The Light of Asiaby Edwin Arnold
He who died at Azan sends
This to comfort all his friends:
Faithful friends! It lies, I know,
Pale and white and cold as snow;
And ye say, "Abdallah's dead!"
Weeping at the feet and head,
I can see your falling tears,
I can hear your sighs and prayers;
Yet I smile and whisper this, --
"I am not the thing you kiss;
Cease your tears, and let it lie;
It was mine, it is not I."
Sweet friends! What the women lave
For its last bed of the grave,
Is but a hut which I am quitting,
Is a garment no more fitting,
Is a cage from which, at last,
Like a hawk my soul hath passed.
Love the inmate, not the room, --
The wearer, not the garb, -- the plume
Of the falcon, not the bars
Which kept him from those splendid stars.
Loving friends! Be wise and dry
Straightway every weeping eye,
What ye lift upon the bier
Is not worth a wistful tear.
'T is an empty seashell, -- one
Out of which the pearl is gone;
The shell is broken, it lies there;
The pearl, the all, the soul, is here.
'T is an earthen jar, whose lid
Allah sealed, the while it hid
That treasure of his treasury,
A mind that loved him; let it lie!
Let the shard be earth's once more,
Since the gold shines in his store!
Allah glorious! Allah good!
Now thy world is understood;
Now the long, long wonder ends;
Yet ye weep, my erring friends,
While the man whom ye call dead,
In unspoken bliss, instead,
Lives and loves you; lost, 't is true,
By such light as shines for you;
But in the light ye cannot see
Of unfulfilled felicity, --
In enlarging paradise,
Lives a life that never dies.
Farewell, friends! Yet not farewell;
Where I am, ye, too, shall dwell.
I am gone before your face,
A moment's time, a little space.
When ye come where I have stepped
Ye will wonder why ye wept;
Ye will know, by wise love taught,
That here is all, and there is naught.
Weep awhile, if ye are fain, --
Sunshine still must follow rain;
Only not at death, -- for death,
Now I know, is that first breath
Which our souls draw when we enter
Life, which is of all life centre.
Be ye certain all seems love,
Viewed from Allah's throne above;
Be ye stout of heart, and come
Bravely onward to your home!
La Allah illa Allah! yea!
Thou love divine! Thou love alway!
He that died at Azan gave
This to those who made his grave.
"She is dead!" they said to him; "come away;
Kiss her and leave her, -- thy love is clay!"
They smoothed her tresses of dark brown hair;
On her forehead of stone they laid it fair;
Over her eyes that gazed too much
They drew the lids with a gentle touch;
With a tender touch they closed up well
The sweet thin lips that had secrets to tell;
About her brows and beautiful face
They tied her veil and her marriage lace,
And drew on her white feet her white silk shoes --
Which were the whitest no eye could choose --
And over her bosom they crossed her hands.
"Come away!" they said; "God understands."
And there was silence, and nothing there
But silence, and scents of eglantere,
And jasmine, and roses, and rosemary;
And they said, "As a lady should lie, lies she."
And they held their breath till they left the room,
With a shudder, to glance at its stillness and gloom.
But he who loved her too well to dread
The sweet, the stately, the beautiful dead,
He lit his lamp and took the key
And turned it -- alone again -- he and she.
He and she; but she would not speak,
Though he kissed, in the old place, the quiet cheek.
He and she; yet she would not smile,
Though he called her the name she loved erewhile.
He and she; still she did not move
To any one passionate whisper of love.
Then he said: "Cold lips and breasts without breath,
Is there no voice, no language of death?
"Dumb to the ear and still to the sense,
But to heart and to soul distinct, intense?
"See now; I will listen with soul, not ear;
What was the secret of dying, dear?
"Was it the infinite wonder of all
That you ever could let life's flower fall?
"Or was it a greater marvel to feel
The perfect calm o'er the agony steal?
"Was the miracle greater to find how deep
Beyond all dreams sank downward that sleep?
"Did life roll back its records dear,
And show, as they say it does, past things clear?
"And was it the innermost heart of the bliss
To find out so, what a wisdom love is?
"O perfect dead! O dead most dear
I hold the breath of my soul to hear!
"I listen as deep as to horrible hell,
As high as to heaven, and you do not tell.
"There must be pleasure in dying, sweet,
To make you so placid from head to feet!
"I would tell you, darling, if I were dead,
And 'twere your hot tears upon my brow shed, --
"I would say, though the Angel of Death had laid
His sword on my lips to keep it unsaid.
"You should not ask vainly, with streaming eyes,
Which of all deaths was the chiefest surprise,
"The very strangest and suddenest thing
Of all the surprises that dying must bring."
Ah, foolish world; O most kind dead!
Though he told me, who will believe it was said?
Who will believe that he heard her say,
With the sweet, soft voice, in the dear old way:
"The utmost wonder is this, -- I hear
And see you, and love you, and kiss you, dear;
"And am your angel, who was your bride,
And know that, though dead, I have never died."