The Gulistan

Gulistan, The (rose garden) A collection of didactic fables in rhymed prose with interspersed verses by the Persian poet Sadi, written in 1258.

The Gulistan is made up of eight chapters or divisions, each one treating a different subject. They are “The Manners of Kings,” “The Morals of Dervishes,” “On the Excellence of Contentment,” “On the Advantages of Silence,” “On Love and Youth,” “On Weakness and Old Age,” “On the Effects of Education,” and “On Rules for Conduct of Life.”

The fables, which are brilliant gems of terse writing, have short verses interspersed with them to summarize the fables and point out the morals. Often, however, the result is ambiguous. Many of the moral questions brought up by the tales are answered in a Machiavellian manner. One of the English translators of the book in the last century told his readers to skip over these “as some of our queasy clergy do in reading the morning and evening lessons.” Yet no less a moralist than Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that Sadi’s Gulistan “speaks to all nations, and like Homer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Montaigne, is perpetually modern.” Emerson found in the book “the universality of moral law.”

The first translation of The Gulistan into a Western language, Latin, was made in 1651. It soon was a popular book among the 18th- century Enlightenment philosophers such as Voltaire. One of the problems encountered by the book’s English translators was Sadi’s continual reference to lovemaking among boys, which the poet considered perfectly normal. James Rose, who translated the book in 1823, changed the male gender to the female and decided on “the process of leaving out of the translation a few words of the Persian text.” A complete translation, with all of the sexual references, was made by Edward Rehatsek in 1888.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante

The Gulistan

Dervish and the King, The
Moral fable by the Persian mystic poet Sadi, in The Gulistan (chapter 1, story 28). A solitary dervish (holy man) ...

The Gulistan