Persian Poetry: Recalling Youth Days

A Monthly Column

By Mehdi Bagheri

Recalling Youth Days

I’m a tear but have fallen at darling’s feet

I’m thorn but have reposed under blossom’s shade

Oh, vernal equinox of love! In memory of your fragrance

Head bends, downcast like the violets

Like dust, I foundered in your atmosphere

Like tears, I fell as you left my dear

I Didn’t perceive the glamour of youth in my years

I heard others recalling youth days

I didn’t sip on pure wine from the goblet of happiness

I didn’t pick a bloom of mirth from the branch of appetence

My fate didn’t grant me grey-headedness for anything

For these white strands, my youth was paying

Oh cypress, don’t pride yourself on being noble

Noble, I am who abandoned every people

If I run away from mankind’s sight

Don’t cavil cause I’m the deer of the wild

– Rahi Mo`ayeri

(Translated by Mehdi Bagheri)

This fourth column on Persian poetry, I decided to choose the above piece from Rahi Mo`ayeri, the well-known Iranian contemporary poet and musician of the 20th century.

In Recalling Youth Days, the poet speaks about his youth days’ memoir in a reverentially elegant tone to his lover.

In this poem, Rahi claims to be like a tear, thorn, violet, dust and so on. For us to understand these analogies we have to learn these allusions and the meaning behind them in Persian literature.

Tears fall from our faces, mostly in two conditions. When we either become sad or when we become overly excited. When a loved one leaves or when we get to see a loved one, both of the said conditions can be met. Through this metaphor, tears demonstrate a person who involuntarily shows passion towards his lover. This, in a broader sense, confirms the purity of the person’s love. In another view, “tear falling at darling’s feet” provides an indication of how close lovers are to each other and yet it is an emblematic show of humbleness that reminds us of falling at someone’s feet. So a tear might not at all times, remind us of something beautiful or someone strong but when Rahi describes it in a poetic resplendence, we see that he is only trying to maintain a modest tone towards his lover. This is something common for this kind of poetic conversation amongst Persian poets.

In the next line, the poet keeps his modest tone by calling himself a thorn. Here the poet is indicating how much he has aged and how wrinkly and scaly his skin has become that makes it unpleasant for his lover to caress or even touch him. He, however, wants her to remember that throughout his life, he was attached to her, like a thorn that’s attached to a blossom. In this way, he raised her to the peak of beauty, that stood above him, while he modestly stood under her shade.

In the next two hemistichs, the poet calls his lover the “vernal equinox of love”. This is the symbol of the beginning to love. Rahi is trying to say, she was the first person who brought him the feeling of love. With that feeling of spring and beginning to love, later in life, the memory of her fragrance was what grieved him, that he compared the way his face was downcast in sorrow, to violets. Violets’ pedicels have a bent down shape like a walking stick’s handle. This symbolises sorrow and agedness at the same time.

The poet then compares himself to dust, something invaluable, that in her presence settled and like a tear that fell when she left him.

It is at this point that Rahi starts to utter about his youth days in which he finds no gratification in. From here onwards, it becomes more clear that for him, youth days without his lover had turned to nothing but dailiness.

By the ending lines, in an explicit tone, he takes pride in having earned the life experience although he paid a high price for it, which was his youth days. He then calls her “cypress” to confirm her trait of beauty that’s tallness which is indicative of her power as well. However, he reminds her that she shouldn’t take pride in being noble for having left him. It is rather him who should feel noble for having left everyone after he couldn’t win her heart.

In the last line the poet hints why he doesn’t want to be in any human’s sight. Because like a wild deer, he is not acclimatised to being with humans or in other words he has seen no humanity in them.