Rumi's Mathnawi (selections)

Week 6: Middle East - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Duckling Raised by a Hen, translated by Ibrahim Gamard

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 500 words.

Here is Gamard's more literal version of the story of the duck:
3766 You are (from) the egg of a duck, even though a domestic hen has reared you under (her) wing like a nurse.

3766 tokhm-é baTT-î garche morgh-é khana-at
kard zêr-é par chô dâya tarbiyat

Your (true) mother was a duck of the river. (But) your nurse was of the earth and overly attached to dry land. mâdar-é tô baTT-é ân daryâ bod-ast
dâya-at khâkî bod-o khoshkî-parast
The fondness for the river which is within your heart is from (your true) mother, (and) it (is) the natural quality possessed by your soul. mayl-é daryâ ke del-é tô andar-ast
ân Tabî`at jân-t-râ az mâdar-ast
(But) your fondness for dry land is from this nurse. Leave the nurse, since she is a bad adviser. mayl-é khoshkî mar to-râ z-în dâya-ast
dâya-râ be-g'Zâr k-ô bad-râya-ast
3770 Leave the nurse on the dry land and urge (yourself) forward. Come into the (vast) river of spirituality, like the "ducks." 3770 dâya-râ be-g'Zâr dar khoshk-o be-rân
andar â dar baHr-é ma`nî chûn baT-ân
Even though your mother may frighten you about water, don't be afraid, and drive forward quickly toward the river. gar to-râ mâdar be-tarsân-ad ze-âb
tô ma-tars-o sôy-é daryâ rân shetâb
You are a duck. You can live in (both) dry and wet (places); you aren't like a domestic bird, (living) in a bad-smelling house. tô baT-î, bar khoshk-o bar tar zenda-î
nay chô morgh-é khâna-khâna-ganda-î
You are a king because of (the verse), "We have honored the sons of Adam." You can put (your) feet on the dry land as well as in the ocean. tô ze-karram-nâ banî âdam shah-î
ham ba-khoshkî, ham ba-daryâ pâ neh-î
Since in (your) soul you are (blessed by the verse), "We have carried them on the ocean," push forth from [being restricted by] "We have carried them on the land." ke Hamal-nâ hum `alà 'l-baHri ba-jân
az Hamal-na hum `alà 'l-bar pêsh rân
3775 The angels have no way (to reach) the land. (And) also the (different) kinds of (land) animals are unaware of the ocean. 3775 mar malâyik-râ sôy-é bar râh nêst
jins-é Haywân ham ze-baHr âgâh nêst
In body, (you are) an animal (and) in spirit, you are among the angels-- so you may go upon the earth as well as upon the heavens. tô ba-tan Haywân, ba-jân-î az malak
tâ raw-î ham bar zamîn ham bar falak
(And) so the one who has vision may be outwardly "a man like yourselves" (yet may be) in (his) heart (the receiver) of "the inspiration has come to him." tâ ba-Zâhir mithlu-kum bâsh-ad bashar
bâ del-é yûHà ilay-hi dîda-war
The bodily form made of dust has fallen to the earth, (but) its spirit (is) circling above the highest heaven. qâlib-é khâkî fotâda bar zamîn
rûH-é ô gardân bar-în charkh-é barîn
We are all water-birds, young man. (And) the ocean knows our language completely. mâ hama morgh-âbiy-ân-ém ay ghulâm
baHr mê-dân-ad zabân-é mâ tamâm
3780 Therefore, the ocean has become (for us like) Solomon (and) we (are) like the birds. In "Solomon" we have a journey (which lasts) forever. 3780 pas sulaymân baHr âmad mâ chô Tayr
dar sulaymân tâ abad dâr-êm sayr
Through Solomon, put (your) feet into the ocean so that the water may make, like David, a hundred rings of mail. bâ sulaymân pây dar daryâ be-neh
tâ chô dâwûd âb sâz-ad Sad zereh
That Solomon is present before all, but his jealousy is a magician who shuts our eyes (from seeing this), ân sulaymân pêsh-é jumla HâZir-ast
lêk ghayrat chashm-band-o sâHir-ast
So that He is (right) in front of us and (yet) we are weary of Him because of ignorance, drowsiness, and arrogant indulgence. tâ ze-jahl-o khwâb-nâkî-wo fuZûl
ô ba-pêsh-é mâ-wo mâ az way malûl
The (loud) noise of thunder brings a headache to the thirsty man when he doesn't know that it is dragging (rain) clouds of happiness (to him). teshna-râ dard-é sar âr-ad bâng-é ra`d
chûn na-dân-ad k-ô kashân-ad abr-é sa`d?
3785 His eyes are kept [low] in (looking for) flowing stream-- unaware of the delightful taste of heavenly water. 3785 chashm-é ô mând-ast dar jôy-é rawân
bê-khabar az Zawq-é âb-é âsmân
He has driven the horse of aspiration toward (worldly) causes, (so) of course, he remains veiled from the Causer. markab-é himmat sôy-é asbâb rând
az musabbib lâ-jaram maHjûb mând
3787 (But) the one who clearly sees the Causer will never set (his) heart on the world's (physical) causes.

3787 ân-ke bîn-ad ô musabbib-râ `ayân
kay neh-ad del bar sabab-hây-é jahân?

  (mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • who raised the baby duck?
  • where should the duck live?
  • what is the spiritual meaning that Rumi gives to the situation of the duck?

Source: From The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî [Rhymed Couplets of Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi. Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard. © Ibrahim Gamard [translation, footnotes, & transliteration]. Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM