Etienne De La BoÉCe
I serve you not, if you I follow,
Shadow-like, o'er hill and hollow,
And bend my fancy to your leading,
All too nimble for my treading.
When the pilgrimage is done,
And we've the landscape overrun,
I am bitter, vacant, thwarted,
And your heart is unsupported.
Vainly valiant, you have missed
The manhood that should yours resist,
Its complement; but if I could
In severe or cordial mood
Lead you rightly to my altar,
Where the wisest muses falter,
And worship that world-warning spark
Which dazzles me in midnight dark,
Equalizing small and large,
While the soul it doth surcharge,
That the poor is wealthy grown,
And the hermit never alone,
The traveller and the road seem one
With the errand to be done;—
That were a man's and lover's part,
That were Freedom's whitest chart.
Thee, dear friend, a brother soothes,
Not with flatteries, but truths,
Which tarnish not, but purify
To light which dims the morning's eye.
I have come from the spring-woods,
From the fragrant solitudes;
Listen what the poplar tree,
And murmuring waters counselled me.
If with love thy heart has burned,
If thy love is unreturned,
Hide thy grief within thy breast,
Though it tear thee unexpressed.
For, when love has once departed
From the eyes of the false-hearted,
And one by one has torn off quite
The bandages of purple light,
Though thou weft the loveliest
Form the Soul had ever dressed,
Thou shalt seem in each reply
A vixen to his altered eye;
Thy softest pleadings seem too bold,
Thy praying lute shall seem to scold.
Though thou kept the straightest road,
Yet thou errest far and broad.
But thou shalt do as do the gods
In their cloudless periods:
For of this lore be thou sure,
Though thou forget, the gods secure
Forget never their command,
But make the statute of this land:
As they lead, so follow all,
Ever have done, ever shall.
Warning to the blind and deaf,
'Tis written on the iron leaf,
Who drinks of Cupid's nectar cup
Loveth downward and not up;
Therefore who loves, of gods or men,
Shall not by the same be loved again;
His sweetheart's idolatry
Falls in turn a new degree.
When a god is once beguiled
By beauty of a mortal child,
And by her radiant youth delighted,
He is not fooled, but warily knoweth,
His love shall never be requited;
And thus the wise Immortal doeth.
'Tis his study and delight
To bless that creature, day and night,
From all evils to defend her,
In her lap to pour all splendor,
To ransack earth for riches rare,
And fetch her stars to deck her hair;
He mixes music with her thoughts,
And saddens her with heavenly doubts;
All grace, all good his great heart knows,
Profuse in love the king bestows,
Saying, Hearken, Earth! Sea! Air!
This monument of my despair
Build I to the All-Good, All-Fair.
Not for a private good,
But I from my beatitude,
Albeit scorned as none was scorned,
Adorn her as was none adorned.
I make this maiden an ensample
To nature through her kingdoms ample,
Whereby to model newer races,
Statelier forms, and fairer faces,
To carry man to new degrees
Of power, and of comeliness.
These presents be the hostages
Which I pawn for my release;
See to thyself, O universe!
Thou art better and not worse. —
And the god having given all,
Is freed forever from his thrall.
Trees in groves,
Kine in droves,
In ocean sport the scaly herds,
Wedge-like cleave the air the birds,
To northern lakes fly wind-borne ducks,
Browse the mountain sheep in flocks,
Men consort in camp and town,
But the poet dwells alone.
God who gave to him the lyre,
Of all mortals the desire,
For all breathing men's behoof,
Straitly charged him, "Sit aloof;"
Annexed a warning, poets say,
To the bright premium,—
Ever when twain together play,
Shall the harp be dumb.
Many may come,
But one shall sing;
Two touch the string,
The harp is dumb.
Though there come a million
Wise Saadi dwells alone.
Yet Saadi loved the race of men,—
No churl immured in cave or den,—
In bower and hall
He wants them all,
Nor can dispense
With Persia for his audience;
They must give ear,
Grow red with joy, and white with fear,
Yet he has no companion,
Come ten, or come a million,
Good Saadi dwells alone.
Be thou ware where Saadi dwells.
Gladly round that golden lamp
Sylvan deities encamp,
And simple maids and noble youth
Are welcome to the man of truth.
Most welcome they who need him most,
They feed the spring which they exhaust:
For greater need
Draws better deed:
But, critic, spare thy vanity,
Nor show thy pompous parts,
To vex with odious subtlety
The cheerer of men's hearts.
Sad-eyed Fakirs swiftly say
Endless dirges to decay;
Never in the blaze of light
Lose the shudder of midnight;
And at overflowing noon,
Hear wolves barking at the moon;
In the bower of dalliance sweet
Hear the far Avenger's feet;
And shake before those awful Powers
Who in their pride forgive not ours.
Thus the sad-eyed Fakirs preach;
"Bard, when thee would Allah teach,
And lift thee to his holy mount,
He sends thee from his bitter fount,
Wormwood; saying, Go thy ways,
Drink not the Malaga of praise,
But do the deed thy fellows hate,
And compromise thy peaceful state.
Smite the white breasts which thee fed,
Stuff sharp thorns beneath the head
Of them thou shouldst have comforted.
For out of woe and out of crime
Draws the heart a lore sublime."
And yet it seemeth not to me
That the high gods love tragedy;
For Saadi sat in the sun,
And thanks was his contrition;
For haircloth and for bloody whips,
Had active hands and smiling lips;
And yet his runes he rightly read,
And to his folk his message sped.
Sunshine in his heart transferred
Lighted each transparent word;
And well could honoring Persia learn
What Saadi wished to say;
For Saadi's nightly stars did burn
Brighter than Dschami's day.
Whispered the muse in Saadi's cot;
O gentle Saadi, listen not,
Tempted by thy praise of wit,
Or by thirst and appetite
For the talents not thine own,
To sons of contradiction.
Never, sun of eastern morning,
Follow falsehood, follow scorning,
Denounce who will, who will, deny,
And pile the hills to scale the sky;
Let theist, atheist, pantheist,
Define and wrangle how they list,—
Fierce conserver, fierce destroyer,
But thou joy-giver and enjoyer,
Unknowing war, unknowing crime,
Gentle Saadi, mind thy rhyme.
Heed not what the brawlers say,
Heed thou only Saadi's lay.
Let the great world bustle on
With war and trade, with camp and town.
A thousand men shall dig and eat,
At forge and furnace thousands sweat,
And thousands sail the purple sea,
And give or take the stroke of war,
Or crowd the market and bazaar.
Oft shall war end, and peace return,
And cities rise where cities burn,
Ere one man my hill shall climb,
Who can turn the golden rhyme;
Let them manage how they may,
Heed thou only Saadi's lay.
Seek the living among the dead:
Man in man is imprisoned.
Barefooted Dervish is not poor,
If fate unlock his bosom's door.
So that what his eye hath seen
His tongue can paint, as bright, as keen,
And what his tender heart hath felt,
With equal fire thy heart shall melt.
For, whom the muses shine upon,
And touch with soft persuasion,
His words like a storm-wind can bring
Terror and beauty on their wing;
In his every syllable
Lurketh nature veritable;
And though he speak in midnight dark,
In heaven, no star; on earth, no spark;
Yet before the listener's eye
Swims the world in ecstasy,
The forest waves, the morning breaks,
The pastures sleep, ripple the lakes,
Leaves twinkle, flowers like persons be,
And life pulsates in rock or tree.
Saadi! so far thy words shall reach;
Suns rise and set in Saadi's speech.
And thus to Saadi said the muse;
Eat thou the bread which men refuse;
Flee from the goods which from thee flee;
Seek nothing; Fortune seeketh thee.
Nor mount, nor dive; all good things keep
The midway of the eternal deep;
Wish not to fill the isles with eyes
To fetch thee birds of paradise;
On thine orchard's edge belong
All the brass of plume and song;
Wise Ali's sunbright sayings pass
For proverbs in the market-place;
Through mountains bored by regal art
Toil whistles as he drives his cart.
Nor scour the seas, nor sift mankind,
A poet or a friend to find;
Behold, he watches at the door,
Behold his shadow on the floor.
Open innumerable doors,
The heaven where unveiled Allah pours
The flood of truth, the flood of good,
The seraph's and the cherub's food;
Those doors are men; the pariah kind
Admits thee to the perfect Mind.
Seek not beyond thy cottage wall
Redeemer that can yield thee all.
While thou sittest at thy door,
On the desert's yellow floor,
Listening to the gray-haired crones,
Foolish gossips, ancient drones,—
Saadi, see, they rise in stature
To the height of mighty nature,
And the secret stands revealed
Fraudulent Time in vain concealed,
That blessed gods in servile masks
Plied for thee thy household tasks.