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Introductory 03

I was one night meditating on the time which had elapsed, repenting of the life I had squandered and perforating the stony mansion of my heart with adamantine tears. 1 I uttered the following verses in conformity with the state of mind:

  Every moment a breath of life is spent,
  If I consider, not much of it remains.
  O thou, whose fifty years have elapsed in sleep,
  Wilt thou perhaps overtake them in these five days?
  Shame on him who has gone and done no work.
  The drum of departure was beaten but he has not made his load.
  Sweet sleep on the morning of departure
  Retains the pedestrian from the road.
  Whoever had come had built a new edifice.
  He departed and left the place to another
  And that other one concocted the same futile schemes
  And this edifice was not completed by anyone.
  Cherish not an inconstant friend.
  Such a traitor is not fit for amity.
  As all the good and bad must surely die,
  He is happy who carries off the ball of virtue.
  Send provision for thy journey to thy tomb.
  Nobody will bring it after thee; send it before.
  Life is snow, the sun is melting hot.
  Little remains, but the gentleman is slothful still.
  O thou who hast gone empty handed to the bazar,
  I fear thou wilt not bring a towel filled.
  Who eats the corn he has sown while it is yet green,
  Must at harvest time glean the ears of it.
  Listen with all thy heart to the advice of Sa’di.
  Such is the way; be a man and travel on.
  The capital of man’s life is his abdomen.
  If it be gradually emptied there is no fear
  But if it be so closed as not to open
  The heart may well despair of life;
  And if it be open so that it cannot be closed,
  Go and wash thy hands of this world’s life.
  Four contending rebellious dispositions
  Harmonize but five days with each other.
  If one of these four becomes prevalent,
  Sweet life must abandon the body
  Wherefore an intelligent and perfect man
  Sets not his heart upon this world’s life.

After maturely considering these sentiments, I thought proper to sit down in the mansion of retirement to fold up the skirts of association, to wash my tablets of heedless sayings and no more to indulge in senseless prattle:

  To sit in a corner, like one with a cut tongue, deaf and dumb,
  Is better than a man who has no command over his tongue.

I continued in this resolution till a friend, who had been my companion in the camel-litter of misery and my comrade in the closet of affection, entered at the door, according to his old custom with playful gladness, and spread out the surface of desire; but I would give him no reply nor lift up my head from the knees of worship. He looked at me aggrieved and said:

  ‘Now, while thou hast the power of utterance,
  Speak, O brother, with grace and kindness
  Because tomorrow, when the messenger of death arrives,
  Thou wilt of necessity restrain thy tongue.’

One of my connections informed him how matters stood and told him that I had firmly determined and was intent upon spending the rest of my life in continual devotion and silence, advising him at the same time, in case he should be able, to follow my example and to keep me company. He replied: ‘I swear by the great dignity of Allah and by our old friendship that I shall not draw breath, nor budge one step, unless he converses with me as formerly, and in his usual way; because it is foolish to insult friends and easy to expiate an oath. It is against propriety, and contrary to the opinions of wise men that the Zulfiqar of A’li should remain in the scabbard and the tongue of Sa’di in his palate.’

  O intelligent man what is the tongue in the mouth?
  It is the key to the treasure-door of a virtuous man.
  When the door is closed how can one know
  Whether he is a seller of jewels or a hawker?
  Although intelligent men consider silence civil,
  It is better for thee to speak at the proper time.
  Two things betoken levity of intellect: to remain mute
  When it is proper to speak and to talk when silence is required.

In short, I had not the firmness to restrain my tongue from speaking to him, and did not consider it polite to turn away my face from his conversation, he being a congenial friend and sincerely affectionate.

  When thou fightest with anyone, consider
  Whether thou wilt have to flee from him or he from thee.

I was under the necessity of speaking and then went out by way of diversion in the vernal season, when t
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:04 min read

Sa di

Saadi Shirazi was a major Persian poet and prose write of the medieval period. more…

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