Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PEARLS OF THE FAITH: 17. THE BESTOWER, by EDWIN ARNOLD

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PEARLS OF THE FAITH: 17. THE BESTOWER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The imam ali, lion of the faith
Last Line: Our gain is what we lose for thee.
Subject(s): God; Islam

Praise "the Bestower:" unto all that live
He giveth, and He loveth those who give.

The Imâm Ali, Lion of the Faith,
Have ye not heard his giving? What he had
The poor had, for he held his gold and goods
As Allah's almoner. Ali it was
Who in the Mecca mosque at evening prayer—
Being entreated by some needy one—
Would not break off, yet would not let the man
Ask him in vain for what he asked of God,
Favor and aid; wherefore—amid the words—
He drew his emerald, carved with Allah's praise,
From his third finger, giving it; and prayed
With face unturned.
If he had pieces ten,
He succored fivescore; if one dinar, then
Into ten dirhems he divided that,
And fed t n "people of the bench." Our Lord
(On whom be peace!) in all men's hearing said,
"This is the Prince of Givers!"
Once it fell,
Being sore hungered in his house, he cried,
"Fatmeh! thou daughter of the Prophet of God,
Find me to eat, if thou hast any food."
And Fatmeh said, "Father of Hassan! here
Not a dry date is left—not one—I swear
By Him besides Whom is none other God;
But in the corner of the tomb I laid
Six silver akchas: take them, if thou wilt,
And buy thee in the market food, and bring
Fruits for our boys, Hassan and Hussain." Thus
Ali departed. On his way he spied
Two Mussulmans, of whom one rudely hailed
The other, crying, "Pay thy debt, or come
Unto the prison where the smiter waits."
And he who owed had nought, and wept amain,
Sighing, "Alas the day!" But Ali asked,
"What is thy debt, my brother?" Then he moaned,
"Six akchas, for the lack of which the chains
Must load me." "Nay!" spake Ali, "they are here;
Take them and pay the man, and go in peace."
So went that debtor free, but Ali came
Empty in hand and belly home again
Unto his door, where Fatmeh and the sons,
Hassan and Hussain, seeing him approach,
Ran joyous forth, crying, "He bringeth us
Dates now, and honey, and new camel's milk;
Soon shall we feast." But when they saw his cloth
Hang void, and troubled eyes, and heard him say,
"Upon my road I met a poorer man
Who, for six akchas, should have borne the chains;
To him I gave them, and I bring ye nought,"
Then the lads wept; but Fatmeh smiled and spake:
"Well hast thou done, oh, servant of the Lord!
Weep not, ye sons of Ali, though we fast;
Who feedeth Allah's children, feasts His own:
He, the 'Bestower,' will provide for us."

But Ali turned, heart-sore because the boys
Lacked meat, and Fatmeh's lovely eyes were sunk
Hollow with hunger. "I will go," thought he,
"Unto the blessed Prophet; for, if one
Be burdened with a thousand woes, his word
Dismisses them and makes the sorrow joy."
So bent he mournful steps thither, to tell
The Lord Muhammad of this strait, when—lo!
An Arab in mid path encountered him,
Of noble bearing, with a chieftain's mien,
Leading a riding-camel by her string,
Black, with full teeth, the best beast ever foaled.
"Buy Wurdah!—buy my desert rose," quoth he;
"One hundred akchas make her thine, so thou
Shalt own the best in Hedjas, or at choice
Sell her at double money." Ali said,
"The beast is excellent! Fain would I buy,
But have not in my scrip thy price." "Go to,"
The Sheikh replied; "take her, and bring thy gold
When Allah pleaseth, to the western gate;
I will await thee."
Ali nodded; took
The nose-string, turning to the left to seek
The camel merchants that should buy the beast;
Whom at the very entry of the khan
Another Arab in the desert garb,
Lordly and gracious like his fellow, met,
And quick saluted, saying, "Peace with thee!
God send thee favor! Wilt thou sell me now
Thy riding-camel with the great stag-eyes?
Here be three hundred akchas counted down,
Silver and gold, good money! Such an one
I sought, but found not, till I saw thee here."
"If thou wilt buy," quoth Ali, "be it so!"
And thereupon that Bedawee counted out
Dinars and dirhems—little suns and moons
Of glittering gold and silver—in his cloth,
And took the beast; but Ali, with one piece
Bought food and fruits, and, hastening home again,
Heard his lads laugh with joy to see the store
Poured forth;—white cakes and dates and amber grapes—
And smiled himself to mark Fatmeh's soft eyes
Gladden; then, having eaten, blessed the Lord,
Giver of gifts, "Bestower."
So, once more
Made he to go unto the western gate
To pay his seller; but upon the street
The Prophet met him. Lightly smiled our Lord,
(On whom be comfort!) lightly questioned he,
Saying, "Oh, Ali! who was he did sell
Thy riding-camel, and to whom didst thou
Sell her again?" Quoth Ali, "Only God
Knoweth, except thou knowest! Spake our Lord,
"Yea, but I know! That was great Gabriel,
Chief messenger of Heaven, from whom thou bought'st;
And he to whom thou sold'st was Israfil,
His heavenly fellow; and that beast did come
Forth from the pleasure-fields of Paradise,
And thither back is gone; for—look! my son,
Allah hath recompensed thee fifty times
The goodly deed thou didst, giving thine all
To free the weeping debtor. Oh, He sees
And measures and bestows; but what is kept,
Beyond gifts here for kindly hearts that love,
God only wotteth, and the Eternal Peace."

Bestower! grant us grace to see
Our gain is what we lose for Thee.

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