The Bráhman said, ‘They have related that somewhere in the country of China there was a mountain so high that the sense of vision, in order to reach its top, was wont to halt several times; and the watchman of thought had never scaled the platform of its summit save with the ladder of fancy.

Nought to its height, save mental vision, went;
Nought save conjecture measured its descent.

And on that mountain, from whose exceeding loftiness and from the breadth of whose area,

Heaven’s loftiest summit seemed to be its crest
And earth’s expanse seemed stretched out in its breast,

the gardener of Divine Wisdom, purely by His omnipotence, had caused a tree to grow, such that its branches passed beyond the Pleiades, and its root had fastened themselves in the bowels of the earth.

Each mighty branch of that gigantic tree,
Rivaled the lote* of Heaven’s boundary.
Reason among its praises did descry
Roots deeply fixed, and branches in the sky.*

And on that many-branched tree there were a thousand nests of crows, and these crows had a king, by name Pírúz [Fortunate], in allegiance to whom all continued, and showed submission to his commands and prohibitions in opening and contracting all matters. One night the king of the owls, whom they called Shabáhang [Moving-by-night], in consequence of the ancient enmity which exists between the crow and the owl, made a night-attack on the crows with an innumerable army and a blood-thirsty host, and destroyed a number of them.*

With valiant arm he raised his hand on high,
And low as dust he made his foemen lie.

In that dark night he consumed with the flames of war many of the black-actioned crows, and sketched on the collar of the condition of those gloomy-fortuned ones the writing, ‘Kill them wherever you find them,’* and returned from that battle victorious and triumphant and strengthened and glad. The next day when the dark-pinioned crow of night turned its face towards its nest in the west; and the host of stars, like a flock of owls, were concealed in the corner of retirement,

The world-adorning sun its sabre drew,
And, from the day, night’s hosts in terror flew,

Pírúz assembled his forces, and introduced the story of the onslaught of the army of the owls, and said, ‘Ye witnessed the night-attack of the owls, and saw with your own eyes their courage, and to-day some among you have been slain, and others stripped of their feathers, wounded and with their plumage ruffled. And worse than this is their hardihood and intrepidity, and their eagerness to harass and annoy us crows, and their discovery of our abode and residence, and their becoming acquainted with our resting-places and our nests; and there is no doubt that the success and victory which they have won over this division will embolden them, and next time they will return more quickly, and on the next occasion will obtain a more effectual advantage than at the first, and will cause those who are already sick of the disease of panic to drink of the same beverage, and it is probable that if they make a night-attack again in this manner, they will not leave one of our army alive. Deliberate on this matter, and having stated the nature of your advice, devise with one consent how to repel them.

As yet ’tis the first onset of our foes,
Again new arts, new counsels, they devise.
Stop then this current ere it onward flows,
Lest many a mischief from its progress rise.
Strongly to-day oppose disaster’s tide,
Lest next day’s efforts should in vain be tried.’

When Pírúz had finished speaking, five crows from among the leaders of the forces approached the king, and offered the customary prayers and becoming praises. Now these were celebrated among the crows for the excellence of their judgment and their abundant good sense; and renowned for the soundness of their counsels and the justice of their plans. In all they were wont to pronounce, the secrets of victory and success were included, and in every way, which they pointed out, the tokens of prosperity and good were apparent.

They with clear judgment and true wisdom’s aid,
Time’s mirrored surface cleansed from trouble’s stain.
Their perfect reason and just counsel made,
The thousand knots of fortune loose again.

The crows were used to rely in all affairs on their advice, and under their guidance undertook measures for repelling disasters; and the king looked upon their judgment as auspicious, and in the matter of counsel did not transgress their sentence. When the eyes of Pírúz fell upon them he honored each with his royal condescension, promised them robes of honor and gifts befitting their condition, and said, ‘To-day is the day of trying your intellect and eminent qualities; place on the string of explana­tion every jewel that you have treasured up in the casket of your mind and set it on the salver of representation; and every coin that you have struck in the mint of your lofty minds on the touchstone of credit you must bring forth from the coining-house of examination to the mart of manifestation.’ The crows loosed the tongue of eulogy, and said,

‘King! may the world in thy safe-keeping be,
And earth and time still friendly prove to thee!
Hold thou the key that leads to victory,
And may thy foemen ’neath thy footsteps lie!

Thine own high judgment will be the most right-counseling, and that which passes through thy luminous mind will be best and most proper. What can we, thy slaves, utter that is not a thousand-fold more visible in the mirror of the imperial intellect? and what can we know that is not many times more inscribed on the tablet of the royal wisdom? However, in accordance with the saying, ‘He that is commanded is excusable,’ in whatever we may be interrogated, that, to the extent of our capacity, and the full limit of our ability and power, shall be set forth.

That which we speak is known to thy high mind.’

The king asked one of them, ‘What dost thou say on this head, and how dost thou propose to meet this difficulty?’ He replied, ‘O king! the wise who lived before us have pointed out to us the stratagem requisite for this kind of occurrence; and said that when any one is too weak to oppose a powerful enemy he must assuredly bid farewell to his property and effects, and birth-place and fatherland; and must avert his face from his wonted dwelling-place and well-known abode: since to wage war is very perilous, and to step into the plain of battle is a great calamity; especially when a defeat has been suffered from an enemy, and it has been reckoned a piece of good fortune to escape from him. And whoever—inconsiderately advancing to avenge himself, pretends to attack foes, the impression of whose arms and hostility he has experienced, is like one who slumbers in the bed of a torrent and who has built in the face of a flood; and to rely on one’s own strength, and to be intoxicated with one’s own prowess and valour, is far removed from prudence, since the sword has two edges, and the gale of victory can blow from both sides.

From strife with e’en a weaker man refrain,
For torrents grow from single drops of rain.
Nor with more valiant warriors meet in strife,
Thou canst not smite thy finger ’gainst a knife.’*

The King turned to another and said, ‘What have been thy reflections, and in what manner dost thou foresee a prosperous issue to this matter?’ He replied, ‘My sentiments do not accord with what the former minister has said with respect to flight and the desertion of our abodes. Nay, that counsel beseems not men of understanding, since, at the first onset and attack to suffer one’s self to be so abased, and to bid farewell to one’s home and fatherland, is a cause of disgrace and dishonor.

At every wound brave men must not give way.

It is more advisable that we should make preparations for battle, and enter upon the war with all possible dignity, and on the most imposing scale.

Unless we draw the sabre from its sheath,
None will our name as that of brave men breathe.
Ourselves will be on honor’s road the guide,*
And meet the boastings of the proud with pride.
So, aided by the world-creating Lord,
On foes we’ll wreak our vengeance with the sword.

The fortunate king may then fondle with the hand of enjoyment the chaste bride of empire, when the water* of his fire-dropping scymitar has washed out the name of the malignant foe from the tablet of life; and the renowned emperor can at that time raise to the lip of his wishes the cup of blissful repose, when he has crushed with the stone of victory the goblet of the desire of the insolent-eyed foe. The advisable course at present is that we establish videttes and keep watch on every side whence danger can be expected, and if the foe assail us, meet him prepared and upon our guard, and keep our ground manfully in the battle until the face of victory shews itself to the eye of hope through the dust of the conflict, or our blood be mingled with the mire of the battle-ground in the field of honor and renown.

Let me but fall with honor, and ’tis well.

And it behoves kings on the day of battle, and at a crisis when their honor is concerned, not to regard consequences; and, in the time of war, to look upon life and property as valueless.

Step thou into the battle-field prepared to die, and see
In the hollow of attainment’s bat the ball of thy desire.
Wouldst thou that fortune shew her face as thou wouldst wish to thee?
Then meet thy foeman front to front, nor from his face retire.’

The King turned the face of attention towards another, asking, ‘What does thy judgment point out and what writing does thy counsel inscribe on the board of representation?’ He replied, ‘I will have nothing to do with what the others say. I think it will be best to despatch spies and employ clever emissaries, and having thoroughly reconnoitred the position of our enemies, to discover whether they show any inclination to make terms or not. If they are content to receive tribute and subsidy from us, and will meet our friendly advances with the favor of acceptance; we, too, will base our affairs on peace, and to the extent of our power and the limit of possibility, we will undertake to pay tribute, and thus relieved from the hardships of war and the affliction of their night-attacks, we will rest in our own country.

Till with success by prudent plans we meet.
Better be humble than resist our foes.
When force cannot the enemy defeat,
Better with gifts the door of mischief close.
Wouldst thou by foeman’s malice not be stung?
With talismanic kindness bind his tongue.

And one fitting policy and wholesome counsel for kings, is—that when the preponderant power of their enemy is apparent, and there is cause to dread that his injuries and influence will spread throughout the realm, and that the people will be exposed to destruction and fall into the vortex of perdition—to try the throw* of stratagem and to meet the doubles* of his foe with gentleness; and having released his subjects from the check* of adversity, to make his wealth the shield of the state and realm—since to challenge the throw, though the cast* of the enemy may be on the carpet* of overbearing power and haughtiness, and to play the piece* of opposition madly, in spite of the adversary’s superior strength, is far removed from the decrees of reason and diverse from the adornments of experience.

When times are adverse, then yield thou to time.’

The King called up another vazír, and said, ‘Do thou, too, point out thy views and explain what enters thy mind.’ He said, ‘O King! in my opinion, to leave our country and undergo the pain of parting and the affliction of exile, is more to be commended than to break the thread of our hereditary honor, and condescend to a foe who can never be aught but our inferior.

When will the hawk the puny quail obey?
When savage lions are of deer the prey.

If we place ourselves in a position to assent to give tribute, and supply provisions to the owls, they will not be satisfied with that, and will exert themselves to the utmost of their power to extirpate and cut us off. And they have said, ‘It is right so far to show deference to an enemy, as to enable us to obtain our object of him, and not to carry this feeling to such an excess as that our minds should be degraded and our enemy emboldened.’ And they will never be content with a trifling tribute from us; wherefore our remedy is patience and cautious procedure; and if the exigency arise there is nothing to render war inadmissible, inasmuch as the distresses of war are preferable to the obliteration of fame and honor.

Better to lie entombed beneath the stone,
Than, living, under vile opprobrium groan.’

The king then called forward the fifth vazír, whose name was Kárshinás [Experienced], and said, ‘I have much reliance on thy understanding, which is capable of solving difficulties—and infinite confidence in thy world-illuminating wisdom.

None e’er beheld a solver of the knots of church and state
In straits, like to the counsels of thy penetrating mind:
From these alone men gain their wish, are rendered fortunate,
And by thy spirit’s influence the Humá’s glories find.

What opinion dost thou give in this matter; and of war, and peace and expatriation, which dost thou select?’ Kárshinás replied, ‘My counsel is, not to choose war with the owls save on compulsion, and so long as we can see some other issue for our affairs with them, not to base our proceeding on strife, because they are bold in fighting with us, and we feeble against them. They are both stronger and more terrible than we are, and to despise a foe occasions one to be elated with pride, and pride borders on a fall; and before this I was in dread of their attacks, and I have now witnessed with my eyes that which I feared; and they now will not give us trouble, because among them are cautious people, and a cautious man never feels himself safe from his foe, because when he is near, it is possible that he may make a sudden attack; and when the distance between them is great, it may be that he will turn back upon him; and when he takes to flight, an ambuscade may be expected; and when alone one may suppose that he has devised some stratagem and treason. And, according to this way of arguing, war is now in the knot of suspense on their part, and, supposing that they have the intention of making war, it is not advisable for us to engage them, for he is the wisest of creatures who abstains from war; for that which is lost in war is the coin of life, and there is no equivalent for that.

Hast thou the strength of elephants, the claws
Of lions; yet ’tis best from war to pause.’

The king said, ‘If thou loathest war, then what dost thou propose?’ He replied, ‘Deliberation is requisite in this matter, and the heights and depths of it must be measured with the step of debate; for kings obtain by just counsels and right deliberation those objects which are not attainable with much treasure, and a countless band of ministers and attendants.

The sword may one, perhaps a hundred, slay:
By prudence a whole host dissolves away.*

And the main thing in such matters is the luminous judgment of the king; and the counsel of judicious ministers is a cause of increasing the lustre of intellect, whence arises the perfection of light, as the water of the sea is augmented by the volume of the rivers; and, therefore, whoever does not seek assistance from the opinions of upright councillors whose words are worthy of approval, will, in a short time, lose all he may have gained from the assistance of fortune and the support of successful coincidence; while he who fortunately participates in the blessings of reason, and makes attention to the words of those in whom confidence can be placed his outer and inner garment, his happy destiny will be permanent and his fortune secure. And to-day—thanks be to God!—the king is adorned with perfect wisdom and arrayed with the beauty of right counsel.

O Thou! whose reason guards the realm of worth,
Whose wisdom* to the eastern orb gave birth;
Whose counsels true with right opinion’s aid,
The rules of justice on firm basis laid.
What my thoughts’ value gauged by thy clear view?
What price for beads from jewelers is due?

But since the king has honored me by consulting me in this affair, and has bestowed on me the dignity of a counsellor, I wish to say some things in answer privately, while I will declare a part of my opinion in public. And just as I am averse to war, so I feel repugnant to yield unqualified sub­mission and degrading compliance, and I will not bow my neck to tribute and the endurance of reproach to which our ancestors refused their consent.

A weak submission brings foul obloquy,
Than life dishonored better ’tis to die.

A man of a lofty spirit desires a long life that his memory may survive, and his name be perpetuated, and if—which God forbid!—infamy should attach to him, he would prefer a brief career to that.

Good fame without reproach be mine! for death is better far than shame.

And I do not think it expedient for the king to make a declaration of his own weakness; for whoever yields to self-abasement, the doors of calamity are opened upon him, and the path of remedy closed against him.

Keep a firm heart, nor yield to weak despair;
Where man is weakest Heaven grows darkest there.

And for the other segments of my discourse privacy is required in order that they may be represented to the view of the realm-adorning judgment of the king.’ One of the courtiers in the assembly said, ‘O Kárshinás! the advantage of consultation is this, that every one of those possessed of sagacity may say his say. Thus it may chance that the shaft of the thoughts of one of them may strike the target of the desired object; and the wise have said, ‘A counsel is an assembly of wise men, and wherever a body of men of sense enter upon an affair, the beginnings and issues thereof will be in the best possible way brought under their examination, and the issue of that matter will be combined with victory and success. Thus a sage has said,

‘Place not thy hopes on treasure, sword or host;
But from the wise for plans and counsel call:
For prudent counsel will befriend thee most,
Where sword and arrow ineffectual fall.’

Wherefore what can be the advantage of thy proposing to defer thy speech to a private audience?’ Kárshinás replied, ‘Not every one consulted is worthy of confidence, and state-secrets are not like affairs of ordinary occurrence and. common transactions on which advice may be asked from any one. And they have said, ‘King’s secrets are disclosed by those consulted, or by ambassadors and emissaries.’ And how knowest thou that there is no emissary present here at this time, who is listening to our words in order that he may with all speed transmit to the enemy intelligence of all he hears? So they after due consideration of the beginnings and endings thereof, will close up their dangerous apertures, and the arrow of our schemes will fail to reach the desired mark. And on the supposition that an enemy is present not being allowed; perhaps, each one of the bystanders may have a friend and companion, and it is possible that these friends may demand of them the particulars of this meeting, and a statement of what has been said, and in a very short time the exact nature of our deliberations will pass current in the mouths and on the tongues of all, and thus reach the ear of both friends and enemies; and hence it is that they have urged so strenuously the concealment of secrets.

How truthfully that man of prudence said!
‘Guard well thy secret, wouldst thou guard thy head.’*

And whoever divulges his secret to another who bears not the stamp of confidence, will repent in the end when regret is unavailing. And no person needs to conceal his secret with such strenuous care as a king, for if any one but he, who is truly a confidant of the king, becomes acquainted with his secrets, the greatest troubles may be expected to arise from it.

If one beside thyself thy counsel know,
Then for thy counsel soon thy tears must flow.

And there have been many, who have lost possession of realm and royalty, yea, of life and existence, through the disclosure of a secret, just as the King of Kashmír, through revealing his purpose to his vazír, fell in a short time from the pinnacle of princely power into the abyss of helplessness, and the sun of his existence set below the horizon of nonentity.’ Pírúz inquired, ‘How was that?’