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I - The Divan

I shall turn over a new leaf, and whatever

is better, that shall I make my minds aim.

The world of April - for instance -is an emblem of delight:

shall I not by contemplation make my heart fresh as Spring?

On the green lawns and beds of this my poetic Divan

I shall weave lines and feet into hyacinths and sweet basil,

meanings and allusions into ripe fruit and plum roses,

and grow great trees from tiny seeds of precise words.

Clouds make a deserts jaundiced face a garden -

thus shall I too rain gently on my books face

and in the assembly of debate, favour the wise

with fine subtle points like scattering of petals;

if dusty error greys one of my blooms Ill sprinkle

from a clear sky upon it my commentary.

My odes will raise a castle; in its vast court Ill build

a rose-garden surrounded by a veranda of couplets.

A landscape gardener, here Ill raise a scenic panorama,

there spread out a peaceful meadow, broad and smooth.

The gate (inlaid with all the rarest metres of prosody)

shall be guarded by a trustworthy poet -

and the foundation of this blessed edifice shall be

Virtuous and learned guests from every clime of earth

shall gather at my place, leaving no place

for the ignorant (did I build my home and garden

for idiots?!) And the table I spread for these sages

will groan and leave them in a poet-prandial stupor.

Poetry, or speech, is like a body for which

(following the example of Wisdom) one must weave

from precious conceits an inner soul.

Have you ever witnessed such vivification? Watch,

I shall create for you in words the human image.

From subtle metaphors and limpid narrative

I shall fashion curling locks and smiling lips;

significance shall be its face, which then Ill hide

beneath the veil or masquerade of simile.

Ill take up the word like a polo stick

and make it crack; and if in some line I find

my hearts grown dull, Ill polish it with

the sandpaper of meditation; if ignorance-rust

appears on my soul Ill rub it till it shines

with verses from the Quran. The worlds woes

shall vanish before my piety and obedience;

Ill wash my hands clean of Greeds grease

and raise my fingers from my vest-pocket

to the sphere of Saturn. Does my heart sleep

in the nightgown of ignorance? Then let me go nude

and let the alarm of devotion rouse this

sluggish and melancholic body of mine to the pitch

of self-sacrifice. If all my faults

originate within me, to whom should I complain?

No, I shall rise in Gods grace and mercy

and make earths rough ways smooth to my soul;

the good and evil within me I shall judge as if

my heart were a jewellers balance, each moment

adding to the scale of good grain, and from

the pan of evil subtracting a gramme, till

I have shifted the chains and yokes which Satan

forged for me, to the devils own limbs and shoulders!

My personal demon will not repent his viciousness;

its up to me to make amends - and even - if

Ill never be a Solomon in the caravan of devils

at least I can convert (by the threat of intellects sword)

my private imp to Islam. I shall fashion

my saddle and reins from words and deeds, a halter

from the wisdom of Luqman. You may take

your vacation wherever you wish - Ill head

for the Threshold of the Compassionate, turning my head

towards the Guide of Truth, like Salman,

to the Household of the Messenger, to become

there a humble slave, there where in the glory

of the Imam I shall make my name the frontispiece

of the Book of Fame. That Sun of gnosis

will brighten my heart like the moon in Cancer,

that ocean of grace will fill my heart

as a casket of pearls, sunken treasure and corals.

Now now, Nasir, let me give you some advice;

A talented fellow like you could go far - even

to the Emirs court. All you have to do is

give up these crackpot notions and listen to me . .

Avaunt thee! The vapours of asininity curl

round your brows. What can I do to cure you?

How could I ever toady to you in the hope

of filling my saddlebag with crusts? Ive had

Tartars for slaves in my time - how could I ever

enslave myself to a Tartar? You advise me

to be more like X the Miser or Y the pander -

I know your world is like a sick cat

which devours its own litter - why should I

bow before it? Whom could I consider lower

than myself if I were to mortgage my body

like a dog for a bit of bread? Where

could I leave my faith, virtue and knowledge

if I took up the profession you offer me:

Ghoul-in-Waiting?

I have honour enough in this:

that in two tongues I have ordered Wisdom

and transformed it into verse, for the single purpose

of praising the Prophets Family, following in spirit

now Rudaki the Persian, now Hasan the Arab,

weaving my Divan of figures and images better than all

the lost books of China, Rome and Isfahan,

logical, clear as sunlight, furnished with

sensible solution to all thorny problems, which

I have made the guards and shepherds of my verse.

The Pilgrims Position is one of my treasures in prose

and the book you are reading now, one in poetry.

This world is a prison for the believer - why else

should I take up residence in Yamgan

if I werent sure that on the Day of Reckoning

the raging fire will make the prison for those

who have set themselves against the Holy Household?


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