Through many a town and bower had spread
The maniac's tale—all anxious read
In Baghdad and far-distant plains
The mournful lover's amorous strains;
And every heart, which had been wrung
With wither'd hopes, in pity hung
O'er sorrows which to madness drove—
The very martyrdom of love.
And all aspired to seek the cave
Which hourly might become his grave;
To find th' enduring man; to view
That prodigy—but seen by few—
Of whom the world astonish'd spoke,
As crush'd beneath misfortune's yoke;
Whose truth and constancy excell'd
All that the world had e'er beheld.
A gallant youth, who long had known
The pangs of love, impatient rose,
And on his camel, all alone,
Sought for the man of many woes;
Anxious to be the first to see
The man pre-eminent in misery;
And many a farsang* he had rode,
Before he reach'd the lover's wild abode.
Majnûn beheld him from afar,
And sent his vassals to their lair;
And welcome gave, and ask'd his name,
And whence the hurrying stranger came.—
“I come, my friend, to make thee glad;
I come from beautiful Baghdad.
In that enchanting place I might
Have lived in transport day and night;
But I have heard thy tender lays,
Thy sorrows, which the world amaze;
And all that now remains for me
Is, all life long, to dwell with thee.
Thy tuneful strains such joy impart,
Each word is treasured in my heart:
In love, like thee, I weep and sigh—
Let us together live—together die!”
Astonish'd at this strange desire,
Laughing, the maniac thus replies:—
“Sir knight! so soon does pleasure tire?
And dost thou worldly pomp despise,
And all that luxury can give,
With me in wood and cave to live?
Mistaken youth! what dost thou know
Of broken hearts—of love like mine—
That thou shouldst life's sweet joys forego,
And every cheering hope resign?
I have companions, night and day;
But forest-inmates—beasts of prey;
Yet do I ask no other—none;
I'd rather live with them alone.
What hast thou social seen in me,
When demons from my presence flee,
That thou wouldst brave the noon-tide heat,
The dangers of the midnight air,
Unshelter'd, naked head and feet,
To herd with one not worth thy care,
Nor worth a thought? Beneath the scorching sun
I thread the wild wood, and, when day is done,
Lie myself down upon a beggar's throne—
My canopy, the trees–my pillow, a rude stone.
Houseless and poor, and oft with hunger press'd,
How can I take a stranger for my guest?
Whilst thou, surrounded by thy friends at home,
Moved by no need, but by a whim to roam,
Mayst pass thy hours in cheerfulness and glee,
And never think of such a wretch as me!”
The gallant youth now placed in view!
Various refreshments he had thither brought–
Sweet cakes and fruit–and from his pannier drew
Heart-easing wine, his purpose to promote,
To win the favor of the moon-struck man;
And thus his brief but earnest speech began:—
“Friend, share my meal in kindness, and allow
A smile of joy to clear that furrow'd brow!
In bread is life; it strengthens every part,
And, while it strengthens, cheers the drooping heart.”
Majnûn rejoin'd–“The argument is just;
Without refreshment man descends to dust:
Nerve, power, and strength, from nourishment proceed;
But this is not the nourishment I need.”
“Yet mortals change, whate'er their aim;
Nothing on earth remains the same:
I know thou canst not be unmoved;
For ever thus thou canst not be;
Perpetual change the heavens have proved;
And night and morn, successively,
Attest its truth. That thou hast loved
I know; but thou mayst yet be free;
The heavens are clothed in deepest gloom;
Black is the threatening day of doom;
The clouds fly off, the storm is past,
No longer howls the scattering blast;
The heavens resume their wonted sheen,
And brighter glows the varied scene:
So grief devours the heart awhile;
So frowns are follow'd by a smile:
Like thee, was I enchanted, bound,
Girt by love's galling fetters round;
But to the winds my grief I flung,
And to my fate no longer clung.
This fire of love, which burns so bright,
What is it but a treacherous light?
The type of youth;—when that is o'er,
The burning mountain flames no more!”
But Majnûn spurn'd the traitor-thought, and said—
“Speak'st thou to me as one to feeling dead?
I am myself the king of love; and now
Glory in my dominion: and wouldst thou
Persuade me to abandon all that Heaven
Has, 'mid my sufferings, for my solace given,
To quit that cherish'd hope, than life more dear,
Which rivets me to earth, and keeps me here?
That pure ethereal love, that mystic flower,
Nurtured in Heaven, fit for an angel's dower?
What! from my heart expel the dream of love?
First from the ocean's bed the sands remove!
Useless the effort,—useless is thy aim,—
Thou canst not quench a never-dying flame.
Then cease persuasion. Why to me appear
A master, teaching, like some holy seer?
He who aspires to open locks, they say,
To be successful, first must know the way.”
The youth perceived his error, yet remain'd
In friendly converse a few fleeting days;
And, by the oracle of love enchain'd,
Listen'd, enraptured, to his varied lays;
Companionship delectable! then rose
To bid adieu, since there he might not stay,
And, sorrowing, left the man of many woes,
Surrounded by his vassal-beasts of prey.