Masnavi 15

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY IV. Moses and Pharaoh.
Then follows a long account of the birth of Moses, of Pharaoh's devices to kill
him in his infancy, of his education in Pharaoh's house, of his desiring
Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go, and of his contest with the magicians
of Egypt, and his victory over them. In the course of the story the following
anecdote is narrated:
A snake-catcher, who was following his occupation in the mountains, discovered
a large snake frozen by the cold, and, imagining it to be dead, he tied it up
and took it to Baghdad. There all the idlers of the city flocked together to
see it, and the snake, thawed by the warmth of the sun, recovered life, and
immediately destroyed the spectators.
Comparison of fleshly lust to the snake.

Lust is that snake; How say you it is dead?
It is only frozen by the pangs of hunger.
If it obtains the state of Pharaoh,
So as to command the (frozen) rivers to flow,
Straightway it is led to pride like Pharaoh's,
And it plunders the goods of many a Moses and Aaron.
Through pressure of want this snake is as a fly,
It becomes a gnat through wealth and rank and luxury.
Beware, keep that snake in the frost of humiliation,
Draw it not forth into the sunshine of 'Iraq!
So long as that snake is frozen, it is well;
When it finds release from frost you become its prey.
Conquer it and save yourself from being conquered,
Pity it not, it is not one who bears affection.
For that warmth of the sun kindles its lust,
And that bat of vileness flaps its wings.
Slay it in sacred war and combat,
Like a valiant man will God requite you with union.
When that man cherished that snake,
That stubborn brute was happy in the luxury of warmth;
And of necessity worked destruction, O friend;
Yea, many more mischiefs than I have told.
If you wish to keep that snake tied up
Without trouble, be faithful, be faithful!
But how can base men attain this wish?
It requires a Moses to slay serpents;
And a hundred thousand men were slain by his serpent,
In dire confusion, according to his purpose.