Shâh Noshirân, King of Persia.

In Persia, in olden time, lived a great king,1
Whose name was Shah Noshirwan :2
’Twas his custom, whenever he heard a good thing3
To say “ Zeh!” and his treasurer then would fling4
A purse to the fortunate man.5
This king, when out hunting on one fine day;6
Saw an aged man planting trees :7
He rode up, and said,  “ With your hair so grey,8
Don’t you think you are throwing your time away ?9
You’ll never eat food from these ?”10
For three-score years I have eaten sweet food11
From trees that I did not sow ;12
And would it not be base ingratitude13
If I took no thought of posterity’s good,14
And paid not the debt I owe ?”15
Zeh, zeh !”  said the king ; and the treasurer
To the old man a purse hath thrown,17
See, see ! for good works it is never too late ;18
God hath given me fruit without needing to wait,19
Before all my trees are sown.”20
Zeh, zeh!” once again : ere the word was said,21
Another purse flew on its way.22
Till God placed the crown on your Majesty’s head,23
Was such a strange thing ever heard of, or read,24
As to reap two crops in one day !”25
Zeh, zeh !”  yet again, and a third full purse26
To the old man’s hand falls nigh ;27
But the king in his horse’s flank drives his spurs,28
Nor waits for more answer in prose or in verse,—29
Lest the wit of that old man, so prompt, so terse,30
Should drain his full treasury dry.31