The Odes, or ghazals [ghazaliyât], are the major poetic format of
Rumi's Divan (collected works of poetry).
Rumi is believed to have begun composing ghazals soon after
meeting Shams-i Tabriz in 1244 (when Rumi was 37, at the least;
Shams is believed to have been in his 60's at the time). He
continued a vast outpouring of ghazals after Shams' final
disappearance (1247-1248) until about 1258-1261 (when Rumi
was in his mid-fifties), the time when he began composing the
Masnavi. And it is believed that he continued composing ghazals,
but less often, even during his later years.
The odes, or ghazals, of Rumi are known as his "ecstatic poetry"
(although there are rapturous passages in the Masnavi, as well).
They are best understood as expressing the stage in the sufi path
known as "annihilation in the spiritual master" [fanâ fi 'l-shaykh],
during which the spiritual seeker loses ordinary consciousness of
himself and sees the face of his beloved master everywhere, in
every thing, and at all times.
Although the ghazals attributed to Rumi (in Foruzanfar's edition)
are 61% of the total number of poems in the Divan (which also
contains many quatrains and some tarji-bands), they make up 78%
of the total verses in the Divan. This is because the quatrains
consists of four lines only, whereas the ghazals are longer poems,
(usually about 10-20 lines, but occasionally 40 or more lines).
These types of poems composed by Rumi are primarily ghazals
[ghazaliyât] (but include some poems called qasîda, similar in form
to ghazals, but longer). Tha ghazal, as a poetic form, has been
compared to the English lyric poem, especially the sonnet. It
generally ranges in size from seven to thirteen couplets. The
ghazals is an expression of "words of love," so the themes are
usually about earthly and Divine love and beauty, the longing of
the lover for the beloved, and the ecstatic "drunken" states of being
in love. Occasionally, verses may be about spiritual and
philosophical themes concerning life and existence.
In the ghazal format, the first half of the first line rhymes with the
last half (as in the quatrain/rubâ`i format). After that, however,
only the second halves of the lines rhyme, giving the poet more
freedom in the first halves of each line). Each ghazal strictly
follows one of the twenty-one traditional ghazal meters.
Here is an example of the format, where the meter is
oXXX oXXX oXX and the rhyme is "-â-yad":
ze-KHAA-KÉ MAN a-GAR GAN-DOM ba-RAA-YAD
a-ZAAN GAR NAAN pa-ZEE MAS-TEE fe-ZAA-YAD
kha-MEE-RO NAA-n(e)-BAA DEE-WAA-na GAR-DAD
ta-NOO-RASH BAY-t(e) MAS-TAA NA se-RAA-YAD
a-GAR BAR GOO-ré MAN AA-YEE zi-YAA-RAT
to-RAA KHAR-POSH-ta-AM RAQ-SAAN no-MAA-YAD1
Persian Editions of the Ghazals
The best edition of the ghazals available is in the edition of Rumi's
Dîvân (in Volumes 1-7) was done by the Iranian scholar,
Badi`uzzamân Forôzânfar, published between 1957-1967. The
number of authentic odes/ghazals composed by Rumi is certainly
somewhat less than the 3,229 in Foruzanfar's edition. This is
because he included all the odes which were in the earliest
available manuscripts. Foruzanfar did not eliminate any which are
known to have been composed before Rumi's time. This is
something that still needs to be done by scholars.
There is a also a (widely distributed) commercial edition in one
volume ("Kulliyât-i Dîvân-i Shamsî Tabrîzî," published by Amîr
Kabîr, 1957, enlarged 1962, and re-printed many times since),
which falsely purports to contain all of Foruzanfar's edition.
However, it was first put out before Foruzanfar completed all the
ghazals from the earliest manuscripts of the Dîvân (in his volume
seven, first published in 1966). Therefore, the commercial edition
contains his edition (minus his variations and footnotes) up
through the contents of his volume six (first published 1961),
through ghazal number 3106. The ghazals following that have been
incorporated from some other (inferior) edition (and in a different
order) and are therefore not those in Foruzanfar's authentic edition.
These (non-Foruzanfar) ghazals number, in the one-volume
edition, numbers 3107-3365.
English Translations of the Ghazals
The first influential translation was made by the British scholar, R.
A. Nicholson. It contains forty eight ghazals, with Persian text on
the left-hand pages, plus extensive notes at the end of the book
("Selected Poems from the Dîvâni Shamsi Tabrîz"), 1898 . It is
among his most "Victorian-sounding" translations (an example,
from XXXVII: "I have heard that thou dost intend to travel: do not
Seven of these ghazals are no longer considered authentic Rumi
poems, and are not in the earliest manuscripts. (IV: "David said: 'O
Lord, since thou hast no need of us..."; VIII: "The man of God is
drunken without wine..."; XII: "Every form you see has its
archetype in the placeless world..."; XVII: "I was on that day when
the Names were not... Cross and Christians, from end to end,/ I
surveyed; He was not on the Cross.... I gazed into my own heart;/
There I saw Him; He was nowhere else..."; XXXI: What is to be
done, O Moslems? for I do not recognize myself./ I am neither
Christian, nor Jew, nor Gabr [= Zoroastrian], nor Moslem...";
XXXIII: "I am that supplicant who make supplication to thee...";
XLIV: "O heart, why art thou a captive in the earth that is passing
away..."; plus an eighth in the appendix, p. 332: "I circled awhile
with the nine Fathers in each heaven...") However, these are still
authentic sufi poems (regardless of their true authors and dates
Nicholson's student and successor at Cambridge University, A. J. Arberry, translated 400 ghazals in two volumes ("Mystical Poems of Rumi," 1968; "Mystical Poems of Rumi: Second Selection," 1979). Arberry's translation is based upon the Foruzanfar edition, and he re-translated the ghazals previously translated by Nicholson (the 41 authentic Rumi ghazals, and not the seven inauthentic ones). Therefore, Nicholson's translation is outmoded and superseded by Arberry's more accurate translation. Arberry's two volumes were republished as one volume by U. of Chicago Press in 2009 (with corrections of the many typographical errors in the second volume made by Franklin Lewis).
2. F-0096: p. 336-337, F-0120: p. 339, F-0123: p. 296-297, F-0127: p. 159-160, F-0144: p. 142, F-0182: p. 226, F-0312: p. 156-157, F-0338: p. 337, F-0374: p. 216-217, F-0385: p. 105-106, F-0391: p. 332, F-0419: p. 303, F-0515: p. 332-333, F-0586: p. 217, F-0657: p. 299-300, F-0695: p. 342-343, F-0742: p. 306-307, F-0797: p. 142-143, F-0817: p. 146-147, F-0869: p. 162-163, F-0907: p. 261, F-0972: p. 218, F-0981 (A 125): p. 270-271, F-1000: p. 284, F-1135: p. 329-331, F-1145 (A 147): p. 347-348, F-1160: p. 313, F-1163: p. 147, F-1169: p. 296, F-1196: p. 339-340, F-1244: p. 338, F-1310: p. 141-142, F-1331: p. 219, F-1374: p. 345-346, F-1375: p. 346-347, F-1400: p. 208-209, F-1407: p. 300-301, F-1426: p. 343-344, F-1436: p. 228, F-1451: p. 260, F-1553: p. 340-341, F-1601: p. 180-181, F-1647: p. 327, F-1648: p. 321-322, F-1671: p. 156, F-1695: p. 342, F-1705 (AA 213): p. 309-310, F-1716: p. 320, F-1723: p. 345, F-1739 (AA 217): p. 157-158, F-1747: p. 348-349, F-1767: p. 343, F-1869 (AA 231): p. 219-220, F-1911: p. 337-338, F-1931: p. 230, F-1945: p. 282-283, F-2056: p. 334-335, F-2073: p. 336, F-2102: p. 186, F-2206: p. 160, F-2243: p. 300, F-2251: p. 234, F-2293 (AA 291): p. 141, F-2331 (AA 297): p. 267, F-2509 (AA 321): p. 302-303, F-2602: p. 228-229, F-2675: p. 293-294, F-2730: p. 140, F-2742: p. 324-325, F-2744: p. 323, F-2879: p. 335-336, F-2936: p. 283-284, F-2996: p. 341-342, F-3003: p. 149-150, F-3041: p. 218-219, F-3067: p. 331-332, F-3072: p. 344-345. [A = the poem numbers in Arberry's first volume; AA = the poem numbers in Arberry's second volume]