Boostan Chapter 9

HomeIranPoetrySaadi - Boostan

Chapter 9



O Thou of whose life seventy years have passed, perhaps thou hast slept in negligence that thy days have been thrown to the winds. Worldly aims hast thou well pursued; no preparations hast thou made for the departure to that world to come.

On the Judgment Day, when the bazaar of Paradise will be arrayed, rank will be assigned in accordance with one's deeds.

If thou shouldst take a goodly stock of virtues, in proportion will be thy profit; if thou be bankrupt, thou wilt be ashamed.

If fifty years of thy life have passed, esteem as a precious boon the few that yet remain.

While still thou hast the power of speech, close not thy lips like the dead from the praise of G-d.




One night, in the season of youth, several of us young men sat together; we sang like bulbuls and raised a tumult in the street by our mirth.

An old man sat silent, apart; like a filbert nut, his tongue was closed from speech. A youth approached him and said, "O old man! Why sittest thou so mournfully in this corner? Come raise thy head from the collar of grief and join us in our festivity."

Thus did the old man reply, "When the morning breeze blows over the rose garden, the young trees proudly wave their branches. It becomes not me to mingle in thy company, for the dawn of old age has spread over my cheeks. Thy turn it is to sit at this table of youth; I have washed my hands of youthful pleasures. Time has showered snow upon my crow-like wings; like the bulbul, I could not sport in the garden. Soon will the harvest of my life be reaped; for thee, the new green leaves are bursting. The bloom has faded from my garden; who makes a nosegay from withered flowers? I must weep, like a child, in shame for my sins, but cannot emulate his pleasures.:

Well, has Luqman said, "It is better not to live at all than to live many years in sinfulness." Better, too, may it be to close the shop in the morning than to sell the stock at a loss.




Today, O youth, take the path of worship, for tomorrow comes old age. Leisure thou hast, and strength - strike the ball when the field is wide.*35

I knew not the value of life's day till now that I have lost it.

How can an old ass strive beneath its burden? Go thy way, for thou ridest a swift-paced horse.

A broken cup that is mended - what will its value be? Now that in carelessness the cup of life has fallen from thy hand, naught remains but to join the pieces.

Negligently hast thou let the pure water go; how canst thou now perform thy ablutions, except with sand?*36



One night in the desert of Faid*37 my feet became fettered with sleep. A camel-driver awoke me, saying, "Arise, since thou heedest not the sound of the bell, perhaps thou desirest to be left behind! I, like thee, would sleep awhile, but the desert stretches ahead. How wilt thou reach the journey's end if thou sleepest when the drum of departure beats?"

Happy are they who have prepared their baggage before the beat of the drum! The sleepers by the wayside raise not their heads and the caravan has passed out of sight.

He who was early awake surpassed all on the road; what availeth it to awaken when the caravan had gone?

This is the time to sow the seeds of the harvest thou wouldst reap.

Go not bankrupt to the Resurrection, for it availeth not to sit in regret. By means of the stock that thou hast, O son, profit can be acquired; what profit accrueth to him who consumeth his stock himself?

Strive now, when the water reacheth not beyond thy waist; delay not until the flood has passed over thy head.

Heed the counsel of the wise today, for tomorrow will Nakir*38 question thee with sternness. Esteem as a privilege thy precious soul, for a cage without a bird has no value. Waste not thy time in sorrow and regret, for opportunity is precious and time is a sword.



A certain man died and another rent his clothes in grief. Hearing his cries, a sage exclaimed, "If the dead man possessed the power he would tear his shroud by reason of thy wailing and would say, "Do not torment thyself on account of my affliction, since a day or two before thee I made ready for the journey. Perhaps thou hast forgotten thine own death, that my decease has made thee so distressed."

When he whose eyes are open to the truth scatters flowers over the dead, his heart burns not for the dead but for himself.

Why dost thou weep over the death of a child? He came pure, and he departed pure.

Tie now the feet of the bird of the soul; tarry not till it has borne the rope from thy hand.

Long hast thou sat in the place of another; soon will another sit in thy place.

Though thou be a hero or a swordsman, thou will carry away nothing but the shroud.

If the wild ass break its halter and wander into the desert its feet become ensnared in the sand. Thou, too, hast strength till thy feet go into the dust of the grave.

Since yesterday has gone and tomorrow has not come, take account of this one moment that now is.

In this garden of the world there is not a cypress that has grown which the wind of death has not uprooted.




A gold brick fell into the hands of a pious man and so turned his head that his enlightened mind became gloomy. He passed the whole night in anxious thought, reflecting, "This treasure will suffice me till the end of my life; no longer shall I have to bend my back before any one in begging. A house will I build, the foundation of which shall be of marble; the rafters of the ceiling shall be of aloe-wood. A special room will I have for my friends, and its door shall lead into a garden house. Servants shall cook my food, and in ease will I nourish my soul. This course woolen bed cloth has killed me by its roughness; now will I go and spread a carpet"

His imaginings made him crazy; the crab had pierced its claws into his brain. He forsook his prayers and devotions, and neither ate nor slept.

Unable to rest tranquil in one place, he wandered to a plain, with his head confused with the charms of his vain fancies. An old man was kneading mud upon a grave for the purpose of making bricks. Absorbed in thought for awhile, the old man said:

"O foolish soul! Hearken to my counsel. Why hast thou attached thy mind to that gold brick when one day they will make bricks from thy dust? The mouth of a covetous man is too widely open that it can be closed again by one morsel. Take, O base man, thy hand from off that brick, for the river of thy avarice cannot be damned up with a brick.

So negligent hast thou been in the thought of gain and riches that the stock of thy life has become trodden underfoot. The dust of lust has blinded the eyes of thy reason - the simoom of desire has burned the harvest of thy life."

Wipe the antimony of neglect from off thine eyes, for tomorrow wilt thou be reduced to antimony under the dust.

Thy life is a bird, and its name is Breath. When the bird has flown from its cage it cometh not back to captivity.

Be watchful for the world lasts but a moment, and a moment spent with wisdom is better than an age with folly.

Why fix we thus our minds upon this caravanserai? Our friends have departed and we are on the road. After us, the same flowers will bloom in the garden, together will friends still sit.

When thou comest to Shiraz,*39 dost thou not cleanse thyself from the dust of the road?

Soon, O thou polluted with the dust of sin, wilt thou journey to a strange city. Weep, and wash with thy tears thy impurities away.



I remember that, in the time of my childhood, my father (may G-d's mercy be upon him every moment!), brought me a gold ring. Soon after, a hawker took the ring from my hand in exchange for a date fruit.

When a child knows not the value of a ring he will part with it for a sweetmeat. Thou, too, didsts not recognize value of life, but indulged thyself in vain pleasures.

On the Day of Judgment, when the good will attain to the highest dignity and mount from the bottom-most depths of the earth to the Pleiades, thy head will hang forward in shame, for thy deeds will gather around thee.

O brother! Be ashamed of the works of the evil, for ashamed wilt thou be at the Resurrection in the presence on the good.



Someone reared a wolf cub, which, when grown in strength, tore its master to pieces. When the man was on the point of death a sage passed by and said, "Didst thou not know that thou wouldst suffer injury from an enemy thus carefully reared?"

How can we raise our heads from shame when we ate at peace with Satan and at war with G-d?

Thy friend regards thee not when thou turnest thy face towards the enemy.

He who lives in the house of an enemy deems right estrangement from a friend.




Someone robbed the people of their money by cheating, and whenever he had accomplished one of his nefarious acts he cursed the Evil One, who said:

"Never have I seen such a fool! Thou hast intrigued with me secretly; why, therefore, dost thou raise the sword of enmity against me?"

Alas! That the angels should record against thee iniquities committed by the order of the Evil One!

Go forward when thou seest that the door of peace is open, for suddenly the door of repentance will be closed.

March not under a load of sin, O son, for a porter becomes exhausted on the journey.

The Prophet is the Mediator of him who follows the highway of his laws.



In the time of my childhood I went out with my father during the Eid Festival, and in the tumult of the mob got lost. I cried in fear, when my father suddenly pulled my ear, and said, "Several times did I tell thee not to take thy hand from the skirt of my robe."

A child knows not how to go alone; it is difficult to travel on any road unseen.

Thou, poor man, art as a child in thine endeavor; go, hold the skirt of the virtuous. Sit not with the base, but fasten thy hand to the saddle straps of the pious.

Go, like Sa'di, glean the corn of wisdom so that thou mayest store a harvest of divine knowledge.



In the month of July, a certain man stored his grain and set his mind at ease concerning it. One night, he became intoxicated and lighted a fire, which destroyed his harvest.

The next day he sat down to glean the ears of corn, but not a single grain remained in his possession. Seeing him thus afflicted, someone remarked, "If thou didst not wish for this misfortune, thou shouldst not in folly have burned thy harvest."

Thou, whose years have been wasted in iniquity, art he who burns the harvest of his life.

Do no so, O my life! Sow the seeds of religion and justice, and throw not to the winds the harvest of a good name.

Knock at the door of forgiveness before thy punishment arrives, for lamentation beneath the lash is of no avail.



He who supplicates the Deity by night will not be shamed on the Day of Judgment.

If thou art wise, pray for forgiveness in the night for the sins that thou hast committed in the day.

What is thy fear if thou hast made thy peace with G-d? He closes not the door of forgiveness upon them that supplicate Him.

If thou art a servant of G-d, raise thy hands in prayer and if thou be ashamed, weep in sorrow.

No one has stood upon His threshold whose sins the tears of repentance have not washed away.


35. I.e. Engage in good works while you still have time.
36. Mohammed commanded that sand should be used for ablution before prayer when water was unobtainable, as is more often than not the case in the desert.
37. Name of a village on the road to Mecca.
38. The angel who examines the dead in their graves.
39. I.e. your native land.