Sa'di (c. 1213-1292)

Persian poet and prose writer, whose best-known works include Bustan (1256-57, The Fruit Garden), which contains histories, personal anecdotes, fables and moral instructions, and Gulistan (1258, The Rose Garden), a didactic work composed both of prose and verse. Sa'di is basically a moralist whose stories have similarities with Jean de La Fontaine's (1621-1695) fables. In Persia his golden maxims were highly valued and considered a treasure of true wisdom.

Condonation is laudable but nevertheless
Apply no salve to the wound of an oppressor of the people.
He who had mercy upon a serpent
Knew not that it was an injury to the sons of Adam.

(from The Rose Garden)
Shaykh Sa’di (Sa'di Shirazi), byname of Musharrif Od-din Muslih Od-din, was born in Shiraz (now in Iran). Little is known of his life, starting from the exact date of his birth. And Sa'di's autobiographical references in his writings are not necessarily meant to be taken literally. The year of Sa'di's birth is in some sources 1184, due to some misconceptions, and Sa'di did not die at the age of 108. However, it is known that Sa'di was orphaned at an early age. Later he mover to Baghdad, where he studied at the Nezamiyeh College. After completing his studies, Sa'di took to a wandering life. Also the conditions in Persia were unsettled. The Mongols had turned against the Islamic states and eventually conquered Baghdad in 1258. One of Sa'di's odes is a lament on the fall of the city.
Sa'di traveled in the Middle East, he was captured in North Africa by the Franks and was forced to labor on the fortress of Tripoli. It is possible that Sa'di made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Sa'di claims also to have visited Kashghar and India. In 1256-57 Sa'di returned to his native Shiraz and become known as a writer. His pseudonym Sa'di took from the local ruler, Sa'd ibn Zangi. After a long end eventful life, Sa'di died in Shiraz on December 9, 1292. His tomb is considered a national shrine. The complete works of Sa'di were published in Persian at Calcutta in 1791-95. Sadi's writings were first translated into French in 1634 and into German twenty years later. La Fontaine based his 'Le songe d'un habitant du Mogol' on a story from Gulistan (chapter 2:16), Diderot, Voltaire, Hugo and Balzac referred to Sa'di's works, and Goethe had adaptations from him in West-Ostlicher Divan. In the United States Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed a poem of his own to Sa'di.
Sa'di was a contemporary of Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273), famous for his didactic epic Masnavi-ye Ma'navi (Spiritual Couplets). The theme of Rumi's ghazals was sacred love; Sa'di wrote about profane love, although some of his ghazals were mystical: "I am happy through the world because the world is happy through Him; / I love the whole world because the whole world is His." The ghazal form, which Sa'di popularized, had been neglected until the thirteenth century. His work paved way for Hafez (d. c. 1388), who become considered the master of the form. In the ghazals the two lines of the first couplet rhyme with one another and with the second line of the following couplets, the individual couplets are often independent of each other. Sa'di's ghazals were held together by an unifying view. In many poems Sa'di's beloved is a young man, not a beautiful woman. In this he followed the conventions of traditional Persian poetry. Sa'di's own attitude toward homosexuals was more negative than positive. In the Gulistan he stated, "If a Tatar slays that hermaphrodite / The Tatar must not be slain in return." (3:12). Another story tells of the qazi of Hamdan whose affection towards a farrier-boy is condemned by his friends and the king, who eventually says: "Everyone of you who are bearers of your own faults / Ought not to blame others for their defects." In the West the homoerotic parts of Gulistan often were changed in the early editions.
Sa'di's style is pure, simple and elegant, his tone is sometimes severe, sometimes cheerful, blending humor with cynicism. He also produced a collection of pornographic anecdotes, Khabisat, written by a commission of his friend. The Bustan was presented to the local ruler. It consisted of "dissertations on justice, good government, beneficence, earthly and mystic love, humility, submissiveness, contentment and other excellences" (R. Levy). The Gulistan dealt with various subjects, from the manners of kings to the rules for conduct in life. On the cause for composing the book Sa'di wrote: "I may compose for the amusement of those who look and for the instruction of those who are present a book of a Rose Garden, a Gulistan, whose leaves cannot be touched by the tyranny of autumnal blasts and the delight of whose spring the vicissitudes of time will be unable to change into the inconstancy of autumn." Both books contained reflections on the behavior and teachings of dervishes, with whom Sa'di sympathized.
For further reading: Beiträge zur darstellung des persischen lebens nach Muslih-uddîn Sa`dî by Carl Phillip (1901); Essai sur le poète Saadi by H. Massé (1919); Eastern Poetry and Prose by R.A. Nicholson (1922); Persian Literature, an introduction by Reuben Levy (1923); What says Saadi by Ehsan Motaghed (1986); The poet Sa`di: a Persian Humanist by John D. Yohannan (1987); 'Johdanto: Sa'din elämä' by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, in Ruusutarha by Sa'di, trans. by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila (1991); A Literary History of Persia: From Firdawsi to Sa'Di by Edward Granville Browne (1997) - For further information: Sa'di - Medieval Sourcebook - The Gulistan of Sa'di - A Brief Note on the Life of Shaykh Muslih al-Din Sa'di Shirazi by Iraj Bashiri
  • The Goolistan of the Celebrated Musleh-ud-Deen of Shirauz, Surnamed Sheikh Sad¯i, 1807 (with an English translation embellished with notes, critical and explanatory by James Dumoulin)
  • The Gulistan, or Rose Garden, 1865 (trans. from the original by Francis Gladwin, with an essay on Saadi's life and genius, by James Ross, a preface by R. W. Emerson)
  • The Gulist¯an; or, Rose-garden, 1880 (trans. by Edward B. Eastwick)
  • With Sa'di in the Garden; or, The Book of Love, 1888 (by Sir Edwin Arnold)
  • The Gulist¯an; Being the Rose-Garden of Shaikh Sà'di, 1899 (tr. by Sir Edwin Arnold)
  • The Bustan of Sadi, 1911 (trans. from the Persian, with an introd. by A. Hart Edwards)
  • The gulistan, or, Rose garden, 1914 (trans. by Francis Gladwin; revised and corrected by Irani A. Khodaram)
  • Tayyib¯t, the odes of Sheikh Muslihu'd-D¯in Sad¯i Sh¯ir¯az¯i, 1924 (trans. by the late Sir Lucas White King, with an introduction by Reynold A. Nicholson)
  • Tales from the Gulistân, or Rose-garden of the Sheikh Sa'di of Shirâz, 1928 (trans. by Sir Richard Burton and illustrated by John Kettelwell)
  • Kings and Beggars, the Five Two Chapters of Sa`d¯i's Gulist¯an, 1945 (trans. by A. J. Arberry)
  • The Gulistan, or Rose Garden, of Sa`d¯i, 1964 (trans. by Edward Rehatsek, ed. with a pref. by W. G. Archer, introd. by G. M. Wickens)
  • Morals Pointed and Tales Adorned : the B¯ust¯an of Sa`d¯i, 1974 (trans. by G. M. Wickens)
  • The Gulistan of Shaikh Sa`di: A Complete Analysis of the Entire Persian Text, 1985 (trans. by R.P. Anderson)
  • The Rose Garden = Gulistan,1997 (trans. by Omar Ali-Shah)
  • Wisdom of Sa`di, 2001 (compiled and trans. by Mohammad Kazem Kamran)


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