The dawn gives news

The Dawn from the video clip of the poem by Mehdi Akhavan Sales, set to music by Soheil NafissiThe sewer in the background is just like the thousand other ones that run down from the Darband through the rich northern suburbs of Tehran to the poor southern suburbs of Tehran, covering a level difference of a thousand meters and a thousand years, flushing the city of twelve million inhabitants with the fresh spring-water of the mountains, and supplying an unforgettable background and pitch-note to such marvelous films like the Bachehâ-ye âseman (Children of the Sky) by Majid Majidi, or Tehrân sâ'at-e haft sobh (Tehran, seven in the morning) by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The few that we can see of the houses also permits to localize it somewhere in the southern part of the city, in one of the alleys of the former southern center developed by the Shah and since then swallowed by the bazaar, from the low windows suitable both to sale and to fostering neighborhood life, through the sky-blue door to the emerald green moss growing at the foot of the walls. It is only this burning red rusari that we would not find anywhere.

Recently, in a night requiring lots of Catalan red wine we compared with Wang Wei the songs of different changes of regimes from Eastern Europe to the Spanish Transition. Then we quoted by way of example this poem of one of the greatest modern Persian poets Mehdi Akhavan Sales (1928-1991), set to music by Soheil Nafissi. However, in the roll of the video below in vain we look for the name of Sales. Perhaps he was omitted by way of precaution. Sales – ثالث Saless, as one of the best Tehran bookshops rebelliously calls itself (in the quoted post a bit above the portrait of Lőrinc Szabó) – under the Shah’s rule wrote poems expressing the anxiety of the period (to the Zemestan ast, It’s Winter we will dedicate a separate post), and in the thereafter following times ones similar to the Dawn. To this he owes the summary judgment of today’s official Iranian history of literature: “After 1979 his literary activity shows decline.” After the hastily prepared night translation of the post quoted above, now we want to offer a more reasoned one, so that everyone might decide for himself whether it is really a decline (and if yes, then what kind of peaks exist in Persian poetry), and everyone could foretell what it means when such a poem is set to music, sold on a successful CD and broadcasted in Iranian internet radios.


شهاب‌ها و شب‌ها
Shahâbhâ va shabhâ
Comets and nights

Persian poetry is made so beautiful and untranslatable by its preference to exploit the assonance of sounds and the thereby established accidental relations of words. Who would ever think that night and comet, darkness and light are in such a close relationship to each other: shab and shahâb. This constitutes one of the basic motifs of the poem, the thread of sounds “sh” running through it and linking darkness and light, parallel to which runs that of the adjectives and metaphors beginning with “r”.

از ظلمت رمیده خبر می‌دهد سحر
شب رفت و با سپیده خبر می‌دهد سحر
از اختر شبان رمه شب رمید و رفت
از رفته و رمیده خبر می‌دهد سحر

Az zolmat-e ramide khabar midehad sahar
shab raft o bâ sepide khabar midehad sahar
az akhtar-e shabân rame-ye shab ramid o raft
az rafte o ramide khabar midehad sahar

Of the darkness scared away gives news the dawn
the night has gone and with the daybreak gives news the dawn
the flock of the night was scared away from the star of the shepherd and has gone
of the scared away and the gone gives news the dawn

The quatrains with rhyme scheme AABA or CABA – where A is not just a simple rhyme, but rather the magic repetition of some words throughout the poetry – continue the tradition of medieval Persian rubaiyyat, like the quatrains of Omar Khayyam. Ramidan, scare away, raftan, go (away), rame, flock (related to German and English Ram and ram) – these are the r-columns of this quatrain, resonating with the words akhtar, star (a kin to Latin aster), khabar, news, and of course sahar, dawn, an Arabic word related to the Hebrew Zohar. Sepide, daybreak (which is also a common woman’s name) comes from sefid, white, which, contrasted to the reds of the following strophes, adds further shades to the interplay of darkness and light.

The adjectives scared away and gone in the first three verses refer to the night and its “flock”, but the last verse, by taking them from their context, bears a strong reference to those scared away and gone due to the night. This adumbration, so familiar to the Eastern European reader, is a much liked instrument of Persian poetry.

The “star of the shepherd” is a strange image, but only until we learn that it is also based on verbal consonances. In the term akhtar-e shabân the shabân is an archaic, poetic plural for shab, night, so at first sight it sounds like “star of the nights”. However, shabân also means “shepherd” (this is where Hungarian “csobán” comes from), and the second part of the verse already alludes to this meaning with the word flock, offering such a mythical metaphor for the morning star like the Hungarian poet Ágnes Gergely who also calls it “shepherd of old flocks” in one of her poems.

زنگار خورد جوشن شب را به نوشخند
از تیغ آبدیده خبر می‌دهد سحر
باز از حریق بیشه خاکسترین فلق
آتش به جان خریده خبر می‌دهد سحر

Zangâr khord joshan-e shab-râ bâ nushkhand
az tiq-e âbdide khabar midehad sahar
bâz az hariq-e bishe-ye khâkestarin falaq
âtash be jân kharide khabar midehad sahar

Rust ate the shield of night with a smile
of tempered blades gives news the dawn
from the grove of the gray morning set to fire
brings fire to the soul the news-bringing dawn

In the 80s we Eastern Europeans also learned how rust can eat the shield of the night. However, at that time it was not advisable to speak about tempered blades. In fact, upon a closer view this poem does not speak about them either. Tiq means first of all ray, and only in a second meaning blade or sword. Tiq-e aqtân for example means the rays of the dawn. Thus also the above compound tiq-e âbdide can mean âb-dide, “water-seen” rays, like those of the rising sun reflected on the surface of the water. This would also fit to this poem, nobody can utter a word. However, a much more accepted meaning of this compound is water-seen blade, that is tempered steel sword, and the fact that nobody uttered a word about this either shows how much the rust has already eaten the shield of the night.

از غمز و ناز و انجم و از رمز و راز شب
از دیده و شنیده خبر می‌دهد سحر
بس شد شهید پرده شبها شهاب‌ها
وان پرده‌ها دریده خبر می‌دهد سحر

Az qamz o nâz o anjâm o az ramz o râz-e shab
az dide o shenide khabar midehad sahar
bas shod shahid-e parde-ye shabhâ shahâbhâ
va ân pardehâ daride khabar midehad sahar

Of the signs, coquetry, secrets and termination of the night
the things seen and heard gives news the dawn
of the comets fallen before the fall of the shroud of the night
who tore that shroud off, gives news the dawn

The pulsation of the short words piling up in the first verse is one of the most beautiful examples of the typical Persian play with sounds in this poem.

آه آن پریده رنگ چه بود و چه شد کزو
رنگش ز رخ پریده خبر می‌دهد سحر
چاووش‌خوان قافله روشنان امید
از ظلمت رمیده خبر می‌دهد سحر

Âh ân paride rang che bud o che shod kazu
rangash ze rokh paride khabar midehad sahar
châvushkhân-e qâfele-ye roshanân omid
az zolmat-e ramide khabar midehad sahar

Oh, what was that pale color, and how could it be
that about pale faces gives news the dawn?
She’s the leader of the song of the hope-bringing caravan of stars,
of the darkness scared away gives news the dawn.

And now, with full knowledge of the text, let us listen a second time to the video.



Comets and nights

Of the darkness scared away gives news the dawn
the night’s gone and with the daybreak gives news the dawn
the flock of the night was scared away
         from the star of the shepherd and has gone,
of the scared away and the gone gives news the dawn

Rust ate the shield of night with a smile
of tempered blades gives news the dawn
from the grove of the gray morning set to fire
brings fire to the soul the news-bringing dawn

Of the signs, coquetry, secrets and termination of the night
the things seen and heard gives news the dawn
of the comets fallen before the fall of the shroud of the night
who tore that shroud off, gives news the dawn

Oh, what was that pale color, and how could it be
that about pale faces gives news the dawn?
She’s the leader of the song of the hope-bringing caravan of stars,
of the darkness scared away gives news the dawn.

Shahâbhâ va shabhâ

Az zolmat-e ramide khabar midehad sahar
shab raft o bâ sepide khabar midehad sahar
az akhtar-e shabân rame-ye shab ramid o raft
az rafte o ramide khabar midehad sahar


Zangâr khord joshan-e shab-râ bâ nushkhand
az tiq-e âbdide khabar midehad sahar
bâz az hariq-e bishe-ye khâkestarin falaq
âtash be jân kharide khabar midehad sahar

Az qamz o nâz o anjâm o az ramz o râz-e shab
az dide o shenide khabar midehad sahar
bas shod shahid-e parde-ye shabhâ shahâbhâ
va ân pardehâ daride khabar midehad sahar

Âh ân paride rang che bud o che shod kazu
rangash ze rokh paride khabar midehad sahar
châvushkhân-e qâfele-ye roshanân omid
az zolmat-e ramide khabar midehad sahar.

1 comentario:

TC dijo...

Wonderful post, the poems, songs, translations, everything. Five thousand stars.

(I too find myself often comparing things with your companion Wang Wei.)

Word verification today is "entuasma"...