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Seda: Voices of Iran

Nima Yushij


Nima Yushij (his real name is Ali Esfandiyari), the eldest son of Ebrahim Nuri of Yush was born in November 1896. He grew up in Yush, mostly helping his father with the farm and taking care of the cattle. As a boy, he visited many local summer and winter camps and mingled with shepherds and itenary workers. Life around the camp fire, especially images emerging from the shepherds' simple and entertaining stories about village and tribal conflicts, impressed him greatly. These images, etched in the young poet's memory waited until his power of diction developed sufficiently to release them.

Nima's early education took place in a maktab. A truant student, the mullah had to seek him out in the streets, drag him to school, and punished him. At the age of twelve, Nima was taken to Tehran and registered at the St. Louis School. The atmosphere at the Roman Catholic school did not change Nima's ways, but the instruction of a thoughtful teacher did. Nizam Vafa, a major poet himself, took the budding poet under his wing and nurtured his poetic talent.

Instruction at the Catholic school was in direct contrast to instruction at the makteb. Similarly, living among the urban people was at variance with life among the tribal and rural peoples of the north. In addition, both these lifestyles differed greatly from the description of the lifestyle about which he read in his books or listened to in class. Although it did not change his attachment to tradition, the difference set fire to young Nima's imagination. In other words, even though Nima continued to write poetry in the tradition of Sa'di and Hafiz for quite some time his expression was being affected gradually and steadily. Until, eventually, a time came when the impact of the new became too overwhelming. It overpowered the tenacity of tradition and led Nima down a new path. Consequently, Nima began to replace the familar devices that he felt were impeding the free flow of ideas with innovative, even though less familiar devices that enhanced a free flow of concepts.  Ay Shab (O Night) and Afsaneh (Myth) belong to this transitional period in the poet's life (1922).


Hey, People

Hey, you over there 
who are sitting on the shore, happy and laughing, 
someone is dying in the water, 
someone is constantly struggling 
on this angry, heavy, dark, familiar sea. 
When you are drunk 
with the thought of getting your hands on your enemy, 
when you think in vain 
that you've given a hand to a weak person 
to produce a better weak person, 
when you tighten your belts, when, 
when shall I tell you 
that someone in the water 
is sacrificing in vain?

Hey, you over there 
who are sitting pleasantly on the shore, 
bread on your tablecloths, clothes on your bodies, 
someone is calling you from the water. 
He beats the heavy wave with his tired hand, 
his mouth agape, eyes torn wide with terror, 
he has seen your shadows from afar, 
has swallowed water in the dark blue deep, 
each moment his impatience grows. 
He raises from these waters 
a foot, at times, 
at times, his head... 
Hey you there, 
he still has his eyes on this old world from afar, 
he's shouting and hopes for help. 
Hey you there 
who are calmly watching from the shore, 
the wave beats on the silent shore, spreads 
like a drunk fallen on his bed unconscious, 
recedes with a roar, and this call comes from afar again: 
Hey, you over there...

And the sound of the wind 
more heart-rending by the moment, 
and his voice weaker in the sound of the wind; 
from waters near and far 
again this call is heard: 
Hey, you over there...


My House is Cloudy

My House is Cloudy 
the entire earth is cloudy.

Above the narrow pass, the shattered and desolate and drunken 
wind whirls downward. 
The entire world is desolated by it 
so are my senses!

Oh, piper who has lost the road entranced by the melody of the flute, 
where are you?

My house is cloudy but the cloud is on the verge of weeping. In the memory of my bright days that slipped through my fingers,

I cast a look upon my sun on the threshold of the ocean and the entire world is desolated and shattered by the wind and on the road, the piper continues to play his flute,

in this cloud-filled world

his own path stretching out before him.

The Soldier’s Family

 The candle burns, beside the curtain set, So far this woman hasn't slept yet;

Over the cradle she leans (alone),

O wretched one, O wretched one.

A few rags form the curtain of the spouse

To protect the house.

For two days no food she has tasted,
With two kids, she hasn't rested;
One is ten, she is sleeping,
The other is awake and wailing.
She cries for her mother's milk which is small
This is another woe, (it is dismal).

The neighbor's child wears well,
She has her sports and eats well.
What difference is between these (I'm grieved)
What the other owns this one is bereaved.
A soldier's child dressed in rags (and gall)
Why must she live at all?

All she sees is but asperity
What she reads, breathes adversity;
Her back is bending, with all the load,
Her eyesight is dim in this abode;
Thus she labors like a man;
Thus she toils, the woman.

In the Cold Winter Night

In the cold winter night The furnace of the sun too 

Burns not like the hot hearth of my lamp, 

And no lamp is luminous as mine

Neither it freezes by the cold moon that shines above. 

I lit my lamp when my neighbor was walking in a dark night,
And it was a cold winter night,
The wind encircled the pine,
Amid silent heaps
She was lost from me, separated from this narrow lane,
And still the story is remembered,
And on my lips these words lingered:
"Who lights? Who burns?
Who saves this tale of the heart?"

In the cold winter night
The furnace of the sun too 
Burns not like the hot hearth of my lamp, 
And no lamp is luminous as mine
Neither it freezes by the cold moon that shines above.





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