Nizami’s Poetry Versus Scientific Knowledge: The Case of the Pomegranate

  • Christine van Ruymbeke


It is an undisputed fact that Nizami and his fellow Western Iranian poets of the twelfth century made extensive use of vocabulary and images derived from contemporary knowledge about the exact sciences.1 Nizami himself repeatedly declares his overwhelming interest in science, as in the following verse where he tells us that happy slumber eludes him if he has not first forced open the door of a new science:

na-khoftam shabī shād bar bastarī/ke nagushādam ān shab ze-dānesh


(SN 7,88)2

I don’t fall asleep—happy—at night on my bed, have I not [first] that night opened one of science’s doors.


Pomegranate Juice Twelfth Century Exact Science Sick Person French Translation 
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  1. 10.
    J. E. Bencheikkh, Poétique arabe, Paris, 1975, p. ii.Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    L. P. Ellwell-Sutton, The Persian Metres, Cambridge, London, New York, Melbourne, 1976, p. vii.Google Scholar
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    J. E. Bencheikkh, op. cit., p. 83.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    See, for example D. Urvoy, Les Penseurs libres dans l’Islam classique, Paris, 1995, pp. 163–65.Google Scholar
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    As shown by J. S. Meisami, Medieval Persian Court Poetry, Princeton, 1987, p. 158.Google Scholar
  6. 27.
    Ibnn Al-Ἁwam, Ketāb al-Felāha, Le Livre de l’Agriculture, trans. J. J. Clement-Mullet, 3 vols., Paris, 1864–67, vol. 2, pp. 253–54 (my English translation after the French translation of Clement-Mullet).Google Scholar
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    See, for example, HP 4, 26–32. In this passage, however, Nizami apparently names Bokhārī and Tabarā as two of his sources, though opinions diverge on this point. See J. S. Meisami, Nizami. Haft Paykar. A medieval Persian Romance, Oxford, 1995, note 4:28, p. 276.Google Scholar
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    C. van Ruymbeke, op. cit., pp. 164–75.Google Scholar
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    J. S. Meisami, op. cit., p. 217, translates this difficult verse: “To say nought of the drinker’s sweet, the pomegranate; for those breasts with pomegranates filled the house.”Google Scholar
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    See, for example, C. van Ruymbeke, “Le vin. Interdiction et licence dans la poésie persane,” in Acta Orientalia Belgica, Bruxelles and Leuven, 1997, pp. 173–86. See also D. S. Feins, recent doctoral thesis on wine-drinking in Islam, presented in Edinburgh, 1997. My heartiest thanks to Professor R. Hillenbrand for making me aware of this reference.Google Scholar
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    See C.-H. de Fouchécour, La description de la nature dans la poésie lyrique persane du XIè siècle. Inventaire et analyse des thèmes, Paris, 1969, pp. 60–61.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, J. S. Meisami, op. cit., chapter V.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Kamran Talattof and Jerome W. Clinton 2000

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  • Christine van Ruymbeke

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