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The Mesnavi and The Acts of the Adepts, by Jelal-'d-din Rumi and Shemsu-'d-Din Ahmed, tr. by James W. Redhouse, [1881], at

p. 101


The Greater (Spiritual) Warfare.

Great Princes all! We've killed our dread external foe.
Within us, still, a worse than he remains, I trow.
To slay this inner foe is not the task of mind;
Our moral lion's not destroyed by tricks refined.

Our flesh, a hell; that hell a fiery dragon is.
Whole oceans can't extinguish those fierce flames of his.
Earth's seven oceans all were lost within his maw;
His raging fires would still burn high, to mankind's awe.
Pitcoal, hard-hearted miscreants; these are its food; 1
They sink within it, miserable, abject brood. 5
Withal, its craving hunger ne’er will be appeased,
Until the voice of God cry unto it: "Art eased?"
"Eased?" will it answer; "No; not yet awhile by far;
Behold my flame, my fury,—burning, fiery roar."
It swallows down a universe in its fell mood;
And instantly shrieks out: "More food! More food! More food!"
God, from nubiquity, 2 His foot will stamp on hell.
Then will it cease to burn: "He willed, and it befell!" 3

Our fleshly lusts in us are but a part of hell;
Parts have the qualities of their universal. 10

p. 102

The foot of God alone can stamp out hell's alarms.
Who else but God supreme to bend such bow has arms?
Straight arrows serve alone to be shot from a bow;
But lust's distorted spring shoots crooked arrows too.
Be thou in mind upright as arrow straight for bow.
A bow will not shoot straight, unless the arrow's so.

We've fought our fight and conquered in our outward strife.
Now turn we our attention to the inner life.
We've done with outer warfare, lesser as it is;
15 And as the Prophet, wage the greater warfare, his.
We put our trust in God; from Him we ask for aid;
With His assistance faith can move a mountain staid.
To rout an armed foe is nothing very fresh;
A lion true is he who conquers his own flesh.
To illustrate this truth, give ear unto a tale,
That thou of these few words the moral mayest inhale.

From Cæsar 1 an ambassador to ‘Umer came, 2
Through deserts far-extending, from Madīna's fame. 3
He asked?" Where is the palace of the Caliph, men; 4
20 That I to it may lead my cavalcade, my train?"
The people answered: "Thou’lt no Caliph's palace find,
Our Caliph's sole pavilion's his enlightened mind.
Through his 'Commandership' his fame to Rome has come; 5
But like our other poor, a hut's his ample home.
How shouldst thou see that palace, brother, stranger, guest,
When in thy mind's eye thou a beam hast, unconfessed?
Cast out that beam; make clear thy eye from every mote;
Then mayst thou entertain the hope to see his cote."

p. 103

Whoever shall his heart cleanse from all passions’ bale,
Will soon perceive therein a court and presence hale. 25
When Ahmed's heart was cleansed of evil's fire and smoke, 1
Whichever way he turned, God's countenance bespoke. 2
So long as man keeps company with evil thought,
How can he understand God's countenance in aught?
He that a window's pierced from heart towards heaven's recess,
Sees in each mote a ray from Sun of Righteousness. 3
God shines apparent in the midst of other things,
As moon in majesty among the stars’ twinklings.

Place thou two finger-tips upon thy two eyeballs.
What seest thou now of all the world? Darkness befalls. 30
Thou seest it not; but that the world exists, thou’lt trust.
Our vices are the finger-tips of fleshly lust.
Thy finger-tips remove; instanter, as before,
Thou lookest around and seest whate’er thou wilt explore.
His people asked of Noah where righteousness might be.
He said: "Lo, there! With muffled heads you cannot see.
You've wrapped your cloaks in folds about your heads and eyes.
Your sense of sight cannot see what before you lies."

The world's eye man is; all the rest's mere skin and shell.
A real eye's he who strives his "Friend" to see right well. 4 35
Unless we see our Friend, ’twere better we were blind,
A friend that is not constant's better out of mind.

When Rome's ambassador had heard those words so wise, 5
His eager curiosity began to rise.

p. 104

He sought for ‘Umer with redoubled zeal and zest;
But in so doing lost his horse, and eke his chest.
He wandered everywhere to seek the Caliph out.
Like one distracted asked each passer-by his route.
"Is’t possible," he said, "that such a man there be,
40 When like the soul to sight invisible is he?"

He sought for him as though he ’d been his truant slave,
But: "He who seeks shall find" ’s a very well-known stave.
A desert-Arab woman saw he at the last,
Who told him ‘Umer, then, beneath date-palm slept fast.
Beneath a date-palm! Far from mankind's busy plod.
That date-palm's shadow shaded the Shadow of God! 1

He went towards the tree; a station took afar;
He saw ‘Umer; a fit of trembling showed his fear.
On that ambassador did awe and dread alight.
45 While o’er his heart there stole a sense of sweet delight.
Two feelings, love and dread, by nature opposites,
Were mingled in his bosom by some occult rites.
He thought within himself: "I've many princes seen;
In sovereign presence I have ever welcome been.
This fit of awe and trembling's very strange to me;
And yet without dismay this man I cannot see.
I've been in forests where the lions make their lair;
I've met them face to face; yet knew not what was fear.
In battle I've been, oft; in thickest of the fight.
50 My arm's upheld our cause, when in most desperate plight.
Wounds have I dealt, received, that threatened life to take,
Among the brave, the bravest; my heart knew no quake.
This man is weaponless, supine upon the ground.
Why then this tremor? It my every limb has bound.
A ghostly awe is this; it's not a mortal fear.
Most certainly it's not a dread of this man here.

p. 105

He who fears God has admonition of the Lord;
Both men and demons stand in awe of his mere word."
Mute he remained in reverential attitude,
Till ‘Umer woke from his trance of beatitude. 55

Profound obeisance and grave salutation made,
As said the Prophet: "First, salute; then, embassade."
The Caliph answered: "And on thee be peace! Draw near;"
Assured him of protection; bade him put off fear.
"Fear not" a word of comfort is to trembling soul;
A generous tribute ’tis, when strong with weak condole.
Men set at ease the object whom they wish to raise,—
Relieve his heart from palpitation; bid fears cease.
But unto one who feals no dread how say: "Fear not "?
What lesson's this thou givest to one whose lesson's got? 60

So ‘Umer put at ease that much perturbed man;
And calmed his wavering mind, as noble hearts best can.
To him he then addressed some subtle words of sense,
Set forth the attributes of God,—man's best defence,
Declared the goodness of the Lord to all who trust
In Him alone; the rank they gain in trance combust.

Saint's ecstasy springs from a glimpse of God, his pride.
His station's that of intimate. He's bridegroom; God is bride. 1
A bride's veiled graces are not seen by groom alone;
Her unveiled charms solely to him in private shown. 65
In state she first appears before the people all;
Her veil removed, the groom alone is at her call.
Entranced are many Gnostic worshippers, I ween;
Few gain admission to the presence-chamber scene.

p. 106

‘Umer told all the stations passed through by his soul;—
Its flights, fights, tribulations, ere it was made whole.
He spoke of times when flight of time's of no account;
Of Holiness's station, glorious to recount.
He talked of atmospheres in which his righteous soul
70 Had soared to seek fresh conquests of devotion's whole.
Its every flight had been beyond th’ horizon scant;
Beyond the hope, or e’en desire, of aspirant.

He found a willing list’ner in the stranger guest,
Whose mind was framed t’ investigate such mysteries blest.
The teacher was perfection; novice full of zeal;
Like clever jockey on a steed with lightning heel.
He found his scholar apt, of great capacity.
So good seed sowed in fertile soil sagacity.

Th’ ambassador now asked: "Of true believers Prince!
75 How can a soul from heaven come down to earth's province;—
How can so great a bird be cooped up in a cage?"

He answered: "God speaks words of power, most sage.
Those words, addressed to nothings without eyes or ears,
Set them in motion. Like a ferment, fruit it bears.
Those words no sooner spoken, quick those nothings all
In motion put themselves, and reach existence’ hall.
Or He commands these beings, creatures of His own;
And they return to nothing, whence He them had drawn.
He speaks unto the flowers; they forthwith burst in bloom.
80 His voice the flint hears; lo, it's a cornelian stone.
A spell He laid on matter; spirit it became.
By charm from Him the sun sprang forth, a lambent flame.
If He but whisper words of awe, the sun again
Is seized with darkness of eclipse, like night amain.
What is’t He says, by which the teeming eye of cloud
Sheds forth its tears, as drops from water-skin unsewed?

p. 107

What incantation to the earth addresses He,
To make it produce cattle,—whose hides used may be?
The hesitations of each puzzled child of thought
Arise from some enigma by which God's him caught. 85
On horns of a dilemma is he fixed, poor man.
'Shall I do this,' says he, 'when ’ts opposite I can?'
From God, too, is the power to make selection's choice
Of two solutions. One is taken, through inward voice.
Wouldst thou be always free from hesitation, fool?
Stuff not thy mind's ear tight with doubt's dull cotton-wool;
That thou mayst solve the riddles God may set for thee;—
That thou mayst understand the full of mercy free.
Then shall thy heart receive His inspiration's gift,—
A power of speaking from an inward impulse’ drift. 90
The ear and eye of soul are organs not of sense;
The ears of sense and mind are not like soul's, intense.
The word "compulsion" puts me out of humour quite.
Who hath not love of God, compulsion's slave's, by right.
This union's based on truth (compulsion is too proud);
It is a glimpse of sunshine breaking through a cloud.
Be it compulsion. Man's compulsion it is not;—
Not the compulsion of browbeating from a sot.
Compulsion's felt by them, my very worthy friend,
Whose eyes of faith, ope’d in their hearts, on God attend. 95
The absent and the future patent are to them;
To speak about the past is what they most contemn.
Election and compulsion, theirs, are not the same.
As dewdrops in the oyster-shell rare pearls became. 1
Outside, they're dewdrops, solely, whether great or small;
Inside they're pearls of price, whose value knows no fall.
Such men by nature are just like the musk-deer's pod;
It's fed with blood of artery, musk it yields, through God.

p. 108

Ask not how ’tis that outward blood can change like this;
100 Becoming musk when in the pod secreted ’tis.
Ask not how copper vile, by wise alchemist's art,
Is changed to gold when solved by elixir in part. 1
Election and compulsion, fancies both, in thee;
But when by saints they're viewed, God's glory may they be.
Upon the table, bread's a lifeless, senseless mass;
When taken in man's mouth, the soul it joins, in class.
On table transubstantiation takes not place; 2
The soul it is transforms it, nourished by God's grace.
Such is the soul's great power; most perspicacious man,
105 So long as that soul life and power retain can.
A human being, mass of mingled flesh and blood,
Moved by the Lord, can cleave hill, dale, mine, and sea's flood.
The strength of strongest man can merely split a stone; 3
The Power that informs man's soul can cleave the moon. 4
If man's heart but untie the mouth of mystery's sack,
His soul soon soars aloft beyond the starry track.
If heaven's mystery divulged should, ’haps, become,
The whole world ’twould burn up, as fire doth wood consume."

Let's contemplate the acts of God, the deeds of men;
110 Know, men's deeds do exist. This truth is patent, then.
If men's deeds be not in this nether world of ours,
Say not thou unto others: "Why these deeds of yours?"
God's act it is through which those deeds of ours arise;
Our acts are but the sequels of God's agencies.

The letter, or the spirit, ’tis, our reason weighs.
But both at once it cannot comprehend always.

p. 109

Examining the spirit, letter we neglect;
At one time forwards, backwards we cannot prospect.
If thou straight forward look at any point of time,
Thou canst not backwards see, whatever be the clime. 115
Our souls not taking in the letter, spirit too,
How could they e’er create these predicates, one, two?
God comprehendeth all things;—all things doth ensue;
One act's no hindrance, with Him, other acts to do.

The reason Satan gave: "Since Thou hast tempted me," 1
The scheming demon strove to hide his sin, we see.
His trespass Adam owned: "Against ourselves we've sinned." 2
God's act he, like as we, then left not out of mind.
Through shame the act of Satan Adam secret kept.
Self-accusation's fruit, in consequence, he reaped. 120
Repentance shown by Adam, God in mercy said:
"In thee ’twas I created, sin thou hast displayed.
Was it not My decree and providence that thou,
In asking pardon, shouldst the tempter disavow?"
Said Adam: "Thee I feared; most bitter shame I felt."
God added: "It was I who gave thee shame heartfelt."

Consideration he who shows considered is;
So he who brings the sugar, share of cake is his.
For whom, then, benefits, but practisers of good? 3
Keep pleased thy friend. Offend him; see what ensue would. 125
One sole example study,—instance of this law,—
Compulsion and election's difference to draw.
"There is a hand that shakes from palsy or from fear.
Another hand also thou shakest when thou’rt near.
Know: God it is creates the movement in them both;

p. 110

And yet there's no resemblance in their motions loth.
Thou’rt sorry that thou shakedst that man's hand anon,
When thou seest him annoyed at what thou’st just now done."

A question ’tis of judgment; judgment shrewdness is,
130 Until some weakness intervene to mar all this.
A question, now, of judgment as to corals, pearls,
Is not the same as one about the soul, you churls.
A question of the soul's another matter quite;
The wine that feeds the soul comes not from grapes, black, white.

When any matter is a question of judgment,
‘Umer with Abū-Jahl's in one predicament.
‘Umer gave up his judgment; rested on his soul.
’Bū-Jahl received this name through lack of self-control. 1
In sense and reason Abū-Jahl a master was;
135 But as to soul, in ignorance he fell, alas!
Of sense and reason questions are cause and effect;
But miracles and wonders show soul is a fact.
Enlightenment of soul, whatever it may see.
By quibbles of school logic cannot silenced be.

We now return again our tale to take in hand,
Though certainly we've never left it out of mind.

In ignorance, our souls are in God's prison chained.
In wisdom, by God's help, their liberty's regained.
In sleep, God's lethargy it is in which we sink.
140 Awake, we're in God's hands, whatever we may think.
In weeping, we are clouds from which His mercy flows.
In laughter, we're the flash with which His lightning glows.

p. 111

In anger, we're reflections of the wrath of God.
In amity, the mirrors of His favour's nod.
What are we in this world? All tortuous and bent.
There is not one upright, straightforward, innocent.

Cæsar's ambassador no sooner ‘Umer heard,
Than light broke on his heart; at which he stroked his beard.
All questions and all answers from his mind went quite;
All sense of right and wrong had vanished front his sight. 145
He'd found the source; what need, then, of the streams?
To gather further wisdom, pondering on the means,
He said: "‘Umer, pray tell me what's the end and use
Of shutting up that thing of light in darkness’ house?
How can clear water be expected from black mud?
Why then is the pure soul combined with flesh and blood?"
He answered: "Most important question hast thou raised.
A sense, a spirit, by the letter paraphrased.
The free, the jocund spirit prisoner thou’st made;
As though the mind, the air, could into letter fade. 150
Thou hast done this for explanation's sake,— 1
Thou, who beyond the explanation place wouldst take.
How should the man in whom the explanation's gleamed,
Not yet distinguish what's to me so clearly beamed?
Ten thousand explanations are there, each of which
Is most momentous,—than ten thousand others, rich.
With that, thy speech, now compoundly particular,
A universal explanation were,—no bar.
Thou art a partial,—seekest explanation still;
Why set thyself, then, to deny th’ universal? 155
Unless thy speech contain some use, propound it not;
And if it have, objection quit; give what thou’st got.

p. 112

Thanks are incumbent upon every mortal's head;
Contention and sour looks are surely no one's bread.
If to put on sour looks, of thankfulness sign be,
Then vinegar the sweetest-spoken thing we'd see.
If vinegar desire to hearts a way to find,
It oxymel becomes, with honey sweet combined.
True, verse is not best vehicle for sense abstract.
160 It's like a sling; one's never certain how ’t will act."

Th’ ambassador his senses lost with this one cup
Of wine spiritual. His mission he gave up.
O’erwhelmed with wonder at the power of God, he fell.
He came ambassador; now sovereign was, as well.

A river overflooded constitutes a lake.
Some grains, when sown in earth, a field of corn can make.
When eaten, bread assimilated is by man,
That bread inanimate takes life, and reason can.
When wood or candle is made victim unto fire,
165 Its substance dark becomes a source of light entire.
Black stibium, a stone, when placed in human eye,
Expands the power of vision, objects can descry.
Good luck to him who's saved from his own fleshly self,
And has become a parcel of some living elf.
Alas for him, who, living, sits among the dead.
He's dead himself, his life from out of him has fled.

If thou take refuge in the Qur’ān, God's own book,
With spirit of Muhammed thou’lt soon exchange look.
The Qur’ān is the essence of all prophets right.
170 They were the whales who swam in ocean of God's might.
If thou canst read or not, the Qur’ān take to heart,
The saints and prophets study; they were as thou art.
Read thou it carefully; read, mark, digest its tales;
Thy soul, like bird in cage, will long to break its rails.

p. 113

The bird shut up, imprisoned in a little cage,
That seeks not to get out, is ignorant, not sage.

The souls who've freed themselves from cages of the flesh,
Are worthy fellow-travellers with prophets, fresh.
Their voices they lift up, religion to impart:
"The way of sure deliverance is here. Take heart! 175
Religion hath us saved from fleshly cages, sure.
No other way is there, salvation to secure.
You then upon yourselves will chastisements inflict,
That you may be delivered from the world's respect."

Respect of mortal man a heavy fetter is;
Within religion's path the gravest bond is this.
Consider well this tale, ingenuous young friend; 179
’Twill teach thee many lessons may thy morals mend.


m101:1 Qur’ān ii. 22, and lxvi. 6, say "mankind and rocks."

m101:2 Another word coined to meet the requirements of the original." "Ubiquity" is the converse of "nubiquity." Nulliquity might be used.

m101:3 Qur’ān ii. 111, and seven other places.

m102:1 "Cæsar" is the Rory, n Emperor, the Qaysari-Rūm. Other Qaysar there is not.

m102:2 To write this name Omar is incorrect.

m102:3 Medina is the usual incorrect spelling of this name.

m102:4 The Arabian title is Khalīfa; of which Caliph is a corruption.

m102:5 "Commander of the Believers" is his usual title. "Rome" is the Lower Empire.

m103:1 Mohammed's heart is believed to have been cleansed by an angel.

m103:2 "God's countenance" means also, in Arabic, God's cause.

m103:3 God is this "sun;" the "motes" are all created objects.

m103:4 The "Friend" is God, the Gnostic's "darling."

m103:5 "Rome" in Asia means the Lower Empire and Asia Minor; or, for the last few centuries, the Ottoman Empire.

m104:1 "Shadow of God on earth" is an Eastern title of royalty.

m105:1 These two propositions give the pith of the doctrine held and inculcated by the mystics and spiritualists of Islām: "He's bridegroom; God is bride."

m107:1 This First Book of the Mesnevī was written before the Būstān of Sa‘dī. The myth of the dewdrop and pearl is much more ancient.

m108:1 The date of the poem will be recollected; who disbelieved alchemy then?

m108:2 Here is a beautiful and true application of the idea of "transubstantiation."

m108:3 The original mentions Ferhād, a kind of Persian Dædalus, by his title of "Mountain-Excavator." (See Tale vii. dist. 365.)

m108:4 Qur’ān liv. 1.

m109:1 Qur’ān vii. 15, and xv. 39. At the fall, Satan accused God of tempting him; whereas Adam confessed his sin, and did not accuse Satan.

m109:2 Qur’ān vii. 22.

m109:3 Qur’ān xxiv. 26.

m110:1 ’Bū is often used as a contraction for Abū. Abū-Jahl (Father of Ignorance) was a nickname (see Tale iv. dist. 48, note) given by Muhammed to ’Amr, son of Hishām, a chief of the Quraysh, his bitter enemy, formerly entitled Abū-’l-Hakem (Father of the Arbitrator). He was killed, a pagan, in the battle of Bedr, in the second year of the Hijra, a.d. 624.

m111:1 The word rendered by "explanation" here, means also information, and use, advantage, profit, benefit, &c.

Next: VII. The Merchant and the Parrot