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The Ruins of Madain By Khagani Shirvani

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:02 pm    Post subject: The Ruins of Madain By Khagani Shirvani Reply with quote


Khagani Shirvani

The Ruins of Madain

My soul, come, draw lessons from life, look around…
A mirror to help you in old Madain can be found.

Beside the Dajla lie the ruins of great Madain.
The river's long banks with bitterest groaning resound.

More blood flows than water from Dajla's suffering eyes.
No tears touch its cheek, dried by flames that from
Smouldering ruins arise

See - the Tigris is foaming - foal curls on the lips of each wave…
How mournful those ruins burying hearts and their sighs!

The heart of the Tigris is burnt by sorrow and fear.
Can flames be so intense that the water itself they sear?

The river great tribute must pay every year to the sea,
So add your small part with a drop of your blood, not a tear.

Heave a sigh and the flame from your heart will divide the
Tigris's great stream -
Then one river of ice and another of lava will gleam.

The river enchained had to witness the end of this place,
It twisted and turned like a chain when it heard the last scream.

May their hearts draw men here! May the voice of the ruins prevail!
Let every heart hear at least one whispered word without fail!

It seems that those jagged-toothed ramparts hold precepts for men,
That they soon must be granted a tongue and will tell their own tale.

The owl's endless hoot makes my head ring as if with mad cries.
To sooth my discomfort the tears will soon start from my eyes.

All songs here are elegies. Nightingales here are all owls.
The cry Madain raised to heaven throughout the world flies.

This place speaks of chambers of justice once ruined by hate.
The throne fell to tyrants who rose unaware of their fate.

Was fortune or God's retribution the force that could shatter
The towers and bring down in ruins a palace so great?

Don't laugh at my tears in this dead place enveloped in palls -
A man would look foolish if he did not weep in such halls.

As mighty as Kufa was great Madain in its prime.
As lofty its towering fortress, as strong were its walls.

Though pity burns hot in your heart, of your judgement is cold,
You will see Madain in its beauty like Kufa of old.

Yes, once long ago Madain in its beauty was a work of great art.
The palace had gateways that blazed with mosaics and gold.

Here Babylon's king fulfilled orders that other men gave.
At Madain's court Turkestan's mighty khan was a slave.

From this spot was launched an attack on the lion of fate,
By that lion whose statue is standing here noble and brave.

Imagine this place that once held a whole land in its sway,
The fort as it was, not the ruins that lie here today.

The walls would say, 'Weep! For you, too, have good reason for sorrow.
To dust all must crumble and you, man, are just living clay!'

Dismount from your horse, for your lips to this earth you should press.
Here an elephant's foot crushed Ne'eman, the great master of chess.

Now elephants' castles by monarchs are no longer won,
For the elephant time marches on and brings kings to distress.

Time was hwen the shahs could bring elephants under their sway.
Now time checkmates shahs, they're like elephants gone far astray.

Here Nushiravan's blood was drunk by Ormuz from his skull.
The drink was so strong that it made Ormuz stagger and sway.

A moral was carved on the rim of the crown on his head.
In mine are now surging a thousand as yet still unsaid.

For mandarins Kesra was famed, for his splendour was Parvis.
They have long been forgotten and lie with the most humble dead.

For banquets great Parvis had greenery beaten from gold -
A golden-green garden! A wonderous sight to behold!

That ruler has gone and his plants made of gold are no more
Proclaim "Kemtaraku". His fate shall no longer be told!

You ask where such rulers have gone, since today there are none -
The earth has embraced all these kings, every shah and khagan.

Now pregnant with life, she conceived with greatest of ease,
But bearing new life she now finds is not easily done.

The wine pressed from grapes here is blood of Shirin
dripping red.
The peasants make pots from the body of Parvis long dead.

How many a despot and tyrant this earth has embraced!
Yet still she is yearning for more to recline in her bed.

That black-hearted earth with a snowy and mountainous head -
She rouges her cheeks with the blood that her children have shed!

Teach men, Khagani, how fickle is fortune and life
And let the khagans come to you and by wisdom be led.

Though dervishes wait at the gates of the shah for a gift
That shah one fine day like a dervish may have to make shift.

From Mecca come presents, but I sent my gift to Shirvan
From old Madain, may its moral men's spirit uplift.

The beads many count come from Jamra near Kabaa today
But yours should be made from the flesh of Salman turned to clay.

These vast flowing waters hold lessons - so drink while you may
Where two rivers unite as the Shatt - then set off on your way.

From journeys on far one should bring back a fine souvenir -
My friends, let my gift be the verses I offer you here.

Though seeming disordered my words have made mysteries clear,
Thus Isa also taught, half deranged by a single idea.

Translated by Tom Botting


Khagani Shirvani (1120-1194)


Khagani (real name, Afzaladdin Ibrahim-ibn Ali Nadjar), a great Azerbaijanian poet and thinker, a master of panegyric qasida was born in the family of a carpenter in Melgem, a village near Shamakhy. Khagani lost his father at an early age and was brought up by his uncle Kafietdin, a doctor and astronomer at the Shirvanshah’s palace, who for seven years till his death acted "both as nurse and tutor" to Khagani.

In his youth Khagani wrote under the pen-name Haqiqi, which means the seeker of truth. After he had been invited to the court of the Shirvanshah’s he assumed the pen-name of Khagani ("regal"). The life of a court poet palled on him, and he "fled from the iron cage where he felt like a bird with a broken wing" and set off a journey about the Middle East. His travels gave him material for his famous poem Tohvat-ul Iraqein (A Gift of the Two Iraqs), which supplies us with a good deal of material for his biography and in which he described his impressions of the Middle East, and also his philosophical gassida The Ruins of Madain. On return home, Khagani broke off with the court of the Shirvanshah’s, and shah Akhsitan gave order for his imprisonment. It was in prison that Khagani wrote one of his most powerful anti-feudal poems called Habsiyye (Prison Poem). Upon release he moved with his family to Tabriz where fate dealt with him one tragic blow after another: first his young son died, then his daughter and then wife. Khagani was left all alone, and he too died in Tabriz. He was buried at the Poet’s Cemetery in Surbakh, near Tabriz.

Khagani left a remarkable Persian-language heritage which includes some magnificent odes-distiches of as many as three hundred lines with the same rhyme, melodious ghazals, dramatic poems protesting against oppression and glorifying reason and toil, and elegies lamenting the death of his children, his wife and his relatives.


1. A Meeting with Jamaladdin of Mosul (excerpts from the poem "Tohvatul-Irakein")
2. The Ruins of Madain
3. A Love Song
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