Teaching

By John Hertz: Happening to re-read A.J. Arberry’s Classical Persian Literature (1958) I came upon this description (by Badî‘ al-Zamân Furûzânfar 1904-1970) of Jalâl al-Dîn Muhammad ibn Muhammad (1207-1273), known as Rûmî from the land where he lived, celebrated as a poet, revered as a saint, called simply Maulânâ “our teacher” by Persians religious or no.

Incidentally, if you know the tale of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant as told by John Saxe (1886-1887) “And each of them was in the right, / And all were in the wrong,” as told by Rûmî six centuries earlier they weren’t blind, they were in a dark room, and none of them struck a light.

In his conduct he was peaceful and tolerant toward [those] of all sects and creeds, looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike and urging his disciples to comport themselves similarly…. throughout his life, despite the attacks and unworthy misrepresentations levelled against him by blind-hearted enemies, he was never heard to utter one bitter reply.

Persian poetry depending so much on sounds and rhythms is particularly hard to translate, the result often looking like one of Thomas Edison’s carbon filaments held alone in the hand.

O blessed hour, when thou and I
Together sit within this hall:
Two forms, two shapes then, thou and I –
Two bodies, and a single soul.