Bayard Taylor - Poems of the Orient – The Wisdom of Ali
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
THE WISDOM OF ALI
AN ARAB LEGEND.
The Prophet once, sitting in calm debate,
Said : " I am Wisdom's fortress ; but the gate
Thereof is Ali." Wherefore, some who heard,
With unbelieving jealousy were stirred ;
And, that they might on him confusion bring.
Ten of the boldest joined to prove the thing.
" Let us in turn to Ali go," they said,
" And ask if Wisdom should be sought instead
Of earthly riches ; then, if he reply
To each of us, in thought, accordantly.
And yet to none, in speech or phrase, the same.
His shall the honor be, and ours the shame.''
Now, when the first his bold demand did make,
These were the words which Ali straightway spake :
"Wisdom is the inheritance of those
Whom Allah favors ; riches, of his foes."
Unto the second he said : " Thyself must be
Guard to thy wealth ; but Wisdom guardeth thee.''
Unto the third : " By Wisdom wealth is won ;
But riches purchased wisdom yet for none."
Unto the fourth : " Thy goods the thief may take ;
But into Wisdom's house he cannot break."
Unto the fifth : " Thy goods decrease the more
Thou giv'st ; but use enlarges Wisdom's store."
Unto the sixth : " Wealth tempts to evil ways ;
But the desire of Wisdom is God's praise."
Unto the seventh : " Divide thy wealth, each part
Becomes a pittance. Give with open heart
Thy wisdom, and each separate gift shall be
All that thou hast, yet not impoverish thee."
Unto the eighth : " Wealth cannot keep itself;
But Wisdom is the steward even of pelf."
Unto the ninth : " The camels slowly bring
Thy goods ; but Wisdom has the swallow's wing."
And lastly, when the tenth did question make,
These were the ready words which Ali spake : —
"Wealth is a darkness which the soul should fear ;
But Wisdom is the lamp that makes it clear."
Crimson with shame the questioners withdrew,
And they declared: "The Prophet's words were true;
The mouth of Ali is the golden door Of Wisdom."
When his friends to Ali bore
These words, he smiled and said : " And should they ask
The same until my dying day, the task
Were easy ; for the stream from Wisdom's well,
Which God supplies, is inexhaustible."