Damnah said, ‘They have related that in the environs of Baghdád there was a meadow, the breeze of which might have imparted fresh perfume to the fragrance of Paradise, and the bright reflection of whose sweet herbs might have added lustre to the eye of heaven. From every branch of its flowery borders a thousand stars were shining, and at the beauty of each of those stars the nine heavens were amazed.*

There water ’mid the juicy verdure glides,
As in a mould of lapis lazuli
Mercurial globules—on the streamlet’s sides
Upspring sweet herbs; the dawn smells wooingly,
And perfume-raining zephyrs wanton by.

And in that verdant plain were many wild beasts,* and in consequence of the excellent air and exhilarating country, and the abundance of water, and ample supply of food, they passed their time in pleasure and enjoyment. But in that neighbourhood lived a fierce and cruel Lion, who every day displayed his ill-omened visage to those helpless animals, and embittered their happiness and existence. One day they, with one accord, went to the Lion, and after declaring their loyalty and submissive obedience, said, ‘O king! we are thy subjects and followers, and thou, each day, after much trouble and infinite exertion, art able to hunt down one of us or not, and we, through dread of thee, are always distracted with distress, and thou, too, in troublous inquietude in pursuit of us. We have now thought of a plan which may be a source of comfort to thee, and to us the cause of security and rest. If thou wilt discontinue molesting us as heretofore, and wilt not daily distract us, we will send a quarry at breakfast-time as a daily supply for the royal kitchen, and will not allow of any failure in the performance of this.’ The Lion assented and they used daily to cast lots, and on which­ever beast’s name the lot fell, him they used to send as a portion to the Lion; till in this manner some time had elapsed. One day the lot fell on a Hare, and fortune made him a target for the arrow of calamity. He said to his friends, ‘If ye will show me a little forbearance in despatching me, I will deliver you from the oppression of this tyrant.’ They replied, ‘There is no difficulty about this.’ The Hare delayed for an hour, till the time of breakfast had passed, and the ferocious nature of the Lion being excited, he ground his teeth together from anger and fury. The Hare went very gently towards him and found him excessively vexed. The fire of hunger had seated him on the winds,* and the glare of anger was evident in all his movements and postures.

To heat the stomach’s oven more and more,
Will be disastrous when our food is o’er.

The Hare saw that the Lion, from excess of fury, was lashing the ground vengefully with his tail, and wishing in his heart to infringe the treaty. He advanced slowly and saluted him. The Lion asked, ‘Whence comest thou? and what are the beasts about?’ He replied, ’They, according to established custom, sent a Hare in company with me, and we set out together to wait on your highness. A Lion met us in the way and carried off the other Hare, and in spite of our vehement protestations that, this is the food of the king of beasts and the allowance provided for their monarch, he heeded not my words, and said, ‘This is my hunting-ground and the game here belongs to me.‘

Perhaps thou hast not heard this proverb, ‘Every lion has his wood!’

O king! he made use of such boasts and enlarged so on his own might and prowess, that I lost all patience, and running from his presence, hastened hither that I might represent to your enlightened mind the state of the case.’ A blind sense of honor was stirred in the Lion [by these words], and he exclaimed,

‘I am he who in dealing the thrust* and the blow,
Will teach lions the art of encountering the foe:
Who then is the lion who will dare to make prey
Of a quarry where I, and I only, bear sway?

He then added, ‘O Hare! canst thou show him to me that I may wrest from him the justice thy heart requires, and may also wreak on him my own revenge?’ The Hare replied, ‘Why should I not be able, when he has spoken many disrespectful things of the king? and had I had the power, I should have made his skull a cup* for the beasts of the desert.

But I, in God, am hopeful him to see,
To my heart’s triumph, clutched, cast down by thee.’

Saying this he led the way, and the simple-hearted Lion, ensnared by his wiles, went on after him. The Hare brought the Lion to the mouth of a large well, the water of which, from its clearness, like a Chinese mirror, reflected objects distinctly, and could faultlessly represent, to the lookers in, the external shape and countenance of every one.

None gazed therein but, on the tablet bright
Of its pure contents, read his form aright.

[The Hare said], ‘O King! thy worthless foe is in this well and I am afraid of his terrors: if the King will take me up in his arms I will shew him his enemy.’ The Lion lifted him up and looked down into the well. He beheld his own shape and that of the hare in the water. He imagined that it was that very lion and hare that had been his own allotted food which he held in his hug. He put down the Hare and plunged into the well, and after sinking twice or thrice consigned his bloodthirsty spirit to the flames of hell: and the Hare returning in safety, announced to the beasts the circumstances of the adventure, and performing due thanksgiving to God, fed at pleasure in the gardens of security and peace, and continued to recite this couplet,

One draught of water, quit of wicked men,*
Transcends a life of threescore years and ten.

And by the citation of this example it may be discerned that however powerful an enemy may be, it is possible to get the better of him in a moment of supineness.’ Kalílah said, ‘If thou destroy the Ox, in such a manner as not to afflict the lion, it might have a shew of reason, and one might excuse it, but if his ruin is not to be effected without hurt to the lion, take care that thou dost not meddle in this matter, since no sensible person willingly disturbs his master to secure his own comfort.’ With these words the conversation came to an end, and Damnah having retired from attendance [on the lion], betook himself to the corner of retirement, until one day having found an opportunity he thrust himself in private upon the lion, and stood like one grieved and pensive, heart-sore and hanging down his head. The Lion said, ‘It is some days since I have seen thee, is all well?’ He replied, ‘Please God it may turn out well!’ The Lion was startled* and said, ‘Has anything happened?’ ‘Indeed, yes!’ replied he. ‘Relate it,’ said the Lion. Damnah answered, ‘For that a private audience and leisure are necessary.’ ‘This moment is the time,’ said the Lion, ‘explain it with all despatch, for a matter of importance admits not of delay, and if the business of to-day be put off till to-morrow a thousand calamities result.

Do not procrastinate—begin to do!
For in delay are many evils, too.

Damnah said, ‘No statement, the hearing of which may cause aversion in the hearer, should be rashly delivered, nor should it be uttered without thorough consideration and much thought, unless there be perfect confidence in the good sense and discretion of the hearer, and the latter too should con­sider the circumstances of the speaker, as to whether he is in a position to give faithful advice or not, and when he knows that the speaker can have no object but the discharge of the debt which he owes for past favours, he ought to listen to his word with the ear of attention, particularly when the advantages and benefits thereof will revert to himself.’ The Lion said, ‘Thou knowest that I am an exception to kings through the excellence of my judgment and the superabundance of my understanding, and that in listening to the words of every one I propose to myself, for observance, the discrimination that becomes a monarch; say therefore, without ceremony, whatever thou wishest, and unhesitatingly reveal whatever has come into thy mind.’ Damnah said, ‘I too have found permission to be thus bold, in that my confidence in the understanding and wisdom of the king is excessive, and it is moreover palpable that I speak from pure affection and the most genuine honesty, and stain not my words with doubt and suspicion and interested and corrupt motives; and, save the touchstone of the imperial mind, there is no standard for assaying language.

Praise be to God! in the imperial mind,
A touchstone of pure coin and base we find.’

The Lion said, ‘The abundance of thy honesty is manifest and the traces of it are evident on the visage of thy affairs, and thy words are altogether pregnant with good feeling and excellent advice, and doubt and suspicion find no possibility of entering into the precincts thereof.’ Damnah said, ‘The existence of all the beasts is bound up in the continuance of the king’s life. Wherefore it behoves every subject who is characterised and impressed with the marks of sincerity and royalty,* that he withhold nothing from the king of the right discharge of his duties, and the representation of faithful counsel: for the wise have decreed that, ‘Whosoever conceals the truth from the king, keeps back an ailment from the physician, and does not see fit to disclose his proverty and hunger to his friends, may be regarded as a traitor to himself.’ The Lion responded, ‘Thy loyalty and singleness of mind, have long ago been apparent to me and I have long since known thy uprightness and good faith. Now speak! what event has happened? in order that, after acquaintance with the circumstances of the case, we may occupy ourselves with deliberation.’ Damnah, when he had ensnared the Lion by his artful words, loosed his tongue, and said,

‘May wisdom guide thee, king! and victory
Thee follow, and thy foemen vanquished be!

Shanzabah has held private meetings with the leaders of the army, and has entered into conversation with the Pillars of the state, and said, ‘I have tried the Lion, and fathomed the extent of his strength and might and judg­ment and sagacity, and in each have clearly discerned many defects and infinite weakness.

Not he the hero that my fancy drew;
He is not such—my thought was all untrue.

And I am in amazement—that while the king has shewn all this profuseness in honoring that faithless ingrate and has made him the ‘alter ego’* in the government and administration of the empire—in return for these favors, this procedure should have been developed by him, and in requital of such benefits such a pretension should have been set up by him: and assuredly in accordance with the saying, ‘Verily man becometh insolent because he seeth himself to abound in riches,* one who beholds his hand unrestrained in command and prohibition, and finds the reins for slackening or compressing state affairs in the grasp of his own power, will have eggs deposited in the nest of the brain by the imp of mischief, and the tempest of rebellion will break forth from the blackness of his heart.

Whom fortune raises from profound distress,
Exalts, lifts to the summit of success.
’Twere strange if he should kingly aims forego,
Nor cast his lasso o’er the struggling foe.

The Lion said, ‘O Damnah! ponder well what words these are which thou speakest. Whence hast thou learnt these circumstances? and if it be as thy words import, what measures can be adopted in relation to this affair?’ Damnah replied, ‘The loftiness of his rank, and the elevation of his position, is well known to the king, and when a sovereign beholds one of his servants vieing with himself in rank, dignity, wealth and pomp, he should speedily away with him, otherwise the affair will become impracticable, and the king will be overthrown, and as to a remedy for this matter, in such-wise as the enlightened soul of the king requires, how can our dull mind, and deficient intelligence arrive at it? But I know this much, that preventive measures should be promptly adopted in the case of the Ox, and that if your majesty deliberates, it is possible the affair may come to that point, that the step of counsel will be unequal to the extent of its measurement.

Thy foe was but an ant, a serpent now is he!
Then on this snake-turned ant take vengeance now.
For soon this serpent will a mighty dragon be,
If thou delay, and him to live allow.

And they have said that men are of two classes, the man of caution, and the weak man. The weak man is he who, at the time of the occurrence of an event, and the event of an occurrence, is confounded and distracted, and irre-solute and perplexed; and the man of caution is he who, making use of foresight, considers the issues of affairs; and the man of caution is also of two kinds. The first is he who, before the appearance of danger has already thoroughly appreciated its character, and who, in the beginning of an affair, by the eye of understanding, discerns what others discover at the termi­nation, and who consults for the issue of things at their commencement.

Deliberation first and action last.

And such a person, before falling into the whirlpool of calamity, will be able to convey himself to the shore of safety, and him they call ‘most cautious.’ And the other is he, who, when calamity arrives, maintains an unshaken heart, and does not allow himself to be penetrated by dismay and terror, and doubtless from such a person the right road and advisable course will not remain concealed, and him they call ‘cautious.’ And with reference to the state of these three persons, of whom one is wise, and the second half-wise, and the third ignorant—the story of those Three Fishes is applicable, who chanced to be together in a pond.’ The Lion asked, ‘How befell that?’