He of this tale who decks the flowering meads
Thus with the tale of ancient men proceeds.
When with his lips of sugar Joseph spread
This sugar fresh around Zuleikha's head,
Zuleikha had a garden fair, a mead
With envy that caused Iram's* heart to bleed.
A wall of mud and water* this surrounds:
The bright red rose* on every side abounds.
Branch within branch the trees there interlace,
In modest boldness, though in close embrace.
Its planes, their foot upon the cypress' skirt,
Like necklace round its neck their arms are girt.
The rose upon its bud as litter laid,
Pomegranates making overhead a shade,
On a wide plain the orange-bushes stand,
Their branch the mace, the orange ball in hand,
And in that plain so free from every ill,
The ball of grace they bear away at will.
In beauteous height the palm-tree bears the date,
And to the garden gives its high estate.
Of sweets a harvest every bunch is there
Provision for the sad at heart to share.
Figs and pomegranates there like nurses stand,
For the mead's children juice as milk in hand,
Each bird the fig's juice that might wish to sip,
Opened just as a sucking child its lip.
The sun's bright light, although at midday seen,
Lit with gold rays the latticed green,
And blending with each other sun and shade
With musk and gold was the plain overlaid,
Whilst in the dark the moving sparks of light
Were as rose cymbals with gold bells bedight.
The nightingale from those bells drew its note,
And opened in that azure vault its throat.
A thousand fish there in the willows' shade
With the wind sporting in the rivers played.
Of good and bad the garden clean to keep
The shadows of the trees like besoms sweep.
On the ground green lines as on teacher's board,
The stream had its margin with silver scored,
And the sagacious, on that tablet scored,
Might read the secrets of Creation's Lord.
The red rose as the gently-nurtured fair:
The yellow rose of lovers as the air.
The breezes twist in wreaths the violet,
And knots of spikenard loosed in freedom set.
The jessamine, tulip and sweet herbs embrace,
And as with silk is decked of earth the face.
In that abode of Huris there they placed
Two fountains, clear as glass with marble graced.
These like each other as a pair of eyes,
One with the other in its clearness vies.
No wound of a pickaxe on these is seen,
And never a scratch from a chisel been.
Should his thought thereto the wise man apply,
Neither joint nor crack would there meet his eye.
And all who behold in their minds took thought
That without a joint were the fountains wrought.
Zuleikha, her heart's sorrow to allay,
When to that garden she would make her way,
One of the fountains full of milk was stored,
And in the other tasty honey poured—
There of that heaven-cradled moon each maid
With milk her hunger or with honey stayed.
Between the fountains there was raised a seat,
For one fate-favoured, like to Joseph, meet.
Thus to his company she bade farewell,
And in the garden bade him work and dwell.
The garden's bird told this tale to the flow'r:
“The gardener fair, and more fair is the bow'r,
“As Eden's hall should mead and rosebed be,
“Gardeners should Rizván and the Huris be.”
A hundred jess'mine-breasted handmaids stood,
All virgins pure and all of purest mood.
As graceful cypresses they waited all,
Ever in service ready at his call.
“May my head,” she told him, “thy footstool be!
“To delight in these is lawful for thee.
“If I to thee am forbidden, alas!
“(Oh! bitter for me should this come to pass!)
“Of these go to her whom thou mayst desire,
“To her to whose union thou mayst aspire;
“Fulfil thou thy desire with her, for this
“The day of youth is the time of bliss.”
Then many commands on her maids she laid:
“Beware, oh! beware now, each sweet-lipped maid,
“In Joseph's service strive with heart and soul:
“If poison come, drink from his hand the bowl—
“Where'er he calls you, go ye there with speed:
“Indulge him with your lives, should there be need.
“Whate'er he order, be ye happy still,
“In every way obedient to his will.
“In gaining him whoe'er may lucky be,
“Let her at once the news impart to me.”
As one impatient, one might say she drew
On her hope's tablet a deceitful view.
Whichever of the band he might approve,
At sleeping time she would towards him move,
Herself there in her place would substitute,
And of his pleasant plant would eat the fruit:
Beneath that beauteous palm-tree would she lie,
And eat its dates, though she ate secretly.
As Joseph there she placed upon his seat,
Her heart and soul she offered at his feet.
The maids before him she placed standing there,
And made them bow before that cypress fair.
Her heart and soul before her friend there lay:
Her body tow'rds her own camp took its way.
Happy the lover who content at heart
From the beloved will at her word depart;
Who when his absence good is in her eyes,
In parting will all patience exercise.
To union when one's love will not agree,
Absence than presence will far sweeter be.