Wednesday, February 10, 2021

a man whose eyes love opens

The other birds in turn received their chance
To show off their loquacious ignorance.
All made their excuses - floods of foolish words
Flowed from these babbling, rumor-loving birds.
Forgive me, reader, if I do not say
All these excuses to avoid the Way;
But in an incoherent rush they came,
And all were inappropriate and lame.
How could they gain the Simorgh?  Such a goal
Belongs to those who discipline the soul.
The hoopoe counseled them: 'The world holds few
As worthy of the Simorgh's throne as you,
But you must empty this first glass; the wine
That follows it is love's devoted sign.
If petty problems keep you back - or none -
How will you seek the treasures of the sun?
In drops you lose yourselves, yet you must dive
Through untold fathoms and remain alive.
This is no journey for the indolent -
Our quest is Truth itself, not just its scent!'

When they had understood the hoopoe's words,
A clamor of complaint rose from the birds:
'Although we recognize you as our guide,
You must accept - it cannot be denied -
We are a wretched, flimsy crew at best,
And lack the bare essentials for this quest.
Our feathers and our wings, our bodies' strength
Are quite unequal to the journey's length;
For one of us to reach the Simorgh's throne
Would be miraculous, a thing unknown.
At least say what relationship obtains
Between His might and ours; who can take pains
To search for mysteries when he is blind?
If there were some connection we could find,
We would be more prepared to take our chance.
He seems like Solomon, and we like ants;
How can mere ants climb from their darkened pit
Up to the Simorgh's realm?  And is it fit
That beggars try the glory of a king?
How ever could they manage such a thing?'

The hoopoe answered them:  'How can love thrive
in hearts impoverished and half alive?
"Beggars," you say - such niggling poverty
Will not encourage truth or charity.
A man whose eyes love opens risks his soul -
His dancing breaks beyond the mind's control.
When long ago the Simorgh first appeared -
His face like sunlight when the clouds have cleared -
He cast unnumbered shadows on the earth,
On each one fixed His eyes, and each gave birth.
Thus we were born; the birds of every land
Are still his shadows - think, and understand.
If you had known this secret you would you would see
The link between yourselves and majesty.
Do not reveal this truth, and God for-fend
That you mistake for God Himself God's friend.
If you become that substance I propound,
You are not God, though in God you are drowned;
Those lost in Him are not the Deity -
This problem can be argued endlessly.
You are His shadow, and cannot be moved
By thoughts of life or death once this is proved.
If He had kept His majesty concealed,
No earth shadow would have been revealed,
And where that shadow was directly cast
The race of bird sprang up before it passed.
Your heart is not a mirror bright and clear
If there the Simorgh's form does not appear;
No one can bear His beauty face to face,
And for this reason, of His perfect grace,
He makes a mirror in our hearts - look there
To see Him, search your hearts with anxious care.

~ Farid Attar
from The Conference of Birds
translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis


Adelia said...

So grateful for being introduced to this! ...and for the journey it has sparked, in search of the whole work, and so to Around the World in 80 Books project, which features a post on Conference of Birds.

Your blog continues to offer splashes of light through a particularly beautiful cathedral window, a fountained courtyard, an unexpected panorama... Every so often i have to pause to let my profound gratitude overflow into Comment.

Dean Keller said...

Thanks Adelia, your comments are much appreciated.