"Saladin's Begging Bowl"
Of these two thousand "I" and "We" people,
which am I?
Don't try to keep me from asking!
Listen, when I'm this out of control!
But don't put anything breakable in my way!
There is an original inside me.
What's here is a mirror for that, for you.
If you are joyful, I am.
If you grieve, or if you're bitter, or graceful,
I take on those qualities.
Like the shadow of a cypress tree in the meadow,
like the shadow of a rose, I live
close to the rose.
If I separated myself from you,
I would turn entirely thorn.
Every second, I drink another cup of my own blood-wine.
Every instant, I break an empty cup against your door.
I reach out, wanting you to tear me open.
Saladin's generosity lights a candle in my chest.
Who am I then?
His empty begging bowl.
Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
from these thousands of "me's",
which one am I?
Listen to my cry, do not drown my voice
I am completely filled with the thought of you.
Don't lay broken glass on my path
I will crush it into dust.
I am nothing, just a mirror in the palm of your hand,
reflecting your kindness, your sadness, your anger.
If you were a blade of grass or a tiny flower
I would pitch my tent in your shadow.
Only your presence revives my withered heart.
You are the candle that lights the whole world
and I am an empty vessel for your light.
Translation by Azima Melita Kolin
and Maryam Mafi
"Rumi: Hidden Music"
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2001
Of these two thousand I's and we's I
wonder, which one am I?
Give ear to my babble, do not lay your hand on my mouth.
Since I have gone out of control, do not
put glass on my path,
for if you do I will stamp and break all that I find.
Because every moment my heart is confused
with your fantasy,
if you are joyous I am joyful, if you are sorrowing I am
You give bitterness and I become bitter,
you give grace and I
become all grace; with you it is pleasant, O my
You are the original-what person am I? A
mirror in your
hand, whatever you show, that I become, I am a well
You are like the cypress of the meadow, I
am like your
shadow; since I have become the shadow of the rose, I
pitched my tent beside the rose.
If without you I break off a rose, it will
become a thorn in my
hand, and if I am all thorn, through you I am all rose
Every moment I drain a bloody beaker of the
blood of my
heart; every instant I break my own pitcher against the
Every second I reach out my hand towards
the skirt of an idol,
that he may scratch my cheek, that he may rend my shirt.
The grace of Salah-i Dil u Din shone in the
midst of my heart;
he is the heart's candle in the world; who am I? His
Translation by A. J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi 1"
The University of Chicago Press, 1968
al-taqwim "Best of the Creation!"
Read in Surat al-Tin the
We created the Human Being in the best proportion,*
for the spirit is a precious pearl.
That spirit created in the best proportion
is beyond the range of thought.
If I declare the value of this inaccessible pearl,
both I and the hearer will be consumed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ahsan al-taqwîm* dar Wa-al-tîn be-khvân
keh gerâmi gawharast ay dust jân
Ahsan al-taqwîm az `Arsh-e U fozun
ahsan al-taqwîm az fekret berun
Gar be-guyam qimat-e in momtane`
man be-suzam ham be-suzad mostame`
-- Mathnawi VI: 1005-1007
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra)