The Mesnavi and The Acts of the Adepts, by Jelal-'d-din Rumi and Shemsu-'d-Din Ahmed, tr. by James W. Redhouse, , at sacred-texts.com
A lion, wolf, and fox together went to hunt;
Among the hills, in quest of game, they turned their brunt.
By mutual help and aid, they hoped to make the field
Too hot for other animals not under union's shield.
Co-operating with each other, they surmised,
A heavy bag they each would make of what each prized.
’Tis true, the noble lion felt of this ashamed.
Still, he politely showed towards them his spirit tamed.
A king feels inconvenienced by throngs of troops;
5 But out of kindness makes them share his warlike swoops
The sun would feel ashamed, did stars with him appear;
’Tis generous in the sun to grace the starry sphere.
’Twas God's command to Ahmed still: "With them consult." 1
True, they gave no advice; no counsel did result.
Upon the balance barley's weighed, as well as gold;
But barley, thence, has not acquired gold's value told.
The spirit with the flesh is fellow-traveller now;
A dog has sometimes charge of palace-yard below.
The company, then, set out for the woods amain,
10 As followers of the lion's majesty, and train.
A mountain-ox, an ibex, next a hare, they took;
Since fortune smiled on them in each succeeding nook.
A lion's followers on the plain of strife and war,
Of food, by day or night, shall know no want, no bar.
Their prey they carried from the hills into the plain;
Or dead, or sorely wounded;—bleeding, or clean slain.
The wolf and fox were moved to pitch of keen desire,
To see the prey shared out with justice by their sire. 15
The shade of their cupidity caught Leo's eye,
He understood their confidence, their longing's dye.
Whoe’er has insight to the hearts and minds of men,
Knows at a glance what's passing under his sharp ken.
Beware, O heart, thou ever-fond one, in his sight,
Thy secret to betray,—thy wish to bring to light!
He knows it all, though ignorance he may pretend;—
His smile is but a veil thy aim to comprehend.
The lion, having measured all their secret thought,
Made no remark; he knew how they could both be bought; 20
Within his breast revolved their fitting punishment:
"I'll show you, my fine fellows, what's by lion meant.
My pleasure's, for you both, what you should seek to know;
Not calculate beforehand what I may bestow.
Your every thought should but reflect my sovereign will,
And thankfully await what I may give you still.
Have pictures aught to say to guide the artist's hand?
His cunning ’tis decides what portrait shall expand.
So all your paltry surmise of my royal mind
An insult is,—an arrogance,—that must be fined. 25
'They who conceive an evil thing of God' 1 are cursed;
And if I spare you, justice will be clean reversed.
To rid the world of scandal, I must end your lives;
Your story shall a moral point; whoe’er contrives."
With this he smiled again most grimly on the pair.
Trust not a lion's smile, all ye to live who care.
The riches of the world are smiles of Providence;
They make men proud, and lead them to their fate prepense.
Through poverty and suffering we may escape
30 The trap that riches bait; and so avoid the scrape.
The lion now addressed the wolf: "Share out the spoil.
Do justice to us all. Thou’rt versed in cunning's foil.
Be thou my factor. Carve the game as may be fit.
So shalt thou honour win from all who see thy wit."
The wolf then: "Royal Sir, the mountain-ox is thine.
Thou’rt great; the ox is large and fat; let none repine.
The ibex is my share. As I, so it's the mean.
And thou, O fox, shalt have the hare. ’Tis not too lean."
The lion interposed: "Wolf! What is this thou’st said?
35 I present; and to talk of ' thou ' and 'I,' so staid I
What rubbish is a wolf, to deem himself a judge
In presence of a lion, who'll soon make him budge?
Come hither, ass! Thyself alone it is thou’st sold!"
With this he tears the wolf to pieces, all too bold.
He saw the wolf had not one grain of common sense;
So stripped him of his hide, his life, his brain so dense.
Then said: "Since sight of me chased not all thought of self
From thee, death by my paw was due, thou wretched elf!
Thyself thou shouldst have vanquished in my presence dread.
40 Not having done so, thou’rt now numbered with the dead."
"All perisheth, except His counsel" ’s holy writ. 1
If we're not of "His counsel," life cannot us fit.
He that will lose his life for God's sake, hath it still;
"All perisheth" hath then no power his soul to kill.
He's of th’ excepted; not of those to perish doomed.
For, who's excepted, saved is he. His spring hath bloomed.
But he that, in God's court, of "me" and "thee" shall prate,
Will be cut off;—far banished from the heavenly gate.
A man once came and gaily knocked at a friend's door.
The other asked: "Who's there? Is this a threshing-floor?" 45
"’Tis I," said he. "O then thou straight mayest go away.
’Tis dinner-time. Mature, not crude, must be who'd stay.
Thou’rt thou? Most crude thou art; by rawness’ self estranged.
By fire of trial those crude humours must be changed.
’Tis fire matures the crude. Let absence be the fire,
Shall purge thee of thyself, burn out all selfish mire."
Away he went in anguish; travelled a whole year;
Saw not his friend; so pined with yearning, anxious fear;
Matured his soul with suffering's searching throes and pains.
Then sought the door from whence he'd been repulsed, again. 50
He knocked anew,—his heart with many fears oppressed,
Lest from his lip some word unwelcome drop confessed.
Within, the question's heard: "Who knocks at my street door?"
He answered: "Thy own second self;—though all too poor."
The invitation followed: "Let myself walk in.
My cot's too small for two selves to find room therein.
The thread's not double in a needle's single eye.
As thou’rt now single, enter. Room thou’lt find. Pray, try!"
The thread and needle have relation, each to each;
55 For needle's eye a camel's far beyond all reach.
How shall a camel ever be so fine and slim
Unless long fasting his redundant flesh should skim?
The hand of God is wanted, then, to make it pass
The God who by His word creates both man and grass.
Impossibilities are possibles to Him;
The stubbornest is docile when His will curbs whim.
The blind from birth, the leper, e’en the dead, arise,
Whole, sound, whene’er th’ Omnipotent "Come forth" but cries.
E’en non-existence, death of death, at His command,
60 Starts into life, compelled by His supreme demand.
Recite, my friend: "Each day He's busied with a work:" 1
And know, He's never idle, unemployed to lurk.
His smallest daily toil,—a work like pleasure still,—
Is to send forth three armies, bound to work His will.
One, from the loins of spheres the elements to stir;
So that all plants may vegetate, from moss to fir.
One, from the wombs of mothers to earth's surface prone,
That male and female may increase, not lie like stone.
The third hence wends its way to sepulchre's dread bourn,
65 There to receive, at length, reward; and joy, or mourn.
Leave we this theme;—’tis endless,—never would have done.
Let's see, now, how the friends enjoyed themselves alone.
Our host invites his guest to enter, free from scorn:
"Thou’rt welcome, self of mine! We're not like rose and thorn.
Our thread is single,—free from knots and tangle; done,
As 'Be,' though duplex as to form, in sense is one."
That "Be" ’s a rope, of power collective, to the end
That nullity may be united to a friend.
Thus duplex means are wanted, for appearances;
Though, in effect, one means there be of all that is. 70
The biped, as the quadruped, goes but one road.
The one-edged knife, the two-edged shears, make one inroad.
Observe yon pair of bleachers at their daily toil.
Apparently, they differ, combat, as they moil.
The one's for ever wetting cloths in their stream's tide,
The other dries them just as fast in hot noontide.
The first, again to soak the scarce-dried cloths makes haste;
As though in opposition to his partner's waste.
But, in reality, the two have but one aim:
Co-operation's what they jointly, both proclaim. 75
Each prophet, every saint, has his especial rite;
But, as all tend to God, they're one, multipartite.
Sleep overcomes alike the followers of all creeds;
As water makes all mills to turn and grind, at needs.
The water flows from upwards, down upon the mill;
Its flowing through the trough is but man's wants to fill.
No sooner has man's need been fully satisfied,
He turns the water off;—straight in its bed it's tied.
To teach men wisdom, stream of speech flows through the mouth;
But spirit hath another course, far less uncouth. 80
Without a voice or repetition it rolls on,
As through elysium, streams;—flowers springing aye, anon.
O Lord! Do Thou vouchsafe to my weak, erring soul
To see the realm where, voiceless, spirit thoughts may stroll,
That so my mind, in glee, on foot or head, may wing
Its flight to the far bourn that parts from nothing, thing,
Careering o’er the boundless fields of ecstasy,
Where fancy joins reality in entity.
Far-reaching more ’s nonentity than fancy's stretch;
85 And thus, his fancy is a source of woe to wretch.
Then, being's narrower far than fancy's power of wing;
E’en as the full moon wanes, till it becomes a string.
The world of matter and its forms is narrower still;
A prison all too strait for mind to have its will.
Plurality and composition are the cause;
Our senses these alone can comprehend, and pause.
Beyond our senses lies the world of unity.
Desirest thou unity? Beyond thy senses fly!
Divine command, "Be!" was one act; two-lettered word;
90 Of grave import, though short, sprung from all being's Lord.
But leave we this, and turn to see how fares it now,
With our acquaintances, wolf, fox, and lion;—trow.
The lordly lion ’d torn poor wolf's head from his tail,
That so two heads there might not be for one avail.
"On them We vengeance took" 1 ’s a well-known sacred text;
Wherefore, poor wolf, not quash thyself, when lion's next?
The lion turned, then, to the fox, and bade him share
The prey they'd seized; that they might make a meal, not spare.
The wily fox, low bowing with a reverence meet,
95 Said: "Sire, the ox your share is, for your breakfast treat.
The ibex, then, will suffice for your midday lunch,
To serve as stop-gap in the interval of munch.
The hare a light repast will furnish ere you sleep;
The royal paunch from indigestion's pains ’twill keep."
The lion answered: "Well said, fox. Thou’rt justice’ self.
Who taught thee with such judgment rare to portion pelf?
Where didst thou learn to do full justice with great art?"
Said he: "My Lord, to teach me was that dead wolf's part."
The lion thus replied: "For us much love thou’st shown.
Take thou all three unto thyself, as very own. 100
Good fox! Thou’st given up thyself entire, for us.
Why should I injure thee? Thou’rt I myself. No fuss!
Myself am thine; the prey is thine; all,—every bit.
Exalt thy head above the spheres. For that thou’rt fit.
Thou’st taken warning from that wretched, selfish wolf.
No longer fox art thou, my lion, my own self!
A wise head ever lessons learns from others’ ills,
Who sees his neighbours victims fall, knows what them kills."
The fox now thanked his stars a hundred, thousandfold,
For that the lion first the wolf to share had told; 105
And reasoned: "Had he given me first his high command
To share the prey, my life I had not kept in hand.
Then praise to Him who ’th placed me low in this world's scale,
To follow after mightier ones when they regale."
So have we heard God's judgments wrought in ages past
On people of the eld;—set forth as mountains fast,
That we may learn from them,—the wolves of early days.
Then let us, as the fox, glean wisdom from those lays.
"God's people sanctified" ’s the title on us cast,
By God's own Prophet, truthful witness, and the last. 110
The bones, the skeletons of all those old-world wolves,
Consider well, ye readers;—think upon yourselves.
Who's wise will from his heart cast out all fond conceits
Of greatness, when he hears of ‘Ād's 1 and Pharaoh's feats.
Unless he warning take from what on others fell,
Men shall a moral draw from his case, sad to tell.
Cried Noah: "Ye stiff-necked race! I am not I, indeed.
My self I've sacrificed; of God's love have I need.
From every fleshly sense and wish I'm severed, quite.
115 God is my light, my mind, my visual organ's site.
I am not I. The breath I breathe is God's own breath.
Whoe’er gainsays this word, blasphemes, courts his own death.
Within my form of fox there lurks the lion's power;
Against this feeble fox ’tis useless now to lower.
Unless you lay aside scorn for my fox's form,
You'll hear the lion growl more fierce than raging storm."
If Noah had not possessed the mighty aid of God,
Could he a world have upside down turned with a nod?
Within his form whole herds of lions, as one paw,
120 Lay hid. A fire was he; the world a stack of straw.
That misled straw refused to pay its tithe to him.
Fire flashed. Forthwith the straw in smoke and flames sank grim.
Whoe’er ’gainst the hidden lion in saint's form
Upraise the voice of pride, like to our wolf, base worm,
Shall, like that wolf, be torn by lion piecemeal quite;
The text: "On them we vengeance took" he shall recite. 2
A stroke shall lay him low, as wolf by lion's paw.
A madman must he be who'd rush in lion's maw.
O that the stroke had fallen upon the body frail;
125 And that the heart and faith had ’scaped! ’Twere vast avail!
Upon this point I feel my strength must all give way.
How shall I tell the secrets of this mystic play?
Just like the fox, do you yourselves deny in all.
In lion's presence raise no cavil, or you'll fall.
Relinquish thoughts of "I" and "We" when "He" ’s afield.
The kingdom is the Lord's; to God the kingdom yield.
The straight way enter all, like paupers as you are.
The lion and the prey will both fall to your share.
God is a spirit pure. All-Glorious is His name!
He hath no need of praise, of honour, glory, fame! 130
All these, and all besides, whatever may befall,
Upon His servants He bestows. He's Lord of all!
God hath no envy, wish, desire for creatures’ ruths;
And blessed is he who takes to heart this truth of truths.
’Twas He created both worlds;—all their pomp and pride.
Shall He desire what He hath made in His own tide?
Keep, then, your hearts pure in the sight of God the Lord,
That you may never be ashamed of thought or word.
He knows the secrets, aims, desires of all your hearts;
They're patent to Him, as a hair in milk at marts. 135
Whoever hath a breast cleansed from all thoughts of guile,
His breast a mirror is, where heavenly truths will smile.
Its secrets are all known to God;—its every part;
"Believer's heart's the mirror of believer's heart."
He tries our metal on the touchstone of His law.
The fine, the base, He will distinguish, without flaw.
Our talents being tried by His omniscient skill,
What's good, what's bad, will sure appear, plain, by His will. 139
m218:1 Qur’ān iii. 153.
m219:1 Qur’ān xlviii. 6.
m220:1 Qur’ān xxviii. 88.
m222:1 Qur’ān lv. 29.
m224:1 Qur’ān vii. 132.
m226:1 See Tale iv., dist. 121.
m226:2 Qur’ān vii. 132. See note , p. 224.