OF WASTING AWAY
EVERY lover who is sincere in his affection, if he be barred from union with his beloved either through separation, or as the result of a breaking off, or because or some reason or another he has to conceal his attachment, must necessarily fall in consequence into sickness, wasting away, and emaciation; not infrequently he, is obliged to take to his bed. This is a thing exceedingly prevalent; it is happening all the time. The accidents that befall on account of love are quite different from those maladies, which result from the sudden attack of an illness, and are readily diagnosed by the shrewd physician and the observant physiognomist. I have the following poem on this subject.
The doctor says to me
(But he does nothing know),
" Take drugs, dear So-and-so
Thou ailest grievously! "
Yea, no man knows this thing
I suffer from, but I
Do know, and God Most High,
One Lord, Almighty King.
Can I conceal my woe?
That is made all too plain
By my deep groans of pain,
My throbbing head bent low?
My face grief's signs are seen
Most clearly there, in faith;
My body-that poor wraith,
So wasted and so lean.
And naught can ever be
More sure, more free of doubt,
Than when signs point it out
I said, "Explain me what
The trouble is, I pray;
For all that thou dost say
Thou truly knowest not."
He said, "See, I have traced
A leanness most extreme;
Thy sickness, it would seem,
Is a consuming waste."
"The waste", I cried, "thou fool,
Affects the members all;
Its sign is what they call
A fever variable.
"By Allah's life, I swear
No fever is in me;
Come; touch my flesh, and see;
The heat is little there."
He said, " Ha, I discern
Thy nerves are overwrought;
All jumpy, deep in thought
Thou art, and taciturn.
I therefore speculate
Be careful! It is a
Most grave and serious state."
"That speech, if I may so
Remark, absurd appears",
I said. " What of these tears
That from my eyelids flow?
He lowered then his eyes,
Perplexed by what he viewed;
And of a certitude
'Twould baffle the most wise.
"My sickness", I did say,
"Itself provides my cure;
Aye, such a case, for sure,
Leads mightiest brains astray.
"My proof may be discerned
At once, and visibly:
The branches of a tree
Make roots, when overturned.
"The viper's antidote
Its poison will extract
Naught else can counteract
The mischief of its throat."
I was told the following story by Abu Bakr Ibn Muhammad Ibn Baqi al-Hajari, a man naturally wise, intelligent and understanding. A certain shaikh of ours, whose name I cannot mention, was lodging in a caravanserai in Baghdad. There he saw a daughter of the manageress of the inn; he fell in love with her, and married her. When he was privily with her, he covered himself for a certain purpose. Her eyes fell upon him and, being a virgin, she took fright at his virility; she fled to her mother, and would have nothing more to do with him. All those about her besought her to return to her husband, but she refused, and almost died at the thought. He therefore put her away; then he repented, and sought to win her back, but that proved impossible. He consulted al-Abhari and other men of like eminence, but none of them could devise any solution of his problem. His mind became deranged, and, he remained under treatment in hospital for a long time, until at last he recovered, and forgot his troubles, though even then with great difficulty. Whenever he mentioned her, he would sigh most deeply.
The detailed description of emaciation which I have already given in my verses quoted above exempts me from the necessity of citing anything further on the subject here; for I fear to make my discourse too prolonged. God is my help, and to Him I pray for succour. Sometimes indeed the condition progresses to such a point that the victim is no longer in possession of his senses; he is deprived of all his reason, and becomes the prey of insane fancies.
I know a young lady of rank, beauty and nobility, a general's daughter, who fell most violently in love with a youthful friend of mine; he happened to be the son of a high civil servant. Her passion was so extreme that she became most melancholic, and wellnigh lost her mind entirely. The affair became notorious, an was bruited far and wide, so that it came even to my, ears, and total strangers were familiar with the details; At last she responded to treatment, and made a good recovery.
All this happens only as the result of mental obsession. When an idée fixe gets the upper hand of a person, and the melancholy humour is in full control, the affair passes beyond the bounds of love, and enters the confine of folly and madness. If at the beginning of the disorder the proper treatment is neglected, the lover's condition becomes exceedingly serious; the derangement gets deep-seated, and cannot be cured except by' union with the beloved. I will quote one of the many' poems which I have written in illustration of this topic
Thou hast robbed her of her heart
Using all deceitful art;
And can any creature thrive
Having not a heart alive?
Succour her with loving ways,
And live honoured all thy days;
Thou shalt win a rich reward
At the Judgment of the Lord.
I believe, if she obtains
No relief from present pains,
She'll exchange, for anklets sweet,
Chains of steel upon her feet.
Verily, thou hast the sun
For thy slavish lover won,
And in every human breast
Is that love made manifest.
Ja'far, the freedman of Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hudair, better known as al-Balansi, informed me that he reason why Marwan Ibn Yahya Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hudair became deranged and lost his reason was that he fell hopelessly in love with a slave-girl belonging to; his brother; he refused to let him have her, and sold her to another; yet there was none among his brothers who could hold a candle to him, he was a man of such perfect culture.
Abu 'l-`Afiya, the freedman of Muhammad Ibn `Abbas Ibn Abi 'Abda, told me that the reason why Yahya Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn `Abbas Ibn Abi 'Abda went mad was that a slave-girl to whom he was passionately attached was sold by his mother's instructions, she having in mind to marry her son to a daughter of the 'Amirid family.
There you have two most respectable and eminent gentlemen who lost their reasons and became deranged, so that they found themselves in chains and fetters. As for Marwan, he was struck by a stray shot on the day the Berbers entered and sacked Cordova so he died, God have mercy on his soul. Yahya Ibn Muhammad for his part is living yet, still languishing in the condition I have described, at the time of writing this essay; I have seen him on many occasions, and before he was tried with this terrible affliction I often sat with him in the Palace. We shared the same teacher, the eminent jurist Abu 'l-Khiyar al-Lughawi; and by my life, Yahya was at that time entirely free of metal disturbance, a most distinguished young man. Persons of a lower social order than these I have seen in plenty, but forbear to name them because of their obscurity.
When the infatuated lover comes to this pass, all hope is cut off, and all expectation of a recovery must be abandoned; there is no remedy for him any more, neither in union with the beloved nor any other way. The corruption is firmly established in his brain; his consciousness is completely destroyed; the mischief has got the upper hand of him. May Allah in His almighty power defend us from such a calamity, and of His bounty protect us from such chastisement!
WE know well that everything which has a beginning must also have an end, save for those delights of Paradise which Allah has reserved for those He loves, and the torments of Hell that await His enemies. As for mundane accidents, these all pass away and perish; they are annihilated, and cease to be. Every love comes finally to one or other conclusion: either it is cut off by death, or ends in oblivion. We find from time to time that the soul is dominated by one or other of the faculties, which with it control the body. Similarly we may observe a soul refusing all comforts and pleasures, being dedicated to obedience to the will of Allah, or hypocritically seeking a reputation in this world for holy abstinence. In like manner we will come upon a soul that turns away from the desire to meet its kind, on account of a deeply-seated pride that shuns betrayal, or the bitter, ineradicable memory of an evil requital of its love. This is the truer sort of forgetting; whatever oblivion arises from other motives than these two, merits the utmost condemnation. Forgetting engendered by long-continued spurning of the lover's advances is merely the despair that enters into the soul, when it realizes that it can never attain its cherished hope; this has the effect of weakening the ardour, not of strengthening the desire. I have a long poem in condemnation of forgetting, from which the following stanzas are extracted.
Her glance, where'er she turns her head,
Strikes every living creature dead;
Her words, when she addresses me,
Are dates upon a thorny tree.
It seems that passion is a guest
Installed in my receptive breast,
And takes my flesh to be its food,
And for refreshment drinks my blood.
Later in the ballad these verses occur.
He suffers rigour patiently
For sake of glory yet to be,
Nor flinches in his high desire
Though heaven rain on him with fire.
He spurns all comforts as a shame
That bring diminishment of fame;
And there are blessings, well I know,
That lead to torment and to woe.
In a general analysis, oblivion may be divided into two kinds. The first is natural, being what is commonly called forgetting. In this state the heart is completely free, and the mind exempt of all preoccupation; it is as though one had never been in love at all. It may be that a man who behaves in this way will be liable to reproach, because such a manner of oblivion springs out of reprehensible qualities of character, and is engendered by causes that by no means justify the act of forgetting; we shall expound these causes at length elsewhere, God willing. Sometimes however blame does not attach to a man in such a case, since he has a good and sufficient excuse.
The second kind of oblivion is artificial; in this the soul is constrained to forget. This is what is generally known as conscious fortitude. You will see a man displaying the most resolute impassivity, though in his heart there is a pricking anguish more painful than the stab of a stiletto; but he reckons some evils to be more bearable than others, and in accounting with his soul uses arguments which can neither be deflected nor shattered. This sort of forgetting involves a man so comporting himself in no reproach or blame, because it does not arise save as the result of a terrible calamity, nor happens except in consequence of a shocking blow, having as its cause either some circumstance which no self-respecting man could stomach, or some catastrophe, some turn of destiny against which resistance is vain. It is enough to reflect that such a man as I have here described does not in fact forget; on the contrary, he remembers everything, and is full of fond yearning; he remains faithful to his covenant, as he gulps down the bitter draughts of patient endurance.
The universal difference between the man who endures consciously, and the one who forgets, is that the former, although he manifests the last degree of impassivity, and makes a great show of reviling and attacking his beloved, will not tolerate such conduct in any other. I have put this in rhyme.
Now leave me to revile my love;
For truly, though I seek to prove
She shall have nothing more of me,
I harbour no hostility.
Know rather, that if I revile
My darling, it is all the while
As when men say, " He did his best
God sent him ill, his love to test."
The man who actually forgets is entirely opposite. All this of course depends upon the individual temperament, and the degree to which it submits or refuses, as well as upon the extent to which love has the mastery of the lover's heart, or is still but feebly established there. This also I have illustrated in some verses, in which I have spoken of forgetfulness as conscious fortitude.
To will forgetting friends is not
The same as having friends forgot;
"I can, but I decline to do"
Is not" I am unable to."
The man submissive to his soul
Ranks not with him who keeps control;
A nature patiently endued
Is not like conscious fortitude.
The causes producing these two kinds of oblivion are numerous; it is according to the nature of those causes, and the extent of their impact, that the lover who forgets is to be excused or condemned.
First there is weariness: we have already spoken of this. The lover who forgets through becoming weary is no true lover at all, and one stamped with this mark is rather to be counted as a false pretender: all that he is seeking is pleasure, and the gratification of carnal lust. Oblivion of this type is reprehensible forgetfulness.
Then there is the desire for change: though this bears a certain resemblance to weariness, there is an additional motive involved which renders it still more disgusting than the other, and the man so acting is more richly deserving of blame.
Thirdly, there is that constitutional modesty which will prevent a lover from making any allusion to his feelings; consequently the affair drags on far a prodigious time, the first fresh bloom of affection fades, and oblivion ensues. In such a case if the lover seeking oblivion does in fact forget, he acts unjustly in that he was himself the cause of his own deprivation; but if he comports himself with what we have called conscious fortitude, then he is not to be condemned, since he has promoted modesty above personal enjoyment. It has been reported of the Prophet of Allah that he said, " Modesty belongs to faith, and shamelessness belongs to hypocrisy." Ahmad Ibn Muhammad informed me, on the authority of Ahmad Ibn Mutarrif, who quoted from `Abd Allah Ibn Yahya, from the latter's father, from Malik, from Salama Ibn Safwan al-Zargi, from Zaid Ibn Talha Ibn Rakana, by direct transmission, that the Prophet of Allah said, " Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty."
The foregoing three causes have their root and origin in the lover; blame attaches to him if, and only if, he in fact forgets the object of his affection.
Then there are four causes of oblivion, which derive from and have their origin in the beloved. The first is breaking off: we have already expounded the various aspects of this, but must nevertheless set down some account of it in this chapter, as suits the present context.
When breaking off is prolonged, and accompanied by numerous reproaches and continued separation, it proves to be the gateway to forgetting. But if a person who formerly kept your company ends the association in order to resort with another that does not come under the heading of breaking off at all; it is plain perfidy. Similarly if a person inclines in his affections towards someone else, without there
having been any previous link between you and him, that is also not an instance of breaking off; it is simple aversion. I shall discourse on these two subjects later, if Allah wills. True breaking off occurs when someone keeps company with you and then ends the association, either because of some tale brought by a slanderer, or owing to some fault that has been committed, or as the result of some conviction on the other's part that it is so; in every case without the person concerned inclining towards another, or putting someone else in your place. In this situation the lover who forgets is certainly to be blamed--contrary to what is true in the other instances where the causes for oblivion derive from the beloved's initiative. For here no valid grounds for excuse exist, if the lover forgets the beloved; the beloved simply no longer has any desire for your company, and he is certainly under no obligation in the matter. The bonds of former association, and the loyalty due to those happy days of yore, require the lover to remember, and oblige him to respect the memory of their ancient comradeship. If however the lover forgets by way of conscious fortitude and deliberate impassivity, then he is indeed to be excused; for he sees that the break is continuing indefinitely, and observes no sign of renewed union, no indication of restored relationship. It is true that many men have thought fit to apply the term treason to this sort of behaviour, because outwardly the two manifestations appear to be the same; but their causes are quite different, and it is for this reason that we have distinguished between them as regards their actual nature. I have a poem on this, from which I will allow myself to quote two stanzas.
So henceforth be as men whom I
Have never known at all; and why?
Because I am as one whom you
Have never known, nor wanted to.
I am Sir Echo, answering
What any man may say or sing;
Whatever then you wish to day,
Deliberate it every way!
Here is a curious little poem of four stanzas: I composed the first three while I was asleep, and added the fourth on waking.
O happy days of yore,
The time when you were more
Than life and family,
And dearer far to me
The hand of banishment
Would after not relent
Until its fingers roll
You from me like a scroll.
Your banning filled right up
With patience my heart's cup,
As union once poured love
To slake my thirst thereof.
In union then I knew
The source of passion true,
As now long banishing
Doth consolation bring.
In another poem I say this.
If any man should say
Ere this occurred,
"Thou wilt forget one day
Thy heart's preferred "
A thousand oaths I would
Have sworn, would I"
Ah no, I never could,
Not though I die! "
But to! Long banishment
Has brought perforce
Forgetfulness: love went
Its destined course.
Ah, banishment! How kind,
How sweet thou art,
Who labourest to bind
And heal my heart.
I used to marvel how
I suffered yet
Love's pains: I wonder now
That I forget.
And I suppose desire
Is like a coal,
That feeds upon the fire
Still in my soul.
I also have the following stanza.
My bowels raged with your desire
As if engulfed in hellish fire
Now I discover that I am
Immune to flames as Abraham.
Let us now consider the three remaining causes o oblivion in which the beloved furnishes the occasion, and where the lover who behaves with conscious fortitude is not in the least blameworthy, for reasons which I hope to set forth in each several instance, God willing.
There is (as the second of this group of four) the case of aversion on the part of the beloved, when she retires from the scene, and in doing so puts an end to all the lover's fond hopes.
I can tell you with regard to myself, that in my youth I enjoyed the loving friendship of a certain slave-girl who grew up in our house, and who at the time of my story was sixteen years of age. She had an extremely pretty face, and was moreover intelligent, chaste, pure, shy, and of the sweetest disposition; she was not given to jesting, and most sparing of her favours; She had a wonderful complexion, which she always kept closely veiled; innocent of every vice, and of very few words, she kept her eyes modestly cast down. Moreover she was extremely cautious, and guiltless of all faults, ever maintaining a serious mien; charming in her withdrawal, she was naturally reserved, and most graceful in repelling unwelcome advances. She seated herself with becoming dignity, and was most sedate in her behaviour; the way she fled from masculine attentions like a startled bird was delightful to behold. No hopes of easy conquest were to be entertained so far as she was concerned; none could look to succeed in his ambitions if these were aimed in her direction; eager expectation found no resting-place in her. Her lovely face attracted all hearts, but her manner kept at arm's length all who came seeking her; she was far more glamorous in her refusals and rejections than those other girls, who rely upon easy compliance and the ready lavishing of their favours to make them interesting to men. In short, she was dedicated to earnestness in all matters, and had no desire for amusement of any kind; for all that she played the lute most beautifully. I found myself irresistibly drawn towards her, and loved her with all the violent passion of my youthful heart. For two years or thereabouts I laboured to the utmost of my powers to win one syllable of response from her, to hear from her lips a single word, other than the usual kind of banalities that may be heard by everyone; but all my efforts proved in vain.
Now I remember a party that was held in our residence, on one of those occasions that are commonly made the excuse for such festivities in the houses of persons, of rank. The ladies of our household and of my brother's also (God have mercy on his soul!) were assembled together, as well as the womenfolk of our retainers and faithful servants, all thoroughly nice and jolly folk. The ladies remained in the house for the earlier part of the day, and then betook themselves to a belvedere that was attached to our mansion, overlooking the garden and giving a magnificent view of the whole of Cordova; the bays were constructed with large open windows. They passed their time enjoying the panorama through the lattice openings, myself being among them. I recall that I was endeavoring to reach the bay where she was standing; to enjoy her proximity and to sidle up close to her. But no sooner did she observe me in the offing, than she left that bay and sought another,
moving with consummate grace. I endeavored to come to the bay to which she had departed, and she repeated her performance and passed on to another. She was well aware of my infatuation, while the other ladies were entirely unconscious of what was passing between us; for there was a large company of them, and they were all the time moving from one alcove to another to enjoy the variety of prospects, each bay affording a different view from the rest. You must realize, my friend, that women have keener eyes to detect admiration in a man's heart, than any benighted traveller has to discover a track in the desert. Well, at last the ladies went down into the garden; and the dowagers and duchesses among them entreated the mistress of the girl to let them hear her sing. She commanded her to do so; and she thereupon took up her lute, and tuned it with a pretty shyness and modesty the like of which I had never seen; though it is true of course that things are doubly beautiful in the eyes of their admirers. Then she began to sing those famous verses of al-'Abbas Ibn al-Ahnaf:
My heart leapt up, when I espied
A sun sinks slowly in the west,
Its beauty in that bower to hide
Where lovely ladies lie at rest
A sun embodied in the guise
Of a sweet maiden of delight,
The ripple of her rounded thighs
A scroll of parchment, soft and white.
No creature she of human kind,
Though human fair and beautiful,
And neither sprite, although designed
In faery grace ineffable.
Her body was a jasmine rare,
Her perfume sweet as amber scent,
Her face a pearl beyond compare,
Her all, pure light's embodiment.
All shrouded in her pettigown
I watched her delicately pass,
Stepping as light as thistledown
That dances on a crystal glass.
And by my life, it was as though her plectrum: was 'plucking at the strings of my heart. I have never forgotten that day, nor shall forget it until the time comes for me to leave this transient world. That was the most I was ever given to see her, or to hear her voice. On this I have the following verses.
Nay, blame her not, if she
Shuns thy approach
And will not yield to thee
'Tis no reproach.
Does crescent moon not well
To ride so high?
Was ever-sweet gazelle
Aught else but shy?
I may also quote these stanzas.
Thou grudgest me the grace
To see thy lovely face;
Thou wilt not let me hear
Thy voice, so soft and clear.
I think that, fasting, thou
Hast made with God a vow,
And therefore all this day
Refusest aught to say.
Yet thou hast deigned to sing
Of 'Abbas' fashioning
A song: I wish thee joy,
Friend `Abbas, lucky boy.
Did `Abbas have the chance
To meet thy magic-glance,
Poor Fauz his hate had won,
With thee to dote upon!
Then my father the vizier (God rest his soul) moved from our new mansion in Rabad al-Zahira on the" eastern side of Cordova, to our old residence on the western side, in the quarter of Balat Mughith; this was on the third day of the accession of Muhammad al-Mahdi to the Caliphate. I followed him in February 1009; but the girl did not come with us, for reason that obliged her to remain behind. Thereafter, when Hisham al-Mu'aiyad succeeded to the throne, we were, sufficiently preoccupied with the misfortunes which came upon us, thanks to the hostility of his ministers, we were sorely tried by imprisonment, surveillance and crushing fines,' and were finally obliged to go into hiding. Civil war raged far and wide; all classes suffered from its dire effects, and ourselves in particular. At last my father the vizier died (God have mercy on his soul!), our situation being still as I have described, on the afternoon of Saturday, 22 June 1012. Things remained unchanged with us thereafter, until presently the day came when we again had a funeral in the house, one of our relatives having deceased. I saw her standing
there amid the clamour of mourning, all among the weeping and wailing women. She revived that passion long buried in my heart, and, stirred my now still ardour, reminding me of an ancient troth, an old love, an epoch gone by, a vanished time, departed months, faded memories, periods perished,' days forever past, obliterated traces. She renewed my griefs, and reawakened my sorrows; and though upon that day I was afflicted and cast down for many reasons, yet I had indeed not forgotten her; only my anguish was intensified, the fire smouldering in my heart blazed into flame, my unhappiness was exacerbated, my despair was multiplied. Passion drew forth from my breast all that lay hidden within it; soul answered the call, and I broke out into plaintive rhyme.
They weep for one now dead,
High honoured in his tomb;
Those tears were better shed
For him who lives in gloom.
O wonder that they sigh
For him who is at rest,
Yet mourn not me, who die
Most cruelly oppressed.
Then destiny struck its heaviest blows, and we were banished from our loved abodes; the armies of the Berbers triumphed over us. I set forth from Cordova on 13 July 1013, and after that one glimpse of her she vanished from my sight for six long years and more. Then I came again into Cordova in February 1019 and lodged with one of our womenfolk; and there I saw her. I could scarcely recognize her, until someone said to me, "This is So-and-so"; her charms were so greatly changed. Gone was her radiant beauty, vanished her wondrous loveliness; faded now was that lustrous completion which once gleamed like a polished sword or an Indian mirror; withered was the bloom on which the eye once gazed transfixed seeking avidly to feast upon its dazzling splendor only to turn away bewildered. Only a fragment of the whole remained, to tell the tale and testify to what the complete picture had been. All this had come to pass because she took too little case of herself, and lacked the guardian hand which had nourished her during the days of our prosperity, when our shadow was long in the land; as also because she had been obliged to besmirch herself in those inevitable excursions to which her circumstances had driven her, and from which she had formerly been sheltered and exempted.
For women are as aromatic herbs, which if not I tended soon lose their fragrance; they are as edifices, which, if not constantly cared for, quickly fall into ruin. Therefore it has been said that manly beauty is the truer, the more solidly established, and of higher excellence, since it can endure, and that without shelter, onslaughts the merest fraction of which would transform the loveliness of a woman's face beyond recognition: such enemies as the burning heat of noonday, the scorching wind of the desert, every air of heaven, and 'all the changing moods of the seasons.
If I had enjoyed the least degree of intimacy with her, if she had been only a little kind to me, I would have been beside myself with happiness; I verily believe that I would have died for joy. But it was her unremitting aloofness which schooled me patience, and taught me to find consolation. This then was one of those cases in which both parties ma excusably forget, and not be blamed for doing so: there has been no firm engagement that should require their loyalty, no covenant has been entered into obliging them to keep faith, no ancient compact exists no solemn plighting of troths, the breaking and from getting of which should expose them to justified reproach.
The third cause of oblivion, in this second category is cruelty on the part of the beloved. When this is: excessive and extravagant, and encounters in the lover a soul that has some pride and dignity, the lover will find consolation in oblivion. But if the beloved's cruelty is slight and occasional or continuous; or if it is severe but only occasional, then it can be endured and overlooked; only if the time comes when the cruelty is both intense and perpetual, in that eventuality it may no longer be supported, and the lover who forgets under those circumstances is not deserving of reproach.
Fourthly there is treason: this none can endure, and no man of honour will overlook. Treason is true justification for forgetting; and the lover who seeks oblivion then is not to be blamed on any count, whether it be that he actually forgets, or practices conscious fortitude. On the contrary, reproach rather attaches to the lover who endures such treatment at the hands of the beloved. Moreover were it not for the fact that all hearts are in the hand of Him. Who disposes and governs them-and He only is God so that no man is responsible for the management of his heart, or for changing its likes and dislikes, were it not for this I would have said that even the lover who acts with conscious fortitude in seeking oblivion when betrayed by his beloved is almost deserving of reproach and harsh reproval. But with men of high spirits and noble parts, who are jealous to defend their honour, nothing justifies the act of forgetting so much as treason; which is tolerated only by those whose manhood is debased, whose spirits are ignoble, and who lack all proper pride, all sense of decency and honour. I have a poem on this topic, which it will be appropriate to quote here
Thy love's a cheat, and I
Would sooner far have none:
Thou art a bed, whereon
Whoever comes may lie.
To be by one pursued,
To have one lover true,
No, that would never do
Hence all thy multitude.
Did thrones to me belong,
I would not dare draw near
To pay thee court, for fear
Of thy attendant throng.
Methinks like hopes thou art
However many share,
None needeth to despair
That he shall have his part
Though Heaven's trumpet sound
To summon all mankind,
None shall be pushed behind
Or cheated of his round.
There is an eighth cause of forgetting, in addition to the seven already enumerated, which has its origin not in the lover or the beloved, but in God Himself this is despair, whereof there are three varieties. Either it is death, or a separation from which there is no hope of returning, or some accident, which befalls the devoted couple, effecting a fatal change in the lover's circumstances on account of which the beloved had first confided in him. In all these cases a good and sufficient reason exists for seeking oblivion and practising conscious fortitude. But the lover who actually forgets the beloved in such a situation, to whichever of the three divisions it may belong, is deserving of the utmost scorn and condemnation; he fully merits the name of villain and traitor.
Despair has a truly astonishing effect on the soul: it chills the heart's ardour in a remarkable way. In all three cases, which we have mentioned, the prime requisite is to procrastinate, and to watch and wait with all patience; that is, if procrastination is possible, and watching and waiting is a proper course. When all hopes are finally shattered, and all expectations at an end, then there is a completely valid excuse for seeking to forget.
The poets have a style of composition in which they reproach those who weep over the traces of abandoned encampments, and applaud the man who gives himself up to the earnest pursuit of enjoyment. This topic also comes under the heading of oblivion. Al-Hasan Ibn Hani' wrote much on this theme, and boasted of so acting; he frequently describes himself in his poetry as an avowed traitor, exhibiting a wonderful mastery of language and a superb power of self-expression.
I also have a poem of this sort.
Have done with dumps and dull despair
Come, race with fortune, and repair
To grassy hillocks, there to line
The stepping mules with jars of wine.
Attune, to hasten the pursuit,
New melodies upon the lute,
And let the pace enlivened be
With dulcet pipe and psaltery.
Far better, than to sit and mope
At home, with little joy or hope,
That we should give ambition wings
With fingers plucking at the strings.
Behold, the sweet narcissus' bloom,
A lover in delirium,
Looks on with wide, bewildered glance
And sways as in a drunken dance.
How faint, how pallid is his hue!
Ah yes, he is a lover too,
Distraught and passionate to hold
The tender tulip's cup of gold.
God forbid that it should be in our nature to forget what time has effaced, or that it should be our habit to disobey Allah, by drinking wine, or that dullness and want of zeal should be our constant attributes. But we have taken into account the words of Allah and who speaks more truly than He? -where He says concerning poets, " Seest thou not how they wander distraught in every valley, and how they say that which they do not? " (Koran XXVI 225-6). This is Almighty God's testimony concerning them but it is an error for one who composes rhyme to depart from the customary usages of poetry. Let me' therefore explain the circumstances under which I invented the stanzas just quoted. I was commissioned' to write them by Dana al-'Amiriya, one of the royal daughters of al-Muzaffar `Abd al-Malik Ibn Abi `Amin I obeyed her command, for I had a high regard for her ladyship. She composed a most charming melody for my lines, a sweet and simple air. When I recited the stanzas to one of my very cultured companions, he was so delighted with them that he exclaimed, " These ought to be reckoned among the wonders of the world! "
The total number of sections in the present chapter, as you will observe, is eight; Three have to do with those instances where the initiative rests with the lover; in two of these, namely weariness and the desire for a change, the forgetful lover is to be condemned on all counts, while in the third, modesty, if he in fact forgets he is certainly blameworthy, whereas if he acts with conscious fortitude he is not to be reproached, as we have already explained. There are four cases in which it is the beloved who is the motivating cause; in one, continued breaking off, the lover who forgets is to be condemned but not the lover who acts with conscious fortitude, while in the other three-aversion, cruelty and treason-the lover is not to be blamed under any circumstances, whether he actually forgets or acts with conscious fortitude. The eighth occasion is despair, deriving from Almighty God, and arising out of either death, separation or chronic misfortune; in all these the lover who acts with conscious fortitude is to be excused.
I may tell you with regard to myself, that I have been endowed with two conflicting dispositions, which conspire to allow me no joy in life whatsoever; their combination in me disgusts me with living entirely. Sometimes I wish that I could escape out of myself, that I may be free of the torments I suffer on account of them. The first is loyalty, true and unwavering, that makes no distinction between presence and absence, secret thoughts and outward appearances; it springs of a friendliness, which does not permit my soul to turn away from anything to which it has grown accustomed, nor allows me to contemplate the loss of those whose companionship I have enjoyed. The second is a fierce and noble pride, which cannot stomach injustice, and makes me sensitive to the least change in the attitude of my acquaintances, so that I would rather die than submit. Each of these contrary natures seeks to have the mastery of me. Let me be unjustly treated, and I will endure with exemplary forbearance a long while, holding myself in and hanging on in a way very few other men would be able to do. But when the injury passes all bounds, when my soul blazes with anger, then I practise my conscious fortitude, whatever my heart may be feeling. I have expressed all this in a brief poem.
There are two qualities in me
That fill with bitterness my cup;
They use my strength and patience up,
And turn my joy to misery.
Each of these twain has ever sought
To draw me after its own way,
And I am like a helpless prey
Betwixt a wolf and lion caught.
The first is loyalty sublime
I never parted from a friend
And found my sorrow after end,
Not even to the last of time.
The second is a noble pride
That will not stomach injury,
But sooner wealth and family,
If need dictate, would lay aside.
Here is a personal anecdote, which has a general relevance to the topic under discussion, even though it does not strictly belong to this context. I had a friend whom I loved as dearly as life itself; I had dropped -all formalities in my relations with him, and counted him as my precious hoard and treasure. But he was apt to lend a ready ear to every man who had a tale to tell; and backbiters wormed their way in between us, and contrived to get under his skin. Their efforts were completely successful, and he held himself back from me, in a way I had never known him do before. I watched and waited for him a while, amply long enough for a wanderer to return and a chider to be reconciled. But he only showed himself more withdrawn from me than ever. I therefore left him to it.