Thursday, April 21, 2011

429. The Conversion to Islam of Conor MacArt (part 2)

An Comhshó a Ioslam de Conchubhair Mac Airt

Creideamh ar ár n-aithreacha,
creideamh naofa !!

Beidh muid fíor dhuit go héag.

August, 1563 

There’s not all that much to it, you sad Irish infidel,
said Sullivan the Magnificent, his eyes twinkling.
He was a most remarkable man, of quite small stature,
but of great presence, eyes like a hawk, a mind like a razor.
From the Sirkeci slave market down the hill from the palace
I had been dragged before him in chains, bedraggled,
but considerably cleaned up since the trip from Cyprus.

It was the flute I had brought from dear old Connemara
that had caused hesitation in the hard cruel Turks,
who, like all cruel people, were maudlin at heart.
They cried copiously when drunk, mourned sadly the loss of love,
much as we do in Ireland. And this, I think had saved me
on that hellish bloody voyage after the pirates had taken us
and beheadings had become their daily recreation.

I take it you believe in God, said the Great Sullivan,
which is the only important matter. All the rest is mere
conformity to the customs and habits of the people around you.
I cannot relieve you from your present condition, nor can I
offer you a position and salary, even though I am the Sultan,
the Padmishah, the Ruler of the World, etc., etc., and you
my dear are not undeserving … unless you convert to Islam.

It’s a matter of rationality, he continued, precious little
of which exists in this world. Nevertheless, I tend to believe
you are an intelligent man. Your music is pleasant enough
but there are other reasons I have decided to save you.
I thought of Saint Patrick and the holy martyrs and the priests
and the more I thought of the priests, dirty beggars, the more
I began to listen to what this shrewd old man was telling me.

Religion is a form of celestial politics, a shadow of the real,
it exists in constant opposition to any humanly established State
which much find some accommodation with it to survive.
I stared at the old man, goggle-eyed. What was he telling me?
Although Islam is the true religion, he blithely continued,
I think all religions are no more than regional creations, otherwise
the whole world would have the same beliefs. And it doesn’t.

Conor, he said, not unkindly. You are a stranger in a strange land
(we were talking in Latin, the only language we both understood)
but I may have need of you. You will kindly convert to Islam.
Otherwise you will be of no use to me whatsoever. I will throw you back
whence you came (a steely gaze) and you will not last a week.
Well, that was true enough. The philosophical bit of the talk
shrank down by comparison. I was led away to a scented sleeping chamber ...


(The thoughts of our hero are still being deciphered from the recovered documents. Cowshit from the byre in Armagh has its preservative factors but it takes ages and ages to scrape and dissolve it away).

Suleiman the Magnificent: