acquaintances. The majority of them had died in the migrations, may God have mercy on them, or had gone to a wretched exile. Only the Armenian quarter remained, all the Muslim houses of Van had been levelled. My heart was lacerated. I was so affected, if I had had a thousand eyes they would have all wept together. I had returned to my homeland from exile; I had supposed that I had been saved from exile. But alas! the most lamentable exile I experienced was in my homeland. I saw that hundreds of my students and friends to whom I had been closely attached, like Abdurrahman in the Twelfth Hope, had entered the grave and that their places were all ruins.
There were some lines that had long been in my mind but I had not understood their true meaning. Now before that sad scene I gained a full understanding of them. The lines were these: “If there was no separation from friends, death could find no way to our spirits to seize them.”1 That is to say, what kills man most is separation from those he loves. Yes, nothing had caused me as much suffering and sorrow as that situation. If assistance had not come from the Qur’an and from belief, my grief and sorrow and suffering would have made my spirit fly away.
Since early times in their verses, poets have lamented the destruction with time of the places they have been together with their beloveds. I had seen this most painfully with my own eyes. With the sorrow of someone passing by the dwellings of beloved friends after two hundred years, my heart and spirit joined my eyes in weeping. Then one by one the happy scenes of the life I had passed for nearly twenty years in study with my valuable students, when the places which were now in ruins were flourishing and happy, sprang to life before me like pictures at the cinema, then died away and vanished. This continued before the eye of my imagination for some time.
Then I felt astonished at the state of the worldly, how is it that they deceive themselves? For the situation there showed clearly that this world is transitory and that human beings are guests within it. I saw with my own eyes how true are the constantly repeated words of the people of reality: “The world is cruel, treacherous, bad; don’t be deceived by it!” I also saw that just as man is connected with his own body and household, so is he connected with his town, his country, and with the world. For while weeping with my two eyes at the pitifulness of old age in respect of my body, I wanted to weep with ten eyes not only at my medrese’s old age, but at its death. And I felt the need to weep with a hundred eyes at the half-death of my beautiful homeland.
These lines are in Arabic in the original text, and are by Mutanabi. (Tr.)