How frail are riches and their joys!
Morn builds the heap which eve destroys;
Yet can they leave one sure delight–
The thought that we've employed them right.
What bliss can wealth afford to me,
When life's last solemn hour I see?–
When Mavia's sympathising sighs
Will but augment my agonies?
Can hoarded gold dispel the gloom
That death must shed around his tomb?
Or cheer the ghost which hovers there,
And fills with shrieks the desert air?
What boots it, Mavia, in the grave,
Whether I loved to waste or save?
The hand that millions now can grasp
In death no more than mine shall clasp.
Were I ambitious to behold
Increasing stores of treasured gold,
Each tribe that roves the desert knows
I might be wealthy, if I chose.
But other joys can gold impart;
Far other wishes warm my heart;–
Ne'er may I strive to swell the heap
Till want and woe have ceased to weep.
With brow unaltered I can see
The hour of wealth or poverty:
I've drunk from both the cups of Fate,
Nor this could sink, nor that elate.
With fortune blest, I ne'er was found
To look with scorn on those around;
Nor for the loss of paltry ore,
Shall Hatem seem to Hatem poor.
The above poem, composed by a pre-Islamic Arab, is evidence of a tradition of generosity and munificence prior to the blossoming of Sufism, and even of Islam.