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(Masnavi Book 3: 75) The most beautiful city












How a loved one asked her lover who had travelled in foreign countries, Which city didst you find the fairest and most thronged and the most magnificent and rich and charming?”

A loved one said to her lover,O youth, you have seen many cities abroad.
Which of them, then, is the fairest? He replied, The city where my sweetheart is.”

3810. Wherever the carpet is (spread) for our King, (there) is the (spacious) plain, though it
(that place) be (as narrow as) the eye of a needle.
Wherever a Joseph (beautiful) as the moon may be, it is Paradise, even though it be the bottom of a well.

How his friends hindered him from returning to Bukhárá and threatened him, and how he said, I don't care.”

A candid adviser said to him, O imprudent man, think of the end (consequence), if you have
(any) skill.
Consider reasonably the future and the past: do not let yourself be burnt like a moth.
How art you going to Bukhárá? You art mad, you art (only) fit for chains and the prison- house.

3815. He (the Sadr-i Jahán) is champing iron in his wrath against thee; he is seeking you with twenty eyes.
He is sharpening the knife for you: he is (like) the starving dog, and you (like) the bag of flour.

After you have escaped and God has given you the (open) road, you art going (back) to prison:
what is the matter with thee?
Had there been ten sorts of custodians over you, intelligence would have been needed in order that you might'st become quit of them.
Since no one is a custodian over you, wherefore have the future and the past become sealed to thee?”

3820. Secret love had made him (the Wakíl) captive: the warner (his critic) was not seeing that custodian.
Every custodian's custodian is hidden; else, wherefore is he (the wicked custodian) in thrall to
(his) currish nature?
The anger of Love, the King, settled upon his soul and chained him to the (base) office of a myrmidon and to ignominy.
It (anger) is striking him and saying, “Hark, strike him (thy captive)! Woe is me on account of
those hidden myrmidons.
Whomsoever you see going in a (path of) detriment, he, though (apparently) alone, is going along with a (hidden) myrmidon.

3825. If he were aware of him, he would cry out in distress and go into the presence of the
King of kings,
And scatter earth on his head before the King, that he might find security from the frightful Devil. (But) you, O less than an ant, deemed yourself a prince: hence, blind (as you are), you did not see that custodian.
You were deluded by these false wings and plumes—the wings and plumes that lead to woe.
(If) he keep his wings light (unencumbered), he journeys upward; when he becomes defiled with earth, he makes heavinesses (which weigh him down).

How the lover, impelled by love, said I don't care to the person who counselled and scolded him.

3830. He said, O counsellor, be silent! How long, how long (wilt you chide)? Do not give advice, for the bonds (on me) are very grievous.
My bonds are more grievous than your advice: your doctor (who taught thee) was not acquainted
with love.
In that quarter where love was increasing (my) pain, Bú Hanífa and Sháfií gave no instruction. Do not you threaten me with being killed, for I thirst lamentably for mine own blood.”
For lovers, there is a dying at every moment: verily, the dying of lovers is not of one sort.

3835. He (the lover) has two hundred souls (lives) from the Soul of Guidance, and those two hundred he is sacrificing at every instant.
For each soul (life) he receives ten as its price: read from the Qurán ten like unto them.
If that One of friendly countenance shed my blood, dancing (in triumph) I will strew (lavish) my soul (life) upon Him.
I have tried it: my death is (consists) in life: when I escape from this life, it is to endure for ever. “Kill me, kill me, O trusty friends! Lo, in my being killed is life on life.”

3840. O You that makest the cheek radiant, O Spirit of everlastingness, draw my spirit to
Yourself and generously bestow on me the meeting (with Thee).
I have a Beloved whose love roasts the bowels (of my heart): if He wished to walk upon mine eye, He would walk (upon it, and be welcome).
Speak Persian, though Arabic is sweeter: Love indeed has a hundred other tongues (besides these two).

When the scent of that Charmer of hearts begins to fly (abroad), all those tongues become dumbfounded.
I will cease (from speech): the Sweetheart has begun to speak, be (all) ear—and God best knoweth the right course.

3845. Since the lover has repented, now beware (of misapprehension), for he will lecture, like the adepts (in mystical love), on the gallows.
Although this lover is going to Bukhárá, he is not going to (attend) lectures or to (learn from) a teacher.
For lovers, the (only) lecturer is the beauty of the Beloved, their (only) book and lecture and lesson is His face.
They are silent (outwardly), but the shrill noise of their repetition is going up to the throne and
high-seat of their Friend.
Their (only) lesson is enthusiasm and the whirling dance and quaking agitation; not the Ziyádát
and the chapter onthe chain.

3850. The chain of these people (the lovers of God) is the musk-dropping curls (of the
Beloved); they have the question of “the circle, but it is the “circle of the Friend.
If any one ask you about the question of “the purse, tell (him) that God's treasure is not contained in purses.
If talk of khul and mubárá is going on (among them), do not disapprove: (inwardly) mention is
being made of “Bukhárá.”
The mention (recollection) of any thing produces a particular (spiritual) effect, inasmuch as every quality has a quiddity.
In Bukhárá you attain to (perfection in) the sciences: when you turn to lowliness (ba-khwárí),
you are freed from them.

3855. That man of Bukhárá had not the vexation of knowledge: he was fixing his eyes on the sun of vision.
No one who in solitude has found the way to vision will seek power by means of the (diverse)
kinds of knowledge.
When he has become a boon-companion to the beauty of the Soul, he will have a disgust of traditional learning and knowledge.
Vision is superior to knowledge: hence the present world prevails (over the next world) in the view of the vulgar,
Because they regard this world as ready money, while they deem what concerns that (other)
world to be (like) a debt.

How that loving servant turned his face towards Bukhárá.

3860. With throbbing heart the lover, who shed tears mingled with blood, set out for Bukhárá in hot haste.
The sands of Ámún seemed to him like silk, the river Oxus seemed to him like a pond.
To him that wilderness was like a rose-garden: he was falling on his back from laughter, like the
(full-blown) rose.
The (material) candy is in Samarcand; but his lip got it fromBukhárá, and that (spiritual candy)
became his creed.
O Bukhá, you have increased understanding (in others) but you have robbed me of understanding and religion.

3865. I am seeking the Full Moon: hence I am (thin) as the new moon. I am seeking the Sadr
(Prince) in this ‘shoe-row’ (vestibule).”

When he described that “Bukhárá looming black (in the distance), a whiteness (a mystic illumination) appeared in the blackness of his grief.
He fell (and lay) awhile senseless and outstretched: his reason flew into the garden of the mystery.
They were sprinkling rose-water on his head and face; they were unaware of the rose-water of his love.
He had beheld a hidden rose-garden: the raiding foray of Love had cut him off from himself.

3870. Thou, frozen (in spirit), art not worthy of this (inspiring) breath (of love): though you art a reed (cane), you art not associated with sugar.
The baggage of intellect is with you, and you art (still) possessed of your wits, for you art unaware of armies which ye did not see.

How the reckless lover entered Bukhá, and how his friends deterred him from showing himself.

Joyously he entered Bukhárá near his beloved and (him who was) the abode of (his) security, Like the man intoxicated (with love) who (in imagination) flies to heaven: the Moon embraces him and says, Embrace (me)!”
Every one that saw him in Bukhárá said (to him), “Arise (and go) before showing yourself! Do not sit (still)! Flee!

3875. For that Prince is seeking you in anger, that he may wreak a ten years' vengeance on your life.
By God, by God, do not plunge in yours own blood, do not rely on your artful words and wiles. You wert the Sadr-i Jahán's constable and a noble; you wert the trusted (agent) and master-
engineer (in his affairs).
(Then) you didst act treacherously and flee from punishment: you hadst escaped: how have you let yourself be caught again?
With a hundred devices you didst flee from tribulation: has folly brought you hither or (your)
fate?

3880. O you whose intellect jeers at Mercury (the celestial Scribe), Destiny makes a fool of intellect and the intelligent.
Luckless is the hare that seeks (to encounter) the lion: where is your cleverness and intelligence and quick-wittedness?
The wiles of Destiny are a hundred times as many (as yours): he (the Prophet) has said, When
Destiny comes, the wide field is straitened.’
There are a hundred ways and places of refuge on left and right, (but) they are barred by
Destiny, for it is a dragon.”

How the lover answered those who scolded and threatened him.

He said,I am dropsical: the water draws me, though I know that the water too will kill me.

3885. None afflicted with dropsy will flee from the water, even if it checkmate and ruin him two hundred times.
If my hands and belly become swollen, (yet) the passionate desire for the water will not abate
(and depart) from me.
At the time when they ask me of my inward state, I say, ‘Would that the Sea were flowing within me!’
Let the water-skin, my belly, be burst by the waves of the water: if I die, my death is acceptable.

Wherever I see the water of a stream, jealousy comes over me (and I wish) that I might be in its place.

3890. (With) hands (swollen) like a tambourine and belly like a drum, I am beating the drum of (I am proclaiming) my love for the water, as the rose (does).
If that Trusty Spirit spill my blood, I will drink draught on draught of blood, like the earth.
I am a blood-drinker, like the earth and like the embryo: (ever) since I became a lover I am
(engaged) in this trade.
During the night I boil on the fire, like a kettle; (all) day till nightfall I drink blood, like the sand. I repent that I set contrivance afoot (in order to escape) and fled from that which his anger
desired.

3895. Let him drive on (let him not restrain) his anger against my intoxicated soul: he is the
Feast of the Sacrifice, and the lover is the buffalo (for slaughter).
Whether the buffalo sleep or whether it eat something, he nurtures (fattens) it for the Feast and the slaughter.
Deem me to be (as) the cow of Moses that gave life (to the murdered man): each limb of me is the (means of) raising from the dead every one that is (spiritually) free.
The cow of Moses was one offered in sacrifice: her smallest limb brought a murdered man to life.
At its touch the murdered man sprang up from his place—at the words spoken (by God), Strike him with part of her.

3900. O my noble (friends), slaughter this cow (the fleshly soul), if ye desire to raise to life the spirits (possessed) of insight.
I died to the inorganic state and became endowed with growth, and (then) I died to (vegetable)
growth and attained to the animal.
I died from animality and became Adam (man): why, then, should I fear? When have I become less by dying?
At the next remove I shall die to man, that I may soar and lift up my head amongst the angels; And I must escape even from (the state of) the angel: everything is perishing except His Face.

3905. Once more I shall be sacrificed and die to the angel: I shall become that which enters not into the imagination.
Then I shall become non-existence: non-existence saith to me, (in tones loud) as an organ, Verily, unto Him shall we return.
Know death to be (the thing signified by) what the (Mohammedan) community are agreed upon,
namely, that the Water of Life is hidden in the (Land of) Darkness.
Grow from this river-bank, like the water-lily, greedy and craving for death as the sufferer from dropsy.
The water is death to him, and (yet) he is seeking the water and drinking it and God best
knoweth the right course.

3910. Oh, the cold lover, clad in the felt (garment) of shame, who from fear of (losing) his life is fleeing from the Beloved!
O you disgrace (even) to women, behold hundreds of thousands of souls clapping their hands
(and rushing) towards the sword of His love!
You have seen the river: spill your jug in the river: how should the water take flight from the river?
When the water in the jug goes into the river-water, it disappears in it, and it becomes the river.


His (the lover's) attributes have passed away, and his essence remains: after this, he does not dwindle or become ill-favoured.

3915. I have hanged myself on His palm-tree in excuse for having fled from Him.”

How that lover reached his Beloved when he washed his hands of (gave up) his life.

Prostrating himself on face and head, like a ball, he went with wet eyes towards the Sadr
(Prince).
All the people were waiting, their heads in the air, (to see) whether he would burn or hang him. “Now (they said) “he will show to this simpleton that which Time (Fortune) shows to the
unfortunate.
Like the moth, he (the lover) deemed the (fiery) sparks to be the light: foolishly he fell in and was cut off from (deprived of) life.

3920. But the candle of Love is not like that (external) candle: it is radiance in radiance in radiance.
It is the reverse of the fiery candles: it seems to be fire, while (in reality) it is all sweetness.

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