Only one poem from this collection of the translation of the poetry of Bahá’u’lláh has as yet been published, “The Ode of the Dove,” and that provisionally with the permission of the Bahá’í World Centre in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies, Volume 29, number 3 – Fall 2019. The entire collection cannot be published by itself, even provisionally, because one can hardly make some explicit distinction between Bahá’u’lláh’s poetry and other works of His that are poetic. Likewise, we must presume that His poetry has the same authority as His other work, and thus the authoritative translation of these poems must go through the same process as the publication of any of His other works.
Little by little, these poems will doubtless be appropriately translated and published, even as the Bahá’í World Center has done by including an authoritative translation of “Rashḥ-i-‘Amá” in the collection of works titled The Call of the Divine Beloved (2018).
Of note is the fact that most of the works we designate as poems in this collection were written prior to Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration of His station. For example, “The Ode of the Dove” was written/revealed by Bahá’u’lláh under the special circumstances of the challenge put to him when He was traveling incognito and alone as “Dervish Muḥammad” in the mountains of Kurdistan.
It is an astounding work, even though the translation can hardly do justice to the sound and meter that are integral to the beauty of the original verse. It is a conversation between Bahá’u’lláh and the Maid of Heaven—who, according to Shoghi Effendi, is the personification in Bahá’u’lláh’s work of the Most Great Spirit. The movement of action in the poem begins with the persona of Bahá’u’lláh supplicating the Maid for nearness, followed by her ostensible cruel disdain and dismissal of His request, in spite of all that he has suffered at the hands of those who reject His station. But a denouement occurs toward the end as she foreshadows His victory and her support of His valiant constancy in the face of all the further hardship He is destined to endure.
There are eleven other poems in this collection, most of which have been translated provisionally by other scholars, though we feel our work may have some value in time when the decision is made to come forth with authoritative translations of these works. Our thinking is simply that, like any translation work, the value of the end result of this process is to capture as closely as possible the intended meaning and the effect of the original. And while there are certainly other scholars who have achieved expertise in translating Persian and Arabic into English, to translate poetry requires that one understand poetry from the inside out, and that requires that at least one member of a translation team be a poet. Secondly, the accuracy and success of the translation depends wholeheartedly on the entire team collaborating and consulting regarding the intended meaning of the original text. This capacity or process derives partly from instinct and intuition, but most importantly from complete humility before the text and its Author, and a spiritual susceptibility and receptivity to the sometimes subtle and oft times abstruse allusions, symbols, and nuanced purpose.