The son of a pious man inherited great wealth left him by some uncles, whereon he plunged into dissipation and profligacy, became a spendthrift and, in short, left no heinous transgression unperpetrated and no intoxicant untasted. I advised him and said: ‘My son, income is a flowing water and expense a turning mill; that is to say, only he who has a fixed revenue is entitled to indulge in abundant expenses.
‘If thou hast no income, spend but frugally
Because the sailors chant this song:
“If there be no rain in the mountains
The bed of the Tigris will be dry in one year.”
‘Follow wisdom and propriety, abandon play and sport because thy wealth will be exhausted, whereon thou wilt fall into trouble and will repent.’ The youth was prevented by the delights of the flute and of drink from accepting my admonition but found fault therewith, saying that it is contrary to the opinion of intelligent men to embitter present tranquillity by cares concerning the future:
Why should possessors of enjoyment and luck
Bear sorrow for fear of distress?
Go, be merry, my heart-rejoicing friend.
The pain of tomorrow must not be eaten today.
And how could I restrain myself, who am occupying the highest seat of liberality, have bound the knot of generosity and the fame of whose beneficence has become the topic of general conversation?
Who has become known for his liberality and generosity
Must not put a lock upon his dirhems.
When the name of a good fellow has spread in a locality
The door cannot be dosed against it.
When I perceived that he did not accept my advice and that my warm breath was not taking effect upon his cold iron, I left off admonishing him and turned away my face from his companionship, acting according to the words of philosophers, who said: Impart to them what thou hast and if they receive it not, it is not thy fault.
Although thou knowest thou wilt not be heard, say
Whatever thou knowest of good wishes and advice.
It may soon happen that thou wilt behold a silly fellow
With both his feet fallen into captivity,
Striking his hands together, and saying: ‘Alas,
I have not listened to the advice of a scholar.’
After some time I saw the consequences of his dissolute behaviour-which I apprehended-realized. When I beheld him sewing patch upon patch and gathering crumb after crumb, my heart was moved with pity for his destitute condition, in which I did not consider it humane to scratch his internal wounds with reproaches or to sprinkle salt upon them. Accordingly, I said to myself:
A foolish fellow in the height of intoxication
Cares not for the coming day of distress.
The tree which sheds its foliage in spring
Will certainly have no leaves remaining in winter.