The word's the preface of the book of love,
It is the new wine, too, of passion's grove.
Whatever, old or new, has borne the earth,
Has in the word, the wise man says, its birth.
No manager has wisdom like the word;
Equal memento has the world ne'er heard—
Of Káf and Nún* the word breathed to the pen.
On being's page it took to writing then.
As the pen's Káf from káf* to being grew,
A generous fountain from its spring it drew.
The people of the world, both high and low,
Are in mad tumult from that fountain's flow.
When in this heat the lips in speech unclose,
From mystery's garden it becomes a rose.
Seizing its skirt, the spirit's breath will lead,
And with all grace convey it from its mead;
Then to the ear's gate it will make a way,
And at its coming sense will go astray.
The mind will greet it then with honour due,
Tight as a bud the heart embrace it, too.
At times it brings the lip a smile of joy,
Presses at times grief's moisture from the eye.
On lip of those who mourn a smile appears,
Or from the smiling lip rain down the tears.
With it when I thus see God's power blend,
That I withdraw from it may God forefend!
Attention to this wine has made me gray;
Be now my task to drive old age away.
No more the secret in my heart I'll keep,
But make the world laugh or will make it weep.
Old is the tale of Khusro and Shírín;
In sweetness shall a Khusro new be seen.
Leila and Majnun's time is fully spent,
Yet will I now produce a new event.
Like parrot to eat sweets my mood I'll move
In Joseph's beauty and Zuleikha's love.
God calls the tale the fairest one can say,
And I will tell it in the fairest way.
When that fair beauty shall revealed appear,
For lies there will remain no entrance here.
The wind with falsehood's not content, forsooth;
Though thou shouldst tell it as a seeming truth,
The word with truth is aye adorned the most;
The moon but at its full can beauty boast.
The first of morning's dawn is never bright,
For it boasts falsely of the beam of light.
When the true dawn in heav'n itself displays,
As the sun's beam in heav'n its flag 'twill raise.
And if with his thy art thou shouldst adorn,
From that lamp to the heart no ray is borne.
On ugly form why dost thou sew brocade?
Not fair thereby the ugly may be made.*
From gold stuff ugliness assumes no fairer hue,
But towards ugliness reverts the gold stuff, too.
A rosy hue becomes a rosy face;
Its fairness waxes through the rose-hue's grace.
A dark rose-colour if on it you paint,
The eye sees nothing but a darksome taint.
His beauty more than all the fair one's there,
With Joseph not one beauty could compare.
She who no second has 'mong beauties all,
Her can they but a second Joseph call—
Of lovers none was like Zuleikha fair;
Zuleikha passed them all in passion there.
From childhood up to age her passion grew;
In rule and beggary did she love renew.
After old age and poverty and pain,
Of fresh youth when the time came back again,
Faith and love's road she trod and none beside,
Born and bred up in it, in it she died.
Although Zuleikha was beloved by all,
Joseph's the greater beauty one might call.
The tale of both of them this book shall teach,
And my pen scatter round the gems of each.
With ev'ry coin of theirs that I may spend
A casket of fresh wisdom will I blend.
If some good man, such is my hope indeed,
In this love-book of mine some word shall read,
Leaf-like, he may not turn from me his face,
Nor with his finger's pen my words efface:
If here and there an error he should see,
This accident he may not lay on me;
As far as may be, to amend may try,
Or else in silence he may pass it by.