Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"May God have mercy"

May God have mercy on those who lead the way
and those who come behind,
and those who fulfill their vows,
and those who seek to fulfill them,
with His Grace and bounty,
His great benefits and favors!
For He is the best object of petition
and the noblest object of hope;
and God is the best protector and the most merciful
of those who show mercy,
and the best of friends and the best of heirs
and the best replacer of what has been consumed
and provider for those devoted
who sow and till the soil of good works.
And God bless Muhammad and all
the Prophets and Messengers!
Amen, 0 Lord of created beings!

-- Mathnawi IV, Prologue
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996

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Monday, October 30, 2006

The Knots Untie

Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 863, in a version by Coleman Barks, and in translation
by A.J. Arberry.

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

The Knots Untie

Fire is whispering a secret in smoke's
ear, "This aloe wood loves me because

I help it live out its purpose. With
me it becomes fragrance, and then

disappears altogether!" The knots
untie and open into absence, as you do

with me, my friend. Eaten by flame,
and smoked out into the sky! This is

most fortunate. What's unlucky is not
to change and disappear. The black soil

must crumble to give itself to plants.
Think how sperm and egg become a smiling

face and head. Bread must dissolve to
turn into thought. Gold and silver in

their raw forms aren't worth much. This
way leads through humiliation and contempt.

We've tried the fullness of presence. Now
it's time for desolation. Love is pulling

us out by the ears to school. Love wants
us clean of resentment and those impulses

that misguide our souls. We're asleep,
but Khidr keeps sprinkling water on our

faces. Love will tell us the rest of
what we need to know soon. Then we'll

be deeply asleep and profoundly awake
simultaneously like cave companions.

-- Version by Coleman Barks, with Nevit Ergin
"The Glance"
Viking-Penguin, 1999

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The fire the day before yesterday whispered secretly to
the smoke, "The aloes-wood cannot rest without me, and with
me it is happy.
It knows well my worth, and expresses thanks to me, for
the aloes-wood has perceived that in its passing away there is
The aloes-wood was knotted and tied from head to foot;
in the release of nonexistence these knots were resolved.
Hail and welcome to you, my flame-eating friend, my
passer-away and martyr and pride of all witnesses."
See how heaven and earth are pawns of existence; flee
into nonexistence from the blindness of the one and the blueness
of the other.
Every soul which flees away from poverty and nonexistence
is misfortune fleeing away from prosperity and good fortune.
Without expunging, no one profits from the tablet of non-
existence; make peace between me and expunging, O loving One!
Until yonder dark earth passed away from itself, I did not
begin to augment or escape from inertia.
So long as sperm was sperm and did not become obliterated from seminal fluid, it
attained not the cypress' stature nor the cheeks' beauty.
When bread and broth ferment in the intestines, they then become reason and soul,
the despair of the envious.
So long as black rock did not pass away from itself, it did not become gold and silver,
neither found its way into coins.
First comes lowliness and bondage, then afterwards there is kingship; in the ritual
prayer men first stand, and then sit.
For a lifetime you have made trial of your own being; once it
is also necessary to experience not-being.
The pomp and pride of poverty and passing-away is no empty boast; whenever
smoke appears it is not without a fire.
If our minds and desires belong not to love, how did love wantonly rob us of heart
and turban?
Love entered, and draws us along by the ear every morning to the school of those
who fulfil their covenants.
Love sets flowing the water of penitence from the eye of the
believer, to wash his breast clean of anger and stubborn denial.
You are fallen asleep and the water of Khidar splashes beside
you; leap up from slumber and seize the goblet of immortality.
Let love tell you the rest of it secretly from me; be one with the Companions of the
Cave, alike sleeping and waking.

-- Translation by A. J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi 1"
The University of Chicago Press, 1968

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Friday, October 27, 2006

"I am the call of Love"

You whispered in my ears like early spring:
"I am the call of Love,
can you hear me in the full grasses,
in the scented winds,
it is I who makes the garden smile."

My pure source of life, helper of lovers in despair,
where have you been so long?
Your breathtaking beauty creates such excitement,
such a stir everywhere
that you leave me bewildered.
From the spring of love you bring back
life to my ailing heart.
The song of the awakened earth, the seasons,
the changing Moons,
all this fuss you make is glorious.
Creation bows at your feet.

-- Ghazal (Ode) 12
"Rumi: Hidden Music"
Translation by Azima Melita Kolin
and Maryam Mafi
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2001

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

"From whom comes this self-conceit of mine?"

If I had any judgment and skill of my own,
my consideration and plans would all be under my control.

At night my consciousness would not leave against my will,
and the birds of my senses
would be secured within my own cage.

I would be aware of the stages journeyed by the soul
in unconsciousness, in sleep, and in times of trouble.

But since my hand is made empty
by His sovereign power to loosen and to bind,

O, I wonder,
from whom comes this self-conceit of mine?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gar be khvisham hich rây o fann bodi
rây o tadbiram beh-hokm-e man bodi
Shab na-rafti hush bi farmân-e man
zir-e dâm-e man bodi morghân-e man
Budami âgah ze manzel-hâ-ye jân
vaqt-e khvâb o bihoshi o emtehân
Chon kaffam zin hall o `aqd-e U tohist
ay `ajab in mo`jebi-ye man ze kist

-- Mathnawi VI: 2324-2327
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra)

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"He who possesses the Heart"

He who possesses the Heart becomes a mirror with six
faces; through him God looks toward the six directions.
Whoever dwells in this world of six directions, God
looks at him only through the mediation of the Perfected

If God dismisses you, He does it for the sake of the
Perfected Man; and if He accepts you, it is also because
of him.

-- Mathnawi V:874-876
Translated by Muriel Maufroy
"Breathing Truth - Quotations from Jalaluddin Rumi"
Sanyar Press - London, 1997

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"The protection against God's anger"

A sober-minded man said to Jesus,
"What in this existence is hardest to bear?"
"O dear soul," he replied, "the hardest is God's anger,
from which Hell is trembling as we are."
"And what is the protection against God's anger?"
Said Jesus, "To abandon your own anger at once."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Goft `Isâ-râ yeki hoshyâr sar
"Chist dar hasti ze jomleh sa`b-tar"
Goftesh "Ay jân sa`b-tar kheshm-e Khodâ
keh az ân Duzakh larzad cho mâ"
Goft "Azin kheshm-e Khodâ cheh bovad amân"
Goft "Tark-e kheshm-e khvish andar zamân"

-- Mathnawi IV: 113-115
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra)

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Monday, October 23, 2006

"Do not despair, my soul"

Do not despair, my soul, for hope has manifested itself;
the hope of every soul has arrived from the unseen.

Do not despair, though Mary has gone from your hands,
for that light which drew Jesus to heaven has come.

Do not despair, my soul, in the darkness of this prison,
for that king who redeemed Joseph from prison has come.

Jacob has come forth from the veil of occlusion,
Joseph who rent Zulaikha's veil has come.

You who all through night to dawn have been crying "O Lord,"
mercy has heard that "O Lord" and has come.

O pain which has grown old, rejoice, for the cure has come;
O fastened lock, open, for the key has come.

You who have abstained fasting from the Table on high,
break your fast with joy, for the first day of the feast has come.

Keep silence, keep silence, for by virtue of the command "Be!"
that silence of bewilderment has augmented beyond all speech.

-- Ghazal (Ode) 631*, from Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi
Translation and footnote by A.J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi," 1968

*This poem was evidently composed to mark the end of Ramadan.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

"Like This"

Here, Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 1826, from the Diwan-e
Shams, in a version by Jonathan Star, in a version by Coleman
Barks, and in translation by A.J. Arberry:

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

"Like This"

If someone asks,
"What does perfect beauty look like?"
Show him your own face and say,
Like this.

If someone asks,
"What does an angel's wing look like?" - smile.
If he asks about divine fragrance
Pull him close, his face in your hair,
Like this.

If someone asks,
"How did Jesus bring the dead back to life?" -
Don't say a word -
just kiss him softly on the cheek,
Like this.

If someone asks,
"How does it feel to be slain by love?"
Close your eyes and tear open your shirt,
Like this.

If someone asks about my stature,
Stare into space with your eyes wide open,
Like this.

The soul enters one body, then another.
If someone argues about this
Enter my house and wave him good-bye,
Like this.

I am the storehouse of all pleasure,
I am the pain of self-denial.
To see me, lower your eyes to the ground
Then raise them up to heaven,
Like this.

Only the gentle breeze
Knows the secret of union.
Listen as it whispers a song to every heart,
Like this.

If someone asks,
How does a servant attain the glory of God?
Become the shining candle
That every eye can see,
Like this.

I asked about Joseph's perfume
Which rode the wind from city to city -
It was your scent
Blowing in from God's perfect world,
Like this.

I asked how Joseph's perfume
Gave sight to the blind -
It was your breeze
Clearing the darkness from my eyes,
Like this.

Perhaps Shams will be generous
And fill our hearts with love.
Perhaps he will raise one eyebrow
And cast us a glance,
Like this.

-- Version by Jonathan Star
"Rumi - In the Arms of the Beloved "
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York 1997

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

If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
and say,
Like this.

When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the night sky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,
Like this?

If anyone wants to know what "spirit" is,
or what "God's fragrance" means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close,
Like this.

When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe,
Like this?

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don't try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips,
Like this. Like this.

When someone asks what it means
to "die for love," point

If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.
This tall.

The soul sometimes leaves the body, then returns.
when someone doesn't believe that,
walk back into my house.
Like this.

I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
While the breeze says a secret.
Like this.

When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.
Like this.

How did Joseph's scent come to Jacob?

How did Jacob's sight return?

A little wind cleans the eyes.
Like this.

When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he'll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us.
Like this.

-- Version by Coleman Barks
"Like This"
Maypop, 1990

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

If any man asks you about the houris, show your face, saying,
"Like this"; if any man speaks to you of the moon, get up onto
the roof--"Like this."
If any seeks a peri, show him your countenance; if any men-
tions musk, open your tresses--"Like this."*
If any says to you, "How does cloud disclose the moon?,"
loosen knot by knot the strings of your gown--"Like this."
If one asks you how the Messiah revived the dead, before him
kiss me on the lips--"Like this."
If any says to you, "Say, how is he who is slain of love?" ex-
hibit to him my soul--"Like this."
If any asks you compassionately about my stature, exhibit
your own brow folded double--"Like this."
The soul is separated from the body, and thereafter returns
again; ho, show to those who disbelieve, enter the house--"Like
Whenever you hear a lover's lament, by God's right, all that is
our story-"Like this."
I am the home of every angel, I am the black and blue beaten
chest; raise your eyes and look well at heaven-"Like this."*
To none but the zephyr have I told the secret of union with the
Beloved, so that the zephyr said in the joy of its secret heart--
"Like this."
Despite him who says, "How shall the servant attain God?"
put in the hand of every eye a bright candle--"Like this."
I said, "How does the scent of Joseph travel from city to city?"
The scent of God breathed from the world of Hu--"Like this."*
I said, "How does the scent of a Joseph give back sight?" Your
breeze irradiated my eyes--"Like this."
From Tabriz haply Shams-e Din will be benevolent, and out
of his grace in fidelity lift up his head--"Like this."

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

* Perhaps a reference to the Qur'an where it says: "He {God} sends down His
angels with inspiration of his command, to such of His servants as He pleases,"
* "The black and blue chest" is a sign of the ascetism and the chastised carnal
soul ("nafs") without whose abasement the Sufi will not attain any spiritual ele-
* "Hu" or "Ya Hu" are the ecstatic cries of the Sufis and mean, "He {God} or
"O God!" The scent of the Beloved from His divine city is likened to the perfume
of Joseph's vest which, coming from afar to blind Jacob, gave him his sight.
Cf. Qur'an 12: 94.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

"A dying in every moment"

For lovers, there is a dying in every moment:
truly, the dying of lovers is not of one kind.
The lover has been given two hundred lives
from the Soul of Guidance;
each instant she sacrifices another.
For each life she gives, she receives ten:
as it is said in the Qur'an, "ten like unto them."*
If my blood were shed by that friendly Face,
dancing triumphantly I would lavish my life upon Him.
I have tried it: this life is my death;
and when I escape from this life, it is to endure forever.
"Kill me, kill me, O trusty friends!
For in my being killed is life upon life."**
O You who make the cheek radiant,
O Spirit of everlastingness,
draw my spirit to Yourself
and generously bestow upon me the meeting with You.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

`Âsheqân-râ har zamâni mordanist
mordan-e `âsheq khvod yek naw` nist
U do sad jân dârad az Jân-e Hodâ
vân do sad-râ mi konad har dam fedâ
Har yeki jân-râ satând dah bahâ
az Nabi khvân `asharat amthâlihâ*
Gar borizad khun-e man ân Dust-Ru
pâ-ye kubân jân bar-afshânam baru
Âzmudam marg-e man dar zendegist
chon raham zin zendegi pâyandegist
Uqtuluni uqutuluni yâ thiqât
inna fi qatli hayâtan fi hayât**
Yâ Monir al-khadd yâ Ruh al-baqâ
ijtadhib ruhi wa-jdu li bil-liqâ

*Hud, 11:13
**a quote from the martyr al-Hallâj.

-- Mathnawi III: 3834-3840
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra)

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Thirst for the Friend

If you are not going to bed, then sit, I am going.
Tell your tale, I have told mine.
I have had enough of tales and am like a drunkard -
slumber is making me lurch and fall in every direction.
Whether asleep or awake, I am thirsty for that Friend,
the companion and mate of His Image's form.
Like the form in a mirror I follow that Face, displaying
and concealing His Attributes.
When He laughs, I laugh, and when He becomes agitated,
so do I.
Say the rest Thyself - for the pearls of meaning I have
strung on speech's necklace derive from Thy Ocean.

-- Ode 1451
Translation by William C. Chittick
"The Sufi Path of Love"
SUNY Press, Albany, 1983

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Always search for the inward nature"

Always search for the inward nature
and choose as your companion someone of good character:
Observe how rose oil has drunk the essence of the rose.
The earth of the grave is ennobled by the pure body.
Then say, "First choose the neighbor, then the house."
If you have a heart, go, seek a sweetheart.
The dust of the body is endowed with the character of the soul:
it becomes a salve for the eyes of those who are dear to God.
Many a one who sleeps like dust in the grave
is more useful and open-handed than a hundred who are still alive.
The shadow of his body has been taken away,
but his dust overshadows hundreds of thousands with his protection.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dar pay-e khu bâsh va bâ khvosh khu neshin
khu paniri rawghan-e gol-râ be-bin
Khâk az hamsâyegi-ye jesm-e pâk
chon mosharraf âmad o eqbâl nâk
Pas to ham "al-Jâr thumma al-dâr" gu
gar deli dâri be-raw deldâr ju
Khâk-e u ham sirat-e jân mi shavad
sormeh-ye cheshm-e `azizân mi shavad
Ay basâ dar gur khofteh khâk-vâr
beh ze sad ahyâ be-naf` o enteshâr
Sâyeh bardeh u va khâkesh sâyeh mand
sad hazârân zendeh dar sâyeh-'i vayand

-- Mathnawi VI: 3007-3013
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra)

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Monday, October 16, 2006

"More of Your Names"

More of Your Names

To say more of your names: you
are the one who was with us

at the beginning, telling secrets
in the first house. We were

afraid of fire, but then we found
your flame. You are also a wind

that puts out the mind's candle,
that city leveled. With friends,

friendship. With enemies, the
standing apart, or right in

the middle, resembling both.
Knowledgeable ones sigh their

disdain: "Oh the stories lovers
tell!" But you are those stories,

you that bring dawn to the end of
night. Beauty that originates,

the look and the presence inside
the look, majesty of Shamsuddin,

praise and the light-connecting
ligaments that hold this earth.

-- Ghazal (Ode) 2986
Version by Coleman Barks, with Nevit Ergin
"The Glance"
Viking-Penguin, 1999

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Friday, October 13, 2006

"The Beloved you've lost"

i want to leave this town
but you've chained me down
stolen away my heart
leaving yourself behind

now i've lost my way
my soul restless and head twisted
all because of those secrets
you once whispered

i only must keep
fasting my heart
to set me free
from sleepless nights

since your only advice
when you saw me in flame
was to keep burning
with you or with your thoughts

words of wisdom
came to me at last
"the beloved you've lost
the one you've been seeking outside
can only be found inside"

-- Ghazal 2582, from the Diwan-e Shams
Translation by Nader Khalili
"Rumi, Fountain of Fire"
Cal-Earth Press, 1995

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Faithful Companion

In this world you have three companions:
one is faithful, the others are treacherous.
The latter are friends and possessions;
the faithful one is excellence in deeds.
Your wealth won't come with you out of your palace;
your friend will come, but only as far as the grave.
When the day of doom comes to meet you,
your friend will say, "I've come this far, but no farther.
I will stand a while at your grave."
Your deeds alone are faithful: make them your refuge,
for they alone will accompany you into the depths of the tomb.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dar zamâneh mar torâ seh hamrahand
ân yeki vâfi va in do ghadrmand
Ân yeki yârân va digar rakht o mâl
vân sevom vâfiyast vân hosn-e af`âl
Mâl na-âyad bâ to birun az qosur
yâr âyad lik âyad tâ be-gur
Chon torâ ruz-e ajal âyad be-pish
yâr guyad az zabân-e hâl-e khvish
"Tâ bedinjâ pish hamrah nistam
bar sar-e guret zamâni bistam"
Fe`l-e to vâfiyast zu kon moltahad
keh dar âyad bâ to dar qa`r-e lahd

-- Mathnawi V: 1045-1050
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra)

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Confused and distraught

Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 2166, in a version Coleman
Barks derived from Arberry's translation, along with A.J. Arberry's
poetic translation:

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

You bind me, and I tear away in a rage to open out
into air, a round brightness, a candle point,
all reason, all love.

This confusing joy, your doing,
this hangover, your tender thorn.

You turn to look, I turn.
I'm not saying this right.

I am a jailed crazy who ties up spirit-women.
I am Solomon.

What goes comes back. Come back.
We never left each other.

A disbeliever hides disbelief,
but I will say his secret.

More and more awake, getting up at night,
spinning and falling with love for Shams.

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


Again I am raging, I am in such a state by your soul that every
bond you bind, I break, by your soul.
I am like heaven, like the moon, like a candle by your glow; I am all
reason, all love, all soul, by your soul.
My joy is of your doing, my hangover of your thorn; whatever
side you turn your face, I turn mine, by your soul.
I spoke in error; it is not surprising to speak in error in this
state, for this moment I cannot tell cup from wine, by your soul.
I am that madman in bonds who binds the "divs"; I, the madman,
am a Solomon with the "divs", by your soul.*
Whatever form other than love raises up its head from my
heart, forthwith I drive it out of the court of my heart, by your
Come, you who have departed, for the thing that departs
comes back; neither you are that, by my soul, nor I am that, by your
Disbeliever, do not conceal disbelief in your soul, for I will recite
the secret of your destiny, by your soul.
Out of love of Sham-e Tabrizi, through wakefulness or
nightrising, like a spinning mote I am distraught, by your soul.

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

* A word-play between madman (dîvâna) and the jinn (dîv-ân). The Arabic
word "jinn" was translated into Persian as "dîv," meaning "demon" (and
contrasts in meaning with its Sanscrit cognate, "deva," from which the
European word "divinity" originates). The Arabic words "crazy" (junûn,
majnûn) literally mean "jinn-possessed," were translated into Persian as
"dîvâna," literally means "demonic." According to Qur'ân, Solomon was given
power over the supernatural beings called jinn (from which comes the word
"genie"), who did great projects of labor for him (Qur'ân 34:12, 21:82,
38:36-37). -- footnote provided by Ibrahim Gamard

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The only lecturer, the only lesson

For lovers, the only lecturer is the beauty of the Beloved:
their only book and lecture is the Face.
Outwardly they are silent,
but their penetrating remembrance rises
to the high throne of their Friend.
Their only lesson is enthusiasm, whirling, and trembling,
not the precise points of law.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

`Âsheqân-râ shod modarres hosn-e Dust
daftar o dars o sabaqeshân Ru-ye Ust
Khâmoshand va na`reh-ye tekrâreshân
mi ravad tâ `arsh o takht-e Yâreshân
Darseshân âshub o charkh o zalzaleh
nah ziyâdâtast va bâb-e selseleh

-- Mathnawi III: 3847-3849
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra)

The media:


Monday, October 09, 2006

"Better than cabbage soup"

Here, Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 1739, from the Diwan-e
Shams, in a version by Coleman Barks, in a version by Jonathan
Star, and in translation by A.J. Arberry:

^ ^ ^ ^ ^


There is an unseen sweetness
in the stomach's emptiness.

We are lutes.
When the soundbox is filled,
no music can come forth.

When the brain and the belly
are burning from fasting,
every moment a new song rises
out of the fire.

The mists clear,
and a new vitality makes you
spring up the steps before you.

Be empty and cry as a reed instrument.
Be empty and write secrets with a reed pen.

When satiated by food and drink,
an unsightly metal statue
is seated where your spirit should be.

When fasting, good habits gather like
helpful friends.

Fasting is Solomon's ring.
Don't give in to illusion
and lose your power.

But even when all will and control
have been lost,
they will return when you fast,
like soldiers appearing out of the ground,
or pennants flying in the breeze.

A table descends to your tents,
the Lord's table.
Anticipate seeing it when fasting,
this table spread with a different food,
far better than the broth of cabbages.

-- Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
Castle Books, 1997


"Better than Cabbage Soup"

What sweetness lies in an empty stomach!
Man is like a lute: no more, no less.
If the lute is full
it cannot sing a high or low note.

If your mind and stomach
burn with the fire of hunger
it will be like a heavenly song for your heart.
In each moment that fire rages
It will burn away a hundred veils
And carry you a thousand steps
toward your goal.

Be empty
and weep with the fullness of the reed flute.
Be empty
and discover the mysteries of the reed pen.

If your belly is full on the day you are called
pain will come instead of freedom,
worldly cares will come instead of paradise.
When you fast, good qualities will gather round you
like faithful friends and servants.

Don't break the fast
for it is Solomon's Seal.
Don't give the Seal to harmful spirits.
Don't destroy your kingdom with a full belly.

Even in your kingdom falls
and your armies abandon you,
keep the fast.

Soon they will return
with their banners high in the air.
I say, by the prayer of Jesus,
Heaven's Table will come to your fasting tent.

Fast and remember that the abundance
of Heaven's Table will soon be yours -
And I assure you,
the food on that Table
is better than cabbage soup!

-- Version by Jonathan Star
"Rumi - In the Arms of the Beloved"
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York 1997


What hidden sweetness there is in this emptiness of the belly!
Man is surely like a lute, no more and no less;
For if, for instance, the belly of the lute becomes full, no
lament high or low will arise from that full lute.
If your brain and belly are on fire through fasting, because
of the fire every moment a lament will arise from your breast.
Every moment you will burn a thousand veils by that fire; you
will mount a hundred steps with zeal and endeavor.
Become empty of belly, and weep entreatingly like the reed
pipe; become empty of belly, and tell secrets with the reed pen.
If your belly is full at the time of concourse, it will bring Satan
in place of your reason, an idol in place of the Kaaba.
When you keep the fast, good habits gather together before
you like slaves and servants and retinue.
Keep the fast, for that is Solomon's ring; give not the ring to
the div, destroy not your kingdom.
Even if your kingdom has gone from your head and your army
has fled, your army will rise up, pennants flying above them.
The table arrived from heaven to the tents of the fast, by the
intervention of the prayers of Jesus, son of Mary.
In the fast, be expectant of the table of bounty, for the table
of bounty is better than the broth of cabbages.

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

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Friday, October 06, 2006

"None has contemplated the beauty of God but God"

Here, Sunlight presents Ghazal (Ode) 861, in a poetic version by Jonathan
Star and a literal translation by A.J. Arberry:

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

"One Lasting Truth"

That awesome Beauty gives us everything.
Whose fault is it
if we go away empty-handed?

Don't be disheartened
if that Charmer is ruthless -
Who ever saw Him acting otherwise?

His love is sugar enough
even when it gives no sugar.
His beauty is promise enough
even when it causes you
to break your promise.

Show me a house where His light
does not shine.
Show me a garden where His grace
does not bloom.

God was jealous of His own Face
and so He created the splendor of morning.
When the spirit awoke in that light, it said,
"To grasp God's beauty, you must become God."

The eye and the lamp are different lights
but when they come together
no one can tell them apart.

What is true?
What is false?

The only truth I know in this world
is my master, Shams-e Tabriz:
The light of his Sun
has never shone upon anything passing
without making it eternal.

-- Version by Jonathan Star
"Rumi - In the Arms of the Beloved "
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York 1997

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

There was no grace left which that fair idol did not perform;
what fault is it of ours, if he acted not generously towards you?
You are upbraiding because that beauty was cruel; whoever
saw a lovely one in both worlds who acted not cruelly?
His love is sugar enough, even if he gave not sugar; his beauty
is all fidelity, even if he was not faithful.
Show me a house that is not filled with lamps of him; show
me a portico which his cheek has not filled with brightness.
This eye and that lamp are two lights, each one on its own;
when the two met, none made parting between them.
When the spirit became lost in contemplation, it said this:
"None has contemplated the beauty of God but God."
Each one of these similitudes is at once an exposition and an
error; only out of jealousy God named His Face, "By the Forenoon."*
The sun of the face of Shams al-Din, Pride of Tabriz, never
shone on aught transient but it made it eternal.

-- Translation by A. J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi 1"
The University of Chicago Press, 1968

* Qur'an 93:1.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

"So that you might know your true self"

Your true substance is concealed in falsehood,
like the taste of butter in buttermilk.
Your falsehood is this perishable body;
your truth is that exalted spirit.
For many years, this buttermilk of the body
is visible and manifest, while the butter, which is the spirit,
is perishing and ignored within it—
until God sends a prophet, a chosen servant,
a shaker of the buttermilk in the churn,
who skillfully shakes it, so that you might know
your true self which was hidden.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jawhar-e sedqet khafi dar dorugh
hamcho ta`m-e rawghan andar ta`m-e dugh
n dorughet in tan-e fâni bovad
râstet ân jân-e rabbâni bovad
Sâl-hâ in dugh-e tan paydâ o fâsh
rawghan-e jân andaru fâni o lâsh
Tâ ferestad Haqq rasuli bandeh-'i
dugh-râ dar khomreh jonbânandeh-'i
Tâ be-jonbânad be-hanjâr o be-fann
tâ be-dânam man keh panhân bud-e man

-- Mathnawi IV: 3030-3034
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra)

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Something better in return"

Should heartache enter your mind and ambush your joy, yet
it prepares the way for happiness.
Quickly it sweeps all others out of the house so that joy
may come to you from the Source of good.
It shakes the yellow leaves from the branch of the heart,
so that fresh leaves may grow continuously.
It pulls up the root of old happiness so that a new ecstasy
may stroll in from Yonder.
Heartache pulls up withered and crooked roots so that no
root may remain concealed.
Though heartache may extract many things from the heart,
in truth it will bring something better in return.

-- Mathnawi V: 3678-83
Translation by William C. Chittick
"The Sufi Path of Love - The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi"
State University of New York Press, Albany, 1983

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"Come, arise from the depths of your heart!"

Come, arise from the depths of your heart!
You are alive and born of the living.
O lovely one, aren't you suffocated
by this narrow tomb?
You are the Joseph of the time, the bright sun:
arise from this prison and show your face!
Your Jonah has been cooked and absorbed
in the belly of the fish:
to deliver him there is no way
but glorification of God.*

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gur-e khvosh-tar az chonin del mar terâ
âkher az gur-e del-e khvod bartar â
Zendeh-'i va zendeh-zâd ay shawkh o shang
dam na-mi-girad to-râ zin gur-e tang
Yusof-e vaqti va khurshid-e samâ
zin cheh va zendân bar â va ru namâ
Yunoset dar batn-e mâhi pokhteh shod
mokhallesesh-râ nist az tasbih* bod

*al-Anbiyâ, 87

-- Mathnawi II: 3132-3135
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Daylight"
Threshold Books, 1994
Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Cleverly seeking the moon-faced one's favor

Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 1538, in a version by Coleman
Barks, and in a translation by Kolin and Mafi, and in a translation by A.J. Arberry:

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

I was seeking knowledge
when that beautiful one appeared.
I tried to charm him and asked:
Would you kindly interpret the dream
I had last night, you are my only confidant.

He shook his head and smiled
as if he could see through me and said:
`Don't try to charm me,
I see every nuance, every color and scent.
I am your mirror.'

In his hands I become the design he weaves
with golden thread,
I become his living masterpiece.

-- Translation by Azima Melita Kolin
and Maryam Mafi
Rumi: Hidden Music
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2001

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

I tried to think of some way
to let my face become his.

"Could I whisper in your ear
a dream I've had? You're the only one
I've told this to."

He tilts his head, laughing,
as if, "I know the trick you're hatching,
but go ahead."

I am an image he stitches with gold thread
on a tapestry, the least figure,
a playful addition.

But nothing he works on is dull.
I am part of the beauty.

-- Version by Coleman Barks
"These Branching Moments"
Copper Beech Press, 1988

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

I was intent on seeking a stratagem, that that moon-faced one
might set his face on mine.
I said, "I have one word in my mind; come forward, that I may
speak it in your ear.
Last night, dear soul, I saw a dream, and I desire to seek from
you its interpretation.
I have none intimate with this dream but you; do you listen,
my king whose habit is to conceal."
He moved his head and laughed - that head which knows me
hair by hair -
As if to say, " You are hatching a trick to play on me, for I am
the mirror of every hue and scent."
I am as a plaything in his hands, for I am the picture drawn by
his gold-stitching needle.
Not lifeless shall be the image which he has made; I am his
least image, I am therefore in ecstasy.

-- Translation by A. J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi 1"
The University of Chicago Press, 1968

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