August on Horseback


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O THOU, whose manifesting was the youth

Of strenuous life, whose bright epiphany

Told the interpretation of life’s dreams,

Earth attained honour, having held the court,

And heaven glory, having kissed thy roof.

Thy face illumes the six-directioned world;

Turk, Tajik, Arab – all thy servants are.

Whatever things have being, find in thee

True exaltation, and thy poverty

Is their abundant riches. In this world

Thou litst the lamp of life, as thou didst teach

God’s servitors a godly mastery.

Without thee, whatsoever form indwelt

This habitat of water and of clay

Was put to shame in utter bankruptcy;

Till, when thy breath drew fire from the cold dust

And Adam made of earth’s dead particles,

Each atom caught the skirts of sun and moon,

Suddenly conscious of its inward strength.

Since first my gaze alighted on thy face

Dearer than father and dear mother thou

Art grown to me. Thy love hath lit a flame

Within my heart; ah, let it work at ease,

For all my spirit is consumed in me,

And my sole chattel is a reed-like sigh,

The lantern flickering in my ruined house.

It is not possible not to declare

This hidden grief; it is not possible

To veil the wine in the translucent cup.

But now the Muslim is estranged anew

Unto the Prophet’s secret; now once more

God’s sanctuary is an idols’ shrine;

Manat and Lat, Hubal and Uzza – each [118]

Carries an idol to his bosom clasped;

Our Shaikh – no Brahman is so infidel,

Seeing his Somnath stands within his head. [119]

Arabia deserted, he is gone

With all his being’s baggage, slumberous

To drowse in Persia’s wine-vault. Persia’s sleet

Has set his limbs a-shiver; his thin wine

Runs colder than his tears. As timorous

Of death as any infidel, his breast

Is hollow, empty of a living heart.

I bore him lifeless from the doctors’ hands

And brought him to the Prophet’s presence; dead

He was; I told him of the Fount of Life,

I spoke with him upon a mystery

Of the Koran, a tale of the Beloved [120]

Of Nejd; I brought to him a perfume sweet

Pressed from the roses of Arabia.

The candle of my music lit the throng;

I taught the people life’s enigma; still

He cried against me, “These are Europe’s spells

He weaves to bind us with, the psaltery

Of Europe that he strikes into our ears.”

O thou, that to Busiri gavest a Cloak [121]

And to my fingers yielded Salma’s lute, [122]

Grant now to him, whose thoughts are so astray

That he can no more recognize his own,

Perception of the truth, and joy therein.

Be lustreless the mirror of my heart,

Or be my words by aught but the Koran

Informed, O thou whose splendour is the dawn

Of every age and time, whose vision sees

-All that is in men’s breasts-, rend now the veil [123]

Of my thought’s shame; sweep clean the avenue

Of my offending thorns; choke in my breast

The narrow breath of life; thy people guard

Against the mischief of my wickedness;

Nurse not to verdure my untimely seed,

Grant me no portion of Spring’s fecund showers,

Wither the vintage in my swelling grapes

And scatter poison in my sparkling wine;

Disgrace me on the Day of Reckoning,

Too abject to embrace thy holy feet.

But if I ever threaded on my chain

The pearl of the Koran’s sweet mysteries,

If to the Muslims I have spoken true,

O thou whose bounty raises the obscure

Unto significance, one prayer from thee

Is ample guerdon for my words’ desert;

Plead thou to God my cause, and let my love

Be locked in the embrace of godly deeds.

Thou hast accorded me a contrite soul,

A part of holy learning; stablish me

More firm in action, and my April shower

Convert to pearls of great and glittering price.

Since first I cast the baggage of my soul

In this world’s caravanserai, one more

Desire I ever nourished, like my heart

Dwelling within my breast, mine intimate

From life’s first dawn; since first I learned thy name

From my sire’s lips, the flame of that desire

Kindled and glowed in me. My roll of days

As heaven lengthens, in life’s lottery

Marking me loser, even lustier grows

The youth of my desire; this ancient wine

Gains greater body with the passing years.

This yearning is a gem beneath my dust,

A single star illumining my night.

Awhile with rosy cheeks did I consort,

Played love with twisted tresses, tasted wines

With lustrous brows, the lamp of godly peace

Rudely extinguished; lightnings danced about

My harvest; my heart’s store of merchandise

By highwaymen was plundered. Yet this draught

Was spilled not from the goblet of my soul,

This gold refined not scattered from my skirt.

My reason diabolical resolved

To wear the Magian girdle; its impress

Stamped o’er my spirit’s furrows. Many years

I was doubt’s prisoner, inseparable

From my too arid brain. I had not read

One letter of true knowledge, and abode

Still in philosophy’s conjecture-land;

My darkness was a stranger to the light

Of God, my dusk knew not the glow of dawn.

And yet this yearning slumbered in my heart,

Close-shrouded as the pearl within the shell;

But lastly from the goblet of mine eye

It slowly trickled, and within my mind

Created melodies. And now my soul

Is emptied of all memories but thee;

I will be bold to speak of my desire,

If thou wilt give me leave. My life hath been

Unfurnished in good works, and therefore I

Might not aspire to worthiness of this,

Which to reveal I am too much ashamed;

Yet thy compassion maketh me more bold.

The honey of thy mercy comforteth

The whole round world; and this my yearning is,

That I be granted in Hejaz to die!

A Muslim, stranger to all else but God –

How long shall he the heathen girdle wear

And keep the temple? O the bitter shame

If, when his earthly days are at an end,

A pagan shrine receives his mortal bones.

If from thy door my scattered parts arise,

Woe to this day, that morrow how sublime!

O happy city that thy dwelling was,

Thrice-blessed earth wherein thou dost repose!

“My friend’s abode, the city of my king –

True patriotism this, the lover’s creed.”

Give to my star an ever-wakeful eye,

And in the shadow of the wall a place

To slumber, that my restless heart at last

May find repose, my spirit’s quicksilver

Be stilled; that I may say unto the skies,

“Behold me, tranquil; ye who looked upon

My first beginning, witness now my close.”



[118] numele unor idoli venerați de către arabii idolatri.

[119] Somnath este locul unui cunoscut altar hindus, distrus, în 1026, de Mahmud of Ghazna în cursul invaziei sale în India.

[120] cel-Iubit din Najd este Profetul Muhammad ﷺ.

[121] Mantia descrie legenda lui Busiri, vindecat de paralizie mărturisind o viziune în care Profetul ﷺ și-a aruncat mantia asupra lui; în acest spirit s-a alcătuit Qasidat al-Burda (Cântecul Mantiei).

[122] Salma este o renumită fată-ce-cântă.

[123] se referă la versetele Sfântului Coran.


Stray thoughts Reflections



The psychologist swims, the poet dives.



In a certain class of Indian families – mostly creatures of the British rule – the tendency to collect and print testimonials from various officials has grown into a sort of instinct which reveals itself sometimes very early in the offspring. I look upon it as a kind of moral infirmity developed by an unhealthy environment.



If you wish to study the anatomy of the human mind, you may go to Wundt, Ward, James or Stout. But a real insight into human nature you can get from Goethe alone.



As a plant growing on the bank of a stream heareth not the sweet, silver music which sustains it from beneath, so man growing on the brink of infinity listeneth not to the Divine undertone that maketh the life and harmony of his soul.



Come, Dear Friend! Thou hast known me only as an abstract thinker and dreamer of high ideals. See me in my home playing with the children and giving them rides turn by turn as if I were a wooden horse! Ah! see me in the family circle lying at the feet of my grey-haired mother the touch of whose rejuvenating hand bids the tide of time flow backward, and gives me once more the school-boy feeling in spite of all the Kants and Hegels in my head! Here Thou wilt know me as a human being.



Philosophy ages; poetry rejuvenates.



Both Shakespeare and Goethe re-think the Divine thought of creation. There is, however, one important difference between them. The realist Englishman re-thinks the individual – the idealist German, the universal. His Faust is a seeming individual only. In reality, he is humanity individualised.



I judge the worth of my days, months and years from the experiences which they bring to me; and sometimes I am surprised to find that a single moment is more valuable than a whole year.



Every experience evokes something from the soul of man. Even the experience of sin will reveal some aspect of your soul of which you were not cognizant before. Experience, then, is a double source of knowledge; it gives you an insight into what is without you, as well as an insight into what is within you.



Nothing is more common-place than facts; yet mankind were blind to them until Bacon opened their eyes.



“So are we drawn, as wood is shoved,

By others’ sinews each way moved.”

Montaigne remarks on the above lines of Horace:

“We got not, but we are carried, as things that float, now gliding gently, now hulling violently, according as the water is either stormy or calm.”

While reading this passage in Montaigne, I was put in mind of a verse by our late and lamented poet “Azad” who has given an expression to this idea much more beautifully than either Horace or Montaigne. Says he:

جهاز عمر رواں ھر سوار بيٹھے ھص

سوار خاک ھيں بے اختيار بيٹھے ھيں



Literary criticism does not necessarily follow the creation of literature. We find Lessing at the very threshold of German literature.



No nation was so fortunate as the Germans. They gave birth to Heine at the time when Goethe was singing in full-throated ease. Two uninterrupted springs!



In words like cut jewels Hafiz put the sweet unconscious spirituality of the nightingale.



Love is a playful child. She makes our individuality and then quietly whispers in our ears – “Renounce it.”



I have often played hide and seek with wisdom; she conceals herself always behind the rock of determination.



If you wish to be heard in the noise of this world, let your soul be dominated by a single idea. It is the man with a single idea who creates political and social revolutions, establishes empires and gives law to the world.



Science, philosophy, religion all have limits. Art alone is boundless.



The result of all philosophical thought is that absolute knowledge is an impossibility. The poet Browning turns this impossibility to ethical use by a very ingenious argument. The uncertainty of human knowledge, teaches the poet, is the necessary condition of moral growth; since complete knowledge will destroy the liberty of human choice.



Flattery is only exaggerated good manners.

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