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(Masnavi Book 4: 68) The Prince and the Witch of Kabul


















Story of the prince to whom the true kingdom displayed itself, (so that the realities of) on the Day when a man shall flee from his brother and his mother and his father” became the object of his immediate experience; (and he saw that) the kingdom of
this earth-heap of the childish (is like the game) called “castle-taking, (in which) the child that gains the victory mounts upon the earth-heap and says boastfully, The
castle belongs to me, while the other children envy him; for (to play with) earth is the pastime of boys. When the prince was delivered from the bondage of colours, he said, I say that these coloured pieces of earth (earthly gauds) are just the same vile
earth; I do not call them gold and satin and brocade: I have been delivered from this brocade (aksún) and have gone to that which is simple (yaksún). (God has said), And We bestowed wisdom upon him whilst he was yet a boy”; it needeth not the passing of (many) years for (any one to receive) the guidance of God: none speaks of
the capacity to receive in (connexion with) the Power of Be, and it is.

3085. A certain king had a young son, adorned with excellence within and without.
He dreamed that suddenly that son died: the pure (pleasure) of the world was changed, for the king, to dregs.
His water-skin (eye) was dried up by the heat of the fire (of anguish), for because of the glow of the fire his tears remained not.
The king became so full of smoke and grief that sighs were finding no way (of entrance) into him.
He was about to die, his body became inert; (but) his life had been left (for completion): the king
awoke.

3090. From awaking, there came to him a joy which he had not experienced in (all) his life; For (now) from joy likewise he was about to perish: this spirit and body is mightily shackled with the collar (of death).
This lamp dies from (is extinguished by) the breath of sorrow, and it also dies from the breath of joy. Here, look you, is a pleasant jest!
He (Man) is living between these two deaths: this (being) that resembles one shackled with a collar is an occasion for laughter.
The king said to himself, In consequence of the Lord's causation such a sorrow as that was the
cause of joy.”

3095. Oh, wonderful (that) the same thing from one aspect (is) death and from another aspect a quickening with life and a provision!
The same thing is destructive in relation to one circumstance, while again it is preservative in regard to another.
Bodily joy is perfection in regard to that which is of the present world, (but it is) defect and
failure in regard to the Day of the latter end.
The oneiromancer, too, declares laughter in dreams to be (a presage of) weeping with regrets and griefs,

(While) for weeping in dreams joy and gladness are (presaged) in the interpretation, O gleeful man.

3100. The king pondered, saying, This sorrow, indeed, is past, but my soul has become suspicious (has misgivings and fears) of (being afflicted by) one of the same kind;
And if such a thorn enter my foot (if such a calamity befall me) that the rose departs (that my
son dies), I must needs have a keepsake.”
Since the causes of mortality are infinite, which road, then, shall we bar?
A hundred windows and doors facing towards mordant death are ever creaking as they are opened,
(But) from greed for (worldly) provision the ear of the covetous does not hear the harsh creaking
of those doors of death.

3105. From the side of the body, pains are the noise of the door; and from the side of enemies, maltreatment is the noise of the door.
My dear friend, read for one moment the table of contents of (books on) Medicine; look at the
flaming fire of diseases!
Through all those tumours (maladies) there is a way (for death) into this house: at every two steps there is a pit full of scorpions.
(The king said),The wind is fierce and my lamp is a docked (imperfect) one: I will light another lamp from it,
So that maybe one complete (lamp) will arise from them both, if that one lamp be put out by the wind,”

3110. Like the gnostic who, for the sake of (gaining) freedom from care, has lit the candle of the heart (spirit) from this defective lamp of the body,
In order that, one day when this (bodily lamp) dies of a sudden, he may place before his eye the candle of the spirit.
He (the king) did not understand this; therefore in his heedlessness he applied the perishing candle to another perishable.

How the king brought his son a bride for fear of his race coming to an end.

(The king said to himself), It is necessary, then, to seek a bride for him, that from this marriage offspring may appear,
(So that) if this falcon (my son) return to the state of mortality his young may become a falcon
after (the death of) the falcon,

3115. (And that) if the form of this falcon go from here, his inward meaning may endure in his son.
On account of this, that renowned (spiritual) king, Mustafá (Mohammed), said, ‘The son is the marrow of his father.
For this reason all people, (being moved) by heartfelt love, teach their children (their own)
trades,
To the end that these inward meanings may remain in the world when that body of theirs becomes hidden.
God in His wisdom has given them intense desire for the right guidance of every little one
capable (of learning).

3120. I too, for the purpose of (ensuring) the continuance of my race, will seek for my son a wife of good principles.
I will seek a girl who is the offspring of a righteous man, not the offspring of a stern-visaged king.”

This righteous man is himself a king, he is free, he is not the prisoner of lust and gluttony. They (the people) have given (those) prisoners the title of “king by inversion, just as Káfúr (Camphor) is the name of that negro.
The blood-drinking (deadly) wilderness is named mafáza (place of safety); the vulgar call the leper Níkbakht (Fortunatus).

3125. They have described the prisoner of lust and anger and ambition by the name of Mír or
Sadr-i ajall (most honourable prince).
To those prisoners of Doom (asírán-i ajal) the vulgar in (all) the lands have given the title of
“most honourable Amírs (amírán-i ajall).
They call high-placed (Sadr) him whose soul is (placed) low in the vestibule, that is to say, (worldly) power and riches.
When the king chose (matrimonial) relationship with an ascetic, this news came to the ears of
(his) ladies.

How the king chose the daughter of a poor ascetic for his son and how the ladies of the harem raised objections and disdained the (proposed) alliance with the dervish.

The prince's mother, from deficiency of understanding, said, “According to reason and tradition equality (of rank) is requisite.

3130. You from stinginess and miserliness and shrewdness wishest to ally our son with a beggar.”
He (the king) said, “It is a fault to call the righteous man a beggar, for through the grace of God he is spiritually rich.
He is taking refuge in contentment because of piety, not because of meanness and laziness, like
the beggar.
The penury which arises from contentment and piety is distinct from the poverty and penury of the base.
If that one (the beggar) find a single groat, he bows his head (in homage), while this one (the
righteous man) in his lofty aspiration recoils from a treasure of gold.

3135. The king who from cupidity is betaking himself to everything unlawful the man of noble mind calls him a beggar.”
She (the prince's mother) said, Where are his cities and castles (to furnish) the wedding-outfit, or (where are his means of) scattering gems and pieces of gold?”
He (the king) said, Begone! Whosoever prefers to care for religion, God cuts off from him all remaining cares.
The king prevailed and gave (in marriage) to him (his son) a maiden of goodly nature, belonging to the family of a righteous man.
Verily, she had none to rival her in loveliness: her face was brighter than the sun at morn.

3140. Such was the maiden's beauty; and her qualities were such that, on account of their excellence, they are not (to be) contained in (any) description.
Make religion your prey, that in consequence (as a corollary) there may come (to thee) beauty and riches and power and advantageous fortune.
Know that the next world, in respect of ownership, is (like) files of camels: the present world is
its corollary, like the (camels') hair and dung.
(If) you choose the hair, the camel will not be yours, and if the camel be yours, what value has the hair?
When the marriage (matrimonial alliance) with the family of the uncontentious righteous folk was achieved (successfully arranged) by the king,

3145. By (Divine) destiny a decrepit old witch, who was in love with the handsome and generous prince—
An old woman of Kábul—bewitched him with a sorcery of which the magic of Babylon (itself)
would be envious.
The prince fell in love with the ugly hag, so that he abandoned his bride and the wedding. A black devil and woman of Kábul suddenly waylaid (seduced) the prince.
That stinking ninety years old hag left to the prince neither wisdom nor understanding.

3150. For a (whole) year the prince was captivated: the sole of the hag's shoe was the place where he bestowed his kisses.
Association with the hag was mowing (consuming) him, till through wasting away (only) half a spirit remained (in him).
Others had the headache (were sorely grieved) on account of his weakness, (while) he, from the intoxicating effect of the sorcery, was unconscious of himself.
This world had become (as) a prison to the king, while this son (of his) was laughing at their tears.
The king became exceedingly desperate in the struggle (to save his son): day and night he was offering sacrifice and giving alms (but without avail),

3155. For whatever remedy the father might apply, (the son's) love for the old hag would always increase.
Then it became clear to him that that (infatuation) was absolutely a (Divine) mystery, and that thenceforth his (only) remedy was supplication.
He was prostrating himself in prayer, saying, “It beseems you to command: to whom but God belongeth the command over God's kingdom?
But this poor wretch is burning like aloes-wood: take his hand (help him), O Merciful and Loving
One!”
(So did he pray) until, because of theO Lord! O Lord! and lamentation of the king, a master- magician came from the road into his presence.

How the king's prayer for the deliverance of his son from the witch of Kábul was granted.

3160. He had heard from afar the news that that boy had been captivated by an old woman, A crone who in witchery was unrivalled and secure from likeness and duality.
Hand is above hand, O youth, in skill and in strength up to the Essence of God.
The ultimate end of (all) hands is the Hand of God: the ultimate end of (all) torrents is undoubtedly the sea.
From it the clouds take their origin, and in it too the torrent has an end.

3165. The king said to him, “This boy has passed out of control (has lost his wits). He (the magician) said, Look you, I am come as a potent remedy.
None of these sorcerers is equal to the old woman except me, the sagacious one, who have
arrived from yonder shore.
Lo, by command of the Creator, I, like the hand of Moses, will utterly destroy her sorcery;
For to me this knowledge has come from yonder region, not from having been schooled in the sorcery which is held cheap (by the wise).
I am come to undo her sorcery, so that the prince may not remain pale-faced.

3170. Go to the graveyard at the hour of the meal taken before dawn: beside the wall is a whitened tomb.
Dig up that place in the direction of the qibla, that you mayst behold the power and the working of God.”

This story is very long, and you (O reader) are weary: I will relate the cream (of it), I dismiss what is superfluous.
He (the magician) untied those heavy knots: then he gave to the king's son a way (of escape)
from the affliction.
The boy came to himself and with a hundred tribulations went running towards the throne of the king.

3175. He made prostration and was beating his chin on the earth: the boy held in his arms a sword and winding-sheet.
The king ordered the city to be decorated, and the citizens and the despairing disappointed bride rejoiced.
The (whole) world revived once more and was filled with radiance: (the people said),Oh, what
a wondrous difference between that day (of sorrow) and to-day!”
The king made such a (lavish) wedding-feast for him that sugared julep was (placed) before the dogs.
The old witch died of vexation and gave up her hideous face and (foul) nature to Málik.

3180. The prince was left in amazement: (he said to himself), How did she rob me of understanding and insight?
He beheld a newly wedded bride like the beauteous moon, who was (as a brigand) infesting the road of beauty (and occupying it) against (all) the (other) fair ones.
He became senseless and fell on his face: for three days the heart (consciousness) vanished from his body.
Three days and nights he became unconscious of himself, so that the people were (sorely)
perturbed by his swoon.
By means of rose-water and (other) remedies he came to himself (again): little by little, good and evil were apprehended by him (once more).

3185. After a year the king said to him jokingly in conversation,O son, bethink you of that old friend (of yours),
Bethink you of that bedfellow and that bed: do not be so faithless and harsh!
“Go to! said he;I have found the abode of joy, I am delivered from the pit of the abode of delusion.”
It is even so: when the true believer has found the way towards the Light of God, he averts his face from the darkness (of this world).

Explaining that the prince is Man, the vicegerent of God, and that his father is Adam, the chosen one, the vicegerent of God, he to whom the angels bowed in worship; and that the old hag of bul is the World which separated Man from his Father by sorcery, while the prophets and saints are (like) the physician who applied the remedy.

O brother, know that you art the prince born anew in the old world.

3190. The witch of Kábul is this World which made men captive to colour and perfume.
Since she has cast you into this polluted stream, continually recite and utter (the words), Say, I
take refuge.
In order that you mayst be delivered from this witchery and this distress, beg of the Lord of the daybreak that you mayst say “I take refuge.”
The Prophet called this world of yours an enchantress because through her spells she lodged
mankind in the pit.
Beware! The stinking hag has hot (potent) spells: her hot breath has made kings captive.

3195. She is the witches who blow (on knots) within (your) breast: she is the (means of)
maintaining the knots of sorcery.
The sorceress, (who is) the World, is a mightily cunning woman: it is not in the power of the vulgar to undo her sorcery;
And if (men's) understandings could loose her knot, how should God have sent the prophets? Hark, seek one whose breath is pure, a looser of knots, one who knows the mystery of God doeth whatso He willeth.
She (the World) has imprisoned you, like a fish, in her net: the prince remained (there) one year, and you sixty.

3200. From (being enmeshed in) her net you art in tribulation sixty years: neither art you happy nor (dost you walk) in the way of the Sunna.
You art a miserable unrighteous man: neither is your worldly life good (happy) nor art you delivered from guilt and sins.
Her (the World's) breathing has made these knots tight: seek, then, the breathing of the unique
Creator,
In order that I breathed of My spirit into him may deliver you from this (sorcery) and say (to thee), “Come higher!
The breathing of sorcery is not consumed save by the breathing of God: this (the former) is the
breathing of (Divine) wrath, (while) that (the latter) exhalation is the breathing of (Divine) love.

3205. His mercy is prior to His wrath: (if) you desirest priority (in spiritual rank), go, seek that (attribute) which is prior,
That you mayst attain unto the souls that are wedded; for lo, this, O ensorcelled prince, is your way of escape.
With the existence of the old woman, there can be no undoing (of the knots), (whilst you art) in
the net and in the arms of that (paramour) full of blandishments.
Hath not the Lamp of the peoples called this world and that world the two fellow-wives (who are always quarrelling with each other)?
Therefore union with this (world) is separation from that (world): the health of this body is the
sickness of the spirit.

3210. Hard is the separation from this transitory abode: know, then, that the separation from that permanent abode is harder
Since it is hard for you to be separated from the form, how hard must it be to be parted from its
Maker!
O you that have not the patience to do without the vile world, how, O friend, how have you the patience to do without God?
Since you have not the patience to do without this black water, how have you the patience to do without God's (pure) fountain?
Since you art restless without this (worldly) drink, how art you (remaining patiently) apart from
the righteous and from they shall drink (of the wine of Paradise)?

3215. If for one moment you behold the beauty of the Loving One and cast your soul and existence into the fire (of love),
After that you wilt regard this (worldly) drink as a carcase, when you beholdest the glory and splendour of nighness (unto Him).
Like the prince, you wilt attain unto your Beloved; then you wilt draw out from your foot the thorn of self.
Strive for selflessness, find your (true) self as soon as possibleand God best knoweth the right
course.
Take heed, never be wedded to self: do not, like an ass, be always falling into water and mud.

3220. That stumbling arises from shortsightedness; for like a blind man, he (such a one) does not see the ups and downs.
Make the scent of Joseph's shirt your stay, because his scent makes the eye clear.
The hidden Form and the Light of that Brow have made the eyes of the prophets far-seeing. The Light of that Countenance will deliver (you) from the fire: hark, be not content with borrowed light.
This (borrowed) light makes the eye to see that which is transient: it makes body and mind and spirit to be scabby (diseased).

3225. It has the appearance of light, but in reality it is fire: keep your hands off it, if you desire the (true) radiance.
The eye and spirit that sees (only) the transient falls on its face continually wherever it goes.
A far-seeing man who lacks knowledge may see far, just as (one has) far sight in dreams. You are asleep with parched lips on the bank of the river, and (in your dream) are running in search of water towards the mirage.
You see the mirage far away and run (towards it): you become in love with your own sight.

3230. In the dream you boast to your friends, saying, I am the one whose heart possesses vision, and (I am) the one that rends the veil.
Lo, I see water yonder: hark, make haste that we may go there”—and it is (only) the mirage. At every step you hurry farther away from the water, whilst you keep running on towards the perilous mirage.
Your very setting-out has become the barrier (which prevents you) from (seeing) this that has
come close to you.
Oh, many a one sets out to some place from the spot where the object of his quest is (to be found).

3235. The (far) sight and boasting of the sleeper is of no avail; it is naught but a phantasy:
hold aloof from it.
You art sleepy, but anyhow sleep on the Way: for God's sake, for God's sake, sleep on the Way of God,
That perchance a Traveller (on the Way) may attach himself to you and tear you from the
phantasies of slumber.
(Even) if the sleeper's thought become (subtle) as a hair, he will not find the way to the Abode by that subtlety.
Whether the sleeper's thought is twofold or threefold, still it is error on error on error.

3240. The waves are beating upon him without restraint, (whilst) he asleep is running in the long wilderness.
The sleeper dreams of the sore pangs of thirst, (whilst) the water is nearer unto him than the
neck-vein.

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