Carry Something Noble

Mathnawi II: 1416-1429

1416 The (inner) being of mankind has become (like) a jungle; be
cautious toward this (inner) existence, if you are from that Breath1
(which God breathed into Adam).

Within our individuality are a thousand wolves and pigs2; (there
are) pious and impious, beautiful and good, ugly and bastard

The judgment is about the (inner) nature [of a person]-- which one
is more dominant: since the gold is more than the copper, it is
(judged to be) gold.

Any quality which is dominant in your being is inevitably (going
to appear) also in the form of your resurrection3 (on the Day of

1420 (For) a time, a wolf enters into humanity, (and for) a time, a
Joseph with a face (as beautiful) as the moon.4

Virtues and hatreds go from (some people's) chests into the chests
(of others) by a hidden path.

But learning, knowledge, and skill (also) go from humanity into
cattle and donkeys.

The jolting horse becomes easy going and tame; the bear performs
games (and dances); the goat also (is trained to give) greetings.

The desire has gone from humans into the dog, so that it becomes a
shepherd, a hunter, or a guard

1425 Because of that [same] arrival,5 a (special) quality went into
the dog of the Companions (of the Cave),6 so that it had become a
seeker of God.

A (different) kind of head manifests within the (human) chest
every moment: sometimes a devil,7 then an angel, then harmless or
dangerous wild animals.

There is a hidden path from that amazing jungle,8 of which every
[spiritual] lion is aware, to the snare of [saintly] chests.

Steal the "coral" of the soul9 from within, from within (the chests
of) the knowers (of God), O you (who are) less than a dog!10

1429 Since you are a thief anyway,11 (take) that exquisite "pearl"; since you are becoming a carrier (of a load) anyhow, (carry) something noble.

--From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed Couplets of
Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi.
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with
gratitude for R. A. Nicholson's 1926 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 11/25/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (1416) that Breath: refers to the Qur'anic account of how God
breathed into Adam of His spirit (Qur'an 15:29). "Human nature is
also likened to a mountain where snakes abound (VI 1345)."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (1417) wolves and pigs: does not mean "aggressors and victims,"
but cruel and filthy. Pigs are considered to be unclean animals in
Islam and their meat is forbidden, as it is in Judaism.

3. (1419) in the form of your resurrection: means that a person who
has foul or beautiful qualities predominating will be resurrected on
the Day of Judgment in a form expressing such qualities. Rumi
describes this in the lines immediately preceding this selection

4. (1420) as the moon: in Persian poetry the beauteous face of the
beloved is often compared to the loveliness of the full moon. The
beautiful face of Joseph is a similar metaphor, and refers to the
episode in the Qur'an in which the wife of Joseph's Egyptian
master presented Joseph to her lady friends during a banquet. They
praised his looks, and were so amazed that they (accidentally) cut
their hands (with knives held for cutting fruit). They said he was
not a man, but an angel (Qur'an 12:31).

5. (1425) because of that arrival: Nicholson later altered his
translation to "Into the dog of the Companions (of the Cave) there
passed from those comers (to the Cave) a (moral) disposition, so
that he had become a seeker of God" [from, ".. . there passed from
those Sleepers. . . " (Nicholson, Vol. 4, Appendix. Book II).

6. (1425) Companions of the Cave: refers to the story in the Qur'an of
some pious youths who hid in a cave with their dog (to escape
religious persecution). They lost track of time and thought they had
slept for a day or less, when they had slept for three hundred or
more years. Their number may have been between three and seven,
or counting the dog, between four and eight (Qur'an 18:22). Since
the dog was counted among their number in the Qur'an, Rumi here
interprets that the dog shared in the piety of the youths (whereas
dogs are usually viewed in Islam as filthy, like pigs. In I:1022
Rumi mentions that the dog of the Companions was helped (=
rescued and favored) by God.

7. (1426) sometimes a devil: "i.e. devilish, angelic, and bestial
qualities." (Nicholson, Commentary)

8. (1427) that amazing jungle: "In this verse 'lion' signifies the holy
man (shír-mard) and gnostic [= mystic knower] who is in
immediate communication with the 'jungle' of the Godhead (the
Divine Essence comprehending all modes of being and the Divine
Mind comprising all intelligible ideas) by ways hidden from the
carnal senses" (Nicholson, Commentary). Nicholson later changed
his translation to, "From that marvellous Jungle, where is (dwells)
the wise Lion, there is a hidden way to the breasts which ensnare
(the spiritual prey)" from "that marvellous Jungle with which every
lion is acquainted, there is a hidden. . . "

9. (1428) coral of the soul (marjân-é jân): "i.e. gnosis (ma'rifah)."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

10. (1428) less than a dog" "i.e. inferior to the dog which accompanied
the Seven Sleepers" (Nicholson, Commentary)

11. (1429) since you are a thief: "an allusion to the Arabic proverb
idhá saraqta fa-'sriqi 'l-durrah" [if you steal, steal a pearl].
(Nicholson, Commentary)


1416 bêsha'yê âm-ad wujûd-é âdamî
bar HaZar shaw z-în wujûd ar z-ân dam-î

dar wujûd-é mâ hazâr-ân gorg-o khûk
SâliH-o nâ-SâliH-o khwob-o khashûk

Hukm ân khô-râ-st k-ân ghâlib-tar-ast
chûn-ke zar bêsh az mes âm-ad, ân zar-ast

sîratê k-ân bar wujûd-at ghâlib-ast
ham bar ân taSwîr-é Hashr-at wâjib-ast

1420 sâ`atê gorgê dar ây-ad dar bashar
sâ`atê yûsuf rokhê ham-chûn qamar

mê-raw-ad az sîna-hâ dar sîna-hâ
az rah-é penhân SalâH-o kîna-hâ

bal-ke khwad az âdamî dar gâw-o khar
mê-raw-ad dânâ'yî wo `ilm-o honar

asp-é suksuk mê-shaw-ad rahwâr-o râm
khers bâzî mê-kon-ad, boz ham salâm

raft andar sag ze-âdam-y-ân hawas
tâ shobân shod, yâ shekârî, yâ Haras

1425 dar sag-é aSHâb khôyê z-ân wufûd
raft tâ jôyây-é allâh gashta bûd

har zamân dar sîna naw`ê sar kon-ad
gâh dêw-o gah malak, gah dâm-o dad

z-ân `ajab bêsha ke har shêr âgah-ast
tâ ba-dâm-é sîna-hâ penhân rah-ast

dozdiyî kon az darûn marjân-é jân
ay kam az sag az darûn-é `ârif-ân

1429 chûn-ke dozd-î, bârê ân durr-é laTîf
chûn-ke Hâmil mê-shaw-î, bârê sharîf

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)