One of the kings of Khorasan saw, in a dream, Sultan Mahmud, the son of Saboktagin, an hundred years after his death, when his body was decayed and fallen into dust, all but his eyes, which as heretofore were moving in their sockets and looking about them. All the learned were at a stand for its interpretation, excepting one dervish, who made his obeisance, and said:—“He is still looking about him, because his kingdom and wealth are possessed by others!—Many are the heroes whom they have buried under ground, of whose existence above it not one vestige is left; and of that old carcase which they committed to the earth, the earth has so consumed it that not one bone is left. Though many ages are gone since Nushirowan was in being, yet in the remembrance of his munificence is his fair renown left. Be generous, O my friend! and avail thyself of life, before they proclaim it as an event that such a person is not left.”
I have heard of a king’s son who was short and mean, and his other brothers were lofty in stature and handsome. On one occasion the king, his father, looked at him with disparagement and scorn. The son, in his sagacity, understood him and said, “O father! a short wise man is preferable to a tall blockhead; it is not everything that is mightier in stature that is superior in value:—a sheep’s flesh is wholesome, that of an elephant carrion.—Of the mountains of this earth Sinai is one of the least, yet is it most mighty before God in state and dignity.—Heardst thou not what an intelligent lean man said one day to a sleek fat dolt? An Arab horse, notwithstanding his slim make, is more prized thus than a herd of asses.”
The father smiled; the pillars of the state, or courtiers, nodded their assent, and the other brothers were mortified to the quick. Till a man has declared his mind, his virtue and vice may have lain hidden; do not conclude that the thicket is unoccupied, peradventure the tiger is gone asleep!
I have heard that about that time a formidable antagonist appeared against the king. Now that an army was levied in each side, the first person that mounted his horse and sallied upon the plain was that son, and he exclaimed: “I cannot be that man whose back thou mayest see on the day of battle, but am him thou mayest descry amidst the thick of it, with my head covered with dust and blood; for he that engages in the contest sports with his own blood, but he who flees from it sports with the blood of an army on the day of fight.” He so spoke, assaulting the enemy’s cavalry, and overthrew some renowned warriors. When he came before the king he kissed the earth of obeisance, and said, “O thou, who didst view my body with scorn, whilst not aware of valor’s rough exterior, it is the lean steed that will prove of service, and not the fatted ox, on the day of battle.”