green green grass

poetry exercise 2
December 11, 2007, 1:06 pm
Filed under: cw posts

Persian Poetry
Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207-1273 A.D.

From the Divan-i Shams-i Tabriz

This is love — to fly toward the heavens,
To tear every instant a hundred veils;
At the first moment, to renounce life,
At the last, to journey without feet;
To regard this world as invisible,
Not to see what your eyes behold.
“O heart,” I said, “may you be blessed
To have entered the circle of lovers,
To look beyond the pale of eyesight
And roam over the bosom’s winding ways.
O soul, whence is this breath upon you?
O heart, whence this urgent throbbing?
Speak now, O bird, the speech of birds.
I can grasp your secret meaning!”
The soul replied: “I was in God’s workshop
While He baked the house of clay and water.
I flew away from God’s workshop
At the time that it was being created,
But when I could resist no more,
They dragged me there to shape me
like a ball.


There are two characters in the poem: the speaker himself/herself and his/her soul. These two characters, although they are as one physically, builds up the tension in the poem with the duality of the voice. At first, the speaker expresses in the first line, “This is love—“, and asserts love’s beginning and end. But then again, in the succeeding lines, I get the sense that the speaker is quite unsure of what it is he/she is feeling. It is still unclear to me but it seems that the soul’s reply to the speaker’s queries about the existence of that particular feeling, whatever it is, is divine.


I thought I would never notice. I knew from the first time I read the poem that there is more to it than I could understand from reading it on the first session. Now, I see that in the lines, “O soul, whence is this breath upon you? O heart, whence this urgent throbbing?”, actually demands answer about life. How did life cast breath to the soul. And how life came about to the heart. The idea of love in the preceeding lines is mentioned because it is love that starts (“to renounce life”) and ends (“to journey without feet”) life. In these lines, the the speaker recognizes the physical world. The soul is in one with the heart in order to renounce life.  As he/she says further, the end of life is not having to walk on bare feet, not being able to touch the ground.


Is the speaker having biases with the soul or the heart (as the representative of his physical body)? When he/she states his lines in the poem, for whom is he/she speaking for? Or maybe the speaker is neither the soul nor the heart. He/she is the entity between the two. He/she is the scientist in every human mind. He/she is always hungry for answers of existence. When has life really started? Did it start with the body? Or the soul? The soul’s reply is that it is there in the “God’s workshop” when the body was made. So the soul is already there, before the body was made. But  what should we call the persona between the two parts of the “self”, the one that asks these kind of questions on life and existence?


In my reading this time, the reply of the soul made an impression to me. I get the idea that the soul does not agree that it will be united with the body. The line, “I flew away from God’s workshop”, expresses the soul’s disobedience to God. But when the soul “could resist no more”, “they dragged” him/her to shape “like a ball”. It seems that the soul’s unison with the body made of “clay and water” means giving up something which might mean the freedom of the soul. It could also be that this unity would imply mortality. By the time the body dies, the soul also dies.


Having pointed out that there are two characters: the soul and the heart, the speaker in himself/herself could be counted as a different character. He/she is in charged of the two entities within himself. He/she contains the two in a way that he/she is neither the soul nor the body. He/she thinks, inquires and feels. He/she recognizes the very feeling, which is love, that may have been the reason of his/her life. He/she is able to describe love—“ To regard this world as invisible, Not to see what your eyes behold”.


Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: