By Saadi, translated by Richard Chenevix Trench

His courtiers of the caliph crave:

      “O say how this may be,

His courtiers of the caliph crave:

      “O say how this may be,

That of thy slaves this Ethiop slave

      Is best beloved by thee?

 

“For he is hideous as the night:

      Yet when has ever chose

A nightingale for its delight

      A hueless, scentless rose?”

 

The caliph then: “No features fair,

      No comely mien are his;

Love is the beauty he doth wear;

      And love his glory is.

 

“Once when a camel of my train

      There fell, in narrow street,

From broken casket rolled amain

      Rich pearls before my feet.

 

“I nodding to my slaves that I 

      Would freely give them these,

At once upon the spoil they fly

      The costly boon to seize.

 

“One only at my side remained —

      Beside this Ethiop none;

He, moveless as the steed he reined,

      Behind me sat alone.

 

”’What will thy gain, good fellow, be,

      Thus lingering at my side?’

‘My king, that I shall faithfully

      Have guarded thee,’ he cried.

 

“True servant’s title he may wear,

      He only, who has not,

For his lord’s gifts, how rich soe’er,

      His lord himself forgot!”

 

So thou alone dost walk before

      Thy God with perfect aim,

      Beside himself to claim.

 

For if thou not to him aspire,

      But to his gifts alone,

Not love, but covetous desire,

      Has brought thee to his throne.

 

While such thy prayer; it climbs above

     In vain — the golden key

Of God’s rich treasure-house of love

      Thine own will never be.

 

 

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