I’m going to cheat a little and give you a poem that I translated long ago. It’s hot, after all, and there’s beer in the fridge that could use some drinking. This is by Malek al-Sho’ara Muhammad Taqi Bahar, the poet who exemplifies the trials and tribulations of 20th century Iran in its struggle to adopt constitutional government. “Why, Matt,” I hear you ask, “Isn’t that the same poet about whom you wrote your dissertation?” Indeed it is, thanks for noticing. This poem has nothing to do with nationalism, the context in which he is usually discussed, but it does have a lot to do with pigeons. Pigeon-keeping is an Iranian hobby with ancient roots. Maybe some day I’ll look it up and tell you what those roots are. Iranian pigeons are more like doves than the grey birds we know (apparently, doves and pigeons are pretty much one and the same. Who knew?). I have a very fond memory of watching the rooftop pigeon keepers in Tehran from the window of my highrise hotel room, as a man stood among a flock of birds while two more climbed into the sky, doing a sort of twirling dance, and then came back to rest at his feet. This is taken from the most recent edition of his divan, v.1, p.365. (eventually, I’ll get around to including Persian text and citations).
Come, beloved pigeons,
with your camphor-colored bodies, your vermillion feet,
fly from the roof and all at once
drift down around me like snow.
At dawn, when the golden bird
scatters its feathers from the eastern tower,
I see you display your loveliness,
raising your heads from behind the door’s glass.
Singing your innocent song from on high,
coyly fanning your tails
with the morning breeze, I hear
love-tidings in your cooing.
At dawn, you begin, slowly, calmly,
those delicate celestial songs.
You send a message to those in love
at every moment, with tongues that know no speech.
Prepare yourselves, as do new brides;
I open the door of your nest and
the roar of your wings at that moment
travels from the house into the streets and neighborhoods.
It’s as if the door of highest paradise were opening
when I open that door to you
You fly, quick as angels
up towards Heaven, wings paired as if sewn to one another.
According to ancient peoples,
angels descend from the heavenly sphere.
But you angels take to the sky from the roof,
soaring to wondrous heights.
From you, under any circumstances,
even if you are left without water and seed,
comes no crying, no clamor
nothing but a loving, fetching song.
Come down, friends, from off your perches,
wing beating wing, dancing about;
come sit quiet on this roof
for there is no one here but me.
Come, loyal friends,
I have scattered seed here for you.
For although the sight of you makes me sorrow,
it is far better than seeing my own kind, below, in the streets.