Thursday, September 12, 2013

Roses from the Rose Garden...........

The Rose Garden
Written by
Shaikh Muslih al-Din Sa'di
Translated by
Francis Gladwin

"It was the season of spring; the air was temperate, and the rose in
full bloom. The vestment of the trees resembled the festive garments
of the fortunate. It was mid-spring, when the nightingales were
chanting from the pulpits of the branches; the rose decked with pearly
dew, like blushes on the cheek of a chiding mistress. It happened
once, that I was benighted in a garden, in company with one of my
friends. The spot was delightful, the trees intertwined; you would have
said that the earth was bedecked with glass spangles, and that the
knot of the Pleiades was suspended from the branch of the vine. A
garden with a running stream, and trees from whence birds were
warbling melodious strains: that filled with tulips of various hues; these
loaded with fruits of several kinds. Under the shade of its trees the
zephyr had spread the variegated carpet. In the morning, when the
desire to return home overcame our inclination for remaining, I saw in
his lap a collection of roses, odoriferous herbs, and hyacinths, which
he had intended to carry to town. I said," You are not ignorant that the
flower of the garden soon fadeth, and that the enjoyment of the rosebush is but of short continuance; and the sages have declared, that
the heart ought not to be set upon anything that is transitory." He
asked, "What course is then to be pursued?" I replied, "I am able to
form a book of roses, which will delight the beholders, and gratify
those who are present; whose leaves the tyrannic arm of the autumnal
blasts can never affect, nor injure the blossom of its spring. What
benefit will you derive from a basket of flowers? Carry a leaf from my
garden: a rose may continue in bloom for five or six days; but this
rose-garden will flourish forever." As soon as I had uttered these
words, he flung the flowers from his lap, and, laying hold on the skirt of my garment, exclaimed, "When the beneficent promise, they faithfully
discharge their engagement." In the course of a few days, two
chapters (one on the comforts of society, and the other containing
rules for conversation) were written out in my notebook, in a style that
may be useful to orators, and improve the skill of letter-writers. In
short, whilst the rose was yet in bloom, the book entitled the Rose
Garden was finished: but it will be truly perfected on gaining a
favorable reception at court, and when it obtains an indulgent perusal
from that prince who is the asylum of the world, the shadow of the
Most High, the ray of providential beneficence, the treasury of the age,
the refuge of religion, the favorite of Heaven, the mighty arm of the
victorious empire, the lamp of the resplendent religion, the most
splendid of mankind, the aggrandizer of the faith, Sa'd, son of Atabuk
the great; that potent monarch to whom nations bend the neck; lord
paramount of the kings of Arabia and Persia; sovereign of land and
sea; inheritor of the throne of Solomon, Muzaffar al-Din, may God
perpetuate the good fortune of both, and prosper all their righteous

Out of the Pan into the Fire

I had grown weary of the society of my Damascus friends, and
therefore, made my way into Jerusalem desert, where I enjoyed the
companionship of the beasts; until the time came when the Franks
made me their prisoner, and kept me with Jews in a trench in Tripoli
digging clay. One of the leading citizens of Aleppo, with who I had
been formerly acquainted, chancing to pass by, recognized me and
said, "Sirrah, what manner of life is this?" I said, "What can I say?
 I fled from men to mountain and to plain,
 For I had nothing from mankind to gain;
 How is my case? Regard me in this den,
 Where I must sweat with men that are not men.
 Better to hand in chains, when friends are there,
 Than dwell with strangers in a garden fair."
 He had compassion on my condition, and with ten dinars procured
my release from bondage. He took me along with him to Aleppo, and
there made me marry his daughter, adding a dowry of a hundred
dinars. Some time passed. She was a woman always scowling,
disobedient and growling; she began to give me plenty of her shrewish
tongue, and made life wholly miserable for me.
 A bad wife comes with a good man to dwell:
 She soon converts his pleasant world to hell.
 Beware of evil partnership, beware:
 From hellish torment, Lord, thy servant spare!
 Once in a torrent of abuse she said, "Are you not that man whom
my father bought back from the Franks?" I said, "Yes, I am that man
whom your father bought back from the Frankish chains for ten dinars,
and delivered into your bondage for a hundred dinars.
 I heard that a sheep had by a great man been rescued from the
jaws and the power of a wolf; in the evening he stroked her throat with
a knife, whereon the soul of the sheep complained thus: "Thou hast
snatched me away from the claws of a wolf, but at last I see thou art
thyself the real wolf."

On Contentment
 I never lamented about the vicissitude of time or complained of the
turns of fortune, except on the occasion when I was barefooted and
unable to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of
Kufah with a sore heart, and beheld a man without feet, I offered
thanks to the bounty of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes,
and recited: "A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated man less valuable
than a blade of grass on the table; and to him who has no means nor
power a burnt turnip is [as good as] a roasted fowl."

The Last Sleight
Translated by
Reuben Levy

A person had arrived at the head of his profession in the art of
wrestling: he knew three hundred and sixty capital sleights in this art,
and every day exhibited something new; but having a sincere regard
for a beautiful youth, one of his scholars, he taught him three hundred
and fifty nine sleights, reserving, however, one sleight to himself. The
youth excelled so much in skill and in strength that no one was able to
cope with him. He at length boasted, before the Sultan, that the
superiority which he allowed his master to maintain over him was out
of respect to his years and the consideration of having been his
instructor; for otherwise he was not inferior in strength, and was his
equal in point of skill. The king did not approve of this disrespectful
conduct, and commanded that there should be a trial of skill.
 An extensive spot was appointed for the occasion. The ministers of
state and other grandees of the court were in attendance. The youth,
like a lustful elephant, entered with a percussion that would have
removed from its base a mountain of iron. The master, being sensible
that the youth was his superior in strength, attacked with the sleight
which he had kept to himself. The youth not being able to repel it, the
master with both hands lifted him from the ground, and raising him
over his head, flung him on the earth. The multitude shouted; the king
commanded that a dress and a reward in money should be bestowed
on the master, and reproved and derided the youth for having
presumed to put himself in competition with his benefactor, and for
having failed the attempt. He said, "O King, my master did not gain the
victory over me through strength or skill; but there remained a small
part in the art of wrestling which he had withheld from me, and by that
small feint he got the better of me." The master observed: "I reserved it
for such an occasion as the present; the sages having said, 'Put not
yourself so much in the power of your friend that if he should be
disposed to be inimical he may be able to effect his purpose.' Have
you not heard what was said by a person who had suffered injury from
one whom he had educated? 'Either there never was any gratitude in
the world, or else no one at this time practices it. I never taught anyone
the art of archery who in the end did not make a butt of me.'"

The Greedy Merchant
Translated by
Reuben Levy

I saw a merchant who possessed one hundred and fifty camels
laden with merchandise, and forty slaves. One night, in the island of
Kish, he entertained me in his own apartment, and during the whole
night did not cease talking in rambling fashion, saying: "I have such
and such a partner in Turkistan, and such goods in Hindustan; these
are the title-deeds of such and such a piece of ground, and, for this
matter such a one is security." Sometimes he would say: "I have an
inclination to go to Alexandria, the air of which is very pleasant." Then
again: "No, I will not go, because the Mediterranean sea is boisterous.
O Sa'di, I have another journey in contemplation, and after I have
performed that I will pass the remaining of my life in retirement, and
leave off trading." I asked what journey it was. He replied: "I want to
carry Persian brimstone to China, where I have heard it bears a very
high price; from thence I will transport China ware to Greece, and take
the brocades of Greece to India, and Indian steel to Aleppo. The
glassware of Aleppo I will convey to Yemen, and from thence go with
striped cloths to Persia; after which I will leave off trade and sit down in
my shop." He spoke so much of this foolishness that at length, being
quite exhausted, he said: "O Sa'di, relate also of what you have seen
and heard." I replied, "Have you not heard that once upon a time a
merchant, as he was travelling in the desert, fell from his camel? He
said that the covetous eye of the worldly man is either satisfied
through contentment or will be filled with the earth of the grave."


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