sharing my love of books with you

Tag: Rumi (Page 1 of 2)


Astrolabe – an astronomical instrument used in ancient times to determine the position of the sun or stars

“Man is the astrolabe of God; but it requires an astronomer to know the astrolabe. If a vegetable-seller or a greengrocer should possess the astrolabe, what benefit would he derive from it? With that astrolabe what would he know of the movements of the circling heavens and the stations of the planets, their influences, transits and so forth? But in the hands of the astronomer the astrolabe is of great benefit, for ‘He who knows himself knows his Lord’.

Just as this copper astrolabe is the mirror of the heavens, so the human being – We have honored the Children of Adam – is the astrolabe of God. When God causes a man to have knowledge of Him and to know Him and to be familiar with Him, through the astrolabe of his own being he beholds moment by moment and flash by flash the manifestation of God and His infinite beauty, and that beauty is never absent from his mirror.”

from “Two Discourses” by Rumi, translated by A.J. Arberry

“[An astrolabe] consists of rotating discs and rulers to show the positions of astronomical objects at any given time throughout the year.” (BBC Sky at Night Magazine) I am including this link to BBC’s Sky at Night Magazine article on astrolabes in case you would like to read more (and because I used their quote). I had no idea what these were, but it is fascinating to think astronomy has been so advanced for so many centuries. The image below is a replica of an astrolabe used in the ancient Islamic world, perhaps even in the time of Rumi. Image also courtesy of BBC’s Sky at Night Magazine article.

Finished: Rumi

Though I haven’t read much in the last few weeks, I did reopen my Rumi book this morning. I had shelved it in my newly rearranged library and left it there – unread – for some time. Poetry books are nice in that you can stop reading a book of poetry, but when you pick it back up, it’s like you never closed the cover. I didn’t realize I only had a few poems left and a selection called “Two Discourses”.

Rumi was very hard for me to read. Sometimes, I fully understood the meaning of his poems, and sometimes I just didn’t. I think part of what makes Rumi hard to read is the difference in language and culture. Something is lost when a poem has to be translated. The author’s original words and phrases don’t seem to make sense in English, and culture is also a large part of that disconnect. Rumi was Persian, Islamic, and lived centuries ago. I am American, Christian, and quite modern. I don’t fully understand Rumi’s culture, just as he might find mine confusing. But it was still good for me to read outside of my comfort zone. It is part of growing and learning. Perhaps one day, a year or two from now, I will return to my book of Rumi and find that I love more of his works because I have matured in my knowledge. I hope so.

I encourage you to try reading some of Rumi’s poems. You can start with the ones I posted here. He isn’t always hard to understand, and it will be good for you to stretch yourself by reading something hard. If not Rumi, maybe something else. Do you have a book on your shelf you keep meaning to read, but you think is too big or too old or too hard? Now is the time to start it. Don’t worry about how long it takes you to finish. Enjoy the journey. You may come away from it, like I have from Rumi, with a feeling of accomplishment because you have done the hard thing. Happy Reading!

Remembered Music, by Rumi

'Tis said the pipe and lute that charm our ears
Derive their melody from rolling spheres;
But Faith, overpassing speculations bound
Can see what sweetens every jangled sound.

We, who are parts of Adam, heard with him
The song of angels and of seraphim.
Our memory, though dull and sad, retains
Some echo still of those unearthly strains.

Oh, music is the meat of all who love,
Music uplifts the soul to realms above.
The ashes glow, the latent fires increase;
We listen and are fed with joy and peace.

("Remembered Music" translated by R.A. Nicholson, Rumi, printed 2006)

A Quatrain by Rumi

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

A Quatrain by Rumi, Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

The World of Time, by Rumi

Every instant thou art dying and returning.  "This world is but a
     moment," said the Prophet.
Our thought is an arrow shot by Him: how should it stay in the air?
     It flies back to God.
Every instant the world is being renewed, and we unaware of its
     perpetual change.
Life is ever pouring in afresh, though in the body it has the
     semblance of continuity.  
From its swiftness it appears continuous, like the spark thou whirlest
     with thy hand.
Time and duration are phenomena produced by the rapidity of Divine
As a firebrand dexterously whirled presents the appearance of a long
     line of fire.

("The World of Time", translated by R.A. Nicholson, Rumi, printed 2006)

The Necessary Foil, by Rumi

Privation and defect, wherever seen,
Are mirrors of the beauty of all that is.
The bone-setter, where should he try his skill
But on the broken limb?  The tailor where?
Not, surely, on the well-cut finished coat.
Were no base copper in the crucible,
How could the alchemist his craft display?

("The Necessary Foil" translated by R.A. Nicholson, Rumi, printed 2006)

From My Library: Rumi

The last time I went to Barnes & Noble, I decided my main goal was to find a few more books of poetry to add to my library. Mary Oliver highly recommends Rumi, and I can see why. There is a sweetness in his writings, as well as reverence for God and desire to teach his fellow men.

I decided to start my collection of Rumi’s writings with this lovely hardback from Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets collection. It is a little book, maybe four inches by six, but it is packed with poems. You can see in the picture above, the dust jacket looks like an old Persian painting, and there is a picture of Arabic writing on the front too. The cover and the binding make the book feel extra special, almost luxurious. And there is also a little yellow ribbon bookmark too.

The first poem is “The Guest House”, which I shared with you here. It’s like a welcome mat, a sample of the other poems you will find in this volume. In my opinion, that was an excellent choice for first poem. There is also an introduction that explains who Rumi was, which helped me understand some of his writings. I am so glad this is my first volume of Rumi. I will definitely be looking for more.

Solomon’s Crooked Crown, by Rumi

Solomon was busy judging others,
when it was his personal thoughts 
that were disrupting the community.

His crown slid crooked on his head.
He put it straight, but the crown went 
awry again.  Eight times this happened.

Finally he began to talk to his headpiece.
'Why do you keep tilting over my eyes?'

'I have to.  When your power loses compassion,
I have to show what such a condition looks like.'

Immediately Solomon recognized the truth.
He knelt and asked forgiveness.
The crown centered itself on his crown.

When something goes wrong, cause yourself first.
Even the wisdom of Plato or Solomon
can wobble and go blind.

Listen when your crown reminds you
of what makes you cold toward others,
as you pamper the greedy energy inside.

("Solomon's Crooked Crown" translated by Coleman Barks, Rumi, printed 2006)

The Evil in Ourselves, by Rumi

The Lion took the Hare with him: they ran 
     together to the well and looked in.
The Lion saw his own image: from the water appeared 
     the form of a lion with a plump hare beside him.
No sooner did he espy his enemy than he left the Hare 
     and sprang into the well.
He fell into the pit which he had dug: his iniquity 
     recoiled on his own head.

O Reader, how many an evil that you see in others is 
     but your own nature reflected in them!
In them appears all that you are - your hypocrisy, 
     iniquity, and insolence.
You do not see clearly the evil in yourself; else you 
     would hate yourself with all your soul.
Like the Lion who sprang at his image in the water,
     you are only hurting yourself, O foolish man.
When you reach the bottom of the well of your own nature, 
     then you will know that the wickedness is in you.

("The Evil in Ourselves" translated by R. A. Nicholson, Rumi, printed 2006)

The Grammarian and the Boatman, by Rumi

  A grammarian once embarked in a boat.  Turning to the boatman with a self-satisfied air he asked him:
  'Have you ever studied grammar?'
  'No,' replied the boatman.
  'Then half your life has gone to waste,' the 
grammarian said.
  The boatman thereupon felt very depressed, but he answered him nothing for the moment.  Presently the wind tossed the boat into a whirlpool.  The boatman shouted to the grammarian:
  'Do you know how to swim?'
  'No,' the grammarian replied, 'my well-spoken, handsome fellow.'
  'In that case, grammarian,' the boatman remarked, 'the whole of your life has gone to waste, for the boat is sinking in these whirlpools.'

  You may be the greatest scholar in the world in you time, but consider, my friend, how the world passes away - and time!

("The Grammarian and the Boatman" translated by A. J. Arberry, Rumi, printed 2006)

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