Book is The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar. The blurb calls it 'a great mystical poem', 'an allegorical rendering of sufism- the secretive and paradoxical form of Islamic mysticism.' Cool! Reader, I bought it.
Reader, always look at the text first.
Because Conference is written in a Persian metre that has one rhyme-word halfway through the line and a second at the end, and the translators decided to express this through heroic couplets. And I am so very sorry but the heroic couplet belongs to the eighteenth century, to Dryden and Pope. It's the epitome of rationality and civilization, and once you get to Pope, of wit and flippancy as well: and neither at all is of any use to Sufism. Or what little I understand of sufism from reading this work, whose one virtue to me was all these stories about caliphs and their favourite male slaves. Oh yes- also learned that Joseph in at least one strand of Islamic lit is the avatar of desirable male beauty.
But otherwise, I feel like someone tried to translate Julian of Norwich into rhyming couplets.