Masnavi 28

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY II. The Fowler and the Bird.
A fowler went out to catch birds, and disguised himself by wrapping his head up
in leaves and grass, so as to avoid frightening the birds away from his snare.
A bird of some sagacity came near him, and suspected something wrong, but
foolishly lingered near, and began to question him as to his business. The
fowler said he was a hermit who had retired from the world and dressed himself
in weeds for the health of his soul. The bird said he was surprised to see a
Mosalman doing this in contravention of the Prophet's precept, "There is
no monkery in Islam," and his repeated declarations that Islam involves
association with the faithful and avoidance of a solitary life. The fowler
replied that a solitary life was allowed in heathen countries for the soul's
health. 1 The bird then asked what the grains of wheat were that were
strewed on the trap. The fowler replied that they were the property of an
orphan, which had been deposited with him in consequence of his known probity.
The bird then asked permission to eat some, as he was very hungry, and the
fowler, with much pretended reluctance, allowed him to do so. The moment he
touched the grain the trap closed upon him, and he found himself a prisoner. He
then abused the fowler for his trickery, but the fowler said he had only
himself to blame for his greediness in eating the food which belonged to an
orphan. The moral is, that it is not destiny which leads people into
afflictions, but their own errors and vices.
The bird's cries to God for aid.
When he had eaten the grain he was caught in the trap,
And began to recite the chapters "Yasin" and "An'am."
Then he began to wail and cry loudly,
So that the very fowler and his trap shook with grief.
He said, "My back is broken by the conflict of my thoughts;
O Beloved One, come and stroke my head in mercy!
The palm of Thy hand on my head gives me rest,
Thy hand is a sign of Thy bounteous providence.
Remove not Thy shadow from my head,
I am afflicted, afflicted, afflicted!
Sleep has deserted my eyes
Through my longing for Thee, O Envy of cypresses!
Though I be unworthy of Thy favor, how were it
If thou shouldst regard the grieves of unworthy me?
What claim of right can a non-existent thing make
To have the doors of Thy bounty opened to it?
Yet Thy bounty had regard to my senseless dust
And endued it with the ten jewels of the senses
Five external senses and five internal senses,
Whereby inanimate seed became a living man.
O Light on high! what is repentance without Thy grace
But a mere mockery of the beard of repentance;
Thou rootest up the hairs of such repentance,
Repentance is the shadow, Thou the shining Moon.
Alas! Thou hast ruined my house and home;
How can I cease wailing while Thou oppressest me?
How can I flee away when there is no living away?
Without Thy sustaining lordship there is no slave.
O take my life, Thou that art the source of life!
For apart from Thee I am wearied of my life.
I am a lover well versed in lovers' madness,
I am weary of learning and sense.
Since my bashfulness is destroyed, I will publish secrets;
How long must I bear this trepidation and anxiety?
Formerly I was covered by modesty as by a veil,
Now I will leap from it under Thy coverlet!
O comrades, our Beloved has closed up all paths;
We are as lame deer, and He as a raging lion.
Say what remedy is there but resignation 2
When one is fallen into the hands of the raging lion?"
The poet then passes on to the subject of the need for constant watchfulness,
in order to avoid the snares of the world, and not to miss the divine blessing
whenever it may appear. There is a tradition, "When half the night has
passed Allah will descend to earth, and cry, 'Ho, ye that ask, it shall be
answered to you; and ye that crave pardon, it shall be pardoned to you; and ye
that petition, your petitions shall be granted.'" But all who sleep the
sleep of negligence will miss the promised blessing. This is illustrated by the
story of a lover who obtained an assignation with his mistress, but when she
came, was found asleep, and was accordingly rejected.