The Persian Poetry is known to have various categories or traditions. Those traditions are named as Panegyric (in Persian: Setayeshi or Madiheh), Epic (Hemaasi), Patriotic (Meehani), Mystic (Ramzi or Soophianeh), Romantic (Aasheghaneh), Ethical (Akhlaaghi), Didactic (Aamoozeshi or Pandi), Colloquial (Goftogooii), and Satirical (Tanzi or Hajvi). Each tradition is usually written in different styles (like Khorasaani, Esfahani, etc.) and types or forms (like ode, quatrain, etc.). The most popular types or forms of Persian Poetry are considered to be as ode (in Persian: ghazal), quatrain (in Persian: rubaii or chaharpaareh), purposeful (in Persian: ghassideh or qasideh), mathnavi, and so on. Iranians have been always proud of different types of memorable poetry in their long-standing culture, and various Iranian poets have been considered as the masters in a specific poetry type. Those masters, to name a few, are recognized as Mowlana in Mathnavi, Khayyam in Quatrain, Hafez in Ode, and Afzaladin Khaghani Shervani (AKS) in Purposeful Poetry. In this article the life story and the works of AKS as the First Iranian Master in Purposeful Poetry are briefly studied and discussed.
HIS VAROUS NAMES: AKS was also known as Afzaladin Baddil ibn Khaghani, Afzaladin Abu Baddil ibn Ali Khaghani, and Afzaladin Ibrahim ibn Ali Nadjar. The term Nadjar (aka Najaar) refers to his father who was a carpenter (in Persian: Najaar or Doroodgar). According to the Encyclopedia Britannica his full name was Afzalaldin Badil Ibrahim ibn Ali Khaqani Shirvani. Some scholars also refer to him as his title of Hessaan al-Ajam (in Persian: Nikmard-e Irani).
HIS LIFE: AKS was born in 1106 or 1120 AD in Shervan (aka Shirvan). Shervan is an ancient region in the Caucasus (in Persian: Ghafghaaz), historically as a part of Iran, and today as a part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. AKS was contemporary to the Seljuks (aka Saljghughian) who were a Sunni Muslims who ruled parts of Central Asia and the Middle East from the 11th to 14th centuries.
His father was a Muslim carpenter and his mother was of Christian origin. Brought up in poverty, AKS was fortunate to be educated by his learned uncle, Kaafyedin. Kaafyedin was a pharmacist (in Persian: Daarosaaz) who used to work in his own pharmacy (in Persian: Attari). He was also an astronomer to the royal court of Shirvanshah. Shirnanshah was the title in mediaeval Islamic times of an Iranian dynasty. The Shirvanshah established a native Azeri state and were rulers of Shervan (aka Shirvan). It should be also noted that the title of Shirvanshah dates back to pre-Islamic times. According to Ibn Khordadbeh (the Iranian scholar in 9th century), Shirvanshah was the name of the local rulers who received their title from Sassanid emperor Ardashir.
As a young man, AKS composed lyrics under the pen-name of Haghaayeghi or Haqaiqi or Haqiqi (Seeker of Truth). After dedicating himself to the court of Fakhredin Manuchehr Fereydoon Shirvanshah (also known as the Khaghan Akbar who ruled from 1120 to 1160), he chose the poetic name of Khaghani. Khaghan in English means Regal, which corresponds to Shahvaareh in literary Persian. AKS also served as a court poet for the son of Fakhredin Manuchehr Fereydoon, Akhsatan or Akhsitan (ruled 1160-1196).
AKS possibly quit as a court poet of Akhsatan in 1165 and as a tourist he set off a journey to various parts of Iran and the Middle East. At the time, Arsalan Shah (ruled 1161-1174) was the Seljuk King of Hamadan and some parts of western Iran. His trips provided him materials for his famous book of a Gift from Two Iraqs (in Persian: Rahaavard-e dou Araagh and in Arabic: Tohfat al-Araaghain or Tohfat al-Eraqayn). The two Iraqs being Araak, a city located in western Iran, and Iraq of Mesopotamia. On return home, AKS broke off with the royal court, and Akhsatan ordered some officers to imprison him. AKS was in prison for nearly five years. In prison, he wrote the Poem Book of Prison (in Persian: Sorodehaayeh Zendaan or Ashaar-e-Habsiyyeh). The Roman Andronicus Comnenus who visited Shervan in 1170 most likely interceded with Akhastan on behalf of AKS. (Andronicus Comnenus later became the Roman Emperor in 1183). After AKS was released, he moved with his family to Tabriz where he faced disasters one after another. First his young son, then his daughter and finally his wife died. At this time, Akhastan through many envoys repeatedly requested AKS to return to Shervan. AKS refused the offer and stayed all alone in Tabriz where he died in 1190. His death-date has been also reported as 1196 and 1198. He was buried at a Cemetery in Surkhab District (in Persian: Surkhab Mahaleh) of Tabriz. In Tabriz, this site is presently known as the Cemetery of the Poets (in Persian: Goorestaan-e-Shoaraa). View the Statue of Khaghani at the Cemetery of the Poets in Tabriz.
HIS WORKS: AKS left a remarkable Persian-language heritage which includes numerous purposeful poetry, some magnificent odes-distiches of as many as three hundred lines with the same rhyme, dramatic poems protesting against oppression and glorifying reason and hard work, and elegies lamenting the death of his relatives.
Among three Iranian masters of purposeful poetry, Muizzi (1048-1125), Anvari (1126-1189), and AKS, the poetry of AKS is believed, by many scholars, to be more mannered. Though these three poets are all famous in Iran, they are less appreciated in the west because their poems are particularly difficult to translate.
In her reference article, Anna Livia Beelaert noted that, “Although some Iranian scholars in modern times have expressed an unbounded admiration for Khaghani, his ‘difficulty’, as well as his ways of combining the ‘beautiful’ with the ‘ugly’, has often been an obstacle to a full appreciation. A case in point is Ali Dashti (1894-1982), who, in 1961 published his essayistic work under the telltale title Khaghani Shaaer-e Dir Aashnaa (‘Khaghani, the inaccessible poet’). In this work, which also includes a substantial and thematically ordered anthology, he contrasts Khaghani with Saadi. To Dashti, as to many others, Saadi’s poetry, showing ‘fluency and simplicity,’ is the opposite of Khaghani’s. Although Dashti admits to Khaghani’s great talent, he also expresses regret for the ‘strangeness’ and ‘unpleasantness’ of some of his images. Another scholar Foruzanfar too, in his subtle and positive evaluation of the poet, deplores that sometimes he appears to be ‘unbalanced’. Such a difficulty in coming to terms with Khaghani’s unexpected imagery can be seen even in the criticism of recent specialists. Not everybody is attuned to the splendors Khaghani offers, but those who are, are richly rewarded”.
One of Khaghani’s famous poems in the Poem Book of Prison is known as “To Be as a Christian”, aka the Poem of Tarsa Eyyeh. The opening verses of the poem read as follows:
Falak kajrotar asst as khat-e-Tarsa
Maraa daarad mosalsal raaheb assa.
Lebaas-e raahebaan poshideh roozm
Chou raaheb zaan baraaram harshab aava.
The complete Persian Version of the above poem may be viewed online. And here is the English version of above poem as translated by this author:
I have an image of this amazing Sky
Through such a sky I can hardly fly.
It looks like a gibberish letter from a Christian guy.
That leads me to live always as a monk.
Day and night I have to cry.
In the same poem, AKS calls upon a person named as the Faithful to Jesus Christ (in Persian: Mokhless-e Deen-e Massih). According to the scholar Vladimir Fedorovich Minorsky, that person must have been Roman Andronicus Comnenus (RAC). As already noted RAC most likely played an intercession role to free AKS from prison in 1170.
The book of a Gift from Two Iraqs (Rahaavard-e dou Araagh) supplies us with materials for his biography and his impressions about different parts of his homeland Iran and the Middle East. According to the Iranian scholar Iraj Afshar (the author and publisher of numerous publications particularly in the area of listing Persian handwriting), the book is a famous epic work that represents the recollections of AKS’s pilgrimage and return home. A copy of this book has been claimed to be in ONB, Osterreichische National Bibliothek (Main scientific library of the Republic of Austria). In 2003, Afshar visited ONB in Vienna and examined the manuscript. He then suggested that the manuscript had been possibly written by AKS himself. On the basis of his suggestion, the facsimile (an exact copy) of the Viennese manuscript (entitled as Tuhfat aluminium-eraqayn) was published in 2006 with a collaboration between the Austrian Academy of Sciences and an Academic Publisher in Tehran.
In the book of a Gift from Two Iraqs, AKS also wrote his famous purposeful poem of the Porch of Madain (in Persian: Aivan-e-Madaaen). (Porch of Madain has been also called as Arch of Madain, Ruins of Madain, Arch of Ctesiphon, Taagh-e Kassra, and Taq-e Kasra). In his poem, AKS beautifully expressed his sorrow and impression of the remains of Sassanid’s Palace near the Ctesiphon. And as the influential nineteenth century French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) once wrote, “Everything that is beautiful and noble is the product of reason and calculation”. Here is a part of the poem of the Porch of Madain as translated by Tom Botting:
My soul, come, draw lessons from life, look around
A mirror to help you in old Madain can be found.
Beside the Dajla lie the ruins of great Madain.
The river's long banks with bitterest groaning resound.
The complete Persian Version of the Porch of Madain may be viewed online here.
EPILOGUES1. Like Rudaki and Ferdowsi, poet Khaghani must be also considered as one of the architects of Patriotic Poetry in Iran. He has been and always will be one of the favorite iconic figures of Persian Poetry and Literature.
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
REFERENCESAfshar, I. (2006): Online Article on Tuhfat aluminum eraqayn.
Azeri Literature Team (2001): Online Article on Khagani Shivani.
Beelaert, A. L. (2010): Online Article on Kaqani Servani, (Published by Encyclopedia Iranica).
Botting, T. (2001): Online translation of some poems composed by Khaghani.
Brainy Quote Website (2007): Online Collection of Charles Baudelaire Quotes.
Britannica Encyclopedia (2007): Online Article on Khaqani.
Dehkhoda, A. A. (1953): Article on Khaghani.
Farmanfarmaian, F. S. (2003): Online Article on Under the Arch.
Gharib, M. (1985): Modern Dictionary (in Persian), A Note on AKS, ed., Tehran, Iran.
Iranchamber Website (2007): Online Article on a Brief History of Persian Literature.
Lempke, S. D. (2005): Online Article on Purposeful Poetry.
Mogensen, A. J. (1997): Online Note on Ibn Khordadbeh.
Saadat Noury, M. (2006): Online Article on Development of Patriotic Poetry in Iran.
Saadat Noury, M. (2007): Online Article on Khaghani as the First Iranian Master in Purposeful Poetry (Published by Persian Mirror).
Saadat Noury, M. (2010): Various Articles on Persian Poetry & the History of Iran.
Sajaadi, Z. (1990): Khaghani’s Anthology (in Persian), ed., Zawar Press, Tehran, Iran.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2010): Online Articles on Khaqani (in Persian and English). Zareen Koob, A. (1989): The Persian Translation of an Essay Written by Vladimir Fedorovich Minorsky on the Purposeful Poem of Tarsa Eyyeh Composed by Khaghani, ed., Soroush Press, Tabriz, Iran.
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