Two Mystical Persian Lyrics: ‘Aṭṭār and Paradox

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‘Attar – Divan 76

Whichever way shall I go? To the wine-tavern or the mosque?

Both are off-limits to poor me.

They don’t let me into the mosque, saying, “He’s a knave,” 

Nor in the tavern, saying, “He’s too green.” 

Between the mosque and the tavern, there is a path.

Find out, O dear ones, which path you’re on now.

In the tavern, the Imam is passed-out drunk.

I don’t know what to call that idol.

Today, my Mecca* is the tavern.

My drinking companion is the Judge, and my cupbearer, the Imam.

Go, ‘Attar, for [only] He knows, who is the leader, and who is bewildered.


*Literally, the Ka’ba.

ره میخانه و مسجد کدام است

که هر دو بر من مسکین حرام است

نه در مسجد گذارندم که رند است

نه در میخانه کین خمار خام است

میان مسجد و میخانه راهی است

بجوئید ای عزیزان کین کدام است

به میخانه امامی مست خفته است

نمی‌دانم که آن بت را چه نام است

مرا کعبه خرابات است امروز

حریفم قاضی و ساقی امام است

برو عطار کو خود می‌شناسد

که سرور کیست سرگردان کدام است

In this first poem, ‘Aṭṭār mixes the imagery of the tavern and the mosque. The mix results in paradoxes that encourage the reader to break down his or her traditional understanding of mosque as sacred, tavern as profane. The speaker fits in neither world, since he is beyond both. By the end of the poem, the tavern is converted into the ‘true’ Islamic holy site. ‘Attar argues that one must not censure the mystic lover, represented as the drunkard of the tavern, for only God knows who is closest to Him, and appearances are deceiving.


‘Attar – Divan 67

To encompass beauty’s perfection, the [bright] candle of your face is enough.

If the whole world be your madly-loving moth, it’s enough. 

Out of all the world, my eyes are trained are you.

Were you to just open your eyes to me, it would be enough.

Though none has seen even a glimpse of your face,

If you showed me just the tip of your hair, it would be enough.

I seek no cure from you.

If you add more pain to my pain, that is enough.

To comfort my soul until the resurrection,

An iota of suffering for you is enough.

If I am unable to make it in your way,

For the provision of my way, being incapable is enough.

Though I asked for security in your love,

What shall I do with security ? Infamy is enough.

Yesterday her love attacked me and said,

“You scamp! I’ve had enough.

“How long will you recite Qur’an to the roving vagabond?

“Gamble away the cash of your life. As far as Qur’an recitation goes, that’s enough.

“Your Zoroastrian belt — that is, your hypocrisy — is folded four times over.

“Though you are Muslim, you act like a Christian. Enough!”

O Farid, quit telling secrets! You’ve said so much, that’s quite enough.

شمع رویت ختم زیبایی بس است

عالمی پروانه سودایی بس است

چشم بر روی تو دارم از جهان

گر سوی من چشم بگشایی بس است

گرچه رویت کس سر مویی ندید

گر سر موییم بنمایی بس است

من نمی‌دارم ز تو درمان طمع

درد بر دردم گر افزایی بس است

تا قیامت ذره‌ای اندوه تو

مونس جانم به تنهایی بس است

گر توانایی ندارم در رهت

زاد راهم ناتوانایی بس است

گر ز عشقت عافیت می‌پرسدم

عافیت چکنم که رسوایی بس است

دوش عشقش تاختن آورد و گفت

از توام ای رند هرجایی بس است

در قلندر چند قرائی کنی

نقد جان در باز قرائی بس است

هست زنار نفاقت چار کرد

گر مسلمانی ز ترسایی بس است

ختم کن اسرار گفتن ای فرید

چون بسی گفتی ز گویایی بس است

Translated by M. Quay, with the help and input of the University of Cambridge Classical Persian Reading Group.

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2 thoughts on “Two Mystical Persian Lyrics: ‘Aṭṭār and Paradox

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