Treatise on Prosody


This treatise discusses different aspects of the art of versification, including meters, verses, letters, syllables, patterns of rhythm, and other topics relating to the poetic arts in early modern Persian poetry. The author, who is identified on folio 2, Mahmud ibn ʻUmar al-Najati al-Nisaburi (died 1328), is also known as Hamid al-Din Mahmud bin ʻUmar Nijati Nishapuri. No information exists about his place and date of birth or about his death. He is known to have produced a translation of and commentary on Tārīkh-i Utubi, also known as Tārīkh-i Yamīnī (History of Yamini), an early 11th-century courtly chronicle recounting the political and military events of the early Ghaznavid sultans, especially of Sultan Mahmud (died 1030). Where and when this manuscript was made are unclear, but its calligraphic style and clear prose nastaʻliq script suggest that it could have been written in the 15th−16th centuries somewhere in the Persianate world, e.g., India, Afghanistan, Iran, or somewhere in Islamic Central Asia. The manuscript is organized around a five-line eulogistic note (folio 1) praising and thanking God, an eight-page preface (folios 1−8), and the main contents. In the preface, the author discusses Persian poetry and the usefulness of a treatise on Persian prosody, briefly touching upon the names and works of earlier prosodists, such as the 12th century al-Ustad al-Mutarzi al-Ganji (folios 4−5). He also mentions the relationship between holidays and festivities, such as Nawruz (Persian New Year) and the Islamic festival of Eid, and the composition of poetry. The main contents start on folio 9. The first two poetic verses discussed (folios 9−15 and 16−17) are from a famous longer qasidah (poem) of al-Ustad al-Murtarzi al-Ganji (also known as Qavami Ganjavai), said to exemplify the composition of a studious, elegant, and meaningful qasidah and the technical and conceptual contents of the first two lines of a long poem (referred to in Arabic and Persian poetic sciences as Husn-i Mutala-e and Nik Aghazi, (literally, “elegant beginning”)). In addition to Husn-i Mutala-e, other technical aspects of prosody, such as meter and repetition, are discussed throughout the treatise. Although the work is written in Persian, the language is filled with dense Arabic grammar and vocabulary. All the poems discussed in the text have subheadings that appear in bold red font, indicating the author or the theme being discussed; the headings are always written in Arabic, while the discussion is in Persian. The paper is thin and light-cream colored. Chain lines run vertically and horizontally in a random manner throughout the text. The manuscript is written in black ink with rubrication; folio 1 is elaborately decorated in blue and gold. The writing is enclosed in thin gold borders edged in black. Two lines of an Ottoman Turkish poem appear at the end of the manuscript, although there is no evidence to suggest that these two lines are original; they might be a later addition, as might the title of the manuscript that appears on the flyleaf. There is no pagination.

Last updated: September 30, 2016