A blupete Poetry pick

"Stanzas from the Kasidah"

NOTE: "Kasidah" is an Arabic or Persian panegyric. A panegyric is a public speech or writing in praise of some person, thing, or achievement; a laudatory discourse, a formal or elaborate encomium or eulogy. According to the ancient rules the author of a 'qasîda' must begin by a reference to the forsaken camping-grounds. Next he must lament, and pray his comrades to halt, while he calls up the memory of the dwellers who had departed. The Kasidah is a very artificial composition; the same rhyme has to run through the whole of the verses, however long the poem may be." (OED.)

Friends of my youth, at last adieu!
Haply some day we meet again;
Yet ne'er the self-same men shall meet;
The years shall make us other men:

Fie, fie! you visionary things,
Ye motes that dance in sunny glow,
Who base and build Eternities
On briefest moment here below;

Who pass through Life like caged birds,
The captives of a despot will;
Still wond'ring How and When and Why,
And Whence and Whither, wond'ring still;

Who knows not Whence he came nor Why,
Who kens not Whither bound and When,
Yet such is Allah's choicest gift,
The blessing dreamt by foolish men;

Hardly we learn to wield the blade
Before the wrist grows stiff and old;
Hardly we learn to ply the pen
Ere Thought and Fancy faint with cold.

When swift the Camel-rider spans
The howling waste, by Kismet sped,
And of his Magic Wand a wave
Hurries the quick to join the dead.

How Thought is impotent to divine
The secret which the gods defend,
The Why of birth and life and death,
That Isis-veil no hand may rend.

O the dread pathos of our lives!
How durst thou, Allah, thus to play
With love, Affection, Friendship,
All that shows the god in mortal clay.

Cease, Man, to mourn, to weep, to wail;
Enjoy thy shining hour of sun;
We dance along Death's icy brink,
But is the dance less full of fun?

How shall the Shown pretend to ken
Aught of the Showman or the Show?
Why meanly bargain to believe,
Which only means thou ne'er canst know?

There is no Good, there is no Bad;
These be the whims of mortal will:
What works me weal that call I "good,"
What harms and hurts I hold as "ill:'

They change with place, they shift with race;
And, in the veriest span of Time,
Each Vice has won a Virtue's crown;
All good was banned as Sin or Crime:

All Faith is false, all Faith is true:
Truth is the shattered mirror strown
In myriad bits; while each believes
His little bit the whole to own.

What is the Truth? was askt of yore.
Reply all object Truth is one
As twain of halves aye makes as whole;
The moral Truth for all is none.

With God's foreknowledge man's free will!
What monster-growth of human brain,
What powers of light shall ever pierce
This puzzle dense with words inane?

There is no Heaven, there is no Hell;
These be the dreams of baby brains;
Tools of the wily Fetisheer,
To 'fright the fools his cunning blinds.

Who drinks one bowl hath scant delight;
To poorest passion he was born;
Who drains the score must e'er expect
To rue the headache of the morn.

From self-approval seek applause:
What ken not men thou kennest, thou!
Spurn ev'ry idol others raise:
Before thine own Ideal bow:

Be thine own Deus: Make self free,
Liberal as the circling air:
Thy Thought to thee an Empire be;
Break every prisoning lock and bar:

By Sir Richard F. Burton (1821-1890).

Just a couple of more notes: Isis was a principal God of ancient Egypt. The expression "to lift the veil of Isis" means to pierce to the heart of a great mystery. "Motes," "ken," "ere," "twain," "rend," and "weal" are old Saxon expressions, old English expressions. "Motes" are the smallest of things; "ken" means know; "ere" means before; "twain" means two; "rend" means to take apart; and "weal" means well being. "Kismet" is a Mohammedan expression meaning fate or destiny. "Durst thou" means "dare you."
My interpretation of "All Faith is false, all Faith is true" is, faith in the unreal is false, Faith in the real is true. And, to conclude my notes on Stanzas from the Kasidah: I say that belief in life alone, in reality alone (no God) does not mean one will run amok. Life is self regulating for us all, and the example is given, "Who drains the score must e'er expect \ To rue the headache of the morn" : too much liquor will make one sick, thus most all of us learn our lesson, and, with experience, rarely does a mature person drink too much.

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Peter Landry