Search Poetry


(Masnavi Book 2: 23) The Amír and the sleeping man into whose mouth a snake had crept

How an Amír harassed a sleeping man into whose mouth a snake had gone.

A wise man was riding along (at the moment when) a snake was going into the mouth of a man asleep. The rider saw that, and was hurrying to scare away the snake, (but) he got no chance (of doing so).

1880. Since he had an abundant supply of intelligence, he struck the sleeper several powerful blows with a mace. The strokes of the hard mace drove him in flight from him (the rider) to beneath a tree.
There were many rotten apples which had dropped (from the tree): he said, “Eat of these, O you in the grip of pain!” He gave the man so many apples to eat that they were falling out of his mouth again.
He was crying, “O Amír, pray, why have you set on me? What have I done to you?

1885. If you have an inveterate and mortal feud with me, strike with your sword and shed my blood at once. Ill-omened (was) the hour I came into your sight: oh, happy he that never saw your face!
Without guilt, without sin, without (having done) anything great or small—(even) the heretics hold not such oppression allowable.

Blood gushes from my mouth together with (my) words. O God, I beseech you, give him the retribution (which he deserves)!

Every instant he was uttering a new curse, (while) he (the rider) kept beating him and saying, “Run in this plain.”

1890. Blows of the mace, and the rider (swift) as the wind! He (therefore) went on running and (now and) again falling on his face.

He was full-fed and sleepy and fatigued: his feet and face became (covered with) a hundred thousand wounds. Till nightfall he (the rider) drove (him) to and fro, until vomiting caused by bile overtook him.
All the things he had eaten, bad or good, came up from him: the snake shot forth from him along with what he had eaten.

When he saw the snake outside of him, he fell on his knees before that beneficent man.

1895. As soon as he saw the horror of that black, ugly, big snake, those griefs departed from him. Truly, said he, you are the Gabriel of (Divine) mercy, or you are God, for you are the lord of bounty. Oh, blest (is) the hour that you saw me: I was dead, you have given me new life.
You (were) seeking me like mothers (in search of their children); I (was) fleeing from you like asses.

The ass flees from his master because of asininity; his owner (runs) after (him) because of good-nature.

1900. He seeks him, not on account of profit or loss, but in order that a wolf or (other) wild beast may not tear him. Oh, happy he that espies your face or suddenly lights upon your abode.
O you whom the pure spirit has praised, how many foolish and idle words have I spoken to you! O lord and emperor and amír, I spoke not, my folly spoke: do not punish that (offence).
If I had known a tittle of this matter, how could I have spoken foolish words?

1905. I should have spoken much praise of you, O man of good qualities, if you had given me a single hint as to the (actual)

But you, keeping silence, showed perturbation and silently continued to beat me on the head.
My head became dizzy, the wits flew out of my head— especially as this head has (but) little brain. Pardon, O man of goodly countenance and goodly behaviour: let pass that which I said in frenzy.” He answered,If I had uttered a hint of it, your gall would instantly have turned to water.

1910. Had I told you the qualities of the snake, terror would have made you give up the ghost.” Mustafá (Mohammed) said, If I should tell aright the description of the enemy which is in your souls,
The gall-bladders even of courageous men would burst: he (such a one) would neither go his way nor care for any work. Neither would there remain to his heart endurance in supplication, nor to his body strength for fasting and (ritual) prayer.
He would become (good for) nothing as a mouse before a cat; he would be distraught as a lamb before a wolf.

1915. No power to plan or move would remain in him: therefore I tend you without speaking. I am mute, like Bakr-i Rabábí; I handle the iron, like David,
So that by my hand the (seemingly) impossible is brought to pass, and wings are restored to the bird whose plumes were torn away.
Since there is (the text) the hand of God is above their hands, the One (God) has declared our hand to be His hand. Therefore mine is surely a long hand that has passed beyond the Seventh Heaven.

1920. My hand showed (its) cunning upon the sky: O teacher of the Qur’án, recite the moon has been cleft asunder.

This characteristic, moreover, is on account of the weakness of (men's) understandings: how is it possible to explain the
(Divine) omnipotence to the weak?

You will surely know when you lift your head from (this sensuous) sleep. It is the end (of my discourse), and God knows best what is right.

(If I had told you about the snake), you would not have been able to eat, nor would you have been capable of vomiting or cared (to do so).

I heard (your) abuse and went on with my work; I kept repeating under my lip (breath), ‘O Lord, make (it) easy!’

1925. I had not permission to speak of the cause, and I had not power to abandon you.

From the grief in my heart I was saying continually, ‘Guide my people; verily, they know not’.”

The man that had been delivered from woe was falling on his knees and saying, “O (You who art) my bliss, O my fortune and treasure,
You wilt get rewards from God, O noble one; this weakling has not the power to thank you. God will say thanks to you, O leader; I have not the lips and the chin and the voice for that.”

1930. Of this fashion is the enmity of the wise: their poison is gladness to the soul. The friendship of the fool is woe and perdition: hear this tale as a parable.

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