chapter  12
13 Pages

Iraj, the poet of love and humour

Iraj Mirza Jalal al-Mamalek, popularly known as Iraj, the name and title which he himself preferred, was the son of Gholamhoseyn Mirza, who was the son of Malek Iraj Mirza, who was a son of Fath’ali Shah Qajar. Fath’ali Shah himself was a poet of note and has a published divan. Both his son Malek Iraj Mirza and many of his other numerous sons and grandsons – including the important and influential E’tezad al-Saltaneh, minister of science under Naser al-Din Shah – were private or professional poets. Iraj’s own father was a professional poet and had been given the title of Sadr al-Sho’ara. Another grandson of Fath’ali Shah, son of Mohammadqoli Mirza Molk Ara, was a professional poet and entitled Shams al-Sho’ara, from whom descend the Qajar families, Shams and Shams-e Molk Ara. Apart from Iraj, two other descendants of Fath’ali Shah became famous poets: Abolhasan Mirza, Sheykh al-Ra’is I, and Mohammad Hashem Mirza (Afsar), Sheykh al-Ra’is II. Both of the latter poets, who came in two generations, were Iraj’s contemporaries. And Iraj was a personal friend of Hashem Mirza. In an ekhvaniyeh or poetical fraternity, he said, addressing Aref-e Qazvini: ‘Ask Shahzadeh Hashem Mirza / Why he does not get in touch. If being an MP changes one’s mood / Then being an MP is no good’:

ﻐﺗ ﺪﻫﺩﺮﮔ ﺖﻟﺎﮐﻭﻴﻴﺮﺖﻟﺎﺣ But among all of these Qajar family poets, including the two Sheykh al-Ra’is, Iraj stands out as one of the most able and most eloquent Persian poets of all time. He did not write much. The whole of his poetry is no more than 4,000 beyts or distiches. But much that he has written is of the highest quality and deserves to be preserved in the annals of Persian poetry. He belonged to a generation of poets who, although not modernists, modernised neo-classical poetry within the existing classical structures and so have been designated by this author as not modernists but modern.2 They chose forms which were most appropriate to the expression of

contemporary themes and ideas, and they often employed wholly new metaphors, puns, asides, allusions, imageries and other figures of speech and literary devices. Reading the poems which these poets wrote after the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-06, anyone familiar with classical and neo-classical Persian poetry would find it very difficult to mistake their poetry for such, in spite of the fact that the poets retained the basic neo-classical structures. There were, of course, many other poets, such as Ebrat-e Na’ini, Adib-e Pishavari and Vahid-e Dastgerdi, who remained almost completely faithful to the classics in both form and substance, and so their works did not survive beyond their own time.