Monday, May 23, 2005

tasting wine

Wine puts him to sleep who has no news,

But having word from her, how could he sleep?

All night long, love speaks in both my ears:

"Shame on him who sleeps alone without her."

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

There is an alternative or initial translation for this quatrain as follows:
He who's never tasted wine sleeps soundly,

But, tasted once, will never sleep again.

All night long, love speaks in both my ears:

'Shame on him who sleeps alone without me.'

I've been reading Fromm on dreams and I made an effort this morning to record a dream which was about changes in a food shopping centre. I tried words like meat, vegetable, eat, meal until taste gave me today's quatrain. The first line is derived from Zara Houshmand's initial translation but her second and final translation doesn't use the English word taste. I can see how the two translations would refer to similar Persian words but the end results are so different that this is a good illustration of the basic untranslatability of poetry. The final version is much for conventional than the initial one. The image is of a man in love with a woman, who can't sleep knowing she is around but not beside him in the bed. The first translation with the taste in it is far more enigmatic. It suggests a more mystical intoxication since it contains the paradox of no longer being able to sleep after tasting wine which is well known for its sedative and soporific effects. It has a hazy quality of not quite making sense which is characteristic of mystic poetry. I like this version better because it sucks me in and gets me wondering and I like that.


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