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Title: The Kasîdah of Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî

Author: Sir Richard Francis Burton

Release date: July 1, 2004 [eBook #6036]
Most recently updated: December 29, 2020

Language: English

Credits: This eBook was prepared by Robert Sinton from a source supplied by the Sacred Texts Web site,, thanks to John B. Hare



By Richard Burton

Translated And Annotated By Hs Friend And Pupil, F.B.









The Translator has ventured to entitle a “Lay of the Higher Law” the following composition, which aims at being in advance of its time; and he has not feared the danger of collision with such unpleasant forms as the “Higher Culture.” The principles which justify the name are as follows:—

The Author asserts that Happiness and Misery are equally divided and distributed in the world.

He makes Self-cultivation, with due regard to others, the sole and sufficient object of human life.

He suggests that the affections, the sympathies, and the “divine gift of Pity” are man’s highest enjoyments.

He advocates suspension of judgment, with a proper suspicion of “Facts, the idlest of superstitions.”

Finally, although destructive to appearance, he is essentially reconstructive.

For other details concerning the Poem and the Poet, the curious reader is referred to the end of the volume.

F. B.

Vienna, Nov., 1880.


                The hour is nigh; the waning Queen
                   walks forth to rule the later night;
                Crown’d with the sparkle of a Star,
                   and throned on orb of ashen light:

                The Wolf-tail* sweeps the paling East
                   to leave a deeper gloom behind,
                And Dawn uprears her shining head,
                   sighing with semblance of a wind:

                   * The false dawn.

                The highlands catch yon Orient gleam,
                   while purpling still the lowlands lie;
                And pearly mists, the morning-pride,
                   soar incense-like to greet the sky.

                The horses neigh, the camels groan,
                   the torches gleam, the cressets flare;
                The town of canvas falls, and man
                   with din and dint invadeth air:

                The Golden Gates swing right and left;
                   up springs the Sun with flamy brow;
                The dew-cloud melts in gush of light;
                   brown Earth is bathed in morning-glow.

                Slowly they wind athwart the wild,
                   and while young Day his anthem swells,
                Sad falls upon my yearning ear
                   the tinkling of the Camel-bells:

                O’er fiery wastes and frozen wold,
                   o’er horrid hill and gloomy glen,
                The home of grisly beast and Ghoul,*
                   the haunts of wilder, grislier men;—

                   * The Demon of the Desert.

                With the brief gladness of the Palms,
                   that tower and sway o’er seething plain,
                Fraught with the thoughts of rustling shade,
                   and welling spring, and rushing rain;

                With the short solace of the ridge,
                   by gentle zephyrs played upon,
                Whose breezy head and bosky side
                   front seas of cooly celadon;—

                ’Tis theirs to pass with joy and hope,
                   whose souls shall ever thrill and fill
                Dreams of the Birthplace and the Tomb,
                   visions of Allah’s Holy Hill.*

                   * Arafât, near Mecca.

                But we? Another shift of scene,
                   another pang to rack the heart;
                Why meet we on the bridge of Time
                   to ’change one greeting and to part?

                We meet to part; yet asks my sprite,
                   Part we to meet? Ah! is it so?
                Man’s fancy-made Omniscience knows,
                   who made Omniscience nought can know.

                Why must we meet, why must we part,
                   why must we bear this yoke of MUST,
                Without our leave or askt or given,
                   by tyrant Fate on victim thrust?

                That Eve so gay, so bright, so glad,
                   this Morn so dim, and sad, and grey;
                Strange that life’s Registrar should write
                   this day a day, that day a day!

                Mine eyes, my brain, my heart, are sad,—
                   sad is the very core of me;
                All wearies, changes, passes, ends;
                   alas! the Birthday’s injury!

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

                The light of morn has grown to noon,
                   has paled with eve, and now farewell!
                Go, vanish from my Life as dies
                   the tinkling of the Camel’s bell.
                In these drear wastes of sea-born land,
                   these wilds where none may dwell but He,
                What visionary Pasts revive,
                   what process of the Years we see:

                Gazing beyond the thin blue line
                   that rims the far horizon-ring,
                Our sadden’d sight why haunt these ghosts,
                   whence do these spectral shadows spring?

                What endless questions vex the thought,
                   of Whence and Whither, When and How?
                What fond and foolish strife to read
                   the Scripture writ on human brow;

                As stand we percht on point of Time,
                   betwixt the two Eternities,
                Whose awful secrets gathering round
                   with black profound oppress our eyes.

                “This gloomy night, these grisly waves,
                   these winds and whirlpools loud and dread:
                What reck they of our wretched plight
                   who Safety’s shore so lightly tread?”

                Thus quoth the Bard of Love and Wine,*
                   whose dream of Heaven ne’er could rise
                Beyond the brimming Kausar-cup
                   and Houris with the white-black eyes;

                   * Hâfiz of Shirâz.

                Ah me! my race of threescore years
                   is short, but long enough to pall
                My sense with joyless joys as these,
                   with Love and Houris, Wine and all.

                Another boasts he would divorce
                   old barren Reason from his bed,
                And wed the Vine-maid in her stead;—
                   fools who believe a word he said!*

                   * Omar-i-Kayyâm, the tent-maker poet of Persia.

                And “‘Dust thou art to dust returning.’
                   ne’er was spoke of human soul”
                The Soofi cries, ’tis well for him
                   that hath such gift to ask its goal.

                “And this is all, for this we’re born
                   to weep a little and to die!”
                So sings the shallow bard whose life
                   still labours at the letter “I.”

                “Ear never heard, Eye never saw
                   the bliss of those who enter in
                My heavenly kingdom,” Isâ said,
                   who wailed our sorrows and our sin:

                Too much of words or yet too few!
                   What to thy Godhead easier than
                One little glimpse of Paradise
                   to ope the eyes and ears of man?

                “I am the Truth! I am the Truth!”
                   we hear the God-drunk gnostic cry
                “The microcosm abides in ME;
                   Eternal Allah’s nought but I!”

                Mansûr* was wise, but wiser they
                   who smote him with the hurlèd stones;
                And, though his blood a witness bore,
                   no wisdom-might could mend his bones.

                   * A famous Mystic stoned for blasphemy.

                “Eat, drink, and sport; the rest of life’s
                   not worth a fillip,” quoth the King;
                Methinks the saying saith too much:
                   the swine would say the selfsame thing!

                Two-footed beasts that browse through life,
                   by Death to serve as soil design’d,
                Bow prone to Earth whereof they be,
                   and there the proper pleasures find:

                But you of finer, nobler, stuff,
                   ye, whom to Higher leads the High,
                What binds your hearts in common bond
                   with creatures of the stall and sty?

                “In certain hope of Life-to-come
                   I journey through this shifting scene”
                The Zâhid* snarls and saunters down
                   his Vale of Tears with confi’dent mien.

                   * The “Philister” of “respectable” belief.

                Wiser than Amrân’s Son* art thou,
                   who ken’st so well the world-to-be,
                The Future when the Past is not,
                   the Present merest dreamery;

                   * Moses in the Koran.

                What know’st thou, man, of Life? and yet,
                   forever twixt the womb, the grave,
                Thou pratest of the Coming Life,
                   of Heav’n and Hell thou fain must rave.

                The world is old and thou art young;
                   the world is large and thou art small;
                Cease, atom of a moment’s span,
                   To hold thyself an All-in-All!
                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 liked cagèd birds,
                   the captives of a despot will;
                Still wond’ring How and When and Why,
                   and Whence and Whither, wond’ring still;

                Still wond’ring how the Marvel came
                   because two coupling mammals chose
                To slake the thirst of fleshly love,
                   and thus the “Immortal Being” rose;

                Wond’ring the Babe with staring eyes,
                   perforce compel’d from night to day,
                Gript in the giant grasp of Life
                   like gale-born dust or wind-wrung spray;

                Who comes imbecile to the world
                   ’mid double danger, groans, and tears;
                The toy, the sport, the waif and stray
                   of passions, error, wrath and fears;

                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;

                Who step by step perforce returns
                   to couthless youth, wan, white and cold,
                Lisping again his broken words
                   till all the tale be fully told:

                Wond’ring the Babe with quenchèd orbs,
                   an oldster bow’d by burthening years,
                How ’scaped the skiff an hundred storms;
                   how ’scaped the thread a thousand shears;

                How coming to the Feast unbid,
                   he found the gorgeous table spread
                With the fair-seeming Sodom-fruit,
                   with stones that bear the shape of bread:

                How Life was nought but ray of sun
                   that clove the darkness thick and blind,
                The ravings of the reckless storm,
                   the shrieking of the rav’ening wind;

                How lovely visions ’guiled his sleep,
                   aye fading with the break of morn,
                Till every sweet became a sour,
                   till every rose became a thorn;

                Till dust and ashes met his eyes
                   wherever turned their saddened gaze;
                The wrecks of joys and hopes and loves,
                   the rubbish of his wasted days;

                How every high heroic Thought
                   that longed to breathe empyrean air,
                Failed of its feathers, fell to earth,
                   and perisht of a sheer despair;

                How, dower’d with heritage of brain,
                   whose might has split the solar ray,
                His rest is grossest coarsest earth,
                   a crown of gold on brow of clay;

                This House whose frame be flesh and bone,
                   mortar’d with blood and faced with skin,
                The home of sickness, dolours, age;
                   unclean without, impure within:

                Sans ray to cheer its inner gloom,
                   the chambers haunted by the Ghost,
                Darkness his name, a cold dumb Shade
                   stronger than all the heav’nly host.

                This tube, an enigmatic pipe,
                   whose end was laid before begun,
                That lengthens, broadens, shrinks and breaks;
                   —puzzle, machine, automaton;

                The first of Pots the Potter made
                   by Chrysorrhoas’ blue-green wave;*
                Methinks I see him smile to see
                   what guerdon to the world he gave!

                   * The Abana, River of Damascus.

                How Life is dim, unreal, vain,
                   like scenes that round the drunkard reel;
                How “Being” meaneth not to be;
                   to see and hear, smell, taste and feel.

                A drop in Ocean’s boundless tide,
                   unfathom’d waste of agony;
                Where millions live their horrid lives
                   by making other millions die.

                How with a heart that would through love
                   to Universal Love aspire,
                Man woos infernal chance to smite,
                   as Min’arets draw the Thunder-fire.

                How Earth on Earth builds tow’er and wall,
                   to crumble at a touch of Time;
                How Earth on Earth from Shînar-plain
                   the heights of Heaven fain would climb.

                How short this Life, how long withal;
                   how false its weal, how true its woes,
                This fever-fit with paroxysms
                   to mark its opening and its close.

                Ah! gay the day with shine of sun,
                   and bright the breeze, and blithe the throng
                Met on the River-bank to play,
                   when I was young, when I was young:

                Such general joy could never fade;
                   and yet the chilling whisper came
                One face had paled, one form had failed;
                   had fled the bank, had swum the stream;

                Still revellers danced, and sang, and trod
                   the hither bank of Time’s deep tide,
                Still one by one they left and fared
                   to the far misty thither side;

                And now the last hath slipt away
                   yon drear Death-desert to explore,
                And now one Pilgrim worn and lorn
                   still lingers on the lonely shore.

                Yes, Life in youth-tide standeth still;
                   in manhood streameth soft and slow;
                See, as it nears the ’abysmal goal
                   how fleet the waters flash and flow!

                And Deaths are twain; the Deaths we see
                   drop like the leaves in windy Fall;
                But ours, our own, are ruined worlds,
                   a globe collapst, last end of all.

                We live our lives with rogues and fools,
                   dead and alive, alive and dead,
                We die ’twixt one who feels the pulse
                   and one who frets and clouds the head:

                And,—oh, the Pity!—hardly conned
                   the lesson comes its fatal term;
                Fate bids us bundle up our books,
                   and bear them bod’ily to the worm:

                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.

                Hardly we find the path of love,
                   to sink the self, forget the “I,”
                When sad suspicion grips the heart,
                   when Man, the Man begins to die:

                Hardly we scale the wisdom-heights,
                   and sight the Pisgah-scene around,
                And breathe the breath of heav’enly air,
                   and hear the Spheres’ harmonious sound;

                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.*

                   * Death in Arabia rides a Camel, not a pale horse.

                How sore the burden, strange the strife;
                   how full of splendour, wonder, fear;
                Life, atom of that Infinite Space
                   that stretcheth ’twixt the Here and There.

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

                Eternal Morrows make our Day;
                   our Is is aye to be till when
                Night closes in; ’tis all a dream,
                   and yet we die,—and then and THEN?

                And still the Weaver plies his loom,
                   whose warp and woof is wretched Man
                Weaving th’ unpattern’d dark design,
                   so dark we doubt it owns a plan.

                Dost not, O Maker, blush to hear,
                   amid the storm of tears and blood,
                Man say Thy mercy made what is,
                   and saw the made and said ’twas good?

                The marvel is that man can smile
                   dreaming his ghostly ghastly dream;-
                Better the heedless atomy
                   that buzzes in the morning beam!

                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?

                But ah! what ’vaileth man to mourn;
                   shall tears bring forth what smiles ne’er brought;
                Shall brooding breed a thought of joy?
                   Ah hush the sigh, forget the thought!

                Silence thine immemorial quest,
                   contain thy nature’s vain complaint
                None heeds, none cares for thee or thine;—
                   like thee how many came and went?

                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?
                What Truths hath gleaned that Sage consumed
                   by many a moon that waxt and waned?
                What Prophet-strain be his to sing?
                   What hath his old Experience gained?

                There is no God, no man-made God;
                   a bigger, stronger, crueller man;
                Black phantom of our baby-fears,
                   ere Thought, the life of Life, began.

                Right quoth the Hindu Prince of old,*
                   “An Ishwara for one I nill,
                Th’ almighty everlasting Good
                   who cannot ’bate th’ Eternal Ill:”

                   * Buddha.

                “Your gods may be, what shows they are?”
                   hear China’s Perfect Sage declare;*
                “And being, what to us be they
                   who dwell so darkly and so far?”

                   * Confucius.

                “All matter hath a birth and death;
                   ’tis made, unmade and made anew;
                “We choose to call the Maker ‘God’:—
                   such is the Zâhid’s owly view.

                “You changeful finite Creatures strain”
                   (rejoins the Drawer of the Wine)*
                “The dizzy depths of Inf’inite Power
                   to fathom with your foot of twine”;

                   * The Soofi or Gnostic opposed to the Zâhid.

                “Poor idols of man’s heart and head
                   with the Divine Idea to blend;
                “To preach as ‘Nature’s Common Course’
                   what any hour may shift or end.”

                “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?

                “How may the passing Now contain
                   the standing Now—Eternity?—
                “An endless is without a was,
                   the be and never the to-be?

                “Who made your Maker? If Self-made,
                   why fare so far to fare the worse
                “Sufficeth not a world of worlds,
                   a self-made chain of universe?

                “Grant an Idea, Primal Cause,
                   the Causing Cause, why crave for more?
                “Why strive its depth and breadth to mete,
                   to trace its work, its aid to ’implore?

                “Unknown, Incomprehensible,
                   whate’er you choose to call it, call;
                “But leave it vague as airy space,
                   dark in its darkness mystical.

                “Your childish fears would seek a Sire,
                   by the non-human God defin’d,
                “What your five wits may wot ye weet;
                   what is you please to dub ‘design’d;’

                “You bring down Heav’en to vulgar Earth;
                   your maker like yourselves you make,
                “You quake to own a reign of Law,
                   you pray the Law its laws to break;

                “You pray, but hath your thought e’er weighed
                   how empty vain the prayer must be,
                “That begs a boon already giv’en,
                   or craves a change of law to see?

                “Say, Man, deep learnèd in the Scheme
                   that orders mysteries sublime,
                “How came it this was Jesus, that
                   was Judas from the birth of Time?

                “How I the tiger, thou the lamb;
                   again the Secret, prithee, show
                “Who slew the slain, bowman or bolt
                   or Fate that drave the man, the bow?

                “Man worships self: his God is Man;
                   the struggling of the mortal mind
                “To form its model as ’twould be,
                   the perfect of itself to find.

                “The God became sage, priest and scribe
                   where Nilus’ serpent made the vale;
                “A gloomy Brahm in glowing Ind,
                   a neutral something cold and pale:

                “Amid the high Chaldean hills
                   a moulder of the heavenly spheres;
                “On Guebre steppes the Timeless-God
                   who governs by his dual peers:

                “In Hebrew tents the Lord that led
                   His leprous slaves to fight and jar;
                “Yahveh,* Adon or Elohîm,
                   the God that smites, the Man of War.

                   * Jehovah.

                “The lovely Gods of lib’ertine Greece,
                   those fair and frail humanities
                “Whose homes o’erlook’d the Middle Sea,
                   where all Earth’s beauty cradled lies,

                “Ne’er left its blessèd bounds, nor sought
                   the barb’arous climes of barb’arous gods
                “Where Odin of the dreary North
                   o’er hog and sickly mead-cup nods:

                “And when, at length, ‘Great Pan is dead’
                   uprose the loud and dol’orous cry
                “A glamour wither’d on the ground,
                   a splendour faded in the sky.

                “Yea, Pan was dead, the Nazar’ene came
                   and seized his seat beneath the sun,
                “The votary of the Riddle-god,
                   whose one is three and three is one;

                “Whose sadd’ening creed of herited Sin
                   spilt o’er the world its cold grey spell;
                “In every vista showed a grave,
                   and ’neath the grave the glare of Hell;

                “Till all Life’s Po’esy sinks to prose;
                   romance to dull Real’ity fades;
                “Earth’s flush of gladness pales in gloom
                   and God again to man degrades.

                “Then the lank Arab foul with sweat,
                   the drainer of the camel’s dug,
                “Gorged with his leek-green lizard’s meat,
                   clad in his filthy rag and rug,

                “Bore his fierce Allah o’er his sands
                   and broke, like lava-burst upon
                “The realms where reigned pre-Adamite Kings,
                   where rose the Grand Kayânian throne.*

                   * Kayâni—of the race of Cyrus; old Guebre heroes.

                “Who now of ancient Kayomurs,
                   of Zâl or Rustam cares to sing,
                “Whelmed by the tempest of the tribes
                   that called the Camel-driver King?

                “Where are the crown of Kay Khusraw,
                   the sceptre of Anûshirwân,
                “The holy grail of high Jamshîd,
                   Afrâsiyab’s hall?—Canst tell me, man?

                “Gone, gone, where I and thou must go,
                   borne by the winnowing wings of Death,
                “The Horror brooding over life,
                   and nearer brought with every breath:

                “Their fame hath filled the Seven Climes,
                   they rose and reigned, they fought and fell,
                “As swells and swoons across the wold
                   the tinkling of the Camel’s bell.”
                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 worn a Virtue’s crown;
                   all Good was banned as Sin or Crime:

                Like ravelled skeins they cross and twine,
                   while this with that connects and blends;
                And only Khizr* his eye shall see
                   where one begins, where other ends:

                   * Supposed to be the Prophet Elijah.

                What mortal shall consort with Khizr,
                   when Musâ turned in fear to flee?
                What man foresees the flow’er or fruit
                   whom Fate compels to plant the tree?

                For Man’s Free-will immortal Law,
                   Anagkê, Kismet, Des’tiny read
                That was, that is, that aye shall be,
                   Star, Fortune, Fate, Urd, Norn or Need.

                “Man’s nat’ural state is God’s design;”
                   such is the silly sage’s theme;
                “Man’s primal Age was Age of Gold;”
                   such is the Poet’s waking dream:

                Delusion, Ign’orance! Long ere Man
                   drew upon Earth his earliest breath
                The world was one contin’uous scene
                   of anguish, torture, prey and Death;

                Where hideous Theria of the wild
                   rended their fellows limb by limb;
                Where horrid Saurians of the sea
                   in waves of blood were wont to swim:

                The “fair young Earth” was only fit
                   to spawn her frightful monster-brood;
                Now fiery hot, now icy frore,
                   now reeking wet with steamy flood.

                Yon glorious Sun, the greater light,
                   the “Bridegroom” of the royal Lyre,
                A flaming, boiling, bursting mine;
                   a grim black orb of whirling fire:

                That gentle Moon, the lesser light,
                   the Lover’s lamp, the Swain’s delight,
                A ruined world, a globe burnt out,
                   a corpse upon the road of night.

                What reckt he, say, of Good or Ill
                   who in the hill-hole made his lair,
                The blood-fed rav’ening Beast of prey,
                   wilder than wildest wolf or bear?

                How long in Man’s pre-Ad’amite days
                   to feed and swill, to sleep and breed,
                Were the Brute-biped’s only life,
                   a perfect life sans Code or Creed?

                His choicest garb a shaggy fell,
                   his choicest tool a flake of stone;
                His best of orn’aments tattoo’d skin
                   and holes to hang his bits of bone;

                Who fought for female as for food
                   when Mays awoke to warm desire;
                And such the Lust that grew to Love
                   when Fancy lent a purer fire.

                Where then “Th’ Eternal nature-law
                   by God engraved on human heart?”
                Behold his simiad sconce and own
                   the Thing could play no higher part.

                Yet, as long ages rolled, he learnt
                   from Beaver, Ape and Ant to build
                Shelter for sire and dam and brood,
                   from blast and blaze that hurt and killed;

                And last came Fire; when scrap of stone
                   cast on the flame that lit his den,
                Gave out the shining ore, and made
                   the Lord of beasts a Lord of men.

                The “moral sense,” your Zâhid-phrase,
                   is but the gift of latest years;
                Conscience was born when man had shed
                   his fur, his tail, his pointed ears.

                What conscience has the murd’erous Moor,
                   who slays his guest with felon blow,
                Save sorrow he can slay no more,
                   what prick of pen’itence can he know?

                You cry the “Cruelty of Things”
                   is myst’ery to your purblind eye,
                Which fixed upon a point in space
                   the general project passes by:

                For see! the Mammoth went his ways,
                   became a mem’ory and a name;
                While the half-reasoner with the hand*
                   survives his rank and place to claim.

                   * The Elephant.

                Earthquake and plague, storm, fight and fray,
                   portents and curses man must deem
                Since he regards his self alone,
                   nor cares to trace the scope, the scheme;

                The Quake that comes in eyelid’s beat
                   to ruin, level, ’gulf and kill,
                Builds up a world for better use,
                   to general Good bends special Ill:

                The dreadest sound man’s ear can hear,
                   the war and rush of stormy Wind
                Depures the stuff of human life,
                   breeds health and strength for humankind:

                What call ye them or Goods or Ills,
                   ill-goods, good-ills, a loss, a gain,
                When realms arise and falls a roof;
                   a world is won, a man is slain?

                And thus the race of Being runs,
                   till haply in the time to be
                Earth shifts her pole and Mushtari*-men
                   another falling star shall see:

                   * The Planet Jupiter.

                Shall see it fall and fade from sight,
                   whence come, where gone no Thought can tell,—
                Drink of yon mirage-stream and chase
                   the tinkling of the camel-bell!
                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 a whole;
                   the moral Truth for all is none.

                Ye scantly-learned Zâhids learn
                   from Aflatûn and Aristû,*
                While Truth is real like your good:
                   th’ Untrue, like ill, is real too;

                   * Plato and Aristotle.

                As palace mirror’d in the stream,
                   as vapour mingled with the skies,
                So weaves the brain of mortal man
                   the tangled web of Truth and Lies.

                What see we here? Forms, nothing more!
                   Forms fill the brightest, strongest eye,
                We know not substance; ’mid the shades
                   shadows ourselves we live and die.

                “Faith mountains move” I hear: I see
                   the practice of the world unheed
                The foolish vaunt, the blatant boast
                   that serves our vanity to feed.

                “Faith stands unmoved”; and why? Because
                   man’s silly fancies still remain,
                And will remain till wiser man
                   the day-dreams of his youth disdain.

                “’Tis blessèd to believe”; you say:
                   The saying may be true enow
                And it can add to Life a light:—
                   only remains to show us how.

                E’en if I could I nould believe
                   your tales and fables stale and trite,
                Irksome as twice-sung tune that tires
                   the dullèd ear of drowsy wight.

                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?

                Vainly the heart on Providence calls,
                   such aid to seek were hardly wise
                For man must own the pitiless Law
                   that sways the globe and sevenfold skies.

                “Be ye Good Boys, go seek for Heav’en,
                   come pay the priest that holds the key;”
                So spake, and speaks, and aye shall speak
                   the last to enter Heaven,—he.

                Are these the words for men to hear?
                   yet such the Church’s general tongue,
                The horseleech-cry so strong so high
                   her heav’enward Psalms and Hymns among.

                What? Faith a merit and a claim,
                   when with the brain ’tis born and bred?
                Go, fool, thy foolish way and dip
                   in holy water burièd dead!

                Yet follow not th’ unwisdom-path,
                   cleave not to this and that disclaim;
                Believe in all that man believes;
                   here all and naught are both the same.

                But is it so? How may we know?
                   Haply this Fate, this Law may be
                A word, a sound, a breath; at most
                   the Zâhid’s moonstruck theory.

                Yes Truth may be, but ’tis not Here;
                   mankind must seek and find it There,
                But Where nor I nor you can tell,
                   nor aught earth-mother ever bare.

                Enough to think that Truth can be:
                   come sit we where the roses glow,
                Indeed he knows not how to know
                   who knows not also how to ’unknow.
                Man hath no Soul, a state of things,
                   a no-thing still, a sound, a word
                Which so begets substantial thing
                   that eye shall see what ear hath heard.

                Where was his Soul the savage beast
                   which in primeval forests strayed,
                What shape had it, what dwelling-place,
                   what part in nature’s plan it played?

                This Soul to ree a riddle made;
                   who wants the vain duality?
                Is not myself enough for me?
                   what need of “I” within an “I”?

                Words, words that gender things! The soul
                   is a new-comer on the scene;
                Sufficeth not the breath of Life
                   to work the matter-born machine?

                We know the Gen’esis of the Soul;
                   we trace the Soul to hour of birth;
                We mark its growth as grew mankind
                   to boast himself sole Lord of Earth:

                The race of Be’ing from dawn of Life
                   in an unbroken course was run;
                What men are pleased to call their Souls
                   was in the hog and dog begun:

                Life is a ladder infinite-stepped,
                   that hides its rungs from human eyes;
                Planted its foot in chaos-gloom,
                   its head soars high above the skies:

                No break the chain of Being bears;
                   all things began in unity;
                And lie the links in regular line
                   though haply none the sequence see.

                The Ghost, embodied natural Dread
                   of dreary death and foul decay,
                Begat the Spirit, Soul and Shade
                   with Hades’ pale and wan array.

                The Soul required a greater Soul,
                   a Soul of Souls, to rule the host;
                Hence spirit-powers and hierarchies,
                   all gendered by the savage Ghost.

                Not yours, ye Peoples of the Book,
                   these fairy visions fair and fond,
                Got by the gods of Khemi-land*
                   and faring far the seas beyond!

                   * Egypt; Kam, Kem, Khem (hierogl.), in the Demotic Khemi.

                “Th’ immortal mind of mortal man!”
                   we hear yon loud-lunged Zealot cry;
                Whose mind but means his sum of thought,
                   an essence of atomic “I.”

                Thought is the work of brain and nerve,
                   in small-skulled idiot poor and mean;
                In sickness sick, in sleep asleep,
                   and dead when Death lets drop the scene.

                “Tush!” quoth the Zâhid, “well we ken
                   the teaching of the school abhorr’d
                “That maketh man automaton,
                   mind a secretion, soul a word.”

                “Of molecules and protoplasm
                   you matter-mongers prompt to prate;
                “Of jelly-speck development
                   and apes that grew to man’s estate.”

                Vain cavil! all that is hath come
                   either by Mir’acle or by Law;—
                Why waste on this your hate and fear,
                   why waste on that your love and awe?

                Why heap such hatred on a word,
                   why “Prototype” to type assign,
                Why upon matter spirit mass?
                   wants an appendix your design?

                Is not the highest honour his
                   who from the worst hath drawn the best;
                May not your Maker make the world
                   from matter, an it suit His hest?

                Nay more, the sordider the stuff
                   the cunninger the workman’s hand:
                Cease, then, your own Almighty Power
                   to bind, to bound, to understand.

                “Reason and Instinct!” How we love
                   to play with words that please our pride;
                Our noble race’s mean descent
                   by false forged titles seek to hide!

                For “gift divine” I bid you read
                   the better work of higher brain,
                From Instinct diff’ering in degree
                   as golden mine from leaden vein.

                Reason is Life’s sole arbiter,
                   the magic Laby’rinth’s single clue:
                Worlds lie above, beyond its ken;
                   what crosses it can ne’er be true.

                “Fools rush where Angels fear to tread!”
                   Angels and Fools have equal claim
                To do what Nature bids them do,
                   sans hope of praise, sans fear of blame!
                There is no Heav’en, there is no Hell;
                   these be the dreams of baby minds;
                Tools of the wily Fetisheer,
                   to ’fright the fools his cunning blinds.

                Learn from the mighty Spi’rits of old
                   to set thy foot on Heav’en and Hell;
                In Life to find thy hell and heav’en
                   as thou abuse or use it well.

                So deemed the doughty Jew who dared
                   by studied silence low to lay
                Orcus and Hades, lands of shades,
                   the gloomy night of human day.

                Hard to the heart is final death:
                   fain would an Ens not end in Nil;
                Love made the senti’ment kindly good:
                   the Priest perverted all to ill.

                While Reason sternly bids us die,
                   Love longs for life beyond the grave:
                Our hearts, affections, hopes and fears
                   for Life-to-be shall ever crave.

                Hence came the despot’s darling dream,
                   a Church to rule and sway the State;
                Hence sprang the train of countless griefs
                   in priestly sway and rule innate.

                For future Life who dares reply?
                   No witness at the bar have we;
                Save what the brother Potsherd tells,—
                   old tales and novel jugglery.

                Who e’er return’d to teach the Truth,
                   the things of Heaven and Hell to limn?
                And all we hear is only fit
                   for grandam-talk and nursery-hymn.

                “Have mercy, man!” the Zâhid cries,
                   “of our best visions rob us not!
                “Mankind a future life must have
                   to balance life’s unequal lot.”

                “Nay,” quoth the Magian, “’tis not so;
                   I draw my wine for one and all,
                “A cup for this, a score for that,
                   e’en as his measure’s great or small:

                “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.”

                Safely he jogs along the way
                   which ‘Golden Mean’ the sages call;
                Who scales the brow of frowning Alp
                   must face full many a slip and fall.

                Here èxtremes meet, anointed Kings
                   whose crownèd heads uneasy lie,
                Whose cup of joy contains no more
                   than tramps that on the dunghill die.

                To fate-doomed Sinner born and bred
                   for dangling from the gallows-tree;
                To Saint who spends his holy days
                   in rapt’urous hope his God to see;

                To all that breathe our upper air
                   the hands of Dest’iny ever deal,
                In fixed and equal parts, their shares
                   of joy and sorrow, woe and weal.

                “How comes it, then, our span of days
                   in hunting wealth and fame we spend
                “Why strive we (and all humans strive)
                   for vain and visionary end?”

                Reply: mankind obeys a law
                   that bids him labour, struggle, strain;
                The Sage well knowing its unworth,
                   the Fool a-dreaming foolish gain.

                And who, ’mid e’en the Fools, but feels
                   that half the joy is in the race
                For wealth and fame and place, nor sighs
                   when comes success to crown the chase?

                Again: in Hind, Chîn, Franguestân
                   that accident of birth befell,
                Without our choice, our will, our voice:
                   Faith is an accident as well.

                What to the Hindu saith the Frank:
                   “Denier of the Laws divine!
                “However godly-good thy Life,
                   Hell is the home for thee and thine.”

                “Go strain the draught before ’tis drunk,
                   and learn that breathing every breath,
                “With every step, with every gest,
                   something of life thou do’est to death.”

                Replies the Hindu: “Wend thy way
                   for foul and foolish Mlenchhas fit;
                “Your Pariah-par’adise woo and win;
                   at such dog-Heav’en I laugh and spit.”

                “Cannibals of the Holy Cow!
                   who make your rav’ening maws the grave
                “Of Things with self-same right to live;—
                   what Fiend the filthy license gave?”

                What to the Moslem cries the Frank?
                   “A polygamic Theist thou!
                “From an imposter-Prophet turn;
                   Thy stubborn head to Jesus bow.”

                Rejoins the Moslem: “Allah’s one
                   tho’ with four Moslemahs I wive,
                “One-wife-men ye and (damnèd race!)
                   you split your God to Three and Five.”

                The Buddhist to Confucians thus:
                   “Like dogs ye live, like dogs ye die;
                “Content ye rest with wretched earth;
                   God, Judgment, Hell ye fain defy.”

                Retorts the Tartar: “Shall I lend
                   mine only ready-money ‘now,’
                “For vain usurious ‘Then’ like thine,
                   avaunt, a triple idiot Thou!”

                “With this poor life, with this mean world
                   I fain complete what in me lies;
                “I strive to perfect this my me;
                   my sole ambition’s to be wise.”

                When doctors differ who decides
                   amid the milliard-headed throng?
                Who save the madman dares to cry:
                   “’Tis I am right, you all are wrong?”

                “You all are right, you all are wrong,”
                   we hear the careless Soofi say,
                “For each believes his glimm’ering lamp
                   to be the gorgeous light of day.”

                “Thy faith why false, my faith why true?
                   ’tis all the work of Thine and Mine,
                “The fond and foolish love of self
                   that makes the Mine excel the Thine.”

                Cease then to mumble rotten bones;
                   and strive to clothe with flesh and blood
                The skel’eton; and to shape a Form
                   that all shall hail as fair and good.

                “For gen’erous youth,” an Arab saith,
                   “Jahim’s* the only genial state;
                “Give us the fire but not the shame
                   with the sad, sorry blest to mate.”

                   * Jehannum, Gehenna, Hell.

                And if your Heav’en and Hell be true,
                   and Fate that forced me to be born
                Force me to Heav’en or Hell—I go,
                   and hold Fate’s insolence in scorn.

                I want not this, I want not that,
                   already sick of Me and Thee;
                And if we’re both transform’d and changed,
                   what then becomes of Thee and Me?

                Enough to think such things may be:
                   to say they are not or they are
                Were folly: leave them all to Fate,
                   nor wage on shadows useless war.

                Do what thy manhood bids thee do,
                   from none but self expect applause;
                He noblest lives and noblest dies
                   who makes and keeps his self-made laws.

                All other Life is living Death,
                   a world where none but Phantoms dwell,
                A breath, a wind, a sound, a voice,
                   a tinkling of the camel-bell.
                How then shall man so order life
                   that when his tale of years is told,
                Like sated guest he wend his way;
                   how shall his even tenour hold?

                Despite the Writ that stores the skull;
                   despite the Table and the Pen;*
                Maugre the Fate that plays us down,
                   her board the world, her pieces men?

                   * Emblems of Kismet, or Destiny.

                How when the light and glow of life
                   wax dim in thickly gath’ering gloom,
                Shall mortal scoff at sting of Death,
                   shall scorn the victory of the Tomb?

                One way, two paths, one end the grave.
                   This runs athwart the flow’ery plain,
                That breasts the bush, the steep, the crag,
                   in sun and wind and snow and rain:

                Who treads the first must look adown,
                   must deem his life an all in all;
                Must see no heights where man may rise,
                   must sight no depths where man may fall.

                Allah in Adam form must view;
                   adore the Maker in the made.
                Content to bask in Mâyâ’s smile,*
                   in joys of pain, in lights of shade.

                   * Illusion.

                He breaks the Law, he burns the Book,
                   he sends the Moolah back to school;
                Laughs at the beards of Saintly men;
                   and dubs the Prophet dolt and fool,

                Embraces Cypress’ taper-waist;
                   cools feet on wavy breast of rill;
                Smiles in the Nargis’ love-lorn eyes,
                   and ’joys the dance of Daffodil;

                Melts in the saffron light of Dawn
                   to hear the moaning of the Dove;
                Delights in Sundown’s purpling hues
                   when Bulbul woos the Rose’s love.

                Finds mirth and joy in Jamshid-bowl;
                   toys with the Daughter of the vine;
                And bids the beauteous cup-boy say,
                   “Master I bring thee ruby wine!”*

                   * That all the senses, even the ear, may enjoy.

                Sips from the maiden’s lips the dew;
                   brushes the bloom from virgin brow:—
                Such is his fleshly bliss that strives
                   the Maker through the Made to know.

                I’ve tried them all, I find them all
                   so same and tame, so drear, so dry;
                My gorge ariseth at the thought;
                   I commune with myself and cry:—

                Better the myriad toils and pains
                   that make the man to manhood true,
                This be the rule that guideth life;
                   these be the laws for me and you:

                With Ignor’ance wage eternal war,
                   to know thy self forever strain,
                Thine ignorance of thine ignorance is
                   thy fiercest foe, thy deadliest bane;

                That blunts thy sense, and dulls thy taste;
                   that deafs thine ears, and blinds thine eyes;
                Creates the thing that never was,
                   the Thing that ever is defies.

                The finite Atom infinite
                   that forms thy circle’s centre-dot,
                So full-sufficient for itself,
                   for other selves existing not,

                Finds the world mighty as ’tis small;
                   yet must be fought the unequal fray;
                A myriad giants here; and there
                   a pinch of dust, a clod of clay.

                Yes! maugre all thy dreams of peace
                   still must the fight unfair be fought;
                Where thou mayst learn the noblest lore,
                   to know that all we know is nought.

                True to thy Nature, to Thy self,
                   Fame and Disfame nor hope nor fear:
                Enough to thee the small still voice
                   aye thund’ering in thine inner ear.

                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 prison’ing lock and bar:

                Do thou the Ought to self aye owed;
                   here all the duties meet and blend,
                In widest sense, withouten care
                   of what began, for what shall end.

                Thus, as thou view the Phantom-forms
                   which in the misty Past were thine,
                To be again the thing thou wast
                   with honest pride thou may’st decline;

                And, glancing down the range of years,
                   fear not thy future self to see;
                Resign’d to life, to death resign’d,
                   as though the choice were nought to thee.

                On Thought itself feed not thy thought;
                   nor turn from Sun and Light to gaze,
                At darkling cloisters paved with tombs,
                   where rot the bones of bygone days:

                “Eat not thy heart,” the Sages said;
                   “nor mourn the Past, the buried Past;”
                Do what thou dost, be strong, be brave;
                   and, like the Star, nor rest nor haste.

                Pluck the old woman from thy breast:
                   Be stout in woe, be stark in weal;
                Do good for Good is good to do:
                   Spurn bribe of Heav’en and threat of Hell.

                To seek the True, to glad the heart,
                   such is of life the HIGHER LAW,
                Whose differ’ence is the Man’s degree,
                   the Man of gold, the Man of straw.

                See not that something in Mankind
                   that rouses hate or scorn or strife,
                Better the worm of Izrâil*
                   than Death that walks in form of life.

                   * The Angel of Death.

                Survey thy kind as One whose wants
                   in the great Human Whole unite;*
                The Homo rising high from earth
                   to seek the Heav’ens of Life-in-Light;

                   * The “Great Man” of the Enochites and the Mormons.

                And hold Humanity one man,
                   whose universal agony
                Still strains and strives to gain the goal,
                   where agonies shall cease to be.

                Believe in all things; none believe;
                   judge not nor warp by “Facts” the thought;
                See clear, hear clear, tho’ life may seem
                   Mâyâ and Mirage, Dream and Naught.

                Abjure the Why and seek the How:
                   the God and gods enthroned on high,
                Are silent all, are silent still;
                   nor hear thy voice, nor deign reply.

                The Now, that indivis’ible point
                   which studs the length of inf’inite line
                Whose ends are nowhere, is thine all,
                   the puny all thou callest thine.

                Perchance the law some Giver hath:
                   Let be! let be! what canst thou know?
                A myriad races came and went;
                   this Sphinx hath seen them come and go.

                Haply the Law that rules the world
                   allows to man the widest range;
                And haply Fate’s a Theist-word,
                   subject to human chance and change.

                This “I” may find a future Life,
                   a nobler copy of our own,
                Where every riddle shall be ree’d,
                   where every knowledge shall be known;

                Where ’twill be man’s to see the whole
                   of what on Earth he sees in part;
                Where change shall ne’er surcharge the thought;
                   nor hope defer’d shall hurt the heart.

                But!—faded flow’er and fallen leaf
                   no more shall deck the parent tree;
                And man once dropt by Tree of Life
                   what hope of other life has he?

                The shatter’d bowl shall know repair;
                   the riven lute shall sound once more;
                But who shall mend the clay of man,
                   the stolen breath to man restore?

                The shiver’d clock again shall strike;
                   the broken reed shall pipe again:
                But we, we die, and Death is one,
                   the doom of brutes, the doom of men.

                Then, if Nirwânâ* round our life
                   with nothingness, ’tis haply best;
                Thy toils and troubles, want and woe
                   at length have won their guerdon—Rest.

                   * Comparative annihilation.

                Cease, Abdû, cease! Thy song is sung,
                   nor think the gain the singer’s prize;
                Till men hold Ignor’ance deadly sin,
                   till man deserves his title “Wise:”*

                   * “Homo sapiens.”

                In Days to come, Days slow to dawn,
                   when Wisdom deigns to dwell with men,
                These echoes of a voice long stilled
                   haply shall wake responsive strain:

                Wend now thy way with brow serene,
                   fear not thy humble tale to tell:—
                The whispers of the Desert-wind;
                   the tinkling of the camel’s bell.

                {Hebrew: ShLM}




Hâjî Abdû has been known to me for more years than I care to record. A native, it is believed, of Darâbghird in the Yezd Province, he always preferred to style himself El-Hichmakâni, a facetious “lackab” or surname, meaning “Of No-hall, Nowhere.” He had travelled far and wide with his eyes open; as appears by his “couplets.” To a natural facility, a knack of language learning, he added a store of desultory various reading; scraps of Chinese and old Egyptian; of Hebrew and Syriac; of Sanskrit and Prakrit; of Slav, especially Lithuanian; of Latin and Greek, including Romaic; of Berber, the Nubian dialect, and of Zend and Akkadian, besides Persian, his mother-tongue, and Arabic, the classic of the schools. Nor was he ignorant of “the -ologies” and the triumphs of modern scientific discovery. Briefly, his memory was well-stored; and he had every talent save that of using his talents.

But no one thought that he “woo’d the Muse,” to speak in the style of the last century. Even his intimates were ignorant of the fact that he had a skeleton in his cupboard, his Kasîdah or distichs. He confided to me his secret when we last met in Western India—I am purposely vague in specifying the place. When so doing he held in hand the long and hoary honours of his chin with the points toward me, as if to say with the Island-King:

   There is a touch of Winter in my beard,
   A sign the Gods will guard me from imprudence.

And yet the piercing eye, clear as an onyx, seemed to protest against the plea of age. The MS. was in the vilest “Shikastah” or running-hand; and, as I carried it off, the writer declined to take the trouble of copying out his cacograph.

We, his old friends, had long addressed Hâjî Abdû by the sobriquet of Nabbianâ (“our Prophet”); and the reader will see that the Pilgrim has, or believes he has, a message to deliver. He evidently aspires to preach a faith of his own; an Eastern Version of Humanitarianism blended with the sceptical or, as we now say, the scientific habit of mind. The religion, of which Fetishism, Hinduism and Heathendom; Judæism, Christianity and Islamism are mere fractions, may, methinks, be accepted by the Philosopher: it worships with single-minded devotion the Holy Cause of Truth, of Truth for its own sake, not for the goods it may bring; and this belief is equally acceptable to honest ignorance, and to the highest attainments in nature-study.

With Confucius, the Hâjî cultivates what Strauss has called the “stern common-sense of mankind”; while the reign of order is a paragraph of his “Higher Law.” He traces from its rudest beginnings the all but absolute universality of some perception by man, called “Faith”; that sensus Numinis which, by inheritance or communication, is now universal except in those who force themselves to oppose it. And he evidently holds this general consent of mankind to be so far divine that it primarily discovered for itself, if it did not create, a divinity. He does not cry with the Christ of Novalis, “Children, you have no father”; and perhaps he would join Renan in exclaiming, Un monde sans Dieu est horrible!

But he recognises the incompatibility of the Infinite with the Definite; of a Being who loves, who thinks, who hates; of an Actus purus who is called jealous, wrathful and revengeful, with an “Eternal that makes for righteousness.” In the presence of the endless contradictions, which spring from the idea of a Personal Deity, with the Synthesis, the Begriff of Providence, our Agnostic takes refuge in the sentiment of an unknown and an unknowable. He objects to the countless variety of forms assumed by the perception of a Causa Causans (a misnomer), and to that intellectual adoption of general propositions, capable of distinct statement but incapable of proofs, which we term Belief.

He looks with impartial eye upon the endless variety of systems, maintained with equal confidence and self-sufficiency, by men of equal ability and honesty. He is weary of wandering over the world, and of finding every petty race wedded to its own opinions; claiming the monopoly of Truth; holding all others to be in error, and raising disputes whose violence, acerbity and virulence are in inverse ratio to the importance of the disputed matter. A peculiarly active and acute observation taught him that many of these jarring families, especially those of the same blood, are par in the intellectual processes of perception and reflection; that in the business of the visible working world they are confessedly by no means superior to one another; whereas in abstruse matters of mere Faith, not admitting direct and sensual evidence, one in a hundred will claim to be right, and immodestly charge the other ninety-nine with being wrong.

Thus he seeks to discover a system which will prove them all right, and all wrong; which will reconcile their differences; will unite past creeds; will account for the present, and will anticipate the future with a continuous and uninterrupted development; this, too, by a process, not negative and distinctive, but, on the contrary, intensely positive and constructive. I am not called upon to sit in the seat of judgment; but I may say that it would be singular if the attempt succeeded. Such a system would be all-comprehensive, because not limited by space, time, or race; its principle would be extensive as Matter itself, and, consequently, eternal. Meanwhile he satisfies himself,—the main point.

Students of metaphysics have of late years defined the abuse of their science as “the morphology of common opinion.” Contemporary investigators, they say, have been too much occupied with introspection; their labors have become merely physiologico-biographical, and they have greatly neglected the study of averages. For, says La Rochefoucauld, Il est plus aisé de connoître l’homme en général que de connoître un homme en particulier; and on so wide a subject all views must be one-sided.

But this is not the fashion of Easterns. They have still to treat great questions ex analogiâ universi, instead of ex analogiâ hominis. They must learn the basis of sociology, the philosophic conviction that mankind should be studied, not as a congeries of individuals, but as an organic whole. Hence the Zeitgeist, or historical evolution of the collective consciousness of the age, despises the obsolete opinion that Society, the State, is bound by the same moral duties as the simple citizen. Hence, too, it holds that the “spirit of man, being of equal and uniform substance, doth usually suppose and feign in nature a greater equality and uniformity than is in Truth.”

Christianity and Islamism have been on their trial for the last eighteen and twelve centuries. They have been ardent in proselytizing, yet they embrace only one-tenth and one-twentieth of the human race. Hâjî Abdû would account for the tardy and unsatisfactory progress of what their votaries call “pure truths,” by the innate imperfections of the same. Both propose a reward for mere belief, and a penalty for simple unbelief; rewards and punishments being, by the way, very disproportionate. Thus they reduce everything to the scale of a somewhat unrefined egotism; and their demoralizing effects become clearer to every progressive age.

Hâjî Abdû seeks Truth only, truth as far as man, in the present phase of his development, is able to comprehend it. He disdains to associate utility, like Bacon (Nov. Org. I. Aph. 124), the High Priest of the English Creed, le gros bon sens, with the lumen siccum ac purum notionum verarum. He seems to see the injury inflicted upon the sum of thought by the â posteriori superstition, the worship of “facts,” and the deification of synthesis. Lastly, came the reckless way in which Locke “freed philosophy from the incubus of innate ideas.” Like Luther and the leaders of the great French Revolution, he broke with the Past; and he threw overboard the whole cargo of human tradition. The result has been an immense movement of the mind which we love to call Progress, when it has often been retrograde; together with a mighty development of egotism resulting from the pampered sentiment of personality.

The Hâjî regrets the excessive importance attached to a possible future state: he looks upon this as a psychical stimulant, a day dream, whose revulsion and reaction disorder waking life. The condition may appear humble and prosaic to those exalted by the fumes of Fancy, by a spiritual dram-drinking, which, like the physical, is the pursuit of an ideal happiness. But he is too wise to affirm or to deny the existence of another world. For life beyond the grave there is no consensus of mankind, no Catholic opinion held semper, et ubique, et ab omnibus. The intellectual faculties (perception and reflection) are mute upon the subject: they bear no testimony to facts; they show no proof. Even the instinctive sense of our kind is here dumb. We may believe what we are taught: we can know nothing. He would, therefore, cultivate that receptive mood which, marching under the shadow of mighty events, leads to the highest of goals,—the development of Humanity. With him suspension of judgment is a system.

Man has done much during the sixty-eight centuries which represent his history. This assumes the first Egyptian Empire, following the pre-historic, to begin with B. C. 5000, and to end with B. C. 3249. It was the Old, as opposed to the Middle, the New, and the Low: it contained the Dynasties from I. to X., and it was the age of the Pyramids, at once simple, solid, and grand. When the praiser of the Past contends that modern civilization has improved in nothing upon Homer and Herodotus, he is apt to forget that every schoolboy is a miracle of learning compared with the Cave-man and the palæolithic race. And, as the Past has been, so shall the Future be.

The Pilgrim’s view of life is that of the Soofi, with the usual dash of Buddhistic pessimism. The profound sorrow of existence, so often sung by the dreamy Eastern poet, has now passed into the practical European mind. Even the light Frenchman murmurs,—

   Moi, moi, chaque jour courbant plus bas ma tête
     Je passe—et refroidi sous ce soleil joyeux,
   Je m’en irai bientôt, au milieu de la fête,
     Sans que rien manque au monde immense et radieux.

But our Hâjî is not Nihilistic in the “no-nothing” sense of Hood’s poem, or, as the American phrases it, “There is nothing new, nothing true, and it don’t signify.” His is a healthy wail over the shortness, and the miseries of life, because he finds all created things—

   Measure the world, with “Me” immense.

He reminds us of St. Augustine (Med. c. 21). “Vita hæc, vita misera, vita caduca, vita incerta, vita laboriosa, vita immunda, vita domina malorum, regina superborum, plena miseriis et erroribus . . . Quam humores tumidant, escæ inflant, jejunia macerant, joci dissolvunt, tristitiæ consumunt; sollicitudo coarctat, securitas hebetat, divitiæ inflant et jactant. Paupertas dejicit, juventus extollit, senectus incurvat, importunitas frangit, mæror deprimit. Et his malis omnibus mors furibunda succedit.” But for furibunda the Pilgrim would perhaps read benedicta.

With Cardinal Newman, one of the glories of our age, Hâjî Abdû finds “the Light of the world nothing else than the Prophet’s scroll, full of lamentations and mourning and woe.” I cannot refrain from quoting all this fine passage, if it be only for the sake of its lame and shallow deduction. “To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various history and the many races of men, their starts, their fortunes, their mutual alienation, their conflicts, and then their ways, habits, governments, forms of worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses, their random achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a superintending design, the blind evolution (!) of what turn out to be great powers or truths, the progress of things as if from unreasoning elements, not towards final causes; the greatness and littleness of man, his far-reaching aims and short duration. the curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that condition of the whole race so fearfully yet exactly described in the Apostle’s words, ‘having no hope and without God in the world’—all this is a vision to dizzy and appall, and inflicts upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery which is absolutely without human solution.” Hence that admirable writer postulates some “terrible original calamity”; and thus the hateful doctrine, theologically called “original sin,” becomes to him almost as certain as that “the world exists, and as the existence of God.” Similarly the “Schedule of Doctrines” of the most liberal Christian Church insists upon the human depravity, and the “absolute need of the Holy Spirit’s agency in man’s regeneration and sanctification.”

But what have we here? The “original calamity” was either caused by God or arose without leave of God, in either case degrading God to man. It is the old dilemma whose horns are the irreconcilable attributes of goodness and omniscience in the supposed Creator of sin and suffering. If the one quality be predicable, the other cannot be predicable of the same subject. Far better and wiser is the essayist’s poetical explanation now apparently despised because it was the fashionable doctrine of the sage bard’s day:—

   All nature is but art . . .
   All discord harmony not understood;
   All partial evil universal good.—(Essay 289–292.)

The Pilgrim holds with St. Augustine Absolute Evil is impossible because it is always rising up into good. He considers the theory of a beneficent or maleficent deity a purely sentimental fancy, contradicted by human reason and the aspect of the world. Evil is often the active form of good; as F. W. Newman says, “so likewise is Evil the revelation of Good.” With him all existences are equal: so long as they possess the Hindu Agasa, Life-fluid or vital force, it matters not they be,—

   Fungus or oak or worm or man.

War, he says, brings about countless individual miseries, but it forwards general progress by raising the stronger upon the ruins of the weaker races. Earthquakes and cyclones ravage small areas; but the former builds up earth for man’s habitation, and the latter renders the atmosphere fit for him to breathe. Hence he echoes:

                  —The universal Cause
   Acts not by partial but by general laws.

Ancillary to the churchman’s immoral view of “original sin” is the unscientific theory that evil came into the world with Adam and his seed. Let us ask what was the state of our globe in the pre-Adamite days, when the tyrants of the Earth, the huge Saurians and other monsters, lived in perpetual strife, in a destructiveness of which we have now only the feeblest examples? What is the actual state of the world of waters, where the only object of life is death, where the Law of murder is the Law of Development?

Some will charge the Hâjî with irreverence, and hold him a “lieutenant of Satan who sits in the chair of pestilence.” But he is not intentionally irreverent. Like men of far higher strain, who deny divinely the divine, he speaks the things that others think and hide. With the author of “Supernatural Religion,” he holds that we “gain infinitely more than we lose in abandoning belief in the reality of revelation”; and he looks forward to the day when “the old tyranny shall have been broken, and when the anarchy of transition shall have passed away.” But he is an Eastern. When he repeats the Greek’s “Remember not to believe,” he means Strive to learn, to know, for right ideas lead to right actions. Among the couplets not translated for this eclogue is:—

   Of all the safest ways of Life
      the safest way is still to doubt,
   Men win the future world with Faith,
      the present world they win without.

This is the Spaniard’s:—

   De las cosas mas seguras, mas seguro es duvidar;

a typically modern sentiment of the Brazen Age of Science following the Golden Age of Sentiment. But the Pilgrim continues:—

   The sages say: I tell thee no!
      with equal faith all Faiths receive;
   None more, none less, for Doubt is Death:
      they live the most who most believe.

Here, again, is an oriental subtlety; a man who believes in everything equally and generally may be said to believe in nothing. It is not a simple European view which makes honest Doubt worth a dozen of the Creeds. And it is in direct opposition to the noted writer who holds that the man of simple faith is worth ninety-nine of those who hold only to the egotistic interests of their own individuality. This dark saying means (if it mean anything), that the so-called moral faculties of man, fancy and ideality, must lord it over the perceptive and reflective powers,—a simple absurdity! It produced a Turricremata, alias Torquemada, who, shedding floods of honest tears, caused his victims to be burnt alive; and an Anchieta, the Thaumaturgist of Brazil, who beheaded a converted heretic lest the latter by lapse from grace lose his immortal soul.

But this vein of speculation, which bigots brand as “Doubt, Denial, and Destruction;” this earnest religious scepticism; this curious inquiry, “Has the universal tradition any base of fact?”; this craving after the secrets and mysteries of the future, the unseen, the unknown, is common to all races and to every age. Even amongst the Romans, whose model man in Augustus’ day was Horace, the philosophic, the epicurean, we find Propertius asking:—

   An ficta in miseras descendit fabula gentes
      Et timor haud ultra quam rogus esse potest?

To return: the Pilgrim’s doctrines upon the subject of conscience and repentance will startle those who do not follow his train of thought:—

   Never repent because thy will
      with will of Fate be not at one:
   Think, an thou please, before thou dost,
      but never rue the deed when done.

This again is his modified fatalism. He would not accept the boisterous mode of cutting the Gordian-knot proposed by the noble British Philister—“we know we’re free and there’s an end on it!” He prefers Lamarck’s, “The will is, in truth, never free.” He believes man to be a co-ordinate term of Nature’s great progression; a result of the interaction of organism and environment, working through cosmic sections of time. He views the human machine, the pipe of flesh, as depending upon the physical theory of life. Every corporeal fact and phenomenon which, like the tree, grows from within or without, is a mere product of organization; living bodies being subject to the natural law governing the lifeless and the inorganic. Whilst the religionist assures us that man is not a mere toy of fate, but a free agent responsible to himself, with work to do and duties to perform, the Hâjî, with many modern schools, holds Mind to be a word describing a special operation of matter; the faculties generally to be manifestations of movements in the central nervous system; and every idea, even of the Deity, to be a certain little pulsation of a certain little mass of animal pap,—the brain. Thus he would not object to relationship with a tailless catarrhine anthropoid ape, descended from a monad or a primal ascidian.

Hence he virtually says, “I came into the world without having applied for or having obtained permission; nay, more, without my leave being asked or given. Here I find myself hand-tied by conditions, and fettered by laws and circumstances, in making which my voice had no part. While in the womb I was an automaton; and death will find me a mere machine. Therefore not I, but the Law, or if, you please, the Lawgiver, is answerable for all my actions.” Let me here observe that to the Western mind “Law” postulates a Lawgiver; not so to the Eastern, and especially to the Soofi, who holds these ideas to be human, unjustifiably extended to interpreting the non-human, which men call the Divine.

Further he would say, “I am an individual (qui nil habet dividui), a circle touching and intersecting my neighbours at certain points, but nowhere corresponding, nowhere blending. Physically I am not identical in all points with other men. Morally I differ from them: in nothing do the approaches of knowledge, my five organs of sense (with their Shelleyan “interpretation”), exactly resemble those of any other being. Ergo, the effect of the world, of life, of natural objects, will not in my case be the same as with the beings most resembling me. Thus I claim the right of creating or modifying for my own and private use the system which most imports me; and if the reasonable leave be refused to me, I take it without leave.

“But my individuality, however all-sufficient for myself, is an infinitesimal point, an atom subject in all things to the Law of Storms called Life. I feel, I know that Fate is. But I cannot know what is or what is not fated to befall me. Therefore in the pursuit of perfection as an individual lies my highest, and indeed my only duty, the ‘I’ being duly blended with the ‘We.’ I object to be a ‘selfless man,’ which to me denotes an inverted moral sense. I am bound to take careful thought concerning the consequences of every word and deed. When, however, the Future has become the Past, it would be the merest vanity for me to grieve or to repent over that which was decreed by universal Law.”

The usual objection is that of man’s practice. It says, “This is well in theory; but how carry it out? For instance, why would you kill, or give over to be killed, the man compelled by Fate to kill your father?” Hâjî Abdû replies, “I do as others do, not because the murder was done by him, but because the murderer should not be allowed another chance of murdering. He is a tiger who has tasted blood and who should be shot. I am convinced that he was a tool in the hands of Fate, but that will not prevent my taking measures, whether predestined or not, in order to prevent his being similarly used again.”

As with repentance so with conscience. Conscience may be a “fear which is the shadow of justice”; even as pity is the shadow of love. Though simply a geographical and chronological accident, which changes with every age of the world, it may deter men from seeking and securing the prize of successful villainy. But this incentive to beneficence must be applied to actions that will be done, not to deeds that have been done.

The Hâjî, moreover, carefully distinguishes between the working of fate under a personal God, and under the Reign of Law. In the former case the contradiction between the foreknowledge of a Creator, and the free-will of a Creature, is direct, palpable, absolute. We might as well talk of black-whiteness and of white-blackness. A hundred generations of divines have never been able to ree the riddle; a million will fail. The difficulty is insurmountable to the Theist whose Almighty is perforce Omniscient, and as Omniscient, Prescient. But it disappears when we convert the Person into Law, or a settled order of events; subject, moreover, to certain exceptions fixed and immutable, but at present unknown to man. The difference is essential as that between the penal code with its narrow forbiddal, and the broad commandment which is a guide rather than a task-master.

Thus, too, the belief in fixed Law, versus arbitrary will, modifies the Hâjî’s opinions concerning the pursuit of happiness. Mankind, das rastlose Ursachenthier, is born to be on the whole equally happy and miserable. The highest organisms, the fine porcelain of our family, enjoy the most and suffer the most: they have a capacity for rising to the empyrean of pleasure and for plunging deep into the swift-flowing river of woe and pain. Thus Dante (Inf. vi. 106):—

                        —tua scienza
   Che vuol, quanto la cosa è più perfetta
   Più senta ’l bene, e cosi la doglienza.

So Buddhism declares that existence in itself implies effort, pain and sorrow; and, the higher the creature, the more it suffers. The common clay enjoys little and suffers little. Sum up the whole and distribute the mass: the result will be an average; and the beggar is, on the whole, happy as the prince. Why, then, asks the objector, does man ever strive and struggle to change, to rise; a struggle which involves the idea of improving his condition? The Hâjî answers, “Because such is the Law under which man is born: it may be fierce as famine, cruel as the grave, but man must obey it with blind obedience.” He does not enter into the question whether life is worth living, whether man should elect to be born. Yet his Eastern pessimism, which contrasts so sharply with the optimism of the West, re-echoes the lines:

                           —a life,
   With large results so little rife,
   Though bearable seems hardly worth
   This pomp of words, this pain of birth.

Life, whatever may be its consequence, is built upon a basis of sorrow. Literature, the voice of humanity, and the verdict of mankind proclaim that all existence is a state of sadness. The “physicians of the Soul” would save her melancholy from degenerating into despair by doses of steadfast belief in the presence of God, in the assurance of Immortality, and in visions of the final victory of good. Were Hâjî Abdû a mere Theologist, he would add that Sin, not the possibility of revolt, but the revolt itself against conscience, is the primary form of evil, because it produces error, moral and intellectual. This man, who omits to read the Conscience-law, however it may differ from the Society-law, is guilty of negligence. That man, who obscures the light of Nature with sophistries, becomes incapable of discerning his own truths. In both cases error, deliberately adopted, is succeeded by suffering which, we are told, comes in justice and benevolence as a warning, a remedy, and a chastisement.

But the Pilgrim is dissatisfied with the idea that evil originates in the individual actions of free agents, ourselves and others. This doctrine fails to account for its characteristics,—essentiality and universality. That creatures endowed with the mere possibility of liberty should not always choose the Good appears natural. But that of the milliards of human beings who have inhabited the Earth, not one should have been found invariably to choose Good, proves how insufficient is the solution. Hence no one believes in the existence of the complete man under the present state of things. The Hâjî rejects all popular and mythical explanation by the Fall of “Adam,” the innate depravity of human nature, and the absolute perfection of certain Incarnations, which argues their divinity. He can only wail over the prevalence of evil, assume its foundation to be error, and purpose to abate it by unrooting that Ignorance which bears and feeds it.

His “eschatology,” like that of the Soofis generally, is vague and shadowy. He may lean towards the doctrine of Marc Aurelius, “The unripe grape, the ripe and the dried: all things are changes not into nothing, but into that which is not at present.” This is one of the monstruosa opinionum portenta mentioned by the XIXth General Council, alias the First Council of the Vatican. But he only accepts it with a limitation. He cleaves to the ethical, not to the intellectual, worship of “Nature,” which moderns define to be an “unscientific and imaginary synonym for the sum total of observed phenomena.” Consequently he holds to the “dark and degrading doctrines of the Materialist,” the “Hylotheist”; in opposition to the spiritualist, a distinction far more marked in the West than in the East. Europe draws a hard, dry line between Spirit and Matter: Asia does not.

Among us the Idealist objects to the Materialists that the latter cannot agree upon fundamental points; that they cannot define what is an atom; that they cannot account for the transformation of physical action and molecular motion into consciousness; and vice versâ, that they cannot say what matter is; and, lastly, that Berkeley and his school have proved the existence of spirit while denying that of matter.

The Materialists reply that the want of agreement shows only a study insufficiently advanced; that man cannot describe an atom, because he is still an infant in science, yet there is no reason why his mature manhood should not pass through error and incapacity to truth and knowledge; that consciousness becomes a property of matter when certain conditions are present; that Hyle ({Greek: hylae}) or Matter may be provisionally defined as “phenomena with a substructure of their own, transcendental and eternal, subject to the action, direct or indirect, of the five senses, whilst its properties present themselves in three states, the solid, the liquid, and the gaseous.” To casuistical Berkeley they prefer the common sense of mankind. They ask the idealist and the spiritualist why they cannot find names for themselves without borrowing from a “dark and degraded” school; why the former must call himself after his eye (idein); the latter after his breath (spiritus)? Thus the Hâjî twits them with affixing their own limitations to their own Almighty Power, and, as Socrates said, with bringing down Heaven to the market-place.

Modern thought tends more and more to reject crude idealism and to support the monistic theory, the double aspect, the transfigured realism. It discusses the Nature of Things in Themselves. To the question, is there anything outside of us which corresponds with our sensations? that is to say, is the whole world simply “I,” they reply that obviously there is a something else; and that this something else produces the brain-disturbance which is called sensation. Instinct orders us to do something; Reason (the balance of faculties) directs; and the strongest motive controls. Modern Science, by the discovery of Radiant Matter, a fourth condition, seems to conciliate the two schools. “La découverte d’un quatrième état de la matière,” says a Reviewer, “c’est la porte ouverte à l’infini de ses transformations; c’est l’homme invisible et impalpable de même possible sans cesser d’être substantiel; c’est le monde des esprits entrant sans absurdité dans la domaine des hypothèses scientifiques; c’est la possibilité pour le matérialiste de croire à la vie d’outre tombe, sans renoncer au substratum matériel qu’il croit nécessaire au maintien de l’individualité.”

With Hâjî Abdû the soul is not material, for that would be a contradiction of terms. He regards it, with many moderns, as a state of things, not a thing; a convenient word denoting the sense of personality, of individual identity. In its ghostly signification he discovers an artificial dogma which could hardly belong to the brutal savages of the Stone Age. He finds it in the funereal books of ancient Egypt, whence probably it passed to the Zendavesta and the Vedas. In the Hebrew Pentateuch, of which part is still attributed to Moses, it is unknown, or, rather, it is deliberately ignored by the author or authors. The early Christians could not agree upon the subject; Origen advocated the pre-existence of men’s souls, supposing them to have been all created at one time and successively embodied. Others make Spirit born with the hour of birth: and so forth.

But the brain-action or, if you so phrase it, the mind, is not confined to the reasoning faculties; nor can we afford to ignore the sentiments, the affections which are, perhaps, the most potent realities of life. Their loud affirmative voice contrasts strongly with the titubant accents of the intellect. They seem to demand a future life, even, a state of rewards and punishments from the Maker of the world, the Ortolano Eterno, the Potter of the East, the Watchmaker of the West. They protest against the idea of annihilation. They revolt at the notion of eternal parting from parents, kinsmen and friends. Yet the dogma of a future life is by no means catholic and universal. The Anglo-European race apparently cannot exist without it, and we have lately heard of the “Aryan Soul-land.” On the other hand many of the Buddhist and even the Brahman Schools preach Nirwâna (comparative non-existence) and Parinirwâna (absolute nothingness). Moreover, the great Turanian family, actually occupying all Eastern Asia, has ever ignored it; and the 200,000,000 of Chinese Confucians, the mass of the nation, protest emphatically against the mainstay of the western creeds, because it “unfits men for the business and duty of life by fixing their speculations on an unknown world.” And even its votaries, in all ages, races and faiths, cannot deny that the next world is a copy, more or less idealized, of the present; and that it lacks a single particular savouring of originality. It is in fact a mere continuation; and the continuation is “not proven.”

   It is most hard to be a man;

and the Pilgrim’s sole consolation is in self-cultivation, and in the pleasures of the affections. This sympathy may be an indirect self-love, a reflection of the light of egotism: still it is so transferred as to imply a different system of convictions. It requires a different name: to call benevolence “self-love” is to make the fruit or flower not only depend upon a root for development (which is true), but the very root itself (which is false). And, finally, his ideal is of the highest: his praise is reserved for:

   Lived in obedience to the inner law
   Which cannot alter.

The Eternal Gardener: so the old inscription saying:—

         locatus est in
Homo     damnatus est in     horto
         humatus est in
         renatus est in


A few words concerning the Kasîdah itself. Our Hâjî begins with a mise-en-scène; and takes leave of the Caravan setting out for Mecca. He sees the “Wolf’s tail” (Dum-i-gurg), the {Greek: lykaugés}, or wolf-gleam, the Diluculum, the Zodiacal dawn-light, the first faint brushes of white radiating from below the Eastern horizon. It is accompanied by the morning-breath (Dam-i-Subh), the current of air, almost imperceptible except by the increase of cold, which Moslem physiologists suppose to be the early prayer offered by Nature to the First Cause. The Ghoul-i-Biyâbân (Desert-Demon) is evidently the personification of man’s fears and of the dangers that surround travelling in the wilds. The “wold-where-none-save-He (Allah)-can-dwell” is a great and terrible wilderness (Dasht-i-lâ-siwâ Hu); and Allah’s Holy Hill is Arafât, near Mecca, which the Caravan reaches after passing through Medina. The first section ends with a sore lament that the “meetings of this world take place upon the highway of Separation”; and the original also has:—

   The chill of sorrow numbs my thought:
      methinks I hear the passing knell;
   As dies across yon thin blue line
      the tinkling of the Camel-bell.

The next section quotes the various aspects under which Life appeared to the wise and foolish teachers of humanity. First comes Hafiz, whose well-known lines are quoted beginning with Shab-i-târîk o bîm-i-mauj, etc. Hûr is the plural of Ahwar, in full Ahwar el-Ayn, a maid whose eyes are intensely white where they should be white, and black elsewhere: hence our silly “Houries.” Follows Umar-i-Khayyâm, who spiritualized Tasawwof, or Sooffeism, even as the Soofis (Gnostics) spiritualized Moslem Puritanism. The verses alluded to are:—

   You know, my friends, with what a brave carouse
   I made a second marriage in my house,
      Divorced old barren Reason from my bed
   And took the Daughter of the Vine to spouse.
            (St. 60, Mr. Fitzgerald’s translation.)

Here “Wine” is used in its mystic sense of entranced Love for the Soul of Souls. Umar was hated and feared because he spoke boldly when his brethren the Soofis dealt in innuendoes. A third quotation has been trained into a likeness of the “Hymn of Life,” despite the commonplace and the navrante vulgarité which characterize the pseudo-Schiller-Anglo-American School. The same has been done to the words of Isâ (Jesus); for the author, who is well-read in the Ingîl (Evangel), evidently intended the allusion. Mansur el-Hallâj (the Cotton-Cleaner) was stoned for crudely uttering the Pantheistic dogma Ana ’l Hakk (I am the Truth, i.e., God), wa laysa fi-jubbatî il’ Allah (and within my coat is nought but God). His blood traced on the ground the first-quoted sentence. Lastly, there is a quotation from “Sardanapalus, son of Anacyndaraxes,” etc.: here {Greek: paîze} may mean sport; but the context determines the kind of sport intended. The Zâhid is the literal believer in the letter of the Law, opposed to the Soofi, who believes in its spirit: hence the former is called a Zâhiri (outsider), and the latter a Bâtini, an insider. Moses is quoted because he ignored future rewards and punishments. As regards the “two Eternities,” Persian and Arab metaphysicians split Eternity, i.e., the negation of Time, into two halves, Azal (beginninglessness) and Abad (endlessness); both being mere words, gatherings of letters with a subjective significance. In English we use “Eternal” (Æviternus, age-long, life-long) as loosely, by applying it to three distinct ideas; (1) the habitual, in popular parlance; (2) the exempt from duration; and (3) the everlasting, which embraces all duration. “Omniscience-Maker” is the old Roman sceptic’s Homo fecit Deos.

The next section is one long wail over the contradictions, the mysteries, the dark end, the infinite sorrowfulness of all existence, and the arcanum of grief which, Luther said, underlies all life. As with Euripides “to live is to die, to die is to live.” Hâjî Abdû borrows the Hindu idea of the human body. “It is a mansion,” says Menu, “with bones for its beams and rafters; with nerves and tendons for cords; with muscles and blood for cement; with skin for its outer covering; filled with no sweet perfume, but loaded with impurities; a mansion infested by age and sorrow; the seat of malady; harassed with pains; haunted with the quality of darkness (Tama-guna), and incapable of standing.” The Pot and Potter began with the ancient Egyptians. “Sitting as a potter at the wheel, Cneph (at Philæ) moulds clay, and gives the spirit of life to the nostrils of Osiris.” Hence the Genesitic “breath.” Then we meet him in the Vedas, the Being “by whom the fictile vase is formed; the clay out of which it is fabricated.” We find him next in Jeremiah’s “Arise and go down unto the Potter’s house,” etc. (xviii. 2), and lastly in Romans (ix. 20), “Hath not the potter power over the clay?” No wonder that the first Hand who moulded the man-mud is a lieu commun in Eastern thought. The “waste of agony” is Buddhism, or Schopenhauerism pure and simple, I have moulded “Earth on Earth” upon “Seint Ysidre”’s well-known rhymes (A.D. 1440):—

   Erthe out of Erthe is wondirli wrouzt,
   Erthe out of Erthe hath gete a dignity of nouzt,
   Erthe upon Erthe hath sett all his thouzt
   How that Erthe upon Erthe may be his brouzt, etc.

The “Camel-rider,” suggests Ossian, “yet a few years and the blast of the desert comes.” The dromedary was chosen as Death’s vehicle by the Arabs, probably because it bears the Bedouin’s corpse to the distant burial-ground, where he will lie among his kith and kin. The end of this section reminds us of:—

   How poor, how rich; how abject, how august,
   How complicate, how wonderful is Man!

The Hâjî now passes to the results of his long and anxious thoughts: I have purposely twisted his exordium into an echo of Milton:—

   Till old experience doth attain
   To something of prophetic strain.

He boldly declares that there is no God as man has created his Creator. Here he is at one with modern thought:—“En général les croyants font le Dieu comme ils sont eux-mêmes,” (says J. J. Rousseau, “Confessions,” I. 6): “les bons le font bon: les méchants le font méchant: les dévots haineux et bilieux, ne voient que l’enfer, parce qu’ils voudraient damner tout le monde; les âmes aimantes et douces n’y croient guère; et l’un des étonnements dont je ne reviens pas est de voir le bon Fénélon en parler dans son Télémaque comme s’il y croyoit tout de bon: mais j’espère qu’il mentoit alors; car enfin quelque véridique qu’on soit, il faut bien mentir quelquefois quand on est évêque.” “Man depicts himself in his gods,” says Schiller. Hence the Naturgott, the deity of all ancient peoples, and with which every system began, allowed and approved of actions distinctly immoral, often diabolical. Belief became moralized only when the conscience of the community, and with it of the individual items, began aspiring to its golden age,—Perfection. “Dieu est le superlatif, dont le positif est l’homme,” says Carl Vogt; meaning, that the popular idea of a numen is that of a magnified and non-natural man.

He then quotes his authorities. Buddha, whom the Catholic Church converted to Saint Josaphat, refused to recognize Ishwara (the deity), on account of the mystery of the “cruelty of things.” Schopenhauer, Miss Cobbe’s model pessimist, who at the humblest distance represents Buddha in the world of Western thought, found the vision of man’s unhappiness, irrespective of his actions, so overpowering that he concluded the Supreme Will to be malevolent, “heartless, cowardly, and arrogant.” Confucius, the “Throneless king, more powerful than all kings,” denied a personal deity. The Epicurean idea rules the China of the present day. “God is great, but he lives too far off,” say the Turanian Santâls in Aryan India; and this is the general language of man in the Turanian East.

Hâjî Abdû evidently holds that idolatry begins with a personal deity. And let us note that the latter is deliberately denied by the “Thirty-nine Articles.” With them God is “a Being without Parts (personality) or Passions.” He professes a vague Agnosticism, and attributes popular faith to the fact that Timor fecit Deos; “every religion being, without exception, the child of fear and ignorance” (Carl Vogt). He now speaks as the “Drawer of the Wine,” the “Ancient Taverner,” the “Old Magus,” the “Patron of the Mughân or Magians”; all titles applied to the Soofi as opposed to the Zâhid. His “idols” are the eidola (illusions) of Bacon, “having their foundations in the very constitution of man,” and therefore appropriately called fabulæ. That “Nature’s Common Course” is subject to various interpretation, may be easily proved. Aristotle was as great a subverter as Alexander; but the quasi-prophetical Stagyrite of the Dark Ages, who ruled the world till the end of the thirteenth century, became the “twice execrable” of Martin Luther; and was finally abolished by Galileo and Newton. Here I have excised two stanzas. The first is:—

   Theories for truths, fable for fact;
      system for science vex the thought
   Life’s one great lesson you despise—
      to know that all we know is nought.

This is in fact:—

   Well didst thou say, Athena’s noblest son,
   The most we know is nothing can be known.

The next is:—

   Essence and substance, sequence, cause,
      beginning, ending, space and time,
   These be the toys of manhood’s mind,
      at once ridiculous and sublime.

He is not the only one who so regards “bothering Time and Space.” A late definition of the “infinitely great,” viz., that the idea arises from denying form to any figure; of the “infinitely small,” from refusing magnitude to any figure, is a fair specimen of the “dismal science”—metaphysics.

Another omitted stanza reads:—

   How canst thou, Phenomen! pretend
      the Noumenon to mete and span?
   Say which were easier probed and proved,
      Absolute Being or mortal man?

One would think that he had read Kant on the “Knowable and the Unknowable,” or had heard of the Yankee lady, who could “differentiate between the Finite and the Infinite.” It is a common-place of the age, in the West as well as the East, that Science is confined to phenomena, and cannot reach the Noumena, the things themselves. This is the scholastic realism, the “residuum of a bad metaphysic,” which deforms the system of Comte. With all its pretensions, it simply means that there are, or can be conceived, things in themselves (i.e., unrelated to thought); that we know them to exist; and, at the same time, that we cannot know what they are. But who dares say “cannot”? Who can measure man’s work when he shall be as superior to our present selves as we are to the Cave-man of past time?

The “Chain of Universe” alludes to the Jain idea that the whole, consisting of intellectual as well as of natural principles, existed from all eternity; and that it has been subject to endless revolutions, whose causes are the inherent powers of nature, intellectual as well as physical, without the intervention of a deity. But the Poet ridicules the “non-human,” i.e., the not-ourselves, the negation of ourselves and consequently a non-existence. Most Easterns confuse the contradictories, in which one term stands for something, and the other for nothing (e.g., ourselves and not-ourselves), with the contraries (e.g., rich and not-rich = poor), in which both terms express a something. So the positive-negative “infinite” is not the complement of “finite,” but its negation. The Western man derides the process by making “not-horse” the complementary entity of “horse.” The Pilgrim ends with the favourite Soofi tenet that the five (six?) senses are the doors of all human knowledge, and that no form of man, incarnation of the deity, prophet, apostle or sage, has ever produced an idea not conceived within his brain by the sole operation of these vulgar material agents. Evidently he is neither spiritualist nor idealist.

He then proceeds to show that man depicts himself in his God, and that “God is the racial expression”; a pedagogue on the Nile, an abstraction in India, and an astrologer in Chaldæa; where Abraham, says Berosus (Josephus, Ant. I. 7, § 2, and II. 9, § 2) was “skilful in the celestial science.” He notices the Akârana-Zamân (endless Time) of the Guebres, and the working dual, Hormuzd and Ahriman. He brands the God of the Hebrews with pugnacity and cruelty. He has heard of the beautiful creations of Greek fancy which, not attributing a moral nature to the deity, included Theology in Physics; and which, like Professor Tyndall, seemed to consider all matter everywhere alive. We have adopted a very different Unitarianism; Theology, with its one Creator; Pantheism with its “one Spirit’s plastic stress”; and Science with its one Energy. He is hard upon Christianity and its “trinal God”: I have not softened his expression ({Arabic} = a riddle), although it may offend readers. There is nothing more enigmatical to the Moslem mind than Christian Trinitarianism: all other objections they can get over, not this. Nor is he any lover of Islamism, which, like Christianity, has its ascetic Hebraism and its Hellenic hedonism; with the world of thought moving between these two extremes. The former, defined as predominant or exclusive care for the practice of right, is represented by Semitic and Arab influence, Korânic and Hadîsic. The latter, the religion of humanity, a passion for life and light, for culture and intelligence; for art, poetry and science, is represented in Islamism by the fondly and impiously-cherished memory of the old Guebre kings and heroes, beauties, bards and sages. Hence the mention of Zâl and his son Rostam; of Cyrus and of the Jâm-i-Jamshîd, which may be translated either grail (cup) or mirror: it showed the whole world within its rim; and hence it was called Jâm-i-Jehân-numâ (universe-exposing). The contemptuous expressions about the diet of camel’s milk and the meat of the Susmâr, or green lizard, are evidently quoted from Firdausi’s famous lines beginning:—

   Arab-râ be-jâî rasîd’est kâr.

The Hâjî is severe upon those who make of the Deity a Khwân-i-yaghmâ (or tray of plunder) as the Persians phrase it. He looks upon the shepherds as men,

   —Who rob the sheep themselves to clothe.

So Schopenhauer (Leben, etc., by Wilhelm Gewinner) furiously shows how the “English nation ought to treat that set of hypocrites, imposters and money-graspers, the clergy, that annually devours £3,500,000.”

The Hâjî broadly asserts that there is no Good and no Evil in the absolute sense as man has made them. Here he is one with Pope:—

   And spite of pride, in erring nature’s spite
   One truth is clear—whatever is, is right.

Unfortunately the converse is just as true:—whatever is, is wrong. Khizr is the Elijah who puzzled Milman. He represents the Soofi, the Bâtini, while Musâ (Moses) is the Zâhid, the Zâhiri; and the strange adventures of the twain, invented by the Jews, have been appropriated by the Moslems. He derides the Freewill of man; and, like Diderot, he detects “pantaloon in a prelate, a satyr in a president, a pig in a priest, an ostrich in a minister, and a goose in a chief clerk.” He holds to Fortune, the {Greek: Túxae} of Alcman, which is, {Greek: Eunomías te kaì Peithoûs adelphà kaì Promatheías thugátaer},—Chance, the sister of Order and Trust, and the daughter of Forethought. The Scandinavian Spinners of Fate were Urd (the Was, the Past), Verdandi (the Becoming, or Present), and Skuld (the To-be, or Future). He alludes to Plato, who made the Demiourgos create the worlds by the Logos (the Hebrew Dabar) or Creative Word, through the Æons. These {Greek: Aìwnes} of the Mystics were spiritual emanations from {Greek: Aìwn}, lit. a wave of influx, an age, period, or day; hence the Latin ævum, and the Welsh Awen, the stream of inspiration falling upon a bard. Basilides, the Egypto-Christian, made the Creator evolve seven Æons or Pteromata (fulnesses); from two of whom, Wisdom and Power, proceeded the 365 degrees of Angels. All were subject to a Prince of Heaven, called Abraxas, who was himself under guidance of the chief Æon, Wisdom. Others represent the first Cause to have produced an Æon or Pure Intelligence; the first a second, and so forth till the tenth. This was material enough to affect Hyle, which thereby assumed a spiritual form. Thus the two incompatibles combined in the Scheme of Creation.

He denies the three ages of the Buddhists: the wholly happy; the happy mixed with misery, and the miserable tinged with happiness,—the present. The Zoroastrians had four, each of 3,000 years. In the first, Hormuzd, the good-god, ruled alone; then Ahriman, the bad-god, began to rule subserviently: in the third both ruled equally; and in the last, now current, Ahriman has gained the day.

Against the popular idea that man has caused the misery of this world, he cites the ages, when the Old Red Sandstone bred gigantic cannibal fishes; when the Oolites produced the mighty reptile tyrants of air, earth, and sea; and when the monsters of the Eocene and Miocene periods shook the ground with their ponderous tread. And the world of waters is still a hideous scene of cruelty, carnage, and destruction.

He declares Conscience to be a geographical and chronological accident. Thus he answers the modern philosopher whose soul was overwhelmed by the marvel and the awe of two things, “the starry heaven above and the moral law within.” He makes the latter sense a development of the gregarious and social instincts; and so travellers have observed that the moral is the last step in mental progress. His Moors are the savage Dankali and other negroid tribes, who offer a cup of milk with one hand and stab with the other. He translates literally the Indian word Hâthî (an elephant), the animal with the Hâth (hand, or trunk). Finally he alludes to the age of active volcanoes, the present, which is merely temporary, the shifting of the Pole, and the spectacle to be seen from Mushtari, or the planet Jupiter.

The Hâjî again asks the old, old question, What is Truth? And he answers himself, after the fashion of the wise Emperor of China, “Truth hath not an unchanging name.” A modern English writer says: “I have long been convinced by the experience of my life, as a pioneer of various heterodoxies, which are rapidly becoming orthodoxies, that nearly all truth is temperamental to us, or given in the affections and intuitions; and that discussion and inquiry do little more than feed temperament.” Our poet seems to mean that the Perceptions, when they perceive truly, convey objective truth, which is universal; whereas the Reflectives and the Sentiments, the working of the moral region, or the middle lobe of the phrenologists, supplies only subjective truth, personal and individual. Thus to one man the axiom, Opes irritamenta malorum, represents a distinct fact; while another holds wealth to be an incentive for good. Evidently both are right, according to their lights.

Hâjî Abdû cites Plato and Aristotle, as usual with Eastern songsters, who delight in Mantik (logic). Here he appears to mean that a false proposition is as real a proposition as one that is true. “Faith moves mountains” and “Manet immota fides” are evidently quotations. He derides the teaching of the “First Council of the Vatican” (cap. v.), “all the faithful are little children listening to the voice of Saint Peter,” who is the “Prince of the Apostles.” He glances at the fancy of certain modern physicists, “devotion is a definite molecular change in the convolution of grey pulp.” He notices with contumely the riddle of which Milton speaks so glibly, where the Dialoguists,

                              —reasoned high
   Of providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,
   Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute.

In opposition to the orthodox Mohammedan tenets which make Man’s soul his percipient Ego, an entity, a unity, the Soofi considers it a fancy, opposed to body, which is a fact; at most a state of things, not a thing; a consensus of faculties whereof our frames are but the phenomena. This is not contrary to Genesitic legend. The Hebrew Ruach and Arabic Ruh, now perverted to mean soul or spirit, simply signify wind or breath, the outward and visible sign of life. Their later schools are even more explicit. “For that which befalls man befalls beasts; as the one dies, so does the other; they have all one death; all go unto one place” (Eccles. iii. 19). But the modern soul, a nothing, a string of negations, a negative in chief, is thus described in the Mahâbhârat: “It is indivisible, inconceivable, inconceptible: it is eternal, universal, permanent, immovable: it is invisible and unalterable.” Hence the modern spiritualism which, rejecting materialism, can use only material language.

These, says the Hâjî, are mere sounds. He would not assert “Verba gignunt verba,” but “Verba gignunt res,” a step further. The idea is Bacon’s “idola fori, omnium molestissima,” the twofold illusions of language; either the names of things that have no existence in fact, or the names of things whose idea is confused and ill-defined.

He derives the Soul-idea from the “savage ghost” which Dr. Johnson defined to be a “kind of shadowy being.” He justly remarks that it arose (perhaps) in Egypt; and was not invented by the “People of the Book.” By this term Moslems denote Jews and Christians who have a recognized revelation, while their ignorance refuses it to Guebres, Hindus, and Confucians.

He evidently holds to the doctrine of progress. With him protoplasm is the Yliastron, the Prima Materies. Our word matter is derived from the Sanskrit {Sanskrit} (mâtrâ), which, however, signifies properly the invisible type of visible matter; in modern language, the substance distinct from the sum of its physical and chemical properties. Thus, Mâtrâ exists only in thought, and is not recognizable by the action of the five senses. His “Chain of Being” reminds us of Prof. Huxley’s Pedigree of the Horse, Orohippus, Mesohippus, Meiohippus, Protohippus, Pleiohippus, and Equus. He has evidently heard of modern biology, or Hylozoism, which holds its quarter-million species of living beings, animal and vegetable, to be progressive modifications of one great fundamental unity, an unity of so-called “mental faculties” as well as of bodily structure. And this is the jelly-speck. He scoffs at the popular idea that man is the great central figure round which all things gyrate like marionettes; in fact, the anthropocentric era of Draper, which, strange to say, lives by the side of the telescope and the microscope. As man is of recent origin, and may end at an early epoch of the macrocosm, so before his birth all things revolved round nothing, and may continue to do so after his death.

The Hâjî, who elsewhere denounces “compound ignorance,” holds that all evil comes from error; and that all knowledge has been developed by overthrowing error, the ordinary channel of human thought. He ends this section with a great truth. There are things which human Reason or Instinct matured, in its undeveloped state, cannot master; but Reason is a Law to itself. Therefore we are not bound to believe, or to attempt belief in, any thing which is contrary or contradictory to Reason. Here he is diametrically opposed to Rome, who says, “Do not appeal to History; that is private judgment. Do not appeal to Holy Writ; that is heresy. Do not appeal to Reason; that is Rationalism.”

He holds with the Patriarchs of Hebrew Holy Writ, that the present life is all-sufficient for an intellectual (not a sentimental) being; and, therefore, that there is no want of a Heaven or a Hell. With far more contradiction the Western poet sings:—

   Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
   In one self-place; but when we are in hell,
   And where hell is there must we ever be,
   And, to be short, when all this world dissolves,
   And every creature shall be purified,
   All places shall be hell which are not heaven.

For what want is there of a Hell when all are pure? He enlarges upon the ancient Buddhist theory, that Happiness and Misery are equally distributed among men and beasts; some enjoy much and suffer much; others the reverse. Hence Diderot declares, “Sober passions produce only the commonplace . . . the man of moderate passion lives and dies like a brute.” And again we have the half truth:—

   That the mark of rank in nature
      Is capacity for pain.

The latter implies an equal capacity for pleasure, and thus the balance is kept.

Hâjî Abdû then proceeds to show that Faith is an accident of birth. One of his omitted distichs says:—

   Race makes religion; true! but aye
      upon the Maker acts the made,
   A finite God, and infinite sin,
      in lieu of raising man, degrade.

In a manner of dialogue he introduces the various races each fighting to establish its own belief. The Frank (Christian) abuses the Hindu, who retorts that he is of Mlenchha, mixed or impure, blood, a term applied to all non-Hindus. The same is done by Nazarene and Mohammedan; by the Confucian, who believes in nothing, and by the Soofi, who naturally has the last word. The association of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph with the Trinity, in the Roman and Greek Churches, makes many Moslems conclude that Christians believe not in three but in five Persons. So an Englishman writes of the early Fathers, “They not only said that 3 = 1, and that 1 = 3: they professed to explain how that curious arithmetical combination had been brought about. The Indivisible had been divided, and yet was not divided: it was divisible, and yet it was indivisible; black was white and white was black; and yet there were not two colours but one colour; and whoever did not believe it would be damned.” The Arab quotation runs in the original:—

   Ahsanu ’l-Makâni l’ il-Fat⠒l-Jehannamu
   The best of places for (the generous) youth is Gehenna.

Gehenna, alias Jahim, being the fiery place of eternal punishment. And the second saying, Al- nâr wa l⠒l-’Ar—“Fire (of Hell) rather than Shame,”—is equally condemned by the Koranist. The Gustâkhi (insolence) of Fate is the expression of Umar-i-Khayyam (St. xxx):—

   What, without asking hither hurried whence?
   And, without asking whither hurried hence!
      Oh many a cup of this forbidden wine
   Must drown the memory of that insolence.

Soofistically, the word means “the coquetry of the beloved one,” the divinæ particula auræ. And the section ends with Pope’s:—

   He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.


Here the Hâjî ends his practical study of mankind. The image of Destiny playing with men as pieces is a view common amongst Easterns. His idea of wisdom is once more Pope’s:—

   And all our knowledge is ourselves to know.
                                 (Essay IV. 398.)

Regret, i.e., repentance, was one of the forty-two deadly sins of the Ancient Egyptians. “Thou shalt not consume thy heart,” says the Ritual of the Dead, the negative justification of the soul or ghost (Lepsius “Alteste Texte des Todtenbuchs”). We have borrowed competitive examination from the Chinese; and, in these morbid days of weak introspection and retrospection, we might learn wisdom from the sturdy old Khemites. When he sings “Abjure the Why and seek the How,” he refers to the old Scholastic difference of the Demonstratio propter quid (why is a thing?), as opposed to Demonstratio quia (i.e. that a thing is). The “great Man” shall end with becoming deathless, as Shakespeare says in his noble sonnet:—

   And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then!

Like the great Pagans, the Hâjî holds that man was born good, while the Christian, “tormented by the things divine,” cleaves to the comforting doctrine of innate sinfulness. Hence the universal tenet, that man should do good in order to gain by it here or hereafter; the “enlightened selfishness,” that says, Act well and get compound interest in a future state. The allusion to the “Theist-word” apparently means that the votaries of a personal Deity must believe in the absolute foreknowledge of the Omniscient in particulars as in generals. The Rule of Law emancipates man; and its exceptions are the gaps left by his ignorance. The wail over the fallen flower, etc., reminds us of the Pulambal (Lamentations) of the Anti-Brahminical writer, “Pathira-Giriyâr.” The allusion to Mâyâ is from Dâs Kabîr:—

      Mâyâ mare, na man mare, mar mar gayâ, sarîr.
   Illusion dies, the mind dies not though dead and gone
      the flesh.

Nirwâna, I have said, is partial extinction by being merged in the Supreme, not to be confounded with Pari-nirwâna or absolute annihilation. In the former also, dying gives birth to a new being, the embodiment of karma (deeds), good and evil, done in the countless ages of transmigration.

Here ends my share of the work. On the whole it has been considerable. I have omitted, as has been seen, sundry stanzas, and I have changed the order of others. The text has nowhere been translated verbatim; in fact, a familiar European turn has been given to many sentiments which were judged too Oriental. As the metre adopted by Hâjî Abdû was the Bahr Tawîl (long verse), I thought it advisable to preserve that peculiarity, and to fringe it with the rough, unobtrusive rhyme of the original.

Vive, valeque!