I am posting two versions of Rumi’s captioned poem from the Mathnavi
A story is like the water
you heat for your bath.
It takes messages between the fire
and your skin. It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!
Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself
like a salamander or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.
A feeling of fullness comes,
but usually it takes some bread
to bring it.
Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.
The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
the light that’s blazing
inside your presence.
Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.
— Poetic version by Coleman Barks
“The Essential Rumi”
This parable is like an intermediary in the discourse: an
intermediary is required for the apprehension of the vulgar.
Without an intermediary, how should any one go into the fire,
except (one like) the salamander? â€“ for he is independent of the
You need the hot bath as an intermediary, so that you may
refresh your constitution by (the heat of) the fire.
Since you cannot go into the fire, like Khalil (Abraham), the
hot bath has become your Apostle, and the water your guide.
Satiety is from God, but how should the unclean attain unto
satiety without the mediation of bread?
Beauty is from God, but the corporealist does not feel (the
charm of ) beauty without the veil (medium) of the garden.
When the bodily medium is removed, (then) he (who is dis-
embodied) perceives without (any) screen, like Moses, the light
of the Moon (shining) from (his own) bosom.
These virtues possessed by the water bear witness likewise
that its interior is filled with the grace of God.
— Translation and Commentary by Reynold A. Nicholson
“The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi”
Published and Distributed by
The Trustees of The “E.J.W. Gibb Memorial