Poem 54

Arresting new ways of saying that all is illusion, including our wars with self and with others and our feeling of bondage. As he reminds us in verse 2, we only develop an awareness of freedom through being bound, like Baba’s illustration of the bird that must be enclosed in a cage to learn the true nature of freedom. And the best cage is submitting to the Beloved. Once again he stresses that there is no earning of rewards with Baba, only our spontaneity can encounter his, we accept his bondage through our soul leaping up. If this does not happen we have to be resigned to waiting.

In verse 4 he returns to the notion of the war on self, where sooner or later our own separate self must be despatched with the sword.

‘Hoeing his own row’ is a common expression meaning doing your own independent thing. Balancing and contrasting with the casual tone of the first part of the poem is the strong pity in the last two verses. ‘Seal’ is an interesting word here. Muhammad is referred to as the Seal of the Prophets meaning the final one, whose message largely supersedes all earlier messengers. There have been many false claimants of such a role. Any new revelation is viewed with hostility by orthodox Islam.

The heart-war goes on, like all other wars, unnecessarily,
It continues as long as one doesn’t know one is eternally free.

But freedom must be tested in bondage: let the bondage be
Not to self, but to the Beloved’s divine whimsicality.

The Master lovingly has fixed the time for each of our head-breakings;
Let there be no thought of barter with Him, of givings and takings.

If your soul does not leap when it hears the news that God-Man is here on earth,
Don’t worry, it’s not yet the time for you to taste the wine of No-more- birth.

There will be plenty more Occasions to blazon His name on your shield
And point your sword at your throat and say, It’s time dearest Enemy to yield.
But how I wish that all men now could meet the Beloved that I know;
All strewing petals at His feet, instead of each hoeing his own row.

How I pity those who cherish the imitation instead of the real,
Those for whom the newest ‘prophet’ is the latest Seal.