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Appendix I: Anonymous Narrative Poems Attributed to the Pre-Mongol Period
(6,650 words)

In Volume 5: Poetry of the Pre-Mongol Period

previous chapter: Part 4

§ 314. The Bahman-nāmah and the Kōsh- (or Gōsh-) nāmah were manifestly written by one and the same poet at the very beginning of the 12th century; his identity has, however, not been established satisfactorily. In the modern secondary literature (as well as on the title-page of ʿAfīfī’s edition of the Bahman-nāmah) the two poems have been ascribed to one ‘Ē/Īrān-shāh’. The basis for this attribution is a passage in the Mujmal al-tawārīkh (p. 92 of Bahār’s edition) which states that the hero Zāl i zar died during the reign of Dārā (Darius), and adds that the only book in which the author found this information is a version (nuskhah) of the Bahman-nāmah ‘which Hakīm nn. b. Abī l-Khair versified’. The name of this versifier is indistinct in the Paris manuscript (the only copy available to Bahār); both Mohl2 and Bahār read it tentatively as ʾyrʾnšʾn, which does not make sense in this form, but Bahār suggested that it might represent a corruption of Ērān-shāh or Ērān-shahrī. There are other copies of the Mujmal, among them a Dublin manuscript dated 823/1420,3 where the name is written quite clearly as ʾyrʾnšʾn. On the other hand, in the old copy in Berlin (completed on Sunday 4 Shawwāl 751/1350) the name does appear to be Ērān-shāh.4 This would seem to support Bahār’s emendation.

What, however, is more important is the fact that the information for which the author of the Mujmal refers to this book (namely that Zāl died during the time of Dārā) is not to be found in the extant Bahman-nāmah and also that the one verse which he quotes from the poem cannot be located in the work that we have before us.5 If ‘Ērān-shāh’ did in fact write a Bahman-nāmah, then it is clearly not our Bahman-nāmah. Indeed the author of the Mujmal, speaking as he does of this ‘version’ of the Bahman-nāmah, seems to imply that he was aware of more than one telling of the story.

Hidāyat,6 reports that ‘some people say’ that the Bahman-nāmah is by Jamālī Mihrījirdī, whom, in another place,7 he lists among the contemporaries of Lāmiʿī, repeating there the information that he is the author of this poem. Unfortunately, this Jamālī does not seem to be mentioned anywhere else. Finally, on the endorsement of London Or. 2780 the poem is attributed to Ādharī (as it is also in Munzawī), but this is merely the result of a confusion between this Bahman-nāmah and Ādharī’s epic of the same name celebrating the Bahmanī sultans of the Deccan.

The opening section of the Bahman-nāmah has come down to us in several different forms. The version given in the two Paris manuscripts, followed by ʿAfīfī’s edition (inc.: zi mā āfrīn bar jahān-āfrīn * kih ō rā sizad bar jahān āfrīn), speaks of ten years having passed since the death of Malik-Shāh, which would seem to indicate that the poem was composed in 495/1101–2. The author then launches into an encomium of that king’s son Muḥammad,8 who was not officially invested as sultan until 498/1105, but who was in open rebellion against his half-brother, Berk-yāruq, from 490/1097 onwards. It is thus by no means impossible that our poet could have dedicated this work to Muhammad as early as 495.9 The prologue in London Or. 2976 (inc.: nakhustīn sukhan nām i dādār i dād * kih bē yād i ō nām-hā hast bād) also contains the verses implying the completion of the poem in 495, but does not apparently name the ruler to whom it is dedicated. The oldest copy, London Or. 2780/iii begins with the same verses as Asadī’s Karshāsp-nāmah (i.e. these verses were interpolated by a copyist to fill a lacuna in his prototype)10 and also mentions Muḥammad by name; this version then proceeds to describe at length (according to Rieu) two events during the first part of that king’s reign: the capture of the Ismāʿīlī stronghold Shahdiz (near Isfahan) in 500/1107 and the defeat of the ‘king of the Arabs’, i.e. Amīr al-ʿArab Saif al-daulah Ṣadaqah b. Mazyad, in Rajab 501/1108. It would thus seem most likely that the poem was originally completed, and dedicated to the rebellious Muḥammad, in 495/1101–2, but that the author revised and updated his preface some five years later.

The poem contains the story of Isfandyār’s son Bahman and his wars against the family of Rustam, an episode narrated at some length in the Shāh-nāmah, but much elaborated here. It tells of his coronation, his adventures with Katāyūn, the daughter of the king of Kashmīr, and Humāy, the daughter of the king of Egypt, the death of Rustam and of Bahmān’s campaign against Rustam’s relatives in Sīstān. Bahman captures Zāl, kills Farāmarz and pursues Rustam’s daughters to India. He captures the two girls and also Rustam’s grandson, Ādharburzīn, son of Farāmarz. After defeating the whole family Bahman abdicates in favour of Humāy and is killed by a dragon while hunting.

In the later of the two London manuscripts the Bahman-nāmah is preceded (on fol. 59b–62a) by the Dāstān i Ādharburzīn, a short fragment elaborating further on the war between Bahman and Ādharburzīn.11

Mss. of the Bahman-nāmah: Oxford Pers. c. 26 (Beeston 2544/3. Ca. 8000 verses); London Or. 2780/iii (Rieu Suppt. 201. Dated Rabīʿ i 800/1397. Pictures); Or. 2976/ii (Rieu Suppt. 197. Dated 1 Jumādā i 1252/1836. Interpolated into the Shāh-nāmah. Pictures); Paris Ancien fonds 277 (Blochet 1192/Richard. 17th century?); Supplément 500 (Blochet 1193. Dated 7 Isfandārmad, 1064 Yazd./1695); Tehran Univ. ix 2414 (17th–18th century?); Arak Bayāt (Nuskhah-hā vi p. 66. Dated 885/1480–1. Interpolated into the Shāh-nāmah); Navsari Meherji Rana p. 98 no. 109; Hyderabad Sālār Jung iv 1114/1 (17th century?). Cf. Munz. iv 27894–27900.

Editions: Bombay 1325/1907 (ed. Rustam b. Bahrām); [Tehran] 1370sh./1991 (Bahman-nāmah az Īrān-shāh b. Abī l-Khair, ed. R. ʿAfīfī, with valuable introduction and indices).

Mujmal p. 2, 92; Hidāyat, Majmaʿ i p. 110, 494; Mohl’s translation of the Shāhnāmah12 i pp. lxxix–lxxxi; S. Nafīsī, ‘Jamāl i Mihrījirdī’, Āyandah i, 1304sh./1925, pp. 589–95; Khaiyām-pūr p. 136; Rastegar, Problematik pp. 25–8; Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah pp. 289–94; EIr s.v. ‘Bahman-nāma’ (W.L. Hanaway, Jr.).

The Kōsh-, (Gōsh-?)nāmah (inc. tu-rā ai khirad-mand i rōshan-ruwān * zabān kard yazdān az īn sān rawān) is the work of the same author, who, in the prologue, refers to the reward he had received for the Bahman-nāmah and mentions yet again the defeat inflicted by his master on the ‘king of the Arabs’. The author of the Mujmal al-tawārīkh mentions in succession the akhbār i Bahman and the qiṣṣah i Kōsh i Pīl-dandān while enumerating the poems composed in the manner of the Shāh-nāmah.

This poem tells the story of two kings of China at the time of Farēdūn, namely Kōsh, the brother of Ḍaḥḥāk, and his son Kōsh i Pīl-dandān. An edition is being prepared by J. Matīnī.

Ms.: London Or. 2780/iv (Rieu Suppt. 201. Ms. dated Ṣafar 800/1397. Pictures).

Mujmal p. 2; Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah pp. 296–300; J. Matīnī, ‘Kūsh i Pīlgūsh, nabard i pidar u pisar’, Īrān-nāmah ii/2, 1985–6, pp. 290–300; id., ‘Kūsh yā Gūsh?’, Īrān-nāmah vi/1, 1987, pp. 1–14; id., ‘Farīdūn wa sar-zamīn i āftāb i tābān’, Īrān-shināsī ii/1, 1990, pp. 160–77; Rastegar, Problematik pp. 34–5.

§ 315. The Bānū-Gushasp-nāmah tells the story of one of Rustam’s daughters. It has neither been published nor as yet studied in detail.

Mss.: Oxford Ouseley 28 (Ethé 509. 16th century? End missing); Ouseley 30 (Ethé 510. Extracts only, with interpolated verses); Pers. c. 26 (Beeston 2544/5. 612 verses. End missing); Paris Supplément 498 fol. 145v sqq. (Blochet 1194. 18th century). Cf. Munz. iv 27647–51.

Extracts interpolated into copies of the Shāh-nāmah: London Or. 2926 fol. 249b–251a (Rieu Suppt. 196/ix. Ms. completed Rabīʿ i 1249/1833).

Cf. Mohl’s translation of the Shāh-nāmah i pp. lxxiv–lxxv; Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah pp. 300–2; Rastegar, Problematik pp. 30–1.

§ 316. A fragment of a versification of the famous story of Bilauhar u Bōdīsaf13 transcribed into Manichaean script (33 verses, not one of which is complete) was discovered by Henning among the documents from Turfan. The primary interest of the fragment is its antiquity; the unique copy is, according to Henning, ‘not later than the first half of the 10th century’. The poem itself would appear to be by a contemporary imitator of Rōdakī.

Text and translation in W.B. Henning, ‘Persian poetical manuscripts from the time of Rūdakī’ in A locust’s leg, Studies in honour of S.H. Taqizadeh, London 1962, pp. 89–104 (also in Henning’s Selected papers ii, Leiden 1977, pp. 559–74). See also id., ‘Die älteste persische Gedichthandschrift: eine neue Version von Barlaam und Joasaph’, Akten des 24. internationalen Orientalisten-Kongresses, Wiesbaden 1959, pp. 305–7 (=Selected papers ii pp. 541–3); id., ‘Qadīmtarīn nuskhah i shiʿr i fārsī’, mdat v/4, 1337sh./1958, pp. 1–9; D. Gimaret, Le livre de Bilawhar et Būd̲āsf selon la version arabe ismaélienne, Paris 1971, pp. 41–2.

§ 317. The Burzō-nāmah recounts the adventures of Burzō, the son of Suhrāb and grandson of Rustam, at least the first part of which are an obvious doublet of the story of Suhrāb as we know it from the Shāh-nāmah: The orphaned Burzō is brought up by his mother in the land of Tūrān. He joins Afrāsyāb in his wars against the Iranians, meets Rustam on the battlefield, engages him in battle, but at the last moment is recognised by and reconciled with his grandfather. Burzō then defects to the Iranian side and wages war against Afrāsyāb. There is long episode involving the sorceress Sōsan. In the end the hero is killed by a demon.

A fairly short version of the story (ca. 4000 verses) has been interpolated into a number of copies of Firdausi’s Shāh-nāmah and was published in the appendix to Macan’s edition of that poem. Much more extended versions are in existence, but these remain unpublished. The descriptions of their contents in various publications suggest significant differences among the existing manuscripts, which perhaps contain several different poems with the same name.

The authorship of the Burzō-nāmah has been the subject of much confusion. The first scholar to draw attention to the work was Anquetil-Duperron who declared, without giving any reason, that it was the work of one ‘Ataï’. This information was doubted already by Mohl. But Blochet, in his description of the manuscript bequeathed by Anquetil to the Bibliothèque Nationale, attrib­uted the work without further ado to ‘Khadjè ’Amid ’Athaï ibn Ya’qoub, sur­nommé ’Athaï Razi’ i.e. to the poet whom we have encountered above (§ 174) as ʿAṭāʾ i Yaʿqūb, and to whom Hidāyat ascribed (evidently wrongly) the nisbah Rāzī. This attribution has been widely accepted both by western and by Iranian scholars, but has never been substantiated. Its basis has, however, finally become clear with the publication of Mirzoev’s description of the manuscript in Dushanbe which contains on fol. 150a (i.e. about 12 pages from the end of the poem) a verse which Mirzoev quotes as: khudāy-ā ʿaṭā bar ʿaṭāʾ kun ʿaṭāʾī * kih hastam darmāndah u bē-nawāʾī. As it stands, the verse does not scan; what is required is evidently something like … ʿaṭā kun ʿaṭā * kih hastamm (sic!) darmāndah u bē-nawā. That this really contains the name of the author is far from certain; ʿaṭā bar ʿaṭā means perhaps simply ‘gift upon gift’, rather than ‘a gift to ʿAṭāʾ’. But it is apparently this verse which induced Anquetil to ascribe the poem to one ʿAṭāʾī, whom Blochet then identified, quite arbitrarily, with the ʿAṭāʾ i Yaʿqūb known to him from the tadhkirahs.

The Burzō-nāmah does not seem to be mentioned in any early source and there are no dated copies before the 16th century. The question of whether it is really as old as has formerly been believed must, however, be deferred until such time as a scholarly edition of the poem is available.

Mss.: Oxford Fraser 85 (Ethé 511. Dated 1012/1603–4. Apparently only an extract); Pers. c. 26 (Beeston 2544/4. 3116 verses); Paris Supplément 497 (Blochet 1191. Dated day Khurshēd, month Mihr, 1102Y./1733. Story of Sōsan only); Supplément 499 (Blochet 1189. Copied in 1760. Beginning and end missing. Pictures); Supplément 499a (Blochet 1190. Dated 1174/1760 and copied from the same 17th century Ms. as the preceding. Pictures); Rome Sbath 652 (Dated 1014/1605–6. See the article by Piemontese); Cluj (Mentioned by Piemontese and Richard); Istanbul Lâleli 1668 (17th century? Incomplete at both ends. See the description by Richard); Dushanbe Acad. ii 324 (19th century); Navsari Meherji Rana p. 98 no. 110. Cf. Munz. i 4463–7.

Extracts inserted in Mss. of the Shāh-nāmah, or containing fragments of various epics: Manchester Lindesiana 9 (=Robinson 431–74. 15th century? Pictures); Lindesiana 909 (=Robinson 1481–1579. Dated 23 Jumādā ii 1060/1650. Pictures); Oxford All Souls ms. 288 (Robinson pp. 185–6. Dated 26 Safar 988/1580. Pictures); London Or. 4906 fol. 261a–303a (Rieu Suppt. 195/ ii. 17th century?); Or. 2926 fol. 193a–221b (Rieu Suppt. 196/viii. Completed Rabīʿ i 1249/1833); Paris Supplément 1027 fol. 201–236 (Blochet 1174. 18th century?); Supplément 1023 fol. 55v sqq. (Blochet 1180. 8000 verses. 19th century); Supplément 502 fol. 235 sqq. (Blochet 1198. 18th century); Supplément 1307 fol. 173v.–207v; Smith-Lesouëf 222 fol. 263–304 (these two according to Richard’s article p. 242 n. 1); Genoa Bibl. Universitaria Ms. c.vii. 145 (Piemontese 172. 19th century?); Naples Bibl. Nazionale Ms. iii.G.68 and 68bis (Piemontese 220–221, the former dated 977/1569); Uppsala Tornberg clxxxii/2;14 Leningrad Dorn cccxxxi (16th century? Pictures); Dorn cccxxx (= 16th century?); Acad. C 51 (17th century?); and doubtless many others.

Edition: in Macan’s Shāh-nāmah iv pp. 2160–296.

Translation (Gujarati): Ms.: Navsari Meherji Rana p. 142 no. 29 (‘Burjor-Nameh: Vols. 8–10 and 12–15’. In the index the title is given as ‘Barzu-Nâmeh’).

Partial translation (Italian): V. Rugarli, Il primo canto del libro di Berzo …, Bologna 1899; id., ‘Susen la cantatrice, episodio del Libro di Berzu’, Giornale della Società asiatica italiana 11, 1897–8, pp. 15–33.

Anquetil-Duperron, Le Zend-avesta, Paris 1771, i/i p. 536; Mohl’s translation of the Shāh-nāmah i pp. lxxv–lxxviii; Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah pp. 303–10; id., Tārīkh ii pp. 477–83; A.M. Piemontese, ‘I manoscritti persiani del fondo Sbath nella biblioteca Vaticana e un nuovo « Barzūnāma »’, Rendiconti, ser. 8, vol. 33, 1978, pp. 447–64; F. Richard, ‘Une copie du Barzû-Nâme à la bibliothèque Süleymaniye, le manuscrit Lâleli 1668’, Studia Iranica 13, 1984, pp. 241–8; ei2 s.v. ‘Barzū-nāma’ (Huart/Massé); EIr s.v. ‘Borzū-nāma’ (W.L. Hanaway, Jr.).

What is possibly a different Burzō-nāmah is found in Cambridge King’s, No. 56 (Browne Suppt. 171. ‘Dated 829/1425–6, in error, apparently, for 1019/1610–11’. Browne describes it as ‘not agreeing with the poem’ in London Or. 4906 and says that it ‘deals with the adventures of Rustam and Suhráb’. The colophon gives the author’s name as Maulānā Shams al-dīn Muḥammad Kawīj).

§ 318. Farāmarz-nāmah is the name of two different poems dealing with the adventures of Rustam’s son Farāmarz. The two were combined, together with material from the Shāh-nāmah and (it seems) other components of the Persian epic cycle, in the edition lithographed in Bombay in 1906; the credit for unravelling them belongs to Khāliqī-Muṭlaq. Some poetic form of the Farāmarz-nāmah was known already to the early 12th-century author of the Mujmal al-tawārīkh.

The ‘first’ or ‘short’ Farāmarz-nāmah is attested in a fair number of manuscripts (inc. in most copies: ba nām i khudāwand i rōzī-dihān * yakē qiṣṣah āram birūn az nihān).15 The anonymous author calls himself ‘a slave of the pure heart of Firdausī’ (ghulām-ē dil i pāk i Firdausī am) and claims to have the story from ‘Sarw of Marw’. The latter is clearly identical with ‘Āzād Sarw’, whom Firdausi gives as his source for the story of the death of Rustam16 and who, still according to Firdausī, ‘was in Marw with Aḥmad i Sahl’, i.e. the Samanid governor of Marw, who was executed in 307/919, about a century before the time of Firdausī. It is thus quite clear that both Firdausī and his anonymous ‘slave’ must have had the material that they claim to derive from Āzād Sarw not orally from him, but from some written source; the same source was used also by Thaʿālibī, who tells much the same story of Rustam’s death. The ‘short’ Farāmarz-nāmah dwells in particular on its hero’s adventures in India and includes an episode in which he debates with the Brahmans and converts the king of India to the ‘Persian religion’.

London Or. 2926 (a heavily interpolated copy of the Shāh-nāmah) contains, apart from the ‘short Farāmarz-nāmah’, also the story of the demon Shab-rang (fol. 146a–167b) and his battles with Rustam and Farāmarz, this also on the supposed authority of Āzād Sarw,17 and two other fragments dealing with the birth of Farāmarz.

The ‘second’ Farāmarz-nāmah was known to Khāliqī-Muṭlaq only from the Bombay lithograph, where it accounts for about the last 6000 verses. There is, however, at least one manuscript of this poem (London, Ross and Browne clxxvi), where it calls itself the ‘great Farāmarz-nāmah’.18 The beginning in this version is copied from the first pages of the Shāh-nāmah (the opening verse is identical is both poems). The first verse which I have been able to locate in the lithograph is on fol. 9b l. 2 (corresponding to p. 146 l. 16 of the edition); thereafter the edition seems to agree largely with the manuscript until about p. 382.19 The text does not appear to give any clear indication of the time or place of composition. Khāliqī-Muṭlaq has noted that this version shares two stories with the Nuz’hat-nāmah i ʿAlāʾī of Shah-mardān b. Abī l-Khair, a work compiled at the end of the 5th/11th or beginning of the 6th/12th century, but a careful investigation of the two texts is required before it can be said whether one has borrowed the stories from the other, or whether both have them from a common source.

Mss.: Oxford Ms. Pers. e. 13 (Ethé 1978); London Ross and Browne clxxvi (Dated 1166/1752–3. Inspexi); Or. 2946 fol. 50–109 (Rieu Suppt. 199/ii. 18th century?); Or. 2926 fol. 167b–179b (Rieu Suppt. 196/vi, completed Rabīʿ i 1249/1833. Interpolated into the Shāh-nāmah); Paris Supplément 498 fol. 1–48 (Blochet 1194. Dated 12 Rabīʿ ii 1173/1759); Leningrad Publ. Lib. New Series 65 (Kostygova 405. Dated 20 Dhū l-qaʿdah 1039/1630. Interpolated into the Shāhnāmah); Bombay Brelvi p. xxxii no. 22 (Dated 1244 Y./1874–5); Univ. xxv (Cat. p. 291. Defective at both ends); Cama p. 151, 177; Navsari Meherji Rana p. 91 no. 65 (Dated 4 Ardibihisht 956 Y./1586); Hyderabad Sālār Jung iv 1114/2 (17th century?). Cf. Munz. iv 32526–7.

Edition: Bombay 1324/1906 (ed. Rustam pūr i Bahrām. Pictures).

A Gujarati translation (or several) is found in Navsari Meherji Rana p. 77 no. 58 (Imperfect); Meherji Rana p. 141 no. 26 (Imperfect).

Mujmal p. 2; Mohl’s translation of the Shāh-nāmah i pp. lxxiii–lxxiv; Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah pp. 294–6; J. Khāliqī-Muṭlaq, ‘Farāmarz-nāmah’, Īrān-nāmah i/1 (1361 sh./1982) pp. 22–45; Rastegar, Problematik pp. 21–5; EIr s.v. ‘Farāmarz-nāma’ (J. Khaleghi-Motlagh).

§ 319. The Humāy-nāmah, a rambling story of the love of an Egyptian prince for the daughter of the king of Syria, is preserved in a unique manuscript in Dublin. The first page of the text (fol. 2) is supplied in a different hand (the poem begins on the verso with: sipās az khudāy-ē kih jān āfrīd * sipihr u zamīn u zamān āfrīd) and this added leaf has in the margin an endowment notice with the date Ramadān 712/1313, which, if authentic, would appear to give a terminus ad quem for the poem itself. The supposed title ’Kitāb i Humāy-nāmah’ is scribbled on the recto of the same added page and is followed by ‘Shāyistah’, perhaps the pen name of the author. Arberry claimed that the style of the poem makes it ‘more or less contemporary with the Garshāsp-nāma and the Vīs u Rāmīn’. He suggested also that its author was ‘a crypto-Zoroastrian’, but his only evidence for this are some rather vague verses (vs. 50–1) praising fire. The poem is dedicated to an unidentified ‘glorious amīr’.20

Ms.: Dublin Beatty 301.

Edition: London 1963 (Humāy-Nāma, Edited with an introduction by A.J. Arberry, with a detailed summary of the story).

Cf. A.J. Arberry, ‘An early Persian epic’, Mélanges d’orientalisme offerts à Henri Massé, Tehran 1963, pp. 11–16; J. Matīnī, ‘Humāy-nāmah’, mdam xi, 1354sh./1975, pp. 313–51; A.D.H. Bivar, ‘Bārgīrī’, bsoas liv, 1991, pp. 571–3 (with a photograph of the first page of the Ms. and a discussion of the endowment notice).

§ 320. The Jahāngīr-nāmah is included here, for convenience, among the anonymous works of the pre-Mongol period although its author actually identifies himself as an otherwise unknown ‘Qāsim the panegyrist’ (Qāsim i mādiḥ) who ‘versified this book in Herat’, and although its pre-Mongol dating is anything other than certain. It is the story of Rustam’s son Jahāngīr, whose adventures are remarkably similar to those of Suhrāb and even more so to those of Burzō. Like them he is brought up among the Turanians, meets his father on the battlefield, but (like Burzō) is recognised by his father and reconciled with him. He joins the Iranian ranks, fights on behalf of Kai-Kāʾōs and after various adventures is killed by a dēw while hunting.

This poem stands apart from the other componants of the ‘epic cycle’ through its language (Arabic words are fairly common) and its largely Islamic content.

Mss.: Paris Supplément 498 fol. 50–144 (Blochet 1194. Dated 15 Jumādā i 1173/1760, incorporating a fragment of an older Ms. Ca. 6300 verses); Bombay Univ. pp. 292–3 no. xxviii (apparently incomplete). Cf. Munz. iv 29013–4.

Editions: Bombay 1847 (according to the Āṣafīyah catalogue iii p. 100); 1867 (ibid. p. 630); 1892.

Mohl’s translation of the Shāh-nāmah i pp. lxxi–lxxiii; Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah pp. 324–5.

§ 321. The Kuk-i-Kōhzād-nāmah is a little story of an incident in the childhood of Rustam.

Ms.: Oxford Pers. c. 26 (Beeston 2544/2).

Extracts interpolated in copies of the Shāh-nāmah: London Or. 2926 fol. 107b–112b (Rieu Suppt. no. 196 iii, completed Rabīʿ i 1249/1833); Rome Casanatense Ms. 4893 (Piemontese 245. Dated Ramaḍān 1036/1627).

Edition: In Macan’s Shāh-nāmah iv pp. 2133–60.

Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah pp. 318–22; Rastegar, Problematik pp. 28–30.

§ 322. Yūsuf u Zulaikhā, the oldest of several Persian versifications of the Biblical and Qurʾānic story of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar (inc. ba nām i khudāwand i har du sarāy * kih jāwēd bashad hamēshah ba jāy), has been published as the work of Firdausī.21 The earliest source that ascribes a poem on this subject to Firdausī appears to be the 829/1425–6 ‘Bāysunghur’ preface to the Shāh-nāmah,22 where we read that the great poet, after his flight from Ghaznah, eventually made his way to Baghdad and the court of the caliph, where he composed his version of the story of Joseph.23,24 It is to the same period that the oldest known manuscripts of the work belong. None of the earlier biographical sources have anything to say about such a poem nor do there seem to be any quotations from it in pre-Timurid writings. And even in the Timurid period the work does not appear to have been universally known as a composition by Firdausi, otherwise it would be difficult to explain why Jāmī makes no mention of it in his own poem on the same subject, composed in 888/1483.

None the less, the authenticity of the work was upheld by scholars such as Ethé, who published an edition of the first half of the poem, as well as by Nöldeke and Taqī-zādah in their already frequently mentioned monographs on Firdausī. It was, however, challenged by Shērānī in the 1920s, by Qarīb and Mīnuwī in the 1940s and by Nafīsī in 1950 and since then has generally been considered disproved. But I do not think that the arguments hitherto put forward by either side can be considered totally satisfactory.

Any attempt to sort out the historical circumstances of this poem is faced before all else by the desolate state, even by Persian standards, of the whole of its introductory section. It is in fact clear that the book has been reattributed and rededicated several times in the course of its history. This process has even continued into recent times; the Tehran edition of 1299/1882 contains, immediately after the seven opening verses found in the manuscripts, a versified encomium on the then ruling Nāṣir al-dīn Shāh Qājār. This sort of thing has evidently happened before to the same poem. Unfortunately, Ethé’s edition (the only one which quotes variants), rather than trying to sort out the various families of manuscripts, has thrown them all together into one great eclectic stew and thus totally confused the history of the text. It is, however, to his credit that he has at least supplied us with a critical apparatus with the help of which some of the confusion can be cleared up.

The main basis for the attribution of the poem to Firdausi is evidently the section in the introduction (pp. 23–5 of Ethé’s edition) in which the author is represented as saying, first of all, that he is an accomplished poet whose words everyone knows and who has recited many a story. But now he regrets the sins of his youth and has become tired of Farēdūn, Z̤aḥḥāk, Kai-Qubād and the rest. ‘I am wasting’, he says, ‘half of my life filling a whole world with the name of Rustam’ (kih yak nīmah az ʿumr i khwad kam kunam * jahān-ē pur az nām i Rustam kunam). After listing a number of other heroes of the national epic with whom he is now ‘fed up’ (sēr) the author declares his intention to devote his talents to a worthy subject taken from the holy book. If the poem is not by Firdausi, the question inevitably arises of who else ‘wasted half his life’ singing the tales of Rustam and the other heroes. Or so at least it seems on the basis of the published texts.

However, in two Ethé’s manuscripts (‘M’ and ‘W’) a large part of this section is in fact missing. These copies lack in particular the verse in which the poet speaks of having retold the ‘words of the kings’ (v. 252), all of those mentioning the heroes of the Shāh-nāmah (v. 263–70), as well as those where he says that he will not tell ‘another story of kings’ (v. 291–3) and that his previous compositions were ‘lies’ (v. 295). When these are left out the whole passage takes on an entirely different appearance: the author is a supposedly famous poet who has previously recited many ‘books of lovers’ (v. 253: nāmah i dōstān), which, good Muslim that he is, he now regrets. He is, in other words, not an ex-heroic but an ex-romantic poet. The absence, in ‘M’ and ‘W’, of all the verses referring to kings and heroes is all the more striking as it is precisely these manuscripts which otherwise offer a particularly full text; Ethé cites them as the representatives of his ‘larger redaction’. It is therefore unlikely that they, of all copies, should have abridged this important section. Instead it should be clear that here at least they contain the original text and that the other manuscripts25 go back to a prototype into which a number of verses were interpolated specifically to give credence to the attribution of the poem to Firdausi. Without the added verses the textual evidence for such an attribution collapses completely. It seems thus that any future truly critical edition of Yūsuf u Zulaikhā must take as its point of departure a clear distinction between an (interpolated) ‘Firdausian’ and a (possibly also interpolated) ‘non-Firdausian’ family of manuscripts.26

The same two manuscripts ‘M’ and ‘W’ contain (in v. 24–102) a eulogy of an unnamed king whom the poet calls sulṭān i iqlīm-hā and who in a chapter heading is given the no less vague title of pād-shāh i islām and it is presumably in him that the author of the Bāysunghur preface saw the caliph of Baghdad.27 This section seems to be missing in all the manuscripts of the ‘Firdausian’ redaction. Several of these have no dedication, but one (London Or. 2930, Ethé’s ‘B’) has at an entirely different point in the introduction (Ethé prints it as v. 168–223) a rather interesting account of how the story of Joseph had previously been versified by two different poets: first by the well-known Abū l-Muʾaiyad Balkhī28 and later by an otherwise unknown Bakhtyāri. The author says that he was in the presence of the ‘mīr i ʿIrāq’ in Ahwāz when the latter mentioned Bakhtyārī’s versification of the story and requested our poet to redo the work. Yet another dedication, not found in any of Ethé’s manuscripts (nor in the three which I have collated), was published by Qarīb from a copy in his possession and is also found, according to Nafīsī, in a quite modern manuscript of his own. This eulogises Abū l-Fawāris Ṭughān-shāh b. Alp-Arslān, the Seljuq governor of Herat from before 465/1072 to at least 476/1083–4, the patron of Azraqī29 and, according to ʿArūḍī,30 an illustrious benefactor of poets in general. In this dedication the author thanks his patron effusively for having had him released from prison; in this connection we find two verses31 which Nafīsī reads as:

Amānī-st bisyār muddat ba jāy
kih az darj i sulṭān u ḥukm i khudāy
az īn qalʿah dil-shād bērūn shawad
ba nazdīk i shāh i humāyūn shawad

and which he translates as: ‘Il y a longtemps qu’Amâni reste ici. L’ordre du Sultan et la volonté divine lui permettront de sortir en toute joie de cette fortresse et d’aller auprès de son auguste roi’; i.e. Yūsuf u Zulaikhā is the work of an otherwise unknown poet by the name of Amānī, a name which, after Nafīsī, has made an astonishingly quick entry into the annals of Persian literature. It must, however, be said that the verses are hardly unambiguous and that both Qarīb and Mīnuwī had already published them without suspecting the presence of a proper name. One could, I should think, equally well read amā (= ammā) nēst bisyār …, ‘But he will not be in this place for much longer, for he will depart from this fortress’ etc. But quite apart from this the question remains as to whether the dedication to Ṭughān-shāh is really part of the original poem or whether it is a interpolation (obviously a very early interpolation) by someone who had salvaged an older work and rededicated it to this king. In either case the passage does give us the terminus ad quem for the poem. One would like to know in particular whether the manuscripts with the dedication to Ṭughān-shāh also have the dedication to mīr i ʿIrāq or that to the pād-shāh i islām and whether they contain the verses about the author’s supposed previous works in the field of heroic poetry. Qarīb and Nafīsī say nothing to suggest that the latter are missing in their manuscripts.

It is thus clear that the manuscripts offer the choice of at least three different dedications and that as yet no objective arguments have been offered for the greater authority of one over the others. At least two of them (and very possibly all three) must be spurious. The question of which (if any) goes back to the original author can only be settled on the basis of a critical examination of all of the copies and their grouping in a stemma codicum.

The debate over the time and authorship of what we can, at least, now confidently call the pseudo-Firdausian Yūsuf u Zulaikhā has inevitably detracted from the study of the content of what is doubtless an interesting early work of Persian narrative poetry and of its sources and its place in the Islamic genre of qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ.

Mss.: Oxford Walker 64 (Ethé 505. Dated 9 Jumādā ii 1140/1728. Ethé’s ‘W’); Elliot 414 (Ethé 506. Dated 19 Jumādā i 1232/1817. Ethé’s ‘E’); London Ross and Browne xxviii (=Robinson 545–8. ‘Apparently written prior to ah 1000’/1591–2. Pictures. Inspexi); Or. 6964 (Meredith-Owens p. 67. Dated 13 Jumādā i 1029/1620. Inspexi; the text resembles ‘E’); Add. 24,093 (Rieu pp. 545–6. Dated Muḥarram 1055/1645. Ethé’s ‘M’); Or. 2930 (Rieu Suppt. 200. Dated 7 Rabīʿ ii 1244/1828. Ethé’s ‘B’); r.a.s. 243A (not in Codrington’s catalogue. Ethé’s ‘A’); Cambridge Browne Coll. v.71 (Dated 10 Rajab 1242/1827. Beginning differs greatly from Ethé’s edition. 1 Picture); Paris Supplément 1360 (Blochet 1177. 16th century? Pictures); Supplément 1055 (Blochet 1178. 19th century); Berlin Ms. orient, oct. 2302 (Heinz 228; Stchoukine 5. Dated 1 Ṣafar 819/1416. Incomplete. Pictures); Uppsala Tornberg clxxxii fol. 153b–217a (end missing);32 Najaf (Munz. no. 36940. Dated 1287/1870–1); Tabriz Millī 2749 (Nuskhah-hā iv p. 316 no. 458); Tehran Univ. xv 4101 (Dated 18 Rajab 1207/1793); Millī (Nuskhah-hā iv p. 141. Dated 1242/1826–7); Malik (Munz. no. 36936. Dated Ṣafar 1250/1834); Majlis viii 2699 (Dated 1262/1846); Herat Museum 50 (Catalogue p. 329. Dated 1269/1852–3); Tashkent Acad. 195 (Semenov 759. 19th century); Pakistan (five Mss., all late, are listed in Munz. Pak. vii pp. 19–20); Bombay Rehatsek p. 170 no. 151 (Dated 1226/1811); Bankipore i 12 (Dated 1240/1824–5. Pictures); Calcutta Ivanow 425 (Dated 877/1472–3. Poor condition); Būhār 279 (Dated 1038/1628–9); Lucknow Sprenger 223 (Two copies, one of which is apparently now Calcutta Ivanow 425); Los Angeles Univ. M920 (Nuskhah-hā xi/xii p. 95. Dated 26 Rajab 1243/1828. Beginning apparently missing). Cf. Munz. iv 36930–43.

Editions: Lucknow 1287/1870–1, reprinted 1290/1873–4 and reissued in Cawnpore in 1298/1881 and 1304/1886–7; Tehran 1274/1857–8; 1299/1881–2; 1316/1898–9; Bombay 1349/1930–1 (ed. Karīm Tājir Shīrāzī).

Partial edition: Oxford 1908 (Yûsuf and Zalîkhâ by Firdausî of Ṭûs editedby Hermann Ethé. Fasciculus primus, containing the first half of the poem; based on 4 Mss. and the Tehran and Lucknow editions).

Translations: (German verse): O. Schlechta-Wssehrd, Jussuf und Suleicha, romantisches Heldengedicht von Firdusi, Vienna 1889. (Extracts from this translation also in Verhandlungen des VII. internationalen Orientalisten-CongressesSemitische Section, Vienna 1888, pp. 47–72 and zdmg 41, 1887, 41, pp. 577–99).

Epitome: Muntakhab i Yūsuf-Zulaikhā by Saiyid Farzand i Aḥmad of Bilgrām, called Ṣafīr, written in 1278/1861–2 for Khudā Bakhsh. Ms.: Bankipore i 13 (Autograph).

‘Bāysunghur’ preface (see Macan’s edition of the Shāh-nāmah i p. 56 of the Persian introduction); Hidāyat, Majmaʿ i p. 383; H. Ethé, ‘Firdausī’s Yūsuf und Zalīkhā’, Verhandlungen des VII. internationalen Orientalisten-CongressesSemitische Section, Vienna 1888, pp. 19–45; M. Grünbaum, ‘Zu Jussuf und Suleicha’, zdmg 43, 1889, pp. 1–29; 44, 1890, pp. 445–77 (interesting for the sources and for parallels in the Rabbinical literature); M. Shērānī, ‘Yūsuf u Zulaikhā i Firdausī’, Urdū (Aurangabad) ii, 1922, pp. 179–246 (Persian translation in Shērānī’s Chahār maqālah bar Firdausī wa Shāh-nāmah, trans. ʿAbd al-Ḥaiy Ḥabībī, n.p. [apparently Kabul], Dalw [=January/February] 1355sh./1977, pp. 184–276); ʿA. al-ʿA. Qarīb, ‘Yūsuf u Zulaikhā i mansūb ba Firdausī’, Āmūzish wa Parwarish ix/10, 1318sh./1940, pp. 1–16; ix/11–12, 1318sh./1940, pp. 2–16; xiv/8, 1323sh./1945, pp. 393–400; M. Mīnuwī, ‘Kitāb i hazārah i Firdausī wa buṭlān i intisāb i Yūsuf u Zulaikhā ba Firdausī’, Rūzgār i nau v/3, 1323sh./1944, pp. 16–36; ʿA. Khaiyām-pūr, ‘Yūsuf u Zulaikhā i Firdausī’, ndat ii, 1328sh/1949, pp. 191–229; id., ‘Yūsuf u Zulaikhā’, ndat x, 1337sh./1958, pp. 221–8, 418–33; xi, 1338sh./1959, pp. 39–68, 233–60; xii, 1339sh./1960, pp. 85–119 (a study of the various versions of the story of Y.u.Z. in Persian and Turkish); id. ‘Iḍāfāt …’, ndat xvii, 1344sh./1965, pp. 186–7; S. Nafīsī, ‘Le « Yûsuf et Zalikhâ » attribué à Firdowsy’, Archív orientální xviii/1–2, 1950, pp. 351–3.

next chapter: Appendix II: Some Afterthoughts on the Chronology of Niẓāmī’s Works and That of the Sharwān-Shāhs


^ Back to text1. For the Persian ‘epic cycle’ see in general M. Molé, ‘L’épopée iranienne après Firdōsī’, La nouvelle Clio v, 1953, pp. 377–93; also EIr s.v. ‘Epics’.

^ Back to text2. In his partial edition of the Mujmal; see ja, série 4, tome i, 1843, p. 418 with fn. 1 (‘La lecture de ce nom est incertaine’).

^ Back to text3. Dublin Beatty 322, of which a microfilm is in my possession. The passage which interests us is on fol. 23b.

^ Back to text4. A facsimile of the Berlin manuscript, with introductions in Persian (by Īraj Afshār) and English (by Maḥmud Umīdsālār/Omidsalar) has appeared, just in time for this second edition, in Tehran 1379sh./2001. The passage in question is on fol. 34a, l. 16; the final letter of the name is partially obliterated by the marginal ruling, but it would seem to be hāʾ not nūn.

^ Back to text5. As was observed already by Rieu, Suppt. p. 136.

^ Back to text6. Majmaʿ i p. 110; new edition i pp. 297–8.

^ Back to text7. Majmaʿ i p. 494.

^ Back to text8. In Supplément 500 ‘Maḥmūd’, doubtless wrongly.

^ Back to text9. Differently Rieu, who thinks that the first version of the poem must have been dedicated to Berk-yāruq.

^ Back to text10. Hidāyat evidently knew the poem in this same version, since he writes (Majmaʿ i p. 110) that the dībājahs of the Bahman-nāmah and of the Karshāsp-nāmah ‘are like one another’.

^ Back to text11. See Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah pp. 315–6; Rastegar, Problematik pp. 31–3; dmbi s.v. ‘Ādharburzīn-nāmah’ (F. Mujtabāʾī).

^ Back to text12. I.e. the editio minor of 1876–8 (see above p. 74).

^ Back to text13. I intend to discuss the Persian prose versions of this story (the Near Eastern reworking of the life of the Buddha and the source of the Christian story of Barlaam and Joasaph) in pl iii/3.

^ Back to text14. See below, p. 373 fn.

^ Back to text15. The verse is found in the Bombay edition on p. 78. Everything which precedes it in the edition does not belong to the Farāmarz-nāmah.

^ Back to text16. Shāh-nāmah, Moscow edition vi p. 322. For the following see also EIr. s.v. ‘Āzādsarv’ (Dj. Khaleghi-Motlagh).

^ Back to text17. For this so-called Shab-rang-nāmah see also Ṣafā, Ḥamāsah p. 323. A Shab-rang-nāmah (with an incipit different from that in the London Ms.) is also in Leyden de Jong 166 (with owner’s note dated 1062/1652).

^ Back to text18. The title is given on fol. 1a as ‘Farāmarz-nāmah i kalān’ and on fol. 1b as ‘Farāmarz-nāmah i buzurg’.

^ Back to text19. I.e. the page with the printed number ‘382’. The pagination in the lithograph is a mess.

^ Back to text20. Vs. 4330: amīr i humāyūn. The ‘i’ is required by the metre. Matīnī (p. 318) was thus wrong to suggest that the poem was ‘probably dedicated to a prince by the name of Amīr Humāyūn’.

^ Back to text21. For whom see above, § 58.

^ Back to text22. See above p. 59.

^ Back to text23. The three verses quoted in Macan’s introduction, p. 56, are v. 121, 125 and 126 of Ethé’s edition.

^ Back to text24. The earliest dated copy is the Berlin Ms. of 819/1416. It is to be regretted that the author of the Berlin catalogue has not stated explicitly whether or not the poem is ascribed to Firdausī in that codex.

^ Back to text25. The whole ‘autobiographical’ section is missing in London, Ross and Browne xxviii, which contains a very different and much shorter introduction.

^ Back to text26. The question is of course complicated by the possibility of cross-contamination of the two families.

^ Back to text27. As did Ethé in his article of 1888. In GIrPh ii p. 230 he retracted this and, following Nöldeke, identified Firdausī’s patron with one or other of the Buyid amīrs.

^ Back to text28. See above, § 16.

^ Back to text29. See above, § 39.

^ Back to text30. Pp. 43–4.

^ Back to text31. They are quoted in context by Qarīb, Āmūzish wa Parwarish ix/11–12 p. 13.

^ Back to text32. Microfilm in my possession. Tornberg’s account of the Ms. is highly misleading; in fact it contains four different works, but the folios of the first two are mixed up with each other and it must be left to someone who actually has the Ms. in front of him (rather than merely a microfilm) to sort them out. The first work, after a dībājah of ten lines (inc.: ba nām i khudāwand bē juft u yār * kih ham rāz-dān ast u ham rāz-dār) is the story of Gushtāsp from the Shāh-nāmah (Moscow edition vi p. 65 sqq.). The second is the Burzō-nāmah in a form very close to that published by Macan; this ends on fol. 144a (same verses as Macan iv p. 2296). After one blank page we find (fol. 145a–152a), again without any title, an extract from Niẓāmī’s Haft paikar (Moscow edition p. 278 l. 21 to p. 311 l. 280). Then, after two blank pages, the poem under discussion in this article, beginning on fol. 153b as in Ethé, and breaking off on fol. 217a with the verse 8 lines from the bottom on p. 122 of the Cawnpore 1881 edition. The Ms. is not dated, but has a note recording its acquisition in Constantinople in ad 1782.

Cite this page
“Appendix I: Anonymous Narrative Poems Attributed to the Pre-Mongol Period”, in: Storey Online, Charles Ambrose Storey. Consulted online on 05 December 2023 <>
First published online: 2021

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