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Insight into
Rumi's Works

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Examples of
Rumi's Works in
English Translation



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Rumi came to the attention of European scholars in the late 18th century and has been translated since then into various European languages such as English, German, French, Dutch, Russian, and Swedish. In this way Rumi has entered into the literary life of Western man and has gained a home for himself in Western languages. Rumi has received most attention in German and English. Thanks to the efforts of such scholars as Sir William Jones, Sir James Redhouse, E. H. Palmer, C. E. Wilson, E. H. Whinfield, E. G. Browne, R.A. Nicholson and A.J. Arberry, the name of Rumi has become practically a household word in English, and it is not just the Orientalists who read and study the works of this supreme poet of the spirit; his admirers come from almost every walk of life.

The following are a selection of English translations of Rumi's poetry:


The Song of the Reed

From the Mathnawi, Book I

(Translation by: Sir William Jones)


Hear, how yon reed in sadly pleasing tales

Departed bliss and present woe bewails!

'With me, from native banks untimely torn,

Love-warbling youths and soft-ey'd virgins mourn.

O! Let the heart, by fatal absence rent,

Feel what I sing, and bleed when I lament:

Who roams in exile from his parent bow'r,

Pants to return, and chides each ling'ring hour.

My notes, in circles of the grave and gay,

Have, hail'd the rising, cheer'd the closing day:

Each in my fond affections claim'd a part,

But none discern'd the secret of my heart.

What though my strains and sorrows flow combin'd!

Yet ears are slow, and carnal eyes are blind.

Free through each mortal form the spirits roll,

But sight avails not. Can we see the soul?

Such notes breath'd gently from yon vocal frame:

Breath'd said I? no; 'twas all enliv'ning flame.

'Tis love, that fills the reed with warmth divine;

'Tis love, that sparkles in the racy wine.

Me, plaintive wand'rer from my peerless maid,

The reed has fir'd, and all my soul betray'd

He gives the bane, and he with balsam cures;

Afflicts, yet soothes; impassions, yet allures.

Delightful pangs his am'rous tales prolong;

And LAILI'S frantic lover lives in song.

Not he, who reasons best, this wisdom knows:

Ears only drink what rapt'rous tongues disclose.


From the Diwan

(Translation by: R.A. Nicholson)


O Thou who art my soul's comfort in the season of sorrow,

O Thou who art my spirit's comfort in the bitterness of dearth!

That which the imagination hath not conceived,

that which the understanding hath not seen,

Visiteth my soul from Thee; hence in worship I turn toward Thee.

By Thy Grace I keep fixed on eternity my amorous gaze,

Except, O King, the pomps that perish lead me astray.

The favour of him who brings glad tidings of Thee,

Even without Thy summons, is sweeter in mine ear than songs.

If the never-ceasing Bounty should offer kingdoms,

If the Hidden Treasure should set before me all that is,

I would bow down with my soul, I would lay my face in the dust,

I would cry, "Of all these the love of such an One for me!"


From the Ruba'iyyat

(Translation by: A.J. Arberry)


Be just: confess

In love is ample righteousness;

The fault lies in

Thyself, that thou art prone to sin.

If thou dost claim

For human lust Love's holy name,

Then know, and prove

The way is far from lust to Love.


Down a flowing stream

A barque borne fast.

To the mind it may seem

The rushes hurry past.

Every moment thus

From this world we fly,

And it seemeth to us

The world goes by.


We are the treasury

Of God's great mystery;

The sea wherein doth dwell

His pearl incalculable.

From end to farthest end

Of being we extend,

Yea, we sit upon

God's imperial throne.


The heart is a secret garden

Its trees unseen;

A hundred hues it blossoms

Unchanged, serene.

The heart's a boundless ocean


Its waves break unnumbered

In every soul.


I am drunk with the love of Thee,

Not with wine, or opium;

I am mad; dost Thou look to see

In a madman decorum?

A hundred torrents rise

From the surge my soul within;

The heavens in glad surprise

Stand still to behold me spin.


Of the book of God

Thou art a copying,

A mirror wherein showed

The beauty of the King.

All God ever wrought

Dwelleth not apart;

All thou hast ever sought,

Find it in thy heart.

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(This article has been based on a section from the book "Jalal al Din Rumi, Supreme Persian Poet and Sage", written by Seyyed Hossein Nasr; published by the High Council of Culture and the Arts, Tehran, 1974.)

Copyright shall at all times remain vested in the Author. No part of the work shall be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the Author's express written consent.

Copyright © 2000 K. Kianush, Art Arena