Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PEARLS OF THE FAITH: 50. AL-BAHITH, by EDWIN ARNOLD

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

PEARLS OF THE FAITH: 50. AL-BAHITH, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Iblis spake to abraham
Last Line: To thee that art the lord of death?
Variant Title(s): Iblis And Abraham
Subject(s): Abraham; God; Islam

Al-Bâhith! Opener of the tombs! we praise
Thy power, which unto life the dead can raise.

Iblis spake to Abraham:
"What is this thy Lord hath told thee?
Shall the Resurrection be
When the moldering clods enfold thee?
Nay! and if a man might rise,
Buried whole, in heedful wise,
See yon carcase, tempest-beaten—
Part the wandering fox hath eaten,
Part by fishes hath been torn,
Part the sea-fowl hence have borne;
Never back those-fragments can
Come to him who was a man."

Abraham spake unto his Lord:
"Show me how is wrought this wonder;
Can Thy resurrection be
When a man's dust lies asunder?"

"Art thou therefore not believing,"
Allah said, "because deceiving
Iblis fills with lies thy heart?"
"Nay," he answered, "but impart
Knowledge, Mightiest One and Best!
That my heart may be at rest."

God said: "Take, thou doubting one!
Four birds from among My creatures;
Sever each bird's head, and so
Mingle feathers, forms, and features,
That the fragment shall not be
Knowable to such as ye.
Into four divide the mass,
Then upon the mountains pass,
On four peaks a portion lay,
And, returning homeward, say,
'By the name and power of God—
Who hath made men of the clod,
And hath said the dead shall rise—
Birds! fly hither in such wise
As ye lived.' And they shall come,
Perfect, whole, and living, home."

Thereupon Al-Khalîl took
A raven, eagle, dove, and cock;
From their bodies shore the heads,
Cut the four fowl into shreds,
Mingled all their mass together,
Blood and bone, and flesh and feather;
Then, dividing this four-wise,
Laid it where four peaks did rise
Two to south and two to north.
Then the dove's head held he forth,
Crying, "Come!" Lo! at the word
Cooed at his feet the slaughtered bird.
"Come, raven!" spake he: as he spoke,
On glossy wing, with eager croak,
Flew round the raven. Then he said,
"Return! thou cock." The cock obeyed.
Lastly the eagle summoned he,
Which circling came, on opinions free,
Restored and soaring to the sky,
With perfect plumes and undimmed eye.
So in the Holy Book 'tis writ
How Abraham's heart at rest was set.

Why should we fear to yield our breath,
To Thee that art the Lord of Death?

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