Love and the Gentle Heart

Dante Alighieri
Italian
1265 – 1321

 

Love and the gentle heart are one thing,
just as the poet says in his verse,
each from the other one as well divorced
as reason from the mind’s reasoning.

Nature craves love, and then creates love king,
and makes the heart a palace where he’ll stay,
perhaps a shorter or a longer day,
breathing quietly, gently slumbering.

Then beauty in a virtuous woman’s face
makes the eyes yearn, and strikes the heart,
so that the eyes’ desire’s reborn again,
and often, rooting there with longing, stays,

Till love, at last, out of its dreaming starts.
Woman’s moved likewise by a virtuous man.

Absence

Ibn Sharaf
Arab Andalusian
1233 – 1277

 

Every night I scan
the heavens with my eyes
seeking the star
that you are contemplating.

I question travelers
from the four corners of the earth
hoping to meet one
who has breathed your fragrance.

When the wind blows
I make sure it blows in my face:
the breeze might bring me
news of you.

I wander over roads
without aim, without purpose.
Perhaps a song
will sound your name.

Secretly I study
every face I see
hoping against hope
to glimpse a trace of your beauty.

Was That Layla’s Flame

Ibn Al-Farid
Egyptian
1181 – 1234

 

Was that Layla’s flame that shone through the veils of night on Dhū-Salam?
Or lightning’s flash throughout the vales round Zawra and Al-Alam?
Have you but a sigh of dawn for me, O winds about Na’man?
Have you but a sip to offer me, O waters of Wajra?
O driver of laden camels rolling up the wayless sands
like a scroll of mighty writ beside the Sagebrush of Idam
Turn aside at the guarded safeground -God be your shepherd!- and seek the path
To yonder Lotus thicket, to the myrtle and laurel bay.
Then halt at Mount Sal, and ask at the curling vale of Raqmatayn:
Have the tamarisks grown and touched at last in the livening weep of the rain?
If you’ve crossed the waters of Aqīq in the mornlight, I implore you
By God, be unabashed and offer them my heart-felt Hail!
Tell everybody this: I have left behind a heart-felled man
Alive as a deadman, adding plague to plague through your domains.
From my heart like a burning bush there spreads a flame of more than fire.
From my eyes the pouring tears are like a ceaseless season of rains.
For such is lovers’ law: not one limb of the mortal body
When bound in love with a gazelle can ever be free of pain.
You ignoramus! You who defame and shame me for my love!
Desist and learn. You would not blame me, had your love been the same.
I swear by the sacred union, by the age-old love and by
Our covenant’s communion and all the things of bygone ages:
No consolation, no replacement turned me away from loving
For it is not who I am to move with the whims of solace and change.
Return the slumber to my eyes, and then perhaps I will see you
Visit my bed in the recklessness of dream as a revenant shade.
Alas for our days at Khayf! Had they but lasted each tenfold!
Alas for me, alas, how the last day couldn’t last or stay.
If only my grief could cure me, oh if only the “oh” of my woe
And my remorse could ever recover aught that is passed away,
Gazelles of the winding dell! Be kind and turn away from me
For I, to look on no one but my love, have bound my gaze
In deference to a Judge who has decreed a wondrous fatwa
That my blood be shed in every month, both sacred and profane.
Deaf, he did not hear my plea. Dumb, he could not reply.
He is stricken blind to the plight of one whom love has struck insane.

from Die Goldenen Schmiede

Konrad von Würzburg
German
1225 – 1287

 

He who would braid and decorate
Your noble chaplet with flowers
Must bear within his breast
The blooming May branch of the arts
In order to adorn it
With rose-read phrases
And decorate it all around
With words like violets
To purify it utterly
Of everything false,
And most beautifully interweave
The herbs of exotic rhymes
Beneath, around, between
The blossoms of sweet speech.

A Single Word Can Brighten the Face

In honor of the Turkish holiday, Victory Day, we present this work by Turkey’s greatest folk poet.

Yunus Emre
Turkey
1238 – 1320

 

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns the universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don’t be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.

‘Twas Summer

Walther von der Vogelweide
German
1170 – 1230

 

‘Twas summer,— through the opening grass
The joyous flowers upsprang,
The birds in all their different tribes
Loud in the woodlands sang:
Then forth I went, and wandered far
The wide green meadow o’er;
Where cool and clear the fountain play’d,
There strayed I in that hour.

Roaming on, the nightingale
Sang sweetly in my ear;
And, by the greenwood’s shady side,
A dream came to me there;
Fast by the fountain, where bright flowers
Of sparkling hue we see,
Close sheltered from the summer heat,
That vision came to me.

All care was banished, and repose
Came o’er my wearied breast;
And kingdoms seemed to wait on me,
For I was with the blest.

Yet, while it seemed as if away
My spirit soared on high,
And in the boundless joys of heaven
Was wrapt in ecstacy,
E’en then, my body revelled still
In earth’s festivity;
And surely never was a dream
So sweet as this to me.

Thus I dream’d on, and might have dwelt
Still on that rapturous dream,
When, hark! a raven’s luckless note
(Sooth, ‘twas a direful scream,)
Broke up the vision of delight,
Instant my joy was past:
O, had a stone but met my hand,
That hour had been his last…

Because I Cannot Sleep

Rumi
Persian
1207 – 1273

 

Because I cannot sleep
I make music at night.
I am troubled by the one
whose face has the color of spring flowers.
I have neither sleep nor patience,
neither a good reputation nor disgrace.
A thousand robes of wisdom are gone.
All my good manners have moved a thousand miles away.
The heart and the mind are left angry with each other.
The stars and the moon are envious of each other.
Because of this alienation the physical universe
is getting tighter and tighter.
The moon says, ‘How long will I remain
suspended without a sun?’
Without Love’s jewel inside of me,
let the bazaar of my existence be destroyed stone by stone.
O Love, You who have been called by a thousand names,
You who know how to pour the wine
into the chalice of the body,
You who give culture to a thousand cultures,
You who are faceless but have a thousand faces,
O Love, You who shape the faces
of Turks, Europeans, and Zanzibaris,
give me a glass from Your bottle,
or a handful of being from Your Branch.
Remove the cork once more.
Then we’ll see a thousand chiefs prostrate themselves,
and a circle of ecstatic troubadours will play.
Then the addict will be freed of craving.
and will be resurrected,
and stand in awe till Judgement Day.