Mystical Poems of Rumi


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...

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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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Editorial Reviews


"A valuable book for any collection of world literature, but especially of Persioanand Middle Eastern literature."

"A valuable book for any collection of world literature, but especially of Persioanand Middle Eastern literature."

"A valuable book for any collection of world literature, but especially of Persioanand Middle Eastern literature."

East-West Journal - Sherman Goldman
“An excellent introduction to Rumi, the greatest mystical poet of Islam. . . . Rumi’s scope, like that of all the great poets, is universal—reaching from sensuous luxuriance to the driest irony.”
James W. Morris
“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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226731629
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2009
  • Series: Culture Trails
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 621,839
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 3.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207–73), legendary Persian Muslim poet, theologian, and mystic, wrote more than three thousand lyrics and odes. A. J. Arberry (1905-69) was professor of Arabic at Cambridge University. Ehsan Yarshater is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies and director of the Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University.

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Read an Excerpt

Mystical Poems of Rumi

The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2009 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-73162-9

Chapter One


What excuses have you to offer, my heart, for so many shortcomings? Such constancy on the part of the Beloved, such unfaithfulness on your own!

So much generosity on his side, on yours such niggling contrariness! So many graces from him, so many faults committed by you!

Such envy, such evil imaginings and dark thoughts in your heart, such drawing, such tasting, such munificence by him!

Why all this tasting? That your bitter soul may become sweet. Why all this drawing? That you may join the company of the saints.

5 You are repentant of your sins, you have the name of God on your lips; in that moment he draws you on, so that he may deliver you alive.

You are fearful at last of your wrongdoings, you seek desperately a way to salvation; in that instant why do you not see by your side him who is putting such fear into your heart?

If he has bound up your eyes, you are like a pebble in his hand; now he rolls you along like this, now he tosses you in the air.

Now he implants in your nature a passion for silver and gold and women; now he implants in your soul the light of the form of Mustafa.

On this side drawing you towards the lovely ones, on that side drawing you to the unlovely; amid these whirlpools the ship can only pass through or founder.

10 Offer up so many prayers, weep so sorely in the night season, that the echo may reach your ears from the sphere of the seven heavens.

When Shu'aib's groaning and lamentation and tears like hailstones passed beyond all bounds, in the morning a proclamation came to him from heaven:

"If you are a sinner, I have forgiven you and granted you pardon for your sins. Is it paradise you seek? Lo, I have given it to you; be silent, cease these petitions!"

Shu'aib retorted, "I seek neither this nor that. What I desire is to see God face to face; though the seven seas all turn to fire, I will plunge therein if only I may encounter Him.

But if I am banished from that spectacle, if my tear-stained eyes are shut against that vision, I am more fit to dwell in hell- fire; paradise becomes me not.

15 Without His countenance, paradise for me is hateful hell. I am consumed by this hue and scent of mortality; where is the splendour of the lights of immortality?"

They said, "At least moderate your weeping, lest your sight be diminished, for the eye becomes blind when weeping passes beyond bounds."

He said, "If my two eyes in the end should be seeing after that fashion, every part of me will become an eye: why then should I grieve over blindness?

But if in the end this eye of mine should be deprived forever, let that sight indeed become blind which is unworthy to behold the Beloved!"

In this world, every man would become a ransom for his beloved; one man's beloved is a bag of blood, another's the sun in splendour.

20 Since every man has chosen a beloved, good or bad, as suits his own nature, it would be a pity if we should annihilate ourselves for the sake of nothing!

One day a traveller was accompanying Ba Yazid on a certain road. Presently Ba Yazid said to him, "What trade have you chosen, you rogue?"

The man replied, "I am an ass-driver." Ba Yazid exclaimed, "Be gone from me!—Lord, grant that his ass may die, that he may become the slave of God!"


O lovers, lovers, this day you and we are fallen into a whirlpool: who knows how to swim?

Though the world's torrent should overflow and every wave become like a dromedary, why shall the waterfowl worry? It is the bird of the air that should be anxious.

Our faces are lighted up with gratitude, schooled as we are in wave and sea, inasmuch as ocean and flood are life-increasing to the fish.

Elder, hand us a towel; water, let us plunge into you; Moses son of 'Imran, come, smite the water of the sea with your staff!

5 This wind concocts in every head a different passion; let my passion be for yonder cupbearer, and you may have all the rest!

Yesterday yon saki on the way snatched the caps of the drunkards; today he is giving yet more wine, preparing to strip us of our robes.

O envy of the Moon and of Jupiter, with us, yet hidden from sight like a peri, gently, gently you are drawing me on—will you not say whither?

Wherever you go, you are with me still, you who are my eyes and my brightness; if you will, draw me to drunkenness, if you will, transport me to annihilation.

Know that the world is like Mount Sinai, and we like Moses are seekers; every moment an epiphany arrives and cleaves the mountain asunder.

10 One portion becomes green, one portion becomes narcissus-white; one portion becomes a pearl, one portion ruby and amber.

You who seek to behold Him, gaze upon this mountainchain of His. O mountain, what wind has blown upon you? We have become intoxicated with the echo.

O gardener, gardener, why have you come to grapple with us? If we have carried off your grapes, you have carried off our purse!


Today I beheld the beloved, that ornament of every affair; he went off departing to heaven like the spirit of Mustafa.

The sun is put to shame by his countenance, heaven's sphere is as confused as the heart; through his glow, water and clay are more resplendent than fire.

I said, "Show me the ladder, that I may mount up to heaven." He said, "Your head is the ladder; bring your head down under your feet."

When you place your feet on your head, you will place your feet on the head of the stars; when you cleave through the air, set your foot on the air, so, and come!

5 A hundred ways to heaven's air become manifest to you; you go flying up to heaven every dawning like a prayer.


Every instant a revelation from heaven comes to men's innermost souls: "How long like dregs do you remain upon earth? Come up!"

Whoever is heavy of soul in the end proves to be dregs; only then does he mount to the top of the vat when his dregs are clarified.

Do not stir the clay every moment, so that your water may become clear, so that your dregs may be illumined, so that your pains may be cured.

It is spiritual, like a torch, only its smoke is greater than its light; when its smoke passes beyond bounds, it no longer displays radiance in the house.

5 If you diminish the smoke, you will enjoy the light of the torch; both this abode and that will become illumined by your light.

If you look into muddy water, you see neither the moon nor the sky; sun and moon both disappear when darkness possesses the air.

A northern breeze is blowing, through which the air becomes clarified; it is for the sake of this burnishing that at dawn the zephyr breathes.

The spiritual breeze burnishes the breast of all sorrow; let the breath be stopped but for a moment, and annihilation will come upon the spirit.

The soul, a stranger in the world, is yearning for the city of placelessness; why, O why does the bestial spirit continue so long to graze?

10 Pure, goodly soul, how long will you journey on? You are the King's falcon; fly back toward the Emperor's whistle!


O lovers, lovers, the time of union and encounter has come. The proclamation from heaven has come: "Moon-faced beauties, welcome hither!"

Joyous hearts, joyous hearts, joy has come skirt a-trailing; we have seized its chain, it has seized our skirts.

The fiery potion has come; demon sorrow, sit in a corner; death-anxious soul, depart; immortal saki, enter in!

The seven spheres of heaven are drunk with passion for you; we are as counters in your hand; our being through your being is a myriad times at ease.

5 Sweet-breathed minstrel, every instant shake the bell; O gladness, saddle your steed; O zephyr, blow upon our souls!

O sound of the sweet-conversing reed, in your note is the taste of sugar; your note brings me night and morning the scent of fidelity.

Make beginning again, play those airs once more; O sun lovely of presence, glory over all the lovely ones!

Be silent, do not rend the veil; drain the flagon of the silent ones; be a veiler, be a veiler, habituate yourself to the clemency of God.


How sweet it is to give speech and head, to converse with his lip, especially when he opens the door and says, "Good sir, come in!"

To the dry lip he tells the story of the fountain of Khidar; according to the stature of the man the tailor of his love cuts the gown.

The fountains become drunken through the intoxication of his eye; the trees are dancing before the gentle breeze of dawn.

The nightingale says to the rosebush, "What is in your heart? Declare it this instant. No other is near; only you and I."

5 The rosebush answers, "So long as you are with yourself, entertain not this ambition. Make a special effort to transport the burden of your selfhood out of this earthly abode."

The eye of the needle of passion is narrow; know for a certainty that it will not admit any thread when it perceives it to be of double strand.

Behold how the sun is up to the throat in fire, so that through its face the face of the earth may become full of light.

When Moses proceeded towards the burning bush, the bush said, "I am the water of Kauthar; take off your shoes, and come!

Do not fear my fire, for I am water and sweet at that; you have come to prosperity; the seat of honour is yours, welcome!

10 You are a pearl of pure lustre, a ruby of the mine, the soul of place and placelessness; you are the nonpareil of the age; where are other creatures beside you?"

Through love's hand, every hand becomes the royal court of munificence; through you, the faithless world becomes the factory of fidelity.

At the first hour of day you came, in your hand the royal bowl; you are drawing my soul towards the feast, saying, "Welcome!"

What becomes of the heart, when the heart's hand grasps the hand of a sweetheart? What becomes of the dross copper, when it hears the welcoming voice of the philosopher's stone?

A wondrous darling came, in his hand a lance, like a bedouin. I said, "What service can I render?" He said, "Come up to me!"

15 My heart leaped, saying, "Shall I run?" My reason said, "Shall I go?" Generously he signaled, saying, "Yes, both of you!"

Since the table has come down from heaven, wash your hands and your mouth too, that there may not proceed from your palms the odour of onions and chives.

The mine of salt has arrived; take heed, if you are goodly and a lover. Seize the bowl, and give the cup; choose riot, not broth!

Now I close these two lips, so that the lamp of day and night even with the flame of the tongue may tell you the whole story.


The king has come, the king has come; adorn the palace-hall; cut your forearms in honour of the fair one of Canaan.

Since the Soul of the soul of the soul has come, it is not meet to mention the soul; in his presence of what use is the soul, save as a sacrifice?

Without love I was one who had lost the way; of a sudden love entered. I was a mountain; I became a straw for the horse of the king.

Whether he be Turk or Tajik, this slave is near to him even as soul to body; only the body does not behold the soul.

5 Ho, my friends, good luck has arrived; the time has come for offering up the load; a Solomon has come to the throne, to depose Satan.

Leap from your place; why do you tarry? Why are you so helpless? If you know it not, seek from the hoopoe the way to Solomon's palace.

There make your litanies, there utter your secrets and your needs; Solomon indeed knows the speech of all the birds.

Speech is a wind, O slave, and distracts the heart; but he commands it, "Gather together the scattered ones!"


Have you ever seen any lover who was satiated with this passion? Have you ever seen any fish that had become satiated with this sea?

Have you ever seen any image that was fleeing from the engraver? Have you ever seen any Vamiq asking pardon of 'Adhra?

In separation, the lover is like a name empty of meaning; but a meaning such as belovedness has no need of names.

You are the sea, I am a fish—hold me as you desire; show compassion, exercise kingly power—without you, I remain alone.

5 Puissant emperor, what dearth of compassion is this then? The moment you are not present, the fire rages so high.

If the fire beholds you, it withdraws to a corner; for whoever plucks a rose from the fire, the fire bestows a lovely rose.

Without you, the world is a torment; may it not be without you for a single instant; by your life I implore this, for life without you is a torture and an agony to me.

Your image like a sultan was parading within my heart, even as a Solomon entering the Temple of Jerusalem;

Thousands of lanterns sprang into flame, all the temple was illumined; paradise and the Pool of Kauthar thronged with Ridwan and houris.

10 Exalted be God, exalted be God! Within heaven so many moons! This tabernacle is full of houris, only they are hidden from the eyes of the blind.

Splendid, happy bird that has found a dwelling in love! How should any but the 'Anqa find place and lodging in Mount Qaf?

Splendid, lordly 'Anqa, Emperor Shams-i Tabriz! For he is the Sun neither of the east nor of the west, nor of any place.


How would it be, if my fair love should take my hand tomorrow, hang his head through the window like the lovely-featured moon?

If my life-augmenter enters, loosens my hands and feet?—For my hands and feet too are bound fast by the hand of fixed banishment. Then I would say to him, "By your life I swear that without you, O life of my soul, gay company makes me not happy, neither does wine intoxicate me."

Then if he replies coquettishly, "Be gone! What do you want of me? I fear that your melancholy may make me melancholic!"—

5 I would bring sword and windingsheet and bow my neck as a sacrificial offering, saying, "Your head is aching because of me; strike deliberately!

You know that I desire not to live without you; better for me is death than banishment, by God who brings the dead to life.

I never could believe that you would turn away from your servant; I ever said, the words spoken by my enemies are lying inventions.

You are my soul, and without my soul I know not how to live; you are my eyes, and without you I have not a seeing eye."

Let go these words; minstrel, strike up an air; bring forward rebeck and tambourine, if you do not have a reed pipe.


Today give in full measure that pure wine; strike in utter confusion this hasty wheel of heaven.

Even granted that the unseen bowl has come hidden from the eyes, it is not possible to conceal drunkenness and depravity.

Love, whose trade is joy, sweet of speech and sweet of thought, snatch now the veil from the face of that veiled king; Auspicious one, that cries of exultation may arise from this side and that, ho, fill up, rosy of cheek, flagon and bowl.

5 If you do not wish the rosebower to be disclosed, why did you open the rosewater shop?

Having robbed us of our senses and set this river flowing, fling into the water with all speed the water-duckling.

O soul, we are as corn sprung in this expanse, dry of lip and seeking with our lives the cloud-borne rain.

On every side a new messenger declares, "You will never find; depart!" Cry "God forfend" against that ill-omened crow.

Riot-provoker of every spirit, purse-robber of every Goha, filching the rebeck from the hand of Bu Bakr the Lutanist,

10 Today I desire that you should intoxicate and craze this chatterbox soul, that wordy reason.

Water of life to us, become manifest as the resurrection, what though the milk of the scabby camel is life to the bedouin.

Very lovely is your majesty and beauty; be silent and hold your breath, make not aware of us every heedless one drowned in slumber.


Excerpted from Mystical Poems of Rumi Copyright © 2009 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword to the New and Corrected Edition

by Franklin D. Lewis (2008)

Foreword to Volume 2, Mystical Poems of Rumi

by Ehsan Yarshater (1978)

An Autobiographical Sketch

by A. J. Arberry

Introduction to Volume 1, Mystical Poems of Rumi

by A. J. Arberry

Translation: Poems 1–400

Notes to Poems

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