz, or Mecca, and came along with us. I looked at and saw him destitute of every necessary for the journey; yet he was cheerfully pushing on, and bravely remarking:–“I am neither mounted on a camel nor a mule under a burden. I am neither the lord of vassals nor the vassal of a lord. I think not of present sorrows or past vanities, but breathe the breath of ease and live the life of freedom!”

A gentleman mounted on a camel said to him, “O dervish, whither are you going? return, or you must perish miserably.” He did not heed what he said, but entered the desert on foot and proceeded. On our reaching the palm plantation of Mahmud, fate overtook the rich man, and he died. The dervish went up to his bier and said, “I did not perish amidst hardship on foot, and you expired on a camel’s back.” A person sat all night weeping by the side of a sick friend. Next day he died, and the invalid recovered!–Yes! many a fleet horse perished by the way, and that lame ass reached the end of the journey. How many of the vigorous and hale did they put underground, and that wounded man recovered!

* * * * *


In the territory of the Greeks a caravan was attacked by robbers, and plundered of much property. The merchants set up a lamentation and complaint, and besought the intercession of God and the prophet; but all to no purpose.–When the gloomy-minded robber is flushed with victory, what will he feel for the traveller’s despair.

Lucman, the fabulist and philosopher, happened to be among them. One of the travellers spoke to him, saying, “Direct some maxims of wisdom and admonition to them; perhaps they may restore a part of our goods; for it were a pity that articles of such value should be cast away.” He answered: “It were a pity to cast away the admonitions of wisdom upon them!” From that iron which the rust has corroded thou canst not eradicate the canker with a file. What purpose will it answer to preach to the gloomy-minded infidel? A nail of iron cannot penetrate into a piece of flint.

Perhaps the fault has been on our part (in not being charitable), as they have said:–“On the day of thy prosperity remember the bankrupt and needy, for by visiting the hearts of the poor with charity thou shalt divert calamity. When the beggar solicits alms from thee, bestow it with a good grace; otherwise the tyrant may come and take it by force.”

* * * * *


They asked Lucman, the fabulist, “From whom did you learn manners?” He answered, “From the unmannerly, for I was careful to avoid whatever part of their behavior seemed to me bad.” They will not speak a word in joke from which the wise cannot derive instruction; let them read a hundred chapters of wisdom to a fool, and they will all seem but a jest to him.


They tell a story of an abid, who in the course of a night would eat ten mans, or pounds, of food, and in his devotions repeat the whole Koran before morning. A good and holy man heard this, and said, “Had he eaten half a loaf of bread, and gone to sleep, he would have done a more meritorious act.” Keep thy inside unencumbered with victuals, that the light of good works may shine within thee; but thou art void of wisdom and knowledge, because thou art filled up to the nose with food.


The divine favor had placed the lamp of grace in the path of a wanderer in forbidden ways, till it directed him into the circle of the righteous, and the blessed society of dervishes, and their spiritual co-operation enabled him to convert his wicked propensities into praiseworthy deeds, and to restrain himself in sensual indulgences; yet were the tongues of calumniators questioning his sincerity, and saying, He retains his original habits, and there is no trusting to his piety and goodness.–By the means of repentance thou mayest get delivered from the wrath of God, but there is no escape from the slanderous tongue of man.–He was unable to put up with the virulence of their remarks, and took his complaint to his ghostly father, saying, “I am much troubled by the tongues of mankind.” The holy man wept, and answered, “How can you be sufficiently grateful for this blessing, that you are better than they represent you?–How often wilt thou call aloud saying, The malignant and envious are calumniating wretched me, that they rise up to shed my blood, and that they sit down to devise me mischief. Be thou good thyself, and let people speak evil of thee; it is better than to be wicked, and that they should consider thee as good.”–But, on the other hand, behold me, of whose perfectness all entertain the best opinion, while I am the mirror of imperfection.–Had I done what they have said, I should have been a pious and moral man.–_Verily, I may conceal myself from the sight of my neighbor, but God knows what is secret and what is open_.–There is a shut door between me and mankind, that they may not pry into my sins; but what, O Omniscience! can a closed door avail against thee, who art equally informed of what is manifest or concealed?


I lodged a complaint with one of our reverend Shaikhs, saying: “A certain person has borne testimony against my character on the score of lasciviousness.” He answered, “Shame him by your continence.–Be thou virtuously disposed, that the detractor may not have it in his power to indulge his malignity. So long as the harp is in tune, how can it have its ear pulled (or suffer correction by being put in tune) by the minstrel?”


They asked one of the Shaikhs of Sham, or Syria, saying: “What is the condition of the Sufi sect?” He answered, “Formerly they were in this world a fraternity dispersed in the flesh, but united in the spirit; but now they are a body well clothed carnally, and ragged in divine mystery.” Whilst thy heart will be every moment wandering into a different place, in thy recluse state thou canst not see purity; but though thou possessest rank and wealth, lands and chattels, if thy heart be fixed on God, thou art a hermit.


On one occasion we had marched, I recollect, all the night along with the caravan, and halted towards morning on the skirts of the wilderness. One mystically distracted, who accompanied us on that journey, set up a loud lamentation at dawn, went a-wandering into the desert, and did not take a moment’s rest. Next day I said to him, “What condition was that?” He replied, “I remarked the nightingales that they had come to carol in the groves, the pheasants to prattle on the mountains, the frogs to croak in the pools, and the wild beasts to roar in the forests, and thought with myself, saying, It cannot be generous that all are awake in God’s praise and I am wrapt up in the sleep of forgetfulness!–Last night a bird was carolling towards the morning; it stole my patience and reason, my fortitude and understanding. My lamentation had perhaps reached the ear of one of my dearly-beloved friends. He said, ‘I did not believe that the singing of a bird could so distract thee!’ I answered, This is not the duty of the human species, that the birds are singing God’s praise and that I am silent.”


Once, on a pilgrimage to Hijaz, I was the fellow-traveller of some piously-disposed young men, and on a footing of familiarity and intimacy with them. From time to time we were humming a tune and chanting a spiritual hymn, and an abid, who bore us company, kept disparaging the morals of the dervishes, and was callous to their sufferings, till we reached the palm plantation of the tribe of Hulal, when a boy of a tawny complexion issued from the Arab horde and sung such a plaintive melody as would arrest the bird in its flight through the air. I remarked the abid’s camel that it kicked up and pranced, and, throwing the abid, danced into the wilderness. I said: “O reverend Shaikh! that spiritual strain threw a brute into an ecstasy, and it is not in like manner working a change in you!–Knowest thou what that nightingale of the dawn whispered to me? What sort of man art thou, indeed, who art ignorant of love?–The camel is in an ecstasy of delight from the Arab’s song. If thou hast no taste to relish this, thou art a cross-grained brute.–Now that the camel is elated with rapture and delight, if a man is insensible to these he is an ass.–_The zephyr, gliding through the verdure on the earth, shakes the twig of the ban-tree, but moves not the solid rock_.–Whatever thou beholdest is loud in extolling him. That heart which has an ear is full of the divine mystery. It is not the nightingale that alone serenades his rose; for every thorn on the rose-bush is a tongue in his or God’s praise!”


A king had reached the end of his days and had no heir to succeed him. He made his will, stating, “You will place the crown of sovereignty upon the head of whatever person first enters the city gate in the morning, and commit the kingdom to his charge.” It happened that the first man that presented himself at the city gate was a beggar, who had passed his whole life in scraping broken meat and in patching rags. The ministers of state and nobles of the court fulfilled the conditions of the king’s will, and laid the keys of the treasury and citadel at his feet.

For a time the dervish governed the kingdom, till some of the chiefs of the empire swerved from their allegiance, and the princes of the territories on every side rose in opposition to him, and levied armies for the contest. In short, his troops and subjects were routed and subdued, and several of his provinces taken from him.

The dervish was hurt to the soul at these events, when one of his old friends, who had been the companion of his state of poverty, returned from a journey and found him in such dignity. He exclaimed: “Thanksgiving be to a Deity of majesty and glory that lofty fortune succored you and prosperity was your guide, till roses issued from your thorns and the thorns were extracted from your feet, and till you arrived at this elevated rank!–_Along with hardship there is ease; or, to sorrow succeeds joy_.–The plant is at one season in flower and at another withered; the tree is at one time naked and at another clothed with leaves.” He said: “O, my dear friend, offer me condolence, for here is no place for congratulation. When you last saw me I had to think of getting a crumb of bread; now I have the cares of a whole kingdom on my head. If the world be adverse, we are the victims of pain; if prosperous, the fettered slaves of affection for it. Amidst this life no calamity is more afflicting than that, whether fortunate or not, the mind is equally disquieted. If thou covetest riches, ask not but for contentment, which is an immense treasure. Should a rich man throw money into thy lap, take heed, and do not look upon it as a benefit; for I have often heard from the great and good that the patience of the poor is more meritorious than the gift of the rich. Were King Bahram Ghor to distribute a whole roasted elk, it would not be equal to the gift of a locust’s leg from an ant.”


A person had a friend who was holding the office of king’s divan, or prime minister, and it happened that he had not seen him for some time. Somebody remarked, saying, “It is some time since you saw such a gentleman.” He answered, “I am no ways anxious about seeing him.” One of the divan’s people chanced to be present. He asked, “What has happened amiss that you should dislike to visit him?” He replied, “There is no dislike; but my friend, the divan, can be seen at a time when he is out of office, and my idle intrusion might not come amiss.” Amidst the state patronage and authority of office they might take umbrage at their acquaintance; but on the day of vexation and loss of place they would impart their mental disquietudes to their friends.


Abu-Horairah was making a daily visit to the prophet Mustafa Mohammed, on whom be God’s blessing and peace. He said: “_O Abu-Horairah! let me alone every other day, that so affection may increase_; that is, come not every day, that we may get more loving!”

They said to a good and holy man, “Notwithstanding all these charms which the sun commands, we have never heard of anybody that has fallen in love with him!” He answered, “It is because he is seen every day, unless during the winter, when he is veiled (in the clouds), and thus much coveted and loved.”–To visit mankind has no blame in it, but not to such a degree as to let them say, Enough of it. If we see occasion to interrogate ourselves, we need not listen to the reprehension of others.


Having taken offence with the society of my friends at Damascus, I retired into the wilderness of the Holy Land, or Jerusalem, and sought the company of brutes till such time as I was made a prisoner by the Franks, and employed by them, along with some Jews, in digging earth in the ditches of Tripoli. At length one of the chiefs of Aleppo, between whom and me an intimacy had of old subsisted, happening to pass that way, recognized me, and said, “How is this? and how came you to be thus occupied?” I replied: “What can I say?–I was flying from mankind into the forests and mountains, for my resource was in God and in none else. Fancy to thyself what my condition must now be, when forced to associate with a tribe scarcely human?–To be linked in a chain with a company of acquaintance were pleasanter than to walk in a garden with strangers.”

He took pity on my situation; and, having for ten dinars redeemed me from captivity with the Franks, carried me along with him to Aleppo. Here he had a daughter, and her he gave me in marriage, with a dower of a hundred dinars. Soon after this damsel turned out a termagant and vixen, and discovered such a perverse spirit and virulent tongue as quite unhinged all my domestic comfort.–A scolding wife in the dwelling of a peaceful man is his hell, even in this world. Protect and guard us against a wicked inmate. Save us, O Lord, and preserve us from the fiery, or hell, torture.

Having on one occasion given a liberty to the tongue of reproach, she was saying, “Are you not the fellow whom my father redeemed from the captivity of the Franks for ten dinars?” I replied, “Yes, I am that same he delivered from captivity for ten dinars, and enslaved me with you for a hundred!” I have heard that a reverend and mighty man released a sheep from the paws and jaws of a wolf. That same night he was sticking a knife into its throat, when the spirit of the sheep reproached him, saying, “Thou didst deliver me from the clutches of a wolf, when I at length saw that thou didst prove a wolf to me thyself.”

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One of the holy men of Syria had passed many years of devotion in the wilderness, and was feeding on the leaves of trees. The king of that country, in the way of a pilgrimage, visited him, and said, “If you can see the propriety of removing into my capital I will prepare an abode, where you may perform your devotions more at ease than in this place, and others may benefit by the blessing of your spiritual communion, and be edified by the example of your pious labors.” The hermit was adverse to this advice, and turned away his face. One of the king’s ministers spoke to him, saying: “For the satisfaction of his Majesty, it were proper that you would for a few days remove into the city, and ascertain the nature of the place; when, if it should prove that your purity might be tarnished by coming in contact with the wicked, you have still the option left of moving back.”

It is reported that they prevailed on the hermit to accompany them into the city; and, in a garden near the sacred residence of the king, prepared for him a dwelling, which, like the mansions of paradise, was rejoicing the heart, and exhilarating the soul.–Its damask roses were blooming as the cheeks of the lovely, and its tufted spikenard like the ringlets of our mistresses. It had as much to fear from the angry blasts of winter as the babe who has not yet tasted its nurse’s milk: _boughs of trees on which hung crimson flowers, that gleamed like a flame amidst their dusky foliage_.

Forthwith the king sent him a moon-faced damsel.–Such was this delicate crescent of the moon, and fascination of the holy, this form of an angel, and decoration of a peacock, that let them once behold her, and continence must cease to exist in the constitutions of the chaste.

And, in like manner, there followed her a youth of such rare beauty and exquisite symmetry, that the powerful grasp of his charms had broken the wrists of the pious, and tied up behind their backs the arms of the upright.–Mankind stand around him _parched with thirst, whilst he, who seems thy cup-bearer, will give thee no drink_.–The eye could not be satiated by beholding him, like the dropsical man with water by looking at the river Euphrates.

The hermit began to relish dainty food, and to wear sumptuous apparel; to regale himself with fruits, perfumes, and sweetmeats; and to behold with delight the charms of the handmaid and bondsman. And the wise have said, “The ringlets of the lovely are a chain on the feet of reason, and a snare for the bird of wisdom.”–To the mystery of thy service I devoted my heart, religion, and all my mental faculties; verily, I am now the bird of reason, and thou art the lure and bait.

In short, the good fortune of his many years of sanctity ran to waste, as has been said:–“Whatever he had laid up from theologician, sage, or saint, or of recondite knowledge from the eloquent and pure of spirit, now that he had stooped to mix with a vile world, like the feet of a fly he got entangled in its honey.”

The king had the curiosity of making him another visit, and found the hermit much altered from what he first saw of him. His face had become fair and ruddy, and his body plump and jolly; and he was reclining at his ease on cushions of brocade, and had the Houri-like damsel lolling by his side, and the fairy-formed youth holding a fly-flap of peacock’s feathers in his hand, and standing by him in attendance. The king congratulated him upon his portly appearance, and they entered together upon a variety of topics, till his majesty concluded by observing, “In this world I have an affection for these two orders of mankind, the learned and the recluse.” A philosophic vizir, and man of much worldly experience, happened to be present. He said: “O sire! such is the canon of affection that you should confer a benefit on each. Give money to the learned man, that he may teach others; and give nothing to the hermit, that he may remain an anchorite.–A zahid, or hermit, stands in need of neither diram nor dinar; when an anchorite takes either, look out for another.–Whoever is virtuously disposed, and holds a mystical communication with God, is sufficient of a hermit without requiring the bread of charity, or the crumbs of mendicity. The tapering finger of the lovely, and her soul-deluding ear-lobe, are decoration enough without a turquoise ring or ear-jewel. Tell that piously-disposed and serene-minded dervish that he needs not the bread of consecration or scraping of beggary; tell that handsome and fair-faced matron that she does not require paint, coloring, or jewelry.–When I have of my own, and covet what is another’s, if they esteem me not a hermit they treat me as I merit.”


Conformably with the above apologue, a king had a business of importance in hand. He said: “If this affair prosper to my wish I will distribute among the recluses a certain sum in dirams.” Now his object was accomplished, and mind made easy, he thought it incumbent to fulfil the condition of his eleemosynary vow, and gave a bag of dinars to a favorite servant, that he might distribute them among the anchorites. This was a discreet and considerate young man. He wandered about for the whole day; and, returning in the evening, kissed the bag of money, and laid it before the king, saying, “However much I sought after, I have met with no recluses!” The king answered, “What a story is this? for I myself know four hundred recluses within this city.” He said, “O sovereign of the universe! such as are recluses do not take money; and such as take money are not anchorites!” The king smiled, and observed to his courtiers, “However much I reverence and favor this tribe of God’s worshippers, this saucy fellow expresses for them a spite and ill-will; and, if you desire the truth, he has justice on his side. Instead of that hermit who took dirams and dinars, get hold of one who is more an anchorite.”


They asked a profoundly-learned man, saying, “What is your opinion of consecrated bread, or almstaking?” He answered, “If with the view of composing their minds, and promoting their devotions, it is lawful to take it; but if monks collect for the sake of an endowment, it is forbidden. Good and holy men have received the bread of consecration for the sake of religious retirement; and are not recluses, that they may receive such bread.”


A dervish came to put up at a place where the master of the house was a gentleman of an hospitable disposition. He had as his guests an assembly of learned and witty men, each of whom was repeating such a jest, or anecdote, as is usual with the facetious. Having travelled across a desert, the dervish was much fatigued, and well-nigh famished. One of the company observed, in the way of pleasantry, “You must also repeat something.” The dervish answered, “I am not, like the others, overstocked with learning and wit, nor am I much read in books; and you must be satisfied with my reciting one distich.” One and all eagerly cried, “Let us hear it.” He said, “Hungry as I am, I sit by a table spread with food, like a bachelor at the entrance of a bath full of women!”

They applauded what he said, and ordered the tray to be placed before him. The lord of the feast said, “Stay your appetite, my friend! till my handmaids can prepare for you some forced meat.” He raised his head from the tray, and answered, “Say there is no need for forced meat on my tray, for a crust of plain bread is sufficient for one baked as I have been in the desert.”


A disciple complained to his ghostly father, saying, “What can I do, for I am much annoyed by the people, who are interrupting me with their frequent visits, and break in upon my precious hours with their impertinent intrusions.” He replied, “To such of them as are poor lend money, and from such as are rich ask some in loan; and neither of them will trouble you again.” Let a beggar be the harbinger of an army of Islam, or the orthodox, and the infidel will fly his importunity as far as the wall of China.

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A drunken fellow had lain down to sleep on the highway, and was quite overcome with the fumes of intoxication. An abid was passing close by, and looking at him with scorn. The youth raised his head, and said, “_Whenever they pass anything shameful they pass it with compassion.–Whenever thou beholdest a sinner, hide and bear with his transgressions: thou, who art aware of them, why not overlook my sins with pity_?–Turn not away, O reverend sir! from a sinner; but look upon him with compassion. Though in my actions I am not a hero, do thou pass by as the heroic would pass me.”


A gang of dissolute vagabonds broke in upon a dervish, used opprobrious