Nizami - Laili and Majnun - 05
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
LAILÎ AND MAJNÛN - A POEM FROM THE ORIGINAL PERSIAN OF NIZAMI [Translated by JAMES ATKINSON, ESQ.] V.
Sweet Lailî's kinsmen now describe
To the haughty chieftain of their tribe,
A youth amidst the desert seen,
In strange attire, of frantic mien;
His arms outstretch'd, his head all bare,
And floating loose his clustering hair:
“In a distracted mood,” they say—
“He wanders hither every day;
And often, with fantastic bound,
Dances, or prostrate hugs the ground;
Or, in a voice the soul to move,
Warbles the melting songs of love;
Songs which, when breathed in tones so true,
A thousand hearts at once subdue.
He speaks—and all who listen hear
Words which they hold in memory dear;
And we and thine endure the shame,
And Lailî blushes at his name.”
And now the chieftain, roused to wrath,
Threatens to cross the maniac's path.
But, haply, to prevent that barbarous deed,
To Omri's palmy groves the tidings flew,
And soon the father sends a chosen few,
To seek the lost one. Promptly they proceed
O'er open plain and thicket deep,
Embowering glen and rocky steep,
Exploring with un wearied eye
Wherever man might pass or lie,
O'ercome by grief or death. In vain
Their sight on every side they strain,
No Majnûn's voice, nor form, to cheer
Their anxious hearts; but far and near
The yell of prowling beasts they hear.
Mournful they deem him lost or dead,
And tears of bitterest anguish shed.
But he, the wanderer from his home,
Found not from beasts a living tomb;
His passion's pure and holy flame
Their native fierceness seem'd to tame
Tiger and ravenous wolf pass'd by him,
The fell hyena came not nigh him;
As if, ferocious spirits to quell,
His form had been invisible,
Or bore a life-protecting spell.
Upon a fountain emerald brink
Majnûn had stoop'd its lucid wave to drink;
And his despairing friends descried
Him laid along that murmuring fountain's side,
Wailing his sorrows still; his feeble voice
Dwelt, ever dwelt, upon his heart's sole choice.
A wild emotion trembled in his eye,
His bosom wrung with many a deep-drawn sigh;
And groans, and tears, and music's softest lay,
Successive mark'd his melancholy day.
—Now he is stretch'd along the burning sand,
A stone his pillow—now, upraised his hand,
He breathes a prayer for Lailî, and again
The desert echoes with some mournful strain.
As wine deprives us of the sense we boast,
So reason in love's maddening draughts is lost.
Restored to home again, he dreads to meet
His father's frowns, and bends to kiss his feet;
Then, gazing wildly, rises up, and speaks,
And in a piteous tone forgiveness seeks:—
“Sad is my fate, o'ercast my youthful morn,
My rose's leaves, my life's sweet buds are torn;
I sit in darkness, ashes o'er my head,
To all the world's alluring pleasures dead;
For me what poor excuse can soothe thy mind?
But thou'rt my father still—O still be kind!”
Syd Omri his unchanged affection proved,
And, folding to his breast the child he loved,
Exclaimed:–“My boy! I grieve to mark
Thy reason erring still, and dark;
A fire consuming every thread
Of which thy thrilling nerves are made.
Sit down, and from thy eyesight tear
The poisonous thorn that rankles there:
'Tis best we should to mirth incline,
But let it not be raised by wine:
'Tis well desire should fill the breast;
Not such desire as breaks our rest.
Remain not under grief's control,
Nor taunt of foe which stings the soul;
Let wisdom every movement guide;
Error but swells affliction's tide;
Though love hath set thee all on fire,
And thy heart burns with still unquench'd desire,
Despair not of a remedy;
From seedlings spring the shady tree;
From hope continued follows gladness;
Which dull despair had lost in sadness;
Associate with the wealthy, they
Will show to glittering wealth the way;
A wanderer never gathers store,
Be thou a wanderer now no more.
Wealth opens every door, and gives
Command, and homage still receives:
Be patient then, and patience will
By slow degrees thy coffers fill.
That river rolling deep and broad,
Once but a narrow streamlet flow'd;
That lofty mountain, now in view,
Its height from small beginnings drew.
He who impatient hurries on,
Hoping for gems, obtains a stone;
Shrewdness and cunning gain the prize,
While wisdom's self unprosperous lies:
The fox of crafty subtle mind
Leaves the wolf's dulness far behind;
Be thou discreet, thy thoughts employ,
The world's inviting pomp enjoy.—
In search of wealth from day to day
Love's useless passion dies away;
The sensual make disease their guest,
And nourish scorpions in their breast.
And is thy heart so worthless grown,
To be the cruel sport of one?
Keep it from woman's scathe, and still
Obedient to thy own free will,
And mindful of a parent's voice,
Make him, and not thy foes, rejoice.”
Majnûn replied:—“My father!–father still!—
My power is gone; I cannot change my will:
The moral counsel thou hast given to me,
(To one who cannot from his bondage flee,)
A vails me nothing. 'Tis no choice of mine,
But Fate's decree, that I should thus repine:
Stand I alone? Look round, on every side
Are broken hearts, by sternest fortune tried:
Shadows are not self-made—the silver moon
Is not self-station'd, but the Almighty's boon.
From the huge elephant's stupendous form,
To that of the poor ant, the smallest worm,
Through every grade of life, all power is given,
All joy or anguish by the Lord of Heaven.
I sought not, I, misfortune–but it came–
I sought not fire, yet is my heart all flame:
They ask me why I never laugh nor smile,
Though laughter be no sign of sense the while.
If I should laugh in merry mood, a-gape,
Amidst my mirth some secret might escape.
—A partridge seized an ant, resolved to kill
The feeble creature with his horny bill;
When, laughing loud, the ant exclaimed—‘Alas!
A partridge thou! and art thou such an ass?
I'm but a gnat, and dost thou think to float
A gnat's slight filmy texture down thy throat?’
The partridge laugh'd at this unusual sound,
And, laughing, dropp'd the ant upon the ground.
Thus he who idly laughs will always find
Some grief succeed—'tis so with all mankind.
The stupid partridge, laughing, droop'd his crest,
And by that folly lost what he possess'd.
—This poor old drudge, which bears its heavy load,
Must all life long endure the same rough road;
No joy for him, in mortal aid no trust,
No rest till death consigns him to the dust.”
Here paused the youth, and wept; and now
The household smooth his fourrow'd brow,
And with unceasing eagerness
Seek to remove his soul's distress.
But grief, corroding grief, allows no space
For quiet thoughts; his wounds breaks out anew;
His kindred every change of feature trace,
And unavailing tears their cheeks bedew;
A deeper, keener anguish marks his face;
His faded form so haggard to the view;
Useless the task his sorrows to remove,
For who can free the heart from love, unchanging love?
Few days had pass'd, when, frantic grown,
He burst from his domestic prison,
And in the desert wild, alone,
Pour'd, like the morning bird, new risen,
His ardent lay of love. Not long
The mountains echoed with his song,
Ere, drawn by sounds so sweet and clear,
A crowd of listeners hover'd near:
They saw him, tall as cypress, stand
A rocky fragment in his hand;
A purple sash his waist around,
His legs with links of iron bound;
Yet, unencumber'd was his gait;
They only show'd his maniac state.
* * * * *
Wandering he reach'd a spot of ground,
With palmy groves and poplars crown'd;
A lively scene it was to view,
Where flowers too bloom'd, of every hue;
Starting, he saw the axe applied
To a cypress-tree—and thus he cried:—
“Gardener! did ever love thy heart control?
Was ever woman mistress of thy soul?
When joy has thrill'd through every glowing nerve,
Hadst thou no wish that feeling to preserve?
Does not a woman's love delight, entrance,
And every blessing fortune yields enhance?
Then stop that lifted hand, the stroke suspend,
Spare, spare the cypress-tree, and be my friend!
And why? Look there, and be forewarn'd by me,
'Tis Lailî's form, all grace and majesty;
Wouldst thou root up resemblance so complete,
And lay its branches withering at thy feet?
What! Lailî's form? no; spare the cypress-tree;
Let it remain, still beautiful and free;
Yes, let my prayers thy kindliest feelings move,
And save the graceful shape of her I love!”
–The gardener dropp'd his axe, o'ercome with shame,
And left the tree to bloom, and speak of Lailî's fame.