The Lark said, ‘They have related that an Arab of the desert came into the city of Baghdád and saw the shop of a Baker. Round loaves, like the moon’s orb, arose from the horizon of the counter, and biscuits of a starry brightness had ascended to the pinnacle of the shop. Their solar beauty laid the hand of amazement on the face of the sun, and envy* of the biscuit rent the collar of the afflicted bread.

Of fair, round form, hot, new-made loaves upon the Baker’s counter lie;
Thou wouldst suppose each was the sun, world-lighting, rising in the sky.
The oven sparkles like the fire they lit, God’s prophet-friend* to try;
For from it, roselike, issuing forth, fresh loaves each moment meet the eye.

In short, when the poor Arab, who obtained a gasp of life from the smell of the bread, saw the face of the loaves, he rent the upper coat of patience, and advancing to the Baker, said, ‘O sir! how much wilt thou take to give me my fill of bread?’ The Baker thought to himself, ‘This fellow will have his fill with one man of bread, and two mans will be the outside he can eat, and beyond three mans he cannot get, do what he will.’ He then said, ‘Give me half a dínár and eat as much bread as thou canst.’ The Arab gave the half-dínár and sate down on the brink of the water of the Tigris. The Baker kept bringing the bread, and the Arab went on moistening it with water, and eating, until the price passed half a dínár and reached four dángs,* and having gone beyond that too, came to a whole dínár. The Baker then lost all patience, and said, ‘O brother Arab! I adjure thee by that God who has bestowed on thee this miraculous power of eating, tell me how long thou wilt continue eating?’ The Arab replied, ‘O sir! be not impatient, for as long as this water continues to flow I also will continue to eat.’

Now the object of adducing this story is, that the King may know that as long as the water of life flows in the ducts of my body, I have no resource but to eat the morsel of fear and alarm, and to consider it impossible to take up advantage from the table of union. And fortune throws separation between us in such a manner that the thought of union is nothing but a vain fancy; and, hereafter, whenever desire prevails, I will inquire of the morning-breeze happy tidings of the King, and will behold in the mirror of imagination, the perfect beauty of his majesty.

If I cannot meet my loved one, I’m content to think of him;
Sure the moonbeam is the best light for the votary’s closet dim.’

The King let fall the drops of regret from the fountains of his eyes, and perceived that that sagacious bird would not come into the snare, and that the desired vengeance would not move gracefully forth from the cabinet of non-existence into the expanse of being. Again he began to strew the grain of deceit, and employed a variety of promises and asseverations. The Lark said, ‘O King! of noble fortune and of brilliant crown and throne, although thou arrangest the substructure of favor and offerest a variety of kindnesses as to the matter of safety and security, and ratifiest the same by attestations worthy of approval and becoming assurances; yet it is impossible that I should draw the ring of servitude through my ear or spread over my shoulder the cloth of obedience.

Waste words no more—they take no hold of me.’

The King perceived that he could not extract from the foot of the Lark’s heart, the thorn of timidity with the needle of deceit, nor bring back with the strong arm of perfidy, the arrow which had left the string. He* said therefore, ‘O Lark! I see that from the flower-garden of union, nought but the perfume will reach the nostril of desire, and that the face of inter­view will not appear save in the mirror of hope.

He’s gone who was the water in the rivulet of mirth,
Or glossy curl that beautifies the ringlet of desire.
Alas! the time of joy, to which our union glad gave birth,
Is past, as words in visions fade, and, shadow-like, expire.

I desire, however, that by way of a souvenir, thou wouldest utter two or three sentences by the repetition of which the signs of happiness will be observable on the pages of life, and that thou wouldest rub out, by the polisher of friendly admonition, the rust of neglect from the mirror of my mind, which has been clouded by the dust of grief.

Leave for my sake some words that may memento of thy dear self be,
Than good advice thou canst not leave a better souvenir of thee.’

The Lark said, ‘O King! the affairs of mortals are carried on in accordance with destiny. And therein they have allotted to none a discretionary power as to augmentation or the reverse, or anticipation or postponement. Nor can any one know if they have affixed to his name the diploma of happiness, or have entered him in the roll of the wretched. But it is incumbent on all to direct their affairs according to the requirements of right reason, and to use their utmost endeavors in the observance of caution and vigilance. If their counsel accords with destiny, they are of themselves established on the throne of prosperity and the cushion of dignity and state. But if circum­stances turn out adverse, it both happens that friends accept the excuse, and railers, too, fail in finding an opportunity for disparagement.

‘True,’ said the wise man, ‘fate precedes, but still
Neglect in no case thine own plans—for should
Thy counsels coincide with the high will
Of destiny, then thine own actions would
Secure thee fruit to thy heart’s wish. But say
That fate is adverse, still all whom the ray
Of sense gilds, view thy fall in lenient mood.’

And, moreover, it should be known that the most visionary of possessions is that of which there is no fruition; and the most negligent of kings is he who does not apply himseif to protect his country and coerce his subjects; and the most execrable of friends is he who deserts his friend in the time of distress and adversity; and the most unserviceable of wives is she who agrees not with her husband; and the worst of sons is he who refuses to obey his parents; and the most desolate of cities is that in which there is neither security nor cheapness; and the most unpleasant intercourse is that in which the hearts of the associates are not right to each other. And as sus­picion has arisen in my intercourse with the King, it is most proper to relinquish it; and it is most in accordance with the advisable course to exchange the language of friendship for the terms of truce.

We’re gone and let us then a heartfelt farewell find,
And with the water of both eyes turn earth to clay.
Hast thou been wronged? yet let thy every word be kind,
And if thy head has ached, put now the thought away.’

With these words the Lark brought the discussion to an end, and flying from the battlements of the castle took her way to the desert. The King bit the finger of regret with the tooth of amazement; and after lamenting some time, turned his face towards his palace with grief exceeding computation or conception, and with chagrin that overpassed the bounds of comprehension, and said,

‘Where shall I tell? that in this torturing pain
My leech himself life’s trembling cord would break.
And how amid my friends can I complain,
That thus my loved one acted and thus spake?’

This is the story of being cautious of the perfidious ambushes of the resentful, and of avoiding to test the sincerity of their entreaties and bewailings, and of placing confidence in the hypocritical friendship of foes; and of not being deceived by the fraud and artifice which they employ to secure their revenge. And let it not be hid from the man of understanding that the intention of narrating these things is no other than this, that the prudent man ought to regard every one as a guide in the accidents of fortune and in the disasters of life, and to base his proceedings on the requirements of reason and good counsel, and in no wise to rely on an enemy that has been vexed, and not to sit down secure from the calamitous effects of deceit and the danger of guile.

Wouldst thou be never leagued with grief or woe?
Hear, then, a word than finest pearl more pure:
Ne’er shew supineness with a wounded foe,
Nor of the proud and spiteful feel secure.