Rakhshande A Sparkle In Persian Literature English Literature Essay

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Among hundreds of Contemporary Persian Poets, Parvin E tesami [1907-1941]occupies as the greatest Persian Woman poet writing in classical style. According to Ali Akbar Dehkhoda, a prominent figure in literature, Parvin's given name was ''Rakhshande'', meaning sparkle, shining. Being the daughter of Mirza Yusuf E'tesami Ashtiani, Known as E'tesam-al-Molk, a distinguished journalist and man of letters, parvin obtained a thorough knowledge of Arabic and Classical Persian literature from her father. E'tesam-al-Molk's house was often the meeting house of notable literary figures like Sayyed Nasrollah Taqavi, Ali Akbar Dehkhoda, Shahriyar and Mohammad Taqi Bahar.

Acquired the knowledge of French and Arabic language and literature, Parvin's father had access to all literary texts, books and journals published at that time in Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, the Caucuses and Europe.

Parvin's education was under her father's supervision and by growing up in a literary environment, she reached into an intellectual maturity and through her sophisticated father, she managed to make a presence as a woman poet in the patriarchal society in which she lives in.

E'tesam-al-Molk founded a literary magazine, called ''Bahar'' [Spring ] to which Parvin contributed regularly. She published her works in this magazine which became the main source for the promotion of her literary talent.

However, one should not forget the fact that the emergence of newspapers and magazines in Iran opens a new path for political and literary debates which were all led to social consciousness of the public and the upliftment of literary spaces.

Like Romantic Poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and John Keats, E'tesami experienced a short tragic life: A short period marriage to her father's cousin lasted only ten weeks, death of her father, whom she attached too much, followed by her own death three years later at the age of thirty four. Her sudden death Shocked the whole country and was mourned by thousands.

Hence, Parvin's short life did not interfere her great fame in which she has achieved among Iranians. The genius daughter of E'tesam-al-Molk through his encouragement began her taste in poetry since her early childhood at around age seven or eight. She composed some literary pieces which were translated from western texts by her father.

Parvin's poetry followed the Classical Persian tradition both in form and content. And the reformative view of Modern Persian poets such as Nima Yushij, Sohrab Sepehri, which led to a great literary movement, remained unaffected or maybe denied by her.

E'tesami published a ''Divan'', a book of poetry, consisted of 156 poems in 1935, with an introduction by the great poet and scholar Mohammad Taqi Bahar. After her death, Abol Fathe E'tesami, her brother, published the second edition of her book including 209 compositions in the form of Ghazal, a love song like Lyric and various other forms of Persian poetry like ''Qasideh'', ''Qet'e'' which are all short couplets. They were all followed the didactic and philosophical styles of Sanai, Naser Khosrow or even Manuchehri in eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Her Divan gives little room for Ghazal, but according to Professor Heshmat Moayyed those few Ghazals of hers, including 5 poems entitled ''Arezooha'' [Longings] and ''Safar e Ashk'' [Journey of a Tear] are regarded as the best examples of lyric ever written in Persian. Along with her Divan she versified 75 anecdotes, fables and allegories. ''She is best known for her tender, fable-like fragments written in moving tones'' conveying her moralistic idealogy.

However, E'tesami's controversial poetic form, the ''Monazere'' [Debate] claimed the largest portions of her Divan. She composed 65 poems in Monazere style.

Moayyed stated that E'tesami's writings were mostly about '' men and women of different social backgrounds, a wide-ranging array of animals, birds, flowers, trees, cosmic and natural elements, objects of daily life, abstract concepts, all personified and symbolizing her wealth of ideas.''

Influenced by Mysticism and Fatalism in some of her poems she talked of the philosophy of life as in here:

The story of destiny is madness

and it's not luck

to fall from the roof and say

it was fate

Acting is the best wing in the heaven

of knowledge

in the land of existence, art is

the best wealth

Search although your will is

superior to thought

Thrive although your path leads to the

dragon's mouth

Moayyed believed that through personification and symbol E'tesami visualized the evils of society and the loss of moral commitment. And through her Monazeres [Debates] she expressed her own view about '' life, death, social justice, ethics, education and the supreme importance of knowledge.''

Her formative years were spent in Tehran, the capital city, where her family moved from Tabriz to Tehran for better lifestyle and education. E'tesami's formal schooling was in the American Girls College in Tehran, a famous school where she taught there for a while immediately after her graduation.

She was invited to become the Queen's tutor for the new Pahlavi court, but she refused. She declined that invitation for she opposed Reza Shah for his indifference towards the atrocities and exploitations done in her country. Instead, she joined the library of the Teacher Training College for several months.

Mohammad Taqi Bahar and Parvin E'tesami are considered as the most celebrated classical poets have ever risen since the nineteenth century. Bahar is known as the ''King of Poets'' who played a significant role in the '' emergence and development of Persian literature as a distinct genre'' in the beginning of the twentieth century. His poems mostly dealt with the socio-political aspects of Iran. Other distinguished figures in classical poetry are Mirzadeh Eshghi, Aref Ghazvini and Shahriyar.

Among all remarkable works, ''Monazere'' [debate] revealed the peak of her genius. Monazere is the debate between two objects or two persons, where this technique revived by Parvin since Sasanid and Ghaznavid's dynasties like Abu-al-gasem Ansari. She was also influenced by the Greek and French fables of Aesop and La Fontaine. E'tesami highlights the Debates by bringing a ''thesis and a corresponding antithesis'' together with the conventional imagery and intense dialogues and the concluding lines as her own viewpoints.

One of the most famous Debates of hers called ''Mast va Hoshyar'' [The Drunk and the Sober] won great admiration among Romantic poets, which was popularized as the best debate ever written and regarded as the mirror of the social and political background of the age.

Her artistry is confined to portray the real Dark position of high authorities in the society including ''Judge'', ''Governor'', ''Sheriff'' and the mere ''Municipal'', where the Municipal Police Officer caught a 'Drunk but Aware Man' in the middle of the night and decided to take him to the Judge's house, the Governor's palace or the Sheriff's for inquiry or trial , yet the Drunkard remarked that the Municipal should wait till sunrise for the Judge is asleep and the governor must be hangover at that moment.

In this poem E'tesami by bringing a parallel between the Drunkard and the Sober pictured the instability of any higher social ranks, where no one is in his proper place or does his duty. Even when the Municipal suggested the Arrested Man to go to ''Masjid'' [ Mosque] till the day after, this fellow claimed that Masjid isn't a hostel for such a felon like him.

The Municipal's demand for compensation or his clothes was rejected, because the poor Drunk didn't even have a penny or proper clothes to set himself free.

E'stesami raised her questioning and challenging of the system in her last line, when the Officer claimed that according to the Laws of the State, he should find a Sober to whip the Drunk. In response the Drunk laughed calmly and stated:

''Bring a Sober, here no body is sober''

The American College Parvin E'tesami became acquaintance with the cultures of the West. E'tesam-al-Molk took her to different regions of Iran and even foreign countries like Europe and Iraq. Through these trips, Parvin gained the knowledge he had gained over years of reading and translating Western cultures and traditions which drew inspiration for her in forming the main themes of her poetry such as humanism, liberalism.

The literary gatherings held in their house went around issues of Iranian culture and lifestyle. They usually discussed over ''the Oppression of Reza Shah Pahlavi's regime, education, Women's plight and the problems of the serfs'' and Parvin was the permanent participants of these meetings. The impact of all these great figures is reflected in her poetry.

The twenty years of creativity from 1921 till her death displayed an ''astonishing maturity of thought and craft'' of this twentieth century Persian poet. Throughout her poetry she always looked for social justice for the Masses, especially Women. She brings out the plight of women and their oppressions in poems like ''Iranian Women'':

Formerly a woman in Iran was almost non-Iranian.

All she did was struggle through dark and distressing days.

Her life she spent in isolation; she died in isolation.

What was she then if not a prisoner?

None ever lived centuries in darkness like her.

None was sacrificed on the altar of hypocrisy like her.

In the courts of justice no witness defended her.

To the school of learning she was not admitted.

All her life her dries for justice remained unheeded.

This oppression occurred publicly; it was no secret.

Many men appeared disguised as her shepherd.

Within each a wolf was hiding instead.

Or in "A Woman's Place":


Plato and Socrates were great because the mothers

Who nurtured them were themselves great.

Loghman was succored by his mother in the cradle

Long before attendance at school made him a philosopher.

Whether heroes or mystics, ascetics or jurist,

They all were first pupils in her school.

How can a child with no mother learn to love?

A kingdom with no ruler offers no safety and order.

There is not enough information about Parvin E'tesami's personal life except a small book of essays and poems published on her first anniversary in 1944 in Tehran. Her acquaintances claimed that she was an honest, straightforward but mild woman. She had an endless passion in learning and fighting against the tyranny of kings and great sympathy towards the masses. She also offered moral solutions related to the reality of life.

E'tesami's distinction was due to her depiction of ''spiritual truth, lofty humane concepts, lament for poverty, discrimination'' and class consciousness. However, much of her works were the bitter and harsh criticism of social and political injustice. In "The Old Woman's Lament" she challenged the legitimacy of the government, in "The Wretched" she portrayed poverty and protested against social gap between the rich and the poor. Mostly her poetry has the color of morality.

The unexpected death of E'tesam-al-Molk secluded her from the society for she afterwards lost touch with the literary circles which had always encouraged her. Furthermore, perhaps within the patriarchal mainstream of literary society, Parvin E'tesami had no agent or shelter in presenting her works. However, as a woman poet she managed to establish her position in the literary space through her humanitarian outlook.