ḤAMIDI ŠIRĀZI, MEHDI, poet, man of letters, literary scholar and critic, translator, journalist, and university professor (b. Shiraz, 14 Ordibe-hešt 1293 Š./4 May 1914; d. Tehran, 23 Tir 1365 Š./14 July 1986; Figure 1). His father, Sayyed Moḥammad-Ḥasan Ṯeqat-al-Eslām, was a member of the first Parliament (Majles) and his mother, Sakina Āḡāzi, was a pioneer in the struggle for the promotion of women’s education; she was also the founder and principal of the ʿEffatiya School, the first modern school for girls in Shiraz. Ḥamidi lost his father when he was three years old and was raised by his mother, who was also his first teacher. He received his first formal education at Šoʿāʿiya Elementary School, where he was inspired by his teacher and later close friend the poet Loṭf-ʿAli Ṣuratgar, and later in Solṭāni High School, whose principal, Bahāʾ-al-Din Ḥosāmzāda Pāzār-gād, encouraged him to develop his poetic talent.
Ḥamidi left Shiraz for Tehran in 1934 and enrolled in the Teachers College (Dāneš-sarā-ye ʿāli) of Tehran University, where he received a B.A. degree in Persian Literature in 1937, graduating at the top of his class. He returned to Shiraz as a high school teacher, and a year later he published his first collection of poems, Šoku-fahā “Blossoms” (Emdād, 1987, p. 319; Ḏu’l-faqāri, p. 18; Ṣuratgar, p. 10; Ḥamidi, 1972, p. 219). Overwhelmed by the sudden death of his fiancée in 1938, he became withdrawn and for over a year did not write any poem except “Ārāmgāh-e ʿešq” (the graveyard of love) in memory of his first love. In 1939, however, he fell passionately in love with and was engaged to Maniža Šādravān, a girl distinguished in her native city, Shiraz, for her glamorous beauty. This was a rousing love that broke Ḥamidi’s silence with the publication of Baʿd az yak sāl “After one year” (1940), in which he illustrated his brooding silence in a poem titled “Čakāma-ye safid” (Blank poem). Meanwhile, he was drafted for military service and had to leave Shiraz for six months. Maniža’s father, who opposed their marriage, eventually succeeded in annulling their engagement after six months. This left a lasting effect on Ḥamidi and set the tone for a good number of his later poems. Ḥamidi immediately expressed his deep frustration in a number of poems that he published in 1940 in Shiraz newspapers and later in a three-volume prose work called ʿEšq-e dar ba dar (two vols. were censored for some time), making his own love affair the talk of the town (Emdād, 1987, p. 320).
In 1942, after doing the military service and a year of teaching at Shiraz high schools, Ḥamidi went to Tehran and married Nāhid, a girl of Širāzi descent. She gave birth to a son (Nušyār) and a daughter (Nāzanin). In the same year he published Ašk-e maʿšuq (The tears of the beloved), a collection of his poems in two sections: ʿEšq (Love) and Enteqām (Revenge), in which he most passionately exposed his love story with outright, and not always complimentary, references to his beloved who, in the meantime, had been married. Ašk-e maʿšuq soon became popular, particularly with the younger generation, and went into its 10th impression during the author’s lifetime, disseminating Ḥamidi’s name and the story of his frustrated love affair as common knowledge. In 1942 he published two prose works Fereštagān-e zamin (Angels of the earth) and Sabok-sarihā-ye qalam (The frivolities of the pen), and a year later he joined his old friend Torāb Baṣiri to publish the weekly paper Oqiānus (Ocean) in Shiraz. Fereydun Tavallali, a former high-school student of Ḥamidi, was a regular contributor to this paper with his critical essays written in the same humorous style that he later used in his al-Tafāṣil (Ḥa-midi, Divān, pp. 32-33; Emdād, 1987, p. 321; Roknzāda Ādamiyat, p. 376; Ḏu’l-faqāri, p. 18).
In 1944 Ḥamidi was transferred to Tehran, where he worked as a high school teacher and at the same time enrolled at the Ph.D. program of the Faculty of Letters. In the same year he had a meeting with Nimā Yušij ʿAli Esfandiāri, the pioneer of modern Persian poetry (šeʿr-enow), and a year later he published in Tehran the literary weekly Kahkešān “Galaxy.” He sharply denounced Nimā’s innovative style in a long qaṣida that he started to read before Nimā and his fans in the Congress of the Writers of Persia and the Soviet Union held in Tehran in 1946, but the congress chair, Moḥammad-Taqi Bahār, did not allow him to finish. The poem immediately initiated an intense debate between him and Nimā’s followers that lasted throughout Ḥamidi’s life and often made him and his poetry the target of vituperation.
In 1948 Ḥamidi joined the faculty of Religious Studies (Dāneškada-ye maʿqul o manqul) of the University of Tehran. He wrote his dissertation on Persian poetry in the 19th century (“Šeʿr-e fārsi dar qarn-e sizdahom”) under the supervision of Badiʿ-al-Zamān Foruzānfar, and received his doctoral degree in literature in 1949. Despite his desire, he never got to teach in his alma mater, the Faculty of Letters and Humanities. In 1951, he won first prize in a contest for composing a poem on patriotic themes under the title “Mihan” (Homeland), organized by the Department of Broadcasting and Public Relations (Edāra-ye koll-e entešārāt wa tabliḡāt), for his poem “Dar amwāj-e Send.” The poem was repeatedly broadcast, and twenty years later received another first prize in a similar contest organized by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The debate between Ḥamidi and the modern-style poets flared up again in 1965 and spread to other literary circles with the publication of a series of his articles in the periodical Yaḡmā (vols. 18 and 19), in which he sharply criticized Farid-al-Din ʿAṭṭār’s poetry and referred to him as the initiator of loafing around (velgardi) in Persian poetry, and as a poet with a great deal of talk and very little thinking (porguy obesyār kamandiš; Ḥamidi, 1966, p. 525). The controversy intensified in 1968 with the publication of his comprehensive study of ʿAṭṭār, which even led some Sufis to curse him in their prayers (Emdād, 1987, p. 322). Years later, in 1971, after ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Zarrinkub cautiously praised Nimā’s innovations and the works of his followers, Ḥamidi responded with new vigor in a series of lectures as well as in his book Fonun o anwāʿ-e šeʿr-e fārsi. This time he had the active support of ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Farāmarzi, the chief editor of the daily Kayhān, who publicized in his paper another first prize awarded to Ḥamidi in the BBC poetry contest, and the fact that Ḥamidi had been referred to as “the uncrowned king of Persian poetry” (solṭān-e bitāj o taḵt-e šeʿr-e fārsi) in his subsequent interviews with the contest organizers (Emdād, 1987, pp. 322-23; Ḏu’l-faqāri, p. 19; Ḥamidi, 1973a, pp. 1-55).
Upon retirement from the University of Tehran in 1976, Ḥamidi accepted the offer of a professorship at the University of Shiraz and received a warm welcome from his fellow townsmen. He had, however, to return to Tehran in 1979, where he lived until his death in 1986. He was buried at the Ḥāfeẓiya in Shiraz, next to the graves of Ṣuratgar and Rasul Parvizi (Emdād, 1987, p. 323; Ḏu’l-faqāri, p. 20; Ṣuratgar, pp. 10-51; Yusofi, p. 615). One of his poems, a ghazal beginning az ḡam-i misuzam o nāčār suzad az ḡam-i/Har ke-ra dard-e derāz-i bāšad o ʿomr-e kam-i . . . , is inscribed on his grave.
Ḥamidi was a prolific poet whose passion for classical poetry did not stifle his creative power to turn him into a mere imitator of the past masters. Many of his poems, although composed in traditional forms with perfect technical control, are distinctly fresh and fluent in their skillful use of a simple, but sophisticated, language and the creative treatment of the content with innovative images. Ḥamidi considered Šokufahā, Baʿd az yak sāl, Ašk-e maʿšuq, and Sālhā-ye siāh as his major collections of poetry, and Zamzama-ye behešt, Fonun o anv-wāʿ-e šeʿr-e fārsi, Dah farmān, and Fonun-e šeʿr wa kālbodhā-yepulādin-e ān as his best anthologies (Ḥamidi, Divān, p. 10).
For nearly half a century (1938-86), Ḥamidi was one of the most productive and influential poets of the traditional style in Persia. His poems “Marg-e Šabdiz” (The death of Šabdiz), “Marg-e qu” (Death of the swan), “Bāḡbāni-e šāʿer” (The poet as gardener), “Gol-e nāz” (The flower nāz), “Morḡ-e saqqā” (Pelican), “Morḡ-e ṭufān” (Petrel), “Malaka-ye ʿoryān” (The naked queen), “Dar amwāj-e Send” (In the waves of the Indus), “Jām-e šekasta” (The broken goblet), “Musā” (Moses), and “Botšekan-e Bābel” (The iconoclast of Babylon), have gained the most popularity amongst contemporary traditional poems. Many of his poems—e.g., “Payām ba Āḏarbāyjān” (Message to Azerbaijan) and “Dar amwāj-e Send—”are notable for their powerful patriotic tone and for moderating the extremes of modern poetry. While love is the spirit of his poems, humanistic themes and concern for people can always be also seen in its depths. Sālhā-ye siāh “Dark years” is a prominent example of such poems. Ḥamidi firmly believed in the superior excellence of his own poems to the extent that, at times, he regarded himself as superior to the greatest Persian poets of all time, an attitude resented by some traditionalist poets. Ḥamidi is one of the major Persian poets of the 20th century, though his name is not mentioned in Yaḥyā Ārianpur’s survey of contemporary Persian literature, apparently because of his uncompromising stance against the advocates of the new poetry. In Zarrinkub’s view “Ḥamidi is inherently a romantic of the Lord Byron and Victor Hugo world, but is more related to our own great poets like Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, Ḵāqani, and Neẓāmi . . . In thought and expression, he is a son of Neẓāmi and a nephew of Hugo” (Zarrinkub, p. 278).
Works: Šokufahā yā naḡmahā-ye jadid, a selection of poems, Shiraz, 1938; Baʿd az yak sāl, Shiraz, 1940. ʿEšq-e dar ba dar, 3 vols., Shiraz, 1940-52; Ašk-e maʿšuq, Shiraz, 1942; Šāʿer dar āsmān, Shiraz, 1942; Fereštagān-e zamin, prose, 1942; Sabok-sarihā-ye qalam, prose, Tehran, ca. 1943; Ṭelesm-e šekasta, 1945; Sālhā-ye siāh (on the colonial policy of Great Britain, the communist takeover of Azerbaijan, and the tribal uprising in Fārs after World War II), Tehran, 1946 (suppressed); Šāhkārhā-yeFerdowsi, Tehran, 1947; Daryā-ye gowhar, an anthology of contemporary prose, poetry and translations, 3 vols., Tehran, 1950-59 (vol. 3 reviewed by Iraj Afšār, in Yaḡmā 9/2, 1954, pp. 94-95); Behešt-e soḵan, a select anthology of classical Persian poetry with critical commentaries, 2 vols., Tehran, 1958-59; ʿAruż-e Ḥamidi, on Persian prosody, Tehran, 1963; Dah farmān, collection of poems, Tehran, 1965; ʿAṭṭār dar maṯnawihā-ye gozida-ye u wa gozida-ye maṯnawihā-ye u, Tehran, 1968; “Taṣwir-e šeʿr-e qadim dar masir-e šeʿr-e jadid,” Armaḡān 40, 1971, pp. 361-64, 442-45, 514-16, 589-91, 680-83; Fonun wa anwāʿ-e šeʿr-e fārsi, Tehran, 1973a; “Baḥṯ-i dar bāra-ye Saʿdi,” in Manṣur Rastgār Fasāʾi, ed., Saʿdi, Shiraz, 1973b, pp. 70-127; “ʿElm-e bayān,” Ḵerad wa kušeš, no. 1, 1978, pp. 95-114; Fonun-e šeʿr wa kālbodhā-ye pulādin-e ān, a collection of poems, Tehran, 1984; Šeʿr dar ʿaṣr-e Qājār, Tehran, 1985; Divān, Tehran, 1988. His major translation is of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, as Māh wa šeš peni, Tehran, 1950.
Studies and obituaries. Iraj Afšār, “Sughā-ye payā-pey,” Āyanda 12/9-10, 1986-87, pp. 515-17.
Ḥosayn Āhi, “Doktor Mehdi Ḥamidi Širāzi dargoḏašt,” Kayhān-e farhangi, no. 4, 1986, p. 39.
Yaḥyā Ārianpur, Az Nimātā ruzgār-e mā: tāriḵ-e adab-e fārsi-e moʿāṣer, Tehran, 1995.
Mehdi Borhāni, “Yādhā-i az Doktor Mehdi Ḥamidi II,” Āyanda 13/4-5, 1987, pp. 326-32.
Idem, “Yād-i digar az Doktor Ḥamidi,” Āyanda 14, 1988, pp. 396-98.
Ḥasan Ḏu’l-faqāri, “Yād-e yārān,” Āmuzeš-ezabān o adabiyāt-e fārsi 11, no. 44, 1996, pp. 18-21.
Ḥasan Emdād, “Yādhā-i az Doktor Mehdi Ḥamidi I,” Āyanda 13/4-5, 1987, pp. 318-23.
Idem, Simā-yešāʿerān-e Fārs dar hazār sāl, Tehran, 1996, pp. 836-38.
Aḥmad Eqbāli, “Yād-i az Doktor Ḥamidi Širāzi,” Kelk 1/5, 1990, p. 130.
ʿAli-Moḥammad Honar (Siāmak Gilak), “Yād-i az Mehdi Ḥamidi,” Āyanda 12/9-10, 1986-87, pp. 533-40.
ʿAbd-al-Ḥamid Ḵalḵāli, Taḏkera-yešoʿarā-ye moʿāṣer, Tehran, 1954, pp. 137-52.
Fereydun Moširi, “Yād-i az Doktor Ḥamidi Širāzi,” Kelk 1/10, 1991, pp. 89-93.
Jaʿfar Moʾayyad Širāzi, Šeʿr-e fārsi az Mašruṭiyat tā emruz, Tehran, 1978, pp. 88-89, 91, 104.
Ḥasan-ʿAli Moḥammadi, Az Bahār tā Šahriār, 2 vols., Tehran, 1994, II, pp. 478-91.
Akbar Qalam-siāh, “Yād-i az Doktor Ḥamidi Širāzi III,” Āyanda 13/4-5, 1987, pp. 332-33.
Fażl-Allāh Reżā, “Ḥamidi o šeʿr-e sonnati-e u,” Āyanda 12/9-10, 1986-87, pp. 520-33.
Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Roknzāda Ādamiyat, Dānešman-dān wa soḵansarāyān-e Fārs, Tehran, 1961, pp. 376-85.
Kawkab Ṣuratgar, Nāma-yeṢuratgar, 2 vols., Tehran, 1989. Moḥammad-Jaʿfar Yāḥaqqi, Čun sabu-ye tešna, Tehran, 1995, p. 180.
Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Yusofi, “ʿEšq-e jāvidān,” in idem, Čašma-ye rowšan, Tehran, 1990, pp. 615-22.
ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Zarrinkub, Šeʿr-e bidoruḡ, šeʿr-e bineqāb, Tehran, 1967, pp. 116, 160, 165-66, 276, 278-79.
(Jafar Moayyad Shirazi)
Originally Published: December 15, 2003
Last Updated: March 6, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 6, pp. 641-643