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The Gulistan of Sa'di


Sa'di Shirazi

“ I happened to spend the night in a garden with one of my friends and we found it to be a pleasant cheerful place with heart-ravishing entangled trees; its ground seemed to be paved with small glass beads whilst, from its vines, bunches like the Pleiads were suspended. 

A garden the water of whose river was limpid
A grove the melody of whose birds was harmonious.
The former full of bright-coloured tulips,
The latter full of fruits of various kinds;
The wind had in the shade of its trees
Spread out a bed of all kinds of flowers

The next morning when the intention of returning had prevailed over the opinion of tarrying, I saw that my friend had in his skirt collected roses, sweet basil, hyacinths and fragrant herbs with the determination to carry them to town; whereon I said: ‘Thou knowest that the roses of the garden are perishable and the season passes away’, and philosophers have said: ‘Whatever is not of long duration is not to be cherished.’ He asked: ‘Then what is to be done?’ I replied: ‘ I may compose for the amusement of those who look and for the instruction of those who are present a book of a Rose Garden, a Gulistan, whose leaves cannot be touched by the tyranny of autumnal blasts and the delight of whose spring the vicissitudes of time will be unable to change into the inconstancy of autumn…”


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:

            Who washes his hands of life
            Says whatever he has in his heart.

When a man is in despair his tongue becomes long and he is like a vanquished cat assailing a dog.

            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 vizier 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 vizier, the antagonist of the former said: ‘Men of our rank ought to speak nothing but the truth in the presence of padsahas. 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 that a truth producing trouble.”’

             He whom the shah follows is what he says,
             It is a pity if he speaks anything but what is good.

 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 to depart,
           What boots it if one dies on a throne or on the ground?


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