GULISTAN OF SA’DI by Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa’di Shirazi-1258 CE
ON THE EXCELLENCE OF CONTENTMENT
A Maghrabi supplicant said in Aleppo in the row of linen-drapers:
‘Lords of wealth, if you were just and we contented, the trade of
begging would vanish from the world.’
O contentment, make me rich
For besides thee no other wealth exists.
Loqman selected the corner of patience.
Who has no patience has no wisdom.
Two sons of amirs were in Egypt, the one acquiring science, the
other accumulating wealth, till the former became the ullemma of the
period and the other the prince of Egypt; whereon the rich man
looked with contempt upon the faqih and said: ‘I have reached the
sultanate whilst thou hast remained in poverty as before.’ He replied:
‘O brother, I am bound to be grateful to the most high Creator for
having obtained the inheritance of prophets whilst thou hast
attained the inheritance of Pharaoh and of Haman, namely the kingdom
I am that ant which is trodden under foot
Not that wasp, the pain of whose sting causes lament.
How shall I give due thanks for the blessing
That I do not possess the strength of injuring mankind?
I heard that a dervish, burning in the fire of poverty and sewing
patch upon patch, said to comfort his mind:
‘We are contented with dry bread and a patched robe
For it is easier to bear the load of one’s own trouble
than that of thanks to others.’
Someone said to him: ‘Why sittest thou? A certain man in this town
possesses a benevolent nature, is liberal to all, has girded his loins
to serve the pious and is ready to comfort every heart. If he
becomes aware of thy case, he will consider it an obligation to
comfort the mind of a worthy person.’ He replied: ‘Hush! It is
better to die of inanition than to plead for one’s necessities
before any man.’
It is better to patch clothes and sit in the corner of patience
Than to write petitions for robes to gentlemen.
Verily it is equal to the punishment of hell
To go to paradise as a flunkey to one’s neighbour.
One of the kings of Persia had sent an able physician to wait upon
the Mustafa, the benediction of Allah and peace be on him; and he
remained for some years in the Arab country without anyone coming to
him to make a trial of his ability or desiring to be treated by him.
He went to the Prophet, salutation to him, and complained that
although he had been sent to treat the companions, none of them had up
to this time taken notice of him or required the services incumbent
upon him. The Apostle, salutation to him, replied: ‘It is a law with
these people not to eat until appetite overpowers them and when some
of it yet remains they withdraw their hands from food.’ The doctor
said: ‘This is the cause of health’, and kissing the earth of
The sage begins to speak
Or points his fingers to the dish
When silence would be dangerous
Or abstinance would bring on death.
No doubt his wisdom is in speaking
And his eating bears the fruit of health.
A man often made vows of repentance but broke them again till one of
the sheikhs said to him: ‘I think thou art in the habit of eating a
great deal and that thy power of restraining appetite is more
slender than a hair, whilst an appetite such as thou nourishest
would rupture a chain and a day may come when it will tear thee up.’
A man brought up a wolf’s whelp.
When it was brought up it tore him up.
It is narrated in the life of Ardeshir Babekan that he asked an Arab
physician how much food he must consume daily. He replied: ‘The weight
of one hundred dirhems will be enough.’ The king queried: ‘What
strength will this quantity give me?’ He replied: ‘This quantity
will carry thee, and whatever is more than that, thou wilt be the
carrier of it.’
Eating is for living and praying.
Thou thinkest living is for eating.
Two Khorasani dervishes travelled together. One of them, being weak,
broke his fast every second night whilst the other who was strong
consumed every day three meals. It happened that they were captured at
the gate of a town on suspicion of being spies; whereon each of them
was confined in a closet and the aperture of it walled up with mud
bricks. After two weeks it became known that they were guiltless.
Accordingly the doors were opened and the strong man was found to be
dead whilst the weak fellow had remained alive. The people were
astonished but a sage averred that the contrary would have been
astonishing because one of them having been voracious possessed no
strength to suffer hunger and perished whilst the other who was
abstemious merely persevered in his habit and remained safe.
When eating little has become the nature of a man
He takes it easy when a calamity befalls him
But when the body becomes strong in affluence
He will die when a hardship overtakes him.
One of the philosophers forbade his son to eat much because
repletion keeps people ailing. The boy replied: ‘O father, it is
hunger that kills. Hast thou not heard of the maxim of the ingenious
that it is better to die satiated than to bear hunger?’ He rejoined:
‘Be moderate. Eat and drink but not to excess.’
Eat not so much that it comes up to thy mouth
Nor so little that from weakness thy soul comes up.
Although maintenance of life depends upon food
Victuals bring on disease when eaten to excess.
If thou eatest rose-confectionery without appetite it injures thee
But eating dry bread after a long fast is like rose-preserve.
A sick man having been asked what his heart desired replied: ‘That
it may not desire anything.’
When the bowels are full and the belly pains
There is no use in all other things being right.
A grain dealer to whom Sufis were owing some money asked them for it
every day in the town of Waset and used harsh language towards them.
The companions had become weary of his reproaches but had no other
remedy than to bear them; and one of them who was a pious man
remarked: ‘It is more easy to pacify a hungry stomach with promises of
food than a grain dealer with promises of money.’
It is preferable to be without the bounty of a gentleman
Than to bear the insults of the gate-keepers.
It is better to die wishing for meat
Than to endure the expostulations of butchers.
A brave warrior who had received a dreadful wound in the Tatar war
was informed that a certain merchant possessed a medicine which he
would probably not refuse to give if asked for; but it is related that
the said merchant was also well known for his avarice.
If instead of bread he had the sun in his table-cloth
No one could see daylight till the day of resurrection.
The warrior replied: ‘If I ask for the medicine he will either
give it or refuse it and if he gives it maybe it will profit me, and
maybe not. At any rate the inconvenience of asking it from him is a
Whatever thou obtainest by entreaties from base men
Will profit thy body but injure thy soul.
And philosophers have said: ‘If for instance the water of life
were to be exchanged for a good reputation, no wise man would purchase
it because it is preferable to die with honour than to live in
To eat coloquinth from the hand of a sweet-tempered man
Is better than confectionery from the hand of an ill-humoured
One of the ullemma had many eaters to provide for and only a slender
income. This fact he communicated to a great man of whose character he
entertained a very favourable opinion but his expectations were
disappointed because the man made a wry face and averred that
according to his opinion applications from respectable persons for aid
With a face made sad by misfortune, to a dear friend
Do not go because thou wilt embitter his life also.
For the needful for which thou appliest, go with a fresh and
The man of joyful countenance will not be unsuccessful in his
It is related that the great man augmented his stipend a little
but considerably diminished his familiarity towards him and when he
perceived after some days that it was not as usual, he recited:
‘Evil is the food which the time of degradation acquires.
The kettle is indeed placed but the dignity is lowered.’
He increased my bread but diminished my honour.
Poverty is better than the degradation of asking.
A dervish wanted something and a man told him that a certain
individual possessed untold wealth who, if he were made aware of his
want, would not consider it proper to fail in supplying it
forthwith. The dervish answering that he had no acquaintance with him,
the man proposed to show him the house and when the dervish entered he
caught sight of a person with hanging lips and sitting morosely. He
returned immediately and being asked what he had done replied: ‘I
excused him from making me a present when I saw his face.’
Carry not thy necessity to a sour-faced fellow
Because his ill-humour will crush thy hopes.
If thou confidest thy heart’s grief, tell it to one
Whose face will comfort thee like ready cash.
A year of dearth set in at Alexandria so that even a dervish lost
the reins of patience from his hands, the pearls of heaven were
withheld from the earth and the lamentations of mankind ascended to
There was no wild beast, fowl, fish or ant
Whose wailings prompted by distress had not reached the sky.
For a wonder the heart-smoke of the people did not condense
To form clouds and the torrents of their tears rain.
In such a year there was an hermaphrodite. I owe it to my friends
not to describe him because it would be an abandonment of good
manners, especially in the presence of great men. On the other hand,
it would likewise be improper and in the way of negligence not to
mention anything about him because certain people would impute it to
the ignorance of the narrator. Accordingly I shall briefly describe
him in the following two distichs because a little indicates much
and a handful is a sample of a donkey load.
If a Tatar slays that hermaphrodite
The Tatar must not be slain in return.
How long will he be like the bridge of Baghdad
With water flowing beneath and men on the back?
Such a man, a portion of whose eulogy thou hast now heard, possessed
in that year boundless wealth, bestowed silver and gold upon the needy
and laid out tables for travellers. A company of dervishes who were by
the presence of distress on the point of starvation were inclined to
accept of his hospitality and consulted me on the subject but I struck
my head back from assenting and replied:
A lion does not eat the half of which a dog consumed
Although he may die of hunger in his lair.
Though getting rich in wealth and property like Feridun
A worthless man is to be considered of no account.
Hatim Tai, having been asked whether he had seen in the world anyone
of more exalted sentiments than himself, replied: ‘Yes, one day I
slaughtered forty camels to entertain Arab amirs. I had occasion to go
out on some business into a corner of the desert, where I noticed a
gatherer of briars, who had accumulated a hillock of thistles, and I
asked him why he had not become a guest of Hatim since many people had
come round to his banquet but he replied:
“Who eats bread by the work of his own hand
Will not bear to be obliged to Hatim Tai.”
Then I saw that his sentiments were more exalted than mine.’
Moses, to whom be salutation, beheld a dervish who had on account of
his nudity concealed himself in the sand exclaiming: ‘O Moses, utter a
supplication to God the most high to give me an allowance because I
am, on account of my distress, on the point of starvation.’ Moses
accordingly prayed and departed but returning a few days afterwards he
saw that the dervish was a prisoner and surrounded by a crowd of
people. On asking for the reason he was informed that the dervish
had drunk wine, quarrelled, slain a man and was to be executed in
If the humble cat possessed wings
He would rob the world of every sparrow-egg.
It may happen that when a weak man obtains power
He arises and twists the hands of the weak.
And if Allah were to bestow abundance upon his servants, they
would certainly rebel upon earth.
What has made thee wade into danger, O fool,
Till thou hast perished. Would that the ant had not been able to fly!
When a base fellow obtains dignity, silver and gold,
His head necessarily demands to be knocked.
Was not after all this maxim uttered by a sage?
‘That ant is the best which possesses no wings.’
The heavenly father has plenty of honey but the son has
a hot disease.
He who does not make thee rich
Knows better what is good for thee than thyself.
I noticed an Arab of the desert sitting in a company jewellers at
Bosrah and narrating stories to them. He said: ‘I had once lost my
road in the desert and consumed all my provisions. I considered that I
must perish when I suddenly caught sight of a bag full of pearls and I
shall never forget the joy and ecstasy I felt on thinking they might
be parched grain nor the bitterness and despair when I discovered them
to be pearls.’
In a dry desert and among moving sand
It is the same to a thirsty man whether he has pearls or shells in
When a man has no provisions and his strength is exhausted
It matters not whether his girdle is adorned with pearls or
An Arab suffering in the desert from extreme thirst recited:
‘Would that before my death
I could one day enjoy my wish
That a river’s waves might strike my knee
And I might fill my water-bag.’
In the same manner another traveller lost himself in an extensive region having neither any strength nor food left but he possessed some money and roamed about and the road leading him nowhere he perished from exhaustion. Some people afterwards discovered his corpse with the money in front of it and the following written on the ground:
If possessed of all the Ja’feri gold,
It will avail nothing to a hungry man.
To a poor man burnt in the desert
Boiled turnips are more valuable than pure silver.
I never lamented about the vicissitudes of time or complained of the
turns of fortune except on the occasion when I was barefooted and
unable to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of
Kufah with a sore heart and beheld a man without feet I offered thanks
to the bounty of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes and recited:
‘A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated man
Less valuable than a blade of fresh grass on the table
And to him who has no means nor power
A burnt turnip is a roasted fowl.’
A king with some of his courtiers had during a hunting party and
in the winter season strayed far from inhabited places but when the
night set in he perceived the house of a dehqan and said: ‘We shall
spend the night there to avoid the injury of the cold.’ One of the
veziers, however, objected alleging that it was unworthy of the high
dignity of a padshah to take refuge in the house of a dehqan and
that it would be best to pitch tents and to light fires on the spot.
The dehqan who had become aware of what was taking place prepared some
food he had ready in his house, offered it, kissed the ground of
service and said: ‘The high dignity of the sultan would not have
been so much lowered, but the courtiers did not wish the dignity of
the dehqan to become high.’ The king who was pleased with these
words moved for the night into the man’s house and bestowed a dress of
honour upon him the next morning. When he accompanied the king a few
paces at the departure he was heard to say:
‘Nothing was lost of the sultan’s power and pomp
By accepting the hospitality of a dehqan,
But the corner of the dehqan’s cap reached the sun
When a sultan such as thou overshadowed his head.’
It is related that a sultan thus addressed a miserly beggar who
had accumulated great riches: ‘It is evident that thou possessest
boundless wealth and we have an affair on hand in which thou canst aid
us by way of a loan. When the finances of the country are in a
flourishing condition it will be repaid.’ The miser replied: ‘It is
not befitting the power and dignity of a padshah to soil the hands
of his noble aspirations with the property of an individual like
myself who has collected it grain by grain.’ The king replied: ‘It
does not matter because the money will be spent upon infidels: The
wicked women should be joined to the wicked men.”
If the water of a Christian’s well is impure
What matters it if thou washest a dead Jew therein?
They said: ‘The lime-mortar is not clean.’
We replied: ‘We shall plug therewith the privy holes.”
I heard that he refused to comply with the behest of the king, began
to argue and to look insolently; whereon the king ordered the sum in
question to be released from his grasp by force and with a reprimand.
If an affair cannot be accomplished with gentleness
He forsooth turns his head to impudence.
Who has no regard for himself
It is proper that no one should pay him any.
I met a trader who possessed one hundred and fifty camel loads of
merchandise with forty slaves and servants. One evening in the oasis
of Kish he took me into his apartment and taking all night no rest
kept up an incoherent gabble, saying: ‘I have such and such a
warehouse in Turkestan, such and such goods in Hindostan; this is
the title-deed of such and such an estate and in this affair such
and such a man is security.’ He said: ‘I intend to go to Alexandria
because it has a good climate’, and correcting himself continued: ‘No,
because the African sea is boisterous. O Sa’di, I have one journey
more to undertake and after performing it I shall during the rest of
my life sit in a corner and enjoy contentment.’ I asked: ‘What journey
is that?’ He replied: ‘I shall carry Persian brimstone to China
because I heard that it fetched a high price. I shall also carry
Chinese porcelain to Rum and Rumi brocade to India and Indian steel to
Aleppo, convey glass-ware of Aleppo to Yemen, striped cloth of Yemen
to Pares. After that I shall abandon trading and shall sit down in a
shop.’ He had talked so much of this nonsenses that no more strength
remained in him so he said: ‘O Sa’di, do thou also tell me something
of what thou hast seen and heard.’ I recited:
‘Thou mayest have heard that in the plain of Ghur
Once a leader fell down from his beast of burden,
Saying: “The narrow eye of a wealthy man
Will be filled either by content or by the earth
of the tomb.”‘
I heard about a wealthy man who was as well known for his avarice as
Hatim Tai for his liberality. Outwardly he displayed the appearance of
wealth but inwardly his sordid nature was so dominant that he would
not for his life give a morsel of bread to anyone or bestow a scrap
upon the kitten of Abu Harirah or throw a bone to the dog of the
companions of the cave. In short, no one had seen the door of his
house open or his table-doth spread.
The dervish got nothing of his food except the smell.
The fowl picked up the crumbs after his bread-dinner.
I heard that he was sailing in the Mediterranean with the pride of
Pharaoh in his head-according to the words of the most high, Until
drowning overtook him-when all of a sudden a contrary wind befell
the ship, as it is said:
What can thy heart do to thy distressed nature for the wind is
It is not at all times suitable for a ship.
He uplifted the hands of supplication and began to lament in vain
but Allah the most high has commanded: When they sail in a ship they
call upon Allah, sincerely exhibiting unto him their religion.
Of what use is the hand of supplication to a needy worshipper
Which is uplifted to God in the time of prayer but in the armpit
in the time of bounty?
Bestow comfort with gold and with silver
And thereby also profit thyself.
As this house of thine will remain,
Build it with a silver and a gold brick.
It is narrated that he had poor relations in Egypt who became rich
by the remainder of his wealth, tearing up their old cloths and
cutting new ones of silk and of Damiari. During the same week I also
beheld one of them riding a fleet horse with a fairy-faced slave boy
at his heels. I said:
‘Wah! If the dead man were to return
Among his kinsfolk and connections
The refunding of the inheritance would be more painful
To the heirs than the death of their relative.’
On account of the acquaintance which had formerly subsisted
between us, I pulled his sleeve, and said:
‘Eat thou, O virtuous and good man,
What that mean fellow gathered and did not eat.’
A weak fisherman caught a strong fish in his net and not being
able to retain it the fish overcame him and pulled the net from his
A boy went to bring water from the torrent.
The torrent came and took the boy away.
The net brought every time a fish.
This time the fish went and carried off the net.
The other fishermen were sorry and blamed him for not being able
to retain such a fish which had fallen into his net. He replied: ‘O
brothers, what can be done? My day was not lucky but the fish had
yet one remaining. ‘Moral: A fisherman cannot catch a fish in the
Tigris without a day of luck and a fish cannot die on dry ground
without the decree of fate.
A man whose hands and feet had been amputated killed a millipede and
a pious passer-by exclaimed: ‘Praised be Allah! In spite of the
thousand feet he possessed he could not escape from a man without
hands and feet when his fate had overtaken him.’
When the life-taking foe comes in the rear
Fate ties the legs of a running man.
At the moment when the enemy has slowly arrived
It is useless to draw the Kayanian bow.
I have seen a fat fool, dressed in a costly robe, with a turban of
Egyptian linen on his head, riding on an Arab horse. Someone said:
‘Sa’di, what thinkest thou of this famous brocade upon this ignorant
animal?’ I replied: ‘It is like ugly characters scrawled with
Verily he is like an ass among men,
A calf, a body which is bleating.
This animal cannot be said to resemble a man
Except in his cloak, turban and outward adornment.
Examine all his property and belongings of his estate
Thou wilt find nothing lawful to take except his blood.
If a noble man becomes impoverished imagine not
That his high worth will also decrease.
But if into a silver threshold golden nails are driven
By a Jew, think not that he will thereby become noble.
A thief said to a mendicant: ‘Art thou not ashamed to stretch out
thy hand for a grain of silver to every sordid fellow?’ He replied:
‘To hold out the hand for a grain of silver
Is better than to get it cut off for one dane and a half.’
It is related that an athlete had been reduced to the greatest
distress by adverse fortune. His throat being capacious and his
hands unable to fill it, he complained to his father and asked him for
permission to travel as he hoped to be hoped to be able to gain a
livelihood by the strength of his arm.
Excellence and skill are lost unless exhibited.
Lignum aloes is placed on fire and musk rubbed.
The father replied: ‘My son, get rid of this vain idea and place the
feet of contentment under the skirt of safety because great men have
said that happiness does not consist in exertion and that the remedy
against want is in the moderation of desires.
No one can grasp the skirt of luck by force.
It is useless to put vasmah on a bald man’s brow.
If thou hast two hundred accomplishments for each hair of thy head
They will be of no use if fortune is unpropitious.
What can an athlete do with adverse luck?
The arm of luck is better than the arm of strength.
The son rejoined: ‘Father, the advantages of travel are many, such
as recreation of the mind entailing profit, seeing of wonderful and
hearing of strange things, recreation in cities, associating with
friends, acquisition of dignity, rank, property, the power of
discriminating among acquaintances and gaining experience of the
world, as the travellers in the Tariqat have said:
As long as thou walkest about the shop or the house
Thou wilt never become a man, 0 raw fellow.
Go and travel in the world
Before that day when thou goest from the world.’
The father replied: ‘My son, the advantages of travel such as thou
hast enumerated them are countless but they regard especially five
classes of men: firstly, a merchant who possesses in consequence of
his wealth and power graceful male and female slaves and
quick-handed assistants, alights every day in another town and every
night in another place, has recreation every moment and sometimes
enjoys the delights of the world.’
A rich man is not a stranger in mountain, desert or solitude.
Wherever he goes he pitches a tent and makes a sleeping place;
Whilst he who is destitute of the goods of this world
Must be in his own country a stranger and unknown.
Secondly, a scholar, who is for the pleasantness of his speech,
the power of his eloquence and the fund of his instruction, waited
upon and honoured wherever he goes.
The presence of a learned man is like pure gold
Whose power and price is known wherever he goes.
An ignorant fellow of noble descent resembles Shahrua,
Which nobody accepts in a foreign country.
Thirdly, handsome fellows with whom the souls of pious men are
inclined to commingle because it has been said that a little beauty is
better than much wealth. An attractive face is also said to be a slave
to despondent hearts and the key to locked doors, wherefore the
society of such a person is everywhere known to be very acceptable:
A beautiful person meets with honour and respect everywhere
Although perhaps driven away in anger by father and mother.
I have seen a peacock feather in the leaves of the Quran.
I said: ‘I see thy position is higher than thy deserts.’
It said: ‘Hush, whoever is endowed with beauty,
Wherever he places his foot, hands are held out to receive it.’
When a boy is symmetrical and heart-robbing
It matters not if his father disowns him.
He is a jewel which must not remain in a shell.
A precious pearl everyone desires to buy.
Fourthly, one with a sweet voice, who retains, with a David-like
throat, water from flowing and birds from soaring. By means of this
talent he holds the hearts of people captive and religious men are
delighted to associate with him.
My audition is intent on the beautiful melody.
Who is that performing on the double chord?
How pleasant is the gentle and melancholy lay
To the ear of the boon companions who quaff the morning draught!
Better than a handsome face is a pleasant voice.
The former is joy to the senses, the latter food for the soul.
Fifthly, the artisan, who gains a sufficient livelihood by the
strength of his arm, so that his reputation is not lost in
struggling for bread; as wise men have said:
If he goes abroad from his own town
The patcher of clothes meets with no bardship or trouble
But if the government falls into ruin
The king of Nimruz will go to bed hungry.
The qualities which I have explained, 0 my son, are in a journey the
occasion of satisfaction to the mind, stimulants to a happy life but
he, who possesses none of them, goes with idle fancies into the
world and no one will ever hear anything about his name and fame.
He whom the turning world is to afflict
Will be guided by the times against his aim.
A pigeon destined not to see its nest again
Will be carried by fate towards the grain and net.
The son asked: ‘O father, how can I act contrary to the
injunctions of the wise, who have said, that although food is
distributed by predestination the acquisition of it depends upon
exertion and that, although a calamity may be decreed by fate, it is
incumbent on men to show the gates by which it may enter?
‘Although daily food may come unawares
It is reasonable to seek it out of doors
And though no one dies without the decree of fate
Thou must not rush into the jaws of a dragon.
‘As I am at present able to cope with a mad elephant and to
wrestle with a furious lion, it is proper, O father, that I should
travel abroad because I have no longer the endurance to suffer misery.
‘When a man has fallen from his place and station
Why should he eat more grief? All the horizons are his place.
At night every rich man goes to an inn.
The dervish has his inn where the night overtakes him.’
After saying this, he asked for the good wishes of his father,
took leave of him, departed and said to himself:
‘A skilful man, when his luck does not favour him,
Goes to a place where people know not his name.’
He reached the banks of a water, the force of which was such that it
knocked stones against each other and its roaring was heard to a
A dreadful water, in which even aquatic birds were not safe,
The smallest wave would whirl off a millstone from its bank.
He beheld a crowd of people, every person sitting with a coin of
money at the crossing-place, intent on a passage. The youth’s hands of
payment being tied, he opened the tongue of laudation and although
he supplicated the people greatly, they paid no attention and said:
‘No violence can be done to anyone without money
But if thou hast money thou hast no need of force.’
An unkind boatman laughed at him and said:
‘If thou hast no money thou canst not cross the river by force.
What boots the strength of ten men? Bring the money for one.’
The young man’s heart was irritated by the insult of the boatman and
longed to take vengeance upon him. The boat had, however, started;
accordingly he shouted: ‘If thou wilt be satisfied with the robe I
am wearing, I shall not grudge giving it to thee.’ The boatman was
greedy and turned the vessel back.
Desire sews up the vision of a shrewd man.
Greediness brings fowl and fish into the snare.
As soon as the young man’s hand could reach the beard and collar
of the boatman, he immediately knocked him down and a comrade of the
boatman, who came from the vessel to rescue him, experienced the
same rough treatment and turned back. The rest of the people then
thought proper to pacify the young man and to condone his passage
When thou seest a quarrel be forbearing
Because gentlemen will shut the door of strife.
Use kindness when thou seest contention.
A sharp sword cannot cut soft silk.
By a sweet tongue, grace, and kindliness,
Thou wilt be able to lead an elephant by a hair.
Then the people fell at his feet, craving pardon for what had
passed. They impressed some hypocritical kisses upon his head and
his eyes, received him into the boat and started, progressing till
they reached a pillar of Yunani workmanship, standing in the water.
The boatman said: ‘The vessel is in danger. Let one of you, who is the
strongest, go to the pillar and take the cable of the boat that we may
save the vessel.’ The young man, in the pride of bravery which he
had in his head, did not think of the offended foe and did not mind
the maxim of wise men who have said: ‘If thou hast given offence to
one man and afterwards done him a hundred kindnesses, do not be
confident that he will not avenge himself for that one offence,
because although the head of a spear may come out, the memory of an
offence will remain in the heart.’
‘How well,’ said Yaktash to Khiltash,
‘Hast thou scratched a foe? Do not think thou art safe.’
Be not unconcerned for thou wilt be afflicted
If by thy hand a heart has been afflicted.
Throw not a stone at the rampart of a fort
Because possibly a stone may come from the fort.
As soon as he had taken the rope of the boat on his arm, he
climbed to the top of the pillar, whereon the boatman snatched it from
his grasp and pushed the boat off. The helpless man was amazed and
spent two days in misery and distress. On the third, sleep took hold
of his collar and threw him into the water. After one night and day he
was cast on the bank, with some life still remaining in him. He
began to eat leaves of trees and to pull out roots of grass so that
when he had gained a little strength, he turned towards the desert and
walked till thirst began to torment him. He at last reached a well and
saw people drinking water for a pashizi but possessing none he asked
for a coin and showed his destitute condition. The people had,
however, no mercy with him, whereon he began to insult them but
likewise ineffectually. Then he knocked down several men but was at
last overpowered, struck and wounded:
A swarm of gnats will overpower an elephant
Despite of all his virility and bravery.
When the little ants combine together
They tear the skin of a furious lion.
As a matter of necessity he lagged in the rear of the caravan, which
reached in the evening a locality very dangerous on account of
thieves. The people of the caravan trembled in all their limbs but
he said: ‘Fear nothing because I alone am able to cope with fifty
men and the other youths of the caravan will aid me.’ These boastful
words comforted the heart of the caravan-people, who became glad of
his company and considered it incumbent upon themselves to supply
him with food and water. The fire of the young man’s stomach having
blazed into flames and deprived his hands of the bridle of
endurance, hunger made him partake of some morsels of food and take
a few draughts of water, till the dev of his interior was set at
rest and he fell asleep. An experienced old fellow, who was in the
caravan, said: ‘O ye people, I am more afraid of this guard of yours
than of the thieves because there is a story that a stranger had
accumulated some dirhems but could not sleep in the house for fear
of the Luris. Accordingly he invited one of his friends to dispel
the terrors of solitude by his company. He spent several nights with
him, till he became aware that he had money and took it, going on a
journey after spending it. When the people saw the stranger naked
and weeping the next morning, a man asked: “What is the matter?
Perhaps a thief has stolen those dirhems of mine?” He replied: “No, by
Allah. The guard has stolen them.”‘
I never sat secure from a serpent
Till I learnt what his custom was.
The wound from a foe’s tooth is severe
Who appears to be a friend in the eyes of men.
‘How do you know whether this man is not one of the band of
thieves and has followed us as a spy to inform his comrades on the
proper occasion? According to my opinion we ought to depart and let
him sleep.’ The youths approved of the old man’s advice and became
suspicious of the athlete, took up their baggage and departed, leaving
him asleep. He knew this when the sun shone upon his shoulders and
perceived that the caravan had started. He roamed about a great deal
without finding the way and thirsty as well as dismayed as he was,
he sat down on the ground, with his heart ready to perish, saying:
Who will speak to me after the yellow camels have departed?
A stranger has no companion except a stranger.
He uses harshness towards strangers
Who has not himself been exiled enough.
The poor man was speaking thus whilst the son of a king who happened
to be in a hunting party, strayed far from the troops, was standing
over his head, listening. He looked at the figure of the athlete,
saw that his outward appearance was respectable but his condition
miserable. He then asked him whence he had come and how he had
fallen into this place. The athlete briefly informed him of what had
taken place, whereon the royal prince, moved by pity, presented him
with a robe of honour and a large sum of money and sent a confidential
man to accompany him till he again reached his native town. His father
was glad to see him and expressed gratitude at his safety. In the
evening he narrated to his father what had befallen him with the boat,
mentioned the violence of the boatman, the harshness of the rustics
near the well and the treachery of the caravan people on the road. The
father replied: ‘My son, have not I told thee at thy departure that
the brave hands of empty-handed persons are like the broken paw of a
How well has that empty-handed fighter said:
‘A grain of gold is better than fifty mann of strength.’
The son replied: ‘O father, thou wilt certainly not obtain a
treasure except by trouble, wilt not overcome thy foe unless thou
hazardest thy life and wilt not gather a harvest unless thou
scatterest seed. Perceivest thou not how much comfort I gained at
the cost of the small amount of trouble I underwent and what a
quantity of honey I have brought in return for the sting I have
Although not more can be acquired than fate has decreed
Negligence in striving to acquire is not commendable.
If a diver fears the crocodile’s throat
He will never catch the pearl of great price.
The nether millstone is immovable, and therefore must bear a heavy
What will a fierce lion devour at the bottom of his den?
What food does a fallen hawk obtain?
If thou desirest to catch game at home
Thou must have hands and feet like a spider.
The father said to his son: ‘On this occasion heaven has been
propitious to thee and good luck helpful so that a royal person has
met thee, has been bountiful to thee and has thereby healed thy broken
condition. Such coincidences occur seldom and rare events cannot be
The hunter does not catch every time a jackal.
It may happen that some day a tiger devours him.
Thus it happened that one of the kings of Pares, who possessed a
ring with a costly beazle, once went out by way of diversion with some
intimate courtiers to the Masalla of Shiraz and ordered his ring to be
placed on the dome of Asad, promising to bestow the seal-ring upon any
person who could make an arrow pass through it. It happened that every
one of the four hundred archers in his service missed the ring, except
a little boy who was shooting arrows in sport at random and in every
direction from the flat roof of a monastery. The morning breeze caused
his arrow to pass through the ring, whereon he obtained not only the
ring but also a robe of honour and a present of money. It is related
that the boy burnt his bow and arrows and on being asked for the cause
replied: ‘That the first splendour may be permanent.’
It sometimes happens that an enlightened sage
Is not successful in his plans.
Sometimes it happens that an ignorant child
By mistake hits the target with his arrow.
I heard that a dervish, sitting in a cave, had closed the doors upon
the face of the world, so that no regard for kings and rich persons
remained in the eyes of his desire.
Who opens to himself a door for begging
Will till he dies remain a needy fellow.
Abandon greediness and be a king
Because a neck without desire is high.
One of the kings of that region sent him the information that,
trusting in the good manners of the respected dervish, he hoped he
would partake of bread and salt with him. The sheikh agreed because it
is according to the sonna to accept an invitation. The next day the
king paid him a visit, the a’bid. leapt up, embraced him, caressed him
and praised him. After the monarch’s departure the sheikh was asked by
one of his companions why he had, against his custom, paid so many
attentions to the padshah, the like of which he had never seen before.
He replied: ‘Hast thou not heard that one of the pious said:
“In whose company thou hast been sitting
To do him service thou must necessarily rise.
Possibly an ear may during a lifetime
Not hear the sound of drum, lute or fife.
The eye may be without the sight of a garden.
The brain may be without the rose or nasrin.
If no feather pillow be at hand
Sleep may be had with a stone under the head
And if there be no sweetheart to sleep with
The hand may be placed on one’s own bosom,
But this disreputable twisting belly
Cannot bear to exist without anything.”‘