Omar Khayyam was born in Nishapur, Iran. He was an outstanding mathematician and astronomer and, wrote several works including Problems of Arithmetic, a book on music and one on algebra before he was 25 years old.
In 1070 he moved to Samarkand in Uzbekistan which is one of the oldest cities of Central Asia. There Khayyam was supported by Abu Tahir, a prominent jurist of Samarkand, and this allowed him to write his most famous algebra work, Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra.
Malik Shah the grandson of Toghril Beg, the founder of the Seljuk dynasty ruled the city of Isfahan from 1073 AD. His vizier Nizam-ul-Mulk invited Khayyam to Isfahan, to set up an observatory. Other leading astronomers were also invited to work at the observatory and for 18 years Khayyam led the scientists and produced work of outstanding quality. It was a period of peace during which the political situation allowed Khayyam the opportunity to devote himself entirely to his scholarly work. During this time Khayyam led work on compiling astronomical tables and he also contributed to calendar reform in 1079. Khayyam measured the length of the year as 365.24219858156 days, we know now that the length of the year is changing in the sixth decimal place over a person's lifetime. It is also outstandingly accurate. For comparison the length of the year at the end of the 19th century was 365.242196 days, while today it is 365.242190 days.
Outside the world of mathematics, Khayyam is best known as a result of Edward Fitzgerald's popular translation in 1859 of nearly 600 short four line poems the Rubaiyat. Khayyam's fame as a poet has caused some to forget his scientific achievements which were much more substantial. Versions of the forms and verses used in the Rubaiyat existed in Persian literature before Khayyam, and only about 120 of the verses can be attributed to him with certainty.
And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted-"Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."
AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight: And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.
There was the Door to which I found no key;
There was the Veil through which I might not see:
Some little talk awhile of ME and THEE
There was-and then no more of THEE and ME.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument About it and about; but evermore Came out by the same Door as in I went.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
I. Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight: And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.
II. Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky I heard a voice within the Tavern cry, "Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."
III. And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before The Tavern shouted -- "Open then the Door! You know how little while we have to stay, And, once departed, may return no more."
IV. Now the New Year reviving old Desires, The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires, Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.
V. Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose, And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one Knows; But still the Vine her ancient ruby yields, And still a Garden by the Water blows.
VI. And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine High piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine! Red Wine!" -- the Nightingale cries to the Rose That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.
VII. Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring The Winter Garment of Repentance fling: The Bird of Time has but a little way To fly -- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.
VIII. Whether at Naishapur or Babylon, Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run, The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop, The Leaves of Life kep falling one by one.
IX. Morning a thousand Roses brings, you say; Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday? And this first Summer month that brings the Rose Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.
X. But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot: Let Rustum lay about him as he will, Or Hatim Tai cry Supper -- heed them not.
XI. With me along the strip of Herbage strown That just divides the desert from the sown, Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot -- And Peace is Mahmud on his Golden Throne!
XII. A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, -- and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness -- Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
XIII. Some for the Glories of This World; and some Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come; Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go, Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!
XIV. Were it not Folly, Spider-like to spin The Thread of present Life away to win -- What? for ourselves, who know not if we shall Breathe out the very Breath we now breathe in!
XV. Look to the Rose that blows about us -- "Lo, Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow: At once the silken Tassel of my Purse Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."
XVI. The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon Turns Ashes -- or it prospers; and anon, Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face Lighting a little Hour or two -- is gone.
XVII. And those who husbanded the Golden Grain, And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain, Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd As, buried once, Men want dug up again.
XVIII. Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day, How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp Abode his Hour or two and went his way.
XIX. They say the Lion and the Lizard keep The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep: And Bahram, that great Hunter -- the Wild Ass Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.
XX. I sometimes think that never blows so red The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled; That every Hyacinth the Garden wears Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.
XXI. And this delightful Herb whose tender Green Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean -- Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!
XXII. Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears To-day of past Regrets and future Fears -- To-morrow? -- Why, To-morrow I may be Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.
XXIII. Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest, Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before, And one by one crept silently to Rest.
XXIV. And we, that now make merry in the Room They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom, Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth Descend, ourselves to make a Couch -- for whom?
XXV. Ah, make the most of what we may yet spend, Before we too into the Dust descend; Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie; Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and -- sans End!
XXVI. Alike for those who for To-day prepare, And those that after some To-morrow stare, A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries "Fools! Your Reward is neither Here nor There!"
XXVII. Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust Like foolish Prophets forth; their Works to Scorn Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.
XXVIII. Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies; One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies; The Flower that once has blown forever dies.
XXIX. Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument About it and about; but evermore Came out by the same Door as in I went.
XXX. With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow, And with my own hand labour'd it to grow: And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd -- "I came like Water and like Wind I go."
XXXI. Into this Universe, and Why not knowing, Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing: And out of it, as Wind along the Waste, I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.
XXXII. Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate, And many Knots unravel'd by the Road; But not the Master-Knot of Human Fate.
XXXIII. There was the Door to which I found no Key: There was the Veil through which I could not see: Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee There was -- and then no more of Thee and Me.
XXXIV. Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried, Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?" And -- "A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.
XXXV. Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn I lean'd, the secret Well of Life to learn: And Lip to Lip it murmur'd -- "While you live, Drink! -- for, once dead, you never shall return."
XXXVI. I think the Vessel, that with fugitive Articulation answer'd, once did live, And merry-make, and the cold Lip I kiss'd, How many Kisses might it take -- and give!
XXXVII. For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day, I watch'd the Potter thumping his wet Clay: And with its all obliterated Tongue It murmur'd -- "Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"
XXXVIII. And has not such a Story from of Old Down Man's successive generations roll'd Of such a clod of saturated Earth Cast by the Maker into Human mould?
XXXIX. Ah, fill the Cup: -- what boots it to repeat How Time is slipping underneath our Feet: Unborn To-morrow, and dead Yesterday, Why fret about them if To-day be sweet!
XL. A Moment's Halt -- a momentary taste Of Being from the Well amid the Waste -- And Lo! the phantom Caravan has reach'd The Nothing it set out from -- Oh, make haste!
XLI. Oh, plagued no more with Human or Divine, To-morrow's tangle to itself resign, And lose your fingers in the tresses of The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.
XLII. Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit Of This and That endeavor and dispute; Better be merry with the fruitful Grape Than sadden after none, or bitter, fruit.
XLIII. You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse I made a Second Marriage in my house; Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed, And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.
XLIV. And lately, by the Tavern Door agape, Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and He bid me taste of it; and 'twas -- the Grape!
XLV. The Grape that can with Logic absolute The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute: The subtle Alchemest that in a Trice Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute.
XLVI. Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare Blaspheme the twisted tendril as Snare? A Blessing, we should use it, should we not? And if a Curse -- why, then, Who set it there?
XLVII. But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me The Quarrel of the Universe let be: And, in some corner of the Hubbub couch'd, Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.
XLVIII. For in and out, above, about, below, 'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show, Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun, Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.
XLIX. Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who Before us pass'd the door of Darkness through Not one returns to tell us of the Road, Which to discover we must travel too.
L. The Revelations of Devout and Learn'd Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn'd, Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep, They told their fellows, and to Sleep return'd.
LI. Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside, And naked on the Air of Heaven ride, Is't not a shame -- Is't not a shame for him So long in this Clay suburb to abide?
LII. But that is but a Tent wherein may rest A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest; The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash Strikes, and prepares it for another guest.
LIII. I sent my Soul through the Invisible, Some letter of that After-life to spell: And after many days my Soul return'd And said, "Behold, Myself am Heav'n and Hell."
LIV. Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire, And Hell the Shadow of a Soul on fire, Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves, So late emerg'd from, shall so soon expire.
LV. While the Rose blows along the River Brink, With old Khayyam and ruby vintage drink: And when the Angel with his darker Draught Draws up to Thee -- take that, and do not shrink.
LVI. And fear not lest Existence closing your Account, should lose, or know the type no more; The Eternal Saki from the Bowl has pour'd Millions of Bubbls like us, and will pour.
LVII. When You and I behind the Veil are past, Oh but the long long while the World shall last, Which of our Coming and Departure heeds As much as Ocean of a pebble-cast.
LVIII. 'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays: Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays, And one by one back in the Closet lays.
LIX. The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes, But Right or Left, as strikes the Player goes; And he that toss'd Thee down into the Field, He knows about it all -- He knows -- HE knows!
LX. The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
LXI. For let Philosopher and Doctor preach Of what they will, and what they will not -- each Is but one Link in an eternal Chain That none can slip, nor break, nor over-reach.
LXII. And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky, Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die, Lift not thy hands to it for help -- for It Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.
LXIII. With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man knead, And then of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed: Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.
LXIV. Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare; To-morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair: Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why: Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
LXV. I tell You this -- When, starting from the Goal, Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal Of Heav'n Parwin and Mushtari they flung, In my predestin'd Plot of Dust and Soul.
LXVI. The Vine has struck a fiber: which about If clings my Being -- let the Dervish flout; Of my Base metal may be filed a Key, That shall unlock the Door he howls without.
LXVII. And this I know: whether the one True Light, Kindle to Love, or Wrath -- consume me quite, One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught Better than in the Temple lost outright.
LXVIII. What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke A conscious Something to resent the yoke Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!
LXIX. What! from his helpless Creature be repaid Pure Gold for what he lent us dross-allay'd -- Sue for a Debt we never did contract, And cannot answer -- Oh the sorry trade!
LXX. Nay, but for terror of his wrathful Face, I swear I will not call Injustice Grace; Not one Good Fellow of the Tavern but Would kick so poor a Coward from the place.
LXXI. Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin Beset the Road I was to wander in, Thou will not with Predestin'd Evil round Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?
LXXII. Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make, And who with Eden didst devise the Snake; For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give -- and take!
LXXIII. Listen again. One Evening at the Close Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose, In that old Potter's Shop I stood alone With the clay Population round in Rows.
LXXIV. And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot Some could articulate, while others not: And suddenly one more impatient cried -- "Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"
LXXV. Then said another -- "Surely not in vain My Substance from the common Earth was ta'en, That He who subtly wrought me into Shape Should stamp me back to common Earth again."
LXXVI. Another said -- "Why, ne'er a peevish Boy, Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy; Shall He that made the vessel in pure Love And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy?"
LXXVII. None answer'd this; but after Silence spake A Vessel of a more ungainly Make: "They sneer at me for leaning all awry; What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"
LXXVIII: "Why," said another, "Some there are who tell Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell The luckless Pots he marred in making -- Pish! He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."
LXXIX. Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh, "My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry: But, fill me with the old familiar Juice, Methinks I might recover by-and-by!"
LXXX. So while the Vessels one by one were speaking, The Little Moon look'd in that all were seeking: And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother! Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creaking!"
LXXXI. Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.
LXXXII. That ev'n my buried Ashes such a Snare Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air, As not a True Believer passing by But shall be overtaken unaware.
LXXXIII. Indeed the Idols I have loved so long Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong: Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup, And sold my Reputation for a Song.
LXXXIV. Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before I swore -- but was I sober when I swore? And then, and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.
LXXXV. And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel, And robb'd me of my Robe of Honor -- well, I often wonder what the Vintners buy One half so precious as the Goods they sell.
LXXXVI. Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose! That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close! The Nightingale that in the Branches sang, Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!
LXXXVII. Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield One glimpse -- If dimly, yet indeed, reveal'd To which the fainting Traveller might spring, As springs the trampled herbage of the field!
LXXXVIII. Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits -- and then Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!
LXXXIX. Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane, The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again: How oft hereafter rising shall she look Through this same Garden after me -- in vain!
XC. And when like her, oh Saki, you shall pass Among the Guests star-scatter'd on the Grass, And in your joyous errand reach the spot Where I made one -- turn down an empty Glass!
Translated into English in 1859 by Edward FitzGerald
Born in southcentral Iran, the town of Shiraz, Khajeh Shamseddin Mohammad Hafez Shiraz earned the title Hafez (given to those who memorize the Koran). He also had memorized many of the works of his hero, Saadi, as wells as Attar, Rumi and Nizami. His father who was a coal merchant died, leaving him and his mother with much debt. Hafez and his mother went to live with his uncle. He left day school to work in a drapery shop and later in a bakery.
While still working at the bakery, Hafez delivered bread to a wealthy quarter of town and saw Shakh-e Nabat, a young woman of incredible beauty. Many of his poems are addressed to Shakh-e Nabat. In pursuit of reaching his beloved, Hafez kept a forty day and night vigil at the tomb of Baba Kohi. After successfully attaining this, he met Attar (is not Attar Neishabouri) and became his disciple.
Longing to be united with his Creator, at the age of 60 he began a forty day and night vigil by sitting in a circle that he had drawn himself. On the morn of the fortieth day of his vigil, which was also on the fortieth anniversary of meeting his Master Attar, he went to his Master, and upon drinking a cup of wine that Attar gave him, he attained Cosmic Consciousness or God-Realization. In this phase, up to the death, he composed more than half of his ghazals., and continued to teach his small circle of disciples. His poetry at this time, talk with the authority of a Master who is united with God.
Hafez died at the age of 70 (1389 CE) in Shiraz. Hafez's body was buried in Musalla Gardens, along the banks of Roknabad river in Shiraz, which is now called Hafezieh.
He left some 500 Ghazals, 42 Rubaiyees, and a few Ghaseedeh's, composed over a period of 50 years. Hafez only composed when he was divinely inspired, and therefore he averaged only about 10 Ghazals per year. His focus was to write poetry worthy of the Beloved.
O beautiful wine-bearer, bring forth the cup and put it to my lips Path of love seemed easy at first, what came was many hardships. With its perfume, the morning breeze unlocks those beautiful locks The curl of those dark ringlets, many hearts to shreds strips. In the house of my Beloved, how can I enjoy the feast Since the church bells call the call that for pilgrimage equips. With wine color your robe, one of the old Magi’s best tips Trust in this traveler’s tips, who knows of many paths and trips. The dark midnight, fearful waves, and the tempestuous whirlpool How can he know of our state, while ports house his unladen ships. I followed my own path of love, and now I am in bad repute How can a secret remain veiled, if from every tongue it drips? If His presence you seek, Hafiz, then why yourself eclipse? Stick to the One you know, let go of imaginary trips.
Disheveled hair, sweaty, smiling, drunken, and With a torn shirt, singing, the jug in hand Narcissus loudly laments, on his lips, alas, alas! Last night at midnight, came and sat right by my bed-stand Brought his head next to my ears, with a sad song Said, O my old lover, you are still in dreamland The lover who drinks this nocturnal brew Infidel, if not worships the wine's command Go away O hermit, fault not the drunk Our Divine gift from the day that God made sea and land Whatever He poured for us in our cup, we just drank If it was a cheap wine or heavenly brand The smile on the cup's face and Beloved's hair strand Break many who may repent, just as Hafiz falsely planned.
When God designed your features and joined your brows Paved my way, then trapped me with your gestures & bows The spruce and I, both rooted to the ground Fate, like a fine cloth belt, its bind endows. United the knots of my doing and of the budding heart The fragrant breeze, when to you it made its vows. Fate convinced me to be enslaved to thee Yet nothing moves unless your will allows. Like an umbilical cord, don't wrap around my heart It is your flowing lock of hair that I espouse. You were the desire of another, O breeze of union, Alas, my heart's hope and fire you douse. I said because of your infliction I shall leave my house Smilingly said go ahead Hafiz, with chained hooves and paws.
I long to open up my heart For my heart do my part. My story was yesterday’s news From rivals cannot keep apart. On this holy night stay with me Till the morning, do not depart. On a night so dark as this, My course, how can I chart? O breath of life, help me tonight That in the morn I make a start. In my love for you, I will My self and ego thwart. Like Hafiz, being love smart; I long to master that art.
The Angel at the Tavern Door
Last night I dreamed that angels stood without The tavern door, and knocked in vain, and wept; They took the clay of Adam, and, methought, Moulded a cup therewith while all men slept. Oh dwellers in the halls of Chastity! You brought Love’s passionate red wine to me, Down to the dust I am, your bright feet stept. For Heaven’s self was all too weak, to bear The burden of His love God laid on it, He turned to seek a messenger elsewhere, And in the Book of Fate my name was writ. Between my Lord and me such concord lies. As makes the Huris glad in Paradise, With songs of praise through the green glades they flit.
A hundred dreams of Fancy’s garnered store Assail me — Father Adam went astray Tempted by one poor grain of corn! Wherefore Absolve and pardon him that turns away Though the soft breath of Truth reaches his ears, For two-and-seventy Jangling creeds he hears, And loud-voiced Fable calls him ceaselessly.
That, that is not the flame of Love’s true fire Which makes the torchlight shadows dance in rings, But where the radiance draws the moth’s desire And send him forth with scorched and drooping wings. The heart of one who dwells retired shall break, Rememb’ring a black mole and a red cheek, And his life ebb, sapped at its secret springs.
Yet since the earliest time that man has sought To comb the locks of Speech, his goodly bride, Not one, like Hafiz, from the face of Thought Has torn the veil of Ignorance aside.
–Khwāja Šams ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī (Hāfez) (خواجه شمسالدین محمد حافظ شیرازی), The Divan (ca. 1370)(transl. Gertrud Bell 1897)
Morning breeze, its fragrance will exhale The old world will once again youthfully sail. Tulip will bring a red cup to the meadows Narcissus' eyes from poppy will grow pale. When would nightingale put up with such abuse In the chamber of the rose cry and wail. I traded the temple for the tavern, fault me not Prayer is long and stale, time is frail. Leave not joy of the now till the morrow Who can vouch that the morrow, the now shall trail? Month of Sha'aban put not down the jug of wine Till the end of Ramadan you'll miss this Holy Grail. Hold dear all the flowers and commune Came to be and will whither with a breeze or a gale. This feast is for friends, O minstrel, play and sing Sing again, it came thus and went thus, to what avail? Hafez, for your sake, entered this tale Walk with him, say farewell, he'll tear the veil.
Little is known of Sanāʾī’s early life. He was a resident of Ghazna and served for a time as poet at the court of the Ghaznavid sultans, composing lyrics in praise of his patrons. At some point he underwent a spiritual conversion and, abandoning the court, went to Merv (Turkmenistan), where he pursued a life of spiritual perfection. He returned to Ghazna years later but lived in retirement, resisting the blandishments of his Ghaznavid patron Bahrām Shāh.
Sanāʾī’s best-known work is the Ḥadīqat al-ḥaqīqahwa sharīʿat aṭ-ṭariqah(The Garden of Truth and the Law of the Path). Dedicated to Bahrām Shāh, this great work, expressing the poet’s ideas on God, love, philosophy, and reason, is composed of 10,000 couplets in 10 separate sections. The first section was translated in English as The Enclosed Garden of Truth (1910).
Sanāʾī’s work is of major importance in Persian-Islāmic literature, for he was the first to use such verse forms as the qaṣīdah (ode), the ghazal (lyric), and the mas̄navī (rhymed couplet) to express the philosophical, mystical, and ethical ideas of Ṣūfism (Islāmic mysticism). His divan, or collected poetry, contains some 30,000 verses. Sanāʾī’ is considered to be the first great mystical poet in the Persian language.
from The Walled Garden of the Truth
On the Blind Men and the Affair of the Elephant
There was a great city in the country of Ghûr, in which all the people were blind. A certain king passed by that place, bringing his army and pitching his camp on the plain. He had a large and magnificent elephant to minister to his pomp and excite awe, and to attack in battle. A desire arose among the people to see this monstrous elephant, and a number of the blind, like fools, visited it, every one running in his haste to find out its shape and form. They came, and being without the sight of their eyes groped about it with their hands; each of them by touching one member obtained a notion of some one part; each one got a conception of an impossible object, and fully believed his fancy true. When they returned to the people of the city, the others gathered round them, all expectant, so misguided and deluded were they. They asked about the appearance and shape of the elephant, and what they told all listened to. One asked him whose hand had come upon its ear about the elephant; he said, It is a huge and formidable object, broad and rough and spreading, like a carpet. And he whose hand had come upon its trunk said, I have found out about it; it is straight and hollow in the middle like a pipe, a terrible thing and an instrument of destruction. And he who had felt the thick hard legs of the elephant said, As I have it in mind, its form is straight like a planed pillar. Everyone had seen some one of its parts, and all had seen it wrongly. No mind knew the whole,--knowledge is never the companion of the blind all, like fools deceived, fancied absurdities.
Men know not the Divine essence; into this subject the philosophers may not enter.
The Parable of Those Who Give Alms
A certain wise and liberal man gave away so many bags of gold before his son's eyes that when he saw his father's munificence he broke forth into censure and remonstrance, saying, Father, where is my share of this? He said, O son, in the treasury of God; I have given to God thy portion, leaving no executor and none to divide it with thee, and He will give it thee again.
He is Himself our Provider and our Master; shall He not suffice us, both for faith and worldly goods? He is no other than the disposer of our lives; He will not oppress thee,--He is not of those. To everyone He gives back seventy-fold; and if He closes one door against thee, He opens ten.
On Being Silent
The path of religion is neither in works nor words; there are no buildings thereon, but only desolation. Whoso becomes silent to pursue the path, his speech is life and sweetness; if he speaks, it will not be out of ignorance, and if he is silent, it will not be from sloth; when silent, he is not devising frivolity; when speaking, he scatters abroad no trifling talk.
Those fools, the thieves and pickpockets, keep their knowledge to use in highway robbery. Thou seest, O Master, thou of many words, that thou hadst better have light in thy heart than words; when thou becomest silent, thou art most eloquent, but if thou speakest, thou art like a captain of war. 'Kun,' consists of two letters, both voiceless; 'Hû' consists of two letters, both silent. Doubt not concerning these words of mine; open thine eyes, pay heed for a little.
There exists the dog, and the stone; the stove of the bath, and the slave; but thou art excellent, like a jewel inside a casket. The king uses his silver for his daily needs, but his ruby be keeps for his treasure-house; silver is evil in its own ill-starred nature, the ruby is joyous because it is full of blood within.
The family of Barmak became great through their liberality; they were, so to say, close companions of generosity. Though fate pronounced their destruction, their name endures, indestructible as the spirit. The people of this generation, though amiable, are impudent as flies and wanton; in word they are all sweet as sugar, but when it comes to generosity, they tear men's hearts and burn their souls.
When He had adorned thy soul within thee, He held up before thee the mirror of the light; till pride made thee quick to anger, and thou lookedst upon thyself with the evil eye.
He has balanced day and night by the ruler of his justice, not by chance or at random.
While Reason digs for the secret, thou hast reached thy goal on the plain of Love.
The heart and soul of the seeker after God are concealed, but his tongue proclaims in truth, 'I am God.'
Nezami (also Nizami: 1141-1203) was born and lived his whole life in Ganja, the capital of Arran in Transcaucasian Azerbaijan. His father died when the poet was still young, and his mother, of a noble Kurdish family, followed soon afterwards. Nezami was probably brought up by an uncle, married three times, and had at least one son, Mohammed. Little is otherwise known. His works were dedicated to local rulers, as was the custom.
Nezami was of a singularly pious, understanding and gentle nature. He avoided the attractions of court life, and wrote five long works that are among the greatest in Persian literature and which have widely influenced subsequent poetry east and west. His Layla and Majnun was a particular source of inspiration to Ottoman poets, and has several times been translated into European languages, sometimes as an 'oriental Romeo and Juliet', though it is rather more a philosophical and dramatic exploration of love in all its mystical and worldly forms. Wide learning was expected of Islamic poets, and Nezami was well versed in Arabic and Persian literature (including oral and local traditions), mathematics, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, medicine, Koranic exegesis, theology and law, history, ethics, philosophy and esoteric thought, music and the visual arts.
Miserable is a heart that has no beloved
Miserable is a heart that has no beloved. It is difficult to be without a friend or a beloved. These few moments which you can never find again, If you have a heart, do not be without a beloved.
translated by Reza Saberi
The Labours Of Ferhad
On lofty Beysitoun the lingering sun looks down on ceaseless labors, long begun: The mountain trembles to the echoing sound Of falling rocks, that from her sides rebound. Each day all respite, all repose denied—- No truce, no pause, the thundering strokes are plied; The mist of night around her summit coils, But still Ferhad, the lover-artist, toils, And still—-the flashes of his axe between—- He sighs to ev'ry wind, "Alas! Shireen! Alas! Shireen!—-my task is well-nigh done, The goal in view for which I strive alone. Love grants me powers that Nature might deny; And, whatsoe'er my doom, the world shall tell, Thy lover gave to immortality Her name he loved—-so fatally—-so well!
A hundred arms were weak one block to move Of thousands, molded by the hand of Love Into fantastic shapes and forms of grace, Which crowd each nook of that majestic place. The piles give way, the rocky peaks divide, The stream comes gushing on—-a foaming tide! A mighty work, for ages to remain, The token of his passion and his pain. As flows the milky flood from Allah's throne Rushes the torrent from the yielding stone; And sculptured there, amazed, stern Khosru stands, And sees, with frowns, obeyed his harsh commands: While she, the fair beloved, with being rife, Awakes the glowing marble into life. Ah! hapless youth; ah! toil repaid by woe—- A king thy rival and the world thy foe! Will she wealth, splendor, pomp for thee resign—- And only genius, truth, and passion thine! Around the pair, lo! groups of courtiers wait, And slaves and pages crowd in solemn state; From columns imaged wreaths their garlands throw, And fretted roofs with stars appear to glow! Fresh leaves and blossoms seem around to spring, And feathered throngs their loves are murmuring; The hands of Peris might have wrought those stems, Where dewdrops hang their fragile diadems; And strings of pearl and sharp-cut diamonds shine, New from the wave, or recent from the mine.
"Alas! Shireen!" at every stroke he cries; At every stroke fresh miracles arise: "For thee these glories and these wonders all, For thee I triumph, or for thee I fall; For thee my life one ceaseless toil has been, Inspire my soul anew: Alas! Shireen!"
What raven note disturbs his musing mood? What form comes stealing on his solitude? Ungentle messenger, whose word of ill All the warm feelings of his soul can chill! "Cease, idle youth, to waste thy days," she said, "By empty hopes a visionary made; Why in vain toil thy fleeting life consume To frame a palace?—-rather hew a tomb. Even like sere leaves that autumn winds have shed, Perish thy labors, for—-Shireen is dead!"
He heard the fatal news—-no word, no groan; He spoke not, moved not, stood transfixed to stone. Then, with a frenzied start, he raised on high His arms, and wildly tossed them toward the sky; Far in the wide expanse his axe he flung And from the precipice at once he sprung. The rocks, the sculptured caves, the valleys green, Sent back his dying cry—- "Alas! Shireen!"
Farid ud-Din Attar was born in Nishapur, in northeast Iran. There is disagreement over the exact dates of his birth and death but several sources confirm that he lived about 100 years. He is traditionally said to have been killed by Mongol invaders. His tomb can be seen today in Nishapur. As a younger man, Attar went on pilgrimage to Mecca and traveled extensively throughout the region, seeking wisdom in Egypt, Damascus, India, and other areas, before finally returning to his home city of Nishapur.
The name Attar means herbalist or druggist, which was his profession. It is said that he saw as many as 500 patients a day in his shop, prescribing herbal remedies which he prepared himself, and he wrote his poetry while attending to his patients.
About thirty works by Attar survive, but his masterpiece is the Mantic at-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds). In this collection, he describes a group of birds (individual human souls) under the leadership of a hoopoe (spiritual master) who determine to search for the legendary Simurgh bird (God). The birds must confront their own individual limitations and fears while journeying through seven valleys before they ultimately find the Simurgh and complete their quest. The 30 birds who ultimately complete the quest discover that they themselves are the Simurgh they sought, playing on a pun in Persian (si and murgh can translate as 30 birds) while giving us an esoteric teaching on the presence of the Divine within us.
Attar's poetry inspired Rumi and many other Sufi poets. It is said that Rumi actually met Attar when Attar was an old man and Rumi was a boy, though some scholars dispute this possibility.
Farid ud-Din Attar was apparently tried at one point for heresy and exiled from Nishapur, but he eventually returned to his home city and that is where he died. A traditional story is told about Attar's death. He was taken prisoner by a Mongol during the invasion of Nishapur. Someone soon came and tried to ransom Attar with a thousand pieces of silver. Attar advised the Mongol not to sell him for that price. The Mongol, thinking to gain an even greater sum of money, refused the silver. Later, another person came, this time offering only a sack of straw to free Attar. Attar then told the Mongol to sell him for that was all he was worth. Outraged at being made a fool, the Mongol cut off Attar's head!
Whether or not this is literally true isn't the point. This story is used to teach the mystical insight that the personal self isn't of much real worth. What is valuable is the Beloved's presence within us—and that presence isn't threatened by the death of the body.
A slave's freedom
Loghman of Sarrakhs cried: "Dear God, behold Your faithful servant, poor, bewildered, old-- An old slave is permitted to go free; I've spent my life in patient loyalty, I'm bent with grief, my black hair's turned to snow; Grant manumission, Lord, and let me go." A voice replied: "When you have gained release from mind and thought, your slavery will cease; You will be free when these two disappear." He said: "Lord, it is You whom I revere; What are the mind and all its ways to me?" And left them there and then -- in ecstasy He danced and clapped his hands and boldly cried: "Who am I now? The slave I was has died; What's freedom, servitude, and where are they? Both happiness and grief have fled away; I neither own nor lack all qualities; My blindness looks on secret mysteries -- I know not whether You are I, I You; I lose myself in You, there is no two."
The Eternal Mirror
Not You but I, have seen and been and wrought. . . . Who in your Fraction of Myself behold Myself within the Mirror Myself hold To see Myself in, and each part of Me That sees himself, though drown'd, shall ever see. Come you lost Atoms to your Centre draw, And be the Eternal Mirror that you saw: Rays that have wander'd into Darkness wide Return, and back into your Sun subside.
How long then will you seek for beauty here?
How long then will you seek for beauty here? Seek the unseen, and beauty will appear. When the last veil is lifted neither men Nor all their glory will be seen again, The universe will fade -- this mighty show In all its majesty and pomp will go, And those who loved appearances will prove Each other's enemies and forfeit love, While those who loved the absent, unseen Friend Will enter that pure love which knows no end.
The Vain Bird
'You see I am vanity personified, Iblis watches over me night and day Thus I'm prescribed by him without a guide. I am torn self from self, I can't find the Way. I'm a finger of the Devil's pride. I cannot resist, I am the Devil tried.' The hoopoe hears the sixth bird out and says: 'You're meat for the dog of desire. The Devil's fool you are, no matter how you shout Your avowals to start again. The devil you acquires With vain conceits that steadily eat your soul As worms quilt the body's fodder which is your end. Unless you realize in heart and mind that as you are You're the Devil's coal ready to burn to ash. No friend Is he who seems to satisfy your whims, you're far From the Way you wish to travel or so you say; Reject the world's blandishments that spin you astray.'
Sheikh Muslihu'd-Din, known as Saadi, was descended from Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed. Saadi's father apparently died when he was a boy. Although Saadi was born and died in Shiraz, Iran, during his life he traveled extensively. He is said to have traveled for thirty years throughout the Islamic world. Iran has filled the centuries with some of the world's finest poets, but Iranians consider Saadi to be one of the greatest.
Historians often divide his life into three parts. His first twenty-five years were spent studying in various countries, going to university at Baghdad. During the next thirty years he traveled widely, east to India and as far west as Syria. He made his pilgrimage to Mecca fourteen times. Finally, Saadi returned to Shiraz where he devoted himself to writing and to teaching.
Saadi was a disciple of the Sufi master Sheikh Shahabud-Din Sahrawardi.
Saadi's two best known works are the Bustan (The Garden), composed entirely in verse, and the Gulistan (The Rose Garden), in both prose and verse. He was particularly known for the wry wit he injected into his poems. Saadi is probably the first Persian poet to have been translated into European languages. A German version of the Gulistan appeared in 1654. Saadi's tomb can be seen in the town of Shiraz. Lines from Saadi's poems are still commonly used in conversations by Iranians today.
How could I ever thank my friend?
How could I ever thank my Friend? No thanks could ever begin to be worthy. Every hair of my body is a gift from Him; How could I thank Him for each hair? Praise that lavish Lord forever Who from nothing conjures all living beings! Who could ever describe His goodness? His infinite glory lays all praise waste. Look, He has graced you a robe of splendor From childhood's first cries to old age! He made you pure in His own image; stay pure. It is horrible to die blackened by sin. Never let dust settle on your mirror's shining; Let it once grow dull and it will never polish. When you work in the world to earn your living Do not, for one moment, rely on your own strength. Self-worshiper, don't you understand anything yet? It is God alone that gives your arms their power. If, by your striving, you achieve something good, Don't claim the credit all for yourself; It is fate that decides who wins and who loses And all success streams only from the grace of God. In this world you never stand by your own strength; It is the Invisible that sustains you every moment.
All Adam's race are members of one frame
All Adam's race are members of one frame; Since all, at first, from the same essence came. When by hard fortune one limb is oppressed, The other members lose their wonted rest: If thou feels not for others' misery, A son of Adam is no name for thee.
Have no doubts because of trouble nor be thou discomfited
Have no doubts because of trouble nor be thou discomfited; For the water of life's fountain springth from a gloomy bed.
Ah! ye brothers of misfortune! be not ye with grief oppressed, Many are the secret mercies which with the All-bounteous rest.
If one His praise of me would learn
If one His praise of me would learn, What of the traceless can the tongueless tell? Lovers are killed by those they love so well; No voices from the slain return.
The world, my brother! will abide with none
The world, my brother! will abide with none, By the world's Maker let thy heart be won. Rely not, nor repose on this world's gain, For many a son like thee she has reared and slain. What matters, when the spirit seeks to fly, If on a throne or on bare earth we die?