Friday, January 8, 2016

from "The Conference of the Birds" by Farid ud Din Attar

from The Conference of the Birds

‘A lover’, said the hoopoe, now their guide,
‘Is one in whom all thoughts of Self have died;
Those who renounce the Self deserve that name;
Righteous or sinful, they are all the same!
Your heart is thwarted by the Self’s control;
Destroy its hold on you and reach your goal.
Give up this hindrance, give up mortal sight,
For only then can you approach the light.
If you are told: “Renounce our Faith,” obey!
The Self and Faith must both be tossed away;
Blasphemers call such action blasphemy –
Tell them that love exceeds mere piety.
Love has no time for blasphemy or faith,
Nor lovers for the Self, that feeble wraith.
They burn all that they own, unmoved they feel
Against their skin the torturer’s sharp steel.
Heart’s blood and bitter pain belong to love,
And tales of problems no one can remove;
Cupbearer, fill the bowl with blood, not wine –
And if you lack the heart’s rich blood take mine.
Love thrives on inextinguishable pain,
Which tears the soul, then knits the threads again.
A mote of love exceeds all bounds; it gives
The vital essence to whatever lives.
But where love thrives, there pain is always found;
Angels alone escape this weary round –
They love without that savage agony
Which is reserved for vexed humanity.
Islam and blasphemy have both been passed
By those who set out on love’s path at last;
Love will direct you to Dame Poverty,
And she will show the way to Blasphemy.
When neither Blasphemy nor Faith remain,
The body and the Self have both been slain;
Then the fierce fortitude the Way will ask
Is yours, and you are worthy of our task.
Begin the journey without fear; be calm;
Forget what is and what is not Islam;
Put childish dread aside – like heroes meet
The hundred problems which you must defeat.’

Source of the text – Farid ud Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds, translated by Afkham Barbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin Books, 1984, p. 56-57.

TJB: To thine own self be not true. In smooth singsong couplets, the hoopoe bird delivers its argument: love transcends self, blasphemy, & faith.

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