Selected Poems by Qurratu'l-`Ayn, Nabil, and other BabisE.G. Browne
published in Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, pages 323-358
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1918
SELECTED POEMS BY QURRATU'L-`AYN,
The following Persian poem was given to me in manuscript by the late Shaykh Ahmad Rúhí of Kirmán, the ill-fated son-in-law and follower of Subh-i-Azal, who told me that the poem (of which, so far as I know, no other copy exists) was composed by Qurratu'l-`Ayn, and that the manuscript which I now publish is in her own handwriting1. Without being able to guarantee either of these assertions, I am inclined to credit them, for the poem is evidently by a Bábí, and the handwriting appears to be a woman's, closely resembling that of a letter from Qurratu'l-`Ayn to Mullá Shaykh `Ali (called Janáb-i- Azím) given to me by Subh-i-Azal, and reproduced in fac- simile, with printed text and translation, in my translation of the New History (pp.434- 441). The two or three other poems ascribed to her are ghazals written in the Kámil metre. This, on the other hand, is a mathnawí of the kind known as Sáqí-náma, or Invocations to the Cup-bearer, such as Háfiz and other lyrical poets have written.
1 It was enclosed in a letter written from Constantinople on Sept. 19, 1892, and received by me five days later. The writer says that in response to his request his friends in Persia had sent one leaf in "the blessed writing of Janáb-i- Táhira, who herself transcribed some of her works."
1 This is perhaps an allusion to Qurratu'l-`Ayn's title
Janáb-i-Táhira ("Her Holiness the Pure").
1 There may be an allusion here to the Bábí assembly at Bahásht, where the meeting of Qurratu'l-`Ayn and Janáb-i-Quddús was hailed as "the conjunction of the Sun and Moon." See New History, p. 359, n. 2 ad calc.
1 The rare Azalí controversial work entitled (see
J.R.A.S. for 1892, pp.680-697) complains that Bahá'u'lláh, not content with making
himself God, and even a "Creator of gods," assigns the latter title "even to his meanest servants."
It quotes the Bahá'í poet Nabíl as saying:
Though Qurratu'l-`Ayn's fame as a poetess is considerable, I know only two other poems commonly ascribed to her, both ghazals composed in the Kámil metre, which, though common in Arabic, is little used in Persian save by a few mystical poets like Jámí. Both of these poems are very fine, being only marred by the incorrectedness of the Arabic phrases which they contain„-a defect only too common in Babi writings. In spite of this I think them worth preserving, and, though I have published both of them before, the first in the J.R.A.S. for 1899 (Vol.xxi,pp.936-7 and 991-2) and the second in my edition and translation of the Traveller's Narrative (Vol.ii,pp.314-316), I here reprint them, together with the versified translations, in which I have made a few trifling alterations.
The thralls of yearning love constrain in the bonds of
While his eyes demolish a faith in vain attacked by theThe second of these two odes or ghazals is as follows:
1 i.e. the religion of Islam, which, having survived
the terrible Tartar or Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century, fell before the Báb
The effulgence of thy face flashed forth and the rays of thy1 See Qur'án vii, 171. The meaning is, "If you claim to be God, we will all accept your claim."
2 There is a play on the word balá, which means "yea" and also "affliction."
3 Salá, which I have translated "hail," means a general invitation or summons.
4 i.e. the Imám Husayn, of whom several of the Bábí leaders claimed to be a "Return." See p. 338 supra.
When he heard my death-dirge drear, for me he prepared,There is another Bábí poem in the same metre and rhyme which is sometimes ascribed to Qurratu'l-`Ayn, but more often, and with greater probability, to Nabíl of Zarand, who at one time advanced a "claim" on his own behalf, but afterwards became the devoted follower and, if the term may be permitted, the poet-laureate of Bahá'u'lláh. This poem I published with a prose translation in the J.R.A.S. for 1892, pp.323-5, together with another, a tarkíb-band of unknown authorship, in praise of Bahá'u'lláh. Its boastful character may be judged by the three following verses, which are not devoid of a certain grandeur:
1 i.e. "Thou art a mere tiny scale on the smallest fish of the Ocean of Being, and even the Leviathans of that Ocean can but proclaim their own insignificance and non-existence."
If anyone walks in my path I will cry to him that he may beYet a fourth poem in the same rhyme and Kámil metre, of uncertain authorship, occurs in a manuscript (BBP.7) which I brought back from Persia, and which is described in the J.R.A.S. for 1892, pp.444-9; and I have copies of several more contained in a manuscript bearing the classmark P.92 kindly lent to me many years ago by the late M. Ch. Schefer, to whom it belonged. Indeed it would be easy to compile a fair-sized anthology of Bábí poems, but in
1 Or Saintship, for Wiláyat has both
meanings. Amongst the Arabs he who would seek the protection of some great Shaykh or
Amír catches hold of one of the cords of his tent, crying Aná
dakhíluk! "I place myself under the protection!"
this place I shall only add two of the best, both by Nabíl. The first is a very fine address to Bahá'u'lláh, in the same Kámil metre for which the Bábís show so marked a predilection. The following English rendering of the five opening verses, intended to give some idea of the form as well as the sense of the original, was read before the Persia Society on April 26, 1912, and was afterwards published for them by Mr. John Hogg of 13, Paternoster Row.
Though the Night of Parting endless seem as thy nigh-black hair,
There is another poem by Nabíl which, though singularly devoid of literary merit, is valuable for its contents, since it gives a chronology of Bahá'u'lláh's life from his birth on Muharram 2, 1233 (=Nov. 12,1817) to his arrival at `Akká on the 12th of Jumádá 1, 1285 (=Aug. 30, 1868). This poem, which comprises 19 stanzas, was written a year and four months later, in Shábán, 1286 (=Nov.-Dec. 1869), when Bahá'u'lláh was 54 years of age, and Nabíl himself, as he informs us in the last stanza, just 40, so that he must have been born about 1246/1830-1. The dates given in this poem, which I published with a translation in the J.R.A.S. for 1889, pp.983-990, agree for the most part with those given by Mírzá Muhammad Jawád in the first section of this book.
Muhammadan compilers of anthologies and memoirs of poets generally ignore the Bábí poets, but a short notice is devoted to Qurratu'l-`Ayn in the Tadhkiratu'l-Khawátin, or "Memoirs of illustrious women," lithographed at Bombay in 1306/1888 pp.155-157. It contains, however, no new facts.