in a starry sky
a silent display of light
Kim M. Russell, 2017
My response to Carpe Diem #1174 silence
Chèvrefeuille says today’s poem is a difficult one to understand:
Nothing is better for an ignorant man than silence, and if he were to consider it to be suitable, he would not be ignorant.
If thou possessest not the perfection of excellence
It is best to keep thy tongue within thy mouth.
Disgrace is brought on a man by his tongue.
A walnut, having no kernel, will be light.
A fool was trying to teach a donkey,
Spending all his time and efforts in the task.
A sage observed: “O ignorant man, what sayest thou?
Fear blame from the censorious in this vain attempt.
A brute cannot learn speech from thee.
Learn thou silence from a brute”.
Who does not reflect what he is to answer
Will mostly speak improperly.
Come. Either arrange thy words like a wise man
Or remain sitting silent like a brute.
© Saadi (From: The Gulistan – Chapter 8 – Tr. Omar Ali-Shah (?))
He has also given us some background to The Gulistan (The Rose Garden), which he says is a landmark of Persian literature, perhaps its single most influential work of prose. Written in 1258 CE, it is one of two major works of the Persian poet Saadi, considered one of the greatest medieval Persian poets. It is also one of his most popular books and has proved deeply influential in the West as well as the East. The Gulistan is a collection of poems and stories, just as a rose-garden is a collection of roses. It is widely quoted as a source of wisdom.
Chèvrefeuille thinks that the essence of Saadi’s poem is in the last lines:
‘Who does not reflect what he is to answer / Will mostly speak improperly. / Come. Either arrange thy words like a wise man / Or remain sitting silent like a brute’ – think twice before you act.