The Visit to the Prison.

When the lover’s day is changed into night,
The night but maketh the lover’s glow more glowing still;
Separation hath turned his day into darkness,
Its darkness is increased by the darkness of the night;
The day by its sorrow is become black,
The night heapeth up blackness on blackness.
When the night draweth nigh to the impatient Zulaikha,
It cometh to her at last fraught with anguish;
Far from the stealer of her heart, and separated from the holder of her soul,
The night is without a moon, and her house without a light;
When the face of the beloved one emitteth not a ray,
A hundred torches will not illumine the dwelling.
The anxiety of her heart never suffered her eye to slumber,
And forced from her eyelids blood-stained tears.
“I know not”—she would exclaim—“how this night it fareth with Joseph?
Who is this night the surety for his service?
Who will stretch out his feet on his pallet?
Who will lay his head comfortably on his pillow?
Who will kindle the lamp to light up his couch?
What hand of kindness will smooth down his cushion?
Who will unclasp the girdle from his loins?
Who will read him stories to lull him to sleep?
Hath the air of that place agreed with him, or not?
Hath that net yet tamed him like a bird, or not?
Doth the rose of his cheek still retain its brilliance?
Do his hyacinth-locks still keep their lustre?
Hath that air not borne away the brilliancy of the rose?
Hath that air not withered the lustre of the hyacinths;
Doth his heart still fold itself up like a rose-bud;
Or, like the rose, hath it expanded itself to pleasure?”

Urged by such feelings she cannot repress her desire to see how he is, and summons the Nurse to accompany her to the prison.

She beheld him from a distance kneeling on the prayer-carpet,
Like a flashing sun drowned in light;
Now like a taper standing erect,
And casting the light of his face on the prisoners;
Now bowing his stature like the crescent moon,
And throwing on the carpet the rays of his countenance;
Now with head on the ground asking pardon for error,
Like a tender rose-branch under the night-wind;
Now prostrated in acts of humiliation;
Now sitting resigned like the lowly violet.

After watching him for some time from an obscure corner, she at last addresses him:—

“O thou, the lamp and eye of all that is amiable,
O heart’s-desire of all the unhappy,
Thou who hast kindled the fire of love in my breast,
Hast consumed my body from head to foot,
Never hath thy presence thrown water on the flames!
Never hast thou quenched the fever of my soul!
Thou hast lacerated my bosom with the sword of tyranny,
And I see thee careless of the sorrow it has wrought.
Hast thou no pity to bestow on my sufferings?
On me so pitiable and alas! rejected?
Every glance of thine giveth me a fresh grief;
Would to God, my mother had never borne me!
Would to God, that, when I was born,
No Nurse had ever cast a shade over my head;
That she had refused me my portion of the pure milk;
Or vindictively mixed the milk with poison!”
So spake Zulaikha, discovering her condition,
But not less did Joseph retain his own:
Not a hair’s breadth did he approach her nearer;
Or, if he did, he betrayed not a sign.
At dawn, when the kettle-drum soundeth in the palace,
And the Muezzin proclaimeth the morning call,
And the hound curleth his tail about his throat,
And stoppeth his breath from the baying of the night,
When the cock, raising his neck from his pleasant sleep,
Tuneth his pipe, and uttereth his shrill cry,
Zulaikha gathereth together, and tucketh up, her garment,
Kisseth respectfully the threshhold, and departeth homeward.
So long as her moon sat in the loneliness of his prison,
So long thitherward would she go to and fro:
This running backwards and forwards was the food of her soul,
This coming and going was her sole occupation;
No one’s inclination to visit the flower-garden could be stronger,
Than was the inclination of that broken-hearted one to visit that prison:
And in truth he, whose friend is a prisoner
Where but in the prison can he find a resting-place?