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Nizami - Laili and Majnun - 13

Identifier

018805

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A description of the experience

LAILÎ AND MAJNÛN - A POEM FROM THE ORIGINAL PERSIAN OF NIZAMI   [Translated by  JAMES ATKINSON, ESQ.]   XIII.

Meantime, the father mourn'd his wretched state,
Like Jacob o'er his Joseph's unknown fate;
No rest by day, no sleep by night;
Grief o'er him shed its withering blight;
Incessant yawnings wrung his heart,
He sat in darkness, silent, lone:
“Why did my child from home depart?
Where has the hopeless wanderer gone?”
Dreading that death's relentless dart
His best-beloved had overthrown.

Sudden he rose–despair gave force
And vigor to his aged frame;
And, almost frantic with remorse,
Gathering upon himself the blame,
He trod the maze of wood and wild,
Seeking his poor forsaken child;
And when the day withdrew its light,
He pass'd in cavern rude the night;
But never ceased his venturous quest—
No peace for him—no strengthening rest.
In vain he paced the desert round,
For not a trace of him was found.
At length a herdsman, falling in his way,
Described the spot where Majnûn lay;
Craggy, and deep, and terrible to view,
It seem'd a grave all damp with noxious dew.

Thither proceeding, by the stranger led,
He finds with horror that sepulchral bed;
And, fearful of the worst, beholds the wreck
Of his once-lovely boy;—
He sees a serpent winding round his neck,
Playful, not destined to destroy:
It stays but for a moment—all around,
Limbs half-devour'd, and bones, bestrew the ground.

With cautious step descending, he surveys
Th' unconscious youth, who meets his anxious gaze
With a wild look, which could not recognise
The tottering form before him—“Who art thou?
And what thy errand?” The old man replies—
“I am thy father! I have found thee now,
After long search!” Embracing, both remain'd
In deep compassionate sorrow, fondly strain'd
Each to the other's bosom; and when he,
The maniac, had regain'd his memory,
And beams of light burst through his 'nighted brain,
And he beheld and knew his sire again,
Joy sparkled in his faded eye awhile,
And his parch'd lips seem'd curl'd into a smile.

The poor old father said, with feeble voice,
“Thou mak'st my heart both tremble and rejoice:
The path o'er which thy feet are doom'd to pass
Shows blades of swords, not harmless blades of grass;
And I would warn thee never more to roam;
Thy only safety is to stay at home.
Dogs have a home, and thou hast none to boast:
Art thou a man to human comfort lost?
If man thou art, then like a man appear,
Or, if a demon, be a demon here.
The ghoul, created to perplex the earth,
Is still a ghoul, and answers to its birth;
But thou'rt a man; and why, with human soul,
Forget thy nature and become a ghoul?
To-day, if thou shouldst throw the reins aside,
To-morrow thou may'st ask, and be denied.

Soon shall I pass away, and be at rest;
No longer this frail world's unhappy guest.
My day is mingling with the shades of night;
My life is losing all its wonted light.

Soul of thy father! re-inspired with grace,
Rise, and protect the honors of thy race!
That, ere this frame be in the grave laid low,
I may the guardian of my birthright know;
That, ere I die, to soothe a parent's grief,
Thou mayst be hail'd in thine own home, the chief.
Forbid it, Heaven, that when my hour is past,
My house and home should to the winds be cast!
That plundering strangers, with rapacious hand,
Should waste my treasure and despoil my land!
And Heaven forbid, that both at once should fall,
(My greatest dread) and thus extinguish all!
That when the summons reaches me to die,
Thy death should also swell the funeral cry!”

These words sank deep in Majnûn's breast: he seem'd
Alter'd in mood, as through his senses stream'd
The memory of his home, the fond regard
Of his dear mother, and the joys he shared,
From her affection. Days and nights he tried
To banish from his thoughts another's bride:
Repentance came, and oft the strife renew'd,
But tyrant love that feeling soon subdued;
(Love, a wild elephant in might, which grows
More powerful when opposed by friends or foes;)
And the poor maniac thus his sire address'd:—
“Thy counsel, father, is the wisest, best;
And I would gladly to thy wish conform:
But what am I? a helpless wretch, a worm,
Without the power to do what I approve,
Enslaved, the victim of almighty love.

To me the world is swallow'd up—I see
Nothing but Lailî—all is lost to me,
Save her bright image—father, mother, home,
All buried in impenetrable gloom,
Beyond my feeling;—yet I know thou'rt here,
And I could weep;—but what avails the tear,
Even were it at a father's funeral shed?
For human sorrows never reach the dead.
Thou say'st, the night of Death is on thee falling!
Then must I weep, thy fostering care recalling;
But I shall die in utter misery,
And none be left in life to weep for me.”

Syd Omri, with unutterable grief,
Gazed on his son, whose sorrows mock'd relief;
And, hopeless, wretched, every thought resign'd
That once was balm and comfort to his mind.
Then, showering blessings o'er his offspring's head,
Groaning, he parted from that dismal cave:
And, wrapt in deepest anguish, homeward sped;
But't was alas! to his expected grave.

Gently he sank, by age and grief oppress'd,
From this vain world, to that of endless rest.
Vain world indeed! who ever rested here?
The lustrous moon hath its eternal sphere;
But man, who in this mortal prison sighs,
Appears like lightning, and like lightning flies.

A pilgrim-step approach'd the wild retreat,
Where Majnûn linger'd in his rocky seat,
And the sad tale was told. He fell
Upon the earth insensible;
And, grovelling, with a frantic air,
His bosom beat—he tore his hair,
And never rested, night or day,
Till he had, wandering far away,
Reach'd the sad spot where peaceful lay
His father's bones, now crumbling with decay.
His arms around the grave he flung,
And to the earth delirious clung;
Grasping the ashes of the dead,
He cast them o'er his prostrate head,
And, with repentant tears, bedew'd
The holy relics round him strew'd.

O'erwhelming was the sharpen'd sense
Of his contrition, deep, intense;
And sickness wrapp'd his shatter'd frame
In a slow fever's parching flame;
Still, ceaseless,'t was his wont to rave
Upon his father's sacred grave.
He felt the bitterness of fate;
He saw his folly now too late;
And worlds would give again to share
His generous father's constant care;
For he had oft, in wanton guise,
Contemn'd the counsels of the wise;
Had with a child's impatience burn'd,
And scorn for sympathy return'd;
And now, like all of human mould,
When the indulgent heart is cold,
Which would have seal'd his happiness,
He mourns—but mourns his own distress;
For, when the diamond blazed like day,
He cast it recklessly away.

 

The source of the experience

Nizami

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