Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gamble everything for Love

1.
To a frog that’s never left his pond, the ocean seems like a gamble.

Look what he’s giving up: security, mastery of his world, recognition!

The ocean frog just shakes his head. “I can’t really explain what it’s like where I live, but someday I’ll take you there.”


2.
If you want what visible reality
Can give, you’re an employee.

If you want the unseen world,
you’re not living your truth.

Both wishes are foolish,
but you’ll be forgiven
for forgetting
that what you really want is
love’s confusing joy.


Gamble everything for love,
if you’re a true human being.


If not, leave
this gathering.

Half-heartedness doesn’t
reach
into Majesty.

You set out
to find God, but then you keep
stopping for long periods
at mean-spirited roadhouses.

In a boat down a fast-running creek,
it feels like trees on the bank
are rushing by. What seems

to be changing around us
is rather the speed of our craft
leaving this world.

- From Rumi – Selected Poems
Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

3.
No matter what critics criticize Coleman for making-over Rumi's poem into American English, there is no denying of the sweetness and beauty. Coleman has absorbed the beauty well. Translation is never an easy job, specially translating a foreign language of a totally different era that carries its own culture, heritage and life style of thousand years and more. By transforming metaphors and imagery which captures the imagination of modern western readers (more appropriately American readers) from that of 13th century Persia is almost a mission impossible. But Coleman has done that well and he deserves its full credit.

In this very poem Coleman with the help of John Moyne has used some beautiful imagery which perhaps have many different alternative words to convey the same meaning. I particularly loved the words or combination of words , 'mean-spirited roadhouses', 'reaching to Majesty' . Coleman used majesty in small letters, whereas Capitalizing it into Majesty conveys the real meaning to any student of Islam / Sufism, as they know that Majesty is a quality of the Divine, thus gives a good hint what Rumi originally pointed towards. And the way Coleman finished the poem introduce us to the true genius of Coleman.

I don't understand / read persian except very little, thus I have very rare chance to know what and how Rumi expressed the end of this particular poem. But the imagery that Coleman chose is great mastery:

In a boat down a fast-running creek,
it feels like trees on the bank
are rushing by. What seems

to be changing around us
is rather the speed of our craft
leaving this world.

That imagery, that selection of words: "the speed of our craft leaving this world" carries such a lovely dimension to it. Uniqely Coleman! Pin It Now!

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