Many consider Sa'di as the brightest star in the galaxy of Persian poets. He is certainly one of the most widely read poets in Iran and one of the best known abroad. During the 17th,18th and 19th centuries when Persian was the dominant literary and administrative language of India, many British colonial officers felt the necessity of learning it. One of the texts often used in teaching Persian was the Golistan of Sa'di. Like the work of Cicero in Latin, the work of Sa'di has traditionally been considered as the embodiment of elegance and stylistic perfection for the learner of Persian. Thus India was a major early disseminator of Persian letters in the West, and Sa'di was the first major Persian writer to be read by Westerners. If today his fame abroad is less than that of other Persian poets like Khayyam and Hafez, it is mostly because after the decline of Persian in India and later, the dissolution of the British Empire, there were, and still are, no translations that adequately approximate the charm of Sa'di. The early popularity of Sa'dis work in the West was accompanied by the interest in the details of his seemingly adventure some life. Did he live a life of vagabondage and exploration comparable to that of his admirer Sir Richard Burton? Was his more like Herodotus? When was he born? Exactly what regions did he travel through? The few things that are known about him, mostly gleaned from his own writings, are as follows: Sa'di was born in Shiraz and received his early training there. He came from a distinguished family of scholars. When still a child, he lost his father. The youth of Sa'di coincided with a time of instability in the province of Fars. First it was the Kharazm-shahs who in 1232 invaded Shiraz. It is likely that this event was partly responsible for Sa'di's departure to Baghdad where he continued his studies at the famous Nezamieh University. How long he studied there is not known. His writings indicate that he spent the next thirty to forty years of his life travelling from one country to the other as a dervish. The fear of a Mongol invasion which hung like a sword over the province of Fars, may have been a cause of Sa'di's long absence. However the character of Sa'di, as it shines through his work, indicates that like other peregrine poets before him, he realy enjoyed exploring the world for himself. His journeys took him to Syria, Asia Minor, Arabia, Egypt, Libya, and-if the evidence of his work is to be relied upon-to Turkistan and India. The medieval world was much more closely knit than is commonly imagined. Many persons especially dervishes who could subsist on meagre accommodations, travelled quite extensively. Thus, Sa'di's wide-ranging journeys are neither improbable not unique. In fact the geographical knowledge and cosmopolitan wit and sagacity found in his work, indicate that Sa'di had indeed travelled to all the lands mentioned above. At the threshold of old age, Sa'di returned to his home-town of Shiraz. Fars was enjoying a measure of stability under the wise rule of Atabak Abubakr Zangry (1225-70) who treated Sa'di with respect. By this time, Sa'di's fame was wide-spead. The complimentary remarks made by his contemporary writers attest to Sa'di's fame during his life time, but Sa'di gained fame only during the latter part of his life. Sa'di presented his Golestan to Prince Sa'd Zangry in 1257. A year later, he presented the Bustan, his second most famous work, to Abubakr Zangy, Sa'di's father. Sa'di is said to have lived a very long life-some mention a hundred and ten years. He died in 1291 and was buried in the garden of his dervish house at the foot of a picturesque mountain four miles out of Shiraz. His tomb, was rebuilt by the Iranian government in the early 1970's is still visited daily by thousands of Iranians to the present day.
Research from: A History Of Persian Literature
by Manoochehr Aryanpur
Collage of translation,