WE know well that every union must in the end disperse, and all things near some time draw apart. Such is God's wont with men as with lands, until such time as Allah inherits the earth and all that dwells thereon; and Allah is the best of inheritors
No calamity is there in the world equal to separation: if the souls of men should flow out of their bodies by reason of it-and much more the tears out of their eyes-it were but little to wonder at. A certain philosopher, on hearing a man remark that separation was the brother of death, said, "Nay, but death is the brother of separation".
Parting is divided into various kinds. The first is for a period of time which one can be sure will end, so that presently there will be a returning. Such parting is a load oppressing the heart, a lump obstructing the throat, that will not be mended save by a coming back. I know a man whose beloved was absent from his sight just one day, and he was so overcome by anxiety, fretfulness, preoccupation and successive paroxysms of anguish that he almost expired.
Next there is the separation that is due to a deliberate prevention of any meeting, a confining of the beloved so that she may not be seen by the lover. When this happens, though the person whom you love may be with you under the same roof it is still a separation, because the beloved is parted from you; and that engenders not .a little grief and regret. I have tried it myself, and found it bitter indeed. The following verses reflect my experience.
In every minute of each hour
To view her house is in my power,
But she who in the house resides
Eternally unseen abides.
What does this close propinquity
Of residences profit me,
Since spies are posted to forestall
My drawing nigh to her at all?
Alas, sweet neighbor dwelling near
Whose every footstep I can hear,
And yet am conscious that Cathay
Itself is not so far away!
So might a thirsty man espy
Deep in some well sweet waters lie,
But in his raging fever hit
Upon no way to come to it.
So too the dead within the tomb
Are hidden from us in their gloom,
With nothing else to intervene
But the cold slabs set up between.
In a long ballad of mine these stanzas occur.
When shall a soul, by grievous pain
Of passion wracked, be healed again?
When shall a house, whose inmates lie
Unseen afar, draw near and nigh?
Ah, happy days of memory
When Hind was neighbor close to me,
Yet India were a nearer goal
Then Hind, to the adventurous soul
Yea, but propinquity bestows
On neighboring lovers some repose,
As men athirst their pangs withstand
Knowing the fountain is at hand.
Then there is the separation which the lover deliberately seeks, so as to remove himself beyond the reach of slanderers, and because he fears that his continuing with the beloved may be a cause of further meetings being prevented, and an occasion for the spreading of malicious talk, thus leading to the strict seclusion of his loved one.
Separation may also be initiated by the lover because of some dreadful mischance which overtakes him. In this case his excuse is to be accepted or rejected, according to the urgency of the motive impelling him to take his departure.
I call to mind a friend of mine whose residence was in Almeria, but who was obliged by reasons of business to travel to Jativa. He lodged there in my house for the whole of his stay. Now he had an amorous attachment in Almeria which was the greatest worry and most pressing concern to him; and he was looking forward all the time to complete his arrangements and have done with his affairs, so that he could soon be on his way back and hurry home. But he had only been staying with me a trifling while, when al-Muwaffaq Abu '1 Jaish Mujahid, the master of the Balearics, mobilized his forces, moved forward his battalions, and opened hostilities against Khairan, the ruler of Almeria, intending to extirpate him. As a consequence of this war the roads were cut, all land-routes were patrolled, and the sea passages were blockaded by the fleets. My friend's anguish was thus redoubled, for he could not find any way whatever of departing; he was almost snuffed out by despair; he was unable to discover any comfort but in solitude, and took refuge in prodigious sighs and sullen grief. And upon my life, he was the kind of man I would never have supposed likely to yield his heart submissively to love; I could scarcely believe that his unsociable nature would respond to the tender call of passion.
I remember coming back to Cordova after being away on a journey, and then leaving the city once more; and on the road I was thrown together with a civil servant who had also set forth from Cordova upon important business, leaving behind him a little sweetheart. He was most exceedingly distressed about it. I know a man who formed a passionate attachment, and lived in miserable squalor, although he had vast prospects, boundless opportunities and innumerable avenues to worldly success. Yet all that meant nothing to him; he preferred to stay with his beloved. I wrote this little poem to commemorate the situation.
Vast prospects circle thy abode,
With signposts all along the road
The sword is little worth to wear,
Until it be unsheathed and bare.
Separation can be caused by a journey and a far removal of dwellings, when there is little certainty of a return, and the lovers cannot be sure of ever meeting again. That is a grievous catastrophe, a shocking anxiety, a most frightful eventuality, a stubborn sickness: greatest indeed is the ensuing fretfulness, when it is the beloved who goes away. I have a long poem on this topic, in which the following verses occur.
Ah me, the languor of her eyes,
The sickness baffling doctors' skill,
That leads me, as no doubt it will,
To waters where the drinker dies.
I am contented to be slain,
A ready victim to her love,
As one who swallows poison of
The sparkling wine he yearns to drain.
Alas, how little was their shame,
Those endless nights I sleepless lay,
Eager to steal my soul away,
Poor plaything of their ruthless game.
Some 'Abshami my fate must be,
'Uthman's revengeful kinsman, who,
Supposing me to `Ali true,
Would slay me for complicity.
In another poem I say
I think thou art a likeness true
Of Paradise, that rich reward
Assigned by loving Allah to
His saints, who labour for their Lord.
Elsewhere I say
That I may slake, in meeting thee,
This passion's thirst that burns in me,
This conflagration of desire
Inflamed like tamarisk afire.
I vanished out of human ken,
My passion patent yet to men
O strange, apparent accidents
Whose body is remote from sense !
The heavens all-encompassing
Spin ever like some giant ring
Thou, centred at the circle's heart,
Its coruscating bezel art.
Elsewhere again I have these stanzas.
Thou, with such loveliness endued,
Transcendest all similitude
The sun, resplendent in the skies,
Upon no ornament relies.
(I marvel how my soul lives on,
And did not die when he was gone
His parting meant the tomb for me,
His loss was my obituary.
I wonder at my body, yet
So tender and so delicate,
Such shocks still able to withstand,
Unwithered by Fate's cruel hand).
But to return after a separation so prolonged that the soul is filled with disquietude, and wellnigh despairs of ever coming back again-that is a joyous surprise surpassing all bounds; indeed its impact is sometimes fatal. This is how I have described it in verse.
After parting to unite
Is a wonder of delight,
Such as his, who issueth
From the very jaws of death.
This rejoices the poor heart
Languishing so long apart,
Brings to life the lover, nigh
(In his loneliness) to die.
Yet such ecstasy of joy,
When too sudden, can destroy,
And its onslaught prove his doom,
Lay the lover in the tomb.
Sometimes travellers athirst
Gulp the waters till they burst,
And the liquid that should save
From expiring, is their grave.
I know a lover who was constrained to remove far from his beloved for a time ; then he was able t return to her, but could remain no longer than the few moments necessary to fulfil thee formalities of exchanging greetings when he was obliged to depart again. On this he almost expired'. I put this drama into rhyme.
A weary while afar I spent
Till, when my time of banishment
Was done, and I stood nigh to you,
I must perforce remove anew.
For but the twinkling of an eye
My happiness, and you, were nigh,
Then I deserted you again,
To be revisited by pain.
So, when the traveller, astray
And sorely vexed to find his way,
Beholds the levin's sudden light
Illuminate the inky night
He hopes for its perpetual gleam,
But he is cheated of his dream;
And many hopes do but deceive,
And dreams exhilarate, to grieve.
On the theme of returning after separation I have these lines.
My eyes were cooled with gladness, when
I came to dwell with you again
But while you were afar, ah then
My eyes were hot with burning pain.
I offer God for what is gone
A spirit patient and resigned,
As too, for what ensued thereon,
The praises of a grateful mind.
News was brought to me of the death in a distant city of one I loved. I arose and fled to the cemetery, where I paced up and down among the graves, reciting the following verses.
I would this earth without
Were wholly turned about,
And that which lies below
Were mine wherein to go.
Would Death had ravished me,
Ere this calamity
Upon my spirit came,
And set my heart aflame.
Would all my blood were shed
To lave my dearest dead,
And in my hollow breast
His body lay at rest.
A little while later I learned that those tidings were false; and in joy I set pen to paper again and fashioned this poem.
Joy came, when desperate woe
Was now established well;
My heart was clapt below
The seven tiers of hell.
Joy clothed in living green
The heart within my breast,
This heart that long had been
In garb of mourning dressed.
The black of sullen gloom
Removed, as when the bright
Sun floods a shuttered room
And fills it all with light.
And yet I dare not look
For other union, save
The ancient oath I took,
The plight of love you gave.
So men will pray for cloud,
Not hoping for sweet rain,
But that in its spread shroud
Cool shelter they may gain.
In these two sorts of separation the leave-taking occurs, that is to say when the lover or the beloved sets forth upon a journey. That is a most moving spectacle, a very painful scene which tests to breaking-point the resolution of even the strongest will ; the power of the most perspicacious vanishes ; the driest eye is bathed in tears ; the deepest-hidden passion is exposed to the light of day. This is one of the aspects of separation requiring to be discussed, as we have spoken of reproach in the chapter on Breaking Off.
By my life, if a sensitive man should expire in the hour of leave-taking he might well be excused, when he reflects upon the situation in which he will find himself after all his hopes are shattered, and terrors grip his soul, and joy is turned to sorrow. It is an hour to soften the hardest heart, to melt the most unfeeling breast. The shaking of the head, the long unwavering stare, the sighs that follow after farewell tear aside the veil of the heart, and admit into its sanctuary disquietude as great as the agitation provoked in the contrary case by the animated countenance, the winks, the smiles, and all the other manifestations of loving harmony.
There are two kinds of leave-taking. In the first, there is no other possibility of demonstrating the emotions but by means of glances and signs; in the second, embracing and hugging are possible, which for some reason or other may not have been the case before, despite the propinquity of dwellings and the feasibility of the lovers meeting. Therefore some poets have wished for separation, and have praised the day of parting; but that is neither beautiful, right, nor well founded. The joy of one hour does not compensate for the sorrow of several; how then will it be if the separation should continue for days, months, perhaps years? That is indeed an evil speculation and a -crooked- -logic. Where I have praised parting myself in my poetry, it has only been because I yearned for the day of parting to return, so that upon everyday there might be a reunion and a farewell. The pain occasioned by this hateful name can be endured, especially if several days have elapsed in which no meeting has taken place; for then the lover actually longs for the day of separation, and wishes it might happen every day.
On the first type of leave-taking I have this stanza.
Her loveliness is deputy
For the sweet loveliness of light,
As substitute the sighs in me
For flaming embers burning bright.
I describe the second sort of leave-taking thus.
Before her face resplendent all
The lights of heaven prostrate fall,
A face of perfect loveliness
Augmenting not, nor growing less.
A grateful warmth, as when at morn
The sun is lodged in Capricorn,
A gentle coolness, when the sun
In Leo has his journey run.
Later in the same poem I have these stanzas.
Upon my life, I do not hate
The day when lovers separate,
Not fundamentally, although
My soul doth from my body go.
On such a day I took my leave
Of her I love, yet did not grieve,
Since she embraced me, which before
She would not, though I might implore.
Is it not strange and marvelous,
The lesson this can teach to us?
The hour of separation may
Be envied well by union's day!
Could anything more frightful be conceived, or could aught more painful enter into the thoughts of man, than that two lovers should break off their relations with reproaches, and then be overtaken by a sudden parting before reconciliation can be effected and the tangled knot of desertion be resolved? Imagine their feelings as they stand to bid adieu to one another: all reproaches are forgotten in the face of this catastrophe, which has overwhelmed their faculties and banished sleep from their eyes. I have been inspired to put, this situation into a poem.
Now silenced is the voice of blame,
All blotted out the old reproach
Lo, separation's troops approach
With speedy and unflinching aim.
Estrangement, scared and terrified
By separation, flees away,
And none can tell, this dreadful day,
Where it may find a place to hide.
So might some wolf, in lone delight
Stalking its prey, all suddenly
A lion in the offing see
Beside the copse, and take to flight.
If separation makes me glad
Because estrangement's at an end,
Yet it removes me from my friend,
And leaves me desolate and sad.
So, in the fearful hour of death,
The dying man wins some repose;
But then death's angel, ere he knows,
Assaults, and takes away his breath.
I know a man who came to bid farewell to his beloved upon the day of parting, and found that she was already gone. He paused in her tracks a full hour, passing to and fro over the spot where she had been; then he departed crestfallen, pale, dejected. Within a few days he fell sick and died, God rest his soul!
Separation discloses deep-hidden secrets in a most marvelous way. I once saw a man whose love was strictly concealed, and who took every pains to keep his feelings out of sight, until the event of separation occurred; then that which was hidden became apparent, and that which was secret stood forth revealed. I wrote a poem on this, from which I will cite three stanzas.
Thou gayest me the love
Thou hadst denied to me
Ere then, and didst thereof
I had no longer need
Of what thou then didst pour,
But had rejoiced indeed
To taste of it before.
Drugs may have some avail
Before the hour of doom:
The best specifics fail
To penetrate the tomb.
I have these verses also.
In this hour, when we must part,
Thou bestowest, full and free,
All the lode thy miser heart
Treasured, but refused to me.
This thy sudden kindness yet
Swells my sorrow more and more
O the pity and regret!
Why wast thou not kind before?
Now this has-reminded me that at a certain time I enjoyed the affection of one of the sovereign's viziers, during the days of his greatest glory. Then he manifested a certain reserve, and I kept away from him. In the hour when his triumph departed and his authority was at an end, he showed me not a little affection and comradeship; I countered his advances with the following well-chosen words.
When Dame Fortune smiled on thee
Thou wast good enough to frown,
But art gracious now to me,
Seeing Fate has let thee down.
Thou wouldst be my friend again
Now thy friendship has no use
Why didst thou not give me then
When it pleased thee to refuse?
Finally there is the separation which is caused by death, that final parting from which there is no hope of a return. This is indeed a shattering and backbreaking blow, a fateful catastrophe; it is a lamentable woe, overshadowing the blackness of night itself; it cuts off every hope, erases all ambition, and causes the most sanguine to despair 'of further meeting. Here all tongues are baffled; the cord of every remedy is severed; no other course remains open but patient fortitude, willing or perforce. It is the greatest affliction that can assail true -lovers; and he who is struck down by it has nothing left but to lament and weep, until either he perishes himself or wearies of his lamentations. It is the wound, which cannot heal, the anguish which never passes, the sorrow which is constantly renewed, as ever his poor body crumbles that thou hast committed to the dust. On this matter I have the following to say.
What things soe'er
May come to pass,
Cry not alas
While hope is there.
Haste not thy heart
To gloom to yield
All is not sealed
Till life depart.
But when the veil
Of death descends,
Then all hope ends,
All comforts fail.
I have seen this happen to many people, and can relate to you a personal experience of the same order; for I am also one who has been afflicted by this calamity, and surprised by this misfortune. I was deeply in love with, and passionately enamoured of, a certain, slave-girl once in my possession, whose name was Nu`m: she was a dream of desire, a paragon of physical and moral beauty, and we were in perfect harmony. She had known no other man before me, and our love for each other was mutual and perfectly satisfying. Then the fates ravished her from me, and the nights and passing days carried her away; she became one with the dust and stones. At the time of her death I was not yet twenty, and she younger than I. For seven months thereafter I never once put off my garments; my tears ceased not to flow, though I am a man not given to weeping, nor discovering relief in lamentation. And by Allah, I have not found consolation for her loss even to this day. If ransoms could have been of avail, I would have ransomed her with everything of which I stand possessed, my inheritance and all my earnings, aye, and with the most precious limb of my body, swiftly and willingly. Since her death life has never seemed sweet to me; I have never forgotten her memory, nor been intimate with any other woman. My love for her blotted out all that went before, and made anathema to me all that came after it. Here are some of the poems which I composed about her
She was a spotless maiden, bright
And lovely as the sun's first light;
Like stars all other maidens were
And faintly shone, compared with her.
Her love sent soaring from my breast
My heart, that was till then at rest,
And, like some bird upon the wing,
It swooped, and then hung hovering.
Among the elegies I wrote on her death is a poem in which the following curious lines occur.
Methinks my heart found little ease
To hear the words thy lips designed,
That blew like weird enchantresses
Upon the knots within my mind.
With such abundant hopes to choose'
Between, such chance to stake my claim,
I fear I made too little use,
And trifled with the hope that came.
This stanza comes in the same elegy.
They manifest antipathy,
Yet in their hearts fond love they bear;
They swear they will keep far from me,
But they are false in what they swear.
In another formal panegyric addressed to my cousin Abu 'l-Mughira `Abd al-Wahhab Ahmad Ibn `Abd al-Rahman Ibn Hazm Ibn Ghalib I have the following verses.
Halt, friends, and to yon ruins cry
"Where is your habitant to-day?
Has Time untimely passed you by,
Bequeathing nothing but decay?"
Ah me, how desolate and drear,
How naked stand they and apart!
Were ever people dwelling here,
Or dwell they only in my heart?
Men are divided in their opinions, which of those two disasters-separation, and breaking off-is the more cruel. Each of them is a hard ascent, a bloody death, a black calamity, a year of drought; in each there is something repellent and hostile to the instincts of us all. To the proud, noble, tender, affectionate, loyal soul nothing seems so calamitous as separation; for this comes upon a man as if of set purpose, these misfortunes seek him out deliberately and personally. And when the blow of separation falls, he cannot find any solace for his soul; he is unable to divert his thoughts in any direction, without discovering something to re-awaken his tragic passion and stimulate his grief, some new cause of pain, some new argument to emotion, some new encouragement to weep for his dear friend. Breaking off on the other hand is an invitation to oblivion, the forerunner of the pulling up of tent pegs. To the yearning, susceptible, sentimental, excitable, inconstant soul breaking off is a great sickness, and very liable to prove fatal; whereas separation is a consolation, and brings a blessed forgetfulness. For my own part death itself would be easier for me to face, than parting from my beloved; and breaking off only brings me sadness and, if it continue, may well provoke me to frenzy. On this point I have the following to offer.
"Depart!" they cried. "Begone!
Will come, and thou'lt be glad
To wish not to be sad."
"Oblivion?" I said,
"I would be rather dead
What fool takes arsenic
To see if he is sick?
I also say this.
Love ravished me
Her slave to be
She chose to part,
And slew my heart.
Love came a guest
Within my breast;
My soul was spread;
I have seen a man deliberately employ the device of breaking off relations with his beloved, because he dreaded the bitterness of the day of separation, and the excruciating sadness that would accompany the final rupture. Now although I do not myself approve of such a manner of conduct, nevertheless it is a convincing proof that separation is harder to bear than breaking off; how indeed should it be otherwise, seeing that some men take refuge in breaking relations for fear of separation? Yet I have never discovered anyone in the world who resorted to separation because he dreaded breaking off; and men always choose the easier course, and charge themselves with the lighter burden if they can. My reason for remarking that this is not a praiseworthy manner of conduct is as follows. Those who act so, precipitate the calamity before it actually descends, and gulp the choking draught of suffering fortitude prematurely; and it may be that what they so much fear will not happen at all, and that the man who precipitates unpleasantness without being sure what it is that he is precipitating will prove not to have been so wise in the issue. On this subject I have the following poem.
The lover in his amorous heart
Resolved for passion's sake to part
We count him not as one of us
Who will desert his darling thus.
Just like a millionaire is he,
Who lives a life of penury
That he may be from want secure,
And so makes certain to be poor.
I recall some lines on this theme, namely that separation is harder to endure than shunning, which my cousin Abu 'I-Mughixa wrote in a long poem he addressed to me when he was about seventeen years old.
What, does it trouble thee
That I must now be gone,
And grievest thou to see
The lumbering beasts pricked on?
Ah yes, it is a great
Distress, from friends to part;
Ah me, to separate
Breaks the poor lover's heart.
'Tis a pretension vain
To claim, in lying rage,
That banning is a bane,
A noisome pasturage.
Such men as this assert
Know naught of passion's fire;
They have not felt the hurt
Of overcharged desire.
To separate: ah, this
Fair takes away the breath
And, when it chances, is
A certain sign of death.
On this same subject I myself have a long ode which begins after this fashion.
The day when pilgrims stand and gaze
Afar on Mecca's holy shrine
Outglories not that day of days
When I first worshipped, love, at thine.
That day of gladness was as rare
In beauty and magnificence
As when a barren womb doth bear,
Or an adulteress repents.
I do not think the lightning gleam
Of union flahes without showers,
The garden of young passion's dream
A wilderness of withered flowers
Not when I view each virgin chaste,
And seem to hear her bosom say
"Come, take me", but her girdled waist
Demurely whisper, "Lover, stay"
Each draws her in a different way,
And the red roses in her cheek
Her deep perplexity betray,
Whether to parry, or to seek.
There is not any other cure,
Except her eyes, to heal my hurt;
Naught else in all the world is sure
My final ruin to avert.
The viper, whose envenomed throat
Is mortal malice to a man,
Bears in itself the antidote
Effecting what no other can.
It is separation that has moved the poets to weep over former trysting-places, so that they shed their tears freely upon the traces of old encampments, and sprinkled the ruined abodes with the water of yearning, as they remembered the happy hours they once passed there. Loud then was their lamentation, and bitter their cries of anguish; the sight of the fading footsteps revived their buried passion, so that they gave themselves up to weeping and ululation.
A visitor from Cordova informed me, when I asked him for news of that city, that he had seen our mansion in Balat Mughith, on the western side of the metropolis; its traces were wellnigh obliterated, its waymarks effaced; vanished were its spacious patios. All had been changed by decay; the joyous pleasaunces were converted to barren deserts and howling wildernesses; its beauty lay in shattered ruins. Where peace once reigned, fearful chasms yawned; wolves resorted there, ghosts frolicked, demons sported. Wild beasts now lurked where men like lions, abounding in wealth and every luxury, once paid court to statuesque maidens; who were all now scattered and dispersed to the four corners of the earth. Those gracious halls, those richly ornamented boudoirs, that once shone like the sun, the loveliness of their panorama lifting all cares from the mind, being now entirely overwhelmed by desolation and utter destruction seemed rather like the gaping mouths of savage beasts, proclaiming the end that awaits this mortal world, and revealing visibly the final destiny of those who dwell therein, the ultimate fate of those you now see abiding here below; so that you would be moved, after so long reluctance to abandon the world, henceforth eagerly to renounce it. Then I remembered the days that I had passed in that fair mansion, the joys I had known there, the months of my ardent youth spent in the company of blooming virgins, very apt to awaken desire in the heart of the most sedate young man. I pictured those maidens now lying beneath the dust, or dispersed to distant parts and far regions, scattered by the hand of exile, torn--to -pieces by the fingers of expatriation. I saw in my mind's eye the ruin of that noble house, which I had once known so beautiful and thriving, and in the shadow of whose well-ordered establishment I had passed my childhood; empty were those courts once so densely thronged. I seemed to hear the voices of owls hooting and screeching over those passages; astir of old with the busy concourse of people in whose midst I grew to manly estate. Then night followed day with the selfsame bustle, the selfsame coming and going
of countless feet; but now day followed night there, and all was forever hushed and desolate. These sad reflections filled my eyes with tears and my heart with anguish; my soul was shattered as if by a jagged rock, and the misery in my mind waxed ever greater. So I took refuge in poetry, and uttered the following stanza.
If now our throats are parched and dry,
Yet long its waters slaked our thirst;
If evil now has done its worst,
Our happiness was slow to die.
Separation engenders deep regrets, profound emotions, and melancholy recollections, as I have remarked in these verses.
Ah, would the raven but restore
To me that inauspicious day,
And, as it drove my friends before,
Now drive my loneliness away!
I speak; and over all extend
Night's shallows, like a mighty veil;
Night swore that she would never end.
Yon star, bewildered, hangs on high
Immovable in heaven's heart;
Lost in the desert of the sky;
It knows not whither to depart,
It calls to mind a man astray,
His spirit fearful and afraid,
Or under threat, and in dismay,
Some lover lovesick for his maid.
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