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The Mathnawi of Jalalu'Ddin Rumi (by R. a. Nicholson) v-VI

The Mathnawi of Jalalu'Ddin Rumi (by R. a. Nicholson) v-VI

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Published by Chandrashekhar Azad
Revel in the spiritual poetry of Rumi with the master translation of Reynold A. Nicholson
Revel in the spiritual poetry of Rumi with the master translation of Reynold A. Nicholson

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Published by: Chandrashekhar Azad on Oct 03, 2012
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LITT.D., LL.D., F.B.A.
Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic and sometime Lecturer in Persian in the University of Cambridge
With the publication of the sixth volume this work has reached a turning-point, and I should have likedto call a half for refreshment, especially as the next stages, though perhaps less tedious, are more difficultand hazardous than those already traversed. It would be pleasant to employ a sabbatical year in studiesunconnected with the Mathnawí; for example, in making a catalogue of a small but interesting collection of Oriental manuscripts which I hope will go to the University Library after I have done with them. But suchdiversions, while they might help to relieve the statutorily prescribed for persons of my age,cannot be allowed to interrupt the progress of the work in hand. Now that text and translation are complete,a commentary is needed to give substance to the translation, which by itself is often little more than ashadow; and the commentary must be reasonablyfull. At present I can only guess how far it may spread: inany case it will not exceed three volumes, and if two suffice, so much the better. Economy of space iscomparatively unimportant, but one has to save time.The Fifth and Sixth Books of the Mathnawí, composed when the author was approaching his seventiethyear, show signs, I think, of failing power. An abnormally large number of anecdotes belong to the classwhich booksellers term “facetiae”; certain motifs, such as that of “the hidden treasure,” are overworked;sometimes the poet lets his habitual bias towards prolixity carry him beyond all bounds; and we seldommeet with passages that lay hold of our imagination like the memorable verses (Book IV, 3637 foll.), wherethe Mathnawí seems to attain its climax. If so, the descent is very gradual, though the latter half of the SixthBook “drags its slow length along” till it breaks off in the course of an allegory depicting the quest for union with God, which probably was intended to conclude both the Book and the Poem. In the Búláqedition the unfinished Sixth Book is followed not only by two short epilogues ascribed to the poet's sonSultán Walad, but also by a Seventh Book containing 1751 verses. This is a patent forgery and has beengenerally recognised as such. It was first brought to light in A.H. 1035/ A.D. 1626 in Constantinople byIsmá‘íl Dedeh of Angora, whose Turkish commentary on the Mathnawí is a work of great merit. He professed to have found it in a manuscript of the poem, dated A.H. 814; but even if that were true, itwould merely prove that he himself was not the fabricator. The so-called “Seventh Book” is wanting in allMSS. of the Mathnawí known to me. Style and matter alike stamp it as the production either of Ismá‘íl
Dedeh—and in my opinion the circumstantial evidence is quite enough to convict him—or some learnedman who was no poet, however good he may have been at rhyming. This volume of the translation, likethose which have preceded it, gives a literal rendering of the text in English or, where necessary, in Latin.While revising it, I have noted a few errors and misprints that should be added to the List of Errata,Vol. v, pp. xxi–xxiv.No version of a work so idiomatic and ambiguous can be free from faults, but those which I may havecommitted are at any rate not due to the method of loose paraphrase adopted by some of my predecessors— a method full of pitfalls for the student. Doubts and difficulties will be considered in their proper place; alsoquestions of wider interest. Any one who reads the poem attentively will observe that its structure is far from being so casual as it looks. To say that “the stories follow each other in no order” is entirely wrong:they are bound together by subtle links and transitions arising from the poet's development of his theme;and each Book forms an artistic whole. The subject cannot be discussed here, but I may refer to anexcellent analysis and illustration of these technicalities by Dr Gustav Richter which has been publishedrecently.Familiarity does not always breed disillusion. To-day the words I applied to the author of the
thirty-five years ago, “the greatest mystical poet of any age,” seem to me no more than just. Where elseshall we find such a panorama of universal existence unrolling itself through Time into Eternity? And, apartfrom the supreme mystical quality of the poem, what a wealth of satire, humour and pathos! What masterly pictures drawn by a hand that touches nothing without revealing its essential character! In the
Jalálu’ddín soars higher; yet we must read the
in order to appreciate all the range and variety of his genius.
In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.Whose help we implore and in whom we trust, and with whom are the keys to our hearts. And God blessthe best of His creatures, Mohammed, and all his Family and Companions!This is the Fifth Book of the Poem in rhymed couplets and the spiritual Exposition, setting forth that theReligious Law is like a candle showing the way. Unless you gain possession of the candle, there is nowayfaring; and when you have come on to the way, your wayfaring is the Path; and when you have reachedthe journey's end, that is the Truth. Hence it has been said, “If the truths (realities) were manifest, thereligious laws would be naught.” As (for example), when copper becomes gold or was gold originally, itdoes not need the alchemy which is the Law, nor need it rub itself upon the philosophers' stone, which(operation) is the Path; (for), as has been said, it is unseemly to demand a guide after arrival at the goal, and blameworthy to discard the guide before arrival at the goal. In short, the Law is like learning the theory of alchemy from a teacher or a book, and the Path is (like) making use of chemicals and rubbing the copper upon the philosophers' stone, and the Truth is (like) the transmutation of the copper into gold. Those whoknow alchemy rejoice in their knowledge of it, saying, “We know the theory of this (science)”; and thosewho practise it rejoice in their practice of it, saying, “We perform such works”; and those who haveexperienced the reality rejoice in the reality, saying, “We have become gold and are delivered from thetheory and practice of alchemy: we are God's freedmen.”
 Each party is rejoicing in what they have.
Or the Law may be compared to learning the science of medicine, and the Path to regulating one's diet inaccordance with (the science of) medicine and taking remedies, and the Truth to gaining health everlastingand becoming independent of them both. When a man dies to this (present) life, the Law and the Path arecut off (fall away) from him, and there remains (only) the Truth. If he possess the Truth, he will be crying,
Oh, would that my people knew how my Lord hath forgivenme
”; and if he possess it not, he will be crying,
Oh, would that I had not been givenmy scroll and had not known my reckoning! Oh, would that it (death)had been the(final) decision! My riches have not availed me, my authority hath perished from me.
The Law is knowledge, the Path action, the Truth attainment unto God.
Then whoso hopeth to meet his Lord, let him do good works and associate none other in the service of his Lord.
And God bless the best of His creatures, Mohammed, and hisFamily and his Companions and the people of his House, and grantthem peace!IN THE NAME OF GOD THE MERCIFUL, THE COMPASSIONATE
The (spiritual) King, Husámu’ddín, who is the light of the stars, demands the beginning of the FifthBook.O Ziyá’u ’l-Haqq (Radiance of God), noble Husámu’ddín, master to the masters of purity,If the people were not veiled (from the Truth) and gross, and if their throats (capacities) were not narrowand feeble,In (my) praise of thee I should have done justice to the reality and expressed myself in language other thanthis;
But the falcon's mounthful is not that of the wagtail: now (therefore) recourse must be had to water and oil.’Tis wrong to praise thee to the prisoners (of sensuality): I will tell (thy praise) in the assembly of thespiritual.’Tis fraud to discourse of thee to the worldly: I will keep it hidden like the secret of love.Praise consists in describing (excellent qualities) and in rending the veil (of ignorance): the Sun isindependent of exposition and description.The praiser of the Sun is (really) pronouncing an encomium on himself, for (he says implicitly), “My eyesare clear and not inflamed.”

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