To compassionate the wicked is to tyrannize over the good; and to pardon the oppressor is to deal harshly with the oppressed:—When thou patronizest and succorest the base-born man, he looks to be made the partner of thy fortune.
No reliance can be placed on the friendship of kings, nor vain hope put in the melodious voice of boys; for that passes away like a vision, and this vanishes like a dream:—Bestow not thy affections upon a mistress who has a thousand lovers; or, if thou bestowest them upon her, be prepared for a separation.
Reveal not every secret you have to a friend, for how can you tell but that friend may hereafter become an enemy? And bring not all the mischief you are able to do upon an enemy, for he may one day become your friend. And any private affair that you wish to keep secret, do not divulge to anybody; for, though such a person has your confidence, none can be so true to your secret as yourself:—Silence is safer than to communicate the thought of thy mind to anybody, and to warn him, saying: Do not divulge it, O silly man! confine the water at the dam-head, for once it has a vent thou canst not stop it. Thou shouldst not utter a word in secret which thou wouldst not have spoken in the face of the public.
A reduced foe, who offers his submission and courts your amity, can only have in view to become a strong enemy, as they have said: “You cannot trust the sincerity of friends, then what are you to expect from the cajoling of foes?” Whoever despises a weak enemy resembles him who neglects a spark of fire:—To-day that thou canst quench it, put it out; for let fire rise into a flame, and it may consume a whole world. Now that thou canst transfix him with thy arrow, permit not thy antagonist to string his bow.
Whoever is making a league with their enemies has it in his mind to do his friends an ill turn:—“O wise man! wash thy hands of that friend who is in confederacy with thy foes.”
When irresolute in the despatch of business, incline to that side which is the least offensive:—Answer not with harshness a mild-spoken man, nor force him into war who knocks at the gate of peace.
So long as money can answer, it were wrong in any business to put the life in danger:—as the Arabs say:—“let the sword decide after stratagem has failed":—When the hand is balked in every crafty endeavor, it is lawful to lay it upon the hilt of the sabre.