CHAPTER I -
THE MANNERS OF KINGS
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:
When a man is in despair
his tongue becomes long and he is like a
vanquished cat assailing
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.
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
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
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
Think not that every desert
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.
After uttering these words
he rushed among the troops of the enemy, slew several warriors
and, returning to his father, made humble obeisance and said:
O thou, to whom my
person appeared contemptible,
Didst not believe in the
impetuosity of my valour.
A horse with slender girth
is of use
On the day of battle, not
a fattened ox.
It is related that the troops
of the enemy were numerous, and that the kings, being few,
were about to flee, but that the puny youth raised a shout, saying:
O men, take care not to put on the garments of women.
These words augmented the rage of the troopers so that they made
a unanimous attack and I heard that they gained the victory on
the said occasion. The king kissed the head and eyes of his son,
took him in his arms and daily augmented his affection till he
appointed him to succeed him on the throne. His brothers became
envious and placed poison in his food but were perceived by his
sister from her apartment, whereon she closed the window violently
and the youth, shrewdly guessing the significance of the act,
restrained his hands from touching the food, and said: It
is impossible that men of honour should die, and those who possess
none should take their place.
This state of affairs having
been brought to the notice of the father, he severely reproved
the brothers and assigned to each of them a different, but pleasant,
district as a place of exile till the confusion was quelled and
the quarrel appeased; and it has been said that ten dervishes
may sleep under the same blanket but that one country cannot
hold two padshahs.
When a pious man eats half
a loaf of bread
He bestows the other half
If a padshah were to conquer
the seven climates
He would still in the same
way covet another.
A band of Arab brigands
having taken up their position on the top of a mountain and closed
the passage of caravans, the inhabitants of the country were
distressed by their stratagems and the troops of the sultan foiled
because the robbers, having obtained an inaccessible spot on
the summit of the mountain, thus had a refuge which they made
their habitation. The chiefs of that region held a consultation
about getting rid of the calamity because it would be impossible
to offer resistance to the robbers if they were allowed to remain.
A tree which has just taken
May be moved from the place
by the strength of a man
But, if thou leavest it
thus for a long time,
Thou canst not uproot it
with a windlass.
The source of a fountain
may be stopped with a bodkin
But, when it is full, it
cannot be crossed on an elephant.
The conclusion was arrived
at to send one man as a spy and to wait for the opportunity till
the brigands departed to attack some people and leave the place
empty. Then several experienced men, who had fought in battles,
were despatched to keep themselves in ambush in a hollow of the
mountain. In the evening the brigands returned from their excursion
with their booty, divested themselves of their arms, put away
their plunder and the first enemy who attacked them was sleep,
till about a watch of the night had elapsed:
The warriors leapt forth
from the ambush, tied the hands of every one of the robbers to
his shoulders and brought them in the morning to the court of
the king, who ordered all of them to be slain. There happened
to be a youth among them, the fruit of whose vigour was just
ripening and the verdure on the rose-garden of whose cheek had
begun to sprout. One of the veziers, having kissed the foot of
the kings throne and placed the face of intercession upon
the ground, said: This boy has not yet eaten any fruit
from the garden of life and has not yet enjoyed the pleasures
of youth. I hope your majesty will generously and kindly confer
an obligation upon your slave by sparing his life. The
king, being displeased with this request, answered:
He whose foundation
is bad will not take instruction from the good,
To educate unworthy persons
is like throwing nuts on a cupola.
It is preferable to
extirpate the race and offspring of these
people and better to dig
up their roots and foundations, because it is
not the part of wise men
to extinguish fire and to leave burning coals
or to kill a viper and leave
its young ones.
If a cloud should rain the
water of life
Never sip it from the branch
of a willow-tree.
Associate not with a base
Because thou canst not eat
sugar from a mat-reed.
The vezier heard these sentiments,
approved of them nolens volens, praised the opinion of the king
and said: What my lord has uttered is the very truth itself
because if the boy had been brought up in the company of those
wicked men, he would have become one of themselves. But your
slave hopes that he will, in the society of pious men, profit
by education and will acquire the disposition of wise persons.
Being yet a child the rebellious and perverse temper of that
band has not yet taken hold of his nature and there is a tradition
of the prophet that every infant is born with an inclination
for Islam but his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a Majusi.
The spouse of Lot became
a friend of wicked persons.
His race of prophets became
The dog of the companions
of the cave for some days
Associated with good people
and became a man.
When the vezier had said
these words and some of the kings courtiers had added their
intercession to his, the king no longer desired to shed the blood
of the youth and said: I grant the request although I disapprove-of
Knowest thou not what Zal
said to the hero Rastam:
An enemy cannot be
held despicable or helpless.
I have seen many a water
from a paltry spring
Becoming great and carrying
off a camel with its load.
In short, the vezier brought
up the boy delicately, with every comfort, and kept masters to
educate him, till they had taught him to address persons in elegant
language as well as to reply and he had acquired every accomplishment.
One day the vezier hinted at his talents in the presence of the
king, asserting that the instructions of wise men had taken effect
upon the boy and had expelled his previous ignorance from his
nature. The king smiled at these words and said:
After two years had elapsed
a band of robbers in the locality joined him, tied the knot of
friendship and, when the opportunity presented itself, he killed
the vezier with his son, took away untold wealth and succeeded
to the position of his own father in the robber-cave where he
established himself. The king, informed of the event, took the
finger of amazement between his teeth and said:
How can a man fabricate
a good sword of bad iron?
O sage, who is nobody becomes
not somebody by education.
The rain, in the beneficence
of whose nature there is no flaw,
Will cause tulips to grow
in a garden and weeds in bad soil.
Saline earth will not produce
Throw not away thy seeds
or work thereon.
To do good to wicked persons
is like Doing evil to good men.
I saw at the palace-gate
of Oglimish the son of a military officer who was endued with
marvellous intellect, sagacity, perception and shrewdness; also
the signs of future greatness manifested themselves on his forehead
whilst yet a small boy.
In short, he pleased the
sultan because he had a beautiful countenance and a perfect understanding;
and philosophers have said: Power consists in accomplishments,
not in wealth and greatness in intellect, not in years.
His companions, being envious, made an attempt upon his life
and desired to kill him but their endeavours remained fruitless.
The king asked: What
is the cause of their enmity to thee? He replied: Under
the shadow of the monarchy of my lord I have satisfied my contemporaries
except the envious, who will not be contented but by the decline
of my prosperity, and may the monarchy and good fortune of my
lord be perpetual.
I may so act as not to hurt
the feelings of anyone
But what can I do to an
envious man dissatisfied with himself?
Die, O envious man, for
this is a malady,
Deliverance from which can
be obtained only by death.
Unfortunate men sometimes
The decline of prosperous
men in wealth and dignity.
If in daytime, bat-eyed
persons do not see
Is it the fault of the fountain
of light, the sun?
Thou justly wishest that
a thousand such eyes
Should be blind rather than
the sun dark.
It is narrated that one
of the kings of Persia had stretched forth his tyrannical hand
to the possessions of his subjects and had begun to oppress them
so violently that in consequence of his fraudulent extortions
they dispersed in the world and chose exile on account of the
affliction entailed by his violence. When the population had
diminished, the prosperity of the country suffered, the treasury
remained empty and on every side enemies committed violence.
Who desires succour in the
day of calamity,
Say to him: Be generous
in times of prosperity.
The slave with a ring in
his ear, if not cherished will depart.
Be kind because then a stranger
will become thy slave.
One day the Shahnamah was
read in his assembly, the subject being the ruin of the dominion
of Zohak and the reign of Feridun. The vezier asked the king
how it came to pass that Feridun, who possessed neither treasure
nor land nor a retinue, established himself upon the throne.
He replied: As thou hast heard, the population enthusiastically
gathered around him and supported him so that he attained royalty.
The vezier said: As the gathering around of the population
is the cause of royalty, then why dispersest thou the population?
Perhaps thou hast no desire for royalty?
The king asked: What
is the reason for the gathering around of the troops and the
population? He replied: A padshah must practise justice
that they may gather around him and clemency that they may dwell
in safety under the shadow of his government; but thou possessest
neither of these qualities.
A tyrannic man cannot be
As a wolf cannot be a shepherd.
A padshah who establishes
Destroys the basis of the
wall of his own reign.
The king, displeased with
the advice of his censorious vezier, sent him to prison. Shortly
afterwards the sons of the kings uncle rose in rebellion,
desirous of recovering the kingdom of their father. The population,
which had been reduced to the last extremity by the kings
oppression and scattered, now assembled around them and supported
them, till he lost control of the government and they took possession
A padshah who allows his
subjects to be oppressed
Will in his day of calamity
become a violent foe.
Be at peace with subjects
and sit safe from attacks of foes
Because his subjects are
the army of a just shahanshah.
A padshah was in the same
boat with a Persian slave who had never before been at sea and
experienced the inconvenience of a vessel. He began to cry and
to tremble to such a degree that he could not be pacified by
kindness, so that at last the king became displeased as the matter
could not be remedied. In that boat there happened to be a philosopher,
who said: With thy permission I shall quiet him.
The padshah replied: It will be a great favour. The
philosopher ordered the slave to be thrown into the water so
that he swallowed some of it, whereon be was caught and pulled
by his hair to the boat, to the stern of which he clung with
both his hands. Then he sat down in a corner and became quiet.
This appeared strange to the king who knew not what wisdom there
was in the proceeding and asked for it. The philosopher replied:
Before he had tasted the calamity of being drowned, he
knew not the safety of the boat; thus also a man does not appreciate
the value of immunity from a misfortune until it has befallen
O thou full man, barley-bread
pleases thee not.
She is my sweetheart who
appears ugly to thee.
To the huris of paradise
purgatory seems hell.
Ask the denizens of hell.
To them purgatory is paradise.
There is a difference between
him whose friend is in his arms And him whose eyes of expectation
are upon the door.
Hormuzd, being asked what
fault the veziers of his father had committed that he imprisoned
them, replied: I discovered no fault. I saw that boundless
awe of me had taken root in their hearts but that they had no
full confidence in my promises, wherefore I apprehended that
they, fearing calamities would befall them, might attempt my
life and I acted according to the maxim of sages who have said:
Dread him who dreads
thee, O sage,
Although thou couldst cope
with a hundred like him.
Seest thou not when the
cat becomes desperate
How he plucks out with his
claws the eyes of a tiger?
The viper stings the shepherds
Because it fears he will
strike his head with a stone.
An Arab king was sick in
his state of decrepitude so that all hopes of life were cut off.
A trooper entered the gate with the good news that a certain
fort had been conquered by the good luck of the king, that the
enemies had been captured and that the whole population of the
district had been reduced to obedience. The king heaved a deep
sigh and replied: This message is not for me but for my
enemies, namely the heirs of the kingdom.
I spent my precious life
in hopes, alas!
That every desire of my
heart will be fulfilled.
My wishes were realized,
but to what profit? Since
There is no hope that my
past life will return.
The hand of fate has struck
the drum of departure.
O my two eyes, bid farewell
to the head.
O palm, forearm, and arm
of my hand,
All take leave from each
Death, the foe of my desires,
has fallen on me
For the last time, O friends.
Pass near me.
My life has elapsed in ignorance.
I have done nothing, be
on your guard.
I was constantly engaged
in prayer, at the head of the prophet Yahias tomb in the
cathedral mosque of Damascus, when one of the Arab kings, notorious
for his injustice, happened to arrive on a pilgrimage to it,
who offered his supplications and asked for compliance with his
Then he said to me: Dervishes
being zealous and veracious in their dealings, unite thy mind
to mine, for I am apprehensive of a powerful enemy. I replied:
Have mercy upon thy feeble subjects that thou mayest not
be injured by a strong foe.
With a powerful arm and
the strength of the wrist
To break the five fingers
of a poor man is sin.
Let him be afraid who spares
not the fallen
Because if he falls no one
will take hold of his hand.
Whoever sows bad seed and
expects good fruit
Has cudgelled his brains
for nought and begotten vain imaginations.
Extract the cotton from
thy ears and administer justice to thy people
And if thou failest to do
so, there is a day of retribution.
The sons of Adam are limbs
of each other
Having been created of one
When the calamity of time
afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain
If thou hast no sympathy
for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be
called by the name of a man.
A dervish, whose prayers
met with answers, made his appearance, and Hejaj Yusuf, calling
him, said: Utter a good prayer for me, whereon the
dervish exclaimed: O God, take his life. He replied:
For Gods sake, what prayer is this? The dervish
rejoined: It is a good prayer for thee and for all Musalmans.
O tyrant, who oppressest
How long wilt thou persevere
Of what use is authority
To die is better for thee
than to oppress men.
An unjust king asked a devotee
what kind of worship is best? He replied: For thee the
best is to sleep one half of the day so as not to injure the
people for a while.
I saw a tyrant sleeping
half the day.
I said: This confusion,
if sleep removes it, so much the better;
But he whose sleep is better
than his wakefulness
Is better dead than leading
such a bad life.
I heard a king, who had
changed night into day by pleasures, saying in his drunkenness:
We have in the world
no moment more delightful than this,
Because I care neither for
good nor for bad nor for anyone.
A naked dervish, who was
sleeping outside in the cold, then said:
O thou like whom in
happiness there is no one in the world,
I take it if thou carest
not, we also do not care.
The king, being pleased
with these words of unconcern, held out a bag of a thousand dinars
from the window and said: Dervish, spread out thy skirt.
He replied: Whence can I, who have no robe, bring a skirt?
The padshah took pity on his helpless condition, added a robe
to his gift and sent it out to him but the dervish squandered
the money in a short time and returned.
Property cannot abide in
the hands of the free,
Neither patience in the
heart of a lover nor water in a sieve.
The case of the dervish
having been brought to the notice of the king when he was not
in good humour, he became angry and turned his face away. Therefore
it has been said that intelligent and experienced men ought to
be on their guard against the violence and despotism of kings
because their thoughts are generally occupied with important
affairs of state so that they cannot bear to be importuned by
the crowd of vulgar persons.
He will be excluded from
the beneficence of the padshah
Who cannot watch for the
Before thou seest the occasion
for speaking at hand
Destroy not thy power by
The king said: Drive
away this impudent and prodigal mendicant who has in so short
a time thrown away so much money. He does not know that the Beit-ulmal
is intended to offer a morsel to the needy and not to feed the
brothers of devils.
One of councillor-veziers
said: My lord, it would seem proper to grant to such persons
a sufficient allowance to be drawn from time to time so that
they may not squander it. But anger and repulsion, as manifested
by thee, are unworthy of a generous disposition as also to encourage
a man by kindness and then again to distress him by disappointing
The door ought not to be
opened to applicants so
That, when it is ajar, it
may not be shut again.
Nobody sees the thirsty
pilgrims to Hejaz
Crowding at the bank of
Wherever a sweet spring
happens to be
Men, birds and insects flock
One of the ancient kings
neglected the government of his realm and kept the army in distress.
Accordingly the whole of it ran away when a powerful enemy appeared.
If he refrains from giving
treasure to the troops
They refrain from putting
their hands to the sword.
What bravery will they display
in battle array
When their hands are empty
and affairs deplorable?
I was on terms of friendship
with one of those who had acted treacherously and reproached
him, telling him that it was base, ungrateful, despicable and
undutiful to abandon an old master when his affairs have changed
a little and to disregard the obligations incurred for benefits
received during many years. He replied: If I inform thee,
perhaps thou wilt excuse me for my horse had no barley and my
saddle-cloth was pawned. A sultan who grudges money to his troops,
they cannot bravely risk their lives for him.
Give gold to the soldier
that he may serve thee.
If thou witholdest gold,
he will serve elsewhere.
When a warrior is full,
he will be brave in fight but if his belly be
empty, he will be brave
A vezier, who had been removed
from his post, entered the circle of dervishes and the blessing
of their society took such effect upon him that he became contented
in his mind. When the king was again favourably disposed towards
him and ordered him to resume his office, he refused and said:
Retirement is better than occupation.
Those who have sat down
in the corner of safety
Have bound the teeth of
dogs and tongues of men.
They tore the paper up and
broke the pen
And are saved from the hands
and tongues of slanderers.
The king said: Verily
we stand in need of a man of sufficient intelligence who is able
to carry on the administration of the government. He replied:
It is a sign of sufficient intelligence not to engage in
A donkey, having been asked
for what salary he had elected to attend upon the lion, replied:
That I may consume the remnants of his prey and live in
safety from my enemies by taking refuge under his bravery.
Being again asked that, as he had entered into the shadow of
the lions protection and gratefully acknowledged his beneficence,
why he had not joined the circle of intimacy so as to be accounted
one of his favourite servants, he replied: I am in the
same way also not safe of his bravery.
It may happen that a companion
of his majesty the sultan receives gold and it is possible that
he loses his head. Philosophers have said that it is necessary
to be on guard of the fickle temper of padshahs because sometimes
they are displeased with politeness and at others they bestow
robes of honour for rudeness. It is also said that much jocularity
is an accomplishment in courtiers but a fault in sages.
One of my friends complained
of the unpropitious times, telling me that he had a slender income,
a large family, without strength to bear the load of poverty
and had often entertained the idea to emigrate to another country
so that no matter how he made a living no one might become aware
of his good or ill luck.
He was also apprehensive
of the malevolence of enemies who would laugh behind his back
and would attribute the struggle he underwent for the benefit
of his family to his want of manly independence and that they
Behold that dishonourable
fellow who will never
See the face of prosperity,
Will choose bodily comfort
Abandoning his wife and
children to misery.
He also told me that as
I knew he possessed some knowledge of arithmetic, I might, through
my influence, get him appointed to a post which would become
the means of putting his mind at ease and place him under obligations
to me, which he could not requite by gratitude during the rest
of his life. I replied: Dear friend! Employment by a padshah
consists of two parts, namely, the hope for bread and the danger
of life, but it is against the opinion of intelligent men to
incur this danger for that hope.
No one comes to the house
of a dervish
To levy a tax on land and
Either consent to bear thy
anxiety or grief
Or carry thy beloved children
to the crows.
He replied: Thou hast
not uttered these words in conformity with my case nor answered
my question. Hast thou not heard the saying? Whoever commits
treachery let his hand tremble at the account.
Sages have said: Four
persons are for life in dread of four persons: a robber of the
sultan, a thief of the watchman, an adulterer of an informer,
and a harlot of the muhtasib. But what has he to fear whose account
of the conscience is clear?
Be not extravagant when
in office, if thou desirest
On thy removal to see thy
foes embarrassed for imputations against thee.
Be thou pure, O brother,
and in fear of no one.
Washermen beat only impure
garments against stones.
I said: The story
of that fox resembles thy case, who was by some persons seen
fleeing with much trouble and asked for the cause of his fear
replied: I have heard that camels are being forced into
the service. They said: O fool, what connection hast
thou with a camel and what resemblance does the latter bear to
thee? The fox rejoined: Hush. If the envious malevolently
say that I am a camel and I am caught, who will care to release
me or investigate my case? Till the antidote is brought from
Eraq the snake-bitten person dies. Thou art a very excellent
and honest man but enemies sit in ambush and competitors in every
corner. If they describe thy character in a contrary manner,
thou wouldst be called upon to give explanations to the padshah
and incur reproof. Who would on that occasion venture to say
anything? Accordingly I am of opinion that thou shouldst retire
to the domain of contentment and abandon aspirations to dominion.
Wise men have said:
In the sea there are
But if thou desirest safety,
it will be on the shore.
My friend, having heard
these words, became angry, made a wry face and began to reproach
me, saying: What sufficiency of wisdom and maturity of
intellect is this? The saying of philosophers has come true,
that friends are useful in prison because at table all enemies
appear as friends.
Account him not a friend
who knocks at the door of prosperity,
Boasts of amity and calls
himself thy adopted brother.
I consider him a friend
who takes a friends hand
When he is in a distressed
state and in poverty.
Seeing that he had thus
changed and ascribed my advice to an interested motive, I paid
a visit to the President of the State Council and, trusting in
my old acquaintance with him, explained the case of my friend
whom he then appointed to a small post. In a short time my friends
affable behaviour and good management elicited approbation so
that he was promoted to a higher office. In this manner the star
of his good luck ascended till he reached the zenith of his aspirations,
became a courtier of his majesty the sultan, generally esteemed
and trusted. I was delighted with his safe position and said:
Be not apprehensive
of tangled affairs and keep not a broken heart
Because the spring of life
is in darkness.
Do not grieve, O brother
Because the Ill-merciful
has hidden favours.
Sit not morose on account
of the turns of time; for patience,
Although bitter, nevertheless
possesses a sweet fruit.
At that time I happened
to go with a company of friends on a journey to Mekkah and on
my return he met me at a distance of two stages. I perceived
his outward appearance to be distressed, his costume being that
of dervishes. I asked: What is the matter? He replied:
As thou hast predicted, some persons envied me and brought
against me anaccusation of treason. The king ordered no inquiry
on its truthfulness and my old well-wishers with my kind friends
who failed to speak the word of truth forgot our old intimacy.
Seest thou not in
front of the possessor of dignity
They place the hands on
their heads, praising him;
But, if fortunes turn
causes his fall,
All desire to Place their
foot on his head.
In short, I was till
this week undergoing various persecutions, when the news of the
pilgrims approach from Mekkah arrived, whereon I was released
from my heavy bonds and my hereditary property confiscated.
I replied: Thou hast not paid attention to my remarks when
I said that the service of padshahs is like a sea voyage, profitable
and dangerous, so that thou wilt either gain a treasure or perish
in the waves.
Not thinking it suitable
to scratch the wound of the dervish more than I had already done
and so sprinkle salt thereon, I contented myself with reciting
the following two distichs:
Knewest thou not that thou
wilt see thy feet in bonds
If the advice of people
cannot penetrate into thy ear?
Again, if thou canst not
bear the pain of the sting
Put not thy finger into
the hole of a scorpion.
Several men were in my company
whose external appearance displayed the adornment of piety. A
great man who had conceived a very good opinion of these persons
had assigned them a fixed allowance but, after one of them had
done something unbecoming the profession of dervishes, his opinion
changed and they fell into disgrace. I desired in some way to
save the allowance of my friends and intended to wait upon the
great man but the doorkeeper would not allow me to enter and
was rude. I pardoned him, because it has been said:
The door of an amir, vezier
Is not to be approached
without an introduction.
When a dog or a doorkeeper
sees a stranger
The former takes hold of
his skirt, the latter of his collar.
When those who could at
any time approach the presence of the said great man became aware
of my case, they took me in with compliments and desired to assign
me a high seat but I humbly took a lower one and said:
He said: Allah, Allah,
what need is there for such words?
In short, I took a seat
and we conversed on a variety of topics till the affair of the
error of my companions turned up and I said:
What crime has my
lord seen, who was bountiful,
To make the slave despicable
in his sight?
To God that magnanimity
and bounty is surrendered
Which beholds the crime
but nevertheless bestows the bread.
The governor, being pleased
with these words, ordered the support of my friends to be attended
to as before and the arrears to be made good. I expressed my
gratitude, kissed the ground of obedience, apologized for my
boldness, and said:
Since the Kabah
has become the Qiblah of wants from distant lands
The people go to visit it
from many farsangs.
Thou must suffer the importunity
of such as we are
Because no one throws stones
on a tree without fruit.
A royal prince, having inherited
abundant treasures from his father, opened the hand of liberality
and satisfied his impulse of generosity by lavishing without
stint benefits upon the army and the population.
A tray of lignum aloes will
emit no odour.
Place it on fire, it will
smell like ambergris.
If thou wishest to be accounted
great, be liberal
Because grain will not grow
unless it be sown.
One of his courtiers began
heedlessly to admonish him, saying: Former kings have by
their exertions accumulated this wealth and deposited it for
a useful purpose. Cease this movement because calamities may
arise in front and enemies in the rear. It is not meet for thee
to be helpless at a time of necessity.
If thou distributest a treasure
to the multitude
Each householder will receive
a grain of rice.
Why takest thou not from
each a barley-corn of silver
That thou mayest accumulate
every day a treasure?
The royal prince turned
away his face at these words and said: God the most high
has made me the possessor of this country, to enjoy and to bestow,
not to guard and to retain.
Qarun, who possessed forty
treasure houses, perished. Nushirvan has not died because he
obtained a good reputation.
It is related that, whilst
some game was being roasted for Nushirvan the just during a hunting
party, no salt could be found. Accordingly a boy was sent to
an adjoining village to bring some. Nushirvan said: Pay
for the salt lest it should become a custom and the village be
ruined. Having been asked what harm could arise from such
a trifling demand, Nushirvan replied: The foundation of
oppression was small in the world but whoever came augmented
it so that it reached its present magnitude.
If the king eats one apple
from the garden of a subject
His slaves will pull him
up the tree from the roots.
For five eggs which the
sultan allows to be taken by force
The people belonging to
his army will put a thousand fowls on the spit.
A tyrant does not remain
in the world
But the curse on him abides
I heard that an oppressor
ruined the habitations of the subjects to fill the treasury of
the sultan, unmindful of the maxim of philosophers, who have
said: Who offends God the most high to gain the heart of
a created being, God will use that very being to bring on his
destruction in the world.
The prince of all animals
is the lion and the meanest of beasts the ass. Nevertheless sages
agree that an ass who carries loads is better than a lion who
The poor donkey though void
Is nevertheless esteemed
when he carries a burden.
Oxen and asses who carry
Are superior to men oppressing
When the king had obtained
information of some of the oppressors misdeeds and bad
conduct, he had him put on the rack and slain by various tortures.
Thou wilt not obtain the
approbation of the sultan
Unless thou seekest the
goodwill of his subjects.
If thou desirest God to
condone thy transgressions,
Do good to the people whom
God has created.
One of the oppressed who
passed near him said:
Not everyone who possesses
strength of arm and office
In the sultanate may with
impunity plunder the people.
A hard bone may be made
to pass down the throat
But it will tear the belly
when it sticks in the navel.
It is narrated that an oppressor
of the people, a soldier, hit the head of a pious man with a
stone and that the dervish, having no means of taking vengeance,
preserved the stone till the time arrived when the king became
angry with that soldier, and imprisoned him in a well. Then the
dervish made his appearance and dropped the stone upon his head.
He asked: Who art thou, and why hast thou hit my head with
this stone? The man replied: I am the same person
whom thou hast struck on the head with this stone on such and
such a day. The soldier continued: Where hast thou
been all this time? The dervish replied: I was afraid
of thy dignity but now when I beheld thee in the well I made
use of the opportunity.
When thou seest an unworthy
man in good luck
Intelligent men have chosen
If thou hast not a tearing
It will be better not to
contend with the wicked.
Who grasps with his fist
one who has an arm of steel
Injures only his own powerless
Wait till inconstant fortune
ties his hand.
Then, to please thy friends,
pick out his brains.
A king was subject to a
terrible disease, the mention of which is not sanctioned by custom.
The tribe of Yunani physicians agreed that this pain cannot be
allayed except by means of the bile of a person endued with certain
qualities. Orders having been issued to search for an individual
of this kind, the son of a landholder was discovered to possess
the qualities mentioned by the doctors. The king summoned the
father and mother of the boy whose consent he obtained by giving
them immense wealth. The qazi issued a judicial decree that it
is permissible to shed the blood of one subject for the safety
of the king and the executioner was ready to slay the boy who
then looked heavenwards and smiled. The king asked: What
occasion for laughter is there in such a position? The
youth replied: A son looks to the affection of his father
and mother to bring his case before the qazi and to ask justice
from the padshah. In the present instance, however, the father
and mother have for the trash of this world surrendered my blood,
the qazi has issued a decree to kill me, the sultan thinks he
will recover his health only through my destruction and I see
no other refuge besides God the most high.
The sultan became troubled
at these words, tears rushed to his eyes and he said: It
is better for me to perish than to shed innocent blood.
He kissed the head and eyes of the youth, presented him with
boundless wealth and it is said that the king also recovered
his health during that week.
I also remember the distich
By the elephant-driver on
the bank of the Nile:
If thou knewest the
state of the ant under thy foot
It is like thy own condition
under the foot of an elephant.
One of the servants of Umrulais
had fled but some men, having been sent in pursuit, brought him
back. The vezier who bore a grudge towards him desired him to
be killed that the other servants may not imitate his example.
He placed his head on the ground before Umrulais and said:
But, having been nourished
by the bounty of this dynasty, I am loth that on the day of resurrection
thou shouldst be punished for having shed my blood; but, if thou
desirest to kill me, do so according to the provisions of the
law. He asked: How am I to interpret it? The
slave continued: Allow me to kill the vezier and then take
my life in retaliation so that I may be killed justly.
The king smiled and asked the vezier what he thought of the matter.
He replied: My lord, give freedom to this bastard as an
oblation to the tomb of thy father for fear he would bring trouble
on me likewise. It is my fault for not having taken account of
the maxim of philosophers who have said:
When thou fightest with
a thrower of clods
Thou ignorantly breakest
thy own head.
When thou shootest an arrow
at the face of a foe
Be on thy guard for thou
art sitting as a target for him.
King Zuzan had a khajah
of noble sentiments and of good aspect who served his companions
when they were present and spoke well of them when they were
absent. He happened to do something whereby he incurred the displeasure
of the king who inflicted a fine on him and also otherwise punished
him. The officials of the king, mindful of the benefits they
had formerly received from him and being by them pledged to gratitude,
treated him kindly whilst in their custody and allowed no one
to insult him.
If thou desirest peace from
the foe, whenever he
Finds fault behind thy back
praise him to his face.
A vicious fellows
mouth must utter words.
If thou desirest not bitter
words, sweeten his mouth.
He was absolved of some
accusations brought by the king against him but retained in prison
for some. Another king in those regions secretly dispatched a
message to him, to the purport that the sovereigns of that country,
not knowing his excellent qualities, had dishonoured him, but
that if his precious mind (may Allah prosper the end of his affairs)
were to look in this direction, the utmost efforts would be made
to please him, because the nobles of this realm would consider
it an honour to see him and are waiting for a reply to this letter.
The khajah, who had received this information, being apprehensive
of danger, forthwith wrote a brief and suitable answer on the
back of the sheet of paper and sent it back. One, however, of
the kings courtiers, who noticed what had taken place,
reported to him that the imprisoned khajah was in correspondence
with the princes of the adjacent country. The king became angry
and desired this affair to be investigated. The courier was overtaken
and deprived of the letter, the contents of which were found
on perusal to be as follows: The good opinion of high personages
is more than their servants merit deserves, who is unable
to comply with the honour of reception which they have offered
him, because having been nourished by the bounty of this dynasty,
he cannot become unthankful towards his benefactor in consequence
of a slight change of sentiments of the latter, since it is said:
The king approved of his
gratitude, bestowed upon him a robe of honour, gave him presents
and asked his pardon, saying: I committed a mistake.
He replied: My lord, it was the decree of God the most
high that a misfortune should befall this servant but it was
best that it should come from thy hands which had formerly bestowed
favours upon him and placed him under obligations.
If people injure thee grieve
Because neither rest nor
grief come from the people.
Be aware that the contrasts
of friend and foe are from God
Because the hearts of both
are in his keeping.
Although the arrow is shot
from the bow
Wise men look at the archer.
One of the Arab kings ordered
his officials to double the allowance of a certain attendant
because he was always at the palace expecting orders while the
other servants were engaged in amusements and sports, neglecting
their duties. A pious man who heard this remarked that high degrees
at the court of heaven are similarly bestowed upon servants:
If a man comes two mornings
to serve the shah
He will on the third certainly
look benevolently on him.
Sincere worshippers entertain
That they will not be disappointed
at the threshold of God.
Superiority consists in
attending to commands.
The neglect of commands
leads to exclusion.
Who possesses the criterion
Places the head upon the
It is narrated that a tyrant
who purchased wood from dervishes forcibly gave it away to rich
-people gratuitously. A pious man passing near said:
Thou art a snake,
stingest whom thou beholdest,
Or an owl; wherever thou
sittest thou destroyest.
Although thy oppression
may pass among us
It cannot pass with the
Lord who knows all secrets.
Oppress not the denizens
of the earth
That their supplications
may not pass to heaven.
The tyrant, being displeased
with these words, got angry and took no notice of him until one
night, when fire from the kitchen fell into the store of his
wood and burnt all he possessed - transferring him from his soft
bed to a hot mound of ashes - the same pious man happened again
to pass and to hear him saying to his friends: I do not
know whence this fire has fallen into my house. replied:
From the smoke of the hearts of dervishes.
Beware of the smoke of internal
Because at last an internal
wound will break out.
Forbear to uproot one heart
as long as thou canst
Because one sigh may uproot
Upon the diadem of Kaikhosru
the following piece was inscribed:
For how many years and long
Will the people walk over
my head on the ground?
As from hand to hand the
kingdom came to us
So it will also go to other
A man had attained great
excellence in the art of wrestling, who knew three hundred and
sixty exquisite tricks and daily exhibited something new. He
had a particular affection for the beauty of one of his pupils
whom he taught three hundred and fifty-nine tricks, refraining
to impart to him only one. At last the youth had attained such
power and skill that no one was able to contend with him and
he went so far as to say to the sultan: I allow superiority
to my teacher on account of his age and from gratitude for his
instruction but my strength is not less than his and my skill
equal. The king, who was not pleased with this want of
good manners, ordered them to wrestle with each other and a spacious
locality having been fixed upon, the pillars of state and courtiers
of his majesty made their appearance. The youth made an onslaught
like a mad elephant with an impulse which might have uprooted
a mountain of brass from its place but the master, who knew that
he was in strength superior to himself, attacked him with the
rare trick he had reserved to himself and which the youth was
unable to elude; whereon the master, lifting him up with his
hands from the ground, raised him above his head and then threw
him down. Shouts were raised by the spectators and the king ordered
a robe of honour with other presents to be given to the teacher
but reproached and blamed the youth for having attempted to cope
with his instructor and succumbed. He replied: My lord,
he has not vanquished me by his strength but there was a slender
part in the art of wrestling which he had withheld from me and
had today thereby got the upper hand of me. The master
said: I had reserved it for such an occasion because wise
men have said: Do not give so much strength to thy friend
that, if he becomes thy foe, he may injure thee. Hast thou
not heard what the man said who suffered molestation from one
whom he had educated?
Either fidelity itself does
not exist in this world
Or nobody practices it in
No one had learnt archery
Without at last making a
target of me.
A solitary dervish was sitting
in a corner of the desert when a padshah happened to pass by
but, ease having made him independent, he took no notice. The
sultan, in conformity with his royal dignity, became angry and
said: This tribe of rag-wearers resembles beasts.
The vezier said: The padshah of the surface of the earth
has passed near thee. Why hast thou not paid homage and shown
good manners? He replied: Tell the king to look for
homage from a man who expects benefits from him and also that
kings exist for protecting subjects and subjects not for obeying
The padshah is the guardian
of the dervish
Although wealth is in the
glory of his reign.
The sheep is not for the
But the shepherd for the
service of it.
Today thou beholdest one
And another whose heart
is wounded by struggling.
Wait a few days till the
The brain in the head of
Distinction between king
and slave has ceased
When the decree of fate
If a man were to open the
tombs of the dead
He would not distinguish
a rich from a poor man.
The king, who was pleased
with the sentiments of the dervish, asked him to make a request
but he answered that the only one he had to make was to be left
alone. The king then asked for advice and the dervish said:
A vezier paid a visit to
Zulnun Misri and asked for his favour, saying: I am day
and night engaged in the service of the sultan and hoping to
be rewarded but nevertheless dread to be punished by him.
Zulnun wept and said: Had I feared God, the great and glorious,
as thou fearest the sultan, I would be one of the number of the
If there were no hope of
rest and trouble
The foot of the dervish
would be upon the sphere
And if the vezier feared
Like the king he would be
A padshah having issued
orders to kill an innocent man, the latter said: O king,
seek not thine own injury on account of the anger thou bearest
towards me. He asked: How? The man replied:
This punishment will abide with me one moment but the sin
of it for ever with thee.
The period of life has passed
away like the desert wind.
Bitter and sweet, ugliness
and beauty have passed away.
The tyrant fanded he had
done injury to us.
It remained on his neck
and passed away from us.
This admonition having taken
effect, the king spared his blood.
The veziers of Nushirvan
happened to discuss an important affair of state, each giving
his opinion according to his knowledge. The king likewise gave
his opinion and Barzachumihr concurred with it. Afterwards the
veziers secretly asked him: What superiority hast thou
discovered in the opinion of the king above so many other reflections
of wise men? The philosopher replied: Since the termination
of the affair is unknown and it depends upon the will of God
whether the opinion of the others will turn out right or wrong,
it was better to agree with the opinion of the king so that,
if it should turn out to have been wrong, we may, on account
of having followed it, remain free from blame.
To proffer an opinion contrary
to the kings
Means to wash the hands
in ones own blood.
Should he in plain day say
it is night,
It is meet to shout: Lo,
the moon and the pleiads!
An impostor arranged his
hair in a peculiar fashion, pretended to be a descendant of Ali
and entered the town with a caravan from the Hejaz, saying that
he had just arrived from a pilgrimage. He also presented an elegy
to the king, alleging that he had himself composed it. One of
the kings courtiers, who had that year returned from a
journey, said: I have seen him at Bosrah on the Azhah festival,
then how can he be a Haji? Another said: His father
was a Christian at Melitah. How can he be a descendant of Ali?
And his poetry has been found in the Divan of Anvari. The
king ordered him to be beaten and expelled the country for his
great mendacity. The man said: O lord of the surface of
the earth, I shall say something more and, if it is not true,
I shall deserve any punishment which thou mayest decree.
He asked: What is it?
When a stranger brings before
Two measures of it will
be water and a spoonful sour milk.
If thou hast heard heedless
talk from thy slave, be not offended.
A man who has seen the world
utters much falsehood.
The king laughed, told him
that all his life he had not uttered more true words than these
and ordered the present which the fellow hoped for to be got
One of the veziers of a
king treated his subordinates with kindness and sought the goodwill
of his colleagues. Once he happened to be called to account by
the king for something he had done whereon his colleagues endeavoured
to effect his liberation. Those who guarded him treated him leniently
and the great men expatiated upon his good character to the padshah
till he renounced all further inquiry. A pious man who took cognizance
of this affair said:
In order to gain the
hearts of friends
Sell even the garden of
In order to boil the pot
Burn even all the furniture
of the house.
Do good even to a malevolent
Tie up the mouth of the
dog with a sop.
One of the sons of Harun-ur-Rashid
went to his father and angrily informed him that the son of an
official had used insulting expressions towards him whereon Harun
asked his courtiers what requital he deserved. One of them proposed
capital punishment, another the amputation of the tongue whilst
a third recommended fine and imprisonment. Then Harun said: Oh
my son, it would be generous to pardon him but, if thou art unable
to do so, use likewise insulting expressions concerning his mother;
not however to such a degree as to exceed the bounds of vengeance
because in that case the wrong will be on thy side.
He is not reputed a man
by the wise
Who contends with a furious
But he is a man in reality
Who when angry speaks not
An ill-humoured fellow insulted
Who patiently bore it saying:
O hopeful youth,
I am worse than thou speakest
For I am more conscious
of my faults than thou.
I was sitting in a vessel
with a company of great men when a boat which contained two brothers
happened to sink near us. One of the great men promised a hundred
dinars to a sailor if he could save them both. Whilst however
the sailor was pulling out one, the other perished. I said: He
had no longer to live and therefore delay took place in rescuing
him. The sailor smiled and replied: What thou hast
said is certain. Moreover, I preferred to save this one because,
when I once-happened to lag behind in the desert, he seated me
on his camel, whereas I had received a whipping by the hands
of the other. When I was a boy I recited: He, who doth right,
doth it to his own soul and he, who doth evil, doth it against
As long as thou canst, scratch
the interior of no one
Because there are thorns
on this road.
Be helpful in the affairs
of a dervish
Because thou also hast affairs.
There were two brothers:
one of them in the service of the sultan and the other gaining
his livelihood by the effort of his arm. The wealthy man once
asked his destitute brother why he did not serve the sultan in
order to be delivered from the hardship of labouring. He replied:
Why labourest thou not to be delivered from the baseness
of service because philosophers have said that it is better to
eat barley bread and to sit than to gird oneself with a golden
belt and to stand in service?
To leaven mortar of quicklime
with the hand
Is better than to hold them
on the breast before the amir.
My precious life was spent
What I am to eat in summer
and wear in winter.
O ignoble belly, be satisfied
with one bread
Rather than to bend the
back in service.
Someone had brought information
to Nushirvan the just that an enemy of his had been removed from
this world by God the most high. He asked: Hast thou heard
anything about his intending to spare me?
A company of philosophers
were discussing a subject in the palace of Kesra and Barzachumihr,
having remained silent, they asked him why he took no share in
the debate. He replied: Veziers are like physicians and
the latter give medicine to the sick only but, as I perceive
that your opinions are in conformity with propriety, I have nothing
to say about them.
When an affair succeeds
without my idle talk
It is not meet for me to
But if I see a blind man
near a well
It is a crime for me to
Harun-ur-Rashid said when
the country of Egypt was surrendered to him: In contrast
to the rebel who had in his arrogance of being sovereign of Egypt
pretended to be God, I shall bestow this country upon the meanest
of my slaves. He had a stupid negro, Khosaib by name, whom
he made governor of Egypt but his intellect and discrimination
were so limited that when the tribe of Egyptian agriculturists
complained and stated that they had sown cotton along the banks
of the Nile and that an untimely rain had destroyed it he replied:
You ought to have sown wool. A pious man heard this,
If livelihood were
increased by knowledge
None would be more needy
than the ignorant.
Nevertheless the ignorant
receive a livelihood
At which the learned stand
The luck of wealth consists
not in skill
But only in the aid of heaven.
It happens in the world
Silly men are honoured and
If an alchemist has died
in grief and misery,
A fool discovered a treasure
A Chinese slave-girl having
been brought to a king, he desired to have connection with her
whilst in a state of intoxication but, as she repelled him, he
became angry and presented her to one of his negro-slaves whose
upper lip was higher than his nostrils whilst the lower one hung
down to his neck. His stature was such that the demon Sakhrah
would have been put to flight and a fountain of pitch emitted
stench from his armpits.
Thou wouldst say that, till
the resurrection, ugliness
Is his stamp as that of
Joseph was beauty.
His person was of so wretched
That his ugliness surpassed
And from his armpits we
take refuge with Allah,
They were like a corpse
in the month of Merdad.
At that time the desire
of the negro was libidinous, his lust overcame him, his love
leapt up and he took off the seal of her virginity. In the morning
the king sought the girl but could not find her and, having obtained
information of what had taken place, he became angry, ordered
the negro and the girl to be firmly tied together by their hands
and feet and to be thrown from the lofty building into a ditch.
One of the veziers, placing the face of intercession upon the
ground, pleaded that there was no guilt in the negro since all
the servants of his majesty usually receive presents and benefits
as he had received the girl. The king rejoined: What would
it have mattered if he had for one night delayed his enjoyment?
He said: My lord, hast thou not heard that it was said:
When a man with a burning
thirst reaches a limpid spring,
Think not that he will care
for a mad elephant.
When a hungry infidel is
in an empty house at table
Reason will not believe
that he cares for the Ramazan.
The king, being pleased
with this sally, exclaimed: I make thee a present of the
negro. What am I to do with the girl? He replied: Give
the girl to the negro because that half is also due to a dog
of which he has consumed the other half.
The thirsty heart does not
wish for limpid water
Half of which was consumed
by a fetid mouth.
How can the kings
hand again touch
An orange after it has fallen
Iskandur Rumi, having been
asked how he had conquered the east and the west, considering
that the treasures, territories, reigns and armies of former
kings exceeded his own and they had not gained such a victory,
replied: Whatever country I conquered by the aid of God
the most high, I abstained from distressing its population and
spoke nothing but good of the king.
The intelligent will not
call him great
Who speaks ill of the great.
All this is nothing as it
Throne and luck, command
and prohibition, taking and giving.
Injure not the name of those
who have passed away
In order that thy own name