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Norton, Charles Eliot [1869]

In his famous article in The North American Review, Vol. CIX, No. CCXXXV, Oct. 1869, Charles Eliot Norton included a prose translation of 39 quatrains from Nicolas.

Potter 357 - Norton Edition

In this world, which for an instant serves us as an asylum, we have
experienced naught but trouble and misfortune. Alas! no problem of
creation has been solved for us; and yet we quit this earth with
hearts full of regret.
Nicolas 4

Since no one can assure us of to-morrow, hasten to rejoice thy sad
heart. Drink, O beloved! drink from the ruby cup; for the moon shall
long turn around the earth without again finding us.
Nicolas 8

When I take in my hand a cup of wine, and in the joy of my heart am
drunken, then in the fire that consumes me - behold! - a hundred
miracles become real, and words clear as limpid water seem to explain
the mystery of the universe.
Nicolas 16

Unbelief is divided from faith but by a breath; doubt from certainty
but by a breath; life from death but by a breath. Pass gayly over the
dividing line.
Nicolas 20

My life runneth out in a brief space: it passeth as the wind of the
desert. Therefore, while a breath remaineth to me, there are two days
concerning which I will not disquiet myself, - the day that hath not
come, and the day that hath gone.
Nicolas 22

Who can believe that he who fashioned the cup meaneth to break it to
pieces? All these fair heads, these beautiful arms, these delicate
hands, - by what love are they made? by what hate are they destroyed?
Nicolas 38

O Khayyám! why grievest thou because of thy sin? What solace findest
thou in thus tormenting thyself? He who hath not sinned shall not
taste the sweet of forgiveness. It is for sin that forgiveness
exists. How then canst thou fear?
Nicolas 43

That day when the heavens shall melt, and the stars be darkened, I
will stop Thee on Thy way, and, seizing Thee by the hem of Thy
garment, will require of Thee to tell me, Why, having given me life,
Thou hast taken it from me.
Nicolas 50

I asked of the world, - the bride of man, what was her dowry; and
she answered me, My dowry is the joy of thy heart.
Nicolas 56

The heart on whom the light of love hath shone, whose name is written
in the book of love, that heart, whether it frequenteth mosque or
synagogue, is free from fear of hell, or hope of heaven.
Nicolas 60

If I drink wine it is not for mere delight of the taste, nor that I
should become disorderly and renounce religion and morality; no, it
is that I may for one moment exist outside of myself.
Nicolas 63

I know not whether He who hath created me belongeth to paradise or to
hell; but this I know, that a cup of wine, my beautiful love, and a
lute on the edge of a meadow, are three things which I enjoy to-day,
while thou livest on the promise of a paradise to come.
Nicolas 92

At this moment, when life is not yet gone out of my heart, it seemeth
to me there are few problems that I have not solved. But when I
appeal to my understanding, and turn inward on myself, I perceive
that my life hath flowed away, and as yet I have defined nothing.
Nicolas 113

O Thou! in whose eyes sin is of no account, order the wise to
proclaim this truth; for there is no folly equal to that of making
the divine foreknowledge the accomplice of iniquity.
Nicolas 116

My being was given me without my consent, so that my own existence is
a wonder to me. Yet I leave the world with regret, having
comprehended neither the object of my coming, of my stay, nor of my
Nicolas 117

They who by their learning are the cream of the world, who by their
unerstanding traverse the heights of heaven, even they, in their
search after knowledge of the divine, have their heads turned,
whirling in vertigo, like the firmament itself.
Nicolas 120

Give thyself to joy, for grief will be infinite. The stars shall
again meet together at the same point of the firmament; but out of
thy body shall bricks be made for a palace-wall.
Nicolas 138

The day when I shall be a stranger to myself, and when my name shall
be as a tale that is told, then make of my clay a wine-jar for use in
the tavern!
Nicolas 154

The secrets of existence no man hath penetrated; a step beyond him
self no man hath taken. From the scholar to the master I behold only
incompetence, - the incompetence of all of woman born.
Nicolas 175

Who hath found access behind the curtain of destiny? Who hath
knowledge of the secrets of Providence? Night and day, for threescore
years, have I meditated, yet have I learned nothing; the riddle
remaineth unsolved.
Nicolas 177

Drink wine! for wine putteth an end to the disquietudes of the heart,
and delivereth from meditations on the two-and-seventy sects. Abstain
not from this alchemy, for if thou drinkest but one jarful, a
thousand infirmities shall fall away from thee.
Nicolas 179

The devotee comprehendeth not as we the divine mercy. A stranger
knoweth thee not so well as a friend. If Thou sayest, "Behold, if
thou committest sin I will cast thee into hell," - go, say it unto
one who knoweth Thee not.
Nicolas 190

The rolling heavens do naught but multiply our woes. What they set
upon earth they quickly snatch away. Ah! if they who have not yet
come knew what suffering the world inflicts, they would take good
heed how they came.
Nicolas 195

O friend! why busy thyself concerning existence? Why trouble thy
heart and soul with idle thoughts? Live happy; pass joyful days; for
in truth thy advice was not asked concerning creation.
Nicolas 197

O Thou, in quest of whom the whole world hath gone astray and is in
distress, neither prayers nor riches avail to find thee out: Thou
takest part in every conversation, but all are deaf; Thou art before
the eyes of all, but all are blind.
Nicolas 204

Though I have not pierced the pearl of obedience that is due to Thee,
though never with my heart have I swept up the dust of Thy steps, yet
I despair not of reaching the sill of Thy throne of mercy, for never
have I importuned Thee with my complaints.
Nicolas 229

We are puppets with which the heavens amuse themselves; we are pieces
on the chess-board of being, whence we are laid aside, one by one,
into the coffin of nothingness.
Nicolas 231

I saw on the walls of the city of Thous a bird, with the skull of
Kay-Kavous before him. The bird said to the skull, Where now is the
noise of thy glory? where now is the sound of thy clarion?
Nicolas 237

If the rose be not ours, yet have we not its thorns? If the light
reach us not, have we not the fire? If Heaven refuse me peace, am I
not ready for war?
Nicolas 254

All things that the world contains are images and illusions, and he
hath little wisdom who includeth not himself among these images. Be
quiet, then, O friend! drink, and deliver thyself from vain fancies
and thoughts that cannot reach their goal.
Nicolas 256

If I am drunken with old wine, so be it. If I am infidel, or
idolater, so be it. Let each man think of me as he will, what matters
it? I belong to myself, and I am that which I am.
Nicolas 297

The circle of the universe is a ring of which you and I are the
graven gem
Nicolas 304

Lift Thou from my heart the weight of the vicissitudes of life. Hide
from men's eyes my faults. Give me happiness to-day, and to-morrow
deal with me according to Thy mercy.
Nicolas 321

I beheld a man withdrawn into a desert place. He was neither heretic
nor Mussulman; he possessed neither riches, nor religion, nor God,
nor truth, nor law, nor certitude. Who is there in this world or in
the other who hath such courage?
Nicolas 336

The wheel of Heaven runs to thy death and mine, O beloved! it
conspires against thy soul and mine. Come, come, sit beside me on the
grass, for little time remaineth before the grass shall spring from
my dust and thine.
Nicolas 348

Tell me what man is there who hath not fallen into sin! Can man exist
and not sin? If because I do ill Thou punishest me with ill, say,
what difference is there between Thee and me?
Nicolas 356

Thou hast set a hundred snares round about us. Thou sayest, "If ye
fall into them ye shall surely die! It is Thou that spreadest the
net, and if a man be taken in it Thou condemnest him, Thou deliverest
him to death, Thou callest him rebel!"
Nicolas 390

A sheikh said to a harlot: "Thou art drunken; thou art taken in the
net of whoso will." And she answered: "O Sheikh! I am that which thou
sayest; but thou, art thou what thou professest to be?"
Nicolas 441

At times Thou art hidden, disclosing Thyself unto no one; then again
Thou revealest Thyself in all the images of the universe. Verily, it
is for Thy self and for Thine own pleasure that Thou workest these
marvels, for lo! Thou art both the show and the spectator.
Nicolas 443