Monday, 30 September 2013

The Song of the Reed Rumi

Mawlana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was born on 
September 30, 1207 

Listen to the song of the reed, 
How it wails with the pain of separation: 

"Ever since I was taken from my reed bed
My woeful song has caused men and women to weep.

I seek out those whose hearts are torn by separation
For only they understand the pain of this longing.

Whoever is taken away from his homeland
Yearns for the day he will return.

In every gathering, among those who are happy or sad,
I cry with the same lament.

Everyone hears according to his own understanding,
None has searched for the secrets within me.

My secret is found in my lament
But an eye or ear without light cannot know it . . ."

The sound of the reed comes from fire, not wind
What use is one's life without this fire?

It is the fire of love that brings music to the reed.
It is the ferment of love that gives taste to the wine.

The song of the reed soothes the pain of lost love.
Its melody sweeps the veils from the heart.

Can there be a poison so bitter or a sugar so sweet
As the song of the reed?

To hear the song of the reed
everything you have ever known must be left behind.

~ Rumi
Version by Jonathan Star
"Rumi - In the Arms of the Beloved"
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York 1997


  1. Listen
    as this reed
    pipes its plaint
    unfolds its tale
    of separations:
    Cut from my reedy bed
    my crying
    ever since
    makes men and women
    I like to keep my breast
    carved with loss
    to convey
    the pain of longing ---
    Once severed
    from the root
    thirst for union
    with the source

    I raise my plaint
    in any kind of crowd
    in front of both
    the blessed and the bad
    For what they think they hear me say, they love me --
    None gaze in me my secrets to discern
    My secret is not separate from my cry
    But ears and eyes lack light to see it.

    Not soul from flesh
    nor flesh from soul are veiled
    yet none is granted leave to see the soul.
    Fire, not breath, makes music through that pipe --
    Let all who lack that fire be blown away.
    It is love's fire that inspires the reed
    It's love's ferment that bubbles in the wine
    The reed, soother to all sundered lovers --
    its piercing modes reveal our hidden pain:

    (What's like the reed, both poison and physic,
    Soothing as it pines and yearns away?)
    The reed tells the tale of a blood-stained quest
    singing legends of love's mad obsessions

    Only the swooning know such awareness
    only the ear can comprehend the tongue

    In our sadness time slides listlessly by
    the days searing inside us as they pass.

    But so what if the days may slip away?
    so long as you, Uniquely Pure, abide.

    Within this sea drown all who drink but fish
    If lived by bread alone, the day seems long
    No raw soul ever kens the cooked one's state
    So let talk of it be brief; go in piece.

    Break off your chains
    My son, be free!
    How long enslaved
    by silver, gold?
    Pour the ocean
    in a pitcher,
    can it hold more
    than one day's store?
    The jug, like a greedy eye,
    never gets its fill
    only the contented oyster holds the pearl

    The one run ragged by love and haggard
    gets purged of all his faults and greeds
    Welcome, Love!
    sweet salutary suffering
    and healer of our maladies!

    cure of our pride
    of our conceits,
    our Plato,
    Our Galen!
    By Love
    our earthly flesh
    borne to heaven
    our mountains
    made supple
    moved to dance

    Love moved Mount Sinai, my love,
    and it made Moses swoon. [K7:143]

    Let me touch those harmonious lips
    and I, reed-like, will tell what may be told

    A man may know a myriad of songs
    but cut from those who know his tongue, he's dumb.
    Once the rose wilts and the garden fades
    the nightingale will no more sing his tune.

    The Beloved is everything -- the lover, a veil
    The Beloved's alive -- the lover carrion.
    Unsuccored by love, the poor lover is
    a plucked bird
    Without the Beloved's
    surrounding illumination
    how perceive what's ahead
    and what's gone by?

    Love commands these words appear
    if no mirror reflects them
    in whom lies the fault?
    The dross obscures your face
    and makes your mirror
    unable to reflect

    -- Mathnawi I: 1 - 34
    Translation by Professor Franklin D. Lewis
    "Rumi -- Past and Present, East and West"
    Oneworld, Oxford, 2000

  2. The Song of the Reed
    Mathnawi I: 1-18

    Listen* to the reed (flute),* how it is complaining!* It is
    telling about separations,*
    (Saying), "Ever since I was severed from the reed field,* men and
    women have lamented in (the presence of) my shrill cries.*
    "(But) I want a heart (which is) torn, torn from separation, so
    that I may explain* the pain of yearning."*
    "Anyone one who has remained far from his roots,* seeks a return
    (to the) time of his union.*
    "I lamented in every gathering; I associated with those in bad or
    happy circumstances.
    "(But) everyone became my friend from his (own) opinion; he did
    not seek my secrets* from within me.
    "My secret is not far from my lament, but eyes and ears do not
    have the light* (to sense it).
    "The body is not hidden from the soul, nor the soul from the body;
    but seeing the soul is not permitted."*
    The reed's cry is fire* -- it's not wind! Whoever doesn't have
    this fire, may he be nothing!*
    It is the fire of Love that fell into the reeds. (And) it is the
    ferment of Love that fell into the wine.*
    The reed (is) the companion of anyone who was severed from a
    friend; its melodies tore our veils.*
    Who has seen a poison and a remedy like the reed? Who has seen
    a harmonious companion and a yearning friend like the reed?
    The reed is telling the story of the path full of blood;* it is
    telling stories of Majnoon's (crazed) love.*
    There is no confidant (of) this understanding* except the senseless!
    * There is no purchaser of that tongue* except the ear [of the
    In our longing,* the days became (like) evenings;* the days
    became fellow-travellers with burning fevers.
    If the days have passed, tell (them to) go, (and) don't worry.
    (But) You remain!* -- O You, whom no one resembles in Purity!

    Everyone becomes satiated by water,* except the fish. (And)
    everyone who is without daily food [finds that] his days become
    None (who is) "raw" can understand the state of the "ripe."*
    Therefore, (this) speech must be shortened. So farewell!*

    -- From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed
    Couplets of Deep Spiritual Meaning] of
    Jalaluddin Rumi.
    Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard
    (with grateful acknowledgement of R.A. Nicholson's
    1926 translation)