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Poem by Edwin Arnold

After Death in Arabia

He who died at Azan sends
This to comfort all his friends:

Faithful friends! It lies, I know,
Pale and white and cold as snow;
And ye say, 'Abdallah's dead!'
Weeping at the feet and head,
I can see your falling tears,
I can hear your sighs and prayers;
Yet I smile and whisper this, -
'I am not the thing you kiss;
Cease your tears, and let it lie;
It was mine, it is not I.'

Sweet friends! What the women lave
For its last bed of the grave,
Is but a hut which I am quitting,
Is a garment no more fitting,
Is a cage from which, at last,
Like a hawk my soul hath passed.
Love the inmate, not the room, -
The wearer, not the garb, - the plume
Of the falcon, not the bars
Which kept him from those splendid stars.

Loving friends! Be wise and dry
Straightway every weeping eye,
What ye lift upon the bier
Is not worth a wistful tear.
'T is an empty seashell, - one
Out of which the pearl is gone;
The shell is broken, it lies there;
The pearl, the all, the soul, is here.
'T is an earthen jar, whose lid
Allah sealed, the while it hid
That treasure of his treasury,
A mind that loved him; let it lie!
Let the shard be earth's once more,
Since the gold shines in his store!

Allah glorious! Allah good!
Now thy world is understood;
Now the long, long wonder ends;
Yet ye weep, my erring friends,
While the man whom ye call dead,
In unspoken bliss, instead,
Lives and loves you; lost, 't is true,
By such light as shines for you;
But in the light ye cannot see
Of unfulfilled felicity, -
In enlarging paradise,
Lives a life that never dies.

Farewell, friends! Yet not farewell;
Where I am, ye, too, shall dwell.
I am gone before your face,
A moment's time, a little space.
When ye come where I have stepped
Ye will wonder why ye wept;
Ye will know, by wise love taught,
That here is all, and there is naught.
Weep awhile, if ye are fain, -
Sunshine still must follow rain;
Only not at death, - for death,
Now I know, is that first breath
Which our souls draw when we enter
Life, which is of all life centre.

Be ye certain all seems love,
Viewed from Allah's throne above;
Be ye stout of heart, and come
Bravely onward to your home!
La Allah illa Allah! yea!
Thou love divine! Thou love alway!

He that died at Azan gave
This to those who made his grave. 

Edwin Arnold

Edwin Arnold's other poems:
  1. The Division of Poland
  2. With a Bracelet in the Form of a Snake
  3. The Marriage
  4. The Alchemist
  5. The Rhine and The Moselle

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