It Comes In Threes…

A friend’s eye is a good mirror.

-Celtic Proverb

Yes, it does come in threes…

I shall not repeat myself

I shall not repeat myself

I shall not repeat myself….

Have a good Friday… shooting this off at Midnight, monster winds coming our way… so we may not have electricity in the morning.

Have a brilliant weekend!

Talk Later,


On The Menu:

The Three Links

Three Irish Quotes

Three Sufi Stories

Three Poems of Seamus Heaney

Three Paintings: Rossetti


The Three Links:

Seven Legged Deer?

4,000-year-old Seahenge to rise again – but not until 2008

‘ My Plane’s Just Taken Off Withoug Me!’


Three Irish Quotes

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,

you may as well dance with it

‘Tis better to buy a small bouquet

And give to your friend this very day,

Than a bushel of roses white and red

To lay on his coffin after he’s dead.

May the Blessings of the Light be on you,

Light Without and Light Within.


Three Sufi Tales

The Two Kings

There were once two kings, a just and an unjust; and this one had a land abounding in trees and fruits and herbs; but he let no merchant pass without robbing him of his monies and his merchandise, and the traders endured this with patience, by reason of their profit from the fatness of the earth in the means of life and its pleasantness, more by token that it was renowned for its richness in precious stones and gems.

Now the just king, who loved jewels, heard of this land and sent one of his subjects thither; and it being told to the unjust king that a merchant was come to his kingdom with much money to buy jewels withal, he sent for him to the presence and said to him: ‘Who are you and from where do you come and who brought you here thither and why have you come?’

The merchant responded: ‘I am of such and such a region, and the king of that land gave me money and bade me buy therewith jewels from this country; so I obeyed his bidding and came’. Cried the unjust king, ‘Out with you! Don’t you know my fashion of dealing with the people of my realm and how each day I take their money? Why then do you come to my country? And furthermore, you have already stayed here since such a time!’

Answered the trader, ‘The money is not mine, not a penny of it; nay, ‘tis a trust in my hands, till I bring its equivalent to its owner’. But the king said, ‘I will not let you take your livelihood of my land so now you have to give me all your money or else you shall die!”

So the man said in himself, ‘I am fallen between two kings, and I know that the oppression of this ruler embraces all who abide in his dominions: and if I satisfy him not, I shall lose both life and money (whereof is no doubt) and shall fail of my errand; whilst, on the other hand, if I give him all the gold, it will most assuredly prove my ruin with its owner, the other king: wherefore no device will serve me but that I give this one a trifling part thereof and content him therewith and avert from myself and from the money perdition. Thus shall I get my livelihood of the fatness of this land, till I buy that which I desire of jewels; and, after satisfying the tyrant with gifts, I will take my portion of the profit and return to the owner of the money with his need, trusting in his justice and indulgence, and unfearing that he will punish me for that which this unjust king takes of the treasure, especially if it be but a little’.

Then the trader called down blessings on the tyrant and said to him, ‘O, king! I will ransom myself and this specie with a small portion thereof, from the time of my entering thy country to that of my going forth therefrom’. The king agreed to this and left him at peace for a year, till he brought all manner jewels with the rest of the money and returned therewith to his master, to whom he made his excuses, confessing to having saved himself from the unjust king as before related.

The just king accepted his excuse and praised him for his wise device and set him on his right hand in his divan and appointed him in his kingdom an abiding inheritance and a happy life-tide.


The Dream

A visitor came to a Chishti pir. This visitor wanted to demonstrate his own knowledge of the Qur’an and intended to overpower the Chishti pir in a debate. When he entered, the Chishti pir took the initiative however and mentioned Yusuf and the dreams he has had according to the Qur’an. He then suddenly turned to his visitor and asked him if he could tell him about a dream, so that the visitor may give his interpretation thereof. After receiving permission the Sufi told that he has had a dream and both of them were in it. The Chishti pir then went on by describing the following dream event: “I saw your hand immersed in a jar of honey, while my hand was immersed in the latrine”.

The visitor hastened to interpret: “It is quite obvious! You are immersed in wrong pursuits whereas I am leading a righteous life”.

“But’, the Sufi said, “there is more to the dream”. The visitor asked him to continue. The Chishti pir then went on by telling this: “You were licking my hand and I was licking yours”.


The Cobbler Who Became an Astrologer

There was in the city of Isfahan a poor cobbler called Ahmed, who was possesses of a singularly greedy and envious wife. Every day the woman went to the public baths, the Hammam, and each time saw someone there of whom she became jealous. One day she espied a lady dressed in a magnificent robe, jewels on every finger, pearls in her ears, and attended by many persons. Asking whom this might be, she was told, “The wife of the king’s astrologer”.

“Of course, that is what my wretched Ahmed must become, an astrologer,” thought the cobbler’s wife, and rushed home as fast as her feet would carry her. The cobbler, seeing her face asked: “What in the world is the matter, my dear one?”

“Don’t you speak to me or come near me until you become a court astrologer!” she snapped. “Give up your vile trade of mending shoes! I shall never be happy until we are rich!”

“Astrologer! Astrologer! Cried Ahmed, “What qualifications have I to read the stars? You must be mad!”

“I neither know nor care how you do it, just become an astrologer by tomorrow or I will go back to my father’s house and seek a divorce,” she said.

The cobbler was out of his mind with worry. How was he to become an astrologer – that was the question? He could not bear the thought of losing his wife, so he went out and bought a table of the zodiac signs, an astrolabe and an astronomical almanac. To do this he had to sell his cobblers’ tools, and so felt he must succeed as an astrologer. He went out into the market-place, crying: “O, people, come to me for all answers to everything! I can read the stars, I know the sun, the moon and the twelve signs of the zodiac! I can foretell that which is to happen!”

Now it so happened that the king’s jeweller was passing by, in great distress at losing one of the crown jewels, which had been entrusted to him for polishing. This was a great ruby, and he had searched for it high and low without success. The court jeweller knew that if he did not find it his head would be forfeit. He came to the crowd surrounding Ahmed and asked what was happening.

“Oh, the very latest astrologer, Ahmed the cobbler, now promises to tell everything there is to know!” laughed one of the bystanders. The court jeweller pressed forward and whispered into Ahmed’s ear: “If you understand your art, discover for me the king’s ruby and I will give you two hundred pieces of gold. If you do not succeed, I will be instrumental in bringing out your death!”

Ahmed was thunderstruck. He put a hand to his brow and shaking his head, thinking of his wife, said: “O, woman, woman, you are more baneful to the happiness of man than the vilest serpent!”. Now the jewel had been secreted by the jeweller’s wife, who, guilty about the theft, had sent a female slave to follow her husband everywhere. This slave, on hearing the new astrologer cry out about a woman who was as poisonous as a serpent, thought that all must be discovered, and ran back to the house to tell her mistress.

“You are discovered by a hateful astrologer! Go to him, lady, and plead with the wretch to be merciful, for if he tells your husband you are lost”. The woman then threw on her veil, and went to Ahmed and flung herself at his feet, crying: “Spare my honour and my life and I will tell all!”

“Tell what?” inquired Ahmed.

“Oh nothing that you do not know already!” she wept, “You know well I stole the ruby. I did so to punish my husband, he uses me so cruelly! But you, o most wonderful man from whom nothing is hidden, command me and I will do whatever you ask that this secret never sees the light”.

Ahmed thought quickly, then said: “I know all you have done and to save you I ask you to do this: Place the ruby at once under your husband’s pillow and forget all about it”. The jeweller’s wife returned home and did as she was bidden. In an hour Ahmed followed her and told the jeweller that he had made his calculations and by the sun, moon and stars the ruby was at that moment lying under his pillow. The jeweller ran from the room like a hunted stag and returned a few moments later the happiest of men. He embraced Ahmed like a brother and placed a bag containing two hundred pieces of gold at his feet.

The praises of the jeweller ringing in his ears, Ahmed returned home grateful that he could now satisfy his wife’s lust for money. He thought he would have to work no more, but he was disenchanted to hear her say: “This is only your first adventure in this new way of life! Once your name gets known, you will soon be summoned to court!”

Unhappily Ahmed remonstrated with her. He had no wish to go further in his career of fortune-telling, it simply was not safe. How could he expect to have further strokes of luck like the last, he asked? But his wife burst into tears and again threatened him with divorce.

Ahmed agreed to sally forth next day t the market-place, to advertise himself once more. He exclaimed as loudly as before “I am an astrologer! I can see everything which will happen by the power given to me by the sun, the moon and the stars!”

The crowd gathered again and a veiled lady was passing while Ahmed was holding forth. She paused with her maid and heard of the success he had had the day before with the finding of the king’s ruby, together with a dozen other stories, which had never happened. The lady, very tall and dressed in fine silks, pushed her way forward and said: “I ask you this conundrum. Where are my necklace and earrings, which I mislaid yesterday? I dare not tell my husband about the loss, as he is a very jealous man and may think I have given them to a lover. Do you, astrologer, tell me at once where they are or I am dishonoured! If you give me the right answer, which should not be difficult for you, I will at once give you fifty pieces of gold”.

The unfortunate cobbler was speechless for a moment, on seeing such an important-looking lady before him, plucking at his arm and he put a hand over his eyes. He looked at her again, wondering what he should say. Then he noticed that part of her face was showing, which was quite unsuitable for one of her social level, and the veil was torn, apparently in her pressing through the crowd. He leaned down and said in a quiet voice: “Madam, look down to the rent, look to the rent!”

He meant the rent in her veil, but it immediately touched off a recollection in her mind. “Stay here, o greatest of astrologers,” she said and returned to her house, which was not far away. There, in the rent in her bathroom wall, she discovered her necklace and earrings, which she herself had hidden them from prying eyes. Soon she was back, wearing another veil and carrying a bag containing fifty pieces of gold for Ahmed. The crowd pressed around him in wonder at this new example of the brilliance of the cobbler astrologer.

Ahmed’s wife, however, could not yet rival the wife of the chief court astrologer, so she still urged her husband to continue seeking fame and fortune.

Now, at this time, the king’s treasury was robbed of forty chests of gold and jewels. Officers of state and the chief of police all tried to find the thieves but to no avail. At last, two servants were dispatched to Ahmed to ask if he would solve the case of the missing chests.

The king’s astrologer, however, was spreading lies about Ahmed behind his back and was heard to say that he gave Ahmed forty days to find the thieves, then he prophesied, Ahmed would be hanged for not being able to do so.

Ahmed was being summoned to the presence of the king and bowed low before the sovereign. “Who is the thief, then, according to the stars?” asked the king.

“It is very difficult to say, my calculations will take some time,” stammered Ahmed, “but I will say this so far, your majesty, there was not one thief, but forty who did this dreadful robbery of your majesty’s treasure”.

“Very well,” said the king, “where are they and what can they have done with my gold and jewels?”

“I cannot say before forty days,” answered Ahmed, “if your majesty will grant me that time to consult the stars. Each night, you see, there are different conjunctions to study…”.

“I grant you forty days, then,” said the king, “but when they are past, if you do not have the answer, your life will be forfeit”.

The court astrologer looked very pleased and smirked behind his beard and that look made poor Ahmed very uncomfortable. Suppose the court astrologer was right after all? He returned to his home and told his wife: “My dear, I fear that your great greed has meant that I have now only forty more days to live. Let us cheerfully spend all we have made, for in that time I shall have to be executed”.

“But husband,” she said “you must find out the thieves in that time by the same method you found the king’s ruby and the woman’s necklace and the earrings!”

“Foolish creature!” said he, “do you not recall that I found the answers to those two cases simply by the will of Allah! I can never pull off such a trick again, not if I live to be a hundred. No, I think the best thing will be for me each night to put a date in a bowl, and by the time that there are forty in it, I shall know that it is the night of the fortieth day and the end of my life. You know I have no skill in reckoning and shall never know if I do not do it in this way”.

“Take courage,” she said, “mean, spiritless wretch that you are and think of something even while we are putting dates in the bowl, so that I may ever yet be attired like the wife of the court astrologer and placed in that rank of life to which my beauty has entitled me!” Not a word of kindness did she give him, not a thought of herself and her personal victory over the wife of the court astrologer.

Meanwhile, the forty thieves, a few miles away from the city, had received accurate information regarding the measures taken to detect them. They were told by spies that the king had sent for Ahmed, and hearing that the cobbler had told of their exact number, feared for their lives. But the captain of the gang said: “Let us go tonight, after dark, and listen outside his house, for in fact he might have made an inspired guess and we might be worrying over nothing”.

Everybody approved of this scheme, so after nightfall one of the thieves listening on the terrace just after the cobbler had offered his evening prayer, heard Ahmed say: “Ah, there is the first of the forty!” He had just been handed the first date by his wife. The thief, hearing these words, hurried back in consternation to the gang and told them that somehow, through wall and window, Ahmed had sensed his unseen presence and said: “Ah, there is the first of the forty!”

The tale of the spy was not believed and the next day two members of the band were sent to listen, completely hidden by darkness, outside the house. To their dismay they both heard Ahmed say quite distinctly: “My dear wife, tonight there are two of them!” Ahmed, of course, having finished his evening prayer, had been given the second date by his wife. The astonished thieves fled into the night, and told their companions what they had heard.

The next night three men were sent and the fourth night four, and so for many nights they came just as Ahmed was putting the date into the bowl. On the last night they all went and Ahmed cried loudly: “Ah, the number is complete! Tonight the whole forty are here!”

All doubts were now removed. It was impossible that they could have been seen, under cover of darkness they had come, mingling with passers-by and people of the town. Ahmed had never looked out of the window; had he done so, he would not even been able to see them, so deeply were they hidden in the shadows.

“Let us bribe the cobbler-astrologer!” said the chief of the thieves. “We will offer him as much of the booty as he wants and then we will prevent him telling the chief of police about us tomorrow,” he whispered to the others.

They knocked at Ahmed’s door, it was almost dawn. Supposing it to be the soldiers coming to take him away to be executed, Ahmed came to the door in good spirits. He and his wife had spent half of the money on good living and he was feeling quite ready to go. He did not even feel sorry that he was to leave his wife behind. She, in fact, was secretly pleased at having quite a lot of money left over to spend solely on herself.

“I know what you have come for!” he shouted out, as the cock crowed and the sun began to rise. “Have patience, I am coming out to you now. But what a wicked deed are you about to do!’ and he stepped forward bravely.

“Most wonderful man!” cried the head of the thieves. “We are fully convinced that you know why we have come, but can we not tempt you with two thousand pieces of gold and beg you to say nothing about the matter!”

“Say nothing about it?” said Ahmed. “Do you honestly think it is possible that I should suffer such gross wrong and injustice without making it known to all the world?”

“Have mercy upon us,” exclaimed the thieves and most of them threw themselves at his feet. “Only spare our lives and we shall return the treasure we stole!”

The cobbler was not sure if he was indeed awake or perhaps still sleeping, but realising that these were the forty thieves he assumed a solemn tone and said: “Wretched men! You cannot escape from my penetration, which reaches to the sun and the moon and knows every star in the sky. If you restore every chest of the forty I will do my very best to intercede with the king on your behalf. But go now, get the treasure and place it in a ditch a foot deep, which you must dig under the wall of the old hammam, the public baths. If you do this before the people of Isfahan are up and about, your lives will be spared. If not, you shall all hang! Go or destruction will fall upon you and your families!”

Stumbling and falling and picking themselves up, the band of thieves rushed away. Would it work? Ahmed knew he had only a short time to wait and find out. It was a very long shot, but he knew that he had only one life to lose and that he was in great danger anyway.

But Allah is just. Rewards suitable to their merits awaited Ahmed and his wife. At midday Ahmed stood cheerfully before the king, who said: “Your looks are promising, have you good news?”

“Your majesty!” said Ahmed, “the stars will only grant one or the other – the forty thieves or the forty chests of treasure. Will your majesty choose?”

“I should be sorry not to punish the thieves” said the king, “but if it must be so, I choose the treasure”.

“And you give the thieves a full and free pardon, O king?”

“I do,” said the monarch “provided I find my treasure untouched”.

“Then follow me,” said Ahmed and set off to the old hammam.

The king and all his courtiers followed Ahmed, who most of the times was casting his eyes to heaven and murmuring things under his breath, describing circles in the air the while. When his prayer was finished, he pointed to the southern wall and requested that his majesty ask the slaves to dig, saying that the treasure would be found intact. In his heart of hearts he hoped it were true.

Within a short while all the forty chests were discovered, with all the royal seals intact. The king’s joy knew no bounds. He embraced Ahmed like a father and immediately appointed him chief court astrologer. “I declare that you shall marry my only daughter,” he cried delightedly, “as you have restored the fortunes of my kingdom and to thus promote you is nothing less than my duty!”

The beautiful princess, who was as lovely as the moon on her fourteenth night, was not dissatisfied with her father’s choice, for she had seen Ahmed from afar and secretly loved him from the first glance.

The wheel of fortune had taken a complete turn. At dawn Ahmed was conversing with the band of thieves, bargaining with them; at disk he was lord of a rich palace and the possessor of a fair, young, highborn wife who adored him. But his did not change his character and he was as contented as a prince as he had been as a poor cobbler. His former wife, for whom he had now ceased to care, moved out of his life, and got the punishment to which her unreasonableness and unfeeling vanity had condemned her. Thus is the tapestry, which is our life, completed by the Great Designer.



Poetry: Revisiting Seamus Heaney…

The Otter

When you plunged

The light of Tuscany wavered

And swung through the pool

From top to bottom.

I loved your wet head and smashing crawl,

Your fine swimmers’ back and shoulders

Surfacing and surfacing again

This year and every year since.

I sat dry-throated on the warm stones.

You were beyond me.

The mellowed clarities, the grape-deep air

Thinned and disappointed.

Thank God for the slow loadening

When I hold you now

We are close and deep

As the atmosphere on the water.

My two hands are plumbed water.

You are my palpable, lithe

Otter of memory

In the pool of the moment,

Turning to swim on your back,

Each silent thigh-shaking kick

Re-tilting the light,

Heaving the cool at your neck.

And suddenly you’re out,

Back again, intent as ever,

Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt,

Printing the stones.

The Skunk

Up, black, striped and damasked like the chasuble

At a funeral Mass, the skunk’s tail

Paraded the skunk. Night after night

I expected her like a visitor.

The refrigerator whinnied into silence.

My desk light softened beyond the verandah.

Small oranges loomed in the orange tree.

I began to be tense as a voyeur.

After eleven years I was composing

Love-letters again, broaching the word ‘wife’

Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel

Had mutated into the night earth and air

Of California. The beautiful, useless

Tang of eucalyptus spelt your absence.

The aftermath of a mouthful of wine

Was like inhaling you off a cold pillow.

And there she was, the intent and glamorous,

Ordinary, mysterious skunk,

Mythologized, demythologized,

Snuffing the boards five feet beyond me.

It all came back to me last night, stirred

By the sootfall of your things at bedtime,

Your head-down, tail-up hunt in a bottom drawer

For the black plunge-line nightdress.


Sweeney’s Last Poem

There was a time when I preferred

the turtle-dove’s soft jublilation

as it flitted round a pool

to the murmur of conversation.

There was a time when I preferred

the blackbird singing on a hill

and the stag loud against the storm

to the clinking tongue of this bell.

There was a time when I preferred

the mountain grouse crying at dawn

to the voice and closeness

of a beautiful woman.

There was a time when I preferred

wolf-packs yelping and howling

to the sheepish voice of a cleric

bleating out plainsong.

You are welcome to pledge healths

and carouse in your drinking dens;

I will dip and steal water

from a well with my open palm.

You are welcome to that cloistered hush

of your students’ conversation;

I will study the pure chant

of hounds baying in Glen Bolcain.

You are welcome to your salt meat

and fresh meat in feasting-houses;

I will live content elsewhere

on tufts of green watercress.

The herd’s sharp spear wounded me

and passed clean through my body.

Ah Christ, who disposed all things, why

was I not killed at Moira?

Of all the innocent lairs I made

the length and breadth of Ireland

I remember an open bed

above the lough in Mourne.

Of all the innocent lairs I made

the length and breadth of Ireland

I remember bedding down

above the wood in Glen Bolcain.

To you, Christ, I give thanks

for your Body in communion

Whatever evil I have done

in this world, I repent.

Then Sweeney’s death-swoon came over him and Moling,

attended by his clerics, rose up and each of them placed a

stone on Sweeney’s grave.

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