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They were frequently inserted in prose texts to highlight special points in a discursive or narrative context. The period when rulers of Iranian origin were in power was only a short interlude before the arrival of Turkish tribes from Central Asia. At first the Turks were military slaves to the Muslims, but soon they established their own dynasties. For centuries the Turks remained the dominating political force in Iranian lands and in Anatolia , where they laid the foundation for modern Turkey.

They underwent a process of Islamization that was profoundly influenced by Persian civilization. As a part of this process, the Seljuqs copied the courtly traditions of their Iranian predecessors, including the patronage of poetry, which was considered to be most valuable for building up the prestige of kingship in the Iranian style. His reputation as a court poet and as an accomplished musician and singer has survived, although little of his poetry has been preserved. Also during the 10th century, several attempts were made to produce a Persian version of the epic tradition that had already been incorporated into Arabic historiography.

It is a mixture of myth , legend , and history, some of which can be traced back to the Avesta and the Vedic literature of India see Vedic religion. Behind these conflicts is the Zoroastrian idea that throughout the history of the world a divine element and a demonic element are fighting with each other until in the end good prevails over evil. The later parts of the poem come closer to the actual history of Iran: In the first decades of the 11th century, Ghazna was the most important centre of Persian literature.

These campaigns resulted in a permanent conquest of the Punjab, where Lahore now in Pakistan became the residence of a Ghaznavid prince as the viceroy of Hindustan. In the second half of the 11th century, a tradition of court poetry was established in Lahore. He wrote several poems to bring his dismal condition to the attention of the Ghaznavid sultan and thereby established a genre of Persian prison poetry.

In the 11th and 12th centuries other Turkish rulers continued the tradition of patronage established by the Ghaznavids. The latter is particularly famous for his renewal of panegyric poetry through the introduction of learned allusions and sophisticated rhetorical devices. Small states emerged in all parts of the country, usually under the rule of atabeg s, the governors of young princes of the Seljuq house who had seized power on their own behalf. Persian poetry benefited greatly from this political process because the centres of literary patronage proliferated.

About the middle of the 12th century two outstanding poets emerged under the patronage of local rulers in western Iran. Although he stayed within the conventions of court poetry, he also followed the trend toward the treatment of ethical and religious themes that was gaining strength in his days. It was intended as a reminder of the vanity of worldly power and glory. Astrological associations involving planets, precious stones, and colours are woven into the poem. The Khamseh became a model that later poets emulated.

These short poems were the small coinage of literary communication, used for the exchange of repartees in a conversation between a poet and his patron or among poets and courtiers. Often these poems were improvisations that were later written down because the wittiness displayed in them was highly appreciated.

Their contents could be of all kinds. They provide glimpses into literature written outside the courts. Many epigrams were also handed down as poems composed by famous philosophers, scholars, and mystics, but usually the philological evidence is too uncertain to confirm such attributions. But it is doubtful whether she was a historical figure, because she also appears as the heroine of a romantic story that contains many of the poems put to her name.

The most important environments outside the courts where Persian literature could thrive were those provided by religious minorities and mystical circles. This didactic poetry influenced Sufi Islamic mystical poetry. He is a historically vague personality thought to have lived during the 11th century as a wandering dervish in the mountains of western Iran. These poems are written in a nonclassical Persian that includes many colloquialisms. He began his career as a poet at the court of Ghazna but turned his back on professional poetry, seeking instead the patronage of preachers and mystics for whom he wrote poems in all the poetic forms available to secular literature of his time.

In these poems the blending of the secular and the transcendental, which later became characteristic of this genre, can be seen. The term was adopted by dervishes who practiced a nonconformist way of life that rejected not only the world but also conventional piety, which they decried as hypocrisy. The qalandar acquired a strong symbolic value as a motif in Sufi poetry, especially in ghazal s. No ties of patronage are known in his case, nor are his connections to the Sufi communities existing in his time very clear. His output in poetry and prose is, however, considerable, although a number of the works carrying his name are forgeries made after his death.

Among his genuine works is a group of didactic masnawi s in which narrative plays an important role. A religious teacher, he became the spiritual head of a community of students that gradually developed into a circle of mystics who cultivated ritual based on poetry, music, and dance. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval.

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Persian literature - Wikipedia

Iranian culture is perhaps best known for its literature, which emerged in its current form in the 9th century. It emerged as poetry, by which it was disciplined into a most expressive and flexible tongue, with the flexibility resulting from perfect control of a highly formal medium. The discipline was that of Arabic prosody, to which scenes of a verdure unknown to the Arab poet in the…. Persian literatures In Islamic arts: Persian In Islamic arts: Persian development in India In South Asian arts: Kashmiri In South Asian arts: Persian Iran In Iran: The Iranian renaissance In Iran: Help us improve this article!

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The great literary achievements of the Abbasid age and the remarkable effervescence of Muslim spirituality owe much to the Iranian contribution, made through the medium of the Arabic language. From the 9th century, Persian experienced an expansion from an opposite direction, this time at the hands of the Turks. After the end of the Omayyad period, high-ranked Turks in close proximity to the caliphs were a constant feature of the political and military structure of the caliphate. They converted to Islam and adopted Persian and gained entry into the military hierarchy.

After them, Mongol and Mughal patrons preserved the same tradition and exploited the same legacy. If Tamerlane gathered an elite coterie of scientists, artists and men of letters in Samarqand by force and coercion, his successors were astute enough through their munificent patronage to make Herat of the fifteenth century an unparalleled center of the Persian literary world Subtelny, , Nestling between two seas and a gulf, the Iranian plateau provided an ideal location for the exchange of cultures: The distinction between poetry and prose has always been quite deliberate in Persian literature, with poetry given the pride of place.

It distinguished itself clearly from prose not only in terms of rhyme and rhythm, but also in the artful play between explicit meaning or meanings and implicit nuances. At the fountainhead of Persian literary history stands the figure of Rudaki as an archpoet. The extant works of this poet at the court of the Samanids in Bukhara contain the first masterpieces of Persian poetry Nafisi, By its exemplary quality, this poetic corpus served as a model for subsequent generations. Rudaki, it seems, was the first to combine roles that were still distinguishable entities in the 9th century royal court: This shows how a great poet performed his epic art at the beginning of the 11th century.

As pointed out above, a division of labor was still at work: Medieval troubadours and itinerant minstrels in the West followed similar patterns.

Persian Sufi Poetry An Introduction to the Mystical Use of Classical Persian Poems Routledge Sufi Se

Arabic poetry originated before the advent of Islam 5th-6th centuries and has been the subject of much debate and analysis from the first centuries after the rise of Islam. The historic precedents of Persian poetry, however, are not similar or comparable. Some Zoroastrian and Buddhist texts have also survived from the early days of Persian literature Bailey; Boyce, ; Tafazzoli; Melikian-Chirvani, Persian poetry and aesthetics.

But behind the art there are rules and techniques that already appear well-established in the works of Rudaki. At first, this hesitation was of a practical nature; theory was to follow. In practice, in terms of rhythm, one shifted from pre-Islamic poetry relying on alternating stresses, periodically returning to the ictus stress on a syllable in a line of verse , to a poetry based on the variation of long and short syllables, as in Arabic poetry.

We are better able to reconstitute these moments of transition and hesitation, in which the ancient rhythms were re-interpreted as new rhythms, and principles of Arabic rhyme prevailed once its alphabet was adopted Lazard, In the poems of Rudaki, the new technique appears firmly ensconced. Assured and clear and yet flexible from this early period, it was only necessary to refine it slightly over the course of time.

Background

It was not until the 20th century that this traditional prosody was called into question. By favoring different schools of poetry, the patronage of princes contributed to the establishment of longstanding traditions, e. Art, technique, and improvisation were venues through which the poet encountered the expectations of his audience and, drawing on his own erudition to exert his authority, ventured to play a part in reshaping the prevailing poetic traditions.

Technical elements and aspects of Persian poetry. The minimal unit of a Persian poem is a line of verse formed in two parts, each containing the same number of syllables and set to the same rhythm. Indebted to Arabic poetry, this distich form is called a bayt , with the long and short syllables arranged according to codified schemes.

The principles of these schemes are borrowed from Arabic, though it must also be borne in mind that the great Persian meters are not very common in Arabic and are most likely adapted from ancient Persian stress systems. The specialized use of this meter and some others is in itself a clear indication of the way literary genres existed and were formally distinguished from each other through the use of specific meters.

Ultimately, however, the beauty of a Persian poem also lies in its public recitation and oral performance a relatively new and important field of research , where many other factors intervene. In turn, rhyme is essential for the poetic effect of a Persian poem.

Classical Persian Poetry

It was the imitation of Arabic poetry that let to its widespread use. A simple voiced refrain at first, it soon became more complex and codified. In a Persian poem, the arrangement of rhymes defines its form. A form is considered classical when both parts of the first bayt rhyme. The most common and simple poem consists of two bayts, the quatrain, whose second bayt must rhyme with the first bayt a-a-b-a.

Normally the first bayt or distich of the entire poem carries the rhyme, its two hemistiches rhyming with each other. It is thus free from the constraints of mono-rhyme and malleable enough to be used in long poems. Between form and meaning: But although the terminology is derived from Arabic, the selection itself and the numerous Persian examples bear witness to a well-established and original practice. Like them, his point of departure was the practice of Persian poets. His attempt at classification is so amply documented with citations that his treatise can also be regarded as a valuable anthology of poetry.

The poet should be able to weave seamlessly and bring together as the word tafwif suggests all the required elements in a poem, rhyme, rhythm, words, expression, and meaning, in such a manner that they form a unified entity. In short, in its harmonious structure a poem should resemble a beautiful tapestry. In the inventory of elements most valued by our theoreticians, we find, in order of priority in their treatises: The other major consideration is the script itself.

The crucial role of the calligraphy, including the shape of the letters, is evident throughout the manuals of poetry and much discussed. The question of thematic genres in Persian poetry requires further study, given the wealth of the material and the frequent references in traditional manuals and anthologies. The poet is judged by the way he handles a genre in a given set of circumstances; and his poetic craft is a social phenomenon: Remnants of early prose have survived, mostly religious, including fragments of Manichean texts in Persian dating from the 10th century.

The most interesting examples of this ancient prose are the Judeo-Persian texts, Persian texts using the Hebrew alphabet Moreen. Inscriptions on tombs in Judeo-Persian date from , while a dated commercial letter survives, perhaps from the 8th century Henning, ; Moreen, p. Fragments of translations of the Pentateuch in Persian are also quite ancient Lazard, ; Boyce, Persian literary prose seems to have been born in the 10th century at the court of the Samanids in Bukhara.

Persian served as the language providing access to Islamic culture: Written Persian, as pointed above, made its literary debut in northeastern Persia, Khorasan, and Central Asia. This is the original language for Persian literature as a whole. The major genres—early popular fiction, mystical writings, stories and fables, hagiographies, regional histories, historical chronicles, and philosophic and scientific treatises—were inaugurated in this language.

At the same time, and similar in its role to that of Latin in the West, Arabic maintained its status as the major cultural language of reference in religious and scientific matters, while Persian prose was highly instrumental in conveying knowledge from these fields to the public at large. However, in terms of both the writers and the sources that they used or were inspired by, the influence of Persian culture on literary Arabic prose needs to be briefly mentioned and illustrated by recalling the names and achievements of early writers in Arabic who were of Persian descent and greatly indebted to their heritage: Moreover, many of the greatest historiographers writing in Arabic were of Persian descent.

Development of poetry and prose. The historical evolution of Persian poetry was a slow and gradual process. Its forms and themes were, as we have seen, established early on, and most of the subsequent improvisations and poetical innovations were conceived as adjustments and elaborations and not as attempts at overall reconstruction and radical change.

It flourished through refinement, nourishing and invigorating its poetic imagery by drawing on the sciences and philosophic and religious ideas current at the time.


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The major schools or literary movements belonged to, and were informed by, circles patronized by the royal courts, and when the patronage of the poetry gradually became more diffused and it gained a wider audience among the urban and religious classes, it still retained much of its earlier courtly traits. Persian prose evolved more freely. The sensibility of writers to their social matrix led to a greater variety in styles and subjects treated. The influence of Arabic literature and the vicissitudes of history proved crucial.

The patronage of the first Iranian Muslim principalities and kingdoms Bosworth, ; Frye, l particularly the Samanids, followed by the Ghaznavids and the Saljuqs, enabled Persian prose to find its own particular identity and characteristics. In other words, the transition between a pre-Islamic past, and a present adapted to new cultural expectations, was well negotiated. Subsequently, the endeavor by the Saljuq Turks to conform to the orthodoxy in Baghdad in order to dominate the Muslim world in the east brought about a distinct change in Persian style.

The impact of Arabic belles-lettres is palpable in specimens of Persian prose. In the latter part of the 13th century, the entire Iranian world went through the upheavals of the Mongol invasion. A substantial number of literati were able to seek refuge to the west in Anatolia and to the east in India, thus heralding the subsequent flowering of Persian literature in these lands.

For their part, ever since when they entered Persian territory, the Mongol overlords were shrewd enough to bring into their service eminent men of letters and thinkers, chosen especially for their specialization in such fields as theology, philosophy, and local and universal history. Both wrote in a literary style of the highest caliber. In the poetry of Hafez of Shiraz in the 14th century b. From the following centuries, a great deal of Persian poetry and historical writing survives both from Persia under the Safavids 16th—18th centuries and from India under the Mughal rulers.

They contain, on the one hand, panegyrics, and on the other, courtly love songs chansons courtoises and mystical lyrics: The panegyric may include advice, and thus concern itself with morality and politics; or it may be about nature, festivals, or historical events. The registers of love traditionally belong to richer and more codified literary genres.

Other forms of poetry do exist, but these are secondary and belong to later periods. There is of course much more to be said about Persian lyrical poetry, which has come down to us in manuscripts, and its origins, including its relationship and affinities with the rich tradition of oral poetry.

The first part, the nasib , a kind of captatio benevolentiae , evokes the occasion for the poem: The central section is an ode to a prince or some other figure of secular or religious eminence. Within the lyrical outpourings, there are allusions, often biographical and political, which need to be deciphered Meisami, , pp.

In the last part, the poet points to the great merits of his poem, perhaps noting his own superiority over rival poets, and hints at what might be a fitting reward for his poetic product. The lines at the very beginning and end of the poem, as well as the verses linking the different sections, usually receive special attention and are crafted with special care. Although the genre owes much to its Arabic prototype, the phenomenon of courtly praise—poems is well attested in the pre-Islamic court of the Sasanians. The poems of two celebrated panegyrists dominated the 12th century and were regarded as the apogee of the form for later generations: Towering figures in this genre, they both merit the title poeta doctus for being steeped in the sciences of their time.

They were by then often composed outside the court and for a different audience, tending towards philosophical, mystical, and religious ruminations. During the 13th century, the panegyric ode was largely supplanted by the ghazal, whose popularity grew rapidly during the Mongol period in Persia. As love lyrics, the ghazal often exploits the ambiguities that are born in the blurring of the distinction between sacred and profane love. In the case of mystical ghazals too, the art of suggestion is often the key to the success of the poem.

In the 14th century, Hafez used the ghazal almost as his sole medium for the manifestation of his poetic genius. He too kept company with several spiritual figures and mentors who have not yet been clearly identi-fied. His divan, a monumental collection of poems nearly five hundred ghazals , is the product of fifty years of intense creativity. So impassioned is his expressive style that his words at once turn into a captivating song.

A virtuoso of analogical language, so typical of Persian lyricism, Hafez followed the path of antinomian mystical poets weary of the false religiosity of many clerics but highly appreciative of those humane archetypes celebrated in the quatrains of Omar Khayyam. Though unknown in Pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, the quatrain was already a very popular form of verse in Persian at the time of Rudaki, and there is evidence of its existence even before him.

Over more than ten centuries, most Persian poets tried their hand at composing quatrains.


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Its very brevity provided the ideal venue for a memorable and pithy statement and explains its wide popularity. The use of local dialects in his poetry has meant that they fall into the category of fahlaviyyat q. It was the poet and mathematician Omar Khayyam from Nishapur d. It narrates their heroic deeds but is neither a unified epic in the manner of Gilgamesh, nor a compendium of chansons de geste. Using myth as its canvas, this epic form mixes history with legend. The diversity of sources is noticeable in its construction.

Its usual form is a long narrative poem; and one monumental work dominates the entire genre: Sources of the Persian Epic. Religious beliefs and myths, as well as historical events from time immemorial belonging to the Iranian cultural sphere constitute the deepest stratum of the epic literature—oral at first, then written see IRAN iii. Some elements go back to even before the Avesta, others date from Scythian times, the Zoroastrian age, or the religious debates of the Sasanian era.

It constitutes a kind of Book of Genesis. In time, royal deeds, dynastic chronicles, romances, and various legends of past ages began to feature in these compositions. Various didactic and scientific texts were also included, acting as a bond, wielding the various materials together. A compilation in Middle Persian was no doubt made at the initiative of Sasanian rulers. It contained military treatises as well as rules of conduct expected of the different classes in society.

Also known are instruction books of a moral and religious nature written in a question-and-answer form. We know that at least on two occasions this material was given an orderly arrangement. Then, under Yazdegerd III , the work was completed. However, it was in prose, and this, at a time when cultural memory as the guardian of faithful transmission systematically preferred poetry, was a great handicap and obstacle to its appeal to a wider audience. The former source, which appeared first in the Syriac milieu of the early Islamic period, was translated into Arabic and appears to have had close affinities with the actual Persian chronicles that had been extant in the first two centuries after the rise of Islam.

The creation and composition of these texts illustrate an important dilemma for the first Islamic centuries: Some of these texts have been lost; others were left unfinished Osmanov. The most famous is by Daqiqi q. We associate his life with the composition of his poem. At the dawn of an era when the Turkish rulers were embracing Islamic culture wholeheartedly and their poets and panegyrists were consequently distancing themselves from the pre-Islamic past, Ferdowsi had managed to paint a vast canvass depicting the Iran of the bygone days, a poetic creation which would inform and inspire subsequent generations.

Sections in this entry

It is also true that in the process of glorifying Iran, he was not too kind to the Turks. In spite of his fame and support from various patrons, the poet ended his days in distress and discomfort. Among other important manuscripts one can mention a 16th-century copy of a manuscript dated , which contains the entire text and is preserved in the British Library. There are many other manuscripts of good quality in existence, and most probably Ferdowsi left more than one redaction of his poem. Given this complex and uncharted textual history, the major critical edition begun by Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh, of which six volumes have already been published, cannot be said to be definitive in the strict sense of the term Cerquiglini.

Some of the texts that Ferdowsi had drawn upon in his Book of Kings have come down to us. In its early sections it introduces three civilizing world rulers. A world divided into three kingdoms emerges; only Iran at the center inherits the Royal Glory. Rostam is actively involved in all their adventures. The heroic figure that follows Rostam is Alexander. In his work, Ferdowsi integrates a rare and intriguing version of the Alexander Romance —redrawn with psychological finesse. First shown as a liberator, Alexander ends up as the great divider of Iran. He attempts to benefit from the Royal Glory of the Iranians, only to taste the bitter fruit of usurped grandeur: He unites Iran by making a pact with his people, based on justice and faith in one single religion, Zoroastrianism.

According to the sources of the book, it is in this monarch that Royal Glory appears in its clearest manifestation. All the traits of other royal figures in the book are combined in this central character. The history of the Sasanians is then continued in the manner of traditional chronicles until an evil day, a Satanic or Ahrimanic moment, when the last king of the dynasty is betrayed and, while on the run from the Arab armies, killed by a miller.

Throughout his narrative, Ferdowsi pursues a fecund thematic idea characteristic of the epic tradition that portrays the vulnerable yet heroic man confronting his relentless destiny. Salvation lies in wisdom, for it, above all else, makes man aware of the dehumanizing cycle of Time-Destiny. By maintaining his distance from Chronos, man escapes from the illusory nature of this world.

Ferdowsi exploits substantial portions of the ancient epic material available in his time. From the 12th century onward, extremely interesting epics of more popular nature begin to appear. They introduce heroes and heroines in whose ethical code ruse and clever stratagems, rather than military might and muscle, are legitimate instruments for fighting injustice and evil.

His work has served as a literary mold from which one can make fresh heroic and saintly paradigms. Inspired by Ferdowsi, many rulers in history have commissioned court poets to celebrate their reigns in eulogistic verse chronicles that have also served as valuable historical sources for later historians. The Medieval Persian novel can be described as a fictional narrative featuring an individual adventure, lying somewhere between the borders of chanson de geste and a historical work.

Originating from Achaemenid Persia, the ancient novel Abradatas q. In the first story, love leads Panthea to commit suicide beside the dead body of her spouse Davis, , pp. Greco-Egyptian and Alexandrian in origin, the Romance of Alexander is found in several different versions, all heavily Persianized. A fragment of a versified version of this in Middle Persian and Manichean script survives as an example of Persian hagiography. Persian literature is made up of a large number of narrative accounts derived from countless sources, revitalized in the course of re-telling by new interpretations and original glosses on their significance.

The novel describes the plight of Vis, the daughter of the queen of Media, who is a vassal of the king of Parthia the reference here is to the historical context of the romance: Vis is finally forced to marry the king of Parthia after having been married to her own brother. She also manages through magic to render the old Parthian king impotent.

This, however, is only half the story in the novel. The story is an examination of this kind of amorous exchange. At the crossroads where the paths of action and love diverge, the partners are forced to make a choice: Heroism is depicted as natural to the female hero, who immediately reveals herself to be the self-assured guide for her lover in matters of love. Whereas the medieval Western romance places emphasis on the psychology of the characters, the Persian narratives concentrate on the lyrical expression of the sentiments expressed by the characters.

These lyrical intentions also explain the reason why these epistolary novels were put into verse. Though he dedicated his poems to princes and was rewarded accordingly, he managed to maintain his independence from them. His poetry shows a keen interest in the life of ordinary people as well as much curiosity about ancient historical sites and the legends surrounding them.

In his poems he addressed his son on three different occasions, when he was 7 years, then 14, and finally The adventure of the paired lovers, Leyli and Majnun, is the subject of the second of his four romances, and derived from Arabic sources Giffen; Vadet. He also left behind some fine lyrical poetry.

Although there were thriving sufi associations in existence at the time, he did not himself become a member of any specific group. He maintained that the Word was his refuge and monastery. Designed as a series of ethical counsels for the benefit of the prince, it reflects the writing of a sage secluded from the world. Twenty chapters, each containing a didactic message and an exemplum serving as an attractive illustration, are mostly aimed at a prince or ruler.

The poem continued to enjoy great popularity in later periods and courts. It has a complex structure with several genres exploited simultaneously; and contains many verbal exchanges and letters, all imbued with lyrical intensity. But the poem also delves into the kind of wisdom that only love can inspire. Leyli is married, becomes a widow, and eventually dies. Upon her tomb dies Majnun, the prelude to his entry into the blissful state of celestial union. He settles them in seven pavilions painted according to the seven planets that rule the days of the week.

Every night he visits one of them; each narrates a story corresponding to her particular color. These tales with their underlying didactic messages are meant to provide an education for a prince in love. As he tells us, at the time he was 63 years old his death date inscribed on his tomb is given as The work by the poet of Ganja had such a profound impact on the history of Persian classical literature that it can be regarded as a watershed in its literary history.

His strength lies in his narrative techniques, the range and fecundity of his sources, and the masterly way he draws upon them and transforms them into a harmonious work of art. The manuscripts of his poems are frequently illuminated and contain some of the finest miniatures and book illustrations by celebrated artists. The earliest extant manuscripts date a century after his death, an unusual occurrence given the history of the survival of Persian poetical manuscripts.

Relatively few Persian texts miss an opportunity to teach. Some texts go about this overtly and are especially designed for it. Others are not so explicit but convey their didactic message implicitly through the medium of the narrative. This is particularly true of historical works. They infuse the events with a sense of meaning and didactic significance, suggest codes of conduct, and attempt to achieve a sense of communal consensus based on their ideals. The art of rhetoric is the art of persuasion, which is why it is linked to the art of poetry, as in Persian literature. The beauty of these literary texts has enchanted many generations and made them receptive to the didactic messages embedded in them.

The message conveyed may be strictly moral or moral and political, or even spiritual in nature. From anecdote to frame story.