Mahmood’s mirror

The Sultan Mahmood, who had a great deal of wit and courage, but whose face was anything but handsome, had heard himself called so often, by his courtiers, Star of the World, Source of Consolation, Delight of the People, Image of the Sun, that when, in their audacity, they went so far as to eulogize his beauty, he finished by believing that he was really handsome.

But one day, when he was walking in a great gallery, he looked by chance upon a mirror, and saw with astonishment that he was everything else.

“Either my courtiers tell me falsehoods,” he said, “or this mirror is bad. So many eyes, which find me handsome, cannot however he easily deceived. The fault, beyond a doubt, must be in this mirror.”

He presented himself before a second, which showed him the same face.

“It may well be,” he said at last, “that these mirrors are right! One may trust to them; for, in sooth, they are not paid for lying, like my courtiers.”

He was still plunged in his reflections, when his Grand-Vizier, Kasajas, who rarely flattered, approached.

“Vizier.” said the Prince, “whence is it, that so many people say they are charmed to look upon me? for, if these mirrors do not deceive me, I am not exactly handsome.”

“My lord,” replied the Vizier, “nations would be happy if their kings found no flatterers. Thine follow thee step by step, as the shadow follows the light. They have lied to please thee; but I will speak the truth to be useful to thee. It is a matter of no consequence to a king whether he be handsome or ugly: for there is but a small number of his subjects that have an opportunity of seeing him, and that small number becomes easily accustomed to hit appearance; whereas all his subjects, without exception, rejoice in his justice and wisdom. These two qualities, then, are the greatest beauties that a people can wish for in their king.”