W h e n the Arabs-carrying the Koran in their breasts overran Persia in the middle years of the seventh century and destroyed the once-powerful Sasanian empire they swept out of existence, though not out of memory, almost all vestiges of a literature which had behind it a thousand years of varied and changeful history. With the scanty remnants of that pre-Islamic culture, recovered painstakingly from imperishable rock and tattered leaves of widely scattered codices, this book is not concerned. Here it is proposed to tell the story of the first rebirth of a national literature in the national language, and to trace the course of its development and full maturity from the beginning of the ninth to the end of the fifteenth century. This story has of course been told before, both briefly and at length: briefly, as by Reuben Levy in his Persian Literature (London, 1923); at length, as by Edward Granville Browne in his Literary History o f Persia (four volumes, Cambridge, 1928)— those are the best-known and most reliable guides to this extensive territory in English, but many other books and monographs in many languages have surveyed the same scene in general or in particular. However, since Browne and Levy wrote, much new material has been published both in Persia and elsewhere which, without affecting seriously the broad picture painted by them, has modified very considerably our perspective of many parts of that picture. It therefore seemed opportune to compile a new history of classical Persian literature, within the compass and following the proportions appropriate to a single volume work,
for the assistance of students coming newly to the subject, as well as for the enjoyment of the wider public interested to discover the sum of what the poets and writers of Persia produced during the golden age.