Persian Literature

Persian Literature

Persian literature is one of the world's oldest literatures. It spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within Greater Iran including present-day Iran, Iraq, the Caucasus, and Turkey, as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language. For instance, Molana (Rumi), one of Iran's best-loved poets, born in Balkh or Vakhsh (in what is now Afghanistan , wrote in Persian, and lived in Konya, then the capital of the Seljuks. The Ghaznavids conquered large territories in Central and South Asia and adopted Persian as their court language. There is thus Persian literature from Iran, Mesopotamia, Azerbaijan, the wider Caucasus, Turkey, western parts of Pakistan, Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia. Not all this literature is written in Persian, as some consider works written by ethnic Persians in other languages, such as Greek and Arabic, to be included. At the same time, not all literature written in Persian is written by ethnic Persians or Iranians. Particularly, Turkic, Caucasian, and Indic poets and writers have also used the Persian language in the environment of Persianate cultures.

Described as one of the great literatures of mankind, Persian literature has its roots in surviving works of Middle Persian and Old Persian, the latter of which date back as far as 522 BCE (the date of the earliest surviving Achaemenid inscription, the Bistun Inscription. Persian literature was considered by Goethe one of the four main bodies of world literature. The bulk of surviving Persian literature, however, comes from the times following the Islamic conquest of Iran c. 650 CE. After the Abbasids came to power (750 CE), the Iranians became the scribes and bureaucrats of the Islamic empire and, increasingly, also its writers and poets. The New Persian literature arose and flourished in Khorasan and Transoxiana because of political reasons – the early Iranian dynasties such as Tahirids and Samanids were based in Khorasan.

Iranians wrote in both Persian and Arabic; Persian predominated in later literary circles. Persian poets such as Ferdowsi, Sa'di, Hafiz, Attar, Nezami, Rumi and Omar Khayyam are also known in the West and have influenced the literature of many countries.

Persian Poetry

Classical Persian poetry is always rhymed. The principal verse forms are the qasida, mathnavi, ghazal and rubai. The qasida, or ode, is a long poem in monoryhme, usually of a panegyric, didactic, or religious nature. The mathnavi, written in rhyming couplets, is used for heroic, romantic, or narrative verse. The ghazal, or lyrics, is usually amorous or mystical and varies from four to sixteen couplets, all with same rhyme scheme. The rubai is a quatrain a peculiar meter. The greatest charm of Persian poetry lies in its language and its music. That is, it does not lend itself well to translation.

Ferdowsi and Shah-Nameh

Ferdowsi was a highly revered Persian poet and the author of the epic of Shahnameh (the Persian "Book of Kings"), which is the world's longest epic poem created by a single poet, and the national epic of Iran and the Persian-speaking world. Having drafted the Shahnameh under patronage of the Samanid and the Ghaznavid courts of Persia, Ferdowsi is celebrated as one of the most influential Persian poets of all time, and an influential figure in Persian literature. Ferdowsi's Shahnameh is the most popular and influential national epic in Iran and other Persian-speaking nations. The Shahnameh is the only surviving work by Ferdowsi regarded as indisputably genuine.

Omar Khayam

Omar Khayyam ; (1048 –1131), was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet, who is widely considered to be one of the most influential scientists of the middle ages. He wrote numerous treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy and astronomy. Born in Nishapur, in northeastern Iran, also known as Persia, at a young age he moved to Samarkand and obtained his education there. Afterwards he moved to Bukhara and became established as one of the major mathematicians and astronomers of the Islamic Golden Age. He is the author of one of the most important treatises on algebra written before modern times, the Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra (1070), which includes a geometric method for solving cubic equations by intersecting a hyperbola with a circle. He contributed to a calendar reform.

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His significance as a philosopher and teacher, and his few remaining philosophical works, have not received the same attention as his scientific and poetic writings. Al-Zamakhshari referred to him as “the philosopher of the world”. He taught the philosophy of Avicenna for decades in Nishapur, where Khayyám was born and buried. His mausoleum there remains a masterpiece of Iranian architecture visited by many people every year.

Outside Iran and Persian-speaking countries, Khayyám has had an impact on literature and societies through the translation of his works and popularization by other scholars. The greatest such impact was in English-speaking countries; the English scholar Thomas Hyde (1636–1703) was the first non-Persian to study him. The most influential of all was Edward FitzGerald (1809–83),[5] who made Khayyám the most famous poet of the East in the West through his celebrated translation and adaptations of Khayyám's rather small number of quatrains in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Omar Khayyám died in 1131 and is buried in the Khayyám Garden in Nishapur. The reconstruction of the tombs of Persian icons like Hafez, Saadi, Attar, Pour Sina and others were built by Reza Shah and in 1963, the Mausoleum of Omar Khayyám was reconstructed on the site by Hooshang Seyhoun.

Nezami Ganjavi

Nizami Ganjavi was a 12th-century Persian poet. Nezami is considered the greatest romantic epic poet in Persian literature, which brought a colloquial and realistic style to the Persian epic. His heritage is widely appreciated and shared by Afghanistan ,Azerbaijan, Iran, the Kurdistan region and Tajikistan.

The influence of Neẓami’s work on the subsequent development of Persian literature has been enormous and the Khamsa became a pattern that was emulated in later Persian poetry (and also in other Islamic literatures).The legacy of Nezami is widely felt in the Islamic world and his poetry has influenced the development of Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Urdu poetry amongst many other languages.

 In Persian miniature, the stories in Nezami’s poems alongside those of Ferdowsi's Shahnama have been the most frequently illustrated literary works. Nezami composed his verses in Persian and Western Encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia of Islam,Encyclopedia Iranica, Encyclopedia Britannica and orientalists of many countries consider Nezami as a significant Persian poet and hail him as the greatest exponent of romantic epic poetry in Persian literature.

Rumi

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi's influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions: Iranians, Tajiks, Turks, Greeks, Pashtuns, other Central Asian Muslims, and the Muslims of South Asia have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and transposed into various formats. Rumi has been described as the "most popular poet" and the "best selling poet" in the United States.

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Rumi's works are written mostly in Persian, but occasionally he also used Turkish, Arabic, and Greek,in his verse. His Mathnawi, composed in Konya, may be considered one of the purest literary glories of the Persian language. His works are widely read today in their original language across Greater Iran and the Persian-speaking world. Translations of his works are very popular, most notably in Turkey, Azerbaijan, the United States, and South Asia. His poetry has influenced Persian literature, but also Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, Azerbaijani, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu, as well as the literature of some other Turkic, Iranian, and Indo-Aryan languages including Chagatai, Pashto, and Bengali.

Saadi

Saadi was one of the major Persian poets and literary men of the medieval period. He is not only famous in Persian-speaking countries, but has been quoted in western sources as well. He is recognized for the quality of his writings and for the depth of his social and moral thoughts. Saadi is widely recognized as one of the greatest poets of the classical literary tradition.

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His best known works are Bostan (The Orchard) completed in 1257 and Golestan (The Rose Garden) in 1258. Bostan is entirely in verse. It consists of stories aptly illustrating the standard virtues recommended to Muslims (justice, liberality, modesty, and contentment) and reflections on the behavior of dervishes and their ecstatic practices. Golestan is mainly in prose and contains stories and personal anecdotes. The text is interspersed with a variety of short poems which contain aphorisms, advice, and humorous reflections, demonstrating Saadi's profound awareness of the absurdity of human existence. The fate of those who depend on the changeable moods of kings is contrasted with the freedom of the dervishes.

Hafez

Hafez, 1325–1389, was a Persian poet which is collected works are regarded as a pinnacle of Persian literature and are to be found in the homes of most people in Iran, who learn his poems by heart and use them as proverbs and sayings to this day. His life and poems has been the subject of much analysis, commentary and interpretation, influencing post-14th century Persian writing more than any other author.Themes of his ghazals are the beloved, faith, and exposing hypocrisy. His influence in the lives of Persian speakers can be found in "Hafez readings" (Fal-e Hafez), and the frequent use of his poems in Persian traditional music, visual art, and Persian calligraphy. His tomb is visited often. Adaptations, imitations and translations of Hafez' poems exist in all major languages.



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