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THROUGH the medium of Omar Khayyam and his inspired interpreter, Edward Fitzgerald, a peculiar interest has of late been aroused, on either side of the Atlantic, in Persian Thought and Literature. The object of the present article is to offer to those amateurs whose acquaintance with Modern Persian Literature is confined to translation a brief survey of its rise and of its present status in the kingdom of the Shah.

It is curious to note how universal the opinion is, among the uninitiated, that the Persians do not possess a Literature in the accepted sense of the term. This popular misconception is, no doubt, partly due to the fact that those who have undertaken to clothe the Persian Muse in English dress have confined their choice to a limited number of poets, and have produced fresh versions of the poems of Sádi Hafiz and Omar in large numbers, to the almost entire neglect of the other great singers of Iran. After all, it is the scholar who must be the first means of introducing a foreign poet into a new language; and Persian, for a long time, suffered from a marked neglect at the hands of Orientalists. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which produced many notable Oriental scholars-especially in Hebrew and Arabic -Persian was merely regarded as a side-study, and hardly taken seriously; almost the only Europeans who turned their attention to that language were resident diplomatists in India and travellers in Persia. Although many of these obtained a fair knowledge of Persian, they merely learnt it for official or practical purposes; and in acquiring it, under the guidance of natives, they probably seldom read anything beyond a few of the best-known classics, without inquiring into, or even hearing of, any Literature be

yond. The interest of scholars in Persia was, however, at length aroused by the "discovery" of the sacred books of the Zoroastrians, and the decipherment of the Achemedian Inscriptions. And it was through this new interest in Persia that, at the beginning of the present century, Persian began to be studied for its own sake, and assumed an important place in the list of Oriental studies.

In 642 A. D. the Persians suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Arabs at the battle of Nahavand, and, with the fall of Merv, in 651, the fate of the old Zoroastrian State was decided. The overwhelming progress of the arms of the Arabs was only equalled by the rapid dissemination of their creed and language. Wherever the conquering Arab established himself, there, too, sprang into practice his new religion and his old language. In Persia, with the suddenness of magic, Ormuzd and Ahriman were changed for Allah and Satan, and the solar for the lunar year. Such was, at any rate, the case to all outward appearance, and, so long as the Kalifate remained in the hands of the powerful house of Omayya, the language of Persia seems to have relapsed into silence, and her national spirit into obscurity. For a period of about one hundred and fifty years we find no trace of a national literature, nor have we any means of forming a precise notion of the language spoken by the Persians during that time. As far as documentary evidence is concerned, we pass directly from the old Parsi of the "Fire Worshipping Guebres" to the modern Persian, with its predominant element of Arabic words and expressions-an essentially Mohammedan language.

So long as the Central Government in Baghdad made its authority to be felt throughout the Eastern conquests of Islam, which extended from the Persian Gulf to the frontiers of Chinese Turkestan, the language and culture of the Kalif were predominant in every province. It must, however, be admitted that the Court of Baghdad owed more than half its brilliancy to the Persians themselves; it was conducted on lines closely imitative of the late Sassanids court at Ctesiphon, and though the Arabs, at the period of their emigration from the deserts of Arabia, possessed a rich and powerful language, together with an innate taste for poetry, they had but a small degree of culture. Moreover, wherever the Arabs carried their arms, they were on the look-out for men of genius and learning among the conquered,

and, having found them, would send them to Baghdad to add lustre to the literary circle gathered round the Kalif. And thus the very circumstances which retarded the growth of a national Persian Literature were those which conduced to the intellectual brilliancy of the Kalif's court.

In the middle of the eighth century the Umayyads fell and gave way to the House of Abbas, whose power in her Eastern Provinces was never firmly established, and became weaker every year. And thus, at the beginning of the ninth century, we meet with the establishment of semi-independent dynasties in the East and Northeast of Persia.

The first poem composed in the modern Persian language, which has come down to us, is a short ode, by a certain Abbās, in honor of the arrival in Merv, in 809, of Mámün, the son of the famous Harun al-Rashid. It is most probable, however, that very little encouragement was given to the development of the new language by Governors who were anxious to keep in favor with the central authority. All the business of state, even in the most outlying provinces, was at this time conducted in Arabic, and if any intellectual Persian felt the "itch of the pen," he doubtless found it answered his purpose better in every way to write in Arabic. In the case of prose compositions this was certainly the case. With Mohammedanism-an outward profession of which was almost universally enforced-the Persians found themselves obliged to adopt into their spoken language Arabic terminology, and to employ in their writing the Arabic alphabet. In adopting this latter they, however, went from bad to less bad; for, unsuitable as that alphabet is for conveying the sounds of any other language, it was at least an improvement on the alphabet it superseded, which was limited, confused and in every sense unpractical.

Now, a learned Persian of this period, on whatever subject he might wish to write, had three distinct incentives for composing in Arabic: firstly, that being an exceedingly difficult language, fame would accrue to him for having mastered it; secondly, a knowledge of Arabic implied an intimate acquaintance with the Koran, which, in its turn, was a guarantee of piety; thirdly, he would win favor in high quarters. Such, doubtless, were among the causes which led all the early Persian prosateurs to write in Arabic, and it is a notable fact--and one often overlooked-that

many Persian authors, whose works have been translated from Arabic into European languages, have wrongly attained celebrity as Arabs. Avicenna (died 1037), to quote one example out of many, was a Persian bred and born, but as he wrote exclusively in Arabic, he is not always recognized as such.

Let us now turn to Persian Literature proper. Though we hear incidentally of one or two poets who wrote in Persian during the first half of the tenth century, it is not until we reach the establishment of the national Samanid dynasty in Central Asia that we find any real development in this direction. As the founder of this new school we may take the blind poet Rūdagi, who died about 950 of our era. He and his followers wrote, indeed, in Persian, but their vocabulary was surcharged with Arabic words, and their style was in pure imitation of Arabic poetry. The rulers of the national dynasty, who were yearly becoming more independent of the Kalif, naturally spared no effort to encourage the growth of a national literature.

Great as was the encouragement given by the Samanids to letters, the fame of their court was cast into comparative shade by the brilliancy of the Court of Ghazna. Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, the second of his line, who reigned from 998 to 1030, was not only a glorious general, but the greatest early patron of Persian Literature. He is said to have assembled at his court no less than four hundred poets, of whom one was elected to the post of "King of the Poets," or Poet Laureate, an office that has continued to exist at the Court of Persia to the present day.

The compositions of these poets consisted mainly of occasional odes and panegyrics, with here and there a lyric in praise of some imaginary beauty. They took as their models the two principal forms of poetical composition of the Arabs, namely the Kasida and the Ghazal. These two styles are almost identical in form and in order of rhyme; but, while the former usually exceeds twenty-five couplets, the latter seldom exceeds twelve, and has this distinct characteristic that the poet always introduces his nom de plume into the last couplet. With regard to subject, the Kasida corresponds to the Greek Idyllium or our elegy, while the Ghazal corresponds to our ode or lyric. The rules of metre are as strict as those of the classical languages, while their variety is far greater. In both the above mentioned forms the rhyme is on one and the same sound throughout each separate poem, and it is

essential that the first two half-couplets should rhyme together, and after that every second half couplet.

Perhaps this method may be best explained by an attempt to render into English one or two Persian Ghazals. In a Ghazal, the sense of each couplet is complete in itself, and seldom has any direct connection with what precedes or follows it. The following is a rendering of one of Hafiz's most beautiful odes. The running rhyme is preserved, and the metre adopted is as follows:

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Now from out the graceful cypress doth the patient bulbul cry:
"From the rose's face be distant ever more the evil eye!"
Though the Zealot hopeful be of Houries and of Palaces,
My Belov'd my Hourie is, the Tavern is my palace high.
On account of Separation from thee no complaint I make,

Only after Separation can our Union Joy supply.

And if others do derive their pleasures from the Dance and Song,
My chief source of Joy and Pleasure, is my Lover's grief and sigh.

To the harp's sound drink the wine; but be not sad, and if some one
Say to thee, “Oh, Drink no wine," say, "There's a Pardoner in the Sky!"
Hafiz, why dost thou of Grief at Separation make Complaint?
There is Light in Darkness; Union, Separation doth imply.

The following ode is taken from the works of the greatest mystic poet of Persia, Jalal ud-Din Rumi, who died in 1273:

From all the world 'twas thee alone I chose,
Wilt thou from grieving give me no repose?
My heart is as a pen within thy hand,

Thou canst of both my grief and joy dispose.

Save what thou willest, what desire have I?

Thou mak'st to grow from me, now thorn, now rose.

If thou wouldst have me thus, lo! thus I am;

If otherwise, thy will I'll not oppose.

And in the vat where souls their color take,
Who am I, what shall Love or Hate disclose?

The following ode from the pen of Iráki, who lived in the thirteenth century, may serve to exemplify the manner in which the real rhyme is sometimes thrown back into the body of the verse. The beauty of the Persian original is so striking that it may not be out of place to give a transcription of it:

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1. Ba juzishk-i-tu jānānī, namibinam, namibinam
Dilam rā juz tu janani, namibinam, namibinam.
2. Zi khud sabri ve arami, namɩyābam, namiyābam,
Zi tu lutfi ve ahṣānī, namibinam, namibinam.
3. Zi ray lutf binuma ra, ki dardi rā ki mandaram
Ba juz rayi tu darmîni, namibinam, namibinam.
4. Bagir, ay dust, dast-i-man, ki dar darya'i uftadam
Ki anra hich pāyānam namibinam, namibinam.

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