‘O doves of the Arāk and Bān trees
be gentle, don’t double my sorrows with your sorrow!
Be gentle, don’t disclose by crying and lamenting
my secret longings and concealed torments!’
In evening and morning I echo them
with cries of yearning and sighs of ardour.
The crosswinds whining in the firewood thicket
Bent flaming branches over me till they obliterated me,
And heaped upon me agonising heartache,
pangs of passion and rare afflictions, of every kind.
Who will give me Jamʿ and al-Muḥaṣṣab of Minā,
Who will take me to Dhāt al-Athl and Nuʿmān?
They circle round my heart hour after hour
In distress and passionate love and kiss the veil of my angles,
Like the Best of Prophets circled around the Kaʿba,
Which proof of reason declares to be deficient,
And kissed stones therein, though he has speech.
Where ranks that House compared to a human?
How often have they pledged and sworn they would not change?
But one dyed with henna does not keep faith with oaths.
Among the most wondrous things is a gazelle in veils
Which hints with finger-tips dyed red with jujube and winks with eyelids;
Its grazing ground lies between my chest and my innermost self;
How wondrous is a meadow in the midst of fires!
My heart has learnt to adopt every form:
A grazing ground for gazelles and a cloister for monks,
A temple for idols and a Kaʿba for the circling pilgrim,
tablets for a Torah and scrolls for a Qur’ān.
I profess the creed of love wherever its caravans
turn their faces, for love is my doctrine and my faith.
We have exemplars in Hind of Bishr and her sister,
in Qays and Laylā, Mayy and Ghaylān.