Nizami - Laili and Majnun - 19
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.] XIX.
How beautifully blue
The firmament! how bright
The noon is sailing through
The vast expanse, to-night!
And at this lovely hour
The lonely Lailî weeps
Within her prison-tower,
And her sad record keeps—
How many days, how many years,
Her sorrows she has borne!
A lingering age of sighs and tears;
A night that has no morn:
Yet in that guarded tower she lays her head,
Shut like a gem within its stony bed.
And who the warder of that place of sighs?
Her husband!—he the dragon-watch supplies.
What words are those which meet her anxious ear?
Unusual sounds, unusual sights appear;
Lamps flickering round, and wailings sad and low,
Seem to proclaim some sudden burst of woe.
Beneath her casement rings a wild lament;
Death-notes disturb the night; the air is rent
With clamorous voices; every hope is fled;
He breathes no longer—Ibn Salim is dead!
The fever's rage had nipp'd him in his bloom;
He sank unloved, unpitied, to the tomb.
And Lailî marks the moon; a cloud
Had stain'd its lucid face;
The mournful token of a shroud,
End of the humble and the proud,
The grave their resting-place.
And now to her the tale is told,
Her husband's hand and heart are cold:
And must she mourn the death of one
Whom she had loathed to look upon?
In customary garb array'd,
The pomp of grief must be display'd—
Dishevell'd tresses, streaming eyes,
The heart remaining in disguise—
She seem'd, distraction in her mien,
To feel her loss, if loss had been;
But all the burning tears she shed
Were for her Majnûn, and not the dead!
The rose that hail'd the purple morn,
All glistening with the balmy dew,
Look'd still more lonely when the thorn
Had been removed from where it grew.
But Arab laws had still their claim
Upon a virtuous widow's fame.
And what destroy'd all chance of blame?
Two years to droop behind the screen;
Two years unseeing, and unseen!
No, not a glance in all that time,
Blooming in life's luxurious prime,
Was e'er allow'd to womankind;
Since, but to household faces blind,
She must at home her vigils keep,
Her business still to groan and weep.
And Lailî weeps; but who can tell
What secrets may her bosom swell?
The beauteous eyes in tears may swim,
The heart may throb, but not for him
Who in the grave unconcious sleeps—
Alone for Majnûn Lailî weeps!
Accustom'd hourly to rehearse
Her distant lover's glowing verse,
Framed like a spell to charm and bless,
And soothe her heart's extreme distress.
* * * * *
“O what a night! a long and dreary night!
It is not night, but darkness without end;
Awful extinction of ethereal light,
Companionless, I sit, without one friend.
Is the immortal source of light congeal'd?
Or has the dreadful day of judgment come?
Nature's fair form beneath a pall conceal'd;
Oh! what a night of soul-destroying gloom!
Can the shrill wakener of the morn be dead?
Is the Mowazzin heedless of his trust?
Has the lone warder from his watch-tower fled,
Or, weary of his task, returned to dust?
O God! restore to me the joyous light
Which first illumed my heart—the golden ray
Of youthful love—that from this prison, night,
I may escape and feel the bliss of day!”
Years, days, how slowly roll they on!
And yet, how quickly life is gone!
The future soon becomes the past—
Ceaseless the course of time. At last
The morning came; the king of day
Arose in festival array,
And Lailî's night had pass'd away:
Her morn of beauty o'er her face,
Shining, resumed its wonted grace;
And with soft step of fairy lightness
She moved, a glittering moon in brightness.
And what was now her highest aim?
The impulse quivering through her frame?
Her secret love, so long conceal'd,
She now without a blush reveal'd.
And first she call'd her faithful Zyd,
On many a tender mission tried,
In whom her heart could best confide:—
“To-day is not the day of hope,
Which only gives to fancy scope;
It is the day our hopes completing,
It is the lover's day of meeting!
Rise up! the world is full of joy;
Rise up! and serve thy mistress, boy;
Together, where the cypress grows,
Place the red tulip and the rose;
And let the long-dissever'd meet—
Two lovers, in communion sweet.”
* * * * *
They met; but how? hearts long to joy unknown
Know not what 'tis to be, except alone;
Feeling intense had check'd the power to speak;
Silent confusion sat upon each cheek;
Speechless with love unutterable, they
Stood gazing at each other all the day.
Thus, when a chamber holds no golden store,
No lock protects the ever-open door;
But when rich hoards of gold become a lure,
A lock is placed to keep that wealth secure;
So when the heart is full, the voice is bound—
For ready speech with grief is rarely found.
Lailî, with looks of love, was first who caught
The soft expression of her bursting thought:
“Alas!” she said, as over him she hung,
“What wond'rous grief is this that chains the tongue?
The bulbul, famed for his mellifluous note,
Without the rose can swell his tuneful throat,
And when in fragrant bowers the rose he sees,
He warbles sweeter still his ecstasies.
Thou art the bulbul of the bright parterre,
And I the rose–why not thy love declare?
Why, being absent, whilst unseen by thee,
Arose to heaven thy voice and minstrelsy?
And now, at length, when we are met, alone,
Thy love has vanish'd, and thy voice is gone!”
A gush of tears to Majnûn gave relief:
Words came:—“The misery mine, and mine the grief:
The memory of those lips, so balmy sweet,
Bound up my tongue, which would their charms repeat.
When I, a falcon, through the woodlands flew,
The spotted partridge never met my view;
And now, when I'm unequal to the flight,
The long-sought beauteous bird has come in sight:
The substance thou, in angel charms array'd,
And what am I? I know not—but a shade;
Without thee nothing. Fancy would enthrone
Us both together, melted into one;
And thus, united to each other, we
Are equal—equal in our constancy:
Two bodies with one heart and spirit the same;
Two tapers with one pure celestial flame;
Of the same essence form'd, together join'd,
Two drops in one, each soul to each resign'd.”
He paused, and, with ineffable delight,
Lailî gazed on his glowing countenance,
So long estranged and hidden from her sight.
Now throbs his heart at every fondling glance:
The fragrance of her ringlets which enwreath
Her smooth round neck, her jasmine-scented breath,
The sweet confession of her tremulous eyes,
The ardent love which time and chance defies,
The chin of dimpled sweetness, the soft cheek,
The open ruby lips prepared to speak,
Madden his finer feelings, and again
A sudden tempest rushes through his brain;
Furious he gazes round him for a while,
Then looks at Lailî with a ghastly smile;
Rends off his Jama-dress in frantic mood,
Starts, as with more than human force endued,
And, shouting, hurries to the desert plain,
Follow'd by all his savage vassal-train.
* * * * *
His love was chaste and pure as heaven:
But by excess to madness driven,
Visions of rapture fill'd his soul;
His thoughts sublime despised control;
A joy allied to joys above
Was mingled with his dreamy love:
O Majnûn! lost, for ever gone;
The world is full of love, but none,
None ever bow'd at beauty's shrine
With such a sinless soul as thine.
* * * * *
In summer all is bright and gay;
In autumn verdure fades away,
The trees assume a sickly hue,
Unnourish'd by the fragrant dew;
The genial sap, through numerous rills,
From root and branch and leaf distils;
But, drying in the chilly air,
The groves become despoil'd and bare;
Sapless, the garden's flowery pride
The winds disperse on every side,
And all that sight and smell delighted
Is by the ruthless season blighted.
So Lailî's summer hours have pass'd;
And now she feels the autumnal blast;
Her bowers, her blooming bowers, assail'd,
The perfume of the rose exhaled,
Its wither'd leaves bestrew the ground,
And desolation reigns around:
For, from the moment she beheld
Her lover's mental state unveil'd,
Her heart no consolation knew,
Deprived of hope's refreshing dew.
Ere that o'erwhelming misery came,
Thoughts of new life upheld her frame:
Amidst her bitterest weeping and distress,
'Mid the dark broodings of her loneliness,
Though crush'd her feelings, and the man she loved
A wanderer of the forest, strangely moved,
Still was there hope, still was her mental gaze
Fix'd on the expected joys of after-days.
But now all hope had perish'd!—she had seen
The frenzied workings of that noble mien:
The fit delirious, the appalling start,
And grief and terror seized her trembling heart.
No tears she sheds, but pines away
In deep entire despair;*
The worm has seized its destined prey,
The blight is on that face so fair,
And fearful symptoms of a swift decay
Come o'er her delicate frame, that in the strife
She almost sinks beneath the load of life.
Feeling the ebbing of the vital tide,
She calls her weeping mother to her side.
“Mother! my hour is come, thou needest no longer chide;
For now no longer can my heart conceal
What once 'twas useless to reveal;
Yet, spite of thy affection, thou
Mayst blame my fatal passion now.
But I have in my rapture quaff'd
Poison in love's delicious draught;
And feel the agony which sears
The soul, and dries the source of tears.
O mother! mother! all I crave,
When I am pillow'd in my grave,
Is that the anguish-stricken youth,
Whose wonderous constancy and truth
Blended our souls in one, may come
And weep upon his Laili's tomb.
Forbid him not; but let him there
Pour forth the flood of his despair,
And no unhallow'd step intrude
Upon his sacred solitude.
For he to me, my life, my stay,
Was precious as the light of day.
Amazing was his love, sublime,
Which mock'd the wonted power of time;
And when thou seest him grovelling near,
Wildly lamenting o'er my bier,
Frown not, but kindly, soothingly relate
Whate'er thou know'st of my disastrous fate.
Say to that woe-worn wanderer,—“All is o'er;
Lailî, thy own sad friend, is now no more;
From this world's heavy chains for ever free,
To thee her heart was given—she died for thee!
With love so blended was her life, so true
That glowing love, no other joy she knew.
No worldly cares her thoughts had e'er oppress'd;
The love of thee alone disturb'd her rest;
And in that love her gentle spirit pass'd,
Breathing on thee her blessing to the last.”
The mournful mother gazed upon her child,
Now voiceless—though her lips imploring smiled;
Saw the dread change, the sudden pause of breath—
Her beauty settled in the trance of death;*
And, in the frenzy of her anguish, tore
Her hoary locks, the 'broider'd dress she wore;
Dissolved in tears, her wild and sorrowing cries
Brought down compassion from the weeping skies;
And so intense her grief, she shivering fell
Prostrate upon the corse, insensible,
And never, never rose again—the thread
Of life was broke—both, clasp'd together, dead!
* * * * *
O world! how treacherous thou art!
With angel-form and demon's heart;
A rosary of beads in hand,
And, covertly, a trenchant brand.
The rolling heavens with azure glow,
But storms o'erwhelm our hopes below;
The ship is toss'd upon the shore,
The wanderer meets his friends no more;
On flowery field, or boisterous wave,
Alike is found a yawning grave;
For formless, riding through the air,
Devouring death is everywhere;
Khusro, and Kai-kobâd, and Jam,
Have all descended to the tomb;
And who, composed of mortal clay,
The universal doom can stay?
For this, in vain, have youth and age
Ponder'd o'er learning's mystic page;
No human power can penetrate
The mysteries of all-ruling fate;
Frail life is but a moment's breath;
The world, alas! is full of death.
How many wept that fair one, gone so soon!
How many wept o'er that departed moon!—
How many mourn'd with broken hearts for her!
How many bathed with tears her sepulchre!
Round her pure dust assembled old and young,
And on the sod their fragrant offerings flung;
Hallow'd the spot where amorous youth and maid
In after-times their duteous homage paid.
Again it was the task of faithful Zyd,
Through far-extending plain and forest wide,
To seek the man of many woes, and tell
The fate of her, alas! he loved so well.
Loved, doated on, until his mind, o'erwrought,
Was crush'd beneath intolerable thought.
—With bleeding heart he found his lone abode,
Watering with tears the path on which he rode,
And beating his sad breast, Majnûn perceived
His friend approach, and ask'd him why he grieved;
What withering sorrow on his cheek had prey'd.
And why in melancholy black array'd.*
“Alas!” he cried, “the hail has crush'd my bowers;
A sudden storm has blighted all my flowers;
Thy cypress-tree o'erthrown, the leaves are sear;
The moon has fallen from her lucid sphere;
Lailî is dead!” No sooner was the word
Utter'd, no sooner the dread tidings heard,
Than Majnûn, sudden as the lightning's stroke
Sank on the ground, unconscious, with the shock,
And there lay motionless, as if his life
Had been extinguish'd in that mortal strife.
But, soon recovering, he prepared to rise,
Rewaken'd frenzy glaring in his eyes,
And, starting on his feet, a hollow groan
Burst from his heart. “Now, now, I am alone!
Why hast thou harrowing words like these express'd?
Why hast thou plunged a dagger in my breast?
Away! away!” The savage beasts around
In a wide circle couch'd upon the ground,
Wondering look'd on, whilst furiously he rent
His tatter'd garments, and his loud lament
Rang through the echoing forest. Now he threads
The mazes of the shadowy wood, which spreads
Perpetual gloom, and now emerges where
Nor bower nor grove obstructs the fiery air;
Climbs to the mountain's brow, o'er hill and plain
Urged quicker onwards by his burning brain,
Across the desert's arid boundary hies;
Zyd, like his shadow, following where he flies;
And when the tomb of Lailî meets his view,
Prostrate he falls, the ground his tears bedew;
Rolling distraught, he spreads his arms to clasp
The sacred temple, writhing like an asp:
Despair and horror swell his ceaseless moan,
And still he clasps the monumental stone.
“Alas!” he cries—“No more shall I behold
That angel-face, that form of heavenly mould.
She was the rose I cherish'd—but a gust
Of blighting wind has laid her in the dust.
She was my favourite cypress, full of grace,
But death has snatch'd her from her biding-place.
The tyrant has deprived me of the flower
I planted in my own sequester'd bower;
The Basil sweet, the choicest ever seen,
Cruelly torn and scatter'd o'er the green.
O beauteous flower! nipp'd by the winter's cold,
Gone from a world thou never didst behold.
O bower of joy! with blossoms fresh and fair,
But doom'd, alas! no ripen'd fruit to bear.
Where shall I find thee now, in darkness shrouded!
Those eyes of liquid light for ever clouded!
Where those carnation lips, that musky mole
Upon thy cheek, that treasure of the soul!
Though hidden from my view those charms of thine,
Still do they bloom in this fond heart of mine;
Though far removed from all I held so dear,
Though all I loved on earth be buried here,
Remembrance to the past enchantment gives,
Memory, blest memory, in my heart still lives.
Yes! thou hast quitted this contentious life,
This scene of endless treachery and strife;
And I like thee shall soon my fetters burst,
And quench in draughts of heavenly love my thirst:
There, where angelic bliss can never cloy,
We soon shall meet in everlasting joy;
The taper of our souls, more clear and bright,
Will then be lustrous with immortal light!”
He ceased, and from the tomb to which he clung
Suddenly to a distance wildly sprung,
And, seated on his camel, took the way
Leading to where his father's mansion lay;
His troop of vassal-beasts, as usual, near,
With still unchanged devotion, front and rear;
Yet, all unconscious, reckless where he went;
The sport of passion, on no purpose bent,
He sped along, or stopp'd; the woods and plains
Resounding with his melancholy strains;
Such strains as from a broken spirit flow,
The wailings of unmitigable woe;
But the same frenzy which had fired his mind
Strangely to leave his Lailî's grave behind,
Now drove him back, and with augmented grief,
All sighs and tears, and hopeless of relief,
He flings himself upon the tomb again,
As if he there for ever would remain
Fatally mingled with the dust beneath,
The young, the pure, the beautiful in death.
Closely he strain'd the marble to his breast,
A thousand kisses eagerly impress'd,
And knock'd his forehead in such desperate mood,
The place around him was distain'd with blood.
Alone, unseen: his vassals keep remote
Curious intruders from that sacred spot;
Alone, with wasted form and sombre eyes,
Groaning in anguish he exhausted lies;
No more life's joys or miseries will he meet,
Nothing to rouse him from this last retreat;
Upon a sinking gravestone he is laid,
The gates already opening for the dead!
Selim, the generous, who had twice before
Sought his romantic refuge, to implore
The wanderer to renounce the life he led,
And shun the ruin bursting o'er his head,
Again explored the wilderness, again
Cross'd craggy rock, deep glen, and dusty plain,
To find his new abode. A month had pass'd
'Mid mountain wild, when, turning back, at last
He spied the wretched sufferer alone,
Stretch'd on the ground, his head upon a stone.
Majnûn, up-gazing, recognised his face,
And bade his growling followers give him place;
Then said,—“Why art thou here again, since thou
Left me in wrath? What are thy wishes now?
I am a wretch bow'd down with bitterest woe,
Doom'd the extremes of misery to know,
Whilst thou, in affluence born, in pleasure nursed,
Stranger to ills the direst and the worst,
Can never join, unless in mockery,
With one so lost to all the world as me!”
Selim replied:–“Fain would I change thy will,
And bear thee hence,—be thy companion still:
Wealth shall be thine, and peace and social joy,
And tranquil days, no sorrow to annoy;
And she for whom thy soul has yearn'd so long
May yet be gain'd, and none shall do thee wrong.”
—Deeply he groan'd, and wept:—“No more, no more!
Speak not of her whose memory I adore;
She whom I loved, than life itself more dear,
My friend, my angel-bride, is buried here!
Dead!—but her spirit is now in heaven, whilst I
Live, and am dead with grief–yet do not die.
This is the fatal spot, my Lailî's tomb,—
This the lamented place of martyrdom.
Here lies my life's sole treasure, life's sole trust;
All that was bright in beauty gone to dust!”
Selim before him in amazement stood,
Stricken with anguish, weeping tears of blood;
And consolation blandly tried to give.
What consolation? Make his Lailî live?
His gentle words and looks were only found
To aggravate the agonising wound;
And weeks in fruitless sympathy had pass'd,
But, patient still, he linger'd to the last;
Then, with an anxious heart, of hope bereft,
The melancholy spot, reluctant, left.
The life of Majnûn had received its blight;
His troubled day was closing fast in night.
Still weeping, bitter, bitter tears he shed,
As grovelling in the dust his hands he spread
In holy prayer. “O God! thy servant hear?
And in thy gracious mercy set him free
From the afflictions which oppress him here,
That, in the Prophet's name, he may return to Thee!”
Thus murmuring, on the tomb he laid his head,
And with a sigh his wearied spirit fled.
* * * * *
And he, too, has perform'd his pilgrimage.
And who, existing on this earthly stage,
But follows the same path? whate'er his claim
To virtue, honour—worthy praise, or blame;
So will he answer at the judgment-throne,
Where secrets are unveil'd, and all things known;
Where felon-deeds of darkness meet the light,
And goodness wears its crown with glory bright.
Majnûn, removed from this tumultuous scene,
Which had to him unceasing misery been,
At length slept on the couch his bride possess'd,
And, wakening, saw her mingled with the bless'd.
There still lay stretch'd his body many a day,
Protected by his faithful beasts of prey;
Whose presence fill'd with terror all around,
Who sought to know where Majnûn might be found
Listening they heard low murmurs on the breeze;
Now loud and mournful, like the hum of bees;
But still supposed him seated in his place,
Watch'd by those sentinels of the savage race.
—A year had pass'd, and still their watch they kept,
As if their sovereign was not dead, but slept;
Some had been call'd away, and some had died—
At last the mouldering relics were descried;
And when the truth had caught the breath of fame,
Assembled friends from every quarter came;
Weeping, they wash'd his bones, now silvery white,
With ceaseless tears perform'd the funeral rite,
And, opening the incumbent tablet wide,
Mournfully laid him by his Lailî's side.
One promise bound their faithful hearts–one bed
Of cold, cold earth united them when dead.
Sever'd in life, how cruel was their doom!
Ne'er to be join'd but in the silent tomb!
THE minstrel's legend-chronicle
Which on their woes delights to dwell,
Their matchless purity and faith,
And how their dust was mix'd in death,
Tells how the sorrow-stricken Zyd
Saw, in a dream, the beauteous bride,
With Majnûn seated side by side.
In meditation deep, one night,
The other world flush'd on his sight
With endless vistas of delight—
The world of spirits;—as he lay
Angels appear'd in bright array,
Circles of glory round them gleaming,
Their eyes with holy rapture beaming;
He saw the ever-verdant bowers,
With golden fruit and blooming flowers;
The bulbul heard, their sweets among,
Warbling his rich mellifluous song;
The ring-dove's murmuring, and the swell
Of melody from harp and shell:
He saw within a rosy glade,
Beneath a palm's extensive shade,
A throne, amazing to behold,
Studded with glittering gems and gold;
Celestial carpets near it spread
Close where a lucid streamlet stray'd;
Upon that throne, in blissful state,
The long-divided lovers sate,
Resplendent with seraphic light:—
They held a cap, with diamonds bright;
Their lips, by turns, with nectar wet,
In pure ambrosial kisses met;
Sometimes to each their thoughts revealing,
Each clasping each with tenderest feeling.
—The dreamer who this vision saw
Demanded, with becoming awe,
What sacred names the happy pair
In Irem-bowers were wont to bear.
A voice replied:—“That sparkling moon
Is Lailî still—her friend, Majnûn;
Deprived in your frail world of bliss,
They reap their great reward in this!”
Zyd, wakening from his wonderous dream,
Now dwelt upon the mystic theme,
And told to all how faithful love
Receives its recompense above.
O ye, who thoughtlessly repose
On what this flattering world bestows,
Reflect how transient is your stay!
How soon e'en sorrow fades away!
The pangs of grief the heart may wring
In life, but Heaven removes the sting;
The world to come makes bliss secure,—
The world to come, eternal, pure.
What other solace for the human soul,
But everlasting rest—virtue's unvarying goal!
SAKI! Nizámi's strain is sung;
The Persian poet's pearls are strung;
Then fill again the goblet high!
Thou wouldst not ask the reveller why?
Fill to the love that changes never!
Fill to the love that lives for ever!
That, purified by earthly woes,
At last with bliss seraphic glows.