A Brief Note on the Life of

Abul Hassan Farrukhi

Iraj Bashiri

Copyright 2002

His full name is Abul-Hassan Ali ibn Juluq Sistani. One of the major poets of his time, Farrukhi was born in the province of Sistan in eastern Iran, a place that he repeatedly mentions in his poems. There are reports that his father was the slave of a high ranking Saffarid official, Amir Khalaf Banu. Nevertheless, as is the case with many other poets of his time, there is precious little information about his early days. We know one important point about him: he was a very good musician and an accomplished singer.

During his youth, in his native Sistan, Farrukhi worked for a dihqan (landlord) who paid him in cash as well as in kind. When he came of age, Farrukhi married one of the dehqan's daughters. After some time, when he could no longer manage his family's expenses, he asked the dehqan for a raise. The dehqan told him that he could not afford a raise. Farrukhi then looked elsewhere for support even if it meant leaving his beloved Sistan.

His search finally brought Farrukhi to the court of the Amir of the Chaghanian. (Chaghanian, it should be mentioned, is near the city of Dushanbe, the capital of the present-day Republic of Tajikistan.) At the time of Farrukhi's arrival at the court, Abu al-Muzaffar Ahmad ibn Muhammad, the Amir of the Chaghanian, was not at the capital. He was at the branding grounds. His vice-regent, Amid As'ad, listened to the poet instead. Although he liked Farrukhi's poetry, he doubted that the Sagzi (Sistani) could actually have composed the poems. In Jerome W. Clinton's translation, here is a description of Amid As'ad's reaction to Farrukhi's appearance:

"Now 'Amid As'ad was a man of parts and a patron of poets, and in Farrukhi's verse he recognized poetry at once fresh, sweet, pleasing and masterly, while seeing the man himself to be an ill-proportioned Sagzi [Sistani], clothed in a torn jubba worn anyhow, with a huge turban on his head after the manner of the Sagzis, with the most unpleasing feet and shoes; and this poetry, withal, in the seventh heaven. He could not believe that it had been composed by this Sagzi and to prove him, said, "The Amir is at the branding-grounds, whither I go to wait upon him; and thither I will take thee also, for it is a mighty pleasant spot..."

To test Farrukhi's ability as a poet and to have something worthy to present to the Amir at the branding-grounds, Amid As'ad asked Farrukhi to compose an ode with the following specification:

"World within world of verdure wilt thou see, full of tents and lamps like stars, and from each tent come the strains of the lute, and friends sit together, drinking wine and making merry, while before the Amir's pavilion a great fire is kindled, in size like unto several mountains, whereat they brand the colts. And the Amir, with the goblet in one hand and lasso in the other, drinks wine and gives away horses."

That night Farrukhi composed the following ode and, in the morning, presented it to 'Amid As'ad. The ode begins with:

Since the meadow hides its face in satin shot with greens and blues,
And the mountains wrap their brows in silken veils of seven hues,
Earth is teaming like a musk-pod with aromas rich and rare,
Foliage bright as parrot's plumage doth the graceful willow wear...

Upon hearing Farrukhi's ode, 'Amid As'ad, who could not believe his ears, as it were, abandoned all the affairs of the state and, accompanied by Farrukhi, set out for the Amir's branding-grounds.

The Amir, himself a poet, was impressed with both Farrukhi's poetic and musical talent. He gave Farrukhi several slaves, colts, tents, mules, and other necessities for starting a new life at the court. Most importantly, he included Farrukhi among his court poets.

After the fall of the Samanids, Farrukhi joined the Court of Mahmud at Ghazna and became one of the most wealthy and famous poets of his time. His wealth, however, did not last long. In the end, he was expelled from the court, lost his wealth and died in poverty. In this he shared the fate of many of the poets of the time who worked for the courts and who died at court away from kith and kin.

Although he was very good in almost all the genres of Persian poetry, it was in the composition of the qasidah (ode) that he excelled. His compositions are simple and easy to read. In fact, he could describe a most complex scene using a few choice words. His favorite scenes are those of nature, men engaged in life and death struggles, and men striving to carry out the wishes of their sovereign.

Farrukhi died in Ghazna in 1037.


Written by
Farrukhi (d. AD 1037)

Translated by A. J. Arberry, 1958

    An indigo-tinted cloud came up from over an indigo sea,
    swirling around like a lover's thoughts, distraught like the mind of a lovelorn lad;
    There in the midst of the sleeping waves a sudden, twisting torrent surged,
    dark and astonished as the dust spinning about a squall of wind.
    Down it rained; then it split apart and hurtled headlong through the sky
    a herd of elephants stampeding, lost in an indigo wilderness.

The Branding

Written by
Farrukhi (d. AD 1037)

Translated by E. G. Browne

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Reference, Arberry, 1958

Since the meadow hides its face in satin shot with greens and blues,
And the mountains wrap their brows in silken veils of seven hues,
Earth is teaming like the musk-pod with aromas rich and rare,
Foliage bright as parrot's plumage doth the graceful willow wear.
Yestere'en the midnight breezes brought the tidings of the spring:
Welcome, O ye northern gales, for this glad promise which ye bring!
Up its sleeve the wind, meseemeth, pounded musk hath stored away,
While the garden fills its lap with shining dolls, as though for play.
On the branches of syringa necklaces of pearls we see,
Ruby earrings of Badakhshan sparkles on the Judas-tree.
Since the branches of the rose-bush carmine cups and beakers bore
Human-like five-fingered hands reach downwards from the sycamore.
Gardens all chameleon-coated, branches with chameleon whorls,
Pearly-lustrous pools around us, clouds above us raining pearls!
On the gleaming plain this coat of many colours doth appear,
Like a robe of honour granted in the court of the Amir.
For our prince's Camp of Branding stirreth in these joyful days
So that all this age of ours in joyful wonder stands agaze.
Green within the green you see, like skies within the firmament;
Like a fort within a fortress spreads the army tent on tent.
Every tent contains a lover resting in his sweetheart's arms,
Every patch of grass revealeth to a friend a favourite's charms.
Harps are sounding midst the verdure, minstrels sing their lays divine;
Tents resound with clink of glasses as the pages pour the wine.
Kisses, claspings from the lovers; coy reproaches from the fair;
Wine-born slumbers for the sleepers. while the minstrels wake the air.
Branding-fires, like suns ablaze, are kindled at the spacious gate
Leading to the state pavilion of our Prince so fortunate.
Leap the flames like gleaming standards draped with yellow-hued brocade,
Hotter than a young man's temper, yellower than gold assayed.
Branding-tools like coral branches ruby-tinted glow amain
In the fire, as in the ripe pomegranate glows the crimson grain.
Rank on rank of active boys, whose watchful eyes no slumber knows;
Steeds which still await the branding, rank on rank and row on row.
On his horse, the river-forder, roams our genial Prince afar,
Ready to his hand the lasso, like a young Isfandiyar.
Like the locks of pretty children see it how it curls and bends,
Yet be sure its hold is stronger than the covenant of friends.
Bu'l-Muzaffar Shah the Just, surrounded by a noble band,
King and conqueror of cities, brave defender of the land.
Serpent-coiled in skilful hands fresh forms his whirling noose doth take,
Like unto the rod of Moses metamorphosed to a snake.
Whosoever hath been captured by that noose and circling line,
On the face and shoulder ever bears the Royal Sign.
But, though on one side he brands, he giveth also rich rewards,
Leads his poets with a bridle, binds his guests as though with cords.

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