Lesson 65: Rumi’s Rooz o Shab, Part 1

In this lesson, we learn Rumi's poem Rooz ō shab. In this poem, the words rooz, day and shab, night, are repeated like a mantra. Even though Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet, his poems remain extremely relevant and relatable today. So, don't be intimidated by the unfamiliar sounding language. Over the next few weeks, we will dissect the words and phrases used in this poem until it sounds like ordinary language to you. This poem is so beautiful, it might make you fall out of your chair.

Unfortunately, there's not an easy version of Lotfi's interpretation of this poem to link to- however, if you check out this video at minute 19:00, you can hear it in all its glory. He starts by singing the poem, and eventually gets lost in the zekr, rooz ō shab, rooz ō shab, rooz ō shab.


GREETINGS:

salām
hello
سَلام
chetor-ee
how are you?
چِطوری؟

Note: In Persian, as in many other languages, there is a formal and an informal way of speaking. We will be covering this in more detail in later lessons. For now, however, chetor-ee is the informal way of asking someone how they are, so it should only be used with people that you are familiar with. hālé shomā chetor-é is the formal expression for ‘how are you.’

Spelling note: In written Persian, words are not capitalized. For this reason, we do not capitalize Persian words written in phonetic English in the guides.


ANSWERS:

khoobam
I’m well
خوبَم

Pronunciation tip: kh is one of two unique sounds in the Persian language that is not used in the English language. It should be repeated daily until mastered, as it is essential to successfully speak Persian. Listen to the podcast for more information on how to make the sound.

Persian English
salām hello
chetor-ee how are you?
khoobam I’m well
merci thank you
khayli very
khayli khoobam I’m very well
khoob neestam I’m not well
man me/I
bad neestam I’m not bad
ālee great
chetor-een? how are you? (formal)
hālé shomā chetor-é? how are you? (formal)
hālet chetor-é? how are you? (informal)
khoob-ee? are you well? (informal)
mamnoonam thank you
chetor peesh meeré? how’s it going?
ché khabar? what’s the news? (what’s up?)
testeeeee

Leyla: Hello and welcome to Learn Persian with Chai and Conversation. My name is Leyla and we’re joined today by our dear friend Fared Shafinury. Salam Fared.

 

Fared: Salam, hello.

 

Leyla: So our first poem, lesson 61 was Sohrab Sepehri’s Dar Golestaneh and Dar Golestaneh is a modern poet that Sohrab Sepehri wrote in the last century and today we’re going to the past of Iranian poetry and we are learning Rumi’s rooz o shab. First let’s talk about who Rumi was- a lot of our listeners will recognize Rumi. He’s actually the most read poet in the world, so he has the most sales of books and he was a 13th century Persian poet, but you have a lot more details about his life, so could you tell us more about his life and what kind of poems he wrote.

 

Fared: Rumi was a Sufi poet. and he wrote poems in the book of Masnavi and the book the Divaneh Shamseh Tabrizi when he met Shams, who was a very pivotal figure in his life. Rumi believed that, and through his poetry showed that, one acquires the knowledge to reach enlightenment, to reach the state of ecstacy and the path of devotion and seeking. But Rumi as a poet, brings about the message that, not too different from Sohrab Sepehri actually, that one becomes the knowledge. You become what you proclaim to be, or profess to want to achieve. Some sort of purity that is embodies in, for example, the mysticism that comes out of the Abrahamic religions, and the Judeo religions and Islam. You have Kabalism and Sufism, and these interpretations of the religion, people like Rumi, poets, they brought it to life. And some would argue that Rumi is making it relatable because we all fall in love.

 

Leyla: Right, and we were saying before we were recording the podcast, you actually chose Rumi as the second poet because you said it’s a good juxtaposition with Sohrab Sepehri because you said that he, Sohrab Sepehri talks in very simple language, modern language that we understand now and Rumi did the same in his own time, and it’s really amazing that we can read poetry from the 13th century in Iran and still understand it

 

Fared: Because it’s maintained its integrity and grammatical structure, absolutely

 

Leyla: So what we’re going to do with this poem, it’s a longer poem, and we’ll post the poem in its entirety on the website, but today we’re just going to learn the first six lines, and afterwards, I do want to talk a bit about your professor, ostad lotfi, who interpreted this poem. Go ahead and read the six lines we’re going to cover.

 

dar havayat bee ghararam rooz o shab

sar ze kooyat bar nadaram rooz o shab

rooz o shab ra hamche khod majnoon konam

rooz o shab ra kay gozaram rooz o shab

jan o del ra meekhastan az asheghan

jan o del ra meeseparam rooz o shab

 

Leyla: Great, that was beautiful. And so, as you can, there was a lot of repetition, rooz o shab

 

Fared: Rooz o shab, which is a mantra, or a zekr, and you can sense that some of the poetry, or all the poetry in the masnavi have this circular pattern.  You’ve seen the seen the dervishes that dance in a circular pattern and they have one palm to the sky and one palm down and spin in unison with the world, and they’re spinning- I’m not sure if it’s counterclockwise or clockwise- but this circular pattern of repetition of this mantra, here you have rooz o shab being day and night. Rooz, meaning day, shab meaning night, and of course we’re going to go through the meaning of these words

 

Leyla: So going back, you said the word zekr, and that is the chanting that comes in the Sufi tradition, and it’s supposed to take you to the place of devotion, of losing yourself. And we have linked to Ostad Lotfi’s interpretation of this song, and you see that happening

 

Fared: Well, he loses himself completely and you see that through the repetition, if you allow yourself to treat yourself to this piece by Mohammad Reza Lotfi, he’s improvising with this poem, dar havayat bee ghararam rooz o shab, and through the pome you see where he loses himself. It’s just Sufi rock and roll

 

Leyla: And poetry and music go hand in hand which is why Fared is so great to talk to about these because he understands that, and Lotfi was actually was his teacher. For the last poem we linked to Shahram Nazeri, who is also a very popular musician, and Lotfi is a teacher of many of these musicians in Iran, and Fared was lucky enough to be able to work with him for a while. Let’s go through this poem and like we did last time, we’re not going to learn specific vocabulary words in this lesson, we’re just going to through the feelings and meaning behind the words, and later I’m going to go through the vocabulary in a  later lesson and we’re going to see what phrases and words we can learn from this poem. So lets go back through and read the first two lines.

 

dar havayat bee ghararam rooz o shab

sar ze kooyat bar nadaram rooz o shab

 

Leyla: So again, that rooz o shab got repeated twice, and that’s an important word to know for this poem. Rooz, the word for day, and shab, the word for night

 

Fared: And notice before we get into the meaning, because through translation, the musicality gets sacrificed, and what is so essential, and what makes this into a zekr, somehow tapping into the music of the poem. So, if I’ll read this again, see there is an inherent rhythm to this part:

 

dar havayat bee ghararam rooz o shab

 

I’ll read it again

 

dar havayat bee ghararam rooz o shab

sar ze kooyat bar nadaram rooz o shab

 

So this rhythm is what’s circling around and around, so as we do the translation, dar havayat bee ghararam rooz o shab

 

dar havayat, in the air or the essence of you, or in the space of you. Hava meaning breath or space or air. Within the air of you, havayat, bee ghararam, meaning I am impatient, I don’t have any patience, or not knowing where I must be. He or she is saying, day or night, I am in the essence of you, impatient for you. sar ze kooyat, so you’ll see sometimes its payat, and those words are interchangeable depending on who is translating. My head lays at your feet, and I shall not remove my head. I shall never remove my head, or kooyat- your mountain, or your shoulder. It depends on how you interpet it because he could be talking about a lover, and how come a love between two people can’t be just as existential and cosmic nad divine as for example a love between you and your creator, or whatever you choose to worship. Dar havayat bee ghararam rooz o shab, sar ze kooyat bar nadaram rooz or shab. Day and night day and night, and this is where Rumi is losing himself in this neverending quest for knowledge and his love, and we move on to the third line.

 

rooz o shab ra hamche khod majnoon konam

 

 

And here you can see he’s brought rooz o shab to the beginning, whereas in the first two lines he has it at the end. So one if reads this quickly from the second to third line- so here’s a different way of interpreting it where it breaks the zekr, and it becomes more of a dialogue. rooz o shab ra hamche khod majnoon konam, majnoon is crazy, but the gravity of it, and for me just to use crazy as a translation would remove a lot of the magic, because when you use the word majnoon notice that your lips pucker as if one is coming in to kiss. So

 

rooz o shab ra hamche khod majnoon konam

rooz o shab ra kay gozaram rooz o shab

 

 

So in your mind, as the image that Rumi is etching into your vision, rooz o shab rooz o shab rooz o shab- also what is rooz o shab, day and night, you have the circular, ying yang comes to mind, and duality. This imagery is extremely spiritual

 

Leyla: So let’s go over that third or fourth line, let’s go over what’s going on there. Majnoon konam

 

Fared: So day and night I am crazy, rooz o shab ra kay gozaram rooz o shab

He’s at a loss between, I don’t know which day and night exist, I don’t know which day it is or night it is, the loss of the calendar, the loss of time, time becomes obsolete. and the fourth line rooz o shab ra kay gozaram rooz o shab

When shall I know what day and night I should see you, I’m going crazy day and night. He’s just gone off the edge of the cliff in his pursuit of love.

 

Leyla: Ok, that was the first two parts, and now the last two lines:

 

 jan o del ra meekhastan az asheghan

jan o del ra meeseparam rooz o shab

 

 

jan o del ra meekhastan az asheghan, So here in the fifth line, here rooz o shab is not being repeated in this line, but you have jan o del, so this is a trick Rumi is doing, where he brings in other repetitions and plays with that. So jan o del ra meekhastan az asheghan, jan o del ra meeseparam rooz o shab

So jan o del is being repeated here

 

Leyla: Jan meaning

 

Fared: life

 

Leyla: and del meaning

 

Fared: heart

So jan o del ra meekhastan az asheghan. If it’s my life and my heart that they’re asking for if I’m claiming to be a lover, asheghah, that is those who are in love, those who are entranced in love, it’s a deeper trance of love, more than just saying being in love, the gravity, because you know Persians they’re always dramatic. So us being more dramatic, so us being in a dramatic sense, khastand, is to want, or to expect, they expect our lives because we are lovers, well, jan o del ra meeseparam rooz o shab. Day and love everything I will sacrifice every drop of myself. So here someone like Coleman Barks, these poets, they reinterpret these poems to make them beautiful, because what’s beautiful about Rumi is if it’s sung and read in its original rhyme, in their original language, because these poems, their mysticism, it’s a whole package, you’re not just reading, you’re dancing, you’re reciting, and you’re making music.

 

dar havayat bee ghararam rooz o shab

sar ze kooyat bar nadaram rooz o shab

rooz o shab ra hamche khod majnoon konam

rooz o shab ra kay gozaram rooz o shab

jan o del ra meekhastan az asheghan

jan o del ra meeseparam rooz o shab

 

Fared: To fall into that beat, into that trance, you can imagine that in the 13th century, these Sufis would be whirling, and dancing, one hand to the sky, one hand to the earth, and this cosmic whirl.

 

Leyla: So we were saying with the last poem, Sohrab Sepehri had these themes, he talked about nature, and all that, and he was also coming from this place of Sufism and this mystical sect of Islam, and in the same vein Rumi has themes, and this is a good place to talk about those themes- he’s talking about love, a lot of what Sohrab is saying is metaphorical but a lot of what he’s saying is also literal, and same thing with Rumi, he’s talking about love, and it can be interpreted as the essence of life is love, love for oneself, love for god, but also you can literally interpret it as his love for this character Shams. Which, who was Shams, tell us a bit more about the story of Shams

 

Fared: Well, it must be noted that you are Leyla Shams, so you being related to Shams- well, Shamseh Tabriz, which Tabriz being a city in the north west of Iran, apparently the story goes, and there’s many different stories, because this is a pan Persian poet that spanned both the Turks, and the Persians and the Afghans,

 

Leyla: Because the Persian empire was so big that it spanned a lot of different cultures

 

Fared: Exactly, and the language of the empire was Persian, and that carried weight, so Rumi was known to have met Shamseh Tabrizi at a time when he was a poet, and he was in the state of seeking and self expression and when he met Shams, he meets Shams

 

Leyla: who was a dervish

 

Fared: who was a mystic dervish, who was also studying, and was already a man of wisdom, and was a Sufi, which means he interpreted his knowledge and sense of being in the way he lived. So he was pretty much a crazy man in the village, a person that people wouldn’t let their kids around, it’s possible, and when Rumi met him, Rumi brought a book to Shams, and Shams threw the book in the fountain, and said I do not need to read your poems, but the point of that is that Rumi found his teacher and Shams became his teacher, but became also his object of love, and the divaneh Shamseh Tabrizi, you find poems that embody his devotion, his love, and his absolute addiction to the beloved. Now of course, the controversy here lies in Shams was a man, and Rumi was a man, so was this an actual love affair, and some people would say, well yes, why not.

 

Leyla: Right, if you look at the poems literally, there is no question that he is talking about physical love for Shams, but like we said last time, the idea of being drunk in Persian poetry, is this idea of reaching exaltation, and in the same sense, his love for Shams can be looked at metaphorically for his love for God, which again is metaphorically his love for oneness and all that .

 

Fared: Right, is it the metaphor, is he talking about God, or is he talking about Shams, is he talking about some dude he met, but it doesn’t matter, because ultimately, and you said it perfectly earlier, because it’s love, and the juxtaposition between Sohrab Sepehri and Rumi here I think is valuable because they’re both very simple in their poetry but very profound statements of love and how to feel and become. So, I think if there’s one poet that I would say embodies Persian mysticism, because a lot of the mysticism that we find in Sufism is actually a hybrid of the preIslamic mysticism that Iranians had, which was Zoroastrianism, and there was a lot of mysticism in Zoroastrianism, and in a lot of ways in order for those values and mysticism to continue Sufism came about, and that interpretation you find that Rumi most becomes that embodiment

 

Leyla: And like we said last time, we will be going over the individual words in the next few lessons- you might feel a little lost listening to this poem because it’s different than Sohrab Sepehri- Sohrab Sepehri used very simple language that we can very clearly understand now even with limited knowledge of Persian, and Rumi plays around with language a lot more and the Persian language is very pliable in that the order of words can be changed like we said, and words can be reinterpreted to be more musically inclined. So I would say it’s a pliable language, but there is still simple language in there that we can go over, but you shouldn’t get wrapped up in the literal translation because it does make it lose its sense of poetry.

 

Fared: Yes, because it’s meant to be felt. And I think Rumi and Shams would probably agree here, feel rather than try to think.

 

Leyla: Exactly. And the best way to do that is to just memorize this poem. So in the coming weeks, the best thing to do as we go over these words, is to memorize this poem,

 

Fared: I would love to actually see our listeners recite, and to see them send us video clips of them reciting it in beautiful places.

 

Leyla: And we’ll have instructions on how to do that- yes for sure. And we’ll send it to Fared, and that’ll be his

 

Fared: That’s my gift

 

Leyla: Exactly- that’ll keep him going on these lessons. Great, and we’re going to stop there for now, send us any questions that you may have, any suggestions for poems in the future, we have a lot of different poems that we will cover, Hafez, Sa’adi, Rumi, they’re all a lot of fun to listen to and we’re going to link to Lotfi’s interpretation of this as well, which we listened to before recording this podcast and it blew us both away, but Fared thank you for joining us

 

Fared: Thank you for having me

 

Leyla: And we’ll be back next time with more poetry!