Richard Burton's Kasidah - A Lay of the Higher Law
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.
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 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 Giri yâr." 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.
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