Quatrain for a King


This calligraphic piece includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), written diagonally in black Nasta'liq script outlined in cloud bands on a gold background. The text panel is provided with several monochromatic frames and is pasted onto a larger pink sheet strengthened by cardboard. In the top right corner, an invocation to Huwa al-fard al-ahad (God, “the Unique and the Only”) begins the poem. The subsequent verses read: “Oh King, the retinue of good fortune escorts you. / Rise if you intend to capture the world. / With such a summit of perfection form the presence of your rulership. / You are aware and you serve the conscious hearts.” This poetic tribute to a king encourages him to defeat his enemy with the support of his faithful retinue and good fortune. It also advises him to be aware and serve his people—"those with conscious hearts". In the lower left corner, the calligrapher, 'Ali, states that he wrote the work. 'Ali can be identified as Mīr ʻAlī Ḥusaynī Haravī (circa 1476–1543), a calligrapher active in the city of Herat (present-day Afghanistan) during the 16th century, until he was taken to Bukhara (present-day Uzbekistan) in 1528–29 by Shaybanid ruler 'Ubayd Allah Khan Uzbek. Mir ʻAlī was not only a master calligrapher, but a poet in his own right who composed a number of qit'a (sample verses) in honor of his patrons. This may be one of the poems he wrote for a royal benefactor.

Last updated: September 30, 2016