Persian Poetry

A Brief History of Persian poetry: One of the most noble forms of literature is poetry. Over the centuries Persian and non-Persian poets have written their poems in the Persian language, Farsi, and it’s variations. Even though the Farsi language has changed over time the ancient poems are still readable. Iranians highly value their poets who kept their culture and language alive even during numerous invasions. Persian poetry is as ancient as Avesta (the holy book of Zoroastrians) where first form of poetry is documented.
Persian and non-Persian poets express their creativity in different forms and styles. The earliest poetry was of two types. One was the ballad and the other was the epic. The ballad later developed into different forms such as lyric, hymn, satire and panegyric. The epic poem is an enlarged ballad. Therefore, the origin of all poetry is in the ballad although no records have remained from these primitive ballads. Persian songs goes back to 3000 BC to the time of king Jamshid. Xenophon wrote about songs that were sung when Cyrus the Great was still a boy.
The halls of the Achaemenian palace at Persepolis echoed with the poetic singing of the tale of the romantic love of Zariadres and Odatis. The Arab conquest influenced the Persian vocabulary causing an even smoother poetic verse. Poetry, nursed for 200 years by the care of three dynasties (Tahirid, Saffarid, Samanid). Therefore, it was during ninth century when the new form of Persian poetry began which is found today. One of the early forms of poetry was qasida in royal courts. Qasida are poems of more than 100 couplets that do not rhyme. Anvari was one of the poets who used qasida.

Ghazal from about 12th century is another form of lyric. Ghazal poems were a much shorter form, 10 couplets that do not rhyme and mainly used to express love, both human or mystic. Hafez and Saadi mastered this form of poetry. Rubai and dobaty are both four lines poems which are distinguished from each other by their rhythm. They may express mystical, romantic or philosophical themes. Omar Khayam is one of the pioneers in writing Rubai and his books are translated into many languages. A Review Of Persian Poetry: Classical Persian poetry is always rhymed. The principal verse forms are the Qasideh, Masnavi, Qazal and Ruba’i.
The qasida or ode is a long poem in monorhyme, usually of a panegyric, didactic or religious nature; the masnavi, written in rhyming couplets, is employed for heroic, romantic, or narrative verse; the ghazal (ode or lyric) is a comparatively short poem, usually amorous or mystical and varying from four to sixteen couplets, all on one rhyme. A convention of the ghazal is the introduction, in the last couplet, of the poet’s pen name (takhallus). The ruba’i is a quatrain with a particular metre, and a collection of quatrains is called “Ruba’iyyat” (the plural of ruba’i).
Finally, a collection of a poet’s ghazals and other verse, arranged alphabetically according to the rhymes, is known as a divan. A word may not be out of place here on the peculiar difficulties of interpreting Persian poetry to the western reader. To the pitfalls common to all translations from verse must be added, in the case of Persian poetry, such special difficulties as the very free use of Sufi imagery, the frequent literary, Koranic and other references and allusions, and the general employment of monorhyme, a form highly effective in Persian but unsuited to most other languages.
But most important of all is the fact that the poetry of Persia depends to a greater degree than that of most other nations on beauty of language for its effects. This is why much of the great volume of “qasidas in praise of princes” can still be read with pleasure in the original, though It is largely unsuited to translation. In short, the greatest charm of Persian poetry lies, as Sir E. Denison Ross remarked, in its language and its music, and consequently the reader of a translation “has perforce to forego the essence of the matter”.

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