November 24, 2018

A‘shā's pearl

 Sleep is for the untroubled. I lie awake all night, unable to sleep
     nor rise, shepherding the stars, my elbow for a pillow,
 my eyes propped open by anxiety, the malady that cancels slumber.
     She went off with my heart and won't set it free.
 If I don't see her then I won't get better. What healing
     is there for the lovesick if she won't come near?
 She ensnared my heart with the eyes of a doe that heeds
     the squeak of her helpless newborn on the ground,
 and the cool of her teeth in their orderly rows—as if
     twice rinsed with camphor is their flavor—
 and the untwitching neck of a white gazelle as it nibbles
     leaves and berries from the arāk-tree,
 and a haunch like a mound of sand, steep and curving.
     No slim-hipped, girdled thing is she [whom I describe].
 She's like the fair-hued pearl disembedded by a diver
     who braves the depths of Dārīn where it lay.
 From year to year he’s craved it, ever since his moustache sprouted.
     Yearning agitates the diver in old age.
 The desire of his soul is unremitting. He burns for what he wants
     and when he spots it, he flings [care for] his life aside.
 The pearl is guarded by a jinn—a burly one who sets men amaze.
     His eyes are open and he is on it.
 Always mindful of the pearl, he circles it,
     vigilant for thieves who prowl the deep,
 coveting it. The pearl might yet surrender its enclosure
     to the diver who risks drowning to obtain it!
 Who craves the pearl in the whirl of the unfathomable is parted
     from his life, and perishes beneath its heaving surface.
 Who gains it gains eternity without end.
     His satisfaction is complete, and he is blessed and happy.
 That’s how she is. Your soul inflames your hope for her,
     and you are burnt, and ruin is all you get.

By al-A‘shā Maymūn ibn Qays