Saturday, February 18, 2012

[Dar-al-Masnavi] Question about authenticity of Rumi poem

Recently, J wrote:

Asalaam Alaikoum,
First off, thank you for your wonderful website and all of your hard
work. I was introduced to Jalaluddin Rumi's poetry through Coleman
Barks and if it wasn't for your website, I wouldn't have appreciated
the authentic translations. I think it's appalling that Mr. Barks and
others have significantly altered Rumi's poetry and even admit to
deliberately omitting the Islamic references. I really appreciate
your scholarly and artistic efforts in providing authentic
translations that strive to remain true to Rumi's original voice.
Thank you immensely for that.

I was wondering if you could help me verify this particular verse. I
saw someone post this on a blog and was wondering what the original
poem was (since it was "translated" by Coleman Barks): "Start a huge,
foolish project, like Noah. It makes absolutely no difference what
people think of you." The source cited is "We are Three" by Coleman
Barks and claims to be from "Mathnawi VI, 831-845." I'm sorry to
bother you with this, but do you know what the authentic translation
of this is? Do you know the original Farsi? Is it an authentic Rumi
poem to begin with? I'd really appreciate your assistance. Thank you
once again. Wa salaam, J

Dear J,
Wa `alaykuma 's-salâm,

Thank you for the kind words about the website. And thanks for a good
example of how Barks often eliminates Islamic-religious content and
makes up his own "Rumi verses". Here is the authentic translation from
Persian (by Nicholson) that Barks used to make his version [with
Persian/Arabic words added by me]:

Become a buyer, that my hand may move (to sell to thee), and
that my pregnant mine may bring forth the ruby.
Though the buyer is slack and lukewarm, (yet) call (him) to the
(true) religion [[da`wat-e dîn kon]], for the (command to) call hath
come down (from God) [[ke da`wat wârid-ast]].
Let the falcon fly and catch the spiritual dove [[Hamâm-e rûH]]: in
calling (to God) take the way of Noah [[dar rû'-e da`wat Tarîq-e nûH
Perform an act of service [[khidmatê mê-kon]] for the
Creator's sake [[barây-e kardegâr]]: what hast thou to do with being
accepted or rejected [qabûl-o ridd]] by the people?
--Masnavi VI: 842-45

And here is how Barks interpreted Nicholson's translation:

Even if you don't know what you want, buy something, to be
part of the exchanging flow.
Start a huge, foolish, project, like Noah.
It makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.
--"Rumi: We Are Three, New Rumi Translations by Coleman Barks," 1987
p. 13

COMMENTS: This is a good example of how Barks skipped a verse (843)
with religious content, here, with the important Quranic word
"da`wat" (used twice), meaning to call or invite the people to the
true religion of worshipping the one true God. This apparently reminds
Mawlana Rumi (in verse 844) of the prayer of the Prophet Noah (peace
be upon him): "O my Lord, I have called [[da`watu]] to my people night
and day, but my call [[du`â'î]] only increases their flight. And every
time I have called to them [[da`wat-hum]]...they have only put their
fingers in their ears....So I have called to them [[da`wat-hum]] pubic and in private..." (Q71: 5-8). Here, Mawlana makes
no reference to building the Ark ("a foolish project"), which is
purely an association in Barks' mind--reminiscent of his version of
Mawlana's Quatrain No. 719: "They try to say what you are, spiritual
or sexual? They wonder about Solomon and all his wives" ("Open Secret,
1984, p. 11). Accurate translation: "O Love, you are known by (both)
fairies and humans. (You are (better) known than the seal-ring of
Solomon" (translated by Gamard and Farhadi, "The Quatrains of Rumi,"
2008, p. 454). Then, for the last verse (845), Barks leaves out the
reference to God (the Creator), as well as performing service to God.
Barks had Nicholson's accurate translation of Mawlana's words in front
of him yet, clearly, he had no interest in being faithful to the
meanings. Instead, he appears to be faithful to his own creative
process as a poet speaking to Americans.


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