About the Odes/Ghazals

The Odes, or ghazals [ghazaliyât], are the major poetic format of
Rumi's Divan (collected works of poetry).

Rumi is believed to have begun composing ghazals soon after
meeting Shams-i Tabriz in 1244 (when Rumi was 37, at the least;
Shams is believed to have been in his 60's at the time). He
continued a vast outpouring of ghazals after Shams' final
disappearance (1247-1248) until about 1258-1261 (when Rumi
was in his mid-fifties), the time when he began composing the
Masnavi. And it is believed that he continued composing ghazals,
but less often, even during his later years.

The odes, or ghazals, of Rumi are known as his "ecstatic poetry"
(although there are rapturous passages in the Masnavi, as well).
They are best understood as expressing the stage in the sufi path
known as "annihilation in the spiritual master" [fanâ fi 'l-shaykh],
during which the spiritual seeker loses ordinary consciousness of
himself and sees the face of his beloved master everywhere, in
every thing, and at all times.

Although the ghazals attributed to Rumi (in Foruzanfar's edition)
are 61% of the total number of poems in the Divan (which also
contains many quatrains and some tarji-bands), they make up 78%
of the total verses in the Divan. This is because the quatrains
consists of four lines only, whereas the ghazals are longer poems,
(usually about 10-20 lines, but occasionally 40 or more lines).

These types of poems composed by Rumi are primarily ghazals
[ghazaliyât] (but include some poems called qasîda, similar in form
to ghazals, but longer). Tha ghazal, as a poetic form, has been
compared to the English lyric poem, especially the sonnet. It
generally ranges in size from seven to thirteen couplets. The
ghazals is an expression of "words of love," so the themes are
usually about earthly and Divine love and beauty, the longing of
the lover for the beloved, and the ecstatic "drunken" states of being
in love. Occasionally, verses may be about spiritual and
philosophical themes concerning life and existence.

In the ghazal format, the first half of the first line rhymes with the
last half (as in the quatrain/rubâ`i format). After that, however,
only the second halves of the lines rhyme, giving the poet more
freedom in the first halves of each line). Each ghazal strictly
follows one of the twenty-one traditional ghazal meters.

Here is an example of the format, where the meter is
oXXX oXXX oXX and the rhyme is "-â-yad":




Persian Editions of the Ghazals

The best edition of the ghazals available is in the edition of Rumi's
Dîvân (in Volumes 1-7) was done by the Iranian scholar,
Badi`uzzamân Forôzânfar, published between 1957-1967. The
number of authentic odes/ghazals composed by Rumi is certainly
somewhat less than the 3,229 in Foruzanfar's edition. This is
because he included all the odes which were in the earliest
available manuscripts. Foruzanfar did not eliminate any which are
known to have been composed before Rumi's time. This is
something that still needs to be done by scholars.

There is a also a (widely distributed) commercial edition in one
volume ("Kulliyât-i Dîvân-i Shamsî Tabrîzî," published by Amîr
Kabîr, 1957, enlarged 1962, and re-printed many times since),
which falsely purports to contain all of Foruzanfar's edition.
However, it was first put out before Foruzanfar completed all the
ghazals from the earliest manuscripts of the Dîvân (in his volume
seven, first published in 1966). Therefore, the commercial edition
contains his edition (minus his variations and footnotes) up
through the contents of his volume six (first published 1961),
through ghazal number 3106. The ghazals following that have been
incorporated from some other (inferior) edition (and in a different
order) and are therefore not those in Foruzanfar's authentic edition.
These (non-Foruzanfar) ghazals number, in the one-volume
edition, numbers 3107-3365.

English Translations of the Ghazals

The first influential translation was made by the British scholar, R.
A. Nicholson. It contains forty eight ghazals, with Persian text on
the left-hand pages, plus extensive notes at the end of the book
("Selected Poems from the Dîvâni Shamsi Tabrîz"), 1898 . It is
among his most "Victorian-sounding" translations (an example,
from XXXVII: "I have heard that thou dost intend to travel: do not

Seven of these ghazals are no longer considered authentic Rumi
poems, and are not in the earliest manuscripts. (IV: "David said: 'O
Lord, since thou hast no need of us..."; VIII: "The man of God is
drunken without wine..."; XII: "Every form you see has its
archetype in the placeless world..."; XVII: "I was on that day when
the Names were not... Cross and Christians, from end to end,/ I
surveyed; He was not on the Cross.... I gazed into my own heart;/
There I saw Him; He was nowhere else..."; XXXI: What is to be
done, O Moslems? for I do not recognize myself./ I am neither
Christian, nor Jew, nor Gabr [= Zoroastrian], nor Moslem...";
XXXIII: "I am that supplicant who make supplication to thee...";
XLIV: "O heart, why art thou a captive in the earth that is passing
away..."; plus an eighth in the appendix, p. 332: "I circled awhile
with the nine Fathers in each heaven...") However, these are still
authentic sufi poems (regardless of their true authors and dates
of composition).

Nicholson's student and successor at Cambridge University, A. J. Arberry, translated 400 ghazals in two volumes ("Mystical Poems of Rumi," 1968; "Mystical Poems of Rumi: Second Selection," 1979). Arberry's translation is based upon the Foruzanfar edition, and he re-translated the ghazals previously translated by Nicholson (the 41 authentic Rumi ghazals, and not the seven inauthentic ones). Therefore, Nicholson's translation is outmoded and superseded by Arberry's more accurate translation. Arberry's two volumes were republished as one volume by U. of Chicago Press in 2009 (with corrections of the many typographical errors in the second volume made by Franklin Lewis).

Annamarie Schimmel translated a small number of translations of
ghazals, often in the form of short excerpts ("the Triumphal Sun: A
Study of the Works of Jalâloddin Rumi,"1978; "I Am Wind, You
Are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi," 1992; "Look! This is

The best translation into American English of Rumi's ghazals was
done by the scholar William Chittick ("The Sufi Path of Love: The
Spiritual Teachings of Rumi," 1983). Intermixed with brief quotes
from Rumi's works are translations of 77 ghazals (which can be
identified in his "Index of Sources" by Foruzanfar ghazal number
and Chittick page number, only).2

A new approach to translating the ghazals (using Western methods
of literary criticism rather than focussing on the mystical
dimension), containing excerpts, was done by the Iranian scholar,
Fatemeh Keshavarz ("Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal
al-Din Rumi," 1998.

A translation of 513 ghazals was made by Franklin Lewis
("Rumi-- Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teachings and
Poetry of Jalâl al-Din Rumi," 2000 (revised and corrected
paperback edition, 2001). Lewis also includes 75 complete ghazals
(some republished from his earlier book)in his "Rumi: Swallowing
the Sun," 2008. (

Nevit Ergin has made it his goal to translate Rumi's entire Divan
into English, based on Golpinarli's Turkish translation from the
original Persian ("Mevlânâ Celâleddîn Rumi: Dîvân-i Kebîr, Meter
1," 1995; currently through Meter 16, and continuing). The
translation is, unfortunately, very flawed because of going through
Turkish. Ergin used a special edition used by the Mevlevi
("Whirling Dervish") order in which the ghazals are ordered
according to various meters. Thus, Meter 1 contains all of the
ghazals in the Mevlevi edition (162 ghazals) which have the meter
called "rajaz" (XXoX, XXoX, XXoX, XXoX).

Popular Translations of the Ghazals

Two authors, living in America and born in Iran, have produced
popular (meaning interpretive and non-literal) translations of
Rumi's ghazals. Shahram Shiva is one (who does not list sources in
his book "Hush, Don't Say Anything to God: Passionate Poems of
Rumi," 2000) and Nader Khalili is another ("Rumi: Fountain of
Fire," 1994). However, they show a lack of understanding of
classical/medieval Persian and of religious terms and references
(and often skip verses with religious content). Often, liberties of
interpretation are taken, with distorted results.

Popular Versions of the Ghazals

Numerous authors have made their own interpretive versions.4
Versions are "poetic interpretations" (or re-Englishings into
contemporary English) made by authors who do not read or know
Persian, who use literal translations into English from Persian done
by others. Some of these authors acknowledge their dependence
upon such translations; others do not, and present themselves as

Among such versions are the ones done by Coleman Barks (based
on the translations of the Iranian, John Moyne, the translations of
British scholars R. A. Nicholson and A. J. Arberry, and the
translations by Nevit Ergin from Turkish); Kabir Helminski (based
on the translations of Nicholson and Arberry, but not
acknowledged); Daniel Liebert (who does not list sources, but
most, if not all, are based on Nicholson's translations);5 Andrew
Harvey (who does not list sources, but has mentioned the
translations made into French from Persian by Eva deVitray-
Meyerovitch); James Cowan (based on Nicholson's translation, but
not acknowledged); Jonathan Star (based on the translations of
Shahram Shiva); Muriel Maufroy (based on the French translations
by Eva de Vitray- Meyerovitch); Deepak Chopra (based on
translations by Fereydoun Kia).

These published versions have been very successful (especially
those by Coleman Barks) and have all contributed to making Rumi
the best-selling poet in America (after seven hundred years).
However, this popularization has had a serious negative
consequence: omissions and distortions (including occasional
fabrication of lines) of Rumi's words and teachings. In their efforts
to express the "inner spirit" of the poems (in contrast to the dry
style and academic style of literal translation made by scholars),
the version-makers often express their own ideas rather than those
of Rumi.

The most responsible of the version-makers is Kabir Helminski
(together) with his wife Camille). As a shaykh (spiritual leader) of
the Mevlevi ("Whirling Dervish") sufi tradition (which has
preserved and disseminated the teachings of Rumi and his lineage
over the past centuries), his re-Englishings into clear and readable
American English of scholarly translations have been the most
faithful to Rumi's teachings.


1. Translation:

"If wheat comes up from my grave (and) you bake bread from it,
drunkenness will increase.

The dough and the baker will become crazy (and) his oven will
sing verses like a drunkard.

If you come to visit my tomb, its shape will appear (to you as)

--from Rumi's Ghazal 683, lines 7102-04. For the complete
translation, commentary, and transliteration of this poem, go to
"If Wheat Comes Up From My Grave" in the "Odes" section of this

2. F-0096: p. 336-337, F-0120: p. 339, F-0123: p. 296-297, F-0127: p. 159-160, F-0144: p. 142, F-0182: p. 226, F-0312: p. 156-157, F-0338: p. 337, F-0374: p. 216-217, F-0385: p. 105-106, F-0391: p. 332, F-0419: p. 303, F-0515: p. 332-333, F-0586: p. 217, F-0657: p. 299-300, F-0695: p. 342-343, F-0742: p. 306-307, F-0797: p. 142-143, F-0817: p. 146-147, F-0869: p. 162-163, F-0907: p. 261, F-0972: p. 218, F-0981 (A 125): p. 270-271, F-1000: p. 284, F-1135: p. 329-331, F-1145 (A 147): p. 347-348, F-1160: p. 313, F-1163: p. 147, F-1169: p. 296, F-1196: p. 339-340, F-1244: p. 338, F-1310: p. 141-142, F-1331: p. 219, F-1374: p. 345-346, F-1375: p. 346-347, F-1400: p. 208-209, F-1407: p. 300-301, F-1426: p. 343-344, F-1436: p. 228, F-1451: p. 260, F-1553: p. 340-341, F-1601: p. 180-181, F-1647: p. 327, F-1648: p. 321-322, F-1671: p. 156, F-1695: p. 342, F-1705 (AA 213): p. 309-310, F-1716: p. 320, F-1723: p. 345, F-1739 (AA 217): p. 157-158, F-1747: p. 348-349, F-1767: p. 343, F-1869 (AA 231): p. 219-220, F-1911: p. 337-338, F-1931: p. 230, F-1945: p. 282-283, F-2056: p. 334-335, F-2073: p. 336, F-2102: p. 186, F-2206: p. 160, F-2243: p. 300, F-2251: p. 234, F-2293 (AA 291): p. 141, F-2331 (AA 297): p. 267, F-2509 (AA 321): p. 302-303, F-2602: p. 228-229, F-2675: p. 293-294, F-2730: p. 140, F-2742: p. 324-325, F-2744: p. 323, F-2879: p. 335-336, F-2936: p. 283-284, F-2996: p. 341-342, F-3003: p. 149-150, F-3041: p. 218-219, F-3067: p. 331-332, F-3072: p. 344-345. [A = the poem numbers in Arberry's first volume; AA = the poem numbers in Arberry's second volume]

3. Lewis' book includes, not only the 38 ghazals he translated
in one section (pp. 335-91), but 13 other complete ghazals which
appear elsewhere in his book (p. 24 167, 169, 177, 180, 193, 194,
206, 212, 214a, 214b, 617, 633).

4. For a comprehensive account of the history of interpretive
versions of Rumi's poetry in English, see the section called "Rumi
Among the Poets" in Franklin Lewis' book ("Rumi-- Past and
Present, East and West: The Life, Teaching and Poetry of Jalâl
al-Din Rumi," 2000), pp. 581-610.

5. No. 7 and the final poem in Liebert's book are based upon
Nicholson's ghazal translations (XLII and XXXI, respectively).
The following verses are examples of those based on Nicholson's
Masnavi translations: no. 15 ("the halvah boy weeps"), II: 442; no.
22 ("this is not the Oxus River"), IV: 1403-04; no. 23 ("there is no
dervish in all the world"), III: 3669; no. 23 ("expounding love the
ass of intellect"), I: 115; no. 23 ("the sun is the proof of the sun"),
I: 116; section entitled "The Key" ("A mouse is a nibbler"), II:
3273; section entitled "Lectures" ("Sheba sent a gift of forty loads
of gold to Solomon"), IV: 563; section entitled "Lectures" ("When
did I ever ask for porridge from you"), IV: 573 (incorporating
the explanation in Nicholson's footnote no. 4).