• Side by Side with Rumi (and Szymanowski)

As a follow-up to my post six days ago on the translations of Rumi’s text for Szymanowski’s Third Symphony ‘Song of the Night’ (Oh, do not sleep, friend), I’ve now found a translation into English direct from the Persian.  It took visits to several of the major London bookshops, until I came across Franklin D. Lewis’s Rumi: Swallowing the Sun (Oneworld, 2007).

To my eyes and ears, this looks as if it follows the original Persian closely, even if at times it is a little wordy (but maybe this is Rumi’s style).  Certainly, the German translation, which via Miciński’s Polish translation furnished Szymanowski with his text, is a good deal more evocative and succinct.  Lewis claims that the German translator was Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, not Hans Bethge as indicated in the score.

Lewis identifies the text as Ghazal 296.  He also explains that what he translates as ‘winged Ja’far’ (Ja’far-e tayyâr) is an epithet for the brother of the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law; the word tayyâr resembles the star Altair (‘flying’) in the constellation Aquila.

In any case, it may be of interest to set the score’s English translation by Ann & Adam Czerniawscy (as amended by me in the earlier post) side by side with Lewis’s.  The major point of interest is towards the end of Ghazal 296 where Rumi interprets the actions of the planets.  There are considerable differences in translation/adaptation in this section.

Franklin D. Lewis

Do not sleep
my hospitable friend, tonight
for you are spiritous spirit
and we are ailing ill tonight

Ann & Adam Czerniawscy

Oh, do not sleep, friend, through this night.
You a soul, while we are suffering through this night.

Banish sleep from inner seeing eyes
let mysteries appear tonight
You are the giant planet, yes
yet revolve around this moon
circling through the turning firmament tonight
Through the constellations you soar
like the soul of winged Ja’far
stalking the Eagle, Altair, as prey
To burnish separation’s rust
from the deep dark blue
God has given you polish tonight

Banish slumber from your eyes!
The great secret is revealed in this night.
You are Jove in the high heavens,
Round heav’n’s starry dome you circle, in this night.
Like an eagle fly above!
Now a hero is your soul in this night!

Praise God, all creatures have gone to sleep
leaving me involved with my creator tonight
What wakeful fortune, bright glory!
I am conscious of the wakeful God tonight!
If my eyes close shut to rest until dawn
I’ll despise, denounce my eyes tonight

Such quiet, others sleep …
I and God alone together in this night.
What a roar!  Joy arises!
Truth with gleaming wing is shining in this night!

Though the market place is empty now
Look! What commerce in the milky ways tonight
Our terrestrial night is daytime in the world of stars
and so celestial shining fills up our view tonight
Leo pounces on Taurus
Mercury decks its crown with diadem
Saturn plants surreptitious seeds of tumult
Jupiter showers golden coins

If I slumbered until sunrise,
I should never, never see this night again!
Thorough-fares, on earth are silent.
There behold the starry roads of this night!
Leo, Orion,
Andromeda and Mercury
Gleam blood-red through this night!
Saturn binds with fateful powers,
Venus floats in golden rain through this night.

I sit silent, lips shut
and yet
I speak volumes
without words
tonight

Silence binds my tongue with fetters,
But I speak though tongueless in this night!

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