ʿAYYŪQĪ, a poet of the fifth/eleventh century who versified the romance of Varqa o Golšāh. In it he gives his name as ʿAyyūqī (ed. Ṣafā, pp. 3, 122) and complains in the concluding section (p. 116) about ill-treatment by the people of his town. Apart from this, no reliable information about him has come down. In the preface (p. 3) he eulogizes the ḡāzˊī sultan Abu’l-Qāsem Maḥmūd, i.e., the Ghaznavid ruler Maḥmūd b. Sebüktigin (r. 389/999-421/1030). In view of the manifest influence of Ferdowsī’s style on many passages, Varqa o Golšāh is likely to have been composed after the Šāh-nāma; and the use of archaic words, pronunciation, and certain grammatical peculiarities point to the early fifth/eleventh century as the date of its composition. Lexical and grammatical inconsistencies found in the text may be due to clerical tampering with the text or the influence of the spoken language of the time. (ʿAyyūqī seems to have been a man of little education, without full mastery of the literary idiom of his time.)

Two verses by ʿAyyūqī, not from Varqa o Golšāh, quoted on the margin of a single manuscript of Loḡat-e fors, indicate that he also wrote qaṣīdas (odes) and perhaps another narrative poem in the ramal meter (Ṣafā, Adabīyāt I, p. 603).

Varqa o Golšāh is a romance of love and adventure, running to approximately 2,250 verses in the motaqāreb meter. Many words are vocalized, which makes the work important for Persian philology. The work survives in a unique manuscript at Istanbul (Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi, Hazine 841), which is adorned with seventy-one illustrations in color; it bears no date but the handwriting must be from not later than the seventh/thirteenth century. (A facsimile edition is to be produced at Graz, Austria.) A feature of the work is that ten ḡazals, all in the motaqāreb meter, are interspersed in the narrative. This method had not hitherto been used in Persian poetry, but was subsequently imitated, e.g., in ʿObayd Zākānī’s ʿOššāq-nāma, a narrative poem written in 751/1350. ʿAyyūqī’s romance of Varqa and Golšāh is a mediocre work, lacking the thematic development and intensity of emotion that is found, for example, in the almost similar romance of Laylī o Majnūn by Neẓāmī.

ʿAyyūqī’s theme is the love between a youth named Varqa and a maiden named Golšāh. Their fathers are two Arab brothers named Homām and Helāl, who are the chiefs of a tribe, the Banū Šabīh. On the day fixed for Golšāh’s marriage to Varqa, she is abducted by enemies under the leadership of Rabīʿ b. ʿAdnān. Numerous fights, in which Varqa’s father and Rabīʿ and his two sons are killed, take place before Golšāh is rescued. Golšāh’s father, however, now withholds consent for her marriage to Varqa because Varqa is too poor. Varqa therefore goes to the court of his maternal uncle, Monḏer king of the Yemen, in the hope of making money. During his absence, the king of Syria induces Golšāh’s mother to give him her daughter in marriage. When Varqa comes home with much wealth, he is told that Golšāh is dead. He discovers this to be a lie, and goes to Syria in search of Golšāh, but receives so much hospitality and kindness from the Syrian king that he cannot honorably break the bond of gratitude and is therefore obliged to part from Golšāh. Soon afterward he dies of grief. When Golšāh learns of his death, she goes to his grave and, while lamenting there, also passes away. Their tomb becomes a place of pilgrimage to which both Jews and Muslims resort. One year after the tragedy, the Prophet Moḥammad passes by the place. After requiring the Jews to become Muslims, he resurrects Varqa and Golšāh, who then at last are united.

The story, as ʿAyyūqī states (pp. 4-5, 122), was taken from Arabic sources. It is based on the adventures of ʿOrwa b. Ḥeẓām ʿOḏrī, an Arab poet, and ʿAfrā, the daughter of his paternal uncle ʿEqāl, whose romance was already famous before the 4th/10th century; a book of ʿOrwa wa ʿAfrā is mentioned in Ebn al-Nadīm’s Fehrest (p. 306). ʿAyyūqī claims to have produced the first Persian version of this romance. In later times, further renderings were brought out: at least one more in Persian (in the hazaj meter), one in Kurdish, and several in Turkish. A Turkish version, entitled Varqā wa Golšāh with the same meter as Neẓāmī’s Laylī o Majnūn, was written by a poet named Mosīḥī for the Safavid ruler Shah ʿAbbās I in the late 10th/16th or early 11th/17th century. In Anatolia a version in western Turkish had been composed by a poet named Yūsof Maddāḥ in 770/1369. A translation by ʿAbdallāh b. Ḥājjī b. Mīr Karīm from Persian into eastern Turkish, under the title Ḥekāya-ī ʿajība az aḥwāl-e Golšāh wa Varqa, was printed at Tashkent in 1324/1906.

The story also entered into Spanish and French literature. Its elements, other than the resurrection of the lovers, form the substance of Floire et Blancheflor, a romance which was popular in the twelfth century.



A. Ateş, “Yak maṯnawī-e gom-šoda az dawra-ye ḡaznavīān, Varqa o Golšāh-e ʿAyyūqī,” MDAT 1/4, 1333 Š./1954, pp. 1-13.

Ṣ. Kīā, “Āyā maṯnawī-e Varqa o Golšāh-e ʿAyyūqī hamzamān ba Šāh-nāma-ye Ferdowsī ast?” ibid., 2/1, 1334 Š./ 1955, pp. 49-50.

ʿAyyūqī, Varqa o Golšāh, ed. Ḏ. Ṣafā, Tehran 1343 Š./1964.

A. S. Melikian-Chirvani, “Le roman de Varqe et Golšāh,” Arts asiatiques 22, 1970, pp. 1-262 (primarily a discussion of the miniatures in the manuscript with full bibliographical review and a discussion of its connection with the romance Floire et Blancheflor).

Ṣafā, Adabīyāt I, pp. 601-03.

(Dj. Khaleghi-Motlagh)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 18, 2011

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Vol. III, Fasc. 2, pp. 167-168