The Eagle and the Crow: a Dialogue

05-01 Unsuri
Unsuri
Persian
d. 1039

 

A dialogue occurred, I happen to know,
Betwixt the white eagle and the crow.

Birds we are, said the crow, in the main,
Friends we are, and thus we shall remain.

Birds we are, agreed the eagle, only in name,
Our temperaments, alas, are not the same.

My leftovers are a king’s feast,
Carrion you devour, to say the least.

My perch’s the king’s arm, his palace my bed,
You haunt the ruins, mingle with the dead.

My color is heavenly, as everyone can tell,
Your color inflicts pain, like news from hell.

Kings tend to choose me rather than you,
Good attracts good, that goes for evil too.

 

Translation by Iraj Bashiri

To as-Samar

03-23 Al Kiram
Umm Al-Kiram
Arab Andalusian
c. 1070

 

Marvelously, friends,
of what has harvested a burning passion
therefore not for that, there would be lowered,
accompanied by the moon, the night,
from the highest heaven to Earth.
My passion is that I love in such a way
that if I broke up, my heart would follow him.

Oh, I wish I knew.

If there is a way to be alone together
which do not reach the ears of the spy.
How wonderful
I want to be alone with my beloved
living, even when it is in my gut and in my chest.

Pu Suan Tzu

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 985th birthday.

01-08 Su
Su Shi
Chinese
1037 – 1101

A fragment moon hangs from the bare tung tree
The water clock runs out, all is still
Who sees the dim figure come and go alone
Misty, indistinct, the shadow of a lone wild goose?

Startled, she gets up, looks back
With longing no one sees
And will not settle on any of the cold branches
Along the chill and lonely beach

The Sun

In honor of Muharram, we present this work by one of Islam’s great medieval poets.

Al-haitham
Arab Andalusian
965 – 1040

Look at the beautiful sun:
as it rises, it shows one golden eyebrow,
plays miser with the other one,

but we know that soon
it will spread out a radiant veil
over all.

A marvelous mirror that appears in the East
only to hide again at dusk.

The sky is saddened
when the sun leaves
and puts on mourning robes.

I believe that falling stars
are nothing more
than sky’s gem-hard tears.

On Moderation in Our Pleasures

06-25 Tabataba
Abu Alcassim Ebn Tabataba
Persian
? – 1027

 

How oft does passion’s grasp destroy
The pleasure that it strives to gain!
How soon the thoughtless course of joy
Is doomed to terminate in pain!

When Prudence would thy steps delay,
She but restrains to make thee blest;
Whate’er from joy she lops away
But heightens and secures the rest.

Wouldst thou a trembling flame expand
That hastens in the lamp to die?
With careful touch, with sparing hand,
The feeding stream of life supply.

But if thy flask profusely sheds
A rushing torrent o’er the blaze,
Swift round the sinking flame it spreads,
And kills the fire it fain would raise.