The Poem

Abdullah el Haji flourished in circa 1600 A.D., well after the classic era of Persian poetry. But his style is highly praised by competent judges, though the older school regret the way in which he has broken away from tradition in:

(a) the introduction of coarse expressions.

(b) the undue exercise of poetic license: such as

(1) his extension of the usual license re the Genitive kasra to all kasra sounds.

(2) his occasional breach of the rule which forbids two inert consonants to occur together, though a friendly commentator ingeniously asserts that he does this only to add to the grimness describing anger, punishment, terror, death, or some unpleasant idea:

(3) his treatment of the Tarijiband; and

(4) his trick of inventing words to carry out some extravagant metaphor or paranomasia:

© his novel symbolism, which they deplore as likely to confuse even the most pious:

(d) per contra, his novel symbolism as likely to be understood of even the least instructed; and

(e) his constant jibes at Sadi. (I must admit that I was quite unable to see the point of any single one of these, though Mahbub took a deal of pains to show me. They appear to depend on the subtle points of grammar and phraseology.)

It would be impertinent and useless for me to enumerate the various metres in which these Ghazals are written; but concerning the Ghazal itself, the remarks of Dr. Forbes (Persian Grammar, p. 144, par. 148.) are so luminous and concise that I cannot refrain from giving my readers the pleasure of their perusal.

“This kind of composition corresponds, upon the whole, with the Ode of the Greeks and Romans, or the Sonetta of the Italians. The most common subjects of which it treats are, the beauty of a mistress, and the sufferings of the despairing lover from her absence or indifference. Frequently it treats of other matters, such as the delights of the season of Spring, the beauties of the flowers of the garden, and the tuneful notes of the nightingales as they warble their melodies among the rose bushes; the joys resulting from wine and hilarity are most particularly noticed at the same time; the whole interspersed with an occasional pithy allusion to the brevity of human life, and the vanity of sublunary matters in general. The more orthodox among the Musulman are rather scandalised at the eulogies bestowed upon the “juice of the grape” by their best poets, such as Hafiz for example; and they endeavour to make out that the text is to be taken in a mystic or spiritual sense, such as we apply to the “song of Solomon”. It appears to me however, that Hafiz writes upon this favourite theme just as naturally, and with as much gusto, as either Anacreon or Horace, who in this respect may be safely acquitted of the sins of mysticism. The first couplet of the Ghazal is called the Matla' or “the place of rising” (of a heavenly body), which we may translate the “Opening”. It is a standard rule that both hemistichs of this couplet should have the same metre and rhyme. The remaining couplets must have the same metre, and the second hemistich of each (but not necessarily the first) must rhyme with the Matla'. The concluding couplet is called the Matka', or “place of cutting short” – which we may translate the “Close”; hence the phrase, Az Matla' ta makta', “from beginning to end”. In the Makta', or close, the poet manages to introduce his own name, or rather his assumed or poetic name, called the Takhallus, though few of the older poets paid strict attention to this rule previous to the time of Hakim Sanayi, between A.D. 1150 and 1180. Anwari occasionally introduces his own name in his Ghazals, but it is the exception and not the rule in his case. As a general law, the Ghazal must consist of at least five couplets, and not more than fifteen; but on this subject authors by no means agree, either with one another or with real facts. Hafiz, for example, has several Ghazals consisting of sixteen and even seventeen, couplets; and Hakim Sanayi has many that exceed the latter number”.

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