THE SAYINGS OF RABIA
by: Richard Monckton Milnes
- PIOUS friend one day of Rabia
- How she had learnt the truth of Allah wholly?
- By what instructions was her memory tasked--
- How was her heart estranged from this worlds folly?
- She answered--Thou, who knowest God in parts,
- Thy spirits moods and processes can tell;
- I only know that in my heart of hearts
- I have despised myself and loved Him well.
- Some evil upon Rabia fell,
- And one who loved and knew her well
- Murmured that God with pain undue
- Should strike a child so fond and true:
- But she replied--Believe and trust
- That all I suffer is most just;
- I had in contemplation striven
- To realize the joys of heaven;
- I had extended fancys flights
- Through all that region of delights,--
- Had counted, till the numbers failed,
- The pleasures on the blest entailed,--
- Had sounded the ecstatic rest
- I should enjoy on Allahs breast;
- And for those thoughts I now atone
- That were of something of my own,
- And were not thoughts of Him alone.
- When Rabia unto Mekkeh came,
- She stood awhile apart--alone,
- Nor joined the crowd with hearts on flame
- Collected round the sacred stone.
- She, like the rest, with toil had crossed
- The waves of water, rock, and sand,
- And now, as one long tempest-tossed,
- Beheld the Kaabehs promised land.
- Yet in her eyes no transport glistened;
- She seemed with shame and sorrow bowed;
- The shouts of prayer she hardly listened,
- But beat her heart and cried aloud:--
- O heart! weak follower of the weak,
- That thou shouldst traverse land and sea,
- In this far place that God to seek
- Who long ago had come to thee!
- Round holy Rabias suffering bed
- The wise men gathered, gazing gravely--
- Daughter of God! the youngest said,
- Endure thy Fathers chastening bravely;
- They who have steeped their souls in prayer
- Can every anguish calmly bear.
- She answered not, and turned aside,
- Though not reproachfully nor sadly;
- Daughter of God! the eldest cried,
- Sustain thy Fathers chastening gladly;
- They who have learnt to pray aright,
- From pains dark well draw up delight.
- Then she spoke out--Your words are fair;
- But, oh! the truth lies deeper still;
- I know not, when absorbed in prayer,
- Pleasure or pain, or good or ill;
- They who Gods face can understand
- Feel not the motions of His hand.
MORE POEMS BY RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES
"The Sayings of Rabia"
is reprinted from The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse.
Ed. Nicholson & Lee. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917.