The Progress of Man


    First he appeared in the realm inanimate;
    Thence came into the world of plants and lived
    The plant-life many a year, nor called to mind
    What he had been; then took the onward way
    To animal existence, and once more
    Remembers naught of what life vegetive,
    Save when he feels himself moved with desire
    Towards it in the season of sweet flowers,
    As babes that seek the breast and know not why.
    Again the wise Creator whom thou knowest
    Uplifted him from animality
    To Man’s estate; and so from realm to realm
    Advancing, he became intelligent,
    Cunning and keen of wit, as he is now.
    No memory of his past abides with him,
    And from his present soul he shall be changes.
    Though he is fallen asleep, God will not leave him
    In this forgetfulness. Awakened, he
    Will laugh to think what troublous dreams he had.
    And wonder how his happy state of being
    He could forget, and not perceive that all
    Those pains and sorrows were the effect of sleep
    And guile and vain illusion. So this world
    Seems lasting, though ’tis but the sleepers’ dream;
    Who, when the appointed Day shall dawn, escapes
    From dark imaginings that haunted him,
    And turns with laughter on his phantom griefs
    When he beholds his everlasting home.

From: Persian Poems. an Anthology of verse translations
edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


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