Malik al-Shu‘ara Bahar

Bahar, Muhammad Taqi Malik al-Shu’ara’ (1887-1951), son of Hajj Muhammad Kazim Saburi, thinker, writer, scholar, poet, journalist, parliament member, minister, university professor, academician, with the nom de plume and title of Bahar and Malik al-Shu’ara’ (poet laureate) respectively. His father, Muhammad Kazim Saburi was the poet laureate of the Astan-i Quds-i Razavi and his mother, Hajiyyih Sakina Khanum, was a pious woman hailing from a noble Georgian family captured, brought to Persia, and converted to Islam in the battles waged between Persia and Russia under ‘Abbas Mirza. His paternal grandfather, Hajj Muhammad Baqir Kashani was the son of Hajj ‘Abd al-Qadir Kharabaf, a resident of Kashan, and his maternal ancestors were Georgian nobles. Bahar was born in the neighborhood of Sarshur in Mashhad. He began his education at the age of four. His teacher was his aunt (his paternal uncle’s wife). He learned to read the Qur’an well. He attended boys’ school at the age of six and he was able to read the Qur’an and Persian texts. He read the Shahnama with his father at the age of seven. Reading the Shahnama and Rashid Watwat’s Sad Kalima as a textbook served as a good practice for his poetical talent as he could versify poems in the Mutaqarib meter at that time. He composed ghazals and lampoons for his classmates at the primary school. It was at the age of ten that he traveled to the Holy Shrines with his parents, six year old sister, and two year old brother. He began his primary education by learning Arabic and Persian and then proceeded with literary texts. He attended the teaching circles held by Siyd ‘Ali Khan Dargazi. It was at the suggestion of Nasir al-Mulk Shirazi, custodian of the Astan-i Quds, and his father, Malik al-Shu’ara’ Saburi, that Mushir al-Dawla, the governor of Khurasan, granted him the title Thiqat al-Islam and a stipend in kind and in cash. After his father’s death, he furthered his studies under Adib Nayshaburi and studied Arabic with the teachers of the Nawwab School. Impressed by Adib, he turned towards the Khurasani Style. He was awarded the title of poet laureate (malik al-shu’ara’) by Muzaffar al-Din Shah at the age of 19. He embarked upon his political and journalistic career in his youth and remained in politics to his last days. He joined constitutionalists in 1906 and became a member of the Society for the Felicity of Khurasan (Anjuman-i Sa’adat-i Khurasan). He published a newspaper, entitled the Khurasan, with Sayyid Husayn Ardabili during the Lesser Despotism (Istibdad-i Saghir) in which he published his poetry under the nom de plume Ra’is al-Tullab (Head of Seminarians). He began contributing to national periodicals from the time of  the conquest of Tehran and published his first political and social articles in the Tus periodical and some articles of his were anonymously published in the Habl al-Matin. He published the Naw Bahar newspaper and the Tazih Bahar weekly in 1910 and 1911. He was selected as a member of the National Consultative Assembly in 1914 and departed for Tehran. He founded the Danishkadih Literary Society (Anjuman-i Adabi-yi Danishkadih) and the Danishkadih journal in 1917. He reissued the Naw Bahar newspaper in the same year. He was appointed the director of the semi-official Iran newspaper in 1919. He was selected in 1914 as the parliament member representing the democrats of Khurasan and the people of Kalat, Dargaz, and Sarakhs, but his credentials were rejected and it was after six months of the efforts of the people of Khurasan that he could attend the third parliament. He was sent into exile several times. Two major events occurred in his life in the years 1915-1919: foundation of the Danishkadih Society (Anjuman-i Danishkadih), aiming at establishing harmony between tradition and modern day developments; the Danishkadih monthly, 12 issues of which appeared as the organ of the society raising mainly literary and modernist claims. Besides him, other writers, e.g. ‘Abbas Iqbal Ashtiyani, Ghulamriza Rashid Yasami, Sa’id Nafisi, and Sardar Mu’azzam Khurasani (Tiymurtash) contributed to it. Bahar and his collegues made significant contributions to the development of Persian prose by their political and literary articles and what had commenced by Dihkhuda and some other writers was continued by Bahar and his colleagues. Consequently, the highly florid prose of the Qajar period turned into the modern, fluent prose and the Persian language was thereby equipped with better expression of scientific concepts and material. The other event relates to Bahar’s personal life. He married Sudabih Safdari, from the Qajar line, in 1918. This brave and patient woman tolerated all the hardships during Bahar’s politically turbulent career, exiles, confinements, persecutions, and ailments and managed their family affairs with praiseworthy fortitude and resourcefulness. Bahar was selected as a member of the fifth parliament from Bujnurd, his former place of exile. He represented Turshiz (Kashmar), Bajistan, Kuh Surkh, and its adjacent regions in the fifth parliament and together with Mudarris opposed Reza Khan in reverting to the monarchy. Bahar represented the people of Tehran in the sixth parliament. Together with some Iranian scholars, e.g. Sa’id Nafisi, Rashid Yasami, and Kasravi, he studied the Pahlavi language with Herzfel, the distinguished Iranologist. It was at his suggestion that a course was offered on this language. He was not content with studying the language, but translated some Pahlavi texts into Persian prose and verse and conducted a comparative study of Middle and New Iranian languages. Relying on such solid ground, he included in the modules of the Teachers’ Training College (Dar al-Mu’allimin-i ‘Ali), his suggested courses, including Pahlavi texts, differences between pre-Islamic and post-Islamic prosody, prosodic features of Fahlawiyyat, differences between the Pahlavi language with Ferdowsi’s language. His suggested modules included the effects of political and intellectual events and trends in the advancement and development of sciences and their impacts on belles-lettres as well as discussions on the literary period of Constitutionalism and the new terms and compositions finding their way in time from the press to Persian language and literature. Bahar was appointed Minister of Education in 1945. He taught at the Teachers’ Training College and the Faculty of Letters, University of Tehran to his last year. He traveled to Switzerland for the treatment of tuberculosis, but returned to Tehran after a while and engaged himself in writing, studying, and composing poetry. He received a six month leave from the University of Tehran in 1950. He spent his last days feverish and weak, but perfectly conscious. Finally he died on Sunday 21 April and was buried in the Zahir al-Dawla Cemetery (Gulab Darrih). Bahar’s works in prose and verse are diverse, ranging from traditional poetry in different genres and poetry in regional dialects to lyrics (tasnif, taranih), articles, political and critical speeches, scholarly treatises, dramas, informal and formal epistles, critical edition of texts, translations made from the Pahlavi into Persian, stylistics of prose and verse, grammar, history of political parties, introductions to books, annotations on texts, particularly the Shahnama. His most significant work is his Divan, unpublished in his lifetime. However, he is the last distinguished poet composing elegant qasidas. Sabkshinasi ya Tarikh-i Tatawwur-i Nathr-i Farsi (Stylistics or History of Development of Persian Prose) is his most significant scholarly work, the fruit of 30 years of research and teaching, which is still unsurpassed. He accorded independence and identity to this domain of literary sciences. He had also written parts of a work devoted to stylistics of poetry, which he had taught for years and he had been commissioned by the Education Ministry to compile a work on it, but the severity of tuberculosis deprived him of the opportunity to complete it; nonetheless, the notes taken in his classes appeared under the title Tarikh-i Tatawwur-i Shi’r-i Farsi (History of Development of Persian Poetry). Concerning the latter work, ‘Abd al-Husayn Zarrinkub says that he standardized the features of schools of Persian poetry and later works are but repetitions of and commentaries on Bahar’s work. He made significant contributions to the standard traditional grammar book entitled Panj Ustad (Five Professors), particularly his contributions to the discussions on verb, distinction between present and past stems and their different categories are innovative. In his teaching sessions on prose stylistics, he introduced novel grammatical discussions and insisted that he would test the students on the same discussions in their stylistics final exam. His compositions, critical editions, and translations include: Chahr Khitaba in verse; Andarz-ha-yi Adharbad-i Marispandan (versified translation from the Pahlavi original); versified rendering of Ayadigar-i Zariran from Pahlavi; Zindigani-yi Mani; Fath’ali Khan Saba’s Gulshan-i Saba; Tarikh-i Sistan; Risalih-yi Nafs-i Arastu tarjumih-yi Baba Afzal Kashani; Mujmal al-Tawarikh wa ‘l-Qisas; Tarikh-i Mukhtasar-i Ahzab-i Siyasi (2 vols.); Awfi’s Muntakhab-i Jawami’ al-Hikayat wa Lawami’ al-Riwayat; Dastur-i Zaban-i Farsi; Tarikh-i Bal’ami.

His literary and academic articles were published in different periodicals in his life time or posthumously, including Naw Bahar; Mihr; Iran; Danishkadih; Bakhtar; Armaghan; Ta’lim va Tabiyat; Danish; Jahan-i Naw; Yaghma; Amuzish va Parvarish; Nigin; the Gulha-yi Rangarang; Payam-i Naw; Namih-yi Farhangistan; Firdawsi; the Ayandih; Arman; Mihr-i Iran; Iran Namih; Sukhan. These articles treat of linguistics, literature, history, etymology, grammar, script; biographical accounts of political and religious figures; critical edition of texts (literary criticism); poetical criticism; and epistles. His tasnifs include: Surudih-yi Bahar; Bahar-i Dilkash; Bad-i Saba bar Gul Gudhar Kun; Iy Shahanshah; Iy Dil-i Shikastih; Nihadih Kishvar-i Dil Baz Ru bih Virani; Gar Raqib Ayad; Iran Hingam-i Kar; Zi man Nigaram; Pardih zi Rukh Barafkan; Surud-i Pahlavi; ‘Arus-i Gul; Murgh-i Sahar. His poetry has been rendered into English and Russian. In a collection entitled Press and Poetry in Modern Persia, Edward Browne published selections of Bahar’s poetry in English with commentary. His poetry was translated together with selected works of other Persian poets by Arberry in Persian Poetry. Bahar also wrote a drama entitled Tarbiyat-i Na’ahl. Bahar is a multi-dimensional figure whose most significant dimension is his artistic one. In the history of Persian literature, Bahar is the most outstanding figure among his contemporary poets. He also stands out among contemporary poets composing in the classical style. He is the master of poesy par excellence. His collected poetry, Divan, is truly his autobiography in verse reflecting the events of his times. He composed poetry in simple and difficult rhymes, radifs, and rhythms. His poetry includes all genres, ranging from qasida to musammat, tarji’band, tarkib-band, qit’a, ghazal, mathnavi, quatrain, and twin couplet. He is a qasida composer of vigor. Some of his poems are unrivalled in Persian poetry. He is a master of depicting scenery, characters, scenes of life, situations, qualities, and political and social milieus. Bahar is also a master par excellence of employment of poetical figures. He intertwines the Khurasani and ‘Iraqi styles. His poetry is reminiscent of the Khurasani poets in terms of splendor, musicality, and vigor and it recalls the ‘Iraqi poets in terms of delicate themes and fluency of expression. Events and incidents of his times are reflected in his poetry. Bahar is unsurpassed by his contempory poets in maintaining poetry in its befitting position. His prose also reflects numerous masterly pieces reflecting his artistry and bravery. His best work in prose is the Sabkshinasi (Stylistics) in which he works wonders in his compact and comprehensive depictions of events, e.g. the invasions of the Ghuzz army or in introducing some masterpieces of Persian classics, like. Sa’di’s Gulistan. Bahar is an exalted writer, a skillful journalist, and creator of fluent, but simple compositions who introduced a novel style by making use of Persian metaphors and poetical compositions.

Asar-afarinan (2, 78-79); Tarikh-i Adabiyyat dar Iran (2, 240-242); Danishnama-yi Jahan-i Islam (13, 86-92); Sukhanvaran-i Nami-yi Mu’asir-i Iran (1, 585-594); Sharh-i Hal-i Rijal (4, 350); Sad Sal Shi’ir-i Khurasan (134-155).