The eagle's pride

Sen McGlinn
by Sen McGlinn

This cautionary tale from Nasir Khosrow exists in many variants. Several versions are available on the internet: search on روزی ز سر سنگ عقابی به هوا خاست 

We studied it in our class on Persian literature beyond Iran, at Leiden University, taught by Gabriella van den Berg, using the version in the Divan edited by M Minuvi, Tehran 1372, page 499. Your suggestions are welcome - my translation is in "creative Commons"

One day an eagle rose in the air from the top of a rock,
spurred by greed he arranged his feathers.
Looking at his feathers so rightly arranged, he said,
"Today the whole face of the earth is under my wing.
When I reach the highest point, I can fly from the eye of the sun,
I can see a mere morsel deep in the sea.
If a midge but wriggles on the end of a leaf
that wriggling midge is seen by my eyes."

He boasted much, and had no fear of God’s decree.
Now see, what cruel fate dealt out:
Suddenly, one strong bow struck from an ambush:
as fate and God’s decree would have it, an arrow sped straight at him.
That liver-piercing arrow entered the eagle’s wing
and threw him from his cloud to earth.
He fell to the ground, thrashed around like a fish,
then pulled his own feathers out, left and right.
He said, "What’s a wonder is, it’s made of iron and wood,
where does it get its swiftness and flight?"
He looked at the arrow, saw his own feather on it, and said:
"What am I complaining about? What came from me, returned to me."
The moral is: banish boasting from your head
look at what came of the eagle who boasted.

--tr. Sen McGlinn, 2009


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