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The Dervish and the Imam
Adapted from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
by David Ginsberg
Shamzi Tabriz stood at the sea,
Shining in all his might:
In silence and sohbet, he spoke;
Foam luminous and bright—
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moonfaced beauty turned Her gaze,
Because She thought this sun
Had no business being there
After his day was done—
“It’s really very rude,” She said,
“There’s only room for One!”
With seas as vast as vast can be,
The sands were dry as dry.
There was no hope for rainstorms ‘cause
No cloud was in the sky:
No Simurgh flying overhead—
No language, song or cry.
The Dervish and the Imam came,
Were walking close at hand;
They wept in deep remorse to see
The graveyards of dry sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it surely would be grand!”
“If seven Sufis, with their brooms,
Swept it for seven years;
Do you suppose,” the Dervish asked,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Imam back,
And shed a bitter tear.
“O Sufis, come and walk with us!”
The Dervish did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
For zhikrullah, to contemplate;
For sohbet, and to teach!”
The eldest Sufi in the depths,
Never a word he said:
Instead he winked his half-closed eyes,
And shook his heavy head—
Meaning to say he could not choose
To leave the ocean’s bed.
But four young Sufis hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their beards were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat—
And this was odd, because, you know;
This path, they use no feet.
Four other Sufis followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more—
All hopping on the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Dervish and the Imam led,
Walked on a mile or so;
And then they stood beside a rock,
An altar, smooth and low:
And all the Sufis stood before—
Arms folded in a row.
“The time has come,” the Dervish said,
“To talk of many things:
Of God— and saints— and Solomon—
Of futuwwah— and kings—
And why the pot is boiling hot—
And whether hearts have wings.”
“But wait a bit,” the Sufis cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” replied the Imam—
They thanked him much for that.
“Loaves and fishes,” the Imam preached,
“Are what we chiefly need:
And holy books and poetry
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Sufis dear,
We can begin to read.”
“But not to us!” the Sufis cried,
They turned a little blue.
“You promised grace; the moonlit Face—
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Dervish said.
“Do you not see the view?”
“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Imam shared a single thought
“Pearls do have such a price:
Most all, I fear, are deaf to God—
He’s had to ask you twice!”
“It seems a shame,” the Dervish cried,
“To call them from the sea,
For fantasy and imagery;
From waters that are He!”
The Imam nodded; he agreed,
“Prayers often are as these!”
“I weep for you,” the Dervish said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Their nafs from size to size;
Raising up his long white sleeves
Before his streaming eyes.
“O Sufis,” said the Imam last,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be journeying home again?’
In answer there came none—
And this was scarcely odd, because,
In fana; every one.
Photo Credit: emilyclaire-studio.com
Simurgh teaching “the language of the birds” (that can fly to Paradise)