Project 6060 – Lesson 52
Persian Poetry and Prose
Persian literature is usually divided into the two main types of verse (poetry) and prose. Of course verse and poetry are slightly different, but we are going to overlook that here.
In poetry, the poet arranges his/her words in a special order to give them rhythm and rhyme, but in prose the writer brings discourse without rhythm and rhyme so that it is usually freer, more dispersed, and without a particular order.
Iranians also had poetry before Islam but since Islam much of this poetry has disappeared. Of the ancient pre-Islamic literature, only parts of the Avesta, the holy book of the Zoroastrians, has remained. After the victory of Islam in Iran, the Persian language, which was used for writing, fell out of use and Arabic was the dominant language for two centuries and no special literary works were written in Persian, but the (colloquial) form of the language; i.e. the ‘Dari’ form, was used informally amongst the people and became widespread in these two centuries. The spoken language gradually came under the influence of Arabic and the Arabic script came to be used for writing and, as a result, after this period, with a struggle by the Iranians, the Persian language spread in written form and, as a result, Persian literature found a new form. Actually, most of the literature of that time was in the form of poetry.
In various periods of history, poets and writers have sometimes had the protection of the king and sometimes, some of the kings would give orders to ruin libraries and burn books and writers and poets would either escape or be killed. These days, for example, only a few poetry lines, “beyts” exist from the first post-Islamic poets, even though many works of Iranian writers and poets in the further centuries post-Islam still remain, of which the most famous are the works of Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Nezami, Mowlavi, Sa’di, and Hafez.
In terms of form and structure, poetry can be divided into different categories including ballad, sonnet, masnavi, and quatrain. Every two hemistiches of a poem are called a ‘beyt’ and, as an example, quatrains have four hemistiches, i.e. two beyts, but sonnets have from 5 to 14 beyts, of which all have the same rhyme and rhythm, and the first hemistich of the poem has the same rhythm as all sonnets. The subject matter of poetry can also be romantic, mystical, epic, educational etcetera.
The method of expressing themes in poetry changes over time, but there exist similar characteristics in the works of some poets from various periods and it is possible for the poetry of somebody who lived a thousand years ago to have similarities with the character of the poetry of a poet who spoke a poem one hundred years ago.
In general, poets use similar styles and formats for composing poetry in each era, which can be more or less grouped according to subject, choice of words and difficulty of language. Although poetry can be classified on the basis of various viewpoints, the most common and normal categorisation of styles is on the basis of eras. From this perspective, the works of poets are categorised into four different styles. These four styles are:
Since the last century, there have been changes in the poetry of some poets because of the familiarisation of Iran with European poetry and world literature, as well as the start of the constitutional movement and revolution and social and political developments in Iran and a new style has appeared, which they call ‘new’ poetry. In new poetry, rhyme, rhythm and equivalence of beyts have little importance and because of this, it can’t be called ‘verse’.
Persian prose has also changed over time since Islam. At first, Persian prose was easy, clear, and without difficult Arabic words, but gradually, many Arabic words entered Persian writings and the willingness of some writers in complex writing, made Persian prose more and more difficult, but since about two hundred years ago, after hundreds of years, Persian prose regained its simplicity and simple writing gradually spread and journalistic prose appeared.
Poésie persane et prose
Poesía y prosa persa
Translation of Dialogue
Maryam: What style of poetry do you like most?
Bahman: The Khorasani style.
Maryam: Why the Khorasani style?
Bahman: ‘Cause it’s easier and it has fewer Arabic words.
Maryam: Are you familiar with European literature too?
Bahman: Not much. What about you?
Maryam: I’ve read the works of some English writers and poets.
Bahman: In my opinion, European literature has had an effect on Iranian literature.
Maryam: That’s right, especially in story writing.
Traduction de Dialogue
Traducción de Diálogo