Monday, August 21, 2006

Symbols and Realities

Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 2449, from the Diwan-e Shams, in
versions by Coleman Barks and Kabir Helminski, and in literal
translation by A.J. Arberry:

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

"No Flag"

I used to want buyers for my words.
Now I wish someone would buy me away from words.

I've made a lot of charmingly profound images,
scenes with Abraham, and Abraham's father, Azar,
who was also famous for icons.

I'm so tired of what I've been doing.

Then one image without form came,
and I quit.

Look for someone else to tend the shop.
I'm out of the image-making business.

Finally I know the freedom
of madness.

A random image arrives. I scream,
"Get out!" It disintegrates.

Only love.
Only the holder the flag fits into,
and wind.
No flag.

-- Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
HarperSanFrancisco, 1995

~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~

"Buy Me From My Words"

Before now I wanted
to be paid for what I said,
but now I need you
to buy me from my words.
The idols I used to carve
charmed everyone. Now I'm drunk
on Abraham and tired of idols.
An idol with no color or scent
ended my whole career.
Find someone else for the job.
A happy madman without a thought,
I have swept the shop clean.
If something enters my mind,
I say, "Leave. You're a distraction. "
Whatever is coarse and heavy, I destroy.
Who should be with Layla?
Someone who can be Majnun.
The man holding up this waving flag
actually belongs to the other side.

-- Version by Kabir Helminski
"Love is a Stranger"
Threshold Books, 1993

~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~

Before this I sought a purchaser for my discourse, and now I
wish of you to buy me from my words.
I have carved idols enough to beguile every person; now I am
drunk with Abraham, I am sated with Azar.*
An idol without color and scent arrived; my hand was put out
of action by him. See another master for the shop of idol-making.
I have cleared the shop of myself, I have thrown away the
idols; having realized the worth of madness, I have become free
of thoughts.
If an image enters my heart I say, "Depart, you who lead
astray!" If it displays grossness, I destroy its composition.
Who is suitable for Leyli? He who becomes Majnun for her.
That man is at the foot of the flag whose soul is on the other side.*

-- Translation by A. J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi 2"
University of Chicago Press, 1991

Arberry's notes:
*Azar: the father of Abraham was a famous idol-maker.
*The love of Leyli and Majnun is proverbial in Islamic literatures.

The English media:

The Persian media:


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