Gulistan of Saadi
The Manners of Kings
I have heard that a royal prince of short stature and mean presence, whose brothers were tall and
good-looking, once saw his father glancing on him with aversion and contempt but he had the
shrewdness and penetration to guess the meaning and said: ‘O father, a puny intelligent fellow is better
than a tall ignorant man, neither is everything bigger in stature higher in price. A sheep is nice to eat
and an elephant is carrion.’
The smallest mountain on earth is Jur; nevertheless
It is great with Allah in dignity and station.
Hast thou not heard that a lean scholar
One day said to a fat fool:
‘Although an Arab horse may be weak
It is thus more worth than a stable full of asses.’
The father laughed at this sally, the pillars of the state approved of it, but the brothers felt much
While a man says not a word
His fault and virtue are concealed.
Think not that every desert is empty.
Possibly it may contain a sleeping tiger.
I heard that on the said occasion the king was menaced by a powerful enemy and that when the two
armies were about to encounter each other, the first who entered the battlefield was the little fellow
‘I am not he whose back thou wilt see on the day of battle
But he whom thou shalt behold in dust and blood.
Who himself fights, stakes his own life
In battle but he who flees, the blood of his army.’
After uttering these words he rushed among the troops of the enemy, slew several warriors and,
returning to his father, made humble obeisance and said:
‘O thou, to whom my person appeared contemptible,
Didst not believe in the impetuosity of my valour.
A horse with slender girth is of use
On the day of battle, not a fattened ox.’
It is related that the troops of the enemy were numerous, and that the king’s, being few, were about to
flee, but that the puny youth raised a shout, saying: ‘O men, take care not to put on the garments of
women.’ These words augmented the rage of the troopers so that they made a unanimous attack and I
heard that they gained the victory on the said occasion. The king kissed the head and eyes of his son,
took him in his arms and daily augmented his affection till he appointed him to succeed him on the
throne. His brothers became envious and placed poison in his food but were perceived by his sister
from her apartment, whereon she closed the window violently and the youth, shrewdly guessing the
significance of the act, restrained his hands from touching the food, and said: ‘It is impossible that
men of honour should die, and those who possess none should take their place.’
No one goes under the shadow of an owl
Even if the homa should disappear from the world.
This state of affairs having been brought to the notice of the father, he severely reproved the brothers
and assigned to each of them a different, but pleasant, district as a place of exile till the confusion was
quelled and the quarrel appeased; and it has been said that ten dervishes may sleep under the same
blanket but that one country cannot hold two padshahs.
When a pious man eats half a loaf of bread
He bestows the other half upon dervishes.
If a padshah were to conquer the seven climates
He would still in the same way covet another.