STORY VIII. The Harper.
In the time of the Khalifa 'Omar there lived a harper, whose voice was as sweet
as that of the angel Israfil, and who was in great request at all feasts. But
he grew old, and his voice broke, and no one would employ him any longer. In
despair he went to the burial-ground of
Yathrub, and there played his harp to God, looking to Him for recompense.
Having finished his melody he fell asleep, and dreamed he was in heaven. The
same night a divine voice came to 'Omar, directing him to go to the
burial-ground, and relieve an old man whom he should find there. 'Omar
proceeded to the place, found the harper, and gave him money, promising him
more when he should need it. The harper cast away his harp, saying that it had
diverted him from God, and expressed great contrition for his past sins. 'Omar
then instructed him that his worldly journey was now over, and that he must not
give way to contrition for the past, as he was now entered into the state of
ecstasy and intoxication of union with God, and in this exalted state regard to
past and future should be swept away. The harper acted on his instructions, and
sang no more.
Apology for applying the term "Bride" to God.
Mustafa became beside himself at that sweet call,
His prayer failed on "the night of the early morning halt."
He lifted not head from that blissful sleep," 1
So that his morning prayer was put off till noon.
On that, his wedding night, in presence of his bride,
His pure soul attained to kiss her hands.
Love and mistress are both veiled and hidden,
Impute it not as a fault if I call Him "Bride."
I would have kept silence from fear of my Beloved,
If He had granted me but a moment's respite.
But He said, "Speak on, 'tis no fault,
'Tis naught but the necessary result of the hidden decree,
'Tis a fault only to him who only sees faults.
How can the Pure Hidden Spirit notice faults?"
Faults seem so to ignorant creatures,
Not in the sight of the Lord of Benignity.
Blasphemy even may be wisdom in the Creator's si ht,
Whereas from our point of view it is grievous sin.
If one fault occur among a hundred beauties
'Tis as one dry stick in a garden of green herbs.
Both weigh equally in the scales
For the two resemble body and soul.
Wherefore the sages have said not idly,
" The bodies of the righteous are as pure souls."
Their words, their actions, their praises,
Are all as a pure soul without spot or blemish.
'Omar rebukes the Harper for brooding over
and bewailing the past.
Then 'Omar said to him, "This wailing of thine
Shows thou art still in a state of ' sobriety."'
Afterwards he thus urged him to quit that state
And called him out of his beggary to absorption in God:
"Sobriety savours of memory of the past;
Past and future are what veil God from our sight.
Burn up both of them with fire! How long
Wilt thou be partitioned by these segments as a reed?
So long as a reed has partitions 'tis not privy to secrets,
Nor is it vocal in response to lip and breathing.
While circumambulating the house thou art a stranger;
When thou enterest in thou art at home.
Thou whose knowledge is ignorance of the Giver of knowledge,
Thy wailing contrition is worse than thy sin.
The road of the 'annihilated' is another road;
Sobriety is wrong, and a straying from that other road.
O thou who seekest to be contrite for the past,
How wilt thou be contrite for this contrition?
At one time thou adorest the music of the lute,
At another embracest wailing and weeping."
While the "Discerner" reflected these mysteries,
The heart of the harper was emancipated.
Like a soul he was freed from weeping and rejoicing,
His old life died, and he was regenerated.
Amazement fell upon him at that moment,
For he was exalted above earth and heaven,
An uplifting of the heart surpassing all uplifting;
I cannot describe it ; if you can, say on!
Ecstasy and words beyond all ecstatic words;
Immersion in the glory of the Lord of glory!
Immersion wherefrom was no extrication,
As it were identification with the Very Ocean!
Partial Reason is as naught to Universal Reason,
If one impulse dependent on another impulse be naught;
But when that impulse moves this impulse,
The waves of that sea rise to this point; 2