The Lost Tomb’s Wisdom in the Youths’ Guide
Sitting on one of my book shelves is a tiny 3×5 inch book from 1833 entitled The Youths’ Guide. It contains selections gathered from the letters of Lord Chesterfield to his son and additions from other eminent authors. The book is a wealth of knowledge; and the writer hoped those who read the treasures found within the book would consider the wisdom it holds as they each set out on their own journeys. I don’t ever find myself too old to take it down and learn from its interesting collection of words.
I recently picked it up, and read from a section embracing Ancient Advice. Right before this, however, I had just chatted with a dear friend about keeping journals. And so when I realized the wisdom I was reading was taken from an even older journal, I was doubly intrigued.
The section’s wisdom was noted to be from Sir John Malcolm’s (1769-1833) Sketches of Persia; published in 1827. I’ve since had to get a copy of this book. 🙂 It’s a wonderful account of a man’s travels through the East and includes lots of entertaining and adventurous tales. Stories to learn from.
I love one part where Malcolm is riding and conversing with his Persian guide. They are on their way to see Persepolis and other fantastic ruins of the area. In his journal he writes of his guide’s inability to understand the allure of his mission (and of the others riding along) to see these places. His surprise towards such a pursuit is expressed in his question to Malcolm; “What can be the use,” said he, “of travelling so far and running so many risks to look at ruined houses and palaces, when they might stay so comfortably at home?”
Malcolm’s writes his answer, “I replied, with some feeling of contempt for my friend’s love of quiet, “if the state of a man’s circumstances, or that of his country, does not find work, he must find it for himself, or go to sleep and be good for nothing. Antiquaries”, I continued, “to whose praiseworthy researches you allude, by directing, through their labors and talents, our attention to the great names and magnificent monuments of former days, aid in improving the sentiments and taste of a nation. Besides, though, no antiquary myself, I must ever admire a study which carries man beyond self. I love those elevating thoughts that lead me to dwell with delight on the past, and to look forward with happy anticipations to the future. We are told by some that such feelings are mere allusions, and the cold practical philosopher may, on the ground of their inutility, desire to remove them from men’s minds, to make way for his own machinery; but he could as soon argue me out of my existence as take from me the internal proof which such feelings convey, both as to my origin and destination.”
Then I had to laugh while reading (as I’m sure Malcolm did while writing), because Malcolm states one of the guides behind him remarked ‘There goes a Goor-kher (wild ass)’ and galloped in pursuit of it; and he continues to say, “I galloped also leaving unfinished one of the finest speeches about the past and the future that was ever commenced.”
So it goes unfinished here as well….to be continued at another possible time by others, maybe.
Nonetheless, yes, as the title of this article suggests, I’m supposed to be sharing the story from Sketches of Persia which had captured the attention of the writer of The Youth’s Guide, and prompted him to include in his book some snippets of wisdom from it. It is the story of the lost tomb. (How the mind can journey too. I love it! But back on track.)
During Malcolm’s travels, he heard much on the famed Persian, Harun al-Rashid (Haroon-oor-Rasheed). Harun is made legendary by the tales of the Arabian Nights, and his wisdom is often shared through various stories. These stories are given to the youth of Persia for study and Malcolm shares in his journal one told to him. He says he writes on Harun’s visit to the Tomb of Noosheerwan in order to provide an example of how knowledge is departed, and what is valued most in the country.
The story begins by Harun al-Rashid and company coming upon the hidden tomb. It describes a curtain of gold hanging before it; and when Harun touches it, the curtain falls to pieces. Venturing forward, gold and other fine jewels are seen to line the walls of the tomb. Their brightness is noticed to chase away darkness. The body of the departed Noosheerwan is then seen as he sits on a throne surrounded by immense treasure. Noosheerwan looks to be full of life still, but, when Harun touches the mighty Ruler’s garments, these too, fall to pieces and turn to dust.
Immediately, it is said, Harun took his own rich robes to replace the ones he unintentionally destroyed. He also replaced the curtain of gold with something richer than before and when he was finished, it was noted the tomb and the King looked to be untouched. All except Noosheerwan’s ears which had become white. (my thought: what? Interesting. Is there some allegorical meaning here? :))
Noted too were the following words seen written on the throne; and this is what Harun cherished most and carried in his mind out with him:
“This world remains not; the man who thinks least of it is the wisest.”
“Enjoy this world before thou becomest its prey.”
“Bestow the same favor on those below thee, as thou desirest to receive from those above thee.”
“If thou shouldst conquer the whole world, death will at last conquer thee.”
There were also words written on a ruby ring on the finger of Noosheerwan which were remembered;
“Avoid cruelty, study good, and never be precipitate in action.”
“If thou shouldst live for a hundred years, never for one moment forget death.”
“Value above all things the society of the wise.”
Then seen around the right arm of Noosheerwan was a clasp of gold which was engraved with a prophecy of betrayal towards a visitor of the tomb on a certain date (which coincided with Harun’s visit) and a prophecy of honor shown towards the King and his Tomb from this visitor; to which then a note on where other riches could be discovered (and taken) is given.
Harun was directed by the clasp to look under the throne. There, beneath the throne, was said to be a palm sized ruby with instructions on where to find a concealed treasure, and the words, “These I give to the caliph (Harun) in return for the good he has done me; let him take them and be happy.”
The tale goes on about how the prophecies written on Noosheerwan’s right arm’s golden clasp came true; how Harun was betrayed by one of his own, and how he honored the King and the Tomb, and then discovered the riches to be given to him. It is in this treasure’s hoard that the golden crown of five sides was discovered (the one mentioned in the Youth’s Guide).
It is also said in the Sketches of Persia, that after coming down from the mountain where the tomb stood, Harun ordered that the road to it be made inaccessible for any future curiosity. Assumingly, the tomb remains lost yet today.
Harun al-Rashid valued the inscriptions more than all the treasure and ordered them to be written down so that “the faithful may eat of the fruit of wisdom.”
And so it is that these words have been passed down and were found in the Sketches of Persia and in the Youth’s Guide…..and now in this article. It’s amazing how these tales continue to fascinate through all ages. They never lose their lure or their timeless and priceless wisdom.
I also find the thoughts of men exploring and sharing their experiences an exceptional study. I hope to continue with other articles of writings in journals. There is treasure to be found in them!
But for now, I end with some of the words given on the five sided Golden Crown (The lost tomb’s wisdom in the Youths’ Guide):
“Consider the end before you begin; and before you advance, provide a retreat.”
“Give not unnecessary pain to any man, but study the happiness of all.”
“Ground not your dignity upon your power to hurt others.”
“Take counsel before you commence any measure, and never trust its execution to the inexperienced.”
“Sacrifice your property for your life, and your life for your belief.”
“Spend your time in establishing a good name, and if you desire fortune, learn contentment.”
“Grieve not for that which is broken, stolen, burnt, or lost.”
“Keep thyself at a distance from those who are incorrigible in bad habits, and hold no intercourse with that man who is insensible to kindness.”
“Make it a habit to be happy, and avoid being out of temper, or thy life will pass in misery.”
“Plant a young tree, or you cannot expect to cut down an old one.”
“Never let your expenses exceed your income”