A man, professing to be a hermit in the desert of Syria, attended for years to his devotions and subsisted on the leaves of trees. A padshah, who had gone in that direction by way of pilgrimage, approached him and said: ‘If thou thinkest proper, we shall prepare a place for thee in the town where thou wilt enjoy leisure for thy devotions and others may profit by thy spiritual advice as well as imitate thy good works.’ The hermit refused compliance but the pillars of the State were of opinion that, in order to please the king, he ought to spend a few days in town to ascertain the state of the place; so that if he feared that the purity of his precious time might become turbid by association with strangers, he would still have the option to refuse compliance. It is related that the hermit entered the town where a private garden-house of the king, which was a heart-expanding and soul refreshing locality, had been prepared to receive him.
Its red roses were like the cheeks of belles,
Its hyacinths like the ringlets of mistresses
Protected from the inclemency of mid-winter
Like sucklings who have not yet tasted the nurse’s milk.
And branches with pomegranates upon them:
Fire suspended from the green-trees.
The king immediately sent him a beautiful slave-girl:
After beholding this hermit-deceiving crescent-moon
Of the form of an angel and the beauty of a peacock,
After seeing her it would be impossible
To an anchorite’s nature to remain patient.
After her he sent likewise a slave-boy of wonderful beauty and graceful placidity:
People around him are dying with thirst
And he, who looks like a cupbearer, gives no drink.
The sight cannot be satisfied by seeing him
Like the dropsical man near the Euphrates.
The hermit began to eat delicious food, to wear nice clothes, to enjoy fruit and perfumed confectionery as well as to contemplate the beauty of the slave-boy and girl in conformity with the maxim of wise men, who have said that the curls of belles are fetters to the feet of the intellect and a snare to a sagacious bird.
In thy service I lost my heart and religion with all my learning,
I am indeed the sagacious bird and thou the snare.
In short, the happiness of his former time of contentedness had come to an end, as the saying is:
Any faqih, pir and murid
Or pure minded orator,
Descending into the base world,
Sticks in the honey like a fly.
Once the king desired to visit him but saw the hermit changed from his former state, as he had become red, white and corpulent. When the king entered, he beheld him reclining on a couch of gold brocade whilst the boy and the fairy stood near his head with a fan of peacocks’ feathers. He expressed pleasure to behold the hermit in so comfortable a position, conversed with him on many topics and said at the conclusion of the visit: ‘I am afraid of these two classes of men in the world: scholars and hermits.’ The vezier, who was a philosopher and experienced in the affairs of the world, being present, said: ‘O king, the conditions of friendship require thee to do good to both classes. Bestow gold upon scholars that they may read more but give nothing to hermits that they may remain hermits.’
A hermit requires neither dirhems nor dinars.
If he takes any, find another hermit.
Who has a good behaviour and a secret with God
Is an anchorite without the waqfbread or begged morsel.
With a handsome figure and heart-ravishing ear-tip
A girl is a belle without turquoise-ring or pendants.
A dervish of good behaviour and of happy disposition
Requires not the bread of the rebat nor the begged morsel.
A lady endowed with a beauteous form and chaste face
Requires no paint, adornment or turquoise-ring.
When I have and covet more
It will not be proper to call me an anchorite.
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