Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bishop Daniel’s Fables XIII

The Offended Prince (Persian, from Saadi’s ‘Gulistan’)

Harun, the ruler of Baghdad

Had a young son. One day the lad

Comes to his father and exclaims:

“One of my playmates calls me names!”

The king convenes the council of the state

To help him decide the culprit’s fate.

Some say, the boy should lose his head;

Some say, his tongue is to be cut out instead,

And others: ‘banish him, as long as he does live!’

“My son – said ar-Rashid, the ruler – to forgive

Would be the nobler thing to do;

But if you can’t forgive, go and insult him, too,

But use bad language with restraint,

For should the punishment exceed the boy’s transgression,

We would be guilty of oppression,

And he would have good reason for complaint.


This tale gives food for thought: what if

The council had its way, and not the noble calif?

The boy would probably be dead,

Or lucky to escape with nothing, but his head.

And so it happens that an emperor or kaiser

May be at times more merciful and wiser

Than many an adviser,

Or even than a council as a whole,

For, does a council have a soul?

It also illustrates the reasons why

There was the ancient law: ‘eye for an eye’

This principle applies

To those who, having lost but one,

Would try to take their enemy’s both eyes,

Or even three, if this could have been done.

And, by the way, do you recall

What has been written by Saint Paul,

The words he uses in relation

To the repeated flagellation

He had endured? What had they done?

“Five times they gave me forty minus one.”

Why thirty nine? Since forty was the limit,

It was considered, that to trim it

By just one lash was much to be preferred

To giving forty one, in case

The executioner had erred.

That is, indeed, a tiny grace;

But it is always better to abide,

When there is doubt, on mercy’s side.

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