Though winter has caught the world and your heart in its iron grip,
Do not let your faith’s hold on your beloved Joseph slip.
Your love was a bright thing when you sat at night making his coat,
And your heart tugging gently at anchor like a tide-borne small boat.
You had dyed the stuff with the color of love which is bright flame,
And you stitched it with the thread of your breath and the needle of his name.
How handsome he looked in his coat in the mirror of your eyes,
How charming and considerate in the light of your courtesies.
That is not love which flourishes and fails with the seasons—
In presence is whole-tissued, in absence is full of lesions.
Joseph has the affairs of all Egypt in his care;
Has he not left you his locketed brightness to wear?
But if you want your Beloved always to be present,
You yourself never for a moment must be absent.
A lovely piece of symbolism, linking up with the symbols of tradition. To strike a note new in English verse he goes back to the treasure house of the great Hafiz and Rumi. When the time of ‘winter’ comes we seem separated from the gorgeous presence.
Joseph was a symbol of perfect beauty. The longing for him could symbolize the longing for the divine which we clothe in the many coloured coat of our imagination. His ‘locketed brightness’ is the remembrance of his face and name.
‘Lesions’ are scars and wounds. The lover has to accept that his Beloved has Egypt or the world to run. Love will remember his flawless beauty even when he seems away.
But the kernel of the poem is that His presence does not depend on the favours he shows us but on the quality of the loving attention we bring to him.