- Persian Medieval Epigrams by Women Poets
Translated from the Persian
A WOMAN OF THE TOWN
12th century or earlier
Brought to this town’s bazaar today, I’ll be The best “companion” here—so who will hire me? Though I don’t care for those who want to have me, And those I like the look of don’t desire me.
We’re drunkards, ne’er-do-wells, but kind and civil— We’re not the men for prayers and all that drivel. Our judge thinks wine’s a sin; we’re petty thieves, He filches orphans’ wealth . . . so who’s more evil?
The judge’s wife was pregnant, he was furious, “I’m old,” he cried, “and this is more than curious! That whore’s no Virgin Mary, and my prick can’t stir— So whose child is it then that’s grown so big in her?” [End Page 408]
As wounded, and caught in your snare—there’s no one like me As driven by you to despair—there’s no one like me So many, so eagerly, vie for your love . . . As steadfastly faithful I swear—there’s no one like me.
If you’re a hypocrite, and bow your face in prayer—what use is that? Once poison’s reached into your soul, remedial care—what use is that? Showing yourself to everyone as though you’re virtuous and moral, If you’re all filth within, the spotless cloak you wear—what use is that?
Your lips, my friend, are rubies, pure and clear, Your face is lovely as the moon, my dear; But don’t be proud of all your splendid features— Pride would ensure their beauty’d disappear.
Tonight my heart’s a bird that longs to dare To fly to one place, and to hover there . . . I told her, “Don’t go flying to his street now, Begging’s the one thing that our king can’t bear.” [End Page 409]
Bija Nehani Qa’emi
I’m getting a divorce, and I’ll be rid of you— Two husbands will replace you, both of them brand new; The first will be a handsome youth, and number two A burly Turkoman; the youth’s for me, to do What sprightly lovers do; the Turkoman’s for you. [End Page 410]
DICK DAVIS is a poet and translator. He has published numerous volumes of original poetry and of verse translations from medieval Persian, most recently, Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (2012).