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The Mesnavi and The Acts of the Adepts, by Jelal-'d-din Rumi and Shemsu-'d-Din Ahmed, tr. by James W. Redhouse, [1881], at

p. 25


The Jewish King, Persecutor of the Christians. 1

A certain Jewish King, in savage, brutal scenes,
From hate of Jesus, persecuted Nazarenes.
’Twas Jesu's age, when he the Gospel first did teach;
In Jesus, Moses, and in Moses, Jesus preach.

That King God made squint-eyed; things straight he could not see.
A King and squint-eyed? Ah! that one the two should be!

A master once a squint-eyed slave commanded so:
"Come here; that bottle from its shelf, go, fetch me; go."
The squint-eye straightway asked: "Which, master, of the two? 2
The case explain; clear up the doubt, and truly show." 5
His master answered: "Two there's not; there is but one;
Put off thy strabism; with stupidity have done."
"Good master," quoth he, "chide me not; ’tis nature's fault."
The master quick rejoined: "Look now; break one; halt! halt!"
As soon as one was broken, both were gone from sight.
Poor squint-eye nearly lost his wits in childish fright.

p. 26

There was but one; his eyes were cause that he saw two.
The one away, the other consequently was gone too.

Desire or rage, at times, makes people double see.
10 The mind's distortion brings the eyes perverse to be.
From passion's mists our reason ever blinded lies.
The heart its clouds sends up; the mind's eye's vision flies.
The judge to taking bribes who basely bends himself,
Can never well discern the right and wrong, from pelf.
Our King through Israelitish rancour grew so blind,
A s nothing to distinguish in his rage of mind.
By thousands, faithful seekers of God's will he slew.
"Vouchsafe us help, O God of Moses, Jesus too!"

He had a Vazīr, brigandlike for craft and force.
15 In knavish stratagems he had no peer; of course.
He whispered to the King: "These Christians, as in hives,
All keep their faith a mystery, to save their lives.
To kill them thus is profitless. Give breathing-time,
Religion can't be smelt out just like musk or thyme.
A secret ’tis, well wrapped in many folds of guile.
In outward show, as friends, perfidiously they smile."
The King, with grimace fierce: "What have we then to do?
What remedy proposest thou to make them rue?
I will not leave alive one Christian in the land,
20 Whose faith is shown to all, or in his bosom banned."

The Vazīr to him: "King, my hands and ears cut off;
My nose and lips the same. Give orders; let them scoff.
Unto the gallows send me; I'll of all be seen.
Then let an intercessor plead,—some prince,—your queen.
Let all this happen where some spacious public place
May let all see, that all may know of my disgrace.

p. 27

Then drive me forth; away from thee in exile sent;
And they'll receive me, under feint of sorrow bent.
'In secret,' I'll pretend, 'a Christian I'm at heart;
Call God to witness how my faith has worked my hurt. 25
The King a knowledge gained of zeal in me that burned;
Its flame to put out quite, his anger on me turned.
I strove to hide my faith, my leaning to keep hid;
Affected still to be, think, act, just as he bid.
Suspicion crossed his mind; my secret he espied;
All I could plead for nothing went; he said I lied.
"Thy specious words," quoth he, "are needles in a loaf; 1
My eye, as through a glass, sees all thy thoughts; thou oaf!
No curtain of thy trickeries can veil thy faith from me;
I'm proof against thy knaveries; thy cunning I can see." 30
Were not the faith of Jesus the refuge of my heart,
He'd not have mutilated me in this sad sort.
For love of Jesus, head and life I will lay down;
All persecution suffer to gain a martyr's crown.
My life I will not grudge to lose for Jesus’ sake.
His faith I hold from point to point without mistake.
I dread his doctrine's fall to uninstructed guides.
The truth from their bad teaching still to ruin glides.
Thanks be to God, to Jesus thanks, who me have made
A teacher perfect of the faith so free from shade. 35
The Jew and Judaism I have forsworn in sooth;
About my loins the sacred cord 2 I wear; ’tis truth.
This age the age of Jesus is; O men, give ear!
His doctrine take to heart; nought else have you to fear."

The Vazīr having laid this plot before the King,
All shame and scruple vanished; ’twas a perfect thing.

p. 28

In presence of the public, nose, ears were cut off.
The rabble wondered greatly; now's the time to scoff.
He fled unto the Christians; begged them him to hear;
40 And straightway set up preaching; saintlike was he there.

The Christians soon with one accord accepted him,
In multitudes they round him flocked, all meek and prim.
The Gospel's holy words, the prayer, the cord, he'd preach;
The mysteries of all of these to them he'd teach.
To outward view a guide to sanctity was he;
In very truth, a trap and fowler's whistle; see.
Of such effect his wiles, disciples were deceived;
From Jesu's teaching fell, and in this cheat believed.
It is so. Often does the flesh, for selfish end,
45 Intrude itself across the soul's most fervent trend.
Meek virtue was not what they sought to gain the most;
Of him they learned to ferret out new sins, and boast.
Hair-splitting casuists, point by point they sin dissect;
They grow too wise; ’twixt rose and garlic links detect.
Of such avail's the subtle cunning of these men,
That honest teachers oft are made to swerve by them.

The Christian folk in him their confidence thus place.
Gregarious, like sheep, ’s the mob of every race.
A gen’ral favourite was he; all loved him well;
50 Christ's vicar called they him; as who the truth could tell.
This cursed Antichrist, so full of fraud and wile!
Grant help, O God! ’Tis Thou alone canst curb such guile.
The devil's snares are spread abroad in tempting guise,
Their baits are various; we, like birds, shut fast our eyes.
If saved from one, another tempts; we thither stray;
Like hawks and eagles, heinous sins make us their prey.
Thou shieldest us, O gracious God! But ever still,
With froward hearts and minds we counteract Thy will.

p. 29

This world's a granary, of which we steal the corn.
The wheat is there all garnered; we it spoil in scorn. 55
We take no heed of future life in what we do;
Sly mice still help us to consume the fruits that grow,
Those mice a road have found to reach our winter store.
Through their inroads our victual spoils; it is no more.
First stop mouse-holes; make safe thy granary, O man!
Thy wheat then garner safely; winter's at our van.

Give ear to what he's said, the Lord's own Chief of Chiefs: 1
"No perfect worship's needed, save in war's reliefs." 2
If mice there be not to destroy our garnered meeds,
Where is our wheat, the fruit of fifty summers’ deeds? 60
To shreds all nibbled lie the products of our days;
No stores accumulate for provend on our ways.

How many sparks of fire from flint and steel have flown!
How many hearts, like tinder, make those sparks their own!
But in the dark some thief his finger presses there;
And ev’ry train puts out that has been lighted here.
Extinguished if those sparks were not, a flame would rise;
A burning light be kindled, flashing ’yond the skies.
A thousand snares are laid to catch our tripping feet;
But, Lord, if us Thou shield, harm never shall us meet. 65
If but Thy grace will guide us, lead us on our way,
No thief can steal our peace of mind, our light of day.

Each night Thou settest free the soul from trap of flesh,
To scan and learn the hidden records of Thy wish. 3
Each night the soul is like a bird from cage set free,
To wander. Judge and judgment, then, it does not see.
By night the pris’ner loses sense of bars, of chains;
By night the monarch knows no state, no pomp retains;

p. 30

The merchant counts no more, in sleep, his gains and loss;
70 The prince and peasant, equal, on their couches toss.

The Gnostic 1 is so e’en by day, when wide awake;
For God hath said: "Let quietude care of him take." 2
Asleep to all the things of earth by night, by day,
As pen in writer's hand he doth his guide obey.
Whoever sees not in the lines the writer's hand,
May fancy ’tis the pen alone has all command.
Of this, the Gnostic's privilege, a trace ’d suffice
To rob of sleep and reason vulgar souls of ice.
His spirit wanders in the groves of th’ absolute.
75 His soul is easy; body, still, calm, quiet, mute.
The two absolved from greed, lust, sense, care, fear also;
Each, like a bird uncaged, is free; roams to and fro. 3
Should he, bird-like, be whistled back to trap of sense,
Again he sinks, the slave of every vile pretence.

When light of dawn paints bright the blushing sky with red,
Ere orb of day comes forth as bridegroom from his bed,
Shrill chanticleer, as though it were last judgment's trump,
Calls back to consciousness the sleepers. Up they jump.
The souls return their bodies to inhabit, then;
80 Each body fraught with thoughts, and words, and deeds again.

The soul turned loose, without the body's cares or ken,
Attests the truth: "Sleep is death's brother," 4 to all men.
But lest-it should escape, and not come back at call,
A tether to it's bound; it's not quite free withal.

p. 31

It must come back by day from roaming where it wills,
The cares of life to bear;—a burthen that soon kills.
O! Would, O God, Thou’d keep my soul in Thy own hand,
As Sleepers in the Grotto; 1 Noah's ark once to land!
Then had I ’scaped the tempest waking thoughts aye raise;
My mind, eyes, ears, had rested; all my task Thy praise! 85
Sev’n Sleepers?—Many are there of them in this world,
Before, behind me, right and left; they're round me hurl’d!
My "Cave" 2 art Thou; my "Mate" art Thou; O God, my friend!
Men's eyes and ears are sealed; they know not where they wend.

A Caliph asked of Laylà: "Art thou really she
For whom poor Majnūn went distracted? For I see,
Than other beauties thou art not so passing fair."
Said she: "Be silent; Thou’rt not Majnūn; nor his pair."

A man awake is sound asleep; more, he can't be.
His watchfulness is worse than sleep; how should he see? 90
Our souls, if not awake to God's most holy truth,
Are not awake. We're slaves to them. The greater ruth!
The soul all day is buffeted by fancy's whims;
Of loss or profit, life or death, as frenzy swims.
No peace enjoyed; no dignity remains in hand;
No vigour to attempt a flight to heaven's strand.
Asleep is he who's slave to every sordid wish;
Who begs of fancy; parleys with it, even. Pish!

A demon in his sleep he sees; an angel deems. 3
Through lust he swoons with sensual pleasure as he dreams. 95

p. 32

His seed he sows in sandy, salt, and desert land;
And wakes to find no harvest's ripened to his hand.
A headache, with a beating heart, is all he feels;
"Alas!" he sobs, "that treach’rous gnome! My whole frame reels!"

A bird flies in the air; its shadow flits on earth;
A second bird it seems to be, though nothing worth.
Some simpleton runs after it; to catch it tries;
Himself tires out; meanwhile the creature safely flies.
The fool still knows not ’tis a shadow he pursues.
100 Its substance where to seek he has no power to muse.
He shoots his arrows at the fleeting, mocking shade;
His quiver emptied, he returns; no booty made.

Our life's our quiver. When our years are vainly spent
In chasing phantoms, grief will one day have its vent.
Let God's protection mercifully on us rest,
All fancies and all phantoms stand at once confest.
God's servants are His shadows here below on earth;
To this world dead, but living in a second birth.
To their skirts cling; from them thy soul's nutrition seek.
105 So may’st thou ’scape the perils of this scene's last week.
The holy text of: "How He stretcheth forth the shade!" 1
Of saints gives notice. Them his glory doth pervade.
Without their guidance venture not to thread this maze;
Like Ab’ram answer: "Fading things do not me please!" 2
In days of trouble, consolation's sun seek out.
The skirts of "Tebrīz’ Sun" will wipe out care, no doubt. 3
Know'st not the road to that good man, and grief survene?
Inquire of his and my friend, great Husāmu-’d-Dīn. 4

While on thy way, should envy seize thee by the throat,
110 Know, Satan's sin was envy; malice made him gloat.

p. 33

He envied Adam's rise to such sublime estate.
He wars with all who're good, through envy and through hate.
No mountain-pass as this life's progress is so steep;
Let envy not increase thy load; thou canst but creep.
The flesh a hot-bed is of envy and of strife.
These soil the soul; for envy's bane of mortal life.
Should envy seek thy soul to kill, invoke the Lord,
The God of mercy thee can save, with His true Word.
"Make clean My house, ye two," did Ab’ram's God once say. 1
His house our frame; a house of glory, though of clay. 115
Should envy fill thy breast ’gainst one that envies not,
Foul stains ensue; thy heart's impure; all good's forgot.
Prostrate thyself, then, at the feet of holy men;
Cast dust upon thy head, God's pardon to attain.

The Vazīr of our Jewish king was envy's self;
His nose and ears he sacrificed, as ’twere but pelf,
In hopes the sting of envy ’d find an easy way,
To pour the selfsame wounds he ’d open lay.
His nose, from envy, in the air, who carries high,
His ears and nose to envy ’d give without a sigh. 120
The nose the organ is by which we trace a scent;
The scent then guides to where the odour finds its vent.
Who has no sense of smell is truly minus nose,
Its odour we should trace to where religion blows.
To scent religion's fragrance, not returning thanks,
Ingratitude is. Nose to lose merit such pranks.
Be grateful, thou; and venerate all grateful men;
Abase thyself; a champion be of theirs. Amen.
Be not a cut-throat, like that Vazīr, of men's faith;
Seek not to turn believing souls from what God saith. 125

p. 34

That Vazīr seemed a pastor of the truth, in sham;
As one who bitter aloes mixed in sweet plum jam.

Some men of sense discernment used, his ways to scan,
His honied phrases smacked to them of knavish plan.
Refined truisms, double-meaning, he'd deal out,
Like syrup into which some mortal poison's put.

Be thou not caught with knavery's fairly-spoken word;
A hidden meaning it may have. Be on thy guard.
Of evil-minded men the speech is never good;
130 Their hearts are dead and putrid; life cannot there brood.
A man's an offset from a man, by nature's law,
As sure as cake of bread is bread, and not mere straw.

God's Lion, 1 ‘Alī, saith: "All words in folly made,
As weeds on dunghills, crowd apace; as quickly fade." 2
He who would rashly, thoughtlessly, repose thereon,
Begrimed will be, befouled, befooled, and spat upon.
He that gives vent to wind, mere wind, is bound to wash;
His worship else is vain; pollution doth it quash. 3

The Vazīr's talk was all: "Be diligent in pray’r."
135 His acts proclaimed aloud: "Of duty never care."

In surface silver's white and glittering to the eye;
With friction, hands and purse it soils, though e’er so dry.
A fire is jocund to the view; its flame may please.
But venture not too near it; black is its surcease.
The lightning flashes brightly, shining as it flies
But oft, alas, it strikes man blind, or dead he lies.

p. 35

Be wise betimes; for "he that's void of common sense,
Is like the ox with yoke on neck." So ‘Alī,—Hence!

For six years was the Vazīr absent from the king;
Disciple seemed of Jesu's faith; bad news to bring. 140
Their hearts and faith the people all pinned on to him;
At his command they every one would change each whim.
His purpose all the time was fraud and gross deceit;
He pondered naught but wiles, to compass their defeat.
By secret message, with the king he held converse.
The king to him fair gratulations sent, diverse.

A missive came to him at length: "My faithful son,
’Tis time my heart was set at rest. What hast thou done?"
His answer was: "The thing's prepared; have patience yet;
The Christian folk to puzzle soon, we'll not forget." 145

The Christians portioned were, for purposes of war,
In legions twelve; to each, a captain void of fear.
The men of every legion to their captain bound
By ties of trust and confidence, in each heart found.
These legions and those captains twelve, to that bad man
Had yielded up their every thought;—as mankind can.
Should he command to die, not one of them would fail
To give his life right joyfully,—without one wail.

A volume he prepared in name of each of them;
The matter of these registers not all the same. 150
The style of every one was in a different guise;
From end to end each book's contents were forgeries.
In one, the pangs of hunger mortified the flesh;
With penitence, with fasting made, and prayer, to clash.
A second taught that fasting did no good at all;
That charity, beneficence, was all in all.

p. 36

A third explained: "Thy fasting,—charity itself,-
Syntheism 1 is. With God, thou deifiest thyself.
To trust with resignation ’s all religion's plan.
155 In weal and woe are springs to trap the soul of man."
A fourth declared: "Faith without works is truly dead.
Alone is service valued; faith's a sin to dread."
A fifth laid down: "The Law's commands and warnings all
Are not for practice; they're mere symbols of man's fall.
By showing us man's weakness, God is made more strong;
The decalogue this purpose serves; the rest's all wrong."
The sixth, again: "For man to talk of weakness here,
Ingratitude is, simply; God's grace is so clear;
Think, now, how wonderful is man; how great; how wise;
160 ’Tis God has made him thus; to thank Him in us lies."
A seventh suggests: "Leave power and weakness unto Me;
They're idols, both, as also are all things ye see."
An eighth contends: "Put not thy light behind a shade.
Let all men see thy light; to glad their eyes ’twas made.
Removed from sight if ’tis, an evil thence will loom.
Thou, too, wilt be removed at midnight from the groom."
A ninth expounds: "Put out the light; thou’lt have more joy.
The sense of sight is one: joy's feelings, many; boy.
Put out the light. The sense of touch thou may’st then use.
165 The bride is timid; in the dark she'll not refuse.
Renunciation of the world's a very farce.
Renounce. The world, and more, thou’lt dream of in thy trance."
A tenth assures: "That which the Lord hath given to man,
God hath made pleasant to the eyes. Deny, who can.

p. 37

Take what is thine. Avert thee not; ’tis folly still
To take to groaning, moaning, when all's at thy will."
Another yet: "Forsake all things thou hast possessed.
Retention of them by thee baseness is, confessed.
How many roads diverse traced for their feet men deem;
Each one to one sole "church" the only road doth seem. 170
If way there were secure, for hitting out the truth,
The Jews and Magi surely ’d not missed it, forsooth."
Again another: "Moral food makes heart to live.
We see this clearly; every hour a proof doth give.
Enjoyments sensuous, fleshly, when to fade they haste,
Leave no result behind; they're desert mirage, waste.
Regret's their only issue, grief for loss of time;
A bankrupt's stock; their commerce gives no gain, no prime.
Pursuit of them has never ended in success;
Dire failure still must be the fruit of recklessness. 175
Distinguish thou betimes the foolish from the wise;
The end of each scan well; ’tis there the difference lies."
And still one more: "True wisdom strive thou to find out.
True wisdom's not the fruit of noble birth. Poor lout!
Each 'church' has had in view to gain a happy end.
But one and all have failed and could but fail. God send!
To palm off jugglers' tricks is not true wisdom's part,
Or man had never seen so many faiths take start."
And one again: "True wisdom thou hast surely found.
Thou knowest men of wisdom;—wisdom's safest ground. 180
Be manful. Let not men by fraud make mock of thee.
Thy own path choose; turn not from it for aught thou see."
To one he said: "Thy unity is all in all;
Besides thee, aught existence never had, nor shall."
One volume taught: "The universe is unity.
Who teaches two exist, is but a squint-eye, he."
The last gave out: "A hundred really are but one."
Unless a madman, whom could have such doctrines won?

p. 38

In them these paradoxes fitly found their place,
185 In words and sense his doctrines lacked all claim to grace.
Each volume was the antithesis of the next;
If one was honey, poison was the other's text.
Wouldst thou escape his honey and his poison too,
Forsake thou not the holy word of scripture true.

Twelve volumes thus were writ with fraudulent research,
By that Vazīr, the hidden foe of Jesu's church.
Jesu's one-mindedness for him had no perfume;
The wine of Jesu's jar no bouquet to his grume.
A many-coloured garment washed in that pure wine,
190 As snowy white comes out, and clear as is sunshine.
Not faded or plain-coloured, such as gives offence;
But clear as crystal water, in which fishes glance.
Dry land, chameleon-like, gay-coloured scenes displays;
But fishes dry land shun; they love clear water's sprays.

What is the fish, and what the water, in my tale,
That they should symbolise God's kingdom on small scale?
Whole shoals of fishes, great and small, the water's realm,
In adoration mute, with praise to God o’erwhelm.

What showers of bounty from God's outstretched hand
195 Have made the seas with pearls of price to deck the strand!
What brilliant suns of brightest goodness must have shone,
Ere clouds and sea could have produced the matchless stone! 1
What rays of wisdom poured on water and on land
Ere earth could nourish seed, yield corn to our demand!
The earth, a faithful trustee, gives back what we sow,
No fraud, embezzlement, in its trust do we know.

p. 39.

This faithfulness to trust arises, with time's run,
From generous warmth infused by glow of justice’ sun.
Whene’er God's symbol quickening summer back doth bring,
The mysteries of the earth straight from her bosom spring.
Th’ All-Bountiful, who gave to senseless earth, of grace,
This faithfulness, trustworthiness, in every place, 200
In mercy plans forth inorganic matter's course.
In wrathful wisdom's counsel blinds man to its source.
Our hearts and souls have not the grace to understand.
To whom address me? Not one ear's at my command!
Who lends his ear, shall also quickly find an eye.
Whose ear's, like stone, to counsel deaf, shall surely die.

Of wond’rous power is God possessed. What's magic's skill!
Miraculous works He enacts. Where's witchery's spell!
To sing His praise in me a want of feeling shows.
It proves I breathe. To breathe, to live, breaks true love's laws. 205
In His existence let my being sink, quite lost.
To be, is to be blind and blear-eyed at the most.
If blind I were not, swooned, unconscious should I be.
The Sun of Glory's might and power then could I see.
Were not my sight grown blear, through weeping in my dreams,
Had I stood, ice-like, frozen, ’neath His mercy's beams?

Just like his king, this Vazīr was shortsighted seen.
The Ancient, ’twas, of Days, he wrestled ’gainst, I ween.
Th’ Almighty One, who with one breath, one word, did bring
Ten thousand worlds from naught to join in being's ring. 210

Ten thousand worlds, besides, disclose themselves to sight,
If thou direct thy vision towards the God of Light.

p. 40

In man's esteem the world is vast, without an end;
With Power Infinite compared, a grain of sand.
The world's around the soul a dismal prison-den.
Arise! Escape! Regain the fields at large! Be men!
The world is finite; He is infinite. Confide!
Earth's forms and qualities God's essence from us hide.

The million spears of Pharaoh, vaunting in his might,
215 By Moses’ wand were broken in th’ appointed night.
And many sons of skill, for healing science famed,
By Jesu's curing halt, lame, blind, deaf, mad, were shamed.
How many poets, orators, great men of note,
By word of the Illiterate One 1 were shown to dote.
For love of our Almighty God, the Lord of all,
Who would not die, a stock, a block, we needs must call.
Dead heart of stone if He but touch with love's live coal,
A magnet straight becomes, no longer quits the pole. 2
Plume not thyself as one endowed with cunning guile;
220 The meek more surely draw rich gifts from Heaven's smile.

How many treasure-hiders, treasure-seekers, here,
Have been derided, laughed to scorn, by that All-Seer!
What art thou, man? Canst thou in thought with Him compare?
What's the whole earth? A blade of grass, His might to dare?

A woman, once, through foul adultery's sin estranged,
By God, in punishment, to Venus’ star was changed. 3
From woman into Venus? Sure, that change was sad.
To dust and ashes turn. Less shame in this. Art mad?

p. 41

Thy soul it is must lift thee to heaven's highest home;
The flesh can but consign thee deep to hell's dark dome. 225
Thyself it is that dooms thee to that woful fate;
The angels’ envy art thou, here, in man's estate.
Consider, then, this doom; revolve it in thy mind;
That woman's change, compared with this, was joy, thou’lt find.

To push ambition's course beyond the stars thou’st sought?
Refused hast thou first Adam to adore, as naught? 1
But seed of Adam art thou, O degenerate man
Why wilt thou then as glory count dark shame's foul ban?
Why proudly vaunt thou’lt conquer all this teeming earth?
Why fondly fancy rumour ’ll sound thy passing worth? 230

Should winter's snow in heaps encumber all earth's soil,
One gleam of summer's sun the frigid cloak will foil.
So, too, that Vazīr's scheme of fraud, nor his alone,
Reduced to nothing was by one word from God's throne.

Such crafty wiles as these He changes into weal;
As poisons by His power receive the gift to heal.
What doubtful was, becomes confest, at His decree;
True love springs up, where hatred plotted was to be.
He safely carries through the fire His chosen friend; 2
The fear of death He maketh peace of mind to lend. 235
Through Him are treasures hid beneath the ruin's waste;
Thorns roses yield; our bodies joys of soul foretaste.
By workings of the pang of love for Him I burn;
Though sophistlike I rave, ’tis unto Him I turn.

Another stratagem the Vazīr next conceived;
From public life withdrew, and solitude achieved.

p. 42

Admiring followers all were fain to mourn his loss;
For forty days, and more, in cell he bore his cross.
Their yearning for him grew more fierce from day to day;
240 They missed his good example, words, and zeal to pray.
They grieved that he in solitude should vex his flesh;
Their sympathies clung round him every day afresh.
"Without our teacher we're a pastorless poor flock;
Blind beggars without staff to guide us to our nook.
For mercy's sake, for love of God, have pity now;
No longer us deprive of consolation's show.
We're infants all, and thou our feeder, tutor thou,
Protection shed around; forsake us not just now."

His answer was: "My spirit's present with you, friends.
245 But issue from this hermitage my power transcends."
The captains twelve, of legions, intercession made;
His grieved disciples raised a wail, a serenade:
"Great evil's lighted on us! Ah! Beloved One!
We're orphans made; our parent, thou, away art gone!
Raise not such pretext; push us not to our wit's end.
We sob and sigh; we beat our breasts. Do comfort send!
Thou’st pampered, spoilt us with thy wondrous eloquence;
With doctrine from thy lips our souls cannot dispense.
Torment us not, for God's sake! Pity on us take!
250 Be kind! This day, 'To-morrow' say not; to us wake!
Our hearts are rapt in thee; no heart in us remains.
Heartless and spiritless are we, poor bankrupt swains!
Like fishes out of water, so we writhe and gasp.
The dam break down; let flow the stream; avert death's grasp!
Thou art the very paragon, the phœnix of the age.
Heaven's mercy, save us; or, we perish, we enrage!"

To them he thus: "O men of little sense, take heed;
You foolishly are seeking elsewhere what you need.

p. 43

Your ears stop up with wool; list not to speech of man;
The mote that blinds your eyes cast out. Then, see you can. 255
With cotton in your outward ears, you'll plainly hear
The still small voice of conscience, drowned now by your fear.
All outward sense discard; all thought, reflection flee;
And straight you'll hear, within, God's voice: 'Come unto Me.'
So long as with chit-chat you keep yourselves awake,
Communion with the angels you in sleep forsake.
Our words and acts make up our outward habitudes;
Our inward man's our converse with infinitudes.
Our senses barren are; they come of barren soil;
Our soul, like Jesus, walks the sea without turmoil. 260
Our outer man's a barren wilderness, I ween;
The inner man, ’tis, sounds the depths of the Unseen.
If all our life be spent in chase of mundane things,
Our paths must lead o’er wastes, o’er hills, o’er ocean springs.
The Fount of Life, 1 where shall we find in such a course?
Death's billows how avoid, and how escape remorse?
The desert's moving sandhills are our schemes and plans.
Life-rills are abnegation, self-denial, man's."

Him answered his disciples: "Master, grieve us not.
Fresh sorrow, through pretences, add not to our lot. 265
Such heavy burden to endure we've not the power.
Poor suffering weaklings we, in sad affliction's hour.
The heavens appear to raise themselves all vastly high;
But true sublimity's God's attribute. We sigh.
The food of every bird He gives in providence
He says whose figs devoured shall be these ten days hence.

p. 44

Who ’d give, in lieu of mother's milk, to infants, bread,
Would kill them with improper food before them spread.
But when their teeth are grown, and deck their little mouths,
270 Themselves will ask for bread; milk suits not then their growths.
The unfledged chick is yet for flight all unprepared
Attempting it, he falls a prey to puss, poor bird
His wings well pinioned, he soars high in breezy air;
Needs no encouragement; his instinct leads him there.
Each howling imp is stilled at sound of thy sole voice;
And words from thee are utmost joy to all our race.
Our ears are gladdened as they catch thy tongue's converse,
Each desert grows a garden, when thou’rt freshness’ source.
With thee amongst us, earth a foretaste gives of heaven,
275 Thou’rt our delight, from morn to eve our longed-for leaven.
Without thee, day's refulgence we cannot employ,
If thou art present, every care is turned to joy.
High station, true, may be attained by charlatan;
But moral worth alone gives eminence to man."

To them, now, he replied: "Your prayer ’s of no avail.
My counsel take and ponder. Naught else shall prevail.
If I'm a trusted man, my word is not a lie,
E’en though I'd say that black is white, or earth is sky.
If I'm perfection, who the perfect's word denies?
280 If I am otherwise, why all this fuss and noise?
Forth from my solitude to come I'm not designed.
I'm communing with God; to His will I'm resigned."

They still insisted: "Vazīr, that we'll not deny,
But our remonstrance is a truly piteous cry.
We weep our eyes out through our grief thee not to see,
With sighs our hearts burst, vainly looking out for thee.

p. 45

An infant quarrels not with its attentive nurse;
And yet it weeps, through knowing not what's good from worse.
We are thy harps. The plectrum's stroke. is from thy hand.
’Tis thus we moan; smit by thy cunning harpist wand. 285
Like flutes of reed, our utterances are through thee found;
Or mountain vale, our echo's but child of thy sound.
Or as chess-players, striving in their dubious game;
Our 'check' and 'mate' are from thee, man of mighty name.
What are we,—can we be? ’Tis thou’rt our life of life,
So long as thou’rt among us. If not, all is strife.
We're naught;—we're nothings. All our being is in thee.
Existence’ very self by thy frail form we see.
We're lions, true; but stand on vanes of weathercocks,
Our twists and twirls, our starts, our jumps, are from wind's shocks. 290
These lions' movements are in sight; the winds unseen.
The Great Unseen, th’ Almighty One, ’s behind the screen.
Our moving wind, our very being from thee springs.
Existence, else, were vain, not sheltered ’neath thy wings.
’Tis thou hast taught us, nothings, valued life to prize;
’Twas thou that made us, erring, lovers of th’ Allwise.
Take not from us the savour sweet of thy good gifts,
Thy cup, thy wine, thy relish, absence from us lifts.
But shouldst thou still refuse, who to repine ’d have heart?
Can pictures of the painter's hand complain, and art? 295
No notice of us take; from us avert thy face;
But ne’er deride the claims of thy prevailing grace.
We were not; prayers from us arose not to thy ear;
Thy grace alone ’twas sought us out; thou drewest near.
Before the artist and his brush, the picture's null;
Like unborn babe in mother's womb, till time be full.
Before almighty power creation stands in wait,
As canvas ’fore the needle ’broiderer's hand may mate.

p. 46

A demon here, an angel there, or man, is bid
300 To be; now joy, now sorrow, rises up amid.
We have no hand to move; defend ourselves we can't.
We have no breath, no speech to pray for aid in want."

The Qur’ān ponder this my verse to understand. 1
There God hath said: "Thou threwst not, when thou threwst" the sand. 2
Although we shoot an arrow swiftly to its mark,
The bow, the arrow, we ourselves, are from God's ark.
There's no compulsion here, though God can all compel.
’Tis not complaint, if I of God's compulsion tell.
305 All our complaints of our felt needs are indices.
If shame we feel, of our freewill a sign it is.
Without choice were we, there ’d be no pretext for shame.
Why blush and hang the head, cast down the eyes so tame?
What doth a master in disciple always chide?
Why teacheth he in Providence still to confide?
Shouldst thou assert God carelessly makes us to act,—
That sun of verity He hides in mists of fact,—
An answer I will give,—just lend thy ear to me;
Forsake all blasphemy,—of God's faith ever be:
310 "The longings, the regrets, that every sick man feels,
Awakings are of conscience. Sickness this reveals.
The moment man is ailing,—prisoner to bed sent,
He counts his sins, he asks for grace, vows to repent.
He sees the wickedness of all he's said and done;
He promises, in future, errant ways to shun.
'If but I'm spared,' he says, 'I never will sin more;
I'll righteousness ensue, all trespasses abjure.'
By this thou seest that sickness is not all an ill.
’Tis but a time for waking conscience good to will.

p. 47

Know then the aphorism, O seeker after truth,—
Whoe’er thou be, to whom scent of it may give ruth: 315
'The man that's most awake, with most of pain will reel;
The more his conscience pricks, more sorely sad he'll feel!'
If thou wert really conscious God ’tis thee compels.
What need to feel ashamed;—to utter frightful yells?
Thou art not so; thou feelest not a captive's chain;
Thou know’st thou’rt free to act, or from each act abstain.
Whoever saw a captive sporting in his bonds?
Whoever heard of prisoners acting vagabonds?
Hast thou had fetters fastened on to both thy feet?
Hast e’er beheld kings’ guardsmen resting in thy seat? 320
Then be not thou to others hard as jailer man.
Obduracy befits not him a king may ban.
Compulsion since thou feel’st not, make it not pretext.
Say’st that thou feel’st it? Where's the proof? Show us it next.
In every act to which thou inclination hast,
Thou know’st thyself free agent: what thou willst, thou dost.
If any case arise thy will, thy wish, to brave,
Straightway compulsionist thou art: 'God so would have.'"

The prophets were compulsionists to this world's string.
Miscreants are compulsionists towards heaven's King. 325
The prophets chose the better part, futurity;
The foolish choose the worse, the world's fatuity.
Each bird will flock with birds of its own feather still;
The cock well knows his mate, and follows where she will.
Miscreants are the brood of hell, to which they go;
The goods of worldly life they choose. Then be it so.
The prophets are of race from heaven deriving birth;
To heaven they tend with heart and soul while here on earth.

p. 48

’Twould never end the branches of this theme to count.
330 So let us sip again from our old story's fount.

Within his cell ensconced, the Vazīr answer gave:
"Disciples mine, my firm resolve from me receive.
To me a very strict commandment Jesus spake:
'From friends and kin of every class seclusion seek.
Thy face set tow’rds a wall; sit in some cell apart,
Forsake thyself; forgetfulness cast o’er thy heart.'
Permission's thus denied with men to hold discourse.
I've naught to say; with mortals more I'll not converse.
Good-bye, my friends! Adieu! You'll never see me more,
335 My journey's unto heaven; there I've laid my store.
Th’ empyrean beneath, so long as I have strayed,
Like firewood in a furnace have I wept; still prayed.
Henceforward I shall sit on Jesu's own right hand,
In highest heaven enthroned, blest Paradise's strand."

The legion-captains now he called to him apart;
But one by one, in secret, counsels to impart.
To ev’ry one he said: "Successor thee I name,
The faith of Jesus to uphold and keep from shame.
All other captains thy commands will have to hear;
340 ’Tis Jesus thus appoints thee others’ loads to bear.
Should any one against thee neck rebellious raise,
Him kill, imprison, or in exile end his days.
But while I live divulge not what to thee I've told,
Keep secret till my death this charge thou hast to hold.
Let no one know till then ’tis thou art chosen out,
Proclaim not thou thyself a king or prince devout.
Behold this scroll; take, study it; thyself instruct,
’Tis Jesu's doctrine pure; from this His Church construct."

Thus one by one their minds prepared were to be chief:
345 "’Tis thou’rt the chosen one; all else would be a thief."

p. 49

He named them each successor; made them so to feel.
Whate’er he told to one, to each did he reveal.
He gave to each a volume, writ from end to end;
No two alike; each different, and hard to blend. 1
Their doctrines various, of every changing hue;
Diverse in sense, as objects' forms exposed to view.
Their precepts and commands a very maze of guile,
Their sentiments impossible to reconcile.

The Vazīr now delayed another forty days;
Then slew himself,—set free his soul from earth's affrays. 350
The people, hearing of his death, were sorely grieved;
Around his corpse collected; eyes, ears, scarce believed.
With many bitter moans to sorrow they gave vent;
Their breasts they beat, their hair they tore, their clothing rent.
To count their multitudes is in God's power alone;
Turks, Arabs, Kurds, and Romans, 2 men of every zone.
They scattered o’er their heads the dust from his last home;
To mourn for him was balm, all ills to overcome.
They wept. Their bitter, briny tears they shed in floods;
His grave a pool; those tears, as streamlets from the woods. 355
To lose him was a grief unspeakable that fell
On rich and poor, on high and low, too sad to tell.

A month of mourning past, the people sought to know
Whom he'd appointed in his place their way to show.
Whom must we recognise successor to our saint?
Into whose hands commit the task of our restraint?

p. 50

He was a sun of light; his fire hath turned to fume,
A candle now we need our darkness to illume.
Our friend is gone,—is lost to our inquiring eyes.
360 A substitute we seek,—memorial we may prize.
Our rose is withered;—rosebush leaves all blown away,
Which vase holds now the rose-scent in its perfumed clay?"

God is invisible to weakly mortal sight,
His prophets are a need, to guide His Church aright.
No! That's not right! That phrase is sadly incorrect.
A prophet's one with God; not two. Think well! Reflect!
They are not two; they're one. Thou blind materialist!
With God they're one; their forms but make Him manifest.
Thou seest the form alone; thy two eyes are at fault.
365 Look with thy soul; thou’lt see as God from heaven's vault.
Thy two sights will united be straightway in one,
When thou behold’st the Light of God's eternal throne.

Set up ten burning candles in one selfsame place,
A separate body, each, diffuses light and grace.
Their powers combine in one, to brighten that retreat;
Distinction now there's none; one light alone we meet.
Count out a hundred apples, quinces, pears, or plums;
When mashed together, all their juice, their pulp, their scums.
Things spiritual division, number, parts, know not,
370 They split not into fractions, form no separate lot.

’Tis sweet when friends with friends together come and meet.
Trust then the spirit. "’Tis the letter kills"—repeat.
Thy body mortify; thy flesh consume with pains.
Behind it hid thou’lt find God's unity—thy gains.
If thou the body vex not,—bring not low betimes,
The flesh will thee destroy, my friend, in fiery flames.

p. 51

The flesh it is that shows itself to human heart;
The flesh it is demands asceticism's sharp smart.

We simple were; one essence was the source of all.
Nor Head, nor foot had we; one pristine lot did fall. 375
One substance held us; we were clear as is the sun;
No knots or gnurs within us, free as water's run.
On taking fleshly form, that simple essence, then,
Became divided, split, like shadows in each glen.
Make low the hills and hillocks, level make the plain;
No shadow's left; the whole becomes one scene again.

With pleasure I'd this matter clearer put, and joy.
But tender consciences I seek not to annoy.
Abstruser points there are, as keen as sword in fight.
If reason's shield thou hast not, refuge take in flight. 380
My arguments contest not, unless well prepared.
Sharp blade will cut; it pities not; no life is spared.
I sheathe my sword of argument,—will not make assault.
Lest muddlers read me wrong, and say ’tis I'm at fault.

We come now back again, to follow up our tale,
To keep our faith with readers, feminine and male;
And say again, the people rose up as one man,
Demanding who should work out our dead Vazīr's plan.

One legion-captain forward came, out of the twelve,
That grieving people's furrowed field anew to delve. 385
Said he: "Behold! successor am I to the saint.
In Jesu's stead I'm regent, by his own constraint.
You see this scroll. ’Tis evidence of what I say:
The dead Vazīr's successorship is mine to-day!" 1
A second captain started up, as from ambush;
Contested all those words; his own claim then did push.

p. 52

Forth from his bosom he another scroll produced,
And then the people's wrath flamed high; not soon reduced.
The other captains, too,—each his own train at back,—
390 Unsheathed their swords, and threatened both their skulls to crack.
Then each one of the twelve, his sword and scroll in hand,
Upon the others set, like baited bull on brand.
The slain were strewn in heaps of many hundred men,
Their heads were piled in pyramids, by thousands ten.
Their blood was shed in torrents, flowing on the plain.
The dust arose in clouds through this commotion vain.
The seeds of discord sown by that knave's treacherous hand,
Had now produced their harvest, fatal to the land.
The nuts he cracked were skulls; their kernels, human brains.
395 The bodies slain through him held precious souls in chains.

Be killed, or die, as in thy lot may be decreed.
So with pomegranates, apples, when sliced up at need.
The sweet and sound are prized, and straightway put to use;
The sour and rotten cast away, worthless refuse.
A word with sense and meaning's ever eloquent;
Bald nonsense is laughed down in scorn or merriment.
Thou fool, materialist! Think closer: look to sense. 1
The spirit ’tis gives value; words are mere pretence.
Prefer the company of those who spirit seek.
400 So mayst thou grace attain,—"God's servant be," 2 and meek.
A life without a soul or spirit in our frame,
Like wooden sword in sheath, were but a senseless name.

p. 53

Within its sheath while kept, of value it may seem;
When drawn, ’tis only fit for matchwood, men will deem,
Arm not thyself with wooden sword in battle's day.
Examine well thy weapon, if thou ’d have fair play.
Shouldst find thy sword of wood, another seek forthwith;
If adamant it prove to be, then join thy kith.

The truest swords are found in th’ arm’ry of the saints.
Their converse is to thee a balm for all complaints. 405
The wise have ever said, with uniform accord:
"Most truly wise was he, 'the Mercy of the Lord.'" 1

Dost buy a pomegranate? A burst fruit still elect.
The crack reveals its grains; thou seest they've no defect.
E’en so, good friend, blest be the man whose mouth reveals
The heart-thought pearls their casket, his pure soul, conceals.
But inauspicious is the opening tulip's crack;
This patent makes to all that its heartcore is black.
The burst pomegranate is a sunny orchard's pride.
So speech of worthy men may waft thee to truth's side. 410
Society with saints no doubt's of great avail;
To piety it leads; "God's fear shall never fail." 2
Thou wast a very rock, a worthless pebble stone;
By saints’ communion fined, a pearl of price thou’st shone.
Then love the saints. Their love plant deeply in thy heart.
The pure of mind alone deserve a pure love's part.
Court not despair; hope ever springs in human breast.
Seek not the dark; the Sun of Light shines full confest.
The spirit ever leads to haunts of holy men;
The flesh would cast thee in the pit of sin again. 415
Beware! Feed thou thy soul with love from holy ground.
Make haste! Seek means of grace from one who grace has found.

p. 54

Petition make! Seize hold upon the skirts of saints.
Through them thou’lt learn how God his favour grants.
The Gospel names the name of Ahmed; 1 he the last,
As chief of prophets;—purity's bright ocean, vast.
His lineaments, his virtues, ways of matchless good;
With notice of his wars, his fasts, and eke his food.
Some Christian folks, on mention of that sacred name,
420 And this recital of his qualities and fame,
A merit to acquire, were wont to kiss the book,
To bow with reverence deep, humility in look.
That folk in all the troubles we've related now
Were safe; nor bloodshed, nor foul faction did them know.
Secured were they from scrolls, sword, captains, and Vazīr,
In name of Ahmed Mustafà they'd trust, not fear.
Descendants, numerous in race, they left behind;
Their faith in Ahmed they a tower of strength did find.
But other Christian folks to him refused to bow.
425 The blessed name of Mustafà they deemed too low.
Requital brought them punishment for this offence;
A prey they fell unmourned to that Vazīr's pretence.
Their false creed, with their tribes, was quickly brought to end,
Through those twelve lying volumes his deceit had penn’d.
The name of Ahmed, thus, a friend is proved, of might;
Of light by day a pillar, shelt’ring cloud by night.
A castle inexpugnable, a stronghold safe,
As he himself was Trusty, 2 though his foes might chafe.
How fatal the disasters pictured here above,
430 The fruit of foul duplicity's pretended love.


m25:1 Who are intended by this Jewish squint-eyed king, and his self-sacrificing, treacherous Vazīr?

m25:2 It is a common belief in the East that squint-eyed people see double.

m27:1 Needles, or pins, are hidden in bread that is given to a dog or other beast in order to destroy it.

m27:2 The rope worn by monks, like the Brahmin's sacred thread, is supposed by Muslims to be worn by all Christians.

m29:1 Mohammed.

m29:2 In time of immediate danger during war the "Service of Fear" is enjoined instead of the usual form of worship.

m29:3 In visions.

m30:1 The original word, conversant, like our "Adept" and "Illuminato," is applied by the mystics to themselves. It is a trace of the old Gnosticism.

m30:2 Being given in Persian, I cannot quote chapter and verse for the original Arabic.

m30:3 Like lunatics, they are supposed to be heedless of all things around them.

m30:4 Sleep is Death's brother is an ancient Arabian proverb.

m31:1 The Seven Sleepers; mentioned in Qur’ān xviii. 8-25.

m31:2 Mohammed's "Cave-Mate" was Abū-Bekr, who was his sole companion on quitting Mekka at the Emigration or "Flight." They concealed themselves in a cave; and Mohammed remarked: "God is the third in our little party." Hence the title of "Cave-Mate," applied to Abū-Bekr.

m31:3 A species of nightmare in the form of a lascivious dream.

m32:1 Qur’ān xxv. 47.

m32:2 Qur’ān vi. 76.

m32:3 See "Anecdotes," Chap. iv.

m32:4 See his name as an honorific title in a note to the author's preface; and in the "Anecdotes," Chap, vi.

m33:1 Qur’ān ii. 119.

m34:1 "The Lion of God," so called from his courage and strength. Shīr-Ali, Hayder-Ali, are among the forms of the title.

m34:2 One of the sayings attributed to him and become proverbial.

m34:3 Persian, empty promises and boastings are also called "wind." Hence, the poet suggests ablution to cleanse from such;—mental ablution.

m36:1 "Syntheism" is the correct rendering of the "shirk" of Islām. "Polytheism" is very incorrect. Dualists (Magians) and Trinitarians (Christians) are Syntheists, but they are not polytheists in a correct sense.

m38:1 An allusion to the idea that a pearl is a raindrop caught and nourished by an oyster.

m40:1 "The Illiterate Prophet," or, rather, "the Gentile Prophet," reputed barbarous and illiterate by the Jews and Christians, is one of Muhammed's highest titles.

m40:2 The original here uses the simile of a certain "cunning bird," known, also as the "Truth-calling bird," that hangs by a claw and calls all night: haqq! haqq! (Truth! Truth!).

m40:3 Such is an eastern myth. Poets call the planet Venus the "Harpist of the Spheres."

m41:1 In Qur’ān ii. 32, God commands the angels to fall down in adoration to Adam, when first created. Iblīs, Satan, alone refused, through pride and envy.

m41:2 In Qur’ān iv. 124, Abraham is called the Chosen Friend of God; and in xxi. 69, the story is mentioned of his being saved from the fire into which he was cast by Nimrod.

m43:1 The Fountain of Life, or Water of Life, is imagined to take its rise in a land of darkness beyond the limits of the inhabited earth.

m46:1 In the original I have not found it possible to feel sure where the break should be made from the remonstrance to the poet's reflections. Much of what precedes seems addressed to God; but Eastern hyperbole is wide.

m46:2 Qur’ān viii. 17. Muhammed cast sand at the foe in two battles, Badr and Hunayn.

m49:1 This account of the Vazīr's various forged books is an allusion to the various Gospels and Epistles, canonical and spurious, that sprang up in the early Christian Church.

m49:2 The Roman conquest of Greece, Asia Minor, and Syria completely effaced from the Eastern mind all recollection of previous actors on those scenes. Even "Alexander the Great" is to them "Alexander the Roman," like our Jelūlu-’d-Dīn, "Er-Rūmī."

m51:1 An allusion to the contests of the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, &c., &c.

m52:1 The mystics of Islam call God and the spirit the sense, of which material existences are the outward expression; as we say: "The letter and the spirit." The constant play of the original on these words is lost in the version.

m52:2 An allusion to Qur’ān xviii. 12; not a verbal quotation.

m53:1 A grammatical variant of Qur’ān xxi. 107. Muhammed is meant.

m53:2 An allusion to Qur’ān xlix. 3; not a quotation.

m54:1 In Qur’ān lxi. 6, is the assertion that Jesus, in the Gospel, foretold the advent of Muhammed by the name of Ahmed. This is generally explained as a translation of περικλιτός, misread for παράκλητος in John xiv. 26. The two words have very much the same meaning: much-praised, most laudable, laudatissimus. Muhammed is mentioned by many names, forty, fifty, sixty; some say a thousand.

m54:2 Muhammed gained the name of Trusty, El-Emīn (Al-Amīn), long before he declared himself commissioned to call his countrymen to acknowledge the unity of God, the resurrection, judgment, and future life.

Next: IV. Another Jewish King, Persecutor of Christians