Incident in a Rose Garden
A Persian Nobleman:
This morning, my gardener, deathly pale,
Rushed in for a moment to tell me his tale.
“While tending your rosebed and pruning with care,
I glanced o’er my shoulder and saw Death standing there.
Shaking with fear, to the woods I did flee,
But Death’s hand still beckoned, threatening me.
Master, O Master, pray lend me your steed.
To old Isfahan I must ride at full speed!”
His wish long since granted, ‘neath my cedars I strolled.
I too met the Reaper and my blood ran cold.
He stood there in silence, so I asked him to say
Why he’d threatened my gardener earlier that day.
Smiling he answered: “Your gardener took fright,
But it wasn’t my threat that prompted his flight.
It amazed me to meet in your garden the man
Whom I planned to fetch later in old Isfahan!”
Translation by Sheila McNab, 2007
My brother Felix, a gardener, died two weeks ago. This was read at his “service” out in the woods. A beautiful tale.
Seems to be P.N. van Eyck’s poem De Tuinman En De Dood. Unless this famous Dutch poet from the last century (1887-1954) translated it that literally from an older, oriental source, which is very unlikely.
According to Wikipedia: P.N. van Eyck’s famous poem “Death and the Gardener” (1926) was written on a theme taken from Jean Cocteau’s novel “Le grand écart”. In his turn, Cocteau took the story from Rumi. Another version is in the Babylonian Talmud. The Van Eyck poem was translated in English by David Colmer in 2007. Colmer’s translation received the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize and was printed by the Bucheliuspers in Utrecht.