8.0233 Q: Rumi Poem (1/48)

Wed, 5 Oct 1994 07:59:16 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 8, No. 0233. Wednesday, 5 Oct 1994.

Date: Tue, 04 Oct 94 08:22:38 PDT
From: Paul Brians <BRIANS@WSUVM1>
Subject: Help needed interpreting Rumi poem

I'm looking for help tracking down some of the references in the
following poem by Rumi, the Persian sufi mystic. My queries about non-
Western literature have met with scant success on this list, but
perhaps someone here knows someone who might be willing to help.

The original poem is in Farsi, but I do not have the original, only
a translation. Clearly the poem as a whole envisions a deeper spiritual
reality that lies beneath the externals of religion. But who is the
"Beloved?" And what's the meaning of "the revelation of the tip of
the Beloved's tress?" What means the reference to the "idol-house"--
probably not the pre-Muhammad Kaaba since that is referred to later.
What are the mountains of Herat and Kandahar? Mt. Qaf is the location
of the cave of the seven sleepers, but I don't know what the 'Anqa is.
And what is the reference of "the two bow-length's distance?"

Any help would be much appreciated.

I was, on the day when the heavens were not;
no hint was there that anything with a name existed.
Through us named and names became apparent
on the day when no "I" or "We" were there.
A hint came in the revelation of the tip of the Beloved's tress
when the tip of the Beloved's Tress was not.
Cross and Christianity from end to end
I traversed. He was not in the Cross.
To the idol-house I went, the ancient cloister;
in that no tinge of it was perceptible.
I went to the mountain of Herat and Kandahar;
I looked. He was not in the depths or the heights there.
With purpose I ascended to the summit of Mount Qaf;
in that place was nought but the 'Anqa.
I turned the reins of search towards the Ka'ba;
He was not in that place to which old and young aspire.
I questioned Avicenna1 about him;
He was not within Avicenna's range.
I journeyed to the scene of "the two bow-lengths' distance";
He was not in that sublime Court.
I looked into my own heart.
There I saw him; He was nowhere else.
Translated by Reynold Alleyne Nicholson

Ibn Sina (980-1037), Persian philosopher and physician. His interpretation of
Aristotle and his works on medicine
were widely influential in both the Muslim and Christian worlds during the
Middle Ages.

Paul Brians, Washington State University, brians@wsuvm1.csc.wsu.edu