Here to return to
A SHAH there was who ruled the Realm of Yún,
And wore the Ring of Empire of Sikander;
And in his Reign A SAGE, who had the Tower
Of Wisdom of so strong Foundation built
That Wise Men from all Quarters of the World
To catch the Word of Wisdom from his Lip
Went in a Girdle round him. — Which THE SHAH
Observing, took him to his Secresy;
Stirr’d not a Step nor set Design afoot
Without that Sage’s sanction; till, so counsel’d,
From Káf to Káf reach’d his Dominion:
No Nation of the World or Nation’s Chief
Who wore the Ring but under span of his
Bow’d down the Neck; then rising up in Peace
Under his Justice grew, and knew no Wrong,
And in their Strength was his Dominion Strong.
The SHAH that has not Wisdom in Himself,
Nor has a Wise Man for his Counsellor,
The Wand of his Authority falls short,
And his Dominion crumbles at the Base.
For he, discerning not the Characters
Of Tyranny and Justice, confounds both,
Making the World a Desert, and the Fount
Of Justice a Seráb. Well was is said,
“Better just Kafir than Believing Tyrant.”
God said to the Prophet David,
“David, speak, and to the Challenge
“Answer of the Faith within Thee.
“Even Unbelieving Princes,
“Ill-reported if Unworthy,
“Yet, if They be Just and Righteous,
“Were their Worship of THE FIRE —
“Even These unto Themselves
“Reap glory and redress the World.”
One Night THE SHAH of Yúnan, as his wont,
Consider’d of his Power, and told his State,
How great it was, and how about him sat
The Robe of Honour of Prosperity;
Then found he nothing wanted to his Heart,
Unless a Son, who his Dominion
And Glory might inherit after him.
And then he turn’d him to THE SHAH, and said;
“Oh Thou, whose Wisdom is the Rule of Kings —
“(Glory to God who gave it!) — answer me;
“Is any Blessing better than a Son?
“Man’s prime Desire; by which his Name and He
“Shall live beyond Himself; by whom his Eyes
“Shine living, and his Dust with Roses blows;
“A Foot for Thee to stand on, he shall be
“A Hand to stop thy Falling; in his Youth
“Thou shalt be Young, and in his Strength be Strong;
“Sharp shall he be in Battle as a Sword,
“A Cloud of Arrows on the Enemy’s Head;
“His Voice shall cheer his Friends to Plight,
“And turn the Foeman’s Glory into Flight.”
Thus much of a Good Son, whose wholesome Growth
Approves the Root he grew from; but for one
Kneaded of Evil — Well, could one undo
His Generation, and as early pull
Him and his Vices from the String of Time.
Like Noah’s, puff’d with Ignorance and Pride,
Who felt the Stab of “HE IS NONE OF THINE!”
And perish’d in the Deluge. And because
All are not Good, be slow to pray for One,
Whom having you may have to pray to lose.
Crazy for the Curse of Children,
Ran before the Sheikh a Fellow,
Crying out, “Oh hear and help me!
“Pray to Allah from my Clay
“To raise me up a fresh young Cypress,
“Who my Childless Eyes may lighten
“With the Beauty of his Presence.”
Said the Sheikh, “Be wise, and leave it
“Wholly in the Hand of Allah,
“Who, whatever we are after,
“Understands our Business best.”
But the Man persisted, saying,
“Sheikh, I languish in my Longing;
“Help, and set my Prayer a-going!”
Then the Sheikh held up his Hand —
Pray’d — his Arrow flew to Heaven —
From the Hunting-ground of Darkness
Down a musky Fawn of China
Brought — a Boy — who, when the Tender
Shoot of Passion in him planted
Found sufficient Soil and Sap,
Took to Drinking with his Fellows;
From a Corner of the House-top
Ill affronts a Neighbour’s Wife,
Draws his Dagger on the Husband,
Who complains before the Justice,
And the Father has to pay.
Day and Night the Youngster’s Doings
Such — the Talk of all the City;
Nor Entreaty, Threat, or Counsel
Held him; till the Desperate Father
Once more to the Sheikh a-running,
Catches at his Garment, crying —
“Sheikh, my only Hope and Helper!
“One more Prayer! that God who laid
“Will take that Trouble from my Head!”
But the Sheikh replied: “Remember
“How that very Day I warn’d you
“Better not importune Allah;
“Unto whom remains no other
“Prayer, unless to pray for Pardon.
“When from this World we are summon’d
“On to bind the pack of Travel
“Son or Daughter ill shall help us;
“Slaves we are, and unencumber’d
“Best may do the Master’s mind;
“And, whatever he may order,
“Do it with a Will Resign’d.”
When the Sharp-witted SAGE
Had heard these Sayings of THE SHAH, he said,
“Oh SHAH, who would not be the Slave of Lust
“Must still endure the Sorrow of no Son.
“ — Lust that makes blind the Reason; Lust that makes
“A Devil’s self seem Angel to our Eyes;
“A Cataract that, carrying havoc with it,
“Confounds the prosperous House; a Road of Mire
“Where whoso falls he rises not again;
“A Wine of which whoever tastes shall see
“Redemption’s face no more — one little Sip
“Of that delicious and unlawful Drink
“Making crave much, and hanging round the Palate
“Till it become a Ring to lead thee by
“(Putting the rope in a Vain Woman’s hand),
“Till thou thyself go down the Way of Nothing.
“For what is Woman? A Foolish, Faithless Thing
“To whom The Wise Self-subjected, himself
“Deep sinks beneath the Folly he sets up.
“A very Káfir in Rapacity;
“Clothe her a hundred Years in Gold and Jewel,
“Her Garment with Brocade of Susa braided,
“Her very Night-gear wrought in Cloth of Gold,
“Dangle her Ears with Ruby and with Pearl,
“Her House with Golden Vessels all a-blaze,
“Her Tables loaded with the Fruit of Kings,
“Ispahan Apples, Pomegranates of Yazd;
“And, be she thirsty, from a Jewell’d Cup
“Drinking the Water of the Well of Life —
“One little twist of Temper, — all you’ve done
“Goes all for Nothing. ‘Torment of my Life!’
“She cries, ‘What have you ever done for me!’ —
“Her Brow’s white Tablet--Yes — ’tis uninscrib’d
“With any Letter of Fidelity;
“Who ever read it there? Lo, in your Bosom
“She lies for Years — you turn away a moment,
“And she forgets you — worse, if as you turn
“Her Eye should light on any Younger Lover.”
Once upon the Throne of Judgment,
Telling one another Secrets,
Sat SULAYMAN and BALKÍS
The Hearts of Both were turn’d to Truth,
Unsullied by Deception.
First the King of Faith SULAYMAN
Spoke — “Though mine the Ring of Empire,
“Never any Day that passes
“Darkens any one my Door-way
“But into his Hand I look
“And He who comes not empty-handed
“Grows to Honour in mine Eyes.”
After this BALKÍS a Secret
From her hidden Bosom utter’d,
Saying — “Never Night or Morning
“Comely Youth before me passes
“Whom I look not longing after;
“Saying to myself, ‘Oh were he
“‘Comforting of my Sick Soul! — ’”
“If this, as wise Ferdúsi says, the Curse
“Of Better Women, what should be the Worse?”
THE SAGE his Satire ended; and THE SHAH
With Magic-mighty WISDOM his pure WILL
Leaguing, its Self-fulfilment wrought from Heaven.
And Lo! from Darkness came to Light A CHILD,
Of Carnal Composition Unattaint, —
A Rosebud blowing on the Royal Stem, —
A Perfume from the Realm of Wisdom wafted;
The Crowning Jewel of the Crown; a Star
Under whose Augury triumph’d the Throne.
For whose Auspicious Name they clove the Words
“SALÁMAT” — Incolumity from Evil —
And “AUSEMÁN” — the Heav’n from which he came
And hail’d him by the title of SALÁMÁN.
And whereas from no Mother Milk he drew,
They chose for him a Nurse — her name ABSÁL —
Her Years not Twenty — from the Silver Line
Dividing the Musk-Harvest of her Hair
Down to her Foot that trampled Crowns of Kings,
A Moon of Beauty Full; who thus elect
SALÁMÁN of Auspicious Augury
Should carry in the Garment of her Bounty,
Should feed Him with the Flowing of her Breast.
As soon as she had opened Eyes on him
She closed those Eyes to all the World beside,
And her Soul crazed, a-doting on her Jewel,
Her Jewel in a Golden Cradle set;
Opening and shutting which her Day’s Delight,
To gaze upon his Heart-inflaming Cheek,
Upon the Darling whom, could she, she would
Have cradled as the Baby of her Eye.
In Rose and Musk she wash’d him — to his Lips
Press’d the pure Sugar from the Honeycomb;
And when, Day over, she withdrew her Milk,
She made, and having laid him in, his Bed,
Burn’d all Night like a Taper o’er his Head.
Then still as Morning came, and as he grew,
She dress’d him like a Little Idol up;
On with his Robe — with fresh Collyrium Dew
Touch’s his Narcissus Eyes — the Musky Locks
Divided from his Forehead — and embraced
With Gold and Ruby Girdle his fine Waist. —
So rear’d she him till full Fourteen his Years,
Fourteen-day full the Beauty of his Face,
That rode high in a Hundred Thousand Hearts;
Yea, when SALÁMÁN was but Half-lance high,
Lance-like he struck a wound in every One,
And burn’d and shook down Splendour like a Sun.
Soon as the Lord of Heav’n had sprung his Horse
Over the Horizon into the Blue Field,
SALÁMÁN rose drunk with the Wine of Sleep,
And set himself a-stirrup for the Field;
He and a Troop of Princes — Kings in Blood,
Kings too in the Kingdom-troubling Tribe of Beauty,
All Young in Years and Courage, Bat in hand
Gallop’d a-field, toss’d down the Golden Ball
And chased, so many Crescent Moons a Full;
And, all alike Intent upon the Game,
SALÁMÁN still would carry from them all
The Prize, and shouting “Hál!” drive Home the Ball.
This done, SALÁMÁN bent him as a Bow
To Shooting — from the Marksmen of the World
Call’d for an unstrung Bow — himself the Cord
Fitted unhelpt, and nimbly with his hand
Twanging made cry, and drew it to his Ear:
Then, fixing the Three-feather’d Fowl, discharged.
No point in Heaven’s Azure but his Arrow
Hit; nay, but Heaven were made of Adamant,
Would overtake the Horizon as it roll’d;
And, whether aiming at the Fawn a-foot,
Or Bird on wing, his Arrow went away
Straight — like the Soul that cannot go astray.
When Night came, that releases Man from Toil,
He play’d the Chess of Social Intercourse;
Prepared his Banquet Hall like Paradise,
Summon’d his Houri-faced Musicians,
And, when his Brain grew warm with Wine, the Veil
Flung off him of Reserve. Now Lip to Lip
Concerting with the Singer he would breathe
Like a Messias Life into the Dead;
Now made of the Melodious-moving Pipe
A Sugar-cane between his Lips that ran
Men’s Ears with Sweetness: Taking up a Harp,
Between its dry String and his Finger fresh
Struck Fire; or lifting in his arms a Lute
As if a little Child for Chastisement,
Pinching its Ear such Cries of Sorrow wrung
As drew Blood to the Eyes of Older Men.
Now sang He like the Nightingale alone,
Now set together Voice and Instrument;
And thus with his Associates Night he spent.
His Soul rejoiced in Knowledge of all kinds;
The fine Edge of his Wit would split a Hair,
And in the Noose of Apprehension catch
A Meaning ere articulate in Word;
His Verse was like the PLEIADS; his Discourse
The MOURNERS OF THE BIER; his Penmanship,
(Tablet and running Reed his Worshippers,)
Fine on the Lip of Youth as the First Hair,
Drove Penmen, as that Lovers, to Despair.
His Bounty was as Ocean’s — nay, the Sea’s
Self but the Foam of his Munificence,
For it threw up the Shell, but he the Pearl;
He was a Cloud that rain’d upon the World
Dirhems for Drops; the Banquet of whose Bounty
Left Hátim’s Churlish in Comparison.
Suddenly that Sweet Minister of mine
Rebuked me angrily; “ What Folly, Jámi,
“Wearing that indefatigable Pen
“In celebration of an Alien SHAH
“Whose Throne, not grounded in the Eternal World,
“YESTERDAY was, TO-DAY is not!” I answer’d;
“Oh Fount of Light! — under an Alien Name
“I shadow One upon whose Head the Crown
“Both WAS and Is TO-DAY; to whose Firmán
“The Seven Kingdoms of the World are subject,
“And the Seas Seven but droppings of his Largess.
“Good luck to him who under other Name
“Taught us to veil the Praises of a Power
“To which the Initiate scarce find open Door.”
Sat a Lover solitary
Self-discoursing in a Corner,
Passionate and ever-changing
Invocation pouring out;
Sometimes Sun and Moon; and sometimes
Under Hyacinth half-hidden
Roses; or the lofty Cypress,
And the little Weed below.
Nightingaling thus a Noodle
Heard him, and, completely puzzled,
“What!” quoth he, “And you, a Lover,
“Raving not about your Mistress,
“But about the Moon and Roses!”
Answer’d he; “Oh thou that aimest
“Wide of Love, and Lover’s Language
“Sun and Moon are but my Lady’s
“Self, as any Lover knows;
“Hyacinth I said, and meant her
“Hair — her Cheek was in the Rose —
“And I myself the wretched Weed
“That in her Cypress Shadow grows.”
Now was SALÁMÁN in his Prime of Growth,
His Cypress Stature risen to high Top,
And the new-blooming Garden of his Beauty
Began to bear; and Absâl long’d to gather;
But the Fruit grew upon too high a Bough,
To which the Noose of her Desire was short.
She too rejoiced in Beauty of her own
No whit behind SALÁMÁN, whom she now
Began enticing with her Sorcery.
Now from her Hair would twine a musky Chain,
To bind his Heart — now twist it into Curls
Nestling innumerable Temptations;
Doubled the Darkness of her Eyes with Surma
To make him lose his way, and over them
Adorn’d the Bows that were to shoot him then;
Now to the Rose-leaf of her Cheek would add
Fresh Rose, and then a Grain of Musk lay there,
The Bird of the Belovéd Heart to snare.
Now with a Laugh would break the Ruby Seal
That lockt up Pearl; or busied in the Room
Would smite her Hand perhaps — on that pretence
To lift and show the Silver in her Sleeve;
Or hastily rising clash her Golden Anclets
To draw the Crownéd Head under her Feet.
Thus by innumerable Bridal wiles
She went about soliciting his Eyes,
Which she would scarce let lose her for a Moment;
For well she knew that mainly by THE EYE
Love makes his Sign, and by no other Road
Enters and takes possession of the Heart.
Burning with Desire ZULAIKHA
Built a Chamber, Wall and Ceiling
Blank as an untarnisht Mirror,
Spotless as the Heart of YÚSUF.
Then she made a cunning Painter
Multiply her Image round it;
Not an Inch of Wall but echoed
With the Reflex of her Beauty.
Then amid them all in all her
Glory sat she down, and sent for
YÚSUF — she began a Tale
Of Love — and Lifted up her Veil.
From her Look he turn’d, but turning
Wheresoever, ever saw her
Looking, looking at him still.
Then Desire arose within him —
He was almost yielding — almost
Laying Honey on her Lip —
When a Signal out of Darkness
Spoke to him — and he withdrew
His Hand, and dropt the Skirt of Fortune.
Thus day by day did ABSÁL tempt SALÁMÁN,
And by and bye her Wiles began to work.
Her Eyes Narcissus stole his Sleep — their Lashes
Pierc’d to his Heart — out from her Locks a Snake
Bit him — and bitter, bitter on his Tongue
Became the Memory of her honey Lip.
He saw the Ringlet restless on her Cheek,
And he too quiver’d with Desire; his Tears
Turn’d Crimson from her Cheek, whose musky spot
Infected all his soul with Melancholy.
Love drew him from behind the Veil, where yet
Withheld him better Resolution —
“Oh, should the Food I long for, tasted, turn
“Unwholesome, and if all my Life to come
“Should sicken from one momentary Sweet!”
On the Sea-shore sat a Raven,
Blind, and from the bitter Cistern
Forc’d his only Drink to draw.
Suddenly the Pelican
Flying over Fortune’s Shadow
Cast upon his Head, and calling —
“Come, poor Son of Salt, and taste of
Sweet, sweet Water from my Maw.”
Said the Raven, “If I taste it
Once, the Salt I have to live on
May for ever turn to Loathing;
And I sit a Bird accurst
Upon the Shore to die of Thirst.”
Now when SALÁMÁN'S turned to ABSÁL,
Her Star was happy in the Heavens — Old Love
Put forth afresh —
Desire doubled his Bond:
She laid her Face beneath. SALÁMÁN then
With all the Courtesies of Princely Grace
Put forth his Hand — he raised her in his Arms —
He held her trembling there — and from that Fount
Drew first Desire; then Deeper from her Lips,
That, yielding, mutually drew from his
A Wine that ever drawn from never fail'd —
So through the Day — so through another still —
The Day became a Seventh — the Seventh a Moon —
The Moon a Year — while they rejoiced together,
Thinking their Pleasure never was to end.
But rolling Heaven whisper’d from his Ambush,
“So in my License is it not set down.
“Ah for the sweet Societies I make
“At Morning and before the Nightfall break;
“Ah for the Bliss that with the Setting Sun
“I mix, and, with his Rising, all is done!”
Into Bagdad came a hungry
Arab — after many days of waiting
In to the Khalífah’s Supper
Push’d, and got before a Pasty
Luscious as the Lip of Beauty,
Or the Tongue of Eloquence.
Soon as seen, Indecent Hunger
Seizes up and swallows down;
Then his mouth undaunted wiping —
“Oh Khalífah, hear me Swear,
“Not of any other Pasty
“Than of Thine to sup or dine.”
The Khalífah laugh’d and answer’d;
“ Fool! who thinkest to determine
“What is in the Hands of Fate —
“Take and thrust him from the Gate!”
While a Full Year was counted by the Moon,
SALÁMÁN and ABSÁL rejoiced together,
And for so long he stood not in the face
Of SAGE or SHAH, and their bereaved Hearts
Were torn in twain with the Desire of Him.
They question’d those about him, and from them
Heard something; then Himself in Presence summon’d,
And, subtly sifting on all sides, so plied
Interrogation till it hit the Mark,
And all the Truth was told. Then SAGE and SHAH
Struck out with Hand and Foot in his Redress.
And First with REASON, which is also Best;
REASON that rights the Retrograde — completes
The Imperfect — REASON that unties the Knot:
For REASON is the Fountain from of old
From which the Prophets drew, and none beside.
Who boasts of other Inspiration lies —
There are no other Prophets than THE WISE.
First spoke THE SHAH; — “SALÁMÁN, Oh my Soul,
“Oh Taper of the Banquet of my House,
Light of the Eyes of my Prosperity,
“And making bloom the Court of Hope with Rose;
“Years Rose-bud-like my own Blood I devour’d
“Till in my hand I carried thee, my Rose;
“Oh do not tear my Garment from my Hand,
“Nor wound thy Father with a Dagger Thorn.
“Years for thy sake the Crown has worn my Brow,
“And Years my Foot been growing to the Throne
“Only for Thee — Oh spurn them not with Thine;
“Oh turn thy Face from Dalliance unwise,
“Lay not thy Heart’s hand on a Minion!
“For what thy Proper Pastime? Is it not
“To mount and manage RAKHSH along the Field;
“Not, with no stouter weapon than a Love-lock,
“Idly reclining on a Silver Breast.
“Go, fly thine Arrow at the Antelope
“And Lion — let not me my Lion see
“Slain by the Arrow eyes of a Ghazál.
“Go, flash thy Steel among the Ranks of Men,
“And smite the Warriors’ Necks; not, flying them,
“Lay down thine own beneath a Woman’s Foot.
“Leave off such doing in the Name of God,
“Nor bring thy Father weeping to the Ground;
“Years have I held myself aloft, and all
“For Thee — Oh Shame if thou prepare my Fall!”
When before SHIRÚEH’s Feet
Drencht in Blood fell KAI KHUSRAU,
He declared this Parable —
“Wretch! — There was a Branch that, waxing
“Wanton o’er the Root he drank from,
“At a Draught the Living Water
“Drain’d wherewith Himself to crown;
“Died the Root — and with it died
“The Branch — and barren was brought down!”
SALÁMÁN heard — the Sea of his Soul was mov’d,
And bubbled up with Jewels, and he said;
“Oh SHAH, I am the Slave of thy Desire,
“Dust of thy Throne ascending Foot am I;
“Whatever thou Desirest I would do,
“But sicken of my own Incompetence;
“Not in the Hand of my infirmer Will
“To carry into Deed mine own Desire.
“Time upon Time I torture mine own Soul,
“Devising liberation from the Snare
“I languish in. But when upon that Moon
“I think, my Soul relapses — and when look
“I leave both Worlds behind to follow her!”
THE SHAH ceased Counsel, and THE SAGE began.
“Oh Thou new Vintage of a Garden old,
“Last Blazon of the Pen of ‘LET THERE BE,’
“Who read’st the SEVEN AND FOUR; lnterpretest
“The writing on the Leaves of Night and Day —
“Archetype of the Assembly of the World,
“Who hold’st the Key of Adam’s Treasury
“(Know thine own Dignity and slight it not,
“For Thou art Greater yet than all I tell) —
“The Mighty Hand that mix’d thy Dust inscribed
“The Character of Wisdom on thy Heart;
“Oh Cleanse thy Bosom of Material Form,
“And turn the Mirror of the Soul to SPIRIT,
“Until it be with SPIRIT all possest,
“Drown’d in the Light of Intellectual Truth.
“Oh veil thine Eyes from Mortal Paramour,
“And follow not her Step! — For what is She? —
“What is She but a Vice and a Reproach,
“Her very Garment-hem Pollution!
“For such Pollution madden not thine Eyes,
“Waste not thy Body’s Strength, nor taint thy Soul,
“Nor set the Body and the Soul in Strife!
“Supreme is thine Original Degree,
“Thy Star upon the Top of Heaven; but Lust
“Will fling it down even unto the Dust!”
Quoth a Muezzin unto Crested
Chanticleer — “Oh Voice of Morning,
“Not a Sage of all the Sages
“Prophesies of Dawn, or startles
“At the wing of Time, like Thee.
“One so wise methinks were fitter
“Perching on the Beams of Heaven,
“Than with these poor Hens about him,
“Raking in a Heap of Dung.”
“And,” replied the Cock, “in Heaven
“Once I was; but by my Evíl
“Lust am fallen down to raking
“With my wretched Hens about me
“On the Dunghill. Otherwise
“I were even now in Eden
“With the Bird of Paradise.”
When from THE SAGE these words SALÁMÁN heard,
The breath of Wisdom round his Palate blew;
He said — “Oh Darling of the Soul of Plato,
“To whom a hundred Aristotles bow;
“Oh Thou that an Eleventh to the Ten
“Original INTELLIGENCES addest, —
“I lay my Face before Thee in the Dust,
“The humblest Scholar of thy Court am I;
“Whose every word I find a Well of Wisdom,
“And hasten to imbibe it in my Soul.
“But clear unto thy clearest Eye it is,
“That Choice is not within Oneself To Do,
“Not in THE WILL, but in THE POWER, to Do.
“From that which I originally am
“How shall I swerve? or how put forth a Sign
“Beyond the Power that is by Nature Miner
Unto the Soul that is confused by Love
Comes Sorrow after Sorrow — most of all
To Love whose only Friendship is Reproof,
And overmuch of Counsel — whereby Love
Grows stubborn, and increases the Disease.
Love unreproved is a delicious food;
Reproved, is Feeding on one’s own Heart’s Blood.
SALÁMÁN heard; his Soul came to his Lips;
Reproaches struck not ABSÁL out of him,
But drove Confusion in; bitter became
The Drinking of the sweet Draught of Delight,
And wan’d the Splendour of his Moon of Beauty.
His Breath was Indignation, and his Heart
Bled from the Arrow, and his Anguish grew
How bear it? — Able to endure one wound,
From Wound on Wound no remedy but Flight;
Day after Day, Design upon Design,
He turn’d the Matter over in his Heart,
And, after all, no Remedy but Flight.
Resolv’d on that, he victuall’d and equipp’d
A Camel, and one Night he led it forth,
And mounted — he and ABSÁL at his side,
The fair SALÁMÁN and Posh. the Fair,
Together on one Camel side by side,
Twin Kernels in a single Almond packt.
And True Love murmurs not, however small
His Chamber — nay, the straitest best of all.
When the Moon of Canaan YÚSUF
Darken’d in the Prison of Ægypt,
Night by Night ZULAIKHA went
To see him — for her Heart was broken.
Then to her said One who never
Yet had tasted of Love’s Garden:
“Leavest thou thy Palace-Chamber
“For the Felon’s narrow Cell?”
Answer’d She, “Without my Lover,
“Were my Chamber Heaven’s Horizon,
“It were closer than an Ant’s eye
“And the Ant’s eye wider were
“Than Heaven, my Lover with me there!”
Six days SALÁMÁN on the Caine! rode,
And then Remembrance of foregone Reproach
Abode not by him; and upon the Seventh
He halted on the Seashore, and beheld
An Ocean boundless as the Heaven above,
That, reaching its Circumference from Káf
To Káf, down to the Back of GAU and MAHI
Descended, and its Stars were Creatures’ Eyes.
The Face of it was as it were a Range
Of moving Mountains; or as endless Hosts
Of Camels trooping from all Quarters up,
Furious, with the Foam upon their Lips.
In it innumerable glittering Fish
Like Jewels polish-sharp, to the sharp Eye
But for an Instant visible, glancing through
As Silver Scissors slice a blue Brocade;
Though were the Dragon from its Hollow roused,
THE DRAGON of the Stars would stare Aghast.
SALÁMÁN eyed the Sea, and cast about
To cross it — and forthwith upon the Shore
Devis’d a Shallop like a Crescent Moon,
Wherein that Sun and Moon in happy Hour
Enter’d as into some Celestial Sign;
That, figured like a Bow, but Arrow-like
In Flight, was feather’d with a little Sail,
And, pitcht upon the Water like a Duck,
So with her Bosom sped to her Desire.
When they had sail’d their Vessel for a Moon,
And marr’d their Beauty with the wind o’ th’ Sea,
Suddenly in mid Sea reveal’d itself
An Isle, beyond Description beautiful;
An Isle that all was Garden; not a Bird
Of Note or Plume in all the World but there;
There as in Bridal Retinue array’d
The Pheasant in his Crown, the Dove in her Collar;
And those who tuned their Bills among the Trees
That Arm in Arm from Fingers paralyz’d
With any Breath of Air Fruit moist and dry
Down scatter’d in Profusion to their Feet,
Where Fountains of Sweet Water ran, and round
Sunshine and Shadow chequer-chased the Ground.
Here Iram Garden seem’d in Secresy
Blowing the Rosebud of its Revelation;
Or Paradise, forgetful of the Day
Of Audit, lifted from her Face the Veil.
SALÁMÁN saw the Isle, and thought no more
Of Further — there with ABSÁL he sat down,
ABSÁL and He together side by side
Rejoicing like the Lily and the Rose,
Together like the Body and the Soul.
Under its Trees in one another’s Arms
They slept — they drank its Fountains hand in hand —
Sought Sugar with the Parrot — or in Sport
Paraded with the Peacock — raced the Partridge —
Or fell a-talking with the Nightingale.
There was the Rose without a Thorn, and there
The Treasure and no Serpent to beware —
What sweeter than your Mistress at your side
In such a Solitude, and none to Chide!
Whisper’d one to WÁMIK — “Oh Thou
“Victim of the Wound of AZRA,
“What is it that like a Shadow
“Movest thou about in Silence
“Meditating Night and Day?”
WAMÍK answer’d, “Even this —
“To fly with AZRA to the Desert;
“There by so remote a Fountain
“That, whichever way one travell’d
“League on League, one yet should never,
“Never meet the Face of Man —
“There to pitch my Tent — for ever
“There to gaze on my Belovéd;
“Gaze, till Gazing out of Gazing
“Grew to BEING Her I gaze on,
“SHE and I no more, but in One
“Undivided Being blended.
“All that is not ONE must ever
“Suffer with the Wound of Absence;
“And whoever in Love’s City
“Enters, finds but Room for ONE,
“And but in ONENESS Union.”
When by and bye THE SHAH was made aware
Of that Soul-wasting absence of his Son,
He reach’d a Cry to Heaven — his Eyelashes
Wept Blood — Search everywhere he set a-foot,
But none could tell the hidden Mystery.
Then bade he bring a Mirror that he had,
A Mirror, like the Bosom of the Wise,
Reflecting all the World, and lifting up
The Veil from all its Secret, Good and Evil.
That Mirror bade he bring, and, in its Face
Looking, beheld the Face of his Desire.
He saw those Lovers in the Solitude,
Turn’d from the World, and all its ways, and People,
And looking only in each other’s Eyes,
And never finding any Sorrow there.
THE SHAH beheld them as they were, and Pity
Fell on his Eyes, and he reproach’d them not;
And, gathering all their Life into his hand,
Not a Thread lost, disposed in Order all.
Oh for the Noble Nature, and Clear Heart,
That, seeing Two who draw one Breath, together
Drinking the Cup of Happiness and Tears
Unshatter’d by the Stone of Separation,
Is loath their sweet Communion to destroy,
Or cast a Tangle in the Skein of Joy.
The Arrows that assail the Lords of Sorrow
Come from the Hand of Retribution.
Do Well, that in thy Turn Well may betide Thee;
And turn from Ill, that Ill may turn beside Thee.
FIRHÁD, Moulder of the Mountain,
Love-distracted look’d to SHÍRÍN,
And SHÍRÍN the Sculptor’s Passion
Saw, and turn’d her Heart to Him.
Then the Fire of Jealous Frenzy
Caught and carried up the Harvest
Of the Might of KAI KHUSRAU.
Plotting with that ancient Hag
Of Fate, the Sculptor’s Cup he poison’d,
And remained the Lord of Love.
So — But Fate that Fate avenges
Arms SHIRÚEH with the Dagger,
That at once from SHÍRÍN tore him,
Hurl’d him from the Throne of Glory.
But as the days went on, and still THE SHAH
Beheld SALÁMÁN how sunk in ABSÁL,
And yet no Hand of better Effort lifted;
But still the Crown that shall adorn his Head,
And still the Throne that waited for his Foot,
Trampled from Memory by a Base Desire,
Of which the Soul was still unsatisfied —
Then from the Sorrow of THE SHAH fell Fire;
To Gracelessness Ungracious he became,
And, quite to shatter his rebellious Lust,
Upon SALÁMÁN all his WILL discharged.
And Lo! SALÁMÁN to his Mistress turn’d,
But could not reach her — look’d and look’d again,
And palpitated tow’rd her — but in Vain!
Oh Misery! what to the Bankrupt worse
Than Gold he cannot reach! To one Athirst
Than Fountain to the Eye and Lip for bid! —
Or than Heaven opened to the Eyes in Hell! —
Yet, when SALÁMÁN’S Anguish was extreme,
The Door of Mercy open’d in his Face;
He saw and knew his Father’s Hand outstretcht
To lift him from Perdition — timidly,
Timidly tow’rd his Father’s Face his own
He lifted, Pardon-pleading, Crime-confest,
As the stray Bird one day will find her Nest.
A Disciple ask’d a Master,
“By what Token should a Father
“Vouch for his reputed Son?”
Said the Master, “By the Stripling,
“Howsoever Late or Early,
“Like to the reputed Father
“Growing — whether Wise or Foolish.”
“Lo the disregarded Darnel
“With itself adorns the Wheat-field,
“And for all the Early Season
“Satisfies the Farmer’s Eye
“But come once the Hour of Harvest,
“And another Grain shall answer,
“‘Darnel and no Wheat, am I.’”
When THE SHAH saw SALÁMÁN’S face again,
And breath’d the Breath of Reconciliation,
He laid the Hand of Love upon his Shoulder,
The Kiss of Welcome on his Cheek, and said,
“Oh Thou, who lost, Love’s Banquet lost its Salt,
“And Mankind’s Eye its Pupil! — Thy Return
“Is as another Sun to Heaven; a new
“Rose blooming in the Garden of the Soul.
“Arise, Oh Moon of Majesty unwaned!
“The Court of the Horizon is thy Court,
“Thy Kingdom is the Kingdom of the World! —
“Lo! Throne and Crown await Thee — Throne and Crown
“Without thy Impress but uncurrent Gold,
Not to be stamp’d by one not worthy Them;
“Behold! The Rebel’s Face is at thy Door;
“Let him not triumph — let the Wicked dread
“The Throne under thy Feet, the Crown upon thy Head.
Oh Spurn them not behind Thee! Oh my Son,
“Wipe Thou the Woman’s Henna from thy Hand:
“Withdraw Thee from the Minion who from Thee
“Dominion draws; the Time is come to choose,
“Thy Mistress or the World to hold or lose.”
Four are the Signs of Kingly Aptitude;
Wise Head — clean Heart — strong Arm — and open Hand.
Wise is He not — Continent cannot be —
Who binds himself to an unworthy Lust;
Nor Valiant, who submits to a weak Woman;
Nor Liberal, who cannot draw his Hand
From that in which so basely he is busied.
And of these Four who misses All or One
Is not the Bridegroom of Dominion.
Ah the poor Lover! — In the changing Hands
Of Day and Night no wretcheder than He!
No Arrow from the Bow of Evil Fate
But reaches him — one Dagger at his Throat,
Another comes to wound him from behind.
Wounded by Love — then wounded by Reproof
Of Loving — and, scarce stauncht the Blood of Shame
By flying from his Love — then, worst of all,
Love’s back-blow of Revenge for having fled!
SALÁMÁN heard — he rent the Robe of Peace
He came to loathe his Life, and long for Death,
(For better Death itself than Life in Death)
He turn’d his face with ABSÁL to the Desert —
Enter’d the deadly Plain; Branch upon Branch
Cut down, and gather’d in a lofty Pile,
And fired. They look’d upon the Flames, those Two
They look’d, and they rejoiced; and hand in hand
They sprang into the Fire. THE SHAH who saw,
In secret all had order’d; and the Flame,
Directed by his Self-fulfilling WILL,
Devouring utterly ABSÁL, pass’d by
SALÁMÁN harmless — the pure Gold return’d
Entire, but all the baser Metal burn’d.
Heaven’s Dome is but a wondrous House of Sorrow,
And Happiness therein a lying Fable.
When first they mix’d the Clay of Man, and cloth’d
His Spirit in the Robe of Perfect Beauty,
For Forty Mornings did an Evil Cloud
Rain Sorrows over him from Head to Foot;
And when the Forty Mornings pass’d to Night,
Then came one Morning-Shower — one Morning-Shower
Of Joy — to Forty of the Rain of Sorrow! —
And though the better Fortune came at last
To seal the Work, yet every Wise Man knows
Such Consummation never can be here!
SALÁMÁN fired the Pile; and in the Flame
That, passing him, consumed ABSÁL. like Straw,
Died his Divided Self, and there survived
His Individual; and, like a Body
From which the Soul is parted, all alone.
Then rose his Cry to Heaven — his Eyelashes
Dropt Blood — his Sighs stood like a Smoke in Heaven,
And Morning rent her Garment at his Anguish.
He tore his Bosom with his Nails — he smote
Stone on his Bosom — looking then on hands
No longer lockt in hers, and lost their Jewel,
He tore them with his Teeth. And when came Night,
He hid him in some Corner of the House,
And communed with the Fantom of his Love.
“Oh Thou whose Presence so long sooth’d my Soul,
“Now burnt with thy Remembrance! Oh so long
“The Light that fed these Eyes now dark with Tears!
Oh Long, Long Home of Love now lost for Ever!
“We were Together — that was all Enough —
“We two rejoicing in each other’s Eyes,
“Infinitely rejoicing — all the World
“Nothing to Us, nor We to all the World —
“No Road to reach us, nor an Eye to watch —
“All Day we whisper’d in each other’s Ears,
“All Night we slept in one another’s Arms —
“All seem’d to our Desire, as if the Hand
“Of unjust Fortune were for once too short.
“Oh would to God that when I lit the Pyre
“The Flame had left Thee Living and me Dead,
“Not Living worse than Dead, depriv’d of Thee!
“Oh were I but with Thee! — at any Cost
“Stript of this terrible Self-solitude!
“Oh but with Thee Annihilation — lost,
“Or in Eternal Intercourse renew’d!
Slumber-drunk an Arab in the
Desert off his Camel tumbled,
Who the lighter of her Burden
Ran upon her road rejoicing.
When the Arab woke at morning,
Rubb’d his Eyes and look’d about him
“Oh my Camel! Oh my Camel!”
Quoth he, “Camel of my Soul!
“That Lost with Her I lost might be,
“Or found, She might be found with Me .
When in this Plight THE SHAH SALÁMÁN saw,
His Soul was struck with Anguish, and the Vein
Of Life within was strangled — what to do
He knew not. Then he turn’d him to THE SAGE —
“Oh Altar of the World, to whom Mankind
“Directs the Face of Prayer in Weal or Woe,
“Nothing but Wisdom can untie the Knot;
“And art not Thou the Wisdom of the World,
“The Master-Key of all its Difficulties?
“ABSÁL is perisht; and, because of Her,
“SALÁMÁN dedicates his Life to Sorrow;
“I cannot bring back Her, nor comfort Him.
“Lo, I have said! My Sorrow is before Thee;
“From thy far-reaching Wisdom help Thou Me
“Fast in the Hand of Sorrow! Help Thou Me,
“For I am very wretched! “ Then THE SAGE —
“Oh Thou that err’st not from the Road of Right,
“If but SALÁMÁN have not broke my Bond,
“Nor lies beyond the Noose of my Firm in,
“He quickly shall unload his Heart to me,
“And I will find a Remedy for all.”
Then THE SAGE counsell’d, and SALÁMÁN heard,
And drew the Wisdom down into his Heart;
And, sitting in the Shadow of the Perfect,
His Soul found Quiet under; sweet it seem’d,
Sweeping the Chaff and Litter from his own,
To be the very Dust of Wisdom’s Door,
Slave of the Firmán of the Lord of Life.
Then THE SAGE marvell’d at his Towardness,
And wrought in Miracle in his behalf.
He pour’d the Wine of Wisdom in his Cup,
He laid the Dew of Peace upon his lips;
And when Old Love return’d to Memory,
And broke in Passion from his Lips, THE SAGE,
Under whose waxing WILL Existence rose
Responsive, and, relaxing, waned again,
Raising a Fantom Image of ABSÁL,
Set it awhile before SALÁMÁN’s Eyes,
Till, having sow’d the Seed of Quiet there,
It went again down to Annihilation.
But ever, for the Sum of his Discourse,
THE SAGE would tell of a Celestial Love;
“ZUHRAH,” he said, “the Lustre of the Stars —
“Fore whom the Beauty of the Brightest wanes;
“Who were she to reveal her perfect Beauty,
“The Sun and Moon would craze; ZUHRAH,” he said,
“The Sweetness of the Banquet — none in Song
“Like Her — her Harp filling the Ear of Heaven,
“That Dervish-dances at her Harmony.”
SALÁMÁN listen’d, and inclin’d — again
Repeated, Inclination ever grew;
Until THE SAGE beholding in his Soul
The SPIRIT quicken, so effectually
With ZUHRAH wrought, that she reveal’d herself
In her pure Beauty to SALÁMÁN’s Soul,
And washing ABSÁL’s Image from his Breast,
There reign’d instead. Celestial Beauty seen,
He left the Earthly; and, once come to know
Eternal Love, he let the Mortal go.
The Crown of Empire how supreme a Lot!
The Throne of the Sultán how high! But not
For All — None but the Heaven-ward Foot may dare
To mount — The Head that touches Heaven to wear! —
When the Belov’d of Royal Augury
Was rescued from the Bondage of ABSÁL,
Then he arose, and shaking off the Dust
Of th at lost Travel, girded up his Heart,
And look’d with undefiléd Robe to Heaven.
Then was His Head worthy to wear the Crown,
His Foot to mount the Throne. And then THE SHAH
Summon’d the Chiefs of Cities and of States,
Summon’d the Absolute Ones who wore the Ring,
And such a Banquet order’d as is not
For Sovereign Assemblement the like
In the Folding of the Records of the World.
No arméd Host, nor Captain of a Host,
From all the Quarters of the World, but there;
Of whom not one but to SALÁMÁN did
Obeisance, and lifted up his Neck
To yoke it under his Supremacy.
Then THE SHAH crown’d him with the Golden Crown,
And set the Golden Throne beneath his Feet,
And over all the Heads of the Assembly,
And in the Ears of all of them, his Jewels
With the Diamond of Wisdom cut and Said: —
“My Son, the Kingdom of The World is not
“Eternal, nor the Sum of right Desire;
“Make thou the Faith-preserving Intellect
“Thy Counsellor; and considering To-DAY
“To-MORROW’S Seed-field, ere That come to bear,
“Sow with the Harvest of Eternity.
“All Work with Wisdom hath to do — by that
“Stampt current only; what Thyself to do
“Art wise, that Do; what not, consult the Wise.
“Turn not thy Face away from the old Ways,
“That were the Canon of the Kings of Old;
“Nor cloud with Tyranny the Glass of Justice;
But rather strive that all Confusion
“Change by thy Justice to its opposite.
“In whatsoever Thou shalt Take or Give
“Look to the How; Giving and Taking still,
Not by the backward Counsel of the Godless,
But by the Law of FAITH increase and Give.
“Drain not thy People’s purse — the Tyranny
Which Thee enriches at thy Subjects’ cost,
“Awhile shall make Thee strong; but in the End
“Shall bow thy Neck beneath a Double Burden.
“The Tyrant goes to Hell — follow not Him —
“Become not Thou the Fuel of its Fires.
“Thou art a Shepherd, and thy Flock the People,
“To save and not destroy; nor at their Loss
“To lift Thyself above the Shepherd’s calling.
“For which is for the other, Flock or Shepherd?
“And join with Thee true Men to keep the Flock.
“Dogs, if you will — but Trusty — head in leash,
“Whose Teeth are for the Wolf, not for the Lamb,
“And least of all the Wolf’s Accomplices,
“Their Jaws blood-dripping from the Tyrant’s Shambles.
“For Shahs must have Vizírs — but be they Wise
“And Trusty — knowing well the Realm’s Estate —
“(For who eats Profit of a Fool? and least
“A wise King girdled by a Foolish Council — )
“Knowing how far to Shah and Subject bound
“On either Hand — not by Extortion,
“Nor Usury wrung from the People’s purse,
“Their Master’s and their own Estates (to whom
“Enough is apt enough to make them Rebel)
Feeding to such a Surplus as feeds Hell.
“Proper in Soul and Body be They — pitiful
“To Poverty — hospitable to the Saint
“Their sweet Access a Salve to wounded Hearts,
“Their Vengeance terrible to the Evil Doer,
“Thy Heralds through the Country bringing Thee
“Report of Good or Ill — which to confirm
“By thy peculiar Eye — and least of all
“Suffering Accuser also to be Judge
“By surest Steps builds up Prosperity.”
Under the Outward Form of any Story
An Inner Meaning lies — This Story now
Completed, do Thou of its Mystery
(Whereto the Wise hath found himself a
Have thy Desire — No Tale of I and THOU,
Though I and THOU be its Interpreters.
What signifies THE SHAH? and what THE SAGE?
And what SALÁMÁN not of Woman born?
And what ABSÁL who drew him to Desire?
And what the KINGDOM that awaited him
When he had drawn his Garment from her Hand?
What means that FIERY PILE? and what THE SEA?
And what that Heavenly ZUHRAH who at last
Clear’d ABSÁL from the Mirror of his Soul?
Learn part by part the Mystery from me;
All Ear from Head to Foot and Understanding be.
The Incomparable Creator, when this World
He did create, created First of All
The FIRST INTELLIGENCE — First of a Chain
Of Ten Intelligences, of which the Last
Sole Agent is in this our Universe,
ACTIVE INTELLIGENCE so call’d; The One
Distributor of Evil and of Good,
Of Joy and Sorrow, Himself apart from MATTER,
In Essence and in Energy — his Treasure
Subject to no such Talisman — He yet
Hath fashion’d all that is — Material Form,
And Spiritual, sprung from HIM — by HIM
Directed all, and in his Bounty drown’d.
Therefore is He that Firmán-issuing SHAH
To whom the World was subject. But because
What He distributes to the Universe
Himself from still a Higher Power receives,
The Wise, and all who comprehend aright,
Will recognise that Higher in THE SAGE.
His the PRIME SPIRIT that, spontaneously
Projected by the TENTH INTELLIGENCE,
Was from no Womb of MATTER reproduced
A Special Essence called THE SOUL — a CHILD
Fresh sprung from Heaven in Raiment undefiled
Of Sensual Taint, and therefore call’d SALÁMÁN.
And who ABSÁL? — The Lust-adoring Body,
Slave to the Blood and Sense — through whom THE SOUL,
Although the Body’s very Life it be,
Does yet imbibe the Knowledge and Desire
Of Things of SENSE; and these united thus
By such a Tie GOD only can unloose,
BODY and SOUL are Lovers Each of other.
What is THE SEA on which they sail’d? — The Sea
Of Animal Desire — the Sensual Abyss,
Under whose Waters lie a World of Being
Swept far from God in that Submersion.
And wherefore was it ABSÁL in that Isle
Deceived in her Delight, and that SALÁMÁN
Fell short of his Desire? — That was to show
How PASSION tires, and how with Time begins
The Folding of the Carpet of Desire.
And what the turning of SALÁMÁN’S Heart
Back to THE SHAH, and looking to the Throne
Of Pomp and Glory? What but the Return
Of the Lost SOUL to its true Parentage,
And back from Carnal Error looking up
Repentant to its Intellectual Throne.
What is THE FIRE? — Ascetic Discipline,
That burns away the Animal Alloy,
Till all the Dross of MATTER be consumed,
And the Essential Soul, its raiment clean
Of Mortal Taint, be left. But forasmuch
As any Life-long Habit so consumed,
May well recur a Pang for what is lost,
Therefore THE SAGE set in SALÁMÁN’s Eyes
A Soothing Fantom of the Past, but still
Told of a Better Venus, till his Soul
She fill’d, and blotted out his Mortal Love.
For what is ZUHRAH? — That Divine Perfection,
Wherwith the Soul inspir’d and all array’d
In Intellectual Light is Royal blest,
And mounts THE THRONE, and wears
THE CROWN, and Reigns
Lord of the Empire of Humanity.
This is the Meaning of This Mystery
Which to know wholly ponder in thy Heart,
Till all its ancient Secret be enlarged.
Enough — The written Summary I close,
And set my Seal:
THE TRUTH GOD ONLY KNOWS.