The Old Wrestler - A Persian story

The Old Wrestler - A Persian story from The Rose Garden (Bustan) by Sa'di


A person had become a master in the art of wrestling; he knew three hundred and sixty moves in this art, and could exhibit a fresh trick for every day throughout the year. Perhaps owing to a liking that a corner of his heart took for the handsome person of one of his scholars, he taught him three hundred and fifty nine of those feats, but he was putting off instruction of one, and under some pretence deferring it.

In short, the youth became so proficient in the art and talent of wrest­ling that none of his contemporaries was able to cope with him. At length he one day boasted before the reigning sovereign, saying: "To any superiority my master possesses over me, he is beholden to my reverence of his seniority, and by virtue of his tutorage; otherwise I am not inferior in power, and am his equal in skill"

This want of respect displeased the king. He ordered a wrestling match to be held, and a spacious field to be fenced in for the occasion. The ministers of state, nobles of the court, and gallant men of the realm were assembled, and the ceremonials of the combat marshaled. Like a huge and lusty ele­phant, the youth rushed into the ring with such a crash that had a brazen mountain opposed him he would have moved it from its base. The master being aware that the youth was his superior in strength, engaged him in that strange feat of which he had kept him ignorant. The youth was unacquainted with its guard. Advancing, nevertheless, the master seized him with both hands, and, lifting him bodily from the ground, raised him above his head and flung him on the earth. The crowd set up a shout.

The king ordered them to give the master an honorary robe and handsome gifts. The youth he addressed with reproach and asperity, saying: "You played the traitor with your own patron, and failed in your presumption of opposing him." The youth replied: "O sir! my master did not overcome me by strength and ability, but by the one cunning trick in the art of wrestling which he refrained from teaching me. By that little trick he had the upper hand today!"

The master said: "I prepared myself for such a day as this. As the wise have told us, put not so much into a friend's power that, if hostilely disposed, he can do you an injury. Have you not heard what that man said who was treacherously dealt with by his own pupil:

Either in fact there is no good faith in this world, or
            Nobody has perhaps practiced it in our day.
            No person learned the art of archery from me
            Who did not in the end make me his target."

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