Category Archives: Persian Arts and Culture

“The Song of the Reed”

There are moments in your life that you need to listen to the reed (Ney) as it narrates a tale of all the separations and wails with the pain of estrangement:

“The Song of the Reed” by Rumi (Mowlānā (Persian) /Mevlānā (Turkish) / Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī ) (1207-1273) explains your pain of yearning:

Translated into English by Alan Williams, from his Spiritual Verses: The First Book of the Masnavi-ye Ma’navi (2006):

1. – Listen to this reed as it is grieving;
it tells the story of our separations.

2. ‘Since I was severed from the bed of reeds,
in my cry men and women have lamented.

3. I need the breast that’s torn to shreds by parting
to give expression to the pain of heartache.

4. Whoever finds himself left far from home
looks forward to the day of his reunion.

5. I was in grief in every gathering;
I joined with those of sad and happy state.

6. Each person thought he was my bosom friend,
but none sought out my secrets from within me.

7. My secret is not far from my lament,
but eye and ear have no illumination.

8. There’s no concealment of the soul and body,
yet no one has the power to see the soul.

9. The reed-flute’s sound is fire, not human breath.
Whoever does not have this fire, be gone!

10. The fire of love is burning in the reed;
the turbulence of love is in the wine.

11. The reed is friend to all who are lovelorn;
its melodies have torn our veils apart.

12. Whoever saw a poison and a cure,
a mate and longing lover like the reed?

13. The reed tells of the road that runs with blood;
it tells the tales of Majnun’s passionate love.

14. This sense is closed to all except the senseless,
and words are all the ear can ever purchase.

15. In all our grief the days turned into nights,
the days fell into step with searing pains.

16. If days are gone, say “Go! There is no fear,
and stay, O You who are uniquely holy.”

17. His flood deluges all except the fish;
the day is long for him who has no bread.

18. The raw can’t grasp the state of one who’s cooked,
so this discussion must be brief – farewell!

19. Be free, my son, and break your chains asunder!
How long will you be slaveto gold and silver?

20. If you should pour the sea into a pitcher,
how much will it contain? At best, a day’s worth!

21. The greedy eye’s a pitcher never filled;
the pearl won’t fill the discontented shell.

22. They will be wholly cleansed of greed and faults
whose clothes are torn to shreds by lovers’ passion.

23. Rejoice, O Love, that is our sweetest passion,
physician of our many illnesses!

24. Relief from our pomposity and boasting,
O You who are our Plato and our Galen!

25. For Love the earthly body soared to heaven,
the mountain took to dancing and to skipping.

26. When Love approached Mount Sinai’s soul,
O lover,
Sinai was drunk and “Moses fell aswoon.”

27. If I were pressed to my companion’s lips,
then like the reed I’d tell what must be told.

28. A man cut off from fellow native-speakers
is tongue-tied, though he has a hundred songs.

29. And when the rose is gone, the garden faded,
you will no longer hear the nightingale.

30. The lover is a veil, All is Beloved,
Beloved lives, the lover is a corpse.

31. When Love no longer has a care for him
he’s like a wingless bird – alas for him!

32. How can I understand the things around me
when my comanion’s light is not around me?

33. But love demands that these words shall be spoken;
how can a mirror be without reflection?

34. Do you know why your mirror tells of nothing?
The rust has not been taken from its surface.

35. Reflect upon this story, my dear friends;
its meaning is the essence of our state.