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|Sa'di (c. 1213-1292)|
Persian poet and prose writer, whose best-known works include Bustān (1256-57, The Fruit Garden), which contains histories, personal anecdotes, fables and moral instructions, and Golestān (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
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 Golestān (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. The publishing firm of Allan and Co., of London, brought in 1928 a volume called Tales from the Gulistan or Rose-Garden of the Sheikh Sadi of Shiraz, translated by Sir Richard Burton. However, this translation is nearly identical with an earlier one, generally attributed to Edward Rehatsek. (see 'Did Sir Richard Burton Translate Sadi's Gulistan?' by J.D. Yohannan, in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, July 1950)
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 (lyrical odes) 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.
Following the conventions of traditional Persian poetry, in many poems Sa'di's beloved is a young man, not a beautiful woman. Sa'di's own attitude toward homosexuals was more negative than positive. In the Golestān 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 this work often were changed in the early editions.
Both the Bustān and the Golestān opened
with chapters on kingship and good government. They were not only
intended for shahs and viziers to illuminate the way to better
governance based on Sufi values, but they also reflected personal
experiences. 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 Bustān
to the local ruler, reminding him in the opening lines of the majety of
God: "The heads of kings, neckexalting, / Are at His court, on the
ground of supplication." The work was Sufi in spirit, but with
pragmatic touch. It consisted of "dissertations on justice, good
government, beneficence, earthly and mystic love, humility,
submissiveness, contentment and other excellences" (R. Levy).
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. Until the 1940s, before Sa'di went out of fashion and
became an object of ridicule, the work served at schools as a model of
For further reading: Beiträge zur darstellung des persischen lebens nach Muslih-uddīn Sa`dī by Carl Phillip (1901); Essai sur le počte 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, translated by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila (1991); A Literary History of Persia: From Firdawsi to Sa'Di by Edward Granville Browne (1997); Sa'di: The Poet of Life, Love and Compassion by Homa Katouzian (2006)