II. The Birds Assemble

Welcome, O Hoopee!  You were a guide to King Solomon and the true messenger of the valley, who had the good fortune to go to the borders of the Kingdom of Sheba.  Your warbling speech with Solomon was delightful; being his companion you obtained a crown of glory.  You must put in fetters the demon, the tempter, and having done this will enter the palace of Solomon.

O Wagtail, you who remember Moses!  Lift up your head and make your shawm resound to celebrate the true knowledge of God.  Like Moses you have seen the fire from afar; you really are a little Moses on Mont Sinai.  My discourse is sans words, sans tongue, sans sound; understand it then sans mind, sans ear.

Welcome, O Parrot!  In your beautiful robe and collar of fire, this collar is fitting for a dweller in the underworld but your robe is worthy of Heaven.  Can Abraham save himself from the fire of Nimrod?  Break the head of Nimrod and become the friend of Abraham, who was the friend of God.  When you have been delivered from the hands of Nimrod put on your robe of glory and fear not the collar of fire.

Welcome, O Partridge!  You who walk so graciously, and are content when you fly over the mountains of divine knowledge.  Lift yourself up in joy and consider the benefits of the Way.  Knock with the hammer on the door of the house of God; and humbly melt down the mountains of your perverse desires so that the camel can come out.

Salutations, O Falcon Royal!  You of piercing sight, how long will you remain so violent and passionate?  Fasten you talons to the letter of eternal love but do not break the seal until eternity.  Mix your spirit with reason and see the eternity of before and after as one.  Break your vile carcass and establish yourself in the cavern of unity, and Muhammad will come to you.

Salutations, O Quail!  When you hear in your spirit the alast of love, your body of desire replies, bale, with displeasure.  Consume your body of desire as the ass of Christ, then, as the Messiah, inflame yourself with the love of the Creator.  Burn this ass and take the bird of love, so that the spirit of God may happily come to you.

Salutations, O Nightingale of the Garden of Love!  Utter your plaintive notes caused by the wounds and pains of love.  Lament sweetly from the heart, like David.  Open your melodious throat and sing of spiritual things.  By your songs show men the true Way.  Make iron of your heart as soft as wax, and you will be like David, fervent in the love of God.

Salutations, O Peacock of the Garden of the Eight Doors!  You have been afflicted because of the seven-headed serpent, through whom you were expelled from Eden.  If you deliver yourself from this detestable serpent Adam will take you with him into Paradise.

Salutations, O Excellent Pheasant!  You see that which is far off, and you perceive the heartís source immersed in the ocean of light while you remain in the pit of darkness and the prison of uncertainty.  Lift yourself from the pit and raise your head to the divine throne.

Salutations, O gently moaning Turtle-dove!  You went out contented and returned with a sad heart to a prison as narrow as Jonahís.  O you who wander here and there like a fish, can you languish in ill-will?  Cut off the head of this fish so that you may preen yourself on the summit of the moon.

Salutations, O Pigeon!  Intone your notes so that I may scatter round you seven plates of pearls.  Since the collar of faith encircles your neck it would not become you to be unfaithful.  When you enter into the way of understanding, Khizr will bring you the water of life.

Welcome, O Hawk!  You who have taken wing, and after rebelling against your master have bowed your head!  Bear yourself becomingly.  You are fastened to the body of this world, and so are far from the other.  When you are free of the worlds, present and future, you will rest on the hand of Alexander.

Welcome, O Goldfinch!  Come joyously.  Be eager to act, and come as the fire.  When you have burnt up your attachments the light of God will manifest itself more and more.  Since your heart knows the secrets of God, remain faithful.  When you have perfected yourself you will no longer exist.  But God will remain.

from The Conference of the Birds: A Sufi Fable by Farid ud-Din Attar translated by C.S. Nott