All Adam's offspring form one family tree

by Sa'di

English version by Ivan M. Granger
Original Language Persian/Farsi

All Adam's offspring form one family tree,
from the beginning, the same life and spirit and quality.

     When one limb is bent with pain,
     the entire living tree naturally feels the strain.

Thus he indifferent to the agony of another,
cannot be named human alongside his brother.

-- from Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania, Edited by Andrew Harvey / Edited by Jay Ramsay

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I discovered the writings of Sa'di several years ago, and I fell in love with his wisdom and wit. Unfortunately, I still haven't found a really good English translation of his work. I've had to work, to really dig beneath the rather flat renderings I've found in English in order to catch glimpses of the real life shining within his writing. It can feel like linguistic archaeology. Sa'di's Gulistan, for example, is a delightful collection of tales and wisdom fables, interspersed with pithy poems. The problem is that the English versions I've found were either translated during the Victorian era or they are more recent translations that still feel Victorian. To me, these translations come across as rather dusty and pedantic.

But I understand the difficulty. Sa'di's short verses seem naked without some rhyming scheme and at least a suggestion of meter. This may be my own bias, but modern poetic English, when forced into strong structure and rhyme, often ends up sounding either awkward or archaic or a bit anemic. What's a poor translator to do?

Today's selection is my imperfect attempt to find a more satisfying balance with one of Sa'di's most loved -- and loving -- verses.

(Other translators' versions of this famous verse can be found at: You rhymsters and wordsmiths, I'd love to read your versions of Sa'di's verses.)

Recommended Books: Sa'di

Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Gulistan of Sadi: The Rose Garden The Mystics of Islam

All Adam's offspring