1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rūdagī

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RŪDAGĪ (d. 954). Farīd-eddīn Mahommed 'Abdallāh, the first great literary genius of modern Persia, was born in Rūdag, a village in Transoxiana, about 870-900. Most of his biographers assert that he was totally blind, but the accurate knowledge of colours shown in his poems makes this very doubtful. The fame of his accomplishments reached the ear of the Sāmānid Nasr II. bin Ahmad, the ruler of Khorāsān and Transoxiana (913-42), who invited the poet to his court. Rūdagī became his daily companion, rose to the highest honours and amassed great wealth. In spite of various predecessors, he well deserves the title of “father of Persian literature,” “the Adam or Sultan of poets,” since he was the first who impressed upon every form of epic, lyric and didactic poetry its peculiar stamp and its individual character. He is also said to have been the founder of the “dīwān” — that is, the typical form of the complete collection of a poet's lyrical compositions in a more or less alphabetical order which prevails to the present day among all Mahommedan writers. Of the 1,300,000 verses attributed to him, there remain only 52 kasīdas, ghazals and rubā'īs; of his epic masterpieces we have nothing beyond a few stray lines in native dictionaries. But the most serious loss is that of his translation of Ibn Mokaffa's Arabic version of the old Indian fable book Kalilah and Dimnah, which he put into Persian verse at the request of his royal patron. Numerous fragments, however, are preserved in the Persian lexicon of Asadī of Tus (ed. P. Horn, Göttingen, 1897). In his kasīdas, all devoted to the praise of his sovereign and friend, Rūdagī has left us unequalled models of a refined and delicate taste, very different from the often bombastic compositions of later Persian encomiasts. His didactic odes and epigrams express in well-measured lines a sort of Epicurean philosophy of human life and human happiness; more charming still are the purely lyrical pieces in glorification of love and wine. Rūdagī survived his royal friend, and died poor and forgotten by the world.

There is a complete edition of all the extant poems of Rūdagī, in Persian text and metrical German translation, together with a biographical account, based on forty-six Persian MSS., in Dr H. Ethé's “Rūdagī der Sāmānidendichter” (Göttinger Nachrichten, 1873, pp. 663-742); see also his “Neupersische Literatur” in Geiger's Grundriss der iranischen Philologie (ii.); P. Horn, Gesch. der persischen Literatur (1901), p. 73; E. G. Browne, Literary History of Persia, i. (1902); C. J. Pickering, “A Persian Chaucer” in National Review (May 1890).