Saturday, April 07, 2007

"Whoever enters this house"


Today, Sunlight offers Rumi's Ghazal (Ode) 332, from the Diwan-e
Shams (the Book of Shams), in a poetic version by Kabir Helminski, and
in translation by A.J. Arberry:

"The House of Love"

Why is there always music in this house?
Ask the owner.

Idols inside the Kaaba?
God's light in a pagan temple?

Here is a treasure this world could not contain.
The house and its landlord
are all pretext and play.

Hands off this house, this talisman.
Don't argue with the landlord;
he's drunk every night.

The dirt and garbage are musk and rose.
The roof and door are music and verse.
In short, whoever finds this house,
is ruler of the world, Solomon of his time.

Look down, Lord, from the roof;
bless us with your glance.

I swear, since seeing Your face,
the whole world is a fraud and fantasy.
The garden is bewildered as to what is leaf
or blossom. The distracted birds
can't distinguish the birdseed from the snare.

A house of love with no limits,
a presence more beautiful than venus or the moon,
a beauty whose image fills the mirror of the heart.

Zulaikha's female friends,
beside themselves in Joseph's presence, sliced their wrists.
Maybe a curl of his hair brushed their hearts.

Come in. The Beloved is here. We are all drunk.
No one notices who enters or leaves.
Don't sit outside the door in the dark, wondering.

Those drunk with God,
even if they are a thousand, live as One.
But drunk with lust, even one is double.

Enter the thicket of lions unafraid of any wounds.
The shadows you fear are just a child's fantasy.

There is no wound and nothing to be wounded;
all is mercy and love.

But you build up thought
like a massive wooden door.
Set fire to the wood.
Silence the noise of the heart.
Hold your harmful tongue.

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

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

This house wherein continually rings the sound of the bell--
staff --- ask of the master what house this house is.
What is this idol-form, if it is the house of the Kaaba? And
what is this light of God, if it is the Magian temple?
In this house is a treasure which the whole of being cannot
contain; this house and this master are all a fiction and a pre-
Lay not hand upon this house, for this house is a talisman;
speak not to the master, for he is drunk since last night.
The dust and rubbish of this house is all ambergris and musk;
the noise of the door of this house is all verse and melody.
In short, whoever enters this house has found a way to the
King of the world, the Solomon of the time.
Master, bend down your head once from this roof,
for in your fair face is the token of fortune.
I swear by your life that, but for beholding your countenance,
though it be the kingdom of the earth, all is mere fantasy and
The garden is baffled as to which is the leaf, which the
blossom; the birds are distraught as to which is the snare, which
the bait.
This is the Master of heaven, who is like unto Venus and the
moon, and this is the house of Love, which is without bound and
The soul, like a mirror, has received your image in its heart;
the heart has sunk like a comb into the tip of your tress.
Since in Joseph's presence the women cut their hands*, come to
me, my soul, for the Soul is there in the midst.
The whole household is drunk, and nobody is aware who
enters the threshold, whether it be X or Y.
It is inauspicious* ; do not sit on the threshold, enter the house
at once; he whose place is the threshold keeps all in darkness.
Though God's drunkards are thousands, yet they are one; the
drunkards of lust are all double and treble.
Enter the lions' thicket and do not be anxious for the wound-
ing, for the anxiety of fear is the figments of women;
For there no wounding is, there all is mercy and love, but your
imagination is like a bolt behind the door.
Set not fire to the thicket, and keep silence, my heart; draw in
your tongue, for your tongue is a flame.*

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

* Joseph, the "fair one of Canaan," often a symbol of divine beauty;
see Qur'an 12:31
* "It is inauspicious" : perhaps rather, "Become intoxicated. "
* A play on "zaban" (tongue), and "zabana" (flame).

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