A ragged pilgrim of the sufis’ Way
By chance met with a king, and heard him say:
“Who’s better, me or you?” The old man said:
“Silence, your words are empty as your head!
Although self-praise is not our normal rule
(The man who loves himself is still a fool),
I’ll tell you, since I must, that one like me
Exceeds a thousand like your majesty
Since you find no delight in faith – alas,
Your Self has made of you, my lord, an ass
And sat on you, and set its load on you –
You’re just its slave in everything you do;
You wear its halter, follow its commands,
A no-one, left completely in its hands.
My study is to reach Truth’s inmost shrine –
And I am not my Self’s ass, he is mine;
Now since the beast I ride on rides on you,
That I’m your better is quite plainly true.
You love the Self – it’s lit in you’re a fire
Of nagging lust, insatiable desire,
A blaze that burns your vigour, wastes your heart,
Leaving infirmity in every part –
Consuming all your strength, till deaf and blind
You’re old, forgetful, rambling in your mind.”
This man, and hundreds like him, constitute
The mighty phalanx of the Absolute;
When such an army charges you will find
You and your puny Self are left behind.
How you delight in this dog’s partnership –
But it’s the dog, not you, that cracks the whip!
The forces of the king will separate
This dog and you – why not anticipate
Their order and forestall the pain? If though
You weep that here on earth you cannot know
Enough of his audacious infidel –
Don’t worry; you’ll be comrades down in hell.
Fariduddin Attar, The Conference of the Birds