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(Masnavi Book 1: 50) The man of Qazwín who wanted to have a lion tattooed on his shoulder





How the man of Qazwín was tattooing the figure of a lion in blue on his shoulders, and (then) repenting because of the (pain of the) needle-pricks.

Hear from the narrator this story about the way and custom of the people of Qazwín.

They tattoo themselves in blue with the point of a needle on body and hand and shoulders, so as to suffer no injury. A certain man of Qazwín went to a barber and said, “Tattoo me (and) do it charmingly (artistically).
O valiant sir,” said he, “what figure shall I tattoo?” He answered, “Prick in the figure of a furious lion.


2985. Leo is my ascendant: tattoo the form of a lion. Exert yourself, prick in plenty of the blue dye.”

On what place,” he asked, “shall I tattoo you?” Said he, “Prick the design of the beauty on my shoulder-blade.” As soon as he began to stick in the needle, the pain of it settled in the shoulder,
And the hero fell a-moaning—“O illustrious one, you have killed me: what figure are you tattooing?”

Why,” said he, you bade me do a lion.” “What limb (of the lion),” asked the other, “did you begin with?


2990. “I have begun at the tail,” said he. “O my dear friend,” he cried, “leave out the tail!

My breath is stopped by the lion's tail and rump: his rump has tightly closed (choked) my windpipe.

Let the lion be without a tail, O lion-maker, for my heart is faint from the blows of the prong (the tattooer's needle).”

That person commenced to prick in (the blue) on another part (of the man's shoulder) without fear, without favour, without mercy.

He yelled“Which of his members is this?” “This is his ear, my good man,” the barber replied.


2995. “O Doctor,” said he, “let him have no ears: omit the ears and cut the frock short.”

The barber began to insert (his needle) in another part: once more the man of Qazwín set out to wail,

Saying, What is the member (you are pricking in) now on this third spot?” He replied, “This is the lion's belly, my dear sir.”

Let the lion have no belly,” said he: “what need of a belly for the picture that is (already) sated?”

The barber became distraught and remained in great bewilderment: he stood for a long time with his fingers in his teeth;


3000. Then the master flung the needle to the ground and said, “Has this happened to any one in the world? Who (ever) saw a lion without tail and head and belly? God himself did not create a lion like this.”

O brother, endure the pain of the lancet, that you may escape from the poison of your miscreant self (nafs), For sky and sun and moon bow in worship to the people who have escaped from self existence.
Any one in whose body the miscreant self has died, sun and cloud obey his command.


3005. Since his heart has learned to light the candle (of spiritual knowledge and love), the sun cannot burn him. God has made mention of the rising sun as turning aside— like thatfrom their cave.
The thorn becomes entirely beautiful, like the rose, in the sight of the particular that is going towards the Universal. What is (the meaning of) to exalt and glorify God? To deem yourself despicable and (worthless) as dust.
What is (the meaning of) to learn the knowledge of God's unity? To consume yourself in the presence of the One.


3010. If you wish to shine like day, burn up your night-like self-existence.

Melt away your existence, as copper (melts away) in the elixir, in the being of Him who fosters (and sustains) existence.

You have fastened both your hands tight on (are determined not to give up) I” and “we”: all this (spiritual) ruin is caused by dualism.

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