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Chapter 4-C


A good number of the quatrains also have political messages especially because their short form makes them suitable for sending a social message as well as a sketchy natural description. The following quatrain has an anti-imperialist tone,


It does not matter what they have built in the West

From camel fountain to the inverted bridge

It is enough to know that this gang of wild beast

Has made everything shed blood.


Another type of poetry of Nimâ's is long narrative poems which usually contain conversations between different characters, and because of that, Nimâ called them nemâyeshi or “dramatic”. These included Afsâneh, Khâne-ye sarayvili, Pey-e dâru chupân, Qal‘e-ye Soqrim, Morgh-e آmin and Khânevâde-ye sarbâz. “Saraivili's House” is a thirty-page poem dated May 1940, the time when the allied forces were pushing the German-oriented Iranian monarch to leave the throne; a hope for change was on the horizon. In an introduction which Nimâ wrote to the poem, he talks about his new metrics which he mistakenly calls “Free Verse”:


This free verse should be read calmly and articulately, with a natural tone and according to the punctuation, just as a piece of prose is read. 


“Saraivili” means hometown and is a village near Nimâ's homeland. The protagonist is a poet who lives in a hut in the forest with his wife and dog. His only pleasure in life is that ortolans, while migrating from the summer ground to the winter ground, stay for a while in his house and sing. However, one night Satan comes to his door and by force spends the night there. Satan cuts his hair and nails, and these become snakes and insects. The poet began to sweep these harmful creatures, yet the people do not cherish his work, think that he is a lunatic, and send witches to heal him. The motif of “hair and nails” is based on an Iranian belief, still heard today, according to which one should not spill his nail clippings anywhere but in the doorway because when the Anti-Christ appears, these nails will grow to trees and will prevent the Anti-Christ from getting into the house. In Zoroastrian texts, as well, there are strict regulations for “impure” hair and nails. The story first leads to the ruining of Saraivili's house, but then the morning comes and the poet wins over Satan and his followers, although with a pain in his heart:


Saraivili's house got ruined.

years pass, and the morning birds carry flowers with their beaks from mountains 

and build his house again.

Saraivili again, with wife and dog, returns to his house 

Alas, the beautiful ortolans no longer sing in his backyard

and he remains sad forever.


Pey-e dâru chupân (A shepherd in search of remedy) is a fifteen page poem which Nimâ wrote in May 1945 in Tehran. The story is based on a folkloric tale and explains a local proverb “the shepherd is gone in search of remedial herb,” usually said when someone pursues an unattainable goal. Elikâ, a young shepherd and a bowman goes into the forest in the evening and shoots Shuka, a bird; he cannot find it, however, because it is very dark. Suddenly, Elikâ hears a woman who is moaning and accusing him of injuring her. The shepherd touches the woman's chest and finds that the wound is not fatal. She asks him to marry her and Elikâ is suspicious lest the woman be a fairy, but eventually takes her home and cares for her wound. Nimâ, himself in a note to the poem says,


Elikâ put the woman in his own bed and went to the forest to bring remedial herbs. After that, no one knows what happened to this couple who met each other like that and where they went and how are they living. It has become a proverb among the native people that the shepherd goes in search of herb' and they use this idiom for a person who runs endlessly and does not reach his goal. Also, it is said that he [Elikâ] is still alive and as long as he is living, he brings herb home but none of the herb heal the wound.

For this reason, when the brave and proud people of Dizan in the evening see a shuka in the forest in spite of all pride and bravery, do not shoot at her because they are afraid that the bird could be the beloved woman and they could be burdened with nursing her.


There is a twenty-four year lapse between “Afsâneh” and “A shepherd in Search of Remedy”, but we can see that Nimâ is still looking for an unattainable love. When he wrote “Afsaneh” he did not know his future wife, آlieh, and although, during the first years of their acquaintance, Nimâ wrote love letters to Alieh, to my knowledge, he never wrote a poem for or about her.

In addition to direct political and long narrative poems, the rest of Nimâ's poetry can be grouped into four categories: hekâyât (fables), dobeitihâ (double couplets) in the Tabari language, she‘rhâ-ye shab (night poems), and she‘rhâ-ye tabi‘at (nature poems) per se. However, this classification is not rigid, and a poem like Morgh-e Amin can be looked upon both as a long narrative and as a “night” poem.

Many of Nimâ's poems were not published during his lifetime, and it is said that his editor had to copy them off the backs of cigarette packs or pieces of scratch paper stuffed into a big gunny sack. Nevertheless, Nimâ himself had a clear vision of how his works should be classified topically and divided up for publication. The book of Hekâyât consists of fables, anecdotes, and lampoons in old metric verse, mostly about natural scenery or village characters. These pieces are all didactic, such as Cheshme-ye kuchek in which a boastful creek is stunned when it reaches the sea, and Boz‑e molla Hasan-e mas'alehgu in which a goat belonging to a village clergyman discloses his owner's greed and hypocrisy. Nimâ had a sense of humor. There are many pieces in The Fables that show Nimâ's power of lampoonery, like this piece about Mirdâmâd, the philosopher of the Safavi period:


I've heard when Mirdâmâd

chose the earth ground for his home

came upon him the angel of the dead

asked him: ‘who is your god,'

‘It is a substance,' he answered. 

‘Other substances derived from'

He let prominence know of this event

that: ‘This creature of you in the grave

Answers me back in another tongue'

The Creator laughed and said:

‘do not speak to this creature of mine 

When he was alive in that world too

He said words which I did not understand!' >>> Chapter 4-D