THE FITZGERALD CENTENARY EDITION
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Salaman and Absal
RENDERED INTO ENGLISH VERSE BY EDWARD FITZGERALD
TOGETHER WITH A LIFE OF EDWARD FITZGERALD AND AN ESSAY ON PERSIAN POETRY BY RALPH WALDO EMERSON
PEACOCK, MANSFIELD & CO., LTD. PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
BOYLE, SON & WATCHURST,
Printers, &c. Warwick Square, London, E.C.
TO E. FITZGERALD iv
LIFE OF EDWARD FITZGERALD 1
PREFACE TO RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM 11
RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM 21
SALAMAN AND ABSAL 43
PERSIAN POETRY, AN ESSAY BY RALPH WALDO EMERSON 101
TO E. FITZGERALD.
Old Fitz, who from your suburb grange Where once I tarried for a while, Glance at the wheeling Orb of change And greet it with a kindly smile; Whom yet I see, as there you sit Beneath your sheltering garden tree, And watch your doves about you flit And plant on shoulder, hand and knee, Or on your head their rosy feet, As if they knew your diet spares Whatever moved in that full sheet Let down to Peter at his prayers;
* * * * *
But none can say That Lenten fare makes Lenten thought, Who reads your golden Eastern lay, Than which I know no version done In English more divinely well; A planet equal to the sun; Which cast it, that large infidel Your Omar: and your Omar drew Full-handed plaudits from our best In modern letters....
Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
LIFE OF EDWARD FITZGERALD.
Edward FitzGerald was born in the year 1809, at Bredfield House, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, being the third son of John Purcell, who, subsequently to his marriage with a Miss FitzGerald, assumed the name and arms proper to his wife's family.
St. Germain and Paris were in turn the home of his earlier years, but in 1821, he was sent to the Grammar School at Bury St. Edmunds. During his stay in that ancient foundation he was the fellow pupil of James Spedding and J. M. Kemble. From there he went in 1826 to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he made the acquaintance of W. M. Thackeray and others of only less note. His school and college friendships were destined to prove lasting, as were, also, all those he was yet to form.
One of FitzGerald's chief characteristics was what might almost be called a genius for friendship. He did not, indeed, wear his heart upon his sleeve, but ties once formed were never unloosed by any failure in charitable and tender affection on his part. Never, throughout a lengthy life, did irritability and erratic petulance (displayed 'tis true, at times by the translator of "that large infidel"), darken the eyes of those he honoured with his friendship to the simple and whole-hearted genuineness of the man.
From Oxford, FitzGerald retired to the 'suburb grange' at Woodbridge, referred to by Tennyson. Here, narrowing his bodily wants to within the limits of a Pythagorean fare, he led a life of a truly simple type surrounded by books and roses, and, as ever, by a few firm friends. Annual visits to London in the months of Spring kept alive the alliances of earlier days, and secured for him yet other intimates, notably the Tennyson brothers.
Amongst the languages, Spanish seems to have been his earlier love. His translation of Calderon, due to obedience to the guiding impulse of Professor Cowell, showed him to the world as a master of the rarest of arts, that of conveying to an English audience the lights and shades of a poem first fashioned in a foreign tongue.
At the bidding of the same mentor, he, later, turned his attention to Persian, the first fruits of his toil being an anonymous version, in Miltonic verse, of the 'Salaman and Absal' of Jami. Soon after, the treasure-house of the Bodleian library yielded up to him the pearl of his literary endeavour, the verses of "Omar Khayyam," a pearl whose dazzling charm previously had been revealed to but few, and that through the medium of a version published in Paris by Monsieur Nicolas.
FitzGerald's hasty and ill-advised union with Lucy, daughter of Bernard Barton, the Quaker poet and friend of Lamb, was but short-lived, and demands no comment. They agreed to part.
In later life, most summers found the poet on board his yacht "The Scandal" (so-called as being the staple product of the neighbourhood) in company with 'Posh' as he dubbed Fletcher, the fisherman of Aldeburgh, whose correspondence with FitzGerald has lately been given to the world.
To the end he loved the sea, his books, his roses and his friends, and that end came to him, when on a visit with his friend Crabbe, with all the kindliness of sudden death, on the 14th June, 1883.
Besides the works already mentioned, FitzGerald was the author of "Euphranor" , a Platonic Dialogue on Youth; "Polonius": a Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances ; and translations of the "Agamemnon" of AEschylus ; and the "Oedipus Tyrannus" and "Oedipus Coloneus" of Sophocles. Of these translations the "Agamemnon" probably ranks next to the Rubaiyat in merit. To the six dramas of Calderon, issued in 1853, there were added two more in 1865. Of these plays, "Vida es Sueno" and "El Magico Prodigioso" possess especial merit.
His "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" was first issued anonymously on January 15th, 1859, but it caused no great stir, and, half-forgotten, was reintroduced to the notice of the literary world in the following year by Rossetti, and, in this connection, it is curious to note to what a large extent Rossetti played the part of a literary Lucina. FitzGerald, Blake and Wells are all indebted to him for timely aid in the reanimation of offspring, that seemed doomed to survive but for a short time the pangs that gave them birth. Mr. Swinburne and Lord Houghton were also impressed by its merits, and its fame slowly spread. Eight years elapsed, however, before the publication of the second edition.
After the passage of a quarter-of-a-century a considerable stimulus was given to the popularity of the "Rubaiyat" by the fact that Tennyson—appropriately enough in view of FitzGerald's translation of Sophocles' "Oedipus"—prefaced his "Tiresias, and other Poems," with some charmingly reminiscent lines written to "Old Fitz" on his last birthday. "This," says Mr. Edmund Gosse, "was but the signal for that universal appreciation of 'Omar Khayyam' in his English dress, which has been one of the curious literary phenomena of recent years. The melody of FitzGerald's verse is so exquisite, the thoughts he rearranges and strings together are so profound, and the general atmosphere of poetry in which he steeps his version is so pure, that no surprise need be expressed at the universal favour which the poem has met with among critical readers."
Neither the "Rubaiyat" nor his other works are mere translations. They are better, perhaps, described as consisting of "largely new work based on the nominal originals." In the "Omar," admittedly the highest in quality of his works, he undoubtedly took considerable liberties with his author, and introduced lines, or even entire quatrains, which, however they may breathe the spirit of the original, have no material counterpart therein.
In illustration of FitzGerald's capacity for conveying the spirit rather than the very words of the original, comparison of the Ousely MS. of 1460 A.D., in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, with the "Rubaiyat" as we know it, is of great interest.
The MS. runs thus:—
For a while, when young, we frequented a teacher; For a while we were contented with our proficiency; Behold the foundation of the discourse!—what happened to us? We came in like Water, and we depart like Wind.
In FitzGerald's version the verses appear thus:—
Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint and heard great Argument About it and about: but evermore Came out by the same Door as in I went.
With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow And with my own hand labour'd it to grow: And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd— "I came like Water, and like Wind I go."
Similar examples may be found elsewhere, thus:—
From the Beginning was written what shall be Unhaltingly the Pen writes, and is heedless of good and bad; On the First Day He appointed everything that must be, Our grief and our efforts are vain,
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
The general tendency to amplification is shown again in the translation of the two lines:—
Forsake not the book, the lover's lips and the green bank of the field, Ere that the earth enfold thee in its bosom.
into the oft-quoted verses:—
With me along some Strip of Herbage strown That just divides the desert from the sown, Where the name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known, And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness— And Wilderness is Paradise enow!
And in the lines of Omar:—
In a thousand places on the road I walk, thou placest snares. Thou sayest: "I will catch thee if thou steppeth into them," In no smallest thing is the world independent of thee, Thou orderest all things—and callest me rebellious!
majestically shaping into FitzGerald's rendering:—
Oh, Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin Beset the Road I was to wander in, Thou wilt not with Predestination round Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?
Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make And who with Eden didst devise the Snake; For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give—and take!
To what school did FitzGerald belong? Who were his literary progenitors? Lucretius, Horace and Donne, at any rate, had a considerable share in moulding his thought and fashioning the form of his verse. The unrhymed line, so often but by no means uniformly resounding with a suspended clangour that is not caught up by the following stanza is distinctly reminiscent of the Alcaics of Horace.
Epicurean, in the ordinary sense of the term, he certainly is, but it is of the earlier type. Cyrenaic would be a juster epithet, the "carpe diem" doctrine of the poem is too gross and sensual to have commended itself to the real Epicurus. Intense fatalism, side by side with complete agnosticism, this is the keynote of the poem. Theoretically incompatible, these two "isms" are in practice inevitable companions.
The theory of reincarnation and that alone, can furnish a full explanation of FitzGerald's splendid success as a translator.
Omar was FitzGerald and FitzGerald was Omar. Both threw away their shields and retired to their tent, not indeed to sulk, but to seek in meditative aloofness, the calm and content that is the proper reward of those alone who persevere to the end. Retirement brought them all it could bring, a yet deeper sense of the vanity of things and their unknowableness. Herein for the mass of mankind lies the charm of the Rubaiyat, in clear, tuneful numbers it chants the half-beliefs and disbeliefs of those who are neither demons nor saints, neither theological dogmatists nor devil-worshippers, but men.
Those seeking further information as to the life and place in literature of Edward FitzGerald are referred to Jackson's "FitzGerald and Omar Khayyam" ; Clyde's "Life of FitzGerald" ; Tutin's "Concordance to FitzGerald's Omar Khayyam" ; and Prideaux's "Notes for a Bibliography of FitzGerald" , and his "Life" .
For an interesting discussion as to the real nature of Omar, see the Introduction to "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" in the "Golden Treasury" Series.
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Omar Khayyam, or Chiam, was born about the middle of the 11th Century, at Naishapur, Khorassan, and he died in that town about the year 1123.
Little is known as to the details of his life, and such facts as are available have been drawn principally from the Wasiyat or Testament of Mizam al Mulk (Regulation of the Realm), who was a fellow-pupil of Omar at the school of the celebrated Imam Mowafek or Mowaffak. Reference to this is made in Mirkhond's History of the Assassins, from which the following extract[A] is taken.
"'One of the greatest of the wise men of Khorassan was the Iman Mowaffak of Naishapur, a man highly honoured and reverenced,—may God rejoice his soul; his illustrious years exceeded eighty-five, and it was the universal belief that every boy who read the Koran, or studied the traditions in his presence, would assuredly attain to honour and happiness. For this cause did my father send me from Tus to Naishapur with Abd-u-samad, the doctor of law, that I might employ myself in study and learning under the guidance of that illustrious teacher. Towards me he ever turned an eye of favour and kindness, and as his pupil I felt for him extreme affection and devotion, so that I passed four years in his service. When I first came there, I found two other pupils of mine own age newly arrived, Hakim Omar Khayyam and the ill-fated Ben Sabbah. Both were endowed with sharpness of wit and the highest natural powers; and we three formed a close friendship together. When the Imam rose from his lectures, they used to join me, and we repeated to each other the lessons we had heard. Now Omar was a native of Naishapur, while Hasan Ben Sabbah's father was one Ali, a man of austere life and practice, but heretical in his creed and doctrine. One day Hasan said to me and to Khayyam, "It is a universal belief that the pupils of the Imam Mowaffak will attain to fortune. Now, if we all do not attain thereto, without doubt one of us will; what then shall be our mutual pledge and bond?" We answered, "Be it what you please." "Well," he said, "let us make a vow, that to whomsoever this fortune falls, he shall share it equally with the rest, and reserve no pre-eminence for himself." "Be it so," we both replied; and on those terms we mutually pledged our words. Years rolled on, and I went from Khorassan to Transoxiana, and wandered to Ghazni and Cabul; and when I returned, I was invested with office, and rose to be administrator of affairs during the Sultanate of Sultan Alp Arslan.'
"He goes on to state, that years passed by, and both his old school-friends found him out, and came and claimed a share in his good fortune according to the school-day vow. The Vizier was generous and kept his word. Hasan demanded a place in the government, which the Sultan granted at the Vizier's request; but, discontented with a gradual rise, he plunged into the maze of intrigue of an Oriental Court, and, failing in a base attempt to supplant his benefactor, he was disgraced and fell. After many mishaps and wanderings, Hasan became the head of the Persian sect of the Ismailians,—a party of fanatics who had long murmured in obscurity, but rose to an evil eminence under the guidance of his strong and evil will. In A.D. 1090 he seized the castle of Alamut, in the province of Rudbar, which lies in the mountainous tract, south of the Caspian sea; and it was from this mountain home he obtained that evil celebrity among the Crusaders, as the OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAINS, and spread terror through the Mohammedan world; and it is yet disputed whether the word Assassin, which they have left in the language of modern Europe as their dark memorial, is derived from the hashish, or opiate of hemp-leaves (the Indian bhang), with which they maddened themselves to the sullen pitch of oriental desperation, or from the name of the founder of the dynasty, whom we have seen in his quiet collegiate days, at Naishapur. One of the countless victims of the Assassin's dagger was Nizam al Mulk himself, the old school-boy friend.
"Omar Khayyam also came to the Vizier to claim his share; but not to ask for title or office. 'The greatest boon you can confer on me,' he said, 'is to let me live in a corner under the shadow of your fortune, to spread wide the advantages of Science, and pray for your long life and prosperity.' The Vizier tells us, that when he found Omar was really sincere in his refusal, he pressed him no further, but granted him a yearly pension of 1,200 mithkals of gold from the treasury of Naishapur.
"At Naishapur thus lived and died Omar Khayyam, 'busied,' adds the Vizier, 'in winning knowledge of every kind, and especially in Astronomy, wherein he attained to a very high pre-eminence. Under the Sultanate of Malik Shah, he came to Merv, and obtained great praise for his proficiency in science, and the Sultan showered favours upon him.'
"When Malik Shah determined to reform the calendar, Omar was one of the eight learned men employed to do it; the result was the Jalali era (so-called from Jalal-ul-Din, one of the king's names)—'a computation of time,' says Gibbon, 'which surpasses the Julian, and approaches the accuracy of the Gregorian style.' He is also the author of some astronomical tables, entitled 'Ziji-Malikshahi,' and the French have lately republished and translated an Arabic treatise of his on Algebra.
"These severe Studies, and his verses, which, though happily fewer than any Persian Poet's, and, though perhaps fugitively composed, the Result of no fugitive Emotion or Thought, are probably the Work and Event of his Life, leaving little else to record. Perhaps he liked a little Farming too, so often as he speaks of the 'Edge of the Tilth' on which he loved to rest with his Diwan of Verse, his Loaf—and his Wine.
"His Takhallus or poetical name (Khayyam) signifies a Tent-maker, and he is said to have at one time exercised that trade, perhaps before Nizam al Mulk's generosity raised him to independence. Many Persian poets similarly derive their names from their occupations: thus we have Attar 'a druggist,' Assar 'an oil presser,' etc. Omar himself alludes to his name in the following whimsical lines:—
"'Khayyam, who stitched the tents of science, Has fallen in grief's furnace and been suddenly burned; The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life, And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing!'
"We have only one more anecdote to give of his Life, and that relates to the close; related in the anonymous preface which is sometimes prefixed to his poems; it has been printed in the Persian in the appendix to Hyde's Veterum Persarum Religio, p. 449; and D'Herbelot alludes to it in his Bibliotheque, under Khiam[B]:—
"'It is written in the chronicles of the ancients that this King of the Wise, Omar Khayyam, died at Naishapur in the year of the Hegira, 517 (A.D. 1123); in science he was unrivalled,—the very paragon of his age. Khwajah Nizami of Samarcand, who was one of his pupils, relates the following story: "I often used to hold conversation with my teacher, Omar Khayyam, in a garden; and one day he said to me, 'My tomb shall be in a spot where the north wind may scatter roses over it.' I wondered at the words he spake, but I knew that his were no idle words. Years after, when I chanced to revisit Naishapur I went to his final resting place, and lo! it was just outside a garden, and trees laden with fruit stretched their boughs over the garden wall, and dropped their flowers upon his tomb, so as the stone was hidden under them."'"
Much discussion has arisen in regard to the meaning of Omar's poetry. Some writers have insisted on a mystical interpretation and M. Nicholas goes so far as to state his opinion that Omar devoted himself "avec passion a l'etude de la philosphie des Soufis." On the other hand Von Hammer, the author of a History of the Assassins, refers to Omar as a Freethinker and a great opponent of Sufism.
Probably, in the absence of agreement amongst authorities, the soundest view is that expressed by FitzGerald's editor,[C] that the real Omar Khayyam was a Philosopher, of scientific insight and ability far beyond that of the Age and Country he lived in; of such moderate and worldly Ambition as becomes a Philosopher, and such moderate wants as rarely satisfy a Debauchee; that while the Wine Omar celebrates is simply the Juice of the Grape, he bragged more than he drank of it, in very defiance perhaps of that Spiritual Wine which left its Votaries sunk in Hypocrisy or Disgust.
[Footnote A: Quoted in the Calcutta Review, No. LIX.]
[Footnote B: "Philosophe Musulman qui a vecu en Odeur de Saintete, dans la religion vers la Fin du premier et la Commencement du second Siecle," no part of which, except the "Philosophe," can apply to our Khayyam, who, however, may claim the Story as his, on the Score of Rubaiyat, 77 and 78 of the present Version. The Rashness of the Words, according to D'Herbelot, consisted in being so opposed to those in the Koran: "No Man knows where he shall die."]
[Footnote C: Mr. W. Aldis Wright, M.A.]
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight: And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.
Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky, I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry, "Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."
And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before The Tavern shouted—"Open then the Door! You know how little while we have to stay, And, once departed, may return no more."
Now the New Year reviving old Desires, The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires, Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.
Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose, And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one knows: But still the Vine her ancient Ruby yields, And still a Garden by the Water blows.
And David's Lips are lockt; but in divine High-piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine! Red Wine!"—the Nightingale cries to the Rose That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.
Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring The Winter Garment of Repentance fling: The Bird of Time has but a little way To fly—and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.
And look—a thousand blossoms with the Day Woke—and a thousand scatter'd into Clay: And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.
But come with old Khayyam and leave the Lot Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot: Let Rustum lay about him as he will, Or Hatim Tai cry Supper—heed them not.
With me along some Strip of Herbage strown That just divides the desert from the sown, Where name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known, And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness— And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
"How sweet is mortal Sovranty"—think some: Others—"How blest the Paradise to come!" Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest; Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum!
Look to the Rose that blows about us—"Lo, Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow: At once the silken Tassel of my Purse Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon, Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.
And those who husbanded the Golden Grain, And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain, Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd As, buried once, Men want dug up again.
Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day, How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp Abode his Hour or two and went his way.
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep: And Bahram, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass Stamps o'er his Head, and he lies fast asleep.
I sometimes think that never blows so red The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled; That every Hyacinth the Garden wears Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.
And this delightful Herb whose tender Green Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean— Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!
Ah, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears To-day of past Regrets and future Fears— To-morrow?—Why, To-morrow I may be Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.
Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and the best That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest, Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before, And one by one crept silently to Rest.
And we, that now make merry in the Room They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom, Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth Descend, ourselves to make a Couch—for whom?
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, Before we too into the Dust descend; Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie, Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and—sans End!
Alike for those who for To-day prepare, And those that after a To-morrow stare, A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries, "Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!"
Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.
Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies; One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies; The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument About it and about: but evermore Came out by the same Door as in I went.
With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow, And with my own hand labour'd it to grow: And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd— "I came like Water, and like Wind I go."
Into this Universe, and why not knowing, Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing: And out of it, as Wind along the Waste, I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.
What, without asking, hither hurried whence? And, without asking, whither hurried hence! Another and another Cup to drown The Memory of this Impertinence!
Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate, And many Knots unravel'd by the Road; But not the Knot of Human Death and Fate.
There was a Door to which I found no Key: There was a Veil past which I could not see: Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee There seemed—and then no more of Thee and Me.
Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried, Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?" And—"A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.
Then to the earthen Bowl did I adjourn My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn: And Lip to Lip it murmur'd—"While you live Drink!—for once dead you never shall return."
I think the Vessel, that with fugitive Articulation answer'd, once did live, And merry-make; and the cold Lip I kiss'd How many kisses might it take—and give!
For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day, I watch'd the Potter thumping his wet Clay: And with its all obliterated Tongue It murmur'd—"Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"
Ah, fill the Cup:—what boots it to repeat How Time is slipping underneath our Feet: Unborn To-morrow and dead Yesterday, Why fret about them if To-day be sweet!
One Moment in Annihilation's Waste, One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste— The Stars are setting and the Caravan Starts for the Dawn of Nothing—Oh, make haste!
How long, how long, in definite Pursuit Of This and That endeavour and dispute? Better be merry with the fruitful Grape Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.
You know, my Friends, how long since in my House For a new Marriage I did make Carouse: Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed, And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.
For "Is" and "Is-not" though with Rule and Line, And "Up-and-down" without, I could define, I yet in all I only cared to know, Was never deep in anything but—Wine.
And lately by the Tavern Door agape, Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and He bid me taste of it; and 'twas—the Grape!
The Grape that can with Logic absolute The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute: The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute.
The mighty Mahmud, the victorious Lord That all the misbelieving and black Horde Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul Scatters and slays with his enchanted Sword.
But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me The Quarrel of the Universe let be: And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht, Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.
For in and out, above, about, below, 'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show, Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun, Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press, End in the Nothing all Things end in—Yes— Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what Thou shalt be—Nothing—Thou shalt not be less.
While the Rose blows along the River Brink, With old Khayyam the Ruby Vintage drink; And when the Angel with his darker Draught Draws up to Thee—take that, and do not shrink.
'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days, Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays: Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays, And one by one back in the Closet lays.
The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes, But Right or Left as strikes the Player goes; And He that toss'd Thee down into the Field, He knows about it all—He knows—HE knows!
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky, Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die, Lift not thy hands to It for help—for It Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.
With Earth's first Clay They did the last Man's knead, And then of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed: Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.
I tell Thee this—When, starting from the Goal, Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal Of Heav'n Parwin and Mushtara they flung, In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.
The Vine had struck a Fibre; which about It clings my Being—let the Sufi flout; Of my Base Metal may be filed a Key, That shall unlock the Door he howls without.
And this I know: whether the one True Light Kindle to Love, or Wrath consume me quite, One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught Better than in the Temple lost outright.
Oh, Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin Beset the Road I was to wander in, Thou wilt not with Predestination round Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?
Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make And who with Eden didst devise the Snake: For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give—and take!
* * * * *
Listen again. One Evening at the Close Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose, In that old Potter's Shop I stood alone With the clay Population round in Rows.
And, strange to tell, among that Earthern Lot Some could articulate, while others not: And suddenly one more impatient cried— "Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"
Then said another—"Surely not in vain My substance from the common Earth was ta'en, That He who subtly wrought me into Shape Should stamp me back to common Earth again."
Another said—"Why ne'er a peevish Boy, Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy; Shall He that made the Vessel in pure Love And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy!"
None answer'd this; but after Silence spake A Vessel of a more ungainly Make: "They sneer at me for leaning all awry; What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"
Said one—"Folks of a surly Tapster tell, And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell; They talk of some strict Testing of us—Pish! He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."
Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh, "My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry: But, fill me with the old familiar Juice, Methinks I might recover by and bye."
So while the Vessels one by one were speaking, One spied the little Crescent all were seeking: And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother! Hark to the Porter's Shoulder-knot a-creaking!"
* * * * *
Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in a Winding-sheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.
That ev'n my buried Ashes such a Snare Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air, As not a True Believer passing by But shall be overtaken unaware.
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong! Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup, And sold my Reputation for a Song.
Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before I swore—but was I sober when I swore? And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.
And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel, And robb'd me of my Robe of Honour—well, I often wonder what the Vintners buy One half so precious as the Goods they sell.
Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose! That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close! The Nightingale that in the Branches sang, Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!
Ah, Love! could you and I with Fate conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits—and then Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!
Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane, The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again: How oft hereafter rising shall she look Through this same Garden after me—in vain!
And when Thyself with shining Foot shalt pass Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass, And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot Where I made one—turn down an empty Glass!
JAMI NOUREDDIN ABDURRAHMAN, Persian Poet, was born at Jam, in Khorassan, in 1414. His best known poems are "Yusuf and Salikha," "Majnun and Laili," and "Salaman and Absal." In addition to his poetry, he wrote a History of the Sufi, and other prose works. He died in the year 1492. FitzGerald's translation of "Salaman and Absal" in Miltonic Verse was published anonymously in 1856.
SALAMAN AND ABSAL
Oh Thou whose Memory quickens Lovers' Souls, Whose Fount of Joy renews the Lover's Tongue, Thy Shadow falls across the World, and They Bow down to it; and of the Rich in Beauty Thou art the Riches that make Lovers mad. Not till thy Secret Beauty through the Cheek Of Laila smite does she inflame Majnun, And not till Thou have sugar'd Shirin's Lip The Hearts of those Two Lovers fill with Blood. For Lov'd and Lover are not but by Thee, Nor Beauty;—Mortal Beauty but the Veil Thy Heavenly hides behind, and from itself Feeds, and our Hearts yearn after as a Bride That glances past us Veil'd—but ever so As none the Beauty from the Veil may know. How long wilt thou continue thus the World To cozen with the Fantom of a Veil From which Thou only peepest?—Time it is To unfold thy perfect Beauty. I would be Thy Lover, and Thine only—I, mine Eyes Seal'd in the Light of Thee to all but Thee, Yea, in the Revelation of Thyself Self-Lost, and Conscience-quit of Good and Evil. Thou movest under all the Forms of Truth, Under the Forms of all Created Things; Look whence I will, still nothing I discern But Thee in all the Universe, in which Thyself Thou dost invest, and through the Eyes Of Man, the subtle Censor scrutinize. To thy Harim Dividuality No Entrance finds—no Word of This and That; Do Thou my separate and Derived Self Make one with Thy Essential! Leave me room On that Divan which leaves no Room for Two; Lest, like the Simple Kurd of whom they tell, I grow perplext, Oh God! 'twixt "I" and "Thou;" If I—this Dignity and Wisdom whence? If Thou—then what this abject Impotence?
A Kurd perplext by Fortune's Frolics Left his Desert for the City. Sees a City full of Noise and Clamour, agitated People, Hither, Thither, Back and Forward Running, some intent on Travel, Others home again returning, Right to Left, and Left to Right, Life-disquiet everywhere! Kurd, when he beholds the Turmoil, Creeps aside, and, Travel-weary, Fain would go to Sleep; "But," saith he, "How shall I in all this Hubbub Know myself again on waking?" So by way of Recognition Ties a Pumpkin round his Foot, And turns to Sleep. A Knave that heard him Crept behind, and slily watching Slips the Pumpkin off the Sleeper's Ancle, ties it round his own, And so down to sleep beside him. By and by the Kurd awaking Looks directly for his Signal— Sees it on another's Ancle— Cries aloud, "Oh Good-for-Nothing Rascal to perplex me so! That by you I am bewilder'd, Whether I be I or no! If I—the Pumpkin why on You? If You—then Where am I, and Who?"
Oh God! this poor bewilder'd Kurd am I, Than any Kurd more helpless!—Oh, do thou Strike down a Ray of Light into my Darkness! Turn by thy Grace these Dregs into pure Wine, To recreate the Spirits of the Good! Or if not that, yet, as the little Cup Whose Name I go by, not unworthy found To pass thy salutary Vintage round!
And yet how long, Jami, in this Old House Stringing thy Pearls upon a Harp of Song? Year after Year striking up some new Song, The Breath of some Old Story? Life is gone, And yet the Song is not the Last; my Soul Is spent—and still a Story to be told! And I, whose Back is crooked as the Harp I still keep tuning through the Night till Day! That Harp untun'd by Time—the Harper's hand Shaking with Age—how shall the Harper's hand Repair its cunning, and the sweet old Harp Be modulated as of old? Methinks 'Tis time to break and cast it in the Fire; Yea, sweet the Harp that can be sweet no more, To cast it in the Fire—the vain old Harp That can no more sound Sweetness to the Ear, But burn'd may breathe sweet Attar to the Soul, And comfort so the Faith and Intellect, Now that the Body looks to Dissolution. My Teeth fall out—my two Eyes see no more Till by Feringhi Glasses turn'd to Four; Pain sits with me sitting behind my knees, From which I hardly rise unhelpt of hand; I bow down to my Root, and like a Child Yearn, as is likely, to my Mother Earth, With whom I soon shall cease to moan and weep, And on my Mother's Bosom fall asleep.
The House in Ruin, and its Music heard No more within, nor at the Door of Speech, Better in Silence and Oblivion To fold me Head and Foot, remembering What that Beloved to the Master whisper'd:— "No longer think of Rhyme, but think of Me!"— Of Whom?—of Him whose Palace The Soul is, And Treasure-House—who notices and knows Its Incomes and Out-going, and then comes To fill it when the Stranger is departed. Whose Shadow—being Kings—whose Attributes The Type of Theirs—their Wrath and Favour His— Lo! in the Celebration of His Glory The King Himself come on me unaware, And suddenly arrests me for his own. Wherefore once more I take—best quitted else— The Field of Verse, to chaunt that double Praise, And in that Memory refresh my Soul Until I grasp the Skirt of Living Presence.
One who travel'd in the Desert Saw Majnun where he was sitting All alone like a Magician Tracing Letters in the Sand. "Oh distracted Lover! writing What the Sword-wind of the Desert Undecyphers soon as written, So that none who travels after Shall be able to interpret!"— Majnun answer'd, "I am writing 'Laili'—were it only 'Laili,' Yet a Book of Love and Passion; And with but her Name to dote on, Amorously I caress it As it were Herself and sip Her presence till I drink her Lip."
When Night had thus far brought me with my Book, In middle Thought Sleep robb'd me of myself; And in a Dream Myself I seemed to see, Walking along a straight and even Road, And clean as is the Soul of the Sufi; A Road whose spotless Surface neither Breeze Lifted in Dust, nor mix'd the Rain to Mire. There I, methought, was pacing tranquilly, When, on a sudden, the tumultuous Shout Of Soldiery behind broke on mine Ear, And took away my Wit and Strength for Fear. I look'd about for Refuge, and Behold! A Palace was before me; whither running For Refuge from the coming Soldiery, Suddenly from the Troop a Shahzeman, By Name and Nature Hasan—on the Horse Of Honour mounted—robed in Royal Robes, And wearing a White Turban on his Head, Turn'd his Rein tow'rd me, and with smiling Lips Open'd before my Eyes the Door of Peace. Then, riding up to me, dismounted; kiss'd My Hand, and did me Courtesy; and I, How glad of his Protection, and the Grace He gave it with!—Who then of gracious Speech Many a Jewel utter'd; but of these Not one that in my Ear till Morning hung. When, waking on my Bed, my waking Wit I question'd what the Vision meant, it answered; "This Courtesy and Favour of the Shah Foreshadows the fair Acceptance of thy Verse, Which lose no moment pushing to Conclusion." This hearing, I address'd me like a Pen To steady Writing; for perchance, I thought, From the same Fountain whence the Vision grew The Interpretation also may come True.
Breathless ran a simple Rustic To a Cunning Man of Dreams; "Lo, this Morning I was dreaming— And methought, in yon deserted Village wander'd—all about me Shatter'd Houses—and, Behold! Into one, methought, I went—and Search'd—and found a Hoard of Gold!" Quoth the Prophet in Derision, "Oh Thou Jewel of Creation Go and sole your Feet like Horse's, And returning to your Village Stamp and scratch with Hoof and Nail, And give Earth so sound a Shaking, She must hand you something up." Went at once the unsuspecting Countryman; with hearty Purpose Set to work as he was told; And, the very first Encounter, Struck upon his Hoard of Gold!
Until Thou hast thy Purpose by the Hilt, Catch at it boldly—or Thou never wilt.
A Shah there was who ruled the Realm of Yun, And wore the Ring of Empire of Sikander; And in his Reign A Sage, who had the Tower Of Wisdom of so strong Foundation built That Wise Men from all Quarters of the World To catch the Word of Wisdom from his Lip Went in a Girdle round him—Which The Shah Observing, took him to his Secresy; Stirr'd not a Step nor set Design a-foot Without that Sage's sanction; till so counsel'd, From Kaf to Kaf reach'd his Dominion: No Nation of the World or Nation's Chief Who wore the Ring but under span of his Bow'd down the Neck; then rising up in Peace Under his Justice grew, and knew no Wrong, And in their Strength was his Dominion Strong.
The Shah that has not Wisdom in Himself, Nor has a Wise Man for his Counsellor, The Wand of his Authority falls short, And his Dominion crumbles at the Base. For he, discerning not the Characters Of Tyranny and Justice, confounds both, Making the World a Desert, and the Fount Of Justice a Serab. Well was it said, "Better just Kafir than Believing Tyrant."
God said to the Prophet David,— "David, speak, and to the Challenge Answer of the Faith within Thee. Even Unbelieving Princes, Ill-reported if Unworthy, Yet, if They be Just and Righteous, Were their Worship of The Fire— Even These unto Themselves Reap glory and redress the World."
One Night The Shah of Yunan, as his wont, Consider'd of his Power, and told his State, How great it was, and how about him sat The Robe of Honour of Prosperity; Then found he nothing wanted to his Heart, Unless a Son, who his Dominion And Glory might inherit after him, And then he turn'd him to The Shah and said; "Oh Thou, whose Wisdom is the Rule of Kings— (Glory to God who gave it!)—answer me; Is any Blessing better than a Son? Man's prime Desire; by which his Name and He Shall live beyond Himself; by whom his Eyes Shine living, and his Dust with Roses blows; A Foot for Thee to stand on, he shall be A Hand to stop thy Falling; in his Youth Thou shall be Young, and in his Strength be Strong; Sharp shall he be in Battle as a Sword, A Cloud of Arrows on the Enemy's Head; His Voice shall cheer his Friends to Plight, And turn the Foeman's Glory into Flight." Thus much of a Good Son, whose wholesome Growth Approves the Root he grew from; but for one Kneaded of Evil—Well, could one undo His Generation, and as early pull Him and his Vices from the String of Time. Like Noah's, puff'd with Ignorance and Pride, Who felt the Stab of "He is none of Thine!" And perish'd in the Deluge. And because All are not Good, be slow to pray for One Whom having you may have to pray to lose.
Crazy for the Curse of Children, Ran before the Sheikh a Fellow Crying out, "Oh hear and help me! Pray to Allah from my Clay To raise me up a fresh young Cypress, Who my Childless Eyes may lighten With the Beauty of his Presence." Said the Sheikh, "Be wise, and leave it Wholly in the Hand of Allah, Who, whatever we are after, Understands our Business best." But the Man persisted, saying, "Sheikh, I languish in my Longing; Help, and set my Prayer a-going!" Then the Sheikh held up his Hand— Pray'd—his Arrow flew to Heaven— From the Hunting-ground of Darkness Down a musky Fawn of China Brought—a Boy—Who, when the Tender Shoot of Passion in him planted Found sufficient Soil and Sap, Took to Drinking with his Fellows; From a Corner of the House-top Ill affronts a Neighbour's Wife, Draws his Dagger on the Husband, Who complains before the Justice, And the Father has to pay. Day and Night the Youngster's Doings Such—the Talk of all the City; Nor Entreaty, Threat, or Counsel Held him; till the Desperate Father Once more to the Sheikh a-running, Catches at his Garment, crying— "Sheikh, my only Hope and Helper! One more Prayer! that God who laid Will take that Trouble from my Head!" But the Sheikh replied: "Remember How that very Day I warn'd you Better not importune Allah; Unto whom remains no other Prayer, unless to pray for Pardon. When from this World we are summon'd On to bind the pack of Travel Son or Daughter ill shall help us; Slaves we are and unencumber'd Best may do the Master's mind; And, whatever he may order, Do it with a Will Resign'd."
When the Sharp-witted Sage Had heard these sayings of The Shah, he said, "Oh Shah, who would not be the Slave of Lust Must still endure the Sorrow of no Son. —Lust that makes blind the Reason; Lust that makes A Devil's self seem Angel to our Eyes; A Cataract that, carrying havoc with it, Confounds the prosperous House; a Road of Mire Where whoso falls he rises not again; A Wine of which whoever tastes shall see Redemption's face no more—one little Sip Of that delicious and unlawful Drink Making crave much, and hanging round the Palate Till it become a Ring to lead thee by (Putting the rope in a Vain Woman's hand), Till thou thyself go down the Way of Nothing. For what is Woman? A Foolish, Faithless Thing— To whom The Wise Self-subjected, himself Deep sinks beneath the Folly he sets up. A very Kafir in Rapacity; Clothe her a hundred Years in Gold and Jewel, Her Garment with Brocade of Susa braided, Her very Night-gear wrought in Cloth of Gold, Dangle her Ears with Ruby and with Pearl, Her House with Golden Vessels all a-blaze, Her Tables loaded with the Fruit of Kings, Ispahan Apples, Pomegranates of Yazd; And, be she thirsty, from a Jewell'd Cup Drinking the Water of the Well of Life— One little twist of Temper,—all you've done Goes all for Nothing. 'Torment of my Life!' She cries, 'What have you ever done for me!'— Her Brow's white Tablet—Yes—'tis uninscrib'd With any Letter of Fidelity; Who ever read it there? Lo, in your Bosom She lies for Years—you turn away a moment, And she forgets you—worse, if as you turn Her Eye should light on any Younger Lover."
Once upon the Throne of Judgment, Telling one another Secrets, Sat Sulayman and Balkis; The Hearts of Both were turn'd to Truth, Unsullied by Deception. First the King of Faith Sulayman Spoke—"Though mine the Ring of Empire, Never any Day that passes Darkens any one my Door-way But into his Hand I look— And He who comes not empty-handed Grows to Honour in mine Eyes." After this Balkis a Secret From her hidden Bosom utter'd, Saying—"Never Night or Morning Comely Youth before me passes Whom I look not longing after; Saying to myself, 'Oh were he Comforting of my Sick Soul!—'"
"If this, as wise Ferdusi says, the Curse Of Better Women, what should be the Worse?"
The Sage his Satire ended; and The Shah With Magic-mighty Wisdom his pure Will Leaguing, its Self-fulfilment wrought from Heaven. And Lo! from Darkness came to Light A Child Of Carnal Composition Unattaint,— A Rosebud blowing on the Royal Stem,— A Perfume from the Realm of Wisdom wafted; The Crowning Jewel of the Crown; a Star Under whose Augury triumph'd the Throne. For whose Auspicious Name they clove the Words "Salamat"—Incolumity from Evil— And "Auseman"—the Heav'n from which he came— And hail'd him by the title of Salaman. And whereas from no Mother Milk he drew, They chose for him a Nurse—her Name Absal— Her Years not Twenty—from the Silver Line Dividing the Musk-Harvest of her Hair Down to her Foot that trampled Crowns of Kings, A Moon of Beauty Full; who thus elect Salaman of Auspicious Augury Should carry in the Garment of her Bounty, Should feed him with the Flowing of her Breast. As soon as she had opened Eyes on him She closed those Eyes to all the World beside, And her Soul crazed, a-doting on her Jewel,— Her Jewel in a Golden Cradle set; Opening and shutting which her Day's Delight, To gaze upon his Heart-inflaming Cheek,— Upon the Darling whom, could she, she would Have cradled as the Baby of her Eye. In Rose and Musk she wash'd him—to his Lips Press'd the pure Sugar from the Honeycomb; And when, Day over, she withdrew her Milk, She made, and having laid him in, his Bed, Burn'd all Night like a Taper o'er his Head.
Then still as Morning came, and as he grew, She dress'd him like a Little Idol up; On with his Robe—with fresh Collyrium Dew Touch'd his Narcissus Eyes—the Musky Locks Divided from his Forehead—and embraced With Gold and Ruby Girdle his fine Waist.— So rear'd she him till full Fourteen his Years, Fourteen-day full the Beauty of his Face, That rode high in a Hundred Thousand Hearts; Yea, when Salaman was but Half-lance high, Lance-like he struck a wound in every One, And burn'd and shook down Splendour like a Sun.
Soon as the Lord of Heav'n had sprung his Horse Over the Horizon into the Blue Field, Salaman rose drunk with the Wine of Sleep, And set himself a-stirrup for the Field; He and a Troop of Princes—Kings in Blood, Kings too in the Kingdom-troubling Tribe of Beauty, All Young in Years and Courage, Bat in hand Gallop'd a-field, toss'd down the Golden Ball And chased, so many Crescent Moons a Full; And, all alike Intent upon the Game, Salaman still would carry from them all The Prize, and shouting "Hal!" drive Home the Ball. This done, Salaman bent him as a Bow To Shooting—from the Marksmen of the World Call'd for an unstrung Bow—himself the Cord Fitted unhelpt, and nimbly with his hand Twanging made cry, and drew it to his Ear: Then, fixing the Three-feather'd Fowl, discharged. No point in Heaven's Azure but his Arrow Hit; nay, but Heaven were made of Adamant, Would overtake the Horizon as it roll'd; And, whether aiming at the Fawn a-foot, Or Bird on the wing, his Arrow went away Straight—like the Soul that cannot go astray.
When Night came, that releases man from Toil, He play'd the Chess of Social Intercourse; Prepared his Banquet Hall like Paradise, Summon'd his Houri-faced Musicians, And, when his Brain grew warm with Wine, the Veil Flung off him of Reserve. Now Lip to Lip Concerting with the Singer he would breathe Like a Messias Life into the Dead; Now made of the Melodious-moving Pipe A Sugar-cane between his Lips that ran Men's Ears with Sweetness: Taking up a Harp, Between its dry String and his Finger fresh Struck Fire; or lifting in his arms a Lute As if a little Child for Chastisement, Pinching its Ear such Cries of Sorrow wrung As drew Blood to the Eyes of Older Men. Now sang He like the Nightingale alone, Now set together Voice and Instrument; And thus with his Associates Night he spent.
His Soul rejoiced in Knowledge of all kinds; The fine Edge of his Wit would split a Hair, And in the Noose of Apprehension catch A Meaning ere articulate in Word; His Verse was like the Pleiads; his Discourse The Mourners of the Bier; his Penmanship, (Tablet and running Reed his Worshippers,) Fine on the Lip of Youth as the First Hair, Drove Penmen, as that Lovers, to Despair.
His Bounty was as Ocean's—nay, the Sea's Self but the Foam of his Munificence, For it threw up the Shell, but he the Pearl; He was a Cloud that rain'd upon the World Dirhems for Drops; the Banquet of whose Bounty Left Hatim's Churlish in Comparison—
Suddenly that Sweet Minister of mine Rebuked me angrily: "What Folly, Jami, Wearing that indefatigable Pen In celebration of an Alien Shah Whose Throne, not grounded in the Eternal World, Yesterday was, To-day is not!" I answer'd; "Oh Fount of Light!—under an Alien Name I shadow One upon whose Head the Crown Both Was and Is To-day; to whose Firman The Seven Kingdoms of the World are subject, And the Seas Seven but droppings of his Largess. Good luck to him who under other Name Taught us to veil the Praises of a Power To which the Initiate scarce find open Door."
Sat a Lover solitary Self-discoursing in a Corner, Passionate and ever-changing Invocation pouring out; Sometimes Sun and Moon; and sometimes Under Hyacinth half-hidden Roses; or the lofty Cypress, And the little Weed below. Nightingaling thus a Noodle Heard him, and, completely puzzled,— "What!" quoth he, "And you, a Lover, Raving not about your Mistress, But about the Moon and Roses!" Answer'd he; "Oh thou that aimest Wide of Love, and Lover's Language Wholly misinterpreting; Sun and Moon are but my Lady's Self, as any Lover knows; Hyacinth I said, and meant her Hair—her Cheek was in the Rose— And I myself the wretched Weed That in her Cypress Shadow grows."
Now was Salaman in his Prime of Growth, His Cypress Stature risen to high Top, And the new-blooming Garden of his Beauty Began to bear; and Absal long'd to gather; But the Fruit grew upon too high a Bough, To which the Noose of her Desire was short. She too rejoiced in Beauty of her own No whit behind Salaman, whom she now Began enticing with her Sorcery. Now from her Hair would twine a musky Chain, To bind his Heart—now twist it into Curls Nestling innumerable Temptations; Doubled the Darkness of her Eyes with Surma To make him lose his way, and over them Adorn'd the Bows that were to shoot him then; Now to the Rose-leaf of her Cheek would add Fresh Rose, and then a Grain of Musk lay there, The Bird of the Beloved Heart to snare. Now with a Laugh would break the Ruby Seal That lockt up Pearl; or busied in the Room Would smite her Hand perhaps—on that pretence To lift and show the Silver in her Sleeve; Or hastily rising clash her Golden Anclets To draw the Crowned Head under her Feet. Thus by innumerable Bridal wiles She went about soliciting his Eyes, Which she would scarce let lose her for a Moment; For well she knew that mainly by the Eye Love makes his Sign, and by no other Road Enters and takes possession of the Heart.
Burning with desire Zulaikha Built a Chamber, Wall and Ceiling Blank as an untarnisht Mirror, Spotless as the Heart of Yusuf. Then she made a cunning Painter Multiply her Image round it: Not an Inch of Wall but echoed With the Reflex of her Beauty. Then amid them all in all her Glory sat she down, and sent for Yusuf—she began a Tale Of Love—and Lifted up her Veil. From her Look he turn'd, but turning Wheresoever, ever saw her Looking, looking at him still. Then Desire arose within him— He was almost yielding—almost Laying honey on her Lip— When a Signal out of Darkness Spoke to him—and he withdrew His Hand, and dropt the Skirt of Fortune.
Thus day by day did Absal tempt Salaman, And by and bye her Wiles began to work. Her Eyes Narcissus stole his sleep—their Lashes Pierc'd to his Heart—out from her Locks a Snake Bit him—and bitter, bitter on his Tongue Became the Memory of her honey Lip. He saw the Ringlet restless on her Cheek, And he too quiver'd with Desire; his Tears Turn'd Crimson from her Cheek, whose musky spot Infected all his soul with Melancholy. Love drew him from behind the Veil, where yet Withheld him better Resolution— "Oh, should the Food I long for, tasted, turn Unwholesome, and if all my Life to come Should sicken from one momentary Sweet!"
On the Sea-shore sat a Raven, Blind, and from the bitter Cistern Forc'd his only Drink to draw. Suddenly the Pelican Flying over Fortune's Shadow Cast upon his Head, and calling— "Come, poor Son of Salt, and taste of Sweet, sweet Water from my Maw." Said the Raven, "If I taste it Once, the Salt I have to live on May for ever turn to Loathing; And I sit a Bird accurst Upon the Shore to die of Thirst."
Now when Salaman's Heart turn'd to Absal, Her Star was happy in the Heavens—Old Love Put forth afresh—Desire doubled his Bond: And of the running Time she watch'd an Hour To creep into the Mansion of her Moon And satiate her soul upon his Lips. And the Hour came; she stole into his Chamber— Ran up to him, Life's offer in her Hand— And, falling like a Shadow at his Feet, She laid her Face beneath. Salaman then With all the Courtesies of Princely Grace Put forth his Hand—he rais'd her in his Arms— He held her trembling there—and from that Fount Drew first Desire; then Deeper from her Lips, That, yielding, mutually drew from his A Wine that ever drawn from never fail'd—
So through the Day—so through another still— The Day became a Seventh—the Seventh a Moon— The Moon a Year—while they rejoiced together, Thinking their pleasure never was to end. But rolling Heaven whisper'd from his Ambush, "So in my License is it not set down. Ah for the sweet Societies I make At Morning and before the Nightfall break; Ah for the Bliss that with the Setting Sun I mix, and, with his Rising, all is done!"
Into Bagdad came a hungry Arab—after many days of waiting In to the Khalifah's Supper Push'd, and got before a Pasty Luscious as the Lip of Beauty, Or the Tongue of Eloquence. Soon as seen, Indecent Hunger Seizes up and swallows down; Then his mouth undaunted wiping— "Oh Khalifah, hear me Swear, Not of any other Pasty Than of Thine to sup or dine." The Khalifah laugh'd and answer'd; "Fool; who thinkest to determine What is in the Hands of Fate— Take and thrust him from the Gate!"
While a Full Year was counted by the Moon, Salaman and Absal rejoiced together, And for so long he stood not in the face Of Sage or Shah, and their bereaved Hearts Were torn in twain with the Desire of Him. They question'd those about him, and from them Heard something; then Himself in Presence summon'd, And, subtly sifting on all sides, so plied Interrogation till it hit the Mark, And all the Truth was told. Then Sage and Shah Struck out with Hand and Foot in his Redress. And First with Reason, which is also Best; Reason that rights the Retrograde—completes The Imperfect—Reason that unties the Knot: For Reason is the Fountain from of old From which the Prophets drew, and none beside. Who boasts of other Inspiration lies— There are no other Prophets than The Wise.
First spoke The Shah;—"Salaman, Oh my Soul, Oh Taper of the Banquet of my House, Light of the Eyes of my Prosperity, And making bloom the Court of Hope with Rose; Years Rose-bud-like my own Blood I devour'd Till in my hand I carried thee, my Rose; Oh do not tear my Garment from my Hand, Nor wound thy Father with a Dagger Thorn. Years for thy sake the Crown has worn my Brow, And Years my Foot been growing to the Throne Only for Thee—Oh spurn them not with Thine; Oh turn thy Face from Dalliance unwise, Lay not thy Heart's hand on a Minion! For what thy Proper Pastime? Is it not To mount and manage Rakhsh along the Field; Not, with no stouter weapon than a Love-lock, Idly reclining on a Silver Breast. Go, fly thine Arrow at the Antelope And Lion—let not me my Lion see Slain by the Arrow eyes of a Ghazal. Go, flash thy Steel among the Ranks of Men, And smite the Warriors' Necks; not, flying them, Lay down thine own beneath a Woman's Foot, Leave off such doing in the Name of God, Nor bring thy Father weeping to the Ground; Years have I held myself aloft, and all For Thee—Oh Shame if thou prepare my Fall!"
When before Shirueh's Feet Drencht in Blood fell Kai Khusrau, He declared this Parable— "Wretch!—There was a Branch that, waxing Wanton o'er the Root he drank from, At a Draught the Living Water Drain'd wherewith Himself to crown! Died the Root—and with it died The Branch—and barren was brought down!"
Salaman heard—the Sea of his Soul was mov'd, And bubbled up with Jewels, and he said; "Oh Shah, I am the Slave of thy Desire, Dust of thy Throne ascending Foot am I; Whatever thou Desirest I would do, But sicken of my own Incompetence; Not in the Hand of my infirmer Will To carry into Deed mine own Desire. Time upon Time I torture mine own Soul, Devising liberation from the Snare I languish in. But when upon that Moon I think, my Soul relapses—and when look— I leave both Worlds behind to follow her!"
The Shah ceased Counsel, and the Sage began. "Oh Thou new Vintage of a Garden old, Last Blazon of the Pen of 'Let There Be,' Who read'st the Seven and Four; interpretest The writing on the Leaves of Night and Day— Archetype of the Assembly of the World, Who hold'st the Key of Adam's Treasury— (Know thine own Dignity and slight it not, For Thou art Greater yet than all I tell)— The Mighty Hand that mix'd thy Dust inscribed The Character of Wisdom on thy Heart; O Cleanse Thy Bosom of Material Form, And turn the Mirror of the Soul to Spirit, Until it be with Spirit all possest, Drown'd in the Light of Intellectual Truth. Oh veil thine Eyes from Mortal Paramour, And follow not her Step!—For what is She?— What is She but a Vice and a Reproach, Her very Garment-hem Pollution! For such Pollution madden not thine Eyes, Waste not thy Body's Strength, nor taint thy Soul, Nor set the Body and the Soul in Strife! Supreme is thine Original Degree, Thy Star upon the Top of Heaven; but Lust Will fling it down even unto the Dust!"
Quoth a Muezzin unto Crested Chanticleer—"Oh Voice of Morning, Not a Sage of all the Sages Prophesies of Dawn, or startles At the wing of Time, like Thee. One so wise methinks were fitter Perching on the Beams of Heaven, Than with those poor Hens about him, Raking in a Heap of Dung." "And," replied the Cock, "in Heaven Once I was; but by my Evil Lust am fallen down to raking With my wretched Hens about me On the Dunghill. Otherwise I were even now in Eden With the Bird of Paradise."
When from The Sage these words Salaman heard, The breath of Wisdom round his Palate blew; He said—"Oh Darling of the Soul of Plato, To whom a hundred Aristotles bow; Oh Thou that an Eleventh to the Ten Original Intelligences addest,— I lay my Face before Thee in the Dust, The humblest Scholar of thy Court am I; Whose every word I find a Well of Wisdom, And hasten to imbibe it in my Soul. But clear unto thy clearest Eye it is, That Choice is not within Oneself—To Do, Not in The Will, but in The Power, to Do. From that which I originally am How shall I swerve? or how put forth a Sign Beyond the Power that is by Nature Mine?"
Unto the Soul that is confused by Love Comes Sorrow after Sorrow—most of all To Love whose only Friendship is Reproof, And overmuch of Counsel—whereby Love Grows stubborn, and increases the Disease. Love unreproved is a delicious food; Reproved, is Feeding on one's own Heart's Blood. Salaman heard; his Soul came to his Lips; Reproaches struck not Absal out of him, But drove Confusion in; bitter became The Drinking of the sweet Draught of Delight, And wan'd the Splendour of his Moon of Beauty. His Breath was Indignation, and his Heart Bled from the Arrow, and his Anguish grew— How bear it?—Able to endure one wound, From Wound on Wound no remedy but Flight; Day after Day, Design upon Design, He turn'd the Matter over in his Heart, And, after all, no Remedy but Flight. Resolv'd on that, he victuall'd and equipp'd A Camel, and one Night he led it forth, And mounted—he and Absal at his side, The fair Salaman and Absal the Fair, Together on one Camel side by side, Twin Kernels in a single Almond packt. And True Love murmurs not, however small His Chamber—nay, the straitest best of all.
When the Moon of Canaan Yusuf Darken'd in the Prison of AEgypt, Night by Night Zulaikha went To see him—for her Heart was broken. Then to her said One who never Yet had tasted of Love's Garden: "Leavest thou thy Palace-Chamber For the Felon's narrow Cell?" Answer'd She, "Without my Lover, Were my Chamber Heaven's Horizon, It were closer than an Ant's eye; And the Ant's eye wider were Than Heaven, my Lover with me there!"
Six days Salaman on the Camel rode, And then Remembrance of foregone Reproach Abode not by him; and upon the Seventh He halted on the Seashore, and beheld An Ocean boundless as the Heaven above, That, reaching its Circumference from Kaf To Kaf, down to the Back of Gau and Mahi Descended, and its Stars were Creatures' Eyes. The Face of it was as it were a Range Of moving Mountains; or as endless Hosts Of Camels trooping from all Quarters up, Furious, with the Foam upon their Lips. In it innumerable glittering Fish Like Jewels polish-sharp, to the sharp Eye But for an Instant visible, glancing through As Silver Scissors slice a blue Brocade; Though were the Dragon from its Hollow roused, The Dragon of the Stars would stare Aghast. Salaman eyed the Sea, and cast about To cross it—and forthwith upon the Shore Devis'd a Shallop like a Crescent Moon, Wherein that Sun and Moon in happy Hour, Enter'd as into some Celestial Sign; That, figured like a Bow, but Arrow-like In Flight, was feather'd with a little Sail, And, pitcht upon the Water like a Duck, So with her Bosom sped to her Desire. When they had sail'd their Vessel for a Moon, And marr'd their Beauty with the wind o' th' Sea, Suddenly in mid Sea reveal'd itself An Isle, beyond Description beautiful An Isle that all was Garden; not a Bird Of Note or Plume in all the World but there; There as in Bridal Retinue array'd The Pheasant in his Crown, the Dove in her Collar; And those who tuned their Bills among the Trees That Arm in Arm from Fingers paralyz'd With any Breath of Air Fruit moist and dry Down scatter'd in Profusion to their Feet, Where Fountains of Sweet Water ran, and round Sunshine and Shadow chequer-chased the Ground. Here Iram Garden seemed in Secresy Blowing the Rosebud of its Revelation; Or Paradise, forgetful of the Day Of Audit, lifted from her Face the Veil.
Salaman saw the Isle, and thought no more Of Further—there with Absal he sat down, Absal and he together side by side Rejoicing like the Lily and the Rose, Together like the Body and the Soul. Under its Trees in one another's Arms They slept—they drank its Fountains hand in hand— Sought Sugar with the Parrot—or in Sport Paraded with the Peacock—raced the Partridge— Or fell a-talking with the Nightingale. There was the Rose without a Thorn, and there The Treasure and no Serpent to beware— What sweeter than your Mistress at your side In such a Solitude, and none to Chide!
Whisper'd one to Wamik—"Oh Thou Victim of the Wound of Azra, What is it that like a Shadow Movest thou about in Silence Meditating Night and Day?" Wamik answered, "Even this— To fly with Azra to the Desert; There by so remote a Fountain That, whichever way one travell'd League on League, one yet should never, Never meet the Face of Man— There to pitch my Tent—for ever There to gaze on my Beloved; Gaze, till Gazing out of Gazing Grew to Being Her I gaze on, She and I no more, but in One. Undivided Being blended, All that is not One must ever Suffer with the Wound of Absence; And whoever in Love's City Enters, finds but Room for One, And but in Oneness Union."
When by and bye The Shah was made aware Of that Soul-wasting absence of his Son, He reach'd a Cry to Heav'n—his Eyelashes Wept Blood—Search everywhere he set a-foot, But none could tell the hidden Mystery. Then bade he bring a Mirror that he had, A Mirror, like the Bosom of the wise, Reflecting all the World, and lifting up The Veil from all its Secret, Good and Evil. That Mirror bade he bring, and, in its Face Looking, beheld the Face of his Desire. He saw those Lovers in the Solitude, Turn'd from the World, and all its ways, and People, And looking only in each other's Eyes, And never finding any Sorrow there. The Shah beheld them as they were, and Pity Fell on his Eyes, and he reproach'd them not; And, gathering all their Life into his Hand, Not a Thread lost, disposed in Order all. Oh for the Noble Nature, and Clear Heart, That, seeing Two who draw one Breath together Drinking the Cup of Happiness and Tears Unshatter'd by the Stone of Separation, Is loath their sweet Communion to destroy, Or cast a Tangle in the Skein of Joy.
The Arrows that assail the Lords of Sorrow Come from the Hand of Retribution. Do Well, that in thy Turn Well may betide Thee; And turn from Ill, that Ill may turn beside Thee.
Firhad, Moulder of the Mountain, Love-distracted looked to Shirin, And Shirin the Sculptor's Passion Saw, and turn'd her Heart to Him.
Then the Fire of Jealous Frenzy Caught and carried up the Harvest Of the Might of Kai Khusrau.
Plotting with that ancient Hag Of Fate, the Sculptor's Cup he poison'd And remained the Lord of Love.
So—But Fate that Fate avenges Arms Shirueh with the Dagger, That at once from Shirin tore him, Hurl'd him from the Throne of Glory.
But as the days went on, and still The Shah Beheld Salaman how sunk in Absal, And yet no Hand of better Effort lifted; But still the Crown that shall adorn his Head, And still the Throne that waited for his Foot, Trampled from Memory by a Base Desire, Of which the Soul was still unsatisfied— Then from the Sorrow of The Shah fell Fire; To Gracelessness Ungracious he became, And, quite to shatter his rebellious Lust, Upon Salaman all his Will discharged. And Lo! Salaman to his Mistress turn'd, But could not reach her—look'd and look'd again, And palpitated tow'rd her—but in Vain! Oh Misery! what to the Bankrupt worse Than Gold he cannot reach! To one Athirst Than Fountain to the Eye and Lip forbid!— Or than Heaven opened to the Eyes in Hell!— Yet, when Salaman's Anguish was extreme, The Door of Mercy open'd in his Face; He saw and knew his Father's Hand outstretcht To lift him from Perdition—timidly, Timidly tow'rd his Father's Face his own He lifted, Pardon-pleading, Crime-confest, As the stray Bird one day will find her Nest.
A Disciple ask'd a Master, "By what Token should a Father Vouch for his reputed Son?" Said the Master, "By the Stripling, Howsoever Late or Early, Like to the Reputed Father Growing—whether Wise or Foolish.
"Lo the disregarded Darnel With itself adorns the Wheat-field, And for all the Early Season Satisfies the Farmer's Eye; But come once the Hour of Harvest. And another Grain shall answer, 'Darnel and no Wheat, am I.'"
When The Shah saw Salaman's face again, And breath'd the Breath of Reconciliation, He laid the Hand of Love upon his Shoulder, The Kiss of Welcome on his Cheek, and said, "Oh Thou, who lost, Love's Banquet lost its Salt, And Mankind's Eye its Pupil!—Thy Return Is as another Sun to Heaven; a new Rose blooming in the Garden of the Soul. Arise, Oh Moon of Majesty unwaned! The Court of the Horizon is thy Court, Thy Kingdom is the Kingdom of the World!— Lo! Throne and Crown await Thee—Throne and Crown Without thy Impress but uncurrent Gold, Not to be stamp'd by one not worthy Them; Behold! The Rebel's Face is at thy Door; Let him not triumph—let the Wicked dread The Throne under thy Feet, the Crown upon thy Head. Oh Spurn them not behind Thee! Oh my Son, Wipe Thou the Woman's Henna from thy Hand: Withdraw Thee from the Minion who from Thee Dominion draws; the Time is come to choose, Thy Mistress or the World to hold or lose." Four are the Signs of Kingly Aptitude; Wise Head—clean Heart—strong Arm—and open Hand. Wise is He not—Continent cannot be— Who binds himself to an unworthy Lust; Nor Valiant, who submits to a weak Woman; Nor Liberal, who cannot draw his Hand From that in which so basely he is busied. And of these Four who misses All or One Is not the Bridegroom of Dominion.
Ah the poor Lover!—In the changing Hands Of Day and Night no wretcheder than He! No Arrow from the Bow of Evil Fate But reaches him—one Dagger at his Throat, Another comes to wound him from behind. Wounded by Love—then wounded by Reproof Of Loving—and, scarce stauncht the Blood of Shame By flying from his Love—then, worst of all, Love's back-blow of Revenge for having fled!
Salaman heard—he rent the Robe of Peace— He came to loathe his Life, and long for Death, (For better Death itself than Life in Death)— He turn'd his face with Absal to the Desert— Enter'd the deadly Plain; Branch upon Branch Cut down, and gather'd in a lofty Pile, And fired. They look'd upon the Flames, those Two— They look'd, and they rejoiced; and hand in hand They sprang into the Fire. The Shah who saw In secret all had order'd; and the Flame, Directed by his Self-fulfilling Will, Devouring utterly Absal, pass'd by Salaman harmless—the pure Gold return'd Entire, but all the baser Metal burn'd.
Heaven's Dome is but a wondrous House of Sorrow, And Happiness therein a lying Fable. When first they mix'd the Clay of Man, and cloth'd His Spirit in the Robe of Perfect Beauty, For Forty Mornings did an Evil Cloud Rain Sorrows over him from Head to Foot; And when the Forty Mornings pass'd to Night, Then came one Morning-Shower—one Morning-Shower Of Joy—to Forty of the Rain of Sorrow!— And though the better Fortune came at last To seal the Work, yet every Wise Man knows Such Consummation never can be here!
Salaman fired the Pile; and in the Flame That, passing him, consumed Absal like Straw, Died his Divided Self, and there survived His Individual; and, like a Body From which the Soul is parted, all alone. Then rose his Cry to Heaven—his Eyelashes Dropt Blood—his Sighs stood like a Smoke in Heaven, And Morning rent her Garment at his Anguish. He tore his Bosom with his Nails—he smote Stone on his Bosom—looking then on hands No longer lockt in hers, and lost their Jewel, He tore them with his Teeth. And when came Night, He hid him in some Corner of the House, And communed with the Fantom of his Love. "Oh Thou whose Presence so long sooth'd my Soul, Now burnt with thy Remembrance! Oh so long The Light that fed these Eyes now dark with Tears! Oh Long, Long Home of Love now lost for Ever! We were Together—that was all Enough— We two rejoicing in each other's Eyes, Infinitely rejoicing—all the World Nothing to Us, nor We to all the World— No Road to reach us, nor an Eye to watch— All Day we whisper'd in each other's Ears, All Night we slept in one another's Arms— All seem'd to our Desire, as if the Hand Of unjust Fortune were for once too short. Oh would to God that when I lit the Pyre The Flame had left Thee Living and me Dead, Not Living worse than Dead, depriv'd of Thee! Oh were I but with Thee!—at any Cost Stript of this terrible Self-solitude! Oh but with Thee Annihilation—lost, Or in Eternal Intercourse renew'd!"
Slumber-drunk an Arab in the Desert off his Camel tumbled, Who the lighter of her Burden Ran upon her road rejoicing. When the Arab woke at morning, Rubb'd his Eyes and look'd about him— "Oh my Camel! Oh my Camel!" Quoth he, "Camel of my Soul!— That Lost with Her I lost might be, Or found, She might be found with Me!"
When in this Plight The Shah Salaman saw, His Soul was struck with Anguish, and the Vein Of Life within was strangled—what to do He knew not. Then he turn'd him to The Sage— "On Altar of the World, to whom Mankind Directs the Face of Prayer in Weal or Woe, Nothing but Wisdom can untie the Knot; And art not Thou the Wisdom of the World, The Master-Key of all its Difficulties? Absal is perisht; and, because of Her, Salaman dedicates his Life to Sorrow; I cannot bring back Her, nor comfort Him. Lo, I have said! My Sorrow is before Thee; From thy far-reaching Wisdom help Thou Me Fast in the Hand of Sorrow! Help Thou Me, For I am very wretched!" Then The Sage— "Oh Thou that err'st not from the Road of Right, If but Salaman have not broke my Bond, Nor lies beyond the Noose of my Firman, He quickly shall unload his Heart to me, And I will find a Remedy for all."
Then The Sage counsell'd, and Salaman heard, And drew the Wisdom down into his Heart; And, sitting in the Shadow of the Perfect, His Soul found Quiet under; sweet it seem'd, Sweeping the Chaff and Litter from his own, To be the very Dust of Wisdom's Door, Slave of the Firman of the Lord of Life, Then The Sage marvell'd at his Towardness, And wrought in Miracle in his behalf. He pour'd the Wine of Wisdom in his Cup, He laid the Dew of Peace upon his lips; And when Old Love return'd to Memory, And broke in Passion from his Lips, The Sage Under whose waxing Will Existence rose Responsive, and, relaxing, waned again, Raising a Fantom Image of Absal Set it awhile before Salaman's Eyes, Till, having sow'd the Seed of Quiet there, It went again down to Annihilation. But ever, for the Sum of his Discourse, The Sage would tell of a Celestial Love; "Zuhrah," he said, "the Lustre of the Stars— 'Fore whom the Beauty of the Brightest wanes; Who were she to reveal her perfect Beauty, The Sun and Moon would craze; Zuhrah," he said, "The Sweetness of the Banquet—none in Song Like Her—her Harp filling the Ear of Heaven, That Dervish-dances at her Harmony." Salaman listen'd, and inclin'd—again Repeated, Inclination ever grew; Until The Sage beholding in his Soul The Spirit quicken, so effectually With Zuhrah wrought, that she reveal'd herself In her pure Beauty to Salaman's Soul, And washing Absal's Image from his Breast, There reign'd instead. Celestial Beauty seen, He left the Earthly; and, once come to know Eternal Love, he let the Mortal go.
The Crown of Empire how supreme a Lot! The Throne of the Sultan how high!—But not For All—None but the Heaven-ward Foot may dare To mount—The Head that touches Heaven to wear!—
When the Belov'd of Royal Augury Was rescued from the Bondage of Absal, Then he arose, and shaking off the Dust Of that lost Travel, girded up his Heart, And look'd with undefiled Robe to Heaven. Then was His Head worthy to wear the Crown, His Foot to mount the Throne. And then The Shah Summon'd the Chiefs of Cities and of States, Summon'd the Absolute Ones who wore the Ring, And such a Banquet order'd as is not For Sovereign Assemblement the like In the Folding of the Records of the World. No armed Host, nor Captain of a Host, From all the Quarters of the World, but there; Of whom not one but to Salaman did Obeisance, and lifted up his Neck To yoke it under his Supremacy. Then The Shah crown'd him with the Golden Crown, And set the Golden Throne beneath his Feet. And over all the Heads of the Assembly, And in the Ears of all of them, his Jewels With the Diamond of Wisdom cut and said:—
"My Son, the Kingdom of The World is not Eternal, nor the Sum of right Desire; Make thou the Faith-preserving Intellect Thy Counsellor; and considering To-day To-morrow's Seed-field, ere That come to bear, Sow with the Harvest of Eternity. All Work with Wisdom hath to do—by that Stampt current only; what Thyself to do Art wise, that Do; what not, consult the Wise, Turn not thy Face away from the old Ways, That were the Canon of the Kings of Old; Nor cloud with Tyranny the Glass of Justice; But rather strive that all Confusion Change by thy Justice to its opposite. In whatsoever Thou shalt Take or Give Look to the How; Giving and Taking still, Not by the backward Counsel of the Godless, But by the Law of Faith increase and Give. Drain not thy People's purse—the Tyranny Which Thee enriches at thy Subjects' cost, Awhile shall make Thee strong; but in the End Shall bow thy Neck beneath a Double Burden. The Tyrant goes to Hell—follow not Him—
"Become not Thou the Fuel of its Fires. Thou art a Shepherd, and thy Flock the People, To save and not destroy; nor at their Loss To lift Thyself above the Shepherd's calling. For which is for the other, Flock or Shepherd? And join with Thee true Men to keep the Flock. Dogs, if you will—but Trusty—head in leash, Whose Teeth are for the Wolf, not for the Lamb, And least of all the Wolf's Accomplices, Their Jaws blood-dripping from the Tyrant's Shambles. For Shahs must have Vizirs—but be they Wise And Trusty—knowing well the Realm's Estate— (For who eats Profit of a Fool? and least A wise King girdled by a Foolish Council)— Knowing how far to Shah and Subject bound On either Hand—not by Extortion, Nor Usury wrung from the People's purse, Their Master's and their own Estates (to whom Enough is apt enough to make them Rebel) Feeding to such a Surplus as feeds Hell. Proper in Soul and Body be They—pitiful To Poverty—hospitable to the Saint— Their sweet Access a Salve to wounded Hearts, Their Vengeance terrible to the Evil Doer, Thy Heralds through the Country bringing Thee Report of Good or Ill—which to confirm By thy peculiar Eye—and least of all Suffering Accuser also to be Judge— By surest Steps builds up Prosperity."
Under the Outward Form of any Story An Inner Meaning lies—This Story now Completed, do Thou of its Mystery (Whereto the Wise hath found himself a way) Have thy Desire—No Tale of I and Thou, Though I and Thou be its Interpreters. What signifies The Shah? and what the Sage? And what Salaman not of Woman born? And what Absal who drew him to Desire? And what the Kingdom that awaited him When he had drawn his Garment from her Hand? What means that Fiery Pile? and what The Sea? And what that Heavenly Zuhrah who at last Clear'd Absal from the Mirror of his Soul? Learn part by part the Mystery from me; All Ear from Head to Foot and Understanding be.
The Incomparable Creator, when this World He did create, created First of All The First Intelligence—First of a Chain Of Ten Intelligences, of which the Last Sole Agent is in this our Universe, Active Intelligence so call'd; The One Distributor of Evil and of Good, Of Joy and Sorrow, Himself apart from Matter, In Essence and in Energy—his Treasure Subject to no such Talisman—He yet Hath fashion'd all that is—Material Form, And Spiritual, sprung from Him—by Him Directed all, and in his Bounty drown'd. Therefore is He that Firman-issuing Shah To whom the World was subject. But because What He distributes to the Universe Himself from still a Higher Power receives, The Wise, and all who comprehend aright, Will recognise that Higher in The Sage. His the Prime Spirit that, spontaneously Projected by the Tenth Intelligence, Was from no Womb of Matter reproduced A Special Essence called The Soul—a Child Fresh sprung from Heaven in Raiment undefiled Of Sensual Taint, and therefore call'd Salaman. And who Absal?—The Lust-adoring Body, Slave to the Blood and Sense—through whom The Soul, Although the Body's very Life it be, Does yet imbibe the Knowledge and Desire Of Things of Sense; and these united thus By such a Tie God only can unloose, Body and Soul are Lovers Each of other.
What is The Sea on which they sail'd?—The Sea Of Animal Desire—the Sensual Abyss, Under whose Waters lie a World of Being Swept far from God in that Submersion.
And wherefore was it Absal in that Isle Deceived in her Delight, and that Salaman Fell short of his Desire?—That was to show How Passion tires, and how with Time begins The Folding of the Carpet of Desire. And what the turning of Salaman's Heart Back to the Shah, and looking to the Throne Of Pomp and Glory? What but the Return Of the Lost Soul to its true Parentage, And back from Carnal Error looking up Repentant to its Intellectual Throne. What is The Fire?—Ascetic Discipline, That burns away the Animal Alloy, Till all the Dross of Matter be consumed, And the Essential Soul, its Raiment clean Of Mortal Taint, be left. But forasmuch As any Life-long Habit so consumed, May well recur a Pang for what is lost, Therefore The Sage set in Salaman's Eyes A Soothing Fantom of the Past, but still Told of a Better Venus, till his Soul She fill'd, and blotted out his Mortal Love. For what is Zuhrah?—That Divine Perfection, Wherewith the Soul inspir'd and all array'd In Intellectual Light is Royal blest, And mounts The Throne and wears The Crown, and Reigns Lord of the Empire of Humanity.
This is the Meaning of This Mystery Which to know wholly ponder in thy Heart, Till all its ancient Secret be enlarged. Enough—The written Summary I close, And set my Seal:
THE TRUTH GOD ONLY KNOWS.
AN ESSAY BY RALPH WALDO EMERSON
To Baron Von Hammer-Purgstall, who died in Vienna in 1856, we owe our best knowledge of the Persians. He has translated into German, besides the "Divan" of Hafiz, specimens of two hundred poets, who wrote during a period of five and a half centuries, from A.D. 1050 to 1600. The seven masters of the Persian Parnassus—Firdousi, Enweri, Nisami, Dschelaleddin, Saadi, Hafiz, and Dschami[D]—have ceased to be empty names; and others, like Ferideddin Attar and Omar Chiam, promise to rise in Western estimation. That for which mainly books exist is communicated in these rich extracts. Many qualities go to make a good telescope,—as the largeness of the field, facility of sweeping the meridian, achromatic purity of lenses, and so forth,—but the one eminent value is the space penetrating power; and there are many virtues in books,—but the essential value is the adding of knowledge to our stock, by the record of new facts, and, better, by the record of intuitions, which distribute facts, and are the formulas which supersede all histories.
Oriental life and society, especially in the Southern nations, stand in violent contrast with the multitudinous detail, the secular stability, and the vast average of comfort of the Western nations. Life in the East is fierce, short, hazardous, and in extremes. Its elements are few and simple, not exhibiting the long range and undulation of European existence, but rapidly reaching the best and the worst. The rich feed on fruits and game,—the poor on a watermelon's peel. All or nothing is the genius of Oriental life. Favour of the Sultan, or his displeasure, is a question of Fate. A war is undertaken for an epigram or a distich, as in Europe for a duchy. The prolific sun, and the sudden and rank plenty which his heat engenders, make subsistence easy. On the other side, the desert, the simoom, the mirage, the lion, and the plague endanger it, and life hangs on the contingency of a skin of water more or less. The very geography of old Persia showed these contrasts. "My father's empire," said Cyrus to Xenophon, "is so large, that people perish with cold, at one extremity, whilst they are suffocated with heat, at the other." The temperament of the people agrees with this life in extremes. Religion and poetry are all their civilization. The religion teaches an inexorable Destiny. It distinguishes only two days in each man's history—his birthday, called the Day of the Lot, and the Day of Judgment. Courage and absolute submission to what is appointed him are his virtues.