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Rumi: Listen to the reed

Rumi: Listen to the reed
Photo: Bride from the southern Hebron Hills, wearing a 'money hat'. British Museum, London.



Listen to this reed how it complains: 

it is telling a tale of separations.
Saying, "Ever since I was parted from the reed-bed, 
man and woman have moaned in (unison with) my lament. 

I want a bosom torn by severance, 
that I may unfold (to such a one) the pain of love-desire.
Every one who is left far from his source 
wishes back the time when he was united with it.
In every company I uttered my wailful notes, 
I consorted with the unhappy and with them that rejoice.
Every one became my friend from his own opinion;
none sought out my secrets from within me.
My secret is not far from my plaint, 
but ear and eye lack the light (whereby it should be apprehended).
Body is not veiled from soul, nor soul from body,
yet none is permitted to see the soul."
This noise of the reed is fire, it is not wind:
whoso hath not this fire, may he be naught!
'Tis the fire of Love that is in the reed, 
'tis the fervour of Love that is in the wine.
The reed is the comrade of every one who has been parted from 
a friend: its strains pierced our hearts.
Who ever saw a poison and antidote like the reed? 
Who ever saw a sympathiser and a longing lover like the reed?
The reed tells of the Way full of blood 
and recounts stories of the passion of Majnoon.
Only to the senseless is this sense confided: 
the tongue hath no customer save the ear.
In our woe the days (of life) have become untimely:
our days travel hand in hand with burning griefs.
If our days are gone, let them go!-- 'tis no matter. 
Do Thou remain, for none is holy as Thou art!
Except the fish, everyone becomes sated with water; 
whoever is without daily bread finds the day long.
None that is raw understands the state of the ripe: 
therefore my words must be brief. Farewell!
O son, burst thy chains and be free!
How long wilt thou be a bondsman to silver and gold?
If thou pour the sea into a pitcher, 
how much will it hold? One day's store.
The pitcher, the eye of the covetous, never becomes full: 
the oyster-shell is not filled with pearls until it is contented.
He (alone) whose garment is rent by a (mighty) love
is purged entirely of covetousness and defect.
Hail, our sweet-thoughted Love--
thou that art the physician of all our ills,
The remedy of our pride and vainglory, 
our Plato and our Galen!
Through Love the earthly body soared to the skies: 
the mountain began to dance and became nimble.
Love inspired Mount Sinai, O lover, 
(so that) Sinai (was made) drunken "and Moses fell in a swoon."
Were I joined to the lip of one in accord with me,
I too, like the reed, would tell all that may be told;
(But) whoever is parted from one who speaks his language 
becomes dumb, though he have a hundred songs.
When the rose is gone and the garden faded,
thou wilt hear no more the nightingale's story.
The Beloved is all and the lover (but) a veil; 
the Beloved is living and the lover a dead thing.
When Love hath no care for him, 
he is left as a bird without wings. Alas for him then!
How should I have consciousness (of aught) before or behind 
when the light of my Beloved is not before me and behind?
Love wills that this Word should be shown forth: 
if the mirror does not reflect, how is that?
Dost thou know why the mirror (of thy soul) reflects nothing? 
Because the rust is not cleared from its face.
(Masnavi, Rumi trans. Nicholson; 1926)




Recommended Reading:
'Mystical Poems of Rumi'
By Rumi (Author), A. J. Arberry (Translator)
Purchase Book:

My verse resembles the bread of Egypt—night passes over it, and you cannot eat it any more.
Devour it the moment it is fresh, before the dust settles upon it.
Its place is the warm climate of the heart; in this world it dies of cold.
Like a fish it quivered for an instant on dry land, another moment and you see it is cold.
Even if you eat it imagining it is fresh, it is necessary to conjure up many images.
What you drink is really your own imagination; it is no old tale, my good man.
Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207–73), legendary Persian Muslim poet, theologian, and mystic, wrote poems acclaimed through the centuries for their powerful spiritual images and provocative content, which often described Rumi’s love for God in romantic or erotic terms. His vast body of work includes more than three thousand lyrics and odes. This volume includes four hundred poems selected by renowned Rumi scholar A. J. Arberry, who provides here one of the most comprehensive and adept English translations of this enigmatic genius. Mystical Poems is the definitive resource for anyone seeking an introduction to or an enriched understanding of one of the world’s greatest poets.
“Rumi is one of the world’s greatest lyrical poets in any language—as well as probably the most accessible and approachable representative of Islamic civilization for Western students.”
(James W. Morris, Oberlin College)
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