A fair apparel of patience I will don, longer and longer for vigil make my nights

From Martin Lings’ Sufi Poems: A Medieval Anthology.

From Abu Bakr al-Shibli:


A fair apparel of patience I will don,
Longer and longer for vigil make my nights.
Unwillingly patient, not yet willing am I,
But little by little my soul I seek to enlist.

From Abu’l Abbas al-Qasim as-Sayyari of Marv (who may or may not be this Al-Qushayri – their dates are close but one generation off)


Patiently pleasures I shunned till they shunned me.
I made my soul forsake them; steadfast she stood.
The soul’s for man to make her as he would:
If fed, she seeks more; else, resigned she’ll be.
Mine was an arrogant soul; but when she knew
Me resolute for humbleness, humble she grew.

As rich as the selections are, I’m limiting myself to these two excerpts since Ling’s translations are elsewhere far from engaging – partly through archaism of vocabulary, more through archaism of syntax and what I suspect is an effort to mirror Arabic word order in English. A sample from his Al-Hallaj selections:

Thy spirit with my spirit mingled is,
Even as amber mingled is with musk
In blended perfumes. So, if aught Thee touch,
It toucheth me. Thus art Thou I inseparably.

I appreciate a respectfully literal translation – down to preserving word order – but there are limits.

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