The hoopoe fluttered forward; on his breast
There shone the symbol of the Spirit’s Way
And on his head Truth’s crown, a feathered spray.
Discerning, righteous and intelligent,
He spoke: “My purposes are heaven-sent;
I keep God’s secrets, mundane and divine,
In proof of which behold the holy sign
Bismillah etched for ever on my beak...
A prophet loved me; God has trusted me;
What other bird has won such dignity?
For years I travelled over many lands,
Past oceans, mountains, valleys, desert sands,
And when the Deluge rose I flew around
The world itself and never glimpsed dry ground;
With Solomon I set out to explore
The limits of the earth from shore to shore...
Join me, and when at last we end our quest
Our king will greet you as His honoured guest.
How long will you persist in blasphemy?
Escape your self-hood’s vicious tyranny --
Whoever can evade the Self transcends
This world and as a lover he ascends.
Set free your soul; impatient of delay,
Step out along our sovereign’s royal Way:
Do not imagine that the Way is short;
Vast seas and deserts lie before His court.
Consider carefully before you start;
The journey asks of you a lion’s heart.
The road is long, the sea is deep -- one flies
First buffeted by joy and then by sighs;
He you pursue Will sacrifice His inmost soul for you...
The hoopoe finished, and at once the birds
Effusively responded to his words.
All praised the splendour of their distant king;
All rose impatient to be on the wing;
Each would renounce the Self and be the friend
Of his companions till the journey’s end.
But when they pondered on the journey’s length,
They hesitated; their ambitious strength
Dissolved: each bird, according to his kind,
Felt flattered but reluctantly declined.
... Conference Of The Birds, Farid ud-Din Attar