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Saadi

Abū-Muḥammad Muṣliḥ bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī (1184 – 1283/1291?), better known by his pen-name as Saʿdī (Persian: سعدی), was one of the major Persian poets of the medieval period. He is recognized not only for the quality of his writing, but also for the depth of his social thoughts.
Simulative portrait of Saadi by Abolhassan Khan Sadighi


Biography
A native of Shiraz, Iran, Sheikh Sa'ad? left his native town at a young age for Baghdad to study Arabic literature and Islamic sciences at the famous an-Nizz?m?ya center of knowledge (1195-1226).


The unsettled conditions following the Mongol invasion of Iran led him to wander abroad through Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. He also refers in his work to travels in India and Central Asia. Saadi is very much like Marco Polo who travelled in the region from 1271 to 1294. There is a difference, however, between the two. While Marco Polo gravitated to the potentates and the good life, Saadi mingled with the ordinary survivors of the Mongol onslaught. He sat in remote teahouses late into the night and exchanged views with merchants, farmers, preachers, wayfarers, thieves, and Sufi mendicants. For twenty years or more, he continued the same schedule of preaching, advising, learning, honing his sermons, and polishing them into gems illuminating the wisdom and foibles of his people.

When he reappeared in his native Shiraz he was an elderly man. Shiraz, under Atabak Abubakr Sa'd ibn Zangy (1231-60) was enjoying an era of relative tranquility. Saadi was not only welcomed to the city but was respected highly by the ruler and enumerated among the greats of the province. In response, Saadi took his nom de plume from the name of the local prince, Sa'd ibn Zangi, and composed some of his most delightful panegyrics as an initial gesture of gratitude in praise of the ruling house and placed them at the beginning of his Bustan. He seems to have spent the rest of his life in Shiraz.

Sa'adi statue in Fars museum


His works

His best known works are Bustan ("The Orchard") completed in 1257 and Gulistan ("The Rose Garden") in 1258. Bustan is entirely in verse (epic metre) and consists of stories aptly illustrating the standard virtues recommended to Muslims (justice, liberality, modesty, contentment) as well as of reflections on the behaviour of dervishes and their ecstatic practices. Gulistan is mainly in prose and contains stories and personal anecdotes. The text is interspersed with a variety of short poems, containing aphorisms, advice, and humorous reflections. Saadi demonstrates a profound awareness of the absurdity of human existence. The fate of those who depend on the changeable moods of kings is contrasted with the freedom of the dervishes.

For Western students, Bustan and Gulistan have a special attraction; but Saadi is also remembered as a great panegyrist and lyricist, the author of a number of masterly general odes portraying human experience, and also of particular odes such as the lament on the fall of Baghdad after the Mongol invasion in 1258. His lyrics are to be found in Ghazaliyat ("Lyrics") and his odes in Qasa'id ("Odes"). He is also known for a number of works in Arabic. The peculiar blend of human kindness and cynicism, humour, and resignation displayed in Saadi's works, together with a tendency to avoid the hard dilemma, make him, to many, the most typical and loveable writer in the world of Iranian culture.

Alexander Pushkin, one of Russia's most celebrated poets, quotes Saadi in his masterpiece Eugene Onegin:

as Saadi sang in earlier ages,

"some are far distant, some are dead".

Saadi distinguished between the spiritual and the practical or mundane aspects of life. In his Bustan, for example, spiritual Saadi uses the mundane world as a spring board to propel himself beyond the earthly realms. The images in Bustan are delicate in nature and soothing. In the Gulistan, on the other hand, mundane Saadi lowers the spiritual to touch the heart of his fellow wayfarers. Here the images are graphic and, thanks to Saadi's dexterity, remain concrete in the reader's mind. Realistically, too, there is a ring of truth in the division. The Sheikh preaching in the Khanqah experiences a totally different world than the merchant passing through a town. The unique thing about Saadi is that he embodies both the Sufi Sheikh and the travelling merchant. They are, as he himself puts it, two almond kernels in the same shell.
Saadi's prose style, described as "simple but impossible to imitate" flows quite naturally and effortlessly. Its simplicity, however, is grounded in a semantic web consisting of synonymy, homophonyy, and oxymoron buttressed by internal rhythm and external rhyme something that Dr. Iraj Bashiri quite skillfully captures in his translation of the Prologue of the work:
"In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Laudation is due the most High, the most Glorious, Whose worship bridges the Gap and Whose recognition breeds beneficence. Each breath inhaled sustains life, exhaled imparts rejuvenation. Two blessings in every breath, each due a separate salutation.
Whose hand properly offers and whose tongue,
The salutation due Him, and not be wrong?
Says He: "Ingratiate yourself, O family of David,
Unlike the unthankful, that I thee bid!"
Subjects proper, best admit to all transgression,
At His threshold, with contrite expression;
How otherwise could mortal creatures ever,
Make themselves worthy of His discretion?
The shower of His merciful bounty gratifies all, and His banquet of limitless generosity recognizes no fall. The inner secrets of His subjects, He does not divulge, nor does He, for a rogue's slight frailty, in injustice indulge.
O generosity personified!
To the Christian and the Magi,
You bestow with pleasure,
From Your invisible treasure.
O ardent benefactor!
You will lift Your friends high,
There is solid proof of that,
Not abandoning enemies to die!
He has ordered the zephyr to cover, with the emerald carpet of spring, the earth; and He has instructed the maternal vernal clouds to nourish the seeds of autumn to birth. In foliage green, He has clothed the trees, and through beautiful blossoms of many hues, has perfumed the breeze. He has allowed the life-imparting sap to percolate and its delicious honey to circulate. His power is hidden in the tiny seed that sires the lofty palm.
The clouds, the wind, the moon, and the sun,
For your comfort, and at your behest, run;
They toil continuously for your satisfaction,
Should not you halt, monitor your action?"

Monument of Saadi on Golestan square in Shiraz


Chief among these works is Goethe's West-Oestlicher Divan. Andre du Ryer was the first European to present Saadi to the West, by means of a partial French translation of Gulistan in 1634. Adam Olearius followed soon with a complete translation of the Bustan and the Gulistan into German in 1654.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was also an avid fan of Sadi's writings, contributing to some translated editions himself. Emerson, who read Saadi only in translation, compared his writing to the Bible in terms of its wisdom and the beauty of its narrative.Saadi is well known for his aphorisms, the most famous of which adorns the entrance to the Hall of Nations of the UN building in New York with this call for breaking all barriers:
Of One Essence is the Human Race,
Thusly has Creation put the Base.
One Limb impacted is sufficient,
For all Others to feel the Mace.
The Unconcern'd with Others' Plight,
Are but Brutes with Human Face.


The tomb of Saadi in his mausoleum
More about Saadi
In his reference article entitled as Moments with Poet Saadai, Dr Saadat Noury wrote that, "Saadi died in his hometown of Shiraz. Even from the very early days after the poet's death, the tomb of Saadi in Shiraz became a place of pilgrimage to lovers of poetry and literature. The tomb was firstly renovated during Karim Khan Zand (1750-1779), and it was then greatly elaborated in 1952 during Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1941-1979). "The tomb of Saadi of Shiraz will scent of love, even a thousand years after his death". That line of poetry composed by Saadi, inscribed on the gate leading into the garden surrounding the tomb, welcomes all those who enter to pay homage to this master of the Persian Poetry and Literature".


Sa adi tomb

arabesque in ceiling of tomb


lovely flowers and trees in enclosure of tomb



Wirting by Amin,on 4 February 2010.

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