We present this work in honor of the 675th anniversary of the poet’s death.
Who travels the Way heeds the Heart’s and the Way’s beginnings, But the Way’s everywhere, without boundaries — I’ll go till the rivers run dry, exhaust the peaks: In the calm of the clouds I’ll sit, and watch the moon light up the heavens.
Atop the sandy banks, with my wine deplete, I wish that the sunshine inclines. Washing my feet in the clear stream, I gaze at birds flying. This meaning by itself is beautiful — Who shall receive it? As a student of Confucius, I too dance upon the rain altar and return home.
Ha, the gentlest that there ever was made! The pleasantest that any woman knew! Most perfect to receive a high acclaim! The best beloved of any woman too! Of my true heart ever the sweetest food! My only love on earth, my paradise, All that I love, my sweetest desire, And the most perfect joy of my eyes! Your sweetness in me fierce war does inspire.
Your sweetness has truly forced its way Into a heart, that never thought to rue Such a state, yet has been so inflamed, By ardent desire, life would leave it too, If Sweet Thought did not comfort it anew: But Memory comes to lie with it, and I Hold and embrace you in my thought the while, Yet when your sweet kisses are denied, Your sweetness in me fierce war does inspire.
My sweet love, loved with all my heart, I say, The thought does not exist that could remove That sweet glance from my heart, that your gaze Enclosed within it: Nothing could so do – Nor your voice, nor gentle touch of those two Dear hands, that barely causing me to sigh, Wish everywhere to search and to enquire: Yet when I cannot see you with my eyes, Your sweetness in me fierce war does inspire.
Fairest and best to capture my heart, I Pray you, remember me: this I require, For when I cannot see you as I desire Your sweetness in me fierce war does inspire.
In the name of Him who taught the soul to think, And kindled the heart’s lamp with the light of soul; By Whose light the two worlds were illumined, By Whose grace the dust of Adam bloomed with roses; That Almighty one who in the twinkling of an eye, From Kaf and Nun brought forth the two worlds! What time the Kaf of His power breathed on the pen, It cast thousands of pictures on the page of Not being. From that breath were produced the two worlds, From that breath proceeded the soul of Adam. In Adam were manifested reason and discernment, Whereby he perceived the principle of all things. When he beheld himself a specific person, He thought within himself “What am I?” From part to whole he made a transit, And thence returned back to the world. He saw that the world is an imaginary thing, Like as one diffused through many numbers. The worlds of command and of creatures proceed from one breath, And the moment they come forth they go away again. Albeit here there is no real coming and going, Going, when you consider it, is naught but coming. Things revert to their proper original, All are one, both the visible and the invisible. God most high is the eternal one who with a breath Originates and terminates both worlds. The world of command and that of creatures are here one, One becomes many and many few. All these varied forms arise only from your fancy, They are but one point revolving quickly in a circle. It is but one circular line from first to last Whereon the creatures of this world are journeying; On this road the prophets are as princes, Guides, leaders and counsellors. And of them our lord Muhammad is the chief, At once the first and the last in this matter. That One (Ahad) was made manifest in the mim of Ahmad. In this circuit the first emanation became the last. A single mim divides Ahad from Ahmad; The world is immersed in that one mim. In him is completed the end of this road, In him is the station of the text ‘I call to God,’ His entrancing state is the union of union, His heart ravishing beauty the light of light. He went before and all souls follow after Grasping the skirts of his garment. As for the saints on this road before and behind They each give news of their own stages. When they have reached their limits They discourse of the ‘knower’ and the ‘known,’ One in the ocean of unity says ‘I am the Truth,’ Another speaks of near, and far, and the moving boat, One, having acquired the external knowledge, Gives news of the dry land of the shore. One takes out the pearl and it becomes a stumbling-block, Another leaves the pearl and it remains in its shell. One tells openly this tale of part and of whole, Another takes his text from eternal and temporal: One tells of curl, of mole, and of eyebrow, And displays to view wine, lamp and beauty. One speaks of his own being and its illusion, Another is devoted to idols and the Magian girdle. Since the language of each is according to his degree of progress, They are hard to be understood of the people. He who is perplexed as to these mysteries Is bound to learn their meaning.
Whose name will sound among the fields? Whose battle-cries will grind the grain? Once, learned men and layfolk both swore Basque and shouted English oaths: “Help, Holyhead!” “Saint George, to me!” were then in fashion, for we feared the noble deeds their troops had done. A new language always comes.
After those two, Breton displaced the Basque and English from our lips. Their fame exploded! No one clung to words outworn, outmoded songs, and all you heard was, “By God’s grace!” from every father and his son. The mad spoke Breton, and the dumb. A new language always comes.
Forgotten now, no longer good, Breton’s found peace with last year’s coins. We only speak Burgundian! “No god for me” — all in one voice. You might well ask, which, of those four, is worth the ransom, at this price. I’ll shut up now: my song is sung. A new language always comes.
Prince, which people will have won the “title,” “name,” or “lawful right” to grind the grain today? Tonight? A new language always comes.
Who are these people, impaled on sharp bamboo poles,
blood spurting from their bodies?
Marvels Ibn Battuta in the forests of Ma’bar.
So dark even by day,
or is the Sultan blind?
I catch a glimpse through his blind eyes
of a page of history,
flapping in the pale light of torches:
in this barbarous ritual,
who are these half-dead women and children,
their hands and feet ripped apart
one by one from their frail bodies?
Are they infidels or humans?
Who are these around me
that keep on drinking
despite the laws of sharia?
There is no one. There is nothing.
It’s all a bad dream.
None of this is happening today.
It was all a very long time ago—
the era of prehistoric beats of prey:
I am not a witness to it… Sultan,
allow me to leave;
it is time for my prayers.