Shah Mahmoud, full of sorrow, went one night
To one who keeps the baths' huge fires alight;
The man made room among the ash and the grime
(Feeding the furnace-mouth from time to time),
Then brought the king some stale, unwholesome bread.
"When he knows who i am," Shah Mahmoud said,
"He'll beg to be allowed to keep his head!"
When, finally, the king prepared to go,
The poor man said: "i havent much to show-
You've seen my home and food (i brought the best;
You were rather unexpected guest);
But if in future you feel sorrow's pain
I hope you'll come and be my guest again.
If you weren't king you could be happy, sire;
I'm happy shovelling wood on this great fire -
So i'm not less than you or more, you see...
I'm nothing next to you, your majesty."
The king was so impressed that he returned,
And seven times saw how that furnace burned -
at last he said: "Stop stoking this great fire
And ask from me whatever you require"
"I am a beggar, lord," the man replied;
"And with a king all needs are satisfied"
Shah Mahmoud said: "Speak up, ask anything -
You can forget the furnace and be king!"
He said: "My hope is this, now and then
My king will visit me in this dark den -
The dust he treads on is a crown to me;
His presence here will be my monarchy.
Yours is the kingdom and the hand that gives,
but that's not how a bath attendant lives.
Better to sit with you in this foul place
Than reign in state and never see your face.
This spot has brought me luck, and i'd be wrong
To leave the furnace-mouth where i belong -
Besides, it's here i made friends with my king,
I wouldn't give this up for anything -
When you are here the bath-house shines anew;
What more could i desire from you than you?
May my perverse heart die if it should crave
Another fate than to remain your slave!
What's sovereignty to me? All i request
Is that from time to time you'll be my guest."
The bath attendant's love should teach you yours;
Learn from him all the loving heart endures -
And if this love has stirred in you, then cling
With passion to the garments of your king;
He too is moved; hold fast and do not stop -
He is a sea; He asks of you one drop.
... The Conference of the Birds, Farid ud-Din Attar