p o e m s j a l a l a l - d i n r u m i
Oh how nameless, how free I am!
When will I see myself as I really am?
Tell me your secrets here and now, you said.
In this realm, I said, where is the here and now?
How can my soul be still
when I am whirling in stillness?
My sea drowned in itself.
What a wondrous, shoreless sea I am!
Not in this world, not in the next I am.
Where I am, both worlds disappear.
Naught, I am free of profit and loss.
How singular, I neither gain nor lose.
I said: My Soul, you’re the light of my eyes.
Where I am, he said, no need for eyes.
That’s what you are, I said. Stop it!
he said. No words can capture me.
I said: Since you are more than tongue can tell,
behold how eloquent I am without a tongue.
Like the moon, without legs, I race through nothingness.
See how fast I can run without legs!
A voice called: Why so fast?
Look into the hidden, find my true face.
The moment I saw Shams of Tabriz
I became a treasure, a gem, the rare pearl of the sea.
What a rapture to fly in the sky,
To tear a hundred veils every second.
First, sever breathing from breaths,
then, sever walking from footsteps.
Be blind to this world,
to see your own eye.
I said: O Heart, what a blessing
to have reached the circle of lovers.
To look beyond seeing,
to race in the heart’s lane.
O Heart, where did this breath soul begin?
O Heart, what started you beating?
O Soul Bird, speak the language of birds,
I know how to decipher your secret.
Heart said: I was in creation’s workshop,
waiting to fly to this house of clay.
I flew out of the house of creation
to construct the house of creation.
When my legs were gone, they dragged me along.
How can I describe how they dragged me?
I’m the slave of the Moon; talk of nothing but moon.
Or brightness and sweetness. Other than that, say nothing.
Don’t tell of suffering, talk of nothing but blessings.
If you know nothing about them, no matter. Say nothing.
Last night I went wild. Love saw me and said:
I’m here. Don’t shout, don’t rip your shirt, say nothing.
I said: O Love, what I fear is something else.
There’s nothing there. Say nothing.
I’ll whisper secret words in your ears. Just nod yes.
Except for that nod of your head, say nothing.
A moon pure as spirit rose on the heart’s pathway.
What a joy, to travel the way of the heart. Say nothing.
I said: O Heart, what is this moon? Heart beckoned:
For now, it’s not for you to know. Say nothing.
I said: Is this face angel or human?
Neither angel nor human. It is other, say nothing.
I said: What’s this? I’ll lose my mind if you don’t tell me.
It said: Then lose your mind, and stay that way. Say nothing.
You who sit in this house filled with images and illusions,
get up, walk out the door. Go, and say nothing.
I said: O Heart, tell me kindly: Isn’t this about God?
It said: Yes it is, but kindly say nothing.
Every night the image of my Turk transforms my essence.
Annihilated in him, it becomes true existence.
Split the apple I’ve plucked from that tree, and out comes a houri
who will conquer the world and become my vine and paradise.
If I pick up the Book, it falls from my bewildered hands.
His face becomes my margin mark, his lips my Suras.
The world is Mount Sinai, I’m Moses. I faint while it dances.
Only one who keeps that appointment with God understands.
The Sun of Souls arose and said: Wake up, heavy souls!
If I shine on the mountain it will shatter to pieces.
I’ve stifled my grief for so long that now, through the centuries,
a whirlwind of echoes will buffet the world; it will revolve on my sorrow.
Gracefully you pierce the heart, kindler of my soul and body.
O Light-giver, you enlighten my heart and give sight to my eye.
You are a sea full of pearls, a heaven of stars.
The expanse studded with every gem, a garden of lilies.
You animate all things, intoxicate all souls.
You are the one who fills this dust world with jewels.
Tell this bewildered eye, once you’ve seen the Beloved’s lightness,
why bother with mortals, why spend your time with Darkness?
Burn everything I have except my heart, because
your splendor keeps turning it into a rose garden.
You made night, the black slave, the people’s cup-bearer
and handed turmoil, struggle and work to the white slave: day.
I fear the eye of day, its eye is bewitching.
I fear night’s curl, it is pregnant with foreboding.
All fear springs from existence. Stop your trembling and talking.
All dread springs from defeat. Defeat yourself, and find refuge.
Like firewood, you knew nothing, the fire of love engulfed you.
Like lightning, jump out of this fire. Like smoke, drift out this window.
Why draw your dagger? Bare your neck to the stroke of the dagger.
As long as you’re whole, you can’t fit through the eye of the needle.
Be spring, so beauties will cluster around you in the garden.
Those beauties flee from the cold of winter.
If you’re not spring, be summer and step into the fire
because without beauty and Love a man is worth nothing.
If you want your every atom to be eloquent and a poet,
don’t place your faith in poetry and prose, be silent.
If you start to talk, you will stray from your thought.
Don’t stray from your heart’s intent. Stay away from talk.
Come, O Shams of Tabriz, you rule life and death.
Tell heaven’s decree to save the world from calamity.
One who thought the heart belonged in the chest
Took three or four steps and thought he’d reached home.
Prayer rug and beads, abstinence and ritual
Are a step on the path. He thought they were the goal.
Time will put an end to this tumult.
The wolf of death will slaughter this herd.
Everyone’s head is full of deception.
The torrent of death will cast them out the door.
Seek the art of loosening knots.
Quick! Before your soul leaves your body.
Leave that nothing that seems like existence.
Seek the existence that seems like nothing.
If you long to be purified, you will be.
If you want to be burnt to ashes, you will be.
The joy of your purification will demonstrate
How non-existence turns into existence.
I give my cloak to the one who has my fire,
who has bled like Hossein and drunk from Hassan’s poisoned cup.
Don’t grieve because the Moon’s down the well,
he’ll climb out on a lock of his hair.
No matter how loudly the hypocrite prays, there’s no truth in it.
If you’re searching for truth, look at that Cypress.
My dear, the light of the wheeling universe is only His reflection.
It fills the garden with cypress, smiling roses and jasmine.
Even though you are with others, you glance my way.
I have a pure soul, while the other is only a body.
This heart of mine is so drunk it’s disappeared.
That lock of hair scattered it to the winds.
Shams of Tabriz is the king of the lions,
and he lives in the woods of the soul.
O Moon like the moon, don’t go to sleep tonight.
Begin to turn like the turning sky, don’t go to sleep.
Awake, we two light up the universe.
Tonight, keep the universe alight. Don’t go to sleep.
Trust the dawn breeze with your secret. It’s not time to sleep.
It’s a time for beseeching and reaching out. Not time to sleep.
You creatures in the two worlds, from before time to eternity,
The door is open wide for all. This is no time to sleep.
Walking on your path turned me into wine.
Consumed by your love, I became immaterial.
No food by day, no sleep at night,
Being your friend, I become my own enemy.
A friend is the one who beheads you.
A swindler puts a hat on your head.
A host who pampers you becomes your burden.
The Friend deprives you of yourself.
Look at my sallow face, but say nothing.
Look at this infinite pain, and for God’s sake, say nothing.
Look at this bleeding heart, eyes like the River Jeyhun.
No matter what you see, pass by. Don’t ask, say nothing.
Yesterday you appeared at the door of the heart’s house.
Your image knocked and said: Come, open the door, say nothing.
I put my hand to my mouth and said: Woe to my broken heart.
He said: I’m yours, don’t bite your hand, say nothing.
Since you are my surna, don’t sing without my lips.
Until I play you like a harp, not a word about music. Say nothing.
I said: How long will you drag my soul around the world?
He said: Wherever I drag you, come quickly. Say nothing.
I said: While I say nothing, do you want me
to burn? Are you saying: Come in and say nothing?
He smiled like a rose and said: Come in and see.
This fire is jasmine, green leaves and roses. Say nothing.
The fire became roses and spoke. It told me:
Except for our beloved’s love and kindness, say nothing.
Whether I’m drunk or sober
I’m a slave to those beautiful eyes
When I lose sight of that beautiful world-soul
I loathe myself, my life and all the world.
I’m a slave to the face of the one
who keeps me in the rose garden, day and night.
When I see a mirror like that
how can I take my eyes off it?
I am the soul of idols, my idol said.
I said: I’ll testify to that, beloved.
He said: If you are filled with my passion,
not a hair of you will remain.
I’m a candle that burns to ashes
any moth who comes too close.
I told him: Burn me as much as you want,
my remains will still smoke of your love.
I flew beyond this world’s compass. How strange,
I turn in this circle like the legs of a compass.
The cupbearer brought me the bill.
I said: Here, take the turban from my head.
No, no, take my whole head, but right now
help me to sober up just a little.
Show me that hidden world
because I don’t believe in this world any more.
Give me last night’s wine. I am drunk with your sweetness.
O Generous One, hand me the full cup.
O Saqi of the Worthy, don’t turn your face from me.
If you break my heart, I’ll break the cup and the jug.
I held a cup in my hand. I threw it, I smashed it.
A hundred bare feet were slashed by the broken glass.
You worship the bottle because your wine comes out of it.
Mine doesn’t come from the grape, why should I worship the bottle?
O heart, drink the wine of the soul and sleep safe and free.
When I cut off sorrow’s head, I freed myself from pain and grief.
My heart ascended, my body descended.
Where does that leave me? Neither up nor down.
How happy I am hanging here, an apple that longs to be struck by your rock.
How can I wait for the day of the ‘Yes,’ when I am eternally drunk?
Ask me what a treasure this Love is and what it has.
And ask Love, too, to tell you who I am.
Why stroll the bank of the stream? If you’re a man, jump over it.
Jump it and go looking for me, because I jumped over it.
If you stand up, I’ll stand up, and if you leave, I’ll leave.
If you eat, I’ll eat, and if you sit, I’ll sit.
How happy I am, in love with a king. Silent as a fish
since I was freed from existence. Why draw me back into it?
Alas, time has passed and we are alone
In a sea without a shore in sight.
The ship, the night, the chill and we sail
In the sea of God, by God’s wisdom and grace.
D 1759 (Oh how nameless, how free I am!)
Beyt 1 – Rumi actually says that he is nameless and colorless, or traceless, therefore “free” in the sense of having been freed from temporal dimensions, defining characteristics and all previous images or concepts of himself. Our word might be “clear,” except that his mind is far from clear; it is reeling from the shock of this transformation
Beyt 10: “I race through nothingness.” The Persian word is fanā, meaning “annihilation,” and refers to the ultimate goal of the mystic, to abandon the individual self and return to God.
D2219 (I’m the slave of the Moon…)
Beyt 1: Rumi often refers to Shams as a Moon, a Persian symbol for beauty and perfection.
Beyt 11: The literal meaning of the Persian expression translated as “kindly” is: “Tell me as if you were my father.”
Beyt 10: “this house” is the house of water and clay, the body.
D 562 (Every night the image of my Turk…)
Beyt 1: A Persian poetic convention established the young Turk as a type of supreme beauty. Here, Rumi alludes both to this and to Shams’ origins.
Beyt 3: The Book is, of course, the Qur’an, and the “margin mark” (sar ūshr) indicates the end of each cluster of ten verses. “Suras” are chapters of the Qur’an. Rumi is referring to “ayat” or the verses of the Suras, not to his own poetry.
D1847 (Gracefully you pierce the heart…)
Beyt 4: Here Rumi uses the name of the Zoroastrian Lord of Darkness, Ahriman.
Beyt 12: In the original, the second line employs the word mostahajn, a word meaning ugly, obscene and inadequate.
D604 (I give my cloak to the one who has my fire…)
Beyt 1: The sons of Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali, Hassan and Hossein, became the second and third imam of the Shiites. Hassan was given a poisoned drink by his enemies and Hossein was martyred on the plain of Karbala.
Beyt 2: Here Rumi refers to the story of Joseph, a Persian symbol of divine and earthly beauty, who was thrown down a well by his brothers.
Beyt 4: Another emblem of Mohammed is the cypress, a tall, straight tree that represents both truth and righteousness.
D 91 (Trust the dawn breeze…)
The concept translated as “before time” refers to pre-eternity, the time before Creation, when the souls of all prospective human beings existed with Allah.
D 320 (A friend is the one…)
The “Friend” is Allah or a spiritual guide.
D2217 (Look at my sallow face…)
Beyt 2: The Jeyhun, a large river in central Asia, was once called the Oxus and is now known as the Amu Darya.
Beyt 5: The surna is a wind instrument used mostly for weddings and festivities.
Beyt 9: The reference is to a Qur’anic story in which people attempted to burn the prophet Abraham for refusing to follow his people’s pagan traditions. According to Persian poets, the fire turned into a rose garden.
D1604 (Give me last night’s wine…)
Beyt 1: In the original, the words translated as “O Generous One” read: “O Hatem of the world.” Hatem, an ancient Arab chieftain, became the emblem of generosity.
Beyt 7: A Qur’anic verse refers to a primordial covenant between pre-existent human souls and Allah, who asked them: “Am I not your Lord?” Those who answered “Yes” are the faithful. Among Sufis, the compound word alast (am I not) acquired the meaning of “pre-eternity.”
The Year 2007, the 800th aniversary of the birth of Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi has been declared by UNESCO the International Rumi Year. A medal will be struck in his honor. Celebrations will take place around the world.
“Let us therefore honour Mawlana Jalal-ud-Din Balkhi-Rumi, one of the great humanists, philosophers and poets who belong to humanity in its entirety, by issuing a UNESCO Medal in his name in association with the 800th anniversary of his birth in 2007 in the hope that this medal will prove an encouragement to those who are engaged in a deep and scholarly dissemination of his ideas and ideals, which in turn would in fact enhance the diffusion of the ideals of UNESCO.”
March 20, the first day of Spring, is Narooz, beginning the Persian new year.
Translations © Iraj Anvar and Anne Twitty 2007
Anne Twitty’s translations have appeared in Archipelago:
Maria Negroni, El Viaje de la Noche / Night Journey, Vol. 1, No. 1
Maria Negroni, La Jaula bajo el Trapo / Cage Under Cover, Vol. 2, No. 4