Thursday, September 11, 2008

From the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

The bird of life is singing on the bough

His two eternal notes of "I and Thou"--

O! hearken well, for soon the song sings through,

And, would we hear it, we must hear it now.

The bird of life is singing in the sun,

Short is his song, nor only just begun,--

A call, a trill, a rapture, then--so soon!--

A silence, and the song is done--is done.

Yea! what is man that deems himself divine?

Man is a flagon, and his soul the wine;

Man is a reed, his soul the sound therein;

Man is a lantern, and his soul the shine.

Would you be happy! hearken, then, the way:

Heed not To-morrow, heed not Yesterday;

The magic words of life are Here and Now--

O fools, that after some to-morrow stray!

Were I a Sultan, say what greater bliss

Were mine to summon to my side than this,--

Dear gleaming face, far brighter than the moon!

O Love! and this immortalizing kiss.

To all of us the thought of heaven is dear--

Why not be sure of it and make it here?

No doubt there is a heaven yonder too,

But 'tis so far away--and you are near.

Men talk of heaven,--there is no heaven but here;

Men talk of hell,--there is no hell but here;

Men of hereafters talk, and future lives,--

O love, there is no other life--but here.

Gay little moon, that hath not understood!

She claps her hands, and calls the red wine good;

O careless and beloved, if she knew

This wine she fancies is my true heart's blood.

Girl, have you any thought what your eyes mean?

You must have stolen them from some dead queen.

O little empty laughing soul that sings

And dances, tell me--What do your eyes mean?

And all this body of ivory and myrrh,

O guard it with some little love and care;

Know your own wonder, worship it with me,

See how I fall before it deep in prayer.

Nor idle I who speak it, nor profane,

This playful wisdom growing out of pain;

How many midnights whitened into morn

Before the seeker knew he sought in vain.

You want to know the Secret--so did I,

Low in the dust I sought it, and on high

Sought it in awful flight from star to star,

The Sultan's watchman of the starry sky.

Up, up, where Parwin's hoofs stamp heaven's floor,

My soul went knocking at each starry door,

Till on the stilly top of heaven's stair,

Clear-eyed I looked--and laughed--and climbed no more.

Of all my seeking this is all my gain:

No agony of any mortal brain

Shall wrest the secret of the life of man;

The Search has taught me that the Search is vain.

Yet sometimes on a sudden all seems clear--

Hush! hush! my soul, the Secret draweth near;

Make silence ready for the speech divine--

If Heaven should speak, and there be none to hear!

Yea! sometimes on the instant all seems plain,

The simple sun could tell us, or the rain;

The world, caught dreaming with a look of heaven,

Seems on a sudden tip-toe to explain.

Like to a maid who exquisitely turns

A promising face to him who, waiting, burns

In hell to hear her answer--so the world

Tricks all, and hints what no man ever learns.

Look not above, there is no answer there;

Pray not, for no one listens to your prayer;

Near is as near to God as any Far,

And Here is just the same deceit as There.

But here are wine and beautiful young girls,

Be wise and hide your Sorrows in their curls,

Dive as you will in life's mysterious sea,

You shall not bring us any better pearls.

Allah, perchance, the secret word might spell;

If Allah be, He keeps His secret well;

What He hath hidden, who shall hope to find?

Shall God His secret to a maggot tell?

So since with all my passion and my skill,

The world's mysterious meaning mocks me still,

Shall I not piously believe that I

Am kept in darkness by the heavenly will?

How sad to be a woman--not to know

Aught of the glory of this breast of snow,

All unconcerned to comb this mighty hair;

To be a woman and yet never know!

Were I a woman, I would all day long

Sing my own beauty in some holy song,

Bend low before it, hushed and half afraid,

And say "I am a woman" all day long.

The Koran! well, come put me to the test--

Lovely old book in hideous error drest--

Believe me, I can quote the Koran too,

The unbeliever knows his Koran best.

And do you think that unto such as you,

A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew,

God gave the Secret, and denied it me?--

Well, well, what matters it! believe that too.

1 comment:

Abusahan said...

thx for posting this poem. now getta find the last quatrain in a Arabic