I think it speaks to the universality of the human experience that a 13th century Persian poet can resonate with a 21st century Western audience.
I’m especially fond of the line, “Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.” It sounds like a line Robert Hunter would write, and the Grateful Dead would interpret.
Who Speaks With My Mouth?
by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.
This poetry, I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.
(It may help to know that in Rumi’s time and place, drunkenness was often used as a metaphor for spiritual ecstasy.)