The Prince and the Christian Ascetic (part three)

Mathnawi V: 3507-3522, 3528-3534, 3549-3562

The story of Dalqak's check-mating the Sayyid, the King of

3507 The king was playing chess with Dalqak. (When Dalqak)
checkmated him, the king's anger quickly burst forth.

(Dalqak) said, "King's mate, king's mate!"2 And that
proud king took the chess pieces (and) hurled (them) at his
head, one by one,

Saying, "Take (them all)! Now, 'king's mate' for you, O
cuckold!"3 Dalqak endured patiently and said (only), "Pardon

3510 The prince (of Termez) ordered another time of playing.
(Dalqak) was trembling, like a naked man from intense cold.

He played another time and the king was mated (again).
(When) it was the moment and (customary) time for saying,
"King's mate, king's mate,"

Dalqak sprang up and went into a corner. Out of fear, he
ran (and) threw six rugs on top of himself.

He lay down, hidden under pillows and under six rugs, so
that he might be saved from the blows of the king.

The king said, "Hey, hey! What did you do? What is this?
(Dalqak) answered, "King's mate, king's mate! King's' mate,
king's mate, O chosen king!

3515 "O (you who are) possessed of anger covered with fire,
one can never tell you the truth except under blankets.

"O you (who are) mated (by me) and I (who am) mated by
the king's blows, I am saying, 'King's mate, king's mate,'
underneath your furnishings!"

When the district became full of the prince's shouting,4
(the noise of his) kicking (the ascetic's door), and (his
angry) grabbing and seizing,5

The people quickly sprung (into the street) from left
and right, saying, "O (honored) leader, it's the moment for
forgiveness and agreement.

"His brain is dry and his (ability to) reason, at this
time, is less than the (level of) reasoning and
understanding of children.

3520 "Asceticism and old age have become weakness (added)
upon weakness (of mind), and there has been no (spiritual)
breakthroughs in his asceticism.6

"He has experienced (much) suffering, (but) hasn't found
(any) treasure from the Friend;7 he has performed works (of
devotion), (but) hasn't seen (any) reward for (his) labor.

3522 "Either those labors of his lacked the essential
thing,8 or the time for his reward has not come because of
the Decree (of God).
. . . . . . .

3528 "Vision of the Beloved is far beyond his (present)
road, since his desire is leadership; he's not seeking the
end (of the road).9

"For a time he (is) in (a state of) complaining to God,
saying, 'The portion (You have decreed) for me has been
(nothing but) suffering from this business (of

3530 (And) for a time he (is) in (a state of) quarreling
with his own fate, saying, 'Everyone (else is) flying, but
my wings have been severed.'"11

Whoever is confined in (the prison of) scent and color,12
even if he is (engaged) in asceticism, his (inner) nature is
(miserably) constricted.

As long as he doesn't come out from this contemptible
camel's dwelling,13 his (spiritual) nature14 will never become
happy or his chest expanded (from ecstasy).

Ascetics (dwelling) in solitude should never be given a
knife or sword prior to (the attainment of spiritual)

3534 Because they would tear (open their) stomach from the
torment of the griefs and sorrows of (their) unattained

. . . . . . .

3549 (The people continued), "O prince, forgive (the
ascetic's) stubborn severity. Look upon his misery and bad

3550 "So that God may also act forgiving in regard to your
faults (and) flood your mistakes with (His) Forgiveness.

"You (too) have broken many jugs because of carelessness
(and) have attached (your) heart to the hope of forgiveness.

"Forgive, so that you may find forgiveness in
recompense, (for) the (Divine) Judgment will split a hair in
(exacting) punishment."15

The prince's answering those intercessors and neighbors (on
behalf) of the ascetic, saying, "Why did he act (so)
insolently, and why did he break my (wine) jug? In this
matter, I won't accept intercession, since I have sworn that
I will give (him) his punishment."

The prince said, "Who is he, that he should hurl a rock
at my (wine) jug (and) break the jug?16

"When the lion makes (his) way through my district, he
passes by with great fear and with a hundred cautions.

3555 "Why did he disturb the heart of my slave (and) shame
me in front of my guests?

"He spilled a drink which is better than his (own)
blood. (And) he has run away from me this (very) moment,
just like women.

"But he will never bring (his) life (safely) from my
hand. Suppose he flies up high, like a bird,

"I will shoot the arrow of my anger at his wings (and) I
will rip out his worthless feathers and wings."

"(And) if he goes into (a place of) terrible rocks (to
escape) from my efforts (to kill him), I will drag him out
from the heart of the rocks right away.

3560 "I will drive a blow upon his body that will be an
example to (no good) little pimps!17

"Hypocrisy with (the tolerance of) everyone (and) with
me as well?18 I will administer justice to him, and a hundred
like him, this (very) moment."

3562 His blood-thirsty anger had become unruly, (and) a fire
(of wrath) was coming out of his mouth.

--From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed Couplets of
Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi.
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with
gratitude for R. A. Nicholson's 1934 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (,9/20/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) Dalqak's check-mating the Sayyid, the King of
Termez: Rumi has told another brief story about Dalqak and
the Sayyid-i Ajal (Mathnawi, II: 2333-37), and the context
of both stories suggests that he may be a court jester.

2. (3508) King's mate, king's mate [shah-shah]: literally,
"King, king!" There is word play here with saying these
words to an a actual king (which adds to the latter's
annoyance). The word for "mate" [mât, literally, "he died"
in Arabic] means that the king is checked from further
movement and must "die" by the attack of the victorious
king's army. And the word for "check mate" [shâh-mât]
literally mean, "The king has died." The Persian word for
"chess" [shatrang] derives from the ancient Sanskrit word,
"chatur-anga" -- the "four components" of an army:
elephants, horses, chariots, and infantry. Persian chess
included the king, the vizier or chief minister (the "queen"
in European chess), elephants ("bishops"), horses
("knights"), rooks ("rokh" -- tower or castle), and
foot-soldiers (pawns).

3. (3509) O cuckold: an insult, meaning a husband who has
been "cuckolded" by another man who has committing adultery
with his wife; or a husband who pimps his wife to other men
for money.

4. (3516) When the district became full of the prince's
shouting: Here, Rumi returns to the main story.

5. (3517) grabbing and seizing: "(It means), seizing and
confiscating (property)." (Anqaravi, the famous 17th century
Turkish commentator on the Mathnawi, translated here into
English from a Persian translation)

6. (3520) no (spiritual) breakthroughs in his asceticism:
Nicholson translated, "no (spiritual) revelation..." And he
explained: "Literally, 'opening' (by way of ecstasy,
illumination, vision, etc.)." (Footnote) "(It means),
'Because, after much renunciation of the world, due to being
ignorant and unaware of the secret and meaning of
asceticism, dry asceticism has not opened any doors (= of
spiritual expansion and joy) for him." (Anqaravi,

7. (3521) the Friend [yâr]: means God. May also be
translated, "the Beloved."

8. (3522) Either those labors of his lacked the essential
thing: means that he lacked the right attitude, knowledge,
or inspiration. Nicholson interpreted the word "essential"
[gawhar] as meaning "gawhar-i ikhlás" [= essential
sincerity, fidelity]. (Commentary)

9. (3528) the end (of the road): a pun on two meanings of
the word "head" [sar]-- "leadership" (to be the head, or
chief}; "end" (the "head," or uppermost part of the road
from the starting point.

10. (3529) from this business (of asceticism): Nicholson
translated, "from this calculation (of mine)..." "It means,
'In accordance with the estimation and conclusion that I
have made [= of how much asceticism would be needed to reach
the goal], my portion and measure of this is that from (all)
this) austerity and miserable poverty that I have borne...'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

11. (3530) Everyone (else is) flying, but my wings have been
severed: "Cf. the saying of Yahyá ibn Mu'ádh al-Rází:
al-záhidu sayyár-un wa-'l-`árifu tayyár-un [= The ascetic is
a traveller, but the mystic knower is a flyer]." The gnostic
[= mystic knower] reaches his goal 'at the first step'; he
is majdhúb [= (Divinely) attracted], whereas the ascetic's
progress is slow and painful..." (Nicholson, Commentary)

12. (3531) confined in (the prison of) scent and color:
"i.e. the illusions of self-consciousness." (Nicholson,
Commentary) Here, Rumi makes some comments.

13. (3532) this contemptible camel's dwelling: [în nangîn
mukâkh]: means the "narrow jail cell" of the human body and
the material world. Nicholson translated "this narrow
resting-place," and he explained: "Literally, a place where
camels lie down (at night)." (Footnote) He read "tangîn" [=
"narrow"] (as did Anqaravi). However, the edition of Tôfiq
Sobhanî (of the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, also
edited by Nicholson) has the much more common Persian word
"nangîn" [= contemptible, ugly, shameful]. Nicholson did
make a further comment on this question in the variants
section of the Persian text of his edition: "The reading of
G [= the "Konya manuscript"] may possibly be 'nangîn.'"

14. (3532) his (spiritual) nature [khôy-ash]: Nicholson
translated, "his spirit," and explained: "Literally,
'disposition.'" (Footnote)

15. (3552) the (Divine) Judgment will split a hair in
(exacting) punishment: "The one who does good actions will
have ten times the like of them (as a reward). But he who
does evil actions will not be recompensed except (according
to) the like of them. And they will not be wronged (in the
least)." (Qur'an 6:160) Nicholson translated, "the (Divine)
decree splits hairs (is exceedingly scrupulous) in (giving
every one his) deserts."

Anqaravi referred to a verse of the Qur'an which
describes the righteous as: "Those who spend (the sake of
God), whether in (times of) prosperity or hardship, who
restrain anger, and pardon men. And God loves those who do
good (to others)." (3:134) "Therefore, the people of the
ascetic's neighborhood, in accordance with this noble verse,
spoke to the prince, saying..." And he also referred to the
saying of the Prophet: "The Merciful (God) is merciful to
those who are merciful" [ar-raHmûna yarhamu-hum ar-raHmân].

16. (3553) Who is he, that he should hurl a rock at my
(wine) jug (and) break the jug: "This verse... expresses the
indignation with which hedonists regard any attempt to
deprive them of freedom to enjoy themselves as they please."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

17. (3560) little pimps: "It is said of someone who is a
cuckold, shameless, and lacking jealousy (= toward another
man who engages in adultery with his wife)." (Anqaravi,

18. (3561) Hypocrisy with (the tolerance of) everyone (and)
with me as well: Nicholson translated, "Hypocrisy to all and
even to me!"


Hikâyat-é mât-kardan-é dalqak, sayyid shâh-é termeZ-râ

3507 shâh bâ dalqak hamê shaTranj bâkht
mât kard-ash zûd khashm-é shah be-tâkht

goft shah-shah w-ân shah-é kibr âwar-ash
yak-yak az shaTranj mê-zad bar sar-ash

ke be-gîr înak shah-at, ay qaltabân
Sabr kard ân dalqak-o goft al-'amân

3510 dast-é dêgar bâkhtan farmûd mîr
ô chon-ân larzân ke `aur az zamharîr

bâkht dast-é dîgar-o shah mât shod
waqt-é shah-shah-goftan-o mîqât shod

bar-jahîd ân dalqak-o dar konj raft
shash namad bar khwad fakand az bîm taft

zêr-é bâlesh-hâ-wo zêr-é shash namad
khoft penhân tâ ze-zakhm-é shah rah-ad

goft shah, hay hay che kard-î chîst în?
goft shah-shah, shah-shah, ay shâh-é gozîn

3515 kay tawân Haq goft joz zêr-é liHâf
bâ tô ay khashm-âwar-é âtesh-sijâf?

ay tô mât-o man ze-zakhm-é shâh mât
mê-zan-am shah-shah ba-zêr-é rakht-hâ-t

chûn maHalla por shod az hayhây-é mîr
w-az lakad bar dar zadan w-az dâr-o gîr

khalq bêrûn jast zûd az chapp-o râst
k-ay muqaddam waqt-é `afw-ast-o riZâst

maghz-é ô khoshk-ast-o `aql-ash în zamân
kam-tar-ast az `aql-o fahm-é kôdak-ân

3520 zuhd-o pîrî Za`f bar Za`f âmada
w-andar ân zuhd-ash goshâdî nâ-shoda

ranj dîda, ganj nâ-dîda ze-yâr
kâr-hâ karda, na-dîda mozd-é kâr

3522 yâ na-bûd ân kâr-é ô-râ khwad gohar
yâ na-y-âmad waqt-é pâdâsh az qadar

. . . . . . .

3528 z-ân rah-ash dûr-ast tâ dîdâr-é dôst
k-ô na-jôy-ad sar, ra'îsiy-ash ârzô-st

sâ`atê ô bâ khodâ andar `itâb
ke naSîb-am ranj âmad z-în Hisâb

3530 sâ`atê bâ bakht-é khwad andar jidâl
ke hama parrân-o mâ be-b'rîda bâl

har ke maHbûs-ast andar bô-wo rang
gar-che dar zuhd-ast, bâsh-ad khô-sh tang

tâ berûn na-ây-ad az-în nangîn munâkh
kay shaw-ad khôy-ash khwash-o Sadr-ash farâkh?

zâhid-ân-râ dar khalâ pêsh az goshâd
kârd-o ostorra na-shây-ad hêch dâd

3534 k-az Zajar khwad-râ be-darrân-ad shekam
ghuSSa-yé ân bê-murâdî-hâ-wo gham

. . . . . . .

3549 `afw kon ay mîr bar sakhtîy-é ô
dar negar dar dard-o bad-bakhtîy-é ô

3550 Tâ ze-jurm-at ham khodâ `afwî kon-ad
zallat-at-râ maghfirat dar âgan-ad

tô ze-ghaflat bas sabô be-sh'kasta-î
dar omêd-é `afw del dar basta-î

`afw kon tâ `afw yâb-î dar jazâ
mê-shekâf-ad mô qadar andar sazâ

jawâb-goftan-é amîr mar ân shafî`-ân-râ wa ham-sâyag-ân-é
zâhid-râ ke gostâkhî cherâ kard wa sabôy-é mâ-râ cherâ
shekast? man dar în bâb shifâ`at qabûl na-khwâh-am kard ke
sôgand khworda-am ke sazây-é ô-râ be-deh-am

mîr goft ô kî-st k-ô sangê zan-ad
bar sabôy-é mâ, sâbo-râ be-sh'kan-ad?

chûn goZar sâz-ad ze-kôy-am shêr-é nar
tars-tarsân be-g'Zar-ad bâ Sad HaZar

3555 banda-yé mâ-râ cherâ âzord del
kard mâ-râ pêsh-é mehmân-ân khajil?

sharbatê ke beh ze-khûn-é ô-st rêkht
în zamân ham-chûn zan-ân az mâ gorêkht

lêk jân az dast-é man ô kay bar-ad?
gîr ham-chûn morgh bâlâ bar par-ad

tîr-é qahr-é khwêsh bar parr-ash zan-am
parr-o bâl-é mordarêg-ash bar kan-am

gar raw-ad dar sang-é sakht az kôshesh-am
az del-é sang-ash konûn bêrûn kash-am

3560 man be-rân-am bar tan-é ô Zarbatê
ke bôw-ad qawwâdak-ân-râ `ibratê

bâ hama sâlûs bâ mâ nêz ham?
dâd-é ô-wo Sad chô ô în dam deh-am

3562 khashm khûn-khwâr-ash shoda bod sar-kashê
az dahân-ash mê-bar-âmad âteshê

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)