Wednesday, December 26, 2012

[Sunlight] Put This Design in Your Carpet


Today, Sunlight offers verses 3292-99, from Book V of the Mathnawi,
in an interpretive version by Coleman Barks, and in a literal translation
by Reynold Nicholson, on which Barks based his version.


"Put This Design in Your Carpet"

Spiritual experience is a modest woman
who looks lovingly at only one man.

It's a great river where ducks
live happily, and crows drown.

The visible bowl of form contains food
that is both nourishing and a source of heartburn.

There is an unseen presence we honor
that gives the gifts.

You're water. We're the millstone.
You're wind. We're dust blown into shapes.
You're spirit. We're the opening and closing
of our hands. You're the clarity.
We're this language that tries to say it.
You're joy. We're all the different kinds of laughing.

Any movement or sound is a profession of faith,
as the millstone grinding is explaining how it believes
in the river! No metaphor can say this,
but I can't stop pointing
to the beauty.

Every moment and place says,
"Put this design in your carpet!"

Like the shepherd in Book II,
who wanted to pick the lice off God's robe,
and stitch up God's shoes, I want to be
in such a passionate adoration
that my tent gets pitched against the sky!

Let the beloved come
and sit like a guard dog
in front of the tent.

When the ocean surges,
don't let me just hear it.
Let it splash inside my chest!

-- Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
HarperSanFrancisco, 1995


Spiritual experience is (like) the women who look modestly*: it
shows no sign but to its possessor.
That wine is (like) the women who look modestly, while these
vessels screening it (from view) are like the tents*.
The great river (too) is (like) a tent, wherein is life for the
duck, but death for crows.
Venom also is the snake's food and provision, (but) its venom
is anguish and death to others.
The form of every blessing and affliction is a Hell to this one,
a Paradise to that one.
Therefore (though) ye see all bodies and things, and there is
food and poison in them (all) - ye see (it) not.
Every body resembles a bowl or a pot, wherein is both food
and a (cause of) heart-burning.
The bowl is visible, the plenty (contained) in it is hidden;
(only) he who tastes it (the contents) knows what he is eating or
drinking from it.

-- 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, "the women who restrict their eyes (to looking at their
husbands)," i.e. the houris in Paradise.
* See Qur'an, LV,72.




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