Rainer Maria Rilke is by no means the only poet who writes of the longing for one’s true life. The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi (1207-1273) wrote of this as well. Rumi’s great work, the Masnavi-I Ma’navi (Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning), has taken a while to arrive in the Western world, but I consider it worth the wait. Masnavi was originally a poetic form, but after Rumi, the word became more associated with Rumi’s writings than the poetic form. It is also spelled Mathnavi or Mathnawi. A portion of Book 3 of the Mathnawi (lines 189-197) has been rendered by American poet Coleman Barks as the poem “Love Dogs”
Only the true favorites receive this longing
One night a man was crying,
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
you express is the return message.
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.”
This poem appears in many places, including the book “The Essential Rumi.”
Only the true favorites receive this longing.
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