The Gulestan
By Sa'di Shirazi

The Cause for Composing the Gulestan

I was one night meditating on the time which had elapsed, repenting of the life I had squandered and perforating the stony mansion of my heart with adamantine tears. I uttered the following verses in conformity with the state of mind:

Every moment a breath of life is spent,
If I consider, not much of it remains.
O thou, whose fifty years have elapsed in sleep,
Wilt thou perhaps overtake them in these five days?
Shame on him who has gone and done no work.
< The drum of departure was beaten but he has not made his load.

Sweet sleep on the morning of departure
Retains the pedestrian from the road.
Whoever had come had built a new edifice,
He departed and left the place to another
And that other one concocted the same futile schemes
And this edifice was not completed by anyone.
Cherish not an inconstant friend.
Such a traitor is not fit for amity.
As all the good and bad must surely die,
He is happy who carries off the ball of virtue.
Send provision for thy journey to thy tomb.
Nobody will bring it after thee; send it before.
Life is snow, the sun is melting hot.
Little remains, but the gentleman is slothful still.
O thou who hast gone empty handed to the bazar,
I fear thou wilt not bring a towel filled.
Who eats the corn he has sown while it is yet green,
Must at harvest time glean the ears of it.
Listen with all thy heart to the advice of Sa'di.
Such is the way; be a man and travel on.

The capital of man's life is his abdomen.
If it be gradually emptied there is no fear
But if it be so closed as not to open
The heart may well despair of life;
And if it be open so that it cannot be closed,
Go and wash thy hands of this world's life.
Four contending rebellious dispositions
Harmonize but five days with each other.
If one of these four becomes prevalent,
Sweet life must abandon the body
Wherefore an intelligent and perfect man
Sets not his heart upon this world's life.

After maturely considering these sentiments, I thought proper to sit down in the mansion of retirement to fold up the skirts of association, to wash my tablets of heedless sayings and no more to indulge in senseless prattle:

To sit in a corner, like one with a cut tongue, deaf and dumb,
Is better than a man who has no command over his tongue.

I continued in this resolution till a friend, who had been my companion in the camel-litter of misery and my comrade in the closet of affection, entered at the door, according to his old custom with playful gladness, and spread out the surface of desire; but I would give him no reply nor lift up my head from the knees of worship. He looked at me aggrieved and said:

'Now, while thou hast the power of utterance,
Speak, O brother, with grace and kindness
Because tomorrow, when the messenger of death arrives,
Thou wilt of necessity restrain thy tongue.'

One of my connections informed him how matters stood and told him that I had firmly determined and was intent upon spending the rest of my life in continual devotion and silence, advising him at the same time, in case he should be able, to follow my example and to keep me company. He replied: 'I swear by the great dignity of Allah and by our old friendship that I shall not draw breath, nor budge one step, unless he converses with me as formerly, and in his usual way; because it is foolish to insult friends and easy to expiate an oath. It is against propriety, and contrary to the opinions of wise men that the Zulfiqar of A'li should remain in the scabbard and the tongue of Sa'di in his palate.'

O intelligent man what is the tongue in the mouth?
It is the key to the treasure-door of a virtuous man.
When the door is closed how can one know
Whether he is a seller of jewels or a hawker?

Although intelligent men consider silence civil,
It is better for thee to speak at the proper time.
Two things betoken levity of intellect: to remain mute
When it is proper to speak and to talk when silence is required.

In short, I had not the firmness to restrain my tongue from speaking to him, and did not consider it polite to turn away my face from his conversation, he being a congenial friend and sincerely affectionate.

When thou fightest with anyone, consider
Whether thou wilt have to flee from him or he from thee.

I was under the necessity of speaking and then went out by way of diversion in the vernal season, when the traces of severe cold had disappeared and the time of the dominion of roses had arrived:

Green garments were upon the trees
Like holiday robes on contented persons.
On the first of the month Ardibihesht Jellali
The bulbuls were singing on the pulpits of branches.
Upon the roses pearls of dew had fallen,
Resembling perspiration on an angry sweetheart's cheek.

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 Gulestan, 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.

Of what use will be a dish of roses to thee?
Take a leaf from my rose-garden.
A flower endures but five or six days
But this rose-garden is always delightful.

After I had uttered these words he threw away the flowers from his skirts, and attached himself to mine, saying: 'When a generous fellow makes a promise he keeps it.'

On the same day I happened to write two chapters, namely on polite society and the rules of conversation, in a style acceptable to orators and instructive to letter-writers. In short, some roses of the garden still remained when the book of the Rose Garden was finished but it will in reality be completed only after approbation in the court of the Shah, who is the refuge of the world, the shadow of God, the ray of his grace, the treasury of the age, the asylum of the Faith, strengthened by heaven, aided against enemies, the arm of the victorious government, the lamp of the resplendent religion, the beauty of mankind, the boast of Islam, Sa'd son of Atabek the great, the majestic Shahanshah, owner of the necks of nations, lord of the kings of Arabia and Persia, the sultan of the land and the sea, the heir of the kingdom of Solomon, Muzaffaruddin Ibu Bekr, son of Sa'd Zangi, may Allah the most high perpetuate the prosperity of them both and direct their inclinations to every good thing.

Perused with a kind glance,
Adorned with approbation by the sovereign,
It will be a Chinese picture-gallery or design of the Arzang,
Hopes are entertained that he will not be wearied
By these contents because a Rose-garden is not a place of displeasure.

The more so as its august preface is dedicated
To Sa'd Abu Bekr Sa'd the son of Zangi.


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