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Selections from the Poetry of the Afghans, by H.G. Raverty, [1868], at

p. 294





To this degree is the heart affected by the love of Laylā,
That Majnūn, for aye, uttereth the praises of Laylā. *

He repeated no other lesson whatever, in this world,
Save that, on the black mole, and the ringlets of Laylā.

This, unto him, is sleep, from pain and anguish free,
That he be occupied, day and night, with thoughts of Laylā.

If, by the sword of anguish, he to death's agonies be brought,
He grieveth not, so that it be in the presence of Laylā.

Lovers, that cry out, "Laylā! Laylā!" and mourn and bewail—
Kill the body, and make it immortal, by the name of Laylā.

He desireth grief out of excessive woe, but findeth it not:
The lover is ever happy, in grief and sorrow for Laylā.

The whole of his love-pangs will, in a moment, disappear,
When the long sought interview is brought about with Laylā.

Draw near, Aḥmad Shāh! learn thou love from Majnūn!
For he is famous, in the world, for his love of Laylā.

p. 295


Lay thine hand very gently upon me, O physician!
Behold my condition, and take pity upon me, my beloved!

My heart, for this reason, is wholly filled with anguish,
That, thro’ evil destiny, it beholdeth not its dear one near.

She is perfect and exquisite, in the excess of her beauty;
Hence my heart, distracted and disordered, raveth for her.

Tho’ the dear one, by her mouth, many favours conferreth;
Still, every one receiveth the portion, by destiny decreed.

Notwithstanding, when I make many supplications unto her,
She saith unto me, "Grieve not, poor soul! I am thine!"

But next day, when I approach her, then, O my friend!
She saith, "Who is it I wherefore hath the rude fellow come?"

Tho’ I would tear her from my heart, yet it will not be;
For she is, by nature, exceedingly generous, and noble withal.

The long sable locks hang her fair white face about—
She is gay and cheerful in disposition, and elegant in form.

Since God hath given unto the heart-ravisher the rose's beauty,
Wherefore should not the nightingale lover weep and bewail?

O Aḥmad Shāh! the parrot-like soul weepeth and is sad:
It hath come again, O destiny! from the country of its love.


May God annihilate thee, thou fly of human nature!
For no one mouth will have been left unpolluted by thy kiss!

p. 296

Every wound, that may be thy place of alighting upon,
Will for ever be afflicted with the irritation of thine eggs.

Thou deafenest the ears of the whole world, with thy din;
Still thy mouth becometh not mute of its unpleasant buzz.

The whole world, through thee, hath into mere carrion turned;
Yet sorrowfully, and in spite, wringest thou still thine hands. *

O thoughtless man! follow not the nature of the fly!
These seeing eyes of thine from their ophthalmia cure!

Thou art the servant; then do thou the Almighty seek!
Existence, without God, consider utterly valueless and vain!

Take unto thee implicit faith; and scepticism's dark house,
Thereby shalt thou whiten with the whiteness of its lime.

Lowliness and humility are the height of perfection for thee:
The fiery nature of carnality, from pepper, take thou not!

Thine own original element thou wilt again obtain,
When the neck of thy pride thou shalt from the yoke set free.

Seize thou, O Aḥmad Shāh! the good sword of courage;
And the Hindū temptations of the devil expel from thy breast!


Alas! alas! for the dreadful, rolling rock of bereavement;
That for aye committeth such ravages loving hearts upon!

It scattereth and separateth kind friends in all directions:
O my God! let the night of separation be always brief!

p. 297

Since it thus, so ruthlessly, its arrows dischargeth,
The abode of the lover only an empty cavern remaineth.

For his poor heart there will be no relief save weeping;
He, like a widow sigheth, with raiment wet with tears.

His grief for the beloved rendeth the garment of reserve:
The torrent of his tears furroweth the channels of his eyes.

Wherefore should not the afflicted heart weep flesh and blood,
When the tears of bereavement form a lake therein?

Since separation giveth not to the lover so much respite,
The blood of his heart gusheth forth in streams from his eyes.

He will have no hope of finding relief in any direction:
His very frame becometh a load of anguish to bear.

If woe shall afflict, and press upon thee, O Aḥmad Shāh!
In all sincerity and love, flee thou thy God unto?


Would that the crows were not assembled in the nightingale's bower!
That loving friends were ever assembled in the parterre of flowers!

When the rose, without the presence of the beloved, may be looked upon,
The eyesight will merely encounter a bed of thorns and brambles.

The garden bloometh in beauty from the face of the beloved;
Then, without her, let not the heart unto the parterre incline!

Those clouds which may not contain the water of beneficence,
Forbid that such clouds should the face of the sky overcast!

p. 298

When the snaky curls fall all dishevelled round her face,
Save mine own head, I see none other suitable penance to pay.

Since the dark mole upon her cheek is destroyed thereby,
Forbid that the rain of tears should ever her face suffuse!

The countenance of the beloved one is like unto the rose:
Let not autumn affect it: be it ever fresh in the parterre!

The blast of autumn, that scattereth the leaves of the rose—
Would to heaven that blast into the flames could be cast!

The anguish of separation consumeth Aḥmad Shāh's heart:
O then once more unite him, the company of his friends unto!


O heart-ravisher! there will be none other in the world like unto thee:
Draw aside thy veil, or thy lover will of sorrow and grief expire!

With breast consumed by passion, I ever follow in search of thee;
But thy abode is neither on earth, nor in the heavens to be found.

I will wander throughout the world, as a Santon or a Darwesh;
Or I will saturate my garments with the flood of my tears.

O fragrant zephyr of the morn! news of her bring thou to me!
Make thou my heart to smile the parterre of flowers within!

When thus I weep and bewail, my object, in so doing, is this,
That my heart may a nightingale be in the rose-bower of thy face.

The heart, at the depredations of thy beauty, lamenteth,
Like as the nightingale's heart bewaileth when autumn arriveth.

p. 299

In this world, the heart will not from spoliation be exempt;
Thou consumest hearts—a wondrous fire in thy nose jewel is.

The world's censures and reproaches he taketh not to heart:
The lover standeth in the plain, and raiseth his voice on high.

With all her tyranny and injustice, I would not abandon love,
Were I, Aḥmad Shāh, with the powers of endurance prepared.


Alas! alas! for sweet life, that passeth thus away!
That, like unto a stream, floweth past, and is gone!

Wherefore, then, is the heart not aware of its departure,
When life, alas! passeth thus so swiftly away?

Why, O my heart! hast thou thus from grief become?
When existence, like the breeze, bloweth for ever away!

Tho’ thou may’st erect mansions, in all symmetry and grace,
Filled with regret, alas! thou must leave them all behind! *

Sorrow! sorrow! and for ever sorrow, O my heart!
That loving friends from each other are severed so soon!

Those dear ones are like unto spring's fragile flowers,
That in autumn's heats, alas! wither and fade away!

p. 300

This separation is as hell, and absence its heated stones, *
That fall, alas! the poor devoted lover's head upon.

It behoveth us here the world to renounce, for ’tis inconstant:
Alas! it possesseth neither good nor advantage to carry away.

Had meeting ne’er taken place, separation we had not known:
Alas! ’tis from meeting that the very heart's blood floweth.

If friendship be thy aim, with bereavement make friends;
For, alas! it cometh upon thee from thine own hands’ deeds.

Friendship is like the rose; but its produce is the thorn:
The thorn becometh sharp, and, alas! to the quick it pierceth.

Why grievest thou, Aḥmad Shāh! for ’tis a period of joy?
The drum of meeting soundeth: alas! union's hour is near.


O would that there were not, in the world, the pangs of absence!
That the heart in this ocean of separation were not o’erwhelm'd!

Let not the heart of the beloved be of love and constancy divested,
Though the pains of bereavement may have the lover despoiled!

Wherefore may not the heart of the lover be lacerated,
When every moment it is stricken by separation's sharp sword?

Afflictions, like unto black snakes, twist and twine thereon,
When the flood of bereavement goeth straight unto his heart.

Whole bands from this world depart, one following the other;
For the ocean of separation hath laid the whole universe waste.

From this heat the very mountains will, like water, melt,
Should the fiery glow of bereavement unto them attain.

p. 301

The cypress-like in stature have been laid low, Aḥmad Shāh!
But let not thy body ever bend under absence's load.


Why weepest thou thus to-day again, O my heart?
Thou sighest and complainest ever, O my heart!

Like as the hart that loseth her fawn is distracted,
So thou showest thy alarm and inquietude, O my heart!

See also! thou acquirest not patience by exhortation:
Wailing and lamenting, thou rendest thy garment, O my heart!

Like as the Hindū widow advanceth impatiently to the pyre,
So thou turnest thy back to sweet existence, O my heart!

I do not comprehend all these complainings of thine:
What makest thee so soft and so sensitive, O my heart?

From the pangs of grief thou shalt then be again released,
When thou sacrificest thine own affections, O my heart!

Thou shalt take thy recreation in the court of the beloved,
If thou wilt resign thine own will and pleasure, O my heart!

The heart-ravishers are pert and capricious, and deceiving withal;
Then how long wilt thou sigh and weep for them, O my heart?

In the world the roses of spring are manifold in number,
If, like the nightingale, thou lamentest for them, O my heart!

The murky night will become unto thee the sunny day,
When, like the moth, thou sacrificest thyself, O my heart!

The rose-bud of desire thou shalt make to bloom thereby,
If thou make truth the rain-clouds of thy spring, O my heart!

p. 302

The long night of autumn shall never be tardy in passing,
If thou on this path takest sincerity with thee, O my heart!

Thou shalt ever be gladdened with the sight of thy beloved,
When the dark mind thou the bright dawn makest, O my heart!

Aḥmad Shāh, O world! remembereth no other prayer—
In beholding the dear one's face, employ me, O my heart!


What an hour of bliss it was, when we, in retirement, each other's society enjoyed!
The beauty of thy face was a bed of roses, and my heart a nightingale disporting therein.

With the wine of union it was intoxicated: of the marplot it was free from dread:
Compared with the excessive torments of separation, to it was bliss, the meeting of to-day.

That was an hour of joy and felicity, when the Ḥumā * of union o’ershadow’d its head:
Why then should not the heart its yearnings show, when with sorrow it was constantly filled?

On whom the beloved her glance directed, the entire world was delightful unto him:
Union with the dear one is God's gift: not that it was brought about by other means.

Indeed, with but one look towards the charmer, even Paradise itself was forgotten by me:
My beloved was one without simile or resemblance, and her beauty the rose's excelled.

p. 303

There are many cypresses within the grove; but in stature my friend all, all of them surpassed:
I enjoyed the contemplation of my dear one; for she than nectar was sweeter, by far, to me.

When I would her loveliness behold, how could sun or moon with it compare?
For hot, long shall Aḥmad Shāh extol her, when all the world was occupied with her praise?


I cry unto Thee, O God! for I am of my sins and wickedness ashamed;
But hopeless of Thy mercy, no one hath ever, from Thy threshold departed.

Thy goodness and clemency are boundless; and I am of my evil acts ashamed:
’Tis hopeless that any good deeds of mine will avail; but Thy name I'll my refuge make.

When I my iniquities review, I say, O that I were but a mere blade of grass!
The lusts of the flesh and the Devil are so implanted within me, that, O God! I can nothing do.

Tho’ I strive to the utmost, there's no escape for me out of the Devil's evil well:
If it be possible the heart from evil to guard, how shall the eyes be protected?

O Aḥmad! seek thou help from the Almighty, but not from pomp and grandeur's aid!

p. 304


If I shall say anything of the beloved, what then shall I say?
Such is in my destiny, then of my fate, what shall I say?

Though the charmers are somewhat softened in heart,
Of fortune's crooked, wayward course, what shall I say?

I do not complain of the sable locks of the beloved;
But her eyes are blood-shedders: of the slaughtered, what shall I say?

I greatly longed to behold that sweet countenance of hers;
But it killeth the heart: of such a face, what shall I say?

They, who show no tenderness, are rivals unto themselves:
Thy beloved should be thy beloved: of a rival, what shall I say?

The morning's breeze, that causeth the rose to smile,
Is the zephyr itself; then of the morn, what shall I say?

The thorn which may be with the rose, is also the rose:
Since it belongeth to the rose, of the thorn, what shall I say?

The harsh words of the dear ones, tho’ a load, are still acceptable:
Since lovers are under a load of obligations, of the load, what shall I say?

If the rose be the heart's bower, it is the lamp of the nightingale's heart:
Since it is the lamp of his heart, of the lamp, what shall I say?

The despoiled crieth out, and distracteth others’ hearts too:
He remembereth the departed loved one: of the despoiled, what shall I say?

O Aḥmad Shāh! tho’ it be a stake, it is a bed of flowers also:
Since the stake of the beloved is a bower, of the stake, what shall I say?


294:* See note at page 29, and Introduction, page xx.

296:* This refers to flies rubbing their heads with both fore legs, which the author calls wringing their hands sorrowfully and in spite.

299:* See Horace, Ode 13th, Book II.:—

"Linquenda tellus, et domus, et platens
 Uxor; neque, harum, quas colis, arborum
 Te, præter invisas cupressos,
 Ulla brevem dominum sequatur."

300:* Hell is said to be paved with stones, which thus make the infernal fire the more excessive by the transmission of heat.

302:* See note at page 37.

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