Versions of Gamard and Farhadi's "The Quatrains of Rumi" by Coleman Barks (2014)

Coleman Barks has published a book of his versions of Rumi's quatrains based on "The Quatrains of Rumi," translated from Persian by Ibrahim Gamard and Rawan Farhadi, a book which he praised. Barks made 217 free verse re-interpreted versions, together with comments on some of them. The second part of his book consists of 72 re-interpreted poetic versions based on the prose sayings of Shams-e Tabrizi based on selections from the "Discourses of Shams-e Tabrizi" translated from Persian by William Chittick (published as "Me and Rumi: The Autobiography of Shams-i Tabrizi," 2004.

"Rumi: Soul Fury: Rumi and Shams Tabriz on Friendship," Translations by Coleman Barks, New York: HarperCollins, 2014. Total number of quatrains: 217.

Copyright page: "These Rumi versions are reworked from the translations and scholarship of Ibrahim Gamard and Rawan Farhadi in 'The Quatrains of Rumi'."

"Author's Note on Translation", p. 215: "These short free verse poems are versions of Rumi's rubai, done from Gamard and Farhadi's translations. Making versions is a way, I feel, of entering, and praising, and bringing Rumi's insights into my own life. I can do that, it seems, by putting scholarly translations into my own short poem tradition, which is a constantly moving composite of many lineages. . . . Ibrahim Gamard, Rawan Farhadi, William Chittick, and Franklin Lewis disapprove of making versions. I understand the objection. What I do is a homemade, amateurish, loose, many-stranded thing, without much attention to historical context, nor much literal faithfulness to the original. I did not hear Rumi's name until I was thirty-nine. I claim only to be a poet in American English. . ."

"Notes on the Rumi Quatrains", p. 219: "The second number. . . refers to its place in the complete translation of Rumi's quatrains, 'The Quatrains of Rumi,' by Ibrahim W. Gamard and A. G. Rawan Farhadi (San Rafael, CA: Sufi Dari Books, 2008). Their numbering goes from 1 to 1959. Their scholarship is magnificent, comprehensive, and deeply intuitive. We are greatly indebted to them. Anyone who loves Rumi and Shams should own a copy."

"References to the Rumi Quatrains", p. 243: "I want to recommend and celebrate the magnificent scholarship of Ibrahim Gamard and Rawan Farhadi, whose texts I have used to produce these versions. They are amazingly thorough and deeply devotional."

Here is one of Barks' versions, together with his comments, followed by Gamard and Farhadi's translation and footnotes:

"A riddle: What is it that gives form such great joy,
and without which all appearances grow dull, drained of pleasure?
In one moment that something slips away.
In the next, out of nowhere, it comes back and knocks form to pieces.
Answer:Your face." (p. 57)

"There is a subtle wordplay here in Persian that cannot be duplicated in English. Gamard and Farhadi tell us that the word for 'form' and 'appearance' can also mean 'face,' so that hidden in every line of the poem is the irresistible answer. I put the answer in a last line, but if I understand the scholars correctly, the answer does not appear in the poem in Farsi. It is just always there, concealed as nuance, in the language. Nor does the word 'riddle' appear in the original. It is implied." (p. 226)

What is it from which there is enjoyment in (its) appearance?
And what is it, without which appearance [seems] dulled?
In one moment, that something becomes hidden from form,
And (in) another moment, out of No-Place, it smashes against form.

1. lines one and two: This quatrain takes the form of a riddle, the answer of which is the sublime and irresistible beauty of the beloved's face. The word 'Sûrat' occurs in all four lines with the meaning of 'form' and 'appearance', but it also means 'face'. When the beloved's face is seen, everything visible is delightful.

2. lines three and four: refer to the recollected image of the beloved--especially the face, that appears and disappears in the mind of the lover. When it appears, all other forms are 'knocked away'.

--Rumi's quatrain F-127, translated from Persian by Ibrahim Gamard and Rawan Farhadi, "The Quatrains of Rumi," 2008, p. 137.