My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Selected Poems of Rūmī (2011) by Jalāl’l-Dīn Rūmī is a collection of poems originally researched, collected and translated from Persian by Professor Reynold A. Nicholson, who died before the book’s publication in 1950 under the title Rūmī: Poet and Mystic (1207-1273).
The most recent publication in 2011 includes memorable poems, such as “Remembered Music,” “The Grief of the Dead,” “The Unregenerate,” “The Love of Woman,” “The Truth within Us,” “Asleep to the World,” “The Man who Looked Back on his way to Hell,” “The Beauty of Death,” “The Evil in Ourselves,” “Beware of Hurting the Saint,” “Forms Vitae,” “The One True Light,” “The Shepherd’s Prayer,” and “The Progress of Man.”
As an Iranian poet and mystic who often cites or references the Qur’ān (Koran), Rūmī often focuses on an idyllic transformation towards peace and love: “Oh, music is the meat of all who love, / Music uplifts the soul to realms above. / The ashes glow, the latent fires increase: / We listen and are fed with joy and peace” (p 3).
One of the best-selling poets in the United States and in the world, Rūmī also portrays God as the One Ultimate Being over all religions founded by ignorant humans who appeared to be searching blindly in the dark for answers and truths they failed to understand unless they can reach a kind of enlightenment often described as becoming the “Perfect Man” who is one with God (sometimes called “Love”), who calls out: “Feel with me, with me be one” (p 2).
The process and journey of the transformations within a human being Rūmī often focuses on in his poetry can be best described in his poem “The Progress of Man”:
“First he appeared in the realm inanimate;
Thence came into the world of plants and lived…
Again the wise Creator whom thou knowest
Uplifted him from animality
To Man’s estate; and so from realm to realm
Advancing, he became intelligent…
So this world
Seems lasting, though ’tis but the sleeper’s dream;
Who, when the appointed Day shall dawn, escapes
From dark imaginings that haunted him,
And turns with laughter on his phantom griefs
When he beholds his everlasting home” (pgs 88-89).
In the Introduction (based on Professor Nicholson’s notes), the “Perfect Man” is explained thus: “The Divine Mind, which rules and animates the cosmos as an Indwelling Rational Principle (Logos), displays itself completely in the Perfect Man… Whether prophet or saint, the Perfect Man has realized his Oneness with God: he is the authentic image and manifestation of God and therefore the final cause of creation, since only through him does God become fully conscious of Himself” (p xvi).
To achieve the enlightened state Rūmī often uses his poetry to preach (which is not a recommendation for contemporary writers of poetry, albeit many writers of this modern era remain ignorant to how political bias in their poetry, non-fiction and fiction does in fact resemble and sound like “preaching”):
“O Reader, how many an evil that you see in others is but your own nature reflected in them!
In them appears all that you are—your hypocrisy, iniquity, and insolence.
You do not see clearly the evil in yourself, else you would hate yourself with all your soul.
Like the Lion who sprang at his image in the water, you are only hurting yourself, O foolish man.
When you reach the bottom of the well of your own nature, then you will know that the wickedness is in you” (p 27).
Remember this, O Reader, the next time you attack someone and call them bad names (like “idiot,” “moonbat,” “racist,” “fag,” “bigot,” “slut,” “snowflake,” or “libtard;” in all truth, name-calling is for children; insulting people with cruel, verbal attacks is not for educated, responsible adults.) Rūmī reminds us: “Love and tenderness are human qualities, anger and lust are animal qualities” (p 9).
Despite preaching in his poetry, Rūmī seeks the experimental rather than promoting quarrels among the various religions, although he does heavily base his beliefs on Islam, including Sūfī pantheism and monism:
“Ascend from materiality into the world of spirits, hearken to the loud voice of the universe” (p 52).
“The soul says to her base earthly parts, ‘My exile is more bitter than yours: I am celestial’” (p 54).
“The number of locks upon a treasure are the proof of its high value.
The long windings of the way, its mountain-passes, and the brigands infesting it, announce the greatness of the traveller’s goal…
“The blind religious are in a dilemma, for the champions on either side stand firm: each party is delighted with its own path.
Love alone can end their quarrel, Love alone comes to the rescue when you cry for help against their arguments.
Eloquence is dumbfounded by Love: it dare not engage in altercation” (p 81).
Rūmī does force the reader to look deeply within and without, to contemplate on the Self and the Universe, and whether what is seen is beautiful or ugly, Rūmī has an answer for this as well:
“The power of the artist is shown by his ability to make both the ugly and the beautiful.
If I develop this topic, so that question and answer become lengthy,
The savour of Love’s mystery will go from me, the fair form of Piety will be disfigured” (p 68).
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), and a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can also follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 375,000+ followers