The Exculpation.

Zulaikha, though discouraged by the report of the nurse, is impelled to make one more effort in person: he answers her with his tears. She asks him why he weeps.

“Because,”—he replies,—“I am heart-broken with sorrow!
Never hath any one’s love brough happiness to me!
When an aunt desired to tread with me the paths of affection,
They uttered my name with the epithet of “thief”;
When my father held me dearer than my brethren,
He planted for me in their souls the sapling of jealousy;
They cast me from his neighbourhood far away,
And threw me abandoned on the land of Egypt.
And now every heart-beat is fraught with cruel fears,
Of what your love is to bring upon my head!
Yes! very jealous is the Prince of Love.—*
Love’s dominion will endure no partnership.
In this high office, beginning is ending,
No one will he ever associate with himself!
Hardly hath the cypress exalted itself in its gracefulness,
Than he humbleth to nothing the shadow at its foot;
Hardly hath loveliness lighted up the face of beauty,
Than he burneth up its harvest with the lightning of jealousy;
Hardly hath the sun reached the height of the whirl­ing sky,
Than he precipitateth it swiftly downward to its setting;
Hardly hath the moon filled her mould with light,
Than he grieveth and affiicteth her with her waning into darkness.”

Zulaikha still presses her request to be deemed “the lowliest of his maidens.”

“My Mistress,”—he replies,—“I am your bondsman,
Bound as a slave to do you service;
Aught save service is out of my province,
Enjoin me only what becometh a servant;
Ask not from your servant that he become your master,
Make him not by such graciousness ashamed of himself!
Who am I, that I should become your familiar friend;
That I should partake with the Vizier of the same table!
It was quite meet that the monarch should put to death the slave,
Who dipped his finger in the same salt-cellar.
Better that you should lay upon me some other duty,
In the discharge of which I might pass my days.
I desire not to withdraw my head from your service;
With all my power I would repay my obligations.
It is by service that slaves have become free,
By service that they have been gladdened with the deed of manumission;
The heart is made joyful in the performance of good services,
But never can the undutiful slave become a freedman!”

But Zulaikha will not listen to his request, and he escapes from the interview to busy himself with his customary employments.