The Mesnavi and The Acts of the Adepts, by Jelal-'d-din Rumi and Shemsu-'d-Din Ahmed, tr. by James W. Redhouse, , at sacred-texts.com
HAST heard, perchance, there was in days of good ‘Umer
A minstrel talented, whose harpings moved the sphere?
The nightingales all wept in transports at his voice,
One pleasure made men's hearts a hundredfold rejoice.
His song enchanted every gathering where he went,
Applause as thunder broke forth, to his heart's content.
Like voice of Isrāfīl, whose trump on judgment day, 1
Will wake the dead to life, his made the saddest gay.
Dear friend to Isrāfīl he was, and mendicant;
His notes made plumes to sprout on hide of elephant. 5
Some day will Isrāfīl attention pay to moans.
Their souls he will recall to old and putrid bones.
The prophets, likewise, all, musicians are on hearts.
Disciples hence expire with joy by fits and starts.
Our outward ears the strains hear not which thence proceed;
Those ears, in many ways, degraded are indeed.
Mankind the songs of fairies never hear at all,
They are not versed in fairies’ ways, their voices small.
’Tis true, the chants of fairies’ sounds are of this world; 1
10 But songs sung by men's hearts are far above them hurled.
Both men and fairies pris’ners are in earthly cage.
Both, too, are thralls of sinful ignorance's rage.
Read thou the text: "O fairy troop," in book of God. 2
Consider, too: "Can ye pass out?" Who holds the rod?
The inward hymn that's sung by all the hearts of saints
Commences: "O component parts of that thing not." 3
Now since they take their rise in this not, negative,
They put aside the hollow phantom where we live.
Ye putrid corpses, wrapt in rank corruption's cloth,
15 Our everlasting souls are free from birth and growth.
Were I but to recite one stave from their blest song,
All living souls would rise out from their tombs among.
Lend ear attentively; that may not distant be;
As yet, however, leave's not given to tell it thee.
The saints are Isrāfīls of this our passing time.
The spiritually dead through them live life sublime.
Our souls mere corpses are; their graves, our bodies’ crowds.
At voice of saint do they arise, clothed in their shrouds.
They say: "This voice has in it something to be feared.
20 To raise the dead, God's voice alone has power, we've heard.
We were all dead, and unto earth had we returned.
The voice of God we've heard; our prisons we have spurned."
The voice of God without, also within the vail,
Can give the gift to all, it gave to Mary: "Hail!"
O ye whose death was not that which attacks the flesh,
At sound of the Beloved's voice ye’ve risen afresh.
That voice the Bridegroom's voice most truly was, ’tis said,
Although ’twas from the lips of His servant, Ahmed.
God said to him: "Thy tongue, thy eye, thy ear, I am;
All thy contentment, anger, thoughts, ’tis I undam. 25
Go on; 'By Me he hears, by Me he sees;' that's thee;
Thou art the head; thou holdest the place of Head's trustee.
In ecstasy, since thou art 'He the Lord's who is,' 1
I will be thine; for see, ’tis said: 'The Lord is his.'
Now will I say to thee: 'Thou art;' and now; 'I am.'
What I may say's as clear as is the sun in heaven.
Wherever I may shine an instant in a lamp,
A world of doubts I solve; on all My seal I stamp.
The darkness which the sun could never yet illume,
By magic of My breath grows bright as peacock's plume. 30
Wherever gloom may reign as undisturbed night,
When shone upon by Me, like noonday's forthwith bright."
’Twas He who taught to Adam ev’ry thing's true name,
Through Adam to mankind imparted He the same.
Take thou enlightenment from Adam or the Lord.
Draw wine as thou mayest list from jar or from the gourd. 2
The distance is not great between the gourd and jar.
The gourd is not, like thee, made drunk by grape's nectar.
Draw water from the brook, or from a pitcher's mouth;
The brook is still the source whence pitcher's filled; forsooth. 35
Seek light as listest; whether from the moon or sun.
The moon derives her sheen from daystar's golden tun.
Imbibe what light thou canst from any twinkling star.
The Prophet said: "Stars are all my disciples." Hear! 3
He further said: "How happy they who see my face, 1
And happy they who look on them in their own place."
He said: "Good luck to all who have the happy chance 2
To look on my disciples,—mirrors of my glance."
If thou by taper's aid proceed to light a lamp,
40 The eye that sees its light, perceives the taper's stamp.
If one lamp from another should be lighted; well!
The light received from this, has come from that one's cell.
And so, if through a thousand wicks the light should pass,
Who sees the last enjoys the gift of all the mass.
The light of this last lamp's as pure as is the whole;
No difference is there. And thus ’tis with the soul.
The light diffused by teachers in these latter days,
No other is than what was shown by earlier rays.
Our Prophet said: "The breathings of the Lord your God, 3
45 In these your days of pilgrimage, on all sides prod.
Your ears and minds lend ye to all signs of the times;
Perchance ye may inhale those breathings in these climes."
One breathing came and found you. Straightway it was gone.
To all who sought, new life it gave. It then had done.
Another breathing's come. Be ye not unprepared.
Ye may not let it go by. Something must be shared.
It found your souls on fire. ’Tis thence they cease to burn.
Your souls it found all corpses. Life it made return.
Your fiery souls by it all quickly were puffed out.
50 Dead souls of yours by it began aloud to shout.
Their present calm, and this vivacity's from heaven;
Resembling not the turbulence by which man's driven.
One breathing from the Lord, when blown on earth and air,
Ill qualities converts straight into all that's fair.
For fear lest any breathing such as this thee shake,
Read thou the text: "They shunned the task to undertake." 1
Had not " they shrunk from it," where now would’st thou have been?
Had they not feared, would’st thou this grade have ever seen?
But yesterday an opening gleamed for better things;
Till greed for fleshly morsels stopped the way of kings. 55
For sake of some such morsel Luqmān was made bail. 2
The time's now that for Luqmān morsel’d not avail.
The troubles we endure are all for morsel's sake.
Be Luqmān. Thou’lt extract the thorn that makes thee ache.
A thorn or chafing hurt not Luqmān's horny hand.
Through greed thou lackest the discipline made him so bland.
The thing thou thoughtest a date-palm, know, is but a thorn.
Ungrateful, uninformed thou art, now, as when born.
The soul of Luqmān was a vineyard of the Lord.
Why then into his soul did thorn pierce like a sword? 60
Thorn-eating camel, truly, is this world of ours,
Ahmed, then, came and mounted;—him that camel bears.
O camel, on thy back thou bearest a vase of rose.
On thee from thence have sprouted rosebuds, as God knows.
Thy tastes thee lead to camel-thorn and wastes of sand.
To thee the thorn's a rose; the wilderness, rich land.
O thou who in such quest hast wandered up and down,
How long wilt thou contend rose-garden's sandy down?
Thou canst not now extract the thorn from thy sore foot.
65 With that blind eye of thine, how wilt thou see its root?
A man whose vast desires the world could not contain,
Is sometimes by one thorn's point sent to death's domain.
Now Ahmed came; a tender, kind companion, he.
"Speak to me, O Humayrā," said he, "speak to me." 1
Put thou thy shoe, Humayrā, quick into the fire. 2
The rocks will rubies turn, from his feet's blood in mire.
This Humayrā's a woman's name, the poet's love.
Such is the Arab custom. Soul is meant. Now move.
That Soul's no need to fear from being named as girl. 3
70 Of sex, as male or female, that Soul has no twirl.
That Soul is far above sex, accident, and mood.
That Soul is not man's darling, made of flesh and blood.
That Soul is not the life that grows from cakes of bread;
That's sometimes of one mind, and other then instead.
Of good is He the worker, good He is also.
From goodness separate, no goodness e’er will flow.
If thou’rt made sweet through sugar, it may happen still,
That sugar none thou find, to sweeten thee at will.
But if thou sweet become, like sugar, through good heart,
75 This sweetness from thy sugar never will depart.
How can a lover find love's nectar in himself?
That question passes comprehension, my good elf.
Man's finite reason disbelieves love's potent sway.
Himself he yet esteems endowed with head to-day.
He's clever, and he's knowing, nil he's not; anon.
Until an angel's nothing, 1 he's a sheer demon.
In word and act a man may be a friend of ours;
But when it comes to heart and mind, he huffs and lours.
If he from esse, reach not posse's state, he's nil;
And willingly;—unwillingly, we may worlds fill. 80
The Soul, our God, ’s perfection. Perfect is His "call." 2
His Ahmed used to say: "Ensoul us, O Bilāl! 3
Lift up thy voice, O Bilāl, thy harmonious voice.
Put forth the breath that I infused at thy heart's choice.
The breath that ’twas made Adam lose all consciousness;
While all the hosts of heaven, too, felt their helplessness."
That Ahmed, Mustafà, at one blest sight stood lost. 4
His wedding-night it was. Dawn-worship it him cost. 5
He woke not from the sleep his blessed vision shed.
Dawn-worship he o’erslept; the sun shone overhead. 85
On that, his wedding-night, in presence of his bride,
His sainted soul kissed hands, high honour's fullest tide.
Both love and soul are occult, hidden and concealed.
If God I have "bride" named, let it stand fault repealed.
I silence would have kept, from fear of love's caprice,
If for a moment only, I'd been granted grace.
But He still said: "Say on. The word is not a fault.
It's naught but the decree there should appear default.
It's shame to him who only sees another's faults.
What fault is noticed by the Soul safe from assaults?" 90
A fault it is to eyes of creatures ignorant.
But not with God the Lord, our Maker benignant.
E’en blasphemy is wisdom with th’ Omnipotent; 1
Attributed to mortals, mortal sin patent.
If one sole fault be found amidst a hundred truths,
’Tis like a stick that's used to prop sweet flowers’ growths.
Both will be surely weighed in justice’ equal scales;
For, like the soul and body, both are pleasant tales.
The saints have therefore said, for sweet instruction's sake:
95 "The bodies of the pure with souls just balance make."
Their words, their selves, their figures, whate’er these may be,
Are all Soul Absolute, without a trace to see.
Sworn enemy is Body to their spiritual life,
Just as one game of backgammon, with names full rife. 2
The body goes to earth; is soon reduced to clay;
The soul endures like salt, and suffers no decay.
The salt, than which Muhammed far more sapid is;
From "Attic salt" that's found in each dictum of his.
That Attic salt's an heirloom, heritage from him;
100 His heirs are here with thee. Seek unto them passim.
They're sitting in thy presence. What's in front of thee?
Thy soul demands thy care. Where can thy forethought be?
If thou still be in doubt, and not sure of thyself,
Thou’rt slave unto thy body; soul thou hast not, elf.
Behind, before, above, below, stands body's shade.
The soul has no "dimensions;" clearly it's displayed.
Lift thy eyes, dear Sir, in glorious light of God;
That thou be not accounted most shortsighted clod.
Thou nothing knowest or carest about, save grief and joy;
Thou nothing, by mere nothings hemmed in, man or boy. 105
To-day's a day of rain. Yet journey thou till night;
Not on account of downpour, but because it's light.
One day did Mustafà, go to the burial-ground.
The Prophet at a funeral, his friend's, was found.
At filling in the grave he lent a helping hand;
A living seed he planted in that holy land.
The trees thereof are emblems,—cypress, fir, or yew;
Their boughs are hands in prayer uplifted,—if men knew.
They many lessons inculcate to men of sense,
He who hath ears to hear may thence draw inference. 110
A contemplative mind from them new secrets culls.
The heedless are amused with what men's reason dulls.
With tongue-shaped leaves and finger-twigs they us address;
From inmost heart of earth they publish mysteries.
As ducks dive into water, they plunge into earth.
Like rooks they were, now peacocks, gay in their new birth.
The winter shuts them up, as prisoners, in its ice.
Black rooks then, bare; as peacocks spring bids them arise.
God makes them look like dead in winter's frozen reign,
But with returning spring wakes them to life again. 115
Dull atheists contend this is a story old,
And ask why we to God attribute it, so bold.
They say these alternations ever thus were seen.
The world of old, they think, as ’tis, has ever been.
In spite of their contention, in breasts of His saints
Has God at all times reared rich gardens free from feints.
Each flower that yields to sense agreeable perfume,
Speaks volumes to saint's heart with its mysterious tongue.
Each perfume from a flower rubs atheist's nose in dirt;
120 Although he rush about, and boundless nonsense spirt.
An atheist's like a chafer clinging to rosebud,
Or like a nervous patient tortured by drum's thud.
He makes himself as fussy as each touting wight;
But shuts his eyes to flashes of conviction's light.
He shuts his eyes perversely, with them will not see.
The saint, on other hand, ’s clear-sighted certainly.
The Prophet, when returned home from the funeral,
Found ‘Ā’isha was waiting, him to welcome all.
So when her eyes fell on him, just as in he came,
125 She him approached, and on him hand placed; gentle dame.
She touched his turban, cloak and coat, his sleeves and shoes,
His hair and beard, his face and hands, peering for news.
He asked her what she sought with so much eager zeal.
She answered him: "To-day of rain there's fallen a deal.
I'm lost in wonderment to feel thou art not wet;
No dampness is there here. I marvel still more yet."
He asked: "What veil worest thou God's service to fulfil?" 1
She answered: "I a plaid of thine threw o’er my frill."
He said: "That plaid it was for which the Lord, to thee,
130 My lady pure, a shower caused visible to be.
That shower was not of raindrops .from the clouds that fall;
A shower of mercy ’twas; its cloud and sky, His call."
["In regions of the soul so many skies are there! 2
They issue their commands to spheres of earth and air.
The ups and downs in spirit's path form quite a class;
So many hills to climb; so many seas to pass."]—Sanā’ī.
The unseen world has other clouds, and other skies; 1
Its sun is different; its water God supplies.
Its rain proceeds from other clouds than does our own.
God's mercy ’tis that forms that rain when it pours down. 135
Those rains are never seen, save by the eyes of saints.
Mere men "by new creation puzzled," 2 judge them feints.
One rain there is that nourishment brings in its track;
Another rain also that works a whole world's wreck.
The rain of spring does wonders in the garden's fold;
The rain of autumn chills like ague's shivers cold.
The spring rain nourishes whate’er it falls upon.
Autumnal showers but bleach and shrivel; all turns wan.
Thus is it with the cold, the wind, and eke the sun;
They're means from which such different phases seem to run. 140
In things invisible the same rule still holds good;
Advantage, loss, annoyance, fraud, affliction's flood.
The words of saints are like the vernal breeze in power;
They cause sweet flowers to open in man's bosom bower.
And like the rains of spring on herbage of the field,
They raise in pious hearts a harvest of rich yield.
If thou shouldst see a trunk that's blighted, dead, and dry,
Attribute not this state to quickening air's supply.
The air still quickens, though dead stumps feel not its power.
’Tis only what's alive, that freshens by a shower. 145
The Prophet gave advice: "From breezes cool, in spring, 3
Your bodies cover not; they're invigorating.
Allow them, then, full play; they'll give your sinews strength.
See how, with them, the trees are clothed with leaves, at length.
Beware, however; autumn's chills ye must not court.
They're fatal to men's lives; the trees they strip, in short."
Traditionists report the Prophet's blessed words;
But there they have stopped short; they add naught afterwards.
The whole class, ignorant of application's call,
150 The mountain have discerned; its mines they have missed, all.
The autumn chill, with God, is fleshly lust and pride;
The vernal breeze, the spirit, wisdom, sense to guide.
Of wisdom, in thy head, a glimmering thou hast;
Seek then for perfect wisdom; be to it steadfast.
Thy partial stock from thence completed thou wilt bring.
On neck of flesh completed wisdom put, as ring. 1
Thou seest now, applied, the breeze of spring is he,
Who, perfect in himself, men perfect helps to be.
From words of his take care thou close not up thy ear.
155 Thy faith they will confirm; religion fruit will bear.
Reproachful, or in praise, hear all he has to say;
From thee the fires of hell they'll help to turn away.
Reproaches, admonitions, life will bring at last
If faith they but confirm, flesh in subjection cast.
By admonition is the heart encouraged to good deeds;
And by reproaches is the soul kept back from evil's meeds.
Upon the heart of teacher clings dark sorrow's pall,
If one twig from heart's garden's seen away to fall.
Good ‘Ā’isha, the gem of honour's casket wide,
Then asked the Prophet (who's of both the worlds the Pride): 160
"O thou who of all creatures every essence art,
What was the reason rain this day has played its part?
Was it a rain of mercy, such as sometimes falls;
Or was it as a menace justice fitly calls?
Was it a vernal rain, dispensing benefits;
Or was it an autumnal shower, to dig grave pits?"
He answered: "’Twas a sprinkle, sent to soothe our care,—
That fruit inherited by all who Adam share.
Should man remain exposed for long to care's fierce flame,
’Twould work him wrack and ruin, crush his mortal frame." 165
The world would go to ruin in a little while;
Man's greed would get the upper hand, did he not smile.
The prop of this wide world is heedlessness, my son;
And thoughtfulness on earth below's a curse, when won.
For thoughtfulness belongs unto the upper world;
Triumphant here below, all's soon to ruin hurled.
This thoughtfulness a sun is; greed's a mass of ice.
This thoughtfulness is water; greed, the filth of vice.
So from the upper world scant tricklings are sent down,
That greed and envy may not ruin every town. 170
If those scant tricklings were to prove a copious rill,
Defects and talents both would cease our soil to till.
Let's leave these moralisings; they would have no end.
So go we back to seek the minstrel, our old friend.
That minstrel's talent had been rare; the world he'd charmed.
At sound of his sweet voice, imagination ’d swarmed.
Each heart, birdlike, began to flutter in its cage;
Surprise enchained men's minds when his notes threw the gage.
But now he was grown old; long years he'd passed on earth.
175 Like falcon chasing gnats, he'd little cause for mirth.
His back was double bent, like belly of wine-jar;
His brows above his eyes with crupper-straps on par.
His voice, the former joy of all who might it hear,
Was now cracked, out of tune, uncouth, none could it bear.
His tones, that might have made dame Venus mad with rage, 1
Were now like donkey's brayings in his sinking age.
What is there beautiful that goes not to decay?
Where is the roof that will not ruin be one day?
Unless it be the words of saint 2 from God; they'll last
180 ’Till echoes of his voice shall sound in judgment blast.
He is the inner joy that glads our inner man;
The source from whom our beings rose when time began.
He is the amber draws the motes of thought and speech;
He gave the means to measure revelation's reach.
Our minstrel in old age felt poverty's sure pinch.
No money could he earn; bread, not enough for finch.
He prayed: "O God, long life and full to me Thou’st given,
To worthless sinner Thou hast shown foretaste of heaven.
I've slighted Thy commandments seventy years and more,
185 Not one day hast Thou let me pangs of want feel sore.
No longer can I earn; I'm now Thy household guest;
I'll harp for love of Thee, Thou giver of my feast."
His harp on shoulder slung, he went, in quest of God,
To burial-ground of Yathrab; 3 sat down on the sod.
Said he: "I'll ask of God the hire of my harpstrings;
For He accepts the heart's most humble outpourings."
He harped awhile, and then he laid him down and wept.
His harp his pillow was; upon a grave he slept.
With sleep his soul was freed from prison and from pain,
The harp and harper both were now made young again. 190
His soul, free, wandered forth, exempt from all dull care,
In spacious fields of heaven, the soul's park, light as air.
There he began to warble, merry as a lark:
"O that I here might dwell without a care to cark
How joyous I should be in such a paradise;
These sweet ethereal fields breathe balm, and myrrh, and spice.
I'd wander all about; no need of feet or wings.
All sweets I'd feast on; lips and teeth were useless things.
My mind at rest, from all care free, I'd ever roam.
The angels I'd not envy in their heavenly home. 195
With bandaged eyes I'd survey realms without an end;
All sorts of flowers I'd gather, yet not soil my hand.
Like duck in pond, down deep I'd plunge in honey lake. 1
In Job's own fount I'd bathe, in wine .I'd revel make.
For Job with wine from heaven was cleansed in every pore;
From head to foot he came forth healed, without a sore."
If these poor rhyming verses covered heaven's vast vault,
They'd not tell half a tithe, they still would be at fault.
The sum of heavenly joys I find an endless theme;
My heart is far too narrow to embrace its scheme. 200
The world I would enclose in my poor poem's fold,
Has lent my thoughts the wings that make their flight so bold.
Were but that world in sight; its road, were it but known;
Few souls would here remain, were but its glories shown.
Commandment has been given: "Thou shalt not covetous be."
The thorn from out thy foot is drawn; thy thanks let's see.
"My Lord! My God!" loud cried our minstrel in that place,
Those glorious realms of mercy, boundless shores of grace.
About that time the Lord on ‘Umer slumber sent.
205 He could not keep awake; beneath sleep's burden bent.
With wonder thought he ’twas unprecedented: "See!
This sleep's divinely ordered; purpose there must be."
His head he bowed; sleep bound him fast; a dream he saw,
A voice from God he heard,—for him a sacred law.
God's voice the real source is of every cry and sound;
The only voice, in fact; all other's echo found.
Turks, Kurds, and Persians, Arabs, all have understood
That voice most wonderful, of lip and ear no mood.
What say I? No! Not merely Turks and Persians all,
210 The very rocks and trees have answered to that call.
Each moment's clearly heard: "Am I not, then, your Lord?" 1
Ideas and essences became "things" at His word.
Had they not answered: "Yes, Thou art our God, O Lord,"
From out of nothing straight that answer ’d come, in word!
About what's here been said respecting stocks and stones,
Let's hear what tell tradition's most veracious tones.
We'll find related there how various rocks and trees,
Both understood and spoke, as human being sees.
A post in his own house, at Mustafà's retreat,
215 Sent forth a sob of grief, like heart in sorrow's heat,
As he his sermon preached, surrounded by his flock,
So that the moan was heard by old and young; no mock.
Disciples one and all were petrified, perplexed,
And marvelled what might make its wooden heart so vexed.
The Prophet put the question: "What may be thy need?"
The column answered: "Prophet, grief my heart makes bleed. 1
Against me, in thy sermon, thou’st been used to lean;
A pulpit now thou’st mounted; far from me thou’rt seen."
The Prophet said: "Thou most affectionate of posts!
Good fortune thee attend, sent by the Lord of Hosts! 220
If thou so wish, thou mayst become a fruitful palm;
And men from east and west sing of thy dates in psalm.
Or God may thee transplant to realms of paradise;
Where as a cedar thou eternally mayst rise."
It answered: "I elect what ne’er will know decay."
Lend ear, O heedless man! Hast thou less sense than they?
That post was forthwith buried, like a corpse of clay,
In hopes of resurrection at the judgment day.
Thou hence mayst learn that any whom the Lord doth call,
Breaks straightway with the things of this our earthly ball. 225
Whoe’er receives a mission from the Lord his God,
Forsakes the world, himself prepares the path to plod.
Who's not received the gift of knowledge from above,
Will ne’er believe a stock could sigh and moan for love.
He may pretend to acquiesce; not from belief;
He says: "’Tis so," to ’scape a name much worse than thief.
All they who're not convinced that God's "Be" is enough,
Will turn away their face; this tale they'll treat as "stuff"
By thousands are confessing Muslims, men of mark,
230 By doubt most sadly haunted; faith they've not, one spark.
Conformity with them is founded on surmise,
And all their heart and conscience quieted with lies.
’Tis Satan sows the seed of doubting in their breast,
Like blind men they will fall into the pit at last.
Mere reasoners are cripples, propped on wooden leg;
And, like such cripple, often falling as they beg.
How different's a pillar of our holy creed!
As mountain he is steadfast; faith his living meed.
A blind man's leg's his staff; upon it he must lean,
235 Or he will risk to fall at full length on the green.
A knight is he who sole has routed hosts of foes;
Wise leader then becomes of liegemen's ranks through woes.
Those blind men find their way by trusting to a staff.
They lean upon a creature; their sight is in a gaff.
For, otherwise, they'd be far-seeing; they'd be kings;
As ’tis, they're blind, they're corpses,—lifeless, senseless things.
The blind can never sow, and surely never reap;
They cannot edify; their talent they must keep.
If ’twere not for God's mercy, favour, and free grace,
240 Their staff of reason ’d snap; they ’d fall prone on their face.
That staff's a weapon made for quarrelling and fight;
Then break it up in pieces, man of feeble sight!
That staff was given thee, to help thee on thy way;
With it men's faces strikest thou, angry, ev’ry day.
What's this you're doing, blind ones? What are you about?
Some constables call in, to calm this frightful rout.
Fall down, and Him entreat, who furnished you with staff.
Look well, and see what signs your weapon may engraff.
Consider Moses’ miracle; reflect on Ahmed's too.
One's staff became a serpent; one's post chose what is true. 245
From that staff came a serpent; from this post, loud moan.
Five times a day for praise we hear the crier's tone.
This trouble otherwise had been a senseless suit;
So many miracles, so very little fruit.
What's reas’nable the mind can easily allow,
No need's there then for miracle, for tide to ebb and flow.
The plan of miracles unreasonable count;
But know it is accepted; faith it does not daunt.
Just like as demons, and as wild beasts, out of dread
Of man, fled to the wilds, when envy reared its head, 250
So, out of dread of miracles by prophets wrought,
Do cavillers take refuge in sophisms of thought.
In name, they're Muslims; and, by virtue of their wiles,
We can't know what they are; their faces are all smiles.
Precisely as false-coiners on their metal base
A coat of silver put, the sovereign's name then trace,
In word, God's unity confessed, and holy law,
Their hearts are like the poison-grain in sweet kickshaw.
Not Venus will convince a sophist in debate;
But true religion speaks, confutes his postulate. 255
His body's like a stock, his spirit's but a stone.
Howe’er he contradict, them God directs alone.
In words, mayhap, he may detect a hitch or two;
But his own soul and body witness God is true.
Some stones were held in hand by Abū-Jahl one day. 1
Said he to Muhammed: "What hold I here? Now say.
Since thou’rt a prophet, tell: What hold I in my hand?
The secrets of high heaven thou claimest to command."
Said Muhammed: "How can’st suppose I should not tell?
260 The things themselves shall speak. I'm truthful; they know well."
Said Abū-Jahl: "This last pretension's harder still."
To him replied the Prophet: "They'll obey God's will.'
From out of his closed hand a chorus now burst forth;
Confession of God's unity; His Prophet's worth:
"There is no god but God," the stones distinctly sang;
"Muhammed is God's prophet," also clearly rang.
When Abū-Jahl this heard, he cast the stones away,
In anger from his hand, as then he dared to say:
Most surely no magician ever was like thee.
265 Magicians’ chief art thou; crown on their heads thou’lt be."
May dust alight upon his head, blind miscreant!
’Twas Satan closed his inward sight;—cursed recusant.
Now turn we once again to hear the minstrel's tale,
For all this time he's waiting; anxious, wan, and pale.
The heavenly voice the Caliph called: "Ho! ‘Umer! Ho!
Our servant's want relieve; set thou him free from woe.
A servant whom we hold in very high esteem,
In public burial-ground, go, visit; him redeem.
From out the public treasury do thou extract
270 Seven hundred golden sequins, with due care and tact.
To him deliver them; and say: 'O man of good,
For present needs let this suffice; ’twill give thee food.
Thy harpstrings’ hire it is. Go hence; and when ’tis done,
Do thou again come hither; look for me alone.'"
At sound of that dread voice did ‘Umer now awake,
And straight himself disposed that task to undertake.
Towards the burial-ground he turned his steps amain,
The money in his breast, to seek the stranger, fain.
He walked about the ground, right, left, and everywhere.
No second soul was seen; the minstrel only there. 275
Thought he: "This cannot be my quest." So, off again
He wandered; still no other offered; this was plain.
He said within himself: "The Lord of servant spake,
Devout, approved, accepted, loved for God's own sake.
An ancient minstrel this. Of God can he be loved?
Some mystery is here. Hail, riddle, by God moved!
Once more he wandered o’er the spacious burial-ground,
As lion seeking for his prey goes round and round.
Convinced at length no other was there choice to make,
He thought: "When I'm in doubt, light from above I take." 280
Respectfully he then approached the sleeping guest.
A sneezing seized him. Straight the harper woke from rest.
When °timer he espied, he marvelled, sore amazed;
And rose to go away. Fear's tremor held him dazed.
He thought: "O Lord, have mercy Thou on me!
This magistrate austere no harper ’ll kindly see."
Now ‘Umer him considered; saw he was afraid;
His cheeks all pale and wan; looks, modest as a maid;
Then said: "Fear not! From me seek not to go away;
Good tidings from on high to thee I bring this day. 285
Of thee the Lord hath spoken in terms of highest praise.
The heart of ‘Umer's moved to love thee and thy lays.
Be seated, then, by me, as friend by side of friend;
While I to thee impart the message God doth send.
The Lord doth thee salute; thy welfare doth inquire;
Trusts thou’st supported well all thy afflictions dire.
This trifle sends for present needs, as harpstrings’ worth.
When it is spent, come here again, and fear not dearth."
The old man trembled as he heard those words so kind;
290 His finger in astonishment he bit;—near lost his mind.
Then cried aloud: "O God! Thou all-unequalled One!
In my old age I sink for shame; this mercy I've not won."
A torrent, now, of tears, he shed, in anguish deep;
His harp then dashed to pieces. Why it longer keep?
He thus apostrophised it: "O thou source of ill!
Thou’st barred me from heaven's path, as highwaymen who kill.
My blood thou’st sucked these seventy years, thou thing of shame!
Through thee I'm rendered vile in eyes of men of fame.
O Lord, Most Merciful! Thou giver of all good!
295 My past life pardon, squandered ill, in heedless mood!"
Man's life's a gift of God. Alas! How few will think!
The value of each moment's great, so near death's brink.
I've spent my life, not thinking how the moments fly.
I've sung and harped as though a man should never die.
Alas! that I in singing songs of mirth and glee,
Entirely had forgot that death would visit me.
Alas! that shrillest notes have set my ears in flames,
And scorched my heart to shamelessness! Sad names!
Alas! the gamut's intervals were heard all night.
300 The day has dawned; the caravan passed with the light.
My God! Help, help! Me save front him who cries for help!
Protection I implore from self;—I, who thus yelp!
I never shall obtain my right, except through craft.
For craft is german more to me than self ingraft.
By craft this self itself doth rear across my way.
Beyond my craft myself I see, when craft's at bay.
Just like as when a man is telling gold with thee.
Alone it thou considerest,—self thou dost not see.
So did the harper weep, and loudly did complain.
His sins he numbered up, committed in life's train. 305
To him then ‘Umer: "This contrition deep of thine
Is proof thou sober art, though grief thy heart entwine.
Thy worldly journey's over, other path now take;
For this sobriety's a sin thou must forsake.
Sobriety's a virtue in the road thou’st trod.
The past and future both are curtains hiding God.
Set fire to both of them! How long wilt thou remain
Partitioned up by diaphragms like a reed cane?
So long as reed has diaphragms, it's not our friend;
With lips and voice of ours its notes it cannot blend. 310
So long as thou goest round the house, thou waverer art; 1
But when thou’st entered, then full ease reigns in thy heart.
O thou, whose knowledge of full knowledge is not half,
Contrition is, with thee, worse than thy fault, mooncalf.
Thou’rt contrite for the past. On what occasion
Wilt thou contrition feel for this contrition?
At one time worshipper thou wert of notes of harp;
And now, like lover, thou ’dst kiss sighs and moans so sharp."
Like mirror, ‘Umer having thus reflected truth,
The harper's heart received enlightenment, forsooth. 315
He, spirit-like, became relieved of moan and smile.
His old mind took its leave, his new heart was docile.
Amazement fell upon him, stupor bathed each sense,
Ecstatic trance then followed, earth and sky flew hence.
A yearning and a longing past description.
As I cannot explain; try thy perception.
Such ecstasy, such words, beyond all mood and tense;
Immersion total in God's glorious effulgence.
Immersion such, escape therefrom impossible;
320 That sea henceforth to him became impassable.
Our partial wisdom's not part of omniscience,
Until God's promptings come its promptings to enhance.
But when our souls are made those impulses to feel,
That sea in waves straight rises, under which we reel.
The story of the harper and his state now ends;
Both harper and that state have grown to be our friends.
The harper sealed his mouth from any further song.
We, too, will leave his tale half told; it is too long.
In order to attain to his high state of bliss,
325 Had one a hundred lives, they might be staked for this.
Be thou, then, like a falcon, ever on the wing,
To catch that gnat, thy soul; sunlike, for ever sing.
He casts himself, for love, from highest heaven's height;
If flagons empty, he with wine fills them, so bright.
O spiritual Sun, transfuse Thou life to all.
A new life give, O God, to this our earthly ball.
Into the frames of men both life and soul infuse
From out Thy hidden world, as water dost diffuse.
The Prophet has informed us that, for warning's sake,
330 Two angels evermore sweet invocation make:
"O God, dispensers bless! Do Thou them feed and tend!
Give them ten thousandfold for every mite they spend!
But hoarders, O our Lord God, in this lower scene,
Do Thou afflict with loss,—no profit intervene!"
How many hoardings better than dispensings are!
Save in God's service, wealth of God spend not. Take care!
So mayst thou get in recompense a hundredfold.
So mayst thou ’scape the punishment of sins untold.
Men offered up their camels as a sacrifice;
In hopes their swords ’gainst Mustafà would do service. 335
Seek thou the will of God from him who has it learnt;
Not into every soul has God's will been inburnt.
The Prophet's words forewarned those sons of heedlessness,
That all such offerings are a heap of worthlessness.
In war with God's apostle, chiefs of Mekka all
Such sacrifices offered, ghostly aid to call.
Just like the unjust steward, who, as justice due,
The treasure of his lord bestowed on rebel crew.
He falsely pictured to himself he'd justice wrought,
With public money spent, the poor to terms he'd brought. 340
Such justice from such culprit, what could it effect?
His lord, to anger moved, excuses did reject.
Hence is it, every Muslim, fearing he may stray,
In his devotions begs: "Lead Thou us in right way." 1
Their substance to dispense suits men of generous mood.
A lover's ready gift's his life for his love's good.
Dispense thou food for God's sake; food thou’lt surely have.
Lay down thy life for love of God; thy life thou’lt save.
We see the trees here shed their leaves at God's command.
Without their toil or trouble, other leaves He'll send. 345
Shouldst thou, dispensing much, one day be found in want,
The Lord will not forsake thee; His supply's not scant.
Whoever sows, must empty storehouses of grain;
His fields will yield him richly tenfold heaps of gain.
But he who's left his corn in garners, to be used,
Mules, horses, mice, and accidents have it reduced.
This world's a negative; the positive seek thou.
All outward forms are cyphers; search, the sense to know.
Lay down thy wretched life before th’ uplifted sword;
350 New life thou’lt purchase, never-ending, of the Lord.
But if thou do not know, well, how to quit this scene,
To me, then, lend thy ear; this tale for thee I mean.
In days of old there was a Caliph, as is said,
Whose generosity Hātim Tāyī ’d dismayed. 1
His fame for liberality went through the land;
All poverty, all want, relieved was at his hand.
The very sea went dry through his dispensing zest;
And rumours of his benefits spread east and west.
A fruitful cloud of rain was he to this our race;
355 In turn, the object he of God's surpassing grace.
So large his gifts, that seas and mines were out of date.
Still fame brought caravans of suitors to his gate,
His courts and halls the temples of the indigent.
The noise had gone abroad how largely he had spent.
The Persian, Roman, Turk, and Arab, all were there,
And all admired his liberalities so rare.
A Fount of Life was he, a very sea of gift.
359 All nations profited,—in praise their voice did lift.
m139:1 Isrāfīl is the angel who will blow the last trump, twice. At the first, all living will die; at the second, all the dead will rise to be judged. His voice is the most musical among all those of the angels.
m140:1 Our word "fairy" is connected with the Persian "perī," used here by the poet instead of the Arabic "jinn," whence our "genie."
m140:2 Qur’ān lv. 33.
m140:3 That is, it would appear: Individuals created out of nothing.
m141:1 That is: The Lord is with him who strives on the Lord's side.
m141:2 A dried gourd, a calabash, is commonly used as a wine-decanter.
m141:3 An apostolic tradition.
m142:1 Also an apostolic tradition.
m142:2 Another apostolic tradition.
m142:3 The traditionary saying of Mohammed, of which this section is an amplification, is the following:—"Verily your Lord hath, in your time, sundry breathings; lo, then, turn ye towards them."
m143:1 Qur’ān xxxiii. 72. When all things had declined responsibility, Adam voluntarily accepted it; was tempted; and fell. Had they not shrunk, man would not have been the sinner or the saint that he is.
m143:2 Luqmān's story may be read in D’Herbelot, voce "Locman."
m144:1 Arabian poets sing of women; often imaginary. In Persia, this is considered very immodest. In Persian poetry, a boy, imaginary also, is always assumed to be the beloved object. Muhammed so addressed his youthful wife, ‘Ā’isha. Humayrā means Rosina,—little rosy-cheeks. See also No. 9, distich 184.
m144:2 A horse-shoe, as a charm, with an absent one's name on it, placed in the fire, is supposed to exercise a magical influence over him, and make him come there in all speed, even though his feet bleed from his haste.
m144:3 That "Soul" is God, the "animus mundi."
m145:1 Through humility.
m145:2 The "call" of God is the call to divine service, the ‘Adhān (ezān).
m145:3 Bilāl, a negro, was the first caller to divine service. He was an early convert, a slave, then ‘Abū-Bekr's freedman; then Mu’edhdhin.
m145:4 Mustafà, Chosen, Elect, is one of Muhammed's titles.
m145:5 The night of his marriage with Safiyya, after the capture of Khaybar, in the seventh year of the Hijra, as he was returning to Medīna. That night has a special name, based on this circumstance: the night of the early morning halt (laylatu ’t-ta‘rīs).
m146:1 An explanation of this wild expression were much to be desired. Doubtless there is one.
m146:2 There are seven different Persian games of backgammon. The second of the seven, the one mentioned by the poet, is called "Plus" (Ziyād). At each throw of the dice, one is added, arbitrarily, to each number shown on the two, ace becoming deuce, &c. The poet likens the body to this supposititious number, the soul alone being real.
m148:1 In performing her devotions, a Muslimess has to veil herself, even at home, as though she were abroad in public.
m148:2 These four lines are quoted from Sanā'ī, for comment.
m149:1 This section and the next two form a comment on Sanā’ī.
m149:2 Qur’ān l. 14. The "new creation" is the resurrection.
m149:3 The tradition, in prose, is as follows, quoted by the poet: "Take ye advantage of the coolness of spring; it invigorates your bodies, as it acts on plants. Avoid ye also the cold of autumn; it acts on your frames as it acts on vegetation."
m150:1 Prisoners and fugitive slaves have iron rings or a kind of wooden pillory fastened round their necks to prevent flight or insubordination.
m152:1 Venus, the musician, who inhabits the planet. See Tale iii., dist. 223.
m152:3 The original name of Medīna,—Jatrippa.
m153:1 Qur’ān xlvii. 17.
m154:1 Qur’ān vii. 171.
m155:1 Tradition relates that at first, Muhammed used to pronounce his sermon seated on the floor in the midst of his congregation, with his back against a certain wooden pillar. The congregation increasing, he was obliged to adopt the use of a raised platform, a kind of pulpit, so as to be seen and heard of all. The deserted pillar is the one spoken of.
m157:1 This is a traditionary legend.
m161:1 The circumambulation of the "House of God" at Mekka, is one of the ceremonies of a pilgrimage, &c.
m163:1 Qur’ān i. 5.
m164:1 Hātim Tāyī is the proverbial prince of Arabian generosity. Many anecdotes are current respecting him. His full name was Hātim, son of ‘Abdu-’llāh, son of Sa‘d, of the tribe of Tayyi’. For instances of his generosity, as handed down by tradition from a time shortly prior to the promulgation of Islām, see Mr. Clouston's "Arabian Poetry for English Readers," p. 406; London, 1881; Trübner & Co., Ludgate Hill. But Hātim lived and died before the Caliphs ruled. He, too, was a poet.