Thursday, December 06, 2007

Verse Yourself in Rumi's Words

By Sue Arnold - The Guardian - London, U.K.
Saturday, December 1st, 2007

The Spiritual Verses: Masnavi-ye Ma'navi, Book 1, by Jalaloddin Rumi, translated by Alan Williams, read by Anton Lesser (5hrs abridged, Naxos, £16.99)

This is the 800th anniversary of the birth of the great Sufi poet Rumi, whose 26,000-couplet mystical poem, The Spiritual Verses, is, apart from the Qur'an, the most influential work in Islam.

Rumi is claimed by many countries: he was born in Afghanistan in 1207, but fled from Ghengis Khan's Mongol hordes to settle in what is now Turkey, where he wrote in Persian.

But for insomnia and a fascinating programme about him on the World Service at 3am last Monday, I confess that both Rumi and his anniversary would have passed me by.

To label him a Muslim poet, said one Rumi disciple (and he has a fanatical following including, you may be a little dispirited to hear, Madonna), is like calling Beethoven a Christian composer: his greatness transcends confinement.

That may be pushing it a bit. But the poetry is breathtakingly beautiful, there's no arguing with that.


The garden of the heart is green and moist with buds and blooms of jasmine, rose and cypress. / The boughs are hidden by a mass of leaves, a mass of flowers conceals the plain and palace. /

These words that come from universal mind are scents of cypress, roses, hyacinths. Have you smelled roses where there were no roses? Have you seen foaming wine where there was none? /
The fragrance is your guide and your companion, it bears you up to Paradise."


The message is strictly Islamic. Aside from the unequivocally religious passages expounding on the virtues of the Prophet, the chapters have quasi-Aesop titles - "The Lion, the Hare and the Hunted Animals", "The Greengrocer and the Parrrot" - and cautionary moral endings.

(...)

The Poetry Archive (free downloads at poetryarchive.org or CDs (£12.99) from the Poetry Book Society, 2 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RA; 020 7833 9247)

If you know about downloading, this has to be the literary bargain of all time.

Besides a huge choice of live recordings by famous and not so well-known (to me at any rate) English-language poets, there are some wonderfully evocative, if slightly scratchy, historical archive performances from such luminaries as Tennyson reading "The Charge of the Light Brigade".

To judge from the background noises, he's in the middle of it. All this and much more: biographies, lit crit, special programmes for students and updates on live perfornances.

[More about *The Spiritual Verses* by Jalaloddin Rumi at Naxos' web site: http://www.naxosaudiobooks.com/PAGES/446612.htm].

1 comment:

Irving said...

Rumi's Urs, the day of his death, is December 17th.

Ya Haqq!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Verse Yourself in Rumi's Words
By Sue Arnold - The Guardian - London, U.K.
Saturday, December 1st, 2007

The Spiritual Verses: Masnavi-ye Ma'navi, Book 1, by Jalaloddin Rumi, translated by Alan Williams, read by Anton Lesser (5hrs abridged, Naxos, £16.99)

This is the 800th anniversary of the birth of the great Sufi poet Rumi, whose 26,000-couplet mystical poem, The Spiritual Verses, is, apart from the Qur'an, the most influential work in Islam.

Rumi is claimed by many countries: he was born in Afghanistan in 1207, but fled from Ghengis Khan's Mongol hordes to settle in what is now Turkey, where he wrote in Persian.

But for insomnia and a fascinating programme about him on the World Service at 3am last Monday, I confess that both Rumi and his anniversary would have passed me by.

To label him a Muslim poet, said one Rumi disciple (and he has a fanatical following including, you may be a little dispirited to hear, Madonna), is like calling Beethoven a Christian composer: his greatness transcends confinement.

That may be pushing it a bit. But the poetry is breathtakingly beautiful, there's no arguing with that.


The garden of the heart is green and moist with buds and blooms of jasmine, rose and cypress. / The boughs are hidden by a mass of leaves, a mass of flowers conceals the plain and palace. /

These words that come from universal mind are scents of cypress, roses, hyacinths. Have you smelled roses where there were no roses? Have you seen foaming wine where there was none? /
The fragrance is your guide and your companion, it bears you up to Paradise."


The message is strictly Islamic. Aside from the unequivocally religious passages expounding on the virtues of the Prophet, the chapters have quasi-Aesop titles - "The Lion, the Hare and the Hunted Animals", "The Greengrocer and the Parrrot" - and cautionary moral endings.

(...)

The Poetry Archive (free downloads at poetryarchive.org or CDs (£12.99) from the Poetry Book Society, 2 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RA; 020 7833 9247)

If you know about downloading, this has to be the literary bargain of all time.

Besides a huge choice of live recordings by famous and not so well-known (to me at any rate) English-language poets, there are some wonderfully evocative, if slightly scratchy, historical archive performances from such luminaries as Tennyson reading "The Charge of the Light Brigade".

To judge from the background noises, he's in the middle of it. All this and much more: biographies, lit crit, special programmes for students and updates on live perfornances.

[More about *The Spiritual Verses* by Jalaloddin Rumi at Naxos' web site: http://www.naxosaudiobooks.com/PAGES/446612.htm].

1 comment:

Irving said...

Rumi's Urs, the day of his death, is December 17th.

Ya Haqq!