The Mouse and the Frog (part five)

Mathnawi VI: 2941-2973

Returning to the story of the mouse (and how he) sought the frog
along the river bank and pulled the end of to string so that the
frog would become aware of his seeking him

2941 That one formed1 by love continues to pull the string
in hope of being joined together (in friendship) with the
frog of right conduct.2

He keeps twisting the string of (his) heart,3 saying,
"I've brought the end of the string to (my) paw.

"Since the end of the string (first) appeared to me,4
(my) heart and soul have become like a (thin) thread5 in
(this expectant) observation.

But all of a sudden the crow of separation6 appeared,
(seized) upon the mouse (as its) prey, and carried it off
from that place.

2945 When the mouse, (taken) by the crow, went up into the
air, the frog (was) also dragged from the bottom of the

(Not only was) the mouse in the crow's beak, but the
frog was also hanging in the air, (with its) foot (caught)
in the winding of the string.

The people were saying, "By what manner of trick and
deception did the crow make the water-frog (its) prey?

"How did it go into the water and how did it snatch it?
The water-frog has never been the crow's quarry."

The frog said (to himself), "This is the deserved
punishment of someone who, like people without honor, has
become joined to someone (of) vile (character).

2950 Oh (what) misery because of a friend (who is) not
similar in kind!7 Oh (what) misery! O noble ones, seek a
good companion (instead).

(Human) intelligence8 groans (in lamentation) because of
the (animal) self (so) full of bad qualities9-- like (the
case of) an bad nose upon a beautiful face.

Intelligence was telling (the frog), "Truly, being
similar in kind is (found) by (traveling) the way to
spiritual Reality10-- not by means of (bodily) 'water and

Take care! Don't be a worshipper of form, and don't say
this [is desirable]. Don't search for the secret of being
similar in kind in (material) form.12

Form is like a mineral and like a rock; a mineral
substance has no awareness of being similar in kind.

2955 The soul (is) like an ant, and the body (is) like a
grain of wheat: the ant) carries it (from one) side to
(another) side every moment.

The ant knows that, "Those grains taken as a pledge13 will
become transformed and of the same nature as me."14

(While) one ant seizes a barley seed from the road,
another ant takes a (grain of) wheat and runs15 (with it).

The barley seed doesn't run toward a (grain of) wheat.
However, the ant comes toward (a fellow) ant. But of course!

The traveling of the barley seed toward the (grain of)
wheat is the following (of one external event by another).
Notice that it is the ant which is returning to one of its
own kind.

2960 Don't say, "Why did the (grain of) wheat go toward the
barley seed?" Place the (gaze of your) eye upon the
disputing (customer),16 not upon the deposit.

(Just as) a black ant (goes) on top of a (piece of)
black felt: the ant (is) hidden, (but) the seed is visible
in front of (its) path.

The discriminating mind says to the eyes, "Look well!17 A
seed never travels without a seed-carrier."

For this reason, the dog came to the Companions (of the
Cave).18 (External) forms are (like) the seeds and the and
(is like) the heart.19

(And) because of that, Jesus goes (up) to the pure and
holy ones in the Heavens.20 (Although) the cages were of
different kinds, the chickens (were) of the same kind.21

2965 The cage is perceptible, but the chicken (within) it is
hidden.22 The cage never goes (anywhere) without a

Oh (how) happy and blessed (is) an eye which has the
(discerning) intellect23 as it's leader (and) which is
(fore-) seeing the outcome24 and (is) upright and cool25 (in
its judgment).

Bring (forth) from the (discerning) intellect the
difference (between what is) ugly and foul and (what is)
beautiful and pure-- not from an eye which speaks (only) of
(the difference between) black and white.

The (physical) eye has been deceived by (the attraction
of) green vegetation on (top of) a pile of dung.26 (But) the
(discerning) intellect says, "Rub it against my

The eye (which) sees (only the object of) desire is the
bird's misfortune, (but) the (discerning) intellect (which)
sees the trap is the bird's place of refuge.

2970 (However) there has been another trap which the
intellect has not discovered-- (therefore), the inspiration
[given to the prophets which] sees the unperceived has
hurried to this direction from that (heavenly) direction.28

By means of the intellect, you may know (how) to
distinguish (between what is) similar in kind and (what is)
not similar.29 One should not run toward (outward) forms.

The similarity of kind between you and me30 is not in
(regard to) form. Jesus came into human (form), (yet) was
similar in kind with the angel.31

2973 The Heavenly Bird32 carried him, just as the crow
(carried up) the frog, above the blue castle (of the

--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" (, 11/22/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (2941) formed [sereshta]: a word-play with "string"

2. (2941) of right conduct [bâ-rashad]: can also means
"possessed of right guidance and protection from error"--
but this is not its meaning here, because the word was
chosen here for the rhyme.

3. (2942) He keeps twisting the string of (his) heart: "It
is a symbol of maintaining the attachment between them,
observing the mind, and not severing the attachment of the
heart." (Anqaravi, the famous 17th century Turkish Mevlevi
commentator, translated here into English from a Persian

4. (2942) Since the end of the string (first) appeared to
me: Nicholson translated, "ever since the end of the string
(the prospect of success)... showed itself..."

5. (2943) like a (thin) thread: Nicholson translated, "as
(frail as) a thread." An idiom meaning brought to a weakened
state-- as when a lover becomes thin and pale from
melancholy yearning for a beloved.

6. (2944) the crow of separation: "i.e. Death, which seizes
and destroys the soul that is attached to the body. Cf. I
706-709 and the notes ad loc." [= "The walnuts (bodies) were
broken, and those which had the kernel had, after being
slain, a spirit pure and fair. Slaughter and death which
befalls the bodily frame is like breaking pomegranates and
apples:/ That which is sweet becomes pomegranate-syrup, and
that which is rotten is naught but noise:/ That which has
reality is made manifest (after death), and that which is
rotten is put to shame. Go, strive after reality, O
worshipper of form, inasmuch as reality is the wing on
form's body." "'The walnut that possesses the kernel' is the
body of the true Unitarian (muwahhid). When the walnut-shell
is broken, its contents are revealed; similarly, when death
shatters the body of the muwahhid, his spirit is found to be
pure and immortal, since it is illuminated with gnosis [=
mystical knowledge], faith, and love and has realised its
essential oneness with God; otherwise the spirit is
good-for-nothing."] (Nicholson, Commentary)

Anqaravi explained that the "crow of separation" is a
crow with (mixed) white and black wings, and is said to be
the bird which the Prophet Noah sent to look for dry land
(toward the end of the Flood) and which did not return [=
separated] to his boat. (Commentary)

7. (2950) Oh (what) misery because of a friend (who is) not
similar in kind: Anqaravi quoted, here, a verse from the
Qur'an: "And [on] the Day (of Judgment), the wrong-doer will
bite his hands, saying, 'Oh, if I had only taken a path with
the Messenger (of God) [= Muhammad]! Sorrow for me! If I had
only not taken so-and-so as a friend! He certainly led me
astray from the Reminder (of God) [= the Revelation of the
Qur'an] after it came to me. And Satan is (always) a
deserter toward mankind!" (25:27-29)

8. (2951) (Human) intelligence [`aql]: this means
intellect, reason, discrimination in the highest sense as a
human faculty which is greatly superior to the "animal soul"
full of worldly desires, cravings, and passions. Nicholson
usually translates this word in its positive sense as
"Reason." In other contexts, Rumi uses this term in a
negative sense, as limiting the possibility of direct
mystical-intuitive perception of Divine realities.

9. (2951) full of bad qualities [por `uyûb]: Nicholson has
this spelling in his Persian text, but he translated it as
"vicious," which is spelled differently [`ayûb =

10. (2952) being similar in kind is (found) by (traveling)
the way to spiritual Reality: Nicholson translated,
"congeniality is spiritual in origin..." And he explained:
"Literally, 'is by way of spiritual nature.'" (Footnote) It
means that the human spirit can find true similarity of kind
by seeking "companionship" with spiritual Reality, which is
of the same "substance"-- not by seeking greater
companionship with the material world.

11. (2952) not by means of (bodily) 'water and clay':
Nicholson translated, "is not (derived) from water and clay
(the outward form)." The term "water and clay" is an idiom
referring to the body of Adam, created by God from physical
substances, and thus to the human body and the material
world in general.

12. (2953) Don't search for the secret of being similar in
kind in (material) form: "Similarly, although many
individuals are apparently Mevlevis [= the sufi order of the
"Whirling Dervishes," which has preserved Rumi's teachings
over the centuries] and wear the Mevlevi tall hat [kolâh]
and its cloak [khirqa], someone who looks at them outwardly
will certainly say, 'These are of the same kind as the
Mevlevi dervishes.' However, the followers and companions of
the Mevlevi Way [Tarîq-é mawlawiyya] never give importance
to the (outward) appearance. And in regard to someone they
meet, who is Mevlevi in appearance, they do not
(automatically) say, 'This person is also Mevlevi.' Rather,
they do not regard his conduct. If he is familiar with
Mevlana (Jalaluddin Rumi) in his heart and spirit and has
respect for the [departed] spirits of the Mevlevi [bâ
arwâh-é mawlawiyya ta`âruf dashta bâshad], they call him
Mevlevi.... Because, for the mystic knower, the saying,
'Similar kind inclines towards similar kind' is a great
scale and touchstone (for measuring the truth)." (Anqaravi,

13. (2956) Those grains taken as a pledge: Nicholson
translated, "the grains of which it has taken charge." And
he explained: "Literally, 'received in pawn.'" (Footnote)

14. (2956) will become transformed and of the same nature as
me: Nicholson translated less literally as, "will be changed
and become homogeneous with it." And he explained: "I.e.
they will be eaten and assimilated." (Footnote)

15. (2957) takes... and runs [be-g'reft-o daw]: "... the
archaic construction, in which the second verb drops its
termination, so that only the stem remains..." (Nicholson,

16. (2960) Place the (gaze of your) eye upon the disputing
(customer): Nicholson translated, "Fix your eye on the
holder, not on that which he holds in pawn."

17. (2962) The discriminating mind says to the eyes, "Look
well!: Nicholson corrected his translation, to "Reason says
to the eye, 'Look well!'" (from, "(But) Reason says, 'Look
well to your eye...'"). (Commentary)

18. (2963) the dog came to the Companions (of the Cave):
refers to the story in the 18th chapter [sûrah] of the
Qur'an. Some pious young men fled religious persecution and
hid in a cave, fell asleep, and (by the Will of God) woke up
to find that many years had passed. Their dog (traditionally
known as Qitmîr) was sleeping with them (18:17). "Similarly,
the dog's form had no resemblance to the (human) forms of
the Companions of the Cave and was not of the same kind. But
in regard to the inward (level), the dog did have similarity
of kind and resemblance to them. According to this view, the
dog's heart showed fondness and love (toward them) and was
their follower." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

19. (2963) (like) the heart: Nicholson translated, "while
the heart (spirit) is (like) the ant."

20. (2964) (And) because of that, Jesus goes (up) to the
pure and holy ones in the Heavens:

21. (2964) (Although) the cages were of different kinds, the
young birds (were) of the same kind: Rumi often uses birds
to symbolize spirits, such as spirits which are joyfully
released from the cage of the body. Nicholson translated,
"the young birds (spirits)..."

Nicholson referred here to Mathnawi III: 3951-56, which
he translated, "Death an migration from this (earthly) abode
has become as sweet to me as leaving the cage and flying (is
sweet) to the (captive) bird-- / The cage that is in the
very midst of the garden, (so that) the bird beholds the
rose-beds and the trees, ' (While) outside, round the cage,
a multitude of birds is sweetly chanting tales of liberty:/
At (the sight of) that verdant place neither (desire for)
food remains to the bird in the cage, nor patience and
rest,/ (But) it puts out its head through every hold, that
perchance it may tear off this fetter from its leg. Since
its heart and soul are (already) outside like this, how will
it be when you open the cage?"

22. (2965) The cage is perceptible, but the young bird (in)
it is hidden: means a covered cage.

23. (2967) the (discerning) intellect [`aql]: the perceptive
and reasoning mind, in its best sense.

24. (2967) (fore-) seeing the outcome: this is a frequent
teaching of Rumi in the Mathnawi-- that most people lack
foresight because they desire what they crave in the moment
and end up suffering, like the bird that gets caught in a
trap baited with seeds.

25. (2966) an eye which... (is) upright and cool: Nicholson
translated, "wise and cool." And he explained: "Rajul-un
qaríru 'l-`ayn [= a man refreshed/cooled of eye] is
explained as meaning 'a man whose eye sees that for which it
has longed and becomes at rest' (Lane, s.v.)." (Commentary)
Anqaravi commented, "Habar [= wise, upright]: has the
meaning of a 'knower.' Qarîr [= cool]: has the meaning of
'illumined.'" (Commentary)

26. (2968) by (the attraction of) green vegetation on (top
of) a pile of dung [ba-khaZrây-é diman]: Nicholson referred
to Mathnawi II: 1017, which he translated, "It is (said) in
the Hadíth (Traditions of the Prophet): 'Know, sire, that
glorification (of God) from hypocrisy is like the verdure on
a midden.'" And he transliterated this Hadîth: "iyyákum
wa-khadrá'a 'l-diman."

"Whenever the external eye sees green vegetation upon a
dung hill, it is pleased and says, 'What fine green
vegetation this is!' The intellect says to it, 'No, that
which you are seeing isn't (fine). If you want to know the
difference between that and other green vegetation, test it
against my touchstone-- so that you may be able to
distinguish between that and other green plants. The
(attractive) greenery which you have seen on the dung hill
is (growing in) a filthy and impure place. So go to a pure
piece of ground.'.... 'Green vegetation on a pile of dung"
[khaZrây-é diman] is said (to mean) an attractive woman who
is extremely beautiful but has a malignant and immoral
nature." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

27. (2968) touchstone: a type of stone, which when a piece
of it is rubbed against true gold, it undergoes a chemical
change of color. Touchstones were used by assayers in order
to certify authentic gold.

28. (2970) (therefore), the inspiration [given to the
prophets which] sees the unperceived has hurried to this
direction from that (heavenly) direction: Nicholson
translated, "hence the inspiration which beholds the unseen
sped in this direction." And he explained: "I.e. the
prophets were sent to inform us." (Footnote) He further
commented: "Reason, though it can discern good and evil in
the world of forms, falls into 'another trap' (see I 115,
note [= "The discursive reason (`aql-i ma`ásh), which
maintains a distinction between the subject and object of
thought, cannot possibly comprehend or describe the nature
of mystical union. This is a mystery that Love reveals to
the lover by immediate experience..."]), from which the only
means of escape is the knowledge of God's absolute unity as
revealed to His prophets and saints." (Commentary)

"But the great prophets-- (may) the peace (of God) be
upon them-- see the traps of the unseen world and are aware
of the harmful consequences of this world. When Divine
inspiration has reached them (and) they have seen such
causes of the traps of the unseen world, they have given us
information about the (differences between) good and evil
and (between) gain and loss which they have known."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

29. (2971) what is) similar in kind and (what is) not
similar: Nicholson translated, "congener and non-congener."
It means what is similar in kind to the human spirit, which
is the spiritual realm-- in contrast to the worldly,
physical, material, and bodily realm.

30. (2972) The similarity of kind between you and me:
Nicholson translated, "My being your congener..." And he
explained that the insertion of the Arabic words "to you and
me" [-lî wa lak] occurs in Qur'an 28:9: "And Pharaoh's wife
said, '(This infant) is a refreshing coolness of the eye to
you and me [qurratu `ayn-in-lî wa lak]' here occurs in words
addressed by Pharaoh's wife... occur in Qur. XXVIII 8: '(the
infant Moses is) a joy to the and to me: kill him not.'"

31. (2972) was similar in kind with the angel: Nicholson
translated, "was (really) homogeneous with the angels."

32. (2973) The Heavenly Bird [morgh-é gardûnî]: Nicholson
translated, "The celestial Bird (Gabriel)." "It is Gabriel
[jibrâ'îl]. And the meaning of nîlî-HiSâr [= the blue
castle] is the blue-colored sky. Gabriel-- (may) the peace
(of God) be upon him, who was also an intermediary similar
in kind (to Jesus), carried Hazrat-i Jesus-- (may) the peace
(of God) be upon him-- above the blue sky and bore him to
the Fourth Heaven [= the "Heaven of the Sun" in Islamic
cosmology]." (Anqaravi, Commentary) This refers to the
bodily ascension of Jesus, when God rescued him from those
who tried to kill him and who falsely accused him of the
blasphemy of claiming to be God or the son of God (Qu'ran
4:157; 3:55).


rujû`-kardan ba-qiSSa-yé tâlab-kardan-é ân mûsh ân chaghz-râ
lab-lab-é jô wa kashîdan-é sar-é reshta tâ chaghz-râ dar âb
khabar shaw-ad az talab-é ô

2941 ân sereshta-yé `ishq reshta mê-kash-ad
bar omêd-é waSl-é chaghz-é bâ-rashad

mê-tan-ad bar reshta-yé del dam ba-dam
ke sar-é reshta ba-dast âwarda-am

ham-chô târê shod del-o jân dar shuhûd
tâ sar-é reshta ba-man rôyê namûd

khwâd ghurâbu 'l-bayn âmad nâ-gahân
bar shêkâr-é mûsh-o bord-ash z-ân makân

2945 chûn bar âmad bar hawâ mûsh az ghurâb
munsaHib shod chaghz nêz az qa`r-é âb

mûsh dar manqâr-é zâgh-o chaghz ham
dar hawâ âwêkhta pâ dar ratam

khalq mê-goft-and zâgh az makr-o kayd
chaghz-é âbê-râ che-gûna kard Sayd?

chûn shod andar âb-o chûn-ash dar robûd
chaghz-é âbê kay shekâr-é zâgh bûd?

chaghz goftâ în sazây-é ân kasê
k-ô chô bê-âb-ân shaw-ad joft-é khasê

2950 ay feghân az yâr-é nâ-jins ay feghân
ham-nêshîn-é nêk jôy-îd ay meh-ân

`aql-râ afghân ze-nafs-é por `uyûb
ham-chô bîniy-é badê bar rôy-é khûb

`aql mê-goft-ash ke jinsîyat yaqîn
az rah-é ma`nî-st, nay az âb-o Tîn

hîn ma-shaw Sûrat-parast-o în ma-gô
sirr-é jinsîyat ba-sûrat dar ma-jô

Sûrat âmad chûn jamâd-o chûn Hajar
nêst jamâd-râ ze-jinsîyat khabar

2955 jân chô môr-o tan chô dâna-yé gandomê
mê-kashân-ad sô ba-sôy-ash har damê

môr dân-ad k-ân Hubûb-é murtahan
mustaHîl-o jins-é man khwâh-ad shodan

ân yakê môrê gereft az râh, jaw
môr-é dêgar gandomê be-g'reft-o daw

jâw sôy-é gandom na-mê-tâz-ad, walê
môr sôy-é môr mê-âyad, balê

raftan-é jaw sôy-é gandom tâbi`-ast
môr-râ bîn ke ba-jins-ash râji`-ast

2960 tô ma-gô gandom che-râ shod sôy-é jaw?
chashm-râ bar khaSm neh, nay bar geraw

môr-é aswad bar sar-é libd-é seyâh
môr penhân, dâna paydâ pêsh-é râh

`aql gôy-ad chashm-râ nêkô negar
dâna hargez kay raw-ad bê-dâna-bar?

z-în sabab âmad sôy-é aSHâb kalb
hast Sûrat-hâ Hubûb-o môr qalb

z-ân shaw-ad `îsà sôy-é pâk-ân-é charkh
bod qafaS-hâ mukhtalif, yak jins farkh

2965 în qafas paydâ-wo ân farkh-ash nehân
bê-qafaS-kash kay qafaS bâsh-ad rawân?

ay khonok chashmê ke `aql-ast-ash amîr
`âqibat-bîn bâsh-ad-o Habr-o qarîr

farq-é zesht-o naghz az `aql âwar-îd
nay ze-chashmê k-az seyah-goft-o sepîd

chashm ghirra shod ba-khaZrây-é diman
`aql gôy-ad bar miHakk-é mâ-sh zan

âfat-é morg-ast chashm-é kâm-bîn
makhlaS-é morg-ast `aql-é dâm-bîn

2970 dâm-é dêgar bod ke `aql-ash dar na-yâft
waHy-é ghâyib-bîn ba-d-în sô z-ân shetâft

jins-o nâ-jins az kherad dân-î shenâkht
sôy-é Surat-hâ na-shây-ad zûd tâkht

nêst jinsîyat ba-Sûrat-lî wa-lak
`îsà âmad dar bashar jins-é malak

2973 bar kashîd-ash fawq-é în nîlî-HiSâr
morgh-é gardûnî cho chaghz-ash zâgh-wâr

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)