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(Masnavi Book 4: 23) The Poet and the two Viziers










Story of the poet and how the king gave him a reward and how the vizier, whose name was Bu ’l-Hasan, made it many times greater.

A poet brought a poem before the king in hope of (receiving) robes of honour and bounty and rank.
The king was munificent: he ordered him (to receive) a thousand (dinars) of red gold and bounties and largesse.
Then the vizier said to him, This is (too) little: bestow (on him) a gift of ten thousand (dinars), that he may depart (satisfied).
From a poet like him intellect (displays itself); from you, whose hand is like the ocean (in
bounty), the (sum of) ten thousand (dinars) which I mentioned is little.”

1160. He argued and reasoned with the king until the tithe on the threshed grain was made up out of the unthreshed ears of corn (which remain on the threshing-floor).
He (the king) gave him the ten thousand (dinars) and the robes of honour suitable to him: his head became a house of thanksgiving and praise.
Then he made inquiry, saying, Whose work was this? Who declared my merit to the king?”
So they told him, (It was) al-Dín, the vizier, he whose name is Hasan and whose disposition and heart are good (hasan).”
He wrote a long poem in praise of him (the vizier) and returned home.

1165. Without tongue or lip (mutely) that bounty of the king and those robes of honour bestowed by the king were praising the king.

How after several years the poet came back in the hope of (receiving) the same reward, and how the king according to his custom ordered a thousand dinars to be given to him, and how the new vizier, who was also named Hasan, said to the king, This is very much: we have (great) expenses and the treasury is empty, and I will satisfy him with a tenth of that (sum).

After some years the poet, on account of poverty and destitution, became in need for daily bread and seed-produce (the means of livelihood).
He said, “At the time of poverty and close-handedness (want), it is better to seek out one who has been tried.
The court which I have tried in regard to generosity—I will carry the new request to the same quarter.”
That (celebrated) Síbawayh said (that) the meaning of (the name) Alláh (is that) they (His worshippers) take refuge (yawlahúna) with Him in (all) their needs.

1170. He said, We have repaired for succour (alihná) unto you in our needs and have sought them (and) found them with Thee.
In the hour of affliction hundreds of thousands of intelligent persons are all crying (for help)
before that unique Judge.
Would any mad fool do this, (namely), continue to beg of a miser incapable (of liberality)? Unless the intelligent had experienced (God's beneficence) more than a thousand times, how should they have betaken themselves to Him?
Nay, all the fish in the waves (of the sea), all the birds in the lofty regions (of the sky),

1175. The elephant and the wolf and also the hunting lion, the huge dragon and also the ant and the snake,
Nay, earth and wind (air) and water and every spark (of fire) gain subsistence from Him both in
December (winter) and spring.
This heaven is making entreaty unto Him incessantly“Do not forsake me, O God, for a single moment!
Thy safeguarding and protection (of me) is my pillar (support): all (of me) is enfolded in the
might of those two Hands.
And this earth says, “Preserve me, O You who have caused me to ride upon the water.”

1180. All have sewn up (filled) their purses from Him and have learned from Him to give
(satisfy) the wants (of others).
Every prophet has received (on behalf of his people) from Him the guarantee (implied in the words) seek help of Him with patience or prayer.
Come, ask of Him, not of any one except Him: seek water in the sea, do not seek it in the dry
river-bed.
And if you ask of another, it is He that gives; it is He that lays generosity on the open hand of his
(that other's) inclination.
He who with gold makes one that turns away (from Him in disobedience) a Qán (Korah), how
(much more) will He do (if) you turn your face towards Him in obedience!

1185. The poet, from passionate desire for bounty, set his face a second time towards that beneficent king.
What is the poet's offering? A new poem: he brings it to the beneficent (patron) and deposits it as his stake.
The beneficent (on their part) have deposited gold and are waiting for the poets with a hundred gifts and liberalities and kindnesses.
In their eyes a poem (shi‘r) is better than a hundred bales of silk robes (sha‘r), especially (when it is composed by) a poet who fetches pearls from the depths.
At first a man is greedy for bread, because food and bread are the pillar (support) of life.

1190. On account of greed and expectation he runs every risk in the way of earning his livelihood and seizing property by violence and (employing) a hundred devices.
When, (as happens) rarely, he becomes independent of (earning his) bread, he is in love with fame and the praise of poets,

In order that they may give fruit to (may adorn) his root and branch and may set up a pulpit to declare his excellence,
So that his pomp and magnificence and lavishing of gold may yield a perfume, like (that of)
ambergris, in (their) song.
God created us in His image: our qualities are instructed by (are modeled upon) His qualities.

1195. Inasmuch as the Creator desires thanksgiving and glorification, it is also the nature of man to desire praise,
Especially the man of God, who is active in (showing) excellence: he becomes filled with that
wind (of praise), like an undamaged leathern bag;
But if he (the recipient of praise) be not worthy, the bag is rent by that wind of falsehood: how should it receive lustre?
I have not invented this parable, O comrade: do not hear it (as though it were) silly, if you art worthy and restored to your senses.
The Prophet (Mohammed) said (something like) this, when he heard vituperation (from the infidels who asked), “Why is Ahmad (Mohammed) made fat (happy) by praise?”

1200. The poet went to the king and brought a poem in thanks (and praise) for (his)
beneficence, saying that it (beneficence) never died.
The beneficent died, and (their) acts of beneficence remained: oh, blest is he that rode this steed!
The unjust died, and those acts of injustice remained: alas for the soul that practises deceit and fraud!
The Prophet said, Blest is he who departed from this world and left good deeds behind him.The beneficent man died, but his beneficence died not: with God, religion (piety) and beneficence are not of small account.

1205. Alas for him who died and whose disobedience (to God) died not: beware of thinking that by death he saved his soul (from punishment).
Dismiss this (topic), for the poet is on the way—in debt and mightily in need of gold.
The poet brought the poem to the king in hope of (receiving) last year's donation and benefit— A charming poem full of flawless pearls, in hope and expectation of the first (former) munificence.
The Sháh indeed, according to his habit, ordered a thousand (dinars to be paid) to him, since such was the
custom of that monarch;

1210. But, on this occasion, the bountiful vizier had departed from the present life, (mounted)
on the Buráq of glory,
And in his place a new vizier had assumed authority; but (he was) very pitiless and mean.
He said, O king, we have (great) outlays: this donation is not the (fitting) reward for a poet. With a fortieth part of this (sum), O you (whose favour is) eagerly sought, I will make the poet man happy and content.
The people said to him, “He carried away a sum of ten thousand (dinars) in ready money from this valiant (king).

1215. After (having eaten) sugar, how should he chew (the empty) cane? After having been a sultan, how should he practise beggary?”
He (the vizier) replied,I will squeeze him in torment, that he may be made wretched and worn out by waiting;
Then, if I give him earth from the road, he will snatch it as (though it were) rose-leaves from the garden.
Leave this to me, for I am expert in this, even if the claimant be fiery (hot and fierce).

Though he (be able to) fly from the Pleiades to the earth, he will become meek when he sees me.”

1220. The king said to him, Go: it is for you to command; but make him happy, for he is my eulogist.”
He (the vizier) said, Leave him and two hundred (other) lickers-up of hope to me, and write this
(down) against me.”
Then the minister threw him into (the pains of) expectation: winter and December passed and spring came.
In expectation of it (the reward) the poet grew old; then he was crushed by this anxiety and making shift to provide (the means of livelihood),
And said (to the vizier),If there is no gold (for me), please give me abuse, so that my soul may
be delivered (from expectation) (and that) I may be your (devoted) slave.

1225. Expectation has killed me: at least bid me go, that this wretched soul may be delivered from bondage.
After that, he (the vizier) gave him the fortieth part of that (gift): the poet remained in heavy thought,
(Thinking), “That (former gift) was so promptly paid and was so much: this one that blossomed
late was (only) a handful of thorns.
Then they (the courtiers) said to him,That generous vizier has departed from this life: may God reward you!
For those gifts were always multiplied (increased in amount) by him: there was no fault to be
found with the donations (then);

1230. (But) now, he is gone and has taken beneficence away (with him): he is not dead, (but)
beneficence is dead (in this world), yea, verily.
The generous and upright minister is gone from us; the minister who is a flayer of the poor has arrived.
Go, take this (money) and flee from here by night, lest this minister pick a quarrel with you.
We have obtained this gift from him by a hundred devices, O you who art ignorant of our exertions.
He turned his face to them and said,O kindly men, tell (me), whence came this myrmidon
(ruffian)?

1235. What is the name of this vizier who tears off the clothes (of the poor)? The company
(of courtiers) said to him, His name too is Hasan.”
He (the poet) cried,O Lord, how are the names of that one and this one the same? Alas, O Lord of the Judgement!
That Hasan by name (was such) that by a single pen of his a hundred viziers and ministers are
disposed to liberality.
This Hasan (is such) that from the ugly beard of this Hasan you canst weave, O (dear) soul, a hundred ropes.”
When a king listens to such a minister, he (the minister) disgraces the king and his kingdom unto everlasting.

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