BLTC Press Titles

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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

Flowers from a Persian garden

by William Alexander Clouston


The Gulistdn consists of short tales and anecdotes, to which are appended comments in prose and verse, and is divided into eight chapters, or sections: (1) the Morals of Kings; (2) the Morals of Dervishes; (3) the Excellence of Contentment; (4) the Advantages of Taciturnity; (5) Love and Youth; (6) Imbecility and Old Age; (7) the Effects of Education; (8) Eules for the Conduct of Life. In culling some of the choicest flowers of this perennial Garden, the particular order observed by Saadi need not be regarded here; it is preferable to pick here a flower and there a flower, as fancy may direct.

It may happen, says our author, that the prudent counsel of an enlightened sage does not succeed; and it may chance that an unskilful boy inadvertently hits the mark with his arrow: A Persian king, while on a pleasure excursion with a number of his courtiers at Nassala Shiraz, appointed an archery competition for the amusement of himself and his friends. He caused a gold ring, set with a valuable gem, to be fixed on the dome of Asad, and it was announced that whosoever should send an arrow through the ring should obtain it as a reward of his skill. The four hundred skilled archers forming the royal body-guard each shot at the ring without success. It chanced that a boy on a neighbouring house-top was at the same time diverting himself with a little bow, when one of his arrows, shot at random, went through the ring. The boy, having obtained the prize, immediately burned his bow, shrewdly observing that he did so in order that the reputation of this feat should never be impaired.

The advantage of abstinence, or rather, great moderation in eating and drinking, is thus curiously illustrated: Two dervishes travelled together; one was a robust man, who regularly ate three meals every day, the other was infirm of body, and accustomed to fast frequently for two days in succession. On their reaching the gate of a certain town, they were arrested on suspicion of being spies, and both lodged, without food, in the same prison, the door of which was then securely locked. Several days after, the unlucky dervishes were found to be quite innocent of the crime imputed to them, and on opening the door of the prison the strong man was discovered to be dead, and the infirm man still alive. At this circumstance the officers of justice marvelled; but a philosopher observed, that had the contrary happened it would have been more wonderful, since the one who died had been a great eater, and consequently was unable to endure the want of food, while the other, being accustomed to abstinence, had survived.

Of Nushirvan the Just (whom the Greeks called Chosroe), of the Sassanian dynasty of Persian kings —sixth century—Saadi relates that on one occasion, while at his hunting-seat, he was having some game dressed, and ordered a servant to procure some salt from a neighbouring village, at the same time charging him strictly to pay the full price for it, otherwise the exaction might become a custom. His courtiers were surprised at this order, and asked the king what possible harm could ensue from such a trifle. The good king replied: "Oppression was brought into the world from small beginnings, which every new comer increased, until it has reached the present degree of enormity." Upon this Saadi remarks: "If the monarch were to eat a single apple from the garden of a peasant, the servant would pull up the tree by the roots; and if the king order five eggs to be taken by force, his soldiers will spit a thousand fowls. The iniquitous tyrant remaineth not, but the curses of mankind rest on him for ever."

Only those who have experienced danger can rightly appreciate the advantages of safety, and according as a man has become acquainted with adversity does he recognise the value of prosperity—a sentiment which Saadi illustrates by the story of a boy who was in a vessel at sea for the first time, in which were also the king and his officers of state. The lad was in great fear of being drowned, and made a loud outcry, in spite of every effort of those around him to soothe him into tranquility. As his lamentations annoyed the king, a sage who was of the company offered to quiet the terrified youth, with his majesty's permission, which being granted, he caused the boy to be plunged several times in the sea and then drawn up into the ship, after which the youth retired to a corner and remained perfectly quiet. The king inquired why the lad had been subjected to such roughness, to which the sage replied: "At first he had never experienced the danger of being drowned, neither had he known the safety of a ship."

One of our English moralists has remarked that the man who chiefly prides himself on his ancestry is like a potato-plant, whose best qualities are under ground. Saadi tells us of an old Arab who said to his son: "O my child, in the day of resurrection they will ask you what you have done in the world, and not from whom you are descended."—In the Akhl&k-i-Jalaly, a work comprising the practical philosophy of the Muhammedans, written, in the 15th century, in the Persian language, by Fakir Jani Muhammed Asaad, and translated into English by W. F. Thompson, Ali, the Prophet's cousin, is reported to have said:

My soul is my father, my title my worth;
A Persian or Arab, there's little between:
Give me him for a comrade, whatever his birth,
Who shows what he is—not what others have been.

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