The Bráhman said, ‘They have related that in certain countries of Rúm there was a prosperous king and mighty sovereign.

Of mighty wisdom with high spirit blent,
His arm was strong, his heart intelligent.

He had two sons adorned with a variety of accomplishments, and graced with a multitude of eminent qualities.

That by his mercy hearts did captivate,
This by his justice souls reänimate.

When the king accepted, with the phrase ‘Here I am!’, the invitation of his Creator, the elder brother appropriated, with the hand of predominant power, the treasury of his father; and having secured the hearts of the Pillars of the State, and of the ministers of the late king with the lasso of courtesy and winning demeanour, and captured them with his perfect humanity and mildness, seated himself in his father’s place.

A prince of happy fortune, in a yet more happy hour,
His father’s rules obeying, assumed the reins of power.

The younger brother, when he saw that the Humá of empire overshadowed the star-reaching head of his elder brother, and that the leader, Fortune, had given the reins of the courser of the age to the grasp of his authority and option; through fear that he might act perfidiously towards him, placed the equipage of travel on the back of the dromedary of flight; and voluntarily submitting to the affliction of exile and the perils of travel, and taking along with him supplies of grief and lamentation, set out on his journey.

I am weary of my fatherland, on my travels I will go,
But no provisions for my journey, save my grief for thee, I know.

The Prince set out alone on a long and distant expedition, and, as day closed, reached a halting-place; and there grieving and lamenting over his solitary and wretched state, he exclaimed,

‘Since each two steps have made my eyes of bloody tears a gushing spring,
And such my earliest march; say, how my journey to a close I’ll bring?’

In short he passed that night solitarily. Next day when the fair-faced beauty of the sun showed her comeliness from the curtain of the horizon, and the sweetheart of day’s luminary displayed from behind the veil of blue her bright cheeks and radiant countenance,

Heaven’s wheel the sun’s gate open threw meanwhile,
And decked earth’s surface with a sunny smile,

the Prince prepared to set off, and a youth of fair countenance and curling hair, of excessive sprightliness and infinite grace met him. The Prince looked and beheld a lovely stripling, such that thou wouldst say they had sewed the garment* of perfection on his person, and had consumed the heart of the moon with the heat of envy at his beauty. His down was like a fresh violet budding close to a green rose-leaf, or a ring of moist ambergris on the surface of a tulip loaded with dew.

With beard like ants near a rose fresh blowing,*
Which from the hyacinth scents gathering stray;
Its light down o’er the moon soft fetters throwing,
Led reason’s self, adoring, blind, away.

When the royal youth beheld that captivating down and glowing cheek,

That down of rarest beauty with those bright cheeks seemed to blend,
Like the wondrous grass that sprang up from the furnace of God’s friend,*

he said to himself, ‘Perhaps I could bear the burthen of the woes of travel with the support of the society of this stripling, and obtain security under the shadow of this cypress with cheeks like the rose, from the heat of this fire-raining desert.

’T is sweet for him to wander who a comrade has like thee.’

Then those two jasmins of youth’s garden, and those two tender trees by the rivulet of life, being pleased with each other’s society, regarded the distressful wilderness as the rose-garden of Iram, and fancied the thorny brakes of toil to be the joy-augmenting flower-parterres of Paradise.

Were nought but woes and cruel wounds from thy tresses all my gain,
On th’ inhabitants of Eden, I still with scorn should look:
And to Paradise without thee they might me call in vain,
For Eden’s self without thee, my soul, this heart could never brook.)

At the next stage, a merchant’s son, (a youth intelligent and experienced, of just counsels, far-seeing, and of perfect understanding, such that by his perfect wisdom, when good sense was required, he could bind the cord of night on the neck of day, and at the time of dealing, could, by his sharpness and cleverness, obtain the sterling gold of the sun from the four-streeted market of the sky.

Acute, sharp-witted, and of honeyed speech,
By long experience skilled his ends to reach;)

joined company with them; and thus was brought about the felicitous appearance of that trine.* On the third day a robust and lusty young peasant, (who possessed universal intelligence on agricultural matters and perfect skill in all the varieties of farming occupations, the felicity of whose operations was such in planting,* that every dry stick which he set in the earth, coming to perfection like a young shoot, produced fresh fruits in abundance; and the auspiciousness of whose proceedings in husbandry went to that point, that every clod upon which he set his foot, yielded corn without his requiring to sow seed;

For him, the orchard freshening showers made wet,
And, self-prepared, the field his wishes met;)

became their comrade; and by those four pillars thus united, the edifice of companionship received its completion and the maxim, ‘The best company is four,’ was elucidated. So the attached friends having forgotten—through the pleasure of intercourse—their regrets for their kin and country, were traveling on divers stages and journeys, and continued cheerful and content with the sight of one another.

To those who sit with friends and loved ones near,
A furnace will a field of flowers appear.
Our wishes’ fabric must through friendship stand,
Without it, useless are thy tongue and hand;
Each comrade helps the craving heart to fill,
And each acquaintance makes it purer still.
Each meeting will some new advantage bring,
From each conjunction some new blessings spring.
When with one star another’s joined—behold!
What blest results their blended beams unfold!

After traversing a vast distance, they arrived at the city of Nusṭúr, and selected a good lodging in a corner of the town to repose and rest in. Not one of them had any provisions or supplies left, nor had they a single diram or dínár. One of the party said, ‘Our advisable course at present is, that we should each display our skill and ability, and secure by our labor the good things we want, that we may pass some days in this city in comfort.’ The Prince said, ‘Affairs are dependent on the decrees of God, and no difference is effected in them by the exertions or toil of man. Wherefore, those who are the wisest among mankind will assuredly take no steps in pursuit of such a thing, nor devote their precious life for carrion, which in spite of its perishable nature, is surrounded by many enemies.

This world is to a carrion-carcase like,
Round which a myriad vultures without pause
A contest wage. These with their talons strike
Those who, in turn, wound them with beak and claws.
At length they spread their wings; and, soaring, quit
Their evil prey, nor can they taste or come near it.

The daily subsistence, which has been apportioned in the fabric, ‘We distributed their necessary provision among them in this present life,* is not to be augmented by the aid of greediness and avidity, and all that the covetous man obtains is disaster and disgrace.

What though we gather many a morsel—still
More than fate grants will ne’er our stomach fill.
Why, then, this trouble and anxiety
For that which is withheld by destiny?
Submissive bow to fate, contented grow,
Put greed aside; live peaceful, happy, so.’

The handsome youth said, ‘Beauty is a qualification which can be relied on for obtaining good things, and comeliness is a sure source of acquiring property and opulence. Whenever the J of Jamál (beauty) displays itself, it will be followed by Mál (wealth); and at all times that the Z of Zaráfat (grace­fulness) appears, Ráfat (tenderness) and kindness will be sure to be joined to it.

The man of handsome face, do what he will,
Has in his path all eyes fixed on him still.’

The merchant’s son also read off an inscription from the page of his condition, and said, ‘The capital of beauty is a coin of short endurance in the bázár of affairs, and in a short time nothing is left either of principal or interest. Right judgment and the advantages of judicious counsel, and experience and skill in transacting business, have the precedence of all other goods; and whenever the foot of subsistence stumbles against the stone of want, the results of good sense alone can afford a remedy; and whoever has nought left to support himself, can alleviate his wants only by the assistance of expertness in his dealings.

If thou dost all thy acts on prudence base,
Thou mayest then thy goods securely place.’

The young peasant delivered himself as follows, ‘Good sense and prudence do not succeed everywhere, nor does advantage always result therefrom. For if wisdom had much to do with the acquisition of fortune, it must needs follow, that whoever surpassed all others in knowledge and was before the rest of mankind in judgment and prudence, would set up the flag of his success in the plain of empire, and that the young tree of his felicity would be planted beside the rivulet of sovereign power. Yet we have seen wise men enough incarcerated in the prison of want, and have watched many who had not the slightest scent from the rose-garden of ability and expertness, yet walking at free-will and enjoying themselves among the parterres of wealth and opulence. Hence they have said,

‘Heaven on the worthless fool bestows the reins of earthly bliss:
Wisdom and virtue hast thou both? See, then, thy crime in this!’

Wherefore the blessings of application, and the happy influences of toil, bring men to a position of success and enjoyment; and it is by the means of skill in their profession, and the advantage of knowledge of their craft, that they are decked with the ornaments of delight and felicity.

Wouldst thou have gold, then labor on;
By knowledge only thou’lt in nought succeed.
The king himself, spite of his crown and throne,
Stands of the coin of laboring men in need.’

When it came to the Prince’s turn again to speak, they requested him, saying, ‘Do you, too, be pleased to address us once more in elucidation of this subject, and throw some light on this question which we are discussing.’ The Prince responded,

‘By me content and poverty shall ne’er disparaged be;
Go tell the king, ‘Thy daily food is portioned e’en to thee!’

I adhere to the same opinion, of the particulars of which I have already given a notion. I do not, indeed, deny the justness of what you, comrades, say, that something may be gained by the ornament of beauty and the capital of good sense and toil. But what I assert is this, that if the comeliness of fate’s decree does not display itself from behind the curtain, the radiant star of beauty cannot ascend from the horizon of success; and that until the Curator, Providence, opens the door of the shop of the Divine will, the goods of knowledge and ability cannot obtain any currency in the market of acceptance. The advantage of the table of labor is a morsel which it is in the discretion of Providence to apportion or not to the skilful; and the gain of trade and agriculture is the ear of corn of a provision which accrues to the husbandmen of the field of craft only from the stock of the will of the Eternal One. And, without the Divine decree, every writing that versicolor Fancy draws on the tablet of thought, in the end receives the impression of decay, and every spell that the incantation-reader of the counsel employs, at last assumes the semblance of an idle dream.

What arts I used, what arts without avail!
The spells I breathed passed idly down the gale.

Wherefore it is clearly established that if the Most High God wills it the wish of every person will be attained without toil or trouble. But if the Eternal Purpose is not linked with its accomplishment, labor and struggles are altogether unavailing. Consequently we ought to bow our necks to God’s commandment, and place the head of resignation on the line of destiny.

Our cure for fate is t’ acquiesce—enough!

And just in this way that aged Farmer committed his affairs to God’s grace, and in a short time, having acquired his wish, was liberated from the prison of trouble.’ The Prince’s comrades inquired, ‘How was that?’