Virtue and Vice
|A Mullah (I tell you his tale not a bit|
With any ambition of airing my wit)
|By ascetic deportment had won high repute,|
In his praise neither gentle nor simple were mute.
|God’s will, he would say, just as meaning is latent|
In words, through pure doctrine alone becomes patent.
|His heart a full bowl: wine of piety worked there,|
Though some dregs of conceit of omniscience lurked there—
|He was wont to recount his own miracles, knowing|
How this kept his tally of followers growing.
|He had long been residing not far from my street,|
So sinner and saint were accustomed to meet:
|‘This Iqbal,’ he once asked an acquaintance of mine,|
‘Is dove of the tree in the literary line,
|but how do religion’s stern monishments seem|
To agree with this man who at verse beats Kalim?
|He thinks a Hindu not a heathen, I’m told,|
A most casuistical notion to hold,
|And some taints of the Shias’ heresy sully|
His mind—I have heard him extolling their Ali;
|He finds room in our worship for music—which must|
Be intended to level true faith with the dust!
|As with poets so often, no scruple of duty|
Deters him from meeting the vendors-of-beauty;
|In the morning, devotions—at evening, the fiddle—|
I have never been able to fathom this riddle.
|Yet dawn, my disciples assure me, is not|
More unsoiled than that youth is by blemish or spot;
|No Iqbal, but a heterogeneous creature,|
His mind crammed with learning, with impulse his nature,
|He understands both Virtue and Vice|
In divinity, doubtless, as deep as Mansur;
|What the fellow is really, I cannot make out—|
Is it founding some brand-new Islam he’s about?’
|—Thus the great man protracted his chatter,|
and in short made a very long tale of the matter.
|In our town, all the world hears of every transaction:|
I soon got reports from my own little faction,
|And when I fell in with His Worship one day|
In our talk the same topic came up by the way.
|‘If,’ said he, ‘I found fault, pure good-will was the cause,|
And my duty to point out religion’s strict laws.’
|—‘Not at all,’ I responded, ‘I make no complaint,|
As a neighbour of mine you need feel no constraint;
|In your presence I am, as my bent head declares,|
Metamorphosed at once from gay youth to grey hairs,
|And if my true nature eludes your analysis,|
Your claim to omniscience need fear no paralysis;
|For me also my nature remains still enravelled,|
The sea of my thoughts is too deep and untravelled:
|I too long to know the Iqbal of reality,|
And often shed tears at this wall of duality.
|To Iqbal of Iqbal little knowledge is given;|
I say this not jesting—not jesting, by Heaven!
Translated by: V.G. Kiernan