Gulistan of Saadi
On Weakness and Old Age
I was holding a disputation with a company of learned men in the cathedral mosque of Damascus
when a youth stepped among us, asking whether anyone knew Persian, whereon most of them pointed
to me. I asked him what the matter was and he said that an old man, aged one hundred and fifty years,
was in the agony of death but saying something in Persian which nobody could understand and that if
I were kindly to go and see him I might obtain the information whether he was perhaps desirous of
making his last will. When I approached his pillow, he said:
‘A while ago I said I shall take some rest
But alas, the way of my breath is choked.
Alas, that from the variegated banquet of life
We were eating a while and told it is enough.’
I interpreted these words in the Arabic language to the Damascenes and they were astonished that
despite of his long life he regretted the termination of it so much. I asked him how he felt and he
replied: ‘What shall I say?’
Hast thou not seen what misery he feels,
The teeth of whose mouth are being extracted?
Consider what his state will be at the hour
When life, so precious to him, abandons his body.
I told him not to worry his imagination with the idea of death and not to allow a hallucination to
obtain dominion over his nature because Ionian philosophers have said that although the constitution
may be good no reliance is to be placed on its permanence and although a malady may be perilous it
does not imply a full indication of death. I asked: ‘If thou art willing, I shall call a physician to treat
thee?’ He lifted his eyes and said, smiling:
‘The skilled doctor strikes his hands together
On beholding a rival prostrate like a potsherd.
A gentleman is engaged in adorning his hall with paintings
Whilst the very foundation of the house is ruined.
An aged man was lamenting in his last agony
Whilst his old spouse was rubbing him with sandal.
When the equilibrium of the constitution is destroyed
Neither incantations nor medicines are of any avail.’