Ch 01 Manner of Kings Story 23-24
Persian Language & Literature
Saadi Shirazi, Sheikh Mosleh al-Din
CHAPTER I – THE MANNERS OF KINGS
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:
“Whatever befalls my head is lawful with thy approbation.
What plea can the slave advance? The sentence is the master’s.”
“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 fellow’s 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 king’s 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 servant’s 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:
He who bestows every moment favours upon thee
Is to be pardoned by thee if once in his life he injures thee.”
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 not
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.
Translated by Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890)