November 23, 2016

The Poem of Rashh-i-'Amá (The Mist of Unknown) – Revealed in the Siyah-Chal

-- provisional translation by Ramin Neshati

Our charm bids waft the Mist of Unknown
Mystery of fidelity thus flows from Our tone

The east wind, musk-laden, from Cathay (2) whirls
Its scent so sweet streams forth from Our curls

The ornamented sun from the True One hath risen
Mystery of reality from Our (3) visage doth blazon

The sea of purity roars from waves of rapture (4)
This gift bestowed from His essence (5) We capture

Love's treasures lie hid in the bosom of Fars (6)
Out this treasure-trove Pearls of Fidelity pours

Delight of wine evinced when All (7) was manifested
To songs of providence (8) this Sublime Token attested

A blast on the trumpet, the attraction divine
These two in one blow flow from the Exalted Clime

Confessed Our face to the cycle of: "I am He"
Baha (9) is brimming with the epoch of: "He is He" (10)

The river of life shimmers in the closet (11) of the heart
This sweet wine the ruby lips of Baha doth part

The day of God by the Lord's effulgence is complete
The warbling in Tehran (12) from these novel words is replete

Glory overflowing, behold! Misty unknowing, behold!
All this from one melody thy Lord doth sing, behold!

Lo! The immortal Perfect Mystic (13), the Pristine Dawn
The Pure Breast from the Highest Throne out drawn

Lo! The Tree of Paradise, heard the Nightingale's song
This Glorious warbling from the Light of Purity hath sprung

Hearken the Persian (14) melody, the Arabian tambourine
Hearken the 'No' rhythm (15) from the Hand of Divine

See dawning of the Godhead, the Maid of Paradise
How mystery of Unknown from earthly appearance doth arise

Lo! Remnant's Countenance, Cupbearer's Face
Lo! The translucent glass pouring out from Our Chalice

Behold the Burning Bush, see the Hand so white
Behold Mount Sinai radiating from the Palm so bright

Hear his intoxicated moans, see the mystic ecstatic (16)
In the precincts of rapture (3) all living beings are charismatic

From His peek, observe the amorous glance of Baha
From His reed, hearken the Farsi melody of Baha (17)

Emergence of Revelation 'tis, Effusion of Purity 'tis
Warbling of Nightingales 'tis, that pours out of Nothingness!

1. This translation is a personal project and is not commissioned, authorized or approved by any Baha'i administrative institution. The translation is based on the text released by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice as distributed at Irfan Colloquia. This text differs from the published version of the poem that appears in Ishraq Khavari's Maida-yi Asmani, volume 4. The Maida text is deficient by one couplet; also, other minor variations exist between the two texts as noted below.
2. The Persian spelling for khata given here (with 'ta') means sin or error. When spelled with 't' it means China (Cathay). The latter is more likely the intent as the symbolism pertains to the musk-laden wind blowing from the Far East.
3. There is a discrepancy between the published version in the Maida…where the word given is ma (our)…and the text used in this translation where 'tha' appears, a reference to the Imam Ali whose name is shared by both the Bab and Baha'u'llah. I am indebted to Mr. Moeen Afnani for his clarifications and insightful comments in this regard and elsewhere throughout this translation.
4. By liqa is meant (literally) The Countenance (i.e. of God). I have rendered it here as rapture. One of the meanings of rapture is 'the transportation of a person to heaven' which presumably may yield a face-to-face encounter with God.
5. The abbreviation 'ha' refers to huwiyat (essence).
6. The abbreviation 'fa' is a reference to the province of Fars, home of the Bab.
7. The Maida text is gol (rose, flower) whereas the text used in this translation is kull (all).
8. The abbreviation 'ra' refers to rububiyat (providential, divine).
9. The text in the Maida is ma (us, our) whereas the text used in this translation gives the word as ba…an apparent self-reference by Baha'u'llah.
10. Shi'ih tradition holds that the Mahdi will utter a word that will prompt the believers to repel Him. In later writings, Baha'u'llah explains that this word is the changing of "He" into "I" in the Quranic phrase "He is He," yielding the phrase "I am He" (i.e. equating the prophet with the Godhead). While these phrases appear in the poem it is in later writings, where Baha'u'llah treats metaphysical themes in more depth, that a more profound explanation for the claim to divinity can be understood. For Taherzadeh's explanation, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, volume 1, Taherzadeh, George Ronald, Oxford, 1980.
11. By huqqi is meant a treasure box. The Maida text gives the word as kasi, a major discrepancy. I have taken poetic license in rendering it here as closet (of the heart). A more literal rendering for the text used in this translation would be box or container, either of which would detract from the poetics of the original. Clearly, a resolution of the discrepancy and a better rendering is needed.
12. The abbreviation 'ta' is a reference to the city of Tehran, birthplace of Baha'u'llah.
13. The word mahi (fish) in Sufi parlance is symbolic of arif-i kamil (perfect mystic).
14. The word iraqi in this context refers to one of many styles of classical Persian poetry. Rumi, Attar, Hafiz and other classical Persian poets of this genre employed this style. See Shahd-i Shi'r-i Imruz, Meshki, ed., Iqbal, Los Angeles, 1992.
15. The Arabic 'la' in this context is short for the Quranic phrase 'No God is there but God'.
16. The word bustan (garden) in Sufi parlance is symbolic of bagh-i ilahi (divine garden) wherein the mystic reaches the state of ecstasy.
17. There are two discrepancies in this verse between the Maida and the text used in this translation: a- turih (tress) in the Maida appears as tarzi (garden) and, b- nai (of windpipe) in the Maida appears as fai (of Fars) in the text used here. These discrepancies have not been resolved although the text in the Maida does appear to be more in keeping with the imagery in this verse.