Persian Prison Poem
University of Bristol,
paper will examine the evidence for tracing the Persian
prison poem (ḥabsīyyāt)
to al-Andalus. As is well known, the genre was inaugurated
in Lahore with the poetry of Mascud-I
Salman (d. 1121). It subsequently moved west to the
Caucasus, to domains ruled by the Shirvanshahs of
Azerbaijan, where the genre flourished in the poems of
Khāqānī (d. 1199), Abu’l
Ganjevi, and Mujir al-Din Baylaqani.
well established genealogies are the subject of my prior
research, including my dissertation and journal articles.
Less understood and examined are the connections between
Arabic poets who wrote about imprisonment and exile and the
Persian poets who followed in their wake. Can certain
aspects of the Persian
be traced to al-Andalus, where
poets such as Yusuf b. Harun al-Ramadi (d. 1013) composed
poetry about imprisonment and exile? This paper examines the
evidence in favor of such an argument. In particular,
al-Ramadi’s lost collection of prison poems which describe
all the species birds known to him, and conclude with “a
eulogy on the Prince…entreating him…to intercede with his
father for his release” (Jayyusi,
The Legacy of Muslim Spain, 1992,
p. 330), suggests parallels with the prison poems of
Khaqani. Another possible Andalusian precedent for the
is Ibn Zaydun, who deployed the
topoi of imprisonment in his poetry to his beloved Wallada.
Finally, Sulayman al-Musta’in composed qaṣīdas
from prison that lament his condition and defend his poetry
much in the spirit of the Persian ḥabsīyyāt.
Although we probably
never be able to establish with certainty whether the prison
poets of al-Andalus were read by the prison poets of Central
and South Asia and the Caucasus, existing archives and
scholarship suggest the need for a comprehensive
investigation. This paper is one step in that direction.