I finished this book of Persian poetry just in time for Nowruz, which is the Persian New Year. Starting the year at the spring equinox makes a lot of sense.
And starting it with 700-year-old-poems like this was a pleasure.
You might know Rumi or Hafez, but you’re less likely to have heard of this author. Hasan Sijzi (1253-c.1330), was actually from Delhi; but then, it was part of the Persian and eastern Islamic world, a “haven for wandering scholars and poets” fleeing Mongol invasions.
Hasan writes in the most elegant classical forms, ruba’i (quatrains, like the one above) and ghazals, which are infused with love and longing, something like a sonnet, with a repeated radif or refrain (like these two below).
Translator Rebecca Gould faced a huge challenge to translate these into English. As she says in her introduction, English doesn’t have as many resonant end rhymes as the original Persian, making it difficult to repeat and vary the radif elegantly. Gould agrees with Walter Benjamin that translation is “a provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of language.” Her scholarly translation helps to breach that gap for us, setting each poem in context.
After Tomorrow the Days Disappear is out now from Northwestern University Press. Why not start the new year by discovering an ancient tradition?