Translations and Versions of "The Song of the Reed" (Masnavi, Book 1: LInes 1-34)

Rhymed Translation by Jones, 17721

Rhymed Translation by Redhouse, 18812

Translation by Whinfield, 18873

Translation by Nicholson, 19264

Rhymed (Abbreviated) Translation by Nicholson, 19505

Prose Translation by Arberry, 19616

Translation by Türkman, 19927

Version by Barks, 19948

Rhymed Translation by Türkman, 19969

Version by Jonathan Star, 199710

Translation by Gupta, 199711

Version by Helminski, 199812

Rhymed Translation by Shahriari, 199813

Translation by Nasr, 200014

Translation by Gamard, 200015

Translation by Lewis, 200016

Rhymed Translation by Legenhausen, 200217

Rhymed Translation by Tamdgidi, 200318

Translation by Tillinghast and Shafak, 200319

Rhymed Translation by Mojaddedi, 200420

Translation by Williams, 200621

Translation by Holbrook, 201022

Rhymed Translation by Sadri, 201523

1. Rhymed Translation by Jones, 1772

1. Hear, how yon reed in sadly pleasing tales ***
Departed bliss and present woe bewails!

2. 'With me, from native banks untimely torn, ***
Love-warbling youths and soft-ey'd virgins mourn.

3. O! Let the heart, by fatal absence rent, ***
Feel what I sing, and bleed when I lament:

4. Who roams in exile from his parent bow'r, ***
Pants to return, and chides each ling'ring hour.

5. My notes, in circles of the grave and gay, ***
Have, hail'd the rising, cheer'd the closing day:

6. Each in my fond affections claim'd a part,***
But none discern'd the secret of my heart.

7. What though my strains and sorrows flow combin'd!***
Yet ears are slow, and carnal eyes are blind.

8. Free through each mortal form the spirits roll, ***
But sight avails not. Can we see the soul?

9. Such notes breath'd gently from yon vocal frame: ***
Breath'd said I? no; 'twas all enliv'ning flame.

10. 'Tis love, that fills the reed with warmth divine; ***
'Tis love, that sparkles in the racy wine.

11. Me, plaintive wand'rer from my peerless maid, ***
The reed has fir'd, and all my soul betray'd

12. He gives the bane, and he with balsam cures; ***
Afflicts, yet soothes; impassions, yet allures.

13. Delightful pangs his am'rous tales prolong; ***
And Laili's frantick lover lives in song.

14. Not he, who reasons best, this wisdom knows: ***
Ears only drink what rapt'rous tongues disclose.

A. Nor fruitless deem the reed's heart-piercing pain: ***
See sweetness dropping from the parted cane.

15. Alternate hope and fear my days divide: ***
I courted Grief, and Anguish was my bride.

16. Flow on, sad stream of life! I smile secure:
Thou livest! Thou, the purest of the pure!

19. Rise vig'rous youth! be free; be nobly bold: ***
Shall chains confine you, thou they blaze with gold?

20. Go; to your vase the gather'd main convey: ***
What were your secrets? The pittance of a day!

21. New plans for wealth your fancies would invent; ***
Yet shells, to nourish pearls, must lie content.

22. The man, whose robe love's purple arrows rend ***
Bids av'rice rest, and toils tumultuous end.

23. Hail, heav'nly love! true source of endless gains! ***
Thy balm restores me, and thy skill sustains.

24. Oh, more than Galen learn'd, than Plato wise! ***
My guide, my law, my joy supreme arise!

25. Love warms this frigid clay with mystik fire, ***
And dancing mountains leap with young desire.

17. Blest is the soul, that swims in seas of love, ***
And long the love sustain'd by food above.

18. With forms imperfectly can perfection dwell? ***
Here pause, my song; and thou, vain world, farewell.

--Translated by Sir William Jones (1746-1794). Quoted in A.J.
Arberry, "Persian Poems," London, 1954, pp. 118-119. (Perhaps
from "Poems, Consisting Chiefly of Translations from the Asiatick
Languages," 1772.)


2. Rhymed Translation by Redhouse, 1881

1. From reed-flute hear what tale it tells; ***
What plaint it makes of absence' ills.

2. "From jungle-bed since me they tore, ***
Men's, women's, eyes have wept right sore.

3. My breast I tear and rend in twain, ***
To give, through sighs, vent to all my pain.

4. Who's from his home snatched far away, ***
Longs to return some future day.

5. I sob and sigh in each retreat, ***
Be't joy or grief for which men meet.

6. They fancy they can read my heart; ***
Grief's secrets I to none impart.

7. My throes and moans form but one chain, ***
Men's eyes and ears catch not their train.

8. Though soul and body be as one, ***
Sight of his soul hath no man won.

9. A flame's the flute's wail; not a breath, ***
that flame who feels not, doom him death.

10. The flame of love, 'tis, prompts the flute, ***
Wine's ferment, love; its tongue not mute.

11. The absent lover's flute's no joy. ***
Its trills proclaim his grief, his joy.

12. Or bane, or cure, the flute is still; ***
Content, complaining, as you will.

13. It tells its tale of burning grief; ***
Recounts how love is mad, in brief.

14. The lover lover's pangs best knows; ***
As ear receives tongue's plaint of woes.

15. Through grief, his day is but a dawn; ***
Each day of sorrow, torment's pawn.

16. My days are waste; take thou no heed. ***
thou still are left; my joy, indeed.

17. Whole seas a fish will never drown; ***
A poor man's day seems all one frown.

18. What boot from counsel to a fool? ***
Waste not thy words; thy wrath let cool.

19. Cast off lust's bonds; stand free from all. ***
Slave not for pelf; be not greed's thrall.

20. Pour rivers into one small gill, ***
It can but hold its little fill.

21. The eye's a vase that's ne'er content; ***
the oyster's filled ere pearl is sent.

22. The heart that's bleeding from love's dart, ***
From vice of greed is kept apart.

23. Then hie thee, love, a welcome guest; -- ***
Physician thou to soothe my breast.

24. Thou cure of pride and shame in me; ***
Old Galen's skill was nought to thee!

25. Through love, this earthly frame ascends ***
To heaven; a hill, to skip pretends.

26. In trance of love, Mount Sinai shakes, ***
At God's descent; 'and Moses quakes.'

27. Found I the friend on whom I dote, ***
I'd emulate flute's dulcet note.

28. But from my love, while torn away, ***
Unmeaning words alone I say.

29. The spring is o'er; the rose is gone; ***
the song of Philomel is done.

30. His love was all; himself, a note. ***
His love, alive; himself, dead mote.

31. Who feels not love's all-quick'ning flame, ***
Is like the bird whose wing is lame.

32. Can I be quiet, easy, glad, ***
When my delight's away? No! Sad.

33. Love bids my plaint all bonds to burst. ***
My heart would break, with silence curst.

34. A mirror best portrays when bright; ***
Begrimed with rust, its gleam grows slight.

A. Then wipe such foul alloy away; ***
Bright shall it, so, reflect each ray."

35. Thou'st heard what tale the flute can tell; ***
such is my case; sung all too well.

--Translated by James W. Redhouse. From "The Mesnevi of
Mevlânâ Jelâlu'd-dîn Muhammed er-Rûmî. Book the First"
(London, 1881).


3. Translation by Whinfield, 1887

1. Hearken to the reed-flute, how it complains, ***
Lamenting its banishment from its home:--

2. "Ever since they tore me from my osier bed, ***
My plaintive notes have moved men and women to tears.

3. I burst my breast, striving to give vent to sighs, ***
And to express the pangs of my yearnings for my home.

4. He who abides far away from his home ***
Is ever longing for the day he shall return.

5. My wailing is heard in every throng, ***
In concert with them that rejoice and them that weep.

6. Each interprets my notes in harmony with his own feelings, ***
But not one fathoms the secrets of my heart.

7. My secrets are not alien from my plaintive notes, ***
Yet they are not manifest to the sensual eye and ear.

8. Body is not veiled from soul, neither soul from body, ***
Yet no man hath ever seen a soul."

9. This plaint of the flute is fire, not mere air. ***
Let him who lacks this fire be accounted dead!

10. 'Tis the fire of love that inspires the flute, ***
'Tis the ferment of love that possesses the wine.

11. The flute is the confidant of all unhappy lovers; ***
Yea, its strains lay bare my inmost secrets.

12. Who hath seen a poison and an antidote like the flute? ***
Who hath seen a sympathetic consoler like the flute?

13. The flute tells the tale of love's bloodstained path, ***
It recounts the story of Majnun's love toils.

14. None is privy to these feelings save one distracted, ***
As ear inclines to the whispers of the tongue.

15. Through grief my days are as labour and sorrow, ***
My days move on, hand in hand with anguish.

16. Yet, though my days vanish thus, 'tis no matter, ***
Do thou abide, 0 Incomparable Pure One!

17. But all who are not fishes are soon tired of water; ***
And they who lack daily bread find the day very long;

18. So the " Raw " comprehend not the state of the "Ripe;" ***
Therefore it behooves me to shorten my discourse.

19. Arise, O son! Burst thy bonds and be free! ***
How long wilt thou be captive to silver and gold?

20. Though thou pour the ocean into thy pitcher, ***
It can hold no more than one day's store.

21. The pitcher of the desire of the covetous never fills, ***
The oyster-shell fills not with pearls till it is content;

22. Only he whose garment is rent by the violence of love ***
Is wholly pure from covetousness and sin.

23. Hail to thee, then, O LOVE, sweet madness! ***
Thou who healest all our infirmities!

24. Who art the physician of our pride and self-conceit! ***
Who art our Plato and our Galen!

25. Love exalts our earthly bodies to heaven, ***
And makes the very hills to dance with joy!

26. O lover, 'twas love that gave life to Mount Sinai, ***
When "it quaked, and Moses fell down in a swoon."

27. Did my Beloved only touch me with his lips, ***
I too, like the flute, would burst out in melody.

28. But he who is parted from them that speak his tongue, ***
Though he possess a hundred voices, is perforce dumb.

29. When the rose has faded and the garden is withered, ***
The song of the nightingale is no longer to be heard.

30. The BELOVED is all in all, the lover only veils Him; ***
The BELOVED is all that lives, the lover a dead thing.

31. When the lover feels no longer LOVE's quickening, ***
He becomes like a bird who has lost its wings. Alas!

32. How can I retain my senses about me, ***
When the BELOVED shows not the light of His countenance?

33. LOVE desires that this secret should be revealed, ***
For if a mirror reflects not, of what use is it?

34. Knowest thou why thy mirror reflects not? ***
Because the rust has not been scoured from its face.

A. If it were purified from all rust and defilement, ***
It would reflect the shining of the SUN of GOD.

35. O friends, ye have now heard this tale, ***
Which sets forth the very essence of my case.

--Translated by E. H. Whinfield. From "Masnavi-i Ma'navi, The
Spiritual Couplets of Maulána Jalálu-´d-dín Muhammad-i Rúmí."
(London, 1887). An abridged translation. Reprinted as "The
Teachings of Rumi" (Octagon Press, London, 1994). [Lines
indicated by a capital letter are invented and have no basis in the
Persian text.]


4. Translation by Nicholson, 1926

1. Listen to this reed how it complains: ***
it is telling a tale of separations.

2. Saying, "Ever since I was parted from the reed-bed, ***
man and woman have moaned in (unison with) my lament.

3. I want a bosom torn by severance, ***
that I may unfold (to such a one) the pain of love-desire.

4. Every one who is left far from his source ***
wishes back the time when he was united with it.

5. In every company I uttered my wailful notes, ***
I consorted with the unhappy and with them that rejoice.

6. Every one became my friend from his own opinion; ***
none sought out my secrets from within me.

7. My secret is not far from my plaint, ***
but ear and eye lack the light (whereby it should be apprehended).

8. Body is not veiled from soul, nor soul from body, ***
yet none is permitted to see the soul."

9. This noise of the reed is fire, it is not wind: ***
whoso hath not this fire, may he be naught!

10. 'Tis the fire of Love that is in the reed, ***
'tis the fervour of Love that is in the wine.

11. The reed is the comrade of every one who has been parted from
a friend: *** its strains pierced our hearts.

12. Who ever saw a poison and antidote like the reed? ***
Who ever saw a sympathiser and a longing lover like the reed?

13. The reed tells of the Way full of blood ***
and recounts stories of the passion of Majnún.

14. Only to the senseless is this sense confided: ***
the tongue hath no customer save the ear.

15. In our woe the days (of life) have become untimely: ***
our days travel hand in hand with burning griefs.

16. If our days are gone, let them go!-- 'tis no matter. ***
Do Thou remain, for none is holy as Thou art!

17. Except the fish, everyone becomes sated with water; ***
whoever is without daily bread finds the day long.

18. None that is raw understands the state of the ripe: ***
therefore my words must be brief. Farewell!

19. O son, burst thy chains and be free! ***
How long wilt thou be a bondsman to silver and gold?

20. If thou pour the sea into a pitcher, ***
how much will it hold? One day's store.

21. The pitcher, the eye of the covetous, never becomes full: ***
the oyster-shell is not filled with pearls until it is contented.

22. He (alone) whose garment is rent by a (mighty) love ***
is purged entirely of covetousness and defect.

23. Hail, our sweet-thoughted Love-- ***
thou that art the physician of all our ills,

24. The remedy of our pride and vainglory, ***
our Plato and our Galen!

25. Through Love the earthly body soared to the skies: ***
the mountain began to dance and became nimble.

26. Love inspired Mount Sinai, O lover, ***
(so that) Sinai (was made) drunken "and Moses fell in a swoon."

27. Were I joined to the lip of one in accord with me, ***
I too, like the reed, would tell all that may be told;

28. (But) whoever is parted from one who speaks his language ***
becomes dumb, though he have a hundred songs.

29. When the rose is gone and the garden faded, ***
thou wilt hear no more the nightingale's story.

30. The Beloved is all and the lover (but) a veil; ***
the Beloved is living and the lover a dead thing.

31. When Love hath no care for him, ***
he is left as a bird without wings. Alas for him then!

32. How should I have consciousness (of aught) before or behind
*** when the light of my Beloved is not before me and behind?

33. Love wills that this Word should be shown forth: ***
if the mirror does not reflect, how is that?

34. Dost thou know why the mirror (of thy soul) reflects nothing?
*** Because the rust is not cleared from its face.


[The story of the king's falling in love with a handmaiden
and buying her.]

35. O my friends, hearken to this tale: ***
in truth it is the very marrow of our inward state.


After obtaining a copy of the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi,
Nicholson corrected several lines in 1930, 1937, and 1940: line 1,
from: "Listen to the reed how it tells a tale, complaining of
separations--"; line 2, from, " Saying, 'Ever since I was parted from
the reed-bed, my lament hath caused man and woman to moan.";
line 8, from: omitting quotation marks after the words, 'to see the
soul'; line 17, from "Whoever is not a fish becomes sated with His
water; whoever is without daily bread finds the day long"; line 22,
from "He (alone) whose garment is rent by a (mighty) love is
purged of covetousness and all defect."; line 23, from "Hail, O
Love that bringest us good gain-- thou that art the physician of all
our ills" ["I believe that 'sawd·' in this epithet. . . is nearly
synonymous with 'fikr'. . . and that 'khwash-sawdâ' does not mean
'one with whom it is pleasant or profitable to have dealings'"]; line
35, from placement before the heading ("The story of the king's
falling in love with a handmaiden and buying her"), to placement
after the heading-- so that the words "hearken to this tale" refer to
the story about the king and do not refer to the reed-flute.

--Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson. From "The MathnawĚ of
Jal·lu'ddĚn R™mĚ" (London: Cambridge University Press, 1926).


5. Rhymed (Abbreviated) Translation by Nicholson, 1950

THE SONG OF THE REED

1. Hearken to this Reed forlorn,

2. Breathing, even since 'twas torn

2. From its rushy bed, a strain

3. Of impassioned love and pain.

7. "The secret of my song, though near,
7. None can see and none can hear.

A. Oh for a friend to know the sign

B. And mingle all his soul with mine!

10. 'Tis the flame of Love that fired me,
10. 'Tis the wine of Love inspired me.

13. Wouldst thou learn how lovers bleed,

35. Hearken, hearken to the Reed!"

--Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson. From "Rûmî: Poet and
Mystic (1207-1273): Selections from His Writings" (London:
George Allen and Unwin, 1950). [Lines indicated by a capital
letter are invented and have no basis in the Persian text.]


6. Prose Translation by Arberry, 1961

The lament of the reed-flute is a symbol of the soul's sorrow at
being parted from the Divine Beloved

1. Listen to this reed, how it makes complaint, ***
telling a tale of separation:

2. "Ever since I was cut off from my reed-bed, ***
men and women all have lamented my bewailing.

3. I want a breast torn asunder by severance, ***
so that I may fully declare the agony of yearning.

4. Every one who is sundered far from his origin ***
longs to recapture the time when he was united with it.

5. In every company I have poured forth my lament, ***
I have consorted alike with the miserable and the happy:

6. Each became my friend out of his own surmise, ***
none sought to discover the secrets in my heart.

7. My secret indeed is not remote from my lament, ***
but eye and ear lack the light to perceive it.

8. Body is not veiled from soul, nor soul from body, ***
yet to no man is leave given to see the soul."

9. This cry of the reed is fire, it is not wind; ***
whoever possesses not this fire, let him be naught!

10. It is the fire of love that has set the reed aflame; ***
it is the surge of love that bubbles in the wine.

11. The reed is the true companion of everyone parted from a
friend: *** its melodies have rent the veils shrouding our hearts.

12. Whoever saw poison and antidote in one the like of the
reed?*** Whoever saw sympathizer and yearner in one the like of
the reed?

13. The reed tells the history of the blood-bespattered way, ***
it tells the stories of Majnun's hopeless passion.

14. Only the senseless is intimate with the mysteries of this Sense;
*** only the heedful ear can buy what the tongue retails.

15. Untimely the days have grown in our tribulation; ***
burning sorrows have travelled along with all our days;

16. Yet if our days have all departed, bid them be gone-- ***
it matters not; only do Thou abide, O Thou incomparably holy!

17. Whoever is not a fish is soon satiated with His water; ***
he who lacks his daily bread, for him the day is very long.

18. None that is inexperienced comprehends the state of the ripe,
*** wherefore my words must be short; and now, farewell!

--Translated by A. J. Arberry. From "Tales from the Masnavi,"
(London: George Allen and Unwin, 1961). Re-formated
here to accord translations in verse format.


7. Translation by Türkman, 1992

1. Listen to this Ney (the reed-flute) that is complaining ***
and narrating the story of separation.

2. Ever since they (the people) have plucked me from the reedland,
*** my laments have driven men and women to deep sorrow.

3. I want someone with a chest (heart) pierced by abandonment
*** so that I may tell him about the pain of my longing.

4. He who falls aloof from his origin ***
seeks an opportunity to find it again.

5. I am mournful in all sorts of company ***
and am sought by the happy as well as by the unhappy.

6. Everyone becomes friends with me according to his faculty of
perception, *** and many do not seek my inner secret.

7. My secret is not distant from my cries, ***
but physical eyes and ears do not possess the light (to see it).

8. (In fact) the body from the spirit and the spirit from the body are
not concealed, *** yet none (not many) are allowed to see it.

9. The sound of the Ney is fire and it is not the ordinary wind, ***
but he who does not have this fire, may he become non-existent.

10. It is the fire of Divine love that has entered the Ney, ***
it is the yearning for love that has brought the wine into action.

11. The Ney is friends with anyone who has been deserted, ***
and its musical divisions have torn off veils too.

12. Who has seen an antidote as well as a poison like the Ney; ***
who has seen a sympathizing and longing lover like the Ney?

13. The Ney speaks about the bloody and dangerous path, ***
and tells stories of Majnun (who sacrificed himself for his beloved
Layli).

14. None other but he who has abandoned his worldly senses can
comprehend the secret of my heart (or the story of the Ney); ***
and it is the ear that is the customer (receiver) of the tongue.

15. In sorrow, our days have lost sense of time ***
and they have become fellow travellers with our griefs.

16. If the days have passed away, tell them to keep on going, ***
there is nothing to worry about; but O you the purest one (the love
of God) stay with us.

17. Everyone except a fish is sated with water, ***
and he who is not provided with his daily bread (earning) fails to
pass the days easily (comfortably).

18. Since a raw (immature) man is unable to perceive the state of a
ripe (mature) man, *** it is better to cut a long story short and bid
him farewell.

--Translated by Erkan Türkman. From "The Essence of Rumi's
Masnevi: Including His Life and Works" (Konya, Turkey: Misket
Ltd., 1992).


8. Version by Barks, 1994

1. Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.

2. "Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

3. Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.

4. Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.

5. At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,

6-7. a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden /
within the notes. No ears for that.

8. Body flowing out of spirit,
spirit up from body: no concealing /
that mixing. But it's not given us
to see the soul.

9. The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty."

10. Hear the love-fire tangled
in the reed notes, as bewilderment
melts into wine.

11. The reed is a friend
to all who want the fabric torn
and drawn away.

12. The reed is hurt and salve combining.
Intimacy and longing for
intimacy, one song

13. A disastrous surrender,
and a fine love, together.

14. The one who secretly hears this
is senseless. A tongue has
one customer, the ear.

A. If a sugarcane flute had no effect,
it would not have been able to make sugar
in the reedbed. Whatever sound
it makes is for everyone.

15-16. Days full of wanting, let them go by
without worrying that they do.

B. Stay where you are, inside
such a pure, hollow note.

17. Every thirst gets satisfied except
that of these fish, the mystics,
who swim an ocean of grace
still somehow longing for it!

C. No one lives in that without
being nourished every day.

18. But if someone doesn't want
to hear the song of the reed flute,
it's best to cut conversation
short, say goodbye, and leave.

--Version by Coleman Barks. From "Say I Am You: Rumi"
(Athens, Georgia: Maypop Books, 1994, pp. 48-49); re-printed in
"The Essential Rumi," pp. 17-19. Original formatting changed
here, in order to accord with the original Persian format. [Lines
indicated by a capital letter are invented and have no basis in the
Persian text.]


9. Rhymed Translation by Türkman, 1996

1. Listen to this Ney, while it's complaining,
The story of separation from God it's explaining.

2. Ever since they plucked me from my original ground,
Men and women cry upon my painful sound.

3. I need a breast pierced with the yearning of separation,
So that I may tell the meaning of my painful lamentation.

4. If anyone from his origin may ever fall away,
He seeks a chance to find it in a better way.

5. In every sort of company I cry, lament and moan,
Both the happy and the unhappy are charmed by my tone.

6. According to their opinions they have become my friend,
Little do they bother to discern my esoteric trend.

7. My secret is not concealed from my moaning cries,
But this light is not given to many ears and eyes.

8. The soul and the body aren't from each other concealed,
But to many an ear and eye this factor is not revealed.

9. This breath in the Ney is fire and isn't a sheer blow,
He who hasn't this fire let him die and let him go.

10. It is the fire of love that has made the Ney demented,
And is love-desire that renders the wine fermented.

11. The Ney is a friend to those who lose their companions,
Our breasts are also pierced like the Ney's divisions.

12. Who has ever seen an antidote and poison like the Ney?
Who has ever seen a consoling friend like the Ney?

13. The Ney is telling stories of the perilous ways and coils,
The love stories of Majnun and his bloody toils.

14. The knower of these feelings is none but a senseless one,
Only an ear can be a customer of a speaking tongue.

15. Our sorrows have made our days from us go astray,
while the days have followed time to make us their prey.

16. If the days are passing, worry not, let them pass away,
O Thee, the Only Pious One, with me prolong Thy stay.

17. If you aren't the fish with water you're soon tired,
If you haven't any daily bread, time is for you undesired.

18. For a lower man the stage of a perfect man is too high,
So cut a long story short and say to him "Goodbye."

---Translated by Erkan Türkman. From "A Bouquet of
Rumi's Versified Poems" (Konya, Turkey: Misket Ltd., 1996).


10. Version by Jonathan Star, 1997

1. Listen to the song of the reed,
How it wails with the pain of separation:

2. "Ever since I was taken from my reed bed
My woeful song has caused men and women to weep.

3. I seek out those whose hearts are torn by separation
For only they understand the pain of this longing.

4. Whoever is taken away from his homeland
Yearns for the day he will return.

5. In every gathering, among those who are happy or sad,
I cry with the same lament.

6. Everyone hears according to his own understanding,
None has searched for the secrets within me.

7. My secret is found in my lament‚
But an eye or ear without light cannot know it . . ."

9. The sound of the reed comes from fire, not wind‚
What use is one's life without this fire?

10. It is the fire of love that brings music to the reed.
It is the ferment of love that gives taste to the wine.

11. The song of the reed soothes the pain of lost love.
Its melody sweeps the veils from the heart.

12. Can there be a poison so bitter or a sugar so sweet
As the song of the reed?

A. To hear the song of the reed
everything you have ever known must be left behind.

--Version by Johathan Star. From "Rumi: In the Arms of the
Beloved." (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1997). [Lines
indicated by a capital letter are invented and have no basis in the
Persian text.]


11. Translation by Gupta, 1997

1. O man! Hear the flute (an instrument made out of reeds) ***
which in wistful tone complains of being separated from its native
place, the reed-bed.

2. "From the moment they cut me off from my source, ***
I have been wailing, which has moved everyone, man or woman,
who heard me, to tears.

3. "I wish my heart to be torn into pieces ***
so that they could tell the tale of pangs of my separation and of my
longing for going back from where I came.

4. "Anyone who is thus removed from his spring, ***
waits every moment for an opportunity of returning to it.

5. "As for me, I have given vent to my feelings in every assembly,
*** to people who are on way to redemption, and those who
remain attached to this world.

6. "Everybody, according to his fancy, became friendly to me ***
but nobody sought to discover my secrets of my wistful wailings.

7. "And, yet my secrets are not far off from my cries ***
provided one has the eyes to see and the ears to hear them."

8. After all, spirit resides in the body, and body covers the spirit.
*** But body cannot see the spirit; it can only realize it. The flute
says: "My secret is not far away from my lamentation as the soul is
not remote from the body."

9. The sound of the flute is the fire born of love; it is not merely
wind and vapour.*** Anyone who is devoid of this fire is veritably
dead to this sound and cannot figure it out.

10. It is the fire of love which has set the flute aflame; ***
it is the fervour of love which has invigorated wine.

11. Flute is the companion of one who has separated from one's
beloved *** (for, only such a soul can understand the language of
love of the flute). Its strains have torn apart the covers of our hearts
(covers which prevent it from seeing reality; these covers are
covers of attachment with this world).

12. The flute is both poison and its antidote; ***
it is both lover and beloved). Who has ever seen a comrade and a
longing lover like the flute?

13. It points to the dangerous path of love-- the path on which all
desires for this world are slaughtered; *** it reminds us of the
passion of Qais-i Amri (Majnun) for his famous idol, Laila.

13a. The flute seems to have two apertures, one of which is pressed
in the mouth of the flutist and s hidden, and from the other, which
is open, the sound comes out. (But this sound is really the sound of
the flutist who is everything to the flute and without whom the
flute would not speak out. Similarly, every human being is like the
flute of which the player is God. It is He whose will is supreme
and who determines everything that happens or does not happen.
Like the flute, we also have two apertures, one of which is blown
by Him but remains hidden to us.)

13b. From the other aperture which opens towards you, the flute
emits its cry of anguish which is shaking (the earth and) the
heaven.

13c. But the really intelligent, the ones who have the eyes to see,
know that the sound which is coming out of the outer aperture is
the sound which comes from the mouth of the flute-player (and
from none else).

13d. All the strands and notes of the sound of the flute emanate
from the divine breath; every stirring of the soul is due to His
ordinances.

14. Anyone who becomes aware of these divine secrets, becomes
unconscious of everything else. *** It is only the ear which hears
that can understand this language.

14b. After all, some people do understand this language of love of
the flute. How else, can one explain the phenomenon of love which
seeks to sweeten anything which is bitter or tasteless?

15. And as for the lovers, days after days of separation have gone
by, *** when they burn in the fire of divine love.

16. But, what does it matter? If the days roll on, let them. ***
For, there is our beloved, the Supreme Lord, who in His purity, is
non-pareil. He is like the eternal river of ambrosia.

17. The fish in that river are never surfeit with its holy waters. ***
And anyone who gets satiated, is really not fish. No one who wants
anything from that Holiest of the holy can remain without his
wishes being fulfilled; from that general court, no beggar returns
disappointed.

18. To cut a long story short, no imperfect being can really
understand the state of the perfect.*** (Who can understand what
transpires in the mind and soul of the genuine, perfect lover?)

18a. There is, undoubtedly, fire in the wine which all wine-lovers
know. But that Fire is hopelessly poor in comparison with the fire
of true love. The heavens are known to revolve constantly but the
way the lover revolves around his beloved, beggars all description.

18b. It is only the spirit of love which has produced that
intoxicating effect in the wine; it is not the wine that intoxicates us.
Similarly, it is the spirit which has given rise to the body and not
vice versa.

18c. But, then, not everybody has the strength to stomach the
whole truth; not every bird can feed on figs. (Similarly, if the lover
of God were to narrate the tales of the flights of his lover, who will
believe him? Who will even understand a fraction of these tales?)

19. And, therefore, my son, (if you are a true seeker,) break free
from the bonds of this world. *** How long will you remain tied in
the chains of silver and gold?

20. If you pour the sea into a cup, how will that be contained? ***
One day's portion. (There is no limit to temptations; no end to the
quest for pour and pelf. Why remain bound by these strings?).

21. The greedy are never satisfied; their eyes are ever on the hunt
for their prey. That explains their discontent. *** Look at the shell
which receives one drop of rain and feels satisfied with it, closes
its mouth and produces the pearl.

22. One whose garment is ripped up by love ***
becomes wholly purged of greed and blemish. (As Sarmad said:
"He who conferred on you the emperor's crown has blest me with
the goods of anxiety. Whomsoever He found full of blemishes, He
clad him so that his blemishes might be covered. And whomsoever
He found to be without a fault, He allowed him to remain stark
naked.")

23. There is nothing as purifying as love, nothing as great a
cleanser of dirt and filth as ardour for God, *** nothing as perfect
a physician of all diseases as the fire of divine love. Blessed are
such lovers!

24. Love is the cure for all the fundamental and chronic diseases of
pride and the desire for honour and fame. *** For them, love is
like Galen and Plato.

25. The material body which is made of elements and which
eventually is dissolved back into them, can even go to heaven on
the wings of the angel of Love.*** Even the mountain can start
dancing and moving about, if it is energized by the power of love
(allusion to Jesus; the Koran, IV, 157, and to Mohammed in ibid.,
XVII, 1).

26. O lover! Behold how love enlivened the Mount Sinai, ***
when Moses was given the glimpses of divine light by God on top
of it, and fell down unconscious (the Koran, VII, 143).

26a. In the higher and lower notes of the flute, the divine secrets of
the Lord are hidden. If those secrets were to be let out, the world
might become topsy-turvy and people would be confused.

26b. If these notes of the flute could be decodified and if I could
disclose its contents to the world, it might cease to exist.

27. If I had been in communion with my beloved in the same way
as the blow-hole is in the mouth of the flutist, *** I could also
speak of the secrets of my beloved exactly as the flute (is giving
expression to the voice of the flutist, and I could also sing about
these secrets, the way the flute does).

28. One who gets separated from his beloved, ***
loses his real support even if he is supported by hundreds of people
in the world.

29. This is supported by the story of the nightingale which sings
merrily when it is in the company of its darling, the rose, but sinks
into silence with the advent of autumn in which the rose withers
away.

30. The beloved (God) is all-pervasive; the lover (man) is only its
screen. *** The beloved is ever alive; he alone is alive. The lover
is merged into the beloved and has lost his identity.

31. If the beloved is indifferent towards the lover, ***
the latter is like a bird with its wings cut off; woe betide him.

31a. Our love for the Lord is like the string which can fly us unto
His abode; it is like the hunter's net which can take the catch up to
the hunter.

32. As for me, I am not sufficiently possessed of love yet; I am not
yet completely lost in the love of my Lord. I am still aware of my
whereabouts, and I yet think of what has gone by and what is yet to
come. (This is because the light born of love for the Lord is yet
evading me.). That light of love is everywhere-- West and East,
North and South; it is in my crown; it is like a carcan around my
neck.

33. That love demands that everyone bathes in it; everyone covers
himself with its glory. *** But, unfortunately, the mirror of human
heart is covered with the layers of dust of desire, anger, greed,
attachment and pride and the love of that light cannot be reflected
in that mirror.

34. And do you know why that light of love is not caught by the
mirror of your heart? *** The reason is that it is all rusted with the
rust of desire.

34a. the mirror which is clear of that rust and has no dust of desire
etc. on it, ever reflects the light of the Supreme Sun (which
sustains all the lower solar systems).

34b. O brother! Go and cleanse the mirror of your heart of all the
rust of desire and then bathe in the effulgence of the light of God
which it is bound to reflect.

34c. Listen to this counsel by the ear of your soul so that you may
go out of this prison-house of earth and water.

34d. If you have even a grain of intelligence, give way to spirit;
only then you can be qualified to undertake the spiritual journey.
(First, get acquainted with the path; then alone your journey can be
negotiated without any let or hindrance.)


[The story of a king falling in love with a maid, his buying her, and
her falling ill and her treatment.]

35. O friends! Listen to this story (of a king's maid, with whom he
fell in love, her falling ill and the attempts to treat her). *** That
story is applicable to the current illness of man's spirit and the cure
which could be attempted.

--Translated by M. G. Gupta. From "Maulana Rum's Masnawi:
Volume One, Verses 1-4563." Translation and Commentary by M.
G. Gupta. (Agra, India: M. G. Publishers, second edition, 1997)
[This translation was from an edition of the Mathnawi with about
five hundred extra verses in Book One, added over the centuries;
lines indicated by a small letter are extra verses which Gupta
translated from Persian]


12. Version by Helminski, 1998

1. Listen to the reed and the tale it tells,
how it sings of separation:

2. Ever since they cut me from the reed bed,
my wail has caused men and women to weep.

3. I want a heart that is torn open with longing
so that I might share the pain of this love.

4. Whoever has been parted from his source
longs to return to that state of union.

5. At every gathering I play my lament. I'm a friend to both happy
and sad.

6. Each befriended me for his own reasons,
yet none searched out the secrets I contain.

7. My secret is not different than my lament,
yet this is not for the senses to perceive.

8. The body is not hidden from the soul,
nor is the soul hidden from the body, and yet the soul is not for
everyone to see.

9. This flute is played with fire, not with wind,
and without this fire you would not exist.

10. It is the fire of love that inspires the flute.
It is the ferment of love that completes the wine.

11. The reed is a comfort to all estranged lovers.
Its music tears our veils away.

12. Have you ever seen a poison or antidote like the reed? Have
you seen a more intimate companion and lover?

13. It sings of the path of blood;
it relates the passion of Majnun.

14. Only to the senseless is this sense confided.
Does the tongue have any patron but the ear?

15. Our days grow more unseasonable,
these days which mix with grief and pain. . .

16. but if the days that remain are few, let them go; it doesn't
matter. But You, You remain, for nothing is as pure as You are.

17. All but the fish quickly have their fill of His water,
and the day is long without His daily bread.

18. The raw do not understand the state of the ripe,
and so my words will be brief.

19. Break your bonds, be free, my child!
How long will silver and gold enslave you?

20. If you pour the whole sea into a jug,
will it hold more than one day's store.

21. The greedy eye, like the jug, is never filled.
Until content, the oyster holds no pearl.

22. Only one who has been undressed by Love
is free of defect and desire.

23. O Gladness, O Love, our partner in trade,
healer of all our ills,

24. Our Plato and Galen,
remedy for our pride and our vanity.

25. With love this earthly body could soar in the air;
the mountain could arise and nimbly dance.

26. Love gave life to Mount Sinai, O lover.
Sinai was drunk; Moses lost consciousness.

27. Pressed to the lips of one in harmony with myself,
I might also tell all that can be told;

28. but without a common tongue, I am dumb,
even if I have a hundred songs to sing.

29. When the rose is gone and the garden faded,
you will no longer hear the nightingale's song.

30. The Beloved is all; the lover just a veil.
The Beloved is living; the lover a dead thing.

31. If Love withholds its strengthening care,
the lover is left like a bird without wings.

32. How will I be awake and aware
if the light of the Beloved is absent?

33. Love wills that this Word be brought forth.

34. If you find the mirror of the heart dull,
the rust has not been cleared from its face.

35. O friends, listen to this tale,
the marrow of our inward state.

--Version by Kabir Helminski. From "The Rumi Collection: An
Anthology of Translations and Versions of Jalaluddin Rumi"
(Putney, Vermont: Threshold Books, 1998), pp. 145-46. This is a
revision of earlier versions ("Love is A Stranger," 1993, pp. 50-52;
"Ruins of the Heart," 1981, pp. 19-20).


13. Rhymed Translation by Shahriari, 1998

1. Pay heed to the grievances of the reed
Of what divisive separations breed

2. From the reedbed cut away just like a weed
My music people curse, warn and heed

3. Sliced to pieces my bosom and heart bleed
While I tell this tale of desire and need.

4. Whoever who fell away from the source
Will seek and toil until returned to course

5. Of grievances I sang to every crowd
Befriended both the humble and the proud

6. Each formed conjecture in their own mind
As though to my secrets they were blind

7. My secrets are buried within my grief
Yet to the eye and ear, that's no relief

8. Body and soul both unveiled in trust
Yet sight of soul for body is not a must.

9. The flowing air in this reed is fire
Extinct, if with passion won't inspire

10. Fire of love is set upon the reed
Passion of love this wine will gladly feed

11. Reed is match for he who love denied
Our secrets unveiled, betrayed, defied.

12. Who has borne deadly opium like the reed?
Or lovingly to betterment guide and lead?

13. Of the bloody path, will tell many a tale
Of Lover's love, even beyond the veil.

14. None but the fool can hold wisdom dear
Who will care for the tongue if not ear?

15 In this pain, of passing days we lost track
Each day carried the pain upon its back

16. If days pass, let them go without fear
You remain, near, clear, and so dear.

17. Only the fish will unquenchingly thirst,
Surely passing of time, the hungry curst.

18. State of the cooked is beyond the raw
The wise in silence gladly withdraw.

19. Cut the chain my son, and release the pain
Silver rope and golden thread, must refrain

20. If you try to fit the ocean in a jug
How small will be your drinking mug?

21. Never filled, ambitious boy, greedy girl,
Only if satisfied, oyster makes pearl.

22. Whoever lovingly lost shirt on his back
Was cleansed from greed and wanton attack

23. Rejoice in our love, which would trade
Ailments, of every shade and every grade

24. With the elixir of self-knowing, chaste
With Hippocratic and Galenic taste.

25. Body of dust from love ascends to the skies
The dancing mountain thus begins to rise

26. It was the love of the Soul of Mount Sinai
Drunken mountain, thundering at Moses, nigh.

27. If coupled with those lips that blow my reed
Like the reed in making music I succeed;

28. Whoever away from those lips himself found
Lost his music though made many a sound.

29. When the flower has withered, faded away
The canary in praise has nothing to say.

30. All is the beloved, the lover is the veil
Alive is the beloved, the lover in death wail

31. Fearless love will courageously dare
Like a bird that's in flight without a care

32. How can I be aware, see what's around,
If there is no showing light or telling sound?

33. Seek the love that cannot be confined
Reflection in the mirror is object defined.

34. Do you know why the mirror never lies?
Because keeping a clean face is its prize.

35. Friends, listen to the tale of this reed
For it is the story of our life, indeed!

--Translated by Shahriar Shahriari, April 27, 1998, Vancouver,
Canada, posted on the Internet, at www.rumionfire.com. [The
translator was born a Zoroastrian, was educated in England and
Canada, and was a mechanical engineer until 1994.]


14. Translation by Nasr, 2000

1. Listen to the reed how it narrates a tale,***
A tale of all the separations of which it complains.

2. Ever since they cut me from the reed-bed,***
Men and women bemoaned my lament.

3. How I wish in separation, a bosom shred and shred,***
So as to utter the description of the pain of longing.

4. Whoever becomes distanced from his roots,***
Seeks to return to the days of his union.

5. I joined every gathering uttering my lament,***
Consorting with the joyous and the sorrowful.

6. Everyone befriended me following his own opinion,***
No one sought the secrets from within me.

7. My secret is not far away from my lament,***
Yet, eye and ear do not possess that light.

8. Body is not hidden from soul, nor soul from body,***
Yet, none has the license to see the soul.

9. The cry of the reed is fire, not wind,***
Whoso does not possess this fire may he be naught.

10. 'Tis the fire of Love that befelled the reed,***
'Tis the fervent desire of Love that entered the wine.

11. The reed is the comrade of whoever has become severed from
a friend,*** Its strains have rent asunder our veils.

12. Who has ever seen a poison and an antidote like the reed?***
Who has ever seen a consort and a longing lover like the reed?

13. [omitted]

14. The confident of this consciousness is none other than the
unconscious.*** For the tongue has no client save the ear.

15. In our sorrow the days of our life become unseasonable,***
The days have become fellow travelers of burning grief.

16. If the days have passed, say go it matters not,***
Do Thou remain, O Thou like whom there is no one pure.

17. Whoever is not a fish becomes sated with His water.***
Whoever has no daily bread, his day becomes long.

18. The state of the ripe, none who is raw understands,***
Hence brief my words must be. Farewell.

19. O Son, break the chains that bind thee and be free,***
For how long wilt thou continue to be a slave of silver and gold.

20. If thou pourest the sea into a pitcher,***
How much will it hold? The share of one day.

21. The pitcher that is the eye of the covetous full becomes not,***
Until the oyster shell becomes contented, it does not full of pearls
become.

22. He whose garment is rent by Love,***
He alone becomes purified of covetousness and every defect.

23. Hail to thee O our Love with goodly passion,***
O physician of all our ailments,

24. O remedy of our pride and honor,***
O Thou our Plato and Galen besides.

25. The body of dust has risen to the heavens through Love,***
The mountain has begun to dance and become nimble.

26. O lover, Love became the soul of Mt. Sinai,***
Mt Sinai became drunk and Moses fell into a swoon.

27. If my lips were to be joined with a kindred soul,***
Like the reed I would tell all that could be told.

28. Whoever has become separated from one who his tongue
understands,*** Becomes dumb were he to have a hundred songs.

29. When the flower departs and the rose garden fades,***
Thou hearest no longer the story of the nightingale.

30. The Beloved is all, the lover but a veil,***
The beloved is alive, the lover but a dead thing.

31. When Love no longer cares for him,***
He becomes like a bird without feather, alas for him!

32. How can I have consciousness before and after,***
If the light of my Friend not be before and after?

33. Love wills that this word be cast forth,***
If the mirror does not reflect, how is that so?

34. Doest thou know why thy mirror nothing reflects?***
Because the rust has not become cleansed from its face.

--Translated by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. From "The Lament of the
Reed: Rumi," translated and recited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr,
music directed by Suleyman Ergunerm, 2000. A Compact Disc,
Asr Media, P.O. Box 46069, Madison, WI 53744,
www.asrmedia.com. In the English translation, line 13 was
omitted, both in the English text and recording. In line 30, the text
has "the lover but a dead being," but Professor Nasr recited, "the
lover but a dead thing."


15. Translation by Gamard, 2000

1. Listen to the reed (flute), how it is complaining! ***
It is telling about separations,

2. (Saying), "Ever since I was severed from the reed field, ***
men and women have lamented in (the presence of) my shrill cries.

3. "(But) I want a heart (which is) torn, torn from separation, ***
so that I may explain the pain of yearning."

4. "Anyone one who has remained far from his roots, ***
seeks a return (to the) time of his union.

5. "I lamented in every gathering; ***
I associated with those in bad or happy circumstances.

6. "(But) everyone became my friend from his (own) opinion; ***
he did not seek my secrets from within me.

7. "My secret is not far from my lament, ***
but eyes and ears do not have the light (to sense it).

8. "The body is not hidden from the soul, nor the soul from the
body; *** but seeing the soul is not permitted."

9. The reed's cry is fire -- it's not wind! ***
Whoever doesn't have this fire, may he be nothing!

10. It is the fire of Love that fell into the reed. ***
(And) it is the ferment of Love that fell into the wine.

11. The reed (is) the companion of anyone who was severed from a
friend; *** its melodies tore our veils.

12. Who has seen a poison and a remedy like the reed? ***
Who has seen a harmonious companion and a yearning friend like
the reed?

13. The reed is telling the story of the path full of blood; ***
it is telling stories of Majnoon's (crazed) love.

14. There is no confidant (of) this understanding except the
senseless! *** There is no purchaser of that tongue except the ear
[of the mystic.]

15. In our longing, the days became (like) evenings; ***
the days became fellow-travellers with burning fevers.

16. If the days have passed, tell (them to) go, (and) don't worry.
*** (But) You remain! -- O You, whom no one resembles in
Purity!

17. Everyone becomes satiated by water, except the fish. ***
(And) everyone who is without daily food [finds that] his days
become long.

18. None (who is) "raw" can understand the state of the "ripe." ***
Therefore, (this) speech must be shortened. So farewell!

19. O son, break the chains (and) be free! ***
How long will you be shackled to silver and gold?

20. If you pour the sea into a jug, ***
how much will it contain? (Just) one day's portion.

21. The jug of the eye of the greedy will never be filled. ***
(And) as long as the oyster is not content, it will never be filled by
a pearl.

22. Anyone (whose) robe is torn from love, ***
becomes completely purified from greed and defect.

23. Be joyous! O our sweet melancholy Love! ***
O doctor of all our diseases!

24. O Medicine of our pride and vanity! ***
O you (are) our Plato and (our) Galen!

25. The earthly body went up to the heavens from Love! ***
The mountain began to dance and became agile!

26. O lover! Love became the soul of Mount Sinai! ***
Mount Sinai (became) drunk "and Moses fell down senseless"!

27. If I were joined with the lip of a harmonious companion, ***
I (too) would utter speeches like the reed!

28. (But) anyone who becomes separated from one of the same
tongue *** becomes without a tongue, even if he has a hundred
songs [to share].

29. When the rose has gone and the garden has passed away, ***
you will no longer hear from the nightingale (about) what
happened.

30. The Beloved is All, and the lover (is merely) a veil; ***
the Beloved is Living, and the lover (is merely) a corpse.

31. When Love has no concern for him, ***
he is left like a bird without wings. Misery for him!

32. How can I have awareness of before and behind, ***
when the Light of my Beloved is no (longer) before and behind?

33. Love wants these words to manifest. ***
(But) how is it that the mirror reveals nothing?

34. Do you know why your mirror reveals nothing? ***
Because the rust is not separated from its face!

--Translated by Ibrahim Gamard. First published on the Web,
on the listserve, "Sunlight," http://www.yahoogroups.com.,3/00.
For explanatory notes and transliteration of the original Persian,
see "The Song of the Reed," parts one, two, and four on this
website.


16. Translation by Lewis, 200

1. Listen
as this reed
pipes its plaint ***
unfolds its tale
of separations:

2. Cut from my reedy bed ***
my crying
ever since
makes men and women
weep

3. I like to keep my breast
carved with loss ***
to convey
the pain of longing --

4. Once severed
from the root, ***
thirst for union
with the source
endures

5. I raise my plaint
in any kind of crowd ***
in front of both
the blessed and the bad

6. For what they think they hear me say, they love me -- ***
None gaze in me my secrets to discern

7. My secret is not separate from my cry ***
But ears and eyes lack light to see it.

8. Not soul from flesh
not flesh from soul are veiled, ***
yet none is granted leave to see the soul.

9. Fire, not breath, makes music through that pipe -- ***
Let all who lack that fire be blown away.

10. It is love's fire that inspires the reed ***
It's love's ferment that bubbles in the wine

11. The reed, soother to all sundered lovers -- ***
its piercing modes reveal our hidden pain:

12. (What's like the reed, both poison and physic, ***
Soothing as it pines and yearns away?)

13. The reed tells the tale of a blood-stained quest ***
singing legends of love's mad obsessions.

14. Only the swooning know such awareness ***
only the ear can comprehend the tongue

15. In our sadness time slides listlessly by ***
the days searing inside us as they pass.

16. But so what if the days may slip away? ***
so long as you, Uniquely Pure, abide.

17. Within this sea drown all who drink but fish ***
If lived by bread alone, the day seems long

18. No raw soul ever kens the cooked one's state ***
So let talk of it be brief; go in peace.

19. Break off your chains
My son, be free! ***
How long enslaved
by silver, gold?

20. Pour the ocean
in a pitcher ***
can it hold more
than one day's store?

21. The jug, like a greedy eye,
never gets its fill ***
only the contented oyster holds the pearl

22. The one run ragged by love and haggard ***
gets purged of all his faults and greeds

23. Welcome, Love!
sweet salutary suffering ***
and healer of our maladies!

24. cure of our pride
of our conceits. ***
Our Plato
Our Galen!

25. By Love
our earthly flesh
borne to heaven ***
our mountains
made supple
moved to dance

26. Love moved Mount Sinai, my love, ***
and it made Moses swoon [K7:143]

27. Let me just touch those harmonious lips ***
and I, reed-like, will tell what may be told

28. A man may know a myriad of songs ***
but cut from those who know his tongue, he's dumb

29. Once the rose wilts and the garden fades ***
the nightingale will no more sing his tune.

30. The Beloved is everything -- the lover a veil ***
The Beloved's alive -- the lover carrion.

31. Unsuccored by Love, the poor lover is ***
a plucked bird

32. Without the Beloved's
surrounding illumination
how perceive what's ahead
and what's gone by?

33. Love commands these words appear; ***
if no mirror reflects them
in whom lies the fault?

34. The dross obscures your face ***
and makes your mirror
unable to reflect

--Translated by Franklin D. Lewis. From "Rumi-- Past and Present,
East and West: The Life, Teaching and Poetry of Jalâl al-Din
Rumi," by Franklin D. Lewis (Oxford, England: Oneworld
Publications), pp. 362-64


17. Rhymed Translation by Legenhausen, 2002

1. Listen to this reed as it complains,
As it tells of separations in its strains:

2. Ever since I was torn from the land in which I grew
Men have been weeping to my piping, men and women, too.

3. I want a breast torn apart by parting
So I can tell it of the pain that accompanies my longing.

4. Whoever stays too long away from his own country
Searches for reunion, and his search is made daily.

5. I have been lamenting in all sorts of assembly.
I have been in bad as well as in good company.

6. Each imagines himself to have befriended me;
None have sought out the secrets within me.

7. My secret is not far from this lament you hear,
But it is something seen by neither eye nor ear.

8. The soul is not barred from the body, nor body from soul,
Yet no one is permitted to gaze upon the soul.

9. This blare and blast is not windŰitĚs fire!
Let there be no one who is without this fire!

10. It is the fire of love that blows through the reed,
It is the boiling of love that ferments the mead.

11. The reed is companion to anyone who has lost a friend.
Its piercing whistle pierces through to the end.

12. Who has seen such a poison and such an antidote as the reed?
Who has seen such companionship and such longing as the reed?

13. None are privy to this consciousness but those who have
become unconscious.
The tongue has no other customer but the ear for its produce.

14. The reed tells of a blood-soaked road; itĚs tale is gory.
Of the love of one possessed, the reed tells the story.

15. In my sorrow, how long it takes
The days to pass with my heartaches.

16. If those days are gone, let them go and be done with them.
You stay here with me, for you are pure like none of them.

17. For all except fishes, water will sate.
For all without bread, it seems to be late.

18 A seasoned state for the raw is all wrong,
Therefore my talk should be shortened: so-long!


--Translated by Hajj Muhammad Legenhausen ©2002
Sent to Dar Al-Masnavi on January 17, 2002:
"In the Name of the Exalted, Dear residents of Dar al-Mathnavi,
Salaam alaykum! Here's my version of the Reed's song."
Peace, Hajj Muhammad Legenhausen,
Qom, Iran


18. Rhymed Translation by Tamdgidi, 2003

1. Listen to how this reed is wailing;
About separations it's complaining:

2."From reedbed since parted was I,
Men, women, have cried from my cry.

3."Only a heart, torn-torn, longing
Can hear my tales of belonging.

4."Whosoever lost her/his essence,
For reuniting seeks lessons.

5."In the midst of all I cried
For the sad and happy, both sighed

6."But they heard only what they knew,
Sought not after the secrets I blew.

7."My secret's not far from this, my cry;
But, eye or ear lack the light to seek and try.

8."Body and soul each other do not veil
But there is no one to hear her/his soul's tale."

9. What blows in reed's not wind, but fire;
Whoever lost it, is lost entire.

10. What set the reed on fire is love, love;
What brews the wine entire is love, love.

11. Reed comes of use when lovers depart;
It's wailing scales tear love's veilings apart

12. Like reed, both poison and cure, who saw?
Like reed, comrade and devout who saw?

13. Reed tells of the bleeding heart's tales,
Tells of what mad lovers' love entails

14. With the truth, only the seeker's intimate,
As the tongue knows only the ear's estimate.

15. Days, nights, lost count in my sorrow;
Past merged in this sorrow with tomorrow.

16. If the day is gone, say:"So what! go, go!
But remain, O you pure, O my sorrow!"

17. This water's dispensable, but not for the fish.
Hungry finds days long without a dish.

18. Cooked soul's unknowable if you're raw;
Must quit then, no more tire the jaw.

(pause)

19. Break the chain, . .. be free, ... O boy!
How long will you remain that gold's toy?!

20. Say you have oceans, but how can you pour
All oceans in a single day's jar, more and more?!

21. The greedy's eye-jar will never fill up;
No pearl, if oyster's mouth doesn't give up.

22. Whoever tore her/his robe in love's affair
Tore free of greed, flaw, and false care.

23. Joy upon you! O sorrowful sweet love!
O the healer! healer of ills! love! love!

24. O the healer of pride, of our shame!
O Galen in name, Platonic in fame!

25. Earth's whirling in heavens for love, love;
Hill's whirling round the earth for love, love.

26. Love's the soul in hill. It's Love in the hill
That brought the hill down and Moses the chill.

27. If coupled my lips with friend's on and on,
I'll tell tales, like reed, long, long.

28. Uncoupled, though, these lips will cease wails,
Lose tongue, though remain untold tales.

29. If the rose is dead, garden long gone,
No canary can recite her/his song long.

30. The lover is veiled; beloved's the all.
The veil must die to hear the beloved's call

31. If you do stay away from love, hear, hear!
Like a wingless bird you'll die, fear, fear!

32. How can I stay awake and see the road,
If lover's light shine not on my abode?

33. Love always seeks ways to spread the light.
Why, then, does your mirror reflect a night?

34. Your mirror bears no tales--you'd like to know?
'Cause your rust keeps away all lights' glow.

---Translated by Mohammad H. (Behrooz) Tamdgidi
--sent to Dar Al-Masnavi on November 20, 2003; revised February
18, 2005. Tamdgidi is Assistant Professor of Sociology, teaching
social theory at UMass Boston. http://www.okcir.com


19. Translation by Tillinghast and Shafak, 2003

1. Listen, how this flute complains; how it tells of estrangement.

2. It says: Ever since they cut me from my reedy bed, men have
cried and wailed when I cried--and women too.

3. I want a heart wounded by separation, so I can tell the pain of
longing.

4. He who is cut off from his essence looks for the time of reunion.

5. I wept and moaned in every gathering, with the well-off and the
badly-off.

6. Everyone in his own way became my friend; no one wondered
about the secrets I have inside of me.

7. My secret is no different from what I cry aloud; but the light to
understand it is not found in the eye or in the ear.

8. The body is not hidden from the soul, nor is the soul a secret to
the body; yet no one is permitted to see the soul.

9. The voice of the flute is fire, not wind; whoever does not have
that fire inside him, let him disappear.

10. The fire of love has struck the flute; the frenzy of love has
struck the wine.

11. The flute is one of a pair separated from a friend, and it is that
friend; it has torn the curtains, it has ripped away our veils.

12. The flute speaks of a path full of blood; it also tells the love
stories of Mejnun.

13. Who has seen a poison like the flute, or a remedy like the flute?
Who has seen a breath-companion like the flute, or anyone
who yearns like the flute?

14. The secret of this knowing is no different from not-knowing;
the tongue's only customer is the ear.

15. The days have passed in sorrow, and become nights; the days
of fire became my traveling companions, then burned away.

16. If the days pass and go, say this: Pass, go, we have no fear.
You, friend, stay. There is nothing like you for purity.

17. Everyone gets their fill of water except the fish; for those
without their daily bread the day lengthens and gets longer.

18. The unripe have no understanding of the ripe; none at all. That
being the case, it's best to cut words short--Fare thee well!

--Translated (from a Turkish translation by Abdulbaki
Golpinarli) by Richard Tillinghast and Elif Shafak
--sent to Dar Al-Masnavi on December 16, 2003:
"I don't know if you would want to print this on the Mesnevi
website. Elif Shafak, the Turkish novelist, and I have translated
this from the Turkish translation by Golpinarli. It's not as poetic as
some of the other translations you print on the website, but perhaps
it has the virtue of greater faithfulness to the original."
Richard Tillinghast, Professor of English,
Dept. of English Language & Literature
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~rwtill


20. Rhymed Translation by Mojaddedi, 2004

1. Now listen to this reed-flute's deep lament
About the heartache being apart has meant:

2. 'Since from the reed-bed they uprooted me
My song's expressed each human's agony,

3. A breast which separation's split in two
Is what I seek, to share this pain with you:

4. When kept from their true origin, all yearn
For union on the day they can return.

5. Among the crowd, alone I mourn my fate,
With good and bad I've learned to integrate,

6. That we were friends each one was satisfied
But none sought out my secrets from inside;

7. My deepest seecret's in this song I wail
But eyes and ears can't penetrate the veil:

8. Body and soul are joined to form one whole
But no one is allowed to see the soul.'

9. It's fire not just hot air the reed-flute's cry,
If you don't have this fire then you should die!

10. Love's fire is what makes every reed-flute pine,
Love's fervour thus lends potency to wine;

11. The reed consoles those forced to be apart,
Its notes will lift the veil upon your heart,

12. Where's antidote or poison like its song,
Or confidant, or one who's pined so long?

13. This reed relates a tortuous path ahead,
Recalls the love with which Majnun's heart bled:

14. The few who hear the truths the reed has sung
Have lost their wits so they can speak this tongue.

15. The day is wasted if it's spent in grief,
Consumed by burning aches without relief--

16. Good times have long passed, but we couldn't care
When you're with us, our friend beyond compare!

17. While ordinary men on drops can thrive
A fish needs oceans daily to survive:

18. The way the ripe must feel the raw can't tell,
My speech must be concise, and so farewell!

--Translated by Jawid Mojaddedi. From "Rumi: The Masnavi,
Book One," New York: Oxford University Press, 2004


21. Translation by Williams, 2006

1. - Listen to this reed as it is grieving;
it tells the story of our separations.

2. 'Since I was severed from the bed of reeds,
in my cry men and women have lamented.

3. I need the breast that's torn to shreds by parting
to give expression to the pain of heartache.

4. Whoever finds himself left far from home
looks forward to the day of his reunion.

5. I was in grief in every gathering;
I joined with those of sad and happy state.

6. Each person thought he was my bosom friend,
but none sought out my secrets from within me.

7. My secret is not far from my lament,
but eye and ear have no illumination.

8. There's no concealment of the soul and body,
yet no one has the power to see the soul.

9. The reed-flute's sound is fire, not human breath.
Whoever does not have this fire, be gone!

10. The fire of love is burning in the reed;
the turbulence of love is in the wine.

11. The reed is friend to all who are lovelorn;
its melodies have torn our veils apart.

12. Whoever saw a poison and a cure,
a mate and longing lover like the reed?

13. The reed tells of the road that runs with blood;
it tells the tales of Majnun's passionate love.

14. This sense is closed to all except the senseless,
and words are all the ear can ever purchase.

15. In all our grief the days turned into nights,
the days fell into step with searing pains.

16. If days are gone, say "Go! There is no fear,
and stay, O You who are uniquely holy."

17. His flood deluges all except the fish;
the day is long for him who has no bread.

18. The raw can't grasp the state of one who's cooked,
so this discussion must be brief - farewell!

19. Be free, my son, and break your chains asunder!
How long will you be slaveto gold and silver?

20. If you should pour the sea into a pitcher,
how much will it contain? At best, a day's worth!

21. The greedy eye's a pitcher never filled;
the pearl won't fill the discontented shell.

22. They will be wholly cleansed of greed and faults
whose clothes are torn to shreds by lovers' passion.

23. Rejoice, O Love, that is our sweetest passion,
physician of our many illnesses!

24. Relief from our pomposity and boasting,
O You who are our Plato and our Galen!

25. For Love the earthly body soared to heaven,
the mountain took to dancing and to skipping.

26. When Love approached Mount Sinai's soul,
O lover,
Sinai was drunk and "Moses fell aswoon."

27. If I were pressed to my companion's lips,
then like the reed I'd tell what must be told.

28. A man cut off from fellow native-speakers
is tongue-tied, though he has a hundred songs.

29. And when the rose is gone, the garden faded,
you will no longer hear the nightingale.

30. The lover is a veil, All is Beloved,
Beloved lives, the lover is a corpse.

31. When Love no longer has a care for him
he's like a wingless bird - alas for him!

32. How can I understand the things around me
when my comanion's light is not around me?

33. But love demands that these words shall be spoken;
how can a mirror be without reflection?

34. Do you know why your mirror tells of nothing?
The rust has not been taken from its surface.

35. Reflect upon this story, my dear friends;
its meaning is the essence of our state.

--Translated by Alan Williams. From "Rumi: Spiritual Verses, The
First Book of the Masnavi-ye Ma'navi," London: Penguin, 2006.
(Rendered into iambic pentameter: oX oX oX oX oX (o); a
hyphen preceding a line signifies to omit the initial light stress.)

21. Translation by Williams, 2006

1. - Listen to this reed as it is grieving;
it tells the story of our separations.

2. 'Since I was severed from the bed of reeds,
in my cry men and women have lamented.

3. I need the breast that's torn to shreds by parting
to give expression to the pain of heartache.

4. Whoever finds himself left far from home
looks forward to the day of his reunion.

5. I was in grief in every gathering;
I joined with those of sad and happy state.

6. Each person thought he was my bosom friend,
but none sought out my secrets from within me.

7. My secret is not far from my lament,
but eye and ear have no illumination.

8. There's no concealment of the soul and body,
yet no one has the power to see the soul.

9. The reed-flute's sound is fire, not human breath.
Whoever does not have this fire, be gone!

10. The fire of love is burning in the reed;
the turbulence of love is in the wine.

11. The reed is friend to all who are lovelorn;
its melodies have torn our veils apart.

12. Whoever saw a poison and a cure,
a mate and longing lover like the reed?

13. The reed tells of the road that runs with blood;
it tells the tales of Majnun's passionate love.

14. This sense is closed to all except the senseless,
and words are all the ear can ever purchase.

15. In all our grief the days turned into nights,
the days fell into step with searing pains.

16. If days are gone, say "Go! There is no fear,
and stay, O You who are uniquely holy."

17. His flood deluges all except the fish;
the day is long for him who has no bread.

18. The raw can't grasp the state of one who's cooked,
so this discussion must be brief - farewell!

19. Be free, my son, and break your chains asunder!
How long will you be slaveto gold and silver?

20. If you should pour the sea into a pitcher,
how much will it contain? At best, a day's worth!

21. The greedy eye's a pitcher never filled;
the pearl won't fill the discontented shell.

22. They will be wholly cleansed of greed and faults
whose clothes are torn to shreds by lovers' passion.

23. Rejoice, O Love, that is our sweetest passion,
physician of our many illnesses!

24. Relief from our pomposity and boasting,
O You who are our Plato and our Galen!

25. For Love the earthly body soared to heaven,
the mountain took to dancing and to skipping.

26. When Love approached Mount Sinai's soul,
O lover,
Sinai was drunk and "Moses fell aswoon."

27. If I were pressed to my companion's lips,
then like the reed I'd tell what must be told.

28. A man cut off from fellow native-speakers
is tongue-tied, though he has a hundred songs.

29. And when the rose is gone, the garden faded,
you will no longer hear the nightingale.

30. The lover is a veil, All is Beloved,
Beloved lives, the lover is a corpse.

31. When Love no longer has a care for him
he's like a wingless bird - alas for him!

32. How can I understand the things around me
when my comanion's light is not around me?

33. But love demands that these words shall be spoken;
how can a mirror be without reflection?

34. Do you know why your mirror tells of nothing?
The rust has not been taken from its surface.

35. Reflect upon this story, my dear friends;
its meaning is the essence of our state.

--Translated by Alan Williams. From "Rumi: Spiritual Verses, The
First Book of the Masnavi-ye Ma'navi," London: Penguin, 2006.
(Rendered into iambic pentameter: oX oX oX oX oX (o); a
hyphen preceding a line signifies to omit the initial light stress.)

21. Translation by Holbrook, 2010

1. Listen to this reed flute as it tells its tales
Complaining of separations as it wails:

2. "Since they cut my stalk away from the reed bed
My outcry has made men and women lament

3. I seek a breast that is torn to shreds by loss
So that I may explicate the pain of want

4. Everyone who's far from his own origin
Seeks to be united with it once again

5. I have cried out in the company of all
I sought out the good and sought the bad in all

6. Everyone supposed that he was my close friend
No one tried to find my secrets hid within

7. My inner life is not far off from my cry
But the light to see is not in ear or eye

8. Spirit's not hid from flesh nor flesh from spirit
But none is granted leave to see the spirit."

9. It's not wind, it's fire, this reed-stalk's wailing song
Anyone who doesn't have it, won't live on

10. What has struck the reed-stalk is the fire of love
What has struck the wine is deep passion of love

11. Anyone who's lost a friend, the reed's with him
Its wails tear apart the veils that keep us in

12. Who has seen a poison or cure like the reed?
Who has seen a lover or mate like the reed?

13. It's the reed tells of the road that runs with blood
It's the reed tells tales of madman Majnun's love.

14. Only to those without sense is such sense known
Yet the ear has no customer but the tongue

15. In our grief our days have passed by suddenly
Searing pangs have kept our life's days company

16. Bt though days pass by, say, "Go!"--there's naught to fear
You but stay, You who unlike all else are pure

17. His water sates all but the fish of the sea
Without daily bread the day goes by slowly

18. The states of the cooked can't be grasped by the raw
So the less talk the better, farewell for now!

19. Be free, O my son, loosen and shed your chains
How long will silver and gold keep you in chains?

20. If you try to pour an ocean in a jar
How much will it hold? A day's worth and no more

21. The jar of greedy men's eyes is never full
Till the oyster is content it has no pearl

22. Anyone whose robe has burst apart with love
Is purified of avarice and all fault

23. O sweet love, be joyful, passion fine of ours
O physician of all maladies of ours

24. Remedy for our false pride and our good name
O You who are our Plato and our Galen

25. Earthy body soared to the skies out of love
The mount rose nimble and dancing out of love

26. Love was, O lover, the spirit of Sinai
Moses swooned when he beheld a drunk Sinai

27. Were I lip to lip with one who breathes with me
I would tell all that should be told, like the reed

28. Anyone parted from those who speak his tongue
Though he may know a hundred songs, has no tongue

29. When the garden fades and the rose is no more
You will hear the nightingale's story no more

30. All is the beloved, the lover a screen
The beloved lives, the lover's a dead thing

31. When there is no appetite for love in him
Hee is left there like a bird without a wing

32. How should I sense what's before me or behind
When my friend's light is not there fore or behind

33. Love desires that this I say should be brought out
What's a mirror if it won't bring secrets out?

34. Do you know why your mirror's not indiscreet?
There's so much rust that you cannot see its cheek

--Translated by Victoria Holbrook. From "Listen: Commentary on the Spiritual Couplets of Mevlana Rumi by Kenan Rifai," Louisville, Kentucky: Fons Vitae, 2011.
(Rendered into imperfect rhyme (vowel or consonant), while maintaining the same syllabic count (eleven syllables) that is in the Persian text of Rumi's Masnavi)


22. Rhymed Translation by Sadri, 2015

1. Listen to the reed-flute as it complains,
The tale of separations it explains.

2. "Ever since they tore me off the reed bed's bowels,
My wailing has moved man and woman to howls.

3. I want a bosom, by separation's agony torn, torn,
So I may speak of the yearnings' pain I have borne.

4. He who is separated from his quintessence,
Will seek the times of his re-acquaintance.

5. I have moaned in gatherings of every bent,
Consorted with the content and the discontent.

6. Each befriended me on his own surmise.
None sought my secrets, inner-wise.

7. My secret is not far from my wailing plight,
Alas, the ear and eye lack that astute light."

8. Body is not veiled from soul, nor soul from body,
Yet no one is given leave to witness the soul disembody.

9. This cry of the reed is not wind, it is fire.
He who lacks this fire, may he expire.

10. It is the fire of love that echoes in the reed,
It is the ferment of love, mingled in the mead.

11. Reed, the confidant of the lovelorn,
Its melodies our veils have torn.

12. Whoever saw a poison and a medicine like the reed?
Whoever saw a better comrade and yearner indeed?

13. The reed speaks of the path, blood-spattered,
Tells legends of "Majnun," lovelorn and tattered.

14. None shares this sense but he who has lost all senses,
None but the ear can hear what this tongue dispenses.

15. In our gloom, days have expired,
Days in burning sorrows have been mired.

16. Yet if days have gone, let them go, I am fearless.
You remain, you: the pure, the peerless.

17. Whoever is not a fish, has been sated of his water,
Whoever without daily ration, was the late day's squatter.

18. The raw's bafflement with the ripe will never cease,
So, the talk must be terse, farewell and, Peace.

--Translated by Mahmoud Sadri, Professor of Sociology, Texas Woman's University and the Federation of North Texas Area Universities, March 21, 2015

--Sent to Dar Al-Masnavi on May 11, 2015: "Dear brothers and sisters: I have provided a new translation of the 'Epistle of the Reed' in English. I have consulted every (rhyming or otherwise) translations of the first 18 lines of Masnavi, including all of the translations on your invaluable site."