Qatran Tabrizi

Abū-Mansūr Qatrān-i Tabrīzī (Persian: قطران تبريزى, 10091072) was a royal Persian[1] poet.

He was born in Sahar near Arrah, Tabriz and was the most famous panegyrist of his time in Iran. His full name according to an manuscript that is attributed (although scholars are not sure if this attribution to Anvari is 100% is correct) to the famous poet Anvari Abivardi (529 Hijra about 60 years after the death of Qatran) is Abu Mansur Qatran al-Jili al-Azerbaijani.[2] The Al-Jili would identify his ancestry from Gilan while he himself was born in Shadiabad.[2] He also identifies himself as part of the Dehqan class.[2]

According to Jan Rypka:[3] “He sings the praise of some thirty patrons. His work has aroused the interest of historians, for in many cases Qatran has perpetuated the names of members of regional dynasties in Azerbayjan and the Caucasus region that would have otherwise fallen in oblivion. His best qasidas were written in his last period, where he expressed gratitude to the prince of Ganja, the Shaddadid Fadlun, for the numerous gifts that were still recollected by the famous Jami (d. 1492). Qatran’s poetry follows in the wake of the poets of Khurasan and makes an unforced use of the rhetorical embellishment. He is even one of the first after Farrukhi to try his hand at the Qasida-i Masnu’i, ‘particular artificial qasida’".

According to Jan Rypka: When Nasir Khusraw visited Azarbaijan in 1046, Qatran requested to him to explain some of the most difficult passages in the divan of Munjik and Daqiqi that were written in “Persian”, i.e. according Chr. Shaffer, in the Persian of Khurasan, a language that he, as a Western Persian, might not be expected to understand, in contrast to the guest from Khurasan.[3]

Kasravi is of the opinion that the text of the Safar-nama has here been corrupted because Qatran, though he spoke Iranian Adhari (the old Iranian language of Azerbaijan before the advent of Oghuz Turks) was fully acquainted with (Khurasani dialect of) Persian, as his Divan shows.[3] De Blois mentions that: The point of the anectode is clear that the diwans of these poets contained Eastern Iranian (i.e. Sogdian etc.) words that were incomprehensible to a Western Persian like Qatran, who consequently took advantage of an educated visitor from the East, Nasir, to ascertain their meaning .[4]

Qatran Tabrizi has an interesting couplet mentioning this fact:[2][5]

بلبل به سان مطرب بیدل فراز گل

گه پارسی نوازد، گاهی زند دری

Translation: The nightingale is on top of the flower like a minstrel who has lost her heart It bemoans sometimes in Parsi (Persian) and sometimes in Dari (Khurasani Persian)

Qatran’s qasidehs on the earthquake of Tabriz in 1042 CE has been much praised and is regarded as a true masterpiece (Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature. Reidel Publishing Company. 1968).

In his Persian divan of 3000 to 10000 couplets, Qatran praises some 30 patrons.

He is not to be confused with another Persian author: Qatran of Tirmidh, who wrote the Qaus-nama one hundred years later.

Qatran's Qasideh on the Earthquake

On the earthquake at Tabriz and an Ode to Amir Abu Nasr Mamlan[6] (Kurdish Rawadi prince) and his son (fragment). This qasideh is considered one of Qatran's greatest masterpiece. Here is an English translation from the original Persian by Tom Botting:

Gaze on the might of Yazdan (Persian for God) . Gaze on the mighty work of His hand.

Such deeds seem as little or naught to the hand of Yazdan.

No man can comprehend in its fullness the power of God.

He makes gardens into barren hills and plains - such is His power.

He converts barren hills and plains into rich garden in flower.

If contemplation makes you aware of humility - that is but fitting...

If you are cast into confusion by His might and His mystery - that, too, is fitting.

You who would reach to the innermost sense of these things,

Make your way to Tabriz, learn how God's mighty had cast it down,

Make your way to Tabriz, learn the tale of that most tragic town.

The city through the centuries raised its head to the sky,

Through the centuries men raised its walls up on high,

The town where men stretched out their hands for a star,

The town that raised towers to Saturn on far,

Lost its pride and was crushed in the space of one hour,

Death took a great toll in the span of one hour.

Many women of beauty, like Kashmir's most fair,

Died in gardens of paradise - still they lie there.

The departed, entombed, shall rest evermore

In once lovely homes in the earth's ghastly maw.

Men whose homes were once filled with rich goods of all kinds,

Men whose stores were once filled with good things of all kinds,

Have been felled by misfortune and roll in the dust.

They perforce sold their sons for the sake of a crust.

People starve though the city is bursting with bread.

People thirst though the waters have everywhere spread.

In penury people put value on wealth,

But, death being near, on life and on health.

Those who perished were saved from misfortune and badness,

While the living are plunged in a sea of deep sadness.

All men knew misfortune. For children they keen.

The death of their brothers and sisters they've seen.

In mourning they bloody their cheeks with their nails.

They gnaw at their fingers to stifle their wails.

In the night-time disaster enveloped the town -

You have heard how the towers and walls were cast down.

Helpless children were left by their more helpless mother.

Inconsolable lovers forgot one another.

Till that day no man had to comfort his brother.

Today in disaster men lack clothes and bread,

And every one feels he were better off dead.

Since God in his wisdom created the world,

And the planets that whirl beyond our own world,

Such tremors on earth there never had been,

A calamity such as mankind had not seen.

This misfortune is fruit of our own wicked acts,

For we did not repent for our unworthy acts.

To bring comfort to those who were not taken by death

The Emir, and his son were saved from sure death.

The elders rejoice when they set eyes upon them.

The young men rejoice, for they now gaze upon them.

While Iran's Emir and his dear son still live

No cause for a Moslem to weep shall they give.

The Emir is a sun that shall never burn low,

Like unto a moon forever aglow.

Thanks to him far more lovely this town shall arise

Than the towns of Iraq, to delight people's eyes.

Let there be no more grieving, Tabriz of well-wishers!

Let there be no exulting among our ill-wishers!

Those who love you, Mamlan, have not one heart but hundreds,

Those in love have not one soul but every one hundreds.

Far dearer are you than vast riches of grain

For the country's well-being is the child of your brain.

All the world's Padishahs are the friends of this crown,

Abunasr the victor casts enemies down.

Under victory's banners he routs every foe.

May his honey be venom for those who wish ill,

And may poppies be vipers and evil men kill.

Since for him gold means gifts and not riches to hoard,

And since silver's so common at his festive board,

Silver desires to return to the earth

And gold to its vein, since it feels of no worth.

His hand and his sword in peace and war burn,

But extinguish great fires like water in turn.

The gold from his coffers to pilgrims' hands flows

And his sword paints the fields with the gore of his foes.

No riches by him are detained for one night,

Or hidden in dungeons away from the light.

More dear than his soul to him is a guest,

To treat guests with honour is the Emir's behest.

High above Khorasan the moon rises bright.

There the moon does not set, but shines through the night.

Mamlan and his deeds make the sun's face seem dim,

And the sphere of men's doom is reduced thanks to him.

Mamlan bows to none. The world's held in sway.

He takes orders from none - the world waits to obet.

Men grieve when a fortune finally ends,

He grieves for a fortune not given to friends.

In truth and in courage he stands quite apart.

He believes in humaneness and greatness of heart.

He keeps every promise. He never breaks one.

He will never abandon a task once begun.

He makes great what was small, on what's hidden casts light.

He makes poverty riches and sadness delight.

His name's like the sun that shines forth in all parts.

And his goodness a great and warm wind for hearts.

The steppes become seas at one wave of his hand,

And the sea by his will becomes dry desert land.

No man in the world is as faithful and true

In fulfilling what Allah told men they should do.

At banquets the Emir is noble and grave.

And in war he surpasses the bravest of brave.

An anvil for him becomes pliant as wax,

For his foes wax becomes a stone wall, or an axe.

While the deep sea holds pearls his crown to adorn,

While men prefer poppies to thistles and thorn,

May he live and rejoice in thousands of ways,

And count in their thousands such fine festive days.

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  1. Francois De Blois, Persian Literature - A Biobibliographical Survey: Volume V Poetry of the Pre-Mongol Period Volume 5 of Persian Literature, Routledge, 2004. 2nd edition. pg 187: "The point of the anectode is clear that the diwans of these poets contained Eastern Iranian (i.e. Sogdian etc.) words that were incomprehensible to a Western Persian like Qatran, who consequently took advantage of an educated visitor from the East, Nasir, to ascertain their meaning
  2. 1 2 3 4 Qaṭrān Tabrīzī. Dīvān Ḥakīm Qaṭaran Tabrīzī, bi-saʻy va ihtimām Muḥammad Nakhjavānī. Tabrīz, Chāpkhānih-i Shafaq, 1333 [1954 or 5]
  3. 1 2 3 Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature. Reidel Publishing Company. 1968 OCLC 460598. ISBN 90-277-0143-1
  4. "Francois De Blois, Persian Literature - A Biobibliographical Survey: Volume V Poetry of the Pre-Mongol Period Volume 5 of Persian Literature, Routledge, 2004. 2nd edition. pg 187:
  5. Mohammad-Amin Riahi. “Molahezati dar-bareye Zaban-e Kohan Azerbaijan” (Some comments on the ancient language of Azerbaijan), ‘Itilia’at Siyasi Magazine, volume 181-182. ریاحی خویی، محمدامین، «ملاحظاتی درباره‌ی زبان كهن آذربایجان»: اطلاعات سیاسی-اقتصادی، شماره‌ی 18۱-18۲ Also available at:
  6. The Cambridge History of Iran, Band 4 by R. N. Frye

See also

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