Translating Fakhru'd-Dîn Ibrâhîm

Translating Save Love of You by Irâqî

More on the nature of Persian poetry: word play. Fakhru'd-Dîn Ibrâhîm, better known as Irâqî, was born in Hamadan (Persia) but was drawn by a young dervish to Multân in India, where he became a devotee of Shaykh Bahâ'u'd-Dîn Zakariyyâ, in time marrying the master's daughter. At the Shayk's death, twenty-five years later, Irâqî travelled to Mecca, Turkey and Egypt, and finally to Syria, where he died, in Damascus, in 688/1289, being buried in the Sâlihiyya Cemetery beside the great mystic Shaykh Muhiyyu'd-Din ibn'l-'Arabî. {1} Irâqî was a noted Sufi, and E.G. Browne's translation brings this out well: {2}

1. Save love of thee a soul in me I cannot see, I cannot see,
          An object for my love save thee I cannot see, I cannot see.

2. Repose or patience in my mind I cannot find, I cannot find,
          While gracious glance or friendship free I cannot see, I cannot see.

3. Show in thy face some sign of grace, since for the pain wherewith I'm slain
          Except thy face a remedy I cannot see, I cannot see.

4. If thou wouldst see me, speed thy feet, for parted from thy presence sweet,
          Continue life on earth for me I cannot see, I cannot see.

5. O friend, stretch out a hand to save, for I am fallen in a wave
          Of which the crest, if crest there be, I cannot see, I cannot see.

6. With gracious care and kindly air come hither and my state repair;
          A better state, apart from thee, I cannot see, I cannot see.

7. Some pathway to 'Iraqî teach whereby that pathway he may reach,
          For vagrant so bemused as he I cannot see, I cannot see.

Word For Word Rendering

A little old-fashioned now, but none the worse for that. To see how close is Browne's rendering, we start by looking at the Farsi:

khusrau text

Verse Structure

A word-for-word rendering:

1a. marâjuz'ishqjânînamîbînamnamîbînam
me (Acc) of/to mebesides except savelove intensity of passionthousoul, cordially lovednotI see notI see
1b. dâmrâjuzjânânînamîbînamnamîbînam
snare worldly illusions (Acc) besides except savethouof souls notI see notI see
2a. bakhvad sabrîuârâmînamîyâbamnamîyâbam
to/with/by oneself patienceandpeace calmness repose notI find notI find
2b. z itghîuihsâninamîbînamnamîbînam
fromthou you seduction error excessiveandbenefit favour notI see notI see
3a. zrûybinamârûykidardîrakimandâram
from of for with byface appearanceshow face appearance expectationwho what while whereaspain (Acc) who what while whereasIhave
3b. bajuz rûydarmânînamîbînamnamîbînam
besides except saveface appearance expectationthou you medicine remedy notI see notI see
4a. bî âgarkhwâhîmdîdankidûraz rûykhûb
not if althoughwe wantto see who what while whereasremote far fromfromface appearance expectationgood beautiful firm thou you
4b. baqâ'î kwêsh chandânenamîbînamnamîbînam
immortality eternity ofone's selfof any amountnotI see notI see
5a. bagîr azyârdastmankidargird-âb / gurd-âbuftâdam
seizefromfriend handIwho what while whereasinwhirlpool wave I fall
5b. ki ânrâhechpâyâninamîbînamnamîbînam
who what while whereashim that to him to thatnothing never lost of end limitnotI see notI see
6a. z rûyitfaudâdâribiyâsâmânkârmankon
from face appearance expectationextinguishanddistribution of justice come set in order belongingsmy work(make: kardan)
6b. ki khwadrasâmânînamîbînamnamîbînam
who what while whereasself (objective) withoutthou you heavenlynotI see notI see
7a. irâqîra badr gâhatrahîbenamâkidarâlam
. irâqî (objective)without pathway traveller showwho what while whereasinworld universe
when in same manner sincehe perplexedconfusionnotI see notI see

After drawing up the usual metre table to identify any izâfa, we get:

1. Of me except a love of you a soul not I see not I see.
          Except a love of you a snare of souls (not) I see, (not) I see.

2. With myself a patience and a repose not I find, not I find.
          From you excess and favour not I see not I see.

3. By face show appearance what pain what I have
          Except face of you remedy not I see not I see.

4. Although we want to see who far from face of good of you
          Of immortality of one's self any amount not I see not I see.

5. Seize from friend hand I who in whirlpool fall
          Who to that nothing of limit not I see not I see.

6. From face extinguish and justice-distribution come set in order my work
          What self without you heavenly not I see not I see.

7a. Irâqî without pathway traveller show who in world
          When he perplexed confusion not I see not I see.

A problematic phrase, used repeatedly, is nummî bînam. Literally, it could be translated as anyone I see, only the prefix commonly indicates un- or without, so that the phrase carries overtones of uncertainty or not seeing properly. Browne's I do not see is therefore a very acceptable rendering, though rather stark and biblical where the Persian is deeper-textured and more ambivalent. A rendering in more contemporary English might be:

Except in love of you, a soul I cannot see or see.
          And love as snare for souls that I must see, must see.

Repose or patience in myself I do not find or find.
          But through excessive favour that I see and see.

Show kindly to me in your face what pain must be:
          No remedy beyond that face I see or see.

Far off, how distant is the goodness of that face:
          In me no immortality I see or see.

Clutch at this hand, my friend, lest in the whirlpool fall
          A one who only nothingness can see and see.

Come, set face to justice, put my work in place:
          No self without that heaven can I see or see.

Irâqî, without your guidance, in this world must travel:
          Perplexed continually, who does not see or see.


I've tried not to overdo the internal rhyme, but the original does show much repetition of letter groups. Why do we have such excessive assonance as:

 2a.          bakhvad sabrîu/vaârâmînamîyâbamnamîyâbam
                with oneself patienceandrepose notI find notI find

3b.           bajuz rûydarmânînamîbînamnamîbînam
                except face you remedy notI see notI see

Firstly, some of the internal rhyme is intended, was indeed admired, being called tarsî or tashtîr Secondly, the repetition (takrâ or anaphora of I do not see, I do not see, acts as a refrain, giving the poem structure and emphasis, although there is an expectation that the meaning should shift slightly if the words stay the same, or vice versa. {8} I have varied the translation a little for this reason. Thirdly comes decoration for its own sake. As Arthur Upham Pope notes in his Persian Architecture: "All the arts of Persia are closely interrelated and all express a common cultural inspiration. The great Islamic art of calligraphy, with its standards of rhythm, precision and expressive form, instructs and discipline other arts. Poetry, universal and indispensable in Persian life, together with philosophy, overt and implicit, nourish all cultural expressions. Analogies between Persian poetry and visual design are numerous: rhythm and rhyme, stress and resolution, surprise and fulfillment head a long list of characteristics." {9}

All are part of a rhetoric refined over centuries and far too complicated to summarize here. {10} {11} For the purposes of these short Persian translations, we might look at just two matters: imagery and what is called tajnîs, small changes in sound or letters to produce dissimilar meanings.Imagery is found in all poetry, and the light is a stock image in the western tradition (light of His countenance, etc.) and in this Irâqî poem we have the whirlpool and beloved's face, both carrying mystical overtones but needing no explanation.


1. E.G. Browne, Literary History of Persia (Munshiram Manoharlal, 1902-24/1997), III, 124-139.
2. Browne 1997, III, 131-2.
3. Annemarie Schimmel, A Two-Colored Brocade: The Imagery of Persian Poetry (Chapel Hill: Univ. North Carolina Press. 1992). Much useful material from a noted Sufi scholar.
4. Online English - Persian Dictionary. Input as transcribed English letters: larger database. Columbia.edu. NNA Dictionary
5. Digital Dictionaries of South Asia. Steingass online: includes literary Persian and common Arabic words: fascinating but more cumbersome to use.
6. A.K.S. Lambton, Persian Grammar Including Key (CUP, 1953, 1979)
7. F. Steingass, A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary: Being Johnson and Richardson's Persian, Arabic and English dictionary. Revised, enlarged and entirely reconstructed by F. Steingass (Asian Educational Services, 2003 )
8. Julie Scott Meisami, Structure and Meaning in Medieval Arabic and Persian Poetry: Orient Pearls (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 285.
9. Arthur Upham Pope, Persian Architecture: The Triumph of Form and Color (George Braziller, 1965), 133.
10. Browne 1997, II, 46-89.
11. Meisami 2003, 244-403.
12. Meisami 2003, 418-430.