Tuesday, June 21, 2011

what have you read in Persian poetry?

Probably not much. I think poetry from the Islamic world is fairly accessible, especially if you count the whole of the Quran. But Persian is fairly specific, and rather antiquated to boot.

So, I came across a small collection by Scholastic (circa 1975) at the local Goodwill. The book was a translation of poems of an 11th-century philosopher and scholar, and since it was cheap and uncommon-seeming I bought it. I was pleased, and suprised. Let me share a bit with you.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.

The worldly hope men set their hearts upon
Turns ashes -- or it prospers; and anon,
Like snow upon the desert's dusty face,
Lighting a little hour or two--is gone.

Alike for those who for to-day prepare,
And those that after some to-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the tower of darkness cries,
"Fools! your reward is neither here nor there."

Why, all the saints and sages who discuss'd
Of the two worlds so wisely -- they are thrust
Like foolish prophets forth; their words to scorn
Are scatter'd, and their mouths are stopt with dust.


  1. my mother had a copy of this in the house when i was growing up. i always thought of it as so exotic. she liked poetry, but that didn't rub off on me.

  2. Cool. You had some pretty progressive parents. I mean, I did in many ways myself, but not THAT particular way. I am not particularly fascinated with poetry but I respect it a lot and especially when it has a deep ideas to relate.