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Rm's Poetry and the Soul's Perfume

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A medieval Persian Sufi and poet of rapture, mad devotion, and mystical communion is Jalluddn Rm, who lived in the thirteenth century, and whose life was turned upside down and inside out by his meeting on 15 November 1244 with the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi. For over four years, they shared a tumultuous emotional and spiritual relationship.
Shams had traveled throughout the Middle East searching and praying for someone who could "endure my company." A voice said to him, "What will you give in return?" Shams replied, "My head!" The voice then said, "The one you seek is Jalal ud-Din of Konya." On the night of 5 December 1248, as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again. It is rumored that Shams was murdered with the connivance of Rumi's son, 'Ala' ud-Din; if so, Shams indeed gave his head for the privilege of mystical friendship. Rumi's love for, and his bereavement at the death of Shams found their expression in an outpouring [for more than ten years] of music, dance, and lyric poems, Divan-e Shams-e Tabriz. He himself went out searching for Shams and journeyed again to Damascus. There, he realized:
Why should I seek? I am the same as
He. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself! [wikipedia "Rumi"]
The images of their relationship, and of the mystical nature of the soul's union with God are often couched in terms of perfume, aromas, and intoxication. One brief example:

A Smile and A Gentleness

There is a smile and a gentleness
inside. When I learned the name

and address of that, I went to where
you sell perfume. I begged you not

to trouble me so with longing. Come
out and play! Flirt more naturally.

Teach me how to kiss. On the ground
a spread blanket, flame that's caught

and burning well, cumin seeds browning,
I am inside all of this with my soul.
From Essential Rumi
interpreted by Coleman Barks
His images include the lily, the rose, the pearl, and above all, the moon. The theme of his poetry is the all-consuming love, both human and divine, that Shams-e Tabrizi awoke in him. The perfume of which he speaks in his poems is the ecstasy of both those loves, indistinguishable to his heart and soul.

Rm never felt shame over the extravagant excesses of his love for either God or his friend. His gratitude for the blessing of this passionate devotion once awakened in his soul was boundless.

If you want to read more of Rm's poetry, look for contemporary English translations of his work by Coleman Barks. Barks really captures the rhapsodic nature of his verse. A warning, though: Even a small dose can be very potent for a sensitive soul.

I'll leave you with a transliteration of a Persian verse of Rm's (for the rhythm and flow of it), and a rendering into English:

Ey ziyn u ey ziyn u ey ziyn u ey ziyn

Hshyr dar miyn-e b-khudn u b-hushn

What a loss, loss, loss, loss it is 

to remain sober among the intoxicated and the unconscious.

Updated 10th March 2010 at 06:00 AM by JaimeB

Personal Reflections


  1. jayjupes's Avatar
    i considered changing my name to rumishams. my first name being shamsi, middle meta, last ruhe (roo)
    my best friend calls me shams of tabriz
    i loved this entry!
  2. JaimeB's Avatar
    Another poem of Rm's:

    What was told, that

    What was said to the rose that made it open was said
    to me here in my chest.

    What was told the cypress that made it strong
    and straight, what was

    whispered to the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
    sugarcane sweet, whatever

    was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
    Turkestan that makes them

    so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
    like a human face, that is

    being said to me now. I blush. Whatever is eloquence in
    language, that's happening here.

    The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
    chewing a piece of sugarcane,

    in love with the one to whom every that belongs.

  3. C Rose's Avatar
    Ahhh, Rumi AND perfume, what a great start to my day... thanks much for beautiful post.
  4. Splash's Avatar
    Keep it coming Jaime!!!
    Love it.
  5. JaimeB's Avatar
    Since you asked, one more Rm poem:

    The Husk and Core of Masculinity

    Masculinity has a core of clarity, which does not act
    from anger or greed or

    sensuality, and a husk, which does. The virile center
    that listens within takes

    pleasure in obeying that truth. Nobility of spirit,
    the true spontaneous energy

    of your life, comes as you abandon other motives and move
    only when you feel that majesty

    that commands and is the delight of the self. Remember
    Ayaz crushing the king's pearl!

    — Rumi
    [Trans. Coleman Barks]

    The reference to Ayaz and the King's pearl has its roots in Persian history and literature. Ayaz was a slave to king Mahmoud of Ghazni (in modern-day Afghanistan). He was absolutely loyal and obedient to the monarch, and in an assembly of nobles who were commanded by the King to crush a precious pearl and refused to do so, Ayaz stepped up and obeyed the King's command, crushing the precious pearl. King Mahmoud and Ayaz were devoted lovers, aside from all else. Ayaz rose in military rank to general, and the King raised his slave and lover to royal rank and gave him a kingdom of his own.

    In the Sufi tradition, Ayaz and Mahmoud became types of the soul and God, illustrating and commending the relationship of devotion and obedience that they epitomized for the mystic in his relation to God.

    In 2005, a pair of young men, aged 16 and 18, were executed in Mashhad, Iran, because they had the misfortune to typify the other aspect of Ayaz and Mahmoud's relationship, namely, their love for one another. They were executed for "sodomy." In a tragic irony, the boys' names were Mahmoud (Asgari) and Ayaz (Marhoni), the same names as the paragons of divine love whose "sin" they repeated.

    The ideal of masculinity that Rm describes in his poem is one of devotion and obedience as the delight of the self in God, which does not act from anger or greed or sensuality. Perhaps this ideal masculinity would act out of love and compassion instead?
    Updated 12th March 2010 at 05:41 AM by JaimeB
  6. Splash's Avatar
    Thank you!

    The ideal of masculinity that Rm describes in his poem is one of devotion and obedience as the delight of the self in God, which does not act from anger or greed or sensuality.
    I would add that this "masculinity" applies to both sexes.
  7. 's Avatar
    Excellent JamieB-thank you. I enjoy reading you very much. One very small book that I would recommend is an Everyman Library pocket book poets. It has Rumi, Omar Sanai, Attar, Saadi, Hafez and Jami. My favourate by Rumi is A Community of The Spirit
    There is a community of the spirit
    Join in, and feel the delight
    of walking in the noisy street,
    and being the noise

    Drink all your passion,
    and be a disgrace.

    Close both eyes
    to see with the other eye.

    Open your hands
    if you want to be held.

    Sit down in this circle.

    Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
    the shepherd's love filling you.

    At night your beloved wanders.
    Don't accept consolations.

    Close your mouth against food
    Taste your lover's mouth in yours.

    You moan, "She left me." "He left me."
    Twenty more will come.

    Be empty of worrying.
    Think of who created thought!

    Why do you stay in prison
    when the door is wide open?

    Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
    Live in silence.

    Flow down and down in always
    widening rings of being

    I've always thought that "be a disgrace" is not the right translation.

    I hope that you enjoy this poem folks.


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