Shanzabah said, ‘Once on a time a Hunting Falcon engaged in a dispute with a Domestic Fowl, and, beginning to wrangle with it, said, ‘Thou art a most false and faithless bird! and yet fidelity is the frontispiece of the page of commendable qualities, and moreover, in accordance with the import of this saying, ‘Verily, fidelity is a part of faith,’ fidelity is a perfect proof of right religious feeling and generosity; and honor, too, demands that none stigma­tize the pages of his career with the character of unfaithfulness.

A dog is thankful for his morsel—then
A dog is better than unthankful men.’

The Domestic Fowl replied, ‘What ingratitude hast though seen in me? and what unfaithfulness hast thou observed on my part?’ The Hawk replied: ‘The sign of thy ingratitude is this, that notwithstanding men shew so much kindness towards thee, and without any inconvenience or trouble on thy part, prepare for thee water and grain, from which the vital energy derives support, and looking after thee day and night, are constant in protecting and guarding thee, and that thou owest to them thy food and lodging; still, whenever they want to catch thee, thou runnest before and behind them, and fliest from roof to roof, and hurriest from corner to corner.

Thou dost of salt the sacred sanction slight,
And shun’st thy patron in ungrateful flight.

And I, although I am a wild bird, and associate with men but for two or three days, and eat from their hands [for so short a time],* still keep in view what I owe to them, and hunt and give them the quarry: and however far I may have gone, at the slightest call that I hear, I come flying back.’

Far though the well-trained bird one launches, still
He back with joyous pinion hastes at will.

The Hen answered, ‘Thou sayest the truth. Thy returning and my flight is owing to this, that thou hast never seen a hawk roasted on a spit, and I have seen many domestic fowls frying in a frying-pan. Hadst thou been accustomed to see this spectacle thou wouldst never flutter about with them, and if I fly from roof to roof, thou wouldst fly from mountain to mountain.’ And I have introduced this story in order that thou mayst know that the class who seek the company of princes have no knowledge of their severity, for whoever has experienced the effect of their rigor has no acquaintance with repose, nor any feeling of rest.

Propinquity the greater terror brings:
The near know best the cruelty of kings.’

Damnah said, ‘It cannot surely be that the Lion entertains these thoughts with regard to thee on account of the grandeur of his imperial sway and the pride of success, for thou possessest many accomplishments and numberless excellencies, and princes are never independent of persons of talent.’ Shan­zabah replied, ‘It may be that my talents may have caused his aversion, for the merit of a fleet horse proves his bane, and a fruit-bearing tree gets its topmost branches broken by reason of its fruit. The nightingale is imprisoned in a cage on account of its very talent, and the peacock is plucked and shamed, owing to its beauty and showy appearance.

My suffering to my knowledge all is due:
The foxes’, peacocks’, to their fur and hue.
My virtues prove my fault, or on my head
Not dust would be, but gems their light would shed.

And of a truth, as the undeserving are more numerous than men of merit, and an inherent animosity exists between them; by means of their number they overwhelm the meritorious, and so violently distort their acts as to array their actions in the garb of guilt, and make their good faith put on the guise of perfidy, and their honesty look like foul conduct, and thus they turn that very virtue, which is the source of good-fortune and the means of happiness, into the material of distress and an auxiliary of woe.

The eye of malice, may it out plucked be!
Makes us in vice’s semblance virtue see.

And a sage has said, with reference to this,

‘If any virtue here its head should shew,
Some worthless fellow on it deals a blow:
To ruin they the virtuous man would bring,
And foul reproach upon his virtues fling.’

And again in describing the injustice of the censorious, they have said,

‘Not visionless the eye of justice, when
Glass beads seem pearl-like to its searching ken.
The great shew equity in all they do,
While base men torture and are tortured too.
And they whose hearts no kindly thoughts admit,
Cry silk is woollen when you shew them it.

Damnah said, ‘It is possible that the malevolent may have made this attempt. On that supposition; what would be the issue of the affair?’ Shanzabah said, ‘Unless destiny second their endeavours, no injury will thence result; but if the divine decree and God’s predestination assist their artifice and treachery, it will be impossible to avert the consequences by any device.

When fate precedes, what boots it to consult?’

Damnah rejoined, ‘It behoves a man of understanding, whatever the position of his affairs may be, to make far-sighted prudence the guide of his actions, since no one ever based his proceedings on prudence but obtained triumphant success as regards the object of his wishes.’ Shanzabah replied, ‘Prudence is then serviceable when fate has not issued its decree against it, and stratagem then yields advantage when the ordinance of destiny is not promulgated in opposition to it: but against the requirements of fate, neither is any shift serviceable nor any stratagem of use; for that any can escape from the bonds of destiny and the shackles of fate—by artifice or counsel—is not to be thought of.

Since when fate’s hand the mighty flame has lit,
All thought, all counsel, is consumed in it.

And when the Creator, the Most High God—may He be sanctified!—causes His decree to issue, He clouds and darkens the eye of the vision of the clear-sighted with the anointing needle* of negligence, so that the way of escape from that mandate, becomes hidden to them, for, ‘When fate comes, the sight is blinded.’*

When heaven’s decree and fate’s commands are sped,
The wise are blinded and their ears grow dead.

But perhaps thou hast not heard the story of the Villager and the Nightin­gale,* and hast not listened to their dispute?’ Damnah said, How was that?’