Nayyei Henz Kath: Song of the Reed

In the earlier write up I had given a brief introduction of the Legendary Kashmiri Story Teller, Hatim Tilwonye and his extraordinary talent described by Sir Aurel Stein and Sir Grierson. Today let us listen to one story narrated by him and translated by Sir Stein. Here we go;

1. Only to him is the burden of woe manifested who suffereth woe himself.
The reed-flute herself is telling the reed-flute’s woe.

2. Quoth the reed-flute, ” The Almighty is one and only one. God alone is of His own will devoid of wrath.”

3. Quoth the reed-flute, ” Pure is the Almighty ;(As He alone is free from imperfection) only towards Himself
can he yearn day and night.

4. ” Ever go ye giving forth praise to that God,
In that He created Muhammad, the Beloved Guest.

5. ” The Almighty gave him instruments to be with him.
Four friends are illustrious as his companions.

6. “By His glory He created Adam,
And with Adam was created this world.”

7. Quoth the reed-flute, ” Adam was sent forth into the world all alone,
And at his wish Eve issued from his side.”

8. Quoth the reed-flute, “How excellent was that moment, In which the world with all its offspring was created ! ”

9. Quoth the reed-flute, “Hear ye, I pray, the tale of my woe.
If ye suffer pain, remain, I pray, a moment by me.”

10. Quoth the reed-flute, “At the back of the forest was I hidden,
Beautiful with my branches and my leaves.”

11. Quoth the reed-flute, “Upright was my youthful form,
As (in the breeze) I waved the pendants of my golden ears.

12. “I went astray, and thus happened that change of my estate.
A woodcutter chanced upon me, a doom, a thief of my destiny.”

13. Quoth the reed-flute, “Terrible was the fault (i.e. calamity) that befel me.
At once on his seeing me, I became crushed to dust.”

14. Quoth the reed-flute, “Wrathfully he striketh me blows with his axe,
Bits of my flesh in splinters is he raising.

15. “I had been full of pride, I had looked upon myself as the limit (of beauty),
And how much humiliation doth he cast upon my fair young form!”

16. Far from the forest was she sundered, and of that sundering she tells.
Lamenting was she, as she made her last farewell.

17. “Down from the mountain forest he bringeth me, and wearieth me with the long, long road.
And when he is come down, he selleth me to a carpenter.”

18. Quoth the reed-flute, ” He turneth me round and round sideways and inspecteth me.
He standeth apart and giveth me terrible blows with an axe.”

19. Quoth the reed-flute, “When he melted my flesh with a saw,
When he set me on his lathe, ’twas as though a wood-worm had attacked me.”

20. When she was set on the lathe in that carpenter’s shop, the
memory of her friends and companions comes to her. She says some words to them. What is it she would say ?

Quoth the reed-flute, “Where stayed my friends and companions ?
Messages would I send them. Would that I knew if they stayed half way.

21. “I would tell my secret to my friends and neighbours,
I would open my bosom, and display my grief.”

22. Quoth the reed-flute, “What hath befallen me!
How much do I lament !
In my woe, I pour forth cries and calls for help.”

23. Quoth the reed-flute, ” In the assemblies cries would I give forth.
No man or woman ever liveth free from his fated sorrow.”

24. And my Master saith : —

What would she have said to her friends and companions ?
To them verily would she have said this :

“He planed me and he made me smooth, and with an auger bored he my body.
Prithee, behold me well. How much of my flesh is dropping from me!

25. “Shall I not weep ? Holes hath he made all o’er my body.
For a petty farthing how often hath he stretched his arms upon me.”

26. Moreover my Master saith : —
When she had been sold for petty farthings there came to her
the memory of the canebrake where she was born. She addresses
some words to it. What is it she would say?

Quoth the reed-flute, “Yearning have I for my canebrake,
For this purpose searched I earth and heaven.”

27. Quoth the reed-flute, “How fair is my canebrake !
Can one who knoweth it not, understand its meaning, if he hear thereof ? ”

28. Quoth the reed-flute, “How excellent is my canebrake !
Can an ignorant man understand its meaning, if he hear thereof.

29. Quoth the reed-flute, “He only will have knowledge of my canebrake
Who hath arrived at the true knowledge of God the Omnipresent.”

30. Quoth the reed-flute, “What hath been said in these verses ?
Only he will understand on whom hath fallen a particle of love.”

31. Quoth the reed-flute, “Many are they who drink sweet wine,
But only on Sodarbal doth Subhan sing the tale of the reed- flute.”

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Ali Malik

Author is an astute Kashmir observer with an interest in and stamina to correct the wrongs of the history.

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