Layla and Majnun

a poem by rm shanmugam chettiar, India

It is a fictional tragic love story.
Qays ibn aLMulawwah was just a boy
When he fell in love with Layla al Aamrriya
In the Arab region in 7th century.
Layla was tender as a cypress tree.
She could slay the whole world with a flicker
Of her eye lashes with such a beauty.
She was known for her beauty in the school. 1

She was equipped with two lustrous eyes
And a mole on her cheek when she was born.
Whose heart would not have filled with longing
At the sight of the girl with such black hair?
Even the milk she drank has turned the colour
Of roses the skin on her lips and cheeks.
Qays was one of the best pupils in the class.
He fell for her and she, for him at once. 2

Qays had given his heart to cute Layla
Before he understood of what he gave away.
They drank by day and dreamt by night all along.
Glances were the marks that they were scoring.
Like musk deer, love is betrayed by its scent.
Their eyes were blind and ears deaf to the world.
Everyone knew that he was mad of her
And her parents took her home and kept in. 3

His heart fell ill, longing for his beloved.
Soon everyone knew that he was obsessed.
Qays had lost all chances to see her face.
Parents hid her away from his approach.
Layla hid her sorrow from her parents
And, when she was alone, shed lonely tears.
The separation from his beloved robbed
The youth of his home. He lost his balance. 4

At night he, when everyone was asleep,
Would steal his way to the tent of his girl,
Recite his poems of her and kiss the threshold
And would hasten back before the day dawned.
‘East wind! Be gone early in the morning;
Caress her hair and whisper in her ear.’
‘One who has sacrificed everything for you
Lay in the dust on his way to you dear.’ 5

Layla was a lute and Majnun, a viola.
One day he stole her vision in her tent
At night in front of a candle burning.
She seemed a fairy, Majnun wondered.
He was a fairy torch, Layla exclaimed.
Parents were perturbed in son’s madness.
They pleaded to the parents of Layla
To give her hand in marriage to his son. 6

‘Your son is so obsessed of my daughter
That the people call him Majnun – mad man.
How can I take a mad man as her groom?’
Said her father and withheld his daughter.
Majnun left his parents and ran away.
He wandered in the wilderness with hair
Falling unkempt about his face in despair.
He noted neither reproach nor sympathy. 7

From a bud to a blossom Layla has grown.
Half of an enticing glance from her eyes
Would have been enough to conquer many kings.
She was in secret when she looked for Majnun.
She was also burnt in the fire of longing.
However, she was married to Ihn Salam,
Against her wish and disregarding her wish.
Hearing Layla’s marriage, Majnun mourned. 8

His family eventually gave up hope
For his return and left food in the open.
Majnun was seen reciting poetry
To himself or writing it in the sand.
Some years later, Layla’s husband died.
She was not free yet to join her lover
As she was to grieve for her husband’s death.
They had been separated for lifetime. 9

Layla fell ill and died of broken heart.
News of Layla’s death reached Majnun ears.
He reached the place where Layla was buried.
He wept and wept and surrendered to the grief
And died at the graveside of her beloved.
The love story of Layla and Majnun
Is a tragic love, termed Kuwaralove-
The love that does not succeedto marriage. 10

‘I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla
And kiss this wall and that wall.
It’s not love of the house that has take my heart
But of the One who dwells in those houses.’

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