Rumi’s ‘Guest House’ — A More Accurate Translation

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From Rumi’s Masnavi, Volume 5 Verses 3647-3695.

Every day, too, at every moment a thought comes,
like an honoured guest, into your bosom.

O soul, regard thought as a person,
since person derives his worth from thought and spirit.

If the thought of sorrow is waylaying joy,
it is making preparations for joy.

It violently sweeps your house clear of else,
in order that new joy from the source of good may enter in.

It scatters the yellow leaves from the bough of the heart,
in order that incessant green leaves may grow.

It uproots the old joy,
in order that new delight may march in from the Beyond.

Sorrow pulls up the crooked rotten,
in order that it may disclose the root that is veiled from sight.

Whatever sorrow may cause to be shed from the heart or may take away,
assuredly it will bring better in exchange,

Especially for him who knows with certainty
that sorrow is the servant of the possessors of certainty.

Unless the clouds and the lightning show a frowning aspect,
the vines will be burnt by the smiles of the sun.

Good and ill fortune become guests in your heart:
like the star, they go from house to house.

At the time when it is residing in your mansion,
adapt yourself to it and be agreeable, like its ascendant,

So that, when it rejoins the Moon,
it may speak gratefully of you to the Lord of the heart.

Job, the patient and well-pleased,

showed sweetness to God’s guest during seven years in tribulation,

To the end that when the stern-visaged tribulation should turn back,
it might give thanks to him in God’s presence in a hundred fashions,

Saying, “From love Job never for one moment looked sourly on me,
the killer of that which is loved.”

From his loyalty and his shame before God’s knowledge,
Job was like milk and honey towards tribulation.

The thought comes into your breast anew;
go to meet it with smiles and laughter,

Saying, “O my Creator, preserve me from its evil:
do not deprive me, let me partake, of its good!

O my Lord, prompt me to give thanks for that which I receive:
do not let me feel any subsequent regret, if it shall pass away.”

Pay watchful regard to the sour-looking thought:
deem that sour one to be sweet as sugar.

If the cloud apparently has a sour face, the cloud is the bringer-on
of the rose-garden and the destroyer of the barren soil.

Know that the thought of sorrow is like the cloud:
do not look so sourly on the sour!

It may be that the pearl is in its hand:
endeavour that it may depart from you well-pleased.

And if the pearl is not and it is not rich,
you will increase your sweet habit.

Your habit will profit you on another occasion:
someday your need will suddenly be fulfilled.

The thought that hinders you from joy
comes by the command and wise purpose of the Maker.

O youth, do not call it worthless:
it may be a star and endowed with imperial fortune.

Do not say it is a branch: take it to be the root,
in order that you may always be master of your object of desire;

For if you take it to be a branch and pernicious,
your eye will be waiting to see the root.

Waiting to see is poison to perception:
by that method you will remain perpetually in death.

Recognise it as the root, clasp it to your bosom,
and be forever delivered from the death of waiting to see.