Empty the Glass of Your Desire (Poetry Analysis)


Join yourself to friends
and know the joy of the soul.
Enter the neighborhood of ruin
with those who drink to the dregs.

Empty the glass of your desire
so that you won’t be disgraced.
Stop looking for something out there
and begin seeing within.

Open your arms if you want an embrace.
Break the earthen idols and release the radiance.
Why get involved with a hag like this world?
You know what it will cost.

And three pitiful meals a day
is all that weapons and violence  can earn.
At night when the Beloved comes
will you be nodding on opium?

If you close your mouth to food,
you can know a sweeter taste.
Our Host is no tyrant.  We gather in a circle.
Sit down with us beyond the wheel of time.

Here is the deal: give one life
and receive a hundred.
Stop growling like dogs,
and know the shepherd’s care.

You keep complaining about others
and all they owe you?
Well, forget about them;
just be in His presence.

When the earth is wide,
why are you asleep in a prison?
Think of nothing but the source of thought.
Feed the soul; let the body fast.

Avoid knotted ideas;
unite yourself in a higher world.
Limit your talk
for the sake of timeless communion.

Abandon life and the world,
and find the life of the world.
–Ghazal 2577 Version by Kabir Helminski

For my second journal entry on Rumi, I’ve decided to take a central poem (as determined in our class discussion last night) and do a bit of a poetic analysis of it.
This poem – Empty the Glass of Your Desire – is in the form of a ghazal (which is not so obvious in its translated version – a ghazal is made up of rhyming couplets with evenly metered lines). Ghazals are prominent in Eastern mysticism and traditionally deal with the subject of unattainable (or illicit) love. Although ghazals may take up earthly love as their subject, the following poem clearly examines our connection with the divine. From Wikipedia “The love is always viewed as something that will complete a human being, and if attained will lift him or her into the ranks of the wise, or will bring satisfaction to the soul of the poet.” This is the stated main goal of the poem, as its end refrain exhorts the reader/listener: ” Abandon life and the world / and find the life of the world.” Ie: Abandon the ego and the material, to find the true light (spark of life, divine core) of the world.

A poem in translation defies some characteristics one might use to analyse a poem – the line length, rhyme, meter, and alliterative effects of the original are lost in the conversion from one language to another. Beyond recognizing the original form of this poem (which automatically gives it a central theme of love – divine love), we can really only delve into it by the meaning of the text itself which I will look at stanza-by-stanza.

Join yourself to friends
and know the joy of the soul.
Enter the neighborhood of ruin
with those who drink to the dregs.

I am unclear about the original form of the poem, but can only assume that each four lines formed two lines of the couplet – linking the ideas from one line to the other. Here we can surmise that Rumi is exhorting the listener that great joy is found in unifying ourselves with others. “Friends” here can refer to specific friends, those who are in the same spiritual or emotional camp, or the greater humanity to which we might merge and unify. Bottom line is, to know the deepest happiness, we must give up our individual selves to others. However! If we ally with those who scrape to the bottom of material life as signfied by the wine “dregs” referred to, we will only be harmed for it, left unable to attain the exalted state we could inhabit.

Empty the glass of your desire
so that you won’t be disgraced.
Stop looking for something out there
and begin seeing within.

Like a glass of wine which can embarass us when we drink to much of it, our desire can only shame us in our scramble to attain more of the world for ourselves. If we empty ourselves of desire, we end this cycle which leaves us worse off. Once we stop looking around outside of ourselves for the answer in the form of “something” whether that be material or spiritual, we can see what is actually inside of ourselves.

Open your arms if you want an embrace.
Break the earthen idols and release the radiance.
Why get involved with a hag like this world?
You know what it will cost.

If you want to be held by the world, you must hold it. You will get what you put out in return – so live with the openness you wish to be met with. Rumi urges us to destroy our material idols – our possessions – in order to give way to the illumination of the greater divinity. The material world is like a difficult woman, a demanding crone – involvement with such people will only cost the pain which is already familiar to us.

And three pitiful meals a day
is all that weapons and violence  can earn.
At night when the Beloved comes
will you be nodding on opium?

Even sustenance is not worth having to fight in the world. Our appetites will only drive us further from God.

If you close your mouth to food,
you can know a sweeter taste.
Our Host is no tyrant.  We gather in a circle.
Sit down with us beyond the wheel of time.

Giving up our physical appetites gives way to rewards that we are otherwise unaware of. God is not a scary deity in the sky, but one who we can join with in communion. Outside of earthly measures we can find Rumi, the deity and others with whom we can end our isolation.

Here is the deal: give one life
and receive a hundred.
Stop growling like dogs,
and know the shepherd’s care.

Give up this one physical life, the ego, the material attachment and attain much more than you are leaving behind. Fighting for the scraps in the yard doesn’t allow you to become one with the unified flock who is cared for.

You keep complaining about others
and all they owe you?
Well, forget about them;
just be in His presence.

Your petty complaints aren’t worth the time spent on them. Stop grousing about the pains of others and just allow yourself to relax in the presence of God.

When the earth is wide,
why are you asleep in a prison?
Think of nothing but the source of thought.
Feed the soul; let the body fast.

You have the whole world and yet you are unaware and bound inside your own cage. Stop striving for new ideas and allow yourself to discover your root, the divine within your thought. Stop feeding the body in order to nourish the soul with light

Avoid knotted ideas;
unite yourself in a higher world.
Limit your talk
for the sake of timeless communion.

Don’t get caught up in riddles, they will only keep you tied down to the earthly world which you don’t want to be a part of. To much chatter will distance you from the truth, not get you closer to it.

Abandon life and the world,
and find the life of the world.

Give up the material, physical desires in order to find true divinity – the spark which animates all life.

Summed up? This poem is essentially a series of advice on finding divinity through self-reflection. It counsels the reader to cease their material attachments, physical appetites and addictions and circular thinking in favour of communion with others, looking inside of ourselves and allowing oneself to rest in the presence of God. The path Rumi prescribes is an ascetic one involving fasting, meditation, and quietude though the rewards he promises for this practice are richer than a single human life can imagine. Ultimately he wishes us to get beyond that which blocks us from finding the truth, and urges that it is possible with the resources which exist within us.

(Thus concludes my poetry analysis and my last post on Rumi for awhile.)

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One response to “Empty the Glass of Your Desire (Poetry Analysis)

  1. I’m about to take a quiz on this poem and your analysis has really helped me out! Thanks for posting it!

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