Sarkhosh update

Although it may only be of interest to one other person in the entire world (and one who, no doubt, stopped paying attention months ago), I’m sticking with Sarkhosh to the bitter end. What better use of the internet than as a storehouse of obsessive detail? After all, given that the Wookieepedia can exist, there appears to be nothing the internet will not tolerate.

That old edition of Sarkhosh’s divan actually provides a much more detailed description of his early life. It’s unusual for an older edition to be more informative and reflects badly on the editor of the modern version. Usually when compiling a new edition, you want to pack it chock full of detail in order to justify publishing something which is already on the shelves. So you go back to the earlier editions, the biographies, the what have you and you compile the ne plus ultra of biographical introductions. Not our man. “Brevity…etc.” was his motto.

This earlier fellow, though, actually knew Sarkhosh and fills in the gaps (actually, considering he wrote first, he paved the way. Then the later editor came along and dug some potholes). Sarkhosh, he tells us, was the third of four brothers. The eldest, Mirza Muhammad Ali,* was the one who studied under Mulla Hadi Sabzvari in Dezful. During a visit home to Tafresh, Muhammad decided to take the young Sarkhosh under his wing and the two traveled together to Tehran.

“I heard [Sarkhosh] say several times that “Hakim shaped me from raw materials and he was my father in spirit. He bequeathed me his forty years of learning and experience.”

In 1295 q. [1878], their father died at the age of 66 and Sarkhosh travelled back to Tafresh. It was at that time that he entered his uncle’s service at the ministerial office of Luristan and Arabistan (now Khuzistan. It’s in the south-west and borders Iraq – thus “Arab”istan). After 10 years there, he became homesick and headed back to Tehran via Dezful.  At the time of writing this introduction (1316/1899), the editor says, Sarkhosh had been working at the British Embassy for eight years. Let’s see, does that work out? 1295+10=1305+8=1313…yeah, close enough, given travel time.

The two hung out in Tehran and the editor says he was often present as Sarkhosh composed his poems, the best of which were ghazals.  He did not deal in panegyrics and “he only mounted the steed of speech to ride on the fields of love and emotion.” So it’s unlikely we’ll learn anything about his political leanings from his verse. In addition to this divan, he also composed a masnavi “The Ball and Mallet” (a poetic reference to polo – the bewildered lover is knocked hither and yon by the beloved/polo mallet. Other, better-known, poets have composed similar works), and another masnavi called “Shikaristan”.

I’m tired. I asked someone smarter than myself today if they had ever heard of this Sarkhosh guy and they said no, so I’m not the only one.

* Interesting thing about the name/title “Mirza”, which literally means “Prince”, from “Amirzadah”. During the Qajar period, if it was a literal title, “Prince Abbas”, it came after the name : Abbas Mirza. If it was just a sort of fancy “Mister”, it came before, as in Mirza Muhammad Ali. So you could tell in an instant if you were in the presence of royalty. Under earlier rulers – Timurids and Safavids, etc. – the literal title could come before or after. Or so says Mr. Mo’in, anyway (see “mirza” in Mo’in’s Farhang-i Farsi).

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About M.C. Smith

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

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