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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction by A. V. Williams Jackson (1862–1937)

By Jāmī (1414–1492)

THE PERSIAN poet Jāmī was the last classic minstrel of Iran, and a master in the historical, lyrical, and mystic literature. He lived during the fifteenth century, and his writings are fired by the last sparks from the torch of Firdawsī, Sa’dī, and Hafez; so that his name has become one of the shining lights in the Persian temple of poetic fame. Jāmī’s native place was Jām, a small town in the neighborhood of Herat in Khorassan. Hence he is called Jām-ī; although he plays upon this appellation as meaning also a “cup,” and as significant of his pouring out the spiritual wine of the love of God, the wine of which the mystic Sūfīs so often speak: for Jāmī, like his predecessors, had quaffed draughts from the flagon of the mystic poetry of Sūfīism.

The minstrel’s full name is given as Nūr-uddīn ’Abd-urrahmān Jāmī; his birth-year was 1414; and his education from early youth was at the hands of eminent teachers. We know of his marriage, and we are told of his endeavor, through his didactic prose story-book ‘Bahāristān,’ to give instruction to an only surviving son, born late in life. A religious pilgrimage undertaken by Jāmī to Mecca is also recorded. His poetic fame was so widespread that princes unasked were ready to offer him favors: but Jāmī at heart was devoted to Dervish teaching and to Sūfī philosophy, which won for him a sort of saintly reputation; and when in 1492 he passed away, advanced in years, he was mourned by the people of Herat and by the highest dignitaries of State.

According to some accounts Jāmī was the author of nearly a hundred works; it is not an exaggeration to attribute to him at least forty. Fine manuscripts of his writings are not uncommon, and one exquisite codex has been preserved which was prepared for the Emperor of Hindustan, a century after Jāmī’s death. This superb specimen of Oriental calligraphy and illumination is said to have cost thousands of dollars. Seven of the best of Jāmī’s writings have been gathered into a collection entitled ‘Haft Aurang,’ ‘The Seven Stars of the Great Bear,’ or ‘The Seven Thrones’ as it is sometimes called. One of these seven is the pathetic story of ‘Lailā and Majnun’; another is the allegorical moral poem ‘Salāman and Absāl,’ an English adaptation of which is to be found in the works of Edward Fitzgerald; the third of the seven stars is the romantic tale of ‘Yūsuf and Zulīkhā,’ or Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. This latter theme had been previously treated by Firdawsī among other poets; but it still remains one of Jāmī’s masterpieces. The story is not the simple incident of the Bible, but is elaborately developed from the Koran. The beautiful Zulīkhā’s dream in her youth of an ideal spouse is thrice repeated. Her disappointment in the marriage with Potiphar is bitter and keen, and is intensified by her discovering that the fair youth Joseph who was purchased in the slave market is the embodiment of that glorious apparition she had beheld in the vision. The poem is then developed on very romantic lines, so as to bring out each of the characters in clearest colors; but after the vicissitudes of years, the poem ends happily when the fair Zulīkhā, now widowed, is united to Joseph as the ideal of manly beauty and purity, and she becomes a worshiper of the true God. Jāmī’s prose work the ‘Bahāristān,’ or ‘Abode of Spring,’ comprises a series of pithy short stories, entertaining brief tales, or Oriental wisdom, and is modeled on Sa’dī’s ‘Gulistān.’

Considerable material is accessible to English readers who may be interested in Jāmī: for example, S. Robinson, ‘Persian Poetry’ (Glasgow, 1883), from which the selections appended are taken; also L. S. Costello, ‘Rose Garden of Persia’ (London, 1887); Edward Fitzgerald, ‘Salāman and Absāl, Translated’ (American edition, Boston, 1887); again, ‘The Bahāristān Literally Translated’ (published by the Kama Shastra Society, Benares, 1887). See also Sir Gore Ouseley, ‘Biographical Notices of Persian Poets’ (London, 1846); and for bibliographical lists of translations into German and French, consult H. Ethé in Geiger’s ‘Grundriss der Iranischen Philologie,’ ii. 305, 307.