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4. Night Poems
I have called a bulk of Nimâ's poems “night poetry” or “night poems”, because the main motif of these poems is the metaphorical struggle between dawn and night. Nimâ was one of the first poets who used this political symbolism in his poem Chicness ("Phoenix") in 1937, and then in many other poems, such as “Bird of Sorrow”, “It's Night”, “Nightly Curfew”, “A Moment of Night Still Remains”, “Bell”, “The Rooster Crows”, “Moonlight”, “A Bird Dangling from the Night”, “City of Silence”, “The Amen Bird” and dozens more. In 1922, before “Afsâneh” was published, Nimâ printed a poem in classical metric verse called “O Night!” (Ey shab) which became famous and shows the poet's obsession with the night motif:
Oh you evil, fearful night
How much longer will you set fire to my soul?
Either take my eyes out
or remove the curtain from yourself.
However, in this poem, contrary to most of his later night poems, night has a real entity and is not picked up merely as a metaphor. In the last decade of his life, Nimâ returns to this type of nature poetry which is very different from his political symbolism.
Nimâ wrote his first night poems in the last four years of Rezâ Shâh, when the group called The Fifty-Three were in prison and their leader Taqi Erâni perished in 1940. In that suppressive atmosphere it was natural for Nimâ to become obsessed with the night/dawn motif and to use it as a vehicle for conveying his political messages. From 1937 until Rezâ Shâh's abdication in 1941, Nimâ wrote about thirty poems long and short which show his political symbolism and obsession with the night motif. The poem “Phoenix” has already been discussed. In the poem “The Bird of Sorrow” (Morgh-e gham), dated 1938, the poet imagines a bird sitting on “the wall of this ruin” and shakes its head incessantly because it is heavy with sorrow. Its chicks are burnt and although it has learned to laugh, its essence has melted with sorrow. Nimâ identifies himself with the bird:
This body of sorrow sighs out of sorrow every moment.
She gazes into the darkness of my gaze.
She seeks me in this darkness.
Here comes the night/dawn motif, and the poet and the bird both fight against the darkness looking for the morning. The poem ends with these lines which have become almost proverbial for modern poets in Iran:
. . .
I wash out
The darkness of the night
That sits on our hearts.
Waiting for the dawn, we chat with each other
With a golden dust we spin a cocoon ‘round our bodies
Me with my hand, she with her cries, we make an effort.
In his next poem, dated 1939, “She smiles” (Mi khandad), in contrast to the previous poem, a joyful situation is created. The poet depicts the sun as a bird with golden wings:
At dawn, when this golden bird
Has hidden her gilded feathers,
She is smithing gold in her treasury
Hidden from the eyes of the people
It is easy to identify this sun with that of mythical Mithra, who, riding on his chariot, comes to the world with the sunrise. However, it could also be interpreted as a third person sitting on a boat, who, like the sun's reflection on the water, is coming towards the poet and his beloved:
[She, he, it] comes like a bird
Moves gracefully near us
She comes, with her hair dangling,
With redness in her moon-like face
She comes with a blooming smile on her lips
She resembles spring at the end of winter.
At the end of the poem, it is the poet's beloved who welcomes the happy image, "My beloved smiles at [her] from afar."
In February 1940, Nimâ composed a poem called “Woe and Wellaway” (Vây bar man!), undoubtedly inspired by the death of Taqi Erâni, which happened in the same month. It is a powerful poem in which the motif of night ceases to be a cliché and through which the reader can feel the footsteps of Rezâ Shâh's secret police raiding people's homes, the execution field, a “star” which has been released from the earth's impurity, and the poet who does not know where to hang his “tattered robe”:
My field lie dry, and all my schemes
have come to nothing
The enemy has found my hideout
with his cunning eyes
Woe and wellaway! he's preparing for my breast
an array of arms
Envenomed with hate
Then on bloody paths he'll collect skulls
Covered with the dust of ancient graves
He'll place them behind my wall
Then to trouble the bereaved at heart
He'll squat among the skulls
And he shall recite the lament for the dead
Woe and wellaway!
In so dark a night
Who might unknowingly
Step on these rattling skulls?
Who might pierce through
The silence of this deadly night
In which every moment an outcast spins a new spell?
When shall a little star unrotted by earth
Cast a glimmer
On this dark-hearted night?
O you, passerby!
Pass over my way and do not delay
My enemy shall come and knock on my door
He shall ask my name and everything else
Woe and wellaway!
Where on this dismal night shall I hang
my tattered robe
To wrench out arrows from my painful chest
With a bleeding heart
Woe and wellaway!
In “Moonlight Flower” (Gol-e mahtâb) we meet up with the night/dawn motif on the sea. Here, the poet uses images that are very fresh, and beyond their political messages, they have inherent beauty, such as the moonlight which looks like a flower that bends towards the rising sun:
From the overlapping colors of the moonlight
A paler color emerged
Like the dawn
At the end of the night;
Appearing from the sneeze's of a dark night
The jiraz flower was moistened by a cold breath.
Finally, after the witches' spells are broken and the people's lanterns are lit, the poet finishes his poem with a vague image implying the disappearance of the moonlight flower and the blooming of the sun:
The panic dissipated and something rose up
A maiden happened upon us! >>> Chapter 4-F