Saturday, 28 November 2009
The Flower of Persia
Many thousand years ago, in the city of Isfahan there was a weaver called Jahan. As he was a highly skilled weaver, he made a good living. He had decided that he would dedicate his life to the perfection of his art and turned his back on love.
Now it happened that the king had a daughter called Shireen, who was the treasure of his life. The queen had died giving birth to the princess so that she had never known a mother. Still, she had a nurse who cared for her and gave her the love her mother could not. As a result she grew up into a beautiful young woman. Her hair was dark like ink, her eyes were brown as mahogany and her mouth was red as blood. She was learned and well read. She could ride both horses and camels as if she were a warrior and no hand or eye was surer with a bow or a blade. All who looked upon her loved her - women loved her for her kindness, intelligence and wit. Men loved her as most men love a beautiful woman. Yet, she loved only to learn more and was known throughout Isfahan as Shireen the Scholar.
For her 21st birthday, Jahan the weaver was commissioned to weave her a bedspread of great beauty. He went directly to the Great Park where all the loveliest flowers grew and drew pictures of them. The rose and the Jasmine, the Poppy and the Lily and the tall Iris among others. He drew pictures of birds also and of butterflies for he had determined to weave the Princess a bedspread to bring her joyful dreams. He began three weeks before her birthday and on the day of her birthday all of Isfahan awoke and after morning prayers began to celebrate her birthday. Jahan was brought to the king's halls and gave the bedspread to the Vizier who paid him and thanked him. This was done so that the lowly weaver should not see the high born Princess, but Love who cares nothing for rank or other follies conspired so that as he left the palace, Jahan felt himself watched and turning saw the loveliest woman he had ever seen gazing upon him. He blushed and ran back to his workshop where he drew a picture of her so he should not forget her. There was little chance of that, for her image was struck deep into his heart. Love is precisely that cruel.
Now of course the woman had been Shireen who had been curious to see the man leaving her father's palace. But she did not fall for him quite as easily as he fell for her. When she saw the bedspread, she was delighted and sat looking at the gorgeous flowers all over it for hours, never tiring of the beautiful fabric. But she gave no thought to the maker of the bedspread except to consider the wealth of talent he had.
One day as it happened, Jahan's friend Suleiman saw the drawing of the young beauty in Jahan's studio and remarked how like the princess the image was. Jahan said nothing at first, but after a while he confessed that her image was so beautiful that he could not forget her. Carelessly, Suleiman answered,
"She is very beautiful and it is said that she is in love with the Caliph of Shiraz in the south. They are to be married after he wrote her a poem describing her as the Flower of all Persia and likening her to a lily in the desert."
Jahan did not know what it was, when he felt his heart break in two, for he had never fallen in love before. He only knew that he felt a sudden lack of desire for life. He continued to weave his beautiful works, but his heart was not in it for the one he loved cared not for him. Only briefly when the caliph himself came to commission from Jahan a beautiful carpet as a wedding present for Shireen did Jahan seemed to wake.
"You must love the Princess very much my lord," he remarked to the caliph.
The caliph smiled and said that from the moment he had spoken to her he had known only love for her.
"You know Master Weaver," he said, "There are many beautiful women, but not all of them are learned and witty and funny as well. The Princess is all of those things and most of all, she honours me greatly with her love for me," he answered.
Jahan smiled then and in his heart promised himself something honourable, for when one truly loves, no sacrifice is too great for the one you love. He took the commission and delivered the carpet to the caliph before the wedding himself. The caliph was so delighted that he offered Jahan great wealth and a palace. Jahan politely refused these things asking only that the caliph treasure and cherish Shireen and honour her above himself. The caliph thought this a little strange, but agreed to it and as he did so he gazed into Jahan's eyes and saw the truth of the matter. Then he understood the sacrifice Jahan had made so that Shireen would be happy and so that he too might be happy. He knelt before Jahan then and blessed him. He gave Jahan twenty rubies then to symbolise twenty tears of heart's blood that the heart weeps for being rejected in love.
Jahan stayed in his studio during the wedding celebrations and after the wedding was over, he left Isfahan and went to Paris, which was not as fine then as Isfahan. He never married for he never loved anyone else quite so much. When twenty people around him fell in love and married, he went up to the roof of the building and threw himself to his death. For Love is cruel and has no remorse.