So here we are on the edge of a beautiful weekend…. Julie and Mike are getting married tonight, and we’ll be there to share in the moment. As I said, they are a lovely couple. It is gonna be a wild ride for the next few days!
Rowan turned 18 today! Time has flown, and here it all is, from a child to a man. He is heading off this next week to Ashland for a bit of adventure at the Seminar finals in Ashland that he attended last year with the Shakespearean Festival. His friend Ivy is attending, and he is going to be there to cheer her on and to celebrate the two weeks that she just went through. Truly, the seminar changes young lives, and Rowan is still feeling the effects from last year.
Rowan & Ivy
Well… I Gotta Hop… take a shower, get dressed, and take care of biz before we head to the wedding. I hope your weekend is wonderful!
Bright Blessings, more on the way!
On The Menu:
Amorphous Androgynous – the Emptiness of Nothingness
Wanderings Of The Young Dragon
Amorphous Androgynous – Light Beyond Sound part1
Afghan Poets: The Poems Of Æabd-Ur-RaḤmĀn…
Amorphous Androgynous – The Peppermint Tree
Amorphous Androgynous – the Emptiness of Nothingness
Wanderings Of The Young Dragon
On the assumption, which seems fair, that the historic traces of the dragon have led us back to Egypt and Babylonia–and very likely would lead us much farther could we penetrate the obscurities of a remoter past–it is fitting to inquire next how we may account for its presence and varied development elsewhere. Two theories oppose one another in respect to the fact that this and other myths, prejudices, and customs that appear alike, not to say identical, are encountered in widely separated regions, often half the globe apart. One theory explains it on the principle of the general uniformity of human nature and methods of thought, that is, namely: that peoples not at all in contact but under like mental and physical conditions will arrive independently at much the same conclusions as to the origin and causes of natural phenomena, will interpret mysteries of experience and imagination, and will meet daily problems of life, much as unknown others do. This is the older view among ethnologists, and in certain broad features it finds much support, as, for example, in the almost universal respect paid to rainfall and the influences supposed to affect this prime necessity.
Contrary to this view, most students, possessing broader information than formerly, now believe that such resemblances–strikingly numerous–are not mere coincidences arising from a postulated unity of human nature, but are the result of a spread of travellers and instruction from centres where new and impressive ideas or useful inventions have arisen. One of the foremost advocates of this theory of the geographical dispersion of myths and culture, as opposed to local independence of origin, is Professor Smith, quoted in the first chapter, whose books have been of much use to me in this connection. The theory does not deny the occasional independent rise of similar notions and practices here and there, but asserts that it alone accounts for all the important cases, particularly the central nature-myths, of which this of the dragon is esteemed the most important. The doctrine derives its main strength from its ability to show that in the very early, virtually prehistoric, times much closer contact and more frequent intercommunication than was formerly known or considered probable existed among primitive peoples all over the inhabited world. Assuming that at the dawn of history the most advanced communities were those of Egypt and Mesopotamia (with Elam), which were certainly in communication with one another both by land and by sea forty or fifty centuries before Christ, let us see how widespread, if at all, was their influence.
That the Egyptians were building large, sea-going ships as early as 2000 B.C. is well known. In them they traded with Crete and Phoenicia (whence the Phoenicians probably first learned the art of navigation) and with western Mediterranean ports. They sailed up and down the Red Sea, exploring Sinai and Yemen; visited Socotta, where grew the dragon-blood tree; went far south along the African shore; searched the Arabian coast, gathering frankincense (said to be guarded in its growth by small winged serpents); and made voyages back and forth between the Red Sea and the ports of Babylonia and Elam on the Persian Gulf. What surprise could there be were records available that these Egyptian mariners or those in the ships of the people about the Gulf of Persia sometimes continued on to India. Indeed Colonel St. Johnston elaborates a theory that not only the Malay Archipelago but the islands of the South Pacific, especially Polynesia, were colonized prehistorically by a stream of immigrants from Africa and India, who crept along the shore of the Indian Ocean, and from island to island in the East Indies, gradually reaching Australia and going on thence to the sea-islands beyond; and he and others believe that they carried with them ancestral ideas of supernatural beings, whence they made for themselves fish-gods and sea-monsters which some ethnologists regard as not only analogues, but descendants, of dragons. It is stoutly held, furthermore, that the religion of the half-civilized tribes of Mexico owes its characteristic features of serpent-worship and dragon-like symbols to the teaching of Asiatic visitors reaching middle America via Polynesia; but this is disputed, and I shall be content to avoid this controversy–also as far as possible serpent-worship per se–and confine myself to continental Asia and Europe.
The southwestern part of Persia, or Elam, was inhabited contemporaneously with early Babylonia, if not before, by a people of equal or superior culture, and holding a like religion. Their capital, Susa, was the most important city east of the lofty mountains between them and the valleys of Mesopotamia, and attracted traders and visitors from a great surrounding space. Most numerous, probably, were those from the north, from Iran, the country about the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains–inhabited by a race that used to be called Aryans; but many came also from Turanic nomads wandering with their cattle in the valley of the Oxus and eastward to the foot of the Hindoo Koosh, and still others from the eastern plains and coast-lands stretching to the Indus valley.
We may suppose these herdsmen and hunters to have been very simple-minded and crude, and their only semblance of religion to have been the rudest fetishism, animated by fear of ghosts and magic. Only the most enterprising among them, or prisoners of war brought back as slaves, would be likely to visit the more educated South, but there they would hear of definite ‘gods’ with stories behind them of the creation of the world, the gift of precious rain, and of unseen beings of immeasurable power; and they would learn the reason for representing these divine heroes in the forms they saw inscribed on monuments and temples, or in little images given them, thus getting some notion of the philosophy of worship. They would talk of these things by the camp-fire, when they had returned to Iran or Bactria or the Afghan hills, along with their tales of the civilization in Susa, and gradually plainsmen and mountaineers would grow wiser and more imitative. Sailors and merchants also carried enlightening information and ideas, crude as they may seem to us, into the minds of the natives of the shores of India and along the banks of the navigable Indus, whence this news from the West percolated into the more or less savage interior of the peninsula. Later we shall meet with some results of this slow and accidental propaganda.
Meanwhile, a stronger influence was affecting the North Persians. Soon after we first become acquainted with the Sumerians settled in Ur and other places on the lower Euphrates, we learn that they were conquered by Semitic tribes from the West, who created the Babylonian empire. After a while this was overthrown by still more powerful forces higher up the river, until finally the Assyrians became rulers of the whole valley, and ultimately of all Asia Minor north of the Arabian desert. The ancient gods received new names, but the old ideas remained. The antique dragon still stood at the gates of the Assyrian king’s palace, and Ea, the fish-god, reappeared on the shores of the Mediterranean as Dagon of the Philistines. But this is running ahead of my story.
North of Assyria, among the mountains of Armenia, dwelt the Medes, a nation of uncertain affinities, but apparently well advanced towards civilization even in the earlier period of Babylon’s history. They were not, at least primitively, influenced much by the sea-born myths of their southern neighbours, but held a religious creed combined of sun-worship and reverence for serpents–a conjunction which has had many examples elsewhere.
There was born among them, according to good authorities, about a thousand years before Jesus, a man of g
ood family, now called Zoroaster; but others believe he arose in Bactria, and probably at a much older time. He became the founder of a sect holding far higher ideas than those of any of the religious leaders about them. His sect was called Fire-Worshippers, because it kept fires burning perpetually on its altars as a symbol of the pure life believed to be received constantly from the supreme source of life and prosperity, Ormuzd, the All-Wise. It was thus a reform movement rather than a new religion, and inherited a stock of Medic practices and Vedic legends. Its founders and early communicants were evidently in close contact with the people of northern India many centuries before the era of Buddha or Christ, and were trying to elevate religious ideas which were based on faith in the endless conflict between powers classed as helpful to man or injurious to his interests, so that the same gods might be good at one time and bad at another. “Zoroaster established a criterion other than usefulness to determine whether a power was good or bad, by making an ethical distinction between the spirits.” Thus the old nature-gods were still recognized but re-classified on a new spiritual and ethical basis; yet they shrank into subordinate rank beside the Wise Spirit Ormuzd, who was in no sense a nature-god but “spirit only and withal the spirit of truth, purity, and justice.” These refined ideas gradually sank, however, into the meaner old religion that underlay them; and in opposition to Ormuzd, the personification of All Good, arose a host combined of all the old malicious spirits and influences (demons), led by a supreme personification of Evil called by Zoroaster Lie-Demon, who afterward “becomes the Hostile or Harmful Spirit, Angra Mainyu, Ahriman” of Persian writings. “Among the beings opposed to Ormuzd a conspicuous place is taken by the dragon, Azhi Dahaka, whose home is in Bapel (Babylon) a ‘druj,’ half-human, half-beast, with three heads. . . . This dragon creates drouth and disease.” Here we have recovered the trail of the figure we have been studying, and find him travelling eastward with the mark of Babylon still upon him.
The most ancient writings that have come down to us are the Vedas-poems, fables, and allegories recorded in ancient Sanscrit perhaps a dozen centuries before the beginning of the Christian era. They picture weather phenomena as a series of battles fought by a god, Indra, armed with lightnings and thunder, against Azhi, the evil genius of the universe, who has carried off certain benevolent goddesses described allegorically as ‘milch-cows,’ and who keeps them captive in the folds of the clouds. This fiend was described as a serpent, not because that reptile in life was subtle and crafty, but because he seeks to envelop the goddess of light, the source of the blessed rain, with coils of clouds as with a snake’s folds. In the Gathas and Yasnas, or earliest sacred writings of Persia, preceding the Avesta, the ‘Bible’ of the Zoroastrians, it is asserted that Trita smote Azhi before Indra killed the “monster that kept back the waters.” It is a theory of many primitive peoples that an eclipse of the sun or moon means that a celestial monster is swallowing the luminary: the Sumatrans say it is a big snake. Even at this day in China “ignorant folk at the beginning of an eclipse throw themselves on their knees and beat gongs and drums to frighten away the hungry devil.” The moon and rainfall are very closely connected in many mythologies.
The forms and characters in which the sky-war appears are almost innumerable as one reads the mythologic narratives of India and Persia; even the summary sketched in his Zoological Mythology (Chapter V), by Angelo de Gubernatis, is bewildering in its changes of persons and scenes and methods, involving an exuberance of imagery in which may be discerned the roots of many an attribute characterizing the dragon-stories of long-subsequent times, such as their guarding of treasure, or kidnapping of women, or the grotesque horror of their appearance. And it was all a matter of weather and of the preciousness of rain in a thirsty land!
Superstition went so far as to imagine that human beings of malignant temper might adopt the character and functions of these celestial mischief-makers. It is related in the book Si-Yu-Ki, written by Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese traveller of the 7th century A.D. (Beal’s translation), that in the old days, a certain shepherd provided the king with milk and cream. “Having on one occasion failed to do so, and having received a reprimand, he proceeded . . . with the prayer that he might become a destructive dragon.” His prayer was answered affirmatively, and he betook himself to a cavern whence he intended to ravish the country. Then Tathagata, moved by pity, came from a long distance, persuaded the dragon to behave well, and himself took up his abode in the cavern.
Having interpolated this incident, it may be pardonable to give another, extracted from the Buddhist Records, illustrating how Buddhist influences tended to modify the fierceness in Brahmanic teachings when they had penetrated the minds of Hindoos dwelling in the valley of the Indus, where, probably, the doctrines of the gentle saint began first to get a foothold in India. The lower valley of that river was visited in 400 A.D., by the Chinese traveller Fa-Huan, who reported that he found at one place a vast colony of male and female disciples:
A white-eared dragon is the patron of this body of priests. He causes fertilizing and seasonable showers of rain to fall within this country, and preserves it from plagues and calamities, and so causes the priesthood to dwell in security. The priests in gratitude for these favours have erected a dragon-chapel, and within it placed a resting-place for his accommodation [and] provide the dragon with food. . . . At the end of each season of rain the dragon suddenly assumes the form of a little serpent both of whose ears are edged with white. The body of priests, recognizing him, place in the midst of his lair a copper vessel full of cream; and then . . . walk past him in procession as if to pay him greeting. He then suddenly disappears. He makes his appearance once every year.
Let us now return to our proper path from this Indian excursion. The Persian Azhi, or Ashi Dahaka, is described in Yasti IX as a “fiendish snake, three-jawed and triple-headed, six-eyed, of thousand powers and of mighty strength, a lie-demon of the Daevas, evil for our settlements, and wicked, whom the evil spirit Angra Mainyu made.” Darmesteter asserts that the original seat of the Azhi myth was on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. He says that Azhi was the snake’ of the storm-cloud, and is the counterpart of the Vedic Ahi or Vritra. “He appears still in that character in Yasti XIX seq., where he is described struggling against Atar (Fire) in the sea Vourukasha. His contest with Yima Khshaeta bore at first the same mythological character, the ‘shining Yima’ being originally, like the Vedic Yima, a solar hero: when Yima was turned into an earthly king Azhi underwent the same fate.” He became then the symbol of the enemies of Iran, first the hated Chaldeans and later the Arabs who persecuted the Zoroastrians. A well-known poem of Firdausi relates the legend of how Ahriman in disguise kisses the shoulders of Zohak, a knight who is Azhi in human form, from which kiss sprang venomous serpents. These are replaced as fast as destroyed, and must be fed on the brains of men. In the end Zohak is seized and chained to a rock, where he perishes beneath the rays of the sun. “Fire is everywhere the deadly foe of these ‘fiendish’ serpents, which are water-spirits; they are ever powerless against the sun, as was Azhi, lacking wit, against Ormuzd.”
Such were the notions and faiths regarding dragons as expressed in the earliest written records we possess of philosophy and imager
y among Aryan folk; and they floated down the stream of time, remembered and trusted as generation after generation of these simple-minded, poetic people succeeded one another and gradually wandered away from their northern homes to become conquerors and colonists in Iran and India. Let us note certain stories in modern Persian history and literature exhibiting this survival of the ancient ideas.
In his narrative of his travels in Persia, published in London in 1821, Sir William Ouseley relates that in his time there stood near Shiraz the remains of a once mighty castle called Fahender after its builder, a son of the legendary king Ormuz (or Hormuz). This prince rebelled against his brother on the throne and took possession of Fars, with help from the Sassanian family, long before the founding of Shiraz in the 7th century A.D. The castle was repeatedly ruined and repaired as the centuries progressed, and local wiseacres maintain that in it are buried royal arms, treasures, and jewels hidden by the ancient kings, and these are guarded by a talisman. “Tradition adds another guardian to the precious deposit–a dragon or winged serpent; this sits forever brooding over the treasures which it cannot enjoy; greedy of gold, like those famous griffins that contended with the ancient Arimaspians.”
This term ‘Arimaspian’ seems to have been a name among the more settled people of Persia for the more or less nomadic tribes of the plains and mountains west of them, who in subsequent times, nearer the beginning of our era, are seen following one another in great waves of conquering migration from the steadily drying pastures of what we now call Kurdistan westward to the steppes of southern Russia. The earliest of these known as a definite nation were the Cimmerians, who perhaps reached their special country north of the sea of Azov by migration across the mountains of Armenia and the Caucasus. These were followed and replaced by the Scythians, and they in turn were driven out or absorbed by the Sarmatians. The area they occupied successively north of the Black Sea has been explored by Russian archaeologists, who find that during several centuries previous to the Christian era a substantial though crude civilization existed there, and the worship, or at least a respect for, the snake-dragon prevailed among these peoples. The writings of Prof. M. Rostovtzeff make these investigations accessible to English readers. The dragon-relics discovered make it evident that the notions relating to this matter preserved among the barbarians and peasantry of north-central Europe, which we shall encounter later, were largely derived from these proto-Russians, especially the Sarmatians; and also that they influenced the ideas of the dragon that we shall find in China, with which these early people of the western plains were in constant communication by way of Turkestan, Thibet and Mongolia.
Thus Osvald Siren, author of Chinese Art, in speaking of very early Chinese sculptures, and especially of dragon-figures, remarks:
It seems evident that these dragons are of Sarmatian origin. Their enormous heads and claws are sometimes translated into pure ornaments; their tails into rhythmic curves like the ornamental dragons on the runic stones in Gotland. These two great classes of ornamental dragons, the Chinese and the Scandinavian, are no doubt descendants from the same original stock, which may have had its first period of artistic procreation in western Asia. The artistic ideals of the northern Wei dynasty remained preponderant in Chinese sculpture up to the sixth century (A.D.).
In his famous epic the Shah Nameh, translated by Atkinson, Firdausi describes the wondrous adventures of the Persian hero Rustem, who like Hercules had to perform seven labours. At the third stage of this task he was alone in a wilderness with his magical horse Rakush, and lay down to sleep at night, after turning the horse loose to graze. Presently a great dragon came out of the forest. “It was eighty yards in length, and so fierce that neither elephant nor demon nor lion ever ventured to pass by its lair.” As it came forth it saw and attacked the horse, whose resistance awakened Rustem; but when Rustem looked around nothing was visible–the dragon had vanished and the horse got a scolding. Rustem went to sleep again. A second time the vision frightened Rakush, then vanished. The third time it appeared the faithful horse “almost tore up the earth with its heels to rouse his sleeping master.” Rustem again sprang angrily to his feet, but at that moment sufficient light was providentially given to enable him to see the prodigious cause of the horse’s alarm.
Then swift he drew his sword and closed in strife
With that huge monster.–Dreadful was the shock
And perilous to Rustem, but when Rakush
Perceived the contest doubtful, furiously
With his keen teeth he bit and tore among
The dragon’s scaly hide; whilst, quick as thought,
The champion severed off the grisly head,
And deluged all the plain with horrid blood.
Another hero of popular legend woven into his history by Firdausi was Isfendiar (son of King Gushtask, himself a dragon-killer), who also had to perform seven labours, the second of which was to fight an enormous and venomous dragon such as this:
Fire sparkles round him; his stupendous bulk
Looks like a mountain. When incensed his roar
Makes the surrounding country shake with fear,
White poison foam drips from his hideous jaws,
Which, yawning wide, display a dismal gulf,
The grave of many a hapless being, lost
Wandering amidst that trackless wilderness.
Isfendiar’s companion, Kurugsar, so magnified the power and ferocity of the beast, which he knew of old, that Isfendiar thought it well to be cautious, and therefore had constructed a closed car on wheels, on the outside of which he fastened a large number of pointed instruments. To the amazement of his admirers he then shut himself within this armoured chariot, and proceeded towards the dragon’s haunt. Listen to Firdausi:
. . . Darkness now is spread around,
No pathway can be traced;
The fiery horses plunge and bound
Amid the dismal waste.
And now the dragon stretches far
His cavern-throat, and soon
Licks the horses and the car,
And tries to gulp them down.
But sword and javelin sharp and keen,
Wound deep each sinewy jaw;
Midway remains the huge machine
And chokes the monster’s maw.
And from his place of ambush leaps,
And brandishing his blade,
The weapon in the brain he steeps,
And splits the monster’s head.
But the foul venom issuing thence,
Is so o’erpowering found,
Isfendiar, deprived of sense,
Falls staggering to the ground.
As for the dragon–
In agony he breathes, a dire
Convulsion fires his blood,
And, struggling ready to expire,
Ejects a poison flood.
And thus disgorges wain and steeds.
And swords and javelins bright;
Then, as the dreadful dragon bleeds,
Up starts the warrior knight.
Amorphous Androgynous – Light Beyond Sound part1
Afghan Poets: The Poems Of Æabd-Ur-RaḤmĀn…
Behold! such an Omnipotent Being is my God,
That He is the possessor of all power, authority, and will.
Should one enumerate all the most mighty, pure, and eminent,
My God is mightier, purer, and more eminent than all.
No want, nor requirement of His, is dependant upon any one;
Neither is my God under obligation, nor beholden to any.
Out of nothingness He produced the form of entity;
In such wise is my God the Creator, and the Nourisher of all.
He is the artist and the artificer of all and every created thing:
My God is, likewise, the hearer of every word and accent.
That which hath neither type nor parallel anywhere,
Its essence and its nature, its material and its principle, my God is.
All the structures, whether of this world or of that to come,
My God is the architect, and the builder of them all.
He is the decipherer and the construer of the unwritten pages
The unfolder and the elucidator of all mysteries my God is.
Apparent or manifest; hidden or obscure; intermediate or intercalary;
My God is cognizant of, and familiar with, all matters and things.
He hath neither partner nor associateHis dominion is from Himself alone
A sovereign, without colleague or coadjutor, my God is.
Not that His unity and individuality proceed from impuissance;
For, in His one and unique nature, He is infinite, unlimited.
They have neither need nor necessity of the friendship of others,
Unto whom my God is beneficently and graciously inclined.
Wherefore then the occasion that I should seek Him elsewhere,
Since, in mine own dwelling, my God is ever at my side?
O Raḥmān! He is neither liable to change, nor to mutation
My God is unchangeable and immutable, for ever and ever!
My weeping for the beloved hath passed beyond all computation;
Yet the dear one is in no way affected at the sight of my tears.
Though every one of my words should be pearls of great price,
Still she doth not account them at all worthy of her ears.
Were she overcome by sleep, I would arouse her by my cries;
But though fully awake, my loved one is asleep unto me.
Like unto a writing, I speak, though with mouth covered;
But my silence surpasseth my wails and my lamentations?
When is there security for the crop of love in scorching ground!
It requireth a salamander to exist in this desert of mine.
This is not my love that separation hath parted from me:
Tis my soul, which hath become separated from this body of mine.
I, Raḥmān, desire naught else than the beloved of my heart,
Should my prayer be accepted at the threshold of the Almighty.
There is no return for thee, a second time, unto this world!
To-day is thy opportunity, whether thou followest evil or good!
Every thing for which the opportunity is gone, is the phnix of our desires;
But the immortal bird hath never been caught in any one’s net.
The stream, that hath left the sluice, floweth not back again!
The hour, which hath passed away, returneth to us no more!
For time is, alas! like unto the dead in the sepulchre’s niche;
And no one hath brought, by weeping, the dead to life again.
If thou hast any object to attain, be quick, for time is short:
Flatter not thyself on the permanency of this brief existence!
Each target, of which, in thy heart, thou considerest thyself sure,
Through pride and vanity, thou wilt surely miss thine aim of.
Over-sanguine hope hath rendered many desponding:
Be not off thy guard as to the deceit and fraud of time!
When thy mouth becometh shattered by the stroke of death,
In what manner wilt thou then offer praises with it?
The bereaved woman, who giveth utterance to her bewailings,
Lamenteth over thee, if thou understandest what she says.
Thou art not a child, that one should teach thee by force:
Thou art wise and intelligent, and arrived at maturity’s years.
Exercise, then, thine own understanding as to good and evil,
Whether thy well-being lieth in this, or in that.
Conceal thy face beneath thy mantle, and open thine eyes:
Fly not far away on the winds of vanity and ambition!
Soar not unto the heavens with thy head in the air,
For thou art, originally, from the dust of the earth created.
At the last day, inquiry will not be made of thee,
As to whether thou art the son or grandson of such an one.
To the bride, who may not be handsome in her own person,
What signify her mother’s or her grandmother’s good looks?
Practise goodness in thine own person, and fear evil!
Presume not on the virtues of thy father or thy mother!
These precepts, O my friend! I urge upon myself:
Be not then grieved that I have made use of thy name.
I use thine and those of others, but speak to myself alone:
With any one else, I have neither motive nor concern.
Whatever I utter, I address the whole unto myself:
All these failings and defects are only mine own.
Had I a place for these sorrows within my own breast,
Why should I give utterance unto these declamations?
Since the racking pains of mortality are before thee,
Why dost thou not die, O Raḥmān! before they come?
No one hath proved any of the world’s faithfulness or sincerity;
And none, but the faithless and perfidious, have any affection for it.
They who may lay any claim unto it, as belonging to them,
Speak wholly under delusion; for the world is no one’s own.
Fortune is like unto a potterit fashioneth and breaketh:
Many, like unto me and thee, it hath created and destroyed.
Every stone and clod of the world, that may be looked upon,
Are all sculls; some those of kings, and some of beggars.
It behoveth not that one should place a snare in the world’s path;
For the capture of the griffin and the phnix cannot be effected.
Who can place any dependence upon this fleeting breath?
It is impossible to confine the wind with the strongest chain!
Whether the sun or the moon, the upshot is extinction:
Doth the flower always bloom? Nothing can exist for ever!
Walk not, O Raḥmān! contrary to the ways of the enlightened;
Since the love of the world is not approved of by any wise man.
If one seek a charmer in the world, this is the one:
This is the dear one, who is the ornament of the universe.
There will hot be such another lover in it as myself;
Nor will ever such a beloved one be created like thee.
I had shown patience under thy harshness and cruelty;
But, in the place of lamentation, joy and gladness cannot be.
I will never consent to be separated from thee,
So long as my soul is not separated from this body of mine.
Like unto the congregation behind, with the priest before,
In such wise have I imitated and followed thee.
I am not the only onethe whole world loveth thee!
Whether it be the beggar, or the sovereign of the age.
Would that thou wouldst grant me a deed of protection,
Since thou puttest me off with the promise of to-morrow!
Tis not that of mine own accord I am smitten with thee:
Twas a voice from thy direction that reached me.
Indeed, from all eternity, I am devoted unto thee.
It is not that to-day only, I have a beginning made.
When with the sword of thy love it shall be severed,
Then will the neck of Raḥmān have its duty performed.
The godly are the light and the refulgence of the world:
The pious are the guides and the directors of mankind.
If any one seek the way unto God and his Prophet,
The devout are the guides to point out the path.
The alchemist, that searcheth about for the philosopher’s stone,
Will find it the bosom companion of the sanctified.
In the society of the enlightened, he will turn to red gold,
Though a person may be as a stone or a clod of the desert.
The ignorant are, as it were, like unto the dead:
Verily, the wise are like unto the saints themselves.
The enlightened are, comparatively, like unto the Messiah;
Since, from their breath, the dead return to life again.
He who may not possess some portion of wisdom
Is not a man: he is, as it were, but an empty model.
I, Raḥmān, am the servant of every enlightened being,
Whether he be of the highest, the middle, or the lowest degree.
Come, do not be the source of trouble unto any one;
For this short life of thine will soon be lost, O faithless one!
No one is to be a tarrier behind, in this world:
All are to be departers, either to-day or to-morrow.
Those dear friends, who to-day bloom before thee,
Will, in two or three short days, fade and decay.
If the sight of any be pleasing to thee, cherish them:
After they wither and die, when will they again revive?
The leaves of autumn, that fall from the branch,
By no contrivance can the sage attach them again.
When the rain-drops fall from the sky upon the earth,
They cannot again ascend unto the heavens whence they came.
Imagine not, that those tears which the eye sheddeth,
Shall eer again return to the eyes they flowed from.
This is a different sun that riseth every morn:
The sun, that setteth once, riseth not again.
Though paradise is not gained by devotion, without grace;
Still, every man his neck from the debt must release. ~
Shouldst thou incur a hundred toils for the flesh’s sake,
Not one shall be of any avail to-morrow unto thee.
Shouldst thou gorge thy stomach with the world itself,
Thou wilt not be remembered, either in blessings or in prayers.
Shouldst thou give but a grain of corn unto the hungered,
Verily, it will be hereafter thy provision in eternity.
Shouldst thou bestow but a drop of water on the thirsty,
It will become an ocean between thee and the fire of hell.
Shouldst thou once bow thy head in the road of the Almighty,
Thou shalt, at the last day, be more exalted than any.
This world, then, is the mart, if one be inclined to traffic;
But in that world there is neither barter nor gain.
If friends comprehend aught, to-day is their time,
That one friend may show self-devotion to another.
If there is any real existence here, of a truth tis this,
That in some one’s society it should in happiness pass.
May God protect us from such a state of existence,
Where thou mayst speak ill of others, and others of thee.
Poison even, is pleasant, if it be in peace and in concord;
But not sugar, combined with sedition and with strife.
The belly, filled with rubbish, is well, if free from sorrow;
But not so, though gorged with confection of the dregs of woe.
The back, bent from toil, is indeed estimable;
But not from a purse of ill-gotten money round the waist. ~
A blind man, who seeth nothing, is truly excellent;
Better than that he should set eyes on another man’s wife.
A dumb person is far better without palate or tongue,
Than that his tongue should become the utterer of evil words.
A deaf man, who cannot hear, is preferable by far,
Than that his ears should be open to scandalous tales.
Demon or devil, that may come upon one, is agreeable;
But let not the Almighty a bad man before thee bring!
Than to bear the society of a fool, it is more preferable
That a fiery dragon should become one’s bosom friend.
If there be a real difficulty, it is the healing of hearts;
But the profit and loss of the world are trifling affairs.
Its advantages, or its detriments, are trivial matters
God forbid that any one become infamous for despicable things!
Forbid that any such desire of thine be accomplished,
Whereby the heart of thy brother or relation be grieved!
Should one eat delicious food, and another be eyeing it,
Such is not victuals, it is mere poison, so to speak.
It behoveth at times to respect other’s wishes, at times thine own;
But thine own good pleasure is not to be regarded always.
The wise concern not themselves in such matters,
In which there’s constant grief, and not an hour’s pleasure.
It is incumbent on judges to administer justice;
But not to give their ears unto venal things.
Thoughts and ideas of all sorts enter into man’s mind;
But it is not meet to account them all right and just.
The devout should have a constant eye towards their faith;
For some thoughts are virtues, whilst others are sins.
God forbid that iniquity proceed from any one’s hands!
What affinity is there between sin and innocenceevil and good?
It is not that all men are equally on a parity together;
For some are eminent, some indifferent, some vile and base.
The dignity of every one lieth within its own degree:
It idiot meet that the groom should the noble’s rank acquire.
I, Raḥmān, neither thank, nor complain of any one;
For I have no other friend or enemy but myself.
Mullā Æabd-ur-Raḥmān is one of the most popular, and probably the best known, of all the Afghān poets. His effusions are of a religious or moral character, and chiefly on the subject of divine love, being, like the poetical compositions of all Muḥammadan poets, tinged with the mysticisms of Ṣūfi-ism, already described in the Introductory Remarks; but there is a fiery energy in his style, and a natural simplicity, which will be vainly sought for amongst the more flowery and bombastic poetry of the Persians.
Raḥmān belonged to the Ghorīah Khel clan or sub-division, of the Mohmand tribe of the Afghāns, and dwelt in the village of Hazār-Khānī, in the tapah or district of the Mohmands, one of the five divisions of the province of Peshāwar. He was a man of considerable learning, but lived the life of a Darwesh, absorbed in religious contemplation, and separated from the world, with which, and with its people, he held no greater intercourse than necessity and the means of subsistence demanded. He is said to have been passionately fond of hearing religious songs, accompanied by some musical instrument, which the Chastī sect of Muḥammadans ~ appears to have a great partiality for. After a time, when the gift of poesy was bestowed upon him, he became a strict recluse, and was generally found by his friends in tears. Indeed, he is said to have been in the habit of weeping so much, as in course of time to have produced wounds on both his cheeks. His strict retirement, however, gave opportunity to a number of envious Mullās to belie him; and they began to circulate reports to the effect, that Raḥmān had turned atheist or heretic, since he never left his dwelling, and had even given up worshipping at the mosque along with the congregationa matter strictly enjoined on all orthodox Muḥammadans. At length, by the advice and assistance of some of the priesthood, more liberal and less bigoted than his enemies, he contrived to escape from their hands, by agreeing, for the future, to attend the place of public worship, and to pray and perform his other religious duties, along with the members of the congregation. He thus, whether agreeable to himself or not, was obliged in some measure to mix with the world; and this, doubtless, gave rise to the ode at page 29, to which the reader is referred.
Raḥmān appears to have been in the habit of giving the copies of his poems, as he composed. them, from time to time, to his particular friends, which they, unknown to each other, took care to collect and preserve, for the express purpose of making a collection of them after the author’s death. This they accordingly carried out, and it was not until Raḥmān’s decease that these facts became known. It then appeared also, that some of these pseudo friends had, to increase the bulk of their own collection of the poet’s odes, mixed up a quantity of their own trashy compositions with Raḥmān’s, and had added, or rather forged, his name to them in the last couplets. In this manner two of these collections of odes were made, and were styled Raḥmān’s first and second. Fortunately for his reputation, these forgeries were discovered in time, by some of the dearest of the poet’s friends, who recognised or remembered the particular poems of his composition; and they accordingly rejected the chaff, retaining the wheat only, in the shape of his Dīwān, or alphabetical collection of odes, as it has come down to the present day. Still, considerable differences exist in many copies, some odes having a line more or a line less, whilst some again contain odes that are entirely wanting in others. This caused me considerable trouble when preparing several of them for insertion in my “Selections in the Afghān Language;” but it was attended with a proportionate degree of advantage, having altogether compared some sixty different copies of the poet’s works, of various dates, some of which were written shortly after Raḥmān’s death, when his friends had succeeded in collecting the poems in a single volume.
By some accounts, the poet would appear to have been a co-temporary of the warrior-poet, Khushḥāl Khān; ~ and it has been stated, that on two or three occasions they held poetical disputations together. This, however, cannot be true; for it seems that although Raḥmān was living towards the latter part of that brave chieftain’s life, yet he was a mere youth, and was, more correctly speaking, a cotemporary of Afẓal Khān’s, the grandson and successor of Khushḥāl, and the author of that rare, excellent, and extensive Afghān history, entitled, “Tārīkh-i-Muraṣṣaæ,” and other valuable works. A proof of the incorrectness of this statement is, that the tragical end of Gul Khān and Jamal Khān, which Raḥmān and the poet Ḥamīd also have devoted a long poem to, took place in the year of the Hijrah 1123 (a.d. 1711), twenty-five years after the death of Khushḥāl. Another, and still stronger proof against the statement of poetical disputations having taken place between them, is the fact of Raḥmān’s retired life, and his humble position, as compared with that of Khushḥāl, the chief of a powerful tribe, and as good a poet as himself.
Some descendants of Raḥmān, on his daughter’s side, dwell at present in the little hamlet of Deh-i-Bahādur (the Hamlet of the Brave), in the Mohmand district; but the descendants on the side of his only son have long been extinct.
The poet’s tomb may still be seen in the graveyard of his native village.
Amorphous Androgynous – The Peppermint Tree