[Table of Contents][3-A][3-B][3-C][3-D][3-E][3-F][3-G][3-H][3-I][4-A][4-B][4-C][4-D][4-E][4-F][4-G][4-H][4-I][4-J][4-K][4-L][4-Notes][5-A][5-B][5-C][Bibliography]
The land north of the river is called Khortâb (“Sunny”) and the southern Nesem (“Shady”). The snow in the Khortâb land melts sooner and its weather is warmer. The houses of Yush, and half of the cultivated fields, are located in Khortâb, and on the Nesem side, there is not one building except one mill. The rest is all cultivated fields.
Nimâ was twelve years old when he was brought to the capital Tehran, and from the beginning he found himself a stranger among city-dwellers. In his autobiography he goes on to say,
In the year, that I came to the city, my close relatives forced me and my younger brother, Lâdbun, into a Catholic school. At that time this school in Tehran was known as The Higher School of St. Louis. My education started here. The first years of my life in school were passed wrangling with kids. The fact that I was withdrawn and shy, peculiar to children raised outside of town, made me subject to mockery at school. My art consisted of making a good jump and escaping from the school grounds with my friend Hosein Pezhmân [who would later become a new-classicist poet]. I did not do well at school. Only my grades in art [drawing and painting] helped me, but later on at school the care and encouragement of a good-tempered teacher, today's famous poet Nezâm Vafâ, thrust me into writing poetry.
In his first long poem The Tale of Pallid Color/Cold Blood, he expresses his nostalgia for his village:
I am not one of these lowly people of the city
I am the painful memory of the mountain people
It was bad luck that brought me to your city
And I have been suffering ever since.
I am happy with the mountain life
I've grown accustomed to it from childhood
Oh, how lovely is my homeland!
It is far from the reach of city folk.
There is no pretension there, no adornment.
No fetters, no cheating or treachery
How lovely is the fire on dark nights
Alongside the sheep on the hillside.
During his lifetime Nimâ always longed for his birthplace and on different occasions he expresses his admiration for the countryside and his disdain for the city and urban life. He called Tehran “the city of the dead.” In an interesting letter that he wrote from Yush to his son in Tehran in 1959, a few months before Nimâ's death, the reader finds that, in spite of his age, Nimâ hunts, is familiar with the local terrain, and respects the villagers' opinions:
My dear son,
...In this separation and loneliness, it's obvious how sad your letter made me. On the other hand, I felt happy because Asadollâh reached Yush one day later. I was deep in thought, why do you ask if I shot the rabbit or not? After your departure, I became listless that I didn't have the stamina to kill that beautiful and innocent animal. I barely made it to Kahriz.
I had my lunch there. They were harvesting wheat. All the time, many sparrows in this clear air that you know were singing in the trees. I was missing you and mamma. I lay down a bit in the sun, then I crossed the river. Surely you're thinking that I was out to hunt partridge, while I was mainly just hoping for that day of total anxiety to be over and for me to reach Yush before night fell. I wasn't blue just because even from far away I couldn't hear the sound of partridges. In Aliâbâd, I ran into Bahâdorkhân and others. I was sweating all over. I sat down a little and we chatted—again for passing time. But the wind and the cold would make you desperate. Mount Nâzar was still covered with clouds. The mountain could not be seen. You know when this mountain is covered with clouds, that means that it will be raining in the wintering grounds. It's getting colder in Yush. People gain experience. One should learn many things from people's experiences. It's not only books that make us knowledgeable.
Even when he lived in Tehran, Nimâ found the time to return to his village Yush, especially in summer, when the schools were closed and he or his wife, both of whom worked as school teachers at different times and places, could leave the city and go to the countryside. This habit of summer migration reminds one of Nimâ's Father's migratory journey as a herdsman from the summering grounds to the wintering grounds. Nimâ sometimes even went to Yush in the winter, and as Jalâl آl-Ahmad, who had been his neighbor for the last decade in Tehran, has written in his article “Pirmard chashm-e mâ bud” ("The Old Man Was Our Eye"), Nimâ contracted bronchitis on one of these trips and could not survive it:
Every summer they went to Yush together. They would have someone house-sit for them in Tehran and they took with them everything from sugar cubes and tea to vegetables and legumes, medicine, remedies, and [opium] smoking supplies and set off on their journey, just like a journey to Qandehâr in the year one zillion! The trip was good both because it was a trip to the summering grounds and it was economical. But I saw that on these yearly trips the old man was searching for consolation from the homesickness with which he became stricken in the city. I do not know if he knew or not—that if he had not come to the city, he wouldn't have become Nimâ, and perhaps he would have still been a hardy mountain man who perhaps for years would make the Angel of Death wait for him. But with every passing year, you could see that the summer trip to Yush had not remedied his pain. Until the end of his life, the old man remained a homesick villager in the hustle and bustle of the city, a villager astonished, scared, and stunned.
Having seen the impact that father and the fatherland had on Nimâ, it is easy to see his motivation for choosing his pen name. The second element of this pseudonym Yushij, which he used as his surname, simply means “from Yush, Yushian”, in his native language. Nimâ refers to a band of warriors of a local dynasty called Esbahbodân, who fought against the influence of the Arabs in the district around the Caspian Sea, where the village of Yush is located. The word nimâ itself probably consists of two parts, nim (“half”), and mâh (“moon”), or together “half moon”, which refers to the moon's brightest phase and is therefore used as a girl's name. Nevertheless, on dubbing himself “Nimâ”, he undoubtedly had the historical meaning in mind and saw in it a sense of knighthood and bravery. In a poem called “Nimâ” which he wrote in 1930 he clearly points out this aspect of his name:
Nimâ is the name of a solitary butterfly
Left far from the season of spring
He rushes to find what he has lost
When he comes to the threshold of his misery
He wants to weep tears of blood
But that hero's dignity makes him ashamed
That hero always sitting before him showing him how he must be.
In these lines the same qualities reveal themselves that he found in his father, a man, brave and proud, with “a drooping moustache and staff,” as already seen in the poem, “My Father”.
4. Letters from a “City of the Dead”
In 1925, Nimâ published a small selection of his poems entitled Khânevâde-ye sarbâz (Soldier's Family) with an introduction which is usually considered to be a manifesto for she‘r-e no or “new poetry”. Here, he gives a brief sketch of his literary life and then proceeds to elaborate his “new style of poetry”, and by doing so, he uses the discourse of “nature” as an ideological device in a double sense; on the one hand, he counterpoises the rustic life of the mountain people against the unnatural city life and expounds upon how nature has germinated the idea of “the new style of poetry” in his soul. On the other hand, he idealizes nature as the sole source for his new diction, music, and messages:
Critics of the present circles...waste their life...debating over whether instead of the word khub (“good”) which natural language utters first, the word nik (“noble”) is better or niku (“honorable”).
Contrary to the past, the sound from the heart of the living lover will come out natural and fast.
Anyway, I am a thorn which nature has bred for the eyes impaired and blind. My main objective is to fulfill a task that others, due to weakness of thought and feeling, and deviation from a healthy path that nature has prepared for them, are not able to accomplish”.
In the many letters he has written to his relatives, friends and acquaintances during his lifetime, we can follow the discourse of nature, both as a nostalgia for his hometown, Yush, and as an ideological device for rationalizing his innovation in poetry. Since letters are “personal”, writers usually can express their thoughts and feelings freely in them and readers can easily relate to them. Moreover, if letters are studied chronologically, they should provide insight into the process by which their author's ideas develop and provide the readers a sense of history. Unfortunately, in a country like Iran in which people suffer for lack of respect for individual rights and where the state has always tried to spy on people through their correspondence, people avoid expressing themselves freely even in their letters or destroy them after reading them.
Happily, Nimâ was a prolific letter writer, and access to many of his letters, either in independent collections or combined with other materials in various anthologies, are readily available. Included are the following five books: Letters of Nimâ to his Wife, آlieh (Nâmehâ-ye Nimâ be hamsarash آlieh), The World is My Home (Doniâ khaneye man ast), Ship and Storm (Keshti va tufân), A Star on the Earth (Setâre'i dar zamin), Letters of Nimâ Yushij (Nâmehâ-ye Nimâ Yushij). According to Sirus Tâhbâz, the editor of these books, Nimâ would either write an abstract of his letters which he termed “minut” or would keep one copy of the original text for himself, which later allowed the editor to compile them.
In a letter that Nimâ wrote to his brother, Lâdbun, in February 1923 from Tehran, he complains that they are separated from their homeland and from each other, Nimâ being captive in the city, and Lâdbun, in the clutches of a jam‘iat (a word that could be interpreted to mean either people in general or a political party). At this time Lâdbun was living in Dagestan in Southern Russia, where he was working with other Iranian communists influenced by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Nimâ writes:
I do not know if it is the multitude of work and hardships in the jam‘iat that has accustomed you to separation or if it is the course of events that has thrust each of us into different directions, you there and I here, wrangling with our hearts.
After that he called the government office where he worked in Tehran “a big prison” and expressed his reluctance to work and live in a city,
I have been working in this office sporadically for three months now without a salary. I work so warily and absentmindedly that my boss is dissatisfied. No matter how much I think about it, I still feel that I am not suitable for this job. Yet, for the sake of my mother, sister, and father I force myself to do it. Perhaps if I were asked to move Mount Alborz it would be easier than this. Some people are astonished, because they think I have become a bureaucrat, I, indeed have hidden my thoughts from them, because one should only relate one's pain to a person who can remedy or console.
Whenever I come out of this big prison in which I work, I go back home or take a stroll towards the north streets of this city which are somewhat uncrowded. Alas, even strolling in such places as those does not make me happy or pleased. When I see birds flying over the trees, when it rains and the peak of Mount Alborz is covered with ice and snow, it reminds me of my own mountains.
I wish I were a bird moving in freedom! A cloud traveling in the infinite sphere! Yes, my dear loved one, I wish to be everything except a man.
He wishes that he and his brother could come back to nature:
When I was passing through the wooded mountains at night I saw the dawn star which was gazing at me from the corner of the western mountain like a thief, and I was thinking where this wanderer was going in this darkness. Everywhere I was missing you.
...When I heard the jingling of goat kids, when the sun cast a shadow in the valleys, my dear everywhere I was thinking of you and how we had been together so many times in these places. Now we are miles apart from each other. You have become captive to the tumult of the jam‘iat and I to the confines of the city walls. Whenever I think of this way of life, how can I not become depressed?
What prompts him to return to nature is “his dejected heart”, because the heart is the center of natural feelings in humans,
My impatient heart has been burning so much that one day it was even about to destroy me. Do you think your brother has gone silent? No! I am not so lucky that my heart would let me be at peace! The sky over my head ebbs and flows like a sea full of tears! The earth beneath my feet is filled with blood! Me and silence, impossible! Everything obeys what is in one's nature. The hungry man does not ask for food at will; the bird does not move at will so that it can burn itself or avoid getting burnt. A lover's will is stronger than steel and more delicate than the petals of a flower.
In another letter to his brother dated 1925, he finds school systems and formal reasoning as the oppressor of the heart:
...It is necessary to follow one's essential nature and to be able to live freely. It is from here that I let my thought flow: individuals' guidance should be the result of their own nature.
Time and again I have realized through my own experience that school and ethical books have not created in our children anything but suffocation, bondage, powerlessness, and lack of imagination.
Any type of instruction contrary to one's nature either brings about these inverted results or has no effect at all.
God lives in a person's heart and poetry can open the gate between them:
Above all we have to do is return to our own hearts. Lâdbun, God is there. He can be seen at the time of weakness and hardship, and he can be approached through poetry. At other times, pride, fantasizing, and reasoning suffocate and destroy this knowledge in people's hearts >>> Chapter 3-E