, MIRZĀ M0ḤAMMAD ʿALI (b. Tabriz, ca. 1000/1592; d. Isfahan, 1086-87/1676), celebrated Persian poet of the later Safavid period.


ṢĀʾEB TABRIZI, Mirzā Moḥammad ʿAli (b. Tabriz, ca. 1000/1592; d. Isfahan, 1086-87/1676), celebrated Persian poet of the later Safavid period. The exact year of Ṣāʾeb’s birth is unknown, but an allusion in one of his ḡazals to turning eighty suggests that he was born sometime in the last decade of the sixteenth century. He was a privileged child of the mercantile elite. His father, Mirzā ʿAbd-al-Raḥim, was a successful merchant, and his paternal uncle, Šams-al-Din of Tabriz, earned the sobriquet Širin Qalam (‘Sweet Pen’) for his calligraphic talents. Ṣāʾeb’s family was among those evacuated from Tabriz by ʿAbbās I as a response to Ottoman incursions and settled in the neighborhood of ʿAbbās-ābād in Isfahan. It is here that Ṣāʾeb was educated and began his literary career. As a young man, he made the pilgrimage to Mecca and the Shiʿite shrines in Najaf and Kerbala.

Like many aspiring Persian poets of the age, Ṣāʾeb felt that the Mughal courts of India offered the best prospects for the furtherance of his literary career. He set off for the east in 1034/1624-25. When he arrived in Kabul, he met the young governor of the city, Mirzā Aḥsan-Allāh Ẓafar Khan, himself a poet who wrote under the penname of Aḥsan. The two forged a close friendship: Ẓafar Khan was Ṣāʾeb’s primary patron for the next several years, and Ṣāʾeb acted as the governor’s mentor in the poetic art. Ṣāʾeb accompanied Ẓafar Khan when he was called to the imperial court to pledge his allegiance to the newly enthroned Šāh-jahān in 1628. As Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni has argued (1985-86, p. bist o noh), Ṣāʾeb was probably not present at the coronation nor did he compose a celebratory chronogram for the occasion; certainly no such poem has been preserved in his divān. Similarly, the claims that Ṣāʾeb received lavish payments and the title Mostaʿed Khan from Šāh-jahān appear to be the exaggerations of later biographers. Ṣāʾeb did accompany Ẓafar Khan and his father Abu’l-Ḥasan Torbati on their military campaigns in the Deccan. The rigors of army life and the climate in Borhānpur did not agree with the poet, and fortuitously, he received word that his aged father had arrived in Agra in person to urge him to return to Persia. Ṣāʾeb requested leave to depart from both Ẓafar Khan and Abu’l-Ḥasan, but it was not until the two were posted to the governorship of Kashmir in 1632 that Ṣāʾeb finally started on the road back to Isfahan.

Ṣāʾeb’s seven-year residence in India helped to establish his reputation as the foremost poet of the age, and he spent the rest of his life in Isfahan, traveling only to visit other cities in Persia. He apparently enjoyed cordial, if not especially close relations, with the Safavid court. His divān contains panegyrics dedicated to Shah Ṣafi, ʿAbbās II, and Shah Soleymān. Although ʿAbbās II appointed him to the post of poet laureate (malek-al-šo ʿarā), Ṣāʾeb did not take up residence in the palace, and a story circulating in Isfahan a few years after his death tells how he had himself excused from the royal retinue during an excursion to Māzandarān. On the other hand, his reputed falling out with Shah Soleymān seems to be no more than a biographer’s embellishment on the opening verse of his coronation ode. In any case, it is unlikely that Ṣāʾeb depended on royal patronage for his livelihood. He could find a ready public audience for his ḡazals in Isfahan’s coffee shops and a more elite clientele in the homes of well-to-do merchants and courtiers. Like many people in Safavid Persia, he was a moderate and occasionally guilt-ridden user of intoxicants such as wine, coffee, and tobacco throughout his life. Ṣāʾeb’s family wealth assured him of a financial independence rare among medieval Persian poets. The biographer Maliḥā of Samarqand describes Ṣṟāʾeb’s home as one of the grandest in the entire city (Mirzāyef, p. 40), and the poet employed his own resident calligrapher, ʿĀref of Tabriz, to transcribe copies of his divān. In his later years, Ṣāʾeb appears to have retired from public life, receiving a limited number of students and literary admirers from throughout the Persian-speaking world. He was buried in a garden retreat near the Masjed-e Lonbān in Isfahan. His tomb, together with those of his son and grandson, was rediscovered in the 1930s.

Sources differ concerning the year of Ṣāʾeb’s death. Based on chronograms by his student Ašraf of Māzandarān and the biographer Sarḵoš (Kalemāt al-šoʿarā), earlier sources give the date as 1081/1670-71. The inscription on Ṣāʾeb’s tomb, however, is dated 1087/1676, and this agrees with both a contemporary chronogram by Wāʾeẓ of Qazvin and the report of Maliḥā of Samarqand, who visited Isfahan with a mission from the Khan of Bokhara in 1679. Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni has noted that the chronograms by Sarḵoš and Ašraf can easily be amended to yield the year 1086/1675, and Karim Amiri Firuzkuhi has reasonably concluded that Ṣāʾeb probably died in the last month of 1086 or the first month of 1087 (February-March 1676), allowing for chronograms in either year. In any case, there is little reason to question Maliḥā’s claim that Ṣāʾeb was near ninety at the time of his death (for a summary of these arguments, see Dowlatābādi, I, pp. 474-75.)

Poetic Works. Ṣāʾeb was a prolific poet, and during the course of a literary career spanning over sixty-five years, he compiled one of the largest divāns in classical Persian literature. Although the estimates of the biographers of 120,000 to 200,000 verses are inflated, the most comprehensive edition of the dīvan nevertheless contains some 75,000 lines of poetry. This figure is especially remarkable considering that Ṣāʾeb wrote almost no narrative poetry. Hermann Ethé’s attribution to Ṣāʾeb of a maṯnawi on the story of Maḥmud and Ayāz is untenable. He did compose a maṯnawion ʿAbbās II’s conquest of Qandahār in 1051/1641, but reports that this work, the Qandahār- or ʿAbbās-nāma, contains between 35,000 and 135,000 verses are gross exaggerations; no manuscript of the work exceeds 200 lines (Ḵazāna-dārlu, pp. 366-68; Divān, Qahramān, VI, pp. 3602-608). Some fifty qaṣidas and other short panegyric poems have survived, spanning his career from early poems describing the Kaʿba and the shrine at Najaf to a short chronogram on an architectural restoration carried out by Shah Soleymān in the final year of the poet’s life. Dedicated to all of Ṣāʾeb’s major patrons in India and Persia, these poems provide crucial documentary evidence not only of the poet’s life, but also of Safavid architecture (Babaie; Losensky, forthcoming) and popular political ideology (Jaʿfariyān). However, by far the bulk of Ṣāʾeb’s literary output consists of ḡazals. In the history of Persian literature, only Jalāl-al-Din Rumi’s Divān-e Šams begins to approach the size and scope of Ṣāʾeb’s lyric oeuvre. Qahramān’s edition of the divān contains over 7,000 ḡazals (including some twenty poems in the Turkish dialect of his native Tabriz), as well as a couple of hundred isolated verses from poems no longer extant in their entirety.

The ease with which Ṣāʾeb composed poetry gave rise to numerous stories in the taḏkera literature about his ability to complete others’ verses (piš-mesraʿ rasāndan) on the spur of the moment. In one instance (Browne, IV, p. 269, whose translation has been emended and partially followed below), one of Ṣāʾeb’s students presents him with the rather jejune paradox “Seek from the wineless bottle, the bottleless wine” (az šiša-ye bi mey mey-e bi šiša ṭalab kon); with perhaps a touch of irony, Ṣāʾeb adds the rhyming hemistich “Seek the truth from the heart which is empty of thought"(ḥaq rā ze del-e ḵāli az andiša ṭalab kon). Although most of these stories are no doubt later fabrications (Golčin-e Maʿāni, I, p. bist o noh), they do serve to represent Ṣāʾeb’s seemingly effortless gift for invention. In a more modern critical idiom, Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Yusofi argues that Ṣāʾeb’s ability to create new images and metaphors places him among the outstanding poets in Persian literature (in Ṣāʿeb wa sabk-e hendi, p. 313) and attributes the range of his imagery to the social spread of poetry outside the confines of the court into the realm of everyday urban life. Ṣāʾeb himself uses the phrase maʿnā-ye bigāna, ‘unfamiliar or alien conception,’ to refer to the unexpected images, startling similes, and unusual metaphors that flowed from his pen. Poetic inspiration seemed to come to him unbidden through feyż or divine emanation, revealing often unpredictable connections between objects of the material world as manifestations of a cosmic unity of being.

In more mundane terms, Ṣāʾeb’s creative fluency also derived from his prodigious mastery of the earlier tradition. Although we know little of Ṣāʾeb’s training—there are suggestions that he was tutored by Ḥakim Šafāʾi of Isfahan (d. 1037/1627-28) or Rokn-al-Din Masiḥ of Kashan (d. 1066/1655-56)—it must have been the finest that a highly literary culture could provide. Few poets have been as generous as Ṣāʾeb in acknowledging their debt to their literary peers and predecessors. He mentions some seventy different poets by name in his ḡazals, most often at the end of a jawāb or response written in homage or emulation of an earlier poem. Most frequently mentioned are Rumi and Ḥāfeẓ, but even an examination of his jawābsto a lesser-known poet like Bābā Faḡāni shows how scrupulously and creatively he evaluated and re-created the work of earlier masters (Losensky, 1998, pp. 212-30). Ṣāʾeb left a record of his reading in his personal anthology of poetry, his safina or bayāż. Šebli Noʾmāni (III, p. 168) has compared this work to the Ḥamāsa, the great collection of Arabic poetry assembled by Abu Tammām, and its treatment of contemporary poets has been discussed by Tarbiyat (1932). Rāšedi (II, p. 587-88) describes a manuscript of this work in Hyderabad, and other copies are reported to be preserved in the Royal Library (Ketābḵāna-ye salṭanati) at the Golestān Palace in Tehran. Publication of this work would provide much information about Ṣāʾeb’s taste, circle of associates, and the later reception of the classical tradition.

Critical reception. The adulation of Ṣāʾeb among his contemporaries and later readers is evident throughout the biographical literature. His contemporary Moḥammad Ṭāher Naṣrābādi writes simply that “the sublimity of his genius and extent of his fame need no description” (I, p. 316). In India a few years later, Sarḵoš writes that Ṣāʾeb’s “jewel-like verses have broadcast his fame throughout the world,” reporting that the Safavid shahs sent copies of his divān as gifts to rulers in other parts of the Islamic world (Rašidi, II, p. 519). Shortly after the poet’s death, the Central Asian poet and biographer Maliḥā of Samarqand gives a moving account of his pilgrimage to Ṣāʾeb’s tomb and the night he spent in vigil there (Mirzāyef, pp. 41-42). In most parts of the Persian-speaking world, the praise of Ṣāʾeb’s literary achievement continues unabated through the nineteenth century, reaching perhaps its fullest expression in the writings of Āzād Belgrāmi in Sarv-e āzād and Ḵezāna-ye ʿāmera.

In Persia, however, the late eighteenth century saw the development of the neo-classical bāzgašt-e adabi (‘literary return’), which like most new literary movements, found its identity in part by rejecting the values of its immediate predecessors. In 1779, Āḏar Beygdeli would accuse Ṣāʾeb of “losing track of the established rules of previous masters” and leading poetry down a path of steady decline (Ātaškada, I, p. 122). By the middle of the nineteenth century, Reżā-Qoli Khan Hedāyat could write simply that Ṣāʾeb wrote in “a strange style that is not now approved” (Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā, IV, p. 44). This blanket rejection remained critical dogma in Persian literary circles through the early decades of the twentieth century and is perhaps best represented by Moḥammad-Taqi Bahār’s succinctly comprehensive dismissal of Ṣāʾeb and his style (1970; compare the more tempered assessment in Sabk-šenāsi). However, as the bāzgašt itself came into disrepute with the fall of the Qajars and the rise of modernism, Ṣāʾeb and seventeenth-century poetry in general began to be re-evaluated. Especially notable in Ṣāʾeb’s critical rehabilitation were the publications of the poet-scholar Karim Amiri Firuzkuhi and the literary historian Zeyn-al-ʿĀbedin Moʾtaman in the 1940s and 1950s. Ṣāʾeb’s return to the canon of classical poetry was officially marked by a conference held at the University of Tehran in January 1976 and attended by many of the major literary figures of the day; its proceedings remain an essential contribution to the critical literature on the poet.

Yet even today, Ṣāʾeb remains a controversial figure in Persian literary circles, with both detractors and supporters going to extremes of censure and approbation. Ṣāʾeb’s success as a self-professed modernist who stretched the limits of poetic expression can perhaps best be measured by the critical passion his work continues to exercise. In terms of his literary reputation, Ṣāʾeb may have been too prolific and his work too well preserved. Even the best poets nod, and a certain unevenness is inevitable in a literary career of over sixty years and a body of work of over 75,000 verses. Not all of Ṣāʾeb’s poetic experiments are equally successful. The literary historian Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā (V, pp. 1279-80) may come closest to offering a measured assessment of Ṣāʾeb’s achievement. Remarking that critics have taken some objectionable verses as an excuse to denigrate Ṣāʾeb’s work as a whole, Ṣafā maintains that “in reality, Ṣāʾeb is a powerful poet in the ḡazal, and although he wrote a great deal, his language is seldom open to criticism.” Ṣāʾeb’s poetry, Ṣafā continues, “is solid, in accordance with the criteria of eloquence, and full of subtle ideas, delicate thoughts, and graceful images.” In conclusion, he notes the “distinctive splendor” that the abundance of social, gnomic, mystical, and social observations gives to Ṣāʾeb’s ḡazals. It is unlikely that Ṣāʾeb’s often-complex poetry will ever be to everyone’s taste, but readers are increasingly willing to appreciate it according to its own aims and standards. The maʿāni-ye pičida (‘intricate ideas’) of which Ṣāʾeb so often boasts may not be the most direct route between two points, but like a winding road, can reveal vistas of meaning otherwise unseen.

Literary style. The size and range of Ṣāʾeb’s oeuvre defy brief summary, but we may note some general features. In formal terms, Ṣāʾeb’s ḡazals tend to run longer than the classical norm; though some poems are as short as five verses, most contain ten to twelve lines, and ḡazals of fifteen to twenty verses are not unusual. Longer ḡazals often repeat the same rhyme words two or three times and occasionally deploy a doubled matlaʿ, opening line, at the start of the poem. There are few poems in the divān that do not utilize a radif (a word or phrase that follows the rhyme throughout the poem). This is usually a verbal refrain, such as mišavad, but Ṣāʾeb’s occasionally employs unusual nominal radifs, such as šab (night), ṣobḥ (morning), ḥobāb (bubble), or soḵan (poetry or speech). In contrast to the varied, dance-like meters of his admired predecessor Rumi, over ninety percent of Ṣāʾeb’s ḡazals are written in just five long and fluid meters. (Moḥammadi, pp. 78-82). This choice of meters contributes to the rhythmically “languid” quality of many of Ṣāʾeb’s verses (Yarshater, p. 992).

Ṣāʾeb is best known for his figures of thought. He frequently refers to his šiva-ye tāza or “fresh style” and boasts of its maʿnā-ye bigāna (unfamiliar or alien conceit), maʿnā-ye rangin (colorful or variegated idea), and mażmun-e barjasta (outstanding conceit). This “poetics of the new” prizes the unexpected turn of thought or startling connection between image and idea. Under the rubric of the Indian style (sabk-e hendi), critics have compiled long lists of features that distinguish Ṣāʾeb’s poetry and that of many of his contemporaries (Losensky, 1998, p. 202). Ṣāʾeb is particularly renowned for his mastery of a device called tamṯil or ersāl-e maṯal, in which a claim is made in one half of the verse and an exemplum is adduced to support it in the other, as in this opening verse: “When a man grows old, his greed grows young: sleep grows heavy just before the dawn" (ādami pir čo šod ḥerṣ javān migardad/ ḵvāb dar waqt-e saḥargāh gerān migardad: Divān, Qahramān, IV, p. 1591). This technique produces a compound metaphor, a miniature allegory. These aphoristic verses often employ current proverbs or later achieve the status of proverbs themselves, as the frequent citation of Ṣāʾeb in Dehḵodā’s Amṯāl o ḥekam indicates. (Yarshater, pp. 986-87; Ṣāʾeb wa sabk-e hendi, pp. 137-215; and Losensky, 1996.)

The following verse illustrates several other typical features of Ṣāʾeb’s style: čonān be-fekr-e to dar-ḵvištan foru-raftim / ke ḵošk šod čo sabu dast zir-e sar mā-rā (Divān, Qahramān, I, p. 288). The first mesraʿ or half-line uses a natural, almost prosaic syntax to set up the complex simile in the second: “Thinking of you, we so sank into ourselves/that the hand beneath our head went numb (dried out) like the wine flask.” Ḵošk šodan is used both figuratively for the hand and literally for the wine flask, a trope known as kenāya. This play on idiomatic meaning frequently marks Ṣāʾeb’s introduction of popular colloquialisms into the language of the ḡazal. The ambiguous placement of the simile in the verse allows it to work on several levels. The brooding speaker has been sitting motionless for so long that his arm is as stiff and inert as a piece of pottery. With his head propped up on his arm, his posture resembles the shape of the round handle on the neck of the flask. Fueling his reveries with wine, the speaker reaches the depths of self and flask, leaving both dried out and exhausted. The precise visual image, the use of double entendre, and the harmonious layering of meaning are all important elements of Ṣāʾeb’s fresh style.

Another frequently noted aspect of Ṣāʾeb’s imagery is how he uses metaphor to animate lifeless objects or abstract concepts. We can see this figure of thought at work in the opening verses of one ḡazal (Divān, Qahramān, II, p. 729):

maʿni az lafẓ-e sabok-ruḥ falak-pardāz ast

lafẓá-e pardāḵtabāl o par-e in šahbāz ast ʿešq bālā-tar az ān ast ke dar waṣf āyad čarḵ kabkist ke dar panja-ye in šahbāz ast

Through ethereal words, meaning can soar to the skies;

polished words are the wings and feathers of this falcon. Love is too lofty to be described. The wheel of heaven is a partridge in the talons of this falcon.

Meaning, in the first verse, takes on life as a high-flying falcon, and in the second, love as an animate bird of prey, seizes heaven itself in its claws. The word choice in both lines is governed by the dominant avian imagery, exhibiting the ‘observance of the similar’ (morāʿāt-e naẓir) characteristic of Ṣāʾeb’s poetry; even the word čarkò, ‘the wheel of heaven,’ carries the secondary sense of ‘a hunting bird.’ Moʾtaman also singles out this poem to illustrate one of the truisms of Ṣāʾeb studies: “the lack of unity and connection between ideas in a ḡazal” (Goharhā-ye rāz, p. 82). Almost all critical writing on Ṣāʾeb (by both proponents and detractors) is based on the citation of single verses extracted from their original poetic context. Here, however, Ṣāʾeb clearly utilizes repeated rhyme to contrast the vast power of well-wrought words with the inherent puniness of all language before the creative principle of love. The “harmony of images,” antitheses, and complexity of thought that structure a single verse may also serve to organize groups of verses or an entire poem.

Many critics have commented on the remarkable breadth of Ṣāʾeb’s poetic vision. Amiri Firuzkuhi, for example, has observed that Ṣāʾeb “turned his attention and curiosity to all of life’s phenomena, occurrences, sights, and feelings and even to the things and objects around him” (quoted in Gozida-ye ašʿār, p. 46). Given Ṣāʾeb’s comprehensive knowledge of earlier poetry, it is not surprising that his divān embraces the full thematic range of the Persian lyric tradition, from amatory appeal to philosophical meditation. Although evidence of Ṣāʾeb’s Sufi affiliation is scanty, mystical symbols and ideas are prevalent in his poetry. He demonstrates a keen gift for the introspective analysis of feeling and emotion. Metapoetic themes are also common in Ṣāʾeb’s poetry. Perhaps most characteristic, however, is a strong sense of the ethics of everyday life. Ṣāʾeb often speaks in a knowing and gentle didactic voice, offering advice on how one can live contentedly in this world while remaining faithful to a set of ultimate values. Finally, one might note Ṣāʾeb’s attitude of poised wonderment before even the most insignificant objects or most shop-worn poetic images as they offer up seemingly endless lessons on proper conduct, the ways of human life, and the order of the world. Manuscripts. Because of the immense fame that Ṣāʾeb enjoyed during his lifetime, his works were frequently copied and are represented in every major collection of Persian manuscripts. Monzawi’s bibliographical catalogue (Fehrest, III, pp. 1877 and 2391-98) cites nearly one hundred and fifty manuscripts of his divān in libraries from Persia and India to Europe and the United States, and this list does not include copies in Central Asia or those catalogued over the last thirty years. More important than sheer numbers, however, is the fact that many of these manuscripts date from the poet’s lifetime and were produced under his supervision. Following in his uncle’s footsteps, Ṣāʾeb was himself a skilled calligrapher and took great pains to collect and preserve his own works. Among several manuscripts of the divānreputed to be in the poet’s own hand, Rāšedi (II, p. 588) describes one divān in Calcutta that Ṣāʾeb is supposed to have prepared as a presentation copy for Ẓafar Khan. Others date from later in his career, during his long residence as the master poet of Isfahan. However, as Qahramān points out (Divān, I, pp. do-haft), many of the manuscripts reportedly copied by Ṣāʾeb were, in fact, the work of his personal scribe, ʿĀref of Tabriz. Nevertheless, the annotation “balaḡa Ṣāʾeb” indicates that these manuscripts were reviewed by the poet and that he was responsible for the marginal additions and annotations. But whether Ṣāʾeb copied or just approved these manuscripts, the text of his divān is perhaps better preserved than that of any other major poet of the classical tradition. Editions. For a poet whose reputation was so long in the doldrums, Ṣāʾeb’s works have been frequently printed in a variety of formats. The publishing history begins with a number of lithograph editions produced in India in the early twentieth century. The first full print edition was published in Tehran in 1954 by Ketābforuši-ye Ḵayyām and has often been reprinted. This edition carries an introduction by Amiri Firuzkuhi, but given the poor quality of the text, it seems unlikely that a poet and scholar of his caliber had a hand in its editing. However, he also provided an introduction for a much more reputable edition of the divān: this is the facsimile of a manuscript prepared under Ṣāʾeb’s direction published by the Anjoman-e Āṯār-e Melli. No less than four other facsimile editions have been published. Contrary to the publishers’ claims, none of the manuscripts reproduced are in Ṣāʾeb’s hand, but those published in Karachi are good examples of the work of the poet’s scriptorium. The print editions of Sirus Šamisā and Jahāngir Manṣur are essentially transcriptions of similar early manuscripts. These editions each contain around 3,000 ḡazals, and it was not until the appearance of Moḥammad Qahramān’s edition that the full extent of Ṣāʾeb’s literary production could be accurately assessed. Published in Tehran between 1985 and 1991, Qahramān’s six-volume, eclectic edition is gathered from over twenty sources and sets a new standard for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Although it lacks the full textual apparatus of a truly critical edition and is best used in conjunction with earlier editions, it nevertheless provides a firm foundation for all future study of the poet. Selections. Given its large bulk, it is not surprising that the divān of Ṣāʾeb’s has often been abridged and excerpted. It was the poet himself who initiated this practice. Most of the copies of the divān produced under Ṣāʾeb’s direction, for example, contain less than half of the total corpus of his work. He also supervised the creation of at least one anthology of his own work, entitled Merʾāt al-jamāl, in which selected ḡazals and verses are arranged topically according to parts of the human figure—eyebrows, lips and teeth, kisses, waist and hips, etc. This work apparently provided the model for a number of other topical anthologies, such as Ārāyaš-e negār (on the mirror and the comb), Meyḵāna (on wine and the tavern), Šamʿ o parvāna (on the candle and the moth), Āsmān o āsyāb (on heaven and the millstone). It is not clear whether these were produced under the poet’s direction or, as seems more likely, assembled by later poets and readers. Wājeb al-ḥefẓ, for example, is often described as a collection of first lines (maṯlaʿ) selected by Ṣāʾeb; however, the copy of this work kept at the India Office collection is attributed to the Central Asian poet ʿĀmelā of Bokhara and is a wide-ranging topical selection covering diverse topics (Ethé, II, cols. 884-87). Numerous selections of Ṣāʾeb’s verse have also appeared in print. Among the most important of these is Ašʿār-e bargozida edited by Ḥeydar-ʿAli Kamāli, which made Ṣāʾeb’s poetry widely available in Persia for the first time in the twentieth century and seems to have contributed greatly to his critical rehabilitation. It was, for example, this work that first attracted the attention of Zeyn-al-ʿĀbedin Moʾtaman, who helped prepare two anthologies of Ṣāʾeb’s works. Amiri Firuzkuhi and Moḥammad Qahramān also produced annotated selections. The recent publication of Šoʿla-ye āvāz: šarḥ-e yakṣad ḡazal-e Ṣāʾeb by Aṣḡar Barzi shows that there is still a market for selections of Ṣāʾeb’s massive divān annotated for students and the general reader. Finally, Ḵosrow Eḥtešāmi Hunagāni’s Dar kuča-bāḡ-e zolf: Esfahān dar šeʿr-e Ṣāʾeb and Wāḥedi’s Didgāh- Ṣāʾeb dar partow-e ʿerfān are perhaps better regarded as topical selections on material culture and gnostic themes than as analytical studies. Other writings. A number of short prose pieces by Ṣāʾeb have been discovered in jongs (manuscript miscellanies) and published in part or whole. Two indicate the Safavid fascination with intoxicants: a petition addressed to the shah (probably ʿAbbās II) asking for the rescinding of a prohibition on wine and a short treatise on the pleasures of tobacco and the water pipe. Three letters survive, one addressed to an absent beloved and two requests addressed to patrons, one asking for grain and another for a vase of narcissus. Finally, a mock petition is addressed to the Sultan of Love, complaining of the oppressive tyranny of his agents. Golčin-e Maʿāni (1969-70) has also published two letters written to Ṣāʾeb that apparently accompanied pension payments made to him by the government late in his life. No doubt these documents represent only a small portion of a lifetime’s correspondence, and a fuller inventory of Safavid manuscripts will likely reveal other pieces.



Works. A useful survey of manuscripts and editions can be found in Divān, Qahramān, I, pp. do-noh. Lithographs of the Divān (or kolliyāt) include: Cawnpour, 1871; Lucknow, 1875, 1901, 1906, 1919; Lahore, 1903; and Bombay, 1912.

Facsimile editions: Tehran, 1966 (Anjoman-e Āṯār-e Melli, with an introduction by Amiri Firuzkuhi); two editions, Tabriz, 1978 (nos. 28 and 33 in the publications of Moʾassasa-ye Tāriḵ wa Farhang-e Irān, sponsored by Dāneškada-ye adabiyāt-e Tabriz); two editions, Karachi, 1971 (reproductions of manuscripts N.M. 1998-266/1 and N.M. 1958-266/2 of the National Museum of Pakistan, with introductions by Momtaz Hasan).

Print editions: Tehran, 1954 (Ketābḵāna-ye Ḵayyām, with an introduction by Amiri Firuzkuhi, several reprints); Tehran, 1982, ed. Moḥammad ʿAbbās; Tehran, 1985-1991, ed. Moḥammad Qahramān, in 6 vols.; Tehran, 1994, ed. Sirus Šamisā; Tehran, 1995, ed. Jahāngir Manṣur, in 2 vols.

Among the numerous selections from Ṣāʾeb’s works, mention should be made of Ašʿār-e bargozida, ed. ṟḤeydar ʿAli Kamāli, with introduction by Moḥammad-ʿAli Khan Tarbiyat, Tehran, 1926; Ašʿār-e bargozida-ye Ṣāʿeb, ed. Zeyn-al-ʿĀbedin Moʾtaman, Tehran, 1944, republished as Goharhā-ye rāz az daryā-ye andiša-ye Ṣāʾeb, Tehran, 1985; Gozida-ye āṯār-e Ṣāʾeb-e Tabrizi, ed. ḤamidSayyed Naqvi, Tehran, 1984-5; Devist o yak ḡazal-e Ṣāʾeb,ed. Amirbānu Karimi (Amiri Firuzkuhi), Tehran, 1987; Gozida-ye ašʿār-e Ṣāʿeb-e Tabrizi, ed. Jaʿfar Šoʿār and Zeyn-al-ʿĀbedin Moʿtaman, with an introduction by Ḥasan Anwar, Tehran, 1987; Majmuʿa-ye rangin gol: gozida-ye ašʿār-e Ṣāʾeb-e Tabrizi, ed. Moḥammad Qahramān, Tehran: 1991; Šoʿla-ye āvāz: šarḥ-e yakṣad ḡazal-e Ṣāʾeb-e Tabrizi, ed. Aṣḡar Barzi, Tabriz, 1996.

Biographies. The major taḏkeraentries on Ṣāʾeb are collected in Ḥasām-al-Din Rāšedi, Taḏkera-ye soʿarā-ye Kašmir, 2 vols., Karachi, 1967, II, pp. 518-50.

The crucial account of Ṣāʿeb in Maliḥā of Samarqand’s Moḏakker al-aṣḥāb is published in ʿAbd-al-Ḡani Mirzāyef, “Yak madrak-e jadid-e tāriḵi rājeʿ be-Ṣṟāʾeb,” Waḥid 5, 1967-8, pp. 32-42.

Other documentary sources on Ṣāʾeb’s life can be found in: Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni, “Ṣāʾeb dar naẓar-e bozorgān-e zamān-e ḵod,” MDAM 5, 1969-70, pp. 436-58.

Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni’s Farhang-e ašʿār-e Ṣāʾeb, 2 vols., Tehran, 1985-86, is an essential guide to Ṣāʾeb’s use of the colloquial language of seventeenth-century Isfahan, and the introduction provides the most advanced critical study of the poet’s biography to date.

Ṣāʾeb’s prose works are discussed and printed in ṟḤoseyn Naḵjavāni, “Āṯār-e naṯri az natāyej-e afkār-e Ṣāʾeb -e Tabrizi,” MDA Tabriz, 6, 1953-54, pp. 299-303; and Mehdi Daraḵšān, “Do aṯar-e now-yāfta az naṯr-e Ṣāʾeb wa sabk-e naṯr-e u,” MDAT 26, 1988-89, pp. 276-82.

Other sources. The proceedings of the conference on Ṣāʾeb held at the University of Tehran in 1976 were originally published as Ṣāʾeb wa sabk-e hendi, ed. Moḥammad Rasul Daryāgašt, Tehran, 1976, and an expanded edition (cited in this article) was published in 1992.

For articles published before 1991 and not cited below, see the bibliography by Iraj Afšār in this work, pp. 337-43; see also bibliographies in EI ² and Ḥojjati, pp. 1574-75.

Studies. Ātaškada, I, pp. 120-28.

Sussan Babaie, “Shah ʿAbbās II, the Conquest of Qandahar, the Chihil Sutun, and its Wall Paintings,” Muqarnas 2, 1994, 125-42.

Bahār, Sabk-senāsī, III, pp. 254-55.

Idem, “Ṣṟāʾeb o šiva-ye u,” Yaḡmā 23, 1970, pp. 264-65.

Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia, IV, pp. 164, 265-76.

ʿAziz Dowlatābādi, Soḵanvarān-e Aḏarbāyjān, 2 vols., Tabriz, 1998, I, pp. 372-84.

Ethé, Catalogue, II, cols. 884-87. Golčin-e Maʿāni, Kārvān-e Hend, I, pp. 700-12.

Ḵosrow Eḥtešāmi Hunagāni, Dar kuče-bāḡ-e zolf: Eṣfahān dar šeʿr-e Ṣāʿeb, Tehran, 1989.

EI ², s.v. “Ṣāʾib, Mīrzā Muḥammad.” Heideh Ghomi, “The Imagery of Annihilation (Fanāʾ) in the Poetry of Ṣāʾib Tabrīzī,” in The Heritage of Sufism, vol. 3, ed. Leonard Lewisohn and David Morgan, Oxford, 1999, pp. 493-517.

Ḥamida Ḥojjati, “Ṣāʾeb-e Tabrizi,” in Dānešnāma-ye adab-e Fārsi, ed. Ḥasan Anūša, Tehran, 2001, IV, pp. 1565-75.

Rasul Jaʿfariyān, Ṣafaviya dar ʿarṣa-ye din, farhang va siyāsat, 3 vols., Qom, 2000, I, pp. 483-91.

Moḥammad ʿAli Ḵazāna-dārlu, Manẓumhā-ye Fārsi-ye qarn-e 9 tā 12, Tehran, 1996, pp. 366- 68.

Paul Losensky, “Fanā and Taxes: A Brief Literary History of a Persian Proverb,” Edebiyat 7, 1996, pp. 1-20.

Idem, Welcoming Fighānī: Imitation and Poetic Individuality in the Safavid-Mughal Ghazal, Costa Mesa, Calif., 1998.

Idem, “‘The Equal of Heaven’s Vault’: The Design, Ceremony, and Poetry of the Ḥasanābād Bridge,” Writers and Rulers: Perspectives from Abbasid to Safavid Times, ed. Beatrice Grundler and Louise Marlow, Wiesbaden, forthcoming.

Majmaʿ al-fuṣaḥā, IV, pp. 44-45.

Moḥammad Ḥoseyn Moḥammadi, Bigāna meṯl-e maʿnā: naqd o taḥlil-e šeʿr-e Ṣāʾeb wa sabk-e hendi, Tehran, 1995.

Monzawi, Fehrest, III, pp. 1877 and 2391-98.

Moḥammad Ṭāher Naṣrābādi, Taḏkera-ye Naṣrābādi, ed. Moḥsen Nāji Naṣrābādi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1999, I, pp. 316-19 and passim.

Moḥammad Šebli Noʿmāni, Šeʿr al-ʿajam, trans. Moḥammad-Taqi Faḵr-e Dāʿi Gilāni, 5 vols., Tehran, 1956-60, III, pp. 158-71.

Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., 301-302.

Ṣafā, Adabiyāt, V, pp. 1271-84.

Aḥmad Tamimdāri, ʿErfān wa adab dar ʿaṣr-e Ṣafavi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1994, II, pp. 536-56.

Moḥammad ʿAli Tarbiyat, “Yak ṣafḥa-ye montašer našoda az resāla-ye qarn-e ḥādi ʿašar (bayāż-e Ṣāʾeb),” Armaḡān 13, 1932-3, pp. 319-26, 369-73.

Ḡolām-Reżā Wāḥedi, Didgāh-e Ṣāʾeb dar partow-e ʿerfān, Tehran, 1986.

Ehsan Yarshater, “Persian Poetry in the Timurid and Safavid Periods,” Camb. Hist. Iran VI, pp. 965-94.

(Paul E. Losensky)

Originally Published: July 20, 2003

Last Updated: July 20, 2003