A sensible youth made vast progress in the arts and sciences, and was of a docile disposition; but however much he frequented the societies of the learned, they never could get him to utter a word. On one occasion his father said: “O my son, why do not you also say what you know on this subject?” He replied: “I am afraid lest they question me upon what I know not, and put me to shame:—Hast thou not heard of a Sufi who was hammering some nails into the sole of his sandal. An officer of cavalry took him by the sleeve, saying, ’Come along, and shoe my horse.’—So long as thou art silent and quiet, nobody will meddle with thy business; but once thou divulgest it, be ready with thy proofs.”
A man, respectable for his learning, got into a discussion with an atheist; but, failing to convince him, he threw down his shield and fled. A person asked him, “With all your wisdom and address, learning and science, how came you not to controvert an infidel?” He replied: “My learning is the Koran, and the traditions and sayings of our holy fathers; but he puts no faith in the articles of our belief, and what good could it do to listen to his blasphemy?” To him whom thou canst not convince by revelation or tradition, the best answer is that thou shalt not answer him.
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They have esteemed Sahban Wabil as unrivalled in eloquence, insomuch that he could speak for a year before an assembly, and would not use the same word twice; or should he chance to repeat it, he would give it a different signification; and this is one of the special accomplishments of a courtier:—Though a speech be captivating and sweet, worthy of belief, and meriting applause, yet what thou hast once delivered thou must not repeat, for if they eat a sweetmeat once they find that enough.
I overheard a sage, who was remarking: “Never has anybody acknowledged his own ignorance, excepting that person who, while another may be talking, and has not finished what he has to say, will begin speaking:—A speech, O wiseacre! has a beginning and an end; bring not one speech into the middle of another. A man of judgment, discretion, and prudence, delivers not his speech till he find an interval of silence.”
Some of the courtiers of Sultan Mahmud asked Husan Maimandi, saying: “What did the king whisper to you to-day on a certain state affair?” He said: “You are also acquainted with it.” They replied: “You are the prime minister; what the king tells you, he does not think proper to communicate to such as we are.” He replied: “He communicates with me in the confidence that I will not divulge to anybody; then why do you ask me?” A man of sense blabs not, whatever he may come to know; he should not make his own head the forfeit of the king’s secret.