Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Unending thirst


Today Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 1823, in a version by Coleman
Barks,and in the translation by A.J. Arberry, upon which Barks based
his version:

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I don't get tired of You. Don't grow weary
of being compassionate toward me!

All this thirst-equipment
must surely be tired of me,
the waterjar, the water-carrier.

I have a thirsty fish in me
that can never find enough
of what it's thirsty for!

Show me the way to the Ocean!
Break these half measures,
these small containers.

All this fantasy
and grief.

Let my house be drowned in the wave
that rose last night out of the courtyard
hidden in the center of my chest.

Joseph fell like the moon into my well.
The harvest I expected was washed away
But no matter.

A fire has risen above my tombstone hat.
I don't want learning, or dignity,
or respectability.

I want this music and this dawn
and the warmth of your cheek against mine.

The grief-armies assemble,
but I'm not going with them.

This is how it always is
when I finish a poem.

A Great Silence overcomes me,
and I wonder why I ever thought
to use language.

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

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I become not satiated with you-- this is my only sin; be not
satiated with compassion for me, O my refuge in both worlds!
Satiated and weary of me have become his jar, and water-
carrier and waterskin; every moment my water-seeking fish
becomes thirstier.
Break the pitcher, tear up the waterskin, I am going towards
the sea; make clear my road.
How long will the earth become mire from my teardrops?
How long will the sky be darkened by the grief and smoke of
my sighs?
How long will my heart lament, "Alas, my heart, my ruined
heart?" How long will my lips wail before the phantom of my
Go towards the sea from which the wave of delight is coming;
behold how my house and hospice are drowned in its wave.
Last night the water of life surged from the courtyard of my
house; my Joseph yesterday fell like the moon into my well.*
Suddenly the torrent came and swept all my harvest away;
smoke mounted from my heart, my grain and chaff were con-
Though my harvest is gone, I will not grieve; why should I
grieve? The halo of the light of my moon is more than enough
for a hundred like me.
He entered my heart; his image was a fire. the fire rose over
my head; my cap was consumed.
He said, "Concerts impair and respect." You can have
dignity, for this love is my luck and dignity.**
I desire not intellect and wisdom; his learning is enough for
me. The light of his cheek at midnight is the blaze of my dawn.
The army of sorrow is mustering; I will not grieve at his army
because my horses, squadron on squadron, have seized even
After every ode my heart repents of discoursing; the sum-
mons of my God waylays my heart.

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

* The water of life (Ab-e hayvan or hayat) is the Fountain of Life in
the Land of
Darkness. Nizami in his Sikandar-nama describes how Alexander was
guided by
the prophet Khidr to the Fountain but could not reach it.
The reflection of the moon in the well is likened to Joseph cast by
his brothers
into a dark well. Cf. Qur'an 12.
**Sama', which here has been translated as "concert," is the mystic
dance of the
Mevlevi darvishes accompanied by the flute and the recital of ghazals.
The musi-
cal quality of most of the poems in the Divan-e Shams makes them ideal
for such
performances, and apparently Rumi had this particular point in mind
when he
wrote them) cf.p. 3 in the introduction to the First Selection). Here
Rumi op-
posed those Sufis and orthodox Muslims who were against the sama' as a
There have been numerous pro and con discussions on the subject in Islamic
literature, and for instance one can refer to al-Gazali) Kimiya-ye
Tehran, 1954, chap.15) who considers the charms of music of great help in
drawing the sensitive heart toward God.

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