(2 translations from the Arabic by Michael A. Sells)
from Ibn Arabi's TRANSLATOR OF DESIRES (Ibis Editions, 2000)
"Lords Of Love"
I wish I knew if they knew
whose heart they have taken
Or my heart knew
which high-ridge track they follow.
Do you picture them safe
or do you picture them perished?
The lords of love in love
are ensnared, bewildered.
from "Bid Hurayra Farewell" by Al-A'sha (Desert Tracings - Six Classic Arabian Odes -Wesleyan, 1989)
Bid Hurayra farewell.
The riders are departing.
Can you, man that you are,
bear bidding farewell?
Brow aglow, hair flowing,
a gleam from the side teeth as she smiles,
she walks gently as a gazelle,
tender-hoofed in wet soil,
As if her walk
from the tent of a neighbor
were the gliding of a cloud
neither slow nor hurried.
You hear her anklets whisper
as she turns away
like cassia rustling
suppliant in the breeze.
She's not one of those
whose neighbors hate to see her face.
You won't find her,
ear to their secrets, listening.
She braces herself
or she'd be thrown back flat
when rising to visit a neighbor,
She entertains her companion awhile,
lower back and buttocks
Full at the bodice
at the waist sash nil,
a belle, seeming as she comes near
to divide in two.
How sweet a bedmate
on a cloudy afternoon,
not for some unbathed rude
to lay and take some pleasure,
elbows soft, walk tender,
as if a thorn were caught
in the arch of her sandal.
As she rises
a fragrance of musk trails,
her sleeve-cuffs with the scent
of rose jasmine brimming over.
No meadow of the meadows
of the roughland plateau,
luxuriant and green, blessed
by dark-trailing big-dropped clouds,
When the sun is teased
by a blosssom in full flower,
drenched in color,
mantled deep in rushes and greens,
Is ever more fragrant,
than she, or more beautiful
when evening shadows fall.
Rumi (from THE MASNAVI - Book One)
translated by Jawid Mojaddedi (OUP, 2004)
(from "The Healing Of The Sick Slave Girl")
Being a lover means your heart must ache,
No sickness hurts as much as when hearts break,
The lover's ailment's totally unique,
Love is the astrolabe of all we seek,
Whether you feel divine or earthly love,
Ultimately we're destined for above.
To capture love whatever words I say
Make me ashamed when love arrives my way,
While explanation sometimes makes things clear
True love through silence only one can hear:
The pen would smoothly write the things it knew
But when it came to love it split in two,
A donkey stuck in mud is logic's fate,
Love's nature only love can demonstrate:
(from "The Song Of The Reed")
Love's fire is what makes every reed-flute pine,
Love's fervour thus lends potency to wine;
The reed consoles those forced to be apart,
Its notes will lift the veil upon your heart,
Where's antidote or poison like its song,
Or confidant, or one who's pined so long?
This reed relates a tortuous path ahead,
Recalls the love with which Majnun's heart bled:
The few who hear the truths the reed has sung
Have lost their wits so they can speak this tongue.
The day is wasted if it's spent in grief,
Consumed by burning aches without relief -
Good times have long passed, but we couldn't care
When you're with us, our friend beyond compare!
While ordinary men on drops can thrive
A fish needs oceans daily to survive:
The way the ripe must feel the raw can't tell,
My speech must be concise, and so farewell!