The Dullard Sage

by Farid ud-Din Attar

English version by Peter Lamborn Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavady
Original Language Persian/Farsi

Lost in myself
     I reappeared
          I know not where
a drop that rose
     from the sea and fell
          and dissolved again;
a shadow
     that stretched itself out
          at dawn,
when the sun
     reached noon
          I disappeared.
I have no news
     of my coming
          or passing away--
the whole thing
     happened quicker
          than a breath;
ask no questions
     of the moth.
          In the candle flame
of his face
     I have forgotten
          all the answers.
In the way of love
     there must be knowledge
          and ignorance
so I have become
     both a dullard
          and a sage;
one must be
     an eye and yet
          not see
so I am blind
     and yet I still
          perceive,
Dust
     be on my head
          if I can say
where I
     in bewilderment
          have wandered:
Attar
     watched his heart
          transcend both worlds
and under its shadow
     now is gone mad
          with love.

-- from The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry, Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady

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/ Photo by Chico.Ferreira /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

To all you wise, wondrous sages, a reminder from Attar to also be a dullard.

Knowledge requires mind and conceptualization, the parceling out of reality into small pieces that can be thought about and communicated. True merging with the Divine draws us into the unbroken Unity. When the light of this unbroken awareness shines fully, even the sense of a separate self is lost --

a shadow
that stretched itself out
at dawn,

when the sun
reached noon
I disappeared.


This Wholeness is an awareness that is too great to be comprehended by the limited mind. One naturally falls into the all-encompassing silence of that sacred merging...

ask no questions
of the moth.
In the candle flame

of his face
I have forgotten
all the answers.


"In the way of love / there must be knowledge / and ignorance..." There must be knowledge as we each walk the path, so we can see each step as we take it. But ultimately there must be "ignorance" because, once the last step is taken, nothing can be said about it. Actually, we don't take the final step, it takes us. Who is left then to speak or to know? What is left to know anything about? It is the step that swallows the universe into Oneness and leaves us dumbfounded.

Attar's advice: Become both a dullard and a sage, and go mad with love!



Recommended Books: Farid ud-Din Attar

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems The Conference of the Birds
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The Dullard Sage