Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Saadi in Persain

Here are several attempts I have made to translate the above three famous couplets of Sa‘di (thirteenth century).

They can be found at the end of the tenth tale of the first chapter, “On the Morals of Kings,” from the Golestàn.

[Literal version]

The children of Adam are the members of one another

Who in creation are of one substance

When the course of days brings pain to a member

The other members do not remain at ease

You who are without sadness at the afflictions of others

Are unworthy to be called a man (Persian: Adam)

[Rhymed version]

The sons of man are each members of each,

From a single substance all and each.

When the course of days brings pain to one,

The other members are all undone.

You without sorrow at another’s affliction

Are called “son of man” only in fiction.

[Clarified version]

Human beings are the limbs of one body.

All of us have been created of a single substance.

When one limb suffers pain,

The other limbs are not indifferent.

You who do not care about the suffering of others

Do not deserve to be called a human being.

[Another version]

Each human is a part of a single body.

All people have been made of one humanity.

When a limb as a part suffers any pain,

In comfort or at ease none of them remain.

You who feel no torment at others’ suffering,

Of the name “human,” you are not deserving.

[One more time]

Each human being of each other’s a part,

Made from one stuff from creation’s start.

When a part of a body suffers any pain,

None of the members at ease can remain.

You with your easy lack of sympathy

Of the name “human” you are not worthy.



These are hard words. The poem addresses a king and denies his humanity. What expels the king from the human family is his lack of feeling for the suffering of others. The first two of these three couplets adorn the walls at the entrance to the “Hall of Nations” at United Nations Building in New York.

The term used for a human in Persian is adam (with initial long "a"). Human beings are also called bani adam, children of Adam. In the gospels, Jesus also insists on that he is "son of man", a phrase that has taken on an inflated meaning in Christian theology, but in the Psalms (8:5, 80:17) this term is also used simply for a human being.


Blogger mohammed said...

To me the poem seems like an expansion of the famous hadith of the Prophet that states that the Ummah is like a single body, when one part is injured, the entire body feels distress. Is the source of inspiration for the poem held to be this Prophetic hadith?

29 December, 2005 07:59  
Blogger Laurie said...

I really liked this post and linked it to my blog.

02 January, 2006 11:27  

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