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Speak in Poetry, Walk on Carpets
Early Persian Poetry

Speak in Poetry, Walk on Carpets
  • Early Persian Poetry from the Beginnings... (by )
  • The Canon of Medicine (by )
  • The Persian mystics, Jalalu'd-din Rumi (by )
  • Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (by )
  • Symmetry in Traditional Persian Poetry (by )
  • Stylistics and Linguistic Variations in ... (by )
  • The Persian Poets (by )
  • An old philosophy in 101 quatrains (by )
  • Persian poetry for English readers : bei... (by )
  • Hafez-Ul-Islam (by )
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If grief had smoke, as hath the blazing fire. 
The world would be for aye in darkness blind ; 
Travel the world from end to end entire, 
A wise man wholly happy thou'lt not find.' 
-Shahid of Balkh (p. 25, Early Persian Poetry)
The roots of Persian poetry reach as far back as ancient Persia, when poetry was revered so thoroughly it pervaded all of the classical studies from science and metaphysics to literature and medicine. Avicenna, noted thinker and physician of the Islamic Golden Age, expressed much of his medical work in poetic form. Similar to the ancient Chinese, literacy in poetry was required of ancient Persian nobility.

In addition to scholarly poetry, early works also included a type of poem known as a panegyric, a type of formal public speech (or later dictated written verse) including high, undiscriminating praise, often delivered as a eulogy. Yet another popular style of the quatrain, or groups of four metered lines, can be read in 11th century Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, one of the great classics of literature.

From the 5th century, Sufism played a huge part in Persian poetry. For the Sufi’s, all of the visible world was a reflection of the Divine, thus much of Sufi poetry uplifts the Divine through the physical world. A poem from 15th century poet Jami exhibits this: 

No mirror to reflect Its loveliness, 
Nor comb to touch Its locks ; the morning breeze 
Ne'er stirred Its tresses ; no collyrium 
Lent lustre to Its eyes ; no rosy cheeks 
O'ershadowed by dark curls like hyacinth, 
Nor peach-like down were there. . . . 
To Itself it sang of love 
In wordless measure. By Itself it cast 
The die of love. . . . 
One gleam fell from It on the Universe […] (p. 14, The Persian Mystics
Marco Polo said of the Persians, "Persians are people who speak in poetry and walk on beautiful carpets." Poems of the ancient Persians were highly aware of rhythm and poetry that is dictated through syllables and meters, whether they were couplets, lyrics, elegies, etc. Certainly the intended sound of Persian poems is lost in translation. In “Symmetry in Traditional Persian Poetry,” Seyed Alireza Behnejad and Maryam Zahedi present a musical analysis of Persian poetry in an attempt to show their sensory delight. 

For more on Persian Poetry, read “Stylistics and Linguistic Variations in Forough Farrokhzads Poems,” The Persian Poets by Nathan Dole, and An Old Philosophy in 101 Quatrains by Omar Khayyam.

By Thad Higa

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