Translations of Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Texts, No. 7 (October, 1997)

John Walbridge, Trans.

"Baha'u'llah's "Tablet of the Deathless Youth" Text, Translation, Commentary"


John Walbridge

The Lawh-i-Ghulámu'l-Khuld, the `Tablet of the Deathless Youth', was written partly in Arabic and partly in Persian in honour of holy day of the Declaration of the Báb. This Tablet was certainly written in Baghdad, although whether Bahá'u'lláh wrote it during His stay in the Garden of Ridván, as some sources claim, is less clear. Whether it was written for a specific individual is also unknown.

The Arabic portion of this Tablet is written in rhymed prose, an Arabic literary form that uses irregular rhyme and rhythm and occupies a place between poetry and prose. Like some other Tablets of this period, notably the Holy Mariner, short verses alternate with refrains. The Tablet concludes with a section in formal Persian prose.

The Tablet begins with the announcement that it is `in commemoration of what hath been made manifest in the year sixty' -- i.e. the Declaration of the Báb. The Tablet describes how the gates of paradise swing open and the Deathless Youth -- symbolizing the Báb -- comes out and stands in the midst of heaven, dazzling all the spiritual beings with His beauty. Then the gates of heaven open a second time and the Maid of Heaven appears -- the personification of Bahá'u'lláh's spirit of revelation. Her beauty, her song and the lock of hair that slips from beneath her veil likewise dazzle the creatures of earth and heaven. She stands before the Youth and lifts the veil from His face. When His face is revealed, the pillars of the throne of God tremble and all creatures are struck dead. Then the Tongue of the Unseen is heard proclaiming that the eyes of the ancients longed to behold this Youth. The Youth raises his eyes. By a word He restores the spirits of the creatures of heaven and with a glance He raises up the people of the earth, indicating only a few of these. He then returns to His place in paradise.

The Tablet continues in Persian, proclaiming to the people that the true morn has dawned, the eternal wine is flowing, the fire burns again on Sinai -- appealing to the people to heed the call of the Báb and hinting at Bahá'u'lláh's own station.

The Tablet of the Deathless Youth is allegorical and full of symbols drawn from the Qur'án and Persian mystical literature. It is extremely beautiful and ecstatic in tone. It is chanted at commemorations of the Declaration of the Báb and other joyful occasions. Thus Munírih Khánum chanted it at her wedding to `Abdu'l-Bahá.

(From Sacred Acts, Sacred Time, Sacred Space: Essays on Bahá’í Law and History. Bahá’í Studies 1; Oxford: George Ronald, 1996.)

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