Majnun (Niẓāmī) and John Donne



And who am I — so far from you, yet near?
A singing beggar! Layla, do you hear?
Freed from life’s drudgery, my loneliness ,
Sorrow and grief for me spell happiness.
And thirsty in the painstream of delight,
I drown. Child of the sun, I starve at night.
Though parted our two loving souls combine,
For mine is all your own and yours is mine.
Two riddles to the world we represent,
One answer each the other’s deep lament.
But if our parting severs us in two,
One radiant light envelops me and you,
As from another world — though blocked and barred
What there is one, down here is forced apart.
Yet if despairing bodies separate,
Souls freely wander and communicate.
I’ll live forever — Mortal Fear, Decay,
And Death himself have ceased to hold their sway.
Sharing your life in all eternity
I’ll live if only you remain with me.

(Niẓami’s Layla and Majnun, trans. R. Gelpke)


John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
   And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
   The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise,
   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
   To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,
   Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
   Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
   Those things which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
   That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
   Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
   Like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
   As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
   To move, but doth, if the other do.
And though it in the center sit,
   Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
   And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
   Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
   And makes me end where I begun.
Fly in love as an arrow towards its target.
Love loosens the knots of being
Love is liberation form the vortex of egotism.
In love, every cup of sorrow which bites into the soul gives it new life
Many a draft bitter as poison has become in love delicious
with love for a saqi, what is there to fear from a bitter draft
However agonizing the experience, if it is for love, it is well.

(Niẓami’s Layla and Majnun, trans. R. Gelpke)


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