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Poetry by Robert Michell

"The Most Holy Prisoner"

Whatever is done for God is done in joy!

Why was I spared the bitter cup of many
Perhaps to render this strange account?
From the day the sweet
Youth yielded ardour,
A storm broke over us with fury
In acts of cruelty that bear no name
Those horrors they dreamed up you cannot imagine.

Were I to recount them, the pen would blot,
The heavens would weep at the utter infamy.
The charge against me was well-founded, though:
Lover of the fragrant, blessed Bab!
My sentence: hopefully—swift death, to
Trump my stay in the dreaded Siyal Chal.

I was led down into that well of ink,
Each step a wound upon the flesh of hope.
Clamour was the first to assail our
Senses, then that noxious fecal stench.
Last, came the prescience of a suffering
To which the Host of Hades would aspire.
Even the brave, little candle seemed to
Lose hope upon our sheer descent.
Unveiled to us, was a scene of grim and evil mien:

Two adjacent chains of lost and dying souls.
Not quite men were they, but shadows of men
Wth many wounds and sores weeping pus.
It was only named death row in wryest jest
Few there bore their pain to execution.
They eased themselves where they lay or sat
Not so much for want of place…but reason.

Then, with a sickly scrape of metal on
Stone, I was roughly shackled to the floor.
The inky black was thick with agony,
And by the all-pervasive smell of death.
When, each day, one or two were taken
We envied them their last few breaths of air,
And the justice—or injustice—meted out.
For such as we were, exits were but one.

In revelry, one day, they brought Him down
Like a prized lion or a captured king,
I’d seen the silhouette of majesty Before…
O! but in that brief, dim candlelight
Such a glowing of His long, raven hair!
Eyes that deeply searched in every face!
From the moment He was in our midst
His sacred counsel was our ministering;
We fed upon His prayers; we drank His word.
He, to whom no mercy had been shown,
Showered us with mercy.
He, who had Been ever innocent forgave our guilt.

The Qara-Guhar upon His shoulders
Cut deep wounds into His tender flesh:
He braved this torment with dignity and grace.
He was the dearest brother…father…son.
His bounty fell alike upon the most
Or least deserving ones.

He showed us how to take our sorry plight.
Our arms were coated with a coat of arms:
Crusted feces, sores and bruises—all.
How ridiculous you look today my friend!
Thank you, heart. I see you’re ready for the tea.
Our flowing tears were laughter’s legacy.
O! We put the very world beneath our feet,
We, stalwart soldiers, with our crimson badges.

One row would begin with mystic zeal,
Chanting: 'God is sufficient unto me;
He verily is the All-sufficing!'
Then, the reply: 'In Him let the trusting trust.'
The stone walls seemed to carry off our chant
Like trusted travelers with a sacred scroll.
The Shah, himself was roused from fitful sleep
By a “madness” he couldn’t comprehend.
The dungeon air was redolent with verse;
Would that he had joined us in praising God!

To Baha’u’llah, one day, a maid appeared,
A spirit of radiant wonder, hovering there,
Calling aloud to everyone in heaven and
earth with a message of great joy…
This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds
This is the Beauty of God among you. (1)
Later He revealed to us this stunning news:
I was but a man like others, asleep
Upon My couch, when lo, the breezes
Of the All-Glorious were wafted
Over Me, and taught Me the knowledge
Of all that hath been (2)
Ya-Baha’u’l Abha!

After my freedom had been procured,
My zeal did not diminish in the least.
I spread far and near this joyous word!
For I’d been privy to a signal moment,
A celebration of the highest rank,
A bestowal from that world, unto this.
For they who understand life’s warp and woof
Troubles cannot touch them in the depths.
God hath made affliction… a morning shower
To this green pasture, and…a match (3) to light His lamp.
And now, my only prayer is this:
May His blessed truth illuminate the earth,
And brighten those who dwell in the highest heaven.

1  Baha'u'llah: Summons of the Lord of Hosts pp5-6
2  Baha’u’llah: The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 40-41
3  Quoted by Abdu'l-Baha, A Traveller's Narrative, p. 77
Poetry by Robert Michell

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