The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi
Richard F. Burton

This eBook was prepared by Robert Sinton from a source supplied by the
Sacred Texts Web site,, thanks to John B. Hare.




The Translator has ventured to entitle a “Lay of the Higher Law”
the following composition, which aims at being in advance of its
time; and he has not feared the danger of collision with such
unpleasant forms as the “Higher Culture.” The principles which
justify the name are as follows:—

The Author asserts that Happiness and Misery are equally divided
and distributed in the world.

He makes Self-cultivation, with due regard to others, the sole
and sufficient object of human life.

He suggests that the affections, the sympathies, and the “divine
gift of Pity” are man’s highest enjoyments.

He advocates suspension of judgment, with a proper suspicion of
“Facts, the idlest of superstitions.”

Finally, although destructive to appearance, he is essentially

For other details concerning the Poem and the Poet, the curious
reader is referred to the end of the volume.

F. B.

Vienna, Nov., 1880.



The hour is nigh; the waning Queen
walks forth to rule the later night;
Crown’d with the sparkle of a Star,
and throned on orb of ashen light:

The Wolf-tail* sweeps the paling East
to leave a deeper gloom behind,
And Dawn uprears her shining head,
sighing with semblance of a wind:

* The false dawn.

The highlands catch yon Orient gleam,
while purpling still the lowlands lie;
And pearly mists, the morning-pride,
soar incense-like to greet the sky.

The horses neigh, the camels groan,
the torches gleam, the cressets flare;
The town of canvas falls, and man
with din and dint invadeth air:

The Golden Gates swing right and left;
up springs the Sun with flamy brow;
The dew-cloud melts in gush of light;
brown Earth is bathed in morning-glow.

Slowly they wind athwart the wild,
and while young Day his anthem swells,
Sad falls upon my yearning ear
the tinkling of the Camel-bells:

O’er fiery wastes and frozen wold,
o’er horrid hill and gloomy glen,
The home of grisly beast and Ghoul,*
the haunts of wilder, grislier men;—

* The Demon of the Desert.

With the brief gladness of the Palms,
that tower and sway o’er seething plain,
Fraught with the thoughts of rustling shade,
and welling spring, and rushing rain;

With the short solace of the ridge,
by gentle zephyrs played upon,
Whose breezy head and bosky side
front seas of cooly celadon;—

’Tis theirs to pass with joy and hope,
whose souls shall ever thrill and fill
Dreams of the Birthplace and the Tomb,
visions of Allah’s Holy Hill.*

* Arafât, near Mecca.

But we? Another shift of scene,
another pang to rack the heart;
Why meet we on the bridge of Time
to ’change one greeting and to part?

We meet to part; yet asks my sprite,
Part we to meet? Ah! is it so?
Man’s fancy-made Omniscience knows,
who made Omniscience nought can know.

Why must we meet, why must we part,
why must we bear this yoke of MUST,
Without our leave or askt or given,
by tyrant Fate on victim thrust?

That Eve so gay, so bright, so glad,
this Morn so dim, and sad, and grey;
Strange that life’s Registrar should write
this day a day, that day a day!

Mine eyes, my brain, my heart, are sad,—
sad is the very core of me;
All wearies, changes, passes, ends;
alas! the Birthday’s injury!

Friends of my youth, a last adieu!
haply some day we meet again;
Yet ne’er the self-same men shall meet;
the years shall make us other men:

The light of morn has grown to noon,
has paled with eve, and now farewell!
Go, vanish from my Life as dies
the tinkling of the Camel’s bell.


In these drear wastes of sea-born land,
these wilds where none may dwell but He,
What visionary Pasts revive,
what process of the Years we see:

Gazing beyond the thin blue line
that rims the far horizon-ring,
Our sadden’d sight why haunt these ghosts,
whence do these spectral shadows spring?

What endless questions vex the thought,
of Whence and Whither, When and How?
What fond and foolish strife to read
the Scripture writ on human brow;

As stand we percht on point of Time,
betwixt the two Eternities,
Whose awful secrets gathering round
with black profound oppress our eyes.

“This gloomy night, these grisly waves,
these winds and whirlpools loud and dread:
What reck they of our wretched plight
who Safety’s shore so lightly tread?”

Thus quoth the Bard of Love and Wine,*
whose dream of Heaven ne’er could rise
Beyond the brimming Kausar-cup
and Houris with the white-black eyes;

* Hâfiz of Shirâz.

Ah me! my race of threescore years
is short, but long enough to pall
My sense with joyless joys as these,
with Love and Houris, Wine and all.

Another boasts he would divorce
old barren Reason from his bed,
And wed the Vine-maid in her stead;—
fools who believe a word he said!*

* Omar-i-Kayyâm, the tent-maker poet of Persia.

And “‘Dust thou art to dust returning.’
ne’er was spoke of human soul”
The Soofi cries, ’tis well for him
that hath such gift to ask its goal.

“And this is all, for this we’re born
to weep a little and to die!”
So sings the shallow bard whose life
still labours at the letter “I.”

“Ear never heard, Eye never saw
the bliss of those who enter in
My heavenly kingdom,” Isâ said,
who wailed our sorrows and our sin:

Too much of words or yet too few!
What to thy Godhead easier than
One little glimpse of Paradise
to ope the eyes and ears of man?

“I am the Truth! I am the Truth!”
we hear the God-drunk gnostic cry
“The microcosm abides in ME;
Eternal Allah’s nought but I!”

Mansûr* was wise, but wiser they
who smote him with the hurlèd stones;
And, though his blood a witness bore,
no wisdom-might could mend his bones.

* A famous Mystic stoned for blasphemy.

“Eat, drink, and sport; the rest of life’s
not worth a fillip,” quoth the King;
Methinks the saying saith too much:
the swine would say the selfsame thing!

Two-footed beasts that browse through life,
by Death to serve as soil design’d,
Bow prone to Earth whereof they be,
and there the proper pleasures find:

But you of finer, nobler, stuff,
ye, whom to Higher leads the High,
What binds your hearts in common bond
with creatures of the stall and sty?

“In certain hope of Life-to-come
I journey through this shifting scene”
The Zâhid* snarls and saunters down
his Vale of Tears with confi’dent mien.

* The “Philister” of “respectable” belief.

Wiser than Amrân’s Son* art thou,
who ken’st so well the world-to-be,
The Future when the Past is not,
the Present merest dreamery;

* Moses in the Koran.

What know’st thou, man, of Life? and yet,
forever twixt the womb, the grave,
Thou pratest of the Coming Life,
of Heav’n and Hell thou fain must rave.

The world is old and thou art young;
the world is large and thou art small;
Cease, atom of a moment’s span,
To hold thyself an All-in-All!


Fie, fie! you visionary things,
ye motes that dance in sunny glow,
Who base and build Eternities
on briefest moment here below;

Who pass through Life liked cagèd birds,
the captives of a despot will;
Still wond’ring How and When and Why,
and Whence and Whither, wond’ring still;

Still wond’ring how the Marvel came
because two coupling mammals chose
To slake the thirst of fleshly love,
and thus the “Immortal Being” rose;

Wond’ring the Babe with staring eyes,
perforce compel’d from night to day,
Gript in the giant grasp of Life
like gale-born dust or wind-wrung spray;

Who comes imbecile to the world
’mid double danger, groans, and tears;
The toy, the sport, the waif and stray
of passions, error, wrath and fears;

Who knows not Whence he came nor Why,
who kens not Whither bound and When,
Yet such is Allah’s choicest gift,
the blessing dreamt by foolish men;

Who step by step perforce returns
to couthless youth, wan, white and cold,
Lisping again his broken words
till all the tale be fully told:

Wond’ring the Babe with quenchèd orbs,
an oldster bow’d by burthening years,
How ’scaped the skiff an hundred storms;
how ’scaped the thread a thousand shears;

How coming to the Feast unbid,
he found the gorgeous table spread
With the fair-seeming Sodom-fruit,
with stones that bear the shape of bread:

How Life was nought but ray of sun
that clove the darkness thick and blind,
The ravings of the reckless storm,
the shrieking of the rav’ening wind;

How lovely visions ’guiled his sleep,
aye fading with the break of morn,
Till every sweet became a sour,
till every rose became a thorn;

Till dust and ashes met his eyes
wherever turned their saddened gaze;
The wrecks of joys and hopes and loves,
the rubbish of his wasted days;

How every high heroic Thought
that longed to breathe empyrean air,
Failed of its feathers, fell to earth,
and perisht of a sheer despair;

How, dower’d with heritage of brain,
whose might has split the solar ray,
His rest is grossest coarsest earth,
a crown of gold on brow of clay;

This House whose frame be flesh and bone,
mortar’d with blood and faced with skin,
The home of sickness, dolours, age;
unclean without, impure within:

Sans ray to cheer its inner gloom,
the chambers haunted by the Ghost,
Darkness his name, a cold dumb Shade
stronger than all the heav’nly host.

This tube, an enigmatic pipe,
whose end was laid before begun,
That lengthens, broadens, shrinks and breaks;
—puzzle, machine, automaton;

The first of Pots the Potter made
by Chrysorrhoas’ blue-green wave;*
Methinks I see him smile to see
what guerdon to the world he gave!

* The Abana, River of Damascus.

How Life is dim, unreal, vain,
like scenes that round the drunkard reel;
How “Being” meaneth not to be;
to see and hear, smell, taste and feel.

A drop in Ocean’s boundless tide,
unfathom’d waste of agony;
Where millions live their horrid lives
by making other millions die.

How with a heart that would through love
to Universal Love aspire,
Man woos infernal chance to smite,
as Min’arets draw the Thunder-fire.

How Earth on Earth builds tow’er and wall,
to crumble at a touch of Time;
How Earth on Earth from Shînar-plain
the heights of Heaven fain would climb.

How short this Life, how long withal;
how false its weal, how true its woes,
This fever-fit with paroxysms
to mark its opening and its close.

Ah! gay the day with shine of sun,
and bright the breeze, and blithe the throng
Met on the River-bank to play,
when I was young, when I was young:

Such general joy could never fade;
and yet the chilling whisper came
One face had paled, one form had failed;
had fled the bank, had swum the stream;

Still revellers danced, and sang, and trod
the hither bank of Time’s deep tide,
Still one by one they left and fared
to the far misty thither side;

And now the last hath slipt away
yon drear Death-desert to explore,
And now one Pilgrim worn and lorn
still lingers on the lonely shore.

Yes, Life in youth-tide standeth still;
in manhood streameth soft and slow;
See, as it nears the ’abysmal goal
how fleet the waters flash and flow!

And Deaths are twain; the Deaths we see
drop like the leaves in windy Fall;
But ours, our own, are ruined worlds,
a globe collapst, last end of all.

We live our lives with rogues and fools,
dead and alive, alive and dead,
We die ’twixt one who feels the pulse
and one who frets and clouds the head:

And,—oh, the Pity!—hardly conned
the lesson comes its fatal term;
Fate bids us bundle up our books,
and bear them bod’ily to the worm:

Hardly we learn to wield the blade
before the wrist grows stiff and old;
Hardly we learn to ply the pen
ere Thought and Fancy faint with cold.

Hardly we find the path of love,
to sink the self, forget the “I,”
When sad suspicion grips the heart,
when Man, _the_ Man begins to die:

Hardly we scale the wisdom-heights,
and sight the Pisgah-scene around,
And breathe the breath of heav’enly air,
and hear the Spheres’ harmonious sound;

When swift the Camel-rider spans
the howling waste, by Kismet sped,
And of his Magic Wand a wave
hurries the quick to join the dead.*

* Death in Arabia rides a Camel, not a pale horse.

How sore the burden, strange the strife;
how full of splendour, wonder, fear;
Life, atom of that Infinite Space
that stretcheth ’twixt the Here and There.

How Thought is imp’otent to divine
the secret which the gods defend,
The Why of birth and life and death,
that Isis-veil no hand may rend.

Eternal Morrows make our Day;
our _Is_ is aye _to be_ till when
Night closes in; ’tis all a dream,
and yet we die,—and then and THEN?

And still the Weaver plies his loom,
whose warp and woof is wretched Man
Weaving th’ unpattern’d dark design,
so dark we doubt it owns a plan.

Dost not, O Maker, blush to hear,
amid the storm of tears and blood,
Man say Thy mercy made what is,
and saw the made and said ’twas good?

The marvel is that man can smile
dreaming his ghostly ghastly dream;-
Better the heedless atomy
that buzzes in the morning beam!

O the dread pathos of our lives!
how durst thou, Allah, thus to play
With Love, Affection, Friendship, all
that shows the god in mortal clay?

But ah! what ’vaileth man to mourn;
shall tears bring forth what smiles ne’er brought;
Shall brooding breed a thought of joy?
Ah hush the sigh, forget the thought!

Silence thine immemorial quest,
contain thy nature’s vain complaint
None heeds, none cares for thee or thine;—
like thee how many came and went?

Cease, Man, to mourn, to weep, to wail;
enjoy thy shining hour of sun;
We dance along Death’s icy brink,
but is the dance less full of fun?


What Truths hath gleaned that Sage consumed
by many a moon that waxt and waned?
What Prophet-strain be his to sing?
What hath his old Experience gained?

There is no God, no man-made God;
a bigger, stronger, crueller man;
Black phantom of our baby-fears,
ere Thought, the life of Life, began.

Right quoth the Hindu Prince of old,*
“An Ishwara for one I nill,
Th’ almighty everlasting Good
who cannot ’bate th’ Eternal Ill:”

* Buddha.

“Your gods may be, what shows they are?”
hear China’s Perfect Sage declare;*
“And being, what to us be they
who dwell so darkly and so far?”

* Confucius.

“All matter hath a birth and death;
’tis made, unmade and made anew;
“We choose to call the Maker ‘God’:—
such is the Zâhid’s owly view.

“You changeful finite Creatures strain”
(rejoins the Drawer of the Wine)*
“The dizzy depths of Inf’inite Power
to fathom with your foot of twine”;

* The Soofi or Gnostic opposed to the Zâhid.

“Poor idols of man’s heart and head
with the Divine Idea to blend;
“To preach as ‘Nature’s Common Course’
what any hour may shift or end.”

“How shall the Shown pretend to ken
aught of the Showman or the Show?
“Why meanly bargain to believe,
which only means thou ne’er canst know?

“How may the passing Now contain
the standing Now—Eternity?—
“An endless _is_ without a _was_,
the _be_ and never the _to-be?_

“Who made your Maker? If Self-made,
why fare so far to fare the worse
“Sufficeth not a world of worlds,
a self-made chain of universe?

“Grant an Idea, Primal Cause,
the Causing Cause, why crave for more?
“Why strive its depth and breadth to mete,
to trace its work, its aid to ’implore?

“Unknown, Incomprehensible,
whate’er you choose to call it, call;
“But leave it vague as airy space,
dark in its darkness mystical.

“Your childish fears would seek a Sire,
by the non-human God defin’d,
“What your five wits may wot ye weet;
what _is_ you please to dub ‘design’d;’

“You bring down Heav’en to vulgar Earth;
your maker like yourselves you make,
“You quake to own a reign of Law,
you pray the Law its laws to break;

“You pray, but hath your thought e’er weighed
how empty vain the prayer must be,
“That begs a boon already giv’en,
or craves a change of law to see?

“Say, Man, deep learnèd in the Scheme
that orders mysteries sublime,
“How came it this was Jesus, that
was Judas from the birth of Time?

“How I the tiger, thou the lamb;
again the Secret, prithee, show
“Who slew the slain, bowman or bolt
or Fate that drave the man, the bow?

“Man worships self: his God is Man;
the struggling of the mortal mind
“To form its model as ’twould be,
the perfect of itself to find.

“The God became sage, priest and scribe
where Nilus’ serpent made the vale;
“A gloomy Brahm in glowing Ind,
a neutral something cold and pale:

“Amid the high Chaldean hills
a moulder of the heavenly spheres;
“On Guebre steppes the Timeless-God
who governs by his dual peers:

“In Hebrew tents the Lord that led
His leprous slaves to fight and jar;
“Yahveh,* Adon or Elohîm,
the God that smites, the Man of War.

* Jehovah.

“The lovely Gods of lib’ertine Greece,
those fair and frail humanities
“Whose homes o’erlook’d the Middle Sea,
where all Earth’s beauty cradled lies,

“Ne’er left its blessèd bounds, nor sought
the barb’arous climes of barb’arous gods
“Where Odin of the dreary North
o’er hog and sickly mead-cup nods:

“And when, at length, ‘Great Pan is dead’
uprose the loud and dol’orous cry
“A glamour wither’d on the ground,
a splendour faded in the sky.

“Yea, Pan was dead, the Nazar’ene came
and seized his seat beneath the sun,
“The votary of the Riddle-god,
whose one is three and three is one;

“Whose sadd’ening creed of herited Sin
spilt o’er the world its cold grey spell;
“In every vista showed a grave,
and ’neath the grave the glare of Hell;

“Till all Life’s Po’esy sinks to prose;
romance to dull Real’ity fades;
“Earth’s flush of gladness pales in gloom
and God again to man degrades.

“Then the lank Arab foul with sweat,
the drainer of the camel’s dug,
“Gorged with his leek-green lizard’s meat,
clad in his filthy rag and rug,

“Bore his fierce Allah o’er his sands
and broke, like lava-burst upon
“The realms where reigned pre-Adamite Kings,
where rose the Grand Kayânian throne.*

* Kayâni—of the race of Cyrus; old Guebre heroes.

“Who now of ancient Kayomurs,
of Zâl or Rustam cares to sing,
“Whelmed by the tempest of the tribes
that called the Camel-driver King?

“Where are the crown of Kay Khusraw,
the sceptre of Anûshirwân,
“The holy grail of high Jamshîd,
Afrâsiyab’s hall?—Canst tell me, man?

“Gone, gone, where I and thou must go,
borne by the winnowing wings of Death,
“The Horror brooding over life,
and nearer brought with every breath:

“Their fame hath filled the Seven Climes,
they rose and reigned, they fought and fell,
“As swells and swoons across the wold
the tinkling of the Camel’s bell.”


There is no Good, there is no Bad;
these be the whims of mortal will:
What works me weal that call I ‘good,’
what harms and hurts I hold as ‘ill:’

They change with place, they shift with race;
and, in the veriest span of Time,
Each Vice has worn a Virtue’s crown;
all Good was banned as Sin or Crime:

Like ravelled skeins they cross and twine,
while this with that connects and blends;
And only Khizr* his eye shall see
where one begins, where other ends:

* Supposed to be the Prophet Elijah.

What mortal shall consort with Khizr,
when Musâ turned in fear to flee?
What man foresees the flow’er or fruit
whom Fate compels to plant the tree?

For Man’s Free-will immortal Law,
Anagkê, Kismet, Des’tiny read
That was, that is, that aye shall be,
Star, Fortune, Fate, Urd, Norn or Need.

“Man’s nat’ural state is God’s design;”
such is the silly sage’s theme;
“Man’s primal Age was Age of Gold;”
such is the Poet’s waking dream:

Delusion, Ign’orance! Long ere Man
drew upon Earth his earliest breath
The world was one contin’uous scene
of anguish, torture, prey and Death;

Where hideous Theria of the wild
rended their fellows limb by limb;
Where horrid Saurians of the sea
in waves of blood were wont to swim:

The “fair young Earth” was only fit
to spawn her frightful monster-brood;
Now fiery hot, now icy frore,
now reeking wet with steamy flood.

Yon glorious Sun, the greater light,
the “Bridegroom” of the royal Lyre,
A flaming, boiling, bursting mine;
a grim black orb of whirling fire:

That gentle Moon, the lesser light,
the Lover’s lamp, the Swain’s delight,
A ruined world, a globe burnt out,
a corpse upon the road of night.

What reckt he, say, of Good or Ill
who in the hill-hole made his lair,
The blood-fed rav’ening Beast of prey,
wilder than wildest wolf or bear?

How long in Man’s pre-Ad’amite days
to feed and swill, to sleep and breed,
Were the Brute-biped’s only life,
a perfect life sans Code or Creed?

His choicest garb a shaggy fell,
his choicest tool a flake of stone;
His best of orn’aments tattoo’d skin
and holes to hang his bits of bone;

Who fought for female as for food
when Mays awoke to warm desire;
And such the Lust that grew to Love
when Fancy lent a purer fire.

Where then “Th’ Eternal nature-law
by God engraved on human heart?”
Behold his simiad sconce and own
the Thing could play no higher part.

Yet, as long ages rolled, he learnt
from Beaver, Ape and Ant to build
Shelter for sire and dam and brood,
from blast and blaze that hurt and killed;

And last came Fire; when scrap of stone
cast on the flame that lit his den,
Gave out the shining ore, and made
the Lord of beasts a Lord of men.

The “moral sense,” your Zâhid-phrase,
is but the gift of latest years;
Conscience was born when man had shed
his fur, his tail, his pointed ears.

What conscience has the murd’erous Moor,
who slays his guest with felon blow,
Save sorrow he can slay no more,
what prick of pen’itence can he know?

You cry the “Cruelty of Things”
is myst’ery to your purblind eye,
Which fixed upon a point in space
the general project passes by:

For see! the Mammoth went his ways,
became a mem’ory and a name;
While the half-reasoner with the hand*
survives his rank and place to claim.

* The Elephant.

Earthquake and plague, storm, fight and fray,
portents and curses man must deem
Since he regards his self alone,
nor cares to trace the scope, the scheme;

The Quake that comes in eyelid’s beat
to ruin, level, ’gulf and kill,
Builds up a world for better use,
to general Good bends special Ill:

The dreadest sound man’s ear can hear,
the war and rush of stormy Wind
Depures the stuff of human life,
breeds health and strength for humankind:

What call ye them or Goods or Ills,
ill-goods, good-ills, a loss, a gain,
When realms arise and falls a roof;
a world is won, a man is slain?

And thus the race of Being runs,
till haply in the time to be
Earth shifts her pole and Mushtari*-men
another falling star shall see:

* The Planet Jupiter.

Shall see it fall and fade from sight,
whence come, where gone no Thought can tell,—
Drink of yon mirage-stream and chase
the tinkling of the camel-bell!


All Faith is false, all Faith is true:
Truth is the shattered mirror strown
In myriad bits; while each believes
his little bit the whole to own.

What is the Truth? was askt of yore.
Reply all object Truth is one
As twain of halves aye makes a whole;
the moral Truth for all is none.

Ye scantly-learned Zâhids learn
from Aflatûn and Aristû,*
While Truth is real like your good:
th’ Untrue, like ill, is real too;

* Plato and Aristotle.

As palace mirror’d in the stream,
as vapour mingled with the skies,
So weaves the brain of mortal man
the tangled web of Truth and Lies.

What see we here? Forms, nothing more!
Forms fill the brightest, strongest eye,
We know not substance; ’mid the shades
shadows ourselves we live and die.

“Faith mountains move” I hear: I see
the practice of the world unheed
The foolish vaunt, the blatant boast
that serves our vanity to feed.

“Faith stands unmoved”; and why? Because
man’s silly fancies still remain,
And will remain till wiser man
the day-dreams of his youth disdain.

“’Tis blessèd to believe”; you say:
The saying may be true enow
And it can add to Life a light:—
only remains to show us how.

E’en if I could I nould believe
your tales and fables stale and trite,
Irksome as twice-sung tune that tires
the dullèd ear of drowsy wight.

With God’s foreknowledge man’s free will!
what monster-growth of human brain,
What powers of light shall ever pierce
this puzzle dense with words inane?

Vainly the heart on Providence calls,
such aid to seek were hardly wise
For man must own the pitiless Law
that sways the globe and sevenfold skies.

“Be ye Good Boys, go seek for Heav’en,
come pay the priest that holds the key;”
So spake, and speaks, and aye shall speak
the last to enter Heaven,—he.

Are these the words for men to hear?
yet such the Church’s general tongue,
The horseleech-cry so strong so high
her heav’enward Psalms and Hymns among.

What? Faith a merit and a claim,
when with the brain ’tis born and bred?
Go, fool, thy foolish way and dip
in holy water burièd dead!

Yet follow not th’ unwisdom-path,
cleave not to this and that disclaim;
Believe in all that man believes;
here all and naught are both the same.

But is it so? How may we know?
Haply this Fate, this Law may be
A word, a sound, a breath; at most
the Zâhid’s moonstruck theory.

Yes Truth may be, but ’tis not Here;
mankind must seek and find it There,
But Where nor I nor you can tell,
nor aught earth-mother ever bare.

Enough to think that Truth can be:
come sit we where the roses glow,
Indeed he knows not how to know
who knows not also how to ’unknow.


Man hath no Soul, a state of things,
a no-thing still, a sound, a word
Which so begets substantial thing
that eye shall see what ear hath heard.

Where was his Soul the savage beast
which in primeval forests strayed,
What shape had it, what dwelling-place,
what part in nature’s plan it played?

This Soul to ree a riddle made;
who wants the vain duality?
Is not myself enough for me?
what need of “I” within an “I”?

Words, words that gender things! The soul
is a new-comer on the scene;
Sufficeth not the breath of Life
to work the matter-born machine?

We know the Gen’esis of the Soul;
we trace the Soul to hour of birth;
We mark its growth as grew mankind
to boast himself sole Lord of Earth:

The race of Be’ing from dawn of Life
in an unbroken course was run;
What men are pleased to call their Souls
was in the hog and dog begun:

Life is a ladder infinite-stepped,
that hides its rungs from human eyes;
Planted its foot in chaos-gloom,
its head soars high above the skies:

No break the chain of Being bears;
all things began in unity;
And lie the links in regular line
though haply none the sequence see.

The Ghost, embodied natural Dread
of dreary death and foul decay,
Begat the Spirit, Soul and Shade
with Hades’ pale and wan array.

The Soul required a greater Soul,
a Soul of Souls, to rule the host;
Hence spirit-powers and hierarchies,
all gendered by the savage Ghost.

Not yours, ye Peoples of the Book,
these fairy visions fair and fond,
Got by the gods of Khemi-land*
and faring far the seas beyond!

* Egypt; Kam, Kem, Khem (hierogl.), in the Demotic Khemi.

“Th’ immortal mind of mortal man!”
we hear yon loud-lunged Zealot cry;
Whose mind but means his sum of thought,
an essence of atomic “I.”

Thought is the work of brain and nerve,
in small-skulled idiot poor and mean;
In sickness sick, in sleep asleep,
and dead when Death lets drop the scene.

“Tush!” quoth the Zâhid, “well we ken
the teaching of the school abhorr’d
“That maketh man automaton,
mind a secretion, soul a word.”

“Of molecules and protoplasm
you matter-mongers prompt to prate;
“Of jelly-speck development
and apes that grew to man’s estate.”

Vain cavil! all that is hath come
either by Mir’acle or by Law;—
Why waste on this your hate and fear,
why waste on that your love and awe?

Why heap such hatred on a word,
why “Prototype” to type assign,
Why upon matter spirit mass?
wants an appendix your design?

Is not the highest honour his
who from the worst hath drawn the best;
May not your Maker make the world
from matter, an it suit His hest?

Nay more, the sordider the stuff
the cunninger the workman’s hand:
Cease, then, your own Almighty Power
to bind, to bound, to understand.

“Reason and Instinct!” How we love
to play with words that please our pride;
Our noble race’s mean descent
by false forged titles seek to hide!

For “gift divine” I bid you read
the better work of higher brain,
From Instinct diff’ering in degree
as golden mine from leaden vein.

Reason is Life’s sole arbiter,
the magic Laby’rinth’s single clue:
Worlds lie above, beyond its ken;
what crosses it can ne’er be true.

“Fools rush where Angels fear to tread!”
Angels and Fools have equal claim
To do what Nature bids them do,
sans hope of praise, sans fear of blame!


There is no Heav’en, there is no Hell;
these be the dreams of baby minds;
Tools of the wily Fetisheer,
to ’fright the fools his cunning blinds.

Learn from the mighty Spi’rits of old
to set thy foot on Heav’en and Hell;
In Life to find thy hell and heav’en
as thou abuse or use it well.

So deemed the doughty Jew who dared
by studied silence low to lay
Orcus and Hades, lands of shades,
the gloomy night of human day.

Hard to the heart is final death:
fain would an Ens not end in Nil;
Love made the senti’ment kindly good:
the Priest perverted all to ill.

While Reason sternly bids us die,
Love longs for life beyond the grave:
Our hearts, affections, hopes and fears
for Life-to-be shall ever crave.

Hence came the despot’s darling dream,
a Church to rule and sway the State;
Hence sprang the train of countless griefs
in priestly sway and rule innate.

For future Life who dares reply?
No witness at the bar have we;
Save what the brother Potsherd tells,—
old tales and novel jugglery.

Who e’er return’d to teach the Truth,
the things of Heaven and Hell to limn?
And all we hear is only fit
for grandam-talk and nursery-hymn.

“Have mercy, man!” the Zâhid cries,
“of our best visions rob us not!
“Mankind a future life must have
to balance life’s unequal lot.”

“Nay,” quoth the Magian, “’tis not so;
I draw my wine for one and all,
“A cup for this, a score for that,
e’en as his measure’s great or small:

“Who drinks one bowl hath scant delight;
to poorest passion he was born;
“Who drains the score must e’er expect
to rue the headache of the morn.”

Safely he jogs along the way
which ‘Golden Mean’ the sages call;
Who scales the brow of frowning Alp
must face full many a slip and fall.

Here èxtremes meet, anointed Kings
whose crownèd heads uneasy lie,
Whose cup of joy contains no more
than tramps that on the dunghill die.

To fate-doomed Sinner born and bred
for dangling from the gallows-tree;
To Saint who spends his holy days
in rapt’urous hope his God to see;

To all that breathe our upper air
the hands of Dest’iny ever deal,
In fixed and equal parts, their shares
of joy and sorrow, woe and weal.

“How comes it, then, our span of days
in hunting wealth and fame we spend
“Why strive we (and all humans strive)
for vain and visionary end?”

Reply: mankind obeys a law
that bids him labour, struggle, strain;
The Sage well knowing its unworth,
the Fool a-dreaming foolish gain.

And who, ’mid e’en the Fools, but feels
that half the joy is in the race
For wealth and fame and place, nor sighs
when comes success to crown the chase?

Again: in Hind, Chîn, Franguestân
that accident of birth befell,
Without our choice, our will, our voice:
Faith is an accident as well.

What to the Hindu saith the Frank:
“Denier of the Laws divine!
“However godly-good thy Life,
Hell is the home for thee and thine.”

“Go strain the draught before ’tis drunk,
and learn that breathing every breath,
“With every step, with every gest,
something of life thou do’est to death.”

Replies the Hindu: “Wend thy way
for foul and foolish Mlenchhas fit;
“Your Pariah-par’adise woo and win;
at such dog-Heav’en I laugh and spit.”

“Cannibals of the Holy Cow!
who make your rav’ening maws the grave
“Of Things with self-same right to live;—
what Fiend the filthy license gave?”

What to the Moslem cries the Frank?
“A polygamic Theist thou!
“From an imposter-Prophet turn;
Thy stubborn head to Jesus bow.”

Rejoins the Moslem: “Allah’s one
tho’ with four Moslemahs I wive,
“One-wife-men ye and (damnèd race!)
you split your God to Three and Five.”

The Buddhist to Confucians thus:
“Like dogs ye live, like dogs ye die;
“Content ye rest with wretched earth;
God, Judgment, Hell ye fain defy.”

Retorts the Tartar: “Shall I lend
mine only ready-money ‘now,’
“For vain usurious ‘Then’ like thine,
avaunt, a triple idiot Thou!”

“With this poor life, with this mean world
I fain complete what in me lies;
“I strive to perfect this my me;
my sole ambition’s to be wise.”

When doctors differ who decides
amid the milliard-headed throng?
Who save the madman dares to cry:
“’Tis I am right, you all are wrong?”

“You all are right, you all are wrong,”
we hear the careless Soofi say,
“For each believes his glimm’ering lamp
to be the gorgeous light of day.”

“Thy faith why false, my faith why true?
’tis all the work of Thine and Mine,
“The fond and foolish love of self
that makes the Mine excel the Thine.”

Cease then to mumble rotten bones;
and strive to clothe with flesh and blood
The skel’eton; and to shape a Form
that all shall hail as fair and good.

“For gen’erous youth,” an Arab saith,
“Jahim’s* the only genial state;
“Give us the fire but not the shame
with the sad, sorry blest to mate.”

* Jehannum, Gehenna, Hell.

And if your Heav’en and Hell be true,
and Fate that forced me to be born
Force me to Heav’en or Hell—I go,
and hold Fate’s insolence in scorn.

I want not this, I want not that,
already sick of Me and Thee;
And if we’re both transform’d and changed,
what then becomes of Thee and Me?

Enough to think such things may be:
to say they are not or they are
Were folly: leave them all to Fate,
nor wage on shadows useless war.

Do what thy manhood bids thee do,
from none but self expect applause;
He noblest lives and noblest dies
who makes and keeps his self-made laws.

All other Life is living Death,
a world where none but Phantoms dwell,
A breath, a wind, a sound, a voice,
a tinkling of the camel-bell.


How then shall man so order life
that when his tale of years is told,
Like sated guest he wend his way;
how shall his even tenour hold?

Despite the Writ that stores the skull;
despite the Table and the Pen;*
Maugre the Fate that plays us down,
her board the world, her pieces men?

* Emblems of Kismet, or Destiny.

How when the light and glow of life
wax dim in thickly gath’ering gloom,
Shall mortal scoff at sting of Death,
shall scorn the victory of the Tomb?

One way, two paths, one end the grave.
This runs athwart the flow’ery plain,
That breasts the bush, the steep, the crag,
in sun and wind and snow and rain:

Who treads the first must look adown,
must deem his life an all in all;
Must see no heights where man may rise,
must sight no depths where man may fall.

Allah in Adam form must view;
adore the Maker in the made.
Content to bask in Mâyâ’s smile,*
in joys of pain, in lights of shade.

* Illusion.

He breaks the Law, he burns the Book,
he sends the Moolah back to school;
Laughs at the beards of Saintly men;
and dubs the Prophet dolt and fool,

Embraces Cypress’ taper-waist;
cools feet on wavy breast of rill;
Smiles in the Nargis’ love-lorn eyes,
and ’joys the dance of Daffodil;

Melts in the saffron light of Dawn
to hear the moaning of the Dove;
Delights in Sundown’s purpling hues
when Bulbul woos the Rose’s love.

Finds mirth and joy in Jamshid-bowl;
toys with the Daughter of the vine;
And bids the beauteous cup-boy say,
“Master I bring thee ruby wine!”*

* That all the senses, even the ear, may enjoy.

Sips from the maiden’s lips the dew;
brushes the bloom from virgin brow:—
Such is his fleshly bliss that strives
the Maker through the Made to know.

I’ve tried them all, I find them all
so same and tame, so drear, so dry;
My gorge ariseth at the thought;
I commune with myself and cry:—

Better the myriad toils and pains
that make the man to manhood true,
This be the rule that guideth life;
these be the laws for me and you:

With Ignor’ance wage eternal war,
to know thy self forever strain,
Thine ignorance of thine ignorance is
thy fiercest foe, thy deadliest bane;

That blunts thy sense, and dulls thy taste;
that deafs thine ears, and blinds thine eyes;
Creates the thing that never was,
the Thing that ever is defies.

The finite Atom infinite
that forms thy circle’s centre-dot,
So full-sufficient for itself,
for other selves existing not,

Finds the world mighty as ’tis small;
yet must be fought the unequal fray;
A myriad giants here; and there
a pinch of dust, a clod of clay.

Yes! maugre all thy dreams of peace
still must the fight unfair be fought;
Where thou mayst learn the noblest lore,
to know that all we know is nought.

True to thy Nature, to Thy self,
Fame and Disfame nor hope nor fear:
Enough to thee the small still voice
aye thund’ering in thine inner ear.

From self-approval seek applause:
What ken not men thou kennest, thou!
Spurn ev’ry idol others raise:
Before thine own Ideal bow:

Be thine own Deus: Make self free,
liberal as the circling air:
Thy Thought to thee an Empire be;
break every prison’ing lock and bar:

Do thou the Ought to self aye owed;
here all the duties meet and blend,
In widest sense, withouten care
of what began, for what shall end.

Thus, as thou view the Phantom-forms
which in the misty Past were thine,
To be again the thing thou wast
with honest pride thou may’st decline;

And, glancing down the range of years,
fear not thy future self to see;
Resign’d to life, to death resign’d,
as though the choice were nought to thee.

On Thought itself feed not thy thought;
nor turn from Sun and Light to gaze,
At darkling cloisters paved with tombs,
where rot the bones of bygone days:

“Eat not thy heart,” the Sages said;
“nor mourn the Past, the buried Past;”
Do what thou dost, be strong, be brave;
and, like the Star, nor rest nor haste.

Pluck the old woman from thy breast:
Be stout in woe, be stark in weal;
Do good for Good is good to do:
Spurn bribe of Heav’en and threat of Hell.

To seek the True, to glad the heart,
such is of life the HIGHER LAW,
Whose differ’ence is the Man’s degree,
the Man of gold, the Man of straw.

See not that something in Mankind
that rouses hate or scorn or strife,
Better the worm of Izrâil*
than Death that walks in form of life.

* The Angel of Death.

Survey thy kind as One whose wants
in the great Human Whole unite;*
The Homo rising high from earth
to seek the Heav’ens of Life-in-Light;

* The “Great Man” of the Enochites and the Mormons.

And hold Humanity one man,
whose universal agony
Still strains and strives to gain the goal,
where agonies shall cease to be.

Believe in all things; none believe;
judge not nor warp by “Facts” the thought;
See clear, hear clear, tho’ life may seem
Mâyâ and Mirage, Dream and Naught.

Abjure the Why and seek the How:
the God and gods enthroned on high,
Are silent all, are silent still;
nor hear thy voice, nor deign reply.

The Now, that indivis’ible point
which studs the length of inf’inite line
Whose ends are nowhere, is thine all,
the puny all thou callest thine.

Perchance the law some Giver hath:
Let be! let be! what canst thou know?
A myriad races came and went;
this Sphinx hath seen them come and go.

Haply the Law that rules the world
allows to man the widest range;
And haply Fate’s a Theist-word,
subject to human chance and change.

This “I” may find a future Life,
a nobler copy of our own,
Where every riddle shall be ree’d,
where every knowledge shall be known;

Where ’twill be man’s to see the whole
of what on Earth he sees in part;
Where change shall ne’er surcharge the thought;
nor hope defer’d shall hurt the heart.

But!—faded flow’er and fallen leaf
no more shall deck the parent tree;
And man once dropt by Tree of Life
what hope of other life has he?

The shatter’d bowl shall know repair;
the riven lute shall sound once more;
But who shall mend the clay of man,
the stolen breath to man restore?

The shiver’d clock again shall strike;
the broken reed shall pipe again:
But we, we die, and Death is one,
the doom of brutes, the doom of men.

Then, if Nirwânâ* round our life
with nothingness, ’tis haply best;
Thy toils and troubles, want and woe
at length have won their guerdon—Rest.

* Comparative annihilation.

Cease, Abdû, cease! Thy song is sung,
nor think the gain the singer’s prize;
Till men hold Ignor’ance deadly sin,
till man deserves his title “Wise:”*

* “Homo sapiens.”

In Days to come, Days slow to dawn,
when Wisdom deigns to dwell with men,
These echoes of a voice long stilled
haply shall wake responsive strain:

Wend now thy way with brow serene,
fear not thy humble tale to tell:—
The whispers of the Desert-wind;
the tinkling of the camel’s bell.

{Hebrew: ShLM}




Hâjî Abdû has been known to me for more years than I care to
record. A native, it is believed, of Darâbghird in the Yezd
Province, he always preferred to style himself El-Hichmakâni, a
facetious “lackab” or surname, meaning “Of No-hall, Nowhere.” He
had travelled far and wide with his eyes open; as appears by his
“couplets.” To a natural facility, a knack of language learning,
he added a store of desultory various reading; scraps of Chinese
and old Egyptian; of Hebrew and Syriac; of Sanskrit and Prakrit;
of Slav, especially Lithuanian; of Latin and Greek, including
Romaic; of Berber, the Nubian dialect, and of Zend and Akkadian,
besides Persian, his mother-tongue, and Arabic, the classic of
the schools. Nor was he ignorant of “the -ologies” and the
triumphs of modern scientific discovery. Briefly, his memory was
well-stored; and he had every talent save that of using his

But no one thought that he “woo’d the Muse,” to speak in the
style of the last century. Even his intimates were ignorant of
the fact that he had a skeleton in his cupboard, his Kasîdah or
distichs. He confided to me his secret when we last met in
Western India—I am purposely vague in specifying the place. When
so doing he held in hand the long and hoary honours of his chin
with the points toward me, as if to say with the Island-King:

There is a touch of Winter in my beard,
A sign the Gods will guard me from imprudence.

And yet the piercing eye, clear as an onyx, seemed to protest
against the plea of age. The MS. was in the vilest “Shikastah” or
running-hand; and, as I carried it off, the writer declined to
take the trouble of copying out his cacograph.

We, his old friends, had long addressed Hâjî Abdû by the
sobriquet of _Nabbianâ_ (“our Prophet”); and the reader will see
that the Pilgrim has, or believes he has, a message to deliver.
He evidently aspires to preach a faith of his own; an Eastern
Version of Humanitarianism blended with the sceptical or, as we
now say, the scientific habit of mind. The religion, of which
Fetishism, Hinduism and Heathendom; Judæism, Christianity and
Islamism are mere fractions, may, methinks, be accepted by the
Philosopher: it worships with single-minded devotion the Holy
Cause of Truth, of Truth for its own sake, not for the goods it
may bring; and this belief is equally acceptable to honest
ignorance, and to the highest attainments in nature-study.

With Confucius, the Hâjî cultivates what Strauss has called the
“stern common-sense of mankind”; while the reign of order is a
paragraph of his “Higher Law.” He traces from its rudest
beginnings the all but absolute universality of some perception
by man, called “Faith”; that _sensus Numinis_ which, by
inheritance or communication, is now universal except in those
who force themselves to oppose it. And he evidently holds this
general consent of mankind to be so far divine that it primarily
discovered for itself, if it did not create, a divinity. He does
not cry with the Christ of Novalis, “Children, you have no
father”; and perhaps he would join Renan in exclaiming, _Un monde
sans Dieu est horrible!_

But he recognises the incompatibility of the Infinite with the
Definite; of a Being who loves, who thinks, who hates; of an
_Actus purus_ who is called jealous, wrathful and revengeful,
with an “Eternal that makes for righteousness.” In the presence
of the endless contradictions, which spring from the idea of a
Personal Deity, with the Synthesis, the _Begriff_ of Providence,
our Agnostic takes refuge in the sentiment of an unknown and an
unknowable. He objects to the countless variety of forms assumed
by the perception of a _Causa Causans_ (a misnomer), and to that
intellectual adoption of general propositions, capable of
distinct statement but incapable of proofs, which we term Belief.

He looks with impartial eye upon the endless variety of systems,
maintained with equal confidence and self-sufficiency, by men of
equal ability and honesty. He is weary of wandering over the
world, and of finding every petty race wedded to its own
opinions; claiming the monopoly of Truth; holding all others to
be in error, and raising disputes whose violence, acerbity and
virulence are in inverse ratio to the importance of the disputed
matter. A peculiarly active and acute observation taught him that
many of these jarring families, especially those of the same
blood, are par in the intellectual processes of perception and
reflection; that in the business of the visible working world
they are confessedly by no means superior to one another; whereas
in abstruse matters of mere Faith, not admitting direct and
sensual evidence, one in a hundred will claim to be right, and
immodestly charge the other ninety-nine with being wrong.

Thus he seeks to discover a system which will prove them all
right, and all wrong; which will reconcile their differences;
will unite past creeds; will account for the present, and will
anticipate the future with a continuous and uninterrupted
development; this, too, by a process, not negative and
distinctive, but, on the contrary, intensely positive and
constructive. I am not called upon to sit in the seat of
judgment; but I may say that it would be singular if the attempt
succeeded. Such a system would be all-comprehensive, because not
limited by space, time, or race; its principle would be extensive
as Matter itself, and, consequently, eternal. Meanwhile he
satisfies himself,—the main point.

Students of metaphysics have of late years defined the abuse of
their science as “the morphology of common opinion.” Contemporary
investigators, they say, have been too much occupied with
introspection; their labors have become merely
physiologico-biographical, and they have greatly neglected the
study of averages. For, says La Rochefoucauld, _Il est plus aisé
de connoître l’homme en général que de connoître un homme en
particulier_; and on so wide a subject all views must be

But this is not the fashion of Easterns. They have still to treat
great questions _ex analogiâ universi_, instead of _ex analogiâ
hominis_. They must learn the basis of sociology, the philosophic
conviction that mankind should be studied, not as a congeries of
individuals, but as an organic whole. Hence the _Zeitgeist_, or
historical evolution of the collective consciousness of the age,
despises the obsolete opinion that Society, the State, is bound
by the same moral duties as the simple citizen. Hence, too, it
holds that the “spirit of man, being of equal and uniform
substance, doth usually suppose and feign in nature a greater
equality and uniformity than is in Truth.”

Christianity and Islamism have been on their trial for the last
eighteen and twelve centuries. They have been ardent in
proselytizing, yet they embrace only one-tenth and one-twentieth
of the human race. Hâjî Abdû would account for the tardy and
unsatisfactory progress of what their votaries call “pure
truths,” by the innate imperfections of the same. Both propose a
reward for mere belief, and a penalty for simple unbelief;
rewards and punishments being, by the way, very disproportionate.
Thus they reduce everything to the scale of a somewhat unrefined
egotism; and their demoralizing effects become clearer to every
progressive age.

Hâjî Abdû seeks Truth only, truth as far as man, in the present
phase of his development, is able to comprehend it. He disdains
to associate utility, like Bacon (Nov. Org. I. Aph. 124), the
High Priest of the English Creed, _le gros bon sens_, with the
_lumen siccum ac purum notionum verarum_. He seems to see the
injury inflicted upon the sum of thought by the _â posteriori_
superstition, the worship of “facts,” and the deification of
synthesis. Lastly, came the reckless way in which Locke “freed
philosophy from the incubus of innate ideas.” Like Luther and the
leaders of the great French Revolution, he broke with the Past;
and he threw overboard the whole cargo of human tradition. The
result has been an immense movement of the mind which we love to
call Progress, when it has often been retrograde; together with a
mighty development of egotism resulting from the pampered
sentiment of personality.

The Hâjî regrets the excessive importance attached to a possible
future state: he looks upon this as a psychical stimulant, a day
dream, whose revulsion and reaction disorder waking life. The
condition may appear humble and prosaic to those exalted by the
fumes of Fancy, by a spiritual dram-drinking, which, like the
physical, is the pursuit of an ideal happiness. But he is too
wise to affirm or to deny the existence of another world. For
life beyond the grave there is no consensus of mankind, no
Catholic opinion held _semper, et ubique, et ab omnibus_. The
intellectual faculties (perception and reflection) are mute upon
the subject: they bear no testimony to facts; they show no proof.
Even the instinctive sense of our kind is here dumb. We may
believe what we are taught: we can know nothing. He would,
therefore, cultivate that receptive mood which, marching under
the shadow of mighty events, leads to the highest of goals,—the
development of Humanity. With him suspension of judgment is a

Man has done much during the sixty-eight centuries which
represent his history. This assumes the first Egyptian Empire,
following the pre-historic, to begin with B. C. 5000, and to end
with B. C. 3249. It was the Old, as opposed to the Middle, the
New, and the Low: it contained the Dynasties from I. to X., and
it was the age of the Pyramids, at once simple, solid, and grand.
When the praiser of the Past contends that modern civilization
has improved in nothing upon Homer and Herodotus, he is apt to
forget that every schoolboy is a miracle of learning compared
with the Cave-man and the palæolithic race. And, as the Past has
been, so shall the Future be.

The Pilgrim’s view of life is that of the Soofi, with the usual
dash of Buddhistic pessimism. The profound sorrow of existence,
so often sung by the dreamy Eastern poet, has now passed into the
practical European mind. Even the light Frenchman murmurs,—

Moi, moi, chaque jour courbant plus bas ma tête
Je passe—et refroidi sous ce soleil joyeux,
Je m’en irai bientôt, au milieu de la fête,
Sans que rien manque au monde immense et radieux.

But our Hâjî is not Nihilistic in the “no-nothing” sense of
Hood’s poem, or, as the American phrases it, “There is nothing
new, nothing true, and it don’t signify.” His is a healthy wail
over the shortness, and the miseries of life, because he finds
all created things—

Measure the world, with “Me” immense.

He reminds us of St. Augustine (Med. c. 21). “Vita hæc, vita
misera, vita caduca, vita incerta, vita laboriosa, vita immunda,
vita domina malorum, regina superborum, plena miseriis et
erroribus . . . Quam humores tumidant, escæ inflant, jejunia
macerant, joci dissolvunt, tristitiæ consumunt; sollicitudo
coarctat, securitas hebetat, divitiæ inflant et jactant.
Paupertas dejicit, juventus extollit, senectus incurvat,
importunitas frangit, mæror deprimit. Et his malis omnibus mors
furibunda succedit.” But for _furibunda_ the Pilgrim would
perhaps read _benedicta_.

With Cardinal Newman, one of the glories of our age, Hâjî Abdû
finds “the Light of the world nothing else than the Prophet’s
scroll, full of lamentations and mourning and woe.” I cannot
refrain from quoting all this fine passage, if it be only for the
sake of its lame and shallow deduction. “To consider the world in
its length and breadth, its various history and the many races of
men, their starts, their fortunes, their mutual alienation, their
conflicts, and then their ways, habits, governments, forms of
worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses, their random
achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of
long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a
superintending design, the blind evolution (!) of what turn out
to be great powers or truths, the progress of things as if from
unreasoning elements, not towards final causes; the greatness and
littleness of man, his far-reaching aims and short duration. the
curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the
defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental
anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading
idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that
condition of the whole race so fearfully yet exactly described in
the Apostle’s words, ‘having no hope and without God in the
world’—_all this is a vision to dizzy and appall, and inflicts
upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery which is absolutely
without human solution_.” Hence that admirable writer postulates
some “terrible original calamity”; and thus the hateful doctrine,
theologically called “original sin,” becomes to him almost as
certain as that “the world exists, and as the existence of God.”
Similarly the “Schedule of Doctrines” of the most liberal
Christian Church insists upon the human depravity, and the
“absolute need of the Holy Spirit’s agency in man’s regeneration
and sanctification.”

But what have we here? The “original calamity” was either caused
by God or arose without leave of God, in either case degrading
God to man. It is the old dilemma whose horns are the
irreconcilable attributes of goodness and omniscience in the
supposed Creator of sin and suffering. If the one quality be
predicable, the other cannot be predicable of the same subject.
Far better and wiser is the essayist’s poetical explanation now
apparently despised because it was the fashionable doctrine of
the sage bard’s day:—

All nature is but art . . .
All discord harmony not understood;
All partial evil universal good.—(Essay 289–292.)

The Pilgrim holds with St. Augustine Absolute Evil is impossible
because it is always rising up into good. He considers the theory
of a beneficent or maleficent deity a purely sentimental fancy,
contradicted by human reason and the aspect of the world. Evil is
often the active form of good; as F. W. Newman says, “so likewise
is Evil the revelation of Good.” With him all existences are
equal: so long as they possess the Hindu Agasa, Life-fluid or
vital force, it matters not they be,—

Fungus or oak or worm or man.

War, he says, brings about countless individual miseries, but it
forwards general progress by raising the stronger upon the ruins
of the weaker races. Earthquakes and cyclones ravage small areas;
but the former builds up earth for man’s habitation, and the
latter renders the atmosphere fit for him to breathe. Hence he

—The universal Cause
Acts not by partial but by general laws.

Ancillary to the churchman’s immoral view of “original sin” is
the unscientific theory that evil came into the world with Adam
and his seed. Let us ask what was the state of our globe in the
pre-Adamite days, when the tyrants of the Earth, the huge
Saurians and other monsters, lived in perpetual strife, in a
destructiveness of which we have now only the feeblest examples?
What is the actual state of the world of waters, where the only
object of life is death, where the Law of murder is the Law of

Some will charge the Hâjî with irreverence, and hold him a
“lieutenant of Satan who sits in the chair of pestilence.” But he
is not intentionally irreverent. Like men of far higher strain,
who deny divinely the divine, he speaks the things that others
think and hide. With the author of “Supernatural Religion,” he
holds that we “gain infinitely more than we lose in abandoning
belief in the reality of revelation”; and he looks forward to the
day when “the old tyranny shall have been broken, and when the
anarchy of transition shall have passed away.” But he is an
Eastern. When he repeats the Greek’s “Remember not to believe,”
he means Strive to learn, to know, for right ideas lead to right
actions. Among the couplets not translated for this eclogue is:—

Of all the safest ways of Life
the safest way is still to doubt,
Men win the future world with Faith,
the present world they win without.

This is the Spaniard’s:—

De las cosas mas seguras, mas seguro es duvidar;

a typically modern sentiment of the Brazen Age of Science
following the Golden Age of Sentiment. But the Pilgrim

The sages say: I tell thee no!
with equal faith all Faiths receive;
None more, none less, for Doubt is Death:
they live the most who most believe.

Here, again, is an oriental subtlety; a man who believes in
everything equally and generally may be said to believe in
nothing. It is not a simple European view which makes honest
Doubt worth a dozen of the Creeds. And it is in direct opposition
to the noted writer who holds that the man of simple faith is
worth ninety-nine of those who hold only to the egotistic
interests of their own individuality. This dark saying means (if
it mean anything), that the so-called moral faculties of man,
fancy and ideality, must lord it over the perceptive and
reflective powers,—a simple absurdity! It produced a
Turricremata, alias Torquemada, who, shedding floods of honest
tears, caused his victims to be burnt alive; and an Anchieta, the
Thaumaturgist of Brazil, who beheaded a converted heretic lest
the latter by lapse from grace lose his immortal soul.

But this vein of speculation, which bigots brand as “Doubt,
Denial, and Destruction;” this earnest religious scepticism; this
curious inquiry, “Has the universal tradition any base of fact?”;
this craving after the secrets and mysteries of the future, the
unseen, the unknown, is common to all races and to every age.
Even amongst the Romans, whose model man in Augustus’ day was
Horace, the philosophic, the epicurean, we find Propertius

An ficta in miseras descendit fabula gentes
Et timor haud ultra quam rogus esse potest?

To return: the Pilgrim’s doctrines upon the subject of conscience
and repentance will startle those who do not follow his train of

Never repent because thy will
with will of Fate be not at one:
Think, an thou please, before thou dost,
but never rue the deed when done.

This again is his modified fatalism. He would not accept the
boisterous mode of cutting the Gordian-knot proposed by the noble
British Philister—“we know we’re free and there’s an end on it!”
He prefers Lamarck’s, “The will is, in truth, never free.” He
believes man to be a co-ordinate term of Nature’s great
progression; a result of the interaction of organism and
environment, working through cosmic sections of time. He views
the human machine, the pipe of flesh, as depending upon the
physical theory of life. Every corporeal fact and phenomenon
which, like the tree, grows from within or without, is a mere
product of organization; living bodies being subject to the
natural law governing the lifeless and the inorganic. Whilst the
religionist assures us that man is not a mere toy of fate, but a
free agent responsible to himself, with work to do and duties to
perform, the Hâjî, with many modern schools, holds Mind to be a
word describing a special operation of matter; the faculties
generally to be manifestations of movements in the central
nervous system; and every idea, even of the Deity, to be a
certain little pulsation of a certain little mass of animal
pap,—the brain. Thus he would not object to relationship with a
tailless catarrhine anthropoid ape, descended from a monad or a
primal ascidian.

Hence he virtually says, “I came into the world without having
applied for or having obtained permission; nay, more, without my
leave being asked or given. Here I find myself hand-tied by
conditions, and fettered by laws and circumstances, in making
which my voice had no part. While in the womb I was an automaton;
and death will find me a mere machine. Therefore not I, but the
Law, or if, you please, the Lawgiver, is answerable for all my
actions.” Let me here observe that to the Western mind “Law”
postulates a Lawgiver; not so to the Eastern, and especially to
the Soofi, who holds these ideas to be human, unjustifiably
extended to interpreting the non-human, which men call the

Further he would say, “I am an individual (_qui nil habet
dividui_), a circle touching and intersecting my neighbours at
certain points, but nowhere corresponding, nowhere blending.
Physically I am not identical in all points with other men.
Morally I differ from them: in nothing do the approaches of
knowledge, my five organs of sense (with their Shelleyan
“interpretation”), exactly resemble those of any other being.
_Ergo_, the effect of the world, of life, of natural objects,
will not in my case be the same as with the beings most
resembling me. Thus I claim the right of creating or modifying
for my own and private use the system which most imports me; and
if the reasonable leave be refused to me, I take it without

“But my individuality, however all-sufficient for myself, is an
infinitesimal point, an atom subject in all things to the Law of
Storms called Life. I feel, I know that Fate _is_. But I cannot
know what is or what is not fated to befall me. Therefore in the
pursuit of perfection as an individual lies my highest, and
indeed my only duty, the ‘I’ being duly blended with the ‘We.’ I
object to be a ‘selfless man,’ which to me denotes an inverted
moral sense. I am bound to take careful thought concerning the
consequences of every word and deed. When, however, the Future
has become the Past, it would be the merest vanity for me to
grieve or to repent over that which was decreed by universal

The usual objection is that of man’s practice. It says, “This is
well in theory; but how carry it out? For instance, why would you
kill, or give over to be killed, the man compelled by Fate to
kill your father?” Hâjî Abdû replies, “I do as others do, not
because the murder was done by him, but because the murderer
should not be allowed another chance of murdering. He is a tiger
who has tasted blood and who should be shot. I am convinced that
he was a tool in the hands of Fate, but that will not prevent my
taking measures, whether predestined or not, in order to prevent
his being similarly used again.”

As with repentance so with conscience. Conscience may be a “fear
which is the shadow of justice”; even as pity is the shadow of
love. Though simply a geographical and chronological accident,
which changes with every age of the world, it may deter men from
seeking and securing the prize of successful villainy. But this
incentive to beneficence must be applied to actions that will be
done, not to deeds that have been done.

The Hâjî, moreover, carefully distinguishes between the working
of fate under a personal God, and under the Reign of Law. In the
former case the contradiction between the foreknowledge of a
Creator, and the free-will of a Creature, is direct, palpable,
absolute. We might as well talk of black-whiteness and of
white-blackness. A hundred generations of divines have never been
able to ree the riddle; a million will fail. The difficulty is
insurmountable to the Theist whose Almighty is perforce
Omniscient, and as Omniscient, Prescient. But it disappears when
we convert the Person into Law, or a settled order of events;
subject, moreover, to certain exceptions fixed and immutable, but
at present unknown to man. The difference is essential as that
between the penal code with its narrow forbiddal, and the broad
commandment which is a guide rather than a task-master.

Thus, too, the belief in fixed Law, versus arbitrary will,
modifies the Hâjî’s opinions concerning the pursuit of happiness.
Mankind, _das rastlose Ursachenthier_, is born to be on the whole
equally happy and miserable. The highest organisms, the fine
porcelain of our family, enjoy the most and suffer the most: they
have a capacity for rising to the empyrean of pleasure and for
plunging deep into the swift-flowing river of woe and pain. Thus
Dante (Inf. vi. 106):—

—tua scienza
Che vuol, quanto la cosa è più perfetta
Più senta ’l bene, e cosi la doglienza.

So Buddhism declares that existence in itself implies effort,
pain and sorrow; and, the higher the creature, the more it
suffers. The common clay enjoys little and suffers little. Sum up
the whole and distribute the mass: the result will be an average;
and the beggar is, on the whole, happy as the prince. Why, then,
asks the objector, does man ever strive and struggle to change,
to rise; a struggle which involves the idea of improving his
condition? The Hâjî answers, “Because such is the Law under which
man is born: it may be fierce as famine, cruel as the grave, but
man must obey it with blind obedience.” He does not enter into
the question whether life is worth living, whether man should
elect to be born. Yet his Eastern pessimism, which contrasts so
sharply with the optimism of the West, re-echoes the lines:

—a life,
With large results so little rife,
Though bearable seems hardly worth
This pomp of words, this pain of birth.

Life, whatever may be its consequence, is built upon a basis of
sorrow. Literature, the voice of humanity, and the verdict of
mankind proclaim that all existence is a state of sadness. The
“physicians of the Soul” would save her melancholy from
degenerating into despair by doses of steadfast belief in the
presence of God, in the assurance of Immortality, and in visions
of the final victory of good. Were Hâjî Abdû a mere Theologist,
he would add that Sin, not the possibility of revolt, but the
revolt itself against conscience, is the primary form of evil,
because it produces error, moral and intellectual. This man, who
omits to read the Conscience-law, however it may differ from the
Society-law, is guilty of negligence. That man, who obscures the
light of Nature with sophistries, becomes incapable of discerning
his own truths. In both cases error, deliberately adopted, is
succeeded by suffering which, we are told, comes in justice and
benevolence as a warning, a remedy, and a chastisement.

But the Pilgrim is dissatisfied with the idea that evil
originates in the individual actions of free agents, ourselves
and others. This doctrine fails to account for its
characteristics,—essentiality and universality. That creatures
endowed with the mere possibility of liberty should not always
choose the Good appears natural. But that of the milliards of
human beings who have inhabited the Earth, not one should have
been found invariably to choose Good, proves how insufficient is
the solution. Hence no one believes in the existence of the
complete man under the present state of things. The Hâjî rejects
all popular and mythical explanation by the Fall of “Adam,” the
innate depravity of human nature, and the absolute perfection of
certain Incarnations, which argues their divinity. He can only
wail over the prevalence of evil, assume its foundation to be
error, and purpose to abate it by unrooting that Ignorance which
bears and feeds it.

His “eschatology,” like that of the Soofis generally, is vague
and shadowy. He may lean towards the doctrine of Marc Aurelius,
“The unripe grape, the ripe and the dried: all things are changes
not into nothing, but into that which is not at present.” This is
one of the _monstruosa opinionum portenta_ mentioned by the XIXth
General Council, alias the First Council of the Vatican. But he
only accepts it with a limitation. He cleaves to the ethical, not
to the intellectual, worship of “Nature,” which moderns define to
be an “unscientific and imaginary synonym for the sum total of
observed phenomena.” Consequently he holds to the “dark and
degrading doctrines of the Materialist,” the “Hylotheist”; in
opposition to the spiritualist, a distinction far more marked in
the West than in the East. Europe draws a hard, dry line between
Spirit and Matter: Asia does not.

Among us the Idealist objects to the Materialists that the latter
cannot agree upon fundamental points; that they cannot define
what is an atom; that they cannot account for the transformation
of physical action and molecular motion into consciousness; and
_vice versâ_, that they cannot say what matter is; and, lastly,
that Berkeley and his school have proved the existence of spirit
while denying that of matter.

The Materialists reply that the want of agreement shows only a
study insufficiently advanced; that man cannot describe an atom,
because he is still an infant in science, yet there is no reason
why his mature manhood should not pass through error and
incapacity to truth and knowledge; that consciousness becomes a
property of matter when certain conditions are present; that Hyle
({Greek: hylae}) or Matter may be provisionally defined as
“phenomena with a substructure of their own, transcendental and
eternal, subject to the action, direct or indirect, of the five
senses, whilst its properties present themselves in three states,
the solid, the liquid, and the gaseous.” To casuistical Berkeley
they prefer the common sense of mankind. They ask the idealist
and the spiritualist why they cannot find names for themselves
without borrowing from a “dark and degraded” school; why the
former must call himself after his eye (_idein_); the latter
after his breath (_spiritus_)? Thus the Hâjî twits them with
affixing their own limitations to their own Almighty Power, and,
as Socrates said, with bringing down Heaven to the market-place.

Modern thought tends more and more to reject crude idealism and
to support the monistic theory, the double aspect, the
transfigured realism. It discusses the Nature of Things in
Themselves. To the question, is there anything outside of us
which corresponds with our sensations? that is to say, is the
whole world simply “I,” they reply that obviously there is a
something else; and that this something else produces the
brain-disturbance which is called sensation. Instinct orders us
to do something; Reason (the balance of faculties) directs; and
the strongest motive controls. Modern Science, by the discovery
of Radiant Matter, a fourth condition, seems to conciliate the
two schools. “La découverte d’un quatrième état de la matière,”
says a Reviewer, “c’est la porte ouverte à l’infini de ses
transformations; c’est l’homme invisible et impalpable de même
possible sans cesser d’être substantiel; c’est le monde des
esprits entrant sans absurdité dans la domaine des hypothèses
scientifiques; c’est la possibilité pour le matérialiste de
croire à la vie d’outre tombe, sans renoncer au substratum
matériel qu’il croit nécessaire au maintien de l’individualité.”

With Hâjî Abdû the soul is not material, for that would be a
contradiction of terms. He regards it, with many moderns, as a
state of things, not a thing; a convenient word denoting the
sense of personality, of individual identity. In its ghostly
signification he discovers an artificial dogma which could hardly
belong to the brutal savages of the Stone Age. He finds it in the
funereal books of ancient Egypt, whence probably it passed to the
Zendavesta and the Vedas. In the Hebrew Pentateuch, of which part
is still attributed to Moses, it is unknown, or, rather, it is
deliberately ignored by the author or authors. The early
Christians could not agree upon the subject; Origen advocated the
pre-existence of men’s souls, supposing them to have been all
created at one time and successively embodied. Others make Spirit
born with the hour of birth: and so forth.

But the brain-action or, if you so phrase it, the mind, is not
confined to the reasoning faculties; nor can we afford to ignore
the sentiments, the affections which are, perhaps, the most
potent realities of life. Their loud affirmative voice contrasts
strongly with the titubant accents of the intellect. They seem to
demand a future life, even, a state of rewards and punishments
from the Maker of the world, the _Ortolano Eterno_,[1] the Potter
of the East, the Watchmaker of the West. They protest against the
idea of annihilation. They revolt at the notion of eternal
parting from parents, kinsmen and friends. Yet the dogma of a
future life is by no means catholic and universal. The
Anglo-European race apparently cannot exist without it, and we
have lately heard of the “Aryan Soul-land.” On the other hand
many of the Buddhist and even the Brahman Schools preach Nirwâna
(comparative non-existence) and Parinirwâna (absolute
nothingness). Moreover, the great Turanian family, actually
occupying all Eastern Asia, has ever ignored it; and the
200,000,000 of Chinese Confucians, the mass of the nation,
protest emphatically against the mainstay of the western creeds,
because it “unfits men for the business and duty of life by
fixing their speculations on an unknown world.” And even its
votaries, in all ages, races and faiths, cannot deny that the
next world is a copy, more or less idealized, of the present; and
that it lacks a single particular savouring of originality. It is
in fact a mere continuation; and the continuation is “not

It is most hard to be a man;

and the Pilgrim’s sole consolation is in self-cultivation, and in
the pleasures of the affections. This sympathy may be an indirect
self-love, a reflection of the light of egotism: still it is so
transferred as to imply a different system of convictions. It
requires a different name: to call benevolence “self-love” is to
make the fruit or flower not only depend upon a root for
development (which is true), but the very root itself (which is
false). And, finally, his ideal is of the highest: his praise is
reserved for:

Lived in obedience to the inner law
Which cannot alter.

[1] The Eternal Gardener: so the old inscription saying:—

locatus est in
Homo damnatus est in horto
humatus est in
renatus est in


A few words concerning the Kasîdah itself. Our Hâjî begins with a
_mise-en-scène_; and takes leave of the Caravan setting out for
Mecca. He sees the “Wolf’s tail” (_Dum-i-gurg_), the {Greek:
lykaugés}, or wolf-gleam, the Diluculum, the Zodiacal dawn-light,
the first faint brushes of white radiating from below the Eastern
horizon. It is accompanied by the morning-breath (_Dam-i-Subh_),
the current of air, almost imperceptible except by the increase
of cold, which Moslem physiologists suppose to be the early
prayer offered by Nature to the First Cause. The Ghoul-i-Biyâbân
(Desert-Demon) is evidently the personification of man’s fears
and of the dangers that surround travelling in the wilds. The
“wold-where-none-save-He (Allah)-can-dwell” is a great and
terrible wilderness (_Dasht-i-lâ-siwâ Hu_); and Allah’s Holy Hill
is Arafât, near Mecca, which the Caravan reaches after passing
through Medina. The first section ends with a sore lament that
the “meetings of this world take place upon the highway of
Separation”; and the original also has:—

The chill of sorrow numbs my thought:
methinks I hear the passing knell;
As dies across yon thin blue line
the tinkling of the Camel-bell.

The next section quotes the various aspects under which Life
appeared to the wise and foolish teachers of humanity. First
comes Hafiz, whose well-known lines are quoted beginning with
Shab-i-târîk o bîm-i-mauj, etc. Hûr is the plural of Ahwar, in
full Ahwar el-Ayn, a maid whose eyes are intensely white where
they should be white, and black elsewhere: hence our silly
“Houries.” Follows Umar-i-Khayyâm, who spiritualized Tasawwof, or
Sooffeism, even as the Soofis (Gnostics) spiritualized Moslem
Puritanism. The verses alluded to are:—

You know, my friends, with what a brave carouse
I made a second marriage in my house,
Divorced old barren Reason from my bed
And took the Daughter of the Vine to spouse.
(St. 60, Mr. Fitzgerald’s translation.)

Here “Wine” is used in its mystic sense of entranced Love for the
Soul of Souls. Umar was hated and feared because he spoke boldly
when his brethren the Soofis dealt in innuendoes. A third
quotation has been trained into a likeness of the “Hymn of Life,”
despite the commonplace and the _navrante vulgarité_ which
characterize the pseudo-Schiller-Anglo-American School. The same
has been done to the words of Isâ (Jesus); for the author, who is
well-read in the Ingîl (Evangel), evidently intended the
allusion. Mansur el-Hallâj (the Cotton-Cleaner) was stoned for
crudely uttering the Pantheistic dogma _Ana ’l Hakk_ (I am the
Truth, _i.e._, God), _wa laysa fi-jubbatî il’ Allah_ (and within
my coat is nought but God). His blood traced on the ground the
first-quoted sentence. Lastly, there is a quotation from
“Sardanapalus, son of Anacyndaraxes,” etc.: here {Greek: paîze}
may mean sport; but the context determines the kind of sport
intended. The Zâhid is the literal believer in the letter of the
Law, opposed to the Soofi, who believes in its spirit: hence the
former is called a Zâhiri (outsider), and the latter a Bâtini, an
insider. Moses is quoted because he ignored future rewards and
punishments. As regards the “two Eternities,” Persian and Arab
metaphysicians split Eternity, _i.e._, the negation of Time, into
two halves, _Azal_ (beginninglessness) and _Abad_ (endlessness);
both being mere words, gatherings of letters with a subjective
significance. In English we use “Eternal” (_Æviternus_, age-long,
life-long) as loosely, by applying it to three distinct ideas;
(1) the habitual, in popular parlance; (2) the exempt from
duration; and (3) the everlasting, which embraces all duration.
“Omniscience-Maker” is the old Roman sceptic’s _Homo fecit Deos_.

The next section is one long wail over the contradictions, the
mysteries, the dark end, the infinite sorrowfulness of all
existence, and the arcanum of grief which, Luther said, underlies
all life. As with Euripides “to live is to die, to die is to
live.” Hâjî Abdû borrows the Hindu idea of the human body. “It is
a mansion,” says Menu, “with bones for its beams and rafters;
with nerves and tendons for cords; with muscles and blood for
cement; with skin for its outer covering; filled with no sweet
perfume, but loaded with impurities; a mansion infested by age
and sorrow; the seat of malady; harassed with pains; haunted with
the quality of darkness (Tama-guna), and incapable of standing.”
The Pot and Potter began with the ancient Egyptians. “Sitting as
a potter at the wheel, Cneph (at Philæ) moulds clay, and gives
the spirit of life to the nostrils of Osiris.” Hence the
Genesitic “breath.” Then we meet him in the Vedas, the Being “by
whom the fictile vase is formed; the clay out of which it is
fabricated.” We find him next in Jeremiah’s “Arise and go down
unto the Potter’s house,” etc. (xviii. 2), and lastly in Romans
(ix. 20), “Hath not the potter power over the clay?” No wonder
that the first Hand who moulded the man-mud is a _lieu commun_ in
Eastern thought. The “waste of agony” is Buddhism, or
Schopenhauerism pure and simple, I have moulded “Earth on Earth”
upon “Seint Ysidre”’s well-known rhymes (A.D. 1440):—

Erthe out of Erthe is wondirli wrouzt,
Erthe out of Erthe hath gete a dignity of nouzt,
Erthe upon Erthe hath sett all his thouzt
How that Erthe upon Erthe may be his brouzt, etc.

The “Camel-rider,” suggests Ossian, “yet a few years and the
blast of the desert comes.” The dromedary was chosen as Death’s
vehicle by the Arabs, probably because it bears the Bedouin’s
corpse to the distant burial-ground, where he will lie among his
kith and kin. The end of this section reminds us of:—

How poor, how rich; how abject, how august,
How complicate, how wonderful is Man!

The Hâjî now passes to the results of his long and anxious
thoughts: I have purposely twisted his exordium into an echo of

Till old experience doth attain
To something of prophetic strain.

He boldly declares that there is no God as man has created his
Creator. Here he is at one with modern thought:—“En général les
croyants font le Dieu comme ils sont eux-mêmes,” (says J. J.
Rousseau, “Confessions,” I. 6): “les bons le font bon: les
méchants le font méchant: les dévots haineux et bilieux, ne
voient que l’enfer, parce qu’ils voudraient damner tout le monde;
les âmes aimantes et douces n’y croient guère; et l’un des
étonnements dont je ne reviens pas est de voir le bon Fénélon en
parler dans son Télémaque comme s’il y croyoit tout de bon: mais
j’espère qu’il mentoit alors; car enfin quelque véridique qu’on
soit, il faut bien mentir quelquefois quand on est évêque.” “Man
depicts himself in his gods,” says Schiller. Hence the
_Naturgott_, the deity of all ancient peoples, and with which
every system began, allowed and approved of actions distinctly
immoral, often diabolical. Belief became moralized only when the
conscience of the community, and with it of the individual items,
began aspiring to its golden age,—Perfection. “Dieu est le
superlatif, dont le positif est l’homme,” says Carl Vogt;
meaning, that the popular idea of a _numen_ is that of a
magnified and non-natural man.

He then quotes his authorities. Buddha, whom the Catholic Church
converted to Saint Josaphat, refused to recognize Ishwara (the
deity), on account of the mystery of the “cruelty of things.”
Schopenhauer, Miss Cobbe’s model pessimist, who at the humblest
distance represents Buddha in the world of Western thought, found
the vision of man’s unhappiness, irrespective of his actions, so
overpowering that he concluded the Supreme Will to be malevolent,
“heartless, cowardly, and arrogant.” Confucius, the “Throneless
king, more powerful than all kings,” denied a personal deity. The
Epicurean idea rules the China of the present day. “God is great,
but he lives too far off,” say the Turanian Santâls in Aryan
India; and this is the general language of man in the Turanian

Hâjî Abdû evidently holds that idolatry begins with a personal
deity. And let us note that the latter is deliberately denied by
the “Thirty-nine Articles.” With them God is “a Being without
Parts (personality) or Passions.” He professes a vague
Agnosticism, and attributes popular faith to the fact that Timor
fecit Deos; “every religion being, without exception, the child
of fear and ignorance” (Carl Vogt). He now speaks as the “Drawer
of the Wine,” the “Ancient Taverner,” the “Old Magus,” the
“Patron of the Mughân or Magians”; all titles applied to the
Soofi as opposed to the Zâhid. His “idols” are the eidola
(illusions) of Bacon, “having their foundations in the very
constitution of man,” and therefore appropriately called
_fabulæ_. That “Nature’s Common Course” is subject to various
interpretation, may be easily proved. Aristotle was as great a
subverter as Alexander; but the quasi-prophetical Stagyrite of
the Dark Ages, who ruled the world till the end of the thirteenth
century, became the “twice execrable” of Martin Luther; and was
finally abolished by Galileo and Newton. Here I have excised two
stanzas. The first is:—

Theories for truths, fable for fact;
system for science vex the thought
Life’s one great lesson you despise—
to know that all we know is nought.

This is in fact:—

Well didst thou say, Athena’s noblest son,
The most we know is nothing can be known.

The next is:—

Essence and substance, sequence, cause,
beginning, ending, space and time,
These be the toys of manhood’s mind,
at once ridiculous and sublime.

He is not the only one who so regards “bothering Time and Space.”
A late definition of the “infinitely great,” viz., that the idea
arises from denying form to any figure; of the “infinitely
small,” from refusing magnitude to any figure, is a fair specimen
of the “dismal science”—metaphysics.

Another omitted stanza reads:—

How canst thou, Phenomen! pretend
the Noumenon to mete and span?
Say which were easier probed and proved,
Absolute Being or mortal man?

One would think that he had read Kant on the “Knowable and the
Unknowable,” or had heard of the Yankee lady, who could
“differentiate between the Finite and the Infinite.” It is a
common-place of the age, in the West as well as the East, that
Science is confined to phenomena, and cannot reach the Noumena,
the things themselves. This is the scholastic realism, the
“residuum of a bad metaphysic,” which deforms the system of
Comte. With all its pretensions, it simply means that there are,
or can be conceived, things in themselves (_i.e._, unrelated to
thought); that we know them to exist; and, at the same time, that
we cannot know what they are. But who dares say “cannot”? Who can
measure man’s work when he shall be as superior to our present
selves as we are to the Cave-man of past time?

The “Chain of Universe” alludes to the Jain idea that the whole,
consisting of intellectual as well as of natural principles,
existed from all eternity; and that it has been subject to
endless revolutions, whose causes are the inherent powers of
nature, intellectual as well as physical, without the
intervention of a deity. But the Poet ridicules the “non-human,”
_i.e._, the not-ourselves, the negation of ourselves and
consequently a non-existence. Most Easterns confuse the
contradictories, in which one term stands for something, and the
other for nothing (_e.g._, ourselves and not-ourselves), with the
contraries (_e.g._, rich and not-rich = poor), in which both
terms express a something. So the positive-negative “infinite” is
not the complement of “finite,” but its negation. The Western man
derides the process by making “not-horse” the complementary
entity of “horse.” The Pilgrim ends with the favourite Soofi
tenet that the five (six?) senses are the doors of all human
knowledge, and that no form of man, incarnation of the deity,
prophet, apostle or sage, has ever produced an idea not conceived
within his brain by the sole operation of these vulgar material
agents. Evidently he is neither spiritualist nor idealist.

He then proceeds to show that man depicts himself in his God, and
that “God is the racial expression”; a pedagogue on the Nile, an
abstraction in India, and an astrologer in Chaldæa; where
Abraham, says Berosus (Josephus, Ant. I. 7, § 2, and II. 9, § 2)
was “skilful in the celestial science.” He notices the
Akârana-Zamân (endless Time) of the Guebres, and the working
dual, Hormuzd and Ahriman. He brands the God of the Hebrews with
pugnacity and cruelty. He has heard of the beautiful creations of
Greek fancy which, not attributing a moral nature to the deity,
included Theology in Physics; and which, like Professor Tyndall,
seemed to consider all matter everywhere alive. We have adopted a
very different Unitarianism; Theology, with its one Creator;
Pantheism with its “one Spirit’s plastic stress”; and Science
with its one Energy. He is hard upon Christianity and its “trinal
God”: I have not softened his expression ({Arabic} = a riddle),
although it may offend readers. There is nothing more enigmatical
to the Moslem mind than Christian Trinitarianism: all other
objections they can get over, not this. Nor is he any lover of
Islamism, which, like Christianity, has its ascetic Hebraism and
its Hellenic hedonism; with the world of thought moving between
these two extremes. The former, defined as predominant or
exclusive care for the practice of right, is represented by
Semitic and Arab influence, Korânic and Hadîsic. The latter, the
religion of humanity, a passion for life and light, for culture
and intelligence; for art, poetry and science, is represented in
Islamism by the fondly and impiously-cherished memory of the old
Guebre kings and heroes, beauties, bards and sages. Hence the
mention of Zâl and his son Rostam; of Cyrus and of the
Jâm-i-Jamshîd, which may be translated either grail (cup) or
mirror: it showed the whole world within its rim; and hence it
was called Jâm-i-Jehân-numâ (universe-exposing). The contemptuous
expressions about the diet of camel’s milk and the meat of the
Susmâr, or green lizard, are evidently quoted from Firdausi’s
famous lines beginning:—

Arab-râ be-jâî rasîd’est kâr.

The Hâjî is severe upon those who make of the Deity a
Khwân-i-yaghmâ (or tray of plunder) as the Persians phrase it. He
looks upon the shepherds as men,

—Who rob the sheep themselves to clothe.

So Schopenhauer (Leben, etc., by Wilhelm Gewinner) furiously
shows how the “English nation ought to treat that set of
hypocrites, imposters and money-graspers, the clergy, that
annually devours £3,500,000.”

The Hâjî broadly asserts that there is no Good and no Evil in the
absolute sense as man has made them. Here he is one with Pope:—

And spite of pride, in erring nature’s spite
One truth is clear—whatever is, is right.

Unfortunately the converse is just as true:—whatever is, is
wrong. Khizr is the Elijah who puzzled Milman. He represents the
Soofi, the Bâtini, while Musâ (Moses) is the Zâhid, the Zâhiri;
and the strange adventures of the twain, invented by the Jews,
have been appropriated by the Moslems. He derides the Freewill of
man; and, like Diderot, he detects “pantaloon in a prelate, a
satyr in a president, a pig in a priest, an ostrich in a
minister, and a goose in a chief clerk.” He holds to Fortune, the
{Greek: Túxae} of Alcman, which is, {Greek: Eunomías te kaì
Peithoûs adelphà kaì Promatheías thugátaer},—Chance, the sister
of Order and Trust, and the daughter of Forethought. The
Scandinavian Spinners of Fate were Urd (the Was, the Past),
Verdandi (the Becoming, or Present), and Skuld (the To-be, or
Future). He alludes to Plato, who made the Demiourgos create the
worlds by the Logos (the Hebrew Dabar) or Creative Word, through
the Æons. These {Greek: Aìwnes} of the Mystics were spiritual
emanations from {Greek: Aìwn}, lit. a wave of influx, an age,
period, or day; hence the Latin _ævum_, and the Welsh Awen, the
stream of inspiration falling upon a bard. Basilides, the
Egypto-Christian, made the Creator evolve seven Æons or Pteromata
(fulnesses); from two of whom, Wisdom and Power, proceeded the
365 degrees of Angels. All were subject to a Prince of Heaven,
called Abraxas, who was himself under guidance of the chief Æon,
Wisdom. Others represent the first Cause to have produced an Æon
or Pure Intelligence; the first a second, and so forth till the
tenth. This was material enough to affect Hyle, which thereby
assumed a spiritual form. Thus the two incompatibles combined in
the Scheme of Creation.

He denies the three ages of the Buddhists: the wholly happy; the
happy mixed with misery, and the miserable tinged with
happiness,—the present. The Zoroastrians had four, each of 3,000
years. In the first, Hormuzd, the good-god, ruled alone; then
Ahriman, the bad-god, began to rule subserviently: in the third
both ruled equally; and in the last, now current, Ahriman has
gained the day.

Against the popular idea that man has caused the misery of this
world, he cites the ages, when the Old Red Sandstone bred
gigantic cannibal fishes; when the Oolites produced the mighty
reptile tyrants of air, earth, and sea; and when the monsters of
the Eocene and Miocene periods shook the ground with their
ponderous tread. And the world of waters is still a hideous scene
of cruelty, carnage, and destruction.

He declares Conscience to be a geographical and chronological
accident. Thus he answers the modern philosopher whose soul was
overwhelmed by the marvel and the awe of two things, “the starry
heaven above and the moral law within.” He makes the latter sense
a development of the gregarious and social instincts; and so
travellers have observed that the moral is the last step in
mental progress. His Moors are the savage Dankali and other
negroid tribes, who offer a cup of milk with one hand and stab
with the other. He translates literally the Indian word Hâthî (an
elephant), the animal with the Hâth (hand, or trunk). Finally he
alludes to the age of active volcanoes, the present, which is
merely temporary, the shifting of the Pole, and the spectacle to
be seen from Mushtari, or the planet Jupiter.

The Hâjî again asks the old, old question, What is Truth? And he
answers himself, after the fashion of the wise Emperor of China,
“Truth hath not an unchanging name.” A modern English writer
says: “I have long been convinced by the experience of my life,
as a pioneer of various heterodoxies, which are rapidly becoming
orthodoxies, that nearly all truth is temperamental to us, or
given in the affections and intuitions; and that discussion and
inquiry do little more than feed temperament.” Our poet seems to
mean that the Perceptions, when they perceive truly, convey
objective truth, which is universal; whereas the Reflectives and
the Sentiments, the working of the moral region, or the middle
lobe of the phrenologists, supplies only subjective truth,
personal and individual. Thus to one man the axiom, _Opes
irritamenta malorum_, represents a distinct fact; while another
holds wealth to be an incentive for good. Evidently both are
right, according to their lights.

Hâjî Abdû cites Plato and Aristotle, as usual with Eastern
songsters, who delight in Mantik (logic). Here he appears to mean
that a false proposition is as real a proposition as one that is
true. “Faith moves mountains” and “Manet immota fides” are
evidently quotations. He derides the teaching of the “First
Council of the Vatican” (cap. v.), “all the faithful are little
children listening to the voice of Saint Peter,” who is the
“Prince of the Apostles.” He glances at the fancy of certain
modern physicists, “devotion is a definite molecular change in
the convolution of grey pulp.” He notices with contumely the
riddle of which Milton speaks so glibly, where the Dialoguists,

—reasoned high
Of providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute.

In opposition to the orthodox Mohammedan tenets which make Man’s
soul his percipient Ego, an entity, a unity, the Soofi considers
it a fancy, opposed to body, which is a fact; at most a state of
things, not a thing; a consensus of faculties whereof our frames
are but the phenomena. This is not contrary to Genesitic legend.
The Hebrew Ruach and Arabic Ruh, now perverted to mean soul or
spirit, simply signify wind or breath, the outward and visible
sign of life. Their later schools are even more explicit. “For
that which befalls man befalls beasts; as the one dies, so does
the other; they have all one death; all go unto one place”
(Eccles. iii. 19). But the modern soul, a nothing, a string of
negations, a negative in chief, is thus described in the
Mahâbhârat: “It is indivisible, inconceivable, inconceptible: it
is eternal, universal, permanent, immovable: it is invisible and
unalterable.” Hence the modern spiritualism which, rejecting
materialism, can use only material language.

These, says the Hâjî, are mere sounds. He would not assert “Verba
gignunt verba,” but “Verba gignunt res,” a step further. The idea
is Bacon’s “idola fori, omnium molestissima,” the twofold
illusions of language; either the names of things that have no
existence in fact, or the names of things whose idea is confused
and ill-defined.

He derives the Soul-idea from the “savage ghost” which Dr.
Johnson defined to be a “kind of shadowy being.” He justly
remarks that it arose (perhaps) in Egypt; and was not invented by
the “People of the Book.” By this term Moslems denote Jews and
Christians who have a recognized revelation, while their
ignorance refuses it to Guebres, Hindus, and Confucians.

He evidently holds to the doctrine of progress. With him
protoplasm is the Yliastron, the Prima Materies. Our word matter
is derived from the Sanskrit {Sanskrit} (mâtrâ), which, however,
signifies properly the invisible type of visible matter; in
modern language, the substance distinct from the sum of its
physical and chemical properties. Thus, Mâtrâ exists only in
thought, and is not recognizable by the action of the five
senses. His “Chain of Being” reminds us of Prof. Huxley’s
Pedigree of the Horse, Orohippus, Mesohippus, Meiohippus,
Protohippus, Pleiohippus, and Equus. He has evidently heard of
modern biology, or Hylozoism, which holds its quarter-million
species of living beings, animal and vegetable, to be progressive
modifications of one great fundamental unity, an unity of
so-called “mental faculties” as well as of bodily structure. And
this is the jelly-speck. He scoffs at the popular idea that man
is the great central figure round which all things gyrate like
marionettes; in fact, the anthropocentric era of Draper, which,
strange to say, lives by the side of the telescope and the
microscope. As man is of recent origin, and may end at an early
epoch of the macrocosm, so before his birth all things revolved
round nothing, and may continue to do so after his death.

The Hâjî, who elsewhere denounces “compound ignorance,” holds
that all evil comes from error; and that all knowledge has been
developed by overthrowing error, the ordinary channel of human
thought. He ends this section with a great truth. There are
things which human Reason or Instinct matured, in its undeveloped
state, cannot master; but Reason is a Law to itself. Therefore we
are not bound to believe, or to attempt belief in, any thing
which is contrary or contradictory to Reason. Here he is
diametrically opposed to Rome, who says, “Do not appeal to
History; that is private judgment. Do not appeal to Holy Writ;
that is heresy. Do not appeal to Reason; that is Rationalism.”

He holds with the Patriarchs of Hebrew Holy Writ, that the
present life is all-sufficient for an intellectual (not a
sentimental) being; and, therefore, that there is no want of a
Heaven or a Hell. With far more contradiction the Western poet

Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self-place; but when we are in hell,
And where hell is there must we ever be,
And, to be short, when all this world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell which are not heaven.

For what want is there of a Hell when all are pure? He enlarges
upon the ancient Buddhist theory, that Happiness and Misery are
equally distributed among men and beasts; some enjoy much and
suffer much; others the reverse. Hence Diderot declares, “Sober
passions produce only the commonplace . . . the man of moderate
passion lives and dies like a brute.” And again we have the half

That the mark of rank in nature
Is capacity for pain.

The latter implies an equal capacity for pleasure, and thus the
balance is kept.

Hâjî Abdû then proceeds to show that Faith is an accident of
birth. One of his omitted distichs says:—

Race makes religion; true! but aye
upon the Maker acts the made,
A finite God, and infinite sin,
in lieu of raising man, degrade.

In a manner of dialogue he introduces the various races each
fighting to establish its own belief. The Frank (Christian)
abuses the Hindu, who retorts that he is of Mlenchha, mixed or
impure, blood, a term applied to all non-Hindus. The same is done
by Nazarene and Mohammedan; by the Confucian, who believes in
nothing, and by the Soofi, who naturally has the last word. The
association of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph with the Trinity,
in the Roman and Greek Churches, makes many Moslems conclude that
Christians believe not in three but in five Persons. So an
Englishman writes of the early Fathers, “They not only said that
3 = 1, and that 1 = 3: they professed to explain how that curious
arithmetical combination had been brought about. The Indivisible
had been divided, and yet was not divided: it was divisible, and
yet it was indivisible; black was white and white was black; and
yet there were not two colours but one colour; and whoever did
not believe it would be damned.” The Arab quotation runs in the

_Ahsanu ’l-Makâni l’ il-Fatâ ’l-Jehannamu_
The best of places for (the generous) youth is Gehenna.

Gehenna, alias Jahim, being the fiery place of eternal
punishment. And the second saying, _Al- nâr wa lâ ’l-’Ar_—“Fire
(of Hell) rather than Shame,”—is equally condemned by the
Koranist. The Gustâkhi (insolence) of Fate is the expression of
Umar-i-Khayyam (St. xxx):—

What, without asking hither hurried _whence?_
And, without asking _whither_ hurried hence!
Oh many a cup of this forbidden wine
Must drown the memory of that insolence.

Soofistically, the word means “the coquetry of the beloved one,”
the divinæ particula auræ. And the section ends with Pope’s:—

He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.


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.
(Essay IV. 398.)

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 Texte 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-Giriyâr.” 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.

Vive, valeque!


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