from The Mystic Rose Garden

We present this work in honor of Eid-al-Fitr.

05-03 Shabestari
Mahmoud Shabestari
Persian
1288 – 1340

 

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.

 

Translation by E.H. Whinfield

The Hidden Treasure Is in Me

We present this work in honor of National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.

04-23 Abdal
Kaygusuz Abdal
Turkish
1341 – 1444

The ocean, the endless sky,
the quarry and the gems are in me.
Open your eyes, look carefully:
both worlds are in me.

The spirit and the body,
the proof and the evidence,
both profit and loss—
the whole marketplace is in me.

I am the purpose of mankind,
the whirling movement of the earth;
I am the school and the knowledge—
the seal of completion is in me.

I am the Muslim. I am the Christian.
I am the place they both consider holy.
I am the crucified savior, the good and the evil—
whatever is—is in me.

I am the Infinite, the Eternal;
I am the wealthy and the poor;
I am the rememberer and what is remembered—
Faith and faithlessness are in me.

I am the idol that is worshipped,
the Kaaba* and the sacred relic—
the purpose of human beings
and all that comes with them is in me.

I am the light particle and the sun itself,
the hidden and the seen;
I am everything existing under its rays
Lover and Beloved are in me.

I am Kaygusuz Abdal, the soul in everyone.
I am the infinite and the eternal.
The hidden treasure is in me.

A New Language

12-09 Deschamps
Eustache Duchamps
French
1346 – 1406

 

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.

 

Translation by Samantha Pious

Well, Once Upon a Time, in Dribs and Drabs

11-24 Zakani
Ubayd Zakani
Persian
1300 – 1371

 

Well, once upon a time, in dribs and drabs,
Income turned up for me, throughout the year;

I’d dry bread and fresh herbs to hand, in case
A friend should unexpectedly appear;

And sometimes there’d be wine to drink, for when
A pretty boy or sweet young girl came here.

But now I’m getting on in years, my life
Has suddenly become much more austere;

I’ve neither dry to eat, nor wet to drink,
And all that’s in my house is me, my dear.

 

Translation by Dick Davis

Kunwar Narain

Ibn Battuta
Moroccan 1304 – 1369

 

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.

The Winter

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Welsh
c. 1315 – c. 1370

 

Across North Wales
The snowflakes wander,
A swarm of white bees.
Over the woods
A cold veil lies.
A load of chalk
Bows down the trees.

No undergrowth
Without its wool,
No field unsheeted;
No path is left
Through any field;
On every stump
White flour is milled.

Will someone tell me
What angels lift
Planks in the flour-loft
Floor of heaven
Shaking down dust?
An angel’s cloak
Is cold quicksilver.

And here below
The big drifts blow,
Blow and billow
Across the heather
Like swollen bellies.
The frozen foam
Falls in fleeces.

Out of my house
I will not stir
For any girl
To have my coat
Look like a miller’s
Or stuck with feathers
Of eider down.

What a great fall
Lies on my country!
A wide wall, stretching
One sea to the other,
Greater and graver
Than the sea’s graveyard.
When will rain come?

From the Garden of Heaven

We present this work in honor of Hafez Day.

Hafez
Persian
1326 – 1389

 

From the garden of Heaven a western breeze
Blows through the leaves of my garden of earth;
With a love like a huri I’ld take mine ease,
And wine! bring me wine, the giver of mirth!
To-day the beggar may boast him a king,
His banqueting-hall is the ripening field,
And his tent the shadow that soft clouds fling.

A tale of April the meadows unfold—
Ah, foolish for future credit to slave,
And to leave the cash of the present untold!
Build a fort with wine where thy heart may brave
The assault of the world; when thy fortress falls,
The relentless victor shall knead from thy dust
The bricks that repair its crumbling walls.

Trust not the word of that foe in the fight!
Shall the lamp of the synagogue lend its flame
To set thy monastic torches alight?
Drunken am I, yet place not my name
In the Book of Doom, nor pass judgment on it;
Who knows what the secret finger of Fate
Upon his own white forehead has writ!

And when the spirit of Hafiz has fled,
Follow his bier with a tribute of sighs;
Though the ocean of sin has closed o’er his head,
He may find a place in God’s Paradise.

Since I am Forgotten

Guillaume de Machaut
French
1300 – 1377

 

Since I am forgotten by you, sweet friend,
To a love life, and to happiness, I bid goodbye.
Unlucky was the day I put my love in you,
Since I am forgotten by you, sweet friend.
Yet I will keep what I have promised you,
Which is that never will I have another lover.
Since I am forgotten by you, sweet friend,
To a love life, and to happiness, I bid goodbye.

At the Court of Abu Inan

We present this work in honor of Dia de Andalucia.

Ibn al-Khatib
Arab Andalusian
1313 – 1374

 

Caliph of god!
Wish destiny increased your glory
as long as the moon shines in obscurity!
Wish the hand of Providence kept out from you
all dangers that men force cannot avoid.
In our afflictions your appearance is for us
like the moon dispersing the darkness.
In times of penury your hand replaces the rain
spreading abundance.
Without your help,
The people of Andalusian could not conserve
their habitation, neither their land.
In a word, this country doesn’t feel but a lone necessity:
to protect your Majesty.
Those who experiment your favour never were ungrateful;
they never were unaware of your profits.
And now, when they fair for their existence,
they send me to you and wait.