The Bráhman said, ‘They have related that in the royal city of Ḥalab,* there was a famous king and prosperous potentate, and many princes of that age had drawn the ring of fealty to him through the ear of their minds, and most of the rulers of the time had taken upon the shoulder of their heart the cloth of obedience to his will.

A leader through whose goodly justice earth with wholesome laws was blest,
A Cæsar from whose radiant spirit that bright epoch guidance gained.
Wherever his imperial will the stirrup of advancing pressed,
Thither triumph and good-fortune with him, too, their coursers reined.

And this king had a daughter sun-faced and moon-visaged, the light of whose cheek had imparted splendor to the countenance of the sun, and the scent of whose musky ringlets perfumed the nostrils of the age.

Her ruby lip the seal of Jamshíd’s ring;
Her mouth was smaller than a signet’s circle.
Her cheek did to the air fresh pinkness bring;
A hundred horse-shoes, envious glowed at her curl.
The Magians in their prayers turned to her cheek,
Her mouth was what love’s mendicants would seek.

The king kept this gem unique from the eyes of all others, and continued to cherish her like a royal pearl, in the shell of concealment and virtuous privacy. One day they were preparing an ornament for this maid, and they had occasion for the services of a clever goldsmith, such a one as might be perfect in his craft. Now in that city was a Goldsmith, who deserved to have the glowing ball of the sun for his melting operations, and for whose silver-smelting the bright crucible of the moon seemed a fitting laboratory. In valuing precious stones his quickness was such, that the instant he saw a shell, he knew the worth of the pearl inside it; and in assaying metals, his skill was so great, that, without experimentalising with a touch-stone, he used to announce the quantity of alloy and pure metal.

His craft he plied assiduous day and night,
Such was his craft all that he did to gold
Was turned: each thing with gold and silver dight,
He fashioned so as no one else could mould.

The king had heard his fame, and had seen some of his beautiful works and excellent articles, wherefore he, on this occasion, sent for him to the seraglio, and held a consultation with him as to the preparation of the ornament. The Goldsmith was a young man of prepossessing countenance and sweet tongue. During the conversation, the king’s heart took pleasure in his words, and the royal mind felt an inclination to meet him constantly. And he, day by day, by the astonishing skill of his performances and his admirable discourse, was fascinating the king; and every hour the latter, too, shewed him more favor and honor, until he became the confidential visitor of the seraglio, and the princess, upon whom sun and moon had never cast their shadow, admitted him to interviews [seated] behind a curtain.

He to whom the heart is opened finds in his friend’s Ḥaram place.

And this king had a vazír celebrated for the solidity of his judgment, and notorious and well-known for the rectitude of his counsels. The writing of his world-subduing pen was the victorious chronicle of triumph, and the effect of his universe-adorning thought was the fringe of the robe of majesty. The pious and the great used to place confidence in his clear judgment, and the landowners and leaders of the faith had the stock of life augmented by his pen, which was gifted with the miraculous powers of Khizr.

Thy pen, great Heaven! did singly, for religion and the state,
Life’s water in a hundred springs from one ink-drop create.

When the vazír saw that the king went beyond the bounds of moderation in his patronage of the Goldsmith, and carried his undue attentions to him, and consideration for him, to the limit of excess, he, out of pure attachment and loyalty, at a proper opportunity and a convenient time, on a pretext which was not beyond the circle of congruity, turned the reins of the courser of his discourse toward the affair of the Goldsmith, and said, ‘O king! former sovereigns introduced not artizans into the circle of men of authority, nor raised* them above their peers and fellows. But now the king has made this person the confidential visitor of his ḥaram, without previously ascer­taining, as he ought and should have done, his qualifications. It strikes me, however, that this person has not a generous nature, nor is of a guileless temperament; for his discourse is always restricted to the injuring and annoying others, and his energies in the discharge of orders or prohibitions are not expended in the place or time they ought to be. From such a a person, therefore, faithful procedure and grateful habits are not to be expected.

He that expects the base will faithful be,
Hopes to find fruit upon the willow-tree.

And I have observed that whenever your majesty is disposed to reward or show favor to any one that mean base fellow is ready to wish himself dead from chagrin. And the wise have said, ‘It is a characteristic of low-minded people that they cannot bear to see another person liberal to another.’

The base are loath that others should succeed:
The miser from the cup the fly will scare.
When thou to meat a low-bred wretch dost lead,
’Tis not his portion only he eats there;
But sour chagrin as well that others too may share.

And those persons are more worthy to be admitted to the king’s society who unite honorable descent with the nobility of merit. And it is right to shun the company of an ignorant low-bred man, for from associating with persons of this class various mischiefs arise, and those who are base by nature and inwardly impure have no regard for honesty nor care for uprightness; and when these qualities are absent, we may expect from such a sordid wretch every fault which enters the limits of possibility.

He that of honest feelings has no share,
What wonder if he guilty acts should dare!
Of all bad things, dishonesty the worst,
Includes all crimes by which mankind is cursed.’

The king replied, ‘This young man has a comely form and beauty of form is a sure indication of mental grace, for, ‘the external is the index of the internal,’ and the wise have said, ‘the beauty of the preface announces the excellence of the body of the work.

From a fair preface wise men understand,
That finer beauties may within be scanned.

And in that His Holiness of Prophetical dignity (on him be the best and choicest blessings!) pronounced, ‘Read the letter of your requirement to one the page of whose cheek is adorned with the verse of beauty and comeliness; and expect goodness from one of a bright countenance, for the cheek of his condition will be adorned with the mole of excellence, ‘Seek for good from fair-faced women,’—he intimated that beauty of outward appearance denotes mental grace.

Suspect not evil of a man,
If outward grace in him you scan.’

The vazír answered, ‘In the school of wisdom they do not read the chapter of beauty of form, and they do not think the verse of perfection to be in reality aught else but amiable qualities of the mind. For there are many persons who ravish men’s hearts by their grace of form, but when they strike the coin of their spiritual nature on the touchstone of trial, they find them good for nothing. And it has been entered among the stories of sages that a philosopher saw a handsome youth, and his heart yearned towards him. He went forward and made trial of the coin of his real qualities, but he found no precious metal worth speaking of. So he turned away and said, ‘It is a goodly house if there were but some one in it!’

Walk in the spirit; for two canes may be alike, yet that
Gives forth sweet sugar, whilst of this one can but make a mat.’

The king replied, ‘From grace of form we may infer symmetry of mind, and one of a well-proportioned mind is worthy of notice. Moreover since during this long period he had no patron, it is possible that some of his qualities may have deviated from the right path; but now we bestow on him the eye of patronage, that he may acquire praiseworthy feelings to a degree of perfection. For the effect of such fostering influence is to turn a flint into a beautiful ruby, and a lustrous heart-expanding gem. So too by the auspiciousness of aid black blood becomes fragrant civet-raining musk, and a drop of rain is changed into a peerless royal gem.

Through fostering influence water a gem
Becomes; and navel blood-drops change to musk
Of rarest scent, when blessing hallows them.
So the transmuting stone, on iron dusk
And valueless; does such influence hold,
As changes it to pure, unsullied gold.’

The vazír replied, ‘O king! to give encouragement to one that has no original purity of birth is unfitting, for it is not every stone that becomes a jewel, nor does all blood change to fragrant musk; and if a base person were educated for a thousand years, it is impossible to look for goodness from him.

Though one should tend the willow with the selfsame care
As aloes, aloe-scent would still be wanting there.

And were they to endeavour to change and alter the sordid man a hundred times, his original nature would remain unaltered, and a man of eminence has pronounced on this head,

Men who with low mean origin are cursed,
By changing fortune changed none e’er will see.
So if the word Sag-magas* be reversed,
Its anagram will aye Sag-magas be.

And since this truth is well-established, it behoves a person not to associate with such sordid wretches that he may not be overtaken in the whirlpool of disgrace, like that Prince, who from companying with a Shoe­maker was plunged into the abasement of slavery, and through his friendship with a Jeweler arrived on the borders of the plain of destruction.’ The king asked, ‘How was that?’