Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Of the Virtue of Continence (Sufistic)

Of the Virtue of Continence

From pleasures and amusements he refrained,
His appetite for love and liquor reined,
Devoted not his energies to wine,
To hunt gazelles made not his only line.
For it was time the heart arose from sleep,
Not evermore its shrouding veil to keep;
The fearful day that shall all secrets prove
Diverted him from his accustomed love.

Be strong, my soul ! Thy labours do not spend
Pursuing passion to its bitter end.

Make haste to thy salvation ; purpose still
To win deliverance from passion's ill.

Perchance, triumphant in my holiest aim,
I shall escape the torment and the flame.

O trifler, Fate is grimly purposing
Thy ruin: dread'st thou not misfortune's sting?
It should suffice thee, for all counsel taught,
To look upon the wonders Time has wrought.

Leave that abode whose splendour soon must fade,
That task which ever with the toiler played,
That jousting-yard where never knight struck blow
But that his sword rebounded to his woe;

What man knows Allah as He should be known
Withdraws, and lives unto Himself alone.

Not one is watered piety with pure,
The temporal realm with that which doth endure;
Not like the sinner and the godly wise,
The word of truth and circumstantial lies.

For though we were secure from chastisement
Nor feared the wrath of God may not relent,
Did we not dread that hell, prepared for each
Who perpetrates the crime of lying speech,
Yet would it be our duty to obey
His will, and send lust's embassy away,
Sincerely to renounce this life below,
Condemning all who yet delay to go.

For we have witnessed how Time serves her own
Like flaming sparks among the brushwood blown;

Some wearying their hearts to serve the Lord
And find repose in what they most abhorred,
Some labouring to gather this world's bloom
And be diverted from their quest by doom.

And some have reached the hope they fondly nursed
To fall into the pit they dreaded worst,
And some have diligently sought their goal
And only gained destruction of the soul.

Anon some mighty monarch thou wilt see
Flung down from triumph into misery,
As springing wheat is trampled into dust
When from its stalk the swelling ears upthrust.

How many struggle to their souls' despite
In chase of luck that presses more its flight
Surely a lesson wonderful is there
To school the wise to wisdom yet more fair!

Still more, with Hell the ultimate abode
Of all who leave the straight and narrow road,
When Allah, on the day of reckoning,
Their shameful secrets to the light shall bring.

What then of him, whom Allah has pursued
With mercy, and augmenting grace renewed,
But in his folly turns the gifts conferred
To purposes forbidden by God's Word?

Deserves he not the most, of all men born,
God's chastisement on resurrection's morn?

Then thank the Lord, Whose gracious potency
Is nigh to us as our heart's artery,
Who feedeth all the peoples known to Time,
Be Barbary or Arabia their clime
Praise be to God, Whose bounty is so great,
Who overmasters all the tricks of Fate,
And to our service earth and heaven turns,
All vapours of the air, each star that burns.

Give ear, and leave the sinner to his sin
For none shall bear but what he gathers in.

- Abû Muhammad ‘Ali ibn Hazm, Tawq al-Hamâmah (Ring of the Dove)

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