"WE LIVE OUR LIVES WITH ROGUES AND FOOLS, DEAD AND ALIVE, ALIVE AND DEAD"
[BURTON, Richard F.]. The Kasîdah (Couplets) of Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî: A Lay of the Higher Law. Translated and Annotated by his Friend and Pupil, F.B. London: H.S. Nichols, 1894. Slim quarto, original black cloth, top edge gilt, uncut; pp. , 42, . Housed in a custom clamshell box. $3800.
Limited second edition of this distillation of Sufi thought, generally considered to have been written by Burton, rather than just translated by him as claimed on the title page—copy number 5 of only 100 printed. Preceded only by the similarly rare 1880 edition published by Bernard Quaritch in an edition of just 200 copies.
Burton's final years were spent as the British consul of Trieste. "In the flood of 'translations' that was to pour out of the Trieste years, there was one, The Kasidah, that was not a translation at all but a highly creative, though puzzling, summary of his thought… Burton had followed a standard Sufi poetic form, the qasida… a monorhymed poem, which, among the Arabs (and the Persians, Turks, and other Muslims), is used to express the poet's own experiences and emotions, often mystical, and might also be a means of displaying his eloquence and erudition, filled with obscure allusions and complicated antitheses. The earlier Sufi poets employed the qasida as a meditation on God. Burton, who came across the form in Sind and in his Persian studies, used his as a meditation on 'non-God'… The quantity of [1880 first edition] copies was limited—not more than 200 were run off, possible proof that Burton did not intend The Kasidah as a commercial rival to the Rubaiyat [translated by Edward FitzGerald]—and was distributed among Burton's friends… Reviews were virtually nonexistent, and it seemed that The Kasidah would be listed among Burton's failures, but after his death it was printed over and over again, in various formats, to the extent that the bibliographer finds it difficult to assemble an accurate record of the many editions" (Rice, 437-38). Text printed on leaf rectos only. Penzer, 98. Bookplates.
Interior clean and fine. Corners and spine ends rubbed, cloth clean, gilt bright. An extremely good copy of this very scarce limited edition.