Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 208
Publication Date: Originally written, 1258, this is a translation by Edward Rehatsek
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The Gulistan ("The Rose Garden") is a landmark of Persian literature. Written in 1258 CE, it is one of two major works of the Persian poet Sa'di. It is a collection of poems and stories and contains the well-known aphorism about being sad because one has no shoes until one meets the man who has no feet.
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I heard a padshah giving orders to kill a prisoner. The helpless fellow began to insult the king on that occasion of despair, with the tongue he had, and to use foul expressions according to the saying:
Who washes his hands of life
Says whatever he has in his heart.
When a man is in despair his tongue becomes long and he is like a vanquished cat assailing a dog.
In time of need, when flight is no more possible,
The hand grasps the point of the sharp sword.
When the king asked what he was saying, a good-natured vezier replied: ‘My lord, he says: Those who bridle their anger and forgive men; for Allah loveth the beneficent.’
The king, moved with pity, forbore taking his life but another vezier, the antagonist of the former, said: ‘Men of our rank ought to speak nothing but the truth in the presence of padshahs. This fellow has insulted the king and spoken unbecomingly.’ The king, being displeased with these words, said: ‘That lie was more acceptable to me than this truth thou hast uttered because the former proceeded from a conciliatory disposition and the latter from malignity; and wise men have said: “A falsehood resulting in conciliation is better than a truth producing trouble.”’
He whom the shah follows in what he says,
It is a pity if he speaks anything but what is good.
The following inscription was upon the portico of the hall of Feridun:
O brother, the world remains with no one.
Bind the heart to the Creator, it is enough.
Rely not upon possessions and this world
Because it has cherished many like thee and slain them.
When the pure soul is about to depart,
What boots it if one dies on a throne or on the ground?
One of the kings of Khorasan had a vision in a dream of Sultan Mahmud, one hundred years after his death. His whole person appeared to have been dissolved and turned to dust, except his eyes, which were revolving in their orbits and looking about. All the sages were unable to give an interpretation, except a dervish who made his salutation and said: ‘He is still looking amazed how his kingdom belongs to others.’
Many famous men have been buried under ground
Of whose existence on earth not a trace has remained
And that old corpse which had been surrendered to the earth
Was so consumed by the soil that not a bone remains.
The glorious name of Nushirvan survives in good repute
Although much time elapsed since he passed away.
Do good, O man, and consider life as a good fortune,
The more so, as when a shout is raised, a man exists no more.
I have heard that a royal prince of short stature and mean presence, whose brothers were tall and good-looking, once saw his father glancing on him with aversion and contempt but he had the shrewdness and penetration to guess the meaning and said: ‘O father, a puny intelligent fellow is better than a tall ignorant man, neither is everything bigger in stature higher in price. A sheep is nice to eat and an elephant is carrion.’
The smallest mountain on earth is Jur; nevertheless
It is great with Allah in dignity and station.
Hast thou not heard that a lean scholar
One day said to a fat fool:
‘Although an Arab horse may be weak
It is thus more worth than a stable full of asses.’
The father laughed at this sally, the pillars of the state approved of it, but the brothers felt much aggrieved.
While a man says not a word
His fault and virtue are concealed.
Think not that every desert is empty.
Possibly it may contain a sleeping tiger.
I heard that on the said occasion the king was menaced by a powerful enemy and that when the two armies were about to encounter each other, the first who entered the battlefield was the little fellow who said:
‘I am not he whose back thou wilt see on the day of battle
But he whom thou shalt behold in dust and blood.
Who himself fights, stakes his own life
In battle but he who flees, the blood of his army.’