Monday, October 19, 2009

[Sunlight] "Don't make yourself miserable"


Today, Sunlight offers the story of the cow whose provender had
never failed, in a version by Coleman Barks, and in translation by
R.A. Nicholson:


Mathnawi V: 2855-2869

A Small Green Island

There is a small green island
where one white cow lives alone,
a meadow of an island.

The cow grazes until nightfall, full and fat,
but during the night she panics
and grows thin as a single hair.
"What will I eat tomorrow?
There's nothing left!"

By dawn the grass has grown up again,
waist-high. The cow starts eating
and by dark the meadow is clipped short.

She is full of strength and energy,
but she panics in the dark as before
and grows abnormally thin overnight.

The cow does this over and over
and this is all she does.

She never thinks,
"This meadow has never failed
to grow back. Why should I be afraid
every night that it won't?"

The cow is the bodily soul.
The island field is this world
where that grows lean with fear
and fat with blessing,

lean and fat. White cow,
don't make yourself miserable
with what is to come or not to come.

-- Version by Coleman Barks, from the
translation by R.A. Nicholson
"Say I am You"
Maypop, 1994


There is in the world a green island where a sweet-mouthed
cow lives alone.
She feeds on the whole field till nightfall, so that she grows
stout and big and choice.
During the night she becomes thin as a hair from anxiety,
because she thinks, "What shall I eat tomorrow?"
At rise of dawn the field becomes green: the green blades and
grain have grown up to (a man's) middle.
The cow falls to ravenously*: till night she feeds on that
(vegetation and devours it) entirely.
Again she becomes stout and fat and bulky: her body is filled
with fat and strength.
Then again at night she (is stricken) by panic (and) falls into
a fever (of anxiety), so that from fear of seeking (vainly) for fodder
she becomes lean,
Thinking, "What shall I eat tomorrow at meal-time?" This
is what that cow does for (many) years.
She never thinks, "All these years I have been eating from
this meadow and this pasture;
My provender has never failed (even) for a day: what, (then),
is this fear and anguish and heart-burning of mine?"
(No); when night falls that stout cow becomes lean again,
thinking, "Alas, the provender is gone."
The cow is the carnal soul, and the field is this world, where
she (the carnal soul) is made lean by fear for her daily bread,
Thinking, "I wonder what I shall eat in the future: whence shall
I seek food for tomorrow?"
Thou hast eaten for years, and food has never failed: leave the
future and look at the past.
Bring to mind the food and viands thou hast eaten (already):
do not regard what is to come, and do not be miserable.

-- Translation and Commentary by Reynold A. Nicholson
"The Mathnawi of Jalalu'ddin Rumi"
Published and Distributed by
The Trustees of The "E.J.W. Gibb Memorial"

* Literally, "with the cow's hunger."




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