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Sunday, 25 January 2009 11:12

Roodaki, Father of Persian Poetry (12)

Roodaki's poems reflect the achievements of the Samanid era in the realms of Persian literature, as well as the social and political conditions.

Before the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, the Iranian society had been relatively calm for centuries and the ups and downs were only when rulers clashed. Such calmness was instrumental in the growth of culture and literature, the expansion of sciences and the increase in the number of the artists, scientists, writers and poets. Such an approach towards sciences and the respect for men of learning resulted in the emergence of boundless talents among the elite. Roodaki was one of these elite figures and a great master of Persian poetry. Examining his poetry one can analyze the status of the human being in society and identity.
Man is the pivotal issue in Roodaki's poetry. In his poems human characteristics are analyzed through concentrating on love, wisdom, and dignity. Human identity is examined in two categories; namely realistic and idealistic, the latter being what the person desires. One of the aspects of Roodaki's poems is the relationship between human identity and the degree of eulogy he deserves depending on his dignity and honour. This is reflective of the Samanid era. The relationship of the king and the poet is based on respect rather than exaggeration and artificial hyperbole. The poet praises the king out of love. Thus Roodaki's wording in his eulogies and panegyrics is plain and simple. Indeed he makes use of nature's manifestations to create his poetic images.

The Samanids who ruled Central Asia and Khorasan from their capital in Bukhara in present day Uzbekistan, were one of the powerful Iranian dynasties that emerged as independent rulers following the weakening of the Abbasid caliphate in the aftermath of the mass acceptance of the truth of Islam by the Iranian people. The reverence of the Sassanids and their aristocracy for Islamic simplicity, fraternity and equality led to changes in socio-political views and the policy of the state. So, as it is evident from historical texts, the Samanid rulers were moderate than the rulers and kings of other dynasties. They would become happy with simple eulogies and would reward poets. The maximum praise of the Samanid king in Roodaki's poetry was that he describes the king as the ruler of Iran and entire world. Roodaki says:
O' you who have reigned every king in the world;
Rejoice, for the malevolent was destined as you wanted.

Roodaki has never extolled the king to the sky. He thinks that the king is like any other human being who has just a higher status. According to the modern Iranian scholar, Dr. Mahjoob, "Roodaki has tried to mention the praised one's real merits and this shows his being moderate."

Another aspect of Roodaki's poems is the relationship between aphorisms and human identity. Maxims and moral lessons appear simple and tangible in the poetry of the Samanid era and that of Roodaki, as one of the pioneers of literature in the era. These didactic poems invite men to be happy and set aside sorrow. During this period of Persian poetry, notions like isolation and preoccupations with one's own matters were not considered as part of human nature and identity. In a beautiful couplet Roodki advises man to look at the people who are poorer in worldly and material affairs so that he will not become sad at his own status. He says:

Look not at the richer, lest you become sad;
Look at the poorer and thus live happily.

Although Roodaki advises man to be happy and to forget sorrow, he prevents him from going to extremes. Roodaki's maxims are practical and experimental rather than vague and abstract. He neither calls man to desert all worldly pleasures nor invites him to stick to them, although there are few abstract images in his poems. Even though he speaks of abstract issues, he expresses them in a sensible and material language to be more tangible for the reader. For instance when he wants to describe the volatility of desires he informs the reader that whoever is loved, this transient world will separate it from man.

Happiness and joyfulness were considered moderately in the poetry of the Samanid era, especially in Roodaki's poems. He doesn't complain much of sad or bitter occasions, neither does he indulge in mirth and unrestrained happiness. Happiness in his poetry is based on experimentation. Joys in his poems are great but they arise from small things. Roodaki's poems are realistic and they are in harmony with nature and the world of creation.
Sometimes Roodaki puts his maxims in a very simple wording to make it more impressive. For instance he says:

One should not be happy at what happens;
Neither should he recall the past things.

What is most dealt with in Roodaki's poetry is "To live in the present rather than the past". He believes that this characteristic is instrumental in moulding man's views. Thus he doesn't want to be a mere poet but to inform the reader that even if he is sad and entrapped in bitterness, if he knows of happy things around him, he can live a happy life.


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