Persian Language & Literature

Roudaki
One of the first poets to use Persian after the Arab invasion
If one doesn't have his wisdom,
Arriving at his age,
It can be taught by no teacher
In the world.





Roudaki or his full name is Abdollah Jafar Ibn Mohammad the founder of Perso-Tajik literature. Roudaki was born in 858 CE in the Pandj-Rodak village near Pandjikent, a settlement between Samarkand and Bokhara (in Transoxiana, central Asia). From early childhood, he began writing verses, was fond of playing the lute (chang in Persian), and had a beautiful voice. He was one of the first poets to use the newly devised Persian alphabet, a transcription of the Pahlavi language using Arabic letters.

When his fame in poetry reached Bokhara, he was invited to the court by Emir Nasr II Ibn Ahmad Samanid personally. Roudaki also enjoyed the patronage of a senior vizier, Abolfazl Balami, a famous scholar and historian.

By that time, the Samanid state had won its independence from the Caliphate both in politics and economy. Roudaki's poetry captured the hearts and minds of his contemporaries. His Qasydes were adornments of feasts in the royal palace and scholars' meetings, as these verses were astonishing in their philosophical profundity. The poet reflected on the essence of phenomena and on the permanent movement of natural and social changes through his poetry in Qasyde on Old Age. Roudaki wrote:

So the world, doomed to go round and twirl,
Is time moving like the flow of water
In the spring.
What you believed to be the remedy,
Tomorrow will be poison.
So what? The sick men go thinking
That poison is still medicine.
You see: time ages everything
That seemingly was new to us,
But it makes younger deeds of the past.


Roudaki perfected all the kinds of poetry that existed then: Qasyde, Qazel, khajvia, Masnavi and etc. His lyrics mainly were popular with common people. The poet's distinctions, which absorbed the wisdom of the people, still are astonishing in their vividness and high artistic quality:

There's no stronger joy for thee
Than the faces of your friends and dear ones
You can see.


A famous Qasyda about Bokhara is one of his best lyrics, written by order of the country's Emir Nasr II ibn Ahmad. The emir did not intend to leave Herat during his stay in this land that was famous for its beautiful nature and climate. His courtiers missed their families and household fires, so they asked the poet to write verses to evoke homesickness in the emir's heart, thus making him return home. They promised to remunerate the poet lavishly. And Roudaki managed to solve this problem:

Muliyon laps and glitters, and calls me,
And my beloved ane calls me.
The river sand of the Amu is at my feet like silk.
Hard ford and green hills calls me.
Up there foam reaches the knees of horses,
Up there Jeykhun is crying: they call me.


According to some data, Roudaki's literary heritage included more than one hundred thousands bayts (lines) of poetry. Roudaki was the teacher of Abdolhassan Shahid Balkhi, Moradi Bokhari and other poets. He died in 941 CE, having come back to his native village where now his tomb is marked with a mausoleum made of white-and-blue marble.

Roudaki's poetry is simple in style, as court poetry should be. It reflects the charm of the pre-Islamic poetry of Iran. He avoids Arabism and does not use Koranic verses. More than anything, his poetry is accessible to school children of today. They enjoy his verses with little need for either explanation or interpretation.