FOR A THOUSAND YEARS the classical Persian poetic tradition flourished, continuous and uninterrupted. It began in the great urban centers of Central Asia, Bukhara and Samarkand; and for centuries it dominated the high culture of Central Asia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Anatolia, and the whole of the northern part of the Indian subcontinent under the Mughal Empire. It has been composed by saints and roués, kings and beggars. It has been written in gold, poets have had their mouths stuffed with precious gems for an apt line of poetry, and the uncivilized have measured their progress into civilization by their ability to quote Persian poetry.
Persian metrical system and poetic forms are explained, and selections are given from the works of all major poets, from Rudaki in the tenth century to Bahar in the twentieth, with annotations of difficult grammatical constructions and unfamiliar allusions. Highlights include poetry by Firdawsi, Farrukhi, Anvari, Khaqani, Nizami, Attar, Rumi, Sadi, Hafiz, Jami, Saib, and a host of lesser-known poets.
A full Persian-English vocabulary is included.
“There are two basic approaches to teaching introductory courses in classical Persian poetry: to read the works of a few representative poets in some depth, or to read a little of the work of many poets. Arguments in favor of each method need not be stated here. Dr. Thackston has adopted the second method, and presents 56 poets in chronological sequence subdivided dynastically into five periods, plus one section called "Poets of Didactic Mysticism." Some poets (e.g., Mas'ud Sa'd Salman) are represented by only one selection, but most others have at least two poems or excerpts. Each poet is briefly introduced, generally with mention of his or her major works and a few words on the selections presented for the student. Much of the poetry would be familiar to anyone trained on Z. Saf-a's Ganj-i Sukhan (to which the author acknowledges his debt), although there are some pleasant surprises. Following the poetry is an appendix giving the scansion of each poem, a Persian-English vocabulary and a list of sources.
In sum, the book presents an attractive selection of poetry covering a thousand years and could be a useful classroom text. Each teacher will deal with the question of metrics and prosody in his or her own way. If a second edition is planned, an abjad table would be useful.”
— William L. Hanaway, University of Pennsylvania.
Middle East Studies Association Bulletin
WHEELER M. THACKSTON is Professor of Persian and other Near East Languages at Harvard University.