JUNO AND LYLA: on one level, this is a tale of star-crossed lovers. Lyla is a beautiful maiden and Juno her young suitor. Lyla’s family refuses the match and forbids her to see Juno, shutting her away in a high tower. Driven mad by grief, Juno wanders the canopy, looking for his love.
According to the tale people find Juno prostrate one day in his madness, sifting through the dust. When they ask him what he is doing he says he is looking for Lyla. When they ridicule him for seeking beauty in the dust and dross, he tells them that he is simply looking in every possible location – that way he will be sure of never missing her.
The tale is generally accepted to be a parable about truth (in the Eastern tradition) or divinity (in the Western tradition.) A seeker after truth (or God) will search in everywhere for the object of his desire, no matter how unlikely the location. In his search he will brave the ridicule of those around him, for he no longer cares about conventional wisdom. More subversive traditions indicate that Juno’s tormentors are priests or figures of authority who think they are in the know, but actually understand nothing about either truth or love.
The story is beloved in both the Argosian and Nurian literary traditions, adapted in poetic form as well as in drama and song, particularly by the Jay troupes. There are epic sagas, operettas, scholarly treatises, religious homilies and even tavern ditties based on it. One of the popular versions in Argos runs as follows:
What are you doing, kneeling in the dust,
Juno, oh Juno?
I kneel here only because I must:
I seek my Lyla, wherever she roams.
Why do you look for her in such a place,
Juno, oh Juno?
I only wish for a glimpse of her face:
I seek my Lyla, wherever she goes.
You won’t find her here, you poor lost soul.
Your love is sublime, this isn’t her home.
How could I live if I knew I’d missed her?
How could I bear to overlook her?
Even the mud can mirror a face.
Even the dust may carry a trace.
Under the hood…
I have directly adapted the Persian Sufi tale of Laili and Majnun in this story. It’s one of the traditional tales I grew up with and like most Sufi stories, it contains a wealth of philosophy in very pared down form.