(The reality of life, death and martyrdom)

River Cauvery, flow gently for a while; 3365
perchance you are wearied by continual wandering.
For many years you have wept in the mountains,
carving out your path with your eyelashes.
Sweeter to me than Oxus and Euphrates,
to Deccan your water is the Water of Life. 3370
Alas, for the city which lay in your embrace,
whose sweet beauty was a reflection of your sweetness!
You have grown old, yet you are ever young,
ever the same your surge, your ardour, your lustre;
your waves have begotten only the purest pearls— 3375
may your tresses flow freely till all eternity!
You whose music is the very fire of life,
do you know from whom this message comes?
From him whose mighty power you once encircled,
whose empire you reflected in your mirror, 3380
by whose contriving deserts were turned to Paradise,
who wrought his image with his own blood,
whose dust is the goal of a hundred yearnings,
and with whose blood your waves surge still;
the man whose words were all action, 3385
the one man awake, whilst the East slept.
You and I are waves of life’s river;
every moment this universe changes,
for life is a perpetual revolution
since it is ever searching for a new world. 3390
This flux is the warp and woof of life,
this flux the source of the joy of manifestation;
the highways like travellers are on a journey;
apparently at rest, secretly everywhere in motion—
the caravan, the camels, the desert, the palm-trees, 3395
whatever you see, weeps for the pain of parting.
In the garden the rose is a guest of but a moment,
its hue and lustre a moment’s experiment.
The season of the rose? Funeral and festival together,
buds in the breast, the rose’s bier on the back. 3400
I said to the tulip, ‘Burn once again’;
the tulip answered, ‘You know not yet my secret,
Existence is constructed of sticks and straws;
what is the guerdon of manifestation, but regret?
Do you enter the inn of existence? Do not; 3405
do you come from not-being to being? Do not,
or if you do, go not out of your self like a spark,
but become a wanderer searching for a stack to fire.
If you have fever and flame like the sun,
step forth into the vastness of the sky; 3410
burn up mountain and bird, garden and desert,
burn even the fishes in the depths of the sea.
If you have a breast worthy of an arrow,
live like a falcon, and like a falcon die;
immortality is in the breadth of life— 3415
I do not ask of God for length of days,
What is the law, the religion, the rite of life?
Better one instant a lion, than a century a sheep.
Life is fortified by cheerful resignation;
death is a magic talisman, a fantasy. 3420
The man of God is a lion, and death a fawn;
death is but one station for him of a hundred.
The perfect man swoops upon death
even as a falcon swooping upon a dove,
The slave dies every moment in fear of death; 3425
the fear of death makes life for him a thing forbidden;
the free servant has another dignity,
death bestows upon him a new life.
He is anxious for the self, but not for death,
since to the free death is no more than an instant. 3430
Transcend the death that is content with the grave,
for that death is the death of brute beasts;
the true believer prays to the Holy God
for that other death which raises up from the dust.
That other death-the goal of the road of love, 3435
the final Allahu Akbar in love’s battlefield.
Though to the believer every death is sweet,
the death of Murtada’s son is something other.
The warfare of worldly kings is for rapine,
the believer’s warfare is the Sunna of the Prophet. 3440
What is the believer’s warfare? Flight to the Beloved;
quitting the world, choosing the Beloved’s street,
He who proclaimed to the peoples the word of love
said of warfare that it was ‘the monasticism of Islam’.
None but the martyr knows this subtlety, 3445
for he has purchased this subtlety with his blood.