Afghan Poetry of the Seventeenth Century


Khushal Khan Khatak (also seen as Khwushhal, 1613‒89) was a celebrated warrior-poet, often called the national poet of Afghanistan. He was born near Peshawar, the son of Shahbaz Khatak, chief of the Khatak tribe. By appointment of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in 1641 he succeeded his father as chief of the Khatak tribe, but later was imprisoned by Shah Jahan’s powerful and harsh successor, Emperor Aurangzeb (reigned 1658–1707). Khatak eventually was permitted to return to Peshawar, where he incited the Pashtuns to unite and to revolt against Mughal rule. Afghan Poetry of the Seventeenth Century is a selection of Khatak’s poems, edited and compiled by C.E. Biddulph of Trinity College, Cambridge. The book contains an introduction to the history of Afghanistan and the poet Khatak, a grammatical introduction that explains the fundamentals of the Pushto language, English translations of a selection of Khatak’s poems, and the original Pushto texts written in the Persian script. The translations are either by Biddulph or reproduced from H.G. Raverty’s Selections from the Poetry of the Afghans from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century (1862). In the introduction, Biddulph writes that Khatak’s poems “are characteristic of the national character and the circumstances of his life; they contain the most extraordinary mixture of warlike, not to say bloodthirsty sentiments, and those of a philosophical, religious, or sentimental nature. In the same poems almost one may find the simple and most charming expressions of his appreciation of the beauties of nature and the benefits of the Creator, the most sanguinary rejoicings over the discomfiture of his foes, even when these are of his own countrymen, and reflections of a moralizing description which show the amount of thought he had bestowed on such subjects.”

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Publication Information

K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Company, London

Title in Original Language

Afghan poetry of the seventeenth century

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120 pages ; 29 centimeters


  1. Ludwig W. Adamec, Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, fourth edition. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2012).

Last updated: August 28, 2017