Via Beth, this “Persian with Rumi” page with its small but excellent collection of bilingual quatrains, transliterated and with glossaries. (Minor annoyance: not only are the translations by A.J. Arberry fusty, they don’t even reproduce the AABA rhyme scheme; why?) A sample:

Ruba’ie #6
As the essence that is mine to the all pervading sea,
Turneth, all my atoms shine in sublime resplendency.
On the road of Love, behold! like a candle I do blaze,
That one moment may enfold all the moments of my days.

Ân-vaqt ke bahr-é kôll shavad zât marâ,
rûshan ghardad jamâl-é zarrât marâ.
z-ân mî-sûzam chô sham’a tâ dar rah-é éshq,
yek vaqt shavad jômleh-é awqât marâ.

Ân-vaqt = at the time
bahr = sea
shavad = became, happened
zât = essence
marâ = mine
rûshan ghardad = will be shined, will be enlightened
jamâl = charm, beauty
zarrât = atoms (plural form), zarreh (singular form).
mî-sûzam = I do blaze
sham’a = candle
éshq = love
yek vaqt = one moment
awqât = moments (plural form) for vaqt


  1. Just out of curiosity, why would you expect the translation to maintain the rhyme scheme? Wouldn’t a proper translation only be distorted by trying to do so?

  2. If you’re going for accuracy, of course you wouldn’t make it rhyme. But if you’re doing a rhyming translation like a good Victorian, why on earth not keep the original pattern? Ingenuity strained by having to find three rhymes instead of two?

  3. Ben Yackley says

    As the essence of all that is mine
    Turns oceanward, it starts to shine
    My elements blaze
    With candle-like rays
    To capture this state for all time
    (trying my hand at poetry translation)

  4. Well, Arberry’s translation is the most literal available in English. I think the idea is that, with the Persian text right there on the page, readers need a crib more than a poetic equivalent. Granted, it takes a certain mindset to try and savor the rhythms and sounds of a poetic idiom across the barrier of an unfamiliar language.
    In fact, I’ve thought before that a good way into the heart of Rumi’s poetic manner is to use Arberry side-by-side with one of the new generation of translations (Barks, etc.). The new translations take a lot of liberties to “translate the poetry,” and you can learn a lot about Rumi’s style and idiom by observing how deeply they have mined the (often very simple, less florid and gushy) *words* of Rumi to convey the (“spiritual”) essence. I get the impression that Rumi has more poetic discipline and economy than the latest translations would have you think. (This makes him a more “difficult” poet.) I should cease this speculation, as I have zero *appreciation* of Persian poetics.
    Some people would say, (Rumi’s) poetry is what gets lost in (Arberry’s) translation. I am enough of an essentialist, I guess, to say that the more poetic translation can serve us by convincing us to go back and seek the latent poetry we *should* have been able to hear in the barren literal blocks of the more literal rendition.

  5. Saulo R. de Oliveira says

    I Loved. Rumi´s Poetry is very sensitive and beatiful. But I would like to know where can I obtain editions of Rumi in persian and english and Al-Hallaj at arabian and english also.

  6. Ben Yackley – hats off, so much better than Arberry! Keep at it!

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