Dawn bird

“Bismillah bird” composed of the letters of the Quranic verse Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim, “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. Calligraphy by Khaleelullah Chemnad.

Para significar la divinidad, un persa habla de un pájaro que de algún modo es todos los pájaros.

To signify the godhead, a Persian speaks of a bird that somehow is all birds.

Jorge Luis Borges, El Aleph, 1949

So distinguished is the place occupied by the bird in Persian art and poetry, like for example in the As strangers by the modern Sufi poet Hushang Ebtehaj, set to music by the Kamkars and illustrated by us with another Bismillah bird, or in the closing picture of the Budapest photo series by Omid H. Hassam, which immediately reminded me the cover of the beautiful album Saz-e khamush, “Silent lute” by Mohammad Reza Shajarian, the greatest singer of Persian classical music.

Shajarian, Saz-e khamush, Silent lute, album cover
On this album Shajarian is accompanied by Kayhan Kalhor on kamanche, and by Hossein Alizadeh on tar, the typical 8-shaped Iranian lute. Both are the most excellent Iranian masters of their instruments, and their music has been included more than one time in our blog. Tombak, the Iranian drum is played by Homayun, son of Shajarian.

The same four artists recite in the video below the poem Morgh-e sahâr, “Dawn bird” by the greatest 20th-century Persian poet Malek o-Sho’arâ Bahâr. The performance was registered at the famous Bam concert of 2003, organized by Shajarian in the aid of the survivors of the Bam earthquake which had produced 30,000 casualties. The audience cries in ecstasy just like we cried together with the whole audience when in 2007 the master sung this song in Isfahan.

Several versions of this song can be found on the net and on Persian albums: by the same group three years later, where the artists can be observed better, by the duo of Shajarian and the Azeri kamanche player Habil Aliov, transposed in an authentic Azeri style, or in the solo of the talented young tar player Sahba Motalebi. It is worth to read their comments as well, because they reveal a little bit what this song means for Iranians.

Since the 1960’s this poem has become one of the most popular Persian songs with the melody of Morteza Neydavud and in the performance of Shajarian. Perhaps also because 20th-century Iranian history was not in short of dawn-waitings, as it is attested by the earlier quoted Comets and nights.

Morgh-e sahâr nâle sar kon
dagh-e ma-râ tâzeh tar kon
z âh-e sharar bâr in ghafash-râ
bar shekan o zir o zebar kon.
Bolbol-e par baste-ze konj-e ghafash dar â
naghme-ye âzâdi-ye no'e bashar sar â
v’az nafasi
arse-ye in khâk-e tude-râ.
Zolm-e zâlem yor-e sayyâd
âshiyânem dâde bar bâd.
Ey Khodâ ey falak ey tabi'at
shâm-e târik mâ-râ sahar kon.
مرغ سحر ناله سر کن
داغ مرا تازه تر کن
ز آه شرر بار ، این قفس را
بر شکن و زیر زبر کن
بلبل پر بسته ز کنج قفس درا
نغمه آزادی نوع بشر سرا
وزنفسی عرصه این خاک توده را
پر شرر کن
ظلم ظالم ، جور صیّاد
آشیانم ، داده بر باد
ای خدا ، ای فلک ، ای طبیعت
شام تاریک ما را سحر کن

Dawn bird, sing with sorrow,
remind me of my fresh pain,
with your burning breath
break and open this cage.
Captive nightingale, fly out of your cage,
start to sing the song of freedom,
and with one breath
set to fire the sluggish earth.
The cruelty of tyrants, the injustice of hunters
has broken my nest put to winds.
Oh God, oh world, oh nature
turn our dark night into dawn.

Nightingale – as we would like to expose it in a later post – is a topos of Persian poetry for the human soul, or more precisely for the human soul longing for God. (It is not just a coincidence that Eastern Sephardic poetry also took it over in this meaning, just like the topos of the bird representing God.) And in Persian thought the longing for God is very closely connected with the longing for the liberation from the limitations of this world, for absolute freedom. Where a Hungarian, with the famous verse of Petőfi, says “Liberty, love”, a Persian says “Liberty, God” in a thousand sophisticated ways. This is why they can sing – and they indeed do sing – this song as a psalm, a hymn and a movement song in one.

A supporter of Mir Hussein Mousavi on the eve of the Iranian elections of 2009, with a bird on his leafletA leaflet advertising the name of presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi
on the eve of the Iranian elections of June 12, 2009.

4 comentarios:

Julia dijo...

¡Qué buena manera de mostrar, a través de símbolos y topoi concordantes, la hermandad y comunión de religiones en las que muchos no pueden ver más que diferencias irreconciliables!

Preciosa canción, además. Esas profundas voces masculinas resultan muy conmovedoras.

Studiolum dijo...

In fact. A reader of the Hungarian version of this post has also commented that he also had cried while listening to it.

And yes, one thing I have learned from my Persian studies was how refined their religious thought is and how close it is to ours. Something one who only sees the mullahs on the TV would not easily believe…

TC dijo...

Beautiful this.

Life and truth and tears begin where the tv images leave off. (Emotion can never be administered.)

TC dijo...

And about the tears that sung poetry can induce, I have the same or perhaps I should say a similar "problem" with the two majestic performances by Marcel Khalifa that are posted near the top of the thread following this classic.