Persian Language & Literature

Nezami Ganjawi

Nezami is Known as Nizami Ganjawi (born in Ganje). He lived 1141-1203 CE and his father was Yousef ibn-Zaki and his mother name was Raiseh.

Khosrow and Shirin, ca 1636
Nezami was married three times. His first wife was Afagh who he deeply loved. His only son Mohammad was from Afagh. When Nezami was writing "Khosrow and Shirin", Afagh died. After the death of Afagh, he married again. His second wife died when he was writing "Leyla and Majnoun". He got married for the third time. His third wife died when he was writing the book of "Eghbalnameh." Nezami surprisingly said, "It seems that with every book I write, I give a sacrifice."

His son Mohammad was seven years old when Nezami wrote "Khosrow and Shirin", fourteen years old when he wrote "Leyla and Majnoun", and eighteen or nineteen when he wrote "Haft Peykar" (Seven Beauties). Nezami said that his son encouraged him to write "Leyla and Majnoun". It is said that his son was very intelligent and familiar with poetry. Nezami sent his son to give his messages to King Malek Ezeddin as well as to deliver a copy of "Eghbalnameh" which Nezami wrote in the name of the king.

Nezami lived for 63 years. All his life, he never left Ganja and died there. It is said that he was good-natured and he believed that with pleasantness and cheerfulness one can combat the hardships of life. He was always studying science and art. He knew the science of astronomy and he used its terminology in his poetry skillfully.

He wrote about thirty thousands couplets in five Masnavi (poetry in rhymed couplets) poetry books of "Makhzan ol-Asrar", "Khosrow and Shirin", "Leyla and Majnoun", "Haft Peykar", "Eskandar Nameh" and he wrote one book which is not Masnavi. He gave each of his masnavi books as a gift to the kings of the time.

Among his works that have found their way to the West are "Haft Peykar" and "Leyla and Majnoun". The "Seven Beauties" refer to seven paintings of seven daughters of kings from India to China to Kharazm. When Bahram, the Sassanian King sees the paintings he falls in love and marries all seven princesses.

"Layla and Majnoun" is considered a love story that reveals the path of the soul. It contains 4,000 couplets and was supposedly written in only four months.

    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.

Khosrow & Shirin, c. 1190

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! Shirin!
Alas! Shirin!---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 Khosrow 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! Shirin!" 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! Shirin!"

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---Shirin 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! Shirin!"

Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, New York 1917.