Lailî meanwhile had read and seen
What Majnûn's thoughts bad ever been;
And, though her plighted faith seem'd broken,
From him she held the tenderest token:
Deep in her heart, a thousand woes
Disturb'd her days' and nights' repose:
A serpent at its very core,
Writhing and gnawing evermore;
And no relief–a prison-room
Being now the lovely sufferer's doom.
—Fate look'd at last with favouring eye;*
The night was dark, no watchman nigh;
And she had gain'd the outer gate,
Where, shrouded, unobserved, she sate,
Gazing on every side to find
Some friend to calm her troubled mind;
When, welcome as a cherish'd guest,
A holy seer her vision bless'd,
Who, ever, like an angel, strove
The heart's deep anguish to remove;
Who lived to succour the distress'd,
To soothe and staunch the bleeding breast:
To him she spake—“In pity hear,
A wretch distraught with love and fear!
Know'st thou the youth, of peerless grace,
Who mingles with the forest-race,
Savage or tame, and fills the air
Alas! for me, with his despair?”
—“Yes, lovely moon!” he answer'd,—“well I know
That hapless wanderer, and his cureless woe;
Lailî still on his tongue, the Arab maid
He ceaseless seeks through every bower and glade,
Unconscious of the world, its bloom or blight,
Lailî alone for ever in his sight.”
The Arab maiden wept, and cried,—“No more
I am the cause, and I his loss deplore;
Both have our sorrows, both are doom'd to feel
The wounds of absence, which will never heal;
For me he roams through desert wild and drear,
While Fate condemns me to be fetter'd here!”
—Then from her ear a lustrous gem she drew,
Which, having kiss'd, she to the hermit threw,—
And said,—“Forbid it I should ask in vain!
Let these fond eyes behold his face again!
But caution must control the zeal you show:
Some signal must be given, that I may know
When he is nigh—some stanzas of his own
Warbled beneath my casement, where, alone,
I sit and watch—for secret must we be,
Or all is lost to Majnûn and to me!”
—Within his girdle-fold the smiling saint
Placed the rich gem, and on his errand went.
But did no obstacle his task oppose?
A thousand, daily, in his progress rose:
Where'er his arduous course he anxious urged,
Perplexing paths in various lines diverged;
Through tangled glens, the ground with creepers spread,
Meshes of shadowy branches o'er his head,
Now a wide plain before him—mountains grey,
And now an emerald greensward cheer'd his way:
At last, upon a hillock's shady side,
The long-sought love-sick wanderer he descried,
By forest-beasts surrounded,—in a ring,
Like guards appointed to protect their king.
Majnûn perceived him, and with upraised hand
Made his wild followers at a distance stand;
And then the seer approach'd—his homage paid—
“O thou, unmatch'd in love!” he kindly said,
“Lailî, the world and beauty's queen,
Who long has thy adorer been;
And many a year has run its race,
Since she has seen that pensive face—
Since she has heard that tuneful voice
Which ever made her heart rejoice:
And now, at her command, I bear
Her earnest, almost dying, prayer.
She longs to see thee once again,
To sit with thee and soothe thy pain;
To feel, on pleasure's downy wings,
The joy a lover's presence brings.
And wilt thou not, with equal glee,
Behold thyself from bondage free?
The Grove of Palms thy feet must trace,
Near Lailî's rural dwelling-place.
That is the promised spot; and thou
Wilt there receive both pledge and vow,
And sing, with voice subdued and clear,
Thy sweetest ghazel in her ear.”
Majnûn uprose with joyous look,
And for his guide the hermit took:
And, passing quick the space between,
Arrived at that romantic scene
Where the majestic palms display'd
A cool, refreshing depth of shade;
And there the tribes of wood and plain,
Which form'd the wanderer's vassal-train,
Promptly as human retinue,
To an adjoining copse withdrew.
The seer, advancing with a cautious pace,
To the pavilion of that angel-face—
That star of beauty—that sweet silvery moon—
Whisper'd the presence of her own Majnûn.
But woman's mind can from its purpose range,
And seem to change, without the power to change;
And thus she said—“Alas! it cannot be:
I must not meet him—such is Fate's decree;
The lamp thus lit, Love's temple to illume,
Will not enlighten, but the heart consume;
For I am wedded–to another given—
This worthless dust still in the view of Heaven;
And though compell'd—let others bear the blame!—
I was not born to sacrifice my fame.
Prudence forbids such perils should be mine;
Rather for ever let me here repine;
But faithful still, with his melodious tongue
How often have the sweetest echoes rung?
Yes, faithful still, he may upon mine ear
Chant the rich numbers which I love to hear:
Let him with nectar fill his luscious cup,
And, still adoring, I will drink it up”
Prostrate, in tears, upon a fountain's side,
The saint found Majnûn, who impatient cried–
“What is this amber incense round me flying?
Is it the breath of spring o'er rose-buds sighing?
No—not the fragrance of the early spring—
Lailî's sweet locks alone such odours fling!
So powerful is the impulse they impart,
They fill with dying ecstacy my heart.”
The saint, well-taught in love's mysterious lore,
Knew what it was the absent to deplore;
But said—“Thou canst not hope that she,
Unsought, unask'd, will come to thee!
Woman demands a warmer suit,
And none her sacred power dispute.”
“Upbraid me not with maxim old—
Think'st thou that Majnûn's suit is cold
When, from the very scent, I feel
Intoxication o'er me steal?
Must I the real bliss decline
And never taste the luscious wine?”
So saying, seated in that palmy grove,
To Lailî thus he breath'd his lay of love:
“O whither art thou gone?
And where am I?—alone!
Forsaken, lost–and what remains?
Life only creeping through my veins;
And yet that life is not my own,
But thine;—I only breathe to moan:
A thing of memory, to deplore
The past, since hope can smile no more.
Familiar to the pangs which scorn relief,
Grief smiles upon me, and I smile on grief.*
Grief makes thee dearer still; for grief and thee
Seem of each other born. Grief paints to me
Thy matchless beauty:–without grief, no thought
Of thy perfections to my mind is brought.
O Heaven! that ever we were doom'd to part!–
We are but one–two bodies, and one heart.
As summer clouds with rain the meadows greet,
Majnûn dissolves in sorrow at thy feet;
Whilst thy soft cheeks lend beauty to the sky,
Majnûn, alas! is taught by them to die.
The bulbul o'er thy roses joyous stoops;*
Majnûn, from thee disjoin'd, divided, droops;
And whilst the world devotes itself to strife,
Majnûn would sacrifice to thee his life.
O that kind fortune would our joys approve,
And yield the blessings of successful love!
The gorgeous moon, with her pellucid light,
Converting into dazzling day the night;
And we together seated, ear to ear,
The sparkling wine, our beverage, ever near;
I playing with those ringlets, which descend
In magic curls, and o'er thy shoulders bend;
Thou, with those dark and love-enkindling eyes,
In which the living spell of witchery lies,
Gazing in fondness on me. That sweet lip!
I see it the rich wine enamour'd sip:
I see us both—what happiness! and none
To drive the sovereign pleasure from his throne;
Nor shame, nor fear, to crush aflection's flower,
Happy, unseen, in that sequester'd bower.
—But bring me wine! this bright illusion stay!
Wine! wine! keep sad realities away!
Wine, Sâki wine! the house without a light
Is but a prison, odious to the sight;
For broken hearts, immured in gloom like mine,
Are dungeon-dark, unbless'd with light or wine;
O God! preserve me from this endless night!
Give me one day of joy—one moment of delight!”
Then strangely moved, he wildly closed his lay,
Sprung on his feet, and sudden burst away;
And Lailî, who had heard him, deeply mourn'd,
And, sad, to her secluded home return'd.