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John Lang and Sadi of Shiraz.

A few years ago the Mulini Published a small group of poems translated from the Persian written in the 13th century by Sadi of Shiraz. They were called the Rose Garden and were translated by John Lang who was a superb linguist fluent in Hindi Latin, Greek, French and German to name but a few of his languages. The tales written in verse are an amusing collection.

Recently I was lent a book which was full of references to many botanical and garden writers written in a light hearted fashion It was called Of Flowers and a Village. An entertainment for flower lovers by Wilfrid Blunt. Yes there is reference to Sadi of Shiraz but not to John Lang. This is what Blunt wrote :
 Last week in Oxford I bought at Blackwell's, for a sum so small
 that I'd hate Sir Basil to know, a sixteenth century manuscript
 of Sadi's Gulistan, or 'Rose Garden'--that most popular of all
 Persian books. The miniatures in it, though damaged are lovely; one
 is a chenar (oriental plane) that would have pleased Xerxes [who
 fell in love with one mentioned earlier] and in another a youth who
 plucks a spray of almond blossom from a tree that's enchantingly
 patterned against a golden sky. At the same time I bought
 Eastwick's translation first published in 1852. [John Lang
 published his translations in 1845 in India].

 The Gulistan is a collection of moral tales written by Sadi of
 Shiraz in the thirteenth century. In his preface he tells how, 'it
 being the season of spring, when the asperity of winter was
 mitigated and the time of the roses' rich display had arrived', he
 decided to write a book; I have copied out a bit of it for you
 because I liked it so much.

 'One night it happened that I was walking at a late hour in the
 flower garden with one of my friends. The spot was blithe and
 pleasing, and the trees intertwined there charmingly. You would
 have said that fragments of enamel were sprinkled on the ground,
 and that the necklace of the Pleiades was suspended from the vines
 that grew there.... In the morning, when the inclination to return
 prevailed over our wish to stay, I saw that he had gathered his lap
 full of roses, fragrant herbs, hyacinths and sweet basil, with
 which he was setting out for the city.'

 I said, 'To the rose of the garden there is no continuance ...
 The sages have said that we should not fix our affections on that
 which has no endurance ... For the recreation of the beholders and
 the gratification of those who are present, I am able to compose a
 book, THE GARDEN OF ROSES, whose leaves the rude hand of the blast
 of autumn cannot affect, and the blitheness of whose spring the
 revolution of time cannot change into the disorder of the waning

This is a delightful way of saying a book preserves forever the beauty of roses and spring. At least it has survived eight hundred years so far.
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Title Annotation:General Notes
Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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