Baba Tahir

Baba Tahir

(1000 – 1019/1060) Baba Tahir is one of the earliest poets of medieval Persia. A Sufi and a dervish, he lived and died in the 11th century, and composed poems in the then new ruba`i form (quatrain) which became famous a generation later among the intellectuals and mystics notably Omar Khayyam. Baba Tahir is known as one of the most revered and respectable early poets in Persian literature.

 

 

The Lament of Baba Tahir

THE

LAMENT OF BABA TAHIE

RENDERED INTO ENGLISH VERSE

BY

ELIZABETH CUETIS BBENTON


THE LAMENT OF

4.

Thy pictured Beauty, Love, ne'er leaves my Heart,
Thy downy cheek becomes of me a part,

Tightly I'll close mine eyes, Love, that so
My Life, before thine Image, shall depart.

5.

Out hunting, when a Falcon, once I went ;
Sudden an Arrow through my wing was sent.

Be warned, heedless Wanderer ! by me,
Against the Height the strongest Bows are bent.

6.

Without Thee in the Garden, Lord, I know
The sweetly-perfumed Roses cannot grow,

Nor Tears of Grief, although the Lips should smile,
Be washed away in Joy's bright overflow.

7.

I am beset by cruel Tyranny,

My heart remembers all mine Eyes must see,

I'll fashion, straight, a pointed sword of steel,
Put out mine Eyes, and set my poor Heart free.

8.

thou who dost possess no less, no more,
Of Heavenly Knowledge than of Tavern-lore,

And that is Nothing ! Oh, canst thou expect
Aught from a World thou never wouldst explore ?

9.

A Lion or a Tiger thou mightst be,

Ever, Heart, Heart, at War with me ;

Fall but into my hands, I'll spill thy Blood,
That I may then know what to make of thee.

10.

Love, since my Day, by reason of thy Flight
Is all so dark, come, illume my Night ;

By those fair Curves that are thy Brows, I swear
Grief only shares my bed in my despite.

11.

Prince ! through my Heart I am Affliction's prey,
It is the same all night and all the day,'

I often grieve that I should grieve so much ;
Someone take my graceless Heart away !

B 2

THE LAMENT OF

12.

Love, in purple thou dost bid me go,
Grief, like an extra garment, weights me low,

Yet will I boast thee as Dawn boasts the Sun,
Till Israfil the Final Trump shall blow.

13.

I am the Phoenix, of such great Renown
The beating of my Wings inflames the town:

If one should paint me on a house- wall, why,
That luckless house would straightway be burned down.

14.

That phrase, " Yes, He is God," it troubles me,
My Sins are like the Leaves upon a Tree ;

Oh, when the Readers read the Book of Doom,
What must my shame, with such a Record, be !

15.

Alas, how long, then, must I sorrow so ?
Bereft of all, my Tears unceasing flow ;

Turned from each Threshold I will turn to Thee,
And if Thou fail'st me, whither shall I go ?

BABA TAHltt &
16.
Strung with thy Hair, Love, my Rebab gleams ;
How far from thee my Degradation seems !

Thou lov'st me not, and wouldst not be my Love,
Then wherefore comest thou to me in Dreams ?

17.
Com'st thou ? My Welcome thou shalt not contemn ;
Come not, and who my bitter Grief shall stem ?

Give them to me, and of thy Woes I'll die
Or be consumed, or I'll put up with them.

18.

A Moment's space to seek my Love I ran,
Hurry not so, for God's sake, Camel-man !

She holds my Heart a Prisoner, and through Love,
I'm but a Laggard in Life's Caravan.

19.

Though we be drunk, our Faith is all in Thee,
Weak and Unstable, still our Faith's in Thee,

Guebres, or Nazarenes, or Musulmans,
Whate'er our Creed, our Faith is Thine, and Thee.

THE LAMENT OF

20.

Happy is he who 's nigh to Thee in heart,; ifi
Who from Thy Teachings never need depart ;

Too feeble to approach Thee, I can still
Consort with Those who know Thee as Thou art.

21.
Come ye Initiates, let no one fail ;
Form we a Circle and our Woes bewail,

Bring Scales and our Fanaticism weigh,
The most Ecstatic most shall tip the Scale.

22.

The Sea within a Cup this is my Gauge,
The Dotted Letter that completes the page,

One in a Million 's such a Man as I,
I am the bright Exemplar of my age.

23.

Sweeter than Hyacinths to me is borne
The Breeze that, sighing, from thy Curls is torn :
All night when I have pressed thy Picture close
The scent of Roses fills my Couch at Dawn.

BABA TAHIR

24.

Ah, when will Health to my Sick Heart return !
The Good Advice I give it does but spurn.

Flung to the Winds, 'twill not be borne away,
Cast in the Flames, alas, it will not burn.

25.

What Flame-singed Moth 's as blundering as I ?
On such a Madman who would waste a Sigh ?

Even the Ants and Serpents have their nests,
But I have not a Ruin where to lie.

26.

For Love of Thee my Heart is filled with Woe,
My Couch the Earth, my Pillow is as low,

My only Sin is loving thee too well.
Surely not all thy Lovers suffer so ?

27.

Spare me the sight of thy Dishevelled Hair,
The sight of Tears in those thine Eyes most fair,

Thou would'st deprive me of the Sun, thy Love,
Oh, plunge me not too soon in Night's Despair.

THE LAMENT OF

28.

When thou art absent Sorrow dims my sight,
My Tree of Hope is barren of Delight,

And I, when thou art absent, all alone
Sit, and shall sit until my Soul takes flight.

29.

"Without thee is my Heart in Mourning clad,
Show but thy Face, and straightway I am glad ;

If all men had a share in my Heart's Grief,
No Heart in all the World but would be sad.

30.

Nought can the Meadows of my Fancy show
Save only Griefs sad-coloured Rose in blow,

From my poor Heart, 'tis such an Arid waste,
Even Despair's pale Herbage will not grow.

31.

The Lover and the Loved are so much One,
Each endeth where the Other is begun ;

My Heart with my Beloved's little Heart,
Is interwove like Fabric closest spun.

BABA TAHIR

32.

I'm a green Log fresh cut from off the Tree,
Heart of Stone, thou burnest not for me,
Though who, indeed, expects a Stone to burn ?
But I must smoulder till I kindle thee.

My Heart is nigh distraught with Love's Emprise,
Tears gush in Torrents from my throbbing Eyes.

A Lover's Heart is like a fresh-hewn Log,
One end sheds Sap, Flames from the other rise.

34.

By him who knoweth Grief, may Grief be told,
Just as the Expert can divine Pure Gold,

And who but an Initiate shall gain
The Knowledge his Initiations hold ?

35.

The Heart of Man, you say, is prone to Sin,
Oh yes ! but did not first the Eyes begin ?

If on the tempting Face they did not look,
The Heart, unknowing, would be Pure within.

10 THE LAMENT OF

36.

thou whose eyes are shadowy with kohl,
thou whose slender figure works my Dole,

Whose locks with musk are laden, art thou dumb,
That thus with Silence thou shouldst rend my Soul ?

37.

thou hast caused a Thousand Hearts deep pain,
More than a Thousand sigh for thee in vain,

I've counted far more than a thousand Scars
Of thine inflicting, and yet More remain.

38.

The Mountain Tulip lasts but seven days,
The River Violet lives but seven days,

And I will cry the news from town to town
That Rosy Cheeks keep faith but seven days.

39.

When Trees to grow beyond their boundaries dare,
They cause the Gardeners much anxious care ;

Down to their very Roots they must be pruned,
Though Pearls and Rubies be the Fruits they bear.

BABA TAHTR 11

40.

Blessed are the Friends of God, Oh, blessed are they
Whose Task is ever " He is God " to say ;


Happy are they who always are at Prayers,
For Heaven rewards them at the Final Day.

41.

Whom fearest Thou, of Man who makest light ?
Whom fearest Thou, Who puttest him to flight ?

Half-hearted as I am, yet I fear none ;
Whom fearest Thou, Double-Heart of might ?

42.

What though my Jar of Life be filled with Tears ?
When I am dead, released from all my Fears,

Thy passing o'er my Grave will bring me back
To claim again the Bounty of my years.

43.

Thy Curly Locks in tangled Masses fall
About thy Rosy Cheeks that hold me thrall,
On every separate Strand of thy soft Hair
There hangs a Heart, a Heart upon them all.

12 THE LAMENT OF

Like a sad-sounding Flute, Oh plaintively
My Heart laments. The -Fear of losing thee
Will haunt my Soul till Resurrection Day,
And God alone knows when that Day will be !

45.

Love, to be sweetest, Love-Returned must be,
For else the Lover's Heart grows sick, you see

Take Majniln, he was desperately in love,
But Leila even more in love than he.

46.

Such Storms descend upon me from the Skies,
That salt Tears ever sparkle in mine Eyes ;

The Smoke of my Lament goes up to Heaven,
For ever fall my Tears, my Groans arise.

47.
Only, from Grief, that Prevalent Disease,
An Alchemist could free us, should he please,

Yet comes at last a Remedy for all,
The Heart returns to Nothing, and finds Ease.

BABA TAHTR 13

48.

Beset with Thorns and Thistles is thy Road,
Yet up to Heaven's Gate such Seed is sowed,

If thou canst leave thy Flesh upon these Thorns,
Leave it, and travel with a Lighter Load.

49.

I am but a Taper weeping from the Flame :
Are not the Tears of Burning Hearts tjie same ?

All night I burn, and all day long I weep,
For Days and Nights like this thou art to blame !

50.

Oh, evil Fate that I should have to die !
But what is Fate when Destiny 's awry ?

A Briar in Love's Path, then let my Thorns
Tear out my Heart, that I may cease to sigh.

51.

What would it matter if but one small Grief
Were mine ? but Oh, my Wounds are past belief

A Doctor or my Love to share my Couch
Ah, only one of these could bring Relief.

U THE LAMENT OF
52.

My Heart is fragile, like my Glass, and I
Fear lest I break it when I heave a Sigh,

A Tree whose Tears are Blood is this so Strange,
When in a Pool of Blood my Roots must lie ?

53.

I pray thy Sun-like face may never lack

The Shafts that split my Heart in swift Attack :

Why is the mole upon thy cheek so dark ?
Objects so near the sun become burnt black.

54.

I go I leave the World I journey far
Beyond where even China's limits are,

And going, ask of Pilgrims whom I meet,
" Is this the End ? Is this the Outmost Star ? "

55.

Thou Who didst create the Earth, the Sky,
How have we served Thee save to curse, deny ?

Now by the Faith of Thy Beloved Twelve,
Preserve us Lord we are not fit to die.

BABA TAHFR 15

56.

My Heart and Soul are thine, Lovely One,
My Secrets are thy Treasure, Lovely One.

I know not, truly, whence my Sorrow comes,
But know that thou canst heal it, Lovely One,

57.

Where art thou, Love ? Where is the Burning Spell
Of those kohl-shaded Eyes ? Love, I dwell

On Earth but little longer Tahir dies
Where art thou at this Moment of Farewell !


Translated by Elizabeth Curtis Brenton