Year: 
2021

This is believed to be one of the earliest Persian poems, written by Zoroaster perhaps as early as 1700 BC …

Yasna 28, Verse 6
by Zarathustra/Zoroaster
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lead us to pure thought and truth
by your sacred word and long-enduring assistance,
O, eternal Giver of the gifts of righteousness.
O, wise Lord, grant us spiritual strength and joy;
help us overcome our enemies’ enmity.

Translator’s Notes: The Gathas consist of 17 hymns believed to have been composed by Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, Zarathushtra Spitama and Ashu Zarathushtra. Zoroaster was an ancient Iranian prophet who founded what is now known as Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster’s compositions may date as far back as 1700 BC, although there is no scholarly consensus as to when he lived. These hymns form the core of the Zoroastrian liturgy called the Yasna. The language employed, Gathic or Old Avestan, is related to the proto-Indo-Iranian and proto-Iranian languages and to Vedic Sanskrit. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy deems Zoroaster to have been the first philosopher. Zoroaster has also been called the father of ethics, the first rationalist and the first monotheist. In the original texts, Ahura Mazda means “wise Lord” or “Lord of Wisdom” while Vohuman/Vohu Manah represents pure thought and righteousness and Asha represents truth. Angra Mainyu was the chief evil entity, a precursor of Satan.

Abu'l Hasan Yamīn ud-Dīn Khusrau (1253-1325), better known as Amir Khusrow, Amīr Khusrau Dehlavī and Amir Khusro, was a Sufi musician, composer, poet and scholar who was born in Patiyala, India. His paternal ancestors belonged to the nomadic tribe of Hazaras and Khusrow called himself an Indian Turk (Turk-e-Hind). He wrote poetry in Persian (Farsi) and Hindavi (Hindi-Urdu) and introduced the ghazal to India, earning the sobriquets "the voice of India," the "Parrot of India" (Tuti-e-Hind), and the "father of Urdu literature." Khusrow also wrote in other musical and verse forms, including qawwali, masnavi, qata, rubai, do-baiti and tarkib-band.

 

Strange Currents
by Amir Khusrow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O Khusrow, the river of love
creates strange currents—
the one who would surface invariably drowns,
while the one who submerges, survives.

There are a number of translations of the poem above, and they all involve some degree of interpretation. I can't claim that my interpretation is "correct" and sometimes poets are intentionally ambiguous. I based my translation on this explanation by Madhu Singh: “Ubhra-Floats: He who floats actually sinks (is lost) & and he who drowns actually reaches the other side (gets salvation).” In other words, one must stop struggling and surrender to the river of love. And this makes more sense to me than some of the other translations do.

 

Becoming One
by Amir Khusrow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have become you, as you have become me;
I am your body, you my Essence.
Now no one can ever say
that you are someone else,
or that I am anything less than your Presence!

 

I Am a Pagan
by Amir Khusrow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch 

I am a pagan disciple of love: I need no creeds.
My every vein has become taut, like a tuned wire.
I do not need the Brahman's girdle.
Leave my bedside, ignorant physician!
The only cure for love is the sight of the patient's beloved:
there is no other medicine he needs!
If our boat lacks a pilot, let there be none:
we have god in our midst: we do not fear the sea!
The people say Khusrow worships idols:
True! True! But he does not need other people's approval;
he does not need the world's.

(My translation above was informed by a translation of Dr. Hadi Hasan.)

Amir Khusrow’s elegy for his mother
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wherever you shook the dust from your feet
is my relic of paradise!

Paradise
by Amir Khusrow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If there is an earthly paradise,
It's here! It's here! It's here!

Rumi (1207–1273) has become the best-selling poet in the United States in recent years …

I choose to love you in silence
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I choose to love you in silence
where there is no rejection;
to possess you in loneliness
where you are mine alone;
to adore you from a distance
which diminishes pain;
to kiss you in the wind
stealthier than my lips;
to embrace you in my dreams
where you are limitless ...

Songbird/Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!

The Field
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Far beyond sermons of right and wrong there's a sunlit field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lazes in such lush grass
the world is too full for discussion.

Beyond
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don’t demand union:
there’s a closer closeness, beyond.
The instant love descends to rest in me,
many beings become One.
In a single grain of wheat ten thousand sheaves germinate.
Within the needle’s eye innumerable stars radiate.

Two Insomnias
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I’m with you, we’re up all night.
When we part, I’m unable to sleep.
I’m grateful for both insomnias
and the difference maker.

Untitled
Raise your words, not their volume.
Rain grows flowers, not thunder.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your heart’s candle is ready to be kindled.
Your soul’s void is ready to be filled.
You can feel it, can’t you?
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is love: to fly toward a mysterious sky,
to cause ten thousand veils to fall.
First, to stop clinging to life,
then to step out without feet ...
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am not this hair,
nor this thin shell of skin;
I am the Soul that abides within.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let yourself be guided by the strange magnetism of what you really love:
It will not lead you astray.
The lion is most majestic when stalking prey.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Forget security!
Live by the perilous sea.
Destroy your reputation, however glorious.
Become notorious.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Like Rumi, Hafez Shiraz (1315–1390) has become a popular poet in the West …

Infectious!
by Hafiz aka Hafez
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I became infected with happiness tonight
as I wandered idly, singing in the starlight.
Now I'm wonderfully contagious—
so kiss me!

Dispensing Keys
by Hafiz aka Hafez
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The imbecile
constructs cages
for everyone he knows,
while the sage
(who has to duck his head
whenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys
all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy,
prison gang.

The Tally
by Hafiz aka Hafez
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lovers
don't reveal
all
their Secrets;
under the covers
they
may
count each other's Moles
(that reside
and hide
in the shy regions
by forbidden holes),
then keep the final tally
strictly
from Aunt Sally!

This is admittedly a very loose translation of the original Hafiz poem!

Untitled
The heart is the thousand-stringed lyre
tuned to the chords of Love.
—Hafiz, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have had poems of mine translated into Farsi over the years, including the following:

Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch
(Translated into Farsi by Dr. Mahnaz Badihian and published by MahMag and Portal Vapasin)

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth's great Caravan.
We'll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let's rehearse
the *Rubaiyat* of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization's Flower!
How high flew your spires in man's early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that's my plan,
civilization's first flower, Brother Iran.

See
by Michael R. Burch
(Translated into Farsi by Dr. Mahnaz Badihian and published in MahMag)

See how her hair has thinned: it doesn't seem
like hair at all, but like the airy moult
of emus who outraced the wind and left
soft plumage in their wake. See how her eyes
are gentler now; see how each wrinkle laughs,
and deepens on itself, as though mirth took
some comfort there and burrowed deeply in,
outlasting winter. See how very thin
her features are—that time has made more spare,
so that each bone shows elegant and rare.
For loveliness remains in her grave eyes,
and courage in her still-delighted looks:
each face presented like a picture book’s.
Bemused, she blows us undismayed goodbyes.

American Eagle, Grounded
by Michael R. Burch
(Translated into Farsi by Dr. Mahnaz Badihian and published in MahMag)

Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,
scans.

Her raptor beak,
all jagged sharp-edged thrust,
juts.

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,
waits.

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,
tremble.

Ali’s Song
by Michael R. Burch
(Translated into Farsi and published in Bashgah)

They say that gold don’t tarnish. It ain’t so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, “called a spade a spade.”
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.

Ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me nigger, did me wrong.
A man can’t be lukewarm, ’cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, “Now here’s your bullet and your gun,
and there’s your cell: we’re waiting, you choose one.”
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.

My face reflected up, dark bronze like gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image—BOLD.
My blood boiled like that river—strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child,
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

Originally published by Black Medina

Notes: Cassius Clay, who converted to Islam and changed his “slave name” to Muhammad Ali, said that he threw his Olympic boxing gold medal into the Ohio River. Confirming his account, the medal was recovered by Robert Bradbury and his wife Pattie in 2014 during the Annual Ohio River Sweep, and the Ali family paid them $200,000 to regain possession of the medal. When drafted during the Vietnamese War, Ali refused to serve, reputedly saying: “I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.” The notice mentioned in my poem is Ali's draft notice, which metaphorically gets tossed into the river along with his slave name. I was told through the grapevine that this poem appeared in Farsi in an Iranian publication called Bashgah.―Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: Persia, Persia, Iran, Iranian, Farsi, translation, Rumi, Hafez, Hafiz, Khusrow

Author of original: 
Rumi, Hafez/Hafiz and Amir Khusrow
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