Poemas del río Wang has a post that starts with an appreciation of a great Persian poet:

Hafez, through dead six hundred years now, is so alive to every Persian as perhaps no other classical poet of any other nation. On the spring solstice his volume is placed on the New Year’s table instead of the Quran, his poems are recited by heart and live on as folk songs, and as the great Hungarian Islam scholar Ármin Vámbéry noticed in the late 19th century, even the muleteers sang [them] crossing the passes of the Taurus.

He goes on to provide a transliteration and translation of one of Hafez’s poems, از خون دل Az khun-e del, “From the blood of my heart,” with the peculiarity “that it follows the medieval Persian poetic structure known as mulammaʻ, that is ‘mixed’, its odd lines being in Persian, and its even lines in Arabic,” and links to a musical setting by Mohsen Namjoo called نامه Nâme, “Letter.” I was surprised that â (long a) is pronounced /aw/ (like ow in English cow) by Namjoo; I thought it was pronounced /ɔ:/ (like aw in English caw), and I’m wondering if this is dialectal, a traditional feature of singing, or a new development in the pronunciation of the language.


  1. That stretched out ‘aw’ sound Namjoo uses is typical of literary recitations, whether it be song, poetry, or even things like advertisement voice overs.

  2. Ah, thanks. Shows how little exposure I have to spoken Persian.

  3. Sorry, no Persian, but I felt that many people here might enjoy reading a book I just finished, Through the Language Glass.
    Find out why primitive cultures spurned a word for “blue”!

  4. Yes, it’s a good read; I reviewed it here.

  5. Christopher Culver says

    “As the great Hungarian Islam scholar Ármin Vámbéry noticed in the late 19th century, even the muleteers sang [them] crossing the passes of the Taurus.”
    Evidently this is a forerunner of the contemporary claim that even taxi drivers in country X know famous person Y.
    Judging from the Iranians I’ve met abroad, people from Iran still seem pretty clued up about classical poetry. However, during my travels last year in Tajikistan, I was unable to find anyone who could recite poetry by heart, and even the songs that people could sing were written in the Soviet era or were pop songs of recent vintage. The last two decades seem to have completely wiped knowledge of Persian classics from most of the country.

  6. I asked the doctor’s advice because of my love, and he said:
    “disease to be around her, and being away from her, health”

        [Hafez – Mohsen Namjoo]

    Doctor, doctor, gimme me the news
    I got a bad case of lovin’ you,
    No pill’s gonna cure my ill
    I got a bad case of lovin’ you.

        [Moon Martin – Robert Palmer]

    Well, I asked the doctor if I could see you
    It’s bad for your health, he said
    Yes, I disobeyed his orders
    I came to see you
    But I found him there instead
    You know, I don’t mind him cheatin’ on me
    But I sure wish he’d take that off his head
    Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

        [Bob Dylan]

    On a more positive note:

    I was feelin’ . . . so bad,
    I asked my family doctor just what I had,
    I said, “Doctor, . . .
    (Doctor . . .)
    Mr. M.D., . . .
    (Doctor . . .)
    Now can you tell me, tell me, tell me,
    What’s ailin’ me?”
    (Doctor . . .)

    Baby please, squeeze me tight . . . (Squeeze me tight)
    Now don’t you want your baby to feel alright? (Feel alright)
    I said Baby . . . (Baby) . . . now it’s for sure . . . (it’s for sure)
    I got the fever, Baby, Baby, but you’ve got the cure
    (You’ve got the cure)

        [Young Rascals]

  7. Christopher: Having lived in Tajikistan, I can tell you that people definitely know poetry there. It may not to the degree that they do in Iran, but educated people certainly know it. After all, two of the national heroes are Rudaki, whose name is everywhere, and Saddredin Ayni, an early 20th century nationalist poet/intellectual.

  8. Christopher Culver says

    Andrew, when were you in Tajikistan, and are any of these educated people you met still in the country (as opposed to working now in Moscow)? I don’t doubt that there used to be wide knowledge of literature — the first visitors after the fall of the USSR reported such. But the massive brain drain which has left many places empty of men except for the senile elderly or the poorly educated young, seems to have had a drastic effect.

  9. I was in Tajikistan from 2009-10. I have no doubt that the poetry-fluent population has diminished since the USSR/civil war, but I had an annoying number of people either recite poetry to me or ask me to recite some (I hate the stuff).

  10. Poetry-lovers are like cats—they’re especially attracted to people who want to avoid them!

Speak Your Mind