Yusuf the potter told me this today,
In the cool shadow of the Bhatti Gate,
When a red scorpion stung me and I railed ,
Breaking his mid-day slumber. Yusuf knows
The tales of all men's tongues.
'Not His the fault
Who fashioned all things fair and fit for man
In those six days He laboured. That thy hand
Fell on the worn, reh -rotten brick which hid
The evil thing, this much was God's design,
The beast was fashioned otherwise.'
Fresh melon-rind above my palm and laughed,
Because I doubted Yusuf; being young
And, so my brother hulwaies tell me, proud.
'In the beginning there were seven days',
Growled Yusuf from behind his lime-dyed beard,
'And seven nights. God laboured in the Light,
Who is the Light of All Things. By His will,
Who is the Power, Eblis from the Pit
Had power to labour in the night and make
All things for our discomfort. God is great!
Alone, afar, at noon-tide Eblis watched,
Jealous of God, the All Sustainer's work:
Saw the Great Darkness rent in twain and lit
With Sun and Moon and Stars—beheld the Earth
Heaved upward from beneath the Waters, green
And trampled by the Cattle—watched the Sea
Foam with the Children of the Waters—heard
The voices of the Children of the Woods
Across the branches. Saw and heard and feared,
And strove thoughout those Seven Nights of Sin
To mar with evil toil God's handiwork.
O Hassan! Saving Allah there is none
More strong than Eblis. Foul marsh lights he made
To wander and perplex us—errant stars,
Wild devil-ridden meteors bringing plague—
Deserts of restless sand-drifts-icebound seas
Wherein is neither Life nor power to live—
Bound Devils to the snow-capped peaks (These vex
Earth with their struggles)—poured undying fire
Into the bosoms of the tortured hills,
And filled the belly of the Deep with life
Unnameable and awful at his will—
Sent forth his birds, the owl, the kite, the crow—
Grey wolves that haunt our village-gates at dusk:
Made he his horses and his councillor
The hooded snake-in darkness wove the grass
That kills our cattle—made the flowers that suck
Man's life like dew drops—evil seeds and shrub
That turn the sons of Adam into beasts
Whom Eblis snatches from the sword-wide Bridge
The thing that stung thee and its kind his hands
Fashioned in mockery and bitter hate—
Dread beasts by land and water all are his.
Each bears the baser likeness of God's work,
Distorted, as the shadow of thy face
In water troubled by the breeze.'
An Ape from off the chuppar thatch that hangs
Above my stall, dropped swiftly down and stole
A double handful of sweet balushai,
Then gibbered overhead among his kin.
I laughed (albeit half my stall was wrecked).
Is he the work of Eblis?' Yusuf stretched
One lean forefinger to the painted shrine
Where Hanuman the idol leaped and grinned
And all his living brethren frisked above:—
'Eblis made Man—behold him-dung and filth
And refuse of the Pit. O Hassan! See
The men of Eblis worshipped by his sons!
Alone, afar, at noon-tide Eblis watched
The Seven Soils slow moulded into Man,
And feared the living clay God made his lord.
Then the last Night of Sin came down and cloaked
The young and tender world while Eblis wrought.
None knew the secrets of that Night but God.
"Tis writ the angels shuddered when they heard
Clamour and lamentation through the dark;
Cries of huge beasts whom Eblis slew to make
His Man more perfect; thunders from the Pit
And voices of the Devils and the Djinns
Rejoicing. It is written Eblis called
Three times to God to stay the flying Night.
Allah Al Bari heard him (He is great!).
And held three times Her pinions till the cries
Ceased and the work was perfect.'
Mocking the apes with pellets from his wheel:—
Perfect. Then Eblis turned and saw his work
When the Great Darkness lifted . Thus he cried
Amid the laughter of the Sons of God:—
"Lo! what is this I make. Are these his limbs
Bent inward tottering 'neath the body's weight?
The body crutched by hairy spider arms,
Surmounted by a face as who should say
Mourning:—Why hast thou made me, wherefore breathed
Spirit in this vile body? Let me be:—
The strange black lips are working with a cry,
A cry and protest while the wrinkled palms
Are put forth helplessly and beat the dusk.
So did not my great foe when he was made.
I saw his eye quicken with sense of power,
I saw all wild things crouch beneath that eye;
God gave him great dominion over all,
And blessed him. Shall I bless my handiwork?
After thy kind be fruitful, lust and eat,
All rhings I give thee in the Earth and Air
Only . . . depart and hide thee in the trees.
He rises from the ground to do my will
Dumb, limping, crippled. Can the being speak?
Stay, Thing, and thank me for thy quickening.
The great eyes roll—my meaning is not there
Reflected, as God's word was in the Man's.
I, Maker, bid thee speak in Adam's tongue,
Unto my glory and the scorn of God.
* * * *
He plucks the grass-tufts aimlessly, and works
Palm within palm; then, for a moment's space
Breaks off rough bark and casts it on the ground!
Accursed, e'en as I am.
Yet one curse
Shall sink him lower than the lowest. Stay!
Man! Inasmuch as thou art made my Man,
From all communion in the woodland tongue
With beast and bird for ever be debarred.
The Oxen bellow in a thousand keys,
There is one bellow to the ear of man:
The Lion from the rock-rift calls his mate,
And Adam hastening folds the fearless flocks,
Saying:—He roars for hunger. He is wroth
Alas! the light
Is flaring forth to mock me. He, my Man,
Helpless, uprooting grass. While all the world
Is thick with life renewed that fills my ears
My last, my greatest work is mockery.
Depart O Ape! Depart and leave me foiled!'
This tale told Yusuf by the Bhatti Gate,
Mocking the Apes with pellets from his wheel.
He bade me wrap the melon-rind anew,
And trust in God the Fashioner of Good,
Seeing the mighty works of Eblis brought
A half day's torment at the most—or stole
A double handful of sweet balushai.