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COLLECTIONSBooks, Poetry
TITLEAnother Song, Another Season: Poems and Portrayals
AUTHOR 1Roger White
DATE_THIS1979
PUB_THISGeorge Ronald
CITY_THISOxford
ABSTRACTA collection of poems and prose: sympathetic and sometimes satirical portraits of martyrs, pioneers, and ordinary people, expressed with a poet’s vision.
NOTES Posted with permission of current copyright holder. Abstract taken from bahaipedia.org.

Two excerpts from this book are available separately: Verdict of a Higher Court [Word format] has been formatted as a monologue; Glimpses of 'Abdu'l-Bahá is posted separate.

TAGSPoetry; Roger White
 
CONTENT

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FOREWORD

Another Song, Another Season is the first selection of Roger White's
poetry to be published in book form, although single poems have
appeared before. The selection has been made with a view to
maintaining homogeneity, a difficult task when confronted with the
prolific and wide-ranging promptings of his muse.
  The frequently observed dichotomy in individuals between outward
circumstance and inner spiritual truth is a valid poetical subject;
these poems, notably the 'Portrayals', go beyond exemplifying the
fact and disclose the reality of unity in diversity. The unifying
spirit is the response of widely varied individuals to the Revelation
of Bahá'u'lláh. The portraits are of real people, heroes and martyrs
and servants of the Bahá'í Faith, many of them our contemporaries,
which increases our interest a thousandfold. Keith, 'a looker', but
'brainy' too; Martha, dowdy and unimpressive outwardly, but able to
set aflame the hearts of men with that divine love which consumed
her; Fred Mortensen, the dropout boy who hoboed his way to see the
Master and achieved eternal fame. The theme fascinates our poet.
He has the remarkable gift of knowing how to present high
themes--nobility, dedication, the beauty of sacrifice, the eternal
battle of the soul--in modes of common speech and everyday concepts,
an ability rooted in his revulsion to the meretricious, the
sanctimonious and the pi. His poetry is spiritual and religious but
neither didactic nor obscure.
The inclusion of a few poems in lighter vein is felicitous, for it
leads us to hope that in further volumes his predilection for shying
tomatoes at top hats will be indulged--to our delight and his.


Haifa                           David Hofman 1978
PART ONE  PORTRAYALS


O ye apostles of Baha'u'lIah! . . . Behold the portals which
Bahá'u'lláh hath opened before you! Consider how exalted and
lofty is the station you are destined to attain; how unique
the favours with which you have been endowed.... I fervently
hope that in the near future the whole earth may be stirred
and shaken by the results of your achievements.... Be not con-
cerned with the smallness of your numbers neither he oppressed
by the multitude of an unbelieving world ... Exert yourselves;
your mission is unspeakably glorious.
'Abdu'l-Bahá
                     MARTHA ROOT

                     1872--1939

A dowdy girl, was Martha, and a real gadabout . . .
              (remark by a contemporary)


Have patience, Martha, we shall forget the hastily-hemmed
hand-me-downs the laddered hose the horrent hair shall
understand you yet, cease to care whether virtue be
photogenic, dare see in your eye's lens the apocalyptic
images ineffaceably etched there-- the poisoned air the
towers afire the maimed trees the human pyre--these which
sent you hurtling in exquisite arc across the blackening sky,
your life a solitary warning cry against engulfing dark and
ultimate night. Your eyes were dippers used against the fire,
purchased brief respite
that on the ramparts might arise                -
the legioned guardians of light.

Be patient: we may yet ourselves become God's gadabouts,
meteoric, expire Martha-like, in conflagrant holy urgency.
A LETTER TO KEITH

Now Keith, she was a looker ...
             (remark by a contemporary)


Why did you do it, Keith, And you a looker? Not your
usual religious dame in need of a good dentist and a
fitted bra. Not one of those skinny ones who make it
their painful duty to love mankind and purse their lips
a lot to let you know it isn't easy. Not one of those.
Sharp dresser, too. And brainy. Not every man's kind of
woman but a looker. And a real good talker, too. It
makes no sense, Keith. You could have put your passion
to another use.


We grow them odd here in Michigan, but you were an odd
one even for us-- why, just your name, for starters. And
all your mooning about the library, reading too much,
making notes in little books. And your preaching. I
suppose your life was full enough but your interest in
God--was that normal? We always said you could pray the
paint off a barn door at twenty paces, but we meant no
harm. It was as though you were always looking for
something you hadn't found.

And gallivanting around the world like you did, visiting
the Maoris and savages like that, which we had only ever
seen in National Geographic. In those days we thought we
were doing pretty good if we made a trip to Chicago.
Nobody faulted you for going to the Holy Land, you
always were the studious kind and they've got a helluva
lot of religion there.

We heard you were sent on a special mission to fight for
a good cause. Well, you'd be just the girl for that; but
why Persia, Keith? Life still isn't worth a nickel there
and what do they know about plumbing? With a tongue like
yours, I'll bet you told those folks a thing or two. And
when word got back that you had died there's some as
said you'd found what you wanted at last. I'm one who
thinks you did, Keith, who thinks you did.


All these years later standing at the marker they put up
for you here at home and reading those words and
listening to what these decent people are saying about
you being a glorious martyr and all-- I'm bawling, me a
grown man, three sons and wife in the grave and not what
you'd call sentimental.

Why did you do it, Keith, and you a looker?
LOUIS G. GREGORY

    1874-1951

He is like pure gold; that is why he is acceptable in any
market, and is current in every country.

'Abdu'l-Bahá


Across the angry decades that separate
us from him may there still be found
true and stainless words unwarped by
the suppositions and suspicions of
these hurtful times to honour this
gentleman of colour?

We need the lesson of this lite; need
know that the alchemy of service and
obedience mints coin of purest gold.
In his modesty he almost eludes us but
we will know him yet.


Travel, the Master said, I want
them to see you; you are very
dear to me.


And dear to us, Louis, who see
you now and love, as He, O Louis,
love, even as the beauty of your
dusk, your gleam.

VISIT TO A VETERAN

I often thought that Horace Holley might have been a bit of a
rake when he was young, but he straightened up real good.

                    (remark by a contemporary)


Wilmette, 1953

You had a mandarin's tranquillity, A Jesuitical poise, but I
was keen to see If the legends of you held validity. You knew,
of course, but smiled and offered tea.


'The ego our sole, our deadliest foe . . .' I nibbled cake and
mused it might be so. 'This battle is the bravest act I know .
. .' I feigned agreement and arose to go.


Homage to homily! Cliche well spun! A wasted meeting--and this
our only one-- The gift then not seen (my struggle scarce
begun) Your face: archive of victory sorely won.


'ABDU'L-GHAFFAR OF ISFAHAN


What fish is this that struggles to the shore,
For whom this absence is a fiery death, And,
plunging, finds but anguish all the more, Each
scorching wave a torment to his breath?

What lure aland inspires this frantic flight? Toward whose
strong skein turns he his questing eye? The poet told this
knowing fish's plight: Here sea; here hapless, burning
lover, dry.

MASTER CRIMINAL

From every land Thou hearest the lamentations of
them that love Thee, and from every direction Thou
hearkenest unto the cries' of such as have
recognized Thy sovereignty . . Thou knowest full
well, O my God, that their only crime is to have
loved Thee.


Tell, Duarte Vieira, kindly tell, What crime won
you a prison cell?


Your testament, a biscuit tin-- What, Duarte
Vieira, was your sin?

What was the error of your ways That heaven's
Concourse sings your praise?


What offence did you commit? Tell, that we may
follow it.


Reveal your secret so that we May, too, gain
immortality.


Our skulking fears by you allayed, We seek a
crime so richly paid.


All Africa now vastly blessed: Baha's felon laid
to rest.


Tell, Duarte Vieira, kindly tell, What crime won
you a prison cell?

 MARION JACK

 1866--1954

Let them remember Marion Jack . . .
                    Shoghi Effendi


We are not menaced by this one in our
silent, steely rise to power. The
unseen worm sleeps blissfully in the
silver apple.

This is not a master. The world
justifiably ignores the conventional
inept daubs and we affirm that
charitable neglect. Our hand will not
tremble as we reach for our brush; no
standard born of her rebukes our
palette.

Not even as a woman does she
intimidate. The body is a
commonplace, the domestic bulk
foreshadowing varicose veins. We see
her as a cardiac. The face, an
artifact, looks homemade. If our
glance lingers it is to find
confirmation that fat people are
jovial. Observe the open grin that
cannot imagine refection or
destruction.
Let us pass her by, one of those useless
people drowsing on park benches who would
embarrass our friends. We need not dignify
her paintings by affording them critiques;
history in its mercy will dispose of them.
We deal in success, we understand these
things.


But what is this achievement looming
indestructibly from the acme of another
arc? Mourn loss immortal heroine . . .
greatly loved and deeply admired by Abdul-
Baha shining example pioneers present
future generations East West . . . The
worm stirs. Precipitately the apple
tumbles forward. Holding it in the mind's
blue light the teeth engage-- but this
shall taste of ashes. Envie not greatnesse
. . . Be not thine own worm How chill the
murk behind our opaque, earthbound eyes.
Regard the larger canvas: a masterwork.

Marion! Guide us as we seize the brush!
Teach us the colours of immortality!

                       E A G L E
                     Lua Getsinger
                      1871--1916

Mother-teacher of the American Bahá'í Community . . .
                         Shoghi Effendi


Studio of Juliet Thompson
New York
13 June 1912


Here at the giddy summit of our acute and secret need,
above desire's burning desert and ambition's
treacherous bog, in this perch gained painfully by the
heart's frail ladder and reason's faulty bridge-- all
means by which ~e sought approach-- we nestle in the
dappling light in His love's green and leafy warmth.


We who think we know Him, who found in Him more than
we could have known to want of the Good of goodness,
who see Him as Father, our Christ-need dream fleshed
out and fruit of every creche made real, Son of the
Eternal Sun, Perfection wrought ideal, whitest white
of White, the rosest Rose,
prismatic fire of diamond, honey's
amber inmost essence and flower's
unseen core-- now are given more.


Despite our pain and vertigo the
goal not gained ! Our understanding
sags and sighs beneath the blue and
reeling loft we must claim else die
on this flint and lonely precipice.


If eagle will know sky it must
trenchantly seize air in plumate
frenzy, pummel, conquer, rise,
soL~r -
he eagle.


In the throbbing hiatus
as we mutely cower He
reads one heart:

I am the Centre of God's Covenant He
said.


You must understand this. I am the
Centre of the Covenant in your midst.


Lua I appoint you the Herald of the
Covenant.


In tears the fledgeling lunges toward a
chaste and unknown splendour: 'O Master_
re-create me for this task!'

We see her earthfree in avian ascent sweep toward
heaven's arch; her receding joyous cries flake down
faint as echo's echo.


We would have this azure authority, ask strengthening,
wing and tendon, for this flight.


THE PURCHASE
 Haji Ja'far-i-Tabrizi


Afflictive woe unbearable; they grieve. One uncalm
mourner cannot reconcile to this And through unreasoned
act buys their reprieve, Below his drooped mouth carves
a scarlet grin of bliss. Egregious deed attended by
reward, He lives and, exiled, gains reunion with his
Lord.


If madness purchase immortality
Grant compounded madness, love's full insanity
  HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY
CONDUCT THE ROBBERY OF
   A LITTLE OLD LADY

To ard the end of herlife, u*ileservingasaBaha'~'pioneer in
~he Canary Islands, Prudence Ceorge (189~1974) of the British
Baha'l' community had her handbag snatched b~ a young thief.
Upon her calling aloud the Greatest Name the boy dropped the
purse and ~!ed in confusion. Prudence uas left calling him
back in order to listen to the Message of Bahá'u'lláh.


I am the first to admit that William Carlos Williams is the
ultimate authority on how to conduct a funeral but I'm glad
you came to me about this matter.


Mine was the perfect crime, you see, I retired wealthy at an
early age and my victim and I have become the best of
friends. We sometimes sit around of an evening and reminisce
about the robbery. What could be nicer, more civilized? I'm
able to say with some little pride that I'm something of an
expert in my field. Williams couldn't help you here; you did
well to come to me.


I'm afraid you handled your little affair rather poorly, my
dear chap. Admittedly you chose your victim well. She was an
obvious mark, of course, conspicuously a foreigner moving
through the town with the curious innocence and vulnerability
of the stranger. Her age was in your favour-- older ladies
can rarely run very fast.

You never know about their lung power, of course. Some seem
to have waited all their lives for a chance to indulge in
some justified high-decibel screaming-- but that's a chance
you take.

Yes, she seemed a good choice, as victims go, but you bungled
it, young fellow. There was little excuse for it-- you slim
as a jack-knife, capable of moving fleetly and with stealth--
not that these were necessary qualifications for the job.

No, it was your mistaken judgement. That's how you muffed it,
my boy, in going after the handbag. No value there. If you'd
given her half a chance she'd have offered you a pearl beyond
price. If you'd handled it correctly it would have been a
piece of cake as we used to say in the trade.

Now next time, my lad, here's what you do. Forget about
handbags--they're usually filled with bus tokens, hairpins,
photographs of grandchildren, throat lozenges, theatre
programmes, shopping lists, shredding facial tissues, grubby
pencil stubs and astonishing quantities of lint-- rarely the
sleek travellers' cheques you imagine sprout there.

So forget the purse. Instead, approach the victim eagerly
wearing a friendly smile.
Extend your hand in a warm greeting and say:
Madam, have you anything to tell me? And the
pearl is yours! There, you see, as easy as taking
candy from a baby. Duck soup, as it were.


For heaven's sake, lad, take a little pride in
your work.

Go now, I think you are ready.


              T H E D A N C E R

     Catherine Rudyerd (Heward) Huxtable

 Knight of Bahá'u'lláh (Gulf Islands, Canada
                   1932 1967


This Irailest seated girl who'd choose to dance,
Yet cheats ungracious nature's cumbering trial,
Gallops her mount without a backward glance,
Knows well she will be with us but a while And
undeterred by body's withering blight Achieves
the valorous victory of a Knight.


Wariest bird, the shadow ever near, Outpours her
song--we would not have it end-- Lavishes joy,
nor deigns to squander tears, So imminent reunion
with the Friend. Departing then, example left as
trust, To Africa consigns her fragrant dust.

She dances now, enthroned in love's fair keep. We
see her vacant chair and do not weep.

       FUJITA WITH PILGRIMS

Dearly loved tireless steadfast Saichiro Fujita . . .His rank in van-
guard, first Japanese believers his labours World Centre his dedication
humility sincerity love will forever be remembered . . .

                     The Universal House of lustice
                     (Cablegram of 7 May 1976)


What was 'Abdu'l-Bahá really like? The Master was always very kind to
me. But what did you hear Him say? Everything He wanted to teach us is
in His Writings and His example. To think you had the bounty of serving
Him ! I never felt that I could do very much for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. One thing
I did was perhaps acceptable-- sometimes I made Him laugh. And what did
He say to you? He told me to be a good boy.


There is a rightness in our meeting here. He is proprietorial in the
garden, the dwarfing verdure seems to nuzzle him. Acquitted of
triviality by a pain and loneliness that might instruct us, rescued a
halo's-breadth from isolating sainthood by an exonerating intolerance
and his need for us but still a holy man he accepts our homage not in
full innocence yet more in his Master's right than his own, mikado of
mirth, the Servant's servant.
Impaled upon our need for validation, (Approve us, you by Him
approved!) above our pity or patronage, with a rare awareness of
his assured immortality, he offers for our Polaroid delight a
harlequinade, inattentive to the dignity he has unassailably
achieved. Against our expectation of dogmatic declamation or
prescription for joy his pantomimed haiku attests: There is no
mystery here; only fidelity and service. The children accept the
sage as secre~less, admit him to their world, converse in a
language we have lost. We chafe at the edge of their enchantment.
We are aspiring esoterics, giddy with statistics and formulae,
swooningly obsessed with apocrypha and eschatology; our questions
swarm through the mute garden like raucous insects. Sedated by
sunlight the geranium gape in crimson consternation. His certitude
is chivalrous, does not accuse; it is older than the garden.


Our anguish cannot hold him. Eluding our slender claim he
turns from our doubt to the flowers and silent concerns,
ambling away with a wink and a wave betokening our
affirmation. He courts annihilation; a fairer garden
calls. Beyond our view his comic stance is shed; he is
listener, suppliant, awaiter. His yearning towers with
the patience and solemnity of trees.

We had not thought the journey such a lonely one. In the backwash
of his inviolate renunciation we stand, waist-deep in the dumb
geranium disconsolately tracing our distance from the goal,
churning the weightless air with our questions and our words, our
endless words.


Someone asks: Did you take his picture?


Haifa
April 1975


A CUP OF TEA

Persian Muslims will tell you often that the Babis bewitch or
drug their guests so that these impelled by a fascination
which they cannot resist, become similarly affected with uhat
the aforesaid Muslims regard as a strange and
incomprehensible madness.


Neu York, 1912:

No more tea, Emma dear, you have been more than kind and the cake
was most delicious. The strawberries are extraordinary this year,
are they not . . . sweet and plump; like small red hearts.
But returning to your question, yes, I have been seeing dear Miss
Thompson and her friends; Juliet is a charming and talented girl and
her friends are kindly.Many of them are well placed--somehow one
doesn't quite dare hope for that among the religious, if I may say
so. I try to warn Miss Thompson to hold little hope for me--as you
know, I'm essentially pragmatic--but she does insist so sweetly that
sometimes I attend. She is always gracious at the meetings though
I understand little of what she says--since her visit to Palestine
she has seemed--how shall I say--not quite of this world; she lives
in a state of ecstasy. She talks of nothing but the one she calls
the Master---an occult-sounding term; I quite dislike it--but I
confess he does intrigue me; I mean, a prisoner for forty years and
now at an advanced age coming to America teaching a message of
brotherly love and peace--it's like a fable. The newspapers are full
of it, of course.

Miss Thompson has been beside herself since learning he would come
and I naughtily allowed her to persuade me to meet him, not giving
her false hope by permitting her to see how avidly curious I was.
You can picture it--my pretending indifference yet half fearing she
would cease insisting. and then my casting about for some means to
accomplish this without upsetting my husband. Wingate is an avowed
agnostic, as he eagerly informs anyone who will listen, and no doubt
would disown me. His conception of my social role outside the home,
I'm afraid, extends no further than my service on the Opera League
and my charities; and he has always been embarrassed by what he
calls my brother's Episcopalian delusions. Charles studied for the
ministry, you know, until he contracted tuberculosis. After he
regained his health Wingate rescued him and gave him a place in the
business.

But where was l? Oh yes, the Master--how queer that that name should
come so readily to my lips; 'Abdu'l-Bahá or ~Ahhas Fffendi would be
proper forms of address, I suppose. Despite my subterfuge, arranging
an appointment was not so eas11y accomplished; there were many
meetings but all were crowded--devotees pouring in from as far away
as California, I hear. But at last we succeeded in finding a
mutually agreeable time and I was Miss Thompson's guest at a
gathering at someone's home--a rather good address--though what
Juliet told the hostess I cannot think, and indeed I never met her,
so great the crush. A strange assortment--some orientals-- Persians,
I suppose--a coloured gentleman--Wingate would use another term bul,
you see, one can in the South without offence--two Chinese, and some
of what one might describe as the labouring class; a struggling
artist or two, and one who might have been a poet, from Miss
Thompson's seemingly endless circle of co-enthusiasts. Others, too,
of course, who appeared both charming and distinguished. but on the
whole one was struck both by the ordinariness of the people in the
group and fascinated by the idea of their being linked together
through curiosity or devotion. And the Master was present --'Abdu'l-
Baha--and he appeared--how shall I say--oh, noble, majestic, serene-
-it was rather as though a great light had entered the room---do you
find me sentimental? One felt an overpowering need to win his
approval--like a child with an adored teacher. And he spoke. Not at
length, but with extreme simplicity and power. His voice is gentle,
hypnotic, one might say irresistible. I scarcely remember the
words--it was rather his presence which compelled--but something of
his father's sufferings and his message, and a few words about his
own imprisonment--the words seemed the least part of it. One could
not resist feeling a sympathy, of course, but for me what he said
was not the central point. How can I say this and be sure I am
understood--as he spoke I asked myself: why is he here; what does
he want of us; he is not young--what can possibly come of this
journey in the West?


And it came to me that his being here represents an unvoiced
invitation--perhaps I should say command, for it is his presence which
expresses it rather than what he says--a command, then, that we make
an adjustment in our lives--am I making sense? I almost exclaimed
aloud: 'He wants us to be like him!' Not in an imitative way--not
that--but to step into his world, and to somehow transform this one.
And I wondered if the others knew this too--perhaps this is what Miss
Thompson has been telling me all along and I simply have not
understood. But it bore in on me there in his presence--profoundly
bore in--that he asks us to make an adjustment of the soul, if I may
use that term--to become spiritually renewed.


This all happened in a flash, as these things do, Emma, and there was
more. In that moment I knew I might--if I were free--what shall I
say--follow him, in the sense Miss Thompson uses that term. Oh, not
on my knees in the dust as she doubtless would--though perhaps that
too--but, in my own way, follow him; that I might become one of those
women who weep at his mention; that he might represent a standard to
which one could devote one's life--forgive me if I ramble, but I
scarcely know words to describe this and if I embarrass you I'll stop.
It's just that there is no one to whom I have been able to tell it
all. I'm inhibited in speaking to Miss Thompson--she's so hopeful of
my being won over and in fairness I must not encourage her. There I
was--in my mind--throwing myself at his feet, sobbing, and covering
them with kisses. It was most unsettling.


But in the same moment of realizing this truth about myself I felt a
sense of deep loss--a heart-piercing loss. I heard myself saying--not
aloud, of course, though I scarcely knew at that time what I might
have done--heard myself saying 'It's too late for me!' And tears stung
my eyes at that instant. Pictures of Wingate and the children flashed
into mind, and a picture of our house and myself presiding at one of
Wingate's functions. And I looked about the room and thought, how can
I open my home to all these people? How can I present them to
Wingate's mother? In following the Master, you see, you open your door
upon the world. My choices have been made, I realized. And in my
feeling of loss I saw the faces around me suddenly as alien,
hateful--in that moment I felt a loathing even for Miss Thompson who
has been the essence of kindness. The people appeared--how shall I put
it--smug and conspiratorial, a closed circle. I felt excluded and I
detested them. I saw them as Wingate might see them, as pitiable
objects of derision--as calf-eyed and fawning, mooning about like
biblical figures at the feet of Christ in a shabby tableau. They
seemed naive, even incredibly stupid. Of what use are any of these to
him, I thought? He is of a different world ! What can possibly come
of this journey he is making, these talks, this pathetic handful? How
can any of this matter?

All of this in a split second, as I said. And then I closed my eyes
against my tears. It is perhaps as well I had not met the hostess
because then, unforgivably--I blush to say it--I fainted. The room was
stifling and I had unwisely worn a velvet frock. I have never in my
life engaged in that deplorable female diversion--Wingate's mother
faints at every conceivable opportunity--I despise the practice,
always having supposed it to be an artifice. But there it was--picture
it, if you can, Emma. I must have blacked out for only a
moment--someone was fussing about and making well-meaning but clumsy
efforts to loosen my collar, and my eyes opened to see the Master
rising and coming towards me bearing the cup of tea someone had just
placed in his hand. He came to me urgently--and, yes, tenderly--and
handed me his cup. 'Drink! Drink!' he said, and his voice and eyes
were almost stern. Wherever he is the Master is the centre of
attention so of course all eyes were upon me as I took a timid sip.
No offence to you, dear, but never have I tasted such tea as from his
hand. And then he smiled dazzlingly and leaning down to me whisDered
in English--his
tone was so pitched that no one heard 'It is acceptable.' His eyes
appeared to lend a significance beyond what the words conveyed. And then
he turned and the others engaged him. I was happy no longer to be the
focal point of the room. Soon it was over and we all left. I have not
seen Miss Thompson since, nor answered her calls. And I will not discuss
this with her-- isn't it strange, but I feel this is private, in some
acutely intense way it is mine. Obviously I must extricate myself from
her group--gently, of course, for I have no wish to hurt her. However
laudable or desirable the objectives of her circle, it is too late for
me; perhaps it is even too late for all of us. How my husband and my
parents would scorn all my gushing--all the emotional tumult that
meeting hasunleashed--though perhaps I do not really know them at all,
and Wingate least of all. Do you ever feel that those you love are
strangers? I cannot imagine how I appear to my own husband and children
or explain the sense of remoteness from them I sometimes experience. It
is odd to feel divorced from one's own life's centre.


But, anyway, too late, you see, too late. As Wingate says, this is the
age of reason and enlightenment, the century of prosperity and progress
and peace, and the world struggles along well enough without its seers
and sages. He may well be right--he makes a study of these things. But,
Emma, the Master! If only you could see him!

Extraordinary, wasn't it, his saying what he did? I wonder whether I
shall ever understand it.

                    MARK TOBEY: A LETTER AND
                          TWO SNAPSHOTS


t is one thing to paint a picture and another to experience it.
                              Mark Tobey


24 April 1976
Haifa


I came along too la.e to know you well, Mark-- geography and our
ages against it, an ocean between-- so, learning of your death,
I sift for photographs and memory serves up only two. Others
must have many; I am content with mine. Both speak to me of
courage: you will not find that strange.


The Temple in Wilmette is background to the first. It was 1953,
in spring. I came, new to conferences and the House of Worship,
excited, claiming it all, drunk with seizure. You were on the
stairs looking curiously lonely in the bubbling crowd. I saw the
wistfulness. Someone whispered your name and I broke away,
rushing at you in adolescent ebullience, bristling to possess my
first celebrity. You were a Bahá'í--public--minc like the Temple
and the nine-pointed star. I saw your momentary wince, the flash
of what I knew to be a customary irritability, saw you as
victim, as target, as too often possessed and made, trivially,
an unwilling familiar. Meetings and martyrs are of many kinds.
In that moment I could have wept for your vulnerability.
What name do we give the process that translates private pain
into human service? We clutch the ready cliche 'he did the
Bahá'í thing' and hope we're understood. I do not know what need
you read in me but instantly you took that step. Ieaned towards
my abashment. I cannot measure your cost, saw only the warm
smile, the reaching out, the bestowal of the gift. You would
have me be your fellow-conspirator, pretended rescuer, playmate
for Peck s bad boy. 'Let's escape and have some tea', you said,
and led me away, appointing me your shield, feigning to be led.
The crowd would have held you but for the perfection of your
pantomime: two established friends hastening through the jostle
to the deserved privacy of a longstanding, self-promised tryst,
the venerable one acknowledging greetings on the fly, the
younger appearing the more eager to be off. Do not suggest it
was mere expediency-- we know when we are used.


The stratagem succeeded. Companionably seated in the cafe', in
snug anonymity, I was dizzy with expectation: what would be
revealed? Soon I knew. You spoke of the weather in Seattle, the
food in Switzerland, of arthritis, of growing old. And not a
word about painting or the Faith. I was not long puzzled. In
that pedestrian flow I was given access: Mark Tobey was
revealed. You are a painter--you paint: there, on canvas, your
words. You are a Bahá'í: befriending the young stranger,
offering tea, presenting the Faith in transaction. Even then I
was grateful to be spared discipleship and a gratuitous verbal
tour of those landmarks that trace the outermost fringes of the
stronghold of belief, or a recital of those polite bywords we
erect as barriers at the remotest courtyard of identity to
discourage rather than invite entry or homecoming.


We separated smoothly; 1, your debtor, not made to feel one. It
was as though we had spoken many times and grown secure in our
partings.


More than twenty years have passed; the picture does not fade. I
have my own Mark Tobey, unretouched, and often I consull it when
courage is the prize. I would not trade it and no, Mark, it is
not for sale.


London, 1963: spring again, the Jubilee, another picture, an
even larger crowd. I did not look for you among the thousands
but found myself seated again at tea with you in a random
gathering, you winking p1ayful recognition of a long-ago ruse.
When, by chance, we were alone you spoke of the weather in
London, the food in France, of arthritis of growing old, of
loneliness. Again I was not puzzled: By then had seen your
paintings, had trembled, had heard and seen you in the white
writing, knew your themes, your swoon.
'Martyrs are not popular subjects', you once remarked. I did
not ask why you painted martyrs, Mark, though I marveled at
your valour. Martyrs bear witness to belief; they are the
supreme lovers; they die for love. Who would paint martyrs
in an age that debases the word to a tag of parlour-game
psychology? Who would dare paint love in a world that has
forgotten it? Who. indeed, would frame and hang his soul?


 AND ALL THE ANGELS LAUGHING
        Bernard Le~ch
         In Memori~m


7 Mcll 1979

Bernard beckoning shyly at the door. Mark beaming now and
Reg agog with glee, and all the angels laughing welcomingly.
Does Juliet excitedly scatter the rrisky cherubs, pour
equivalent Or tea, maternally attentive to the chatter Or
thc reunite(i ~hr ~

boyish, how incorrigibly boyish! even in their
immortality, speaking delightedly of palette,
glaze and brush, chuckling companionably, till
Juliet cries 'Hush! One at a time!' and Mark,
the wag, exclaims the tea's di~ ine, dear
Bernard, but Juliet's a nag!' and the air is
warm with laughter.

Does this amaze? Would we ask more of
celestial matter, or know that heaven peopled
by such folks can well accommodate their
jokes? Can love's Kingdom be less domestic
than the glimpses we are given? Need we strain
toward etheriality? Perhaps. Still,
domesticity even there must have its lot.
God's economy would will that it's the known
good we regain at first, and His surprises
after. which earth's grief but restrain. Leave
them to their laughter and discussion of the
circle and the dot. See! Bernard tells an
anecdote, describes a favourite pot. It is we
who speak Or pain.
TH E A PPO INTM ENT

In 19~7 Corinne True carried to ~kka a parchment scroll
containing the names of more than a thousand American
Baha is who asked permission to erect a House of Worship.
Hiding it behind her on the divan she first presented the
gifts sent by the friends. But the Master strode across
reached behind her and grasped the parchment and held it
aloft: This is what gives megreat joy. Go back and
workfor the Temple it is a great work. Deuote yoursey to
this project. Make a beginning and all will come right.

             Pilgrim notes of Corinne True


Wilmette Illinois: I May 1912


There is another kind of clock
its cogwheels fixed in the
unknowable convolutions of
God's mind, perhaps our
galaxies its smallest jewels, a
clock that marks some celestial
piecing of eternity, one that
runs silently, invisibly,
forever, fluidly forward or
back, cancelling our time, its
tick perpetual, attuned to the
omniscient and eternal heart.
It is respectful of the
boundaries we erect

against the terror and the mystery;
humours our pasteboard timepieces; is
charitable to our insolent need to
feel, invulnerably, that our measures
are solid and docile to our will,
that real is real and then and now
stay put and our world does not slip
or warp or wobble.


Coincidence is the uneasy name we
give stark mom~nts when intervention
rises up to melt our mathematics or
intersect our schemes. Our departure
inexplicably delayed, we read of the
sunken ship, the crippled, flaming
plane, with congratulatory
satisfaction and a faint contempt for
others' luck and planning. The
fortuitous arrival of a letter we
glibly assign to impulse and hold
hope that horoscopes foretold the
sudden meeting that brought love
there on the ugly, accustomed street
under the stranger's shared parasol
in an unseasonable shower.
And so we are waiting inflexibly
correct under the canvas marquee for
the Master to take His part in our
rehearsed pattern, faint with
excitement, flush with historicity,
adjusting our impeccable neckties,
fingering our fashionable pearls,
stroking the gold watches that pulse
in the vest pocket or wilt, pendent
on slender chain, at the bosom,
their claim negated by another Time.
We long for authority to check the
uncontrollable lakeborn breeze that
chills the perspiration heading in
our palms.


Enthralled, loving Him, we see His
radiance approach, mirror to the
sun. His rreely vigorous stride sets
the shining robe twining and
swirling into eloquent motion. His
head is raised to drink the wind-fed
air. Unfaithful to our plan

He leaves the carriage, comes on
foot in perfect grace. Soundlessly
we gasp at humility and majesty in
peerless balance.


The pouer which has gathered you here
today notwithstanding the cold and
uindy ueather is indeed mighty and
uonderful. It is the pouer of God the
divinefavour of Baha u 11ah uhich has
drawn you together . . .

Appropriate to our expectations are
His simple words. Our souls drift
like somnolent fish in the warm tide
of His approval. We do not strain to
understand. Secure in our ritual we
may not see, as in His eye, the
Temple risen, long since risen,
lighted, a pulsating refuge, peopled
. . . and beyond that, and beyond.


He makes a gesture with the golden
trowel,
graciously accepts that emblem-toy as He
does our childlike love-- but service is
His Call. With axe and shovel, then, the
soil is turned, as unresisting to His hands
as our hearts to His words. Compliantly the
earth parts before that force; perhaps we
only imagine that it pulses with
expectancy. Under our heavy hats of felt or
feathers the brows throb: what seed does He
plant here?


VII

The Temple will have a spiritual influence
a tremendous effect upon civilization. From
this beginning thousands of Temples will
rise . . .

Again the schedule is sundered. Beckoned by
His smile the solemn, silent friends surge
towards His upraised hand, open the earth,
each a spadeful, in the name of all
mankind, for this Temple shall be Mother.
Our doubt dissolves in the calm assurance
of His words as we crane toward His vision.

VIII

We had politely grimaced
~~ ~hP wPll-known tale

of Nettie Tobin's uoices instructing her to
bring a stone; we pictured her squat,
bustling, inelegant, middle-aged and
panting, her red-faced frenzied scuttle,
weaving her course in shabby, tilting shoes
across uneven ground, trundling the child's
cart with a splintered rock rejected by a
builder, her contribution of a cornerstone.
New to love we smiled indulgently upon her
zeal and did not know our condescension.
'Now all is in readiness', she had said, as
a complacent housewife might remark
surveying her set table, but wondered, too,
at her impulsion as she stood alone at the
bleak and vacant site.


And now His hands are on the stone. He
turns to it as to an expected guest, His
eyes caressing the jagged shape as they
would a dear friend's face, this
appointment longingly awaited. He gently
nestles the rock to rest in the raw brown
loam where we yearn to take its place and
earn the light smile that
plays across His face. He turns and speaks:
The Temple i.~ already built!


We almost understand. 'What a wonderful
lesson! How kind and utterly sweet He is!'
we say, glancing at our watches, gathering
up our programmes and our rustling wraps,
edging irresistibly closer to His gleaming
form, loving Him and wondering--past reach
of names by which we know Him-- wondering
what clock or calendar keeps Him and Who He
is.

          THE PIONEER
 - for all the lovely ladies -

Ye are . . the soft-ftouing uaters upon which must depend the
17ery l.J~e of all men. . the breezes of spring that are uafted
over the world . . Through you the countenance of the u orid
hath been u reathed in smiles, and the brightness of His light
shoneforth.

                          Bahá'u'lláh


You will meet her anywhere,
the river, market, roadside, bus, in Carcross, Nairobi,
Liverpool, Duluth and the old girl will be smiling: she knows.
The sincere costume, the workworn hands, say little. Satin or
leather, the good, earnest face
belongs on a chocolate box, affirms,
could endorse nutritional causes on billboards or in glossy
magazines;
but she has far greater power than Westinghouse or General
Mills. I warn you, she is dangerous.
In her bag there is a weapon
more potent than a gun.
If her lips move noiselessly she is not litanizing her
grievances nor reading subway signs.
She carries more than recipes in her head.


It is fatal to speak to her, no comment so mundane she cannot
bend it to her own design. Chance a remark about the weather
and she may tell you of The Tempest,
leave you re-examining the roots of social unrest and
worrying about the fate of the House of Hapsburg. She is not
dismayed by headlines, calls them as her witness, carries
answers like neat balls of coloured yarn, familiarly handled,
spun of truth. The mysteries are few and she lives with them
companionably, sibyl or saint, mystic or madwoman, in ready-
made dress and sensible shoes.


She has faced it, reconciled it all, the whole human
struggle, the journey from the cave, the love and the ashes,
the song and the blood, the suffering, the stillborn, the
greed, ordered, forgiven, reconciled it all. Her compassion
spans eras and epochs, finds room for Luther King, Lenin,
Lao-tse, all our lost leaders, sorted, accommodated like the
memory of good or wayward children she has known; finds room
for the Aztec, Ibo, Tlingit, Vietnamese-- she might be one of
them. Fashions in indignation puzzle her. It did not come as
news that black is beautiful (may be herself black); - knows
Eskimos ~or is one); calls the Kalahari Bushmen brothers;
counts the Maoris as friends; would have shielded the hapless
of Nagasaki, Warsaw, Buchenwald, with her own body, if she
could. Long ago she wept and worked for causes

not then named, knows symptom from disease and is not
resigned to evil.


No, you do not imagine her authority; dynasties might
dissolve before it or her concern melt mountains. She is
dangerous; she cannot be dismissed. Your eloquent despair
does not dissuade her: 'The fu~ure is inestimably glorious,
and when one considers the life to come . . .' You will want
to hurt her, destroy her dream but her words hang like heavy
golden pears and she knows your hunger. Even as you strike
she heals you and in so doing heals herself. You may crush
her but she will not die-- she yields like grass and is as
indestructible. She knows what you defend; many times a
midwife, she understands rebirth. Your credentials don't
impress her; she tinkers with souls.


Do not accept the invitation to her home to meet her friend
from Adelaide, Tihran, Kaduna; they are conspirators and
drink from the same well. Her own certitude is baked into the
cakes she serves with tea tasting of her own contentment that
leaves you crazed, thirsting forever for assurance. Be
warned, she is dangerous.
The moment is selected. You will not see all
heaven's angels, all ancient good, the very
weight of history rush to her support as she
gathers breath (her smile never more gentle)--
~fal~e r ou heard the Message of Baha u llah?--
nor will you know that God Himself throughout
all worlds gives ear to your reply.


I tell you, she is dangerous!


GRAVEYARDS ARE NOT MY STYLE

Thornton Chase
  1 847-l912

This rer~recl p~~r onage uas ~he fir.~l Bahá'í in Ameri~a ..
his .~erli(es 14~i/l el~er be remember ~ hroughou fulure ages
and ~y~les. For Ihe presen/ his uorlh is no l.noun hul in
Ihefulure il uill be ineslimably dear . . .
                         'Abdu'l-Bahá


L(J.~ Ange/e.~: Oetol~er 1912

 That's a good woman you've got there. Paddy, a good

woman. I like the way she knows how to come and go, if you f
~ u ml~ Like her lettin~ you have me round for a good meal

every Thursday and then setting out the stout and cards and slipping off
to see her mother and leaving us to have a quiet game and talk. A man
needs that, he gets lonely on his own
  I wish I weren't so clumsy with words, I'd like to tell your Rosie how
much it's meant to me, coming here so often. I know she can tell by the
way I dig into the food that I'm grateful and she probably thinks they
starve me at my lodgings --Mrs D'Arcy, bless her, would die of shame if
she thought Rosie believed that about her, and it isn't true because the
old woman runs a good place and is a generous soul.
But it's more than that--it's the friendship you and Rosie give me and I'd
like you to find a way of letting Rosie know I appreciate it. I know Rosie
and I joke together and I like to make her laugh, but you know how I am
with words when I try to be serious, they never come out the way I mean
them. So try to let her know.
Since I left the old country I haven't made many friends-- I'm not what
you'd call a mixer--and you people treating me like family has meant a
lot. Now with us, it's different; I can talk to another man, and a soul
needs that--at least I do. And the truth is, Paddy, if it's all the same
to you, I'd rather just sit a minute before we deal the cards because I
want to speak my mind.
You see--well, I might as well come right out with it, like-- I'm thinking
of getting married--I mean I am going to get married--to Lil. Not right
away, of course, but--well, I mean I asked her last week, on the
nineteenth, to be exact--and she's accepted and now we're betrothed. No
surprise to you, I guess, after all my talk about her. I knew the first
time I met her at the shop that she was all I ever dreamed of. But there
was the problem of religion--well, you must be sick of hearing about that,
and all the fights we had, and her trying to make me see the light and
crying at her failure. I guess I used hot words but you know how I stand.
I mean, what would my people say, me coming to the new world and getting
mixed up
in some queer religion--they might think of it as heathen. My poor old
mother couldn't hold her head up in the village and the priest wouldn't
take it lightly. As far as he's concerned the Church has a monopoly on
God and he isn't one to divide the spoils with the competition. You
should hear him go on about the Protestants--thinks they're the devil's
own. Not that I'm religious or care what other people think, you
understand, but it is a consideration, don't you see, and my mother in
frail health. She wouldn't understand if Lil and I got married and had
children and they weren't baptized. My mother's a simple good soul but
fierce in her faith. In every letter she asks me have I been to ~lass.
Well, I never miss at Easter, as you know. She makes novenas for me
too, God bless her.
  And more than that, I'm jealous of Lil and I can't see why I'm not
enough for her. Religion shouldn't come between people, as I see it.
But my point is, why isn't it enough that we have each other? You know,
sometimes I've even called for her with a drop on my breath just to
have her take me as I am, to make her see it my way. A shameful thing
for me to torment the poor girl, but dammit what's a man to do, and me
half crazy with the love of her. And anyway religion is really a
woman's business in the end; she has to give the children a decent
start in life and some kind of training and see that they go to Church.
But with Lil, religion's such an important matter--she's always
trotting along to some meeting or other. Not that she doesn't invite
me, but I'm uncomfortable with crowds and a man should be careful in
choosing his friends. The truth of it being there are all kinds at
these meetings--even Japanese. Not that I've anything against them, but
what do you say to people like that? Words come hard with me at the
best of times. And some of Lit's friends are comfortably off, you know,
a little on the lace-curtain side, if you follow me. Not that they make
an issue of it, but I feel a proper fool sitting on their fancy chairs,
my fingers feeling like buttered sausaFs, balancinP a daintY teacuP and
little sandwiches you could park

in your cavity, and not having enough hands to hold it all, and
worrying am I going to spill something on the Turkey carpet. And not
a drop of spirits served, either, that might give a man courage. And
all the talking that goes on and me not understanding the half of it.
  'Why can't they have Churches like everybody else?' I say to Lil and
she always answers 'Just try to understand'--as if I was working at not
understanding--and then we usually wind up with me yelling, hot-
tempered as I am, and her crying, and it'S the longest time before she
lets me hold her hand or peck her cheek and make our peace. And it
leaves us both feeling sad and kind of hopeless and strained in our
talk, like there was a sheet of glass between us.
Well, I've told you some of that before and maybe you've guessed that
it wasn't all roses between us--that's why I brought her here just the
once. She liked your Rosie a lot--I should tell Rosie that--and I saw
them talking between them with their eyes over the teacups the way
women do. But Lil would soon be dragging her off to meet her cut-glass-
andcrystal friends. Maybe Rose would like that for all I know because
they are good people, in truth, and they love my Lil and her being in
a shop and me in a factory isn't held against us or anything--at least
most of them really feel that way about us and the rest seem to be
honestly trying to feel there's no difference. But I still can't see
why Lil's friends don't just go to Church on Sunday like everybody else
and say their prayers when they remember to, like the rest of us.
So after all the times I've told you how impossible it seemed between
Lil and me--and sure there were some bad times-- you must be wondering
how we got it sorted out, our differences I mean; well, not really
settled, but more or less, anyway. And to tell the truth I don't really
know myself except that it began with Lil in tears--a change in pattern
because it usually ends that way--and ended with me in tears. I don't
mind admitting that to you, Paddy--I cried; blubbered like a baby I
did, at the end. I thought I'd forgotten how to cry--a man outgrows
that unless he's well into his cups and feeling homesick.
  What happened was I picked Lil up at the shop to take her for a bit
Or an outing like we planned and she asked me to take her to the
graveside of one of her friends--a nice old fellow named Thornton
Chase I'd met and liked who died just the end Or last month and was
laid to rest all the way out in Inglewood. You know me, Paddy, I don't
mind a good wake but I don't like funerals, and graveyards are not my
style at all. Well, that was just a part of it. She wanted to be there
because of the Master--that one she's always talking about with the
name I can't pronounce. I find it easier to call him Master much as
I dislike the term--it jars, foreign like. And he is a foreigner. as
you know--you've heard me go on about him before and how he was in
prison all that long while, and now he's come lo America to see his
followers; and after being in the East a bit he's come all the way to
the West Coast and him an old man. Soon as she mentioned him I got a
bit feisty. I landed in New York from the old country and came west
too, I thought to myself, and I'll bet he didn't have to cross the
country hard-timing and hoboing it like I did on my way wcst thinking
to myself you know. So I was a little heated up beforc I even opened
my mouth and of course the words tripped me up and within minutes Lil
was crying. The fact is, Paddy. I was jealous and I felt tricked and
I knew there'd be a gathering with all Lil's friends, and speeches and
sermons and hymns. and we'd not have a minute alone; and she'd been
to Chase's funeral but a few weeks before. So I had good reason, in
a way, for flying off the handle.
It was a kind of grim journey I can tell you but I got through it hy
being quiet. Even when Lil wanted to stop and huy flowers I didn't
make a fuss. It wasn't the expense of them. you mind; it was the way
she took so long selecting them that mi~h~ havc bothered me. But it
didn't. It was watching the

careful way she chose them, like a bride picking out her bouquet you
might say, that made me see how important this meeting must be to her
and I saw it through her eyes so to speak. Meeting the Master must be
one of the joys of her life, says I to myself, and so I really tri~d
to make it up to her by speaking softly and telling her that I knew
it was a special thing for her to be seeing him for the first
time--why, I'm sure she'd follow him across the country if she had the
money--and I told her that I appreciated the fact that she would
honour me by allowing me to escort her to the meeting, and things like
that. And you know I meant it--it was all true--and she smiled and
her eyes took on that secret dreamy look they do and--well, I never
felt closer to her ever before.
  Don't take offence if I don't drain my glass, Paddy,--you've a kind
heart and a generous hand--but I need my wits about me to tell the
next part and I swear I don't understand it myself; but it would in
truth seem a strange thing to be taking a drop and talking about this
at the same time, like cursing in Church, do you see.
The thing is, it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Of course,
I'm always more at ease out of doors to begin with but it was more
than that. I suppose I have to say it was the Master. What a fine old
gentleman he is. Oddly dressed to be sure, and looking like a bible
figure in the stations of the crossand yet so natural, as though you
always knew him. So I didn't feel so out of place. The old gentleman
walked to the grave with great dignity and laid some flowers on it and
took Lil's flowers and the others' and scattered them, too, and spoke
a few simple words. Not the least unusual in a sense, but it was the
way he leaned down to the ground with tenderness like a father bending
to his dearest child to pat and comfort it. And I thought to myself
~hat I would give my life to have him look at me that way. Well, says
I to myself, this should tell Lil's friends something--that this old
man would come all this way to do this simple thing at the grave and
say what he did, that
Mr Chase would never be forgotten. The old gentleman seems to expect
great things of Lil and her friends and no doubt they all well know
it. I cannot bear to think they might disappoint him. If they broke
his heart they'd hear from me about it, I swear it, Paddy, by all
that's holy.
  Then the Master turned to the people and said a few words to each
so I hung back not wanting to spoil it for Lil. Her face was glowing
and she looked so beautiful it took my breath away. And the old
gentleman did the strangest thing--took her hand, as he had the
others' too, and then reached for mine, drawing me forward. And there
we were, him holding our hands in his, all three joined and touching,
and he looked at each of us slowly and deeply and he said in English
'Yes'. Just Yes. It was eerie, as though he were answering a question
--no, more than that--as though he were blessing us in marriage. I
felt as though Lil and me were the only people in the world at that
moment. And then he smiled a lovely smile and turned away.
We didn't speak on the way home--I guess we were both lost in thought;
I know I was. And then suddenly I was sobbing my heart out with Lil
patting my hand and saying 'It's all right, dearest, I know,'--like
I was a child; and that's just how I felt to be sure. But I had been
thinking of that look on the old gentleman's face when he was leaning
towa~d the grave and wondering if ever I would be loved in that way
by anyone. And I guess that's where the proposal came in because I
couldn't help myself--I asked Lil if she loved me. And she said that
she had always loved me, and that because she loved me through her
love for God, as well as loving me for myself, her love would last
through all this life and beyond it, too.
So I said to her--and it wasn't easy to say it and my eyes were still
running with tears and my voice was cracking: 'Mavourneen, I want this
for you if this is what you want. I want you to be his follower and
I want you to be a good one, the best you can. And I'd be proud if you
were. I don't know if I can be Part of what you and your friends are
doing, but I'll try to understand. All I can offer you is this: I know
that this is good; I know he is a Holy Soul.'
'Well, my dear,' says she with one of those smiles that would melt a
man's heart, 'that's a beginning, a very fine beginning.'
So you see, Paddy, that's how it was, the beginning, the real
beginning with Lil and me. And now we're getting married. What puzzles
me is that she's so calm about it all--goes about smil1ng and singing
to herself as though she always knew it would come right.
There's no understanding women, is there, Paddy?


SIEGFRIED SCHOPFLOCHER
     1 877--I 953

'When Ifirsf heard of the Bahá'íFaith, I said to mysey
"Freddie, if you get involved with this, it will cost you a
fortune." Well, I did. And it did.'

                   (remark attributed to him)

Ach, Freddie, mein lieber Kerl, make light of it if you
will, malign your munificence, we are not taken in. But have
your little joke; assume the wry smile, the classic shrug,
ask: 'What's a nice Jewish boy doing in a Cause like thisr
Extend the jest, say: 'I surrendered profit and loss to
Prophet and Laws'-- still, we are not deceived.

Freddie, you walked in with eyes as open as your heart,
knew it to be the deal beyond compromise;
survived the imagery accommodated to
nightingales and roses endured our pious
vagaries and poor arithmetic loved the goyim
were loved made of heart and palm a purse and
emptied both and learned (or always knew) that
God does not strike bargains.


T.~* ! Freddie splendidly generous, your private
charities betrayed you; we only pretended to
accord the anonymity you sought. What man builds
a shelter for mankind? The Mother of Temples
casts no greater shadow than that of your
humility; how can you hide from us? Daring to
have loved us you must suffer now our love, and
having given all accept our gift, your modesty a
magnet to our admiration.


Ac~l Freddie mein lie~er Freund make light of it
if you will-- you, inspired.spendthrift, lavish
legator; we your grateful heirs left solvent in
the knowledge that we need fear only bankruptcy
of God. A c 11 Fr~ddie ! A~l~ nl~'i)1 liel~er
Freund!

VERDICT OF A HIGHER COURT

[also available in Microsoft Word format]


In the interest of posterity we are asked
to review the case. The dossier is before
us. Shall we get on with it then?

Transcript of Proceedings of the District
Court of the Fourth Judicial District State
of Minnesota, held on the 8th day of August
in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine
hundred and . . .


Well, so that's how it is. Not yet a decade
into the twentieth century and life is just
a bowl of cherries. Live on your wits and
cover all the exits.

The prisoner, Fred Mortensen, will rise
while the Court pronounces sentence.


Hot-shot, aren't you, Fred? All set to
highstep it into the years of the Greatest
War on Earth and then to go twentythree-
skidooing into the Jazz Age--if you live
that long--with a bottoms-upboys-for-
tomorrow-we-may-die and all that
razzmatazz.

In considering the evidence before it the
Court has given due weight to the extreme
youth of the Defendant . . .


About twenty-one or so, are you, Fred~ But
then, mugs must make an early start if they
are to amount to anything--with a down-the-
hatch-
fellows and a chug-a-lug-a-lug and don't
take any wooden nickels.


Before passing sentence the Court expresses
regret that one of such obvious potential
should have launched himself upon a course
of action that can only blight his future,
brand him an enemy of the public good and
break his mother's heart . . .

So you found yourself in prison with a gee-
there-ain't-nojustice and a blast-itI've-
been-framed? Well, Fred let's review the
facts.


Although he has taken the path of a common
ruffian the Court appeals to whatever
tender feelings may yet stir within the
Defendant's bosom . . .

Easy does it, Fred. Florid oratory is a
hazard to which most Judges display little
resistance. But we take it you will concede
that even tough guys have feelings?
Remember how you cried a little in the
darkened theatre during one of Mary
Pickford's films and had to quickly conceal
it from the gang with an improvised
coughing spasm? And how a lump came to your
throat each time you heard Eva Tanguay sing
'Mother'?


At an age when the Defendant's mother is
entitled to his comfort and assistance, she
faces the tragic and humiliating
consequences of her son's iniquitous

- conduct. The Court is satisfied on the
evidence that the Defendant's mother is an
upright, decent, God-fearing. . .

Patience, Fred, he's only doing his job.
Admittedly he does get a bit carried away.
But the docket is light today and his gout
is under control and perhaps he Is
pontificating out of boredom. But maybe the
old boy has a point there. We confront you
with your own testimony:
          'My dear mother had done
everything in her power to make me a good
boy. I have but the deepest love for her
and my heart has often been sad when
thinking how she must have worried for my
safety as well as my future well-being.
Through it all and in a most wonderful way,
with godlike patience, she hoped and prayed
that her boy would find the road which
leads to righteousness and happiness. But
environment proved a great barrier to her
aspirations and every day in every way I
became tougher and tougher . . . '

Come now, Fred, is that how tough guys
talk?

The Court is charged with the
responsibility of protecting society from
those who wilfully disregard its laws.
Equally, the Court has the responsibility
of imposing sanctions which will afford the
maximum opportunity of moral rehabilitation
. . .

             Relax, Fred, and don't let the hi~h-
flown language get you down. Look at it
this way--the judiciary has a vocabulary
just as specialized, though somewhat less
colourful, than that of budding thugs. But
on the subject of rehabilitation, that
came later through a man with gentle eyes.
Remember Bert Hall, Fred? One of the
finest lawyers in Minnesota, it was said,
and a remarkable human being. Do you
recall what the Hennepin County Bar
Association said of Albert Hall?

'He was essentially the poor man's lawyer;
no client was too mean, nor was his cause
too small, but that Bert Hall gave him his
untiring and unstinted effort.'

Well, you were a mean one, all right, and
whatever had been your cause you were
presented with a new one, a cause of
intimidating magnitude, as the Judge might
say. Let us read into the record your own
words:

'Albert Hall told me, hour after hour,
about the great love of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Honestly, I often wondered then what Mr.
Hall meant when he talked so much about
God's love, Bahá'u'lláh's love, 'Abdu'l-
Baha's love, love for the Covenant, and so
on. I was bewildered. Still, I kept
returning, and I wondered why. Later I
realized it was the power of the Holy
Spirit drawing one who wished to be
drawn.'

Fine talk for a tough guy, Fred! It is
lamentable that one of the Defendant's age
should have amassed shall we say, so
impressive a recvrd of criminal activity .
. .


Euphemism is the backbone of courtroom
wit, Fred. One gets used to it, though
developing an appreciation of verbosity is
another matter. For mstance, 'Learned
Judge' is sometimes a euphemism for old
windbag. But let us hear him out.

 . . . disturbing the peace, using abusive
language, harassing members of oppressed
minority groups, being drunk and
disorderly, assault, theft, escaping from
custody, aiding the escape of a fellow
prisoner, violating parole, resisting
arrest .


Well, all that must have kept you pretty
busy, Fred. But one impulse you could
neither resist nor arrest, remember? Will
you disavow your own incriminating words:

'I felt urged by the Holy Spirit to go to
see 'Abdu'l-Bahá at Green Acre, Maine.
When I heard the rumour that He might not
come west, I immediately determined to go
and see Him. So I left Minneapolis for
Cleveland where I attended a convention of
printers for a few days. But I became so
restless I could not stay for adjournment.
As my finances were low, I of necessity
must
hobo my way to Green Acre . . . '

We note that euphemism is not the exclusive
indulgence of the Court. But to continue:

'I rode the rods . . . '

Now that's more like it:

' . . . to Buffalo, then to Boston, then to
Portsmouth. I was exceedingly happy. A boat
ride, a streetcar ride, and there I was, at
the gate of Paradise . . . '

An interesting destination for one of your
proclivities!

Do you remember first entering His presence
and His asking you whether you had a
pleasant journey? Let us examine your own
account of this: 'Question: "Did you have a
pleasant journey?" Of all the questions I
wished to avoid this was the one! I dropped
my gaze to the floor--and again He put the
question. I lifted my eyes to His eyes and
His were as two sparkling jewels which
seemed to look into my very depths. I knew
He knew and I must tell. I answered: "I did
not come as people generally do, who come to
see You." Question: "How did you come?"
Answer: "Riding under and on top of the
railway trains." Question: "Explain how?" '

And you explained while His eyes twinkled.
He gave you fruit, kissed both your cheeks
and touched to His lips the soiled hat you
had worn. And after that, at His invitation,
you spent a week in His presence at Malden.

What are we to make of that, Fred?

The Court invites the Defendant to consider
that in a land of limitless opportunity one
of his age might, by pursuing the proper
course, make his mark on its history . . .

Restrain yourself again, Fred. There might
be something in this. There has been entered
in the record, and marked Exhibit A, a
Tablet addressed to you from Ramleh, Egypt,
bearing date 12 September ~913. The
signature is that of 'Abdu'l-Bahá:

'That trip of thine from Minneapolis to
Green Acre will never be forgotten. Its
mention will be recorded eternally in books
and works of history . . . '

Annexed to Exhibit A is a copy of God Passes
By. We are asked to note the reference on
page 290. Let it be so noted.

The Prosecuting Attorney dwelt at
considerable length . . .

He means excruciating length, Fred.

 . . . on the circumstances in which the
Defendant was apprehended at gunpoint, in a
barrage of police bullets, his capture being
accomplished a~ a
result of breaking both legs in scaling a
wall while attempting to elude the police,
and has repeatedly emphasized that for four
years the Defendant was a fugitive from
justice . . .

Easy, there, Fred. Why not relax and read
Exhibit A?


The Court cannot view lightly the
Defendant's contempt for the rules which
must govern a civilized society. It emerges
from the evidence before the Court that the
pattern of the Defendant's behaviour is
determinedly antisocial . . .

He does turn a vivid phrase, doesn't he?
Fulgurant, it might be said. We toss that
word in to see whether we still have the
knack--we abandoned grandilo4uent rhetoric
a long time ago; too time-consuming.
Actually it has never been determined
whether Judges are expected by lawyers to
talk like that or only think they are.

But speaking of patterns emerging from the
evidence which seems to be the point the
good udge was making--another pattern
emerges. Will you deny that over the long
haul you laboured diligently--sorry, it is
so easy to lapse into the jargon; but the
following words mean just what they
convey--for the establishment of the
Kingdom of God on earth and that

until the eve of your death on 13 lune 1946
you were so engaged?

Tendered as Exhibit B is an outline of your
service on the Bahá'í Temple Unity, your
pioneering to Montana, vour service as a
national travelling teacher and as a member
of the Chicago Bahá'í community, your
preparations for a journey to Austria, to
name a few. Let the Exhibit be marked.


Although ever inclined toward leniency on
the basis of what has been adduced before
it the Court must be satisfied in
considering the question of sentence that
the interest of justice will be fully
served. With that in mind it is the opinion
of this Court . . .


And yes, one final piece of testimony. Let
there be marked as Exhibit C a document
described as a cablegram sent from Haifa in
June 1946 to members of your family:

'Grieve passing beloved Fred. Welcome
~ssured Abha Kingdom by Master . . . His
name forever inscribed Bahá'í history.'

The evidence, we submit, is irrefutable.
Let the verdict be recorded: Guilty of
spiritual recidivism.

Next case.
         THE COURIER

O Son of Love! Thou art but one step awayfrom the . . .
celestial tree of love. Take thou one pace and with the next
aduance into the unmortal realm and enter the pavilion of
eternity
                      Bahá'u'lláh
                      The Hidden Words


How many steps, Salman, Salman, To world of God from world of
man? How far, how far, untutored fool, From Land of Ta to
'Akka's Jewel?


Coarse of mien and taint of breath, In each pace might have
lain your death. Companioned by lone wheeling bird You
brought the lovers Love's Own Word.


How lonely were your many miles Fuelled by onions and
friends' smiles? If dust leapt up to kiss your sole Had it
not guessed and blessed your goal?

To hostile eyes not once revealed The treasure in your hat
concealed. Behold, a stricken world knows now What safely
rode above your brow.

By some, scorned as unlettered oaf, How educated was your
troth ! So trained to scan, your simple heart Chose who
attained, who stood apart.

How many are the steps that bring The loutish vassal to his
King? Tell this halt, fugacious son In what steD is the
soul's home won?

How many steps, Salman, Salman, To world
of God from world of man~ Lend him your
courage who has none And treads all paths
save one. Save one!


EA R LY Wl NE

Thomas Breaku~ell, ~hef rst English Baha'l', accepted the Faith
in his twenties in the summer of 1901 as a result of meeting
May Ellis Bolles Startled by a mystical experience whlch
followed upon theirfirst mee~ing he asked her whether she
~houghr he uas parting with his senses. 'No,' she replied, 'you
are just becoming sane.' He made a pilgrimage to 'Akka not long
thereafter and within a short time died of consumption. Abdu'l-
Baha reuealed in his honour a eulogy of unparalleled beauty.


For you was May detained that you come sane And in the wind
hear Christ has come again, In your life's doomed May, in the
oblivious air Of inattentive Paris. What mute prayer Brought
you to the waiting singular door Of one--of all the
servants--frailest; core And mother-soul of Europe?


My Lord, I believe. . .

Now could your cask decline and you not grieve; But 'Akka
gained, the lover will exclaim:


              Let life endure that I taste more of pain !
Your Spring s brief yield, love-wine immortals drink; None
mourns to see the slender goblet sink.

O Breaku~ell O my dear one! Th~~ Lord hath verily
singled thee out for His lot~e . . .


First grape of Albion, fruit of fragile vine, Not ours
to stay from King this early wine. The pain-perfected
vessel God lets slip, But first had raised that sweet
draught to His lip.

PA R T TWO. CLIMPSES OF
'A BD U 'L- BA HA


adapted from the diary of Juliet Thompson


No word of mine uould sufhce to express how in*t~mtl~ the
ret~elation of Abdu l-Baha s hopes expectation.s and
purpose. . . electr.ified the minds and heart.s oJ those uho
uere pril~ileged to hear Him uho w ere made the recipients
oJ His inestimable blessings . . . I can neter hope to
interpret adequatel~ the Jeellngs that .surged u ithin those
heroic hearts as thel .sat at their Master:s Jeet . . . I
can net~er pay sul: hc~ent trihute to that ~spirit of
unyielding determinatlon uhich the impact of a magnetic
personality and the spell oJ a might~ utterance kindled in
the entire company oJ- those returning pilgrims these conse-
crated herald.s of the Godenant of God . . .

                       Shoghi E~endi

GLIMPSES OF 'ABDU'L-BAHA
Adapted from the Diary of Juliet Thompson

[also posted separately at bahai-library.com/white_season_glimpses_abdul-baha]

Akka: July 1909

We drive along a wide white beach. Sea waves curl
about our carriage wheels, Camels approach on the
sand, cloaked Bedouins attending. Palm trees in a
long, long line and in the distance domes and flat
roofs, dazzling white.


Walls. Walls within walls. Menacing walls. Tall,
prison-like, chalk-white houses, leaning together,
rising towards a rift of sky, slits of barred
windows set here and there in their forbidding
fronts. Streets so narrow that our wheels graze
buildings on either side-- streets sometimes
bridged by houses meeting in an arch at their
second stories. Pervading us, a sense of the divine
joy towards which we travel, here in the Holy City,
the New Jerusalem.


Before us, suddenly, a broad expanse: a garden, the
seawall, the sea, and then the Master's door. Too
soon we have arrived, too suddenlv. and unprePared.
He bursts upon us like the sun with His joyous
greeting:

Welcome! Welcome!

His effulgence strikes me blind!

Are l~ou u~ell? Are you happy?

I cannot speak.


He takes my hand in His-- in His so mysterious
hand-- delicately-made, steely-strong, currents of
life streaming from it:

Your heart ~~our spirit speak to Me. I hear. I knou.
Do not think ~~our serl~ices are unknoun to Me. I
hal~e seen. I hal e ~een u ith ~~ou. I knou them
all. For these ~ ou are aceepte~l in tlle Kingdom.

My services! Their pitiful smallness! And my lack of
love! Pierced by shame I cry: 'Forgive my failures!'

Be sure of this. Be sure of this.

My knees yield; my heart draws me down to His feet.


Later, my eyes upon His white-robed Figure, I listen
as He dictates Tablets, see Him pace about a room
grown suddenly too small. A force born of the energy
of God-- restless, uncontainable-- spills from Him.
The earth cannot contain Him,

nor yet the universe. When He pauses by the window I
sense His spirit free as the Essence Itself,
brooding over regions far distant, looking deep into
hearts at the uttermost ends of the earth consoling
their secret sorrows, answering the whispers of far-
off minds. Often in His leonine pacing He gives me a
long, grave glance. And once He smiles at me. He
smiles at me!


Thonon-les-Bains LakeCene2~a. August

A great white hotel, set amid oleander flanked by
mountains overhung with clouds. Beyond the green
terrace and marble balustrade the lake. In the halls
and through the grounds the artificial, dull-eyed
people stroll and chatter. Silently, majestically,
unrecognized but not unfelt, He passes among them,
the cream robe billowing, light glinting in His
silver hair. The metallic voices break off. The
shadowed eyes lift and follow, lighted for a moment
with wonder. His presence is an affirmation,
stirring them to recall their lost vision of a
higher world and their own beauty. The eloquent
assertion of His silence! His magnetic power! His
holy sweetness!
At a country inn I see Him in a half-circle of
children, girdled with children, festooned with
them, waist-deep in children with violets to sell,
the small ones, themselves a bouquet, pressing
about Him, waving the purple clusters, their faces
raised with grave astonishment, His own a
benediction as He bends to buy their blooms, buy
all their blooms, drawing from His pocket handfuls
of francs, giving to each child bountifully. They
beg for more. 'Don't let them impose!' At the edge
of the swaying crescent, a newcomer, the smallest,
stares up in awe, timid as a fawn:

To this little one I have not given . . .

And the Master gave.


On the road back, suddenly, spectacularly, a
waterfall, rolling from a great height, scattering
diamonds as it froths down a black precipice. Full
of excitement He hurries forward, alone, to sit in
silence at the very edge, the swirling water far
below. I see Him in profile, kingly against the
cascade, intense rapture on His upturned face, and
my tears flow. After a time, smiling:

yl come to America will you inuite Me to see such
uaterfalls?

I promise Niagara ! 'But surely, my Lord, Your
coming to America does not depend upon my
invitation!'

My invitation to America will be the uniry of the
believers!

A heavenly day of charming informality, taking tea,
He talking gaily or tenderly, taking little notice
of me. But in spite of this I glimpse something
vaster than before, feel a new awareness of His
unearthly power, His divine sweetness.


Coming upon Him as He stands talking with a friend
the sweetness of His love, that celestial radiance,
again bring tears: If He never gave me so much as a
word if He never glanced my way, just to see that
sweetness shining before me, I would follow Him on
my knees, crawling behind Him in the dust forever!


New York: ll April 1912

April I Ith! Oh day of days! I awaken before
daybreak with a singing heart, the moon's waning
sliver framed low in my windowpane. I hasten to the
pier. The morning is crystal clear, sparkling. I
have a sense of its being Easter--of lilies, almost
seen, blooming at mv feet.
A mist settles over the harbour but at last, at
last, I see a phantom ship, an epoch-making ship,
coming closer, closer, ever more substantial, till
it swims into the light, a solid thing. He sends His
love and asks us to disperse-- we are all to meet at
four. Obedience is overruled by love: three of us
conceal ourselves and wait. Stepping into the
limousine, the Master turns and smiles at us! Three
frozen statues dissolve in that bestowal, no love-
born child-prank ever so rewarded. Oh the coming of
that Presence! The mighty commotion of it! The
hearts almost suffocate with joy and the eyes burn
with tears at the stir of that step! Our skyscrapers
had delighted Him:

Tll e Minarets ol 111e We.s t !

What divine irony!


Neu~ York. I~)April

Hc shines in whi~e and ivory, His face a lighted
lamp illumining the Bowery Mission:

Toni~lt~ I am rer! 17app~
Jor I llal~e eome here to mee~ M! friends.
I eonsider ~~ou M~ relaf i~~es
M!~ eompanions and I am ! our
eomrade . . .

A sodden ~nd grimy procession streams down the
aisle, perhaPs three hundred men in single file--
derelicts, failures, broken forms, blurred faces--
and here 'The Servant' receiving each outcast as His
beloved child. Into each palm, as He clasps it, He
presses His little gift of silver-- Just a symbol
and the price of a bed. None is shelterless this
night and many find a shelter in His heart; I see it
in their faces, and in His face bent to theirs.


We drive up Broadway, aglitter with electric signs.
He speaks of them, smiling, much amused. 'It is
marvellous to be driving through all this lighl by
the side of the Light of lights.'

T11i. i.- onl~ e l)eginnin~. We u ill he lo~e~11er
in all tl1e u f~rlfl.s ot Gol You eal1not reali_e
11ere ul1at tllat mea)1.s. You eannot im(l~inf_7 it.
Yf~u ean lorn no eonef_Jption 11ere in tl1i.s
elen1ental u orl(l o/ ul7at it i.s to l~e 11'itlt Me
in
tlle Eternal Worlfl.s.


Neu York. 5 June

I am to paint His portrait! Surprise, dismay, fear,
joy, gratitude, flood me. He sits before me in a
dark corner His black 'aba melting into the
background. I quail.

I uant l ou to paint Ml .serl itufle

t~f~ C(~fl

Only the Holy Spirit could do so, no human hand.
'Pray for me, or I am lost. I implore You, inspire
me!'

I will pray and as you are doing this onlyfor the
sake of God you will be inspired.

Fear falls away. It is as though another sees
through my eyes, works through my hand. Rapture
takes possession of me. My hand is directed in a
sort of furious precision. The points, the planes in
the matchless face are so clear my hand cannot keep
pace with the clarity of my vision. Freely, in
ecstasy, I paint as I never have before. In half an
hour the foundation is perfect.


Once, bidding Him rest, I find I cannot paint-- what
I see is too sacred, too formidable. He sits still
as a statue, eyes closed, infinite peace on that
chiseled face, a God-like calm and grandeur in His
erect head. Suddenly, with a great flash, like
lightning, He opens His eyes. The room seems to rock
like a storm-tossed ship in the power released!


Wes~ Englewood: 29 June

A luminescent summer day green countryside, and He
our host. The Unity Feast has ended and the darkness
settles in, gently smudging the outline Or the
mi~hty trees.

Many of us linger, unable to wrench ourselves away.
Cncket songs--the scent of grass-- a breathless
expectancy in the soft, warm air. He sits in a chair
on the top step of the porch, some of us surrounding
Him. Below, dotting the lawn, on either side of the
path sit others, the light summer skirts of the
women spread out on the grass, lighted tapers in
their hands. In the dark, in their filmy dresses,
they become great pale moths, and the burning tips
of the tapers, flickering fireflies. Knowing our
thirst, He speaks to us again, words of consuming
tenderness. Rising, He starts down the path, still
talking, passing between the weightless, dim figures
with their lighted candles, talking, still talking,
till He reaches the road. He turns and we no longer
see Him. Even then His words float back to us, the
liquid Persian, and the beautiful, quivering
translation, the sound and the echo hovering and
drifting, an exquisite note almost unbearably held:

Peace be with you. I will ptayforyou.

Oh that voice that speaks out of His invisibility,
when He has passed beyond our sight! May I always
remember. May I always remember and hear that voice!


New York. 5 December

The last morning.
I stand at His door, my brimming eyes
fastened upon that divine Figure as He moves
about the room. Taking my hand, He consoles me:

Remember I am uith ~ou alua.ys.
Baha u llah u ill be uith ~ ou alua~ s . . .


And then the ship, and His last spoken message,
the Master pacing the crowded cabin filled with
flowers and broken-hearted friends:

. . . ~our ef~orts must be loft~. Exert
~~ourselves u ith heart and soUl .so that
perchance through ~our efforts the light of
Unil~ersal Peace ma~ .shine. . . that all men
mal hecome as one family. . . It is Ml hope that
~ ou ma~ hecome .succ es.sful in thi.s high
calling. .so that like ~~rilliantl~lmp.s ~oumcl~
castlight upon the I~ orld oJ humanit~ and
quicken and .stir the bod~ ol exi.stence like
unto a spirit of life. Tlli.s is eternal g/or!
This is el~erlasting telicitl . Tllis is
immortal life. This is hearenly attainment. This
is heing created in the imuge and likeness of
God. . .

I sit opposite Him at a little distance, weeping
quietly. At each parting I was left with the
hope of another meeting, and now my question
must be answered or I shall have no peace. 'Will
I see You again, my Lord?'

              Tllis i.s Ml hope.

'But still You don't tell me, my Lord. Not
knowing, I feel hopeless.'

You mu.st not feel hopeless.

Only that. That is all He said to me.

It is death to leave the ship. I remain on the
pier, in the grey light, with the impervious,
stolid pigeons and the anguished gulls. Tears
blur my eyes. Through them I see the Master in
the midst of the throng, waving a patient hand
to us.

It waves and waves-- that beautiful patient
hand-- till the Figure is lost to sight.


Haifo. 9 Decembcr 1956. In Memoriaot

Deplore los~s much lo~ ed greatl~ admired Juliet
Tllomp.son out.standing e~remplar~ handmaid Abdu
l-Baha. 0l1er half c entur~ record ntanitold
meritoriou.s .serl~ice.s emhracing concluding !
ear.s Heroic opening decades Formati~~e Age
Baha; Dispen.sation ~I on her em1iahle position
glorious compan~ triumphant disciples he/ol~ed
Mas~er Abha Kingdom. Adl1ise hold memorial
gathering Masllriqu I-Adhkar pa~ befitting
trihute imperishahle memor~~ one .so ll*o//~ cc
nsecrated Faith Baha u ll~ih fired .such
consuming cdel1otion Centre His
Col1enant.             Slloghi
PART T~REE.
LINES FROM A PERSIAN
NO TEBOOK


The cause of the rejection and persecution of the Bab u~as
in its essence the same as that of the rejection and
persecution of the Christ.

          Shoghi Effendi
          Introduction to The Dawn-Breaker.s
DR CORMICK DECIDES


Tabrl- 1848

Well, not an auspicious beginning to this day, the tea
undrinkable and Ah. mad in a sulk for one of those
mysterious reasons no mere Englishman could understand--
an advantage we unfeeling barbarians have, I suppose,
over these excessively sensitive Persians.


And the beastly report to be written of that curious
interview. I have little heart for that. How to find the
balance between my observations and what the ears of
power might hope to hear about the poor wretch, or to
know the disposition of my Persian colleagues and what
might sway them from detachment to a devious or dictated
course? They could be agents of an ill-wisher. At best
they are Western only when it serves them to be. Sane or
mad, the authorities will bring about this death if that
be their wish. Exercises in futility weary me; the
examination I suspect was merely a token nod towards
justice, some aspect of the unfathomable and interminable
face-saving ceremony. Can one ever understand their ways?

As for my part, what can I say? I found myself admittedly
disposed most kindly toward the Bab-- his courtesv and
di~nitv of bearin~~ struck me much.
Attractive, mild of manner and melodious of voice--nothing
offensive there. I might remark upon his delicacy of
stature and his tender youth--but what relevance has that?

No surprise that he, knowing the purpose of our attendance
upon him, should have been loth to answer our questions,
merely regarding us with a gentle IGok, continuing with his
chanting-- hymns or devotionals, I suppose. And this the
one who claims to be the Mahdi of the Mussulmen! What to
make of it all?


I shall weight my report in his favour, no doubt; I see no
other way. It would please me well to think his life were
spared. 'Frankly,' I shall say, 'I am impelled in the
circumstances to recommend the utmost leniency in this
difficult matter . . .' The words will come as I apply
myself to it.


I cannot take sides in these affairs, of course, and it
would appear to be of appalling significance that this
young man should have subverted the religion of the realm
and convulsed the populace with his cry: 'I am the Promised
One.' The Promised One indeed! Well, no doubt he believes
it. An infernal nuisance, the whole affair. And what to
make of his assertion that Europe will espouse his cause--
the intensity with which he regarded me as he said it?
Extraordinary, really. Most extraordinary. I suppose my
part in it is over and I shan't see him again.

One wonders what might become of such a fellow. Perhaps, of
course, it's just another tempest in a teapot. Ah well,
with the Persians, it is always something.

Today--yes-- I think, today, the grey cravat.


A CRIMSON RAIN


And there shall be martyrs and saints

           T. S. Eliot
           Chorus No. 6 from The Rock


Fort of Tabars
Ma~ indara'n
May 1849

His head now cushioned against my breast, I see how lightly
his closed lashes shadow the soft cheek; even in death my
friend is beautiful. He has met his end with a startled,
gentle courage, his recumbent form assumes the chaste and
artless grace of a child or dancer. So must his mother have
held him, and so wept, but wept for his bright promise.
With what joy would I have led him to his wedding in a
season less sanguine. Never, now, will I dandle his
gurgling children on my knee. Never again will we fatigue
the aghast stars with our chanting and our laughter, or
huddle, chilled and yawning, as t'le last candle fails,
talking of honour. These slender hands--do they supplicate
for the accustomed book and pen? My tears do not erase the
bruises.


How young, how pale he is! This pallor is not earned by
dissipation. What had this sheltered scholar need know of
soldiering or death? It was no feat to kill him. What
resistance might this frail vessel offer or rage this
bosom store? That delicate shattered cage held no aptitude
for hate.


See how timidly his blood now stains my tunic. Comrade-in-
Faith, would that this thin, reluctant trickle might brand
your name upon my flesh for all to know. His name? Ah world!
you would not care, nor does he need your tawdry accolades.
Lavish them upon your athletes, your fawning princes, your
debased divines. God keeps his name! And 1, his friend, shall
keep it while I draw breath, though that may not be
long--Husayn felled, Quddus injured, our number dwindling. But
in this moment this death, this name, are known, and God's
moments are eternal.


The siege resumes, and now I fight for two. Weeping, I
leave you, my gallant-,n-God, even my grief sacrificed to
this awful hour.


Seminal your death, little brother-- all our deaths. O
Persia ! Pitiless Persia ! One day you shall, v.~,. shall
know what vou have done.

Though the~~ go mad they shal/ be sane.

          Dylan Thomas
          Death Shall Haue No Dominion


Fort of Khajih
Nayrlz
Autumn 18S	

Yes, certainly I knew him. The man was a fool, I say, and
worse, a heretic. Ask the townspeople, they all revile him. I
grant you he knew the Qur'an well and once had my respect. He
was honest in his dealings and had honour. ~ut to disgrace his
family as he did, and at his age! Life was comfortable for
him-- small merchants do well enough-- and he threw everything
away, bewitched by a green turban. God spare us the snares of
senility and keep us safe from the persuasion of roses and
women ! Ah, my friends, let us pray the years will bring us
wisdom, if not piety--too much to hope for, eh'.~-- and a
dignified death.


He fell with the fort, of course, his head carried aloft
through the street with the others'-- the grey beard tinged
gruesomely scarlet-- while the crowd jeered. I daresay the
vultures dined well. His brother turned to me for comfort,
sick with shame. 'He was a fool', I told him; what more could
I say? A degrading, grisly end, but just what he deserved. I
am a reasonable man and give religion its due
but it excites unseemly passion. Certainly one can hope God
winks at human foibles, but to flout authority and violate the
Faith is madness. God and His Prophet deal with those!


I dreamed for long of the head, the expression curiously
peaceful-- one might almost say smiling. I confess it rather
rattled me. But that was last summer and life again is normal.
You see, it came to nothing, as these things will. Come, let us
enjoy our tea; why spoil a pleasant day with talk of this? One
has said it all in saying he was mad.


Well, now, have you ever seen such pomegranates! So large and
red, and yet so strangely bitter; 1, at least, have no taste
for them. Is it age?


   .pa~hetic seenes Uolloued] upon the di~ision of the
inhal~itants of Zanjan into tuv distinct camps, by order of its
gorernor. . . uhich dissoll~ed ties of uorld/y interest and
afrection infavour of a mightier loyalty. . . Shoghi E~endi God
Passes By


For~ of 'Ali-Mardan Khan
Zan.jan
Deeemher Is50

In this interval of silence, mother, we count our dead or find
solace with our loved ones, and so I write to you with but
faint hope my words will reach you. The scribe assures me that
a

kinsman may find a way to carry this beyond the walls. How
weary these stones must be of our long struggle here! It has
not been easy--food and fodder in short supply, brackish
water--and the cold is constant. Death and suffering are now
familiar, but still I am not reconciled; only my own death will
cause me to forget what I have seen.

But I do not forget you, mother dear, no matter what befalls.
Twice we are divided, by marriage and by faith-- you must
observe my father's will, and I my husband's; and as I adopt
this as my own will, are we thrice separated then? Oh ! may we
all drown in the will of God ! The times twist us but behind
these walls I love you. Though heaven be in upheaval let me
reach across and speak--there may not be another time for this!
Attend me with your heart, mother, for I carry your grandchild
and hope this news will bring you joy. One day you may receive
us with smiles. So, you see, life continues, even here.


Rumours will have reached you. Too large for reality seem the
people here-- even the women garb as men and seize the sword.
It is all too strange and troubling. But God inspires what He
will in this great day. You may find me somewhat changed but
you will know me--what has the governor's decree to do with our
love? Am I not still your child, your jigar-gushih? Offer me
your hal~~a and you will know! I am better suited to prepare
the samovar or dawdle among the girls over some light task with
chitchat and melon seeds than to live in the camp of heroes;
yet God has brought me here. And, yes, your own good life has
set me on this path. These fingers which you guided towards
gulduzi now tend the wounded. I am slow. My friends show great
patience with my awkward ways; they give, I think, more than
my share of food. I have cut my hair to bind the muskets but
find dressing it is simpler. My hands which were your pride
when daintily patterned with henna now wear a more vital,
deeper dye-- but still they would hold you to my breast. And
with it all, your place in my heart is unchanged, nor must you
worry. I move with care, watchful of my trust.

The one called Hu.Liat is here and the enemy will soon be upon
us-- once more the noise and the blood. Birth cannot be
soundless or without stain. Though mucll and many will it wash
away I do not fe.lr this crimson rain for cvery drop must tell
and all shall be fed of the heavy harvest.

If 1 live I shall ag.lin take up this letter and, if not, may
you one day rejoice, mother, that mine was not an idle death.

I a~k little in a world that shows slight mercy but this I bcg
of you: Speak gently to my father and win him back to me!


ii.c~-r~     Icrm orcndearmenl. equivalenl lo your hearl'~ remnanl'. t
il kin-3 or~mhroi~ery.

COMMAND PERFORMANCE


Ablaze like a theatre, voice upraised in song, one
comes dancing in the dust, costumed in candles, his
performance lighted with flames fed by his own flesh.

The crowd jeers, not knowing this to be solo by royal
command, spectacle beyond applause; this the music of
Am I not your Lord? this the choreography of Yea
verily thou art!


  A MOUSE AMONG HAWKS

The uomen and children uere ~aptured and subjeeted to
brutalities u*ieh no pen dare deseribe.

                      Nabil
The Daun-~reakers           .


Nayrlz. June IsSO

Qamar is a beauty, her skin unusually fair; it did not
go well with her after they seized us and we were
given as playthings to the troops, the soldiers drunk
and brutal. mocking us in our disgrace. God alone
knows our sufferings, the indi~nities we bore.
I was spared much, being older, the cast of my eye
thought an evil mark. But Qamar, unmarried, slender,
with the quick grace of a gazelle, lovely as the moon
whose name she bears-- what can I say? She was a mouse
among hawks. Her virtue and shyness incited them to
shameful conduct. One officer singled her out for his
attentions and won her stern rebuke. Glancing at the
lance on which her father's severed head was held aloft
she called: 'Beloved Father, had you thought me worthy
of so brave a suitor?' Even some of the men tittered at
her audacity. The humiliated offficer struck her face
and turned her over to the regiment. For all her tears
and pleading they showed no mercy. She was silent then,
woodenly compliant, as if removed to another world, as
they led her away. I cannot think it gave them pleasure.

When it grew dark she crept to me, bruised and sobbing.
I freed her wrists and wiped the men's spittle from her
face, rocked her in my arms till she grew calm. We
chanted softly, clinging together. Here and there a
child whimpered, a sleeper cried out. In the distance
the men revelled, cursed and made lewd boasts. I felt
that God saw our misery, heard our prayer.


Later we slept, though fitfully, cramped and crowded as
we were. The ni~ht was chill and we had not been given
rations. When I awakened the sky was growing light.
Qamar stood with her back to me and with a small blade
was hacking off her hair which fell soundlessly in black
drifts to her feet. Her hands worked in measured
precision across her scalp among the jagged tufts and
bristles. 'Qamar! Your lovely hair!' I gasped. She
turned then to silence me and I saw the oozing stripes
her nails had raked across her cheeks and breast--these
she'd daubed with mud to staunch the bleeding. As I
again cried out in horror she advanced toward me like
one moving in a trance. 'Rejoice for me,' she said
softly. 'Now only God may find me pleasing.'


THE CONJURER

These eyes hal~e gazed upon llis coun~enance . . .
      Mirza Muhammad-~Aliy-i-Zunuzi (Anis)


Tabri_, 18S	

It is the way of boys to lie brooding in their shaded
rooms languidly conjuring the heroic images or the
nippled voluptuousness by which budding men assert their
dreams and annul the dull existence
of the practical furniture that sombrely
clamours to define their life by diminution;
their way to weep over H. afiz or Rumi for our
fleet hour, the mortality of roses, song so
soon ended, and to sigh for the fragile
throbbing flesh which can yet but imagine love
nor know its tyranny.


It is the need of parents to deny these
tremulous flights which in anarchial, merciless
privacy annihilate our lives disclaim our
features and demolish our decisions; our need
to call the youth to the substantial meal, the
headlines of the day, the unpaid bill and the
educated compromise. We who are good at sums
and court no scandal foresee the poem
forgotten, have known the tender yielding lips
and slender slanting thigh coarsened, grown
flaccid with boredom and trivia.


And so, Anis, we too would have summoned you to
our reality here in the secretless glare of
sunlight, bidden you select the prudent career,
embrace cautious choices; would have had you
marry.

replicate our worth with children, watched your
waist thicken and your hair pale, responsibly,
respectably, resigned to the dulling of your
eyes, and left you at the end ungrudgingly,
content that you would tend our grave.

And for all our wisdom would not have known how
idle was our hope, Anis, who in that tearful
hour moping alone among the unaccusing
dustmotes in your shuttered room conjured God's
very face, were pledged to lay your cheek's
childbloom upon His target breast, your atoms
elevated to eternally commingle with Dust of
dust.


THE BLUNDER


.Tihran, 1852

Some blunder into history by a simple act
without the panoply of the punctilious marriage
that secures a dynasty, without the
calculatedly outrageous flourish or
unconsidered heroic feat.
This nameless crone, for instance.
She purposefully hobbles through the
street's loud and roiling crowd
toward her goal. Care was never
lavished upon her face, teeth, hair;
she needed no cosmetic art for her
role in this affair.


There is a magnificence in her rage.
Stooped arthritically, slowed by age,
yet she seizes up the stone, strains
to keep pace. Swooning with
imminence, inebriate with
righteousness, she hurls the missile
toward the mark. Indignation and
triumph stain the dignity of her
punctate face. Now we know God
accepts even intended virtue; the
gentle, clement target turns to aid
her blow. Sluggish with its burden of
finality the stone describes a
languid arc.


There in timeless tableau we see
Archetype and archetype: but how to
read its sense? Does the hag know she
enacts our rejeciion (who have not
her innocence)?

CA SE STUDY


As psychologists, gentlemen, you may wish to consider this
study. By all means take notes.

The subjects are unexceptional in the context of the excep-
tional times. The youth, an only son, conventionally handsome
and doted upon; the mother, simple and pious. In another period
she would not likely have imagined a world more complex or
demanding than her kitchen. What could be asked of one who has
so little?

There were disturbances in Zanjan, one might say, not to put
too fine a point on it. The boy, then, handed over to the mob,
is led to certain death. He has a noteworthy aplomb but
countless youth have shown an equal valour in causes less than
this. Ratner, gentlemen, observe the mother, summoned to the
place of execution. She strides impatiently toward this
appointment so long foreseen. Familiar with giving, she had not
thought to withhold this last token; gifts are given once and
this was all decided long ago.

The enemy, relying heavily on the predictability of mothers,
urges her to extend to her child the impertinent, the
unforgivable invitation. Her life cannot purchase his nor her
tears save him, so she rescues him from regret, sweetens his
departure: I will disown you as my son if you incline your
heart to such evil whisperings and allow them to turn you away
from the trulh.


The boy's choice condoned, he yields gladly to the sword. Dry-
eyed with pride, approbation and knowledge of compensation, the
mother sees the severed head roll toward her. She turns slowly
from that sad souvenir--had never attached strings to her gifts
nor asked receipt.
Well, gentlemen, there you have it; admittedly not a conven-
tional domestic situation. Now, learned doctors, do you care to
expatiate on sacrifice and resignation? Explain if you will,
what is asked of us.


AT HER LOOKING GLASS


T hran
August 1~52

No rings, then. I have almost done with symbols; the
white silk is enough. The face a little flushed, I
think-- no colour needed there! But even this becomes a
willing bride. How eagerly the blood goes to its task,
and this but the beginning!


Ah, little mole that always troubled me, today you are
my jewel. Let me go to him flawed,;human. And oil of the
rose--roses for love!-- for am l not a lover?

Yes, this will do. I like the spare economy of this;
this plainness pleases me. Beauty (and they have said I
have that) is best achieved by discarding all but ~he
essential. (Do you not see, my sons, the Bridge of Sirat
must be crossed alone?) Is there an ode here? Ah well,
no time for that: l have sung my songs and thev succeed
if thev brin~ me this!

Yes, this will suflfice-- there is no room for vanity
in this meeting, this appointment kept but once! Let
them hurry! Or does my unseemly haste offend my
beloved? My fast has made me giddy ! How well heknows
my joy!

Foolish woman! Would you forget the scarf? choose
carefully now!-- yes, nuptial, the finest, softest,
and draped just so? Or carried? I kiss you, lovely
thing, in anticipation of your sweet purpose !

Ah, how easy all this is. Now let them come!
One more journey, one last garden.

Soon, my unborn sisters, we shall see what
comes of this!


HOW STILL. THE CENTRE


We are not astonished after the star-strewn
career the drunkening drama the dark
turbulence noisily tumbling her from
periphery toward the wet sucking maw
of the angry vortex to find in the still and absolute
centre this bland and yawning domesticity: the woman
pacing her room, sorting, arranging, consigning a few
trinkets to a wooden chest for memento or bread-and-butter
gift and, as housewife to greengrocer, milady to backstair
maid, issuing the calm order My last request is that you
permit no one henceforth to en~er my chamber . . . in the
confident excluding tone born of the assured, rare and
unsunderable marriage.


LULLABY


Are you infants that you will not sleep without my tales! I swear
you turn my poor head grey; I have been far too soft with you. If
your mother knew we spoke llke this your poor old nurse would
pay, my little tyrants. Would you have your nanu disgraced that
way? Ah, but what harm--we are children only once and that is
brief enough. Let me close the lattice against the laughter from
the banquet. The nightingales are still tonight.

So, you would have the story of the secret stone-- do you not
tire of that old tale yet? I fear to give you morbid dreams. But
yes, we all love secrets and it satisfies me well to tell it; I
do not have an endless store, for all my years.

It was long ago, in Tihran, in the time of your father's father,
cousin of the Kalantar. I came as a young girl into the service
of his wife. My people were honest and my home decent. I was
clean in my ways, swift and soundless on my feet and quick to
learn. Fate was often cruel in those harsh days but I found a
good life and pleased my mistress. My hands could move gently as
brown doves across her silks, and I was skilful with the comb.

The day when one of high birth, a man of Nur, was taken to the
Siyah-Chal, in chains, the household was abuzz. A festival was
made of it, the servants watching from the roof as he was led
through the rabble of the streets. I was glad enough of the
event--not every day one of my station can see a nobleman in such
a plight, and we had few entertainments.

A strange sight indeed--like seeing a white rose in a swarm of
gnats. He walked in dream-like majesty as though he did not hear
the curses and abuse-- his head bared, his feet unshod, his
garrnent soiled with refuse pelted by the mob. In excitement I
seized up a white pebble--sharp it was-- and raised my hand to
hurl it. And then he looked up at me, as though the better to
receive its full force. I froze. It was his eyes, I think.
I turned and fled, sobbing and shaking. Afterwards I was
much teased by the others for being an hysterical girl.
In shame I hid the pebble. And that was all.


Later he was exiled, I heard, but what became of him I
cannot say. Some said he was an enemy of God, and some a
holy man. I do not know about such things-- it was enough
to have seen that face. Perhaps I should have cast it,
but my hand was stayed. I took it as an omen.


I keep the stone in this small pouch about my throat--
you may touch it if you promise you will sleep-- see how
smooth it is worn. It grows. I think, more white each
year. The silly amulet of an old fool, I suppose, but
when I am ill or sad it comforts me.

Did I not close the window? I smell the heavy breath of
roses!


So there you have it; it was his eyes, you see. It was as though
they gazed beyond us to another world.


Now will you sleep, my little ones?

A DREAM OF FIRE


Mission of the Good Shepherd
Tihran
I 5 September I 852

My dear Edwina,
           It is not yet dawn and the house is still. I have wakened
from a troubling dream and am too agitated to successfully court
sleep. Therefore I have lighted a lamp, drawn a light shawl about my
shoulders and taken up my pen to write to you. You will realize at
once, my dearest sister, that I am shamelessly using you--I hasten to
admit it at once--but the dream (about which I shall say more later)
has left me not only sleepless but intensely homesick. For the first
time since I so eagerly consented to accompany Aunt Edna on this
adventure, begun now so many months ago, I am engulfed in homesick-
ness--it is a keenly felt physical sensation, like waves of nausea,
one might say, or the occasional distress one experiences on a sea
voyage.
It must be that the night air and the stillness of the hour are
conducive to confession--your intrepid, unorthodox little sister feels
homesick! But with it I enjoy a delicious sensation of guilt and the
small conceit in which I suppose all insomniacs indulge--the notion
that I am the only one in the world awake at this hour. I picture you
and Thomas as having long since retired to a deserved and blissful
sleep, and th~ children folded into innocent dreams, their pink faces
as swe~t and mysterious as unopened blossoms. Your house in London I
see as a warrn refuge in the large impersonal city, a harbour from
which sails forth in all weather the stable ship of the goodness of
your lives whose cargo of genuine Christian charity and graoe enriches
all who enter the wake of your argosy. That last sentence, as I read
it over, strikes me as being affected and preciously poetical--and in
truth I have of late excessively exposed myself to the scant English
library here in part no doubt to counteract the strangeness of this
setting, to assuage my boredom and Perhaps to cultivate and invite the
homesickness I
am now experiencing in such full measure. But despite the extravagance
of my flight of fancy I hope you will understand and accept the
sincerity of my thought which I expressed, alas, so inadequately.
           What I intended to say is that you and Thomas demonstrate
your religious feelings so fully and naturally in your lives whereas for
me, despite my struggle to achieve a sense of peace and to live a
Christian life, faith of the quality I hope to acquire seems often an
unattainable goal. I long to have been able to inherit faith, as you
have, with an unquestioning humility and gratitude (and must now, I see,
add envy to my growing list of sins!) The minor mortifications of the
flesh I impose upon myself (such as not spending quite as much time at
my toilet as my vanity invites me to) do not bring spiritual attainment
but do, I hope, serve to ward off apathy and self-satisfaction. In my
darkest moments my Spirit chafes against my desire to believe and to
experience the reality of religious truth; indeed I sometimes feel that
whatever degree of faith I have is of no more consequence to my soul
than a mosquito bite to my physical body. Perhaps, I tell myself, I have
only willed myself to believe. In you and Thomas I do not see such a
conflict--you wear your beliefs as comfortably and unselfconsciously as
you do your skin. Will I ever achieve that wonderful condition? It
saddens me unbearably to imagine I might not.
I know you would attempt to console me at this moment by making kind
allusions to my serving as companion to Aunt Edna on her visit to Cousin
Robert's Mission and my willingness to serve here temporarily as a nurse
but I must perforce dismiss your charitable observation at once, it
being swept away before the cold onrushing re~ognition that I was
prompted in this instance, as in so many others, not by a desire to
serve our Lord but by a crasser motive--my vile curiosity and selfish
wish to see foreign lands. An even more difficult admission is that the
dreadful sin of vanity played no small part in my making this
journey--my vain hope of proving to myself that I am the eoic woman I
thought myself to be when I was a child--and the perhaps equally sterile
hope of meeting the challenge of some great and mysterious destiny.
I suppose--no, I must say I know, for I try to be honest with myself (at
least in important matters!)~I know that I have set aside the question
of marriage until some of my questions are answered. Surely marriage is
not the highest destiny of a woman ! Oh dearest, I do not mean to hurt
you for I have nothing but the deepest love and admiration for you and
Thomas and I believe with all my heart that you perfectly fulfil God's
purpose in your family life--I mean only that I have not been able yet
to find established in myself the sure foundation of belief you have
achieved on which a family and home, in the fullest sense of those
words, must rest. Mama always complained of my wilful and headstrong
ways and I am sure she is convinced that I have barred myself from the
Garden of Eden (she so clearly sees marriage in that light) and have
dealt unfairly with Stephen. What is important to me is that I have
never lied to him. I have resisted his suit with a cool aloofness,
although I admire him very much, and it delights me on the one hand that
he should endeavour so earnestly to understand, and on the other it
vexes me to distraction that he should consent as he did to await my
return from here to give him my final answer. My heart and head continue
their battle for domination of me ! Do not think that I shall never
marry--I may yet marry Stephen--for I long for a home and children but
these things must be, for me, a part of a more imperative destiny, if
only I may find it.
          Will you chide me for pouring out these rambling thoughts in
this letter rather than confiding them blushingly to my journal as well-
bred romantic young ladies are expected to ? The truth of the matter is
that my diary has remained untouched for days and I cannot bring myself
to write a line. Recently I glanced over the entries and they seemed to
me to be of excruciating triteness. I had thought the record I proposed
to keep would be the means of my entertaining you and Thomas and the
children with exciting tales when we gathered around the fire after tea
upon my return to England (it would
be raining outside, of course, and we would b~ a cosy warm circle near
the hearth) but I find the words flat and dull and perhaps not even
true. Since the journal does not interest me I cannot imagine that it
will be a source of interest to anyone else, no matter how dear they
hold me in affection. I was bored by my tedious descriptions of our
voyage, my enthusiastic account of the strange sounds and sights and
scents of Persia, the trivial details of life at the Mission and the
dull recounting of our side trips to centres outside Tihran and what
we saw and ate and whom we met and what we said, my superficial and
probably inaccurate dissertations on the subtle mind of the Oriental
and the morals and manners of the Persians--none of it now strikes me
as being of any significance. It is all so banal, like those countless
journals I have read by travellers in Europe which I seized up so
eagerly because they held out so much hope of answering the need of the
soul but which contained, after all, nothing but descriptions of
mountains. I do not feel myseywhen I write in my journal--who am I
addressing when I write in it~.--and because it intimidates me I become
formal and conventional like a school girl composing a 'correct' letter
to Mama. I am dissatisfied, too, with the watercolour sketches I have
made here; they are pallid and smugly proper and cannot possibly convey
what I have seen or experienced in this curious country.
           Instead, I think what may be of more lasting interest are
my letters. I hope you have kept them. It occurs to me that I shall
enjoy reading them again some day. They constitute, I daresay, a more
honest record of my journey--I almost wrote 'quest' and I do not
dispute the accuracy of the impulse that led me to that substitution.
Perhaps if I read my letters at a later time I shall find some key in
them to what I have searched for all my life; perhaps my own destiny
is written into them in some cryptogrammic fashion as yet inde-
cipherable and veiled from me.
Alas, another flight of fancy! You will be impatient with my musing in
this aimless way. To aid you in your ever-forthcominR for~iveness of
me, reflect on the fact that I have changed so little since you last
saw me--always consulting the tea leaves and the Tarot, tearing apart
the flower to find its invisible heart, searching for the unknowable
secret of existence. Do you remember how I would waken in the morning
as a child bitterly sobbing because I could not remember the beauty and
mystery of some dream that had been interrupted by sunlight flooding
the room or by nanny's call? I was always certain that the meaning
would have been revealed if I had not been disturbed.
I have said little in my previous letters about Cousin Robert but it
is a comfort to speak of him now under cover of secret darkness for I
am troubled by what I see. Although I saw him but infrequently at home
and knew him not well I find him strangely changed and cannot believe
he finds that life here has met his expectations. He is a saddened,
disillusioned and almost embittered man. If Aunt Edna has observed this
she has not revealed her thoughts to me nor is she likely to do so. As
many rigid people do she demands propriety in life rather than
happiness. I sense in Cousin Robert no joy but instead a kind of grim
obstinacy, and feel that he remains here through some personal need of
his own. I can even imagine myself adopting a similar attitude of
resignation if I were to remain here long. He truly needs our prayers!
And privately I pray that I either find a living faith and joyful
conviction or else lose faith altogether, for I should not want
religion to become for me a spiritless habit or a formula clung to
through loyalty or fear. Forgive me, dearest, if I seem to stand in
judgement; we may be sure that God well knows what is in Cousin
Robert's heart and blesses his service. I simp~~r wish he were happier
than he appears to be and long to know what he really feels about God
and faith. We cannot spealc together of these matters because he treats
me rather patronizingly, perhaps to conceal from me the weight of his
failure, and he firmly assigns me the role of 'visiting distant
relative'. Even his many kindnesses seem designed to create distance
between us. (How unchari~able of me! But it does seem so. There is, in
all the kind things he does, the laboured and elaborate quality
of one who does not like children extending himself for a child out
of a sense of form or duty.)
           No doubt there are reasons for all this. As I told you
in an earlier letter this is not a fertile field for Mission work.
The Muslims are incurious and indifferent to the Christian message
and pick their way among the various Missions as disinterestedly as
they do among the competing stalls in the bazaar, whilst the Jews
view us with an ill-concealed hostility. How strange we must seem
to both groups, divided as we are in our own faith! I am able to
sympathize in some degree with what is, I suspect, the amused
disgust with which even those who pose as friends or converts view
us.
Cousin Robert's friends--if they may be so designated--are for the
most part associated with other Missions, vague and dispirited
people who hold each other in tepid esteem through sheer loneliness.
European, British and American, Christians of all persuasions are
united in an unaffectionate, formal and uneasy fashion through a
shared contempt of the barbarous Orientals, and most of our social
engagements are given over to their despairing accounts of Persian
intractability, deviousness and unredeemable savagery. I have grown
so weary of it I could scream! And even these dismal gatherings have
been curtailed in recent weeks due to the unrest that is sweeping
some areas of the country because of the activities of the Babi
movement about which I wrote to you.
A veritable holocaust of fury has been unleashed against them by the
Muslims. The reports of the indecent and gruesome tortures and the
ferocious slaughter of which they are the victims are so heinous
that they cannot bear repeating. I cannot sift through the
conflicting accounts of their doctrines to determine what it is they
believe or why they should be the object of such furious attacks.
They include in their number men of important standing, great lords,
members of the clergy, military men and merchants; and the Muslim
community is seething with rumours and accounts blaming or approving
the Babis, exalting them or heaping upon them maledictions and

the vilest curses. The view generally held among Cousin Robert's
friends is that they are heretical and politically dangerous. It is
said the Babis--men, women and even children!--go to their deaths
bravely, chanting the praises of God and singing hymns. What a
strange and powerful vision must inspire or delude them. I confess
I am both intrigued and horrified and in a curious way envious{~h!
to be able to believe so deeply in anything! And yet I recoil from
the idea unlikely though it is, of such an uncontrollable force as
animates the Babis overleaping the borders of this country and
sweeping Europe and the rest of the world into a maelstrom of chaos.
I would hope in such event to shield you and Thomas and the children
from it with my own body if need be; I could easily die to protect
and secure the virtue and tranquillity of your good lives. No doubt
the ferment here will gradually dissipate, though one of Cousin
Robert's friends remarked that it is certain the martyrdom of the
Babis will win them new adherents and admirers and that it is great
unwisdom on the part of the authorities not to let the movement die
for lack of momentum .
           In my earlier letters and perhaps at wearisome length I
have raged and railed againt the plight of women in this country.
I was deeply stirred to learn that among those who in past weeks
were caught up in the turmoil surrounding the Babis was a woman
named Qurratu'l-'Ayn who, I am told, was one of outstanding beauty
and intelligence and a poet of considerable merit. She was put to
death in a most horribk fashion, strangled with her own scarf. She
seems by all accounts a most unusual figure to emerge in this
land--the women I have met are vapid, fatuous and bovine--and one
would least expect a woman of her calibre to be affected by this
movement unless she saw herself as a suffragist or was a visionary
like Ste Jeanne d'Arc. Already she is something of a legend among
the Muslims. I am desperate to know more about her--the information
which reaches us is so garbled and sparse (and, I may say, coloured
by the bias and contempt of the narrator) that one cannot ever be
sure one has possession
of the facts or understood them. My interest in the Babi movement
seems somewhat to embarrass Cousin Robert and his associates and more
than once they have furtively interrupted their conversation when I
entered the room. It is almost as though they were jealous of the
rapidity of growth of the Babi movement measured against the scant
fruit of their own sincere, often sacrificial but seemingly unrewarded
efforts. The massacre of the Babis seems of interest to them only as
an illustration (rather welcomed!) of the innate and insatiable
savagery of the Oriental nature.
           It is likely that these unsettling events gave rise to the
dream from which I arose tonight trembling and excited beyond recall
of sleep. I shall tell you what I remember of it for I shall be
interested in reading this record when I return to London and have
long since forgotten the details. As is often the case I seemed both
to witness the dream and participate in it and I remember that I saw
colours. I stood, it seemed, on a high mountain at the utmost tip of
the earth, or perhaps even was suspended above it for I could see the
globe below me, the mountains and oceans clearly defined. Before me
stood a woman--in the dream I did not question but that it was
Qurratu'l-'Ayn clad in a dazzling white gown and a veil of the kind
worn by Eastern women. I was wearing my ordinary clothes--my garnet
muslin, in fact, for I remember thinking how dull the fabric looked
compared with her gown--and I, too, was veiled in the fashion of women
here in some grey diaphanous stuff. The woman gazed at me in silence
and with great intensity as though probing my soul. She then drew from
behind her a small book exquisitely illuminated in Oriental motif and
with a resolute and deliberate movement removed her veil. As she cast
her eyes upon the book's open pages the little volume burst into
brilliant flames. I knew, as one does in dreams, that it was the book
of life and that it held the answer to my heart's deepest question and
I was overcome with a longing to read it. As I approached to do so the
woman again looked into my eyes. With a solemn deliberation she
touched the book to the hem of her lovely robe and then, as she placed
the book in my hand, she became a column of gold flame. It was flame
without heat or smoke--like the fire in the heart of a jewel--and it
gave forth a wonderful fragrance. There was no horror in any of
this--it seemed a most natural event though I was shaking with
excitement.
I looked upon the book's pages and could see nothing but the brilliant
fire and knew I must remove my veil. It would not yield ! I tore at
it firmly and then with frenzy, my heart bursting with anguish.
Dropping the book I clawed frantically at the thin obscuring gauze,
screaming aloud in vexation and awoke hearing the echo of my own cry
to find my fingers beating the air and my face wet with tears. It was
so vivid that I shiver to remember it!
And so I began this letter in a mood of desolate deprivation and
homesickness in the dark hours and see now through the window that the
sky has lightened and the pale stars of morning mock my foolishness.
It will be another warm day. Life stirs here at an early hour. The
gardener in the courtyard below is moving about raw with sleep and is
indolently fussing about the tuberoses. He is a slow-moving man, mean
in spirit, and has, I think, no love of flowers; but Cousin Robert
tolerates or is indifferent to him.
The spell of homesickness has not yet fully left me but it will give
way to the trivial routine of the day. Soon I must prepare Aunt Edna's
tea and coddled egg; she does not entrust so delicate an undertaking
to the staff. No doubt she would ask this of me even if we were guests
in the palace of the Shah. I think she feels that the English invented
tea and the coddled egg!
I neglected to tell you that Aunt Edna's lettter of introduction to
Lt-Col lustin Sheil has resulted in our being invited to tea next
week. I understand that his wife is charming and attractive and I
eagerly look forward to meeting her. She has, I am informed, followed
the Babi movement with considerable interest and is thought to be well
informed. Perhaps she can satisfy my curiosity or throw some light on
the confused and conflicting reports that have come to us. If
anything
interesting comes of it I shall write in detail, you may be sure. I
plan to wear a wonderful turquoise silk you have not seen-- you cannot
imagine the beauty of the silk here.
          Greet Thomas with deep affection and kiss the children for
me. May God keep you well and in good spirits until we are reunited.
       I remain your ever-devoted and loving sister,

         Veronica


TH E SA LT


Tell us, young man, outstretched upon the rack, Is hot brand on your
soft flesh felt as kiss, And butcher's cruellest blow a lover's act,
His searing touch a source of rapturous bliss? Speak to us, lad, of
pure love's highest use-- (Pain, cherished bride to whom your hands
uplift?) Do you translate as song the foe's abuse And vilest gesture
welcome as a gift? What school, unruly boy, did you attend And what
diploma win to qualify As rare salt of the Tablets of the Friend--
You, truly crowned, as those who never die?


Tell, tell, Badi', before fiend stills your tongue, Is rashness virtue
only in the young?

RUBABIH

Yazd 1903

This bed-wise woman has known too many
men, lives beyond expectation of
kindness in a sad knowledge
unameliorated by surprise.


Interrupting a yawn she now moves to
her window, watches impassively the
man dragged through the street; sees
the mob wrest from his body his
sobbing, clinging wife who is beaten
unconscious, left torn and bleeding,
obscenely exposed, as the perverse
procession moves on. In the hushed
sector the shutters close
indifferently on the still form of the
wounded woman and her whimpering
children. Not even the prurient or
idly curious remain in the deserted
street. Rubabih, who knows the world
to be this way, sighs heavily at
recognition of yet another variation
of rejection.

Even stereotypes make choices. Let's
not be astonished that it is she who
descends,
gathers the children, carries
the victim on her back to house
and heal her: Outcasts, one
remembers, have nothing to lose;
have, in every age, come highly
recommended.


PA R T FO UR:
SO NG S A ND SO NNE TS


A tender tumult stirs meek dust to motion
A green and gentle ~~iolence ueights eaeh bough
Strained the net uouldst banquetfrom this oeean;
Another song ano~her .seasan n/~u
LINES FROM A BATTLEFIELD

Ponder auhile. Hast thou ever heard thatfriend andfoe should
abide in one heart? Cast out then the stranger, that the
Friend may enter His home.

                           Bahá'u'lláh


Come, let me fete you, beloved foe, for I tire of this old-
born war. It would shorten did I not so ruinously adore each
endearing stratagem your consummate cunning devises; your
enamouring intransigence enchants me, your very implacahility
an aphrodisiac. In this moment when fatigue calls truce let
me say it: if I loved you less I should not plot your end as
we embrace. Clasped to your bosom I gauge it for my blade's
dark use. Beware the honey posset and my proffered kiss!
Caressing your unloosed hair I plait a noose and with a
traitor's hand I stroke your face. May it be said I loved my
enemy but sought the Friend.


In these graceless hours when faith strains feebly against the
unbelieving night I am alienated from angels and celestial
concerns, unmoved by the testimony of flowers. Locked in a
grief so ancient as to have no name, in this dimming light,
even magnificence menaces, estranging me from excellence,
trivializing my pitiable trophies--minor virtues garnered in
a sweeter time-- my nurtured imperfections not so epically
egregious as to embarrass the seraphim ruefully yawning at
their mention; nor will my shame, as once I thought, toDDle
the cities, arrest the sun's climb.
What assault on heaven guarantees attention? Inured to the
banality of pain and the ordinariness of suffering (sanctified
or plain!) it is joy that is remembered.


Ah well, not every day can witness an anabasis and 1, a sorry
soldier, camp in ruins, speak from weariness of battle far
prolonged. From shining names on scattered tombs I fashion a
paean; to vanquish dread, invoke the victors:
Breakwell/Brittingham/Blomfield/Benke/Bolles/Baker

    Barney/Bailey/BackwelllBourgeois/Bosch
(Do I presume? I swear a radiant rank appears, assuring as
sunlight, familiar as bread!) Dunn/Dole/Dodge sterling
Esslemont! rare Wilhelm! unrivalled Townshend of the silver
pen! imbiber of the scarlet cup, Badi' ! shield of the Cause,
Samandari ! brilliant Keith! immortal Lua! steadfast Thornton!
courageous Marion! incomparable Martha! constant Juliet! noble
Louis of the golden heart! selfless Sutherland! Duarte Vieira,
ebony prince! Johanna Schubarth! Conquerors of continents,
movers of hearts, they are a legion stretching to horizon's
end, champions of the Peerless, the darlings of the Friend.


A beachhead beckons. I read auguries of triumph in my
campfire's dwindling plumes. Remove the garland, still the
Iyre, my love. It is dawn: the engagement resumes.

IN THE SILENT SHRINE AN ANT

It beho~~eth the people of Baha to die to the world and all
that is therein . .

                           Bahá'u'lláh


In this sovereign and articulate silence Will faith seize the
dull, recalcitrant heart, Beat down the truculent will and
cleanly part The passionate mind from violence, The stratagems
and dogma of our curtained lives? We court a miracle and see
the candles fail, The petals rust. What do our tears avail?

No sword of vengeance cleaves us as we stand, Our supplication
brings no answering shout. An ant crawls by persistent as our
doubt And in the comprehending hush we understand Our
mediocrity and godliness: We are the question and its own
reply. The heartbeat thunders: Here, Lord, here am l!


But stillness gives us back with scented breath, Who chooses
love of Me must first choose death.


WHO HAD NO CANDLE


He Who had no candle has here, ensconced in circled circle,
amid adoring flowers and green deferential trees, this whitest
marble taper tipped with gold. It gleams serenely from Carmel,
inextinguishably lights the world,
our reverential hearts the willing wick.


This light will melt remotest snows, outlast the
names by which we know it.


See, Adhirbayjan, this constant flame which casts
no shadow.


ASK IN PERSEPOLIS


Why should we honour these who spurned our world,
Our exhortations, prizes and our praise, Turned
their back on prudence, reason's pearl, And solid,
vital commerce of our days?

Persepolis tell out your tale.
What shall fade and what prevail?

Why should we honour these who held no hope For our
fastidious scholarship, our power; Who sought a
kingdom past our mortal scope, Held cheap the
fleetness of man's salient hour?

Ask crumbling Crecian marble bust:
What shall endure and what leave dust?

Why should we honour these who held the earth As
less than pebble sinking in the mire? We gladly
would have tutored them in worth, Shown all to
which deserving men aspire.

Ask slave in market-place of Rome:
Who leaves trace uho tomb and bone?

Why should we honour these who scorned our gold,
Dismissed as insignificant our dream? In future
times our history will be told, Theirs be erased as
written on a stream.

Ask in Chile Chad and Khmer: Does life but lead to
sepulchre?

Why should we honour these of no acclaim Who
followed vapoury image as thing real; Who found
flamboyant deaths and left no name, Proved deaf to
cogent logic's stern appeal?

Ask the wise ones of Tabriz: Did darkened sun at
noon bring ease?

Our lofty errands could not stay their course, Nor
woman, wine nor wisdom cause to veer; Perversely
doomed, accursed by evil source, They turned from
all the beautiful and dear.

Stones vf Akka be our eyes. On u*at Beauty does sun
rise?

We shall not honour these who did not see The
scheme our cautious wisdom would apply, The
ordering of the world our destiny And theirs, who
follow phantoms, but to die.

Ask on earth ask in heaven. Which the loaf which
the leaven?

Then leave the world to us, who steer by star
Anciently fixed by will and intellect; We design
the wars and spires, course afar, Posterity
inherits the effect.

Historian pray judge it well: what path heaven what
path hell?
       NEW SONG

And he hath pu~ a neu song in my mouth
                      Psalms 40:3


It was comfortable in the smalltown smugness of your childhood.
You were born securely into salvation's complacent trinity, a
Catholic, Protestant or Jew. In a spasm of spiritual megalomania
you praised His good judgement in selecting such eminently
deserving souls for the gift of His exclusive One True Faith.
But only on Sundays. The world was small and safe and familiar.
And very white. No red or black offended our prim steepled vaults
of self- congratulation. Indians were the bad guys who got licked
in movies, dying copiously amid candy wrappers and the popcorn
smell of matinees. Amos and Andy probably lived in sorne far
place, like Hollywood, or maybe in the radio. And there was no
proof that God spoke Negro. You knew that He loved
Canadians--they didn't start wars. He would approve our thrift
and industry and seeing our virtuous sunlit wheatfields, our
unpretentious brick, He would agree with the Chamber of Commerce
that ours was a good town in which to live. Yes, it was
comfortable then.

Of course there were a handful who found soiace in the medicinal
doctrines of Muriel Sweetbun Udder, or the burnished tablets of
Myron J. Hammerschmitt; a few who gathered in tents or behind
vacant storefr(3nts with

                  ~

ambitious titles attesting orthodoxy or reformation; but then
every town has its malcontents. A small brave band scorned our
comicbook catechism, our insolent litany of insularity, and made
a kind of faith of not-believing. Still, God did not strike them
dead. He was said to be extraordinarily patient with sinners and
heathens. When you heard that God had died, you wondered whether
it was f~om sheer boredom-- all that joyless music and our
impudent prayers. Your sophomoric selfrighteousness would have
been enough to do Him in.


So you would have described it then, the frightened child
striving against acne and Auschwitz and an anger that sought
release in a word powerful enough to shake the universe,
intimidate the stars, blind to His love of the people ~f your
town for the innocence of their aspiration blind to their genuine
virtue and power and beauty.

The tempest came in your twelfth or fifteenth year, a clean cold
wind, and you were left like a stripped young tree in autumn with
a cynical winter setting in and nothing large enough to house
your impulse to believe. The need lay as quiet, unhurried and
insidious as a seed snowlocked in a bleak and 1onely landscape.
But forgiveness came, an unselective flooding rain, and the seed
was there, a promise kept. Even your rejection was forgiven and,
in the burgeoning, lovesap slowly stirred. God hadn't died, of
course, abandoned us for Russia, ndr moved to Uganda.

                  "7
You caught a glimpse of Him in the clearing smoke of the rifles in
the barrack-square of Tabriz; heard a whisper in the soft silk dress
of Tahirih, bridally white. His fragrance was carried by the wind
startling the wildflowers of the fields of Barfurush where Quddus was
felled. The stones of 'Akka saw His beauty and His pain and cried
aloud. On Carmel's sandy slope you traced the outline of His tent
and saw, in its tall cypress, the talisman of His triumph.


There is a new song. Up from the Siyah-Chal it rose, breaking the
Shah's dream; the Sultan turned in terror as its sweetness grew. It
echoed through the palaces of Europe, empty now. The bells grew
silent, the minarets fell mute; the full-risen sun embarrassed our
disputatious sputtering candles. Our doomed and desperate dissonance
was stilled, trickling out like the dismal incense rising from our
saddened, separate altars. The dust of Shiraz throbbed as Thornton
Chase took up the song and all the roses of iran spilled their musk
triumphantl~ at Lua's peal. Martha heard the music; its accents
captivated May. Westward it moved, and worldward, rejoicing the trees
of Adrianople as the chorus grew-- Esslemont, Breakwell, Dreyfus--
and grew and grew. Now the earth is flooded with the felicity of this
new song, this Godsong.


I falter, Lord, I quaver; yet I sing.

SONNETS FOR THE FRIEND


To whom am I to sing if not to You Who know, well
know, the singer and the season And listen still
and know the verse be true Who are Himself the
music and its reason. My barren fields lie
parched beneath the sun Nor orange and olive
yield in arid earth And fallow stay till
husbanded by One Whose pledge embodies all of
death and birth. Of what then shall I sing if not
of this: I learn the ancient patience of the
land, Mute witness to misfortune's scorching kiss
And reach for rain, as reached I for Your hand.
When I but sound Your name in prayer or dream
Behold! My rivers run, my orchards teem.


Why would You have my feeble, feckless love?
Another's charm compellingly holds sway.
Inconstant, from Your kiss I'd turn away Often
and often to him, the mated dove Truer than 1,
more passionately whole. I share another's wine-
cup and embrace. Encouched with You, I'd
helplessly extol The enslaving power of that
other's grace. Your song would not hold me. With
half my heart I'd hear You and at faintest first
call flee Truckling and grovelling to my sweet,
tart And jealous love who asks fidelity. Yet,
faithfully, You call this faithless one And
stumblin~. halt. at last to You I run.
What love exacts I had not thought to yield, Nor guessed the
crazing dart the Hunter hurled, Or might have found indifference
a shield And built of gold and pride a dullard's world. But sure
the Marksman's aim and keen His sight; I could but dress His
raven locks the night. I might have fled His perfumed, silken
tent But for the madding blandishment of grape; Heart ravished
by His voice, resistance rent And, flagon drained, I could not
seek escape. In passion's sweeping tide I lost all fear And
could but stroke my Captor's brow the year. What love demands
I had not thought to give Who, dead of this, am yet left here
to live.


A M ETROPOLIS OF OWLS

    Il ~ta. nol the Black Dungeon of Thran, for all ils 11orrors
and ehains, u*ieh Ne (Bahá'u'lláh) named the Mosl Creat Pri.~on.
He gave that name to 'Akka.... Nol He Himseyalone but the Cause
of God uas in prison.
                     George Townshend


Named by her past suitors 'Akka, Ptolemais, St Jean d'Acre,
she is no beauty, this aged courtesan, meanly rouged by sun,
squalidly abandoned to beg her bread with perversely tasteless
baubles ~and tawdry bits of tarnished brass, her historically
frequented bed the nest of roach and rodent.

The moon's cosmetic kindness does not erase the horror-hollowed
haggardness of her pocked, stone face. The enthusiastic stars
fail to cajole nor can the soaring birdsong raise in her joyless
breast an answering trill. The wafting apotropaic perfume of the
Bahji rose, seeking to condole, pleads for entry at her
unrelenting gate, but is turned back, its forgiveness spent
among children playing on Napoleon's Hill.


With disconsolate dusk the carnival of her bazaar subsides
leaving her in darkness, with no warming fire, leaning toward
the water's edge where the mortified day will expire. Low-
squatting, knees clasped to her thin unsuccouring chest, she
does not raise her bat-encircled head at the hawk's cry, nor
heed the querulous questions of the owl. The pale paste jewel
of her lighthouse beckons wanly but the senile, impotent mosque
can only lewdly smile. She does not see the stricken night
huddling comfortlessly by her garment's soiled, unfastened hem
nor hear her own demented keening echoed in the lamenting surfs
low moan, much less gaze adoringly at Carmel entreating greenly
from across the bay. Indifferent to the lascivious mist
obscenely fingering her lank hair her stare is inward, fixed
upon her private stunning grief, turned from the world, consumed
beyond self-pity or contrition.


She knows the moment when she chose her death, knows it, lives
it, nightly as the murmurous sin-whispering waves pile in,
forty upon forty, restless with accusation: the Cargo of
cargoes ignominiously spewed ashore; the metallic futile
protest of the rusted chain; the thickening indignation of the
sordid, misled mob; the unwilling lock-key turning in a prison
cell; the infamousfarman piously read (she knows it well, the
parchment crackling wildly in her reeling brain); the
shattered skylight and the frail youth's twisted frame; the
mother's sob and then and then
Oh then, unbearably, the scratching of a Pen!

The dawn releases her to trinkets, plastic wares, the haggling
of housewives, and leering merchants' trivial affairs.


She rises shivering, and disfiguring her face, rehearses a
grotesque, coquettish smile for her reeking market-place; but
leaving, looks back to where the denunciatory waves recede,
her unspeakable, lip-locked, bosom-buried crime (till their
eve's retelling) a secret aqueously kept: To have seen the
loneliness of God and not have wept!

ALWAYS IT IS WOMEN


It is women, always women, who reveal the way, who see and
understand what well serves life. Forced from prehistoric day
to yield in love and birth, to bend and stoop to cradle, fire
and field they gazed to earth were befriended by what nurtures
and grew wise.

Men went gladly whooping to the hunt happy with the power to
devise schemes of war, instruments of death and magic to hold
congress with the stars. If the rich game thinned or weather
turned adverse they might placate capricious spirits, blame
illest luck or totem's curse and range afar. But women knew.
Leaning and listening they learned what in stillness is
acutely earned. Crouched closest to the soil they saw the
berry sicken, the water fail, the sweet clay spoil, knew
incantation would not avail nor sacrifice behoove. Soon the
camp would move.

It was the Magdalene who as she pored over the dust that held
her Lord read the message of the Nazarene and knew for what
the men must cast their nets. Always it is women who reveal
the way and who, conceiving, conceive what fosters life. But
man for~ets.
Again it is a woman. At Badasht, prostrate in
prayer, she hears the shrilling trumpet pierce the
air and knows the Nightingale is listening. Rising
she tears off her veil, steps blazing, glistening,
from her tent-- the past is rent. Men groan in
consternation, constellations pale, the age
shudders, reels and dies.


Slowly the camp moves toward the world that she
espies.


THE CAPTIVE

There uas one name that always brought joy to theface oJ
Ba/la'u /lah. His expression would change at the mention
of it. That name uas Mary of Magdala.
                         'Abdu'l-Bahá


You, Mary of Magdala, there in your garden of pleasure,
amid the jasrnine and the sweet, green figs, going your
perfumed way, secure in your Roman's love, knowing the ways
of men, but waiting, waiting; your dreams cool as your
pavilion's marbled floor, contained, guarded,

blanched and rustling like the gnarled olive, your
heart testing the coils of love, remembering your
village home, your heart captive, captive.


You, scer.ted and oiled, your glistening hair a
dark cascade, smooth-armed, gold-bangled, fingers
slender, turquoise-laden, stroking the ivoried
lute, your smile dawning, tentative in trust, or
flashing and accomplished in guile, often alone,
waiting, waiting, or, not alone, practised in words
men wish to hear; sometimes weary of the songs, the
wine, the dice, all games of chance; and sometimes
sad, your thoughts an echo of the mourning dove,
pensive, bleating, alone in a world of men, your
mind captive, captive.


You, marking one man, unlike, apart, one beyond
your art, your wiles, one knowing, accepting as
none has, true as sunlight, one to warm the marble
dream, to still the dry and rustling tree, to hush
the dove's lament, one who is for ever, his words
a soft rain on that stony hill,
you, listening, listening, starting in anguish at the augury
of the red anemone there on the sanded slope parched in the
slanting sun.


You, learning one kind of death, seeing your Roman go, go
baffled, bronzed and glinting in the sun's last rays, go to
his legion and to other loves, go in anger, jealous, proud,
not knowing how, alone in the chilled and darkened villa,
you fill the lilac dusk with sobs; and he, wondering,
wondering, why you should will him go, why his wealth nor
power not hold you, and why his gods have failed.


You, in simple robes, coarse against the pampered flesh,
following the other the long miles through the dust, with
the faithful women and the few and urgent men, unmindful of
discomfort, your peasant source remembered, his smile your
nectar, his word your bread, thrall to his will, learning,
learning, giving alms, growing in grace, resuming humble
ways, your will captive, captive.

You, with fragrant spices, lavishing unschooled kisses on
the unshod feet, your tears their true anointment; and are
not done with weeping but will kiss that head that bea, s
the bitter garland hanging above you on yet another barren
hill you, waiting, waiting, while love dims and ebbs and the
world goes on, uncaring.


Vll

You, seeing the voiceless vault and seeing more, oh more,
the light dazzling, dazzling, the hurt dissolving in the
balm; then hastening, hastening to tell the gentle, grieving
friends, you, radiant with seeing, the first to know, to
see.


Vlll

You, now brimming with the vision, ignited, a gladdener of
ears, telling of love's kingdom, lip to lip, town to town,
making many journeys, calling, calling, breast to breast,
land to land. An Emperor will hear you--but stone, but
stone. Only jaded Rome, darkening, doomed and sinking,
will still your voice; but none will still your song.
Others call: the spires of Europe will rise.


And you, Mary of Magdala, dying for him at the end,
triumphantly dying, rejoicing in this death, your
Roman looking on, puzzling, puzzling, who still would
save you had you not abandoned all love's lesser
claims and are dying, dying, ecstatic in this death
for love, your soul captive, captive. You, Mary of
Magdala, so magnificent your thraldom that down the
centuries at sounding of your name, Love Incarnate,
God's Own Thrall, smiles.


SUPPLIANT: BAHJI


Is this then all there is, a simple garden, And a
silence that displaces need for words? What portent
in the blood-red wayside poppy? What message in the
music of the birds?


The hero's heart is hoisted on a cypress, The saint's
is softly folded as a rose; But mine lies shattered
here among the pebbles On the only path the fainting
coward knows.

RAINY EVENINGS IN GREAT CITIES


Always on rainy evenings in great cities when I am
passing on a bus I see beneath a brightly lit marquee
a slender girl clasping a pathetically inadequate
umbrella a rippling crowd floating about her on a
crest of animated chatter on which they glide out of
the black through the submarine light into the theatre
swirling to either side in twos and threes
gregariously grouped, companionably coupled, selected,
grown insolent, she parting them like an apologetic
boulder her hair a little damp forehead glistening
with rain or stigmata face pale and straining. I watch
her pantomime of anticipation as she consults her
watch with unnecessary frequency establishing
credence, purpose, her eyes eagerly scanning the faces
lips, lifting, parting in what would be for him a
familiar smile if he existed. The cruel light exposes
her unanswerable loneliness asifbyX-ray.
Always I wonder how she can be seen on rainy
evenings in each great city when I pass on a bus
and how I know that she will see the play or film
alone. Inexorably my bus moves on a mindless
mastodon to an unknown destination and the windows
look on darkness. Her picture stays with me forever
a slide arrested in projection. Overhead the bus
ads pitilessly postulate that loneliness is cured
by choice of toothpaste. It is the girl's umbrella
that enrages me: Never has it shielded her from
disappointment.


SONGS OF SEPARATION

Are l~ou interesled in renuneia~ion?
                   'Abdu'l-Bahá


Love would suffice me, I'd have bade it stay, And
sinned, if this it be, implored our God In mercy
cast His eyes another way To win my will, and not
have thought it odd. But you who are much less than
I a fool Knew rootless tree could not survive the
frost And, leaving, drank renunciation's gruel, So
loved me as to pay the torn heart's cost.

Though blade to breast would be an easier death And
meagre comfort's found in sage advice, Though
separation tortures with each breath And roses in
my hands now turn to ice, Yet what you dared
foresee I've come to know: I claim you still
because I let you go.


Our love will pass unnoticed into time And history
not record our names or cause, Nor future lovers
weep to read this rhyme, The hastening crowd not
give it thought or pause; Yet must I write these
lines for my heart's ease, Recall our perfect hour,
taste again The wine pressed from a berried moment
seized, Joy's lavish-yield even, yes, the pain. Had
I but known that exile were the toll Still would I
offer that committed kiss, Release you then to God
for His Own role Though death itself were paler
deed than this. In banishment, I learn that this is
true: I gave Him all, thus gives He ever you.


I hold you in my mind and think of death As ever it
was lover's wont to do, Would bar~er every spoil,
my very breath, To be empowered to stay that hand
from you. Were our devotion but the only stake I
might betray it for a lesser prize; With heaven
ours, the covenant we make Exalts our trust beyond
all compromise. Love outgrown proof, it now remains
to find Acceptance of our parting for the feast;
Our final fear, when this to one assigned, Survivor
be endowed to bear it least.
Host chooses guest, yet does this coward pray Soul's
strengthening, lest he be bidden stay.


Would that the times were tame and lovers free To savour
life's most brief and scented hours Oblivious of history,
besieged towers, The chaos and the unmoored stars; but we
Are wrenched, torn, flung as unremembered leaves Driven in
doleful patterns the wind weaves. Glad days are gone. A
bastion given each The long nightwatch begins. From fitful
dreams I waken wet-lashed, racked by choking screams, Seeing
you fall, alone, beyond the reach Of my caress and comfort,
dying there-- Your lifeless hand extends in lifeless air--
Hurled down, as hero, without last softening kiss. O dearest
love, I did not ask for this.


WHO SHALL TELL THE SPARROW?

So blind halh become the human heart that neither the
disrup~ion oSthe city nor the reduction of the mountain in
dust nor euen the cleauing of the earth can shake off its
torpor.
                           Bahá'u'lláh


She awakens to the ordinary terror of the day, hand trembling
at the saucer's edge, the tabulated, headlined horrors of the
sleeping hours waiting, folded, complacent,

to be consumed with Cheerios and orange juice; and, fresher still,
by radio excitedly magnified in chilling, urgent precision:
framework of the morning.


The toast has burnt. She abandons it uneaten, swallows vitamins
against the lethal level of the smog and the reading on the
Richter scale, adjusts an ear-ring, selects the perfect scarf and
pin (only their absence would be noticed) and clutching the
unnecessary leather case races into the subway's cargo of
psychotic, kin~~ and mediocre men, in equal fear of all.


The man in the lift, with sad and burnt-out eyes, failed saint,
mugger, suicide, or hero maimed by executive compromise does not
see her. She chooses another car, welcomes its brisk ascent to the
cool, chrome chaos of her familiar working day, its humiliations
balanced by a sense of salaried kinship with the power of its
suave and flannelled men. She has been invisible for years:
indifferently they accept her crisp presentation, the knowing
poise. She moves through susurrous corridors of the polished
concubines of corporate avarice, enters in a bright sprinkle of
efficiency, metallic 'good-mornings' spilling like paperclips
under the brutal neon tubes. Her glossy smile conceals a scream.
She is numbed by dictation, wounded by telephones,
submissive to the accomplished sadism of the typewriter.
Decisions are made, stratagems rehearsed, appointments
arranged, but they change nothing. The sumptuous carpet does
not stain though she bleeds mutilating a notepad during the
conference where her promised recognition aborts under top-
level intrigue. B.J. beams at his promotion, calls for a
round of drinks, modestly confesses it came as a total
surprise. He surreptitiously pats her with a lasciviousness
made innocent by ritual and absent-mindedness, delights in
her programmed cringe and does not know she might respond
to need.


She struggles against migraine to compose a memorandum in
the meaningless marital chitchat of commerce in which
nothing is revealed. It goes badly for some reason her
horoscope does not explain. She crumples the paper with
sudden viciousness, flees to the cloakroom to blot her
streaming eyes and smooth powder on her hysteria. Rage has
erased the sky; a grey smudge of disapproval hangs in the
space beyond the skyline. Like a family quarrel the bruised
morning clatters and chews itself to an unlamented end.

                   Vl

Passing newsboys, palely freckled avenging angels of the
municipality, shriek accusations of pollution, infanticide
and political corruption.

                   I ~4

In the crowded luncheonette ordering an impersonal salad,
she tyrannizes the oppressed waitress-- insensitized by
bunions and coffee-scalds-- resolves to withhold the tip
and weeps o~~er her hired novel. Her stomach burns.
Repairing her mouth she curtails the hour to return to
imagined crises amid the litter of her desk but the Oracle
has not written and the irresolute afternoon yawns itself
away in disappointment.


Her unloving lover whom she does not like has furtively
planned a concupiscent suburban evening with his wife and
does not call. Gratefully hurt she hurtles home in feverish
fatigue to her selected emptiness and her Klee prints, the
untasted, convenient dinner and calculated chores. Her hair
is set and stockings drip dolorously in the bathroom. In
conspiratorial concession to insomnia she pours the earned,
luxurious drink and gathers the comforting loneliness about
her. The door is double-bolted against fears accustomed as
her bathrobe.


     A wailing siren cuts the sun's throat- it sinks beyond
her window in a hazed fug - acidly orange. She pulls the
shade, - tries to remember the sound of crickets - on
fragrant summer lawns, but the memory was lost with the
doomed elms of childhood, has seeped away with all she knew
of poetry and music. The philodendron gasps for breath on
the bookshelf,

135
its leaves layered with a dross of unnamed sorrows that curl
and settle in the corners of the room like favoured pets.


Flashing and spurting, the evening news comes on: three
thousand dead in an earthquake, the dollar devalued, the pound
skidding, and hemlines dipping in the Fall. She succumbs to
the fetish for the exalted fatality, is vicariously
victimized, hears war, murder and other desumed disaster
dispensed with unctuous unconcern from the lighted, chirping
box. And among the diffuse, anonymous deaths a cosy local few,
personalized with individual addresses, illustrated by views
of draped white forms and resigned or outraged next-of-kin
gesticulating in bafflement, calamity's celebrities, their
private griefs immortalized on film.


Her name is not mentioned among the enumerated casualties.
With an acceptance blunted by a hidden wish she assumes she
has survived so cleans her teeth and winds the clock as is
expected of the living. Beyond the window, the voluble,
smitten night, exhausted by merchandised desire and rented
embraces, is pierced by frightened cries and strange fires.
The heavy air seethes and writhes like a strangling sleeper
in an anxious dream.


O who shall comprehend the anguished darkness? Who shall tell
the sparrow: God has seen?

WE SUFFER IN TRANSLATION


Moun~ of Olives Village
Israel

Intimidated by the relentless Hebrew sun that oppresses the
dusty garden the olives have bleached to a silvered insipidity
and the oranges gleam weakly in their dark, glossy roosts.

Flushed with their exertions the children press near, wan and
wobbling in the unalleviated glare. I struggle again.ct the
urge to reduce them to gauche trivialized effigies in a
nativity pageant. By now I am a familiar figure, have been
assigned grudgingly a slight substance, the Canadian uho
liL~es here-- someone more plausible than a tourist. Tell us
al70ut Cana~la! they shriek in utter disbelief of its
existence and still in faint uncertainty of mine.


And I am precipitated into homesickness that stubbornly casts
up arrogant contrasts to support my reality, that aggressively
flaunts images of northness, seasonality, spaciousness,
magnificence, extravagant teeming abundance-- nothing ordinary
or moderate. On my mind's canvas Canada is obdurately autumnal
or gripped intransigently in the hushed or howling drama of
winter's death; its mountains loom in gargantuan aloofness
dwarfing these dun and arid fibbing hills.

I call as eaRer witnesses the confident bravura
of colour reproductions of the Group of Seven whose violent
spectrum leaps from the page in eloquent rainbowed
reinforcement of my words and am reprimanded by the
children's reproachful silence.


I have offered too much. Television has conditioned them to
hope for cowboys and Indians. I squirm under their
disappointment and helplessly watch them dismiss Lismer and
the others with a disapproving shrug. Even Emily Carr will
not be trusted.

Nothing must challenge their pastel parched experience. You
should not ~ell lies says one prim boy, his eyes glazing
with selfrighteousness. Israel is better! Our snow is white
our trees are green. I captitulate with ease before this
wrenched credulity. Smiling, I recant: Ken ken! And the
oranges orange!


They accept the vindication passively. The small forms glide
from my strangeness, rinsed away by the choking heat and
vengeful sunlight. Behind my eyelids in profuse explosions
blaze images of the brilliant hoard of Kleinburg defiantly
reclaiming me in a lush and coolinR incarnation.

THE CO NFUSED M USE
MEMO FROM THE CENSOR

. . . a poe~ get~ing pious is a terrible thing.

               Ralph Gustafson
               The Peng~Jin Book of Canadian Verse

I've been meaning to speak to you about this
for some time, White;
I mean thls tendency of yours to be found
scribb'ing in a notebook every night--
Poems, one might suppose--
A mug's game, as Eliot said, and heaven knows
He is unquestionably right.

          I concede I sei~e a pen sir
Not e~-er~ day but nou and then sir.

A singularly unhealthy activity I should think.
Why not~ instead, take a wife or take to
drink--
Do something uncharacteristically rash,
Paint the town red, raid the petty cash,
Get yourself thrown in the clink?

I ll surely gil~e your plans some thought
But like my chaste and narrow cot.

And worse ( how you do compound your crimes!)
So many of the pieces you write contain lines
Which have, shall we say, an unfortunate
religious connotation.
How can one explain this embarrassing
infatuation
So incompatible with these enlightened times?

Would my verse be more e.~fectual
If more cerebral intellectual?
More grim still, the chilling thought
That reading all your tommyrot
So--take no offence--unhairy-chested,
One might justifiably conclude you think
yourself invested
With--good grief !--belief,
Might one not?

What Ifeel and what I say Are two parts of a
whole, I pray.

In conclusion, let me remind you, my lad,
The spectacle of anyone with spiritual
delusions is sad, but seen in a poet
inspires revulsion.
Do try, old chap, to contain your
compulsion.
It's enough that history may charge that
your poetry is bad--
But to be thought pious? Egad!

l~ll urite my poems and hope t~ley re true sir;
But I'll not show my lines to you, sir.


 SPIRITUAL DISORDER OF THE
       DOMESTIC KIND


Of all the swains who courted me One lad
I loved the best; Oft, smiling, sank in
pleasure, His head upon my breast.

Golden were his tousled curls And blue
his pleading eyes. How well I loved his
slender hands And alabaster thighs.


I would have wed this fairest man But
feared his ardour cool And younger loves
might claim him, Then I be left a fool.


And so I sent the wight away (To tell it
my heart grieves) And marked how poorly
he was shod, How tattered were his
sleeves.

I prayed the saints heal passion's hurt
For these, we know, forswore it. I
rasted, said a Mass or two, And felt the
better for it.

Another beau came calling And sweetly did
converse. I noted well his melting song,
Gold gaiters and full purse.

No beauty this, with hoary head And
bulbous, warted nose, But in his soul I
thought might bloom An undetected rose.

So wed I him and long have lain Beside my
snoring dear. But Oh ! my arms are empty
! And Oh! my breast grows sere!

I bear my lot with dignity
Concealing my heart's thirst
And solaced till my death will be By thought of
him loved first.


I rue the day I cast aside. That one who might
bring shame. In dreams I kiss my early love, My
dearest what's-his-name.


JUST ADD WATER AND STIR


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Rea-ler, kindly wake up. The poem cannot
continue with you snoring.
VISIT FROM A PURITAN

In my vieu, one of thegrave dangers the Baha'~'Faith rnay
encounter is the effort, conscio~s or not, of those who have
nel~er had an authentic religious experience, to impose upon
the pristine purity and joyousness of the Cause the deadening
stamp of simpering puritanism, in which the uncourageous,
thefake and the spirit~ ally dead take refuge, that spectre u
hich has appeared at the deathbed of all the great religions
of the past.

Michael Sears
Letter to the author


My dear, I have hesitated to mention this before, but after
what I can assure you was the most loving consultation the
Committee instructs me to say that we abhor certain aspects
of life referred to in your poems. It was the cause of some
alarm that one of your verses contained explicit reference
to--was it an arm?.--some part of the anatomy. We
disapprove, you see, of what one might call the baser
instincts, the viler passions, although we recognize that
such references are the fashion. We who have constituted
ourselves guardians of these affairs (no salacious innuendo
intended) do not care to have our delicate sensibilities
offended, nor those of others. We choose to think that human
sweat--that is to say, perspiration-- does not exist or if
it does that one should not dwell on the fact that it might
st . . . I mean that it is malodorous. We believe in the
utmost purity of thought and since you profess to uphold
unity

we know you will agree with us, will you not? No
doubt the whole nasty human adventure will, in
future, improve when we are granted wafting, astral
bodies in which to freely move. Perhaps we shall
exist on eau de cologne, butterfly wings, rose
petals, and whatnot-- pure speculation, of course,
but isn't it a charming thought! We may evolve so as
to communicate by mental telepathy or sonic
vibration which one might hope would lead to
elimination-- no vulgarity implied--of the need for
poetry. Think of all those books gathering dust on
shelves! Ah well, enough of that; it is my
commission to advise you that we know you yearn to
have us hold you in the high esteem in which we hold
ourselves and which, if you acquire humility, you
still might earn. We think it would augur well for
your development if you were to invite our
instruction in what to think and feel and write-- _
not that we for a moment claim to know poetry, but
we know of it, a fact which gives us considerable
objectivity. Poetry, of course, is unquestionably
the product of psychological disturbance or fear,
and we know that deep down you long to acquire our
degree of poise and happiness, dear. If we must have
poems let their themes not be expressed too starkly;
we like our verses to be
well tit-willowed, hilled and daled and somewhat
sky-larky, just as we like our angels to have wings
and their golden tresses curled, to
behavepredictably as angels; and we like our
heavenly gates well-pearled. True poets, you know,
in any age, do not experience exultation, let alone
rage. Frivolity and humour have ever been at war
with piety, for the good Lord--as His friends refer
to Him-- endorses High-Mindedness and Sobriety. One
of even so obscure a religious persuasion as yours
surely cannot avoid conceding that among God's many
attributes are those we share with Him-- impeccable
taste and good breeding. Poems should be given over
to a rarified cerebral devotion and not the
unseemliness and vulgarity of emotion. We prefer,
don't you know, reverence of whisper and tippy-toe;
that is to say, the fluttering wrist as opposed to
the clenched fist. In your verses we suggest you
not refer to martyrdoms--they're so essentially
physical, as it were. Well, much as I know you'd
like me to stay, my duty done, I must away. I can
see that you've already profited by this
visit--well, you've the Committee to thank-- you've
sat there an hour and conceived a poem so abstruse
and pure the page is blank.

FISH STORY

And plu~k till time and times are done
The silrer apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun

              W. B. Yeats

William Butler Yeats went fishing And
caught a little trout. A silly thing, I
thought in youth, To write a poem
about.


Yeats' fish became a maiden, Danced him
across the glen; A most unlikely tale,
thought I Who was but fifteen then.

I caught a trout at twenty. What use
was that to me? And though it seemed to
vent a sigh I ~ossed the thing asea.

A~ thirty and at forty In each love I
looked upon A fish form mocked me from
the depths Then, glinting, darted on.


Now faint at fevered fifty I cast an
urgent line And cannot name what I
would give to land a trout all mine


To dance across the valley
And up the dappled hill.
I'd lead her to the orchard
To claim at last my fill,

Feast on gold and silver apples,
A time and times partake, And know that these,
alone of fruits, My thirst and hunger slake.


I make my home along the stream, My mourning trout
glides by Nor sees the founderous bone-paved shore
On which I gasp and die.


     SETTLING THE SCORE
   WITH MR OGDEN NASH FOR
'THE SEVEN SPIRITUAL AGES OF
  MRS MARMADUKE MOORE' AND
 THEREBY ACHIEVING IF NOT A
    BETTER VERSE AT LEAST
       A LONGER TITLE


The Balete and others who speak Setswana should
get along, but they don't wanna. The Afrikanner
and the !Xhosa are not drawing any !Xclosa. The
French and Germans hate the Dutch who don't like
anybody much. The British view is quite
reprehensible; they find all others
incomprehensible. Their Empire fell that fatal
night God proved not Anglican nor white. They
don't like each other, them's the grim facts (It's
a matter of 'aitches' and syntax). Cockneys don't
know a spondee from a dactyl (neither do 1, as a
matter of factyl). The Irish idea is even eerier--

'The likes of them? Sure, we're superior!' No
doubt amid the Arctic snow someone hates the
Eskimo. Pity him, in his most important span, only
the walrus to feel more-important-than. The Congo
Pygmy's deeply loathed by Africans more fully
clothed so 'spit in-yer-eye' is the loud retort
(hard for the Pygmy, he's so short). Canada is a
hate-free nation but just don't mention
miscegenation for whiteman's standards one
preserves by putting Indians on reserves and
placing Blacks in a sorry plight: 'You are
equal--I am right!' Americans discard all such
priorities, democratically mistreating all
minorities. Some think the Vietnamese are nice
though it's rather a case of let-'em-eat-rice.
There are those who have aversion to anybody
speaking Persian; no doubt one day a foe will
sunder them pulling their carpets out from under
them. Persian calligraphy gives Arabs the giggles,
they much preferring their own strange squiggles.
The Iroquois and Navaho hate lots of folks they
don't even know while Polynesians (with which
little rhymes) say it's best if you're like Heinz.
Swedes and Finns and other Caucasians suffer each
other and loathe all Asians. Historically,
Brahmans detest the untouchable which some find
rather much-too-muchable. Those whose script is
Sinhalese quite detest the Japanese who, in turn,
avoid the sainted Lapplander, thou~h not
acquainted.
Samoans feel if you meet a Papuan it's almost a cinch
it'll be your ruin, while Papuans say if you meet a
Samoan he's bound to hit you, at least for a loan.
Time-honoured tongues are declared now extraneous to
the woe of the Sard and the Alsace-Lorraineous. The
Tlingit dimly view the Haida and other groups they
can't abaida. Some feel the Negro freedom fighter
could come to dine if he were whiter. One view it's
said there's no appeal from whites exist for Blacks
to steal from. Yellow hates brown and in addition,
both deplore the beige Mauritian. Israelis love all
people, though-- ask the Arabs, they should know--
but gentile heathens they eschew which seems the
Kosher thing to do their theory being, if you can buy
it, that God prescribed the Jewish diet, while
Orientals think themselves most pious because He
designed their eyes on the bias. In Latin climes the
noble Quechua dislike the Spanish you can betchua.
Loving the Russian is no longer vogue, once hailed as
hero, now seen as rogue. The problem one gathers is
largely political, allegiances being essentially
cyclical. (For a trustworthy guide on whom to vent
pique consult current issues of Neu~sueek or write a
best-seller called, let's say, Whom lo Snub on Fiue
Dollars a Da~s) Mention the British to the Buganda
and in the hospital you may landa. Cannibals' manners
are highly reproachable (they want to know if you're
par-boil-or-poachable). If asked to dine think twice
or then you

may find yourself on tomorrow's menu. Their customs
being so detestable one can only hope to prove
indigestible. They should concentrate on erudition
and not so much on deglutition. We race to the
planets to spread racial blight-- who'll be the first
anti-Venusianite? Altogether, the world's a mess,
it's rife with tension, it's in distress. Called into
being a strange fate awaits you: the moment you're
born, somebody hates you. Now, none can impersonate
Ogden Nash but somebody had to settle his hash (his
skill's a fact over which I'm not wrangling none left
participles more amusingly dangling) and though the
result may be deplorable it brings us directly (at
last!) to the morable and if morals are something you
just can't endure reflect on the fate of Mrs
Marmaduke Moore. Dare one pay heed to the heavenly
call, becom~ a Bahá'í, and love them all?
SURMISE


Since Moses was a swarthy Jew some
maintain that God is, too. I didn't
think I'd like a god who said Shalom and
Rega ahad And so I went my merry way; my
life was brief but oh, so gay. When I
died and went to hell Old Satan smiled
and said, Ve/l, l~ell!


THE GRIM REAPER COUNTERED


A messenger of joy are you
    Who bring last mortal sleep; Haste
not to call, if this be true;
Will not the good news keep?

Think not my jibes mask fear of you
   Nor yet exemption ask.
Who dies for love a time or two
Comes practised to the task.


    PRUFROCK IN SUBURBIA


About the room the women dash, and talk
of their ills and diaper rash. Would
that the women whom I know mi.~ht speak
of Michelangelo.
IMPATIENCE


If I aspire to be a saint
Think not that this is due To
predilection for the goal But
shortness of the queue.


SHO RTCUT


I try to love my fellowmen, The Arabs,
Jews and others, But sometimes wish us in
the tomb In sleep to live as brothers.

There tutored by the levelling worms In
silent, chastening vault, To know
ourselves, at last, as one Nor care who
was at fault.


CONSIDER, MR ELIOT . . .


If it is true that naught avails, No love
so strong but that it fails, All beauty
not for long prevails Nor cure is found
for sore hearts' ails And none is placed
beyond Death's reach: Why, Prufrock, then
resist the peach? The ruthless stalker
will not care Whether. or how, you part
your hair.

A SEAT ON THE SUBWAY
O Children of Negligence! Ye are even as the unwary bird . .
.
                             Bahá'u'lláh

I do not remember consenting to this the fading hair, the
shortened breath, arthritic twinges; not I who honoured his
father and mother, who paid attention to his choice of soap,
his tie. This was not the promise of the billboards and the
silver screen; nothing has prepared me for this ignominy, I
who have never cared for ruins. Who is this pallid man I
shave whose inac~essible mirrored eyes look past me toward
some lost omniscience? What do I know of age and who can tell
me? My grandparents wcre old, of course, but always old,
stirring faintly on the edges of my childhood like dazed
accident-victims whose bandages obscure identity. Kate
Spottswood beguiled me with her legend but how could I see
the merry girl from Sligo in that grey and aproned woman
kneading dough in timeless rhythm, gesture?

No, I do not approve of this, do not consent; I should have
been consulted. I shall need time to think about this
outrage, muster my arguments. Let it be understood that I am
not without resources; I have responsibilities, appointments,
and do not like to be nudged into situations. I am at ease
with the familiar.


Will elevators still rise at my command and the stenographer
come giggling at my summons?
Now will she cross authoritative legs, have eyes only for her
notebook and the clock, cease paying the compliment of
challenging my grammar? When she yawns behind her hand might I
not scream? If I mention an event a decade past will she look
away as though I had uttered an obscenity or gaze with the
vacant, incredulous eyes of one reading descriptions of museum
fossils?


Let me say I am not paranoiac; I do not go so far as to suggest
it is a plot. But why on sensuous city nights do I pass
invisibly, invisibly, the blade-thin stalking boys in clothes
assertively skin-tight, their flat abdomens, seething thighs,
threatening like an accusation or dismissal? Can they not see
that I am a menace to their women? Do they believe they invented
desire?


Consider: it will grow worse. I the skilled, manful dangler from
subway straps, consummate juggler of newspaper and leather case,
will watch a girl, a shining, hateful child rise and yield her
seat and call me sir, her smile the one expended on kittens.
Casually she will turn from my humiliation and slip through the
door, purring with virtue. She will not know me as the peerless
dancer of tangos, the prosilient dancing youth with invincible
limbs-- where has he gone? Is the prostate, then, the seat of
premonition?


And ah, the subway, the subway! Dare I guess, at last, its
destination? Am I to understand that even I shall die?

NURSERY RHYME


The game is up at last, old chaps, Come, put away your toys--
The cannon, bombs and ships and maps-- Have done with blood and
noise.


Our sons unnumbered you have slain, Our daughters bowed with
weeping, Is it such fun to wound and maim You can't see shadows
creeping?


Why strut and posture, bluster, bluff, Now looms the day of
reckoning? Come, children, we have had enough, Maturity is
beckoning.


Humpty-Dumpty needs your care, Jack Horner's growing weary,
Simon longs to taste your ware, Jack Spratt now finds lean
dreary.

George-Porgie Pudding-and-Pie, Assisted by some others, Strafed
the children, made them die, And broke the hearts of mothers.

Margery Daw, King Cole and Mary, Well see your garden grow, With
mushroom cloud, quite contrary, And corpses, row by row.

Behold the black shee-p down the lane, And Blue-Boy's rusted
horn; Regard the meadow, mountain, plain, And fear what's in the
corn.
While Chicken-Little's sky still holds,
Bake fast your pat-a-cake; Goosey
Gander's time now folds, Come,
sleepyheads, awake!

The ladybug has flown away, Her house,
her children, burn; London Bridge fell
in a day, The Rhine has had its turn.


What say the Bells of Bailey now? What
nose the blackbird pluck? The mouse upon
the clock will vow The Hour has struck
and struck.

PART ONE; PORTRA YALS

The opening quotation is taken from Shoghi Effendi, The World
 Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 77

MARTHA ROOT

See 'In Memoriam', The Bahá'í World, vol. Vlll, pp. 643-8

              A LETTER TO KEITH
Keith 'Nannie' Bean Ransom-Kehler. See 'In Memoriam', The Bahá'í World,
vol. v, pp. 389-409

               LOUIS G. GREGORY
See 'In Memoriam', The Bahá'í World, vol. xn, pp. 666 70. For the opening
words by 'Abdu'l-Bahá see Elsie Austin, Above All Barriers. The
italicized words in the poem are adapted from Louis Gregory's pilgrim
notes published as A Heavenly Vis~a (see Bibliography)

              VISIT TO A VETERAN
Horace Hotchkiss Holley (1887-1960). See 'In Memoriam', The Baha; World,
vol xlll, pp. 849-58

           'ABDU L-GHAFFAR OF ISFAHAN

See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of ~he Faithful, pp. S9-60. cf. Sana'i's lines
quoted by Bahá'u'lláh in The Seuen Valleys, p g

               MASTER CRIMINAL
Eduardo Duarte Vieira, 'first African martyr'. See 'In Memoriam', The
Bahá'í World,vol. xlv, pp.389 go. The opening words are from Bahá'u'lláh,
Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh, 20

MARION JACK

See 'In Memoriam', The Bahá'í World, vol. xll, pp. 6747. Admirers of
George Herbert will recognize his two lines

EAGLE

Louisa (Lua) Moore Getsinger. See 'In Memoriam', Star of theWest, vol.
7, no. 4, May 1916, pp. 29-30; no.lg, March 1917, pp.

The introductory quotation is Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 257.
Other quotations are taken verbatim from Juliet Thompson's diary. An
entry for 5 July alludes to the Master having made public His station in
a talk given on l 9 June 1912. The events of 1 3 June are described in
an entry for 16 June.
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