The Mesnavi and The Acts of the Adepts, by Jelal-'d-din Rumi and Shemsu-'d-Din Ahmed, tr. by James W. Redhouse, , at sacred-texts.com
Husāmu-’d-Dīn, Light of the Truth, take up, my friend,
A sheet, that thou a Teacher's virtues mayst append.
True, thou’rt not strong; thy frame is delicate, at best;
But thou’rt the sun that lights my thoughts to their safe nest.
Thou art both lamp and lantern, all in one. Dost see?
Guide to my heart's behests, clue to my wish thou’rt he.
Their thread is in thy hand; thy guidance can it shift;
The pearls upon it strung are gems, thy soul's free gift.
Write down the qualities by which a Teacher's known.
5 Select thy Teacher first; then, follow all he's shown.
A Teacher's summer's glow; cold winter, crowd terrene;
The rabble's darkness self; the Teacher, moon serene.
Young Fortune have I named my Teacher, for the nonce;—
Young Fortune, truth's real Teacher; vigorous at once.
An ancient Teacher he; commencement he ne’er had;
A solitary pearl;—all peerless, never sad.
Increase of age gives wine fresh strength, as well is known;
Especially truth's wine, that flows from God's high throne.
Select a Teacher, then. Without such, travel's vain;
10 The way is dangerous,—beset with evil's train.
By well-known road, though travelled many times before,
Without a guide to venture, opens peril's door.
How then an unknown path thou ne’er hast followed yet?
Go not alone, without a guide;—act not in fret.
Unless thy Teacher be at hand to lead thee right,
The clamours of the demons surely thee’ll affright.
Those demons will mislead thee, into danger cast;
More clever ones than thou have lost their wits at last.
Learn from the Prophet's words the error of their ways;
How Satan led them far astray in bygone days. 15
From off the track to all that's good he them misled;
Them carried off; them rendered blind, by vain thoughts fed.
Behold their bones, their skeletons, along the road!
Take warning thence. Drive not thy beast with maddening goad!
Dismount; and to the rightful path safe lead him back,
Where guides abound,—experienced travellers dot the track.
Leave not thy beast; his rein loose not thou from thy hand.
His inclination is to wander o’er the land.
One moment only leave him carelessly to roam;
Towards the pastures he at once will rush, all foam. 20
Thy beast is not a friend to travelling by the road.
How many muleteers through this have lost a load!
Know'st not the way? Observe which path thy beast would take,
And follow the reverse. Secure this will thee make.
"Consult thou them;" 1 but then, do not what they advise;
For he who them opposes not, to ruin hies.
Lend not thyself to lust and fancy's every wind;
For these are what lead men astray; to God's truth blind.
There's nothing in the world that better curbs the lusts,
25 Than holy company. Protected, he who trusts.
The Prophet said to ‘Alī: "Cousin, list to me.
The 'Lion of the Truth' 1 art thou; a hero. See!
Trust not too much, however, to thy courage, sole;
Confide, much rather, on God's aim to keep thee whole.
Put faith in aid from His divine, omniscient mind,
That never can be baffled by disputant blind.
His shadow on the earth is what keeps it in place;
His spirit, sunbird-like, soars in supernal space.
Were I to speak His praises until judgment day,
30 No end, no interruption, would admit my say.
Himself He's veiled in man, as sun behind a cloud.
This seek to comprehend. God knows what mysteries shroud.
The sun He is;—the sun of spirit, not of sky;
By light from Him man lives;—and angels eke, forby.
Then, ‘Ali, of all service man can offer here,
Do thou choose trust in God, dependence firm, sincere.
Each man betakes himself some special worship to;
And each some special friend selects, without ado.
Do thou take refuge in God's wisdom, full, divine;
35 He'll foil the secret foe that would thee undermine.
Of all the modes of worship, this choose thou, the best;
Thou’lt distance all competitors, the prize thou’lt wrest.
Thy Teacher having chosen thus, obedience yield,
Implicit; even as Moses journeying o’er that field. 2
Whate’er events betide, beware, and question not;
For fear thy guide should turn, and drive thee from the spot. 3
Should He destroy a ship, 4—no murmur from thy mouth;
Should He an infant choke, 5—let slip no word uncouth.
God hath declared his hand is like the hand of God,
By saying: "God's right hand above all hands doth plod.' 1 40
God's hand it is that kills him; makes him living, too.
But what is living? The everlasting spirit. Lo!
Whoever journeys, now and then, this road alone,
The prayers of saints it is leads him to safety's zone.
A saint's protection is not less than angel's aid;
His help is God's right hand, when all is truly said.
Now, if an absent saint have such portentous power,
A present Teacher's honour sure must higher tower.
If for the absent tempting viands are prepared,
For present guests what may not largely be outshared? 45
The varlet who to serve his lord is present there,
Must rank before the absentee, for goodly fare.
Thus, having Teacher chosen, be not too thin-skinned,
Nor wishy-washy, to a muddy puddle kinned.
For every buffet, see thou do not umbrage take:
How can a mirror polished be, unless it bear a shake?"
Hear now this pregnant tale narrators have preserved;
A practice it relates in Qazwīn much observed:
Upon the breast, the arms, the bladebones, and the like,
With needle's point and indigo, tattooed designs they strike. 50
A certain Qazwīn bully to an artist hied,
To have a brave design imprinted on his hide.
The artist first inquired what pattern he'd select.
The man a lion rampant thought he must elect;
And said: "My luck resides in Leo,—lion-sign;
Depict thou then a lion, deep-blue stained, benign."
The artist then demanded where he'd wish it done;
Our man replied: "Between my bladebones it enthrone."
The artist then began to ply his needles’ train;
The Qazwīn bully bellowed, smarting with the pain. 55
The artist he addressed: "Most clever man of skill,
Thou’lt drive me mad. What picture works me so much ill?"
Said he: "A lion's form is what thou didst enjoin."
"O yes!" replied the bully. "What part dost thou coin?"
The artist: "At the tail have I commenced this time."
Our man: "O never mind the tail, designer prime!
Your lion's tail has whacked me on my rump so hard,
That I've no power to breathe, nor such pain disregard.
Allow thy lion to remain without a tail;
60 Thy needles have unnerved me with their sharp assail."
The artist then began upon another part,
And worked his instruments. They soon induced new smart.
The patient screamed again: "What member limnest thou now?"
Our artist answered: "’Tis the lion's ear, I trow."
His man replied: "O leave him without ears this time;
An earless lion's not so bad. Cut short the rhyme."
Anew the artist on a part assayed his hand.
Afresh the bully interfered, by pain unmanned.
"What part art now at work on? Say, my worthy friend!"
65 "O," said the artist, "now his body I append."
"Leave out his body!" gasped the suffering Qazwīn man;
"The pain's unbearable. Make short work, as thou can."
The artist now quite lost his wits, as well he might;
He scratched his head; sought how to mend his plight;
Dashed all his needles, indigo, design, to earth;
In anger saying: "What the plague's come now to birth?
A lion tailless, headless, bodiless, who's seen?
God such a lion ne’er created, sure, I ween!"
Have patience, thou too, brother, with thy needle's smart.
So shalt thou ’scape the sting of conscience in thy heart. 70
They who have conquered,—freed themselves from body's thrall,
Are worshipped in the spheres, the sun, the moon, stars, all.
Whoever's killed pride's demon in his earthly frame,
The sun and clouds are slaves, to do his bidding, tame.
His heart can lessons give of flaming to the lamp;
The very sun not equals him in ardent vamp.
For God hath said, in speaking of the scorching sun,
These words: "It swerved from them." 1 It had new course to run.
The sharpest thorns are welcome, as the roseleaf soft,
To finite who to th’ Infinite can soar aloft. 75
What signifies to glorify the Lord of heaven;
To humble self to dust; with meekness, pride to leaven?
What use to learn to formulate God's unity;
What use to bow one's self before. the Deity?
Wouldst shine as brilliantly in sight of all?
Annihilate thy darksome self, thy being's pall.
Let thy existence in God's essence be enrolled,
As copper in alchemist's bath is turned to gold.
Quit "I" and "We," which o’er thy heart exert control.
’Tis egotism, estranged from God, that clogs thy soul. 80
m213:1 Qur’ān iii. 153.
m214:1 ‘Alī's title is " The victorious Lion of God."
m214:2 This journey is recounted in Qur’ān xviii. 64-82.
m214:3 Qur’ān xviii. 69.
m214:4 Qur’ān xviii. 70.
m214:5 Qur’ān xviii. 73.
m215:1 Qur’ān xlviii. 10.
m217:1 Qur’ān xviii. 16.