‘Eshqi, again

A long time ago, I wrote about a writer named Mirzadeh ‘Eshqi, here and here. Well, now I’m doing it again. Here are several excerpts from his collected works (bibliographical reference is below). First a portion of Muhammad Ishaq’s biographical sketch, then an excerpt from “The Death of ‘Eshqi” by Malek al-Shu’ara Bahar, followed by two of ‘Eshqi’s poems. Translating poetry never makes me happy. It takes a poet to write a poem, so lacking that, I’ve just tried to make it readable and fairly literal. He’s not a fancy writer, so I think it fits reasonably well. Still, if you find yourself thinking he wasn’t much of a poet, put the blame squarely on me. I can take it.

Muhammad Ishaq, from “A Spirit Overflowing and A Style All His Own”

Mir Muhammad Riza, pen name ‘Eshqi, was the son of Haji Sayyid Abu al-Qasim Kurdistani. He was born on 12 Jumada al-thani 1312 Hijri qamari [10 December 1894] in Hamadan. He took his elementary Persian studies at the local school in Hamadan and also learned French at the Alliance school. He later spent time in Esfahan and Tehran. At the start of World War I, he traveled to Constantinople with a group of Iranian exiles, staying there for several years while attending classes in philosophy and sociology from time to time at the Bab ‘Ali academy. Later, he returned to Hamadan and then went to Tehran.

In 1333, ‘Eshqi started publishing the newspaper Namah-i ‘Eshqi [‘Eshqi’s Letter] in Hamadan and then started the paper Qarn-i Bistum [20th Century] in 1339 [1921]. But this paper was very short-lived. It closed after the seventeenth issue. Although it started up again several years later, it was shut down by the government, as was ‘Eshqi himself by two unidentified assailants!

Bahar, from “The Death of ‘Eshqi”

‘Eshqi was a young man between twenty-six and twenty-seven years old. I saw him in Tehran in 1333 [1914]. In those days, ‘Eshqi didn’t compose poetry but he was writing very good prose. His talent for poetry appeared while he was in exile [in Turkey]. I saw him once again when he was writing poetry after he returned…Unjust Fate cannot see a young man of feeling these days who is firm in his beliefs and his politics and loves his country without tearing him to pieces like a fresh blossom, trampling him underfoot and throwing him away.”

‘Eshqi foresaw his own death. A month and a half before that date, underneath the black sky on the Abbasabad plain, he said to me:

“They are going to kill me.”

And we exchanged a parting kiss.

Twenty days before this, he had dreamed of someone gunning him down in Shemiran. The police were called and they took him to a ruined house. Dirt began to pour in through the cracks in the walls and ‘Eshqi was buried within.

He described this dream several times for me, including on the day before his death. A friend of ours who wrote for another newspaper was also there that day, and ‘Eshqi repeated,

“They are going to kill me.”

They gunned ‘Eshqi down on Thursday morning.

The Effect of Speech

I heard about a writer long ago
Wise and pure of thought
Composed a note with his wonderful pen
And disgraced the Shah of the age
That satire gained such currency
That the Shah feared for his crown
He commanded that the letter be burned
And the writer’s lips sewed shut
They took no pity on him
They threw his poems into the fire
It chanced that at that moment a strong wind
Blew a spark onto the Shah’s robe
The Shah took to his heels in fright
But a nail caught his robe
The nail sewed the tyrant to the throne
Making sure he would burn where he sat
The curtains and throne all caught fire
And threw out sparks
In ten seconds, all had fallen into the clutches of the fire like the Shah
Then no one gave any thought to the Shah
Everyone ran to and fro thinking only of themselves
No one paid any attention to the Shah
In that moment, no one even knew who the Shah was
For the people in those dark and terrible days
Thought of everything but the Shah
The fire spoke in the voice of the Shah
Begging forgiveness of the writer
Saying, “If I burned your letter
Let this be recompense, that I burn too
Though I sewed your lips with a needle
Now my soul is sewn to this nail”
The sighs of the oppressed showed no surprise
As the Shah burned on the throne.

The Heart’s Desire

If they give me eternal life
Then put the king’s crown on my head
And give me a country
And an army at my command
Place beneath me a throne of gold
And make me a home in the best of palaces
Surround me at every moment
With two hundred rose-cheeked beauties
My days will pass in leisure
Let them raise their cups to me
Let the months and years pass without change
All the men of good fortune and rank
Will look on me with envy
If by and by someone should say to me
O you of good fortune
You dwell in such pleasure and luxury
What else can you expect from the world?
I would answer
What is happiness? Nothing.
What is happiness but unhappiness and nothing more
That very music and rejoicing
That surrounds me day and night
All this power and might
This stability and surety
This very success throughout the year
These months and years spent in love and life:
It is all worthless in that moment when
The heart sees what it wants but can not claim it for its own

All selections from :

کلیات میرزاده عشقی بکوشش سید هادی حائری تهران انتشارات جاویدن 1373

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About M.C. Smith

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

One response to “‘Eshqi, again

  • عصر طلایی مشروطه

    Could you please write this down in Persian (Muhammad Ishaq, from “A Spirit Overflowing and A Style All His Own”)

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