Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi, known better as Rumi or Molavi, was without doubt one of history's greatest literary figures. He is mainly famous for his didactic Masnavi (which typically runs to several volumes in most printings), but his collection of ghazals (odes) known as Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi is an even more amazing achievement, with thousands of ghazals unmatched in their eloquence, fervor, depth and beauty. Rumi was indeed a force of Nature, and in the Divan, he is at his forceful best. The central theme of all his poetry is the celebration of love. A forceful rejection of orthodox piety and mundane conventions pervades all his work - both the Masnavi and the Divan - making him very much a poet we need today. His sufi tradition, later embodied in the Mevleviyya order (the whirling dervishes) of Turkey, is rooted in humanist ideas. As he said in one of his most famous couplets:
Yesterday, the Master went around the city with a lamp
[saying] I am sick of demons and beasts, and wish to find a human.
The great orientalist scholar, R.A. Nicholson translated several ghazals selected from the Divan, and one of them is given below - a personal favorite of mine. I have redone the translation, guided by Nicholson's but less literal. The ghazal is a great example of Rumi's exuberant style.
خنك آن دم كہ نشستيم در ايوان من و تو
بدو نقش و بدو صورت بيكي جان من و تو
رنگ باغ و دم مرغان بدہد آب حيات
آن زماني كہ در آیيم ببستان من و تو
اختران فلك آيند بنظارۂ ما
مہ خود را بنمایيم با يشان من و تو
من و تو بي من وتو جمع شويم از سر ذوق
خوش و فارغ ز خرافات پريشان من و تو
طوطيان فلكی جملہ جگر خوار شوند
در مقامي كہ بخنديم برآن سان من و تو
اين عجب تر كہ من وتو بيكی كنج اينجا
ہم در اين دم بعراقيم و خراسان من و تو
O happy time when we shall be seated in the palace, thou and I;
two forms and two figures, but with a single soul, thou and I.
The orchard's beauty and the birds' song will make us immortal
on the day when we step into the garden, thou and I.
The very stars of heaven will come around to gaze at us,
and we shall show them the bright moon of our being, thou and I.
I and thou, no longer thou or I, shall become one in ecstasy,
joyous, and with no care for frivolous things, thou and I.
All the beautiful birds of heaven will eat their hearts out,
in such a manner shall we laugh at that point, thou and I
And even stranger, that thou and I now sit together in this nook,
and at the same time, we are also in Iraq and Khorasan, thou and I.
Translated by Ali Minai (after R.A. Nicholson)