Born in the 13th century AD in Balkh, Afghanistan, Jelaluddin Balkhi's family fled the invading Mongols to Roman Anatolia (hence "Rumi") in modern day Turkey sometime between 1215 and 1220. Rumi was a Sufi sage, professor of religion, philosopher, poet all rolled into one. More about Rumi at the following sites:
- The "official" website, maintained by his descendants
- A biography
- Another site
- There's an annual festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
The following verses are from Coleman Barks' translation of Rumi and his book is quite well done.
We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That's fine with us. Every morning
we glow and in the evening we glow again.
They say there's no future for us. They're right.
Which is fine with us.
I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let's buy it.
Come to the orchard in Spring.
There is light and wine, and sweethearts
in the pomegranate flowers.
If you do not come, these do not matter.
If you do come, these do not matter.
The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the question,
nor is it bought with going to amazing places.
Until you've kept your eyes
and your wanting still for fifty years,
you don't begin to cross over from confusion.
Listen to presences inside poems,
Let them take you where they will.
Follow those private hints,
and never leave the premises.
Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.
"Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.
Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.
Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.
At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,
a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden
within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,
Spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing. But it's not given us
to see the soul. The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty."
Hear the love fire tangled
in the reed notes, as bewilderment
melts into wine. The reed is a friend
to all who want that fabric torn
and drawn away. The reed is hurt
and salve combining. Intimacy
and longing for intimacy, one
song. A disastrous surrender
and a fine love, together. The one
who secretly hears this is senseless.
A tongue has one customer, the ear.
A sugarcane flute has such effect
because it was able to make sugar
in the reedbed. The sound it makes
is for everyone. Days full of wanting,
let them go by without worrying
that they do. Stay where you are
inside such a pure, hollow note.
Every thirst gets satisfied except
hat of these fish, the mystics,
who swim a vast ocean of grace
still somehow longing for it!
No one lives in that without
being nourished every day.
But if someone doesn't want to hear
the song of the reed flute,
it's best to cut conversation
short, say good-bye, and leave.
1. Reminds us rather of a Hillaire Belloc nugget:
How did the party go in Portman Square?
I cannot tell you: Juliet was not there.
And how did Lady Gaster's party go?
Juliet was next to me and I do not know.