The days are dressing us all in white
For him who will suspend us in a row.
But for the sun there is no death,
The centuries are just morsels to the night.
Live well! Yet be wary of life I say;
Do not o'erload yourself in righteousness
Behold! The sword we polish in excess,
We gradually polish it away. 1
We suffer - that we know, and that is all
Our knowledge. If we recklessly should strain
To sweep aside the solid rock so full of pain,
Then would the domes of love and courage fall
I think our world not a place of rest,
But where a man may take his ease,
Until the landlord whom he never sees,
Gives that apartment to another guest.
Perchance the world is nothing
, is a place
Of dream, and what the dreamland people say
We sedulously note, and we and they
May be mere shadows of a shining race.
No sword will summon Death
, and he will stay
For Neither helm nor shield his falling rod.
We are the crooked alphabet of God
And he will read us ere he strikes away.
1There are some virtues which dig their own graves, and we have the story of the poet Abu Tamman, related by Ibn Khallikan, who once recited verses in the presence of some people at the Caliph's court, and how one of them (a philosopher), said 'This man will not live long, for I have seen in him a sharpness of wit, penetration and intellect. From this I know that the mind will consume the body, even as a sword of fine steal eats through its scabbard." (25)
2 As for the power of the weak, we have some instances from the Abbassid Dynasty of the Near East. When one of the rising Caliphs wanted to do deeds of violence against the heretics of Baghdad, he scornfully asked the leaders of his opponents if they would prevent him. 'Yes', they answered, 'We will fight you with all the arrows of the night,' and so dismayed the Caliph desisted from his plans. (27)
Source: Al-Maarri the Blind of Maarat al-Numan (d. 1057 C. E.) The Di'wan of Abu 'l-ala known also as the Saqt al-Zand (The Spark of Flint), trans. H Baerlein. London, Murray, n. d. 372p. These are fragments of the full verse.