‘The first valley is the Valley of the Quest,
the second the Valley of Love
the third is the Valley of Understanding
the fourth is the Valley of Independence and Detachment
the fifth of Pure Unity
the sixth is the Valley of Astonishment
and the seventh is the Valley of Poverty and Nothingness
beyond which one can go no farther.’
That is a Sufi story
about a whole crowd of birds getting ready
to go on an Awful Journey.
They elect the Hoopoe as leader
because he knows a thing or two,
for instance the lie of the various valleys,
and which one comes after which.
What I like is the way it’s all more or less as expected
until you hit the sixth.
I should like to go
to the Valley of Astonishment.
I wonder where it lies
this astonishing Valley of Astonishment?
In China perhaps?
I wonder if you could stay there
out of your wits with astonishment,
or if, in this witlessness, you might find yourself
stumbling on, over the mountain—
Note: the first stanza is quoted from The Conference of The Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar, written in
the second half of the twelfth century AD. This rendering into English is by C.S. Nott.