Monday, July 13, 2009

[Sunlight] "Who is at my door?"


Today, Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 436, from Molana Rumi's "Diwan-e
Shams ("The collection of Shams), in poetic versions by Star and Barks, in
a relatively contemporary translation by Arberry, and in the classic literal
translation by Nicholson, with footnotes:


"Who is at my door?"

He said, "Who is at my door?"
I said, "Your humble servant."
He said, "What business do you have?"
I said, "To greet you, 0 Lord."

He said, "How long will you journey on?"
I said, "Until you stop me."
He said, "How long will you boil in the fire?"
I said, "Until I am pure.

"This is my oath of love.
For the sake of love
I gave up wealth and position."

He said, "You have pleaded your case
but you have no witness."
I said, "My tears are my witness;
the pallor of my face is my proof.'
He said, "Your witness has no credibility;
your eyes are too wet to see."
I said, "By the splendor of your justice
my eyes are clear and faultless."

He said, "What do you seek?"
I said, "To have you as my constant friend."
He said, "What do you want from me?"
I said, "Your abundant grace."

He said, "Who was your companion on the journey?
I said, "The thought of you, 0 King."
He said, "What called you here?"
I said, "The fragrance of your wine."

He said, "What brings you the most fulfillment?"
I said, "The company of the Emperor."
He said, "What do you find there?"
I said, "A hundred miracles."
He said, "Why is the palace deserted?"
I said, "They all fear the thief."
He said, "Who is the thief?"
I said, "The one who keeps me from -you.

He said, "Where is there safety?"
I said, "In service and renunciation."
He said, "What is there to renounce?"
I said, "The hope of salvation."

He said, "Where is there calamity?"
I said, "In the presence of your love."
He said, "How do you benefit from this life?"
I said, "By keeping true to myself

Now it is time for silence.
If I told you about His true essence
You would fly from your self and be gone,
and neither door nor roof could hold you back!

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


"Talking through the door"

You said, "Who's at the door?"
I said, "Your slave."

You said, "What do you want?"
"To see you and bow."

"How long will you wait?"
"Until you call."

"How long will you cook?"
Till the resurrection."

We talked through the door. I claimed
a great love and that I had given up
what the world gives to be in that love.

You said, "Such claims require a witness."
I said, "This longing, these tears."

You said, "Discredited witnesses."
I said, "Surely not!"

You said, "Who did you come with?"
"The majestic imagination you gave me."

What do you want from me?"

Then you asked, Where have you been
most comfortable?"
"In the palace."

"What did you see there?"
"Amazing things."

"Then why is it so desolate?"
"Because all that can be taken away in a second."

"Who can do that?"
"This clear discernment."

"Where can you live safely then?"
"In surrender."

"What is this giving up?"
"A peace that saves us."

"Is there no threat of disaster?"
"Only what comes in your street,
inside your love."

"How do you walk there?"
"In perfection."

Now silence. If I told more of this conversation,
those listening would leave themselves.

There would be no door,
now roof or window either!

-- Poetic version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
HarperSanFrancisco, 1995


He said, "Who is at the door?" I said, "Your humble slave."
He said, "What is your business?" I said, "Lord, to greet you."
He said, "How long will you drive?" I said, "Until you call."
He said, "How long will you boil?" I said, "Till the resurrection."
I laid claim to love, I swore many oaths that for love's sake I
had lost kingship and nobility.
He said, "For a claim the cadi requires witness." I said, "My
witness is my tears, my sign the pallor of my cheeks."
He said, "Your witness is invalid; your eye is wet-skirted."* I
said, "By the splendour of your justice, they are just and without
He said, "Who was your companion?" I said, "Your fantasy, O
King." He said, "Who summoned you hither?" I said, "The scent
of your cup."
He said, "What is your intention?" I said, "Fidelity and friend-
ship." He said, "What do you desire of me?" I said, "Your
universal grace."
He said, "Where is it most agreeable?" I said, "Caesar's pal-
ace."* He said, "What did you see there?" I said, "A hundred
He said, "Why is it desolate?" I said, "For fear of the highway-
man." He said, "Who is the highwayman?" I said, "'this blame."
He said, "Where is safety?" I said, "In abstinence and godli-
ness." He said, "What is abstinence?" I said, "The way of salva-
He said, "Where is calamity?" I said, "In the street of your
love." He said, "How fare you there?" I said, "In perfect recti-
Silence! For if I were to utter his subtleties you would come
forth from yourself, neither door nor roof would remain to you.

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

* Wet-skirted": i.e. defiled and impure, with tears of blood.
* A play on "qasr" (palace) and "Quaisar" (Ceasar).



He said: "Who is at the door?" Said I: "Thy humble
He said: "What business have you?" Said I: "Lord, to
greet thee."
He said: "How long will you push?" Said I: "Till thou call."
He said: "How long will you glow?"* Said I: "Till resurrection."
I laid claim to love, I took oaths
That for love I had lost sovereignty and power.
He said: "A judge demands witness as regards a claim."
Said I: "Tears are my witness, paleness of face my
He said: "The witness is not valid; your eye is corrupt."*
Said I: "By the majesty of thy justice they are just*
and clear of sin."*
He said: "What do you intend?" Said I: "Constancy and
He said: "What do you want of me?" Said I: "Thy
universal grace."
He said: "Who was your companion?" Said I: "Thought
of thee, O King."
He said: "Who called you here?" Said I: "The odour of
thy cup."
He said: "Where is it pleasantest?" Said I: "The
emperor's palace."
He said: "What saw you there?" Said I: "A hundred
He said: "Why is it desolate?" Said I: "From fear of
the brigand."*
He said: "Who is the brigand?" Said I: "This blame."
He said: "Where is it safe?" Said I: "In abstinence and
He said: "What is abstinence?" Said I: "The path of
He said: "Where is calamity?"* Said I: "In the
neighborhood of thy love."
He said: "How fare you there?" Said I: "In steadfastness."*
I gave you a long trial, but it availed me nothing;*
Repentance lights on him who tests one tested already.
Peace! If I should utter forth his mystic sayings,
You would go beside yourself, neither door nor roof
would restrain you.

-- 47.4 ("Lachnau Edition of the Divani Shamsi Tabriz)
"Selected Poems from the Divani Shamsi Tabriz"
Edited and translated by Reynold A. Nicholson
Cambridge, At the University Press, 1898, 1952

Nicholson's footnotes:

This poem affords an example of the rhetorical artifice
called Question and Answer.
* "glow" -- with fervid love.
* "The witness is not valid" -- The judge invalidated the
* " your eye is corrupt" -- In T. 310. 6a the word is used
in its literal sense:
By the eye of thy countenance the eyes of lovers are
fringed with tears.
* "By the majesty of thy justice they are just" -- for the
adjectival force cf. 'The balance is just...'
* "sin" -- the ordinary meaning is penalty,' forfeit,'
but according to the "Ghiyasu llghat' it sometimes means
shame,' contrition.' Thus clear of sin' may be translated
'having no cause for shame,' i.e., innocent.
* "the brigand" -- worldly censure, which is apt to produce
backsliding. Cf. Hafiz, II. 496. 6:
I said, "They blame my fond pursuit of thee;
Who ever loved and lived from slander free?
* "the path of salvation" -- cf. The proverb (Freytag,
Vol. I. p. 14): Salvation from the world is to renounce
the things of the world. But the poet, be it remarked,
does not value striving 'except as a means of gaining the
ultimate knowledge of God which only union can give.' Cf.
Striving to sow is abstinence,
Making the seed grow is knowledge.
(Masnavi, 541, 5).
* "calamity" -- Calamity, grief and pain are often synonymous
with love in the language of the mystics. cf. Hafiz (II. 252. 3):
Thine eye hath wrought my ruin, but so my love
Send it, a thousand welcomes to the woe!
* "steadfastness" Jurjani (Kitabu tta'rifat, p. 19) gives
three definitions of this word. The last is: 'continuance, the
non-preference of any thing to God.' Here, I think, it signifies
the permanent spiritual condition (magham), which never
deviates into sense,' opposed to the momentary state of
exaltation (hal).
* "I gave you a long trial, but it availed me nothing"-- This
beyt occurs in Hafiz, II. 496. 3, where the first misra' reads:
'No matter how much I taught, it availed me nothing'
The proverb will be found in Freytag, Vol. II. P. 730.




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