Sweet slumber had diffused the charm of rest
Through the poor maniac's agitated breast,
And, as the morn, magnificently bright,
Pour'd o'er the cloudless sky its purple light,
The smiling presage of a prosperous day,*
He rose refresh'd, and hail'd the heavenly ray.
Graceful he stood amidst the varied herd,
And, warm'd with hope, his orisons preferr'd;
When, suddenly, a horseman met his view,
Who, as it seem'd, the wandering lover knew.
“Romantic youth! I see the timorous deer
And the fierce lion meet in concord here,
And thou the monarch—strange! but mark! I bear
A secret tale of one, so loved, so fair.
What wouldst thou feel, did I her name declare?
What is the cypress to her form divine?
What is the perfume from a martyr's shrine?
What, should that idol's fate be mix'd with thine?
Her ringlets twisted like the graceful Jîm,
Her shape an Alif, and her mouth a Mîm;*
Her eyes like two Narcissuses, that grow
Where the pure waters of a fountain flow;
Her eyebrows, join'd, a double arch express;
Her beauteous cheeks an angel might caress.
But what can I of such perfection say?
How to the blind Creation's charms portray?
I saw her weep—the tear-drops glistening fell
In showers from eyes which their own tale could tell;
And yet I ask'd for whom she wept and mourn'd—
For one untrue, or one to dust return'd?
Opening her ruby lips, she softly said—
‘My heart is desolate—my joys are fled?*
I once was Lailî—need I more reveal?
Worse than a thousand maniacs now I feel:
More wild than that dark star which rules my fate,
More mad than Majnûn's my distracted state.
If that dark spirit thou shouldst haply find—
That mournful wreck of an enlighten'd mind—
How wilt thou recognise him? By that sad
Disorder'd aspect, oft pronounced as mad;
By that unutterable grief which preys
Upon his heart; that melancholy gaze,
Which has no sense of outward things; that love
So pure, an emanation from above.
O that I could escape this wretched thrall,
And leave, for ever leave, my father's hall.
But go, and seek the wanderer;—glen and cave
Patient explore—his refuge, or his grave:
Find him; and, faithful, with unwearied feet
Return, and tell me his forlorn retreat.’
Silent I heard her earnest prayer;
Mark'd her desponding voice and air;
And while she still, in tenderest mood,
Bedew'd with tears, before me stood,
The story of thy woes, which long
Had been the theme of many a song,
Familiar to the country round,
I sang, and deep affection found;
So deep, that sigh, succeeding sigh,
She trembled in her agony,
And, senseless, sank upon the ground,
Where pale and motionless she lay
As if her life had ebb'd away.
But soon as that dread swoon was o'er,
And sobs and tears relieved her heart;
Again she press'd me to restore
Him she adored–‘If kind thou art,
And kind thou must be to a wretch forlorn,
I feel thou wouldst not play a traitor's part;
Thou canst not view my misery with scorn.
Alas! though I may seem to him untrue,
Pity is still to woman's sorrows due.’
Her rosy fingers press
The written tale of her distress;
And, raising to her ruby mouth
That passionate record of her truth,
Kiss'd it a thousand times, and shed
A flood of tears, whilst mournfully she said—
‘To him this sad memorial give—
To him for whom alone I live.’”
Majnûn perplex'd, with painful feelings riven,
Seem'd to refuse what still to him was Heaven;
Imputed falsehood swept across his mind,
But left no dark distrustful thoughts behind.
At length, the writing eagerly he took;
But, as he read, he falter'd, wept, and shook.
Adoring the Creator, she began—*
“Beyond the praise of tongue, to mortal man
His love and goodness,”—thus her námeh ran—
“He with the light of wisdom cheers the soul;
He bids the cheek to glow, the eye to roll,
And every mortal bends to his control.
To this, he scatters jewels bright and rare,
To that, good sense to strive with worldly care:
To me he gave the love which time defies—
The love I bear thee, spotless from the skies;
Fountain of Khizr,* sparkling in the shade!
Fountain of life to thine own Arab maid!
In truth and love to thee my heart was given,—
That truth and love remain, the gift of Heaven.
Though far from thee—a wife against my will,
I am thine own affianced partner still:
Still single—still, in purity and faith,
Thine own unchanged—unchangeable in death.
Thou'rt all the world to me—the very earth
Thou tread'st on is to me of matchless worth;
Yet in a different sphere my race is run;
I am the moon, and thou the radiant sun:
By destiny thus sunder'd–how can I
Merit reproach, who at thy feet would die?
Since thus divided, pity thou my lot,
With all thy vows and raptures unforgot;
Life's sweetest flow'rets, in their brightest bloom,
Turn'd to the bitterness of fell Zikûm.*
Yes, Majnûn wept and shook; and now
What answer could he frame, and how?
A wanderer, destitute–no reed,
No tablets, to supply his need—
But Lailî's messenger had brought
The means–and thus the maniac wrote:—
“To him who form'd the starry throne
Of heaven, and rules the world alone;
Who, in the dark mysterious mine,
Maketh the unseen diamond shine;
Who thus on human life bestows
The gem which in devotion glows;
To him be gratitude and praise,
The constant theme of Moslem lays!
—A burning heart, in sorrow deep,
What can it do but sigh and weep?
And what can this memorial bear
To thee, but wailings of despair?
I am the dust beneath thy feet,
Though destined never more to meet.
Thy beauty is my Kâba shrine,
The arc of heaven, for ever mine;
Garden of Irem—hid from me,
The Paradise I must not see;
Yet thou hast quench'd my genial light;
My day is not like blackest night.
With fondness on thy flattering tongue
Thou smilest, and my heart is wrung;
For those, whose tongues are gentlest found.
Are wont to give the deadliest wound.
The lily's petals oft appear
As fatal as the sword or spear.
She, whom 'twas rapture to behold,
Could she be basely bought and sold?
Couldst thou to me thy promise break,
And spurn me for another's sake?
Acting a bland deceiver's part,
And solacing another's heart!
But, peace! no more of thoughts so sad,
Or I shall grow intensely mad;
I yearn no more those lips to press;
But is the joy of memory less?
The morning-breeze thy fragrance brings;
And up my heart exulting springs;
Still more when I reflecting see
How once the cup was fill'd by thee.
O Heaven! how rapturous to receive
That which forbids the heart to grieve;
To sit with thee in amorous play,
And quaff the ruby every day;
To kiss those lips, all honey-dew,
Of liquid bright cornelian hue!
O! could I kiss them once again!
The fancy fires my wilder'd brain.
—Need I the painter's art to trace
The lineaments of thy angel face?
No—they're indelibly impress'd
Within my ever-faithful breast.
'Tis ours, divided, to deplore
Scenes we can never witness more;
But, though on earth denied to rest,
Shall we not both in heaven be bless'd?”
          *      *      *      *      *
Majnûn's distracted state was not unknown
Where to the wretched kindness could be shown;
—A wealthy chieftain (Selim was his name),
Whose generous deeds had won the world's acclaim;
Whose heart was still on other's woes engaged—
He heal'd their wounds, their anguish he assuaged;
Raiment and various food had oft supplied,
Where'er the love-lorn wanderer might abide.
Mounted upon his rapid steed, one day,
He sought the distant place where Majnûn lay;
And him at length, with placid mien, he found
By herds of forest beasts encompass'd round.
Fearful of savage natures, he retired,
Till Majnûn, beckoning, confidence inspired;
And then, approaching near, he told his name,
And recognised him, though his wasted frame
Seem'd an uncoffin'd corse. Ashamed, he said—
“O let these robes thy naked body shade,
These robes for thee brought hither.” “Not for me;
I want no covering,—without clothes I'm free.
Behold these tatter'd fragments, thrown aside;
These once were robes, and once my foolish pride.”
But, press'd again, those tatters he resumed,
And sat like one to death and darkness doom'd.—
Now savoury viands were before him spread,
But not a morsel raised he to his head;
He turn'd him round, and, scorning the repast,
To his familiars all the banquet cast.
Then Selim asked—“What is thy food, my friend?
Without support, thy life must quickly end.”
—“My spirit's freshness, and its secret power,
Come from the breeze which marks the morning-hour;
Yes, every zephyr from my mistress brings
Life to the soul upon its fragrant wings;
When hunger presses, from the weeping trees
I gather gums, its cravings to appease;
And herbs and grass, and the transparent rill,
Support me in the state thou seest me still;
But though thy proffer'd food regale not me,
The beasts around enjoy'd the banquetry;
And if I sought on living thing to feed,
Birds might be caught; but I detest the deed;
And he who is contented grass to eat,
Defies the world—the world is at his feet;
For what can pomp, and wealth, and feasts avail?
I live on grass:—but hear the Zâhid's tale.
In ancient times a king, they say,
Through a wild forest took his way;
And marking, as along he rode,
A Zâhid's desolate abode,
Ask'd his attendants if they knew
What the Recluse was wont to do;
What was his food, and where he slept,
And why remote from man he kept.—
A courtier towards the Zâhid ran,
And soon brought forth that holy man;—
“And wherefore dost thou pass thy days
Shunning the world's inviting ways,
Choosing this dismal wretched hole,
Grave of the body and the soul?”
—“I have no friends to love me—none;
No power, except to live alone.”
Then, where his fawns in quiet fed,
Took up some blades of grass, and said—
“This is my food—this, want supplies!”
The courtier look'd with scornful eyes,
And answer'd–“Taste but royal food,
And thou 'lt not fancy grass so good.”
“Indeed!” the Zâhid said, and smiled,
“That is a sad mistake, my child!
Wordlings are still to luxury prone;
To thee its sweetness is unknown;
Stranger to such delicious fare,
No doubt thou'rt charm'd with food more rare!”
—Soon as this speech the monarch heard,
Noting, attentive, every word,
And wondering such a seer to meet,
Fell at the pious Zâhid's feet,
And kiss'd the greensward, as he knelt
Where that contented hermit dwelt.