Take heart, O imprisoned sovereign, for your tribulations in your cell are no greater than mine in my body.
Lie down and resign yourself to your fate, O fearsome one. For to be perturbed in the face of vicissitudes befits jackals, and caged monarchs can acquit themselves well only by showing contempt for the dungeon and the jailer.
Quieten your alarm, O youth of high resolve, and look at me. For I subsist among the slaves of life as you subsist behind bars. What difference is there between us, save a restless dream that follows my soul but fears to come near you?
We are both exiled from our homelands, remote from our families and loved ones. Compose yourself and endure patiently, as I do, the torments of days and nights, ridiculing those weaklings who vanquished us by virtue of their numbers, not by means of their individual determination.
What good can come of visitors, clamor, and the deaf who hear not?
I shouted before you did in their ears, and caught the attention only of gloomy shades. Just as you did, I reviewed their ranks, and found none among them but cowards who wax bold and overbearing before those in chains, and weaklings who hold their heads high and affect severity before prisoners in their cells.
Gaze, mighty king, upon those who crowd around your prison now. Search their faces and you will find what you saw in the mien of the least of your subjects and courtiers in the trackless desert. Some are like rabbits in their faintness of heart; some are like foxes in their cunning; and some equal snakes in their vileness. But none has the blamelessness of a rabbit, the intelligence of a fox, or the wisdom of a serpent.
Look, that one is like a filthy pig, but his flesh cannot be eaten. That one resembles a coarse water buffalo, but his hide is useless. That one is like a dim-witted donkey, but walks on two legs. That one looks like an ill-omened raven, but sells his croaking in temples. That one is like a haughty, preening peacock, but his feathers are borrowed.
Gaze, dreaded emperor, upon these mansions and edifices, for they are cramped nests wherein live human beings who pride themselves on the ornamented ceilings that block their view of the stars. They delight in the solidity of the walls which hide them from the rays of the sun. These buildings are murky caves, in the shadow of which the blossoms of youth wither, in the corners of which the torch of love turns to ash, and in the air of which the traces of dreams dissolve into columns of smoke. They are bizarre subterranean vaults, wherein the child's cradle swings toward the couch of the deathly ill, while the bridal bed sits beside the bier of a corpse.
Look, glorious prisoner, look at those wide avenues and narrow alleyways, for they are valleys of peril for those who travel them, with thieves crouched at every turn and bandits concealed on every side. They are an arena of continual battle between one object of desire and another, onto which descend spirits at war, though they lack swords, wrestling and snapping at one another without fangs. Or they are, rather, a forest of fear wherein dwell animals of tame appearance, with perfumed tails and polished horns, who are governed not by survival of the fittest but by endurance of the wiliest and most cunning. Their customs are not attributable to the best and strongest but to the most base and dishonest. As for their kings, they are no lions the like of yourself but, rather, odd creatures who possess the beaks of vultures, the claws of hyenas, the tongues of scorpions, and the croaking voices of frogs.
My spirit be your sacrifice, O captive king, for I have stood with you a long time and have talked at too great a length. But the heart that has been dethroned empathizes with overthrown monarchs, and the lonely, imprisoned soul takes delight in the company of lonesome prisoners. Make allowances for a youth who talks incessantly, preferring this amusement to eating itself, who imbibes thoughts instead of ale.
Until we meet again, O fearsome despot. Should it not be in this strange world, it will be in the world of specters, where the spirits of kings gather together with those of martyrs.