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
An Arab woman once thus to her husband spake,
Insisting strongly he'd of these words notice take:
"How very poor we are! What hardships have we borne!
The whole world lives in pleasures; we're the butt of scorn!
We have no bread; for condiment we've grief and cares.
Jug, pitcher we possess not; drink we naught but tears.
By day, our only raiment's scorching solar heat;
Our bedclothes in the night, the moon's rays pale and sweet.
The disk of Luna we may well imagine bread.
Our hands we lift to heaven; keen hunger's pangs we dread. 5
E’en mendicants feel shame at our dire poverty.
Our days are dark as night, through drear adversity.
Our kindred, as all strangers, sight of us now shun.
Just like the wandering Jew, for fear we should them dun. 1
When I would borrow half a handful of lentils,
The neighbours wish me dead; their wrath on me distils.
Amongst us Arabs pride is felt in war and gifts,
Among those very Arabs thou’rt devoid of shifts.
What need of war have we? We're wounded; we are slain;
The dart of want has pierced us through and through with pain. 10
What need of faults, O sinless one? We're in hell-fire!
What solace have we? Overwhelmed with deep desire!
What gifts have we to give? We silent beggars sit!
Could we but seize a gnat, its throat we'd straightway slit!
If guest should come to us, as sure as I'm alive,
When he was sunk in sleep, to strip him we would strive."
Such grumblings, and as follows, going on all day,
She made her husband wish her fifty miles away
"Unbroken destitution's brought us both to straits.
15 My heart burns for our sorrows; hope's gleam ne’er awaits.
How long are we to suffer torture such as this?
With hunger's agony, like coals of fire we hiss.
Should any stranger guest come unexpectedly,
What shame we'd feel him to receive dejectedly.
If any visitor should pass our way this eve,
Unless we eat his sandals, what food can we give?"
"Hence ’tis the wise have said in proverb, rendered free
'A guest should never go where he'll not welcome be.'
Who'd wish to be the guest confiding of a man,
20 Who'll strip thee to the skin, bare, gladly, if he can?
Unhappy in himself, can he thee happy make?
He can impart no light; deep gloom's his only stake.
Not feeling gladsome in himself, with others met,
He cannot yield to them what he has not as yet.
Suppose a man ophthalmic start as oculist;
Of granite-dust alone will his eye-salves consist.
So ’tis with all in times of misery and need;
Let no one, then, come blindly to our house to feed."
Hast never seen reality of famine near?
25 Look well at us; thou’lt see effects of food too dear.
Our outward look is black, like dark pretender's heart.
This lacks enlightenment, though his exterior's smart.
He has no hope of God, nor any good to show,
Though more than Seth or Adam he pretend to know.
Ev'n Satan unto him no trace of self has shown,
And yet he claims to be a Vicar of God's own. 1
Some Gnostic terms he uses as a plagiarist,
That he may lead the people as though secretist.
A critic, ’sooth, is he; complains of Bāyezīd; 2
Whereas Yezīd himself would blush at his bald creed. 3 30
Of heavenly bread and table, nothing has he known;
The barest bone to him, vile dog, God has not thrown.
He pompously proclaims: "My table have I spread;
Vicegerent's son, God's Vicar, here am I indeed!
Then welcome, all ye simpletons! Come in; Come in!
From table of my bounty fill yourselves within."
For years he dupes them with "To-morrow's" promise still.
The arrant arch-deceiver, whose "To-morrow's" nil.
A long time is required to sound a human mind,
To find out what defects may lurk the mask behind. 35
A buried treasure is there under body's wall?
Or is it hole of serpent, toad, or scorpion, all?
At length when ’tis discovered, impostor is he,
His pupil's life is wasted; what use then to see?
But on some rare occasion, pupil of great parts
Will come to the impostor, profit by his arts.
He comes with good intention to the lecture-hall,
Expects a guiding soul; he finds a carcase; all.
As when, in dead of night, one does not know the east, 4
To offer one's devotion's licit, turning west. 40
Pretenders carry famine in their heart of hearts.
We suffer only want of bread for our repasts.
Why, then, pretender-like, should we our want disguise?
Why, for appearance' sake, our soul, too, bastardise?
The woman's husband answered: "Pray now, silence keep!
Our life is most part o’er. What's left us but to weep?"
"The wise man cares not for a little more or less.
These both will pass away, like torrent's waywardness.
A torrent may be clear, or muddy, black as ink.
45 It will not last. Why then should we about it think?"
"Within this world what millions, living creatures all,
A life of joy still lead, quite free from let or fall.
A dove is always cooing praises to the Lord,
Upon a tree, so long as day may light afford.
A nightingale sings hymns, God's name to bless alway.
For unto Thee he trusts, Who hearest us when we pray.
A falcon, when he sits upon a royal fist,
No longer stoops to carrion, wherewith to subsist.
And so from gnat to elephant like state we find,
50 They all depend on God, the best of feeders’ kind."
"All those anxieties that fall on us like darts,
Are but the vapours, tempests, of our human hearts.
Those cares are like a sickle, made to cut us down.
This is a fact, though we are slow the truth to own.
Our ev’ry suffering, here, a portion is of death.
This part of death, then, drive away whilst thou hast breath.
If from this part of death thou findst thou canst not run;
Thou’rt sure whole death will follow, as the light the sun.
If thou canst learn to think this part of death is sweet,
55 Thou knowest that God will make its whole thy tastes to meet.
Our troubles are the heralds of our death to come.
Turn not thy face away from herald, as do some."
"Whoever leads a joyous life finds death severe.
And he who's slave to body, mars his soul's career.
When sheep come home from pasture in the meadows green,
The fattest ones are slaughtered, soon as they are seen.
The night is spent, the morn is come, my bosom friend,
When wilt thou bring thy grumbling gossip to an end?
Once thou wert young, and more content a hundred-fold;
Then covetous becamest, though thyself art gold. 60
A fruitful vine thou wert; a blight's come over thee;
Thy fruit will never ripe, ’twill shrivel on the tree.
Sweet fruit, with flavour, give, thy inward worth to prove.
Thou backwards shouldst not walk, as ropemakers all move.
Thou art my helpmate fond; and fellow-workers all,
Of one mind still should be, or their joint work must fall.
A pair should ever be conformable in aim.
A pair of shoes examine; pair of boots, the same.
If one boot of a pair be too small for the foot,
The pair is useless; vain, the other's size to moot. 65
One boot is small; the other, ’haps, too large is found.
Hast ever known a lion consort with a hound?
Two packs upon a camel equipoise require;
The one must not be half, the other bale entire.
I choose the road that leads straight to contentment's door,
Why takest thou the path to sin and misery's floor?"
The woman's husband, suffering, but resigned still,
Thus spake unto his wife, to calm her restive will.
The woman raised a shout: "O man of simple mind!
I will no longer listen to thy words, though kind. 70
Talk not to me of claims, pretensions, and such stuff.
I care not one pin's point for pride and flimsy fluff.
Why preach so loud of sentiment and honour's call?
Just look at our condition. Shame upon thee fall!
Pride certainly is wrong; much worse in beggars’ camp.
The day is cold and snowy; all our clothing's damp.
What nonsense and frivolity thy weak pate doles!
And all the while thy tent, like cobweb, ’s full of holes.
Where didst thou learn contentment's rule to make thy pride?
75 Has thy contentment taught thee shame from men to hide?
The Prophet has declared: 'Content a treasure is.'
But what knowest thou of treasure? Suffering's all thy bliss.
Contentment's but a water-reservoir that leaks.
Do hold thy tongue, thou plague; and cease these foolish freaks.
Thou namest me thy helpmate; lower, pray, thy tone.
I'm fellow unto justice; mate to knavery, none.
Since thou equality with lords and princes claimest,
Why suck the blood of locusts that by chance thou maimest?
Thou fightest for a bone with dogs in this debate.
80 How shall I not complain, with hunger at our gate?
Don't look at me contemptuously, and all askance.
Lest I tell all my mind, thy baseness to enhance.
Thou holdest thyself much wiser than poor soul like me.
Hast ever found me wanting sense to make thee see?
Think not to fall upon me, wolf-like, unawares,
O thou at whose great wisdom woman's folly stares!
The wisdom thou so holdest superior to all,
Not wisdom is; but serpent's, scorpion's, deadly gall.
A foe may God prove ever to thy drivelling guile!
85 So mayst thou turn out weaker than weak woman's wile!
Thou art both snake and snake-catcher, in one combined.
A serpent-charming serpent! Arab's pride enshrined!
Did crows but realise their ugliness supreme,
As white as snow they'd change, through rage and arrant shame.
A charmer sings a charm against a snake, his foe;
The snake charms him in turn; hence follows boundless woe.
Were not his trap a charm prepared by the snake,
Would he become the victim of some small mistake?
The charmer first is caught in toils of greed and lust.
And sees not ’tis the snake has charmed him, bound him fast. 90
The snake addresses him: 'O charmer! See now! Look!
Thy own work thou perceivest, my wiles hast mistook.
Thou charmest in God's name to make me thy bond-slave,
And lead me captive, make me sport for fool and knave.
The name of God it is that holds me fast enchained;
That name thou usest as my trap. Art not soft-brained?
That name will one day vengeance on thee for me take.
In fear of that dread name, I, soul and body, quake.
He'll either take thy life with poison-fang of mine;
Or, like me, unto prison He will thee consign!'" 95
Thus spake the woman bitterly unto her spouse,
Whole volumes would not hold the words that she let loose.
He answered her: "My wife! Art woman? Art thou mad?
'My poverty's my pride.' 1 Reproach me not when sad.
Possessions, wealth, are but a cap the scalp to hide.
The scaldheads or baldpates alone in caps confide.
Whoever's hair has grown in curls or tresses full.
Is always proud when he his cap away can pull.
A man of God resembles precious sense of sight.
Our eyes should not be bandaged, or we can't see right. 100
The dealer who exposes slaves free from defects,
Strips off the useless cloak that hides all ill effects.
Were they not sound, would he the sheltering mantle strip?
Nay! Contrary! With clothing he'd their vices clip,
And say as an excuse: 'He's timid; she's shamefaced,
And shrinks from being here bare of vestments placed.'"
"A man of wealth may full of sundry vices be.
His riches are his mantle; none his failings see.
Men all are covetous; their greed ’tis blinds them all,
105 One touch of fellow-feeling binds them as one ball.
But should a poor man say what's precious more than gold
His saying is not heeded by the world so cold."
"The functions of a dervish far transcend thy ken.
The aim of mendicancy's folly to most men.
True dervishes retire away from wealth and power.
Their bread the Lord, majestic, furnishes each hour.
Our God is just. When had it happened that the just
Have acted with injustice towards the poor who trust?
To one, all blessings God gives, favours, luxuries;
110 Another one, at will, with coals of fire He tries.
Who doubts that God thus acts with uncontrolled will,
His portion be the fire of tribulation still."
"'My poverty's my pride' is not an empty word,
Therein are hid a thousand blessings well assured.
In anger, imprecations thou hast cast on me.
I am a humble suitor; snake-catcher thou’dst see.
If e’er a snake I catch, I still extract its fangs,
That harm may never follow, when its head one bangs.
Those fangs are enemies to every serpent's life,
115 When I extract them, then, I make him free from strife."
"I never will submit to spell of lust and greed.
For cov’tousness I've conquered. Its maw I'll not feed.
Thank God that greed is not among my sins, at least.
Contentment fills my heart;—a true, perpetual feast.
Thou lookest at the crown of pear-tree full of fruit,
Come down from that idea; no good will it boot.
In raising up thyself, thou giddy hast become;
’Tis not the house that reels; thy brain's grown troublesome."
"Once Abū-Jahl saw Ahmed; spitefully he said:
Thou ugly portraiture from Banū-Hāshim bred!' 120
Said Ahmed: 'True thou’st spoken, most veracious man;
Thy words are worthy credit, let who cavil can!'
Then Abū-Bekr saw him, said he was a sun
Of perfect beauty; east, west, everywhere he'd run.
To him, too, Ahmed answered: 'Thou hast spoken true,
O upright man, set free from all the nine spheres’ clew.'
The company assembled marvelled at these words,
And asked: 'How can two contraries be what accords?'
Said Ahmed then: 'A mirror am I, polished bright.
Both Turk and Hindū see in me reflection's light.'" 125
"O wife! If ever thou hast thought me covetous,
Come forth from such idea,—too preposterous.
That which thou takest for greed is heaven's mercy, sure.
And how can greed and mercy both at once allure?
Make trial of true poverty, but for one day, or two.
Thou’lt find therein true riches, with contentment, too.
Be patient with our poverty, and banish grief;
For poverty's a crown bestowed by our great Chief.
Put off sour looks and see, how many thousand souls,
Through sweet contentment are as happy as the fowls. 130
See other thousands, also, drinking dregs of grief:
It permeates their being, as sugar scents roseleaf."
"Alas! Thou wast a treasure valued by my heart!
I loved to pour my soul forth in thy ears apart!
A kind of milk is speech; its teat the soul,—or gland.
To make it freely flow requires a loving hand.
If but the hearer listen, hang upon his lips,
The speaker, though a corpse, grows eloquent, ne’er trips.
Attentive audiences still confer the powers,
135 To stutterers and stammerers, to speak for hours.
If strangers should break in upon my privacy,
My womenkind retire, from mere delicacy.
But if my visitor be confidant and kin,
They come forth freely, play about with gladsome din.
Whatever best they know, of work, or play, or jest,
They do and say, for show, before a welcome guest.
What use of sound of harp, of bass or treble notes,
For deaf or senseless ear, that on no music dotes?"
"Our God has made the earth, the sky, and all between;
140 His light, and eke His fire, upon that stage is seen.
The Lord without a purpose gave not musk its scent.
For odour ’twas, not for diseased nostrils, meant.
The earth He stretched forth, and fixed as man's abode.
The heavens He upreared to be by angels rode.
Th’ inferior creature, man, ’s at strife with all on high;
He bids for every place he sees, for all he'll sigh."
"Dear wife! Chaste, modest matron! Art thou well prepared
Into the tomb to sink, ere thy doomed hour's declared?
Were I to fill the earth with pearls of countless price,
145 Thy daily bread thee failing, could they thee entice?
Then cease from all contention, strive not ’gainst the Lord,
Or separation from thee will be my last word.
What taste have I for strife, contention, or annoy,
When even in peacemakings I've no longer joy?
Be quiet! Hold thy peace! Or, by the Lord of life,
I'll quit this tent for ever; thou’lt not be my wife!
Much better to walk barefoot than with shoe too small!
The toil of travel's sweeter than strife in one's wall!"
She knew, thence, he was angered;—will had of his own;
She burst in tears. Was ever woman tearless known? 150
Quoth she: "I'd never thought from thee such words to hear;
Far different had I hoped; knew not I'd aught to fear."
She made herself most servile, thing of small amount;
Remarked: "Thy humble servant am I; so me count.
My soul and body, all I have, ’s at thy command;
Sole arbiter art thou; dispose; I'll not withstand,
If I of poverty impatiently complained,
Not for myself, for thee, was our sad lot disdained.
In all afflictions thou our remedy hast been;
I grieve to see thee want; my anguish thence grows keen. 155
Dear, darling spouse 1 For thee was all my deep dismay;
My sighs and moans for thee came into bitter play.
I call my God to witness, in my heart and mind,
I'm ready life to lay down, if thou’rt so inclined.
O that thy heart, the life with which my soul's endued,—
Could trace aright the channel by my thoughts pursued!
If merely through suspicion thou art vexed with me,
My life I value not; breath,—body's naught! Just see.
I scorn all gold and silver, count them less than dirt,
If they to thee bring anguish. No! I'm no such flirt. 160
Thine is the only picture painted on my heart;
And canst thou talk of leaving me, from home depart?
Discard me, if thou wilt. Thou hast the right and power,
O thou for whose divorce excuse I make each hour!
Recall to mind the time when I thy idol was,
And thou, priest-like, didst worship me! Alas! Alas!
My heart I cultivated just as thou desiredst.
Thou thoughtest ’twas fond. I knew thou it with love inspiredst.
Like potherbs o’er the fire, thou addedst what thou wouldst,
165 Sharp vinegar, or honey. What thou wishedst, thou couldst.
If blasphemy I've uttered, lo, I faith profess!
My life is in thy hands; but, be not pitiless!
I wot not thou wouldst prove imperious, like a king;
So, like an ass turned loose, before thee took my fling.
Thy pardon now I crave. Let me know joy again!
Contention I forswear, repentance I maintain.
With sword and winding-sheet I fall at my lord's feet;
Should he decapitate me, death to me’ll be sweet.
Thou’st talked of separation;—bitter, worse than gall;
170 Do what thou will with me, that hideous word recall.
In thee, for me, a pleader ever will be found;
If I be mute, thou’lt still hear intercession's sound.
My potent advocate is, in thyself, thy heart;
Relying upon that, I dared to sin, with art.
Have mercy slily,—see thy grace thyself not, Lord!
To me far sweeter than a honeycomb full stored!"
Thus pleaded she; in coaxing, wheedling terms, with skill.
Her tears rolled down in streams, fast coursing at her will.
Her weeping and her sighs were past endurance felt,
175 Whose features, tearless, e’en his heart of steel could melt.
That shower precursor was of lightning's vivid gleam,
Whose flash' lit in his breast a fire, with pity's beam.
She, of whose beauty was a slave her husband still,
A double spell exerted through entreaty's thrill.
One, whose least coolness sets man's heart in flames,
By turning supplicant a twofold witchery claims.
If he, whose pride at times pain causes to thy mind,
To supplication stoop, thou’lt small resistance find.
He, whose fierce tyranny our bleeding hearts most grieves,
By tendering excuses, us excuseless leaves. 180
"Is goodly made to man" 1 ’s a text from God's own word;
As truth made manifest, is by man ever heard.
God, too, therein decreed: "that he with her may dwell;" 2
Whence Adam's love for Eve survived lost Eden's dell.
A hero man may be, a Hercules to grieve,
But slave to woman's will is he, without reprieve.
He, to whose words the universe has all bowed down, 3
Was he who sang: "Humayrā, speak to me!" Life's crown! 4
Of fire and water, fire is quelled through water's wet;
Still, water boils through fire, when in a cauldron set. 185
The cauldron, like a veil, those lovers keeps apart;
And water's influence no longer cools fire's heart.
To outward show, as water, thou mayst rule thy wife;
In stern reality, thou cleavest to her,—thy life.
This attribute, humanity must own its force:
"Man quails to sensual love," which springs from failing's source.
The Prophet hath declared that woman, over sage,
Despotic power e’er wields, and over men of age;
That fools the upper-hand o’er women still maintain, 190
Because they're harsh, gross, senseless, careless to cause pain.
No gentleness, no pity, faith, or ruth have they;
In that a bestial nature o’er them holds its sway.
Humanity ’tis claims, for self, love, charity;
While lusts and rage are marks of bestiality.
Fair woman is a ray from out the sun of Truth;
Not loved? A creator; not created, forsooth. 5
The husband, now, contrition felt for what he'd said,
As sinner, at death's door, repents of evil deed.
Thought he: "I have assailed the life of my life's life;
195 I've plagued and broke the heart of my dear darling wife!"
When God decrees an ill, man's judgment falls asleep.
And perspicacity knows not which way to leap.
The doom of ill struck home, man straight feels deep regret;
Propriety outraged, he turns to mourn and fret.
Addressing, then, his wife, he said: "My shame is great!
I've acted as a heathen, ah! I'm ready to entreat!
’Gainst thee I've trespassed, prithee, pardon to me grant;
Upon me vengeance wreak not, root not up the plant?
An infidel, however old, if he confess his sin, Thy
200 And make amends, God's sheepfold opes and takes him in.
Thy heart is full of pity, goodness, kindness, grace;
All being, eke nonentity, ’s in love with thy sweet face.
True faith, e’en blasphemy, adores thy majesty;
With that elixir all to gold turns instantly."
In Moses and in Pharaoh parables we see.
’Twould seem that Moses’ faith was right; Pharaoh's sin's fee.
By day would Moses pray unto the Lord of Hosts;
At midnight Pharaoh, too, bewailed his impious boasts,
And said: "Thou, Lord, this yoke upon my neck didst lay;
205 Were’t not for yoke imposed, the egotist who'd play?
’Tis Thou’st enlightened Moses’ mind, of Thy free grace;
And hence hast left me blindly groping on my face.
The countenance of Moses Thou’st lit up, like day;
My heart, like moon eclipsed, Thou’st darkened with dismay.
My star was never brighter than the full-faced moon;
When darkened with eclipse, it surely sets too soon.
True, kings and princes sound my praises in their routs;
My star eclipsed, the rabble raise their clamorous shouts:
With cleavers, marrowbones, tongs, pokers, hideous ’larm,
They seek to fright some monster; really, shame all charm. 210
Alas for Pharaoh, with those fearful yells and noise!
Alas his 'Lord Supreme,' 1 drowned in that discord's voice!
Both I and Moses servants are of Thee, our King;
Like woodman's axe on tree, Thy wrath on me takes swing.
Some boughs Thou loppest, to plant. They quickly grow again.
Some others but as firewood burn, or moulder on the plain.
What can the bough, to cope with axe's severing edge?
Can bough resist, return the blow, as blacksmith's sledge?
I call on Thy omnipotence! Thy axe withhold!
Thy mercy manifest! These wrongs set right! Behold!" 215
Then to himself did Pharaoh think: "O wondrous thing!
All night I've prayed 'Good Lord' to heaven's Almighty King!
In secret I'm humility, a very worm!
But when I Moses meet, how greatly changed my form!
Base coin, if tenfold gilded o’er with finest gold,
Upon the fire when cast, its baseness all behold!
Are not my heart and body wholly in his hand?
Why brain me, flay me, thus? So cunning, soft, and bland!
Commandest Thou me to flourish? As cornfield I'm green.
Decreest Thou me to wither? Straight I'm sallow seen. 220
One day I'm bright as full moon; next, as eclipse dark.
But is not this of all God's works the constant mark?
'Be, and it is!' 2 A bat that drives man on, His laws!
Of entity, non-entity, that course is cause!
Th’ uncoloured being stained with colour's various tinge,
One Moses ’gainst another's certain to impinge.
If th’ unconditioned state, that was, should e’er return,
With Moses Pharaoh, then, may live in peace; not burn."
Does doubt invade thy bosom from this subtle theme?
225 Think! When was colouredness exempt from doubt extreme?
The wonder is how colour rose from hueless source;
How colour, huelessness, in ceaseless warfare course!
The origin of oil is water. This is known.
Then why are oil and water foes, as may be shown?
From water oil's created by mysterious power;
’Gainst water why does oil rise up, and war, each hour?
The rose springs from a thorn; thorns, from the rose.
In open warfare are these two. Why? What suppose?
Or is this seeming warfare all a cunning sham,
230 Like donkey-dealers’ wordy strife, some dupe to flam?
’Tis neither this nor that. ’Tis puzzle for the wise.
The treasure's to be sought; the ruin's ’fore our eyes. 1
That which thou deemest the treasure's naught but vanity.
By deeming it a treasure, makest thou it to flee.
Thy deemings and thy thoughts build up a pile too fair;
For treasure never lurks where buildings crown the air.
"To edify" means: "Being, warfare eke, to sow."
Non-entity is shamed with entity's false show!
Not entity ’tis calls for aid. It is the void
235 For restitution asks,—encroachments would avoid!
Think not ’tis thou wouldst flee non-entity's fell grip;
Non-entity encroachment dreads from thy short trip.
Apparently, it thee invites unto its breast;
But really, it repels; club-like is its protest.
Know then, dear friend, that Pharaoh's shrink from Moses’ call
Was, really, like a wrong shoe on one's foot. That's all.
Opinions are agreed ’mongst philosophic folk:
"The sky's an eggshell; in it lies this globe, as yolk."
A questioner once asked: "How rests this little ball
Within the circumambient spheres, without a fall? 240
’Tis like a lamp hung up to vault of high-pitched dome;
It never sinks below, nor soars above its home."
To him one wise man answered: "By attraction's force,
On all sides equal poised, it's kept from all divorce.
Just as an iron ball would centrally be hung,
If loadstone vault there were to hold it freely swung."
A caviller objected: "How should heaven's pure vault,
Attracting to itself, this vile black ball exalt?
Say rather it repels with equal force all round.
The earth thus rests amidst air's tides that hold it bound." 245
Thus is it by repulsion from the souls of saints,
The Pharaohs of each age are fixed in error's taints.
Repelled, then, they are from this world and the next;
In neither have they portion; 1 shunned are they, and vexed.
From God's anointed ones dost thou draw back in heart?
Know, thy existence grieves them, frets them, makes them smart.
They're like the amber, then. When chafed, it shows its power.
The mote of thy existence quick they'll force to cower.
If they conceal that power,—exert it not for thee,
All thy docility will turn to pride. Thou’lt see. 250
E’en as the bestial quality, in man aye found,
Unto its human yokemate 1 slave and serf is bound.
This human element, too, in saints’ hands, my friend,
Is pliant, like the bestial; to their wish they’t bend.
By true faith, Ahmed called the world, his docile sons,
To table spread: "Say: 'Servants mine!'" Thus God's text runs. 2
Thy mind's a camel-driver; thou, the camel, still,
Urged by decree: "Command!" 3 it drives thee as it will.
God's saints are minds of minds. Men's minds, beneath their sway,
255 Are camels, too. And thus the lengthening series play.
Look unto them, then, if the truth thou’dst fully know;
A pilot is the life of thousands, here below,
But what are pilots? Camel-drivers what? Still seek
Thou one whose eye looks on the sun, and feels not weak.
The world's plunged, nailed, in thickest pitchy dark of night;
For day to break, it wants the rise of God's sunlight.
Behold a sun for thee, in mote contained and hid;
A rampant lion, clad in pelt of gentlest kid.
Behold a hidden sea, beneath a blade of grass.
260 Beware! Tread not thereon in doubt. Thou sink’st, alas!
Doubt and incertitude, when felt in pious breast,
Are mercies from on high; a leader gives them rest.
A prophet ’s sole and solitary in the world.
Sole; but within him bears a thousand systems furled.
As though by magic, the vast universe he makes
Around himself revolve, who smallest compass takes.
The fools saw him alone; thence judged him some weak thing!
Weak can he ever be who's upheld by the King?
Those fools thought: "He's a man. He's really nothing more." 1
Alas, for fools! They're void of common sense in store. 265
The prophet Sālih's camel was, in form, a beast; 2
His people her hamstrung; ’twas ignorance, at least.
They cut her off from water; drink they her refused.
Ungrateful such return for meat and drink they'd used!
"God's camel" drank the water brought as dew by mists.
God's water they held back from God. Monopolists!
Thus Sālih's camel, as of saint the fleshly form,
Became an ambush;—sinners’ ruin thence would storm!
Upon that sinning race what dreadful judgment fell!
"God's camel and her drink" 3 the text is, us to tell. 270
God's vengeance, as pursuer, sought front that vile crew.
The price of her shed blood, a country's whole space through.
The soul to Sālih's like; his camel is the flesh;
The soul communes with God; the flesh pines in want's mesh.
Good Sālih's soul was safe from effort of their whim;
His camel felt the blow they dared not aim at him.
No hurt could fall on Sālih's soul,—that priceless gem,—
Such holy emanation was not sport for them.
The soul unto the flesh is joined, by God's decree,
That it may be afflicted,—trials made to see. 275
Who hurts a body hurts also its soul, no doubt;
The life-blood in that vase from being's fount was brought.
God enters in relation with material form,
That He may be asylum to each earthborn worm.
No man can inlet find to injure soul of saint;
An oyster-shell is crushed; its pearl escapes attaint.
Then serve the camel; that is, list to saint in flesh;
And with his righteous soul thou’lt serve one Lord afresh.
When Sālih saw the evil deed they'd foully wrought,
280 In three days' time a judgment from his God he sought.
"Three days from hence," said he, "affliction will befall;
Of which, three signs precursors shall be. You'll see, all.
The colour of your faces shall be changed to view;
Complexions various shall be seen in each of you.
Upon the first day, saffron's hue shall be their tinge;
The second, scarlet red each countenance shall fringe;
And on the third, as black as coal shall be each face;
Upon which ensuing, God's wrath shall then take place.
If sign of me you ask for truth of what I say,
285 Observe the path that camel's foal shall take to-day;
Then strive to catch it. If you can, by chance, succeed;
Good. If not, hope is gone;—from bow the arrow's freed!"
No one of them the camel's foal could overtake.
It fled among the hills,—was lost to sight. Heartache!
E’en so the soul, when once its prison bars are burst,
Unto the Lord of Grace its winged flight takes first.
The prophet then: "The threatened judgment now must storm;
All hope's gone by;—dead as that camel's lifeless form.
Still, if, by coaxing, you her foal can win back here,
290 In calm tranquillity, from whence it's fled through fear,
With its return of confidence you may be saved;
But otherwise, despair and gnash your teeth, depraved!"
His threat they heard; dejected were at its import.
Their looks sank downcast;—sad anxiety's resort.
The first day came; they saw each visage jaundiced o’er;
And thence, in fell dismay, they laments uttered, sore.
Their scarlet skins, the second day, told plainer still,
Time for repentance was but short, and hope was nil.
The blackened faces, on the third day, clearly told
The prophet's threat was strictly true. Their blood ran cold. 295
Thus being brought to quit their menaces and scowls;
Upon their knees, hams, breasts, they crouched like roosting fowls.
This cringing posture has that abject, trembling crew,
In holy writ, inspired, dubbed "crouching;" 1 and ’tis true.
(Kneel, thou, at times when by instructors thou art taught,
And when thou’rt warned that "crouching" ’s with abjection fraught.)
In hopeless expectation God's blow to ensue,
The countryside entire within their homes withdrew.
The prophet Sālih left his cell to view the town.
Enveloped in a smoke and blaze he saw it drown! 300
Low, moaning noise he heard proceed from its remain;—
Sighs, as it were, and sobs;—he sighers sought in vain!
Those sighs were fitful cracklings of their burning bones;
Those sobs, the hissings of their blood, in clots, on stones!
On hearing these sad sounds the prophet burst in tears;
Responsive to those moans, he groaned.—No listening ears!
The dead he then addressed: "O people, chid in vain!
How often ’gainst you to the Lord I've wept, with pain!
The Lord me answered: 'Patience have with their misdeeds;
To them give counsel still; not long will last those needs!' 305
Remark I made: 'With such misdeeds will counsel count?
As milk, kind counsel flows from love's unsullied fount!'
The untold wrongs you'd heaped upon my patient head
Had curdled milk of counsel in my bosom's stead.
The Lord replied: 'A grace I'll now on thee bestow;
I'll soothe the wounds inflicted by their rancour's bow.'
With that, God made my heart as tranquil as of yore;
Swept clean away the cobwebs of your paltry score."
"Again I proffered counsel to you, sage and safe;
310 In parables soft couched, with words that might not chafe.
Once more that milk flowed, mixed with honey, from my lips;
The dulcet tones were tempting, not like stinging whips.
Alas! Within your ears they all to venom turned;
Because, like poisonous plants, your nature goodness spurned.
Why do I weep? You've burnt the substance of all grief;
Like bone in throat, ye obstinate, you've choked relief!
Ought any to lament when grief is laid in bier?
Man justly tears his hair, his head if broke by spear!"
With that, reproachfully upon himself he turned,
315 And cried: "Those fellows were not worth the tears they spurned.
Recite not wrongfully, O master of address,
The text: 'How will I grieve' 1 o’er crew that none should bless!'"
Still, in his eyes and heart more briny tears he found,
A pity, really motiveless, in him ’d ta’en ground.
As summer-rain he wept, through feeling ill at ease;
A summer-rain, quite cloudless, from compassion's seas.
His conscience smote him sore: "Why weepest thou, man of sense?
Are they of tears fit objects,—men of violence?
What motive for thy tears? Say. Grievest thou for their acts?
320 Mournest thou th’ extinction of their merciless, vile pacts?
Or is’t, perchance, their hearts, corrupt, gangrened, thou’dst weep?
On their empoisoned tongues, so adderlike, thou’dst keep?
Those tails and fangs is’t, are the objects of thy grief?
Their scorpion claws and sting that thou regrettest in chief?
Contentiousness, foul mockery, rude violence?
Thank God, instead, who's checked their boastful insolence!
Their hands were evil; evil were their feet, their eyes;
Their peace, their friendship, as their wrath, were all unwise.
From rule of meek obedience, customs handed down,
They'd swerved;—to follow mere devices of their own. 325
They wished not for a teacher, asses obstinate;
Their own ideas alone they'd stoop to cultivate.
God therefore sent His servants, smoke and fire to wit,
From heaven, the miscreants to chase to dire hell-pit."
Behold the damned and blessed, thus, in one scene conjoined;
Between them is "a great gulf fixed by none o’erclimbed." 1
Those "sons of fire" and "light" together seemed immixed;
But barrier impassable ’tween them was fixed.
The mine's rich golden ore in soil imbedded lies;
But really separated, far as eagle flies. 330
Like pearls and jet beads in one row of necklace ranged;
A motley company, like inn's chance guests, oft changed.
Or like an estuary, half soft, sweet to drink,
Most palatable water, clear, bright as moon's twink;
The other half salsuginous, wormwood and gall,
Foul, black as ink, and fetid, shocks the senses all.
These dash together; now this, now that, uppermost;
Their waves a turmoil make, as though by tempest tost.
That show of fierce collision's made by matter's form;
335 In truth, the spirits ’tis that compacts make, or storm.
When gentle waves, in friendship's reign, roll gracefully,
Contention quits each breast, all goes on merrily.
With rough war's hideous billows, (mark the altered scene!)
All love is straight renounced; dire hate's to supervene.
Affection coaxes rancour to subside, appeased;
Because its origin's in reason fixed, soon pleased;
While raging anger stirs up thoughts of bitter strife.
For how can man be tranquil, when the stake's his life?
Our outward eye discerns not pure from tainted hearts;
340 Futurity's small lattice oped, the curtain parts.
The eye of true sagacity distinct can see;
This other eye, ’tis, fails;—is ne’er from error free.
How many seeming pleasures, fair, as sugar sweet,
Have poison lurking in them, death to all they meet!
Men of discernment know them surely by mere smell;
And others find them out, though late, when tasted, fell.
That taste's. enough; ejected are they; swallowed, not;
Although the fiend may urge, with: "Eat, while hot!"
Again some others find in throat they firmly stick;
345 And others yet are vexed with intestinal prick.
Still others by sharp purgings find they've done amiss;
Indulgence of the palate's changed to pangs their bliss.
Again there are some suffer after months or years;
And others pay the penalty within the tomb, with tears.
E’en should there chance a respite, granted in the grave,
At resurrection's trump, disclosure naught will save.
Each plant, each honied morsel, in this lower sphere,
A term has, fixed, him to affect who tastes the cheer.
What ages of submission to sun's influence,
E’er ruby can acquire ripe tinge, bright effulgence!
350 The salad cress is ready in a month or two;
The rose requires some years before it shows its hue.
To this end has the Lord, whose name be ever blessed,
In holy writ declared: "Appointed term." 1 We've cessed.
Hast thou this heard? Read, mark, and learn with diligence!
Life's water is it. Hast thou drunk? Health spring from thence!
Those words thou mayst consider life's fount, if thou list;
Their sense it is important thou shouldst not have missed.
One other theme, my friend, fix firmly in thy mind.
’Tis patent as thy soul; as subtle thou’lt it find. 355
At times as venomous as adder's fatal fang;
At times as healthful as the food from heaven that sprang.
Now lethal; now again remedial, by God's will.
At one time blasphemy; then, holy rapture's thrill.
Thus will it, now, be fatal to a human soul;
And then, again, a remedy for all that's foul:
"The juice of unripe grapes is sour, as is well known;
But when the fruit has ripened, sweet and fragrant grown,
In wine-jar when fermented, nauseous and unclean;
When vinegar, again, most wholesome is it seen." 360
If saint a poison swallow, wholesome it will prove;
But if disciple taste it, death will him remove.
"Lord, grant unto me," was the prayer of Solomon,
"The power and kingdom solely (not to Abaddon);
This favour grant not unto other after me!" 2
Which reads like envy. Such, however, it can't be.
Put not, in heart, construction that must disagree
Upon those words so read: "to other after me."
He saw a thousand dangers in the sway conferred;
Saw that earth's empire is a snare to be abhorred; 365
A danger to one's life, one's faith, one's inner self;
Such trial has no equal on the whole world's shelf.
E’en Solomon sagacity did much require,
To shield him from mistakes in all his vast empire.
The wondrous power he wielded could alone suffice,
To quell rebellion's perils, rising in a trice.
So when he rested from due ordering his wide realm,
He felt that other kings misrule might overwhelm.
Then interceded he: "This rule, this much-prized flower,
370 Vouchsafe to none, save with the selfsame power.
To whom Thou mayest it grant upon these very terms,
He's Solomon, he is myself, my sway confirms.
He'll not come after me, he'll reign with me indeed;
With me and in me, free from rival's dreaded meed."
This to expound appeared a duty paramount;
Return we, and our tale of man and wife recount.
A sequel to that incident ’tween man and wife
Is looked for by the mind of him who's watched their life.
The incident of man and wife recounted here
375 Of each man's soul and flesh the parable is, clear.
The wife the flesh is; man's the soul; he's wisdom, too;
They're emblems also of all good and evil, true.
The two, of need, existing in this earthly home,
By day and night at war are;—always quarrelsome.
The wife requires her various household garniture,
Her bed and board, her comfort, and her furniture.
The flesh, like woman, to be gratified still seeks;
Submissive sometimes; oft would play ambitious freaks.
The soul has no idea, itself, of such instinct;
380 But seeks to muse upon its love for God, distinct.
Existence is the secret of their constant war;
The form in which ’tis waged thou’rt now about to hear.
Had psychic indication proved sufficient sign,
Material creation ’d been a useless coin.
Is love for God thy thought, aim, wish, design, intent?
To forms of worship, fasting, thou wilt yield assent.
The gifts and little presents interchanged by friends,
Are not their love's pure essence. Signs they are, not ends.
Mere outward witnesses, that simply testify
Th’ affection's feelings. These the heart, ’tis, sanctify. 385
For all men know that kindnesses bestowed by hand
Are proofs of sympathy. Mind can this comprehend.
A witness may speak falsely; also, may speak truth;
Is sometimes drunk, with wine; sometimes, is urged by ruth.
When wine is drunk, intoxications supervene;
Its vapours rise into the head, erst so serene.
Behold yon hypocrite! He fasts; he worships, prays;
That he a man of God may seem. He's not. Mere ways!
Results of outward actions are of outward kind,—
The signs of what is inward, working on the mind. 390
Grant unto us, O Lord, discernment to perceive
What sign is true, which meant fond mortals to deceive!
Suppose not that the senses with discernment plod;
Discernment is the inner, gracious gift of God!
Effect not being visible, we look to cause.
We know that kindred moves to friendship, by fixed laws.
But him, who judges by the light of God's own truth,
Effect and cause no longer hold a slave, forsooth.
When love for God is lighted in the human heart,
It fiercely burns; it suffers not effect's dull smart. 395
No sign of love does it require to seek for, there;
For love is love's own sign, giv’n from the highest sphere.
Details there are, far more, to make this theme complete.
If wished for, each can find them. They're not obsolete.
Sense must be gathered from material, outward form;
Some sense is patent; some is hard to find, difform.
The indication's feeble;—tree and water see;—
How different, apparently, their natures be!
Let's leave now all these words,—cause, nature, sign;—
400 And turn we to our Arab and his wife benign.
The husband said: "I've now abandoned all dispute.
All rule is in thy hands; thy power is absolute.
Whatever thou ordain, submissive thou’lt me find;
Its good or bad results shall not weigh on my mind.
I'm non-existent; save, that by thee I must move;
A lover; therefore am I deaf and blind, through love."
His wife him answered: "Is this all in kindness meant?
Or dost thou seek by craft my plans to circumvent?"
He swore: "By God; who knows the secrets of each heart;
405 Who hath created Adam free from treacherous art;
Who, in three cubits’ stature unto him dispensed,
The mysteries of all decrees, all souls, condensed:
Whatever is to be, to all eternity,
To Adam taught, with every name of Deity,
So that the very angels wearied under him,
As he them taught, but ever gained by each maxim!"
The revelations Adam made to them were vast;
Had never been disclosed before, from first to last.
The compass, spacious, of his all-inclosing mind
410 Far wider was than heaven of heavens a grasp could find.
The Prophet hath declared God made him clearly know:
"I'm not contained, not held; by aught above, below,
On earth, in heaven, above the heavens, I am not held.
This know, then, thou also, My friend, as though beheld.
But, wonderful! Believer's heart can Me contain!
If Me thou’dst seek, there look for Me, with might and main!" 1
His words were: "Seek within My servants. There thou’lt meet
The paradise of My aspect. Thou most discreet!" 1
The heaven of heavens, with all its wondrous wide extent,
At sight of Adam's glory into tremors went. 415
The marvellous expanse of heaven's a stretch extreme.
But what is matter, all, when spirit is the theme!
Each angel made remark: "Until this very hour
I had a certain knowledge of the wide earth's bower.
Much duty I've performed upon its soil, down there.
Surprise I've felt, not small, attachment so to bear.
For what was my attachment to that ball of clay;—
I, that am moulded from the glorious light of day?
What was my strong affection? I'm light; darkness, earth!
Can light and darkness mingle;—live in jocund mirth? 420
O Adam! Now it's clear! My love was mere instinct;
In that the earth material gave for thee, succinct!
Thy earthly body here was wove out of its clay;
Thy spirit, pure, created was beyond the realm of day!
The honour which we, spirits, have received through thee,
Before all worlds had sparkled, by divine decree!
When we were on the earth, we inattentive were;
And little reeked the treasure trusted to its care!
When orders were received to quit the earth, and mount,
We felt regret to change; knew not on what account. 425
We thought of reasons for the shift, and question made:
'O Lord! Who then shall take our place when we're thus bade?
Wilt Thou exchange our praise and service here below,
For mere lip-homage from a worm Thee will not know?'
An answer from the Lord, benign, did we receive:
What you allege is somewhat many might deceive.
Each word upon your tongues is surely out of place,
As lisping talk of son to sire, without preface.
Your rash objections would deserve to be chastised,
430 But that I have decreed that mercy's higher prized.
Behold, O angels! Since you've made confusion strange,
In you henceforth I've placed a sense of doubt and change!
Since you demur, and I refrain from chastisement,
None can gainsay my mercy; none may raise comment.
A hundred mothers, fathers, meet not My decree!
Each soul that's born a zero is compared to Me!
Their love is but the froth; My love, the sea of love!
Froth comes and goes; the ocean none remove.
More I may say. For, in this earthly oyster-shell
435 There's naught but froth of froth, of froth of froth to tell!'"
The Lord thus spake;—the Lord, that sea of purity!—
He spake not by conjecture;—truth's own entity!
What I here state is said in love's humility.
The Lord is He to whom I fly,—sole Deity!
If thou wouldst put to test what I have here set forth,
First prove thy test. Make truly sure it's trouble's worth.
Cloak not thy secret thoughts. So may my thoughts be known.
Propose whate’er thou list; within my power, ’tis shown.
Thy heart conceal not. I'll lay bare my heart of hearts;
440 Accept all, of acceptance worthy, thy mind starts.
That I may do whatever lies within my power,
Do thou observe my heart's condition in its bower.
The wife observed: "A very sun of good is risen;
Through whom a gladsome world's enlarged from want's sad prison.
Vicegerent of th’ All-Merciful, Caliph of God,
Fair Bagdād's city prides itself to kiss his rod.
If unto him thou have recourse, a prince thou’lt be.
Why, then, to misery cleave, such as we hourly see?
Companionship with fortune's minions brings good luck;
Where's an elixir like their power, my dearest duck? 445
Ahmed's esteem raised Abū-Bekr such a height;
For once confirming Ahmed's word, 'Faithful' he's hight!"
The man demurred: "How can I gain access at court?
Without an introduction, how find sure passport?
Connection we must seek; or else invent excuse.
No artizan can work without his tools. The deuce!
Thus Mejnūn, when he'd heard by chance from passing wight,
His Laylā was an invalid (which caused him fright),
Exclaimed: Alas! Without excuse I cannot go!
And if I visit not the sick one, I'm all woe! 450
Would that I were physician, with his healing art;
Then could I see my Laylā; none would dare me thwart!'
And now he cries: 'I have it! I've a right to go!
No bashfulness shall keep me from her portico!'
Had bats but eyes, with which to see and find their way,
They'd fly about, disport themselves, jocund, by day."
The wife replied: "The Caliph's public pageant is
For all who introduction lack; their griefs are his.
To be, and have a grief, is introduction sure.
Thus poverty and lowliness work their own cure." 455
He still objected: "Shall I fall in love with want,
That I may urge my need as matter for some grant?
E’en then, a witness credible I should require
T’ attest my indigence, when almoners inquire.
Point out for me a witness; not mere words and wiles;
That so the sovereign's favour may be won, and smiles.
For, otherwise, a mere pretext, without a proof,
In justice’ court would fail, and bring reproof.
A witness credible is, then, sine quā non.
For suitor's plea to stand, proof it must rest upon." 460
His wife rejoined: "The witness thou requir’st to bring,
Must, by some shrewd contrivance, from thy prospects spring.
Rain-water's all we have in store within our hut,
Estate, possessions, wealth, lie in our water-butt.
A little pot of water shalt thou bear with thee,
As offering to the Caliph. This present from me;
And say: 'No other wealth on earth do I possess.
To Arabs of the desert, water's happiness!
The Caliph's treasury is full of gems and gold;
465 A pot of water such as this, its coffers do not hold!
What is this pot? It is an emblem of our lives!
The water in it, matchless virtue of our wives!
Accept, then, gracious prince, this little pot from me;
And out of all God's gifts repay its value, free!'
That pot's five lips are emblems of our senses. Sure!
Keep them all clean; so may thy honour, too, be pure!
The pot will then relation keep with ocean's wave;
And I, perchance, advantage from that ocean have.
If clean thou carry it before the sovereign's eyes,
470 He may be pleased therewith;—buy it from mere surprise.
The pot will, then, of water never lacking be;
My little water-pot shall suffice thee and me.
Close tight its lips, and bear it full from our supply.
A holy text ’tis says: 'From lust close every eye.' 1
His beard, his moustache, both, will swell with joy at this.
For prince supreme like him, my offering's not amiss."
Thou, woman, didst not know that there, in Bagdād's midst,
A Tigris flowed with water, sweet as honey.—Didst?
A very ocean is it, rapid in its course;
475 With boats and ships, with fishers' hooks, both fine and coarse.
Go then, good man! The Caliph thee his state shall show!
Thou’lt comprehend the text: "Beneath which rivers flow." 1
Thus, likewise, are our intellects, our thoughts, our sense;
A drop compared with God's boundless omniscience!
The husband now chimed in: "Yes! Plug the pot's mouth tight.
Thou’st hit the very offering;—useful, good, and right!
Sew it up carefully in case of felt, threefold.
Our Caliph's breakfast-water 2 shall it be;—so cold!
No other water's like it in this world of ours;—
It's heaven's pure ambrosia, ’still’d from vernal showers! 480
Poor tits know none but waters hard and bitter all;—
Whence various maladies, with blindness, them befall!"
The bird that lives where salt-marsh noisome airs exhales,
Knows naught of joys pure water gives, and spicy gales!
So thou, good man, who dwelledst ’midst the desert's waste,
Hadst never seen a Tigris, known Euphrates' taste!
As he, again, not yet from worldly cares set free,
Is ignorant of ecstasy, of rapture's glee;
Or, having heard thereof as tales from men of old,
Knows them as names alone, in storybooks oft told; 485
Child's A, B, C; as taught to every lisping elf;
But whose real meaning's hidden from the teacher's self.
Our Arab man now takes that water-pot in charge.
By day and night he travels;—load not over large!
Anxiety fast holds him, lest the pot should break;
Most watchfully he guards it from misfortune's freak.
His wife spends all her days in prayers on his behalf;
Her worship o’er, she adds: "Lord! shield my better half!
Secure our pot of water from all thievish hands!
490 Send it may prove a pearl in sea of Bagdād's lands!
My husband, true, is shrewd; and know's what he's about;
But pearls have enemies, we trow, in every rout!
What is a pearl? A drop from fount of life sent down; 1
A drop from non-existence,—whence all substance known!"
Those prayers’ reward,—as guerdon of her sighs and tears;—
His care's requital, watchfulness, and constant fears;—
Their pot reached Bagdād safe from robbers’ grip;
Secure from shock of stone, from chance of fall or slip.
A city, there, he sees, with every blessing filled;
495 Where craving mortals ply each art, as they are skilled.
Each moment, here or there, some extra-lucky wight,
His object gains, receives from court what glads his sight!
To Muslims, Unbelievers, equal grace is doled,
Like rain and sunshine. Not so paradise, we're told!
One set of men he sees arrayed in honour's robes;
Another set endure, through hope and fear, sharp probes.
As gentle, or as simple, prince or worm, pismire,
All are alive, as though last trump's notes them inspire!
The worldly, in apparel sumptuous to behold;
500 The godly, all immersed in transports clearly told!
The hopeless have become as though their hopes were fair;
The hopeful show enjoyment of fruition's share!
A voice proclaimed: "Come forward, all ye sons of want!"
Beneficence seeks beggars, as for gifts they pant.
Beneficence hunts up for beggars and for need,
As beauty seeks her mirror, with a special greed.
A pretty face is charming in its mirror seen;
Beneficence gleams lovely through want's chilly sheen.
God hath enjoined in holy writ: "By forenoon's glare!" 1
"Muhammed, chide not thou too much at beggar's prayer!" 2 505
A beggar is a mirror wherein bounty shines.
Dull not that mirror, then, with breath of anger's whines!
The beggar ’tis shows forth what charity achieves;
A charitable man for this those wants relieves.
A beggar, then, ’s a mirror of th’ Almighty's grace;
And whoso's with the Lord, therein sees his Lord's face.
He that hath love for other than the Lord of all,
Is dead at heart,—not living;—shadow on a wall!
Whoe’er adopts God's poverty, without false show,
Secures the prize of God's rich pleasure here below! 510
Who puts on sham of poverty deserves no bread.
(Bones are not given to effigies of dogs. They're dead!)
His want craves pelf; ’tis not the love of God he'd seek.
Lay not thy bounty at the feet of one too sleek.
A landshark is a mendicant for mere pelf's sake.
He's fish in form; but will not to the water take.
Domestic fowl is he; not eagle of free air.
With Lot he sips of wine; God's water's his despair.
He loves his God, if but his God will grant him wealth;
But nothing cares for God's mere grace,;—for spirit's health. 515
Should he conceive th’ idea of love for God alone,
God's essence he'd deny, God's attributes disown.
Man's fancy is a creature;—born with mortal lot.
God was not born. His scripture says: "Nor was begot." 3
The man in love with self, and with his fancy's freak,
Can never be a lover who to God will seek.
Were fancy's lover true, and free from crafty guile,
His fancy's tropes had led him to the truth erewhile.
That dictum would require a commentary, full,
520 But fear withholds me. Prejudice will have its pull!
Old prejudice, quite purblind to the truth, I see,
A hundred phantoms conjures up to frighten me.
Not every man has heard aright the still small voice;
Not every bird's a fig-pecker, that sweets rejoice;
How then a bird that's dead,—turned putrid long ago;—
A man of prejudice, all sightless, eyeless, so!
A painted fish cares not for water, or for land.
Soap to a blackamoor is one, or tar, in hand.
Shouldst thou depict a portrait overwhelmed with grief,
525 Would grief or joy be felt, though shown in strong relief?
The picture would look sorrowful;—no sorrow feel;
Or smiling happiness;—without gay laughter's peal.
The joy or grief depicted by a pencil's art,
Is naught but simulated;—knows nor thrill, nor smart.
Lugubrious countenances are for our behoof;
That we may be reminded not to court reproof.
And beaming visages are not without their use,
If they recall us from mere form to sense occluse.
The various effigies we see in this bath-house, 1
530 Disguised in draperies, are dolls;—blind fools to chouse.
So long as thou’rt outside, naught else but clothes thou’lt see.
Undress thyself. Come in; and see the nude, the free.
There's no admission granted to a bath, while dressed.
But clothes, the body, this, the soul, leave all unguessed.
Our Arab man, from far in desert's sandy waste,
Has reached at length the walls of Bagdād, home of taste.
The guards, the officers, on duty at the gate,
Received him with politeness, kindness delicate.
Without a question asked, his case they'd understood.
Their charge was to show kindness first, ere asked for food. 535
So they addressed him thus: "Ho, thou, good Arab prince!
Whence comest thou? How fares it? Straight thy wish evince!"
He answered: "Prince I am, if you to me be kind;
But if you me contemn, I'm naught in my own mind.
Your aspects indicate you're men of wealth and rank;
Your speech and smiles betoken breeding, noble, frank.
Mere sight of your kind features salve is to the eyes;
Your looks alone enrich;—gold in your voices lies.
Each one of you expression is of God's own grace;
In Caliph's bosom nurtured, favoured with high place; 540
That you, in turn, dispense th’ elixir of support,
And brighten longing eyes by words of kind import.
I am a stranger, poor, come from the desert's sands,
In hopes some favour to obtain from sovereign hands.
The rumour of his goodness fills the wilderness;
Each atom in its wastes blooms thence in joyfulness.
In search of wealth have I approached his capital;
Now I'm arrived, I burn with pleasures optical.
E’en as the lass in search of bread at baker's shop,
Struck with his 'prentice' beauty, swooned;—a lifeless drop! 545
Or like the saunterer for air in royal park,
Who lost his heart to one he met, gay as a lark!
Or like the desert merchant drawing from a well
What he thought water, was entranced by Joseph's spell!
Again, as Moses hasted for a coal of fire,
And found the burning bush, that led him to empire
Or Jesus, who escaped his foes with one fleet bound,
And found himself then landed where the sun goes round! 1
An ear of corn it was that baited Adam's trap. 2
550 Bat thence himself became the source of mankind's sap!
The falcon stoops to earth enticed by luring fate;
He there meets man's good teaching, soars to princely state.
A child is sent to school to teach him learning's prize,
In hope of toys and treats he studies till he's wise.
On leaving school he sits in seat of law or power;
He paid his schoolpence then;—he's now lord of the hour!
So Abbās 3 sallied forth to war, with fierce intent,
To put Muhammed down,—Islam to circumvent.
Defender of the Faith, till death, he then became;
555 The Caliphate was destined, in his line, to fame!
So am I come, in hopes at this court to advance;
Though at its gate as yet, I feel I've every chance.
In quest of bread am I; as offering, water bring.
The hope of bread sets wide heaven's portals at one swing.
’Twas bread that drove out Adam from his paradise;
’Tis bread will gain me entrance where my hopes take rise.
From bread, from water, both, as angels, far I stroll;
And, following the spheres, around this centre roll!
Without an object none will toil on earth, you see,
560 Save true and godly lovers. They're from motives free!"
Th’ Infinite's lovers finite's worshippers are not.
Who seek the finite lose th’ Infinite, as we wot.
When finite with the finite falls in love, perforce,
His loved one soon returns to her infinite source.
A beard that puts itself into another's grasp,
In lather's smothered; emblem of a weak mind's gasp.
He's not his own lord; cannot guide his own affairs;
He does but what he's told; where’er he's bid, repairs.
Would'st sin with woman? Choose, at least, one that is free.
Would'st rob and steal? Let pearls and jewels be thy fee. 565
A slave obeys a master; has himself no will;
The scent is all the rose's; thorns show no such skill.
A slave may not attain to wish that he may form;
His toil is vain, his trouble profitless;—poor worm!
Shall hunter snare a shadow? Where were then his food?
A shadow's not a substance;—can do no one good.
A foolish hunter seized the shadow of a bird!
The fowl, on tree securely perched, not one foot stirred;
But, wondering, thought: "What is the stupid fool about?
Demented, sure; his little wit he's let ooze out!" 570
But if thou thinkest finite's of th’ Infinite born;
And sayest: "For love of rose, do honour to the thorn;"
Consider: finite unto Infinite's not joined.
Or what need of the prophets? They've not scripture coined.
The prophets have been sent to link the two in one.
If they're not two, but one, what have the prophets done?
But let that be. Th’ inquiry has no useful end.
The day is waning; let us to our tale attend.
The Arab now his little pot of water showed.
As seed to earth, he it on Caliph's court bestowed; 575
And said: "Present my offering at the sovereign's feet,
If beggar save his king from want, it's surely meet.
The water's fresh; the little jar green-glazed and new;
Filled from a pool replenished by the rain and dew."
On hearing this the guards were laughing in their sleeves;
But still, as precious, took the jar;—polite court-reeves!
The Caliph's kindly nature, active, well-informed,
To kindness had each member of his court reformed.
For as the sovereign is, so will his subjects be.
580 The azure vault of heaven makes green the earth;—you see.
A king's a reservoir; his servants are his mains,
Through whom his bounty flows, to swell his subjects’ veins.
The stream, if flowing from a tank all sweet and pure,
Each main distributes bounty, courtesy;—be sure.
But should the reservoir prove foul and nauseous, then,
The mains can flow with naught but venom, like a fen.
The mains can only what they get convey around.
Remember this. We're treading now on solid ground.
A sovereign's goodness is an unembodied soul,
585 That permeates the clay of human frame, its goal.
It is the mind, the all-informing, well-derived,
That brings the body into discipline, where hived.
Love is a wanton, restless, reckless of control,
That drives the man to madness; passion does extol;
But goodness is a stream as sweet as Fount of Life;
Its pebbles are all pearls, all jewels, beauteous, rife.
Whichever be the science makes a teacher famed,
His scholars' minds with that will surely be inflamed.
A jurist's pupils study principles of law,
590 If but their mental principles be free from flaw.
A lawyer's prentice over subtle cases pores;
The principles, with him, are most unwelcome bores.
A syntax-teacher rears a host of grammar's sons,
With whom his syntax passes for the sun of suns.
A teacher who inculcates abnegation's creed,
Surrounds himself with pupils free from lust and greed.
But at the hour of death, of science's long roll,
The art of poverty's what most behoves man's soul.
A syntax-teacher, once, was mounted in a boat,
Who to the skipper turned, as soon as e’er afloat, 595
And asked: "Hast studied syntax?" "No indeed," quoth he.
The teacher then: "Thy life's half-wasted? Dost thou see?"
The skipper felt heart-broken at this pert remark;
But, for the moment, held his peace;—wise man's bulwark.
The wind arose; the bark was sorely tempest-tossed;
The skipper then addressed the teacher, sickness-crossed:
"Knowest thou the swimmer's art, good friend? With speed reply."
"Nay," said the teacher, "that's an art the schools decry."
The skipper now remarked: "Thy whole life's gone to waste.
The ship must go to pieces. Water salt thou’lt taste. 600
With syncope, not syntax, now we'll have to deal.
With syncope, from water comes nor hurt, nor weal,
The sea bears on its surface bodies of the dead;
But living men it drowns; them sinks, as though of lead.
So soon as thou’lt be dead to every human art
To thee eternity its secrets will impart.
Thou hitherto hast deemed us mortals asses all;
Now thou thyself, as ass on ice, must have a fall.
Although thou be the very Plato of the age,
Thou’st still to learn that time, the world, is but a page." 605
This tale about the syntax-teacher we've tacked on,
To show the grammar dissolution turns upon.
All syntax, grammar, jurisprudence, law, and art,
Thou’lt find, my friend, of knowledge is but a small part.
Our little learning is the Arab's water-pot.
In Caliph, of God's wisdom we've an emblem got.
We bring our pot of water to great Tigris’ stream.
If we ourselves not asses call, us asses deem.
The Arab of our tale excusable was,—troth;
610 He knew not of a Tigris. Where's the Arab doth?
Had he, as we, known Tigris’ stream, and all its store,
His water-pot had never travelled to its shore;
Had he become aware of what a Tigris meant,
Arrived at Bagdād, he'd his pot to fragments sent.
The Caliph, when he saw that pot, and heard that tale,
The vase had filled with golden sequins, like a bale,
Our Arab thus to free from poverty's rude grasp;—
A robe of honour, too; and presents for his clasp,
He ordered. Then the whole unto the guards were sent,
615 With kindliest injunctions, fruit of good intent:
"That all unto that Arab man be safely given,
Whose journey home by Tigris’ arrowy stream be driven.
By land he came; he'd travelled all the way on foot;
But Tigris’ stream may bear him back a shorter route."
Our Arab in a boat was placed at river's side;
The stream he saw, admired, bowed low, lost all his pride;
Exclaiming: "Wondrous goodness of the sovereign will!
Th’ acceptance of my water-pot more wondrous still!
How could that sea of wealth my drop deign to accept,
620 And largely thus to recompense the trifle kept?"
Know now, my friend, this world ’s one mighty water-pot,
With wisdom and with beauty teeming; as all wot.
One drop, however, ’tis, from ocean of His grace,
Whose fulness cannot be confined in any place.
That treasure latent was. Through fulness it burst forth,
More glorious than the heavens became thenceforth the earth.
The latent treasure, pouring out its riches great,
The earth made kinglike, clothed with more than regal state.
One little branch canal from th’ ocean of God's grace,
Thus overwhelms this mighty water-pot of space. 625
They who see God are ever rapt in ecstasy;
And raptured, hold that water-pot mere fallacy.
O thou! envy of whom is to that pot a stone!
Though fractured by the shock, the pot yields sounder tone.
The pot is cracked; but, still, its water is not spilt;
The crack's the very source through which it's sounder built.
The jar's each single particle's in dance and revery,
Though unto man's poor wisdom this seems foolery.
The pot, the world, all it contains, are lost to view.
Consider well this fact! God knows it's simply true. 630
If thou canst grasp this meaning, thou’rt like falcon strong.
Beat, then, the pinions of thy thoughts. Be hawk, ere long.
Thought's pinions are bemired in thee, and heavy move;
Because thou feedest on clay; clay's bread to thee, I'll prove.
As flesh, bread is but clay. Trust not thereon for strength;
Or thou’lt remain, claylike, within the earth at length.
Dost hunger? What art thou, then, but a dog?
Fierce, ill-affected, raging; lusts thy vitals clog!
And when with food thou’rt filled, polluted straight becomest.
Thou losest strength and sense; mere stock, thou sleep welcomest. 635
So, being doglike or a stock, senseless, impure,
How canst thou progress make in path of virtue, sure?
Whatever ’tis thou huntest, dog thou art, in sooth.
Feed not, then, thus, the dog of lust's voracious tooth.
When dogs are satisfied, obedience they forswear;
To follow up the game they one and all forbear.
His want it was disposed the Arab of our tale,
To travel till he'd reached the Caliph's courtly vale.
We've shown the bounty of that sovereign merciful,
640 Shed on the Arab's wretchedness, most plentiful.
Whate’er a lover says, the sentiment of love
Shines through his words, if but thoughts towards his mistress rove.
Discourses he on law, love furnishes the theme;
Throughout his labouring periods, love's the enthymeme.
Should blasphemy rise to his lips, of faith it smacks.
Doubt, when by him expressed, shows confidence's knacks.
The spume that rises from the sea of his pure heart
Partakes the nature of its source, truth's counterpart.
We must esteem such spume as foam of mountain-rill;—
645 Upbraiding from a lip beloved is worshipped still.
Attention we pay not to harsh words issuing thence,;—
The features we adore divest them of offence.
However strange such utterances, they all seem true;
The stranger they appear, to sense they lend more cue.
If sugar we should cast in mould to look like bread,
Then eat it, we the sugar taste. Form's of no stead.
Should true believer golden idol light upon,
Will he for worship set it up, anon, anon?
Nay! To the fire he'll quickly it in wrath cosign,
650 And strip it of the form that makes it sin's foul sign.
The gold, abstracted from the idol's form, is pure.
That form it is corrupts,—can men to sin allure.
The gold's an essence fixed, produced by nature's God;
The idol stamp is transitory;—soon downtrod.
Thou for one flea to flames thy bed wouldst never give;
For one musquito's hum, not wish to cease to live.
If form-entrapped thou be, idolater thou art!
Eschew mere form; attend to essence, as thy part.
Art bound on pilgrimage? Seek other pilgrims out;—
Be they from Hind, from Tatary, or Hadramout. 655
Peer not into their features; look not at their skins.
Inquire their thoughts, their hearts;—if these be free of sins.
A negro findest thou one with thee in faith and creed?
Him deem a white;—thy brother is he in thy need.
Our tale is told. Its ups and downs are manifold.
Like lovers’ thoughts, it's wandering, unconnected, bold.
Commencement it has none;—eternity's its sign;—
Still less conclusion;—so, eternity's design.
Or, rather, it's like water;—every drop, so rich,
Commencement is, and end;—yet shows not which is which. 660
But, God forbid! Our story's not a fable. See!
Its narrative's a point concerns both me and thee!
A gnostic, in possession of his wits and sense,
Repeats not what is past;—he bides the present tense.
The Arab, his poor pitcher, Caliph, all, observe,
Ourselves are. "He shall swerve whom God shall cause to swerve!" 1
Our Arab, know, ’s the mind; his wife, our lusts and greed.
These two are tenebrous; the mind's the torch they need.
Now hear whence has arisen the ground of their dispute:
Th’ infinite finites holds, of various attribute;— 665
Parts finite;—not parts infinite of th’ infinite,
Like scent of rose,—part infinite of definite.
The verdure's beauty infinite is, as a part;
The cooing of the dove's as infinite, in logic art.
But go we not too far afield for sorts and kinds;
Or poor disciples ne’er will slake their thirsting minds.
Dost doubt? Art racked with difficulties? To excess?
Have patience. "Patience is the key of all success!" 1
Be abstinent. Let not thy crowding thoughts run wild.
670 Thoughts lions are, and antelopes. Mind's forest; child!
The prime of remedies is abstinence, we know.
And scratching irritates the itch;—as leeches show.
Of treatment medical the base is abstinence.
Therefore be abstinent. Show strength of mind and sense.
Accept my counsel. Lend an ear as I advise;
In golden earrings, counsel's pearls shall be thy prize.
Be thou as slave to this, my cunning goldsmith-art;
I'll teach thee how to soar beyond the stars’ bright chart.
Know, first of all, creation's minds are manifold,
675 As are its forms;—from Alpha to Omega told.
From this variety, disorder seems to rise;
Though, in true sense, to unity the series hies.
In one sense, they're discordant; other, in accord;
They now as folly, now as wisdom, pass a word.
The day of judgment will to each assign its place;
All men of wisdom yearn to see that day of grace.
He who, as blackamoor, is steeped in sin's dark dye,
In that dread day shall gulp dishonour's foulest lye.
The wretch whose countenance beams not bright as the sun,
680 Shall strive in vain behind the densest veil to run.
If, like some thorns, his stem display no single rose,
That springtide will prove fatal to his safe repose.
But he that blooms from head to foot with righteous deeds,
With joy shall welcome spring's awakening of those meads.
The useless thorn desires the nipping wintry blast,
To lay all low and simplify the flowery vast;
That so, all beauty cloaked, all squalor hid, the same,
All glorious hues, all hideous sights, be rendered tame.
The leaf's fall to such thorn more grateful is than spring;
The ruby and the flint are one in tithesman's ring. 685
True, that the gardener's eye in winter knows the thorn;
But what is one eye's scrutiny to general scorn!
The vulgar public is, as ’twere, one witless wight;
Each star's a clipping of the moon, in its fond sight.
Not so great men of wisdom, radiant with troth,
They shout with joy: "Good tidings! Spring breaks into growth!"
Unless the flowers blossom on the fertile trees,
How can the fruit be gathered, honey store the bees?
The flowers blow and fade; the fruit begins to swell.
So, when our bodies die, our souls in glory dwell. 690
The fruit's reality; the flower is but a sign;
The flower's the harbinger; the fruit, the true design.
The flower blown and past, the fruit then comes in sight;
The first must perish ere the other can see light.
Unless a loaf be broke, no nutriment it yields;
Until the grapes are crushed, no cup of wine man wields.
So drugs, to prove a solace to the sufferer's ache,
Together must be blended, rolled in one smooth cake. 691
m165:1 Qur’ān xx. 97, makes the wandering Jew, Sāmirī, who produced the golden calf, to shun every one, saying, "Touch me not!"
m167:1 Vicar of God is one of the Caliph's titles. This "pretender" must have been some particular adversary of the poet's. The satire is bitter.
m167:2 Bāyezīd of Bestām, in Persia, an early Gnostic saint; died a.d. 874 (a.h. 261).
m167:3 Yezīd, second Caliph of Damascus, persecutor of Husayn, son of the fourth Caliph ‘Alī.
m167:4 The original naturally mentions the "qibla'' of Islām; not the "east," as used in Christian churches.
m171:1 "My poverty's my pride" is a saying traditionally attributed to Mohammed.
m177:1 Qur’ān iii. 12, mentions several things "made goodly to man."
m177:2 Qur’ān vii. 189, relates the creation of a helpmate for Adam.
m177:4 For Humayrā, see a note in No. 8, dist. 69.
m177:5 Yet Europe still pretends to believe that Islām has denied the possession of a soul by woman!
m179:1 Qur’ān lxxix. 24. So Pharaoh is there said to have styled himself.
m179:2 Qur’ān ii. 3, &c.
m180:1 Not Easterns only have a superstition about treasures hid in ruins.
m181:1 Qur’ān xxii. ix.
m182:1 Man has a triple nature, vegetative, bestial, and human.
m182:2 Qur’ān xxxix. 54.
m182:3 Qur’ān vii. 142, &c.
m183:1 Qur’ān xxxiv. 42.
m183:2 Qur’ān vii. 75; xi. 65-70; xxvi. 142-158. Sālih was sent to the tribe of Thamūd, troglodytes who dwelt in the valleys about half-way between Medīna and the Gulf of Akaba.
m183:3 Qur’ān xci. 13.
m185:1 Qur’ān vii. 76, 89; xi. 70, 97; xxix. 36.
m186:1 Qur’ān vii. 91.
m187:1 Qur’ān lv. 20.
m189:1 Qur’ān vi. 2, 60.
m189:2 Qur’ān xxxviii. 34.
m192:1 Not textually from the Qur’ān.
193:1 Not textually from the Qur’ān.
m196:1 Qur’ān xxiv. 30.
m197:1 Qur’ān ii. 23, &c.
m197:2 Rich Muslims everywhere break their fast in Ramazān with water from the well of Zemzem, in Mekka, if possible.
m198:1 A pearl is believed to be a special dewdrop, caught by a special oyster, and thence brought to perfection by a special providence. (See Sa‘di's ode at the end of translator's preface.)
m199:1 Qur’ān xciii. 1.
m199:2 Qur’ān xciii. 10.
m199:3 Qur’ān cxii. 3.
m200:1 The world.
m202:1 The belief is that Jesus was not crucified, but was caught up to the fourth heaven, that of the sun, where he will live until he comes again in glory.
m202:2 The belief is that Adam plucked an ear of corn, the forbidden fruit, in paradise.
m202:3 Abbās, Muhammed's uncle, ancestor of the Abbāsī Caliphs.
m209:1 Qur’ān li. 9.
m210:1 Von Hammer, in his History of the Ottoman Empire, so entirely misunderstood this beautiful Arabian proverb, "Es sabru miftāhu ’l faraj," as to read "farj" (pudendum), for "faraj" (success); and cloaked his blunder by the remark: "Too pungent for literal translation."