Friday, July 21, 2006

"Again we have returned from the tavern drunk"

Again we have returned from the tavern drunk,
again we have escaped from above and below.
All of the drunkards are joyful and dancing -
clap your hands, oh idols, clap! Clap!
The fish and the sea are all intoxicated, for the
hooks are the tips of Thy tresses!
Our ruins have been turned upside down, the
vat has been upset and the jar broken.
When the shaykh of the Ruins saw this tumult,
he came to the roof and jumped.
A wine began to ferment, making existence
nonexistent and nonexistence existent.
The glasses broke and the pieces fell in every
direction -- how many drinkers wounded their feet!
Where is he who cannot discern his head from
his feet? He has fallen drunk in the lane of Alast.
The wine-worshipers are all busy with revelry -
listen to the strumming of the lute, oh body-worshiper!

-- Ghazal (Ode) 516 (listed in book incorrectly as Ode 515)
Translated by William C. Chittick
"The Sufi Path of Love -
The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi"
State University of New York Press, Albany, 1983
(Footnotes follow, courtesy of Ibrahim Gamard)

* tavern (may-khâna): symbolizes the gathering place of the sufis,
where they engage in mystical prayers and become "drunk" on
spiritual "wine."
* ruins (kharâbât): also an idiom meaning "tavern," and sometimes
translated as "tavern of ruin." Likewise, in the next line, "shaykh
of the Ruins" can also be translated "shaykh of the Tavern."
* Alast: the primordial covenant made between God and the
souls of all mankind, mentioned in the Qur'an: "And when your Lord
drew forth from the children of Adam, from their loins, their seed,
and made them testify concerning themselves, 'Am I not your Lord
(a-lastu bi-Rabbi-kum)?' they said, 'But of course! We do testify!'"
(7:172). In Islamic mysticism this is called the "Day of Alast." A
major goal of sufi mystics has been to "remember" within the soul
a full awareness (that is sometimes ecstatic and blissful) of the
Presence of God that has been forgotten by most of humanity.

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