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The Bustan of Sadi, tr. by A. Hart Edwards, [1911], at

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Concerning Justice, Counsel, and the Administration of Government

The goodness of God surpasseth imagination; what service can the tongue of praise perform?

Keep, O God, this king,5 Abu Bakr, beneath whose shadow is the protection of the people, long established upon his throne, and make his heart to live in obedience to Thee. Render fruitful his tree of hope; prolong his youth, and adorn his face with mercy.

O King! deck not thyself in royal garments when thou comest to worship: make thy supplications like a darwesh, saying: "O God! powerful and strong Thou art. I am no monarch, but a beggar in Thy court. Unless Thy help sustain me, what can issue from my hand? Succour me, and give me the means of virtue, or else how can I benefit my people?"

If thou rule by day, pray fervently by night. The great among thy servants wait upon

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thee at thy door; thus shouldest thou serve, with thy head in worship upon God's threshold.


Thus, when at the point of death, did Nushiravan counsel his son Hurmuz:

"Cherish the poor, and seek not thine own comfort. The shepherd should not sleep while the wolf is among the sheep. Protect the needy, for a king wears his crown for the sake of his subjects. The people are as the root and the king is as the tree; and the tree, O son,. gains strength from the root. He should not oppress the people who has fear of injury to his kingdom. Seek not plenteousness in that land where the people are afflicted by the king. Fear them that are proud and them that fear not God."


The king who deals harshly with merchants who come from afar closes the door of well-being upon the whole of his subjects. When do the wise return to the land of which they hear rumours of bad custom?

If thou desire a good name, hold merchants and travellers in high esteem, for they carry

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thy reputation through the world. Be cautious also lest, being enemies in the guise of friends, they seek thy injury.

Advance the dignities of old friends, for treachery comes not from them that are cherished.

When thy servant becomes stricken in years, be not unmindful of thy obligations towards him. If old age binds his hand from service, the hand of generosity yet remains to thee.


There once landed at a seaport of Arabia a man who had widely travelled and was versed in many sciences. He presented himself at the palace of the king, who was so captivated by his wisdom and knowledge that he appointed the traveller to the vaziership.

With such skill did he perform the duties of that office that he offended none, and brought the kingdom completely beneath his sway. He closed the mouths of slanderers, because nothing evil issued from his hand; and the envious, who could detect no fault in him,

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bemoaned their lack of opportunity to do him injury.

At the court, however, there were two beautiful young slaves towards whom the vazier displayed no small measure of affection. (If thou wouldst that thy rank endure, incline not thy heart towards the fair; and though thy love be innocent, have care, for there is fear of loss.)

The former vazier, who had been dismissed to make room for the newcomer, maliciously carried the story to the king.

"I know not," he said, "who this new minister may be, but he lives not chastely in this land. I have heard that he intrigues with two of thy slaves—he is a perfidious man, and lustful. It is not right that one such as he should bring ill-fame upon the court. I am not so unmindful of the favours that I have received at thy hands that I should see these things and remain silent."

Angered by what lie heard, the king stealthily watched the new vazier, and when, later, he observed the latter glance towards one of the slaves, who returned a covert smile, his suspicions of evil became at once confirmed.

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Summoning the minister to his side, he said: I did not know thee to be shameless and unworthy. Such lofty station is not thy proper place. But the fault is mine. If I cherish one who is of evil nature, assuredly do I sanction disloyalty in my house."

"Since my skirt is free from guilt," the vazier replied, "I fear not the malignity of the evil-wisher. I know not who has accused me of what I have not done."

"This was told me by the old vazier," explained the king.

The vazier smiled and said, "Whatever he said is no cause for wonder. What would the envious man say when he saw me in his former place? Him I knew to be my enemy that day when Khasrav 7 appointed him to lower rank than me. Never till Doomsday will he accept me as a friend when in my promotion he sees his own decline. If thou wilt give ear to thy slave I will narrate a story that is apropos.

"In a dream some one saw the Prince of Evil, whose figure was as erect as a fir-tree, and whose face was as fair as the sun. Regarding

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him, the sleeper said: 'O splendid being! Mankind knows not of thy beauty. Fearful of countenance do they imagine thee, and hideous have they depicted thee on the walls of the public baths. The Prince of Evil smiled: Such is not my figure, he replied; 'but the pencil was in the hand of an enemy! The root of their stock did I throw out of Paradise; now in malice do they paint me ugly.'

"In the same way," continued the vazier, "although my fame is good, the envious speak ill of me. Those who are guiltless are brave in speech; only he who gives false weight has fear of the inspector."

"Forsooth," the king exclaimed, his anger rising, "I heard this not only from thine enemy. Have I not seen with my own eyes that among the assemblage of this court thou regardest none but those two slaves?"

"That is true," the vazier said, "but I will explain this matter if thou wilt listen. Dost thou not know that the beggar eyes the rich with envy? Once, like those slaves, did I possess both grace and beauty. Two rows of teeth were set behind my lips, erect like a wall

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of ivory 8 bricks. One by one, like ancient bridges, have they fallen—regard me now as here I stand! Why may I not glance with envy at those slaves when they recall to me the past?

When the wise man had pierced this pearl of lustrous truth, the king exclaimed: "Better than this it would be impossible to speak. Permissible it is to look toward the fair in one who can thus excuse himself. Had I not in wisdom acted with deliberation, I should have wronged him through the speech of an enemy."

To carry the hand quickly to the sword in anger is to carry the back of the hand to the teeth in regret. Heed not the words of the envious; if thou attest upon them, remorseful wilt thou be.

Admonishing the slanderer for his evil words, the king further increased the dignity of the vazier, who directed the affairs of the State for many years with justice and benevolence, and was long remembered for his virtues.

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A certain just king habitually wore a coat of coarse material. Some one said to him: "O happy king! Make for thyself a coat of Chinese brocade."

"That which I wear," the king replied, "affords both covering and comfort; anything beyond that is luxury. I collect not tribute that I may adorn my person and my throne. If, like a woman, I ornament my body, how, like a man, can I repulse the enemy? The royal treasuries are not for me alone—they are filled for the sake of the army, not for the purchase of ornaments and jewellery."


Darius, king of Persia, became separated from his retinue while hunting. A herdsman came running towards him, and the king assuming the man to be an enemy, adjusted his bow. Thereupon the herdsman cried: "I am no enemy; seek not to kill me. I am he who tends the king's horses, and in this meadow am thus engaged."

Becoming again composed, the king smiled and said: "Heaven has befriended thee;

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otherwise would I have drawn the bowstring to my ear."

"It showeth neither wise administration nor good judgment," replied the herdsman, "when the king knows not an enemy from a friend. Those who are greatest should know those who are least. Many times hast thou seen me in thy presence, and asked of me concerning the horses and the grazing-fields. Now that I come again before thee thou takest me for an enemy. More skilled am I, O king, for I can distinguish one horse out of a hundred thousand. Tend thou thy people as I, with sense and judgment tend my horses."

Ruin brings sorrow to that kingdom where the wisdom of the shepherd exceeds that of the king.


The story is told of Abdul Aziz that he had a pearl of great beauty and value set in a ring. Shortly after, a severe drought occurred, causing distress among the people. Moved by compassion, the king ordered the pearl to be sold and the money that it fetched to be given to the poor.

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Some one chided him for doing this, saying: "Never again will such a stone come into thy hands."

Weeping, the king replied: "Ugly is an ornament upon the person of a king when the hearts of his people are distressed by want. Better for me is a stoneless ring than a sorrowing people."

Happy is he who sets the ease of others above his own. The virtuous desire not their own pleasure at the expense of others. When the king sleeps neglectfully upon his couch, I trow not that the beggar finds enviable repose.


Tukla, king of Persia, once visited a devotee and said: "Fruitless have been my years. None but the beggar carries riches from the world when earthly dignities are passed. Hence, would I now sit in the corner of devotion that I might usefully employ the few short days that yet remain to me."

The devotee was angered at these words.

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"Enough!" he cried. "Religion consists alone in the service of the people; it finds no place in the rosary, or prayer-rug, or tattered garment. Be a king in sovereignty and a devotee in purity of morals. Action, not words, is demanded by religion, for words without action are void of substance."


Say not that no dignity excels that of sovereignty, for no kingdom is more free from care than that of the darwesh.

They that are the most lightly burdened reach the destination first.

The poor man is afflicted by lack of bread; the king by the cares of his kingdom.

Though one may rule and another may serve, though the one be exalted to the height of Saturn and the other languish in a prison, when death has claimed them it will not be possible to distinguish between the two.


Qazal Arsalan possessed a fort, which raised its head to the height of Alwand. 11 Secure

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from all were those within its walls, for its roads were a labyrinth, like the curls of a bride.

From a learned traveller Qazal once inquired: "Didst thou ever, in thy wanderings, see a fort as strong as this?"

"Splendid it is," was the reply, "but methinks not it confers much strength. Before thee, did not other kings possess it for a while, then pass away? After thee, will not other kings assume control, and eat the fruits of the tree of thy hope?"

In the estimation of the wise, the world is a false gem that passes each moment from one hand to another.


Such famine was there once in Damascus that lovers forgot their love. So miserly was the sky towards the earth that the sown fields and the date-trees moistened not their lips. Fountains dried up, and no water remained but the tears in the eyes of the orphans. If smoke issued from a chimney, nought was it but the sighs of the widows. Like beggars, the trees stood leafless, and the mountains lost their

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verdure. The locusts devoured the gardens, and men devoured the locusts.

At that time came to me a friend on whose bones skin alone remained. I was astonished, since he was of lofty rank and rich. "O friend!" said I, "what misfortune has befallen thee?"

"Where is thy sense?" he answered. "Seest thou not that the severities of famine have reached their limit? Rain comes not from the sky, neither do the lamentations of the suffering reach to heaven."

"Thou, at least," I urged, "hast nought to fear; poison kills only where there is no antidote."

Regarding me with indignation, as a learned man regards a fool, my friend replied: "Although a man be safely on the shore, he stands not supine while his friends are drowning. My face is not pale through want; the sorrows of the poor have wounded my heart. Although, praise be to Allah, I am free from wounds, I tremble when I see the wounds of others."

Bitter are the pleasures of him who is in health when a sick man is at his side. When

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the beggar has not eaten, poisonous and baneful is one's food.


A bully fell down a well and passed the night in wailing and lamenting. Some one threw a stone down on to his head, and said: "Didst thou ever go to any one's assistance that thou shouldst to-day cry out for help? Didst thou ever sow the seeds of virtue? Who would place a salve upon thy wounds when the hearts of all cry out by reason of thy tyrannies? Across our path thou didst dig a pit, into which, perforce, hast thou now fallen."

If thou do evil expect not goodness; never does the withered grape-vine bring forth fruit;

O thou who soweth the seed in autumn! I think not that thou wilt reap the corn at harvest-time.

If thou nourish the thorn-tree of the desert, think not that thou wilt ever eat its fruit.

Green dates come not from the poisonous colocynth; when thou sowest seed, hope only for the fruit of that very seed.

Next: Chapter II. Concerning Benevolence