Distance From You is Death and Nearness to You is Life

The world confines us when You are absent from us,
And our souls abandon us because of desire.

Distance from You is death and nearness to You is life,
Were You absent for but the moment of a breath we would die.

Far from You we die and in nearness to You we live,
And if good tidings of reunion reach us from You we revive.

We remain alive in remembrance of You when we do not see You,
For only remembrance of the Beloved enlivens us.

Were it not for the quintessence of You that our hearts perceive,
In wakefulness or sleep, when we are absent,

We would surely die from grieving and yearning out of separation from You;
Yet, in reality, Your essence is within us.

Remembrance motivates us without need for word of You;
Were it not because of the desire for You within us our limbs would not move.

So say to one who would forbid ecstasy from those who experience it,
‘If you have not tasted the draught of Desire with us, be off!

‘When souls tremble, desirous of reunion,
‘Even phantoms dance, oh uncomprehending one!’

Do you not see how a cage bird, oh youth,
Breaks into song when it recalls its ancestral home?

With its chirping that which is in its heart bursts forth,
And its extremities are agitated with feeling and spirit.

It dances in the cage, desirous of reunion,
So that even sentient beings are moved when it sings.

Such are the souls of lovers, oh youth,
Desires propel them to the most sublime world.

Are we to force patience upon souls when they are enraptured?
Is one who has perceived the Quintessence able to be patient?

If you have not tasted the desire that true human beings have tasted,
Then by God, oh empty husk, do not defame us!

Concede to us what we advocate, for
When our desires overcome us we are likely to cry aloud.

Our hearts vibrate during sessions of invocation,
And when we cannot hide our ecstasies we lose control.

In the Divine Mystery are fine and subtle secrets
That perceptibly surrounds us. If only we could utter them!

Oh Distractors of Lovers, arise and openly proclaim!
Fill us to the brim and refresh us with the Name of the Beloved!

Because of our gratitude, preserve our secret from those who envy us,
And if Your eyes disapprove of something, then forgive us.

When we have become light-headed and carefree,
And the wine of Love intoxicates us, we are exposed.

Do not blame the drunkard for his state of drunkenness,
For in our drunkenness we have been absolved of responsibility.

Abu Madyan Shu’ayb ibn al-Husayn al-Ansari (1115-1198), Qasida in Nun, trans. By Vincent J. Cornell

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