Bahá'í Library Online
. . . .
.
>>   Poetry Provisional translations

Selected Poems by Qurratu'l-`Ayn, Nabil, and other Babis

by Tahirih Qurratu'l-Ayn and Nabil-i-A'zam

translated by E.G. Browne.
published in Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, pages 323-358
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1918
XI

SELECTED POEMS BY QURRATU'L-`AYN,
NABIL AND OTHER BÁBÍS


[blank page]


    The following Persian poem was given to me in manuscript by the late Shaykh Ahmad hí of Kirmán, the ill-fated son-in-law and follower of Subh-i-Azal, who told me that the poem (of which, so far as I know, no other copy exists) was composed by Qurratu'l-`Ayn, and that the manuscript which I now publish is in her own handwriting1. Without being able to guarantee either of these assertions, I am inclined to credit them, for the poem is evidently by a Bábí, and the handwriting appears to be a woman's, closely resembling that of a letter from Qurratu'l-`Ayn to Mullá Shaykh `Ali (called Janáb-i- Azím) given to me by Subh-i-Azal, and reproduced in fac- simile, with printed text and translation, in my translation of the New History (pp.434- 441). The two or three other poems ascribed to her are ghazals written in the Kámil metre. This, on the other hand, is a mathnawí of the kind known as Sáqí-náma, or Invocations to the Cup-bearer, such as Háfiz and other lyrical poets have written.

[three lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

   1 It was enclosed in a letter written from Constantinople on Sept. 19, 1892, and received by me five days later. The writer says that in response to his request his friends in Persia had sent one leaf in "the blessed writing of Janáb-i- Táhira, who herself transcribed some of her works."


344
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

[entire page is PERSIAN TEXT]

   1 This is perhaps an allusion to Qurratu'l-`Ayn's title Janáb-i-Táhira ("Her Holiness the Pure").
   2 i.e. [PERSIAN TEXT]


[unnumbered page, facsimile of PERSIAN TEXT]

Fac-simile of alleged autograph poem by Qurratu'l-`Ayn


[blank page]


XI.
SELECTED POEMS
345

[entire page is PERSIAN TEXT]

   1 There may be an allusion here to the Bábí assembly at Bahásht, where the meeting of Qurratu'l-`Ayn and Janáb-i-Quddús was hailed as "the conjunction of the Sun and Moon." See New History, p. 359, n. 2 ad calc.


346
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

[fourteen lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

   1 The rare Azalí controversial work entitled (see J.R.A.S. for 1892, pp.680-697) complains that Bahá'u'lláh, not content with making himself God, and even a "Creator of gods," assigns the latter title "even to his meanest servants." It quotes the Bahá'í poet Nabíl as saying:

[two lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

"Men say that Thou art God, and I am moved to anger: remove the veil and submit no longer to the disgrace of [mere] Godhead!"
   2 These verses appear to be addressed to Subh-i- Azal, who is also entitled "the Eternal Fruit" (Thamara-i-Azaliyya).


XI.
SELECTED POEMS
347

[seven lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

    Though Qurratu'l-`Ayn's fame as a poetess is considerable, I know only two other poems commonly ascribed to her, both ghazals composed in the Kámil metre, which, though common in Arabic, is little used in Persian save by a few mystical poets like Jámí. Both of these poems are very fine, being only marred by the incorrectedness of the Arabic phrases which they contain„-a defect only too common in Babi writings. In spite of this I think them worth preserving, and, though I have published both of them before, the first in the J.R.A.S. for 1899 (Vol.xxi,pp.936-7 and 991-2) and the second in my edition and translation of the Traveller's Narrative (Vol.ii,pp.314-316), I here reprint them, together with the versified translations, in which I have made a few trifling alterations.

[six lines of PERSIAN TEXT]


348
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

[ten lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

(Translation)
The thralls of yearning love constrain in the bonds of
    pain and calamity
These broken-hearted lovers of thine to yield their lives in
    their zeal for thee
Though with sword in hand my Darling stand with intent
    to slay, though I sinless be,
If it pleases him, this tyrant's whim, I am well content with
    his tyranny.
As in sleep I lay at the break of day that cruel charmer
    came to me,
And in the grace of his form and face the dawn of the morn
    I seemed to see.
The musk of Cathay might perfume gain from the scent
    those fragrant tresses rain,
1 This poem is presumably addressed to the Báb.


XI.
SELECTED POEMS
349
While his eyes demolish a faith in vain attacked by the
    pagans of Tartary1.
With you, who contemn both love and wine2 for the hermit's
    cell and the zealot's shrine,
What can I do, for our Faith divine you hold as a thing of
    infamy?
The tangled curls of thy darling's hair, and thy saddle and
    teed are thy only care;
In thy heart the Absolute hath no share, nor the thought of
    the poor man's poverty.
Sikandar's3 pomp and display be thine, the Qalandar's4
    habit and way be mine;
That, if it please thee, I resign, while this, though bad, is
    enough for me.
Pass from the station of "I" and "We," and choose for
    thy home Nonentity,
For when thou has done the like of this, thou shalt reach
    the supreme Felicity.
The second of these two odes or ghazals is as follows:

[six lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

   1 i.e. the religion of Islam, which, having survived the terrible Tartar or Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century, fell before the Báb
   2 "Love and wine" are to be understood here in a mystical sense.
   3 Alexander the Great.
   4 A Qalandar is a kind of darwísh or religious mendicant.


350
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

[eight lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

(Translation)
The effulgence of thy face flashed forth and the rays of thy
    visage arose on high;
Then speak the word, "Am I not your Lord?" and "Thou
    art, thou art!"
we will all reply1.
Thy trumpet-call "Am I not?" to greet how loud the drums
    of affliction2 beat!
At the gates of my heart there tramp the feet and camp the
    hosts of calamity.
That fair moon's love is enough, I trow, for me, for he
    laughed at the hail3 of woe,
And triumphant cried,as he sunk below,"The Martyr of
    Karbalá am I4!"
   1 See Qur'án vii, 171. The meaning is, "If you claim to be God, we will all accept your claim."
   2 There is a play on the word balá, which means "yea" and also "affliction."
   3 Salá, which I have translated "hail," means a general invitation or summons.
   4 i.e. the Imám Husayn, of whom several of the Bábí leaders claimed to be a "Return." See p. 338 supra.


XI.
SELECTED POEMS
351
When he heard my death-dirge drear, for me he prepared,
    and arranged my gear for me;
He advanced to mourn at my bier for me, and o'er me wept
    right bitterly.
What harm if thou with the fire of amaze should'st set my
    Sinai- heart ablaze,
Which thou first mad'st fast in a hundred ways but to shake
    and shatter so ruthlessly?
To convene the guests to his feast of love all night from the
    angel host above
Peals forth this summons ineffable, "Hail, sorrow-stricken
    fraternity!"
Can a scale of the fish of amaze like thee aspire to enquire
    of Being's Sea?
Sit mute like Táhira, hearkening to the whale of "No" and
    its ceaseless sigh1.
    There is another Bábí poem in the same metre and rhyme which is sometimes ascribed to Qurratu'l-`Ayn, but more often, and with greater probability, to Nabíl of Zarand, who at one time advanced a "claim" on his own behalf, but afterwards became the devoted follower and, if the term may be permitted, the poet-laureate of Bahá'u'lláh. This poem I published with a prose translation in the J.R.A.S. for 1892, pp.323-5, together with another, a tarkíb-band of unknown authorship, in praise of Bahá'u'lláh. Its boastful character may be judged by the three following verses, which are not devoid of a certain grandeur:

[two lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

   1 i.e. "Thou art a mere tiny scale on the smallest fish of the Ocean of Being, and even the Leviathans of that Ocean can but proclaim their own insignificance and non-existence."


352
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

[four lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

(Translation)
If anyone walks in my path I will cry to him that he may be
    warned
That whoever becomes my lover shall not escape from sorrow
    and affliction.
If anyone obeys me not and does not grasp the cord of my
    protection1
I will drive him far from my sanctuary, I will cast him in
    wrath to the winds of "No2."
I am Eternal from the Everlasting World; I am the One
    from the Realms of the Limitless;
I am come [to seek for] the people of the Spirit, and towards
    me indeed do they advance3.
    Yet a fourth poem in the same rhyme and Kámil metre, of uncertain authorship, occurs in a manuscript (BBP.7) which I brought back from Persia, and which is described in the J.R.A.S. for 1892, pp.444-9; and I have copies of several more contained in a manuscript bearing the classmark P.92 kindly lent to me many years ago by the late M. Ch. Schefer, to whom it belonged. Indeed it would be easy to compile a fair-sized anthology of Bábí poems, but in

   1 Or Saintship, for Wiláyat has both meanings. Amongst the Arabs he who would seek the protection of some great Shaykh or Amír catches hold of one of the cords of his tent, crying Aná dakhíluk! "I place myself under the protection!"
   2 Not-Being, or Negation, or Annihilation.
   3 The Arabic words with which this line concludes are, as is too often the case with the Bábís, hopelessly ungrammatical.


XI.
SELECTED POEMS
353

this place I shall only add two of the best, both by Nabíl. The first is a very fine address to Bahá'u'lláh, in the same Kámil metre for which the Bábís show so marked a predilection. The following English rendering of the five opening verses, intended to give some idea of the form as well as the sense of the original, was read before the Persia Society on April 26, 1912, and was afterwards published for them by Mr. John Hogg of 13, Paternoster Row.

Though the Night of Parting endless seem as thy nigh-black hair,
    Bahá, Bahá,
Yet we meet at last, and the gloom is past in thy lightning's
    glare, Bahá, Bahá!
To my heart from thee was a signal shown that I to all
    men should make known
That they, as the ball to the goal doth fly, should to thee
    repair, Bahá, Bahá!
At this my call from the quarters four men's hearts and
    souls to thy quarters pour:
What, forsooth, could attract them more than that region
    fair, Bahá, Bahá?
The World hath attained to Heaven's worth, and a Paradise
    is the face of earth
Since at length thereon a breeze hath blown from thy nature
    rare, Bahá, Bahá!
Bountiful art thou, as all men know: at a glance two
    Worlds thou would'st e'en bestow
On the suppliant hands of thy direst foe, if he makes his
    prayer, Bahá, Bahá!

[two lines of PERSIAN TEXT]


354
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

[entire page is PERSIAN TEXT]


XI.
SELECTED POEMS
355

[entire page is PERSIAN TEXT]


356
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

[entire page is PERSIAN TEXT]

1 Qurá'n liii, 8.


XI.
SELECTED POEMS
357

[twelve lines of PERSIAN TEXT]

    There is another poem by Nabíl which, though singularly devoid of literary merit, is valuable for its contents, since it gives a chronology of Bahá'u'lláh's life from his birth on Muharram 2, 1233 (=Nov. 12,1817) to his arrival at `Akká on the 12th of Jumádá 1, 1285 (=Aug. 30, 1868). This poem, which comprises 19 stanzas, was written a year and four months later, in Shábán, 1286 (=Nov.-Dec. 1869), when Bahá'u'lláh was 54 years of age, and Nabíl himself, as he informs us in the last stanza, just 40, so that he must have been born about 1246/1830-1. The dates given in this poem, which I published with a translation in the J.R.A.S. for 1889, pp.983-990, agree for the most part with those given by Mírzá Muhammad Jawád in the first section of this book.


358
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

    Muhammadan compilers of anthologies and memoirs of poets generally ignore the Bábí poets, but a short notice is devoted to Qurratu'l-`Ayn in the Tadhkiratu'l-Khawátin, or "Memoirs of illustrious women," lithographed at Bombay in 1306/1888 pp.155-157. It contains, however, no new facts.

Back to:   Poetry Provisional translations
Home Site Map Forum Links Copyright About Contact
 
.
. .