By Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet (source: Tehran Times)
Spring has always been the focus of Persian poets in various historical periods of Persian poetry and no poet can be found in Persian literature, who does not make direct reference or allusion to the season, which begins with Norooz, the Iranian celebration of the New Year.
However, the ways they have employed to express their perception of spring are different from each other in each period.
In a recent interview with the Tehran Times, Rashid Kakavand, a professor of Persian literature at the Islamic Azad University of Karaj, shared information about allusions of spring in Persian poetry.
Naturism, Persian poetry
Naturism characterizes the first historical period of Persian poetry - the Khorasani style, which spans from the 10th to 12th centuries.
“Over this period, poets lived in the royal courts in relatively happy, comfortable and easy situations, so naturism was the characteristics of this lifestyle and they used a descriptive way to express their perception of nature,” Kakavand said.
“In fact, they described spring as it is; no special meaning can be imagined for their poems except they aimed to illustrate the beauty of the world and to generate pleasure,” he stated.
Works created in this manner led to eulogies for kings and royals or the goals that the poets pursued.
Rudaki of Samarqand, Manuchehri Damghani and Farroki of Sistan are categorized in this period.
“Rudaki of Samarqand is the forerunner of the naturist poets, who has marvelous descriptions of spring in his qasidas,” Kakavand said.
Spiritualism, spring poetry
Poets gradually began distancing themselves from courts and consequently a kind of spiritualism started to prevail in Persian literature. The attitude constituted a landmark in the history of poetry, giving rise to a transition from the Khorasani style to the Iraqi style.
Nature, one of whose manifestations is spring, finds a symbolic aspect in this period of the Persian poetry, Kakavand says.
“For example, Jalal ad-Din Rumi sees trees greeting each other; flowers congratulate each other on the arrival of spring... that comes from heaven and is a mystical event,” he stated.
“Rumi makes many direct references to spring in his poetry. He has the Masnavi-ye Manvi, which is the book of Islamic mysticism, and his poetry is under the influence of the Islamic culture and ideology. Thus, the allusions of spring in his poetry lead to a deep divine awareness of the universe and the idea that the world is alive and worships God,” he added.
Kakavand called Musharrif od-Din Muslih od-Din Sadi of Shiraz “the greatest figure of educational Persian literature” and said, “He has made good use of spring to train the souls and thoughts of his fans.”
He also pointed to Ferdowsi’s epic masterpiece, the Shahnameh and added, “Due to its magnificent atmosphere and the clear language of Ferdowsi, the spirit of the Shahnameh is deeply matched with spring.”
Spring, modern Persian poetry
Kakavand says that during the next periods, spring turned into a means and an image that was used to convey specific concepts.
“Reference to spring in Persian poetry reaches its zenith during the modern era, which is strongly under the influence of the Iraqi style, but the modern poems have social and political orientations.
“For example, the poem ‘Tulips Are Grown from the Blood of the Country’s Youth’ composed by Abul-Qasem Aref Qazvini in the heat of the Constitutional Revolution also describes spring, but what kind of spring? Spring has arrived but the poet complains that youths have been killed in cold blood.”
There are many allusions to winter in the poetry of Akhavan Saless and Ahmad Shamlu, Kakavand said and added, “The winter and its coldness are metaphors for limitations in the society of their own times; the winter is against spring, which symbolizes all the ideals of a peaceful society.”
Kakavand says Ali Esfandiari (1896-1960), who wrote under the pseudonym Nima Yushij and also is considered the father of Persian blank verse, Fereidun Moshiri, who was strongly influenced by Nima, and Sohrab Sepehri are among the contemporary Iranian poets who have many direct references to spring in their poetry.
He calls Sepehri “the most ardent lover of nature” among the contemporary poets.
Poetry works in Persian literature provide more references to spring than to other seasons of the year, Kakavand said and stated, “Even in the poets’ works, which are full of allusions to winter, the winter is the polar opposite of spring, so it is spring that prevails in their works once again.”
Today’s Persian literature
It is too hard to make an accurate judgment about Persian literature of today, Kakavand said.
He categorizes the Persian literary works being created in Iran today into two groups.
“One group of works is books, which are published under the supervision of the cultural authorities and the other group, which unfortunately is a large part of our serious literature of today, is the unofficial works that are being published in the virtual worlds,” he stated.
“The works being created in the second group are rarely noticed and promoted. So it’s difficult to make a fair judgment about them,” he noted.
However, Kakavand says that the condition of the official literature of Iran today is not good.
“Poetry has turned into amusement... and the works created in this category lack the profound effectiveness and sustainability... Persian poetry has become close to the styles and the modes that the literary associations are promoting. Thus, though there are many gifted and creative individuals in this field, fewer great works come out under these conditions.”
Suggestions for Norooz holidays
Over the past decade, Iranians have shown a reluctance to hold the Norooz parties with their far or close relatives during holidays of the New Year and instead they prefer to tour Iran or a foreign country.
However, Kakavand has asked Iranians to practice the traditions of Norooz and to hold the parties that traditionally have been held during the Norooz holidays.
“Under the current conditions, we need to return to our identity and to raise our awareness of our roots. I advise Iranians to observe the traditions, such as arranging Haft-Seen spread and the Norooz parties.
“I advise them to practice the Norooz customs with knowledge of the background for each item.”
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