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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Poetry of Mirza-Schaffy
By Friedrich von Bodenstedt (1819–1892)
 
From the ‘Thousand and One Days in the East’

ABBAS KULI KHAN was one of those gifted ambiguous natures who, without inspiring confidence, always know how to work an imposing effect, inasmuch as they hold to the principle of displeasing no one, as a first rule of prudence.  1
  It so happened then that even Mirza-Schaffy, bribed by the flattery which the Khan of Baku, when he once surprised us in the Divan of Wisdom, lavished upon him, declared him to be a great Wise Man.  2
  The mutual praise, so overflowing in its abundance, which they bestowed on one another put them both in a very happy humor. From the Koran, from Saadi, Hafiz, and Fizuli, each authenticated the other to be the moving embodiment of all the wisdom of earth.  3
  A formal emulation in old and original songs took place between them; for every piece of flattery was overlaid with a tuneful quotation. Unfortunately, however, the entertainment flowed so swiftly that I was unable to note down any coherent account of it.  4
  Nevertheless, being unwilling to let the long session go by without any gain on my part, I requested the Khan to write for me one of his artistic songs in remembrance. He nodded with an approving look, and promised to write the most beautiful song that ever the mouth of man had uttered; a song in praise of his Fatima, playing on her stringed instrument.  5
  Whilst Mirza-Schaffy raised a questioning look on hearing the praise which the Khan expended on himself, the latter took the kalem (reed-pen) and wrote what follows:—

  
FATIMA PLAYING ON HER STRINGED INSTRUMENT
  
“O’er the strings thy fingers are straying,
    O’er my heart stray the tones;
      And it wanders obeying,
        Far away from the zones;
          Up tending,
        Round thee bending,
  Round thy heart to be growing
          And clinging,
        Round thee flinging,
    Its glad mirth overflowing—
  Oh! thou Spirit from me springing,
      Life on me bestowing!
      Dazzled, blinded, confounded,
      I see in thy glances
    The whole world and its rounded
      Unbounded expanses;
      And round us it dances
        In drunken confusion,
        Like floating illusion;
      Around thee I’m reeling,
      All round me is wheeling—
        And Heaven and Ocean,
        In flashing commotion,
    Round us both as thou singest,
      Roll reeling and rushing—
    Thou Joy to me that wingest,
  Thou Soul from me outgushing!”
  6
 
  “On the following evening,” said Mirza-Schaffy, “I appeared at the appointed hour. During the day I had written a love song which none of womankind could resist. I had sung it over about twenty times to myself, in order to be sure of success. Then I had been into the bath, and had had my head shaved so perfectly that it might have vied in whiteness with the lilies of the vale of Senghi. The evening was calm and clear; from the garden-side where I stood, I could distinctly see my Zuléikha; she was alone with Fatima on the roof, and had her veil put a little back, as a sign of her favor. I took courage, and pushed my cap down behind to show my white head, just fresh shaved, to the maiden’s eyes. Thou canst comprehend what an impression that would make on a woman’s heart! Alas! my head was much whiter then than it is now. But that is more than ten years since!” he said sorrowfully, and would have continued in this digression if I had not interposed the words:—  7
  “Thy head is quite white enough now to fascinate the most maidenly heart; but thou hast not yet told me how thou sangest thy love song, and what impression it made upon Zuléikha.”  8
  “I had folded the song,” said the Mirza, “round a double almond kernel, and thrown it on the roof, as a keepsake for the Beauty, before I began to sing it; and then I began with clear voice:—

  “What is the eye of wild gazelle, the slender pine’s unfolding,
Compared with thy delightful eyes, and thine ethereal molding?
What is the scent from Shiraz’ fields, wind-borne, that’s hither straying,
Compared with richer scented breath from thy sweet mouth outplaying?
  
What is Ghazel and Rubajat, as Hafiz ere was singing,
Compared with one word’s mellow tone, from thy sweet mouth outwinging?
  
What is the rosy-chaliced flower, where nightingales are quaffing,
Compared with thy sweet rosy mouth, and thy lips’ rosy laughing?
What is the sun, and what the moon, and all heaven’s constellations?
Love-glancing far for thee they glow with trembling scintillations!
And what am I myself, my heart, my songful celebration,
But slaves of royal loveliness, bright beauty’s inspiration!”
  9
 
  “Allah, how beautiful!” I cried. “Mirza-Schaffy, thy words sound as sweet as the songs of the Peris, in the world of spirits! What is Hafiz to thee? What is a drop to the ocean?”  10
 
 
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