Page 14 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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In all his poetical writings, Shahin has taken over the typical
features of the Persian poetic art and applied the patterns, forms,
technique, meter and language of Persian classical poetry, particu­
larly that of Firdusi and Nizami, to the representation of Israel’s
religious heroes and events as told in the Biblical narrative.
By selecting Jewish themes as the subject of his poetry and by
celebrating the heroes of the Bible in a way typical of Persian
classical poetry, Shahin has indeed produced the most typical
literary monument of the centuries-long association of Jews with
Iran. In the memory of Persian speaking Jews all over the Eastern
diaspora, Shahin is admired as “Our Master Shahin of Shiraz”
(Maulana Shahin Shirazi), and hailed as the founder of Judeo-
Persian poetry.
By writing his poetry in the Hebrew script, however, Shahin
prevented his work from becoming known in Muslim-Persian
literary circles and thus never gained admittance to the annals of
Persian literature.
Two centuries later another Judeo-Persian poet appeared in
Shiraz, the birthplace of Shahin, in the person of Imrani. Inspired
by Shahin’s poetical epic of the Jewish past, Imrani made the
post-Mosaic period, the historical books of the Bible including
Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings up to the time of David and
Solomon, the subject of his poetical presentation. His major work,
Fath-Nameh (The Book of the Conquest), was composed around
1523; followed by Ganj-Nameh (The Book of the Treasures), a
free poetical paraphrase and commentary of the first four chapters
of the Mishnah treatise Pirke Abot (Sayings of the Fathers).
That type of Judeo-Persian poetry was continued by Rabbi
Yahuda Lari, of the city of Lar, at the beginning of the 16th
century. Only a small part of his verses have been preserved,
from his Makhsan al-Pand (The Treasure House of Exhortation).
Classical Persian Poetry in Hebrew Translation
There were also Persian Jews who took a keen interest in the
literary and poetical works of their Muslim neighbors and who
deeply admired the classical Persian poetry of a Firdusi, a Nizami,
Rumi, Sa'di, Hafiz, Jami and others. In order to introduce selec­
tions of these literary products into the Jewish camp they trans­
literated the Persian texts into the Hebrew script while retaining
the language, meter and rhyme of the original Persian poetry.
Through this remarkable process a new branch of Judeo-Persian
literature came into being.
Among the various types of Persian classical poetry, the romantic,
the lyrical and the didactic, these have been preserved: Chosroe