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Extracts from

the Golestan

(The Rose Garden)


Mosleh al-Din Saadi Shirazi

Persian Painting by Shakiba

On Love and Youth

I remember that in my youth I was passing along a street when I beheld a moon-faced beauty. The season was that of the month of July, when the fierce heat dried up the moisture of the mouth, and the scorching wind consumed the marrow of the bones. Through the weakness of human nature I was unable to support the power of the sun, and involuntarily took shelter under the shade of a wall, waiting to see if any one would relieve me from the pain I suffered, owing to the ardour of the sun's rays, and cool my flame with water. All of a sudden, from the dark portico of a house, I beheld a bright form appear, of such beauty that the tongue of eloquence would fail in narrating her charms. She came forth as morn succeeding a dark night, or as the waters of life issuing from the gloom. She held in her hand a cup of snow-water, in which she had mixed sugar and the juice of the grape. I know not whether she had perfumed it with her own roses, or distilled into it some drops from the bloom of her countenance. In short, I took the cup from her fair hand, and drained its contents, and received new life.
"The thirst of my heart cannot be slaked with a drop of water, nor if I should drink rivers would it be lessened."

Most blest that happy one whose gaze intense
Rests on such face at each successive morn;
The drunk with wine at midnight may his sense
Regain; but not till the last day shall dawn
Will Love's intoxication reach its bourne.

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On Decrepitude and Old Age

One day, in the pride of my youth, I had travelled hard, and at night stopped, much fatigued, at the foot of a mountain. An infirm old man, who followed the caravan, said to me, "Arise! This is not a place to slumber in." I replied, "How can I proceed, when I have not the power to stir a foot?" He rejoined, "Hast thou not heard that they have said, 'It is better to walk and rest, than to run and be oppressed?' "

Thou who wouldst reach the halting-place, haste not;
Be patient! and my counsel hear aright:
Two courses may be sped by charger hot;
The mule goes slowly, but goes day and night.

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On the Effect of Education

A philosopher was advising his children as follows:
"Dear to me as life! acquire knowledge; for there is no reliance to be placed in worldly possessions, either of land or money. You cannot take rank abroad with you; and silver and gold on a journey occasion risk, and either the thief may carry it off at one swoop, or the owner will gradually expend it: but knowledge is an ever-springing fountain, and a source of enduring wealth, and if an accomplished person ceases to be wealthy it matters not, for his knowledge is wealth existing in his mind itself. Wherever the accomplished man goes he is esteemed, and is seated in the place of honour, while the man without accomplishments has, go where he will, to pick up scraps and endure raps.

'Tis hard t' obey for those who have borne rule,
Or fortune's minions in rough ways to school.

In Syria once commotions so arose
That discord shook each person from his hearth.
Eftsoons the king his vazirship bestows
On peasants' sons, wise, though of lowly birth:
The vazir's dullard children in their stead,
Through town and hamlet humbly beg their bread.

Learn what thy father knew, if thou wouldst hold
his place. In ten days thou wilt spend his gold.

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On the Manners of Kings

... They relate that once, during a hunting exhibition, they were preparing for Nushirwan the Just some game, as roast meat. There was no salt; and they dispatched a slave to a village to bring some. Nushirwan said, "Pay for the salt you take, in order that it may not become a custom, and the village be ruined." They said, "What harm will this little quantity do?" He replied, "The origin of injustice in the world was at first small, and everyone that came added to it, until it reached this magnitude."

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On the Qualities of Derwishes

They asked Luqman, "of whom didst thou learn manners? He replied, "From the unmannerly. Whatever I saw them do which I disapproved of, that I abstained from doing."

Not e'en in jest a playful word is said,
But to the wise, 'twill prove a fruitful theme.
To fools, a hundred chapters may be read
of grave import; to them they'll jesting seem.


A certain pious man in a dream beheld a king in paradise and a devotee in hell. He inquired, "What is the reason of the exaltation of one, and the cause of the degradation of the other? For I had imagined just the reverse." They said, "That king is now in paradise owing to his friendship for derwishes, and this recluse is in hell through frequenting the presence of kings."

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On the Excellence of Contentment

An African mendicant, in the street of the mercers of Aleppo, said, "O wealthy sirs! if you had but justice and we contentment, the custom of begging would be banished from the world."

Contentment! do thou me enrich; for those
Who have thee not are blest with wealth in vain.
Wise Luqman for his treasure patience chose:
Who have not patience wisdom ne'er attain.


A thief said to a beggar, "Art thou not ashamed to hold out thy hand for the smallest particle of silver to every contemptible fellow?"
He replied,

"Better hold the hand for coin, though small,
Than lose, for one half a dang (1), it all."

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On the Duties of Society

  • "Riches are intended for the comfort of life, and not life for the purpose of hoarding riches"
    They asked a philosopher, 'Who should be called fortunate, and who unfortunate?' He replied, 'He is to be called fortunate, who sowed and reaped; and he must be reckoned unfortunate, who died and left [what he possessed without enjoying it.]'
  • A learned man who does not restrain his passion is like a blind man holding a torch; he guides others but not himself.
  • He that has acquired learning and nor practised what he has learnt, is like a man who ploughs but sows no seed.
  • Do not reveal to a friend every secret you possess.
    How do you know if at some time in the future he may become an enemy?
    Nor inflict on your enemy every injury that is in your power, as he may someday become your friend.
    Tell no one the secret that you want to keep, although he may be worthy of confidence; for no one will be so careful of your secret as yourself.
  • Anger that has no limit causes terror, and unseasonable kindness does away with respect. Be not so severe as to cause disgust, nor so lenient as to make people presume.


1) A dang is the sixth part of a dirham and is equal to about one penny.


SAADI - The Genius of Shiraz

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