Archive for the ‘Persian poetry’ Category

India’s first Renaissance Man and his verse (Column: Bookends XCIX)


Much before the term “Renaissance Man” came into vogue, he was one in what eventually became India. A prolific poet, historian and writer, he also introduced two music forms – ghazal and qawwali – popular to this day, is credited with developing two styles of classical music – khayal and tarana – as well as the tabla and sitar. But his most notable feat was using a local vernacular so adroitly that seven centuries hence it is the most commonly-used language across the South Asian subcontinent.

And Ab’ul Hasan Yamin ud-Din Khusrow (c. 1253-1325) or Amir Khusro, as we usually know him, seemed to epitomise the assimilative nature of India.

The son of a Turkic Hazara noble, forced to leave his homeland near Samarkand by Genghis Khan’s invasion and found shelter at the court of Sultan Iltutmish, and an Indian mother from a Rajput tribe, he was born in what is now Uttar Pradesh’s Etah district. Beginning imperial service as a soldier, he became court poet to Sultan Balban’s nephew in 1271 and soon enjoyed royal favour, serving seven monarchs of Delhi spanning the Mamluk or Slave Dynasty, the Khaljis and the Tughlaqs.

Besides his diwans – “Tuhfa-tus-Sighr (Offering of a Minor)”, “Wastul-Hayat (The Middle of Life)”, “Ghurratul-Kamaal (The Prime of Perfection)”, “Baquia-Naquia (The Rest/The Miscellaneous)” and “Nihayatul-Kamaal (The Height of Wonders)”, finished a few days before his death, other notable works include “Mathnavi Duval Rani-Khizr Khan”, a hauntingly beautiful but tragic poem about the love between Gujarat’s princess and Sultan Alauddin’s son, “Mathnavi Noh Sepehr (Mathnavi of the Nine Skies)” on his perceptions of India, a collection of five classical romances including of Shireen-Khusrau, and Layla-Majnun, as well as prose and histories.

But it is his poetry , both Persian and then Hindvi (“Khusro darya prem ka, ulti wa ki dhaar/Jo utra so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar”) that holds centrestage – even when he combines both as in this oft-quoted example, and glides between them within a line.

“Zehal-e miskin makun taghaful, duraye naina banaye batiyan/Ki taab-e hijran nadaram ay jaan, na leho kaahe lagaye chhatiyan/Shaban-e hijran daraz chun zulf wa roz-e waslat cho umr kotah, Sakhi piya ko jo main na dekhun to kaise kaatun andheri ratiyan…”

And his Persian poetry is as grand. Take either this ghazal (will be familiar as a qawwali for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan fans): “Nami danam chi manzil bood shab jaay ki man boodam/Baharsu raqs-e bismil bood shab jaay ki man boodam (I don’t know which place I was at last night/Flailing were half-slain tormented victims (of love) around me where I was last night)”.

Or this one (also rendered as a qawwali): “Khabaram raseed imshab ki nigaar khvahi aamad/Sar-e man fida-e raah-e ki sawaar khvahi aamad! (There came news tonight that you, oh beloved, would come/Be my head sacrificed to the road along which you will come riding)”, “Kashish ki ishq daarad naguzaradat badinsaa/Ba-janazah gar nayai ba-mazaar khvahi aamad (Love’s attraction will not leave you unmoved/ If you don’t join my funeral prayer, you will definitely turn up at my grave)” and ending: “Baya aamadan raboodi, dil-o-deen sab chu Khusro/Che shavad agar badinsaa, do se baar khvahi aamad (The first time you came, you took away Khusro’s heart and faith/What will you happen if you come again?)”.

It is dedicated to his spiritual master – Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya as are these qawwalis in a more familiar language but a very different cultural idiom: “Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaike/Prem bhatee ka madhva pilaike…. Khusrau Nijaam kay bal bal jayyiye/Mohe suhaagan keeni ray mosay naina milaike”, “Main to piya say naina lada aayi rae.. Khusrau Nijaam kay bal bal jayyiye/Main to anmol cheli kaha aayi rae…”, and “Aaj rang hai hey maan rung hai ri/More mehboob kay ghar rang hai ri… Mohe pir paayo Nijamudin Auliya/Nijamudin Auliyaa mohay pir paayo.”
His inventiveness never stopped – there were his clever riddles, some containing their own answers: “Saawan bhaadon bahut chalat hai/Maagh paus mein thodi/Amir Khusro yun kahay/Tu boojh paheli mori” and dual ones with one answer: “Ghar kyun andhiyaara? Faqeer kyun barhbarhaya? Diya na tha” and “Pundit kyun na nahaya? Dhoban kyun maari gayi? Dhoti na thi.”

And then who can forget the lament of generations of brides: “Kaahe ko biyahi bides, re, lakhi Baabul moray…”

There have been studies innumerable on Khusro, but unlike many of his counterparts – eg. Shakespeare, Dante, Schiller, Baudelaire and so on, he (or for that matter, several of his regional successors like Tagore or Iqbal) have yet to get the ultimate literary accolade – appearances in fiction. Anybody out there interested?

(04.01.2016 – Vikas Datta is an Associate Editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at )


The Wine of Life and Fate: The Rubaiyat’s FitzGerald version and its influence (Column: Bookends XLVI)

By Vikas Datta (09:58)

Call it fate but literature sometimes sees translations or adaptions becoming much more famous than the original work. Like this mid-Victorian era translation of some Persian poetry which became part of the English literary tradition, besides influencing the likes of Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, O. Henry, Eugene O’Neill, Nevil Shute, Jorge Luis Borges, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Paramhansa Yogananda, not to mention turning up in a Hollywood Western (Gregory Peck-starrer “Duel in the Sun”) and a Bollywood song. What’s more, Edward FitzGerald’s translation of Omar Khayyam’s “Rubaiyat” also ended up re-introducing the poet’s work to his native land.

FitzGerald (1809-83), who counted William Thackeray and Alfred Tennyson as friends, was inspired to translate Khayyam after his Oxford Persian professor E.B. Cowell discovered a manuscript in the Asiatic Society’s Calcutta (now Kolkata) library in 1857. He published his first translation, with 75 quatrains, anonymously in 1859, but it did not create much of a stir until 1861, when poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti discovered and popularised it. There were five editions, the second (1868) with 110 quatrains, but the third (1872), fourth, (1879) and fifth (1889, posthumous) stuck to 101. The first, second, and fifth differ significantly, while the second and third are almost identical, as are the last two.

The first and the fifth are the most referenced though a difference is discernible: “Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough/A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou/Beside me singing in the Wilderness -/And Wilderness is Paradise enow” of the first in the fifth is “A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,/A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou/Beside me singing in the Wilderness–/Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”.

FitzGerald has been criticised for not maintaining fidelity to the original’s letter and spirit but himself admitted he did not do a translation but a “transmogrification”. In a letter to Cowell in 1858, he termed his work “very un-literal as it is. Many quatrains are mashed together: and something lost, I doubt, of Omar’s simplicity, which is so much a virtue in him”.

But his work’s sonorous, evocative phrases persist, and like the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays, have inspired many titles like Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novel “Some Buried Caesar”, O’Neill’s play “Ah, Wilderness!”, Christie and Stephen King’s stories “The Moving Finger”, Daphne du Maurier’s memoir “Myself when Young” and Shute’s “The Chequer Board”.

They gave Hector Hugh Munro his pen-name “Saki”, while O. Henry’s story “The Handbook of Hymen” refers to a book by “Homer KM” with the character “Ruby Ott” and another story is “The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball.” Borges, whose father translated FitzGerald into Spanish, discusses it in “The Enigma of Edward FitzGerald” and refers to it in various poems.

Closer to home, poets Maithili Sharan Gupta and Harivanshrai Bachchan translated it into Hindi while it inspired the latter’s own “Madhushala”. It was translated into various Indian languages (Bengali by Kazi Nazrul Islam), while Yogananda provided an interpretation in “Wine of the Mystic”.

Iranian author Sadeq Hedayat, who made the first modern study of the Rubaiyat in Persian, held that FitzGerald’s version re-evoked interest in Khayyám’s poetic legacy in his homeland, where he had been honoured as the greatest of mathematicians and astronomers, but never among the great poets.

The work also inspired a range of clever parodies – whether by Kipling whose “Rupaiyat of Omar Kalvin” is British India’s then financial administrator lamenting lack of funds, or a band of funny, innovative Americans like J.L. Duff’s lament on Prohibition in “The Rubaiyat of Ohow Dryyam”: “Wail! For the Law has scattered into flight/Those Drinks that were our sometime dear delight;/And still the Morals-tinkers plot and plan/New, sterner, stricter Statues to indite”; Oliver Hereford’s Persian cat version: “They say the Lion and the Lizard Keep/The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep/The Lion is my cousin; I don’t know/Who Jamshyd is-nor shall it break my sleep”, or Caroyn Welles’ “The Rubaiyat of Bridge”.

“The Rubaiyyat of Omar Cayenne” is Gelett Burgess’ peppery attack on publishers and critics: “Important Writers bound to feed ITS taste/For Literature and Poetry debased;/Hither and thither pandering we strive,/And one by one our Talents are disgraced”, and the misogynistic, nicotine lover in Wallace Irwin’s “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Jr.”: “Come, fill the Pipe, and in the Fire of Spring/The Cuban Leaves upon the Embers fling,/That in its Incense I may sermonize/On Woman’s Ways and all that sort of Thing.”

And then about FitzGerald himself in his style: “Myself now old am still the Suffolk-born/Have been to London once or twice but scorn/To venture where the Sufis weave their Spells/And Minarets the cloudless skies adorn”. Or take “A joint of Lamb, a Pint of Beer, and Thou/Khayyam of Naishapur, I will allow/To pay for them, but for the Rest/Woodbridge to me is Wilderness enow” or even “Let old Fitzgerald your Example be/Who spends his Life in Suffolk by the Sea/In Khorasan, may Sultan Mahmoud reign;/I have invited Tennyson for tea.”

It’s hard to find any other poetry that gripped and exercised the imagination more!

(28.12.2014 – Vikas Datta is an Associate Editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at

Parodies of Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam #3: Of Omar Jr, a tobacco aficionado VI

And another installment from the The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Jr, as “translated from the Original Bornese into English Verse” by Wallace Irwin, author of “The Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum”.  If this is the first installment that you read and would like some background about the poet, I advise you consult the previous posts in these series- the first three or so would do.

Now I continue on from where I stopped last time…..


Better a meager Tome to sow the Seed
Of errant Thought and Fancy’s Lantern feed;
Better a Penny Dreadful than the Book
That sends you into Slumber when you read.


And better still than these gorglorious Things
The Briar’s gracious Narcotine that clings
To my ambrosial Temples till I wear
A Halo-crown of vapoured Vortex Rings.


Virginia for the Pipe’s sweet Charity,
Havana for Cigars to solace me,
And Turkey for the transient Cigarette –
Was all I learned of my Geography.


Cigars I puff devoutly when I May,
And when I Can the Pipe, another Day,
And when I Must I browse on Cigarettes –
Then, as you love me, take the Stubs away!


Waste not your Weed, the Leaves are all too few
Its Nectar to defile as Others do –
Ah, shun the Solecism and the Plug
For Cattle-Kings and Stevedores to chew.


Once in a Dream ’twas granted unto me
The open Gates of Paradise to see,
While Israfel loud chanted from the Void,
“This Vision comes of Pie; not Piety!”


Beloved, smoke my amber Pipe awhile
And from its Bowl narcotic Joys beguile,
Suck Lethe from its Stem – what though I trace
A certain greenish Pallour in your Smile?


Strange is it not that, oft her Dolour cloaking
In hurried Puffs with Nonchalance provoking,
No woman reads that apodictic Ode
“How to be Happy Even Though You’re Smoking?”


Look not so wild, the Fit will pass away –
No barbed Anguish chooses long to stay,
And only in the Pipe is Friendship found
That waxes Strong and Stronger day by day.


Come, rest your Head if Earth rotative seems
And close your Lids from these o’er wakeful Gleams –
Although your Palate cringe you shall not shrink
Within the Kitchen of the House of Dreams.


Murkly I muse on that transcendent State
Where all my Pasts within the Future wait –
If I for Heavenly Marriages am marked,
Oh, what a Turk I’ll be beyond the Gate!


Minnie and Maud across my Flight will wing,
Birdie and Bess and Gwendolyn will bring
A Score of Other Pasts and make a Scene,
To say the Least, a Bit Embarrassing.


Some I have known are jabbering in Hell,
Others have passed in Heaven’s Reward to dwell;
So, when my Soul has flitted, must I find
The same bland Bores, the same old Tales to tell.


There is the Thought beneath whose vampire Tooth
The Soul outshrieks at such unseemly Sooth:
The Solemn Bore still waits beyond the Grave –
Ah, let me stay and taste undying Youth!


Into some secret, migrant Realm without,
By the dun Cloak of Darkness wrapped about,
Or by ringed Saturn’s Swirl thou may’st be hid
In vain: be sure the Bore will find you out.

To be continued….

Parodies of Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam #3: Of Omar Jr, a tobacco aficionado V

And continuing The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Jr, without any delay, save one thought… it is not just a witty parody, but a rollicking satire on the age.


Then swart Gorgona rears her snaky Zone
Demanding Sip of Lip in poisonous Tone
While back Abaft I cower, for well I wot
A Face like that needs not a Chaperone.


The Fair of Vanity has many a Booth
To sell its spangled Wares of Age and Youth;
And there have I beheld the Worldlings buy
Their Paris Gowns to clothe the Naked Truth.


But cannot Beauty render Sin the less
When Aphroditan Damosels transgress,
Making the Error lovely with the Thought –
A Dimple is its own Forgiviness?


Into your Soul may truculent Daemons pass
All hugger-mugger in that dun Morass,
But while the Rouge is mantling to your Cheek,
Nothing will chide you in your Looking-Glass.


Unto the Glass Gorgona torques her Eye
Beholding there Ten Myriad Fragments fly,
The Parts dispersing with lugubrious Din –
Who will invent a Mirror that will lie?


Oft have I heard the Cant of flattering Friend
Admire my Forehead’s Apollonic Bend,
Then to the Glass I’ve wreathed my sad Regard –
The Looking-Glass is candid to the End.


Look to the Rose who, as I pass her by,
Breathes the fond Attar-musk up to the Sky,
Spreading her silken Blushes – does she know
That I have come to smell and not to Buy?


Ah, Rose, assume a gentle Avarice
And hoard the soft Allurements that entice;
For One will come who holds the Golden Means
To buy your Blushes at the Standard Price.


Down to the Deeps of Sheol, anguish-torn,
I’ve hurtled Beauty to a State forlorn,
Beauty the Curse, – yet if a Curse it be,
With what an Equanimity ’tis borne!


What shallow Guerdon of terrestrial Strife,
For him who quits this Donjon Keep of Life,
To read the World’s expectant Epitaph:
“He left a handsome Widow in his Wife!”


Before the Dawn’s Encroachment I awoke
And heard again the bodeful Adage spoke:
Society Engagements are like Eggs –
You know not what’s Inside them till they’re Broke.


Creation stands between the Won’t and Will,
Yes, and that Doubt Infinitude might fill –
It took nine Tailors once to make a Man;
It took nine more to make him pay the Bill.


The Thunderbolts of Heaven’s potent Sway
Gather and break, but never can dismay
When Indestructible Resistless meets,
The Please Remit confronts the Cannot Pay.


And true as Star and Star pursue their Course
Must Rapture crumb to Ashes of Remorse:
How many a Marriage License that is writ
Has proved a legal Permit to Divorce!


Myself when young did eagerly frequent
A Woman’s Club and heard great Argument
Of crazy Cults and Creeds; but evermore
‘Twas by much Gossip of the Fashions rent.


In them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
Speaking of Things a Woman ought to know.
“Better than Years with Ibsen spent,” I said,
“One Evening with my Friend, Boccacio.”


And that same Bard who strews rhythmatic Daisies
And many a Female Heart discreetly crazes,
Seek him not out, fair Maid, for oftentimes
His Head is vastly Balder than his Phrases.


Upon the Book of Time the Autocrat
Has writ in Stars the fiery Idem Stat,
Lettered the Riddle in the Lambent Suns –
I’d rather write than read a Book like that.

To be continued…… quite soon

Parodies of Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam #3: Of Omar Jr, a tobacco aficionado IV

And I finally come to the point, where I introduce you to that priceless literary pleasure, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Jr. Since the last three posts on this topic were devoted to the introduction of this magnificent parody, I will not presume to test your patience any longer and straightaway go to the quatrains. Enjoy…..   I have however taken the liberty of marking, in bold, some which in my humble opinion, are among the best.          


What though Gorgona at the Portal knocks
And charms the squamiest Serpent in her Locks –
I wear tobacchanalian Wreaths of Smoke
And there are more Perfectos in the box.


Now the New Year, reviving old Desires,
The craving Phoenix rises from its Fires.
Indeed, indeed Repentance oft I swore,
But last Year’s Pledge with this New Year expires.


Mark how Havana’s sensuous-philtred Mead
Dispels the cackling Hag of Night at Need,
And, foggy-aureoled, the Smoke reveals
The Poppy Flowers that blossom from the Weed.


Come, fill the Pipe, and in the Fire of Spring
The Cuban Leaves upon the Embers fling,
That in its Incense I may sermonize
On Woman’s Ways and all that sort of Thing.


While the tired Dog Watch hailed the sea-merged Star
I heard the Voice of Travellers from Afar
Making Lament with many an Ivory Yawn,
“There’s Comfort only in the Smoking Car!”


See, heavenly Zamperina, damselish,
The Day has broken Night’s unwholesome Dish,
The Lark is up betimes to hail the Dawn,
The Early Worm is up to catch the Fish.


Let us infest the Lintel of the Gloam
And chase the Steeds from Morning’s Hippodrome,
And let Aurora’s wastrel Wanderings be
A good Excuse to stay away from Home.


Ah, Love, th’ Invisible Buskin at the Gate
Illumes your Eyes that languored gaze and wait
And in their Incandescence seem to ask
The world-old Question: “Is my Hat On Straight?”


Than Basilisk or Nenuphar more fair,
Your Locks with countless glistening Pendants glare,
Then as the Fountain patters to the brim
A hundred Hairpins tumble from your Hair.


So let them scatter, jangled in Duress.
What reckons Love of Hairpins more or less?
Guard well your Heart and let the Hairpins go –
To lose your Heart were arrant Carelessness.


Acephalous Time to febrous Lengths bestirred
Strips the lush Blossom and outstrips the Bird,
Makes sweet the Wine – I cannot say the Same
Of Women or of Songs that I have heard.


With me along that mezzotinted Zone
Where Hymen Spring is hymning to his Own –
See how grave Mahmud gambols on the Glebe
And hangs the sign TO LET upon his Throne!


A Grand Piano underneath the Bough,
A Gramophone, a Chinese Gong, and Thou
Trying to sing an Anthem off the Key –
Oh, Paradise were Wilderness enow!


Chromatic Catches troll from yonder Hill
Where Bill to Beak the Wren and Whip-poor-Will
In deed and truth beshrew the Beldam Life
Who kisses first and then presents the Bill.


As one who by the Sphinx delays a space
And on her Shoulder finds a Resting Place,
Breathes an awed Question in her stupored Ear.
And lights a Sulphur Match upon her Face,


So unto Venus’ Oracle in turn
I leaned the Secret of my Love to learn.
The Answering Riddle came: “She loves you, yes,
In just Proportion to the Sum you Earn.”


Some by Eolian Aloes borne along
Swound on the Dulcimer’s reverbrant Thong;
But I, who make my Mecca in a Kiss,
Begrudge the Lips that waste their Time in Song.


Some clamour much for kisses, some for Few,
Others deep sup, their Thirstings to renew,
And mumble into Maunderings, but I,
In Kissing, scorn the How Much for the Who.


Svelte Zamperina’s Lips incarnadine,
And languored lifting, fasten unto mine,
Their rubric Message giving Hint and Clew
How frequently a Kiss in Time saves Nine.

To be continued…

Parodies of Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam #3: Of Omar Jr, a tobacco aficionado III

The conclusion -finally – to the introduction to The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Jr… and after this, the quatrains itself. Since most of this post is again taken up the introduction only, I will add the first quatrain for all you patient readers.

Quite in accordance with his policy of improving on his father’s rakish Muse was the frequent endorsement of the beautiful and harmless practice of kissing. The kiss is mentioned some forty-eight times in the present work, and in the nine hundred untranslated Rubaiyat, two hundred and ten more kisses occur, making a grand total of two hundred and fifty-eight Omaric kisses –

“Enough! – of Kisses can there be Enough?”

It may be truly said that the Father left the discovery of Woman to his Son, for nowhere in the Rubaiyat of Naishapur’s poet is full justice done to the charms of the fair. Even in his most ardent passages old Omar uttered no more than a eulogy to Friendship.

Where the philosophy of the elder Omar was bacchanalian and epicurean, that of the Son was tobacchanalian and eclectic, allowing excess only in moderation, as it were, and countenancing nothing more violent than poetic license. However, we are led to believe that the tastes of his time called for a certain mild sensuality as the gustatio to a feast of reason, and had Omar Khayyam lived in our own day he would doubtless have agreed with a reverend Erlington and Bosworth Professor in the University of Cambridge who boldly asserts that the literature redolent of nothing but the glories of asceticism “deserves the credit due to goodness of intention, and nothing else.”

Due doubtless to the preservative influence of smoke Omar Khayyam, Jr., was enabled to live to the hale age of one hundred and seven, and to go to an apotheosis fully worthy his greatness. Among the native chroniclers the quatrain (number XCI) –

“Then let the balmed Tobacco be my Sheath,
The ardent Weed above me and beneath,
And let me like a living Incense rise,
A Fifty-Cent Cigar between my Teeth,”

has been the source of much relentless debate. By some it is held that this stanza is prophetic in its nature, foreseeing the transcendent miracle of the poet’s death; by others it is as stoutly maintained that the poet in the above lines decreed that his work should be preserved and handed down to posterity in a wrapping of tobacco. The Editor is inclined to the belief that there is much truth in both opinions, for the parchment, when it came to hand, was stained and scented from its wrappings of Virginia and Perique; and the manner of the poet’s death marks Number XCI as another remarkable instance of the clairvoyance of the Muse. To quote from the quaint words of the native chronicler: –

“For while the Volcanic Singer was seated one day in the shade of a banyan tree, fresh cigars and abandoned stumps surrounding him like the little hills that climb the mountain, he nodded and fell asleep, still puffing lustily at a panatella, sweet and black. Now the poet’s beard was long and his sleep deep, and as the weed grew shorter with each ecstatic puff, the little brand of fire drew closer and closer to the beautiful hairy mantle that fell from the poet’s chin. That day the Island was wrapped in a light gauze of blue mist, an exotic smoke that was a blessing to the nostrils. It suffused the whole Island from end to end, and reminded the happy inhabitants of the Cigars of Nirvana, grown in some Plantation of the Blessed. When the smoke had passed and our heads were cleared of the narcotic fumes, we hastened to the spot where our good master had loved to sit; but there naught remained but a great heap of white ashes, sitting among the pipes and cigars that had inspired his song. Thus he died as he lived, an ardent smoker.”


Avaunt, acerbid Brat of Death, that sours
The Milk of Life and blasts the nascent Flowers!
Back to your morbid, mouldering Cairns, and let
Me do my worrying in Office Hours!

To be continued…

Parodies of Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam #2: The Persian Cat’s version (Continued)

And the rest of the Rubaiyat of the Cat (Persian…of course), which I go to straightaway. For all other details I suggest you see the first post on this topic….

Impotent glimpses of the Game displayed
Upon the Counter—temptingly arrayed;
Hither and thither moved or checked or weighed,
And one by one back in the Ice Chest laid.

What if the Sole could fling the Ice aside,
And with me to some Area’s haven glide—
Were’t not a Shame, were’t not a shame for it
In this Cold Prison crippled to abide?

Some for the Glories of the Sole, and Some
Mew for the proper Bowl of Milk to come.
Ah, take the fish and let your Credit go,
And plead the rumble of an empty Tum.

One thing is certain: tho’ this Stolen Bite
Should be my last and Wrath consume me quite,
One taste of It within the Area caught
Better than at the Table lost outright.

Indeed, indeed Repentance oft before
I swore, but was I hungry when I swore?
And then and then came Cook—with Hose in hand—
And drowned my glory in a sorry pour.

What without asking hither harried whence,
And without asking whither harried hence—
O, many a taste of that forbidden Sole
Must down the memory of that Insolence.

Heaven, but the vision of a flowing Bowl;
And Hell, the sizzle of a frying Sole
Heard in the hungry Darkness where Myself,
So rudely cast, must impotently roll.

The Vine has a tough fibre which about
While clings my Being;—let the Canine flout
Till his Bass Voice be pitched to such loud key
It shall unlock the door I mew without.

Up from the Basement to the Seventh flat
I rose, and on the Crown of fashion sat,
And many a Ball unraveled by the way—
But not the Master’s angry Bawl of “Scat!”

Then to the Well of Wisdom I—and lo!
With my own Paw I wrought to make it flow,
And This was all the Harvest that I reaped:
We come like Kittens and like Cats we go.

Why be this Ink the fount of Wit?—who dare
Blaspheme the glistening Pen-drink as a snare?
A Blessing?—I should spread it, should I not?
And if a Curse—why, then upset it!—there!

A moment’s Halt, a momentary Taste
Of Bitter, and amid the Trickling Waste
I wrought strange shapes from Mah to Mahi, yet
I know not what I wrote, nor why they chased.

Now I beyond the Pale am safely Past.
O, but the long, long time their Rage shall last,
Which, tho’ they call to supper, I shall heed
As a Stone Cat should heed a Pebble cast.

And that perverted Soul beneath the Sky
They call the Dog—Heed not his angry cry;
Not all his Threats can make me budge one bit,
Nor all his Empty Bluster terrify.

They are no other than a moving Show
Of whirling Shadow Shapes that come and go
Me-ward thro’ Moon illumined Darkness hurled,
In midnight, by the Lodgers of the Row.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
The Backyard fence and heard great Argument
About it, and About, yet evermore
Came out with fewer fur than in I went.

Ah, me! If you and I could but conspire
To grasp this Sorry Scheme of things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits, and then
Enfold it nearer to our Heart’s Desire?

Tho’ Two and Two make four by rule of line,
Or they make Twenty-two by Logic fine,
Of all the figures one may fathom, I
Shall ne’er be floored by anything but Nine.

And fear not lest Existence shut the Door
On You and Me, to open it no more.
The Cream of Life from out your Bowl shall pour
Nine times—ere it lie broken on the floor.

So, if the fish you Steal—the Cream you drink—
Ends in what all begins and ends in, Think,
Unless the Stern Recorder points to Nine,
Tho’ They would drown you—still you shall not sink.

And That is All…