Poems by Rumi

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎), also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (جلال‌الدین محمد بلخى), Mevlânâ, Mawlānā (مولانا, “our master”), Mevlevî, Mawlawī (مولوی, “my master”), and more popularly simply as Rumi (30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273), was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic originally from Greater Khorasan. Rumi’s influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions: Iranians, Tajiks, Turks, Greeks, Pashtuns, other Central Asian Muslims, and the Muslims of South Asia have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world’s languages and transposed into various formats. Rumi has been described as the “most popular poet” and the “best selling poet” in the United States.

One Song

Every war and every conflict 
between human beings has happened
because of some disagreement about names.

It is such an unnecessary foolishness,
because just beyond the arguing
there is a long table of companionship
set and waiting for us to sit down.

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
All religions, all this singing, one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Sunlight looks a little different
on this wall than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still the same light.

We have borrowed these clothes,
these time-and-space personalities,
from a light, and when we praise,
we are pouring them back in.

The translation is by Coleman Barks


The Servant Who Loved His Prayers

At dawn a certain rich man
wanted to go to the steam baths,
He woke his servant, Sunqur,
“Ho! Get moving! Get the basin
and the towels and the clay for washing
and let’s go to the baths.”

Sunqur immediately collected what was needed,
and they set out side by side along the road.

As they passed the mosque, the call to prayer sounded.
Sunqur loved his five times prayer.
“Please, master,
rest on this bench for a while that I may recite sura 98,
which begins,
‘You who treat your slave with kindness.’ “

The master sat on the bench outside while Sunqur went in.
When prayers were over, and the priest and all the worshipers
had left, still Sunqur remained inside. The master waited
and waited. Finally he yelled into the mosque,
“Sunqur,
why don’t you come out?”
“I can’t. This clever one
won’t let me. Have a little more patience.
I hear you out there.”
Seven times the master waited,
and then shouted. Sunqur’s reply was always the same,
“Not yet. He won’t let me come out yet.”
“But there’s no one
in there but you. Everyone else has left.
Who makes you sit so long?”

“The one who keeps me in here is the one
who keeps you out there.
The same who will not let you in will not let me out.”

The ocean will not allow its fish out of itself.
Nor does it let land animals in
where the subtle and delicate fish move.

The land creatures lumber along on the ground.
No cleverness can change this. There’s only one
opener for the lock of these matters.

Forget your figuring. Forget your self. Listen to your Friend.
When you become totally obedient to that one,
you’ll be free.

— Mathnawi III: 3055-76
Version by Coleman Barks “The Essential Rumi” Harper San Francisco, 1995


Be Lost In The Call

Lord, said David, since you do not need us,
why did you create these two worlds?

Reality replied: O prisoner of time,
I was a secret treasure of kindness and generosity,
and I wished this treasure to be known,
so I created a mirror: its shining face, the heart;
its darkened back, the world;
The back would please you if you’ve never seen the face.

Has anyone ever produced a mirror out of mud and straw?
Yet clean away the mud and straw, 
and a mirror might be revealed.

Until the juice ferments a while in the cask,
it isn’t wine. If you wish your heart to be bright,
you must do a little work.

My King addressed the soul of my flesh:
You return just as you left.
Where are the traces of my gifts?

We know that alchemy transforms copper into gold.
This Sun doesn’t want a crown or robe from God’s grace.
He is a hat to a hundred bald men,
a covering for ten who were naked.

Jesus sat humbly on the back of an ass, my child!
How could a zephyr ride an ass?
Spirit, find your way, in seeking lowness like a stream.
Reason, tread the path of selflessness into eternity.

Remember God so much that you are forgotten.
Let the caller and the called disappear;
be lost in the Call.

“Love is a Stranger”, Kabir Helminski, Threshold Books, 1993


O you Who’ve Gone On Pilgrimage

O you who’ve gone on pilgrimage
              where are you, where, oh where?
Here, here is the Beloved!
              Oh come now, come, oh come!
Your friend, he is your neighbor,
             he is next to your wall –
You, erring in the desert – 
              what air of love is this?
If you’d see the Beloved’s
              form without any form –
You are the house, the master,
              You are the Kaaba, you! . . .
Where is a bunch of roses,
              if you would be this garden?
Where, one soul’s pearly essence
              when you’re the Sea of God?
That’s true – and yet your troubles
              may turn to treasures rich –
How sad that you yourself veil
              the treasure that is yours!

Rumi ‘I Am Wind, You are Fire’, Translation by Annemarie Schimmel


Oh, If A Tree Could Wander

Oh, if a tree could wander
     and move with foot and wings!
It would not suffer the axe blows
     and not the pain of saws!
For would the sun not wander
     away in every night ?
How could at every morning
     the world be lighted up?
And if the ocean?s water
     would not rise to the sky,
How would the plants be quickened
     by streams and gentle rain?
The drop that left its homeland,
     the sea, and then returned ?
It found an oyster waiting
     and grew into a pearl.
Did Yusuf not leave his father,
     in grief and tears and despair?
Did he not, by such a journey,
     gain kingdom and fortune wide?
Did not the Prophet travel
     to far Medina, friend?
And there he found a new kingdom
     and ruled a hundred lands.
You lack a foot to travel?
     Then journey into yourself!
And like a mine of rubies
     receive the sunbeams? print!
Out of yourself ? such a journey
     will lead you to your self,
It leads to transformation
     of dust into pure gold!

Look! This is Love – Poems of Rumi, Annemarie Schimmel


Come

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.


We Are As The Flute

We are as the flute, and the music in us is from thee; 
we are as the mountain and the echo in us is from thee.

We are as pieces of chess engaged in victory and defeat: 
our victory and defeat is from thee, O thou whose qualities are comely!

Who are we, O Thou soul of our souls, 
that we should remain in being beside thee?

We and our existences are really non-existence; 
thou art the absolute Being which manifests the perishable.

We all are lions, but lions on a banner: 
because of the wind they are rushing onward from moment to moment.

Their onward rush is visible, and the wind is unseen: 
may that which is unseen not fail from us!

Our wind whereby we are moved and our being are of thy gift; 
our whole existence is from thy bringing into being.

Masnavi Book I, 599-607


On The Deathbed

Go, rest your head on a pillow, leave me alone; 
leave me ruined, exhausted from the journey of this night, 
writhing in a wave of passion till the dawn. 
Either stay and be forgiving, 
or, if you like, be cruel and leave. 
Flee from me, away from trouble; 
take the path of safety, far from this danger. 
We have crept into this corner of grief, 
turning the water wheel with a flow of tears. 
While a tyrant with a heart of flint slays, 
and no one says, “Prepare to pay the blood money.” 
Faith in the king comes easily in lovely times, 
but be faithful now and endure, pale lover. 
No cure exists for this pain but to die, 
So why should I say, “Cure this pain”? 
In a dream last night I saw 
an ancient one in the garden of love, 
beckoning with his hand, saying, “Come here.” 
On this path, Love is the emerald, 
the beautiful green that wards off dragonsnough, I am losing myself. 
If you are a man of learning, 
read something classic, 
a history of the human struggle 
and don’t settle for mediocre verse.

Kulliyat-i-Shams 2039


This Marriage

May these vows and this marriage be blessed. 
May it be sweet milk, 
this marriage, like wine and halvah. 
May this marriage offer fruit and shade 
like the date palm. 
May this marriage be full of laughter, 
our every day a day in paradise. 
May this marriage be a sign of compassion, 
a seal of happiness here and hereafter. 
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name, 
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky. 
I am out of words to describe 
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

Kulliyat-i-Shams 2667


This World Which Is Made Of Our Love For Emptiness

Praise to the emptiness that blanks out existence. Existence: 
This place made from our love for that emptiness!

Yet somehow comes emptiness, 
this existence goes.

Praise to that happening, over and over! 
For years I pulled my own existence out of emptiness.

Then one swoop, one swing of the arm, 
that work is over.

Free of who I was, free of presence, free of dangerous fear, hope, 
free of mountainous wanting.

The here-and-now mountain is a tiny piece of a piece of straw 
blown off into emptiness.

These words I’m saying so much begin to lose meaning: 
Existence, emptiness, mountain, straw:

Words and what they try to say swept 
out the window, down the slant of the roof.

From Fihi ma Fihi

***

“It is said that after Muhammad and the prophets revelation does not descend upon anyone else. Why not? In fact it does, but then it is not called ‘revelation.’ It is what the Prophet referred to when he said, ‘The believer sees with the Light of God.’ When the believer looks with ‘The believer sees with the Light of God.’ When the believer looks with God’s Light, he sees all things: the first and the last, the present and the absent. For how can anything be hidden from God’s Light? And if something is hidden, then it is not the Light of God. Therefore the meaning of revelation exists, even if it is not called revelation.”

Fihi ma fihi [Discourses of Rumi] – quoted from William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi

Tomb shrine of Rumi, Konya

The Drum Of The Realization

The drum of the realization of the promise is beating, 
we are sweeping the road to the sky. Your joy is here today, what remains for tomorrow? 
The armies of the day have chased the army of the night, 
Heaven and earth are filled with purity and light. 
Oh! joy for he who has escaped from this world of perfumes and color! 
For beyond these colors and these perfumes, these are other colors in the heart and the soul. 
Oh! joy for this soul and this heart who have escaped 
the earth of water and clay, 
Although this water and this clay contain the hearth of the 
philosophical stone.

(Mystic Odes 473)


Call Of Love

At every instant and from every side, resounds the call of Love: 
We are going to sky, who wants to come with us? 
We have gone to heaven, we have been the friends of the angels, 
And now we will go back there, for there is our country. 
We are higher than heaven, more noble than the angels: 
Why not go beyond them? Our goal is the Supreme Majesty. 
What has the fine pearl to do with the world of dust? 
Why have you come down here? Take your baggage back. What is this place? 
Luck is with us, to us is the sacrifice!… 
Like the birds of the sea, men come from the ocean–the ocean of the soul. 
Like the birds of the sea, men come from the ocean–the ocean of the soul. 
How could this bird, born from that sea, make his dwelling here? 
No, we are the pearls from the bosom of the sea, it is there that we dwell: 
Otherwise how could the wave succeed to the wave that comes from the soul? 
The wave named ‘Am I not your Lord’ has come, it has broken the vessel of the body; 
And when the vessel is broken, the vision comes back, and the union with Him.   

Eva de Vitray-Meyerovitch, ‘Rumi and Sufism’ trans. Simone Fattal – Sausalito, CA: Post-Apollo Press, 1977, 1987.


Our Death Is Our Wedding

Our death is our wedding with eternity. 
What is the secret? “God is One.” 
The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house. 
This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes; 
It is not in the juice made from the grapes. 
For he who is living in the Light of God, 
The death of the carnal soul is a blessing. 
Regarding him, say neither bad nor good, 
For he is gone beyond the good and the bad. 
Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible, 
So that he may place another look in your eyes. 
It is in the vision of the physical eyes 
That no invisible or secret thing exists. 
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God 
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light? 
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light 
Don’t call all these lights “the Light of God”; 
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God, 
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh. 
…Oh God who gives the grace of vision! 
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.

(Mystic Odes 833)


I’ve Said Before That Every Craftsman

I’ve said before that every craftsman 
searches for what’s not there 
to practice his craft.

A builder looks for the rotten hole 
where the roof caved in. A water-carrier 
picks the empty pot. A carpenter 
stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint 
of emptiness, which they then 
start to fill. Their hope, though, 
is for emptiness, so don’t think 
you must avoid it. It contains 
what you need! 
Dear soul, if you were not friends 
with the vast nothing inside, 
why would you always be casting you net 
into it, and waiting so patiently?

This invisible ocean has given you such abundance, 
but still you call it “death”, 
that which provides you sustenance and work.

God has allowed some magical reversal to occur, 
so that you see the scorpion pit 
as an object of desire, 
and all the beautiful expanse around it, 
as dangerous and swarming with snakes.

This is how strange your fear of death 
and emptiness is, and how perverse 
the attachment to what you want.

Now that you’ve heard me 
on your misapprehensions, dear friend, 
listen to Attar’s story on the same subject.

He strung the pearls of this 
about King Mahmud, how among the spoils 
of his Indian campaign there was a Hindu boy, 
whom he adopted as a son. He educated 
and provided royally for the boy 
and later made him vice-regent, seated 
on a gold throne beside himself.

One day he found the young man weeping.. 
“Why are you crying? You’re the companion 
of an emperor! The entire nation is ranged out 
before you like stars that you can command!”

The young man replied, “I am remembering 
my mother and father, and how they 
scared me as a child with threats of you! 
‘Uh-oh, he’s headed for King Mahmud’s court! 
Nothing could be more hellish!’ Where are they now 
when they should see me sitting here?”

This incident is about your fear of changing. 
You are the Hindu boy. Mahmud, which means 
Praise to the End, is the spirit’s 
poverty or emptiness.

The mother and father are your attachment 
to beliefs and blood ties 
and desires and comforting habits. 
Don’t listen to them! 
They seem to protect 
but they imprison.

They are your worst enemies. 
They make you afraid 
of living in emptiness.

Some day you’ll weep tears of delight in that court, 
remembering your mistaken parents!

Know that your body nurtures the spirit, 
helps it grow, and gives it wrong advise.

The body becomes, eventually, like a vest 
of chain mail in peaceful years, 
too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

But the body’s desires, in another way, are like 
an unpredictable associate, whom you must be 
patient with. And that companion is helpful, 
because patience expands your capacity 
to love and feel peace. 
The patience of a rose close to a thorn 
keeps it fragrant. It’s patience that gives milk 
to the male camel still nursing in its third year, 
and patience is what the prophets show to us.

The beauty of careful sewing on a shirt 
is the patience it contains.

Friendship and loyalty have patience 
as the strength of their connection.

Feeling lonely and ignoble indicates 
that you haven’t been patient.

Be with those who mix with God 
as honey blends with milk, and say,

“Anything that comes and goes, 
rises and sets, is not 
what I love.” else you’ll be like a caravan fire left 
to flare itself out alone beside the road. 

Rumi VI (1369-1420) from ‘Rumi : One-Handed Basket Weaving


“NOONE” Says It Better

What is the mi’raj12 of the heavens? 
Non-existence. 
The religion and creed of the lovers is non- existence.

Masnavi VI 233


These Spiritual Window-shoppers

These spiritual window-shoppers, 
who idly ask, ‘How much is that?’ Oh, I’m just looking. 
They handle a hundred items and put them down, 
shadows with no capital.

What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping. 
But these walk into a shop, 
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment, 
in that shop.

Where did you go? “Nowhere.” 
What did you have to eat? “Nothing much.”

Even if you don’t know what you want, 
buy _something,_ to be part of the exchanging flow.

Start a huge, foolish project, 
like Noah.

It makes absolutely no difference 
what people think of you.

Rumi, ‘We Are Three‘, Mathnawi VI, 831-845


I Died From Minerality

I died from minerality and became vegetable;
And From vegetativeness I died and became animal.
I died from animality and became man.
Then why fear disappearance through death?
Next time I shall die
Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;
After that, soaring higher than angels –
What you cannot imagine,
I shall be that.

***

Soul Receives From Soul

Soul receives from soul that knowledge, therefore not by book
    nor from tongue.
If knowledge of mysteries come after emptiness of mind, that is 
    illumination of heart.

***

If Thou Wilt Be Observant

If thou wilt be observant and vigilant, thou wilt see at every moment the response to thy action. Be observant if thou wouldst have a pure heart, for something is born to thee in consequence of every action.

***

I Said, ‘Thou Art Harsh’

I said, ‘Thou art harsh, like such a one.’
‘Know,’ he replied,
‘That I am harsh for good, not from rancor and spite.
Whoever enters saying, “This I,” I smite him on the brow;
For this is the shrine of Love, o fool! it is not a sheep cote!
Rub thine eyes, and behold the image of the heart.’

***

Make Yourself Free

Make yourself free from self at one stroke!
Like a sword be without trace of soft iron;
Like a steel mirror, scour off all rust with contrition.

***

A Star Without A Name

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,
it easily forgets her
and starts eating solid food.

Seeds feed awhile on ground,
then lift up into the sun.

So you should taste the filtered light
and work your way toward wisdom
with no personal covering.

That’s how you came here, like a star
without a name.  Move across the night sky
with those anonymous lights.        

(Mathnawi III, 1284-1288) “Say I am You” Coleman Barks Maypop, 1994


The Many Wines

God has given us a dark wine so potent that,
drinking it, we leave the two worlds.

God has put into the form of hashish a power
to deliver the taster from self-consciousness. 

God has made sleep so
that it erases every thought. 

God made Majnun love Layla so much that
just her dog would cause confusion in him.

There are thousands of wines
that can take over our minds.

Don’t think all ecstacies
are the same!

Jesus was lost in his love for God.
His donkey was drunk with barley. 

Drink from the presence of saints,
not from those other jars. 

Every object, every being,
is a jar full of delight. 

Be a conoisseur,
and taste with caution. 

Any wine will get you high.
Judge like a king, and choose the purest, 

the ones unadulterated with fear,
or some urgency about “what’s needed.” 

Drink the wine that moves you
as a camel moves when it’s been untied,

and is just ambling about.

Mathnawi IV, 2683-96, The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks


Gone To The Unseen

At last you have departed and gone to the Unseen.
What marvelous route did you take from this world?

Beating your wings and feathers,
you broke free from this cage.
Rising up to the sky
you attained the world of the soul.
You were a prized falcon trapped by an Old Woman.
Then you heard the drummer’s call
and flew beyond space and time.

As a lovesick nightingale, you flew among the owls.
Then came the scent of the rose garden
and you flew off to meet the Rose.

The wine of this fleeting world
caused your head to ache.
Finally you joined the tavern of Eternity.
Like an arrow, you sped from the bow
and went straight for the bull’s eye of bliss.

This phantom world gave you false signs
But you turned from the illusion
and journeyed to the land of truth.

You are now the Sun –
what need have you for a crown?
You have vanished from this world –
what need have you to tie your robe?

I’ve heard that you can barely see your soul.
But why look at all? –
yours is now the Soul of Souls!

O heart, what a wonderful bird you are.
Seeking divine heights,
Flapping your wings,
you smashed the pointed spears of your enemy.

The flowers flee from Autumn, but not you –
You are the fearless rose
that grows amidst the freezing wind.

Pouring down like the rain of heaven
you fell upon the rooftop of this world.
Then you ran in every direction
and escaped through the drain spout . . .

Now the words are over
and the pain they bring is gone.
Now you have gone to rest 
in the arms of the Beloved.

Rumi – In the Arms of the Beloved“, Jonathan Star, New York 1997


How Did You Get Away

You were the pet falcon of an old woman.
Did you hear the falcon-drum?
You were a drunken songbird put in with owls.
Did you smell the odor of a garden?
You got tired of sour fermenting
and left the tavern.

You went like an arrow to the target
from the bow of time and place.
The man who stays at the cemetery pointed the way,
but you didn’t go.
You became light and gave up wanting to be famous.
You don’t worry about what you’re going to eat,
so why buy an engraved belt?

I’ve heard of living at the center, but what about
leaving the center of the center?
Flying toward thankfulness, you become
the rare bird with one wing made of fear,
and one of hope. In autumn,
a rose crawling along the ground in the cold wind.
Rain on the roof runs down and out by the spout 
as fast as it can.

Talking is pain. Lie down and rest,
now that you’ve found a friend to be with.

These Branching Moments“, Coleman Barks, Copper Beech Press, 1988


He Comes

He comes, a moon whose like the sky ne’er saw, awake or dreaming.
Crowned with eternal flame no flood can lay.
Lo, from the flagon of thy love, O Lord, my soul is swimming,
And ruined all my body’s house of clay!

When first the Giver of the grape my lonely heart befriended,
Wine fired my bosom and my veins filled up;
But when his image all min eye possessed, a voice descended:
‘Well done, O sovereign Wine and peerless Cup!’

Love’s mighty arm from roof to base each dark abode is hewing,
Where chinks reluctant catch a golden ray.
My heart, when Love’s sea of a sudden burst into its viewing,
Leaped headlong in, with ‘Find me now who may!’

As, the sun moving, clouds behind him run,
All hearts attend thee, O Tabriz’s Sun!

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems‘, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


Poor Copies

Poor copies out of heaven’s originals,
Pale earthly pictures mouldering to decay,
What care although your beauties break and fall,
When that which gave them life endures for aye?

Oh never vex thine heart with idle woes:
All high discourse enchanting the rapt ear,
All gilded landscapes and brave glistering shows
Fade-perish, but it is not as we fear.

Whilst far away the living fountains ply,
each petty brook goes brimful to the main
Since baron nor fountain can for ever die,
Thy fears how foolish, thy lament how vain!

What is this fountain, wouldst thou rightly know?
The Soul whence issue all created things.
Doubtless the rivers shall not cease to flow,
Till silenced are the everlasting springs.

Farewell to sorrow, and with quiet mind
Drink long and deep: let others fondly deem
The channel empty they perchance may find,
Or fathom that unfathomable stream.

The moment thou to this low world wast given,
A ladder stood whereby thou might’st aspire;
And first thy steps, which upward still have striven,
From mineral mounted to the plant; then higher

To animal existence; next, the Man,
With knowledge, reason, faith. Oh wondrous goal!
This body, which a crumb of dust began-
How fairly fashioned the consummate whole!

Yet stay not here thy journey: thou shalt grow
An angel bright and home far off in heaven.
Plod on, plunge last in the great Sea, that so 
Thy little drop make oceans seven times seven.

‘The Son of God!’ Nay, leave that word unsaid,
Say: ‘God is One, the pure, the single Truth.’
What though thy frame be withered, old, and dead,
If the soul keep her fresh immortal youth?

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems‘, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


Departure

Up, O ye lovers, and away! ‘Tis time to leave the world for aye.
Hark, loud and clear from heaven the from of parting calls-let none delay!
The cameleer hat risen amain, made ready all the camel-train,
And quittance now desires to gain: why sleep ye, travellers, I pray?
Behind us and before there swells the din of parting and of bells;
To shoreless space each moment sails a disembodied spirit away.
From yonder starry lights, and through those curtain-awnings darkly blue,
Mysterious figures float in view, all strange and secret things display.
From this orb, wheeling round its pole, a wondrous slumber o’er thee stole:
O weary life that weighest naught, O sleep that on my soul dost weigh!
O heart, toward they heart’s love wend, and O friend, fly toward the Friend,
Be wakeful, watchman, to the end: drowse seemingly no watchman may.

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems‘, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


Remembered Music

‘Tis said, the pipe and lute that charm our ears
Derive their melody from rolling spheres;
But Faith, o’erpassing speculation’s bound,
Can see what sweetens every jangled sound.

We, who are parts of Adam, heard with him
The song of angels and of seraphim.
Out memory, though dull and sad, retains
Some echo still of those unearthly strains.

Oh, music is the meat of all who love,
Music uplifts the soul to realms above.
The ashes glow, the latent fires increase:
We listen and are fed with joy and peace.

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems‘, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


The Spirit Of The Saints

There is a Water that flows down from Heaven
To cleanse the world of sin by grace Divine.
At last, its whole stock spent, its virtue gone.
Dark with pollution not its own, it speeds
Back to the Fountain of all purities;
Whence, freshly bathed, earthward it sweeps again,
Trailing a robe of glory bright and pure.

This Water is the Spirit of the Saints,
Which ever sheds, until itself is beggared,
God’s balm on the sick soul; and then returns
To Him who made the purest light of Heaven.

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


The True Sufi

What makes the Sufi? Purity of heart;
Not the patched mantle and the lust perverse
Of those vile earth-bound men who steal his name.
He in all dregs discerns the essence pure:
In hardship ease, in tribulation joy.
The phantom sentries, who with batons drawn
Guard Beauty’s place-gate and curtained bower,
Give way before him, unafraid he passes,
And showing the King’s arrow, enters in.

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems‘, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


Unseen Power

We are the flute, our music is all Thine;
We are the mountains echoing only Thee;
And movest to defeat or victory;
Lions emblazoned high on flags unfurled-
They wind invisible sweeps us through the world.

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems‘, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


The Progress Of Man

First he appeared in the realm inanimate;
Thence came into the world of plants and lived
The plant-life many a year, nor called to mind
What he had been; then took the onward way
To animal existence, and once more
Remembers naught of what life vegetive,
Save when he feels himself moved with desire
Towards it in the season of sweet flowers,
As babes that seek the breast and know not why.
Again the wise Creator whom thou knowest
Uplifted him from animality
To Man’s estate; and so from realm to realm
Advancing, he became intelligent,
Cunning and keen of wit, as he is now.
No memory of his past abides with him,
And from his present soul he shall be changes.
Though he is fallen asleep, God will not leave him
In this forgetfulness. Awakened, he
Will laugh to think what troublous dreams he had.
And wonder how his happy state of being
He could forget, and not perceive that all
Those pains and sorrows were the effect of sleep
And guile and vain illusion. So this world
Seems lasting, though ’tis but the sleepers’ dream;
Who, when the appointed Day shall dawn, escapes
From dark imaginings that haunted him, 
And turns with laughter on his phantom griefs
When he beholds his everlasting home.

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


Reality And Appearance

‘Tis light makes colour visible: at night
Red, greene, and russet vanish from thy sight.
So to thee light by darness is made known:
Since God hat none, He, seeing all, denies
Himself eternally to mortal eyes.
From the dark jungle as a tiger bright,
Form from the viewless Spirit leaps to ligth.

R. A. Nicholson, ‘Persian Poems, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


Descent

I made a far journey
Earth’s fair cities to view,
but like to love’s city
City none I knew

At the first I knew not
That city’s worth,
And turned in my folly
A wanderer on earth.

From so sweet a country
I must needs pass,
And like to cattle
Grazed on every grass.

As Moses’ people
I would liefer eat
Garlic, than manna
And celestial meat.

What voice in this world
to my ear has come
Save the voice of love
Was a tapped drum.

Yet for that drum-tap
From the world of All 
Into this perishing
Land I did fall.

That world a lone spirit
Inhabiting.
Like a snake I crept
Without foot or wing.

The wine that was laughter
And grace to sip
Like a rose I tasted
Without throat or lip.

‘Spirit, go a journey,’
Love’s voice said:
‘Lo, a home of travail
I have made.’

Much, much I cried:
‘I will not go’;
Yea, and rent my raiment
And made great woe.

Even as now I shrink
To be gone from here,
Even so thence
To part I did fear.

‘Spirit, go thy way,’
Love called again,
‘And I shall be ever nigh thee
As they neck’s vein.’

Much did love enchant me
And made much guile;
Love’s guile and enchantment
Capture me the while.

In ignorance and folly
When my wings I spread,
From palace unto prison
I was swiftly sped.

Now I would tell
How thither thou mayst come;
But ah, my pen is broke
And I am dumb.

A..J. Arberry, ‘Persian Poems‘, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972


I am Part Of The Load

I am part of the load
Not rightly balanced
I drop off in the grass,
like the old Cave-sleepers, to browse
wherever I fall.

For hundreds of thousands of years I have been dust-grains
floating and flying in the will of the air, 
often forgetting ever being
in that state, but in sleep
I migrate back. I spring loose
from the four-branched, time -and-space cross,
this waiting room.

I walk into a huge pasture
I nurse the milk of millennia

Everyone does this in different ways.
Knowing that conscious decisions
and personal memory
are much too small a place to live,
every human being streams at night
into the loving nowhere, or during the day,
in some absorbing work.

(Mathnawi, VI 216-227) Rumi, ‘We Are Three’


Delusion Is A Divine Curse

Delusion is a divine curse
that makes someone envious, conceited, malicious,
so that he doesn’t know the evil he does
will strike him back.

If he could see his nothingness
and his deadly, festering wound,
pain would arise from looking within,
and that pain would save him.

— Mathnawi II:2513-2517
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski “Rumi: Daylight” 
Threshold Books, 1994 Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra

Bowl of Reflections with Rumi’s poetry, early 13th century. Brooklyn Museum.

 

Thanksgiving Is Sweeter Than The Bounty Itself

Thanksgiving is sweeter than the bounty itself
(itself): how should he that is addicted to thanksgiving go towards

(direct his attention to) the bounty?
Thanksgiving is the soul of the bounty, and the bounty is as a
husk because thanksgiving brings you to the abode of the Beloved.

Bounty produces heedlessness, and thanksgiving alertness:
hunt after bounty with the snare of thanksgiving to the King.
The bounty of thanksgiving will make you contented and princely so
that you will bestow a hundred bounties on the poor.
You will eat your fill of the viands and dessert of God, so that
hunger and begging will depart from you.

— Mathnawi III: 2895-2899
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”

Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude
does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat
of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you
to the hearth of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness,
thanksgiving gives birth to alertness…
The bounty of thanksgiving
will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow
a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging.

– Rumi


The Sunrise Ruby

In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved wake
and take a drink of water.

She ask, “Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell the absolute truth.”

He says, “There’s nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
to sunlight.”

This is how Hallaj said, I am God,
and told the truth!

The ruby and the sunrise are one.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.

Completely become hearing and ear,
and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.

Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.

— Version by Coleman Barks
“The Essential Rumi” Castle Books, 1997

A Great Rose Tree

This is the day and the year
of the rose. The whole garden

is opening with laughter. Iris
whispering to cypress. The rose

is the joy of meeting someone.
The rose is a world imagination

cannot imagine. A messenger from
the orchard where the soul lives.

A small seed that points to a great
rose tree! Hold its hand and walk

like a child. A rose is what grows
from the work the prophets do.

Full moon, new moon. Accept the
invitation spring extends, four

birds flying toward a master. A rose
is all these, and the silence that

closes and sits in the shade, a bud.

— Ghazal (Ode) 1348
Version by Coleman Barks, with Nevit Ergin “The Glance” Viking-Penguin, 1999


Don’t go back to sleep!

The early breeze before dawn
is the keeper of secrets.
Don’t go back to sleep!
It is time for prayer, it is time to ask for
what you really need.
Don’t go back to sleep!
The door of the One who created the world
is always open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

— Translation by Azima Melita Kolin and Maryam Mafi “Rumi: Hidden Music” HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2001


In This Garden

O soul, who is that standing in the house of the heart? Who
may be on the royal throne but the king and the prince?1
He signaled with his hand, “Tell me, what do you want of
me?” What does a drunken man desire but sweetmeats and a
cup of wine?

Sweetmeats hanging from the heart, a cup of pure light, an
eternal banquet laid in the privacy of “He is the Truth.”2
How many deceivers there are at the wine-drinkers’ feast!
Beware, lest you fall, soft and simple man!

In the circle of reprobates beware lest you be eye-shut like
the bud, mouth-open like the rose.

The world is like a mirror, the image of the perfection of Love;
men, who has ever seen a part greater than the whole?

Go on foot like the grass, for in this rose garden the Beloved
like a rose is riding; all the rest are on foot.

He is both sword and swordsman, both slain and slayer, all
Reason, and giving reason to the mind.3

That king is Salah-al-din4 may he endure forever, may his
bountiful hand be perpetually a necklace on my neck!

— Translation by A. J. Arberry
“Mystical Poems of Rumi” The University of Chicago Press, 1968


1 According to Nicholson (Divan-i Sham, 238, 300) this is a reference
to the hadis’ of the Prophet, where God says: “My earth and heaven
contain me not, but the heart of my believing servant contains me.”
2 “He is the Truth” Qur’an 22:6.
3 Reason is annihilated in mystical love.
4 “Salah-al-din Zarkub”, who died c. 659/1261, was Rumi’s pir’
(teacher) after Shams al-Din vanished he is here hailed as an
embodiment of the Spirit of Muhammad, the Perfect Man.

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