Song of the Reed Flute
Version by Helminski, 1998

--Version by Kabir Helminski. From "The Rumi Collection: An Anthology of Translations and Versions of Jalaluddin Rumi" (Putney, Vermont: Threshold Books, 1998), pp. 145-46. This is a revision of earlier versions ("Love is A Stranger," 1993, pp. 50-52; "Ruins of the Heart," 1981, pp. 19-20).

1. Listen to the reed and the tale it tells,
how it sings of separation:

2. Ever since they cut me from the reed bed,
my wail has caused men and women to weep.

3. I want a heart that is torn open with longing
so that I might share the pain of this love.

4. Whoever has been parted from his source
longs to return to that state of union.

5. At every gathering I play my lament.
I'm a friend to both happy and sad.

6. Each befriended me for his own reasons,
yet none searched out the secrets I contain.

7. My secret is not different than my lament,
yet this is not for the senses to perceive.

8. The body is not hidden from the soul,
nor is the soul hidden from the body,
and yet the soul is not for everyone to see.

9. This flute is played with fire, not with wind,
and without this fire you would not exist.

10. It is the fire of love that inspires the flute.
It is the ferment of love that completes the wine.

11. The reed is a comfort to all estranged lovers.
Its music tears our veils away.

12. Have you ever seen a poison or antidote like the reed?
Have you seen a more intimate companion and lover?

13. It sings of the path of blood;
it relates the passion of Majnun.

14. Only to the senseless is this sense confided.
Does the tongue have any patron but the ear?

15. Our days grow more unseasonable,
these days which mix with grief and pain. . .

16. but if the days that remain are few, let them go; it doesn't matter.
But You, You remain, for nothing is as pure as You are.

17. All but the fish quickly have their fill of His water,
and the day is long without His daily bread.

18. The raw do not understand the state of the ripe,
and so my words will be brief.

19. Break your bonds, be free, my child!
How long will silver and gold enslave you?

20. If you pour the whole sea into a jug,
will it hold more than one day's store.

21. The greedy eye, like the jug, is never filled.
Until content, the oyster holds no pearl.

22. Only one who has been undressed by Love
is free of defect and desire.

23. O Gladness, O Love, our partner in trade,
healer of all our ills,

24. Our Plato and Galen,
remedy for our pride and our vanity.

25. With love this earthly body could soar in the air;
the mountain could arise and nimbly dance.

26. Love gave life to Mount Sinai, O lover.
Sinai was drunk; Moses lost consciousness.

27. Pressed to the lips of one in harmony with myself,
I might also tell all that can be told;

28. but without a common tongue, I am dumb,
even if I have a hundred songs to sing.

29. When the rose is gone and the garden faded,
you will no longer hear the nightingale's song.

30. The Beloved is all; the lover just a veil.
The Beloved is living; the lover a dead thing.

31. If Love withholds its strengthening care,
the lover is left like a bird without wings.

32. How will I be awake and aware
if the light of the Beloved is absent?

33. Love wills that this Word be brought forth.

34. If you find the mirror of the heart dull,
the rust has not been cleared from its face.

35. O friends, listen to this tale,
the marrow of our inward state.