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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Sa’dī (c. 1213–1291)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by A. V. Williams Jackson (1862–1937)
SA’DĪ of Shīrāz, the moral teacher and didactic poet,—the “Nightingale of a Thousand Songs,” as he has been termed in the Orient,—is one of the Persian authors whose name is best known in the Occident. He may rightly claim a place in “the world’s best literature” for the excellence of his short moral stories in prose intermingled with rhyme, and for the merit of his poetical reflections, which abound in sound wisdom presented in a charming and appropriate style. His “discourse is commingled with pleasantry and cheerful wit,” as he says of himself in his masterpiece, the ‘Gulistān’; and he adds that “the pearls of salutary counsel are strung on the thread of his diction, and the bitter medicine of advice is mixed up with the honey of mirthful humor.” These words of his own admirably characterize his work; because good sense, high thought, religious feeling, human sympathy, and knowledge of man, combined with a general naturalness and simplicity, mark his best productions.  1
  Sa’dī has not the epic force nor the romantic strain of Firdawsī or Nizami, nor again the mystic elevation and abstract introspection of Jāmī and Jalāl-ad-dīn Rūmī, nor has he the lyric ecstasy for which Hafez is renowned; but he possesses certain qualities that none of the others can claim, and which give to his writings a peculiar attractiveness, an enduring element, that insures their lasting throughout time. Flourishing at a period when Europe had yet to feel the quickening touch of the revival of learning, Sa’dī stands in the East as a bright light of higher aim and nobler purpose, as a character of generous open-heartedness and liberal-minded thought. In his long life devoted to study and travel, or spent in productive activity and repose, he gave to the world a vast fund which he had gathered, of sound wisdom, wholesome philosophy, broad ethics, good judgment, and common-sense. Enjoying the personal favor of potentates, he seems to have availed himself of the privileges which money confers, chiefly for the purpose of bestowing gifts in charity or for advancing worthy causes; he religiously felt and practiced what he preached—the doctrine of contentment and resignation.  2
  Sa’dī’s life was of such unusual length that it could not but be somewhat eventful. He was born at Shīrāz, then the capital of Persia. His father died while he was still a child, as we know from the touching lines on the orphan in the ‘Būstān’ (ii. 2, 11). The boy now received the exalted patronage of the ruling Atābeg Sa’d bin Zangī of Fars, and he was educated upon a fellowship foundation at the Nizāmiah College of Baghdad. For thirty years (1196–1226) he was a student and earnest worker, imbibing the principles of Sūfīism, and gaining a deep insight into the doctrines and tenets of the Moslem faith. It was his pious good fortune to make no less than fourteen pilgrimages, at different times, to the shrine of Mecca. The second period of his life, from the age of forty to seventy (1226–1256), was spent in travel, east and west, north and south. He not only visited the cities of the land of Iran, but he journeyed abroad to India, Asia Minor, and Africa. Among other places he resided at Damascus, Baalbec, and Jerusalem; and was taken prisoner by the Crusaders in Tripolis, as is shown by the incident connected with his married life that is recorded in the selections given here. When already a septuagenarian he returned to his native city of Shīrāz, and there he spent the third or remaining part of his life (1256–1291). He once more enjoyed courtly favor, this time from the son of his former royal patron; and he devoted his time to producing or completing the literary work which was prepared for, or doubtless partly composed, during the long preceding period of his career.  3
  In the world of letters, therefore, Sa’dī presents the peculiar phenomenon of one whose writing seems to have been done late in life. The ‘Būstān’ (Garden of Perfume) was finished in one year (1257). It is written in verse, and comprises ten divisions. Sa’dī’s themes are justice, government, beneficence and compassion, love, humility, good counsel, contentment, moral education and self-control, gratitude, repentance and devotion, or the like, as a summary of the titles of the work shows. The ‘Gulistān’ (Rose-Garden) was completed in the following year (1258); and this work, by which Sa’dī’s name is best known, has been familiar to Western students since the days when Gentius published a Latin version entitled ‘Rosarium Politicum,’ in Amsterdam, 1651. The ‘Gulistān’ is written in prose, with intermingled verses, and it comprises eight chapters. Like the ‘Būstān’ it is didactic in tendency, but it is lighter and more clever; it is a perfect storehouse of instructive short stories with moral design, entertainingly presented, and abounding in aptly put maxims, aphorisms, or sententious sayings, which make the work entertaining reading. Sa’dī’s productiveness, however, was not confined to the ethical and didactic field; he was also under the influence of the lyrical strain, and he composed a series of odes, dirges, elegies, and short poems, which have warm feeling and a distinctly human touch. A book of good counsel, ‘Pandnāmah,’ bears Sa’dī’s name; but its authenticity has been open to some doubt. Some jests of a lower order in poetical vein are said to be his; and he is also the author of several shorter prose treatises known as ‘Risālah.’ Besides his native Persian, he could compose in Arabic, and he was acquainted with Hindūstānī.  4
  Sa’dī was twice married; and his lament over the loss of a beloved son, who died before him, is preserved in the ‘Būstān.’ His own death occurred at a very advanced age in 1291 (or 1292) in his native city, where his tomb is still seen; and Sa’dī’s name and fame have contributed to making Shīrāz renowned in Persian literature.  5
  Abundant material is accessible, in English and in other languages, to those who may be interested in Sa’dī. The best information on the subject is given by Ethé in Geiger and Kuhn’s ‘Grundriss der Iranischen Philologie,’ ii. 295–6. English translations of the ‘Būstān’ have been made by H. Wilberforce Clarke (London, 1879), and G. S. Davie, ‘The Garden of Fragrance’ (London, 1882); and selections have been rendered by S. Robinson, ‘Persian Poetry for English Readers’ (Glasgow, 1883), specimens of which are given here. A. H. Edwards, ‘Būstān of Sa’dī’ (London, 1911), may also be consulted. There are German renderings by K. H. Graf (Jena, 1850), by Schlechta-Wssehrd (Vienna, 1852), and by Fr. Rückert (Leipzig, 1882); and a French version by Barbier de Meynard (Paris, 1880). Among the English translations of the ‘Gulistān’ may be mentioned those by Dumoulin (Calcutta, 1807), Gladwin (London, 1822), J. Ross (London, 1823), Lee (London, 1827), J. T. Platts (London, 1873), the Kama Shastra Society (Benares, 1888); and the translation by Eastwick in Trübner’s Oriental Series (London, 1880), which has also been drawn upon for the present article, as well as S. Robinson’s ‘Persian Poetry’ (Glasgow, 1883), mentioned above. Material in French and in German may easily be obtained, as a glance at Ethé’s bibliography will show; Ethé should also be consulted by those who desire references on the subject of Sa’dī’s lyrical and miscellaneous pieces.  6

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