Saadi Shirazi

(1814-1291 / Iran)

Ch 01 Manner Of Kings Story 03


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 concealed.
Think not that every desert is empty.
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 king's, 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.'

No one goes under the shadow of an owl
Even if the homa should disappear from the world.

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 upon dervishes.
If a padshah were to conquer the seven climates
He would still in the same way covet another.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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