Monday, June 9, 2008

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 6

With grateful happiness the friend cried out;
The heavens echoed his triumphant shout.
He told the good news to the group; again
They set out eagerly across the plain.
Weeping they ran to where the swineherd-sheikh,
Now cured of his unnatural mistake,
Had cast aside his Christian clothes, the bell,
The belt, the cap, freed from the strange faith’s spell.
Seeing his friends approach his hiding-place,
He saw how he had forfeited God’s grace;
He ripped his clothes in frenzies of distress;
He grovelled in the dust with wretchedness.
Tears flowed like rain; he longed for death; his sighs’
Great heat consumed the curtain of the skies;
Grief dried the blood within him when he saw
How he had lost all knowledge of God’s law;
All he had once abandoned now returned
And he escaped the hell in which he’d burned.
He came back to himself, and on his knees
Wept bitterly for past iniquities.
When his disciples saw him weeping there,
Bathed in shame’s sweat, they reeled between despair
And joy – bewildered they drew near and sighed;
From gratitude they gladly would have died.
They said: “The mist has fled that hid your sun;
Faith has returned and blasphemy is gone;
Truth has defeated Rome’s idolatry;
Grace has surged onward like a mighty sea.
The Prophet interceded for your soul;
The world sends up its thanks from pole to pole.
Why should you mourn? You should thank God instead
That out of darkness you’ve been safely led;
God who can turn the day to darkest night
Can turn black sin to pure repentant light –
He kindles a repentant spark, the flame
Burns all our sins and all sin’s burning shame.”

I will be brief: the sheikh was purified
According to the faith; his old self died –
He put the dervish cloak on as before.
The group set out for Mecca’s gates once more.

And then the Christian girl whom he had loved
Dreamed in her sleep; a shaft of sunlight moved
Before her eyes, and from the dazzling ray
A voice said: “Rise, follow your lost sheikh’s way;
Accept his faith, beneath his feet be dust;
You tricked him once, be pure to him and just,
And, as he took your path without pretence,
Take his path now in truth and innocence.
Follow his lead; you once led him astray –
Be his companion as he points the Way;
You were a robber preying on the road
Where you should seek to share the traveller’s load.
Wake now, emerge from superstition’s night.”
She woke, and in her heart a steady light
Beat like the sun, and an unwonted pain
Throbbed there, a longing she could not restrain;
Desire flared up in her; she felt her soul
Slip gently from the intellect’s control.
As yet she did not know what seed was sown –
She had no friend and found herself alone
In an uncharted world; no tongue can tell
What then she saw – her pride and triumph fell
Like rain from her; with an unearthly shout
She tore the garments from her back, ran out
And heaped the dust of mourning on her head.
Her frame was weak, the heart within her bled,
But she began the journey to her sheikh,
And like a cloud that seems about to break
And shed its downpour of torrential rain
(The heart’s rich blood) she ran across the plain.
But soon the desert’s endless vacancy
Bewildered her; wild with uncertainty,
She wept and pressed her face against the sand.
“O God,” she cried, “extend your saving hand
To one who is an outcast of the earth,
To one who tricked a saint of unmatched worth –
Do not abandon me; my evil crime
Was perpetrated in a thoughtless time;
I did not know what I know now – accept
The prayers of one who ignorantly slept.”

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