The Double Death.

The next day in the early morning,
When the beauty of the dawn filled all hearts with gladness,
Robing his breast in regal vesture,
He was issuing from his dwelling, intending to ride,
When, as he was placing his foot in the stirrup,
Gabriel called to him—“Make no haste!
The life-destroying sphere will give no promise,
That thou wilt place in thy stirrup another foot;
Snap the bridle of hope and security,
And draw forth thy foot from the stirrup of life!”
When Joseph’s ear received this joyful message,
In his gladness he forgot all desire of life,
He shook from his skirt every wish for kingly rule,
Summoned to his presence one of the heirs of his power,
Seated him in his own place as Ruler of the country,
And bequeathed to him in his will his own great deeds.
Again he said,—“Call hither Zulaikha,
And bring her to receive my last adieu!”
They replied,—“Weakened by the hand of sorrow,
She lieth prostrate in the midst of dust and blood;
Her soul hath no strength to sustain this burthen:
Leave her to herself to bear it as she can.”
He said,—“I fear that the scar of this misery
Will remain on her heart till the day of resurrection!”
They replied,—“God can bestow resignation upon her:
In resignation she will find a strong cord.”
There lay an apple in the palm of Gabriel,
Which had added an ornament to the Garden of Eternity;
He placed the apple in the hand of Joseph,
And he scented its spirit, and yielded up his soul.
In its perfume he recognised the Garden of Eternity,
And, attracted by its perfume, hastened to the Garden.
When in smelling the apple Joseph’s soul had departed,
A sound of lamentation arose from all who were present;
Voices of wailing went up on high,
And the cry was re-echoed from the azure vault.
Zulaikha inquired—“What meaneth this tumult and uproar;
Heaven and earth are full of clamour, what meaneth it?”
They answer,—“Alas! that high-gifted Prince
Hath turned his face from the throne to the bier:
He hath bid adieu to his narrow cell of earth,
And taken up his abode on the summit of the unearthly palace.”
When she heard this account, her mind departed,
And the bright light of reason was lost to her body;
And in the horrors of these words that graceful cypress
Fell like its shadow three days upon the ground;
And when on the fourth day she awoke from that sleep,
The hearing of it took her again out of herself.
Thrice was she three days out of her mind,
And lost to herself from the burning wound in her bosom,
And when on the fourth she returned to herself,
Again her first question was to ask after Joseph.
She found no mark of his head on the pillow,
Not a trace of his coffin in the moving world;
They gave her back no intelligence but this,
That they had hid him in the earth like buried treasure.

In her distraction she rends her hair, and tears her cheeks, and lacerates her body, and then sinks into melancholy wailings.

“Oh! where is Joseph?—Where he, the ornament of his throne?
He, the bounteous purveyor for the wants of the needy!
When he mounted his steed, and departed hence,
Intent on reaching the eternal kingdom,
So great was his haste to begin his journey,
That it was forbidden me to give him the foot-kiss in the stirrup.*
When he went forth from this mansion of sorrow,
Why was I not present to witness his departure?
I saw not his head laid on his pallet;
I gathered not the dew from the face of that wild rose;
When that rough wound pierced his body,*
I offered not my bosom as a wall to lean against!
When they opened the ground as a bed to slumber in,
And hid him in the earth like a pure gem,
I swept not the spot above and beneath him,
And slept not according to my heart’s wish in his embrace!
Alas! and alas! for this ruinous blow!
Alas! and alas! for this soul-eating sorrow!
Come, desire of my heart, and behold my desolation,
Behold my oppression from the cruelty of heaven!
Thou didst sever thyself from me, and rememberedst me not,
And didst not gladden me by a single look!
That was not the affectionate custom of friends,
That was not the faithfulness due to the faithful!
Thou didst leave me like one cast out of thine heart,
Thou didst leave me encompassed with blood and dust!
Woe is me, thou hast broken a thorn in my heart,
Which will never come forth save out of my clay.
Nor hast thou taken thy journey to a place
From which he who maketh it hath ever returned;
Therefore it is better that I take my flight hence,
And at one soaring soar upward to thee!”
She spoke, and ordered her litter-bearers to come,
And adorned the litter in her own way,
And tottereth forth from that house of mourning,
And took the road to Joseph’s last goal;
But there she saw no sign of the pure pearl,
Save a little hillock of bare dank earth.

She throws herself down on the mound, and in her desolation again abandons herself to a wild lament, but in language and figures, which, however familiar to an oriental, would be not quite simple and intelli­gible to a western reader; and then the narrator proceeds:

It is the custom with mourners overwhelmed with their wretchedness
To scatter on the coffin blackened almonds:*
But, separated as she was from the coffin, the miserable woman
Only threw two black almonds on the grave,
Cast her blood-besprinkled face to the earth,
Kissed the ground in her misery—and yielded up her soul.
When her companions beheld her condition,
Their cries and lamentations went up to the skies;
And every sigh she had breathed for Joseph,
Two hundred fold they breathed over her.
But when the wailing of the harp was somewhat deadened,
They folded up their sleeves to wash the body;
They washed it with torrents of tears from their eyes,
Like a rose-leaf moistened with a springtide shower;
Like a bud which shooteth from a twig of jessamine,
They wrapped it round in a shroud of green,
Made clean her face from the dust of separation,
And placed her in the grave at the side of Joseph.
Fate has not always given to loving souls
To find in death the society of the beloved!*
But the narrator of this sweet story,
Who hath the account from the old of former days,
Sayeth thus: That on the opposite bank of the Nile
To that on which was buried the holy body of Joseph,
Arose an outburst of drought and pestilence,
And in the room of prosperity a crowd of calamities;
So that at last they came to the resolution
To place his remains in a coffin of stone,
And, when they had smeared every crevice with pitch,
To sink it midway to the bottom of the Nile.*
But see here the deceitfulness of the faithless spheres,
Which even after her death separated her from Joseph!
I know not what spite they harboured against them,
That they would not suffer them to rest beneath the earth,
But drowned the one in the sea of natation,
And abandoned the other lip-thirsty in the desert of separation.
Well said the foot-sore Pilgrim of Love,
Who now resteth from all its gains and losses,
That Love, when it hath been purchased at a high price,
Hath no more to do ever-after with repose;
It rendeth even the shroud which envelopeth the lover,
Though he himself be slumbering beneath the sod.”
Well for the lover, who, in the pangs of separation,
Bore such a soul to his beloved in the secret chambers of souls!
Yet let no one say, that he in his winding-sheet
Attained the magnanimity of that lion-hearted woman,
Who closed fast her eyes to all love but his,
And after that cast down upon his grave the ready money of her life.
A thousand blessings on her, body and soul,
And in the spirit world may her eye be brightened by the sight of her beloved!
Two sections, one entitled
§ Complaint of the Stars or Fate;
the other,
§ Admonitions to his Son,
though containing very beautiful passages, are omitted here, not having much connection with the story.