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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Jalāl-ad-dīn Rūmī (1207–1273)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by A. V. Williams Jackson (1862–1937)
 
THE APPELLATION Rūmī, or Syrian, is given to the Persian poet Jalāl-ad-dīn because most of his life was passed at Iconium in Rūm, or Asia Minor. His full name is recorded as Jalāl-ad-dīn Mohammed Rūmī; he is generally known as Jalāl-ad-dīn, or “Splendor of the Faith,” but it is convenient to record his name, according to Western methods, under the simple form Rūmī.  1
  This Persian poet may best be remembered as the founder of the Maulavī sect of dervishes, or the whirling dervishes as they are often called; whose austerity of life, mystic philosophy, enthusiastic devotion, and religious ecstasy superinduced by the whirling dance, are familiar to readers of Eastern literature. The writings of Jalāl-ad-dīn, like Jāmī, Nizami, and others, breathe the religious spirituality of Sūfī philosophy: the world and all that is comprised therein is but a part of God, and the universe exists only through God; the Love Divine is all-pervading, and the rivers of life pour their waters into the boundless ocean of the supreme soul; man must burnish the mirror of his heart and wipe away the dross of self that blurs the perfect image there. This is a keynote to the “Rūmian’s” religious and mystic poetry.  2
  Jalāl-ad-dīn Rūmī was not only himself renowned, but he inherited renown from a noble father and from distinguished ancestors. The blood of the old Khvarismian kings flowed in his veins. He was born in Balkh, Bactria, A.D. 1207. The child’s father was a zealous teacher and preacher, a scholar whose learning and influence won for him so great popularity with the people of Balkh as to arouse the jealous opposition of the reigning Sultan. Obliged to leave his native city, this worthy man wandered westward with his family, and ultimately settled in Syria, where he founded a college under the generous patronage of the Sultan of Rūm, as Asia Minor is termed in the Orient. He died honored with years and with favors, at a moment when his son had recently passed into manhood.  3
  Upon his father’s death Jalāl-ad-dīn succeeded to the noble teacher’s chair, and entered upon the distinguished career for which his natural gifts and splendid training had destined him. He was already married; and when sorrow came through the untimely death of a son, and in the sad fate of a beloved friend and teacher, known as Shams-ad-Dīn of Tabrīz, Jalāl’s life seems to have taken on a deeper tinge of somber richness and a fuller tone of spiritual devotion, that colors his poetry. Revered for his teaching, his purity of life, and his poetic talents, the “Rūmian’s” fame soon spread, and he became widely followed. Among many anecdotes that are told of his upright but uneventful life is a sort of St. Patrick story, that ascribes to him supernatural power and influence. Preaching one time on the bank of a pond, to a large concourse of eager listeners who had assembled to drink in his inspired words, his voice was drowned by the incessant croaking of innumerable frogs. The pious man calmly proceeded to the brink of the water and bade the frogs be still. Their mouths were instantly sealed. When his discourse was ended, he turned once more to the marge of the lake and gave the frogs permission again to pipe up. Immediately their hoarse voices began to sound, and their lusty croaking has since been allowed to continue in this hallowed spot.  4
  To-day, Jalāl-ad-dīn Rūmī’s fame rests upon one magnum opus, the ‘Masnavī’ or ‘Mathnavī.’ The title literally signifies “measure,” then a poem composed in that certain measure, then the poem par excellence that is composed in that measure, the ‘Masnavī.’ It is a large collection of some 30,000 or 40,000 rhymed couplets, teaching Divine love and the purification of the heart, under the guise of tales, anecdotes, precepts, parables, and legends. The poetic merit, religious fervor, and philosophic depth of the work are acknowledged. Six books make up the contents of the poem; and it seems to have been finished just as Jalāl-ad-dīn, the religious devotee, mystic philosopher, and enthusiastic poetic teacher, died A.D. 1273.  5
  The best collection of bibliographical material is that given by Ethé in Geiger and Kuhn’s ‘Grundriss der Iranischen Philologie,’ Vol. ii., pages 289–291. The first of the six books of the ‘Masnavī’ is easily accessible in a metrical English version by J. W. Redhouse, London, 1881 (Trübner’s Oriental Series); and three selections are to be found in Samuel Robinson’s ‘Persian Poetry for English Readers,’ 1883, pages 367–382. Both these valuable works have been drawn upon for the present sketch. The abridged English translation of the ‘Masnavī’ by E. H. Whinfield (Trübner’s Oriental Series, London, 1887) is a standard to be consulted, as well as C. E. Wilson’s ‘Masnavī, Book 2’ (London, 1910), and R. A. Nicholson’s ‘Dīvāni Shams Tabrīz’ (Cambridge, 1898).  6
 
 
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