The right-counseling vazír said, ‘They have related that in the capital of Yaman there was a king of a bright spirit, of an old judgment, and young fortune. The eye of the swift-revolving heaven, in the long intervals of its journeys, had never seen on the sky of empire a sun like him; and the ear of time, which tests mankind, had, in the space of ages, never heard of a governor who possessed his qualities.

Bright as the sun, at feasts his cheek was lit with beauty’s flame;
He, dragon-like, consumed the world in war.
And, by wide-spreading bounty, knew the way men’s hearts to tame;
Fortune obeyed, nor would his wishes mar.

Now this king was fond of hunting. One day, in a hunting-ground, he galloped his steed joyously to left and right, and threw around him on every side the gaze of vigilance. In those environs he saw no quarry, either animal or bird, nor did he behold a single creature which was fit to be the prey of a king. The monarch looked about him astonished at these circum­stances. Fate decreed that a poor wood-cutter, from excessive want and poverty had put on a garment made of deer-skin, and had cut down a quantity of brambles in that jungle; and, being excessively fatigued by that labor had reclined against the side of a rock. The king’s sight fell on him from a distance, and imagining it was a deer, he directed a heart-piercing arrow against it.

A fiery dart, which diving, blood ’gan spill,*
Like heaven’s bolt, upon that wretch did light.
Mischief distinguished not ’twixt good and ill,
And thus he erred although he aimed aright.

In short, when the king came up to the quarry and beheld the man with his breast transfixed, and his heart full of blood, he was sorely grieved and distressed, and began to tear the face of repentance with the nail of self-reproach; and being afflicted at that rashness and precipitation which had caused him this regret and contrition, he made many excuses to the wood-cutter, and, for salve-money, bestowed on him a thousand dínárs of red gold. Downcast he then turned his reins towards his capital, and condescended to alight at the door of the hermitage of a pious recluse, who was celebrated in that city for his sanctity and holiness, nay, was renowned and famous all over the world for his guidance and spiritual directions. He then begged of the holy man a piece of advice, which might augment his dignity in this world, and in that to come be a cloak to offences. The pious man, by way of exposition and gracious explanation, said, ‘O king! a quality which ensures happiness in this world, and felicity in the world to come, is the controlling angry feelings, and at the time when wrath is about to overpower us, to make choice of mildness.

Who kindles up the flame of wrath on high,
Hope not from him the ways of courtesy.
When hot the champings of thy spirit wax,
Pull back the reins until thy fury slacks.’

The king said, ‘I know that the taste of the bitter beverage of long-suffering is much relished by the palate of reason, but in the time of anger I cannot make mildness ruler over my passions; and at the moment when they are inflamed, I cannot bring myself under control.’ The pious man replied, ‘I will write three letters, and do thou deliver them into the hand of a select officer, and a confidential and faithful person; in order that, when he beholds the marks of an alteration of temper on thy countenance, and perceives the fire of thy anger and inconsiderateness to be kindled, he may read one of them to thee. It is probable that when the lesson it inculcates is made evident thy mind will be soothed. And if he finds that the flame of thy rage has not been quenched by the water of that admonition, let him call in the aid of the second; and if the rebellious spirit is untamed by that also, let him show the third letter to thee. I am in hopes that the misfortune of that harshness will thus be exchanged for tenderness and kind­ness; and when the darkness of resentment is dispelled, assuredly the rays of clemency and gentleness will replace it.

When fiends retire, good angels come instead.’

The king was pleased with these words, and the recluse having written three letters, gave them to one of the king’s attendants. The meaning of the first letter was, ‘While thou still retainest the power do not place the reins of choice in the grasp of the possession of thy passions, for they will plunge thee into the whirlpool of everlasting destruction.’ The contents of the second letter were, ‘In the time of wrath be merciful to those in thy power, in order that in the hour of retribution thy superiors may be merciful to thee.’ And the substance of the third writing was, ‘In issuing thy com­mands, do not overstep the bounds of the law, and under no circumstances abandon what is just.

What though, as king, thy mandate speed unchecked!
Play not the tyrant—cruel deeds are baneful.
Thy lips may, like the rose, with smiles be decked;
But victims’ eyes, like clouds in March, are rain-full.
Nor boast the palace-garden of thy sway,
Soon thou must all forsake and pass away.’

The king took leave of the devotee, and returned to his capital; and continually, in the assembly where he issued his commands, especially in the moment of his wrath, they recited to him these three letters; and, for the reliance which he placed in them, they called him the ‘Letter-possessing King.’ Now this monarch had a concubine, of fair face and pleasing manners, in stature like the cypress, moon-cheeked, ruby-lipped, silver-chinned, partridge-gaited, parrot-speeched,

Moon-faced, of musky fragrance, hearts’ delight,
Soul-expanding, heart-deceiving, and moon-bright.

The intoxicated narcissus was enamoured of her love-sick eye, and the agate of Yaman had its heart crimsoned with blood at her sweet ver­milion lips. The beauties of the region of Cathay were captives in the fetters of her curling tresses; and the coquettes of Kashmír had their hearts chained by affection for the links of her ringlets full of windings and curls,

Fair one! is there, can there be, a beauty wanting to thy cheek?
Of love’s brightest fascinations have we aught there still to seek?

The beauty of her condition derived lustre from the mole of modesty; and the bride-chamber of her beauty was adorned with the ornament of chastity and continence. The king’s heart was so attached to her good qualities, that he withdrew himself from the society of his royal lady, and from dalliance with his other female slaves. The king’s bride, from jealousy of him, was always shedding the tears of poignant regret; and in order to get rid of the damsel, through resentment and envy, stirred up all kinds of stratagems. In short, she disclosed her vexation to the tire-woman of the seraglio, and asked her aid in killing the king, and removing the girl. The tire-woman answered, ‘Inform me what thing the king so admires in the damsel, and what part of her it is that he gazes on most?’ The queen replied, ‘It has been observed, when they have been sleeping together, that it is her apple-like chin, which, from its excessive clearness, thou wouldest say is a fruit suspended near the water of life; or a soft quince, which the hand of Omnipotence has placed upon the citron of her throat, upon which he bestows many kisses, and expresses by his gestures

‘Invite me not, O holy man! to enter Eden’s garden fair,
The apple of her chin outvies the fruits, the flowers that blossom there.’

The tire-woman rejoined, ‘I have found out an easy way to remove the king with all despatch. Our advisable course is for thee to give me some deadly poison, that I may mix it with indigo, and go to the apartment of the damsel, and make a mole with it somewhere about her chin and throat. So when the king, in a state of inebriety, applies his lips to it, he will die on the spot, and thou wilt be quit of this distress.’ The queen was delighted at these words, and got ready for her what she wanted, and the tire-woman, in the manner described, compounded an artful mixture, and having placed it in a casket of guile, went to the girl’s chamber, and with black artifice placed a mole on the chin of that moon, and thus lodged dark-visaged Hárút* on the brink of the water of Bábal.

That mole is placed upon her chin, a tempting bait, a dangerous snare;
O God! from fortune’s evils shield, and aye protect the good, the fair.

Now the king had a slave who possessed the entrée into the seraglio. It so happened that he overheard behind a curtain the conversation of the queen and the tire-woman, and saw with his own eyes the latter go to the chamber of the slave-girl, and put the mole on her cheek. The call of loyalty and gra-titude impelled him to acquaint the girl with that deceit. He could however find no opportunity, and the king, too, was in a state of intoxication, and it was noways possible to make known to him that secret. At length the king, according to his familar and wonted custom, entered the apartment of the girl, and from excessive intoxication fell asleep. As, however, grateful affection laid hold of the skirt of the slave, he softly approached the pillow of the damsel, and with the corner of his sleeve wiped away the mark of the indigo from her chin. Meanwhile the king awoke, and beheld the slave with his hand extended to the girl’s chin. The heat of jealousy placed him on the fire of wrath, and with his diamond-like sword he made at the slave. The latter ran out from the private chamber, and the king issued in pursuit of him with his scymitar drawn. A confidential officer was standing there, and held the letters in his hand. When he beheld the king incensed, he advanced and displayed one letter. The ocean of the king’s fury, however, was not calmed thereby. He then uttered the contents of the second, yet the fire of mischief was not quenched. But when the third letter reached the place of representation, the king allowed himself to be somewhat composed and calmed, and swallowed the bitter draught of anger. He then called the slave kindly to him and said, ‘Why didst thou do this bold deed?’ The slave truthfully detailed the circumstances; whereupon the king called his bride, and exerted himself to an extraordinary degree in inquiry into that treason, and examining into that deceit. The queen denied the facts, and said, ‘The slave lies, and I have often noticed this abandoned and worthless wretch doing similar things to the girl. But I was ashamed on the king’s account to make known his impudence. Besides it might possibly have been supposed that I was calumniating them through jealousy. Now, Praise be to God! the king has seen it with his own eyes. To admit of any pause therefore in destroying the traitor is injurious to the royal character for justice, and when anger takes place in its proper season, it is doubtless many degrees better than clemency.

The thorn is but for burning, it
For placing in the collar were unfit.’

The king looked towards the slave, who said, ‘O king! prosperous, and the means of the tranquillity of the age! it is possible that the remains of this powder may still be in the tire-woman’s box. If the royal order be issued for her attendance, perhaps this doubt will altogether be removed.’ The king commanded, and they brought the tire-woman and her box into the presence, and gave her a little of that indigo powder to eat. The instant she swallowed it she died; and when the true state of the case was thus made known to the king he imprisoned the queen, and gave the slave a writing of liberation, and committed to his charge the government of some districts of that kingdom. So that world-protecting monarch, inasmuch as he adorned the face of his own proceedings, with the ornament of clemency, was saved from being harmed by the tire-woman; and by the blessing of his gracious endurance, escaped the injury of that black deed; and a secret of such peril was made known to him, and he was enabled to discern between friend and foe.

And I have adduced this story that in the mirror of the clear judgment of the king, this beautiful idea may shew itself, that kings ought in no affair to act precipitately, nor without reflection and due thought, to order anything to be put in execution.

Like a fierce fire, or a raging ocean,
Commands of monarchs may destroy a world.
It fits not then in times of wild emotion,
The thunders of their will be round them hurled.’

The king said, ‘I have erred in giving this order, and the words passed my lips in a moment of anger. At least, then, thou oughtest, as befits the character of prudent counsellors, to have observed, therein, due deliberation. And it is strange that thou shouldest have chosen to be so precipitate and put to death such a peerless lady.’ The vazír replied, ‘For one woman the king ought not to suffer his august mind to be so troubled that he may not be kept back from the enjoyment of intercourse with the other servants of his seraglio.

What, has the cypress perished? Yes! but Nárvan* flowers the eye still bless:
The tulip’s gaudy bloom is o’er, then mark the jasmine’s loveliness.’

When, from the tenor of the vazír’s words, the king understood that Irán-dukht had been slain, a sigh issued from his bosom, and falling into the whirlpool of grief, he was saying to himself,

‘Freely, O breast! indulge in grief; for lo!
My heart stands girt to emulate thy woe.’

Alas! for the beauty of the flower-garden of youth, which, like the rose’s promise, has been short-lived: and alack! for that plant of the garden of pro-sperity, which by the calamity of the autumn of separation has shed its leaves.

Now prostrate in the dust, alas! the cypress of thy stature lies,
And earth, alas! and yet, alas! that priceless gem o’ercanopies.
The place for it, thy place indeed, thy fitting place was on our eyes.
Alas! and yet again, alas! that peerless gem in dust now lies.’

He then turned to his vazír and said, ‘I am filled with grief at the death of Irán-dukht.’ The vazir replied, ‘Three persons are always the prisoners of grief, and fettered by woe. The first, is he who expends his energies in doing ill. The second, is he who does not do good when he has the power. The third, is he who acts without reflection, and whose conduct, being of this nature, issues in remorse.’ The king said, ‘O Balár! thou didst not pause in putting Irán-dukht to death, and by the trouble thou tookest to no good purpose, she perished.’ The vazír replied, ‘The labor of three persons is vain: first, that of a person who clothes himself in white, and practices the trade of a glass-blower; next that of a washerman, who with costly garments stands in the water and washes clothes; thirdly, that of a merchant, who secures a good wife, and having left her at home chooses to take a long journey. And I did not exert myself to secure her death; I did but obey the king’s command, and in this matter it is your majesty on whom censure rightly falls; since, though his prudence does not fall short in noticing the issues of affairs, and his visual faculty comprehensively surveys the terminations of things, still in this mandate his penetrating sagacity failed to discern, and his right aiming foresight missed the deliberation due.

Prudence ought to have swayed the royal word:
Had it done so, these things had not occurred.’

The king responded, ‘Cease these words and bethink thyself of this, that a longing to behold her keeps me sad, and I know not how to prepare a cure for this sorrow.’ The vazír replied, ‘The hand of remedy reaches not to the skirt of this business, and in this transaction regret is unavailing; and whoever plunges into a thing without reflection, and undertakes a matter in which repentance is of no use, will meet with what that Pigeon met with.’ The king demanded, ‘How was that?’