Rumi Said What?
The other day, PG was fumbling through facebook, and there was a lovely quote. “I am not this hair, I am not this skin, I am The Soul that lives within. Rumi.” The poem seemed like good words to paste in front of pictures. PG is squeamish about copyrights, and decided to see if the translation belonged to anyone. Veteran readers should know where this is going.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, has become popular with the meme crowd. Mr. Google says: Born: September 30, 1207, Vakhsh, Tajikistan Died: December 17, 1273, Konya, Turkey. With his name abbreviated to four easy to pronounce letters, translations of his poems are popular. Often, the words are pasted on beautiful pictures.
Some killjoys say that this is wrong. “Yet this popularization has had a price, and the price is a frequent distortion of Rumi’s words and teachings … The English “creative versions” rarely sound like Rumi to someone who can read the poems in the original Persian, and they are often shockingly altered– but few know this, and the vast majority of readers cannot but believe that such versions are faithful renderings into English of Rumi’s thoughts and teachings when they are not.”
Lets look at the quote that started this story. It has such a perfect rhythm, and such a catchy rhyme. What relation to the original does this have? Does anyone know the name of the original poem?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could tell you a few things about the difficulty of translating Farsi into English. This is even more true when the translator has an agenda. On Fox News, some are trying to lead to war. Those translating a thirteenth century poet are trying to create peace. While the meme motives may be more noble, their integrity in using languages is equally suspect.
The killjoy article has some examples of Rumi poem “versions,” with footnotes. One is “Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion or cultural system.” The comment: ” …is especially absurd. There is no evidence Rumi knew much more about Judaism or Christianity than what is said in the Qur’an– not to speak of other religions.” (The source article goes into more detail about this quote, and about the specific so called translators.)
Pictures are from The Library of Congress. Spell check suggestion for Rumi: Rum.