Damnah said, ‘I have heard that two Sparrows had fixed their nest on the branch of a tree; and of worldly gear, water and grain sufficed them; and on the summit of a mountain, beneath which that tree lay, a Falcon had its abode, which, at the time of stooping on its quarry, issued from its lurking-place like lightning, and like heaven’s bolt, clean consumed the harvest of life of the feebler birds.

When he against the hapless birds his talons would display
Though there were fifty* gathered there, he’d bear them all away.

Whenever the sparrows produced young, and the time was near at hand for them to fly, that falcon, rushing forth from its ambush, used to carry them off and make them food for its own young. Now to those sparrows—in accordance with the saying, ‘The love of home is a part of faith’—to migrate from that place was impossible, and yet from the cruelty of the tyrannous hawk it was difficult to be enabled to reside there.

Nor mode of travel nor yet mind to stay.

On one occasion, their young ones, having gained strength and put forth feathers and wings, were able to move; and the father and mother, pleased with the sight of their offspring, testified their joy at their attempt to fly. Suddenly the thought of the falcon passed through their minds, and, all at once, having folded up the carpet of delight, they began to wail and lament from distress and anxiety. One of their children—in whose counte­nance the signs of discretion and ripe intellect were visible—having inquired into the circumstances of that state [of emotion] and the reason of their change from hilarity to despondency; they replied, ‘O son!

Ask not of us how fierce the flame that now consumes our breast,
But ask the tears that fill our eyes, for they’ll interpret best.’

They then recounted the history of the falcon’s oppression and of its carrying off their young, with all the particulars. The son said, ‘To draw back the neck from the command of fate and the mandate of destiny, is not the way for creatures, yet ‘The Causer of causes’ has appointed a remedy for every pain, and has sent a cure for every sorrow. It is probable that if ye exert yourselves in repelling this misfortune, and take steps to untie this knot, both this calamity will be averted from our heads, and this burden, too, will be removed from your heart.’ These words pleased the sparrows; and while one of them stopped to attend to the condition of the young ones, the other flew forth in search of relief. When it had flown a little way, it began to reflect, saying, ‘Alas! whither shall I go? and to whom shall I tell the affliction of my heart?

Grief on my heart has seized, and oh! no medicine for that grief I know,
A medicine for the mind diseased—for inward grief—is hard, I trow.’

At last he resolved in his mind, that he would tell his story to whatsoever animal his eyes first fell upon, and ask a remedy for his heart’s distress from it. It happened that a Salamander having come forth from a mine of fire, was wandering in the spreading plain of the desert. When the glance of the sparrow lighted upon him, and that strange form and extraordinary appear­ance came into his view; he said to himself, ‘I have fallen upon good;’ come on, I will disclose the grief of my heart to this marvelous bird; perhaps he may undo the knot of my affairs and may shew me the way to a remedy. Then with the utmost respect, he advanced to the Salamander, and after the requisite ceremonies and salutation,* he paid the conventional compliments of offering service. The Salamander, too, in a kind and encouraging tone, expressed the due courtesy required towards travelers, and said, ‘The traces of weariness are discernible in thy countenance. If this arises from the fatigue of journeying, be pleased to halt some days in this neighbourhood, that [this fatigue] may be exchanged for repose: and if the case be aught else, explain it, that to the extent of my power I may exert myself to remedy it. The sparrow loosed his tongue, and represented to the salamander his piteous condition, after a fashion, that had he told it to a rock it would have been rent in pieces by his distress.

To whomsoe’er the story I of my sad grief impart,
I fresh inflict a dozen wounds upon his helpless heart.

After hearing this tale, the salamander, too, felt the fire of compassion kindled, and he said, ‘Grieve not! for I will this night take such measures as to consume his abode and nest and all that therein is. Do thou point out to me thy dwelling, and go to thy offspring until the time I come to thee. The sparrow indicated his dwelling in such a way as not to leave a doubt in the mind of the salamander; and with a glad heart and a mind freed from the load of grief, turned towards his own nest. When the night came on, the salamander, with a number of its own kind, each carrying a quantity of naphtha and brimstone, set off in the direction of that spot, and under the guidance of that sparrow, conveyed themselves to the vicinity of the falcon’s nest. The latter unaware of that [impending] misfortune, had, with its young, eaten plentifully, and fallen asleep. The salamanders cast upon their nest all the naphtha and brimstone that they had brought with them, and turned back: and the blast of divine justice having blown the flame of vengeance, fell upon those oppressors. They rose up from the sleep of negli­gence, at a time when the hand of prevention was unequal to the quenching of that flame; and all of them, with their abode and nest, were at once consumed to ashes.

Oppression’s flame, lit with the tyrant’s breath,
When it burst forth consumed him first to death.

And I have given this instance that thou mayest know that every one who labors to repel an enemy, though he may be small and weak, and his foe great and strong, may yet hope for victory and triumph. Kalílah said, ‘Now that the Lion has distinguished him above the rest, and has exalted the banner of his fortune; to expel the lion’s attachment to him from his heart, and to alter the Lion’s feelings towards him, appears very difficult; and kings, when they shew favor to any one do not disgrace him without full cause, nor cast from their sight any one whom they have exalted, unless on the occurrence of some extraordinary act.’

Water engulfs not wood—and wherefore so?
It swallows not that which itself made grow.

Damnah said, ‘What cause can be fuller than this, that the King has gone to excess in favoring him, and has indulged in contempt for his other ministers, till, as a necessary consequence, they have become disgusted with his service, and the advantage of their services and benefit of their advice has been cut off from him; and from this state of things great calamities are to be expected: and sages have said, danger arises to a King, and misfortune to a country, from one of six things. First, disappointment, that is to say, making his loyal subjects destitute of hope in him, and abandoning people of judgment and experience, to disgrace. Secondly, mischievous embroilment, and this may be characterised as causeless war, and the occurrence of ill-digested undertakings, and provoking hostile parties to unsheath their swords. Thirdly, sensuality, which is being passionately fond of women, and being too addicted to the chase, and engaging in drinking, and shewing an inclination for idle amusements. Fourthly, adverse fortune, being such acci­dents as time produces, as plague, famine, earthquakes, conflagrations and inundations, and the like. Fifthly, violence of temper, which is carrying anger to great lengths, and being excessive in tortures and punishments. Sixthly, ignorance, which is such that in a crisis that calls for peace the king has recourse to war, and at the moment for war he inclines to peace, and when he should use gentle measures he adopts roughness, and when he ought to close up the barriers of severity he opens the door of kindness.’

Inopportunely war or peace comes ill,
Let flowers or thorns the place that suits them fill.

Kalílah said, ‘I saw that thou hadst girded thyself for revenge, and wast lying in wait for Shanzabah; and thou wishest that some evil may befall him by what proceeds from thee; and I know that to inflict injury has no good result, and that by way of retribution, every one’s mischief recoils on himself.

All who do ill—no end but ill attain;
Swift on them back the ill recoils again.

And whoever will open the eye of experience, and observe the retribution of good and bad, there is no doubt that he will incline to goodness and gentle­ness, and will keep his hand and tongue from annoyance and injury, as the just King said.’ Damnah asked, ‘How was that?’