Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Anna Francis: Oral Culture and Poetry Response 3

Anna Francis

Professor Mahallati

FYSP 181

16 October 2019

Anna Francis: Oral Culture and Poetry. Response 3

     This paper covers Person ode analysis, my experience with poem memorization, my improvement in calligraphy practice, and reflections on Persian music.

     “The Miracle of Spring,” written by Bahar, brings to light the triumphant, novelty, and revitalizing properties of the spring season. His poem gives the impression that spring is a spirit that never dies and exists buried beneath the “frozen fingers [of] December’s clouds outspread” (106). He also hints that spring is triumphant, as it “surges anew and vital through the upstanding trees… the spreading tulips arise… mountains seize, the eager lily leaps to delight the eye” (Ibid). 

     A line that stood out the most read “Under the nodding willow the poppy lies in blood – Sudden the blow that smote her, drenched her in crimson flood” (107). Monsoons were a prominent element of the ancient Indian subcontinent that disrupted the regularity of the people’s lives. Because of this, the ancient Hindus attributed floods to the symbol of change. On another note, Christians believed that floods cleansed the world of the evil that god created as seen in the story of Noah’s ark. Bahar then writes, “And now… in mingled hue note how the lily argent with lily azure glows” (Ibid).  Thus, spring is a powerful, cosmic force that revitalizes, triumphs, and facilitates change. 

     “The Branding,” written by Farrokhi, exhibits the contradiction between freedom and subjugation as well as between peace and tension. His poem begins by with a lyrical description of the beauties and wonders of nature, from the “gardens all chameleon-coated, branches with chameleon whorls” (95) to the “pearly-lustrous pools around us, clouds above us raining pearls”(Ibid). He assigns nature with human qualities, such as the mountains that “wrap their brows in silken veils of seven hues” and the “human-like five-fingered hands [that] reach downwards from the sycamore” (Ibid). His descriptive poetry emphasizes the breathtaking richness of the earth.

     “The Branding” gradually shifts focus from the beauty of nature to the nature of humans. “On the gleaming plain this coat of many colors doth appear… Like a fort within a fortress spreads the army tent on tent… Tents resound with clink of glasses as the pages pour the wine” (Ibid). This shift in topic from nature to human society brings to light the passage of time. The natural land and its counterparts – the trees, mountains, rivers – existed before humans arrived and molded it to their convenience and benefit.  

      Farrokhi concludes his poem with the line, ”But, though on one side [the king] brands, he giveth also rich rewards… binds his guests as though with cords.” Binding implies taking possession of or marking one’s territory. In this quote, the king takes ownership over his subjects and maintains them under his rule. He “leads his poets with a bridle,” which speaks to the power he possesses. A bridle is headgear that is placed around a horse with a bit inserted into its mouth to create discomfort when the rider tugs on it. Farrokhi gives the impression that the king “rides” on poets’ poetry about their loyalty for him. He depends on their words of worship, but will not hesitate to pull the reins if a poet strays from his conception of how one must treat royalty. 

      Learning how to pronounce arabic words taught me about the importance of tone and rhythm in the language. To elucidate, the line “Mayāz o manāz o matāz o marānj” places an accent on the second “a” on every word, which gives the sentence a quick, swinging pulse.   

     Memorizing arabic poetry has also given me a taste of Persian culture and way of life. According to Fatiha Guessabi, professor in language and humanities at the University of Bechar, language highlights the culture of particular social groups. “Learning a language, therefore, is not only learning the alphabet, the meaning, the grammar rules, and the arrangement of words, but it is also learning the behavior of the society and its cultural customs” (Guessabi). Persian poetry teaches me that Persians held a strong ethos of moral code and ethics.

      As I continue my calligraphy practice, I have noticed that the grip on my calligraphy marker comes more naturally to me. Before practice, I used to grip it the way I was familiar with holding a pencil. The index finger applied pressure on the top of the sharpie while both the thumb and middle finger held it in place. When I learned the proper calligraphy grip, I realized the differences between holding a pencil and a calligraphy marker. Calligraphy requires that the entire hand moves along with the sharpie rather than only the fingers. In a way, calligraphy is a dance that presents itself on paper. 

      My calligraphy practice also shows improvement in my construction of letters. When practicing earlier in the semester, I unintentionally applied the muscle memory that I acquired from writing in Mandarin, Chinese. I angled letters, such as “what and what,” rather than following its proper circular shape. Now, my letters are more rounded and natural-looking. 

     The Ranaei family presents a dense instrumentation of Persian instruments that play for the majority of the piece. With their quick paced, jouncy music, they evoke tension and imitate the feeling of an adrenaline rush. On the other hand, Ute Aminikhah-Bergmann and Vanessa Cetin present a softer, slower version of the song that evokes feelings of comfort and a sense of peace. 

     The instruments in Shahriar play for short periods of time before giving way to the strong male voice that formats the entirety of the song. Unlike the songs by the Ranaei family and Bergmann and Cetin, Shahriar consists of periods of silence in which neither the instruments play nor the singer sings. “A few beats of silence can raise a listener’s expectation of what is about to come” (AAJ), therefore silence creates anticipation. 

      Rudaki also forces the audience to focus on the vocals, but rather than filling only brief pockets of time in the song like in Shahriar, the instruments play continuously. The dense instrumentation is comprised of deep, bass instruments that bring forth the various vocals in the piece.

Works Cited

AAJ Staff. “The Role of Silence in Music.” All About Jazz, 9 Feb. 2005,

Arberry, A.J., editor. Persian Poems: An Anthology of Verse Translations. Yassavoli 

Publications, 2005.

“Bani Adam Azaye Yekdigarand – بنی آدم اعضای یکدیگرند.” HooniakTV,

Guessabi, Fatiha. “Blurring the Line between Language and Culture.” Language Magazine

Khaleqi, Ruhollah, director. Shahriar (You Came, By Why so Late). Youtube, Iranian National 

News Agency,

Ranaei, Shooresh, director. “Bani Adam,” Youtube, Ranaei Family Ensemble

 بنی آدم” گروه خانواده رعنایی”. Ranaei Family Ensemble.

“Rudaki (The Aroma of Mulian River).” Youtube,

I have adhered to the Honor Code on this assignment. Anna Francis.

Leave a Reply