Eminent Poetesses  of Persian

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Eminent Poetesses  of Persian

Eminent Poetesses of Persian

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One of the most noble forms of literature in the world is poetry. Iran has always been a land of poetry, nor has the lyric quality ever been lost from the voice of her people. The Iranian aptitude for versifying everyday expressions right from the beginning is so strong that one can encounter poetry in almost every classical work, whether of Persian literature, science, metaphysics or history. In short, for any scholar, in any branch of knowledge, it was a pre-requisite to have the ability to write in verse form. For example half of medical writings of Avicenna (Bu Ali Sina – 980-1037 A.D.), such as, al-Qanun fit-Tibb (Cannon of Medicine), are in verse. Iran has an extremely complex political and literary history. The beginnings of Iran's Persian poetry are lost in the mists of antiquity. And yet – if we may judge from analogy – we shall probably not be far astray if we say that the earliest poetry was of two types – the ballad and the epic. Persian poetry in particular, and literature in general, suffered a set-back after the conquest of Iran by the Arabs in the middle of the seventh century A.D. Literary activity in Iran came to a standstill and stagnated for a while. Arabic replaced Pahlavi, or Persian, as a written language and also became the language of the elite in Iran who wrote in Arabic. Upon the decline of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad towards the second half of the ninth century A.D. and with this emancipation began the re-establishment of Iran's national life and culture and laid the foundation for a kind of renaissance into the realm of letters. Beginnings might have been small, but great results followed. It was almost after a lapse two centuries interest was rejuvenated in the Persian language, or Zaban-i-Farsi, or Neo-Persian. According to tradition, Persian poetry, nursed for the subsequent two hundred years by the fostering care of three princely dynasties of the truer Iranian blood who established brilliant courts and patronized learning and letters in Khurasan – Tahirid (820-872 A.D.), Saffarid (860-903 A.D.), Samanid (874-999 A.D.) – was destined to grow in grace and stature to its old dominant position in literature. It was also encouraged by the Buwaihids (also of the tenth century) and Ghaznavids of Afghanistan of the eleventh century) until the thin register of Persian poetry changed into the manly tone of a Firdausi, with all the virility of the race within its compass. When Neo-Persian emerged as a literary medium in Iran it turned out to be far superior to the Semetic speech which had dominated over the past two-centuries. With subsequent shaping, and polishing, Neo-Persian was made a vehicle of one of the greatest literatures of mankind. It was from the middle of the ninth century onwards that Iran produced its classical poets and writers in Persian who have not only enriched the Persian language and literature but have also left an indelible impress of their genius and influence on the literatures of the world. Iranians highly value their poets who have kept their language and culture alive even during numerous upheavals which took place in Iran's long and chequered history. In this context, there is no gainsaying that Persian language is soft and expressive. There are many options for Persian poets in the use of words because there are many meanings to one word and many ways to express one's thought. That is why Persian poetry and language are rich in expression. It is indeed a travesty of facts that for over a millennium Persian poetic tradition has flourished, continuous and uninterrupted and Persian poetry has been documented with Iranian poets, whereas scarcely any attention has been paid to the poetesses who have composed poetry in Persian. Poetesses of Persian have also made considerable contributions right from the middle of the ninth century till now, to the enrichment of Persian poetry, literature and thought. If we view the poetry of female poets vis-à-vis male poets of Persian, unprejudicially, we find though female poets said less in volume they have been more forceful in their convictions and very circumspect in their expressions which sets apart their poetic compositions. The writing of this book, on my part, is an humble attempt to write and document the eminent Persian poetesses from the ninth century onwards till the present day. In determining the form and character of this book, I have been prompted by two convictions. One is that the reference to all the eminent Persian poetesses should be compressed into a single volume which could be a more useful compendium and can be easily browsed through by the lovers of Persian poetry. The other opinion which I venture to hold is this that the reference to Persian poetesses should be made in distinct divisions, epoch-wise, to show growth of history of Persian poetry and to understand how the poetic vision of Persian poetesses developed over the centuries. Therefore Persian poetesses, whether of Iranian origin or from lands where the lingua franca had been or still is Persian, have been classified into the following four categories, namely – 1. Shairat-i-Mutqaddamin – poetesses of early times, or classical period – from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries; 2. Shairat-i-Mutwassatin – poetesses of middle time, or the sixteenth & seventeenth centuries; 3. Shairat-i-Mutakharin – poetesses of recent times, or the eighteenth & nineteenth centuries; 4. Shairat-i-Jadid – poetesses of modern times or the twentieth century onwards. This in short is the raison d'eter of this book. I hope this book will serve the purpose outlined herein. R.M. CHOPRA Kolkata.