Above all, we find in Sa’di the science of life, as comprising morality and religion, set forth in a most suggestive and a most attractive form. In some way or other the “Rose Garden” may remind us of the “Essays” of Bacon, which were published in their complete form the year before the great English philosopher died. Both works cover a large area of thought and experience; but the Englishman is clear, cold, and sometimes cynical, while the Persian is more spiritual, though not less acute, and has the fervor of the poet which Bacon lacks, and the religious devotion which the “Essays” altogether miss. The “Rose Garden” has maxims which are not unworthy of being cherished amid the highest Christian civilization, while the serenity of mind, the poetic fire, the transparent sincerity of Sa’di, make his writings one of those books which men may safely take as the guide and inspirer of their inmost life. Sa’di died at Shiraz about the year 1292 at the reputed age of one hundred and ten.
Of the Customs of Kings
I have heard of a king who made the sign to put a captive to death. The poor wretch, in that state of desperation, began to abuse the king in the dialect which he spoke, and to revile him with asperity, as has been said; whoever shall wash his hands of life will utter whatever he may harbor in his heart:—“When a man is desperate he will give a latitude to his tongue, like as a cat at bay will fly at a dog”—“at the moment of compulsion when it is impossible to fly, the hand will grasp the sharp edge of a sword.” The king asked, saying, “What does he say?” One of the Vizirs (or nobles in attendance), and a well-disposed man, made answer, “O my lord! he is expressing himself and saying, (paradise is for such) as are restraining their anger and forgiving their fellow-creatures; and God will befriend the benevolent.” The king felt compassion for him, and desisted from shedding his blood. Another nobleman, and the rival of that former, said, “It is indecorous for such peers, as we are, to use any language but that of truth in the presence of kings; this man abused his majesty, and spoke what was unworthy of him.” The king turned away indignant at this remark, and replied, “I was better pleased with his falsehood than with this truth that you have told; for that bore the face of good policy, and this was founded in malignity; and the intelligent have said, ’A peace-mingling falsehood is preferable to a mischief-stirring truth’:—Whatever prince may do that which he (his counsellor) will recommend, it must be a subject of regret if he shall advise aught but good.”
They had written over the portico of King Feridun’s palace:—“This world, O brother! abides with none. Set thy heart upon its maker, and let him suffice thee. Rest not thy pillow and support on a worldly domain which has fostered and slain many such as thou art. Since the precious soul must resolve on going, what matters it whether it departs from a throne or the ground.”