in dancing shadows
thrown by a flickering flame
a flash of bright eyes
and pout of a flower mouth
burn young men’s hearts to ashes

Kim M. Russell, 2017


Image found on Pinterest

My response to Carpe Diem #1167 The Dancer

In this new episode of Carpe Diem Haiku Kai, Chèvrefeuille has shared a poem by the thirteenth century Persian philosopher and poet, Saadi, also known as Saadi of Shiraz, who is not only famous in Persian-speaking countries, but has been quoted in western sources as well. Recognized for the quality of his writing and for the depth of his social and moral thoughts, Saadi is widely recognized as one of the greatest poets of the classical literary tradition, earning him the nickname ‘Master of Speech’ or ‘The Master’ among Persian scholars.

The poem has been taken from the first book of poetry written by Saadi: Bustan, which was completed in 1257. Its title means ‘the orchard’ and it contains the fruits of Saadi’s long experience and his judgements upon life in a collection of anecdotes, including accounts of Saadi’s travels and his analysis of human psychology.

The Dancer

I heard how, to the beat of some quick tune,
There rose and danced a Damsel like the moon,
Flower-mouthed and Pâri-faced; and all around her
Neck-stretching Lovers gathered close; but, soon

A flickering lamp-flame caught her skirt, and set
Fire to the flying gauze. Fear did beget
Trouble in that light heart! She cried amain.
Quoth one among her worshipers, “Why fret,

Tulip of Love? Th’ extinguished fire hath burned
Only one leaf of thee; but I am turned
To ashes–leaf and stalk, and flower and root–
By lamp-flash of thine eyes!”–“Ah, Soul concerned

“Solely with self!”–she answered, laughing low,
“If thou wert Lover thou hadst not said so.
Who speaks of the Belov’d’s woe is not his
Speaks infidelity, true Lovers know!”

© Saadi (c. 1213-1291)(Tr. Edwin Arnold)

Chèvrefeuille has challenged us to write a tanka inspired by this poem.

12 thoughts on “Flirtation

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