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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 School of Wisdom
By Friedrich von Bodenstedt (1819–1892)
 
From the ‘Thousand and One Days in the East’

“MIRZA-SCHAFFY!” I began, when we sat again assembled in the Divan of Wisdom, “what wilt thou say when I tell thee that the wise men of the West consider you as stupid as you do them?”  1
  “What can I do but be amazed at their folly?” he replied. “What new thing can I learn from them, when they only repeat mine?”  2
  He ordered a fresh chibouk, mused awhile meditatingly before him, bade us get ready the kalemdan (writing-stand), and then began to sing:—

  “Shall I laughing, shall I weeping
  Go, because men are so brute,
Always foreign sense repeating,
  And in self-expression mute?
  
“No, the Maker’s praise shall rise
  For the foolish generation;
Else the wisdom of the wise
  Would be lost from observation!”
  3
 
  “Mirza-Schaffy,” said I, interrupting him again, “would it not be a prudent beginning to clothe thy sayings in a Western dress, to the end that they might be a mirror for the foolish, a rule of conduct for the erring, and a source of high enjoyment for our wives and maidens, whose charm is as great as their inclination to wisdom?”  4
  “Women are everywhere wise,” replied my reverend teacher, “and their power is greater than fools imagine. Their eyes are the original seat of all true devotion and wisdom, and he who inspires from them needs not wait for death to enter upon the joys of Paradise. The smallest finger of woman overthrows the mightiest edifice of faith, and the youngest maiden mars the oldest institutions of the Church!”  5
  “But thou hast not yet given me an answer to my question, O Mirza!”  6
  “Thou speakest wisely. The seed of my words has taken root in thy heart. Write; I will sing!”  7
  And now he sang to me a number of wonderful songs, part of which here follow in an English dress.

  
MIRZA-SCHAFFY’S OPINION OF THE SHAH OF PERSIA
  
A LEARNÈD scribe once came to me from far:
  “Mirza!” said he, “what think’st thou of the Shah?
Was wisdom really born in him with years?
  And are his eyes as spacious as his ears?”
  
“He’s just as wise as all who round them bind
  Capuche and gown: he knows what an amount
Of stupid fear keeps all his people blind,
  And how to turn it to his own account.”

  
MIRZA-SCHAFFY PRAISES THE CHARMS OF ZULÉIKHA
  
LOOKING at thy tender little feet
Makes me always wonder, sweetest maiden,
  How they so much beauty can be bearing!
  
Looking at thy lovely little hands
Makes me always wonder, sweetest maiden,
  How they so to wound me can be daring!
  
Looking at thy rosy luring lips
Makes me always wonder, sweetest maiden,
  How they of a kiss e’er can be sparing!
  
Looking at thy meaningful bright eyes
Makes me always wonder, sweetest maiden,
  How for greater love they can be caring
  
Than I feel. Oh, look at me, and love!
Warmer than my heart, thou sweetest maiden,
  Heart in thy love never will be sharing.
  
Listen to this rapture-reaching song!
Fairer than my mouth, thou sweetest maiden,
  Mouth thy praise will never be declaring!
  8
 
 
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