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From The Gulistan. Sa´di

From The Gulistan Chapter I: "The Manners of Kings"

Stories No. VII-XIV


They tell a story of a Persian king who had stretched forth the arm of
oppression over the subjects' property, and commenced a system of
violence and rapacity to such a degree that the people emigrated to
avoid the vexatiousness of his tyranny, and took the road of exile to
escape the annoyance of his extortions. Now that the population was
diminished and the resources of the state had failed, the treasury
remained empty, and enemies gathered strength on all sides. Whoever may
expect a comforter on the day of adversity, say, let him practise
humanity during the season of prosperity; if not treated cordially, thy
devoted slave will forsake thee; show him kindness and affection, and
the stranger may become the slave of thy devotion.

One day they were reading, in his presence, from the Sháh Námeh, of the
tyrant Zohák's declining dominion and the succession of Feridún. The
vizir asked the king, saying: "Can you so far comprehend that Feridún
had no revenue, domain, or army, and how the kingdom came to be
confirmed with him?" He answered: "As you have heard, a body of people
collected about him from attachment, and gave their assistance till he
acquired a kingdom." The vizir said: "Since, O sire, a gathering of the
people is the means of forming a kingdom, how come you in fact to cause
their dispersion unless it be that you covet not a sovereignty? So far
were good that thou wouldst patronize the army with all thy heart, for a
king with an army constitutes a principality." The king asked: "What are
the best means of collecting an army and yeomanry?" He replied:
"Munificence is the duty of a king, that the people may assemble around
him, and clemency, that they may rest secure under the asylum of his
dominion and fortune, neither of which you have. A tyrant cannot govern
a kingdom, for the duty of a shepherd is not expected from the wolf. A
king that can anyhow be accessory to tyranny will undermine the wall of
his own sovereignty."

The advice of the prudent minister did not accord with the disposition
of the king. He ordered him to be confined, and immured him in a
dungeon. It soon came to pass that the sons of the king's uncle rose in
opposition, levied an army in support of their pretensions, and claimed
the sovereignty of their father. A host of the people, who had cruelly
suffered under the arm of his extortion and were dispersed, gathered
around and succored them till they dispossessed him of his kingdom and
established them in his stead. That king who can approve of tyrannizing
over the weak will find his friend a bitter foe in the day of hardship.
Deal fairly with thy subjects, and rest easy about the warfare of thine
enemies, for with an upright prince his yeomanry is an army.

* * * * *


They asked Hormuz, son of Nushirowan, "What fault did you find with your
father's ministers that you ordered them into confinement?" He replied:
"I saw no fault that might deserve imprisonment; yet I perceived that
any reverence for me makes a slight impression on their minds, and that
they put no implicit reliance on my promise. I feared lest from an
apprehension of their own safety they might conspire my ruin;
therefore, put in practice that maxim of philosophers who have told us:
'Stand in awe, O wise man, of him who stands in awe of thee,
notwithstanding thou canst cope with a hundred such as he. Therefore
will the snake bite the herdsman's foot, because it fears that he will
bruise its head with a stone. Seest thou not that now that the cat is
desperate it will tear out the tiger's eyes with its claws.'"


In his old age an Arab king was grievously sick, and had no hopes of
recovery, when, lo! a messenger on horseback presented himself at the
palace-gate, and joyfully announced, saying: "Under his majesty's good
fortune we have taken such a stronghold, made the enemy prisoners of
war, and reduced all the landholders and vassals of that quarter to
obedience as subjects." On hearing this news the king fetched a cold
sigh, and answered: "These glad tidings are not intended for me but for
my rivals, namely, the heirs of the sovereignty. My precious life has,
alas! been wasted in the hope that what my heart chiefly coveted might
enter at my gate. My bounden hope was gratified; yet what do I benefit
by that? There is no hope that my passed life can return. The hand of
death beats the drum of departure. Yes, my two eyes, you must bid adieu
to my head. Yes, palm of my hand, wrist, and arm, all of you say
farewell, and each take leave of the other. Death has overtaken me to
the gratification of my foes; and you, O my friends, must at last be
going. My days were blazed away in folly; what I did not do let you take
warning (and do)."


At the metropolitan mosque of Damascus I was one year fervent in prayer
over the tomb of Yahiya, or John the Baptist and prophet, on whom be
God's blessing, when one of the Arab princes, who was notorious for his
injustice, chanced to arrive on a pilgrimage, and he put up his
supplication, asked a benediction, and craved his wants.--The rich and
poor are equally the devoted slaves of this shrine, and the richer they
are the more they stand in need of succor. Then he spoke to me, saying:
"In conformity with the generous resolution of dervishes and their
sincere zeal, you will, I trust, unite with me in prayer, for I have
much to fear from a powerful enemy." I answered him, "Have compassion on
your own weak subjects, that you may not see disquiet from a strong foe.
With a mighty arm and heavy hand it is dastardly to wrench the wrists of
poor and helpless. Is he not afraid who is hardhearted with the fallen
that if he slip his foot nobody will take him by the hand?--Whoever
sowed the seed of vice and expected a virtuous produce, pampered a vain
brain and encouraged an idle whim. Take the cotton from thy ear and do
mankind justice, for if thou refusest them justice there is a day of
retribution. The sons of Adam are members one of another, for in their
creation they have a common origin. If the vicissitudes of fortune
involve one member in pain, all the other members will feel a sympathy.
Thou, who art indifferent to other men's affliction, if they call thee a
man art unworthy of the name."


A dervish, whose prayers had a ready acceptance (with God), made his
appearance at Bagdad. Hojaj Yusuf (a great tyrant) sent for him and
said: "Put up a good prayer for me." He prayed, "O God! take from him
his life!" Hojaj said, "For God's sake, what manner of prayer is this?"
He answered: "It is a salutary prayer for you, and for the whole sect of
Mussulmans.--O mighty sir, thou oppressor of the feeble, how long can
this violence remain marketable? For what purpose came the sovereignty
to thee? Thy death were preferable to thy tyrannizing over mankind."


An unjust king asked a holy man, saying, "What is more excellent than
prayers?" He answered: "For you to remain asleep till mid-day, that for
this one interval you might not afflict mankind."--I saw a tyrant lying
dormant at noon, and said, "This is mischief, and is best lulled to
sleep. It were better that such a reprobate were dead whose state of
sleep is preferable to his being awake."


I have heard of a king who had turned night into day in the midst of
conviviality, and in the gayety of intoxication was exclaiming--"I never
was in this life happier than at this present moment, for I have no
thought of evil or good, and care for nobody!"--A naked dervish, who had
taken up his rest in the cold outside, answered--"O thou, who in good
fortune hast not thy equal in the world, I admit that thou hast no cause
of care for thyself, but hast thou none for us?"--The king was pleased
at this speech. He put a purse of a thousand dinars out at the window,
and said: "O dervish! hold up your skirt." He replied, "Where can I find
a skirt, who have not a garment." The king was still more touched at the
hardship of his condition, and adding an honorary dress to that
donation, sent them out to him.

The dervish squandered all that ready cash within a few days, and
falling again into distress, returned.--"Money makes no stay in the hand
of a religious independent; neither does patience in a lover's heart,
nor water in a sieve."--At a time when the king had no thought about
him, they obtruded his case, and he took offence and turned away his
face. And it is on such an occasion that men of prudence and experience
have remarked that it behooves us to guard against the wrath and fury of
kings, whose noble thoughts are chiefly occupied with important affairs
of state, and cannot endure the importunate clamors of the vulgar.--The
bounty of the sovereign is forbid to him who does not watch a proper
opportunity. Till thou canst perceive a convenient time for obtruding an
opinion, undermine not thy consequence by idle talk.--The king said,
"Let this impudent beggar and spendthrift be beaten and driven away, who
in a short time dissipated such a sum of money, for the treasury of the
Beat-al-mal, or charity fund, is intended to afford mouthfuls to the
poor, and not bellyfuls to the imps of the devil.--That fool who can
illuminate the day with a camphorated taper must soon feel a want of oil
for his lamp at night."

One of his discreet ministers said: "O king, it were expedient to supply
such people with their means of subsistence by instalments, that they
may not squander their absolute necessaries; but, with respect to what
your majesty commanded as to coercion and prohibition, though it be
correct, a party might impute it to parsimony. Nor does it moreover
accord with the principles of the generous to encourage a man to hope
for kindness and then overwhelm him with heartbreaking distrust:--Thou
must not open upon thyself the door of covetousness; and when opened,
thou must not shut it with harshness.--Nobody will see the thirsty
pilgrims crowding towards the shore of the briny ocean; but men, birds,
and reptiles will flock together wherever they can meet a fresh water


One of the ancient kings was easy with the yeomanry in collecting his
revenue, but hard on the soldiery in his issue of pay; and when a
formidable enemy showed its face, these all turned their
backs.--Whenever the king is remiss in paying his troops, the troops
will relax in handling their arms. What bravery can he display in the
ranks of battle whose hand is destitute of the means of living?

One of those who had excused themselves was in some sort my intimate. I
reproached him and said, "He is base and ungrateful, mean and
disreputable who, on a trifling change of circumstances, can desert his
old master and forget his obligation of many years' employment." He
replied: "Were I to speak out, I swear by generosity you would excuse
me. Peradventure, my horse was without corn, and the housings of his
saddle in pawn.--And the prince who, through parsimony, withholds his
army's pay cannot expect it to enter heartily upon his service."--Give
money to the gallant soldier that he may be zealous in thy cause, for if
he is stinted of his due he will go abroad for service.--_So long as a
warrior is replenished with food he will fight valiantly, and when his
belly is empty he will run away sturdily_.

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