Here I'm posting some collections of poetry I think are worth the time it takes to read and analyze them. I hope to add less mainstream stuff (it would be pointless to recommend Hamlet, for example).

Religious Poetry

  • Rumi - Islamic poet of the 13th century. I was recently introduced to his work through my Intro to Indian Religions class. He's got lots of good stuff, but I especially like these (sorry for the Yahoo links):
    • A Sleep and a Forgetting (Translation by Reynold Nicholson's Rumi: Poet and Mystic)
      One who has lived many years in a city, so soon as he goes to sleep,
      Beholds another city full of good and evil, and his own city vanishes from his mind.
      He does not say to himself, "This is a new city: I am a stranger here.";
      Nay, he thinks he has always lived in this city and was born and bred in it.
      What wonder, then, if the soul does not remember her ancient abode and birth-place,
      Since she is wrapt in the slumber of this world, like a star covered by clouds?--
      Especially as she has trodden so many cities and the dust that darkens her vision is not yet swept away.
    • Divine Beauty (I could not find a direct link):
      Kings lick the earth whereof the fair are made.
      For God hath mingled in the dusty earth
      A draught of beauty from his choicest cup.
      'Tis that, fond lover --- not these lips of clay ---
      Thou art kissing with a hundred ecstasies.
      Think, then, what it must be when undefiled!
    • The Love of Woman - open to wide interpretation, but this brief poem describes love in terms of human vs. animal qualities, ruling and being ruled by one's wife.
    • The Truth Within Us - pretty self-explanatory; describes the nature of Truth as within, rather than outside of us.
    • The Unregenerate - saints' describing heaven to us is like describing the world we know to an embryo.
  • Kabir was an iconoclastic Indian philosopher of the 15th century. In fact, much of his work criticizes both Islam and Hinduism, and emphasizes the idea of a formless (nirguna) God. All of this (including the poems below) is from John Stratton Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer's Songs of the Saints of India.

    These are some parts of poems I found both funny and enlightening:
    • Kabir: the instrument is still,
      Its strings snapped.
      What can the poor thing do?
      It's player's no longer there.

    • The true Master-
      what can he do
      When the pupil is inept?
      Trying to awaken him is just
      so much air
      Blown through an unfingered flute.

    • You slaughter living beings and call it religion:
      Hey brother, what would irreligion be?
      'Great Saint' - that's how you love to greet each other:
      Who then would you call a murderer?

    • Brother, if holding back your seed
      Earned you a place in paradise,
      Eunuchs would be the first to arrive.

    • Hey Qazi,
      What's that book you're preaching from?
      And reading, reading - how many days?
      Still, you haven't mastered one word.
  • More Kabir poems (off this site):

Back to Phoenix Web Home

Last updated 2003-11-19