Persian Literature HTML version

of perennial youth, joyous revel, and exhilaration. Hafiz can never be
the guide, though he may be the cheerer of mortals, adding more to
the gayety than to the wisdom of life. But both in the western and in
the eastern world Sa'di must always be looked upon as the guide and
enlightener of those who taste life, and love poetry. It has been said
by a wise man that poetry is the great instructor of mature minds.
Many a man turning away in weariness from the controversies, the
insincerities, and the pretentiousness of the intellectualists around
him, has exclaimed, "Give me my Horace." But Horace with all his
bonhommie, his common sense, and his acuteness, is but the
representative of a narrow Roman coterie of the Augustan age. How
thin, flimsy, and unspiritual does he appear in comparison with the
marvellous depth, the spiritual insight, the tenderness and power of
expression which characterized Sa'di.
Sa'di had begun his life as a student of the Koran and became early
imbued with the quietism of Islam. The cheerfulness and exuberant
joy which characterize the poems he wrote before he reached his
fortieth year, had bubbled up under the repressions of severe
discipline and austerity. But the religion of Mohammed was soon
exchanged by him, under the guidance of a famous teacher, for the
wider and more transcendental system of Sufism. Within the area of
this magnificent scheme, the boldest ever formulated under the name
of religion, he found the liberty which his soul desired. Early discipline
had made him a morally sound man, and it is the goodness of Sa'di
that lends such a warm and endearing charm to his works. The last
finish was given to his intellectual training by the travels which he
took after the Tartar invasion desolated Persia, in the thirteenth
century. India, Arabia, Syria, were in turn visited. He found Damascus
a congenial halting-place, and lived there for some time, with an
increasing reputation as a sage and poet. He preached at Baalbec on
the fugitiveness of human life, on faith, love, and rest in God. He
wandered, like Jerome, in the wilderness about Jerusalem, and
worked as a slave in Africa in the trenches of Tripoli: he travelled the
length and breadth of Asia Minor. When he arrived back at Shiraz, he
had passed the limit of three-score years and ten, and there he
remained in his hermitage and his garden, to arrange the result of all
his studies, his experiences, and his sufferings, in that consummate
work which he has named the "Rose Garden," after the little
cultivated plot in which he spent his declining days and drew his last