The Power of Poetry
In this week's JOURNAL, Robert Bly calls us to respect the work of the Muslim poets, saying that "if we're criticizing the Muslim world so much, we should be able to give thanks for the genius that is there”
He then introduces us to some of the works of Rumi (born in 1204 in present-day Afghanistan) and Hafez (born in 1320 in present day Iran). We've posted a couple for your consideration:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language. Even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
-Translation by Coleman Barks
The Five Days Remaining
The goods produced in the factories of space and time
Are not all that great. Bring some wine,
Because the desirables of this world are not all that great.
Heart and soul are born for ecstatic conversation
With the soul of souls. That’s it. If that fails,
Heart and soul are not in the end that great.
Don’t become indebted to the Tuba and Sidra trees
Just to have some shade in heaven. When you look closely,
My flowering cypress friend, you’ll see that these trees are not all
The true kingdom comes to you without any breaking
Of bones. If that weren’t so, achieving the Garden
Through your own labors wouldn’t be all that great.
In the five days remaining to you in this rest stop
Before you go to the grave, take it easy, give
Yourself time, because time is not all that great.
You who offer wine, we are waiting on the lip
Of the ocean of ruin. Take this moment as a gift; for the distance
Between the lip and the mouth is not all that great.
The state of my being – miserable and burnt
To a crisp – is proof enough that my need
To put it into words is not all that great.
You ascetic on the cold stone, you are not safe
From the tricks of God’s zeal: the distance between the cloister
And the Zorastrian tavern is not after all that great.
The name Hafez has been well inscribed in the books,
But in our clan of disreputables, the difference
Between profit and loss is not all that great.
-Translation by Robert Bly
Photo: Robin Holland