There is an unseen sweetness
in the stomach's emptiness.
We are lutes.
When the soundbox is filled,
no music can come forth.
When the brain and the belly
are burning from fasting,
every moment a new song rises
out of the fire.
The mists clear,
and a new vitality makes you
spring up the steps before you.
Be empty and cry as a reed instrument.
Be empty and write secrets with a reed pen.
When satiated by food and drink,
an unsightly metal statue
is seated where your spirit should be.
When fasting, good habits gather like
Fasting is Solomon's ring.
Don't give in to illusion
and lose your power.
But even when all will and control
have been lost,
they will return when you fast,
like soldiers appearing out of the ground,
or pennants flying in the breeze.
A table descends to your tents,
the Lord's table.
Anticipate seeing it when fasting,
this table spread with a different food,
far better than the broth of cabbages.
-- Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
Castle Books, 1997
"Better than Cabbage Soup"
What sweetness lies in an empty stomach!
Man is like a lute: no more, no less.
If the lute is full
it cannot sing a high or low note.
If your mind and stomach
burn with the fire of hunger
it will be like a heavenly song for your heart.
In each moment that fire rages
It will burn away a hundred veils
And carry you a thousand steps
toward your goal.
and weep with the fullness of the reed flute.
and discover the mysteries of the reed pen.
If your belly is full on the day you are called
pain will come instead of freedom,
worldly cares will come instead of paradise.
When you fast, good qualities will gather round you
like faithful friends and servants.
Don't break the fast
for it is Solomon's Seal.
Don't give the Seal to harmful spirits.
Don't destroy your kingdom with a full belly.
Even in your kingdom falls
and your armies abandon you,
keep the fast.
Soon they will return
with their banners high in the air.
I say, by the prayer of Jesus,
Heaven's Table will come to your fasting tent.
Fast and remember that the abundance
of Heaven's Table will soon be yours -
And I assure you,
the food on that Table
is better than cabbage soup!
-- Version by Jonathan Star
"Rumi - In the Arms of the Beloved"
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York 1997
What hidden sweetness there is in this emptiness of
Man is surely like a lute, no more and no less;
For if, for instance, the belly of the lute becomes
lament high or low will arise from that full lute.
If your brain and belly are on fire through fasting,
of the fire every moment a lament will arise from your
Every moment you will burn a thousand veils by that
will mount a hundred steps with zeal and endeavor.
Become empty of belly, and weep entreatingly like
pipe; become empty of belly, and tell secrets with the
If your belly is full at the time of concourse, it
will bring Satan
in place of your reason, an idol in place of the Kaaba.
When you keep the fast, good habits gather together
you like slaves and servants and retinue.
Keep the fast, for that is Solomon's ring; give not
the ring to
the div, destroy not your kingdom.
Even if your kingdom has gone from your head and
has fled, your army will rise up, pennants flying above
The table arrived from heaven to the tents of the
fast, by the
intervention of the prayers of Jesus, son of Mary.
In the fast, be expectant of the table of bounty,
for the table
of bounty is better than the broth of cabbages.
Translation by A. J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi 2"
The University of Chicago Press, 1991
courtesy: Sunlight group