Face to Face

This is perhaps the most widely known of Ṭáhirih’s poems. It is a melodious and lyrical expression of love for the face of the beloved that may be understood to imply Ṭáhirih’s adoration of the Báb. The scholar Dhuká’í Baydá’í believes the poem is not by Ṭáhirih, perhaps because its style is more imagistic and regular in pattern, quite unlike some of her other work which is very complicated in language and filled with deep philosophical and religious allusions that could not be understood by the ordinary reader. A few other scholars also believe this poem is not by Ṭáhirih and, instead, attribute it to the Bahá’í Ṭá’ir of Isfahan. As we have already noted, however, it is slim evidence to question the attribution of a poem to Ṭáhirih if based solely on style since, as the reader will discover in this volume, Ṭáhirih was a poet capable of a wide variety of styles, themes and personae.

If ever I should behold you
face to face,
eye to eye,
I would be bold to recount
my heart’s plaint
point by point,
verse by verse.

Like Saba[1] the east wind,
I have searched everywhere
for your countenance
from house to house,
door to door,
alley to alley,
from quarter to quarter.

Bereft of your visage,
my two eyes have wept
such bloody tears,
Tigris after Tigris,
stream upon stream,
spring after spring,
brook upon brook.

Your bloom like mouth,[2]
your face enveloped
with ambergris hair,
blossom to blossom,
flower to flower,
tulip to tulip,
fragrance to fragrance;

Your perfect brow,[3]
your eyes, your beauty spot
have preyed on the bird of my heart,
sense to sense
and heart to heart,
feeling to feeling
and mood to mood.

My desperate heart
has knitted your love
to the very fabric of my being,
string by string,
thread by thread,
warp by warp,
and woof by woof.

Ṭáhirih has searched
every layer of her heart
but found only you there,
sheet by sheet,
fold by fold,
cover by cover
over and over again.

[1] Sabá is a term used often in the Bahá’í writings and a number of times in Táhirih’s verses to represent a wind blowing from the east to the west. It is a Sufi term alluding to the divine fragrances blowing from the spiritual real, wandering the world in search of a pure heart where it can make its home.

[2] In the original, Táhirih says `small’ or `tight mouth’,  emphasizing the beauty of the face of the beloved but also alluding to the mystical concept of speech as an attribute of God and especially to its transcendency beyond human understanding. (See Nurbakhsh, Treasury of Sufi Terms, vol. 1 pp. 48–9)

[3] The eyebrow of the beloved in Persian poems is many times what causes the lovers to lose their minds and sacrifice their reputations and status in society for the sake of their beloved.

3 thoughts on “Face to Face”

  1. Several “Saba”s in my life just received this poem. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

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