MOʿEZZI NIŠĀBURI, Abu ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad b. ʿAbd-al-Malek (b. Nišābur, ca. 1048-49; d. ca. 1125-27), a major poet at the court of the Saljuqs (Seljuks) in Khorasan in the 12th century, noted for the eloquence of his panegyric odes (qaṣidas) and his ghazals. His royal patrons included Malekšāh (1072-92), Barkiāroq (1094-1105), Moḥammad (1105-18), and Sanjar (1118-57). He also dedicated many odes to their viziers, notables, including the famous Saljuq vizier, Neẓām-al-Molk and his offspring and close relations; and to other rulers, the Ghaznavid ruler Bahrāmšāh, and the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Atsïz (de Blois, pp. 421-22).
Moʿezzi was the son of a renowned poet, ʿAbd-al-Malek Borhāni, the Amir-al-Šoʿarāʾ (poet laureate) at the courts of the Saljuq kings Alp-Arslān and Malekšāh. The poet himself is the source of an anecdote cited by Neẓāmi ʿArużi in his Čahār Maqāla (The Four Discourses) concerning the start of his career at the Saljuq court. Neẓāmi ʿArużi describes how he met the famous poet in 1116 when Sanjar and his court were encamped on the outskirts of Ṭus, and again in 1120 at Nišābur. In the first of these encounters Moʿezzi recounted to Neẓāmi that he had inherited the post of poet-laureate from his father, ʿAbd-al-Malek Borhāni, in the early years of Malekšāh’s reign but had failed to gain admittance to the king’s presence or to draw his stipend, sinking into debt and despair; he had sought help from Amir ʿAli b. Farāmarz, the sultan’s boon companion and son-in-law, who eventually introduced him to the sultan. Moʿezzi had then described how his two extemporized robāʿis (quatrains) had impressed Malekšāh, prompting him to award the poet the title of “Amir Moʿezzi,” with reference to Malekšāh’s own laqab (title): Moʿezz-al-donyā wa’l-din (The Glorifier of this World and of Religion; Neẓāmi ʿArużi, p. 49; tr. p. 70).
The poet remained in the service of Malekšāh until the latter’s death in 1092, and when a power struggle ensued among the king’s heirs leading to turmoil at court, Moʿezzi left the court and traveled to different cities including Herat, Nišābur, and Isfahan. He composed praise poems dedicated to many patrons including Sultan Barkiāroq, Arslān Arḡun, and Amir Abu Šojāʿ Ḥoabaši. When Sanjar, Malekšāh’s son, became ruler of Khorasan in 1097, Moʿezzi joined his entourage, remaining in his service for the rest of his life (Ṣafā, p. 511).
About the circumstances of Moʿezzi’s death, ʿAwfi (Lobāb II, p. 70) relates that the poet was killed by a stray arrow shot by Sanjar during target practice; and an arrow is mentioned also in two qeṭʿas that Sanāʾi composed lamenting Moʿezziʿs death (Sanāʾi, p. 1051,1057). However, there are several poems in Moʿezzi’s divān recounting how he had been wounded by the sultan’s arrow, and had spent twelve months convalescing before returning to the court. One cannot therefore regard Sanāʾi’s verses as proof of Moʿezzi’s death. Moʿezzi’s long absence from the court after his injury may have given rise to rumors that he had died, and these could have misled Sanāʾi. The earliest reference to this incident in Moʿezzi’s own verses is in an ode that he composed at the time when Sanjar was the ruler of Khorasan (1097-1118). In addition to this, he made several references to this occurrence in his panegyrics addressed to Qawām-al-Molk, Sanjar’s minister, who held this post until the year 1117, which therefore provides the terminus ante quem. The last person Moʿezzi panegyrized was Sanjar’s minister Moʿin-al-Din Moḵ-taṣ-al-Molk Aḥmad, who was assassinated in 1127. Since Moʿezzi panegyrized most statesmen of the Saljuq state but did not panegyrize others after this date, it can be concluded that he was not alive after the year 1127 (Ṣafā II, p. 512). However, it is should be borne in mind that Neẓāmi ʿArużi consistently mentions Moʿezzi’s name without any of the usual formulaic prayer tags that one would expect him to insert when a deceased contemporary is mentioned; this might indicate that the latter was still alive when Neẓāmi ʿ Arużi completed his work in 1157 (de Blois, p. 523).
Moʿezzi is one of the greatest masters of lyrical poetry that Persia has ever produced, and was much admired during his own lifetime as well as by succeeding generations. Such contemporary poets as Sanāʾi and Ḥasan Ḡaznavi have praised his mastery of the craft of poetry and a later poet like Mojir Bilqāni has expressed his admiration for Moʿezzi’s poetic stature by regarding himself as his rightful successor (Ṣafā, p. 513). ʿAwfi is most rhetorical in his praise, and points out that the high regard which Moʿezzi was held in, and the favors lavished upon him during the reign of Malekšāh were only equaled by those enjoyed by Rudaki at the time of the Samanids, and by ʿOnṣori during the reign of the early Ghaznavids (ʿAwfi, II, p. 69).
The principal merit of Moʿezzi’s verse is its clarity. He was capable of invoking rich imagery in plain words, free from tortuous diction or excessive ornamentation; and his ability to compose verses without a trace of ambiguity or artifice has always been admired by critics. Moʿezzi was, more than any poet of the 12th century, impressed by the everyday language of his own time; and although he did not rise up to the level of his contemporary, Anvari, in this respect, he certainly paved the way for the later generation of poets who were interested in taking the same course (Ṣafā, II, p. 514).
Moʿezzi also composed a large number of lyric poems. Although his ghazals do not reach the same sublime heights as those of Farroḵ-i, his endeavor to compose mellifluous ghazals have greatly helped the development of the techniques of composing lyric poetry (Ṣafā, II, p. 514). Some of Moʿezzi’s qaṣidas propounded entirely new thoughts, exhibiting the poet’s innovativeness and his concern for developing new ideas. Moʿezzi did not confine himself to writing panegyrics and lyric verses; there is a strain of didacticism in many of his poems as well.
Another significant merit of Moʿezzi’s poetry was his skillful utilization of ingenious metaphors. A large number of metaphors now regarded as commonplace in Persian lyric poetry—comparing the countenance of a beloved with the moon, her height with a cypress tree, or her lips with rubies, for instance—were perhaps used by Moʿezzi to a much greater extent than by previous poets (Browne, II, p. 328-29).
The number of Moʿezzi’s surviving verses totals some 19,000 to 20,000. The edition by ʿAbbas Eqbāl Āštiyāni (Tehran, 1939) contains 18623 verses. A later edition, edited by Nāṣer Hayyeri (Tehran, 1983) lacks a critical apparatus. Neither of the two editions uses the London manuscript I.O. 913 of 1314-5 now in the British Library, or the scattered quotations from his oeuvre in early anthologies (de Blois, p. 423).
A few of Moʿezzi’s poems have been translated into English—two pieces by E. G. Browne (Browne, pp. 528-29, and two qaṣidas by R. A. Nicholson, one of which is quoted by Arberry who himself translated the beginning of the poet’s famous elegy (marṯiya) on the death of Malekšāh and Nezām-al-Molk (Arberry, pp. 113-15).
A. J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, London, 1958, pp. 110-15.
Moḥammad ʿAwfi, Lobāb-al-albāb II, London and Leiden, 1903, pp. 69-86.
François de Blois, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey V, London, pp. 421-25.
E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia II, Cambridge, 1928, pp. 327-30.
Reżā-Qoli Khan Hedāyat, Majmaʿ-al-foṣaḥā I, Tehran, 1957, p. 571.
ʿA. Ḵayyāmpur, Farhang-e soḵ-anvarān II, Tehran, 1994, p. 859.
ʿAli-Rezā Khosrovāni Ṭorfa, “Šarḥ-e ḥāl-e Amir-Moʿezzi,” Armaḡān 4, pp. 529-48; 5, pp. 15-30.
J. Marek, “Amir Muʿizzī. (Einige Verse im Vergleich zweier Traditioner),” Archiv Orientálni 24, 1956, pp. 252-71.
Neẓāmi ʿArużi, Čahār Maqāla, ed. Moḥammad Qazwini, London, 1927, pp. 46-49; tr. E. G. Browne, as Chahár Maqála, London, 1921, pp. 66-71.
Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā, Tāriḵ--e adabiyāt dar Irān II, Tehran, 1984, pp. 508-15.
Sanāʾi, Divān, ed. Modarres Rażawi, Tehran, repr., 1983, pp. 1051, 1057.
Originally Published: April 7, 2008
Last Updated: April 7, 2008Cite this entry:
Hormoz Davarpanah, “MOʿEZZI NIŠĀBURI,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2008, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/moezzi-nisaburi (accessed on 20 September 2016).