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Whirling spell

October 1, 2003
The Iranian

Preface to Hamid Zavosh's Rumi & Friends (iUniverse, 2003). Zavosh edits books, and caries out translation, teaching, speaking engagements, and does volunteer work at the Persian Community Services Center in Los angeles, California.  He is Also a member of the publications committee and editor of the Center's Magazine.

Two considerations prompted me to present the verses that follow [in this book] mainly to reach the two audiences that I had in mind. The first of these two being those living in the English-speaking part of the Western World, while the second, the second generation of Iranians living outside their country, mainly in the United States, Canada and England, who have received their education through the medium of the English language.

I had always believed that Persian Mysticism, so eloquently encapsulated in the form of poetry, had delicious spiritual food to offer to the people of the West, and to satiate their hunger, that is so thoroughly sharpened and made ever so painful, by their deeper involvement in daily chores to obtain their piece of bread. Persian mystical poems can literally be, for the spiritually thirsty and hungry, a veritable fresh springwater and Manna from Heaven!!

The second generation of Iranians, completely absorbed in the modern traditions, industrial culture, language and the chores associated with obtaining their piece of bread in the West, unknowingly and unwittingly have had to compromise their Persian traditions, language and culture, or more importantly their sense of who they really are, nay even their soul, to join the milieu of alwayshurried new compatriots, especially in the United States.

Late in the year 1995 my good friend and companioninwalk, Mr. Yacoub Bazleh, on behalf of his daughter Sheila, asked me to translate a piece of poetry from Sa'di, to be printed in a brochure on her impending operatic/piano concert in Beverly Hills. I decided to do the translation in verseform and it was the first time that I did so. Towards the end of the same year, during one of our regular walks on Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, he conveyed Sheila's suggestion, followed by his own encouragement, that I try my hand at what I did, which they both thought to have been a good verse translation, on a wider scale.

That suggestion fired my imagination in such a way that I hardly heard what my friend said during the rest of the walk, and while we were parting, I thought that I was bowing to an audience enraptured by one of the versetranslations that I had just personally delivered in a big hall!!

My head began to ring with the poems of worldfamous Persian poets, from Khayyam, to Sa'di, to Rumi, to Hafiz to the 20th Century Persian Poet Iraj Mirza, whose poem on "Mother", though having nothing to do with the intended spiritual message in the following verses, has nevertheless prompted me to include the same as my way of dedicating these writs to the memory of my mother. And if this single versetranslation touches the soul of only one reader, I will have accomplished my purpose.

When I cooled down, I told myself that I am no poet. In one's own world one may choose to do what one wishes, presuppose and presume anything, do all kinds of physical, mental and verbal acrobatics. In the real world, however, care needs to be exercised and one must not make oneself a laughing stock, nor presume to take the pearls of wisdom from one literary world, and transplant it, without being equipped to do so, into another.

No amount of selfcritique could stop the gusto that gushed from within me. Even though not finding myself up to the task, I finally acquiesced setting myself parameters that would at least make the act of translation a more natural one. There is no telling that translation from any language to another is a very difficult task. Certain thoughts, phrases, even words are not translatable at all. Persian poetry presents even greater difficulties in translation, as it is impossible to transmute its lilting flow into another language, even if it be in the form of poetry. And then there is the fear that one might lose the soul of the message in the translation!!

My task was even more difficult. Discounting the technicalities of translation, I was genuinely fearful of embarking on a project that necessitated presenting something whose whole message was a spiritual one. I therefore decided to set the following parameters in order to make my task spiritfriendly i.e.: To begin translation on impulse, without reservation as to time of day or night, unencumbered by reservations of place, technicalities of translation, and without reference to a dictionary. In other words to make my task as purely inspirational and as spiritually achieved as I possibly could.

It was therefore under the spell of my first two beliefs and the encouragement which I received that I embarked upon the task, unplanned and haphazardly, began the versetranslation of Persian mystical odes, lyrics, quatrains, etc. The poems I have selected are meant to bring a spiritual message, that I hope will appeal to the Western mind, totally engrossed in the chores of this world.

For the second generation Iranians, who do not speak and or write in their mothertongue, I hope and pray these verses will entice them to appreciate the thoughts expressed by their country's worldfamous poets, and induce them to learn to read and write their mothertongue, thereby obtaining more precious jewels with brighter sparkle from the treasuretrove hidden deep in the ocean of Persian Mystical poems, which I have not translated, or which I have not done justice to, as much as I had wished to do so.

Aside from these two audiences that I had in mind, I must admit, as any reader would, that these verses cannot and should not remain the monopoly of those originally intended, and anyone versed in the English language, and inclined towards spiritual messages will, and indeed is welcome to, drink A Cup and satiate the thirst of his spirit, from the Boundless Ocean of Persian Mysticism.

As one of the poems so very eloquently suggests, the inner assimilation and understanding of spiritual messages, both literal and symbolic, is a totally unduplicable and unconveyable personal experience unique to the reader himself. Similarly, the nuances of the spiritual path is different for each person, and if there are over 6 billion souls residing on this planet at this time, there are 6 billion spiritual Paths and nuances. A Persian poet says it rather well:

Each spirit tossed in whirling spell,
By The Enchanter's Charm it fell,
Drunken laughter or the midnight's wail,
Are one, though souls are set on separate sail.

I invite all readers, spiritually inclined, to gently and without haste taste and relish the spiritual drink poured into the glass of these mystical poems, and nourish their spirit by imbibing further and better drinks, poetically or otherwise made available by other spiritual winemakers and bartenders!! Like wines of varying vintage, spiritual drinks also taste and affect people in a variety of ways. In spite of heralds extolling the taste and qualities of typical wines, each person's reaction in tasting these is dependent upon several biological, structural and mental faculties. Be it the best and the oldest, not everyone's enjoyment can be the same. And so it is with spiritual drinks. Nevertheless, I say to you Cheers, Bey Salamaty, Salut, etc.

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