Baba Tahir

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Baba Tahir
Tomb of Baba Tahir

Baba Tahir, (var. Baba Taher Oryan Hamadani) (Persian: باباطاهر‎) was an 11th-century poet in Persian literature and an Iranian mystic.[1] According to L. P. Elwell-Sutton he probably wrote in the local dialect, which "Most traditional sources call it loosely Luri, while the name commonly applied from an early date to verses of this kind, Fahlaviyat, presumably implies that they were thought to be in a language related to the Middle Iranian dialect Pahlavi. Roubène Abrahamian however found a close affinity with the dialect spoken at the present time by the Jews of Hamadan."[2] According to The Cambridge History of Iran, Baba Tahir spoke a certain Persian dialect.[3]


Baba Tahir is known as one of the most revered and respectable early poets in Iranian literature. Most of his life is clouded in mystery. He was born and lived in Hamadan,[2] the capital city of the Hamedan Province in Iran. He was known by the name of Baba Taher-e Oryan (The Naked), which suggests that he may have been a wandering dervish. Legend tells that the poet, an illiterate woodcutter, attended lectures at a religious school, where he was not welcomed by his fellow-students. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. One source indicates that he died in 1019. If this is accurate, it would make Baba Tahir a contemporary of Ferdowsi and Pour Sina (Avicenna) and an immediate precursor of Omar Khayyam. Another source reports that he lived between 1000 and 1055, which is most unlikely. Reliable research notes speculate that Baba Tahir lived for seventy-five years. Rahat al-sodur of Ravandi (completed 603/1206), describes a meeting between Baba Tahir, and the Saljuq conqueror Togrel (pp. 98–99). According to L. P. Elwell-Sutton: He could be described as the first great poet of Sufi love in Persian literature. In the last two decades his do-baytis have often been put to music.

Legend has it that Baba Tahir was a very simple and innocent man whom everyone mocked and made fun of in his town. He was not a poet to begin with. One very cold winter day, people of the town decided to make a fool out of him just for fun. They brought him to a frozen fountain and told him if he swim in the icy water, he will become a poet. Being innocent, he believed them. He took off his clothes and entered the icy water. Everyone started laughing at him as he was swimming in the cold water. He realized he was made fun of and was heart broken. He came out and, to everyone's surprise, a "true poet" was indeed born out of the icy water on that day. Hence, he is called "the naked". His poetry has touched many souls.


Baba Tahir poems are recited to the present day all over Iran accompanied with setar (in Persian: Seh Tar), three stringed viol or lute. They say Pahlaviat to these kinds of poems and they are very ancient. Baba Tahir songs were originally read in Pahlavi (Middle Persian),[4] as well as Luri and Hamadani dialects, taking their present form in the course of time. The quatrains of Baba Tahir have a more amorous and mystical connotation rather than philosophical. Baba Tahir's poems are of the do-bayti style, a form of Persian quatrains, which some scholars regard as having affinities with Middle Persian verses,[2] Classical Persian Music is based on Persian literature and Baba Tahir's poems are the weight that carries a major portion of this music. Baba Tahir's poetry is the basis for Dastgahe Shoor and in particular Gooshe of Dashtestani, Choopani and Deylaman.[citation needed]


Attributed to him is a work by the name Kalemat-e qesaar, a collection of nearly 400 aphorisms in Arabic, which has been the subject of commentaries, one allegedly by Ayn-al-Qozμat Hamadani.[5] An example of such a saying is one where Baba Tahir ties knowledge with gnosis: Knowledge is the guide to gnosis, and when gnosis has come the vision of knowledge lapses and there remain only the movements of knowledge to gnosis”; “knowledge is the crown of the gnostic, and gnosis is the crown of knowledge”; whoever witnesses what is decreed by God remains motionless and powerless.


Tomb of Baba Tahir in Hamadan
Old mausoleum of Baba Tahir in Hamadan

His tomb is located near the northern entrance of the city of Hamadan in Western Iran, in a park, surrounded by flowers and winding paths. The structure consists of twelve external pillars surrounding a central tower. It was reconstructed in 1970.

Sample Poetry[edit]

Original in Persian alphabet:

مگر شیر و پلنگی ای دل ای دل

به مو دایم بجنگی ای دل ای دل

اگر دستم فتی خونت وریژم

بوینم تا چه رنگی ای دل ای دل


Art thou a lion or leapoard, O Heart, O Heart,

That thou warres ever with me, O Heart, O Heart?

Fall thou into my hands; I'll spill thy blood,

To see what colour it is, O Heart, O Heart!

Original Pahlavi:

خداوندا که بوشم با که بوشم

مژه پر اشک خونین تا که بوشم

همم کز در برانن سو ته آیم

تو کم از در برانی واکه بوشم


Lord! who am I, and of what company?

How long shall tears of blood thus blind mine eyes?

When other refuge fails I'll turn to Thee,

And if Thou failest me, whither shall I go?

Original Pahlavi:

مو آن بحرم که در ظرف آمدستم

مو آن نقطه که در حرف آمدستم

بهر الفی الف قدی بر آیه

الف قدم که در الف آمدستم


I am that sea and have come into a bowl;

I am that dot and have come into a letter;

in every thousand one straight-as-an-alef (alef-qadd) appears;

I am that straight one, for I came in a thousand

Original Pahlavi:

دلم از درد ته دائم غمینه

به بالین خشتم و بستر زمینه

همین جرمم که مو ته دوست دیرم

ز هر کت دوست دیره حال آینه؟


Grieving for thee my heart is ever sad,

A brick my pillow, and my couch the earth:

My only sin is loving thee too well:

Surely not all thy lovers suffer so?

Original Pahlavi:

هزارت دل بغارت برده ویشه

هزارانت جگر خون کرده ویشه

هزاران داغ ویش از ویشم اشمر

هنی نشمرده از اشمرده ویشه


More than a thousand hearts has thou laid waste,

More than a thousand suffer grief for thee,

More than a thousand wounds of thine I've counted,

Yet the uncounted still are more than these.

Original Pahlavi:

سیه بختم که بختم سرنگون بی

توه روژم که روژم واژگون بی

شدم خار و خس کوه محبت

ز دست دل که یارب غرق خون بی


Black is my lot, my fortune's overtuned,

Ruined are my fortunes, for my luck is brought low;

A thorn, a thistle I, on the Mountain of Love,

For my heart's sake. Drown it in blood, O Lord!

Original Pahlavi:

نگارینا دل و جونم ته دیری

همه پیدا و پنهونم ته دیری

ندونم مو که این درد از که دیرم

همی ذونم که در مونم ته دیری


My Beautiful! thou hast my heart and soul,

Thou hast mine inner and mine outer self;

I know not why I am so very sad,

I only know that thou hold'st the remedy.

Original Pahlavi:

دلی نازک بسان شیشه ام بی

اگر آهی کشم اندیشه ام بی

سرشکم گر بوه خونین عجب نیست

مو آن دارم که در خون ریشه ام بی


My heart is dainty as a drinking cup,

I fear for it whene'er I have a sigh;

It is not strange my tears are as blood,

I am a tree whose roots set in blood.

Original Pahlavi:

مسلسل زلف بر رو ریته دیری

گل و سنبل بهم آویته دیری

پریشان چون کری اون تار زلفون

به هر تاری دوی آویته دیری


Thy tangled Curls are scattered o'er thy face,

Mingling the Roses with the Hyacinths;

But part asunder those entangled strand

On ever hair thou'lt find there hangs a heart. (Translation by: Edward Heron-Allen)

Original Pahlavi:

دلا راه تو پر خار و خسک بی

گذرگاه تو بر اوج فلک بی

گر از دستت بر آیو پوست از تن

بیفکن تا که بارت کمترک بی


Briar and thorn beset thy way, o Heart

Beyond the Dome of Heaven is thy road;

If thou art able, then thy very skin

Cast off from thee, and lighten thus thy load

Original Pahlavi:

ز دست دیده و دل هر دو فریاد

که هرچه دیده وینه دل کنه یاد

بسازم خنجری نیشش ز پولاد

زنم بردیده تا دل گرده آزاد


Beneath the tyranny of eyes and heart I cry,

For, all the eyes see, the heart stores up:

I'll fashin me a pointed sword of steel,

Put out mine eyes, and so set free my heart

Original Pahlavi:

دلت ای سنگدل بر ما نسوجه

عجب نبود اگر خارا نسوجه

بسوجم تا بسوجونم دلت را

در آتش چوب تر تنها نسوجه


O heart of Stone, Thou burnest not for me,

That stone burns not, is not, indeed, so strange

But I will burn till I inflame thy heart.

For fresh-cut logs are difficult to burn alone.

Original Pahlavi:

بی ته اشکم ز مژگان تر آیو

بی ته نخل امیدم بی بر آیو

بی ته در کنج تنها شو و روز

نشینم که تا عمرم بر سر آیو


When thou’rt away, mine eyes o’erflow with tears,

Barren the Tree of Hope when thou’rt away:

Without thee, night and day, in a solitary corner,

I sit, till life itself come to an end.

Original Pahlavi:

به گلشن بی تو گل هرگز مرویا

وگر رویا کسش هرگز مبویا

بی شادی بی تو هرکس لو گشایه

لوش از خون دل هرگز مشویا


Without-Thee in the Garden, Lord, may no rose bloom,

Or, blooming, may none taste its sweet perfume,

So, should my heart expand when Thou art not nigh,

T were vain! my heart's grief nought could turn to joy

Original Pahlavi:

چو مو یک سو ته دل پروانه ای نه

جهان را همچو مو دیوانه ای نه

همه مارون و مورون لانه دیرن

من بیچاره را ویرانه-ای نه


What blundering Moth in all the World like me?

What madman like me in the Universe?

The very Serpents and the Ants have nests,

But I—poor wretch - no ruin shelters me.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Baba Tahir
  2. ^ a b c "L. P. Elwell-Sutton, "BĀBĀ ṬĀHER ʿORYĀN" in Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  3. ^ Bosworth 1975, p. 610.
  4. ^ "Pahlavi". Ancient Scripts. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  5. ^ Encyclopedia Iranica, [L. P. Elwell-Sutton, "BĀBĀ ṬĀHER ʿORYĀN" in Encyclopaedia Iranica [1] Baba Taher], L. P. Elwell-Sutton


External links[edit]