Inner Journeys

A Translation Sampler

The Song of the Reed (Nicholson, Rumi: Poet and Mystic, Mathnawi opening)

Hearken to this Reed forlorn,
Breathing, even since ‘twas torn
From its rushy bed, a strain
Of impassioned love and pain.

“The secret of my song, though near,
None can see and none can hear.
Oh, for a friend to know the sign
And mingle all his soul with mine!

‘Tis the flame Love that fired me,
‘Tis the wine of Love inspired me.
Wouldst thou learn how lovers bleed,
Hearken, hearken to the Reed!”

Song of the Reed (Helminski, The Ruins of the Heart, Mathnawi opening)

Listen to the reed and the tale it tells,
how it sings of separation:
ever since they cut me from the reed bed,
my wail has caused men and women to weep.
I want a breast torn and tattered with longing,
so that I may relate the pain of love.
Whoever has been parted from his source
wants back the time of being united.
At every gathering I play my lament.
I’ve become a companion of happy and sad.
Each befriended me from his own ideas,
and none searched out the secrets within me.
My secret is not different from my lament,
but the senses cannot perceive it.
The body is not hidden from the soul,
nor the soul from the body, but the sight
of the soul is not for everyone.
This flute is played with fire, not with wind;
and without this fire you would not exist.
It is the fire of love that inspires the flute.
It is the ferment of love that completes the wine.
The reed is a comfort to all estranged lovers.
Its music tears our veils away. Have you
ever seen a poison or antidote like the reed?

The Reed Flute’s Song (Barks and Moyne, Say I Am You)

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, no 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 the fabric torn

and drawn away. The reed is hurt
and salve combining. Intimacy

and longing for intimacy, one

Quatrain 1159 AK (Shiva, Rending the Veil)

O life and\ the world\ life and\ the world\ lost\ I have
O moon\ earth and\ the sky\ lost\ I have
wine\ on\ palm of\ mine\ don’t place\ place [it] \ in \ my mouth
because of\ drunkenness of \ you \ way to\ mouth\ lost\ I have

O life and the world, I have lost both life and the world.
O bright Moon, I have lost the earth and the sky.
Don’t place more wine in my hand, pour it in my mouth.
I am so drunk on you that I have lost the way to my mouth.

Quatrain 1159 (Barks and Moyne, Unseen Rain)

Gone, inner and outer,
no moon, no ground or sky.
Don’t hand me another glass of wine.
Pour it in my mouth.
I’ve lost the way to my mouth.

Unseen Miracles (Nicholson, Mathnawi VI, 1300)

Secret miracles and graces emanating from the Pir
transform the heart of the disciple;
For within the Saints there are spiritual resurrections
innumerable, of which the least is this, that all nigh
unto them become intoxicated with God.
If evidentiary miracles, like the Prophet’s splitting of the
moon, produce an immediate effect upon the soul,
‘Tis because the soul is brought into touch with the Pro-
ducer of the effect by means of a hidden link.
The effects which these miracles produce upon inanimate
things are only accessory: their real object is invisible.
How superior is the bread made without dough—the
Messiah’s table of food from Heaven, Mary’s fruit that
never knew the orchard!

Two Kinds of Miracles (Bly, When Grapes Turn to Wine)

Miracles secret and open flow from the teacher.
With reason—that’s not unusual at all.
And the tiniest of these miracles
is this: everyone near a saint gets drunk with God.

When a spiritual man lets the water hold up his feet
we are moved, because by ways we cannot see
the sight of that links
the soul back to the source of all lightness.

Of course a saint can move a mountain!
But who cares about that? How marvellous is the bread
made without dough, the dishes of food
that are invisible, Mary’s grapes that never saw the vine!

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