Persian Literature HTML version

[Translation by James Ross]
The Persian poet Sa'di, generally known in literary history as Muslih-
al-Din, belongs to the great group of writers known as the Shirazis, or
singers of Shiraz. His "Gulistan," or "Rose Garden," is the mature
work of his life-time, and he lived to the age of one hundred and
eight. The Rose Garden was an actual thing, and was part of the little
hermitage, to which he retired, after the vicissitudes and travels of his
earlier life, to spend his days in religious contemplation, and the
embodiment of his experience in reminiscences, which took the form
of anecdotes, sage and pious reflections, bon-mots, and exquisite
lyrics. When a friend visited him in his cell and had filled a basket with
nosegays from the garden of the poet with roses, hyacinths,
spikenards, and sweet-basils, Sa'di told him of the book he was
writing, and added:—"What can a nosegay of flowers avail thee?
Pluck but one leaf from my Rose Garden; the rose from yonder bush
lasts but a few days, but this Rose must bloom to all eternity."
Sa'di has been proved quite correct in this estimate of his own work.
The book is indeed a sweet garden of unfading freshness. If we
compare Sa'di with Hafiz, we find that both of them based their theory
of life upon the same Sufic pantheism. Both of them were profoundly
religious men. Like the strong and life-giving soil out of whose bosom
sprang the rose-tree, wherein the nightingales sang, was the fixed
religious confidence, which formed the support of each poet's mind,
amid all the vagaries of fancy, and the luxuriant growth of fruit and
flower which their genius gave to the world. Hafiz is the Persian
Anacreon. As he raises his voice of thrilling and unvarying
sweetness, his steps reel, he waves the thyrsus, and his flushed
cheek shows the inspiration of the vine. To him the Supreme Being
has much in common with the Indian or Thracian Dionysus, the god