The Prince and the Christian Ascetic (part four)

Mathnawi V: 3563-3590

The kissing of the prince's hands and feet and petitioning
(for his mercy) a second time by the intercessors and
neighbors of the ascetic

3563 From the moment (of hearing) his (angry) shouts, they
kissed his hands and feet a few times,

Saying, "O prince, it's not suitable for you to drag
revenge (into the situation), (for) although the wine has
gone, you are delightful without wine.1

3565 "Wine takes (its) chief substance from your kindness,
(and) the goodness of water suffers regret from (not having)
your benevolence.

"Act in a kingly manner, O compassionate one. Forgive
him, O generous one, the son of a generous man who was the
son of a generous man!

"Every wine (is) the slave of these (attractive) cheeks
and stature2 (of yours). (And) all drunkards are envious
toward you.

"You aren't in need of any rose (colored) wine. Abandon
(its) rose color, (since) you are (yourself) the rose
(cheeked) quality (of wine).

"O you (whose) Venus-like face (is as radiant as) the
morning (sun),3 O you (toward whom all) rose (cheeked)
qualities are beggars for your (lovely) color,

3570 "The wine which bubbles invisibly inside the jar is
agitated like that because of yearning for your face.4

"O you (who are) the entire ocean, what will you do with
(some) dew? And, you (who are) the entire existence, why do
you seek non-existence?5

"O you (who are) the shining (full) moon, what will you
do with (some) dust?-- O you, before whose face the moon
(becomes) sallow and pale of face!

"You (who) are handsome and charming6 and the mine of
every goodness, why should you take upon yourself an
obligation to wine?

"The crown of (the verse) 'We have honored [the sons of
Adam]'7 is upon your head. (And) the chain necklace of (the
verse) 'We have given you'8 (is) hanging upon your chest.

3575 "Mankind is the substance and the revolving (spheres
are) his incidental (qualities).9

"O you (in regard to whom) reason, deliberations, and
understanding (are) your slaves, why do you sell yourself
(so) cheaply as this?1

"(Since) service toward you is an indispensable duty for
all existence, how should a substance seek help from an
incidental quality?

"You are seeking knowledge from books?11 O ridiculous
man! You are seeking savor from sweet paste?12 Oh, (how)

"You are the ocean of knowledge hidden in a dewdrop; you
are the world hidden in a body three cubits long.13

3580 "What is (the benefit of) wine, music, and sexual
intercourse so that you should seek pleasure and benefit
from them?

"(It would be absurd if) the sun wished to borrow
(light) from a (gleaming speck of) dust or (if) a Venus
desired a cup (of wine) from a goblet.14

"You are the soul without (need of) anything
intoxicating (which has) become confined by an intoxicating
substance.15 (And) you are the sun imprisoned by an eclipse.16
This is the pity for you!"

The prince's answering them again

The prince said, "No, no! I'm (definitely) the companion
for that (physical) wine -- I'm not satisfied with the savor
of this (heavenly) delight (that you describe).17

"I crave such (wine) so that I may keep turning
crookedly, like the jasmine (vine), (sometimes) like this,
sometimes like that.

3585 "And (so that after having) escaped from all fears and
hopes, I may keep shifting in every direction, like (the
leaves of) the willow tree--

"Swerving left and right like the willow branch which
(performs) various dances by (the influence of) the wind."

The one who has been used to the joy of (spiritual)
"wine" will never choose this happiness (of physical
wine)18-- never.19

Due to that, the prophets went beyond (seeking) this
(worldly) joy since they were molded into (shape by) the joy
of (the presence of) God.20

Since their spirits experienced that joy, these
(worldly) joys appeared to them (like child's) play.

3590 When anyone has become the lover of a living beloved,21
he will never embrace a dead (one).

--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" (,9/27/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3564) you are delightful without wine: "The
intercessors remind the Amír [= prince] that he is really
independent of 'wine', i.e. worldly goods and pleasures,
since the human soul in its essential nature, i.e. the
Perfect Man [= a term in the sufi philosophy of Ibnu
'l-`Arabi, died 1245, meaning a saint who reflects all the
Attributes of God], is the final cause of creation and
infinitely superior to all things that were brought into
existence for its sake." (Nicholson, Commentary)

"And they also said (to the prince), 'You must not escape
from that pure happiness which you have within the bounds of
your own essence and take savor and enjoyment from the wine
of external existence-- which is incidental and borrowed.'"
(Anqaravi, the famous 17th century Turkish commentator,
translated here into English from a Persian translation)

2. (3566) cheeks and stature: there is a word play between
"stature" [qadd] and "cheeks" [khad].

3. (3569) the morning (sun) [aZ-Zuhà]: the name of a
chapter in the Qur'an, from the opening line: "By the
brightness of the morning." (93:1)

4. (3570) because of yearning for your face: Anqaravi
quoted a (non-Qur'anic) Divines saying [Hadîthu 'l-qudsî] in
which God said: "O son of Adam, I created you for My sake
and I created everything else for your sake" [yâ ibu 'âdam
khalaqtu-ka li-ajl-î wa khalaqtu 'l-ashyâ'i li-ajl-ak].

5. (3571) why do you seek non-existence: "i.e. unreality."
(Nicholson, Commentary) This is "non-existence" in a
negative sense-- in contrast to the positive sense of the
word (meaning "mystical passing away and annihilation of
self"). "It means, "O Man and O Prince of the World... O
chosen one of (both) existence and placelessness: all of
existence is an expression for your sake. And things are
(as) nothing in relation to you. And, instead of becoming
the seeker of the truth of yourself, why do you desire
(worldly) things which are on the level of (unreal)
non-existence? Why are you the seeker of forms and
appearances which are like a mirage?'" (Anqaravi,

6. (3573) You (who) are handsome and charming: in Tôfîq
Sobhânî's edition of the earliest manuscript of the
Mathnawi, this line appears after "The crown of (the verse)
'We have honored [the sons of Adam]'..." However, this
appears to be an error, since Nicholson's text (based on the
same manuscript) and Anqaravi's (based on early manuscripts)
text have it prior.

7. (3574) 'We have honored [the sons of Adam]': Qur'an
17:70. Here, the One God speaks in the "royal plural"
tense-- a verse interpreted by the sufis to mean honored
above all creation, including the angels, who did not know
the "names" [= the Names of God, according to the sufi
interpretation], which Adam knew, but the angels did not
(Qur'an 2: 31-33).

8. (3574) 'We have given you': "Truly, We have given you
abundance." (Qur'an 108: 1) "... which the commentators [=
of the Qur'an] gloss by [= interpret as meaning] al-khayr
al-kathír [= abundance of goodness]. According to Najmu'ddín
al-Kubrá [= a famous sufi master, died 1221], it signifies
'the wine of gnosis (ma'rifah) [= intuitive-mystical
knowledge] in the cup of love (mahabbah)'." (Nicholson,
Commentary) This verse was originally addressed by God (in
the "royal We" tense) to the Prophet Muhammad. "Although
(the words) 'We have given you' are addressed to Hazrat-i
Muhammad-- may the peace (of God) be upon him-- yet, since
the Reality of humanity [Haqîqat-é insânî] is the same as
the Reality of Muhammad [Haqiqat-é muHammadî], if someone
has found the Reality of Muhammad, he has found his own
Reality." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

9. (3575) primary aim [`araZ]... incidental (qualities)
[gharaZ]: Nicholson translated, "Man is the substance, and
the celestial sphere is his accident." He explained the
"celestial sphere" means "the world" [Footnote]. These two
terms, which rhyme, refer to the philosophical difference
between the essential substance of something and its
"accidental" or external aspects which happen to manifest.
Here, it means that the saintly man or woman is the primary
end of creation, and the planets, stars, and the rest of the
creation are secondary aspects.

10. (3576) why do you sell yourself (so) cheaply as this:
Nicholson referred to another verse of the Mathnawi (which
he translated), "Man has sold himself cheaply: he was satin,
he has sewn himself on (be come attached) to a tattered
cloak." (III: 1001) And he explained that "a tattered cloak
means "the body and the carnal nature." (Commentary)

11. (3578) You are seeking knowledge from books?: "In the
beginning of this world, no books or pages were in
existence. And the (kinds of) true knowledge came into
manifestation in books and pages from the Reality of
humanity [Haqîqat-é insânî]. Because some of (such)
knowledge became a revelation [waHî] to the hearts of the
great prophets, and manifested by means of their tongues.
And also some of (such) knowledge became an inspiration
[ilhâm] to the hearts of the noble saints and is found
flowing from their tongues. And some (of it) also has been
found and manifested by philosophers [Hukumâ wa `âqil-ân] by
means of austerities. And some (of it) also (has manifested)
by religious scholars [`ulamâ] through all their reasoning,
deducing, and piety. Therefore, if someone occupies himself
with purification of the heart and recognizes himself and
his Reality, and knows his Reality as that which he has
experienced, he will acquire knowledge (from within) which
is his own kingdom. Then, when knowledge has been taken
(from within), it is not from books or volumes.

12. (3578) sweet paste [Halwâ]: refers to halva, a sweet
confection, sometimes combining honey, almonds, pistachios,
and sesame seeds.

13. (3579) three cubits [gaz] long: a linear measurement,
similar to the ancient cubit, which was from 17-21 inches in

14. (3581) (if) a Venus desired a cup (of wine) from a
goblet: because Venus is the planet which, according to
astrology, is the cause of festive joy.

15. (3582) You are the soul without (need of) anything
intoxicating (which has) become confined by an intoxicating
substance: This seems to be the appropriate interpretation,
since the word "kayf" means any intoxicating substance,
including wine, but usually refers to hashish. And
"bê-kayfî" means "without anything intoxicating." However,
Nicholson translated this line differently as, "Thou art the
unconditioned spirit imprisoned in conditionality..." He
understood the word "kayf" to mean "kayfiyat," which means
quality (in other words: "You are the soul beyond qualities
confined by quality"). Anqaravi made a similar
interpretation: "quantity and form" [kayfiyat wa kamiyyat].

16. (3582) an eclipse: literally, a "knot." Refers to one of
the "Dragon's Tail" in astrology, one of two places where
the moon's path crosses the ecliptic (the other is called
the "Dragon's Head." These are the only two places where the
sun can become eclipsed by the moon. Nicholson translated,
"the descending node" and explained: "I.e. eclipsed."

17. (3583) I'm not satisfied with the savor of this
(heavenly) delight (that you describe): "i.e. mystical
rapture and ecstasy." (Nicholson, Commentary)

18. (3587) The one who has been used to the joy of
(spiritual) "wine" will never choose this happiness (of
physical wine): "(It means), 'Be aware, O master, (that)
anyone who has gotten used to the joy of (spiritual) "wine,"
will not accept this bodily joy [= pleasure from alcoholic
wine]. For that reason, the noble prophets kept away from
this enjoyment (of wine) since they were molded by that
Eternal joy.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

19. (3587) Never [kay]: literally, "when?" This second use
of this word in the second half of the verse was later
corrected in the earliest manuscript to "hay," meaning,
"Oh," "Alas" (and the text which Anqaravi followed has this
as well). Nicholson translated: "He that is accustomed to
the joy of (spiritual) wine, how should he be satisfied with
this delight, Khwája, eh?"

20. (3588) they were molded into (shape by) the joy of (the
presence of) God: Nicholson translated, "... they were
steeped in the Divine delight." "It means, 'The true lovers
(of God) who have forgotten bodily and animal pleasures and
desires, and who have sipped the 'wine of God' [bâda-yé
Haqq], are saying to those persons who like bodily and
animal happiness: "O ignorant ones who are unaware of the
taste of the wine of (Divine) Unity and are deprived of the
wine of verification [of Divine realities]..."'" (Anqaravi,

21. (3590) living beloved: literally, "idol," a metaphor in
Persian literature meaning a beloved so beautiful as to be
almost worthy of worship.


dowom bâr dast-o pây-é amîr-râ bôsîdan wa lâba-kardan-é
shafî`-ân wa hamsâyag-ân-é zâhid

3563 ân shafî`-ân az dam-é hay-hâ-yé ô
chand bôsîdand-é dast-o pây-é ô

kây amîr az tô na-shâyad kîn-kash-î
gar be-shod bâda, tô bê-bâda khwash-î

3565 bâda sar-mâya ze-luTf-é tô bar-ad
luTf-é âb az luTf-é tô Hasrat khwar-ad

pâdshâhî kon be-bakhsh-ash ay raHîm
ay karîm ibnu 'l-karîm ibnu 'l-karîm

har sharâbê banda-yé în qadd-o khad
jumla mast-ân-râ bow-ad bar tô Hasad

hêch muHtâj-é may-é gol-gûn na-î
tark kon gol-gûna, tô gol-gûna-i

ay rokh-é chûn zuhra-at shamsu 'Z-ZuHà
ay gadây-é rang-é tô gol-gûna-hâ

3570 bâda k-ândar kunb mê-jôsh-ad nehân
z-ishtiyâq-é rôy-é tô jôsh-ad chon-ân

ay hama daryâ, che khwâh-î kard, nam
w-ay hama hast-î, che mê-jôy-î `adam?

ay mah-é tâbân che khwâh-î kard gard?
ay ke mah dar pêsh-é rôy-at rôy zard

tô khwash-o khwob-î-wo kân-ê har khwash-î
tô cherâ khwad minnat-é bâda kash-î

tâj-é karramnâ-st bar farq-é sar-at
tâwq-é 'a`Taynâka âwêz-é bar-at

3575 jawhar-ast insân-o charkh ô-râ `araZ
jumla far`-o pâya-and-o ô gharaZ

ay ghulâm-at `aql-o tadbîrât-o hôsh
chûn chon-în-î khwêsh-râ arzân forôsh?

khidmat-at bar jumla-yé hastî muftaraZ
jawharê chûn najda khwâh-ad az `araZ?

`ilm jôy-î az kutub-hâ ay fosôs
Zawq jôy-î tô ze-Halwâ ay fosôs

baHr-é `ilm-î, dar namê penhân shoda
dar se gaz tan `âlam-î penhân shoda

3580 may che bâsh-ad yâ samâ`-wo yâ jimâ`
tâ be-jôy-î z-ô nishâT-o intifâ`

âftâb az Zarra'yé shod wâm-khwâh
zuhra'ê az khumra'yê shod jâm-khwâh

jân-é bê-kayfî-î shoda maHbûs-é kayf
âftâb-î Habs-é `uqda, în-at Hayf

bâz jawâb-goftan-é ân amîr îshân-râ

goft na na, man Harîf-é ân may-am
man ba-Zawq-é în khwashî qâni` ne-y-am

man chon-ân khwâh-am ke ham-chûn yâsmîn
kazh hamê gard-am chon-ân gâhê chon-în

3585 wâ-rahîda az hama khawf-o omêd
kazh hamê gard-am ba-har sô ham-chô bêd

ham-chô shâkh-é bîd gardân chapp-o râst
ke ze-bâd-ash gôna-gôna raqS-hâ-st

ân-ke khô kard-ast bâ shâdîy-é may
în khwashî-râ kay pasand-ad khwâja kay?

anbiyâ z-ân z-în khwashî bêrûn shod-and
ke sereshta dar khwashîy-é Haq bod-and

z-ân-ke jân-shân ân khwashî-râ dîda bûd
în khwashî-hâ pêsh-eshân bâzi namûd

3590 bâ bot-é zenda kasê chûn gasht yâr
morda-râ chûn dar kash-ad andar kenâr?

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)