The Hawk

by Farid ud-Din Attar

English version by Raficq Abdulla
Original Language Persian/Farsi

He was a soldier with a soldier's pride,
This hawk, whose home was by a king's side.
He was haughty as his master, all other birds
Thought him a disaster, his beak was feared
As much as his talons. With hooded eyes
(His place on the royal roster was his prize)
He stands sentinel on the king's arm, polite
And trained meticulously to do what is right
And proper with courtly grace. He has no need
To see the Simurgh even in a dream, his deeds
Are sufficient for him, and no journey could replace
The royal command, royal morsel food no disgrace
To his way of thinking, he easily satisfies the king.
He flies with cutting grace on sinister wing
Through valleys and upward into the sky,
He has no other wish but so to live and then to die.
The hoopoe says: 'You have no sense with your soldier's pride.
Do you think that supping with kings, doing their will
Is enough to keep you in favour, always at their side?
An earthly king may be just but you must beware still
For a king's justice is whim pretending to be good.
Once there was a king who prized his slave for his beauty.
His body's silver sheen fascinated the prince who would
Dress him in fine clothes so his looks alone were his duty.
The king amused himself by placing on his favourite's head
An apple for a bullseye, the poor silver slave would grow
Yellow with fear because he knew too well blood is red.
His silver hue would be tarnished if the king's bow
Was not true; an injured slave would his silver lose
To be discarded because the king would not be amused.'

-- from The Conference of the Birds: The Selected Sufi Poetry of Farid ud-Din Attar, Translated by Raficq Abdulla

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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 Hawk