It was in China, late, one moonless night

«It was in China, late, one moonless night,
The Simorgh* first appeared to human sight –
He let a feather float down through the air,
And rumours of its fame spread everywhere;

Throughout the world men separately conceived
An image of its shape, and all believed
Their private fantasies uniquely true!
(In China still this feather is on view,
Whence comes the saying you have heard, no doubt,
“Seek Knowledge, unto China seek it out.”)
If this same feather had not floated down,
The world would not be filled with His renown –
It is a sign of Him, and in each heart
There lies this feather’s hidden counterpart.
But since no words suffice, what use are mine
To represent or to describe this sign?
Whoever wishes to explore the Way,

Let him set out – what more is there to say? (…)

A girl fell in a river – in a flash
Her lover dived in with a mighty splash,
And fought the current till he reached her side.
When they were safe again, the poor girl cried:
“By chance I tumbled in, but why should you
Come after me and hazard your life too?”
He said: “I dived because the difference
Of ‘I’ and ‘you’ to lovers makes no sense –
A long time passed when we were separate,
But now that we have reached this single state
When you are me and I am wholly you,
What use is it to talk of us as two?”
All talk of two implies plurality –
When two has gone there will be Unity.»

(*) “Si” means ‘thirty’, “morgh” means ‘bird’.

– Farid ud-Din Attar, “The Conference of the Birds” [“Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr”], translation by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis.

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