May God, my noble son, thy refuge be!
The Lord from evil thy protection be!
From all advice may He such gain bestow,
That in need's time to use it thou mayst know—
Thy years are sev'n, while sev'nty is my score:
Thy fortune is approaching, mine 's no more.
I grieve for what has vanished of my day,
Mourn years, moons, weeks, that all have passed away.
To any profit now I cannot till,
And only thorns my rose produces still.
The thing has left my hand: what profit now remains?
Out of my hand have slipped of my free-will the reins.
Thou hast the means; an effort should be made,
That fortune on thy head may make a shade.
Do thou such things as may of lasting profit be,
That rain of generosity may rain on thee.
First make thy gain all wisdom to acquire;
From folly's careless town do thou retire.
For it is known to all, both slave and free,
Whilst the fool dies, the wise will living be.
To excellence he who a claim may make,
How with the dead will he his dwelling take?
Plant thou thy foot of wisdom in the way;
Knowledge endureth long, while life 's a day.
When thou hast knowledge gained, thyself to deeds devote;
Wisdom without deed's poison without antidote.
What gain from alchemy that thou mayst learn,
To gold thy copper if thou canst not turn?
When through thy deeds the robe thou mayst assume
Of honour, this with purity perfume.
For ev'ry act of purity that 's bare,
But crude work those who are mature declare;
And from crude actions none can profit gain,
As uncooked sweetmeats can bring only pain.
Though thou art true and pure, beware thou yet:
A hundred dangers may truth's road beset.
For back and belly ease do not prepare,
Nor for good food or clothing practise care.
To ward off heat and cold is raiment worn:
A man cares not himself much to adorn.
And if to clothing coarse thou shouldst resort,
Like hedgehog's thorn, 'gainst evil 'tis thy fort.
In mildness fox-like if thou takest pride,
Those of dogs' nature will tear off thy hide.
Do not, like flies, seek after what is sweet,
For in the end the honey clogs thy feet.
Drink thou the bitter of this cruel sea,
Till, oyster-like, with pearls filled thou shalt be.
Thy fingers at whose board thou mayst stain,
Make of thy hand no fist to give him pain.
When for thy food thou hast made use of salt,
With the salt-cellar do not thou find fault.
With bounteous hand on friends thy favours lay;
Set not thy foot on miser's narrow way.
Take no half hab bah*, nor to any lend;
Debt is a scissors that will cut a friend.
With presents do thou aye their burdens bear,
Nor drive them with their debts into despair.
Yet in bestowing gifts thy foot so set
That on thy own neck fall no load of debt.
Life as an offering for thy friends bestow,
But do thou well discern thy friend from foe.
That friend of God alone should be thy friend,
To whose heart friendship a clear light may lend.
Thy load he'll bear when thou oppressed shalt be,
And be thy aid when mischief threatens thee;
Who in bad times himself thy hand will meet;
With counsel's water who will quench thy heat.
When from defilement he shall make thee free,
Pure as a hair from leaven render thee:
In ev'ry good work thee with aid provide,
And to the street of good name be thy guide.
Win thou his dust, if such a friend thou find,
Thyself a captive to his saddle bind.
Or else towards the wall thy own face bend;
Leave strangers; of the cave* be thy own friend.
Let not time's sorrows ever trouble thee,
And in the world's griefs sit thou calm and free.
Make not of many occupations much;
In worldly business keep with One in touch.
Be it by day or in night's darkness dim,
At ev'ry house still stay thy heart on Him.
Though this good fortune never to thee came,
Of idleness incur thou not the shame.
Thy face tow'rds books be from this workshop brought,
And practise ever upon books thy thought.
This subtle thought is well known of the wise:
“Books hold the learnèd in his grave who lies.”
A book in a lone corner 's aye a friend:
To wisdom's dawn a book will brightness lend.
A book 's a master without thanks or pay;
To thee it ever opens learning's way.
A pithy friend, who will thy faults conceal,
Who tells thee secrets, yet will ne'er reveal.
As bud its inside is with leaves replete,
Whose price would with a plate of pearls compete.
Its litter is of coloured leather made,
In which as vest two hundred flow'rs are laid.
All cheeks of musk, each fold in gold's embrace,
And delicately laid there face to face.
All of one hue, of equal back and face.
On their lip finger when can any place?
To utter jests their lips they open wide,
Shed thousand gems of mystery beside.
The Koran's mysteries at times they tell,
And of the Prophet's sayings speak as well.
At times as those whose hearts are pure, are they
With lights of truth aye pointing out the way;
And when at times in current phrase they speak,
Point to the lore and science of the Greek.
At times they tell the story of the past,
Or what will henceforth be before thee cast.
At times they pour from the poetic sea
In wisdom's breast their pearls of mystery.
Towards whatever aim thy ear thou set,
Never the aim thou hadst at first forget.
Towards this if fully thou turn not thy face,
Thy foot at least no other road should trace.
Ere of thy heart the secret thou shalt tell,
First of its good and evil ponder well.
When from its cage the bird has taken wing
To bring it back is not an easy thing.
With thy heart black through love of pinchbeck gold,
Be wisdom's praises by thy tongue untold.
Though wisdom be as slender as a hair,
With the heart black what does it profit there?
Make not a Sufi immature thy friend;
Crude is the work of crude men in the end.
The way of perfect work they do not know,
Crudely thy fruit upon the ground they throw;
And from its stem this fruit, when cut away,
Remains unripe until the Judgment Day.
Thy hand devoid of silver and of gold,
Let one of kindly feeling only hold.
When in his hand thy willing hand is placed,
With blessing's treasure it will soon be graced.
Canst thou, like Isa, sleep without a mate,
Surrender not for naught thy single state.
Far from thy eye the dream of rest to keep
Were better than in Huris' arms to sleep,—
Better on furnace ashes hot to lie
Than on soft pillow with a woman by.
If suddenly thou fear the sense of lust,
Thy foot on to the plain of sin may thrust,
'Gainst marrying place on thy foot a chain,
So that it move not from its place again.
With this end if thou strike a woman's door,
See not her beauty, but her virtue more.
She who from chastity is red of cheek
Need for her face no other colour seek.
In that adornment she has Huris' grace,
That from forbidden things she hides her face.
Nearness to monarchs is a flaming fire,
Before it, like the smoke, do thou retire.
When once the fire the torch's flame has lit,
But from afar do thou make use of it.
If thou too near approach, I greatly fear
The light of thy own life will disappear.
Place not thy feet 'mongst those of high degree,
To raise or lower lest a mark thou be.
To rest upon that couch be not unwise,
Lest some one seize thy hand and bid thee rise.
From place to want of office turn thy face:
Than office better far is want of place.
Be ev'ry thought of thine devoid of pride,
Tow'rds ev'ry one humility should be thy guide.
From pride does not preserve itself the ear,
And thus its head the scythe will quickly shear.
A humble place the grain in dust will seek,
And from the dust the bird will raise it in its beak.
After the seat of worth do thou aspire,
Than lofty head esteem thou honour high'r.
See how the masses lose their fortune high,
As ciphers more they add to reckon by.
No promise make, but if thou promise, pay;
Avoid thou of unfaithfulness the way.
From that God being's favour who bestows,
The call “Perform your promises” arose.
Like fools, rest thou not in thy father's bond:
Be merit's son;—thy father pass beyond.
Since light the smoke can from the flame not be,
What profits it the son of fire to be?
Except in private mention not his name,
He is well pleased to hear thy virtue's fame.
Should counsel a wise counsellor impart,
Wisely make room for it within thy heart;—
Not like the fool who hears but with one ear,
And through the other lets it disappear.
The corn sprouts from the dust but with delay;
No drop becomes a jewel in a day.
By no one has this proverb not been heard:
“If one is in the house, enough 's one word.”
Its mighty movement should the sea provoke,
What matters of the senseless frog the croak?
Of this false world 'twere best within the cell
To work, within thee that God's grace should dwell.