The great medieval Persian poets owe much to the mystical Sufi tradition within Islam, which understands life as a journey in search of enlightenment, and, like their European contemporaries, they combine religious and secular themes. While celebrating the beauty of the world in poems about love, wine, and poetry itself, or telling humorous anecdotes of everyday life, they use these subjects to symbolize deeper concerns with wisdom, mortality, salvation, and the quest for God.
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"The True Sufi"
by Rumi (translated by R. A. Nicholson)
What makes the Sufi? Purity of heart;
Not the patched mantle and the lust perverse
Of those vile earth-bound men who steal his name.
He in all dregs discerns the essence pure:
In hardship ease, in tribulation joy.
The phantom sentries, who with batons drawn
Guard Beauty's palace-gate and curtained bower,
Give way before him, unafraid he passes,
And showing the King's arrow, enters in.
"Where Is My Ruined Life?"
By Hafiz (translated by Gertrude Bell)
Where is my ruined life, and where the fame
Of noble deeds?
Look on my long-drawn road, and whence it came,
And where it leads!
Can drunkenness be linked to piety
And good repute?
Where is the preacher's holy monody,
Where is the lute?
From monkish cell and lying garb released,
Oh heart of mine,
Where is the Tavern fane, the Tavern priest,
Where is the wine?
Past days of meeting, let the memory
Of you be sweet!
Where are those glances fled, and where for me
His friend's bright face warms not the enemy
When love is done-
Where is the extinguished lamp that made night day
Where is the sun?
Balm to mine eyes the dust, my head I bow
Upon thy stair.
Where shall I go, where from thy presence? Thou
Look not upon the dimple of her chin,
Danger lurks there!
Where wilt thou hide, oh trembling heart, fleeing, in
Such mad haste--where?
To steadfastness and patience, friend, ask not
If Hafiz keep--
Patience and steadfastness I have forgot,
And where is sleep?
Table of ContentsForeword
The Blind Men and the Elephant
From TheWalled Garden of Truth
The Wild Rose of Praise
The Time Needed
Listening to the Reed Flute
Looking for Your Own Face
From Bird Parliament
Who SaysWords with My Mouth?
A Community of the Spirit
The Reed Flute’s Song
A Just-Finishing Candle
Quatrains (‘Today, like every other . . .’)
The Shape of My Tongue
Quatrains (‘The Friend comes . . .’)
Tending Two Shops
Bonfire at Midnight
Quatrains (‘When I am with you . . .’)
Someone Digging in the Ground
Who Makes These Changes?
Chickpea to Cook
The Mouse and the Camel
Quatrains (‘A craftsman pulled . . .’)
New Moon, Hilal
The Bird of My Heart
So Drunk am I
Aiming at Brotherhood
The Assembly is Like a Lamp
Talking in the Night
Talking through the Door
The Parrot of Bagdad
The True Sufi
Reality and Appearance
The Unseen Power
Quatrains (‘Time bringeth . . .’)
Jesus and the Sinner
I Heard of a Man
A Certain Man
They Put a Crow in the Cage
I Asked a Scholar
From The Bostan: The Story of the Dervish and a Fox
—In Connection with Humility
—A Story in this Connection
—An Account of a Pious Person’s Humility
The Ocean of Love
A Persian Song
The Lesson of the Flowers
The Bird of Gardens
Sleep on Thine Eyes
Where is My Ruined Life?
My Friend Has Fled
Oh,Weep No More
The Breath of Dawn
The Vale of Silence
The Days of Spring
Tidings of Union
From Salámán and Absál: Preliminary Invocation
The Simple Arab
The Birth of Salámán
Absál Tempts Salámán
The Lovers Flee
The Burning of Absál
Biographies of Poets