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2. Nature Poetry after Nimâ
After Nimâ Yushij, the discourse of “the people” and the writing of night poems became very popular among the modernists, whereas nature poetry was not welcomed by intellectuals who were mostly city-dwellers. In the forties, Majd-od-din Mirfakhra'i (Golchin Gilâni) in London wrote his beautiful and nostalgic poem “The Rain” (Bârân) about his childhood in Gilân by the coast of the Caspian Sea. The monosyllabic tone which captures the music of the rains drops, the beautiful imagery, and the happy message of the poem sets this piece apart from the usual melancholic Persian poems written about nostalgia:
hits the roof
with plenty of pearls,
I am standing
behind the window.
In the passages,
gutters are filled with water.
Then after a happy description from a few talkative sparrows here and there, he connects a rainy day in London to that of his homeland,
The rainy day reminds me,
hiking in a day, long ago.
good and sweet.
In the forests of Gilân.
I was ten years old.
Ahmad Shâmlu wrote many beautiful poems in the colloquial language, but mostly with political connotations.
In the fifties a new voice from another end of the country was heard, who picked up the idea of “return to nature” and adapted it to the landscapes and history of his native city Bushehr, by the Persian Gulf. This province is very different from that of Nimâ's on the Caspian Sea in northern Iran. The latter has a European climate, all green and rainy, whereas the former is dry and its soil is barren. Bushehr is connected to Tangestân, the land of nomads, who after the First World War rose against the British colonial army in the south of Iran. Manuchehr آtashi created a nature poetry in which nomadic tribalism and the scenery of the southern coast of Iran is reflected. For example, in “The White, Wild Steed” (Asb-e sefid-e vahshi), he portrays a horse dreaming of the long-gone glorious days of heroes:
Wild white horse
Standing somber at the stable
Mindful of the desert's ill-starred breast
Sorrowful about the burnt tower of the sun
Proud in the head but dejected at heart
Cares not for the odor of his fresh fodder.
However, the poet bitterly reminds his imaginary horse that the times have changed:
Wild white horse, my sword is rusty
Empty are the shelters of iron saddles
Extending a hand of affection to me
Every man hides a snake of deceit in his sleeve.
Not only all the glorious horsemen are gone and the white horse cannot bring them back to life, but even his empty stables do not have any grain left for the hungry sparrows:
Wild white horse, alas, shaggy-maned
Is mindful of the burnt tower of the moon
Hungry sparrows from around his stable
Have flown away
The remembering of his free bridle
In burnt-down fortresses has cut a swath.
In “Abdu the Camel-Driver” (‘Abdu-ye jet) he depicts a local Robinhood. Recently, a renaissance was observed in Atashi's work, writing mostly in free verse about his personal life, love, and solitude.
In the early sixties, the Shah, advised by the Kennedy administration, implemented a program of land reform in Iran which led to a rapid urbanization and the ruin of the countryside. As a reaction to these social events and influenced by the hippie movement in the West, a new round of “returning to nature” appeared among the Iranian intelligentsia. In poetry, Forugh Farrokhzâd wrote her famous poem “I Pity the Garden” (Delam barâ‑ye bâghcheh misuzad):
No one thinks of the flowers
no one thinks of the fish
no one ever wants
to believe the garden is dying
its heart swollen under the sun
its mind emptying of green memories
while its radiance, now an abstract thing
rots in its own seclusion.
However, the garden, or more correctly the flower-bed is part of a house, where the poet's family live. Forough shows the attitude of each member of her family towards the dying flower-bed: The father is drowned in the bygone years of national heritage and does not care about the garden; the mother is religious and constantly says prayers for the recovery of flowers; the brother is an intellectual and sees the garden as a cemetery and the sister “who once was a friend of flowers” now lives “an artificial life” in her husband's house. The ending stanza sums up the attitudes of the poet herself:
I am afraid
of an age that has lost its heart
afraid of the thought of so many idle hands
afraid of so many alienated faces,
like a schoolgirl madly in love
with her geometry lesson
I am alone
and I think the garden can be taken to the hospital.
However, the new voice in nature poetry undoubtedly belongs to the painter and poet Sohrâb Sepehri (d. 1980), who in his book The Green Vision (Vahm-e sabz), especially in a long poem called “The Sound of the Water's Footsteps” (Sedâ-ye pâ-ye âb), combines Islamic mysticism and Buddhism with a new environmentalism:
I am a Moslem
My kiblah is a red rose
I pray on a freshwater fountain, touching the sunlight with my forehead
The plain is my prayer mat.
I do my ablutions to the beat of the window.
In my prayers, flows the moon, flows the spectrum.
The rock can be seen through my prayers.
The fact that he is a painter gives his nature poetry a colorful new dimension. In the following stanza, the poet writes down a series of images as if a painter is putting his brush on the canvas:
The vine's journey from this house to the other
The moon's journey into the pool.
The envy-flower's gushing out of the earth.
The grape vine's flow down the wall.
The dew's raining down onto the bridge of sleep.
Joy jumping over the mote of death.
The passage of events behind the words.
His attitude towards science is dubious but not negative. Sepehri wants us to “Float over the rose charm” rather than “going in search of its cognition”:
Our task perhaps is
that between the lotus and the century
to run after the song of truth
Sepehri's pantheism, contrary to that of the past, does not adhere to any organized cult or religion and approaches Western spiritualism.
1.Nimâ, Gozine-ye ash‘âr 93.
2.Nimâ, Gozine-ye ash‘âr 99.
3.Nimâ, Majmu‘e-ye kâmel-e ash‘âr 339.
4.Nimâ, Majmu‘e-ye kâmel-e ash‘âr 349.
5.Nimâ, Majmu‘e-ye kâmel-e ash‘âr 491.
6.Nimâ, She‘r va shâ‘eri 312.
7.Nimâ, Majmu‘e-ye kâmel-e ash‘âr 215-216.
8.Nimâ, Gozine-ye ash‘âr 128.
9.Masud Farzan, in Yarshater, Persian Literature 336.
10.Yarshater, Persian Literature 31.
11.Nimâ, Gozine-ye ash‘âr 57. “Although I am not a supporter of Nimâ's poetry, in all fairness one should confess that Nimâ in one sense opened new way to poetry.”
Also, in his “Editorial Note” to Persian Literature, Yarshater writes, “A chapter on Nimâ may appear to be missing, but despite his unmistakable importance as the founder of the modernist school of Persian poetry, he is hardly comparable in readability and attractiveness to Farrokhzâd, nor can he match Nâderpur in poetic imagination, linguistic aptitude, and verbal and musical elegance.” (p. vii)
12.Nimâ, Gozine-ye ash‘âr 51.
13.آrash, June 1993.
14.Nimâ, Majmu‘e-ye kâmel-e ash‘âr 517. This poem could be read in two different meters.
15.Gholam-Hossein-e Yusofi, ed., Cheshme-ye Roshan (Tehran: Elmi publications, 1990) 536-537.
16.Its original name is “Daggers, Kisses and Promises” (Khanjarhâ, busehâ va peimânhâ) but is usually referred to as “The Wild White Stead.”
17.Karimi-Hakkak, Anthology 112.
18.Karimi-Hakkak, Anthology 113.
19.Karimi-Hakkak, Anthology 114.
20.Karimi-Hakkak, Anthology 156.
21.Karimi-Hakkak, Anthology 159.
22.Sohrab Sepehri, Sedâ-ye pâ-ye âb (Encino: Kanoon-e-Andishe, 1987) 2.
23.Sepehri, Sedâ-ye pâ-ye âb 12.
24.Sepehri, Sedâ-ye pâ-ye âb 29