Silence and Speech: Rumi’s Call to the Other World

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‘Be quiet!’ Rumi orders himself on numerous occasions. But he never can quite seem to listen.

In the following poem, through a series of commands and rhetorical questions, Rumi (Molānā) implores his listener not to grieve over his death, and, by analogy, not to dread the reader’s own death. He recasts the grief of death as the joy of meeting the Creator, in a comforting poem even for the non-religious among us. He ends with a traditional entreaty to silence (his very pen name khāmūsh means ‘Quiet!’). Judging by his prolific output, though, it is not a silence to be maintained for long!

You can hear part of the original Persian read in this video, along with another translation for comparison.

 

On the day of my death, when my coffin is on its way,

Don’t go thinking I grieve the loss of this world.

 

Don’t cry for me and don’t say, ‘Alas! Alas!’

The real shame would be if, [by making such a fuss,] you were caught in the devil’s snare.

 

When you see my funeral procession, don’t say ‘O Separation, O Separation!’

For me, that will be the moment of reunion.

 

When you lay me to rest, don’t say, ‘Farewell! Farewell!’

For the grave is veiling from you the congregations of paradise.

 

When you see descent, interpret it as ascent:

Why should setting be a loss to the sun or the moon?

 

What seems like setting is actually rising.

The grave looks like a prison, but it’s really the soul’s release.

 

What seed ever went into the ground and didn’t grow?

Why should you suppose that it wouldn’t be the same with the human seed?

 

What bucket descended and was not full when it came up?

Why should the Joseph-soul despair over the well?

 

When you close your mouth on this side, open it on the other —

Save your voice for the atmosphere of infinity. 

Translated by M. Quay, with credit to the University of Cambridge Classical Persian Reading Group for its input on interpretation and phrasing.

به روز مرگ چو تابوت من روان باشد

گمان مبر که مرا درد این جهان باشد

برای من مگری و مگو دریغ دریغ

به دوغ دیو درافتی دریغ آن باشد

جنازه‌ام چو ببینی مگو فراق فراق

مرا وصال و ملاقات آن زمان باشد

مرا به گور سپاری مگو وداع وداع

که گور پرده جمعیت جنان باشد

فروشدن چو بدیدی برآمدن بنگر

غروب شمس و قمر را چرا زبان باشد

تو را غروب نماید ولی شروق بود

لحد چو حبس نماید خلاص جان باشد

کدام دانه فرورفت در زمین که نرست

چرا به دانه انسانت این گمان باشد

کدام دلو فرورفت و پر برون نامد

ز چاه یوسف جان را چرا فغان باشد

دهان چو بستی از این سوی آن طرف بگشا

که های هوی تو در جو لامکان باشد

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