The Poet’s Heart

Malek al-Sho'ara BaharOnce again lacking the energy to produce something new, I thought I’d share excerpts from an essay by Bahar that I’m translating.  It’s remarkable in several aspects. First, at the time of writing (early 1920’s), essays in general, and particularly those expressing the author’s inner feelings, were a rarity in Persian letters. Second, it is part of Bahar’s “Anonymous” series, which includes some of his most famous and most popular poems. The Pigeon poem from the earlier post is one of this series. Almost all of the anonymous material includes innovations in form and content that Bahar may have been slightly uncomfortable with and therefore chose to hide his identity. Not very well, it turns out, since they were published in his own newspaper, for the most part. One of the joys of studying the work of Bahar is that he seemingly wrote down everything he thought. So, here’s some of the opening portion of the essay.

(Standard disclaimer: this is a first draft of the translation. Excuse the awkward English. )

The Poet’s Heart

How fortunate that my heart is hard like flint; I am not bothered by its complaining about the harshness of daily life.

I don’t know if my heart is the heart of a child, or if a child possesses a poet’s heart…

I suspect that all hearts are two forms made one. Thus, a child’s heart is uniform throughout. Later, the heart begins to change and differentiate itself. It grows larger, thicker, and harder, is less ready to believe, has fewer loves and rarely speaks the truth. It takes pleasure in vengeance and relishes revealing other people’s secrets, as if they were a fine wine. It has an immense patience for pointless chatter full of big words. It wishes courage on others, but claims the outcome for itself. It does not grieve over abuse received and has no qualms about lashing out at others. It prefers money over everything, even love itself. Their hearts become so big that they encompass millions of gold coins and the desire for millions more!

These hearts are truly great and, in my opinion, very useful; it is my belief that hearts such as these (of which I am deprived) are a natural gift.

[…]

I was not afflicted with the overwhelming grief which is the sign of deep affection, nor was I swept away by great joy. Rather, I was entwined in a placid, thoughtful silence, both painful and pleasurable. I was like a half-concious patient, whose deep wounds had been skillfully treated and who has been reassured he shall not die.

[…]

Why do I find nothing pleasing?

Why do I accept nothing unreservedly on faith?

Why can I accept nothing as true?

Why do I consider myself and all created things to be transient, unworthy, laughable, even impossible?

Why is it that with money, I care as little about acquiring it as I do about having it taken from me?

Why am I so quick to anger and forgive, and why does it take me so long to forget?

Why does every little happenstance linger in the depths of my heart, and why do I not seek revenge?

And in the end, why do I mock myself so?

Why have I drowned in myself rather than finding solace?

Why do I flee from affectations, and why does leisure and pleasure bore me so?

Why am I so vexed by all the talking and having to listen to all the talking? If I am lazy, then why do I have no trouble with all my writing and reading and rushing to and fro?

[…]

At times I think perhaps this is a sign that my capacity to love has reached its end. But then I see my children and family and feel a love akin to madness; I would give my life for theirs.

[…]

Regarding my writings, I view them with suspicion which grows with public approval. I consider them acceptable only with great caution. I am as unwilling to read my poems before the public as I am willing to hear the people’s own nonsensical works! I am only satisfied with praise for my poetry or prose which comes in my absence, but even then I don’t consider it to be true.

[…]

I imagine that when God created the poet, he left something out of his heart. When the poet arose, God saw that he was deficient, so He gave the poet a gift that his heart would not be broken and he would be somewhat prepared for life. That gift was the poetic temperment.

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About M.C. Smith

translatingpersian@gmail.com View all posts by M.C. Smith

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