The company of the radiant of heart is for a breath or two,
that breath or two is the substance of being and not-being; 2430
it made love more tumultuous, and then passed,
endowed reason with vision, and then passed.
I closed my eyes to hold it still within me,
to transport it from my eyes to my heart.
Suddenly I saw the world had become dark, 2435
become dark from space even to spacelessness.
In that night a flame appeared
from the midst of which an old man leaped forth
wrapped in a cloak of antimony grey,
his body immersed in wreathing smoke. 2440
Rumi said, ‘The Leader of the People of Separation!
How all a-fire, and what a cup of blood!
Ancient, seldom smiling, of few words,
his eyes scanning the soul within the body,
drunkard and mullah, philosopher and Sufi, 2445
in practice like a toiling ascetic,
his nature alien to the joy of union,
his asceticism the abandonment of eternal beauty;
since it was not easy to break away from beauty,
he made a beginning with spurning adoration. 2450
Gaze a little at his visitations,
gaze at his difficulties, his tenacity
still absorbed in the battle of good and evil,
he has seen a hundred prophets, and is an infidel yet.’
My soul in my body quivered for his agony; 2455
a sigh of anguish broke from his lips.
With eyes half-closed he turned to me and said;
‘Who besides me has so gloried in action?
I have become so involved in labour
that even on the sabbath I am rarely at rest, 2460
I have no angels, no servants attending me;
my revelation is without benefit of prophets.
I have brought neither Traditions nor Book;
I have robbed theologians of their sweet soul.
None ever spun finer than they the thread of religion. 2465
yet in the end they left the Kaaba a heap of bricks.
My religion has no such foundation;
in the faith of Iblis there are no schisms and sects.
Ignorant one, I have given up prostration,
I have turned the organ of good and evil. 2470
Do not take me for one who denies God’s existence;
open your eyes on my inner self, overlook my exterior.
If I say, "He is not", that would be foolishness,
for when one has seen, one cannot say, "He is not".
Under the veil of "No" I murmured "Yes"; 2475
what I have spoken is better than what I never said.
To share in the pain and suffering of Adam
I did not forgo the fury of the Beloved.
Flames sprang forth from my sown field;
man out of predestination achieved free-will. 2480
I displayed my own hideousness
and have given you the joy of leaving or choosing.
Deliver me now from my fire;
resolve, O man, the knot of my toil.
You who have fallen into my noose 2485
and given to Satan the leave to disobey,
live in the world with true manly zeal;
as you pity me, live a stranger to me
proudly disregarding my sting and my honey,
so that my scroll may not become blacker still. 2490
In the world the huntsman lives on his prey;
whilst you are my prey, I draw out my arrows.
He who soars aloft is secure from falling:
if the quarry is cunning, the huntsman will fail.’
‘Give up this cult of separation’, I said to him. 2495
‘The most hateful of things to God is divorce.’
He said, ‘The fire of separation is the stuff of life;
how sweet the intoxication of the day of separation!
The very name of union comes not to my lips;
if I seek union, neither He remains nor I.’ 2500
The word ‘union’ made him out of himself;
the burning agony was renewed in his heart.
He wallowed awhile in his own fumes,
he became lost again in his own fumes;
out of those fumes whirling a lament rose high; 2505
how blessed the soul that can feel anguish!