The Atlantic Monthly: "Mr. Davis has put what he called "Medieval Persian Epigrams" into easy, idiomatic English and provided an engaging introduction to the Persian world and an explanation of the code words that might otherwise puzzle modern readers. These authors were court poets, highly valued and well rewarded for wit, elegance, and a light touch. Originality of theme was not necessary, but there are surprises among the lovers' laments and financial complaints. Jahan Khatun, one of the few women poets, considered erotic reform but decided to "renounce renumerations." (A contemporary accused her of being a prostitute, but Mr. Davis points out that he "said this kind of thing" about everybody.) The poems are faced by versions in Persian scripts, making the collection pretty as well as amusing."
Times Literary Supplement: "Many of the best poems in borrowed ware are mystical, and Davis is probably the first translator to have succeeded in conveying their intensity of focus. . . . Anyone doubting Davis's own mastery of [poetry] should turn to borrowed ware. This anthology is the most personal of Davis's excellent translations from the Persian. . . . Here, as in Western poetry of a similar period, the subjects are mostly religious and amorous, with some politics thrown in and a good deal of flattery for patrons. Yet these subjects, through their tone and imagery, invite into the book the whole range of that far-off culture's concerns."
Poetry Book Society Bulletin: "Some of the best known Persian poets--Rudaki, Sa'di, Rumi, Hafez-are included in this book, but its virtue is that it has cast its net widely over a fascinating variety of writers from the tenth century to the seventeenth. . . . The epigrams are erotic, religious, and political (sometimes all three together!), and their tone sweeps from the tender to the scabrous, from the bitchy to the mystical."
Kirkus Reviews: "Whatever these short and witty epigrams sound like in their original language--which is included here for those who can read such calligraphy!--they are delightful as re-created in English by Davis, a poet and professor of Persian. All drawn from the classic period of Persian poetry (the 10th through 16th centuries), these public and formal poems--whether capturing a moment's mood or praising a courtier--come alive in Davis's scrupulous translations, invigorated with a user-friendly scholarly apparatus."
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You've no idea of what it is I do?
Bring me a horse, a bow,
a book, some poems,
A pen, a lute, dice, wine, a chess set too.
A Note on the Text
The texts for the poems translated here are taken from the following books:
Ganj-e Sokhan, ed. Zabihollah Safa, 3 vols., Tehran, n.d.
Tarikh-e Adabiyat dar Iran, ed. Zabihollah Safa, 5 vols., Tehran,
Hezar Sal She'r-e Parsi, ed. Ja'far Ebrahimi et al., Tehran,
Nozhat al-Majales, ed. Mohammad Amin Riahi, Tehran,
Pishahangan-e She'r-e Parsi, ed. Mohammad Dabirsiaqi, Tehran
Kolliyat-e Eraqi, ed. Sa'id Nafisi, Tehran, n.d.
Divan-e Onsori-ye Balkhi, ed. Mohammad Dabirsiaqi, Tehran,
Sokhanan-e Manzoum-e Abu Sa'id Abul Khayr, ed. Sa'id Nafisi,
Kolliyat-e Sa'di, ed. Mohammad Ali Foroughi et al., Tehran, n.d.
Kolliyat-e Obayd-e Zakani, ed. Parviz Atabeki, Tehran,
Divan-e Qatran-e Tabriz, ed. Hasan Taqizadeh et al., Tehran,
Divan-e Anvari, ed. Sa'id Nafisi, Tehran, 1364/1985
Kolliyat-e Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, ed. Badi'alzaman Forouzan far et al., Tehran, 1351/1972
Divan-e Vahshi-ye Bafeghi, ed. Hosayn Nakha'i, Tehran,
Divan-e Mas'ud-e Sa'd, 2 vols., ed. Mehdi Nuryan, Esfahan,
Divan-e Kh'ajeh Hafez-e Shirazi, ed. Seyyed Abu'l Qasem Anjavi-Shirazi, Tehran, 1346/1967.
In preparing the brief notes on individual poets my chief debt is to Dr. Zabihollah Safa's Tarikh-e Adabiyat dar Iran ('History of Literature in Iran', 5 vols., Tehran, reprinted 1366/1987). I have also made use of Dr. Mohammad Amin Riahi's introduction to his edition of the 14th-century anthology of rubaiyat, the Nozhat al-Majales ("Pleasure of the Assemblies"), as well as using material from other sources.
Dick Davis was born to English and Italian parents in 1945 and educated at King's College, Cambridge (B.A. and M.A. in English Literature). In 1970 while pursuing a career in poetry and literature and teaching in Greece he visited a friend in Iran. While there, he fell ill and was nursed to health by a Persian woman, whom he eventually married. Davis fell in love with the country as well, and stayed for eight years, learning Persian and teaching at the University of Tehran. After the revolution in 1979 the Davis family returned to England where he pursued his love of the Persian language, earning his Ph.D. in Medieval Persian Literature from the University of Manchester.Since then, he has emerged as the foremost translator of Persian as well as having published numerous volumes of his own poetry to critical acclaim, including: Touchwood. A New Kind of Love, Devices and Desires, and Covenant. He is currently professor of Persian at Ohio State University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His other translations from Persian include the Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (Mage, 1998-2004; Viking, 2006; Penguin Classics, 2007), My Uncle Napoleon (Mage, 1996), The Legend of Seyavash(Mage 2004) and with Afkham Darbandi, The Conference of the Birds (Penguin Classics, 1984). He has also written a groundbreaking analysis of the Shahnameh, Epic and Sedition.