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Introduction to Persian Poetry By: Prof. M.S. Tajar

Introduction to Persian Poetry By: Prof. M.S. Tajar

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Baba Taher Oryan/ Persian Sufi 990 A.D.
Baba Taher Oryan/ Persian Sufi 990 A.D.

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Published by: mtajar on Mar 08, 2011
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An Introduction to Persian PoetryI. Rubaiyyat of Baba Taher "Oryan"
By: M. S. Tajar, Ph. D. Ed. D.Former Lecturer, University of the Philippines
“The aesthetic and intellectual delight of mankind has been greatly enhanced by Persian literature, the poetry especially.”“…New Persian, whose emergence as an incomparable vehicle of poetrymaybe in 900 A.D. Poems of Hamzala Baad-ghisy.”
(Avery, P.W. of the Kings College / Cambridge / U.K. “Persia: History and Heritage” HenryMelland, London. 1978 / p.65)
* * *
Since 1859, when the first Persian Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam was translated intoEnglish, by Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883 A.D.), the world of Poetry has never been sodelighted to see another Rubaiyyat translation into English language, but this time evensweeter, softer and touchier, i.e. the Rubaiyyat of Baba Taher “Oryan,” the Persian Sufi-poet (990 A.D).While the great Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyyat appear to be somewhat hedonistic,Epicurian and worldly (“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you will die,” and that’sprobably because the poet himself was a philosopher, mathematician and an astronomer,in other words, a scientist, and thus he was more “physical” and he was looking at theworld from the point of view of a scientist,) the great Baba Taher was a Sufi, a spirituallover, and an “Oryan” (“Naked!” from all the worldly possessions) and his poems flowlike a spirit, and they are ethereal, like the air itself, or the "morning breeze," if youplease.Look at this Rubaiyyat of him, for example. While talking to the Beloved, he says:“My eye-socket, O’ my love, is your own very home!My forehead, O’ my life, is your entry gate!My eyelids, O’ my darling, could hurt your lovely feet,Be careful, coming in, honey, before it’s just too late!”Even though, like Omar Khayyam, Baba Taher also talks about the Love, about the lover,about wine, about roses and nightingales, etc. as almost all the Persian poets do, yet,while Khayyam is denying the future, (and he is seeking the “now” and the “here,”) BabaTaher is longing for, and actually looking for It! In other words, he has just one purpose1
and only one love, and that is the love that surpasses all other loves, - the BelovedHimself.That’s why he says, and I quote:“Some folks love happiness, some prefer the “pain!”
Some join the lover, some run in disdain!I, just prefer the whims of my lover,Whatever it is - - sunshine or the rain!”Another interesting thing about the Baba is that, while his poems talk about the loftinessof the spiritual world, yet they are so down to earth that even the humble shepherds of Persia could understand them, and they have been singing those Rubaiyyat on the hills, inthe valleys and the fields, for almost a thousand years.(As did the Chinese sailors with the Persian poems of Sa’di, some 600 years ago, whilediscovering America, almost 70 years ahead of Columbus (1451-1506 A.D.) under theleadership of a Chinese Muslim Admiral from Central Asia, by the name of Zhang Haa.k.a.. Ma Ha (1330 – 1450 A.D.). See the Discovery Channel “February 20, 2005 also“The Persian Letters,” Tehran, 2002, p. 20, and “The International Herald Tribune,” July21, 2005).Going back to the Rubaiyyat of Baba Taher, while they are almost a thousand years old,yet they are still being sung by the pop singers of Persia, today, as if they were composedin the “Tin Pan Alleys of Tehran,” just yesterday! (The most interesting version of theBaba Taher songs that I have heard so far, is the one sung by the well-known Iranian ladysinger --- Seema Beena).Technicaly speaking, The Rubbaiyat of Baba Taher “Oryan” are the best examples of atype of poetry in the Post-Islamic Persia, which are known as “Fahlaviyyaat” (of Pahlavilanguage) – seehttp://www.tebyan.net/literary_criticism/2009/3/5/86926/.html.
How Did I Come to Know Baba Taher?
Actually, I am from the City of Baba Taher --- Hamadan, the ancient summer capital of Persia, under King Darius the Great, some 2,500 years ago. (Hamadan or Hagmataneh or Ekbatan, was one of the four capitals of the Persian Empire; the other three were thePersepolis, Susa and Baghdad in Iraq today. The name Baghdad comes from twoPersian words of Bagh, meaning God, like Baghwan in Sanskrit, and Dad, meaning"given," "the God-given City" or Diosdado in European languages).
Like the Iranian lady poetess Forugh Farrokh-Zaad, who during the 60's used to praise the "pain" andsuffering, until she died in a car accident almost like James Dean, and became well known, for the "livefast, die young" form of life and poetry.
Since my early childhood, I had heard the poems of Baba Taher, used as moral advices,by the parents, teachers and preachers. I had also seen his Divan (Persian book of Poetry)on sale everywhere, in the bookstores, or even on the sidewalks or in any library. I hadeven visited his beautiful “Blue-domed” shrine, on the outskirts of my city of childhood.But, it took me some 30 years of living abroad, to fully recognize, and to appreciate thosebeautiful songs of Baba Taher (sung by Ms. Beena) and to suddenly realize, what a sweetlanguage, and what an imaginative Sufi style, existed in Baba Taher’s Rubaiyyat.From then on, I started repeating his Rubaiyyat, as a song in my mind, and I wouldimagine my “Admirable townmate” from a far away country, the Philippines. Until oneday, when I was caught up in the traffic jam of Manila, suddenly I got a rhyme of BabaTaher’s Persian poems, but this time, it was in English version, running through mymind. I found it quite interesting! So, I jotted it down, right there and then, amonghundreds of noisy cars (while Baba Taher used to compose the originals on top of thehills and mountains with all that serenity and peace).From that day on, started my new “daily routine” --- i.e. the translation of Baba’s poemsin the traffic jam! Then, I knew what a blessing those pestering traffic jams could be!You could turn them into poetry! While many people curse the traffic, I have learned toappreciate its good side, too. Someone once said, “It’s better to light a candle than tocurse the darkness.” Or as Dale Carnegie rightfully advised: "When the nature gives youa lemon, turn it into a lemonade!"In fact, Baba Taher himself also looks at the bright side of the “darkest moments” in hislife:“Worry is my worry, and a part of my heart!Partner in my life, with no plans to depart!Worrying over you, won’t just go away,Wonderful this worry, from the very start!”
Persian Poetry
Persian is probably the richest language of poetry in the world, not only for its un-equalled number of great poets like Omar Khayyam, Hafiz, Sa'di, Firdausi, Rumi, Attar,Nizami, Baba Taher, Jaami, etc. (whom, unfortunately, some foreighners mistook asArabs just because they were Muslims and had "Arab" sounding names, as all Muslimsdo), but also for its un-matched volumes of Divans, as well. For example, theShahnamah of Firdausi (930 – 1020 A.D.) is three times larger than Homer's Iliad andOdyssey, combined, and more spectacular in its presentations; while Rumi's "Mathnavi of Sufism" (1207 – 1273 A.D.) is still the best seller in the U.S.A. today, some 700 yearsafter his death; and it is also the "All-time best seller" book of poetry in history!(Note: Paul Coehlo of Brazil's best selling book "The Alchemist" was inspired by Rumi'spoems. Ref. BBC, Hardtalk, Extra. August 20, 2005)3

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