[Table of Contents][1][2][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]


Chapter 4-G


In the poem, “The Night-Mourner” (Anduhnâk-e shab), dated 1940, Nimâ plays with language, above all else. A reader tends to read this title as “The Sorrowful Night” (Anduhnâk shab), whereas Nimâ uses the word anduhnâk as a noun rather than as an adjective. Such a transformation of an adjective into a noun in not unprecedented in Persian, as in the word pir which means both “old” and “an elder”. The point is that Nimâ invents his own compounds and enrages the grammarians. In this poem, we see that the sorrowful man of the night is sitting on a rock contemplating the dead, who are more alive than the living:


Is there a way out for the wretched of this dark night?

Do the other people who are alive

(but the living persons

have not given them the path

to life, and these living persons 

are like the dead in their eyes)

have a life with other living persons in the quiet of these weary nights?


The sea here is the Caspian, which connected Iran to the former Soviet Union, which at the time of this poem's composition “was building socialism.” The poet sitting on a rock is thinking of this promised paradise on the other shore:


They say in the shore of quiet afar

An unusual people have a life

And the skin of the sole of their feet

Is not injured

From the poison of kerad thorns

There like the fast rising waves

Everything is passing calm and joyful

The nature like us

Has not gone astray 

Each animal

Follows its own will.


But he is wise enough not to become fooled. He had been in contact with the Iranian communists including his brother who after the Reza Shah's suppression had fled to the Soviet Union, where most of them perished during the party purges. This is why he says,


These sayings are not all correct

Every time that a white flower opens her face 

She has to converse with the night.

The bird of joy is weary

And every moment is facing

With other kinds of hardships

She opens 

A wing 

In color of blood

And sits dejected

Upon an inverted rock.


Nevertheless, the poet is hopeful toward the future and feels the coming of dawn in “ashes of the air” and rising of the sun in the “hanging spider of the color from the dark ceiling.”

The night-dawn motif has its own variations although the fight between light and darkness remains intact. In the poem “The Fire's Neighbors” (Hamsâyegân-e âtash), the swamp and the wind are in dialogue with the fire and each attempts to convince the fire of its merit. But the fire which has a face more bright than dawn and lips as red as a lover's, rushes toward the swamp. The wind blows and the swamp becomes dry by the fire and gradually changes to an orchard; however, the problems remain though in a different shape:


Beneath the fruitful trees, 

There sits an old man all settled down 

But the face of sky has turned bright from the blazing fire!


There are poems in this period, in which the night-dawn motif is not reduced to a sheer political symbolism. For example, in “The Cold Smile” (Khande-ye sard), the poet depicts a sunrise in the sea. The sun resembles a peacock that is displaying its wings. The portraitists have paint-buckets on their shoulder, and the lovers are watching the scene on the shore. But suddenly wind blew, the sun is blocked by clouds no longer laughing warmly in the waves. The poet remains stunned, watching the mysterious frozen laughter of the sun:


The morning like a robbed caravan

Sits sadly

Gazing upon the bygone thief

finding a cold laughter.


The Musiqi magazine in which Nimâ published his late night poems stopped coming out in 1941. Instead he began to send poems for Mardom ("The People"), a monthly magazine published by the Tudeh Party of Iran. The “old owl” had fled the cemetery-like country, the spirit of people was revived by reading different publications and taking part in debates and party politics. It was important for the Tudeh Party to absorb the anti-dictatorship intellectuals, but the case of Nimâ was not clean-cut. He advocated for freedom and social justice and adhered to a materialist concept of history, but at the same time he was an artist with a free spirit and could not easily be controlled by a party line. In an introduction that Ehsan Tabari, the editor-in-chief of Mardom, has written in the May 1943 issue addressing a poem by Nimâ called “The Evil Hope” (Omid-e palid), written in 1942, can clearly show this contradiction. Tabari, himself, was a man of letters and wrote poems, but his was old-fashioned, and he did not like Nimâ's innovation in form or language. He wrote pieces similar to “prose poems” and called them qet‘e-ye adabi meaning “a literary piece”. He and others who, still today, write “literary pieces” instead of poetry, in fact, do not accept modernism in poetry, and have remained faithful to the old idea of classical poetry. In his diplomatically phrased introduction Tabari first mentions the innovations of Nimâ Yushij in Persian poetry, but then confesses that there are major flaws in it, which are created because his poetry is only in its infantile stages. The analogy which Tabari has used here in order to justify both “the progress” and the “flaws” of Nimâ's poetry is very interesting:


There is no doubt that [Nimâ's] poems and that of others who have composed their thought in this style, is still in its primitive stages. This is just like the poems that are attributed or assigned to Abu-Hafz-e Soghdi and contain the first elements of beautiful poems by Hafez and Sa‘di. The poems by Nimâ, in the road of the evolution of poetry, are more advanced than the poems of classical poets although they seem unconventional, weird and probably barren. Just like the early days, when the steam and the fire engines were invented, its appearance, its disturbing noise, its awkward performance, made it far less attractive than the beautiful, fast, shiny six horse carriages; but not even a fool would consider a car lower than a carriage in the evolutionary process of means of transportation.


Nimâ, in response, wrote a twenty-page letter to Tabari, in which he first asks Tabari to leave the judgment to the future generation:


I think: what will those who take our place say? Will they not be the outcome of thousands of different judgements? . . .the one who is holding the sieve comes from the rear of the caravan.


Second, he rightfully discerns that Tabari's analogy between art and evolution of machinery is very rigid and mechanistic:


Does it suffice to have a general knowledge so mediocre and rigid in art and aesthetics? Is it possible to appreciate a work of art in terms of this mechanistic knowledge?. . . One should confess that speaking of creation of art is more delicate than this.


Concern here comes from a description which Tabari has written about Nimâ's poem. He wants to popularize the poem, and by doing that shows a very political reading of Nimâ's night-poetry:


But the following piece which is called “The Evil Hope” is a symbolic piece that is allegorical. “Dawn” is a symbol of the rising of a new society and a new system of living; and “night” symbolizes reactionary forces, backwardness, ignorance, and corruption of present society. Night looks like a demon which is hidden in a stinking swamp and is afraid of the morning sunrise. He ties himself to the ropes of night and sucks the lightness of the dawn, so that the dawn does not rise up; but this evil hope will not get fulfilled and the morning will shine again. 


In this poem dated 1941, Nimâ first brings to the fore his usual night-dawn motif. The roosters are shouting that the morning is coming, and the night is going away. Then comes a new element which obscures the simplicity of the black-and-white lines, and that is “traders of the night” who pretends to cry and shows compassion for the night-stricken people, but in fact they hope to bring back the night. Hence the title of the poem: “The Evil Hope”,


But the night's trader

Is standing in disguise 

Shedding tears

Like the corpse of an animal dangling from his tail

. . . 

He cultivates the hope

For perishing of the dawn in his heart


Jalâl Al-Ahmad, who at the time was a staff member of Mardom magazine, writes about his first meeting with Nimâ:


The first time that I saw the old man was in the writers' congress, which the [Center for Iran-Soviet Union Cultural Relations] had put together in Tehran in June of 1946. He would enter and leave fast. The others did not have anything to do with him. I, myself, was not a poet. I was rather a young lad who happened to be there. The night that it was his turn to read his poems—I remember—there was a blackout and they put a candle on the podium and he read his “Hey, people” in that archaic atmosphere. His big bald head was shining and his eye sockets and mouth looked deeper and he himself looked thinner; and you would wonder where this shouting came from?


 The poem “Hey, people” (Ay âdamhâ!) does not have the night-dawn motif but shows other usage of nature at work, in this case the sea and the drowned person represent the struggle between the "haves" and the "have-nots":


Hey, you over there

Who are sitting on the shore, happy and laughing,

Someone is dying in the water,

Someone is constantly struggling

On this angry, heavy, dark, familiar sea.

When you are drunk

With the thought of getting your hands on your enemy,

When you think in vain

That you've given a hand to a weak person

To produce a bitter weak person,

When you tighten your belts, when, 

When shall I tell you 

That someone in the water

Is sacrificing his life in vain?


Hey, you over there

Who are sitting pleasantly on the shore, 

Bread on your tablecloths, clothes on your bodies,

Someone is calling you from the water.

He beats the heavy wave with his tired hand,

His mouth agape, eyes torn wide with terror,

He has seen your shadows from afar,

Has swallowed water in the dark blue deep,

Each moment his impatience grows.

He raises from these waters

A foot, at times,

At times, his head. . .

Hey, you over there,

He still has his eyes on this old world from afar,

He's shouting and hopes for help.

Hey, you over there

Who are calmly watching from the shore,

The wave beats on the silent shore, spreads

Like a drunk fallen on his bed unconscious,

Recedes with a roar, and this call comes from afar again:

Hey, you over there. . .


And the sound of the wind

More heart-rending by the moment,

And his voice weaker in the sound of the wind;

From waters near and far

Again this call is heard:

Hey, you over there. . . >>> Chapter 4-H