Search Poetry

(Masnavi Book 3: 45) The Hares and the Elephant

Story of the hares who sent a hare as ambassador to the elephant, bidding him say, ‘I come to you as the ambassador of the Moon in heaven to bid you beware of (drinking from) this water-spring, as is told in full in the Book of Kala (and Dimna).

This (claim made by you) resembles the saying of a certain hare—‘I am the ambassador of the
Moon and companion to the Moon.’
For all the beasts of chase were in woe on account of a herd of elephants (dwelling) beside that limpid spring;

2740. All were deprived (of water) and (were kept) far from the spring by dread: since (their)
strength was inferior, they made a plot.
From the mountain-top the old hare cried towards the elephants on the first night of the new- moon
‘Come on the fourteenth, O king elephant, that you mayst find within the spring the proof of this
O king elephant, I am the ambassador in your presence. Stop! Ambassadors are not subjected to imprisonment and violence and wrath.
The Moon says,O elephants, depart! The spring is mine, turn aside from it;

2745. And if (ye depart) not, I will make you blind. I have declared the wrong (which ye are doing) and have thrown off my neck (all responsibility for what will happen if ye trespass farther).
Take leave of this spring and depart, that ye may be safe from the blows of the Moon's sword.” Lo, the token (of my veracity) is that the Moon (reflected) in the spring will be disturbed by the
water-craving elephant.
Come and be present on the such-and-such a night, O king elephant, in order that within the spring you mayst find the proof of this (assertion).
When seven and eight (fifteen nights) of the month had passed, the king elephant came to drink from the spring.

2750. When on that night the elephant put his trunk in the water, the water was disturbed, and the Moon showed disturbance.

The elephant believed that speech of his (the hare's), when the Moon in the spring showed disturbance.
O company (of prophets), we are not (to be reckoned) among those stupid elephants who are terrified by the disturbance of the Moon.
The prophets said, “Ah, (our) spiritual admonition has (only) made your (carnal) bondage more grievous, O ye fools!

How the prophets answered their sneers and uttered parables unto them.

Oh, alas that in (the case of) your disease the remedy has become for you the poison of soul- wringing (Divine) vengeance.

2755. This lamp (of spiritual admonition) has increased the darkness of that (diseased) eye, since God has set (over it) the veil of wrath.
What dominion shall we crave from you? for our dominion is greater than the sky.”
What glory should the sea of pearls acquire from the ship especially a ship that has been filled with dung?
Oh, alas for that eye blind and blear! Therein a sun seemed as (insignificant as) a mote.
In an Adam who was without like or equal the eye of Iblís discerned naught but a piece of clay.

2760. The devilish eye showed (saw) his (Adam's) spring as winter: it moved in the direction where its (original) home was.
Oh, many a fortune that comes now and then to the unfortunate one, and he turns away (from
Oh, many a beloved who comes unbeknown to an ill-starred one, and he knows not how to make love!
This that misleads the eye is our (original) damnation, and this that turns the heart (from seeing the truth) is (our) evil destiny.
Since to you the idol of stone has become an object of adoration, the curse (of God) and blindness have oershadowed you.

2765. When your stone is a fitting partner for God, how are not intellect and spirit fitting confidants of God?
The dead gnat has become the consort of the humá: how (then) is the living one not fit to be the confidant of the King?
Or, maybe, (it is because) the dead one is fashioned by you, (whereas) the living gnat is
fashioned by God.
Ye are in love with yourselves and the thing manufactured by yourselves: to serpents' tails the serpent's head is a law.
In that tail there is no fortune or happiness; in that head there is no pleasure or delight.

2770. That serpent's tail is circling around the head: both those friends are fit and suited (to each other).
So says the Sage of Ghazna in the Iláhí-náma, if you wilt hearken well—
“Do not behave as a (presumptuous) meddler in the decree of (Divine) fore-ordainment: the ass's shape is suited to the ass's ear.”
Limbs and bodies are congruous; qualities are congruous with souls.
Unquestionably the quality of every soul has congruity with the soul; for God fashions it

2775. Inasmuch as He has joined the quality to the soul, know that it (the quality) is congruous, like eyes and face.

The (good and evil) qualities are congruous in the good and evil (souls): congruous are the letters that God has written.
The eye and the heart are between two fingers like a pen in the hand of the writer, O Husayn. (These) are the fingers of Grace and Wrath, and between them the pen, the heart, is in a state of distress or ease (caused) by these fingers.
O pen, if you art one that (duly) magnifies (God), consider whose two fingers you art between.

2780. All your volition and movement are (controlled) by this finger: your head (point) is on the crossways of the assembly-place.
These letters (symbolising) your (diverse) states are of His inditing: your forming a purpose and changing it is just from His forming a purpose and changing it.
There is no way but supplication and self-abasement: not every pen is conscious of this
subjection to (Divine) control.
The pen knows this (control), but (only) according to its (fore-ordained) measure: it manifests its measure (of knowledge) in good and evil (actions).
(As regards) that (apologue) which they attached to the hare and the elephant, so that they
confused (the dispensation of) eternity with (mere) tricks,

[Explaining that it is not seemly for every one to adduce parables, especially concerning
Divine actions.]

2785. How is it seemly for you to make these similitudes and cast them at (apply them to)
that holy Court?
That use of similitudes belongs to the Lord, for He is the (sole) authority for the knowledge of the hidden and the manifest.
What do you know of the hidden nature of anything, that thou, baldpate, shouldst use a lock of hair or a cheek as similitudes?
A Moses deemed that (wood) a rod, but it was not (a rod): it was a dragon: its hidden nature was opening its lips (revealing itself).
Inasmuch as such a (spiritual) king knows not the hidden nature of wood, how shouldst you know the hidden nature of this snare and bait?

2790. Since the eye of Moses was at fault in the similitude, how should a meddling mouse find an entrance (to perception of the truth)?
He (God) will make that comparison of yours a dragon, that in answer it may tear you to pieces.
The accursed Iblís used this (kind of) comparison, so that he fell under God's curse till the Day of
Qárún (Korah) from contumacy used this (kind of) comparison, so that he sank down into the earth with his throne and diadem.
Know that this comparison of yours is like crows and owls by which a hundred households are laid low.

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