The caliph Hâroon-oor-Rasheed went to visit the tomb of the celebrated Noosheerwân, the most famous of all the monarchs who ever governed Persia. Before the tomb was a curtain of gold cloth, which, when Hâroon touched it, fell to pieces. The walls of the tomb were covered with gold and jewels, whose splendour illumined its darkness. The body was placed in a sitting posture on a throne enchased with jewels, and had so much the appearance of life that, on the first impulse, the Commander of the Faithful bent to the ground, and saluted the remains of the just Noosheerwân.
Though the face of the departed monarch was like that of a living man, and the whole of the body in a state of preservation, which showed the admirable skill of those who embalmed it, yet when the caliph touched the garments they mouldered into dust. Hâroon upon this took his own rich robes and threw them over the corpse; he also hung up a new curtain richer than that he had destroyed, and perfumed the whole tomb with camphor, and other sweet scents.
It was remarked that no change was perceptible in the body of Noosheerwân, except that the ears had become white. The whole scene affected the caliph greatly; he burst into tears, and repeated from the Koran—“What I have seen is a warning to those who have eyes.” He observed some writing upon the throne, which he ordered the Moobids (priests), who were learned in the Pehlevee language, to read and explain. They did so: it was as follows:—
“This world remains not; the man who thinks least of it is the wisest.
“Enjoy this world before thou becomest its prey.
“Bestow the same favour on those below thee as thou desirest to receive from those above thee.
“If thou shouldst conquer the whole world, death will at last conquer thee.
“Be careful that thou art not the dupe of thine own fortune.
“Thou shalt be paid exactly for what thou hast done; no more, no less.”
The caliph observed a dark ruby-ring on the finger of Noosheerwân, on which was written—
“Avoid cruelty, study good, and never be precipitate in action.
“If thou shouldst live for a hundred years, never for one moment forget death.
“Value above all things the society of the wise.”
Around the right arm of Noosheerwân was a clasp of gold, on which was engraved—
“On a certain year, on the 10th day of the month Erdebehisht, a caliph of the race of Adean, professing the faith of Mahomed, accompanied by four good men, and one bad, shall visit my tomb.”
Below this sentence were the names of the forefathers of the caliph. Another prophecy was added concerning Hâroon’s pilgrimage to Noosheerwân’s tomb.
“This prince will honour me, and do good unto me, though I have no claim upon him; and he will clothe me in a new vest, and besprinkle my tomb with sweet-scented essences, and then depart unto his home. But the bad man who accompanies him shall act treacherously towards me. I pray that God may send one of my race to repay the great favours of the caliph, and to take vengeance on his unworthy companion. There is, under my throne, an inscription which the caliph must read and contemplate. Its contents will remind him of me, and make him pardon my inability to give him more.”
The caliph, on hearing this, put his hand under the throne, and found the inscription, which consisted of some lines, inscribed on a ruby as large as the palm of the hand. The Moobids read this also. It contained information where would be found concealed a treasure of gold and arms, with some caskets of rich jewels; under this was written—
“These I give to the caliph in return for the good he has done me; let him take them and be happy.”
When Hâroon-oor-Rasheed was about to leave the tomb, Hoosein-ben-Sâhil, his vizier, said to him: “O Lord of the Faithful, what is the use of all these precious gems which ornament the abode of the dead, and are of no benefit to the living? Allow me to take some of them.” The caliph replied with indignation, “Such a wish is more worthy of a thief than of a great or wise man.” Hoosein was ashamed of his speech, and said to the servant who had been placed at the entrance of the tomb, “Go thou, and worship the holy shrine within.” The man went into the tomb; he was above a hundred years old, but he had never seen such a blaze of wealth. He felt inclined to plunder some of it, but was at first afraid; at last, summoning all his courage, he took a ring from the finger of Noosheerwân, and came away.
Hâroon saw this man come out, and observing him alarmed, he at once conjectured what he had been doing. Addressing those around him, he said, “Do not you now see the extent of the knowledge of Noosheerwân? He prophesied that there should be one unworthy man with me. It is this fellow. What have you taken?” said he, in an angry tone. “Nothing,” said the man. “Search him,” said the caliph. It was done, and the ring of Noosheerwân was found. This the caliph immediately took, and, entering the tomb, replaced it on the cold finger of the deceased monarch. When he returned, a terrible sound like that of loud thunder was heard.
Hâroon came down from the mountain on which the tomb stood, and ordered the road to be made inaccessible to future curiosity. He searched for, and found, in the place described, the gold, the arms, and the jewels bequeathed to him by Noosheerwân, and sent them to Bagdad.
Among the rich articles found was a golden crown, which had five sides, and was richly ornamented with precious stones. On every side a number of admirable lessons were written. The most remarkable were as follows:—
“Give my regards to those who know themselves.
“Consider the end before you begin, and before you advance provide a retreat.
“Give not unnecessary pain to any man, but study the happiness of all.
“Ground not your dignity upon your power to hurt others.”
“Take counsel before you commence any measure, and never trust its execution to the inexperienced.
“Sacrifice your property for your life, and your life for your religion.
“Spend your time in establishing a good name; and if you desire fortune, learn contentment.”
“Grieve not for that which is broken, stolen, burnt, or lost.
“Never give orders in another man’s house; and accustom yourself to eat your bread at your own table.
“Make not yourself the captive of women.”
“Take not a wife from a bad family, and seat not thyself with those who have no shame.
“Keep thyself at a distance from those who are incorrigible in bad habits, and hold no intercourse with that man who is insensible to kindness.
“Covet not the goods of others.
“Be guarded with monarchs, for they are like fire which blazeth but destroyeth.
“Be sensible to your own value; estimate justly the worth of others; and war not with those who are far above thee in fortune.”
“Fear kings, women, and poets.
“Be envious of no man, and habituate not thyself to search after the faults of others.
“Make it a habit to be happy, and avoid being out of temper, or thy life will pass in misery.
“Respect and protect the females of thy family.
“Be not the slave of anger; and in thy contests always leave open the door of conciliation.
“Never let your expenses exceed your income.
“Plant a young tree, or you cannot expect to cut down an old one.
“Stretch your legs no further than the size of your carpet.”
The caliph Hâroon-oor-Rasheed was more pleased with the admirable maxims inscribed on this crown than with all the treasures he had found. “Write these precepts,” he exclaimed, “in a book, that the faithful may eat of the fruit of wisdom.” When he returned to Bagdad, he related to his favourite vizier, Jaffier Bermekee, and his other chief officers, all that had passed; and the shade of Noosheerwân was propitiated by the disgrace of Hoosein-ben-Sâhil (who had recommended despoiling his tomb), and the exemplary punishment of the servant who had committed the sacrilegious act of taking the ring from the finger of the departed monarch.
Notes: Contains 13 folktales from the Orient.
Author: Charles John Tibbitts
Publisher: W. W. Gibbings, London