Thursday, April 05, 2012

[Sunlight] Gnats inside the wind


The gnats come to Solomon to seek justice, and find non-existence: a poetic version of the Mathnawi story from Coleman Barks, and the literal translation by Nicholson, upon which Barks based his version.


Gnats inside the wind

Some gnats came from the grass to speak with Solomon.

"O Solomon, you are the champion of the oppressed.
You give justice to the little guys, and they don't get
any littler than us! We are tiny metaphors
for frailty. Can you defend us?"

"Who has mistreated you?"

"Our complaint is against the wind."

"Well," says Solomon, "you have pretty voices,
you gnats, but remember, a judge cannot listen
to just one side. I must hear both litigants."

"Of course," agree the gnats.

"Summon the East Wind!" calls out Solomon,
and the wind arrives almost immediately.

What happened to the gnat plaintiffs? Gone.

Such is the way of every seeker who comes to complain
at the High Court. When the presence of God arrives,
where are the seekers? First there's dying,
then union, like gnats inside the wind.

-- Mathnawi III: 4624 - 59
Poetic version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
HarperSanFrancisco, 1995


~~How, in the presence of Solomon, on whom be peace,
the gnat appealed for justice against the Wind.~~

The gnat came from the garden and the grass, and the gnat
began to demand justice from Solomon,
Saying, "O Solomon, thou dealest out justice to the devils
and the children of men and the Jinn.
Bird and fish are under the protection of thy justice: who is
the lost one whom thy bounty hath not sought out?
Give justice to us, for we are very miserable: we are deprived
of the orchard and the rose garden.
The difficulties of every weakling are solved by thee: the gnat
in sooth is the (proverbial) similitude for weakness.
We are celebrated for weakness and frailty*: thou art cele-
rated for kindness and care of the lowly.
O thou who hast reached the limit in (traversing) the stages
of Power, (while) we have reached the limit in failure and
Do justice, relieve us from this sorrow, take our hand (to help
us), O thou whose hand is the hand of God."
Then Solomon said, "O seeker of equity, tell (me), against
whom art thou demanding justice and equity?
Who is the oppressor that in (his) insolence* has done thee
injury and scratched thy face?
Oh wonderful! Where, in Our epoch, is the oppressor that
is not in Our prison and chains?
When We were born, on that day Injustice died: who, then,
hath produced (committed) in Our epoch an act of injustice?
When the light dawned, the darkness vanished: darkness is
the origin and support of injustice.
Look, (some of) the devils are doing work and service; the
others are bound in shackles and bounds.
The origin of injustice of the oppressors was from the
devil: the devil is in bondage: how did violence appear?
(The Divine Will uttered in) 'Be, and it was' hath bestowed
the kingdom on Us, that the people may not cry out in lament
to Heaven;
That burning sighs* may not soar upward; that the sky and
the stars* may not be shaken;
That the empyrean may not tremble at the orphan's wail; that
no (living) soul may be marred by violence.
We established a law (of justice) throughout the kingdoms (of
the earth), to the end that no (cry of) 'O Lord!' should go up to
the skies.
O oppressed one, do not look to Heaven, for thou hast a
heavenly king in the temporal world."
The gnat said, "My appeal is against the hand (might) of the
Wind, for he opened the two hands of oppression against us.
Through his oppression we are in sore straits: with closed
lips we are drinking blood (suffering torment) from him."

~~ How Solomon, on whom be peace, commanded the plaintiff
gnat to bring its adversary to the court of judgement. ~~

Then Solomon said, "O thou with the pretty voice, it behoves
thee to hearken with (all thy) soul to the command of God.
God hath said to me, 'Beware, O Judge! Do not hear one
litigant without the other litigant."
Until both litigants come into the presence, the truth does
not come to light before the judge.
If the (one) litigant alone raises a hundred clamours, beware,
beware! Do not accept his word without (hearing) his ad-
I dare not avert my face from the (Divine) command. Go,
bring thy adversary before me."
It (the gnat) said, "Thy words are an argument (conclusive) and
sound. My adversary is the Wind, and he is in thy jurisdiction."
The King shouted, "O East-wind, the gnat complains of thy
injustice: come!
Hark, come face to face with thy adversary and reply to thy
adversary and rebut thy opponent."
When the Wind heard (the summons), he came very rapidly:
the gnat at once took to flight.
Then Solomon said, "O gnat, where (art thou going)? Stop,
that I may pass judgement on (you) both."
It (the gnat) answered, "O King, my death is from his being:
verily, this day of mine is black from his smoke.
Since he has come, where shall I find rest? for he wrings the
(vital) breath out of my body."
Even such is the seeker at the Court of God: when God comes,
the seeker is naughted.
Although that union (with God) is immortality on immor-
tality, yet at first that immortality (baqa) consists in dying to
self (fana).
The reflections that are seeking the Light are naughted when
His Light appears.
How should the reason remain when He bids it go?* Every-
thing is perishing except His Face.
Before His Face the existent and the non-existent perish:
existence in non-existence is in sooth a marvellous thing!
In this place of presence (all) minds are lost beyond control;
when the pen reaches this point, it breaks.

-- Mathnawi III: 4624-4663
Translation by Reynold A. Nicholson
"The Mathnawi of Jalalu'ddin Rumi"
E.J.W. Gibb Memorial, 1990

* Literally, "broken-wingedness."
* Literally, "wind and moustache." "bluster."
* Literally, "smokes."
* Literally, "Suha," the name of a small star.
* "Bids it go" -- Literally, "when He gives (it its) head, i.e.,
dismisses (it)."




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