Wednesday, May 11, 2005

evoking the goddess

Each part of me displays my love for her;

Each scrap of me, a tongue that speaks her name.

I'm the lute in her arms, the flute at her lips,

And these my cries rise from her fingertips.

#248: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

I've been reading about the events leading up to the division of British India into modern Pakistan and India. At the other end of the Islamic empire there is Portugal and Spain which should form a whole but do not. They seem like puzzle pieces, both of them. I searched under this word and that but it was part that gave me today's glimmering quatrain. Surely Rumi is speaking here of the goddess, the Great Goddess no less. His cries of love come but from Her fingertips.

I've also been reading Fromm on Freud and how Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy is not essentially about incest but about the conflict between patriarchy and matriarchy. Patriarchy rules by force and repression; matriarchy rules by consensus and by allowing free expression of feelings. I strongly associate Islam with patriarchy and I believe Rumi was trying to express the goddess values at some great risk to himself. He would have had to be very careful for assigning Allah a partner is tantamount to heresy in Islam. This little verse might be seen as a simple love poem but it clearly refers to something that transcends mere mortal womankind, let alone one single woman.

This feminine being in Rumi's poetry could, of course, be anything. She could simply be a personification of love. The lute and flute identification in contrast to the music maker suggests that Rumi is the body and "she" is the spirit, the classic poet's muse who inspires his every word. However, in another sense, the parts and scraps refer to the words and letters that build up the music of verbal expression. It's amazing how lute and flute demonstrate this so clearly with the second word being simply the first with the addition of a letter. However, the Persian script equivalent of "lute and flute" is and there seems to be little resemblance between the two words at all. Perhaps the translator, Zara Houshmand, has taken some liberties with the original, the text of which appears below.

Again and again, I find it extraordinary that Rumi's original Farsi (Persian) can translate so lucidly into English. There is a simplicity and clarity of expression there that knows no language boundaries. It stands in such stark contrast to the muddy quality of the English translations of the Koran and the insistence by Muslim purists that their holy book is essentially only accessible to those who can read and understand the original Arabic. How "universal" is that? What kind of all-encompassing deity would limit itself to one language and a primitive one at that?


At Monday, 17 April, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you judge a language to be primitive? What are your premises?

At Monday, 17 April, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Are these merely rhetorical questions?


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