STORY III. The Youth who wrote a letter of complaint
about his rations to the King.
A certain youth in the service of a great king was dissatisfied with his
rations, so he went to the cook and reproached him with dishonoring his master
by his stinginess. The youth would not listen to his excuses, but wrote off an
angry letter of complaint to the king, in terms of outward compliment and respect,
but betraying an angry spirit. On receiving this letter, the king observed that
it contained only complaints about meat and drink, and evinced no aspirations
after spiritual food, and therefore needed no answer, as "the proper
answer to a fool is silence." 1 When the youth received no answer
to his letter, he was much surprised, and threw the blame on the cook and on
the messenger, ignoring the fact that the folly of his own letter was the real
reason of its being left unanswered. He wrote in all five letters, but the king
persisted in his refusal to reply, saying that fools are enemies to God and
man, and that he who has any dealings with a fool fouls his own nest. Fools
only regard material meat and drink, whereas the food of the wise is the light
of God, as it is said by the Prophet, "I pass the night in the presence of
my Lord, who giveth me meat and drink," 2 and again, "Fasting
is the food of God," i.e., the means by which spiritual food is obtained.
Explanation of the text "And Moses conceived a secret fear within him. We
said 'Fear not, for thou shalt be uppermost (over Pharaoh's magicians) '".
Moses said, "Their sorcery confuses them;
What can I do? These people have no discernment."
God said, "I will generate in them discernment;
I will make their undiscerning reason to see clearly.
Although like a sea their waves cast up foam,
O Moses, thou shalt prevail over them; fear not!"
The magicians gloried in their own achievements,
But when Moses' rod became a snake, they were confounded.
Whoso boasts of his beauty and wit,
The stone of death is a touchstone of his boasts.
Sorcery fades away, but the miracles of Moses advance.
Both resemble a dish falling from a roof:
The noise of the dish of sorcery leaves only cursing;
The noise of the dish of faith leaves edification.
When the touchstone is hidden from the sight of all,
Then come forth to battle and boast, O base coin!
Your time for boasting is when the touchstone is away;
The hand of power will soon crush your exaltation.
The base coin says to me with pride every moment,
"O pure gold, how am I inferior to you?"
The gold replies, "Even so, O comrade;
But the touchstone is at hand; be ready to meet it!"
Death of the body is a benefaction to the spiritual;
What damage has pure gold to dread from the shears?
If the base coin were of itself far-sighted,
It would reveal at first the blackness it shows at last.
If it had showed its blackness at first on its face,
'Twould have avoided hypocrisy now and misery at last.
'Twould have sought the alchemy of grace in due time;
Its reason would have prevailed over its hypocrisy.
If it became broken-hearted through its own bad state,
'Twould look onward to Him that heals the broken;
'Twould look to the result and be broken-hearted
And be made whole at once by the Healer of broken hearts.
Divine grace places base copper in the alembic,
Adulterated gold is excluded from that favor.
O adulterated gold, boast not, but see clearly
That thy Purchaser is not blind to thy defects.
The light of the judgment-day will enlighten his eyes
And destroy the glamour of thy fascinations.
Behold them that have regard to the ultimate result,
And also the regrets of foolish souls and their envy.
Behold them that regard only the present,
And cast away thoughts of evil to come from their minds.