The Lark said, ‘They have related that in the country of Turkistán there was a King, the Humá of whose unrivaled spirit spread over the nations of mankind the shade of welfare and winged victory and success, and the ’Anḳá of whose exalted banner raised the head of elevation beyond the nest of the peacocks of the gardens of the sky. His perfect justice bestowed on the affairs of state-administration the most exact order, and his bounty, in which all participated, conducted to a careful completion the important transactions of the crown.

A Khusrau crown-bestowing, throne-conferring he,
Did treasures scatter o’er the crown and throne,
And, earth-subduing, kept it in security.
Him men as Jam and as Sikandar own.

It befell that a doubt arose in the mind of one of the Pillars of the State, and he averted his face from the heaven-resembling vestibule of the King, and, having deceived the King, brought one of his enemies to engage in battle and open hostility with him. When the King learned that his enemy had averted the face of obedience from the shrine of submission, and that the temptations of the rebellious and the seductions of the refractory had penetrated to the foundation of his faith; and that with furious intentions and insensate hopes he was fostering the thought of dominion and chieftain­ship; and that with a heart full of ancient grudges he was cherishing the expectation of success and elevation; he despatched to him a letter teeming with kindly counsels, and an epistle replete with kingly advice. However, the haughty foe, from the excess of his arrogance and pride, paid no attention to it, and wherever he imagined a rebellious band to exist, drew them to himself by the noose of invitation.

Some desperate few he gathered round him then,
Who sought the field when war grew hot again.

In short, when the King saw that the draught of the medicine of gentleness could not cure their gross temperament, which had altogether turned aside from the path of true moderation, he sent to him a message of the following nature, ‘I and thou resemble the glass and the stone. Strike either the stone on the glass or the glass on the stone, in both cases the glass will break and no harm will happen to the stone.’

Now the advantage of adducing this story is that it may be clear to the luminous mind of the King that I, too, am like the glass, and am unable to encounter the wrath of the King, which is firm and crushing to his enemies as a rock.

Encounter not, my heart! with them, the steely-hearted fair,
For thou, of glass composed, couldst not the shock of anvils bear.

Though the King adopts an attitude of conciliation, and desires to soothe with the oxymel of excuses the bile of timidity; still in the school of wisdom it is unlawful to accept the excuses of the rancorous and envious, while it is a command, which it is incumbeut on all to obey, to reply with rejection and denial to the peaceful requisitions of the hostile.

Friends eloquent this maxim told to me,
Rely not on a foe that speaks thee fair;
But if he look for evil things from thee,*
Be not deceived, nor do his faith impair.’

The King said, ‘It is not allowable, on bare suspicion, to sever inter­course and overthrow a friendship, nor is it right, on a surmise which springs from the imagination, to calamitously involve a comrade in the pangs of separation. On a slight doubt to lay aside ancient acquaintance and a well-constituted friendship, and on a trifling uncertainty to let go from the hand the string of the promise of companionship and amicable engagements, is not the custom of men of truth.

This was thy faith! thy promise this! and I was all unknowing;
Thy promised love was nought but hate from rancor’s fountain flowing.
Thy every word is cruel, as the heart whence ’tis proceeding!
Could then thy heart be hard as this, and I so all unheeding!

Nay, now, the quality of fidelity is found even in a dog, which is the lowest in rank of all animals and the most vile in degree. Why, then, dost thou not draw back thy foot from the plain of faithlessness, and fulfil the compact which thou didst make during our intercourse and friendship?

Couldst thou it learn, ’twere well, indeed, to shew fidelity.’

The Lark replied, ‘How can I lay the foundation of fidelity? On that side the pillars of attachment are overthrown, and the traces of fulfilment of promise altogether effaced. And it is impossible that the king should relinquish those things which cause my terror, and turn away from watching for an opportunity of revenge. Now, as he cannot lay hands upon me by violence and force, he wishes to draw me into the grasp of his revenge by artifice and deceit; and one ought to fear the rancor which has fixed itself in the hearts of kings. For, through the haughtiness of kingly power, they are pertinacious in the matter of vengeance; and when they get an oppor­tunity, they grant no respite for time to plead extenuating circumstances or to offer excuses. And resentments in the breast are like cold charcoal, for though at present no effect is perceptible from them, as soon as the flame of wrath reaches them, they warm up, and the blaze of fury, rising, consumes the world. And the smoke of revenge which ascends from the fire of resentment has dried many brains and moistened many eyes. And it is impossible that as long as a particle of the charcoal of resentment is left in the mine of the breast, one can be secure from the injuries of the flame of wrath.

Wrath blazing forth consumes both land and sea.’

The King answered, ‘It is strange that in this matter thou takest a one-sided view, and altogether lettest slip the other side. Why may it not be that the preambles of dread may be exchanged for the happy influences of attachment? and after the obscuration of contention the serenity of kindly feeling make its appearance?’ The Lark said, ‘If any one were able to display perfect courtesy and kindness in the due observation of all that regards the other party, and would exert himself to secure the goodwill and happiness of his friends; and regard it as a duty to aid and assist in the obtaining advantages for them, and the repelling detrimental and disagreeable things from them; it is possible that timidity might be removed from between them, and that both the resentful one should be pacified and the heart of the fearer be perfumed with the gentle breeze of security. But I am unequal to the task of entertaining thoughts of this nature, such as would obliterate the springs of resentment and promote the advancement of amity and concord. Should I return to the service of the King, I shall always be in terror and alarm, and every moment I shall behold death afresh. Wherefore it is better to choose avoidance rather than such a return, and to exchange return for separation.

When the rose of union blooms not on the branch of fortune’s tree,
’Tis joy in the waste of absence, pierced with thorns our feet to see.’

The King said, ‘No one has any power to benefit or injure any one without the will of the great God (may His name be magnified!) so that which befalls any one, whether it be little or much, small or great, happens only by the eternal decree, and through the previous command of Him who suffers no decline. Inasmuch, therefore, as the hand of a creature is unable to create or revivify, it is impossible that it should be the cause of annihilating or producing anything. Thus the deed of my son and thy retaliation occurred through the decree of God and the will of the Almighty, and they were but the means of carrying into execution that order. Do not, therefore, call us to account for the decrees of heaven, nor reprove us for that which has been fated by God, but acquiesce in the dispensations of providence.

Our sole course is submission to our lot;
Patience alone befits us in distress.
Whate’er fate’s pen may write, oppose it not,
Or from His way who wills it, find egress.’

The Lark replied, ‘The weakness of created beings to avert the decree of the Creator is manifest and ascertained; and it is apparent and clearly delineated on the pages of the thoughts of people of verity, that the varieties of good and ill, and different degrees of advantage and detriment take place according to the intention and requirement of the ordinance of the Almighty, (may His name be magnified!) and that the averting or prevention of them, or their acceleration or postponement, is not to be effected, ‘There is no repeller of His decree, and no retarder of His mandate.’

None here may question why ’tis thus, or wherefore things that happen are:
For He that does events pourtray, beyond such questions lieth far.

And notwithstanding that all sages have been unanimous as to this matter, no one has affirmed that one ought to neglect caution and vigilance, or that self-preservation from disagreeable and calamitous things, ought to be deferred. Nay, they have said that we must provide the means for all things, and commit the completion of affairs to the Causer of Causes.

To study ways and means is God’s decree
To all beneath the sky’s blue canopy.
By causes chained seek not from cause to fly,
Yet doubt not the First Cause is Deity.
Art thou through causes to their Cause supine?
Canst thou from Him to those veiled ones incline?*

And the recondite saying, ‘Be wise and trust,’ supports this assertion.

In trustful hope, bind thou the camel’s knee.’

The King rejoined, ‘The sum of this discourse is, that I am desirous of a meeting with thee, and find in my own mind an abundant longing for thy society, and in spite of all this earnest desire that exists on my part, I perceive nothing on thy part but the tokens of chagrin.

We love thee, and thou tak’st our love amiss,
Since hearts to hearts incline, what state is this?’

The Lark said, ‘Thy strong desire lies in this—to appease thy heart by killing me; and the state of the case is, that my soul does not at present desire to drink the beverage of death, or incline to put on the apparel of extinction; and as long as the reins of option are in my hand, I repudiate the acceptance of these things, and look upon the avoidance of them as the essence of salutary counsel.

Unlike the cane, heads shoot from trunks no more.

And I this day can infer the feelings of the King from my own heart, for could I obtain the power and ability, I should not be satisfied, save by the destruction of the king’s darling* son; and I feel sure that owing to the distress of his son, the sole wish of the king, too, is for my destruction. Moreover, he that obtains information as to what is concealed in the mind of the unfortunate is he that has been consumed by the fire of the same grief, and who from that source has drunk the sharbat of bitterness. Parties at their ease are ignorant and careless of this state of things, and those nursed in luxury, and who have experienced nought but happiness, are free from the knowledge* of pain.

Thou in whose foot not e’en a thorn has broken—how canst thou
Tell what the warriors feel, whose heads before the sabre bow?

And I see with the eye of understanding that whenever the king recalls his son’s [loss of] vision, and I think of my own ‘light of my eyes,’ a difference will be visible in our internal feelings, and a change will manifest itself in our tempers, and one may judge what will spring therefrom, and what circum­stances will then arise. On these grounds separation is more prudent than meeting, and distance more expedient than personal vicinity.

Since such the union, parting then is best.’

The King said, ‘What good can there be in that person who cannot overlook the offences of his friends, nor relinquish feelings of spite and annoyance. And a wise man, of perfect understanding, possesses the power of non-retaliation to such an extent that during his whole life he does not refer to it, nor at any time does any trace of it, little or much, appear on the page of his heart. He accepts, too, with the utmost readiness, the prayers of forgiveness of the guilty, and the excuses of offenders. [Thus it is said], ‘The worst of the wicked is he who will not accept an excuse’; in other words, he is worst among the bad who accepts not excuses, and harbors in his heart resentment against one who apologizes.

A frank avowal hides with me all sin.

And I, for my part, find my mind pure in all I have said; and I do not discover in my heart a trace of the form of wrath, or the fury of anger, or the idea of revenge; and I have always preferred forgiveness to punishment, and have always thought that, however great the offence may be, the quality of forgiveness will be greater.

Greatly in error may inferiors fall;
But great men’s pardon will outstrip it all.’

The Lark replied, ‘This is all true, but I am an offender, and the criminal is always an alarmist; and my case is like that of a person in the sole of whose foot there is a wound. If from the strength of his natural firmness he acts fearlessly, and consents during a dark night to walk through a stony place, there is no escape from opening afresh that wound, so that his foot will be incapable of work, and it will be impossible for him to move even on soft ground. Now my acceding to the service of the king is of the same nature; and, according to law and the canons of my creed, it is a positive duty that I should abstain from it. So it is said, ‘And throw not yourselves with your own hands into perdition;’* and sages have remarked, ‘Three persons are far from the path of wisdom, and separated from the road of knowledge. The first is he who relies on the strength of his own nature, for such a one undoubtedly casts himself into peril, and his own rashness causes his destruction. The second is he who discerns not the proper amount of food and drink, and eats so much that his stomach is unable to digest it; and this person is, in fact, the enemy of his own life. The third is he who is deceived by the speech of an enemy, and beguiled by the promise of one from whom he cannot be safe, and the conclusion of his affair will certainly turn out to be abasement and repentance.

Be not too careless of a foe’s deceit,
But ponder, turn the rein, and thence retreat.’

The King said, ‘O Lark! though I enter by the door of courtesy, and point out to thee the road of welfare and friendly admonitions, thou remainest as before in thy bitterness, and shakest the skirt of thy acceptance free from hearing my advice. Now, advice, with reference to a person who will not accept it, is useless; as was the advice of that Devotee to the Wolf.’ The Lark asked, ‘How was that?’