It is related that an athlete had been reduced to the greatest distress
by adverse fortune. His throat being capacious and his hands unable to
fill it, he complained to his father and asked him for permission to
travel as he hoped to be hoped to be able to gain a livelihood by the
strength of his arm.
Excellence and skill are lost unless exhibited
Lignum aloes is placed on fire and musk rubbed
The father replied: ‘My son, get rid of this vain idea and place the
feet of contentment under the skirt of safety because great men have
said that happiness does not consist in exertion and that the remedy
against want is in the moderation of desires.
No one can grasp the skirt of luck by force.
It is useless to put vasmah on a bald man’s brow.
If thou hast two hundred accomplishments for each hair of thy head
They will be of no use if fortune is unpropitious.
What can an athlete do with adverse luck?
The arm of luck is better than the arm of strength.
The son rejoined: ‘Father, the advantages of travel are many, such as
recreation of the mind entailing
profit, seeing of wonderful and hearing of strange things, recreation
in cities, associating with friends, acquisition of dignity, rank,
property, the power of discriminating among acquaintances and gaining
experience of the world, as the travellers in the Tariqat have said:
As long as thou walkest about the shop or the house
Thou wilt never become a man, raw fellow
Go and travel in the world
Before that day when thou goest from the world.
The father replied: ‘My son, the advantages of travel such as thou hast
enumerated them are countless but they regard especially five classes
of men: firstly, a merchant who possesses in consequence of his wealth
and power graceful male and female slaves and quickhanded assistants,
alights every day in another town and every night in another place, has
recreation every moment and sometimes enjoys the delights of the world.’
A rich man is not a stranger in mountain, desert or solitude.
Wherever he goes he pitches a tent and makes a sleeping place;
Whilst he who is destitute of the goods of this world
Must be in his own country a stranger and unknown.
Secondly, a scholar, who is for the pleasantness of his speech, the
power of his eloquence and the fund of his instruction, waited upon and
honoured wherever he goes.
The presence of a learned man is like pure gold
Whose power and price is known wherever he goes.
An ignorant fellow of noble descent resembles Shahrua,
Which nobody accepts in a foreign country.
Thirdly, handsome fellows with whom the souls of pious men are inclined
to commingle because it has been said that a little beauty is better
than much wealth. An attractive face is also said to be a slave to
despondent hearts and the key to locked doors, wherefore the society of
such a person is everywhere known to be very acceptable:
A beautiful person meets with honour and respect everywhere
Although perhaps driven away in anger by father and mother.
I have seen a peacock feather in the leaves of the Quran.
I said: ‘I see thy position is higher than thy deserts.’
It said: ‘Hush, whoever is endowed with beauty,
Wherever he places his foot, hands are held out to receive it.’
When a boy is symmetrical and heart-robbing
It matters not if his father disowns him.
He is a jewel which must not remain in a shell.
A precious pearl everyone desires to buy.
Fourthly, one with a sweet voice, who retains, with a David-like
throat, water from flowing and birds from soaring. By means of this
talent he holds the hearts of people captive and religious men are
delighted to associate with him.
My audition is intent on the beautiful melody.
Who is that performing on the double chord?
How pleasant is the gentle and melancholy lay
To the ear of the boon companions who quaff the morning draught!
Better than a handsome face is a pleasant voice.
The former is joy to the senses, the latter food for the soul.
Fifthly, the artisan, who gains a sufficient livelihood by the strength
of his arm, so that his reputation is not lost in struggling for bread;
as wise men have said:
If he goes abroad from his own town
The patcher of clothes meets with no bardship or trouble
But if the government falls into ruin
The king of Nimruz will go to bed hungry.
The qualities which I have explained, O my son, are in a journey the
occasion of satisfaction to the mind, stimulants to a happy life but
he, who possesses none of them, goes with idle fancies into the world
and no one will ever hear anything about his name and fame.
He whom the turning world is to afflict
Will be guided by the times against his aim.
A pigeon destined not to see its nest again
Will be carried by fate towards the grain and net.
The son asked: ‘O father, how can I act contrary to the injunctions of
the wise, who have said, that although food is distributed by
predestination the acquisition of it depends upon exertion and that,
although a calamity may be decreed by fate, it is incumbent on men to
show the gates by which it may enter?
‘Although daily food may come unawares
It is reasonable to seek it out of doors
And though no one dies without the decree of fate
Thou must not rush into the jaws of a dragon.
‘As I am at present able to cope with a mad elephant and to wrestle
with a furious lion, it is proper, O father, that I should travel
abroad because I have no longer the endurance to suffer misery.
‘When a man has fallen from his place and station
Why should he eat more grief? All the horizons are his place.
At night every rich man goes to an inn.
The dervish has his inn where the night overtakes him.’
After saying this, he asked for the good wishes of his father, took
leave of him, departed and said to himself:
‘A skilful man, when his luck does not favour him,
Goes to a place where people know not his name.’
He reached the banks of a water, the force of which was such that it
knocked stones against each other and its roaring was heard to a
A dreadful water, in which even aquatic birds were not safe,
The smallest wave would whirl off a millstone from its bank.
He beheld a crowd of people, every person sitting with a coin of money
at the crossing-place, intent on a passage. The youth’s hands of
payment being tied, he opened the tongue of laudation and although he
supplicated the people greatly, they paid no attention and said: ‘No
violence can be done to anyone without money But if thou hast money
thou hast no need of force.’ An unkind boatman laughed at him and said:
‘If thou hast no money thou canst not cross the river
What boots the strength of ten men? Bring the money
The young man’s heart was irritated by the insult of the boatman and
longed to take vengeance upon him. The boat had, however, started;
accordingly he shouted: ‘If thou wilt be satisfied with the robe I am
wearing, I shall not grudge giving it to thee.’ The boatman was greedy
and turned the vessel back.
Desire sews up the vision of a shrewd man.
Greediness brings fowl and fish into the snare.
As soon as the young man’s hand could reach the beard and collar of the
boatman, he immediately knocked him down and a comrade of the boatman,
who came from the vessel to rescue him, experienced the same rough
treatment and turned back. The rest of the people then thought proper
to pacify the young man and to condone his passage money.
When thou seest a quarrel be forbearing
Because gentlemen will shut the door of strife.
Use kindness when thou seest contention.
A sharp sword cannot cut soft silk.
By a sweet tongue, grace, and kindliness,
Thou wilt be able to lead an elephant by a hair.
Then the people fell at his feet, craving pardon for what had passed.
They impressed some hypocritical kisses upon his head and his eyes,
received him into the boat and started, progressing till they reached a
pillar of Yunani workmanship, standing in the water. The boatman said:
‘The vessel is in danger. Let one of you, who is the strongest, go to
the pillar and take the cable
of the boat that we may save the vessel.’ The young man, in the pride
of bravery which he had in his head, did not think of the offended foe
and did not mind the maxim of wise men who have said: ‘If thou hast
given offence to one man and afterwards done him a hundred kindnesses,
do not be confident that he will not avenge himself for that one
offence, because although
the head of a spear may come out, the memory of an offence will remain
in the heart.' ‘How well,’ said Yaktash to Khiltash,
‘Hast thou scratched a foe? Do not think thou art safe.’
Be not unconcerned for thou wilt be afflicted
If by thy hand a heart has been afflicted.
Throw not a stone at the rampart of a fort
Because possibly a stone may come from the
As soon as he had taken the rope of the boat on his arm, he climbed to
the top of the pillar, whereon the boatman snatched it from his grasp
and pushed the boat off. The helpless man was amazed and spent two days
in misery and distress. On the third, sleep took hold of his collar and
threw him into the water. After one night and day he was cast on the
bank, with some life still remaining in him. He began to eat leaves of
trees and to pull out roots of grass so that when he had gained a
little strength, he turned towards the desert and walked till thirst
began to torment him. He at last reached a well and saw people drinking
water for a pashizi but possessing none he asked for a coin and showed
his destitute condition. The people had, however, no mercy with him,
whereon he began to insult them but likewise ineffectually. Then he
knocked down several men but was at last overpowered, struck and
A swarm of gnats will overpower an elephant
Despite of all his virility and bravery.
When the little ants combine together
They tear the skin of a furious lion.
As a matter of necessity he lagged in the rear of the caravan, which
reached in the evening a locality very dangerous on account of thieves.
The people of the caravan trembled in all their limbs but he said:
‘Fear nothing because I alone am able to cope with fifty men and the
other youths of the caravan will aid me.’ These boastful words
comforted the heart of the caravanpeople, who became glad of his
company and considered it incumbent upon themselves to supply him with
food and water. The fire of the young man’s stomach having blazed into
flames and deprived his hands of the bridle of endurance, hunger made
him partake of
some morsels of food and take a few draughts of water, till the dev of
his interior was set at rest and he fell asleep. An experienced old
fellow, who was in the caravan, said: ‘O ye people, I am more afraid of
this guard of yours than of the thieves because there is a story that a
stranger had accumulated some dirhems but could not sleep in the house
for fear of the Luris. Accordingly he invited one of his friends to
dispel the terrors of solitude by his company. He spent several nights
with him, till he became aware that he had money and took it, going on
a journey after spending it. When the people saw the stranger naked and
weeping the next morning, a man asked: “What is the matter? Perhaps a
thief has stolen those dirhems of mine?” He replied: “No, by God. The
guard has stolen them.”’
I never sat secure from a serpent
Till I learnt what his custom was.
The wound from a foe’s tooth is severe
Who appears to be a friend in the eyes of men.
‘How do you know whether this man is not one of the band of thieves and
has followed us as a spy to inform his comrades on the proper occasion?
According to my opinion we ought to depart and let him sleep.’ The
youths approved of the old man’s
advice and became suspicious of the athlete, took up their baggage and
departed, leaving him asleep. He knew this when the sun shone upon his
shoulders and perceived that the caravan had started. He roamed about a
great deal without finding the way and thirsty as well as dismayed as
he was, he sat down on the ground, with his heart ready to perish,
Who will speak to me after the yellow camels have departed?
A stranger has no companion except a stranger.
He uses harshness towards strangers
Who has not himself been exiled enough.
The poor man was speaking thus whilst the son of a king who happened to
be in a hunting party, strayed far from the troops, was standing over
his head, listening. He looked at the figure of the athlete, saw that
his outward appearance was respectable but his condition miserable. He
then asked him whence he had come and how he had fallen into this
place. The athlete briefly informed him of what had taken place,
whereon the royal prince, moved by pity, presented him with a robe of
honour and a large sum of money and sent a confidential man to
accompany him till he again reached his native town. His father was
see him and expressed gratitude at his safety. In the evening he
narrated to his father what had befallen him with the boat, mentioned
the violence of the boatman, the harshness of the rustics near the well
and the treachery of the caravan people on the road. The father
replied: ‘My son, have not I told thee at thy departure that the brave
hands of empty-handed persons are like the broken paw of a lion?’
How well has that empty-handed fighter said:
‘A grain of gold is better than fifty mann of strength.’
The son replied: ‘O father, thou wilt certainly not obtain a treasure
except by trouble, wilt not overcome thy foe unless thou hazardest thy
life and wilt not gather a harvest unless thou scatterest seed.
Perceivest thou not how much comfort I gained at the cost of the small
amount of trouble I underwent and what a quantity of honey I have
brought in return for the sting I have suffered.
Although not more can be acquired than fate has decreed
Negligence in striving to acquire is not commendable.
If a diver fears the crocodile’s throat
He will never catch the pearl of great price.
The nether millstone is immovable, and
therefore must bear a heavy load.
What will a fierce lion devour at the bottom of his den?
What food does a fallen hawk obtain?
If thou desirest to catch game at home
Thou must have hands and feet like a spider.
The father said to his son: ‘On this occasion heaven has been
propitious to thee and good luck helpful so that a royal person has met
thee, has been bountiful to thee and has thereby healed thy broken
condition. Such coincidences occur seldom and rare events cannot be
The hunter does not catch every time a jackal.
It may happen that some day a tiger devours him.
Thus it happened that one of the kings of Pares, who possessed a ring
with a costly beazle, once went out by way of diversion with some
intimate courtiers to the Masalla of Shiraz and ordered his ring to be
placed on the dome of Asad, promising to bestow the seal-ring upon any
person who could make an arrow pass through it. It happened that every
one of the four hundred archers in his service missed the ring, except
a little boy who was shooting arrows in sport at random and in every
direction from the flat roof of a monastery. The morning breeze caused
his arrow to pass through the ring, whereon he obtained not only the
ring but also a robe of honour and a present of money. It is related
that the boy burnt his bow and arrows and on being asked for the cause
replied: ‘That the first splendour may be permanent.’
It sometimes happens that an enlightened sage
Is not successful in his plans.
Sometimes it happens that an ignorant child
By mistake hits the target with his arrow.