The Burning of the Law

07-15 Meir
Meir of Rothenburg
German
c. 1215 – 1293

 

Ask, is it well, O thou consumed of fire,

With those that mourn for thee,
That yearn to tread thy courts, that sore desire
Thy sanctuary;

That, panting for thy land’s sweet dust, are grieved,

And sorrow in their souls,
And by the flames of wasting fire bereaved,
Mourn for thy scrolls;

That grope in shadow of unbroken night,

Waiting the day to see
Which o’er them yet shall cast a radiance bright,

And over thee?

Ask of the welfare of the man of woe,
With breaking heart, in vain

Lamenting ever for thine overthrow,
And for thy pain;

Of him that crieth as the jackals cry,
As owls their moaning make,

Proclaiming bitter wailing far and nigh;
Yea, for thy sake.

And thou revealed amid a heavenly fire,

By earthly fire consumed,
Say how the foe unscorched escaped the pyre

Thy flames illumed!

How long shalt thou that art at ease abide

In peace, unknown to woe,
While o’er my flowers, humbled from their pride,

Thy nettles grow?

Thou sittest high exalted, lofty foe!

To judge the sons of God;
And with thy judgments stern dost bring them low

Beneath thy rod.

Yea, more, to burn the Law thou durst decree
God’s word to banish hence:

Then blest be he who shall award to thee
Thy recompense!

Was it for this, thou Law, my Rock of old
Gave thee with flames begirt,

That in thine after-days should fire seize hold
Upon thy skirt?

O Sinai! was it then for this God chose
Thy mount of modest height,

Rejecting statelier, while on thee arose
His glorious light?

Wast thou an omen that from noble state

The Law should lowly be?
And lo! a parable will I relate

Befitting thee.

Tis of a king I tell, who sat before

The banquet of his son

And wept: for ‘mid the mirth he death foresaw;

So thou hast done.

Cast off thy robe; in sackcloth folds of night,

O Sinai! cover thee;
Don widow’s garb, discard thy raiment bright

Of royalty.

Lo, I will weep for thee until my tears

Swell as a stream and flow
Unto the graves where thy two princely seers

Sleep calm below:

Moses; and Aaron in the Mountain Hor;

I will of them inquire:
Is there another to replace this Law

Devoured of fire?

O thou third month most sacred! woe is me

For treason of the fourth,

Which dimmed the sacred light that shone from thee

And kindled wrath;

And brake the tablets, yea, and still did rage:

And lo! the Law is burnt!
Ye sinful! is not this the twofold wage

Which ye have earnt?

Dismay hath seized upon my soul; how, then,

Can food be sweet to me,
When, O thou Law, I have beheld base men

Destroying thee?

They cast thee out as one despised, and burn

The wealth of God Most High;
They whom from thine assembly thou wouldst spurn

From drawing nigh.

I cannot pass along the highway more,
Nor seek thy ways forlorn;

How do thy paths their loneliness deplore!
Lo! how they mourn!

The mingled cup shall taste as honey sweet
Where tears o’erbrim the wine;

Yea, and thy chains upon my shackled feet
Are joy divine.

Sweet would it be unto mine eyes alway

A rain of tears to pour,
To sob and drench thy sacred robes, till they

Could hold no more.

But lo! my tears are dried, when, fast out-poured.

They down my cheeks are shed;
Scorched by the fire within: because thy Lord
Hath turned and fled.

Taking His holy treasure, He hath made

His journey far away;
And with Him hath not thy protecting shade

Vanished for aye?

And I am desolate and sore bereft,

Lo! a forsaken one:
Like a sole beacon on a mountain left,

A tower alone.

I hear the voice of singers now no more,
Silence their song hath bound;

The strings are broken which on harps of yore
Breathed forth sweet sound.

In sackcloth I will clothe and sable band,

For well-beloved by me

Were they whose lives were many as the sand

The slain of thee.

I am astonied that the day’s fair light

Yet shineth brilliantly
On all things: it is ever dark as night

To me and thee.

Send with a bitter cry to God above
Thine anguish, nor withhold:

Ah! that He would remember yet His love,
His troth of old!

Gird on the sackcloth of thy misery

For that devouring fire,
Which burst forth ravenous on thine and thee

With wasting dire.

E’en as thy Rock hath sore afflicted thee,

He will assuage thy woe,
Will turn again the tribes’ captivity,

And raise the low.

Yet shalt thou wear thy scarlet raiment choice,
And sound the timbrels high,

And yet amid the dancers shalt rejoice
With gladdened cry.

My neart shall be uplifted on the day
Thy Rock shall be thy light,

When He shall make thy gloom to pass away,
Thy darkness bright.

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.