Thursday, May 23, 2013

[Sunlight] Various Disguises and Scams



Various Disguises and Scams

A bird lit in a meadow where a trap was set.
Grain had been put out on the ground,
and nearby a fowler had wrapped himself in grass
and pulled roses and red anemones over his head like a cap.

The bird had some notion that this clump of grass
was not all grass, but at first look,
he had no argument about what it might be.

He hopped a circuit around the strange heap
and asked,
"Who are you, out here in the wild?"

"I am a renunciate,
content to live like the grass.
After my neighbor's death, I closed my shop.
I gave up associating with every human being
that came along, and now I'm trying to be a friend
of the One. I saw that my jaw
would eventually be bound in the shroud,
so I figured it was best to use it less now.

You birds wear beautiful green robes
with gold embroidery, but at the end
you too will be wrapped in unsewn cloth."

All faces turn back into dirt.
The moist-dry, hot-cold parts
rejoin their kinfolk, and our spirits
receive a letter from the world
of pure intelligence. It says,

"So your five-day buddies left you!
Learn who your true friends are."

Some children, when they're playing with strangers,
get so hot and preoccupied with the game,
that they take off their shirts. Night comes,
and their clothes are gone, stolen.

It's impossible to play in the dark,
and now they're afraid to go home.

You've heard the line,
This present life is a play.

You've thrown off your clothes in the fun of living.
They floated away in the wind,
and now you're scared.

While it's still day, I've realized
that men are thieves, and that most of life
is wasted, half in looking for a lover,
and half in worrying over the plots
of our enemies. The former desiring
carries off our cloaks, and the latter
anxiety takes our caps.
Yet we remain
completely and obliviously absorbed
in our play. It's getting dark.

Death is near. Leave the game.
Saddle the horse of remorse
and catch up with the thief.

Get your clothes back. That confession-horse
is the speediest there is.

But keep it tied safely
when you're with the thief.

A certain man on this way to the village
has a ram that he leads along behind him.

A thief sneaks up and cuts the halter rope.
Finally the man notices and runs left and right
looking for the lost ram.
He sees the thief
beside a well, though he doesn't know
that it's the thief. The ram is elsewhere.
He goes to ask if he's seen a loose ram.

The thief is kneeling by the well crying.
"What's the matter?"
"My purse has fallen in.
If you can help me get it out, I'll give you
a fifth of everything in it. You could soon have
one-fifth of a hundred gold dinars
in your hand!"
The man thinks, "That's enough
to buy ten rams! One door is shut,
and God opens ten new doors."

He slips out of his clothes and climbs down
into the well, where there is nothing, of course,
and the thief carries away his clothes.

Oh, it takes a prudent man
to make it into the village!

When one loss causes a greedy panic,
then more losses are liable to come.

Imposters appear in many disguises.
Stay in your refuge with God,
and they won't deceive you.

-- Mathnawi VI: 435-477
Poetic version by Coleman Barks
"Feeling the Shoulder of the Lion,"
Threshold Books, 1991




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