Rumi came to me late in life, even though I heard his famous name when I was younger. Once I started reading Rumi, I couldn’t stop because his verses are beautiful, lyrical, and infused with a profound awareness of divine love. Kabir is like that, too, I see now as I read translations of his poetry by Robert Bly.
Robert Bly captivated my imagination with one of his many books, this one a collection of poems he’s translated, The Winged Energy of Delight. His skill as a poetic translator is undeniable, and I always find myself deeply enjoying Bly’s deft word choices and flowing lines. His work with Kabir’s poetry is simply marvelous.
Here is a poem about a flute, and as a flutist, it calls to me:
“I know the sound of the ecstatic flute
but I don’t know whose flute it is.
A lamp burns and has neither wick nor oil.
A lily pad blossoms and is not attached to the bottom!
When one flower opens, ordinarily dozens open.
The moon bird’s head is filled with nothing but thoughts of the moon,
and when the next rain will come is all that the rain bird thinks of.
Who is it we spend our entire life loving?”
trans. Robert Bly
Kabir: Ecstatic Poems (2004)
In another place, Kabir writes, “As the river gives itself into the ocean, what is inside me moves inside you.”