Monday, June 9, 2008

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 2

When gloomy twilight spread its darkening shrouds –
Like blasphemy concealed by guilty clouds –
His ardent heart gave out the only light,
And love increased a hundredfold that night.
He put aside the Self and selfish lust;
In grief he smeared his locks with filth and dust
And kept his haunted vigil, watched and wept,
Lay trembling in love’s grip and never slept.
“O Lord, when will this darkness end?” he cried,
“Or is it that the heavenly sun has died?
Those nights I passed in faith’s austerities
Cannot compare with this night’s agonies;
But like a candle now my flame burns high
To weep all night and in the daylight die.
Ambush and blood have been my lot this night;
Who knows what torments day will bring to light?
This fevered darkness and my wretched state
Were made when I was made, and are my fate;
The night continues and the hours delay –
Perhaps the world has reached its Judgement Day;
Perhaps the sun’s extinguished with my sighs,
Or hides in shame from my beloved’s eyes.
This long, dark night is like her flowing hair –
The thought in absence comforts my despair,
But love consumes me through this endless night –
I yield to love, unequal to the fight.
Where is there time enough to tell my grief?
Where is the patience to regain belief?
Where is the luck to waken me, or move
Love’s idol to reciprocate my love?
Where is the reason that could rescue me,
Or by some trick prove my auxiliary?
Where is the hand to pour dust on my head,
Or lift me from the dust where I lie dead?
Where is the foot that seeks the longed-for place?
Where is the eye to show me her fair face?
Where is the loved one to relieve my pain?
Where is the guide to help me turn again?
Where is the strength to utter my complaint?
Where is the mind to counsel calm restraint?
The loved one, reason, patience – all are gone
And I remain to suffer love alone.”

At this the fond disciples gathered round,
Bewildered by his groans’ pathetic sound.
“My sheikh,” urged one, “forget this evil sight;
Rise, cleanse yourself according to our rite.”
“In blood I cleanse myself,” the sheikh replied;
“In blood, a hundred times, my life is dyed.”
Another asked: “Where is your rosary?”
He said: “I fling the beads away from me;
The Christian’s belt is my sole sanctuary!”
One urged him to repent; he said: “I do,
Of all that I was, all that belonged thereto.”
One counseled prayer; he said: “Where is her face
That I may pray toward that blessed place?”
Another cried: “Enough of this; you must
Seek solitude and in repentant dust
Bow down to God.” “I will,” replied the sheikh,
“Bow down in dust, but for my idol’s sake.”
And one reproached him: “Have you no regret
For Islam and those rites you would forget?”
He said: “No man repents past folly more;
Why is it I was not in love before?”
Another said: “A demon’s poisoned dart –
Unknown to you – has pierced your trusting heart.”
The sheikh said: “If a demon straight from hell
Deceives me, I rejoice and wish her well.”
One said: “Our noble sheikh has lost his way;
Passion has led his wandering wits astray.”
“True, I have lost the fame I once held dear,”
Replied their sheikh, “and fraud as well, and fear.”
One said: “You break our hearts with this disgrace.”
He laughed: “The Christian’s heart will take their place.”
One said: “Stay with old friends awhile, and come –
We’ll seek the Ka’abah’s shade and journey home.”
The sheikh replied: “A Christian monastery
And not the Ka’abah’s shade suffices me.”
One said: “Return to Mecca and repent!”
He answered: “Leave me here, I am content.”
One said: “You travel on hell’s road.” “This sigh
Would shrivel seven hells.” Was his reply.
One said: “In hope of heaven turn again.”
He said: “Her face is heaven; I remain.”
One said: “Before our God confess your shame.”
He answered: “God Himself has lit this flame.”
One said: “Stop vacillating now and fight;
Defend the ways our faith proclaims as right.”
He said: “Prepare your ears for blasphemy;
An infidel does not prate piety.”
Their words could not recall him to belief,
And slowly they grew silent, sunk in grief.
They watched; each felt the heart within him fail,
Fearful of deeds Fate hid beneath her veil.

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