A Masnavī Satirizing a Barber

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1. My every hair’s a tongue standing to order.

In verse I now describe a certain barber.

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2. Off royal pomp he knocked the crown, and booed.

Beneath his hand lay every head subdued.

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3. Because the mirror looked to him with hope

By it he was the sun’s equal in scope.

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4. An instance of the sun, that radiant man

Took for his blade a lancing ray to hand.

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5. When far away his blade reveals its trace

In honor does the vein give up its place.

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6. A hair’s worth won’t he yield to sorrow’s vein.

His blade is lighter than a hair–it’s plain.

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7. By shearing heads now he’s the head honcho.

His laws like water over people’s heads do flow.

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8. He never moistens heads. It’s all the same.

Seeing his waist, do hairs all melt in shame.

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9. So ravishingly are his scissors molded

Of idols’ eyes and brows are you reminded.

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10. So hair-besotted are his scissors now

They’re competition for the eyebrow.

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11. When from his hand the blade’s thorn flails

It cups the rose to bleed the nightingale.

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12. Excelling at phlebotomy, he struck

A figure incomparable at work.

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13. When with my blood he decked my forehead

From envy did the flowering branch turn red.

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14. What spells does he breathe, what powers,

That flowering branches readily shed their flowers?

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15. Is he drunk on the wine of its fervor

That he knocks back goblets to the mirror?

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16. So crazed is he with fire of its ardor

Each night he drinks umpteen cups of water.

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17. Collecting ash in furnaces, that moon

Contrives to burnish mirrors bright as noon.

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18. My murder’s all he wants, his only care

And yet he tests his scalpel on my hair.

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19. To draw my blood like wine, that crazy man,

Stands always, I see, with gourd in hand.

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20. By him was I immersed in seas of blood.

How strange! Look–I drown by a buoying gourd.

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21. Awaiting that rose-bodied one’s coming

The pauper from the steam-bath comes, hoping.

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22. In madness, that moon-like man tips over

On heads, like wine, tubfuls of water.

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23. This desire’s deprived my eyes of sleep;

They stand before him like cups of water and weep.

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24. O come, world-warming sun, come here, I say!

Our night without you turns to blackest day.

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25. Before me then he placed a mirror, that moon,

But only when I fell into a swoon.

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26. And then from each finger my nails he wrenched

So that on nothing could my hands stay clenched.

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27. That radiant sun then raised me from below.

You might say he’d shorn me of all shadow.

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28. For as long as the moon’s a lamp unto the world

May I walk safeguarded under his shade unfurled.

Bios

Ghanī Kashmīrī

Mullā Tāhir Ghanī Kashmīrī (d. 1668-69) was the most famous Persian-language poet of the region of Kashmir in South Asia. He practiced the “Speaking Anew” (tāza-guyi) stylistics of the ghazal that had arisen across the Persian world in the early 1500s. In its intricate deployment of kinds of syllepsis, paronomasia, oronym and amphiboly–collectively termed ihām–whose non-salient (baʿīd) meaning or meanings the poet privileged over their salient (qarīb) ones, his poetry constitutes a highpoint of the polysemy and semantic density characteristic of Speaking Anew.

Prashant Keshavmurthy

Prashant Keshavmurthy is Assistant Professor of Persian-Iranian Studies in the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University. His interests include pre-colonial Persian-Urdu literary culture and South Asian intellectual histories.

English translation copyright (c) Prashant Keshavmurthy, 2014.