King of India’s Library
Dabshelim, King of India, had so numerous a library, that a hundred brachmans were scarcely sufficient to keep it in order, and it required a thousand dromedaries to transport it from one place to another. As he was not able to read all these books, he proposed to the brachmans to make extracts from them of the best and most useful of their contents.
These learned personages went so heartily to work, that in less than twenty years they had compiled of all these extracts a little encyclopædia of twelve thousand volumes, which thirty camels could carry with ease. They presented them to the king, but what was their amazement to hear him say that it was impossible for him to read thirty camel-loads of books. They therefore reduced their extracts to fifteen, afterwards to ten, then to four, then to two dromedaries, and at last there remained only enough to load a mule of ordinary size.
Unfortunately, Dabshelim, during this process of melting down his library, grew old, and saw no probability of living long enough to exhaust its quintessence to the last volume. “Illustrious Sultan,” said his vizier, “though I have but a very imperfect knowledge of your royal library, yet I will undertake to deliver you a very brief and satisfactory abstract of it. You shall read it through in one minute, and yet you will find matter in it to reflect upon throughout the rest of your life.” Having said this, Pilpay took a palm leaf, and wrote upon it with a golden style the four following paragraphs:
1. The greater part of the sciences comprise but one single word—Perhaps, and the whole history of mankind contains no more than three—they are born, suffer, die.
2. Love nothing but what is good, and do all that thou lovest to do; think nothing but what is true, and speak not all that thou thinkest.
3. O kings! tame your passions, govern yourselves, and it will be only child’s play to govern the world.
4. O kings! O people! it can never be often enough repeated to you, what the half-witted venture to doubt, that there is no happiness without virtue, and no virtue without God.
From The queer, the quaint, the quizzical: a cabinet for the curious by Frank H. Stauffer.
Philadelphia: David McKay, 1882.