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(Masnavi Book 1: 02) The King and the Handmaiden

The story of the king's falling in love with a handmaiden and buying her.

35. O my friends, hearken to this tale: in truth it is the very marrow of our inward state.
In olden time there was a king to whom belonged the power temporal and also the power spiritual.
It chanced that one day he rode with his courtiers to the chase.
On the king's highway the king espied a handmaiden: the soul of the king was enthralled by her.
Forasmuch as the bird, his soul, was fluttering in its cage, he gave money and bought the handmaiden.

40. After he had bought her and won to his desire, by Divine destiny she sickened.
A certain man had an ass but no pack-saddle: (as soon as) he got a saddle, the wolf carried away his ass.
He had a pitcher, but no water could be obtained: when he found water, the pitcher broke.
The king gathered the physicians together from left and right and said to them, “The life of us both is in your
My life is of no account, (but) she is the life of my life. I am in pain and wounded: she is my remedy.

45. Whoever heals her that is my life will bear away with him my treasure and pearls, large and small.”
They all answered him, saying, “We will hazard our lives and summon all our intelligence and put it into the
common stock.
Each one of us is the Messiah of a world (of people): in our hands is a medicine for every pain.”
In their arrogance they did not say, “If God will”; therefore God showed unto them the weakness of Man.
I mean (a case in which) omission of the saving clause is (due to) a hardness of heart; not the mere saying of
these words, for that is a superficial circumstance.

50. How many a one has not pronounced the saving clause, and yet his soul is in harmony with the soul of it!
The more cures and remedies they applied, the more did the illness increase, and the need was not fulfilled.
The sick girl became (thin) as a hair, (while) the eyes of the king flowed with tears of blood, like a river.
By Divine destiny, oxymel produced bile, and oil of almonds was increasing the dryness.
From (giving) myrobalan constipation resulted, relaxation ceased; and water fed the flames, like naphtha.
How it became manifest to the king that the physicians were unable to cure the
handmaiden, and how he turned his face towards God and dreamed of a holy man.

55. When the king saw the powerlessness of those physicians, he ran bare-footed to the mosque.
He entered the mosque and advanced to the mihráb (to pray): the prayer-carpet was bathed in the king's tears.
On coming to himself out of the flood of ecstasy (faná) he opened his lips in goodly praise and laud,
Saying, “O Thou whose least gift is the empire of the world, what shall I say, in as much as Thou knowest the
hidden thing?
O Thou with whom we always take refuge in our need, once again we have missed the way.

60. But Thou hast said, ‘Albeit I know thy secret, nevertheless declare it forthwith in thine outward act.’”
When from the depths of his soul he raised a cry (of supplication), the sea of Bounty began to surge.
Slumber overtook him in the midst of weeping: he dreamed that an old man appeared
And said, “Good tidings, O king! Thy prayers are granted. If to-morrow a stranger come for thee, he is from
When he comes, he is the skilled physician: deem him veracious, for he is trusty and true.

65. In his remedy behold absolute magic, in his temperament behold the might of God!”
When the promised hour arrived and day broke and the sun, (rising) from the east, began to burn the stars,
The king was in the belvedere, expecting to see that which had been shown mysteriously.
He saw a person excellent and worshipful, a sun amidst a shadow,
Coming from afar, like the new moon (in slenderness and radiance): he was nonexistent, though existent in the form of phantasy.

70. In the spirit phantasy is as naught, (yet) behold a world (turning) on a phantasy!
Their peace and their war (turn) on a phantasy, and their pride and their shame spring from a phantasy;
(But) those phantasies which ensnare the saints are the reflexion of the fair ones of the garden of God.
In the countenance of the stranger-guest was appearing that phantasy which the king beheld in his dream.
The king himself, instead of the chamberlains, went forward to meet his guest from the Invisible.

75. Both were seamen who had learned to swim, the souls of both were knit together without sewing.
The king said, “Thou wert my Beloved (in reality), not she; but in this world deed issues from deed.
O thou who art to me (as) Mustafá (Mohammed), while I am like unto ‘Umar—I will gird my loins to do thee
Beseeching the Lord, who is our Helper, to help us to observe self-control in all
circumstances, and explaining the harmful and pernicious consequences of
Let us implore God to help us to self-control: one who lacks self-control is deprived of the grace of the Lord.

80. The undisciplined man does not maltreat himself alone, but he sets the whole world on fire.
A table (of food) was coming down from heaven without headache (trouble) and without selling and buying,
(When) some of the people of Moses cried disrespectfully, “Where is garlic and lentils?”
(Straightway) the heavenly bread and dishes (of food) were cut off: there remained (for all of them) the toil of sowing and
(labouring with) mattock and scythe.
Again, when Jesus made intercession, God sent food and bounty (from heaven) on trays,
But once more the insolent fellows omitted to show respect and, like beggars, snatched away the viands.

85. (Although) Jesus entreated them, saying, “This is lasting and will not fail from off the earth.”
To show suspicion and greed at the table of Majesty is ingratitude.
Because of those impudent wretches who were blinded by greed, that gate of mercy was closed upon them.
On account of withholding the poor-tax no rain-clouds arise, and in consequence of fornication the plague spreads in all
Whatever befalls thee of gloom and sorrow is the result of irreverence and insolence withal.

90. Any one behaving with irreverence in the path of the Friend is a brigand who robs men, and he is no man.
Through discipline this Heaven has been filled with light, and through discipline the angels became immaculate and holy.
By reason of irreverence the sun was eclipsed, and insolence caused an ‘Azázíl to be turned back from the door.
The meeting of the king with the divine physician whose coming had been announced to
him in a dream.
He (the king) opened his hands and clasped him to his breast and received him, like love, into his heart and soul,
And began to kiss his hand and brow and inquire concerning his home and journey.

95. (So) with many a question he led him to the dais. “At last,” said he, “I have found a treasure by being patient.”
He said (also), “O gift from God and defence against trouble, (O thou who art) the meaning of ‘Patience is the key of joy’!
O thou whose countenance is the answer to every question, by thee hard knots are loosed without discussion.
Thou interpretest all that is in our hearts, thou givest a helping hand to every one whose foot is in the mire.
Welcome, O chosen one, O approved one! If thou vanish, Destiny will come (upon us) and the wide room will be straitened.

100. Thou art the protector of the people. He that desires (thee) not hath gone to perdition. Nay, verily, if he do not refrain…!”
When that meeting and bounteous (spiritual) repast was over, he took his hand and conducted him to the harem.
How the king led the physician to the bedside of the sick girl, that he might see her condition.
He rehearsed the tale of the invalid and her illness, and then seated him beside the sick (girl).
The physician observed the colour of her face, (felt) her pulse, and (inspected) her urine; he heard both the symptoms and the (secondary) causes of her malady.
He said, “None of the remedies which they have applied builds up (health): they (the false physicians) have wrought

105. They were ignorant of the inward state. I seek refuge with God from that which they invent.”
He saw the pain, and the secret became open to him, but he concealed it and did not tell the king.
Her pain was not from black or yellow bile: the smell of every firewood appears from the smoke.
From her sore grief he perceived that she was heart-sore; well in body, but stricken in heart.
Being in love is made manifest by soreness of heart: there is no sickness like heartsickness.

110. The lover's ailment is separate from all other ailments: love is the astrolabe of the mysteries of God.
Whether love be from this (earthly) side or from that (heavenly) side, in the end it leads us yonder.
Whatsoever I say in exposition and explanation of Love, when I come to Love (itself) I am ashamed of that (explanation).
Although the commentary of the tongue makes (all) clear, yet tongueless love is clearer.
Whilst the pen was making haste in writing, it split upon itself as soon as it came to Love.

115. In expounding it (Love), the intellect lay down (helplessly) like an ass in the mire: it was Love (alone) that uttered the explanation of love and loverhood.
The proof of the sun is the sun (himself): if thou require the proof, do not avert thy face from him!
If the shadow gives an indication of him, the sun (himself) gives spiritual light every moment.
The shadow, like chat in the night-hours, brings sleep to thee; when the sun rises the moon is cloven asunder.
There is nothing in the world so wondrous strange as the sun, (but) the Sun of the spirit is everlasting: it hath no yesterday.

120. Although the external sun is unique, still it is possible to imagine one resembling it;
The spiritual Sun, which is beyond the aether, hath no peer in the mind or externally.
Where is room in the imagination for His essence, that the like of Him should come into the imagination?
When news arrived of the face of Shamsu’ddín (the Sun of the Religion), the sun of the fourth heaven drew in its head (hid itself for shame).
Since his name has come (to my lips), it behoves me to set forth some hint of his bounty.

125. At this moment my Soul has plucked my skirt: he has caught the perfume of Joseph's vest.
(He said): “For the sake of our years of companionship, recount one of those sweet ecstasies,
That earth and heaven may laugh (with joy), that intellect and spirit and eye may increase a hundredfold.”
(I said): “Do not lay tasks on me, for I have passed away from myself (faná); my apprehensions are blunted and I know not how to praise.
Everything that is said by one who has not returned to consciousness, if he constrains himself or boastfully exaggerates, is unseemly.

130. How should I—not a vein of mine is sensible—describe that Friend who hath no peer?
The description of this severance and this heart's blood do thou at present leave over till another time.”
He said: “Feed me, for I am hungry, and make haste, for Time is a cutting sword.
The Súfí is the son of the (present) time, O comrade: it is not the rule of the Way to say ‘To-morrow.’
Art not thou indeed a Súfí, then? That which is (in hand) is reduced to naught by postponing the payment.”

135. I said to him: “It is better that the secret of the Friend should be disguised: do thou hearken (to it as implied) in the contents of the tale.
It is better that the lovers' secret should be told in the talk of others.”
He said: “Tell it forth openly and nakedly and without unfaithfulness: do not put me off, O trifler!
Lift the veil and speak nakedly, for I do not wear a shirt when I sleep with the Adored One.”
I said: “If He should become naked in (thy) vision, neither wilt thou remain nor thy bosom nor thy waist.

140. Ask thy wish, but ask with measure: a blade of straw will not support the mountain.
If the Sun, by whom this world is illumined, should approach a little (nearer), all will be burned.
Do not seek trouble and turmoil and bloodshed: say no more concerning the Sun of Tabriz!”
This (mystery) hath no end: tell of the beginning. Go, relate the conclusion of this tale.
How that saint demanded of the king to be alone with the handmaiden for the purpose of discovering her malady.
He said: “O king, make the house empty; send away both kinsfolk and strangers.

145. Let no one listen in the entrance-halls, that I may ask certain things of this handmaiden.”
The house was left empty, and not one inhabitant (remained): nobody save the physician and that sick girl.
Very gently he said (to her), “Where is thy native town? for the treatment suitable to the people of each town is separate.
And in that town who is related to thee? With what hast thou kinship and affinity?”
He laid his hand on her pulse and put questions, one by one, about the injustice of Heaven.

150. When a thorn darts into any one's foot, he sets his foot upon his knee,
And keeps searching for its head with the point of a needle, and if he does not find it, he keeps moistening it (the place) with his lip.
A thorn in the foot is so hard to find: how (then) is it with a thorn in the heart? Answer (that)!
If every base fellow had seen the thorn in the heart, when would sorrows gain the upper hand over any one?
Somebody sticks a thorn under a donkey's tail: the donkey does not know how to get rid of it: he starts jumping.

155. He jumps, and the thorn strikes more firmly (pierces deeper): it needs an intelligent person to extract a thorn.
In order to get rid of the thorn, the donkey from irritation and pain went on kicking and dealing blows in a hundred places,
(But) that thorn-removing physician was an expert: putting his hand on one spot after another, he tested (it).
He inquired of the girl concerning her friends, by way of narrative,
And she disclosed to the physician (many) circumstances touching her home and (former) masters and fellow-townsmen.

160. He listened to her story (while) he continued to observe her pulse and its beating,
So that at whosoever's name her pulse should begin to throb, (he might know that) that person is the object of her soul's desire in the world.
He counted up the friends in her native town; then he mentioned another town by name.
He said: “When you went forth from your own town, in which town did you live mostly?”
She mentioned the name of a certain town and from that too she passed on (to speak of another, and meanwhile) there was no change in the colour of her face or in her pulse.

165. Masters and towns, one by one, she told of, and about dwelling-place and bread and salt.
She told stories of many a town and many a house, (and still) no vein of her quivered nor did her cheek grow pale.
Her pulse remained in its normal state, unimpaired, till he asked about Samarcand, the (city) sweet as candy.
(Thereat) her pulse jumped and her face went red and pale (by turns), for she had been parted from a man of Samarcand, a goldsmith.
When the physician found out this secret from the sick (girl), he discerned the source of that grief and woe.

170. He said: “Which is his quarter in passing (through the town)?” “Sar-i Pul (Bridgehead),” she replied, “and Ghátafar street.”
Said he: “I know what your illness is and I will at once display the arts of magic in delivering you.
Be glad and care-free and have no fear, for I will do to you that which rain does to the meadow.
I will be anxious for you, be not you anxious: I am kinder to you than a hundred fathers.
Beware! tell not this secret to any one, not though the king should make much inquiry from you.

175. When your heart becomes the grave of your secret, that desire of yours will be gained more quickly.”
The Prophet said that any one who hides his inmost thought will soon attain to the object of his desire.
When seeds are hidden in the earth, their inward secret becomes the verdure of the garden.
If gold and silver were not hidden, how would they get nourishment (grow and ripen) in the mine?
The promises and soothing words of the physician made the sick (girl) safe (free) from fear.

180. There are true promises, grateful to the heart; there are false promises, fraught with disquietude.
The promise of the noble is current (sterling) coin; the promise of the unworthy becomes anguish of soul.
How the saint, having discovered the (cause of) the illness, laid it before the king.
Then he arose and went to see the king and acquainted him with a portion of that matter.
“The (best) plan,” said he, “is that we should bring the man here for the sake of (curing) this malady.
Summon the goldsmith from that far country; beguile him with gold and robes of honour.”

185. The king sent thither one or two messengers, clever men and competent and very just.
How the king sent messengers to Samarcand to fetch the goldsmith.
To Samarcand came the two messengers for the goldsmith debonair and wanton,
Saying, “O fine master, perfect in knowledge, thou whose quality (of perfection in thy craft) is famous in (all) the lands,
Lo, such-and-such a king hath chosen thee for (thy skill in) the goldsmith's craft, because thou art eminent.
Look now, receive this robe of honour and gold and silver; when thou comest (to the king), thou wilt be a favourite and booncompanion.”

190. The man saw the much wealth and the many robes: he was beguiled, he parted from his town and children.
Blithely the man came into the road, unaware that the king had formed a design against his life.
He mounted an Arab horse and sped on joyously: (what really was) the price of his blood he deemed a robe of honour.
O (fool), who with a hundred consents thyself with thine own foot didst enter on the journey to the fated ill!
In his fancy (were dreams of) riches, power, and lordship. Said ‘Azrá‘íl (the Angel of Death), “Go (thy way). Yes, thou wilt get (them)!”

195. When the stranger arrived (and turned) from the road, the physician brought him into the presence of the king.
Proudly and delicately they conducted him to the king of kings, that he might burn (like a moth) on that candle of Tiráz.
The king beheld him, showed great regard (for him), and entrusted to him the treasure house (full) of gold.
Then the physician said to him: “O mighty Sultan, give the handmaiden to this lord,
In order that the handmaiden may be happy in union with him, and that the water of union with him may put out the fire (of passion).”

200. The king bestowed on him that moon-faced one and wedded those twain (who were) craving (each other's) company.
During the space of six months they were satisfying their desire, till the girl was wholly restored to health.
Thereafter he prepared for him a potion, so that when he drank it he began to dwindle away before her.
When because of sickness his beauty remained not, the soul of the girl remained not in his pestilence (deadly toils).
Since he became ugly and ill-favoured and sallow-cheeked, little by little he became cold (irksome and unpleasing) in her heart.

205. Those loves which are for the sake of a colour (outward beauty) are not love: in the end they are a disgrace.
Would that he too had been disgrace (deformity) altogether, so that that evil judgement might not have come to pass upon him!
Blood ran from his eye (that flowed with tears) like a river; his (handsome) face became the enemy of his life.
The peacock's plumage is its enemy: O many the king who hath been slain by his magnificence!
He said, “I am the muskdeer on account of whose gland that hunter shed my pure (innocent) blood.

210. Oh, I am the fox of the field whose head they (the hunters springing forth) from the covert cut off for the sake of the fur.
Oh, I am the elephant whose blood was shed by the blow of the mahout for the sake of the bone (ivory).
He who hath slain me for that which is other than I, does not he know that my blood sleepeth not (will not rest unavenged)?
To-day it lies on me and to-morrow it lies on him: when does the blood of one such as I am go to waste like this?
Although the wall casts a long shadow, (yet at last) the shadow turns back again towards it.

215. This world is the mountain, and our action the shout: the echo of the shouts comes (back) to us.”
He said this and at the (same) moment went under the earth (gave up the ghost). The handmaiden was purged of pain and love,
Because love of the dead is not enduring, because the dead one is never coming (back) to us;
(But) love of the living is every moment fresher than a bud in the spirit and in the sight.
Choose the love of that Living One who is everlasting, who gives thee to drink of the wine that increases life.

220. Choose the love of Him from whose love all the prophets gained power and glory.
Do not say, “We have no admission to that King.” Dealings with the generous are not difficult.
Setting forth how the slaying and poisoning of the goldsmith was (prompted) by Divine
suggestion, not by sensual desire and wicked meditation.
The slaying of this man by the hand of the physician was not (done) on account of hope or fear.
He did not slay him to humour the king, (he did not slay him) until the Divine command and inspiration came.
As for the boy whose throat was cut by Khadir, the vulgar do not comprehend the mystery thereof.

225. He that receives from God inspiration and answer (to his prayer), whatsoever he may command is the essence of right.
If one who bestows (spiritual) life should slay, it is allowable: he is the (Divine) vicegerent, and his hand is the hand of God.
Like Ismá‘íl (Ishmael), lay your head before him; gladly and laughingly give up your soul before his dagger,
In order that your soul may remain laughing unto eternity, like the pure soul of Ahmad (Mohammed) with the One (God).
Lovers drain the cup of joy at the moment when the fair ones slay them with their own hand.

230. The king did not commit that bloodshed because of lust: cease from thinking evil and disputing.
You thought that he committed a foul crime, (but) in (the state of) purity how should the sublimation leave (any) alloy
The purpose of this (severe) discipline and this rough treatment is that the furnace may extract the dross from the silver.
The testing of good and bad is in order that the gold may boil and bring the scum to the top.
If his act were not the inspiration of God, he would have been a dog that rends (its prey), not a king.

235. He was unstained by lust and covetousness and passion: (what) he did (was) good, but good that wore the aspect of evil.
If Khadir stove the boat in the sea, (yet) in Khadir's staving there are a hundred rightnesses.
The imagination of Moses, notwithstanding his (spiritual) illumination and excellence, was screened from (the comprehension
of) that (act of Khadir). Do not thou fly without wings!
That (deed of the king) is a red rose (worthy of praise); do not call it blood (murder). He is intoxicated with Reason; do not call him a madman.
Had it been his desire to shed the blood of a Moslem, I am an infidel if I would have mentioned his name (with praise).

240. The highest heaven trembles at praise of the wicked, and by praise of him the devout man is moved to think evil.
He was a king and a very heedful king; he was elect and the elect (favourite) of God.
One who is slain by a king like this, he (the king) leads him to fortune and to the best (most honourable) estate.
Unless he (the king) had seen advantage to him (the goldsmith) in doing violence to him, how should that absolute Mercy have
sought to do violence?
The child trembles at the barber's scalpel (but) the fond mother is happy in that pain (of her child).

245. He takes half a life and gives a hundred lives (in exchange): he gives that which enters not into your imagination.
You are judging (his actions) from (the analogy of) yourself, but you have fallen far, far (away from the truth). Consider well!


Unknown said...

No words to prais.. not able for this even

Anonymous said...

thanks for uploading this.

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