The Mouse and the Frog (part four)

Mathnawi VI: 2726-2744, 2759-2763

2726 (The mouse said), "O my brother, I am of the earth
(and) you are of the water-- but you are the king of mercy
and generosity.

"Act in such a way from (bestowing) favors and
distributing (gifts so) that I may arrive at (the honor of
offering you) service morning and evening.

"I keep calling you with (all my) soul at the bank of
the river, (but) I don't find the mercy of an answer (from

"Coming into the water is barred for me, since my form
has grown from (the) earthiness (of land-bound creatures).1

2730 "Either use the assistance of a messenger or a sign (of
some sort) so that it may make you aware of my shouting."

Those two friends (were) engaged in debate about this
matter, (and by) the end of the discussion an agreement was

That they should acquire a long string so that the
secret (of desiring contact) could be revealed by the
pulling of the string.

(The mouse said), "One end must be tied to the foot of
this servant (who is bent) double (in humility), (and) its
other (end tied) to your foot--

"So that we two individuals may become (bound) together
by this apparatus (and so that) we may be intermixed like
the soul with the body."

2735 The body is like a string (fastened) to the soul's foot
(which) keeps dragging it to the earth from the heavens.

(When) the frog of the soul has escaped from the mouse
of the body into the water of the sleep of being unaware (of
the physical world), it reaches (a state of) happiness--

(However), the mouse of the body drags it back by means
of the string, (and) the soul tastes (so) much bitterness
from that dragging.2

(For) if there wasn't (such) dragging from the
rotten-brained mouse,3 the frog would have (continual)
enjoyments in the water.

"When you rise up from the sleep (of death on) the Day
(of Resurrection), you will hear the rest of it4 from the
Light-Bestowing Sun.5

2740 (The mouse said), "(Make) a knot upon my leg (with) one
end of the string (and) make a knot from the other end upon
(your) foot,

"So that I can pull (you) to this dry land. Now, the end
of the string (of my plan) has become visible to you."

"This (kind of) talk became bitter to the heart of the
frog,6 (who was) saying (to himself), "This vile (so-and-so)
will bring me into an entanglement."7

When any (feeling of) aversion enter into the heart of a
good man,8 it is not empty of some instruction.

2744 Know (that) that intuitive discernment9 (is) the
(expression of an) attribute of God, not imagination (and
that) the light of (your) heart has understood (something)
from the Universal Tablet.10

. . . . . . .

2759 It isn't amazing that a blind man has fallen into the
well, (but) the wonder of wonders11 is the falling (into the
well) of the clear seer of the way.

2760 The Divine Decree has (many) different changes of
direction; its magic spell12 is [the verse], "God acts as He

The heart both knows (about) its craftiness14 and also
doesn't know. (As a result), its iron becomes (soft as) wax
for the seal (of Destiny).

You could say that the heart might be saying (to
itself), "Since the inclination (of Destiny)15 has gone in
this (direction), whatever is to occur, tell it to be (as it

2763 (And) because of this it (attitude) makes itself
inattentive and careless16 (and) it binds (its own) soul with
the restrictive rope.17

--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 1934 British translation)
© Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 11/15/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (2729) my form has grown from (the) earthiness (of
land-bound creatures): "In this commentary, the intended
meaning of the mouse: people who are impure, soiled, and
(centered on) bodily (desires). And the intended meaning of
the frog: it is (symbolizing) the holy illuminated ones, who
are (living) amidst the water of spiritual life [âb-é
Hayât-é ma`nawî]. those who are earthen and bodily have no
power to enter the ocean of spirituality. (But) if they
wish, they may have a link and connection between a
spiritual friend [= spiritual master] and themselves. So
that, any time that spiritual friend wishes, he may draw
away those earthy and bodily (qualities) by means of the
connection with his own (spiritual) level, and expel (them)
by his (spiritual) station." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

2. (2737) the soul tastes (so) much bitterness from that
dragging: "These verses [= 2735-37] explain the inner
meaning of the fable. The 'mouse' is an emblem of the bodily
nature, to which the spirit is tied by the 'string' of
phantasy (khayál) and the carnal reason (`aql-i juzví) [=
the partial intellect]: cf. the notes on I 400-401." [=
"Although the spirit is not saddled with body during sleep,
only death releases it permanently. God 'taketh the souls
unto Himself' (yatawaffá 'l-anfusa) at death and also in
sleep; those taken in sleep 'He lets go again (yursilu) till
an appointed term' (Qur. XXXIX 43). The comparison of the
released spirit to an unsaddled horse left in free enjoyment
of its pasture-ground, but tethered so that it cannot
escape, is drawn from nomad life." (Nicholson, Commentary)

3. (2738) the rotten-brained mouse: Nicholson translated,
"the scatter-brained mouse." And he explained: "Literally,
'having a putrid kernel,' an epithet applied to one who
talks idly and boastfully." (Footnote)

4. (2739) the rest of it: means the remainder of
descriptions about the heavenly delights of not being bound
to earthly existence.

5. (2739) from the Light-Bestowing Sun: means God, "the
Light of the heavens and the earth" (Qur'an 24:35)

6. (2742) This (kind of) talk became bitter to the heart of
the frog: "And the meaning of this matter is that holy
companions have (a natural) aversion to people of bad nature
and immoral character." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (2742) an entanglement [`uqdat]: a word play on "knot"
in line 2740.

8. (2743) the heart of a good man: "i.e. the holy man."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

9. (2744) intuitive discernment [firâsat]: Nicholson
referred to his note on Mathnawi I: 1331: "Referring to the
Hadíth: ittaqú firásata 'l-mu'mini fa-innahu yanzuru bi-núr
Alláhi,' Beware of the clairvoyance of the true believer,
for verily he sees by the Light of God.'.... It is intuition
of things unseen (mu`áyanatu 'l-ghayb), which depends on
faith (ímán) and is increased by strength of faith." He also
said, regarding I: 32: "... the poet declares that the
source of all spiritual perception is the 'inner light'. Cf.
a saying ascribed to Mohammed, 'Beware of the discernment
(firásah) of the true believer, for he sees by the Light of
Allah'..." (Commentary)

10. (2744) the Universal Tablet [lûH-é kull]: "No, but this
is a glorious Qur'an, (written) upon a Preserved Tablet
[lawH-in maHfûZ]." Qur'an 85:21-22. Metaphorically, this
means that the Revelation of the Qur'an is protected against
corruption. Various beliefs later developed that it means a
Heavenly Tablet upon which all the Decrees of God are

Nicholson referred to other examples of Rumi's mystical
understanding of this Qur'anic term-- IV: 1851,1960-68, and his
comments on I: 1063-65: "...lawh-i mahf™z [= the Universal
Tablet].... depicts the inspired sage whose heart, in virtue of the
transcendental knowledge inscribed on it, is a copy of the
heavenly Lawh-i Mahf™z on which all things are recorded from
eternity to everlasting. When the seeker becomes 'a fountain
of Divine wisdom', he has no more to learn from reason and
intellect: he leaves them behind and passes on, as the Prophet
parted from Gabriel when the supreme moment was at hand..."

11. (2759) the wonder of wonders: Nicholson translated, "is
beyond all wonder." And he explained: "Literally, 'is the
father of wonder." (Nicholson, Commentary)

Nicholson referred to his note on the story of the
Hoopoe (I: 1214-61): "... how the hoopoe, most keen-sighted
of birds, fell into a trap... is told more fully in...
Jawámi`u 'l-Hik¥yát [= Collection of Stories], Anec. 1922.
The latter version runs as follows: 'A hoopoe saw a lad
laying a trap and asked what he was doing. He replied, "I
have laid a trap for a hoopoe." "How can you catch me?" said
the hoopoe, "since I know and see it." Then he flew away and
perched on a tree and forgot all about it. The lad covered
the trap with earth, on which he sprinkled some grain, and
went off and hid himself. Presently the hoopoe approached,
and seeing the bait but not the trap, was tempted to eat. As
soon as the trap closed on his neck, the lad ran up, crying,
"Didn't you tell me that I could never catch you?" "Yes,"
replied the hoopoe; "but 'tis an old saying that when the
destined event comes to pass, the eye is made blind (idhá já
'a 'l-qadá `amiya 'l-basar)."'" (Commentary)

12. (2760 its magic spell [chashm-band]: Nicholson
translated, "eye-binding spell." It means the fascinating
eyes of an attractive or powerful person who casts a "spell"
of personal influence on another person.

13. (2760) "God acts as He Wills": Qur'an 3:40.

14. (2761) its craftiness: Nicholson translated, "its
(Destiny's) artfulness."

15. (2762) Since the inclination (of Destiny): literally,
"Since its inclination" -- meaning Destiny, or the Divine

16. (2763) because of this (attitude) it makes itself
inattentive and careless: Nicholson translated differently,
"Accordingly it makes itself heedless of this

17. (2763) the restrictive rope: means a rope used to tie up
uncooperative camels (by binding the neck and legs
together). Nicholson explained that this has a metaphoric
meaning: "I.e. submits to the inevitable." (Footnote)


2726 ay akh-î, man khâkiy-am, tô âbiy-î
lêk shâh-é raHmat-o wahhâbiy-î

ân-chon-ân kon az `aTâ-wo az qisam
ke gah-o bê-gah ba-khidmat mê-ras-am

bar lab-é jô man ba-jân mê khwân-am-at
mê-na-bîn-am az ijâbat marHamat

âmadan dar âb bar man basta shod
z-ân-ke tarkîb-am ze-khâkî rosta shod

2730 yâ rasûlê yâ neshânê kon madad
tâ to-râ az bâng-é man âgah kon-ad

baHS karda-nd andar-în kâr ân dô yâr
âkhir-é ân baHS ân âmad qarâr

ke ba-dast âr-and yak reshta-yé darâz
tâ ze-jaZb-é reshta gard-ad kashf-é râz

yak sarê bar pây-é în banda-yé dô-tô
bast bây-ad, dêgar-ash bar pây-é tô

tâ ba-ham ây-êm z-în fan-é mâ dô tan
andar âmêz-êm chûn jân bâ badan

2735 hast tan chûn rêsmân bar pây-é jân
mê-kashân-ad bar zamîn-ash z-âsmân

chaghz-é jân dar âb-é khwâb-é bê-hoshî
rasta az mûsh-é tan, ây-ad dar khwoshî

mûsh-é tan z-ân rêsmân bâz-ash kash-ad
chand talkhî z-în kashesh jân mê-chash-ad

gar na-bûdy jaZb-é mûsh?é ganda-maghz
`aysh-hâ kardy darûn-é âb chaghz

bâqiy-ash chûn rôz bar-khêz-î ze-khwâb
be-sh'naw-î az nûr-bakhsh-é âftâb

2740 yak sar-é reshta gereh bar pây-é man
z-ân sar-é dêgar tô pâ bar `uqda zan

tâ tawân-am man dar în khoshkî kashîd
mar to-râ nak shod sar-é reshta padîd

talkh âmad bar del-é chaghz în HadîS
ke ma-râ dar `uqdat ârad în khabîS

har karâhat dar del-é mard-é behî
chûn dar ây-ad az fanê na-b'w-ad tahî

2744 waSf-é Haq dân ân firâsat-râ na wahm
nûr-é del az lûH-é kul kard-ast fahm

. . . . . . .

2759 în `ajab na-b'w-ad ke kôr oftad ba-châh
bû 'l-`ajab oftâdan-é bînây-é râh

2760 în qaZâ-râ gûna-gûn taSrîf-hâ-st
chashm-band-ash yaf`alu 'llâh mâ yashâ-st

ham be-dân-ad, ham na-dân-ad del fan-ash
mûm gard-ad bahr-é ân muhr âhan-ash

gôy-î-iy del gôy-ady ke mâyl-é ô
chûn dar-în shod, har che oftad, bâsh gô

2763 khwêsh-râ z-în ham maghaffal mê-kon-ad
dar `iqâl-ash jân mu`aqqal mê-kon-ad

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)